Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Don't laugh at the schmutz on the side of my pan...I am no food stylist..we are real people in this house and we eat real food..I could have re-baked one for the pic, but I was busy living my life. 

Preheat oven to 350°
if not using a bread baking stone, grease bread pan

In a medium bowl:
1 C flour
1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp all spice
Pinch Cardamom
Pinch Cloves

Mix with a wire whisk.

In mixing bowl:
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix well (about 2 minutes
 fold in
1 1/2 C shredded zucchini (use medium grater or shredder)

Add in dry ingredients and beat until just combined.

Add in
3/4 C chocolate chips

Bake at 350°for 55-65 minutes until toothpick comes out clean

Place on wire rack for about 10 minutes.
Turn out onto wire rack and cool, or cut right in the bread pan and serve.

I have three of these Stoneware Loaf Pans..they bake an awesome product!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Oyster Cracker Snack Mix

You can mix almost any snacks but here's what I did

1 9 ounce bag of oyster crackers. 
1  11 ounce box of cheese nips. (For some wonderful reason these are half the price of cheese its, and just as good. Thanks Nabisco) 
Half a bag of waffle shaped pretzels. 
1 pack ranch dressing mix
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp dill weed 
3/4 c oil

Mix the snack mixes in a bowl add oil seasoning and spices. Pour into 2 baking stones
Bake at 250° for 30 minutes. Stir or toss around halfway through baking. 

Cool completely before putting into a air tight container. 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Dying a leather sofa. See the dramatic transformation

We were given this white (beige?) leather sofa set and my sofa has seen better days thanks to my pets.  The leather set was in pretty good shape but the color was loud for me.  A friend described it as "Godfather-like tacky italian" lol.  
I decided if it was going to stay, it needed a makeover.  A local guy dyes sofas, so we called him.  $3000.00!  WHAT!  I could get a new sofa set for that!
My first thought is, if he can do it, so can I.  All I needed was the product he uses and I am sure he wouldn't want to share his secret, so I googled leather dye. has a product, and lots of product support, testimonials etc that looked pretty simple.  What do I have to lose?  If I ruin it, I didn't want a white sofa anyway..and if it turns out, I salvaged a nice set.
This will NOT rub off on your clothing when it is dry and sat on it 15 minutes after dying it. 

I wasn't sure how much I would need so I over bought.  I got two of their large size bottles and a bottle of the primer/clear. It was about 150.00...but they take returns and I didn't even open one of the bottles. I decided to keep it around for future projects though.  about 90.00 for one bottle of mahogany dye and one bottle of clear coat/primer.  One bottle did both sets. I can't believe it. 
 Here are some before and after was nearly impossible to get good lighting but I did the best I could. 
I am SOOOOO happy with the results and it was simple.  It did take a little muscle to get into the cracks (the cushions on this set do not come off so getting down in the cracks took some work but I got a good arm workout).  Anyone can do this. I can't believe someone charges $3000.00 for this. I got it done in one day.  It dries in minutes and is ready for the next coat. Because it was a dramatic change, it took about 5 coats...but it was fast and easy.  

People also dye purses, boots  and even some old dashboards with this stuff (look on their website and also search it on pinterest).  
 I am not affiliated with Rub N Restore, I do not gain anything by raving about their company, except that I hope to turn people on to them, to keep their business booming so I can come to them in the future and know they will be around for a long time.  

I did not use the clear coat on the top.  I like the shine it offered with just the dye..but I may clear coat it in the future.  I did use the clear coat to prime it.  

Love Seat Before
Sofa before
Rub N Restore (I only used one of those bottles of dye for both pieces)
First I cleaned it with vinegar and water. 
I kept a spray bottle to keep my sponge moist but not too wet. 
first coat
first coat
after first coat (we liked the distressed look but kept on going) 
first coat on half and second coat on half

second coat 
third coat
done after 5 coats 
sofa complete
sorry for the glare
I highly recommend this product. Its available in so many colors and you can restore yours to the color it was when you bought it, or change black to white or white to black, etc.  

After seeing this, 2 people I know who have white leather sofas that were given to them, want me to help them dye theirs. Why did so many people buy and give away white leather sofas?

I do want to add that I used a hair dryer to get into the cracks and dry it will stick and pull the color off before it dries if you don't.
This will NOT rub off on your clothing when it is dry and sat on it 15 minutes after dying it. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

2 minute Rice crispy treat (single serving)

2 minute Rice crispy treat (single serving)

Are you home alone or live alone and don't want to eat a whole batch of rice crispy treats by yourself?
If you live close to me I'll help you. Or you can make a single serving rice crispy treats in your microwave in minutes. 

All you need are: 

1 tablespoon of butter 
4 marshmallows
 1 cup rice crispies 

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a deep cereal bowl. 

Add 4 marshmallows and microwave for 15 seconds. 

Stir the butter and marshmallows until completely combined. 

Add 1 cup rice crispies  and stir well. 

