2 packages bittersweet chocolate chips or chunks, such as Ghirardelli
Sea salt or kosher salt for garnishing
Although you can bake these cookies right away at 350° F. for 15 – 20 minutes (for a 3 oz large cookie, or an ice cream scoop size), they are best if allowed to set in the refrigerator 24-36 hours before cooking. Alternatively, you could bake a sheet of them right away, then chill the remaining dough to bake more a day or two later. This recipe also freezes well.
In a bowl combine the dry ingredients together and stir. Using a heavy duty mixer, blend the butter and sugars together until light and fluffy, about 3- 5 minutes.
Add the eggs, one at a time, blending well in between additions. Add the vanilla and blend. Next add the dry ingredients, blending until just mixed. Stir in the chocolate chips. The dough will be very thick.
For best results, make large cookies, 6 to a cookie sheet. Sprinkle a little sea salt on top of the individual cookies before baking.
When baking use parchment paper or a baking liner on your cookie sheet. When done, place the baking liner with the cookies, on top of wire cooling racks and allow to cool about 15 minutes. Then, remove them from the baking liner to cool completely on the wire racks.
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A family reunion can be the most passionate, emotionally charged, and memorable event for the members but it’s not ideal to plan at the last minute, or give an impression that the reunion got relegated to the bottom of your priority list. Sometimes, things slip out of mind, and you may not be able to work on the planned reunion during the year. The good news is that a fabulous family reunion is still possible. A little creativity and flexibility will reflect your commitment and care of planning the event for a very long time. Irrespective of what you do, don’t try to make things too complicated. Keeping things simple can hold the key to a memorable event. If you have to plan a family reunion at the last minute, the following ideas can go a long way in making it a memorable event:
A Scavenger Hunt: this is one of the most memorable events that can be easily managed to foster the bonds between the family members. In fact, dining together can be very sentimental for a family and scavenger hunts will provide a delightful twist to those priceless moments. You can easily manage the event because you don’t need special arrangements. Irrespective of your family size, it will bring jots of joy and laughs to every member of the family.
Family Photo Sharing: family reunions are all about creating memories. You can include family photo sharing as the official event of proposed reunion. Mobile devices can be useful to share common selfies, but special photo booth with unique backgrounds, ideal characters, and funny props will make the event more exciting. Ask the members to come with their family photos so that they can share memories. Obviously, a portable scanner and laptop will be very useful in sharing photos.
Tell stories: even if you don’t make it an official event, the reunion won’t be complete without sharing stories. You can bring more fun by making it compulsory for everybody to share stories related to emotional, funny, silly or crazy events about themselves or other family members. These stories will definitely inspire the younger generations and reveal the pleasantly nostalgic activities of older members.
Hold a tournament: organize a game or tournament among the family members. The event will provide a chance to cooperate and work together. It will also revive playful rivalries among the siblings. The family members, who haven’t seen each other for some time, may resume conversations. Make sure that no one is left alone and there is something for every member, irrespective of his or her age. Some of the exciting game options include bag race, pool-noodle jousting, horseshoes, and bean bag toss.
Make it BYOF: when you are organizing a family reunion at the last moment, it may not be possible to hire a good caterer. If this is the case, you have only two options. Either a few family members are willing to take care of catering, or it’s a potluck where each family member is supposed to bring his or her favorite recipes to share with others. If you are in favor of a potluck, even picnic style, plan your family reunion at a park, lakeside, or other natural surroundings, which is free for public use without any rental obligations.
The Commonality Game: this is another interesting game for family members, and the winning prize can make it more interesting. Make a list of certain characteristics or personal traits specifically observed in children who are born in one family or have a specific hair color. The participating family members will be required to check off these characteristics when they find that other family members may also share the same characteristics. The one who checks the maximum number of characteristics within stipulated time wins the game and associated prize. Make sure to keep things simple and interesting so that every family member can find at least something in common. For example, eye color, number of appendages, or number of siblings can be interesting characteristics of such a list.
