My 5 Favorite Treats of Fall (bring on the apple & pumpkin)

I can’t seem to get my hands on enough pumpkin and apple treats this fall.  Apple fritters, impossibly moist pumpkin bread, and all those spicy fall brews. Not to mention Trader Joe’s pumpkin explosion. Pumpkin flavored toaster pastries?? (I haven’t given in to those yet, but I don’t know how much longer I can restrain myself.) You’d think I’d be on autumn overload, but I’m not. Not even close. In fact, a few more fall favorites have won over my taste buds. Like this Pumpkin Pie French Toast Bake that I found on Pinterest and made for a family mountain vacation. Delish!

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This french toast has just the right amount of sweetness. I highly recommend making your own pumpkin butter like the recipe suggests.

My taste buds are such pushovers when it comes to fall’s triple threat of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.  However, the newcomers have stiff competition from my tried-and-true fall favs. They’ll have to really put up a fight to get into the top five. So, before I make myself any hungrier I’ll get to the list.

1. Apple Fritters  from Coston’s Apple House Country Store in Hendersonville, N.C.

Fresh apple fritters as big as your face. Need I say more? Word of warning: these treats are big enough to share, but don’t plan on wanting to.

2. Impossibly Moist Pumpkin Bread baked by my Mom-in-Law

I once at a whole loaf by myself. I wish I was kidding. The cinnamon sugar crust is key. Starbucks ain’t got nothing on this loaf. 

3. Fried Apple Hand Pies from Coston’s

Yes, back to Coston’s. This little country store is a goldmine of apple goodness. Buttery, flaky crust wrapped around a sweet mixture of brown sugar and fresh honey-crisp apples makes it impossible to just have one. Did I mention they’re served warm?

**Note: Buy more than you think you can eat. Sharing is not an option.

4. Punk’n Harvest Pumpkin Ale by Uinta Brewing Co.

The first time I had this was in glass with brown sugar on the rim and a shot of bailey’s thrown in. The little pub that makes it appropriately calls it the Pumpkin Bomb. Unlike other brews that claim to be pumpkin flavored–this one actually is. Plus, fall’s trinity of flavors brings out the flavor.

5. Pumpkin Spice Pancake Mix from Trader Joe’s

No need to spend Saturday morning making pancakes from scratch with this perfectly spiced mix. Pour on the maple syrup for a yummy blend of spicy and sweet. 

No, it’s not a mistake. The beloved PSL didn’t make my list. There were just too many other delicious fall concoctions that I love more, but if you have a good pumpkin coffee rec I’ll take it! Feel free to leave your favorite fall treat in a comment below. Who knows, maybe it’ll make my list in the years to come!

Writing between mouthfuls, 

The Southern Bee

A Labor of Love

For my husband’s birthday I decided to make a surprise cake in honor of his 23rd year (yes, we married young). Since baking is not my strong suit, I went with a recipe that calls for boxed cake mix with a few added ingredients and a recipe for homemade icing–that at least I thought I could make from scratch. The cake of choice: Peanut Butter Chocolate Cup Cake. It’s kinda of like a Reese’s Cup turned inside out. Sounds a little adventurous, but the directions seemed relatively easy to follow and I was using boxed mix after all. Plus, the recipe said it only took about an hour and a half to make. No biggie.

Hah. About a half of box of powdered sugar on the counter later, I realized there was no way this cake was going to be finished on time. I was still only halfway through making the icing and the cake layers were still cooling. Let me say this. I don’t know what makes the center of the cake stick to the cake pan. I tried everything to get the cake out of the pan without messing it up, but my layers ended up being a little patchy on top.( If you have any advice about this please, please tell me!) About the time the recipe said I should be wrapping up, I was just at the point of icing the cake. Icing is a whole lot harder to do when entire chunks of cake are missing. So, I layered the homemade peanut butter icing on thick. Thick enough to where you wouldn’t be able to tell my baking skills were lacking. I’ll admit there were moments went I just wanted to put my fist in the middle of it.

