Perfect Parfaits for Poppin' July 4th

Instead of the traditional celebrations, try these festive parfaits for flavor fireworks in your mouth this 4th. Sultry whipped cream combined with light yellow cake and fresh, seasonal blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries will make you scream "AMERICA!" Their lightness is perfect for the summer heat, and you don't have to feel guilty for indulging in this treat.

Ingredients:

makes 3 parfaits

-1 box Pillsbury Moist Supreme Yellow Cake Mix

-1 pint heavy whipping cream

-1/4 cup white sugar

-1 cup blueberries

-6 strawberries

-3 raspberries

Instructions:

1) Mix and bake the cake mix according to box instructions, then let it cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes.

2) While the cake is baking and cooling, mix up the whipped cream by placing the heavy cream and white sugar in a stand mixer. Mix on high until stiff peaks form.

3) Slice the tops off the strawberries then cut them in half.

4) When the cake is cooled, break off a small amount the size of a golf ball and place it in the bottom of a cup. Use your fingers to flatten it down.

5) Place 4 strawberry halves so that they're touching the glass, but stand above the cake.

6) Place 5 large spoonfuls of whipped cream in the middle of the strawberries to give the strawberries some stability, then smooth it with a spoon to create a layer.

7) Place a line of blueberries around the edge of the glass, then stack another line of blueberries above in the crevices of the first blueberries to create a zigzag pattern.

8) Grab another golfball-sized piece of cake and place it in the middle of the wall of blueberries. Flatten it lightly with your fingers to give the blueberries stability.

9) Place 5 large spoonfuls of whipped cream on top and smooth with a spatula.

10) Decorate the top of the whipped cream with blueberries and a single raspberry in a star pattern. Grab a spoon and celebrate the good ol' US of A!

Sumptuous Breakfast Muffins with Pancetta, Parmesan, Chives, and a Hardboiled Egg Center

Winter may be coming to a close, but I don’t want to give up cozy comfort foods just yet. These savory muffins pack a breakfast punch with a beautiful hard-boiled egg center and a touch of Parmesan and pancetta. While the chopped pancetta gives the muffin texture, the chives add an awesome onion note. And the egg offers a bit of healthy protein. Plus, who doesn’t like the on-the-go factor? A few minutes in the microwave and you have an excellent handheld breakfast that combines bacon, egg, and cheese in a wondrous way; no drive-thru required. 

Ingredients:

Makes 12 muffins

- 4 ounces pancetta

- 12 medium-boiled eggs

- 2, 1/4 cups water

- Cooking spray

- 3 teaspoons baking powder

- 2 cups flour

- 1/2 teaspoon salt

- 1/2 teaspoon pepper

- 2 tablespoons of melted, salted butter

- 1/3 cup thinly sliced chives

- 2 eggs

- 1 1/2 cups low-fat buttermilk

- 1 1/2 cups shredded Parmesan cheese

Instructions:

1.     In a nonstick skillet, cook the pancetta until crispy, then set aside on a plate covered in paper towels to catch excess grease.

2.     In an egg cooker, place 6 eggs plus 1/4 cup of water inside, cook for about 10-12 minutes, then remove from cooker and place in a bowl to cool. Repeat this with the next 6 eggs. If you don’t have an egg cooker, Martha can show you how to soft, medium, or hard boil eggs here depending on your yolk preference.

3.     Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Once the pancetta has cooled completely, chop it coarsely.

4.     In a large bowl, combine the baking powder, flour, salt, and pepper.

5.     In a medium bowl, combine the chopped pancetta, melted butter, chives, two eggs, buttermilk, and Parmesan.

6.     Slowly add the wet medium bowl ingredients to the dry large bowl ingredients and stir to combine.

7.     Carefully remove the shells from all 12 medium-boiled eggs. Fill each muffin cup about 1/3 of the way with the muffin batter, then place an egg in each muffin cup. Pipe batter around the egg until it is covered up completely in each cup. 

8.     Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown, then remove and let cool on a wire rack.

9.     Bask in the aroma of pancetta, Parmesan, and chives, then dig into a beautiful egg-filled muffin!

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In a nonstick skillet, cook the pancetta until crispy, then set aside on a plate covered in paper towels to catch excess grease.

