Monday, December 29, 2008

Just a Note from your Hostess....

Next year I promise to be more organized and give holiday tips, decorating ideas and recipes. This holiday season has been very different for Master and I as we have some family obligations that took a lot of our time and energy. I hope to enjoy the holiday season much more next year.

I do have some posts coming for the New Year though so please look out for those!

And please feel free to write or comment on ideas and things you would like to see here also!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Slow Cooker Pork Stew

1-1/2 lb. pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
16 oz. kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 cup chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 15-oz. cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1-inch chunks
1 14-oz. can chicken broth or 1-3/4 cups water
3 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped tomato or halved cherry tomatoes
Crumb Topper (recipe below)

In a 6- to 7-quart slow cooker combine pork shoulder, kielbasa, onions, garlic, beans, carrots, chicken broth, tomato paste, thyme, and pepper. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. Stir in tomatoes. Cover and cook 10 minutes more. Spoon serving into a bowl and top with crumb topping.

Crumb Topper: Crumb Topper: In a food processor or bowl combine 1-1/2 cups coarse French bread crumbs, 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1/4 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix until blended. Spread the crumbs out on a baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden and dry, 20 to 30 minutes.

Friday, December 5, 2008

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 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.


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.

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.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Good Wife's Guide

This Good Wife article has been circulating on some of the submissive lists/groups I am on lately - again. So I thought I would post it here too. Click on the picture to get a bigger view but also I am copying the text below.

  • Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have be thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they get home and the prospect of a good meal is part of the warm welcome needed.
  • Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you'll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.
  • Be a little gay and a little more interesting for him. His boring day may need a lift and one of your duties is to provide it.
  • Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the house just before your husband arrives. Run a dustcloth over the tables.
  • During the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.
  • Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vacuum. Encourage the children to be quiet.
  • Be happy to see him.
  • Greet him with a warm smile and show sincerity in your desire to please him.
  • Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first - remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.
  • Don't greet him with complaints and problems.
  • Don't complain if he's late for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through at work.
  • Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or lie him down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.
  • Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.
  • Don't ask him questions about his actions or question his judgment or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.
  • A good wife always knows her place

Now take it with a grain of salt. Can some of it be a good guide to help service? Can some of it just be good domestic practices? Of course some of the items can be positive. But of course take what works and throw the rest out. Bend it and shape it to fit your life in service or laugh at if you think it is just funny.

(BTW this has been on snopes as not being a "real" article)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Book: Once-a-Month Cooking & a recipe

I think the concept of this book is really an interesting idea. But what this book lacked for me was recipes. The recipes were repetitious using similar ingredients so you would end up with several nights in row eating similar tasting meals. Or they just had many processed foods and not a lot of creativity. Meals people see at a church potluck which is fine once in a while at home. If you have no idea how to start doing this - just reading this book might help a person sort through their own recipes and get ideas on how to make the shopping list and how to execute all the cooking on your list (as cooking similar things back to back since you are chopping up chicken for one you might as well chop chicken for all the recipes you will use for the month). But for recipes alone this book really wasn't the best - in my opinion.

I saved a few recipes - The cookie recipes as you know having some dough in the freezer and being able to cook them up every once in a while when needing to send some to someone or celebrate a birthday or whatever would be handy. So that seemed very handy to me to freeze them already scooped into cookie size. (if you want the cookie recipes please let me know - ginger cookies and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies)

And then this one which I haven't had a chance to make yet...
Sicilian Meat Roll

2 beaten eggs
3/4 c. soft bread crumbs
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 lb. ground hamburger
1 (6 oz.) pkg. mozzarella cheese
1/2 c. tomato juice
2 tbsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. salt
1 clove garlic, minced
4-6 oz. thinly sliced ham

In bowl, combine eggs and tomato juice. Stir in bread crumbs, parsley, oregano, salt, pepper and garlic. Add hamburger; mix well. On waxed paper or foil, pat meat to a 10 x 8 inch rectangle. Arrange ham slices on top meat, leaving a small margin around edges. Reserve 1 slice of cheese. Tear up remaining cheese and sprinkle over ham. Roll up. Bake in 9 x 13 x 2 inch baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or until done. Put rest of cheese on top and melt.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Recipe: Pumpkin Cheesecake

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)

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.

Something I don't do a water bath but usually I just do a tray of water on the shelf below to create moisture in the oven. I didn't do that because frankly I forgot. I was just so excited to be making a pumpkin cheesecake that I didn't remember to do the tray and my weird timing thing I usually do which is turning the oven from 350 to 250 and well it turned out really good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Organizing Home Link

"It doesn't take much to keep your home running like a well-oiled machine. If you can find five to ten minute pockets of time you can accomplish small tasks that will make a huge impact on the orderliness of your home. Here is a list of ten key tasks that take little time but make a big difference. Start adding them to your daily routine today and see the difference in how your house looks and how you feel."

10 Daily Steps to an Organized Home

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Italian Stew - EASY!

It is getting cold and fall is here so soups and stews sound so warm and delicious. Sometimes I just want something easy not a lot of chopping and prep time and this recipe is just the answer. It has great flavor.

Browned and crumbled 2 Mild Italian Sausages (if you want it more meaty add more sausage but there is so many good things in this I didn't need more then 2 sausages)
1 can (14-15 oz)chicken broth
1 can (15 oz) white beans - drained and rinsed
1 can (14-15 oz)diced tomatoes with juice
1/2 package of stir fry peppers and onions
1/2 package of frozen green beans
basil to taste
1 cup cooked elbow noodles

I threw everything except the elbow noodles into the crock and cooked on low for 6 hours. The last 5 minutes I added the cooked elbow noodles and then served in bowls with some grated Parmesan cheese on top.

This could easily be done on the stovetop too but I love my crockpot.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Simply Service Holiday Issue

Bootpig announced that the special holiday issue of Simply Serivce is out. 28 pages of amazing "holiday goodness" sums it up!

It is online at Sensual Service - Simply Service Archive. But you could also subscribe to it at And you will be subscribed for all future issues plus receive the Holiday Issue automatically.

A big thanks to Bootpig and Porkchop for putting it together! It looks absolutely amazing!

(couldn't resist the holiday icon with pigs!)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cloth Napkins

When I moved in with Master, he had quite a few sets of placemats and cloth napkins. And I ended up making the most of the cloth napkins. I use them everyday meal time on the table as napkins in place of a paper towel or paper napkin. It really is a super easy way to dress up meal time. And it is more green then using paper napkins or paper towels.

