Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things. ~John Burroughs

May 2010 bring you many precious memories and blessings. ~Brenda

Last Minute Holiday Recipes

Year's end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. ~Hal Borland

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. We have one more family celebration to go to on Saturday and then we officially finished our celebrations! I thought I'd share a few last minute recipes today. We are pretty laid back on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day. We stay at home with the kids, watch movies or football and play board games. It's quiet but fun:)

Garlic Herb Cheese Dip

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
8-ounces cream cheese
1/4 cup sour cream

Blend first four ingredients in a food processor until garlic is finely chopped, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl. Add cream cheese and sour cream and blend well. Season with more salt and pepper, if needed. Transfer to serving bowl; chill 30
minutes or longer. Serve with crackers.

Feta Cheese Dip

1 minced small jalapeno pepper
1 sprig fresh dill weed--or 1/2 tsp. dried dill
1 clove garlic, chopped
4 ounces Feta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons buttermilk

Combine all ingredients, except buttermilk in a blender or food processor. Blend till combined. Add buttermilk and mix. Serve with vegetables and crackers.

Crock pot Spiced Hot Chocolate

8 ounces Semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 cups Half & Half
2 cups milk
1 cup strong coffee
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch salt
Frozen whipped topping

Add the chocolate chips, half & half, milk, coffee, brown sugar, vanilla, spices and salt to the crock pot. Stir and cover. Cook on the high setting, stirring every 15 minutes, until the chocolate has melted, about 1 hour. Serve immediately, or
turn crock to low (or warm if yours has that setting). Serve with the thawed whipped topping.

On OFL we have recipes for the holiday season from all around the world:


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

10 Steps Toward a Debt-Free New Year

Have you examined your family finances lately? Are you shocked and anxious about the amount of debt you have? If your New Year's resolutions include getting out of debt or getting your financial house in order, here are ten easy steps for regaining financial control in the New Year:

1) Seek help. If you're not sure how to proceed, or you're feeling too overwhelmed to act for yourself, call a non-profit credit-counseling program for advice and assistance in working with your creditors to set up a repayment plan. Consumer Credit Counseling Service has offices throughout the US. Call 1-800-388-CCCS, 24 hours a day, for an office near you. You can also find information about debt problems from your local church, library or bank. Look for information online as well.

2) Contact your creditors. As soon as you're aware you won't be able to make a payment, contact your creditors. Creditors are more likely to work with you if they're contacted before the payment is actually overdue. Debt collectors are trained to solve payment problems, so don't be afraid to be honest with them about your financial situation. Stay calm. If you commit to paying the bill by a certain date, be sure you follow through on that commitment. The creditor won't be likely to work with you again if you don't keep your pay- ment promises. If you can't make your minimum monthly payments, write to each creditor individually and see if you can work out smaller regular monthly bills. Be sure to explain to them why you fell behind in your bills, your current income, your other financial obligations and the exact amount you can pay them each month.

3) Cut up all credit cards and send them back to the issuing companies immediately. Officially close all credit accounts. A temptation when you start seeing lower balances on your accounts could lead you to charge the credit limits right back up again if the accounts remain open. Don't take out more loans or open any new credit accounts until back bills are paid in full.

Please visit 10 Steps Toward a Debt-Free New Year on Old Fashioned Living to read the rest of this article

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas To All

May you have a very special, Christmas,
full of precious memories.


Monday, December 21, 2009

Last Minute Easy-to-Make Gifts from 1963

Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more. ~Dr. Seuss

Today I'm sharing some neat ideas from a pamphlet my dad gave me entitled "Easy-to-make gifts for the small budget" put out by Johnson's Wax in the 1960's.

For a cheese lover: Decorate a dime store bread board with stencils and then add an expensive look by waxing. Put on it a small box of crackers and a selection of foil-wrapped cheeses-also a cheese spreader. Wrap in cellophane or Saran Wrap. Tie with holiday ribbon and trim with holly or small Christmas tree ornaments.

Pine Cones: Dip Pine Cones in self-polishing floor finish and sprinkle with artificial snow while the polish is wet. Wonderful to hang on your tree.

A Candle Centerpiece: Spray a muffin tin with gold paint. Fill the cups with votive candles-dime stores have them. Trim with shiny green leaves and a tiny crepe paper butterfly here and there. Tie a big satin ribbon bow at each end of the tin.

To A Little Lady: There's nothing like a "big lady" jewel box filled with junk jewelry. Buy a plastic tackle or utility box at the dime store. Use household cement to attach pearls, beads, flat rhinestone buttons and other glitter.

Note: You can use a glue gun instead of cement. These ideas are very basic, I really like the simplicity and all of them would be neat to make with kids.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Fail Cookies to Make This Week

Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time. ~Laura Ingalls Wilder

I made a big batch of cookies that I call Cupboard Cookies last night for a friend that is delivering cookies to the Veteran's Home, and today I'll make another batch for my kids to take to school. I've been making these for 20 years now, and they are a "no fail" recipe that never fails to please people.

The great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute for many of the ingredients as long as the quantities remain the same. You can substitute finely chopped nuts for the coconut, or use white, butterscotch,or peanut butter chips instead of chocolate chips. The cup of cereal can be any variety such as frosted flakes, crispy rice, corn flakes, or bran flakes. The key is to crush whatever kind of cereal you use before measuring out the one cup. Also, as far as the oatmeal, I use whatever I have on hand. This time I opened packets of instant that no one was finishing until I get one cup or you can use old fashioned oats. This cookie is crispy yet chewy. I give them in tins with circles of wax paper between layers.

You'll notice it has oil and margarine, which is not a typo. They are not a low fat or low calorie cookie:)

1 cup butter or margarine
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup oatmeal, old fashioned or instant
1 cup crushed cereal, flakes, crispy types; anything crunchy
1/2 cup coconut
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a large bowl cream the butter and sugars with a mixer. Add egg, oil, and vanilla; beat well. Stir in next 5 ingredients with a wooden spoon. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into the mixture. Stir until all the dry ingredients are mixed in.

Shape into 1 1/2 inch loose balls. Flatten the cookies with a fork dipped in granulated sugar.

Place on an ungreased cookie or baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 10-12 minutes or until VERY lightly browned around edges. These are better when not browned too much unless you want them to be extra crispy. Cool on sheets before removing to wire racks. Makes about 8 dozen.

Enjoy! ~Brenda

Monday, December 14, 2009

Old Fashioned Holiday Recipes

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart. ~Washington Irving

Today I have some fun recipes from the Practical Recipes for the Housewife book published by the Detroit Times in 1934. I know some of you wondered if it was still available in print. I always watch ebay for vintage cookbooks, as well as used book sources online such as the sellers on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Offline I also always check thrift stores and church sales. If you have time for auctions there are many good deals at those too. As far as I know the book was never reprinted.

The recipes below are for beverages.

Frosted Russian Chocolate

2 cups strong boiling black coffee
2 ounces chocolate
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups scalded milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
grated nutmeg

Dissolve cornstarch in coffee and cook in double boiler with coffee, chocolate, spices and sugar. Then add milk to this thickened liquid. Stir well and boil for one quarter hour. Serve chilled with some cracked ice in tall glasses.

