May – 2012 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

May 2012

Chuggington Outdoor Fun Prize Pack Winner

Congratulations, Emma!!

Kick off Your Summer with Kraft! {Giveaway}

Summer just seems like it’s the best time of year for entertaining, even here in Texas where it gets SO hot SO fast. It just feels like a slower time of year, and having friends over for a laid-back evening of good food and games is one of our favorite things to do.

As a Kraft Delicious Bytes blogger, I got sent a fun summer kit recently to help us start our summer off right:

We decided it would be fun to try a lot of these out by having my brother and his girlfriend over for dinner, and it was really easy to put together a great meal!

  

It’s not summer entertaining without nice cold drinks, right? We made the strawberry kiwi Kool-Aid and used our Rubbermaid Carafe for some Country Time Half & Half. Both were great! The Half & Half is truly just that – we were trying to decide if it tasted more like lemonade with tea in it, or tea with lemons… but it’s really a perfect blend of both, and an ideal summer drink.

I had seen these Sizzling Salad kits before but I had no clue that they were more than just a one-time-use kind of thing. You only use 1-2 tablespoons of the sauce and dressing, so they’re great for several meals! Everyone LOVED the chicken and it was so easy to make! I cut it up into bite-sized pieces so it’d be easy to scatter over salad, and easy for the kids to eat.

Then I made a salad with baby greens, cucumbers and carrots and put it in the awesome Chill Salad Bowl we received in our kit. I’ve gotta say, this salad bowl is genius. It has a removable ice pack in the base of the bowl so it’s easy to take salads or other cold dishes and keep them cold while you’re out somewhere. Anyway, we all tried out the salad dressing and agreed it was paired really well with the sauce for the chicken. The BBQ ranch was slightly sweet, which balanced really well with the flavors of the zesty fajita sauce.

For dessert I used the HONEY MAID Lil’ Squares Honey Grahams to make mini-s’mores. SUCH a fun idea for a summer dessert, by the way. My brother brought some mini-marshmallows and chocolate bars – I just broke each chocolate bar into tiny pieces and topped each cracker with chocolate and one marshmallow, microwave for 10 seconds or so, and voila! Bite-sized s’mores that are delicious, but also easy to eat without making a giant mess.

The crackers on their own are really good too, though. I snacked on some while I was prepping the s’mores and told Brian we were definitely going to have to get more of these SOON (and I’m pregnant, so I can use the baby as an excuse for needing them, ha).

Tonight we decided to grill out burgers for another fun summer meal, and I decided to try the Velveeta Queso Blanco slices on my burger.

The cheese melts really easily and gave a great flavor to the burger (I’d also like to try this in queso… guess that’ll be next!). We served our food on the fun Colorwheel Serving Tray and it really goes to show that good serving pieces can really add to the ambiance of a meal!

By the way, if you’re looking for a recipe to spice up the standard burger, Kraft was nice enough to provide a recipe for me to share that you might just want to try for yourself:

Prep Time: 30 min. | Makes: 4 servings.

What You Need:

  • 2 Tbsp. KRAFT SANDWICH SHOP Chipotle Flavored Reduced Fat Mayonnaise
  • 1 plum tomato, seeded, finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped red onions
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 4 VELVEETA Slices
  • 4 hamburger buns

Make It:

  1. HEAT grill to medium heat.
  2. COMBINE first 4 ingredients.
  3. SHAPE meat into 4 (1/2-inch-thick) patties. Grill 7 to 9 min. on each side or until done
  4. (160ºF). Top with VELVEETA; grill 1 min. or until melted.
  5. FILL buns with cheeseburgers and mayonnaise mixture.

Serving Suggestion:
For added color and texture, serve with a mixed green salad.
How to Turn Hamburgers:
When cooking ground beef patties, turn them over with a spatula. Do not flatten the patties during the cooking process since that will cause the juices to escape, resulting in dry cooked burgers.

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Are you feeling all summery and ready to entertain? I hope so! And if you still need an extra boost, you might just want to enter the Kraft Summer Prize Pack giveaway to get your own kit like the one pictured above. You’ll get all the food & drink products and great serving items I just wrote about! This contest is open to all U.S. residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Thursday, June 14. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.

Mandatory Entry: Comment on this post telling me your favorite thing to serve when entertaining during the summer – main course, drink, dessert… whatever you like best!

