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March 31, 2009

Should It Stay or Should It Go?

I just listed my wedding dress on Craig's List. I'm so torn on if I should keep it or not. It's been hanging in my laundry room, waiting to be washed (again) after or shin dig last October. I finally washed it over the weekend and it is so nice and clean! Yes, I washed my dress in the washing machine, twice, for details on how I did this, check out my wedding page here.

I'm not exactly sure what to do with my dress. I've heard of some women wearing their mom's wedding dress at their own wedding, but I think that was ages ago because I've actually never seen or heard of anyone doing this. I know there is no way I could have fit into my mom's wedding dress (she was 90 lbs. when she got married) and I recall the one time she "got it out" for my sister and I to see. It was neat to see, but it was very yellow and stained. 

I figured I better get rid of my dress now, before it starts to look old and out dated. I doubt I'll ever have it long enough to sell it as vintage dress, because by then I will have kept it for so long there is no way I would want to get rid of it!

I guess for now I will see if I get any takers on Craig's List and if not, I can think about preserving/saving it or donate it to Making Memories. At least that donation is tax deductible and it goes to a good cause.

March 26, 2009

"Baked Alaska" Cake

Since I ranted and raved about how great a few Pampered Chef products are, I thought I should share with you one of my favorite cake recipes, "Baked Alaska" Cake. It's from The Pampered Chef Seasons Best Recipe Collection Fall/Winter 2004 recipe book.

"Baked Alaska" Cake

1 package devils food cake mix, plus the ingredients to make the cake
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I use mini chocolate chips)
1 package (8 ozs) cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 large container (16 ozs) cool whip, thawed

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.

Grease and flour the Pampered Chef Classic Batter Bowl.

Prepare cake mix according to box directions and pour into batter bowl. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 15 minutes or until cake tester (I use a wood kabob skewer) inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven. Let stand 15 minutes. Run a knife around the outside of the cake and gently turn the cake out of the bowl onto a cooling rack, large side down. Cool for at least 3 hours.

Meanwhile, I like to prepare the "mousse" and then toss it into the fridge while the cake cools.

Chop 1/4 cup of the chocolate morsels using a food chopper. Set aside. I omit this step because I use the mini chocolate chips. Place remaining chocolate (in the mini chocolate chip case, it would be 1/2 cup) into a bowl and microwave on high 20-60 seconds or until melted and smooth. Add cream cheese to a bowl, whisk until smooth, add powdered sugar and whisk again. stir in melted chocolate and mix well. I don't often use the wire whisk, I just use my hand mixer, it seems to break up the cream cheese with little effort and blended all the ingredients very well. Fold in 2 cups of the cool whip and the remaining 1/4 cup of the chocolate chips (I do this by hand, no mixer) into the cream cheese mixture.

Place the large end of the cake down onto a serving plate/platter. Using a serrated bread knife, trim the large end of the cake to make it level. Usually the cake comes out of the oven with a "bump" on the top, and often I just trim off the bump, to taste the flavor of the cake and make it level, even if it isn't "flat" on the bottom of my plate. Slice the cake in four equal layers. First slice horizontally in half and then slice each half into equal parts.

Spread the bottom layer of cake with about half of the filling, forming a 3/4 inch layer. Repeat with the remaining layers and filling ending with the top layer of cake.

Spread any remaining filling over the outside of cake to create a smooth surface. I do not do this, I use all the filling for the inside of the cake. I often put a very thin layer of cool whip on the outside to seal in the crumbs. Frost cake with remaining whipped topping.

To form decorate peaks, press a knife into the topping and pull away. Repeat over entire surface ofcake. For easier slicing refrigerate cake at least 30 minutes.

To easily cut cake into servings, cut cake inot eight wedges from top to bottom. Insert a pie server horizontally into each wedge, dividing into two equal portions.

Makes 16 servings.

Filling Variations (I've never tried these, but had to include them)

Strawberry Splash:
Omit chocolate morsels. Add 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened strawberry drink mix (sugh as Kool-Aid) to cream cheese mixture. Stir 1/4 cup chopped strawberries into cream cheese mixture.

Magnificent Mint:Omit 1/2 cup melted chocolate. Add 1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract and 3-4 drops of green food coloring, if desired, to cream cheese mixture.

