Monday, November 30, 2009

Gifts of Christmas Past (homemade gifts from last year)

The pics aren't the best, I just snapped quick pics of them, not intending to use it on my blog. Sorry they aren't better pics.

I made snowman kits, using top hats I got from Oriental Trading as the item holder (and we melted two small holes so they could be attached to the snowman with chop sticks lol, I got fake carrots at micheals for the nose, buttons for eyes and so on...cut out scarves from felt, very easy, and inlcuded hot chocolate packets for everyone in the family and got peppermint stirers with chocolate on them from gertrude hawk to include also and some mini marshmallows..all put together in a cut fashion and then put in the hat, and into a cellophane bag and tied with ribbon.
Every family got one..including the grandparents, as you are never too old to go out and build a snowman.

The spider ornaments I made with pearly beads.
I also made snowflakes made with glass beads, they look great hanging in the window. We make them in a bunch of colors and with swarovski crystals too. Dont' mind my scratched up table lol. we live here. The pic is blurry and we did make more also, some had red eyes, as my son wanted to do that...they are adorable.

I gave them in a little chinese food shaped box that was decorated for Christmas I got at Target, and they were stuffed with tinsel and the spider sat on top of the tinsel in the box. I attached this story to it and gave each family one to open, and while they opened it, I had the man of the house read the story to the children (my dad at his house, and step dad at his) here is the story that goes along with the spider...

(A folk legend from Germany and the Ukraine)

Once upon a time, long ago, a gentle mother was busily cleaning the house for the most wonderful day of the year.... The day on which the Christ child came to bless the house. Not a speck of dust was left. Even the spiders had been banished from their cozy corner in the ceiling to avoid the housewife's busy cleaning. They finally fled to the farthest corner of the attic.

T'was the Christmas eve at last! The tree was decorated and waiting for the children to see it. But the poor spiders were frantic, for they could not see the tree, nor be present for the Christ child's visit. But the oldest and wisest spider suggested that perhaps they could peep through the crack in the door to see him. Silently they crept out of their attic, down the stairs, and across the floor to wait in the crack in the threshold. Suddenly, the door opened a wee bit and quickly the spiders scurried into the room. They must see the tree closely, since their eyes weren't accustomed to the brightness of the room... so the crept all over the tree, up and down, over every branch and twig and saw every one of the pretty things. At last they satisfied themselves completely of the Christmas tree beauty.

But alas!! Everywhere they went they had left their webs, and when the little Christ child came to bless the house he was dismayed. He loved the little spiders, for they were God's creatures too, but he knew the mother, who had trimmed the tree for the little children, wouldn't feel the same, so He touched the webs and they all turned to sparkling, shimmering, silver and gold!

Ever since that time, we have hung tinsel on our christmas trees, and according to the legend, it has been a custom to include a spider among the decorations on the tree.

You can google to find tons of sites for directions to make the beaded spiders.

and so on..Have fun..

I also gave homemade beer bread in a canning jar with a beer.
I did a few other things, I am trying to think of what they were...we gave alot of little homemade things. It was fun.

don't mind this pic...i took it on my freezer in the basement lol..but its ornaments
we made in the past...just a few that I pulled out.

one final thing quick...we make candy canes with red and clear tri beads on a pipe cleaner...just put red, then clear then red then clear all the way down the pipe cleaner cut to whatever size you want it to be..then bend the ends to stop them from coming off and bend into a cane shape..they look great on the tree with the lights shine and make them sparkle. So easy, takes about 1 minute per candy cane! I don't have a pic, if I take one, I will add it, but I am sure you get the picture.

Christmas Gift Game

My extended family is going to do something fun this year...we are forgoing the normal everyone buys or makes everyone a gift, which is quite pricey year after year and really, how much stuff do we need?
We set a limit of 5.00 each person buys one gift, and brings it wrapped...and then we will play this game with the gifts. What is great is, the store Five Below is filled to the gills with everything that is 5.00 or less..

It has to be something everyone would like.. not everyone uses computers, plays video games or likes sports it can be tricky.

Christmas Gift Exchange Game - The Chinese Christmas

One of the most fun ideas for a Christmas gift exchange at an office party or at a home party is a game commonly called Chinese Christmas. I don’t know how or where the name came from, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the Chinese.
Not only that, many people find the reference to Chinese downright insulting.

Because of that, I’m encouraging the use of other lesser-known names such as Yankee Swap, Gift War, Grinch Exchange, Dirty Santa, Rob Your Neighbor, White Elephant, Nasty Christmas, and Thieving Secret Santa. My personal favorite is Grinch Exchange.
I left “Chinese Christmas” in the title of the article because that’s how people search for it. But please select a different name to use when you play this game… and encourage others to do the same.

How the game is played…

The game is fun, because each person gets to select a wrapped gift, unwrap it and then possibly lose it to someone else and have to select again. Being able to select from unwrapped gifts or “steal” a gift someone is holding is what makes this game so much fun.

