Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Save Money

Things to do to save money...
* Don't use paper towels or napkins - instead use cloth towels and napkins
* Cancel subscription to cable and watch things online
* Drop landline if you have a cell phone
* Use rechargable batteries
* Chop and grate yourself - cheese, fruit and veggies
* Don't shop on an empty stomach and make a list - then you won't be filling your cart with items that are more expensive or just grab junk food to make instead of a real meal.
* When you find a good sale, stock up but only enough to last until the next sale so that you don't waste by purchasing too much and it expires or you find another brand that is less expensive.
* Don't buy box cake and brownie mixes as basic ingredients such as flour and sugar are far less expensive.
* Cancel gym and work out at home - youtube has many exercise videos or check out exercise dvd's from the library
* Cut down on dry cleaning - I saved money doing more things on delicate or handwashing. If it says dry clean only then only dry clean but if the tag says dry clean it does mean that dry cleaning is preferable but not necessary. Wash things in cold water with a cool water detergent and either wash on delicate or hand wash. Now of course be careful what you do this with...I just started taking the chance and it has worked out for me. So use this tip with care as some items it might not work for - so if it is your very favorite dress then don't chance it
* If you have some clothes that aren't even suitable for donating, instead repurpose and salvage - cutting up old clothes for rags or use the fabric to make something else, salvage buttons, zippers, drawstrings and any trim that can be reused for mending or remaking.
* Don't print - think before you print. Do you really need to print the grocery list you just typed up? Could you hand write it on a piece of scrap paper? Can some things be stored on online storage or a disc instead of being printed.
* Pick up the store brand instead of the name brands. No-name cereals - are just as good as the name brand. Make sure you look down on the shelves as sometimes no-name items are on lower shelves instead of eye level next to the name brand.
* Check out day-old breads or meats about to expire in your grocery stores. Check closely for freshness.
* Make and bring your lunch instead of going out everyday.
* Go to the library to check out books, audiobooks, music and movies

Please share your money saver ideas.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Candy

Here are two candy recipes that I tried this year and they came out so well I wanted to share with everyone. They are simple and easy and very yummy!

From All You Magazine, December 12, 2010 Issue 12

Peppermint Bark Trees

1 Cup lightly crushed starlight peppermints or candy canes
1 14 oz bag white chocolate candy melts, melted
1 12 oz bag dark cocoa candy melts (I substituted light cocoa and they were just as good),melted

Sprinkle about 1 Tsp crushed peppermint candies into the bottom of an 18 mini-tree shaped silicone mold or ice cube trays.

Spoon white candy melts into a ziplock bag; seal bag. Snip a small corner off bag. Pipe enough candy to cover mints by about ½ inch. Tap pan on countertop to smooth melted white candy. Refrigerate until candy is just set, about 5 minutes.

Spoon dark cocoa candy melts into another ziplock bag; seal bag. Pipe a thin layer of dark cocoa candy melts on top of the white candy melts. Tap tray on countertop to smooth. Refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.

Makes 18 trees

Ok, here’s what I learned.

1) I can’t pipe things in a ziplock bag. I found it much easier to spoon the candy into the molds
2) Hold off on melting the dark cocoa until after you have finished the white and have it cooling.
3) For melting the candy, put in microwavable bowl ( I used glass) put on ½ power for 2 minutes, stir and then microwave ½ power for 30 second intervals , stirring after each interval.
4) My silicone tray only has 12 spaces. So, after the first batch, I made a second half batch, and had to remelt the candy.

From Taste of Home Magazine “Come Home for Chrismas” December and January 2011

Delectable Maple Nut Chocolates

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
½ cup butter, cubed
7 ½ cups powdered sugar
2 cups chopped walnuts
2 tsp maple flavoring
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 cups (24 oz or 2 bags) semisweet chocolate chips
2 oz bittersweet (or unsweetened) chocolate, chopped
2 tsp shortening

In a small saucepan, combine milk and butter. Cook and stir over low heat until butter is melted.

Place powdered sugar in a large bowl; add milk mixture and beat until smooth. Stir in walnuts, maple flavor, and vanilla. Roll into ¾ inch balls; place on wax paper lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour.

In microwave, melt the chips, bittersweet chocolate and shortening; stir until smooth. Dip balls into chocolate, allow excess to drip off. Place on waxed paper, let stand until set. Store in airtight container.

Makes 13 dozen

Notes:

1) I did not get 13 dozen, I got a little over 9.
2) You will need 2-3 times the space for the chocolate covered balls that you did for the rolled centers.
3) There is not a non-messy way to dip these that I found. I tried toothpicks, a fork, a spoon… make sure you have your apron on, you will likely be covered in chocolate.
4) I found I needed 3 bags of chips, 3 oz of bittersweet chocolate and 3 tsp of shortening for the chocolate candy shell.

My name is Rheya. If you would have asked me 20 years ago if I saw myself cooking, cleaning, sewing and serving the needs of another over my own, I would have told you to get your crystal ball checked. I was not a girl whose idea of bliss was being domestically oriented. I shunned Home Ec! A lot can change can’t it? I’ve found my happiness though in just that, domestic service. I currently live in an area south of Atlanta. I work outside the home, so balancing the two is always a challenge. But I try to manage it all with a smile on my face and remember that everything I do is for His honor.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Apple Butter


4lbs of apples (sour ones, preferably)
1 cup apple cider (alcohol between 2.25% and 4.5%)
1 lemon (juice and zest)
2 tbs cinnamon
1 tbs all spice (whole)
1 tbs cloves (whole)
~ 4 cups of sugar
A knife edge of salt.

(You need one big pot, a mesh sieve, a mortar and pestle, a ladle and measuring cups, six to eight 8oz jars)

Cut the apples in quarters, and dump in a pot, kernels and peels and all. Add the apple cider. Heat to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes until soft. Put clean and dry jars in the oven and heat it to 200F, boil the lids in water with a heavy boil for 10 minutes.

Mean while, grind the cloves and all spice with the mortar, to a fine powder.

Peek at the apples. If they're soft, put a bowl beneath the sieve, and pour the apples into the sieve. Grind them with the pestle, until all that's left in the sieve is peels and kernels and the apples are att the bottom. Scrape the bottom of the sieve.

Measure the apple pulp you now have. Add about ½ a cup of sugar per cup of apple pulp. Put the puple and sugar back on the stove, then stirr till the sugar has disolved. Add the spices, the salt, the lemon juice and zest.

Simmer for 10 minutes, then taste with a clean spoon (after using the spoon, put it in the dishwasher/sink and use a clean one again next time). Add more spices if you like.

Simmer while stirring until it's thick, which may take 30-40 minutes. Sieve again if you like, if the zest is in large pieces. Take out your jars. Then pour into *warm* sterilized jars and screw the lids on. Turn the jars upside down and cool them on the counter over the night. Mark the jars with content and today's date. Refridgerate. It should keep for at least 12 weeks in the fridge, and around 5-7 days after opening a jar as long as there's no fingers or used utensils poked into it. You can freeze it too, but use plastic containers for that.


