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nearly back to normal

costco apple boxes

As of 4:30 PM yesterday, my house is nearly back to normal. With a boat-load of help from Connor, Christmas is packed up and put back in the crawl space.

I still need to clean up my sitting room, which served as “the wrapping station” this year. Since I was using a walker during the time I was wrapping, it looks as though a bomb went off in that area. I’ll get that cleaned up today and all the regular “decor” put back into place. Then I am done!

So what’s with that photo above, taken of stacks of apples at Costco, you ask?

You see, my husband, David, eats an apple every single morning. Seriously! Every. Day. He rarely gets sick, so I suppose it is true, an apple a day does keep the doctor away.

Costco sells apples in these wonderful little domed containers.  Back in October, I began to save them with the thought that they would be perfect to hold and store Christmas ornaments.


They are perfect!


The space between every two apple rounds doesn’t not come up completely, so you can even place long ornaments there and take up two spaces.


Next, I placed a sheet of bubble wrap on top to prevent items from slipping and jiggling. Then I just closed and sealed the lid, and everything is safe and sound.

bottle brush

Turns out, the container is perfect for my delicate bottle brush trees too. No crushed or damaged trees to deal with next year!

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January 8, 2013   7 Comments

open says me

When one of my two brilliant children was young, he or she thought that when someone said, “Open Sesame” that they were saying, “Open Says Me.”  I won’t reveal which one of them it was, but how cute is that?!

Open Sesame is the magical phrase in the story of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” and it opens the mouth of a cave in which forty thieves have hidden  treasure.

This asparagus recipe is magical and your brain will be telling your mouth, “Open Says Me” when you make it!

This was one of the recipes this past Wednesday night at the first of my 3-week series of classes at Les Gourmettes. That’s why you’ll see a photo a several plates lined up. They were still awaiting the chicken and polenta… a recipe I’ll post in a day or so.  The asparagus and accompanying mayo were a big hit. And…. it’s “easy breezy” to boot!

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November 17, 2012   3 Comments

Auntie B’s cake

Today is Dave’s birthday. Connor came home from school for the weekend and HE, not I, made Dave’s birthday cake! All I did was take the action photos. Dave’s cake of choice is always his Auntie B’s Chocolate Cake. My mother-in-law sent me the recipe even before we were married so that I could make it for her boy who had moved so far from home.

Dave remembers the anticipation of The Beloved Cake when he would see a measuring cup full of milk, covered with a towel, sitting near the heater under the front picture window of his childhood home. You see, the recipe calls for sour milk. That old method of souring milk is no longer recommended since milk that is soured naturally may contain toxins. A safer, quicker, and much easier way to sour milk is to add 1 teaspoon lemon juice or white vinegar to 1 cup of 2% or whole milk and leave it sit on a counter for 15 minutes before using. All that being said, everyone in Dave’s family is healthy and happy after consuming many of Auntie B’s cakes that were made with naturally soured milk.

Happy Birthday, Dave! xoxo

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October 6, 2012   5 Comments

silly Shirley

Ten days ago today, was my 3rd Blogiversary and I put up my 1000th post. On that momentous day, I included this picture.

Yesterday, I found this picture of a painting by artist Sarah Ashley Longshore, on Facebook…

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August 26, 2012   1 Comment

pop pop

This is the final entry of my quick and easy party food ideas for the week… and it may be the easiest of them all. Only four ingredients that take only minutes to assemble and bake.

Get the kids to help and put them together, assembly-line style, and you’ll be chowing down on these puppies in less than 20 minutes. 

Tip: I always keep cooked bacon pieces in my freezer. Anytime a recipe calls for bacon that is chopped and cooked crisp, I will cook up a full pound, use what I need, and place the rest in a freezer-ziplock bag. Then when you need a small amount, such as for these poppers, you just pull out what is needed.  Perfect for a quick omelet any morning of the week too.

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July 18, 2012   2 Comments

table setting

Every week of summer cooking classes we take time out of the kitchen and gather round the table in the dining room to learn how to set a proper table.

Each student is given a Dinner plate, Salad fork, Meat fork, Dessert fork, Dessert spoon, Meat knife, and Soup spoon, Bread plate, Napkin, and Water glass (actually it holds lemonade each day).  

Sometimes one or two students (usually returning from a couple of weeks earlier or sometimes as long ago as last summer) get it perfect as show above.

I use this mnemonic to help the kids remember how to set a proper table: The word “Right” has five letters, as do the words “spoon”  “glass” and “knife”. So remember that the spoons, glasses, and knives all go on the right of the plate.

Likewise, the word “Left” has four letters, as does the word “fork”. Therefore forks go on the left of the plate.

To help remember which way the dessert fork and spoon face, just place them on the sides of the plate they naturally go on (spoon with 5 letters on the right and fork with four letters on the left) and slide them from there to up above the plate and they are naturally facing the way they belong.

Finally, if you have trouble remembering which bread plate and which drinking glass are yours at a crowded table, just do this:  Make a lower case “b” with your left hand and a lower case “d” with your right hand.  Hold them up in front of you. Your bread plate “b” is on your left. Your drink “d” is on your right.

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June 27, 2012   8 Comments

good to know

You know how it is when you know something and you just assume others know it too?  Then it dawns on you that maybe not everyone knows what it is that you know.  For instance, did you know that the PLU numbers on produce stickers hold more information than just the price of the item? Important information, that can help you make more informed and conscious buying decisions.

There you have it!  Check it out the next time you go grocery shopping.

I have a “Tip Index” over there on the left, under the “Pages” heading. The first year or two of the blog, I was ultra-diligent about updating the index every time I posted a tip in a recipe. I’ve been way too lax about it recently. So, I thought I’d share with you a couple good Cooking Tip sites. They make for an interesting read and even if you already know 98% of the tips listed, it might be that other 2% that makes cooking a bit easier and more enjoyable.

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June 25, 2012   1 Comment

angel food cake

I don’t know what my record high is for the number of photos in one post, but this may top them all.  Why would such a sweet, innocent, plain-Jane-looking, and in fact, angelic cake need so many (14) descriptive pictures? Because when we’re talking about angel food cake, we’re talking all about the “Incredible Edible Egg.”

Eggs truly are incredible!  Perfection in a shell.  Magical, if you will.  They are the workhorse of the kitchen, providing the strength to bind ingredients, the power to rise and puff souffles, and the delicacy to act as the wings of an angel food cake. Simple egg whites whipping up into soft, fluffy, light as air, clouds of creamy goodness.

Egg whites are mostly protein and have no fat.  When whipped, they hold air and their volume increases by up to 7 times. When whipping whites, what you are looking for is “peaks”. With soft peaks the bubbles are a little more pronounced, and when you remove the beating whisk, the peaks tip over. Stiff peaks stand up straight when you remove the whisk. Egg whites whipped to this stage are used in meringues and cakes when sugar is added.

Plus, once the sugar is added, you won’t need to worry about over-beating, and the meringue can be whipped almost indefinitely… but only once the sugar is in there, otherwise it is quite easy to over-beat the whites. They will become dry and separate into clumps. Once that happens – they are ruined.

A most important note: Egg whites simply will not whip in the presence of fat. Egg yolks contain all the fat in an egg, so if you drop a little bit of yolk into your whites, carefully remove it by scooping with a bit of egg shell, this works because the shell attracts the yolk (same is true if egg shell gets into your cracked egg -shell also attracts to shell).  If there is more than a drop of yolk in the whites, just toss that egg out and start over.  And always whip with a sparkling clean whisk and bowl.

Ironically, fresh cold eggs are easiest to separate but older room temperature eggs whip quicker and can achieve a bit more volume. Personally, I separate my eggs when they are cold and don’t worry about how fresh they are or even wait for them to come to room temperature, it is what it is!

The reason recipes often call for cream of tartar or lemon juice is because acid makes beaten whites more stable.

And the reason angel food cakes are inverted as they are cooling, is because this cooling method keeps the cake from collapsing or deflating once it is removed from the oven.  (I think my photo of the cake inverted on a wine bottle looks like a table lamp… but maybe that’s just me.)

Hopefully all this is more than you ever wanted or needed to know about the wonderful egg  –  now on to the main attraction – The Cake!

Oh wait, one more thing… real quick… I had to make a cake ahead of time, then the kids made the cake in class.  They frosted my cake and tomorrow I will show you what we did with the cake they made – Oh my word, you will L-O-V-E IT!

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June 20, 2012   6 Comments

kiwi wi-kend

I mentioned the other day that I’m in the middle of my three-week cooking series at Les Gourmettes. The first week was a Mother’s Day brunch menu and I needed kiwifruit for a fruit salad. Yes, I said “kiwifruit”, not just “kiwi”.  That is because kiwi is a bird and kiwifruit is … well, it’s a fruit!

Kiwifruit grows on vines and is named after the flightless kiwi bird, native to New Zealand, with hair-like brown feathers. They lay greenish-white eggs. Kiwi fruits are native to China, where they were originally called “macaque peach”.

Nutrition-wise, kiwifruits contain about as much potassium as bananas, are packed with more vitamin C than an equivalent amount of orange, and are also rich in Vitamins A and E. Plus the black seeds can be crushed to produce kiwi fruit oil, which is very rich in important Omega-3 essential fatty acid.

Since this is a cooking blog and not a blog about birds, it is safe to say that when you see “kiwi” in a recipe here, you can be 100% certain I’m talking about the fruit and not the bird.

So anyhow… back to the kiwi I needed for my class.  I went to the grocery store and the price of kiwi was 2 for $1. I needed 10 kiwi and I wasn’t about to pay $5 for them. I remembered that I’d seen kiwi at Costco. Sure enough, there was a big carton for $5.59. When I say a big carton, I mean 30 kiwi!  That’s more then I needed, of course, but that’s not the point.  The point is, I wasn’t going to pay 50 cents each at one store when I could just as easily pay 19 cents each elsewhere.

Um, yeah, so now I have 20 kiwi sitting here that I have to try and find something to do with. So, it’s gonna be a kiwi weekend.

First up, how about a lesson in how to properly and easily peel a kiwi?

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May 12, 2012   6 Comments

wicked granola

Yesterday I told you that I found the recipe I posted on Pinterest and that it was pinned by my friend, Gwen. Coincidentally, while I was whipping up that batch of Lemon Rolls, Gwen emailed me.  When I responded, I let her know I was making the rolls she had pinned and that she NEEDED – NO, not just needed, but actually owed it to me, to come by and take some of them off my hands.  She refused! Imagine that! Refusing free Meyer Lemon Rolls…OK, she had a good excuse as to why she could not, but still…

So today, in retaliation, I’ve decided to make one of Gwen’s most famous recipes… a version of her granola. Yes, Gwen is famous for her granola, you can check out her blog post HERE to find out why and see Gwen’s recipe.  But the real honest-to-goodness reason Gwen is famous for her granola, is because it is so darn good.

Below is my version of Gwen’s Granola with a few tweaks of my own.  I’ve taken the name of the of the Good Witch of the North, from Broadway’s Wicked, which also happens to be a combination our two names – Gwen and Linda… and named it…

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March 27, 2012   3 Comments