Here are the rules:

When planning the party, decide how much should be spent on the gifts. Twenty to thirty dollars is usually an agreeable price since each person is buying only one gift. The amount can be more or less. It’s your group’s call.
All gifts should be wrapped (and may I suggest you make yours look extra special). Put the gifts together under the tree, on a table, wherever convenient.
Each person selects a number from a basket or bowl to determine the order in which a person gets to select a gift. Number 1 goes first and gets to select and unwrap a gift. Everyone oohs and aahs or mentally thinks, “Boy, I’m glad I didn’t select that.”

Number 2 then selects. But she may take Number 1’s gift or she may select a gift from the pile. If she takes Number 1’s gift, Number 1 gets to select again from the pile. After she has finished her turn, Number 3 gets to select.
Once again, she may select any opened or unopened gift. Each time a gift is taken away from someone, that person gets to select again. She may select any gift except the one that was just taken away from her. She may however, have the opportunity to select it again later.

Some gifts are occasionally more popular and may get stolen several times. The fourth person to possess it gets to keep it. No more swiping the gift. The gift is frozen.At the end of the game, Number 1 gets to select again, and take someone else’s gift if she wants to, but she doesn’t have to. She is actually forcing a trade. The only gifts she can’t take are those that are frozen.

Don’t be afraid to swipe a gift from someone. The more takeaways and turnovers there are, the more fun the game seems to be. Some of the best times have been when a particular gift gets swiped several times. There are always lots of laughs and sometimes gifts get swiped just for the fun of it. This is especially true when men are playing. They don’t seem to care about the gifts as much as having fun stirring things up.

And after the game is over, if you and someone else wants to trade gifts, that’s O.K. too.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Great an Fast Appetizers for the Holidays

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Pictured: Hillshire Farms Winter Hearth Smokies

Years ago we went to a winery on a kids farm tour and they had little smokies appetizers and the kids couldn't get away from the table. They loved them. I buy them often now and use them for many things. They are great for a quick sausage stew in the pressure cooker... just toss them in right out of the bag, put in veggies (potatoes, carrots, corn, onion, etc) and water...and hit cook for 5 mins...the pressure cooker cooks them so fast and the broth is flavored like it cooked for hours.

Here are some great appetizer recipes for company or just for the kids (and adults) to nibble on.
I was inspired to make this recipes by ham glaze I love. Why not put a sweet ham glaze on little smokies?

Holiday Smokies
Recipe from Shannon Dillman (that's me)
1 pack smokies
1 20 oz can crushed pineapple
1 10 oz jar maraschino cherries, divided
1/2 stick butter
Pinch ground cloves
¾ c brown sugar
4 T molasses
2 T yellow mustard
1 can Coca Cola
In a saucepan, combine butter, juice from cherries, whole can of crushed pineapple, cloves, brown sugar, molasses, coke and mustard. Heat it stirring until brown sugar is dissolved and mixture thickens slightly. Do not allow it to burn.

Dump mixture into 3 qt crock pot (or double for larger crockpot), throw in smokies and whole cherries.

Cook about 30 in crockpot on high, until smokies are hot. Turn to low to keep hot for serving.

*have a jar of toothpicks next to it, so people can pick..they will want the cherries too.

Winter Hearth Smokies
Hillshire Farms Recipe
Prep time 5 mins
Cook: two hours

Makes 9 appetizer servings
About 5 little smokies each

1 package of Hillshire Farm little smokies
1 12 oz bottle chili sauce
1 12 oz jar of grape jelly

Open smokies, drain liquid. Place in 3 qt slow cooker

Combine chili sauce, and jelly in medium saucepan: heat, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until jelly is melted. Pour over little smokies and stir to combine.

Cover and cook on high for 2 hours.

For more recipes, go to their site..

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Avocados for health and beauty!

I love Avocado Oil for cooking, and avocados for eating. The oil has a high smoke point, making it great for stir fry and grilling. This article is from Natural News. Its a great newsletter with lots of health issues discussed. You can sign up for it on their site.

Natural News

Avocados are Mother Nature's skin moisturizer. With their healthy fats and phytonutrients, they offer remarkable benefits to human skin -- both when eaten and when used topically.
Here, we present a collection of supporting information about avocados from some of the top authors and personalities in the natural health industry, including David "Avocado" Wolfe himself.
Check out the quotes below, then pick up some avocados for yourself. They just help you save your own skin!

Avocados and healthy skin
For an excellent skin complexion, rub one or more of the following items against the skin two to four times a week: papaya pulp, avocado, cucumber, spirulina, fresh noni fruit and/or aloe vera. For dry skin, rub hempseed oil, jojoba oil and MSM lotion directly into the skin. This will alleviate dryness quickly. Or use avocado on the skin directly. Avocado oil is similar to our skin's oil.- The Sunfood Diet Success System by David Wolfe
Treat yourself to an avocado facial. Beauty, they say, is only skin deep.

