Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Goodies website order - very, very good prices on gourmet-style food!

So you have by now seen my blog about the Goodies Company box that I received earlier this month and how much I enjoyed several of the items that were included. I still have to try to the Chocolate Souffle, but it sounds good and based on the description should be very easy to make. Everything else included the box were things that I really enjoyed. I loved the Popcorn, the Fair-Trade Dark chocolate was awesome and they even included a very nice tote bag that I can use for grocery shopping.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the Wine Biscuits that were included in my sampler package go well with Brie!

Goodies Company is associated with Walmart and so I was not surprised to find out that the prices on their website for ordering full-size products actually beat the prices listed on Amazon. I simply had to wait until CyberMonday to get free shipping and I was ordering items before I went to work to make sure I got what I wanted. Here is the website for ordering items:

Today the items arrived and I could not be happier. I ordered the Biscoff Spread and two boxes of the Wine Biscuits. The biscuits are very good, they taste like a mixture of butter, pepper and herbs - and they go perfect with cheese. I have paired Brie with them when I got them in my Goodies Company package, but for a dinner with friends next week I will have a cheese platter and usually include Brie, a Pepper Jack cheese as well as a Gouda and possibly a soft cheese. The Wine Biscuits will go well with these cheeses and I cannot wait to hear how my friends enjoy the newly discovered gourmet item for my cheese tray.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Goodies Company order that arrived today!
The Biscoff spread will be saved for a Sunday morning brunch and offered with toasted Bagels and a good cup of coffee! I cannot wait until another Goodies Company sampler box arrives. The only downside of this box was that the Bigelow Pumpkin Spice tea included was sold out online already and I so far have not been able to find it in a local store. It was a wonderful tea flavor and really brought you Autumn in a cup - great combination of sweetness and spices!

CVS run - two specials - make sure you sign up for emails and ECBs

Yesterday I managed to snag two very nice coupons from CVS that offered free or very much reduced prices on two items that I use all the time.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - bargains at CVS this week - one offer still valid!
CVS is offering a free hand lotion this week if you go to their Minute Clinic Facebook page here. I signed up yesterday and picked up the Sunblossom lotion. It is the smaller size, but at close to 2oz the perfect size for the purse. You can still sign up for this deal and pick up a free hand lotion.

I also managed to get their daily special, which was for Planters nuts at only $1.99 a can. They usually sell for a lot more. This was for the Daily Deal at CVS and I encourage to sign up for email alerts here. This deal is unfortunately no longer valid, but CVS does have Daily Deals that may provide equally good savings.

Of course you will need the Extra Care Card from CVS to qualify for these deals, but as you can see from my frequent postings lately, CVS is a drugstore that actually gives you benefits for signing up with their loyalty program.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Personalized gifts from - perfect for Christmas

I love to give individualized gifts, preferably something that I work on. In the digital age, these personalized gifts may be a mug or a water with your picture on it. Since I love photography and have found plenty to take pictures of in my yard, I used Shutterfly this year to create from gifts for family and friends.

Below you can one of the mugs that I created. If you have several kids, these mugs are a great idea. They can each have their own design that they help to create. These personalized gifts mean actually something to the recipient and I enjoy creating them with a specific recipient already in mind.

 So go and check out the gift options available on - they have some specials right now and a great variety of mugs and cards that you can personalize. If you hurry, you can even get the gifts shipped to you in time for Christmas.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Product review: Perdue Oven Ready Chicken - courtesy of coupon by bzzagent!

Today I decided to try out the Perdue Oven Ready Fryer since we have completed Thanksgiving and we can all use a change from the turkey leftovers.
This post will be more of a photo blog since I want to show you as much as possible how to use this new easy to handle chicken prep by Perdue.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the chicken in the roasting bag

copyright Durhamonthecheap - set oven for 400F for 2 hours

copyright Durhamonthecheap - cut a small opening into the bag to allow air to vent during cooking

copyright Durhamonthecheap - into the oven we go!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - detailed instructions on the bag for refrigerated and frozen chicken

copyright Durhamonthecheap - This is a good chicken, no chemicals fed here!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - time set to 2 hours!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - it is smelling good and starting to look like chicken is for dinner!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the chicken in the bag after 2 hours in the oven

copyright Durhamonthecheap - bag cut open after allowing to rest for 10 minutes

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the breast meat is incredibly juicy and it smells great!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - a nice lunch - mixed with a fresh salad, very good for a weekend dinner!
Overall, the chicken preparation was very easy and the chicken turned out great. The skin was not totally browned, but the flavor was outstanding and the meat was very moist. I am very happy with the way the meal turned out and I can recommend using the Oven Ready chicken from Perdue. Especially when there is not a lot of time to get dinner ready, this chicken is a good choice. You will need 2 hours to plan to ahead, but other than popping it in the oven, there is really no work. So you can finish up stuff around the house while the chicken is being cooked in the oven.

