Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Christmas Tree Shops

I Big Puffy Puffy Heart the Christmas Tree Shops.  Don't let the name fool you, it has nothing to do with Christmas.  The store used to be privately owned but was bought out about 8 years ago by bed bath and beyond. 
I've gotten so much cute stuff from the CTS.  Our foyer table for $20, beautiful picture frames and framed art for under $10, great serving platters, awesome cookbooks, most of our fall and christmas decorations, cute seasonal mats for the front door around $5 a piece, paper goods for parties no more than $2 for anything, toys for Bailey, amazing gardening supplies for $3-5 a container, boxes of cards, 50 cards for $4, so I don't have to spend $4 on one card when it's someone's bday or baby shower, cute thank you cards...I could go on and on. 

Here are some pics of my CTS finds:

Paul and I first found this store when we went looking for colleges to go to up north.  We spent the weekend at cape cod and thought we were walking into one of those vacation stores that sells christmas things all year long.  Boy were we wrong! Since then, CTS has started moving its way down the east coast and into the midwest.  The unfortunate part is that they keep missing northern virginia!  They have one now in Waldorf Md, but nope not Fairfax!  My sister is lucky, she has one around the corner from her house outside of NYC.  That is always my first stop when we go to visit her. 

So if you happen to see a Christmas Tree Shops, make a b line, have some fun shopping on the cheap and let me know what you get!
Friday, October 8, 2010

Midweek Entertaining on a Budget

So if you work full time and have 10 people coming for dinner on a tues night at 7:30, what in the heck do you do?   Bust out your CROCKPOT!! 

We received this amazing crockpot as an engagment gift almost 8 years ago (yes, we have been together for along time).  We rarely used it until we were married for 2 years and I went on the nest and got some amazing recipes from the What's Cooking Forum.  One of my favorites was the crockpot salsa chicken.

As I mentioned in my last post, I hate recipes with tons of ingredients and steps.  I'm more of a what do you have and then add a dash of this and that type "chef".  This recipe is just like that.  A few simple ingredients: Chicken, Salsa, liquid (beer and chicken stock are my choices).

In case anyone was wondering we were entertaining 10 people on a tues night because we joined a church small group for the first time!  Everyone in our small group is are young married couples like us.  Paul and I are so excited to grow together in faith and life with our new friends.

Here is the "real" recipe as well as a recipe for a black bean and corn salsa and fresh Guacamole  The whole meal for the 12 of us was less then $20 and was put together in less then 10 minutes before I left for work in the morning.

Crockpot Fajitas
Chicken Breast according to how many people are coming over.  I used 6 last night
1-2 cups of good salsa based on number of breasts.  I used appx 2 cups of Jack's Salsa from Wegmans
A little bit of beer (1/2 cup maybe)
A little bit of chicken stock (1/2 cup maybe)
Salt, Pepper, Cumin and Montreal Chicken Seasoning to taste.
Cook on low for 6-10 hours (I did 10 because that is how long I was gone for at work) once the breasts are done shred them with a fork and let them sit in the liquid until served so that chicken is moist and juicy.

Serve with sides of fresh tortillas, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, tomatoes, cilantro, grilled onions and peppers:
Here is what it looks like

Some people add a can of black beans and corn to the crock pot.  It will look like this:

I prefer making a:

Black bean and corn salad
1/2 a red onion diced
1/2 diced jalapeno
Chopped Cilantro to taste
Cumin, S&P to taste
Juice of 1 lime

Guacamole1-4 avocados depending on how many people are eating and how much you like it :)
juice of one lime
Salt to taste
Cumin to taste
1-3 tbsp of fresh chopped cilantro
1/2 finely sliced jalapeno

I make it by hand but our neighbors like to use the food processor for everything but the avocados.  They also add 1/4 of a small red onion but I'm not a fan of onion breath that last for days so I leave that out.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

I should give Rachel Ray some pointers...

So anyone that knows me well knows I have a major lack of patience.  Fortunately for Paul and my friends I got a handle on my patience with people fixed a while ago.  Patience for cooking is another story.  I generally season using whatever juices, wine, beer or condiments are in my fridge and pantry and try to use a few pots and pans as possible so I don't have a lot of dishes to clean.

I generally don't like having to cook for longer than 15-20 minutes.  I've become pretty good at it. Last night I made an awesome 20 minute mahi mahi meal and tonight's mexican entertaining meal for our first ever church small group was already whipped together in 5 minutes and done by 9 am (I'll post on that later).

Last night's dinner was Mahi Mahi with fresh steamed spinach and garlicy mashed potatoes:
No recipe and unfortunately no actual picture but this is how I did it and the pic is as similar to what mine looked like as I could find online.