After 2 hours and a few close calls, the cake was completely iced! All that was left to do was to top it with chopped Reese’s cups. I’ll let you in on  a little secret. Refrigerate the Reese’s cups before chopping them. It’ll keep them from becoming a melty mess.  After, sprinkling some on top, the cake was complete! But I still wasn’t in the clear yet! I had to drop the cake off at a friend’s house (we were surprising my husband there later), get back home, get ready, and go pick up the birthday boy from work. Thanks to the cake taking forever, I only had an hour and a half to do it all!

Fortunately, I got  it all done. Hubs was totally surprised by the cake. He and our friends loved it. Everyone says the first time you make a recipe is the hardest and after that it’s easier and goes a lot faster. I don’t know if I believe them or if I’ll ever work up the nerve to make this cake again.

 

Please excuse the tiny bits of cake mixed in with the icing.

From the top.

From the top.

Cooking is full of adventures. Even when you stick to the recipe, things don’t go like they’re supposed to. However, when you’re cooking for the ones you love laboring away in the kitchen is a little sweeter.

Here’s to Happy Birthdays,

The Southern Bee

Going Bananas

I hate to see food go to waste. It may be one of my biggest pet peeves. Yet, I do it all the time and it drives me bananas! So, this year I am trying to keep food out of the can by finding new uses for it when it may be a bit uhhh…extra ripe. One of the foods I waste the most are bananas (now you realize I made a terribly corny joke earlier). They seem to develop bruises and dark freckles on the way home from the store! Here are a few ways to turn overdue bananas into tasty treats:

Think these bananas are destined for the trash? Not in TSB's kitchen!

Think these bananas are destined for the trash? Not in TSB’s kitchen!

Tip #1: Use them in smoothies! This is the easiest way to use  overripe bananas. Slice them into bite-size pieces, place them in a freezer baggie, and pop them into the freezer. Make sure to leave a little bit of room between the slices so they don’t freeze into one giant mass. When I want to make a smoothie I just take as many slices as I need and put them into the blender. The frozen bananas help add a creamy texture. My favorite smoothie to make: Peanut Butter, Banana, & Chocolate. Yum!

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Slicing bananas makes them easier to pop into smoothies!

Tip #2Make banana bread! This is how I am planning to use my overripe bananas this week. I already have all the ingredients on hand which is an added bonus. The overripe bananas keep the bread moist and sweet!

Tip #3: Bake a sweet snack! I make Banana Chocolate Chip muffins every Valentine’s Day for my husband. They became a tradition our first Valentine’s as an “official couple” because we had only been dating a few months and I couldn’t think of what to get him. These muffins are good for breakfast, as a snack, or even dessert!

Tip #4 : Freeze’um whole! Can’t decide what to do with them? Just put the overripe bananas in the freezer in a zipper-lock freezer bag (peel on) until you know what to do with them. Take the bananas out and let them thaw when you are ready to use them.

 Now, I am not saying you should eat past-it’s-prime meat or other foods that could make you sick. As always, you are the judge of what you eat and what you don’t. I just hope this makes you think twice about throwing away food!

Wasting Less & Eating More,

The Southern Bee

 

 

Savvy Sites

Meal planning day is tomorrow and that means I will be scouring my favorite savvy websites for the best deals at the grocery store. These websites are so important to my meal planning because without them I would have to work much harder and longer to save. So, I wanted to share with you a few of my favorites. These are the top 3 websites I use to find what’s on sale, coupon match-ups, and tons of other deals. If you are just getting in to couponing or are thinking about creating weekly meal plans, these sites can really help you out. They help me every week!

(The sites are in alphabetical order. I’m trying to keep things fair y’all.)

Iheartpublix.com

This is your go-to website for deals at Publix. I used this website in college and I was able to buy what I needed on a teeny budget.

  1. The site includes all the sales and coupons that are available at Publix. This includes:
  • Weekly Ads: This is where most of your savings will come from. Look through all the sale items and write down those you need or use most.
  • Advantage Flyer: These are Publix store coupons that can be used with coupons that come in the Sunday paper. Stack store coupons with manufacturer coupons on sale items to score great deals!
  • Greenwise ad: These are usually coupons for organic/specialty products or produce.
  • You should be able to find all three ads in a stand right when you walk in the door. If they aren’t there just ask customer service!

