Archive for June, 2011

Hot air hit my face as I opened the door and stepped outside. “It’s going to be a hot one,” I mumbled to myself as I turned to look at the thermometer hanging on the stucco wall. Yep, 84 degrees and it was only 10:30 in the morning. “Time to go back inside and make a big pitcher of iced tea!”

A while back I posted a recipe for Boston Iced Tea. Today’s recipe is another fruit-flavored tea that’s thirst quenching and super easy to make. Make sure you double the recipe, though, because it’s a good one to have on hand during the hot days of summer!

Mango Iced Tea
Recipe courtesy of Bobby Flay

1-1/2 quarts cold water
6 high quality black tea bags
2 cups mango nectar
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
Thinly sliced mango

Bring water to a boil, turn off heat and add tea bags and steep until tea is dark, about 5 minutes. Remove bags, add mango nectar and add sugar, to taste. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Place in pitcher and add mint leaves. Pour over ice and garnish with mango slices.

Serves 4.

Linnell’s Notes:
1. I use 2 of Lipton’s family-sized ice tea bags.

2. I’ve made this using mango juice and mango nectar. The results are slightly better using the nectar – a tiny bit more sweet and a more pronounced mango flavor.

3. One tablespoon of sugar is all I add to the tea and nectar solution, but I don’t like my iced tea too sweet.

4. Let the flavored tea cool before refrigerating and definitely serve it chilled.

5. Omit the mint only if you absolutely hate mint! The mint leaves lend a wonderful, cooling, fresh taste to the tea.

6. Instead of garnishing with thin slices of mango, I added frozen mango chunks that I’d purchased in a large bag at Costco.

7. The fruit flavors in this recipe and the Boston Iced Tea recipe can be easily adapted – just substitute different flavors of nectar for this recipe or frozen concentrate for the Boston Iced Tea recipe.

Enjoy and stay cool!

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Out came the pool floats! On went the ceiling fans! Out came the iced tea! On went the garden sprinklers! The summer solstice roared this week with a triple digit heat wave. Summer is finally here, but I would have preferred a little 85 to 90 degree warm-up first!

#1 – Ransom Notes
If you think you’ve seen it all, you probably haven’t! Here’s a site where you can create a message in ransom-note-style (letters cut from miscellaneous pieces of paper). Go to Ransom note generator, type in the words, and click “create.” That’s how I made the message above – “I have a heart with room for joy.”

#2 – People That Come Into Your Life
Sometimes people come into your life and you know right away that they were meant to be there, to serve some sort of purpose, teach you a lesson, or to help you figure out who you are or who you want to become. You never know who these people may be (possibly your roommate, neighbour, co-worker, longest friend, lover, or even a complete stranger) but when you lock eyes with them, you know at that very moment that they will affect your life in some profound way.

This is the opening paragraph from a piece of writing I found on the internet. This feeling of “I know we were supposed to meet” has happened to me and, perhaps, to some of you, too. Click here to read the entire inspiring piece.

#3 – Food Journal
I am in a self-imposed M.O.G. (mother-of-the-groom) boot camp now. I have a year to get in shape for the wedding and I’ll need every bit of it, plus any other help I can get! I found this free and easy to download food journal at The Project Girl. Besides the weekly format, I also like that it includes snack and water entries. I made a little packet of the sheets for me and the F.O.G. – let the food journaling begin!

#4 – Dating Your Food
I’m not suggesting you go out on a date with your food, but rather I’m offering a method for keeping track of food purchase dates and dates indicating when items were opened. For example, do you know how long the bottle of cocktail sauce has been sitting in your refrigerator? How long has the jar of instant espresso, which you bought to make a chocolate glaze, been sitting in the pantry? As someone who likes to cook, I have a pantry and a refrigerator filled with items I use only occasionally. Since expiration dates or sell by dates don’t really apply to all products once they’ve been opened, I keep track of their freshness by marking them with a little code I devised:

1. Using a permanent marker, all items that are recipe necessities, but used only occasionally, such as jam, condiments, nuts, specialty items, pasta, baking items, ethnic foods, etc. get marked with a “P” (for purchased) and the date when they are put away for storage.

2. When items are removed from storage and are opened, they get marked with an “O” (for opened) and the date they are opened.

Following this code makes cleaning my pantry and refrigerator faster and easier, and probably more safe, since there is no second guessing to the freshness of products!

#5 – Change Gives Us Branches
“Continuity gives us roots; change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”
—Pauline R. Kezer

Have a wonderful weekend!