Disclaimer: I received a coupon for a free product from bzzagent in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by bzzagent or any third party.

CVS bargain hunting - use of ECBs to get hostess gifts

I have been to CVS quite a bit this week and stopped by again today because they had Febreeze items on sale that got me ECBs back and allowed me to use $4 worth of coupons.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Febreeze run at my local CVS

So I got plenty of Febreeze items and I love these because they make really nice hostess gifts. The small candles or the free-standing room freshener are always useful and can be easily gifted to friends - if they last long enough and I do not use them up first. I love to have candles and fresheners around my house and would like to have every room smell differently, but even at bargain prices that would be too expensive.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - 10ECBs back and out of pocket less than $2
The deal from CVS meant that I had to spend $20 on Febreeze items and then got 10ECBs back for future use. I had $4 worth of coupons from a Procter and Gamble promotion and then used my ECBs from Black Friday to pay for these items (I saved one old ECB code for future use), added a little bit of change and still have 10ECBs left from today now as well as close to 4ECBs left from Black Friday. So I will be doing some more CVS shopping in the near future and I am set for hostess gifts.

What are items you like to stock for hostess gifts? Do you use candles or do you have little guest towels, soaps? Please comment on what you prefer to keep around the house for just such an occasion.

Harris Teeter grocery run - coupon shopping

Today I needed to pick up something for Sunday dinner and decided to use my bzzagent coupon for Oven Ready chicken by Perdue (value up to $11). I also saw that Harris Teeter had milk on sale for less than $3 a gallon, which is very, very cheap and figured I could probably find some other items on sale that were reasonably priced and fit into a bargain hunter budget.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Sunday grocery run at Harris Teeter
I bought the above items for less than $11, not bad. The yoghurt was on sale at 3 for $1, it is the generic store brand, but it is good and the light version. 33 cents is about as cheap as you find yoghurt these days in the smaller portion. I wish they had more sales on yoghurt, it is so convenient to pack for lunch and get some calcium into your diet.
The turkey breast was on clearance with a $2.50 off coupon, which made it half price. I usually buy sliced cold cuts at clearance prices because the portions are small enough that you can easily finish the portion before the actual expiration date and Harris Teeter is really good about putting these on clearance well before they expire.
The red velvet cheesecake roll was a pleasant surprise. Regularly priced at around $7.00, it was on sale this week for $5.99 and again clearance priced for 50% off with a $3.00 coupon. Getting this for $3.00 is a bargain because it is very good and makes a wonderful dessert that is a treat in my household because it is usually so expensive and I hate preparing these rolls because they take time to prep.
Thye last two items are the milk on sale, which is pretty regularly these days and makes me happy because calcium is important in your diet, and then the roaster. I will blog about the roaster later on separately to show how it is used and most importantly how it turned out.
Overall, less than $11 spent, more than $17 saved and plenty of groceries (and one special treat) to last us a week!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Product review: Café Bistro Compliments Assorted Cookie Tin

So by now you will have seen the assorted goodies that Aldi currently offers for Christmas - lots of chocolate and gingerbread, a lot of it imported from Germany.
I can highly recommend stopping by Aldi this time of year and purchasing the MERCI chocolate, the various gingerbread items they have on sale as well as the mint chocolate thins (on special a couple of weeks ago).

Today, I would like to call your attention to a product that will be on sale as a special next week. The Café Bistro Compliments Assorted Cookie Tin is filled with European style cookies and at that price ($8.99) a real bargain for 35oz of chocolate and butter goodness. My local Aldi has a smaller version on sale for $3.99, but I bought this 35oz tin last year and everyone enjoyed the cookies. They contain good chocolate and have a real butter taste that goes well with coffee or tea as an afternoon break when coming in from the cold.

Keep an eye out for this cookie tin on sale next week at Aldi!

In addition, the tin looks nice enough that I actually left it out all season long on my dining room table (and grabbed a cookie whenever I passed by the table). I like the fact that the chocolate is a mix of milk and dark chocolate, some cookies have coconut on them or almonds baked in - and the cookies are less sweet than most American cookies and the variety cannot be beat. I really like the cookie that is a simple cigar shape, but tastes so buttery. Another favorite of mine is the thin wafer that has browned butter and sugar as its main ingredients.