2.  You can create your own shopping list.

  • Look under the My Shopping List Tab. What makes it really awesome is you can add up how much it will cost pre and post coupons! This will help you stay on budget and know how much you are spending before walking in to the store.

3. The website also has a tab for printable coupons.

  • You can get tons more coupons online and just print them out! Usually online coupons offer a bigger variety and they are free! Just be sure your printer has ink!

 

Passionatepennypincher.com

This site is like Wal-mart — it’s a one-stop shop for coupons, deals, and money-saving recipes!

1. Check out the Stock Up tab.

  • This is an extensive list of how much you should pay for items at the grocery store. I really like this list because it’s all on one page and includes many staple items. Note: These are the best prices you can expect to pay, but if you find a good deal and it’s a few cents more I would go ahead and get it.

2. It has a Coupon Database!

  • Say you need an item that is not on sale. Go to the Coupon Database tab. You can type in an item ( I searched yogurt) and it will find all the coupons that correlate with that item.

3. No time to think of meals to cook? 

  • Click on Meal Deals under the Recipes tab. She puts up a weekly menu that is affordable. If the ingredients are on sale that week she will usually include coupon match-ups for them! How great is that?

4. She saves to give

  • One noteworthy aspect of this website is Passionate Giving. The woman who runs this site uses a small portion of her budget each week to help others. Her money goes a longer way with coupons!

 

Southernsavers.com

This is the site I use to save at the grocery store and at the drugstore. Her sale and coupon match-ups help me save 60% off my grocery bill!

1. Great for beginners

  • She has an online tutorial for couponing at grocery stores and at drugstores! It’s important to know the stores’ coupon policies before you go in.

2. Sales and coupon match-ups for tons of stores!

  •  This website has coupon matchups for almost every grocery store (including Target) and drugstores. She also includes deals for retail stores, online shopping, and many more things on the home page. (She puts little acorns next to items that are really really good deals.)

3. Sales Search feature

  • The sales search feature allows you to look for an item you need (ex: toilet tissue) and the site will find where that item is on sale and if there are any coupons to go with it. This really helps when you need just that one thing!

4. How much should I pay?

  • When I started couponing one of the hardest things to figure out was how much I should spend on a specific item. Routinely, this website will highlight an item (we will use the toilet paper example again) and tell you how much you should be paying per roll. This is extremely helpful and keeps you from spending more money than you have to. This tool really helps to save on staple items.

 

I hope these websites help you out with saving as much as they help me. I don’t know what I would do if they didn’t take the time to find all the great deals!

Searching for Savings,

The Southern Bee

A Valentine’s Day Feast in Charlotte

My husband and I had a much needed date night this Valentine’s Day after weeks of recovery from surgery. We had planned to go to a restaurant in Dilworth, but when we called to make reservations they told us they would only be offering a set menu with a fixed price. So, we decided to try a restaurant that we had never been to before. A few of our friends told us about Zio, a casual Italian restaurant off of Queens road, so we thought we would try it out. They don’t except reservations so we arrived early just in case. The only negative thing I have to say about this restaurant is the parking. We witnessed two minor fender benders just in the parking lot!

Once we got inside, we only had to wait 10-15 minutes to be seated. Not bad for Valentine’s Day and not having reservations! Our waiter was prompt and was very knowledgeable about the wine list. The wine was moderately priced with a variety of whites and reds. I went with a buttery Chardonnay while my husband chose a dry, earthy red. And that’s all I know about wine.

Once we had our drinks we looked over the menu. I had done a little research to find out what other people ordered and loved. The Beef Spiedies (pronounced speedies) came highly recommended, so we ordered them for an appetizer. But before they arrived, our waiter brought us a basket of warm, home-made bread with olive oil for dipping. Oh my! I could have filled up on bread alone. I’m sure it was very unromantic of me to scarf down the complimentary bread, but this girl loves carbs! Especially, if they are home-made. Okay, enough about the bread. The Beef Spiedies lived up to the hype. They are bite-size pieces of steak, cooked to medium, and put on skewers. The steak marinade was excellent, although a bit vinegary.