Bio: I'm Daphne, and I'm a service-oriented submissive. I'm from Sweden, which is not to be confused with Switzerland - we don't make clocks or chocolate, nor do we wear leatherhosen. I've been in service for the past four years, to my Owner Mephisto. I love cooking, cleaning and organizing. My passion lies in making my Owner's life as pleasant and smooth as possible. I'm also a strong advocate for organic food without additives and cooking from scratch. I recycle, buy used and don't own a car, to minimize my carbon footprint. I'm studying for a Bachelor's in Culinary Arts and Meal Science

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gourmet Popcorn

For a last minute gift, something to bring to a party or to have around during the holidays for your guests is Popcorn. The popcorn kernels are very inexpensive and many of the ingredients I had on hand.




Chocolate Popcorn with Nuts
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 1/2 cups nuts (last year I used just peanuts this year I added mixed nuts to it)
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup light corn syrup
6 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoons coarse salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Take a rimmed large cookie sheet (or jelly roll pan or 2 smaller rimmed cookie sheets) and line it with tinfoil. Spray it with cooking spray. Pop the popcorn and place in a large bowl. Add the peanuts and set aside. Put sugar, corn syrup, butter, cocoa, and salt in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until mixture comes to a gentle simmer, about 5 minutes.

Pour sugar mixture over popcorn and nuts; toss to coat. Keeping tossing even if it doesn't look like it is coating well. And even if you are having trouble getting it to coat "well" - it doesn't need to have chocolate on every bit of popcorn. It will be good no matter how the chocolate mixture coated the popcorn. Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until dry. Stirring every 20 minutes and cooking about 1 hour. Cool on sheet on wire racks. And then break apart into pieces. Store in airtight containers or ziplocks.



Zesty Popcorn
1/2 cup unpopped popcorn
6 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 salt
1/3 to 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups pretzels - optional
1 cup nuts - optional

Pop the popcorn. Place in a large bowl with pretzels and nuts if you are adding those (or 2 bowls if you don't have anything large enough to to place all the popcorn).

Combine butter, paprika, chili powder, salt, garlic and onion powder - stirring well. Pour over popped corn; stir to coat popcorn as evenly as possible. Turn mixture onto baking sheet. Sprinkle half the cheese on the popcorn. Bake at 250 degrees F for 20 minutes or until crispy; stirring once. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and toss to coat evenly. Let stand on baking sheet, stirring once or twice as mixture cools.

When thoroughly cool, store in airtight ziplock bags or container.

NOTES:
* I used butter but I am sure margarine would work also.
* My second batch of this I used Penzey's BBQ 3000 in place of the paprika and chili powder and it was even better. The first batch, as the recipe is above, was really good but the BBQ 3000 just gave it a little something extra.



Butterscotch Popcorn
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup butterscotch chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups peanuts (optional)

Heat oven to 250 degrees F. Line a large cookie sheet (or 2) with tinfoil. Spray with cooking spray.

Pop the popcorn. Put nuts and popcorn in a very large bowl.

Bring brown sugar, corn syrup and butter to boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Reduce heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in butterscotch chips, vanilla extract, baking soda and salt until blended and smooth. It will foam up when you put in the baking soda - that is normal.

Working quickly and using two spoons, pour syrup over popcorn and nuts, stirring to coat thoroughly.

Pour mixture into pan; bake 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool mixture in pan about 15 minutes. Turn mixture out of pan onto foil to cool completely.
Break popcorn into smaller pieces; store in airtight containers in cool dry place up to 2 weeks.

Print

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Holiday Traditions

Last year Jen contributed some posts on Chanukah and so this year I asked my friend Rheya to contribute some about her holiday traditions. Thank you Rheya!


Danae asked me to write a little about holiday traditions around my house. Now, I grew up in a traditional Catholic household. Christmas was very much centered on the birth of the Christ Child. There was always a Nativity Set under the tree and angels were more prevalent than Santa Claus.

Around my house, we celebrate both Christmas for Sir and the rest of both my family and His, and Yule for me. Yule can be called by many names, Winter Solstice being the most common. I am an initiate of Celtic Traditional Witchcraft and in my tradition, it was always referred to it as Alban Arthan, which is I believe is Welsh, but also the same name given in Druidic Tradition.

I was always quite discontent with Christianity, and felt like didn’t suit me. I found my own path in Paganism. And I learned where the Christian holidays have their roots. Christmas has its roots in the pagan holidays of Yule, the celebration of the Winter Solstice and Saturnalia. Both are about the return of the sun king (or oak king depending on your tradition) as a child born of the Goddess. The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year, after that the days begin to get longer and longer (the return of the sun). Saturnalia is the Roman equivalent, celebrating the return of Mithros, the Sun King.

Many traditions we associate with Christmas come from Pagan custom. The bringing of evergreen and holly into the house to decorate, for instance was begun to remind us that life still does exist under the heavy blankets of snow. Holly was thought to bring luck, and it was encourage that a sprig harvested at Yule be kept by the door. My High Priest used to say that it kept the house from being struck by lightning as well.

The tradition of decorating the boughs of evergreen came from offering gifts to the Earth Spirits, and to entice them to bless the fruits of the next year. Early ornaments were oranges with cloves pierced through the skin, apples, and woven wheat, nuts, berries, etc.

Bonfires and hearth fires were rekindled to invite the return of the sun and the sun king. The fires were relit using the Yule Log, which as part of the tradition was either harvested off the land, or gifted. It was bad luck to purchase it. In my coven, I can remember libating the log with ale and wassail before we burned it, putting all my good energy and hopes for the new year into the log.

And let’s not forget Santa Claus. Who is really a gnome, or earth spirit, possibly originally derived from the Norse God, Odin, who at Yule, lead a hunting party across the sky. Children would place treats for Odin’s horses near the chimney, in return Odin would leave sweets.

Some traditions my own coven used to practice that are not necessarily “standard” were our gift exchange. Instead of drawing names, we would bring gifts, and each gift would be set under an altar, according to what element it fit into. Candles would go under Fire, incense under Air, you get the idea. After the all gifts were placed accordingly, we would choose a gift from under the altar of the element we felt we needed to learn the most from in the coming year.

We would also make Wassail, a traditional holiday drink and we’d all take turns stirring the Wassail pot. After it was done, we would all gather and toast the return of the Sun King, and each other.

I’m going to try an re-create our Wassail recipe for you. But it has been many years since I moved 600 miles from my covenstead and I don’t seem to have the recipe written down anywhere. Or if I do, I can’t put my fingers on it. I guess it has been too long since I made it.

Wassail:

2 Gallon Jugs of Apple Cider
½ Gallon of Orange Juice
3-4 Oranges, sliced
3-4 Lemons, sliced
Cinnamon Sticks
Ground Nutmeg
Apple Pie Spice
Option: Dark Rum

Put the apple cider, orange juice, the slices fruit and 2-3 cinnamon sticks in a large pot (or pots!) and stir over low heat. Add ground nutmeg and ginger to taste. Add Rum to taste if desired.

That’s what I remember. Feel free to tweak it to your liking.

There is a lot more tradition I could have talked about, I merely skimmed the surface and did not get into any great detail (I could spend hours talking about traditions for Yule!). If you have questions or would like more information, please feel free to contact me.

I hope you all have a blessed holiday season, no matter what holiday you celebrate!

Winter Solstice/Yule falls on December 21 this year.


Bio: My name is Rheya. If you would have asked me 20 years ago if I saw myself cooking, cleaning, sewing and serving the needs of another over my own, I would have told you to get your crystal ball checked. I was not a girl whose idea of bliss was being domestically oriented. I shunned Home Ec! A lot can change can’t it? I’ve found my happiness though in just that, domestic service. I currently live in an area south of Atlanta. I work outside the home, so balancing the two is always a challenge. But I try to manage it all with a smile on my face and remember that everything I do is for His honor.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Stocking Stuffer

Want a quick, fun, easy stocking stuffer? Clothes Pin Magnets. I made these the last couple years and stuck them in almost every stocking and package last year.




