February – 2014 – Frugal Novice
Monthly Archives

February 2014

Two-For-One Recipe – Pasta Sauce AND Tomato-Basil Soup


We love to cook from scratch – it’s something both Brian and I enjoy doing, especially when we’re able to work together in the kitchen. Of course, with us both working full time and having three children 6 & under, that doesn’t often leave us with much time to spend on meals. We’ve got one staple, though, that we have used during many a busy week. I’ve referenced it on the blog before, but I want to show you how easy it is to make homemade pasta sauce… and how it’s even easier  to turn that sauce into a delicious tomato-basil soup for leftovers.


  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 cups carrot, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 28-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • Fresh basil, chopped (we use about 14 leaves, but adjust according to your taste)


Add carrots, onion and butter to your skillet, and sauté until they’re tender (don’t rush this process or your sauce won’t end up nearly as smooth).





Add your tomatoes & paste, and stir everything together well. Tear basil into smaller pieces and add to the mixture.



Use an immersion blender to puree everything together. If you don’t have an immersion blender, (carefully!!) pour the mixture into a blender or food processor to puree the mixture.



When you’re done, your sauce will look like this:



A delicious pairing for your pasta!



But let’s say the next night you’re not really in the mood for pasta. You’ve got sauce leftover (this recipe makes quite a bit), so what do you do? With one simple ingredient, you turn the sauce into a delicious soup that works great alongside a loaf of French bread or some toasty grilled cheese sandwiches. Just put your sauce back in a pot on the stove over low heat, and add cream or half & half (add and mix a little at a time, until the soup acquires the level of creaminess you prefer). Voila! 



I also have to share this tip with you, because – as avid basil users – it has made our lives so much easier. We would often purchase basil on Sunday at our weekly trip to the grocery store, and by the time we were ready to use it later in the week it was darker and wilted, not fresh and crisp like we’d prefer. I had tried keeping it in the fridge (which I learned was a no-no) and even tried keeping it at room temperature with paper towels wrapped around it to absorb any moisture. No luck! Still, our basil wasn’t staying fresh. Then I got this tip… it’s SO easy and it kept our basil perfectly fresh until we were ready to use it on a Thursday.



Take your basil out of its package and put it (stem down) into a cup with about an inch of water in it. Put a plastic bag over top of the basil, and set it in a place that won’t get too warm. SO easy, right? Now you never have to fall victim to wilted basil again!

TWO Amazing Pizza Recipes



BBQ Chicken Pizza


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound chicken tenders (or about 1 cup once cooked and diced)
  • 2/3 cup BBQ sauce (we used Jack Daniels because we already had it on hand, but any kind will do – use your favorite!)
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, for dusting
  • 1 package pizza dough (we used Pillsbury because we were in a little bit of a rush, but next time I’ll make my own dough)
  • 3/4 cup shredded Gouda cheese
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves


  1. In a medium skillet, saute the chicken in the olive oil until browned and cooked through. Once it’s cooked, remove from heat and chop.
  2. In a bowl, mix the chicken with 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce; set aside.
  3. On a floured cookie sheet or pizza pan, roll your pizza dough out. Use the remainder of the BBQ sauce to spread evenly across the dough.
  4. Add the Gouda, mozzarella, and Parmesan cheese; then add the chicken and onions.One note: I don’t like crunchy onions, so I sauteed some in a separate skillet to put on my half of the pizza, and then put raw onions on Brian’s half. This worked out really well for us!
  5. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15-20 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbly. Mine actually took a little less time than that, I think because I used a thin crust dough.
  6. Once you’ve removed the pizza from the oven, top with chopped cilantro and slice the pizza to serve. Enjoy!



Spinach, Onion, and Blue Cheese Pizza

Recipe courtesy of my friend Alexis


  • Pizza crust
  • 2 large or 3 medium onions, sliced into rings
  • Salt
  • Oil
  • Sugar
  • Fresh spinach
  • 4-5 cloves of chopped garlic
  • Soy sauce
  • Crumbled blue cheese


  1. Onions:  Sprinkle with salt. Place in frying pan over medium heat in about 2 TBSP oil & cook until bottoms start to brown, then start stirring. Add about 1-2 tsp sugar. Stir and cook until caramelized. Set aside.
  2. Spinach: Remove stems. In sautee pan, heat about 2TBSP olive oil. Add 4-5 cloves choppped garlic; when garlic starts to soften, add spinach and toss. Drizzle with a little soy sauce (just a touch), let spinach soften, remove from heat, and set aside.
  3. Assembly: Make crust per package instructions (I like to roll it out on a little cornmeal). Layer with onions, spinach, and then sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese. Cook about 6-8 minutes (per package instructions) HINT: if you heat the cookie sheet or whatever you are baking the pizza on in the oven while it is preheating, it helps the crust stay crisper!

