Ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night…

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Taking your little boys and ghouls out trick-or-treating, making the party rounds, having people over or staying home by yourself watching monster flicks this Halloween?

CCS Halloween 2014

Whatever you do, stay alert and look out for others as well as yourself. Little and big kids will be walking around out there in costumes or masks which may limit their peripheral vision, so drive slowly and safely Halloween night. And if you’re drinking, don’t drive. Make sure you have a designated driver to take you home or if you don’t and you’re at a friend’s, ask to crash on the couch until the next morning when you’re sober enough to drive. Otherwise, call a taxicab.

Go nightcrawling with a group. You never know who or what’s out there. No, I don’t mean vampires and werewolves, witches and goblins. They’re relatively harmless. :D I’m talking about those crazies who may really be out looking to cause harm to a child or anyone else walking alone…Halloween would be the perfect time for them, since they can wear a costume and blend in with everyone else in disguise.

Halloween - boo & 3 ghosts

Check yours and your kids’ trick-or-treat bag to make sure all those goodies are safe. Look for pinholes in candy wrappers, anything stuck into an apple or whatever else may look suspicious. Most people handing stuff out are good, but there could be a few sickos out there. If you happen to find anything harmful, you or your child try to remember who gave them what, hold onto the treat and call the police.

If you’re staying home alone curling up with some hot chocolate and horror flicks, don’t answer the door after you run out of candy or after 9pm. Turn your porch lights off. If you’re not giving out treats, don’t turn the outside lights on in the first place. And if you have a garage, make sure your car and your garbage cans are inside it. That’s usually when the mischief makers are out and about.

Whatever your level of alertness is on Halloween compared to other nights of the year, it should be appropriate for the neighborhood. Trick-or-treaters in my small-town neighborhood are out early while there’s still some daylight, and most are small children accompanied by an adult. And we don’t get a whole lot of them around town because the elementary schools host Halloween parties and haunted houses in safe environments where kids and parents can have more fun and probably score more candy and swag than they could beating shoe leather door-to-door.

Last but not least….if you’re a Candy Crush Saga player, don’t crush that REAL candy with a hammer to take out your frustrations because you’ve been stuck on the same level for a month. Eat and enjoy it. Yes, even the CHOCOLATE. ;)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Pork shoulder roast with Rome apples

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Fall is a wonderful season for apples for eating or making pie, and drinking a glass of apple cider, and there’s no better time than now for using either or both of those in cooking as well. Pork pairs well with most apple products in any dish. Who doesn’t love pork chops with applesauce on the side? Or the current trend of putting bacon in everything (did someone say BACON?), including apple pie? Granny Smith apples are great for cooking when you want to give your dish a tart flavor. Romes are sweet and are good eating apples, but they’re also hard and dense enough to hold up when roasted with meat for 2 hours. Since I love to pair meat with fruit in roasting, I made a pork shoulder roast with Rome apples.

So here goes nuthin’… ;)

INGREDIENTS:

Pork shoulder roast weighing 3.94 lb., mostly boneless

4 Rome apples, each approximately 3-1/2″ in diameter

Buck’s Seasoning (25% reduced sodium) to taste

Black pepper to taste

Ground sage to taste

8 oz. liquid minimum (water and/or apple cider)

Cinnamon (optional)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line a large roasting pan with foil (it helps to use the non-stick foil from Reynolds). Season the roast all over with sage, black pepper and the Buck’s Seasoning (or make your own mix; sea salt works nicely if you don’t use a seasoning mix), and place the roast in the middle of the pan. Cut the apples in half and core them. If you like apples and cinnamon, rub some cinnamon over the fleshy part of the apples, then place them flesh side down in the pan all around the meat.

Pork shoulder roast + Rome apples 1

Cover the pan with foil, and place roast in the preheated oven for 90 minutes. After 90 minutes, remove pan from the oven and the foil cover from the pan. Here is what it will look like:

Pork shoulder roast + Rome apples 2

Baste the meat with juices from the bottom of the pan. There should be enough juice to baste the meat but if you want to add more, now would be a good time to add (more) apple cider, or water if you don’t have cider. Return the pan to the oven, and cook uncovered for another 35-45 minutes. (This was a thick roast. My rule of thumb for total in-oven cooking time for a pork shoulder roast like this is a minimum of 30 minutes per pound.)

Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for at least another 15 minutes. It’s up to you if you want to tent the roast with foil while it cools. After the cooling period, the roast is ready to slice and serve. The meat will be tender, moist and flavorful. The apples will be soft, about the consistency of applesauce, and will take on some of the pork flavor.

OPTIONS: (1) If your roast is thinner or smaller than the one I used and will cook in less time, you can cut the cored apples into wedges instead of in half. (2) If you want the apples to come out less soft, don’t put them in the pan until after the 90-minute covered cook time, then cook the whole shebang uncovered for those last 35-45 minutes. (3) If you don’t eat pork, roast the apples with chicken or duck instead…poultry and fruit pair nicely too.

Eat and enjoy! :)

 

Candy Crush Soda Saga: The Sequel

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Monday October 20 saw King.com’s worldwide Facebook release of its latest match-3 game Candy Crush Soda Saga, the younger-sister sequel to its popular ongoing game Candy Crush Saga. It had already been on limited mobile release for several months in Europe; however the application package for android devices could be found on the web via a simple Google search. It can soon be installed on mobile devices through Google Play Store and iTunes. The current version of Candy Crush Soda Saga is v1.29.26 and has 135 levels.

I downloaded the android app package of Candy Crush Soda Saga about a month or so ago, and checked out the files stored within it. This game contains many of the original features, concepts and elements as original CCS, but is different enough from CCS as to hold your interest. The new sound effects are cool. And there are new voice exclamations, such as “Juicy” and “Sodalicious,” for example. As nice as the music is in CCS, the Soda Saga music is refreshing, soothing and less annoying when repeated than a couple of pieces in CCS that played over and over again.

The structuring of both games is also similar. You have levels within named episodes, and episodes within worlds. Candy Town is the name of the first episode in both games, but after that the names differ. You also get 5 lives at a time, and the in-game features for getting to the next episode and/or help from Facebook friends is similar.

The main characters are different in this game, although a few of the characters appear in both games. In CCS, the little girl was Tiffi and her dad Mr. Toffee introduced the tutorials and goals in each level. In Soda Saga, Tiffi is gone (although she’s mentioned by other characters in the cutscenes) and so is Mr. Toffee, and dark-haired Kimmi takes Tiffi’s place. Mr. Yeti is more prominent in this game than he was in CCS, as he now introduces the tutorials. Elephants and other cute characters show you the goal at the beginning of each level. What was the Yeti Shop in CCS is now the Soda Pop Shop for purchasing boosters and other items.

Most of the candies are the same, except with a few differences. A new diamond-shaped cyan candy is introduced. Besides the familiar dark chocolate in CCS, there is now a 2-layered white chocolate that looks scrumptious enough to eat, but with a catch: when the chocolate grows back, it can replicate the 2nd layer as well. There is a fish candy similar to the one in CCS, except it’s not a jellyfish…it will eliminate one obstacle of any type on the board to help you reach your goal; for example, it may remove one licorice cage covering a piece of candy, or it might remove one piece of chocolate. You can make a fish candy by matching 4 candies of the same color in a square. There are layered obstacles like cupcakes, bubblegum and honey squares, among others. The special candies from CCS like color bombs, striped and wrapped candies are present and do the same thing in both games. Now there is a new one called a coloring candy…match 7 of them in a t-form and it makes a candy which, when matched with any one around it, will turn a whole bunch of candies on the board into that color. Here is a progressive screenshot sequence of how to make a coloring candy and what happens when it is switched with a yellow candy on the board:

SodaSaga Soda coloring candy made

And the fish…make as many of these as you can. So far, I’ve found the fish candy can be your best friend in this game, especially when paired with a color bomb or a striped candy.

loading_tip_fish

The levels are challenging as in CCS, but in a different way. A voice comes on to tell you what type of level you’ll be playing. There are 5 types of levels so far….

SODA LEVEL: Collect or “pop” one or more soda bottles They can be anywhere on the board. In this screen from level 114, there are 3 orange ones in licorice cages and a cyan one at the bottom right of the board. Since 11 are required to be collected in 30 moves, more bottles will drop down as you clear candies from the board.

SodaSaga Soda level board start - level 114

FROSTING LEVEL: This is similar to a Jelly level in CCS, except that you’re breaking blocks of ice to release one or more green gummi bears trapped underneath. The bears may be partially or completely hidden, and may be of different sizes. In this screenshot from level 6, you can see parts of the 3 bears you need to release in 20 moves. Blocks of ice may be one or two layers.

SodaSaga Frosting level board start - level 6

BUBBLE LEVEL: In this type of level, you must save a pink bear trapped in a soda bubble at the bottom of the board. You must match candies and soda bottles above the bear, eventually floating the bear above the string of candies near the top to “save” the bears within the specified number of moves. In this screenshot from level 9, you must save 3 bears within 20 moves. This is similar to CCS’s Ingredients level, except in reverse…you’re moving from bottom to top in Soda Saga, and the second bear doesn’t appear until you’ve saved the first one. So far, I’ve found the Bubble level to be the most challenging type. In some of these levels, you may have more than one board as the bears float upward. It’s not as easy as it looks.

SodaSaga Bubble level board start - level 9

CHOCOLATE LEVEL: In these levels, you need to clear or “eat” all the chocolate on the board within a specified number of moves. The chocolate may be dark or white. Here are two screenshots of chocolate levels. The dark chocolate in level 31 can be cleared easily. The white chocolate in level 128 with the “C” are two-layered, remove the first “C” layer and it looks like the other flatter ones. All the white chocolate in this level are blocked by single- and double-layered honey squares.

SodaSaga Chocolate level board start - level 31SodaSaga Chocolate level (white choco & honey) board start - level 128

HONEY LEVEL: In these levels, you have to break through layers of honey to save the bears. In this screenshot from level 105, you must save 7 bears in 45 moves.

