28 October 2013

Hot Cocoa with Nescafe Clasico Instant Coffee and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha

#shop #loveyourcup #cbias nescafe clasico instant coffee and coffeemate peppermint mocha creamer
After Thanksgiving, my family and I usually gather in the kitchen to bake up a large batch of biscochos. It's a lovely segue into the Christmas season, baking dozens upon dozens of spicy cookies to give as gifts for family and friends (and to keep for ourselves). Since the process takes a few hours, we like to make mugs of hot cocoa and play Christmas music. Hot cocoa, to me, signifies the transition from fall to winter, and makes me feel all warm and nostalgic. When I got the news that I'd be trying Nescafe Clasico and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha creamer, I knew I wanted to incorporate the two of them into a cup of hot cocoa.

#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffeemate Peppermint Mocha
I typically keep instant espresso powder on hand for baking and occasionally adding to beverages, though I've also used instant coffee packets. The Nescafe Clasico instant coffee powder doesn't smell as overpoweringly strong as store brands I've tried, so I figured it wouldn't taste too harsh in the hot cocoa, but rather would compliment the cocoa and the mocha flavors in the Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha creamer. It wasn't too granular, either, making it easy to dissolve in hot liquids.

Coffee-Mate liquid creamers are my favorite, especially the natural liquid creamers. But for today, I purchased the Peppermint Mocha flavor, a perfect holiday flavor. It's a lot easier to add a tablespoon of this to my cocoa than it is waiting for a candy cane to melt! I tasted a little bit on its own and it has a pleasing peppermint flavor with a mocha (chocolate-coffee) after note. It's neither too strong, nor too artificial of a taste. I might even add a little drop to my morning espressos! While it's not very sweet, I reduce the sugar I add to compensate.

#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffeemate Peppermint Mocha
#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha creamer
Back to the hot cocoa! I had initially meant to make a batch of instant hot cocoa mix, something my mom would make every year for the winter months, but I forgot the powdered milk. Not one to let forgotten ingredients stand in my way, I resorted to an easy hot cocoa recipe I found from Allrecipes.com. I scaled it down from 4 servings to 1 using their nifty "adjust recipe" feature.

For one cup of hot cocoa, you will need cocoa powder (use the best you can find!), instant coffee (obviously, I used Nescafe Clasico), granulated sugar, and a pinch of salt.

#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha
The cocoa powder and instant coffee slurry is then brought to a very gentle boil and cooked for two minutes in a small pot. This helps the cocoa powder and coffee granules "bloom", releasing their flavors.

#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha
Milk is poured in while whisking to incorporate. It'll take a little bit of whisking for the two to be completely combined. Then, the hot cocoa is heated for another two minutes, or just until the milk is hot.

#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha
#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha
In place of the half & half the recipe says to add at the end, producing a creamy cup of hot cocoa, I substituted a tablespoon of Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha liquid creamer. Adding it at the end brings the hot cocoa down to a suitable drinking temperature, according to the recipe.

#loveyourcup #shop #cbias Nescafe Clasico and Coffee-Mate Peppermint Mocha
I topped my hot cocoa with milk foam, though whipped cream would be a good choice, too. Hopefully when I go back home in a few weeks to visit, we can bake some biscochos and sip hot cocoa!

If you've made it this far, please click on over to Facebook to vote for my chocolate chip cookies in the Fonseca BIN 27 #CookieRumble contest! If the link doesn't work, look for the chocolate chip cookies by Christine in Fair Lawn.
Click This Link to Vote!


25 October 2013

Army Ten Miler Weekend & Race Report

metal sculpture Arlington
You'd never have guessed, since I probably didn't mention it on this here blog, but I spent last weekend in D.C. with Alex for the Army Ten Miler. I'm not sure what got into my head when I registered for such a large race back in May, especially since my running was sporadic at best, though I figured I'd get it together in time.

Well, that didn't happen, so here I was, in D.C., with a ten mile race (let's be real, at this point, it was more of a long run than a race) looming in the horizon, and me not having run once the 2-3 weeks prior. I'm a terrible runner.

My goal was just to hobble along at a slow, slow pace. The B goal was to finish in the top 15k in order to snag one of the 15k free Army Ten Miler hats being given away at the finish.