Mint Squash

Four sprigs of mint
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon powdered sugar
Cold water
ginger ale

Bruise all but tip of one sprig of mint in a glass. Add strips of lemon rind, juice of the lemon, sugar and chill. When ready to serve, fill glasses with ice cubes, pour over ginger ale and serve with a sprig of mint on top of ice.

The following recipes are dainty and can be used for afternoon tea or open houses.

Chicken and Pineapple Sandwiches

1 cup canned crushed pineapple
1 cup chopped cooked or canned chicken
2 loaves white bread
1/2 pound walnut meats
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Drain pineapple, and mix with the chopped chicken and mayonnaise. Spread between buttered slices of white bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters diagonally, forming triangles. This recipe makes 50 sandwiches.

Orange Cream Cheese Sandwiches

Mix one package of cream cheese with one teaspoon of grated orange rind, and add enough orange juice to spread. Use as a filling for very thin sandwiches of white or whole wheat bread, cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

I have one last recipe for an interesting salad.

Pomegranate Salad

6 canned pear halves
1/3 cup pecan meats, chopped
pomegranate seeds
2 packages cream cheese
cream mayonnaise

Arrange crisp lettuce leaves on individual salad plates. Place half a canned pear on each plate. Mix cream cheese and chopped nuts, form into balls. Place one ball into the center of pear. Place a few sprigs of watercress at the blossom end of each pear. Serve with cream mayonnaise sprinkled lightly with pomegranate seeds. Serves 6.

I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Roses in Winter

No peevish winter wind shall chill, no sullen tropic sun shall wither the roses in the rose-garden, which is ours and ours only. ~T.S. Eliot

I have a question from a reader to answer today, plus I added a few tips on using roses and rose hips during the holidays. Last week we had a blizzard, then ice and sleet. I certainly hope our weather cooperates this week! The snow is beautiful, as long as I don't have to drive on it. Stay warm and safe this week as you finish your holiday preparations.

My wedding is in a year and I was wanting to use red rose petals that guests could eat. They will be used on a wedding cake.What would you recommend? ~Tina

First, the roses HAVE to be untreated in any way to be used as food. The best ones to use are your own, so you know they've been grown organically. If you can't do that, then check with local florists. You can use fresh whole roses, rose buds or petals on the cake as long as they are safe to eat. They will need to be as fresh as possible and kept chilled until the reception. Place them on the cake at the last minute, unless you could keep the entire cake chilled with the roses already on the cake. You can Royal or Butter cream icing to attach the flowers.

As an alternative you could crystallize the rose petals. There is information on that process here:

Christmas & Winter Arrangements

As long as we are on the subject of flowers I thought I would toss out some ideas for using plants and flowers during the holiday season.

Rose hips can be used in centerpieces and flower arrangements. They can be ordered from florists or found on your own rose bushes. You can also look for wild rose hips, but those are usually quite a bit smaller. Combine them still on the branch with greens for a rustic look or place them in bowls mixed with other natural items.

Roses are always beautiful any time of year. For the holidays try combining roses with greens in a holiday themed bowl for a pretty centerpiece. If you have a holiday teapot you can cut the roses and combine with greens for another charming centerpiece.

On OFL we have an article on using rose hips:


Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Recipes: Ham

This holiday season, thousands of ovens will be stuffed with Christmas hams. We've put together several recipes for you, and we hope you have a joyous family meal!

Country Baked Ham

1 8 lb. ham
3 quarts sweet cider
2 cups maple sugar(or brown sugar)
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 teaspoon powdered cloves
1 1/2 cup water
2 cups raisins

Simmer ham in cider for 2 hours; drain. Cover with paste made from sugar, mustard, cloves and water. Place in baking dish. Pour cider over ham. Add raisins to pan bottom. Bake for 2 1/2 hours at 325* basting frequently.

Glazed Baked Ham

1 12 lb. ham
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
1/4 cup pineapple juice
6 slices fresh or canned pineapple
6 maraschino cherries

Place ham, fat side up on rack in open roasting pan. Bake in 350* oven for 3 to 3 1/2 hours. Combine sugar, mustard and pineapple juice. Remove ham from oven 45 minutes prior to completed baking time. Pour off excess fat. Spread 1/3 of the glaze on fat side. Arrange pineapple slices and cherries on the glaze, pressing firmly. Return to oven and baste with remaining glaze at 15 minute intervals.

Crusty Pineapple Ham

1- 3 lb. canned ham
1 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1 flat can pineapple slices
1 can refrigerated flaky biscuits

Remove ham from can and remove jelly. Place in a shallow roasting pan. Mix mustard and cloves with juice drained from pineapple slices; spoon over ham. Roast in preheated 350 F oven for 40 minutes, spooning pan juices over ham every 10 minutes. Remove from oven, top with halved pineapple slices. Open biscuits and separate. Place on pineapple in overlapping rows. Raise oven temperature to 400 F and bake another 20 minutes or until rolls are richly browned. Cut into slices to serve

Ham With Spiced Fruits

2 bananas cut into fourths
1 8 oz can sliced peaches
1 8 oz can sliced pears
12 maraschino sherries, halved
1/4 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 lb fully cooked boneless smoked ham
1 23 oz can sweet potatoes, drained and halved
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon dry mustard

Mix the bananas, peaches and pears (both with syrup), cherries and pumpkin pie spice. Remove 1/2 cup syrup from the fruit mixture and reserve. Refrigerate fruit mixture. Place the ham in an ungreased baking dish. Arrange sweet potatoes around the ham. Mix brown sugar, reserved fruit syrup and the mustard and pour over ham and potatoes. Cook uncovered in 350* oven for 30 minutes - occasionally spooning the sauce onto the ham and potatoes. Drain fruit mixture and arrange around and on top of ham. Cook uncovered an additional 15 minutes. Serves 6.

Maple Glazed Ham

4-6 pound fully-cooked ham
Whole cloves
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup maple or maple flavored syrup
1 tablespoon prepared mustard

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Insert cloves into ham. Bake uncovered 1-1 1/2 hours until temperature reaches 140 degrees. While ham is baking, combine brown sugar, syrup and mustard; spoon over ham during the last 1/2 hour of cooking. Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Honey Ham Glaze

1 cup honey
1/2 cup orange juice
4-5 pound ham

Bake ham 30 minutes for every pound at 325 degrees. Combine ingredients in a small bowl. The last 45 minutes baste with glaze several times.

Cherry Ham Glaze

1 jar (12 ounce) cherry preserves
1/4 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
3 tablespoons water

In a saucepan combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer 2 minutes; stirring frequently. About 15 minutes before your ham is done, spoon 1/4 to 1/3 cup glaze over ham. Repeat is desired. Stir water into remaining glaze; heat through and serve with ham.

Sage and Apple Ham

1 ham
dried sage
1 cup apple cider or juice
apple jelly

Rub dried sage over the entire ham. Place in roasting pan; add cider or juice. Bake according to directions on ham; basting occasionally with juice. The last 20 minutes of cooking spread a thick coating of apple jelly over the surface of the ham.

