Resurrection Easter Cookies

This recipe has been around for a long time. Every Spring as Easter draws near, I dig through my recipes to find it so we can make it once. I first tried it when The Boy was in elementary school and he loved beating up the nuts. Not a surprise as he always did get a crazed look on his face when handed a hammer. Now Phia was methodical, working her way from one end to the other and every nut had to be properly smashed. When Boo does it, just get out-of-the-way if you don’t want your fingers smashed!

The story that goes along with the cookies is located at the bottom of the recipe.

INGREDIENTS:
1c Whole Nuts
1 tsp White Vinegar
3 Egg Whites
Pinch of Salt
1 c Sugar

If you are allergic to nuts substitute Grape Nuts or other favorite cereal, Granola Bars, crunchy candy bar or even chocolate. The idea is to have something to beat so you can get very creative.

Tools:
Zipper bag
Wooden Spoon
Cookie Sheet
Tape

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. This is an absolute MUST that it is done BEFORE you start anything else. The oven must be heated for this to work and make the hollow cookies.

Use whatever your favorite nut is, or what you happen to have on hand. The cookies will take on the flavor of the nuts so make sure you like them. I have used walnuts and pecans but this time we gave pistachios a try. Place them into the zipper bag and using the wooden spoon, beat the daylights out of them.

The bowl you use to whip the egg whites must be clean, free of any grease and dry. If whipping by hand it is best to use a copper bowl. The copper ions drift into the egg whites so they will not denature (unfold). Since my last cheap whisk broke, I used my mixer.

In the bowl, place the egg whites and start to whip. Add the vinegar as you work. Keep whipping and add the salt. Slowly add the sugar as you keep whipping. If whipping by hand it can take up to 10 minutes to form a stiff peak. It will vary depending on the mixer you have. Stiff peaks mean the egg whites will literally stand up. Plan on whipping those whites for a good 12 minutes, but keep an eye on them so you don’t over beat them.

Quickly and gently, fold the chopped nuts into the whites. Do this by placing the spatula under the whites and flipping it over. Rotate the bowl and keep doing it. Folding, rather than mixing, keeps the air you worked so hard to get into the eggs.

Fold the top of the zipper bag you used for the nuts over. This prevents any food from getting on the top of the bag and making a mess as you pipe. Spoon the meringue into the bag and twist the top. Snip 1/2 an inch off a corner to pipe through. Don’t make the cookies too big or they won’t become hollow. You should be able to get 18 to 20 cookies.

I used a silicone mat on the cookie sheet but have also used parchment paper. If you use nothing you risk the cookies sticking to the tray and losing the effect.

Place into the oven and turn it off. Yes you read that correctly, TURN OFF THE OVEN. Now walk away and go to bed. In the morning you will have some lovely white cookies. To go fun part is letting the kids open the oven, eating a cookie for breakfast, and finding they are hollow on the inside. Beautiful memories for years to come!

THE RESURRECTIONS STORY
When you place the nuts in the bag and beat with the spoon, explain how Jesus was beaten by soldiers John 19 1-3

Eggs represent life. Explain how Jesus gave His life for us John 10:10-11

Smell the vinegar and explain how Jesus wa given this to drink. John 19:28-30

Taste the salt and describe the salty tears shed by the followers of Jesus and the bitterness of our sin. Luke 23:27

So far the ingredients have not been very tasty. So now it is time to tell the sweetest part of the story, that Jesus died because He loves us and wants us to know Him. Ps 34:8 & John 3:16

The white color of the egg whites represents our purity in God’s eyes when we have accepted Him. Is 1:18 & John 3:1-3

The mounds on the cookie sheet remind us of the tomb where Jesus was laid Matt 27:57-60

Tape the door to symbolize how the tomb was sealed. Matt 27:65-66

As we go to bed talk about the disappointment in leaving the cookies till morning and how the followers of Jesus felt when they left his body in the tomb. John 16:20&22

On Easter morning open the oven and give everyone a cookie. They are hallow, just as the tomb was empty! Matt 28:1-9

Easter Egg Contest

Easter is coming and so I wanted to do a little contest for everyone. Below is a picture of a Younique Presenter case filled with plastic eggs. I love my makeup case, it keeps everything together and looks so pretty sitting on the shelf in my bathroom. But today it is serving another function, helping Peter Cottentail hold some eggs!

