Vanilla Prices Increase

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I prefer to use pure vanilla extract in my baking versus imitation. Yes, it is more expensive, but the flavor is so much better and worth it. Savory Spice Shop has some of the best vanilla I have ever used. 

I had commented to Tim several months ago that the price of pure vanilla extract has sure gone up recently. He found that the beans are being stolen! Then I recently received an email from Savory Spice Shop stating that not only were the beans being stolen, Cyclone Enawo hit Madagascar and had ruined crops. 

Keeping up with demand has been tough. There is a process called quick curing that uses “green” vanilla beans. Flavor houses are buying as much as they can, and this increases the value of the green vanilla beans. The increased value has lead to the beans being stolen. How crazy is that?

Picking them green offers a lower quality vanilla flavor. There is a product that is now being offered that is made with all natural products. This includes leaves from the plants. 

The product Savory Spice Shop is now offering is Natural Vanilla Extract. I will definitely be giving this product a try. Please consider giving it a try for your holiday baking. 

Here is a link to the full article about the vanilla beans. I find it both sad and interesting. 

https://www.savoryspiceshop.com/gather-round-the-table/vanilla-bean-dilemma.html?utm_source=newsl
Thank you for stopping by!

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Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Potato Soup (changed up a bit)

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My friend Leslie added me to a soup group on Facebook, and it has somewhat inspired me to try making some soups.  I have always enjoyed soups from the everyday chicken noodle soup to gumbos to chilis. YUM!  I will eat veggies in soup that I would not otherwise eat. Yep, I’m an odd one!  Ask Tim, he will tell you! 🙂

Seriously though, I found this recipe, and I thought it sounded pretty good.  I did change it up a bit.  I will post it as I made it and share the link to the original recipe for you.

I did try to get the soup a bit creamier, but I do not yet have an immersion blender.  I tried using my Magic Bullet to mash up the taters, but it would kind of spit at me as I opened the cover. I didn’t want to get burned, so I abandoned that idea and said good enough!

I am not a huge fan of celery so I added more carrots and reduced the amount of celery. Tim and I both love bacon. I put in a half pound of bacon.  I will definitely add a full pound of bacon next time. I also completely forgot to add the parsley. OOPS! I think it was just fine without it.  We will be freezing some of this.  I am hoping the taters freeze well.

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Healthy Slow Cooker Chicken Potato Soup

Ingredients:
One pound bacon
1 Tablespoon butter
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and sliced thin (I had red potatoes so used those)
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
3 cups sliced carrots
1 cup sliced celery
8 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup fresh chopped parsley
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (You can use black if you prefer.)
1 bay leaf

Directions:
Bake bacon on cookie sheets with parchment paper at 375 degrees for about 12 minutes (check to see if it is done enough for you). I let it cool a bit and broke it up into small pieces. Or you can fry the bacon and cook the onions and garlic in the bacon grease.
Place skillet over medium heat, add butter, onions and garlic. Saute to soften and add to crock pot with bacon pieces.
Cube chicken breast into bite size cubes and place on top of the onions and bacon. Add sliced potatoes, carrots, celery, chicken broth, thyme, bay leaf and pepper. Place the lid on the slow cooker. Turn on high and cook for 8-12 hours (mine was done in 6 1/2 hours on high). Stir occasionally until the potatoes are extremely soft.
Stir soup vigorously to break up the potatoes and thicken the broth. (You can make it extra creamy by partially pureeing the soup with an immersion blender or place 1 1/2 cups of the soup in a regular blender, puree, and then stir back into the crock pot.).
Remove bay leaf before serving.
Add fresh parsley, Stir well. Serve well topped with low fat cheese if desired.

Enjoy

The original recipe can be found here: http://www.aspicyperspective.com/healthy-slow-cooker-chicken-potato-soup/

 

Halloween Hedgehogs

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Happy Halloween everyone!  I hope your day is filled with treats! 🙂

I made this Halloween card for a special lady. She is my friend Holly’s Mom.  I hope she liked it. I hope she smiled.  That is the goal.

These lil hedgehogs were popular back in the day, and I still have the few sets I bought.  I am not a huge fan of coloring, but the Watercolor Pencils are the easiest method I have. I color with the pencils and smooth it out with the Blender Pens.  I am not very good at coloring, and yes, I still color outside the lines. 🙂

Stampin’ Up! Product:
Stamp Set: Halloween Hedgehogs
Card Stock: Pumpkin Pie
Ink: Memento Tuxedo Black
Other: Polka Dots embossing folder, Top Note die for the Big Shot, Watercolor Pencils (retired set, not the current set), Blender Pens

NON SU! Product
Papertrey Ink white card stock

Thank you for stopping by!

Booglie Eyes!

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I didn’t forget to post! It has been a crazy busy week.

I managed to get a few Halloween cards made and sent out this year. I have four very retired Halloween stamp sets from of course Stampin’ Up! They are far too cute to sell though. 

Booglie Eyes has always been fun. Sometimes I even remember to adhere googie eyes onto the images! I know they are here in my card making room…somewhere! 

