Tag: frugal frankie

Warm Up With Wild Rice Soup!

Soup is an ideal meal on cold winter days. One of the best things about soup is its versatility. Soup makes a great entree, and it also can serve as a warming appetizer or a delicious side dish. Soup also knows no bounds with regard to ingredients, making it a meal that can be enjoyed several times per week without boring the taste buds. Those who need to warm up this winter may want to try the following recipe for “Minnesota Wild Rice Soup” courtesy of The Culinary Institute of America’s “Book of Soups” (Lebhar-Friedman).

Minnesota Wild Rice Soup

Makes 8 servings

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 carrots, finely diced
2 leeks, white and light green parts, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts Chicken Broth (see below)
3/4 cup wild rice
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3/4 cup heavy cream, hot
3 tablespoons dry sherry
1/4 cup minced chives
3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Heat the butter in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots, leeks and celery. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to low, add the flour, and stir well. Cook gently, about 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add the broth gradually, whisking well with each addition to eliminate flour lumps. Bring to a simmer.
Add the wild rice and salt. Continue to simmer until the rice is tender but still somewhat chewy, about 45 minutes.
Stir in the heated cream and sherry. Season with salt. Serve in heated bowls, garnished with chives and parsley.

Chicken Broth

Makes about 2 quarts

4 pounds stewing hen or chicken parts or meaty bones, such as backs and necks
3 quarts cold water
1 large onion, diced
1 carrot, diced (about 1/3 cup)
1 celery stalk, diced (about 1/2 cup)
5 to 6 whole black peppercorns
3 to 4 parsley stems
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
11/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste

Place the chicken and water in a large pot (the water should cover the chicken by at least 2 inches; add more if necessary). Bring the water slowly to a boil over medium heat.
As the water comes to a boil, skim any foam that rises to the surface. Adjust the heat once a boil is reached so that a slow, lazy simmer is established. Cover partially, and simmer 2 hours, skimming as often as necessary.
Add the remaining ingredients. Continue to simmer, skimming the surface as necessary, until the broth is fully flavored, about 1 hour.
If using hen or chicken parts, remove them and cool slightly. Dice or shred the meat, and reserve to garnish the broth or save for another use. Discard the skin and bones.
Strain the broth through a fine sieve or cheesecloth-lined colander into a large metal container. Discard the solids.
If you are using the broth right away, skim off any fat on the surface. If you are not using the broth right away, cool it quickly by transferring it to a metal container (if it’s not in one already) and placing the container in a sink filled with ice-cold water. Stir the broth as it cools, and then transfer it to storage containers. Store in the refrigerator, up to 5 days, or in the freezer, up to 3 months. Label and date the containers clearly before putting them into the freezer.

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New Year, New You!

Happy New Year!

The beginning of a new year is full of excitement and expectations. Planning ahead for a successful new year and focusing on how we plan on improving ourselves. Most people – whether they admit it or not – make some sort of resolution or goal for the new year.

Some of the top resolutions are:

*Fitness / Lose Weight

*Eat Healthier

*Travel

*Get Out of Debt / Save Money

*Learn Something New


When considering goals for the new year – think not just about yourself, but your community as well! How can you help make a difference in the new year for your local community?

*Cleaning out clutter part of your new year resolution? Consider donating gently used items.

*Donating your time is also a great option – or – contact a local charity and ask what is on their current needs list.


Wishing you a happy & successful new year!2 (1)

Health Benefits of Meditation

Meditation is often trumped as a means to reducing stress and restoring healthy function in the body. While meditation might once have been considered a New Age treatment, in recent years it has developed into a mainstream practice supported by both traditional and alternative medical providers.

The Mayo Clinic says that anyone can practice meditation. A cost-effective treatment that does not require any special equipment or location, meditation has been practiced for thousands of years and originally was developed to help people understand the mystical or spiritual forces of life. Although meditation for some may still have religious or spiritual connotations, in a medical sense it is typically used for relaxation and stress reduction.

Various studies show that meditation can be associated with improvement of a variety of issues. Researchers describe meditation-based changes as ones that actually change the brain. Changes in the circuitry of the brain may affect the way a person responds to specific situations. The following are a few ways to put mindful meditation to use.


