Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Insurance Companies - GRRRR!

Okay, so I should first confess that I used to work at an insurance company. I was the "evil one" who sat in the corporate office and decided who got coverage and who didn't, and who qualified for a discount. I even cancelled insurance on folks who I thought deserved it! But, since I HATED the company for which I worked, I'm done with the insurance underwriting gig. I do, however, have experience with insurance companies, and yet I still hate them!

I've been going round and round with our dental insurance on a lousy $50. Basically, DH's company changed companies on March 1st. DH saw the dentist on 2/27 and then again on 3/7. BOTH companies charged the $50 deductible. Since we had paid it on the first visit, we weren't supposed to pay it to the second company - this was in the guidelines. But do you think they will fix it?? HA!

I obtained a copy of the original EOB from the first company and forwarded it immediately to the new company. Today I found out that wasn't enough. Are you ready for this? Met Life (the current/new company) is requiring ME to send THEM a copy of THEIR OWN EOB!! Excuse me?? Um, can't you do your job and press a button on your little computer there and print it? Nope. However, and get this - they will print it out and mail it to ME and then let ME send it back to THEM. HUH?? Does this make a speck of sense to anyone??????? And they stand firmly on this - there is no budging.

So, I have to get a copy of the EOB. Should be easy, but guess what? Met Life has the wrong address for us. And know what? I'm not allowed to change it myself! They require me to contact the employer who will then contact them and change the address. After this is done, then I can call Met Life AGAIN and request AGAIN that they mail me the EOB. It's so stupid, it's almost laughable!

Now, to make matters even MORE fun, there is an option for me to print the EOB from the website. Because I'm frustrated with these ridiculous people, I decide to try and navigate the website. After trying and trying and trying, I finally called their technical support unit to find out why the website won't work. Turns out that because I previously had insurance through Met Life (with my aforementioned insurance company job), and now had coverage through my husband's employer, their system had cross-matched the social security numbers and blocked me from accessing the site! Gee, I guess nobody EVER uses the same company more than once in a lifetime without forging their social security number. You do it right, and they block you!!! Sheesh!

So, I'm still fighting over this deductible thing. I'm starting to think it isn't worth the $50. I know I'll be glad when it's over (presuming that it ever gets fixed), and thrilled to see the $50 credit on my bill, but why do they have to put me through the wringer like this?????

Anybody else hate pointless insurance company red tape???????

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, Week of 6/29/09

This week, I was determined to have something new in the menu to make up for not having any new recipes last week. I did end up making a couple of new things for breakfast last week, so I wasn't completely without excitingly different meals. I turned to my very neglected recipe box this week - I don't think it's been out of the cabinet in months. I have many recipes in there that I have never tried, and this week, I've actually picked a couple to try.

Monday - Chicken tetrazzini, corn, homemade rolls.

Tuesday - Sweet and Tangy Pork Chops (new recipe, and I'll add pineapple and juice to it), rice, green beans, rest of the rolls.

Wednesday - Grill night: hamburgers, grilled three-cheese potatoes (another new one), salad (from my garden, amazingly).

Thursday - Grill night #2: barbequed ribs - the free ones! (cooked in crock pot all day, then crisped up on the grill to perfection), rice pilaf, glazed carrots, sliced bread (soaked in the sauce, Kansas City BBQ style).

Friday - Apple Havarti Chicken (using this recipe as a guideline, but using havarti instead of swiss since I have some on hand), crunch top potatoes, "fried" apples (using up my freezer stash from my brother's tree last fall), biscuits. The entree is another new recipe I've had in my box for some time but never tried.

Saturday - Pizza night has been moved to Saturday this week due to the 4th of July holiday. DH will have to work, and then we'll head over to an overlook to watch several big fireworks displays from one location - I'll be taking popcorn, sodas, and other snacks for the fun). I think it will be a ham/mushroom/pineapple pizza on sourdough crust.