In an egg cooker, place 6 eggs plus 1/4 cup of water inside, cook for about 10-12 minutes, then remove from cooker and place in a bowl to cool. Repeat this with the next 6 eggs. If you don’t have an egg cooker, Martha can show you how to soft, medium, or hard boil eggs here depending on your yolk preference.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, then spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. Once the pancetta has cooled completely, chop it coarsely.

In a large bowl, combine the baking powder, flour, salt, and pepper.

In a medium bowl, combine the chopped pancetta, melted butter, chives, two eggs, buttermilk, and Parmesan.

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Slowly add the wet medium bowl ingredients to the dry large bowl ingredients and stir to combine.

Carefully remove the shells from all 12 medium-boiled eggs. Fill each muffin cup about 1/3 of the way with the muffin batter, then place an egg in each muffin cup. Pipe batter around the egg until it is covered up completely in each cup. 

Place in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown, then remove and let cool on a wire rack.

Golden brown and ready to help boost the beginning of your day!

Perfectly packed protein to-go.

Go on...take a bite...you know you love pancetta.

Seared, Citradelic Tangerine IPA-Marinated Flank Steak...Because We All Want to Start Grilling Season Early

As the sun finally creeps out from behind the snow-soaked clouds, a warm glow starts emanating throughout my body…it’s almost grilling season! Ok, as a Rochester, NY native, I have grilled in the middle of winter, but I certainly wouldn’t call that a natural part of grilling season. Now that I live in the humid subtropical climate of Austin, TX, I start grilling as soon as it’s warm enough for me to wear shorts outside (usually mid-to-late February).

One of my all-time favorites to throw on the coals is flank steak. Not only does it cost less than other cuts, but it’s BFFs with all types of beer marinades, which are one of my favorite cooking things. Also, a study in the March 2014 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry says that beer marinades may help reduce the formation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)! Hooray! But…what are those?

PAHs, aka the group of chemicals found in oil, gas, and coal, are what all the scientists say to stay away from because they’re associated with cancer. When meat is cooked at a high temperature on a grill, PAHs can form on the meat's outer layer (not ideal). And if you consume enough foods with a high amount of PAHs, it’s possible to get cancer (also not ideal).  By marinating your meat in beer, the study claims you may be able to decrease the formation of PAHs; therefore, decreasing the negative side effects of eating grilled meat. Party! Now that we got the science out of the way…onto the beef!

I chose New Belgium’s Citradelic Tangerine IPA because a) it’s new (out January 2016), b) it tastes fantastic, which means A+ to cook with, and c) it has tangerine peel and Citra hops, which I love. Here’s the tantalizing explanation from the New Belgium website, “Citradelic’s namesake hop and fruit combine to jam with visions of additional hops like citrusy Mandarina Bavaria, tropical Azzaca, and fruity Galaxy for a colorful explosion that’s grounded by just a touch of malty sweetness.” If that doesn’t get your mouth watering, I’m not sure what will. 

Ingredients:

-       2-3 lb flank steak

-       3 Citradelic Tangerine IPAs

-       4-5 tablespoons of minced garlic

-       2 tablespoons of dry rub (like Salt Lick’s or Dinosaur BBQ’s Cajun Foreplay)

-       2 tablespoons dried oregano

-       1 teaspoon of orange peel granules

-       1 tablespoon parsley

-       2 tablespoons Montreal Steak seasoning

-       1 teaspoon basil leaves

-       1/2 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan pink salt

-       1 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Instructions:

1.     In a large rectangular dish, pour in the three Citradelic Tangerine IPAs, then place the flank steak in the dish.

2.     Add all of the seasonings to the large rectangular dish, then massage the mixture into the meat.

3.     Marinate the flank steak for 48-hours in the fridge making sure to flip it over after 24-hours so all sides are marinated.

4.     Remove the flank steak from the fridge when you are ready to grill to let it reach about room temperature.

5.     Heat your grill up (I prefer charcoal) and make sure the temperature is about 400 degrees.

6.     Place the flank steak on the grill once the coals are hot and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Flip when the outside is nicely browned/charred and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes. If the center isn’t cooked to your liking (this recipe is for medium doneness), separate the charcoal holders, move them to the outer edges of the grill, then close the top. If using a gas grill, lower the temperature and shut the top.

7.     Remove the flank steak from the grill, let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice.

8.     Enjoy the crunch of the crisped outside and the super tender, beer-marinated meat! 

In a large rectangular dish, pour in the three Citradelic Tangerine IPAs, then place the flank steak in the dish. 

