Monthly Archives for October 2020

Quick and Easy Chicken Salad

Popular Recipes, Recipe Box - Ruth - October 29, 2020

Car picnic season is in full swing! My daughter had her first cross country meet. She’ll be starting her quick-recall Bible quiz team practices soon. Church activities are on the schedule. What and when are we going to eat?

While lunch meats/cold cuts/deli meats are quick and portable sandwich fillings, they are also expensive and often less than healthy choices. I’ve come to rely on this quick and easy chicken salad recipe to stuff sandwiches when I don’t have other good options and often when I do. It’s tasty!

Now to be clear, this is not the chicken salad I would serve for a ladies’ luncheon. This is the throw-together-and-go chicken salad that I can make from pantry ingredients. The ingredients aren’t all shelf-stable but they are all things I keep around as a matter of routine.

Enough chat, then! Let’s go!

  • about a cup of cooked chicken, either cooked at home or canned will do
  • about 2 “table spoons” of mayo, or whipped salad dressing if you like it like I do
  • about a third of a “table spoon” of instant minced onion, or chop up a bit of fresh if you have the time or inclination

Note: If I’m making this chicken salad, I’m probably in a hurry. I’m not going to dig out measuring spoons or generate any more messy dishes and flatware than I absolutely must. So when I say “table spoon” in this recipe, I’m referring to the larger spoon in the following picture. The smaller spoon is a “tea spoon” that I would use to eat my breakfast cereal or my pudding. The larger one is a soup spoon or “table spoon” and not a serving spoon. So one spoon, one bowl, mix and done!

What to do:

Start with about a cup of cooked chicken. I cooked it fresh because I had time, but leftovers are fine, as is a can (drained) of cooked chicken breast. You can use any amount of chicken if you adjust the other ingredients accordingly. Dump the chicken into a cereal bowl, or obviously a larger bowl if you’re using more chicken.

Add the mayo, relish, and onion. My family likes onion, but if you’re not a fan then adjust it down or leave it out altogether.

Stir it up until everything is evenly mixed.

Now you have a choice. If you used fresh onion then you can slap the chicken salad on bread and eat it right away. If you used the instant minced onion then you really need to let the chicken salad sit so the onions can rehydrate. If you’re packing a car picnic then the sandwiches will probably sit for a while anyway, so you can make and pack your sandwiches and head out the door. If you used instant minced onion and you’re planning to eat right away your chicken salad will be edible but maybe a little crunchy. Or if you have one of those great days when you’re planning ahead you can make the chicken salad now and make the sandwiches right before you head out the door so your bread doesn’t get soggy. And don’t forget your cooler!

How easy was that?!? Pull four ingredients from the fridge & pantry, mix in one bowl with one spoon, and you’re done. It’s quick and easy and it creates very little mess to be cleaned up. If you want to get fancy you can substitute ranch dressing for the mayo and onion, skip the relish, and then add a little minced bacon and shredded cheddar cheese to make bacon-cheddar-ranch chicken salad. Or leave out the pickle relish and add a splash of soy sauce, a bit of mustard, and a pinch of ginger powder to make an Asian-inspired chicken salad. Or just stick with the classic. You could also make this recipe with tuna instead of chicken if you like seafood. I hope you enjoy your quick & easy chicken salad in whichever form you try it!

Where do you think you’ll take your quick & easy chicken salad?

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Nice Healthy Breakfast Recipes

Breakfast, Food & Drinks - Ruth - October 28, 2020

I’ve seen many people skip their breakfast to curb the calories and lose weight fast or just due to lack of time. Unfortunately skipping meals particularly breakfast makes it more difficult to control your weight gain. Eating sparsely or not at all in the morning will force you to eat more during lunch or binge on snacks to stop your hunger. Breakfast is also the first meal of the day that helps you get along through the best part of your day. So taking a hearty breakfast is the right way to kick-start your day. Here are some excellent and mouth-watering recipes to make your breakfast appetizing and fulfilling.