I bought a package of clothes pins at the dollar store (36 in a package). I painted them with a foam bush using the cheapest acrylic paint. They did dry very quickly because I didn't put the paint on thick - just almost a thin wash of it on the clothes pin. Once dry I took rubber stamps to stamp them with images. It didn't matter if the image fit on the clothes pin or not...having it run off the edge worked still. And then I glued a magnet to the back.

They would be cute too if you stamped names on them or to-do, urgent, read and so on them for an office or teacher. Michael's sells tiny alphabet stamps for $1 that work well on them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Kitchen Hygiene

Kitchen hygiene. How how I (sometimes) despiseth thou. Keeping a kitchen clean and hygenic can be quite the nightmare, sometimes. If it's not for you being sick, tired or overworked, there's little sticky hands looking for crackers and jam, or just Owners having midnight snacks. I know if I just look away for two seconds, it's suddenly full of packages, dishes, pots and pans, and I'm wondering where the heck they came from.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Then, just now, at school, we've gone through kitchen bacteria and food poisoning - suddenly I think I need to give my kitchen a good scrubdown. There are some main pointers to keep your kitchen hygenic and your food safe, and I'll try explain why they're important:

Heat everything to 70C (160F) - This will kill most bacteria, for example salmonella, campylobacter and staphylococus aureus. It's really important to know this if you have a poor immunesystem or children. Now, most greens and vegetables can be served cold and uncooked, but wash them carefully in that case. EHEC is a version of e. coli. which can in lead to a fatal disease in the elderly and in children. If you google "e. coli. child death", the 754.000 pages found are quite depressing.


Keep your kitchen dry and clean. - Bacteria thives on moist, warm surfaces. Normal room-temperature is plenty enough warmth for most bacteria to grow. Small flecks of soup or water on already dingy surfaces become a breeding ground, a nest, for all kinds of yucky stuff that we'd rather not think about. Tidy up, dry off and avoid the hazard.


Wash hands after cracking eggs or touching raw meat – with soap that you rub vigorously for 20 seconds. - Washing your hands is the one of the most important thing you can do while cooking. Properly washing you hands means removing all jewelry (which you shouldn't wear while cooking anyway - engravings on rings can be filled with gunk), wetting your hands and taking some soap. Then rubb vigorously while singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Remember between your fingers, under your nails and your cuticles - if you're baking, go up to your elbow. Rinse and dry off on a clean towel. If you touch raw meat, eggshells, your nose, sneeze, cough or accept something from your little one, you need to wash your hands again.


Wash all utensils promptly and always use fresh clean utensils between foods. - Don't touch cooked food with utensils that have just touched raw food. Don't use the same knife for all your ingredients. Wash and dry them in hot water with dishwashing liquid, dry and then go back. If one ingredient is contaminated, you will avoid contaminating the rest of them this way.


Never stick a finger in to taste, always use a fresh clean spoon. - I don't care how many spoons you have to wash. If you stick your finger in to have a taste, the food in the pot is contaminated. The end. Your mouth may carry Staphylocous aureus, and it may be on your skin. If whatever you're tasting is boiling, that's probably not a big problem, but for safety's sake - use a clean spoon every time and toss it in the sink after tasting.


Wash all cutting boards promply and buy new ones at least yearly. - Ah, yes. The cutting board issue. Wood or plastic? In my kitchen at school, we've one wood for vegetables and greens, and one plastic for meat, poultry and fish. That works out pretty well, since they won't contaminate each other. When your cutting board starts to get worn, get a new one. In one of those cracks, just as in your ring engraving, there may be hiding some nasty stuff that you can't get off. In the meanwhile, wash all cutting boards as soon as you're done. Hot, sudsy water works great, but do disenfect them from time to time, please?


Keep your fridge at 4C (39F) and your freezer at -18C (-1F). - 4C, or 40F, is the highest temperature allowed to store raw fish at (in Sweden). Fish should actually be stored at the point where ice starts melting, to keep the longest. But anyway, proper temperature in fridge and freezer will keep bacteria at a minimum. There are still bacteria that grow in fridge temperature, like Aeromonas Hydrophilas which is found in, among other things, freshwater fish, can grow in a fridge. When you take things out and the slowly heat up again, the bacteria growth increases. It does not, in anyway, decrease when the item is chilled again. It simply keeps growing, but slower.

Chill food rapidly, so that it reaces 4C (40F) within four hours. - A pot of beef stew can keep a core temp high for a long time, which is also oxygen free and clostridium perfringens mentioned above is having a field day. To avoid that window where bacteria can and does grow, you need to chill food rapidly. In winter, if you can, put it outside in snow and stirr ocationally. In summer, fill your sink with cold water and dump ice in it, then add the pot. Stirr about ever 15 minutes, so that it cools evenly. Add more ice and swap water as needed. Never EVER fall for the old custom of keeping a pot of soup or stew by the stove and reheating the entire thing when you want to eat, only to leave it to cool to room temperature on it's own.


Always reheat to 65C (150F), or serve at below 8C (46F). - Hot food is to be hot and cold food to be cold. That keeps you from that window where bacteria grows. Of course, eating food that's just cooled off on your plate is a rather low risk, but don't serve lukewarm food. Don't buy grilled chicken being kept warm, unless it's hot to the touch. Don't eat at a restaurant or buffé if you food is lukewarm.


Sanitize rags, dishcloths, sponges and brushes, knives and cuttingboards by submerging in bleach solution – two teaspoons of bleach to one quart of water for five minutes. - Or discard them, wash them or change them, as apprpriate. This keeps your utensils and cleaning tools ... well, clean. Sanitary. Hygenic. And all that good stuff. Weekly is a good idea, if not every few days.


Use rubbing alcohol on counter tops, in the fridge, on doors, door knobs, handles and lightfixtures. - ... and anywhere else you touch a lot, like the side of that door that you tend to swing shut behind you. You don't need to go crazy with the sanitizing - it's a home, not a hospital, after all. I'd suggest doing it ever once in a while or when spring and/or fall cleaning, anyway. Or after someone has had a flu or stomach bug. It's so easy to touch these places and not think about it when you return to cooking.

Of course, after writing about this, studying and breathing it for the past fourteen days, I'm a bit obsessive. However, I consider the above to be commonsense, normal guidelines for kitchen hygiene. So, being a good (pompous) example, I'm now off to clean the kitchen. Without a black-light or petry-dish, thank good God.


Bio: I'm Daphne, and I'm a service-oriented submissive. I'm from Sweden, which is not to be confused with Switzerland - we don't make clocks or chocolate, nor do we wear leatherhosen. I've been in service for the past four years, to my Owner Mephisto. I love cooking, cleaning and organizing. My passion lies in making my Owner's life as pleasant and smooth as possible. I'm also a strong advocate for organic food without additives and cooking from scratch. I recycle, buy used and don't own a car, to minimize my carbon footprint. I'm studying for a Bachelor's in Culinary Arts and Meal Science

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Maple Fudge

While making chocolate fudge last year during the holidays, I was taking out the vanilla extract from the cupboard and next to it was the maple extract. I had bought it because Master enjoys all things maple flavored. I had tried some maple cookies but they didn't turn out quite right here with the altitude we live in. So it had sat there waiting for me to try it out on something else. But since I was making chocolate fudge I thought why not maple fudge? I looked on the internet and really didn't find any that worked for me. Most recipes used pure maple syrup which I am sure would be great but I had maple extract sitting in my cupboard unused at that time (now I have a few recipes I use it in).