Luckily, avocado has moisturizing power to help make your skin more beautiful. For years, people have used avocado as a natural facial treatment, especially for dry skin. It's easy to do in your own home. Just remove your makeup and wash your face with warm water and soap or your favorite cleanser. Mash some avocado and mix it with a little milk or oatmeal and apply it to your face. Leave it there for 10 minutes, then rinse it off with lots of water.- Eat and Heal (Foods That Can Prevent or Cure Many Common Ailments) by the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing

Eating half an avocado every other day would probably help your own cholesterol drop some. A rather remarkable twofold approach towards relieving the itchy misery of psoriasis is by eating half of an avocado daily and applying an extra-rich cream of chamomile flowers extract to the skin. The oils in the avocado will work internally towards the surface of the skin, soothing deep muscle inflammation. The oils in CamoCare Soothing Cream help the skin to literally repair itself from the damage done by psoriasis. - Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs by John Heinerman

There's more to avocado than guacamole. Its oil is actually patented as a treatment for some forms of dermatitis and arthritis. According to Aubrey Hampton, author of Natural Organic Hair and Skin Care, long-term treatment with avocado oil helps relieve eczema. I'm not surprised, as avocado oil is rich in vitamins A, D and E, all of which help maintain healthy skin. I suggest applying it directly to any itchy, red or irritated areas.- The Green Pharmacy: New Discoveries in Herbal Remedies for Common Diseases and Conditions from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing Herbs by James A. Duke, Ph.D.Avocado oil has been used extensively for its ability to heal and soothe the skin. This use is based on the high hydrocarbon content of the pulp and oil, which may help dry skin. Avocados are frequently included in health diets, and recent evidence suggests they are effective in modifying lipid profiles. In a randomized study, women chose either a diet high in monounsaturated fatty acids enriched with avocado or a high complex-carbohydrate diet. After 3 weeks, the avocado diet resulted in a reduction in total cholesterol level from baseline (8.2%). - Guide to Popular Natural Products by Ara Dermarderosian

Throughout Central and South America the avocado is not only consumed with great relish, but also highly regarded for its extremely nourishing properties. It is a favored saying among the Maya Indians inhabiting the Yucatan Peninsula and the highlands of Guatemala that where avocados grow, "hunger (or malnutrition) has no friends." Too many of us think only of avocados in the traditional Mexican sense of guacamole. But among the Mayan the avocado is considered to be a food which keeps the joints of the body moving freely and the skin young and supple.- Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Healing Juices by John Heinerman

The expressed oil of the avocado seed nourishes and maintains skin tone. It softens rough, dry, or flaking skin and, massaged into the scalp, improves hair growth. Avocado is very nutritious and makes an excellent baby food. Indigenous to Central America, avocado is widely cultivated for its fruit in tropical and subtropical areas, including Israel, Spain, and South Africa. It is propagated from seed. The leaves are harvested as needed, and the unripe fruit is picked when fully grown.- The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier

A naturally fatty fruit, avocado is also rich in vitamins, and the green pulp left attached to the peel has the highest concentration. Scrape off the pulp, and apply it directly to the skin. The abundant oils lubricate and soften the skin - the most basic step in preventing wrinkles. - Uncommon Cures For Everyday Ailments by Bottom Line Books

Honey, avocado, eggs, fresh fruits, oats, cream of wheat and nutritional yeast are a few other possibilities for a facial mask. So are ginger, papaya, pineapple and cucumber, which have skin-softening enzymes. Yogurt, sour milk, vinegar, apples, citrus fruits and wine contain AHAs, which are particularly important for a mask because they loosen the tight bond that holds the old surface skin (they also restore the skin's natural acidity).- Herbs for Health and Healing by Kathi Keville

Use any heavy oil for dry skin, such as avocado or wheat-germ, and a light oil such as almond or sunflower for oily skins. The essential oils of clary-sage, lemon, lime, sage, or thyme are cleansing and suitable for all skin types. Other good options would be rosemary, chamomile, lavender, or geranium.- The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy by Valerie Ann Worwood

Mashing an avocado and rubbing it into your hair for five minutes after washing will add luster to your hair; rinse afterwards. In South Africa, an avocado mask made of mashed avocados, honey, and lime juice is applied to the face as a moisturizing treatment to counteract the drying effects of the hot sun. - Timeless Secrets of Health & Rejuvenation: Unleash The Natural Healing Power That Lies Dormant Within You by Andreas Moritz

Every part of the avocado has been used at one time or another to tackle a few of life's inconveniences. Throughout the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America, the avocado has been put to use in unique ways. A powder made from avocado seeds has been used to control dandruff. Some people have chewed the seeds to reduce toothache pain, and even the skin has been used as an antibiotic for intestinal parasites and dysentery. The flesh has long been used to condition dry hair and as a soothing shaving cream. - 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life! by David W. Grotto, RD, LDN

Use olive, avocado, or almond oil to cleanse the skin. Pat the oil on, then wash it off with warm water and a soft cloth. Use a facial loofah occasionally with the oil and warm water to remove dead skin. Use liquid creams and lotions (not solid creams) that contain nutrients and natural ingredients to keep your skin from becoming too dry. Do not use cold creams, cleansing creams, or solid moisturizing creams. These are hardened saturated fats that become rancid rapidly and then create free radicals, which can cause premature wrinkles.- Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements by Phyllis A. Balch, CNC