SodaSaga Honey level 105 board

:) :) And now for some GOOD NEWS! :) :) Unlike CCS, there are no timed levels, at least so far. Also, you don’t need to score a minimum number of points to complete a level. Your goal is only to fulfill the order (eat chocolate, free bears, etc.), and the number of points you get during level play is only to determine the number of stars you earn on completion of that level. This is a big improvement over CCS where you could fail a level, even though you fulfilled the required order (especially in Ingredients levels), because you didn’t get the minimum number of points needed to earn 1 star.

After you complete the goal of any level in Soda Saga, you get an exclamation over a bubbling screen of grape soda:

SodaSaga Soda Crush sample

There are a few style and layout differences between the mobile and Facebook versions of Candy Crush Soda Saga. For example, when you complete a goal, the congratulations screens are different styles. The font used in the mobile version is a typewriter font on a pink background, and the Facebook version uses the candy-style font on a tan background. These differences are minor and don’t affect actual gameplay.

NOTE FOR MOBILE “STANDALONE” PLAYERS: Like with CCS, I started playing this as a standalone on my android phone, not connected to Facebook. When the game is installed, you get 50 free gold bars to use however you want in the game. After I completed level 45, which was the end of an episode, and clicked a graphic to progress further, a screen popped up with options to either use gold bars or connect to Facebook and ask friends to help me to unlock the next episode (compare to tickets in CCS). There was no option given for me to play mystery quests or an equivalent thereof in this game like there is in CCS, so if you want to continue playing past level 45 on your mobile device, you’re forced to connect to Facebook. As much as I didn’t want to, I had to set up a Facebook account specifically for playing CCS and Soda Saga. King has been slowly doing that lately with their games, steering players away from standalone play once they get to a certain point in the game.

I think even seasoned CCS players will like Soda Saga. It has a positive, fresh approach in its challenges, graphics and sound. As much as I love CCS and always will, this game looks to be way cooler in many aspects. :)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

 

Horrorfest for October 2014

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October. Halloween. Gotta love it. :) Again, we’re at the time of year when tons of TV stations air horror flicks, monster movies, Twilight Zone marathons and other ghastly thrillfests for your viewing pleasure. From frightful fare to creepy comedies, you’re bound to catch some of your favorites, old and new.

As for me, I’ve always been partial to the older classics from the 1930′s and 40′s like “Frankenstein,” “Dracula” “The Mummy” and “The Wolf Man”….and of course my favorite zombie apocalypse movie of all time, “Night of the Living Dead” from 1968. Turner Classic Movies is great every October with it’s variety of horror movies, and this year definitely won’t disappoint. Last year, TCM’s focus on Friday nights were movies about witches. This year’s specialty is ghost stories on Thursday nights. Here is their prime time lineup on Thursdays for the rest of October.

On October 16th….

TCM Oct 16 Ghost stories prime time

Then on the 23rd…

TCM Oct 23 Ghost stories prime time

Yet again on the 30th….

TCM Oct 30 Ghost stories prime time

All leading up to the big day….Halloween. TCM will be showing horror movies all day long. It’s on a Friday this year, so if you don’t have party or other evening plans outside the home, this can be a perfect movie night for you, your family or with fellow horror fans. So order the pizza, make some popcorn, dip into your kids’ trick-or-treat bags and have plenty of coffee or hot chocolate on hand, and get ready to pull an all-nighter…

TCM Oct 31 Halloween 1

^^^ by day…

TCM Oct 31 Halloween 2

^^^…and by night.

Not doing the marathon on TCM? How about some corny but creepy movies from the 80′s? The series of “Halloween,” “Friday the 13th” and “Nightmare on Elm Street” mainstream horror flicks are always fun. Or if you can catch them on TV or online, check out more obscure cult classics like “Eating Raoul” and “Basket Case,” both from 1982…corny but humorous. And then there’s always “Motel Hell” from 1980…now that’s scary.

Or sift through your DVD collection and find your favorite horror movies to curl up with. And you can always have lots of fun with these…

Ghostbusters box set

Or if you’re not big on TV, you can cozy up in your favorite comfy chair and read a good scary novel or collection of vampire stories. For that, I’d like to recommend “The Dracula Book of Great Vampire Stories” published in 1983…it contains some great late-19th/early-20th century stories, including the classic gothic novella “Carmilla.” How about old “Tales from the Crypt” comics or vintage Fangoria magazines? If you don’t have the original print copies, you can find digital versions online. Just don’t forget the hot chocolate. Or that glass of wine. ;)

Everyone have a fun and safe Halloween! :D

Halloween - boo & 3 ghosts

The blog is 1 year old today!

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This little experiment of mine made it through its first year. :D

Sugarcrush blog anniversary 1 (Oct 6)

I’ve periodically posted product reviews on other sites and social media over the past several years, and one friend who also blogs and writes reviews suggested I start a blog of my own too. Also, with some encouragement from fellow Candy Crush Saga players on a gaming site and several other forums where I participate, this blog was born. It started out primarily for fellow CCS enthusiasts but soon took off on its own in several directions. Like for instance, another passion of mine…FOOD and cooking and recipes, for starters. I love food blogs and recipe websites from all over the world, and appreciate the time and effort that goes into them.

Many bloggers post regularly every day, but I post when I feel inspired. Which could be once every several weeks, or twice in one day. Whenever and wherever my muses take me, that’s what I share here with you.

So to all who are reading this, thank you for taking the time to drop by here. I appreciate your likes, comments on posts and feedback I’ve received this past year…and please keep ‘em coming. And to fellow bloggers and those listed in “Blogs I Follow” or in “Links,” thank you for sharing creative ideas, recipes and the experiences that inspire you. Keep up the good work. I’ve learned much from you, and I hope you’ve learned something from me too! :)

King.com pulls a fast one on Candy Crush Saga standalone players

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If you’ve been playing Candy Crush Saga as a standalone game on your mobile device, meaning never connected to Facebook, you’re in for a big surprise if you haven’t already noticed by now. When you attempt to spin the Daily Booster Wheel, update the game or use other features, you get a pop-up that says you can’t “connect to Facebook” or “access the kingdom” or something to that effect. Or you may get something like this:

CCS FB kingdom access failure text

Since the late-August update of CCS, people have noticed they can’t do certain things, like earn boosters from the wheel or even access new levels unless they connect to Facebook. I’ve played this game as a standalone, either on an android emulator for PC or on my mobile device for well over a year until I reached level 680 (the end of an episode). I’ve always had Google Play Store set to automatically update the game as soon as King released a new version to them. But after completing 680 I couldn’t update any further, and soon found out I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t update their mobile versions of CCS.

It appears King is forcing standalone players who want to update the game to connect to Facebook in order to do it. Even those standalone players who do pay for items (see my blog post of September 12 in this section about playing for free) are being forced to connect if they still want to continue to spin the daily wheel or play beyond the levels already included in the version of the game on their devices. This is unfair to those players who don’t have or want a Facebook account, or to those who are connected to Facebook but don’t play online because they don’t want an app to spam their friends’ News Feeds or bug their friends for tickets and lives.

I originally got a Facebook account to connect with family and friends, especially those living far away, and fellow alumni for school reunions and events…not to play games. Being spammed with other users’ game posts in my News Feed bugged the hell out of me and still does. Finally, within about the last week or so, being the hard-core candy crusher that I am :) , I broke down and started playing on Facebook, but not the way that most people do. About 3 years ago, I had opened a test account on Facebook under another name, which I’d only use to occasionally check the security and accessibility of my regular account every time Facebook made changes to its security options or other features, since my regular account is set to “Friends Only”…I wanted to see what a public stranger on Facebook would see when searching me, in case the “View As” feature on my own account didn’t pick up on all my security settings. So I thought….why not use that test account for playing CCS, since I don’t use it for anything else?

I had no problem synchronizing the CCS progress already on my mobile device to the test Facebook account as a “new” player. Not only did it pick up that I had completed through level 680 at the time, but it gave me a ton of boosters and 50 gold bars to start me off, and I could now spin the daily booster wheel. I also made new CCS friends from all over the world who I figured were doing the same thing I was, using an account other than their regular one just for playing CCS (their profiles seem to prove that)…and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were originally standalone players like I was. Others you can tell are using their regular accounts for playing. The new friends are requesting lives, tickets or extra moves from me. The only thing I’ve requested so far are tickets as the game updates new episodes, and people send me them quickly. I don’t ask for lives because I don’t mind the wait…I’m not THAT addicted, lol! ;)

Actually, playing on Facebook isn’t that bad. I found out a few cool things I didn’t know by being strictly a standalone player. One is that if someone asks you for lives or tickets whether you have any or not, you can still give them one without losing anything. The game doesn’t penalize you for helping out others. The first time I noticed that is when I had 4 lives and I got a message requesting a life….I thought what the heck, I’ll send it. After I sent the life, I still had my 4 lives. The same held true with tickets. And the CCS friends aren’t intrusive into any other part of my life or profile except for a game request or a post that the CCS app itself makes. You help them, they help you, and otherwise remain anonymous.

Now for the REAL rant a lot of people are having. You can sync your mobile version of CCS to your Facebook account for the first time as a “new” user, but the problem lies as you progress through the game on Facebook: you can’t sync the other way around even when connected to Facebook on your phone or other device (or both, which is what tutorials suggest you do to properly sync). Those who were able to sync before find they can’t do it now, which was an advantage especially for people who travel. Why doesn’t it work, you ask? Because King, at least via Google Play Store or the Facebook option to sync your progress to your device, isn’t updating mobile version of this game. At least not the episodes/levels feature. On Facebook, I’m now at level 706 but on my phone, the episode portion still won’t update past level 680. Funny though, it’ll send current game requests and other messages to the phone. Players are up-in-arms about this, and if you contact King (I read their forum), they say they’re “working on solving the problem.” Yeah, right. They just want more of the mobile phone market.

As far as I know, this seems to be a problem only on mobile phones. I don’t know about tablets or iPads…Google Play Store or iTunes might be updating the game OK on those for standalone players and/or syncing Facebook with those fine.