· Strengthen cognitive function: Dr. Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital, says meditation can help thicken the prefrontal cortex of the brain, helping to reverse the pattern of cognitive function decline as one ages.

· Protect against heart disease: There is some indication that meditation can reduce concentrations of the marker C-reactive protein, which is associated with the development of heart disease.

· Stimulate the immune system: A study published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine found that mindfulness meditation increases electrical activity in the areas of the prefrontal cortex getprev-2.editthat serve a
s the command center for the immune system. When these areas are stimulated, the immune system works more effectively.

· Reduce blood pressure: The stress-boosting properties of meditation can help reduce hypertension. Researchers at the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine attribute this to the increase of nitric oxide during meditation. Nitric oxide gas can expand blood vessels and open up blood channels.

Some experts also say that meditation can decrease metabolism and improve breathing. Meditation may be a mind-body way to beat some of the conditions that affect people during daily life. Meditation is not difficult to learn, but it something that requires practice to master.


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Safeguard Yourself from Summertime Accidents & Ailments

Summer is often marked by vacations, recreational events and relaxing moments spent by the pool or on the beach. But when the weather heats up, so can potential health hazards that can ruin all of the fun. The following are some of the more common summertime ailments and how to avoid them.

summer1· Lawn and garden injuries: Lawn and garden injuries may not be common, but men, women and children should exercise caution when using lawn and garden equipment. Wear protective shoes and gloves and safety goggles. Remember to turn off any motorized tools before attempting to repair or unclog the blades.

· Swimmer’s ear: Water that remains in the ear canal after swimming can make the ear a breeding ground for swimmer’s ear, which is a bacterial infection. If water remains in your ear for more than one night, visit an ear, nose and throat specialist.summer2

· Insect bites and stings: Insects return when temperatures rise. Mosquitoes may be the biggest nuisance, but biting flies and wasps also make formidable foes. Use insect repellent to keep the bugs away. Wear long pants and check for ticks after hiking.

· Boating accidents: Many boating accidents can be attributed to inexperience with the vessel and failure to take proper safety precautions on the water. Make sure everyone on the boat wears a life jacket, and follow proper boating protocol throughout your trip.

· Dehydration: The body needs extra water on hot days, especially when spending ample time outdoors. Dehydration can cause dizziness and dry mouth and may make you feel faint. Always drink plenty of water and avoid alcoholic beverages and soft drinks, which can contribute to dehydration when consumed in excess.


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How Bulk Cooking Can Make Meals Easier

Healthy family meals can get lost in the shuffle of busy schedules. Convenience may win out when parents are short on time, and it’s hard not to be enticed by the ease of fast food or the lure of frozen foods. While these options are certainly fine on occasion, there is a more nutritious solution for time-crunched families.


Planning is a big part of enjoying a homecooked meal, and cooking in bulk can help families enjoy more homecooked meals. By thinking ahead about meals, you can more easily enjoy homecooked dinners than if you were to wait until the last minute to think about what’s for dinner.

If bulk cooking is a foreign concept, the following are some resources to help you along.

veg1· Get started by browsing cookbooks, online recipes or speaking with friends and family members about their favorite meals, especially those that may be popular with younger eaters. Concentrate on a specific meal each day. Dinner is the meal many families hope to share, as breakfast and lunch are often eaten outside of the home. Make a list of the ingredients that go into your family’s favorite meals, selecting recipes that use many of the same ingredients.

· Wait until you have a free schedule and ample time to go to the store to shop for all of your supplies. Have a list on hand and check off each item as you find it. Cooking in bulk also means you can buy in bulk. Very often bulk-size foods are discounted, saving you both time and money. Shop for the staples that are needed for most meals, including fresh herbs, cheese, spices, oil, and whatever flavorings your family finds most appealing. Large bags of rice and potatoes also are handy to have available.

· Take advantage of warehouse club membership fees or manufacturer or store coupon deals on multiple buy specials. Buying jumbo-sized packages of food makes more sense when you intend to cook in bulk.

