How to Make Frugal Nachos – Recipe + Coupon Codes!

This is a partnered post.

Nachos are one of my go-to “Company best” recipes. Not only do my nachos get a lot of compliments from dinner guests, but they are also an easy one-pan meal and feed a crowd effortlessly. This is my basic nacho recipe that I’ve perfected over the years – please note, I haven’t listed quantities because I always eyeball it and scale up/down depending on how many people I’m serving.

Beeb's Nachos

Beeb's Nachos

Ingredients

  • Tortilla chips
  • Boneless, skinless chicken cut into small pieces
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Avocado slices
  • Chopped yellow onion
  • Black beans
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Shredded cheese
  • Cooking spray

Instructions

Line a baking tray with foil and spritz with cooking spray. (If you prefer cooking oil, dab a small amount on a paper towel and grease the pan that way - you don't need much, just a tad to help prevent sticking.)

Spread a thick layer of chips over the pan, covering it completely. On top of the chips, layer the avocado slices, followed by the beans, chicken, tomatoes, onion and cilantro.

Complete the nachos with a generous layer of cheese that completely covers the ingredients.

Bake at 350 degrees for roughly 20 minutes or until cheese starts to brown lightly.

Serve with salsa, sour cream, sliced jalapenos and/or guacamole!

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This recipe is also a budget option when you’re serving a group, since it utilizes low-cost ingredients such as tortilla chips and chicken. You can further reduce the cost by stocking up on pantry staples whenever there’s a great sale – that way, you can pull many of the ingredients out of the cupboard at a moment’s notice. And if you’re more into online shopping than schlepping through the grocery store, you can still save; coupons aren’t just for the newspaper anymore!

Groupon
Groupon Coupons allows you to find coupon codes for well over 11,000 online retailers. It couldn’t be easier: Just head to Groupon Coupons before you make an online purchase, and type in the store or product category you’re looking for to see relevant coupons. For example, there is an entire page of coupons for Vitacost.com, where you can snag nacho-making-supplies such as canned beans and cooking oils. One of these coupons will give you an automatic $10 off your $50 Vitacost purchase just in time for stocking up! Click here to view all the current Vitacost promo codes on Groupon Coupons and start saving today.

What’s your favorite frugal recipe? Do you use online coupons to save on your pantry essentials?

Balance your gut with prebiotics from IsoThrive

IsoThrive
Samples provided for review. This article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any condition and is not intended as medical advice. 

As someone with a variety of food allergies and sensitivities, I’m always on the lookout for new ways to balance my bacteria. I love kefir and yogurt, but a lactose intolerance means that those aren’t the right fit for me.

Enter IsoThrive’s prebiotic nectar. It’s non-allergenic; the small packets – taken once daily – can either be added to water, or drunk straight out of the container. They taste fruity and sweet, but not unpleasantly so.

Question: what’s the difference between probiotics and prebiotics? Probiotics are live bacteria that help with digestion; prebiotics are food for the bacteria already in your gut.

Some more about the logic and approach of Isothrive:

“1. Go where probiotics can’t
Most probiotics are neutralized in our stomachs and never make it to our lower digestive tract. To heal GI issues, the whole digestive system has to be re-balanced. A daily dose of fermented microFood like ISOThrive fuels the good bacteria to tackle the organisms that cause acid reflux, constipation, bloating, and gas.

2. Rebalance our diets the ancient way
Most modern diets lack nutrients to feed our “good” bacteria—more particularly, a very specific type of microFood that our ancestors got by eating lots of fermented vegetables or sourdough breads made from heirloom wheat. ISOThrive adds back this bacterially fermented food to rebalance our diets and keep our bacteria happy. (And, no, the sauerkraut on your hot dog or the kimchi on your bibimbap won’t get you the the microFood you need—you’d have to eat several cups of fermented veggies every day to get the same amount of microFood in one 1/4 teaspoon of ISOThrive microFood!)

3. Prep our bodies to prevent disease
Because the modern Western diet is so deficient in specially fermented microFood, our starving “good” gut bacteria are “breaking bad”—adapting to use other energy sources (such as our gut lining), and making us sick. Fermented microFood restores this imbalance, enhancing immune function and staving off disease.”

