Food – Frugal Novice
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Las Ramblas Restaurant – Delicious Dining on the RiverWalk

We received meals at Las Ramblas to facilitate our review. This post was not compensated monetarily. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Earlier this month we went on a mini-vacation to San Antonio. We loved it, and will probably go back again next year – the Riverwalk area is a fun, laid-back, very  walkable place to be, with all sorts of attractions nearby. We stayed at the Hotel Contessa & I wrote about our great experience here

When I planned our trip I thought about three things – lodging, entertainment, and meals. When we’re on vacation I love trying new places, but when we’re traveling with kids we have to also think about places that have kid-friendly environments and kid-friendly food offerings!

Our first night in town we kept things incredibly easy and ate in the Hotel Contessa’s restaurant, Las Ramblas. It was really nice to be able to just take the elevator down to river level and be at the restaurant within minutes of leaving our hotel room.

Las Ramblas’ aesthetic feels modern and elegant. My favorite touch in the whole space is their beautiful black & white floors, and the kids thought the spiraling column was amazing. You can see both in the photo below.


And of course since Las Ramblas is a part of Hotel Contessa it’s located right on the Riverwalk. We had great views out the windows by our table. You can’t really see the view in the photo below, but you can see there was a whole wall of windows & doors along the river. There’s also a patio area for eating outdoors if you prefer.


Las Ramblas feels very upscale so I was a little concerned about kids’ options before we went. I was pleasantly surprised to see they had many choices for our kids to pick from! E & C both had mini corn dogs and J picked (as always) chicken tenders. Our waiter was great (the service at Las Ramblas was consistently helpful, happy, and friendly each time we ate there) and put their food orders in at the same time as our appetizer so they didn’t have to wait as long to get started eating.

Speaking of appetizers… we had their spinach artichoke dip, and OH MY GOODNESS it was seriously, no joke, the best spinach artichoke dip I’ve ever had. It had caramelized onions, goat cheese, and bacon in it, which elevated it to a whole new level from other dips we’ve had before.


I had to slide the plate over by Brian or I seriously could’ve eaten the whole thing.


For my meal I ordered the beef filet. It came with charred tomatoes, cipollini,  onions, potatoes, and Texas mushrooms. The plate also had a red wine jus that perfectly complimented everything in the dish. I was really impressed with my food. I am the rare Texan that likes my steak cooked medium-well, and that can be a challenge when it comes to filets. My steak from Las Ramblas was cooked perfectly. It was tender and juicy (even my medium-rare-steak-loving husband agreed). I’ve been to many steakhouses having lived in Texas my whole life, and this steak made my top three, for sure.


Brian had the Texas striped bass with English peas, summer squash, sweet corn, and was topped off with corn butter. His dish was plated beautifully and really felt summery.


For dessert the kids had ice cream and Brian and I split the molten chocolate cake.



The cake was rich with a fruit sauce, chocolate sauce, and fresh berries accompanying it. It was a great end to a really decadent meal!

We ate at Las Ramblas for breakfast both mornings of our trip. Their breakfast buffet is the perfect choice for families because there’s something for everyone. They had plenty of hot food items like scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, and oatmeal along with pastries, fresh fruit, yogurt, and cereal.




We loved it because we were all able to get plenty of fuel to energize our day with a big, hearty breakfast!

If you’re visiting the Riverwalk and are looking for a special spot, be sure and check out Las Ramblas. You can view their menu – and make reservations – online here

Great Tax Day Deals!

Tax Day can be stressful, but you know what takes away stress? Awesome freebies & discounts! Go have some noodles for lunch, chicken for dinner, and end your day with a free hydromassage.

Planet Fitness_Tax Day_HydroMassage

Planet Fitness

  • From Saturday, April 15 – Saturday, April 22 consumers can receive a free HydroMassage at any Planet Fitness location. De-stressers need only bring in a coupon available on (starting April 15) before relaxing their cares away.

Noodles & Company_Tax Day

Noodles & Company

  • From Wednesday, April 12 – Tuesday, April 18, those who file their taxes digitally this year can receive $4 off any $10 purchase placed through using the code “TAXDAY17” at checkout.

Boston Market_Tax Day Special

Boston Market

  • On Tuesday, April 18, any guest who dines in-restaurant can purchase a $10.40 Tax Day Meal Special. Offer includes a Half Chicken Individual Meal with 2 sides, cornbread, a regular fountain beverage and a cookie.

