Friday, December 11, 2009

Poinsettia Information

Happy Holidays!

If you are like me, I always get poinsettia plants given to me as gifts each year. Some years my house starts to look like a poinsettia forest but they are lovely plants. I had had white, pink, spotted, red, and maroon poinsettias and they all have lovely characteristics.

I just read this article and thought it was really interesting. It also gives tips on how to care for your poinsettia once you take it home....which is good information because I have been known to kill a poinsettia...or 10!

So, here is some handy dandy information from the Texas A&M Agrilife News

Poinsettia Death Trip
Most consumers kill their poinsettias with neglect in about two weeks
After East Texas growers take great pains to produce beautiful poinsettias, plants free of diseases and pests that could live for years, most consumers will take the plants home and kill them within a couple of weeks due to improper care, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.
"Poinsettias are not poisonous. That's an urban myth," said Dr. Karl Steddom, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist. "But from a poinsettia's viewpoint, most consumers are lethal. Consumers don't mean to kill the plants. They just don't know how to take care of them."

Each year, East Texas plant nurseries will produce several million poinsettias in 6-inch pots for the holiday season, according to Steddom.

"Color Spot Nurseries in Troup alone will market more than a million poinsettias this year," said Dr. Scott Ludwig, AgriLife Extension integrated pest management specialist. "And that's only one of many nurseries in Cherokee County."

Both Ludwig and Steddom, who are based at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton, work closely with the ornamental plant growers in northeast Texas, whose sales total more than $500 million annually, they said.

East Texas growers may start work with holiday season poinsettias as early as June or as late as August, Ludwig said.

"It's complicated, as some may start with pre-rooted cuttings, others may purchase unrooted cuttings and root their own, and still others may grow their own poinsettia root stock plants and take cuttings from them to root," he said.

Because of labor costs and the need of dedicated facilities, the more common method is to start with cuttings which are usually imported. The cuttings usually come pre-rooted in "Oasis Cubes," a small block of foam similar to that used by floral designers to hold flower arrangements. The cubes are sterile and can be saturated with water, but drain well.

Keeping the growth medium as clean as possible is important, because poinsettias can be host to a multitude of plant diseases, including molds, foliar diseases, blights and root rot. None of the diseases are of any risk to human health, but they can reduce the attractiveness of the plant, Steddom said.

The cubes are planted into growth medium, most commonly in 6-inch pots. Again, to limit soil-borne diseases, clean potting soil is used.

Insects can be a problem, particularly whiteflies, but not if growers keep a close eye on their crop and take prophylactic measures, Ludwig said

Another growing demand involves "black-clothing." The time which poinsettias bloom is determined by daylight hours. Poinsettias are native to Mexico, where changes in daylight cause them to turn from green to bright red right before Christmas, Ludwig said.

"We say 'bloom' but that's actually a misnomer, because it's the leaves that change color, not the bloom," Ludwig said. "But in most of the U.S., growers have to cover their greenhouses in light opaque shrouding to cause the plants to change color in time for the holiday season."

Growers will typically black cloth in stages, timing the operation so that some poinsettias change color by November for Thanksgiving, then at other times for various shipping periods up to Christmas, Ludwig said.

Of all the plant diseases to which poinsettias are susceptible, pythium root rot is probably the most common, Steddom said.

"Every year, some producers have at least small losses to pythium root rot," Steddom said. "The pythium organism can be found everywhere, but it is encouraged by over-watering and poor drainage," Steddom said.

Proper watering methods are essential. And as the disease is water borne, so growers have to take precautions about the disease being transmitted from one pot to the other by drainage.

Pythium root rot is also the most common scourge of poinsettias in the home, Steddom said. The slick holiday paper wrapped around pots prevents drainage. On top of that, consumers are prone to over-watering the plants.

"If they want to keep their poinsettias alive, remove the wrapper as soon as possible," Steddom said. "And don't over-water. Simply stick your finger in the soil and if it feels damp, don't water it. If you let the pot sit in standing water for any length of time, you'll probably kill the plant."

Steddom said they can put the holiday wrapper back on after they let the pot drain.

"Except in South Texas, where poinsettias might survive in an outdoor landscape, to keep the plants alive, consumers are going to have to give them lots of light andkeep a close eye on soil moisture levels," Ludwig said.

Poinsettias can be made to re-bloom for the next Christmas season, but it's an arduous chore, Ludwig said.

The plants need about 14 hours of darkness alternated with 10 hours of bright light for eight to 10 weeks, he said. Even a few hours of too much light will scuttle the process. The temperature has to be regulated too.

"Most people will kill the plant trying to get it to re-bloom," Ludwig said. "Considering all the work that goes into commercially grown poinsettias and the low cost consumers pay for them, it's easier to just compost them and buy a new plant the next holiday season."

By: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191 Contact(s): Dr. Karl Steddom, 903-834-6191, sk-steddom@tamu.eduDr. Scott Ludwig, 903-834-6191, swludwig@ag.tamu.edu
http://agnews.tamu.edu/showstory.php?id=1584

Wassail

I was at a party the other day and they had this fabulous wassail there....it was one Heavenly elixir and I love wassail! I asked the hostess and this is her secret. She puts this in apple cider and thows in an apple with cloves pushed in it and lets it stew for hours. It was really wonderful and I am rushing to my nearest Hallmark store to find some! She said its $3.95 for the box.

YUMMMMMMMMMMMM!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Reading for Christmas: For I am Mary

Hello!

Last night at church we had a fun evening called Christmas Around the Ward. We went to 3 church menebers houses and had little spiritual Christmas thoughts at all of them and sang songs then ended and had refreshments. It was a lovely evening.

One of the ladies in our church did a reading called "For I am Mary" that was lovely. She was dressed as Mary and recited these words and the group of ladies attending sang the Christmas Songs listed in between her prose. I thought I would share it with you because it was such a nicely done program.


For I am Mary
And I am woman -- like unto other women. Divine in that we are all divine. A child of God. A servant of God, but chosen of God above all women . . .

For I am Mary -- chosen of God. My soul in agony with too great an honor. My heart torn with inadequacy. And from afar the voices of Angles ring out, and the voice of Heaven seems to say. " Adore Him, worship Him, attend Him well, for he is Mine."

And in my heart already, I see Him, and in my mind's eye, I imagine this small wee mite, and so think I as thoughts press hard. "Ah, if but to love -- What joy is mine. What grace that I might have Him, and teach the things I know from Thee -- that He is Thine." Again I recall the awful moment when I knew, that I, lowly and fleshly mortal, should become thy handmaiden, and I shudder with the weight of unknown responsibility, that, what no mere woman could ever aspire to, should come, unsought, to me. Praises, my Lord, that of all the regal personages in high positions, Thou hast chosen me. My heart breaks in wonderment and humility. Blessed by Thy Lamb.

And Joseph, dear Joseph, by my side as the little gray animal toils his way, laboriously, for I am heavy -- heavy in body and heavy in the knowledge of the precious burden within me. Ah, I am tired, and Joseph again slows the beast. It is getting late. Is that village, faint but real, to be our destination, or is it just a glimmer of hope in the distance. Lord, dear Lord, my hand and heart grow weary. Surely the time is near.

Song: Oh Little Town Of Bethlehem. Verses 1 and 3

The inn is full -- no room at the inn. I heard the words he told Joseph and my heartaches as I hear my Joseph beg. Ah, is there no place this night, that might make ready to receive the Savior. Men so eager for earthly things, so careless for their soul. O, that I might say, "The Son of God is about to come forth among men. Lay open your best houses, lay out your silks and spices. Anoint His little body with precious oils. Fall in worship before him. Make ready to receive the Savior of Mankind." But I am Mary, I am silent. I am not the Lord's messenger. I await the will of the Lord. We come at last to the stable. We, Joseph and I, are grateful. The hay is sweet, the air is soft, the light is alive, for He is come.

Song: Away In a Manger Verse 1

Behold the Lamb of God, that but for Him would the world be plunged in death. That, but for Him, would sin be unforgiving, and hopeless be our day. Arise and countenance Him, and hope and solace know. The Lamb of God is come to awake our soul, and I am full to break with wondrous love. It seemed I saw shepherds in the hills, poor and untaught -- yet blessed beyond the value of men. For the Angles appeared and brought glad tidings while yet we slept.

Song: The Chorus of Far Far Away on Judea's Plains

And the Shepherds come and stood in wonder and awe -- silent and ever watchful. There is light in the stable, but not the light of men. The eternal light that shelters and protects and keeps man warm. This is the light that shines for them -- for the shepherds come down from the hills. The smallest Shepherd reaches out his hand and for a moment, I see glory in his eyes, and I know he will never feel cold again. They drop to their knees. Little one, they know. They are a witness unto this hour. They of all the hundreds unaware, know that Thou art the Christ.