I'm thinking you could easily make an orange or lemon flavored filling with orange or lemon flavored drink mix, splash of orange or lemon juice and some orange or lemon zest!

And maybe even some "big kid" cake variations with Kahlua or gringing coffee beans and adding them to the cream cheese!

 

March 20, 2009

Kitchen Gadgets

Last week I was helping a friend register for her wedding at Bed Bath and Beyond. As I was scanning through the kitchen gadgets, checking off my mental list....potato masher, apple corer, peeler, slotted spoon...I was disappointed in the products the store was carrying. I kept finding myself saying, "Pampered Chef has a better one." This leads me to share my favorite Pampered Chef items with all of you.

Item# 2460 Corn Butterer $3.50

The Corn Butterer is a must for anyone who loves corn on the cob. It's so easy to use. Put a 1/2 stick of butter in the gadget, and watch melted butter slide across your hot ear of corn! The best part, it has a lid, so when you are done using it, you can toss it in the fridge for the next time!

Item #2455 Corn Cob Knobs $4.00

I always remember having something similar to these corn cob knobs when I was a kid. We always used them because the corn was too hot to hold onto with our hands. But they were sharp sticks that jabbed into the corn, and often fell out! My favorite part about these knobs is not that they screw into the cob, but that you put them on the raw ears of corn before you boil them in the water! That's right, you put them on, boil them and then take them directly from the pot to the plate!

 

Item #1642 All-Purpose Spreader $4.00

I think I have about six or eight of the All-Purpose Spreaders from Pampered Chef. I use them every day for peanut butter, butter, mayo, hummus anything that needs to be spread. I use them more than a table knife! They are nice and wide, and hold lots of peanut butter for my english muffins!

Item #2415 The Corer $10.50

It may seem like a lot of money to spend on an apple corer, but the great thing about the Pampered Chef corer is the "core ejector" that easily removes the core from the cylinder into the trash or compost pile! 

 

Item #2230 Classic Batter Bowl $15.00

I've always loved using glass. I prefer glass to store left overs in and when I came across this batter bowl, I had to have it. I use it all the time to make homemade brownies (that's right, brownies from scratch, the kind  you have to melt unsweetened chocolate for.) I can toss this bowl in the fridge and keep the lid on it to chill items, I can boil water and mix jello in this bowl and easily pour the jello into a glass dish because of the spout! I then toss it in the dish washer and it's clean.

Cook's Corer (currently in the Pampered Chef outlet section)
Replaced by Item #1176 Core and More $10.50

The cook's corer must be an old classic gadget I have because it is now in the outlet section and has been replaced by a two ended tool called the Core & More. I use this tool mostly for strawberries, to remove the tops. It's very quick and easy. Not like the "pinch" removers my mom used to have. They were basically a giant pair of tweezers she used to remove the tops of strawberries. This tool allows you to scoop off the top.

 

These are just a few of my favorite Pampered Chef gadgets that I feel are worth the money. Kitchen gadgets are like tools...when you purchase them, they are an investment, and you hope to keep and use them for a long time.

March 12, 2009

Preparations

The other day I received a full body massage. It was a fabulous 60 minutes and every time I get a massage I tell myself, "I'm going to do this once a month." And I never do. But while I was laying with my head in the "cradle" on the table, all I could think about was this:

I was face down on the table, the masseuse was massaging my right leg. I thought to myself, "I wonder if she can feel that strip of hair I missed shaving on my calf." That morning I shaved my legs, and armpits in preparation for my massage. I noticed while I was putting lotion on my leg when I got out of the shower (another preparation for a massage) I missed an entire strip on hair on my left calf. I then began to realize (while my head was in the cradle) that going to get a massage is somewhat like going to the gynecologist.

I always shave before going to see my doctor, I often go over my legs twice, just to be sure I didn't miss anything. And I super shave my armpits, in every direction possible. After I shave and shower, I then make sure I apply lotion to my entire body, not just to add moisture but to add a light girly smell. At the doctor's office, the doctor will be inches away from my legs, and the deer shining spot light will for sure be "up in my business" so the least I can do is have nicely shaved and moisturized legs to go with the rest of my body!

