10 Smart Ways to Save Money on Groceries

ways to save money on groceries
I live in an area with one of the highest costs of living in the entire United States. Everything from gas prices to rent for a tiny studio apartment seems astronomical when compared to the national average. Grocery prices are no exception–my little family of three has had trips to the grocery where we’ve spent $100 for only a few days worth of meals. Nothing is more disappointing and frustrating than feeling like you’re being ripped off while simply trying to provide your family with food. Through some trial and error I discovered a number of things that help me save money on groceries. I’m not saying I’m an expert here or that these are the rules I always follow when shopping, but I generally try to employ these tips and they’ve helped me so much–I hope that they’ll also be useful to you!

1. Shop on double sale days. This has got to be one of my favorite secrets for saving at the grocery store. Many stores have a double ad day where sale prices from the previous week are valid for one day along with sales for the following week. This is great because the variety of items being offered at a reduced price is expanded for that one day and you can take advantage of them–all in one trip!

2. Buy in bulk whenever possible. This seems like a no-brainer, but I’ve definitely been guilty of buying an item containing less because I didn’t like the higher price sticker on the item containing more, only to return to the store a few days later for the same item. My husband was the one who started to encourage me to go for the larger size because when you buy in bulk, you run out of that item less frequently so you save yourself an extra trip to the grocery store, and many times get more for less.

3. Avoid pre-prepared foods. Bagged salads, chopped garlic, pre-shredded cheese–all of these are great convenience items, and don’t get me wrong, I do buy some pre-prepared foods to help me out in the time department, but if you’re reeeally looking to pinch pennies, doing the prep work yourself will save you a significant chunk of change in the long run! I’ve also found that when I buy the whole item I get more for my money. I can buy a fresh, whole 16 oz. block of cheddar cheese for 4.99 or I can get a 12 oz. bag of shredded cheese for the same price with a couple added powdery/chalky “mystery” ingredients to retain the “freshness” of the cheese. No, thanks on that. Sometimes doing a little extra work is totally worth it in the money and quality of taste department.

4. Plan ahead of time. I cannot stress this one enough. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to the store without a plan, my belly empty and growling, and my mind a blank slate because I don’t feel like preparing a menu ahead of time. I tell myself that I’m just leaving the door open for “inspiration”. Heh, yeah right. Inspiration. Suuure. That’s really code for “Let’s buy aaall the food because I’m so hungry and ooh! look! a bag of chips that’s just calling my name! And don’t those salted caramel brownies look delectable?!?”. You NEED a plan, ladies. Jotting down just a few meal ideas before entering the store will keep your eyes on the prize and prevent the dreaded impulse buy, plus you’ll get groceries that actually correspond to your meal plan AND won’t have to stress about what to make during the busy work/school week! WIN-WIN!!!

5. Look for manager’s specials and price markdowns on meat. This is a great trick as long as you make sure the meat still looks, and most importantly, smells fresh. Just last week I got an entire package of boneless-skinless chicken thighs that were still fresh and delicious marked down a dollar because the “sell or freeze by” date was the following day.

6. Try to shop the perimeter of the store. Most of the brand-name, pre-packaged items in the inner aisles of the grocery store are full of chemicals whose names I can’t pronounce, plus they are unnecessarily expensive. I try to steer clear of these aisles as much as possible because I know it’s better for my health and that I’ll spend less if I stick to the basic essentials that my grandma bought for her family back in the day. This tip is especially helpful if you’re going to the store with kids. Trust me. I get tempted by the Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Peanut M&M’s too folks, so I completely understand the children’s struggle.

7. Shop around at different stores to compare prices. I’ve found that club card stores in my area tend to have the highest prices, even with the club card discount, so I tend to skip them unless I need to just pop in and out for one or two items. I always spend less at non club card stores like Stater Brothers, Walmart, and my beloved Aldi, so I tend to do the bulk of my shopping there. It’s always good though to compare prices and find which store offers the best value on an item. And this can change week to week with sale prices, so always pay attention to your favorite stores’ weekly ads.

8. Look at the unit price. My dad drilled this bit of advice into me from a young age because it’s easy to unwittingly get ripped off because you choose one brand over another. The unit price simply tells you how many cents per ounce you are paying for an item, and it can be particularly useful in the dry-good and canned food sections of the store. Although your savings from using this method might only be a few cents per item, those cents will add up so it’s worth it!

9. Embrace the beauty that is the off-brand. My favorite brand of sour cream is the Stater Brothers store brand. It doesn’t contain any chemical stabilizers like the other guys, has great flavor and texture, and costs over a dollar less! Many times off-brand items will be identical to their brand-name counterparts in taste, color, texture, etc. so it’s worth it to make the switch. Of course, this is based on personal preference and trial and error but I encourage you to try the off-brands of your favorite items and see what you find.

10. Use rebate apps to get cash back. I just recently started using the Ibotta app, which offers rebates on a number of items I buy regularly. All you have to do is unlock the rebates in the app, then purchase the unlocked items, scan their bar-codes and take a photo of your receipt to get cash back or gift cards! Although the Ibotta app has a lot of rebates for brand-name items, it also has some for items that could be from multiple brands, like milk, bananas, meat, etc. As long as the item appears on the app and is purchased from one of the stores on their list, it will qualify for a rebate. Ibotta has a large selection of items and stores to choose from, including Stater Brothers, Albertsons, Sprouts, Walmart and more. There are other rebate apps out there as well, it’s just a matter of finding the one that works best for you. Getting money back in exchange for buying food for my family is totally worth the research in my book!