Song: The First Noel Verse 1

Little one, Thou art His Son, but Thou art my babe. Thou art the world's hope, but my joy. Thou art the soul's savior, but my heart. My arms ache with desire to shield from Thee, all the hurts that be. Sleep in the shelter of my arms, Nestle deep into my breast. Feel the love I shelter Thee. Sleep my little one while night is nigh. Rest thy head upon my arm -- it pillows thee. Clasp Thy hand around my finger -- it anchors Thee. Sleep my little one. Rest upon the fragrant hay -- symbol of humility. Lullaby -- Lullaby. Close thy eyes, I'll watch for thee, and safely keep, till it be day.

Song: The Virgins Lullabye - soloist

Days have passed, but the wonder of this dear sweet babe is close to me. The world is strangely quite. Bells ring not, nor do people sing praises to the most High. Life seems placid enough, but underneath the sham of civilized man -- evil persists. I see still the torment and pangs of the starved, the ill and the weak. Is there no where on earth that there was light at His birth. The Shepherds -- true. But they have come and gone. Have they forgotten? Ah, who knocks? Come. Surely thou art kings! What precious gifts you have and for whom? Of course, for Him -- For the King of all Kings. And the Lord gave light unto the Kings far to the East who are wise unto fulfillment -- and they have come. They kneel in their robes of silk, and the room is heavy with the delicate perfume of the East. Thank thee, oh Lord, another witness unto His Birth.

Song: We Three Kings Verse 1

And now my son, Thee have growing to do and strength to gather, and deeds and words, and work for Thou art given that man might live. Already the sorrow of eternal woman is mine. To bear, to care, to relinquish. Give me, Oh Lord that I might succor Him, May I bathe His baby bruises. May I ease His childish ills. May I give comfort and peace and offer a refuge of love for all His days. Oh Lord, let men remember this life He gives for them. Let them ever hear anew, and turn not away. Strange that man might fail to praise and worship Thee when Thou art near. Awake, Man, thy deliverer is come. A message He brings to a world full of trouble. To a world of sorrow, he brings joy, And where there is hate, love, Where there is indifference, compassion, Where there is darkness, light, Where there is doubt, truth. Where there is man there is salvation, and all this to every man the Christ is born because God so loved the world.

Song: Silent Night

Friday, November 20, 2009

Holiday Potatoes--Sweet and Mashed (Paw Paw's Taters)

Hello My lovelies.....

I thought I would post a few of my favorite holiday recipes and I will start with potatoes!

I tried the sweet potato recipe from The Pioneer Woman last year and my family all agreed that it was divine and we never missed the marshmallow topped version of sweet potatoes.

The link to her printable recipe is here http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/11/if_you_think_you_dont_like_sweet_potatoesthink_again/

Sweet Potatoes
Prep Time: 45 Minutes Cook Time: 30 Minutes Difficulty: Easy Servings: 10

Ingredients
4 whole Medium Sweet Potatoes
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Milk
2 whole Eggs
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 teaspoon Salt
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Pecans
½ cups Flour
¾ sticks Butter
Preparation Instructions
Wash 4 medium sweet potatoes and bake them in a 375-degree oven until fork tender, about 30-35 minutes. When they are finished cooking slice them open and scrape out the flesh into a large bowl.
Add 1 cup of (regular granulated) sugar, 1 cup of milk, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract and 1 teaspoon of salt. With a potato masher, mash them up just enough—you don’t want to be perfectly smooth.
Now, in a separate bowl, add 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup pecans, chopped (that means measure a cup of pecans, then chop them), ½ cup flour, and ¾ stick of butter. With a pastry cutter or fork, mash together until thoroughly combined.
Spread the sweet potato mixture into a regular baking dish and sprinkle the crumb mixture all over the top.
Bake in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.



And my favorite Mashed Potato recipe is Paw Paw's Taters. My grandfather, who, we call Paw Paw, made these one year and we all wanted to lick the plate....hence the name!

The link to the original post is here http://thebeautifulbasics.blogspot.com/2008/09/recipe-paw-paws-taters.html

And here is what I wrote....

Paw Paw's Taters

Pretend like you are going to make regular old mashed potatoes (which, by the way, you will never want again after you have them Paw Paw's way). So, take potato pearls, potato flakes, or actual real potatoes and cook 'em up! Now, all you do is add a block of cream cheese (use Neufchatel if you want 1/3 less fat) and a medium sized container of sour cream (fat free or lite is a-okay as well!) and mix them up with the potatoes. If you are making a wee amount (aka, single or double serving) then use far less this would probably be enough for an 8X12 pan. Now that it is all mixed and fabulous...add salt and pepper to taste and then put in the dish and spread out. Now top with some pats of butter and sprinkle with paprika and put in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. It is SO YUM! In fact, I may need to run home and make some tonight! (By the way, I know I spell Potato(e) the old fashioned way, but I just like it better that way!)

I also have started adding about a tablespoon of Mrs. Dash when I am mixing it together and calling it Herb Party Potatoes (in the formal setting) or just Herb Paw Paw's Taters.

Other variations....
add some shredded cheese for Cheesy Taters
add some mashed sweet potatoes for Potato Delight Taters
add some bacon bits, cheese and chives for Twice Baked Taters
really, the possibilities are ENDLESS!

I will try to make the above mentioned dish and post a pic soon!

Cleaning Potatoes

Hello! Happy Friday to you all! I was reading an article about things you can safely do in a dishwasher and one of the suggestions was clean potatoes. If you are needing a large amount of potatoes (say like for Thanksgiving potatoes or a big old potatoe salad) then you can put them in the top rack of your dishwasher (with nothing else, just potatoes, no dirty dishes!) and put them through a rinse cycle on your dishwasher. They should be all clean and ready to cook. It makes cleaning a bunch of potatoes a snap! I thought it was a great idea so I thought I would pass it on.

Yum! Potatoes!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shortage of Wheat and Sugar

Hello,

I went to a seminar a few weeks ago and they talked about the wheat shortage that is about to happen in this country. Evidently, the droughts and wheat stalk rust (that is not the technical term for it) has cause a vast majority of the wheat farmers across the world to not have a wheat harvest. Pretty scary!

I was chatting with a mom today who is a food buyer for a major company in our area. I asked her about the wheat shortage and she agreed and said that sugar was also going to be in shortage and the prices would continue to rise, especially as we head into baking season!

Eeek!

So, I hope you are or can get prepared for these shortages. It is scary to think that everything made with wheat, flour, and sugar will be going up in pricing!

It pays to live providently!

Canning Carrots & Pears

I am going to post some of my canning expereience here, just in case anyone else tried their hand at this. One of the things that I have found is that I don't always know how much to buy. So, I canned carrots yesterday and bought a 5 pound bag and it gave me 8 pints once they were canned.

We bought a box of pears, which I think is around 30 pounds, and we got 27 pints of sliced pears and 6 pints of pear sauce (like applesauce). We had about 9 pears that were bad so we could have had more. We got a really good discount on the pears since they were ripe.

Autumn

I don't know about you, but we have been having lovely Fall Texas weather this last week. I personally love not having to turn on my air conditioning and my pocketbook likes that too!
I have been canning and trying out new recipes, so I am sorry to have abandoned posting as much as I usually do. Life has just been hectic!!!
As I have been canning, I have been to some seminars and demos and everyone says that this book is the Bible of Canning, so I wanted to share it with you.



This book is simple, easy to read, and has pictures! All the things I love in a cooking book. It takes you through the basics step by step. I have already canned pears, pear sauce (think apple sauce but with pears), loganberry-raspberry jam, and carrots. I have found real satisfaction in canning these things and looking at my pantry shelves and seeing those beautiful cans. A friend of mine and I have resolved to do canning at least once every other month and we are going to try to do some dry pack (aka suck the air out of the pouch or jar) canning as well. I prefer to always have essentials plus more on hand in case of emergency, so it makes me feel at peace to know that I have food in my pantry to feed my family. After my husband lost his job last year, we ate from our pantry a lot and I was so glad that I had extras on hand to get us through the financially hard times. While things certainly are not super stable in the economy, I want to rebuild my food storage and be even more prepared if that happens again.

I also want to send my heart and thoughts out to the people of Fort Hood and the tragedy that occurred yesterday with the gunman. My heart weeps for you and your loss. It is sad and maddening that a fellow soldier would do that to his own.

I hope you all can enjoy this beautiful Friday and a great weekend!