Maple Baked Ham

One-half boneless precooked smoked ham (appox. 5 pounds)
1 Cup maple syrup for each 5 pounds of ham
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Cup water
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Maple extract (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place the ham fat side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Do not cover or add water. Insert a meat thermometer and bake the ham. (For a precooked ham, the internal temperature should be 130 degrees when finished). When the ham is about half baked, approximately 45 minutes, pour the pan juices into a medium saucepan. Skim off excess fat and set the drippings aside. Pour the maple syrup over the ham, and return to the oven. Occasionally baste the ham with the syrup from the pan while it finishes baking; the total cooking time for a 5 pound precooked ham is about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

To make the sauce, remove the ham from the pan and set aside on a carving board. With a whisk, blend the flour into the reserved drippings in the saucepan. Add the water, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and maple syrup drippings from the roasting pan and combine. Add a bit of maple extract if desired. Bring to boil, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat and keep warm.

Carve the ham into thin slices. Pour the hot maple sauce into a gravy boat and pass with the ham. This is my favorite pie and I enjoy making it for family and friends at Easter. Everyone loves this pie and it is simple (it's mixed right in the shell) and fun to make.

Ham with Brown Sugar Glaze

1 fully cooked, boneless ham half (4-5 pounds) ( I like bone-in hams best)
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
Grated peel of 1 orange or tsp. dried orange peel
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Place ham on a rack in a roasting pan. Bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes per pound or until a meat thermometer reaches 125 degrees F. Prepare the glaze: in a small saucepan combine brown sugar, orange juice, orange peel, cloves and allspice; simmer on low heat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Brush the glaze over the ham. Bake the ham for 20 to 30 minutes more or until it reaches 135 degrees F. Allow it to stand for 15 minutes before carving. Makes 8 servings.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Custom of Christmas Cards

Christmas cards abound each year as friends wish one another holiday cheer. These colorful greetings are displayed on tabletops, mantlepieces, and sometimes strung around the room. They're often collected and pasted in albums or used the following year for making Christmas decorations.

But sending Christmas greetings in the form of a card is not a centuries old custom. Actually the first real Christmas card supposedly appeared in the 1840s.

First Christmas Card

Henry Cole, an Englishman, found himself pressed for time at Christmas. So he wasn't able to send the personal Christmas letters (a tradition at that time) to his friends. Thus he asked well-known artist J.C. Horsley to design a Christmas message that could be printed up and mailed.

One source says that Mr. Horsley designed and sold more than 1,000 copies of that first card. Did Mr. Cole send so many cards himself, or did Mr. Horsley interest others in buying and sending cards, too?

Design of the First Card

This first Christmas card apparently was constructed of stiff cardboard, illustrated with a drawing of a family seated around the table eating Christmas dinner. Then the side panels depicted poor Londoners receiving food and clothing from the more well-to-do.

The card carried the message, "A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You" as many cards do today.

Christmas Cards of Many Types

Louis Prang, a German immigrant, started printing commercially the first Christmas cards in America in 1875. By 1881, Prang was printing five million cards a year.

The smallest card ever made was perhaps the one sent to the Duke of Windsor in 1929. A grain of rice was inscribed with Christmas greetings.

This inscription could be seen only through a magnifying glass. Over the years, Christmas cards have come in all shapes and sizes and were made from a variety of materials. Some early Christmas cards were no larger than a postage stamp.

A Christmas Tradition That Continues

Sending Christmas cards is a tradition that isn't likely to die out even though postage keeps increasing. When you include a personal note or annual family letter you add something of yourself to the greeting. In today's computer world, we're finding computer designed and generated cards, as well as online greetings.

No matter how we send them, Christmas greetings bring people closer together at this time of year. 

(c)Mary Emma Allen

About the author
Mary Emma Allen writes children's stories as well as columns and articles for newspapers and magazines. Her books include: "When We Become the Parent of Our Parents," "Tales of Adventure & Discovery," "Writing in Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont," "The Magic of Patchwork," and Writers' Manuals. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

More from Grand Union Tea Company

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale

A few of you emailed me about "forcemeat" from my post last week. In the cookbook they had it as "forceMENT", which is what confused me. It may have been a typo in the cookbook though. Several readers kindly sent me a definition. This one is from Jennie:

The Beef Olives recipe is *really* old, I think -- a survival of one that's much older than 1902. Try forceMEAT - hard to say if the usage had changed or if it was misspelled at the time:

force⋅meat [fawrs-meet, fohrs-] –noun Cookery.
a mixture of finely chopped and seasoned foods, usually containing egg
white, meat or fish, etc., used as a stuffing or served alone.
Also, farcemeat. Origin: 1680–90; force, var. of obs. farce stuffing + meat

Thanks for your interesting posts! ~Jennie in Ohio

Since so many of you enjoyed the recipe and tips from the 1902 The Grand Union Tea Company cookbook, I thought I would share a few more that can be used as holiday appetizers.

Baked Oysters
For baked oysters choose fine, large ones, and lay two or three together on a nice round of buttered toast. Put a little pepper and salt and a few bits of butter on them, and heat in a very hot oven till the edges of the oysters curl a little.

Anchovy Sandwiches
The easiest way to make anchovy sandwiches is to use anchovy paste, which is sold in all large cities. For anchovies, caviare or pate de foie gras use brown bread, buttered. The only seasoning is cayenne. Care must be taken to spread such paste very thinly. Watercress with fine leaves should be stripped from the stems and laid on one half the sandwich, while the other is spread with anchovy, then put the two together.

Notes: Anchovy paste is very easy to find now. Ask if you don't see it in your grocery store. Caviare is the same as caviar. Pate de foie gras is made from the livers of geese or duck that have been specially fattened. If you can't find watercress in your local store, try substituting spinach or another green like arugula.

Salmon Sandwiches
One can of salmon (remove all bones), two tablespoonfuls crisp pickles, three hard boiled eggs; chop all together and add one teaspoonful mustard, juice of one lemon, one tablespoonful melted butter and one tablespoonful vinegar. Mix thoroughly and spread between very thin slices of bread.

Deviled Ham
Mince ham very fine and season highly with pepper. Add a little curry powder and a little chopped garlic. (Note: use this on crackers or small pieces of bread.)


Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Recipes: Fresh Cranberry Recipes and Tips

Don't miss out on using fresh cranberries this holiday season! When purchasing, choose berries that are bright red in color and they shouldn't be soft. Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator without washing for up to 14 days and they can be frozen up to a year. Frozen cranberries should not be thawed before using in a recipe.

Cranberry Apple Pie

2 bought or homemade 9" pie crusts (one top, and one bottom)
8 apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

Place the apple slices in the pie crust. Blend the cranberries in a blender and spoon over the apples. Mix sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and spoon over apples and cranberries. Place the top crust on the pie and cut slits in the crust. Brush the tops with a little milk. Bake in oven at 425° F for 50 minutes.