Between now and the day before Easter, everyone can take a guess at how many eggs are in this case. Only one entry per person so choose wisely. Be sure to share with your friends so they can get a chance to enter to. The winner will receive a $5 Starbucks gift card. If multiple people guess correctly, I will do a drawing for the winner. To make your guess click on “comments”. Ready……set…..GO!

How many eggs do you see?
How many eggs do you see?

BubbleUp Pizza

I love pizza and my absolute favorite is a local parlor called Chicos. Put the Hochstatter in front of me and I will not turn down a slice. Truth be told it is not going to be fast and they don’t deliver. So what is a girl to do when the family is hungry? Break out an old Pampered Chef recipe that is only 3+ ingredients. That wasn’t a typo, you only need 3 ingredients and you can customize it in whatever way you like. This is a recipe that even the kids can throw together without much supervision.

INGREDIENTS

1 batch favorite Biscuit Dough (or) 2 cans of your favorite biscuits
1 jar Spaghetti Sauce
2 1/2c shredded Mozzarella
Favorite pizza toppings

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

The original recipe called for 2 cans of biscuits, but I prefer to make them from scratch. One batch of dough is all you need. Either way, rip the dough up into about 1 inch pieces. They don’t have to be perfect, nobody can tell the difference once it bakes. Don’t you just love recipes that aren’t all technical? Toss the dough into a bowl.

Dump in your favorite spaghetti sauce. I use a quart of what I canned up last Fall. Thicker is better because it won’t have time to reduce in the oven.

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Add your favorite pizza toppings. Tonight the girls wanted pepperoni, olives and onions but you can add whatever you like. I will let you in on a secret, I often use leftovers for this dish. No need to measure, it all mixes in really well. As long as you don’t exceed 3 cups worth of toppings you are good to go.
Add 2 cups of cheese and mix well. Yeah I know, it isn’t pretty but it tastes delicious. Grease an 8×11 pan and pour in the mixture. Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with remaining half cup of cheese and return to the oven another 5-7 minutes until the cheese is melted.

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Doesn’t that look beautiful? Enjoy!

Become a sunscreen expert

While I realize parts of the country are still experiencing a full blown winter, some of use feel like Spring is here and have not only begun airing out the house, but spending time outside. So while it may seem a bit early to be discussing sunscreen, not only are some people already spending more time outdoors, it really is a subject to be concerned about year round. Our skin is the biggest organ we have and serves so many functions. Let’s keep it looking beautiful for many years by learning the truth about sunscreen.

WHICH TYPE SHOULD YOU CHOOSE

Years ago it was an easy decision to just pick up a bottle of sunscreen. But now once summer is in full swing, the shelves are full of choices and that can be very confusing, here are some tips so you know what the labels are really saying.

Sunscreen is a lotion that easily rubs into the skin. Look for a main ingredient of Parsol 1798 to get the best protection. It will provide a thin layer over the skin to block harmful rays.

Sunblock is thicker, visible when applied to the skin and doesn’t wash off easily. It’s main ingredients are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, both of which are less irritating to the skin. It also provides a broad spectrum of protection against UVB and UVA. PABAs only protect against UVA. Oil free and water based lotions are best for sensitive skin.

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Gels tend to sweat off easily. Sprays can miss spots so be sure to use one you can see before rubbing it in. They also tend to be under applied (more on that later).

For year round use, choose a lotion with an SPF of 15. When spending a significant amount of time outside is when it is time to increase your SPF.

Lips can burn as well so look for a balm with 15 SPF.

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To be labeled Water Resistent, lotions must maintain their SPF after it has had up to 40 minutes water of exposure. Water Proof requires that it maintains it’s SPF when it has had up to 80 minutes of water exposure. If you towel yourself off, you are rubbing off the sunscreen and both would need to be reapplied.

When choosing a lotion to apply to your face every day, it is best to choose one created to be worn under makeup. It is designed for more sensitive skin like our face and won’t clog your pores when used in combination with your other products. Choose makeup which also has an SPF. Mineral makeup such as Bare Minerals and Younique naturally provide SPF while others have it added to the product and will say on the label what it’s SPF rating is.

DANGERS

Getting a tan or sunburn means we have cooked our skin. When I was little I burnt my face so badly that the entire thing became one giant blister. I wouldn’t leave the house for nearly two weeks it looked so bad. I also burnt my coller area so badly about 10 years ago that every time I take a hot shower that area still turns a bright red in the exact shape of the sunburn. Every burn increases my chance of skin cancer so I must carefully check myself on a regular basis.

