Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tip Tuesday–Cinnamon

Today’s topic is cinnamon. Where does it come from? What is it good for? We all love cinnamon rolls, cinnamon candies and other foods enriched by the sweet flavor of cinnamon, but it does have some great health benefits as well.

Cinnamon has been around for possibly 4,000 years. It is derived from the bark of several trees and is used in both sweet and savory foods. True cinnamon is of the genus “cinnamomum”, and the more common cinnamon we use is actually “cassia” – a relative of true cinnamon.

True cinnamon is grown in Sri Lanka, Brazil, Egypt, Madagascar, Sumatra, the West Indies and Java. Cassia, however, comes from China, Vietnam and Myanmar. In the production of our common cinnamon, all portions of the bark are used, but in true cinnamon only the inner lining of the bark is used.

Cinnamon has many health benefits shown through clinical studies:

1) Helps regulate blood sugar in those with Type 2 Diabetes.
2) After a month or two lowers triglycerides and total cholesterol.
3) Now being studied as a possible cancer fighter.
4) Sniffing the essential oils is good for increased alertness and mental activity.
5) Both anti-clotting and anti-inflammatory.

To get the maximum health benefits, sprinkle a bit on some of your food sometime during the day. It is thought, though, that there are some substances in cassia that could cause liver damage. The best bet would be to look for true cinnamon, although it may be more expensive.

A bit of trivia – the cinnamon stick is called a “quill” due to its rolling up during the drying process.

Many people use cinnamon for those sweet foods – apple pie, etc.- but it is good for savory dishes as well. I always throw a big spoonful into chili. Pour a teaspoonful into the brew basket of the coffeemaker along with the ground coffee for a flavorful drink.

To make your house smell wonderful, place cinnamon sticks, orange and lemon peels and whole cloves in a bit of water on the stove. Let it simmer, being careful not to cook dry. Add water if needed.
Today is Internet Day – can you imagine not having it? It’s also National Cat Day.

Tomorrow is National Candy Corn Day. Love that stuff. Have you tried the candy bar combination of candy corn and peanuts? So good! It’s also Haunted Refrigerator Night. Ours does make some strange noises on occasion, which makes me think it just might be haunted. And for all of us “list” people, it’s Checklist Day. I’m definitely a list maker!

Check the "Holidays" page for more observances this month.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 25, 2013

They’re Coming!

The holidays, that is. Halloween is next week, Thanksgiving is 4 weeks from yesterday and Christmas is 2 months from today (60 days!). We’ve already seen some Christmas commercials. Soon we’ll be hearing the wonderful Christmas music, and the holiday shows and specials will begin.

Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends to gather and enjoy traditional foods and activities. It isn’t a time to try new recipes, but to prepare tried and true favorites.

I hope to do some posts during the coming weeks that highlight traditions, song lyrics and stories, as well as recipes and decorating tips. Over the years I’ve collected files full of Christmas stuff with hopes of someday putting a book together. So far that day hasn’t come. Maybe soon…..

In the meantime, let’s be sure to remember the significance of these holidays and try to keep everything in perspective. Everything doesn’t have to be perfect – it’s the people in our lives that count! So relax and enjoy.

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Over-The-Top Mac & Cheese

I tried another new recipe for tonight’s dinner, and it was definitely a keeper. It was delicious as well as economical, and my guys here loved it. Oh, it was so good!


1 (7 1/4 oz.) box macaroni and cheese
1/2 of 10 oz. can tomatoes with green chiles ( approximately 3/4 cup - save rest for later use)
1 pound ground beef
1 cup chopped onion
6 teaspoons taco seasoning mix (approximately 1/2 of packet)
1 teaspoon chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 1 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Prepare the macaroni and cheese as directed on the box. Stir in tomatoes with chiles and set aside.

Brown the ground beef with the onion until beef is no longer pink; drain. Stir taco seasoning mix into beef. Combine the two mixtures. Add chili powder, salt and pepper.

Pour into prepared dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until bubbly and cheese melts.