So I looked at my chocolate fudge recipe that I adore and found a recipe on Eagle Brand for a fudge recipe that I might be able to play with and make into a maple fudge recipe. So I rolled up my sleeves and just went for it...it took 2 batches to perfect it. And now it is Master's favorite! I make it for him several times a year just as a special treat for him.



MAPLE FUDGE

1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups butterscotch chips
2 sticks butter
2 tsp maple extract

Place all ingredients except the extract into a 2-quart microwave safe mixing bowl and microwave on high for a total of 10 minutes but stirring every 2 minutes. Let cool slightly (usually about 5 to 8 minutes). Beat with a mixer for 3 minutes. Add maple extract and mix for another 2 minutes. Spread mixture into a buttered or parchment paper lined 8 x 8-inch (or 9 x 9) square pan. Chill to set and cut into squares.

NOTES:
These are my notes throughout creating this recipe.

Do beat that full 5 minutes (the 3 plus the 2 after the extract). It really does need the full 5 minutes to get it to the right consistency. When I didn't do this it wouldn't cut nice and smooth like fudge - but broke and crumbled.

This mixture bubbles up quite a bit so a 2 quart mixing bowl is needed or it will boil over/bubble over. Also the bowl and the mixture are VERY HOT so when you stir every 2 minutes be very careful.

The look of it when stirring every 2 minutes:
First stir after 2 minutes in the microwave it will look very greasy because the butter is melting. And very few chips are melted.

After the 4 and 6 minutes it almost look separated - the chips are melting and the butter is fully melted but they don't look like they are going to come together.

After 8 minutes it is coming together the chips are fully melted but the edges looked greasy.

And at the 10 minute mark it almost looks sticky like caramel. But beating it will create a smooth fudge consistency.


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bath Fizzies

I found this recipe for bath fizzies in the book Martha Stewart Crafts.

I was going to order molds online such as something similar to the ones here. But then when in the Dollar Tree they had the silcone ice cube trays. I have seen them at various times of the year too in different shapes. And I think silicone would be easier to get the fizzies out.



1 3/4 cup Baking soda
2 cups Cornstarch
1 cup Citric acid
Spritzer bottles
Food coloring
Glass bowl
Essential oil
Baking molds

Sift 1 3/4 cup baking soda, 1 cup citric acid, and 2 cups cornstarch through a sieve to remove chunks. Fill small spritzer bottles with water and add about 6 drops of food coloring. If you want different tints, use multiple spritzer bottles with different food colorings.

Pour 1 cup of powdered mixture into a glass bowl. Lightly spritz, stirring after each spritz, until powder is desired color. Add spritz water slowly, so mixture does not fizz. If mixing two tints, alternate colors as you spritz. Check the consistency of powder with your fingers; when it can be tightly packed or shaped, stop spritzing (this may take a little while).

Select an essential oil. Add 5 drops if it's one of the stronger scents (peppermint, lavender), 6 if it's a weaker one (lemon, grapefruit). Mix well. Firmly pack mixture into small baking molds. Allow mixture to set for 2 hours, then pop out carefully. Repeat with different tints for remaining powder.

You will have to experiment how much is good for one bath. The silicon ice cube trays that I used - 2 were good for one bath. I packaged them in snack size ziplocks and did a cardboard topper on it that I stapled on the bag with directions on the back.



Friday, December 3, 2010

Peppermint Drop Cookies



Cookies
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate melted and cooled slightly

Frosting
2 cups confectioners' sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
dash of salt
Few drops of red food coloring
crushed peppermint


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Prepare Cookies: In large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. In another medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt. Add flour mixture to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients and beating well after each addition. Blend in chocolate. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until firm. Remove Cookies to wire rack and cool completely.

Prepare frosting: In medium-sized bowl, combine all ingredients except candy. With electric mixer at low speed, beat until of spreading consistency. Top cooled cookies with frosting and sprinkle with candy.

Servings: 4 to 6 dozen depending on size of cookie you make

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Down to the Wire for Thanksgiving Links



Here in the USA it is a week that has a holiday. Which means if you are like me - you are scrambling for a few things last minute for your Thanksgiving meal.

Some links that have some recipes and ideas for you....

Food52: Thanksgiving Sides - I want to try the Ciabatta Stuffing with Chorizo, Sweet Potato, and Mushrooms

59 Cheap and Healthy Recipes

Cooking Light's Ultimate Holiday Cookbook

Thanksgiving Kitchen Tip Sheet from BHG - I used this last year and it really helped me out on a few things

Easy-to-Make Place Cards for Thanksgiving

Tablescapes

Give Thanks Printable Banner

Table Accents from BHG

50 Last Minutes Ideas to Shake Up Thanksgiving

7 Tips to Make Thanksgiving Mindful

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bath Cookies



2 cups finely ground sea salt
1/2 cup baking soda
1/2 cup cornstarch
2 T light oil (almond or canola)
1 tsp vitamin E oil
2 eggs
5-6 drops essential oil of your choice

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Combine all the listed ingredients and form into a dough. Using a teaspoon or so of dough at a time, roll it gently in the palm of your hand until it forms a ball. Form all dough into one teaspoon balls, and gently place them on an ungreased cookie sheet. Consider sprinkling the bath balls with herbs, flower petals, cloves, citrus zest and similar aromatic ingredients. Bake your bath cookies for ten minutes, until they are lightly browned. Do not over bake. Allow the bath cookies to cool completely. To use, drop 1 or 2 cookies into a warm bath and allow to dissolve.

NOTES:
* I wish I would have actually mixed some herbs in to the dough. The lavender bath cookies I did press lavender into the tops of them.

* Make sure they are labeled so that no one tries to eat them.

* I saw one recipe that replaced the eggs with 5 tablespoons ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons water.

* How they dissolve depends on many factors - how warm the water is, if it is soft or hard, how long they were cooked and so on. My Mom who has soft water said they dissolved quickly. But my sister who has hard water said they didn't dissolve quickly but she actually broke it up and that helped.

* Cookies stored in an airtight container will last for 6 to 8 weeks.

* I used snack and sandwich size ziplocks and then made toppers for the bag in photoshop, but they could be hand done too. On the back of the topper I put the directions and storage information.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Penny-pinching vs. Buying organic food

Here's one for the critics. Scenario: You're on a budget, so you're buying in bulk and as cheap as possible. You cut coupons and when you go to bed you consider if it's possible to make your children use cloth rags rather than toilet paper after pissing. Then you stumble across someone with an awesome personality, lots of knowledge and energy – we'll call this person Greta. Greta tells you about the poor, poor, starving children of Asia; the long, exhausting hours that created your low-priced t-shirts; the way Wall-Mart is just stealing customers from small businesses; the poison spewed out over your fresh greens every day by farmers and to top it all off, she goes into depth on the Evils of companies like Monsanto and McDonald's.

To be completely honest, I'm gonna be Greta. Sorry. But bear with me.

