Essentials.

At the beginning of the year, I introduced myself to essential oils. I was curious about them and the purported benefits of aromatherapy. Until then, my only exposure to them was during visits to the day spa. Right before COVID was a thing, a neighbor invited me to attend an introductory session at her house, as she had just signed up to sell for one of the major essential oil multi-level marketing (MLM) companies. I learned the basics of essential oils during that session, and wanted to try some, but I’m not really a multi-level marketing kinda girl. Instead, I found Revive for my first purchase, an on-line retailer of high quality, 100% pure essential oils. No MLM-strings attached, with free shipping, too.

After 6 months of using them, I am a fan! Years ago, Monte made me a wooden box out of mahogany boat scraps. It would be a perfect storage box for my essential oils, as they need to be stored in a dry, dark place to maximize their shelf-life. I drilled out cylindrical voids in a few pieces of wood to create two tiered rows inside the box to hold the bottles of my essential oils. I’m in love with this storage box. It smells amazing every time I open it.

I have found various ways to enjoy my essential oils. I haven’t become a fan of ingesting them. But, I use a diffuser to disperse the oils in the air, especially when I am doing yoga, a workout, or just working in my office/studio at home. Sometimes I use a single oil, sometimes I blend a few together. Revive has their own blend called “Sleep” that I really enjoy diffusing around bedtime.

Please remember that 100% pure essential oils should not be applied to skin undiluted. They should be mixed with a carrier oil or other liquid.

Dabbling with essential oils (pardon the pun) has expanded my repertoire of DIY projects with these that each incorporate several drops of oil:

Yoga-mat de-funking spray

  • small spray bottle (mine holds about 4 ounces)
  • 3 parts distilled H2O
  • 1 part witch hazel
  • 5 drops tea tree oil (note, tea-tree oil may not be pet-friendly, eucalyptus is another option)
  • 5 drops lavender oil

Mix all together in a spray bottle. Just spray on your sweaty yoga mat and wipe off with a dry, clean towel.


Foaming soap

  • foaming soap dispenser (Note, make sure it is for foaming soap, which is different than a regular liquid soap dispenser.)
  • 3/4 cup distilled H2O (Put this in the foaming soap dispenser first to cut down on creating foam inside the bottle while mixing.)
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp pure-castile liquid soap
  • 1/2 Tbsp fractionated coconut oil
  • 5-7 drops of your favorite essential oil

My foaming soap dispenser holds 8.5 ounces and the above amounts work for that size dispenser. If yours is a different size, adjust quantities accordingly, but make sure to allow enough room for the foaming mechanism on the spray insert to fit without causing the contents of the bottle to overflow.


Hand-sanitizer (or hand-cleaner, whatever)

  • 2 parts rubbing alcohol (99%)
  • 1 part aloe vera gel

Mix together in dispenser of your choice.


Anti-chafe cream:

  • 1 part fractionated coconut oil
  • 1 part corn starch
  • 4-5 drops essential oil of your choosing

I find this helps alleviate chafing on my skin when working out. You may want to tweak the amount of corn starch to create a consistency you prefer. I keep mine in an old face cream jar and rub a little on my arms or my legs if things are experiencing a bit of friction.

3-way, baby!

I was introduced to Cincinnati Chili late in life, at a Skyline Chili restaurant while visiting southeastern Indiana and Ohio. Better late than ever, though! I was hooked.

I’ve been trying to make the quarantine-induced endless stream of home-cooked meals interesting, so I dusted off a recipe from our Joy of Cooking and made it for dinner yesterday. It was delicious! I might make it every week. 🙂

If you’ve never been treated to the savory goodness of the blended spices in its sauce, you are missing out. Check your spice cabinet inventory and get cooking!

Here’s how to make you some!

Cincinnati Chili (adapted from Joy of Cooking)

Makes 3 servings

Bring 2 cups water to a boil in a large pot

Add:
1 lb ground beef sirloin

Stir until separated, and reduce heat to a simmer.

