Browsing Showcase

Showcase: It’s a Blog Hop!


Today I’m co-hosting the Think Outside the Blog Hop!

What’s a blog hop, you ask? It’s a chance to find some amazing blogs, ideas and attitudes in one handy-dandy location. You like to cook (and eat)? We’ve got some delicious recipes. Is crafting your thing? Nose around… there are quite a few talented and crafty bloggers. And even if you just want to find out what’s on the minds of other bloggers… we’ve got anecdotes, opinions and different points of view a plenty.

So carry on to read the (simple) rules and link up with this fun and energetic blog hop! Let me know what you discover!

TOTB Badge


Raised By Culture


From the Kitchen of Mama Harris

The Eclectic Grab Bag

On Your Heels


 (Highlight, press CTRL+C to COPY)


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Plated + Served: Save-A-Step Gingerbread Skeletons


Run, run as fast as you can, you’re going to want to catch these Gingerbread Men!

Planning a Halloween or Day of the Dead Party? Here’s a super easy recipe I came up with for my friends at  Right@Home, the  bilingual website that’s got a witch’s cauldron full of ideas to celebrate the day… everything from  recipes,  cleaning and organizing,  to  decorating  and  crafts. They’ve even got great suggestions on how  you and your family can get the most out of these beautiful fall days.

What makes the  Save-A-Step Gingerbread Skeletons recipe so simple is the “secret” ingredient: boxed cake mix! Let the kids help decorate these little men with their favorite candy or sweet topping. Make them scary or BOO-tiful… but get creative!

For more recipes like this, sign up for Right@Home™ by  clicking here

Right@Home is an online destination for helpful cleaning and organizing tips, delicious recipes and coupons for SC Johnson home care products. 


Top Ten Ways To Save Money At The Grocery Store


Back to school has always meant back to reality… this year especially, because it sure doesn’t look like the economy is going to get better any time soon.

Mama’s family loves to eat… and eat well (I know, I brought that upon myself)… so I’ve got some tips on how to save a few bucks when you’re food shopping. If you are serious about cutting back on your grocery budget… keep reading.

photo by alBerto Trevino

1. STOP EATING OUT AND START COOKING MORE. I know a lot of you loath cooking. You’d rather clean the bathroom grout with a toothbrush than make dinner. But if you cook one dish every day (and I don’t mean oatmeal in the microwave), you’ll save money and probably have leftovers for another meal. Make protein-rich quinoa. Eat it hot one evening and as a salad the next day (or the day after). I know this is a reach, but on the weekends double up on something else that you are preparing. Roast two chickens or two top sirloin steaks. That way you’ll have extra for later in the week. If you do something like this every day, you’ll never be forced to make an entire meal from scratch.

2. SHOP YOUR KITCHEN. Before you go to the grocery store, shop in your pantry, refrigerator and freezer. Assess what you have and what you really need. Use the things that have been sitting there for a while. That bag of beans? Pull them out and start soaking them immediately. Those cans of diced tomatoes? Make a simple sauce for pasta. Frozen chicken? Thaw it for tomorrow’s dinner (hmm… maybe serve it with the tomato sauce and pasta).

3. MAKE LISTS. You’ve gone through your kitchen and you know what you need… so start a list. In fact, start two lists. Why two lists? Because you shouldn’t buy everything in one store. LIST 1 is for the grocery store, LIST 2 is for the big box discount store like Sam’s Club, Target or Costco. I actually keep these lists taped to one of my cabinets so everyone can add what we need (if you just used the last box of tissue… put it on the list!). I know it’s a pain in the rear to go from store to store, and sometimes it doesn’t make sense, depending on where you live. But IF it’s possible (and you aren’t just being lazy), try it out… you’ll save a lot of money.

  • List 1: Only food. Real food with one or two ingredients. Not processed food with 14 ingredients. Exception! Condiments, canned tomatoes, bags (not cans) of beans, frozen veggies and juice concentrate.
  • List 2: Non-perishables that you use (and use up) regularly: paper products (towels, plates, cups, napkins, tissues, toilet paper); storage products (re-sealable plastic bags, foil, plastic wrap, wax paper); cleaning items (dish detergent, fabric softener, floor cleaner, bathroom cleaner, kitchen cleaner). Perishables that you use so often they won’t go bad or rancid (cooking oils, sugar, coffee). Don’t buy those massive jars of dried herbs and spices… they have a short shelf life. Spice blends are usually loaded with salt or sugar, so beware of those, too. 