Seek out the beautiful in life!

Heather

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My Canning Adventure

I spent yesterday canning....quite an adventure! My friend Erin and I were able to can 33 pints of pears (6 of which were pearsauce, like applesauce but with pears) and 36 pints of raspberry loganberry jam. It was quite an undertaking but rewarding and I feel like I really accomplished something. I have pictures of the final product, so I will post that in a minute, its on my phone so its not the best but it makes me smile to look at all we were able to do.

We have set a goal to do a day of canning every other month at least. Our next time we are going to do ham....I hear its easy and really good, so off to a ham adventure! Plus, it is currently pork slaughter season, so pork is cheaper than normal and I can just put it in my freezer.

The weather here is cooling off....I love this weather.

I will try to post some holiday recipes and other stuff over the next few weeks.

Take Care,
Heather

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Howdy Mr. President

Well,

As you can see my blog has been neglected over the past week. We had a huge event in our area, and me being the leader over the Event Managers in my part of the world, meant that we were up to our eyeballs in all sorts of preparations for the President, yes, THE PRESIDENT of the UNITED STATES, President Obama.....along with President George H. Bush and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Can you say security with a little more security and a little dash of security on top of that? Really, there were 6 security check points you had to go through before you ever got into the actual event.

Anyway, it is done, it went great, and I was totally exhausted! But, we are off and running in another week, so I hope to get back in the groove and post some more.

I hope all is well in your part of the world! Its cool and a little crisp here today....YEA FOR AUTUMN!

Heather

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

This is by far the best banana bread I have ever had....really...and its made from whole wheat!

I got the recipe from kneadfulthingsnow.com

I have been to 2 of Karen's seminars in the last month, one on bread making and one on food storage and bother were awesome. She really is a fountain of knowledge on this stuff.

Anyway, I decided to try out this recipe and I have already made it twice! So yum!


Banana Nut Bread with Streusel Topping
Bake at 350
50-55 minutes
Makes 1 large loaf—enough to share if you are forced into it.

Pre-heat oven to 350
Lightly butter a 4X9 loaf pan and set aside

Nuts
Spread out 1 1/3 Cup Walnuts on a cookie sheet. Roast in 350 oven for five minutes. Stir and roast an additional 3-5 minutes. The walnuts will quickly begin to smell very sweet and nutty. Oooo so delicious. Allow to cool.

Meanwhile Combine
2 Cup mashed well ripened banana
1Cup Dark Brown Sugar

The juice from the bananas will melt the brown sugar making a very soupy mixture, don't be alarmed. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine dry ingredients:
2 Cup freshly ground whole wheat flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp soda
1/2 tsp salt

Set aside.

Nuts
Coarsely chop your walnuts. Measure out 1 cup and add to the banana mixture. Finely chop the remaining nuts. These will be used for the struesel.

Struesel Topping
1/4 Cup freshly ground whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp Dark Brown Sugar
1/3 Cup Roasted Walnuts Finely Chopped
2 Tbsp Butter

Combine flour and sugar, mix well working out any lumps of sugar. Add nuts and mix. Using a pastry cutter, or your fingers (my technique), cut in the butter until the mixture is thoroughly combined and has a variety of crumble sizes. Set aside.

To the banana mixture add:
3/4 Cup Coarsely Chopped Walnuts
2 tsp Vanilla
2 Large Well-beaten Eggs
1/4 Cup Melted Butter

Stir until well combined.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients all at once and stir gently just till thoroughly combined. Working quickly, dump the batter into the prepared loaf pan. Spread all of the streusel topping evenly over the top of the loaf and very gently press the topping slightly into the batter.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Cover loaf with a foil tent. Continue baking an additional 30 to 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted at the center comes out clean.

Allow the loaf to cool completely. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate overnight. You're gonna love it.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gardening: Planting Bulbs for the Spring

Hello!

I was looking through my "Southern Living" Magazine the other day and it said that October is the time to start planting bulbs for the Spring. So, check out your area and see what bulbs need to be planted now for them to be ready and beautiful and blooming late February through April. The magazine mentioned daffodils, hyacinth, snow flakes.

Its also time to plant pansies for the Fall. Pansies are such a happy little flower!

I am ready for a little bit cooler temperatures so that we can get working in our garden and getting it ready for the Spring. The drought we suffered here in Texas pretty much ended all our lovely produce but I loved it while it lasted! The heat also impeded my husband from mowing as much so there were times when the grass was too tall for me to be out in the garden....because unfortunately, we live in snake country and Copperheads seem to really like our area because we have a wetlands area behind us.....lovely, I know.

However, for snake problems, I love to use "Snake Off". Its a powder product that you sprinkle around your house and yard and it smells like cinnamon. You can order it at http://doityourselfpestcontrol.com/ and after I used it, we did not see any snakes around our house/yard for 3-4 months but its time to apply some again.

I also have been reading the book about "Square Foot Gardening" by Mel Bartholemew. It is REALLY interesting and you learn lots of ways to save space while gardening. I am excited to put his techniques to work for me this Spring.

I hope you are all doing well and loving the fall weather. I love the colors of fall, they are beautiful!

Heather

Friday, September 25, 2009

Food Storage

I went to a bread making class last night and learned some new methods for making bread. I would gladly share them with you here if I could....however I am going to have to work on this and figure this all out before I can share it! It was a 3 hour class and included chemistry lessons and such and I am still soaking it in....and kneading my bread....I swear I think we kneaded (kned?) our bread for hours! We just didn't quite have the technique down. So, let me work on that and see if I can put it together into cohesive thoughts and share it with you....but don't hold your breathe....it may take a while. ( Forgive me if that is the wrong use of breathe or breath....I always get those confused!)

Anyway, at our class she also talked about food storage and being prepared in case of emergency, famine, loss of job, etc. and she gave some really good advice. I wanted to share her "How to get started" information of getting going with food storage because I thought it was really practical and easy to understand.

This is the link to her page on how to get started http://kneadfulthingsnow.com/howitsdone.aspx



Good luck! I will post more as I learn more!

Have a GREAT Friday!

Heather

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Recipe: Curried Shrimp with Cilantro, Lime, and Garlic

I made this recipe the other day and my husband and I really enjoyed it. It is from Robin Miller's cook book. It was super easy and light and had great flavor. Not too much curry, just the right amount. I think you could do the same thing with chicken, just make sure you get the chicken good and done because shrimp cooks so much faster.



Ingredients:

2 tsp olive oil

3 medium shallots, minced (I used a small onion)

2-3 cloves of garlic, to taste, minced

1 1/2 tsp of curry powder

1 cup of reduced sodium chicken broth or vegetable

1 1/4 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 T. fresh lime juice

1/2 cup of low fat sour cream

1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste


Directions:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the curry powder and cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Add the shrimp and lime juice and simmer until the shrimp are bright pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the sour cream and cilantro. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve.



This is great over rice or noodles. I even ate it the next day almost like a soup!

Happy Fall Y'all

Happy Autumn to everyone! The first day of Fall brought unusually mild temperatures to Texas for September and we are loving it. We had a scorcher and drought filled summer so we have welcomed some rain and temps in the 60s-70s. LOVELY!

I changed up the background a little to celebrate the season of football, pumpkins, and the lovely colors and smells of fall. When I was a student, we referred to the first colder days in the Fall as "bonfire weather" because that was the time of year we started to prepare to build our bonfire and burn it around Thanksgiving for the big football game. Our beloved bonfire came to a tragic end on November 18th, 1999 when it fell and 12 Aggies lost their lives while building our beloved tradition. We will always remember those 12.

So, appreciate every day you have with your loved ones and savor the colors, sights, and sounds of the Fall, they are near and dear to me. Its one of my favorite times of year.

Make your life beautiful!
Heather

Recipe:Blue Ribbon Biscuits

A friend of mine just had her son win a BLUE RIBBON at their local county fair for some biscuits he made. When she told me the recipe, I was floored at how simple it was....and how utterly fabulous they must be....hint hint** don't look at the calorie count!

So, You take a cup of flour, a stick of butter, and a half a cup of sour cream, mix it all together and roll out and you can make 12 mini biscuits or 6 regular sized ones. That is it, that is the whole recipe....and her son won a Blue Ribbon at the fair yesterday for his entry. Isn't that wonderful and amazing!?!?! I was so proud for all of them! Her family actually brought home 9 blue ribbons and a grand champion in the cooking and arts and crafts categories! Needless to say, they were all eating their cooking entries on the way home and loving every morsel after such a fabulous day of winning!

I will have to ask her the temperature and time for cooking, but its probably similar to any basic biscuit. I would guess 350 for 15-20 minutes.