I have them sitting in the counter on a basket (yes that is them in the photo) to grab from. Some have really faded and are getting worn but they still work. And truthfully some of them I would have never picked out but they were given as gifts. But they still make the table look nicer then a paper product. The clearance sections (in Target, Wal-Mart, Kohls) are great place to look because you can get cheap that way any where from 50 cents to $1.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Book: Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook by Beth Hensperger

I was looking for a book that didn't have lots of cream of whatever soups, velvetta cheese, salad dressing and onion soup mix and this book didn't disappoint me. I was having trouble finding good recipes that use what I consider 'real' ingredients. I have tried a few recipes and they have been very good. And I look forward to trying many more. Basically if you want make recipes using non-processed, healthy ingredients then this is the book for you. If you want a cookbook for that dumps things in without any or little prep then this probably isn't the book for you.

I will say that I use my crockpot all the time and this book had many recipes in it that I already do so it might be a repeat for you if you do use your crockpot. Of course there were some new things and I have enjoyed trying them out - and they have been very good.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cooking with the Crock Pot

It was asked on one of the FetLife groups about if anyone used a crock pot anymore. Elsewhere I was asked how I cook pork chops and chicken in the crock

I use my crock pot at least once a week -- but during the winter often several times a week. I have made oatmeal and desserts in mine. Baked beans and ribs are always great in the crock pot. I do use mine to make soups and stews in the winter a lot but I do also use it to cook meat entrees year around. I like using it during the summer as it doesn't seem to heat the kitchen up like the oven does. I have 2 crock pots well 4 if you count the one with wax in it for SM play and another for wax to use in art.

For super easy but tasty...Pork Chops or chicken I just placed the meat in the bottom, cut up onions and garlic and placed them in the pot and then sprinkled it all with some pepper and maybe another seasoning like thyme. And then cooked on low for 6 to 8 hours (really until when I try to pick them up with a fork they almost fall apart).

Other things I have done with either pork chops or chicken: pour some Italian dressing on them or a can of cream of mushroom soup. Spread hoisin sauce on them (it is like a Chinese bbq). Sprinkle them with teryaki and/or soy sauce, garlic and ginger. Sprinkle them with grillmate. Or spread a little Dijon mustard on them. Cooked them with a can of crushed tomatoes and chopped peppers (good to served over rice). Pour some balsamic vinegar on them. Cooked them with chopped potatoes, onions, green beans and carrots and season like I would a roast.

Chicken thighs - my favorite way to eat them is honey lemon but Master isn't a fan of lemon. All I did for that though is cut up a lemon and squeeze it over the thighs and then put them in the pot after I squeezed them as it releases good flavor still. And then drizzled honey over them. Add chopped onions and garlic.

I slice up cheap steak and put it in the crock with peppers and onions and serve on hoagie buns with cheese.

Lately we have had diced pork on sale for cheaper then ground hamburger. I have been putting that in the crock. I did one meal recently with teryaki sauce and soy sauce and then mixed it into some fried rice. I have done a Mexican dish with the diced pork, can of diced tomatoes, pinto beans or black beans, chilies, onion, garlic and spices served it on tortilla with cheese.

Really I don't think you can go wrong with a crock pot. They are easy to use and make a nice hot meal without lots of work. I know I am glad to have a crock pot.

**top photo -- I had a huge pork loin that I ended up splitting into like 4 different meals. One portion though after cooking in the crock I shredded it and froze it. And then took it out and put in the crock with same mixture I describe above - diced tomatoes, black beans, chilies, onion and garlic. Added cumin too. And then served it on tortillas with cheese.

second photo -- is of the honey lemon chicken...I had added a few sprinkles of a citrus grillmate.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Cleaning Your Closet

I just read a tip that I thought was interesting. For organizing your closet and getting rid of things you don't wear.

You basically buy 2 different colored hangers. And you start everything out on one color. When you wear it, wash it and return it to the closet, it gets put on the other color hanger. Then at the end of 6 months or a year clothes still hanging on that original color hanger get an evaluation of why you even have in your closet since you didn't wear it.

My personal thoughts on this though...having all those extra hangers around from that first set would start to annoy me. I hate having lots of empty hangers they get all tangled into each other. But it is a good way to actually SEE what you wear - having that tangible visible proof that something didn't get worn is harder to ignore then just living in denial and saying oh I will wear it soon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Book: Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois

I give this book 5 stars although I feel the title is misleading (not really 5 minutes a day). Otherwise this book is FANTASTIC. It is one I would like to own. I have only made the master recipe so far but it worked really well. I even did them in loaf pans instead of free form and also used it for a pan of cinnamon rolls.

I have a bread machine that I love and use often but what stops me from using it a lot is - time even though it does save time. With this book it tells you how to make up a big batch of "wet" dough and store it in your fridge for 5 to 14 days (depending on recipe) and then pull from it and make bread daily or every other day - whatever works for you.

It says 5 minutes a day because you pull the dough off the big batch you made already and shape - in 5 minutes. But the rising time is still quite long so don't think just because you pulled it out that in 40 minutes to an hour you will have fresh bread. It took my bread often 2 hours to raise to the size I wanted it.

I live in high altitude and this bread still turned out perfect. But the book really helps you trouble shoot if you are having problems and it helped me not feel so intimidated by baking bread without my bread machine. I feel the recipes of this book are going to be mainstays in Master's home. I don't doubt there will always be a tub of dough going in our fridge.

I like really light colored bread but this bread would have been fine baking it longer to give it a dark crust.

EDIT: 1/7/09 - Amazon has this book on sale! It is normally $27.95 and they have cut it to $16.77.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What to bring to Potlucks or Parties

A question asked on FetLife Domestic Servitude group what do you make to take to potlucks or parties?

Corn Souffle
1 (16 oz.) can whole corn, undrained
1 (16 oz.) can creamed corn
1 stick melted butter, cooled
1 c. sour cream
1 box Jiffy corn bread mix
2 slightly beaten eggs

Mix until blended. Bake at 350 degrees in a 2 1/2 quart casserole dish for 40 minutes to 1 hour or until golden brown.

Potluck Potatoes
1 (2 pound) package frozen hash brown potatoes, thawed - I don't use the shredded but you can
1/2 cup melted butter
1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups crushed cornflakes cereal
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

In a large bowl, combine hash browns, 1/2 cup melted butter, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, chopped onion, Cheddar cheese, salt and pepper. Place mixture in a 3 quart casserole dish.

