Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Kroger Spring Dinners!


 I was introduced to BzzAgent about 2 years ago. I love being a BzzAgent and getting to try new stuff and tell people what I think about it. I have been in plenty of campaigns over the past few years, but by far, my favorites are the Kroger ones!

When I lived in Indiana we shopped at Kroger. When we moved to Utah they had Lee's (Associated Foods), Smith's and Walmart. I worked at Smith's for a little while so I shopped there, but after I quit, I became a Walmart shopper. I thought I was getting a better deal there. Then I discovered couponing and fell back in love with Smith's because of great sales, rewards points, catalinas and play-land! Smith's was purchased by Kroger a while back so we don't necessarily have a Kroger here, just a Kroger-affiliated store.

Back to BzzAgent - I love the Kroger campaigns cause it's at a store I'm already shopping at! I was in a Pork campaign about a year ago and it was awesome, and this campaign combines Kroger brand items with pork! Yum. The point of this campaign is to promote awesome products with family dinners.

I work 50 hours a week. Mike works 50 hours a week. This means we don't see much of each other. Regardless of which shift I work, I don't get to eat dinner with my family. I'm either home at 8:00 pm or after everyone is asleep. So 2 nights a week we get to actually sit down as a family and eat. When we're meal planning, I try and make those nights be more "sit-down dinner" type of meals with meat, potatoes, veggies and bread. The other nights I try and do slow-cooker stuff or casseroles that Mike can just throw in the oven or instantly serve. Granted, our kids are in "I don't like that" mode all the time, so usually it's Mike eating it and making a plate for me to eat when I get off work. Because of our work schedules we try and plan out 2 weeks worth of meals. I try and grocery shop for 2 weeks at a time. This usually results in a cart that is precariously piled with items. :) It's like Tetris. That and Bountiful Baskets. They rock my world.

Ok, again with the tangent - back to Bzzing. So this campaign included coupons for me to get (for free) 1 pork loin, 1 Kroger mac 'n cheese or mashed potatoes, 1 tube Kroger crescent rolls, 1 box Kroger cake mix and 1 tub Kroger frosting. Instant family meal, right?

Well, I broke this apart. It just worked easier that way and I got to have more nights (and afternoons) to try these products. I'm kind of a mashed potato snob, and I prefer to make my own, so I picked the mac n' cheese instead. I decided to cook it for the girls for lunch the day after I got it.

Kroger Macaroni & Cheese
Kroger Macaroni & Cheese

Mercy holding the Mac n' Cheese

Pretty simple directions - heat at 350 for about 15 minutes or you can do it in the microwave. I like it when my mac n' cheese is crunchy so I opted for the oven version.
Do not cook in the oven in the original packaging. This will cause melty yuck in your oven. We don't like melty yuck. Instead, I prefer using hand me down Pyrex dishes. LOVE these dishes. Thanks Grandma!

And once it comes out of the oven....
Mmmmm, crunchy.
I like the crunchy. As far as flavor, this is not my all-time favorite mac and cheese, but it's good. It's creamy and cheesy. The noodles are a bit squishy, but not bad. What I do like is that my kids ate it. Mercy is a mac n' cheese fiend, so I knew she'd approve. But even Grace ate all hers and she claims to hate mac n' cheese.

Would I buy this again? Possibly. If the price was right.

Kroger Crescent Rolls

I have used Kroger brand dinner rolls and crescent rolls in the past. They work. With the dinner rolls, you can tell a difference from the name brand, but not much. I haven't used the crescent rolls much cause I make my own bread with our sit-down dinners. I was looking at the container of rolls and trying to decide if I wanted to use them that night for dinner when Grace suggest hot-dog rollups instead! I have made them in the past for the girls and they didn't get eaten, but since she suggest it, I figured I could give it a shot. Here's what you need:

Crescent rolls + hotdogs + cheese = easy-peasy lunch!

First you need to open your can. I hate opening these tubes. I always jump. Always. 

