Archive for October, 2009


#1 – Spooky Cake My Way!
I have to say that biting into crunchy chocolate bits and creamy pockets of sweetness of the Oreo cookies hidden in this cake, was a spooktacular experience! Even though Maida Heatter’s (Spooky) Oreo Bundt Cake sounded good, I didn’t have all the ingredients for it and I was in a lazy mood. With my sincerest apologies to the great baker Ms. Heatter, I cheated and used a cake mix. Here’s what I did: Preheated oven to 325 degrees. Greased and floured my bundt pan. Took 18 whole Halloween Oreo cookies, broke them into quarters and set them aside. Followed the instructions on the package of Betty Crocker’s Super Moist Yellow cake mix and made the batter. Poured about two cups of plain batter into my bundt pan. Then into the remaining batter, I gently folded in the broken cookies and poured this mixture into the pan. Baked it for 40 minutes and then removed it from the oven to cool. After it cooled, I sprinkled it with a light dusting of powdered sugar and then followed that with a light dusting of cocoa powder. Couldn’t have been easier!

#2 – Reusing Jack
You’re not going to throw away your jack-o’-lantern after Halloween are you? Jack is more than a pretty face! Roast the seeds with your favorite spices and don’t forget that the flesh makes delicious soup or heavenly pies (providing your jack-o’-lantern is still fresh). There are plenty of online sites with recipes for all of the above. After that, the best way to dispose of your pumpkin is by composting. According to Raquel Fagin of Earth911.com, “Both the pumpkin, as well as its seeds, can be composted. In fact, pumpkin seeds themselves are a strong source of nutrients, including zinc, iron and phosphorus. Compost piles rely on a mix of nitrogen-rich greens (which will include pumpkin components) and browns (leaves, paper and other carbon-rich materials). So, Halloween is the perfect time to compost, because you’ll not only have leaves falling before winter, but your pumpkin to also add to the mix.” Or what about this – Give your local zoo a call and check to see if it accepts donations of pumpkins to feed to its animals as a seasonal treat. Give a zoo animal a “Big Jack!”

#3 – OMG – Leggings Are Back!
Here’s what Gill Hart of Suite101.com says, “The fall/winter 2009 trend for belting everything from baggy tops to dresses to cardigans means that leggings are the perfect accessory, no matter what a woman’s age.” He further states, “Metallic-look poly-blend leggings also make an ‘80s-style comeback, along with jeggings and treggings, a strange hybrid, a cross between jeans/trousers and leggings, for those who are not brave enough to go the hole hog”. Say it’s not true, because I thought leggings were hideous in their original incarnations! Maybe it’s just me.

#4 – Flower Vases To Go
When taking flowers to friends or dropping flowers off to a senior home, it’s always nice to have them already arranged in vases for immediate enjoyment. There’s no need to give up one of your own vases or to go out and buy new ones, just look around your pantry. I find that large jars and cans make fabulous vases. You do save empty mayonnaise and spaghetti sauce jars, don’t you? Cover the jar or can with fabric or wrapping paper or even cheesecloth, tie with a ribbon, fill with water, and add flowers. Some cans don’t even need to be covered. An empty can of Le Sueur Sweet Peas makes a cute little flower container all by itself. What to do with the peas? That’s another post!

#5 – A Bit of Mother Teresa Wisdom
It is not the magnitude of our actions but the amount of love that is put into them that matters.

Do something with great love this weekend.

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Every couple of nights my husband and I do the Tivo Tango. It is a well orchestrated dance that consists of fancy footwork, television, and our dog. There are certain evenings of the week were several of our favorite television shows are scheduled for the same time slot. My husband sets the Tivo (digital video recorder) to record the conflicting show on one television set and we sit and watch another show on a different television set. When that show is over, we race upstairs to another room and watch the show that we missed, but was recorded. The neat thing about recording shows is that we can advance right through all of the commercials. On occasion we have been known to run back downstairs to the first television set to watch a third show that was recorded while we were upstairs watching the second show. Confused, yet? The dog doesn’t understand it either, but he follows us from room to room, because he’s just happy to be with us. Doing the Tivo Tango makes it sound like we are television addicts, which we are most certainly not, but being empty nesters now, we finally have complete control of the television remotes, which means we can watch anything we want, any time we want!

Of course, having the stamina to watch all this television requires some fuel. I have been searching for a good kettle corn recipe for some time now and found this one by Scott Hargrove. My husband is the popcorn maker in the family and does not take this title lightly. Just today he went online to buy a crank-type popcorn maker that will make our kettle corn more authentic! I will keep searching for the best kettle corn recipe and after we receive the crank-type popcorn maker, I am going to try a recipe that includes pulverized Heath Bars! It’s got to be good!

Here’s my husband’s adaptation of Scott Hargrove’s kettle corn recipe:
1/4 cup vegetable oil (peanut oil or canola oil works too)
1/2 cup good quality popcorn kernels such as Orville Redenbacher
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 TBS white granulated sugar
1 TBS brown sugar
Coarse salt (to taste)

Large pot with lid

1. Place the large pot on stove and turn the heat on high, add the oil to the pot. Heat oil till it gets very hot (not smoking). Ripples will start to appear in the oil.
2. When the oil is hot, add the popcorn kernels then cover with lid.
3. Watch for kernels to pop, once they start popping, turn the heat down to medium.
4. Carefully shake the pot occasionally to shake any unpopped kernels to the bottom of the pot (where they can get hot enough to pop). This also helps prevent the popcorn from scorching.
5. When the popcorn stops popping, remove pot from heat.
6. Carefully remove the lid so you don’t get hit with hot popping popcorn.
7. Pour the powdered sugar over top. Cover with lid and give the pot a shake to distribute the sugar.
8. Remove lid, add the both the brown and white sugars to the popcorn, cover with lid and shake it up again.
9. Put pot on stove again, low heat, to melt the sugar a bit, shake for about 30 seconds.
10. Take off heat and stir gently with spoon to coat the popped kernels with the sugar syrup.
11. Sprinkle with 3-5 pinches of coarse salt or to taste and stir again. At this point you can also add ancho or chipotle chili powder if you like popcorn with a little kick!
12. Pour popcorn into large serving bowl and watch your show.

If you have a great popcorn recipe you’d like to share, I’d love to give it a try!

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“I have fifteen friends now!” I shout to my husband and then laughingly add, “You only have four!” Prodded by friends, my husband and I joined the spectator sport of Facebook. I opened an account a few weeks ago and in doing so I found I am Facebook-challenged. I am reluctant to put out personal information on my profile page, but my son tells me, “How are people going to find you, if you don’t tell them who you are?” That is challenge number one for me. Do I want to be found? Am I lost? Do I want aspects of my quiet life open for world viewing?

Challenge number two: The whole idea of adding or removing friends makes me feel like I’m in elementary school again. Who do I ask to be my friends? Are my feelings going to be hurt if someone doesn’t want to be my friend? Is it about having the most friends and being popular?

Challenge number three: Do I really want to know about the crazy things my kids are doing? Not really. For that matter, they don’t want me to know what they are up to, either! Begrudgingly they all accepted me as their Facebook friend. Do I like being a snoop? Maybe just a little!

Challenge number four: Facebook seems like an alter world to me. It’s like a maze with many different pathways, and often times I can’t figure out how I even got to a site. Then there are the cafes, farms, aquariums, roller coasters, tokens, Halloween treats, hearts, and hugs – all of which I’ve not figured out, yet. My kids get calls from me with questions like, “I got a heart today, should I accept it?” or “Somehow dad accidentally set up two Facebook accounts and now he has two walls, but he can only see one wall and people are writing on the other wall . . . !” What have I gotten myself into?

Facebook is like joining a worldwide playground. I still have a lot to learn about its offerings, but in the meantime, I enjoy reading the comments and viewing the photos that my friends and family share. I’ve found delight in establishing contact with friends from long ago. And one of these days, I may even play the World Cafe game, because the food sounds so good and it’s low in calories!

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#1 – Can You Guess Which Birthday My Husband Just Celebrated?
Using paper punches and glue, I made this simple birthday card for my husband. I layered the hearts on top of the circles to create the symbol of five as they appear on dice. It’s an easy design that could be used with other numeric combinations. By the way, my husband’s older than ten!

#2 – Simple Color Theory
When trying to figure out what the general complementary color of another color is, whether it is for an accessory you’re adding to an outfit or for a piece of furniture you’re selecting for a room, just think about primary colors. Red, yellow, and blue to be precise. Here’s a simple formula: If the primary color you have is A, then B + C = complementary color. For example, if you are wearing a blue sweater and want to select a scarf to wear with it, then combine the two remaining primary colors, red and yellow in this case, and you get orange as the complementary color. The hues will vary, of course, depending on your color selections.