In a medium bowl mix crushed cornflakes and melted butter, and sprinkle the mixture over the top of the casserole.

Bake covered in preheated oven for 40 minutes.

Bacon Water Chestnuts
1 pkg. bacon cut in half
1 can (8 oz.) whole water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup miracle whip/salad dressing
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 cup chili sauce

Preheat oven to 350°F. Wrap bacon around water chestnuts; secure with toothpicks. Place in shallow baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients; pour over water chestnuts. Bake 30 minutes or until heated through.

Pizza Margherita
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. plum Roma tomatoes, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
1 12" uncooked dough crust
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
6 fresh basil leaves cut into julienne strips
extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh shredded Parmesan cheese

Combine 2 Tbls. olive oil, tomatoes, garlic, and salt in bowl. Allow to marinate while making dough. Brush dough crust lightly with olive oil. Top with cheese, then tomatoes. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake in preheated 500F oven on pizza stone for 8−10 minutes or until crust is golden brown and cheese is bubbly. Remove from oven and top with Parmesan cheese, then basil. Cool on a wire rack for 2−3 minutes before cutting into squares before serving.

Taco Dip
2 - 8 oz. packages of Cream Cheese
2 cups Salsa
2 cups Cheddar Cheese
Optional: Browned hamburger with taco seasoning.

Spread cream cheese on the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Spread salsa on top of cream cheese and then top with cheddar cheese. Bake in the over until cheese is melted and bubbly. I have also added the taco seasoned hamburger. Spread cream cheese on the bottom of a 9 x 13 pan. Then add brown taco seasoned hamburger. Salsa and then cheese. It has been a hit both ways. Serve with tortilla chips.

Crab Rangoon
Okay this is a guess on some of the measurements as I just usually mix and taste until I get it to the flavor I want. Makes about 90-95 crab ragoons

16 ounces cream cheese
16 ounces fresh crab meat, canned crab meat, drained and flaked or artificial crab meat
1 -2 teaspoon light soy sauce
1/4 cup green onions, finely sliced
1 small clove garlic, finely minced
sugar, to taste

1 package wonton wrappers
1 small bowl filled with water for wetting wontons
Oil for deep-frying

Combine and mix crab, cream cheese, soy sauce, green onions, garlic and sugar. Place teaspoonful of mixture in middle of a wonton wrapper. Moisten edges and draw up opposite corners to meet and form a package. Make sure all edges are sealed. Cover the completed Crab Rangoon with a damp towel to prevent them from drying out while preparing the rest.

Heat wok or pan and add oil for deep-frying. When oil is ready (the temperature should be between 360 - 375 degrees), carefully slide in the Crab Rangoon, taking care not to overcrowd. Deep-fry until they are golden brown, about 2 minutes, turning once. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool and serve.

(To make ahead: The filling can be prepared up to a day ahead of time and stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator, or the wontons can be filled and refrigerated up to one day ahead of time before cooking. The wontons can also be prepared up to the deep-frying stage and frozen for up to 3 months. Cook the frozen wonton according to the instructions above, adding a few minutes to the cooking time).

Spicy Pecans
3 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tbsp. sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt

Heat oven to 300°. In a mixing bowl, combine melted butter, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, chili powder, curry powder and salt. Add the pecans to the mixture and stir until thoroughly coated. Spread pecans onto a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until crisp and lightly toasted. Serve warm. (The Spicy Pecans may be reheated in the oven or microwave.) Makes 3 cups.

Sour Cream Cookies
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1 cup sour cream

3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp cream or half and half

Preheat Oven to 350. Mix flour, baking soda and powder in a bowl and set aside. In a large bowl cream butter and sugar together. Add eggs and extracts. Stir in sour cream. And then slowly add flour mixture until all added in. Drop cookies on a cookie sheet and bake 8 to 12 minutes. Cool.

Over medium heat combine all frosting ingredients. Stir until melted and smooth. Spoon over cookies.

Molasses Cookies
That turned out more like Gingersnaps because of the altitude.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling cookies
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulphered molasses

Preheat oven to 375°F.

With a spoon, mix flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, allspice together in a bowl and set aside.

With a mixer (or by hand), cream butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes with mixer set at medium speed. Add egg, vanilla extract, and molasses. Beat until combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape sides of bowl.

Add dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Place remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar in a shallow bowl. Working with 2 Tbsp of dough each time, roll dough into 1 3/4 inch balls. Roll balls in sugar and place on ungreased cookie sheets, spacing them 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.

Bake until outer edges begin to set and centers are soft and puffy, about 11 to 13 minutes. Cool cookies on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide spatula.

Note: do not overcook. The centers of the cookies should be somewhat soft and spongy when you take them out of the oven, otherwise they will end up hard and dry. Because of the altitude mine did not turn out hard and dry but very soft and chewy but not spongy like a cake cookie. Everyone who has had them has enjoyed them so far so that is good. But they all say we love these Gingersnaps you made.

Optional Glaze:
When cookies have cooled, lay out over a sheet of wax paper. Sift 1 1/4 cups of confectioner's sugar and then whisk with 2 Tbsp of milk until smooth. Dip spoon into glaze and dribble over cookies.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Saving Money Grocery Shopping

In this time of rising food costs, I try to do things to save money. I always do comparison shopping. I use some coupons but not a lot as they always seem to be for processed foods. I go online and look at the weekly store ads. Because although we shop mostly at Wal-Mart as it usually ends up being the cheapest -- I can still find some deals better then Wal-Mart by keeping an eye on the weekly grocery store ads. Really I can always get meat cheaper at the grocery stores instead of Wal-Mart because of the sales.

When things are on sale we try to stock up. I buy meat on sale plus buy in family packs because they always seem a little cheaper too. We wait for meat to be on sale. We won't get a roast even if we were craving it until it goes on sale. Then we stock up and maybe grab 2 or 3 (depending on the room in the freezer.) Family size packs of pork chops go on sale quite often. There are just 2 of us so I will break the packages down into little packages of 2 and freeze. Same with ground beef buy a big 5 lb package and then divide into some lb and 1/2 lb packages. Also our Safeway has a clearance section and we have gotten good cuts of meat there - steaks and such really good prices. As long as the meat has good color we pick it up.

We get quite a few things at Sam's because it does cost less. Not everything there does of course but there are some things we have found saves us some money...such as tortillas, bags of boneless skinless chicken breasts, cheese, bagels, all our over the counter meds are less expensive there. My name brand migraine med at Sam's - 300 pills for $3 more then the wal-mart equate brand for only 100 pills.