If you are not familiar with European-style cookies, this tin is an excellent way to get started and I bet you will not fail to impress your guests with holiday season with these wonderful cookies!

Book review: The reason by William Sirls

"The Reason" by William Sirls has as its central message why we believe in a higher power. We each may have our own reasons and our different backgrounds and needs, but we are coming together by the joined bond of believing in a higher power.

The book, which is the debut novel by this author, describes events taking place in a small Michigan town. Here, the congregation is faced with a tragedy. The cross in front of the small church was struck by lightening, broke into two pieces and now needs to be replaced - but the community has no funds.

Faced with this problem, the characters of the book realize that life will be bumpy and religion will never shelter us from these unhappy and dark episodes. But believing in a higher power will provide us with strength to get through life and not despair. And obstacles are many in this book. The minister is blind and now faced with the task of restoring the cross. A single mom finds out that her little boy has cancer and wonders whether she will lose him. And a young physician wonders whether she can treat the little boy with medicine or whether her capabilities and medicine will fail him.


 But first things first - the cross needs to be repaired and here comes Kenneth, the carpenter, or his more than that? The book is filled with interesting characters, such as Kenneth and Alex, the little sick boy, but the author also manages to fill this book with imagery that encourage the reader to dig deeper. Underneath the surface of that storyline involving the repair of the cross and how the people of the community interact is the Christian mission to spread the belief.

The ending is unusual to say the least and may not be to everyone's liking. I enjoyed the book for the most part, but the ending left me wishing for a stronger and more cohesive finale. As is, the ending seems like an afterthought; with the author having spent a lot of energy developing the characters throughout the book, only to fall somewhat short in the end.

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book through booksneeze. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and have not been influenced by booksneeze or any other third party.

Product Review: Kroger Private Selection - making the simple snacks special

Through bzzagent, I was able to sample several products from the Private Selection of Kroger Grocery Stores. I was familiar with Private Selection, but certainly had not sampled all products in the gourmet-type line from Kroger. One of the items I was particular excited about were the olives. I love anticipasto and for lunch will try to include pickles, olives or anything else that spices up a simple sandwich.

I was fortunate that bzzagent also included a coupon for a sample of the Private Selection cheese - so today I sampled the Blue Marbled Pepper Jack cheese, which I expected to be spicy and having a Roquefort-type flavor as well. I paired it with a simple biscuit, left over from Thanksgiving, as well as some fruit and from Private Selection the Greek Olive mixture. I could not decide on a specific type of olive that I wanted to sample because Private Selection includes a variety of stuffed olives, including one kind with citrus stuffed that sounded tasty.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - quick, but tasty, lunch thanks to Private Selection products by Kroger
I really enjoyed the olives - they had very nice variety in flavor and texture. Some more spicy than others, some more soft than others - this is an excellent choice to buy if you have guests over and you want to accommodate a variety of tastes! I also enjoyed the Private Selection cheese, the cheese was an interesting combination of peppery spice with a blue cheese flavor that made the simple biscuit interesting. I always add some fruit to top off every lunch, so the tangerine was added.

Overall, no product from the Kroger line of Private Selection foods has ever disappointed and the two products pictured above are no exception. The only drawback is that both Kroger stores I went to in southern Durham had only one kind of cheese to choose from. I would have loved to sample another cheese as well, especially since I opted to buy two kinds of olives (I could not resist the citrus stuffed variety after all) and so having two cheeses would have been nice. I hope that the local Kroger stores expand on their selection and provide us with more variety.

Disclaimer: I was provided with samples to Kroger Private Selection items in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and have not been influenced by bzzagent, Kroger or any third party.

Promotion: Shutterfly Cyber Monday special - order your cards and printed memories now!

For Cyber Monday, Shutterfly, the company for photocards and other printed gifts, has a special through their Facebook page that gives you a 25% discount. The best news - this 25% discount can be stacked with their site-wide 50% discount. This means you get every order discounted by 75%.  Talk about an early Christmas present!

To get your 25% Facebook discount, you must visit their Shutterfly page at You will receive a unique code than you can apply to your order using their website here. You can order wonderful items such as Photo Christmas Cards. 

  Photo Christmas Cards

To find out about additional discounts by Shutterfly, visit their special offers page at

I also have a special offer of my own - I will give away, courtesy of Shutterfly, a special discount - one lucky winner will get $50 off order of $50 or more (excluding tax and shipping & handling). Please note that this offer cannot be combined with any other promos  and you must use the promo code before 12/14/2012. You must enter by Noon EST December 4th, 2012. The promo code will be emailed to the luck winner by Shutterfly directly.

