Category Archives: Reviews and Giveaways

Mangiare..Food, Wine.. WIN????

As promised tonight you’ll be treated to a great classic Italian dinner. I promise that you can feed a family of 6 with it (I do)… The catch here? Well there is a “special” ingredient that I’m going to ask you to use that you might just turn your nose up at. So before you read on, raise your right hand and say the following:

“I do solemnly swear that I trust this complete stranger, for whom my only knowledge of, comes from her blog. She could very well be a total nut case. But, she does CLAIM to have gone to at least one or more culinary classes. I rest my faith in her proclamation that she is married to the son of Italian food snobs from the old country. This may just be another of many figments of her imagination, still I will again trust her. And I promise that as long as her secret ingredient is legal in at least 28 states I WILL use it”

Alrighty now that you’ve take the oath of the red sauce, I bet you want to know what the secret ingredient is.. back off man I’m gettin’ to it! he he.. Let’s first start with the rest of the must haves. I’m also sticking in there the average prices for each so I can work my cheap magic on ya while I temp your taste buds. Here is what you’ll need:

1 can of diced or crushed tomatoes, with garlic, basil, olive oil and if you can find it oregano. (Average cost $1)

Now I like Hunts and if I’m splurging I get good imported ones but if you are in this for the cheap go with what is on sale. Often these toms will go for 10 for $10, with coupons you can get them even cheaper. I got the Hunts I used tonight for .33 cents each.

2-4 cloves fresh garlic. (Average cost per head .50)

The amount is purely a taste thing. In my book there is no such thing as too much of the stinky rose, which is what garlic translates to, wha la a language lesson too!

1/2 to 1 medium yellow onion (Average cost .70)
Again portion is a taste thing.

1 tsp salt. (already in your pantry.. bonus!)
1/2 tsp black pepper (once again, you’ve got this so BONUS)
1 tbsp olive oil (you should have this too, if not the cost per this serving is about .10)

1 box of any pasta you want (these you can get 10 for $10 as well, I used Barilla Rigatoni tonight. I picked it up 4 for $4 and used a $1 coupon, total cost .75)

1/2 cup freshly grated (not from a can or tub) Parmesan cheese (Average cost per chunk about $8, cost for this dish .75)

Here is the thing with the good cheese. Yeah it’s expensive. BUT, you are going to use it in so many things that the cost per dish is usually less than a buck. Why not get the powdered canned stuff? A side from the ewww factor my tummy gets when I think about cheese in a can, there are the sodium levels.. OFF THE CHART.. and the bang for your buck is much less. I recently converted my mom to the artisan cheese movement after years of addiction to cheese in a sparkly green can (my mom, like a parrot is drawn to shiny things). She could NOT believe how much a difference it made. Now she won’t even touch the dry stuff. This cheese is something worth paying for, honestly. It’s sort of like shoes, sure the ones from Payless are cute but after you wear them once they make your feet smell.. nice picture for this post eh?

And now to the secret ingredient.. hold on to your keyboards kids..

Yep that is Anchovies! Now don’t gag, really I wouldn’t steer you wrong and I DO understand your hesitation.. I mean who ever thought of cooking with cured, hairy fish fillets? eeew with a capitol E. To be honest until about 5 years ago you couldn’t pay me to eat anything with one of these puppies in it. It was in keeping with my, I’ll try anything once and my impress the in laws, credos that I tried them. HOLY mackerel! well anchovies but you get the point. When cooked PROPERLY they have absolutely no fish taste and no funky fish hair in your dish. The key is to melt them into the base flavors of what you are cooking. They break up and dissolve like jello does. So my kids have no idea why they are always in the pantry, because they are 100% sure they have NEVER touched one of the yuckie things. For this dish I add.

