12.25.2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

I hope you all have a wonderful and blessed holiday!!

12.24.2008

My Dream...

You know how some couples have a talk about if one of them dies would the other remarry? Well, Mr. K and I have a little joke about if anything ever happens to him...I'm going move to Finland and work for Santa.

I don't really know how it came about, but a few years ago I found this website. Mr. K, and others, are endlessly impressed and occassionally annoyed by my passion for Christmas and Santa Claus. And, somewhere along the line, he made some sort of comment about if I love Santa so much I should move to The North Pole. To which I replied something about the paparazzi getting too out of hand at the North Pole, and Santa relocating to Finland. He thought it was hysterically funny and he brings it up whenever one of those sad "what if's" come up.

Anyway, check out the website. It's cute. There are lots of pretty pictures of The Arctic Circle, and there's even a live Santa cam!


P.S. You know that claymation cartoon Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, where Fred Astaire does the voice of the mailman? Well, next time pay close attention to him meeting and marrying Mrs. Claus. It is no coincidence that she and I share the same 1st name!


12.22.2008

Candy Cane Cupcakes


These were awesome and super easy! They are great when you need to bring something to a party or get together - not too heavy of a dessert and just the right amount of peppermint flavor. Give them a try.

Ingredients:
1 box of white cake mix
3 egg whites
1 & 1/3 cups white cranberry juice
1 tsp. Peppermint extract, divided
2 containers of white frosting
1 cup of crushed candy canes

Directions:
1. Prepare mix according to package instructions, but substitute cranberry juice for water. Stir in 1/2 the peppermint extract.
2. Bake cupcakes according to box instructions.
3. Stir in remaining extract to frosting. Fill a zip top bag with icing, snip a small corner of the bag, and pipe icing onto each cupcake. Sprinkle each cupcake with candy cane.

P.S. Chocolate cupcakes with the peppermint might be a nice combo as well!

12.19.2008

So Have A Cup Of Cheer



I was all inspired by my candy cane post, so I did a little digging and found a few really easy Christmas cocktails to brighten your spirits. Turns out there is way more to this season than just eggnog. Give these drinks a try this holiday...or any holiday...any regular day.



CHEERS!!!



Candy Cane Martini

Dip the rim of a martini glass in peppermint schnapps and then into some crushed candy cane pieces. In a shaker, mix peppermint schnapps and vodka with ice (the ratio should be 3 to 1, vodka to schnapps). Strain into martini glasses and garnish with a mini candy cane.



Gingerbread Man

In a shaker, combine 1 shot of vanilla vodka, 1 shot of Frangelico, & 1/2 shot of butterscotch schnapps with ice. Strain into a high ball glass filled with ice. Top with 1/2 c. of ginger beer. Float a splash of dark rum and garnish with a gingerbread man cookie.



Mistletoe Mojito

Pour 3 shots of mojito mix, 1 shot of light rum, and 1 shot of club soda over a glass of ice. Stir and top with a sprig of mint and 2 Tbl. pomegranate seeds.



Pomegranate Champagne

Place a sugar cube in a champagne flute and pour an ounce of pomegranate juice over it. Add 3 ounces of champagne and top with pomegranate seeds.



Spiked Cider

Mix 4 parts hard apple cider to 1 part apple brandy. Pour over ice and garnish with an apple wedge or a cinnamon stick.



White Hot Chocolate

In a saucepan on medium heat, heat 4 cups of milk and 2 cups of half-and-half to just below the simmering point. Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 lb. chopped white chocolate. When the chocolate is melted, add 2 tsp vanilla, seeds from 2 vanilla beans, and 1/3 cup Grand Marnier, and whisk vigorously. Reheat very gently and serve.



Cranberry Snowdrift

Rim a martini glass with granulated sugar. Shake 1 oz creme de cacoa, 1 oz cranberry juice, and 1/2 oz of white chocolate liquer together with ice. Pour into glasses. To garnish, thread whole cranberries onto a cocktail pick; dip in water and roll in sugar to coat evenly. Perch the pick in the glass, and top the cocktail with shaved dark chocolate.

Things To Do With Candy Canes


Candy canes are awesome. They are delicious, and surprisingly versatile. AND, since they are only readily available at certain times of the year, you should enjoy them while you can.

Granted, I love mostly everything peppermint, but its like a "What came 1st, the chicken or the egg?" Do I love peppermint because it reminds me of a candy cane or do I love candy canes because they are peppermint? The world may never know. I, however, like to believe its the 1st one.

So, here are 10 things you can do with your candy canes...

1. Grind them into a fine powder to make a peppermint sugar.

2. Crush them into small chunks and use as a holiday garnish for cupcakes, drinks, ice cream, etc.

3. Make a festive swizzle stick to stir hot chocolate, coffee, tea, cappuccino, etc.

4. Mix them into holiday brownies, cookies, fudge, cakes, etc.

5. Melt some chocolate, then dip a pretty spoon into it and roll around in some crushed candy canes or dip the candy canes themselves for a unique stirrer (and/or party favor).

6. Make peppermint bark.

7. Grind them up for a festive glass rimmer for Christmas cocktails.

8. You can dip just about anything in chocolate, roll it in crushed candy cane, and you have a great homemade Christmas gift. Pretzels, Oreos, graham crackers...just wrap them up in a pretty cellophane bag, a festive tin or box, and tie with ribbons!

9. They make great decorations. Sure, you can hang them on the tree, but you can also fill a vase with some candy canes, tie a red bow around it and you have an instant centerpiece. The possibilities really are endless!

10. Save them away for Valentine's day...when you put 2 together they make a pretty red and white heart!

Get creative!

12.17.2008

When This Season Stresses You Out...Here's Something To Think About...

If we could shrink the earth's population to precisely 100 people, and maintain current existing human ratios, This is how our world would look:

There would be: (remember this is if the entire world population was shrunk down to 100 people)

57 Asians
21 Europeans

14 from the Western Hemisphere,both north and south
8 would be Africans

52 would be female
48 would be male

30 would be white
70 would be non-white

70 would be non-Christian
30 would be Christian

89 would be heterosexual
11 would be homosexual

6 people would possess 59% of the entire world's wealth and all 6 would be from the USA.

80 would live in substandard housing
70 would be unable to read
50 would suffer from malnutrition

1 would be near death
1 would be near birth

1 (yes, only 1) would have a college education
1 (yes, only1) would own computer.

When one considers our world from such a compressed perspective, we realize the need for acceptance, understanding and education.

So therefore . . .

If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive this week.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

If you can attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are more blessed than three billion people in the world.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people in the world.

If you can read this message you are more blessed than the over two billion people in the world who cannot read at all.

As you read this you can look at it two ways.

One, you realize how lucky, blessed and fortunate you are, and appreciate everything in your life (And you are fortunate just for the fact that you have access to a computer).

Two, you can read it and feel compassion for those who live in fear, poverty and sickness. My hope is that everyone can feel both.

Lots of times when something bad happens or we hear something like this we say "Why can't somebody do something?" I challenge you to turn that question on yourself and ask "What can I do to help?"

12.13.2008

Do You Remember?


Most of us have a treasured memory of a particular party or a special birthday gift.

I remember Kathy used to make it that person's "day". And, on your day you got to pick what was for dinner! This is something that I have kind of adopted in my own house. Even though I don't have children, my husband and I celebrate our days in a similar way. On his day, he gets to pick what's for dinner, what we do (usually he picks bowling), and I can't get mad at him for anything or tickle him.