Recipe adapted from Gooseberry Patch Big Book of Holiday Cooking (recipe submitted by a reader from Tulsa, OK).
I’m a big Gooseberry Patch fan. Their cookbooks are full of practical recipes that use ingredients most of us normally have on hand or that are easy to get. The books have great photos, and are very enjoyable to just sit and read, especially the Christmas series. And those ladies who started Gooseberry Patch are from Ohio, too! Check out www.gooseberrypatch.com.
Today’s Quote:
“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get up.”

(Vince Lombardi)
Tomorrow is World Pasta Day. Does that give you any ideas for dinner? It’s also National Bread Sticks Day. Sounds like a meal to me! 

International Artists Day will be observed tomorrow. I appreciate those who have artistic talent. Share it with the world! My mother took art classes later in life, and I have several of her lovely paintings, but that talent was hidden for a long time!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Meatless Monday….and Cake!

Yesterday was Meatless Monday at our house. My husband said he actually didn’t miss the meat - much! The menu included baked potatoes with all the toppings, broccoli casserole, navy beans and homemade bread. This casserole recipe is easy and quite good. I’m not sure where I found the recipe. I’ve had it several years, and it’s one of my handwritten recipes. There are similar recipes in many cookbooks and online.


2 (10 oz.) packages frozen chopped broccoli, cooked and drained
1 cup mayonnaise
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 cups crushed butter-flavor crackers
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Combine first 5 ingredients and pour into greased or sprayed 9x13” baking dish. Combine crushed crackers and butter and sprinkle over. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Notes: This recipe cuts in half easily. The half can of soup that’s left will freeze fine for later use. For the topping I used a mixture of crushed crackers and croutons. I also added some dried minced onion and a little garlic powder to the broccoli mixture. The broccoli was a bit chunky when done cooking, so I chopped it to smaller bits.
I baked this cake last week – it’s really versatile and delicious. No picture – it didn’t last long enough!


1 large box white or yellow cake mix
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1 can pie filling

Pour oil in 9x13” baking dish. Add mix, eggs and water. Stir till blended (about 2 minutes). Scrape sides and spread evenly. Spoon pie filling on top and marble with a fork. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes. Store loosely covered.

Pie Filling Flavor Variations:

Cherry (add almond extract)
Apple (add apple pie spice)
Blueberry (add vanilla extract)
Peach (add vanilla extract)
Pumpkin (add pumpkin pie spice)

I drizzled a confectioner’s sugar and water (with a little almond extract) glaze over the cooled cake and stored it loosely covered in the refrigerator. Yum!

This is another handwritten index card recipe – have had it for years, and I’m  not sure where it came from.
Tomorrow, Wednesday, October 23, is Medical Assistants Appreciation Day. That is certainly a job I couldn’t do, and I applaud their dedication.

Thursday is Food Day. That pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

The “Holidays” page has a full listing.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another Recipe Experiment

On Thursday night our son was coming over for dinner and, after looking at about 20 recipes, my husband and I decided that I should make this Mexican meal. Good decision! It was so easy and quick, but quite tasty and filling. Give this one a try – I know you’ll like it.



1 pound ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
1 (8 oz.) bottle taco sauce
3/4 cup water
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chiles
1 packet taco seasoning mix
1 (12 count) package corn taco shells, broken
2 cups (8 oz.) shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided

Toppings: chopped tomatoes, chopped green pepper, sour cream, salsa

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 11 x 7” baking dish (or spray with cooking spray).

Cook beef and onion in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beef is browned. Drain. Stir in taco sauce, water, chiles and seasoning; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Layer half of broken taco shells in prepared dish. Cover with half of meat mixture and sprinkle with 1 cup cheese. Repeat layers.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Recipe from Simple and Delicious magazine (a reader submission). 

Notes: I added a small can of sliced black olives, drained, to the meat mixture. You could add black beans and/or corn as well.

Yum! We had tortilla chips, salsa and refried black beans seasoned with onions, garlic and salsa on the side.
Since we're in a Mexican mood today, here are some Mexican Proverb Quotes:

“The house does not rest upon the ground, but upon a woman.”

“Do good and do not worry to whom.”

“Love is blind, but not the neighbors.”
Happy Sweetest Day! Don’t forgot your “sweetie”.

It’s also Evaluate Your Life Day – not a bad idea for any day. How can we make our lives better? How can we be a better person?

