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Friday, October 29, 2010


Infrared Charcol - Food Friday

For many years I cooked every weekend on a charcoal kettle.  The charcoal kettle design has been around for decades and has been copied by every barbeque grill manufacturer.   The kettle has been a useful barbeque design because of its ability to control temperatures with vents placed above and below the cooking surface, which also places the vents above and below the burning charcoal.  The placement of the vents and the embers made the kettle capable of very low temperatures, very high temperatures and everything in between.   For a while the charcoal kettle seemed ubiquitous, indicative of suburban family life and I enjoyed starting the process of barbecuing dinner by starting the fire while lunch was digesting.   I loved my charcoal grill and still remember it happily but I found a better way.

Typically a charcoal barbeque kettle has a rounded bottom and two grates inside.  The bottom grid is for the charcoal to sit above the floor allowing air flow under the burning charcoal.  The top grid is the cooking grates for food placement above the burning charcoal.  Vents are closed and opened to varying degrees under the charcoal where the airflow is built into the bottom of the firebox.  The top vents are built into the barbecue hood.  Wide-open vents allow full airflow and greater temperatures and as the vents are closed the temperatures drop and eventually go out when vents allow no airflow. 

What I loved about my charcoal BBQ was this control over the heat.  Traditionally to use the charcoal BBQ the charcoal is left to burn until it burns down to embers with a light coat of gray ash.  Once the charcoal has burned to a glowing red lightly covered with ash the heat radiates strongly off the coals and the amount of heat is controlled with the vents.

What most people love about charcoal is the flavor.  Gas barbecues slowly heat the air trapped inside the BBQ hood and the hot air surrounds the food.  This convection causes the food to cook but it also heats only to about four hundred degrees because of the ability of air to transfer heat.  The materials inside the gas barbeque are not usually enough to radiate an additional heat unless briquettes or lava rocks are used.  When hot air surrounds food inside a gas barbeque at a maximum of four hundred to four hundred fifty degrees the food cooks slow and drips moisture, losing flavor.  In contrast, charcoal is burning wood and the smoky wood flavor is what most people love about charcoal barbecuing.

The charcoal barbeque is not using air to conduct heat although the oxygen is necessary for the flames to continue smoldering.  By the time the charcoal briquettes are smoldering and lightly coated with ash the heat is radiating off the briquettes directly heating the food above it.  This is important because charcoal barbecues can radiate a lot more heat than a typical gas barbeque.  Restaurant quality searing is considered over eight hundred degrees because at temperatures over eight hundred degrees the outside layer of food is seared.  Searing the food on a grill means the food seals so no more flavor is able to escape as dripping.  The natural moisture in the food stays where it belongs as flavor.

A charcoal barbeque grill is capable of barbecuing at very low temperatures for longer times and it is capable of searing steaks fast and hot and there is only one gas grill in existence that can duplicate this versatility.  Thirty years ago a company called Thermal Engineering Corporation (TEC) invented the infrared burner.  The name “infrared” refers to the invisible light of the light spectrum where these heat waves are found.  The important thing is that an infrared gas grill can duplicate the effect of radiant heat ranging from three hundred degrees to over thirteen hundred degrees just below the grilling surface.  The radiant heat is direct providing a seared surface on food is seconds rather than the convectional heat transferred in air.  Infrared gas grills have all the features that cause us to sacrifice flavor for convenience when we buy a gas barbeque but the infrared burner is over one thousand degrees within a minute of pushing the grills’ ignition.

Grilling with an infrared gas grill requires no recipe; no combination of sauces, rubs, spices or marinades is necessary.  An infrared grill produces the effect of a charcoal grill an hour after the coals are initially lit.  Within seconds the pressurized burners are radiating over one thousand degrees searing steaks from the outside and locking in natural moisture and flavor without the ability to cause absorption of carcinogens or carbons that are possible with some brands of charcoal.  An infrared gas grill is all that is good about charcoal and all that is convenient abut a gas barbeque.

Obviously the infrared gas grill is useful when grilling steaks and other red meats because of the high temperature and fast grilling times.  Infrared burners are amazing for grilling fish also.  Wild swordfish steak with a light blackened seasoning rub and lemon juice on an infrared grill is ready to eat in about five minutes.  On a traditional barbeque this would take more than thirty minutes and would produce a much drier dish.  

My family and I find the infrared grill indispensable at home for two reasons.  First, the incredible heat allows cooking times to diminish.  We grill skewers of chicken, frits and vegetables in minutes.  Steaks, hamburgers and fish grill quickly at the cooking surface and hot dogs for the kids can grill from the warming rack about eight inches above the grilling surface.  In addition to speed and flavor the size is convenient.  For two years we used a small portable version of the infrared gas grill manufactured for tailgating and camping.  This small grill was more than enough for a family of four.  Now that we have a twenty-seven inch infrared grill built into an outdoor kitchen we use only half the grilling area except when we have birthday parties and company.