Sunday - Lasagna, salad if the garden has enough, or corn if not, and breadsticks.

Next week will be a pretty easy week to plan due to evening activities and the second day of lasagna. Check back next week for that plan!

For more great menu plans, be sure to visit Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie!!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

You Can't Beat Free Meat

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you might remember back in March when my DH was given a whole ribeye that we made into several meals (it was actually a trade for another food item). Well, yesterday the same guy showed up at DH's work and gave him a whole top sirloin and a rack of ribs. This time it wasn't even a trade! Isn't it wonderful when something GOOD happens unexpectedly??

Today, I googled how to carve that particular beef mass, and together, we ended up with one roast (that will make two meals), 5 meals worth of gorgeous top sirloin steaks, and a bag of sirloin tips. I did some of the carving myself, just to see if I could do it. I'm so thrilled to have eight free meals, and top sirloin, even!! Oh, and I also have those ribs, which two of my three kids absolutely love, so that makes 9 meals worth of meat.

I've modified the menu plan and in lieu of the roast that I had scheduled, we feasted on grilled sirloin steaks (that were unbelievably tender....we obviously cut them RIGHT!), "fried" apples, tater tots, and homemade bread. It was a fantastic dinner, and definitely better than a pot roast!!! :-) That steak was GOOD!!!

The kids have already requested ribs on my next menu plan, so I have one meal figured out for next week. Now I just need six more....

Friday, June 26, 2009

My New Bread Machine

It's no secret that I LOVE my bread machine! I've had one almost as long as I've been married. My first one was the ultimate basic machine. I think it was a Westbend, but I can't remember for sure. It just had two settings and wasn't terribly exciting, but it worked. Back then I didn't use it very often, because I just didn't realize how wonderful fresh bread could be.

I came across a Hitachi machine at a yard sale after we'd been married several years. I paid $30 for it, and thought that was a great deal, since it had barely been used and even had the book with it. I gave a good friend my original machine and started using this one much more frequently, because it had so many more options, including a timer. This was about 12 years ago. I still have the Hitachi, but it currently sits in my linen closet as a "backup" machine.

The star of my kitchen has been a Zojirushi machine. I found it about 3 years after I bought the Hitachi. I liked how it was set up better, but it was at a rummage sale marked that it didn't work. It was only $3, so I decided to take a chance. I got home and it wouldn't turn on. Determined, I looked the entire unit over and found a button on the machine marked "reset." I pressed it and nothing happened. I pressed it again, this time holding it down for a few seconds. The machine beeped and came to life! I've been using it ever since, and it's been about 10 years! Not a bad investment, eh???

My Zojirushi is still going strong, but it doesn't beep anymore (I don't know why - it actually does every now and then, but less and less frequently). Now and then the kneading blade doesn't turn without my fussing with it, but it does still work fine! I've been contemplating bringing back out the Hitachi soon, even though I'm not sure how well it will work after all this time, but I really do like my Zoji!

Today was a fun day. The kids and I went to a few thrift stores for fun. I found a few things I needed for good prices, and at the second one, I was browsing the kitchen area when a box caught my eye. I tend to look at bread machines, since mine is getting older, and this one was in a box, so I had to look at it. I took the items off that were piled on top, and gasped when I saw that the box said "Zojirushi" on it! I took the box off the shelf and was absolutely shocked to see that the original plastic was still on the machine, and it was surrounded by styrofoam that housed the machine, a measuring spoon, a measuring cup, a video (!!) and all the original paperwork. This fantastic kitchen item has never been removed from the box!

I got home and looked up the model. I can still buy it. It's a $250 machine, but can be purchased on sale for $214.95. For the same thing I'd have received for that much, I paid $12.99. Period. Thrift stores here don't charge tax. I felt a little guilty buying it since technically I don't NEED another bread machine, but knowing how well the Zojis work, and how long they last, and the fact that this is NEW, I just had to buy it! It's also a traditional style machine, and makes an actual loaf-shaped loaf of bread. I love that! I might even bake in the machine more than I do with my current square-shaped loaf machine - I usually use the dough cycle.