(Only valid after the required entry has been completed)

Please leave a comment for each extra entry – if you blog about this giveaway and get 2 entries, for example, comment 2 times.

Note: As a Kraft Delicious Byte blogger I received package photographed above. All opinions are honest and are mine and my family’s. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. This program is not administered or sponsored by Kraft Foods or its affiliates. The prize package will be fulfilled by Kraft Foods or its agency.

 

 

Chuggington Gets the Party Started

I am sure almost everyone could agree that it’s fun planning birthday parties for their kids – especially once they’re old enough to have opinions, get involved and get excited about it all! I know the boys start picking themes months in advance and they love going to the party store with us to shop for supplies.

If your kiddos are fans of trains like ours are, you’ll be interested to know that you can now find Chuggington party supplies! They have a whole line of products that help you out from start to finish – everything from invitations, to stickers for party favor bags, to thank you cards.

I know when I’m planning out decor for the boys’ parties, I like to pull out a few solid colors to use for items like table cloths, streamers and balloons, and then I pick a few items like plates, cups, napkins, etc. to bring in the character or theme.

Hallmark gets the party on track with dinner plates, dessert plates, lunch napkins, beverage napkins and more – $4.19/package or less, so they’re affordable, too.

 

Chuggington party supplies can be found at PartyCity.com and other retailers; you can also keep up with all the Chuggington fun on Facebook and Twitter, too! Lay the tracks for a traintastic party including your kids’ favorite Chuggers!

Note: I’m a Chuggington Conductor! I received the toys to facilitate my review, but was not compensated monetarily for my post. All opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family. 

Pregnancy & Baby Extravaganza Starts June 1!!

After a lot of planning, the Pregnancy & Baby Extravaganza is right around the corner!! Starting June 1, this will be a month of all things pregnancy & baby. You’ll find posts on everything from dream nurseries to baby names to the worst things to say to a pregnant woman (“You look like you’re about to pop!” being one of them).

Every day I’ll be featuring at least one great pregnancy or baby product, too. And guess what… I have 21 giveaways lined up so far! This will be your one-stop shop to find out about the best baby and pregnancy products, and you’ll have lots of opportunities to win some of these for yourself!

The main event page with a list of participating companies can be found here. Once Friday arrives I’ll be posting a new page with a list of individual products being featured and given away. That way it will be easy for you to keep up with items you want to remember to add to your shopping list or registry.

So, be sure and come back Friday for the start of all the fun, including two giveaways the first day. I can’t wait!

Great Summer Recipes Courtesy of Walmart

We love to grill, even though it gets insanely hot here (we’ve already hit triple digits this year). From fajitas to burgers and hot dogs, there is really something so summery about firing up the grill! Of course, even with grilling it can be easy to get stuck in a rut with what you make, so I jumped at the invitation to join in on the Walmart grilling webcast yesterday – I heard we were going to learn all about Walmart’s USDA choice steaks, tips for grilling them, and pick up a couple of recipes to try out this summer. Add to that the fact that I’ve totally craved beef this summer, and the webcast was something I definitely didn’t want to miss!

(PS – You’re totally going to want to check out the recipes I’ll be sharing at the bottom, which were provided during the webcast!)

Scott Neal (VP of meat and seafood for Walmart) and Eric Lackey (winner of the Walmart Kingsford Choice Steak Challenge in Tampa) hosted the webcast, and Eric shared his award-winning steak recipe with everyone.

First of all, they shared a little about steaks in general. I’m pretty ignorant since I always go for a sirloin or filet mignon, so this was really helpful to me, and I thought you might enjoy this steak guide Walmart has put together as you pick out cuts for Memorial Day and any other grilling you do this summer:

Cut Description
T-Bone Two steaks in one – T-Bone is good for those who want the best
of both worlds in their steak. This cut brings together two excellent cuts,
the New York Strip and the Tenderloin (filet mignon). T-Bones are best
grilled and can take on big, bold flavors.
NY Strip The steak-lover’s steak – this is preferred by those who know steak because of its
great flavor and tenderness; it can be cooked however you like it.
Filet Cut from the tenderloin, the filet is the most tender cut of steak.
Rib Eye Most popular – This is everyone’s favorite because it is loaded with exceptional
flavor in every bite. This cut is best grilled and remains tender through medium
to medium-well.
Top Sirloin Favorite for cookouts – This is the perfect choice for cookouts and big gatherings
because its of its unique flavor and tenderness. It can be grilled, broiled, sauteed
or pan-fried.