A truck driver whose left side was constantly exposed to sunlight shows how much it causes premature aging.
A truck driver whose left side was constantly exposed to sunlight shows how much it causes premature aging.

There are many variations of lotions available on the market. Here are a few things to look for. If you are concerned about the ingredients, you must do your own research. Look up the name and the he mail composition to learn what it really is and if you are concerned about it being in your sunscreen. I will not go into all ingredients here as there are far too many. The exception is DEET which is used as a mosquito replellent. Some sunscreens claim they serve a dual purpose (sunscreen and mosquito repellent) but deet reduces the SPF thus increasing your exposure to UV rays. Avoid lotions which contain Vitamin A, Retinol and Retinyl Palmitate as they may actually increase the amount of cancer causing rays your skin is exposed to. While these ingredients are used in many products that are good for your skin, those products should be applied at night when your face is clean and not exposed to sunlight. For example, Younique’s eye serum Uplift is naturally based and helps reduce those wrinkle around the eye, I only apply it before going to bed. For more information on specific ingredients, check out the database from the Environmental Working Group available online.

If you are someone who needs extra vitamin D for various reasons, keep in mind that sunscreen is also blocking the natural vitamin D we receive from the sun.

UVB are the rays that cause cancer and sunburns. UVA causes premature aging and wrinkles.

UV rays are strongest between 10-4 so either limit your sun exposure at those hours or be extra careful to use enough sunscreen. Sunlight and UV rays will reflect off sand to the tune of 17%, snow and water 80% and does filter through clouds. Being aware of how much sunlight and thereby exposure to harmful rays will ensure you use proper protection to keep your skin safe and looking pretty.

FDA LABELS

in 2013 the FDA began requiring claims be backed up by companies selling sunscreens and sunblocks. For example, sweatproof and waterproof lotions must submit proof to the FDA supporting the claim, who will then perform their own tests before it can be printed on the container. The same applies to any claims of “all day sun protection” or being water resistant. This provides a consistency between brands so you know you can trust what you are buying does what you need.

SPF

There is a common misconception that SPF refers to the amount of protection against UV rays a lotion provides. The truth is that it refers to the length of time it will last. Simply take the SPF and add a zero and you have the length of time you can be out in the sun. For example and SPF of 30 means you have 300 minutes. But wait, I know you have applied sunscreen and got a burn long before the time was up, so what happened? There are a few factors that typically impact how long sunscreen lasts.

The typical person only uses 25% of the amount they should be applying. When applying sunscreen to your entire body, we need to use a palmful. When first learned this I was shocked! I wasn’t even close to applying that much. For little ones, 1/2tsp to the face and 1tsp to each body part is what they need. If only a fraction of that amount is being applied you will receive only a fraction of the SPF the lotion could provide.

You can see how good sunscreen protects the skin from harmful rays.
You can see how good sunscreen protects the skin from harmful rays.

So if higher is better, why does the American academy of Dermatology only reccomend and SPF of 30? Here is the breakdown of how much UVB is blocked per SPF. You can see that increasing from 30 to 100 makes hardly any difference yet the price can be nearly twice as much,

SPF 2-50%

SPF 4-75%

SPF 8-87%

SPF 15-93%

SPF 30-97%

SPF 50-98%

SPF 100-99%

STORAGE

All sunscreens and sunblocks begin to lose effectiveness after only 1 year. This doesn’t mean that it is not safe to use, just that it won’t provide the effectiveness that it used to. Some like to keep a bottle in the ice chest so it feels cool when applied to the skin on a hot day. This won’t hurt the lotion and could actually help. Heat is not a friend of sunscreen so keeping it in a hot car is a no no. If you want to have it available to use any time, keep a small bottle in your purse, enough for one application. (Which is a palmful, right?)

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside, otherwise you have again reduced how effective it will be in protecting your skin.

OTHER OPTIONS

in rent years clothing manufacturers have been using fabric that provides some UV protection, this can be especially useful for those who have had skin cancer or little ones with very sensitive skin. Keep in mind that any fabric helps but these are designed to provide even more. Thin fabric still allows harmful rays to get through so be sure to apply the sunscreen over your entire body if you will be in the sun for awhile.  Investing in a fun hat and sunglasses not only shade your face but keep you styling.

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So love the skin you are in and protect it. Teach your kids from a young age to protect theirs and you will create habits that last a lifetime. Now go out and enjoy the sun my Beauties!

Infused Vinegars

Infused vinegars are really popular right now because they add a big punch of flavor to marinades and vinegretts. But have you looked at what stores charge for a tiny bottle? Ack! I believe in being frugal and simply cannot bring myself to buy them. Especially when making them is so darn easy! I use the leftover bits from things that normally would just be tossed in the garbage so the cost of making it is only a few cents. This weekend I made strawberry vinegar, but the process is the same no matter what you want to make.

INGREDIENTS  vinegar with 5% acidity

Fruit

Herbs

When canning, you always want vinegar with 5% acidity to ensure the food is safe to consume after sitting on the shelf. I believe that infused vinegars require the same safe practice. Most vinegar on the market is 5% so it isn’t like it takes any extra effort to find it! just be sure that is what you are using. While I typically use white vinegar you can use different ones depending on what your final taste preference is.

Champagne vinegar has a delicate taste that works well with delicate herbs or fruit. Apple cider has a bolder taste which pairs well with strong fruits. Red wine vinegar goes best with strong herbs like rosemary.  Rice wine vinegar is sweeter so keep thta in mind when using it. It is important to note that wine and rice vinegars contain a protein that encourages bacteria growth so don’t keep them around too long and be sure to store them in a cool place like the fridge.

Begin with a glass jar that has been sanitized. You can do this by boiling it or running it through the dishwasher. We want it really clean so we don’t have any unfriendlies growing in our vinegar that will make it ferment. If you are going to use a herb to flavor the vinegar, you want to bruise it. To do this gently pound in it so that the oils are easily released, the oils are where all the flavor is at and by bruising you will greatly cut down on how long it takes to flavor the vinegar. Remove any part of the herb that looks bad or dried out. all the flavors will be going into the vinegar and we don’t want to give any bad ones. Herbs that are dry will work, there just isn’t as much oil in them as fresh herbs

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When using fruit, cut or mash it so that the juices come out easier. You can use any fruit you,like from strawberries to pomegranates. And don’t work about things like stem, they won’t hurt the vinegar at all. You can see for the picture below that I actually used the tops I cut off a few pints of strawberries as the main source of fruit in this batch of vinegar. For apple cider vinegar, use the skins and apple cores. All the solids get stained out. If using lemon or orange peels be sure to leave out the pith, which is the bitter white part closest to the flesh.

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After I cut it all up I poured on the vinegar. I left it in the bucket for the picture so you can see that most of this batch are the discarded tops to the berries.  I transferred it to a glass container and let it sit on the counter for 3 days. Depending on how much fruit or herbs you use, the length of time needed will vary. Give it at least 3 days then taste it and see how much longer y need. When it is where you like it, strain the vinegar and return to the glass jar.

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I ended up with a little more than one quart, but you can make it in whatever amount works for you. If you save your old vinegar bottles you can reuse them. They do pour better than a canning jar. To store, write the date on it and place in the refrigerator, it should keep up to 3 months. If at any point you see mold toss the entire bottle out. This is why I date the jar, so I know how long ago I made it and make sure I use it up in less than 3 months. Infused vinegars make great gifts, just be sure to attach a tag with storage directions and expiration date. Now isn’t that a thing of beauty? For just a few cents and minutes of your time custom blend all sorts of vinegars and have fun finding new ways to use them.

Not sure what flavor combinations to try? Here are a few classics to get your juices flowing.

Rosemary

Sage, Rosemary, Thyme

Tarragon and Garlic

Garlic and peppers. The seeds are the hottest part so if you want a lot of heat, leave them in.

Basil and Garlic

Lemon

Favorite berry blend

Pomegranate

Lemon and Mint

Peach

No matter what combination you try, the final step is to filter the vinegar until it is no longer cloudy. A coffee filter is convenient and works excellent. Be sure to come back and share what you make and the recipes you use it in. Have fun!

Nibbling the Blarney Stone

Blarney means clever, flattering, or coaxing talk and is typically associated with the Blarney Stone in Cork Ireland. The builder of the castle was in the middle of a lawsuit and was told to kiss the first stone he saw on the way to court for luck. MacCarthy won the case and the stone earned it’s place in history.

Today, thousands visit the castle every year to do their own kissing ritual. One must lean over backwards and kiss it upside down to receive the gift of gab. Before the rails were put in place, it was very dangerous to attempt this feat.