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June, the big month of graduations, is almost gone. As the next stage of life unfolds for my daughter and many other graduates, here are a few words of advice from this mom. Although somewhat clichéd, they are from the heart:

Life is not a checklist to be checked off, nor a race to be run.

The world needs your unique gifts and perspective, so be you.

Always speak the truth, but with good intention and at the appropriate time.

Strive to seek balance in your life.

Don’t underestimate the power of what one person can do.

Know your worth – never undervalue what you bring to the table, whether in personal or business relationships.

Appreciate the gift of every single day.

Don’t let material goods define who you are.

Nothing is more important than your health and your family.

Live a life of gratitude.

Remember, there are always two sides to a coin.

Success in life is made up of small, continuing successes – it’s not a big onetime thing and there is no limit to the amount of success in life that you can achieve.

Only the attainment of your dreams and your goals determines whether you are successful.

Let your actions define your character more than your words.

Have respect – for your body, for other people’s property, for other cultures, for the planet . . . .

Live in the present – you can’t change the past and the future isn’t here yet.

Write your story – it’s your life, no one else can write it for you.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – learning from them is sometimes the only way to grow.

Have compassion – as it’s said, “What goes around comes around.”

Spread joy!

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Ever heard of wabi-sabi? No, it’s not the green horseradish paste on sushi platters. That’s wasabi. Wabi-sabi is a Japanese aesthetic that considers imperfection to be perfect or, to put it another way, it’s the perfection of the imperfect. In a previous post, I wrote how this philosophy helps me deal with my tendency towards perfectionism. So bolstered with thoughts of wabi-sabi, I participated in a silversmithing workshop last Saturday. After a long day’s worth of small successes and frustrating failures, I completed my first project. Go ahead and look at it closely and you’ll find it’s a perfectly imperfect ring!

#1 – Bits of Wisdom
These twenty-two interesting photos with bits of wisdom printed on them by photographer and graphic designer Julian Bialowas are definitely worth reading through.

#2 – PocketCPR
Does the thought of performing CPR on someone in need intimidate you? Here’s a video that presents a new product that you might want to have. Turn on an FDA-cleared PocketCPR and it will coach you step-by-step through the process. It is suggested on the website that users should also have training in CPR. At $149.00 the device may seem pricey, but what’s the price of someone’s life?

#3 – Paint Calculator
If your plans to spruce up your home this summer include painting, you’ll want to check out this Paint Calculator on the Home Goes Strong site. I also learned while visiting the site that “One gallon of paint covers approximately 400 square feet.” File that bit of information in your memory bank!

#4 – Trip Wow
Make a free computer slide show with tripadvisor’s TRIPWOW! program. Start by selecting a theme and then upload your photos through Facebook, Picasa, Flickr, TravelPod, or your computer. Add names and comments and then either upload your own music or select from TRIPWOW’s music or let TRIPWOW select music for you. Making a slide show couldn’t be easier! Before you begin, though, make sure you understand the site’s privacy policy and its terms of use.

#5 – Your Story
If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin by realizing that you are the author and everyday you have the opportunity to write a new page.
Mark Houlahan

Have a great weekend!!

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What could be better than a moist, spicy, carrot cake slathered with cream cheese frosting? Not much! But what if all that delicious goodness could be held in your hand in the form of a cookie? A portable carrot cake – how perfect! Since carrot cake is my husband’s favorite type of cake and since Father’s Day is this coming weekend, I whipped him up a batch of wholesome carrot cake cookies and sandwiched them together with a rich, not-too-sweet, cream cheese filling. After wrapping them individually in plastic wrap and freezing them, he can now have his “cake” (whenever he wants) and eat it too!

Carrot Cake Sandwich Cookies
Recipe by Martha Stewart

Ingredients for Cookies:
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups finely grated carrots, (about 3 large carrots)
1 cup raisins

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with Silpat baking mats or parchment paper, and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugars and butter; beat until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat on medium speed until well combined.

2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger; stir to combine. Gradually add flour to butter mixture; mix on a low speed until just blended. Mix in oats, carrots, and raisins. Chill dough in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.

3. Using a 1/2-ounce ice-cream scoop, scoop dough onto prepared baking sheets, leaving 2 inches between cookies. Transfer to oven, and bake until browned and crisped, rotating pan halfway through baking to ensure even color, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Repeat baking process with remaining dough. Once cooled completely, use an offset spatula to spread about 2 teaspoons of cream-cheese filling onto a cookie. Sandwich together with a second cookie. Repeat with remaining cookies. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Makes about 25 sandwiches

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, room temperature
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Place cream cheese in a medium mixing bowl. Using a rubber spatula, soften cream cheese. Gradually add butter, and continue beating until smooth and well blended. Sift in confectioners’ sugar, and continue beating until smooth. Add vanilla, and stir to combine.