Add all of the seasonings to the large rectangular dish, then massage the mixture into the meat.

Marinate the flank steak for 48-hours in the fridge making sure to flip it over after 24-hours so all sides are marinated. Remove the flank steak from the fridge when you are ready to grill to let it reach about room temperature. Heat your grill up (I prefer charcoal) and make sure the temperature is about 400 degrees. Place the flank steak on the grill once the coals are hot and cook for about 5-7 minutes. Flip when the outside is nicely browned/charred and cook for an additional 7-10 minutes. If the center isn’t cooked to your liking (this recipe is for medium doneness), separate the charcoal holders, move them to the outer edges of the grill, then close the top. If using a gas grill, lower the temperature and shut the top. Remove the flank steak from the grill, let it rest for 5-10 minutes, then slice.

Steak for everyone! A taste of grilling before the season gets too hot.

A crunchy crust leads to a soft, moist center...great in a sandwich with mayo and dijon the next day. 

Limited Edition Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat Beer Review

Two years ago under the scorching heat at the Scottsdale Culinary Festival, I happened upon a salty, wheaty beer still in the testing stages that took my words away. The flavor was sharp and delicious and left me craving more. I actually used several of my tickets to get more than a few samples.

This beer was the Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat, and I was hoping to find it in stores within the next few months. Fast-forward to 2016 and in-between the Bud Lights and Coors of a football display at the grocery store, I see three six-packs of Shock Top with a pretzel logo on the front. 

Could it be?! They finally made it! Although it’s Limited Edition and there weren’t many available, it was still on the shelves! I kidnapped a pack fast and headed for the checkout. 

Limited Edition Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat Beer Review

For all those Belgian/German beer lovers out there, this one is for you; it’s as if they stuck a pretzel in a blender with some hops, wheat, and spices. The crisp and pretzel-y flavor coats your mouth and can bring you back to the beer haus in a snap. Aroma-wise, it really does smell like a fresh baked pretzel, and the lightness is great for summer sipping.

Think of it this way: if you dunked an Auntie Anne’s pretzel into a Hoegaarden Original White Ale or Shiner White Wing or maybe a Shock Top Belgian White (although this is a little bit too citrusy for a complete comparison), and took a bite out of that pretzel, you’d have the same sensation as drinking a Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat beer. It really has exceptional pretzel and wheat flavor. 

It would definitely pair with any burger (especially those on a pretzel or brioche bun), a medium-rare steak, cheeses, or some bland vegetables (salad, green beans, lentils). 

Results

Yes, buy this beer! If you’re a die-hard wheat beer lover, the Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat is for you. If you’re looking for something light to drink in the heat of July and August, pick this beer up. Even now in the middle of winter, taking a sip of this beer takes me to sunny walks along the lake and eating meals outside in the sunshine. It might also make a great addition to a marinade…to be continued on that front.

New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s Beer and Ice Cream Reviews

As I was sipping on New Belgium’s and Ben & Jerry’s Special Release Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale, I thought, well, this would make an incredible ice cream! While I was scrounging up some Bagel Bites at my local grocery store, through the frosted glass door I saw the Limited Batch of Ben & Jerry’s New Belgium Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale!

Bother! They beat me to it…actually they probably had a mutually beneficial agreement and have had these recipes in the mixer for months. I snatched a pint and hurried to the self-checkout. I still had a few bottles of the Special Release beer at home and had to try the pair together.

As a super fan of Craft Beer Kitchen, I cook with beer frequently, and am always hunting new craft beers and beer-inspired foods. Below I’ve included a review of the New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale as well as a review of the Ben & Jerry’s New Belgium Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale Ice Cream.

New Belgium and Ben & Jerry's Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale Review

This New Belgium brown ale is tops of the hops. Chocolate-y, a hint of salt, and a slightly creaminess hit the tongue once you pop the cap off one of these bad boys. I would say it has the essence of ice cream, brownies, caramel, and salt without going overboard, but still maintaining the ale flavor. It was intriguing and different than many other types of ale I’ve had, with a slightly bitter flavor on the finish. I might even go so far as to say it’s a tad roasty. Definitely exceptional on it’s own…but better when tied to the ice cream.