Scott and Eric shared some tips with us for grilling the perfect steak:

  • Steak should be at room temperature to ensure optimum grilling.
  • Just before grilling, pat steak dry, brush on a light coating of vegetable or olive oil, and season as desired.
  • Add salt no more than 2 minutes before grilling to avoid drying out the meat.
  • For a perfectly seared steak, place meat on a medium-hot to hot grill (450-500 degrees F).
  • For best grilling results, cook with a thermometer:
  • Rare: 125-130 degrees F
  • Medium Rare: 130-135 degrees F
  • Medium: 135-145 degrees F
  • Well Done: 155-170 degrees F
  • Wrap the steak in foil and rest for 3-5 minutes before serving to allow for juices to distribute evenly.

We also learned about why people should choose steak at Walmart – high quality (only 1 in 5 steaks qualify for Walmart’s USDA Choice Premium Beef label), excellent taste with perfect marbling, and expertly aged cuts to provide flavor and tenderness. They also offer a 100% money back satisfaction guarantee because they’re that confident that customers will love their Choice steaks. When you’re shopping, just look for the steaks on black trays to know those are the Choice steaks, by the way!

On to the recipes now… just in time for you to have something new to whip up for friends on Monday! On a side note, we’ll be trying these recipes ourselves on Memorial Day, so check my Facebook page for photos of our finished products. And you can get even more recipes at http://walmart.com/steak.

Walmart put together a shopping list to make it even easier, so here’s a list of everything you’ll need:

Note: I received a Walmart gift card to facilitate my review of Walmart’s Choice Steaks as a part of participating in this promotion, which I’ll be using to buy ingredients and try out these recipes on Memorial Day! All opinions in this post are honest and are my own.

Chuggington Takes the Fun Outdoors! {Giveaway}

If your kids are like mine and love Chuggington, you can now find great toys for them that are perfect for summer! We received another traintastic package that included bubble blowers and balls – two things that little boys absolutely adore – so it was a hit!

The bubble blowers are great because they work well for even little kids. We got the light-up Bubble Chugger that easily blows out a stream of bubbles (it is battery-operated). It retails for $8.99 and comes with a small bottle of bubbles and a bubble tray.

The Bubble Train Whistle is one that the kids blow through to both make a noise and produce bubbles. C has a hard time with typical bubble wands because he blows too hard for bubbles to even form, but this one worked great for him. It doesn’t hurt that you get to sound like a train while you’re at it – what little kid wouldn’t love that?  This whistle is $3.99 and also comes with bubbles and a bubble tray.

Along with the bubble blowers, we also got two small balls that are lightweight and covered with Chuggington artwork. They’re great for playing catch without worrying about anyone getting hurt if they get bonked in the head. :) The balls both retail for around $2.00-$2.50. As you can see, the boys couldn’t even hardly stand still for a photo with the balls – they were ready to bounce them!

One lucky reader will win their own package of fun outdoor Chuggington toys, including the two bubble blowers and two balls! This giveaway is open to all U.S. & Canadian residents ages 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Thursday, May 31. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.

Mandatory Entry: Comment on this post telling me what your favorite outdoor activity is to do with your kids!

(Only valid after the required entry has been completed)

Please leave a comment for each extra entry – if you blog about this giveaway and get 2 entries, for example, comment 2 times.

Note: I’m a Chuggington Conductor! I received the toys to facilitate my review, but was not compensated monetarily for my post. All opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family. The prize for the giveaway is also being provided.

I Won!

I don’t just host giveaways – I like to enter them, too! Jabbering Jessi has a baby event going on right now on her blog, and I entered her giveaway for the Contours Classique 3-in-1 Bassinet because it looked amazing. It has a detachable changing pad attachment, a removable Moses basket and built-in storage. I also love the wood frame and the pops of pink – so nice! Well, the giveaway ended – and I won! I am really excited because I know we’ll get a ton of use out of this, and it’ll fit in our room perfectly.

There are still a bunch of giveaways going on over at Jessi’s blog, like a deluxe baby bathtub, an electric sterilizer, and your choice of either a high chair seat or rocker, to name a few. Be sure to enter, and you might just win!