· Clean out the refrigerator and freezer, as you will need plenty of room to store your ingredients, and later, your prepared meals. Figure out when you will be doing the cooking so you know what will need to be refrigerated or frozen once you return from the supermarket.

· Establish a dedicated cooking day. Many bulk cookers cook on the weekend. You may be able to have a spouse or friend take the children for the day so there will be no interruptions.veg2

· Gather all items that need to be chopped or sliced and set them aside. Leave ample time to chop or slice, which can take a lot of time. Use all of your available cooking resources, such as the grill, stovetop, oven, and slow cooker, at once. Then just drop the ingredients in as necessary.

· Have plenty of freezer-safe storage containers on hand. Divvy up the meals into containers and label clearly. Now each day of the week you have a fast meal that can be heated up in no time. Fresh bread and a salad may be the only other components you need.


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Sparklers and Safety Risks of Fireworks

Fireworks tend to be most prevalent during the summertime. Elaborate pyrotechnic displays may be part of Independence Day celebrations or other special events. Individuals also may set off fireworks to light up the night skies for private parties.

Although parents will warn children against going too close to fireworks, many do not share the same apprehension about sparklers. Sparklers are thin metal rods that have been dipped in a special, flammable pyrotechnic substance and allowed to dry. When lit, a sparkler will throw off, as the name implies, sparks of twinkling light until the sparkler is extinguished. Sparklers may seem safe for little hands, but like other fireworks, sparklers can be dangerous.

spark1A sparkler can reach 3,662 F (2,000 C) when lit. That is 20 times the boiling point of water, a level of heat that is enough to melt steel. In fact, three sparklers burning together can generate the same amount of heat as a blow torch. The Consumer Product Safety Commission says roughly 240 people visit the emergency room every day in the month of July with fireworks-related injuries.

Common sense should prevail whenever anyone is handling sparklers. If children are allowed to hold sparklers, it should only be under close adult supervision. Other safety tips can help ensure events where sparklers are being used remain injury-free.


· Sparklers should be stored in cool, dry places until they are used.

· Leather gloves can protect hands while sparklers are being lit and held.

· Do not light and hold more than one sparkler at a time.

· Sparklers can stay hot for a while after they have been extinguished. Put the hot end down into a bucket of water when finished.

· Sparklers may not be legal where you live. Know the laws before purchasing sparklers or other fireworks.

· Children under the age of five should never be given sparklers to hold, nor should adults hold a lit sparkler while holding a baby. Glow sticks are safer alternatives for young kids.

· Hold sparklers at arms’ length to avoid burns.

· Do not bring sparklers to public events, as sparklers amid large crowds can pose a safety risk.

· Do not wave or run with lit sparklers.

Sparklers may seem like safe alternatives to more traditional fireworks. But it’s important to exercise caution with sparklers, especially when young children are nearby.


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Favorite Fair Foods

State and county fair season has arrived, and that means there will be rides and games galore. While many people are drawn to fairs by the entertainment, just as many are willing to stand in line for the unique and tasty foods that seem to embody fair and carnival fun.

fair3If it can be served on a stick or deep fried, chances are you can find it at a fair. Everything from chocolate-dipped bacon to deep-fried butter may turn up on fair stand menus. The following are some of the more coveted foods revelers can expect to find at their local fairs and carnivals.

· Funnel cake: Funnel cake and it’s close cousin, zeppole, have long been fair favorites. Topped with powdered sugar, funnel cakes can be pulled apart and shared with others.

· Corn dogs: Corn dogs are essentially hot dogs on a stick that have been covered in cornmeal and fried. Like funnel cakes, corn dogs have become so synonymous with fairs and carnivals that few people have ever enjoyed them anywhere outside of their local fairgrounds.

· French fries: French fries are a favorite at fairs, and carnival-goers can choose from savory shoestrings to hearty steak-cut potato chunks.

· Cotton candy: What fair would be complete without a cotton candy vendor? Cotton candy is made by heating up granulated sugar until it is liquified enough to be blown into thin threads. Those threads are collected and wound into a sweet treat that is loved by kids and adults alike.