This tube had a grease stain on one end. Hmmm....still tasted good.
Then you need to lay out the triangles of dough. One can has 8 triangles and one package of hotdogs has 8 (usually, some have 10). Then cut a slit into each hotdog, being careful not to cut all the way through. You also want to leave a little space on each end. This will be your cheese holder. You can leave out the cheese if you want, but I like it better with cheese.

Adult supervision required!

Stuff a piece of cheese into each hotdog. I used Monterey Jack cause that's all I had, but any cheese you like will do. I also used a small piece of cheese and kind of overlapped them a little. Next you roll up the hotdog into the crescent triangle, making sure the cheese ends up on the top. 

Ready for baking. 
Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. After that I checked one to make sure the dough is all cooked. Sometimes near the hotdog it's still doughy so you might need a few minutes more.

Lunch! Hotdog rollups, cheesy almond crackers and bananas with chocolate sprinkles.
My kids ate them up. I even enjoyed them. Quick and affordable lunch!

What cheeseballs!

Kroger Pork Loin Roast

My family LOVES pork! My kids will basically eat anything pork we make and it's more affordable than beef roasts or steak, so we have been cooking a lot of pork. I found a recipe on Pinterest a while ago and it's my go-to recipe for pork loin. I love that I can make it in the slow-cooker and it makes my house smell mouth-watering. Grace loves it because it's sweet and the remaining sauce turns into a gravy that she pours all over her mashed potatoes. 

Honey Parmesan Pork Loin
Ok here's what you need:
  • 4 lb pork loin
  • 2/3 cup Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 cup Honey
  • 3 tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Garlic
  • 2 tablespoons Dried Basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil (I used Coconut Oil cause we were out of Olive Oil, and it works just the same. And my husband would probably say it's better for you)

Check out the savings on this roast! Over 1/2 off just with Fresh Values! And my awesome meat department will cut this up into chops if I ask them. I love Smith's Marketplace!

Put your pork loin in a slow-cooker. I had to bend mine a little to get it to fit. You could cut it, but I'm not sure if it'd overcook if you did that. Next, in a small bowl add the rest of the ingredients. First time I made it, I put the honey in first. Big mistake. It was hard to mix up when I did that, so I recommend putting the parmesan cheese in first. Also, it will seem like a lot of basil, but it isn't overpowering. Trust me. I also use a whisk to mix it. Lastly, I usually don't measure. I eyeball everything, and I've never had it turn out bad. So go with your gut feeling on it. Don't want it so sweet? Add less honey. 

Smother your pork with the mixture. Mmmm, it will already smell delicious!

Cover and cook on low for about 5.5 - 6 hours. You don't need any liquid as it will make it's own. I actually cooked mine on high for about 3-4 hours this last time because I wanted it ready for when we came home from church.

And it's done. Probably slightly overdone since it'll continue to cook as it sits but it still turned out great.
Once it's done, you'll want to strain the liquid into a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Then in a small bowl add a couple tablespoons of cornstarch to a quarter cup of water. Mix well. Then slowly stir that into the sauce pan. Bring it back to a boil and cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Voila! Gravy :)

Easter Dinner (or Lunch since it was like noonish)

Parmesan Pork Roast. Mmmmm

Bethy's like "Come on people! Let's eat!)
I love our mish-mashed chairs. One day we'll have a bench, I hope. 

This particular pork loin had a huge part that was dark meat, and I'm not really a dark-meat type of person, but it was still good. I also love to eat it cold, the next day (or later that night, ha ha!).

Kroger Cake Mix & Frosting

I like to bake, but I'll be honest - I use a box. Every time. It tastes great and I'm more about the decorating than I am about the cake itself. At least, for now. Who knows, that could change. Every Easter we make a bunny cake. Cute, festive and easy to make. So when I got some free cake mix because I'm a BzzAgent, I knew it was going to become bunny cake.

I picked up a box of yellow mix, but they also had a butter mix and chocolate. For frosting choices there was vanilla (white) and chocolate (brown). Easter bunny cake needs to be white, so I went with that option. 