2 flat anchovy fillets (cost per can $4, from one can you can get about 6 dishes so total cost here is .66)

I realize, like always, I’ve gotten really wordy! So here is the short and sweet of it:

1 can diced or crushed tomatoes w/garlic, basil and olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic
1/2-1 medium yellow onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp olive oil
2 flat anchovy fillets

So here is what I do. I chop the onion finely (of course cuz I’m so Fine..eh?). The garlic gets minced. I put them with the olive oil in a pan on med high heat and let them groove until the onion is looking pale. Then I add in the funky fish. Smoosh it around and watch it disappear! Then in goes the Matoes, salt and pepper. I then crush them up some more with a tater smasher. Or if I’m lazy I leave em alone and call it “Rustic Cuisine”. Cook up the pasta in water with salt and a touch of oil. The salt gives more flavor the the macaroni (I learned this is the “Italian” word for ALL pasta) and the oil keeps it from sticking. Heat the sauce through and add the cheese, cook until it melts in.

Ta Da.. RED SAUCE ala DiPaolamomma!

Oh did you see some bread in my fancy, food styled ala ME dish there? What’s a pasta dish without bread.. and I can give ya that and stay under that $8 too! I used a can of thin pizza crust dough (got it on sale, duh! Paid .80). I cooked it on my pizza stone with a little olive oil, salt, garlic powder, dried Italian seasoning and a sprinkling of that cheese.. pretty much free. And get your greens in too. I made a baby spinach salad with a simple olive oil and lemon dressing (spinach $2.60, lemon $1)… total cost $7.86!!!!

Now this is just a base sauce. I make it in big batches sometimes and just add to it. Tonight I browned half a pound of chop meat (or that is what my mother-in-law calls it, I call it ground beef). Then I tossed in some mushrooms and 1/4 cup of bread crumbs (to thicken it up), and 1/2 cup of red wine. Dump it over rigatoni and wha La there you have a good Bolinase!

Speaking of that fine wine… I made that too! Yep, with the help (okay a lot of help) from my hubby and drawing on the long DiPaola family tradition we make wine. This one was a Cabernet. Of course I put my spin on it, the grapes came from California…shout out to my home state! The title of this year’s Cabernet is “Desiderare Sangue”.. in Italian this means “I want blood”.. an homage not just to the fact that hubby and I dig Vampire flicks and books. But also to our two toddlers. Once, while daddy and I were enjoying a glass, one of them asked what it was. He said “blood” so every time we have a glass of wine they say “I want blood”. Yep everything in my life is some how kid related!

Now why should you care? Cuz you heart me of course.. oh, that’s not enough for you? My my I’ve spoiled you with this whole give away thing huh? Well I guess I can’t break with tradition, can I? So here you go, a contest for this week. Leave a comment for me, tell me what your favorite meal is. I’ll pick a winner this Friday and if she (or he) is up for it maybe they will share the recipe with the rest of the class! I’ll feature that recipe and the winner on Sunday.

See I told ya I’d find a way to give something else away this week! The question is, am I done? I guess you’ll just have to keep coming back!!

Sorry kiddos but I can only offer this prize to a U.S. resident. I’m not being snobby, just cheap, it costs do darn much to mail things outside the country.

A Hypocrite .. and a CONTEST

One of my great, if indulged in all to seldom, obsessions is reading. Ask me to describe my perfect day and it will with out a doubt include at least three uninterrupted hours with a book and a good bottle of wine. Actually any acceptable form of hooch will do, it’s a Hemmingway thing I guess.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t necessarily a high brow pass time. I’ll admit I’m not getting lost in Dostoyevsky. But you won’t catch me reading Howard Stern’s latest foray into delusional self aggrandizement either (much to my husband’s chagrin). I’d love to consider myself more avant-garde than your average house frau but having read all seven Harry Potter books more times than I care to admit, sort of takes me out of the running. That said though I think I have a nose for a good read and know a good writer when I read them. I’m proud to say that I was reading Ian McEwan well before “Atonement” . I recognize that Frank McCourt is among our greatest American writers having never seen the screen adaptation of “Angela’s Ashes”. Read “Tis” and you’ll understand why in my mind I can compare him to Fitzgerald with conviction.