Kitchen Must-Have: Hamilton Beach Professional 14 Cup Dicing Food Processor

My contributor received a Hamilton Beach food processor to facilitate this review, and Hamilton Beach provided the food processor for the associated giveaway.

Frugal Novice contributor Debbie really knows her way around the kitchen, so she was perfect to test out the Hamilton Beach professional food processor sent my way for review. In fact, she regularly hosts a group of friends at her house for dinner, so she was able to use the food processor to make food for an upcoming gathering and share her opinions of the machine:




I decided to try out several preparations of ingredients with the food processor to really get a feel for the variety of options it provides, and first started with dicing a potato. If you’ve ever done this manually, you know how hard it can be to get uniform cuts – so it’s really appealing to get the job done with a food processor instead!


Here’s what the setup looks like – there’s a blade that spins around and then the potato will also be pushed through the grid, giving me nice cubed pieces of potato.



The dicing worked really well and I’m happy with the finished product.

I did notice some potato left on the top of the disc when I removed it from the processor:


The food processor comes with a device to help clean the dicer; there’s a bit of a learning curve in getting it to line up right, but once I got the hang of it I was able to use it to remove the leftover pieces of potato.

You can see in the video above that there’s a locking handle on this food processor. It holds everything together well and keeps the machine stable, along with the help of suction cups underneath.



After dicing the potato I decided to try slicing cucumbers. The slicing disc has 15 different thicknesses to choose from, giving you a lot of options for various needs.



Last but not least I used the shredding disc to shred cheddar for homemade pimento cheese.



It worked really quickly, saving a lot of time and effort that would have been used if I’d shredded the cheese by hand.



There was a little bit of cheese left on the disc, but not too much.


Looks great, don’t you think? All set for making some amazing pimento cheese.

The Hamilton Beach Professional 14-cup food processor provides a lot of power and efficiency, and has some really smart features built in  – the suction cups and locking handle mentioned above, but also…


a spot for the cord to be stored. Genius.


a storage container for all the parts and pieces. Love this!


The Hamilton Beach Professional 14-cup food processor is a great tool to have in your kitchen arsenal, and I’m looking forward to making many more dishes with its help.

You might just be able to see how great it is for yourself! One lucky reader will win their very own food processor just like the one shown above. Enter via Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Fogo de Chao – Decadent Dining Experience!

We received meals to facilitate our review. All opinions are honest and are our own.

Several years ago Brian and I got the opportunity to eat at a Fogo de Chao in Austin, and we loved it. We’ve told the kids for years about what a fun dining experience it is (not to mention amazingly delicious), so we were really thrilled with the opportunity to introduce them – and my mother-in-law (Brian’s stepdad had already been) – to the restaurant on our recent trip to Dallas. We visited the Addison location and had a truly lovely meal.


If you’re not familiar with Fogo de Chao, let me give you the most important piece of information – come HUNGRY. There is an abundance of exquisite food, and trust me, you’ll want to try it all. The salad bar alone is stocked with all sorts of cheeses, fruits, veggies & more – and if you go to brunch there are other offerings out as well!






If you looked at the salad bar alone you’d think you’d won the lottery, but the real heart of the Fogo de Chao experience is the meat. Every guest receives a two-sided card. One one side it’s red, meaning servers should stop bringing meat, and on the other it’s green, meaning you’re ready for more.


There are a ton of different options to try – filet, strip steak, ribs, lamb, pork, beef, chicken – and it’s all delicious. A server will ask you how you’d like your meat cooked (when applicable) and then give you a portion to place on your plate.



Beyond that, the sides brought to the table are amazing, too!

Our fabulous waiter, Antonio, had us try the bolo de fuba, which is a corn cake served with a banana whipped cream – so good. We loved the polenta, caramelized bananas, and creamy whipped potatoes, too.


And y’all, the bread. It is light, airy, cheesy popover-style rolls called pao de queijo. I seriously couldn’t get enough of them and wish I could have them every day.

At this point I’m sure you can tell that the food is totally worth a visit, but what takes Fogo de Chao even more over the top is the service. The manager Tony was gregarious and welcoming, our waiter Antonio was always ready to pull out our chairs for us and was constantly on top of any need we might have. If you want to feel pampered, Fogo de Chao is the place to be. Thanks to Tony and his team for running a top notch restaurant through and through. We’ll definitely be back!


Also, don’t miss this great news!

From Monday – Thursday, now through Jan. 2all military veterans and active duty personnel will receive 40% off their dinner or 25% off their lunch (valid for the full Churrasco experience; reservations required, just mention “Military Holiday” when making reservation).

