Monday, January 27, 2014

Tomorrow is National Kazoo Day So Let's Make a Kazoo!

Since tomorrow is national Kazoo Day, I thought I would share with you some fun ways to celebrate!

A Brief History of the Kazoo:
 

Here is a video on how to make your own Kazoo:


Tip: You don't blow into a kazoo, you HUM into it!

Have a musical day!


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Quick Juicing Recipe

I typically use my juicer for two (not just myself). But during the winter I like to have fruits more than any other time of the year for a few reasons: vitamin C to help boost my immune system and fruit makes me feel like it is summer.

There are all kinds of juicing (from mostly all vegetable all the way to fruit juice). My most recent favorite was just a collection of fruits I already had in the kitchen that turned out well.

What you need:
1 large grapefruit (no rind)
1/3 pineapple (outter skin cut off)
1 pear
2 apples
2 oranges (no rind)

Get all of these preped and cut down enough to fit in the juicer shoot. I typically do my apple and pear first, followed by pineapple, ending with grapefruit and orange. My purpose is that I adjust the speed (highest speeds first, then decreasing with softness of food). Plus, the juicier fruits last help push out any juice the previous fruits had that just didn't make it all the way to the juice pitcher!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Corn Souffle

Around the holidays I was looking for an easy dish that I could make in my crock pot so that I could have it ready right after work and head to my holiday party. I found a very simple and absolutely delicious recipe, corn souffle!

Almost all of the ingredients, minus the sour cream and cheddar cheese will keep in your pantry for a long time.


What you need:
two cans of golden whole kernel corn
two cans of creamed corn
two boxes of jiffy cornbread mix
two sticks of butter
16 oz. of sour cream
two cups of shredded cheddar cheese*

*If you like a little kick, try using some hot (fire alarm) cheddar cheese in the dish as you mix the ingredientrs before it is baked.

Mix all together and bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. The time seems to vary each time I make it.

You want the corn bread to be cooked and not still uncooked batter. The dish itself is going to be very moist and not solid like cornbread though.


This is a great side dish with many meats and warms back up very well.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Quick Tip: Cheap Ways to 'Bling' Scarves

My post from Friday shared several ways I love to wear my scarves, but there are more ways you can add accessories and bling to your look. I have a few examples that will help you get more punch from your scarf. I have learned over time that wearing a necklace under my scarf is typically pointless because the scarf covers it up and no one can see it (except me at the end of the day when I take off my scarf!)

Add necklace pendants, scarf accessories, or decorative napkin rings, or bracelets to your scarf:


fancy napkin rings


 beaded bracelets

 decorative napkin ring

 necklace pendant

If you are familiar with Lia Sophia jewelery, many of the necklace pendants have larger loop that goes around a necklace chain. For silk scarves, this opening is plenty large enough to wear with your scarf.

You can also attach broaches and pins to your scarf just as you would your sweater or outfit.



If you are feeling really adventurous, you can try adding some glow in the dark bracelets to your scarf for a night-time glow and excitement!
 
 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Scarves, scarves, everywhere I look!

I love scarves. No, let me try again.... I. LOVE. SCARVES!!!!!

Admittedly, I am a crazy scarf fan. Be it spring, summer, fall, or the obvious winter. I have quite a collection (about 60) and it grows when I see the deal of a lifetime at the end of season mark-downs. I have a top five ways to wear scarves, as well as some tips on how to pick a scarf.

Top five ways to tie a scarf:

 5. Infinity scarf (all three ways are super easy: first is doubled around your neck, second is just around your neck, and for the third way see favorite #1 at the end of the post)



 4. The fancy loop

 3. The twisted Braid
 
I like to have scarves of all different lengths, weights, patterns and size. This keeps my scarf wearing fresh and interesting. I have learned over time that your scarf does not have to match exactly what you are wearing. If you are wearing a pattern on your clothing, go with a solid or minimally busy pattern in your scarf. If you are wearing solid clothing you have a much larger opportunity for colors, patterns, and textures.
 
Another tip I have with scarves is adding an additional element to them. If you have bangles (bracelets) or necklace charms with a large loop, you can link them onto your scarf and create a jewelry focal point on the scarf.
 
 2. Scarves with accessories
Another tip is that if you have a decorative napkin holder, these (depending on how they look) can be used on your scarf instead of a more expensive official scarf accessory!
 