Olive, wheat germ, safflower, sesame, almond, apricot kernel, and avocado oils are closer in composition to the natural secretions of the skin. Most of them are also rich in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that aids in skin-cell renewal. Some manufacturers have also replaced synthetic coloring and scents with herbal extracts and powdered flowers, such as rose, iris, orange blossom, lavender, and chamomile. - Menopause Without Medicine: The Trusted Women's Resource with the Latest Information on HRT, Breast Cancer, Heart Disease and Natural Estrogens by Linda Ojeda

The avocado got its name from the ancient Aztec word for "testicle." Maybe that's why men once thought eating avocados would boost their virility. In earlier times, avocado pulp was used as a hair pomade to stimulate hair growth and to help heal wounds. Native Americans treated dysentery and diarrhea with its seeds. Even today, its oil can be found in many cosmetics.- Eat and Heal (Foods That Can Prevent or Cure Many Common Ailments) by the Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing

The same vitamins make avocado good for the skin. To help reduce the itching, dryness, and inflammation, apply the mashed fruit directly to patches of eczema, or (if green's not your Avocado color) apply the oil. - The Herbal Drugstore by Linda B. White, M.D.

Soap the entire body with a nonabrasive, emollient soap or avocado oil. Dip a large non-nylon brush, hemp washcloth, or loofah into hot water and scrub the skin for 2 to 5 minutes in circular motions until the skin is red and the body feels invigorated. End the bath with a warm shower, gradually reducing the water temperature until it becomes cool.- The complete Book of Water Healing - Using the Earth's most essential resource to cure illness, promote health, and soothe and restore body, mind, and spirit by Dian Dincin Buchman, Ph.D.

The mild oil pressed from the luscious avocado is known to be soothing to the skin. Avocado oil is used for gourmet cooking, so look for it in well-stocked grocery stores as well as health food stores. To magnify the moisturizing effects of the oil, use it when your hands are still a bit damp from washing, Dr. Bihova says. The oil will form a protective seal that will retain the moisture that your dry digits are so thirsty for. - The Doctors Book of Home Remedies II: Over 1,200 New Doctor-Tested Tips and Techniques Anyone Can Use to Heal Hundreds of Everyday Health Problems by the Editors of PREVENTION

To soften and nourish the skin, mash half of an avocado and apply it to your face. Leave it on until it dries, then rinse off with warm water. Avocado contains essential fatty acids and other nutrients that help prevent premature wrinkling. To tighten and refine pores, whip up the white of an egg with a pinch of alum and apply it to your face as a mask. After fifteen to twenty minutes, rinse it off with lukewarm water. Wrinkle lines from the lips toward the nose may be due to a deficiency of vitamin B2 (riboflavin).- Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements by Phyllis A. Balch, CNCPaul Neinast, who runs a famous beauty salon in Dallas, Texas, combines peach with papaya, banana and avocado in a blender until well purged. This facial mask is then applied and left on 30 minutes, after which it is rinsed away with tepid water. Then he will saturate several cotton balls with any polyunsaturated oil (sunflower oil is good to use) and gently rub the skin in a circular motion. This keeps dryness out, moisture in and gives the skin more elasticity. The face may also be rubbed with a little juice from some freshly pressed green grapes before the oil is applied.- Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs by John Heinerman

Through our interpreter, I learned that they were using avocado oil to keep their skin from getting burned by the hot, glaring sun and the rough elements of wind and rain. They even rubbed some on their lips to keep them nice and moist. Some of the Chorti women seemed to be in their late 20s or early 30s. Imagine my utter astonishment when my interpreter told me that most of them were in their mid-to-late fifties! Now I'm a pretty good judge of age because of my training in anthropology, but their constant use of avocado oil sure fooled me about how old I thought they were.- Heinerman's Encyclopedia of Fruits, Vegetables and Herbs by John Heinerman

A recipe for curing dermatitis combines avocado, aloe, and vitamin E cream. The fruit is also valued for constipation because the skin and pulp are seen to be good as cathartics. The seed is always saved because boiled in a tea it may be used as a poultice for bruises or sores. The powdered seed of avocado may be purchased at certain supermarkets in Arizona. - Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West by Margarita Artschwager Kay

Mexican avocado leaves contain 3.1% of an essential oil that is 95% estragole and 5% anethole. The pulp oil is used as a massage oil, in creams, lotions, and hair products. The seed oil has been patented for use in treatment of sclerosis of the skin. - Healing with Plants in the American and Mexican West by Margarita Artschwager Kay

About the author: Mike Adams is a holistic nutritionist with a passion for teaching people how to improve their health He is a prolific writer and has published thousands of articles, interviews, reports and consumer guides, impacting the lives of millions of readers around the world who are experiencing phenomenal health benefits from reading his articles. Adams is an independent journalist with strong ethics who does not get paid to write articles about any product or company. In 2007, Adams launched EcoLEDs, a manufacturer of mercury-free, energy-efficient LED lighting products that save electricity and help prevent global warming. He also launched an online retailer of environmentally-friendly products ( and uses a portion of its profits to help fund non-profit endeavors. He's also the CEO of a highly successful email newsletter software company that develops software used to send permission email campaigns to subscribers. Adams volunteers his time to serve as the executive director of the Consumer Wellness Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and pursues hobbies such as Pilates, Capoeira, nature macrophotography and organic gardening. He's also author of numerous health books published by Truth Publishing and is the creator of several consumer-oriented grassroots campaigns, including the Spam. Don't Buy It! campaign, and the free downloadable Honest Food Guide. He also created the free reference sites and Adams believes in free speech, free access to nutritional supplements and the ending of corporate control over medicines, genes and seeds. Known as the 'Health Ranger,' Adams' personal health statistics and mission statements are located at

