Blog Description

The Penny Pinch follows my journey to save money here and there. There will be posts about using coupons and my shopping trips with them, DIY products and projects, and any other money saving tips I discover. There is nothing wrong with trying to pinch a few pennies!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Crockpot Potato Soup

I have said it before and I will say it again, I love to cook in crock pots.  So simple, easy, great flavors, and just something comforting about it.  Fall is upon us and the cooler air is creeping in all around.  What better than a nice hearty potato soup to comfort you in a cool fall night.


Potatoes (Red or Yukon Gold)      3-4 Pounds, depending on your crock pot size
Onion                                         1, Medium/Small
Carrots                                        2-3, regular size
Celery                                         2-3, stalks
Ham Hock                                   1 (Can also just use ham, bacon, or other smoked pork)
Milk/Cream                                 1 Cup, more or less depending on how creamy you want it
Chicken Stock                              3-4 Cups
Salt, Pepper, Herbs of your choice

1.  Finely dice the carrots, celery, and onion.  Cube the potatoes.  I left the skin on because I like it and on red and gold potatoes it is fine.  I would not leave the skin on if you were using russet potatoes.

2. Place all ingredients, including the ham hock, into the crock pot.  Fill with chicken stock (water works as well, you just will have to season it a little more heavily later)  Add salt, pepper, and herbs. I used thyme and some chopped garlic.

3. Set crock pot on High for 4 hours, or low for 6-7 hours.

4. Once potatoes are cooked, add the milk or cream.  You can choose to mash it up with a masher for a more chunky style soup.  Or use an immersion blender and puree the soup.  Remember to remove the ham hock first!!  Get as much meat off the hock as you can and add it back in.  You can also scoop small amounts into a regular blender to puree, just remember hot liquid in blenders can be a MESS if you put too much in.

5.  Top the soup off with cheese, sour cream, chives, bacon, or any other topping you would like and enjoy! I had some spinach and Parmesan cheese in the fridge so I added that to mine.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Crock Pot Chicken Paprikash

Chicken Paprikash is a Hungarian derived dish that has always been a favorite of mine.  It is really simple to make and makes for a hearty meal.  I make it in the crock pot for even more simplicity.  It can however be making on the stove top as well.


1 - 1 1/2 Pounds, Boneless Chicken Thighs (You can use breast, but I prefer it with thigh meat)
1 each, large onion
1 each, green bell pepper
1 can, diced tomatoes
4 cups, chicken stock (or as much needed to cover meat and vegetables)
Paprika (2-3 Tablespoons)
Thyme or Oregano (1 Tablespoon)
Flour (2 Tablespoons)
8 oz, sour cream
salt and pepper

 1. Thinly slice your onions. I used the Pampered Chef Simple slicer.  You want them thin so they almost dissolve in the mixture.  If you want your end result more chunky, then slice them a little thicker.

2. Place chicken thighs in crock pot.  Sprinkle a few tablespoons of flour over them.  Add 2-3 tablespoons of Paprika, herbs, salt, and pepper.  The flour will help to slightly thicken the mixture as it cooks.  Mix this together.

3. Pour the tomatoes, onions, and chicken stock into the pot.  Cook on low for 8-10 hours, or high for 4-5 hours.

4. Remove chicken into a separate bowl.  At this point you can leave the chicken chunky or shred it.  It will fall apart after being cooked so long so I prefer to shred it.  I use my Pampered Chef salad choppers, but you can also just use two forks to break the meat down.  Also remove 1-2 cups of the cooking liquid.  Let it cool slightly and add a few tablespoons of flour; whisk together.  Pour this back into the pot and let it come to a simmer.  This will also help add some body to the sauce.  Then add the chicken and sour cream.  I like the creaminess that the sour cream add so I put the whole 8oz container in, but you could use less.

5.  You are ready to eat this delicious meal.  Traditionally it is served over dumplings or egg noodles.  I love it with wide egg noodles.  The Reams frozen egg noodles are also really yummy with this.  However, you can also use this with any kind of pasta, mashed potatoes, or whatever sounds good to you.  I love the flavor that the paprika and sour cream give this dish.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Blogging Update...What's Next...

The "Penny Pinch" is one of two blogs that I currently run.  My other blog, "Live YOUR Life", gets the most of my attention.  Simply because I can just choose an inspirational quote or topic and write about it.  That is not to say that I am not devoted to this blog as well.  This blog just has more of a "post when something happens" feel to it.

So I appreciate all of you that continue to visit and read The Penny Pinch.  There are many DIY and homemade projects/recipes I have on a notepad, bookmarked, and saved to try.  It is all just a matter of doing it.  Many items I plan to take on once I move at the end of this year and have a little more space to work and store items.  Living with three roommates, one of which also loves to cook, can make space limited.  But don't worry I am always looking through the Internet and books to get ideas of things I would like to try.

I love that the there is a new "fad" and returning interest in DIY, cooking from scratch, farm to table, etc.  It is something that not only is healthy for our bodies but for our minds as well.  I look forward to challenging myself to become more aware of what I eat, where I buy things from, not eating out as much.  I mean a bag of carrots cost a few bucks and can be steamed in minutes, yet how often do you include a vegetable with your meal?  There are more and more farmer's markets and produce sharing organizations popping up.  Gardening is easy for those with a big yard or a small patio.  Even if it is just herbs you are not only saving money, but also get the satisfaction of literally eating the fruits of your labor.  Bread, muffins, bagels, granola bars, oatmeal, jams/jellies, fruit leather, peanut/nut butters, pasta sauce, etc.  They are all not difficult items to make. Yet we always use the excuse of not having time to make things like that.  I admit I use that excuse at time too and am working on changing that.  Because I do also know that every time I do make something homemade I have this amazing sense of satisfaction and frankly it DOES taste better.

I look forward to going more into this journey of cooking more from scratch, having a more well-stocked pantry and discovering food again.  I am not saying everything has to be gourmet but just eating good, fresh, food again.  I am sure I will have slip ups and those days that a box of Velveeta Shells and Cheese will hit the spot.  But I am excited to cook more and am already planning what items I will be making, stocking up on, and sharing with all of you readers in 2014.

I will still post here and there throughout the year so I am not saying I will not be posting until I move, I am simply stating that I do have plans that will hopefully bring some more frequent posts to this blog.  For now continue to read this blog, use the Facebook page to share your ideas, share the recipes and ideas with your friends and help everyone pinch some pennies!

Monday, May 27, 2013

DIY Rainbow Cupcakes

I recently was asked to make Rainbow Cupcakes for someone, and I had never made them before.  Well they ended up being super easy and came out really neat.  Try them out for yourself, and play around with the colors to make them match whatever the theme/holiday is.

First mix up a box of white cake mix according to the package directions.  Then divide evenly into as many bowls as colors you have planned.  I did the typical 6 colors in the rainbow (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Violet).  Wilton Icing colors will give you a nice true deep color as opposed to the liquid food coloring you can get in the regular grocery store.  Make the colors slightly darker than you want as they will lighten a bit when baked.

Divide colors into cupcake liners.  I used a 1/2 ounce scoop but a teaspoon would work.  No matter how many colors you use, do not fill the liners more than 2/3 full to prevent over flow when baking.

Bake according to package directions.  Check for doneness by poking a toothpick into the cupcakes.  If it comes out clean or with very minimal crumbs than they are done.  Cool in the pan on a cooling rack for about 10 minutes and then remove from pan for further cooling.  Do not frost your cupcakes until they are fully cooled.

I couldn't resist and had to break one open to see how the rainbow effect turned out.  And they were so cool looking!

I ended up making 100 of these so divided them up and frosted them into all of the colors of the rainbow that I had used in the batter.  I made regular American Buttercreme (Shortening, Powdered Sugar, Water, Meringue Powder, and Vanilla)  You can of course use whatever suits your personal taste.  The Wilton Buttercream Recipe is a good basic icing to make.  Add a pinch of salt if you feel it is too sweet, but just a pinch.

Hope these brightened up your day and inspired you to try them out.  Homemade is always better than store bought!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

DIY Garbage Disposal Pellets

We all throw scraps of food in our garbage disposal, some more than others.  Well after a while it can get an interesting aroma that is not pleasant.  There are many store brand of pellets, packets, and powders that are used for refreshing your disposal.  However they can range from $3-$4 or more and you get about 5 to use.  So roughly a dollar for each use.  These DIY pellets are around $1.50 or less to make for the whole batch and you get 24+  I didn't even bother pricing this out as I had all but the lemon in my house and I honestly think it cost less than the $1.50 I estimated.

