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Archive for June, 2009

Let’s start with a poll.

1) Have you ever had popcorn with nutritional yeast on it? Yes or no.

2) Have you ever HEARD of having popcorn with nutritional yeast on it? Yes or no.

3) If you are familiar with this treat, where did you live when you had it. I’m suspecting this is a regional taste. I did some research on Google and it appears to be known in Wisconsin and California. Register your answers at the end of the post in a comment.  And if you would, ask your friends to also give their answers to this poll. Thanks.

When I was a poor law school student and a member of the Baha’i community in Fayetteville, Arkansas, I was introduced to popcorn with butter and nutritional yeast. It was a very inexpensive yet yummy treat and we were pretty much all poor students,  so that we frequently had popcorn with nutritional yeast as our refreshments for any sort of meeting. It got to be so common, that one guest questioned whether this was a ritual in the Baha’i Faith! Not so, but this has remained one of my favorite treats. Next time you are having a movie night with family or friends, give this a try. I think you will be surprised at how much they enjoy it.

Here’s how I make this treat. I pop the popcorn in a microwave popper. This allows me to not feel so guilty about drowning the popped corn in melted butter! I generally use 1/2 stick of salted butter. Pour the popped corn into your large bowl, pour the butter over the corn, salt to taste, and as the last step sprinkle nutritional yeast all over the popcorn.

A variation I read about, but have not tried myself, is to melt the butter and stir 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast into the melted butter, which you then pour over the popcorn.

So beyond the great, nutty taste of the yeast, are there any good reasons to use nutritional yeast on your popcorn? There actually may be.  It is low in fat and sodium. It has supposed health benefits of being a sleep aid, and has been touted as an aid with diabetes, hypoglycemia, high cholesterol, eczema, and other conditions. I’m not sure I buy into any of those. I just know it is a delicious treat.

So where do you get nutritional yeast? I find it in larger grocery stores that have bulk food aisles. It looks like a yellow flake. You can also buy it online, I’m sure. However, be cautious and know the difference between “brewer’s yeast” and “nutritional yeast.” These labels are sometimes used interchangeably, but the products are slightly different. Nutritional yeast has the better taste; brewer’s yeast has a slightly bitter taste.

If you try this treat, I’d love to hear how you liked it. I’ll be watching for your poll answers too. Enjoy!

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corn_on_the_cobWhile you are grilling those hot dogs and hamburgers this 4th of July,  why not throw the corn on the cob on the grill too?

This method of cooking the corn has to be the easiest of all options. No removing the husks and silks, no wrapping in foil, no boiling water. Preparation is very simple.

PREPARATION:

First pull back the husks a little bit from the top, just to look for any buggies.

Seeing none, immerse the corn (still in the husks) in a large bowl or pan of slightly salted water.  Let them sit there for a few minutes. This is going to accomplish two things. One, if there are any buggies lurking, this is going to flush them out. Second, it is going to saturate the corn husks, allowing them to be on the grill longer before they totally char.

Do not remove the husks and silks. You are going to grill the corn as is.

PROCEDURE:

Over a well lit charcoal fire, place the corn around the outside edge of your grill. If you put it directly over the coals, you are more likely to burn the corn kernels.  The corn will cook while you grill your meats on the central portion of the grill.

Turn the corn a couple of times. The husks are going to start to turn brown.  This is not a problem. Evenly browning the husks lets you know you’ve rotated the corn sufficiently.

As with all grilling, timing is not exact. To estimate when the corn is done, I look for well browned husks. If my meat is not done but I think the corn is, I just push the corn further away from the hot coals. If the meat is close to done and the corn is not, I’ll move the meat away from the hot coals and put the corn directly over the hot coals for a few minutes.

SERVING:

Removed the grilled corn to a large platter. To serve, using a hot pad hold the corn and carefully pull back the husks. You will be amazed at how easy this is and how the silks pull away with the husks.  Break off the husks and serve.

Should the corn be slightly undercooked, you can pop it in the microwave for a small amount of time to finish the cooking.

What vegetables do you grill and how? I’d love to hear.  Happy Fourth of July!