Here are Fogo de Chao’s holiday hours:

  • Christmas Eve: 11:00 a.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Christmas Day: 12:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
  • New Year’s Eve: 11:00 a.m. – 11:30 p.m.
  • New Year’s Day: 11:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Their special holiday menu includes such items as:

  • Seasonal Beef Roast
  • Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Butternut & Sweet Potato Soup
  • Roasted Butternut Squash and Pear & Endive Salads

Don’t miss out on a truly one-of-a-kind dining experience – check out Fogo de Chao this holiday season!

Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner in Our House!

This is a compensated post. All opinions are honest and are my own.

We cook most of our meals at home. This means we have to get creative with our menu planning so we don’t end up eating the same thing over and over again – I’m sure you’ve been in that same boat! We do have a few favorite meals that frequent our meal rotation, though:

  • Shredded Beef Quesadillas
  • Pot Roast with Baked Potatoes
  • Spaghetti with Meat Sauce
  • Burritos with Ground Beef and Black Beans

Did you notice the common thread? We love to have beef recipes mixed into our menu plan for the week. And beef prices are down this season (nearly 10 percent from the highest prices in late 2014!), which makes it perfect to incorporate beef into holiday recipes! You can expect to be seeing lower prices at the meat case in your grocery retailer. Take advantage of these prices as you shop for roasts, steaks and ground beef this season.

On Christmas Eve, for instance, we’ll be having spicy beef sliders. These are SO easy to make – the beef cooks while we’re at a Christmas Eve service, and then it’s ready for us to enjoy for dinner. Just place 1-1.5 pounds of beef stew meat in your slow cooker along with a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. Pour beef broth over the meat just until it is completely covered. Cook on low for 6-8 hours, then serve the beef in dinner rolls with a slice of swiss cheese. Delicious and SO easy!

We use the leftover meat to make amazing beef quesadillas – I just shred the meat and add it to cheese & sauteed onions for the perfect quesadilla filling.


Pot roast is another favorite of ours (by the way – if you’re like me and never know what cut to get, check out this awesome resource); we like to serve it with brown gravy over baked potatoes. Talk about the perfect cold weather comfort food!

If you’re trying to figure out what to make this holiday season (like this beef stuffing with apples & cranberries, or braised short ribs with red wine sauce), check out this handy guide that’ll get you prepared for virtually any occasion:


Here’s a quick video recipe you might want to try – it looks SO good, doesn’t it?

For more holiday recipes such as Citrus-Marinated Beef and Fruit Kabobs, Braised Short Ribs with Red Wine Sauce and Beef Stuffing with Apples and Cranberries, visit

Here are some other great tips for when you’re cooking with beef:

  • When you’re at the grocery store, pick up beef just before checking out. A good rule of thumb is this: if it will take longer than 30 minutes to get your freshly purchased beef home, consider keeping it in a cold cooler.
  • Once you’re home, refrigerate or freeze beef as soon as possible after purchasing, and always place beef packages on the lowest shelf in your refrigerator on a plate or tray to catch any escaping juices.
  • For best quality, thaw steaks and roasts in the refrigerator—never at room temperature—and be sure to place the frozen package on a plate or tray to catch any escaping juices during the thawing process. Check out these refrigerator and freezer storage guidelines to ensure maximum quality.
  • Tip: You can quickly thaw Ground Beef in your microwave in five minutes or less – just follow these simple steps.

Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner.

Keep up with all things Beef on social media:

Twitter | Facebook  | Instagram  | Pinterest  | YouTube

Veterans Day Deals From Boston Market, Fogo de Chão, & Ruby Tuesday

Veteran’s Day is a week from today, and it’s the perfect time to thank those you know who have served our country. These men and women work hard and sacrifice time away from their own families to keep us safe, and their actions are definitely worth celebrating.

If you’re looking for a way to thank a veteran, here are three great restaurant deals to take advantage of:

Fogo de Chao Brazillian Steakhouse Restaurant wall sign

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse

  • All military veterans and active duty personnel with valid military ID will receive 50% off their meal on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11); up to three additional guests will receive 10% off their meals, as well. (Offer is valid at all U.S. and Puerto Rico Fogo de Chão locations. Beverages, dessert, tax and gratuity not included.)

Ruby Tuesday

Ruby Tuesday

  • All veterans, active duty and reserve military service members with valid military ID can enjoy one free appetizer (up to a $10 value) on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11). (Offer is valid at all Ruby Tuesday locations, excluding those in Guam, Hawaii, Manhattan, airports or outside of the United States.)

