Monday, December 30, 2013

(junk) Food Review: Burger King Dollar Menu Rodeo Burger and BBQ Rib Sandwich

Earlier today I saw an article about the Dollar Menu at Burger King and since I have been running around most of the day and trying to get my rental ready for the new tenants, I did not feel like preparing dinner. So a couple of burgers from the Dollar menu at BK sounded good, together with some salad and yogurt and fresh fruit for dessert. Not too unhealthy since the Dollar Menu burgers are small enough that the calories, fat and salt do not reach astronomical proportions on the daily chart.

I opted to try two different menu items and ordered the Rodeo Burger and the BBQ Rib Sandwich. Not knowing what to expect, I figured that the flavor would be hopefully different enough that we could form our opinion about the rebranding of BK. The article that I saw earlier today is linked to here and mentions the Rodeo sandwiches.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Rodeo Burger for $1 at Burger King
 The Rodeo Burger is described in the article as "a savory freshly fire-grilled beef patty topped with sweet and spicy BBQ sauce and crunchy, golden onion rings served on a toasted, sesame seed bun for just $1". This is an accurate description. The sauce actually adds a nice tangy taste to the sandwich and even after driving home, the onions rings still provided some crunch to the sandwich.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Rodeo Burger taken apart to show filling
I was quite satisfied with the Rodeo Burger, nice change from the usual blah fare of having a burger pattie and some pickles thrown on a bun with ketchup.The cheese is not that noticeable, but the sauce and the crunch from the onion rings is definitely there and liven up the flavor.

So next up the BBQ Rib Sandwich. Like the Rodeo Burger, this sandwich may be limited time only. So if you want to sample either one of these, you better get over to Burger King and have a bite. This sandwich is also only $1 and for the price it is quite tasty and relatively satisfying. If you are really hungry, you better grab a couple, but as a snack in between meals or a quick lunch with a salad or some fries, this sandwich or the Rodeo Burger will do the trick.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - BBQ Rib Sandwich for a $1 from Burger King
 The BBQ Rib Sandwich is definitely more for meat lovers because besides a couple of pickles, some onion slices and the BBQ sauce, the meat patty occupies the rest of the sandwich. So if you want a lot of meat for $1, this sandwich is for you. Since we do not have the onion rings as buffers, this sandwich is also packing a lot more heat than the Rodeo Burger because the BBQ sauce really comes out. I actually preferred the BBQ Rib Sandwich because it was more flavorful.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - BBQ Rib Sandwich taken apart. More meat, less extras than the Rodeo Burger.
Overall, two nice additions to the Burger King Dollar Menu that add some new twists to the burger menu in the fast food area. Depending on how spicy you like your food, you will definitely have an easy time picking a favorite between these two despite the same BBQ sauce being used in both. As I stated, I prefer the BBQ Rib Sandwich because it packs more heat and the pickles go so well with the tangy BBQ sauce.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Harris Teeter Roasted Chicken - one bargain with so many uses

I occasionally pick up a roasted chicken at Harris Teeter, especially if I find a plain roasted chicken with one of these lovely coupon stickers on it that give me another $1 or $2 off the regular price. I love to buy the whole chicken because it is a quick dinner prep that is affordable and then gets used for several more dinners when the bread meat is cubed for chicken salad and the bones are used to make a nice clear chicken broth, sure to help fight the flu or cold better than anything out of the pharmacy.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - healthy and quick dinner combining some roasted chicken with a side salad
 Usually on the first evening, when the chicken is still nice and hot, I pair the chicken wings and drumsticks with a simple side salad. The salad will usually include a little bit of extra toppings from the Harris Teeter salad bar and then either some simply bag lettuce or, as in this case, fresh spinach that I got on sale. Whatever is left over from the chicken on the first day, will then be cubed into bite size pieces for a curried chicken salad with pineapple or fresh grapes. And then the bones with whatever little meat is left will be put into the crockpot to make a nice clear broth. This broth, especially in the winter month, is great to warm you up from the inside and makes for a great light dinner if combined with a sandwich.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - healthy and light dinner with toast, ham, grapes and clear chicken broth
If you buy a roasted chicken, what do use it for? Do you have any go to recipes that you use to extend the life of your roasted chicken?