Ben & Jerry’s New Belgium Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale Ice Cream Review

Ben & Jerry’s ice cream does it again. The New Belgium brown ale ice cream base is exactly what you’d expect a beer ice cream to taste like: a vanilla-ish twang tied with a malty/hoppy kick. A salted caramel swirl has just the right pinch of salt for a pow on the finish while the brownie chunks taste like they’ve been soaked in brown ale. All the pieces – the hoppy ice cream, the salted caramel swirl, and the brownie bits – work in harmony to create an excellent ice cream, which should definitely be enjoyed with the New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale.

Together?

Yes! Together! It really isn’t too much. The creaminess of the ice cream ties in well with the kick of roasty-ness in the ale. If you’re having a down day or want to celebrate with a ton of treats, grab these immediately. That’s one of the best parts about these two pints; they work in unison, but can stand alone. Shouldn’t expect any less of New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s, though.

You might want to grab your keys right now and head to the store as both are limited editions. Hopefully, they’ll make both flavors on the regular since they’re fantastic. If you’ve ever been interested in beer ice cream, this is the one to try. Even if you think it might be weird…trust in Ben & Jerry. As for the New Belgium ale, I’m one who despises coffee and typically bitter finishes are not my forte, but this one is just light enough that it lingers without staying after the party ends. It’s great to tie with a nice meaty dinner (prime rib, duck, pork loin) or fancy cheese plate.

Grab the New Belgium and Ben & Jerry’s Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale along with the Ben & Jerry’s New Belgium Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale Ice Cream the next time you’re out and you won’t be disappointed.

Whistlin’ Whiskey Mini Apple Pies…For the Drunk in All of Us

My dad used to tell me that hating apple pie was un-American. I just didn’t like the squishy apples, soggy crusts, and limp excuses for whipped cream I was being subjected to. After experimenting, I crafted this mini apple pie recipe to highlight all the ingredients I love in apple pie without all the depressing side effects I was tortured with growing up. Crisp apples, the snap of a good nut, and of course, booze because…who doesn’t like booze in desserts? The nuts add extra texture while the buttery crust flakes away. The crust even stands up to ice cream and whipped cream without become a sad sogg-fest. For those who claim they despise pie, like the former me, give this one a try, and all those ill-fated recipe disasters will fade away while the cinnamon-apple smell wafts through your kitchen.

Ingredients:

Makes 12 mini pies

Pie Crust

– 2 cups All-Purpose or Better for Bread Flour

– 1/4 teaspoon salt

– 11 tablespoons cold salted butter

– 5 tablespoons water

Filling

– 3 Granny Smith Apples

– 1/2 cup 2% milk

– 3 tablespoons whiskey (Maker’s Mark or Jack Daniel’s work best)

– 2/3 cup light brown sugar

– 3 teaspoons cinnamon

– 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

– 1 tablespoon cornstarch

– 1/2 cup pecans

– 1/2 cup hazelnuts

Instructions:

Pie Crust

  1. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, then cut the cold butter into one tablespoon portions and add them all to the bowl. Using your hands, break the butter apart until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add one tablespoon of water at a time until a loose ball of dough is formed.
  2. Turn the loose ball out onto a floured surface and knead it slightly, just until it forms a unified ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

Filling

  1. Peel the apples then cut them into quarters. Cut the core from each quarter, slice the quarters lengthwise, then cut them into quarters. You should now have 8 pieces of apple per quarter. Place the apple chunks into a large bowl and set aside. (I HATE soggy apples so I prefer the big chunks of apple in my pies; having the larger chunks mean they won’t get as squishy when you bake them.)
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk through cornstarch.
  3. Place the pecans and hazelnuts in a food processer and pulse until you have pea-sized pieces. (I also like to pulse just enough to have a little powder at the bottom of the food processor so that the nutty flavor really sinks into the pies.)
  4. Add the nuts to the medium bowl and stir to combine. Then pour the medium bowl mixture over the apples and stir to combine. Set this mixture aside for about 30 minutes to marinate at room temperature.
  5. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the dough until it’s about an 1/8th of an inch thick, then use a round cutter to cut out tops and bottoms for the pies. Spray a muffin tin with pam. Place the pie crust bottoms into the muffin tin and work the dough to make sure it’s evenly spread throughout each muffin cup.
  6. Pour the filling into each muffin cup (I like mine overstuffed), then place a pie crust top on and mold it around the apple mixture. (I like my pies to have a homemade feel so I just lightly work the top dough around until it touches the bottom piece. Plus I don’t like that hard piece of crust many pies have around the top from using a fork to seal it. Bake for 20-30 minutes (until the pie crusts are golden brown). Let them cool slightly on a baking rack.
  7. Pop on a scoop of your favorite ice cream, and devour!