Pour onto a piece of foil and form into a squarish shape.
 You don't have to do this you can just eat it straight out of the bowl. 

Let it sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes or refrigerate for quicker set up. 
Again you do not have to wait you can eat it immediately. 
There's enough for two rice crispy treats. Or one really big one. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Waldorf Salad

You can put this over lettuce or add chicken strips to make it a complete meal.   It's a great side dish for any meal.

Waldorf Salad 
2 C celery, chopped
3 C apples, chopped and tossed in lime juice
1 c dried fruit (a mixture of cranberries, blueberries and cherries is my fav)
1 C grapes, cut in half (optional)
1 C walnuts

1½ C sour cream
4 T  honey

Mix the sour cream and honey and toss in everything else.  Sprinkle poppy seeds on top. You can also sprinkle with cheese (feta, bleu cheese)

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Cajun Seasoning

I recently made a new recipe that called for cajun seasoning.  I didn't have any commercial stuff, so I whipped up my own.
Nothing fancy, Plain Jane basic.

Cajun Seasoning

This recipe makes about ½ cup.

1 T of paprika (over flow that spoon)
1 T garlic powder
1 T onion powder 
3 t oregano
3 t thyme
3 t salt
3 t pepper
2 t cayenne pepper
1 t crushed red pepper flakes.

Stir and Jar. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Getting Motivated To Eat Healthy

I am a junk food junkie....having been raised by a father that worked in a chocolate factory, its amazing I am not overweight. I adore junk food.  Lucky for me, I have a pretty good metabolism.  Our parents worked a lot of hours and we fended for ourselves when it came to eating...and some choices, like making cake batter for the sole purpose to eat the bowl of batter wasn't always the most wise choice, but we were teenagers.

Don't get me wrong, I am very active, (I walk on average, 18,000 steps a day just at work), and I love to exercise and play (most days).  You only grow old when you stop playing.
I also love healthy food...naturally...I don't force anything I don't like...but I pretty much like anything healthy. My family is all on board kids have been caught cooking a bag of brussels sprouts for a midnight snack.

One thing that keeps me motivated is reading up on healthy eating.  Yes, I love the new Rocky Road Snickers, that is good...and the occasional Big Mac is still an indulgence (please don't tell me its not real food, I know and I don't care)

Reading is one of the best motivations for eating healthy (and being fit).  I promise you.  Buy a  health/fitness/nutrition book, check one out at the library..but read up. It will inspire you to make a change.

Marion Nestle is one of my favorite nutritional food authors...(I love Michael Pollan too)  I have written about them both several times on my blog.
I just ordered her book, Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics. The reviews on this book are fantastic...of course, there are a few naysayers..but they are just making excuses for themselves.
Just a few reviews, go to Amazon to read more.

"If you want to understand what's wrong with our eating habits, you must understand the central role that calories play. Nestle and Nesheim are two of America's finest nutritionists–and this book explains, clearly and succinctly, why calories count. It is essential reading not only for people interested in food policy, but for everyone who wants to eat well and be well." –Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal

I was prepared to spend most of my time skimming this book for useful information while avoiding the boring parts that often encumber these kinds of texts, but I read this one cover to cover in just a few days. In fact, as I was reading it and nearing the end I tweeted:
"Sad that I'm almost done reading 'Why Calories Count.' It's so good that I don't want it to end. Really." (@weighthacker)

That's because Why Calories Count is the fascinating story of what calories are, how they were discovered, how they're measured (my favorite way: using 'double labeled water' calorimeters), how our bodies use them, why they're important to us, how they affect our weight, and how our society views them. If you're at all interested in the calorie, I don't think you'll find a better book.

What I especially appreciate about Marion Nestle and Malden Nesheim's approach is that they don't (ahem) sugar coat anything. When information about certain aspects of calories is unclear, they say that. If there are conflicting points of view on a topic, they raise them. If food companies are employing deceitful practices (they are), they're pointed out. They also explain how the regulations around calories came into being and how politics often plays more of a role than science when it comes to our nutrition labels. It's not as dry as it sounds.

All of the information is put into the context of why we're experiencing record levels of obesity and being overweight, and what we can actually do about it. This isn't a diet book, but it does look at many of the popular diets out there and explains why they work and which one is for you. (Why: You eat fewer calories. Which One: Any one that helps you eat fewer calories.) If you're trying to lose weight or know someone who is, this is a must read.

Once I heard Jillian Michaels say, a calorie is a calorie is a calorie...if you eat 3500 calories of oreos or apples, you'll gain a pound.  Its true...but I am working toward getting mine from the good stuff. Jillian is another great motivating author...she motives me to eat right and move.

So go ahead, eat that Snickers bar...but keep diet your ratio 80:20, healthy being the 80%.

Some will criticize that ratio is bad..but you can't do 100%.  No one can!  And some will criticize that counting calories is wrong....its not...whole foods are the way to go always...but count the calories of the things you eat for a few will be surprised at how much more you eat, than you think you do.