I am no snooty literati by any stretch. I don’t hold any degree in literature. But I know what I like. I’m convinced that I’ve read one of the best writers of my generation and I want you to love her as much as I do! If you can find a photo of your parents looking like something from the Sonny and Cher show. Or if you ever attended a birthday party featuring carob cake and gifts that all came from “mother earth”. Can you NOT recall a number of rock concerts you have been told you attended in your “wild“ days? Do you follow politics, bristle at injustice, watch Indy flicks, consider yourself a citizen of the world and a rebel but still feel faint when faced with a cute pair of shoes on sale? Then I’ve found your book(s) and your new favorite writer.

Susan Jane Gillman.. I feel like her name should be in sparkly bold font. Lord it’s hokey but this woman speaks to me. Her writing is vivid, honest, witty, smart and funny as hell!! I’ll let her words speak for themselves… This is from the book that hooked me “Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress”.

“When I was little, I was so girlie and ambitious. I was practically a drag queen. I wanted to be everything at once: a prima ballerina, an actress, a model, a famous artist, a nurse, an Ice Capades dancer, and Batgirl.”

I devoured this book in one day. I am not a fast reader. It’s hard to be when your only reading takes place in either the last 20 minutes of the day before you pass out. Or with one of your four kids standing over your shoulder saying “What ya reading’?…What’s it about?…What page are you on?…When are you going to be finished with that book MOM!?” Argh… go away people, don’t you have a cat to torture or an outlet to play with? Leave me alone I’m reading, damit! I loved that book so much I ran out and bought her book “Kiss My Tiara: How to rule the world as a smart mouthed Goddess”. Loved it, needless to say.

And now I’m searching for a sitter so I can escape with her new book due out in March “Undress me in the temple of Heaven”… um doesn’t the title alone get ya?! If not here is a great teaser:

“In 1986, fresh out of college, Susan Jane Gilman and her friend Chloe dreamed of hitting the road as modern-day female Kerouacs. Inspired by a placemat at the International House of Pancakes, they mapped out a trip circling the globe, then headed west–to China. At that point in time, the People’s Republic had been open to backpackers for barely ten minutes. But Susan and Chloe relished the challenge. Having been told throughout their Ivy League schooling that they were “the future leaders of America,” they were eager to boldly take on the world. Unfortunately, the world had other ideas.

Armed only with the collected works of Nietzsche, an astrology book, and more chutzpah than sense, the two quickly found themselves on an epic misadventure. As they trekked off the map into the dusty, alien streets of Communist China, they were quickly stripped of everything familiar. At turns funny, erotic, and harrowing, their journey became a string of poignant encounters with Chinese and Westerners alike. But it soon grew sinister. The two young women found themselves trapped in their own peculiar Heart of Darkness in the middle of rural China, and what began as a giddy expedition became a real-life international thriller that transformed their lives forever”

Now that I’ve set the scene here can you imagine me at 6:30 this morning when I opened my email and found a message from SUSAN JANE GILLMAN herself? I now have some idea why my 9 year old was speechless and virtually immobile when she was a VIP in the front row just inches away from Avril Lavigne at her concert . (pause for giddy girl-like laughter) Okay now that I’ve composed myself I’ll get to the part that you might be interested in.

In honor of my big email (yes I’ll be printing it, grabbing my 40% off coupon, running to Michael’s and getting a frame for it) I’m going to give away a copy of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress. Want in on the action? Here is what you do.. Tell me a funny story about you. Did you want to be an Astronaut-ballerina-fashion designer? Have any juicy tale about your “wild” days? Maybe a brush with greatness or a fall out funny public moment? Do tell and don’t worry I wont! I’ll pick a winner, and feature their story on Saturday the 24th.