I’ve been taking the supplements about a week now, and am cautiously optimistic – my digestion does seem to have improved, though I started a probiotic vitamin regimen in the week leading up to taking Isothrive.

All in all, if you’re having problems with food sensitivities and nutrition absorption, I recommend trying Isothrive to see if it works for your system.

From Jersey Shore to a Foodie Tour: Interview With Vinny & Paola Guadagnino

Paola and Vinny Guadagnino on Cooking Channel's Vinny & Ma Eat America

Photo credit: Cooking Channel

Jersey Shore star Vinny Guadagnino returns to the small screen on January 31st with his own show on The Cooking Channel, Vinny and Ma Eat America. Now it’s all about gym, tan – and linguine! This new series follows Vinny as he embarks on a road trip with his Sicilian mom, Paola, to sample local eats all across America. Paola is the best cook in their family, but has never ventured outside of traditional Italian food, so Vinny hopes to broaden her culinary horizons on this unique adventure. The duo took time out from their travels to dish on their favorite dishes and share a few Italian cooking secrets with me!

Did you grow up cooking with your mom in the kitchen?

Vinny: I can’t say I did much cooking, but I was always in the kitchen waiting for the next meal. My mom really spoiled us with food and my taste buds became spoiled because of it. I think that is why I’m such a foodie today.

Food is usually at the heart of every family gathering. What dishes do you typically eat during a get-together at the Guadagnino household?

Vinny: I try to eat healthy during the week, but my big Sicilian family usually gets together every week for Sunday dinner (my cheat day). And whether there are 3 or 30 people there, there will be a feast on the table. We always start with Italian bread meats and cheeses. Then we move on to a pasta dish such as fettuccini alfredo, baked ziti, farfalle Bolognese, etc…After that it’s a free-for-all where anything could be on the table such as rice balls, meat balls, fried chicken cutlets, mashed potatoes, baked clams and more. Then we move on to fresh fruit to clean our pallet and finally end with Italian pastries and cake for dessert. My favorite is cannoli and tiramisu.

What is your favorite dish to prepare for a family dinner?

Paola: I love making my baked ziti. Even my mom and sisters who are in competition with me admit that I make it the best. I also love making homemade bread and pizza.

What’s the secret to cooking amazing Italian food?

Paola: Lots of love goes into my cooking. We still use our traditional family recipes from Sicily. You can’t get the same thing from any Italian restaurant.

What’s the best culinary tip your mother has given you?

Vinny: When you’re making pasta you should always save a little water on the side that the pasta was boiling in. This way when you need to make the pasta a little moister after you strain it and add sauce, you’re adding water that already has the flavor of the pasta.

Do you have a signature recipe that you like to make?

Vinny: When I was on Jersey Shore we learned how to make Tiramisu from a real chef from Tuscany. I actually kept the recipe with me and still love making it till this day. I even make a low carb version!

Was it hard to convince your mom to branch out and try new cuisines?

Vinny: It was extremely hard trying to get her to eat new things. My mom is very stuck in her ways. She immigrated from Sicily to Staten Island when she was 10 and never left or tried anything new. She’s never even had ranch dressing.

Have you enjoyed trying new foods and flavors? Were there any you’d like to eat again – or avoid at all costs in the future?

Paola: I was very hesitant to try new things. I’ve never really eaten outside of my home before. I wanted to kill my son many times on our road trip when he tried to make me eat certain things. I will say that I actually liked some of the sushi (the cooked sushi.) And my son makes fun of me because I enjoyed Ranch dressing for the first time. I will not be eating any more Rocky Mountain Oysters (bull testicles) or some of the other crazy things that I had to try.

Vinny and Ma Eat America premieres on The Cooking Channel on January 31st!

My 2016 Election Party

This post sponsored by the foundation to give Beeb cookies. I’m Beeb, and I approved this message.

A historic election day has come and gone. This year has made me sorely miss Hunter Thompson; no one else can capture the insanity of this election year the way he could have. Unfortunately, that brilliant writer died in 2005, so you are stuck with this blogger talking about cookie cakes instead.