Birthday parties are something many of us took for granted growing up. The cake. Opening presents. We didn't stop and think about it, but how did those things get to us?

For many children they don't. For some kids, birthdays come and go with no cake and no presents. I was watching the Rachel Ray show the other day, which I never do, and caught a story about a woman in MA who throws birthday parties for homeless children. It was short, but eyeopening because you don't always think about things like that unless it affects you.

On the website you can volunteer or donate party supplies.

If you live in MA (or even if you don't) check out the website and see how you can make a difference.

12.10.2008

Kathy's Potatoes


I went home for Thanksgiving this year. It was the 1st time I had been home for a holiday in 5 years and the first time in my entire life that I didn't have mashed potatoes. The reason was, Kathy had made these amazing roasted potatoes, and after tasting them there was no need to move on to another potatoes! They were that good!

Anyway, Mr. K wanted to cook our own turkey when we got home so we would have left overs to pick at. So, the Saturday after Thanksgiving we had our own mini version of the holiday, which included Kathy's roasted potatoes.

Here is the recipe. She uses red potatoes, but I made it with Yukon Gold.

1. Coat a glass baking dish with olive oil.

2. Chop potatoes into big chunks. If you are using smaller potatoes maybe just in half. Place them into the baking dish and coat with a little more olive oil.

3. Sprinkle potatoes with salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic powder. Just to your tastes, but you should be able to see the seasonings on each one.

4. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or so on the bottom shelf, until browned and cooked throughout.

Trust me. I am THE potato connoisseur to end all potato connoisseurs. These potatoes are delicious and easy. Try them...you'll love them!!!

P.S. This recipe might be equally as awesome with yams or sweet potatoes too!

Mrs. K's Peppermint Bark




This recipe was born of the same frustration as my chocolate covered graham crackers. I bought a box of this as a gift for someone. This time it was from Williams Sonoma (my other favorite store). And, again it was $20 plus.

So, Mr. K and I reinvented the wheel.

I LOVE all things peppermint, and this bark is not exception. And, this recipe is even easier than the grahams!

INGREDIENTS:
a bag of dark chocolate chips
a bag of white chocolate chips
a box of candy canes
milk or cream
wax paper

DIRECTIONS:
1. Lay the wax paper out so it's ready for you.
2. Crush the candy canes. You can do this with a food processor or put them in a baggie and bang them with the back of a spoon. In either case, they should be pea sized or smaller, but not made into a powder.
3. In a double boiler, melt the dark chocolate until its smooth. Pour out onto the wax paper.
4. In a double boiler, melt the white chocolate. White chocolate doesn't melt as well as regular chocolate, so may need to add a splash of milk or cream to keep it smooth. You want to keep it the consistancy of the dark chocolate. Once it is, pour it out over the dark chocolate, and LEAVE IT ALONE! If you play with it, it won't be "layered" it will be "marbled".
5. Sprinkle candy cane crumbs over the melted white chocolate, and press them in GENTLY.
6. Allow the bark to cool completely. The refridgerator works well. Once cool, break it up into chunks.

12.05.2008

Mrs. K's Chocolate Covered Graham Crackers



Those of you who know me well, know that I am a catalogue junkie. Especially at Christmas! I love it! You get some of the most unique gifts imaginable, and sometimes for cheap!

Anyway, my Aunt Irene always remembers us at Christmas. And now that we live far apart and almost never see one another...our exchanges at Christmas usually consist of some yummy treats!

I came across chocolate covered graham crackers one year in one of my catalogues and sent them off to her. They were from Crate & Barrel so I am sure they were good, since they are my favorite store! But, even though I knew they were good, I did say to myself "I just spent $25 on chocolate covered graham crackers"!

So, I decided to recreate their awesomeness for much much less. And, I did! Here is the recipe, and I really encourage you to try it. I made them a few weeks ago with my grandmother, and we put 2 in those little Christmas cellophane bags and tied them with pretty ribbons. She gave them as a gift for her friends at the senior center. And, 2 is plenty, since they are very rich!

Ingredients:
a box graham crackers, any kind
a bag of chocolate chips, any kind
1 cup of confectioner's sugar, divided
about 1/4 cup of milk or cream, divided
red & green food color
wax paper

Directions:
1. Break the graham crackers in half, so they are squares, not rectangles.

2. Divide the sugar into two parts. One for red and one for green. Add the milk a tiny bit at a time. You want it to be able to lift up a spoonful, and let it run off quickly, but NOT be watery. Once you get a good consistancy, add the food color for a red and green drizzle once the cookies are cool. Set aside.

3. Lay out sheets of wax paper to place the cookies on once you have dipped them, so they can cool.

4. Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler. If you decide to do white chocolate or something other than a variation of regular chocolate, you may need to add milk or cream to get it smooth.

5. Once the chocolate is smooth, remove it from the heat, and start coating the squares. The chocolate will be EXTREMELY hot, so try not to use your fingers. Tongs, spoons, and skewers work well. Coat all sides, and lay on the wax paper to cool.

6. Allow to cool until chocolate is firm and matte. Drizzle with red and green frosting, and allow to set over night in the refridgerator.

Make Your Own...


Since I pride myself on being an honorary Christmas Elf, one of the things I love to do is make toys.

Just kidding.

Well, sort of...I do make many of the gifts I give to people. And, it isn't nearly as difficult, or time consuming, as you might be thinking. In fact, I think it is much faster than driving around to different stores, searching for that elusive perfect gift, not to mention a place to park!

I promise it's easy, and I promise you can do it!

I am not sure when exactly I started, but I do remember my grandmother baking little breads and cookies when I was growing up. She used to decorate them with ribbons and bows, and make me take them to all the neighbors. It was just a thoughtful thing she used to do.

My own version of this has evolved somewhat over the years, and yours can as well. To give you an example, the very first Christmas I spent with my in-laws, I made a gift basket for my mother-in-law. Since we were also meeting for the first time, I had absolutely no clue what her likes/dislikes were or what kind of taste she had. I suppose I could have deferred to my then boyfriend's advice, but to be honest I didn't really trust him all that much. And, even though now we are married, I still don't. In fact, I think I might trust him a little less now that I know him so well. I'M KIDDING!!!

But back to my story...

I decided I could at least make her gift a personal and thoughtful one. And, since I didn't know her, that would have to mean letting her know about me. I am from New England, and they live in Florida. So, the I got a cranberry colored basket and filled it with all things New England - Vermont maple syrup, Maine blueberry pancake mix, maple sugar candy, salt water taffy, apple butter, preserves, Boston baked beans (the candy kind), etc etc.

It turned out so well...that I started doing it every year for at least 1 person on my list. And, I think its especially good for "couples" gifts since you may not know one as well as the other, and its so much more personal than gift cards.

A breakfast basket is one of my favorites! You can fill it with lots regular and inexpensive things, like...pancake mix, syrup, English muffins, jams, a spatula, etc. Just arrange everything in a pretty mixing bowl, wrap it up with cellophane and ribbon, and Christmas morning it taken care of!

And, why stop at breakfast? Any cuisine can theme a "basket" check out a bargain book section for cookbooks and run with it! Last year I gave 2 people a "soup and sanwhich basket" with soup and sandwhich cookbooks, some cute Christmas soup bowls, and a couple of cans of Campbell's Soup. Perfect for a chilly day lunch!

Another thing to keep in mind is that is doesn't have to be limited to Christmas.

