Category Archives: Uncategorized

Tominach Pasta

I made up the name by combining tomato with spinach, so that is how it is pronounced. It was a sneaky way of getting one child to eat spinach without whining. (And we all need less whining and more eating)This is another dish I lovingly refer to as a Dump Recipe. That means I really do not measure a single ingredient, I just dump it all into the pan. I learned ovenr 20 years ago how easy it was to make a homemade version of Hamburger Helper and have used that technique here. That makes it an easy dish for a busy night’s dinner.

 

INGREDIENTS

1 pound ground Italian sausage

1 pound pasta

1/2 cup dried spinach dip mix

1 small onion sliced

2 cans diced tomatoes

water

favorite herbs

4 ounces Feta Cheese (more if you like!)

 

Begin by cooking the sausage and onions thoroughly. Drain off any grease. Add the pasta and tomatoes. Fill the cans with water and pour on top. Mix in the dry spinach dip. I buy it in bulk from Azure standard so it has other vegetables already mixed in.

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Now the herbs will depend on what you like, if you used tomatoes with other ingredients and even what was in the spinach dip. This time I used basil, garlic, salt and pepper. You can also use parsley, oregano, Italian seasoning and even pepper flakes.

 

Cover and cook over medium heat till pasta is tender. I check occasionally  to stir and make sure it does not need more water. When it s ready add the feta cheese, stir and serve.

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Enjoy!

Better Chicken Breasts

There are so many great recipes out there for chicken breasts but they often omit one important detail, the quality of the meat that you can buy. Go to any grocery store and most of the chicken has been plumped up with a salt and water solution. Each package will tell you how much has been added and some brands it is quite significant. This is an issue for two reasons. First, you end up paying $3+ a pound for salt water instead of meat. Second, the meat shrinks down so much that you end up with less than you need for dinner.

So what is the solution? Read labels and know which chicken has been plumped. Alternatively there is a company called Zaycon that doesn’t plump it’s chicken, has fabulous prices and is purchased in bulk. Each box has 40 pounds of fresh chicken that you get to divide and either freeze or can in the proportions that work for your family.

The heavy duty box has a sealed bag inside which hold smaller bags of chicken pieces.
The heavy duty box has a sealed bag inside which hold smaller bags of chicken pieces.

Zaycon sells more than just chicken, you can find ground beef, ham and even smoked salmon. Once you have signed up to receive emails you will be alerted to events in your specified area. There is never an obligation to buy. If the increments are too large for your family then find a friend to split the case with. To pick up your order you meet at the designated place and the Zaycon driver places your order in the car for you. All you need to do is go home and divide up into family sized portions. I typically get about 30 meals from each case.

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I love knowing my freezer is full of good quality chicken for the summer months of grilling. Next up is the ground beef sale and currently the price is $3.99 a pound which for me is a good price. Meanwhile I will be receiving my chicken order in just a couple of weeks. I cut up pieces for stir frying, leave some pieces whole and have a few bags marinating for quick meals. I have friends who prefer to an most of it to save on freezer space. Whichever way works for you, give it a try and let me know what you think!

Toner versus Astringent, is there a difference?

Today I held a skin care class for about 20 teenage girls and it was loads of fun. They learned a lot about basic skin care, such as washing their face every day. When I said removing their makeup before bed was important to keep thir skin looking healthy a couple were heard to say “even if you just wear mascara?” The answer was absolutely because wearing it all the time can lead to lashes breaking. Eventually we discussed the purpose of astringents and I was asked how they were different from toners. What a great question!

Listening to ads on tv can be confusing as various names are thrown around to describe the product being sold. Balancers, clarifying lotions, clarifiers, skin purifiers, toners and astringents are all the same thing. While some distinguish one from another based on the level of alcohol, most companies are working to reduce or eliminate that ingredient while keeping their effectiveness. Most experts classify astringents as being the strongest in this group.

So why use a toner at all? It has four main purposes. Remove residual traces of cleanser, remove the last amount of makeup left after a cleanser is used, remove excess oil and reduce the size of pores. Let’s start with the cleanser and makeup issue. Years ago when makeup removers were not as developed there often was some makeup left behind. Today, a good makeup remover no longer has that issue as it will remove every bit of makeup. A good cleanser rinses away completely.

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Only those with extremely oily skin need to worry about that issue and toner is a great help. If you are prone to breakouts it might be beneficial to use a toner. I prefer to use a toner at night so it has a chance to work on the skin without fighting other products like your sunscreen and makeup.

The last reason is to reduce the size of pores. This is a controversial reason because some feel toners don’t really do that at all. I believe that it depends on the toner. I have seen the results on friends whose skin looks radically different after just one month.

When trying a toner, alcohol is the enemy. It’s sole purpose is to dry the skin. Remove too much oil and the body’s natural reaction is produce even more. If your skin feels tight after using a toner, it has dried out the skin requiring you to use even more moisturizer. A good toner will leave the face feeling soft, smooth and fresh.

To remove excessive oil or makeup, spray a cotton ball with the toner and gently rub your face. You will see the dirt and oil on the cotton. Continue until no more is coming off. To reduce the size of your pores, spritz a light mist in the face and allow to dry naturally.

I don’t have excessively oily skin, but as I hit my 40s I found my pores were getting larger. I tried a cleanser designed to reduce them and saw no results. As I began using rosewater as a toner a couple times a week I saw the difference it made. Now I am sure that my pores were not changed enough that anyone else could tell because they were just beginning to get larger, but looking at my face close up in the mirror I sure could.i also noticed a difference in how my foundation looked.

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A good toner requires a humectant. This will increase the ability of the toner to penetrate the skin. It also draws moisture from the air and into the skin. These effects lead to softer and hydrated skin. How awesome is that?

Now I am the queen of cheap, I have mentioned this in my blog a few times. If something has multiple purposes then I am sold. At first it was hard to rationalize a bottle of toner taking up space in my bathroom. Over time I could not believe the uses for this one little bottle of rosewater. Rose oil has been used as far back as the ancient Egyptians so these are not new ideas. I now use it to set my makeup and even made a video showing how easy it is to do it.

I keep it in my purse all Summer long for sunburns as it reduces the sting and on bug bites as it reduces the pain and swelling. Rosewater also promotes blood circulation and therefore hair growth when spritzed on the scalp. With antibacterial properties it is perfect to spray on small scratches to minimize scarring and infection. Rosewater can also reduce puffy eyes. For that I spray a cotton ball till it is good and wet then place in the freezer for 5 minutes. The cool cotton is place on my eyes and it feels divine. After a couple minutes my eyes are not as puffy.

Can you just feel the love? While you can make your own rosewater at home with distilled water and fresh petals, it is only good for a week so you will need to make a batch every weekend. I opt instead for Refreshed from Younique. It slips easily in my purse during the Summer and I don’t have to make it. It has no alcohol but does have the required humectant.

So my Beauties, I hope I have answered some questions you may of had. If so, please share this blog on facebook. Have a fabulousness weekend!

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.

Gleening Feeds the Hungry

When Ruth followed her mother-in-law to the land of Isreal, she had no way to support them. She followed advices and went into the fields to gleen. Any produce that was dropped or left behind, Ruth picked up and either sold it, or fed her tiny family with it. It is a tradition that has continued around the world for thousands of years, and still exists today. Gleening has become more organized as groups formed to share in the resources and work. I am a member of one such group, and this is how ours works.

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Members register through the local senior center and the annual $20 fee goes towards their Meals in wheels program. Local farmers donate food for various reasons. A corn field may ha flooded preventing equipment from harvesting. A hail storm caused blemishes to an apple orchard or the field produced more than the farmer could sell. The gleening club members first fill bins that go to the Senior Center or local food bank to be distributed as needed. Then, we are allowed to pick whatever is left and bring home.

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Another source are senior citizens who have trees in the backyard. They are unable to pick the fruit, yet don’t want it dropping all over their yard. The gleeners come in, and pick the trees clean, tidy up the yard, and let the owners take what they want. The remaining produce is divided between those who worked.

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A common misconception is that something must be wrong with the food. Nothing could be farther from the truth! Our butternut squash was harvested from an organic farm and was donated because of the rather large and unusual shape preventing them from being sold for market.

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Food that is of high quality and ready to be canned, frozen or put away for long term storage.

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Whether you want to save money or just help others, gleening is a wonderful tradition to continue. A google search can help yu find a group in your area, or learn how to create your own.

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Thirty Day Clenaing Challenge

A friend of mine who sells. Norwex put together a 15 day cleaning challenge on Facebook. Inspired by this I would like to extend it to 30 days. The idea is to take one small thing each day and work on it. Doing it in small chunks not only makes it seem less daunting, but easier to keep up. Are you ready? Here is week one!

Day. 1

The washer and dryer can get dirty fast. If you have a top loader, remove the lid and clean those little corners. The fabric softner container can often be removed and cleaned with a long brush. Scrub the tub down with a brush and soapy water. I keep it simple with hot water and a little Dawn when needed. The dryer can have the lint trap vacuumed and the duct as well. Lint can collect not only in the tube connected to the wall, but in the wall itself. A dry vac is able to suck it out easily. Be sure to check the vent outside to ensure it isn’t blocked.