2016 election party

Last night, I hosted an informal election viewing party where I served these election cookie cakes. The cakes were the brainchild of GourmetGiftBaskets.com, whom I’ve done many product reviews for in the past. I have a rule that if a press release can get me to laugh, I’ll respond, so when they shot me an email asking if I’d like to try these cakes and cast a vote in the “Cookie electoral college”, I had to say yes. Being British, I am not able to vote in American elections, so a symbolic cookie vote is all I could cast. Before you call me lucky for not having to vote this year, may I remind you of Brexit? (If you’d like to make your own Brexit cookie cake, simply break off one cookie piece, throw the rest in a dumpster, and then complain that you’re still hungry.)

On Election night 2008, I was invited to an election viewing party that a friend was hosting. I made election cupcakes, and the host provided red and blue food and cocktails. It was a way to lighten an otherwise tense evening, and Jai and I were glad we went. So I told my BFF to join us last night for to watch the results with a menu of Pinot Grigio, election cookie cakes, Pinot Grigio, chips and dip, Pinot Grigio, pizza, and a little more Pinot Grigio. After all, during times of distress, everyone needs comfort food.

2016 election cookie cakes

I received cakes bearing the likenesses of three candidates, which had arrived in mid-October as an advance preview sample; I wanted to save them for election night, so I froze them, and it worked beautifully! I’m mentioning this because I specifically Googled “Can you freeze cookie cakes” and got no real results, so hopefully I will now be the #1 result for this highly competitive keyword. Freezing didn’t have any effect on the frosting, and they all tasted great, so if you’ve ever laid awake at night wondering the answer to that question, now you know. Anyway, back to the election (if we must):

The Cookie Cakes

President-elect Donald Trump:

Donald Trump Cookie Cake

Campaign slogan: “Make America a cake again & grab ‘em by the cookies”

Hillary Clinton’s cake appears to be the victim of a literal smear campaign – art imitates life, etc…

Hillary Clinton cookie cake

Campaign slogan: “I should have deleted the cookies off my private server”

We even had a third party option with Gary Johnson:

Gary Johnson cookie cake

Campaign slogan: “I don’t know what a cookie cake is”

Unlike this election year, these cookies didn’t leave a sour taste in my mouth. All three were a tasty bipartisan treat!

Presidential Cookie Cakes, For Your Election Catastrophe

This post sponsored by the foundation to give Beeb cookies. I’m Beeb, and I approved this message.

This election year has been full of doom and gloom. If you’re looking for something sweet to get the sour taste out of your mouth, then check out these hilarious cookie cakes as a salve for your electile dysfunction:

Election cakes

Yes, that’s right: You can now buy cookie cakes bearing the likeness of Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, or Gary Johnson – sorry, Jill Stein, looks like you’ve been forgotten again. These cookie cakes are the brainchild of GourmetGiftBaskets.com, who have also set up an online “Cookie Tuesday” poll…think of it as FiveThirtyEight, but for cookies. I’ll let their amusing press release explain further:

“Given the bitter nature of this year’s U.S. Presidential Election, GourmetGiftBaskets.com launched two polls as part of its Presidential Cookie Cake Campaign to sweeten the deal for the electorate a few weeks ago.

The popular online retailer has declared today “Cookie Tuesday” – the day when results from these polls can be revealed, showing what voters (and cookie lovers) are really thinking. The first poll, representing the Cookie Campaign’s popular vote, shows Donald Trump with 44% of the total, Hillary Clinton with 42%, and Gary Johnson with 14%. These results reflect the preferences of over 2,000 adults who have visited the voting site to date.

The second poll was meant to delve into the sentiments of voters in each state, as well as the District of Columbia. Nicknamed the GourmetGiftBaskets.com Electoral College, it surveyed over 1,200 adults at 51 companies, ranging from Mom & Pop establishments to Fortune 100 corporations. A company in each state was sent three, 10-inch cookie cakes, featuring caricatures of each candidate. The first cake to be eaten was declared the winner of that state.

Trump won 209 electoral votes, triumphing in 25 states, while Clinton had 184 votes, emerging victorious in 17 states. Clinton came out on top in some surprise states, including often-conservative Texas, while Trump won in Massachusetts, a liberal-leaning state.

But neither candidate acquired the necessary 270 votes to actually win the Electoral College, as Gary Johnson claimed a whopping 145 votes, and controlled several “swing states,” including Ohio, Florida and North Carolina.

