Wednesday, February 26, 2014

I'd Forgotten About the Dollar Store

February is always a busy month in this household, with multiple birthdays and Valentine's Day and the Family Day long weekend.  There's lots to do!

Part of all the busyness this month led me to rediscover the awesomeness of the dollar store.  We planned and hosted two birthday brunches, with all that entails, in addition to munchkin appropriate goody bags for her daycare class's Valentine's celebrations.

Bucket-loads of paper plates in a variety of colours and patterns? A dollar!  Disposable cutlery in packs that match the plates?  A dollar!  Goody bags, napkins, thank you cards, etc? Less than two dollars each!

Do you need items for goody bags?  Here's a list of appropriate small child items I found at the dollar store:

  • glow sticks (someone did this for a birthday earlier this year and it was a big hit.  After all, to little eyes, a glow stick is nothing but a perfectly toddler sized light sabre!)
  • name brand Play-Doh: our dollar store was selling it in two dollar four packs!
  • old-school party noisemakers
  • stickers, stickers and more stickers: all sorts of subjects and finishes, including puffy animal stickers, shiny rocketships, and branded characters
  • art supplies, including crayons, finger paints and little pads of paper
  • super balls
  • all sorts of candy
There was a whole lot more, mostly of the small toy variety, but you get the idea.  There are tons of options!

The other thing that struck me about the grocery store, while I was getting party supplies, was the abundance of different grocery and household staples.  Baking soda, brand name soups, Kraft Dinner (and several KD rivals), pickles, dish soap, paper towels, etc.  Since the grocery store nearest our home sells Kraft Dinner for $1.60 and it is (surprise!) a dollar at the dollar store, that is not a minor savings, for just one example.

The other major item I've been stocking up on is candy bars.  The vending machine at my place of employment charges $1.50 for candy bars and $1.25 for a bag of chips.  Candy bars at the dollar store go for $0.69 and chips (which, while still small, are larger than the ones in the vending machine) are $1.00.  As a result, I loaded myself up and have stashed them in my desk so that I can avoid the overpriced vending machine at the office.

Woo hoo for saving money!

Do you have an awesome dollar store near you?  Have you found anything awesome there?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Guest Post: And She Brought Pie!

Hello!  I invited Jen B. from My Adorable Small Town Life to come on over and do a guest post.  She is a smart, funny Amazon, and if you haven't checked out her blog before, I think you should.
She, like me, enjoys a good meal, and for this guest post, she decided to try making a sweet potato pie.  I've never made a sweet potato pie, so I was excited to see how it turned out!

I first heard about sweet potato pie from The X-Files, in: "Jose Chung's From Outer Space". In that episode, Mulder sits in a diner and orders piece after piece of delicious pie. That is one of the many X-Files episodes that stuck with me (Alex Trebek is in it!) and the pie stuck with me too. At the time I had no idea what sweet potato pie was, but I knew the X-Phile in me would one day have to try it.

I looked through dozens of recipes, Googling: "best sweet potato pie" and "authentic sweet potato pie" and after a lot of deliberation I decided to trust Joy the Baker's recipe as my first taste of this delicious dessert. I picked a good one, as this is one fabulous pie.

Ingredients: (adapted from Joy the Baker)
9" deep dish pie shell
2 cups mashed sweet potato (about 3 small sweet potatoes, or 1.5lbs)
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
1 1/4 cup evaporated milk, divided (each half is 1/2 cup + 2 tbsps)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla

Method: 1. Peel and cube sweet potatoes and place in steamer pot. Steam until soft and then mash them. 

2. Add mashed sweet potatoes to a medium pot. Add brown sugar, spices, butter, and half of the evaporated milk and stir and warm over low heat to combine.

3. Use an immersion blender to get mixture really smooth. I used a hand mixer and may or may not have melted some of the electrical cord on the burner. If using a blending appliance near a burner, keep your eye on the cord and be careful!

4. After simmering for about 5 minutes, remove sweet potato mixture from stove and set aside. In a bowl, whisk together the rest of the evaporated milk, eggs, vanilla, and granulated sugar.

5. Add the egg mixture to the warm sweet potato mixture.

6. Pour into pie shell.
*Note: this recipe makes about 1/2 a cup too much filling for a 9 inch, deep dish pie shell. When following this recipe, you might want to have some tart shells on hand to use up the extra. Or you could do what I did, which was overfill the pie to the point that it dripped out over all the sides. The baking process did make the edges of the pie taste amazing, so that was a bonus.*

7. Bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 325°F and bake for an additional 45 minutes. According to the recipe, the pie is done when it only has a light, structured jiggle in the center. My pie had no jiggle at all (which looked good to me!) and a knife inserted in it came out clean.

8. Cool on counter for an hour then place in fridge until completely cool. Enjoy!!

I have to say this pie was absolutely delicious. It is a lot like pumpkin pie in texture and somewhat in taste, but it has a really beautiful sweetness that is completely its own. I didn't put whipped cream on my piece (an absolute must for pumpkin pie and me), as it was really just perfect by itself. I loved it and will definitely be making this pie again.

Have you tried sweet potato pie? What do you think?

Also, feel free to check out more of my blog: My Adorable Small Town Life
And/or follow me on Twitter: Jen B: @myadorableblog