Brilliant

February 27, 2014 / No Comments on Brilliant
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BrilliantI live in the Middle East, and many of my favorite foods from the “old country” are no longer  available to me.  Old Bay Seasoning, wasabi sauce, and  powdered cream of tartar are considered exotic ingredients in my current community.  Even Cheddar cheese is almost im­pos­sible to find.

Because of this, I purchased the most complete book of food substitutions I could find. The book is called Brilliant, and is written by David Joachim.

Brilliant is virtually an encyclopedia of anything food and cooking related.

Not only does Brilliant have a zillion substitution ideas, it is also packed with tons of  quick cooking hints, hundreds of tips for perking up food and over 900 delicious recipes. Wow!

The 5,000 entries in Brilliant are written alphabetically, so information is always easy to locate.  In addition, the book is generously illustrated and is dotted with frequent sidebars.

If you are in the market for a all-in-one cooking reference, I can’t recommend Brilliant highly enough.

Amazon Affiliate Link: Brilliant Food Tips and Cooking Tricks

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8 Ways To Find Inspiration

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14420946270_5f877a92f9_zsource: Larry Vincent

Very few of us, even when following project instructions, follow the design exactly. We like to add our own fabrics,  our own em­bell­ish­ments,  our own little touch. Something that makes the project our own.

But what happens when inspiration just won’t come? Eight ways of “forcing” inspiration are discussed in an article at Marc Makes Art.

Here is my favorite :

Other Artists. When I feel uninspired, I go to the library and sit on the floor with art books sprawled around me. I always like to choose some favorites, and a few that are unfamiliar. I keep a notebook of ideas that sometimes includes rough sketches of an idea, but always a line or two about a project I want to start. Sometimes, it isn’t the library, but the Internet where I look at inspiring artwork. Drawn!, Flickr, DeviantArt, PhotoJojo, a random Google search, The Wooster Collective, or even a place like Bighappyfunhouse….Always explore the unknown genres of art, music, whatever when finding yourself uninspired.

Head on over to read the rest of the article for seven more inspiring ideas.

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10 Ways Crafting Reduces Stress

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In today’s  bustling world, taking the time for deliberate  relaxation has become a modern day necessity.  Between work, family life, and other responsibilities,  the average person spends his day going from difficult situation to even more difficult situation. Crafting  provides  a great way to break out from this routine and de-stress for a little while.

Here are 10 reasons crafting is good for your mental health:

1. Crafting focuses our minds on a productive activity.

2. Crafting allows  our stressful energy to be released through our hands in creative ways.

3. Crafting provides  an outlet for creative problem solving, which creates the  flexibility that is an essential element of stress  reduction

4. Crafting, like any  focused activity, creates a mild trance state which is highly conducive to relaxation and letting go of  stress.

5. Crafting gives us  time in our busy lives in which we can reconnect with ourselves.

6. Crafting is fun; and fun  things reduce  stress.

7. Crafting creates  a time in which we are free from worries (about time, money,  relationships, and the many other things we tend to worry about).

8. Crafting keeps us  productive and when we’re productive we stress less.

9. Crafting is a great get-a-way without having to go  anywhere.

10. Crafting is something we can do for ourselves (a self-care activity), and doing for ourselves (self-care activities) reduces  stress.

So, the next time the stress becomes overwhelming, consider skipping the beer and chocolate, and reaching for the knitting instead!

Ben Klempner, LMSW, founder and  editor of Effective Family Communication,  is a trained social worker. Please visit  his blog at: http://www.EffectiveFamilyCommunication.com

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Three-Bean Chili

February 19, 2014 / No Comments on Three-Bean Chili
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Three-Bean Chilisource: cucchiaio

This Three-Bean Chili is based on a recipe from the American Heart Association Quick And Easy Cookbook. Lately, I’ve been trying out at least one recipe from this book each week. Unfortunately, the book isn’t vegetarian, so I’m afraid I’ll run out of new things to try long before I’m ready to give this wonderful book up!

I’ve made the Three-Bean Chili two ways. The first time I made it with beer, according to the instructions in the book. It was good but alcohol tends to give me a stomachache. The second time around, in addition to other changes, I skipped the beer and added onion soup mix instead. The result was much better for my tummy and still very delicious.

The following recipe is my own alcohol-free version.