We get shredded cheese at Sam's and then I take and fill quart ziplock bags and freeze them until needed. But the price of cheese just keeps going up so I have gotten blocks of cheese and shredded myself as it is become cheaper that way.

We use a lot of generic or great value brands. Master likes the flavored coffee creamers and has even went to the great value brand of that. Buy dried beans instead of canned beans. Make my own stuffing instead of buying a box or bag. Bake bread instead of buy it.

I clean with bleach, vinegar, baking soda and tea tree oil and the only thing I splurge on is Mr. Clean Erasers.

I cook for almost all meals. And meal planning helps make sure those things that are needed are what is one the shopping list instead of just grabbing things. We don't go out to eat often but when we do we will get cheap chinese take out.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Pumpkin Cheesecake

With fall heading in made me think of fall favorite dessert...Pumpkin Cheesecake

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)

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups 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.

(I combined a few recipes which is my usual taking things from each that I like and making my own. Something I didn't do with this cheesecake was putting a tray of water under it -- not a water bath but just a tray of water on the shelf below to create moisture in the oven. I didn't do that because frankly I forgot. I was just so excited to be making a pumpkin cheesecake that I didn't remember to do the tray and my weird timing thing I usually do which is turning the oven from 350 to 250 and well it turned out really good.)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Book: The American Century Cookbook

The American Century Cookbook: The Most Popular Recipes of the 20th Century by Jean Anderson

This is not just a cookbook. It contains history of food as well as little back stories or tidbits on recipes and products since the 1900's. All that and then some really great recipes too. I got it at a thrift store and it is one that I am thankful I have in my kitchen

Friday, August 15, 2008

Easy Buttermilk Pie

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 eggs
1 cup buttermilk (there is now powdered buttermilk on the market and I love having it around so easy to use and not having to worry about buying a quart and then not knowing what to do with the rest)
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 pre-made store-bought (9-inch) deep dish pie crust or homemade (this is one thing I am not good at - pie crusts)

Optional for Garnish
Whipped cream
Berries - strawberries or raspberries

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Position a rack in the center of the oven.

Place the chocolate chips in a sauce pan or double boiler and melt over low heat, stirring constantly. (I melt them in the microwave - 30 to 40 seconds,stir and go again for 30 to 40 seconds until melted)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, and salt until well combined. In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the sugar mixture and mix with an electric hand mixer or whisk vigorously. With a rubber spatula, stir the melted chocolate into the batter.

Pour batter into the pie crust; you might have about 1 cup of left-over batter if you don't use a deep dish pie crust.* Place pie in oven on middle rack. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes, or until the pie is crisp on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out with just a bit of moist chocolate on it.

Remove from oven and cool completely. Let stand at least 1 hour before serving. If not eating immediately, refrigerate pie. This pie can be served warm or chilled. Garnish with whipped cream & berries just before serving if desired.

*take the 1 cup left and pour into a custard cup and bake for about 30 minutes -- always nice treat saved for later

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Book: The New Book of Table Settings

The New Book of Table Settings: Creative Ideas for the Way We Gather Today
by Chris Bryant, Paige Gilchrist

I really liked this book. It wasn't the usual highly formal table decorating that I have seen in other books. This gives fresh ideas that create a very unique look with things that you can get easily or have right in your home.

The book covers the basics: Table setting 101, Dinnerware, glasses and flatware where the author encourages you to mix and match freely and I just love that concept. Table coverings and napkin and then flowers and centerpieces. The book gives charts and quick glance tips

And then the food and how to make the table about the food. Such as if you were going to have a taco buffet -- using terracotta planter saucers for all the toppings.

The next section and biggest part of the book is really is about decorating table for different occasions and seasons. Two of my favorite ideas were turnip candles on a little holder made of nails and raffia that would be wonderful for a fall table giving it that harvest and rustic look. And then ice luminary with cold-weather greens and berries for a winter table.

This book had quick glance tips, lists and step-by-step instructions for some projects. It is a book that I wouldn't mind having on my bookshelf.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lemon Bars

A friend recently introduced me to the Smitten Kitchen and I have quite a few recipes bookmarked to try.

The only thing I would change is cutting the baking time for the crust. It was over cooked by the time the lemon filling set. The crust came out a little too hard which made it difficult to cut through. But the filling came out quite good.

Lemon bar recipe from Smitten Kitchen.

I made the thick version although mine don't look quite as thick as hers which is probably again altitude. I did grease my pan because I always do as I found when cooking in high altitude it is a MUST.

They were so good! The lemon bars are tart but the crust is sweet so it is best of both worlds.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Make Washing Dishes Fun

....okay not exactly Fun but easier

1. Prep work -- Make it easier on yourself by doing as much as you can while you cook and then scraping and soaking so that you can get through them faster
2. Turn on Music
3. Listen to Podcasts -- don't have an ipod - burn podcasts to cd and pop it in a cd player
4. Listen to books on cd (remember the library has many so it won't even cost you anything but the trip to the library -- most library's have websites too so you can put things on hold so just have to run in and pick up)
5. Talk on the phone -- bluetooth capabilities with a cellphone make this easier
6. It is a good time to just have a conversation with someone in the household...I often talk to Master while taking care of dishes after dinner. If you have kids recruit them to dry while you wash and have a conversation
7. Have dessert after dishes as a "reward" for doing dishes or ask your owner if you can have a "reward" of free time after washing dishes -- use it for a bubble bath or 30 minutes of reading a book. Knowing there is a cookie at the end of a task that is not liked helps get through it.

Really nothing will make this job it so fun that we forget it is washing dishes but maybe some of these suggestions will help make it not as painful to go through.

Anyone else have tips on how to make washing dishes a little bit easier?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Back to the Basics: Hand Washing Dishes

Wash While Cooking -- While cooking wash as many dishes as you go, of course there are last minute things that won't be possible to wash but at least give them a scrap and get some water into them to soak while you have dinner.

Scrape and Stack -- To ready things for washing and to avoid dirtying your the water for washing right away, begin by scraping the dishes of excess food. Stack the dishes in preparation for washing. Food that is stuck on may need to be soaked first before washing. I use one of these little handy plastic scrapers. (I got it our local kitchen specialty shop in the mall for 95 cents. But here is one that is similar. They are also great at getting gummy labels off such as price tags on the glass of picture frames.)