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to Correctly Eat a Chicken Wing

How to Correctly eat a chicken wing.
see video

Kitchen Monki always amuses me with their posts. Who finds this stuff?
Thank you whoever takes the time to bring it to my attention....and now...for today's awesome video...
very interesting.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Fun Facts About Coffee!

Fun facts about Coffee! Thanks Kitchen Monki for all of the fun stuff you post. Don't miss these great facts!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Almond Blueberry/Cranberry Biscotti

I love this chick!

I love to watch the Food Network Show, "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" with Anne Burrell. Not only is she fun and cute, but love the things she cooks! I record every episode so as not to miss a beat! I am a cookbook collector so I have to see if I can find one of her cookbooks.

She made an Almond Raisin Biscotti recently..and we love biscotti with coffee and tea, but it can be a bit pricey in the store, pre-made. She made it look so I printed out the recipe and went to town.

I made it quite a few times now, and had to revise the recipe a little bit, as I think there was a typo error on the second baking cooking time...10 min did not do the was more like 30.

In any case, it turned out so good, I have made it over and over again! We cannot get enough of it. I am not a fan of raisins..sure they are good, but a bit boring. On her show, she mentioned, any nut and any dried fruit will do. I use blueberries sometimes and cranberries other times. Quite a few people have asked me for the recipe, so i thought I would share it here...its Anne's recipe, I just revised I always do..and you can revise it also. See for the orginal in tact version.

here is the recipe I used, with my revisions:

Biscolicious Biscotti
(she said biscolicious, loved it so I named the recipe that)

1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 orange or lemon, zested (she used orange, I did the first time but ran out of oranges so subbed lemon, same thing)
2 eggs, plus 1 egg white (egg white is for brushing loaf)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 t almond extract (my revision)
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped almonds (she used whole, that didn't slice up right for me)
1/2 cup dried fruit..I used blueberries and cranberries
1 tablespoon anise seeds
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar (I used regular sugar)

Cream the egg and butter until light and fluffy. Add the citrus zest and beat in two eggs, one at a time, and then beat in vanilla and almond extract.

Mix in baking powder, salt and flour. Once that is incorporated, mix in the nuts, fruits and anise seeds.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces. If the dough is sticky dust your hands with a little flour. Roll the dough into 2 logs the length of the sheet tray. Beat the egg white with 1 tablespoon of water in a small bowl. Brush the dough logs with the egg white and sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Bake in the preheated oven for about 35 minutes.

Let rest about 5 or 10 minutes (my revision, or it will fall apart if you don’t let it set up, found out the hard way, won't make that mistake again lol ) and then remove from the oven to a cutting board and slice on the bias with a serrated knife while they are still warm. Slicing while warm will prevent crumbling.

Lay the biscotti back on the sheet tray(s), cut sides down, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes (more like 25-30 more minutes, push on it with your finger, it should get crispy, and it will crisp alittle more when you let it cool).

Remove from the oven to a serving platter and serve with coffee or Vin Santo for dipping.

Biscotti tastes great the next day or even better two days later. It’s Biscolicious!

I now have a glass jar on my counter, just for biscotti..when it gets low, I bake more!

My friend Ildiko made this but she changed it up to be healthier (gluten free) and said it was very good.

She subbed coconut oil for the butter, used one egg and used Almond Flour in place of the flour. I will have to try that...she did not use almond extract she said.

Here is my Almond Cranberry Biscotti.

What's next Anne? I can't wait to try more of your recipes!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Keeping Food Safe in an Emergency

I got this email today in light of the hurricane that is set to hit Florida.

USDA CONSUMER ALERT: Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency

WASHINGTON - November 9, 2009 -
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing recommendations to those affected by tropical storms, flooding or severe weather in the Southeastern United States due to Hurricane Ida. USDA is hopeful that this information will help minimize the potential for foodborne illnesses due to power outages and other problems that are often associated with severe weather events."In the hours after a tropical storm or hurricane, food safety can become a critical public health issue," said USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Jerold Mande. "With a little bit of advance planning, people can make sure they have access to safe food and water even in the aftermath of severe storms."Steps to follow to prepare for a possible weather emergency:

Keep an appliance thermometer in the refrigerator and freezer. An appliance thermometer will indicate the temperature in the refrigerator and freezer in case of a power outage and help determine the safety of the food.

Make sure the freezer is at 0 °F or below and the refrigerator is at 40 °F or below.
Freeze containers of water for ice to help keep food cold in the freezer, refrigerator or coolers after the power is out.