The advantage to crushing candy on Facebook on PC or laptop rather than just over a mobile phone is that Facebook always keeps your progress, no matter what happens. On a mobile phone or PC, you could lose your progress for various reasons, like your hard drive dies, your mobile device emulator crashes or a corruption in updating via Google Play Store to your phone sets your level progress back to 1. (I had that happen, and it’s not fun.)

After all is said and done…..Bottom line: the game is still free. So if King never fixes the update problem on phones, I’ll just delete both the Facebook and Candy Crush Saga apps on the phone. And since I have to be physically sitting at the PC in order to play and progress (at least until the sync-to-phone problem is fixed), I spend less time playing. Which I suppose is a good thing. And I really don’t mind that!

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

October is National Pork Month

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Every day or month of the year seems to be given some sort of significance, whether it’s a national holiday or something more obscure or even silly. Heck, we have Talk Like a Pirate Day. But October has been known as National Pork Month for a long time now. Who knows how or when it got started, but apparently it’s the month of the year when pigs were traditionally marketed. You can find many articles about it on the web. Each year, pork farmers reinforce their commitment to produce safe, high-quality meat all year round. And it’s a time we can thank pork producers for providing us and others around the world with nutritious and economical meals.

Pork, “the other white meat,” is inexpensive compared to other meats on the market that come from the usual 4-footed creatures. A little goes a long way. And most importantly, PORK FAT RULES! Especially BACON. :D Check out my bacon post on this blog from September 13.

Did someone say BACON

So whether you’re making barbecued spare ribs….

Spareribs-130112_0002

A pork shoulder roast….

Pork roast 130520_0000

Flavoring a stew or a southern dish like collard greens with these….

Bacon ends and pieces

You can’t go wrong with pork, unless your dietary or religious restrictions forbid it. I’ve found that unlike other meats you get at the supermarket, the most expensive cuts of pork aren’t always the tastiest. They may be leaner, but to me they’re often chewy and lacking in flavor. Which is why I like shoulder roasts or pork “butt” steaks…which aren’t from the pig’s butt, but actually from the shoulder. The shoulder cut has more fat throughout the meat, and the meat itself is more tender and flavorful. It’s a versatile cut of pork that will work for just about any dish. Yes, it’s definitely a pork fat thing.

The best pork chops for coating and frying, or grilling, are those cheap “assorted” chops you can get in packages of 10 or more…they cook quickly and have tons of flavor, and are definitely at the top of my pork fat list.

But before I close, let me recommend some ways NOT to use bacon… ;)

Bacon things not to wrap

Eat Like Shit Cookbook Available NOW!!!!!

Sugarcrush:

Had to pass this along from one of my favorite food blogs, The Vulgar Chef (see “Blogs I Follow”). These are just a few of his unique and tasty creations in a downloadable cookbook. But be warned….there be many cusswords here. ;)

Originally posted on The Vulgar Chef:

image-5

DOWNLOAD HERE

DOWNLOAD HERE

Im having a fucking bitch of a time getting this shit on the iTunes store…so for now here is a raw PDF version. Share it with your fucking mother.

View original

For the love of all things BACON

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Emeril Lagasse is right: pork fat rules. And of all the various cuts and roasts of pig meat and its delectable porcine preparations, bacon reigns supreme. Bacon is hog heaven. But if you think you know everything there is to know about bacon but were afraid to ask, you probably don’t unless you’re a butcher, chef or spend an inordinate amount of time around pork fat. So prepare to be taken to bacon school. You won’t have to travel too far or spend your life savings on tuition…all you need is this:

Bacon00 - 2015 wall calendar

It’s a very cool calendar for you or your fellow bacon buffs, and makes a nice gift. You’re bound to learn new stuff, and anyway, it’s a fun read. You’ll learn to bestow upon bacon its proper reverence…

Bacon01 - 10 commandments

…and how to make some yummy recipes (read: artery-clogger specials. The health-conscious and those on a diet need not apply.)

Bacon03 - BBQ bacon burgers

Each month shows the days in various shades of pig….

Bacon04 - month sample

…and you’ll read some interesting and important facts about this tasty meat.

Bacon05 - facts and tips

OK class, RECESS! Time for a bit of the real thing. :)

Bacon 09 - Hormel bacon bits

Bacon bits, that is. Real ones! Imitation bacon bits are also available for those whose religious or dietary restrictions prohibit eating pork or bacon, and they are quite tasty too. The bits are great sprinkled into a vegetable salad, or an omelette or pancake mixture before pouring it into the pan.

Bacon comes in all types of cuts and flavors. You can get thin, normal, and thick cut strips of bacon. And the types of wood used in the process of makin’ bacon each lend a unique flavor to the finished product. Bacon ends and pieces can be used the same way you’d use salt pork…for southern dishes like collard greens, bacon and beans, or in a stew. One of my local supermarkets occasionally offers fresh bacon in strips, labeled as “pork belly,” which is unsmoked, uncured and unsalted. It tastes like regular fresh pork and, fried as you would regular bacon, it’s an interesting side to your breakfast omelette and a great alternative for those on salt-restricted diets.

Bacon07 - popular bacon flavors

Besides frying bacon or heating it in the oven, you can microwave it. Packages of pre-cooked strips of bacon can be found in your supermarket, and the strips heat up in mere seconds in the microwave. Or you can eat them right out of the box. You can microwave regular uncooked strips on several sheets of paper towels. This inexpensive microwave bacon cooker with a top does an excellent job, and you can flip the bottom to the flat side to reheat slices of pizza and other prepared foods.

Bacon 10 - microwave bacon cooker

Be careful when buying bacon in a supermarket. There are inexpensive store brands and some off-brands, but many of them are mostly fat and not very much meat. And not all packages are the same size. Most standard packages are 1 pound, but some are 12 or 14 ounces and cost more, even within the same brand. Compare like-to-like, and find ones with the least amount of fat for the price. If you really love your bacon…and who doesn’t?!…you’ll fork up the extra dough and buy the good stuff. Turkey, duck and beef bacon alternatives are also available for those who cannot eat pork. There are many good brands of bacon out there, but here are 3 I found that I like. They are all thick cut (sometimes called “butcher’s cut”), which I like better than the thin cut because they don’t curl as much…so far, the Smithfield brand is my favorite.

Bacon 08 - 3brands thickcut

And some duck bacon…

duckbacon 130405_0002

Now before you sit down to pig out on your favorite bacon, here’s your homework assignment:

Bacon06 - word search

Who said bacon wasn’t educational? ;) Eat hearty, and remember when things start getting you down and the wolves are at your door…

Bacon02 - keep calm

Playing Candy Crush Saga without spending real money

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Some Candy Crush Saga players ask how they can advance through this game without forking over their hard-earned cash. Well, you definitely CAN play CCS and still keep all your dough, using a couple of simple tricks! I play this game as a standalone, not connected to Facebook, and completed over 500 levels without spending one thin dime. Moving through each level of the game itself is a combination of skill and opportunity (read: luck. The candies cascading down into the right positions have to present themselves, as well as your knowledge of strategies for moving them to your best advantage.) Patience is also a virtue when advancing through levels, as you may get stuck on one for quite a while until you’re ready to pull your hair out. So far, level 425 proved to be the proverbial bee in my bonnet. I found I really didn’t need any more boosters than the ones earned when certain levels are completed, or those gotten by spinning the daily wheel, so I haven’t paid for additional boosters…nor will I when all the boosters have been used.

However, tickets and lives pose a dilemma. Since I play the game not connected, I can’t ask others to send me tickets or lives when I run out. And to avoid paying for them, the only way to get lives between levels is to wait a certain amount of time until the next life. For standalone-game players, the only way to progress from one episode to the next without paying for tickets is by playing 3 mystery quests. The quests are levels that you’ve played before and in some cases, the target score you need to achieve is higher than when you played it as a regular level. (I don’t believe the Facebook version has the mystery quest feature…someone please correct me if I’m wrong. FB players can ask friends for tickets if they don’t want to pay for them.) If you play the quests as the game instructs, you must wait 24 hours between each quest. But there is a legal “cheat”…actually a workaround for that, and you can play all three quests in a lot less time by following these instructions carefully (thanks to the Candy Crush Central website for these tips):

Do this after you complete your FIRST quest:

1. Go to the date and time settings on your iOS or Android device.
2. Manually change the date to the next day.
3. Open the game to confirm that the second quest has been unlocked. You will see a screen telling you what level you need to play. DO NOT START PLAYING. Back out of the game at this time.
4. Go back into the date and time settings return the advanced date to the present date.
5. Go back into the game and complete your next quest.
6. Repeat the above 5 steps to unlock and play the third and final quest.

After you complete the third quest, you have earned your ticket and are ready to advance across the tracks to the next CCS episode.

CCS crossing episodes ticket needed

This workaround also applies if you’ve run out of lives. Advance the time on your device, open CCS to confirm your new set of 5 lives, then DON’T START PLAYING. Back out of the game, change the time back to the present time before getting back into the game to play! The mistake people make is playing with the 5 new lives while the time is still advanced instead of first changing it back to present time before playing…then when they return to present time afterwards, they have a several-thousand-minute wait for more lives. Very frustrating, but it can be corrected. Once you’ve earned lives or tickets and that info is saved in your CCS stats, they can’t be taken away from you, whether or not you tweak the time or date on your device. If you did these tweaks, just make sure you set your device back to the present time BEFORE you use them.

These little “cheats” are great timesavers by helping you advance through levels and episodes of CCS quickly. As for luck and skill playing each level, you’re on your own. Happy crushing! ;)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

For the Candy Crush Saga player on your gift list

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If you’re thinking about buying a birthday, Christmas or Hanukkah gift for that hard-core Candy Crush Saga addict, here are a few new items. Target.com is offering some CCS items in their home goods area, mostly in kids’ bedding. You can only buy them online. At this time, they’re not available in stores. Here’s what’s available now on their site, with pricing:

CCS Target items

Being a CCS player and having passed level 500, I thought I’d treat myself to a few of those goodies. The plush throw, 50″ x 60″, is very soft and is edged with purple piping to keep it in shape and which gives it a nice finished look. It’s bright and colorful, and will be a cheerful addition to your family room, game room or a kid’s room.