Go to the “Holidays” page for more observances.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tip Tuesday–It’s Apple Time!


Making that delicious apple butter last week put thoughts of apples in my head. How many varieties are there? How can they be used? Which are the best for cooking? Or just eating? I’ve been doing some research, and found that there are many varieties of apples; however, there are a few that are more well-known and more readily available in our local supermarkets.

Today’s Tip Tuesday will be all about apples. I hope you’ll find some interesting information here. I’ve also included a few varieties that are less familiar and that sounded interesting.

Arkansas Black: These hard, crunchy apples are best for eating. Their skin is so dark red that it’s almost black – thus the name. They were developed in Arkansas in approximately 1870.

Cortland: Red, sweet and tart, these are all-purpose, but better for eating. They come primarily from the Northwest, and were developed in New York in the 1890s.

Empire: Best for eating, these red, tangy apples were developed in New York in 1966.

Fameuse: Also known as Snow Apple because of their snow-white flesh, this variety is white, tart and sweet. An all-purpose apple.

Gala: These red, firm and sweet apples are all-purpose, but best for eating. They are available from September to June. Developed in New Zealand in the 1970s.

Golden Delicious: Skin ranges from green to yellow. These are all-purpose apples, and are available from September to June. They were developed in West Virginia in 1914.

Granny Smith: These green, firm and tart apples were developed in Australia in 1868. They are good for cooking and eating.

Gravenstein: Tart, crisp and juicy, these apples are all-purpose and come from the west coast. They were developed in Denmark in the 17th century.

Honeycrisp: One of my new favorites! Best for eating, these crisp, sweet and juicy apples were developed in Minnesota in 1960.

Jonathan: A sweet, tart variety that is good for both eating and cooking, but does not hold up well when cooked whole. They are available from September to February. Developed in New York in the 1820s.

Macintosh: This is a crisp variety, with a flavor that ranges from sweet to tart. They are all-purpose, and especially good for applesauce. Available from September to March, they were developed in Canada in 1811.

Paula Red: Best for eating, with a firm, white flesh. They were developed in Michigan in the 1960s.

Red Delicious: These red beauties are better for eating, with a juicy, sweet flesh. They are available September to April, and were developed in Iowa in approximately 1879. They are known for the 5 distinct knobs on the bottom.

Rome Beauty: These are best for cooking. They have red skin, with a tender to mealy texture and flavor that ranges from bland to tart. They are available November to May. Developed in the 19th century.

Winesap: This variety is great for cider, but is an all-purpose apple. The skin is red, with a juicy, crisp and tart flesh. They are available November to May, and were developed in the US in 1817.

Although a lot of these apples have given availability ranges, these days most are available year-round.

4 medium apples, sliced thinly
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped nuts

2 eggs 
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick (1/2 cup) margarine, melted

Mix filling ingredients together and pour into 9" pie pan. Combine topping ingredients and pour over. Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours.

“The apple does not fall far from the tree” (Proverb quote)

“There is little choice in a barrel of rotten apples.” (William Shakespeare)

And, as I wrote October 7 in the “Superstitions” post, it was thought long ago that the number of seeds in an apple told how many children you would have.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sweet and Spicy Apple Butter

My house is smelling so great this morning. I have apple butter cooking in the slow cooker. It’s been simmering away for about 24 hours now, and is just about ready to be poured into the jars. I can hardly wait to taste that smooth, flavorful concoction!


15 cups peeled and sliced apples
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 1/2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Combine apples and water in large saucepan. Cook until apples are mushy. Transfer to slow cooker and add remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on Low for 20 to 24 hours, stirring occasionally. If too thin after 24 hours, leave lid ajar to let moisture out until desired consistency is reached. If there are a few lumps and you want smoother apple butter, an immersion blender works great to smooth it out.

Pour into sterilized jars and seal with sterilized lids. Let stand at room temperature until cool, then place in freezer.

Makes about 4 to 6 pints.


1) I used a mix of Gala, Jonathan, Jonamac, Macintosh and Golden Delicious apples – about 5 1/2 pounds

2) I used Splenda sugar blend and brown sugar blend.

3) If you go a bit over the 15 cups of apples, so much the better!