Freeze refrigerated items such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately — this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
Plan ahead and know where dry ice and block ice can be purchased.

Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than 4 hours. Purchase or make ice cubes and store in the freezer for use in the refrigerator or in a cooler. Freeze gel packs ahead of time for use in coolers.
Group food together in the freezer — this helps the food stay cold longer.
Store food on shelves that will be safely out of the way of contaminated water in case of flooding.
Steps to follow after the weather emergency:

Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible to maintain the cold temperature.

The refrigerator will keep food safely cold for about 4 hours if it is unopened. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours (24 hours if it is half full) and the door remains closed.

Discard refrigerated perishable food such as meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, eggs, leftovers and deli items after 4 hours without power.
Food may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is at 40 °F or below when checked with a food thermometer.

Never taste a food to determine its safety!

Obtain dry or block ice to keep your refrigerator and freezer as cold as possible if the power is going to be out for a prolonged period of time. Fifty pounds of dry ice should hold an 18-cubic-foot full freezer for 2 days.

If the power has been out for several days, check the temperature of the freezer with an appliance thermometer. If the appliance thermometer reads 40 °F or below, the food is safe to refreeze.

If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine its safety. If the food still contains ice crystals, the food is safe.
Discard any food that is not in a waterproof container if there is any chance that it has come into contact with flood water. Discard wooden cutting boards, plastic utensils, baby bottle nipples and pacifiers.

Thoroughly wash all metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils that came in contact with flood water with hot soapy water and sanitize by boiling them in clean water or by immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water.

Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans and retort pouches (for example, flexible, shelf-stable juice or seafood pouches) can be saved.

Follow the Steps to Salvage All-Metal Cans and Retort Pouches in the publication "Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency" at:

Use bottled water that has not been exposed to flood waters.

If bottled water is not available, tap water can be boiled for safety. For more information on drinking water safely during weather emergencies, access the FSIS publication "Keeping Food Safe During an Emergency" at:
When in Doubt, Throw it Out!

FSIS has available a Public Service Announcement (PSA), available in 30- and 60-second versions, illustrating practical food safety recommendations for handling and consuming foods stored in refrigerators and freezers during, and after, a power outage. Consumers are encouraged to view the PSA at: News organizations and power companies can obtain hard copy (Beta and DVD) versions of the PSA by contacting the Food Safety Education Staff in FSIS' Office of Public Affairs and Consumer Education by calling (301) 344-4757. Consumers with food safety questions can "Ask Karen," the FSIS virtual representative available 24 hours a day at The toll-free USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854) is available in English and Spanish and can be reached from l0 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET Monday through Friday. Recorded food safety messages are available 24 hours a day. Podcasts and SignFSIS video-casts in American Sign Language featuring text-captioning are available online at
For additional information, see also: FSIS Emergency Preparedness Fact Sheets
Food Safety Questions? Ask Karen! FSIS' automated response system can provide food safety information 24/7
Last Modified: November 9, 2009

Choosing the right cooking oil

Meet Your Cooking OilsBy: Chef's Blade

Canola oil? Olive Oil? Vegetable oil? Extra Virgin? If you don’t know what to look for, the cooking oil aisle in your grocery store can be overwhelming. Choosing the right oil is an important step in cooking and armed with a little information you’ll make the best choice for the task at hand.

There are two key things to consider when selecting an oil—flavor and smoke point. Some cooking oils have more flavor than others so if you’re looking to use the oil to add flavor to your dish, choose a darker, more flavorful oil. Lighter and usually less expensive oils are best when you’re only using the oil to lubricate a pan or dish.

Smoke point is the temperature or point at which oil, when heated, literally starts to smoke. If you’re looking for an oil to sauté or deep-fry with, make sure it’s a refined or processed oil with a high smoke point. These oils are usually light in color and less expensive than their purer, more flavorful counterparts.

Types of Oils:

Vegetable Oil is usually a mixture of oils extracted from plants with the use of chemicals. It’s heavily refined, which means most of the impurities are removed in processing. The result, an oil that’s light in color, light on flavor but with a high smoke point.

Coconut oil is an edible oil extracted from the kernel or meat of matured coconuts harvested from the coconut palm (Cocos nucifera). Throughout the tropical world, it has provided the primary source of fat in the diets of millions of people for generations. It has various applications in food, medicine, and industry. Coconut oil is very heat-stable, which makes it suited to methods of cooking at high temperatures like frying. 

Canola Oil is produced from rapeseeds, a plant that’s actually part of the mustard family. Like vegetable oil it’s neutral in color and flavor and has a high smoke point. Canola oil is made up of healthier monounsaturated fats, making it what many believe to be a healthier alternative to vegetable oil.

Olive Oil is, as its name implies, extracted from olives, and, much like wine, its flavor and color can vary depending on the soil and climate in which the olives are grown. Color and smoke point also vary depending on the amount of acidity found in the oil.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is the oil that results from the first cold-pressing of the olives. It’s darker in color and because it’s minimally processed, has a low acidity. Along with its full flavor and deeper color (it’s usually bright or dark green), extra virgin olive oil has a very low smoke point and a high price point. Keep a bottle of extra virgin olive oil on hand for creating flavorful vinaigrettes, drizzling, and dipping.