Infrared grilling has simplified home life.  Cooking time is less and sitting with my family eating has grown.  With a maximum temperature of fourteen hundred degrees there is no need to schedule time to clean the grill; it is like a self-cleaning oven.  Recipes have become simpler and flavor has grown although ingredients have diminished.  The infrared gas grill burner is the most technologically advanced form of cooking on the planet and we had to save money for awhile to place one in our home but it has improved our life and our time together which is what we expect from technology anyway.  The fact that we cook together outdoor more often than indoors is an added benefit.

 Submitted by Jason at
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Thursday, October 28, 2010


Three Ways to Teach Kids to Take Care of Their Teeth

Teaching kids how to take care of their teeth can be educational and fun. Here are three simple ways to help!

Build a Basic Routine
Teaching kids about their teeth can start when they’re babies, by rubbing a clean cloth over their gums after feeding. Once your children have transitioned into the toddler stage and teeth appear, use a small toothbrush in the morning and the evening to help keep teeth clean.

Once your children are preschoolers, the habit of taking care of teeth has been firmly established. Your kids will know that in your family, teeth are brushed twice a day with soft-bristled toothbrushes that are replaced every three months. Floss can also be introduced at this stage, cleaning out plaque from in-between teeth.

Use Fun Products
Let your kids have choices when it comes to taking care of their teeth. There’s a variety of kid-friendly products out there, including toothbrushes that have songs and special characters, fun toothpaste, cute reusable cups, and mouthwash that turns your kids' teeth blue where brushing is required.
Have a few different toothbrushes for your kids to choose from, and teach them how to put pea-sized amounts of toothpaste on the bristles. Keep them brushing for extended amounts of time while singing a simple song, like the ABC’s. Don’t forget to review rinsing and spitting!

A Family Affair
Make it a habit to brush and floss your own teeth with your kids, either in the morning or in the evening. As they see you doing it, they will respond to your example and want to be like you. This will give you credibility should there ever be any arguments about the issue.

Make sure to take your kids to the dentist every six months, usually beginning when they are three or four years old. The dentist and dental hygienists will also help teach them the best ways to take care of their beautiful smiles for years to come!

Kelly Wilson is a mom, freelance writer, and money-saver who visits her General Dentist in Vancouver, Washington for regular check-ups and cleanings to preserve her fantastic smile.
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Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Redecorating Your Garage with the Kids

Summer’s still out and the kids are bored, and so are you. You know you need to keep them entertained but the only place you can graciously let them use is the garage, where they can’t scratch the wooden furniture, break the glass ornaments, and make like a race course with your newly polished floor. With all the shelves and stuff in the garage, however, how are you going to keep them entertained? Here are a few ideas. Don’t worry; we’ve got your best interest in mind.

First, if you have a car, park it in the driveway, outside the garage – to keep it out of harm’s way. With kids, you’ll never know what will happen. Now you’ll want to clean the garage floor and remove any grease and whatever dirt and residues there are. You can use Acid Magic to clean the concrete. You can also etch the concrete with fun designs while you’re at it. Once it’s clean you can use it as a mural for the kids to paint on.

Just like your house, the easiest way to use the garage as a children’s activity center is to have them paint on the walls and the flooring. They’re sure to love this because what kid won’t appreciate a huge space that they can paint anything they want on? Watch the smile on their faces when you tell them they can paint what they want. Just remember, use only kid-safe, non-toxic paint.

Another idea is to have the kids draw or paint designs on the cabinets and shelving – the ones that are low enough for them to reach, that is. Think of a theme for them to follow – if your kids are girls, flowers and butterflies would be a good idea. For little boys, how about painting animals or their favorite cartoon? Again, have them use only non-toxic paint.

Another variation to the painting project is to buy cutout stencils (you can get them at any crafts store) and stencil crayons or paints. The stencils will have cutout designs that the kids can paint in. For the younger kids, make it easy by choosing simple stencils, the ones with basic shapes. For the older ones you can get stencils that come in several layers, which they can paint using a different color for each layer. If the kids can draw or paint in a straight line, you might actually get lucky and not have to cover up their artwork later.

