Tips & Tricks

Canadian Tips & Tricks: Buy A Gift Card With Additional Rewards Before You Go Shopping!

Here’s a tip for all of you Black Friday shoppers:

Buy a gift card with rewards attached.  Many retailers want you to purchase gift cards over the holiday season, so they add a freebie when you purchase a card over a certain amount.  A few examples include:

  • Purchase a $25 Rona, La Vie En Rose or Spa Finder gift card at Safeway, receive 20 Air Miles.
  • Purchase a $50 Boston Pizza gift card, get a free pizza or pasta meal
  • Buy two $25  selected gift cards at Rexall, save $10

These are just a few of many great gift card offers out there.  I suggest you ask if the store you are shopping at offers gift card bonuses before you purchase anything.  Who knows?  You might score yourself a freebie.

Canadian Quick Questions: What Are Your Alternative Uses for Baby Wipes?

With the great deal on Huggies Baby Wipes at Shoppers Drug Mart this week, many people without babies are buying them.

What do you use your baby wipes for other than on your children?

I love using the tubs for sorting coupons, they are the perfect size for most coupons.  The wipes are perfect for cleaning up in the car, removing makeup and especially removing hairdye marks when colouring your hair.

Earth Day Canada: Recycle Your Electronics!


Recently after purchasing a new mouse for my iMac, I realized just how many broken peripherals and electronics have been collecting dust in my house!

My family’s embarrassing collection includes 2 unused printers, a couple of broken DVD players, digital clock radio, a PDA, water damaged keyboard, and a whole whack load of broken, cordless phones!

If it were up to me alone, all these items would be thrown out by now. However, for one reason or another, they’re still here so it’s time for me to take action.

Solution #1: I could donate my items to the local Value Village. However, this solution seems pointless since half of the electronics are broken anyway. Eventually, if they are put out and purchased, savvy customers will return them, and they’ll eventually end up in a landfill! Not very environmental.

Solution #2: I googled “electronic recycling [name of my city]” and to my delight, my city is running electronic recycling events this week, at various locations.

Solution #2 seems like a better option to me. Not only can I do some Spring cleaning, by decluttering my house of unused, broken items; more importantly, I won’t be contributing to the local garbage heap!

In addition to temporary Earth Week recycling events, there may be even permanent, Community Recycling Centers that will accept your wares. While I was at a Staples today, I even noticed recycling boxes for items such as empty printer ink cartridges and cell phones.

So just a friendly reminder that if you have to get rid of some household electronics, whether obsolete or just plain broken, check out your municipality for an eco-friendly solution!

Happy Earth Day! 🙂

Recipe Schmecipe: Pizza Dough

I’ve been meaning to post this recipe for quite a while. It is my favorite pizza recipe and I usually make two batches and freeze the dough for later use. Honestly, if you plan it ahead of time, it’s faster and way cheaper than take out pizza.

Pizza Dough

Makes dough for 2 pizzas


1¾ cups warm water

2¼ tsp. instant yeast

4 cups flour, plus more for dusting

1½ tsp. salt

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

  • In a large bowl, mix water with yeast. Combine flour, salt and olive oil with the yeast mixture and mix until a dough is formed. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Transfer it to a lightly oiled bowl and cover. Let it rise for 1-2 hours until it has doubled in size.
  • Deflate the dough and divide it in two. At this point you can also freeze it by wrapping it in plastic wrap and storing it in a large ziploc for later use.
  • To make the pizza, preheat the oven to 500˚F/260˚C. Lightly sprinkle your pizza pan with cornmeal. Shape the dough and place it on the pan. Brush the edges with olive oil and top as desired. Bake the pizza for 8-12 minutes, until the crust is golden brown.

Recipe Schmecipe: Basic Sugar Cookies


Here is a simple sugar cookie recipe to impress your loved one with on Valentine’s Day. I love this recipe as it’s a perfect canvas for decorating on any given holiday.

Basic Sugar Cookies

½ cups Softened Butter

¾ cups Sugar

1 Egg

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1-½ cup Flour

½ teaspoons Baking Powder

¼ teaspoons Salt

  • Preheat oven to 350°F/177°C.
  • Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt in a medium-sized bowl.
  • In a separate bowl, cream together the room temperature butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in an egg and then vanilla. On a low speed, slowly mix the dry ingredients into wet ingredients until everything is incorporated.
  • Equally divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until it is firm enough to work with.
  • Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to about a ¼-inch thickness and cut out shapes as desired. Place the cookies onto parchment paper or a lightly greased baking tray.
  • Bake for 6-8 minutes, watching closely until the cookies appear to almost turn golden around the edges. I also check the bottoms to see when mine are done as the top might still be very light but if the bottoms are a light golden brown they are done! Let cool completely before frosting.