How to make 20 minute Mahi dinner:
  • Placed mahi mahi filets onto the olive oiled baking pan season them with salt, pepper, montreal chicken seasoning and herbes de provence. 
  • I used the remaining tidbit of salsa 1/8 cup? (Jack's Salsa is my fav), poured in about 1/2 cup of beer, the little bit of sparkling apple cider which was left in the bottle (1/2 cup maybe) and then a splash of chicken stock.
  • Pour that over the seasoned mahi in pan and put it in the convection oven for 15 minutes at 375 degrees.
  • While the mahi is baking put potatoes into the microwave to cook. 
  • In a  deep pan add some olive oil and a little bit of chicken stock and then put in the fresh spinach season it with salt, pepper and garlic and cover the pan for 3-5 minutes or until spinach has wilted.
  • Take the spinach out of the pan and place into severing bowl. 
  • Add the cooked potatoes into the pan (still has spinach juices), mashed them with potato masher (best kitchen tool ever)
  • Add a little bit of plain yogurt, a splash of milk some garlic power, and of course chicken stock salt and pepper.  Smooth together with masher or fork.
  • Plate the potatoes side them with spinached and top them with the mahi. 

Dinner done and served in 20 minutes!
Monday, October 4, 2010

Register Your Starbucks Card

Remember when I wrote about Splits and my love for Pumpkin Spice Lattes (PSL). 

Well this is the time of year I actually really care about Starbucks being in the world.  I could honestly go without any other type of coffee.  I don't need caffeine it unfortunately/fortunately doesn't have any effect on me at all.

Well a few months ago, Paul my all year round loving starbucks hubby surprised me with a loaded starbucks card in my wallet (he's so awesome right).  Well I finally got around to registering it because I kept hearing that after a few drinks you get free shots or free soy milk or a free drink!

Well on Saturday about a week after I registed and started using my card Starbucks sent me a little card in the mail for a free breakfast sandwich as a thank you for registering my card!  YAY!!

Here is a link to the information about registering your card.  https://www.starbucks.com/card/rewards
For those of you with fancy phones, I think there is an app to see where you are with their rewards system.

Have fun and enjoy a PSL soon!
Friday, October 1, 2010

You can stand under my UMBRELLA!

So, this is a frugalicious steal I couldn't wait to share and brag about.  Last year Paul and I upgraded our original craigslist patio set with a beautiful iron set we bought with the proceeds of the sale of our old table (I made a profit on my original purchase, classic Mimi sytle).

Our old umbrella looked awesome with our smaller table and chair set.  But once we went from the 40" square wood table (link isn't the exact table, but its close) to the long iron rectangular table our nice big umbrella began to look quite small in comparision.  Over the past four years it has also faded and started to tilt quite a bit.

Our neighbors have had some blowing in the wind umbrella horror stories, but yet my faithful green 6ft clearance pottery barn umbrella never failed me.  I'm sad to put it to rest (I might sell it for $20 on craigslist), but I'm super excited to introduce our new upgrade.  A 9ft cherry red cheasapeake collection PB umbrella

I waited and waited for this umbrella to go on sale.  Last year I missed out, but this year I was determined and so I stalked the stores.  You see Pottery Barn puts it stuff on super sale and if anything is left they keep it in the inventory at full price to be put out the following spring. 

I left work a little early on Friday and stopped in at the mall to switch out my stupid phone (Droid Eris...3rd time better be the charm), so since I was already at the mall, I decided to hit up PB, I did happen to have one of their fabulous $25 off of $50 coupons afterall.  Unfortunately, all they had left for umbrellas was this floral pattern Paul would have killed me if I had bought, so I had the clerk check to see what other local stores still had some.  Reston had a few, so on Saturday I gave them a call in hopes they would have the color I wanted.  Fortunately they did and since I work in Reston on Tuesdays I had them put it away for me to pick up during lunch.  I was so happy because I think I hit the sale the week or so before the umbrella would go back to full price.  I was able to get my $150 umbrella for a BIG $25!  Yup, $25 buckaroos for a HUGE massive awesome umbrella.  When Humera my homegirl coworker and I went to pick up the umbrella, the manager rang it up and was like WOW that's an awesome price.  I wish I could show you her face when I gave her my coupon!  Humera and I were cracking up the whole way back to work.  When I asked her if it was sad a few hours later that I was thinking about an umbrella she was like no dude that is what I was just thinking about!  MAUH HAHAHA

Unforutnately my pretty new cherry red umbrella will reside in our garage until next spring.  At least I will have something to look forward to if DC gets hit by another 40 ft of snow.

So, who would like to be the first to join me under my new Umbrella?!