Monday, October 31, 2011

Kettle Corn

Kettle corn is the perfect accompaniment to any Halloween or fall party. I've finally mastered making it myself, so I thought I'd share. Try this with great caution, as you will probably be permanently hooked. And just face it, you might as well make a second batch for everyone else after you've obliterated the first. Good luck, gumshoes!

Kettle Corn
3 Tbs. vegetable oil
1/2 cup popcorn kernels
1/4 cup sugar
Salt to taste

  • Place a large Dutch oven (make sure you have a lid) over medium high heat on your stove top. Add oil and allow to heat for about 1 minute. Place 2-3 kernels into the pot and wait until they pop (yes, they will probably pop out of the pot).
  • Add the remaining kernels and place lid on pot. Wait until you hear a few other kernels pop, then with oven mitts pick up pot and shake. Continue to shake for about 30 seconds every minute of cooking (place back on the burner for the remainder of the time).
  • After the first minute, carefully lift one side of the lid and sprinkle in the sugar. Replace the lid and continue cooking and shaking for about 4-5 minutes, until the span of time between pops lengthens to about 5 seconds.
  • Remove from heat.
  • Wait until all popping has finished, then sprinkle with salt to taste.
*If you are lucky enough to possess a Whirley Pop, make as you would regular popcorn, but add 1/2 of the sugar after corn starts popping and add the rest of the sugar just before popping ends. Be sure to dump the corn out immediately after popping is finished and season with salt.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dress Rehearsal

Try having a Halloween dress rehearsal with your kids this weekend. Let them don their costumes and take plenty of pictures. You will find out before Halloween if there are missing parts to the costume or if last-minute alterations are needed. By taking pictures now, you don't have to corral the kids for pictures on Halloween when the last thing they want to do is come down from their sugar-induced high to be still for a few photos! Enjoy taking candids instead, knowing you've already gotten some great shots.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Orange Crush

One of my favorite gifts of fall are pumpkins. Small ones, big ones, knobby or smooth, you name it. Try tucking a few into your potted plants to give a shot of color. Stack them for height and scatter smaller ones around a larger pumpkin. A friend allows me to raid the remains of his large, commercial pumpkin patch every year. While the pumpkins I pick are not perfect, they have plenty of "character", so just try to overlook the spots and deformities! Take the fun inside with bowls of small pumpkins
or try placing one atop a cake plate for extra drama. The best part is that the autumn decor will hold you over til' Christmas!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Christmas Giving

Think ahead this year for your charitable Christmas giving. Just like layaway or buying gifts in advance, start setting aside money now for those holiday donations. A great way to involve your children in the spirit of giving at Christmas is to let them help to raise money for the charity of your choice. I know a family whose kids (ages 4 and 6) have decided to earn money to buy a camel for a family in Asia through a charity! Here are some great ways to get your kids started:
  • Collect cans- ask neighbors for their cans and pick them up when you see them outside. 4-5 trash bags of cans will yield $15-$20.
  • Do odd jobs for pay for parents or grandparents
  • Consign clothing or toys
  • As a family, forgo eating out and put that money towards your cause.
  • Offer Christmas cookies for sale to friends and neighbors
  • Babysitting
  • Fall leaf cleanup
  • Pet sitting
  • Have a yard sale (Ask for a donation instead of naming prices- you'll probably earn more this way.)
  • Car wash
  • Snow removal
  • Dog walking

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fall Recipe

This dip is perfect for your next autumnal gathering. Sweet and creamy with all of the flavors of fall. Best of all, you can make it ahead. It's perfect served with gingersnaps, pears, or apple slices. Try it out at your next tailgate or Halloween party. No one will ever guess it only took 3 minutes to make!

Pumpkin Pie Dip
1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
2 cups powdered sugar
1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin (not pie filling, just pumpkin)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add remaining ingredients, beating well. Cover and chill 8 hours.
Makes 3 cups (A ton! I usually only do a half recipe)

Monday, October 17, 2011

Container Therapy

For me, everyday chores are made much more pleasant when I have something pretty to look at. I've started storing mundane items in pretty containers and I have to say that this small change has been a definite mood-lifter. My dishwashing detergent pod thingys are actually visually interesting now that I can see those bright blue pudgy little pouches. Laundry detergent is now dignified in its glass jar, and my cookie cutters have graduated from an old plastic Kroger bag to my grandmother's old cookie jar. I can still feel myself reaching inside for an oatmeal cream pie... I know it seems trivial, but just try it. You will be pleasantly surprised!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Mulled Cider Sachets

Everyone loves a good cup of mulled apple cider this time of year. Make your own mulling "sachets" for your next brew. It takes only a minute and is well worth it! These little bags of goodness make the perfect hostess gift when paired with a jug of apple cider. Here's what you need:
Whole allspice, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks (3" pieces), citrus peel, 5" piece of cheesecloth, and baking twine.