I like my cookies simple but if you’re in the mood to get more festive, cut out the cookies with a heart-shaped cookie cutter instead of a round one. You can also top it with the icing recipe below.


1 cup Powdered Sugar

2 teaspoons Milk, Up To Double The Amount, As Needed

2 teaspoons Light Corn Syrup

¼ teaspoons Vanilla

4 drops Red Food Coloring, If Desired

  • In a small bowl, combine the sugar and milk until smooth. Mix in the corn syrup and vanilla until smooth and glossy. If it is too thick, add the milk in 1/2 teaspoon increments.
  • Add drops of food coloring to each bowl to reach your desired intensity of color. Spread over completely cooled cookies (Top with heart-shaped sprinkles, if desired). Let it sit until the icing is hardened, which takes about 30 minutes to an hour.

Recipe Schmecipe: Homemade Instant Pancake Mix

Making pancakes is very simple but we still turn towards those pre-packaged, processed boxed mixes. With Alton Brown’s recipe for a homemade pancake mix you can get the same convenience but without the processed nutritional nasties. It’s a lot cheaper as well!

Instant Pancake Mix:

From Alton Brown, Food Network

6 cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking soda

3 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons sugar

  • Combine all of the ingredients in a lidded container. Shake to mix and use it within 3 months.

Yield: 3 batches of pancakes.

Although, Alton Brown’s original recipe calls or buttermilk, I usually don’t have it in the fridge so I decided to use milk and added a splash of vanilla. It turned out mighty tasty 🙂

Since I didn’t add buttermilk, I also skipped the steps of separating the eggs, adding the whites to the milk, the yolks to the melted butter. You can still do that if you want but who wants to get this complicated in the morning?

Instant Pancakes:

Adapted from Alton Brown

2 eggs

1½ cups milk

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups Instant Pancake Mix, recipe above

Butter, for greasing the pan

Fresh fruit, optional

  • Heat an electric griddle or frying pan to 350 degrees F.
  • Whisk together the eggs, milk, butter and vanilla in a small bowl until thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the liquid ingredients on top of the pancake mix. Using a whisk, mix the batter just enough to bring it together. Don’t try to work all the lumps out.
  • Let the batter sit for 5 minutes.
  • Lightly butter the hot griddle or pan and wipe off thoroughly with a paper towel. (No butter should be visible.)
  • Gently ladle the pancake batter using a ¼ cup measure onto the griddle and sprinkle on fruit if desired. When bubbles begin to set around the edges of the pancake and the griddle-side of the cake is golden, gently flip the pancakes. Continue to cook 2 to 3 minutes or until the pancake is set.
  • Serve immediately or hold in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes.

Yield: 12 pancakes

Recipe Schmecipe: Asian-Style Beef and Veggie Noodles


I love the versatility of this dish mostly because you can switch around the meat and vegetables to suit your needs and make use of whatever vegetable is lying around in your refrigerator. Use Napa cabbage, spinach, bean sprouts, green beans, peas or whatever else floats your boat.

It is filled with tons of fresh, colorful veggies, makes a giant bowlful and is great to take somewhere to share.


Asian-Style Beef and Veggie Noodles

1 lb or ½ kg lean ground beef (or chicken, turkey or any other meat)

4-5 tbsp soy sauce

2-3 tbsp sriracha chili sauce

2 tbsp white vinegar

1 tbsp sugar

2-3 tbsp oil

1 medium onion, sliced

2-3 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tbsp ginger, chopped

½ head green (or red) cabbage, thinly sliced

2-3 carrots, shredded

2 whole bell peppers (red, yellow or green), thinly sliced

1 lb spaghetti or noodles, cooked, rinsed and cooled

3-4 scallions, chopped

Handful of chopped cilantro

  • Marinade the ground beef for at least half an hour in soy sauce, sriracha, vinegar and sugar.
  • In a wok or large pan on medium-high heat, sauté the onion in a tablespoon of oil and add ginger and garlic. Add in the ground beef and cook it through. Remove it in a bowl and set aside.
  • In the same wok, add the rest of the oil and quickly sauté the cabbage, carrots, green beans, bell peppers until slightly softened but still crunchy. Remove from the heat and add in the ground beef and cooked spaghetti. Mix it and taste to see if it needs more soy sauce, vinegar or sriracha and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Top with the scallions and cilantro. Serve it warm on a large platter or chill it. It tastes just as good warm or cold.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Redeem Air Miles Points for Gas!