 

Pie Crust

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl, then cut the cold butter into one tablespoon portions and add them all to the bowl. Using your hands, break the butter apart until the mixture looks like coarse sand. Add one tablespoon of water at a time until a loose ball of dough is formed.

Turn the loose ball out onto a floured surface and knead it slightly, just until it forms a unified ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

 

Filling

Peel the apples then cut them into quarters. Cut the core from each quarter, slice the quarters lengthwise, then cut them into quarters. You should now have 8 pieces of apple per quarter. Place the apple chunks into a large bowl and set aside. (I HATE soggy apples so I prefer the big chunks of apple in my pies; having the larger chunks mean they won’t get as squishy when you bake them.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk through cornstarch.

Place the pecans and hazelnuts in a food processor and pulse until you have pea-sized pieces. (I also like to pulse just enough to have a little powder at the bottom of the food processor so that the nutty flavor really sinks into the pies.)

Add the nuts to the medium bowl and stir to combine. Then pour the medium bowl mixture over the apples and stir to combine. Set this mixture aside for about 30 minutes to marinate at room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Roll out the dough until it’s about an 1/8th of an inch thick, then use a round cutter to cut out tops and bottoms for the pies. Spray a muffin tin with pam. Place the pie crust bottoms into the muffin tin and work the dough to make sure it’s evenly spread throughout each muffin cup.

Pour the filling into each muffin cup (I like mine overstuffed), then place a pie crust top on and mold it around the apple mixture. (I like my pies to have a homemade feel so I just lightly work the top dough around until it touches the bottom piece. Plus I don’t like that hard piece of crust many pies have around the top from using a fork to seal it.) Bake for 20-30 minutes (until the pie crusts are golden brown). Let them cool slightly on a baking rack.

Can’t wait to dig in!

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Flaky crust for all…oh yeah…and exceptional whisky-spiked apple pie filling :)

Warning: Please do not try to lick your monitor. Taste-O-Vision has not yet been invented.

Reverse Sear Prime Rib and Other Holiday Goodies

Although I love a pinch of traditionalism over the holidays when I step up to the plate of a big meal, I want variety. If I’m going to spend several hours sweating over a meal, it better be more than bland ham and tired potatoes. (Please excuse the primitive pictures; I was really excited to eat/cook my meal  :) )

This year I wanted to take my Christmas meat up a notch by adding a beer marinade. I love experimenting with all different types of alcohol, especially beer, and wanted to make sure my prime rib was anything but traditional boring.

Baird Brewing Company’s Korofune Porter is downright delicious and adds the right chocolate-y/coffee tang that I wanted for the prime rib. Definitely recommend it as a drink for the meal if you decide to take your prime rib on the path traveled by many with rosemary, salt, and pepper.

After adding two ice-cold beers (next year I will use double) to the prime rib marinade bag, I added minced garlic, rosemary, a few bay leaves, salt, pepper, and a tad of Salt Lick Bar-B-Que’s dry rub. A little bit of the ol’ standard and a little bit of new. After 48 hours of marinating, I stuck it in the oven and used the Serious Eats reverse sear method with the recipe (also see beer pairings for holiday meals; very insightful). Anyone who wants to cook prime rib the right way, a.k.a. the way that’s perfect on the inside and crispy on the outside, should use this method.

In addition to the beer-marinated prime rib, I whipped up stuffing cups (cook stuffing in muffin tins with lemon zest, basil, parsley, and apples), homemade buttermilk biscuits (very simple recipe, except I don’t use the sugar topping, use salted butter, and use only ¼ teaspoon of Kosher salt), whoopee pies with basil/peppermint filling, mashed potatoes (rosemary, thyme, salted butter, heavy cream, salt, pepper, a pinch of dry rub), and steamed broccoli.