My grandmother's friend Beverly had a heart attack over the summer, and was down for several weeks. My grandmother mentioned to me that she was going to send flowers, which is always a nice gesture, but why not something a tad more useful? I gave my grandmother the idea of making up a basket with some teabags, crossword puzzle books, magazines, books, cookies. After all, they sell clear cellophane too! She decorated it up with bright colored ribbons and bows, added a get well card, and spent a whole lot less than some flowers would have cost!
And, I know it was appreciated while Bev was recouperateing!

So, get creative! And keep in mind that literally any theme can be made into a little basket!

Let me know if you need any help!

Just Believe...


Let me first say, I love Christmas.

While this isn't exactly so unusual, I do believe my passion for this time of year exceeds that of everyone I know. For example, my tree and lights must be up on Thanksgiving. And, my husband still makes jokes about me moving to Finland after he dies to become an elf (which is still a dream of mine). Ask if you really want to whole story- its short.

Speaking of Mr. K, he is one of those people who feels Christmas has lost it's true meaning and has become too commercial. It makes him really sad...which, in turn, makes me sad. But, I have to disagree with him. While some people might view this time of year solely as a commercial holiday, others open their hearts more than they do at any other time of year. Deep down in their hearts...they believe!

That is what I see at Christmas.

For me, that is Santa Claus! And, when Santa Claus comes to town...the world is a better place, if only for a little while! And, even though it might fade as we get caught up in the excitement of a New Year...Frosty promises us he'll be back next year! And, we have hope.

Something to look forward to.

And, everyone needs that in their life.

Enjoy this season! Especially this year, when so many people are experiencing difficult circumstances...


No Turkey Eggs?

So...my friend Debbie asked "Do people eat turkey eggs? And, if not, why not?"

I had the answer!

1) Turkeys don't start laying eggs until they are much older than chickens, so raising them for eggs would take longer.

2) They are not cost effective 'cause they are so much bigger than chickens so you would raise less turkeys in the same area as many more chickens.

3) Turkeys are possessive of their eggs where chickens are not. So, collecting them up is more difficult and time consuming.

4) They lay less eggs than chickens so it makes more sense to just use the eggs for more turkeys.


There you go...now you know!

11.17.2008

Taffy Apple Pizza

INGREDIENTS:
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
1-tablespoon all-purpose flour
1-tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons chopped pecans
6 (14 x 18-inch) sheets phyllo dough, thawed according to package directions
1-tablespoon butter, melted
3 tablespoons store-bought caramel sauce

DIRECTIONS:
1. Combine the apples, the 3 tablespoons sugar, the flour, lemon juice, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon in a bowl; set aside.

2. Combine the pecans with the remaining 1teaspoon sugar and remaining 1/4-teaspoon cinnamon in a small bowl; set aside.

3. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a 12-inch pizza pan or a large baking sheet with nonstick spray. As you work, keep the large sheets of phyllo covered with plastic wrap to keep them from drying out. Lay one sheet of phyllo, across the pizza pan; lightly spray with nonstick spray. Repeat layering the remaining 5 sheets of phyllo, spraying each sheet lightly with nonstick spray. Roll the edges of the phyllo in to make a rimmed edge.

4. Arrange the apple mixture in concentric circles on the phyllo. Brush the apples with the melted butter, then sprinkle the pecan mixture. Bake until the edges of the phyllo are golden brown and apples are tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool on the pan on a rack 30 minutes, then drizzle with the caramel sauce.

11.03.2008

Don't Forget To Vote


Actually, both Mr. K and I voted a week ago.
NV is one of thirty states with early voting!

And for those of you who told me you would only vote if the like wasn't too long...

Keep in mind, you live in a country where you can vote,
and that is reason enought as to why you should vote!

When the line looks too long,
think about someone in another country
who doesn't have the option of standing in a line like that!

Women weren't allowed to vote in the US until 1920.
Only a generation or two back. Think about all the women who fought for our suffrage.
Think about the women in your own family, who weren't allowed to vote,
and vote for them!

11.02.2008

Squeeze The Cheese...

I can't remember why, but the other day Mr. K asked, "What's with you and cheese?".

Truthfully, I don't know, but I have always loved it. Maybe I get it from my grandfather because he ate cheese and crackers a lot when I was growing up. I like it on more than just crackers, though. It is a staple in my salads, a must on garlic bread, and even though Mr. K tells me not to, if I order the pizza it has to have extra cheese.

I don't consider myself a foodie, but cheese is one area where I like high quality and I will experiment a bit. And, its always been that way. Ever since I was very little my salad dressing of choice has been bleu cheese.

Cheese is also an area where I think organic is a must. Check out this site. It has a ton of information on why organic cheese is better tasting and better for you.

And, I am a huge advocate of doing a taste test. Make someone else set it up so they know which is which and you don't. Truly, this is the best way to prove to yourself that there is a difference and organic does taste better. I really haven't been let down yet. When I tried it with fresh pineapple, it changed my life.

I usually buy my cheese at Whole Foods. If you can pretty much find it at any grocery store these days.

11.01.2008

Organic Candy


I know I am a day late on this one, but I have never been one to limited my candy consumption to Halloween.

Yesterday, someone who knows about my blog asked if I was giving out organic Halloween candy. Well, I wasn't, but that was only because it was for people I didn't know and I went the lazy route.

But, then they asked me if they make such a thing.

Of course they do!

I think it's important to remember that there is pretty much an organic version of everything.
Organic isn't a creating a whole new way of doing things that someone needs to invent. It is a choice to make things in the same way, using better ingredients and methods.

So...next year, GREEN YOUR HALLOWEEN!

Here are some links to organic candy sites. It might be too late this Halloween, but keep them in mind for gift giving anytime of the year!

YummyEarth

College Farm Organic Candy

Pamela's Raw Organic Candy

Pure Fun

Sugar Coated Organics

10.29.2008

You Can Thank The Irish!



People have been making jack o'lanterns at Halloween for centuries, but have you ever wondered why? The practice originated from an Irish myth about a man nicknamed "Stingy Jack."

The legend goes something like this...


Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink with him. True to his name, Stingy Jack didn't want to pay for his drink, so he convinced the Devil to turn himself into a coin that Jack could use to buy their drinks. Once the Devil did so, Jack decided to keep the money and put it into his pocket next to a silver cross, which prevented the Devil from changing back into his original form.

Jack eventually freed the Devil, under the condition that he would not bother Jack for one year and that, should Jack die, he would not claim his soul. The next year, Jack again tricked the Devil into climbing into a tree to pick a piece of fruit. While he was up in the tree, Jack carved a sign of the cross into the tree's bark so that the Devil could not come down until the Devil promised Jack not to bother him for ten more years.

Soon after, Jack died. As the legend goes, God would not allow such an unsavory figure into heaven. The Devil, upset by the trick Jack had played on him and keeping his word not to claim his soul, would not allow Jack into hell. He sent Jack off into the dark night with only a burning coal to light his way. Jack put the coal into a carved-out turnip and has been roaming the Earth with ever since. The Irish began to refer to this ghostly figure as "Jack of the Lantern," and then, simply "Jack O'Lantern."

In Ireland and Scotland, people began to make their own versions of Jack's lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them into windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits. In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack o'lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that pumpkins, a fruit native to America, make perfect jack o'lanterns.

There you have it! Another frightening superstition by the Irish!

It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!

Being the time of year that it is, I thought I should get some fallish things posted.