Simple meals are the best always. Hence, I’ve started with this recipe. Take two whole grain bread slices and toast them lightly. Top a slice with avocado smashed nicely. Sprinkle some pepper and salt on the avocado. Top the avocado with two halves of eggs with their sunny side pointed up. Stack the bread in an airtight container or turn it into a sandwich by boiling the eggs well.

Smoothies form a power packed and fun filled meal that can be taken at any time in a day. They are rich in fibre, nutrients, fruits, vegetables and antioxidants. Take a frozen banana and blend it with peanut butter of about 2 tablespoons. Add some ice cubes and one cup of almond milk and blend well. If you are using the smoothie as morning snack, store it in an airtight container and take it with you to work or the gym. If you are making a smoothie for lunch, prepare it the previous night and freeze it. Remove the smoothie and by lunchtime, it will be ready to eat. For added protein boost, use vanilla or chocolate protein.

This is very easy to prepare and the healthiest too. You can make this with any topping you prefer. Choose the fruits available or those you like. Seasonal fruits offer the best option.

Burritos are my all-time favourite. They are easy to prepare beforehand. Add 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese and salsa to a quarter cup of black beans and two scrambled egg whites. Place the mixture on a whole-wheat grain tortilla and wrap it in a foil. Freeze it and whenever needed pop it in the microwave, and your meal is ready. The beans and eggs provide plenty of proteins, while the salsa and cheese add taste and flavour making the meal fun and satisfying.

Use the classic loaf of bread and turn it into oatmeal in simple steps. Add Zucchini, oats and pecans or walnuts to the flour, while preparing the bread loaf. The veggies, nuts and oats increase the nutrient value greatly giving you a well-balanced breakfast.

While making a muffin, add oats, zucchini, carrots, raisings and sugar to make a perfect snack or breakfast. For smaller sized muffins, add smaller amounts of oats, veggies and sugar. Using brown sugar, instead of refined sugar, also increases the health value of the food.

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Coffee Under Threat: How Wild Arabica Could Go Extinct

Food & Drinks - Ruth - October 28, 2020

Imagine a world without coffee – Most of us cannot imagine a day without [tippy title=”America’s favorite drink”]Americans spend $18 billion on coffee annually. Click HERE for more fun coffee statistics.[/tippy], yet the world’s coffee production faces threats from many directions, the most serious, global warming, decreased genetic diversity, and deforestation.

Arabica, which constitutes 70% of coffee consumption in the world, is a very special coffee plant hybrid that resulted when two different species combined over a million years ago in a forest in Ethiopia. This was a rare [tippy title=”natural hybridization”]Hybridization refers to the interbreeding to two distinct cultivars. Unlike animal hybrids which are typically sterile, plant hybrids often produce seeds prolifically[/tippy] that happened only once. When this plant was taken out of Ethiopia to other parts of the world, it’s genetic diversity was greatly diminished which resulted in a decreased tolerance to pests and diseases. Lack of genetic diversity can be compared to inbreeding among humans and animals. The results are often weaker and defective.

We may like our coffee hot but coffee plants do not like the heat. There are reasons better grades of coffee are marketed as “shade grown”. The arabica plant prefers to grow in the shade and even a one degree increase in temperature will change the taste of the coffee completely. However, even shade may not be enough to protect the world’s coffee plants from the impact of increasing temperatures. The coffee berry borer, Hypothenemus hampei, found in East Africa regions can lower coffee production by more than a third. These pests are found less often at higher elevations but as temperatures have increased the borer has moved into these higher altitudes. Ethiopia has been greatly affected by global warming as have the plants there. Temperatures are projected to continue to rise and coffee borer infestations in this area are also expected to increase.