Head Out to an Amusement Park: children love amusement park, and it can be quite fun for every member in the family. You can plan to spend a few hours or the whole day at a nearby amusement park. The interesting part is that you enjoy more fun at an affordable price because amusement parks offer discounts when you buy tickets as a group. You don’t have to plan anything except driving to the park, beeches or other desired locations to enjoy your family reunion!
There are many occasions for which a dinner party is a perfect celebration: a new home, a new job, a big promotion—or just a Friday night when you’d like to get together with your favorite friends and acquaintances. Hosting a dinner party yourself also has many benefits that attending someone else’s dinner party does not have: you pick the food, you pick the music, and, most importantly, you pick the guests. At a dinner party that you host yourself, there is no chance of an awkward encounter with someone you meant to never see again.
However, even though this type of stress is eliminated when you host your own dinner party, there are myriad other factors that can make hosting a very stressful endeavor. Luckily, there are a number of things that you can do to host both a memorable and low-stress dinner party.
Don’t Try To Do Too Much
The most important thing to remember when hosting a dinner party is to keep it as simple as possible, while still offering the high style and entertainment that your guests will appreciate. Choose to either make an extraordinary, stand-out cocktail, or an hors d’oeuvres that will keep everyone talking for the week to come. Don’t try to do both. It is OK to pick up appetizers at a local restaurant.
Additionally, don’t go overboard on the cocktails that you serve at the party. It is much better to choose a super simple, delicious cocktail that is a breeze to make.
Spend Time on the Guest List
Carefully selecting the guests who will attend the party is essential for the party to go off without a hitch. It is important to take your time to think about how the particular guests interact with each other—what they have in common and what they may conflict on. Try to choose guests who will have many topics to discuss with each other so there is a wealth of conversation opportunities and little to no chance of dreaded awkward silences over drinks and dinner.
Avoid choosing many people who are strangers, and if you do invite people who have never met, make sure that they have a mutual friend or other means of connecting one-to-one at the party. It is also a good idea to begin building your guest list by choosing one person who is your “anchor guest.” This is a person who is specifically chosen as the life of the party, and preferably someone who has a great sense of humor and can make everyone laugh. Every party needs this person.
Recruit Lots of Help
Don’t try to do it all on your own! Find friends or family members that are great cooks, amateur mixologists, or who can simply lend a hand when you need one. If you try to do everything yourself at your dinner party, not only will you be extremely stressed, but there will come a time when you simply cannot meet all of the needs of your guests and the party will suffer. While you are making drinks, someone else should be handling the music, while someone else makes sure the house stays tidy. These helpers can be close friends who are guests of the party, who simply aid you in running things more smoothly and with less stress. Plus, when you’re holding a dinner party, it is important to have time to relax and enjoy yourself (as impossible as it may seem). You should enjoy your guests’ company and, when necessary, be able to take a couple of minutes to yourself. That is where party helpers come in very handy.
Make the Entrée Ahead of Time
Carefully select an entrée that tastes even better if it is left to sit overnight. Examples include a braise or a stew. Just having this huge portion of the dinner set aside and ready to go the night before the party will take an enormous weight off your shoulders and allow you to rest easy. This type of meal tastes better when it has been sitting for a while, so your guests won’t feel cheated. Then all you have to do is heat the meal for about thirty minutes during cocktails.
Make Dessert Ahead of Time
Another portion of the meal that you can make ahead of time is the dessert. Choose something that will not melt, like a cake or pudding, that you can make the day before the party. This is essential because the dessert course is when the party will be beginning to wind down, and it is important that you are present to thank guests for coming and not off in the kitchen.
With all of these simple tips for hosting your next dinner party, it is sure to be both beautiful and stress-free!
