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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Defrost Turkey Overnight


Defrosting a turkey overnight can be achieved provided you follow these explicit directions and defrost with cold water.  There are two methods that you can use to defrost a turkey in cold water. Of course I learned   these methods of quick defrosting the hard way and this is why I can share what I learned with all of you.

Can't roast a frozen turkey


Picture this, Thanksgiving many years ago I wanted to prepare dinner for my in-laws.  I recall the situation as if it was yesterday, I had to work and prepare the house for my in-laws and I was stressed out. Needless to say at 5:00 pm on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving I realized that the turkey was frozen.  Normally I defrost the turkey in my refrigerator for 24 hours for every 4-5 lbs and that generally takes me 4 to 5 days, but somehow I missed that step and my turkey was frozen solid.


At that point I felt helpless and I sat down and cried.  My husband heard me sobbing and came into the kitchen, when he arrived I had mascara down to my chin and the frozen turkey was on the counter.  He asked me what I was crying about and all I could do was point to the bird.    He shook his head and replied no problem.  So if you forgot to take your turkey out to defrost…and it is frozen solid on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving then remember these word…No Problem. 

Note:  There are two ways to defrost your turkey quickly; running cold water and the cold water submerge.

Running Cold Water

Remove all food from the counter tops.  Clean your kitchen sink with antibacterial cleaner, then set a cooling rack inside the sink.  The cooling rack or another grated rack will work; you will use this to prop up the turkey so it is not sitting flat in the sink, and the rack will allow the water to drain.  Set the turkey in the air-tight wrapper on top of the rack in the sink.

Turn the cold water on and let the water spill over the turkey in a steady stream.  Leave the cold water run over the turkey over night.  The cold water will defrost the turkey; this is a safe method with no bacteria growth. In the morning the turkey will be defrosted.

Note:  Allow the water to run down the drain do not allow the turkey to sit in standing water unless you intend on doing a cold water submerge.

Cold Water Thawing

In order to defrost your turkey quickly you would need to sanitize your sink with antibacterial or bleach.  Next check the wrapper to make sure that it is air tight.  You do not water to absorb into the turkey and also an air tight wrapper will prevent contamination from airborne bacteria. Fill your sink with cold tap water and then submerge the turkey into the cold water.

Keep the turkey in the water for 30 minutes and then drain the water and refill the sink with cold water again.  Repeat the step for submerging turkey in the sink of cold water.  Change the water every 30 minutes until the turkey is thawed.  

Note: When the turkey is thawed you must cook it immediately.  For a 16 pound turkey it took 8 hours to thaw and we drained and changed the cold water 16 times.
_____________________________________________
For more information of defrosting turkey read USDA Food Safety


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hiking In Autumn - How to Plan a Hike


Hiking in is one of my favorite things to do. I enjoy being outdoors and adore a scenic trail that will allow me to watch birds, wildlife and view the foliage. I also enjoy taking photographs of the beauty that surrounds me.  

Today was a beautiful Indian summer day, the sun was bright and the temperature was in the mid 50's. So I set off on the trail close to my home with my border collie Jerry. 

My dog Jerry has hiked with me for the past 11 years and his footing is precise and knows when I should be cautious. He has pulled me away from steep terrain, rushing water, and has stopped me from going down many trails. Jerry looks out for me whenever I am hiking in the woods by my home.
My border collie Jerry walking on nature trail

If I am familiar with the trail I will hike with my trusted friend Jerry, otherwise for nature hikes in state parks I always go with a group of friends. When you hike with friends it is enjoyable, it is also safer especially if you are unfamiliar with the terrain. Plan your hike on a sunny day when there is no wind. 
Make a list of all of the nature trails in your area.  Contact the park ranger to see if there are any special hikes; owl watch, wildlife or beaver watches are a few of my favorite hikes that I like to go on.  The Audubon Nature Center conducts seasonal hikes where you can learn more about nature.  Plan your nature hike by selecting an upcoming walk or hike at your local nature center or state park.

For short day hikes bring a backpack and fill it with; plenty of water, a cell phone, first aid kit, insect repellent, toilet paper, sun screen, rain gear, binoculars, camera, magnifying glass, fruit, protein bar and a nonperishable sandwich.  Rain gear is important because the weather can change and the gear will block wind, sleet and rain.  Dress in clothing that is comfortable and not binding and wear layers, you can always take something off and place in your backpack if you are warm, however if you are cold you cannot put on a sweatshirt if you do not have one. Always wear a shoe made for hiking as it will help you hold your footing of uneven terrain.