I hope these tips were helpful to you! Tell me in the comments what your favorite ways to save money at the grocery store are. Have you used Ibotta or another rebate app and did you love it or hate it? I’d love to hear from you!

xoxo,

Sarah

 

*Free* Winter Wonderland Baby Shower Printables

3 *FREE* Winter Wonderland Baby Shower Printables from DashinglyDIY.com

I’m so excited to bring you these FREE printables that I’ve been working on the last couple weeks! At 23 weeks pregnant I’m starting to think about all things baby-related, but especially baby shower themes. I was inspired to make these winter wonderland themed printables for those of you who will have your showers in the chilly months to come, and I absolutely love the way they came out.

In this bundle you will get: a shower invitation with blank spaces that you can fill in with all the important info for your specific party, a “Don’t Say ‘Baby'” shower game sign, and another sweet sign to decorate one of your tables that says, “Out little deer will soon be here!”. When you click the links below, you’ll see that PDF files have crop marks to make printing and cutting easier.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” Invitation 5″x7″

baby shower invitation, baby it's cold outside, snow, snowflake

“Don’t Say Baby” Shower Game Sign 8″x10″

baby shower games, baby shower sign, baby shower decor

“Our Little Deer Will Soon Be Here!” Sign 8″x8″

deer, baby shower, winter baby shower

I kept the colors on the cooler side with different hues of blue and mint, because I think they’re pretty gender neutral and will work perfectly whether you’re having a boy or a girl. All these designs were made on my absolute favorite website, Canva.com! If you haven’t already checked it out, I highly recommend that you do! I’ve literally spent hours on Canva coming up with so many creations. It’s a great way to relax and get your artistic juices flowing.

I’d love to hear from you! When are you ladies having your baby showers? When are your due dates? Let me know in the comments!

xoxo,

Sarah

How to Make a DIY Fairy Light Centerpiece

fairy lights decor

This post contains affiliate links.

I can’t begin to express to you all how excited I am for fall! I live in Southern California where we don’t usually get to experience as much of autumn as the rest of the country, but lately the weather has been unusually cool and breezy for a So-Cal September, and I’ve been dreaming of soups, apples, crunchy leaves, and Thanksgiving menus….yes, I know that last one is a little weird, but what can I say? I love the stress, ahem, excitement of a well-thought-out Thanksgiving meal. So amid all this anticipation for fall, I’m thinking about fall decorations and ways to bring that unmistakable *feeling* of autumn into my home.

One super easy way I’ve found to do this is with fairy lights. I love fairy lights because they add warmth and a whimsical touch to whatever they adorn, whether they’re wrapped around the trunk of a big tree or arranged above a frosty window in the middle of December.

I have fairy lights in my bedroom and love the idea of decorating with them in different ways throughout the home. This quick little DIY that I’m bringing to you today is really simple to make, contains only 4 elements, and works as a versatile decoration or centerpiece for your table in the fall and winter months.

You will need:

1 large cylindrical glass vase

6-7 ft. of battery-operated fairy lights

1 Pillar Candle

1 bag of

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Place the battery end of the fairy lights in the vase and then arrange the river rocks around and on top to conceal it. It helps to keep the fairy lights wound up and clipped back with a clothespin.

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Place the candle on top of the rocks and then arrange the lights around it in a circular pattern.

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fairy light candle centerpiece

And voila! In minutes you’ve put together a warm and inviting creation to make your home feel extra autumnal.

Cheers!

Sarah

 

fairy light decor, centerpiece, candle, glass vase, twinkly lights

 

Big Brother/Big Sister Pregnancy Announcement *Free Printables!*

PREGNANCY (4) I know, I literally dropped off the face of the blogging planet this summer. But I kind of had a good reason. If you haven’t already guessed by the title of this post, I’ll confirm your suspicions. For the last few months I’ve been growing another human being inside of me! Yes, I’m pregnant, and due to pop late February of next year! It’s been a whirlwind of a first trimester and I’m SO happy to be in my second. The prospect of not dry-heaving at the mere mention of certain foods makes me really excited! And I’m looking forward to learning the baby’s gender and feeling it move around. My husband and stepson are equally as thrilled and we have our fingers crossed for a girl!

I still have no idea what it will be. I’ve had one dream it was a girl, a couple dreams it was a boy, and in another I gave birth to triplets! Oy!

Thankfully, I have it on pretty good authority that I only have one in there.

Right after I found out I was pregnant I designed these super cute printables on Canva.com. My husband and I were throwing around ideas for how we wanted to eventually break the news to our friends and one of them involved us having my stepson pose in a photo, holding a sign to announce his big brother status. The printables measure at 8.5×11 inches and I’ve included both big brother and big sister versions. I’m really happy with the way they turned out and hope that they will be useful for those of you expecting your second baby, (or third, or fourth, or fifth!). Enjoy!