· Pie: Fair-goers are likely to happen upon a pie-eating contest or pie-tasting tent. Many prefer to indulge in a piece of pie while at the fair, preferring such treats to sweeter, heavier desserts.

fair1· Corn on the cob: Corn on the cob is proof that carnivals and fairs provide some healthy fare for customers in addition to the many decadent treats on display. Corn on the cob is most popular in corn-producing areas and can be the ideal complement to burgers and other fair foods.

· Anything on a stick: Each year fair vendors experiment with culinary oddities that can be served on a stick. One day it may be skewered pork chops and the next a sleeve of cookies. Those who want the full fair experience should consider trying something served on a stick. TF157328

Beat the Heat During Summer Weddings

May, June and July consistently rank among the most popular months to get married. These months typically provide pleasant weather, and if it does rain, it’s often in the form of a brief thunderstorm.

But summer weather can be extremely hot, and while a sunny, warm day may be perfect beach days, such conditions are not always ideal for weddings, especially weddings that take place outdoors. If wedding-day weather threatens to be very hot, explore these methods to staying cool.


wedding2· Choose a later start time. A late-afternoon wedding may be the way to go in the summertime. The temperature usually drops a bit in the early evening, even though the sun won’t set for a couple of hours. That lingering summertime sun allows the bride and groom to enjoy an outdoor ceremony and still take beautiful outdoor photos.

· Rely on shade and proximity to water. Shade can be your friend when the sun is blazing. If your outdoor wedding is in the early afternoon, keep temperatures under wrap by seating guests beneath umbrellas or inside a tent.

· Tie the knot near the water. Breezes off of the water also help combat the heat, so a lakeside or beach wedding can make hot temperatures more manageable.

· Wear breathable fabrics. Opt for lightweight fabrics instead of heavy gowns and full tuxedos for the bride, groom and wedding party. Cotton and linen allow air to flow through clothing, helping people to stay cool. Light colors also will help deflect the sun. Bridal gowns made of chiffon, silk or satin may feel luxurious and help tame the heat.

· Have beverage tables. Keep canisters of cold beverages at the ready so guests can easily quench their thirst. Fresh lemonade, iced tea and water with a few sprigs of mint can help guests ward off dehydration.

· Make fans and hand these out to guests. Homemade fans of thick cardstock and popsicle sticks can keep guests comfortable. Such cards can double as thank-you messages or ceremony programs.

· Tailor the reception menu to the weather. A large, heavy meal may not be what guests are hoping for when temperatures are especially hot. In such situations, provide some cool, light fare, such as chilled salads or cold soups, as first courses. Sorbet can be a cool palate cleanser, and grilled meats and vegetables will make for a satisfying, light main course. Ice cream cake may be a decadent option in lieu of more traditional wedding cake.

· Choose hairstyles and makeup wisely. Brides may prefer up-dos to keep hair off of their necks and allow for breezes to cool their bodies. Rely on makeup primers and powdered foundations so that makeup does not melt in the heat. Waterproof cosmetics are adviseable so that perspiration won’t cause makeup to run.

Summer weddings are preferable, and couples can take several steps to make sure they’re both beautiful and comfortable.


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Add Value to your Home with these Renovations

Homeowners choose renovation projects for a variety of reasons. Although many improvements are made to increase functionality and comfort of a home, several others are seen as worthwhile investments. These investments can add up to a higher resale value when the time comes to sell a home.

a1Certain projects have a history of providing a greater return on homeowners’ investments than others. The following renovation tips can add beauty to your home and generate great returns when you put the home up for sale.

· Invest in your kitchen. Kitchen remodels are a safe bet when it comes to putting money into improving a home. Residents tend to spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, but a dated, poorly functioning kitchen can detract from the value of a home, even if the rest of the home is in good shape. It’s possible to recoup between 60 and 120 percent of your kitchen remodel investment, especially if the kitchen matches up well with the rest of your home. Homeowners should know that a deluxe renovation may not be necessary, as relatively moderate improvements can create a whole new look for a kitchen.

· Look to paint. One of the least expensive improvement materials, but one that has a significant impact, is paint. Neutral, modern colors can easily liven up any space. If you paint with low-VOC paint, you also can advertise an eco-friendly home, which is very desireable these days.