Since this is a quick turnaround, I made the entry requirements really simple. If you want to enter, please post a comment below and subscribe to my blog (I need this to be able to contact you) - that's it!

Shutterfly has a fairly quick turnaround for shipping individualized gifts, so you may be able to get Christmas-related gifts ordered with this code and it is $50 worth of products.

Disclaimer: I received a promotional offer from Shutterfly in exchange for posting the discount offer on my blog. I have previously ordered items through Shutterfly and the opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Shutterfly or any other third party.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Product Review: Goodies Company Box - American Vintage Wine Biscuits

As part of the November box by Goodies Company I received a sample of American Vintage Wine Biscuits. The variety I received contained shallots, wine and cayenne for the extra kick. I had never had wine biscuits before, but I love cheese so I was looking forward to sampling something that ought to go well with cheese.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Wine Biscuits made with real white wine!
When I opened the packaging I was pleasantly surprised that the biscuits were not wafer thin. I was afraid they would be very thin, which would make it hard to pair them with some of my favorite cheeses such as Gruyère. I hate having thin crackers that crumble when you are trying to eat them. But these looked almost like small round pieces of french bread, toasted to a nice crunch.
I had some brie at home and decided to serve these with brie as an after dinner snack.I figured brie was not too overpowering and would still bring out the flavor of the win biscuits. I was right, the pairing of brie and the biscuits was perfect. They went well together and the cayenne kick still came through.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - brie and American Vintage Wine Biscuit - a perfect pair!
So if you enjoy cheese, but you want to pair them with some new and interesting that really brings out the flavor of the cheese - give these American Vintage products a try. Their website is here.
They can also be ordered from Goodies directly. I had the biscuits made with white wine, which you can order here for less than $6 a bag of 4.5 oz (125g). What a nice and new treat courtesy of the Goodies Company tester box. Thanks!

CVS Run on Black Friday - ECBs are nice to use!

I had stopped going to CVS for quite some time because I just did not see anything that sparked my interest. Especially the Back to School specials this year were a major disappointment to me. But last week, CVS had a lot of thing as Free after ECB, which means free after Extra Care Bucks. The principle of ECBs are easy, you spend money and get paper coupons, called ECBs, back that you can redeem again at CVS just like cash.
Having gotten about $20 in ECBs last weekend, I then went today to the CVS on S. Roxboro to again pick up free after ECB items. I like that location because it is large enough that the staff can simply put bins with ECB specials in front the cash registers and so getting the specials is literally just walking past the bins and picking the items on sale that week. I was literally done in less than 10 minutes this morning and following are image of my haul.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - around $2 out of pocket for these items and more than $20 ECBs back!
I do not get a paper, so I could not find a discount that CVS was making available that could have saved me even more,but $2 for these items is not bad and I got $22 in ECBs back for a future visit. Like I said previously, I work full-time and cannot spend a lot of time hunting bargain sites, organizing coupons or planning every stop to buy items on a weekend. But CVS with minimal planning allows for some good deals - keep in mind, always buy stuff that you use. Do not buy items that you do not use - I can always use the items shown above and CVS does a good job of putting on sale drugstore items that most people need. I can always offer a clean toothbrush to people that may visit overnight and forgotten theirs, same for all the free bodywash, soap and shampoo I have gotten from CVS over the years.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - around $2 spent!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - more ECBs to spend in the future!
So if you are busy and don't think that you have time for bargain hunting, coupon clipping etc, CVS allows you to save quite a bit of money without spending a lot of time. Give CVS a try and make sure you sign up for the Extra Care Card to qualify for sale prices and ECBs on your shopping trips!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pastis or the French do not just like wine!

When I visited Germany earlier this year, I of course had to stop by Aldi and sample their weekly specials. One of the items that peaked my interest was an alcoholic beverage that I rarely see on menus in the USA, but that I love because of its anise flavor - Pastis.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Pastis is like anise in a bottle!

So what is pastis? If you like Ouzo like I do, then will very likely love Pastis as well. Pastis is an anise-flavored liqueur that is usually diluted with cold water. It has a refreshing effect and can be used to cool down on hot summer days. I love to sit in my sunroom and sip on cold pastis. Unlike Ouzu, which I drink undiluted and quickly like a shot, Pastis I like to sip and enjoy.

Beware that Pastis, when diluted with cold water, will get a very cloudy, milk-like appearance. I usually take 1 part Pastis to 5 parts of cold water and then enjoy. Pastis is commonly enjoyed in France, but is most often found in southeast France, around the area of Marseille.

