(Mock) White Castle-Like Sliders

In collecting recipes to add to my ever-growing binders of cards, clippings, scraps, and scribbled recipes, I found another new one to try: White Castle-Like Sliders

We don’t have a White Castle anywhere in Madison, much to my dismay. However, it makes it even more of  a treat when we are visiting the Twin Cities and indulge in some of their steamy, oniony burgers. We don’t do this every time we go there because there are so many other places to sample deliciousness from. But when the craving drives us – we’ve indulged (and sometimes felt less than healthy following the indulgence). I have seen frozen White Castle burgers for sale at the grocery store, but I’m not big on frozen fast foods and have not tried them.

The recipe looked interesting, and regardless of the authenticity of the flavor, I figured it the family would be down with eating them.

I purchased my beef at Walmart, and went for the fattier 80/20 that the recipe calls for. I actually followed a recipe. Fancy that! The buns, however, were a little more tricky. I found some mini buns that were called “dollar rolls” – but they cost $3 per bag of 8. No thanks. I found some ciabatta buns for about the same price and there were 12 in there. Because I was doubling the recipe (which makes 24), I figured I’d need 2 packs and could quarter the rolls. It was a decent bet, but then I noticed some mini sub-like rolls, a 24-pack, for the same price. The decision was easy. Actually, I probably put too much thinking into it, as I do EVERYTHING, but when I shop it isn’t always about the product or finding the right one, it’s also about the money. The sub rolls were the most cost-effective.

Armed with all the ingredients, I headed home to take on the recipe.

It is a very. Easy. Recipe. Really, it is. The original site has lots of pictures and step-by-step instructions, so I won’t go into that. I’ll just share how my experience went.

I used a baking sheets rather than a baking dish. In fact, I used two. One large one and one half sheet. They worked fine, fitting side-by-side in my oven. I sprinkled the cup of flakes down on the sheets, then patted the beef on top. I had 5lbs. of beef (a little more than the recipe called for, but I’m SO glad I went ahead with that extra pound – more on that in a bit). Because the onions spread around when you pat the beef on top, I tried to “sprinkle” the beef around the sheet, then pat it all in like play dough. It was the worst part. Ground beef doesn’t exactly sprinkle. I made do, and patted, patched and coerced the beef until it covered the entire bottom of both pans. After that, they went in the oven.

Shock and horror when I pulled them out and notice the teensy, tiny rectangle of beef floating around in the pool of fat (removed in picture below). Besides gently patting the beef with a paper towel like the recipe said, I had to first drain off the over 2 cups of liquified fat, then soak up the rest with towel. It was truly disgusting. A little tricky, too, because I didn’t want to lose my precious rectangle of beef. I started to have serious doubts that I would pull out 48 burgers from the little beef sheet.


Cheese time. I had white cheddar. In my head I could hear the kids groaning about my substitution. They prefer yellow (even though it is just dyed cheddar). I topped the meat with the cheese, popped them back in (it takes very little time to melt, FYI) and then stared at the huge bag of rolls that I had not begun to cut. Following the cheese-topping was a crazed kitchen dance of me slicing pickle spears (I skipped out on buying sliced pickles – spears sliced in mini triangles are fine) and quartering the sub rolls that were not cut to being with — all with hope of serving White Castle(ish) burgers that were still warm.

It was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time. I did not get many pictures, due to the frantic pace at which I worked.

I wouldn’t say they were a “hit” – or maybe they were a hit, just not out-of-the-park hit. They were definitely interesting and something out of the ordinary. Rarely can you duplicate a restaurant food, but just make a similar version of. That’s what these were. If you did not know what the attempt was, you might say, “Wow – these are kind of like White Castle” – but you certainly would not mistake them for the original. That said, they are close enough that if you have had WC you would smile at the homemade version, noticing the similarities. Wait. I kind of just said that. Whatever. I think in reality, these were too fresh, and the bread too meaty (I would go with a different bread). Today when I warmed one (OK three) in the microwave for lunch, my mouth was thinking they were closer to the original. A couple days old, and bread spongy-steamed from the microwave, they were closer to tasting like real deal WC junky fast food. I mean that as a compliment, but there’s no way to extract that from it, is there?