· Put in another bathroom. Multiple bathrooms are an attractive selling point, particularly in older homes that may not have beenequipped with more than one bathroom. Finding extra space for a bathroom can be tricky, but consider closets, areas under stairs or even taking some space away from another room. Popular home-improvement television channel HGTV advises that half-bathrooms require at least 18 square feet of space, while full baths need 30 to 35 square feet for a stand-up shower or bathtub.

· Renovate the HVAC system. Aesthetic improvements aren’t the only ones that add value to a home. Many home buyers are eager to purchase a home that has a new heating and cooling system, as buyers understand that furnaces and air conditioning units are substantial investments that can last for years. Other improvements, such as adding attic insulation or replacing older windows and doors with more energy efficient options, also are smart bets.

· Add illumination to rooms. A dark home is a dreary home. Adding light can mean including more overhead and accent lighting. Under-cabinet task lighting is a nice touch. Inclusion of skylights and sun tubes can bring natural light into rooms that may not have south- or west-facing windows.

· Put a deck addition outdoors. Outdoor living spaces have become more desireable, especially as the “staycation” has grown in popularity. Decks and patios can make backyards more appealing. The scope of your investment will depend on the size of the deck and design. Doing the work yourself can cut the cost of decks in half, but only if you have the specific tools or experience to tackle such a project.

· Improve curb appeal. Adding attractive landscaping and freshening up the entryway to a home can add considerable value to your home, as buyers judge homes by their exteriors. Completely renovated interiors may never be seen if buyers pass up your home because of a less attractive exterior. Classy, subtle changes, like well-placed shrubbery and a green lawn, can work wonders. An inviting front door and well-lit entryway also add curb appeal to a home.

Before making improvements, homeowners should determine if a given project will provide a solid return on their investment. SH152894

Caring for a Freshly Sodded Yard

Sod, sometimes called turf, can quickly turn a barren landscape into a rich, thick carpet of green. Homeowners hoping to revive their lawns commonly turn to sod as the quickest means to do just that. However, once the sod has been laid down, few homeowners may know how to keep it looking its best.

green2Sod is real grass that is grown on special farms. It is generally grown locally to avoid long transport times that could dry out the product. Sod is typically sold in squares or rolls of grass that come with the roots and soil already attached. There may be some sort of thin backing material on the sod to keep the grass blades together.

Many homeowners turn to sod when growing lawn from seed becomes problematic or too time-consuming. Seeds can be blown around in the wind or be eaten by birds and other animals before they have a chance to germinate.

Sodding a lawn is a major investment, costing as much as $1 per two-foot square. Depending on the size of your lawn, this can be a costly job even before adding the cost of additional supplies, such as soil, fertilizer and tilling equipment. Many homeowners who install sod want to ensure their investment lasts. Here are the main ways to care for and protect sod until it is fully established.


Automatic sprinkler
Automatic sprinkler

* Once the sod has been laid down, the lawn should be thoroughly soaked with water. Most experts recommend soaking it to a depth of 6 inches.

* It is important to establish a watering schedule to keep the sod moist. Water the sod to a depth of one inch every other day for the first three weeks to enable the roots to securely establish themselves in the soil.

* Water the sod every other day unless the weather has been very warm. After four weeks you can generally go up to five days without watering as long as you transition slowly. The sod will change colors if it is not getting enough water. Never let the lawnturn yellow, otherwise you may have to cut out dead spots and re-sod.

* Wait two to four weeks before mowing the sod. Keep the lawnheight to around two inches to ensure that it won’t scald in the sun.

* After two months of established sod growth, aerate the sod to keep the soil from being too compact and to enable oxygen and nutrients to get into the soil.

* Keep children and pets off of the sod while it is establishing itself.

* Fertilize the lawn every 50 to 60 days, beginning in March and ending in October.

* Inspect the sod for pests, which may include insects or problems like fungi or weeds. Treat accordingly with products designed to remove pests.

Using sod to establish a lush lawn is a fast, albeit more expensive option to sowing seeds. After a few weeks the lawn will be thick and secure.


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