Boston Market

Boston Market

  • All active duty or retired military personnel and their families can receive one free brownie or cookie with any purchase on Veteran’s Day (Nov. 11). No ID required.


Hamilton Beach Sous Vide and Slow Cooker Pulls Double Duty in the Kitchen

We received the Hamilton Beach sous vide and slow cooker to facilitate our review, and Hamilton Beach is providing the prize for the giveaway. I was not compensated monetarily, and all opinions are honest and my own.

Brian and I are love to cook, and we love to watch cooking competitions. For several years now we’ve been intrigued by the concept of sous vide cooking, but it has seemed like something only professional chefs do.

Hamilton Beach changed all of that with their sous vide and slow cooker. It’s a two-for-one product, giving you the familiar slow cooker and allowing you to get adventurous with sous vide.

Since we’ve used a slow cooker many times, we decided to sous vide chicken with chimichurri sauce.

We placed each chicken breast in a baggie with a little of the chimichurri sauce, and then lowered each bag into the water-filled sous vide vessel. The water helped press all the air out from within the bags, and then we closed the bags up. You’ll notice in the photo below that a rack comes with the cooker – perfect for setting the food.


We just set the desired temperature we wanted the chicken to reach, and then once the temperature was reached we set the timer and put the lid on – SO easy.


After the chicken finished cooking, we briefly seared each side of the chicken in a skillet and then plated it on rice with more chimichurri sauce drizzled over it.



The chicken was so tender that we didn’t even need a knife to cut it, and it was full of flavor from the chimichurri sauce.

Here’s the recipe we used for the chimichurri sauce:

  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley (packed full)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh oregano (packed full)
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

In keepin with the “easy” theme, just put all the ingredients in your food processor and pulse until everything is well-blended. It’s pretty fool-proof!

I loved how easy it was to use – it will definitely be a staple in our kitchen. I can’t wait to try it with steak, and Brian wants to try seafood.

Are you curious about trying sous vide cooking? You can get a Hamilton Beach sous vide and slow cooker here AND you can enter to win one below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Elevate Your Plate with Dorot!

We love to cook, and even during very busy school weeks we try to cook two meals with enough for leftovers so we can eat at home most nights. I keep chicken and beef on hand in the freezer, and rice and pasta is always stocked in the pantry. I love to keep essentials around all the time so I can put together any meal in a pinch.

In the past, though, we always had a hard time keeping things like basil around for use in recipes. Perishable items can be difficult to have on hand because they go bad quickly – unless you’ve got Dorot in the freezer!

Dorot has frozen, flavorful trays filled with commonly-used ingredients, including:
• Crushed Garlic
• Chopped Parsley
• Chopped Basil
• Glazed Onions
• Chopped Dill
• Chopped Cilantro
• Chopped Chili
• Crushed Ginger

You can find these products at your local Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods in the freezer aisle, and once you stock up on all these it’ll be like you’ve got your own sous chef on hand to prep all your herbs and seasonings for you.

Dorot provides the perfect amount of herbs, with no prep or cleanup! I love this for busy nights – I can get all the flavor I want with the help of their easy trays! The basil would be perfect in this pesto pasta salad, don’t you think?



Our Family is Flipping for Free Kids’ Pancakes at Denny’s!

This post is part of a compensated ambassadorship with Denny’s. All opinions are honest and are my own.

I’ve written many times over  the past few years about how affordable it is for families to eat at Denny’s. Well, it’s now even easier and more affordable than ever for families to enjoy its all-new pancakes thanks to its “Free Pancakes for Kids” offer. This whole month your kids will have a free opportunity to see if Denny’s new pancake stacks—made with fresh buttermilk, real eggs and vanilla—really are better than ever.

For the first time, the pancakes are available in a variety of kid-sized signature dishes, including the Jr. Cinnamon Pancakes, Jr. Strawberries & Cream Pancakes and Chocolate Chip Pancakes. Kids ages 10 and under can enjoy Denny’s pancakes in any of these dishes for free every day in September from 4-10 p.m. with the purchase of one adult entrée at participating locations. We will definitely be going and taking advantage of this great deal! You can also add sides for just 89 cents each – I know my boys will want to add bacon to their pancakes!


“With families getting back into groove of the school year, the month of September is the perfect opportunity for fans of Denny’s to take advantage of our Free Pancakes for Kids offer,” said John Dillon, (follow him on Twitter, by the way – @DillonJohnW), chief marketing officer for Denny’s. “Not only is this a great way for our guests, including kids, to try our new pancakes, but it is also our way of inviting families to enjoy breakfast for dinner at an affordable price.”