Right now I have two Zojis working in my kitchen. I decided to try a loaf of bread baked in the new one to see how it comes out. My old model is mixing up the pizza dough for dinner tonight. I feel like a bread machine junkie, but it's great! Now I just have to find a home for my old Zoji. It still works, and probably will for some time. I wish I knew someone who needed it!

I think this was a very good way to spend $13!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cutting Your Grocery Bill

{Note: Some of my tips found here were published in a blog on the Washington Post's website - how cool is that???}

Take a look at what you spent on groceries last month. Is it more than you realized? Do you wish you could cut your grocery costs, but the very idea brings to mind images of bowls of beans and stale bread? It doesn't have to be that way! Cutting your grocery spending is probably easier than you realized. Here are a few tips to help you get started saving your hard-earned money while continuing to eat the foods you love.

Shop in the morning - you are likely to find significant mark-downs on meat, produce, and bakery items that are still perfectly fine, but close to their freshest date. Freeze meat that you won't use right away.

Clip coupons - but don't buy something just because you have a coupon! Collect the ones you might use, and then review the sale ads each week and match up your coupons with the sales for the best deals. Combining your coupons with in-store specials can often result in products that cost you little to nothing (or even result in a profit!!).

Look outside the grocery store for cheap prices on food - your local farmer's market is likely to have "drops" or "canners" that are very inexpensive (and still perfectly edible!!), your neighborhood convenience store might have the cheapest milk, and a bakery thrift store you pass every day offers fresh breads at half or less of the supermarket price.

Buy in bulk when it makes sense - examples include yeast, which is very cheap in bulk and can be stored indefinitely in the freezer; flour, which also stores long-term in the freezer; and eggs, which are often less expensive in larger packages. Also, chicken and beef soup bases work just like bouillon cubes, but can be purchased at the warehouse store for a lot less.

Shop for your basics at a "no frills" grocer, such as Aldi. You can get great deals on items like milk, sugar, pretzels, chips, cheese, and other items you use frequently. You won't find name brands here, but the store will most likely guarantee the quality of your purchases.

Check your grocer's bulk bins. You might find that products such as oats, nuts, grains, and many other items are considerably less expensive when you bag them yourself. I purchase all of my spices at bulk rates and pay much less!

When a food item you use often is at the lowest price you've seen, stock up! If chicken breasts drop to $1.49 a pound or your favorite macaroni and cheese mix is offered for $.25, buy as much as you can afford. Review the grocery ads every week and look for rock-bottom prices.

Shop with cash only. You are much less likely to make impulse purchases if you only have $x to spend. This also adds an element of challenge to your shopping - how low can you go and still feed your family nutritious meals??

When buying pre-bagged produce, weigh a couple of bags on the store's scales. A 10 lb. bag of potatoes might actually contain 12 pounds. A pound of carrots may be a bit short. If it's a set price, the heavier, the better!

Plan your menus a week at a time. Look in your pantry and freezer to assess what you have on hand. Look at the grocery ads to see what is on sale for the best price. Plan your meals so you can buy mostly sale items, and only buy what you need.

Keep a list in your kitchen of simple meals you can prepare in 10-20 minutes (i.e. spaghetti, chicken tetrazzini, casseroles, burgers and fries). Keep the ingredients on hand for these. On especially busy nights, or when you just feel too tired to spend an hour cooking, pick something from the list and you'll have dinner quicker than the wait in a fast-food drive through, and won't have spent $25 on a "cheap" dinner out.

Use your Crock Pot! Even the cheapest cut of beef comes out of a Crock Pot tender and moist. You can also spend 10 minutes in the morning putting everything in the Pot and when you come home that evening, dinner is ready to go. This is another way to avoid the temptation to go out and grab a meal.

