Monday, November 20, 2017

Each Moment Counts


These words from Corita Kent reminds us that life is more than just the big events, but the moments that lead us there. Each one is necessary for us to successfully navigate the journey of life.



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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Simply Complicated


"You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complicated and extremely broad for me. I'm looking forward for your next post, I'll try to get the hang of it!" 


Wow, it sounds like my writing must be so profound and so complex that it will take some period of time for them to "get the hang of it". I know you are wondering what masterpiece spawned such feelings of self-doubt. Am I next in line for a coveted Pulitzer Prize? I think not, but you be the judge. Here are the words that were "too complicated" for my commenter.

Puffy white clouds bring
Peaceful daydreams and lazy
days then drift away

Twas but a simple Haiku, paired with the above photo. So I won't be taking home the prize, and I sure could have used that 15 grand for a nice vacation somewhere under big, puffy white clouds.


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Thursday, November 9, 2017

Perfection or Good Enough?


How often does your quest for perfection get in the way of finishing your tasks? How much more time would you have for other things if good enough was exactly that...good enough? 

Wouldn't you rather mark five things off your to-do list and spend time with your family or read a book that's been collecting dust rather than dwell for hours on one task trying to get the last details perfect?

What is stopping you? Who are you trying most to please most, yourself or someone else? Does it matter to them or are they quite happy with good enough, especially if it means they get to spend more time with you?

For the record, there is a difference between doing a perfectly adequate job and doing it poorly; just as there is a difference between striving for perfection and being satisfied with having done a perfectly adequate job. More completed tasks equals more progress which, in turn, provides a greater sense of accomplishment and satisfaction than that one task which took hours.

From another perspective, there are those people who take immense pleasure in the intricate details of a project, and their satisfaction comes as much from the journey as from the completion itself. This is an entirely different thing.

Are you a perfectionist or a "good enough" kind of person?


If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Vacuum Sealing: The Basics


During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 



Today is the final day of the Write 31 Days blogging challenge. In previous posts we talked about ways to save money and time by stocking our pantries, using coupons, buying in bulk, and stocking up during sales (especially meats), so we are wrapping up the series with a look at vacuum sealing.

One of the best ways to preserve your valuable meat is to freeze it. However, one enemy of food is air, and food that is exposed to air can suffer freezer burn, mold, staleness and rancidity. When you freeze your meat the way it is packaged for sale, you could lose some of it to freezer burn. Now this food is still safe to eat, but the taste and texture may be compromised. 

How can you avoid freezer burn?

A quick and easy way to reduce freezer burn in the short term (a couple weeks) is to rewrap it in several layers of plastic wrap or foil and place in a zip top freezer bag. 

However for longer storage or larger quantities of meat, chicken, pork, etc. you should consider vacuum sealing. There are a number of different types of vacuum sealers on the market, the most well-known is probably the Food Saver brand. I have the Game Saver Deluxe model which comes with the vacuum tubing to seal food in mason jars (with the jar sealer attachment).

When you package your meat for sealing, you should freeze any wet/juicy foods first, then place them into vacuum seal bags, allowing for 3 inches beyond the food level for proper sealing.

What can you seal?

Many foods can be sealed and frozen, but remember that vacuum sealing is not a substitute for refrigeration or freezing and all perishable foods must be refrigerated or frozen after sealing.

Vacuum sealing is excellent for foods such as steaks, seafood, chicken, pork, breads, sausages, casseroles, and hard cheeses. Freeze soft foods like casseroles and soups before sealing. They may not seal properly or you may get liquids into your sealer.

Foods you do not want to seal:

Soft cheeses
Raw bananas
Mushrooms
Raw onions
Whole apples
Garlic
Cabbage
Lettuce
Cruciferous vegetables
Freshly cooked or steamed vegetables

Benefits:

Saves time because you make fewer trips to the store to purchase fresh meats.
Saves money because you can buy larger amounts of meat on sale.
Your meat lasts longer in your freezer.
There is less waste from spoiled meat.
Savings not limited to just meats; seal other foods as well.

What else can I seal?

Vacuuming sealing is not just for food. You can seal things like extra clothes, keys, phone, wallet, books, first aid kits, etc. for outdoor activities, beach or camping trips. You can also seal your silver to keep it shiny and reduce or eliminate the need to polish. Make sure you wrap your silver in cloth or a thick paper to prevent punctures to your bag.


Discussion Questions:

If you have a vacuum sealer, what do you seal most often?
Do you find it saves money?