Coffee plants were first grown in Africa as an undercrop, covered by diverse shade trees that provided natural habitat for a wide range of birds, insects and animals. Small farmers there used sustainable agricultural techniques such as [tippy title=”coffee pulp mulch”]During processing, the outer fruit and mucilaginous outer cover of the bean is removed. Once composted, this former waste material has high amounts of nutrients: 1.7% nitrogen, 0.05% phosphorous, 1.06% potassium.[/tippy] and crop rotation. Since they could not afford expensive chemicals and fertilizers, plants were grown without these harmful additives. However, as a result of the “Green Revolution” of the 1970′s and 1980′s, a $80 million dollar grant from the US Agency for International Development and other groups to replace traditional shade grown farming with “sun cultivation” and the general shift to more technical methods of agriculture, all introduced to increase yield, vast forests were destroyed and “sun cultivation” employed. This method which destroyed trees, used monocropping and the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, led to severe environmental problems such as pesticide pollution, deforestation and extinction of a natural habitat for many animals, birds and insects. It also decreased bio-diversity.

The impact of the loss of the US’s largest food import and the second most valuable traded commodity, only surpassed by petroleum would be immeasurable. While we would most likely eventually find a satisfactory substitute, the economic impact worldwide would be catastrophic.

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My “Chocolate Day” Haul (and what I plan to do with it)

Desserts, Recipe Box - Ruth - October 28, 2020

The day after Valentine’s Day has become a cultural holiday in and of itself. My daughter calls it “Chocolate Day” because that’s when the stores mark down Valentine candy. She has learned from her mother (*wink, wink*) that the candy beneath the pink & red, heart-covered wrapper tastes exactly like the regular stuff. It just costs less! So she is the one who kept reminding me that we needed to go “Chocolate Day” shopping.

I hit several area stores after Christmas and still have some candy sealed in glass jars from that expedition. Remembering where I found the best prices, I drove her straight to a certain grocery store and we made a beeline for the “seasonal” aisle. The aisle had been ransacked like the bread aisle before a snowstorm, but we still found the bargains we wanted!

Hershey Kisses were at the top of my list because I use them to make peanut blossom cookies. The recipe is one I learned from my grandmother but I’ve seen it since in cookbooks and online. This simple little concoction is perfect when you just want a few cookies for the family because it’s quick, easy, and only makes about a dozen and a half.

Before I make the cookies I’ll sort the Kisses by wrapper color. The red ones will be used for cookie baking and the pink & white ones will be saved for Resurrection Sunday treats. About 18 Hershey Kiss candies, unwrapped, if you want peanut blossoms

What to Do:

  •  Thoroughly mix the peanut butter, 1 cup sugar, and egg. Roll the mixture into 1″ balls. Roll the balls in extra sugar to coat.
  • To make regular peanut butter cookies (like those pictured), place the balls about 2″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Press a fork into the top of each ball twice, in a criss-cross pattern, to flatten. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then remove them to a cooling rack.
  • To make peanut blossoms, place the balls about 2″ apart on an ungreased baking sheet but DO NOT flatten them. Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. Remove the cookies from the oven and immediately press the flat side of one unwrapped candy into the center of each cookie ball to flatten it. Do not press the candy all the way through to the baking sheet. The cookies will puff out and crack around the edges. Allow them to cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet, then remove to a rack to cool.

Some of the Reese’s Cups will be used to make chocolate-peanut butter ooey gooey butter cake and some will be sorted out like the Kisses to be used for Resurrection Sunday treats. Others will probably be eaten just as they are long before Resurrection Sunday. Most of the candy is already sealed in my largest Food Saver vacuum canister. The large bag of Reese’s Cups is in the cabinet because I hope to make that ooey-gooey butter cake very soon! (My Food Saver is older, so I linked to something similar that is currently available. I hope that helps!)

And since I’ve been chatting about Resurrection Sunday you might have guessed that the plates and napkins will be set aside for that day. Resurrection Sunday is a working day for a minister’s family. It’s a holiday worth celebrating with fancy dishes and table service but it’s also very impractical for us to do so, which is why I am happy to find cute disposables to keep things in balance. I don’t know yet if we’ll be hosting the family or going to another family member’s home, but I thought I’d plan ahead and get the paper products since these were fun and festive and even less expensive than the dollar store. If we don’t host then I’ll have them available for summer gatherings or the inevitable car picnics that are sure to come as the weather warms up.