Now, finally to my last and most favorite way to wear a scarf:
 
1. Go-To Traditional (non-infinity scarf)
 


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Flower Pot Pens Made Yourself

I don't know about the rest of you, but I have a mysterious phenomenon that occurs wherever I go-a case of the missing pen. I can be at home, work, or riffling through my car and purse and the pen I know I had not-so-long ago is missing. It could be that the pens have grown legs and walked away, or just an innocent pen-borrower forgot it wasn't theirs. But, this problem has been a big enough hassle and aggravation that I decided to make my own flower pens. I have seen this idea in doctors offices before and thought, "oh, that's a pretty cute idea" then never thought about it again.


So here are my tips for deciding what materials to use for your flower pot of pens. First you want to pick out quality pens. Really, I'm totally serious. Think about it like this: you are going to put time and money into materials to make these pens look nice, so you do not want the pen to stop working or work at any lesser quality than necessary. It is worth the extra expense up front for decent pens. The second consideration are flowers that will get you through the entire year or at least most of it (seasonally speaking). If you find flowers that match the decor in which they will sit this is the most efficient use of flowers. However, some people like to add pens seasonally. Either way, pick something you enjoy seeing!


The last part is pretty easy, and I recommend going to a dollar store or an inexpensive store, and that is to find the container to display your pens in. You can use a vase, pot, seasonal container, candle holder, or any other container that you can fit your pens in. I have seen people use marbles, sand, coffee beans, small pebbles, or even nothing to fill the pots. My suggestion is if you can see through the container fill it, if not don't worry!

When you go out shopping don't forget to make sure you have the following materials:
scissors (to cut the flowers off the artificial stems) or wire cutters
floral tape (to wrap around the pen keeping the flower attached to the top)
quality pens
quality artificial flowers
container to display the pens in




I was very surprised how difficult it was to cut my flowers off the artificial bouquet. They had thick wire under the green plastic of the stem so I had to wiggle the wire back and forth some to weaken it. Make sure you leave about 1/2 inch to 1 inch of stem right under the flower so your floral tape has something to fasten to the length of your pen. Some people leave several inches and wrap the entire length of the pen. I personally only like to wrap my pen 1/3 of the length down so when people hold the pen they are touching the actual pen. The tape can get gummy and dirty if touched where fingers traditionally grip it.

When using the floral tape know that it doesn't feel sticky on its own but it sticks to itself once you start wrapping it. Be generous in your wrapping because you want to make sure it doesn't start uncurling once people start touching and using the pens.

Once you have made all of your pens place them inside the display container you chose and watch how infrequently (if ever) your pens disappear!
My original inspiration was this simple yet classy pot by cafemom:


Monday, January 13, 2014

Quick and Easy Lasagna

I have learned through many mornings of rushed meal planning, and even more rushed evenings that boiling noodles for lasagna takes time and can seemingly take much longer to get dinner done. I saw no-boil noodles in the store and tried them. They worked just fine and saved a lot of time.

The next time I made lasagna I thought I had this type of noodle left over. I browned my ground beef and started to layer my lasagna. At this point, I was surprised with regular noodles that are supposed to be boiled first. I was in a hurry and decided to try my luck without boiling them.

My method of making lasagna is quite easy. I put a thin layer of pasta sauce in the bottom of my pan, the lay a layer of noodles followed by a layer of my filing and a sprinkling of mozzarella cheese. I repeat this until my pan in full. The only time I use plain pasta sauce is against the bottom of the pan. For the rest of the layers the sauce is mixed in with the filling.
 
What you need:one box of lasagna noodles, one-two pounds of cooked ground beef, two jars of pasta sauce, one large container of either ricotta or cottage cheese, two to three cups of shredded mozzarella, Italian seasoning. To make the filling mix cooked ground beef, pasta sauce, Italian seasoning to taste, and ricotta or cottage cheese. By making this filling you can cut back the number of ingredients that you have to layer and spread. Cook in the oven at 350degrees for around 50 minutes. You can turn the temperature down if it looks like it is browning or drying out around the top. Let is rest for ten minutes before cutting and serving. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 12, 2014

You Can Remove Prices From Tags with Scotch Tape!



I learned this from a cashier at Bed Bath and Beyond. It is quite possibly the coolest quick tip ever. Removing price stickers can be kind of annoying. You have to scrape at them and use goo gone or a similar product to get all the sticky residue off. Here is a much simpler alternative....just remove the price from the sticker. The sticker stays on, and the recipient of the gift has to deal with it, but you don't have that price staring up at you in all its tackiness. You simply place a piece of scotch tape on the price tag and then pull it off. The print telling the price comes right off!