Cleaning Product: Fabuloso


Have you seen this product?

I had never heard of Fabuloso until my friend Lori mentioned that she uses it and it leaves a wonderful clean smell to your house when you are done. And, once I started to ask others about it, I heard more rave reviews and it was even recommended by 2 professional cleaning ladies. So, I decided to try it! The bottle I bought is actually blue, not pink because it is a new kind with OXY in it and I have to say that it is pretty great. I also love the nice clean and non institutional smell that it leaves and I just plum love saying the name. It is Fabuloso!

So, if you are looking for a general cleaning product, I liked this one. You take 1/4 a cup of it and add it to a gallon of water and then start cleaning. The bottle I bought was $2.99 at Target so that seems pretty economical to me!

I have been gone!

Sorry that I have totally neglected this blog. Its no neglected its embarrassing!

Anyway, I have been out of town at a conference in Vail, Colorado for a week. It was a fun and educational conference plus I had to present during 2 sessions so the weeks before I was preparing and doing laundry and packing and trying to get everything ready so my son and husband could survive whilst I was gone. We all made it through and we are slam bam in the middle of football season so LIFE IS BUSY! (But I secretly love being busy so its really okay with me!.....and I am not sure that is really so secret anyway!)

Plus, since I am serving in the presidency of our women's group at church, I am surprised at how busy I am. It doesn't generally take up a huge amount of time but it does take up a lot of small bits of time that once you put it together, ends up being a lot. However, I love doing this and working with the sisters so its a labor of love for sure!

I also have my fun little sister and her kiddos here visiting this week....so, like I said, life is busy!

I am actually off today because the laundry and housecleaning was getting the better of me and I needed to just take a day and get things done around the house. Of course, mid-stride and right about the time I thought I was really going to get a lot done, the washer decides to stop spinning....not sure why but that is a bummer! So, my dear hubbie will have to come home and take a look. I hope its just a belt or something that needs fixing.

So anyway....here I am, busy and not providing much info to you but I am going to try to redeem myself and get a few things posted today!

Love ya,
Heather

Monday, September 7, 2009

Cool Tool: The Vidalia Chop Wizard

Howdy friends,

I must say, I am a sucker for the "As seen on TV" aisle in Target and I bought the Vidalia Chop Wizard on the recomendation of a friend of mine. I have to say that I love it!

I can chop an onion and a bell pepper in less than 40 seconds and it is neat and clean and so easy. You do have to use a little muscle to push down on the lever, but I just put my weight into it and VOILA! Its all chopped.

I love mine. Here is the link https://www.chopwizard.com/?s_kwcid=vidalia%20onion%20chopper2130969259&gclid=COK4h7qC4ZwCFQKdnAodwzLLIg

In case you ever wondered if it reall works....it does! I really love to make stir fry and this has made it go so much faster.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Canning and Strawberry Jam-Part 2

Here is The Pioneer Woman's follow up to her basic canning and jam post.

http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/08/strawberry-jam-part-ii/

Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Basics of Canning

Howdy all....Life has been busy....I mean really busy...busier than I normally am and normally I am really busy. So, here is the rundown....

At work we are closing a major building for reconstruction...I mean major, like over 300,000 square feet. And to do so, we have to take out every picture, every chair, every, table, everything. This has been a HUGE undertaking and we have finally finished but it took months!

Also, in the midst of it all, I pulled my Achilles! So, I have been walking around with a boot air cast thingy on my foot for a few weeks. It is tiring and quite frankly there are times my foot just hurts! So, when I get home after a long day of standing and such, I just sit on the couch and relax and try to recoup from the day....hence...me being even further more no posting!

So, I have been slacking in the blog department...forgive me people, the guilt is killing me! :)

So, I found this basic information and I thought I would pass it on. Its about canning and has great info there. Its from one of my favorite websites, The Pioneer Woman, and the link to the canning info is here http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2009/08/canning-101-and-strawberry-jam-part-1/

I would swear to you that I will post more often but I have to be frank here....football season is about to start which is a terribly busy time for us, my husband and I both have jobs that deal with football at the university and we work a lot....so I cannot make promises that I will post more, but I can promise that I will feel guilty when I do not! Does that help any?

Be beautiful!
Heather

Monday, August 17, 2009

Survivor Enrichment Night

Howdy Friends....

Life has been busy and I have been booted....literally! I have pulled my Achilles heel so I am in one of those boot casts temporarily so I am hobbling around here and there. I should only have to wear it about 2 weeks but it sure does get in the way!

Anyway, we had an Enrichment Night this week that was really fun and hopefully educational. We were big meanies and did not tell them what was happening, we called it a "Mystery Night".

We did a mock hurricane drill and taught people about first aid, building a shelter, surviving without electricity and water, and food storage. Everyone I heard from thought it was really educational!

Hurricane season has started for us, so we chose that as our disaster, but I am sure you could modify yours to whatever might happen in your area. Here is a link to the source we used. We did not have the sisters bring their 72 hour kits, since ours was a surprise!

http://www.sugardoodle.net/Home_Family_and_Personal_Enrichment/SurvivorEN.shtml

Last year, with Hurricane Ike, we had people in our region who were without electricity and water for more than 2 weeks, so we are trying to help people prepare for the worst with the Hurricane Season underway this season already.

Recipe:Sweetened Condensed Milk

I got this recipe from a food blogger friend and this to me sounds so handy to have around. I too have been plagued by that sweet tooth on Sunday night only to find I am out of sweetened condensed milk and cannot make a fun dessert! And it sounds economical!

This is a great alternative!

Alternative to Sweetened Condensed Milk

3/4 C powdered milk
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C HOT tap water
Put hot water in blender. With blender going, add sugar and dry milk. Blend until smooth. Makes about 1 can of Sweetened condensed milk.

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Cuban Sandwich

I was watching an episode of Diners. Drive Ins, and Dives and they made what they called a Cuban Sandwich and I thought.....hey, I could make that!

This is what they did....

First, you take a pork butt (which is actually a bone in pork shoulder, in case you were wondering.) and you jab it with a knife and stuff the holes with minced garlic and then smear the outside with garlic. Then salt all over liberally. Then, you cook it for 7.5 hours at 250 degrees. I have a giant roaster that I put it in.

Once its done cooking, allow it to cool for a bit and then tear it all apart with your hands into small pieces so you have a huge pile of pulled pork.

Next, take a loaf of French Bread or a baguette and slice it horizontally. Cover the bottom slice completely with mustard. Then cover that with full layer of hamburger sliced pickles. Then a slice of ham, then the pulled pork, then a slice of cheese. The joint on the show used mozzarella but traditionally Swiss is used. I used Swiss and Havarti. Then on top of that you sprinkle garlic salt and top with the other part of the bread.

So, here are the layers in the order if you were looking at the sandwich:


Bread
Garlic Salt
Cheese
Pulled Pork
Ham Slices
Pickles
Mustard
Bread

Then, slather on a little melted butter and if you have a panini press, you can press it in there and toast it up. If you do not, then I took my cast iron griddle and warmed it up, then put the sandwich down on it and topped it with a cast iron pan and put a can of soup on top for weight so it really smushes the sandwich down. I cut my big French loaves into 3s to make this easier. You toast it until it is crispy brown and then flip over and do again. Then, cut them into triangles about the size of a normal sandwich cut into two vertically.

These were great! I made 2 French breads and a small baguette and had plenty for 6 adults plus enough for almost everyone to take a sandwich and eat for lunch the next day.

I hope you try this! It was relatively simple and the flavor was great!

Have a great Friday!
Heather

Friday, July 31, 2009

Recipe: Basic Muffins with variations

I made these muffins the other night and I love how versatile they are! You take a basic muffin recipe and can make oodles and gobs of different kinds. You can even make up the dry mix in advance and it is ready to go when you feel the need to bake!

Basic Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
½ teaspoons Salt
1 whole Egg
¾ cups Milk (or As Needed)
⅜ cups Oil (that Is 1/4 Cup Plus 2 Tablespoons)
1 cup Any Optional Additional Ingredients

Preparation Instructions
Stir together dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients and any optional ingredients and stir just until moistened. (Adjust amount of milk depending on how moist your add-ins are - add less milk for moist things like banana, crushed pineapple, or pumpkin and add a bit more if needed for dried fruits.) Scoop into greased muffins tins (an ice cream scoop works well for this), sprinkle the tops with sugar if desired, and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until done.

You can mix up a large batch of the basic dry mix (flour, sugar, baking powder and salt) and store in a sealed container in your pantry. To have fresh muffins in the morning, stir the mix and measure out 3 cups of mix for one dozen muffins, add the wet ingredients and the optional ingredients and bake. Or, for a large group, make a large batch of the basic mix and make one dozen each of a variety of flavors with a lot less work.

NOTES : Variations:

1) Banana Nut - add 1 cup mashed bananas and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.

2) Blueberry - add 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries.

3) Pina Colada - add 1 small can drained crushed pineapple (8 ounces) and 1/2 cup coconut.

4) Apple Spice - add 1 peeled chopped apple, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon and a dash nutmeg.

5) Coffee Walnut - add 1 teaspoon coffee extract and 3/4 cup chopped walnuts.

6) Pumpkin Spice - add 1 cup canned pumpkin, 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spices, 1/2 cup nuts.

7) Mincemeat - add 1 cup prepared mincemeat and 1/2 cup chopped nuts.

8 ) Date Nut - add 1 cup chopped dates and 1/2 cup nuts.

9) Cranberry - add 1 cup chopped fresh cranberries, 1/2 cup nuts, 1 teaspoon orange rind.

10) Chocolate chip - add 1 cup chocolate chips and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, nuts if desired.

11) Cherry Almond - add 1 cup chopped dried cherries and 1/2 cup toasted flaked almonds.

12) Chocolate chocolate chip - add 1/4 cup cocoa powder, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1/2 cup or more chocolate chips.

13) Anything else you can think up. Adjust amount of milk in batter depending on the moistness of the added ingredients.

Friday, July 24, 2009

How To Cut Up a Mango

I was asked today how to cut up a mango and as I was writing the instructions, I figured it would be easier to just show them. So, I found this demo and thought I would share it here for anyone who wants to eat a mango!

Enjoy!

Recipe: Easy White Bread

Hello people,

It's a Friday and I love Fridays! I spent last night working in my garage and trying to get rid of things and get organized. It literally makes me want to go buy every kind of rubber container there is and label and stack everything in nice neat little rows....if I only had an extra $1000 or 5 to spend on containers, I would be in heaven! Anyway, about 2 nights ago I tired this new Easy White Bread recipe and I really liked it. I used bread flour but the original recipe called for All Purpose, so just use what you have. I also added the dough enhancer because I think it makes my bread stay fresh longer, but it is totally optional. I know white bread is not supposed to be as good for you as wheat and other whole grains....but I still love it! I only make it occasionally because it makes me want to eat the whole loaf!

Ingredients:

4 cups Warm Water
8 tablespoons Sugar
4 tablespoons Yeast
4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
4 teaspoons Salt
7 cups Flour (I used bread flour but AP works fine)
2 tablespoons of dough enhancer (optional)

Directions:

Makes 3 large loaves or 20 mini loaves

Add sugar to 1 cup of the warm water (I just use hot steamy water from the tap) and then dissolve yeast in the sugar water. Let sugar/yeast mixture rest until doubled in size.

Pour oil in bowl, add sugar/yeast mixture, rest of water, and salt. Add dough enhancer to flour and add flour 2-3 cups at a time. Knead (a gentle massage) to make a soft, not sticky dough. *Tip: You’re done kneading if when you touch it, the bread doesn’t stick to your finger. If it sticks to your finger, add more flour. Sometimes you’ll use up to 9 cups of flour so don’t be nervous if you use more than 7. It just depends on the day, how much flour I use.

(If you’re making this is a Bosch or Kitchen Aide mix on level 2 speed with the bread hook for about 6 minutes).

Cut the dough into four equal pieces. Set on greased counter top, cover with towel, and let stand for 15 minutes.

Pound each piece with a wooden spoon for 1 minute (gets the air bubbles out). Massage each piece as you form into loaves and place in greased loaf pans.

Allow to raise until doubled in size. Bake at 350 for 30-45 minutes (19-20 minutes for mini loaves as seen in the picture) or until golden on top. Rub butter on top while it’s warm.

To store, wrap in plastic wrap and place in a zip-top freezer bag. Our favorite uses for this bread are: butter-slathered toast, french toast, grilled cheese, and gifts for the neighbors.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Random Thoughts: Declutter

I am trying to de-clutter my life. Really, I am. I am one of those people who thrives on organization, cute containers, a "place for everything and everything in its place" kind of girl.....however.....my husband is not this way and my little boy is, well, a little boy who thinks trains should be everywhere, all over the house...the proper place for a train is near wherever he is....at least in his mind.

I went and visited my lovely Aunt Nancy's house when we went to see "Wicked" (which, by the way, I still LOVE and sing the songs in my head constantly...they are addictive!). She has a beautiful home....I mean it is just beaut-i-mus! Everything is neatly organized and clean and WOW! It inspired me! I thought....I can live like this....and while I really can't live just like that with a three year old, I can live in a similar way. So, I have been going through my house and de-cluttering. It is very cleansing.....but it takes a long time....and I have lots of years of things to go through....but slowly we are making some progress! Tonight we are going through stuff in our garage! After work, my parents are coming over and we are cleaning out and reorganizing. My parents have been storing their stuff in our garage for 3+ years now because my mother's job provides a furnished apartment. So, we have used some of their furniture and then stored some of the stuff in about a third of our garage. They will be moving into their own home again soon so we are going to go through it and get everything in a spot that will be easy to load up. Meanwhile, I will have the chance to go through and get rid of (hopefully) a bunch of my stuff as well. I am hoping that once they move their stuff, My house has FAR LESS clutter and I can park 2 cars in my garage. Right now I can only park one plus their stuff. :)

The Fall is generally the busiest time of the year for my household, so if I can accomplish this, I see an easier fall for us!

I will try to take pictures!

Heather

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

New Recipe Site

Howdy Folks---

I hope you are all safe and sound and happy! We had tornadoes all around us last night with pouring rain, lightening, hail, and wind.....lots and lots of wind! My brother, who lives on the other side of town, called me to tell me that the weather man had just pinpointed a tornado and it pretty much was right in my neighborhood close to my house! Eeek! Don't fret friends, all is well, we made it through just fine! We hear there is more headed our way this afternoon and evening....oh boy!

Anyway, I wanted to share with you a new recipe site that just launched. Its called Tasty Kitchen and is an off shoot of The Pioneer Woman website that I love. Its a bunch of people sharing recipes, just like the good old days. I have already found some great recipes! I hope you do too!

So, come join the recipe sharing community!

http://thepioneerwoman.com/tasty-kitchen/

Love ya!
H

Friday, July 17, 2009

Painting and Decoupage: My latest project

I have been working on this project over the last 2 weeks and am really pleased with how it has turned out. I have this old dresser, desk, and shelf that I have had in storage and I am going to fancy it up and move it into my guest room.

We are having a college student live with us for a semester while she goes to school so I wanted the room to look nice. This dresser is from my childhood, in fact it was my dresser all my growing up years. I had a lovely canopy double bed that matched it and I acquired the desk at some point in high school from a garage sale. Its the old while with gold trim style that was HUGE in the 70s. It was cute then but now it just looks dated and it is a little ruffed up from storage so it needed a new life. I decided that I would paint it white and then I wanted to add a little more so I decoupaged this lovely fabric on the top. I really like the way it has turned out. I think I need to do a few more little things, I think I will put a few black touches on it as well to match the toile-ish bedspread. But, since I have been MIA, I thought I would at least show you what I have been doing.

I put on 2-3 coats of the plain white and then put down a layer of modge podge on top, placed the fabric down and removed any wrinkles or bubbles, then topped it with probably 3-4 coats of modge podge.

So, if a piece of furniture is getting a little tired looking, paint it and decoupage! Its so fun! (After, of course, making sure it is not some priceless antique from the Elizabethan age or something.)
Have a great weekend!
Heather


Desk before.....
dresser before (with most the drawers removed)



drawers before


Shelf before


desk painted with decoupage




dresser painted with decoupage



I will get the final product done, hopefully this weekend, and put up some pictures. It was actually really easy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Recipe: African Peanut Stew

Here is another gluten free and vegetarian meal from my friend Lori. I was surprised how much I liked this stew!

African Peanut Stew


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, finely chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon finely minced, peeled fresh ginger root
1 Tablespoon curry powder
1 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
4 cups vegetable broth
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 1/2 cups shelled edamame(soy beans, HEB has them in the frozen
vegetable section)
1/4 cup creamy or crunchy natural peanut butter
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teas salt

Heat olive oil in a 4-quart saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add onion, bell pepper, carrot, and celery; sauté until soft and
translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add garlic, ginger and curry powder and sauté until fragrant, about 1
minute; do not brown garlic. Add tomatoes and cook, uncovered, until
tomatoes are slightly reduced.

