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Archive for December, 2009

There’s nothing new about pomanders. As a matter of fact pomanders were used in the late Middle Ages through the 17th century to protect against infection and mask against bad smells. Today pomanders are primarily used as room fresheners. According to Wikipedia, the word pomander originates from the French “pomme d’ambre, i.e. apple of amber, is a ball made of perfumes, such as ambergris (whence the name), musk, or civet.”

Modern day pomanders are generally apples or citrus fruit studded with whole cloves. To spice up my life (Ha! Ha!) and get me in the mood for Christmas, I decided to make some citrus pomanders. I purchased oranges, lemons, limes and a jar of whole cloves. Costco is a good place to purchase these items in bulk and inexpensively. Because I didn’t want my home to smell like a dentist’s office, I decided not to follow tradition and chose not to cover the entire surface of the fruit. Hearts, stars, and patterns were more in line with my style.

I washed the fruit first and poured the cloves in a little bowl. If you are really a detail-type person, you could separate in advance the headless cloves from the head-still-intact ones. Unbelievably, I did not do this. Working on a plate, I selected the side of the fruit I wanted to highlight and used cookie cutters to outline the desired design. Holding the cookie cutter in place, I gently poked holes around the outside of the cookie cutter with a bamboo skewer. The cutter may have to be gently rocked from side to side to adequately work the design around the contour of the fruit. Space the holes about one-fourth inch apart, or for a denser-looking design, place them closer together. Push a whole clove into each of the holes.

Had I checked in with Martha Stewart first, I would have used rubber bands to create straight lines and would have shaken my pomanders in Orrisroot (available at health food stores) which is a perfume fixative. Live and learn!

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The rare dusting of snow is melting now, but the temperature will be in the 20’s for the next couple of nights. I am glad that I took the time last week to make draft stoppers for some of my doors. No matter what type of weather stripping I put on it, my cranky old front door always plays the hot-cold air exchange game. I’ve been told by a contractor that the ultimate fix for this is to get a new front door. Not being ready or willing to do that, I decided to make some draft stoppers. How hard could it be?

After measuring the width of the doors, I rummaged through my fabric remnant bin and found some appropriate material. It is best to use a tightly woven fabric so that the filling doesn’t leak out and also try to select fabric that has a design on it so dirt won’t show. It is on the floor after all! For each draft stopper I cut out a rectangle of fabric using the measurement of the door width + 2-inches for seam allowance x 8-inches high. Fold fabric lengthwise with right sides together and pin in place. With your sewing machine stitch all the way up the long side and at one end. Turn the fabric tube right side out.

Filling material for draft stoppers should be somewhat heavy so the units stay in place and should also be somewhat malleable, so that each draft stopper can be pushed in against the door and door sill as tightly as possible. Possible fillers include sand, saw dust, or kitty litter. I opted for the last one since it was cheap and I was at the grocery store when I thought of the idea. I used a 20 pound bag to make three draft stoppers.

It’s probably best to pour the filling into the fabric tube outside the house and having another person to help would be ideal. Because I was alone and it was too cold in my garage, I filled mine in my family room. After spreading newspapers on the floor, I used a large jar to scoop kitty litter into a gallon Ziploc bag. After the Ziploc was about 2/3 filled, I cut 1-inch off the bottom corner of the bag. This was going to be my funnel. Holding the sealed Ziploc in one hand and the fabric tube in the other, I was able to fill the tube with minimal mess. Filling the entire tube required a few refills of the Ziploc bag. When refilling the Ziploc bag, be aware of which corner is the cut one so that the kitty litter does not come spilling out. Fill tube entirely except for the last 1.5-inches at the top. Fold about a half-inch of the top edge of the fabric down to the inside of the tube and carefully sew the tube shut. If it is difficult to sew because the filling is pushing against the machine’s presser foot, you may have to empty some of the filling out. Stitch again next to your first line of stitches for reinforcement.

I placed my draft stoppers on three external doors and I’m already feeling a slight temperature difference in my home. I should have made these years ago. The only trick now is to get my husband to put them back in place every time he goes in and out!

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Hope you had an enjoyable Turkey Day and gave many thanks for all of the blessings in your lives.

#1 – Decorating With . . .
Dried apple slices and cinnamon sticks add a homey and fragrant touch to holiday wreaths, garlands, and potpourri, but how about decorating presents with them? Use brown postal wrapping paper (or reuse plain sides of grocery bags) or brown lunch bags to hold your gifts. Tie off packages with any coarse natural fiber twine such as raffia, jute or hemp, and add the finishing touches of dried apple slices and cinnamon sticks.