For the main course, we both chose the grilled pizzas. I ordered the grilled pear and Gorgonzola pizza with arugula and smoked bacon. My husband chose the grilled pizza with sweet Italian sausage and roasted red pepper. Both pizzas had thin crispy crusts that held up to the plentiful toppings. I would have never thought to put pear on a pizza, but it was delicious! The soft, sweet pear perfectly paired with the smoky bacon and peppery greens. The Italian sausage and red peppers were also  delicious, albeit  more traditional toppings. We each had half a pizza leftover!

After debating if our stomachs could hold it, we ordered the Tiramisu. It came in a glass sundae dish and was perfect for splitting! The custard mixture on top was very sweet, but still creamy and rich. The strong espresso and chocolate took the edge off the sweetness, making for a delicious end to an outstanding, affordable Italian feast!

Total, with tip, we paid just under 60 dollars and had almost a whole pizza leftover! We will definitely be visiting Zio again!

Ciao,

The Southern Bee

 

Twist on Tacos: A Basic Fish Taco Recipe

You may think tacos and fish don’t belong in the same sentence, let alone on the same plate. It’s time to get that thought out of your head! This recipe for Basic Fish Tacos is both flavorful and healthy. It is great even if you aren’t a big fish fan. The key is using a milder fish. I chose Tilapia because it was on sale. If you want an equally flavorful side that is inexpensive, I suggest serving the tacos with Cilantro Lime Rice.

Basic Fish Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw

Hands on Time: 30 minutes   Cook Time: 10 minutes

Makes: 6-7 tacos

Ingredients for the fish:

  • 1 lb Tilapia 
  • 2 limes, one halved and one quartered
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or 1 teaspoon jarred, minced garlic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • ground black pepper

Ingredients for the slaw:

  • 1/2 head of small green or red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 6-8 soft tacos (corn or flour is fine)

Directions:

  1. Place the fish in a baking dish. Salt and pepper the fish and then set aside. In a small bowl, squeeze half a lime. Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, and 1 tablespoon of the oil to the lime juice. Mix until combined. Pour the mixture over the fish. Turn the fish in the marinade until it’s evenly coated. Refrigerate and let marinate for 15 minutes. *Note: It’ important not to let the fish marinate too long because the acid in the lime will cook the fish. 
  2. While the fish is marinating prepare the slaw. Combine the cabbage, onion, and cilantro in a medium size bowl (I suggest using the bowl you are planning to serve it in so you don’t dirty two bowls). Squeeze half a lime over it and drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil on top. Season with salt and pepper. Toss mixture together and set aside.
  3. Now, it’s time to cook the fish. You can cook them outside on a grill or inside on a grill pan.
  4. On the grill: Brush the grates of a grill pan or outdoor grill with oil and heat over medium-high heat until hot. Remove the fish from the marinade and place on the grill. Cook without moving until the underside of the fish has grill marks and is white and opaque on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Flip and grill the other side until white and opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes more. Put cooked fish in a shallow dish or on a plate.
  5. On the grill pan: Heat non-stick grill pan on medium high heat. Place fish on the hot pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, then flip. Cook the other side for about 3 more minutes. The fish should be white and opaque all the way through when it is done. The fish should flake easily when scraped with a fork. Put cooked fish in a shallow dish or plate. 
  6. Heat the tortillas in the microwave just until they are warm. You can also heat them 1-by-1 in a frying pan over medium high heat.
  7. To make a taco: break up some of the cooked fish and place it in the warm tortilla. Top fish with the slaw and squeeze lime juice over it. Enjoy!

This recipe was a big hit with my husband and mother-in-law! Thank you both for your comments and suggestions! 

Here’s to trying new things,

The Southern Bee

*Note: This recipe was created Kate Ramos on Chow.com. It was adapted and made with love by TSB!

Dinner Tonight: Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs

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Alright guys, this one is for you. I’ve had a few requests for recipes that require just a few ingredients and that are easy to prepare. This recipe is a perfect match and is just in time for the big game this Sunday.