It's a moral and economical issue: do you follow Greta's call for you to buy locally produced, fair-trade and organic goods only – or do you penny-pinch? Is it even possible to do both?

I guess, if you live in an area where you're well known and liked, where there's lots of farmers, you could – theoretically – trade goods. ”Give me a five pound bag of your pork, Bill, and I'll make you a gallon of that cider you really like!” That would be cheap, and provided Bill lets his pigs walk outside and gives them only organic food, and you grow your organic apples and make great cider.

However, that idyllic life isn't true for most of us. We live busy lives, often far from farmers. So we must choose. Buying the cheapest cans of tomatoes when they're on sale is of course an option. Buying only the organic canned tomatoes from a Farmer's Market or Co-op is another. Growing and canning your own tomatoes is a third.

But why must we choose? Well, first of all, the world is decidedly heading towards globalism in one form or another. Whether you believe in the New World Order or just think that global-trade is happening, what we do on this side of the globe, affects another in some way. So when that farmer sprays his GMO-corn with Round-Up (don't get me started on Round-Up!), he's not affecting only his farm, his city, his state, his country, but in some way this entire world – probably on a rather miniscule scale though. Actions, therefore, have consequences.

Secondly, to have fresh vegetables all year round, they are often imported or otherwise travel really far. I live in Sweden, is it fair of me to buy African oranges – or even the Spanish ones? Or the ones from Florida, because they tend to show up around Christmas. Do I buy oranges at all? They're grown by a farmer, picked by a worked, loaded onto a truck, driven to a boat or an airport, sailed or flown to my country (or state), loaded onto another truck after spending some time in a warehouse, and then slowly distributed to local stores. That procedure goes for a lot of goods, which produces a lot of greenhouse gases, and since most people own a TV I don't think I need to go on about those.

Thirdly, there's the health aspect. Do you know if the tomatoes in your hypothetical can of tomatoes have been sprayed with chemicals – and if so, were they washed properly? Canning does take a lot of heat and pressure, and tomatoes are notoriously acidic, so they're probably not dangerous as such. However, is there long-time exposure to small amounts of chemicals that could be toxic? There's growing research that suggests that we're continuously bombarded with, for one, estrogen and other hormones, or hormone-like substances, which may (or may not) be the cause of some of our modern illnesses. Parabens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraben#Toxicology) were mentioned, I believe, and they're everywhere in soaps, lotions and make-up.

But then again, you're standing there trying to make your family eat for less than that monstrous bill from last month. D'you really care? They're on sale at the low-price store and tomatoes are versatile! Soups, sauces, crock-pots... feel your mouth watering?

The thing is, making a choice is better than pretending it doesn't exist, so that's why I wrote this. Not to convert you to the locally produced, fair-trade, organic-only side (though I may hope, I suppose), but to provoke a thought. I know families on budgets (in the US mainly), who still buy organic-only, but they've had to change their taste-buds and food-choices. Trends go towards very little meat, lots of vegetables and whole grains, beans and eggs for protein and seasonal-shopping. It is quite possible though!


Bio: I'm Daphne, and I'm a service-oriented submissive. I'm from Sweden, which is not to be confused with Switzerland - we don't make clocks or chocolate, nor do we wear leatherhosen. I've been in service for the past four years, to my Owner Mephisto. I love cooking, cleaning and organizing. My passion lies in making my Owner's life as pleasant and smooth as possible. I'm also a strong advocate for organic food without additives and cooking from scratch. I recycle, buy used and don't own a car, to minimize my carbon footprint. I'm studying for a Bachelor's in Culinary Arts and Meal Science

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Website Review

It isn't often that I will rave about a website. This is one I really want to rave about. It's by invitation only and the discounts on all sorts of products are amazing. The majority of the products sold and discounted are high end children, baby, and women items. I haven't seen very much for men on this site. However the products that I have purchased have all proven to be high quality. The customer service should you need them is really wonderful. You don't feel like just a number and that no one cares to solve your problem. The people were really helpful. They have an easy no hassle return policy as well.

If any of you are interested in checking out the Zulily website, please feel free to use the link below to check it out. With the holiday season upon us, you may be able to find some good gift items on the site to purchase for your children, or relatives, or friends.

http://bit.ly/bzuDbP

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pumpkin Cheesecake



If you aren't wanting to make a traditional pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, this recipe is a good alternative.


Crust
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans (about 6 ounces)
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
(**I ground more ginger snaps then needed so I made a little extra and crumbled on top of the cheesecake the last 5 minutes of cooking - it made it almost toffee like crunch on top)

Filling
4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups canned solid pack pumpkin (1 can pumpkin)
2 tablespoons flour
4 tablespoons half and half
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
4 large eggs


For Crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Finely grind ground cookies, pecans and sugar in processor. Add melted butter and blend until combined. Press crust mixture onto bottom and up sides of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.

For Filling: Using electric mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until light. Add flour, pumpkin, 4 tablespoons half and half, ground cinnamon and ground allspice to mixture in large bowl and beat until well combined. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating just until combined. Pour filling into crust (filling will almost fill pan). Bake until cheesecake puffs, top browns and center moves only slightly when pan is shaken, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool 10 minutes. Run small sharp knife around cake pan sides to loosen cheesecake. Cool. Cover tightly and refrigerate overnight.

Tips:
* Adding flour helps it not to crack
* Make sure the cream cheese and sugar are really beaten well before adding eggs. Over beating eggs will add air which causes cracks.
* I never do a waterbath as it always made the crust soggy when I tried so I have done the water in the pan on the shelf below. Supposedly the moisture in the oven helps to prevent cracking also.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Pantry: Snacks


I have went to the pantry and found a box of open crackers that are now stale or even an empty box sitting on the shelf. I have found multiple boxes of the same thing open or I can't find the snacks that were just purchased the day before because they are now buried under other things in the pantry. Or the thing I bought for that specific recipe I was going to make to take to the potluck is now gone because someone ate it. Yes I admit it I have had all of the above happen.

So here are my tips I have learned so that those things don't happen.

* Organize the pantry and have a specific area for snacks. I have a basket with a label hanging off the it that says snacks. So that family members know this is the area to snack from and help take away confusion of anything I bought for specific recipes.

* Get rid of things that come in boxes and bags you can't see through (make sure to try to recycle those wrappings). If you can see through it, you know if you are getting low with just one glance.

* Have chip clips, ziplocks or see-thru air-tight containers to keep things fresh.

* Keep stock up/backup items on a higher shelf or in another area of the house all together. So that you don't get more than one of the same item open.

* Sometimes it is hard to get that last little bit of crackers or raisins eaten. I am not sure why we don't like taking the last bit but what I have found works is taking those last bits and pieces and mixing them together into a trail mix. Maybe add some chocolate chips or nuts to give some extra flavor.

* Some times something that works for me is on stale items such as crackers and tortilla chip is to crisp them in the oven. Spread them on a cookie sheet and place in a preheated 300 degree oven. Keep a close watch on them - bake approximately 5 to 8 minutes. Allow to cool and then place back into an air-tight container or ziplock.

* And if that doesn't work then I throw all those bits in pieces in ziplock that I keep in the freezer. When it gets full or at least half way full, I run them through the food processor and use them as a replacement to bread crumbs. Often they have a lot of flavor, without adding a lot of spices. If you don't have a food processor, keep them in the ziplock and crush them with a rolling pin.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Reminder: Pantry Stock Up


Start being aware of your the weekly circulars at your grocery stores. Usually basics such as chicken stock, butter and flour and other baking supplies are on sale this time of year. So it is a good time to stock up.