Ingredients

1 can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

3/4 oz. onion soup mix ( I use three single serving pkgs)

3-4 oz. tomato paste

2 tbsp. chili powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1/2 cup plain yogurt

garlic powder, to taste

salt, to taste

Directions

In a large pot, combine beans, 1 cup water, tomato paste, onion soup mix, chili powder and cumin. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Add more water as needed.

Add salt and garlic powder to yogurt to taste. I like mine strong, but that’s just my personal taste.

Pour chili into four bowls and top with seasoned yogurt.

Note: Chili is also delicious served over brown rice. Or, for a vegan chili, skip the yogurt.

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“Oh So Healthy” Roasted Potatoes

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Oh So Healthy Roasted Potatoessource: su-lin

In the past, I’ve posted recipes for 3-Ingredient Roasted Potatoes and Hasselback Potatoes.  But lately,  my style of cooking has changed dramatically.  I now cook exclusively low-fat (or non-fat foods) for health reasons. Which means that these (admittedly delicious) recipes are no longer part of my repertoire.

Instead, I now make a potato recipe that’s easy, delicious AND low in fat. Perfect!

Ingredients

3-4 large potatoes

3 teaspoons olive oil

1 oz pkg onion soup mix (or more to taste)

Pam spray

salt (optional)

Directions

Preheat oven to 240 Celsius or 465 Fahrenheit.

Slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Cut each of the halves into 4-6 wedges, depending on the size of your potato. Dry potato slices well, using paper towels or clean cloth towels.

Place the wedges in a large plastic bag, add oil, onion soup mix, and optional salt.  Shake well to coat.

Spray baking sheet with Pam spray.

Cook potatoes till nicely browned and serve with ketchup on the side.

Note: For easier cleanup the baking sheet can be covered with aluminum foil. The potatoes will come off the aluminum relatively easily if you use enough Pam.

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Recycled Aspirin Bottle Knitting Spool

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aspirin bottle to knitting spool

On my tenth birth­day, I received a knit­ting spool as one of my birth­day pres­ents. I loved that thing. I played with my knit­ting spool all sum­mer long, mak­ing brac­elets, neck­lac­es, head­bands and fan­cy dress­es for my dolls.

Re­cent­ly, my in­ter­est in this craft has re­vived and I’ve been cur­ious to see what an ad­ult could do with such a sim­ple tool. How­ev­er,  as I cur­rent­ly live in the Mid­dle East, knit­ting spools aren’t ex­act­ly easy to loc­ate

The so­lu­tion?

I cre­at­ed my own knit­ting spool from an empty aspirin bottle. Not only did I have an evening of nostalgic pleasure rediscovering an old love, I also saved a plastic container from the city dump.

Here’s what I did:

First, I removed all labels and identifying information off the bottle. I will probably hand the knitting spool off to one of my nieces eventually,  and I don’t want them equating medicine bottles with toys.  Plus, the knitting spool looks much nicer without a label on it.

Next, I removed the bottom of the bottle using a small but extremely sharp scissors.

Finally, using the same scissors, I cut four evenly spaced tabs into the walls of the bottle. I removed all the plastic between the tabs.

That’s all.

The resulting spool is surprising strong and flexible and the entire process took less than an hour.

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Vegetarian Cholent Recipe

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Vegetarian Cholent

source: jamieanne

Cholent is a traditional Jewish stew, made from beans and potatoes, and cooked for almost 24 hours on a low flame. The following recipe started out in Kosher By Design, but after many changes to ingredients and cooking instructions, I feel I can call this version at least partly my own.

Ingredients

1/2 cup kidney beans, rinsed

1/2 cup lima beans, rinsed

1 cup  brown lentils, rinsed

3 large onions, peeled and chopped

1/4 cup canola oil

4 thin-skinned potatoes, chunked

4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1  cup frozen baby carrots

1 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)

1/2 cup barley, rinsed

3 tablespoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons sweet paprika

1 large pinch black pepper

1/4-1/3 cup ketchup

Direction

Cook the kidney beans, lentils, and lima beans in boiling water for five minutes. Remove from flame and let sit for one hour.

While beans are soaking, brown onions in oil.

Drain beans and place all ingredients in a oven roasting bag. Fill the bag with water till the ingredients are completely covered and tie the top with a slip knot.

Place the oven roasting bag in a slow cooker filled halfway with water. Cook on  high for about 21-22 hours. Serve immediately.

Note: You will need to add additional water to the bag.  Have a urn with hot water available.

Makes 8-10 servings.

Warning: Slow cookers differ in heat settings. The first time you prepare Vegetarian Cholent, watch your food to insure it does not overcook.

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