Add broth and sweet potatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low
and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in edamame and peanut butter until
combined. Cook until thoroughly heated, about 2 minutes. Stir in
cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. Fill serving bowls 1/4 full
with rice and then top with stew. I also like this served on Quinoa.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Vegetarian & Gluten Free Recipe: Cherry Chipolte Chili

My friend Lori had a cooking night the other night where she made some fabulous recipes for us. This one sounds strange but was oh so yummy! She is mainly vegetarian and gluten free, so I will share some of her recipes over the next few days.

Ingredients:
2 c vegetable broth
1 c dried cherries (our grocery has them by the raisins)
1 T olive oil
1 c chopped onion
1 T crushed fresh garlic
1 bottle roasted red pepper chopped, or one fresh red pepper chopped
4 t chili powder
1 1/2 t cumin
1 t ground coriander
1 t dried oregano
4 c petite canned chopped tomatoes
1 16 oz can black beans
1/4 c chopped cilantro
avacado to taste

For chips:
Spelt Flour tortillas
Coconut oil

Directions:

Heat 1 cup of broth in microwave. Place cherries in small bowl and add hot broth and set aside.Heat olive oil in a 4 quart sauce pan over medium heat. Add onion (and red bell pepper if not using bottled roasted bell pepper); sauté about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cook 1 minute. Add chopped bottled red pepper (if not using fresh), chili powder, cumin, coriander, and oregano. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Add tomatoes and remaining broth, bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered about 5 minutes. Stir in beans, cilantro, and cherry mixture. Continue cooking until thoroughly heated. I cut one tortilla into wedges and fry in coconut oil and stick the triangles in one side of the bowl and then chop a half of avocado and put on top of the chili. If you can find spelt tortillas, they don't have gluten, have only 100 calories and are yummy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yep, I feel off the face of the earth....

Yep, I fell off the face of the earth....and landed in Oz!

I have been out of town and life has been busy and my blog has suffered for it! I am so sorry! I just returned from a trip to see "Wicked" the broadway musical and I have to say that it is now my favorite! I didn't think anything could ever top Les Miserables but it is right up there! Wicked is clever and fun and the cast was just amazingly talented!

So, treat yourself to some culture and go see a play or musical.....and if you haven't seen Wicked, go see it! You will not regret it!

I promise to post some fun things soon and get back on the old blog bandwagon!

Be beautiful!

Heather

Monday, June 15, 2009

Feedback--How do you welcome people?

Hello all.....

Life has been super busy lately and the old blog has suffered as I get pulled in lots of directions....but life is good and I like to be busy so I am okay with it.

I was wanting to know how you welcome people to your church or neighborhood? In our local level of our church, we have "Welcome" folders that we give to people who have moved into the area. we include things like a listing of phone numbers of the local church leaders, the times for our meeting schedules, calendars, newsletters, a babysitting list of teenage girls who babysit, and local information that you can pick up from your local chamber of commerce or Convention and Visitor's Bureau, like maps, things to do in the area, etc.

I would like to see what you all do. I need to add a few things to our "Welcome" folders and maybe you can give me some good ideas!

Thanks!
Heather

Monday, June 8, 2009

Summer Fun: Rolled Vanila Ice Cream

This sounds like a fun way to make ice cream with your kids this summer. Remember to use pasturized eggs if you are at all concerned with raw eggs!

Roll into summer with an easy homemade ice cream

This is a fun recipe for everyone. Be sure to have plenty of ice to replenish as it melts, especially if you are working outside.

Change the flavor with the included variations or improvise your own. Makes 3 cups.

COFFEE CAN ICE CREAM
* What you'll need:
1 (1-pound) coffee can
1 (3-pound) coffee can
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup milk
1 egg, beaten (optional: pasteurized eggs are a good choice)
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup chopped strawberries
Rock salt
Crushed ice

* How to do it:
Pour whipping cream, milk, egg, sugar and strawberries into the 1-pound can and stir well. Put the lid on and place in the larger can. Alternate layers of rock salt and crushed ice around the smaller can (about 4 cups ice and 1/2 cup salt).

Put the lid on the large can and let the kids roll it back and forth on the floor for 15 minutes.
Open the larger can and pour out the excess water. Remove the small can, wipe the lid and open carefully. With a spatula, scrape the well-frozen ice cream from the outside edges and blend with the softer mixture in the middle.

If the ice cream is too soft, put the small can back inside the larger can and repack with ice and salt. Roll 5 to 15 minutes more or until hardened.

* Variations:
Vanilla: Increase sugar to 1 cup, and add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Omit strawberries.
Chocolate: Substitute 1 cup chocolate milk for 1 cup milk, and 1 cup mini chocolate chips for the strawberries.

Cooking Tip: Vanilla Paste

I came across this article in The Eagle Newspaper and I thought it was really interesting. I had never heard of vanilla paste but think that I need to order some and test it out!

Here is the article, its a Q&A with Chef Lisa:

Vanilla paste adds rich flavor without liquid

Dear Lisa: I am an avid Southern Living magazine follower and really enjoy the recipes. Lately, several recipes have called for vanilla paste. I have called several craft stores and whole foods markets in the area and have not located it. Is it possible to make it at home? -- Sheila B.

Dear Sheila: Vanilla bean paste is a sweet concentrated vanilla extract that also contains vanilla seeds. Cooks prefer to use it when they want an intense vanilla flavor but not the additional liquid that extract would add. For instance, when making frostings, even a few extra drops of liquid can compromise the consistency.

Vanilla paste is used measure for measure with vanilla extract. In other words, 1 teaspoon of vanilla paste equals 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean.

The seeds in vanilla paste are a bonus. They add the gourmet appearance -- without the expense -- in dishes that require splitting a vanilla bean and scraping out the pulp and seeds. Homemade ice cream, custards and crème brulee are just some of the foods made sublime with vanilla paste.

I haven't found a local source, either, and it would be cost prohibitive to make vanilla paste at home. You can find it at Williams-Sonoma and there are several online stores that carry it, including Amazon.com.

Busy Summer!

This summer is off and running and life is busy! I am sorry for not posting but will try to have some great ideas for you soon!!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Free Rootbeer Floats at Sonic Wednesday June 3rd, 2009!

All Sonics will have FREE Rootbeer floats tomorrow night from 8:00pm to midnight!

Go enjoy.....free....ice cream...root beer.... (Sonic ice is awesome too!)...who could ask for anything more!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Welcome poem for new women at church

Hello!

I love summertime! It sure is getting hot but I just love the fun atmosphere of summer and I also love that the population of my town goes down by about 30,000 during the summer and the traffic is gone! Wahoo to that!

Anyway, I have been asked to serve as the Secretary of our Women's Group at church and we are using a little poem that was sent to us. (I am so excited to be serving in this calling, I love the women who I go to church with and I have missed them the last year and a half that I have been helping with the children's class) The poem is attached to a little bag with all the highlighted words included in the bag. Its like a "welcome to our group" and "here is your starter kit" kind of thing but its got this cute poem attached to it and I thought I would share it. We give these to women who just join our church and to women who are graduating out of high school and entering the women's group that we call Relief Society. Its a Sisterhood of women!

Anyway, here is the poem. We printed it out and matted it on cute decorative card stock and tied it to their bag. You could also use a basket or substitute items as needed.


When you come join us, we'll be glad to welcome you,
Into our WORLDWIDE SISTERHOOD, and to a group that's new.
So here's a little something to help you on your way,
As you head off for Relief Society and to a brand new day
You'll need a lesson manual with precious truths inside,
The lessons strengthen testimonies as they are taught worldwide.

Now when you find the meeting great and need to remember what you heard
Just use the pad and pencil to write down every word.

The tissues are for wiping tears when lessons touch your heart,
And we know you will love them all, right from the very start!
Here's a bookmark for your scriptures.
Please take them every week.
We'll study them together, as guidance we will seek.
You'll benefit if you will "CHEWS" to mingle with the flock,
By attending Enrichment Activities, you'll find
Relief Society really ROCKS!
And last, an invitation in which every word rings true,
"Cause you should know that Relief Society
Has a special place for YOU!
With Love,
Your Relief Society Presidency


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recipe: Wilted Spinach Salad

My mother has made this salad ever since I was a little girl. Its yummy!

Wilted Spinach Salad

1 Recipe of Wilted Spinach Salad Dressing (see below)
1 cup of sliced fresh mushrooms
1 cup of fresh baby spinach greens
2 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled or use bacon bits
1 green onion, finely sliced

You can also add a cut up boiled egg, French's fried onions, or nuts, if desired.