As for the armpits, it's uncomfortable enough to have another person do a breast exam on you, but to lift your arm and realize you are sporting a forest of seedlings, as the doctor makes small talk about the weather, is even more embarrassing. The tiny hairs often look like giants in your peripheral vision.

I am sure these preparations for a massage and annual exam visit are often over anaiyzed by myself. Neither the doctor or masseuse probably notices if my skin is hair free or my legs are lacking moisture. Especially with the massage, the room is so dimly lit you can barely see which way is the wrong way to put your underwear on!

 

March 08, 2009

A Thorn in My Foot

The other morning when I let Cletus in from outside, I noticed a small stick was stuck in his collar. This is just classic of my old wise dog. He is always wandering into the woods. Often times he comes out with sticks, burrs and leaves stuck on his fur. He is our wandering old man.

Cletus walked passed me as I opened the door and he continued into the kitchen as I followed him. My breakfast popped out of the toaster and I went past Cletus to get my hot english muffin. I ate breakfast, got dressed, brushed my teeth, packed my lunch, medicated the dogs and then went back into my bedroom to put on my shoes to go to work. As I was walking back into the bedroom, I stepped on something. I screamed, "Ouch!" and looked down at the floor to see what I stepped on. I wasn't able to find anything right away, so I got on my hands and knees and rubbed my hand across the floor. I came across a stick. the same small stick that was in Cletus' collar. It was only about 1/8" in diameter and 3 1/2' long, but upon closer examination, it had thorns on it!

I spent many, many years as a child trying to avoid the "picker bushes". Whether it was my grandma's rose bushes or the shrub in the woods my sister and I got into when we went to cut wood with my dad, we did everything we could to avoid the scratchy, thorny branches. And now, today, as an ADULT, and INSIDE my home, I stepped on a picker bush! 

March 06, 2009

Lessons Learned

I have learned a lot of things in my 29.6 years on this planet. But there are two things I have learned in the last few years that will always stick with me.

When I was in college, I received a phone call around 5pm from my friend, Ann*. I remember the time vividly because my roommates and I were bundled up in our coats and on our way to eat dinner at the dining hall. Ann called to tell me my boyfriend (at the time) was at the bar the night before making out with another girl. Ann knew this was true because she witnessed him kissing another girl. I was furious, not because Ann called to tell me this, but because my two other college roommates, Mary* and Tina*, were at the bar with my boyfriend and his friends and they said nothing to me all day!

I remember taking the call, sitting on the couch and the feeling of all the blood running from my head to my toes. I felt my face get pale, and then almost immediately the tears began to well in my eyes. My conversation with Ann was short, she told me who the girl was, that she was sorry she had to be the one to tell me this, but if she were in my shoes, she would want to know. As we hung up, I felt the blood return to my head, and the anger began to fill my body. I asked Mary and Tina about the situation and they said they didn't see anything, but to this day, I am sure they "heard" about what happened because of the talk within the group of friends they were with. I sent my roommates to dinner without me and moved into my room to cry my eyes out.

After hearing this news, I honestly cannot recall what happened between my boyfriend and I. I think we were trying to "work things out" after we had an on again, off again relationship, and recently decided to get back together and date exclusively. I am sure I confronted him and he denied it.

But what is important is from that day on, I decided I would do exactly the same thing as my friend Ann. I would tell the truth to my friend, even if I knew it would cause great pain in their life. Even if I knew making that phone call would be extremely difficult. Because today I applaud Ann for being honest with me and not pretending nothing happened, or taking the "don't ask, don't tell" approach. I think highly of Ann and today we are still what I consider to be good friends.

Tim* is a high school classmate of my husband. Tim married Barb* several years ago. I obviously know Tim and Barb through my husband. Just recently Tim and Barb divorced. It was a shock to my husband and I and I found out when I emailed Barb to find out how things were going with her. Barb replied and told me her and Tim had separated and they were getting a divorce. Sadly it wasn't mutual. It was what Tim wanted.

I remember reading Barb's email at work. I didn't know what to do. I was so scatterbrained. I sent a text message my husband to see if he knew about the divorce, he was Tim's friend, maybe he forgot to tell me!?!? Both of us were in the dark on this one. I didn't know what to do, what to say, I was so in shock, I couldn't concentrate on anything. I immediately emailed Barb asking her what happened, how she was doing, if there was anything I could do, and anxiously waited for her reply. She replied and gave me the majority of the info via email and the next thing that crossed my mind was to meet with her. I suggested dinner an within a week or so we were sitting at the restaurant table together.