Private Selection Streusel breads from Kroger - perfect for tasty French Toast

I was able to grab two Streusel breads from Kroger at marked down prices. In case you have never had the Private Selection Streusel breads, they come in two flavors. One flavor is Apple Cinnamon and the other flavor is Maple. Both breads come in slices just thick enough to make French Toast. So this morning, as a weekend treat, I made French Toast using the Sugarhouse Maple Streusel Breakfast Bread.

The description on the website says that this bread is "crafted with maple syrup and topped with decadent streusel to be sweet and indulgent ." I could not agree more. I have had this bread before, simply toasted to a crisp with some butter, it is perfect as a sweet afternoon snack. But as French Toast covered in some Private Selection Maple Syrup, it is simply divine.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - French Toast using Private Selection Streusel bread!
Making the French Toast was really simple because the bread is already so flavorful. I simply whisked two eggs with 1/2cup of milk, then sprayed some liquid butter on a heavy skillet and off we were to make a fantastic breakfast treat. 

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Breakfast Breads from Private Selection by Kroger, regularly priced $2.99/loaf

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Beef shoulder roast - Inexpensive cuts of beef turned into entrees with multiple uses thereafter

Ever so often I just love the treat of beef rather than always chicken or sausage. So rather than settle for a small steak and pay the high prices per pound, I will get inventive with cheap cuts of beef such as London Broil or Beef Shoulder Roast. Still more expensive than chicken, these beef cuts are much more affordable than steak and the finished product can be used in a variety of ways afterwards, stretching the yummy beef flavor over multiple days.

Today I picked up a reduced for sale beef shoulder from Food Lion, which was priced at less than $3 / pound and looked very lean. So I decided to turn this into a simple roast and use left-over slices and bite-size pieces on subsequent days for sandwiches and salad protein additions. How to prepare this meat in a quick way since I wanted to finish up a bunch of other things this morning also and did not want to start chopping vegetables or fresh herbs? I remembered that I had McCormick seasonings and decided to use the Montreal Steak variety. The seasoning contains salt, black and red pepper, garlic and some paprika; all of which sounded perfect for a simple roast that was supposed to end up on sandwiches with some horseradish mustard and on salads.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - should roast with McCormick's seasoning forming a flavorful crust

copyright Durhamonthecheap -perfect beef roast, moist and tender, but firm enough to slice easily for sandwich
Using some pretzel rolls, horseradish mustard and American cheese, the sliced roast was perfect for a quick lunch sandwich! Goes to show that incorporating beef into your weekly meal planner does not have to burst the piggy bank and can be stretched over several days, making beef a quite affordable meal component.

What kind of cheap beef cut do you usually turn into a great tasting, multifunctional lunch or dinner item?

copyright Durhamonthecheap - ymmy Christmas Dinner with mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and beef roast

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Product review SLEEP NUMBER® 5” CoolFit™ Foam Contour Pillow ($139.99 value!)

This weekend I got a huge package delivered to my door and in it was my reward for reviewing the new dual temp Sleep Number bed. I got my very own SLEEP NUMBER® 5” CoolFit™ Foam Contour Pillow, which is valued at more than $130.00! I love the comfort this pillow provides. Because, even though it is soft, it really provides support and now my tired head can rest in comfort at night, having a nicely elevated position and the foam base is providing the right mix of comfort and support that I need to wake up really refreshed.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - my little comfort pillow, I am so happy!
 I always need to sleep in a slightly elevated position and so the regular pillows find themselves routinely being crumbled in bed to get them high enough that I can actually fall asleep. When I took a nap on the guest bed this afternoon to test out the new pillow I realized now more crumbling. This pillow is finally high enough that I can simply put my head down and fall asleep - I love it!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - showing the side view so you can see the contours of the pillow
 But do not fear, this pillow is very soft and comfortable. No worries about having a painful neck in the morning because your neck and head have to adjust to wood planks. The pillow is extremely soft,  but the foam provides enough structure (something that down feathers cannot provide) to guide your head into a comfortable position.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - trying it out on the guest bed for the picture, but this pillow is all mine!
Disclaimer: Thanks to I received a free SLEEP NUMBER® 5” CoolFit™ Foam Contour Pillow in exchange for testing the new Dual Temp Sleep Number bed. Nevertheless, the opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by smiley360, Sleep Number or any other third party.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Bend the branches outward for a more natural look - or how much Christmas joy can $10 buy these days?