It’s still a few years away from the December 31st, 2016 deadline before Air Miles will be no longer, but if like me, you don’t have enough points to even consider packing your bags, why not redeem existing points at the pumps? If you have at least 175 Air Miles, you can get $20 Shell gas certificate.

After going to the Air Miles website, it seems as though they are also starting another promo in March!

Click on the above link for more info & to check your balance.

Recipe Schmecipe: Homemade Bread


One of the things I love doing is making bread. The wonders of bread-making never cease to amaze me. Granted, it does take some time and patience but the end result is more than worth the effort.

Without further ado, here is the recipe:



Homemade Bread

1½ cups warm water

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1 tbsp sugar

2 tbsp vegetable oil

2 tsp salt

3½ – 4 cups flour


  • In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water and let it sit for about 10 minutes until frothy.
  • Add in 1-2 cups of the flour along with the oil and salt. Mix and keep adding in the remaining flour in ½ cup increments until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough for 10-15 minutes on a floured surface until it is soft and elastic.
  • Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise in a warm place for approximately an hour until it has doubled in volume.
  • Deflate the dough and shape it into two loaves. Place them at least 2 inches apart on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Let it rise again in a warm place for about 30-45 minutes until it has doubled in size.
  • Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Pomegranates How To Harvest and Vitamin Content


Lots of people have been buying up Poms this year!  Stores have been selling out of this well known superfood  like crazy because of a $1 off coupon they had offered.  Never had a pomegranate? Don’t be intimidated, it’s very easy fruit to harvest without mess.

1. Cut in 4

2. Soak in water and remove the pith and separate the seeds (The water will keep the seeds from breaking everywhere and creating a mess.)

3. Enjoy them as a snack or juice them 🙂 (The actual seed is edible, but you can spit them out lol!)

When choosing a pom look for ones that are a nice red with not many brown spots.  If they have soft spots or look dehydrated they are past prime, do not purchase. You can eat the “pith” (the white inside) but it will have you running to the bathroom as it’s a natural and powerful diuretic.

Vitamin C

Pomegranates are extremely rich in Vitamin C. Vitamin C is important in treating colds, helping wounds heal, helping skin maintain its elasticity, preventing cataracts and in sustaining overall health.

Vitamin B5

Pomegranates are plentiful in Vitamin B5, also called pantothenic acid. This essential vitamin is crucial in metabolizing carbohydrates, fats and proteins.

Beta Carotene

Pomegranates are a good source of beta carotene. Also referred to as Vitamin A, this vitamin has strong antioxidant features and is critical for good eyesight.

Other Vitamins

Pomegranates also contain thiamin, riboflavin, folate, folic acid, and vitamin E. These all play an important role in cell metabolism, enzyme function and general well being.

Minerals and Immunity

Pomegranates are abundant in potassium, an indispensable mineral and electrolyte. They also contain calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium. The pomegranate seeds are rich in antioxidants and may boost the immune system to help ward off infection.

Polyphenol and Fiber

Pomegrantes are rich in polyphenol, which helps protect cells in the body from free radicals. Polyphenol is beneficial in treating everything from high cholesterol levels to slowing down the aging process. Pomegranates are a good source of fiber and are also low in calories

 Source for vitamin information.

8 Tips When Shopping for a New (Used) Car

Recently, I’ve become bffs with my mechanic and Autotrader. Although he’s a nice (and honest guy), the former isn’t really a good thing on my bank account!

I’m driving a ’98 Honda Civic and within the past 2 months, I’ve easily put down $800 on maintenance things that go along with owning an older vehicle. And now, it may be time to move on, but to what?

I wish selecting a car was like ordering off the McDonald’s menu – with no surprises and you’re familiar with every item. However, one of the main problems when looking for a new car is that there are just too many options out there: new/used, if so what year, which make/model, has this car been in a wreck, etc. etc.