Are dishwashers eco-friendly? The latest studies indicate that dishwashers manufactured in the last ten years are very energy-efficient. If you only run the dishwasher when it is full and do not pre-wash the dishes before you place them in the dishwasher, the machine uses about 50 percent less electrical energy and about 80 percent less water. Therefore, using a dishwasher is often eco-friendly. If you only have a few dishes, however, wash them by hand in the sink.
Unlike sink dish detergent, many dishwasher detergents contain chemicals. For that reason, there are many folks who opt to make their own dishwasher detergent, from milder ingredients.
Whether you choose to make your own homemade dishwasher detergent or use a commercial product, you need to clean out the machine at least once a month so that it continues to work properly. If your dishes are not getting totally clean, it may be because the dishwasher needs to be cleaned.
Over time, bits of food particles and grease can build up in the appliance. Additionally, given the warm, moist environment, mold and mildew and bacteria can form around the seal.
This scenario led me to a beautiful accident of creating my own version of a dishwashing detergent. I would like to share this experience of my recipe.
Mix all the ingredients together, then allow to set an hour until bubbling starts to appear in the mixture.
When the bubbling begins, start stirring it well, then begin spooning it into ice cube trays evenly. Pack down the mixture lightly. Every now and then, dampen it with your hands and then proceed tamping each puck down. If the shape doesn’t quite fit in your machine, they can also be simply tossed into the bottom of the machine.
In about an hour, fizzing of the pucks will start to happen, it will then turn into hard pucks. Start popping them out of the trays, and break the hard edges off so it will fit into the container in the dishwasher.
Store in a container that is tightly sealed. Remember to just use one puck for each load.
Whether you are concerned about the health of our waterways or are merely trying to keep your septic system working properly, it is a good idea to choose a dishwasher detergent that does not contain toxic ingredients.
Using too much dishwasher detergent, whether it is commercial or homemade, will make your dishes dull and dingy. My very efficient dishwasher requires only one tablespoon of detergent. If your dishwasher has a detergent dispenser and a rinse dispenser, fill the rinse dispenser with vinegar to help prevent mineral buildup on your dishes and glassware, and give a nice shine to glassware.
Ask any grandparent, teacher, or close family friend and she’ll tell you that the gifts that mean the most are the ones that come from the heart, and hands, of a child. These one-of-a-kind presents, will be cherished for years.
For kids, giving a present that no one else can give and they made themselves, is enough to make them swell with pride. And it’s the perfect holiday solution: although their buying power may be limited, their imaginations are not. With a simple idea and a few supplies, any child will experience the thrill that comes from giving.
This is also a great lesson about gift giving, being generous, and that the holidays are not just about what they receive.
Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, we’re sure they’ll be inspired by the easy and endearing gifts on the ideas below.
Helpful tips for painting mugs
· I recommend china paint such as the Porcelain 150 which are specifically designed for metal, glass or ceramic.
· Kits for painting mug which can be bought from craft stores be careful about. Sometimes the fine print says the mugs can only be used for display only.
When you’re starting to paint, let one color dry first before putting the second color on. For older kids, this could be a fun activity to do even without the help of adults. But if smaller children are going to do this activity, be sure there is adult help available when they need it.
· In making or creating your designs, keep in mind to keep it simple. Encourage creativity. Perhaps have some pictures nearby of various designs for inspiration and ideas.
Prepare an oven on the side (after 24 hours, depending on the type of paint you use, read manufacturer’s directions). Pebeo Porcelaine 150 china paints at baked at 150 degrees for 35 minutes.
1. Using a paper, start covering the work area or surface then set the mugs out. Make sure that the mugs are clean and dry and free from dirt or any other substance on it.
2. Think of a design or an image that you want to put then start painting the mug. Let the first color dry first before proceeding to the next one. If you make a mistake, do not panic. Wipe it immediately but carefully off with water on a paper towel.
3. If it’s a child who is doing the artwork, be of assistance by doing small sections at a time in order to avoid smudges.