Look for all the areas that collect dirt and dust.
Look for all the areas that collect dirt and dust.

Day 2

We use it every day and I think that is why it gets neglected the most. I really do clean out the inside before every major shopping trip. Hot water and baking soda work well and help deodorize. The outside however tends to get a lot of papers stuck to it. Don’t forget the top where dust collects. And if nobody has eaten that cereal in the last 3 months, they never will. Into the garbage it goes.

Don't forget the exterior and the top!
Don’t forget the exterior and the top!

Day 3

We all have that one thing that is getting out off. Something that we just dried doing. This is a good time to get the kids involved and help take care of it. Is your Christmas tree still up? Or have you been avoiding starting your taxes? It needs to get done and there is no time like the present!

Open season! What have you been putting off way too long?
Open season! What have you been putting off way too long?

Day 4

Pick a dresser that needs a little TLC. It might be the drawers, or that things are shoved underneath. Or, as is common in my kids’ rooms, things are just dumped on top. If the drawers are not sliding easily, now is a perfect time to run a bar of soap on the runners.

Choose any dresser in the house and organize all the drawers.
Choose any dresser in the house and organize all the drawers.

Day 5

Choose one thing outside that needs to get done. Perhaps it is sweeping the patio, raking leaves or changing the holiday decor.

It is chilly outside but there are still things that can be done.
It is chilly outside but there are still things that can be done.

Day 6

My favorite tip is to put a bowl of water inside and heat it to boiling. The steam will loosen any cooked on food. Be sure to move the microwave and clean behind as well as underneath. Mine is on a stand where I keep cookbooks so I organized that a little as well.

Often a badly needed area. The microwave.
Often a badly needed area. The microwave.

Day 7

I like to use my Norwex mitten to dust, but you can use a slightly damp rag or a disposable duster as well.

Time to dust those blinds! Be sure to go row by row to get all of them.
Time to dust those blinds! Be sure to go row by row to get all of them.

Deep Fried Cheesecake Wontons

The big game is coming up (Go Seahawks!) and you need finger foods. A LOT of finger foods! Finding desserts that are easy to eat can be a challenge and that is where these babies come in. A big plus is that it only needs 4 ingredients!

INGREDIENTS

1 pkg Wonton Wrappers
1 pkg Cream Cheese
1/2 cup Powdered Sugar + 1/2 c Powdereed Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
Cup of water

Oil for frying

Heat the oil to 350 degrees. Be sure to use an oil with a high smoking point such as vegetable oil.

Allow the cream cheese to come to room temp. This makes it so much easier to whip it that you don’t want to skip this step. Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and beat until soft. Add 1/2 cup of the sugar and vanilla. Mix till blended.

Lay the wonton wrappers out and place 1/2 tsp of the filling in the center. I know it is tempting to do more but if you do they tend to leak. I really do use a measuring spoon for this.

1/2 tsp and no more!
1/2 tsp and no more!

There are two ways to seal your wrappers. One is by making a triangle and folding corner to corner.

Make sure the tips meet so you have a good seal.
Make sure the tips meet so you have a good seal.

The other option is to make a pouch. Bring all 4 cornered together and seal 4 sides together. This way takes longer but looks prettier.

Squeeze tight.
Squeeze tight.

No matter which way you choose to do it, use water to wet the edges before sealing them together. I just use my finger and run it along the edges. A little goes a long way, you don’t need to soak them. Once the oil is up to temp, place a few at a time in it to fry up. Overcrowding leads to them sticking together and the temperature of the oil will drop way too low. Never drop into the oil, lower them growing away from you. This ensures any splatters go away from you as well. Make sure that before you do a second batch that the oil has come back up to 350 degrees.

These beauties will start floating right away.
These beauties will start floating right away.

They cook quickly so you cannot walk away. It only takes about 1 minute on each side to get a light golden brown. Then you will need to flip them over. Allow to drain a little bit then move to a cooling rack placed on a cookie sheet. This lets oil to drain away from the crispy wonton.

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Once they have completely drained, sprinkle the remaining powdered sugar on top. If you do it while oil is still on the wonton the sugar will soak in and you won’t have the pretty white you see here.

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This will make about 44 fried cheesecake wontons. It depends on how much filling you put into each one. To show your team spirit, add a little food coloring to the cream cheese when you are whipping it. Altogether is took me about 40 minutes from start to cleanup. Excuse me while I go have another one. 🙂