Makes about 2 cups

Linnell’s Notes:
1. To make the cookies more wholesome, I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour.
2. Because I like the smaller size of currants, I used them instead of raisins.
3. For a bit more texture and some added nutrients, I added 1 cup of chopped walnuts.
4. Although it is easier to buy a bag of grated carrots, the moisture content and fresh flavor of freshly grated carrots add much to this recipe.
5. I used a smaller ice-cream scoop for the dough and made 72 perfectly round 2 1/2-inch to 3-inch cookies.
6. These cookies spread – allow the specified 2 inches. If cookies seem to be spreading too much, chill the dough a little longer.
7. I doubled the cream cheese frosting which was the perfect amount to fill 36 cookie sandwiches.
8. These cookies absolutely have to be refrigerated! Not only because they have a cream cheese filling, but primarily because they will become too soft and will fall apart easily if left out at room temperature.
9. As mentioned in the introduction, I individually wrapped my sandwiched cookies with plastic wrap, placed them in Ziploc-type plastic bags, and froze them for future cravings.

Enjoy! Enjoy! Enjoy!

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As soon as the words came out of my mouth, I knew I’d said something stupid. As dusk approached, I peered out my kitchen window, scouting for pesky gray squirrels. While recalling the most recent antics of the rodent circus in my backyard, I spied the movement of a bushy tail, which was attached to a critter nibbling on fallen bird seed. Leaning over the sink for a better view, I asked out loud, “Is that a black squirrel?” Immediately, I realized that the “black squirrel” I was staring at was really a skunk! “What? A BLACK squirrel?” my husband said as he looked out the window and saw the object of my attention. He laughed at me. After the skunk trotted away, I sat down at my computer and “Googled” black squirrels. To my amazement and relief, I found that such an animal does exist. Feeling somewhat vindicated, I smiled at my husband, until he laughingly pointed out, “Yeah, but black squirrels don’t have white stripes down their backs!”

#1 – Project Linus
Here’s a volunteer opportunity that can be done in the comfort of your own home. A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post called “Blankets of Love.”  Upon their college graduations, I gave handmade blankets to each of my children. I wanted them to remember the warmth of my love wherever they went in life. Project Linus collects and donates “new, handmade, washable blankets to be given as gifts to seriously ill and traumatized children, ages 0-18.” In the last sixteen years Project Linus has donated over three million blankets to children in need. If you like to crochet, knit, sew, or have the time to tie knots in “no sew” fleece blankets, consider donating your time and materials to this cause and give away your own blankets of love.

#2 – Amazing Views From Airplanes
I love finding amazing photographs and sharing them. Here’s a series of aerial photos from around the world that is worthy of your attention!

#3 – Pinterest
Would you like to have a bulletin board that doesn’t take up a lot of space and can be shared with others? Pinterest is a site that “lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web. People use pinboards to plan their weddings, decorate their homes, and organize their favorite recipes.” It’s a compact way to gather and display ideas. I enjoyed browsing through different pinboards, discovering interesting uses for pinboards, and seeing the creative ideas people have collected on theirs.

#4 – 29 Ways to Stay Creative
From Life on Michigan Avenue comes an interesting piece called, 29 Ways to Stay Creative.  Although it is aimed at creativity, a lot of what it says can apply to other aspects of life. Does any one particular line speak to you? Mine was number 25.

#5 – There’s Room Enough
“There’s room for everybody on the planet to be creative and conscious if you are your own person. If you’re trying to be like somebody else, then there is isn’t.”
Tori Amos

Have a great weekend everyone!

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Flavorful Scampi alla Griglia was one of my “go to” recipes to serve company in the early years of my marriage. Not only did it have an exotic name, but it was a gourmet triple treat – garlic, butter, and shrimp! I recently rediscovered this recipe when trying to figure out the “surf” part of a surf and turf birthday celebration for a friend. It was as good as I remembered!

Scampi alla Griglia
Adapted from a recipe in The Cooking of Italy cookbook by Time-Life

2 lbs. large fresh shrimp in their shells or defrosted frozen shrimp
8 T. butter
1/2 cup olive oil
1 T. lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped shallots or scallions
1 T. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 T. finely chopped fresh parsley, preferably the flat-leaf Italian type
Lemon quarters

1. Shell the shrimp, being careful not to remove the last segment of shell or the tail.  Devein the shrimp by slitting down the back of each shrimp with a small sharp knife and lifting out the black or white intestinal vein. Wash the shrimp quickly under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels.