Oh – and, interestingly enough – I got 47 burgers out of them. I’d forgotten how small those little patties really needed to be. Not much bigger than a regular pickle slice.

At any rate, these were a fun try. I could definitely see making them for a group – although I’d rather not be doing the latter phase of production with anyone but family around to witness it. I’d make ahead. I also think I’d be a rebel and use less fatty beef next time, too.


Walgreens Haul 4/16/12

This post is about coupons, Walgreens and Register Rewards.

I haven’t been to Walgreens for a while. My obsession with that store goes in waves. It begins with a some good deals, sheer excitement. Register Rewards, sales, and coupons that stack up to fantastic savings. I feel rich, high, excitement! I’ve made multiple trips to the stores, stocked, stacked and multiplied my savings. The week ends with Rewards still in my hand, armed and ready for the next week.

There is nothing. No sales, no excitement, nothing to add to my bounty.

Followed by a week where there looks to be some good deals, but since I don’t stand on Monday mornings, waiting for the store to open, all the stock is gone (or worse yet, there WAS NO STOCK on the best deals). I run my triangle of stores (they are close, so I’m not wasting too much gas, just time and sanity) and leave empty-handed. I’m furious with Walgreens, and tell myself I’m done. I’m hanging up my Walgreens monthly coupon book, Register Rewards and I’m not checking any blogs to see what deals are steals this week.

And I don’t. And then I find the expired Register Reward in my purse a week later, and kick myself for snipping off my own nose to spite my face.

Not  all times does my lag in Walgreens visits begin and end in the scenario above. Sometimes I am simply too busy to clip, watch, and save. I miss out on deals, my coupons expire. It happens. This week, however, with wrestling season officially behind me, soccer season yet to start, I had more time. My stash from last fall is dwindling. The deals matched my coupons and my mood. I made a Walgreens run.

My main stash-dwindling issues are pictured: toilet paper, disinfecting wipes, dish detergent. The NasalEase was the deali-o, the tomato paste a filler.

The real savings here is that the NasalEase is on sale for $9 and comes with a $9 Register Reward (so FREE but you pay tax). I also had a $5 off coupon, with makes this one a $4 money maker. That is good stuff. The Lysol wipes are on sale for $2/6. The packs I found were buy 1 get 1 free. So I got 4 for the price of 1. PLUS, I had a $1 off coupon. So I got them even cheaper. Score. The Dawn is on sale for $.99, and I had a .$50 off coupon for that.

So I got:
2 Dawn
3 Hunts
12 Lysol Wipes
4 packs of toilet paper
3 NasalEase

All for under $18.63. PLUS I still have a Register Reward for $9. So, really more like $9.63.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Aldi Standards

I’ve never been a regular, loyal Aldi customer. My visits have been few and far in between. Years ago when my friend raved on Aldi I gave it a try. Ok. A lot of generic stuff. Big deal. Rules, like paying a quarter for your cart, having cash, and bagging your own groceries put me in the camp of questioning the experience. Is it worth it? I live in Madison, Wisconsin. There are tons of supermarkets small and large to choose from. I could go to Woodmans, shop all the generic items, and come out with a decent haul for a good price. So why did I need Aldi?

Unconvinced, I used it as a novelty, rarely visiting. Besides the quirky “rules” to follow, it seemed to me that most of the items there were junk food, and sub-standard quality at that. Still, I wasn’t sold. But… in the last couple years I’ve given Aldi another look.

I was no longer a stranger to the rules, so I equip myself with a quarter and cash (and a calculator) before I hit the store. Being a more learned shopper, and not as much of a brand snob, I’m able to navigate the prices and the quality a bit better than I was the first few times I gave Aldi a try. I should note that over the years, I think Aldi has stepped up the quality of their products a bit, too. (Some) of them are not as sodium and sugar-laden as they were 10 years ago.