We’re always on the lookout for new pizza recipes, and sometime I want to have friends over for a pizza night. We’d make the recipes I shared with you, plus a great appetizer pizza – Spread crescent roll dough out flat on a cookie sheet and bake according to directions, then top with cream cheese and chopped raw veggies (I like broccoli and carrots, personally). Now I just need to get a dessert pizza added to my repertoire and I’ll be all set!

The NewAir Beverage Cooler is a Party Day – and Every Day – Must-Have! {Giveaway}


Note: We received a beverage cooler to facilitate our review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

With five people in our house, our refrigerator ends up very full each week in preparation for all the meals to come. With three kids who are running around all over the place, it is a very common occurrence to have them asking for drinks pretty constantly. We’ve never been able to really have enough cold drinks on hand in the past. We stick a few in the fridge and the rest in the pantry until we have room for more. I’ve told Brian for a long time that I wish we had another refrigerator just for drinks – and now we do!


The NewAir AB-1200 beverage cooler is the perfect solution for our drink storage problems – it houses 126 cans, which is a lot of drinks even for our thirsty kiddos! It’s also seriously a gorgeous appliance with a sleek stainless frame around the glass door. The LED light (which you can turn on and off) provides a cool, blue-hued light that is really sleek looking. We decided to put ours in Brian’s man cave, since that’s a place we all hang out quite a bit, but this would look amazing housed underneath a counter in a kitchen, too.


When we first got the beverage cooler we stocked it with bottled water, but we’re planning on having a large assortment of drink options for the various company we have over. It will be so great for our next party to have plenty of cold drinks on hand!


I’m very impressed with the beverage cooler and know we will get a ton of use out of it. You could also easily use this to hold veggie or fruit trays or other items to keep cold for a party – it’s versatile and has a great amount of interior space for its size. I think it’s the total package – it looks high-end and would fit in well in virtually any space, whether it’s at home or in a commercial setting. But beyond that, it functions really efficiently, too. Some features of the cooler include:

  • Holds up to 126 cans of beer or soda
  • 5 removable chrome racks plus a spacious storage bin
  • Cools down to 34 degrees for perfectly frosty drinks
  • Manual controls with 7 temperature settings
  • Black and stainless steel exterior complements home décor

If you’re like us, I’m sure you can think of many ways the NewAir beverage cooler would be awesome to use… and you’d really better get to thinking about where you’d want to put it, because one of you will win your very own cooler!


One lucky winner will receive the NewAir AB-1200 Beverage Cooler (ARV $300.00)! This giveaway is open to all US residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Wednesday, March 19. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.


Mandatory Entry: Comment on this post telling me what your favorite aspect about the beverage cooler is.


(Only valid after the required entry has been completed)

Please leave a comment for each extra entry.

I’m a Pull-Ups First Flush Ambassador!

Note: I participated in a campaign on behalf of Mom Central Consulting (#MC) for Pull-Ups. I received product samples to facilitate my review and a promotional item as a thank you for participating.

I can still remember when our oldest son (who is now 6) was potty training. It was honestly one of the more stressful parenting moments I’ve experienced, and I may have been pretty certain at one point or another that it was just never going to happen. Of course, it finally did, and then it was a much easier process with our now-4-year-old. But of course with the birth of baby E we entered back into the realm of diapers, and now potty training is looming in the near future. It’s not nearly as intimidating (especially because I hear that girls are MUCH easier to potty train than boys. PLEASE let that be true!) because we’ve been through the tunnel and have made it to the light, so we know we’ll get there… but also because now we’re aware of great resources to help us along the way. We know that patience is key, because if you or your child starts getting frustrated with the process it can lead to setbacks and regression. Being consistent but relaxed about the process will make it more pleasant and effective.


With both the boys, Huggies Pull-Ups were a vital part of the potty training process, and we know that’ll be the case with E, too. If you’re not familiar with them, Pull-Ups are training pants for toddlers that are designed to look and fit more like underwear- kids can pull them up and down while still having the absorbency to catch any accidents!