Add:

1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
1 T apple cider vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce

Stir in:

5 whole black peppercorns, ground
4 whole allspice berries, ground
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground red pepper
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1⁄4 ounce unsweetened chocolate, grated

Bring again to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 2 1⁄2 hours. Refrigerate overnight and reheat, or eat it right away! Don’t forget to discard that bay leaf.

For a 2-Way, serve over cooked thin spaghetti (2 oz of dry pasta per serving).
For a 3-Way, which is my favorite, add a pile of finely shredded cheddar cheese.
For a 4-Way, add chopped onions on top of the cheese.
For a 5-Way, add cooked red kidney beans.

Frosé in the house!

It is HOT in Austin this summer. A cool drink goes a long way to make you forget the temperature outside. I have recently been introduced to a lovely pink frozen beverage called Frosé, made from rosé wine, but presenting as a slushie. Brick Oven Pizza served up my first one (and several since then). Pretty good!

Ever since then I’ve wanted to try making my own. We have a Cuisinart electric ice cream maker which we use to make delicious sorbets. So, I asked myself, “Self, can our ice cream maker successfully make frosé?”

The answer is, “YES!”

Today I conducted a test run. Inputs:

    – 1 Bottle of chilled rosé wine
    – 1/3 c chilled simple syrup (see recipe below)
    – 1 Cuisinart ice cream maker w/ pre-frozen canister. Our model is ICE-25R but is likely replaced by a newer model by now.

Pour wine into the canister, add simple syrup, and stir. Put canister in ice cream maker and start her up. At 15 minutes it was freezing nicely.

I ran it for another 10 minutes and it looked ready.

I scooped some into a wine glass, added a paper straw (no plastic!), and put the rest into the freezer for later.

Delicious! I highly recommend. Cheers!

Simple syrup recipe:

– Heat 2 cups sugar and 2 cups water in a saucepan over medium heat. Boil 1 minute. Cool and refrigerate.

Sláinte!

I made Monte a chocolate Guinness cake for his birthday (recipe here).  I put a little chocolate powder in the icing (link for that is also in the recipe for the cake) so it would be tan colored instead of white.  You know, so I could put a little beer foam on top along with the signature shamrock  🙂

Happy Birthday!

IMG_4064

Dinner and a movie.

Yesterday we helped Julie move into her new apartment.  Then she joined us for dinner.  I shouldn’t have, but I made a very decadent pasta dish, and we pigged out while watching The Princess Bride (for probably the tenth time).  If you are craving a high-calorie, savory, down-home, soul-food kind of pasta dish.  This is the one for you.

IMG_3616

Sausage & Basil Baked Pasta

  • 1 small sweet onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz dry penne or ziti pasta (makes about 3 cups cooked)
  • 1 lb fresh mild italian ground sausage
  • 24 oz jar of tomato & basil sauce
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz carton of ricotta cheese
  • 2 c shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 c shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 c fresh basil, chopped

Boil pasta per package directions, drain and set aside.

In medium saucepan, cook & crumble italian sausage.  Drain off fat.  Return skillet to heat and add onion & garlic to sausage.  Saute until onion is soft.  Add tomato sauce, heat through and set aside.

In large bowl, combine ricotta cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, and half of the mozzarella.  Fold in the cooked pasta to combine well with cheese mixture.

Into a 13×19 pan, add half of the pasta & cheese mixture, spread evenly.  Add half the sausage & tomato sauce mixture.  Layer again with remaining cheese and sauce.

Cover and bake in 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, until bubbly.

Remove cover, add remaining mozzarella cheese and place back in oven for 5-10 minutes, until cheese is melted.

Sprinkle with chopped basil and serve.    Makes enough to feed an army.

 

 

The birds and the bees.

The hummingbird feeders are getting quite a lot of traffic these days.  Between the bees, the hummers and the finches, they’ll empty one of these in a day.   I had just refilled this feeder and by the time I got back into the house, these two had already stopped for a drink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hummingbird Nectar
1 part sugar : 4 parts H2O
Bring to a boil for several minutes.
Let cool completely.   You can refrigerate any extra for a week or so.
Probably shouldn’t leave in the feeder for more than a day or two.

Bird thingie.

