Tobins' Tastes: October 2014

Friday, October 31, 2014

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili & A Giveaway

Thanks to Hamilton Beach I received product for review as compensation for this post. As always, all  thoughts & opinions are my own.

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Cooler weather is finally coming to South Florida. This weekend we are actually going to have temperatures in the 40's. That means it is actually going to feel like fall for the first time all year. In honor of cooler weather, I have an easy turkey chili recipe that requires minimal prep work and thanks to a slow cooker almost no time in the kitchen.

This recipe is great because not only is it easy to prep and cook in the slow cooker but it is also perfect for freezing for later. This makes enough for dinner the night of and a whole other freezer dinner too. You could also make ahead of time and freeze the whole thing for an upcoming party.

With the holidays coming up, I like to have my stove top and oven free for baking and boiling so a slow cooker is a great way to not only save time and stress in the kitchen but also give me the ability to be making other things while the chili basically takes care of itself. As a teacher who leaves the house early and is gone until at least 4pm most days, a slow cooker is sometimes the only way dinner gets made.

This Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® Programmable Slow Cooker has three choices for easy, automatic cooking: program, probe and manual mode. On busy days, program the cooking time and Set & Forget® Slow Cooker automatically shifts to keep warm when the cooking time is up. Cooking a large cut of meat like pot roast, chicken, or pork tenderloin? Insert the probe, set the desired meat temperature and the Set & Forget® Slow Cooker automatically shifts to keep warm when the temperature is reached. For traditional slow cooking, manually select the high, low or warm temperature without setting a cooking time.

Want your own Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® Programmable Slow Cooker? I am giving one away to a lucky reader. To enter be sure and use the Rafflecopter widget below. 

Slow Cooker Turkey Chili
  • 2 lbs ground turkey
  • 1 onion diced
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 16 oz. can of tomato sauce
  • 1 can pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1 can black beans in chili sauce
  • 3 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp spoon pepper
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • Hot sauce to taste/preference 
1.) Brown turkey peppers onion and garlic together in a pan.

2.) Add the rest of the ingredients to the slow cooker. 

3.) Once meat is browned add to slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients. 

4.) Cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 6+ hours.

For more information on Hamilton Beach products, including news, recipes and more, be sure to visit their website! You can also connect with them on FacebookTwitter, & Pinterest.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

5 Ways To Save Money On Holiday Entertaining

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The holidays are right around the corner and while this season can be filled with fun, family, parties, celebrations and gifts, it can also be a time of financial stress as well. With family in town, extra meals to prepare, and lots of holiday baking going on, we use to really go over our usual grocery budget during the months of November and December. Between what usually ended up being a close to $200 Publix trip before Thanksgiving and another couple hundred dollars spent on our annual Christmas party, we quickly realized after our first year of marriage that we needed to plan/budget better for holiday season grocery spending.

If you entertain a lot during the season an/or play host to family and friends, it may not be possible to stay completely within your normal grocery budget (for us that is $80 a week for all household purchases). But it is possible to spend less by planning ahead and shopping smart. Here are a few of the things we start doing as early as the beginning of October to make our holiday meals and parties more affordable.

#1: Plan Your Menu Ahead Of Time

This may seem like an obvious thing to do but what I am really talking about is planning weeks, maybe months ahead. You don't have to get crazy with the specifics but it is good to know what meat, sides and appetizers you plan to serve because you can then purchase items when they are on sale and/or have a coupons. Do you serve Turkey every year on Christmas day? Then maybe purchase one the week after Thanksgiving and stick it in your freezer for later. We always serve Cheesy Potatoes at our Christmas party each year so when I see them BOGO with coupons at Publix in October I grab the four bags I know I will need and save them.

Things like chips, salsa, mixed nuts, sodas, baking supplies, and more can be purchased even a few months in advance when you see a great price and saved for holiday entertaining. Buying ahead not only saves you money because you bought on sale but it can also be rolled into your weekly shopping budget so that you don't have to spend so much out of pocket right before the event. Have to buy everything the day before a dinner or party means that you have to pay whatever full price is at the time and that can add up fast.

Obviously certain things like fresh produce and some dairy products can't be bought too ahead of time but buy saving on other menu items you will hopefully free up some of your budget to purchase those things week of.

#2: Use Money Off Total Purchase Coupons ($X/$XX)

Many of us already use coupons like the $5/$30 Winn Dixie coupons from Enjoy the City booklets but the holiday season brings lots of these coupons. Target ads, Publix ad, drugstore ads and other grocery stores will often run money off total purchase coupons around the holidays. Most of these coupons are usually for when you purchase a certain dollar amount but many times that dollar amount is for your total before coupons which means that your out of pocket can still be lower than the total requirement minus the money off.