Girls I’m telling you this writer is Candice Bushnell with brains and a smart mouth. I know that some day we’ll be congregating at our local movie house (a flask stashed in the handbag) seeing her stories come to life. And we can sit back, basking in our know-it-all-ism and say we “knew” her when.

Contest ends Thursday because I’ll have a guest blogger on Friday AND a contest to go along with the fun.

Our first Pay it Forward WINNER IS…

The kiddies had a blast picking a lucky number and we are all happy to announce that Megan over at InfertalMyrtle is the winner of the cool Revlon nail kit I got for.. well actually in the end CVS paid me to take it out of the store!

She is as too cute and that hair, oy! And girls her hubby kind of looks like Jake Gylenhal (I’m sure I miss spelled that, miss spelling that is my nickname!).. she just got her blog into a three column format and is really proud of herself. Go check her out! Besides it’s good Kharma to send congrats..and the box has yet to find a home. Don’t forget to keep reading. I’m SURE I’ll add some great stuff to the Woo Hoo box this weekend (if I can brave the cold).. AND NEXT FRIDAY I’ll have a guest poster AND another Pay it Forward giveaway.. she is a gold mine when it comes to saving money!

Woo Hoo in a box? (my bloggy giveaway)

I’ve been trying to come up with an original idea for my next giveaway. Not that I don’t love things like Target cards, cute kids couture, bling and books. In fact I TOTALLY dig all those things! And to be honest I’m a cheap date when it comes to winning. The prize is simply gravy, just the winning does it for me:-)

But I wanted to do something different. So here it is… drum roll please

The BIG WINNER will get a grab bag (actually a box) containing a sampling of my weekly “woo-hoo” (the sound I make when I get the monster deal) moments from the whole month of January. YEP that means a minimum of four and if I know me EVEN MORE items.

So what the heck am I talking about? Since I started the whole coupon game, I’ve gotten really addicted saving BIG bucks. It has gotten so bad that it makes me sick to buy anything full price (not a bad thing). An interesting thing I’ve found is that most anything worth buying you can get for a buck.. or LESS! Accept of course shoes but that’s an obsession for another post.

Here is good teaser.. so far the box contains:

1 bottle of Arm&Hammer Essentials cleaner a green product for all surfaces in a reusable spray bottle
1 full sized bottle of L’oreal kids shampoo
1 Airwick Freshmatic starter kit (Vanilla Passion scent)

And from my very own hands (as in I made it) a bar of 100% organic lavender, chamomile and flax seed exfoliating goat’s milk soap. Wow that was a mouth full! It is the sure fire cure for dry winter skin. I know this because I made it to deal with my own scales-ala-jack-frost.

Stay tuned I’ll post more steals as I get them and put them in the Woo Hoo box.

I’ve devised three devious ways to enter. Okay so they are more like common ways but it sounded good. I had planned to use our good buddy Randomizer to pick the winner. However my kids donned protest gear and picketed my computer desk for the right to pull the name out of a hat. I will, of course, photographically document the selection in the interest of transparency and fairness (and at Grandma’s insistence, she thinks getting your picture online is like being famous).

Now on to the “how to” portion of our program.

1. For one entry leave a comment.. easy peasy one two threesie

2. For 2 MORE entries follow my blog, you can of course put on your big green meanie panties and dump me after the contest, if you can live with yourself.

3. Blog about me and link back here for 2 MORE entries .. I just LOVE to be the topic of conversation and the center of attention (but try and keep it nice cuz I’ll read the links!)

And for a BONUS entry… pay it forward. Nominate a winner (in a separate comment on my blog). Tell me something about your nominee. I will give you 2 entries for this and also give them a chance at the prize.

I can’t wait for this weekend’s shop-a-palooza.. who knows what will end up in the box.

The final day for entry will be the 29th of January at 6 p.m. eastern. The winner will be announced on the First of February along with the final list of the contents of the Woo-Hoo box. Wooo Hooo