Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday's Recipes: Chocolate!

Love at first sight is easy to understand; it's when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle. ~Amy Bloom

Sauces can help you create desserts out of simple homemade or purchased items such as pound cake,angel food cake or sweet breads. The following two sauces are great for drizzling! The next two recipes speak for themselves with their chocolatey goodness.

Chocolate Mint Sauce

6 ounces of chocolate covered mints
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons milk or cream

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine all the ingredients. Cook on high for 1 minute or until the mixture is hot. Stir until the sauce is smooth. Or do this same procedure in a double boiler. Serve warm. Makes 2/3 cup.

Cocoa Fudge Sauce

1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter
5 envelopes (3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons) hot chocolate mix.

Heat the milk and butter in small saucepan over medium heat until the butter is melted. Stir in the cocoa mix until sauce is smooth. Reduce heat to low; cook while stirring constantly, for 5 to 8 minutes or until sauce thickens. Serve over ice cream or desserts. Makes 1 cup.

Mounds Bars

5 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups confectioners' sugar
14 ounces flaked coconut
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Blend the condensed milk and the vanilla together in a bowl. Add the powdered sugar a little at a time, blending each time until smooth. Stir in the coconut. Pat the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and chill until firm. Place the chocolate chips in a bowl that is microwave-safe and heat on high 1 minute at a time, stirring after each minute, until melted. This is where the recipes vary. You can cut the bars first (1x2 inches) and dip into the chocolate OR pour the chocolate over the top of the uncut bars and cut after they have chilled and the top is firm. I think for a potluck it's easier to cut the bars later, and either keep them in the pan to take to the potluck or put them on a platter once there.

Chocolate Crinkle Cookie

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil's food cake mix
1/2 cup butter flavored shortening
1 tablespoon water
2 eggs
1 cup confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. In a medium bowl, beat together the shortening, water, and eggs. Add the cake mix, and mix until smooth. Roll the dough into 2 inch balls, and roll in the confectioners' sugar. Place cookies 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Bake for 10 minutes and cool on racks.

We have more chocolate treats on OFL:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Old Fashioned Valentine's Day Games

Oh, the comfort - the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person - having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away. ~Dinah Craik

Today I have some Valentine's Day game ideas from Bright Ideas for Entertaining (1905). From reading the entire text it seems like these were games played by young, unmarried adults. My, how things have changed! I think these would be great for all ages, and especially at a get-together where there are great grandparents, parents, older kids and toddlers. They would also make fun group or classroom games.

THROWING HEARTS: A low scrapbasket was placed in the centre of the room, and the company arranged into opposing parties, forming two half circles around the basket. Cardboard hearts in two different colors were given the sides, an equal number to each side. We were then requested to try to throw them in the basket, and all endeavored to do so, but found they had a tantalizing way of landing on the floor. When we had exhausted our cards, those in the basket were counted, and the side having the most of its own color won the game.

BLIND HEARTS: A small blackboard was placed on an easel at one end of the room, and we were each in turn blindfolded, and handed a piece of chalk with which to draw an outline of a heart,and to write our name in the center. The one doing the best to have a prize of a large candy heart.

SHADOW PICTURES: White cards with numbers in cherry ink and small cherry colored pencils were passed to each. As the shadow (profile) was thrown upon the sheet, the name was written after the number on the card. Prizes were given for the most correct guesses. The girls' prize was a cherry-colored satin pin cushion in the shape of a heart; the boys', an earthen pig.

On OFL we have more old fashioned Valentine's games:

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Herbs ' Spices: Starting Seeds

So never lose an opportunity of urging a practical beginning, however small, for it is wonderful how often in such matters the mustard-seed germinates and roots itself. ~Florence Nightingale

It's time to consider starting some herbs indoors if you haven't already. The following seeds take about 6-8 weeks or longer once they germinate: arugula, basil, burnet, chives, coriander, fennel, nasturtiums, feverfew, Russian sage, wormwood, sorrel and summer savory. Start them in small pots with a good potting soil (not one that has anything added other than the basic soil mixture). Plant 2-3 seeds in each pot and cover with a very light layer of sand or soil. Your packet of seeds will give the planting depth. Most of the above are 1/4 inch except for the nasturtiums, which need 1 inch. I usually start nasturtiums outside, but if you do start them in pots use 1 seed per container.

Most of these take a week to ten days or to germinate, but some longer depending on the temperature and other conditions. Water gently and cover the pots with plastic. Place them in a warm spot-keep them lightly moistened NOT damp. Actually, while the plastic is on this should be easy. When they sprout, remove the plastic,and place them in a bright spot, but not in direct sun while they are very tiny. After they grow a bit, a southern sunny window is good. Experiment with different locations, and rotate the pots or containers. Do this at least once a day because they will start to lean towards the sun. When they are about 6-8 weeks old you should be able to take snips to use in the kitchen. If you are in a warmer climate where the frosts have passed you can gradually move them outdoors. The rest of us will have to wait longer until the frost passes.

You can also use a shop light with florescent bulbs to grow seeds indoors. These are MUCH cheaper than grow light systems. There are so many frugal ways to grow herbs and flowers. You can use salad and baked good containers of clear plastic with lids that have been washed. The containers work great for growing things you are going to transplant.