CCS plush throw

The blanket, 62″ x 90″, is also very plush and soft. It’s made to fit a twin bed. This blanket doesn’t come in other sizes. Although I have a double bed, I prefer twin blankets and comforters because I don’t like a lot of bulk. It’s also very colorful, and says “Sweet!” in the middle among a pattern of solid and striped candies.

CCS plush blanket

The comforter, available in twin size only, is 64″ x 84″, quilted and the front has the same design as the throw. It’s also reversible, the back having a solid purple background with a pattern of solid-color candies. Part of that is visible in the photo. As kids’ bedding goes, it appears to be well-made.

CCS twin microfiber comforter

From the pictures at Target’s website, the sheet set looks cool and would be great for a child’s twin-size bed, as does the pillow in the design of the Tiffi character. A friend of mine likes the pillow and plans on getting it for her grandchild.

As for me, I’m a big kid at heart and love bright primary colors. They’re cheerful and lift your spirits on dreary cold winter days, and the plush items and comforter will keep you warm. Now all I need is a purple sheet set to go with the blanket and comforter. :)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

A low-carb flavorful summer salad

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Oh, the plethora of recipes that can be found, scrolling through one’s News Feed on Facebook. One in particular caught my eye so I thought I’d try it. Cauliflower salad! It’s a low-carb variation on potato salad or macaroni salad, great for anyone watching their weight and it seems to be diabetic-friendly.

I used most of the ingredients of the original recipe. The only variation I made is that I used diced zucchini instead of the pickle relish it called for, since I don’t like pickle relish:

1 head of cauliflower (I used about 2/3 of a large head, but 1 medium-to-large sized head will do nicely)
6 hard-boiled eggs
1/3 cup approximately of Miracle Whip or mayonnaise (don’t use light, it has more carbs) – I used Hellmann’s REAL Mayo because I don’t care for Miracle Whip.
3 tbsp of mustard
1 cup of diced zucchini (instead of 3 tbs of pickle relish)
1/8 cup of chopped onion uncooked, can use more if you prefer (I used half of a medium-sized Vidalia onion)
Salt and pepper to taste

First, hard-boil the eggs, let them cool and peel them before you prepare your veggies.

Cauliflower egg salad 1

^^^Second, prepare the cauliflower and zucchini. I chose to use a steamer in the microwave instead of boiling the vegetables, so I cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces and the zucchini into smaller pieces. I put some water in the bottom of the steamer, put the lid on top and steamed them first for 5 minutes. Then checked for doneness, then steamed them some more for about 2-1/2 minutes. You can steam (or boil) them for however long you want, depending if you like your finished salad soft or slightly chewy. Cook them less if you want to up the crunch factor.

Cauliflower egg salad 2

^^^While the veggies are steaming, prepare the rest of the ingredients. Cut the eggs in half, then separate the yolks into a bowl, as you’ll need them to incorporate into the dressing. Cut up the whites into small pieces to add to the salad near the end of preparation. Dice the onion into tiny pieces.

Then, prepare the dressing. Mash up the egg yolks in the bowl with a fork, until they’re almost powdery. Then add the mayonnaise and mustard to the egg yolks, and mix until thoroughly incorporated and creamy smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, then mix some more. Since this is a basic filling for deviled eggs, here is where you could also add paprika if you wanted.

Cauliflower egg salad 3

^^^I find these collapsible measuring cups a godsend in the kitchen. This one was great for measuring and mixing up the mustard with the mayo before adding it to the eggs.

After the cauliflower and zucchini finish steaming (or boiling, if you used that method), let them cool and make sure they’re well drained. (If you had boiled them before you cut them up, now is the time to cut them into bite-sized pieces.) Then transfer them to a large mixing bowl or, if you have a steam-and-serve style Tupperware steamer with a lid like the one I used, make sure the bottom of the steamer is dry and put the drained cooked veggies in it. Then add the cut-up egg whites and diced onions to the cooked cauliflower and zucchini. Toss all the veggies to mix, then add the dressing:

Cauliflower egg salad 4

Stir the whole shebang to mix it all up, then put a lid on it. Now it’s ready to chill overnight in the fridge.

Cauliflower egg salad 5

^^^Ta-DAAAAA! The finished product. A small plate of this makes a great lunch by itself, or spoon some out as a side dish to a dinner entree. Since I’ve never frozen potato or macaroni salad, I don’t know how well this salad will freeze…I’m guessing it’ll freeze well, since cauliflower and zucchini don’t tend to get mealy after they’ve been frozen and thawed. If you do make it and later freeze and use it, please let me know. It keeps well in the refrigerator, but it’s so GOOD that it might not last long enough to spoil, lol!

SOME ADDITIONAL IDEAS:

1. Some people like a little diced raw celery in cold salads to give it a bit of crunch. Add some at the same time you add the diced onions and cut egg whites.

2. The recipe calls for 6 hard-boiled eggs. Boil 8 instead, and use the extra 2 to slice up thinly as garnish on top of the finished salad, and sprinkle a bit of paprika on top. Then chill overnight. This makes a great presentation at parties or if you’re bringing a dish to a BBQ or pot-luck dinner. Also, it’s a dish that dieting party-goers who are watching their carbs or are diabetics can eat, an ideal alternative to all those crackers, chips and other carb/fat-laden commercially produced munchies prevalent at most gatherings.

3. Don’t think you’d like the dressing because you’re not a fan of deviled eggs? Substitute a dressing you do like, or get creative and make your own. Ranch dressing would be great for this, and that’s probably what I’ll use next time I make it!

4. If you want to add meat toward the end before you mix it all up and stick it in the fridge, try bacon bits or diced grilled chicken. Or cut-up leftover turkey breast. Any cooked lean meat will work, and….DID SOMEONE SAY *BACON*??? ;)

(rave) The absolute coolest PJ’s on the planet

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If there was ever a “greatest thing since sliced bread” category for pajamas, a brand called Lazy One would be it. I found Lazy One pj’s a couple years ago in a local athletic clothing store and immediately fell in love with them! Since then, I’ve bought more at their website, at Amazon.com and most recently at Zulily.com, where I found them on the cheap.

LazyOne Moose have a hug nightshirt

^^^The designs are uniquely nature-oriented artwork, often featuring wild animals, farm animals, woodland or sea creatures (very few dogs or cats, not as many as you would think) and their captions are humorous. Some of the captions are puns which are downright groaners! One with horse artwork is captioned “I’m unSTABLE in the morning” under the art. Another has a bird with the saying “Tweet dreams.” My favorite is a spotted dragon captioned “I’m dragon my tail.” Some of the animals are doing things like holding a cup of coffee, waking up, sleeping, doing funny camera poses or holding their arms out to get a hug.

LazyOne Crab nightshirt and pants

^^^What’s nice about these pj’s is that you’re not stuck buying them in a set. You can buy individual collection pieces separately for adults and juniors in any size you need. The crab design set shown were bought as two separate pieces: a long nightshirt and sleep pants with a front pocket for a cell phone. A design set can be available in more than one type of item. You can get 2-piece pj sets for kids, onesies for babies, and footed flapjacks for adults. There are long nightshirts, t-shirts and tanks, pants and boxers for men, women, kids, and some of the men’s pants are designated as unisex. Many of the designs are made to mix and match, as a lot of the background colors and animals are used in more than one design collection. Non-pj items include gift accessories like totebags, spa slippers, baby bibs, note pads, magnets, oven mitts, mugs and kitchen aprons, and even adventure booklets for kids with a story about characters on the pj’s.

LazyOne RB moose nightshirt

LazyOne RB checked sleep pants

^^^Most of the long nightshirts have short sleeves. This red and black moose one was offered with 3/4-sleeves, which is ideal for colder nights. Some nightshirt designs have one or more coordinating pants. The pants matching this shirt were either red-and-black hunters’ checks, or a red background with small repeating black moose.

Qualitywise, Lazy One’s pieces wash up beautifully and don’t shrink after hot wash/hot dry. The pieces I have are 100% cotton and made in India. The cotton used isn’t flimsy…it’s got some substance to it, like a well-made t-shirt you’ve owned forever and that still looks great. It’s heavy enough to wear to bed in cooler weather, yet light enough that summer sleeping in them is very comfortable. And it feels soft against the skin. Plus, they’re just way cool-looking to wear around the house, both for adults and for kids at sleepovers, and super cute for babies. They’d also probably hold up well enough that once your kids outgrow them, they’ll make great hand-me-downs or a cool garage-sale item.

I highly recommend this brand, but they tend to be a bit pricier than pj’s found at Walmart or Target and other run-of-the-mill stores, but a lot less than so-called designer or exclusive brands. I would consider them moderately-priced, an all-around good value for the money. Check Lazy One’s website for designs, variety and price…sometimes they have items on sale. If you like these pj’s, but they’re not available locally and price is a major determining factor, I suggest you check Zulily’s website first, which has a great selection WHEN they carry the Lazy One line. (That’s the thing about Zulily…they don’t carry the same brands all the time.) Zulily had the same adult-sized pieces for between $10 and $15 that regularly were selling elsewhere for between $22 and $30, or more. Do some comparative shopping. Besides Lazy One’s website, you can find pieces and sets on Amazon.com, The Pajama Company or google “Lazy One” for other online sleepwear-specific merchants to get the best price for the type of item and availability of designs. Wherever you end up buying them, either for yourself or as a gift, you won’t be disappointed.

Now….if I could only find Candy Crush Saga designed pj’s for adults, lol!

A quick and easy bok choy stir-fry (or cold salad)

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Here’s a healthy dish you can make as a cold salad with your favorite dressing, or as a stir-fry. Either way, it can be eaten as a vegan dish or you can add strips of cooked meat or even seafood, like shelled and deveined shrimp.

Bok choy is a Chinese cabbage that can be found in just about any grocery store. It has a mild, light flavor and looks similar to celery. I’ve seen it in two different sizes. Baby bok choy is about 1/3 of the size of regular bok choy, and is often sold in 8-ounce packages. The larger version is often seen in a bunch with a band around it. Because baby bok choy is more tender, it lends itself better to cold salads. Either size is great for cooking.