Place onto cheesecloth: 6 whole allspice, 6 whole cloves, 3 cinnamon sticks, and 3 pieces of citrus peel. Gather ends and tie with twine. Place into pot of apple cider and simmer 15 minutes. Remove bag and toss when you're ready to drink!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yogurt Smackdown

In the left corner we have the strawberry-flavored featherweight six pack and in the right corner we have the heavyweight plain tub-style. While featherweight packs a big caloric punch and a sucker punch to the wallet, it's a knockout for the healthier, more inexpensive heavyweight! Ok, back to my inside voice. While the yogurts both cost $2.49, you get 50% more for your money if you go with the larger size. The plain yogurt also has only 40 calories per serving as opposed to the smaller size's 110 calories. That's 63% less! Even if you add 2 teaspoons of sugar to a serving of the plain, it would still be only 70 calories per serving.

Tips for flavoring plain yogurt: mix in frozen blueberries, fresh fruit, pureed fruit, honey, or a teaspoon or two of jam.

*The price and calorie analysis were calculated on Yoplait plain large size yogurt instead of Kroger brand. I forgot to save the Yoplait container for the picture!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Not-so-nutty school lunch ideas

Several friends and family members have mentioned how hard it can be to find nut-free school lunch and snack ideas. Apparently, most schools now do not allow any kind of nut or nut-based products due to food allergies. Not to despair! Here are some great ideas for protein-packed, healthy nutless alternatives.

  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sausage muffins- for recipe click here:
  • Chicken Salad, egg salad, tuna salad with Triscuits
  • Cheese sticks
  • Greek yogurt
  • Hummus with veggies or pita chips
  • Cottage cheese with fruit
  • Mini quiches or fritattas
  • Granola- for recipe click here:
  • Graham crackers with cream cheese
  • Homemade Chex mix
  • Popcorn
  • Whole grain cereals (Dry)
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds
  • Guacamole with tortilla chips
  • Beef jerky
  • Fruit leather
  • High-protein muffins

Friday, October 7, 2011

Squash Storage

Plastic milk crates are the best for storing winter squash, onions, and sweet potatoes. The holes allow maximum air circulation to prevent rotting and the sturdy design makes them easy to carry. I'm not sure why I hadn't thought of using these before!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Garbage Can Rescue

Most of us with outdoor garbage cans have a problem with that noxious liquid that oozes from trash bags. It sloshes! It stinks! Have I effectively grossed you out now? Try this simple tip. It will only take a minute, I promise. Flip your garbage can over and using a power drill, drill holes into the bottom and you're done. No more ooze!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cake Pops

For those of you who haven't yet heard of cake pops, it's only a matter of time. They are a fun treat that is cropping up everywhere: basically cake on a stick. You can make them into characters (Hello Kitty is very "pop"ular) or simply roll them in sprinkles, coconut, or sanding sugar. Any way you do it, they will be a hit. I promise.

You'll need: one cake mix, one tub of frosting, one package of candy coating.
  • Make a standard cake mix according to package directions (any flavor)
  • Once cake is cool, crumble with forks
  • Add about 2/3 of a tub of frosting (any flavor) and gently mix into cake crumbs until incorporated
  • Roll into balls or use a cookie scoop to form balls and chill in the freezer on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet for 30 minutes.
  • Melt chocolate or vanilla candy coating in microwave or double boiler until melted.
  • Using a fork, dip balls into chocolate and return to lined cookie sheet to cool. Sprinkle on any decorations before the chocolate hardens.
  • Once hardened, remove balls from sheet and poke a skewer or lollipop stick into each one, positioning the flatter side of the ball to serve as the back of the cake pop. Stick into styrofoam for easy distribution.
Into the freezer!
Finished product!
*My pops are not elaborate or professional by any means. I had a 3 year old helping with the decorations, but alas my pops would not look any better even if I was the primary decorator!