Next time you want to bring a reasonably priced bottle of spirit to a party,  but not the usual red or white wine, see if you can find a bottle of Pastis in the store. In Europe, the bottle of Pastis will be less than $15, a very reasonable, but unusual treat to expose your friends to.

Bargain hunting: Smart shopping without going extreme

Since I am working full-time, I cannot go crazy with coupon clipping, deal hunting and going to different grocery stores on a regular basis. Most of the time, I do not even compare prices and simply buy what I know is a good price. But occasionally, when I have the time like today I like to use up my coupons and see how much I can save if I take the time to actually plan a trip.

I had several coupons, some for free products, some for reduced products and figured that Kroger would be a good place to use them up - in part because a couple of coupons were specific for Kroger's Private Selection line of foods.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - one morning careful shopping on clearance and coupon items
 I went to the Kroger on Hwy 54 because they have one aisle with all reduced items and I was curious what I would find there. I also grabbed my coupons that were good through 11/30 to make I got them all used up, if prices were decent at the store.

The above haul is less than $25. It kind of expensive because I scored two packages of Nescafe Dulco Gusto coffee, one with 16 cups Cafe Americano and another box with 8 cups of Cappuccino. I had gotten a free coffee maker from Dulco Gusto a couple of years ago and love it because you can make real cappuccino with it. Nescafe uses as a two capsule set up in which you first brew coffee with a capsule and then use a second capsule for the frothed milk. This box was for regular cappuccino, but they also have flavored latte and flavored cappuccino, but at 50 cents for a cup of real cappuccino I am not complaining. I can always add Torani syrup for flavor to the cup!
Then I used up my Private Selection coupons from bzzagent and scored free blue marbled pepper jack cheese, which will be interesting to try as well as a free jar of pasta sauce. They got quite a nice selection of Private Selection pasta sauces and I encourage you to try them, if you have not. I am very happy with the quality of the Private Selection line and I am sure I will like the pasta sauce as well  - I opted for the spicy marinara sauce!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - what $25 can buy with coupons and sale items!
Next I saw spotted the Nescafe Memento on clearance. I did not have a coupon anymore, but I love the caramel latte flavor and for less than $2 and 8 portions this is a very good price even without the coupons (I have used those all up and the Kroger does NOT accept printed coupons from the Internet).
Then the Glade line of air fresheners came. I had a free product for a refill when I bought a pineapple mangosteen diffuser. I love the scent of pineapple and mangosteen, so I used that coupon and then also had an outright free spray in the same scent - this one makes a donation for every purchase to breast cancer research (therefore the pink wrapping). So these coupons got used before expiration and I can feel free to spray pinapple / mangosteen all around the house - really, if you have not experienced that scent, you must give it a try. I absolutely love it and keep spraying it in my house once I am done with work and want to relax, it makes me feel as I am on a tropical island on vacation.

The last two items were a free roll of Grands Biscuits that I got through a coupon in my Thanksgiving Cravebox  and a reduced jar of Private Selection mixed Greek olives. I love olives and splurge occasionally on these good olives.

I started with a little bit more than $45 and with coupons and discounts ended up with less than $25. The savings were actually larger since the $45 total already includes the discounted two boxes of Nescafe Dulco Gusto coffee and the Nescafe Memento, which totaled another $12 in savings - bringing my actual total from $57 down to $25 - more than 50% savings and without going crazy on extreme coupon usage or spending hours scouring websites for printed coupons.

One final note, I really do not appreciate the fact that no local Kroger store will accept printed coupons. A lot of companies rewards loyal customers by making online coupons available, such as for people that like them on Facebook. I know that Kroger stores in other parts of the country continue to accept printed coupons and there is no corporate policy that prohibits individual stores from accepting internet coupons (here is the digital coupon policy by Kroger). I usually collect printed coupons and head to Food Lion - I have also several times walked out of the Kroger on S. Roxboro because they randomly come up with new policies such as a limit on the number of coupons per transactions. I once had gotten coupons for Pillsbury party supplies to host a party and wanted to buy 5 rolls of Pillsbury products with for free coupons (these coupons were mailed to me, not printed from the internet) and the person said only one coupon per customer. So I dropped my items and walked out, went to Food Lion and used the coupons without issue. I have shopped less and less at Kroger, not because their products are low quality or prices are too high, but simply because of their attitude towards coupons. Coupons, especially internet coupons, are a way of life now and unless Kroger wants to lose a large share of customers, they better get used to this way of shopping.

Product review: Torani syrups for coffee and so much more!

Through I received two bottles of Torani syrup as well as a number of $1 off coupons and a code for 10% off any purchase from the website. For those of you following my blog, you may recall that I already blogged about Torani and their wonderful syrups earlier and I am still as much a fan of Torani as back then.