On a side note, Barb and I have never done anything together. The four of us, Tim, Barb and my husband and I have gone to various things together, but nothing that was "just the two of us."  We have never called each other up to chat or gone shopping or had a girls weekend. This didn't stop me from wanting to meet with Barb.

There I was, sitting at a table with Barb, listening to her tell me "the whole story." I don't think I asked Barb to tell me anything about her current situation, she just started talking. Four hours later we were leaving the restaurant and all I wanted to do was make her life easier. Later, I learned from Barb that I was the only one of her (now ex) husband's friends wives to come forward or offer support or call her. I was surprised since I thought she had a much closer relationship to some other women that knew her husband.

This one revelation by Barb made me realize, no matter how I know the person, whether I met him/her through my husband, I will offer my support and help in a similar situation. It may be a text message, a phone call, a card or email, but I will make the effort to let the person in crisis know I am there if they every need anything.

*Names have been changed. 

March 04, 2009

Spring Crop

I have unconditional love for Candy Corn. Some of you may recall my entry about the "New Crop" last fall. If not, you can read it here. The other day while shopping for groceries, I rounded the aisle and was bombarded with all sorts of Easter candy. As I began to stroll by, refusing to pay for overpriced specially colored M&Ms, holiday wrapped Reece's Peanut Butter Cups and Robin Eggs, I spotted a bag of pastel candy corn. At first I noticed the name, then the candy and the last and best thing, the brand - Brach's! Brach's candy corn is my favorite! 

I was skeptical of this candy corn, the size and shape was exactly the same, but somehow the flavor had to be altered due to the candy's lack of the tri-color look. It wasn't the standard yellow and orange with the white tip, but instead had a pastel bottom and white body and tip! I grabbed the bag and then put it back on the shelf. I grabbed the bag again and tossed it into my cart.

I took the bag of candy corn to work with me on Monday. (It sat unopened for an entire day in my kitchen, serious will power on my end!) A coworker and I share the love of this halloween treat. He was also skeptical of the flavor due to the change in color. I boke open the bag and we began our critical discussion about the flavor. I thought the corn tasted the same and was delicious. My coworker insisted it tasted different. I told him it was all in his head. He later agreed with me. it probably was all in his head. He didn't think it could taste the same if it didn't look the same!

So here I am, three days into the new Spring Crop and I'm ready to replenish our stock for next week! 

 

 

March 02, 2009

It's all Brown!

A staple every person should have in their kitchen pantry is Fruit-Fresh. Fruit-Fresh is used for two things in my house, to keep apples from turning brown and to keep avocados/guacamole from turning brown.

Fruit trays with apples can be easily prepared the night before. Slice apples, place into a seal-able bag, add Fruit-Fresh (I don't measure). Toss the bag to mix the Fruit-Fresh onto the apple slices. Refrigerate bag of apples and place on your serving tray the next day. The apples will not brown! I like to cut my fruit the day before not only to save time, but I think the apple slices with Fruit-Fresh on them taste better the next day. The apple juices allow the Fruit-Fresh to dissolve, eliminating the grainy texture that is sometimes on the apple slice. (This texture is only noticeable by me, I think I freak out that someone will suspect I've used Fruit-Fresh to keep my apples brown! I have asked my husband if he notices a difference in texture and he says no.)

I know what you are thinking: Lemon juice will do the same thing, true, but I don't like lemon and whenever I eat an apple coated with lemon juice, I can always taste lemon! Fruit-Fresh never leaves a flavor or alters the flavor.

You can add 2 tablespoons of Fruit-Fresh to a cup of avocado and it won't brown overnight in your fridge. This works great for fresh guacamole that will still taste good the next day. 

There are several other uses of Fruit-Fresh including baking, canning and freezing. Check their website or the package information for details!

The trickiest part is finding Fruit-Fresh. It is usually located with the canning items at your local supermarket. I picked mine up at the hardware store right next to the mason jars! I don't know how anyone can survive without this fabulous product!