Cranberry Cake

1 egg
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons granulated sugar (divided)
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon orange juice
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour (divided)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces fresh cranberries (2 cups)
2 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375° F. Coat an 8-inch square baking pan with cooking spray. Beat the egg; then add 1/2 cup sugar, milk, oil, orange juice and extract; mix and set aside. Combine 1 cup flour, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture and mix. Pour into the prepared pan. Chop the fresh cranberries in a blender or a food processor; spoon over batter. Mix the remaining 1/2 cup flour the 3 tablespoons sugar and cut in 2 tablespoons butter. Sprinkle over cranberries. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm sprinkled with confectioners' sugar.

Cranberry Yams

1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oatmeal (not instant)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/3 cup butter
2 17-oz cans yams, drained
2 cup fresh cranberries

Combine flour, sugar, oatmeal and cinnamon. Cut in butter with fingers or a fork. Mix a cup of the oats mixture with yams and cranberries. Place in a sprayed or buttered baking dish. Top with the remaining oat mixture and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees F.

Cranberry Waffles

2 cups buttermilk baking mix
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
3 tbsp. shortening, melted
1 cup fresh cranberries

Place the fresh cranberries in a blender and process. Combine biscuit mix and sugar; stir in eggs and milk. Add the melted shortening, mixing well; fold in cranberries. Bake in a preheated waffle baker as directed.

Cranberry Stuffed Acorn Squash

2 medium acorn squash
1 apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 orange, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. honey

Cut the squash in half and remove the seeds. Combine the other ingredients, except the honey. Place the squash in a baking dish. Fill the squash halves with mixture. Drizzle the honey over squash. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes in a 400 degree F oven. Remove the foil and continue baking until the squash is tender, about 20 minutes. Serves 4

More recipes such as fresh cranberry sauce, relish and jelly can be found here.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Checklist for Organizing a Successful Holiday Event

Any event worth doing is worth doing well. And the biggest inside secret to organizing is.... PLANNING.

Ask anyone who has ever successfully hosted a party, sponsored a community event, or thrown a children's birthday party, and they will tell you their secret was in the list. Not Aunt Mabel's famous sugar cookies, not the special sprinkles on the cupcakes, and not the high-dollar caterer.

So where do you begin? Even if you are not a list-maker, you can plan and pull off a successful event by using the infamous KISS method: Keep It Simple Sweetheart. That's not to say that you should make a half-hearted effort by tossing a few opened bags of chips on the table and telling everyone to help themselves to the drinks in the fridge! Just don't make things so complicated in your efforts to make an impression on the guests.

To keep stress at a manageable level, as well as your blood pressure, try these 3 tips for simple holiday planning:

Make this as detailed or brief as your little heart desires. If one word jogs your memory, that's all you need on your list. If you are into details to keep you afloat, then by all means write everything down. We each have a different communication style, and isn't writing and reading just one more way to communicate, even if it is with ourselves? (Besides, you may get lucky and pass on one of those items to someone else to do!)

Include refreshments, serving ware, decorations, tables, chairs, tablecloths, favors (optional), entertainment, eating utensils, and anything else necessary for your events' success.

Don't underestimate your abilities, but don't be too eager to go outside your comfort zone if you're already going to be stressed. If you don't cook or bake, then hire a caterer. Can't afford one? Then order a party tray from your favorite deli or grocery. There is something for every budget imaginable. Don't know how to make fancy centerpieces? Call your florist, visit your local craft store, or call in a favor from a talented neighbor. Candles, cut greenery, and candycanes placed strategically around the house or banquet hall are colorful and have impact.

3. CALL 911. 
Yes, to all you overachievers out there, it IS perfectly ok to ask for help from friends, family, and professionals. Most people are very willing to help out with assembling trays, decorations, picking up tables & chairs from rental stores, etc. Not enough room in your home for an assembly line? Divide the list, assign tasks, and let your helpers HELP. Don't micromanage, don't worry. If things are not the way you would do them, that's fine. You're only one person, remember?

It's showtime! Everything is in order, and it's time to be the best host or hostess you can possibly be. Relax, take time for yourself, change your clothes, grab an ice cold drink of something refreshing, and have fun. Can't be in more than one place at once? Not a problem, just enlist someone to fill the buffet plates, refill the ice bucket, tend the bar, take coats at the door, etc. From age 3 to 93, I'm sure you can find someone to do these jobs - just ask! And after the party, be sure to take a moment to make notes to ensure next year's planning is even easier. Happy partying!

Copyright 2000-2001 Debbie Williams

About the author
Debbie Williams is an organizing strategist, and freelance writer. She is the author of Home Management 101

Monday, November 30, 2009

Household Tidbits From 1902

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ~Roy L. Smith

I have a book from The Grand Union Tea Company in my collection that was published in 1902. The poor thing is falling apart and has lost the cover, but I still enjoy looking through the tips and recipes. Today I'm sharing some things that I find helpful, or just plain fascinating.

What to Do With Wet Shoes

When shoes are soaked, get some oats and stuff the shoes with them until the shape of the foot is preserved. The shoes should be filled above the instep. Then they may be put near the stove or even into a cool oven and will not dry hard or out of shape. The oats may be used two or three times.

Washing Silk Embroideries

Avoid scalding water, cheap washing powders and hard wringing. Do not fold or roll up the article while wet.

A Mammoth Pudding

A plum pudding three feet long, two feet wide and a foot deep, and embracing fifty pounds of raisins and ten cans of milk in its composition, was a feature at a Thanksgiving dinner, at Roger Williams Hall, in Providence, for the news-boys and bootblacks. Jack Horner's pie was nothing to that.

Note: a bootblack was a man or boy who shined shoes. Usually the word is written boot-black or sometimes shoe-black. They were also known as shoeshiners, which is more widely used.

I thought this recipe was interesting:

Beef Olives

Cut a round steak, which should be about half an inch thick, into pieces about four inches square. Cover each piece with a forcement of bread crumbs, a pinch of finely shredded suet, some minced onion or shalot (shallot), pepper and salt. Roll each slice and put it on a skewer. Then put them into a stewpan, cover with brown gravy or stock, and stew until tender.

Notes: I looked up the word forcement and couldn't find it as a cooking term. I'm guessing it means to combine the ingredients and spread them onto the steak. A large, deep pan should work for the cooking. I also would not use a thick gravy, as it might thicken even more and burn.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Old Fashioned Holiday Entertaining

Practical Recipes for the Housewife is a hardcover book published by the Detroit Times in 1934. I picked it up along the way for my cookbook collection. I thought I would share some of the entertaining tips with you today.

Buffet Table Arrangements

The table cloth may be of damask, lace or embroidery or runners if the hostess prefers. Careful arrangement of the centerpiece, be it flowers or fruit, are its main charm. Candlesticks come next, or a candelabra may be used for the center, with flowers on either side. Candles are not used, however, before four in the afternoon.

The coffee or tea tray, or the punch bowl, are placed at the opposite ends of the table. Plates filled with sandwiches, tea cakes, etc., are arranged down each side, with the silver and china needed close by so that guests may serve themselves easily. Piles of napkins, too, must be where easily reached. Guests stand or sit at a buffet meal, as they wish.