The first order of business being pumpkins. I love seeing them in the store because for me its one of the first indications that "the holidays" are just around the corner. And, as most of you know, I am a Christmas freak.

I, also, enjoy carving them, and I especially love the seeds.

Growing up, however, the only pumpkins I consumed were the ones I dug out of the Harvest Mix. Like, most things I hate and don't eat...I have a story about why. Basically, I was forced to eat a piece of pumpkin pie at a very young age by a friend of my parents. First of all, I hate pie. Not just pumpkin pie, but all pie. Secondly, I think pie in general, and especially pumpkin pie, is a pretty adult dessert. At any rate, the whole experience was a bad one, and it set the tone for the next 20 years or so.

Even though I still hate pie, I have grown to savor the flavor of pumpkins. And, they just happen to be super good for you. Not only is pumpkin loaded with vitamin A and antioxidant carotenoids, particularly alpha and beta-carotenes, it’s a good source of vitamins C, K, and E, and lots of minerals, including magnesium, potassium, and iron. Half a cup of canned pumpkin has 3.5 grams of fiber. All this, AND zero cholesterol! Which is great news for your immune system and can also help prevent heart disease and cancer!

GO PUMPKINS!

The seeds are also worth snackin' on. Pumpkin seeds, also called pepitas, are loaded with minerals and omega-3 fatty acids. They seem to have an anti-inflammatory effect, and may even help protect against prostate cancer and osteoporosis. A quarter cup has 1.5 grams of fiber.

FACTS:

  • Pumpkins are the largest fruit in the world, and are 90% water.

  • The name pumpkin originated from the Greek word for "large melon" which is "pepon." "Pepon" was changed by the French into "pompon." The English changed "pompon" to "Pumpion." American colonists changed "pumpion" into "pumpkin."

  • The ‘Pumpkin Capital of the World’ is Morton, Illinois. Home of Libby’s pumpkin industry.

  • Although pumpkins are usually orange or yellow, some are dark green, pale green, orange-yellow, white, red and gray.

10.24.2008

Bean Brownies?!?!?!?!!?

First of all, I have not tried this recipe. This recipe was suggested to me by someone I will call an acquaintance.

I was told it makes the brownies healthier because it adds protein and fiber and eliminates some of the cholesterol and fat.

But, wait....BEANS?

Beans?

Beans in the brownies?!?!?!

Allegedly, I am told you cannot taste the beans after they have cooled. And, the after they have cooled part was stressed, so I assume that's important.

So...the recipe.

You will need a box of regular brownie mix, meaning no addition goodness such as caramel, nuts, chocolate chips, etc. and a can a black beans.

Dump the beans into a blender or food processor or what have you...including the syrupy bean goo they are packaged in. Blend until the beans are very clearly no longer beans. I am told this will resemble Hersey's Syrup.

Mix the bean syrup with the brownie mix and bake per the package directions.

And, ....enjoy?

I admit I have not yet had the courage to try these, but...

BEANS!

10.15.2008

A Billion Trees



OR


This is a pretty cool campaign. I like that its so affordable...$1 = 1 tree! What a great way to celebrate life...when its just beginning or has ended.

I think a lot of people don't realize all that trees do for us...how important they are. We, as a society...a world in general...don't take time to appreciate nature anymore. We should be so grateful, but instead we chop away at it and destroy it.

Why?

TREES ARE IMPORTANT!

Interesting Facts About Trees:
Trees are the longest living organisms on the planet and one of the earth's greatest natural resources. They keep our air supply clean, reduce noise pollution, improve water quality, help prevent erosion, provide food and building materials, create shade, and help make our landscapes look beautiful. Here are some more thought-provoking facts and figures about our oldest citizens and living treasures...trees!

  • The shade and wind buffering provided by trees reduces annual heating and cooling costs by 2.1 billion dollars.

  • Each average-sized tree provides an estimated $7 savings in annual environmental benefits, including energy conservation and reduced pollution.

  • A single tree produces approximately 260 pounds of oxygen per year. That means two mature trees can supply enough oxygen annually to support a family of four!

  • Water originating in our national forests provide drinking water for over 3400 communities, and approximately 60 million individuals.

  • One tree can absorb as much carbon in a year as a car produces while driving 26,000 miles.
    Over the course its life, a single tree can absorb one ton of carbon dioxide.

  • An average American uses about 750 pounds of paper every year, and 95% of homes are built using wood. That means each person uses the equivalent of one 100 foot tall, 16 inch diameter, tree every year for their paper and wood product needs.

  • About one third of the United States of America is covered by forests.

  • According to the last forest inventory, there are almost 247 billion trees over 1 inch in diameter in the U.S.

  • The average tree in an urban/city area has a life expectancy of only 8 years.

  • The tallest tree in the country is a Coast Redwood growing in northern California's Redwood National Park. It is 369 feet tall and over 2000 years old!

10.10.2008

Mrs. K's Caramel Apple Cake

This is a great fall dessert even if you're dieting. Check it out!

Ingredients:

2 Eggs
2/3 cup of milk
1/4 cup of oil
1 can of caramal apple pie filling
1 box of Fiber One Apple Muffin Mix

Preheat oven to 425. Spray a clear 9x14 baking pan with non stick spray.

Spread the apple pie filling in the bottom of the pan.

Prepare muffin mix according to directions and spread out over the pie filling.

Bake until the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes or so.

Allow to cool and cut into 12 squares.

I topped mine with cool whip and caramel syrup.

10.09.2008

The National Honor Society

I got a letter today inviteing me to join the National Honor Society.

I am really excited because I needed some good news with everything that has happened lately.

9.18.2008

...And Away We Go!


If you don't know, I am turning 30 on Sunday. Many people have asked me "if I am ready" or how I feel about it". The truth is, I am glad. My 20's were ridiculous (especially the 1st half!), and I am glad they are coming to an end.

I do acknowledge, however, that this is my 1st BIG birthday in the grand scheme of things. So, I wanted to do something a little bigger than I normally would. I decided, since I am on a bit of a spiritual quest as of late, that we would go to Sedona.

Sedona, if you don't know, is a small town in Arizona that has a strong reputation for natural beauty and spirituality. We are leaving this morning, after we drop the dogs off at camp. It is about a 5 hour drive. Thankfully Mark and I get along well enough to survive these things. We will drive back Sunday (my birthday).

Unlike my normal self, I have not planned out every detail of the trip. It's part of my transformation to be less strict and less controlling. I do want to get to Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village. I am not a huge crafts person, but it looks like a really cool place. Also, I have scheduled a holistic pedicure. You can read more about that here. I am, also, planning a 1 hour meditation session near one of the famed vortexes. Lastly, I am on the lookout for a kyanite pendant or ring.

Have a wonderful weekend, and thank you for all my birthday wishes!!!

9.11.2008

Where Were You?

Here is MY 9/11 experience...

My grandparents were getting ready to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary on 9/9/01. I was living in Portland, OR at the time and Kathy had called and asked if I could come home for the occasion. Of course I said yes. I was going to be a surprise.

My trip was supposed to be from the 8th to the 12th. Just a long weekend. My roommate dropped me off at the airport on the morning of the 8th. It was a typical gray drizzly Portland morning. I remember this VERY clearly because while we were getting my bags out of the trunk there was a man running (literally) around and people were sort of stopped in the area waiting to see where he was going or what he was doing. He ended up running out of sight and I found my curbside check in and got in line with my bags.

