Tip of the Week

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Extra gooey, cheesy Mac 'n' cheese

Now many of you will agree that Mac n' Cheese is a comfort food, (I don't), but I do make it.  I really think the boxed versions turned me off to mac n' cheese when I was a kid.  Once you try this recipe I think you will never go back to boxed versions again.

There are really two key things for making mac n' cheese.  The first being the cheese(s);  most recipes call for at least 2 types.  I recommend (as several recipes do too) Gruyere and Cheddar (either medium, sharp or white).  The second is the sauce which really makes all the difference and though it may seem complicated, it's really not.  Be prepared to spend a few extra minutes making the sauce.

Hopefully boiling pasta is a skill you already have.  Just don't over cook the pasta as it will cook a bit in the oven.  And you can get creative with the shape of the pasta you choose.  Elbows would be classic, but if you have kids you could try fun shapes or use shells that would pickup more of the sauce.

Here's my recipe for the sauce:
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
3 cups milk (whole preferably)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 small bay leaf
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and Pepper

Melt the butter in a pan, then stir in flour and until stirring until it forms a ball.  Remove from heat and 1 cup of milk, whisk, and repeat until you incorporate all the milk.  Add to heat, continuing to whisk until it comes to a boil.  Then add onion, bay leaf, nutmeg and salt and pepper (to taste).  Reduce to low heat and cook, stirring until thickened.  I leave the onions in the mixture, but remove the bay leaf.  If you prefer you can take the onions out by straining the mixture.

Just out of the oven

Add the sauce to the pasta and stir in 1 cup of cheese (more if you prefer) and some heavy cream.  Combine and add more cheese to top the dish.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F.  Enjoy!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Stop the Super Bowl Ad Promoting Dog Racing

Today is my first time blogging for the Blog the Change for Animals.  I think this is a great idea and there are so many causes I could support and blog about.  I myself try to support or donate to local shelters and animal rescue groups.  Even my youngest dog is a rescue dog and she is the sweetest little character you could only hope to adopt.

My cause for this blog is the Super Bowl Ad that Sketchers is going to release, unless we stop them, that involves Greyhound Dog Racing.  This is a very cruel sport and the dogs are mistreated (to say the least).  The sport in general should be banned, but we as a society should not be promoting dog racing or animal cruelty in any form.

Please sign the petition and ask your friends to sign the petition.  We have the power to tell Sketchers, NBC and Mr. Cuban not to air this ad.  Click here for the link to sign the petition.

You can also adopt Greyhounds that are abandoned after their racing days are over.   Let's support our local animal shelters, volunteers, rescue groups and owners to stop animal cruelty.

Don't forget you can join in on the Blog the Change for Animals in April, July and October.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Blog the Change for Animals

If you are an animal lover, advocate, or just want to take part please spread the word about the Blog for the Change for Animals.  You can also add the badge to your blog.

Check out the website Be the Change for Animals

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Filati Yarns Yarn Shop

On occasion I make a trip to the Roseville and Rocklin area, just North of Sacramento.  I love the shopping and variety of stores (and the selection) available.  This visit included a stop at Filati Fine Yarns in Rocklin.  My Aunt had mentioned this yarn shop to me and thought it was worth checking out.  To sweeten the deal their annual after-Christmas sale was taking place.  You can't beat a yarn sale.

The shop is fairly easy to find, just read the signs since it is a smaller shopping complex.  And it's right off of Interstate-80.  You can also pick up a few craft supplies at Beverly's Fabric too.  The Roseville Galleria is just a few minutes south, so it is close to other shopping malls.

I was surprised how large the shop was and there were so many yarns I didn't know where to start first.  The other knitters and crocheters were very friendly and helpful.  There were several different samples and already-made examples throughout the store (of course I found another pattern this way!).  I also found many other yarn companies that I had not heard of, especially ones from Italy.  A few of my favorites were the Norwegian wool yarn, but I also found many Italian yarns in the sale bins that I bought.  Really I could have gone crazy picking yarns for several projects.   And I spent more time looking at yarns then all of the other supplies and books/magazines.

My yarn stash from Filati
 If you are in the area I would recommend a stop at this yarn shop.  Even if you are not a knitter or crocheter yourself, you might be inspired to become one (and they have classes if you decide you want to!).

Sewing Project 1: Christmas Stocking

With this group I was teaching to sew, they wanted to make Christmas stockings.  I found a cute pattern, a little vintage and country but fairly basic.  However the directions were not well-written and all of us made a few mistakes with the cuff.  I think my stocking turned out rather cute and I enjoyed seeing the other choices of materials from the class.

The group had fun with the project and it was a good experience, however I have come to the conclusion that I would not want to make a Christmas stocking again.  Mainly because I already have a set of Christmas stockings that I love.  What I really want to make is tree skirt because the standard tree skirts are too small for my tree.  It's just a matter of finding the material I like that will match my stockings.  The design is my secret . . .