‘Tis there’s the stone that whoever kisses
He never misses to grow eloquent;
‘Tis he may clamber to a lady’s chamber,
Or become a member of Parliament.
“A noble spouter he’ll sure turn out, or
An out and outer to be let alone;
Don’t try to hinder him, or to bewilder him,
For he is a pilgrim from the Blarney stone.”

BY: Francis Sylvester Mahony

For your own piece of the Blarney Stone, give this cake a try. it is a bit messy to make but well worth the effort.

INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 c Cold whipping Cream
3 Large Eggs
2 tsp Vanilla/favorite flavoring
2 1/4 c Cake Flour
1 1/2 c Sugar
2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt

7 1/2 c (1 bag) Powdered Sugar
2/3 c Milk
2 tsp Vanilla/same flavoring used in cake
16 oz Peanuts/Cashews

Note: While I use the cake recipe below, you can substitute any cake you like. I prefer this one as it is a very light cake that goes well with the nuts.

Chill mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Grease and flour 13 x 9 baking pan. I find that using parchment paper on the bottom ensures the cake will come out in 1 piece.

Pour the whipping cream into the chilled bowl and whip it. There is a fine line between a stiff cream and becoming butter so you cannot walk away! Place in the fridge while beating the eggs.

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In a separate bowl whip the eggs till they are thick and yellow.

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Mix in the vanilla or other flavoring. You can get creative here because the cake is so mild anything works. This time I used my vanilla flavored rum.

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Fold the egg mixture into the whipping cream. This is easy but requires a gentle touch. The air in the cream is needed for the cake to rise properly. Don’t worry about it mixing it totally.

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Combine all the dry ingredients. Slowly add it into the whipped cream by thirds. Once 1/3 has been folded in, add the next third. Once it is finished it will look thick and yummers.

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Bake on the middle rack for 35 to 40 minutes. I always take a short peek at cakes 5 minutes early to see how they look. If you think it is ready, insert a toothpick, it should come out dry.

Ready to bake!

Allow cake to cook and then remove to a cutting board. Cut into squares.

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For the glaze, combine the sugar, milk and flavoring until it is nice and thick. You don’t want it too thin of the nuts will run off the cake.

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Pound the nuts until they are in small bits. You want a mixture of tiny crumbs to pieces. Place all the pieces onto a plate.

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Lay a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet. Holding the cake over the bowl, spoon eh glaze onto the piece. You need to coat the top and all 4 sides. I leave the bottom plain. Once the glaze is on, move it to the plate holding the nuts. Gently roll and push the nuts onto the cake. The stones need to sit for an hour so the glaze can harden.

Sweet and salty goodness.
Sweet and salty goodness.

Easy towel rack

Decorating your home and keeping it organized seems to be two of the biggest categories found on pintrest. So many ideas require a huge budget which many people cannot afford. I particularly love it when something is repurposed into something functional and beautiful. I believe not only is it being thrifty, it can also be fun.

There are many ways to find these types of items. Let’s face it, some of it is probably already in your house! Garage sales are the classic ways to find pieces of treasure. I grew up visiting thrift stores and found many awesome clothes that I would never have found in the mall. Facebook has led to many buy/sell/trade groups where strangers list items they have for sale in hopes of cleaning out their house and making a few bucks on the side.

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A few pieces of advice if you are going this route. One, always go to a public place to meet. Two, always tell someone else you are going. Three, if you must go to someone’s home be sure to bring a partner. Four, only bring enough cash for the agreed upon price. Another option is to find a group where everyone meets at the same time. In my town such a group meets by the local Rite Aid on Saturday mornings. A good 50 cars show up and you can meet several buyers/sellers at one time and in one place.

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You never know what is going to be listed so be sure to check the groups on a regular basis. I got lucky one week and found this fabulous wine rack, and it was only $5. I already have one that I keep my bottles in and I wanted this for something else. Our bathrooms are flat out tiny and with little closet space I needed storage options. Add in two girls who forget to check for a clean towel before getting in the shower and putting them in the bathroom is kinda a duh. It works great and fits the little space I had.

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The seller thought it needed it be repainted but I found it just needed a good cleaning and the patina showed wonderfully. I love the curves in this, it always reminds me of the armoire in Beauty and the Beast. So find the beauty in something old and find a new use for it. Have fun!