Coming from Germany, I am used to real Christmas trees. You know the ones that always have one side best turned towards the wall, with sap running in all the wrong places and needles, that despite your best efforts, keep falling way too soon and make moving the tree from the living room on Epiphany a treacherous journey, sure to remove the last remnants of Christmas spirit, because mom sees hours of cleaning to get rid of all the needles, while dad is reassuring mom that he really makes the best effort to avoid banging the tree into obstacles and does try to limit the needles falling all over the house.

While I still enjoy the smell of a real pine tree or Douglas fir, I have plenty of mature trees in the backyard and so now I too settle for the convenient three piece self-assembly Christmas tree, prelit and all. This year, I decided to spruce up the loft space with a smaller Christmas tree to add extra color to the house. I saw a special sale of a 3ft white tree for $10 and figured to give it a try. If it turned out to be really bad. the tree could always be used as a gag gift at a holiday party. I figured it would be more useful than the girdle that made the rounds for years at a gag gift swap in Iowa. 

So today was the big day. A longish box, one end half-open awaited me at the door. In the box, I saw white feathery structures of metal and plastic (?). I opened the box and pulled out the structure - see image number 1; the tree right out of the box and I did not include the picture of the box because the shape of the tree gives you a pretty good impression of the size of the box.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the "tree" (?) structure right out of the box, stand already assembled
I put the stand together and looked the structure. Long and narrow, not quite the tree shape I recollect from pines in Germany. But instructions were included for the clueless - so there is hope yet!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - now we are getting somewhere on our journey for a realistic Christmas tree
Okay, so I am kidding, I could have figured it out by myself that I am supposed to shape the tree into a more realistic tree-like structure. But I love the fact that the card is included and the explanation includes the words "natural look" because my sparkling white tree with sparking white stand that forms a perfect triangle will not look very natural to me, no matter how much bending outward of branches I do.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - here is properly bend, natural looking Christmas tree
So after much bending and turning of the tree to make sure that I had minimized the bad site to the amount absolutely unavoidable, I put the tree in the loft space and used some red lights for extra Christmas decor. Below is the final result and you know what, for $10 - this tree is not bad, especially when viewed in the correct light. This means, turn off the regular lights, wait until it is dark outside and let the Christmas lighting take care of the rest.
copyright Durhamonthecheap- with the right "mood" lighting, no one can tell that this tree was just $10!

Product Review and Giveaway: Herbal Essences Naked Collection Volume Kit + $50 Walmart gift card giveaway!

Herbal Essences asked me to review the new Herbal Essences Naked Collection Volume Kit. Plus, they provide me with an opportunity to give away a $50 Walmart Gift Card to one lucky reader of my blog! More about that below. The Herbal Essences Naked Collection Volume Kit is available on starting today 12-15-13 and from January 6th, 2014 it will also be available in Walmart stores nationwide.

The Naked Collection Volume Kit includes Naked Volume Shampoo, Conditioner, Volumizing Soufflé Styler, and Dry Shampoo and retails for less than $15! I will provide some information about the contents of the kit below, but in essence the Naked in Naked Collection refers to the absence of dyes, heavy residues and parabens - who does not like that?
Keep in mind that the
Naked Collection Volume Kit is intended to give you irresistible volume and is a limited edition kit. So order while it is available at 

Below is a video of the ordering process. Keep in mind that while logged into my account and added a Walmart GC for paying (since I had some balance left on my giftcard account), you can just as easily order as a guest without logging into and pay by credit card. Also keep in mind that free shipping requires a minimum order of $35, while you can order less and select free store pickup, which is what I ended up doing. In any case, the order process is very, very easy and self-explanatory!

The shampoo and conditioner included will restore the natural body of your hair and the conditional will also nourish your hair and help in maintaining its full volume.The dry shampoo, which is also part of the kit, is great for refreshing your hair in between washing it and smells of citrus and mind. it is really easy to use, simply spray into your hair and brush out - done! The final piece is the Naked Volumizing Souffle, which is
a weightless, volumizing styler that gives you a lift for fullness that lasts. Let me stress again that the Volume collection contains zero dyes to leave your hair naturally clean and full of irresistible volume.

 Now to the Giveaway
This is open to all US residents and will, due to the holiday, run until January 5th 2014. I use Rafflecopter and have provided a number of options to accumulate entries. The winner will get a $50 Walmart gift card from Herbal Essences that can be used to order your Herbal Essences Naked Collection Kit online from 
Since Herbal Essences will handle the prize mailings. I will need your full name and mailing address, so I can forward that information to Herbal Essences.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I was provided with a Walmart gift card for ordering the products described above online and a Walmart gift card was also provided to me for the giveaway - all by Herbal Essences. Furthermore, I will provide the relevant information of the winner to  Herbal Essences, so a prize can be mailed to the winner. Despite Herbal Essences providing me with the gift cards and, through them, with free product, the opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own. 