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yarn 1In a previous blog, I showed several ways and suggested several others that you could use a tall hurricane lantern for things other than holding a candle. Two of my loves are color and knitting. So how is this for combining both into a unique way to decorate your home, bringing a touch of whimsy and more than a smidgen of color to a mantle, a dining room table, or a sofa table.

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Thanks to Helen at http://www.hookedonstamping.com for awarding me this “One Lovely Blog” award.  I am honored, touched and will proudly accept it and will now pass it on.

lovely_blog_award

The rules for this one are:

  1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award, and his or her blog link.
  2. Pass the award on to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered (I’ll list as many as I can…new to the blogosphere).

Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here are my choices (in no particular order – some are creative blogs, others are business related so they are important to me, and still others are just fun):

Harriette Jasper, http://photoalbums4u@wordpress.com (Digital Photo Albums Made Easy). We took a Social Media Made Simple class together. She’s got it all together.

Jennfier Fong, http://liajen.wordpress.com (Direct Sales and Social Media). Jennifer taught the class. You can’t go wrong reading her stuff.

Deena Coutant, http://digideena.wordpress.com (DigiDeena’s Blog). Another classmate from the Social Media Made Simple class. Another person who is working her business very smartly using social media.

Alicia Vilas, http://waxylady.wordpress.com (Alicia Vila’s Candle Blog)). Again a classmate from the Social Media Made Simple class. This is a very thoughtful woman.

Shanna Hatfield, http://entertainingmadesimple.wordpress.com (Simple Entertaining At Home). Shanna and I are fellow devotees of Entertaining At Home, the direct sales company. Again we met during the Social Media Made Simple class, but are fast becoming good friends.

Jen from Chicago, http://secondcitysoiree.com. (Second City Soiree).  I found this blog while researching other blogs in my niche so I don’t personally know this person, but she sure has style. Check out her blog.

Diane Hastings, http://yourentertaininglife.wordpress.com.  Diane is my director with Entertaining At Home. She is a party girl par excellence!

Enjoy the acknowledgement ladies and pass it on!

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Supplies

Supplies

So simple!

So simple!

So lovely!

So lovely!

Flowers on the table are always high on my decorating budget. If you want to show your creative side, come up with novel vase alternatives. Look around for items that would have been thrown away and find a way to disguise them or even play up their plainess against the spendour of the flowers. I’m thinking of coffee cans. I once saw the most beautiful assemblage of 3 coffee cans, totally unadorned, each holding a bountiful bouquet of sunflowers and zinnias. The brillance of the flowers played nicely against the metal of the cans.

You could take the same coffee can and use it as a form to wrap asparagus spears around. This is so simple to do and the result is so startling and fresh. Here’s what you need:

Supplies: a washed out  coffee can, with the label removed, the rubber bands from the asparagus, a ribbon, a shallow dish or plate, and any flowers you have growing in the garden or that might be on sale at the grocery story or big box store.

Steps: cut off enough of the spears of the asparagus so that the asparagus tips extend just above the top edge of the coffee can. Put the rubber band around the coffee can. Pull the rubber band slightly away from the coffee can and insert an asparagus spear under the rubber band, cut edge at the bottom edge of the coffee can and tip at the top edge of the coffee can. Repeat, placing each spear next to the previous one until you’ve circled the entire coffee can. A good size bunch of asparagus may do the full circle, but to be safe, I’d suggest getting two bunches. You can never have too much asparagus to eat so cook up what’s left over.

Once you’re satisfied with how the asparagus looks, take your ribbon and tie a bow that covers up the rubber band.

Add water to the coffee can and then your flowers. Almost any kind of flowers will look great.

Place the asparagus vase on a clear glass plate, position the asparagus vase where you are going to use it, fill the can with water and put a shallow amount of water in the bottom of the glass plate. You don’t necessarily want the water to show. This is just to keep the asparagus  fresh while it is doing double duty as a vase. Within a day or two, move the flowers to a more conventional vase and enjoy the asparagus for your dinner that night.

What great versatility: asparagus as both decoration and food. Maybe there’s something to the fact that the asparagus is in the lily family! To use those cut off asparagus ends, look back at my previous blog on May 18 on Asparagus Quick Tips.