Whenever I arrive at a state park I will check in with the park ranger, this is a safety precaution as well as an inquiry about the trails. Some trails may be under water, in repair and some may have reports of bear or bobcat. So it is always best to check in with the ranger before you start down a trail that you are unfamiliar with.
I like to hike in the morning as that is when the birds are most active. 

Sunset hikes are scenic and you can get some great photographs of wildlife, however wildlife comes out at sunset to forage and I prefer to view the end of the day in a populated area of the park. 

Autumn is my favorite time of the year; the leaves on the trees are brightly hued in gold, red, and yellow and orange and the air is fresh.

If you love nature then why don't you plan a nature hike for you and your family. Don't let the autumn season pass you by.  Go outdoors and enjoy nature; after all, nature is God’s gift to us.

Note:  Hiking is a great way to exercise and if you choose to climb hillsides or go down steep terrain you will get a good cardiovascular workout.




Monday, November 15, 2010

Delicious Homemade Chocolate Candy Recipe

  
Homemade chocolate candy will satisfy your sweet cravings.  When it comes to making an dessert for gatherings I like to make this chocolate candy. This recipe is quick and easy to make and the candy is rich and chocolaty with the nutritional benefit of almonds. Make some chocolate candy today for your family or for your fiends; everyone loves this candy as it is chocolate pleasure.

My mom was a chocolate lover and would make this recipe on the stove sometimes she would add strawberries or cherries but most of the time she added almonds.  The semi sweet chocolate morsels blend perfectly with the almonds making this candy a delicious treat.


To make this chocolate candy recipe you will need:   double boiler or 1 large and 1 medium saucepan.  24 oz semi sweet chocolate morsels, ½-cup sliced almonds, paper baking cups, and an air tight container for storage. I do not have a double boiler so I filled a large sauce pan with water and set a medium sized saucepan inside of the large pan.  The bottom need to touch the water.  You do not want to fill the water so high that it would spill onto the stove. 

Set the saucepans on the stove and turn the burner to low.  Melt chocolate slowly.  

When the water starts to simmer you would pour the chocolate in the upper pan and stir the chocolate as it melts.  When all of the chocolate is melted you would add your almonds, and (optional 1/4 cup of frozen cranberries or small strawberries.)  
 Note: if you add fruit to your candy you would blend the fruit into the chocolate so that fruit is not bruised.  

When the almonds or fruit is mixed well you would remove the double boiler from the stove and allow the chocolate candy to rest for 5 to 10 minutes or until it thickens.  Then take one teaspoon of the candy and form a ball. Set the chocolate balls into paper baking cups.  Allow the candy to set until it has completely cooled.  Serve the candy to your friends and family.  
Serve chocolate almond candy: Image by Susan Golis
 Note: If you do not want to make the candy balls you can pour the chocolate mixture into a baking dish, thin set chill for 30 minutes then remove and break into individual pieces. 



Thursday, November 11, 2010

Make a Harvest Wreath for Front Door

Make a Harvest wreath:  By Susan Golis

A harvest wreath is a practical way to decorate in Thanksgiving as you can make it the first week of autumn and display it throughout the  season. 

 I make a harvest wreath every year and hang it on my front door as I find that it improves my homes curb appeal.  

The wreath is made from material found in my yard and garden and berries that I have gathered from the woods.  By using material from nature makes the  harvest wreath eye appealing.


Instructions: 

Make the wreath by using grapevine, straw, branches or a ready made evergreen wreath like the one I made in the photo. 

Gather the material that you need to make a natural wreath.  Plan a autumn hike through a meadow or at a park.  

Take along a bag and gather colorful autumn leaves, dried flowers with attractive seed heads, winter berries, acorns, ornamental grasses plumes and pine cones. Go to the farmers market and buy and dried fragrant lavender, or rosemary.  

Pick up eucalyptus branches with leaves, dried blazing star liatris flowers or fresh or silk chrysanthemums .  All of these materials will make a colorful and interesting harvest wreath.  



Set all of your materials for the wreath on a work table.  The wreath goes in the center of the table and the materials are set to the side of the wreath as it is easy to design your wreath when materials are close by.