Bok choy salad 3

This recipe is for a stir-fry. If you’re not making it vegetarian, I’d suggest precooking the meat or seafood, unless the pieces are so small or cut so thin that it would completely cook in a very short time. I used leftover precooked bacon bits from the last stuffed mushroom recipe I blogged about.

    BACON!

;) This will make 2 portions as meals, or 3-4 portions as a side dish to an entree.

INGREDIENTS:

8 ounces Baby bok choy
8 ounces mushrooms (I used a blend of baby bella, shiitake, and oyster mushrooms)
1 large white onion (about 6-8 ounces)
3/4-ounce bacon bits
2 tbsp. Sesame oil
Garlic (fresh or garlic powder)
Ginger (fresh or ground)
Ground black pepper

FOOD PREP: If the bok choy needs cleaning, run it under the water quickly and shake it out, then let dry on paper towels; you may not need to, as the baby bok choy in packages are often prewashed. Cut the bok choy in half lengthwise, so each piece has both leaves and bulb. If the mushrooms need cleaning, wipe them with a paper towel or cloth (do not wash them with water or the dish will be too soggy). Peel the onion, then cut it in rings, then cut the rings in half so the onion will be in strips. If you’re using fresh garlic and ginger, choose the amount to taste, then peel and cut into small pieces.

For this, I used a wok that’s 11-1/2″ in diameter. You can use a 12″ or larger frypan if you don’t have a wok. Put the sesame oil in the wok, heat on med-high. Add the garlic, ginger and black pepper. If you want, you can also add the bacon bits at this time. Once the oil is hot and sizzling, add the onions and mushrooms. Don’t let them sit, stir-frying means that you constantly stir during the process. Keep the heat high, because you want the onions to be slightly translucent but not caramelized or even golden, and the mushrooms not to release moisture (you basically just want them heated and flavored). Stir until warm and coated, then add the bok choy. You can also add meat or seafood at this time, including the bacon bits if you didn’t add them earlier. And keep stirring…the key to a successful stir-fry is using high heat, cooking it quickly and keeping everything constantly moving in the wok or pan. :)

Bok choy salad 1

Keep the heat high, stir and cook until the bok choy is warm, a richer green color and slightly wilted. Any raw meat or seafood should be safely cooked through (hence, using tiny pieces in the first place). The whole cooking process takes only a few minutes, after which it’s ready to plate and enjoy.

Bok choy salad 2

You can vary this dish any way you like. If I’d had some pea pods, or carrots on hand that I could grate or sliver, they would have gone in the wok too. The dish is tasty on its own as a meal or as a complimentary vegetarian side to any Oriental entree like teriyaki beef, General Tso’s chicken, or even pork fried rice.

For a cold summer salad, just throw the cleaned and prepared veggies in a bowl, along with seasonings of your choice. You’ll probably want to break up the bok choy with your hands so it’ll blend better with everything else. Add cooked chicken or shrimp, bacon or other meat if you want. Add your favorite dressing and toss. An Oriental ginger dressing like you’d get in a Japanese restaurant would do this salad nicely!

Stuffed portobello mushrooms redux….bacon and BBQ sauce

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*** BACON! ***

All right, now that I have your undivided attention, here is another batch of stuffed mushrooms…a slight variation from the meatless ones I made and blogged about 3 days ago.

The cooking method, time and temperature are the same as the last recipe, 400 degrees F for 12/15 minutes. Actually, closer to 15. The only real difference is the stuffing mixture and the topping. I used slower-melting cheeses in this recipe than the one I posted 3 days ago. This is the mixture. Put these ingredients into a bowl and mix well:

5 ounces of shredded cheese (Cheddar and Colby/Jack)
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs…most went into the mixture as a binder, then used a little for topping)
Bacon pieces, cooked crispy then crumbled up (use imitation bacon bits if you don’t eat meat or you keep a Kosher home)
Black pepper

Stuff the mushrooms densely with the mixture. This will keep the finished product from becoming too watery on the inside. Top each mushroom with a little more panko, if you like. Then put them in the oven for at least 14-15 minutes.

Take the mushrooms out of the oven, top each one with a little of your favorite THICK barbecue sauce. For these, I used Sweet Baby Ray’s bbq sauce. Use whatever mild or spicy sauce you like, or get creative and make your own. Then return mushrooms to the oven for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes to heat the sauce. Remove the mushrooms, and let cool.

Stuffed BBQ mushrooms

^^^Here they are, fully-cooked and ready to eat. Just pick ‘em up and eat ‘em. Great finger food to eat with one hand while you’re playing Candy Crush Saga with the other. Hey, even we CCS addicts need to eat! ;)

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Stuffed portobello mushrooms, a meal in itself

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I love stuffed mushrooms, and have been making them in many varieties for years. The best type I’ve found to use are very large white mushrooms or portobellos. You could probably use any type of mushroom, as long as it has a cap large enough to stuff with lots of goodies.

My favorite type to use are portobello. Portobello mushrooms are brown, and are sometimes seen in the stores as “crimini” mushrooms; genetically, there’s no difference between the two except their age. Criminis are picked earlier than portobellos, so consider criminis teen-age portobellos. :D The stuffable ones I like have caps at least 2-1/2″ in diameter, up to the “beefsteak” type which are around 5″ or so in diameter. Some people like to use the smallest version called “baby bella” for hors d’oeuvres. Whichever size you use for stuffing, you’ll have to adjust the cooking time in this recipe to allow for smaller mushrooms cooking faster and larger ones taking longer.

Here is an easy meatless dinner recipe I made using 2-1/2″ to 3″ diameter mushroom caps:

4 portobello mushroom caps (2 if you’re using “beefsteak” size)
5 ounces of shredded cheese (parmesan, mozzarella, asiago)
A handful of frozen spinach, thawed to room temperature
A handful of cooked/softened artichoke hearts
Mushroom stems (optional)
Panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
Seasonings of your choice (I used oregano, garlic powder and ground black pepper)

If you’re using fresh spinach, heat and wilt it down first. For fresh artichokes, make sure they’re cooked and softened. I like to use frozen spinach and prepared artichokes you can buy in the glass jars in any grocery store’s Italian food section. Whichever you use, make sure you get as much moisture out of them as you can before you put them in this recipe. If you use the mushroom stems, cook them down and dry and dice them first. Pressing them between paper towels helps. Wet vegetables will make the finished product soggy.

Put the cheese into a mixing bowl. Dice the vegetables into very small pieces, with a sharp knife. Then put them in a bowl with the cheese. Add the seasonings to the bowl. Unless you’re a total salt freak, I would not suggest adding salt because there will be more than enough in the cheese. Toss the ingredients in the bowl until they are well distributed. Set aside. With the Panko, you have a choice…you can mix it in with the other ingredients in the bowl, or you can save it to top the mushrooms after stuffing.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with foil; Reynolds Wrap Non-stick is a godsend! Look over the caps of your mushrooms, you may or may not have to clean them off first. If they need cleaning, do not wash them…wipe them with a paper towel. You don’t want unnecessary moisture in the mushrooms while they cook; they’ll be releasing enough moisture of their own during the cooking process.

Place the mushrooms on the baking sheet, cap side down. Stuff each one with the mixture from the bowl, as loose or as dense as you like. Mine were dense. If you didn’t use any Panko in the stuffing mixture, sprinkle some over the top of each mushroom. I like to use Panko rather than regular bread crumbs because Panko stays crunchy in the oven, and browns nicely as a topping.

Stuffed portobellos 1

If you have any leftover mixture or mushroom stems, put them up in a container with a tight lid and refrigerate. You can use these leftovers the next morning in your breakfast omelette. Yum!

Place the mushrooms on the baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack. Leave them in the oven for 12-15 minutes. (Again, the cooking time will depend on the size of the mushroom caps and density of your stuffing.) Check them around 12 minutes for doneness and intensity of browning. If you plan to poke a food thermometer into the middle of the largest mushroom in the bunch, you’re looking for about 165 degrees internal temperature. Remove the baking sheet from the oven when done, and let the mushrooms cool.

Stuffed portobellos 2

After the mushrooms cool, they’re ready to serve. 4 of these made a complete meatless meal for me. Stuffed mushrooms also make a great side to a meat entree. You can also use meat to stuff mushrooms (I’ll get to that later).

Stuffed portobellos 3

Stuffed mushrooms with meat: You can use meat in your stuffed mushroom mixture. Just make sure it’s been cooked, patted with paper towels to soak up excess grease, and is in very small pieces. Lean ground beef is ideal, as are bacon bits. (Did someone say BACON?!) When I use meat, I like to use cheeses like cheddar or Jack. Instead of Panko, I like to baste the top of each mushroom with a little bit of thick barbecue sauce about a minute before taking them out of the oven, or just as they’re coming out of the oven while they’re still hot. Or you can cut pepperoni into tiny pieces and use them as stuffing with Italian cheeses and top them with a bit of pasta sauce a minute before you take them out of the oven…Stuffed Mushroom Pizza. :)

There are so many ways to stuff mushrooms. Use your imagination and create something new!

Matzoh brei (fried matzoh) – a Passover tradition

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You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy matzoh at Passover or any other time of the year. Matzoh is the unleavened bread Jews eat during the 8-day major holiday of Passover, when eating food made with leavening is forbidden by Jewish law. It can be found in abundant quantities in most grocery stores around the start of Passover, but a limited number of boxes can be found all year long in some places. Matzoh is fairly tasteless and blah, so you have to make it taste GOOD. One way to do this is a traditional Passover dish commonly eaten for breakfast during this time called matzoh brei, also known as fried matzoh. Think of it as Jewish French toast. Matzoh may come in many forms (such as the ground matzoh meal used to make matzoh balls for soup), but the form of matzoh used in this particular dish is the 6″x6″ square, which looks sorta like an overgrown saltine cracker.