Make ground beef go further than you thought - if the recipe calls for 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef, chances are you will be fine with just a pound. Another trick is to mix healthy fillers into the ground meat to stretch it further. I've made sloppy joes and pizza pockets with cooked bulgur mixed in with the beef and the kids never even knew! Rice is another great way to stretch ground meat, and makes chicken taco filling go further, too.

Substitute ingredients. Don't have cream? Use milk. Recipe calls for an expensive cut of meat? Try making it with a less pricey one. Use recipes only as a guideline and let your own tastes and creativity rule. Also learn tricks like substituting applesauce for oil and soy flour for eggs in baking recipes. Your checkbook will benefit, as will your waistline!

Use those leftovers! Your family doesn't like to revisit the same meal? Then turn it into something else. Leftover chicken breast can be shredded or cubed and used in another recipe. Pasta sauce becomes pizza sauce. Bread can become breadcrumbs or croutons. The possibilities are endless. Just use your imagination or google your ingredients for new ideas. There are websites that allow you to enter the food you need to use, and it will generate lists of recipes for you to consider. You can also find LOTS of great ideas for leftovers on my other blog, Not Just Leftovers - Brand New Meals. Try to never waste food, and you might be surprised what you can do with your "leftovers."

Find new uses for things you previously tossed. Cereal crumbs make great toppings on homemade muffins. Crushed cookies are wonderful sprinkled on ice cream. Try to use it before you throw it out.

Make "freezer soup." If you only have a few bites of meat left, or a small amount of veggies from dinner, and there isn't enough to put into another meal, put the food into a specific container in your freezer. When it gets full, add it to broth and make a soup. This may sound a bit strange, but we have found this makes some of the best soup ever. You get a "free" dinner every few weeks this way.

Don't buy individual snacks or 100 calorie treats - make your own! Buy the snack item you want in a large package, and divide it into bags for individual servings. Just want 100 calories? Look at the nutritional information to gauge how much to put in the bags. You may get fewer chips or cookies than you would in the 100 calorie packs, but the taste is much better so it's usually even more satisfying.

Take advantage of online free samples when they are offered. Not only will you get a sample you can use in your cooking when you need just a bit of something, but you will know for sure if you like the product or not. If you don't like it, you won't spend money buying something that will go to waste. If you do like it, the sample probably came with a coupon, and maybe you'll catch a good sale!

Give gardening a try. No need to dig up part of your yard - you just need a few pots on your back patio with tomatoes, peppers, or whatever you like. The freshness of your own produce will amaze you, and save you money, too. And even when you think it's a total disaster, you'll probably be pleasantly surprised by what grows!!

Even if you just make a few changes to your shopping strategy, you will see a difference in your spending. One good coupon trip will leave a smile on your face the rest of the day. It really is fun to save money, and it isn't all that difficult. Start with one or two changes, and add more as you go along. Before you know it, you'll have cut your grocery spending by 20...30....even 50 percent. Think of what you can do with all that extra money.......

Monday, June 22, 2009

Seeing Red

I finally did it! I have ventured into the world of Redbox DVD rentals. I don't know why I haven't tried it before, because it was E-A-S-Y. And the price sure can't be beat! I had looked at our Pay Per View options from the cable company and a movie I wanted to see ("He's Just Not That Into You") was $5.99. I knew that was about a dollar higher than our nearest video rental place, but still contemplated it for the convenience. Then, I received a free code for a movie rental from Redbox and decided I was going to give it a whirl.

Admittedly, I was a little nervous when I walked into McDonald's, especially considering last time I was there, the Redbox unit was outside the store, and now I couldn't see it from the outside. But in I went, armed with my code. As soon as I got inside the interior door, I found the huge red machine and waited behind a couple who was ahead of me. They were very nice and actually showed me how it worked, since I said I had never used it before.