We actually stayed in downtown Arlington, though I think it was really called Rosslyn. I loved this little downtown area, too! There were many places to eat and a grocery store within walking distance, and the metro stop was a mere half mile downhill walk from the hotel. We got into town late Friday, so Saturday was the first real day to see the area. I walked to McDonald's to get a sausage egg mcmuffin combo, and Alex went to run on the really great running path that goes through VA/DC that I have yet to experience. Priorities.

Before lunch (I think), we took the subway to the Armory where the expo was being held. Word to the wise: When registering for this race, it's rather imperative to include a recent race time rather than a projected finish time. Even my most recent, slowest race would have put me in a higher corral than I originally was in (purple, i.e., the very last corral). I managed to turn my bib in for a higher corral (white), but it was still further back than I probably would have been. But that didn't bother me too much, I mostly didn't want to wait around for half an hour after the start of the race to actually begin running.

pre-race breakfast; gatorade g chews; instant oatmeal; 5 hour energy
After the expo, we went to the grocery store (Safeway) to pick up some things. We purchased a Mexican Coke, Pepsi, and Fanta, a four-pack of Izze, and race day food. For my meal, I chose my winning combo of instant oatmeal, Gatorade G-Chews, and 5-Hour Energy. The Clif bar was not mine.

Before dinner, we went to watch airplanes land and take off.

Now we get to dinner time. I found a little pizza place on Google Maps that was about less than a quarter mile from our hotel. The pizza is thin crust and cooked in a brick oven, and cannot, BY ANY MEANS, be sliced into 8 slices. FOUR SLICES ONLY.

I don't know, it was a sign posted to warn the employees.

Moving on. Alex chose a sauceless pizza with brie and smoked salmon. For whatever reason, as at first I meant to order a normal pizza, I chose the pizza with brie (yum!), arugula (odd choice, but I could take it off), and... carpaccio (you know, that thinly sliced raw beef thing). I have always wanted to try carpaccio, and you're probably wondering why on earth I chose to try it for the first time the day before the race. I don't have a good answer to that.

The pizza arrives at the table and upon gazing at the fleshy mass of meat that tops my pizza, I immediately regret my choice. I don't admit it, even when Alex asks me how it is and I reply with, "Um." By the second slice, I cannot contain my disgust.

eating pizza
Alex thought it was amusing, so he took a picture.

I know I'm painting a bad picture here and I feel I need to clarify. The pizza was actually really good. The brick oven-cooked crust was amazing, brie tastes wonderful on a pizza (though my disgust of the carpaccio was ruining it), though arugula should not be on a pizza since it gets stringy and unappetizing when warm. Honestly, the beef carpaccio didn't really even taste like anything. It was all just me.

By the last slice, I admitted defeat and comforted myself in tiramisu.

race outfit
Alex woke up at 4:00 AM to eat. I stumbled out of bed shortly thereafter to prepare my oatmeal and eat it under the covers. Around 6:00 AM, I woke up for real, ate a banana and some coffee, and got dressed in my outfit. I've had success in this combination of top+bottom before, so I stuck with it. I think I drank the 5-hour Energy right before leaving the hotel, though I didn't take the G-Chews until I arrived at baggage area.

Getting to the corrals was a disaster. Imagine funneling 30k people through two narrow security chutes. It was a MESS. Eventually, they opened them up and just let people walk through. Alex had to hurdle over a fence to make it to his corral on time (he was in yellow, which is for the fastest runners). I headed on over to the white, trying to keep from freezing to death.

Now, I will give you my mile splits.

Total distance: 10.25, avg. pace: 8:50

Total time: 1:30:26

Mile 1: 9:10.61 -

My strategy was to run the first 7 miles at whatever pace felt best, and speed up the final 3 if possible (thanks to my friend who suggested it). The large crowds kept me from doing something stupid like sprinting, which is good because I just wanted to find a pace that allowed me to breathe normally. I was surprised and a little shocked when I saw 9:10, since I figured I'd hang around 9:45, which was the pace I ran my last 8 miler that felt difficult.

Mile 2: 8:55.80 -

There was a slight downhill here, and I was nervous about seeing 8:anything because I really really really was trying to keep my pace steady. But my breathing felt the same.

