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December 2009

More Goodness from Real Simple Magazine

If you are a regular reader of The Cheap Gourmet blog, then you probably already know that the December Giveaway is a One Year subscription to Real Simple magazine. If you aren't familiar with Real Simple, check out their website at www.RealSimple.com

All that is required to gain an entry for the giveaway is to submit a comment on the blog. One winner will be selected at random on December 31st. So, leave a comment and check back on Jan. 4th to see if you are the winner. The winner will also be notified via email in order to obtain your mailing address.

The December issue of Real Simple is packed with great holiday gift ideas, entertaining ideas and plenty of tasty recipes. Below is a snippet of what you will find in the magazine and on the Real Simple website.

10 Ideas for Sugar Cookie Dough: There’s no such thing as too many cookies during the holidays: from entertaining to gift-giving, these edible treats are a winter essential.  Rather than spending hours assembling several different recipes, why not use the same basic dough “dressed up” in different ways? The December issue of Real Simple has ten totally different, delectable variations for sugar cookies that originate from one easy recipe. Add dried cherries and sliced almonds for delicious drop cookies; shape the dough into twists and dust with coarse sanding sugar for sparkling sugar twists; create jam thumbprint cookies with your favorite fruit preserves and more.

Hors d’Oeuvres Made Easy: Holiday entertaining and finger-food often go hand in hand; the December issue of Real Simple shows you how to make those fussy-looking snacks without all the fuss. We provide you with 11 appetizing, inventive recipes – all of which can be made in advance – that are sure to delight guests with even the choosiest of palates. Sophisticated bites like Red Pepper and Goat Cheese Crisps with Radicchio, Prosciutto Crostini with Lemony Fennel Slaw, and Carmelized Onion Tarts with Apples will make your holiday gathering seem extra fancy (without all the work.) Best of all, most of our recipes have twenty minutes or less of hands-on time.

10 Things I Love About Real Simple Magazine

This month's giveaway is a one-year subscription to Real Simple magazine. Real Simple is one of my favorite publications because it truly does simplify my life. In the spirit of December countdown, I would like to share 10 Things I Love About Real Simple magazine:

10: Home and Organizing: New Uses for Old Things ~ Got rubber bands? Real Simple shows you how to use them to decorate Easter Eggs, open jars, bring order to your dishwasher or wrap a gift.  Have an old Twister game mat lying around? Use it as a tablecloth for a children's party (although grown-ups like it too!). Tired of searching for hair barrettes, scrunchies and ponytail ties? Use a… (click here for the answer).

9. Green Living: This section of Real Simple shows you how to recycle and reuse anything. Did you know you can use plastic grocery bags as knee pads, hand protectors, paint brush preservers, and rain hats? Discover more recycling tips and start the New Year off by being green!

8. How to Pack a Suitcase: Planning to travel during the holiday season? If so, you don't want to miss this great video on packing your suitcase. Learn the secrets of packing light and avoid expensive luggage fees!

7. Beauty and Fashion: Ever wonder what ingredients are in your skincare products? Real Simple provides a comprehensive list to help you determine what to look for and what to avoid.

6. Health and Nutrition: Ready to shed those extra pounds? Real Simple provides 20 Little Ways to Drop Pounds, which includes smart tips for taking off and keeping off unwanted baggage.

5. Mind and Mood: Do you worry too much? Are you stressed out? Need more energy? Too wound up? Real Simple provides simple techniques to stay calm, become energized and stop worrying, along with 29 low-cost, make-you-smile ideas.

4. Money: If you're like most people, you're looking for ways to slash expenses. Real Simple shows you How to Save $5,000 in 2010 without cutting back on essentials.

3. Holidays and Entertaining: Need help planning a party? Real Simple has you covered. From weddings to birthdays and baking to buying gifts, you'll find everything you need to make every occasion special.

2. Food and Recipes: Looking for decorative tabletop ideas? Real Simple provides a gallery of 26 Beautiful Table Settings guaranteed to make your guests feel special and turn you into a decorating goddess.