Click Here for Your Free Printable!
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pregnancy announcement, big brother, big sister, social media, family, babies, baby, pregnant, pregnancy

Ice Cream Sprinkle Cake

ice cream sprinkle cake sprinkles ice cream sandwiches hot fudge maraschino cherriesAh, cake. I’ve enjoyed quite a bit lately. Springtime is especially packed with birthdays in my family and everyone has been reaping the benefits of all the cake! Memorial Day Weekend was no exception because it was my stepson’s fifth birthday and you can’t have a birthday (when you’re turning five years old no less!), without having some kind of amazing dessert to commemorate the occasion. He requested a cake with green mint and chip ice cream (none of that white mint chocolate chip rubbish they try to pass off on us) and this is what I came up with: an ice cream sprinkle cake. It’s basically the most fun birthday cake a kid (or grown up) could wish for: layers of vanilla ice cream, chocolaty-cakey-cookies, mint chocolate chip ice cream, fudgy chocolate sauce, whipped cream, and SPRINKLES!!! I don’t care how old you are, sprinkles make everything better. Case in point, my husband’s thirtieth birthday is tomorrow and he requested that I duplicate this recipe for him. It’s that good.
ice cream cake ingredients

I used vanilla ice cream sandwiches and mint chocolate chip ice cream, but any flavors you like would taste great in this cake. It’s pretty hard to mess up layers of ice cream, fudge and whipped cream folks, so be creative! Maybe try using Cherry Garcia instead of the mint chocolate chip. Or butter pecan even. Get wild and crazy! In this photo I included some peanuts for a topping idea but you can top it with whatever your heart desires. I ended up using maraschino cherries as a finishing touch and I think it made it just a little extra special.

To assemble the cake, first choose your vessel. An 8×8 glass baking dish worked wonderfully for us. I lined the bottom of the pan with a piece of parchment paper cut to size in order to make my cleanup easier, then placed the ice cream sandwiches in a single layer in the pan, cutting some horizontally and/or vertically to make one full layer. I stuck the pan in the freezer for about 10 minutes so that the ice cream sandwiches would be firm enough to withstand the next layer. vanilla ice cream sandwiches
mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiches Once they had a chance to chill out, I got ready to scoop! I love that minty color :).

About 9 scoops did the trick to cover the surface of the sandwiches.
scoops of mint chocolate chip

Mmmm, frosty goodness.

green mint and chocolate chip ice cream

Then I smoothed it out with a pie server because I’m cool and good at improvisation, but if you have an off-set spatula, you could also use that. This part was really fun. I felt like I was spreading spackling paste onto a wall. Clearly this cake brings out the inner, childlike imagination in those who prepare it. Yet another reason to make it! But not that you needed one ;).

Pop the whole thing back into the freezer for 10-15ish minutes to keep it from saggin’, baggin’, or draggin’. We want our ice cream cake icy and firm.

Whilst the cake is chilling, you’ll have a moment to make some homemade whipped cream! Awww yeeayah!

confectioner's sugar, whipping cream, whipped cream ingredients

You only need two ingredients for this whipped cream: powdered sugar and whipping cream.

Pour about a cup of the cream and a couple tablespoons of the sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer and whip it up until stiff peaks form.

whipped cream

What a masterpiece. A thing of beauty. Fluffy clouds in a bowl. Heavens to Betsy!

hersheys hot chocolate fudge sauce

After making the whipped cream and taking the cake out of the freezer, add another layer of ice cream sandwiches, and then you get to pour out a choco-river over them. Yum! A jar of Hershey’s hot fudge works perfectly for this because all you have to do is scoop it out and then spread it over the ice cream sandwiches. I should add that you don’t need to heat up the fudge because it would only melt the cake, and the fudge actually spreads very well at room temperature. If you’re feeling especially daring, try using Nutella!

homemade whipped cream made from scratch

Next I poured the whipped cream over the cake and arranged it ever so gently so as to avoid mixing it with the chocolate. Note to self (and to you), that it’s best to freeze the cake for about 5 minutes after pouring on the fudge, just so it can set up a bit before the whipped cream goes on top. ice cream cake

SPRINKLES! That is all.

five year old birthday candle

Fifth birthday candle? I think, yes.
ice cream cake layers

Here’s a side view of the lovely layers. You really, really need to stop everything and go make this ice cream cake!!

Ice Cream Sprinkle Cake

Ice Cream Sprinkle Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 boxes vanilla ice cream sandwiches (12 per box)
  • 3 cups green mint chocolate chip ice cream, softened slightly at room temperature
  • 6 oz. Hershey's Hot Fudge Topping, at room temperature
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup powdered confectioner's sugar
  • Rainbow Sprinkles
  • Maraschino cherries with the stem
  • Chopped peanuts (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a glass 8x8 baking dish, cut a square of parchment or wax paper to fit the surface of the bottom of the dish. Arrange about 6-7 of the ice cream sandwiches in a single layer in the dish. Use a sharp knife to cut some to size so that the entire area of the dish is covered. Freeze for 10-15 minutes in order to let the sandwiches harden a bit.
  2. With an off-set spatula, smooth the mint chocolate chip ice cream over the sandwiches and put the whole thing back into the freezer for about 15 minutes.
  3. While the cake is firming up in the freezer, prepare the whipped cream. Pour the whipping cream and powdered sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer (you can also use a handheld mixer). Mix at medium speed, until the cream and sugar are combined and stiff peaks form, about 2 minutes. Make sure to stop the mixer once in a while to make sure you're not over-mixing.
  4. Remove the cake from the freezer and arrange another layer of ice cream sandwiches over the mint ice cream, cutting some to fit the entire surface as before. Smooth the Hershey's topping over the sandwiches and then freeze it again for another 5 minutes.
  5. Take the cake out of the freezer and pour the whipping cream over the whole thing, arranging it carefully so as to not mix it with the chocolate. Pour sprinkles over the top and serve with Maraschino cherries and/or chopped peanuts.
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ice cream sandwich sprinkle cake mint chocolate chip