#3 – A Meat Market Tip from Bob
Have you ever had a recipe which called for skirt steak, but all you could find in the market was flank steak? Or have you ever ordered grilled hanger steak in a restaurant and wondered where it came from? What’s the difference between these cuts of meat? In very simple terms, the main difference between flank steaks, hanger steaks, and skirt steaks is a matter of proximate location. All three cuts of beef come from the belly area of the cow – between the forequarter and the hindquarter. Skirt steaks and hanger steaks come from the forequarter and flank steak is cut from the hindquarter of the animal. All are prized for their flavor, but are less tender pieces of meat and must be sliced across the grain. Fajitas and Chinese stir-fry are popular main dishes made with these cuts of meat.

#4 – Keep Your Fingers
To prevent your cutting board from slipping away as you slice and dice, slip a damp paper towel or a damp kitchen towel between the board and the counter surface. Also, you are more likely to cut yourself with a dull knife than a sharp knife. Keep those knives sharpened to make ease of your kitchen work. Your fingers will thank you!

#5 – A Nice Sentiment Sent By a Friend
Life is beautiful especially with good friends: Good friends are like stars, you don’t always see them, but you know they are there.

Thanks to all of my “stars” and have a great weekend!

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Tingling extremities, abdominal pain, and nausea were symptoms that stopped me in my tracks. The catch is, my husband was complaining of these symptoms, not me. He’s a relatively healthy guy, but he does have high cholesterol and glucose numbers that place him into the “almost” diabetic category. Listening to him describe these symptoms, the only thing I could say was, “We’re going to the emergency room.” He denied it was anything serious and mumbled he just wanted to rest. I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I knew if he was having a heart attack, we didn’t have precious minutes to sit and rest. I gathered up a few things and shoved him out the door. When the emergency room doctor questioned my husband about his symptoms and his health history, he couldn’t remember exact dates or details. That’s when I jumped into the conversation, since I had most of the answers in the binder on my lap. Thankfully, one of the items I thought to bring from home was my husband’s health binder. Documentation of his medications and corresponding dosages, recent lab reports, date and results of his last physical, and names of specialists he’d seen were all neatly filed away in this binder. Okay, maybe not neatly, but nonetheless, filed.

The visit to the emergency room revealed two things: First, my husband has a sound heart. Second, having his health information at our fingertips saved valuable time and reduced the stress of having to accurately recall pertinent information from memory at a critical time. With that said, I can’t emphasize enough the importance of organized medical records.

Request copies of reports each time you have a procedure done. All lab work, diagnostic exams, pathology reports, test results, hospital visits, and other significant documents should be filed. Save copies of referral slips and prescription information. Bring immunization cards to physicals for updates. You think you’ll never forget certain dates or physical conditions you’ve had, but you will. Even though your doctor has everything documented in your patient chart at his office, he may not be around if there’s an emergency.

There are many ways to approach this type of project, but the following way seems to me to be the easiest method to organize and access the information:

1. Purchase a binder for each member of the family and label it with his/her name.

2. Purchase binder dividers with tabs. You might need a dozen per family member; usually younger family members need fewer dividers, because they see fewer specialists. Label the tabs with the following categories and file documents with most recent on top:

Diagnostics – Any diagnostic report such as x-rays, mammograms, scans, MRIs, CTs, ultrasounds, biopsy and pathology reports, etc.

Health History – All documents from previous doctors. Each time you change physicians, get copies of your records. You may have to pay to have copies made, but it’s well worth it.

Labs – All lab work reports go here.

Immunizations – Immunization cards, TB test results, flu shot records, vaccine information, etc.

Name of Your Primary Care Physician – Under my PCP’s divider, I keep notes I make while in his office. If I’ve asked questions and written down his answers, I file that paper. I also keep a copy of any patient information forms I’ve filled out or signed.

Specialists – Each specialist you see should have his own divider. Examples of specialist dividers might be: ob-gyn, dermatology, cardiology, physical therapy, allergy, podiatry, endocrinology, and gastroenterology.

Prescriptions – File prescription information forms you receive from the pharmacy. Besides the name of the medication, these forms should include dose, instructions, and side effects. If you’ve been on a medication for years, always keep the first form received and the most current form in your binder. That way you’ll know how long you’ve been on any particular medication.

Vision and Dental – These categories are optional for inclusion.

For health’s sake, get organized!