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Crowdtap sampling opportunity: Cocoa Pebbles from Post!

Through Crowdtap, I received two large family-size boxes of Cocoa Pebbles to sample with kids and share with the whole family. I have done these sample and share opportunities before, but you usually just received enough for one meal. So this family-size box sampling is a great change.
We started with one sample, then keep a diary and report back to Crowdtap. Below are the comparisons we did, starting with the initial impressions of the samples we got.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - two large boxes of Cocoa Pebbles from Post cereal
So both boxes look identical and I had a hard time telling, after sampling both cereals, whether any of them was the real Cocoa Pebbles. But anyway, digging deeper, the nutrition information on the boxes is the same - both are fairly nutritious and I would serve them for breakfast. Each box has a unique code because as part of the sampling, we need to complete an online survey and report back our impressions.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - carefully noting down the numbers helps keep the sample and share on track!
Having a couple of friends with gluten allergies, I actually pay attention to such things now and realized for the first time that Cocoa Pebbles are gluten-free and fairly rich in vitamins and minerals!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - both samples have the same great nutritional value that we expect from Post cereal!
When doing the sampling, you are always asked to describe your initial impressions. So we put a little of cereal into a bowl and describe the impressions. Our faces for the first sample were "like, yeah, cocao pebbles, so what?" Brown in this case is good because it promises chocolate flavor, so we next added some milk and the little ones had the privilege of sampling the cereal #1 first.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - sample one is on the bag, make that in the bowl. Sampling about to begin!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - perfect breakfast, pebbles with milk. Sweet and still nutritious, plus quick to prepare too!
 Sorry for the blurry sample, but it was along the lines, now that we have milk on this stuff, we will eat it NOW!. Anyway, the cereal #1 tasted fine, slight chocolate flavor, not too sweet and light. So even eating a bowl of cereal will not wear you down. Which also makes this an ideal mid-day snack or a good topping for ice cream.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the official tasting comparison. Neutral containers and right size for lunch and munch!
This was now the professional comparison. We took neutral containers, filled them up with the different samples and packed them into lunch bags for snacks. The flavor was almost the same, the lighter samples may have been a little bit sweeter, but we do not know how much the actual color figured into our taste impression. Not surprisingly maybe the adults went for the darker sample, reminding us of dark chocolate, which we prefer. The little one went for the lighter, milk-chocolate colored sample. To me the darker sample tasted a little bit stronger of chocolate, but was the difference striking? Not really, almost identical in flavor. Visually to me the darker sample was still more appealing.

Overall, this was a fun experience. It was great that everyone got to sample the cereal. In the past, the sample shares included just enough for one person, which was kind of strange because it was obvious to the little ones that they were testing something and I always felt that this influenced their responses. This time, I simply filled the bowls up with one of the samples and then we  all at the cereal, in addition to our other breakfast; usually we have some toast and jam and orange juice or coffee with our cereal. So this sampling was a lot more like a regular breakfast and I think the opinions expressed tend to be more honest or reliable this way because it did not feel like a test, but like a regular meal to everyone. Loved the experience of being able to eat the samples for a few days and really try them out in difference scenarios, such as cereal with milk, dry snack in between meals or ice cream topping after dinner. We were able to really form an opinion about the cereal and so I felt a lot better completing the survey.

Disclaimer: I received two samples of Cocoa Pebbles in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Crowdtap or any third party.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Christmas shopping at Aldi!

So today I had to stop by Aldi and use my gift certificate to stock up on seasonal goodies. Prices at Aldi are very reasonable, but with so many unique items, several of them imported from Germany, it is hard to decide what to get. I decided on a mix of sweets and savory items, including several cheeses and of course my all time favorite cured meat - Prosciutto.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - total price for all these items, including the imported Proscuitto and chocolates, was $32
So what did I get? First starters I had to get Proscuitto, very reasonably priced at $2.49 and the taste is excellent. Then I had to pick up some cheeses because they were reduced from the regular Aldi price and I love brie. Again, I know that these cheeses have excellent flavor and they will go well on crackers or combined with some grapes.