4. When you are happy with what you have painted on the mug, let it dry for 24 hours. You may need to bake it in an oven, depending on the paint brand used. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.
6. Remove the mug carefully until it cools. Enjoy your newly designed mug!
Let the child wrap their special gift and top with a bow.
This would also be a fun project to do every year around the holidays for a child, highlighting life events that occurred that year. It would show also a progression of skill and maturity with each passing year.
In a bowl mix the warm water, melted butter, flour, yeast, salt, sugar, powdered milk, yeast, and orange zest. With a mixer, beat at a low speed until it is dough. Put this dough in another large bowl, lightly brush the top of the dough with vegetable oil and cover with a clean cloth. Allow this to sit for the yeast to rise in a warm, draft-free place for about an hour. It should double in size.
Take the dough out on to a lightly floured surface and knead dough about 6 minutes. Roll with a rolling pin into a 12X20 inch rectangle.
In a small bowl combine the orange marmalade and ginger. Spread this evenly, all the way to the edges of the rolled dough. On the long side, roll tightly into a log shape, then place it seam down on a safe-to-cut surface. Cut into 2 inch rolls.
Spray a 10 inch cast iron skillet with cooking spray or olive oil and place rolls in the pan. Cover with a clean cloth and allow to rest another hour in a warm, draft-free place. About 45 minutes in, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Put the skillet in the oven and bake about 35 minutes until lightly brown.
Remove from heat and allow to cool until just warm. In a bowl with your mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese until smooth. On low speed add the powdered sugar, then beat on high until fluffy. Spread over warm rolls and serve. Yummy!
Tonight I made this amazing tasting soup I thought I’d share the recipe for you. Super healthy and simple too. Great for these chilly autumn evenings we’re getting.
It could be made either in a cast iron Dutch oven, or simply load a crockpot in the morning and let it cook all day (which is what I did). I LOVE coming home to the smell of a beautiful soup that’s been cooking all day.
Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 4 oz can diced green chilies
1 seeded & chopped jalapeno pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon cumin
5 cups chicken broth
1 14 1/2 oz can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
1 lb chicken cooked, white boneless cut into cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
salt & pepper to taste
crushed tortilla chips (or strips)
shredded cheddar cheese
If using a crockpot or slowcooker, simply load all ingredients except cilantro, lime juice, tortilla strips & cheese into the crock. The chicken can be raw. Cook on low 8-10 hours. Before serving add lime juice & cilantro, then top with tortilla strips & cheddar cheese.
If using a saucepan or Dutch oven, saute the olive oil with onion & garlic until tender. Add the green chilies, jalapeno pepper and cumin. Add next the chicken broth & tomatoes and sauce then bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer 15 minutes.
In a separate pan, brown the chicken cubes and cook. Add to the soup, and allow to simmer another 10 minutes. Add lime juice & cilantro. Then serve and top with tortilla strips & cheddar cheese.
This would be delicious served with a unique lemonade along side. Here’s a wonderful book on lemonade recipes to check out.
A few years ago, I started the journey of living naturally which began with eating. I became conscious with how nutritious my food should be and what I put inside my body. But then I realized that it’s not just food that I should be cautious with. Lotions and cleaners have chemicals too, for our everyday use and guess what, they can absorb through our skin and affect our bodies.
From there, I did some helpful research and then I had to change my lifestyle in cleaning.
Why should one clean naturally? You’ll be able to clean your entire home, inside and out, with homemade products that are safe to use while your kids and pets are in the same room, and are inexpensive to boot! You’ll learn how to make everyday products like an all-purpose cleaner and laundry detergent, but you’ll also learn the best and safest way to clean things you don’t clean everyday, like your carpet and your garage floor. Even better, you can scent your products to your liking with a variety of all-natural essential oils.