In my adventures back to Aldi, here are the things I like:

  • No frills. I can leave coupons at the door. I don’t need them. No membership card, no having to have the ad in your hand. They got it. They know the sales, they give you the sale prices. Period. Simple. Stress-free.
  • Marketplace feel. People pay big bucks to shop in specialty markets that are small, hand-basket friendly (Aldi doesn’t have hand-baskets), and simply laid out (Trader Joes). What some will pay for ambiance completely astounds me. But I get it. I do.
  • Variety. It has the staples, it has some of the more trendy items. Then it stops. Kettle-cooked chips, fun chocolate bars with gourmet flavors, wines, cheeses, meats, ready-made pizzas, cold cuts and rock salt grinders. Then basics: flour, eggs, milk, yogurt, processed cheese, canned goods, waffles, ice cream, nuts, peanut butter, cooking oil and more. Staples for both the general consumer and the one who likes a little more flair.

Items I buy on a regular rotation:

  • Milk
  • Eggs (feel like I’m “slumming it” a bit on the eggs, because I like the ones with a little more to them.
  • Chips (can’t go wrong with the chips)
  • Chocolate (the raisin and hazelnut – YUM)
  • Butter is usually decently priced there
  • Cereal – good deals on some of the family favorites – their knock-off of Honey Bunches of Oats replaced the brand name in my house and nobody noticed or cared – they have a raisin bran crunch that is good, too
  • Italian Sausages – taste just fine
  • Tin foil
  • Produce – the sales are hit and miss, but I’ve been really pleased with the quality
  • Their version of Velveeta – again, nobody noticed it wasn’t the “real deal” – so much cheaper
  • Chorizo – cheaper, and just as good

There are some things I don’t buy – mostly the canned foods, only because I don’t buy a lot of canned foods. I have shied away from the household products – another item I don’t routinely buy. In a pinch we picked up some paper towel and it was fine. But it only came in two-rolls, and we need more than that. Haven’t tried the laundry detergent or any of that.

All in all, I will continue to add Aldi to my regular rotation. Even for cereals, chips, produce, milk and eggs, it is an easy stop to shop, with less potential to get me buying things I don’t need.

Do you have any Aldi favorites?

Wanna learn more? Check out Mom Advice for some Behind the Scenes at Aldi.


Snicker Salad

This is a ridiculously easy salad to make. We had a wrestling banquet (potluck) going on an I was short on time. I was busy making the team DVD (which I procrastinated on), and needed something quick, easy, and yummy. I’ve only made this salad a few times (because it is sinfully good, and too easy to munch on hourly), but it was always a hit. I first had it at my girlfriend Jodi’s house. My kids loved it and asked for it occasionally when they would remember it. It just… isn’t something that I want to put into our rotation of foods. This “salad” needs to be taken to a potluck to share.

(image courtesy of Flickr – mamaslittlemonkeys)

There are variations to this, but for the most part it calls for (ready?):
apples, whipped topping, snickers

Easy, eh?

Here’s how I broke it down:


3 tart Granny Smith
3 red apples (just not Red Delicious – something else – I think we used Pink Lady)
1 cup red grapes (you don’t need these, I just added them)
9 regular size Snicker bars (they cut easier if they are cooler)
Large tub of Cool Whip

Wash apples; chop into bite-sized chunks (skin-on). Toss in a big bowl. Add container of whipped topping  and toss to coat. (I did this to keep them from browning). Chop 4 of the Snickers into bite-sized pieces; mix/fold into salad. Wash grapes; cut in half, and add to salad. Mix again. Chop 4 of the Snickers, add to salad and mix. Transfer to pretty bowl. Chop remaining bar, sprinkle on top of salad. Remove from home via transfer to whatever gathering you are attending. Prepare to bring home an empty bowl.

Stay Out Of The Store – Save Yourself Money

Even though buying bulk (Costco, Sam’s Club) may not always render you the lowest price, it will keep you stocked and away from the stores. The less time you spend in the stores each month/week, the better chance you have at keeping to budget.

I purchased a ridiculous amount of sponges at Costco last year. I could have waited for sales (Costco did have an in-house coupon on them) and purchase them in smaller amounts, but since we have no dishwasher and use sponges constantly, it seemed like the best idea. Maybe not the best bargain price, but having them in bulk means that I don’t have to worry about having to make a special run to Walmart (the closest store to us) because we’re out a sponge.

Like I said back in this post (Using Scissors to Save Money), I cut each sponge in half, which also maximizes my dollar.

The smaller size makes it easier for little hands to hold (dishes are one of the kid’s rotating chores). I’ve been doing this for so long that a full-sized sponges feels foreign in my hands. I prefer the smaller size.

