Frugal Novice

Super Soft Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Maybe it’s because we just had Valentine’s Day, but when I was trying to think what we should make for Mini Chef Monday this week, chocolate was involved in every idea I had. Ultimately, though, I settled on super soft double chocolate chip cookies (try saying that five times fast) because they’re easy to pack in the kids’ lunches throughout the week – and they’re chock full of chocolate flavor.

They’re really easy to make, and E was eager to help as always. The batch we made creates 24 small cookies, but you can easily double this if you want more. I like this smaller batch, because it really doesn’t require much in the way of ingredients. You’re likely to have all of this on hand at any given time, so you can get your chocolate fix at a moment’s notice.

If you need an endorsement for how good these cookies are, they made two boys stop playing Minecraft to come over for a taste!

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Homemade Pesto Ravioli

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Ahh, ravioli. If you read my recent post about our basil fettuccine recipe, you know we love making pasta. That’s probably our favorite, but we like to venture out into trying other recipes, too. The fettuccine was originally shared on my old food blog, as was the ravioli I’m sharing with you here today.

My favorite ravioli has always been four cheese. I mean, combining cheese and pasta – two amazingly delicious things – is pretty much the pinnacle of flavor, right?

Well, we figured out a way to top that.

Pesto.

Yes, my friends, that’s right. Forget spooning pesto on top of the pasta.

That’s for amateurs.

We put the pesto right in the filling.

And it. is. fabulous.

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Simple & Sweet Tea Party Menu

My daughter, E, is 3 and a half now, and she is all about tea parties. She got a tea set for Christmas, and she makes us all sorts of tea to drink (we’re so British now, right?). I thought it would be fun for this Mini Chef Mondays post to focus on a simple and sweet tea party menu that you could put together for your little girl. It’d be great for a birthday, or for a fun play date with friends.

This menu consists of 5 items – simple!

  • Raspberry Tea
  • Cheese & Cracker Tray
  • Heart-Shaped Sandwiches
  • Dipped Marshmallows
  • Chocolate Mini-Cakes

Most of the items on the menu are pretty quick to put together, but I thought it would be fun to let E in on the fun and bake the chocolate cakes together. We got two adorable baking sets from Handstand Kids – the Deluxe Baking Set and the Cupcake Baking Set – and E was so proud to have her very own kitchen tools to use.

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The kits included measuring cups, measuring spoons, spatulas, a whisk, silicone cupcake and cake molds, a frosting bag and tips, and more, all in fun hues. They also came with recipe cards, and we used their “Easy Peasy Chocolate Cake” recipe for our tea party.

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The batter made enough to have a variety of cake types – we made mini muffins, cupcakes, a mini loaf and a mini bundt. You can serve these plain, with a sprinkling of powdered sugar, or could add frosting and sprinkles if you’d like to add some color to the table.

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Now, on to the other menu items:

  • Raspberry Tea: This is an easy way to make an elevated tea (with a pink hue – win!). Make sweet tea as you normally would (using about 5 tea bags). In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of fresh raspberries and 4 cups of water to a boil until the raspberries start to break down. Run the raspberry mixture through a fine strainer and add the raspberry syrup to the tea; mix well. Pour tea into goblets and add a few fresh raspberries to float in the glass for a pretty presentation.
  • Cheese & Cracker Tray: If you haven’t seen them already, Pepperidge Farms makes adorable butterfly-shaped crackers. Pair these with sliced cheese cut into flower shapes with small cookie cutters, and you’ve got a tray fit for a princess.
  • Heart-Shaped Sandwiches: Continuing the theme of pretty shapes, make small sandwiches with whatever ingredients you prefer (turkey and cheese, chicken salad, etc.), then use a large heart-shaped cookie cutter to add a special touch.
  • Dipped Marshmallows: You’ll need marshmallows, lollipop sticks, candy melts, and sprinkles for this quick and easy treat. Place a stick into each marshmallow, then dip marshmallows into the candy melts and sprinkles. There are a ton of colors available so you can mix and match to your heart’s desire!

And if you’d like to get your little one involved in tea party prep, check out all the kits and gear available for little ones from Handstand Kids!

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As always, I am hosting Mini Chef Mondays along with 11 fabulous bloggers! Read how Mini Chef Mondays started and how to link up!

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Be sure to check out each of their Mini Chef posts as well. We would love it if you would share your Mini Chef posts with us each week, too! Follow along socially and join in on the fun by using our hashtag #MiniChefMondays to share creations your mini chef created in the kitchen. Additionally, if you have a kid-friendly recipe that kids can easily recreate, link up! Don’t have a blog? Share the URL of your instagram photo in our linky below.