Friday, January 10, 2014

Disposable Diaper Comparison, Which Brand is Best?






I'll just warn you now, this post is total crap....just kidding there will be some pee talk too. I have been experimenting with a few different brands of diapers and decided to share my findings with the rest of you.







 
Luvs: Luvs are my least favorite diaper. I like the commercials, but can't stand the product. They don't hug my baby's body at all and the seem to leak more than any other diaper. They are especially dangerous with the liquidy newborn poop.



Huggies:
Huggies hug better than Luvs, but they are far from foolproof. Syrus has woken a few times in the night feeling uncomfortably wet and they occasionally fail to contain blow outs. If you are a new parent and aren't familiar with the term blowout...don't worry...you will be.




Babies R Us:
For a not-so-name-brand brand of diapers these are surprisingly good quality. The price is pretty nice too. I never had any leaks when I used these and would definitely recommend them.


Pampers: I love Pampers. They are the only diaper I trust to stay on all night and be dry in the morning. Of course, they aren't really "12 hours dry" like they claim, but they are good for at least a solid 8 which is Heaven to moms.



Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Spicy Edamame Dip

Tricia Yearwood has written her own cookbook called "home cooking with Tricia Yearwood". One of her recipes is just wonderful for those occasions that you need party and dip type foods. Her spicy edamame dip is a great healthy and yummy alternative to cheese spread type dips.

Ingredients:

 4 large cloves of garlic 
16oz. Shelled edamame beans (about 2cups) 
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper 
1/4 tsp. ground cumin 
pinch of salt and pepper 
4tbs. Olive oil 
1/4 cup fresh lime juice 
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro pita chips for dipping. 

Cooking directions: in a skillet over medium heat, roast the garlic, turning frequently, until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, cool, and then slip off the skins. Set aside. Bring about 8 cups of water to a boil in a saucepan and drop in the beans. Bring back to a boil and cook for 5minutes. Reserve 3/4 cup of the cooking water before draining. Drain the beans and cool. Transfer the garlic into a food processor and chop coarsely. Add the beans, cayenne pepper, cumin, salt, pepper and process in the food processor. Add the olive oil, lime juice, and cilantro and pulse to combine. Add the reserved water a little at a time until smooth (you may not need to add all of the water). Use pita chips for dipping.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Great Side Dishes for Roasted Chicken

So my last post was How to Roast a Chicken and I mentioned that cooking it on a bead of vegetables was optional. It is great to do, it makes things simpler and the chicken juices make the veggies quite delicious, but sometimes you want something a little different. Here are some of my favorite side dishes to have with oven roasted chicken.

Sauteed Asparagus with Garlic


Serves: 4

Ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 bunch fresh asparagus
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped

Directions
  1. Melt the butter or margarine in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and asparagus spears; cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until asparagus is tender. If you like your asparagus well done, reduce heat and cook an additional 10 minutes.


Mushroom Risotto

(I am also a fan of asparagus risotto)
Serves: 4

Ingredients
  • 8 cups chicken broth, low sodium
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 onion, diced, divided
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1 pound fresh portobello and crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon truffle oil
  • 1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms, wiped of grit
  • 2 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Heat the chicken broth in a medium saucepan and keep warm over low heat.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 onion and 1 clove garlic, cook, stirring, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, herbs and butter. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes until lightly browned, season with salt and pepper. Drizzle in truffle oil then add the dried porcini mushrooms which were reconstituted in1 cup of warm chicken broth. Season again with salt and fresh cracked pepper. Saute 1 minute then remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Coat a saucepan with remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Saute the remaining 1/2 onion and garlic clove. Add the rice and stir quickly until it is well-coated and opaque, 1 minute. This step cooks the starchy coating and prevents the grains from sticking. Stir in wine and cook until it is nearly all evaporated.
  4. Now, with a ladle, add 1 cup of the warm broth and cook, stirring, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Add the remaining broth, 1 cup at a time. Continue to cook and stir, allowing the rice to absorb each addition of broth before adding more. The risotto should be slightly firm and creamy, not mushy. Transfer the mushrooms to the rice mixture. Stir in Parmesan cheese, cook briefly until melted. Top with a drizzle of truffle oil (optional).

