January 27, 2015

Birthday Brunch: Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread! #WarmUpYourDay

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #WarmUpYourDay #CollectiveBias
Pepperidge Farm Sweet Rolls, Collective Bias, Monkey Bread Recipe, Apple Cinnamon, Breakfast, Brunch

In our household, we hop right from holiday season to crazy birthday season. In the span of less than 3 weeks, we have FOUR birthdays!  Gabby is a lucky gal because she is all alone in nice, warm June.  We all have our own birthday breakfast requests:  Ricky loves French toast, the twins like chocolate chip pancakes and I love monkey bread.  Birthdays aside, this is a perfect addition to any brunch menu.  I love to serve with a fruit salad drizzled with honey, scrambled eggs, Greek yogurt and a Mimosa.  Why not, right?  
Mimosas, Alcohol-Free Mimosa, Special Occasion drinks, Orange Juice

Fun tip: for kiddos, make a faux-Mimosa with flavored bubbly water.  The girls had strawberry water in theirs and thought it was SO cool.   We also like to sprinkle the tops of our drinks with powdered sugar--it's something my dad always did growing up. SO tasty if you rim the glasses with it and add a strawberry. 

On January 16th, I turned the big 3-1.  Since I wasn't working all weekend, I wanted to be a lazy bones.  It's very rare when we are all home together on a weekend and I wanted to take advantage of it! Friday night was Japanese Steak House night.  Not quite sure what we were thinking taking three little ones to a hibachi grill, but it was SO MUCH FUN! It wasn't budget friendly, but it was a memorable experience.  The girls LOVED seeing the crazy tricks and they gobbled up their food. Score! 
Breakfast, Apple Cinnamon, Pepperidge Farm sweet rolls, Walmart

Saturday we headed to the store to pick up goodies for my Sunday birthday brunch. Since my breakfast request was monkey bread, I wanted to go above and beyond: apple cinnamon! The theme of the weekend was simplicity, so I took a little help from the store by using Pepperidge Farm Apple Cinnamon sweet rolls at Walmart.  The girls piled in the cart and started arguing 2 minutes into the store. That's when I decided to add "mimosa" to my breakfast brunch list: Cook's Spumante is a MUST.  It's a bubbly wine that is sweet, not too dry and perfect for mimosas and Bellinis (also super budget friendly!). Another must: 100% Florida Orange Juice.  We are a Tropicana family, but whatever floats your boat!
Spumante, Mimosas, Orange Juice Drinks, Cook's Sparkling Wine, Collective Bias

That evening, we had a movie night and I made Ricky watch Gone Girl.  When I read the book last year, I always ended up doing it late a night.  Ricky would get super annoyed because I would wake him up from deep sleep to freak out about what was going on.  I saw the movie when it came out for a girls' night, Ricky still had no desire to see it or read the book.  Now guess who is talking about the movie non-stop? Mr. Skeptical.  Go rent it, if you haven't yet!! Gillian Flynn's books are all amazing

Sunday morning, while Ricky was making the eggs and the girls were making a fruit salad, I tackled the monkey bread.  It was so simple, I had it in the oven and was enjoying my coffee while they were still cooking!
Pepperidge Farm Sweet Rolls, Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread, Breakfast recipes, Brunch

Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread

Here's what you need:
  • 3 containers of Pepperidge Farm Apple sweet rolls
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1.  Preheat the oven to 375.  Open up the sweet roll containers and set aside frosting and apple mixture.
    • Side note: anyone else terrified of pop-open containers? My heart races. 
  2. Cut each individual roll in fourths. Place in a large bowl.  Toss with brown sugar and cinnamon. 
  3. Add TWO packages of apple mixture (set aside the other one for later).  Mix together again.  
  4. Spray a large casserole dish with non-stick spray.  A bundt pan works too! Scatter the sweet roll pieces around the pan.  It's okay if they stick together a bit!
  5. Bake 20-25 minutes, until almost cooked.
  6. While monkey bread is in the oven, mix together the remaining apple mixture and the frosting packets.  (note: we just used 2 frosting packets...it was more than enough).  
  7. Remove monkey bread from oven and spread with frosting mixture.
  8. Return to oven for 10-12 more minutes, until golden brown.
  9. Enjoy!  
Monkey Bread, Apple Cinnamon breakfast, Pepperidge Farm sweet rolls, Collective Bias

Our brunch was a success and I truly enjoyed my relaxing birthday weekend.  With the girls being in school until almost 4:00 during the week, I feel like I don't have as much time with them! I love seeing how much they are growing and maturing since they've started school--they crack me up all day long!  This weekend we have the twins' birthday and so far they are actually requesting this monkey bread instead of pancakes! I'm okay with that!