So after doing some research, here are some tips that I’ve compiled if you’re looking for a new (used) car:

1. Know your budget. When buying a car, new or used, there are lots of hidden fees involved, including taxes, registration, licensing fees, perhaps a dealership fee, etc. So consider all these additional cost when looking at the sticker price. If you’re planning to trade in your current vehicle, consider the value of your car;

2. Figure out the size of the vehicle that will fit your needs. I recently rode in my friend’s new Toyota Yaris and we were rubbing elbows! And personally, this is something that I know would bother me, i.e. rubbing elbows with my passenger, especially on longer trips, so I immediately ruled out sub-compact cars!;

3. What do you like? While driving ’round, keep your eyes peeled on the type of cars that you like and research whether or not these cars are in your price range. I quickly ruled out the Mini when I found out that they’re owned by BMW = expensive on repairs/maintenance!

4. Keep on open-mind when shopping. Perhaps consider a make/model car that you’ve heard good things about, through trusted friends/family members. It’s also a good idea to contact car enthusiast friends/family members to ask them for ideas…as if you need anymore options! 😉

5. Consider things like fuel economy and future repair/maintenance costs. (This is sort of related to Tip #1.) The car that I’m eyeing is European which translates into EXPENSIVE. So even though the sticker price is within my budget, I may have to toss my fantasy aside for something more practical.

6. Look beyond the dealerships. Cast your net wide. I don’t know about you, but personally, I *hate* visiting dealerships mainly because I’m a woman and I can literally feel the car salesman sizing me up! So I wouldn’t recommend the dealership route UNLESS you’ve narrowed down the field a bit. Instead, do some online research via sites like Craigslist, Kijiji, Facebook Marketplace, Autotrader, etc.

7. Bring in the muscle/numbers person. Once you’ve narrowed down the choices and are serious to buy, bring along someone who KNOWS how to assess what’s going on under the hood &/or how to sift through all the fine print, financing crap to determine if you’re actually getting a deal. Remember, there is always room for negotiation, especially at this time of year or come September when the new models roll out!

8. Be prepared to walk away. If the car just doesn’t feel right, is beyond your means, be honest with yourself and walk away. There are tons of other options out there that will meet your needs! So be patient and don’t make any rash decisions.

Are there any cars that you’d advise against? Do you have any car shopping tips to share?

Recipe Schmecipe: Spiced Potato and Ground Beef with Peas (Aloo Keema)

I don’t know about you but all I want to do in winter is to hibernate, eat hot comfort food and curl up with a good book. And although most of us make the New Year’s resolution to lose weight, it is kind of hard to achieve our goals when the cold, bleak winter practically demands us to eat those comfort foods. But, making small healthy changes to those foods will allow you to enjoy them and still keep your resolutions intact.

On that note, but certainly not to be mistaken with health food (all those potatoes!), here is a Spiced Potato and Ground Beef with Peas (“Aloo Keema” which literally means Potato Ground Beef) with warm and earthy Indian spices.


You’ll need onion, tomato, ginger and garlic.


And don’t forget the potatoes!


The Spices a.k.a the most important part.


Aloo Keema: Spiced Potato and Ground Beef with Peas

1-2tbsp olive oil

1kg or ½ kg lean ground beef

5-6 medium potatoes, cubed

1 medium onion, chopped

1 small tomato, chopped

3-4 minced or grated garlic cloves

1tsp minced or grated ginger

1 tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 tsp ground cumin

½ tsp turmeric

¼ tsp red chili powder

½ tsp cumin seeds

½ cup frozen peas

Handful of cilantro, chopped

2-3 green chilies, julienned, seeds removed (optional)

3 scallions, chopped (optional)

  • In a large saucepan on medium-high heat, heat the olive oil. Add chopped onions and sauté them. As soon as the onions start to turn golden brown, add the tomato and minced ginger and garlic. Let it cook for a minute.
  • Add in the ground beef, breaking any chunks, and cook it through. When the ground beef is brown, add in salt, pepper, ground cumin, turmeric, red chili powder and cumin seeds (if using). You should also taste it at this point to see if it requires more heat or salt and adjust the seasoning according to your preference. Add in the cubed potatoes and mix everything together.
  • Lower the heat to medium-low. Add in about half a cup of water, cover the pan with a lid and allow it to cook for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, stir in the frozen peas.
  • Once the potatoes are cooked, turn the heat off and stir in the cilantro, green chilies (if using) or scallions (if using). Serve with chapati/roti or naan, green chutney, and salad or just enjoy it as is.

