My Mother’s Day brunch menu

7 05 2009
Mother's Day Brunch '05 with homemade goodies served on Grandma's china, and flowers picked from the garden

Mother's Day Brunch '05 with homemade goodies served on Grandma's china, and flowers picked from the garden

I am among those fortunate “almost-50” daughters who still have their moms around to hug this Mother’s Day. As an added bonus, my Mom happens to live nearby. So this Sunday, I’ll be in the kitchen cooking up a delicious brunch in her honor.

Lucky for me, I have a few go-to recipes for brunch, thanks to the cookbook Desperation Entertaining by Alicia Ross and Beverly Mills, an old friend of mine from my days at The Miami Herald. Coincidentally, Beverly and Alicia just this week launched a new website, Kitchen Scoop, where you can find a lot of their fast-and-easy, without-sacrificing-taste recipes.

So without much heavy mixing, I’ll be able to treat my Mom (and myself) to a great brunch. And considering that most restaurant Mother’s Day brunches start at $15 and skyrocket from there, my homemade brunch is the frugal choice as well.

To make it extra special, I will pull out the china and sterling silver flatware. Rimmed in silver and with a delicate pink flower in the center, the china was my grandmother’s. My antique silver was a gift from my Mom. I plan to add flowers from my garden and homemade place cards, the handiwork of my little girl. So four generations of women will be represented on my Mother’s Day table, making the occasion extra special. And have I mentioned frugal?

With six people at my table, we are easily saving more than $100, with a minimum of work for me. Oh, did I forget to mention…. my husband and two boys back from college will be on dishwashing duty.

In case you’re in need of inspiration, or scrambling for a last-minute recipe to fill out your Mother’s Day brunch menu, here’s my menu and a few recipes:

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole        ****        Baked Hash Browns        ****        Coffee cake        ****        Fruit salad     ****     Chocolate-dipped Strawberries   ****      Cranberry-Orange Cake   ****

Mother’s Brunch Casserole

8 slices white loaf bread

1 pound thinly sliced deli ham

6 large eggs                                        

2 cups milk

1/2 tsp. onion salt

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

cooking oil spray

3 cups (12 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

4 Tbsp. butter

3 cups cornflakes

The day before, cut the bread and ham into bite-size pieces. Break eggs into a medium-size mixing bowl and whisk well. Whisk in milk, onion salt and mustard. Spray 13×9 baking dish with cooking spray. Scatter bread pieces evenly in dish, then scatter ham and cheese over bread. Pour egg mixture over contents of baking dish and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

On Mother’s Day, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place butter in a large glass measuring cup, cover and microwave about 45 seconds. Place cornflakes in large freezer-weight zip-top bag and crush with your hands or a rolling pin. Add melted butter and shake vigorously. Sprinkle cornflakes over casserole. Bake uncovered about 45 minutes, until lightly browned and eggs are set. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes.

This recipe is from Desperation Entertaining and I kid you not, I have made it at least 25 times, if not more. It is delicious. Of course, being the frugal person I am, I am known to make-do in the kitchen, tinkering with the recipe as need be. (My apologies to Beverly and Alicia!) I have used Egg Beaters in place of eggs; a little squeeze of mustard out of the bottle instead of dry mustard. I’ve also used any type of bread and cheese I’ve had on hand. Each time, the casserole has turned out fabulously.

Fastest Fruit Salad

1 15 1/4-ounce can pineapple tidbits

1 15-ounce can mandarin oranges

2 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped

2 medium Red Delicious apples, chopped

2 kiwi fruit

Put pineapple tidbits and juice in large serving bowl. Drain mandarin oranges and add them to pineapple. Rinse, core and cut apples into bite-size pieces. Leave skin on for color. Stir apples into orange-pineapple mixture to prevent discoloring. Peel and slice kiwi and mix in.

This fruit salad looks festive on the table and is delicious — and it can be made any time of year. In a pinch, I’ve made this without the kiwi but it’s much better with it. I’ve also used different types of apples, but I’ve always had some red and some green for presentation. The recipe also comes from Desperation Entertaining.

Cinnamon-Swirl Sour Cream Coffee Cake

4 large eggs

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/4 cup sugar

8 ounces sour cream

1 yellow cake mix

2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 Tbsp. cinnamon

cooking oil spray

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 Tbsp. cold butter

Beat eggs in large mixing bowl for 1 minute. Add oil, sugar, sour cream and cake mix. Beat on medium speed for 2 minutes.

Stir together 1/3 cup of the brown sugar with 2 tsp. of the cinnamon in a small mixing bowl. Spray 13 x 9 pan with cooking spray.

Pour about half of cake batter into baking dish and spread evenly. Sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture over batter. Pour remaining batter over the cinnamon-sugar and spread it out evenly.

Make a topping with the remaining brown sugar and cinnamon, and the flour. Stir to blend. Cut in the butter using a pastry blender or two knives. Sprinkle evenly over bake batter.

Bake 45 to 55 minutes at 325 degrees in a glass baking pan or 350 degrees in a metal pan.

This coffee cake, also from Desperation Entertaining, can be assembled and refrigerated a day in advance of baking. It is so easy to make and tastes homemade. No one ever needs to know it started with a cake mix — unless, of course, you’re like me and want to brag that you got the cake mix for free with a coupon.

To lighten it up a bit, I have used Egg Beaters, applesauce and light sour cream. And once again, it has always turned out delicious.

I would love to hear what’s on your menu for Mother’s Day. Leave a comment and please include your favorite brunch recipe.







Quick: Free 8 x 10 photo at Walgreens

6 05 2009

Today only — Wednesday, May 6 —  Walgreens is giving away 8 x 10 prints of your favorite photo.