The backyard is getting quite crowded with bird-thingies.  The latest one is a bark butter feeder that I hung up a couple of weeks ago.   Bark butter is a spreadable kind of bird food that you can mush onto the bark of a tree,  or onto a hanging feeder.   You can buy both bark butter and bark butter feeders.   But, I decided to try my hand at making both myself.  Long story short, the birdies like it!  This is a Bewick’s wren snacking on it.  I have also seen black crested titmice and woodpeckers try it out.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To make the feeder, I  grabbed a couple of pieces of cedar scrap from the shop, drilled shallow holes in each side with a forstner bit.  I staggered the holes on each side so they were not directly opposite each other, so that I wouldn’t accidentally drill all the way through the board.  Then I glued and nailed a piece of wood on top as an awning.   I didn’t measure, but I’d say that my board is about 16″ long and 6″ wide.

There are recipes on the web for bark butter that contain lard and corn meal and peanut butter and bird seed.  I simply got some all-natural peanut butter and mixed it with my current bird seed mix (mine is a mix of peanuts and whole sunflower seeds and millet) until it was spreadable.  Then I stirred in some cayenne pepper to dissuade the squirrels.   I spread some into each of the holes on the feeder and hung it up.  Within a week I saw some birds feeding off of it; which made me smile.

 

 

Year of the Rooster.

In honor of the 2017 Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster, I whipped up a little chicken stir fry.  Delicious.

Chicken Stir-fry (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1lb), sliced thinly
  • 1 T corn starch
  • 1/4 c soy sauce
  • 1/2 c chicken broth
  • 2 T grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 1 head of cut broccoli florets
  • 4-6 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 2-3 T oil with high smoke-point (e.g., peanut or sesame)
  • 3-4 cups cooked rice

Combine corn starch, soy sauce and chicken broth in large bowl, and stir until smooth.  Add ginger, garlic and pepper flakes to liquid and stir.  Marinate sliced chicken in this mixture for at least 30 mins.  Stir occassionally.

img_1753

Place wok or saucepan over medium heat.  Add 1 T oil and saute onions, mushrooms, broccoli and water chestnuts, stirring, until tender (5-7 minutes).  Empty these cooked veggies into a clean bowl and set aside.

img_1752

Add 1 T oil to wok/saucepan and add chicken slices, reserving liquid marinade until a bit later.  Brown chicken 2-3 minutes per side.

img_1754

img_1755

Add remaining liquid marinade and veggies back to wok/saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring occassionally, to allow sauce to thicken.

img_1756

Serve over cooked rice.

Add more/different veggies, cashews, or other favorite ingredients, to taste.

 

 

Cookies, baked & decorated.

I had a marathon baking session yesterday.   🙂

img_1585

I used a recipe from Southern Living‘s “Christmas at Home” 2009 special issue that I’ve had for years.

Sparkling Sugar Cookies  (made 4-5 dozen medium sized cookies when I made them)

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
Coarse sparkling sugar sprinkles of your choice

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating well. Add egg and vanilla, beating well.

Combine flour and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until blended. Divide dough in half. Cover; chill 1 hour.

Roll each portion of dough to 1⁄8-inch thickness on a lightly floured surface. Cut with desired cookie cutters.  Place on parchment paper lined baking sheets.

Bake at 350° for 12-14 minutes ( 14 worked perfect in my oven)  or until edges of cookies are lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on baking sheets, then remove to wire racks to cool completely.

Add glaze (recipe below) and sprinkles (while glaze is still wet).  Leave flat until completely dry (this took quite a while for me).

Enjoy!

Simple Glaze  (makes about 1 cup)

1 (16-oz.) package powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons hot water
Liquid food coloring (optional)

Stir together powdered sugar and hot water until smooth. If desired, divide mixture, and tint with food coloring.  Spread on cookies with spatula or dip, whatever works best for you.

 

 

Garbage-pail pasta before & after.