5 Ridiculously Clever Ways to Save Money on Your Dream Wedding

5 RIDICULOUSLYSMART WAYSTO SAVE MONEY ON THE WEDDING OF YOUR DREAMS (3)

When my husband and I first got engaged we immediately realized that everything in the wedding world is so expensive! We knew we didn’t want a lavish wedding, we simply wanted a fun and beautiful celebration of our marriage that we would remember for a lifetime. We tried to put into perspective that our wedding was just one day, and what really mattered was our marriage. With a short, five-month engagement, we had to make a lot of quick decisions while trying not to break the bank, which wasn’t always easy but we proved that it is very doable if you’re willing to put in a little extra work. Here are five smart things you can do to save a TON of cash on your wedding day. We did all five of these things and were still able to have the elegant, yet laid-back wedding of our dreams.

cafe lights bunting wedding venue

1) Think outside the box when selecting a venue.

I can’t stress this one enough. Most wedding experts suggest that when you first get engaged you should book your venue right away. This was the first thing I did in my wedding planning process, and I quickly learned that many venues used exclusively for weddings come with a hefty price tag. Traditional venues often require that you use either their onsite catering service or one that they’ve pre-selected, so you have less freedom in deciding how much you want to spend on food and often end up getting gouged.

Even on the low-end, many venues charge a few thousand dollars just to rent the space, plus anywhere from $60-$150 or more a head for dinner. Instead of paying an arm and a leg for the rental fee, plus astronomical catering costs, look for a venue that allows you to bring in an outside caterer. Parks and historical landmarks, museums, arboretums, and community centers are just some of the spaces that allow this practice and you can rent many of them at a steal.

We were married at the Heritage Park Village and Museum in Oceanside, CA which had a darling gazebo, a beautiful green lawn, and several historic buildings on the property (which made for some great photo-ops). We were able to rent the space by the hour so we didn’t have to pay for any extra time we wouldn’t be using, AND were allowed to bring in our own caterer. It was an absolutely gorgeous venue and we literally saved thousands by choosing it.

wedding caterer

2) Choose a unique catering option.

First I want to say that this really depends upon your personal taste and what you’re willing to compromise as far as the “traditional” wedding meal goes. Maybe you’re a bride who feels that her wedding dreams won’t be complete without an elegant, three-course steak and lobster dinner served on Edwardian China and you’re completely willing to accept the expense that will come with it. In that case, you go girl! You have to be true to your vision and your budget. I knew off the bat though that we would go a different route since we had to feed nearly 200 guests and wanted to be able to allocate more in our budget for photography and floral design. Plus, we wanted a casual and laid-back atmosphere at our reception, so we were open to less conventional options.

After a little Googling, my husband and I chose a company that caters Mexican street taco cart fare. The tacos were carne asada and chicken, grilled onsite with rice and beans, salad, and an assortment of tasty salsas and toppings, including chips, guacamole, and quesadillas for the kiddos. All of it was served buffet style on (gasp!) paper plates–for $12 per person. This saved us thousands compared to what a sit-down dinner would have cost.

It wasn’t a fancy dinner but it was incredibly delicious and almost a year later, our friends still rave about how much they loved the food at our wedding. But seriously, who doesn’t love tacos?! This choice added a ton of personality to our special day and was something memorable for our friends and family to enjoy. Both the refined and the casual dinner options can be great, you just need to go with the one that you really want, that fits the feel of your wedding, and that you can manage financially.

wedding invitation

3) Be imaginative with invitations. 

The absolute best source for invitations is Etsy. There are so many amazingly talented designers who sell extremely pretty invitations that can save you hundreds of dollars. However, if you really want to save money, don’t buy just any invitation on Etsy. Instead, look for invites sold in a digital file format. Invitations sold as digital files are magical and will be a lifesaver for your budget. Designers sell single invitation JPEGS usually at much more affordable price-point than the average wedding invite because you only pay for the file and print the actual invitations yourself. For our invitations, we found a design we loved in an Etsy shop, purchased the file and sent off the precise wording we wanted on our invitations and RSVP cards to our seller. She then sent back our completed JPEG file ready to print. We bought some shimmery cardstock and envelopes for the invites, took a memory card loaded with the invite file and the cardstock down to our local printer, and an hour later, badabing-badaboom, are invitations were ready! Many sellers will also print the invitations for you, but we found it was more cost-effective to do it at a local print shop.
lace wedding dress back

4) One word: sales! Take advantage of them. 

I found my dress at an upscale bridal boutique, in my size, for $350. Seriously. Although I think I was very lucky, bridal stores do have sales throughout the year, you just need to keep an eye out for them and be smart about your choices. Don’t buy something that looks like it was stepped on with a dirty shoe 75 times, but if the dress is in good condition but not exactly what you had in mind, remember that you can alter a dress to your specifications. For example, I had long dreamed of an all lace dress with sleeves. But when I tried on several lace dresses I realized that many were not figure-flattering on me. The dress I found for $350 was satin with beautiful beaded-lace applique and made me look and feel great–but it was strapless! I had a seamstress add custom lace-beaded sleeves and alter the neckline into a sweetheart, and it turned out exactly how I wanted!

wedding photographer

5) Use word of mouth to find the perfect vendors. 

