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


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