A few minutes later I got shoved forward and into the person in front of me. I was instantly pissed off and whipped around. It was that same guy that had been running around moments earlier. The guy I got shoved into told him to watch it and the guy, of Middle Eastern descent, didn't seem to understand.

When I got to the front of the line, the man checking me in asked if we were travelling together (meaning the guy behind me who had shoved me). I explained that I didn't know who he was or why he was standing so close, but that we were definitely NOT travelling together. the man checking me in then yelled at the guy to back up and give people some space. I checked in and I was on my way to the gate.

I boarded, got to my seat, and we took off for Boston. You know after the plane takes off and then goes from facing skyward to being level again? Well, at that exact moment the shover from earlier stands up a few rows in front of me and on the opposite side!!!! OMG. The guy was acting so weird prior to this, and now he's heading to the bathrooms and he's all sweaty. I swear on my soul...this is a direct quote from that exact moment..."God, if this guy is going to hijack my plane please let him do it on the way back to Portland so I can see my family one last time." And then I said Hail Marys for the next 7 hours until we landed in Boston.

I will remind you, this happened to me on the 8th! We went about the weekend and my grandparents' anniversary. Then, it happened. I was sleeping in on the morning of the 11th, and my grandmother came into my old bedroom. I was still half asleep, but I will never forget her words. "Jessica! You need to get up! We are at war!" I got up at went into the living room where she was watching TV. She was crying and had her hand over her mouth...just shaking her head in disbelief. She kept saying "Who would do this to us?" And, the day went on and got worse and worse.

Like most of us, I can't really say what I was feeling then. Anger and sadness, of course...fear, vulnerable...patriotic. But, most of all, I do remember feeling so grateful that God had answered my prayer on the plane a few days earlier. He got me home safely so I could see my family. And, there was no place else on Earth I would rather have been at those moments in history.

9.06.2008

Mrs. K's Creamy Fruit Salad


You know those teeny tiny fruit and walnut salads at McDonald's?
I love them.
BUT, they are super tiny and a little pricey for what you actually get. And, just an FYI on that teeny tiny "snack size" fruit salad...210 calories and 8 grams of fat. YIKES!
So...I made my own. Its fresher, healthier, and organic.
Here is the recipe.

Mix:
1 cup of walnuts (candied or plain)
1 cup of grapes
1 apple, diced
1 cup of vanilla yogurt

It is so delish!!!



9.05.2008

Grapefruits Are Greeeeat!

I recently bought a holistic healing book. I like the way it's laid out...you look up what's wrong with you and it tells you what to use.

So here are 10 things grapefruits can do for you:

1.) Grapefruits are excellent cleanser for the digestive and urinary systems as well as rich in potassium and vitamin C.

2.) A regular consumption of grapefruits will also promote healthy skin. They are frequently used in the treatment of acne.

3.) For those who would like to reduce their weight, grapefruit is good because it reduces appetite

4.) Grapefruits will balances the nervous systems, relieves flu and will help the respiratory system

5. ) Grapefruits could help in treating osteoarthritis.

6.) The juices is also an excellent source of iron.

7.) Grapefruit essential oil is very popular for massaging because of the energizing and uplifting scent.

8.) The rich pink and red colors of grapefruit are due to lycopene. Lycopene appears to have anti-tumor activity.

9.) Both blond and red grapefruit can reduce blood levels of LDL ("bad") cholesterol, and red grapefruit lowers triglycerides as well.

10.) Want to reduce your risk of calcium oxalate kidney stones? Drink grapefruit juice. A study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that when women drank ½ to 1 liter of grapefruit, apple or orange juice daily, their urinary pH value and citric acid excretion increased, significantly dropping their risk of forming calcium oxalate stones.

8.24.2008

08.24.84

HAPPY BIRTHDAY,

MARY-KATE!

8.20.2008

Mrs. K's Loaded Baked Potato Salad

I don't know exactly where I came up with this recipe. I think it has just sort of evolved over the years. Anyway it is delicious, and you should try it. The only thing I might caution you on is that if you cook the potatoes in any way other than boiling...they tend to dry out. So, in that sense it doesn't keep well, but you can always make extra "sauce" to add to it the next day and problem solved.

Here is what you need, and feel free to adjust the quantities to suit your own tastes:

  • 2 lbs of potatoes (if you are taking this to a BBQ for a group I would do the whole 5lbs bag) and I use the the little red ones. I wash them, but do not peel them.
  • A bottle of Ken's Buttermilk Ranch dressing
  • A pound of bacon cooked EXTRA EXTRA crispy. Cool it on a paper towel, and chop into tiny pieces.
  • 16 oz. of sour cream
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • A few stalks of celery, finely chopped (enough to make a cup)
  • 1/4 cup real mayonnaise
  • 5 hard boiled eggs, chopped and cooled

1. I chop the potatoes into pretty small chunks and cook them in a frying pan with some butter and salt. Basically, you are making home fries. Put them to the side to cool.

2. The sauce. I hate mayo. So, I tried to make a similar consistency without a mayo taste or smell. Basically just mix the sour cream, ranch dressing, mayo, onion, and celery all together.

3. Toss the egg, potatoes, and bacon together together.

4. Mix the sauce in until everything is coated.

ENJOY!

Let me know what you think.

8.06.2008

I'm Baaaackk....

Did you miss me?

Don't lie.

I can't believe I wrote nothing for all of July. My excuse is that I went back to work after my foot resting episode and I took an accelerated summer class. I enjoyed the class even though it was super demanding. Monday through Thursday 6:00 to 8:30. We had a paper due and a test every Monday. Lots and lots of reading, but I found the subject matter interesting, so it wasn't too bad. It wasn't required for my degree, but it boosted my GPA. I got an A. The fall semester starts on the 25th, so I have a little time to myself and OD in the meantime.

Speaking of OD, I officially hate my job. I feel so burnt out. I don't have any pride or passion for what I do. I have looked around a little bit, but so far nothing. I really just want to go to school and get it done, but that is a scary idea for Mr. K, since he is a $$$$$ man. I say you need to spend $ to make $, and my education is an investment and the sooner I get done the better off we all will be.

What else? I got a hummingbird feeder. And, I have been watching like a little kid waiting for Santa for them to come. Up until 2 days ago...nothing. But, after my horrible day on Monday I was sitting outside with Cori and sure enough one came. It was really cool 'cause he came at sat in the tree, then he flew right up to my face...so close I flinched. Then I told him about the feeder and he flew away like he was leaving, but then turned and went over to it. YAY! His name is Sheridan.

Mark's brother and his wife are expecting a baby girl. Better them than me.

I started experimenting with essential oils. I wanted them to add to my homemade cleaning products. So far I have really only put them in the laundry, but I have read about mixing a few drops into the box of baking soda and scenting it for say, sprinkling on the carpet. I got lime and mandarin orange. And, its no joke...A LITTLE GOES A LOOOONG WAY.


Happy 25th Anniversary to Bobby & Jan!

I am off to buy some stones...

Hope your all having a great summer!

6.24.2008

The Queen Of Marinades

I don't cook.

But, since my new organicness requires that I actually turn on the stove...I have been giving it the old college try.

The most versatile skill I have been developing is the use of various marinades.

Last week it was the beer and garlic concoction.

The other day it was the mustard...which if I just may say was extremely yummy!

Last night is was half a bottle of white Merlot and a Tbl each of rosemary, basil, sage, and thyme.

And, tonight it is lime juice and coconut milk...and I am cooking my rice in coconut milk as well.