4. MEAL PLANS. These lists always encourage you to “plan your meals for a week.” For me, that’s always been a bunch of hooey… life gets in the way. But if you have at least two or three meals tentatively mapped out (even in your head), you can go to the store and buy exactly WHAT you need and not what you THINK you MIGHT need. You’ll also be less likely to make impulse purchases.

5. TO COUPON OR NOT TO COUPON? I’m all for clipping coupons and using them for the things that you really need. But most coupons are for processed food and crap you shouldn’t be eating anyway. When there is a coupon for, say, eggs or spinach, clip it and use it.

6. BUY IN SEASON. You know it’s foolish to buy a $6 dollar pint of blueberries in February (unless you live below the equator). Tomatoes bought in the dead of winter are going to taste exactly like that: The Dead of Winter. As tempting as those strawberries may look in January… they aren’t going to taste like they do in July. Don’t waste your money. Need a berry fix? Buy frozen.

7. SKIP THE PRE-COOKED, PRE-GRATED, PRE-PEELED. These are invariably more expensive and loaded with extra ingredients. Shredding your own cheese will take a little extra time, but it will save you money. Fruit that is peeled and packaged in those plastic clamshells is usually twice as expensive as the same items a few feet away that’ll just need a quick rinse when you get home.

8. EXAMINE YOUR SOUL. While you are shopping, think: Do I really need this or do I just want it? Are you just rewarding yourself? Sometimes we see things in the grocery store and we think, “Wow! If I buy this and that, I can make that great recipe I read about last week.” Except you know you won’t. Pull up your big boy pants and keep walking.

9. WATCH WHAT YOU DRINK. I’m talking about everything from bottled water, to juice boxes to that boxed wine you buy every week. The price of this stuff really hits home… not just in the wallet but environmentally, too (I should know… you should see my recycle bin).

10. SOMETHING YOU SHOULD DO, BUT I DON’T. These lists always tell you to look for the store brand or the generic because it costs a lot to market brand-name products (and you end up paying for it). Sometimes I buy the store brand, but sometimes I don’t. I can’t tell you why. Maybe I’ve always had a thing for Paul Newman (those eyes!), but it probably has more to do with knowing that a particular product tastes good and delivers consistent quality.

We all want what is best for our families. I would love to buy only organic and shop only at the chi-chi specialty markets that line-catch every fish and hand-harvest every carrot. Do what you can with the resources that are available to you… that’ll be the biggest reality check. In the long run, that kind of attitude will pay off huge for you and your family.


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Showcase: Foodapalooza


This weekend it’s Lollapalooza in Chicago. 90,000 people in Grant Park, hard by the lakefront in the heart of the city. For Mama… it’s Foodapalooza. One person set loose on some of the best festival food           a-n-y-w-h-e-r-e.

Well, what’d you expect? Outdoor venue, some of the city’s top chefs trying to outdo each other, it’s a wonder anyone bothers with the music at all.

Thankfully, Sistie and her pals helped me whittle down the food choices, which was no small feat. If I had attempted to do all the sampling they accomplished, you would have found me curled up under the Cold Play stage.

The favorite? A toss-up between Bonsoiree Wisconsin Cheese Curds with Rhubarb Romesco, Sola’s Kalua Pork with Banana Bread, Barbeque Sauce and Crispy Shallots and Jam’s Famous French Toast.
Bonsoiree Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curds with Rhubarb Romesco


Sola’s Kalua Pork with Banana Bread, BBQ Sauce & Crispy Shallots


Jam’s Famous French Toast


A close second and third: Blue 13’s Cactus Tostada and Frank ‘n’ Dawg’s Brunch Dog (a pork loin sausage, cobb smoked bacon, scrambled egg and maple mayo).

Blue 13 Cactus Tostada


Frank ‘n Dawg Brunch Dog

And that was just Friday. Two more days to go. By the time Foo Fighters finish playing Sunday night… well, don’t go looking too closely under the stage!

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I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: