August 31, 2010

Sam's Club Gift Certificate Giveaway

We shop at Sam's Club for all kinds of things. I've tried the competitors and didn't like them for one reason or another. I love that at Sam's we have a business membership and I can go as early as 7am before the regular crowd. We purchase flour (which apparently makes a good nap place), chicken breasts, ground beef, raisins, laundry detergent, dish washer soap, diapers, paper towels, tp, tissues, peanut butter, batteries, and other random items. I also usually purchase gas when we go, since it's a few cents cheaper. I want to share the Sam's love.

I'm thrilled to let you know Sam's Club and General Mills (through My Blog Spark) have given me a $25 gift certificate to giveaway to one lucky reader. You will need a membership. All you have to do is leave a comment at the bottom of this post (if you get my emails, you need to go read the post on the web). Let me know what you buy at Sam's Club and you are entered. One lucky winner will be chosen tomorrow night at midnight.

Be sure to leave your email address so I can notify you if you win.
Blog Search


August 30, 2010

Orange Blossom Cupcakes

These were another one of the goodies I served at my recent party. I got lots of requests for the recipe, so here is it. It's a recipe I learned at the Whole Foods Cooking School, Salud, where I volunteer. The thing that caught my attention regarding these cupcakes is they are vegan. Now in our house a side of veggies is about the only vegan thing we eat, so I figured I would not like these cupcakes. Course, I'm willing to try anything. They were delicious! Seriously the yogurt makes them so yummy and moist. You don't even miss the eggs. Which also means...the kids can lick the bowl! My kids think this is the biggest treat. I think they like the batter part as much as the cupcake part. Check out the picture of my youngest son's face!

Orange Blossom Cupcakes (from Whole Foods)

1/2 c vanilla yogurt
2/3 c soy milk (or regular cow's milk)
1/2 c canola oil
3/4 c and 2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp orange flower water OR rosewater
1 c and 2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 c finely chopped pistachios (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Get your muffin pan ready with cupcake liners. In a large mixing bowl whisk together yogurt, milk, oil, sugar, and flower water flavoring. Put the next five ingredients (flour, cornstarch, powder, soda and salt) in a sifter and sift those into the liquid mixture. Add the nuts if you like. Stir gently just until combined. Pour into cupcake liners til they are 3/4 full. Bake 20 minutes or until done. Cool on wire racks before frosting.


1/2 c shortening
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
3 1/2 c powdered sugar, sifted
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 c soymilk OR milk
1 tbsp orange flower water OR rosewater

Beat the shortening and butter together in a mixer bowl until fluffy. Add the sugar and start mixer on low until the sugar is combined. Then beat on med until fluffy again. Add flavorings and milk, beat another minute. Put frosting in piping bag if you want swirls, otherwise, just spread on with a spatula. Garnish with sprinkles, nuts, edible flowers, etc.


August 25, 2010

Fresh Eggs?? How do I Know?

I figured it was about time I answered once of the most popular questions I get. How long will eggs stay fresh?

Here's the Europe and Australia eggs are kept at room temperature on the grocery shelves. Here in America we always refrigerate our eggs. In fact, now you hear "don't put them in the egg keeper that sits in your fridge door keep them in the carton on a shelf". So what's a careful consumer to do?
When an egg comes out of the chicken's vent it is warm. In fact, it's the body temperature of the chicken, which pretty much makes sense when you think about it. Our bantam chickens, Goldilocks and Lovey lay small eggs, whereas our big girls lay large eggs. You can see the size difference in hens below. That's Goldilocks on the right side and Lovely in up above in my blog header photo.

Then there is Roxanne, she lays the monster ones! I'm in pain just thinking about it. She's the black and white Barred Rock above headed towards me in the photo above. She's always looking for treats. Roxanne is huge, but those eggs are a feat! I just imagine her sitting there thinking - get this thing out of me!! Kinda like childbirth.

We recently added four hens to the flock thanks to our friends Pete and Lisa. Those youngsters have just started laying. One of them is Autumn seen above (she's named in honor of our departed gender mis-identified rooster). She is an Ameraucana and lays green eggs! Some people call the breed easter-eggers cause who needs to dye those beauties.

Check out our egg selection below. Notice the huge dark brown one, that's Roxanne. And see the little light brown one on the right side - that's either Lovey or Goldi. I'm not quite sure who's laying the brown speckled eggs, but I have a hunch it's one of our Buff Orphingtons - the older one Penny.
The kids collect the eggs everyday and when we bring them in, they do not get washed. We might have to wipe off some hay, but that's about it. This is the biggest difference between egg handling in the US and other countries. When you wash the eggs in water you wash off their "bloom" which is a protective barrier. This barrier keeps the germs from invading the porous shell making them more tolerant to room temperature storage. However, this doesn't mean that eggs kept in the pantry will last longer. Eggs deteriorate as much in one day at room temp as they would in a week in the fridge. I'm guessing those other countries sell their eggs at a faster rate, rotating their stock more often. Of course, we Americans like to shop in bulk, so we go the store less often. Typically your eggs that you store in the fridge will stay fresh for two weeks at room temp and four to five weeks in the fridge. It's best to keep them in their original container and store in the main part of the fridge, but if you must use the egg keeper in the door, be aware they will not last as long.

If you want to hard boil eggs, they need to be your eggs need to be a few weeks old (you can hard-boil fresh ones, but they are a pain to peel and most of the white will stick to the shell). The simplest method for sure-fire hard boil eggs is like this:

Hard Boiled Eggs
Put eggs in a pot covered with cold water. Bring the pot to a full boil and then turn down the heat so the boil continues but not causing massive splatter everywhere. Set a timer for 10 minutes and let the eggs softly boil. When the timer goes off at the end of 10 minutes, drain the hot water into the sink and fill with cold water. Add ice cubes to the pot to really cool it off quickly (this is what keeps the eggs from getting that green ring). Swish it all around, adding more ice cubes, until the eggs are cooled off. Store the hard boiled eggs in the fridge (labeled of course!) and peel when needed.

I'd like to share some thing I've learned while raising chickens:
  • what you feed the hens will change the color of the yolk from dull pale yellow to bright orange, but the difference does not affect taste
  • brown, white, or green shells the eggs will taste the same and have the same nutritional value
  • a fresh egg's yolk will sit up high when cracked making for beautiful sunny side up eggs
  • a standard large grade A egg measures 1/4 cup, which is handy to know when your eggs are all different sizes
  • when baking, bring eggs up to room temp before using
  • egg shells will range from pointy to smooth on the ends
  • if you are unsure how old some eggs are, put one in a bowl of water and if it floats or tilts upwards, it's too old and most likely is rotten
  • most hens are pretty happy to "share" their eggs, they don't put up any fight when you take the eggs out, even if they are sitting on them - roosters however, are another story!
  • hens lay more often (daily) in the spring and fall - they don't love the freezing cold or the steaming hot weather - I can't say I blame them on this one
  • chickens love to brag about their egg laying feats - they have a special squawk after they lay to announce the egg to the world
  • the hens will sit on each other's eggs all the time, which means several hens can use one nesting box and you never know how many eggs you'll find under a sitting hen
  • my children won't eat plain eggs - what's up with that?? I have to create egg dishes or serve scrambled with cheese and lots of grits. Here's one they all like...
Eggs in a Basket
4 eggs
1/4 c milk
salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste
optional add ins: shredded cheddar cheese, sliced green onions, diced cooked ham, crumbled cooked bacon, diced cooked veggies, fresh diced mushrooms or tomatoes, etc
4 King's Hawaiian rolls, tops cut off and a little of the inside pulled out to make a cavity

Whisk together, eggs, milk, and seasonings. Pour into a hot oiled or buttered pan. Turn heat down to med-low. Let set for a minute and then scrape the bottom of the pan to turn the eggs. Sprinkle in optional add-in's. Cook till desired doneness (do you like them soft or firm?). Spoon 1/4 portion into each hollowed roll. Serve with top on.


August 23, 2010

Bread Salad aka Panzanella

My favorite meal in the whole world is bread, cheese, fruit, raw veggies and chocolate. Really, I could eat a variation of this meal for lunch and dinner for weeks straight. That's saying something from the girl who doesn't cook the same thing twice in one month. This wonderful dish satisfies part of that favorite meal with the fresh tomatoes and chewy bread. Bread salad, it sounds strange, but Italians know it's the smart way to use day old bread. (And much better for you than bread pudding.) And you know I'm in love with all things Italian.