Tips for Table Setting

Never decorate your table with ribbons. (Brenda's note: I'm not sure why!)

Pickle jars, catsup bottles and tooth picks likewise have no place on the well dressed dinner table. Pickles and sauces, if you must have them, are served in glass dishes with small serving spoons--likewise jelly or marmalade.

There was also a note that ladies no longer have to retire to the drawing room while the gentlemen smoke. All I could think of is how I make people go outside if they need to smoke, It's interesting to learn that in 1934 the ladies of the house were already taking a stand:)


Friday, November 27, 2009

Friday Recipes: Fudge

Everyone has their favorite type of fudge, and very few people don't break into smiles when they are given a gift of this traditional holiday favorite. Try one of these recipes this year! Fudge should be given in tins, boxes or airtight bags. Don't mix fudge with your other homemade gifts such as cookies, it will soften them and "mingle" the flavors slightly of what you have stored together. I keep the fudge in the refrigerator until I give it away. If it's for a long period of time freezing would be good also.

Chocolate Fudge

1 cup butter, or regular margarine(2 sticks)
4 1/2 cups sugar
1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme, about 2 cups
1 14 1/2 ounces evaporated milk (1 2/3 cup)
8 (1 1/2 ounce)milk chocolate bars, broken in pieces
1 12 ounce bag semisweet chocolate pieces
2 cups chopped walnuts, optional

Combine butter, sugar, marshmallow creme and evaporated milk in a 3 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium to low heat, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil steady over low heat for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Keep mixture at a low boil during this time. Remove from heat, add chocolate bars, chocolate pieces, and nuts. Stir until chocolate is melted and blended. Pour quickly into two lightly buttered 9 inch square pans. While warm mark the fudge into the size pieces you desire, then when cool and firm cut. Makes about 5 1/2 pounds.

Butterscotch Peanut Fudge

12 ounce package butterscotch chips
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups miniature marshmallows
2/3 cup chunky peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped peanuts

In a saucepan combine the butterscotch chips, milk and marshmallows. Stir over medium heat until marshmallows melt. Remove from heat; beat in peanut butter, vanilla, and dash of salt. Stir in nuts. Pour into a 9 inch square buttered pan. Chill. Cut in squares, and store in refrigerator.

Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

1 2/3 cup sugar
1 small can (5.33 ounces) evaporated milk
16 large marshmallows, or 2 cups miniature
1 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, milk and marshmallows in a medium pan. Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture boils. Boil and stir 5 minutes. Add peanut butter and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Pour into a buttered 8 inch square pan. Cool. Cut into pieces.

Cocoa Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
dash salt
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla

Mix sugar, cocoa, milk, syrup and salt. Cook to soft ball stage (236 degrees). Add butter, peanut butter and vanilla. Pour into buttered 8 inch square pan.Cool before cutting.

Maple Fudge

2 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup rich milk or cream

Combine the maple and corn syrup and cream. Place over low heat. Stir constantly until it starts to boil. Continue cooking without stirring until small amounts of syrup form a soft ball in cold water or it reaches 236 degrees. Remove from heat. Add butter. Do not stir. Cool until luke warm. Beat until mixture thickens and loses gloss. Add nuts. Pour into buttered pan. When cool cut into squares.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

No special post today other than to wish everyone in the U.S. a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Scurrying Squirrels in the Snow (2007)

These pictures were taken on Thanksgiving two years ago.
Hopefully we won't have snow again this year. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Autumn Butters

Autumn butters add country charm to company dinners or brunches. They also are the perfect hostess gift presented with a loaf of fresh homemade bread. Add the following recipes to your list of autumn traditions!

Honey Pumpkin Butter

2 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt -- optional

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large saucepan. Simmer uncovered on low heat about 40 minutes, stirring frequently, until thick. When thick enough ladle into jars and refrigerate. Makes 1 1/2 cups.

Easy Autumn Butter

1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup softened butter

Beat the brown sugar, pumpkin-pie spice whipping into the softened butter. Keep refrigerated.

Crockpot Apple Butter

8 cups applesauce
4 cups sugar
4 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
2 teaspoons nutmeg
2 teaspoons cloves

Stir all ingredients together well in a large bowl. Transfer to a crockpot and cook, UNCOVERED, on high for 6 to 7 hours. It isn't necessary to stir it. Cool and place into containers. Keep refrigerated or may be frozen.

Ginger Apple Butter

4 pounds McIntosh apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1" chunks
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, minced

Bring the apples, cider, brown sugar and lemon juice to a boil in a saucepan, stirring. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until apples fall apart, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Purée in food processor or blender in batches with the minced ginger. Return to pan.

Partially cover apple butter and simmer over medium heat until reduced to 2 1/2 cups, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Cool completely. Makes 2 1/2 cups. Transfer to covered containers and store in refrigerator for up to one week for best freshness.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Helping Out Our Feathered Friends

Silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone. ~G.B. Stern

Many of us feed the birds during the cold weather, but they also need water in the winter despite the snow around them. Always provide clean water with no additives. Place it in a shallow container that is less than 3 inches deep. You can add small pebbles to the bottom of the container to give it texture and keep the surface from getting slippery. If you have a deck or a windowsill that you can access easily in the winter, you can add fresh water daily. Consider the location of the water so it's not accessible to cats or other predators. As with feeders, it helps to place the water about 10-12 foot from a shrub or bush.

You can buy a special heater that will warm the water and keep it from freezing. Be sure it's a UL listed heater made for this purpose and it should be plugged into a outdoor socket. It should have a safety feature or an automatic shut off in case the water goes dry and use grounded plugs.

The sound of dripping or running water will help attract birds and a simple way to do this is to drill or punch a hole in the side of a bucket near the bottom (but not on the bottom) so the water drips into the birdbath. You can hang it from a shepherd's hook over the birdbath.

Birdbaths can be made out of many things including trash can lids, ceramic, clay or terra cotta saucers, pie plates etc. If the surface is smooth then be sure to add a layer of pebbles or sand. Wash your birdbaths on a regular basis as they become soiled.

On OFL we have more tidbits on backyard birds:


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Thanksgiving Cooking and Baking Tips

In everyone's life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit. ~Albert Schweitzer

Today I have tips I hope will be helpful to you during your Thanksgiving baking and cooking.

If you are trying to cut back on salt, as many of us are, try mixing together this salt free blend to use on poultry before roasting or sprinkle on a vegetables with a little butter.

Salt Free Herb Seasoning

Mix together:
5 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
2 1/2 tsp. paprika
2 1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. celery seed

Add this to a shaker, and use on poultry, seafood or vegetables.

Herb butter is an easy addition to your holiday table that will have everyone ooohing and ahhhhing.