Virgin Olive Oil results from the first cold-pressing of the olives, but has a slightly higher acidity level. Its color and flavor are midway between the bold extra virgin olive oil and lighter pure olive oil.

Pure Olive Oil is made from the pulp that remains after the first pressing of the olives. It’s refined with heat and chemicals, which produces an oil that’s extremely light in flavor and color. It’s also less expensive and has a high smoke point, making it the best olive oil for cooking.
Peanut Oil is marked by its mild flavor and light color. It’s an excellent choice for deep frying or any cooking method requiring a high cooking temperature.

Specialty Oils include nut oils, like Hazelnut and Walnut oils, and oils infused with flavors from other foods, like herbs and spices. They’re typically used to add flavor to foods like vinaigrettes, marinades, and sauces and can even be used as a finishing condiment or for dipping.
By Chef Danielle Turner for Chef’s Blade

Another great article brought to my attention by kitchen monki for great recipes, meal planning and grocery lists.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Items that frequent McD's Asian Dollar Menu: McSquid, McSpam and the McAloo Tikki Burger.

I love this, thanks Kitchen Monki for posting this on facebook.
Mc Donalds in Moscow
This is great, odd things they sell at Mc Donalds in other countries...Seaweed shaker fries, Mc Squid...check it out...tooo fun. When I was in Hawaii as a kid, we had Ramen Noodles at McDonalds there.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Pumpkin Lasagna

Some of you asked about the pumpkin lasagna I made.

Pumpkin Lasagna

Recipe courtesy of Robert Irvine for Food Network Magazine

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
15 min
Cook Time:
50 min
8 servings

1 cup pumpkin puree
1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 to 6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 pound spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
1/2 cup red wine
1 28-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 16-ounce box lasagna noodles
1 large egg
2 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup shredded romano cheese
1 large zucchini, very thinly sliced


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the pumpkin puree in a fine sieve over a bowl; set aside to drain while you make the sauce.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until translucent, 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, 2 more minutes. Add the sausage and cook until brown, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Pour in the wine and cook until reduced by half. Stir in the tomato sauce and herbs and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat. Season with salt and pepper, cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook as the label directs. Drain and toss with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.
Mix the strained pumpkin puree with the egg in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix the ricotta, 1 cup mozzarella and the romano.

Build your lasagna in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish: Start with a layer of sauce, then top with a layer of noodles. Evenly spread half of the pumpkin filling, then half of the zucchini, over the noodles. Top with half of the cheese mixture and cover with some of the sauce. Repeat the layers, finishing with noodles and sauce; sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup mozzarella. Bake, uncovered, 35 to 40 minutes, or until bubbly. Let cool 15 minutes before slicing.

This was in my local paper today:

Try making pumpkin pie from a fresh gourd rather than a can

Chances are you won't be disappointed with the result.

By Susan Shely

Reading Eagle correspondent

Pumpkin pie is a holiday staple, but many bakers balk at the thought of making one from scratch.Sure, it's simple to open a can of pumpkin, and, indeed, you can make a great, high-quality pie. Use the recipe on the back of the can, or pick one of the thousands you can find printed or online, employing a variety of ingredients such as cream cheese, pudding mix, melted ice cream and buttermilk.

Crook neck pumpkins at Stoltzfus Garden Produce Stand in the Shillington Farmers Market.
In the event, however, that you have access to fresh pumpkin - or decide to seek it out and do pumpkin from scratch - chances are you won't be disappointed with the results.

Prior to the availability of canned pumpkin, cooks and bakers simply cooked the pumpkins they grew, or others grew, and used the resulting puree to make pies and other dishes. Pumpkins, after all, are simply a type of winter squash, much like butternut or acorn or Hubbard. They are a member of the cucurbitaceae family, which also includes cucumbers and melons.

They're a great source of beta carotene, which the body coverts into vitamin A, are low in calories and a good source of carbohydrates and potassium.

It's thought that pumpkins are native to Central America, and we know that American Indians were already growing pumpkins in North America when the Pilgrims arrived. Pumpkin is thought to have been present in some form on early Thanksgiving tables, although a scarcity of sugar makes it unlikely that it was in pie form. However it was served, it's a sure bet that it didn't come out of a can.

According to the traditional cook's bible, "The Joy of Cooking," pumpkins can be used much the same way as any other winter squash - baked; mashed; or added to soups, stews or gratins. Preparing pumpkin for a from-scratch pie or other recipe isn't difficult, but it involves several steps, the first of which is choosing the type of pumpkin you want to use.

Any kind of pumpkin will yield pulp and resulting puree, but some kinds are better for cooking and baking than others. Most sources advise leaving your jack-o'-lantern for the compost pile, although you can save the seeds and toast them. Don't be tempted to recycle a pumpkin that's been cut open and left to sit outside for a couple of days or longer; mold and bacteria may be present.