If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Secret is in the Seasoning: Herbs and Spices


During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 



Have you ever wondered why a dish from your favorite restaurant tastes so much better than when you make it yourself, or why grandma's soup always made your taste buds shout whereas yours is bland? The secret is in the seasoning! 

Why do you think the Colonel's chicken has been around so long and still going strong? It is the secret blend of eleven herbs and spices. That was always a treat when I was a kid.

There are many more herbs and spices than we can explore here, and their uses reach around the globe and back. This is simply an overview of some of the more common ones you may have in your own kitchen and how you can use them.

Herbs:

A herb is a plant whose leaves are used in cooking to add flavor to food, or as a medicine. Herbs may be used fresh or dried, depending on the recipe, but always use fresh in salads, salsas or as a garnish. The flavor of dried herbs is more concentrated, so when using dried herbs, use about 1/3 the amount you would use of fresh herbs. It is helpful to crush them between your fingers to release the essential oils and bring out even more flavor.
  • Basil is a member of the mint family and has a mild liquorice flavor. It is often used in sauces, soups, salads, sandwiches, and of course, pesto.
  • Oregano is also a member of the mint family and commonly used in spaghetti sauce, pizza and Greek cuisine.
  • Thyme is used in French cuisine with meats such as pork, lamb, duck and goose. It pairs well with rosemary, sage, oregano and parsley. Thyme also complements spicy Italian sauces, soups and stews.
  • Rosemary has a strong lemon-pine aroma and flavor. It pairs well with roasted lamb, garlic and olive oil as well as roasted potatoes and breads such as focaccia. Given it's strong flavor, less is more.
  • Parsley has a mild, grassy flavor that works well with garlic and olive oil. Add anchovies and you have a wonderful sauce for grilled beef.
  • Sage is native to the Mediterranean and has a fuzzy texture and a musty aroma. Italians pair it with veal, while the French add it to stuffings, sausages and pork dishes. This too has a strong flavor, so go lightly.
  • Cilantro is similar to parsley in appearance but is very different in flavor and aroma. It is frequently used in salsas and Southwestern cuisine. It is a "love it or hate it" ingredient" as some people find it has a "soapy" flavor.
Spices:

Spices are a flavoring for food made from part of a plant, such as its fruit, seeds, or root, usually dried and often made into a powder. You may purchase spices whole and grate them at home with a grater or spice grinder.

Savory
  • Chili powder is used most often in chili, both meat and vegetarian based.
  • Curry powder is an essential ingredient in Indian and Thai cuisines, and is a blend of spices that can be sweet, or mild to very hot.
  • Cumin has an earthy, nutty flavored and is commonly associated with Mexican and Spanish cuisine, but also frequently used in Middle Eastern and Indian cooking as well.
  • Coriander comes from the seeds of the Cilantro plant, but with no similarity in flavor. Coriander has an earthy, lemony flavor that works well with cumin. I use these together in making black beans.
  • Turmeric is a relative of ginger and widely used in Indian and Thai cuisines and contributes largely to the yellow color of mustard. Turmeric is also used as a natural anti-inflammatory, either through food or in capsule form.
  • Cayenne pepper is a medium hot chile pepper which is versatile, widely used and often found at the table in pizzerias. It adds a nice burst of heat to many different cuisines.
  • Ginger, when paired with garlic, is an integral component in Asian cuisine, specifically Chinese. Like turmeric, ginger also has many health benefits.

Sweet
  • Cinnamon is a spice that comes from the inner bark of trees from the Cinnamomum family, and there are numerous species of cinnamon. It is a sweet spice usually used in desserts, cereals and breads.
  • Nutmeg is a warm, fragrant spice that adds something special to sweet as well as savory dishes. Try adding a little freshly ground nutmeg to greens such as spinach or in your Christmas eggnog. It is used in sweet dishes in India and savory ones in the Middle East.
  • Cloves are the unopened bud of the clove tree which is native to India and Indonesia. Cloves lend a deep sweetness to desserts and baked goods. This pungent spice should be used sparingly so as not to overpower the dish.
  • Allspice has an aroma similar to the combination of cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg, however it is a single spice - the dried, unopened berry from the Pimenta Dioica tree, native to Mexico and Central America. It is an essential part of Caribbean and Jamaican cuisines, but is predominantly used to flavor desserts here in the U.S. Lastly, an interesting fact about allspice; it is the ingredient of Cincinnati-style chili that give it it's unique flavor

Now look through your pantry and see what inspires you to make some new and exciting dishes.

Discussion Questions:

Do you regularly cook with herbs and spices?
If so, what are some of your favorites?


If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

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