Other items I try to stock: toilet paper, laundry detergent (I wait for sales on this), toothpaste, toothbrushes (can get for almost free), deodorant and other toiletries (sales and coupons)

Caramel Bars (With Money Shot)

I love to bake. I love to eat baked goods. I shouldn’t eat an abundance of baked goods. So, I take advantage of baking for others. We had a wrestling banquet a bit ago, and along with a big batch of cookies (I make them every year), I decided to try a new recipe. I went to one of my favorite recipe sites (AllRecipes.com) and found these: Caramel Bars. The bars had good reviews, easy enough to make, and sounded delicious. I dove into my day of baking with gusto. There’s nothing like warming the house with time spent creating deliciousness in the kitchen (this was back in February, so the days were still cool).

I took pictures.

The cookie dough I made the day before and let it marinate in its own goodness overnight, ready for baking the next day.

Talk to me about not eating raw cookie dough.

Ready for oven-lovin’…

A couple batches down (and many more to go).

Caramel bars. I doubled the recipe and made them on a large sheet pan.

Wheezy was playing outside, but came in hoping for a nibble.

And the Money Shot. See, I’m from a time when blogging was blogging (or journaling), and pictures were snapped, rarely edited; raw. Real. Sometimes you got lucky and your photo turned out pretty smooth, but mostly, it was just a simple picture. Now, visit (some of the most popular) blog sites and the pictures look professional, photo-shopped, glossed, and blurred. No child has faulty hair or skin, no food tainted by an unsightly scorch. I hate it. I prefer the ugly blog, the less-than-perfect pictures, the blog that feels like I fell upon an open journal, blemishes and all. I know, with the ease of digital dumping, and fancy cameras, it is almost impossible to take a bad shot. But I also know they are still out there.

This is semi-jokingly taken. It’s a decent shot, but the layers of mini waxed paper separating each bar is a copycat of the gazillion photos out there of sweet treats that just happen to be adorned with fancy papers, ribbons and glitter, all appearing to have fallen out of the oven along with the food. I wasn’t energetic enough to add colors, balloons, glitter and an adorable child with manicured hands, smiling in the background. But picture it in your head, mmmkay?

They didn’t really cut so well, so we had a few “rejects” to munch on. More than a few.

Recipe for Caramel Bars:

Read more

Breakfast Delicioso

I woke up early today. Not on purpose, either. Normally I squeeze every little second out of sleepy time. I think my electronics have a mind of their own, though, and even though I tell them not to “leap ahead” or “fall back” for DST, they do. And at random times.

Like last week, waking me up an hour earlier. And this week, waking me up an hour earlier. This morning it was 6am. See, I set my television to The Weather Channel every morning for my alarm. I’m not entirely sure why, or how that started. I might have set it to music television years ago, but that’s when they actually played music on those channels, instead of reality shows. It was hit or miss what song would come on, and sometimes they would be eerie or sad and it wasn’t quite the morning wake up I was looking for. Not… that weather is, but at least it sounds like morning time to me. Again, hearing words like “tornado” or “massive storms” isn’t necessarily the make for a first-morning encounter, but it is what it is.

At any rate, the alarm (set for 7am) woke me at 6am. I crawled out of bed at 6:20, cursing in my head. Looked at the clock, and then began a string of more violent curses. I played the barter game, do I stay up? Do I go to sleep again and reset my alarm? Wait, I have to go to the bathroom… will I be able to go back to sleep? Then I remembered the curlers in my hair. That was after the split second of thinking I might get up and workout. Haha! It was a serious thought. But I wasn’t about to redo my hair. I found a middle ground and decided to get up, have a morning of quiet leisure (since I knew nobody would be getting up on spring break at this time). I made an omelet, coffee, and heated up some pancakes from yesterday.

I realize that is a horrible picture. But all I had was my camera phone in dim lighting. Too lazy to do a awe-inspiring hookup of my food this morning. Mmm. I topped it with homemade yogurt and blueberries, the pancakes that is. The omelet is provolone, tomato and ham.Was a deliciously top-heavy morning (big breakfast). No need to lug my coffee mug or lunch to work, I think I’ll have a light snack there if I need to.

Now I am off to work. Have a great day!