Recipe Schmecipe: Cheesy Herb Garlic Bread


It’s winter and all you want is comfort food and what better way to get that comfort but from this delicious garlic bread. Eat it alongside a piping hot bowl of chicken noodle soup and hopefully you’ll be all set to brave the crowds on Boxing Day.

So, without further ado, here is the recipe:

Cheesy Herb Garlic Bread

1 loaf of french bread or baguette

5-6 garlic cloves

½ cup softened unsalted butter

3-4 tbsp fresh herbs (basil, cilantro or parsley)

¼ tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

1 cup shredded cheese

  • Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400.
  • Mince or grate the garlic into a fine paste. Mix the garlic with softened butter, herbs, salt and pepper.
  • Cut the bread lengthwise in half and spread the butter mixture on both sides. Sandwich the bread back together and wrap the loaf in foil. Place the wrapped loaf onto a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat and turn the oven to the broil setting.
  • Sprinkle both sides of the bread with the shredded cheese. Broil it for 1-2 minutes until the cheese has melted and bread is crisp.

Say “No” To That Tow!

While on my way to my mechanic, in rush hour traffic, my car seized up and it felt as though an anchor dropped down from the back! My car was not going anywhere.

(When I mentioned to a coworker that I was off to the mechanic, due to a precarious noise, he said, “Call me, I have CAA!” However, I never thought that I would take him up on his offer.)

Quickly, I called said coworker and he was able to pass on his CAA Membership number to me. (Enter Tow Trucker #1 in which I waved away, saying that I was already on the phone with CAA.) Immediately, I called CAA by dialing *222 on my cell phone, but the operator said that the member had to be WITH me. So that idea was nixed!

The CAA operator did mention that I can sign up and use the benefits right away, so I filed that information away.

(Enter Mysterious Motorist who asked if I was okay. He then pulled over, asked me if I needed a cell phone. When I said that I was fine, he gave me some religious reading material to peruse while the dinner traffic whizzed by me. Shortly after this kind motorist stopped, Tow Trucker #2 came by as well in which I again denied his assistance.)

Since I was getting desperate, I just called the phone number on a business card of a tow company I used a couple of years back when I had a flat. After providing the operator my coordinates, I asked how much a tow of approximately 10k would cost: $100 + HST. He added that if I decided to go with another Trucker to please call him to cancel.

At this point, Tow Trucker #3 stops, I waved him away as well. Do these people have an App that helps them to locate stranded motorists??

My coworker called back to check up. I tell him that it’s going to cost me $100 to get towed to my mechanic in which he responded, “That’s EXPENSIVE!” Duh. I asked him how much CAA was and he stated that it was under $100/year.

I had to think on my feet, but immediately after I got off the phone with my coworker, I sign up for CAA on the spot. As I needed a tow right away, there was some kind of additional fee, but I figured that $140+ was a much better value than a one-time, $100 tow…for less than 10k!

Granted, I never asked any of those Truckers their fee, but even though it may seem as though they wanted to help, most likely, they were there to gouge! So if you are driving an older vehicle, consider signing up for CAA or another tow company such as Canadian Tire. It’ll save you money and possibly your life in case of an emergency!

Recipe Schmecipe: Cilantro-Yogurt Dip

This dip recipe is delightfully refreshing, simple, and it’s also incredibly healthy, especially when you’re looking for a respite between all those Christmas cookies. It also requires only three ingredients:


Plain yogurt or thick Greek yogurt (Plain yogurt can usually be found on sale for $2 or less).


Fresh cilantro (regularly $1 per bunch) and sea salt (Aurora Sea Salt is on sale at Sobeys for only $0.88).


In a blender or food processor, puree the cilantro. Add the yogurt and sea salt to the emerald green cilantro puree.


Thoroughly mix and serve alongside those Baked Potato Wedges.

Cilantro-Yogurt Dip

1cup cilantro* puree

2-2½ cups plain yogurt

½ tsp sea salt

Puree the cilantro in a blender or food processor and you could also put in a few tablespoons of your yogurt to the puree if it needs some help in breaking down. Take a cup of the puree and mix with the rest of the yogurt and salt. Enjoy the delicious green goodness!

*Note: The cilantro  can be substituted with other herbs of your preference such as mint, basil or parsley.

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