Done with the savory and on to the sweet stuff. I picked up some toasted coconut coffee, one of my favorite flavors, and the blend is a light blend with a strong coconut aroma. No more need to add coconut syrup to the coffee. By the way, this coffee is seasonal and also available in salted caramel, which I may have to pick up on my next trip.

Then I had to get a Stollen and decided to pick up the butter almond Stollen. Love the fact that Aldi brings German Stollen each year and the price is fantastic; this huge Stollen is only $4.99. After that it was on to chocolates and I got some Toffifee, which I miss from Germany and I love hazelnuts, so this choice just made sense. Then I picked up seasonal items, including the chocolate figurines from Choceur; they always make a nice decoration item.

I also picked up a waffle mix and imported Belgian Chocolate Christmas Tree cookies, which come in a wonderful tin and make a great potluck contribution or, which is more likely in my case, a special treat for a cold and rainy winter day.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - everything for this afternoon coffee break was from Aldi, including the coffee!
Above is a sample of the ingredients for a German coffee in December. I have two slices of Stollen, a couple of Toffifee and some waffle cookies. I added Pfeffernuesse, which I had previously bought at Aldi and which are a kind of lebkuchen. Together with the toasted coconut coffee, this afternoon coffee almost makes you think you are back in Germany.

I think this proves that Aldi is always worth a trip, but especially so now during the Christmas time. For German favorites and reasonably priced imported sweets and savory treats, Aldi is the place to go!

Disclaimer: Aldi provided me with a gift certificate to stock up on seasonal items and other favorites. Regardless, the opinions expressed in this blogpost are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Saturday, December 7, 2013


 Sometimes you have a store that you go to and just buy things, regardless of sales because you love their products and you know that their prices are always competitive. For me that store has always been Aldi. Growing up in Germany, Aldi was always known as the store to o and stock up on pantry items.

So one of my goals when blogging has always been to build up a relationship with Aldi because it is one store I feel very good and very strongly about - in a good way. I was therefore very excited when Aldi offered me a gift certificate to help fill my cart with seasonal goodies. I have already shopped there once this Christmas season, but with all the lebkuchen, stollen and chocolate goodies a second trip to Aldi is not something that I will need a lot of persuasion to undertake.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my gift certificate from Aldi, now the Christmas party shopping can start!
Today the big day had come, I received a $25 gift certificate from Aldi in the mail. Now with some stores, $25 would not be much, but at Aldi you can feed a family almost a week off $25 because their pantry items are so reasonably priced. This is the same Aldi that we used to stock up our pantry in Germany and I love that in the 30 years in between, Aldi has not changed and stuck its proven success method.

So what is in the Holiday Catalog for 2013? You can the whole catalog here. What I love at Aldi this time of year are all the German imported Christmas favorites such as stollen with Marzipan or the Lebkuchen, such as the Elisen Lebkuchen. But they also have Merci Chocolates, which I love, and of course some seasonal flavored coffee, such as coffee flavored with Eggnog. There are so many good items to select from at Aldi, trying to limit myself to $25 will not be easy.

I plan to go shopping later on this week and I will try to limit myself to $25. Everyone knows that I am a frugal shopper, But I want to stay at around $25 and with all the goodies available at Aldi, it will not be easy. But I alos want to show my reader how far $25 can go at Aldi. So watch for a post in the near future about my seasonal shopping trip to Aldi in Southwest Durham.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a gift certificate to allow me to shop for seasonal products at Aldi. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Aldi or any other third party. campaign for Quilted Northern - or what bargain junters are happy about!

Through I received coupons and some other little things for Quilted Northern. Yes, we are talking about Quilted Northern Toilet Paper and bargain hunters like me do not see toilet paper, but a bargain since I received two coupons for a total of 24 free rolls of Quilted Northern toilet paper.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the smiley360 kit for the Quilted Northern campaign!
Again, you may say, it is just toilet paper. But I will say it is something we need all the time, need to pay for and haul home. Do the coupons save me money? yes, of course and so I do not care whether the campaign is for lipstick or the latest microwave dish or, as in this case, toilet paper. If it saves me money, it is good and I am happy about it. So I will stop by the grocery store next week and buy some more toilet paper, but without paying for it because I have a coupon.

I like it that Quilted Northern added some other little things, including mints and some hand sanitizer. They also gave me some dollar off coupons to share. I will let you know whether Quilted Northern is deserving of some excitement besides being free. I have heard good things about it and know of a couple of people that swear by this brand over Charmin. So we will see.