I spent hours searching the internet for the perfect photographer, florist, DJ, etc., but it was difficult finding ones that fit my main criteria: that they would be affordable, make my wedding pretty, and wouldn’t suck. Through talking to different local people however, we found the most wonderful vendors of all time and it all started with a phone call to a florist whose work I loved the moment I saw it online. When I contacted her, she quoted me a price I could never afford and my heart sank. Discouraged, I sheepishly told her I would have to talk to my fiance and “let me get back to you,” yadayada just so I could get off the phone. It was then that she said something to the effect of, “I sometimes work with a really great florist and right now she doesn’t have a minimum. Would you like her information?” Um, yes!

I jumped at the chance. I figured they might have similar styles if they worked together, and sure enough I was right! I looked at this new floral designer’s website and immediately fell in love with her creations even more than the first florist’s. Her flowers were one of the highlights of my wedding. She also referred me to the photographer of my dreams (whose prices just happened to fall within our budget).

We found our DJ by chance through a city worker my mother-in-law just happened to speak to on a whim. As a favor to his friend, the DJ offered his services for our wedding at a reduced price and did a spectacular job! I never would have found these amazing vendors had I not been open to the suggestions of others. Sometimes your first choice for a vendor might not work out, but many times the second choice could be even better, so don’t give up!

getaway car bride and groom

I hope this post has been a helpful read! If you’re planning your wedding right now and totally stressing out because you think you’re going to have to spend an arm and a leg, remember that you absolutely can cut so many costs if you exercise that creativity muscle to think outside the box, do a little searching, and stay open to sometimes more unconventional options. You can do this! Now take a deep breath and go own that wedding planning like the boss I know you are!

Love,

Sarah

diy wedding, budget wedding, save money, wedding of your dreams, ways to save money on your wedding

Goat Cheese Crostini Two Ways

goat cheese, crostini, fig, fig butter, smashed peas with mint, lemon I love goat cheese. It’s salty and tangy and oh so creamy, and the perfect vehicle for a variety of sweet and savory flavors, especially when slathered on a toasted slice of crusty baguette. Recently for a family party I made crostini two ways, each having the same lemony, roasted-garlic & goat cheese base. I topped half the crostini with smashed peas with scallions & mint and the other with a simple fig butter spread. And of course I couldn’t forget to finish each and every one with delicate slivers of prosciutto because it makes things more fancy and twice and yummy. These appetizers are incredibly easy to make and each has a such mouthwatering balance of salty-tangy-sweetness, I promise you’ll have trouble saving enough for your guests!

Here’s how I made them:

Goat Cheese Crostini

I compiled all the topping ingredients: peas, heavy cream, chopped scallions, chopped red onions and garlic, lemon (zest and juice), mint leaves, fig butter, goat cheese, prosciutto, and roasted garlic. Yes, I know that seems like a lot of ingredients but they all come together quickly and your tastebuds will be very thankful. This I promise you. (Name that reference).

Here is the delicious fig butter I used which Trader Joe’s sells. Basically the best spread on the planet. Like butta but doesn’t actually contain butter. It’s silky, sweet, and tart and you should go buy some right now!

trader joes fig butter

baguette

Next I got myself une baguette. Tres chic. Remember that scene in Disney’s Ratatouille where Colette is explaining to Linguini the secret to knowing whether bread is good without tasting it? It must have that special “crackle”. That scene always makes me hungry for French bread!

french baguette I sliced the baguette in rounds,

and drizzled it with liquid gold.

I mean olive oil.

But you can use whichever you have on hand.
olive oil drizzled bread

Then I sprinkled them with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

sliced bread

They looked so pretty on the baking sheet, they needed a close-up.

After this I popped them in the oven to toast.

And voila! Little baby toasts.

toasted baguette

Then I mixed together the roasted garlic-goat cheese blend. You can buy roasted garlic at the grocery store but it’s soooo easy just to make it on your own! Take a whole head of garlic and lop off the top horizontally, drizzle it with olive oil, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the oven for 40 minutes at 400 degrees. The cloves come out soft and squishable so they’re easy to pop out of their papers. I smashed about four of them into a paste for the goat cheese mixture.

goat cheese with lemon zest and roasted garlic

A little lemon zest and cracked black pepper made it perfectly zingy.

Then I moved on to the smashed peas with mint. I sauteed some onions and garlic in olive oil,

red onions and garlic

peas with heavy cream

And added in the peas and heavy cream to heat for just a minute or two.

Then I blended them with my handy dandy hand-immersion blender, (you can use a food processor or any other blending device), and stirred in some chopped scallions, a few mint leaves, lemon zest and a squeeze of juice, and of course S+P.

smashed peas with scallions mint and lemon zest

Easy peasy. Hehe.

Then I assembled it all onto the crostini! I added a schmear of goat cheese to each slice of bread and then spread the fig butter on half and the smashed peas on the other half.  smashed pea crostini with prosciutto and fig butter crostini with prosciutto

Mmmm….Don’t forget the prosciutto, friends. I was very generous in the cured ham department here.

smashed peas with mint crostini

fig crostini goat cheese

Hors d’oeuvre, anyone?