I realize I might have saved a bit more by waiting for the 75% off sales in a week or two, but I know from experience that the things I actually wanted would be long gone by then. Now that my “babies” are teenagers I don’t have to buy egg hunt candy, which I used to wait and get later at larger discounts. So what did I actually spend? This time I spent $2.14 per bag on the Hershey Kisses and smaller Reese’s Cups and $3.19 for the larger cups. I was sort of annoyed at the cost of the Kisses because they were only $1.88 per bag after Christmas. The paper products were only $.62 each, so you can see why I went ahead and got those.

That’s probably all of the candy buying I’ll do for a while. I may get some treats after Resurrection Sunday to stash for car picnics and that sort of thing, but I’ve also learned that I can’t eat it if it isn’t in the house!

My daughter, who loves stuffed animals, bought herself a strange little creature that looks like somebody took spare parts from a hippopotamus and a platypus and stitched them together. She decided to buy him and bring him home because he was the only platypotamus (her word) she’d ever seen. Remembering our recent trip to the theater, she decided to name him Cyrano de Platypotamus. The name and the nose fit.

I mention Cyrano because there were several other cute stuffed toys in the Valentine’s Day section that were pink or red but not necessarily Valentine-y. There were sock monkeys and fish and a very glittery unicorn. Any of them might have been good to stash as gifts for little people. Or teenagers who still love stuffed animals.

Did you shop on “Chocolate Day”? What did you get and where did you find the best deals?

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Get Your Own Coffee Roaster and Grinder for the Ultimate in Freshness

Accessories - Ruth - October 22, 2020

If you are a java connoisseur, chances are that you enjoy the truest most fresh taste when it comes to your coffee beverage. The best way to get this is to have your own coffee roaster and grinder right at home. You can also get the commercial coffee roaster and grinder for a small café or restaurant.

When you buy beans, they are generally pre roasted and or pre ground. This can still make a great cup of coffee or espresso, but once you have tried the ones fresh from the coffee roaster and grinder, then you will smell the aroma and taste the difference.

Even just grinding your own will make a difference. It is one of the best things you can do to treat yourself – taste the wonderful flavor of your ground beans. If you choose the coffee roaster and grinder method, there are a few to select from.

To roast the beans is the greatest love of those coffee addicts. It intensifies the aroma and develops the flavor. This is the most important stage.

A well roasted coffee is dark brown, but not black in color. There are several different roasting machines to choose from.

The drum method is when a drum machine roasts the coffee beans in a rotating drum which is heated by gas. When it is complete, the beans are poured to cool and to keep them from being overcooked.

The hot air method is when the hot air machine roasts the coffee beans on a hot air current. Most of the green coffee is roasted at about 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some people will even try to roast the beans in an ordinary frying pan. It is somewhat difficult to get the same consistent flavor with this method.

Once the roasting process is done, you will want to grind the beans to get your pot of coffee. There are several brands to choose from for grinders. You will notice a big difference if your use your own coffee roaster and grinder right from your home.

Some of the brands you will find for grinders:

Each of the manufacturers will have their own features and their own pricing. It is worth it to compare a few.

The zip one is more for commercial purposes. It does a great job and is a flat burr grinder, but you will pay quite a bit for this one. The traditional styles look antiqueish. These are a great item to add to your kitchen. Some of the grinders will be electric and others will be a hand grinder. The wooden ones are absolutely charming.

There simply is no better way to guarantee fresh coffee then roasting your own with your own coffee roaster and grinder!

Styles & Typses of Espresso Makers – From Automatic to Super Automatic Commercial Espresso Machines”

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Home Improvement Update: Kitchen Reveal!

Home Improvement - Ruth - October 10, 2020

At long last I can show you my “new” kitchen! It was one long, ugly Do-It-Yourself road but I can report that Jay & I are delighted with the results. Our daughter has informed us that the kitchen looks “classy” now, which makes me wonder what she thought of it before!