Prepare salad dressing, set aside. Place mushrooms in bowl. Pour half of the dressing over the mushrooms, microwave one minute. Prepare salad by placing spinach, onions, and bacon in a bowl and top with warm salad dressing. Add more dressing as needed to lighlty coat salad.

Wilted Spinach Salad Dressing
1/4 cup of red wine vinegar
1/2 cup of salad oil or olive oil
1/2 cup of sugar
1/s teaspoon of salt
1/2 teaspoon of prepared mustard
1 Tablespoon of grated onion
Mix all ingredients in a blender or food processor until smooth

Keeps for 3 weeks in the fridge

Recipe: Peanut Butter Bars

I love peanut butter and these bars are like Reese's peanut butter cups in flavor. My friend Melissa used to make these at her house when we were in high school and I loved them then as I do now. I am not sure if this is Melissa's exact recipe, but its simple and doesn't require an oven so it can keep the house cool during those hot summer days.

Peanut Butter Bars

12 whole Graham Crackers, rushed
1 cup of butter softened
1 cup of peanut butter
3 1/2 cups of powdered sugar
1 12 ounce package of chocolate chips (use whichever kind you prefer)

Combine crushed Graham crackers, butter, peanut butter, and powdered sugar in a large bowl. Pat firmly into a greased 9X13 inch pan. Melt chocolate chips in the microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring in between, until they are spreading consistency. Frost bars with chocolate and refrigerate. When chilled, cut into small squares. You can also just spread the bars with chocolate chips and pop them in a hot oven for a few minutes until they melt and spread it that way, but that requires heat and we are avoiding making the kitchen hot!

These are so yummy. I am sorry to all the people out there with nut allergies, nut allergies are such a bummer.

Be beautiful!
H

Monday, May 25, 2009

HFPE Idea: Summer Cooking

With the heat getting turned up and summer coming at us full throttle, I think its a great time to offer a summer cooking class for your Ladies club nights for church. Slow cooker and crock pot recipes are great because they are easy and don't heat up the kitchen. Cool summer treats like sorbets, sherbets, and ice creams help keep you cool, and great food on the grill all make good summer food. These make for fun cooking classes and poolside parties. I will be sharing recipes this week that are great summer foods and ideas for easy foods and cooking classes.

Stay tuned for great Summer foods!

Every summer I pull out my ice cream maker and experiment with different recipes. So far I have made strawberry sorbet and a low cal peach ice cream (where I used half and half and 2% milk to cut some calories). The difference between these and ice cream is texture. The sorbets are almost like a frozen snow cone since there is no cream. Sherbets use milk instead of cream so they are a little creamier but not as rich. The peach low cal ice cream, which may be closer to an ice milk, was very tasty and had a consistency more like the ice cream we made from snow when I was little. It was very good....and I can hardly stop eating it and my guests loved it....but its not overly creamy like a good quality ice cream....but it probably has more than half the calories and I have really enjoyed it. I am willing to give up the creaminess so I can save some calories and the taste is just as good. I will post that recipe soon!

I hope you all have a fun and healthy summer! Stay tuned for yummy recipes this week!

Simple can be beautiful!

Heather

Happy Memorial Day

Happy Memorial Day to all. Its been a really fun and relaxing weekend for us with time spent with family, gardening, yardwork, and naps! I would like to send out my thanks to all the service women and men out there past, present, and future, who sacrifice so much for us to live the lives we do and have these freedoms. I also truly appreciate the families of these individuals who also sacrifice so much. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Recipe: Lentils with Fresh Chiles and Cilantro

Happy Friday and Memorial Day Weekend!

I love me a good 3 day weekend! I have no huge plans, just some gardening and work around the house....with no timeline whatsoever....I am excited about that. I also need to buy groceries....the cupboard is bare!

So anyway, I have a yummy recipe to share with you that is from my friend Lori. She made this for a healthy eating HFPE Night at church and it got rave reviews!

I hope you enjoy it!

Lentils with Fresh Chile's & Cilantro

2 cups split red lentils (Our local grocery store has them on the bread isle in the Indian section)
1 16oz can Garbanzo Beans or chick peas, drained
3 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic-pressed
2 tsp fresh ginger root-pressed
2-3 fresh Anaheim green chilies, seeded and chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
4 cups warm water
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves-chopped

Wash lentils and let soak for 30 minutes. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, preferably nonstick, over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, ginger, and chilies. Stir fry the mixture until it begins to brown.

Drain the lentils and add to the onion mixture together with the cumin. Reduce the heat to low and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, then pour in the warm water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.Stir in the salt, cilantro. Serve garnished with the strips of chile and tomato. I serve this dish on top of basmati or brown rice.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Recipe: Strawberry Banana Sherbet

I started making this years ago and love it because it is light and fresh tasting and not too high caloried. I got this recipe from a Martha Stewart show I watched one summer.

Strawberry Banana Sherbet
Serves 6 to 8


Ingredients

4 cups (2 pints) strawberries, stemmed
4 medium, very ripe bananas, peeled
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup (about 4 oranges) fresh orange juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, (about 1 1/2 lemons)
2 cups whole milk

Directions
Place strawberries in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash strawberries, and set aside.
Place bananas and sugar in a medium bowl. Using the potato masher, mash until smooth.
Add banana mixture to strawberries, and mix well. Stir in orange juice, lemon juice, and milk. Divide the mixture among four metal ice-cube trays, about 2 cups per tray. The sherbet can also be poured into a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish and placed in freezer. Stir every 30 minutes until frozen, about 4 hours.

And also, Dreyer's is doing a contest for 1,500 free ice cream parties for your neighborhood. I thought this was a fun idea and who can beat a free ice cream party? You just have to write a paragraph. Here is the link http://edys.neighborhoodsalute.com/

Each ice cream party will include:

Door-step Delivery of ten (10) cartons of Dreyer’s/Edy’s Slow Churned ice cream and thirty six (36) Dreyer’s/Edy’s ice cream snack size cups
One (1) “Party In A Box”, which includes:
* 100 bowls/cups
* 100 plastic spoons
* 10 plastic scoops
* 200 napkins
* 1 disposable camera
* 1 yard sign
* 1 marker
* 100 name tags
* 2 table covers
* 25 door hanger invitations
* Commemorative ice cream scoop
* Wipes for sticky fingers

Monday, May 18, 2009

Recipe: Pizza Roll Ups

My sister just sent me this recipe and it sounds great. It has her stamp of approval and I think I may make it tonight for dinner!


Two summers ago she helped to put together a family Recipe Exchange & cookbook for her family reunion. Well, last week she tried this recipe & LOVED it.


Pizza Roll-Ups
Submitted by Lynae E.


Crust:
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons oil
3-3½ cups flour

Mix yeast in warm water in large mixing bowl. Add sugar, salt and oil. Stir well. Add flour and stir until well combined. Knead for 5-10 minutes until dough is smooth. Cover and let raise at least 30 minutes (and up to an hour) in a warm place.

Filling:
½ of 6 oz can Italian tomato paste
Garlic powder
Parmesan cheese
Shredded mozzarella cheese, about 2 ozs.
Small amounts of one or more of the following: Broccoli, pepperoni, olives, bacon, ham, etc.

Roll crust into large circle on well floured surface. Spread with tomato paste and sprinkle with garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and other toppings. Using a pizza cutter, cut circle into 16 pie-shaped pieces. Roll up from outside into center. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Enjoy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Random Thoughts--Yay for Fridays

Fridays are fun....even when I know I have to work on Saturday, I am always glad to get to Friday.

This weekend we are going to visit some of my hubbie's family and I am excited to see them and get a change of scenery....and hopefully have some really yummy food!

Bootcamp Week 3 just ended and next week is the last week of my 4th bootcamp. I have to tell ya that I feel great. Honestly, I feel so good. I feel healthier and stronger and it really is empowering. I was the ultimate couch potato for years and boy do I think that was silly. I should have done this years ago.

Have any of you seen "Wicked"? It is coming to San Antonio and Austin this summer and I am trying to work it out so I can go....I want to see it SO BAD! I already love it and know all the songs and the storyline, but I want to see it live and in person!

I am so pleased with our garden. I now cook on a regular basis with the squash and peppers from the garden and I can't wait for the tomatoes to start coming....and when they do I better have a huge basket and a big kettle so I can start canning and making hot sauce and whatever else I can think of, because it looks like we will have quite the harvest! I also have some cantaloupe and watermelons that the plants are getting huge on and I think they may take over that section of the lawn.