In about 2 minutes, I had the movie in-hand, and I found out when I got home that there was a receipt waiting for me in my email inbox. How cool is that??? Considering that even without a code, the movie would have only cost me $1.08, I think I'm going to be a Redbox customer for awhile. I don't know why I waited this long!!!!

If you've never tried Redbox, you should most definitely try it! It's fast, easy, and WAY less expensive than a traditional video rental store. I'm sure most everyone already uses Redbox, but, hey! There just might still be a few folks who are behind the times like me!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Menu Plan Monday, week of 6/22/09

I finally did a menu plan! I've been winging it for weeks, and decided this weekend that I really should have a plan for the coming week. It does make it easier. :-) So, here is what I think we'll eat this week:

Monday - Sonja's Chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, homemade rolls. (I use bone-in chicken breasts for this and it's wonderful!)

Tuesday - Chicken stir fry, rice, rest of the rolls.

Wednesday - Grilled orange/apricot pork chops, potato salad, applesauce, deviled eggs. (I created a marinade that we all enjoy - orange juice, apricot jam, and a bit of soy sauce)

Thursday - Grilled ribeye, baked potatoes, salad from the lettuce that's actually growing in my garden!!

Friday - Pizza. Not sure what type yet - depends on what leftovers I end up with by Friday! We have very creative (and delicious) pizzas. It will probably be on a sourdough crust.

Saturday - Crock Pot roast, potatoes, carrots, rolls from the freezer.

Sunday - Quiche out of the leftover roast, "fried" apples, biscuits.

I don't have anything new to try on this week's menu, and I'm not happy about that, but I will try and remedy that for next week.

For more great menu plans, be sure to visit Menu Plan Monday at OrgJunkie.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I'm in a Magazine!!!

If you read the wonderful magazine, "All You," you will find ME in the current issue!!! I submitted a grocery tip that they chose to publish. My tip and photo are at the top of page 22! It's very weird, but kind of exciting, to see myself in one of my favorite magazines. They edited my tip, but it's still basically what I said.

Let me know if you see it!!! :-)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A Perfect Getaway!

If you are anywhere even remotely close to the Kansas City area, you owe it to yourself (and your significant other) to check out an amazing getaway spot in Excelsior Springs (about 30 minutes outside of Kansas City, MO). Here is my personal review of my visit! Warning: Extensive gushing and gorgeous photos are ahead!!!

As I mentioned previously, my husband and I recently celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary. To mark the occasion, my husband decided we should go somewhere special. I started looking on the internet, and I came across The Inn on Crescent Lake. After perusing their website and looking at how beautiful their rooms were, I decided this had to be it. So I booked a reservation, and we spent last night at this wonderful inn.

We arrived a bit before the standard 4:00 check-in time, which I had prearranged with Beverly, the sweet and charming innkeeper, and walked up to the front door, where we buzzed the intercom as the instructions advised us to do.

Beverly was very upbeat and welcoming when she opened the door, and showed us to a table at the foot of the large stairwell where we filled out a quick form. We then received a tour of the grounds and were shown to our room. Even the stairwell suited the old world feeling:

Sadly, I forgot to take photos of the actual room (what a dummy am I!), but all the rooms we saw were even more lovely than they appear in the photos on the website!

After settling in a bit, we decided to wander around and headed for the wooded 22 acres that we had been invited to enjoy. The main path just looks so intriguing, doesn't it???

We walked along the path, which was surrounded by trees and the beauty of nature. Here are some more scenes:

Of course, I definitely have to show you the lake! After all, it is the Inn on Crescent Lake, you know. The Inn is surrounded by two beautiful crescent-shaped lakes. I took a few shots.

