Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Better Breakfast: Zucchini Cranberry Orange Muffins

I love making a "real" breakfast for the family, especially on the weekend but tire of the usual pancakes & eggs, so I'm always on the hunt for something new & different.  I used to make Orange Cranberry muffins at a job I held many moons & years ago, and ever since then have had the occasional craving for one but haven't found a good enough recipe to satisfy such craving.

This morning, I decided to combine the best of 3 different recipes that I have, and this what I came up with.

Crunchy topping...sweet & tart tasting...moist & crumbly...these are amazing!!!!

Zucchini Cranberry Orange Muffins

1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp butter
1/8 tsp walnut extract
1 Tbsp chopped pecans
6 Tbsp flour
1 cup sugar
4 Tbsp butter, softened
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup grated zucchini
1 cup frozen cranberries
1 tsp grated orange zest
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Add 12 muffin cup liners to muffin pan or prepare muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray in lieu of muffin cups.

First create crumb topping by mixing together brown sugar, 2 Tbsp butter, walnut extract, 1 Tbsp chopped pecans, and 6 Tbsp flour in a small bowl until pea-sized crumbs form.  Set aside.

Beat 1 cup sugar with 4 Tbsp butter in large bowl until well-combined.  Beat in egg and vanilla extract.  In a medium bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Blend flour mixture into sugar mixture until just moist, then beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Fold in zucchini, frozen cranberries, orange zest and pecans.  Spoon into muffin pan until each cup is nearly full.  Top with crumb topping, gently pressing topping down into muffin batter with your hand to keep the topping from falling off during baking.

Bake muffins for 25-30 minutes.


Wok's For Dinner: Kielbasa & Pineapple Kabobs

On Sundays, I like to keep dinner simple and easy to prepare, whether it's a one-pot meal, something cooked in the crock-pot, or a meal like what we had tonight, kabobs!

I love the taste of grilled pineapple and had a fresh one in the fridge that needed to be used.  Our grill is currently on the fritz, but I figured that the broiler would be a perfect substitute.  Add some kielbasa, bell pepper, and a sweet & tangy sauce...voila!  Delicious dinner is served!

Kielbasa & Pineapple Kabobs

1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1/2 Tbsp onion powder
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 red bell pepper, cut in chunks
1 kielbasa or polish sausage, sliced
1 fresh pineapple, cut in chunks

Preheat broiler in oven.

Combine brown sugar, apple juice, cider vinegar, garlic & onion powders, orange zest & corn starch into a saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until thick.

Meanwhile, thread bell pepper, sausage and pineapple onto skewers.  Place kabobs on foil-lined baking sheet.  Place baking sheet about 6 inches from broiler elements; broil for about 5 minutes.  Remove from oven; brush kabobs with sauce.  Turn kabobs over & brush with sauce again.  Place baking sheet back into oven and broil another 5 minutes.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Check Those Store Receipts for Accuracy #3

This post isn't as much about checking your receipt as it is checking your change after purchasing.  Let's face it - it happens.  We get short-changed, over-changed, and on the rare occasion, wrong-currency-changed.

That's what happened to me at two different stores a week ago -- I received currency from two separate countries.  What an odd occurrence!

A penny from the Bahamas, and a penny from Canada.

I return change/bills when I'm given back too much change.  Under normal circumstances, I correct the cashier when I'm not given enough change, but I happen to collect coins & bills from other countries, so these two pennies are keepers.  Both pennies are not valid U.S. currency, so it wouldn't do me any good to try to pass them off at the next store anyhow!

The penny from the Bahamas was particularly interesting - it has a starfish on the "heads" side!

How about you?  What other-country currency have you received?

Friday, September 27, 2013

Check Those Store Receipts For Accuracy #2

Yesterday, I mentioned how I check my store receipts for accuracy, and at one store, I've been overcharged 4 of the last 8 shopping trips.

The most recent mishap involved milk not ringing up at the advertised price.  It wasn't small change either, a difference of $1.42 per gallon, or $2.84 + NC 2% food sales tax.  That kind of overcharge hurts when you're on as tight a budget as we are!

I received an email about my e-vic savings for the sales period.  The sale on milk really stood out.  The advertised price was $2.57/gal.  (Please pardon the reddish-pink coloring on the screen shot above.  My printer was running out of ink!)  Note that it says "save at least $0.92 ea" next to the milk jug picture above.  This means the regular price per gallon was $3.49 -- I'll explain in further detail below why this is important to note.

The amount that I was charged was $3.99/gal -- not the sale price and not the regular price according to the e-vic savings email I received!

I took my receipt and e-vic savings email to Customer Service.  The CS Manager initially refunded me the $0.92/ea savings off the e-vic price vs. regular price that was on the e-vic savings email.  I kindly pointed out to her that I was charged $3.99 per gallon, not $3.49.  This time, she took a closer look at the receipt and agreed that I was due a slightly larger refund.