Beef Bourguignon Recipe – and Our Meal Plan for the Week!

Menu Plan Monday

Menu Plan Monday

It’s been a while since I’ve done Menu Plan Monday. Like, a long while. Part of it is because during the first trimester of this pregnancy I was nauseous a LOT, and not much sounded good… and, I could never really tell what would sound good on a given day, so we didn’t do a whole lot of planning. I’ve felt much better for a while now, so the only excuse for not posting and planning is sheer laziness!

A craving I’ve had with this pregnancy is beef, so we have had a lot more of that on our menu than we typically do (I’m sure Brian is thrilled; he loves beef but usually is stuck with my “mostly chicken” menu plan. I’m really excited about our plan for Saturday’s meal, and I think it’s a recipe you might want to try, too.

Monday: Tacos with refried black beans, cilantro-lime rice, and homemade guacamole. Refried black beans are something we stumbled upon a while back, and we really like adding those to our meals in place of regular refried beans. Fresh, cold guacamole is always a nice side during the summer, and adding some cilantro and lime to it really brightens it (and pairs nicely with the cilantro-lime rice).

Tuesday: Yup, we’re still stuck in the Chick Fil A rut on Tuesday nights! There’s just something nice about a break from cooking, and our family of four can eat for around $12.00. We’ll actually be watching our friends‘ 3-month-old daughter this Tuesday, so we’ll probably see how busy it is – if it’s too busy we’ll really branch out and hit up Jason’s Deli instead. I know, I know – we live a wild life.

Wednesday: Chicken taco soup – a favorite of ours, and it’s a crock pot meal so it’s one of those that’s great to get home to being ready and waiting for us. Granted, it’s hot and not really soup weather, but this soup is a lighter option and sounded really good. The boys are hit or miss on if they’ll eat the soup or not, so we might heat up some chicken tenders too.

Thursday: Soup leftovers. Another good thing about making the soup mid-week is that we can stretch it out!

Friday: Dinner & games at a friend’s house! We’re really looking forward to getting together with several friends for a fun evening.

Saturday: Beef bourguignon and homemade egg noodles. I had never had this until recently, and oh my word is it good! This recipe is modified some to fit our family, but I think it’ll still be just as good… and I might even get the boys to try it!

Ingredients:

  • 3 pounds of lean stew beef, cut into cubes (I can often find the beef already cubed at our local supermarket, which is a big time saver)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 8 ounces of bacon slices
  • 3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 cups of red wine
  • 3 cups of beef stock
  • 1  tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled
  • 20 pearl onions
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • parsley, bay leaf and thyme tied in cheesecloth
  • 1 pound fresh mushrooms, halved (I like the flavor of mushrooms but like to leave the pieces larger because I don’t actually like eating them!)
  • Salt and pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Saute bacon in olive oil (we’ll cook ours in a cast-iron dutch oven; whatever you use needs to be oven-safe) for several minutes; then remove the bacon and set it to the side. Use a slotted spoon so you don’t remove the fat from the pot.
  3. Pat beef with paper towels to dry it so you can get a better sear. Add the beef a few pieces at a time to the bacon fat and saute until it browns on all sides. Set the beef aside with the bacon.
  4. Brown the veggies in the remaining fat; once they’re browned, pour out the excess fat, and return the beef and bacon to the pot. Toss with a few dashes of salt and pepper, then sprinkle the flour and toss to coat the beef.
  5. Place your pot in the preheated oven for 8 minutes, tossing the beef in the middle of that time period. Remove the pot and turn the oven down to 325 degrees.
  6. Stir in the wine and beef stock, and add tomato paste, garlic, and herbs. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and place it in the oven for 3-4 hours.
  7. Toward the end of 3 hours, saute pearl onions in butter and oil until they are slightly brown. Then add 1/2 cup of stock, salt, pepper, and the parsley, bay leaf and thyme tied in a cheese cloth. Cover this pot and let the onions simmer 40-50 minutes, then set the onions aside.
  8. In another skillet, heat oil and butter over high heat. Add mushrooms and toss for 4-5 minutes until lightly browned, then set the mushrooms aside.
  9. When the beef is finished cooking and is tender, pour the contents through a strainer so you can separate out the sauce. Then return the beef and bacon to the casserole dish, adding the pearl onions and mushrooms. Simmer the sauce for 1-2 minutes, skimming fat off the top. The sauce should be thick enough to coat a spoon. Pour the sauce over the meat and vegetables.

