Poking around Pinterest for a 4th of July dessert, I got a sugar overload. Patriotic sprinkles! Gobs of dyed frosting! When I saw these lovely cupcakes—not too sweet and garnished with blueberries—from Madison of Espresso and Cream, they felt like a breath of fresh air.
Madison graciously agreed to let me share the recipe with you all. So if you’re looking for a treat for your picnic or backyard barbecue, give these a try; they’re as easy to make as they are elegant.
For the cupcakes:
- 1 box Betty Crocker SuperMoist white cake mix
- 1 box (3.9 oz) instant vanilla pudding mix
- 1 cup sour cream
- ¾ cup vegetable or canola oil
- ½ cup water
- 4 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
For the frosting:
- ¼ cup sour cream
- ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) butter, softened
- 2½ cups powdered sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Milk (to thin if necessary)
For the garnish:
- Fresh blueberries
Heat oven to 350°F. Line 18 standard-sized muffin tins with paper baking liners in red, white and blue colors, if desired.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all the cake ingredients. Mix 2 minutes on medium speed until well combined and batter is smooth. Divide batter between cupcake liners. Bake 16 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Transfer cupcakes to a wire cooling rack and cool completely, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the frosting. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the sour cream and butter until smooth. Add in the powdered sugar and vanilla and beat until well combined. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons milk to thin the frosting as needed.
Frost cooled cupcakes with frosting. Top with fresh blueberries. Store leftover cupcakes in the refrigerator loosely covered with plastic wrap.
This 4th of July weekend is for barbecues, fireworks, and savings. Lots and lots of savings.
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It’s not every day you come across a free rotisserie chicken, but that’s exactly what signing up for Sam’s Club will get you—along with a $5 E-gift card, gourmet cupcakes, and more!
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Sears: $25 Off Lawn & Garden
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Here’s a round-up of some of our favorite deals—happening now!
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Sears: $35 Off $300+ Orders
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It’s the backyard barbecue, and the heat is on. Hungry family and friends alike are waiting to be fed. Time to grab a cocktail, put on your thinking cap, put your chef cap on over that thinking cap, and get down to Grilling 101.
Grilling is an American pastime, but a surprising number of people get the basics wrong. Below, you’ll find some tips to perfect your grilling game—and avoid the common mistakes you’re probably making right now.
Know your grill.
Every grill is different. Know your grill’s blueprint: where the cool, warm, and hot spots are, and specifically, the sections meant for indirect and direct heat. Use these spots to your advantage. You’re essentially creating an oven (indirect) and stove (direct) with your grill. Be mindful of what you’re grilling and the type of heat the protein requires.
For charcoal grills (no judgment here), don’t spread the coals evenly. Instead, create areas for direct heat by banking the coals, then evenly spread the remaining coals for food that requires indirect heat.
Clean your grill… really.
No one wants last week’s burnt chicken remnants charring into the side of tonight’s meal. Let’s keep it clean, fellow cooks.
First, preheat the grill before cleaning. This allows burnt bits to loosen up. After the grates have warmed up, use a wiry grill brush to scour the surface, brushing loose particles into the bottom —they’ll burn off later. Then, pour vegetable oil onto a towel and rub the grates to remove any particles. This also lubricates the grates for a fairly nonstick finish.
Give meat a rest.
Oh, the Great Grill Grapple: do you let the meat reach room temperature before grilling, or toss cold meat directly onto the grill? The better option is to take your protein out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for up to 30 minutes. This allows the muscle to relax and expand to absorb juices and heat evenly.
If you’re like me, you love citrus with poultry and fish dishes. Problem is, the acid in citrus effectively cooks the protein (think ceviche). Instead of using a citrus marinade on fish, top off the completed fish with the citrus or add while it’s already cooking. Chicken is less susceptible to this effect, but don’t marinate in citrus for more than one or two hours.
And please—don’t baste with your marinade. Raw meat has been sitting in there, for Pete’s sake, and that kind of bacteria is not an acceptable addition to any dish. Instead, baste with a new batch of sauce, gravy, or citrus. The flavor will be better at the end.
Come prepared, Grill Master.
Every respectable griller needs the right tools and setup. You don’t have to go crazy, but using regular kitchen tools (like plastic spatulas or too-short tongs) can be dangerous. Stock up on the following essentials:
Mesh grilling basket for vegetables
Metal tongs, including at least one pair of long tongs
Plate for raw meat
Plate for cooked meat
Offbeat apron optional.
Know where to put everything.
This goes back to tip #1. At this point, you know where the direct and indirect heat is coming from, so start there. Use direct heat for food you want to sear or cook quickly, such as beef or shrimp. Place chicken over indirect heat so it cooks through evenly.
Each heat section should contain food that needs to be cooked for the same amount of time. Kebabs make this tricky, so be sure to separate the protein from the vegetables and fruit, or the poultry and fish from the beef.