Stack similar dishes with each other and in the order they will be washed. Such as glasses, cups, silverware and then plates, bowls, serving dishes and finally pots and pans. You are placing them from lightly soiled to heavily soiled and those soaking.

Prepare the area and water for washing dishes -- After dinner, make sure you start by cleaning area - the sink where they will be washed, the sink that they are rinsed (if you have a double sink), the dishrack and mat under it all should be clean. If you don't have a dishrack just place a thick dish towel down to catch drips.

Gather clean a dishcloth, sponge, bottle brushes or anything else that you use when washing the dishes. Then fill the sink 2/3 with with water. Make sure it is hot. I think I read in Home Comforts that the water should be hot enough that your hands are slightly uncomfortable if you were to leave your hands in the water. Wearing gloves will help you deal with the heat of the water as well protect your skin. Add your suds at anytime when filling your sink.

Washing Dishes -- As I stated in scrapping and stacking, start washing the lightly soiled items first. Usually this includes flatware, glasses and cups. By doing in order from lightly soiled to heavily soiled it helps keep your water fresh longer. Put a few dishes into the water at time so that they have some time soaking while washing another dish. Now move on to the washing the plates, bowls and serving dishes. Keep an eye out for when you should change the dish washing water. Usually I change mine right before starting the next group of dirty dishes which is pots and pans. If I had them soaking, draining the sink to prepare it with new water also allows me to scrap any more bits of food down the garbage disposal before starting to refill with clean water.

Scrub all dishes with slight pressure under the water. Food lifts off easier if you wash them under the water. Life them out to check if they are clean every so often. To find out of your dishes are clean you will need to touch them as well as look at them. When you touch them you are more likely to catch residue or oiliness. Also as soon as your water feels oily, looks unclean or doesn't have suds - drain and refill.

Rinse dishes -- If you have a double sink, use it to rinse the dishes. If you don't a double sink, then you can use a dish pan filled with hot water to rinse/dip your dishes clean. Hot water rinse not only gets suds off but kills microorganisms/bacteria and speeds drying. Rinse dishes before they have a chance to dry after washing.

Hand Dry Dishes or Air Dry Dishes - When hand drying dishes use a fresh clean towel and change the towel when it becomes damp or soiled. You might go through several towels in hand drying dishes. You should never use the towel for your hands or to wipe counters off and then go back to drying dishes. Use the fresh clean towel only for drying the dishes. Towel dry until the dish feels dry and shows no spots or lint.

Draining is important for air drying dishes. You don't want water trapped under a cup or bowl as it can cause bacteria to grow. So makes sure that all your dishes are tilted slightly so that water is not trapped under them or doesn't pool in them also.

Put away dishes and clean supplies and area -- Put dishes away as soon as possible as leaving them out puts them at risk of dust, germs and breakage. Wipe down the sink and dish rack/drainer. Wash and dry the dishpan. Make sure to remove rags, dish cloths, or sponges from the kitchen area as someone might be tempted to use them and they need to be replaced. I leave them in a laundry room to air dry or throw them directly into the washer.

Now you can go and relax!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Written in February 2008:

This week I got around to making pizza on the stone and it was fantastic! It makes me think about making pizza every week but I am sure we would get sick of it....or would we? I top our pizza Chicago style even though the dough is a thinner crust instead of a thick crust like most Chicago style pizza's. I made 2 pizzas one veggie and the other with meat. It was nice to eat left over pizza for lunch.

Whole Wheat Herb Pizza Dough
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons basil
2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place all ingredients in the bread machine in order used by machine. Run on dough cycle.

Removing the dough from the machine form the dough into a ball and place into a bowl sprayed with cooking spray. Cover loosely with plastic wrap coated lightly with cooking spray or a dish towel and place in the refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight rise.

Remove the bowl from the refrigerator about one hour prior to making the pizza. Set the bottom oven rack to its lowest position and preheat the oven to 400° F for at least 30 minutes before baking. Tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 balls of dough for 2 smaller/thinner crust or leave whole to make one large/thick crust. Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin. Since this is whole wheat it sometimes wants to snap back instead of rolling out. Let it rest for a bit and then try it again. Drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size place on pan or pizza stone and add desired toppings.

From crust up I layer: cheese usually a combination of mozzarella, ramono and parmesan cheese, then meats and veggies, crushed tomatoes, herbs and a light sprinkle of cheese again.

Here is a good link about Pizza Stone's since I had never used one I thought I better read up on them.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Book: Natural Cleaning for Your Home

Natural Cleaning for Your Home: 95 Pure and Simple Recipes by Casey Kellar

I think the book is put together nicely with photographs and recipes for natural cleaning. But I was mostly disappointed with the natural cleaning recipes the author offered. There were some good alternatives to using store bought harmful chemicals, but she used some harsh chemicals to me and not a natural cleaning supply. Again good alternatives to Fantastik, Windex or the likes. But ammonia and bleach aren't natural and are harmful chemicals. The author's alternatives to what we can get in the supermarket would be considerably cheaper though even with ammonia or bleach being used in some recipes.

Other things I didn't like : there weren't enough recipes, she used things that really aren't easy to come by in a smaller town and some of the instructions weren't clear or as descriptive in use as I would have liked.

The book did give me some recipes that I hadn't heard of before and want to try. So it was worth checking out from the library just not owning.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Cleaning the Microwave

After food has splattered in the microwave, it can be hard to clean up. Just heat 1/4 cup of vinegar with 1 cup of water in a cup or bowl in the microwave. This will loosen splattered on food and deodorize. I let it sit for about 3 to 5 minutes letting the steam loosen the splatters but also allows for the water to cool down. I then take the vinegar/water mixture and moisten a rag or sponge to wipe the inside down.

Also if you have had burnt popcorn smell in the microwave doing, microwaving the same mixture will remove the odor.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The recipe:
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon

In a large mixing bowl cream at medium speed butter, sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Scraping sides of bowl occasionally. In a separate bowl, combine flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture until well blended. Refrigerate dough 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine the sugar and cinnamon. form dough into balls (walnut sized) and roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Place 2" apart on baking sheet. Bake about 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool on rack. Snickerdoodles will puff up at first and then flatten out during baking.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Book: Speed Cleaning

I read Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell. It is a great concept for cleaning the house quickly, but also quite thoroughly. The methods make sense. Pick up this book if you want instructions as to how to quickly do a basic weekly cleaning of your home. He teaches how to clean well and how to clean as efficiently as possible (just not sure I agree they are totally efficient).