Think that natural cleaners won’t do as good a job as the commercial versions? Wrong! You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how effective natural cleaners can be. Homemade cleaners are also easily customizable – you can adjust formulas to create the perfect cleaning products for your home and cleaning preferences. Every home is different, but this guide gives a variety of solutions for a mix of conditions, so you’re sure to find something that works for your home. Now there’s no need to stash and store dozens of bottles of different cleaning products “just in case” – you have the ultimate guide to making any product yourself when you need it!
First, if you have no idea where to start first, start small. Just pick one corner of your house or replace one of your cleaners. Another strategy is when you run out of your cleaner, don’t buy it again but find one you can make to replace it. Check for recipes from books or online sources and start making your own natural cleaners. Once you’re done, go to another helpful recipe. Later on, you will realize how your house is doing a miraculous transformation.
Buy inexpensive cleaners.
Try looking around a health store at any local grocery store within your community and you may be surprised with the prices of the cleaners there. So switch and try doing your own less expensive yet conventional cleaners.
Make use of “all-purpose” cleaners.
Marketers are very smart. They make sure that a specific cleaner is intended for a specific area of your home. You have to purchase a cleaner for your toilet bowl, your bath tub and a different too with your windows, tables, ovens, etc.
With a specific recipe, you can produce your very own “all-purpose” cleaner. You don’t have to purchase a lot of different cleaners or bottles of poison underneath your kitchen sink, which can mean some significant savings over a year’s time.
Experimenting is good.
Do not just settle for one recipe or two, keep trying until you find the ones that are your favorites. Cleaners also vary from one’s need to another.
Another alternative to using cleaners, is to get a good hand held steamer that is designed specifically for cleaning. You can clean virtually any surface in your home, including bathrooms. No cleaners at all, does an incredible job, and it sanitizes at the same time.
Time is essential.
If you are just a newbie when it comes to natural cleaners, it will take time before you can make some necessary adjustments, expect a learning curve to more natural solutions. Patience and kindness to yourself in the process should be given.
Keep clutter at bay.
Take just 10 or 15 minutes per day to de-clutter some area of the home. Then work to keep it cleared. You’ll be shocked at how much this will help.
Even with organic cleaners, fitting cleaning into a busy schedule can be tough. Life is busy. Come up with a schedule that works for you, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. Doing small tasks is better than nothing, and those small ones can really add up.
The first step to embracing a cleaning routine is to understand what a “clean house” really is. Spotless isn’t necessarily the goal, but clean is. People you love live in your home and you want them to fully enjoy life in that place. Clean bathrooms rank pretty high on my priority list, but toys strewn from one end of the living room to the next shows that kids are enjoying themselves.
It doesn’t matter if you are out of the house for 40 hours a week, or home all day, you can accomplish a successful cleaning routine that works for you and your schedule. For some, that might mean hiring help. The important thing is to start somewhere.
I love a clean home, and generally most cleaning tasks are not that arduous to me. But there’s one task I hate, and that is oven cleaning.
I did some interesting attempts on making my very own oven cleaner with the use of baking soda and white vinegar. At first I had my doubts about how effective it would be, but surprisingly it did what I hoped it should do.
Homemade Oven Cleaner
After the oven has already cooled down, start removing all remaining food that has burned inside the oven.
Start removing the racks then start sprinkling the baking soda on the bottom part of the oven. Try sprinkling with an empty container of Parmesan cheese, as it makes it easier to apply. After which, pour (or spray with a spray bottle) a small amount of the white vinegar on the baking soda. Try the measurement ration of 1/8 cup of white vinegar with ¼ cup of baking soda.
Now put the rack back into the oven. Fill up the baking dish with some hot water and then put back again the rack. Close the door of the oven. Put it to about 250 degrees for about 5 minutes. After that, let it cool down for 15 minutes.
Get the pan of water inside as well as the rack. Start scrubbing your oven. Try with crumpled up aluminum foil as an effective scrubber, or any other heavy duty type scrubber will do. In scrubbing the oven walls, make a paste from mixing 1 teaspoon white vinegar and 1/8 cup of baking soda.