As a guest, you can go out on the lake. There are two paddle boats and a bass boat that are available to use. There is also a wonderful two-person hammock along the shoreline for relaxing and cuddling. :-)

The grounds are absolutely beautiful and the flowers are abundant. It is so obvious that great care is taken to keep the flowers looking their best. I enjoyed taking photos of the gorgeous gazebo area:

And here are some of my favorite flower pictures:

And how about the pool?? I've never been to a Bed and Breakfast that had a full-sized pool AND a hot tub! It was perfectly maintained and provided for a delightful time on a hot, humid late spring day in Missouri! Care for a dip??

And the hot tub was just as refreshing once the temperatures cooled down and evening settled in. A bottle of wine, some chocolate covered strawberries, and a bubbling hot tub makes for a picture-perfect evening!

So are you intrigued yet??? Doesn't this place look absolutely fabulous????? And it's just as beautiful inside as it is outside! The living room is a wonderful gathering place. We relaxed there and chatted after it was too dark to enjoy the grounds. The living room is lushly decorated, and is complete with a piano. There is a computer for guest use, as well as a reach-in cooler filled with complimentary sodas and wine-for-purchase.
Nice fireplace, eh?? It felt so cozy!

Just off the living room is the solarium, which is the ideal spot to enjoy your breakfast in the morning. We sat right in front of the house's original fountain and appreciated the tranquility of the soft sounds of water as we feasted upon cinnamon swirl french toast, crispy bacon, fresh pineapple and banana, coffee and orange juice. Isn't the fountain beautiful?

Above the tile fountain is lovely decor:

And the rest of the solarium exudes charm and elegance. The window seat is lavishly adorned with pillows and decorations, and the windows are classic antiques that just add to the charm of the Inn.

That's our cooler in the last photo. We actually brought along dinner for the evening before and had enjoyed it in the solarium. A storm appeared to be moving in, so we decided against the original plan of a picnic outside. Beverly encouraged us to enjoy the Inn as if it were our own home, and we definitely did so!!

Okay, are you convinced yet??? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, I could say a million! :-) The Inn on Crescent Lake is the most unique bed and breakfast I've ever seen. It has a little bit of everything, and the level of hospitality is beyond what you could expect. You can even relax in the living room while perusing the owners' photo albums of their various trips around the world. They share their precious moments with you as if you were family. They also have a few wedding albums on display, and the weddings they have hosted at this Inn are nothing short of perfect! It would be an amazing romantic setting for a wedding or even a vow renewal. Beverly sweetly asks that you relax and rejuvenate during your stay, and you definitely will!

Take a look around the website and pick a room. Then make your reservation right away! The prices are incredibly reasonable for the rooms, ambiance, and hospitality. There are two suites on the top floor, the Crescent and the Ballroom. The second floor holds most of the remaining rooms, except for the Garden Room, which is on the lower level and has a private entrance. We stayed in the Casbah room, which had a cool retro bathroom complete with a brightly-colored clawfoot tub and black and white ceramic tile. And don't worry....there is also a very modern shower for your convenience! In the main room there is also a hot tub just for two. It's quite romantic!

I really do recommend that you check out the Inn on Crescent Lake. I know this post has been quite lengthy, but I believe it was worth it! Just one night at this Inn will make you feel like you've been away for a week! It's so worth the trip. Don't miss it!!!!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Twenty YEARS!?! Really??!!??

I can't believe that in just a few short days, my husband and I will have been married for TWENTY YEARS! Can I really be that old???? June 17th of this year is our twentieth wedding anniversary. It doesn't even seem possible. Of course, I am the proud parent of a teen-age son, as well as daughters who are 9 and 7, so as shocking as it is, it's definitely true.

We do have plans for the big day, including a romantic picnic. We haven't done a simple little picnic before, so I think it will be fun. I've finally decided on a suitable menu for the venture. We're going to have BLT pitas (I baked the pitas today and will freeze them), cheese and crackers, deviled eggs, strawberries, and chocolate chip toffee cookies. I have to run to the store for some fresh berries, but everything else I can put together with what I have on hand. I'm contemplating dipping some of them in chocolate, but haven't decided for sure on that one yet....those are fairly messy. I'm also going to buy some champagne for that evening, though I have no idea what to get. We haven't had champagne in many, many years, and I think back then it was Asti Spumanti. I honestly don't even remember if we liked it!!