Holiday Herb Butter

1 cup softened butter (light butter is fine)
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. fresh minced rosemary
2 tsp. fresh minced parsley
2 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

Combine the herbs with the butter. Store in a nice, covered bowl that you can set out at the table during dinner. This butter can be used on bread, rolls, vegetables or spread it on roast turkey or chicken during the last half hour of baking. You can also use it on seafood.

jtsmama is one of our long time board members and she shared with us her method of preparing fresh pumpkins:

I just cut them in half, dig out the seeds and bake them at 300 degrees until they are done.Then I scrape it out and measure into 3 cup portions in inexpensive storage bags and put them inside a good freezer bag, it's just short of the 28 ounce can but makes no difference You could also do 1 1/2 cup measures for the 15 ounce can and it will work. I can't give a time as it depends on the size of the pumpkin. Some people scrape the pumpkin out and boil it but it comes out too watery and I suspect a lot of nutrients are lost that way. I've heard of people scraping out the pumpkin directly into the crock pot and letting it cook on low until it's done too, but I haven't tried this myself.

I always make at least two pies for my measurements for two pies are:

3 cups of cooked pumpkin, mashed
1 cup of sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cloves
4 eggs beaten just so they are together, not light and fluffy
1 12 ounce can evaporated milk

Bake in the oven 375 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour. I cover my crust with foil till the last 20 minutes so it doesn't burn.

On OFL we have delightful Cuban recipes for turkey & pumpkin flan!


Friday, November 20, 2009

Friday Recipes: Homemade Biscuits

Homemade biscuits are so easy to make, and if you follow a few simple rules, they will always turn out fluffy and delicious. I use what I call the Grandma Method. I don't use a pastry cutter, or a fork, I use my clean hands to work in the butter with the flour. It's messy, but it works for me. Whether you do this or another method, it's important not to overwork your biscuit dough. Mix until it's all moistened, and then GENTLY fold it over rather than kneading, then roll it out, or pat into shapes.

Baking Powder Biscuits

(from a 1933 Recipe)


2 cups sifted flour
2 tsp. baking powder
4 tablespoons butter or shortening
1/2 tsp. salt
about 3/4 cup milk

Sift Flour once, measure, add baking powder and salt, and sift again. Cut in shortening or butter. (this is where I use my hands by rubbing the butter into the flour). Add milk gradually, stirring until soft dough is formed. Turn out on slightly floured board and lightly "knead" for 30 seconds, enough to shape. Roll 1/2 inch thick and cut with 2 inch floured biscuit cutter. Bake on ungreased sheet in a 400 degree oven for 12-15 minutes. Makes 12 biscuits. You can also make tiny tea biscuits that are only 1 1/2 inches wide with a small cutter or glass bottom. These are great served with tea, jam or honey. Makes 24.

Thyme and Cheese Biscuits


2 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. fresh minced thyme
1/2 tsp. minced fresh parsley
1/2 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet and set aside. Mix flour, baking powder, herbs and cheese in a large mixing bowl, using a fork. Cut in the butter. Mixture will be crumbly. Add the milk and stir until dough holds together, you may add more milk if necessary. Drop by large spoonfuls on the cookie sheet an inch apart. Bake 10-12 minutes.

Pecan Biscuits


2 1/2 cups biscuit baking mix
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine
Preheat over to 450 degrees. In a large bowl, combine baking mix and pecans. Add cream and stir until a soft dough forms. On a lightly floured surface, use a floured rolling pin to roll out dough to 1/2 inch thickness. Use a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter to cut out dough. Place on greased baking sheet and brush tops with butter. Bake 7-10 minutes or until light brown.

Almond Biscuits with Berry Butter


2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in medium bowl. Using a pastry blender cut in butter until mixture is crumbly. Combine milk, almonds and honey. Add to butter mixture, mixing just until flour is moistened. Knead dough gently; shape into a ball. Roll out or pat down dough on a lightly floured surface to 3/4 inch thickness. Using a floured 3 inch heart shaped cutter, cut out the dough, rerolling as needed. Place about 1 inch apart on unbuttered baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden. Serve warm with Berry Butter.

To make butter:

Place 1 stick softened butter, cut into pieces, 1/3 cup strawberry preserves and 1/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries in work bowl of food processor; process until smooth. Or, you may stir together by hand. Transfer to covered container; refrigerate until ready to use.

Yogurt Herb Biscuits


2 cups buttermilk baking mix
2/3 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
2 tablespoons snipped parsley
1 tablespoon snipped chives

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients until soft dough forms; beat an extra 20 strokes. Smooth dough into a ball on a surface dusted with baking mix. Knead 5 times. Roll dough 1/2 inch thick. Cut with floured 2 inch cutter. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake until golden brown; 8-10 minutes. Makes 10-12 biscuits.

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her
husband and three kids.  She is also editor of and has a family friendly blog, On the Front Porch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Herbal Gifts for the Season

Gratitude takes three forms: a feeling in the heart, an expression in words, and a giving in return. ~John Wanamaker

Herbal gifts are one of my favorite things to give during the holidays. They are such a pleasure to make and give to friends and family. Of course, always keep a little something for yourself!

Lavender Jelly
from Cooking with Lavender by Joyce Ellenbecker

Infusion: Bring 3 cups distilled water to a boil in a non-reactive pan and pour over 1/2 cup fresh lavender flowers or 3 tbsp dried flowers. Steep for 15-20 minutes, strain and save in a non-reactive container for up to 2 weeks.

Jelly: Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly:
2 cups lavender infusion 1/4 cup lemon juice
4 cups sugar

Stir in 1 envelope (3 oz) liquid pectin. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add food coloring if desired, pour into jars and seal. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. For gift giving, process the jars in a water bath for 5 minutes after sealing with canning lids. After the bath, turn upside down for 5 minutes, then turn right side up and cool.

Handmade Herbal Lotion

1/8 teaspoon borax
1/4 cup distilled water
1/2 cup sweet almond oil
1 Tablespoon grated beeswax

Combine the borax and distilled water. Set aside. Heat the oil and the beeswax gently until the beeswax is almost melted. Remove from the heat and stir. Heat the borax and water till almost boiling. Slowly pour the borax water into the almond oil mixture while stirring with a wire whisk. Add 4-5 drops of an essential oil such as rose, lavender, rose geranium, or other gentle scents, also whisking it into the mixture. Pour into a container and allow to cool. Makes 8 ounces.

Sock Drawer Sachet
The Herb Companion, October/November 1993

4 tbsp. Lavender
4 tbsp. Thyme
2 tbsp. Lemon balm

Especially nice for a man's drawer or wardrobe, this mixture has a clean, refreshing scent. We've trimmed our small burlap bag with raffia and a cedar acorn hot-glued in position. Recipe makes about 1/2 cup, enough to fill a 3-by-4-inch bag.

Herbal Sachet

2 ounces dried lavender flowers
1/2 ounce dried rose petals
1/2 ounce dried rosemary
1/2 ounce dried mint
1/2 ounce dried thyme
1 ounce dried scented geranium leaves

Blend all ingredients in a large bowl. Place the mixture into a large glass jar or tin and place on a tight fitting lid. Allow the herbs to sit for 2 weeks. Shake a couple times per week. It's also optional to add a few drops of essential oil such as a mixture of lavender and rose to the jar. After the 2 weeks divide the mixture and use for sachets or place in small muslin bags. Enclose the sachets in plastic bags to keep until you are ready to give them away.

On OFL we have more herbal gifts to make:


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reader's Questions: Growing, Cooking & Cleaning

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

I'm popping in today with a few questions and answers. It's been a chaotic fall here at our house between sick kids and busy schedules. The trees have mostly lost their leaves here, and we've gotten most of our outside chores wrapped up. I hope you all have been enjoying your autumn days.

I read your article about growing jade plants. I don't understand about how to water deeper to make the stems stronger. Could you please help? ~Irene

One method that works well for houseplants is to add the water to the soil until it comes through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Set the pot on a plate or in a bowl, sink etc. and in a hour or so, whatever is left can be dumped out. Don't water the plant again until you can stick a finger in the soil and feel the soil is dry again. I know it's hard to water just the right amount, but mainly remember that you want the water to get ALL the way down to the roots, but then drain out and slowly dry, so they are never soggy. If you just water the top of the plant, then the roots won't grow deeply-they will be shallow.

I've been trying to figure out how to get rid of a smell in my dishwasher. Any suggestions? Also, I need to find out how to clean/disinfect a wooden cutting board. It is used only for cutting meats. ~Pat

You can run a 1/2 cup of bleach or 1 cup white vinegar through your dishwasher by pouring it in the bottom, then running a cycle. But first reach down in the bottom and make sure there is nothing lodged. Also scrub the rubber seal that is around the edge. You can also pour a cup of baking soda in the bottom and run that through a cycle. Does your dishwasher have a trap? Some do, so get out the manual and check for that.

You can use a mixture of bleach and water to disinfect wooden cutting boards. Allow it to sit for 4 or 5 minutes then rinse well. You can also stick it in the microwave for 5-10 minutes on high to kill bacteria. Use 2 tablespoons bleach to a quart of water as a solution for sanitizing. Wash with soapy water, rinse, soak in the solution and rinse again, then wipe dry.

On a side note: some very good, reliable universities have done studies showing that hardwood cutting boards are just as safe as plastic boards, and in some case more safe, as long as they are sanitized properly.

I am interested in using natural things for coloring my cooking and baking and wondered if you had any tips on using pureed beets for color and moistness in baking. ~Sandy

This recipe uses pureed beets, so it will give you an idea of how to use them. Five medium sized beets will give you about 2 cups of the puree.

Chocolate Beet Cake

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 cup cooked pureed red beets
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup of the oil in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Cream the sugar and the eggs in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the remaining oil, the pureed beets, the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Sift the flour with soda and salt, then slowly stir into the batter. Pour into a greased or buttered bundt pan. Bake about 1 hour or until cake tests done. Allow cake to cool a on wire rack about 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Sprinkle the top with the confectioners' sugar.

On OFL we have tips and questions on baking a Red Velvet Cake:


Wordless Wednesday: Fun in the Leaves

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Organize Your Seasonal Home Decorating

I don't spend a lot of money decorating my home. Many people don't want to spend the time or money to decorate with the seasons, but over the years I have learned some ways to creatively seasonally decorate that have cost little or next to nothing.

Because I work a lot, I don't spend very much time decorating my home. When I'm updating my home to a new seasonal theme, I don't spend more than a couple of hours arranging and rearranging to get a nice seasonal effect. Here are some of the ways I've learned to organize my seasonal accessories:

- I store my seasonal decorations in several large stackable Rubbermaid containers: two for Christmas, one for Easter/spring, and one for autumn/Thanksgiving. When I'm ready to change themes, I get out the one(s) to put things away in, dust or otherwise clean the area(s) where the new decorations will sit, and then get out the new decorations. The storage containers get put back away, and everything is still organized for next season. Make sure you mark the containers in some way to know which one is which. Color coding them buy buying different colored containers works well.

- You will inevitably forget to put something away and stumble across it when you're cleaning another day. In each bathroom I have a corner of a closet shelf reserved for miscellaneous seasonal decorations. Or if someone gives you a seasonal gift you don't have anywhere else to put at the moment, this is a good place to put it.

If you find the task of re-decorating your entire home overwhelming, look for certain areas of your home that would be good for displaying seasonal decorations. In my home the kitchen, dining room, and living room are the focal areas of our home. There are certain areas where I concentrate when decorating for the seasons:

- Kitchen: I don't do a lot of seasonal decorating in the kitchen, but there are a couple of easy things you can do to liven it up a little. Seasonal dish cloths and hand towels are really cute, as well as seasonal floor mats. If you use the towels for decoration only, like hanging from your oven door handle, they will still be nice for the next year. Seasonal refrigerator magnets are also easy to update.

- Dining Area: Our dining room table is the focal point of our dining room. We have a long oak table that is great for seasonal decorating. A table runner makes a nice seasonal addition. I have one made out of Easter fabric for spring, a floral one for summer, and one of Christmas fabric. I just need to get one for autumn. You can accessorize with seasonal place mats, napkins, and napkin rings. These you can make yourself or pick up at yard sales or clearance sales off-season. I also like to decorate the center of the table for the season. A lot of times I will use a vase of seasonal flowers. For autumn I have a vase of artificial fall foliage. I accent the vase with Indian corn, gourds, and artificial fall leaves.

- Living Room: The main areas of the living room I concentrate on are the fireplace mantel and hearth, a corner curio shelf, and the entertainment center. I lay a garland across the top of the entertainment center that can be changed with the seasons: fall foliage for autumn, flowers for spring and summer, and evergreens for winter. On the shelves of the entertainment center and the curio shelves I rotate my seasonal knickknacks. The last place I decorate is the top of the piano. Sometimes I just decorate with houseplants and photographs, but it is also a great place to showcase collections, like my angels at Christmas or my bunny village in the spring. I also have a piece of fabric draped over the piano that I can change with the seasons.

- Other: Window clings are great for any season. Door wreaths can also be rotated any time of year. My grapevine wreath goes up in the autumn and is soon replaced by my Christmas wreath. You could have one for every season. Although I don't have one yet, a lot of people have seasonal flags or banners displayed outside of the house. These you could buy or make yourself.

These are just ideas to get in the mood of seasonal decorating. Learning to bring the outdoors indoors can be fun--there are many easy, inexpensive ways you can change the look of your home to get in tune with the seasons.

Copyright 2002 Rachel Paxton
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of the Creative Homemaking Recipe of the Week Club Cookbook, a cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, and frugal family fun, visit Creative Homemaking .

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday Recipes: Stuffing

The following recipes can be used for to stuff any poultry you may be serving for the holidays, or you can bake them for 30-45 minutes in a casserole dish. I would be sure to add a little extra moisture to each one if you do this since it won't have the moisture of the poultry. Be sure to cover the casserole dish too.