Continue scrubbing until clean, then rinse it all with warm water. Use clean rags this time.
Depending on how you use your oven, cleaning its inside may be no more than a once-in-a-while chore. The best measure is a preventive one: Wipe up overflows and spills when they’re fresh to prevent the crusty, baked-on spills that will later season foods with the distinctive taste of burned toast. But if, alas, grease and grime build up gets the best of you, choosing a chemical-free, nontoxic oven cleaner is the healthy way to go.
While conventional oven cleaners provide elbow-grease-free action, they are loaded with toxic and caustic chemicals. The chemicals do the work so you don’t have to. Heavy-duty solvents are popular because they do work, but they are dangerous to touch or breathe.
Some oven-cleaning formulas include glycol ethers, which are severe irritants of the eyes, skin, and lungs, extremely dangerous to inhale, and prone to causing reproductive problems. There’s also 2-butoxyethanol, which is also a severe irritant of the eyes, skin, and lungs; dangerous to inhale, and easily absorbed through the skin, and it may cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lymph- and blood-forming organs and nervous system.
For caustic action strong enough to cut through tough oven gunk, many conventional cleaners contain severe corrosives like sodium hydroxide, which can be dangerous to inhale or touch; can burn the eyes, skin and lungs, and can cause chronic damage to tissues.
You can also find in them such nefarious propellants as propane, butane and isobutene, which are harmful to inhale. Considering the chemicals that are in these aerosols, it would be wise to wear a respirator when using them and heavy duty gloves, as well as having great ventilation going.
Perhaps you don’t realize how much money you spend on your oven cleaners now. We throw them into the shopping cart and you’re off to the register. If you added up the cost of all your cleaners, you might be surprised how only a handful of them can add up to $20 or $30 in just a single shopping trip. It’s particularly expensive if you indulge in the more toxic cleaning products like oven cleaners. Over many years, the use of safe and friendly cleaners may result in significant savings too.
Chrome is a strong material, yet it does take some upkeep to keep it clean and sparkly. Rust can form on chrome on little openings that are undetectable to the bare eye. This exposes the material underneath to oxygen, and surface rust may show up from the oxidation process. Different conditions that can keep chrome from looking its best may be cleanser buildup, dirt, grime, water stains on the fixtures. Fortunately, much of the time chrome can be kept clean, restored to its past condition, and protected from further harm.
Get into a habit of cleaning and keeping up chrome surfaces. Use a glass cleaner and rub the chrome with a soft cloth frequently. Just a quick wipe down like this will far in keeping your fixtures looking great. Another tip is to wipe them down with previously used dryer sheets, works wonderfully.
Try wiping the fixtures with vinegar and allowing it to set an hour or two, then go back and polish with a soft, clean cloth.
You can also try a commercial cleanser for removing hard water stains and such, specifically designed for use on chrome. Lime Away is a good product to try for this purpose.
Blend salt and lemon in equivalent amounts of to clean chrome and remove light rust stains. Rub the lemon and salt on the fixture, allow to set a few minutes, rub gently with a soft cloth, then rinse thoroughly. You can also try plain rubbing alcohol on your facets as well.
Do not use anything coarse that could scratch your fixtures like steel wool or the like.
A good way once you’ve got them cleaned and dry to help them stay nice longer in between, is spray a bit of WD40 on a clean cloth and wipe gently. It will help repel hard water stains and such.
If you are battling rust, getting a good rust cleaner may be just what is needed. If they are beyond getting help, consider replacing them. New fixtures aren’t terribly expensive and they really help to improve the appearance of the whole sink and shower areas.
Check out these ebooks now. If you don't have a Kindle or tablet, there's a free app (right center of the page), that allows you to read ebooks on your computer or smartphone.
Most of these are also available as a physical book as well.
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