In this package I received one bottle of sugar-free salted caramel, which I have been wanting to try. This was the flavor last year when all coffee shops started offering the salted caramel lattes or coffees. I also received a bottle of regular Gingerbread, which I have also never tried before and which I can use easily in my coffee since I love gingerbread cookies and anything containing cinnamon and nutmeg.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - gingerbread everywhere - in my coffee and on my plate - Thanks Torani!
I immediately tried out the Gingerbread since I had just stocked up on Gingerbread cookies for the holidays. As dessert, I paired a few Pfeffernuesse with coffee flavored with Gingerbread syrup from Torani. As soon as I sipped on the coffee I felt as if I was in heaven. The coffee tasted so nicely, it seemed some elf had dissolved a gingerbread cookie in it.

I drink a lot of coffee and like variety of flavors. But cannot keep a number of coffee varieties open since once opened, coffee tends to loose flavor. So I am always on the lookout for ways to add flavor to my coffee either through creamer or syrups, such as Torani. I have lately started using syrup preferentially because I want to limit my fat intake and quite frankly the fat free creamers just do not taste very good to me. So Torani is the perfect solution. You still have the full bodied flavor as you get in regular creamer, but without the fat. In addition, the shelf-life of Torani is much longer than creamers and you can store Torani at room temperature.

Anyway, if you are looking to add flavor to your coffee breaks and do not like creamer or miss out on the variety of flavors, give Torani syrups a try. They come in so many different flavors as indicated on the Torani website here, that you are sure to find a number of flavors that you like. And if you really want to experiment with coffee and syrup and break the addiction to the high priced store bought creations, you find a large number of recipes on the Torani website as well - just look at the variety here. They got 10 different recipes for the Gingerbread syrup alone!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my kit from for Torani - love the recipe booklet with many ideas!

Disclaimer: I received the Torani samples, coupons and discount code courtesy of and Torani in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed on my blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Product review: Cravebox - Brookside Chocolate Covered Pomegranates

As part of the Knorr Thanksgiving Cravebox I received a product that was totally new to me. Brookside makes Chocolate covered Pomegranates, which do not contain the seeds, but combine dark chocolate with Pomegranate juice for an antioxidant goodness that every chocolate lover will enjoy!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my wonderful Thanksgiving Cravebox that introduced me to Brookside products!
 As part of the Cravebox, I received some old favorites such as the Pillsbury biscuits, but I was also introduced to new companies and their products. One of these new companies was Brookside. I had never heard of them before but when I saw a package the combined dark chocolate with Pomegranates I had very high hopes to find a product that I would enjoy and not feel guilty about.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Brookside provides antioxidant goodness covered in dark chocolate!
The picture above shows the bag as well as its contents. Around this time of year I always nibble on Pomegranate seeds, so I put a whole fruit into the picture as well. But rather than go through the trouble of opening the Pomegranate, extracting the seeds while avoiding the stains from the juice, I can now enjoy some of these health benefits in the Brookside products. You can see from the image that the contents of the bag are just sized for munching. I was initially concerned they may be very small, similar in size to seeds, but found out that they are decent size. I would compare them in size to chocolate M&Ms, so grabbing a few for snacking at work and letting each dissolve slowly in your mouth is a very satisfying snack.

The dark chocolate is high quality, not bitter, but definitely providing the dark chocolate flavor. The Pomegranate content is the juice; there is no seed in these products.

I googled the company and realized that Bookside generate more healthy chocolate candy, including containing Acai and Goji combined with either Blueberries or Raspberries. I am happy that I got to try the Pomegranate first because I always enjoy the Pomegranate flavor around this time of year, but will definitely consider buying the other varieties as well. The company website is here and you can see they offer a nice variety of snack food. You can also buy their products from, such as the Pomegranates here.

Disclaimer: I received a sample of Brookside products through Cravebox in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Brookside, Cravebox or any third party.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Product Review: Cravebox - Knorr Thanksgiving box

Today I received the Cravebox themed " Knorr Ultimate Thanksgiving" and expecting some Knorr products was very much looking forward to this box. I did receive one Korr product, the homestyle stock - something I have been wanting to try and the variety they included is a low sodium, which is nice.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Cravebox themed for Thanksgiving - again a bunch of goodies!
 It did have a lot of items that are related to Thanksgiving - green beans, turkey gravy mix, dark chocolate with cranberries, biscuits etc. I also liked the Christmas card voucher included from Folded Words, which is affiliated with Walgreens. Now I can create personalized Christmas cards, which was a nice surprise. I was not quite sure about the relationship between the frosting and Thanksgiving since I usually make pumpkin pie. That being said, I have been wanting to try the new Duncan Hines frosting that allows you to mix in flavor into a base frosting. So even though the theme may be slightly off, I was happy to see the frosting included.
Overall, not a bad haul for $14 since I also got some more coupons from DelMonte and the Turkey gravy I can always use.