Things I didn't like about the book:

I didn't like that he pushed his products and certain cleaners so much. He even said that the vinegar/baking soda -- natural type cleaners don't work as well and I really don't agree with that.

I didn't like that he sometimes just said to do things his way because he said so -- and didn't give reason why it was more efficient/better.

I didn't like that he said don't clean things that you can't see. Just because I can't see it doesn't mean I shouldn't clean it. Dust, bacteria, germs can still build up on areas you don't see.

I think if you don't feel you clean well, don't have time to clean or just need a new way to clean - then pick up the book. It is worth the read. I don't think the methods need to be followed strictly -- take what will help out and ignore the rest.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bread Machine: Potato Herb Rolls

1 C. plus 2 tablespoons water (70 to 80°F.)
2 T. olive oil
1 t. salt
2 t. dried herbs -- I use more then that and use garlic powder, onion powder, basil and oregano
3 C. bread flour
1/2 C. instant potato flakes or buds
2 T. nonfat dry milk
1 T. sugar
1 1/2 t. bread machine yeast

1 egg, lightly beaten

To make dough: Measure all dough ingredients into bread machine pan in the order suggested by manufacturer, adding potato flakes with flour. Process on dough/manual cycle.

When cycle is complete, remove dough to floured surface. If necessary knead in additional flour to make dough easy to handle. Divide dough into 12 equal pieces. Roll each piece to 10-inch rope; coil each rope and tuck end under coil. Place rolls 2 inches apart on large greased baking sheet. Cover; let rise in warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes.

To Top:
Brush tops with egg; sprinkle with sesame seed (optional). Bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until done. Remove from pan; cool on wire rack.

Note: Dough can be prepared in 1 1/2 and 2-pound bread machines.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

How to Shape Dinner Rolls

I have dough in the bread machine for herb potato rolls and I wanted another way to shape them then my usual way. I found these sites:


Cook Illustrated - this is a pdf - but really good source!

Prepared Pantry

And this site only shows one way to shape them but I think it is a good basic one (what I usually do).

Fine Cooking

***photo of the rolls I made -- I did 2 different shapes a double knot and then just a kind of single loop but only double knots showing in this picture

Monday, July 7, 2008

Biscuit Muffins

Biscuit Muffins
Makes 12 muffins

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cardamom or ground nutmeg (I used cardamom as I am always looking for recipes with it in it)
1 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoon butter, cold and unsalted, and cut into small pieces
1 cup cold buttermilk
1 tablespoon sugar for sprinkling, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the cups of a standard muffin tin.

In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking powder and soda, nutmeg, and salt. Distribute the butter over the flour mixture, and with a fork, or an electric mixer, work in the butter until coarse crumbs are created.

Pour in the buttermilk, and mix using low speed with a mixer, or a fork, until dough forms a sticky mass, about 30 seconds. Do not overmix, you are just letting the dough come together.

Lightly dust a work surface with flour. Dump the dough out, sprinkle the top with flour, and knead gently, 6-8 times. The dough should remain soft and sticky. Cut the dough into 12 equal portions, and place in greased muffin cups.

Sprinkle with sugar, and bake 25-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan from oven, and transfer muffins to cooling rack to cool for a few minutes before serving.

***I use powdered buttermilk and they came out great! I just made sure the water was really cold and added the powder with the flour mixture.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Book: Bread for Breakfast

Bread for Breakfast by Beth Hensperger

I love to read cookbooks. I get into bed under the covers and read them just like I would any other book. And I like to cook. So I sit, go over the ingredients, thinking of them as if I would be mixing up the dough for the breads of this book. This book had many recipes that I would make. I have only made two so far (and both were delicious) but would like to try a few more before returning it to the library. It will be a book I put on my wish list too. It had very easy quick breads to breads ...more I love to read cookbooks. I get into bed under the covers and read them just like I would any other book. And I like to cook. So I sit, go over the ingredients, thinking of them as if I would be mixing up the dough for the breads of this book. This book had many recipes that I would make. I have only made two so far (and both were delicious) but would like to try a few more before returning it to the library. It will be a book I put on my wish list too. It had very easy quick breads to breads that require a little more time and then delicious looking coffee cakes to eat when gathering with friends. Plus some recipes that use bread but are the perfect Sunday breakfast/brunch recipes. I really want to try out each recipe out. The book also has little stories or antidotes with each recipe. And tips also. Good to read and delicious recipes to make!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Vanilla Crumb Cake

Makes one 10-inch round coffee cake

Crumb Top
1 1/2 cups cake flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter - cut into small pieces (1 stick plus 2 tablespoons)

Cake Batter
6 tablespoons unsalted butter - softened (3/4 stick so basically the rest of what was left after the crumb topping)
3/4 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/4 cake flour - unsifted
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream (not fat reduced)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees for a dark-finish pan). Line a 10-inch springform pan with parchment, grease the bottom and sides and set aside.

To make the crumb top, in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the flour, sugar; and cinnamon. Cut in the vanilla and cold butter on low speed until coarse dry crumbs are formed. Pour into a small bowl and set aside. If not using immediately, refrigerate until needed.

To make the cake batter, without cleaning the mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add the eggs, one at a time, and the vanilla extract and beat well on medium speed for 30 seconds. The mixture will be loose. Add the flour; cinnamon, baking powder; baking soda, and salt and beat on low speed for 15 seconds. Add the sour cream and beat on medium-high speed only until the lumps smooth out and the mixture looks fluffy, about 30 seconds on medium-high speed. Do not overbeat.

Spread the batter evenly into the prepared springform pan. Sprinkle the top evenly with the crumb topping. Bake on the center rack of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the top is crisp and feels firm when gently touched in the center; the cake separates slightly from the sides of the pan, and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean (it may be a bit moist; that's okay). Do not overbake, or the cake will be dry.

Remove from the oven and cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before removing the sides of the pan. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving warm, or cover in plastic wrap to serve later at room temperature.

Store at room temperature for up to 3 days.

I made this in a 9x9 square glass cake pan and it worked fine. I have done it in the springform pan and presentation is nice - by cutting into wedges, but works fine in a 9x9 square cake pan too.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Toilet Paper - Over or Under?