Twice Baked Potatoes

Serves: 4


Ingredients:
  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • 8 slices bacon
  • 1 c. sour cream
  • ½ c. milk
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
  • 8 green onions, sliced and minced, divided
Directions:
1.     Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Wash potatoes and set aside. When heated bake potatoes for 1 hour or until easily pierced with a sharp knife.
2.     While potatoes are cooking, cook bacon in large skillet until evenly browned. Drain, chop, and set aside.
3.     Remove potatoes from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes (or until cool enough to handle). Slice in half lengthwise and scoop into large bowl, saving skins. Mix potato flesh, sour cream, milk, butter, salt, pepper, ½ c. cheddar cheese and ½ c. green onions. Mix until well blended and creamy.
4.     Spoon mixture into potato skins and top with remaining cheese and bacon. Bake for 15 more minutes.
5.     Top with remaining green onions and serve immediately.


Honey Glazed Carrots

Serves: 4

 Ingredients:
  • 1lb carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of
  • fresh ground black pepper
Directions:

  1. Rinse carrots under cold water and put in a medium saucepan. Cover with water and add salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a saute pan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add honey and brown sugar and cook, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon juice and gently stir in carrots, coating well. Continue heating, gently stirring, until carrots are hot and glazed. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper and serve immediately.


Green Beans with Almonds and Fried Onions

This is a yummy healthier alternative to green bean casserole!

Serves: 4

Ingredients:
  • 1 pound fresh green beans or frozen French-cut green beans
  • Salt
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (2-ounce package)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • Ground black pepper
  • 1 can fried onions
Directions:

  1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a high-sided saute pan. If using fresh beans, cut them lengthwise while you wait for the water to boil.
  2. Add salt and green beans to boiling water and cook until just tender. Drain beans and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Return the skillet to medium heat and add the butter. When butter is melted, add the almonds and cook until golden brown.
  3. Return the green beans to the pan, along with the juice of 1/2 a lemon, add salt and pepper, to taste. When warmed through, top with fried onions.



Sunday, January 5, 2014

Quick Read! New Years Resolutions Update!


Last year we gave you our new years resolutions...this year we will take a look back and see how we did!

 Stephanie Stepford: I have maintained a "drop in ready" home at almost all times over the past year. This has made me happier and likely healthier-especially the mental variety of health! As far as food goes, I haven't made as great of a stride toward eating through old purchases but that is because I have been eating from the fridge and freezer more and the pantry is less frequented. I have greatly reduced junk food purchases and have a fair variety of ingredients rather than snacks or prepared foods. To read about my 2014 New Years resolution, check out my post on Facial Care!
 








Jairica Stepford:
I definitely ate more home made natural foods this year! Having gestational Diabetes really made that a priority for me. I also believe I have made great strides in becoming more patient. A teething baby keeping you up all night is the best practice for that a woman could ask for! This year I want to work on cutting out as much fat from diet as I possibly can and really work on my body fueling.










Sara Stepford: This year I am going to embrace myself. Embrace my habits and my personality. I LIKE who I am. I LIKE my personality, there are no major things that I feel I need to devote a resolution to fixing. I want to start fresh in this way and this way alone: every single day that I am afforded the opportunity to open my eyes and take a breath, is a new opportunity to do something different or change something I want to change. Live life. Enjoy it. Stop thinking you only have once chance to mark something right or do something different.


Friday, January 3, 2014

Facial Care and Changes that Come with Age



I have noticed as I get older I tend to have less breakouts on my cheeks and nose and more around the bottom of my jaw line. I assumed I must have been doing something habitually different such as lean on my hands with lotion and add extra oil to that part of my face.

 
I recently found an article written my Dr. Diane S. Version and she explained the reason why. In adolescents, they have breakouts in their T-zones, as we age a bit our zone changes to a V-zone that runs around the bottom of our jaw line and down our neck. This is because the hormones in our bodies change with age and the V-zone has more hormonal receptivity. I am certainly experiencing this exact change as I a only a few years from reaching my30's.

I made a resolution for the year 2014 that I would start taking care of my face better by washing it and treating it better. For Christmas I received the facial care set from Clinique which includes a mild face wash, skin toner, and skin lotion all designed for the use on a slightly oily to normal type of skin. So far, I am noticing an improvement with my skin, complexion, and the way my makeup is smoothly staying on my skin. I am also careful not to rub my skin with a washcloth because that irritates it and the skin on your face is very sensitive. It certainly pays off to use good quality personal hygiene products because you are going to live with your face forever!


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