The witch has always cracked me up! She looks as frazzled as I feel some days! 😊 These were stamped with Memento Tuxedo Black ink and then colored with the old Stampin’ Up! Watercolor Pencils. I then used a  blender pen to smooth out the colored pencil. 

Remember way back when eyelets were all the rage? I have a ton of them left! I used a couple of Lovely Lilac here. Thank God for the Crop-o-dile so we no longer had to pound away with our hammer and eyelet setter kit! 

Stampin’ Up! Product:
Stamp Set: Booglie Eyes
Card Stock: Lovely Lilac
Ink: Memento Tuxedo Black
Other: retired Watercolor Pencils, Blender Pens, Top Note Die, Lovely Lilac eyelets, Crop-o-dile

Non SU! Product:
Papertrey Ink white card stock, swirls embossing folder

Thank you for stopping by! 😊

Skillet Garlic Parmesan Chicken Thighs

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I am always looking for new ways to serve chicken thighs.  This one uses stuff that both Tim and I like. Ok, let me be totally honest here. Tim is probably the least picky person I have ever met! EVER!  I am the picky one.  Honest!

I am out of red pepper flakes, so I skipped those, and I am not fond of chives, so I skipped those too!  Otherwise, I thought this was pretty good.

I did not use boneless, skinless chicken thighs, so I put seasoning under the skin and on top of the skin. It did take longer to cook, but it was still very tasty! 🙂

Skillet Garlic Parmesan Chicken Thighs

Ingredients:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt (I just used a dash.)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon olive oil

Parmesan Garlic Sauce
3 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan + 1 Tablespoon to garnish
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 Tablespoon chopped chives

Directions:
In a small bowl, add garlic powder, ground cumin, salt, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika and black pepper. Mix together and set aside.
Pat the chicken thighs dry.
Sprinkle chicken thighs with the prepared spice mix. Gently rub the mix into the thighs.
Heat a large cast iron skillet (I used my usual Calphalon pan.) to medium high heat. Add 1 Tablespoon olive oil to the pan and then place the chicken thighs into the pan. You want to hear them sizzle.
Saute on the first side for 5-6 minutes. Flip the chicken, turn the heat down to medium, and cook the chicken for 8-10 minutes until you don’t see any pink.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set on a plate.
Turn the heat down to low. Add to the skillet the butter, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic. Using a spoon or a whisk, scrape all of the goodies off the bottom of the pan. Stir until garlic is fragrant and butter has melted.
Add in the Parmesan cheese, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes. Whisk to stir everything together. Place the chicken back in the skillet and let cook for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat.
Using a spoon, pour some of the sauce over each chicken thigh.
Garnish with 1 Tablespoon Parmesan and chopped chives

Enjoy!

recipe from http://www.joyfulhealthyeats.com/skillet-garlic-parmesan-chicken-thighs/

Newton’s Nook Pet Sympathy Card

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My dear friend Linda’s kitty passed away. I know Linda was very fond of her kitty, and I felt so sad for her.  I made a fall themed card to send her my sympathies.

I had looked for quite a while to find a stamp set for the loss of a pet.  I never seemed able to find the right one.  Then this set came along!  Furr-ever Friends is the perfect (or purr-fect) set to make pet sympathy cards, and the best part is that there is a matching die set (Furr-ever Friends Die Set).  Check them out! http://www.newtonsnookdesigns.com/furr-ever-friends/

I was super excited to find out that Newton’s Nook is in Wisconsin. I love supporting local small businesses, and this is a great one. I am quickly finding that they have great stuff, they have fast shipping, and great customer service.

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I have said before that sympathy cards should not be flashy, and this is pretty colorful for a sympathy card. I really like how it turned out though!

As it turns out, Newton’s Nook is having an Inky Paws Challenge over on their blog, so I will be entering this card.

Products Used:
Stamp Set: Furr-ever Friends by Newton’s Nook
Card Stock: Papertrey Ink white, Stampin’ Up! More Mustard
Ink: Memento Tuxedo Black, Kaleidocolor Ink Pad – Pumpkin Patch
Other: Scallop circle punch, Stampin’ Up! 2 3/8 scallop circle punch

Thank you for stopping by!  Please stop on over at Newton’s Nook and take a look around!

http://www.newtonsnookdesigns.com/

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

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Hello everyone!

Just a  quick reminder for the ladies that follow my blog to be sure to get your mammogram if you have not this year yet.  Breast cancer can be beat if caught early.  Please talk to your health care provider.  With most insurances, a mammogram is a preventative item, so it is usually paid in full. It is so worth it to get checked.

I had a mammogram and ultrasound in March due to some irregularities.  I was supposed to have a follow up here in October, but my insurance will only cover one mammogram per year. I will hopefully follow up in January when I yet again get new insurance.  I hope and pray ’til then that nothing has changed.

Please take care of yourself!

 

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

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I have had this dish at one of our local favorite Italian restaurants, and I have been wanting to try to make it at home.  I found a great deal at the farmers market recently – three eggplants for $1!  I figured it wasn’t going to get any cheaper than that for a test run on a recipe, so I bought them!