Matzoh brei 1

You can Google for many different fried matzoh recipes and styles for preparing it, but the basic ingredients are the same: matzoh, eggs, water and salt. Here are the basic ingredients I use for a single breakfast serving; you can adjust it for serving two or more people:

2 squares of matzoh
2 eggs
1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Sea salt
Butter

I prefer to use unsalted matzoh and unsalted butter, because I like to grind sea salt to taste in recipes that call for salt. Sea salt has deeper and smoother flavor notes than table salt, which I find a bit harsh. In addition, this allows me to control my sodium intake since I have to anyway, as you don’t have to use as much sea salt as you would regular salt to be as equally satisfied with the taste of a dish.

Unlike bread, which quickly absorbs an egg mixture, matzoh is hard and crisp and needs to be softened first. There are several ways to do it. You can break it up into a bowl and add just enough warm or boiled water to soak it until it’s completely soft or just a little soft, depending on whether you like the finished product soft or a bit al dente. This is probably the best way to do it if you’re feeding a family. Or you can use my one-serving method, which is to put the 2 matzoh squares inside a Ziploc bag, fill it about 1/4 of the way up with warm water, zip the bag tightly and lay it down and let it soak, flipping it over once during the soak time:

Matzoh brei 2

While the matzoh softens, prepare your egg mixture in a large bowl or pie plate. My own rule of thumb is 1 jumbo egg for each matzoh square…your mileage may vary. Add the eggs and vanilla to the bowl, and beat as you would an omelette. If you’re using salted matzohs and plan to use salted butter in the frying pan, you won’t need to add salt to the egg mixture. Now here’s where you can get creative: Like French toast, you can also add yummy breakfast-type stuff to the egg mixture like sugar and cinnamon, or substitute other extracts like lemon, orange or almond for the vanilla or in addition to it. If you like omelettes or French toast a bit savory or with an international flavor, you can do so with fried matzoh…leave the vanilla out of the egg mixture but add other seasonings like black pepper and garlic, or Italian seasonings, Asian spices, or Indian spices if you like curry. Or any other wild and imaginative combination of flavors you might like! When the matzoh is sufficiently soft to your liking, drain the excess water and fully incorporate it into the egg mixture:

Matzoh brei 3

Now it’s ready to fry. Heat butter in a large frying pan. If you don’t want to use butter, use any cooking oil of your choice. Some specialty oils like olive, peanut, or sesame will work for internationally-inspired matzoh brei. The oil should be hot, but be careful not to burn it. Pour the matzoh/egg mixture into the pan, and cook on medium heat. Depending on whether you like your matzoh in smaller pieces or similar to a flipped pancake, you can break it up while it’s frying. Either way, just make sure none of the egg is raw when it’s done.

Matzoh brei 4

Once it’s finished cooking, it’s ready to plate. Add any toppings or fruit preserves to your liking. Here are 2 ways I made it: one broken-up style with raspberry preserves on the side, and another flipped and drizzled with honey.

matzoh brei 0 (2014)

Matzoh brei 5

But wait…..WE’RE NOT DONE YET…fried matzoh isn’t just for breakfast any more! :D You can make dinner out of it too. A savory matzoh/egg mixture can be added to sauteed onions, mushrooms or other vegetables. Or meat. Or with meat as a side dish if you would normally have vegetables and bread with your evening meat meal. If you want to keep the dish kosher and are using meat, just make sure there are no dairy products in your egg mixture (like milk, cream, or softened cream cheese), and that you fry using oil and not butter. Also if you plan to incorporate lox flakes or pieces of salmon in the fried matzoh, add it towards the end of the frying process, mix it around and don’t cook it too long, otherwise the texture and taste of the salmon will change too much and not for the better. As a dessert, make it the basic way with vanilla and a little sugar in the egg mixture, then top the cooked dish with fruit preserves or jam (and whipped cream if you’re not serving it after a meat meal).

As you can see, matzoh brei can be a versatile dish. I wouldn’t suggest eating it every day during Passover unless you really REALLY love the hell out of it and don’t mind gaining a few pounds. I usually eat it for breakfast every other day. After 8 days, most Jews get sick of eating matzoh and can’t wait to bite into a real bagel or a pastrami sandwich! ;)

For those watching carbs and counting calories, matzoh is NOT a diet food. Some brands offer gluten-free varieties for those with Celiac disease or other sensitivities to gluten. Here’s the nutrition info as taken from a box of Manischewitz unsalted matzoh (courtesy of http://www.fatsecret.com):

Manischewitz matzoh info from www.fatsecret.com

Gratuitous Food Porn: Bacon Wrapped Food

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Had to reblog this…thanks to The Vulgar Chef (see “Blogs I Follow”) and Dude Foods (see “Links”). If you love BACON, feast your eyes on these creations. I’ve made a few of them in the past, and others I plan to make. But the bacon cannoli with chocolate and nuts, that’s a bit over the top even for me, lol!

Originally posted on The Vulgar Chef:

We all know bacon is great. Bacon is even better when its acting as a blanket to some other food, even if that food is fucked.

Feast your eyes upon this weeks GRATUITOUS FOOD PORN

@DudeFoods

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@DudeFoods

BaconWeaveBreakfastBurger3baconpotatoes_1Bacon-Wrapped-starter-for-your-dinnerbacon-wrapped-squashbacon-wrapped-jalapeno-popper-stuffed-chicken-500-5909bacon-wrapped-fries-17bacon-wrapped-chicken-breasts

@DudeFoods

bacon-weave-choco-tacobacon_wrapped_quail2bacon_potato_skewer_out_58020131112-273476-bacon-wrapped-turkey-breast-step-520080915-potd-dangerdogs11130_turkey_bacon_5_620BaconWrapFilet_11_lrg2SweetPotatoFries-smallJALAPENO-BACON-015-1024x1000Green-beans-Bacon-wrappeddsc_02253Bar-Bacon-Wrapped-Hot-Dogs

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Candy Crush Saga fruit snacks…SUGAR CRUSH! :)

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Found these in the snack aisle at Walmart, Candy Crush Saga fruit snacks in both Fruit Punch and Mixed Berry varieties. Normally I avoid the snack aisle like the plague, but I was looking specifically for something else when I happened to spot these. So I figured what the heck, for $2 for a box of 10 pouches, I’d try one….so I picked up the Mixed Berry.
CCS fruitsnacks from Walmart 1
^^^ They’re not bad at all. Actually they’re quite good, not tart at all and definitely not sickeningly sweet. I was pleasantly surprised. The sweetness is light but not bland, and they have a chewy consistency like a gummy, but they don’t have that yucky mouth feel like some other gummies do. There are 3 colors and types, all shaped like the candies in the CCS game. The blue ones taste like blueberry, the purple ones like grape, and the red ones like raspberry. They’re actually a healthy snack (not a candy at all), made from fruit juice. Each pouch is 70 calories, with no calories from fat.

Overall I’d give a positive recommendation to anyone who saw them in a snack aisle and wanted to try them. Delicious! Tasty! Divine! :) Next time I’ll try their Fruit Punch variety.

CCS-like lollipop hammers Walmart
^^^ And of course, I just had to pick up some more of these. They really do taste like bubble gum and look a lot like the Lollipop Hammers in the game. SWEET!

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

A pinch of this, a litre of that…so how do I make this recipe?

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Ever find a recipe online or watch a food show where they tell you to add a dash of this or a pinch of that, and maybe even a smidgen of something else? Well…OK…but how much is that really in terms of the ingredient itself? For most people, it’s a matter of perception. A dash might be a bit more than a pinch, but a smidgen is probably a half a pinch or less. At least that’s mine. But I could be wrong. There doesn’t seem to be an official guideline anywhere, but I did manage to find this little chart stashed away in the pouch of a binder where I keep my own recipes…
Measurement - kitchen equivalence chart
^^^Now that’s a start. 1/8-teaspoon or less approximates a pinch. So a dash is a bit more than that? And if my guess of a smidgen is 1/2 to 1/3 of a pinch, then a dash is probably equal to a pinch plus a smidgen. Or maybe less. ::sigh::

What if that wonderful recipe you found is meant to serve 4 or 6 people, but you’re only cooking for 2 or for yourself? This chart might be a great help for you if you need to make 1/2 or 1/3 of any recipe…
Measurement - half and third of recipe
^^^Another alternative, if the recipe freezes well, is to make the whole shebang, then divide what you won’t eat immediately into portions and freeze them. That’s what I do with soups, stews, and pasta or rice dishes. Make sure you have enough freezer space.

And what about that great dish you saw on one of Nigella Lawson’s cooking segments? Only one problem. She’s British, and all her measurements and cooking temperatures are in metric. You’re American, and you don’t know a centimeter from a kilogram. So what do you do? Try this handy-dandy metric conversion chart…
Measurement - metric conversion chart
^^^It covers the most common measurements and temperatures used in cooking.

In most cases dashes, smidgens and a very minor miscalculation in conversion might not make that much of a difference if you’re making soup or spaghetti sauce. Most of this type of savory cooking is a mixture, so if you screw up a little you can add something else or disguise it in some other way. Where you have to be precise is in baking, because baking is more science than cooking…if you added a dash of something instead of a pinch or even a smidgen, the results could be less than desirable.

More wearable Candy Crush….

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In October I blogged here about 2 Candy Crush Saga t-shirts I found on Amazon.com, which were made by Spreadshirt.com. Since then, I found 3 more CCS-related shirts…one ordered directly from that company and 2 more from another merchant called Skreened.com. Both companies will let you upload your own designs that others can use as well as you. Here are my latest acquisitions…

From Spreadshirt: This shirt is made by American Apparel.
CCS shirt Sugar Crush 140131_0000

From Skreened: The T-shirt and the tank are also made by American Apparel.
CCS shirt Level 65 140205_0004

CCS shirt Tiffi & Mr. Toffee140205_0006

All 3 shirts are 100% cotton, and keep their shape after washing with very little shrinkage, if any. One thing I’ve noticed about American Apparel shirts as compared to Gildan (another popular brand used worldwide) is that they are slightly more fitted and tend to run a bit smaller than Gildan. If you wear your t-shirts tight or close to the body, then they should fit you to your normal size. I like my shirts comfortable, a little boxy with room to move, so I ordered the next size up. Normally I wear an adult medium in any brand of t-shirt or tank, but I had to order the adult large in American Apparel. Both brands are excellent quality.