I like the toilet paper coming from over the roll. My main reason I do it that way is because I was a maid in a hotel. We were taught that it is over. We were taught it was more "sanitary" over as well as easier to pull and just presentation neater with the little fold corners to give it a tip. Personally it seems to me to rip off easier that way and it just seem less germy then reaching under the roll where you end up touching a lot more roll.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

From Old Bread to Croutons

I take and put stale/close to stale bread in the freezer. And then I take it all out every once in a while and put it through the food processor to make the bread crumbs. Well I hadn't done that in a while and this morning when cleaning out the freezer/fridge (trash day tomorrow), I found quite a lot of bread. So I made up bread crumbs but still had so much bread. We just bought a big container of spring mix salad greens on Friday so I thought croutons. I cut the crust off (saved to make more crumbs from it) and then brushed the fronts and backs with a mixture of olive oil, basil, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese. I then cut the bread into squares and put them on a pan - baked on 350 for about 10 minutes. They smelled delicious and taste really good too.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mr. Clean Magic Erasers

I mostly clean with natural products - vinegar, baking soda, tea tree oil but there is one product I can't give up that isn't natural. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Wal-Mart does have a Great Value equivalent that I have used with almost as much success as the Mr. Clean brand.

Have marks or crayon on your painted walls? Have a scuff on the floor? Want to make your appliances look like new? You know how grease can build on up the indoor grills like the George Formans? I have the Hamilton Beach indoor grill and I take a magic eraser to it regularly and it looks like I took the grill right out of the box. Coffee pot, fridge, stovetop, shower -- all grim comes out fairly easily and again make things look brand new. We live in Western Colorado - 30 minutes from Utah border so we get Colorado type weather but also desert type conditions. The sun hits our white door and gives it brown sun spots. The magic eraser takes them out every time (they do take a little more elbow grease then usual with the Magic Erasers but still worth it and not as much if I was just scrubbing it with a rag.)

I have no idea what that thing is made of but I am so glad to have it around. It just makes me so happy to see things sparkle!

Coupon booklet -- includes Mr. Clean Eraser coupons

**I don't not get paid for this making this tip or any other on this blog. I just recommend things I like

Monday, June 16, 2008

Toffee and Caramel Cheesecake

I made this for a dinner party a while back and you could have heard a pin drop when this was set in front of them. And then the first bit was like little foodgasms going off all around the table.

This recipe was adapted from Epicurious Toffee Crunch Caramel Cheesecake...

Gingersnap crust
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
1 1/2 cups ground gingersnap cookies
1 cup ground peacons
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons (packed) golden brown sugar

4 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
5 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup toffee bits (Heath Bits O'Brickle)

Caramel topping
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 cup heavy whipping cream


Mrs. Richardsons Caramel topping or your favorite caramel topping to save yourself the trouble of making homemade caramel which can at times be a little tricky

1/3 to 1/2 cup toffee bits

Photos of the toffee bits just in case anyone wanted to know what to look for at the supermarket

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 of 9-inch-diameter springform pan with 2 3/4-inch-high sides.

For cheesecake: Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Beat in flour and butter, then eggs, 1 at a time, until just blended. Beat in vanilla. Pour 1/2 of batter over crust in pan. Sprinkle 1/3 cup toffee bits over the batter. Then pour remaining batter over the bits. Place a large roasting pan or jelly roll pan on lower shelf of oven. Pour water 1/2 way to the lip of the pan. Place cheesecake pan on middle shelf. Bake cake uncovered for 15 minutes at 350. Turn oven down to 250 and bake 30 minutes. Bake 350 for another 15 minutes and then turn down and bake at 250 again for another 15 to 30 minutes. The edges will puff up and the center moves slightly when pan is gently shaken. Total bake time is 1 hour 15 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on wire rack. Slide a knife around the sides and then cover with foil and refrigerate 6 hours to over night.

For topping: 2 hours before serving stir sugar, water, and lemon juice in large saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until mixture turns deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes. Add cream (mixture will bubble). Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until reduced to 1 1/4 cups, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Chill until thickened but still pourable, about 15 minutes.

Spoon caramel over top of cake just to edges (do not allow caramel to drip down sides). Garnish top edges with chopped English toffee. Chill at least 2 hours.

* 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 below. Supposedly the moisture in the oven helps to prevent cracking also.
* The reason I do the weird turn up and down of the oven temperature again is to prevent cracking and also over baking the cheesecake.
* Doing this cheesecake 24 hours before eating is always best. It just seems to taste better even better after 24 hours in the fridge.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

White Beans with Pancetta and Sage

White Beans with Pancetta and Sage
1/2 pound large dried white beans -- corona beans (have used lima beans too...whatever larger white bean I can find)
2 bay leaves
3 garlic cloves
1/2 cup all-purpose flour - for dredging
salt and ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 pound thinly sliced pancetta (when I have not been able to find it as I live in a smaller town I by just regular bacon or some prosciutto)
4 sage leaves - chopped

Prepare beans - put the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water. Soak the beans overnight in the refrigerator.

Drain the soaked beans, place them in a large pot and cover with fresh cold water. Put the beans over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Toss in the bay leaves and garlic (I also added some of the sage this time and it really added a good flavor to the beans and extra pop of flavor). Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 1 1/2 hours until tender. Drain the cooked beans and spread them out on a sheet pan to cool slightly and dry off a little.

Put about 1/2 cup of flour in a shallow platter and season it with salt and pepper; mix with a fork to distribute evenly. Toss the beans in the seasoned flour to coat completely.

Place a large skillet over medium-high heat and coat with the oil. When the oil is hot, add the pancetta, fry for a couple of minutes to crisp it up. Toss in the sage leaves and fry for about 1 minute. Remove the pancetta and sage to some paper towels; now you have a flavor base. Shake off excess flour from the beans and put them in the pan in a single layer. Fry the beans for a good 10 minutes to form a golden crust on the outside of the beans, tossing to cook both sides.

Return the pancetta and fried sage to the pan, stir everything together, and serve.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Quick Fix....Special Occasion....& so on

What meal is a quick fix meal for you? The menu for a special occasion? What your favorite comfort food to cook? What favorite dessert to make?

Quick fix meal: Grilled chicken that I let sit in some balsamic vinegar for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle with some grillmate before I throw on the grill*. Baked potato (I microwave them for 4 to 6 minutes depending on size of them and sometimes stick in the oven with a little rock salt and olive oil on the skin for about 10 to 15 minutes while finishing up other things), steamed green beans. It is a quick fix because we get those bags of frozen individual skinless chicken breasts so I take 2 of those out thawing in the microwave for a few minutes if I haven't taken them out in the morning. And then I marinate them for 10 minutes before throwing on the grill for 5 to 7 minutes. It makes a meal done in 30 minutes or less! No I am not Rachael Ray.