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What About This? celebrates its one month anniversary today, so in appreciation of all of you who’ve been loyal followers and to those of you who just stopped by for a peek, here’s a bonus post! Your positive feedback and great comments have encouraged my creative spirit. This is my sixteenth post and I can hardly contain all the thoughts and ideas I still have for this blog!

So in celebration of W.A.T.’s one month birthday, I baked cookies! I hadn’t tried this recipe before, but was very pleased with the results. The cookies have a nice crunchy exterior and a soft chewy center – the best of both world’s in my mind! Here are my tweaks to the recipe: I added a half-cup of Heath Bar Bits. I don’t like my cookies overly sweet, so I resisted temptation to add more. I also toasted the pecans ahead of time. Toasting brings out the flavor in nuts. Because I like chunky cookies, I added more coconut than the recipe called for and because I didn’t have a bar of semisweet chocolate to cut into chunks, I used a bag of chocolate chips.

Here’s my adaption of Martha Stewart’s Cowboy Cookies:


Makes about 3 dozen.

* Vegetable oil cooking spray
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
* 3/4 cup granulated sugar
* 3/4 cup light-brown sugar
* 2 large eggs
* 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
* 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
* 6 ounces semisweet chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch chunks (1 cup) or chocolate chips
* 3 ounces (3/4 cup) pecan halves, toasted
* 1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut (more if you like coconut)
* 1/2 cup toffee bits


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats; set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder.
2. Beat butter and sugars with a mixer on medium-high until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to medium. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla.
3. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add flour mixture, beating until just incorporated. Beat in oats, chocolate, pecans, coconut, and toffee bits until combined. (Dough can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.)
4. Using a 1 1/2-inch ice cream scoop or a small spoon, drop dough onto baking sheets, spacing 3 inches apart.
5. Bake until edges of cookies begin to brown, 11 to 13 minutes. Transfer baking sheets to a wire rack, and let cool for 5 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks. Let cool. (Cookies can be stored up to 3 days.)

Enjoy this recipe and thanks for your continued support of What About This?

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The winds and rain blew through midweek. It’s foggy outside right now, but still looking to be a beautiful weekend. Here’s this week’s edition of Friday’s Fresh Five.

# 1 – A Market Tip From Bob (my dad, a former supermarket owner)
Eggplants come in a variety of colors such as ivory, white, lavender, variegated lavender, dark purple, pale green, and even bright orange. It’s the end of the season for locally grown eggplants, but they’ll still be available year-round in the markets. Select eggplants that have smooth and shiny skins. Look for ones that are firm and heavy in weight with no wrinkles. Also, choose eggplants with an even color all the way to the stem. There should be no green. This reflects the maturity or ripeness of this vegetable.

#2 – A Quote from Mother Teresa
In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love.

# 3 – A Good Deed
From now on, how about putting a few extra nonperishable items in your shopping cart each time you go grocery shopping? When you get home put these extra items into designated grocery bags. After you’ve filled a few bags, take them over to a local food bank or donate them to an organization collecting items for a food drive. In these sad economic times, there are more families than ever in need of this food.

# 4 – A Recycling Tip
Reuse those baby wipe pop-up-type containers (cylindrical with a hole at the top) to dispense skeins of yarn, balls of string, or spools of ribbon. The containers will prevent the yarn, string, or ribbon from becoming tangled. Wash the containers out first, especially if you are using ones that held household disinfectant wipes.

# 5 – A Style Tip
When putting together an outfit, many women have the notion that different patterns can’t be mixed. This is basically incorrect, depending on the exact patterns. Taking a fashion cue from men, who often wear pinstriped suits with checkered shirts and geometric patterned ties all in one outfit, women should feel they can mix it up, too. Style experts Clinton Kelly and Stacy London say, “It’s fine to mix patterns as long as they aren’t all competing for attention.” Their example is illustrated by a woman wearing a small print black polka-dot silk blouse, charcoal gray glen plaid trousers and a light-colored argyle sweater vest. Clearly only the boldest pattern can be in the driver’s seat and the others have to take a back seat!

This weekend I may be making a Mr. Potato Head costume for my 25-year-old son. What are your plans for the weekend?

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Halloween is just a few weeks away, so it’s time to decorate in a big way with mini pumpkins. Mini pumpkins make adorable jack-o’-lanterns and, not to be discriminating, jill-o’-lanterns. Don’t let their petite size stifle your creativity.