If you are in an apartment or simply can't take on planting many herbs right now, consider growing a pot of nasturtiums. They are cheery, and bright, plus you can use them in so many ways! Use one medium sized pot and follow the above instructions.

On OFL we have more tips on planning your herb garden:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Home & Hearth: Readers Questions

Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out. ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Today I have two interesting questions from readers.

Have you heard anything about the harmful effects if the Teflon coating on my skillets etc. comes off? If it is getting into the food, is this harmful to me? ~Linda Boyd

My understanding that the problem is not with the Teflon coming off into our food, but with the fumes that may be released from the material if it reaches a certain temperature. There is a lot of unresearched information on both sides.

Dupont does "publicly acknowledge['s] that Teflon© can kill birds", but they say that's as far as it goes. Apparently if a pan gets too hot, the fumes can kill a canary or other bird that is close to the cooking area. This is very factual and is common knowledge among people who raise birds. However Dupont insists it's safe for people:

"We recommend cooking using coated non-stick cookware at low to medium heat," says Dupont's Rich Angiullo. "We know (our product) can withstand temperatures up to 500 F, well above any of the recommended temperatures for frying or baking."

From the Dupont website: "DuPont non-stick coatings will not begin to significantly decompose until temperatures exceed about 660°F (349°C) - well above the smoke point for cooking oil, fats or butter. It is therefore unlikely that decomposition temperatures for non-stick cookware would be reached while cooking without burning food to an inedible state."

Conclusion: I'd be cautious. Don't cook at high heat-- throw out any that look like they are really starting to scrape off easily. If you go to replace your pans consider another type. According to USA Today: Polytetrafluoroethylene, which is in non-stick coatings, can be found in irons, pans, skillets,wafflemakers, woks, ovens, bread makers, electric heaters, heat lamps, computer printers, light bulbs and the cookware.

I just have a question about something old. Have you ever heard of cresolene? It was used in a little lamp as a vaporizer. The lamps are antiques now, but I can't find cresolene to go it. Do you know if it is still made? And where one could obtain it? ~Mary B

I found this from Joyner Library,East Carolina University:

The inhaler was sold by the Vapo Cresolene Company from 1879 through the 1920's and was used as a treatment for whooping cough, asthma, croop, and for colds. The inhaler could be lit and placed on a bed side table to heat gently through the night, causing vapors to relieve cough and cold symptoms. The vapo cresolene inhaler was eventually replaced by the electric vaporizer.

My understanding of this lamp is that it was heated with kerosene, and in the top of it where the little dish area is, different liquids would be put in there-- often a creosole based product, and believe it or not, sometimes opium based products that were used in it back then. I don't think you can get what they originally used, and I would be hesitant to use the lamp the way it was meant to be because the kerosene would also have fumes. . As I was researching this, I thought of the modern infusers used for essential oils. They would do much the same thing, but in a safer manner.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Garden Questions and Answers

My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view. ~H. Fred Ale

Today I have more questions and answers.

Can Lantanas be grown from seeds? Also, does anyone know where we could get the old time Pearson tomato seed.? ~Selma

Pearson, and many other heirloom tomato seeds, can be found at, Baker Creek Heirloom Seed.

Lantanas can be grown from seed but it's not easy, which is why most gardeners propagate it. The seed should be as fresh as possible. Sow from now until the summer in trays or pots at 1/8 inch deep at a temperature of 70-75 degrees. To help the seed along, soak it in warm water for 24 hours before sowing. It's slow to germinate, so it may take awhile. I'm also guessing from what I read that many of them will fail, so plant extra.

Could you suggest plants and shrubs that the deer won't eat? Even if I can't plant yet I still want to plan! ~Elaine

First thing to remember, nothing is ever 100% deer proof if they are hungry enough. But, many plants are not appealing to them if they have other things to nibble on. You'll notice a lot of herbs in the resistant category: santolina, spearmint, thyme, rosemary, most sage plants, Mexican oregano, tansy, yarrow, and lavender are among them. Some perennials that are also unappetizing to deer are foxglove, joe-pye weed, anemones, astilbe, butterfly weed, bellflower and periwinkle. This should give you a good start on planning!

More from a reader:

I worked and gardened at a state park in Wyoming that was filled with deer and elk, the occasional moose or bear. I found that deer won't touch these plants unless they are starving, and maybe not then: gaillardia, Yarrow, delphinium, iris, most poppies, catmint,catnip, wormwood. They won't eat the foliage of Chrysanthemums but they will nip off the flowers like candy. The same is true of columbine. I give talks all over Wyoming and Colorado about growing and cooking with herbs. One thing I have found is that deer have local tastes. In Cody they won't touch sage and in Thermopolis they will eat it to the ground. In Golden they use basil and garlic planted around the edge of their gardens to keep the deer out. Here in Cody, they would think you had prepared them a feast. I don't find the same thing with flowers that I do with herbs. Generally the same flowers are considered non edible all over the country. ~Cheryl

Learn how to grow Joe-Pye-Weed on OFL: