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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Habanero Mel

The genesis of a nickname is fascinating.  

My love's nickname is Punchie.  I first noticed it when his Mom wished her Punchie a Happy Birthday on his Facebook wall. He told me that when she was pregnant she felt as though he was trying to punch his way out.  

My university roommate goes by the moniker Twin.  As a twin brother to Rasul, Rahim shared his name with a few other boys in his circle of friends growing up.  Along the way, to distinguish him from the other Rahims, he picked up the name Twin.

This week, another nickname was born and that one belongs to my dear, sweet friend Melanie. Mel is my gym buddy, soul friend and one of this world's most genuine and loving inhabitants.  I easily describe her as someone who is always trying to be three things; the best mother, the best wife and the very best version of herself everyday.

Currently, Mel is on a frugal kick.   She was telling me all about her efforts at saving, scoping out sales and collecting coupons.  She's clearing out her designer purse collection and using the money from selling them to bargain hunt.   Her husband Jay has caught the bug and they've entered into a bit of a competition.  Mel has websites bookmarked, coupons galore and watches the weekly flyers religiously.  Jay's strategy?  Well he's just Jay.  He's got no plan for thriftiness and he seems to be putting her to shame.

Recently Jay was helping a friend move some things around in his garage.  He ended up giving Jay a European dining set made from beautiful cherry wood.  So Jay has now saved the family about $1500.  A few days later, Jay met up with an old friend who recently lost quite a bit of weight.  He had a bag of designer pants in great conditionthat didn't fit him anymore.  The pants fit Jay and Mel estimates that they would have cost Jay $900 to buy on his own.  So now Jay has saved the family about $2400.

Then there is Mel.  As she relayed her cost cutting methods and battle plans to me, she proudly boasted that she had discovered a new tactic. I was intrigued so I asked her to tell me more.  Keep in mind, she's just told me that Jay has saved the family $2400.

In the paraphrased words of Mel, "So I found this website that has coupons, pretty big coupons.  I'm talking $2 or $3 coupons.  That's pretty big!  I found one for the new Kraft Habanero Heat shredded cheese.  It was a $3 coupon.  That's a big deal for $9 cheese. So get this, listen to what I did.  I looked around and checked out some flyers.  You see I knew the cheese would go on sale because it's a new product.  So I waited and it went on sale and THEN I USED MY COUPON!  I saved us $6!  $6! We paid $3 for $9 cheese!" 

Mel's face was flush from excitement and her arms were waving wildly.  "I saved us $6!  $6!"  I couldn't help it, I burst into laughter! 

And this my friends is how she earned the nickname Habanero.  I will forever remember Mel whenever I walk by that bag of cheese in the grocery store. 

Never thought I would say that I am grateful for Habanero cheese.

Monday, January 21, 2013

First crack at the crock! (Or...here's a recipe for Thai Coconut Shrimp with Rice)

As has been previously documented here, I have a fondness for the crock pot.  I am embracing it now and have taken it from an addiction to an attempt to spread the gospel. Why fight it any longer? (I was talking to YOU there, not me.  I'm a convert.)

After saying good bye and thank you to 2012 as well as hello to 2013 while in Europe without my beloved crock for an entire month (please don't cry for me, I drowned my sorrows in British chocolate...for a month), I returned to work ready to resume our weekly crock pot lunches.  On the menu this week was Thai Coconut Shrimp with Rice with a side of Cadbury's Dairy Milk Caramel eggs, the British version of course.  I originally found a recipe from SparkRecipes but made a few alterations based on timing and portions and personal taste.  What I love best about this recipe is that it requires minimal prep, allows for improv based on what you might already have on hand and the big bonus is that you do not have to cook the rice separately.

Here is the recipe I used this time around for Thai Coconut Shrimp with Rice.

What you need:
- A crock pot of course! This recipe will make 8 healthy portions. (Do I need to mention that an electrical outlet to plug the crock into is key to the success of this recipe? Well I just did.)

- One can of coconut milk  - A 400 mL or 13.5 oz can will do.  If you can find the light version, even better.  It doesn't affect the taste and is healthier for you.
- Two cups of vegetable or chicken broth. Use what is on hand or easiest to get from a can.  If you add too much, it will still be delicious.
- 2.5 cups of uncooked parboiled rice
- 3 tablespoons of chili garlic sauce or more if you want it spicier.
- Garlic - Use three cloves or 4 tablespoons of diced garlic
- Lime juice - half a cup
- One pound of peeled shrimp, any size

When it comes to vegetables, use whatever you want and like.  I used two large green peppers for this recipe and about three cups of bean sprouts.

What to do next:
Go ahead and put everything into your crock pot except for the shrimp. Turn your crock pot on.  (This is a very important step that I forget all the time.) Cook everything on high for 3 hours or on low for 4-6 hours.  When you have an hour of cooking time left to go, give everything a stir and add the shrimp.

 This is what your crock pot will look like before your start cooking.

And voila!  Everything is cooked and the rice is nice and fluffy! 

Try this dish with shrimp crackers for some added crunch. Enjoy!