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Food Waste

Today's post was really inspired by the special on the Food network Sunday night.  "The Big Waste" premiered, but if you missed it you can find the episode replaying this month.  I would highly recommend seeing if, even if you "think" you know how much our food industry wastes.  Think about it.  Do you throw out the bruised or overripe/black bananas?  If so try mashing them and baking banana nut bread or muffins.  The options are endless as you see what the Chefs are able to do.

I think we each know that there is food waste in our country, but the actual extent of what and how much is wasted will shock you.  Why schools can't donate left over food to food banks, shelters or other non-profit organizations astounds me!  The taxpayers are already footing the bill for school lunch programs, why waste the food?  If you don't know what I am talking about you should look up Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution.  He really strives for healthy food and created some changes in the LAUSD food program.  It was amazing what he was able to do.

Our education system is really failing our kids in many areas and we are falling behind as a nation in many fields.  Kids today don't know where food comes from?  Do you?  If you haven't tried to grow anything, not just a fruit or vegetable plant, maybe you should.  Maybe we need to have our kids learn to grow food.

It all comes down to learning to use our resources to the max and not falling for "consumerism".  Even in commercial and print ads for food companies.  Don't forget the marketing of products as "natural" or "eco-friendly" that are really not.

As I always say, consumer beware.  Educate yourself and you can make a difference. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Satsuma Love

I LOVE citrus, well most citrus fruits.  Last year I discovered a new mandarin that I hadn't tried and I fell in love.  Satsuma Mandarins.  If you love the cuties you find in most stores around California, then you will Love these satsuma mandarins.

Some of you might be skeptical, but I find any citrus fruit is best fresh from the tree.  Not the citrus that has been transported for days and sat in stores for days (not to mention the chemicals used to process and clean the fruit).  The next best is organic, local citrus at the grocery store.  But if you really want the best experience, order online direct from a Citrus farm.

I get some satsuma's in my Farm Fresh to You boxes, but you can order just satsumas from many farmers here in Northern California.  Now you might wonder, citrus growers in Northern California?  But I thought they grow citrus in Southern California.  And that's true.  But there are always exceptions to the rule and you can grow citrus here in Northern California.  I have some of my own citrus trees, but my satsuma is just a baby yet.  You can even attend the satsuma mandarin festival, which I would really like to check out one of these days.  Click here for information on the festival and the farmers you can order from.

My box of satsuma's came in just before Christmas.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Christmas in Wine Country

There are so many places and events in both Napa and Sonoma County during the holidays.  This Christmas we decided to attend the Napa B&B Holiday Tour, which features local B&B's, artists/musicians, restaurants/chefs, and wineries/breweries.  It is worth the money to attend and have a taste of local foods and drinks as well as touring each B&B.  The money from the tickets go to local charities which I think is a great idea.

I loved the decorations and entertainment at each B&B, some B&B owners even told you about some of the history of their building.  You couldn't get any better. 

The food was delicious as well as the different tastings of wine and beer.  I loved being able to sample the wines and find out which ones you liked (or least liked in some cases).  Even the two breweries were great.  Artisan or local breweries (depending on who you talk to) are the best!  No huge commercial beers in cans here, please.  And don't worry about driving, there are buses to transport you to the B&B's that are too far apart to walk and the rest are within walking distance.   Everybody was friendly, helpful if you had questions and just a pleasure to meet.

 The stain glass in many of the B&B's was stunning, but then I love stain glass windows. 

Next time you are looking for something to do around the holidays take a look at the events locally or other areas and find something new to try.  If you decide to try this tour please click here for details.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Monday's Tip of the Month: Canned Foods

There is a great debate about BPA and the health affects.  Personally, I don't know why they need to use BPA in canned foods (other than they want the product to last a long time on the shelf).  And if you are into being green and sustainable the debate is canned versus frozen foods.

I weigh in on the frozen food side.  I do not want BPA in my foods and have not bought ANY canned foods since last year.  The biggest culprit is canned tomatoes.  From what I read, the acidity in the tomatoes is more likely to absorb BPA which is then leached into our food. 

My solution?  I buy fresh organic fruits and vegetables, which I in turn cook, can or freeze myself.  If I am in a hurry or it's not in season then I buy frozen organic produce.  No canned foods in my household. 

But wait, what about those canned beans?  Say no to those too.  I buy dried beans, which are much cheaper anyways.  Usually I plan ahead and soak the beans overnight and then cook and add to my dish.  If that takes too much time, here is what I learned from Rachael Ray's Cooking show; freeze the cooked beans.  Yes that's right, once you have cooked the beans you can freeze them and you have beans that will be ready for any dish you are cooking. 

Happy New Year!

2012 is officially here.  With that comes New Years resolutions and a look back at 2011.  This year make your resolutions attainable and specific.  I hope each of you had a wonderful holiday season and are ready for the new year that lies ahead of us. 

Here a few things that you can look forward to on my blog:

1. Christmas in the Wine Country
2. Filati Yarn Shop
3. Sewing Projects
4. Crochet Projects
5. Cooking and Baking
6.  And so much more

Stay tuned for my Etsy shop that I will be working in the coming months.  I will also be posting a monthy Monday Tip of the Month. for 2012.