Thursday, June 23, 2011

bread and butter pickles

Oh, pickles. People have a love/hate relationship with them and I, for one, am in love with them. Troy and I hosted Thanksgiving at our house in MS this past year and my family from PA drove down to be with us. We planned quite the spread and I decided to make my very own pickles. It has definitely been one of my crowning culinary achievements. I found the recipe from one of my favorite food blogs, She's a genius in my eyes!

Making pickles was a lot more simple than I had thought and the result is way better than any store bought pickle. You won't want to go back, promise.

Let's get started.

3 pounds Kirby or pickling cucumbers
3 large sweet onions, thinly sliced*
3/4 cup Diamond Kosher salt or pickling salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
3/4 teaspoon turmeric (it's an orange spice that's pretty easy to find)
3 tablespoons mustard seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds
3/4 teaspoon celery seed

*This is the original recipe but I DESPISE onions so I used some extra cukes to make up for the lack of onions.


1. Cut up the cucumbers into sizes that you would like. Since I had no idea what I was doing, I make some big and others smaller. The result was the same. In a large bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt. Mix well so that the salt is evenly distributed.
2. Cover with ice and let sit at room temperature for two hours.
3. In a large pot, bring the sugar, vinegar, and all spices to a boil. This is when the magic begins.
4. Drain the cucumber mixture and add to the vinegar mixture and bring almost a boil. Remove from the heat and let cool. Go ahead, taste one.
5. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks in the fridge.

Aren't they beautiful? Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Free Samples 101

Who doesn't love free things? I know I sure do. Over the past 9 months or so, I have become more than obsessed with finding free samples online. The peek of my free sampling days thus far was when I received SEVEN free samples in the mail in one day... organic coffee, Crest White Strips 3D, a pack of Stride gum, Aveda hair samples, Tide laundry detergent & Tide washing machine cleaner (I had to be one of the first 5000 to get that one!) and some others.

Oh man, what a rush. Some of my favorite free samples have been Purina cat food and a Diamond Dazzle stick which cleans my rings and makes the diamonds shine like crazy! I have also received some coupons for a free bottle of Advil, Exderin, Suave hair care products, chips, Zyrtec, Philadelphia Cooking Creme, and many others.

To call me obsessed is an understatement... it would be more appropriate to call it a way of life. I look forward to visiting the mail box each and every day. Is that strange? On my way home from work, I ask my husband if he got the mail.... every day.

Where to go: 
There are a ton of websites that offer free samples. Many retail stores like,, offer free samples. Check your local grocery store chain's website to see if they have a free sample section on their site. And then there are many, many awesome coupon/free sample/savings sites like,,,,, and There are a ton more but my life has changed since I found dealseekingmom. Most of the blogs will have a specific link dedicated to free samples.

Before you start:
I don't just sign up for everything. I make sure it's a secure link and that it's linked directly to the store or company's website. I don't use a fake email address but I use an email address that is specifically for junk mail. I never give out too personal of information either. It's just not worth it.

Free samples are great for many reasons:
1. My little sister is a lowly intern and makes $0/year but has to raise support. Troy and I can't support her financially but I support her by sending her free samples of shampoo or snacks. I also sign my mom up for things as well.
2. They make great stocking stuffers.
3. They are great to add to a little basket for a guest room. That way a guest won't feel like they are inconveniencing you if they need a tooth brush or laundry detergent.
4. They are a great back up if you are out of something. If we ran out of cat food, we know that we have a stash of 3 cat food samples just waiting for us. Plus, we have at least 8 laundry detergent samples. We're never running out.
5. You can try new products! There have been many products that I have sampled that I have started using now. Most of the time manufacturers will usually add a valuable coupon with their sample too. Double bonus!
6. They are great to travel with! You don't have to worry about size or weight restrictions when you have small samples going along for the ride!

I mean, who doesn't love to receive a little package in the mail? It's like Christmas/your birthday every day!

Do you know of any sites that you use for saving money, clipping coupons or finding great samples? Share them here.