I hope you’ll try this one. I’ve had the recipe for many years and have made it quite a few times. It’s great to reach into the freezer and bring out a jar of deliciousness!

Oh man, oh man! This is good stuff! I ended up with 5 half-pint jars and, because I was out of that size jars, just filled the 4 pint jars halfway. As long as they're sealed well they should freeze just fine.

The last photo is of two items you really, really need to do anything like this. The funnel fits in both regular and wide-mouth jars, making filling them easy. The magnetic wand will pick up the hot lids and rings easily so you won't burn yourself.
Monday is the national observance of Columbus Day – government offices will be closed, which is no different than usual these days. (Hope that all ends soon!) 

Of course, the actual Columbus Day is tomorrow, October 12. It became a national holiday in 1937, and in 1970 the holiday was set to be on the second Monday in October each year.

Please see the “Holidays” page for additional observances.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Free Crochet Pattern

The cooler weather leads to thoughts of snuggly sweaters, warm jackets and lovely scarves and accessories. A few nights ago, while watching television, I grabbed a ball of leftover yarn and started playing. The result is this Post Stitch Infinity Scarf. It was easy to design and easy to complete. And wouldn’t it be lovely in a vibrant royal blue or a gorgeous red?

Here’s the pattern – if you have problems with it or have questions, please email me.


4-ply worsted weight yarn
Crochet hook – size I


Chain 17.

Row 1: Dc in third ch from hook and in each ch across. (15 dc). Ch 3, turn.

Row 2: *(Dc in first dc, front post dc [fpdc] in next dc), repeat from * 6 times, dc in top of ch 3. Ch 3, turn.

Repeat Rows 1 & 2 to desired length, ending with Row 2. The sample was 92 rows. Stitch ends together, being careful not to twist. Weave in ends.

(Front Post Double Crochet) – Yarn over and insert hook in front, between stitches and behind the stitch that will have post stitch. Bring hook and yarn to front on other side of stitch, yarn over and double crochet as usual.

Tomorrow, October 10, is National Depression Screening Day, World Sight Day, and World Mental Health Day. The 11th brings Southern Food Heritage Day and World Egg Day.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Strange Food Superstitions & More

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Ours was very rainy, but today is nice. It is looking much more like fall, with leaves changing color and falling. It’s now time to hunt for those pumpkins and mums for the front porch!
I had an eggplant that needed to be prepared, so last night I sliced it lengthwise about 1/2” thick, brushed it on both sides with olive oil and sprinkled it with Italian seasoning, garlic powder and pepper, then roasted it at 400 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes, turning about halfway through. I sprayed a baking dish with cooking spray then layered the slices with marinara sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese. A couple of minutes under the broiler, and the Eggplant Marinara Stacks were done – and tasty! It was pretty much a simple version of Eggplant Parmesan.
With Halloween come many superstitions and “scary” events. There are many superstitions attached to the food we eat, and most of them we’ve never heard of. Are you familiar with these?

1) Apples: If you peel an apple, try to keep the peel as long as possible before it breaks. Toss it on a table – the initial it forms is the first initial of your true love. Also, long ago it was believed that the number of seeds in an apple represented the number of children you would have.

2) Bananas: Cutting a banana with a knife is bad luck. Instead, break the banana in small pieces. Also, fishermen used to refuse to have bananas on their fishing vessels, thinking that they would not catch fish or would possibly get lost at sea.

3) Blackeyed Peas: Eaten on New Year’s Day (often in Hoppin’ John) they’re thought to bring good luck and prosperity in the new year.

4) Bread: It was long ago thought that if you cut a loaf of bread and there was a hole in it someone would die soon – that hole represented a coffin.

5) Coffee: If there are bubbles on top of your coffee, eat them from a spoon – you’ll get unexpected money.

6) Eggs: They symbolize fertility, and farmers long ago tossed eggs on their fields to guarantee a good yield. If you break an egg and it has a double yolk, someone will marry soon or have twins. If the yolk has a black spot, it’s a bad omen. If no yolk at all, it’s an especially bad omen! It was thought that you should crush the broken egg shells to keep a witch from picking them up and sailing away in them, causing terrible storms at sea.

7) Garlic: Thought to keep evil spirits, vampires and the evil eye away. But it’s also extremely good for you!