But I have noticed that in this box, Cravebox included twice identical items from the same company (McCormick Turkey gravy, Del Monte green beans). I understand Cravebox to be a sampler box and so I am really counting on variety. The contents do not necessarily have to be more expensive, but I would have liked to have seen a brown gravy and turkey gravy instead of two turkey gravy. Similar two kinds of veggies from DelMonte would have made me a lot happier. Now for Knorr stock, 4 containers come in a package - no need to rip the package apart just to send different varieties of stock. If something comes packaged that way, find, but with cans it is a easy enough to select two kinds of veggies.

The video below shows all the contents. It is a nice idea to get holiday-themed sample boxes because it allows me to try out items I would never buy at the store and especially from a company like Brookside that I do not even recall ever having seen in the store. Through Cravebox the items come into my house and no excuse not to experiment during meal prep.

Disclaimer: I received the contents of the Cravebox in exchange for an honest review and paying a subscription fee. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Cravebox or any other third party.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Fair Trade coffee - Green Mountain does it right!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - perfect combination of fair trade Green Mountain coffee and chocolate!
Through bzzagent I was able to sample Green Mountain coffee, but not just regular coffee. Green Mountain is now offering Fair Trade coffee, coffee grown in a responsible manner that will allow local growers to build up income and be self-supportive. I love this concept and the coffee is very good too!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - here is the sampler box that was included in the kit - locally you can get the Colombian!
I have to say that I did find the Colombian Fair Trade variety at Harris Teeter and have been regularly using it in my Keurig. Great flavor, body is full, but coffee is very smooth - nicely balanced.

If you are a coffee addict or just a regular coffee drinker - Fair Trade is something that you should consider looking into. Rather than support the large multinational companies, you can do something for the local growers and ensure that locally grown coffee makes it into your next cup.

Disclaimer: I received a bzzkit containing samples and coupon in exchange for testing and reviewing the product. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by bzzagent or any other third party.

Product review: Goodies sampler box

I am meber of several subscription box services, some free, some at bargain prices, all providing me interesting packages several times a month. One new service that I signed up for is Goodies, a company affiliated with Walmart that compiles food-related boxes several times a year as a way to introduce customers to new products that have a gourmet angle. The plan is that based on feedback through online orders, Walmart may decide to stock some of these items in their stores.
The first box arrived a couple of days ago and I was pleasantly surprised because not a single item in the box was known to me from prior experiences. To find a collection of totally new items was very nice and made the box, which cost $7, very worthwhile.
I am not through sampling all the products, but will use this entry to introduce a couple of items that I really liked a lot! First, the picture of the box. You can see that a large cotton bag was included that I can use for grocery shopping. In addition, I received a sample of Pumpkin Spice tea, some candied nut mixture, white cheddar popcorn, a caramel spread, a mix to make two chocolate souffles, wine crackers, and an organic dark chocolate bar with a crispy texture.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my first Goodies box for $7!

The first item that I samples was the Wite Cheddar popcorn from Oogies. For lunch, paired with a banana, it was a perfect snack. The popcorn was not greasy at all and the cheese flavor tasted like real cheese and not artificial cheese spread.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my mission was to enjoy this little bag of candied nuts!
Then I could not resist trying out the nut mixture. They are available at and I sampled the original mix. The bag contained almonds, cashews and pecans combined with a blend of savory spices - it was very, very good. The flavor of the spices actually enhanced the nutty flavor of the mix and the nuts were very fresh. I may have order some more from here, the price for a full-size 8oz jar is around $10.

Another item that I could not wait to sample was the Biscoff spread. It looked like peanut butter, but tasted different and so much better. Again, to the rescue when I need to order the full-size jar here at a price of around $7 to $8 a jar.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - perfect snack, Biscoff spread and some crackers

copyright Durhamonthecheap - it looks like peanut butter, but so much better with a nice hint of caramel!
I really enjoyed the sweet, caramel flavored spread with the contrasting mild saltiness of the crackers. The combination made a very nice midday snack. If you ever had the Biscoff cookies, which I have enjoyed for several years now after being introduced to them on an flight in the USA, then this spread is for you. It is made out of 57% Biscoff cookies and can be used just like peanut butter. It even comes in a crunchy and smooth variety.