A variety of small, round pumpkins called pie pumpkins are recommended for cooking and baking, as are Cinderella pumpkins, referred to as such because they served as the prototype for Cinderella's carriage. Pie pumpkins generally weigh in at between 2 and 5 pounds, while Cinderella pumpkins normally weigh between 18 and 35 pounds.

Often preferred by cooks and bakers are neck pumpkins, or crook neck pumpkins, which resemble giant butternut squash with greatly elongated necks. They are prized for the long necks, which are solid, orange flesh. The only seeds are located in a small cavity in the large end of the pumpkin. They aren't stringy and are easy to peel and to process into a great tasting puree. Crook neck pumpkins are available locally at farmer's markets, some grocery stores and farm stands.To make pumpkin puree from a crook neck pumpkin, wash the pumpkin well to remove any dirt, then dry well. Cut the pumpkin into several pieces and peel each piece with a vegetable peeler. Cut the peeled pieces into smaller pieces. You'll need to scrape the seeds from the hollow end of the pumpkin - save them for roasting.

Cook the pieces in a large pot in a small amount of boiling water for 20 to 30 minutes, testing to see if they are soft. Continue cooking until very tender.You can use a food processor, strainer or food mill to puree the pumpkin, which is prepared in much the same manner as strained applesauce. The puree should have about the same texture as applesauce.Once pureed, the pumpkin can be used in any recipe calling for canned pumpkin. A 5e-pound neck pumpkin will make about 4 1/2 cups of puree.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Homemade Ricotta Cheese (its easy, try it)

I got a really neat recipe book the other day from my BOMC2 book club in my mailbox (yes, of course I needed another recipe book lol) It has things I never thought of making in it.

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The Ricotta cheese really struck my interest. Looked simple enough, lets give it a whirl, I thought, and probably said out loud, I do talk to myself a lot.
I had seen Alton Brown make ricotta on his cool show on Food Network once, using vinegar and it looked pretty easy. I just so happen to have the ingredients for this recipe on hand..(the citric acid I have in my pantry because I use it for my sprouting...I got it at Echo Hill Country Store, you may be able to get it at a grocery store, I never looked. Echo Hill has it so cheap.

I want to start off by saying...this is easy, try it once and you will make it again and again..I promise! It takes less than an hour to make and no effort...just keeping an eye on a pot for a few mins.

8 C Whole Milk
1 t citric acid
¼ c water
2 T half and half
1 t kosher salt (I used course sea salt, it worked)

Put the milk in a pot on the stove, and put a candy thermometer in it (don't get scared off, this is so easy, clip it on and relax). In a measure cup, put the water and add the citric acid and stir it up...dump it in the milk give it a whirl and turn on the heat to medium. Let it go, dont' touch it again, resist the urge to stir it anymore, the initial stir is the only one you will do...and in about 15 min the temp should come up to 190° F...turn off heat and let the thing sit 10 min while the curds seperate from the whey.
While you wait for it to go up to 190......
In another bowl, put the half and half and salt so you are ready when it is.
Put a fine mesh strainer (window screen size mesh is fine) over a bowl or another strainer in the sink.

When it hits 190°... let it set, turn it off and let it set 10 mins to seperate curds and whey.
then dump it right into the strainer and let it sit (recipe book doesn't state how long, I left the first batch sit 10 min)..then dump in bowl of half and half salt mix and fold to combine.

My first batch is super awesome and the second batch was even better..this pic is the first batch..the second batch I let sit in the strainer in the sink longer..about 25 min.

That's it. This keeps one week in the frige. I put it in a canning jar, it said you can cover in the bowl and put it in frige, but I need room in my frige for other things and I love my canning jars. Oh yeah, this is two batches in this jar..each batch makes about 1¾-2 c of Ricotta gallon of milk makes 2 batches (3½-4 c). Not bad, if you go to a specialty store (Salinos or Russo's for locals in my area) you would pay a fortune per pound for this cheese.

I am sure you can find most recipes from this book online, but who wants to research that much. This gal has recipes for so many neat things...all sorts of mustards, beef jerky in the oven, fudge cicles, toaster tarts, limoncello, kim chee, hot sauce, ketsup, dressings, jr mints, marshmallows, graham crackers and so much more and its all easy step by step recipes.
You are probably thinking toaster tarts? Who would make them, but if you show up with home made pop tarts to a brunch, you will be the talk of the brunch, and you will know they are wholesome and there isn't any chemicals and junk in them.
It tastes so good, I could eat it as is (and did eat some as is)..My next adventure will be to make Ricotta salata (and I won't use this silly press they use on thsi link, but here is a basic idea..I will just use a 28 oz tomato type can as the book states to do). It looks so good, it would be a great addition to wine and cheese and cracker night with a few friends.
But here is a basic idea I found online of someone who made it from the book, using a cheese press..again, not needed.
PS I made pumpkin lasagna with it family loved it. I didn't taste the pumpkin and neither did hubby, it was the ricotta that shined in the meal! (the pumpkin lasanga recipe was in food network magazine this did not have much pumpkin taste to me..but hey, it was good and pumpkin adds some really healthy vitamins)


You can use the byproduct that you drained in bagel making, or any baking that you need to use water.