So, yes, it does pay to check your receipts.  Electronic systems save time & uncomplicate the process, but they are not fail-proof!

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Check Those Store Receipts For Accuracy #1

I've gotten into the habit of double-checking my store receipts, especially the grocery stores, after getting home & putting away my purchases.  I've been burned one too many times, usually NOT in my favor.  Whether I'm short-changed or realize I got to much change, an item's price rings up too high/too low, I always take the error back to the store for correction.

I've really taken a close look at all store each receipts the past 8 weeks ever since a new grocery store opened up in town.  I have shopped at this store 8 times over the 8-week period.  Of those 8 shopping trips, I've been overcharged 4 times, paying about $15 too much in total, which Customer Service refunded to me when I brought the issue to their attention.

This past Saturday, another grocery store inadvertently overcharged me for an item, which I discovered after getting home & checking my receipt.

The sale price of a 10-lb bag of potatoes was $3.29.

Unfortunately, the amount that I was charged was $3.99 (that's before the 2% food sales tax charged in my state).

I took the receipt & sales ad back to the store a few days later when I knew that I would be in the area.  It was only a refund of $0.71, so I wasn't in a big hurry to rush down there & spend gas unnecessary.  Thankfully, the store manager kindly & quickly refunded me the difference.

How about you?  Do you check your receipts? :)

Monday, September 23, 2013

TruMoo Milk: Vanilla in Halloween Orange & Goosebumps Sweepstakes!

I have really, sadly, neglected the Balancing Act Basics blog for far too long.  I don't think I had a single post in 2012, and this is the first post for 2013. Not such a good a job playing the balancing act!  Sheesh!!  Work & family kept me waaayyyyy busy.  I finally said "enough is enough."  It was time to put family first.  So I resigned from my position -- extremely difficult to do given how much I loved my job -- and I am now a stay-at-home mom.  Yay!  The kids are loving it, and I am too.  Still busy, but a different kind of busy, a very good kind of busy. :)

I reactivated my BzzAgent account, which also had been neglected, and was quickly awarded a BzzCampaign.  This particular campaign was for TruMoo milk.  I was particularly excited to accept this campaign.  My kids LOVE chocolate milk and have begged & begged me to buy them TruMoo.  But I have refused to do so for a couple reasons:

1) I buy milk and chocolate syrup.  It's as simple as mixing the two into a cup with a spoon and, voila!, chocolate milk.  Why buy premade chocolate milk?

2) I did not see the value of buying premade chocolate milk, feeling that its extra cost would not pay for itself.

But perhaps there are benefits of buying TruMoo that are worth taking a closer look at.  After all, it's premade chocolate milk, thus saving the time of having to find the chocolate syrup, find a spoon, pouring syrup into cup & potentially putting in too much/too little, and stirring the syrup with a spoon.  Unlike most milk, TruMoo is free of artificial growth hormones.  Plus, it contains no high fructose corn syrup, as is found in most chocolate syrup brands.  So it has its health benefits.

I'm still skeptical, but I am definitely willing to give TruMoo a try, especially knowing how happy it will make my kids.

This afternoon, my TruMoo BzzCampaign materials arrived - yay!  The packet contained several coupons -- one coupon was for a free 1/2 gallon or larger of TruMoo, which I will use.  The remaining coupons (LOTS of them!) are for $0.75 off a 1/2 gallon or larger of TruMoo, which I am happy to give out to family & friends.

Oh, and as a result of this TruMoo BzzCampaign, I learned that TruMoo has a new flavor available this Halloween, Vanilla in Halloween Orange!  I don't very often see vanilla flavoring, and never have I found it in orange, so that would be a real treat for the kids this Halloween (a healthy treat, to boot!).  

Let me know if you are interested in one of the coupons mentioned above (excluding the FREE coupon, that's mine!).  Coupons are first come, first served.

Additionally, for each TruMoo 1/2 gallon or larger that you buy, you can visit TruMoo's Goosebumps Sweepstakes website to enter a code found on the inside cap of specially marked Halloween edition TruMoo for a chance to win a trip to Hollywood for a behind-the-scenes tour of Fox Studios and visit old town Pasadena for a special effects experience!  And when you sign up, you can also get a $2 coupon for any Goosebumps DVD (I loved reading Goosebumps books as a teen.  Who knew there are now DVDs??? :) )

Finally, if you try TruMoo, like it, and want to buy more, then register for a TruMoo account to receive notifications when coupons are available.  

Whew, I did it!  My first post of 2013!  I can't promise that I'll post daily, at least not now.  But I do promise to do a little better to keep you informed as I play the Balancing Act game. :)