We’re serving this with homemade egg noodles, and will be trying this recipe for those. This is a time-consuming meal, for sure, but it sounds so homey and so good – and our house will smell amazing all day while the meat cooks. Yum!

Fun at Your Fingertips with BabbaCo

I wrote earlier about BabbaCo, a subscription company that delivers a box filled with kids’ activities and crafts each month. We got the chance to try one of the boxes for ourselves, and I’m excited to share our experience with you so you!

Each box has a theme, and this month’s was sun, moon and stars. I noticed right off the bat that BabbaCo uses QR codes, which are a great way to add interactive content. I just had to use the (free) scanner on my smartphone and I was instantly taken to online content!

The contents of the box are well-organized, and I was impressed with how much was included – a chart to document the phases of the moon along with binoculars, a paper mache kit with all the supplies (glue and everything) included, a star-themed wine stopper for mom & dad, a star-themed book, and an art activity to make your own constellation artwork using sun-sensitive paper and stickers.  The boys were really excited to look through the box, and we started off by reading the book.

Next we started the paper mache activity – like I mentioned, everything was all included so it was easy to get started!

The boys loved being hands-on. They tried blowing up the balloon but finally decided that was a task for me, but they both took squeezing glue out very seriously. J was especially excited to do this craft – he and C took turns squeezing the glue out and then he helped me get the paper strips ready to go.

We got our first layer finished, and then let it dry overnight to prepare for putting the next layer on. I did have to explain that this was a project that took some time to finish, because they were wanting an instant result at first!

All in all we were really impressed with the box! It was perfect for J, who fits within their target audience, but C enjoyed being a part of it all, and especially liked the book that was included.

As a parent, I felt like this was a good value for the money. The convenience of having all of the craft elements provided is pretty invaluable, and you’re not having to go out and buy a whole package of sun-sensitive paper, for instance – you get just what you need. That’s important to me since we don’t have a lot of storage space for housing a ton of craft items! It also saved me the time of putting together a themed series of projects that can really hammer home details about a topic by all being connected.

These boxes will be something I definitely keep in mind for gift ideas; so many kids now have SO many toys (we’re guilty of that too!) so this is something different that encourages quality time as a family, fosters creativity and allows for fun learning. You can order a subscription or just one box at BabbaCo.com!

Note: We received a BabbaCo box to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are those of myself and my family.

National “Learn to Swim” Day With SwimWays

National Learn to Swim Day is Saturday, May 19. It’s really important to us that the boys learn basic swimming skills, and learn to be safe around water. Timed to National Water Safety Month (May) and the upcoming Memorial Day Weekend, National Learn to Swim Day is an effort to raise awareness about the importance of teaching children to swim, and provide resources to parents for teaching their kids the important skill. It’s an issue all parents should be aware of because water can truly present a danger for children.

I can still remember an incident as a child where I was out just a little too deep (it was a 5′ area, but it seemed deep at the time) in our local pool while there with friends.  I started panicking, and thankfully a lifeguard came over and helped me get to the side. It just goes to show that even in “safer” areas of pools kids can still struggle – it’s so important to teach them early on how to do basics like treading water! My parents enrolled me in swim lessons and that helped a lot with my confidence around water. It’s definitely something we plan to do with our boys, too!

Here are some facts about water and danger to consider:

  • According to the Red Cross, drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for children ages 1 to 14 years old.
  • Statistics show that children ages 1 to 4 drown most often in home swimming pools.
  • Children were often out of sight less than 5 minutes and under the care of one or both parents at the time of many home pool drownings

If you want more information on water safety, be sure and check out these tools from the Red Cross:

There are many ways to get involved with your community on National Learn to Swim Day. Ideas for participating locally include introducing children to the water with at home swim instruction, hosting a group swimming lesson, visiting a community pool as a family, or enrolling children in swim lessons at a local YMCA or Boys & Girls Club.

For more information on National Learn to Swim Day and SwimWays, visit TeachMetoSwim.com.

Note: I wrote this post as a SwimWays ambassador, but I did not receive any product or compensation for this post. All opinions are honest and my own.