Although I have noticed that some of my usual stores are higher on their prices - even when on sale. It is like some stores decided to up the prices before they put items on sale. So I have been doing some comparison shopping as some of the stores I don't frequent have had lower prices even on name brand items verses store brand.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Congratulations!



The winner of the $45 CSN digital gift card is Christina! Congratulations! I have contacted you by email. If you didn't get that email, please email me at danaewhispering@yahoo.com


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CSN GIVEAWAY!

Domestic Servitude was recently contacted by CSN stores to host a giveaway on the blog. Yay!

CSN has over 200 stores with a wide range of items for your home as well as other aspects of your life. So many great items that can help in making the home pretty as well as efficient. You can get cookware, flooring, luggage and even a bar stool. So many things added to my wish list after browsing all their stores.

So, what do you get to win? A $45 gift certificate to use at any one of CSN stores!!

To be entered in this giveaway you can do one to 4 of the options. Please do one comment for each entry option:

1. Become a follower and leave me a comment letting us know you stopped by.

2. Head on over to CSN and take a look and let us know what you would love to have in your home.

3. Post this giveaway on your blog and leave a comment with the link.

4. Tweet about the giveaway and leave a comment with the link.

Enter before 10pm (mountain time) on November 1st. Winner will be announced on Tuesday the 2nd.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cooking Ahead


This is a guest blog post by my friend Rheya who works a very busy schedule so does a lot of cooking ahead. Whenever she talked about, I am always intrigued with the idea so I asked her to write about it for us.

While I would love to be a stay-at-home domestic, the truth is most days I love my job. To me, my job is just another form of service, not only to my Master, but to my community. Most evenings, when I arrive home I am tired and not wanting to think of what I will need to put together a tasty dinner.

So I rely on either meals I’ve cooked ahead and frozen or my trusty crock-pot for dinner during my work week.

By cooking ahead, I can also lower my weekly grocery bill on a weekly basis, thereby allowing room to stock up on basics that I will need for upcoming marathon cooking sessions and taking advantage of sales and coupons.

Before starting a marathon cooking session, I take stock of what I have. That way as I’m making my grocery list, I can make sure I don’t over buy. I try to plan the meals based on a few simple rules:

What freezes well? Generally stews, chilis, raw meat in marinades, casseroles, and things in sauces freeze best.
What does Sir like? Generally, the more simple the better.
What do I have on hand? Lots of canned tomatoes? Is the garden in bloom? Do I have an abundance of cream of mushroom soup?
What are the stores having specials on? Is my local grocery store having a special on ground beef? What about the bulk food club I belong to?

After that I make a list and I go first to the bulk food club. Generally there I stock up on meats, dairy, canned and frozen veggies and dry pasta I may need for the cooking session. Then I go to my local grocery store and pick up other items. One other place I check is my local drug stores if I know they are having a sale on Campbell’s Condensed Soups.

Now that you’ve got all the supplies, start early on a morning and get cooking. First thing I do is get out utensils I may need including my industrial sized cutting board. I tend to chop up a bunch of onion first, then carrots and celery or whatever veggies I have. Make sure phyllo, puff pastry or frozen veggies has been moved to the refrigerator thaw, de-skin the chicken or turkey if needed.

I find that I’m most organized when I can start one pot simmering (such as spaghetti sauce), one pot or skillet stir-frying or sautéing (chili, peppercorn chicken) and something baking in the oven (herb chicken legs). During breaks I put together marinades for raw meat that will freeze in the marinade.

Once everything is cooked, I prep it for freezing. If it is a casserole, it goes in its pan covered in foil into the refrigerator with a label that says what it is and when it was made. Sauces and chilis and I tend to bag in freezer bags. The best way to get things neatly into a bag, I’ve found is by taking a small mixing bowl and draping the bag over the edge of the bowl, lining the bowl with the bag and then scooping the sauce and the chili in.

Everything should be cooled to room temperature and sealed tightly before putting it into the freezer. I take things out the night before to thaw in the refrigerator.

I also make a list of what I’ve cooked indicating how many pre-packaged servings I have and check it off as I go so I know what’s left.

And now for a recipe!

Peppercorn Chicken (makes 4 servings, can easily be doubled, tripled, etc)

1 lb Chicken Tenders
2 Tbsp Cooking Sherry
1 Cup Milk
1 Package Brown Gravy Mix
½ Tsp Ground Peppercorns (I used a mix of black, white, pink and green)

Preheat pan on medium; coat with cooking spray. Cook chicken until brown. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cook 2-3 minutes stirring frequently or until sauce thickens.

Store in a gallon-sized freeze bag, label with date and cool to room temperature, make sure all air is squeezed out before sealing and store in deep freeze.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Laundry Soap Change

An update on my laundry soap: I've upped my bar soap from a half a bar to a full bar, and have become a Fels Naptha convert. I like the product a lot better.

For a real whitening boost, try adding a scoop of Clorox OxiMagic to the load. I've been using that in place of chlorine bleach for awhile now, plus I'll toss a scoop in a load of bright clothes, too.

For a degreasing or deodorizing boost, add a splash of regular pinesol to the load. Though it smells quite strong during and just after the cycle, by the time the clothes come out of the dryer, they are just pleasantly scented, much as they would be with a fabric softener. I had found that the homemade laundry soap wasn't so great at removing strong odors (such as my teenage son's tendency to bathe in cologne before school.) But Pinesol works great for this!

And as always, white vinegar as a fabric softener not only keeps your clothes soft and static free, it has the added bonus of de-gunking your washing machine.

Happy laundering. :-)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Cleaning

I have these on the blog already but stored in a different place. The other links might not work much longer so please use these. Included in these links is one that is a more whole house general list instead of broken down into detailed room lists.

Download and Print:
Kitchen
Dining Room
Closets and Laundry Room
Living Room, Family Room and Office
Bedroom
Bathroom
Basement, Attic and Garage
Outside
Smaller General List

Friday, October 15, 2010

Friday Favorites



All food finds today...

Healthy Halloween and Fall Favorites - Pumpkin Spiced Biscuits, Beef Daube Provençal and Maple-Chile Popcorn are among the recipes collection

Cooking Lights Best Banana Breads - The banana fosters bread and the peanut butter banana bread look so very good

21 Crowd Pleasing Chicken Casseroles

36 Yummy Pumpkin Recipes - too many wonderful recipes that are perfect for Autumn

Cocktail Hour Bar Snacks

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Product Review: Glass Cleaning Cloth

I purchased a microfiber glass cleaning cloth a few weeks ago. I don't recall the brand name, and didn't think to snap a pic before I tossed out the packaging. But I bought it at Wal-mart, in the cleaning aisle. It's a blue, waffle-weave patterned cloth specifically advertised for windows/mirrors, etc.

It claimed to work with just water and was priced at an outrageous $1.97. ;)

I was in the cleaning aisle because I was low on Windex. I figured, for a price less than a new spray bottle of cleaner, I'd give it a go. Anything that helps me reduce the use of chemical cleaning products AND reduces paper towel waste AND costs less than 2 bucks? I'm game to try.

It works wonderfully. It works so much better than Windex. I love it. I've been on a window and mirror cleaning spree since I bought it.