  1. Chocolate Caramel Apple Nachos // Courtney’s Sweets
  2. Easy Pizza Dough Recipe // Momma Lew
  3. Easy Pumpkin Bread Pudding // Baby Loving Mama
  4. Homemade Bread Bowl Recipe // We’re Parents
  5. Kid Friendly Meal Chicken Nugget Kabobs // Eating Richly Even When You’re Broke
  6. Mango Clementine Banana Smoothie // Giggles, Gobbles and Gulps
  7. Yummy Dutch Apple Crisp // Step Stool Chef
  8. Riceless Vegetable Sushi // Vegging at the Shore
  9. Chicken Chilaquiles with Eggs // Mom’s Messy Miracles
  10. Apple Pie Taquitos // O’Boy! Organic
  11. Strawberry Blueberry Swirl Fruit Leather // Can’t Google Everything


Homemade Basil Fettuccine Recipe

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I’m a little giddy about this recipe because it combines three things I adore – basil, garlic, and pasta. Brian and I have made semolina pasta dough for years now, but hadn’t ever tried flavored pasta until 2014. It was a bit of an experiment, but it worked out beautifully and we now have an addition to our pasta repertoire that we’ll have made again and again.

I shared this recipe first on a food blog I ran for a while, but since most of my focus is on Frugal Novice, it only seemed fitting to share it here, too.

This basil & garlic fettuccine is flavorful – you don’t even really need more than a light butter sauce to go along with it – and the flecks of basil in the dough really make the pasta prettytoo.

As with so many recipes, homemade pasta was one of those things that seemed really overwhelming to me until we gave it a try. Several years ago our friends Kit and Peter came over one Saturday with their pasta machine, and we were immediately smitten with the process (and end result!) of making pasta from scratch. You know you’ve found kindred spirits when you have friends who want to spend the weekend cooking!

Making homemade pasta is something we really enjoy doing, and the kids love to help with it, too. We have a pasta machine we purchased and absolutely love. It’s hand-cranked and easy to set up wherever you’d like to use it – we just mount ours to the dining table – and it comes with an attachment that lets you cut the pasta, too. I would highly recommend buying one if you think you’ll make pasta more than a couple of times (you will, by the way – it’s addicting!).

Here’s what our pasta machine looks like – and you’ll also get a glimpse of our sweet yellow lab/golden retriever, Sally. She likes to hang around under the table when we make pasta because  she knows we’ll inevitably drop a piece here or there. Smart dog.

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Making pasta from scratch is really fun to do with friends, too – we make the dough ahead of time and then when friends come over we do the rolling and cutting with them. Fresh pasta cooks really quickly, so we’ll just have the sides, sauce (if we’re using any), and bread all taken care of ahead of time, and then once our group finishes the pasta we can get to cooking it – and eating it – almost immediately.

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DIY Macarons: A Step-by-Step Guide

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Our kids are kind of obsessed with macarons right now, and to be honest, I am too. They hadn’t even heard of them until a recent episode of the Kids’ Baking Championship on Food Network, where the contestants had to come up with unique macaron flavors. We all watch the show together each week, and that episode had us all talking about what flavor combinations we thought would be best. Our 8 year old mentioned he’d never tried one, so we made it our mission to find a macaron bakery on an upcoming trip to Dallas.

Macaroons! Err…. macarons! Either way, delicious. #yum #macarons #chocolate #instafood

A photo posted by Christi (@frugalnovice) on

We discovered JOY Macarons, and had a field day picking among the many flavors they offered.

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We bought half a dozen, started sampling, and then went back to buy a dozen more. We were hooked. In fact, while we were still in Dallas I ordered a silicone mat with a macaron template on Amazon so we could make our own macarons at home.

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Be Smart: How to Buy a Used Car (& do it Well)

Dealer New Cars Stock. Colorful Brand New Compact Vehicles For Sale Awaiting on the Dealer Parking Lot. Car Market Business Concept.

Buying a used vehicle is a great way to get a lot of bang for your buck – you’re more likely to be able to afford vehicles with those extras you crave, like navigation systems, heated seats, or built-in DVD players. Brian and I have bought all but one of our cars used, and most if not all of our future cars will probably be used vehicles, too. For some people, buying a used vehicle can seem a little daunting – so I’ve shared a few tips for making sure your used vehicle is a smart buy. Here’s one:

  • Buy a Certified Pre-Owned. You’ll have peace of mind knowing your vehicle has been inspected, serviced, and repaired as needed. Because of this, it’s being sold with an extended warranty that is really valuable. Buying certified pre-owned lets you know you haven’t bought a lemon. There’s an old saying that says “If you buy an ‘as is’ vehicle, you drive off the lot, and it breaks into two pieces… you own both pieces.” Go Certified Pre-Owned with your purchase. You’ll be glad you did.