Goat Cheese Crostini Two Ways

Ingredients

  • 1 French baguette, sliced in 1/2 in. rounds
  • 2-3 TBS olive oil
  • 1/2 jar Trader Joe's fig butter (or any other quality brand)
  • 2-3 oz. prosciutto
  • For the Goat Cheese Mixture:
  • 1 8 oz. log goat cheese, softened at room temperature
  • 4 cloves roasted garlic, smashed into a paste
  • 1 TBS lemon zest
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • For the Smashed Pea Mixture:
  • 1 10 oz. bag frozen peas, thawed
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 4 mint leaves, chopped
  • 1 TBS lemon zest
  • 2 TBS lemon juice
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • Salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Arrange the baguette slices on a large cookie sheet and drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. Bake in the oven for 5-7 minutes, and then flip them over and cook for another 5-7 minutes or until golden brown and toasted. Remove from oven. If using right away, let them cool and then add toppings. If you want to save them for later, let them fully cool, then place in a sealed, plastic container so they don't dry out. Try to use them the same day, if possible.
  2. To make the goat cheese topping, combine the softened goat cheese, roasted garlic paste, lemon zest, and cracked black pepper in a bowl with a fork until well mixed. Set aside.
  3. To make the smashed pea topping, heat a saucepan over medium heat, add 1 TBS olive oil and sautée the chopped red onions and fresh garlic until onions are translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Stir in the thawed peas and heat for about 3 minutes. Add in the heavy cream and heat for another couple minutes. Remove from heat and with a hand immersion blender or food processor, blender, etc., blend the mixture until it reaches a "smashed" consistency--it should be somewhat smooth but chunky at the same time. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice, and salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Set mixture aside.
  4. To assemble the crostini, spread a tablespoon of the goat cheese on each. Top half with the smashed pea mixture and the other half with the fig butter. Finish each crostini with a slice or two of prosciutto.
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Lemon, Mint, & Rosemary Sea Salt Scrub

Lemon Mint & Rosemary Sea Salt Scrub Title

Hello, lovelies! I’m sorry I’ve been MIA for the last few weeks. I have so many recipes and projects I want to share with you, it’s just finding the time to get it all done! Today however, I have something new and shiny to bring to you which also happens to be the first mini DIY project of this blog: Lemon, Mint, & Rosemary Sea Salt Scrub!

Cracked heels and scaly elbows got you down? Never fear because this scrub contains moisturizing coconut oil and exfoliating seal salt, which will leave your skin silky smooth and ready for all those springtime fashions. Woohoo! Plus it’s ridiculously easy to make and smells heavenly.

IMG_7346 (2)

I was inspired to make this DIY by the abundance of herbs we have growing in the backyard and a bag of fresh lemons purchased at the 99-Cent Store. There are no yucky chemicals in this scrub and all the ingredients are totally safe and natural. I recommend applying the scrub and then wiping it off with a paper towel before rinsing, so as to avoid getting the coconut oil and minced herbs down the drain. Now let’s get down to business.

First you will need to assemble the ingredients:

ingredients

Lemon (zest and a bit of juice), peppermint essential oil, fresh rosemary, coconut oil, coarse seal salt, and raw honey.

rosemary & lemon zest

 

mixed ingredients

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl! I melted the coconut oil and raw honey a bit in the microwave before adding them to the mixture because they were pretty cold and hard, but you can forgo this step if your coconut oil and honey are soft and at room temperature.

 

scrub in jar

Pour the mixture into a little jar. I got this super cute one at Target for a dollar in that section of bins when you first walk in that are filled with adorable trinkets and doodads at bargain prices, such as $3 twinkly lights or $5 cloth baskets that I may or may not have bought at some point. It’s there that they trap me into buying all the things I never knew I needed until I came through those automatic doors. They get me every time. But this jar had a black and white tie AND a hot pink chalkboard lid you can write on, so I couldn’t resist.

I put the jar in the fridge for an hour to make it easier to mix the ingredients, (they all separated when the oil and honey were melted). It came out looking like this, all pretty and layered:

chilled and separated

 

And this was the final product once it was all mixed up:

all mixed up and ready to go

Done! See, I told you it was easy. Now go make this and pamper yourself, girlfriend!

xoxo,

Sarah

Here’s the printable recipe link

Lemon, Mint, & Rosemary Sea Salt Scrub Recipe

Ingredients:

Zest of 1 lemon & 1 TBS of juice

½ cup coconut oil, softened at room temperature

¼ cup raw honey

¼ coarse sea salt

10-12 drops peppermint essential oil

Leaves from a small stem of fresh rosemary, minced

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Pour the mixture into a small jar and refrigerate. Apply a quarter-sized amount to skin in circular motions and wipe off with a paper towel before rinsing.

*The scrub should keep in the fridge for quite a long time. Because it is made with all natural ingredients however, it has the potential to spoil. If after a period of time it begins to grow mold, do not use and throw it away.

 

 

 

 

Gluten-Free Chocolate Tart

chocolate tart

Last June my husband and I visited my cousin, Danika and her husband, Billy in gorgeous Truckee, California. They’re a warm and amazing couple and we absolutely love spending time with them. We also love Truckee because it’s such a fun and laid-back city in the middle of some really breathtaking mountain scenery. Everything is surrounded by humongous green trees, the air is so clean, and the town boasts both the Truckee river and Donner Lake. One night from their deck, as we watched the sun set behind Mount Rose in all its pinkish splendor, a family of deer including a pregnant doe came to snack on some shrubs in the yard. It was just lovely!