~Herbed Bread Stuffing~

1/2 cup chopped celery with leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup margarine or butter
3 cups soft bread cubes (about 5 slices)
1 tsp. fresh sage leaves (1/2 tsp. dried)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. fresh thyme (1/4 tsp. dried)
1/8 tsp. pepper

Cook Celery and onion in margerine or butter in skillet, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender. Stir in about 1 cup of the bread cubes. Turn into deep bowl. Add remaining ingredients; toss. Stuff before roasting your choice of fowl, or cook 30-45 minutes in casserole dish.

Oyster Dressing

1 1/2 cups each chopped onions and celery
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup butter
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. pepper
16 cups day old bread cubes, light toasted in skillet
1 quart shucked oysters, drained (reserve liquid)

In large heavy skillet saute onion, celery and parsley in butter until tender but not brown. Add seasonings. Stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Place bread cubes in large bowl; stir in sauteed vegetables. Chop oysters coarsely. Toss gently with bread mixture. Add some reserved oyster liquid if dressing seems dry. Makes 16 cups, enough for a 14 to 16 pound turkey.

Almond Apple Stuffing

2 cups chopped Granny Smith apples
1 1/2 cups sliced almonds
3/4 cup chopped onions
3/4 cup chopped celery
4 Tablespoons butter or margarine
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp. salt
6 cups whole wheat bread, cubed
1 cup raisins
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 to 1/2 cup apple cider or juice

Saute apples, almonds, onion and celery in butter for 5 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat. Stir in seasonings. Toss together with bread cubes and raisines; add apple mixture. Stir egg in 1/3 cup apple cider; toss into bread mixture. Add more cider if moister stuffing is desired. Will stuff a 15 to 20 pound turkey, or two large roasting chickens. Makes 10 cups. Recipe can be halved, but still use 1 egg.

A Tropical Stuffing

1 16 ounce loaf bread
1 15 ounce can pineapple chunks in own juice, drained
1 cup chopped celery
1 small onion, diced
1 8 ounce can water chestnuts, drained
1/2 cup slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 cup raisins
1 1/2 tsp. sage
1 tsp. poultry seasoning
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 14 1/2 ounce chicken broth

Cut bread into 1 inch cubes. Place in a large bowl. Add pineapple, celery, onion, water chestnuts, almonds and raisins. Set aside. In a small bowl, stir seasonings with broth. Pour broth evenly over dry ingredients. Toss. Stuff a 10 pound bird just before baking. Makes 2 quarts.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Herb Tips: Storing and Using Fresh Sage

Thanksgiving Day comes, by statute, once a year; to the honest man it comes as frequently as the heart of gratitude will allow. ~Edward Sandford Martin

I received this question in our email at OFL and thought I would answer Linda, and also give you all some tips and a recipe using fresh sage. If you don't grow it, look in the produce section of your grocery store. Usually they sell smaller amounts of fresh herbs like sage and thyme.

I have already picked off the leaves of my sage. At this point, is there a way to dry the leaves? ~Linda

Yes, you can dry the leaves in the lowest setting on your oven. Watch it carefully, remove when dry and allow them to cool. When they are cool you can store them in a container or resealable plastic bag. Crumble them as you need them, rather than beforehand. You can also freeze sage leaves whole, then mince them right from the freezer when you need them. It's an easy herb to work with.

You can add fresh or frozen sage to potatoes sauteed with onions. Boil them lightly until just tender, cool slightly, then slice and saute in olive oil with the 5 or 6 leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

You can also add minced fresh, frozen or dried to corn muffins, cheese biscuits, scones or corn bread.

Butter Sauce With Sage

Use this sauce on lamb, poultry or vegetables.

5 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely minced
1½ cups chicken stock
¼ cup white wine

Saute the butter until it JUST begins to brown. Add the chicken stock, wine and the sage except for 1 tsp. to set aside. Continue to cook this until it reduces to about a 1/2 cup. Drizzle over vegetables or meat, then sprinkle each serving with a tiny bit of the remaining sage.

You can also find more recipes on OFL for sage:

Tuesday Tips: House Cleaning Tips for Dog Owners

According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, more than 40 million American households share their lives with more than 68 million dogs. Obviously, dogs are a very popular pet.

Unfortunately, as much as we love them, they can leave us with more mess to clean up. Your dog can "accidentally" leave stains and odors. It would be fantastic if you can find easier ways to keep your home looking clean and non-smelling.

If you have to constantly fight with pet hair, paw prints, chewed-up bits of knick-knacks as well as things dragged in, thrown up or otherwise deposited on previously clean surfaces, here are some of the ways to dog-proof your home and keep pet mess and smell to a minimum:

* Choosing flooring surfaces that are easy to keep clean and stand up better to canine nails.

* Do not delay cleanups. Messes are easier to clean when they are fresh, and are less likely to leave a permanent stain.

* Do not use ammonia-based cleaners on dog messes as they smell like urine.

* Use an enzyme-based dog odor neutralizer to kill the urine scent.

* Focus on areas where odors lurk. Spots where dogs sleep eat and play can harbor stinking smells. Thoroughly clean up these areas at least twice a week.

* Saturate the area with a product for removing stains and odors. Wait a few minutes then vacuum it with a wet-and-dry shop vacuum.

* Pick appropriate carpet and upholstery to ensure easy clean up.

* Avoid wool or cotton fibers for carpets and instead opt for synthetic carpets that have a stain shield.

* Choose tightly woven fabrics and avoid loose or open weaves, when selecting upholstery fabrics. Tight fabrics would resist tears and rips from claws.

* There is no guarantee that every dog is flea-free. Boric acid (100%) powder is odorless and non-staining and is an excellent flea-killer.

Shedding Tips

* Shedding is a normal process that occurs seasonally in dogs. Dogs typically shed their coats in spring and fall. Keep pets well groomed. Brush and comb your pets regularly, and do not delay regular bathing. Your pets will smell better, and the hair you catch in the grooming process will not end up floating around your home.

Shedding of hair can cause an allergic reaction in dog owners. Tolerance levels to allergens vary from person to person. It is well known that people who own dogs and have allergies are not about to give them up. Dog owners can lower their risk of reaction and reduce allergens in their homes. The following are some tips to help you.

* Always wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 15 seconds after handling your dog and before touching your eyes or face. Alternatively, use a hand sanitizer or antibacterial hand wipes.

* Use allergen-resistant covers on mattresses and pillows.

* If possible, reduce the amount of carpet in your home, especially in bedrooms and sitting rooms.

* Restrict your dog to certain rooms of your home to create allergy-free areas. Bedrooms, especially, should be a no-no area.

* Use vacuums with high-efficiency air filters to help clean the air.

* Use air purification devices to reduce allergens and eliminate household odors.

* Get a non-allergic family member to bathe your dog weekly and groom him regularly - outside the house.

* Keep your home well ventilated.

To maintain a clean environment for you and your dog all that is required is vacuuming twice to remove pet hair and frequent washing of bedding and draperies. If you have any sort of a dog that sheds – say a shaggy dog – it would be a good idea to hand-vacuum him frequently.

Keeping a clean home when dogs are around is not that difficult. Of course, a constant effort, right products and good planning is required. It all comes down to knowing how to clean and doing it right.

About the Author:

Fayola Peters is the webmaster of and