Mile 3: 8:53.02 -

Maybe I'd be able to pull out a somewhat respectable time (for me)! Still feeling good. I expected my hip to rebel and my foot to protest, though I felt fine for now.

Mile 4: 8:56.35 -

Around the second mile, I noticed my splits were off the official mile markers by .2 miles. I figured this was caused by weaving in and out of the crowds. I took my Carb Boom apple cinnamon energy gel (the gel I've found works the best for me, and will have to order more) since I wasn't sure where the next water stop was.

Mile 5: 8:47.72 -

Although I was freezing at the start, I felt great now. There was a light breeze and it was just cool enough to feel comfortable after warming up. I'm glad I didn't buy emergency arm warmers at the expo, since I didn't really need them. My hands were surprisingly fine, too. My foot was starting to feel sore, but not like it was on the verge of injury. (I wore my racing flats instead of my trainers, which was probably stupid, considering I've never raced in them for longer than a 10k.)

Mile 6: 8:47.68 -

I took a check here to see how I felt. I was still running like a poised running model on the cover of Runner's World (it was a weird mental strategy thing suggested by my friend), and I wasn't feeling too bad, just a little tired.

Mile 7: 8:51.13 -

During this mile, I was deciding whether or not I should stick to my pace or attempt to speed up. What I didn't realize is that the last few miles of the course ran on overpasses, which means up and downhills. It's probably better that I didn't know it.

Mile 8: 8:30.99 -
I decided to do it, and muster up some reserved energy. I immediately felt BAD. BAD. Because there was an overpass here.

NO, that does not make me "bad ass". This entire race does not make me bad ass, it makes me stupid. For not training or running at least three times a week the last 2-3 weeks.

Mile 9: 8:44.59 -

Overpass 2. I was feeling it so bad. All I did was concentrate on my form, taking short strides and pumping my arms.

Mile 10: 8:42.21 -

Half a mile to go, I began counting down the tenths of a mile, reminding myself that I had an extra .2 to go. I'm mildly impressed that I managed to maintain an 8:40ish pace here, even more so that I ran such even splits.

Anyway, I crossed the finish line.

hat and race medal
They made us keep walking for a while before we could get our medal pendants. During this time, I seized up and felt like an 80 year old, particularly in the hips. I was also cramping, and had trouble standing upright. I walked through the food tent and grabbed everything good, then I headed over to the shuttle line and got a hat!

My underarms had chafed badly, I'm not sure if it was the shirt or the bra.

I couldn't find Alex. Before the race, we decided to go back to the hotel on our own if we were unable to find each other after the race. So many people. However, he managed to spot me after I got off the shuttle at the baggage area. We made our way back to the Rosslyn metro stop to walk the half mile uphill back to the hotel.

By the way, Alex ran a really great race. There's a reason why he's in the first corral.

I pretty much felt terrible for the rest of the day, though the most intense pain subsided almost entirely by dinner time. We had breakfast lunch at at The Diner and dinner at Neisha Thai.

changing of the guard
Changing of the Guard ritual
On Monday, before going out for Indian food and leaving the city for home, we headed over to Arlington Cemetery to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier to watch the the Changing of the Guard. It was amazing to be able to watch in person.

So ends my weekend. It took three days to return to normal. I realized, however, that I really do want to train properly again to see what kind of race I'm capable of running. I'm thinking of a spring half marathon, which gives me plenty of time to just get into a running groove before thinking of training. Now that it's cooling down (lows in the 30s this morning!), I can just kinda enjoy the changing scenery and not worry about the heat. Hopefully, I'll enjoy running again, too. And I promise, no more crazy races for which I do not train.

24 October 2013

Think Outside The Griddle: Beef Maple Stew with Gnocchi and Fresh Tarragon

beef stew maple syrup
A week ago, I received an email from a representative of Pure Canadian Maple Syrup telling me about their ongoing Think Outside the Griddle contest, featuring, you guessed it, maple syrup! The prizes are nice, but I was intrigued by the rules - our recipe can only be prepared in one cooking vessel, and, I was told, we could not use additional prep bowls other than a cutting board. Right from the beginning, I knew this would be a challenge, and I began brainstorming recipe after recipe.