Bread Salad aka Panzanella
loaf of old crusty, chewy bread with lots of holes in it (the Italian version uses an unsalted bread)
tomatoes, the ripe fresh kind you can only get in summer
onions, use red for color or sweet vidalia
fresh basil
good quality extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar

course salt and pepper to taste

Tear the bread into chunks and put in a big bowl. Cut the tomatoes up into chunks (we had a bunch of cherry tomatoes, so I halved those and used them - why did I plant cherry tomatoes??) and add to the bread. Slice the onions and add to the bowl. Tear or chop the basil into small bits and throw it in the bowl. Then you can whisk the olive oil and vinegar in a small bowl. I usually use a 1:1 part ratio for the both. That means if you use 1/2 c oil you use a 1/2 c vinegar, but that might be too strong for your tastes.  In which case, just add as much vinegar as you like. Then pour the dressing over the salad. Let sit for at least 15 minutes so the bread soaks up the dressing. Give it an occasional stir.
Some folks add cucumbers or tuna chunks, cheese, olives, etc. Just like any salad, you can make it your own, but it is wonderfully simple and delicious in its original form.

August 21, 2010

This is Why we have Three (almost four) Kids

This is why we have three - now almost four- kids. Who else thinks putting underwear on your head is this cool?? (Well except maybe at a frat party.) I love being a mom!

August 17, 2010

Showstopping Australian Pavlova Dessert

I made this dessert for a going-away dinner for friends that moved to Australia. First, let me tell you I LOVE Australia. I spent 3 months there and would go back in a second (hint hint Charlotte). Second, my love of Australia developed when I was a teenager, so I absorbed any and all facts I could learn about the country through National Geographic and such since there was no internet then (yes, I'm that old). One thing I learned was this dessert. It is named after a famous Australian Ballet dancer who was "light as air on her feet". The whole dessert is set on a light as air meringue.

It's the perfect dessert for entertaining and blowing your guests away with presentation. It's really easy, but it looks incredibly hard. It does require planning ahead as the shell needs to be made the night before you want to serve it.


1 c sugar
1 tbsp cornstarch
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
1/4 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 225°. Stir or whisk together sugar and cornstarch in small bowl. Beat egg whites in mixer bowl at medium-high speed 1 minute then add cream of tartar and salt, beating until blended. Gradually add sugar a little at a time, beating at medium-high speed until mixture is glossy with stiff peaks. Remember the Citrus Pie lesson? Do not overbeat! Beat in vanilla.
Gently spread mixture into an approximately 7-inch round on a silicon baking mat lined baking sheet, making an indentation in center of meringue to hold filling.

Bake at 225° for 1 hour and 30 minutes or until pale golden and outside has formed a crust. Turn oven OFF and let meringue stay in the oven with door closed overnight (around 12 hours).

The next day you can make the whipped cream for the filling. You could also fill with lemon curd or even a yogurt based cream, but I'm partial to fresh whipped cream as my mother-in-law will tell you.

Homemade Whipped Cream

1 c heavy whipping cream
1/8 - 1/4 c powdered sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
1 tsp vanilla

Put cream in mixer bowl with wire whisk (like you did with the meringue above). Turn on med-high and whip the cream until it starts thickening. Then slowly add sugar and continue whipping and taste for sweetness. When the cream holds stiff peaks, add the vanilla and you have made the most delicious whipped cream ever! Use on pancakes, pie, cobbler, ice cream sundaes, jello, fresh fruit, or just lick it off your finger! In this recipe, you will spoon the whipped cream into the meringue shell and then mound fresh berries over the top. Serve immediately or the shell will soften and not be crisp and crunchy.


August 15, 2010

Watermelon Granita

This was another one of the recipes I served at the Healthy Baby party I recently hosted. It's the perfect summer dessert - cold and light -very refreshing. It's not creamy like ice cream or sherbert. It's more like Italian ice, but with large icy granules. Adults and kids enjoy this one.

Watermelon Granita
8 c seeded watermelon pieces
1 (6oz) can frozen orange juice concentrate
1 1/2 c Sprite type soft drink (optional)

Put the water in the food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Add oj concentrate and soda if you are using it. Pour all of this into a large plastic container, preferably one that is shallow and long like a rectangle. Freeze it for at least 8 hours. Remove it from freezer about 15 minutes before serving and scrape the top with a fork to create fluffy granules. Scoop these into your serving dishes and garnish with mint if you like. Serve immediately.
You can also skip the freezing step and turn this into a drink. Just whirl in some ice cubes for a frozen drink or serve over ice cubes for "on the rocks". Adding vodka to it will create a unique cocktail.

August 11, 2010

Zucchini Bread - Stealth Veggies

Here's an oldie but a goodie. This specific recipe has been in my family forever and is in our family cookbook. Right now we have zucchini coming out our ears, so it's the perfect thing to make that ... "isn't another zucchini dish". My kids love this especially with cream cheese on a slice. When I started giving grocery shopping classes to a local charity for women coming out of poverty, I was surprised how many of them were scared to try the zucchini bread. Seriously I thought I should start calling it something like Happiness Bread just because the word zucchini was throwing them off. This bread does NOT taste like zucchini so it's perfect for a picky eater (even if that's you) who doesn't get enough vegetables.

The recipe is easily turned into muffins for quick snacks on the go or tucked away in a lunch box, just reduce the cooking time to 30 minutes and raise the oven temperature to 350 degrees. I often freeze this bread because it's perfect for wintertime breakfasts when you don't have a bounty of veggies. I also freeze muffins for my kids. I just wrap each one in plastic wrap and store them in the freezer. Then we we need a lunch box packed I throw in a frozen muffin, which defrosts by lunchtime. You can also freeze the grated zucchini to bake up another day. Just freeze it in 2 or 4 cup portions so it's recipe ready. Using your shredder blade on your food processor makes this a fast and easy task.

Zucchini Bread

3 lightly beaten eggs
1 1/2 c sugar
1 c oil
2 c grated zucchini
2 tsp vanilla
(these are your wet ingredients if you remember the post about combining the two bowls)
3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 c raisins (optional)
(these are the dry ingredients)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Blend all the wet ingredients together in a bowl until well mixed. In a separate bowl whisk all the dry ingredients together. Then add the moist egg mixture to the dry flour mixture. Mix with spoon just until combined. Do not overmix. Bake in 2 greased loaf pans for 1 hour. Bread is done when a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean without any "goop" on it. Cool bread in pans for 5 minutes and then cool completely on wire racks. Wrap in plastic wrap, aluminum foil or bread bags for storage.


August 5, 2010

Sweet Fig Appetizer

Figs are in season right now. I bet you have a neighbor that has a fig tree and is drowning in figs. We went over to our neighbors a couple of days ago and picked sweet figs until my fingers were sticky. I love eating them outright and I also enjoy canning them into fig jam or just preserved figs. However, this is the perfect simple appetizer for the tender morsels. You'll see many recipes with the figs wrapped in prosciutto, but that's a little out of my price range. Instead you can serve them like this...

Sweet Fig Appetizer

soft, salty cheese like goat, blue, gorgonzola, etc
walnuts, crushed into little bits

Remove the stems and wash the figs. Halve them and put them on a broiling pan. Press a bit of the cheese into the seeded middle part of the fig. Broil for 8 minutes or until the cheese is browning. Remove figs to a serving platter and sprinkle on your walnuts and drizzle with honey. Delicious!

You can also do this without the broiling. Just put the figs on a platter and sprinkle with the gorgonzola (or other cheese) then shake on a little balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with nuts. Either way you have a winner that looks like you and Martha S. have been hanging out!


August 3, 2010

Tomato Dip - Perfect for Garden Fresh Tomatoes

I just hosted a home party sponsored by Stoneyfield Farms Yogurt and Seventh Generation products. It was great fun because they sent samples and coupons to giveaway. All the ladies who came have little one(s) or were expecting. Comparing belly bumps was a highlight of the night. I seriously think I was the largest - and I'm not due the soonest!!  Yikes! I guess my body really does pregnant well, it's the "after" photo I'm worried about.

I didn't worry about last night's food for the party. I served all kinds of snacks that my kids love. I wanted to pass on some (hopefully) new recipes. The menu included: baked oatmeal squares, crispy garlic green beans, homemade hummus, peach power shakes, mint tea, creamy tomato dip (recipe below), sweet fig appetizers, samples of Stoneyfield Farms banana drinkable yogurt and whole milk peach yogurt. For dessert we had Orange Blossom cupcakes and watermelon granita. I'd have to say the figs and the tomato dip were the hits of the evening. I promised to share the recipes so here is the one for the tomato dip.
Tomato Dip
2 med tomatoes, diced
3 oz cream cheese, I use light
3 tbsp ketchup
3 tbsp mayo, again with the light here
couple of dashes of worcestershire sauce

Mix all together in a bowl until creamy and well incorporated. Store in the fridge to firm up (at least an hour). Serve with crackers or toast. Please note, this is very similar to my Salmon Dip.

I will post the other recipes on here as well, but in the meantime I wanted to give a secret code out for all who attended (and anyone who reads this post). This is just for the Mommies... has a special deal on right now. They make those cute cover-ups for nursing moms. If you go on their website and enter the code "breastfeeding" you can get a FREE cover! You'll still have to pay for shipping, but the cover is free! Get one for you or as a baby gift for someone you know.

Thanks to all the ladies who came and contributed their great "green" ideas to the party. I learned so much and had a wonderful time.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...