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Help Your School with Box Tops for Education @ H-E-B!

I can hardly believe the kids are back in school again – the summer flew by. We had a really great three months with lots of family time and fun, and now we’re adjusting to school mode again – earlier bedtimes, earlier wakeup times, quick breakfasts, packing lunches… all the little routines that help make our kids’ days smoother and better.

The weekend before school began I started stocking up on favorite healthy snacks and nonperishable lunch items so we’d be prepared. We love H-E-B and all the variety they have to offer, so it was a great one-stop shop for everything we needed. As I shopped, I realized that I always gravitated towards options that offer Box Tops for Education. We love the Box Tops program, because all we have to do is shop for things we’re already planning to buy, clip the tops, and send them to school (your school will receive 10 cents for every Box Top you clip and send!) – it’s an incredibly easy way to support our school and its teachers. Just look for the box Tops label when you shop General Mills products at H-E-B.

Whether we’re shopping for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even snacks, it’s easy for us to find Box Tops products to help support our schools.


I have many friends who are teachers, and my mom was a teacher for many years until she retired this summer. I know how much teachers invest in their students by purchasing many things on their own dime, so it’s incredibly important for us to support teachers and schools with great programs like Box Tops for Education.

Right now there’s an even easier way to ramp up Box Top efforts – 20 Texas schools will win 20,000 bonus Box Tops (this is a value of $2,000!). Support your school by registering here for your chance to win the sweepstakes, and let your fellow parents know so they can enter, too!



Perfect for School Lunches: Summer Citrus From South Africa Easy Peelers

This is a partnered post with Summer Citrus from South Africa. All opinions are honest and our own.

School is back. We’re still settling in to the new routine, especially in the mornings. With three kids, we’re rushing around each school day making sure breakfasts are eaten, teeth are brushed, clothes are chosen, backpacks are ready, and lunches are packed.

Lunches are a big deal to me as a mom. I’m away from the kids all day, and lunchtime is a chance to send them a little love with a great meal. My husband and I send a joke in our boys’ lunches each day – usually one of us will write the joke and the other one will draw an illustration to go along with it. It’s a fun and easy way for us to brighten the kids’ day while they’re at school!


I like to make it really convenient to pack lunches during the week, so I pre-portion lunch meat, pepperoni, and pretzel sticks in snack baggies, and choose other healthy and convenient foods to go along with them. Easy Peelers from Summer Citrus from South Africa are a great school lunch staple – they’re SO easy to put in lunches (no slicing needed), the kids have fun peeling them and breaking them apart, and they’re delicious!


We also have Easy Peelers as a snack after school. Even my daughter, who’s almost 4, can easily peel one, she loves tearing them apart, and they disappear quickly because she gobbles them up!


Here’s something else to bring a smile to your face…


I’ve got TWO amazing giveaways you’ll definitely want to enter.


First, enter to win a really fun summer prize pack: an orange pool float, RTIC Insulated Tumbler, Popsicle Mold and eos Lip Balm. Just click here to enter! This giveaway is sponsored by Summer Citrus from South Africa, and it ends September 9.

The other giveaway is one I’m hosting right here, and it’s pretty awesome if I do say so myself! Check out what all you’ll win:

Giveaway prize pack

This prize pack is wonderful, y’all. The winner will get a Cuisinart Frozen Yogurt/Ice Cream Maker, dessert bowls, a citrus juicer, a zester, eos lip balm and a $50 Walmart gift card! Just enter in the Rafflecopter below for your chance to win:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pancakes That Will Make Your Family Flip!

This post is part of a compensated ambassadorship with Denny’s. All opinions are honest and are my own.

Our family loves pancakes. We make them at home a lot… but now we’ve got some serious competition. Denny’s has upgraded their pancakes, creating a recipe so good it even tops those that are homemade!

One thing I’ve learned throughout my time as a Denny’s ambassador is that this is a company wholly committed to quality. They put hours of work into each recipe that makes it to the menu, so it was no surprise when I learned they transforming their pancakes with pure ingredients and classic flavors for a bigger, better, and tastier pancake. They’re now 50% fluffier and made with fresh ingredients such as real eggs, buttermilk and vanilla.


There are four limited-time signature builds available right now:

  • Sticky Bun Pancake Breakfast
  • Strawberries & Cream Pancake Breakfast
  • Double Berry Banana Pancake Breakfast
  • Peanut Butter Cup Pancake Breakfast

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