Disclaimer: I received coupons and additional materials through in exchange for an honest review and word of mouth campaign. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Quick bargain hunt at Kroger and healthy lunch with bzzagent Kroger coupons and leftovers

Today I made a quick stop at Kroger to use up my remaining bzzagent Kroger coupons for the Kroger Skillet Meals campaign. bzzagent was nice enough to supply coupons for a free Kroger Salad kit and I selected the Cesar Salad in the reduced calorie version. As part of that campaign, I also had a coupon for free garlic bread and that gave me an idea for healthy lunch. I planned to make a steak salad since I had some steak leftover from dinner this week and heat up the garlic bread to go with the salad.
At Kroger, I also picked up the Friday Freebie, Izze Soda. I selected the blackberry flavor and was lucky to find some reduced for quick sale bread, Noble tangerine juice and a veggie tray.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my Kroger shopping trip, not a lot, but certainly a good haul for $5
 So my lunch was quickly prepared. All I had to do was heat the garlic bread and make the salad. I decided not to make the standard Cesar salad, but use some leftover dressing and also add some mozzarella balls that I needed to use up. So my salad became a spin on Cesar salad with Mozzarella balls and steak bites.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - total ingredients for lunch, quick and easy, but healthy!
 After 10 minutes the bread was ready and cut off two pieces, then finished the salad with some creamy Ranch dressing and prepared a nice glass of tangerine juice for some additional vitamins.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - healthy lunch of garlic bread tangerine juice and mixed salad with streak
Kroger again delivered fantastic bargains for a weekend shopping trip. The tangerine juice was excellent, nice and sweet. The bread is filling and has additional fiber. The garlic bread was flavorful and not too rich, while the salad mix was crispy and healthy. Thinking a little bit outside of the box and using the Cesar salad kit from Kroger turned my side salad into a full meal with the garlic bread and it all took about 10 minutes to prep.

Disclaimer: I received coupons for garlic bread and salad kit to shop at Kroger through bzzagent in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Crowdtap Sampling Party: Hershey's Chocolate Hazelnut Spread

copyright Durhamonthecheap - sampling the Hershey's Chocolate spread with Hazelnut
 Through Crowdtap I received a free jar of Hershey's Chocolate spread, in my case I received chocolate hazelnut flavor. You can also get the spread in its original chocolate flavor. I decided to have a quick sampling at work and offered pretzel sticks to go with the spread since the pretzels make it easy to sample and everyone likes the mix of salty and sweet.

Everyone immediately commented on that it was similar to Nutella, maybe a little bit sweeter and in my opinion a lot smoother and easier to spread. Overall, the flavor was really a hit and people appreciated the opportunity to be given an advance sample because no one had seen the Hershey Chocolate Spreads yet at the store.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a free sample of Hershey Chocolate Hazelnut Spread for sampling. The opinions expressed in the blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - people liked the smooth texture and the nutty flavor mixed in with gooey chocolate

Crowdtap Sampling Party: Hidden Valley Ranch

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the contents of the party kit from Crowdtap
 Through Crowdtap I received a Hidden Valley Ranch Sampling kit. The kit contained a t-shirt, salad dressing , plenty of samples, including the Hidden Valley Italian Dressing and dry mixes for making dip or salad dressing.
copyright Durhamonthecheap- the table is set for the Crowdtap Hidden Valley Ranch Sampling party
 Because I was busy at work, I decided to make the sampling a low key atmosphere with just some fresh veggies and individual salads with mozzarella balls to use the ranch dressing on. We talked about various recipes that people had for using Ranch Dressing, including some recipes mentioned in the recipe booklet that came with the kit. One person mentioned a pimento cheese, creme cheese and ranch dressing mix that is used as a spread for crackers and is a family favorite. Several other people mentioned that they had used ranch dressing in recipes ranging from burgers to potato side dishes.
copyright Durhamonthecheap- some of the guests looking at the samples and reading the recipe guide
 Everyone enjoyed snacking on the veggies and looking over the new Italian dressing from Hidden Valley. Several people's dip samples did not make it home and were eaten during lunch.
copyright Durhamonthecheap- everyone is happy to get some samples and have healthy snacks at lunch!
Disclaimer: I received a party kit with samples to host a Hidden Valley Ranch sampling event. The opinion expressed in the blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by Crowdtap or any third party.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

(Fast) Food Review Day 2: McDonalds Dollar Menu Fries, McDouble and BBQ Ranch Burger

Day 2 of having to fix up my rental and after 5 hours of hanging out in a place that is finally starting to look like an apartment again, it was time for another fast food lunch. After painting, removing weird stains from walls and cleaning out cupboards, I stopped by McDonalds today and sampled their dollar menu. I got my favorite, the dollar menu fries because in my opinion McDonalds still makes the best french fries on the market.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - filling lunch for less than $4 from McDonalds.
I also ordered the McDouble because let's face it, for a price of $1.19 you get two beef patties and some cucumbers and onions. This is enough to make the burger taste like a regular size burger, which only costs about 3x as much.