If you want the kids to be artistic and productive (meaning helpful) at the same time, how about getting them to help organize things in the garage, but in such a way that they don’t actually feel they’re doing chores? Remember that pegboard you were planning to hang tools from but never got around to installing? You can hang it now and have the kids draw on it, either in freehand or using stencils. Then, get them to hang the hooks on the pegboard. Skip the next step – hanging the tools – because you don’t want a hammer or vise grip to fall on your kid’s toes.

Now if you want them to do an art project and feel that they’re working just like Dad, you can get a bench seat or a small children’s table from a yard sale or the flea market and have them paint it with a design of their choice. They get to place it in their room when it’s finished.

There are many art activities the kids can do to decorate the garage – make wall hangings on bond or craft paper, do little paper cutouts, and even paint a mural on a big piece of fabric to hang on the garage wall. You can use an old desk or changing table as their work bench, and if you place the fabric on top of the table that’ll protect the surface from being painted on.

These should keep the kids busy and your sanity intact. If all else fails, bring them to the park for a game of tag or baseball.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Making the Most of Preschool Educational Tools on a Budget

Children need to be positively stimulated from a very early age if they are every going to be able to achieve their full potential. One way of doing this is to invest in expensive learning tools and educational toys, however such budget breaking measures are not entirely necessary. It is possible to find a wide variety of activities, quizzes and worksheets online to help prepare even the most inquisitive preschooler for the educational journey that lays ahead of them.

Games and Quiz Tools
One of the best places for finding online quizzes with an educational theme is online testing service called ProProfs, a community driven site which provides tools to set up a wide variety of online games and quizzes.

Using ProProfs parents can set up tests for their children, using pictures,video and sound to help make them as stimulating as possible. Quizzes can be set up to provide the right answer in situations when the child has gotten something wrong, as well as providing an automated grading system based on parameters chosen by the quiz creator.

Online quizzes can be a great way to get your child to become familiar with computer technology from an early age. If your child is too young to effectively use a computer, the option always exists to download quizzes that other people have already created, using them offline to better help shape your child's learning experience.

Printable Worksheets
Worksheets come in all kinds of different types, from those that reflect traditional teaching mechanisms such as reading and writing, to ones which make use of more visually orientated learning methods such as connect the dots or drawing.

Many educational institutions provide worksheets for free, making them available in PDF format to download and use as you want. To find free worksheets all you need to do is a normal Google search for terms such as “preschool worksheets”, “printable worksheets” or “<subject name> worksheets” and you should be presented with many places you can download freely available material from.

If you find yourself needing worksheets that cover additional subject matters you can always buy premium educational worksheets and workbooks, either online or from your local bookstore.
A good tip for saving money on printing out (or worse buying) new worksheets every time you want your child to retry a subject is to protect the sheets in hard plastic covers (the kind used for storing photographs in is the best).  By covering the worksheet and getting the kids to use an erasable marker, all you have to do is wipe it off once they are done and the sheet is good to use again. Printing, scanning or photocopying worksheets whenever you need to use them may not seem like a big deal, but the costs really add up, especially in cases where sheets are being used multiple times.

These are just a couple of the ways active parents can help prepare their children for school, whilst not being forced to go outside their budget in order to get the job done. Education is one of the most important aspects of a persons life, if you have any other ways to help prepare a child for school without having to break the bank I would love to hear from you.

This is a guest post by Ann who loves saving money by clipping coupon codes and promo codes.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Draw Plus Math

My son LOVES to draw and loves crafts. What better way to help him learn math than Draw Plus Math.

Enhance Math Learning
Through Art Activities

Studies consistently show that when it comes to mathematics, American students don't come close to the level of achievement reached by their peers around the world. A hot new book promises to solve that problem using art activities to explore basic math concepts.
In her 12th title from Peel Productions, (1-2-3 Draw series total: 23 titles; over 1.5 million sold), Freddie Levin uses her proven, step-by-step drawing instructions to offer lessons that supplement math learning in an innovative way. Draw Plus Math: Enhance Math Learning Through Art Activities presents lessons based on learning goals outlined by the Principles and Standards for School Mathematics, developed by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM;

By enhancing math learning through art activities with exercises and games, Levin turns the sometimes frightening and often challenging concepts of math into something fun and approachable. Colorful robots, critters, odd creatures, and more all play an active role in teaching beginning math concepts.

