Friday, June 17, 2011

Stovetop Sweet and Sour Chicken

I have approximately three wanna-be Chinese recipes in my repertoire. This sweet and sour chicken is one of them. I found this recipe in a book called The Potluck Club. I wanted to like the book, but I actually didn't read it and just looked at the recipes in the back. I also switched the recipe from an oven meal to a fast stove top dinner.

Sweet and Sour Chicken
(serves 4)
1. Preheat a large skillet to medium high. Add a little canola oil.
2. In a large bowl, mix together:
  • 6 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 6 Tbsp. low sodium soy sauce
  • 6 Tbsp. honey
  • 3 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 1/2 tsp. paprika
  • a dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp. black pepper
3. To the preheated skillet, add 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts OR 6 thighs that have been cut into thin strips. Cook until chicken is no longer pink on the outside.
4. Pour the sauce into the pan and cover the skillet with its lid. Continue to cook and stir occasionally until the chicken is done.
5. Serve over brown rice. Add extra sauce to plate as desired.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How to Minimize a Long Face

We all are born with a specific face shape. The first step is to find your face shape with this article. I don't even need to do the measurements. I know mine is long. If you have an (ob)long face too, here are some fashion tips that I learned (30 years too late) to minimize it. 
These make the face look shorter.
And like you're wearing caterpillars.

1. Eyebrows: Keep eyebrows parallel to the ground. Arches are not your friend.

These just make the face look longer.

2. Hair: Have your hair cut to add bulk to the sides of your face. Wear bangs to the side. The worst look for this face type is parting hair straight in the middle and wearing it straight down. The other worst look is a mullet.
Why I've always wanted curly hair.
It really rounds out the face.

My high school yearbook picture.

3. Clothing: Wear tops that come to or up your neck. Think high-collared blouses, turtlenecks, and halter tops. Also, V-neck shirts that only have a thin V can look good. Don't wear crew necks.

4. Glasses: Stick with straight lines for the top edge of your glasses. This is the same principle as the eyebrows. Round frames look bad.

5. Makeup: Wear blush on your cheeks. Aside from giving a little color to your face, blush add another horizontal element to your face.

Follow these tips and you're on your way to getting rid of that noticeable long face. Adding a smile never hurts either. This Works for Me!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homemade Foaming Hand Soap

My husband goes We go through a lot of hand soap. I keep trying to buy bulk refills that are free of triclosan and sodium laurel sulfate. It can be done, but they're pretty expensive. Luckily, I found an online recipe for making my own. Here's all you need:

1 empty foaming dispenser
1 tsp. glycerin
1/4 c. liquid castile soap (I use Dr. Bronner's almond)
~ 1 c. water (or fill to the top)

Add everything to the dispenser. Tada! You can find vegetable glycerin at health food stores or online at, my new source for green products. I've found Dr. Bronner at health food stores and Target. The essential oils in the soap make it fragrant.

What does the family think?

Husband: I like your hippie hand soap. Keep making it!
Baby (aka the parrot): Hippie soap.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

P.S. I will be ending this blog on June 30, 2011.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Mom's Easy Lasagna

It's not the easiest lasagna recipe out there (those would be with no-bake noodles) or the most authentic Italian, but it's pretty stinkin' easy and yummy. Serve with a big salad and some breadsticks.

Mom's Easy Lasagna
9 lasagna noodles (at least half whole wheat)
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 lb. hamburger meat, cooked and drained (opt.)
16 oz. ricotta (or cottage) cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper, to taste
2 c. mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Get a big pot of water boiling. Add lasagna noodles and cook until al dente.
3. Meanwhile, grease a 13" x 9" baking pan. Mix spaghetti sauce and hamburger.
4. Mix ricotta, the egg, basil, and salt and pepper to taste in a separate bowl.
5. The layering: Spread about 1/4 cup sauce on the bottom. Layer 3 noodles, 1/2 of the ricotta mixture, 1/3 sauce, and a teeny bit of cheese. Repeat. Place remaining 3 noodles on the top with the remaining sauce and cheese.
6. Put in oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Use your broiler for an additional couple of minutes, until the cheese is browned on top. Let it rest after you take it out of the oven. Then serve warm!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

12 Steps to a Great Multi-Family Garage Sale

I had a brilliant idea a few weeks ago. Hold a garage sale. In my garage. When it's going to be freezing and snowing/raining. I invited a few other people to join me in the freeze-a-thon, which is what it turned into, aside from making us some cold, hard cash. Here are some helpful hints I learned from my very first yard sale.

1. Check the weather. People will still come if it's nasty cold, but it helps with nice weather. I'm thinking our nice weather might turn up as one nice week in July this year.
If these sweaters weren't so small, I would have bought them
all and layered them on for sheer warmth.

2. Make it a party. Invite people that you like or that are willing to sell their junk with you. It's much more fun talking with people you like during the slow times. I also had the privilege of helping some ladies who don't live in convenient places be able to reach a larger audience. Don't forget to invite your neighbors! Most of my neighbors came over and said, "I wish I'd known you were having a sale. I wanted to have one too." 