DIY Garbage Disposal Pellets

3/4 Cup      Baking Soda
1/2 Cup      Salt (Regular Iodized Salt, Kosher Salt will not work as the crystals are too large)
1/2 Tsp.      Liquid Dish Soap
1 Each        Lemon

Sheet Pan
Parchment Paper
Small Scoop or Spoon

1. Mix the Baking Soda and Salt together in a small bowl.  Just mix until combined.

2. Zest the lemon peel and then cut in half.  Squeeze the juice out of the lemons, watching not to get any seeds in the bowl.  I used a citrus press to help with this.  Add the dish soap.

3. Mix all ingredients together.  It should resemble semi-wet sand.  You can add a little more dish soap if it is too dry.

4.  Using a rounded teaspoon or some type of scoop, portion out the mixture onto a parchment paper lined sheet pan.  If the pellets do not form into the spoon then the mixture is not wet enough.

5. Let dry overnight or until hard.  Place into a sealed air-tight jar.  As needed place 1-2 pellets in your disposal, turn it on and run hot water.  Fresh, Easy, Natural and Cheap!

Monday, April 29, 2013

DIY/Natural Copper Cleaning

I bought a really nice copper bowl years ago at a store called "Illuminations".  It is for holding floating candles but I have used it for various centerpieces.  For the past few years it has been on my patio and has tarnished from the weather.  Copper cleaning chemicals can be a little pricey, messy, and well they are chemicals.  So I researched a more natural approach.  There was a lot of options, but I choose to go with lemon and salt, two items I had around the house.

Yea it really is just those two ingredients and it works!  Cut a lemon in half and sprinkle some salt on the cut part.  The salt basically acts as a scrubbing agent.  Rub a thin layer all over the entire surface.  This will allow the areas you are not working on to soak and it will make your work much easier.

Here is my bowl after the lemon juice has soaked for a few minutes.  You can see spots already coming through bright and shiny.  Then start working the lemon in a circular scrubbing motion over and area until it is shiny.

Simply rinse clean with water and voila! I was shocked how fast and easy this was.  I am sure all of you with copper cookware will be happy to use this much easier and environmentally safe method.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup...Ultimate Comfort Food

Chicken noodle soup is the ultimate comfort food, for me at least.  Especially on chilly, rainy, or dreary days.  It also is the best help in fighting sickness.  It is packed with vegetables, protein, liquids to hydrate, and the warmth fills you to the core.  I know many people have their own versions, but here is mine.  It can be altered in any way you see fit.  I roasted my own whole chicken and picked the meat off but you can also just buy the whole chickens roasted for you from your supermarket deli, or cook chicken breast right in the soup and cut them up when they are cooked.  If you have never made soup I urge you to try this.  Soup is one of my favorite things to make because really you can do so many combinations and it is always a big bowl of comfort.  My whole 8 qt stock pot full cost me $9.  That is way more than you would get out of canned soup for that price and so much more rewarding.

Chicken Noodle Soup

3-4 Whole Carrots, peeled
1-2 Medium Sized Onions
3-4 Stalks of Celery
3 Yellow Summer Squash or Zucchini
1 Potato
1 Ear of Corn
1 Bay Leaf
Chicken (As much or little as you want in, however you want to buy it)
1 Can of Diced Tomatoes, or your favorite pasta sauce
1 Box of Chicken Stock, amount does not matter, you can use all stock or stock/water combo
Salt and Pepper
Reems Frozen Egg Noodles (or any pasta of your choosing)

1. Dice onions, carrots and celery.  I like chunky soup so I make them a medium size rough chop. This combination is called mirepoix and is the base to many soups.  Saute them in your pan with a little oil and the bay leaf.  Cook until just slightly starting to brown.

2. While the mirepoix is cooking, take time to chop the rest of the vegetables.  I slice the squash on the diagonal, chop the potato, and use the Pampered Chef kernel cutter to remove the corn from the cob.  Add ingredients to the pot along with stock/water to fill pot.  Leave space so it does not boil over.  Add the tomatoes or a little bit of your favorite pasta sauce for extra flavor.

4.  Let cook for as long as you want.  Simmer until the flavor is where you want it.  If chicken is already cooked you can add it whenever.  If you want to you can cook chicken in the soup now and pull it out, cool it and pick it apart to put back in the pot.  This adds a great natural flavor to the soup.  Check seasoning throughout cooking adding salt and pepper as needed.

5. When soup is ready, add the frozen egg noodles and cook for about 20 minutes until noodles are cooked. *Remove Bay Leaf!!

6. Serve with warm bread and save some for lunch the next day at work.  The flavor will be even better the next day.  And the noodles will soak up more soup making it a great thickness.

Enjoy and feel free to try this in a cock pot too.  This will surely be a hit for your family on those cold days!