Unfortunately, we aren't able to go and visit the church where we were wed. I tried to contact someone there, but they don't answer the phone. I have since learned that the original church is no more - they rent out the building for another church to meet there on Sundays and that's the only activity there. It's kind of sad. And the hotel where we went on our first night of marriage has been torn down and is now the site for the county courthouse. I really don't think we want to visit there!! :-) Our "honeymoon" involved driving down to Springfield, MO, and finding a place to live, since we were going to leave Kansas City and settle in Springfield. The think I remember most about that week is that we ate at Sonic EVERY DAY!! I know how silly that is, but it's what we did! I was only 18 and he was 21 and Sonic was just plain cool in our minds. Ah, crazy kids! lol

So here's to a great week for everyone! And hopefully no ants invading our picnic! I'll blog about how it went toward the end of the week. I know you'll be on the edge of your seat! ;-)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I Guest Posted!

Wow...I feel so late in posting this, but I didn't realize how quickly the folks over at the Fabulous Savings daily blog worked! I have a three-part guest post over on their wonderful money-savings blog where I talk about saving money on groceries.

If you'd like to check out my post, please hop over to the Fabulous Savings blog. You will find the parts here:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Now I'm really glad that I figured out that button thing, because my button looks SO cute on the posts!! Leave me a comment if you read my first guest posts. And see what else you can find on the site - there are lots of great tips and articles there!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

Yesterday was a rainy day and I decided to do some baking. Along with bread and muffins, I baked a batch of new cookies. I combined and tweaked a few recipes in order to come up with this one, and it is REALLY good!! I know I will be making these again, and probably doing some more tweaking, too. :-)

Chocolate Chip Toffee Cookies

2 1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 c. unsalted butter, softened (seriously - use real butter!)
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1 package instant vanilla pudding mix
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 t. almond extract
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. toffee chips

Stir together flour, soda, and salt.

In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars. Beat in the pudding mix, eggs, and extracts until creamy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture to form a dough. Stir in the chips.

Drop by spoonful onto cookie sheets and bake at 350° for about 10 minutes. They are best when the edges are browned but the centers are light - so soft and yummy!!

I had a little bit of ice cream left in the freezer, so I softened it a bit and made some "sandwiches" with these cookies. They are in the freezer now and I can't wait to try them. However, it won't be dessert tonight, since I have an apple pie in the oven now! :-)


Monday, June 8, 2009

The Things Kids Just Don't Realize

This morning, I looked out the patio door and over toward my disaster of a garden. I haven't posted about it because it's been little more than a nightmare since I started it. Long story short, the guy who tilled it for me did a terrible job and I have so much grass in there that I just can't keep up with it. There are also a multitude of insects and other pests that are making a mess of things, but it is showing SOME signs of life!

Anyway...while peering out, I noticed some yellow blossoms on my struggling cucumber vines. I was very excited, and told my 9-year-old daughter (okay, so she won't be 9 till Friday, but STILL!) that I had some blooms on my cucumbers. I was excited, but she was non-plussed. She informed me that she hated cucumbers and was sad that the garden was only producing things she doesn't like (the cukes and the squash appear to be surviving so far). I shook my head and told her that she wouldn't mind the pickles if I got enough cucumbers to make them. She looked at me in total disbelief. "Pickles are CUCUMBERS??!!??" More than once since then, she has commented, "I can't believe I actually like cucumbers....." She even told her brother about the link between cucumbers and pickles. He's 13 and he didn't know, either! He was almost as aghast as she!

Isn't it funny, the things we don't realize that they just haven't figured out yet??? Maybe it's good to keep them at least a little in the dark....