I love that I can throw everything in a giant bowl and let it soak overnight.

I feel like since whatever I am cooking makes the house smell so good and comes out with such flavor...that I have really accomplished something.

If any of you have ideas for really good marinades let me know!

6.22.2008

Mrs. K's Mustard Chicken


I was watching Food Network last night and saw this recipe used for catfish. Since I would never ever eat catfish, I substituted chicken. I must have been hungry, 'cause I usually don't like to try new things, but I have to say it was pretty good.

Mustard Chicken

Cut chicken breast into strips (as many as you like)

Dredge chicken through mustard, and then seasoned bread crumbs.

bake until chicken is fully cooked and they are golden brown.

Easy and deliscious!

6.20.2008

A Reason To Love July

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month and the third Sunday of the month as National Ice Cream Day. He recognized ice cream as a fun and nutritious food that is enjoyed by a full 90% of the nation's population. In the proclamation, President Reagan called for all people of the United States to observe these events with "appropriate ceremonies and activities."

The International Ice Cream Association (IICA) encourages retailers and consumers to celebrate July as National Ice Cream Month. In 2008, National Ice Cream Day will be Sunday, July 20.

The U.S. ice cream industry generates more than $21 billion in annual sales and provides jobs for thousands of citizens. About 9% of all the milk produced by U.S. dairy farmers is used to produce ice cream, contributing significantly to the economic well-being of the nation's dairy industry.

Founded in 1900, IICA is the trade association for manufacturers and distributors of ice cream and other frozen dessert products. The association's activities range from legislative and regulatory advocacy to market research, education and training. Its 80 member companies manufacture and distribute an estimated 85% of the ice cream and frozen dessert products consumed in the United States. IICA, as a constituent organization of the International Dairy Foods Association, can be found online at http://www.idfa.org/.

Check out these sites:

Horizon Organic

Green & Blacks Chocolate


Ben & Jerry's Organic

JUNE 20TH

MIKE

June Is National Iced tea Month

That a homemade glass of iced tea has more antioxidants than a full serving of fruit or vegetables?

It's true.

It is good for your skin, lowers cholesterol, and even fights cancer! read more here. Don't forget, too, that you are getting all these benefits in a giant glass of water. So...ZERO CALORIES!

I have had an iced tea maker for about 12 years and I use it all the time! It is made by Mr. Coffee and it has lasted all this time. It is incredibly easy to use...there is literally 1 button and 10 minutes later ready-to-drink!

I love mine so much, I bought my grandmother one for Mother's Day. They are cheap too..I think it was $19 in Wal-Mart or something.

Now, if you are a tea drinker you'll know what I am talking about here. You need to find real tea. It does make a difference. The teabags you buy in the store are not tea...they are tea "dust" as Mary likes to call them. I guess the best thing to do is try different ones and find one you like...I have been buying the Celestial Seasonings Organic Black Tea.

My thing is...I like tea and not any sort of flavorings, like say passion fruit (inside joke) for example.

Anyway, last weekend at Jan's, she was telling me about some guy on The View who did a whole segment on tea. One of the interesting things she learned (and passed on to me) was that almost all teas come from the same plant, cameliasinensis, and that the color variations that we get sold on (green tea, black tea, etc) are the same plant at different stages of processing. The "guy" on The View is Mark Ukra, AKA Dr. Tea, and owns a tea garden in West Hollywood.

A few things you need to keep in mind:
1. The amount of tea, NOT the brew time, determine the strength of the tea
2. Use good water, if it doesn't taste good out of the tap, it won't do anything for the tea either
3. Don't squeeze the bags (anymore)...this just adds tannins to the pot which = bitterness

Another benefit to brewing at home instead of stopping @ Dunks or Starbucks, or wherever...is the price. At Seattle's Best...a large iced tea which is 20 oz...is $2! At that is a plain no frills iced tea! For another $1.50 or $2...you could get an entire package of tea or tea bags and make several pitchers at home.

Now...if you are into the frilly stuff here are a few ideas:
1. The Arnold Palmer - 1/2 lemonade and 1/2 iced tea
2. The Twisted Palmer - 1/2 limeade and 1/2 iced tea
3. The Boston - 1/2 cranberry juice and 1/2 iced tea
4. Jazz up your ice cube by freezing berries, lemon slices, or mint inside the cubes
5. Freeze ice tea cube so your drink doesn't get diluted as the cubes melt.
6. While the tea is brewing add your own herbs, like lavender or jasmine
7. Use simple syrup to sweeten instead of the white granulated kind...it mixes and sweetens better.
8. Instead of the traditional lemon, why not oranges or pineapple?

If sweet tea is more your bag (ahemKathy) here is a pretty easy recipe, but you definitely give up the zero calorie factor.

Southern Sweet Tea
4 cups water
8-10 regular-sized
Simple syrup (1+ cups)
Pinch of baking soda
Additional water
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan.

Turn off the heat, add teabags (tie the strings together to make 'em easy to pull out) in the pan with a pinch of baking soda. Once it's suitably darkened, and still hot, pull out the bags.

Stir 1/2-1 cup of the simple syrup into the tea until it's thoroughly blended.

Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon glass or metal pitcher, and fill to the top with water. Stir, cool to room temperature and chill in the refrigerator.
Once the tea has cooled, serve it in tall glasses 2/3 filled with ice, with sugar syrup on the side so that guests may sweeten according to their personal taste.

*Simple Syrup is 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Stir constantly until cool and clear.

And since I am all about maximum usage these days...save the old teabags. After brewing (and NOT squeezing) throw the used bags into a baggie and into the fridge. When you are heading into a bath or just need a quick decompression after work...lay down with the cool bags on your eyes for 15 minutes. The teabags help reduce puffiness and dark circles around the eyes!


6.19.2008

Mrs. K's Flatbread Philly

They say not to shop when you are hungry, but this time it paid off! I found this Indian flat bread at Whole Foods the other day, and I thought it would be so yummy warmed with a little olive oil and herbs.

Anyway I ended up making these steak and cheese jobbies, and Mr. K said "This is the best thing you ever cooked...EVER!" Even though he meant it as a compliment, it was insulting because I threw it together in about 10 minutes...and I instantly recalled the numerous times I have been in the kitchen for hours at a time.

The bread was called NAAN, and it came in a few different flavors.

The meat was just a top sirloin that I cut into strips and marinated overnight in terryaki sauce. You can marinate in any sauce you like.

Here is the recipe:

1/2 lb. marinated top sirloin (cut into strips)
2 pieces of the NAAN
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tbl olive oil
1/2 cup of cheese (whatever kind you like)

Preheat the oven to 350.

Lay 2 pieces of NAAN on a cookie sheet. Brush each with 1/2 tbl of olive oil. Sprinkle each with 1 and 1/2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/4 cup of cheese. Place cookie sheet in the center of the oven.

While, the bread is in the oven, saute the meat in a pan on medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Remove the bread from the oven and plate. Divide the strips of meat evenly over each one, and enjoy!

6.15.2008

Jumpin' Jack Flash

I know this is sort of a dead horse, but everyone I know is still talking about the price of gasoline.

It is freakin' ridiculous.

I went to Mr. K's restaurant opening this weekend in Beverly Hills, and the gas there was $4.99 per gallon. It's only slightly more than what we've been paying here in LV, but for some reason, the $5.00 mark was a new threshold for me.

After some minimal digging, HI, CA, and AK seem to top the list for the most expensive gas prices in the US. So, I guess if you don't live in one of those 3 states you can breathe a tiny sigh of relief.