To be clear, most of the DIY was on Jay’s shoulders even while he was still keeping up with full-time ministry, so he deserves a lot of credit. Additional credit goes to my father, without whom the powder room wallpaper wouldn’t have happened and the paint wouldn’t have happened as quickly. I also need to thank friends who helped, loaned us tools, and cheered us on. THANK YOU!

This is what the kitchen looked like before we started updating. We had oak cabinets, ivy wallpaper straight out of the 90s, a cream counter top and stained linoleum floors. Everything looked pretty dingy and needed some sprucing up.

I should add that the kitchen is absolutely the heart of our home. We probably spend more time together in that room than anyplace else in the house. The kitchen is large and has lots of natural light, which is probably why I fell in love with this house to begin with. If I remove the normal kitchen table and counter stools I can bring in larger tables and chairs to seat up to 18 people for a meal. This is the room where we host my husband’s staff dinners. This is the room where I sew and do craft projects. It was absolutely worth the investment to make it look nice again.

Here is what the kitchen looks like now. (Look at my ginger bug nestled on the counter!)

We first painted the ceilings a fresh white and the walls a soft gray. Then I painted the fireplace bricks a darker shade of gray and was amazed at how much it updated the room. It took three coats of white paint and new hinges and knobs to transform the cabinets.

We were gifted the used stove and microwave a little over a year ago but hadn’t been able to install the microwave because the cabinet over the stove was too tall to allow the microwave to have proper clearance over the cook top. We had to remove the old cabinet, purchase a new one and paint it out to match the others, then install the microwave.

We didn’t have room in the budget to replace the counter top, but careful tile selection made it work with the “new” room. The next project was installing new laminate flooring. The laminate was the first thing we sourced for the room and almost the last thing we installed, followed only by base molding.

Here’s the fireplace all dressed up with accessories, many of which I’ve had for years. For now my daughter’s artwork, displayed in one of the DIY chalk finish painted frames I made, is prominently propped up for me to enjoy. The wire basket on the hearth holds small scrapbooks I’ve made over the years. The paint colors are listed in my earlier post about how to paint a brick fireplace.

I filled one wall with a variety of things that have meaning to me. The baskets were a gift from my father-in-law upon his return from a mission trip to Africa. The prints came from the U.S. Patent Office and are displayed in DIY chalk finish painted frames. The details about that project are available here. The painting is a project I completed in a painting class. I am better at painting walls than canvas, but I was pleased enough with this picture that I am willing to display it in my home and share it with you here.

  • Our kitchen updates are considered a “minor” remodel because we didn’t move any walls, electric lines, or pipes. Avoiding the need for licensed electricians and plumbers kept our costs down. But even a minor remodel can be costly if you aren’t careful. If you’re considering such a project of your own, here are a few suggestions.
  •  It will cost 1 1/2 – 2 times more than you think because you’ll uncover things you need to remedy as you go along. Plan for the extra cost and do the updates the right way.
  •  Do it yourself when you can but hire help when you must…and know the difference. Many professionals make a lot of money fixing do-it-yourself projects, so it might be cheaper to hire the pro at the beginning. Be honest with yourself about your skill set and budget accordingly.
  •  Paint is relatively inexpensive, so get good paint and the right painting tools. You can make a dramatic change with just paint if you do it well.
  •  Barter when you can and be willing to help others. Friends and family helped us and we expect to help them. The world just works better that way.
  • Borrowing or renting tools may be cheaper than buying them, or maybe not. Calculate the costs in advance.
  • Doing it yourself costs less money but more time. A lot more time.
  • I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, make smart choices about your undertaking to get the “most bang for your buck” from each sub-project. For example, we spent the cash and picked a tile that allowed us to make the old counter top work. It was a net savings over replacing the counter top in addition to the back splash.
  • And finally, spend CASH. Avoid debt like the plague. Improving your kitchen may improve the value of your home, but your net worth doesn’t increase if you run up debt in the process.

Thanks for following along with our remodeling adventures! I hope our experience helps others who might be considering a similar project. If I can answer any questions, I’d be happy to do so, just leave them in the comments.

What will be your next home improvement project?

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