Veteran teacher Kathy Teitelman comments, "This activity book contains how-to-draw lessons cleverly woven with major math concepts. It's an entertaining way for new math concepts to be introduced to younger students or reviewed by older students."
Story ideas that could be developed using Draw Plus Math
- Math Is All Around Us...Let's Count the Ways
- Shape Up Your Math Skills With Drawings
- Numbers Can Be Fun When You Add a Pencil &
  Some Crayons
"Do your kids like math and art? If so, Draw Plus Math is a book you need in your house! It has step by step drawing lessons in it. However, each lesson also includes some math concepts. They are seamlessly worked in, so that your kids don't even realize they are learning math. With this book, they will learn numbers, counting, addition, subtraction, relative amounts, set and groups, shapes, patterns, symmetry, sorting, relative position, sequence, fractions, graphs, and data analysis....The best part -- your kids will enjoy doing the activities in this book. I know mine did! My six year old could do the math for the majority of the book. I had to help with some of the concepts. However, she was able to do the drawing and was pretty proud of herself. This is just such a great combination of skills to be learning together. I'd recommend this book!"               - Lisa Martin,
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Monday, October 18, 2010


Rekindling Good Penmanship in the Kids

Back in the good old days if one could learn to read, write and do their Arithmetic it was assumed that they were prepared for life. Of course that is going back many years ago. With today's technology of electronic reading books, state of the art calculators and high powered computers there is not much left for the imagination, or the manual development of these skills.

As parents though, without the risk of sounding or acting like we are old fashioned, we can encourage the children to manually apply these much needed skills. One may ask why bother when we have all this modern technology at our fingertips. Perhaps the answer to this would be is to look at some of the downsides of all this modern technology.

  • If the internet is down the kids can't do their homework.
  • If the batteries die in their electronic readers they can't read their books.
  • If the television isn't working then a major meltdown occurs because the video games can't be played.

We could go on with the "what if's"…but having a good alternative to any emergency is a good thing. This means having the good old manual skills in place just in case, so if a "what if" situation occurs in life it is not so devastating.

Being able to write a book report with pen and paper is not so bad. Adding and subtracting a few math questions is not a big deal either. At least being able to count your change when making a purchase without the need of a calculator is beneficial isn't it? Or hey how about reading a book by turning the pages manually as this would afford a little exercise wouldn't it?

Now it may be hard to believe but I am really not against technology, it certainly is a good thing, but I am also a pro advocate of being able to do some things the old way. So I decided to figure out a way to get my eight year old to pick up a pencil and do some good old fashioned writing. Here are a few ideas that I came up with and they really worked.

  • We had to do some grocery shopping so I had her sit at the kitchen table and print out the grocery list in a legible manner so we wouldn't miss anything. My excuse for not doing this on the computer was that I had to be in the kitchen to do an inventory of what foods we needed. She felt very helpful and did an excellent job at preparing the list. This has now become a weekly event for us.
  • Her birthday was coming up and for some reason the printer wasn't working for the computer (hmm), so if she wanted to let us know what choices we had for gifts then she would have to write the list the old fashioned way. The penmanship was perfect because she wanted to make sure we understood everything that she was wanting.

As time progressed we came up with some other nifty ways to get her to practice her writing skills. Now this has worked so well I am designing ways to brush up on the reading and math skills the good old way as well.

This blog post was written by Elisa who is the owner of Milk Nursingwear, an online store that sells nursing camisoles, maternity belly bands and much more.
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Friday, October 15, 2010


Hearty Dinner Entrees

Experience the cuisine of The Legendary Napa Valley – right at home. With delicious recipes developed by several of The Napa Valley’s exceptional chefs, home cooks and their families can now enjoy the fine cuisine of this renowned culinary capital any night of the week, cuisine which places an American spin on notable international entrees.

Cakebreak Cellars in Rutherford offers home cooks an outdoor grill recipe for Thai Beef Brochettes that will excite the senses with an explosion of exotic flavors. The following night, put a fresh spin on a great classic with the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone’s Fresh Pasta with Summer Herbs. And then treat the family to Celadon’s Mongolian Short Ribs. You can travel the world with Napa Valley-born recipes.

For more information on The Napa Valley and its culinary traditions, please visit

Thai Beef Brochettes – Cakebread Cellars

Serves 6

2 lbs. skirt steak, ½ inch dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. oyster sauce
4 tsp. soy sauce

½ pineapple, trimmed and sliced crosswise into rounds
2 T. olive oil
2 red peppers, ½ inch dice
1 red onion, ½ inch dice
12 (9 inch) bamboo skewers, soaked overnight or metal skewers
2 T. grapeseed oil
salt and pepper

3 T. lime juice
4 tsp. fish sauce
1 T. sugar
1 Serrano chili, seeds removed and minced
2 T. fresh basil, chopped

Place the skirt steak in a shallow casserole dish.  Add the garlic, oyster and soy sauces.  Mix well.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2-3 hours or overnight.