Treat all materials gathered from nature pests or insects.  

Attach a bunch of fragrant herbs by wrapping a wire round the stem.  Tuck the ends of the herb bunch into the wreath and then attach the wire to the base of the wreath.  For dried fruit and nuts I will use my hot glue gun to attach to the wreath.  

Create a wreath that is colorful and well balanced.

Tips
Recycle the evergreen harvest wreath by decorating it for the winter season and hang it on your garden gate.

You will benefit from a wreath that is made fresh using natural material especially if you add dried fragrant herbs. I grow English lavender and find the dried stems and purple blooms add  a fresh scent and the color makes the harvest wreath more festive.



 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Make Roses from Maple Leaves

Make roses from maple leaves and use them for a fall centerpiece.  If you are crafty and good with your hands you must make these roses made from maple leaves. I came across this blog this morning and was so impressed that I tried my hand at these maple leaf rose beauties. To do this project I gathered three sugar maple leaves for each rose,  The leaves that I picked were still on the tree. They had full autumn color however because they were still on the tree they were easier to work with. I collect various colors from the sugar maple trees. I had yellow, golden, orange and a bright florescent red orange leaves.
 I tried my hand at making these roses made from maple leaves, I will admit it looks easier than it actually is. I will continue to practice and if I complete the task and make a perfect maple leaf rose I will share the image. Here is the link for the instructions. If you do happen to succeed in making the roses please leave me a comment.

Making roses out of maple leaves is a great way to spend the afternoon with your children. Make this craft a family activity.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Spooky Halloween Branch Decoration - DIY



Get your spook on with this easy Do it yourself Halloween branch container.  If you are on a budget or prefer not to buy expensive seasonal decorations then you will find this branch and orange light Halloween container to be easy to make with huge results. Plan to make this container with your children, Allow them to help gather branches and then to decorate with lights and pumpkin or spider garland.

The branch decoration looks great when you add lights and place at front door or entrance to your porch. You could make a few and line your walkway or driveway! Here are some easy to follow tips on how to make a Halloween branch planter.

What you need to complete DIY Halloween Decoration

Black spray paint
9 inch container
Strand of 200 orange lights
Plastic tarp
Quick drying cement
Small skulls
Hot glue gun
Halloween garland
Branches  that are gathered from your yard or bought from craft store




Collect branches from the park or your backyard. You will need 12 branches for one container. Choose thin straight branches that are 18-28 inches in length.

Clean the branches by removing leaves or other small branches.  Then use a wire brush to scrub the branch this will lend for a smooth surface.  Set the branches on top of the tarp, space them ½ inches apart.  

Spray the branches with black paint. Wait for the branches to dry before turning them over to paint the backside.   While branches are drying you would then spray paint the container black. 

Plug up the drainage holes in the container and then add quick cement powder to the container.  Mix with water until you form cement like substance. Gather the black branches in your hand, and align as if you are making a bouquet. Grasp the ends of the branches to hold them tightly together. 

Put the branches in the center of the pot, continue to hold them together.  When the cement starts to dry and is holding the branches securely you can let go of the branches.  

Allow the cement to dry completely before moving on to the decoration of the branches.

Decorate the black branches with orange or purple lights.  Add festive pumpkin garland.

Take your glue gun and attach the small plastic skulls or spiders to the planter. Place your branch decorative planter at your entrance way, plug in and your Halloween branch container will light up your porch.

Tips
  • Be creative
  • Wear a mask when painting, to protect your lungs from paint fumes








Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hearty Italian Minestrone Soup Recipe





Make this classic Minestrone soup on a cold autumn day and it will chase the chill away.  A bowl of this hearty beef and vegetable soup served with crusty Italian bread makes a satisfying meal for your family.   I learned this Minestrone recipe from my mother-in-law. She made this recipe for a very long time, and when I lived in Florida I would visit my mother-in-law and it did not matter what season it was there was always a pot of minestrone soup in the refrigerator, freezer or simmering on the stove.  This soup is a classic in every Italian household.  It is as popular as the tomato sauce.


In the autumn season I enjoy hearty soups.  I will make the soup in the morning and allow it to simmer on the stove all day.  That way if anyone comes over I will offer them a bowl of soup.  Having the soup on the stove is a good way to warm up, especially if it is a cool or cold fall or winter day.  If you enjoy making soup then you will love this recipe. The soup is quick and easy to make, I hope that this recipe will become one of your family favorites.