8) Hot Peppers: Do not hand someone a hot pepper directly – it will cause disagreements. Instead, place the pepper on a counter for them to pick up.

9) Knives: As with hot peppers, do not hand them directly to someone. Doing this is said to separate people. Also, do not give knives as a gift to a friend – if you do, ask for a penny in payment.

10) Noodles: The Chinese have long thought that the length of the noodle represented length of life. Never cut a noodle as that “cuts life short”.

11) Oranges: If you give someone an orange, they will fall in love with you.

12) Parsley: Giving it as a gift is bad luck. And planting the seeds helps a woman become pregnant.

13) Peanuts: Never eat them at a performance or event – it is bad luck for the participants.

14) Rice: Through the centuries, throwing rice over the new bride and groom was thought to bring them good health and prosperity.

15) Salt: If you spill salt you’ll have bad luck; however, throw some over your left shoulder with your right hand and all will be well.

16) Silverware: If you drop a fork, a woman will visit. If you drop a knife, a man will visit. If you drop a spoon, a child will visit.

17) Tea: Two people should never pour tea from the same pot – it’s bad luck. Leaving the lid off the pot while brewing tea means a stranger will visit. If you put milk in your tea before sugar you may never marry. If you spill tea a stranger will visit. And if there is undissolved sugar in the bottom of your cup someone is in love with you.

18) Wishbone: Two people should break it with their pinky fingers. The one who has the longest piece will have good luck and receives a wish.

Today is Techie’s Day, Child Health Day, World Habitat Day & “You Matter to Me” Day. You all DO matter to me!

Tomorrow we’ll observe National Face Your Fears Day & National Pierogy Day. Do you love pierogies? Yum!
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tip Tuesday–A Salty Subject

Salt is something we all need….and probably like a little too much! I’d much prefer a salty snack over a sweet treat most of the time. But do we realize how important, historical and versatile salt is?

Salt has been used as a flavoring and preservative for thousands of years. Throughout history salt has played an important role, at one point even being so valuable it was used as currency! It was used, at different times, as a fertility symbol, in magic spells and potions, in preservation of mummies and in religious ceremonies.

Below is a picture of salt crystals in their natural form.


Did you know? The Great Salt Lake in Utah is one source of salt, and is the 37th largest lake in the world. It is also the largest west of the Mississippi River, and usually covers about 1700 square miles in area. The lake is a remainder of prehistoric Lake Bonneville, which covered approximately 20,000 square miles between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago. Today the lake is 75 miles long, 35 miles wide and normally 33 feet deep. Several companies process salt from the lake’s water.

Types of Salt:

1) Table salt – made from salt deposits taken from salt lakes. It typically has additives to prevent clumping.

2) Coarse salt – has a larger grind and rough edges.

3) Iodized salt – is table salt with iodine added. It also has a tiny bit of sugar added to prevent discoloration caused by the oxidation of the iodine.

4) Kosher salt – is coarse salt with no additives.

5) Other kinds of salt include celtic, dairy, rock, pickling, sea and seasoned.

Tips and Hints:

1) To make boiled eggs easier to peel, add some salt to the water.

2) Add salt to poaching water – it will help the egg whites to set faster.

3) Mix 1/2 teaspoon salt and 8 ounces of warm water. Gargle for sore throat relief.

4) Cover bee stings with salt to relieve the pain.

5) Wash fresh spinach or other greens in salted water for faster,easier cleaning.

6) Salted water will help keep sliced apples and potatoes from turning brown.

7) Add a few grains of rice to salt shaker to keep salt flowing freely. Humidity can cause it to clump in the shaker.

8) Plain salt will keep indefinitely. Seasoned salt, however, should be used within a year.

For a delicious baked potato, spray the potato with cooking spray and roll in kosher salt before baking.
"No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, to risk his body, to risk his list, in a great cause." (Theodore Roosevelt)

Today is CD Player day, so play a few CDs and enjoy! It’s also International Day of Older Persons, and I’m too quickly becoming one!  Tomorrow is Guardian Angels Day, World Farm Animals Day and International Day of Non-violence. Be sure to check the “Holidays” page for the complete October listings.
Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!