Heat the grill to high.  Place a medium size non-reactive sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil, and then add pineapple slices to the pan.  Cook for 2-3 minutes per side until they begin to caramelize.  Remove from pan and let cool.  Cut into ½ inch dice.  Thread alternating pieces of the steak, red pepper and pineapple on each skewer.  Place on a plate.  Lightly brush the brochettes with the grapeseed oil.  Season with salt and pepper. 

Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine the lime juice, fish sauce, sugar and the minced Serrano chili.  Mix well to dissolve the sugar.  Place beef skewers over medium-hot fire for 2 minutes on each side.  Baste  with  the lime juice mixture.  Remove from heat and garnish with the sliced basil.

Enjoy with a glass of Cakebread Cellars Merlot.

Cuban Pulled Pork on Plaintain Chips – Cakebread Cellars

2 ½ lbs. pork butt
3 T. olive oil
3 cloves garlic, mashed
½ habenero chili, seeded and chopped
1 C. peeled, seeded plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. cumin, ground
½ C. orange juice
2 T. lime juice
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper

6 plantains
vegetable oil

¼ C. cilantro, chopped

Cut pork into 2-inch pieces. Trim off any large pieces of fat and discard. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large, wide-bottom skillet over high heat, add the olive oil and sear the pork on all sides in two or three batches. Remove from the pan, pour off all but two tablespoons of oil. Turn the heat to medium and add the garlic and habenero chili. Sautè for a minute to soften without browning the garlic. Add the tomato, oregano, cumin, orange juice, lime juice and bay leaf. Cook for 5 minutes to break down the tomato. Add the pork to the pan, cover and turn to low heat. Cook at a low simmer for one and half hours until pork is tender. Continue cooking for another half hour, partially covered, to allow the braising liquid to reduce and thicken. Remove from the heat and shred the pork with the two forks. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Reserve.

To make the plantain chips, peel and cut the plantain into ¾ inch pieces. Heat a wide-bottom skillet with vegetable oil to a depth of a ½ inch. When oil is hot, add plantain pieces, partially cook on the first side for a couple minutes until very lightly golden brown, turn and continue cooking on the other side to soften slightly. Remove from the oil to a paper towel lined plate. Allow to cool. Place a piece of plantain between two sheets of plastic wrap. Pound with a mallet or the flat side of meat tenderizer to flatten. Repeat with the remaining pieces of plantain. Turn the skillet with the oil to high, and working in batches, fry the plantains on both sides until crisp. Season lightly with salt.

To serve, place a spoonful of the pork mixture on each chip and garnish with the chopped cilantro. Serve immediately while still warm.

Enjoy with a glass of Cakebread Cellars Carneros Pinot Noir.

CELADON’S MONGOLIAN BRAISED SHORT RIBS - Chef de Cuisine Marcos Uribe of Celadon, Napa
Serves 6
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Six 3-inch cut beef short ribs
1 unpeeled orange, cut in to 1” pieces
1 oz. ginger, cut into 1” pieces
1 carrot, cut into 1” pieces
1 medium onion, cut into 1” pieces
1 tablespoon Sambal chili paste
1 kaffir lime leaf
1 bunch scallions, finely sliced on the diagonal
1 small can Hoisin sauce, about 12 oz.
2 cups chicken stock
4 tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat olive oil to medium high in an ovenproof roasting pan. Add short ribs and brown on all sides until golden brown. Set ribs to the side.
2. Add orange, ginger, carrot and onion to the roasting pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft.
3. Add sambal chili paste, kaffir lime leaf, hoisin sauce and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer and add short ribs. Place covered roasting pan in 350 degree oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until short ribs are very tender. Remove short ribs from pan and keep warm. Strain braising liquid and discard solids. In a shallow bowl or plate, mound steamed Basmati rice, place one short rib on top, add braising liquid and sprinkle with sliced scallions.

Fresh Pasta with Summer Herbs, Fresh Ricotta, and Roasted Tomato Coulis – Culinary Institute Of America, Chef-instructor Lars Kronmark

Tossing the linguine with the fresh herbs releases their fragrance while keeping the herbs brightly colored and flavored. If you can’t find a fresh cow’s or sheep’s milk ricotta, find the best quality you can and you may need to finish it with a bit more olive oil and sea salt. Chef-instructor Lars Kronmark, who was part of Greystone’s start-up faculty in 1995, came up with this recipe as part of a chef demonstration program at our nearby farmers market. Chef Kronmark recommends chardonnay in the glass to reflect the chardonnay used in the recipe. The coulis can be made in advance and re-heated as needed.