Although we’d heard of and used Pull-Ups, I didn’t know about the Huggies Pull-Ups site and all it had to offer, like their Potty Training Fun-damentals (you can even print out a potty chart to get your child excited about keeping track of their progress). But more than that, parents can gain tips along the way, like this (which I never would’ve thought of!):

  • Take a test run. Parents shouldn’t assume their child knows how to put on or take off pants. With each new outfit, there should be practice time. Children will be more willing to go to the potty if they are confident they can undress with confidence.

I’m SO excited to be a Pull-Ups Ambassador, because Pull-Ups are a product I really believe in after having experienced how well they work for our kids, and I’m impressed with all their site has to offer. There are so many resources available on the Big Kid Academy (via thePull-Ups website, like I mentioned), but also on their Facebook and Twitter pages. E loves to dance, so I know we’ll be using the Potty Dance songs to get her excited about potty training!

I hope you’ll keep up with our potty training adventures – I’ll be back over the next several weeks with a few more posts that will be helpful for you as you think about potty training your little ones!

Free Printable: “Dino-Mite” Valentine’s Card Tags


My son C wanted something fun for his Valentines this year, and we decided to do something a little different than our standard cards – we sent his friends dinosaurs! I found these for $1 each at Walmart, but you can also often find bags of dinosaurs at the dollar store – and I found a batch of 72 dinosaurs for just $10 on Amazon. Either way, I’ve got an adorable tag ready for you to use along with the dinosaurs. I’m kind of in love with these!




Just click here to download a free printable PDF. The file has two pages. The first has 8 tags laid out. The second page has a repeating dinosaur pattern that looks really great printed on the back of the tags. We typed friends’ names on the tag, but I’ve left space on these for you to write in the names (and your child can write his or her name at the bottom of the tag, which is what we did).

Want another fun Valentine idea? Check out our free Pop Rocks Valentine printable

Free “You Rock” Valentine’s Printable for Pop Rocks


If you’re looking for an easy last-minute Valentine idea, look no further! Simply print out this adorable tag, fold it, and tape it to the top of a Pop Rocks bag. Voila! Here’s how cute ours turned out:


Just click here to download a free PDF file of the tag (just one single tag), or you can right-click and save the JPG below. If you’d like a whole sheet of the tags, click hereOh, and the hardest part for us was finding where to buy Pop Rocks (Target and Walmart had none!). We finally found them at Dollar Tree, where you can get a pack of 3 for $1. You can also find them online.



Need another Valentine idea? Why not use our Dino-Mite free Valentine printable?

Have a Sweet Treat (guilt-free!) This Valentine’s Day With SPLENDA

Note: This post is part of the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® 2014 program by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. and The Motherhood, who sent me a box of products and compensated me for my time. Opinions, experiences and photos shared here are all my own, and I hope you enjoy them.

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – and it’s even on a Friday, making it easy to set aside some time with your special someone and celebrate. We’ll be celebrating Friday evening with our three special someones – we’re having a Valentine’s “party” with the kids, complete with heart-shaped hamburgers and hot dogs (can you tell they picked the menu?). No party is complete without sweets, though, right? Well, amidst all the sugar floating around right now (chocolate and lollipops and conversation hearts, oh my!), SPLENDA offers us a way to bake treats without all the added calories from sugar.



Have you ever baked with SPLENDA? It can be used almost anywhere sugar is used, and measures cup-for-cup like sugar. It contains 678 less calories than sugar on a cup-for-cup basis. So you can go ahead and bake those brownies or cookies and know that you’re giving your loved ones something delicious with many less calories!

One of Brian’s favorite cookies is a peanut butter cookie with a peanut butter cup in the middle, so that might be a perfect treat for me to make for the family! Here’s a link to the cookie recipe – just replace the sugar with SPLENDA to greatly reduce the amount of calories in these cookies!

So go ahead and run to the store for ingredients – I’ve even got a link for a “$1 off any SPLENDA product” coupon you can use! Just go to HealthyEssentials.com to find your coupon. HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® is offering amazing printable coupons, tips & tools and so much more for all the products you and your family love. You can get significant savings on much more than SPLENDA by visiting the HEALTHY ESSENTIALS website in February and signing up for extra-sweet HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® coupons and offers. As you prepare for a special Valentine’s Day, these HEALTHY ESSENTIALS® products and tips can help you be healthy and happy for the ones you love.

To sweeten the savings, you could get a free 30 minute nutrition consultation with a Registered Dietitian when you buy $10 of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products between now and February 17, 2014 – up to $75 value!  More details on this special offer at HealthyEssentials.com.