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I know, I know, who makes homemade pie crusts any more! I do, my son Nathan does. That’s 2 of us. Maybe we can find a third. Is it you?

A flakey homemade pie crust is so far superior in taste and texture to a store-bought crust, that if you have never tried to make a crust, you owe it to yourself and your family to try it at least once. Of course, your family will be so spoiled, they’ll never want you to go back to a storebought crust.

There are any number of decent recipes for crusts. It doesn’t really matter which recipe you choose. There is one option in ingredients that may surprise you and may be hard to accept, and that is you have a choice between vegetable shortening and lard. Yep, lard. Did you even know you can still buy lard? It’s in the same area as the shortenings in the grocery store. Comes in boxes, kind of like butter. You use the same amount of lard as you would shortening. What the lard does for the crust is to make it flakier and even richer in taste.

Your pie crust directions, regardless of whether you use shortening or lard, will say to cut in the lard or shortening with the flour and salt until the mixture is made of pea-sized particles. You can use a pastry blender or even a fork, which is how I learned to cut in shortening. Once the particles are of the proper small size, you start sprinkling cold water over the flour mixture, stirring with a fork to blend. You don’t add the water all at once. You use only enough water to allow the mixture to clump together when you press it into a ball by hand.

If making a two crust pie, you will have enough dough to make a top and bottom crust.  You cut your ball of dough in half and work with one half at a time. Here is where my special tip comes in. Normally, the instructions will say to lightly sprinkle your work surface with flour. So you would sprinkle your counter with flour, place your ball of dough on the flour, rub flour onto the rolling pin, and sprinkle a little flour on the top of the ball of dough and start rolling out the dough. As you go, the dough starts to get sticky and you must add a little more flour to the dough and onto the rolling pin.

Once the dough is rolled out to the right diameter, now you have to find a way to transfer it from your work surface to the pie plate. Before learning the tip I’m going to share with you in a moment, I would roll my pie crust out on wax paper, with flour sprinkled on top of  the wax paper. To move the pie crust from the wax paper to the pie plate, there were two techniques. One was to roll the pie crust around the rolling pin and transport the crust in that manner. I never tried that and it sounds hard to me. The way I was taught to do it was to fold the crust in half, and then in half again. What you then had was a triangular piece that you could lift more easily, place in the pie plate, and unfold into halves and then into the whole pie plate.

That method worked pretty well. But the method I learned a few years ago solves many problems. First of all, it eliminates the need to add additional flour. The reason you don’t want any more flour than you absolutely have to is that the extra flour can make the crust tough. The second thing it makes easier is transporting the crust to the pie plate.

So here is the tip: You are going to roll out the pie crust between sheets of Saranwrap, or Clingwrap, or whatever clear plastic wrap you use. Usually your pie crust diameter is greater than the width of a sheet of Saranwrap, so I cut two pieces of Saranwrap and overlap them slightly. This is my bottom work surface. Then I put down the ball of pie dough, pressing it into a flat ball with my hands. Over that flat ball of dough, I place two  more sheets of Saranwrap, again overlapped slightly.

Now I take my rolling pin and roll out the dough between the sheets of Saranwrap. There is no need to add flour. Roll out the pie crust to the desired diameter. Next, gently peel away the top two sheets of Saranwrap. Now gently pick up the corners of the remaining Saranwrap with the pie crust, and slide it over the pie plate, crust side down, Saranwrap up.  Using your hands, press the pie crust into the curves of the pie plate. Then carefully peel off the remaining Saranwrap. You now have a beautiful crust to bake your pie in.

When I was a college student, studying in England, a long time ago, and had no money, the one thing I bought abroad to bring home was a wooden rolling pin. I still have it and use it. It’s the one you see in the photograph. I consider it a work of art.  It is one of those things that brings grace to my life, connects me with my roots, and is a silent statement to my family of how much I care for them. I’m definitely of the old school that cooking for people is a way to show them you love them.

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Mario Batali Peerless Peeler. http://lindamccormick.eahweb.com/Catalog/Spring2009/ -- page 78.

Mario Batali Peerless Peeler. http://lindamccormick.eahweb.com/Catalog/Spring2009/ -- page 78.

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