Makes 6 generous first-course servings

Roasted Tomato Coulis
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 pounds ripe, preferably heirloom, tomatoes, cut in half and most of liquid and seeds squeezed out
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 shallots, peeled
2 celery stalks, cut in large chunks
1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as needed

Pasta and Herbs
3 tablespoons fruity, good quality extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup chardonnay
1 pound fresh linguine
1/4 cup finely minced chives
1/4 cup finely chopped basil
1/4 cup finely chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped tarragon
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
8 ounces fresh ricotta
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse sea salt, or as needed

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. For the tomato coulis: Toss 2 tablespoons of the oil, tomatoes, garlic, shallots, and celery together and place on a baking sheet with sides. Roast the mixture in the oven, shaking the pan occasionally to prevent sticking, until tomatoes are beginning to caramelize, about 20 minutes.
3. Purée the roasted vegetables and their liquid in a blender, adding the stock as needed to achieve a smooth, loose, pesto-like consistency.
4. Add the rest of the oil, salt, and pepper and blend for a few more seconds to combine thoroughly. Strain the coulis through a fine-mesh sieve and keep warm.
5. For the pasta: In a large sauté pan, warm 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic, cover, and sweat until garlic is softened, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the wine. Reduce the wine by half, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve.
 6. Bring a pot of well-salted water to boil over high heat and cook the fresh linguini according to the package directions (usually just a couple of minutes).
7. Drain the pasta and place in the sauté pan with the wine. Heat over medium heat, tossing to coat the pasta, until well combined and heated through. Add the herbs and toss to coat the pasta with the herbs. Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of tomato coulis on each of 6 warmed dishes, and divide the pasta between the dishes.
8. With two soup spoons, scoop out about 1 1/2 tablespoons of ricotta and pass between spoons, forming into an oval shape. Spoon small dollops of ricotta on top of the pasta.
9. Drizzle each mound of ricotta with 1/2 teaspoon of the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with about 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt. Encourage your guests to mix the pasta with the coulis and ricotta.

Chef’s Notes:
Coulis - A coulis is a thick purée, usually made of vegetables, but possibly of fruit. By roasting the vegetables, the acidity of the tomatoes is reduced and sweetness is increased, while the flavors in general become more concentrated.
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My Foodie ABC

This book is GREAT! And so funny! Great for kids and even adults can enjoy it!

My Foodie ABC: A Little Gourmet Guide.

My Foodie ABC has been endorsed by James Osleand, Saveur's editor in chief, who says " "I love this sweet little book. It's a delicious primer to the wide world of food and the glories of the alphabet." 

My Foodie ABC is a delightful tool that stresses the importance of having a healthy relationship with food while teaching the letters of the alphabet to tots and other gastronomes in training. Stylish and dazzling illustrations that highlight terms such as Kobe beef, pomegranate, ice cream, and farmer’s market pair with fun foodie facts to make learning the alphabet easy and enriching. A complete introduction to the alphabet and gastronomical terms, this unique book also includes a pronunciation guide, making it an ideal companion for food aficionados.
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Annabel Karmel food making accessories from Infantino

WOW! Got the coolest package this week! I think the 6 Stackable Food Pots and Fill & Freeze Puree Pops are my fav so far. I also can't wait to try the Steam Release Micro Dish!

6 Stackable Food Pots

These attractive stackable food pots are perfect for storing fresh baby food. The pots clip together for easy storage and they are see through so you can tell what food is inside.
  • Can be easily stacked in any order for the best storage solution
  • Individual portion sizes
  • Perfect for babies and beyond
  • Pots clip together
  • BPA Free
  • Freezer to microwave safe

Fill & Freeze Puree Pops

Sucking on something cold will help soothe sore gums when your baby is teething. These ice lolly moulds are ideal for making fresh fruit lollies from pureed fresh fruit and pure fruit juice.
  • Perfect for soothing sore gums during teething
  • Easy to hold handle for babies and toddlers
  • Helps soothe tender gums
  • Includes four puree pops
  • Freezer and dishwasher safe
  • BPA Free
“I am a participant in a Mom Central Consulting campaign for Infantino and have received various Infantino products as part of my participation.”
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Thursday, October 14, 2010


Are you SCARED of Scary Halloween Crafts?

Parents are you scared of Halloween crafts? Are you afraid that you are just not crafty enough to do craft projects with your children? I have a craft expert who will excite, not fright, parents, teachers, and caregivers with her easy to follow, kid-friendly, Halloween craft projects.

Sandy Sandler, founder of non-profit Crafters 4 Kids and creator of Bowdabra believes that there is an immeasurable value in doing arts and crafts with your children. Sandy hopes that parents and teachers will use the free Halloween craft instructions she provides to help children to create spooky Halloween projects.