Here’s a recipe for dried apple slices from the Gooseberry Patch – Coming Home for Christmas Cookbook:
8-10 apples
lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
6 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons allspice
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons arrow root powder

Soak apples in juice for five minutes, then pat dry. Place remaining ingredients in a large plastic storage bag. Add apple slices and shake to coat. Dry apples in a 150 to 200 degree oven for 6 hours. Remove from oven and lay on wax paper and turn daily until dry.

Fresh apples can be used as decorations too:
*Fill large bowls, vases, or hurricane lamps with apples. One vase could contain only red apples, another only green apples or you could have several containers with red and green mixed together. Fresh greens and berries can be tucked in for a festive look.
*Hollowed-out apples can be used to hold dips and spreads or hold votive candles.
* Apples can be added to floral arrangements or wreaths by wiring them or by staking them.

#2 – Meat Tip From Bob the Market Man
Always scrape or rinse and pat dry any cut of meat that has gone through the meat saw. This includes pork chops, T-bone steaks, porterhouse steaks, and chuck steaks. Scraping, rinsing, or wiping removes any bone dust or fragments that may have adhered to the raw meat.

#3 – Aretha Franklin Sings “Chain, Chain, Chain . . . “
The trend now is to wear multiple chains or necklaces. Layer short and long necklaces together or combine a few longer necklaces for a stylish look. The multiple chain look can be worn with casual attire, such as jeans and a simple blouse, or depending on the design and quality of the necklaces with dressier attire. Bottom line – don’t pile on so many that you’ll fall over!

#4 – Dental Floss Is Not Just for Teeth!
I always keep a container of dental floss in my kitchen drawer. It has a myriad of uses. Because it is thin, yet strong, I use it to truss chicken or turkey. Waxed floss works great for cutting out different types of dough, such as dinner rolls, cinnamon rolls, or refrigerator cookies. Refrigerate dough to make it firm, place floss underneath the roll of dough, and cross the left side to the right and the right to the left. Pull floss tightly to cut evenly through dough. This crisscross technique can also be used to cut soft cheese or to loosen stubborn baked cookies or biscuits off baking sheets. Hang pictures with it instead of wire, which can scrape wall paint. Dental floss can come to the rescue many times over when you travel. Use it for quick fixes for broken zipper pulls, luggage tags, bracelets and necklaces, and shoe laces. Sew a button back on with floss, but be sure to pack a needle with a large eye in your travel gear. This holiday season string your cranberries, popcorn, or gumdrops on dental floss. Mint dental floss works great to tie fresh or artificial greens together!

#5 – Thought for Today
For today and its blessings, I owe the world an attitude of gratitude.
Clarence E. Hodges

Time to start your Christmas shopping – only three weeks left!

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‘Tis the season to be quick and speedy. With time at a premium, but a high desire to entertain, why not make life easier? That’s what I did when I needed a tasty appetizer in a hurry. I simply reached into my pantry and pulled out a can of cannellini beans. Cannellini beans are also called white kidney beans and like other beans, they are high high in protein and fiber and low in fat. Cannellini beans are popular in Tuscan dishes and other Italian cuisine.

Here’s a bean spread recipe that requires few ingredients and is a hearty appetizer when served with toasted baguette slices or pita chips. During the summer when tomatoes are abundant and flavorful, I gently fold in some fresh diced tomatoes after the mixture has been pulsed in the food processor. This is in addition to the sauteed ones. If the spread needs to be thinned, I add additional olive oil like the recipe states, but I use Meyer lemon infused olive oil for a brighter taste.

Cannellini Bean Spread Recipe

This is an adaptation of a recipe from Chef Kurtis Jantz of Trump International Beach Resort in Miami.

4 ounces olive oil, good quality
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 roma tomatoes, small, diced
15.5-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed in cold water and drained
1/2 ounce Italian parsley leaves, rough chopped
Sea salt to taste
Black pepper, fresh-ground, to taste

In a medium, tall-sided sauce pot, add olive oil and heat on high until just below the smoking point. Remove from the heat and carefully add minced garlic. As soon as you smell the aromatics of the garlic (you do not want the garlic to get overly brown), add the tomatoes and stir well. Return pot to the stove over medium heat and add cannellini beans. Simmer for 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from stove, and let cool slightly. Fold in parsley. Using blender or food processor, pulse blend just until the beans are broken up but not pureed, leaving some texture. You can add more olive oil to the mixture if you like it thinner. Cool to room temperature and serve.

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