Billy and Danika own a super awesome store in Truckee called New Moon Natural Foods and if you’re ever in the area be sure to stop by. One afternoon Danika served us a small gluten-free chocolate tart that their store carries and topped it with fresh raspberries. The combination was incredible, and for some reason I had been thinking about that tart and majorly craving it aaall of last week, so I decided to recreate it!

My version is rich and creamy and extremely chocolaty. It’s also completely grain- and dairy-free. Yeedawgie!

To make it, you will need:

filling ingredients

Semi-sweet chocolate chips, full-fat coconut milk, 2 eggs, a lil’ salt and some sugar.

Enjoy life mini chips

The chocolate chips I used are the Enjoy Life brand mini chips which are dairy free (now carried by Walmart, woot woot!), but you can use any semi-sweet chocolate chips you like and/or are available to you.

Lots of juicy, ripe raspberries:

bowl of raspberries

I bought these because they were beckoning me from a display at Trader Joes, and man were they sweet and delicious! My stepson kept asking for, “Just one more!” from the bowl.

For the crust, rustle up the following:

crust ingredients

Almond meal, unsweetened cocoa powder, melted coconut oil, vanilla extract, and sea salt. See, I told you, no gluten!

Next combine the dry ingredients in a bowl:

combine dry ingredients

And whisk….

whisk dry ingredients

Then add in the coconut oil and vanilla.

Once you’ve added the wet ingredients, I find it’s easiest to mix up if you use a wooden or metal spoon (or even a rubber spatula). If you use a whisk, everything gets stuck in one big blob inside the whisk and that’s no bueno.

crust ingredients mixed together

The mixture should look and feel like wet sand and should somewhat hold together when you flatten it against a hard surface. Try pressing it against the sides of the bowl to test it, and add a touch more coconut oil if it’s too dry or a touch more almond meal if it’s too wet. Remember that you’re going to bake it so it will dry out a bit in the oven.

Next select your baking vessel:

Tart/pie plate

I used this darling, glass tart pan with a fluted edge but if you have a tart pan with a removable bottom then you’re in the money!

Just for good measure place a circle of parchment paper on the bottom to line the pan (trust me, your pan will thank you). Then brush some melted coconut oil all over the bottom and sides and press the dough out inside the pan to make a crust, like so:

unbaked crust

Hands are the best tool.

Bake that thing for 20-25 minutes at 350F. Ovens can vary widely in how hot “350” degrees really is, so you may need to either take it out early or leave it in for a little longer depending on yours. Just keep checking on it and use your baker’s intuition! (Yes, that’s a real thing).

After it bakes, pull the crust out of the oven and while it’s cooling, start on the filling, which everyone knows is the best part of any tart/pie. Simmer your coconut milk in a teeny pot over medium heat.

hot coconut milk

Put your choco chips into a big bowl and pour in the coconut milk to melt them, whiskety whisk, add in the sugar & salt, and whisk some more.

getting ready to pour...

Then, in go the beaten eggs (not pictured), and whisk till it’s all combined:

Chocolate mixture

By this time the crust should be ready….

baked crust

And looking more crusty than it was before!

Pour that oh-so-chocolaty filling into the crust and bake for 25-30 minutes at 325 degrees until it’s set. It will come out smelling and looking scrumptious….

tart out of the oven

Let it cool on the counter and then chill out in the fridge for a few hours.

Then it’s ready to be topped with lots of raspberries!

topped with raspberries

I like to arrange mine in concentric circles ’cause they look oh so pretty that way.

2016-03-12 18.00.16

Gotta see it from the overhead angle.

And a slice, of course:

slice of chocolate tart overhead

Don’t forget that side profile….

chocolate tart side profile

The crust held together perfectly! Yay!

Now go make it!

Here’s the Gluten Free Chocolate Tart Recipe Printable

Ingredients

For the filling:

1 10 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 eggs, beaten

1 13.5 oz. can full-fat coconut milk

2 TBS granulated sugar

¼ tsp. salt

For the crust:

1 ½ cups almond meal

½ cup coconut oil, melted (plus more for greasing the pan)

¼ cup cocoa powder

2 TBS granulated sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Pinch of salt

For topping:

Fresh raspberries

Instructions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Trace the bottom of a tart pan on parchment paper, cut out the circle, and line the pan with the paper. Brush some coconut oil on the paper and sides of the tart pan.

To make the crust, in a medium bowl whisk together the almond meal, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt until combined. Switch to a wooden spoon or rubber spatula and stir in the melted coconut oil and vanilla extract until the mixture looks and feels like wet sand. It should somewhat hold together when pressed against a hard surface. Test it out on the side of the bowl and add a teaspoon more of almond meal if it’s too moist or more coconut oil, a little bit at a time, if it’s too dry and crumbly.

Press the dough into the prepared tart pan and bake for 20-25 minutes or until it’s somewhat hardened. The crust might puff up slightly while it’s cooking, but it will go down as it cools. Take the crust out of the oven and cool completely before adding the filling.