*Note: The ribs are baked for 30 minutes before putting them in the slow cooker to give them extra flavor. 

Hands on Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 6-7 hours (most of it is in the slow cooker!)

Serves: 3

Ingredients:

  • 3-4 pounds Pork Baby Back ribs
  • 1 bottle Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce
  • Garlic Salt
  • Pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Season the ribs well on both sides with garlic salt and pepper. Cut the ribs in half (see picture above). Place both pieces in a baking dish.
  3. Bake the ribs for 15 minutes on one side and then flip them and bake them for another 15 minutes.
  4. Carefully, put the ribs in the slow cooker. Pour the BBQ sauce over them (I used about half the bottle). Use a spoon to rub the sauce into the ribs making sure to cover each piece on both sides.
  5. Cook for 6-7 hours on Low.
  6. Serve hot and enjoy!

Tip: You may be tempted to take a peek at the ribs while they cook, but don’t! When you take the lid off the slow cooker you will let out precious heat and the food will take longer to cook. Enjoy the smell not the sight!

Eating with my hands,

The Southern Bee

This recipe was made with love by TSB but was created by passionatepennypincher.com.

Cooking with Pinterest: Man Pleasin’ Chicken Thighs

This recipe lives up to it’s name. I was hesitant to make it at first because my husband doesn’t like mustard, but boy am I glad I did. These chicken thighs are the dish he requests the most. This recipe is extra-pleasin’ to me because it’s easy to prepare and easy to clean-up! Plus, I can do other things while it’s in the oven. I think next time I will let him make it!

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes                  Cook Time: 40 minutes

Serves: 3 (or a cook and her hungry hubby)

Ingredients:

  • 6 skinless chicken thighs, boneless or bone-in is fine
  • 1/2 cup Dijon mustard (I use the store brand)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (I use Log Cabin)
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • fresh rosemary (if you have it), finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

I love a short ingredient list! The directions aren’t much longer!

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a 9 x 13 glass dish with aluminum foil. This makes for easy clean-up later!
  2. In a 2-cup measuring cup, measure and combine the Dijon mustard, maple syrup, and cider vinegar. Mix until combined.
  3. Place chicken thighs in the prepared dish. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Pour the mustard  mixture over the thighs, leaving about 1/4 cup for later. Use tongs to turn the thighs in the mixture so they are evenly coated.
  5. Bake the thighs in the preheated oven for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature is 165 degrees. Halfway through the baking time, carefully pour the remaining mixture on the thighs and put them back in the oven.
  6. Let them rest 5 minutes before serving. Sprinkle chopped rosemary on top and Enjoy!

Notes and serving suggestions: Save money and buy bone-in chicken thighs with skin. Just make sure to remove the skin before Step 3. I usually serve this dish with either mashed red potatoes or roasted broccoli. The earthy flavors compliment the sweet and tangy chicken.

Pleased as Punch (about finding this recipe),

The Southern Bee

Note: Click here for the link to the original recipe. It was adapted from a Trader Joe’s cookbook.

Easy Shrimp Corn Chowder

It's creamy and delicious! I added a little extra freshly ground black pepper to mine.

It’s creamy and delicious! I added a little extra freshly ground black pepper to mine.

Meal Planning Day

It’s time to plan another week’s worth of meals! This week I have a few challenges added to planning. We are having friends over for dinner one night and another night dinner has to get on the table fast! Here is what I am planning:

Dinner with Friends Menu: Old Style Lemon Chicken & Roasted Sweet Potatoes

The chicken is cooked on the grill and is very flavorful. We wanted to cook out, but didn’t want hamburgers and hot dogs. This is the dish I always request my dad to make and now it’s my turn! I have never tried the sweet potato recipe, but roasting vegetables is easy and requires minimal ingredients. That’s my kind of dish!

Speedy Dinner Menu: Shrimp Corn Chowder

My grandmother gave me this recipe.  It is so simple to put together. The hardest part is peeling the shrimp! This chowder comes together in under 30 minutes and you only have one pot to clean! How’s that for a quick meal?

I will have these recipes up soon! I just wanted to give you a sneak peek into what I am planning for next week!

~The Southern Bee