Anyway, I challenge you to read, and read books from authors who are educated, fitness and nutritionists..not facebook posts that tell you that you can eat motor oil on a Saturday because it will make you live longer..just being silly but some of those posts on there are just as silly.

Some books in my libarary that I will never loan out or part with:


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Meditation: letting go of the rules

People think I'm crazy because I'm up at 4 am everyday. I recall a time in my 20s a woman told me she was up at 4 am and I thought old people were weird.

Let me tell ya, it's the most peaceful time of the day. I use this time to meditate and reflect. 

But you don't have to get up early to meditate. 
You don't have to sit Indian style and close your eyes, imagining seeing a light through your third eye. You don't need fancy beads, although they help some, to other's they are just clutter. 
You can meditate anytime, anywhere. You can meditate for 5 minutes, 20 minutes, 8 hours...
Don't let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong.  They don't know you. 

You can meditate in your vehicle on your commute, washing dishes, vacuuming, at work, anywhere you have a moment alone where you can just be in the here and now. Your eyes need not be closed. You don't have to chant mantras. Although they work for many people, they may not be you. Everyone is different. The mantras are healing, so give them a try, but it's okay if they aren't your style. 
Below are some mantras.

When I go to the beach, I sit, and or sometimes stand, taking in the energy, listening to the waves, with my eyes wide open I watch the waves come in and go out...this is great, but I can't sit and listen to a recording of waves, I do not get the same effect. Other people can.  

Do what relaxes and calms you. I'm not saying drink a cocktail, and definitely don't smoke a cigarette. You need to breathe in fresh air for sure. 

Just take some deep breaths (they need not be animated and heard loudly by others). Be aware of your breathing and let go of anything that stresses you. 

Go somewhere that is beautiful, take in Mother Nature. Or close your eyes, if you aren't driving, and take yourself to a beautiful place. The sky is the limit. 

There are traditional guided meditations, but for some people, clearing the mind while someone is talking and telling you to clear your mind, is difficult. Your mind wonders. 

There are some guided meditations that take you on a journey, you listen to a storyteller that takes you somewhere in your thoughts. Visualizations. This could be easier for some.
Visualizations are my favorite form of meditation.

Here is a great pdf of guided meditations meant for children but great also for beginners. 

Record it so you can relax while following it. 

Every meditation style is not for everyone. You can't meditate wrong, as long as you are relaxed, and letting go. 

I took a course in teaching meditation through Ananda and it was great but I came to realize, their style didn't relax me. It wasn't my style. 
I looked further and found in my own, what worked for me. Always a student, never a master.We are always evolving.  

One of my favorite visualization meditations, I got out of one of my yoga books and darn it, I can't find the meditation right now.  When I find it, I will post it.  It takes you on a journey to an iceberg.

Just remember, you are not doing it wrong.  If anyone tells you that you are, you know not to take advice from them. Remember, everyone is always a student, never a master.  You can learn from someone, but their path is not the only path.

If you want to read a good book with visualization type meditations, a few are listed below and this is my go to.
To look inside of this book on Amazon click the book

For now, here is a guided meditation I found on you tube....this helps you if you can't focus on just silence and stillness.  Its a great morning meditation.  But again, if you can't relax with talking in the room, by all means, do what relaxes you.  

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Homemade English Muffins (who knew they would be so easy!)

Okay, watch this awesome Culinary Institute of America teacher make these before you think its too hard for you...I promise...its easy and you don't even turn on the oven!

I ordered the breakfast book from them online.  I have several of the CIA cookbooks, they are all amazing! I posted links below if you want to check them out.

English Muffins
(makes 12)

1½ tsp active dry yeast
1 c warm water
2 c all purpose flour
1 T butter, softened
1 t sugar
1 t salt
oil of choice for your pan

Place the yeast and water in your mixing bowl and allow to proof for about 5 minutes.  Then add the flour, salt, sugar, and butter to the yeast water and mix on low (speed one) with a dough hook, about 2 minutes.  (you can use a hand mixer, but a stand mixer is effortless..invest in one if you like to cook)

Increase the speed to 2 and let it knead for you for about 5 minutes...check out the will not be quite as smooth as pizza dough but you don't want it real liquidy either. You may need to add a bit more flour here.

Pull the hook out of the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm spot for 1½ hours.

Sprinkle counter with flour and take dough out of the bowl and cut into 12 pieces (cut in four and each piece in three)  Roll each piece into a ball, rolling under and flatten slightly and dip both sides in cornmeal.  You can proof them here another 20-30 minutes or you don't have to.
The first two times I made it I didn't proof them. They were delicious but when I proofed them the third time I made them they were even fluffier and more delicious.

Cook on a hot and lightly oiled griddle for about 5-6 minutes per side.

Fork Split and toast them in a toaster.

Wasn't that easy?  And they are the best tasting english muffins I ever had.