3. Split up the work. Make it very clear when people are working their shifts, when people should bring their stuff, and when they should pick it up if it doesn't sell. I had about 500 plastic bags I'd been saving and another girl had 10 tables. Have someone get the change for the sale too!

4. Assign tag colors. Since K-Mart only had a few options for yard sale stickers, I bought a couple of packages with 3 colors in them and gave everyone a color. We split the cost of the stickers and it was very clear whose items were whose. If you want to use the same colors, you can write your initals on the tag.

5. Advertise well. With multiple people, the cost of a newspaper ad (however primitive-seeming) doesn't cost much. We bought the yard sale package (3 days, 4 lines, with stickers and 2 signs) for $17 and divvied it up. I posted a free ad on Craigslist the day before the sale and then put up signs on the main highway the morning of the sale.

6. Don't forget to advertise and bring big ticket items. We had info about a Bowflex and ice axe (it could still be yours!) hanging up and a 1963 Ford Falcon parked in the front of my house, all for sale. If you don't want to budge on a large (or small item), write FIRM on the price tag. If you are willing to negotiate, tell the people on that shift how low you'll go.

7. Don't open the garage until you're ready. You may never get it back down again, even though things are obviously NOT set up and are scattered helter-skelter around a garage that needs to be swept. Do as I say, not as I do.
Don't you just want to decorate your home with this cute sign?
8. Organize your stuff. Even though we lagged behind our customers, I had printed category signs off my computer the night before. We eventually hung them up. Some people said it was the most organized sale they'd ever seen. (I filed that compliment away immediately, as we should all do.)

It may look like the orange stickers were few and far between,
but I commanded high prices.
9. Create a pay tally. I took a simple piece of paper, drew some lines on it, and stuck the stickers under each person's name as the items sold. It helped to put the stickers on my hand so I could add them together before I stuck them to the page. If a sticker wouldn't come off an item, I just wrote down the amount on the person's column.

10. Offer something free. I couldn't sell baked goods in good conscience because it's not legal here (I called and asked), but I could give away free cookies. Some people took one, or two, or three.... We also had lots of free items ranging from empty egg cartons to my old dish strainer. (Seriously, who would want that?)

11. On the other hand, charge something. We had a fairly nice foosball table that one girl wanted to get rid of. (She undercut us with her prices.) She put "FREE" on it, but it wasn't moving. Since she wasn't there, I decided to put a $5 tag on it. It sold in 5 minutes.

12. Get rid of the leftover junk. We have lots of local places that take donations, but don't forget to try a flea market for neat finds, kid (and grownup) consignment stores for clothes, and used bookstores for book credit.

Multi-family sales Work for Me! What's your best garage sale tip?

Friday, April 22, 2011

Debbie's Oven Potato Wedges

Season, bake, eat.
I went through a Bible study called Apples of Gold a few years back that centered on older, mature Christian women mentoring the younger ones. It was fantastic because I learned so many new skills and recipes. One of the hostesses gave out a recipe for Catalina chicken and these fantastic oven fries. It's one of my favorite recipes now.

Debbie's Oven Potato Wedges
(serves 4-6)
Preheat oven to 400°F.
Cut 4 to 5 medium baking potatoes into wedges (lengthwise).
In a resealable bag, mix:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. garlic powder
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1 1/2 Tbsp. Italian seasoning
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Add potatoes to the bag and seal it. Toss them to your favorite song.
Dump them on an ungreased baking sheet in a single layer.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden, turning them with a spatula halfway.

Easy and yummy. The longest part is cutting up the potatoes.

This post is linked to Works for Me Wednesday.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Buttermilk Pretzels

Husband [Entering kitchen after work]: What is that? Poop? You made poop?

Wife: Yes, I always thought the world needed more poop. Plus, we'll be rich! I can make up a batch of this stuff every day and sell it as compost.

Well, I wasn't that witty when the original conversation happened, but my husband did call my homemade pretzels poop. Then, he ate them.

I needed a snack/dessert for a friend that can't have cane sugar or yeast. I found these awesome pretzels that fit the bill on Here's a recap of how to make them.

Buttermilk Pretzels
(yields around 12 pretzels)
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a large pot with water and add 1/3 c. baking soda. Heat until boiling.
2. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together:
1 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking soda
Add in:
1 c. buttermilk (or 1 c. milk with 1 tsp. vinegar)
1/4 c. honey
Mix with a spoon and then turn out the dough onto a floured surface. Knead with your hands until combined well. Divide into 12 pieces and shape into pretzels (if you can).
3. Drop each pretzel into the boiling baking soda water for a minute. Remove with tongs and put on an ungreased baking sheet. Add toppings, if desired. (Ideas: kosher salt, cinnamon sugar, onion flakes, cheese, cheese, cheese.)
4. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

If you have a hard time making the pretzel shape, make letters!
P.S. They taste really yummy. Not at all like, well, you know...