beef stew cubes maple syrup
I hadn't initially planned on creating a stew recipe. The recipe I did attempt on the first go didn't quite turn out the way I envisioned, ending up as a stew. I served it up and wrote it off as a failure, until Alex said that he really liked the flavors. He's right, it was good. At that point, I decided to rework the recipe I had roughly written down to create a better stew, and that is the recipe you will find at the end of this post.

beef cubes maple syrup
beef cubes maple syrup
Since the instructions stated that we could only use one cooking vessel and no prep bowls, the directions for my stew will be a little rough compared to others. For example, when browning meat it's best not to crowd it, but I had no choice in this case. Honestly, it came out tasting like a dish I am proud to blog about, so it's not all that bad. The vegetables might not saute as they would normally, but thanks to the long cooking time the flavors all have a chance to meld together.

Despite not being able to work the ingredients traditionally, I didn't let all the techniques go by the wayside. To begin, the beef cubes need to be pat dry to remove excess moisture, which will really help create a better sear. After the first batch browns, push it aside and sear the rest.

As an aside, you can also buy a two-pound boneless bottom chuck roast and cube it yourself.

vegetables for beef stew maple syrup
The vegetables are added in stages, starting with the onions, red bell pepper, and julienned carrots (you can buy carrots already sliced into matchsticks at the store, I think). After that cooks for two minutes, I added tomato paste, crushed red pepper flakes, and minced garlic, letting that cook for another two minutes. The tomato paste helps thicken the sauce and also adds a dimension of flavor.

Worcestershire sauce maple syrup
The real star of the stew, though, is the maple syrup and Worcestershire sauce. The maple syrup adds a sweet essence to the stew that combines with the savoriness of the ingredients to create a pretty awesome gravy. Don't be afraid of it, either, because it's not overpowering. It's just great. I found that the Worcestershire sauce compliments the maple syrup by adding a complex savoriness.

The two are combined and added to the beef, which will bubble up rapidly and release an appetizing aroma into the kitchen. Be prepared, maybe have a snack on hand. Finally, beef broth is poured on top. From this point forward, you don't need to do much for 2 1/2 hours other than give it an occasional stir.

beef stew maple syrup
Thirty minutes before prior to the finish, I added the green beans. I didn't add them at the beginning since green beans don't take very long to cook.

gnocchi maple syrup stew
gnocchi beef stew maple syrup
The final addition is a package of gnocchi. Gnocchi is an Italian potato pasta, sort of a dumpling, and adds a wonderful chewy bite to the stew. Most stews contain actual potatoes, but I thought gnocchi was a nice twist and I knew I wanted to incorporate it in some way since it doesn't take long to cook.

beef maple stew
Finally, the stew is finished. The gravy should be rich and complex, with just a touch of sweetness from the maple syrup followed by a note of heat from the crushed red pepper, and the beef very tender. For the final touch, sprinkle chopped fresh tarragon on top. I love the taste of fresh tarragon and use it to flavor chicken all the time, and it goes just as well with beef. If you don't like it, substitute your favorite fresh herb, or parsley.

And there you have it! This is my entry to the Think Outside the Griddle contest. Entrants are also required to post about a way to repurpose the leftovers (if you have any), and I would say to keep it simple by making a nice side salad. Additionally, you could shred the remaining beef cubes to stretch out the meat and top it over additional cooked gnoochi to create more of a gravy sauce. However you choose to eat the leftovers, I assure you it will be delicious!

[Side note: Please vote for my chocolate chip cookie recipe in the Fonseca Bin 27 Cookie Rumble contest. Here is a link to my entry - if the link doesn't work, look for "Running Foodie's Chocolate Chip Cookies". Thank you for your support!]

beef stew maple syrup

Print this recipe

Beef Maple Stew with Gnocchi and Fresh Tarragon
Recipe by Christina Provo

Serves 4-6

Ingredients -

2 pounds cubed boneless chuck beef
1 tablespoon oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 a red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cups julienned carrots
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
8 cups unsalted beef broth
2 bay leaves
1 pound green beans, trimmed and snapped in half
1 16 ounce package of gnocchi
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh tarragon, chopped