Special occasion: Well Master's birthday would be Beef Stroganoff, with a steamed veggie, and garlic toast. That is one of his favorites. Usually special occasion food just is whatever sounds really good at the time. Like we have had a herb crusted roast, roasted veggies with balsamic vinegar, salad, homemade rolls for one anniversary. We had ham with a brown sugar orange juice glaze, creamed potatoes, green beans with roasted red peppers and garlic Parmesan homemade rolls for Christmas. So it really just is decided based on what we are craving or what is the tradition for the occasion.

Favorite comfort food: Take out Chinese! But I guess that is not something I make...well I do make Chinese dishes but usually that is not something I make for comfort food. Comfort food for me....right now has been a casserole I made called Meatball Sandwich Casserole. Nachos are another thing that is comfort food for me. Those are also quick fix meal because just browning ground turkey with taco seasoning and then the fixing is something we always have in fridge and pantry.

Dessert: I love to bake so I am not sure there is a favorite. I really like to make my Mom's homemade chocolate chocolate chip cake. It is very yummy! Some other: sour cream cookies, cinnamon chocolate brownies, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate buttermilk pie, and cream puffs.

*I use an indoor grill - like the George Forman but the one I have is a Hamilton beach with removable grill plates and also other plates for a griddle that I use to make grilled cheese sandwiches or panini's. It is another kitchen appliance that I really like and use a lot!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Home Comforts: The Arts and Science of Keeping House

My favorite resource is Home Comforts: The Arts and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson

It is a book I have used countless of times. It has everything in it: How to do all basic sewing stitches. How to iron a dress shirt and how to fold sheets. How to make up a bed with hospital corners. How to choose proper sizes for sheets, tablecloths, and other household linens. How to set the table for informal and formal meals. Expert recommendations for safe food storage. The most exhaustive and reliable information on fabrics, textile fibers, and their laundering, and drying. A thorough explanation of care labels and why and how you should often (carefully) disregard them. Housekeeping guidelines for people with pets or with allergies. What to do about dust mites. How to clean and care for wood, china and crystal, jewelry, ceramic tile, metals, and more. Guides to stain and spot removal.  It is a great resource for domestic service.

Just keep in mind while reading this - that is can seem impossible that the author does ALL of the things in this book. My suggestion is to use it as a guide to find things that work for you and incorporate them into your life.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


THE 10-MINUTE RESCUE by Mrs. Mary Hunt

The phone rings. Surprise! Long lost friends will be at your front door in 10 minutes. You have no time to clean the house. What you need is a 10-minute rescue. This is a terrific technique you should learn right now, and then keep tucked away for that time when despite your best efforts, you’re caught in a jam. So, are you ready? Go!

1. Set a small pan of water over medium heat. Dump in spices like cinnamon, allspice and cloves and leave it to heat.

2. Grab a box or grocery bag. Move through the house starting in the kitchen clearing counters, coffee tables, end tables and all other flat surfaces of clutter. Just scoop everything into the container and stash it in a closet.

3. Gather all bathroom clutter including towels, stuff lining the walls and ledges of the tub and shower, toys, and all the stuff on the vanity and deposit it in the tub or shower. Draw the curtain.

4. Clean all the flat surfaces you have just cleared using furniture polish or all-purpose cleaner as appropriate.

5. Empty the kitchen sink of dishes, pots and so on using the stash methods described above if necessary. The oven and dishwasher are handy hiding places. Scrub the sink, rinse quickly and perform a quick polish.

6. Starting at the front door vacuum the visible areas.

7. Light the candles and the fireplace.

8. Switch on the stereo and turn down the lights.

Whew! You made it. The house looks great. Smells good, too. Enjoy your company and when they are gone, take a few more minutes to go through the box in the closet, the pile in the tub and, above all, anything you stashed in the oven!

** Just remember to clean out all the places you stashed stuff after. I know when I was a young housewife I forgot that pile of pans was in the oven and turned it on to preheat! It wasn't a good experience. Also this really seems like it would take more then 10 minutes but it is a quick clean up if you have guests dropping by!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Maple Fudge

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup brown sugar

1 1/4 cups butterscotch chips

2 sticks of butter

3 teaspoons maple extract

Place all ingredients except the maple extract into a 2-quart microwave safe mixing bowl and microwave on high for 10 minutes, stopping and stirring every 2 minutes. THE MIXTURE IS VERY HOT - so be CAREFUL! Let cool slightly and then beat with a mixer for 2 minutes. Add the extract and beat for another 3 to 4 minutes. It almost looks caramel in texture but it does come out fudge consistency.

Spread mixture into a parchment paper-lined 8 x 8 inch square pan or you can also just butter the pan really well. I have done fudge both ways and it works fine. Chill to set and then cut into squares. I think it was close to 60 to 64 squares.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Service Quote

This is from an old Daily Om horoscope but thought it was a good one to keep around....

"Being of service to others can make us feel empowered. When you participate in making someone’s life better, you honor that person as well as yourself. As you exert your personal power in ways that benefit others, you derive a strong sense of fulfillment because you see how you have the ability to change the world for the better. When you’re of service to others, you receive their gratitude, which raises your self-esteem and revitalizes you. By being of service to others today, you can come to understand that even your smallest contributions to the world’s well-being have merit."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Banana Bread

I have went through many Banana Bread recipes. And they all turn out fine, but for some reason I always come back to the one out of Betty Crocker cookbook. It is easy for me to make. I like that it uses buttermilk too. I always have powdered buttermilk on hand and works and tastes just as good as real buttermilk.

Last week I had a couple bananas nearing that bad point so I peeled them, wrapped them and put them in the freezer as I didn't have time to do banana bread last week. But today I got some time so took those out and made Betty Crocker's Banana Bread (this one on the website is the same one in the cookbook).

1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe bananas (3 medium bananas)
1/2 cups of buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped nuts - optional

Heat oven to 350. Grease a 9" x 5" x 3" pan. (Or 2 - 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch pans)

Mix together sugar and butter in large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. Add bananas, buttermilk* and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Stir in remaining ingredients except nuts and mix until just moistened. Stir in nuts. Pour into pan.

Bake 8-inch loaves for about 1 hour or 9-inch loaf 1 hour 15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Loosen sides of loaf from pan and remove from pan. Cool completely before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days or refrigerate up to 10 days.

* I put the powder for the buttermilk with the flour and then add equivalent in water where it says to add buttermilk.


Related Posts Widget for Blogs by LinkWithin