Publix also allows you to stack a Publix money off coupon with a competitor money off coupon too allowing you to save even more. With many of us making bigger than normal grocery trips during the holidays it won't be too hard to hit the $50-$100 total purchase price before coupons that many of these require. I love to use these on items like meat and produce that don't often have sales or coupons to help bring down the cost of those items.

#3: Save On The Basics

You may not be able to find everything you need for holiday meals on sale or with a coupons. Specialty ingredients, fresh items, wine and beer aren't often discounted so you probably will have to end up paying full price. So help offset the cost of these things, I try to save on the basics.

Saving on paper products, dry goods, household items and toiletries can free up cash to be spent on other things. If you are having house guests, it is even more important to stock up and save on these kinds of items so you don't end up having to run out on Thanksgiving morning to the only store open in town to pay full price for toilet paper or toothpaste.

Since paper products are easy to store and don't have an expiration date so you can stock up as early as you like if you find a good sale. I actually buy all my disposable plates, napkins, cups and silverware for our holiday party the year before when they are on clearance. I pack them away with the holiday decorations so that when I take things out to decorate, I just put those paper products in the pantry and don't have to spend full price on them before our party.

#4: Visit Different Stores

Even though I am guilty of doing the majority of my grocery shopping at one store (Publix), when shopping for holiday parties I try my best to get to a few different stores. It is unlikely that everything you need will be on sale/with a coupon at one grocery store. I try to plan out my shopping using the current sale ads for a few stores (for me its usually Walmart, Target and Publix) and then attempt to grab the best deals at each store. Planning ahead (tip #1) really helps with this.

Store promos, money off coupons, BOGO sales and clearance racks vary from store to store. By taking advantage of the best deals in each store you can maximize your budget. Since most traditional holiday items go on sale at least once sometime during November or December, shopping a few different stores will help you make sure you catch the sale.

#5; Look For In Store Promos

Gift card deals, items with purchase deals, and "Buy Theirs, Get Ours" promos are much more common during the holiday season. Be sure to take advantage of these when the occur on items you need.

Target is famous for offering $5 and $10 gift card deals or "Buy This, Get That FREE" year round but they seem to really pick it up in the holiday months. Publix occasionally has a promo where you get their brand item for free when you buy a name brand. Last year their had this promo with items like chocolate chips, condensed milk and other baking items which was great because I was able to stock up for some holiday baking at half the price.

Often these store promos may involve hard to coupon items like meat, deli items or produce. And for other types of items you can usually combine store or manufacture coupons with the deal to make it even better.

What are you favorite tips for saving money on holiday entertaining?

Want to learn more about couponing? Check out the posts below!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Pressed Cuban Sandwiches {With Smithfield Marinated Pork}

This post is part of a social shopper marketing insight campaign with Pollinate Media Group® and Smithfield®, but all my opinions are my own. #pmedia #PutPorkontheMenu

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Despite having a food blog, dinner can still be a bit of a dilemma in our house. We always have the best of intentions to take out a piece of meat from the freezer, defrost it, marinate it, and make it into something fabulous. But without fail, we usually forget to take it out, get home too late to marinate it, or just get caught up in our daily lives and before we know it, it's 6:30 and we have nothing to eat for dinner. When I saw Smithfield's new marinated pork products at Walmart last week, I knew they were something we could use to make dinnertime easier at our house.

Justin is actually known for his pork recipes and usually makes it for most of our dinner parties. The problem with pork on a week night is that it can be a time consuming and dish consuming process. Tenderizing, marinating and trimming take way too much time for a Tuesday night. Smithfield Marinated Pork made dinner as easy as unwrapping a package and placing the meat on a baking sheet and popping it in the oven.

Smithfield Marinated Pork is slow-marinated in delicious seasonings for full flavor which also makes it extremely tender. It's 100% fresh pork that is perfect for any night of the week. Since it is pre-marinated there was minimal prep and very little mess which is a nice change from Justin's usual style of using every bowl, tray and cooking sheet in the house to prep pork for dinner. It was in and out of the oven and onto these sandwiches in under an hour.