How to Use Credit Card Points to Cook a Free Holiday Dinner

As we sit around the table being thankful for friends, family, and full bellies, we often forget about the costs associated with the bountiful feast as our favorite aunt brings out the coffee and pie. Holiday and Black Friday shopping sprees typically rank high on the list that makes our wallets sweat, but what about feeding an entire dining room of relatives when the cost of groceries is soaring? Instead of adding your luscious meal to the total damage column, try using your credit card points or miles to help ease the hurt.

www.saveur.com

www.saveur.com

It Cost How Much?!

www.flickr.com

www.flickr.com

For me, points and miles are the ultimate way to travel. It’s a blissful, stress-free vacation that doesn’t cost a dime and allows you to recharge without thinking about coming home to more bills. But around the holidays, plane ticket and hotel prices skyrocket, which means more points for less value. For those staying put for the holidays or who are in charge of the feast, you can redeem miles or points for gift cards to enjoy a free meal or add a few kitchen essentials.

Here’s a little anecdote: I was standing in line at Whole Foods two weeks before Thanksgiving, and the woman in front of me (who had an adorably dressed toddler, I might add) spent over $400 on items just for Thanksgiving. I saw the turkey, green beans, cranberry sauce, rainbow carrots, piecrust, apples, and more slide right on through the barcode scanner to rack up a ridiculous rate.

You do have to take into account that Whole Foods prices are higher, but thinking of one meal costing as much as someone’s monthly grocery bill is pretty scary. (Also to note: this woman could have bought items that were specifically not for Thanksgiving, but from my stalker standpoint, it looked like ole Turkey Tom was going to get the special treatment.)

Gift Cards = Free Holiday Goodies

thecitypos.com

thecitypos.com

We all would love to stack up our miles for that dream Maldives vacation, but sometimes parting with rewards helps our overall holiday budget. Here are a few examples of gift cards you can get for points and miles.

  • Walmart

You prefer farmer’s market fare over Walmart’s fresh produce, but I can assure you there are hundreds of products you can buy there for the holiday season. Sprinkles, cupcake wrappers, frozen pie dough, cage-free eggs, butter, seasonings, cheese, chocolate chips, plastic wrap, crackers, walnuts, paper napkins, or a million other things can be bought at Walmart.

A perfect, organic, non-GMO, no by-products, ethically-raised, no sugar added, pet and loved every day turkey, but you can cut costs dramatically by using a gift card to purchase packaged products. And if you’re still concerned about the bottom line, Walmart offers a wide variety of less expensive produce as well as whole turkeys, whole chickens, turkey breasts, hams (including bone-in varieties), and giant four-pound tubs of lard (for the health-conscious J).

  • Target

If you live near a SuperTarget with a fresh grocery, you’ll be able to use a Target gift card to buy produce, meats, frozen items, and dry goods for your next holiday meal. Although the selection is more limited than Walmart, you can still get a ton of items for free using your gift card. You can also pick up fun table design items or pots and pans that you might need for the day of cooking.

  • Williams-Sonoma

For the selective chef, you can cash in your rewards for the upper crust of eatery items at Williams-Sonoma. From high-end whisks to roasting pans to popcorn, you can pick up all the essential cookware and many snazzy food items from this beloved store. And you don’t have to add to credit card debt or take from your savings because you have a gift card that’s just as fancy as Williams-Sonoma.

  • Bed, Bath & Beyond

From seasonings and chef’s knives to tablecloths and holiday decorations, you can find your beyond for free with your Bed, Bath & Beyond gift card. Like Williams-Sonoma, this store offers you the chance to get a meat thermometer or saucepan for free without upping your holiday budget. You can also get extra plates, placemats, or pitchers. No groceries per se, but if you’re hosting more people than usual and need to up your kitchen game, a gift card here is the way to do it.

No out-of-pocket cost

www.cnbc.com

www.cnbc.com

Although points and miles don’t typically transfer one-to-one, saving cash and spending miles/points sure feels better when you look at the positive balance in your checking account. Many gripe and complain about the cost of the top children’s toy or latest iPhone, but food still takes up a significant amount of holiday green. Gift cards may not be exactly “free,” but there’s no out-of-pocket expense to use a gift card…just have to let some of those miles or points go. Bye-bye miles, hello free holiday dinner!