Examples of the Halloween Projects include:
  • Pumpkin Treat Bag – Children can create a fun pumpkin treat bag. The bag has many uses it can be used as a trick-or-treat bag, a gift bag, or even a purse.
  • Creepy Spider Web Decoration – Help children to create this easy Halloween decoration. They will love creating a spider web using black foam and glitter glue!
  • Spooky Goblin – Using Styrofoam balls and marabou an entire goblin family can be created. Kids will have fun decorating the house with them and using their imagination with these fun spooky mischievous creatures.
  • Halloween Firecracker Treat – These firecrackers make the perfect gift for friends and trick-or-treaters. Children will be excited to decorate and personalizing each one before handing them out to friends, classmates, and neighborhood children.
  • Pumpkin Mask – This is the perfect mask for children (and adults) who hate masks pressed against their face. The pumpkin mask is attached to a visor for easy placement on your face and lots of ventilation.
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Wednesday, October 13, 2010


Adventures in mothering!

So being unemployed and trying to be a stay at home mom is not easy. Everyone told me it wasn't but more it' just the juggling act that I still can't figure it out! It is getting better, the routines.

I'm exploring ways to save money, first by starting to be a Krazy Coupon Lady, yes I will have a 15 pound binder with coupons soon! I have started compling the coupons but not shopping yet, well really because there is no money this week!

We have been using our freezer meals which is great. I have been baking a lot. We need to find a way to get more cheap snacks. Not that we can even keep them in the hosue but they are SO expensive!

Ashlee and I have our morning routine, getting dressed needs work for both of us! You know what I'm talking about the SAHM mom rut, staying in PJ's all day! And Ashlee well she likes hanging in her diaper!

I'm learning a lot about Home Improvement, some the hard way but that's ok. My husband thinks I'm funny because I start projects and buy the stuff I need weekly, pieces at a time with what we can afford. But hey no more carpet in teh bathrooms soon!

I also want to start doing something scheduled with Carson in the afternoon, like crafts which he LOVES doing. We are also thinking of Martial Arts, but he has o start getting ready in the morning!

Thanks for reading and have a great day!
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Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Tiling is not for sissys! Lessons learned today...

So being home since August I have started taking on some much needed home improvement projects, from moving light fixtures, to fixing leaky pipes and now onto removing the MOST disgusting CARPET in our bathrooms and replacing them with porcelain tile.

My husband's comment was, we can put linoleum in the small bathroom because I don't think you will have fun doing it. I of course then insisted I start with the small bathroom that way I would not give up and had to finish BOTH bathrooms!

Well whoever said a woman could single handly install tile with a 1-year old at home was sadly mistaken, oh wait that was me!

#1 Do it nude, no I'm not joking. This will save you from ruining your favorite lounge wear while it is now caked with mortar!

#2 Whoever said you could mix mortar by hand was smokin' SOMETHING!

#3 Unless you lift weights daily do not even attempt to drive the heads of the screws flush with the backer board. If you don't believe then ask me why there is a drill bit holding in part of the junction box for our new bathroom light and not a screw, um because I don't have that upper body strength and no one would help me!

#4 Don't try this at home.

OH by the way did I mention all I did today was install the backerboard? I do have to say I was HIGHLY impressed with myself that I was able to cut the hole for the toilet waste pipe And that it all fit nicely back together once I had to take it all out and put mortar under the backer board, yes some people actually believe this is the correct way to install backer board!

Tonight, the dry run! Tomorrow.....
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Friday, October 8, 2010


Gluten Free Bread Mix!

Since 1988, Pamela's Products has created a new standard in wheat-free and gluten-free foods. We've combined the finest all natural ingredients for superior tast and texture.

We got a free bag of Pamela's Gluten-free Bread Mix. It is great you can make bread, pretzels, cinnamon rolls and more with this YUMMY bag!

A wonderful aroma fills the kitchen as your bread bakes to a golden brown. Easy to make, quick and versatile, this great tasting bread stays soft for days! Also makes amazing pizza crust, dinner rolls and more!
INGREDIENTS: Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Flour, Sweet Rice Flour, Brown Rice Flour, Organic Natural Evaporated Cane Sugar, Chicory Root, White Rice Flour, Millet Flour, Honey and Molasses; Rice Bran, Sea Salt, Xanthan Gum, Yeast Packet.

Hhmm I think we need the BIG bag!
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Thursday, October 7, 2010


Our New Dog

I had a great blogcation. Sometimes sad and sometimes happy. We had to send our dog Sadie to doggy heaven. After lossing a significant amount of weight we found out she had lymphoma. We had a tough time deciding but knew it was the best. Yes we did get another dog becuase our children LOVE their dog.