Comments from the Electoral College voters showed three distinct camps: staunch Clinton supporters, pro-Trump evangelists, or working people who really disliked both of them. Some said that they didn’t even know who Johnson was, but were willing to go with the unknown over Clinton or Trump.

“With just a week before the official election, the GourmetGiftBaskets.com polls truly reflect how close this race is – as well as some disappointment over the choices we have for President,” said GourmetGiftBaskets.com’s Vice President of Sales and Marketing Jason Bergeron. “And these polls demonstrate that Gary Johnson has the potential to steal vital votes from either camp, something that Trump and Clinton supporters have feared, and for good reason.”

To learn more about GourmetGiftBaskets.com’s Presidential Cookie Cake Campaign (#CookieCakeElection), or to voice your choice in the ongoing popular vote, click here. If the Cookie Cake Campaign popular vote changes dramatically in the next week, the company will issue another update to the media.

If you’re interested in ordering your own Presidential Cookie Cake or sending one to a friend, loved one, or even someone who disagrees with your political views, please go here. Each cake is only $34.99 and ships for free.

Finally, if you’re planning an election night party and want to order all three cookie cakes to stage your own mini-elections, you can purchase them together for just $79.99 with free shipping (a savings of nearly $25).

Disclaimer: GourmetGiftBaskets.com, its partners, vendors and subsidiaries are not affiliated with, sanctioned by, or endorsing any candidate. This Presidential Cookie Campaign and the associated polling are strictly being done for fun.”

As a non-US-citizen, the only vote I’ll be able to cast this year is in the Presidential Cookie Campaign, so I’ve already submitted my (somewhat begrudging) cookie ballot. No matter which candidate you choose in this race, it’s a vote to “Let them eat cake”! I received all three of these cakes in the mail, which I’ll be enjoying on election night along with a stiff drink or two. Watch this space to see my review, assuming the apocalypse is not unleashed on November 8th and I still have an Internet connection.

Eating Healthy While Traveling: Tips From Food Network Star Sunny Anderson

Sunny Anderson

I’m on the road a lot: In the past week alone, I traveled from Seaside to work events in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and Portland. Eating healthy food while traveling is always a challenge, so I was excited to talk to Food Network star Sunny Anderson about her tips for staying on track while you’re on the go. Check out the video below to see the interview and watch Sunny demo some of her favorite travel-friendly recipes:

Visit AwayFromHomeCooking.com to get more great jet-setting recipes from Sunny!

What is your go-to food when you’re on the road?

Soup for You with Soupman

Soupman

Samples provided for review. This post contains Amazon Associates links.

So, you know that episode of Seinfeld where there’s a soup vendor whose soups are perfect, but his rules about ordering are … a bit strict?

Thanks to Soupman Soups, you can taste those soups without needing to memorize a very precise order of operations. Yes, the Soup Man is actually a real person!

How are the soups, you ask? Surprisingly tasty! As you can see above, the soup comes in tetra packs – generally not renowned for peak flavor. However, the soups are well-seasoned, and complex for a prepared soup.

Right now, there are five flavors available: Crab and Corn, Chicken Gumbo, Chicken Noodle, Lentil, and Lobster Bisque. On the pack of each box is a serving suggestion – for instance, use the crab and corn chowder to make a quiche. I never would have thought of that!

Soupman quiche

To make the quiche, you need a pastry shell, an egg, and whatever additional fillings you want – I added some cooked shrimp and corn to add more volume, then added the soup and baked at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to set. The quiche was delicious!

You can find Soupman online, or at grocers near you like CostCo. With Soupman Soups, there will soon be Soup For You!

De-lite-ful Muffins from Garden Lites

Garden Lites Muffins

Samples provided for review

Eating souffle always makes one feel fancy. Eating a veggie-packed souffle makes one feel fancy and smart.

Garden Lites are small, tasty cakes that are packed with vegetables and low in calories. My personal favorites: the Superfood veggie cakes. Each cake is 30% of your RDA of Vitamin A, and made with brown rice, carrot, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, and zucchini.

