About Beeb Ashcroft

As a food blogger, I love to make delicious recipes - but real life doesn't always look like Pinterest! From the triumphs to the tragedies, this blog is dedicated to the funny side of cooking.

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!

Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by Yummly Rich Recipes
http://www.cookingcatastrophe.com/how-to-make-frugal-nachos-recipe-coupon/

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?

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?

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?

Adventures at IFBC!

Last September, I headed up to Seattle to spend three days at The International Food Blogger Conference with Louise. We had fun sampling different eats, drinks and spending time with local blogger friends as well as making some new ones!

Opening breakfast

IFBC mixed meal periods with sessions, with each breakfast and luncheon being accompanied by a talk, while dinner periods were set up like a party with hors d’oeuvres and drinks. During the day, you could pick between sessions on food and blogging topics, and there was an expo hall on the second night that gave attendees a chance to network with the brands in attendance.

Duck slider

Breakfast was at 7 AM on the first day, with a full morning of sessions before lunch at 1 PM. Because of the length of time between meals, all of us foodies in the conference room were getting mighty hungry; and when the final session was a cooking demo from The Chef In the Hat Thierry Rautureau, we were all drooling as we could smell the delicious dishes he was preparing on stage. When it was finally time for lunch, I piled a ridiculous amount of food from the buffet onto my plate and chuckled at the irony of being so hungry during a food event. ;)

Pile 'O Lunch

Lunch was hosted by Ninja Kitchen, who brought out celebrity chef Devin Alexander from The Biggest Loser to give us a demo of what the Nutri Ninja Blender DUO With Auto-IQ could do.

Ninja Demo

One of the big highlights for me was that a selfie I posted for Ninja’s #AddMoreGood contest won me a Nutri Ninja Blender DUO! Talk about an amazing prize!!!

Wine tasting

My favorite session was the wine tasting hosted by Bordeaux Wines. There was a talk going over the basics of pairing food and wine, and then we were broken up into teams and challenged to guess the flavors in the wines we were tasting.


I shouldn't give up my day job to become a wine sommelier, clearly. ;) #ifbc #ifbcbordeaux

A photo posted by Beeb Ashcroft (@beebashcroft) on

Obviously, I did not win any trophies in this department, but the great thing about wine is that the biggest reward comes through the act of tasting itself. ;)

Another amazing aspect to IFBC was the amount of swag given out in our goodie bags. This is what I came home with:

Swag closeup
I've got swag

And no, I’m not a greedy swag hoarder! As often happens at local conferences, those of us who don’t have to fly home can often take back more than others in attendance who are constrained by flights. You should have seen the pallet of peaches that Louise was given with an enthusiastic, “Here! Take these!”.

And what you see pictured here isn’t even all that I was given, as I gave quite a few boxes away on the train ride home. You see, I had a layover in Portland where I met up with family, so I loaded them up with some Krusteaz mixes and Aneto broth. I was quite a sight to behold as I sweated in my business suit, slowly lugging suitcases and bags full of heavy chicken broth through the train station! At one point, a nice man on the street saw me struggling as I walked towards my sister-in-law’s car, and offered to help carry my bag. I thanked him with a box of chicken broth, naturally. ;)

All told, IFBC was a fun and memorable adventure. I most loved the “Taste of Seattle” expo hall on the second night, where I had a chance to meet and network with the different brands in attendance. The sessions weren’t necessarily on topics that related to me personally, although I appreciated all of the speakers; but I attend conferences primarily to meet people anyway. There were a few organizational snags, as there tend to be at conferences; for example, our attendee handouts emphasized that all conference-goers are warned not to drink to excess, but during the networking event the second evening, there was no water or non-alcoholic beverages anywhere – not even a fountain. At one point, I asked one of the brands at a booth if they knew where I could get some water, to which they replied, “I don’t think there’s any water, but here – have a glass of wine!” So wine and martinis were our exclusive source of hydration, which was fine with me, but I did find amusing given our warning about drinking. ;) And if you hadn’t guessed already, you should be reading my blog with a tongue planted firmly in cheek!


Having a great time with @momstart at #IFBC!

A photo posted by Beeb Ashcroft (@beebashcroft) on

Have you been to IFBC before?

Heading to IFBC!

International Food Blogger Conference 2014 Seattle

I’m heading to Seattle tomorrow to attend 2014 The International Food Blogger Conference! I’m excited for some great eats, great drinks, and neat sessions on food photography, recipe development, social media, and everything else blogworthy. I’ll be recapping what I learn right here on Cooking Catastrophe, so if you won’t be there, you can get a “Taste” of it through my blog. But if you’re anywhere in the area, you should check it out and say “Hi” to me in person! Tickets are available at Foodista.com/IFBC and are $95 for bloggers.

Will you be at IFBC this year? Leave a comment and let me know if I’ll see you there!

This is What Happens When The Cooking Catastrophe Staff Get Together

I visited Catherine a few weeks back, and we had some grand culinary adventures, from egg tacos to fabulous pastries. But the most memorable began when we ran to the grocery store to pick up a few dinner supplies. While we were going through the checkout, Catherine noticed that the customers in front of us had some very unusual flavors of potato chips; with our curiosity piqued, we had to grab a few bags for ourselves:

Cooking Catastrophe appetizers

Why yes, those are cappuccino flavored potato chips. It sounded so disgusting that we simply had to try it; surprisingly, it wasn’t bad, tasting more like cinnamon and sugar toast than anything else. But Catherine had a brilliant idea:

Dessert nachos

Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you: Dessert Nachos. The recipe is simple: Layer a bowl with cappuccino chips, cover with mudslide ice cream, and top with a piece of See’s Candy. I know this sounds horrific, but it was so, so good; eating the chips with the ice cream really brought out the coffee flavor. This dish is best enjoyed with Jack Daniels on the rocks and a viewing of Johnny Mnemonic, for those with truly refined palates like myself.

Bal’s Banana Cardamom Crème Brûlée

I have a most definite sweet tooth – last week, I was in a restaurant with friends and was drooling over the delicious Crème Brûlée that one of them ordered. I ended up getting Pommes Frites instead, but only because I’ve had this obsession with dipping fries in sauce after visiting Dreamland BBQ in Montgomery. But I can make up for missing dessert that night thanks to this yummy new recipe inspired by DreamWorks Pictures’ The Hundred-Foot Journey:

Crème Brûlée

Click to view the full-size recipe card.