Garbage-pail pasta is a quick dinner dish that I throw together using whatever is in the fridge.   Last night’s version featured:

  • leftover chicken breast meat from the day before – diced (8-10 ounces)
  • 1 onion – diced
  • 2 garlic cloves – minced
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp each of kosher salt & ground black pepper
  • 2 cups of mushrooms – sliced
  • 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 8 ounces of dry bowtie pasta, cooked before it is added to sauce
  • 1 cup of half & half
  • 2 cups of baby spinach – coarsely chopped
  • 2 ounces of grated parmesan cheese

Pre-cook pasta in salted water.   Save the pasta water to use it to thin the cream sauce later, if needed.

I use a 4-5 quart saute pan/pot to make the sauce, so that it is big enough to hold both the sauce and the cooked pasta when it is added later.

Saute onion, garlic and mushrooms in olive oil over medium heat, until soft.   Add in the pre-cooked chicken, salt & pepper, and stir for another few minutes til chicken is warm.  Add flour and stir, to coat meat and veggies (this will help thicken the cream sauce later).

Add half & half and stir until sauce begins to thicken.   Add small amounts of pasta water if sauce gets too thick.  Stir in parmesan and spinach, for a minute or two.  Then turn off heat under sauce.  Add drained, cooked pasta to the sauce and stir.

Before:

img_1111

And after:

img_1113

Not bad.  This dish would easily serve 4.  Next time, I’d add more mushrooms.

Lemony goodness.

During our visit to Seattle, my niece made ice cream sandwiches for dessert.   They were delicious, so I had to try making them when we returned home.

IMG_0905

If you like lemon, and you like ice cream, you must try these.

Lemon Ice Cream Sandwiches (makes 4)

4 or 5 scoops of vanilla ice cream – we used Bluebell Homemade Vanilla, of course
1 Tbsp Dickinson’s lemon curd – or more, to taste
8 belgian butter cookies

Put all ice cream scoops together in a single bowl.  Add lemon curd and stir well.  I used a stiff spatula to blend.  Do this relatively quickly, before ice cream gets too soft.  Place 4 cookies on flat baking sheet.  Spread a scoop of the blended ice cream onto each cookie.   Lightly place another cookie on top of each.  Place in freezer for several hours.

 

 

 

And another.

I’m going to have to learn to tell these guys apart.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hummingbird Nectar Recipe

  • Mix 4 parts water with 1 part granulated sugar in a saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved and the mixture reaches a light boil for a minute or two.  Let cool before filling feeders.

 

How’s it hanging?

I’ve crossed off another project from my growing wanna-do list in my head this weekend.  As you may have come to know through this blog, we like to make homemade pasta.  A lot.  Spaghetti, fettucine, ravioli, waddevah.  It’s the food of the gods.  Over the holidays, I ran across a fresh pasta hanger on Amazon and it looked so simple and easy to make, that I refused to put it in my cart.  We have a gynormous wood shop out back.  So I did a little recon and found what I needed already in the shop and… voila!   Ye olde pasta hanger.  I made it without glue, so I can take it apart to store easily in the cabinet.

IMG_9852

Tonight I tried it out.  So, here’s how it went down:

  • 2 1/4 cups flour

IMG_9848

  • 3 eggs

IMG_9849

  • stir / mix with a fork, blending the egg & flour crater from the inside out.  You may not need all the flour.   When the dough stands on its own, knead by hand for 10 minutes.  Till it looks a like more or less like this:

IMG_9850

  • Wrap dough ball in saran wrap and let sit at room temp for 30 mins or so.
  • Afterwards,  I cut the dough ball into 3 equal-ish sided pieces, ready to put through the pasta roller.

IMG_9854

I used our Kitchen-Aid roller, starting on setting 1 – ending on setting 5.  Rolling and dusting the dough with flour several times on each setting.  After rolling each of the three balls into a sheet at setting number 5, I cut each in half.  I found that each of my six pasta sheets ended up making about 2 ounces of pasta – a serving.  So 3 eggs + 2 1/4 cups of pasta yields approximately 6 servings.

Next, I put the fettucine pasta cutter on the Kitchen-aid

IMG_9855

I hung each section on my new, handy-dandy pasta hanger.  (Awesome!)

IMG_9858

Then I threw the pasta into a pot of boiling water.  I sauteed the other bits in a skillet with some olive oil and I let the flavor develop.

IMG_9851

Yummm!

IMG_9865