I, also, found a list of gas prices around the world, and like the article says...."if you think you're paying a lot..."

On the other hand...twelve cents in Venezuela?!?!?!

It's so crazy! And, the supply and demand argument only goes so far, there are people who are getting richer and richer and we are helping them get there.

So, I started car shopping online for greener options and more economical choices as well. There is more out there than just the Prius! Here is a list of the greenest cars of 2008.

Honda really seems to be the front runner in the alternative fuel market their Civic GX model uses natural gas, and next year's FCX Clarity model uses hydrogen. Definitely worth looking into.

If you aren't in the market to buy a new car just yet, there are little things you can do while you are at the mercy of the big oil company's.

Here are 10 things you can do to conserve the gas you've got:

1. Follow the speed limit! Driving 75 mph instead of 65 mph will lower your fuel economy by about 10 percent.

2. Avoid aggressive driving. Flooring the gas pedal not only wastes gas, and it can be dangerous. I am bad at this one, and I know my friends in Boston are too! But, in the end, it's going to take as long as it takes to get there. It isn't worth the gas, the frustration, a ticket, or an accident.

3. Avoid rush hour. That's a tough one, but the stopping and starting you do in traffic uses more gas up than normal driving.

4. Take a load off. Carrying around an extra 100 pounds reduces fuel economy by about 1 percent. So, if you don't need it where you are going, don't take it! Only keep what you need in the trunk.

5. Conserve the AC. Using the AC increases fuel consumption. I am the biggest AC abuser. I am ALWAYS too hot. But, when it is cooler I do use the windows and the sunroof. When I can't get by on wind alone, I have started turning the AC down to the lowest setting I can, whereas before I kept it full blast the entire time I was in the car.

6. Buy LRR tires (Low-Rolling-Resistance). Switching to a typical set of replacement tires lowers a vehicle's fuel economy as much as 4 percent.

7. Routine Maintenance. Whether you do it yourself or go to a mechanic, a tune-up can increase your fuel economy. Changing the oil, too, will also help your car or truck last longer, replacing the oil and oil filter regularly will also help fuel economy.

8. Use regular gasoline unless your owner's manual says otherwise. Unless your car requires premium, high-octane fuels improve neither fuel economy nor performance and will just waste your money. Don't overfill the gas tank or try to top it off beyond where the automatic nozzle clicks off. Patronize gas stations that have vapor-recovery nozzles (those black, accordion-looking plastic devices attached to the nozzle) whenever you can.

9. Park in the shade in summer to keep your car cool and minimize evaporation of fuel. Windshield shades can cut down on summer heat and help keep the frost off in the winter.

10. Carpool. Why are we all so against this one? It is huge, not only for the environment, but it could cut your gas bill WAY down. Don't forget to start small, try it once a week, and see how it goes. Talk to your coworkers and see who's in. Don't forget to utilize airport shuttles too and save money on gas and parking!

6.10.2008

Smell Like A Material Girl

"Pink Lotus", it is the name of the fragrance created at the request of Madonna by the American perfumer Mandy Aftel, this one is available at Scent Systems, one of the most pointed shops of London. Pink Lotus is a heady perfume containing very rare flowers : pink lotus, carnal tuberose and sandalwood.

The good news? It's organic and you can get a sample for only $20.

The bad news? If you like it, it's $150 for 1/4 oz!

Stop & Watch The Hummingbirds

Even though I have lived here for nearly 5 years, most people know LV isn't in my top ten places to live. However, every now and again, there is something that stops me and makes me...if only for a moment...happy I live here.

Most recently, that something has been the hummingbirds.

Cori looks out the window for hours at a time, so out of boredom from being out of work with my foot, I decided to join her. It was about dusk, and I was initially sitting and feeling sorry for myself because Mr. K was away AGAIN, and I was facing another night alone. Then, something very unexpected cheered me up. The hummingbirds. They are most active at dusk. Maybe because the bugs are too or maybe because its cooler. I'm not sure.

The first time I saw one, I truly thought I was looking at the fastest and largest flying insect I had ever seen! But, after it landed up in my tree, I was able to get a closer look, and found it was a teeny tiny bird. You know how something is called something else and you never really know why? Well, for some reason I thought hummingbirds were called birds, but not really birds. I was wrong. So, over the last 5 years, I have seen them but very infrequently. You can read all about them here.

Back to the other night...I was sitting in the front window, and I spotted one swooping around my neighbors tree across the street. I kinda got lost in my thoughts while I was watching it, and all of a sudden it flew over to our yard. It was about 2 feet from the ground and straight ahead of me about 3 feet away. So close! Like he came over just to say hello.

I don't know what it is that I like about them, but I do. And, it sort of reminded me that we should all take those small unexpected moments of purity and joy...and really seek them out and savour them.


6.09.2008

Awesome Summer Snack

FROZEN GRAPES.

Seriously.

Try it!

I just buy a bunch of organic grapes...when I get home I pull them off the stems and into a collander. I wash them off and separate them into baggie and FREEZE.

Delicious.

6.07.2008

The Joys Of H2O2...

...otherwise known as hydrogen peroxide.

Let me first say, I love hydrogen peroxide. I have always loved it.

When I was little my mother used it to clean cuts and scrapes and such. I was easily distracted by the bubbles, what can I say? This was before the invention of Neosporin I think, or maybe we were just po'.

Later, I just liked to say hydrogen peroxide because my grandmother would laugh and correct me, arguing it was just peroxide. You say tomato and I say tomaaaato...

Whatever the case it seems like everything has hydrogen peroxide in it these days...from toothpaste to laundry detergent.

I have no idea why, but Mr. K's mom emailed me this morning, to tell me it was on sale at

Wal-Mart. I, however, had already purchased three 2-bottle industrial sized packs from Costo for about $3! Admittedly, I haven't tapped into my supply yet, but I have done an eensy bit of digging on what all this product can do for you.

1. Bleach alternative. Even though I LOVE the smell, Bleach itself is WAY evil to the environment, especially if it winds up in the oceans. So, go green and add a cup to your whites.

2. Whitening Toothpaste. As smart as we are, its amazing what we blindly put in our mouths. If you walk down the toothpaste aisle you're sure to see tons of pastes offering baking soda and/or peroxide. So why pay $4 a tube and get all the other crap, too? Take a tablespoon of baking soda and enough peroxide to make it a paste. Add the flavor you miss with a drop of mint extract or a pinch of cinnamon.

3. Antiseptic Mouthwash. I don't have an exact recipe for this one. I read different recommendations from a tablespoon of peroxide in a glass of water all the way up to gargling with straight peroxide. In any case, the peroxide will aid in the healing of mouth sores, kill bad breath germs, and and work on whitening in those hard to reach spots.

4. De-yellower? To remove yellowing from lace curtains or tablecloths, fill a sink with cold water and a 2 cups of 3% hydrogen peroxide. Soak for at least an hour, rinse in cold water and air dry. Again, there is a bleaching process going on here, so don't try it on darks.

5. Vegetable rinse. To help kill bacteria such as E. Coli on fruits and vegetables, add a quarter cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide to a sink full of cold water. immerse, rinse with cold water and drain. By killing bacteria this will also help keep fruit and vegetables fresher for longer. You can also use a spray bottle containing a 50/50 mix of 3% hydrogen peroxide and water - just spray and rinse.

6. Kill Fingernail and Toenail Fungus. Soak your fingernails or toenails in a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide every day and it will kill harmful fungus.