New designs are being uploaded all the time to both merchants, and probably other retailers as well, in many different categories, gaming and Candy Crush Saga included. Those “keep calm” poster generator sites also have many creative CCS designs, and some of them will put them on a t-shirt or coffee mug or other item for you. I made one of those posters and eventually will have it put on a sweatshirt. So if you don’t find the CCS design you like in a merchant’s current line-up, make your own or take a screen cap from the game, and have them put it on a shirt or hoodie for you. The prices for the item and the shipping are usually very reasonable!

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Beef heart stew – a winter comfort food

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Recently I found a package of sliced beef heart meat at the grocery store. It sounded like a novel item to try, as I had never eaten this before in my quest to cook and/or eat strange foods. So I get it home and wonder, “OK, now what am I gonna do with this?” Since I learned a long time ago that Google can be your best friend, I did a search and found a plethora of recipes for beef heart stew. Ahh, stew…great comfort food for those cold winter nights. Most of the recipes I found called for 1 part red wine to 2 cups of water, or included potatoes. After studying several, I developed a healthy way to make this stew. I didn’t use potatoes. Also, I didn’t have any wine, so I substituted another cup of water for the wine.

These are the ingredients I used:

A 1.43-ounce package of beef heart slices
1 lb. of carrots
1 large sweet Vidalia onion
2 tbsp. good olive oil
2 low-sodium chicken bouillon cubes
3 cups water
Ground black pepper
Ground thyme

[Optional:

Enough flour to lightly coat the meat
1 large size Ziploc bag (to hold the flour and the meat)]

First, prepare the veggies. Slice the carrots into bite-size pieces. Cut the onion into wedges and give them a rough chop. Set the veggies aside after slicing.

Next, prepare the meat. You’ll need to remove the connective tissue; it’s a bit gristly and not easy to remove, so you’ll need a very sharp knife. Then cut the meat into bite-size chunks. Put the olive oil into a non-stick Dutch oven or stewpot, heat it on the stove until it’s hot but not smoking (be sure the pot has a lid because you’ll need it later).

[Optional at this time: While the oil is heating, pour a little flour in the Ziploc bag, add the meat, close the bag and shake it up until the meat is coated. You do not need flour or a flour substitute to make this stew, but it will help thicken the stew while it cooks. If you don't use flour but still want a thick stew, use a little arrowroot powder toward the end of the cooking process.]

Once the oil is hot, add the meat -coated or not- to the pot. Do not add any seasonings at this time. Saute until browned but not fully cooked. You still want the meat a bit red in the middle. Medium rare works.

While the meat is cooking, put 2 chicken bouillon cubes in a container large enough to hold 3 cups of water. Boil some water, allowing for a little evaporation, that will yield 3 cups. Pour the boiled water into the container and stir to dissolve the bouillon. If they don’t dissolve completely, that’s OK…the rest will dissolve during the cooking process. I recommend using chicken bouillon rather than beef bouillon for this dish. Beef bouillon always seems to strongly interfere with the natural flavor of certain cuts of beef used in a soup or stew, whereas chicken bouillon is lighter and will leave the original flavor of the meat intact. Or if you happen to have 3 cups of chicken broth, use that instead of water and bouillon.

After the meat is browned, remove it from the pot and set aside. Add the sliced carrots and onions to the pot, along with the seasonings, and saute until the onions are soft. Then return the meat back to the pot, and mix. Now add the 3 cups of bouillon water (or broth), and stir. Make sure the amount of water or broth you add covers the meat. Cover the pot with a lid, turn the heat down as low as it will go, and let it simmer for 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Beef heart stew in pot 140121_0003

Keep an eye on the stew during the cooking process. You may need to add seasonings to taste. I don’t recommend using salt because there is enough of that in the bouillon, even the low-sodium variety. Also, you’ll need to stir the stew occasionally so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot…especially if you used flour because the stew will thicken and get a little sticky. You can always add more water if it gets too thick.

After 2 hours, test a piece of the meat for desired tenderness. If you’re making a larger stew with more meat and vegetables, you may need to simmer it longer. I’ve seen recipes that called for 4 hours, but my stew was fairly small and was done in 2 hours.

When the stew is done to taste, it’s ready to plate.

Beef heart stew plated 140121_0004

Contrary to its appearance, this is NOT dog food! It’s real people food, and it’s very rich and flavorful. Beef heart meat has a deep yet smooth flavor, and lends itself well to soups and stews. If you’re not using flour or any other thickener, it can make a delicious soup that you can enjoy as-is or with pre-cooked macaroni added. If you’re making this as a soup, you might want to add an extra cup of water to the recipe.

ONE CAVEAT: If you plan to eat this as a stew, make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your stomach. Imagine how much of any other type of stew you can eat in a normal sitting, then cut that amount in half…that’s how much beef heart stew you’ll be able to eat. This stew is heavier than it looks. Because beef heart meat is lean and quite dense, it’s very filling. A little goes a long way, which makes this an economical meal in the long run as well as a healthy one. A very small dish of this stew with a small garden salad makes a delicious and satisfying meal!

The new StoneWave Cooker…a mini-tajine!

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TV ads have been running for the StoneWave Cooker, a small stoneware dish that’s 5″ in diameter and 2″ high, with a removable conical top that’s 2″ high at the peak. I recently bought two, and here is what one looks like:

BLOG Closed StoneWave tajine 140113_0000

The dish and top are dishwasher-safe, but unlike a tajine which can be used on the stovetop, the StoneWave Cooker cannot be used on a stovetop, in the oven, or in the convection setting of a microwave. It’s recommended only for standard microwave use.

What’s a tajine, you ask? It’s a 2-part clay pot without a handle, consisting of a dish with low-rising sides and a conical top. It’s designed so that almost all the steam used to cook the food hangs out at the bottom where the food is, instead of escaping out the top. The tajine is used mostly in Moroccan and North African cooking, and for some Middle Eastern dishes. The term is also used for the food dish prepared in the pot, as well as the pot itself (i.e., lamb tajine). It’s a true one-pot meal…the food is cooked and served in the tajine. Tajines come in many sizes and designs, both plain and elaborate. Simple 10-1/2″ diameter tajines can be purchased on Amazon.com for around $32.99, as well as from other merchants specializing in African cookware. Google images for “tajine” and you’ll find photos of the pots as well as the recipes prepared in them.

BLOG tajines

So here I was, trying to decide what to prepare in the StoneWave cooker for lunch. I had some fresh shelled peas in the fridge, so I put those into the cooker along with a little butter, garlic, and ground black pepper. I put the top on the cooker and nuked it on high for about a minute and a half. A potholder may be necessary when grabbing the handle to remove the cooker from the microwave, depending on how long you cook the dish. You definitely do need it to remove the top from the pot. “Let stand 1 minute before serving” does NOT work here…you need to leave the top on at least 3 minutes, because the steaming while standing is a crucial element of cooking with one of these things, as it is with a proper tajine. The time needed for leaving the top on depends on what you’re cooking…for vegetables with a skin like peas, you’ll need to leave it on longer unless you like them ‘al dente.’

BLOG Open StoneWave tajine with food 140113_0001

This cooker comes with a starter booklet for making simple recipes within 5 minutes, from omelettes to desserts. From there, you can create just about any small meal. You can cook without oils or fats, so it’s conducive to preparing healthy meals in reasonable portions.

BLOG StoneWave booklet 140113_0003

Because I like to try my hand at exotic dishes, especially curries, meat-and-vegetable dishes, couscous, etc. in one pot if possible, I plan to buy a real tajine sometime soon. And because I have a gas stove, I’ll need to buy a heat diffuser to use with it. A diffuser is not needed for cooking on an electric stove.

A tasty okra dish! (and a collard greens variation at the end of the post)

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One of my favorite dishes from living part of my childhood in the southern United States is okra and tomatoes with bacon and onions. And who doesn’t love anything with BACON?! It’s a one-bowl meal that can be eaten by itself, or a smaller portion can be a side dish to a meat entree. If you’re vegetarian or vegan, leave out the bacon and it still makes a delicious meal.

Here are the ingredients I used:

2 16-ounce frozen packages of cut okra
1 very large sweet onion (Vidalia or Peruvian work best)
3-1/2 cups of leftover spaghetti sauce I made
1 can Hunt’s diced tomatoes
1 16-ounce package of bacon (“ends and pieces” works best for this dish)
Ground black pepper
Italian seasonings (or at least thyme and oregano)

If you’re using fresh whole okra, cut them in half first…they’re much easier to eat in the dish. You can also substitute 28 ounces of peeled tomatoes for the canned ones. Whether you used jarred sauce or a combination of sauce and tomatoes, 56 to 64 ounces works best for the amount of okra in this recipe. Sweet onions are also best…they sweeten up even more while cooking, so you don’t need to add sugar to the cookpot. Also, there’s enough salt in the bacon so you won’t need to add salt. Now, to cook:

In a large Dutch oven pot, cook the bacon on medium heat until a substantial amount of the fat has been rendered, but not enough to actually crisp the bacon. Meanwhile, cut the onion into rough wedges or any size you like, and set aside. Then remove the bacon from the pot and put onto paper towels to absorb more fat. Remove the fat from the pot, leaving a thin coating on the bottom. Return the bacon to the pot and add the onions. At this point, add the black pepper and Italian seasonings.

Okra 01 bacon onions 131231_0001

Cook on medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent. Then add the okra, and stir until the ingredients are mixed and coated.

Okra 02 bacon onions okra 131231_0002

Now add the tomatoes and/or sauce. Stir to mix all the ingredients. Cover and cook on medium low heat for at least 45 minutes until okra is tender. Stir occasionally. If you sense it starts to stick at the bottom of the pot, turn the heat down. I usually cook mine for about an hour. Periodically taste the sauce and add more seasonings as needed.