1. Food and Recipes – It only makes sense that my favorite section is Recipes! This year I plan to focus more on healthy foods that provide fewer calories but offer a burst of flavor. Have you ever noticed that a lot of healthy foods taste like cardboard? Well, no more! Real Simple offers an entire section dedicated to Healthy Meals. Start the New Year off in the right direction by including these tasty, yet healthy, recipes into your weekly meal planning.

Learn more about Real Simple magazine at www.RealSimple.com. Order a subscription for yourself and a friend. And, while you're there be certain to subscribe to Real Simple newsletters to receive Weekly Tips, Daily Finds, Daily Thought and Daily Recipes.

Baked Mahi Mahi Dinner for Two for Less Than $12

Baked Mahi Mahi is one of my favorite fish. I could eat mahi every day and never get tired of it. There are hundreds of ways to prepare it – baked, broiled, grilled, blackened, pan fried. Mahi mahi is also great for making fish tacos. I always pick up extra so I can have leftovers for mahi mahi tacos.

Baked mahi mahi is a great holiday meal. I plan to serve a mahi dinner for friends later next week and wanted to develop a festive salsa. While mahi tastes great on its own, fruit or veggie salsas compliment and accentuate the flavor.

The experimental dinner turned out so well that I had to share it with readers of The Cheap Gourmet blog. The salsa was a huge hit with my husband. Considering he is primarily a meat-and-potato kind of guy, it's not always easy to get overly creative in the kitchen. If he loves something, I know it is really, really good.

Living in Florida gives me year-round access to mahi mahi. If you are unable to find Mahi Mahi in your area, substitute with Wahoo, Tilapia, Amberjack or Chilean Sea Bass. The recommended serving of fish is 4 to 6 ounces. One pound will serve four people.

The following recipes will provide a baked mahi mahi dinner for two for less than $12. As much as I hate to admit it, I cheated and used canned green beans. Although I prefer fresh green beans, the selection at the store was pretty sad looking and I opted for the canned variety.


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Serves: 2
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Marinade Time: 30 minutes


½ Cucumber, finely diced
1 medium Tomato, seeds removed and finely diced
1/8 cup Red Onion, finely diced
2 cloves Garlic, finely diced
½ small Jalapeno Pepper, seeds removed and finely diced
5-6 sprigs fresh Cilantro, stems removed and loosely chopped
Juice of 1 Lime
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, mix well, cover and place in refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes.


Serves 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Bake Time: 30 minutes


2 medium white Potatoes, sliced
¼ White Onion, sliced
2 cloves Garlic, sliced
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Mrs. Dash Seasoning, to taste


These potatoes are baked in a foil pocket. Prepare two 18-inch sheets of foil and place ingredients on top of one another. Pull sides together and create a flap that can be sealed by folding excess foil. Fold ends to create a seal.

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Wash potatoes and dry. Slice into ¼-inch slices. Place potato slices in the center of each foil.
3. Thinly slice onions and garlic and place on top of potatoes.
4. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each mound of potatoes, onions and garlic.
5. Sprinkle with Mrs. Dash seasoning.
6. Wrap foil and place in oven. Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Remove from oven and carefully unwrap. Potato pockets will be steamy when opened, so keep fingers away from direct heat.
8. Transfer potatoes to serving bowl or place on individual plates.
Potato pockets



Serves 2
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 10-12 minutes


2 4 to 6-ounce Mahi Mahi fish fillets
¼ cup Dale's Seasoning Reduced Sodium


1. Wash mahi fillets under cold water and pat dry with paper towel.
2. Add Dale's Seasoning to baking dish.
3. Place mahi mahi fillets, meat side down into baking dish and let marinate for 20 minutes. If the skin has been removed, flip mahi fillets after 10 minutes so each side soaks up marinade.
4. Place mahi mahi fillets in oven (skin side down) during the last 10 to 12 minutes of baking potato pockets.
5. Mahi fillets are ready when the meat is flakey and internal temperature is 145 degrees. Fish should not be cooked beyond 160 degrees, as it will become dry and chewy.
6. Remove mahi fillets from oven and transfer to individual plates.
7. Serve with festive holiday salsa on the side or placed on top of the mahi fillet.