Best of all, you can order your photo online and pick it up at your leisure. Only the order must be placed on May 6.

To take advantage of the offer, register for an account here, import your favorite photo, use the code MOTHER at checkout and choose in-store pickup. One free photo per customer.

This would make a great frugal gift for Mother’s Day.

Reminder: Postage goes up May 11

4 05 2009

img_1700Don’t be late mailing your Mother’s Day cards this year. Not only will you lose favor with Mom, but each card will cost you an extra 2 cents — thanks to a postage increase by the United States Postal Service.

Beginning Monday, May 11, the postage for a first-class one-ounce letter will increase to 44 cents.

If you want to save yourself a few cents, save yourself a bunch of hassle with 2-cent stamps and avoid those long lines at the post office, stock up now on a few sheets of Forever stamps.

Forever stamps can be purchased for the current 42-cent price and are good forever — just as their name suggests.

I bought 10 sets of Forever stamps the last time postage went up and still have six left. (Ifyou’re anything like me, you probably keep in touch with friends and family through email and you probably pay most, if not all, your bills online or through auto-draft.)

I will probably buy a couple more today or tomorrow, but I won’t go overboard. And I definitely won’t wait until Friday when the procrastinators will send lines out the door.

If you do slip up and find yourself stampless on Friday, check your local grocery stores to see if they sell stamps. In my area, Food Lion stores sell stamps without a surcharge, saving time and money.

Postage on other mailing services are also going up. For more information, click here.

I got Clark Smart today

2 05 2009

I learned how to save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off today.

You guessed it. I was among the crowd in Durham, N.C., today for one of Clark Howard’s road shows.

It was a couple of hours well spent on a beautiful Saturday afternoon listening to one of America’s cheapest guys — and I mean that in the most sincere, most admiring way. And I don’t think Howard would mind. He often refers to himself as cheap on his syndicated radio and TV shows.

At today’s event, which was sponsored by Coastal Federal Credit Union, Howard was dressed in his trademark casual dress of a blue polo shirt, khaki shorts and sneakers. He was equally down to earth in his advice to the crowd at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

I was struck by his optimistic view of the economy, despite all the difficulties we face as a country in these tough times. No sugar coating. He simply pointed out that Americans should see this time as one of opportunity rather than despair. 

If you’re ready to buy a house, he said, take advantage of bargain-basement prices and equally low mortgage rates.

If you’re thinking of opening a business, take advantage of  the vast amount of talent in the labor pool, take advantage of commercial vacancy rates.

If you have money to invest — and you are young enough — take advantage of low stock prices.

If you’re in the market for a car, buy a new car this summer when, he said, we’ll see the biggest bargains in history. This, by the way, is a huge departure from Howard’s usual advice on car buying. He has always been a big proponent of buying a two- to three-year-old used car, allowing someone else to take the huge hit in depreciation.

It was also great to see some of our home-grown frugal talent as part of Clark’s “pre-game” show. Among those offering advice were Faye Prosser, author and coupon guru from Clayton, N.C., who teaches workshops on using coupons and spending money wisely.

Handing out pens and nifty magnets was Dan Griffin of, a North Carolina-based deals forum that I check two to three times daily to keep track of deals. I highly recommend this site if you’re serious about lowering your grocery bills and live in North Carolina. Every state should have a

I think the best moment of the afternoon for me came at the very end when Howard was wrapping up his question-and-answer session. Someone mentioned something about First Lady Michelle Obama’s $540 sneakers and he revealed he was wearing the most expensive pair he had ever purchased. He paid $55 for them after his doctor warned him cheap shoes would ruin his feet.

He then went on to tell a hilarious story about how he recently went on a business trip and forgot the suit and tie he had intended to bring for a formal speaking engagement.

From his hotel room, he looked in the phone book for the nearest thrift shops. He ended up purchasing a $5.50 sport coat from Goodwill and a tie. When he told the story to the group that evening, they didn’t believe him until he pulled out his receipt.

You’re my kind of people, Clark Howard.

Freebie alert: Resumes and business cards at Staples

2 05 2009

Staples office supply store has joined the growing number of American retailers offering help to folks who are seeking work.

Now through June 13, the store will give customers 20 copies of their resumes and 40 business cards — all for free. Now that’s a good deal. And a huge help.

Click here for more details and to find a Staples location near you.

Act quickly for FREE Mother’s Day cards

1 05 2009

OK, this is last minute. Very last minute. But what a great deal. and are both offering FREE cards for Mother’s Day.

Click here to make your own photo card at There are numerous styles to choose from and you can select up to four of your own photos to put on the front of your card. Use color photos or turn your photos into black and white or sepia-toned images for a more vintage look. It took me about 10 minutes to create this card.

The $2.49 card is free with the code FREECARD. You do have to fork out 99 cents for shipping, but Mom is worth it.’s offer is totally free. Click here to start creating your Mom’s Day greeting. Using the code CARD4MOM, the $3.49 card is free. Once again, there are numerous styles to choose from and you can customize the wording to honor your grandma or mom. It took me all of five minutes to make this card.

But, wait, it gets even better. will even mail your card to your mom, again for FREE. Final value of the freebie: $3.91. How much easier can Mother’s Day be?

But don’t procrastinate.

Your order must be submitted TODAY.

At, I didn’t notice a firm cut-off date but my order confirmation said it would take three to 10 days to arrive.

Coupon for FREE beverage at Borders/Seattle’s Best

30 04 2009

Treat yourself to a FREE beverage at Borders bookstores between now and May 6. Click here to print a coupon for a 12-ounce beverage of your choice at stores that have Seattle’s Best Coffee cafes.

And a big thanks to for the freebie alert!