Friday, April 29, 2016

Easy and Beautiful Ice Cream Pie

Tonight we celebrated my son's birthday with a family dinner.  For dessert, I made a chocolate ice cream pie (his request).   I modified a recipe I found over on Fine Cooking's website HERE.  Here's a picture of the pie I made (although I think it looked better in person!).



I discovered recently that you can melt creamy peanut butter and it will turn to liquid pretty quickly (30 seconds in the microwave).   It will also reharden quickly.  You don't need to buy peanut butter topping for ice cream.

So, after following the steps on Fine Cooking for the crust.  I let it cool and then filled the bottom with a layer of chocolate ice cream.  Then, I spread the hot fudge sauce on top and melted 1/3 cup of peanut butter.  I drizzled that over top of the hot fudge sauce and put the pie in the freezer.  Later in the afternoon, I made the small scoops of ice cream and layered them on top.  I chopped up some mini reese's cups and sprinkled them over top.  Then, I drizzled 1/4 cup hot fudge sauce like the recipe recommended plus another 1/4 cup of melted peanut butter.

It really was a yummy pie.

Most of the time I bake pies, but this one was nice and easy to make!

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Annoying phone calls...

95% of the phone calls we get on our landline are junk calls.  It is very, very annoying.  Yesterday, I called our phone provider to inquire about breaking the contract for our phone line.  The fee was more than I was ready for (of course), so I asked what I could do about these annoying phone calls.  Here's what I learned...

#1  You have to re-register on the Do Not Call list every year.  EVERY YEAR!  Here's a link to the site: https://www.donotcall.gov/

#2  That list is updated quarterly.  QUARTERLY!  So, if you register in January, your number won't be on the list until the end of March :(  Better late than never...

#3  I could change our phone number... but that invites other kinds of issues.  Who knows?  The person who had that number previously might have been getting even more junk calls than I do now!
#4  Verizon has a Call Block Feature on their app/website.  I need to write down the frequently calling wrong numbers and simply go into the site/app and record them.

#5  My phone has a call block feature.  I've been lazy and haven't used it.  Today I started using it.  I looked up the directions online and it was simpler than I had realized.

Basically, I learned that if I want to get rid of these calls I will need to be proactive in blocking them.

When our current contract is up, I can switch the physical phone I use, discontinue our landline, and get a link2cell phone which will allow my kids to talk on the phone via my cell phone line.

Any other ideas about how I can get rid of these nuisance calls???


Post script... The phone just rang.   Then, I saw the screen.  Call blocked.  CALL BLOCKED!  Yippee!  One down, many more to go... he he he.  But, I have hope!

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Some of my favorite kitchen utensils...

Today a friend of mine and I went for a walk and she asked me about parchment paper.  I love parchment paper.  I purchase a 1000 sheet box from the webstaurant store.com every 2-3 years.  The paper doesn't curl like it does if you buy it on the roll and it's astronomically cheaper than buying it in small quantities.  My mom bakes a lot and so do I, so we go through it at a good pace.  After we talked about parchment paper, my friend asked me if I have any other favorite gadgets.  I told her about the treat I found yesterday at Ollies, a bargain store near where I live.


The set I bought only had the purple, orange, and green models, but it was only $4 instead of the $12 that Amazon wants for this set of five mini spatulas.  I hesitated when I picked them up at the store.  I had seen them in the weekly ad, but I had been given a much shorter mini spatula several years ago that was quite frustrating to use.  So, of course I hesitated.  But, I love them!

I have already used them 3 times in 2 days!  I used the spoon spatula twice to get mayonnaise out of the bottom of the jar and didn't end up with a messy hand!  Happy day!  Then, I used the orange spatula to scrape the peanut butter jar clean.  I was able to get enough out for 2 extra sandwiches!  Wow!  

Now, there's one caveat about this set.  When I brought them home, one of the handles was a little rough in a few spots.  So, I grabbed a piece of 220 sand paper from my kitchen junk drawer and sanded all three handles down for a minute.  Then, I took out the jar of mineral oil in my kitchen, which is a foodsafe way of finishing wood, and poured a little on a piece of paper towel and rubbed the handles down.  I could have skipped doing this, but it made me happy to improve the handles.  

Then, tonight at dinner I used another of my favorite utensils--my flat metal whisk.  
This is a 12 inch Best Manufacturers Flat Roux/Gravy Whip.  I have two whisks.  One is a rounded model with silicone on the wires so I can use it in nonstick pans.  This whisk, though, is my favorite.  I've had it for twenty years or so (I'm not sure what brand mine is).  I use it for gravys and... for frying!  It works so much better than using tongs to lift oysters, chicken, and fish out of oil after being fried.  (Tonight we had fried oysters for dinner.)  

I do have lots of kitchen utensils I love, but I am very thankful for these spatulas and whisk!  