Directions -
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. When oil is hot, add beef cubes in an even layer, patting dry with a paper towel before placing carefully in pot. Sprinkle layer with 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of freshly ground pepper. Sear cubes for 3 minutes, flip over and cook with an additional 3 minutes. Move beef to side of pot and continue cooking remaining beef cubes in the same manner.
  2. After all the beef has seared, add carrots, bell pepper, and onions to pot, stirring to combine. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in minced garlic, tomato paste, crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt; let cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Pour in Worcestershire sauce and maple syrup, stirring to combine. Mixture will bubble rapidly. Add beef broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, or to maintain a rapid simmer. Cover pot, leaving lid ajar, and simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Uncover pot and continue cooking for 1 1/2 hours.
  4. Add prepared green beans; cook for 25 minutes. Stir in gnocchi and cook for 5 minutes. By this point, the broth should have reduced to a thick gravy. Check for seasonings, adding additional salt if necessary and fresh ground pepper to taste.
  5. Ladle stew into bowls and sprinkle with fresh tarragon.

14 October 2013

homemade nacho sauce with pickled jalapenos

nacho sauce and pickled jalapenos
My friend sent me this recipe and asked me to test it out, knowing I am in love with nacho sauce (usually of the Velveeta variety). I'm semi-familiar with the Serious Eats version, which uses cheddar, and wondered how the flavor of this recipe would compare. Would compare in theory, since I've never tried either, and although I wasn't sure what I would do with 2 cups of nacho sauce, I finally got all the ingredients together to find out if it's a worthy substitute for my beloved chemically-infused nacho cheese sauce from a can/block of processed cheese-like matter.

pickled jalapenos
Actually, I didn't have all the ingredients. I forgot my immersion blender and a few other things, so the jalapenos ended up pickling for a few days before I got around to the sauce. I almost wasn't going to make these, because despite being half Mexican my tolerance for heat is pitiful. Yet, I did, as I was excited by the idea of pickling something.

Since this recipe uses a mild monterey jack cheese, which the author found to melt better than cheddar, the majority of the flavor comes from the spice mixture (paprika and cayenne pepper), onions, tomatoes, and buttermilk. Even though the paprika and cayenne pepper help flavor and color the otherwise pale sauce, tumeric is added to further enhance the color.

I didn't have buttermilk and didn't feel like buying a container for just this recipe, so I soured my own milk my heating up one cup minus two tablespoons milk and stirring in two tablespoons of white vinegar. It seemed to work fine.

My other issue was determining just how much 2 ounces of cheese really was, as I knew it couldn't be a mere 1/4 cup. Just no way. I finally determined it was around 2/3 cup, so I used 1 cup. I figured this wouldn't really be a problem, it would just create a somewhat thicker sauce and maybe give it more flavor.

sauteed vegetables and spice mixture
vegetable roux mixture
The onions and tomatoes are sauteed with the spices until the onions softened. There was supposed to be a green chile in there, but since the cayenne pepper adds heat and I was planning to eat the jalapenos, I didn't want to go overboard. After the onions have softened, flour is added to create a roux for the sauce.

cheese sauce
creamy nacho cheese sauce
At this point, the heavy cream, half the buttermilk, and the cheese is added. You gotta stir continuously, even when it looks like the cheese remains clumpy and won't melt into the sauce. The remaining buttermilk is added and stirred in slowly. After adding all the buttermilk, my sauce still wasn't completely smooth, so I raised the heat a little and stirred. Finally, the cheese melted and turned into a sauce!

The directions say to then blend the sauce. This required me to transfer the sauce to my immersion blender cup to blend until completely smooth. While doing all that, I kept coming up with reasons why this wasn't a necessary step, but finally realized it was. Not only does the sauce take on the texture of awesome nacho cheese sauce, the final step requires streaming in a little olive oil while blending to further enhance the texture. It's a lot of trouble, though I urge you not to skip it.

smooth nacho cheese sauce
Et voila!

It's actually a very good dip, though I felt that it lacked that intense cheesiness. Next time, I'll try it with white cheddar. However, the texture was pretty spot on and even though it wasn't the nacho cheese of my youth, that didn't keep me from continuously dipping chips into the luscious sauce. I still have quite a bit left I need to warm up to see how well it reheats.

tortilla chip dipped in homemade nacho cheese sauce and topped with pickled jalapeno slice
What astounded me is how much I absolutely LOVED the pickled jalapenos, and I think that they really made the sauce. They're also good on pizza, quesadillas, and just by the slice. The texture is much better than store-bought pickled jalapenos, as well as not being quite as spicy. Maybe that was just the particular peppers I used, I don't really know.

