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.


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