7. Help Houseplants Grow Healthier. Mix up an ounce of hydrogen peroxide into a cup of water and spray your houseplants with this solution. It will help your houseplants grow greener and more lush. I found this one on a few sites, but never found what it actually does to the plant.

8. Remove Waxy Build Up From Your Ears. Tilt your head and put three or four drops of hydrogen peroxide into the ear that has the waxy build up. Let it set for 5-10 minutes. Then, flush your ear out carefully with warm water. Maybe better to try right before a shower. i also found 2 sites that said doing this on a regular basis in both ears prevents colds and sinus infections. Hmm...

9. Kitchen/Bathroom Sanitizer. Mix up a 50/50 solution of hydrogen peroxide and tap water and pour it into a spray bottle. Use it to sanitize your counter tops, appliances and help keep your kitchen or bathroom germ-free. Only make enough for a single use because hydrogen peroxide the peroxide breaks down. There is a reason it comes in a brown bottle! Light is the enemy. When you're done, pour the extra into the toilet to clean that too!

10. Antiseptic. We all know this one.

These were the most common household uses I found. Give them a try and let me know what works or doesn't work. If you want more information on what hydrogen peroxide really is and how it really works click here.

June 7th

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY TO KATHY & MIKE!

6.05.2008

Mrs. K's Chicken, Broccoli, & Ziti


YAY...I finally found a recipe that Mr. K really liked. I know he liked it because he asked for seconds, but then again he may have just been starving because he hadn't eaten all day because of his dental escapades. I am going to be optimistic.

He mentioned the other day that he has been on a garlic kick. I love garlic, too.

He has been traveling so much...so I decided to surprise him and actually cook something. Those of you who know me well, know I don't cook. Anyway, I was at the grocery store wondering around in search of some inspiration, and for some reason I started wishing I was back home so I could go to The Pushcart, which was like this salad bar sort of restaurant. They also had awesome frozen yogurt before frozen yogurt was cool. I'm not even sure it's still around...it didn't seem to do as well after they switched locations, and it moved further away from our house.

But, I digress...the other thing I used to love there was their chicken, broccoli, and ziti. Kathy makes a pretty good copycat version. I know I have asked her for the recipe a million times, but as I said I don't cook that often so it doesn't stick in my head.

I called her again to get to recipe...and then I had to adapt it to my organicness.
Like I said, Mr. K and I both liked it...and it was easy to make.

Here is the recipe.

1 pint of organic heavy cream or 1/2 & 1/2
2 tbl of organic butter
4 organic garlic cloves, minced
1 lb of organic penne pasta (you can use whatever pasta you like)
2 organic chicken breasts (diced into bite size pieces)
1 packet of organic alfredo mix
1/4 & 1 cup of shredded organic parmesan cheese
2 cups of organic broccoli (diced into bite size pieces)

Before I start...I put a large pot on the stove (no heat) so I can throw ingredients in as I go.

Cook the pasta, drain, and rinse. This will be the 1st thing to go into your large pot.

Make the alfredo mix according to the directions. You can add additional spices according to your own taste, like basil. Add the garlic, and set to the side.

Cook the chicken, you can grill it and then chop it up...I usually chop it up and cook it in a pan. When it is cooked, add it to your sauce.

Steam the broccoli. I just put the broccoli in a bowl with a little water and microwave for 2 minutes, then drain. It should be tender, but still a little firm. Add this into the pasta bowl.

Once everything is prepared, pour the chicken and sauce over the pasta and broccoli. Add the parmesan cheese, and toss to coat.

Garnish with lemon.

If you are halfway decent at multitasking, it should take no more than 30 minutes to throw together, and it makes enough for 4-6 people.

Enjoy!




Organic Beer

"Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."
~Ben Franklin

After my posting about organic wines, I had a voicemail request from someone who requested to remain anonymous, asking "What about us beer drinkers?"

My initial response was this..."I hate beer".

But, I decided to be nice and do a little research and see what I could come up with for my hoppy friends.

Here's what I got for ya...

There is much more to an organic beer than just ingredients. In a truly organic beer not only must all ingredients be certified as organic, but also the production process used in brewing the beer must be certified as an organic process... the storage of the organic ingredients, the milling of the organic grain, the flow of the wort and beer through pumps and hoses, etc. The organic certification process is a rigorous inspection that even involves a check of sales records to determine if more organic beer is being sold than was produced. This inspection is completed annually. Only then are you allowed to declare that the beer is an organic beer. There are only 11 Breweries in the US that are certified organic.

Check out the sites below:

Peak Organic Beer (Based in Maine)

Otter Creek - Wolaver's (Based in Vermont)

Eel River Brewing Brews Up Organic Beer (Based in California)

American Craft Beer Fest (ACBF) (New England Beer Festival)

Still need some convincing? Well, how about taking a look at your bottle of regular beer and seeing just what exactly your getting? Wait, beer makers aren't required to list ingredients.

Umm....why not?

Maybe you're getting more than you bargained for!

The additives that go into our beer make for grim reading. Isinglass, used for fining, is the industry name for ground fishes' air bladders. And two types of seaweed extract are used, namely "Irish moss", to clarify the boiling hop solution, and alginate, which helps beer retain its head. Sulphur, in the form of SO2, is a preservative (and a major cause of hangovers among the allergic) and the pure chemical form of vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is used as an antioxidant. Then there is caramel for colour, betaglucamate to accelerate brewing, enzymes to assist the yeasts and even salts and minerals used to correct the brewing water.

How does organic taste now?

Cheers!

Our Addiction

You wouldn't know it by looking at us, but Mr. K and I have an addiction. Addictions are hard to break all by themselves, but the problem is compounded when both people in a relationship have the addiction.

Our addiction is using paper towels.

In my defense, Mr. K's half of the addiction is much worse than mine.

As I have stated in my earlier posts, these new habits we are developing are to be done gradually. First, I waited until we used up all the other evil paper towels. Then, at Whole Foods the other day, I bought 100% recycled paper towels. I debated between the natural and the bleached. Both were 100% and the plain made from recycled products. In the end I went for the natural because they were tan colored, and I figured I could "sell" them to Mr. K by pointing out that they match the kitchen.
They feel and work pretty much the same, just not quite as soft as our usual quicker picker upper...but why do I need soft paper towels? Are my counter tops sensitive?

My ultimate goal is to eliminate our paper towel usage all together. Right now I only occasionally use rags to clean the kitchen. Kathy was and is SO good at that. Why didn't I pick up that habit?! Oh well...I'll get there...someday.

Anyway, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery...and i already did that!

What inspired me to make the effort? Well, actually I was watching a travel show about the 10 best places to in the west. Of course, The Grand Canyon was #1, but the one that really caught my eye was Sequoia National Park. Some of the trees are more than 20 feet around and tower 100's of feet in the air. And, they have been around for 1000's of years...even before Christ!

These trees are awe inspiring even if you aren't a nature buff! Seeing them caused me to have an "aha" about the trees I help destroy everyday. 40% of landfills are paper products! The NRDC estimates that if every household in the United States used one less roll of paper towels, we could save 544,000 trees. That's incredible!

So, back to the baby steps...

1. Start by switching to recycled and/or natural paper towels.

2. Make a conscious effort to cut down. Instead of 4 to clean up the kitchen, try to get the job done in 2.

3. Work on switching to cloth rags whenever you can. They work just as well and when you're done you toss them in the laundry.