What are your birthday breakfast traditions? 


January 18, 2015

Let's Chat About: Grocery Shopping at Aldi

Aldi, Grocery Shopping, #letschat, Budget, Groceries

I'm going through some of my older posts and I realized I really need to update my Aldi one! It's still visited quite frequently, but I have MANY more tips!

If you aren't an Aldi shopper (and there's one in your area!), you really should check it out!  They offer healthy foods, gluten free, organic and more at rock bottom prices!

Quick starter tips:

  • Bring a quarter.  It's for the cart and you'll get it back!
  • Bring your own bags.  You can also purchase them there. After checkout, you will be bagging your own items.  
  • Come with an open mind.  I always have a "try anything" mentality when shopping there--although, we aren't too brand loyal anyways.
  • They don't accept coupons, but it's okay! Prices are so low, it doesn't matter!  Occasionally, the Sunday paper will have a $5 off store coupon to use.
  • No credit cards are accepted! Only debit, cash or Snap. 
Part of shopping on a budget means keeping a stocked pantry! I like to keep a running list of items we need on my phone, categorized by store.  (It's the Reminder app on my iPhone)  When we run low on rice, I know it's cheapest at Aldi so it goes on that list.  Totally helpful!  

One thing to realize is you can't buy EVERYTHING at Aldi, but you can knock off at least 50% of your list....usually more!

They have a health focused brand called Fit & Active.  Most of those items will be lower in fat, sugar, sodium, etc.  This is the main brand I buy there. Favorite items: rice cakes, jelly, ground turkey, meatballs, yogurt.  There are also gluten free and organic brands they recently introduced!  

Aside from their store brands, they have some main-stream brands also.  The selection depends on the store

My favorite items to buy at Aldi:
  • Lunchbox fillers/Snacks: granola bars, crackers, nuts, bread, lunch meat
  • Baking items: flour, sugars, spices, corn starch, salt
  • Pantry fillers: tomatoes, stock, beans, tuna, rice, seasoning packets, oil, vinegar, coffee
  • Frozen items: Fit & Active meatballs, frozen boneless thighs, whole chickens, veggies, Fit & Active whipped topping
  • Dinner helpers: thin pizza crusts, gnocchi, whole grain pasta, rice
  • Produce/Dairy: almond milk, milk, egg beaters, eggs, yogurt, lettuce, cheese
  • WINE: My favorite right now is Intermingle...it's a red blend that is the same as Cupcake Red Velvet, but $3 cheaper!  The knockoff Corona is tasty too.  
Keep in mind: some items are seasonal, others aren't always in stock.  When you find something you love, it's smart to stock up.  When I see my favorite ranch rice cakes, I get a few bags!  

Produce is usually at great prices, but the selection can be hit-or-miss.  No matter what you can get bananas, potatoes and onions, but items like avocados, berries or peppers might not be in stock.  When there's a super low price on a produce item, it's best to go early in the week!

When browsing the meat section, if you see red stickers, the $ off amount is the markdown.  For instance, if a roast has three red $1 stickers, it's $3 off!  They count EACH sticker on there! We don't eat much beef, but I do like to grab pork chops and ground turkey there!

My biggest tip is to TRY EVERYTHING.  I really don't have any items that I steer clear of at Aldi. Many people have a bad impression of the store and they've never even set food inside!  For people who are on a budget, but can't find time to coupon, Aldi is a perfect option for you.  

I suggest you browse the aisles and check out all they have to offer! The stores are usually small, but packed with tasty looking food!  In the seasonal section, I can always find something new--I even found my hand weights and yoga mat there! Not sure where your local Aldi is? Use the store locator

Here are some recipes I have based on Aldi shopping:

Update: After receiving a few questions on FB and Twitter, I took it upon myself to ask Aldi directly about allergens in their food.  All items are clearly labeled and it's safe shopping for you! Here's a statement from Aldi:

Thank you for contacting us regarding the labeling of allergens on our products. 
In accordance with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, ALDI product labels indicate any ingredients that contain any of the eight major allergenic foods and food groups:  milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat or soybeans.  All of our manufacturers adhere to this standard. 
Thank you for shopping at ALDI.
ALDI Customer Service

Now let's chat! What are your thoughts on Aldi? What do you buy there?  