I also ordered something called the BBQ Ranch Burger. Never had this one before and the McDonalds website describes it as a 100% beef patty seasoned with a pinch of salt and pepper, then topped with melted white cheddar, zesty barbecue ranch sauce and crispy tortilla strips, all on a classic bun. Overall, it is quite tasty and I like the crunch from the tortilla chips. I also like the fact that they include white cheddar. Not too spicy, but still a nice different sandwich from the dollar menu.

So there you have it. No salad today, but I was so looking forward to just sitting down and eating something after being at the rental from 9Am to past 1PM on a Sunday that I decided to save the salad for later and combine the dollar menu offerings from a Zevia soda in cherry coke.

So now I can skip my Sunday afternoon coffee break and have salad for dinner with some homemade chicken noodle soup from the chicken broth that I fixed last night. Plus my tired old bones get a rest sitting in a comfy chair and bundled up with a large fleece blanket.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

(Fast) Food Review: Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche

I normally do not eat anything other than Dollar Menu items from Fast Food places and even those occasions are rare. But a large part of my Thanksgiving vacation was spent cleaning up one of my rentals because my former tenant may not have been familiar with the concept that water can clean up dirt. So after another morning painting, cleaning, scrubbing and taping one last wall for painting tomorrow, I decided that I would splurge and reward myself with some fast food goodness.

The Wendy's on S. Roxboro just got renovated and so I decided that I would give their menu a try. I saw a sign for something called "Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche" and that just sounded good on so many levels, not the least because I love brioche and mushrooms melt sandwiches in general. I ordered only the sandwich, no need to add fries and other stuff to that burger. I planned to make my own salad at home to keep the meal somewhat healthy and also because I prefer my own salads with just an oil/vinegar dressing rather than regular salad dressings.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - brioche burger from Wendy's with my homemade healthy meal ingredients
The nutritional info is kind of scary with 600 calories, 34 grams fat, 1390 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, 34 grams protein, but this is probably the first full-size burger I have had in almost 6 months.Anyhow, with my salad and the apple as a meal it was not all bad.

The flavor itself was good. The brioche was nice and sweet, well balanced with the smoky bacon and the earth mushrooms. The Wendy's burger is always good size and so the burger is actually just the right size that can bite into the bun and get all flavors with each bite. As the above image shows, there is plenty of bacon and lots of mushrooms. The cheese hold everything nicely together and the brioche is for me the best burger bun right now on the market. It is soft, but still has enough chewy consistency to not melt through if you let the burger sit for a while. I hope that Wendy's decides to offer the brioche as an alternative on more burgers because to me that brioche bun makes the Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt a real winner.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Review: Merlin's Blade (The Merlin Spiral) by Robert Treskillard

This is a great young adult book dealing with Merlin, King Arthur and playing in early Britain. What Robert Treskillard manages is bring the history and times of King Arthur to life in a way that makes it interesting for young readers and create stories that provide important life lessons to the readers.

available from
In this book, Treskillard describes how Merlin, who by nature is shy, must overcome his shyness when placed in the center of a fight to protect his village as well as the ruling king against outside danger. In addition, Merlin is also half-blind and needs to overcome his physical limitations to protect the girl he loves. A hero with weaknesses and is able to overcome them can provide important lessons to young readers who may face their own doubts about abilities and fitting in. Importantly, this book tells the early years of Merlin and King Arthur, making it very appropriate for younger readers.

Rather than retell some of the story here, let me just recommend the book for young adults and adults, who like to read a new take on this legend. Even tough the legend of King Arthur is well known by most , the book provides an interesting introduction to the legend and is written almost like an action story taking place in early Britain. I should caution readers that the book ends with a cliffhanger and most readers will want to read the next book to determine how the story goes on in Merlin's Shadow. It may be a good idea to buy several books from the series to follow the story in one sitting.