While this pork loin would be a great dinner just sliced and served with veggies or your favorite sides, we decided to jazz it up a bit by making pressed Cuban sandwiches with it. I'm pretty sure Justin loved Cuban sandwiches way before he married into my Cuban-American family but now he finds ways to order them anytime we make it south of Palm Beach. One of the reasons we never make them at home is because it is a little too labor intensive to roast a whole piece of pork just to make sandwiches. But thanks to Smithfield, we were able to make them with very little fuss or stress on our part.

We stuck to the traditional ingredients of a Cuban sandwich using roast pork, ham, swiss cheese, yellow mustard and pickles pressed on fresh Cuban bread from the grocery store bakery. However, the great thing about the marinated pork varieties is that you could easily customize this to make any kind of pressed sandwich your family prefers. I'm not sure what Justin enjoyed more: the sandwiches for dinner or the left over roast pork he had for lunch the next day.

This pork is already amazingly well priced but right now you can print out a coupon to save .75 cents on your next Smithfield Marinated Pork purchase (while supplies last). These are only available at your local Walmart so be sure to look for them in the refrigerated meat section next time you shop. With 7 different varieties you are sure to find something your whole family will love. For more ideas be sure to visit Smithfield's Facebook page!

Pressed Cuban Sandwiches

  • 1 package of Smithfield Marinated Pork (we used the Garlic & Herbs flavor)
  • 1 loaf of Cuban bread
  • Deli ham
  • Sliced Swiss cheese
  • yellow mustard
  • pickles
  • Butter (for the bread)
1.) In the oven, prepare the pork as directed on the package. 

2.) Once fully cooked, let cool and slice thin.

3.) On sliced Cuban bread spread with yellow mustard, layer the sliced pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles. 

4.) Butter the top and bottom of the bread and press in a hot panini.

5.) Cut on the diagonal and serve warm. Enjoy!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Easy Parfaits With Muller Greek Corner Mix Ins

This shop has been compensated by #CollectiveBias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone.

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We eat a lot of Greek yogurt in our house. Both Justin and I regularly have it for breakfast, lunch, snack or a dessert. While we love many varieties, one of our favorites is Muller Greek Yogurt especially the ones with the corner mix ins. Greek yogurt plain can get a little repetitive day after day so I love having the option of a little add in to switch things up a bit. Justin's favorites are the fruit mix ins but I really love the one with the caramelized almonds.

For lunch and breakfast you can't beat the convenience of the pre-packaged mix ins but when we are at home we like to get fancy with our Greek yogurt. While each flavor is great on it's own we have fun layering the Greek yogurt with things like granola, fruit, and nuts to make our own breakfast or dessert parfaits. Sometimes we even get crazy and add a little low free whipped cream and a drizzle of sugar free chocolate syrup to add some indulgence to our otherwise pretty healthy dessert.

For breakfast, Justin likes to take the Muller Greek Corner with Blackberry & Raspberry Sauce and layer the yogurt with fresh berries and a dried fruit granola mix. He tops it with the included sauce and a little low fat whipped cream for a weekend morning treat. The Greek yogurt and granola are great for keeping him full until lunch and when I serve it in a cute stemless wine glass it looks like we went out for a fancy brunch when we are really just sitting on the couch in our pjs.You can even make these ahead of time and cover them with plastic wrap for a quick grab and go breakfast option.

My dessert option is a little more decadent. I take the Muller Greek Corner with Caramelized Almonds and I layer the yogurt with dark chocolate granola and a little bit of chocolate syrup. I top it with low fat whipped cream sprinkled with the caramelized almonds and another drizzle of chocolate. This is the perfect thing for those nights when you are looking for something sweet but don't want to end up eating a ton of empty calories. The protein in the yogurt and almonds fills me up while the chocolate flavors help satisfy my sweet tooth. You could probably even get away with one of these for breakfast if you really wanted to : )

We love that all the varieties of Muller Greek Corner yogurts are only $1 at our Walmart so I usually just grab a couple of each whenever I shop so we always have some on hand for whatever meal we want. Combine any of the flavors with what you have on hand in your fridge and pantry and you are sure to come up with a great version of these parfaits. Do you like Greek yogurt? What's your favorite way to eat it?

Easy Parfaits with Muller Greek Corner Mix Ins
  • 1 Muller Greek Corner Mix In (your favorite flavor)
  • Granola
  • Fruit
  • Whipped cream and chocolate syrup optional
1.) In a cute glass or small bowl, spoon in half the Greek yogurt.

2.) Top with granola, fruit and/or nuts.

3.) If using a fruit sauce variety, drizzle half the fruit topping on your granola layer. If using chocolate syrup, drizzle on a little of that instead. 

4.) Spoon in the rest of the Greek yogurt. 