I like this recipe because the eggplant is baked and not fried.  Healthier is better right?!

One of the reasons I have held off on making this dish is because of the salting of the eggplant before you cook with it. I was worried I would do it wrong.  It is so easy!  Please allow yourself some time if you are going to make this recipe so that you can cut and salt your eggplant for a while before cooking.  I let mine sit for 45 minutes before rinsing.  I cut the eggplant, salted it, let it sit, and then rinsed it under cold water.

I have to say, I was not feeling anywhere near 100% when I made this, and I didn’t have the fresh basil.  I still thought it tasted great, and Tim seemed to enjoy it as well.

I think because I used smaller sized eggplants, I may have baked it a bit too long as it was kind of mushy.  However, it still had excellent flavor.  I served it over some penne pasta.

This recipe came from Gimme Some Oven.com at http://www.gimmesomeoven.com/baked-eggplant-parmesan-recipe/

Baked Eggplant Parmesan

Ingredients:
2 medium eggplants, sliced into 1/2 inch thick rounds
salt
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs
1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning (I use Savory Spices blend, and we love it!)
2 eggs
cooking spray (I did not use this.)
1 25 ounce jar tomato sauce (I used spaghetti sauce.)
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese (I used shredded.)
2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped or julienned fresh basil
(I also picked up a small 8 ounce can of tomato sauce to pour into the bottom of the pan.)

Directions:
OPTIONAL (But recommended) first step: If you have time and want to remove some of the bitterness from the eggplant, sprinkle each round with a bit of salt. Place the rounds in a colander in the sink to drain, or place them on a few paper towels (my choice) for about 30 minutes. Rinse off the salt water, then proceed with the recipe.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prepare 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, and set aside. (I had smaller eggplant, and it all fit on one baking sheet.)

In a shallow bowl, whisk together the Panko bread crumbs, Italian seasoning and 1 teaspoon salt until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs until smooth. Dip an eggplant round on both sides in the whisked egg mixture then immediately dip it in the bread crumb mixture until the eggplant is completely covered, then set on the parchment paper lined baking sheet. Repeat with all remaining eggplant rounds. Bake for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through, until the bread crumbs are toasted and slightly golden. Remove from oven and set aside.

Spread 1/2 cup tomato sauce evenly over the bottom of an 11 x 8 inch baking dish (This is where I just poured that small can of tomato sauce in and spread it evenly.). Place half of the eggplant in a mostly even layer along the bottom of the baking dish. Spread an additional 1 cup of tomato sauce over the eggplant. Then sprinkle with one cup mozzarella cheese followed by 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, followed by 1/4 cup of the fresh basil. Repeat with another layer of the remaining eggplant, then tomato sauce, then mozzarella, then Parmesan.

Bake for 15 – 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and starts to turn slightly golden around the edges, and the sauce is bubbly. Remove and sprinkle with the remaining basil. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

The Italian Herbs we love can be found here: https://www.savoryspiceshop.com/spice-blends/italian-herbs.html

Vertical Greetings Thank You Card

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This day got away from me, and I almost missed posting here!

I made a bunch of thank you cards recently, and I have used almost all of them already. It is wonderful to need to send thank you cards! 

This card uses retired Stampin’ Up! In Colors. I love this set of In Colors and use them frequently. 

Vertical Greetings has been retired for some time, but I think it is a fun set! 🙂

Stampin’ Up! Product:
Stamp Set: Vertical Greetings
Card Stock: Crisp Cantaloupe, Pistachio Pudding and Strawberry Slush
Ink: Crisp Cantaloupe, Pistachio Pudding and Strawberry Slush markers
Other: Groovy Guava ribbon, Elegant Butterfly punch

Non SU!: Papertrey white card stock, Cuttlebug embossing folder

Thank you for stopping by. 

When Did It All Become About ME?

In reflecting on all that has been going on in the world lately, I have seen some people posting on social media about how we need to pay more attention to the people involved in whatever incident has happened, and it got me thinking.

I have also read that a lot of the people that commit these terrible acts have “mental issues”.  Is this getting missed because people cannot afford health insurance? Is that really the issue?   Were they on meds, and now they are not because they cannot afford to go to the doc to get updated prescriptions or simply cannot afford the meds?  Have they actually been diagnosed with something?

How can we know which people NEED to be looked at or monitored for these conditions?  We cannot just stereotype in today’s society. That causes another set of issues!

What I do think needs to start happening though is that we need to stop being so all about ME.  We need to pay attention to others when they talk to us. We need to help if others need help. We need to figure out a way to know when people need help but cannot or will not ask for it.

I’m not saying to be the nosy neighbor or coworker, but to just look for clues.  Pay attention to what’s going on around you.  If you see something that isn’t right, report it to the police.

I am just grabbing at random thoughts here, but something needs to happen.  Something needs to change. Our country seems on the fast track to hell.

I don’t know when we turned from wanting to be there and help others to being self centered.  I don’t know how we get back to truly caring about others and not just what they can do for us. Life is NOT all about ME.