Overall, this book and I presume the series overall, tell in an age-appropriate language the legend of King Arthur and Merlin, whose lives are intertwined through battles and experiences. I always have been a fan of the legend of King Arthur and I found this book to be an entertaining read.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy through in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed in the blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trip to Wilmington - nice in the off - season as well

Last week I was able to drive to Wilmington for a conference. It was my first time in this coastal city and I quite enjoyed the historic downtown area. On the first day, we had summer-like temperatures in the 80s, but then it cooled down significantly into the 50s for the next two days and time spent outside was not so pleasant anymore.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - image from the boardwalk in Wilmington.
 Unfortunately my free time was limited to the evening hours because I spent all day at the conference. But I was able to walk to the conference center from the Wilmingtonian, which was a really nice hotel. And this walk led me right along the boardwalk and so I could enjoy the boats every day.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the lawyer in me has to take an image of the courthouse

copyright Durhamonthecheap -  the coast guard was visiting and you could take tours on the ship
As I stated, I stayed at the Wilmingtonian, which is located just one block of the lively and well lit downtown Wilmington area. While people are encouraged to only venture outside after dark in groups, this hotel is only one block away from the downtown area with lots of restaurants and so the neighborhood is quite safe. The Wilmingtonian offers the advantage of free parking all day and all day they provide snacks and beverages, which is very nice. In the morning they provide freshly brewed coffee and wrapped pastries, such as muffins, and all day long they offer juice, tea and saoda + yogurt and fresh fruit as well as snack bars. I can highly recommend the Wilmingtonian for a stay, especially if you plan to explore the historic downtown area.

from the website of the Wilmingtonian -
In the evening, you have your choice of various restaurants in downtown Wilmington, several offering local beers and unique dinner options. If you just want a sandwich, they got chain stores, such as Jimmy Johns, in the downtown area as well. But I highly recommend sampling the local cuisine and enjoying some fresh seafood! Overall, even in the off season, Wilmington is a nice place to visit for a weekend and offers a reasonably priced vacation destination.

Friday, November 22, 2013

House Party sampling event: Gevalia Foam - new latte, cappuccino and macchiato beverages for Keurig!

Thanks to House Party we were able to sample new Gevalia beverages specifically for the Keurig brewer at work. I got three different flavors, the Mocha Latte, the Cappuccino and a Caramel Macchiato. The early favorite was definite the Caramel Macchiato; everyone wanted to sample and taste this one.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - three different samples of Gevalia foamy goodness to go with magazines and donuts!
I also raffled off some of the design stencils because the smiley face was so popular. So it and the heart stencil were raffled off and we will see if we can post pictures later on about the use of the stencils on some of the foamy goodness. To go with the coffee, I had bought some donut holes because what goes better with coffee than some nice sugary donuts?

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the spread for the Gevalia House Party
I also handed out the coupons to everyone and several members in the party already stated that they sometimes buy the regular Gevalia coffee in the store, but now will keep an eye out for the K-cup varieties available in local stores. A couple of people stated that they will just order the K-cup varieties online and the Mocha Latte was in the meantime getting high marks as well for his nice balance of chocolate and coffee flavor!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - enjoying some Gevalia coffee, the caramel macchiato was an early favorite!
We were impressed with the fact that Keurig now can be used to create coffeehouse creations in the regular Keurig thanks to the extra froth package available with the Gevalia packaging. It is such an ingenious solution to the problem of how to create coffeehouse drinks at home or, as in a our case, the office.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - having a good time with coffee and dessert!
 Overall, everyone was impressed with the coffee samples included, although several people indicated that they value the quality of Gevalia coffee and did not expect anything else from the makers of Gevalia in their attempt to come of up coffeehouse drinks. Several guests grabbed different samples and are now looking forward to trying additional flavors next week.We have a Keurig at work that allows to adjust the amount of water used in brewing, so several people started off with the least amount of water required (6oz) and then added hot water as needed to get to their individual desired strength. We love that Gevalia has now come out with these coffeehouse drinks, so we can enjoy a latte at work or at home without having to spend a fortune or even leave the home or office because all we need now is access to a Keurig. Thanks Gevalia and House Party for providing us with the opportunity to sample the Gevalia coffeehouse drinks!

Disclaimer: I received free samples from House Party in exchange for hosting a sampler party and providing feedback about the products. The opinions expressed in this blogpost are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.