The chocolate muffins are a delicious guilty pleasure. The first two ingredients are zucchini and carrots – but they’re good enough to be an actual dessert, despite having 50% of your RDA of Vitamin A. The Garden Lites website has a recipe for divine mudslide cupcakes using the chocolate muffins, but I like topping mine with almond butter and flaked coconut.

The cakes are absurdly easy to prepare: simply microwave for a minute or so. They’re a bit salty, so enjoy them in moderation.

Garden Lites are available at Whole Foods, CostCo, and other grocery stores. I recommend them!

4 Tips For Saving Money on Recipe Creation

This is a partnered post.

Buying food is an ongoing expense, and being a foodie makes that even more costly. Whether it’s hunting for obscure ingredients or buying extra supplies for a new recipe project, cooking special dishes can really add up. Since I’m a frugal foodie, these are my tips for cutting down on costs when you’re developing a recipe:

Waste not, want not. If you’re trying something new or getting adventurous by creating your own dish, there’s bound to be times when it doesn’t quite work. However, there are many times when you can repurpose leftovers or specialty ingredients into another recipe instead of just throwing them out. I am the “Leftover queen”, always getting doggie bags at restaurants and re-working my own leftover meals and ingredients into new ones. Not only does this stop unnecessary waste, but it saves you money as well. If you’re stuck for inspiration, try a website like SuperCook.com where you can put in what ingredients you have and get recipe suggestions that call for them.

Plan what you purchase. If you’re cooking a specific dish rather than just creating your menu based on sales, you’ll end up spending more overall, but that doesn’t mean that one special recipe has to throw off your whole week’s budget. If you know that you’ll need to pick up chicken breasts, organic asparagus, and whipping cream for a special stuffed chicken recipe, think about what else you can make based off that: What should you put on the menu afterwards to use up the rest of the whipping cream? How about a chicken stir fry using your leftover, chopped up meat? Not only does this cut down on time and costs, but it also prevents you from wasting leftover food that you didn’t get a chance to eat. See tip #1!!

Use coupons, in the grocery store…

Check trusty sources such as your newspaper and local sales fliers for coupons you can clip before heading to the grocery store, and save yourself some cash on the items you have on your list! Coupons aren’t just for “Junk food”; you can also find coupons for foodie staples like spices, olive oil, organic products, and so on – you might be surprised what you find!

…And online!

I can’t be the only one who has ordered specialty ingredients online, like almond flour, that I couldn’t find in my local stores. Good thing I put that expensive flour to use in my bread recipe that completely flopped, right? ;)

Gluten-Free Fail

Luckily, you can cut costs on these fancy-pants ingredients, which takes a little bit of the sting out when your bread explodes! Groupon Coupons, a recently-launched extension of Groupon, has a searchable database of coupon codes available at tons of online retailers. You’ve probably taken advantage of Groupon vouchers before for visiting new restaurants; well, now you can use Groupon Coupons to potentially save some cash on online grocery orders. Groupon Coupons is a database filled with coupons and promo codes, is free to use, and doesn’t require an account; just click and search for the retailer or type of deal you want, and you can save in a few clicks. Sales are also listed by categories – here’s the ones that can aid in your culinary efforts:

Grocery coupons for standard items on your shopping list or even a specialty item;
Food & gourmet coupons for wine and other foodie treats;
Kitchen coupons for tablecloths, flatware and other food photography props;
And finally, coupons and sales for restaurants & bars!

Groupon Coupons

So those are my four hints for saving money on your kitchen experimentation! What tips would you add?

Riding ballsy with Balls Vodka

ballsvodka (1)

Sample provided for review

Some days demand an after-work cocktail to take the edge off. This week, I made myself a twist on the Bloody Mary with what I had in the fridge, and Balls Vodka. Balls vodka is 80 proof, distilled 4 times, vegan, gluten-free, and under 100 calories per serving.

ballsvodka (2)

 

The Balls-y Mary

Ingredients:

  • 1 shot of Balls Vodka (2 oz)
  • 2 cans of V8, or other tomato juice
  • Dashes of: black pepper, hot sauce, celery salt, garlic salt, lemon juice, Worcestershire, and horseradish
  • Olives and pickle to garnish

Directions:

  1. Fill cup with ice. 
  2. Add vodka.
  3. Season tomato juice to taste. Pour into glass.
  4. Garnish as you deem fit.