Just like any other box cake mix/frosting, 1 box will make either (1) 13"x9" pan, (2) 8" or 9" rounds, (1) bundt cake or about (2) dozen cupcakes. And 1 can of frosting usually frosts one of those options. I say usually cause come on! Who doesn't like extra frosting on their cake? So if I use a can of frosting I usually pick up 2, but this time I didn't. 

Mercy the baker! My little helper!

Ok so let me explain bunny cake. It's a round cake, cut in half and then stuck up on end to be the bunny's "body. Two cakes mean I could make 2, and I was planning on having the girls each decorate their own but I didn't think I'd have enough frosting. So I decided to make 1 bunny cake, and 1 round cake so we could eat it right then :) And I decided to make them after they dyed eggs and I was already at my "mess limit" for the day, so I just decorated them myself. Ha ha.

I used 2 silicone baking rounds and I honestly don't know if they're 8" or 9" pans. Even with them being silicone, I line the bottom of the pan with waxed paper. This helps them release better from the pan after they're done baking. To make the waxed paper fit, fold it in half, and half, and half. Then into triangles and estimate how big you'll need. Cut an arch and see if it's fits. I have traced the bottom of the pan with a sharpie before, but I ended up with sharpie on my pan. And it's still a little too big so you'll need to trim anyway. 

Like other cake mixes, you need to add eggs, water and oil. There are other healthier things you could add like applesauce instead of oil, or sour cream or mayo, but I stuck to the box directions. Directions say to heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your pans. I didn't need to because of previously mentioned silicon baking pans. Then it says to blend all ingredients in a mixing bowl at low speed until it's all moistened. Then beat for 2 minutes at medium speed. My favorite part of the directions - "or 450 strokes by hand". Ahhhhahahaha, so glad I have an electric mixer :) Also, there is a "high altitude" directions for over 4000 ft. Where we live is 4,534 ft (yes I had to Google that) and I can honestly say I have never done the "high altitude" directions. Maybe one day I will, but it turned out fine the normal way. And it was just to bake it at 375 instead for about 5 minutes less.

Everything in the bowl

Anticipation of the mixer turning on

Mixer is on! Ahhhhhhh!!

Mixing for 2 minutes.

Mercy's favorite part of this....


Yes I know there's raw eggs in there. Oh well.

Into the oven
In the oven and baked for about 35 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick came out clean when poked in the middle. 

You'll want to let them sit in the pan for a few minutes but then move to them a wire rack to cool, otherwise they'll get soggy.

Mmm. Very hard not to just eat them like this.
Once they are completely cool, and yes this is important so your frosting doesn't melt, you can frost them. I don't have any pictures of me decorating them, but I do have the finished product:

Bunny Cake
 Bunny cake is made by cutting one of the rounds in half. Frosting the inside and sticking it to the other half. Then I frosted the outside. I added some M&M's for eyes and a nose. Cut out ears from cardstock and made a tail with a huge marshmallow. I usually use a "Snowball" for the tail, but didn't have one, so oh well.

The other cake just got frosted with the remaining frosting and then sprinkled with some colorful flower sprinkles. That cake was gone by the end of the day, but we saved the bunny cake for Easter.

So what do I think about all this Kroger stuff? It rocks! The pork is my favorite and the cake was just as good as any name brand cake. The crescent rolls and mac n' cheese were ok and I might not buy them until I had a need for them. Best part about all of it though? It's all very affordable and since it's basically the same as name brand stuff, you might as well save yourself some cash!

I received these products for free to try and review because I'm a BzzAgent

Oh and I have to tell you this cute Mercy story. There's a Veggie Tails episode where they sing the "Bunny Song". I usually have the Bunny Song stuck in my head and I was singing it as I made the Bunny Cake. Mercy joined in and sang, "The bunny, the bunny, Oh I love the bunny cake". LOL she makes my day. So now you must enjoy the Bunny Song.

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