5.) Top with more granola. Add a little dollop of whipped cream.

6.) If using a fruit sauce variety drizzle on the rest of the sauce. If using the caramelized almonds, sprinkle those on top of the whipped cream and top with one last drizzle of chocolate syrup. 

7.) Store covered in the refrigerator. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Raspberry Lemonade Crystal Light Granita {Fun Party Drinks With A Vodka Twist}

My college girlfriends and I were known for our themed parties senior year. Tropical Night, Red Carpet Parties, St. Patrick's Day, Skirt Day (the first day of Spring in Indiana warm enough to wear a skirt), you name it, we had a themed party for it. Costumes, props, full on printed photo walls; nothing was too much for us. No matter how elaborate our evenings were they all had one thing in common; our party drinks were always made with Crystal Light and vodka.

Thinking back on it, we were probably known for our love of Crystal Light just as much as we were known for our creative themes. St. Patrick's Day? Dye the Crystal Light green. Red Carpet Party? Put it in a martini glass. Tropical Luau? Umbrella straws for everyone.

Why the obsession with Crystal Light? We had a few reasons. Main reason? It was low in calories. College girls (and girls in general) don't like to drink their calories. We would rather save them for ordering some late night pizza. It was also relatively affordable and easy to store. We could have an assortment of mixes in the pantry and just mix up what we needed when we needed it. No need to have a fridge full of drink mixers all the time. My Walmart always has a huge selection so I make sure to grab a few packages whenever I am there.

Don't get me wrong we drank our Crystal Light plain too. We usually had a pitcher mixed up in the fridge for enjoying on a regular basis. Now as a teacher, I love that I can keep a few On The Go packets in my desk or school bag to flavor my water bottles whenever I want. Justin and I have been loving the Liquid Drink Mix bottles since we can each choose how intensely we want to flavor our individual drinks too.

Right now, Crystal Light is sponsoring the Miranda Lambert Platinum tour and rewarding Crystal Light Drinkers with an exclusive #PlatinumPoints Sweepstakes. The Platinum Points program lets you earn reward points for purchasing Crystal Light products and you can then redeem those points for things like a Miranda Lambert CD, t-shirt, mug and so much more. If this had existed when I was in college, my girlfriends and I would have been rolling in points. To learn more about the Platinum Points Loyalty Program and how it works be sure to visit its website

Now that I am thirty I would like to think that I evolved past my 21/22 year old self's drinking habits and have moved on to something a little fancier. But I would be completely lying to you if I said that I never make myself a Crystal Light and vodka on the weekends. I do however have a fun and fancy twist on my senior year of college staple for you. 

This Raspberry Lemonade Crystal Light and Vodka Granita is the perfect thing to serve for your next girls' night. It is delicious, easy to make, low in calories and can be served in cute little glasses. The recipe itself is nonalcoholic so you can let guests choose if they would like to top it with vodka or not depending on their preferences. 

You could serve it as a fun "palate cleanser" between courses or as a signature "cocktail" at your next get together. I served mine in mini martini glasses but this would look adorable in mini mason jars or in white tasting/soup spoons. With so many flavors of Crystal Light to choose from this is also a treat that you can personalize as you like. While the basic recipe is great for all ages please make sure that if you are adding vodka you do so responsibility and in moderation : ) 

Raspberry Lemonade Crystal Light Granita {with an optional vodka twist}
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 Crystal Light Raspberry Lemonade On The Go drink mix packets
  • 1 cup of frozen raspberries
  • optional: vodka of choice (I like to pair this with a citrus flavored one)
1.) Mix the two packets of Crystal Light into the two cups of water. 

2.) Combine Crystal Light and frozen raspberries in the blender and blend until completely smooth.

3.) Pour mixture into a 9x13 pan and freeze for an hour. 

4.) After an hour, use a fork to scrape up the mixture to form a slush. Refreeze for another hour. 

5.) After an hour, repeat the fork scraping and place mixture in freezer for another 4-6 hours. You can leave it overnight if you prefer but you may want to cover it. 

6.) When ready to serve, remove pan from the freezer and use a fork to scrape up the frozen mixture until its a loose, icy slush. Serve immediately and enjoy!

7.) Optional: drizzle each serving with a half shot of vodka. While it may seem tempting, less is more. You don't want to ruin the flavor : )

This recipe is intended to be enjoyed responsibly, in moderation, and solely by men and women of legal drinking age.  Never drink and drive, never drive with someone who has been drinking, and always consume alcohol safely and in moderation.

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