Hope you have a sweet time with your loved ones this weekend!

Spring Style with OshKosh B’gosh

Note: I participated in an Influencer Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for OshKosh B’gosh. I received a gift card to facilitate my shopping trip and to thank me for participating. 

We love OshKosh B’gosh for all three of our kids (who, if you don’t remember, are 6, 4, and 1). Our boys always think their t-shirts are really cool, and I always find a million adorable outfits for baby E. We don’t have one in our city, but thankfully my mother-in-law does. Almost every time we go visit we manage to make it over and do a little shopping at the OshKosh store.

Spring is almost here in Texas (well, it’s already here some days, with winter days in between) so we’re starting to think about a warmer-weather wardrobe for the kids – not to mention the fact that they’re all three growing like weeds! My mother-in-law, Michelle, graciously agreed to help me with this post and took on the task of shopping for the grandkids (which, let me tell you, she’s a pro at!).

One thing I love about OshKosh B’gosh stores is that your money can really go a long way. They always have sales, and when you find coupons too your savings really add up quickly. Did I mention I have a GREAT coupon to share with you in this post? Yes, I know, I’m wonderful like that. Anyway, back to what I was saying – OshKosh clothes are well-made AND affordable. They hold up well to the wear and tear of energetic little boys, they wash and dry well, and we get a lot of use out of them. Of course, they’re also well-designed too, which can be really hard to find when you’re shopping kids’ clothes! Check out the boys tees wall, for instance – they have a ton of options to choose from!




Michelle texted me the pictures above and we let the boys pick their favorites to purchase. They each picked by themselves without knowing what the other had selected, and they both picked the exact same three shirts as their favorites.





These will be really great for wearing to school. I love the colors on all three of them.  The boys also got some new jeans (badly needed! The speed at which they manage to get holes in knees of pants is astounding), some dress shirts, and PJs:







Michelle got the two pairs of PJs on the left in the picture above. I love how the cars and rockets go up onto the shirts from the pants – so creative!

Of course, there’s no way baby E got left out from getting new clothes. While it’s a lot of fun shopping for the boys, it’s admittedly MUCH more fun shopping for girls’ clothes. Check out the photo below – I love every outfit on that rack. OshKosh B’gosh does a great job of providing separates that coordinate really well together and stand alone well, too.





I love how the polka dots on the skirt coordinate with the dots on the shirt, and the little pink bow just adds the perfect sweet touch to it all.



Adorable denim dress – the ruffles provide a nice detail, and the nautical-inspired belt is right on trend for the spring. It would be really easy to swap the belt out with a strip of grosgrain ribbon to create a new look that coordinates with other accessories, too.

Last but not least, these two shirts are fresh and airy, perfect for spring – and they both pair great with the shorts and silver sandals. These outfits are great for little ones but are so stylish that I kind of wish they made them in adult sizes too!



Now that you’ve seen all these great spring looks from OshKosh B’gosh I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit to do a little shopping of your own, right? Well, here’s where that coupon I mentioned earlier comes into play:



Simply spend $30 or more and you’ll get 20% off! And if you don’t have a store near you (you can check here for store locations), don’t fret – the coupon is good online, too. It expires March 12, 2014.

Happy Shopping!


Inject Some Color into Your Dinner Routine With Novogratz Dinnerware


Note: We received plates to facilitate our review. We were not compensated monetarily. All opinions are honest and are our own. 

We have had solid-colored dishes since getting married ten years ago. We started out with teal, navy, and yellow, but over the years we’ve accumulated other colors. I love our dishes but have been looking for a way to freshen things up… when along comes the Novogratz dinnerware collection to save the day.


We have the dinner and salad plates shown above – aren’t they fun? Brian and I love modern design and the kids think the design is great, too, so they’re an all-around hit. But my favorite part is all the color. Virtually any color you have in your current dishes are represented in the Novogratz line, which made it incredibly easy for us to incorporate a fun new look at dinner.


Don’t the plates look great with our yellow, red, and navy pieces? They look great blended with our solid plates, too:




Of course, what good is amazing style if you can’t afford it, right? Thankfully the Novogratz dinnerware collection is completely affordable. It’s offered at Macy’s and costs only $9-$29 per piece – lovely! Personally, I think I may  have to get their melamine popcorn tub for movie night.



Be sure and check out their complete line of offerings on Macy’s and add some color and fun to your dinner table!