Decide: Lid or no lid?
As a general rule, leave the lid open for quick-cooking foods to get the char and direct heat, and close the lid when you’re working with a protein that needs more time in indirect heat.
Pull the meat off just before it’s done.
“Carryover cooking” means the meat’s internal temperature will rise 5 to 10 degrees more after the meat comes off the grill. Cover the meat with tin foil to trap the heat, then let it rest for 10 minutes. This will also allow the juices to redistribute and reabsorb. Experiment based on your preference for tenderness and get a good thermometer to know exactly when to take the meat off.
Embrace “frilling” (faux grilling).
Sometimes the weather isn’t conducive for outdoor grilling. If you still want to conquer that grilled aesthetic, try using smoky spices and sauces instead of oils. Or, to turn the knob up a notch, invest in a grilling pan for the charred grill lines (bonus: easy clean-up!). Our favorites: the Calphalon pre-seasoned cast iron reversible grill and griddle and the All-Clad grill pan.
Save a hefty $75 off your purchase of $350 or more when you apply this Saks Fifth Avenue promo code at checkout. Find full details on the sale, including designer exclusions, on the Saks Fifth Avenue website. The deal ends today, 6/24.
How you spend that $350 is up to you, whether you’re in the mood for a designer dress, wardrobe updates for the family, or chic new area rug.
Here’s a few coupons and promo codes to brighten up your work week.
Brookstone: 25% Off $99+ Order
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Amazon: Free 30-Day Trial Of Amazon Prime
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Banana Republic: Extra 40% Off Sale Styles
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Forever 21: $10 Off $50+ Order
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Maxi skirts and vintage-style swimsuits are just a few of the items you can save on with this promo code from LOFT.
Tying the knot usually means untying the bows of wedding gifts, whether you asked for them or not. As wonderful as this is, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed—or, sometimes, to lose sight of common decency. Keep your nuptial sanity with these tips.
1. Discuss what you actually want.
When building your wedding registry, you’ll come across some household items you never even dreamed of owning. Tempered glass wine decanter? Stainless steel cookie press? Waffle maker with free wi-fi? You might be thinking: all married couples must have these. Should I get them too?
Don’t be fooled. The reality is this—stores will merchandise certain products in their wedding registry section because these products provide higher margins. If you registered for everything stores suggest, your living quarters would become unnecessarily cluttered, like a pawn shop.
Instead, you and your spouse-to-be should discuss things you actually want for your everyday life. Cooking pans don’t work as well as they used to? Consider adding new ones to your registry. Buy garlic in a jar? Leave out the garlic press. Have a lamp set bought in the past year? Consider skipping this as well.
2. Decide how much is too much.
If you’re like me, you’re very uncomfortable asking others to buy you gifts. It just doesn’t seem right, and goes against every moral fiber of your being. The truth is this—by creating a wedding gift registry, you provide your guests a better experience. They no longer have to guess what you want, and a complete registry provides them several purchase options.
In short, it’s completely okay to fill up your registry with items until it runneth over. Just make sure you’re only registering for the stuff you want, as we discussed in tip #1.
3. Be practical.
A wedding is a symbolic ceremony of new life. Your guests help celebrate this new life by gifting practical items you two can use again and again.
Now, I’m not here to judge which items you classify as practical. However, here are some items you should and should not include in your registry.
Should: dining sets, glassware, cookware, bathroom accessories, linens, luggage, small furniture items
Should not: TVs, smartphones, jewelry, clothing, sectional couches, memory foam mattresses, Beyonce concert tickets
4. Don’t list your registry on your invitations.
This is kind of silly, but it’s worth noting. When you craft your wedding invitations, it’s proper etiquette to not list registry information on them. Others may perceive this as a request for gifts, which can be considered rude. Guests typically find out your registry information by word-of-mouth, or on your wedding website.
To recap: your guests want to and will give you gifts for your wedding. Setting up a gift registry provides them with a better gift-giving experience. It’s okay to list your registry information on your wedding website. However, it’s poor taste to include this information on your wedding invitations. Got it? Good.
5. Write gracious thank-you notes.
Can’t stress this enough. Keep a record of your wedding gifts as you open them. The week after your honeymoon, pick up some thank-you cards. Set aside some time each night to write five notes. As a rule, your cards should reach your guests no later than one month after your wedding.
Don’t worry about sounding too repetitive. The simple fact that you took the time to handwrite a thank-you card goes a long way in today’s digital age of email and texting. Your guests will appreciate this.
Hosting a wedding this season? Check out our wedding deals page for ideas on gift registries and much more.
Today’s guest post is by Jemma C. and Carol M.