Getting the Timing Right

The reason I am sharing this is because I did NOT get the timing right and was scrambling to make the salsa at the last minute. The festive holiday salsa can be made a day ahead if desired. The longer ingredients have to marinate, the more flavor you will achieve. At minimum, the salsa should marinate for 30 minutes.

1. Prepare festive holiday salsa.
2. Prepare mahi mahi fillets and let marinate in refrigerator for at least 20 minutes, but no longer than one hour.
3. Prepare potato pockets.
4. Prepare green beans. If using fresh green beans, allow ample time to clean, snap and cook. Fresh green beans can be steamed or grilled. Steaming takes between 15 and 18 minutes, while grilling takes about 8 to 10 minutes. Canned green beans only require 5 minutes to cook.
Other Mahi Mahi Recipes You Might Like

Gourmet Spicy Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos

Baked Mahi Mahi Fish Recipe

Legal Sea Foods

Super Easy Chip and Veggie Dip

The following Super Easy Chip and Veggie Dip recipe has been a family holiday favorite for as long as I can remember. My sister created this delightful dip about 30 years ago. It was a huge hit the day she served it with a bowl of chips and a veggie tray. It has become the one and only chip and veggie dip served at our family gatherings because nothing else compares to the flavor.

Super Easy Chip and Veggie Dip consists of five ingredients. The secret to this dip is a spice called Beau Monde Seasoning. Manufactured by Spice Islands, Beau Monde can be a little difficult to find, but some grocery stores do carry it.

I know Publix and Kroger are two grocers who carry the Spice Islands brand, as do some health food stores. Otherwise, you might have to order it directly from the website at www.SpiceIslands.com. Online the cost is $5.15 and, in my opinion, is worth every penny!

Beau Monde seasoning is exceptionally versatile. It is fabulous with chicken, fish, beef, potatoes, vegetables and of course, dip!

Super easy chip and veggie dip is supposed to be relatively thick. It can be thinned out by using additional milk. When using the dip with chips, add extra milk to make the dip easier to scoop. When using the dip for veggies, use less milk. The dip should have a smooth creamy consistency that can be stirred with a spoon, but not so thin that is slides off the spoon.


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Serves: 8
Prep Time: 15 minutes


1 8-ounce package Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened
1-1/2 teaspoons Beau Monde Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt (or 1 teaspoon Table Salt)
2 - 3 Tablespoons Whole Milk or Half-and-Half (can substitute soy, almond or rice milk if desired)
1/3 cup White Onion, minced


1. Place cream cheese, beau monde seasoning, and salt in a small mixing bowl.
2. Using a hand mixer, beat ingredients together, adding 1 tablespoon of milk at a time until dip achieves desired consistency.
3. Add in minced white onion and stir by hand to incorporate.
4. Allow to chill for at least one hour before serving.
5. Serve with potato chips, corn chips or fresh vegetables including baby carrots, cucumber slices, radishes, celery sticks, broccoli or cauliflower florets, cherry tomatoes, black or green olives.



Enter to win a one year subscription to Real Simple magazine.

Click here for details of The Cheap Gourmet December Giveaway.

Thank you for shopping with our affiliates. The Cheap Gourmet earns commissions when visitors purchase from our carefully selected merchants. Affiliate earnings help offset business expenses and allow us to continue providing free recipes, giveaways, product deals and other fun stuff!

Homemade Corn Chip Meatballs with Spaghetti Recipe

The following homemade corn chip meatballs with spaghetti recipe occurred as a fluke. It wasn't until after I assembled my regular meatball ingredients that I realized I had no bread crumbs in the cupboard. As I searched for a substitute, I noticed a container of corn chips stashed at the back of the pantry.

I thought, what the heck… why not grind the corn chips in a food processor and improvise? The corn chips I used were pretty stale, which may or may not be the key to the recipe. I've yet to try these meatballs using fresh corn chips.

The meatballs were quite tasty, with just a hint of corn chip flavor. I imagine kids would really like these meatballs. You could easily substitute ground beef with ground turkey, chicken or pork, or use half pork and half ground beef. Feel free to experiment and create your own version of corn chip meatballs!

Homemade Corn Chip Meatballs with Spaghetti Recipe

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Serves: 4 (16 meatballs)
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 10-12 minutes

1 pound lean Ground Beef
¼ cup Red Onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Green Pepper, finely chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup Corn Chips, finely ground
2 teaspoons dried Oregano
1 teaspoon dried Basil
½ teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
1 Egg
Salt and Pepper, to taste
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
8 ounces shredded Mozzarella Cheese, optional



1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients, expect olive oil and mix with hands to incorporate all ingredients.
2. Using a cookie dough scoop, or hands, make 16 one-ounce meatballs.
3. Add olive oil to 12-inch skillet and heat over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to medium and gently place meatballs in skillet and cover with a lid.
5. Cook meatballs for 2-3 minutes per side.
6. Cook each side of meatballs for 1 minute.
7. Line a plate with paper towels and transfer meatballs to plate to absorb excess oil.
8. Serve on top of cooked spaghetti and add your favorite sauce.
9. Top with mozzarella cheese, if desired.


Side Note: Cook spaghetti according to package directions. I used regular spaghetti, which takes 10-12 minutes to cook. Start water prior to cooking meatballs. Once it comes to a rapid boil, add spaghetti and stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Drain in a colander and serve immediately.

This recipe pairs well with garlic bread or garlic toast and a fresh salad.

Looking for homemade pasta sauce recipes? Check out my Yahoo! Contributor Network article ~ Homemade Sauces: Three Easy-to-Prepare Pasta Sauces


Thank you for shopping with our affiliates. The Cheap Gourmet earns commissions when visitors purchase from our carefully selected merchants. Affiliate earnings help offset business expenses and allow us to continue providing free recipes, giveaways, product deals and other fun stuff!

Five Resources for Holiday Gifts Under $20

'Tis the season for holiday shopping! Today, I'd like to share some of my favorite resources for holiday gifts under $20. There is no reason to break the bank or rack up credit card debt. The season should be jolly, not expensive! I think you will enjoy these wonderful holiday gift ideas and wish you a happy shopping adventure!

Learn more about each company and the gifts they offer by clicking on the banner located under descriptions. Each will open into a new browser; allowing you to comparison shop and locate the best deals for everyone on your holiday gift list.

Five Resources for Holiday Gifts Under $20

Adagio Teas and accessories have been featured on HGTV's "I Want That", Food and Wine Magazine, Epicurious, Washington Post, Prevention and Time Magazine. Tea selections include: Black, Flavored, Chai, Oolong, White, Green, Herbal, Rooibos, Decaf, Blooms, Blends and Iced.

Adagio offers a wide range of unique gifts for any occasion. Popular holiday gifts under $20 include: IngenuiTEA; an easy-to-use teapot that makes brewing loose tea effortless, priced at $19 and the Holiday Teas sampler set of six one-ounce tins of flavored loose teas including: candy apple, candy cane, chestnut, cranberry, gingerbread and pumpkin spice, priced at $11.

Free Wrapping

Ghiradelli Chocolate has been offering gourmet chocolates to Americans for more than 150 years. Ghiradelli has created a "12 Days of Christmas" shopping guide, with 8 of the 12 gifts priced under $20.

Under $20 selections include: 2-pack Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas Squares Gift Pack;  4-pack Premium Ghiradelli Hot Cocoa; 2-pack Limited Edition Peppermint Bark Squares Chocolates; 2-pack Limited Edition Chocolate Pecan Squares Chocolates; 5-pack Limited Edition Milk and Caramel Latte Prestige Bar; 5-pack Limited Edition Peppermint Bark Prestige Bar; and 2-pack Limited Edition Holiday Assortment Chocolate Squares.

Ghirardelli Chocolate Holiday Gifts

Mrs. Beasley's is known as "Hollywood's Favorite Bakery" and offers a wide selection of decadently unique gourmet goodies. Choose from eleven holiday gifts under $20 including: five varieties of chocolate coated apples (my personal fav is the Snowball Caramel Apple), Rum Raisin Cake, Mrs. Beasley's Holiday Cake, and Holiday Cookies, Goodies and Nuts.

I love Mrs. Beasley's gifts and could easily spend a small fortune, but their gifts are unique and are perfect for those hard-to-buy-for people. They also carry an excellent line of corporate gifts including towers, gift baskets, corporate logo and photo cookies.

Starbucks Store – Everybody loves Starbucks products and you'll find plenty of fresh, fun holiday gifts under $20 at the Starbucks Store. One of my favorites is the "Wish Kit Gift Set" which includes six 1-ounce packages of White Holland Mints, six Wish cards, and six Treat boxes. These are perfect for passing out to co-workers, neighbors, postal carriers, and stocking stuffers.

Other Starbucks gifts under $20 include Tea Sampler Gift Box by Tazo Tea, Powdered Cocoa Trio, Coffee Mug gift box with Starbucks logo mug, coffee sample and cookie, Coffee and Treats Gift Pack, and Caramel Macchiato Kit.

Superior Nut Store has more holiday gifts under $20 than you can shake a stick at. Discover a whole new world of chocolate covered nuts, nuts and mixed nuts gift tins, chocolate covered fruits, dried fruits, almond bark, nut butters, gummy bears and much, much more.

Superior Nut Store is a great year-round resource for gifts and household items. Many products are available in bulk and perfect for neighborhood food co-op's. Roasted nuts are certified Kosher and every product is backed by a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.


The Cheap Gourmet November Winner and December Giveaway

The Cheap Gourmet is pleased to announce Roxanne of NewSmyrnaBeachMom.com as the winner of the November Giveaway. Roxanne has won the Holiday Greeting Card Gift Pack from DogCaptionsCards.com. Congratulations Roxanne! Please check your email account for information about how to receive your gift and thank you for being a loyal fan of The Cheap Gourmet Blog!

Next, I'm excited to announce our December giveaway. This month, Real Simple magazine, a division of Time, Inc. Lifestyle Group is generously offering a one-year subscription to their amazing magazine.

I received a complimentary copy of the December issue and let me tell you, this magazine is packed with holiday gift ideas, health and beauty tips, fashion and party accessories, holiday decorating ideas, quick-and-easy recipes, and tons of money-saving coupons from a wide range of popular stores and manufacturers.

 Here are just a few items you'll find in the December issue of Real Simple magazine:

Real-simple-magazine-december-2009 * 50 Gifts Under $50, plus stocking stuffers under $15 and inspired ideas for homemade presents

* 10 Sweet (and quick) Holiday Cookie Recipes

* No-nonsense Strategies for Better Winter Skin

*Easy Make-Ahead Hors d'Oeuvres

*How to Make Your Favorite Clothes Last Longer

* How to Save on Seasonal Decorations and Avoid Holiday–Air-travel Charges

*Party Accessories: 17 Dazzling Finds for $90 or under

* Happy Wrapping: 21 Inventive Ideas to Festoon your Presents

In sticking with the theme of Real Simple, the only eligibility requirements for The Cheap Gourmet December Giveaway is to leave a comment on any blog post. This giveaway is open to residents within the continental U.S. One winner will be selected at random on January 1, 2010. This prize is provided directly through the sponsor.

I encourage you to grab a copy of the December issue of Real Simple magazine. Not only will you find great gift ideas and deals, you will discover a plethora of unique vendors offerings exceptionally unique gifts. Real Simple is an fabulous gift idea; particularly for those on your list who are hard to buy for.

Learn more about Real Simple magazine by visiting their website at www.RealSimple.com. Take advantage of the Special 2-for-1 Holiday Offer. Buy one subscription and receive a second subscription for free!

Please support our sponsor whose generosity allows The Cheap Gourmet to provide exciting and exclusive giveaways to our readers.

Good Luck in December Giveaway and have a wonderful, love-filled holiday season!