Our new dog's namge is Mickey. This was meant to be becuase of course Ashlee LOVES Mickey or "Mi Mi"

Here is a picture of Mickey.

Now that we have this new pup we wanted to make sure to keep good track of her records since she is only one!

Jenny Pavlovic also traveled to Louisiana after the disaster, coming home with Kate, the homeless cattle dog who won Jenny's heart. It was Kate and the thousands like her left behind in Katrina who were Jenny's inspiration for both 8 State Hurricane Kate, and now The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book. In writing her latest book, Jenny is doing all she can to be sure this kind of devastating separation between animals and their humans never happens again by creating a book that has all the information you need about your pet in one place.

Take it away, Jenny. The rest of this post comes from Jenny Pavlovic about her new book & the specials available:

"When I couldn't find the book I wanted for my dogs, I decided to make it myself. This book includes everything you need for your dog, with a records section, a resources section, and tips for understanding your dog better."
-- Jenny Pavlovic, author of The Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book and 8 State Hurricane Kate

"This book is a must-have for all dog lovers and would make a great gift. There is nothing else like it!

—Dr. Marty Becker, " America 's Veterinarian”

Available from 8 State Kate Press exclusively at
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010



I thought this looked SO cool. The teens in the neighborhood loves using them too!

The ONLY Professional Quality strands
  • Used by more pro stylists in salons 
  • Tie-in Hair Tinsel or Hair Bling
  • Lasts 2 - 6 weeks
  • You can shampoo, condition, blow-dry
  • Use flat-iron, curling iron
  • No loose strands! Manufactured for professional use attached to stylist clips
  • 100% Custom Made in the USA
By Hair Flair
This Product Was a Free Giveaway
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Melissa & Doug

We LOVE Melissa & Doug toys at our house. They are quality hand made wooden toys that last FOREVER!

For Christmas this year Sanata will be bringing Ashlee the, Tiered Special Occasion Cake Play Food Set by Melissa & Doug.

Your little host will be proud to present these three layers of "delicious" yumminess. This fabulous cake can be topped with a bride and groom for a formal pretend wedding or with a flower bouquet to celebrate any special event. Serving and assembling this confection is easy with all the wooden layers, a selection of toppings, a server and decorative cake plate included in the "bakery" box.
This Product Was a Free Giveaway
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Halloween Teats that the dentist will LOVE

This year we are not passing out candy. Well actually we are never here but this year we are going to pass out Halloween Googly Bands, since we have more kids on the block!

CHEAP and HEALTHY alternative to Halloween candy this year? Well, look no further. Halloween Googly Bands can be that alternative to Halloween candy this year for you, your kids, friends, and family!

Halloween Googly Bands are available in the normal Googly Band packs (12 in a pack, for ~$1). They are also available in treat packs, much like the candy bags you buy to pass out to trick-or-treaters. Googly Band Halloween Trick Bags contain 18 smaller packets, each with 3 Halloween Googly Bands.

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Monday, October 4, 2010


How much sugar does your family eat?

Take the Pantry Hunt to increase awareness of your family’s sugar intake. While cooking and preparing meals, read labels and keep a look out for different types of sugars such as:
  • Agave
  • Brown sugar or granulated white sugar
  • Cane juice, cane syrup, and cane juice crystals
  • Confectioners' sugar
  • Corn sweeteners and corn syrup
  • Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose, Maltose, or Sucrose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Stevia
  • Syrup

Make a list of at least 5 items you commonly use in meals or eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and what type of sugar you find. You might be surprised by the results! You can also check out to get an idea of what foods to look for.
I wrote this review while participating in a blog tour campaign by Mom Central on behalf of the Corn Refiners Association. I received a gift certificate to thank me for taking the time to participate
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Crest Pro-Health

I love the new Crest® Pro-Health® Complete Rinse, since it does not have alcohol in it it is WAY more comfortable to use. And of course since I dont floss as often as needed this helps out inbetween!

§      Works with brushing to provide comprehensive tooth care and helps you get a better dental check-up through the use of fluoride 
§      Provides six benefits in one:
Ö              Re-builds enamel
Ö              Helps prevent cavities
Ö              Cleans teeth & gums
Ö              Kills bad breath germs
Ö              Freshens breath
Ö              Without the burn of alcohol

§      Contains fluoride to help prevent cavities

§      Cleans teeth and gums

§      Suggested Retail Price: $4.59 (500mL) $5.89 (1L)

I wrote this review while participating in a test drive campaign by Mom Central on behalf of Crest and received a sample to facilitate my candid review. Mom Central sent me a gift card to thank me for taking the time to participate.”
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