Super Frugal Stephanie, www.superfrugalstephanie.com
Super Frugal Stephanie is all about reviewing family products and sharing amazing giveaways. She especially enjoys writing reviews for great holiday gifts for the family, from games to movies and enticing boxes of candy. Plus if you’re looking to save on groceries, be sure to check out her printable coupons for deals on everyday products.
The Knit Wit by Shair, www.theknitwitbyshair.com
You’re going to love this blog if you’ve picked up knitting as a hobby. The Knit Wit by Shair is written by a mom of three boys with a passion for all things crafty, knitting in particular. She posts a wide variety of creative knitting patterns for scarves, hats, socks and even dishcloths. Not only does her crafting give us inspiration for new artistic projects, but it also goes towards a great cause. Shair’s Let’s Cap Cancer Campaign is dedicated to making caps for women undergoing chemo.
Debt Roundup, www.debtroundup.com
Debt Roundup explains valuable tips and tricks to eliminating the dreadful debt that many of us know all too well. Personal Finance Blogger Grayson Bell had been fighting debt for four years, but has since paid it off entirely in addition to growing his own wealth. Gary provides tools and websites that helped him become debt free, as well as different financial calculators he used for budgets, savings goals and paying off credit cards. Oh, and he also includes some awesome coupons.
Eyes on the Dollar, www.eyesonthedollar.com
Eyes on the Dollar tells the journey of an optometrist named Kim who is on a mission to pay off debt, invest in the future, and achieve 20/20 financial vision. She discusses how she and her family got in debt, the money mistakes she made in her 20’s, and what it costs to travel to different destinations, to name a few topics. There’s a lot to learn from Kim, so stop by her page when you’re in need of some good financial advice.
Empowered Shopper, www.empoweredshopper.com
Empowered Shopper shares a number of fantastic deals, most notably in finance and technology. You’ll find reviews of software that can track your finances, posts about smartphones that are on sale, various coupons for household items, and more. The writer is also a huge fan of Amazon Prime (who isn’t!?), so a lot of the products featured on the site can be bought there at a discounted price.
Just Us Girls, http://www.justusgirlsblog.com/
Just Us Girls has free giveaways, product reviews, and gift ideas for holidays. Most of the products reviewed are personal care and skin care variety, with great information on skin sensitivities, product scents, and other nuances. There are also do-it-yourself ideas to assist for small projects. Take a special look at this teacher appreciation gift DIY project for flowers potted in a cute “Thanks for Helping Me Grow!” pot.
Shopping Spout, http://www.shoppingspout.com/
Coupon clippers, do you know about this site? Shopping Spout has hundreds of thousands of active coupons. Deals include online savings for eyewear, skin care, clothing, shoes, and electronics. Stop letting free money and free shipping pass you by, especially on items you’re already planning on purchasing. Save your cash for a rainy day, upcoming purchase, or more shopping.
Diary of a Domestic Goddess, http://goddessinthehouse.com/
Domestic disputes are a fact of life. Kids get bored easily, and the only one who can solve the problem is Mom, right? Well, this blog by Leah is a blessing for mothers. She’s a fountain of savvy advice, craft ideas, and even product reviews. She looks at all aspects of the family dynamics and comes up with creative solutions. Kids arguing and screaming, for instance? Leah’s got instructions for a “yelling jar” (made from a mason jar) to reduce the noise and help the family save for a trip or outing. She’s a great resource for product reviews, quick recipes, essential oil ideas, gift ideas, and travel planning.
Parents, bookmark this blog, it will come in handy. Need staycation ideas for your kids? Creative gift ideas or assistance with small do-it-yourself projects? Sarah Titus does not disappoint. She can show you great ways to entertain your kids (whether they’re toddlers or tweens), help you whip up natural healthy vanilla extract to make yummy foods, and give simple solutions to cut the utility bills. The site also has a stockpile of quick, easy, nutritious recipes, as well as treats like 5 ingredient lemon white chocolate cake mix cookies.
Dad of Divas, http://www.dadofdivas.com/
Dad of Divas is the ultimate site for men new to fatherhood—or living in a house full of girls. Dad of Divas gives us his take on what’s really important in his household. Who says men can’t cook? Not this dad—check out his juicer reviews and recaps of juicing’s healthy benefits. He even gives the inside scoop with secrets like what dads really want for Father’s day! Other highlights include regular spotlights on great dads and their advice to readers.
Our Homemade Life, http://www.ourhomemadelife.com/
Amanda shares secrets and cyber-finds to make life a little easier. Her focus is on green living: eating green, cleaning green, and raising green children. Find out how to reduce the influence of GMOs in your diet, avoid potentially toxic products, and make eco-friendly, cost-conscious products. As a home-schooling mom, Amanda gives great examples of how to set up and approach home schooling. She even researches and post travel ideas for families like where to go, how to save money. and what to bring to keep kids busy en route and during the trip.