Thursday, February 25, 2016

Beware of Return Shipping

Buyer beware.  Isn't that what we're supposed to remember?!  I appreciate that Amazon is so easy to work with when it comes to returns.  But, when it comes to third party sellers who offer free shipping, I'm discovering that it is a different matter.

My girls are in a gym class and I wanted to get them some biketards--leotards with legs for class.  I went online and found one that I liked the look of.  The picture and the leotards we received were slightly different.  The arm holes didn't fit securely, but stretched lower, showing their bras.  There was no picture of the backs of the leotards, so I assumed, it would be modest like the front.  Nope!  They were very low (mid-back) so that their bras completely showed (not just a little).  I was so disappointed.

But, that was where the disappointment began.  I discovered that in order to return them, I had to pay the return shipping--$8.  Then, when the credit finally showed up, a $6 restocking fee was deducted though nothing was wrong with the leotards.  Basically, when all is said and done, I had to pay for a leotard that I returned and can't use.  I contacted the seller and they informed me about the restocking fee.

Okay.  That's my mistake.  But, their mistake was not showing a picture of the back of the leotard.

In the future, I'm going to try and stay away from "free shipping" sellers on Amazon, unless I'm absolutely certain I'm not going to have to return the product!

Just to let you know, the seller was Miss Belly Dance--in case you ever consider purchasing from them on Amazon.  Purchasing is fine--as long as you do not think there is a chance you will need to return your item.  Then, financially I've learned it isn't a good choice.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Wood Pulp = Cellulose, More about Parmesan Cheese

Like most things, the matter of the cellulose in parmesan cheese is actually a little more complicated. On my last post, a friend commented and explained that wood pulp is cellulose. (Thanks my friend!)  I looked it up and it is!  It acts as fiber in our digestive system that moves things a lot because it isn't digestible by human bodies.  Hmm...  I gathered from what I read online that it hasn't been determined whether it is dangerous for human consumption.  The FDA has approved it as a food additive.  That's why the article is funny to me.  I suspect there are probably limits of how much cellulose is added (though I'm not sure) and it is very important that food is correctly labeled.  I suspect that is one of the larger issues.  The article makes it seem like the wood pulp is dangerous.

Sifting through what I read a little more from the article I linked to and other sources I found online, I believe the issue is more with false labeling.  A cheese seems like it couldn't be 100% Parmesan Cheese if 3-4% of it is cellulose, aka wood pulp.  It is also disconcerting that Target's store brand grated Parmesan isn't at all parmesan.  The cellulose does keep it from clumping and sticking together.

Here's a link to a second article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/cheese-wood-pulp-cellulose-parmesan_us_56c491c2e4b08ffac1271f1e

This article explains that 2-4% is allowed.  The cheese in question was tested at 7.8%, far higher than the allowable limit.  Kraft's cheese is within that limit.

Here's the FDA's statement about cellulose on their website: http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/SCOGS/ucm261248.htm

I still think it's funny.  "Wood Pulp" is used to alarm us.  "Cellulose" is used to make us think it's just something else added to food.  It's all about the spin!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Parmesan Cheese: Beware!

In the Baltimore Sun this morning, there was an article about Parmesan Cheese that has been making the rounds the past few days.  Here's a LINK to it.  I thought it was very interesting and helpful. Basically, the grated Parmesan Cheese that we buy in the store has varying degrees of fillers in it. It's pretty horrifying to think that there might be wood pulp in some of the cheese we've eaten.  It's also sad to think that Target's store brand of Parmesan cheese didn't even have any parmesan cheese in it (it was a combination of other cheeses)!

Every once in a while I find a grocery item that I'm willing to spend more money on because it really matters (like real butter instead of margarine).  Parmesan cheese just moved onto that list this morning.  I'm sure the companies that sell grated parmesan are now going to scramble to decrease the percentage of their fillers and show that they're doing so--or at least I hope so.  But, until I'm sure, I think I'm going to get the shredded parmesan at Aldi from the refrigerated section instead of the grated parmesan that I've been buying for a while.

Friday, February 12, 2016

No longer free...

For several years now, I've traveled over to Donna Young's website for various calendars and organization forms.  But, today I discovered that none of the forms are free on her site anymore.  She has switched to subscription based access which costs $25 or $40 per year.

If you're interested in calendar forms of this type, I'd recommend Mom's Tool Belt instead, though. What I like about her site better is that it's a lifetime membership.  She adds new yearly calendars each year.  I've always been able to find the organization forms that I need.  This doesn't give you access to the notebooking pages she has done which are on notebookingpages.com (lifetime membership on that site is $97).   So far, I've always been able to find free notebooking pages for what I need on other sites. Notebooking isn't our primary approach to homeschooling, so I only use pages like these on rare occasions.

I have to admit that I'm bummed Donna Young's site isn't free at all anymore...