Note:  This recipe was not shared with me immediately; I was married 16 years and lived in another state when my mother-in-law gave me her recipe for classic minestrone soup.  I think I got the recipe then only because my husband was sick and she did not have enough time to make fresh soup, pack carefully and ship it overnight.


Here is the recipe....enjoy!

Gather your ingredients for Hearty Italian Minestrone  Soup




3 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 lb of lean ground beef

1 diced onion

7 ounces of sliced carrots

7 ounces of diced celery

24 ounces of diced canned tomatoes

1 cup of cooked red kidney beans

1 cup of cooked white kidney beans

44 ounces of reduced fat beef stock

1 ½ teaspoon of oregano

1 tablespoon of chopped garlic

½ teaspoon of basil

2 ½ teaspoons of parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

½ teaspoon of tobasco pepper sauce

24 ounces of spaghetti sauce

4 ounces of shell macaroni

Stockpot



Turn your stove burner on to medium high. 


Add the olive oil to the stockpot and heat.  Next, add the lean ground beef.  Cook the beef until it starts to brown.


Add the onion, carrots, celery, garlic to the stockpot and saute.


Next, add your diced tomatoes and tomato sauce, beef stock your spices, salt, pepper and tobasco pepper sauce.


Stir the ingredients.  Turn the heat down to medium and allow the ingredients to simmer for ten minutes.


While soup is simmering, drain and rinse your kidney beans.


After ten minutes, you will add the beans to your soup, and the macaroni.  Stir all ingredients.


Simmer the soup for 45 minutes to an hour.  Stir the soup every 5-7 minutes to prevent it from sticking to the pot.

Tips:


Serve the soup in bowls garnished with freshly grated Romano cheese


Store the soup in a covered container in your refrigerator up to five days.

It is Okay to freeze the minestrone soup.

Here is a recipe for another delicious soup recipe.  



Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Autumn Activities Keeping Warm Outdoors


The weather in my hometown has been gorgeous: daytime temperature in the mid-70's and at night the temperature was in the 50's. No need to turn on the heat, we just snuggled under a lofty down comforter and sleep all night long.  How I love this autumn fair weather and I was hoping the temperature would never end however today it was rather crisp and the air was cold enough for me to put on socks and a sweater. 

Normally I spend the morning hours outdoors; I will walk with my dog in the woods, looking for insects, wildlife or unusual leaves or rock formation. I am happiest when I am taking photographs of nature. 

 Today my husband and I ventured out for an off trail hike along the oak tree ridge.  We hiked to the highest elevation and could not descend downward as we had planned because my feet, hands and nose were cold.   I assumed the day would warm up but instead dark clouds rolled in and the air became colder.  Autumn is a season when one day can be sunny and warm and the next day can be cold. Today I obviously was not prepared and did not dress properly as I was freezing.


This weekend my region will be in peak color for the autumn season.  The change in weather is not going to stop me from experiencing it and I intend to spend a few days hiking and taking photographs of waterfalls.  I will pack a hat, gloves thermal shirt and rain gear, that way I will be ready for any change in  weather. 





If you have plans to hike or spend time outdoors this autumn, think ahead and take clothing that will keep you warm as the weather could be lovely in the morning and cold in the afternoon.

If you plan on hiking on trail or off, never hike alone as it is not safe, hike with friends, or spend quality time with your family.  If you are hiking at a state park, stop at the park ranger’s office to inquire about safe trails.  It is always a good idea to check in with the park ranger especially if you are not familiar with the park.  The ranger will note your time of arrival and will watch for your departure.

 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Hunt for Chanterelle Mushrooms in Autumn


Hunting for chanterelle mushrooms is a fun activity especially if you enjoy hiking in the woods and viewing wildlife. My husband and I discovered that the heavily wooded landscape that surrounds the Ozark Mountains is an ideal hunting ground for wild mushrooms. We took a stroll in the woods in the middle of September and discovered many mushrooms however most of the fungi that we found was highly toxic. Therefore we needed to do some research to learn more about wild mushrooms. 