To make the filling, lower the oven to 325 degrees. Simmer the coconut milk on the stove in a small pot over medium-low heat, until it’s heated through but not boiling. Pour the chocolate chips in a large bowl and whisk in the coconut milk to melt them. Add in the sugar and salt and whisk. Then whisk in the beaten eggs until it’s all combined. Pour the mixture over the cooled crust and bake for 25-30 minutes or until it looks set. It will still jiggle a bit in the center but will continue to firm up as it cools. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature. For best results, refrigerate the tart for 2-3 hours, then top with the raspberries and serve.

gluten free chocolate tart raspberries

Sausage, Lentil, & Kale Soup

 

Pinterest Photo Blog 1

So this is my first post. Although it took me a while, I’ve finally mustered up the courage to write something here. I couldn’t be more excited to be starting my blogging journey and I hope that you, dear reader, will stick with me as I learn and attempt to bring you quality content on a regular basis. So without further ado, I bring you my very first blog post, Sausage, Lentil, & Kale Soup!

Here in Southern California it was basically summer the entire month of February, which was sad because I love making (and eating) soup in the winter, but no one wants to do that when it’s 90 degrees outside. Thankfully, the last few days have been cold(er) and rainy, so I felt this recipe was a totally appropriate way to savor the last few weeks of winter.

I’m a firm believer that a good soup should be built from multiple layers of flavor. It’s all about the layers, people! I learned that from watching Lidia Bastianich on PBS. There’s something about the sound of a wooden spoon scraping up little browned bits of tastiness from the bottom of a dutch oven that’s always appealed to me. What makes this soup so good is that each added ingredient gives complexity and depth of flavor and the finished product is so simple yet satisfying. It’s a big, warm bowl of salty sausage, creamy lentils, tangy tomato, and meaty veggies with a kick of spice. Yum. And it’s a one pot meal! Get in my belly.

First assemble your ingredients….

Photo 2

Sweet Italian sausage, lentils, crushed tomato, tomato paste, chicken broth, onions & garlic, carrots, celery, and of course, kale!

 

bay leaves, red pepper flakes, cheese

Don’t forget a bay leaf or two, a pinch of crushed red pepper, and grated cheese of your choice. I used Romano.

 

Photo 4

Remove the casings from a pound of sausage. I find a sharp paring knife works really well for this.

 

Photo 5

Chop zee onion! Brown or yellow is best, but whatever you have on hand will work. An onion’s an onion!

 

gettin garlicky in hurr

Mince the garlic. Your fingertips will probably carry the lovely fragrance around for the next few days. You’re welcome.

 

Peeled carrots

Peel the carrots! I love the way peeled carrots look–so smooth and lustrous. I know, they’re just carrots….but carrots are people too.

 

Chopped carrots

Dice those shiny, little babies up into a pile of orange-y confetti goodness.

 

Chopped celery

Dice up the celery, too.

 

Photo 10

Then brown the sausage in a heavy-bottomed pot. I heart dutch ovens! If you don’t have one that’s okay. Any big and hefty pot should do. Italian sausage contains enough fat that you don’t need to add anything to get it brown, but because I like to live dangerously I used a touch of olive oil. Also, the fragrance of fennel seeds in these bad boys rocks my world.

 

browned sausage

Here’s the sausage all browned up and crispy and ready to go. Set it aside for later and try not to eat it all before it gets into the soup.

 

Veggies and bay leaves

The sausage will have rendered out quite a bit of fat, but don’t throw it all away! Fat is flavor. Leave a few tablespoons of it in the pot and sautee the veggies with S+P, a couple bay leaves, and a pinch of crushed red pepper until they’re translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Your house will begin to smell even more heavenly at this point.

 

Photo 13

Next add in the tomato paste, about 3 tablespoons, and stir it around for about a minute, until it gets a little brown and even more yummy.

 

all ingredients added

Throw in the crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, lentils, and kale, bring it to a boil and simmer for thirty to forty minutes. As the lentils cook they tend to absorb liquid so if needed, add in a little water till you get the consistency you like. I prefer to wait towards the last ten minutes or so to add the sausage back in, otherwise it can get overcooked and somewhat rubbery.

 

Sausage, Lentil, & Kale Soup

Pour into a big bowl and top with as much cheese as your heart desires!

This recipe makes a lot of soup but it freezes beautifully so you can save it for a few meals, or just eat it all with your family and friends in one night :).

Sausage, Lentil, & Kale Soup Recipe Printable

Sausage, Lentil, & Kale Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage

1 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3-4 carrots, peeled and diced

3 celery ribs, diced

2 cups canned crushed tomatoes

3 Tbs. tomato paste

32 oz. low-sodium chicken broth

1 lb. lentils, sorted and rinsed

4 cups kale, leaves cut or torn into 2-3 inch pieces

Pinch crushed red pepper flakes

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 bay leaves

Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese for topping

Instructions:

Heat a 6 or 8qt. heavy bottomed pot on medium heat for a minute or two. Remove the sausages from their casings and cook them in the pot for about 10 minutes or until browned and cooked through, breaking them up with a spoon and stirring occasionally. Remove from pot and set aside.

Pour off all but 3 tablespoons of the rendered sausage fat and sauté the onions, garlic, carrots, celery with the bay leaf, crushed red pepper, and a bit of salt and pepper until the vegetables are translucent, about 2-3 minutes.

Stir in the tomato paste and cook for about 1-2 minutes. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and chicken broth and add in the lentils and kale. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the lentils and kale are tender. Add in the sausage for the last 10-15 minutes of simmering so that the flavors can combine. Add in a little more salt and pepper to taste, if desired.

Ladle into bowls and top with grated cheese to taste.