I have been asked to do a new "job" at church and I am thrilled. I no longer teach the 11-12 year old girls, I am back with the women's group (aka Relief Society) as the Secretary to the President. I am so excited to be back among the women and to be helping in this capacity. I truly love the women we have at church....even the ones who tend to drive me crazy at times....so I know that is Heavenly Father blessing me with the ability to love them in spite of what they might do to my nerves. :) Although, I must say that really happens few and far between, they are a lovely group of ladies.

I haven't posted very many Enrichment or Ladies night ideas lately...sorry about that....the end of the semester this year has been totally crazy and busy but things are quieted some now that finals are over. I will strive to be better! I went to a fun Enrichment night the other day where we took personality tests and got in groups so we could see who was like us. It was really fun! I am trying to get some of the materials from the leader and will post that when I can.

I made a yummy lasagna last night that I will have to post. It was a basic lasagna with and extra layer of roasted squash, onions, and peppers and it was just fabulous. I have also been working on my whole wheat bread recipe for sandwich bread and I learned that after its all mixed, its best to knead it for about 7 minutes, I use my mixer, then let it rise twice.

I do not have any huge plans for this summer...except hopefully seeing "Wicked"....but it is already in the 80s here and we will be in the 90s soon. When I work out in the mornings, I turn into a sweat monster. Literally I have sweat dripping off my nose and down my face....that is what 100% humidity and 84 degrees will do to you....I am sure it will only get worse! But, I feel so good when I am done that it is so worth it. And, I believe I have now lost about 2 dress sizes....so that is awesomeness in a bucket!

So, I hope you all have a lovely weekend and relax a little and get some things done. I will try to get everything done tonight before we go visit tomorrow!

Be beautiful!

Heather

Monday, May 11, 2009

Random Thoughts:A post Mother's Day greeting

I hope all those nurturer's and wonderful women had a great day in your honor. Whether you are a mother or not, its a day to honor women! I know as a wife without kids, I thought Mother's Day was a little silly when people would tell me happy mother's day....but now as a mother, I see all these wonderful women in my life who help me get through it all and I realize, you don't have to have your own kiddos to still have a mothering spirit!

I worked out at boot camp this morning and I am so pleased with my progress! While the workouts seem harder, some of the things I hated to do because they were so hard are now much easier....and clothes fit better and I just generally feel great. Sure, I am tired by the time 10pm rolls around and I am in bed earlier than EVER, but the feeling I have after working out and sweating profusely (especially these days when its already 80 here at 5:30am) is worth it.

So, do something nice or maybe hard for your body. Challenge it today to do something you didn't think you could do and work toward getting good at it. Repetition is the key and doing it over and over again with good form will eventually make it easier and easier.....and then you have to step it up a notch!

Be good and be beautiful!

Heather

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

I hope all the nurturer's out there have a wonderful Mother's Day!! You don't have to have given birth to be honored on Mother's Day...its for a those women out there who nuture and care for others.

I hope you feel beauitful today!!!

Heather

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Recipe: Pretzels

Well, it seems that I only talked about the pretzels I made a while ago and never posted the recipe! Shame on me!

Here is the recipe....and like I said earlier, I would roll the dough out so its slightly thinner than you think it should be before you make a pretzel. These are yummy and fun and I think it would make a fun Ladies Night lesson at church or a fun kitchen project with your kids. I know my son thought it was oodles and gobs of fun to play with the dough!

I have pictures at home I will post as soon as I have a free 20 minutes! For the original recipe from Smitten Kitchen, go to http://smittenkitchen.com/2007/02/knotted-and-stacked-disappearing-acts/

Soft Pretzels
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Updated with a few tweaks 2/20/2009

Makes 16 full-sized or 32 miniature

Ingredients:
2 cups warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 packet active dry yeast
5 to 6 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 tablespoon salt
2 teaspoons canola or other neutral oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1 large egg
Coarse or pretzel salt
Vegetable-oil cooking spray

1. Pour warm water into bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook*. In a small bowl, combine water and 1 tablespoon sugar, and stir to dissolve sugar. Sprinkle with yeast, and let sit 10 minutes; yeast should be foamy.

2. Add 1 cup flour to yeast, and mix on low until combined. Add salt and 4 cups flour, and mix until combined, about 30 seconds. Beat on medium-low until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 1 1/2 minutes. Add 1/2 cup flour, and knead on low 1 minute more. If dough is still wet and sticky, add 1/2 cup more flour (this will depend on weather conditions); knead until combined, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a lightly floured board, and knead about ten times, or until smooth.

3. Pour oil into a large bowl; swirl to coat sides. Transfer dough to bowl, turning dough to completely cover all sides. Cover with a kitchen towel, and leave in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until dough has doubled in size.

4. Heat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray two baking sheets with cooking spray (parchment paper, ungreased, also works). Set aside. Punch down dough to remove bubbles. Transfer to a lightly floured board. Knead once or twice, divide into 16 pieces (about 2 1/2 ounces each) or 32 if making miniature pretzels, and wrap in plastic.

5. Roll one piece of dough at a time into an 18-inch-long strip. [I find the pretzels much easier to roll on an unfloured board, oddly enough, but see what works for you.] Twist into pretzel shape; transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel. Continue to form pretzels; eight will fit on each sheet (you may need a third sheet if making miniatures). Let pretzels rest until they rise slightly, about 15 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, fill large, shallow pot with 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Add baking soda (and step back, it foams up quickly) and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Reduce to a simmer; transfer three to four pretzels to water. Poach 1 minute on each side. Use slotted spoon to transfer pretzels to baking sheet. Continue until all pretzels are poached.

7. Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush pretzels with egg glaze. Sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on wire rack, or eat warm. Pretzels are best when eaten the same day, but will keep at room temperature, uncovered, for two days. Do not store in covered container or they will become soggy.

Note from Smitten Kitchen * These days, I mix all of my bread doughs by hand, with a wooden spoon. I find it a fantastically easy process, and not very hard to stir by hand. No need to mix for several minutes, just a minute or so after it looks combined. To save even more dishes, I rinse out the bowl, oil it and use it for proofing the dough. And you thought making bread wasn’t simple!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Gifts: Teacher Bags

I made these bags for the teacher's at my son's school for Teacher Appreciation Week. They were simple and easy, just a little time consuming if you have to do a lot but really not too bad. I stamped their names on with Stampin Up Craft Ink and then did iron on flowers and dragonflies. I think they turned out super cute! They probably work out to be around $3.50 per bag, I think but you could do it for less if you use different decorations or smaller bags.

They came in a 3 pack with denim, pink, and green.






Here is the full shot of one bag.



Here is what it looked like once I rolled it all up and put a thank you card on it that I stamped.




This is just the overhead shot once they were all done.






And a front shot. The 2 denim ones in the back were for his two teachers who are with him the most so I put apples, oranges, and pears in theirs as an additional treat.



It would probably take me 2 hours, start to finish, to do all these, make the cards, roll them up and completely finish. And.....they are so cute!
I think I will make one this weekend that will be my new lunch bag!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Random Thoughts: The Runner's group

Well, I have moved up to the runner's group in my boot camp. I am certainly not the fastest...in fact I am the slowest probably.....but you know what....I feel GREAT and I just plain feel good and healthy! This morning as I drive to work the thought crossed my mind...."I wonder if there is a 5K this weekend that I could run in?" Whoa.....

This boot camp has changed me, its changed my life, and I am such the better person for it. I feel better, I am happier, and dog gone it...people like me! (Ooops, sorry, I digressed to Saturday night live in the 80s there for a second)

But truly....if you are sitting there thinking you can't do it....then you are probably just being a Negative Nellie and you really probably can....start slow....but work hard. There is nothing easy about it, but the pay off is great. I can truly say that I didn't know that I was feeling that bad before until now I feel this good and think how sluggish and tired I always was before.

So do it....get up....walk the neighborhood....then after a few days....jog a bit....then walk for 2 minutes and run for 1 minute....then lengthen the run and lessen the walk. It IS baby steps but they are baby steps with weights on your feet and they are hard.

Stop telling yourself that you are the fat sister and you are okay with it. That has been me for a long time. I will no longer be the fat sister. I have 2 beautiful sisters who are both smaller than me and I will not be the fat one any longer. ( I can probably out do them in push ups as we speak) Don't be complacent, don't be a complainer....don't be less than you are capable of being. Its all a waste of effort....turn that effort into a jumping jack and burn some calories and you will see that you start to eat better and feel better.

I love ya....now love yourself and be beautiful!

Beautiful Basics

Life is about a journey, and you are the only one who can make yours... So, embrace life: the good, the bad, and the ugly...it is the only one you've got.

Here's to being Beautiful, inside and out!