In lieu of carving, I use black paint pens and draw faces freehand directly onto the pumpkins. I find that paint pens work better than permanent markers, because they provide a deeper black.


To decorate mini pumpkins, first wash off any surface grime and towel dry. Be sure pumpkins are thoroughly dry before decorating.


Traditional jack-o’-lanterns have triangular eyes and noses and sawtooth mouths, because these shapes are easily cut with a knife, but with paint pens you can create squiggles and swirls for eyes and circles and ovals for noses and mouths.


Feel free to copy the faces that I have painted or use any design you like in pumpkin cutting stencil books.


The skies the limit as to how many different faces you can create on mini pumpkins. Raffia can be used as bows or hair for your jill-o’-lanterns. Curling or wired ribbon can also be used for special touches. I even have versions of Dracula (red cape underneath him) and Frankenstein. For dog lovers, I found a pumpkin with a long stem and used it as the dog’s tail.


Last year, wanting to bring Fall cheer to my husband’s co-workers, I created these little personalities and put one on each person’s desk. There are no two faces alike in this group!


Have fun creating petite pumpkins with personality!

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Quinoa and Shrimp Salad

P1080937_1Always on the lookout for healthy recipes, I found several interesting ones that use quinoa. Quinoa, which is pronounced KEEN-WAH, is a tiny Peruvian seed. Although it resembles couscous and can be served like rice, it is far more nutritious than either; quinoa is packed with all the essential amino acids. I saw this recipe by Martha Rose Shulman last year and have made this tasty and nutritious dish several times. Of course, like everything else I do, I had to tweak it a bit. Attractive mounded on a bed of leafy greens, it serves about six.

Here’s my adaptation of Ms. Shulman’s recipe:
Step 1: Basic Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
3 cups water or stock
1/2 teaspoon salt (just a pinch worked for me)

1. Put quinoa in a mesh sieve and run under cold water to remove a bitter and protective coating on the seeds.

2. Bring the water or stock to a boil and put in quinoa seeds and salt. Bring water to a boil again, cover pot, turn down heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes or until seeds look translucent and tiny curly threads appear.

3. Drain liquid and fluff with fork. Let cool if using for salad.

Note: Cooked quinoa will keep for a couple of days in the refrigerator.

Step 2: Dressing
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon seasoned rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 small garlic clove, minced
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
2 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1/4 cup canola oil
2 T buttermilk (I used soymilk because that was all I had)
2 teaspoons of sweet soy sauce

Step 3: Salad
3 cups cooked quinoa (use all that was prepared in step 1)
4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced thin
1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/4 C chopped cilantro
1-2 cups bay shrimp or as much as desired

1. In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, vinegar, ginger, garlic, cayenne, salt, sesame seed oil, canola oil, buttermilk, and sweet soy.

2. In a salad bowl, combine the cooked and cooled quinoa, scallions, cucumber, and cilantro. Toss with the dressing. Toss in the shrimp just before serving, so that it does not “cook” in the lime juice.

Here’s to healthy eating!

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Another week has gone by and it’s time for another Friday’s Fresh Five!

#1 A Worthwhile Quote:
Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking. – Marcus Aurelius, 121-180, Roman Emperor and Philosopher

#2 A Market Tip from Bob (my dad)
Although oranges are available in the supermarkets year-round, their peak season is actually October through late March. When selecting oranges, look for thin, smooth-skinned ones versus thick and deeply-pitted ones. Always select firm and heavy oranges. Weight is usually indicative of the amount of juice in a citrus.

#3 An Economical and Environmental Tip:
Buy a foaming soap dispenser. These dispensers require very little soap product, thus saving you money, as well as, saving landfills from additional plastic garbage. I purchased my foam pumps from Solutions.com but any Bath & Body Works Gentle Foaming Hand Soap pump can be refilled with liquid soap and water. Three tablespoons of liquid soap topped off with as much water as needed to fill the container and you’re set for at least a month. You’ll be amazed at how infrequently you have to refill these pumps!

#4 A Style Tip:
Accessories tell your story. I don’t remember where I heard this, but I like it. Whether it’s the red handbag slung over your shoulder or the way you tie your silk scarf, an accessory is an additional opportunity to express yourself. What’s your story?

#5 Do a Good Thing
Give credit where it is due. As you go about your daily activities and you come across someone who has been particularly nice or extraordinarily helpful to you, thank them or better yet tell his/her supervisor. It’s seems so easy to complain, but so difficult to give a deserved pat on the back.

Enjoy your weekend!

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