To sum up, the crucial step was blending the sauce and streaming in olive oil. You could probably get away with skipping the heavy cream, using either more buttermilk or evaporated milk, as long as it's not fat-free. One day in the future, I will try this with a more flavorful cheese, especially since the blending would take care of any cheese that refused to melt. It's a little too much work to satisfy a personal craving though, but I'm glad I tried it.

07 October 2013

Sponsored: Saving for the Holidays with Walmart Family Mobile's Unlimited Plans

Walmart unlimited plans #FamilyMobileSaves #cbias #shop
Now that the holidays are just around the corner, I begin looking for ways to save money without sacrificing the holiday activities I enjoy, such as sending family and friends Christmas cookies (if you do this, you know how expensive it can get). Fortunately, this campaign became available at just the right moment. It gives me the opportunity to test out the T-Mobile Concord smartphone as well as Walmart Family Mobile's cheap wireless plan.

My current provider is Virgin Mobile, and at the time they were the provider that offered the best no-contract monthly plans with the most up-to-date, entry-level phones. For the next three months, I will be trying out Walmart Family Mobile, which will save me $60 a month.

#FamilyMobileSaves #shop #cbias Walmart Family Mobile plans />
At Walmart, I purchased the phone as well as the starter kit, which is $25. I liked that you have the option of bringing in your current phone if you want to keep it. You can also keep your number.

Purchasing the phone and having it activated was a seamless process, and I was a little bit giddy at the idea of owning my first smartphone.

T-Mobile Concord smartphone #FamilyMobileSaves #cbias #shop
So far, I am enjoying the service. The phone, while a little outdated compared to entry-level smartphones from Virgin Mobile, is much better than my old, not-very-smart phone (but I bonded with that thing and am sad to possibly see it go). The sound quality is clearer, the coverage seems to be stronger (Walmart Family Mobile runs through T-Mobile, whereas Virgin Mobile runs through Sprint), and I have yet to drop a call.

I was a little concerned that the allotted monthly high speed data wasn't very high, but Walmart Family Mobile gives you 5 GB a month, compared to Virgin Mobile which gives you just 2.5 GB of high speed data before it is reduced. Concerns were alleviated!

Unlimited plans, which includes talk, text, and data, are $39.88, $20 less than my current plan (which I am letting lapse while I try this out for the next few months). You also have the option of adding 5 additional lines to your plan for $34.88 each (the price is for unlimited plans, though you can choose just unlimited talk/text for $10 less). If you have a family, that would be a huge savings for you!

To pay your bill, you can do it either online at the My Family Mobile site, or set up AutoPay. In two to three weeks, I will receive a text notification to pay my prorated bill, which just means I am paying for the prior two to three weeks of service and not for the entire month. That is the main difference between this postpaid plan compared to Virgin Mobile's prepaid plan. (There is a variety of small-print information regarding billing and account information to read about, and you can do it online. Two of note is that you will be charged a fee for paying your bill at Walmart as well as over the phone.)

Initially, when this campaign was made available I had already been considering updating my phone. I've been told that social media platforms like Instagram are a must for blogging, and I haven't been able to jump on that bandwagon because of my old phone. I had also been debating whether or not to spring for an iPhone or stick to an Android-based smartphone. But mostly, my phone bill had increased from $27 a month to $60, and although this plan is still more than $27, that little bit of savings goes a long way for me. That was what mostly attracted me to this campaign, especially since I was unaware of the Walmart Family Mobile plans.

With the money I am saving, I plan on putting half aside for a newer, more advanced smartphone with a more current Android OS (I am already addicted to the smartphone, and so far I like the Android!), and the other half will go towards sending out Christmas cookies and other Christmas baking (butter and chocolate are not cheap!). Maybe I will go on a Bon Appetit Christmas Cookie Extravaganza! Possibly I will buy more bakeware.

(I will be updating my thoughts on this plan in about a month, as well as sharing what more I've been able to do thanks to the extra money I am saving.)
#familymobilesaves #cbias #shop T-Mobile Concord smartphone
To check out my entire #FamilyMobileSaves path to purchase, take a look at my Google+ album.
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