January 14, 2015

MYO Takeout: Fried Rice!

If you follow my Instagram, you'll notice I make fried rice at least 2 times a month. I love it! It's an amazing fridge cleaner too...I like to use up whatever odds and ends I have in our veggie chiller.
A photo posted by Ashleigh Evans (@itscheapash) on
I love Chinese food, but Ricky has put me on takeout probation because I tend to just pick at whatever I order.  Don't you love when you have a ton of huge onion chunks and sauce and NO chicken? Or they mess up your order, but you're too lazy to call and fix it?  Here's my issue: I absolutely despise fried rice that is soaked in soy sauce.

In my small little hometown, we had a restaurant with the BEST fried rice ever (in my humble opinion!)...it's hard to eat anything else after that.  Shout out to House of Hsu in Grand Ledge, MI! It's crazy I haven't found another Chinese takeout with comparable fried rice yet.

Another reason I avoid takeout: it's expensive!  I like to know what's in my food and I actually don't mind cooking!   With a family of 5, it can be almost $50 sometimes! NO BUENO!

Fried rice is super simple to make at home and it's very versatile.  You can add more veggies, chicken, pork or whatever you have hanging out in your fridge!  Also, use brown or white rice--even quinoa!  It's fun to play around with!

This fried rice can be pared with another MYO takeout dish, like Chicken & Broccoli or General Tsos or bulked up to eat on it's own.  I truly LOVE the chicken potstickers sold at Costco (Ling Ling brand) to go along with at-home takeout.

Number one item you'll need for MYO Chinese takeout: a great wok.  I have this Caphalon one that we got for our wedding and it's perfect...especially since it has a lid. (Macy's has it on sale quite frequently for under $50) World Market has great ones too.
fried rice, MYO takeout, healthy takeout, healthy meals, Chinese food

MYO Takeout Fried Rice
(Serves 4)

Here's what you need:

  • 1 cup of rice
    • Cook and chill rice
    • Instead of water, use chicken/veggie stock. 
    • Optional: add 2 whole garlic cloves and a nub of fresh ginger root while cooking.
    • You can use brown or white rice
  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 3 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 cups veggies
    • Simple recipe: use frozen peas & carrots
    • Extra filling: add whatever veggies on hand.  Ideas: pea-pods, mushrooms, bean sprouts, broccoli, peppers...
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (optional)
    • I realize sesame oil can be expensive, but a little goes a long way! Just be sure to store in the fridge to keep it from going bad. I found a small bottle for under $4 at Meijer
  • 1 tablespoon each: low sodium soy sauce & teriyaki--OR 2 tablespoons Trader Joe's Soyaki
  • Garnish- chopped green onion
Let's Wok!
  1. Heat wok (or large pan) with 1 tablespoon oil over medium high heat. 
  2. Add onion and cook 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add remaining veggies and stir fry for another 4-5 minutes.  
  3. Create a well in the center of the pan and slowly pour eggs into it.  Scramble with a spoon and eventually mix with the veggies after mostly cooked.  
  4. Toss in the cold rice and remaining oil.   Season with Soyaki (or soy/teriyaki) and stir fry until heated through.
  5. Garnish with chopped green onion! 
  6. Enjoy!
  • If adding meat, always cook completely before adding to fried rice.  I like to marinade chicken in Soyaki & sriracha and stir fry it BEFORE I start the rice.  Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Keep your pan at a med-high heat to stir-fry.  It might be tempting to turn the heat down!
  • Use more or less oil.  I never really measure, I can just tell.  As I always tell my girls: less is more!
  • Experiment!  You truly can't go wrong with this simple recipe! For extra protein, use quinoa and endamame instead of rice/peas.  Make it super spicy with hot chiles and sriracha.  Add pineapple for a sweet kick! 

Fried Rice, MYO Takeout, Trader Joe's Soyaki, Simple Suppers, Healthy Dinners, Chinese Food

What's your favorite MYO Takeout Recipe? Please share! 

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