For more tips on making a smart used car purchase, check out my guest post on the Ken Garff West Valley used vehicle dealership blog.

2016: New Year’s Resolutions – For Your Car

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We’re a month in to 2016. Have you made any resolutions this year – and more importantly, have you followed through?

I hope you’ll take a minute and consider making a few more resolutions… but not for eating healthier or saving money (although do those too, for sure!)… for your car. You’ll be glad you did, and your car will be thankful, too.

Here’s one resolution to start you off:

Take your car for regular tune-ups. Many oil change places even offers free check-ups in between oil changes, because they recognize that it’s a great way to keep your car in tip-top shape.

For other car-related resolutions, visit my guest post over on the Dulles Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram dealership blog.

Carrot Cake Cookies – Sneak in Veggies for Your Kids!

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Hi everyone! It’s the first weekend in February, which seems unreal to me – 2016 is already off to a fast start! If you’re still looking for a fun Valentine’s cookie recipe, don’t miss my chocolate & sprinkle coated shortbread cookies I shared a couple of weeks ago. They’re perfect for kids’ parties!

Of course, with it being February I’m also thinking a lot about spring, and so this week for Mini Chef Monday I’m re-sharing a recipe that’s perfect for this time of year – plus it lets you sneak veggies in for your kiddos (my carrot-hating son even ate these cookies) – just don’t tell them what they’re called!

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Ski Trip Tips

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I’ve been on a bit of a travel-related post kick lately, with posts on Texas road trips, a Hurst, Texas staycation… and now tips for taking the perfect ski trip.

The Ken Garff dealership had a promo recently for getting ski passes, so I was inspired to write about ski trip planning – I hope these tips will be helpful for you as you plan any spring getaways!

  • Make a list (and check it twice). There’s gear you need for skiing, and you want to make sure you come equipped. You’ll need skis, poles, goggle, a helmet, boots, gloves, a ski jacket, pants, and more.
  • Be an early bird. If you’re renting gear instead of bringing your own, reserve everything ahead of time online or  be sure and get to the store as early as possible to beat the lines and get first dibs on what you need. Get to the slopes early, too, and avoid fighting for a parking spot.

For more tips on planning your perfect ski trip, visit my guest post on the Ken Garff dealership blog.

Save Money on Gas with These Apps

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I love saving money. I think the name of this blog along probably belies that fact! Whether it’s using coupons when grocery shopping, finding clearance deals for clothes, or looking for the best price on gasoline for our car, I’m all about ways to save.

As we all know, there are apps for virtually everything now, and so it only makes sense that there are apps out there for helping you save money on gas. Have you been missing out? Now you’ll know all about several great apps to try. Here’s one:

  • Cheap Gas shows you just that – cheap gas. This app is pretty straightforward, giving you a list of stations in price order (lowest price first). You can view the map to figure out how to get to your desired gas station from your current location.

For more apps to try, visit my guest post over on the Holt Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership blog.

Staycation: Hurst, Texas

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I wrote yesterday about road trip ideas for Texas – there are so many places you can go around the state that make for a great weekend or week-long trip. Of course, you don’t always even have to leave your city to have a great vacation! I wrote a guest post for the Holt Fiat of Hurst dealership blog all about how to have a staycation in Hurst. If you live in the DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) area, I hope these ideas can help you have a fun weekend with your family:

  • Get in some culture and see a play at the Artisan Center Theater – this is a great spot for couples and families to enjoy.

For more ideas of things to do, check out my post on the Holt Fiat of Hurst blog!

Three Texas Road Trip Ideas

A old hwy travels through the southern Texas desert near San Antonio

My family and I love to take road trips – and living in Texas, we have a lot of options as far as places to go. Texas is a huge state, of course; you could go to west to El Paso or east to Tyler, north to Amarillo or south to Houston.

If you’re one of my Texas readers, or if you’d like to do some Texas travel, you’re in luck – here are some ideas for places to go and things to do:

  • Waco: Roughly 90 minutes away from Dallas/Fort Worth, this city has gained popularity recently due to a popular show on HGTV. People are flocking to Magnolia Market, and it’s a fun stop for shopping – and dining, too. The store sits alongside a plot of land that houses food trucks and benches with tables, and a big patch of faux grass for kids to run and play. You can visit the Cameron Park Zoo for a less-crowded animal-viewing experience, stop by the Dr. Pepper museum, enjoy a stroll across the suspension bridge, and even take the kids to see a real mammoth excavation site.

Read more about Texas road trip destinations in my guest post on the Holt Fiat of Fort Worth dealership blog.