Outback’s $9.99 Steak Plates Mean Any Night can be Steak Night! {Giveaway}


Note: We received an Outback gift card to facilitate our review. All opinions in this post are honest and are entirely our own.

new_OUTBACK logo

I love eating at Outback Steakhouse for their Bloomin’ Onion alone, but of course their steaks – and other offerings – are always delicious, too. Our whole family loves the bread, even baby E:

We’ve always thought of Outback as kind of a “special occasion” type restaurant, but now they’re offering $9.99 steak dinners, which meant that we made Monday night a steak night. And really, if any night of the week deserves a steak, isn’t it Monday? We just had a hard time choosing which kind of steak we wanted to get.



Here’s a little more about each of the choices listed in the photo above:


  •  Bloomin’ Sirloin – topped with crispy Bloomin’ Onion petals, a down under favorite
  •  Parmesan Crusted Sirloin – rich and juicy, coated with a Parmesan and herb crust
  •  Sirloin with Wild Mushroom Sauces – a mushroom lover’s dream, with a rich, creamy mushroom sauce drizzled atop
  • Sirloin Diablo – let your taste buds go bold with our spicy Diablo Sauce atop a piping hot sirloin
  • Blue Cheese Sirloin – topped with a mouth-watering, creamy blue cheese crust

Brian ended up going with the Sirloin Diablo, because he always gravitates toward spicy food. It was really good (you know I had to sample it too, right?) – doesn’t it look delicious?



I went with the Blue Cheese Sirloin, because I loooove blue cheese, especially with beef. I was able to substitute mashed potatoes for the fries at no extra cost:



These were great, filling meals that really felt like a treat, but were totally affordable (perfect for Valentine’s Day coming up, right?). And if you subscribe to receive Outback’s emails, you’ll often get coupons for free Bloomin’ Onions, which we happened to get this weekend, so we really indulged!



So, if you want a meal that feels like a total splurge but doesn’t wreck your wallet, check out Outback’s $9.99 steak plates. I’m so excited about this, I’m even going to basically GIVE one of you a free steak dinner (thanks to Outback!):



One lucky winner will receive a $10 gift card to Outback Steakhouse. Since Valentine’s Day is coming up, I’m making this a short giveaway so the winner can use this card toward a nice date night out! This giveaway is open to all US residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Tuesday, February 11. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.


Mandatory Entry: Comment on this post letting me know which steak you’ll try next time you go to Outback Steakhouse!



(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.



Campbell’s Slow Cooker Sauces {Giveaway}


Note: We received samples of the Campbell’s Slow Cooker Sauces and a Crock Pot to facilitate our review. I was not compensated monetarily for this post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I, like many moms, am a HUGE fan of using the slow cooker to prepare meals. I work full-time, and am often pretty tired when we get home in the afternoon. It’s always amazing to walk in the door and smell a delicious dinner just waiting for you.

Campbell’s new Slow Cooker Sauces make it even easier; you can have a warm, delicious dinner on the table with as little as 5 minutes of prep time! It’s as easy as placing 2-3 lbs. of meat in your slow cooker and pouring over the sauce packet!


We tried the Sweet Korean BBQ sauce for dinner the other night. All I needed was a roast, the sauce, and my trusty Crock Pot slow cooker.



It really was as simple as putting the roast in the Crock Pot, pouring the sauce over it, and setting the timer.



That night when we got home, all we had to do was make rice to go with our meat. I used two forks to shred the meat, which was really easy since it was so tender.


I’m really excited to try the other sauce flavors – it’s an easy way to impart some variety into our meal rotation! The full line of flavors are:

  •  Tavern Style Pot Roast with Mushrooms and Roasted Garlic
  •  Sweet Korean BBQ with Roasted Ginger and Sesame
  •  Apple Bourbon BBQ with Bell Peppers and Brown Sugar
  • Hawaiian Luau with Pineapple, Mango and Bell Peppers
  • Mexican Red Chile Taco with Garlic and Sweet Peppers
  • Moroccan Spiced Stew with Green Olives and Lemon


Are you as excited about trying these sauces as I was? Well, prepare to get even more excited… one of YOU will win your own set of sauces and a programmable 6-quart Crock Pot slow cooker! This giveaway is open to all US residents aged 18+. Entries will be accepted until the end of the day (midnight Central) Tuesday, February 18. By entering this giveaway you agree to the Official Rules.


Mandatory Entry: Comment on this post letting me know which sauce flavor you’re most excited to try.


(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.