It doesn't streak. It doesn't leave lint. It's just so easy. I've wet a corner of it under the faucet and it worked great. I've spritzed windows with a water bottle and it worked great. I've used it just barely damp and it works great!

I've had it now, like I said, for a few weeks, use it pretty much daily (we have lots of windows and lots of mirrors!), and today is the first day I've put it in the laundry. I'm not sure how well it'll hold up through laundering, as it seems to me that microfiber cloths tend to not take well to being laundered over time. But even if it only lasts a couple of months, at less than two dollars a cloth, I still think it'll be a money saver. Plus, it just works better!

Bonus Cheapskate Homemaker Tip: Using an electric knife, cut your paper towel rolls in half (so you end up with two toilet paper-sized rolls of towels). Often, especially with the kids or when just covering a dish in the microwave, a full sized paper towel is way bigger than I need. I can always take more if I need more, and this way, I have twice as many towels to use. :)

Friday, October 8, 2010

Friday Favorites



31 Days to Less Messy Nest - Nester did 31 Days last year and I really enjoyed it and got some useful tips so I am sure this year will be just as good

Zippered Case by Design Sponge - Says Sewing 101 on it so hopefully not to hard? It just looks like something that would be practical as well as giftable.

Moving Tips Budget Guide - there are many helpful links on moving in the left sidebar

Thousand Dollar Bars - These look too good to me. That link goes to the blog entry about it - with more photos. Here is a link to the actual recipe.

Toss Out Guide - with fall cleaning here for me - I often go through these type of things too to see what we are hanging on to that we don't need to be

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Salted vs Unsalted Butter


A question I received about recipes that call for unsalted butter. It was asked if they could use regular salted butter instead unsalted butter

I recommend using unsalted butter when a recipe calls for it, because it allows you to control the total amount of salt in the recipe. But sometimes I do not have unsalted butter so I do use salted butter and then omit salt from recipe. It is my preference though to use unsalted especially for baked goods.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cleaning the Iron

Please read your manufactures instruction manual.

Mineral deposits can clog your steam iron. You can dissolve them by pouring some white vinegar into the water tank and letting it steam for several minutes. After cleaning with the vinegar, iron an old clean cloth. Residue will be deposited on the cloth. Cool the iron and rinse with water or distilled water if your iron calls for distilled water. If you get frequent mineral deposits, it might be because you are using tap water.

If you use spray starch, it will stick to the soleplate of the iron and need cleaning. The best way to clean it is to make a paste of baking soda and water and then brush the soleplate with an old clean tooth brush. If it isn't coming clean, then apply it again and scrub firmly. Cleaning it regularly will prevent the stuck on spray starch rubbing off on clothing when you are ironing.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Favorites

Sweet Paul's Fabulous Fall eMagazine - I just think it is a pretty magazine with some good recipes and ideas

Homemade Chai - with cooler season coming upon us I am this sounds good

Slipcover Headboard - easy way to change things up

How to connect your computer to your TV - This website has articles on this and many more tech related how-to's

Pie Crust 101 by Smitten Kitchen - also 102 and 103 - This is something I haven't been able to master I am hoping by reading these that it will help me on this quest

Monday, September 20, 2010

Eco Tip

Recycle foam or cardboard egg cartons and use them as buffers in packages. You can cut them to size easily, save money and be green by recycling.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Favorites



12 Steps to Eating Real Food - Just some basic steps to start eating real foods instead of processed or refined. I started to do this a few years ago and then slipped off the wagon and started buying refined again and that bothers me but reality - it came down to price. But I would love to start going back to more real foods and this is a good basic guide.

Mingling is the Word - 5 mingling tips to help when entertaining (beware the font is really small - might be easier to highlight and cut and paste into a notepad or word doc to blow up the font)

VeggieTrader.com - With gardening coming to an end for many this might be useful for getting rid of some of your extras - trade with others.

Giant Ginger Cookies - With all the talk of fall I have seen in the blogosphere when I came upon these cookies they screamed fall to me. They look so yummy!

Responsible Resale Rehab - basically an article on finding furniture at thrift stores or garage sales and what to do to clean them (greenly) and repair them


NOTE FROM YOUR HOSTESS: I apologize for the lack of posts this summer. I feel that with autumn coming - it is my favorite time of year and I nest. So I have started several posts for back to basics series and other tips as well as recipes and book reviews.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Favorites



DIY Hand Sanitizer and Disinfectant - I admit it sometimes I become obsessed about germs - just like I am obsessed with natural products so these recipes I can't wait to make.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting - with fall right around the corner I imagine this recipe being good on many cupcake recipes

Organic Processing Industry Structure - I just thought this was an interesting read on who owns which organic brands. Many I didn't realize were owned by big names in the processed food industry.

Household Companion: The Home Book Of Etiquette - I absolutely love old household books. And this is one I am sure I would never get to read if it weren't online

10 Tips to Remember when Purchasing Appliances - some good reminders when buying appliances. Last year we had our stove go out right around the holidays and had to buy very quickly and there were a few things I wish I would have asked family and friends about before it was bought

Friday, September 3, 2010

Friday Favorites



September is National Rice Month. Who knew!! I know until recently I had no idea there was such a thing as National Rice Month. But in keeping with that concept, here is this week's Friday Favorites:

National Rice Month
This link is about boosting your health by eating more rice.

How to clean your coffee pot with the use of rice
I never had any idea that one of the ways to clean your coffee pot was using white rice. I found this article and "how to" to be very interesting.

Save your cellphone from water damage Use rice to absorb moisture and perhaps save you from having to replace your cell phone from water damage.

Rice Massage Therapy A short video on how to use rice in massage therapy.

Cooking the perfect cup of rice Often times people have told me in the past that they aren't able to cook rice well. Either it is too crunchy, or too mushy, or too pastey. Alot of that has to also do with the type of rice you are attempting to cook, but here is a quick "how to" on cooking rice.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Linguine with Peppery Beef Strips

I have a few of those recipe cards that you get in the mail. They send them in hopes that you will agree to a monthly subscription of them. I will at times save some of them. This recipe is one I saved and made this week.



Ingredients
1 lb lean beef steak
1/2 Tbsp dried oregano
1/2 Tbsp dried basil
2 Tbsp coarsely ground pepper
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 cup beef broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch*
8 oz linguine
1 cup julienned carrots

Directions
Slice steak into 1 4-inch-thick slices. Mix oregano, basil, pepper, olive oil, garlic and green onions in a shallow dish. Add steak; toss to coat. Heat water for pasta. Dissolve cornstarch in broth. Cook pasta according to package directions. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add steak; stir-fry for about 3 minutes. Remove steak. Stir broth mixture into skillet. Boil, stirring continually, for about 1 minute. Return steak to skillet. Add carrots; cook for 5 minutes. Drain pasta and add to skillet; toss with steak and vegetables. Serve immediately. Servings: 6

* The recipe card left off cornstarch on the ingredients list but not in the directions so I just did a guess on the amount. And it seemed to work good.

NOTES:
- I was out of green onions so I just used some finely grated onion
- I used Top Round Steak - thinly cut
- Added some left over red and orange bell peppers maybe 1/2 of one all together
- Added some red pepper flakes to give it some heat

We liked it and it is something that we would like to have again but I think I would add a little more broth and cornstarch. It soaked in to the pasta quickly. But otherwise it was good. It was a nice change of flavors from traditional stir fry.

Print

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Random finds....