Image Credit Wikipedia Creative Commons
The library had many books on mushrooms grown in the wild.  We studied the books and learned the characteristics of the Chanterelle mushroom;  they have a sweet scent like apricots and that they do not grow in rotting wood, but rather in areas close to the ground by oak, pine, birch, maple and other hardwood trees. We also learned that the best time of the year to hunt for these mushrooms in the wild was September through October and if the weather continued to be mild you could hunt for them in early November. 

The chanterelle mushroom is easy to locate as long as you keep your eyes on the soil line, they are a brightly hued orange-yellow, although there is a copycat mushroom that is highly poisonous. So you need to be certain that what you are picking is a chanterelle mushroom.  After weeks of studying books on wild mushrooms we decided it was to our best interest to hire a mushroom picker to make sure that what we found was edible. My brother volunteered his services and thus it was a fun autumn family activity.

We selected a day in autumn when there was rain in the forecast and we prepared for the day by gathering our rain gear, hiking boots and pest repellent.The expert mushroom picker met with us in the morning and we spend most of the days in the woods hunting for wild chanterelle mushrooms. 

Note:  Hunting for wild mushrooms is nothing like strolling down a nature trail, to be successful in mushroom hunting you need to go off trail and walk through leaf piles, climb over timber and cross over streams.  You may find the mushrooms in moss or pine needles and it will require you to gently move the moss or needles away from the mushroom stalk and you may get your hands dirty.   If this is not to your liking then trust me hunting wild chanterelle mushrooms is not a hobby for you.  




Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mom's Homemade Chocolate Walnut Brownies


Mom's homemade chocolate walnut brownies are for anyone who loves rich chocolaty brownies with a hint of walnuts.  These brownies are sensational and will satisfy your cravings.  Whenever I feel a craving coming on for these rich and chewy dark chocolate brownies, I need to stop what I am doing and make a batch.  

 As far back as I can remember my mom would make these brownies for us for dessert on Sunday.  She would serve them warm from the oven with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce.  I remember I would close my eyes whenever I took the fist bite, and as the chocolate and the ice cream melted in my mouth I always thought that I must be in heaven.  Mom's chocolate  walnut brownies are a timeless pleasure for the chocolate lover.

 If you are craving chocolate then follow these tips and make this recipe for homemade chocolate walnut brownies. One bite and you will know that they are worth the effort.

Gather products and ingredients for chocolate walnut brownies.  Set everything on the kitchen counter. 

Note I modernized this recipe; Mom melted the butter and chocolate on the stove and I use the microwave.


 4 squares of unsweetened, all natural chocolate 
¾ cup of no salt butter 
 ½ tablespoon of no salt butter 
3 eggs (or egg beaters)
2 cups of sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla (all natural)
1 cup flour 
1 cup chopped walnuts
½ tablespoon of no salt butter



13x9x2 Glass baking dish 
Medium size microwavable bowl  
Apron  
Wire whisk 
Mixing spoon  
Measuring cup  
Teaspoon  





The first step in making  chocolate walnut brownies is to adjust the oven rack to the center. Then turn on the oven heat to 325 F for glass baking dish.  Let the oven preheat while you prepare the brownies. 

Chop the chocolate with a knife.  Add the chocolate and butter into a microwavable bowl. Set the heat on high and heat for two minutes or until both butter and chocolate are melted. 

Remove the bowl from the microwave and stir the chocolate with your wire whisk. Make sure the chocolate is completely melted if not put back in the microwave. 

When the chocolate is melted add the sugar to the chocolate and stir. 

Next, add the eggs and the vanilla. Mix these ingredients with your wire whisk.  When the sugar, chocolate, eggs, and vanilla are blended, you would then add the flour and the nuts. 

Use a large mixing spoon to mix all of your ingredients until blended.

Grease your baking dish with no salt butter. Spread your brownie mixture into the baking dish. Bake the brownies for 30 to 35 minutes. Check to see if the brownies are done by Inserting toothpick into the center of the brownies. If the toothpick is clean when you remove it from the brownies are ready to come out of the oven.

Tips: 
Chocolate is rich in antioxidants and thus makes the brownie a healthy snack or dessert for your family and friends.  

For a healthier brownie substitute white all purpose flour with whole wheat flour. 

Here is a food network video showing you the BEST brownies:  enjoy....








Brownie image credit: jeffreyw, Wikipedia creative commons attribution 2.0