2. Preheat broiler to its highest temperature.

3. In a shallow flameproof baking dish or pan just large enough to hold the shrimp in one layer, melt the butter over low heat on the stove top, being careful not to let it brown. Remove from burner.

4. Stir in olive oil, lemon juice, shallots, garlic, salt, and a few twists of freshly ground pepper. Add the shrimp and turn in the butter and oil mixture until they glisten on all sides.

5. Broil them 3-4 inches from the heat for 5 minutes, then turn the shrimp over and broil them for 5 to 10 minutes longer, or until they are lightly browned and firm to the touch done.*

6. Transfer the shrimp to a serving platter, pour the sauce from the pan over them, and sprinkle them with parsley.

7. Garnish with lemons and serve.

Serves 6.

Linnell’s notes:
1. I buy the U20’s (under 20 shrimp per pound) size shrimp at Costco. They still have shells on, but the shells are slit and the shrimp are deveined.

2. *Cooking times will vary depending on the size of the shrimp you are using and the amount of heat generated by your broiler. Keep an eye on the shrimp while they are broiling, because they can quickly become overcooked! I did not need to broil mine for the total time suggested in the recipe.

3. This recipe would make a fabulous hot or “cold” appetizer. If serving it cold, my only word of advice would be to not serve it right out of the refrigerator because the butter will be congealed.

4. In the photo above the Scampi is served with an herbed quinoa “pilaf” on the side. I’ll post the quinoa recipe at a later date, but if you can’t wait, email me and I’ll send you the recipe.


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KA-BOOM!! The house shook and my dog frantically darted out from the cozy spot where he’d been snoring only seconds ago! An explosion of bright light and a deafening roar of thunder, of a magnitude unlike any I’ve ever seen or heard, made me scream. Had my home been hit by lightning? After calming down my dog and checking out my house and yard, I was thankful to discover that all remained unscathed. Heading out for a walk the following morning with my neighbor from across the street, I noticed a tall redwood tree in her front lawn had some broken branches. Upon closer inspection, we spied the telltale, vertical, lightning stripe on the tree where large sections of bark had been blasted off. Splintered branches dangled from their fragile supports, while severed branches hung down dejectedly. Here was the explanation for electrical problems in surrounding homes. I hope lightning doesn’t strike twice, because that was just too close for comfort!

#1 -Lightning News
Most often lightning is viewed as a mysterious or dangerous phenomenon, but did you know that the earth actually benefits from lightning? According to an article by National Severe Storms Laboratory, these are the benefits:

The earth benefits from lightning in several ways. First, lightning helps the Earth maintain electrical balance. The Earth is recharged by thunderstorms. The Earth’s surface and the atmosphere conduct electricity easily—the Earth is charged negatively and the atmosphere, positively. There is always a steady current of electrons flowing upwards from the entire surface of the Earth. Thunderstorms help transfer the negative charges back to Earth (lightning is generally negatively charged). Without thunderstorms and lightning, the earth-atmosphere electrical balance would disappear in 5 minutes. Lightning also produces ozone, a gas that helps protect the Earth from the dangerous rays of the sun.

“When Thunder Roars, Go Indoors!” With crazy weather everywhere in our country, that little rhyme from the National Weather Service could save lives. Refresh your lightning safety knowledge by reading this brief NWS article Lightning: What You Need to Know.

#2 – Workout Music
From Shape here’s something we all could use to make working out more enjoyable – Playlists: Best Tunes for Every Workout. Click on an image, like “Killer Cardio Combo” and you will be taken to that playlist with links to iTunes where you can preview and purchase individual songs on the list.

#3 – Lightning Reflexes
Try beating the computer at this Lightning card game. How fast can you process information and react? Play your cards right and you’ll have a fun time challenging your brain!

#4 – Photo a Day
A collection of Polaroid photos dating from 1979 to 1997 tell a story. But there’s more. What started out as a “Photo a Day” project, became Jamie Livingston’s photo journal of the last eighteen years of his life. Read about Jamie’s project in mental_floss and the New York Times. To view all of Jamie’s photos, click here.

#5 – Life Is Like a Flash of Lightning
Human life is as evanescent as the morning dew or a flash of lightning.
~Samuel Butler

Enjoy your weekend and don’t forget to snap a few photos of “ordinary” days to capture the days of your life.

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