So, overall the my first Goodies box made me very happy because I get to sample a bunch of awesome products so far. I am very happy to have learned about Biscoff spread because that is definitely something I am considering ordering from

Disclaimer: I received the samples as part of the subcription service by Goodies. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by third parties.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bzzcampaign; Private Selection by Kroger - perfect for entertaining at the holidays

Through bzzagent, I was able to get free samples from the gourmet food line by Kroger called "Private Selection". This line, which I had sampled in the summer already, contains gourmet quality food and flavors at regular grocery store prices. This time, just perfect for the holidays, I get to sample cheese, coffee, crackers, yoghurt and olives. I am very much looking forward to sampling more of Private Selection because anything I have tasted so far from this line of food at Kroger has been wonderful.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - bzzkit with Private Selection offers and samples!
In my bzzkit, I already received two full-size sample, the Costa Rican Tarrazu ground coffee and a package of water crisps. You can see, I also received plenty of coupons for more sampling as well as 5 coupons for sharing (each lucky person will be able to save 20% off the r4egular price for a Private Selection product). I had to google the coffee since I had never heard of Tarrazu. It turns out Tarrazu is a region in Costa Rica that is known for its coffee. It is a mountainous area producing exquisite Highland Coffee. 

I am very much looking forward to trying this coffee - I love coffee and I am always on the lookout for new kinds of coffee. It all started when a few years ago I first sampled coffee from North Africa and found it incredibly smooth, so now any exotic coffee that is new to me will be sampled.

The water crisp are an ideal choice for me because I am always using crackers to snack on. Paired with some cheese or even basic Nutella spread, crackers are much more filling and better than regular junk food. So water crisp, with their nice airy texture and just a hint of flavoring, will go well with any topping. I tend to have at least one box of water crackers at home to use for snacking.

The coupons for free products from the Private Selection line include free full size samples of Olives, sliced cheese, pasta sauce and a reduced price on Yoghurt. These are all products that I love, in particular sampling the olives will be fun. The pasta sauce I will definitely use in a main dish, but all the other products are perfect to use in appetizers during the holidays and I may have to save one of the 20% coupons for my own use to stock up on Private Selection items for the holidays. 

So keep your eyes on this blog for updates on how I like the Private Selection products I am sampling thanks to bzzagent. 

Disclaimer: I received free or reduced priced items through bzzagent in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by bzzagent or any other third party.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Next week at Aldi: Crofton Electric Fireplace - my experiences after one year!

  • Crofton Electric Fireplace
    I bought this fireplace last year in oak. I believe next week they will have only cherry on sale, but the product is comparable to the one I bought last year and I am extremely happy with it.

    I bought an electric fireplace for my porch as well as use occasionally in my home-office since I  like to turn the thermostat to fairly low level overall in the house. A fireplace just seems nicer in the study and the porch, which is a 3-season porch with windows and insulation, just not connected to the furnace and AC. 
    I have included plenty of pictures, so I can explain the function of the fireplace and show how it looks like when lit.

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - fireplace unlit, this is the oak version!

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - fireplace lit - it has remote control and heats the room fast!

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - controlling the heat output. Here at 5 = highest level

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - controlling the heating time here = 3 hours!

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - set at level 1 for lowest heat output

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - controlling heat output here 5, which is the highest
    As you can see, the remote control allows a variety of settings to adjust for heat output and timing. I am very happy with the purchase from last year and I may opt to get a second one in cherry, so I do not have to move the fireplace around. It is fairly easy to roll my model around because it has rollers and can certainly be handled by one person. I thought the price was very reasonable, still around $180 is an expensive investment. But after one year and spending quite some time in my office, the fireplace was certainly a good investment that allowed me to save on heating overall, yet keep my office nice and warm. Even though the model next week does not explicitly state remote control, I assume it is included because all the other features (except for the cherry finish) are identical to the model that I have.

    Again, I can certainly recommend the Electric Fireplace on sale next week at Aldi. If you are looking for a way to heat one of the rooms in your house, while maintaining a relatively low overall temperature in your house, this model will serve you well. I certainly cannot complain about the Crofton Fireplace that I bought last year!

    UPDATE: I went and bought the cherry wood version and put it in my sunroom - I could not be happier. Even in November now, the sunroom is heated to a cozy 72F within a few minutes after turning on the fireplace and setting it to the strongest setting. After reaching the temperature, I turn the heater down to the lowest setting and the room stays cozy all day long. Thanks to the fireplace, I have gained the year-round use of my sun room at minimal cost.
    I hope several of my readers decided to also buy the fireplace. I find it to be an excellent investment.