I've been on an organization/purging kick lately and found the following resources while surfing in the wee hours when I should be sleeping.

Clean Mama Blog- excellent blog posts on green cleaning, spring cleaning and housekeeping along with project ideas and organizing. My favorite? Her step by step clean ALL your bedding blogpost (I'm not a fan of flat sheets, either!)

Simplify 101
- professional organizers that provide online workshops and offer a good selection of free tips and articles on organization. I liked the fact that not only did the tips cover decluttering, organizing and cleaning on both home and office, but it covered productivity and life goals/changes as well.

Crazy Domestic Blog- good articles overall on cleaning and organizing but the one that got me really excited was this guest tutorial on etched glass storage jars. So cute! (I am totally doing this for the holidays).

My new discovery: Podcasts on Organizing (I'm still in the process of finding which ones I like, but it never occurred to me to check itunes for podcasts on cleaning/organizing)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Favorites


I don't know about in your house but in our house dinner time can sometimes be a super busy time of day. Even though it is a busy time of day in our house I still like to get good tasting food on the table in the evenings. With that in mind this week's Friay Favorites are all about the quick and easy meal.

Mccormick 30 minute meals This is one of my go to sites when I need quick meal ideas. It's not fancy food by any means, but it is tastey and quick, as well as nutricious.

Rachel Ray
We are also big Rachel Ray fans in our house. Her recipes are easy to follow, affordable food, things my whole family will eat even the picky eaters, and quick to prepare.

365 No Repeats Cookbook This is one of my go to cookbooks for dinner ideas when I need a quick and easy meal. I like that it gives me so many options without repeating itself. It inspires me not to cook the same 10 dishes over and over again.

Dinner planner This is a great site to utilize if you, like many of us, find yourself in a rut with cooking the same few things often. It's a grea tool in helping to prepare dinner planning ahead of time so that you have a game plan and can excute that plan. That is also a time saver in the kitchen.

30 meals in one day I haven't tried this product out, but I keep coming back to the site because it is a concept that I have seriously given much thought to. I like the idea of being able to prepare many meals all at once. Using say a Sunday to cook up a week or two (or according to this site 30 days worth) of meals all at one time, then storing them in the freezer for future use. In our house we do prepare some meals ahead of time so that on nights that are super rushed we can just grab the already prepared frozen meal, defrost and heat, add a healthy salad or fresh veggie side dish, and we are good to go. This site may be worth checking out for some of you who want to do a lot of food preparation ahead of time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Favorites

Although summer is still upon us, with Labor Day approaching in a few weeks my mind starts drifting to fall. A wonderful season to enjoy but also one with a lot of yard and house clean up and maintenance. Here are some helpful links for just such an occassion.

Real Simple Home Orgainzing
Fall cleaning Checklist. I always find it helpful to make a checklist when I do spring and fall cleaning. Real Simple has gone and made one up already that you may find helpful if you haven't already made your own list.

Closet Tips
5 tips to organizing your closet. I found this to be helpful although a bit basic. I am always looking for better ways to organize a closet and this was a good place to start.

Fall Backyard Cleanup Tips
Fall cleanup for backyards. This site had a lot of helpful information regarding backyard cleanup for the fall season. They provided ten time saving tips on yard maintenance and care.

Gutter Cleaning
A How to Guide to Gutter cleaning. I put this one in here now because although the leaves are still on the trees, in the northeast they will fall soon enough and if you have to do any maintenance to your gutters it is best to accomplish this before the leaves start to fall so that your gutters are functional when fall does come.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Friday Favorites

This week, I'm celebrating the flavors of summer before it winds down.

Raspberry Limeade Slushies
I've been going through a lime juice phase. So I definitely perked when I saw these luscious slushies with two of my favorite fruit.

French Martini Sorbet
A yummy cocktail inspired dessert from Cooking Light, combining the flavors of raspberry, lemon and pineapple.

Insalata Caprese
Usually by this time of year, we are overrun with tomatoey goodness. My favorite way to use them is Insalata Caprese (the leftovers- if there are any- are great in a sandwich the next day). Best of all, it's a no-cook recipe that's ready in ten minutes. While the traditional recipe only calls for olive oil, occasionally I will cheat and drizzle a few drops of a rich balsamic vinegar on top.

Argula Salad with Peaches and Goat Cheese
This is a new-to-me blog but I love some of the recipes showcased. Make sure you read the helpful Kitchen Notes at the bottom of the recipe. I love using fresh fruits in salads- blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peaches. So the combination of argula and peaches picqued my interest immediately. Especially with creamy goat cheese and a garlicky dressing. Yum!

And... from the same blog: summertime equals sizzling steaks from the grill for me. But I like to add a fresh, herbal summery kick with chimichurri sauce during these hotter than hot months (plus I can drizzle the sauce on grilled veggies, salads, bread, etc). Blue Kitchen has a recipe that went immediately on my "must try now!" list: Pan Seared Steaks with Chimichurri Sauce

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Cauliflower, Sweet Onion and Leek Quiche Recipe - Every Day with Rachael Ray

I had cauliflower and onions that I needed to use up this week and just in time was this recipe from Rachel Ray. I have to say that this turned out really well. I think next time I will make my own crust for the quiche, but over all this was pretty yummy. I think it would also taste good if you added other vegetables to the quiche. Really whatever you had on hand would work.

Cauliflower, Sweet Onion and Leek Quiche Recipe - Every Day with Rachael Ray

Book Review: More Easy Everyday Cooking

More Easy Everyday Cooking by Better Homes and Gardens

This book offers a wide variety of fairly easy recipes that could be made everyday of the week. It is broken into sections: Appetizers & Snacks, Salads, Soups & Stews, Beef & Pork, Fish & Seafood, Poultry, Meatless Dishes, Cookies & Cakes and Desserts. It has over 200 recipes and 144 photographs.

I don't think this book is one I feel I need to own but if I was a working Mom that had trouble coming up with ideas on what to cook - this book might be worth owning. A lot of the recipes are 30 minutes or under (except some of the desserts). I am glad I checked it out from the library and have several recipes flagged to make.

I only have had time to make one recipe. And it was easy and tasted good. I made Baked Vegetable Dippers. It was more healthy also then the fried version of vegetable dippers. The only problem I had it didn't cover as many pieces of veggie as the recipes has in it.

Here is the recipe the Baked Vegetable Dippers:

* Nonstick Cooking Spray
* 1 cup cornflake crumbs
* 2 tablespoons grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
* 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
* 1/8 teaspoon red pepper
* 2 egg whites
* 2 tablespoon water
* 2 small zucchini or yellow summer squash - cut into 1/4 inch slices
* 1 cup cauliflower florets
* 1 cup halved mushrooms or broccoli florets
* 1 8-ounce can pizza sauce or marinara sauce

Coat baking sheet with cooking spray and set it aside.

In a small bowl combine cornflakes, cheese, garlic powder and red pepper. In a small bowl beat egg whites and water.

Dip vegetables into egg white mixture and then into crumb mixture to coat. Place vegetables in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Bake in a 400 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Heat pizza sauce for dipping warm vegetables.

NOTES:
* I used store brand cornflakes
* Recipe in book calls for 3/4 cup cornflakes - it wasn't going to cover all the veggies I prepared to added more that additional 1/4 cup - I would prepare veggies as you go to make sure you have enough to cover them
* I used homemade marinara sauce

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