Spicy Beer and Bacon Muffins to Warm Your Winter Soul

When the winter winds whip, a warming treat is more than welcome. Enter velvety, spicy beer and bacon muffins that fill your chilled bones with heat. Cayenne pepper-coated bacon adds a snap to these savory oatmeal stout muffins, taking you from frostbite to fireplace-toasty in no time. Enjoy them early to rid the morning cold or sneak one in as a peppery, bacon-y midnight snack. If you love a pop of hot with your comfort food, then give this fiery recipe a try. Just a heads up, a single muffin won’t be enough, but try not to devour them all in one sitting :) .

Ingredients:

Makes 12 muffins

Crumble

– 1/2 cup light brown sugar

– 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper

– 2 tablespoons water

– 6 slices of thick-cut, hickory-smoked bacon

– 2 tablespoons flour

– 1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

– 2 tablespoons salted butter, melted

Muffins

– 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

– 1/2 cup light brown sugar

– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

– 2 teaspoons baking powder

– 1/4 teaspoon salt

– 2/3 cup oatmeal stout beer

– 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

– 3 tablespoons vegetable oil

– 1 large egg

Instructions:

Crumble

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set a wire rack on the baking sheet and place the bacon on the rack.

2. Combine brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and water in a small bowl, then brush both sides of the bacon with the mixture.

3. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crispy. After the bacon has cooled, give it a rough chop.

4. Combine oats and flour in a medium bowl, then slowly stir in the butter. Add half the chopped bacon into the oat mixture and stir until combined. Set crumble and remaining chopped bacon aside.

Muffins

1. Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners.

2. Add flour, the rest of the chopped bacon, baking soda, sugar, baking

powder, and salt to a large bowl, then mix lightly.

3. Whisk beer, vanilla, vegetable oil, and egg together in a medium bowl, then slowly add the beer mixture to the flour mixture.

4. Stir together until fully combined.

5. Divide batter among muffin cups and top evenly with the crumble.

6. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Let them cool slightly on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

7. Revel in the roast-y, bacon-y aroma, then enjoy!

 

Crumble

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Let's get ready to crumble!

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set a wire rack on the baking sheet and place the bacon on the rack.

Combine brown sugar, cayenne pepper, and water in a small bowl, then brush both sides of the bacon with the mixture.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until crispy. After the bacon has cooled, give it a rough chop.

Combine oats and flour in a medium bowl, then slowly stir in the butter. Add half the chopped bacon into the oat mixture and stir until combined. Set crumble and remaining chopped bacon aside.

 

Muffins

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Now for the velvety muffins!

Change the oven temperature to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a 12-cup standard muffin tin with paper liners. Add flour, the rest of the chopped bacon, baking soda, sugar, baking powder, and salt to a large bowl, then mix lightly.

Whisk beer, vanilla, vegetable oil, and egg together in a medium bowl, then slowly add the beer mixture to the flour mixture.

Stir together until fully combined.

Divide batter among muffin cups and top evenly with the crumble. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Let them cool slightly on a baking rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Hot and fresh out of the kitchen with their savory goodness!

Texture and flavor and spice, OH MY!

The perfect kick to warm you up on a chilly, snow-filled day.

Embellish your morning OJ or dark roast coffee with these wholesome, malty bites!

Healthy 3-Ingredient French Toast You’ll Never Feel Guilty About

Want to indulge but you know the treat-filled holidays are coming up? Don’t fret, this 3-ingredient French Toast is healthy yet satisfies your sweet tooth. Whip it up early in the morning to help you take on a busy day or snack on it late-night to satiate cravings. It’s the perfect canvas for fruits and granola, and fills you up with those hearty whole grains. Give your old routine a little oh là là with this 15-minute scrumptious breakfast delight.

Ingredients:

– 1 loaf whole grain oatmeal bread

– 3 eggs

– 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

1. Cut bread into 1/2-inch thick slices and set aside.

2. Crack 3 eggs into a square dish, then scramble lightly. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and mix into the eggs.

3. Coat the bread in the egg mixture on both sides and place it in a non-stick pan or griddle on medium heat. Flip when golden brown.

4. Breathe in the cinnamon-y goodness, then enjoy!

Cut bread into 1/2-inch thick slices and set aside.

Crack 3 eggs into a square dish, then scramble lightly. Add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and mix into the eggs.

Coat the bread in the egg mixture on both sides and place it in a non-stick pan or griddle on medium heat.

Flip when golden brown.

Crunchy, cinnamon-y deliciousness!

Top with crisp granola or plump berries for a delectable kick.

Makes you want to have breakfast for every meal, huh?