Okra 03 covered in pan with sauce 131231_0007

Optional: This dish can be served as-is or over your favorite small pasta. This time, I used up the last of three types of macaroni…elbows, curly pasta and spirals. Small shells work great too. Start the pasta about halfway through your cooking time for the okra. When everything is done, it’s ready to plate!

Okra 04 finished and plated 131231_0008

As with anything else made with tomato sauce, leftovers always taste better the second day. That is, if you have leftovers after your family gobbles it up. :) But if you do have a lot left, it freezes well for those busy times when you just want to grab something out of the freezer and nuke it in the microwave.

COLLARD GREENS variation: Use the exact same cooking methods and cooking times as above to cook collard greens with onions and bacon (or salt pork, or ham hocks), EXCEPT (1) leave out the tomatoes/sauce and Italian seasonings, and (2) substitute 3 pounds of collard greens for the 2 pounds of okra. Another very tasty dish that can a meal in itself or a side dish to meat. It also freezes and microwaves well. I’ve never tried this over pasta, but who knows…it just might work!…but I’d probably want to use something softer and less starchy, like egg noodles.

On the 1st day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…

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Hey…forget the partridge and all those birds. They’ll only make a mess of feathers everywhere and do you really want to clean all their cages? As for the lords a-leaping and drummers drumming, you’ll have to feed them all and they’ll probably demand health insurance coverage for ankle injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome. The pear tree, at least, will give you some nice fresh fruit. But I can think of something better…

How about if your true love gave you a choice of (1) $1000 a week for a year, or (2) one penny today, two pennies tomorrow and kept doubling the amount from the previous day every day for a month. Which one would you take?

Neither is a bad deal, notwithstanding any tax consequences or your bank’s government reporting requirements. $1000 a week for a year, who couldn’t make good use of $52,000? I certainly wouldn’t turn it down if it was offered, but only if the second choice of the pennies WASN’T offered as an alternative.

The penny offer doesn’t sound like much at the outset. You get one cent on the first day of the month, two cents on day 2, four cents on day 3, eight cents on day 4, and so on. It isn’t until about the second half of the month that you’d start seeing some serious money and realize this isn’t just penny-ante. We’re talking big bucks here…

Penny challenge

Around day 21 you’ll be thinking about getting out of that cramped apartment and buying a house. A week later, you’ll seriously be considering retirement. Or at least buying a luxury vacation home in a much warmer climate. And bring your true love with you. After all, it wasn’t YOUR money that bought the place.

Just make sure your true love makes this offer in January. Or May. Or August. If the month offered is February, dump the cheapskate…unless it’s a leap year. ;)

Happy Holidays to fellow bloggers and followers!

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Xmas-candycane2

To my fellow bloggers, foodies and Candy Crush Saga players…whatever holiday you celebrate this time of year, may you have a joyous and safe one, and a prosperous and Happy New Year 2014. <3

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

On the way to level 500 soon…all aboard!

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Finished my Candy Crush Saga adventure through the “Cherry Chateau!” :) No timed levels, thank goodness…I’m a bit slow on the draw. Although this episode has a few difficult levels, overall i found it easier than the “Sugary Shire,” the previous episode. There were no new candies or other elements, just a few different challenging board layouts that made clearing all the jellies a bit difficult.

CCS map 485 completed

Waiting for the next standalone CCS update app package, which should cover at least through level 500. As of this writing, King.com has yet to release the latest episode starting with level 501. Who knows, maybe I’ll finally catch up and have to wait along with about a zillion other people for the new release from King. I’m having withdrawal symptoms already, lol!

CCS Sugar Crush (on a board)

Homemade oxtail soup

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Well, beef tails actually, but they’re labelled as oxtails when found at the supermarket. Real oxtails aren’t easy to find in the US any more, but the designation “oxtail soup” stuck anyway. I started making this in the 80′s. At the time, I told a coworker I was making oxtail soup, to which she replied “The tail? That’s POOP. I’d never eat it!” I told her that the tails were flavorful and definitely didn’t taste like poop, but she was still hard to convince. Hopefully by now she’s had a change of heart…or palate. :)

Finding oxtails are catch-as-catch-can. Stores don’t always carry them as a regular item, so when I find them I buy several packages. Oxtails are a tender and tasty meat, but very fatty. Getting rid of as much fat as possible is important at the beginning of the process, because you don’t want an upset stomach from eating all that fat. Cut off and discard as much fat as you can see from the oxtails, then you’re ready to start the soup. Leave the meat on the bones.

These are the ingredients used to make the basic soup. I make this soup in two stages. Stage 1 uses only the meat. Stage 2 uses the meat plus the rest of the ingredients:

– 4 lbs. of oxtails
– 2 large yellow onions
– 1 lb. raw carrots
– Coarsely-ground black pepper
– 2 chicken bouillon cubes (yes, chicken)
– Sea salt (McCormick’s with built-in grinder)
– any other soup seasonings of your choice

You’ll need a large stock pot with a cover, and space in your refrigerator to put it after Stage 1. You’ll also need a closely-woven sieve with a handle or any other skimming utensil with a handle.

STAGE 1:

Place the oxtails in the pot, plus enough water to cover at least 3 inches above the meat. Do NOT add seasonings or anything else to the pot at this time. Bring to a boil on the stovetop. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for at least 2-1/2 hours. During the simmer time, use your skimmer to periodically remove the scum that rises to the top of the pot.

After the 2-1/2 hours, turn off the stove and check inside the pot. There should be enough broth to completely cover the meat. If not, you can add more water at this time. Let the pot cool for about 10 minutes. Keep the pot covered. Then put the pot in the fridge. If the shelf in your fridge is glass, you might want to put a cork pad or folded towel between the bottom of the pot and the shelf.

Soup pot 131205_0001

Keep the covered pot in the fridge overnight. By morning, you’ll be ready for the next stage.

STAGE 2:

Remove the pot from the refrigerator, and take the cover off. You’ll see that a layer of fat has risen to the top. It’ll be between 1/8″ and 1/4″ thick, and very easy to remove in chunks. Remove the fat and discard it.

Now you can create your soup. You can leave the meat on the bones or you can take it off the bones, as it will be tender enough to remove. I prefer to leave it on. Add your seasonings and vegetables to the pot. I cut the onions into quarters or eights and put the wedges in the pot, and I leave the carrots whole after washing them and cutting off the ends. Return the pot to the stove and bring to a boil. After it comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium low and cook until the vegetables are done, adding additional seasonings as needed during the cooking time. Turn off stove and serve the soup hot. You’ll have a soup with a flavorful broth and tasty meat that falls off the bone easily. Very yummy! This soup is wonderful as is, or you can add a pre-cooked starch such as leftover pasta, rice, beans or potatoes.

Oxtail soup 131204_0001

Any leftover broth can be filtered through a sieve and saved as a base for your next homemade soup or dish that calls for using a stock. I have some left from my last batch, and I plan to use it as a basis for chicken soup. Beef and chicken flavors in a stock, at least to me, brings out the best in both!

If you do try this recipe, leave a comment and let me know how it worked for you.

Happy 50th to Doctor Who!

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Happy 50th Anniversary, Doctor Who! The 50th special “The Day of the Doctor” is being simulcast globally. On the East Coast USA, it starts at 2:50pm today on BBC America! According to the BBCA TV schedule, it will repeat at 7pm EST and 11pm EST. Check your local listings.

Although Dr. Who has been around in Britain since 1963, my first introduction to it in the US was in the early 1980′s via a local Public Broadcasting Station on a Sunday afternoon. Episodes featuring Tom Baker as the Doctor were running at the time. His craziness got to me, and I thought the TARDIS was cool. Although you could tell the show’s budget wasn’t that great by the kitschy costumes and props, it was the well-written stories and character development that held my interest in the earlier episodes. Now, the episode optics are more polished, but the quality of the storylines and the characters are still excellent.

Over the years, I got to see all the episodes, starting with the first one aired in 1963 starring William Hartnell as the Doctor. I’ve loved the show ever since, as well as its spinoffs “Torchwood” and “The Sarah Jane Adventures.”

Here’s to many more years of my favorite Gallifreyan! :)

Keep Calm and Get in the Tardis

(rant) Almost as much fun as having a root canal…

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…is having a tooth extracted. (NOT!) A couple of weeks ago when I visited my dentist for a regular checkup, the x-ray found there wasn’t much tooth left on a root canal I had done about 30 years ago, and that it was on the verge of breaking. He gave me several options, all of which required an extraction of the remainder of that tooth: extract it and then do nothing; have bridgework; get a partial; or get an implant. I decided to go with the partial. Then I made an appointment to get the extraction over with, and today was my lucky day.

After numbing my jaw until I felt like the right side of my face was gone, the dirty deed was done….and I was sent home with a mouthful of gauze, three prescriptions for pain meds and an antibiotic, and a set of post-op instructions. (/rant)

That was about 5 hours ago. As of now, the numbness has mostly gone away and my face is coming back. So far, no pain yet…my saving grace in that respect is probably the fact that the nerve in that tooth was removed during the root canal procedure. But the pain meds are here in case they’re needed…’tis better to have them and not need them, then need them and not have them.

Lunch was fun. A small plastic container of Mott’s applesauce and a small bottle of cafe mocha milk, consumed with my head tilted to the left so it wouldn’t wash over the extraction area. An amazing feat accomplished while a good portion of my face had no feeling, AND without spillage of so much as a drop. Success! Damn, I’m good… ;)

Dinner will probably be a bottle of Ensure, which the doc recommended for calories and nutrition. I have to stay away from hot foods or liquids, so cold stuff is fine with me. The upside is that I can have yummy stuff like ICE CREAM and frozen yogurt. I have a 1/2-gallon of my favorite vanilla bean ice cream just for the occasion. :) But it’ll be a while before I can chow down on a steak. Waah.

Here are the set of instructions I got from the doctor. A lot of what’s on here applies to root canals as well, and basically any oral surgery, or if you happen to lose a tooth for any reason. I see him again next week for a follow-up….once it heals, I’m getting a clip-on partial since the area was a chewing tooth. Luckily it’s an area not easily seen, so I don’t walk around even for a short time looking like I got into a fight and lost!

Tooth Extractions - Post-Op info

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