A look into the daily agenda of the average American.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Cheap books for a great cause! Betterworldbooks.com

     In this modern age of computers, cell phones, and instant information I still prefer a good book!  Not that technology isn't freakin' grand and all, but I just love leafing through a good book from time to time.  I will say I mostly prefer books with pictures like my orchid encyclopedia, cookbooks, gardening guides, or most recently an origami instructional.  I tend to get through novels faster by listening to audio books which I get elsewhere.  I finished one book recently in just two weeks, only listening during my commute to and from work!  ....  but more on that later... I am getting off point. 
     Anyhow, what I was originally on about was a fantastic website called BETTERWORLDBOOKS.COM.  They are basically the eBay or amazon of new and used books, connecting sellers from around the country with buyers.  For example, tonight I purchased a book from their site and I was able to choose from 10 different sellers.  I picked someone who was relatively close to me so shipping would be quick...OH!  I forgot to mention, all of the books on betterworldbooks.com SHIP FOR FREE!   Yes FREE!!  My favorite price. 
     Now free shipping sounds like the final selling point but get this last one... they donate a book for every one you purchase*.   Kids who are unable to get books easily or can not afford them can get the gift of knowledge!  So this website not only has thousands of titles (everything I have every looked up was on here) they also give you the gift of free shipping and someone else the gift of a free book.  I will never buy a book from another place again.  I got all of my books in excellent condition USED!  You can buy new buy I like saving old books. 
      There you have it, I have said all I can about this site.  Check them out and buy a book.  Also, look at their other non-profit organizations they work with.   Cool people! 

This is a picture of the books I found in and around my living room that I
 have purchased off of betterworldbooks.com in the past year.   
All are used and all are in near perfect condition!
* This is the link to info on their book for a book program:  http://www.betterworldbooks.com/go/book-for-book

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Learn Origami (or any new hobby)

     Do you have a hobby?  Some people are really into theirs, while others just sit around and watch TV during free time.  Although watching TV is argued to be a hobby too, I tend to think of my hobbies as hands on activities.  My hobbies involve using both mental and physical abilities, like gardening, cooking, and crafting.  Hobby's can often be done while watching TV, although I prefer my music for better relaxation and focus. 

     At an after Christmas sale this past year I purchased a book on origami for about $5, which included about 50 sheets of origami paper.  After finishing the book, I put origami aside for several months.  I was busy working and gardening and didn't have much time for my origami.  Then, one day last month I purchased actual origami rice paper from Michael's craft store.  The papers were beautiful prints of cherry blossoms, lotus flowers, bamboo, and other fun Japanese designs. 

  So, I had the paper but didn't have any idea where to start, which prompted a google search.  The next thing I found changed my origami ability forever!  http://www.origami-instructions.com/index.html  This website will give you detailed instructions on how to make simple to very complex origami.  Check it out, and try a new hobby today.  Don't worry if you don't like it, pick something else, just give it a fair try.    
Here are just a few of the items I made in just a few sittings. 
Paper cranes, box with divider, standing container, and fortune teller. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sinless Caprese Salad

     Some folks think that eating well involves long hours in the kitchen slaving over hot stoves and ...  well you're wrong!  Sometimes the most simple of foods are the best tasting, not to mention the best for you.  Just think how many hands and machines have molested your fast food processed crap on a bun before you get to eat it, and then think of a delicious Caprese salad, so pure and still in a form that nature would approve of (and would still recognize). 


    Now, for those of you who have never had the joy of experiencing a Caprese salad, here are a few simple instructions.  You will need a few ripe tomatoes, a ball of mozzarella cheese, some fresh basil, a little olive oil, and a nice balsamic vinegar.

     You are going to slice the tomato and mozzarella into medallions of similar size.  I tend to leave my basil whole, but you can chop or chiffonade it which is also acceptable.  Next step is the construction.  See, isn't this easy so far! 

     If you are serving these at a brunch or dinner party you can be more formal about it, or you can just have folks build their own to save you the time. 
First, lay down a slice of tomato.
Follow that with a piece of the mozzarella.

Arrange two or three fresh basil leaves on top of that, this basil came straight from the garden and is super fun and easy to grow.

       Finally repeat until you reach your desired height.  I finsihed it off with a tomato slice and a little basil garnish.  Then lighty drizzle in olive oil and balsamic vineger.  You can add a little salt or pepper to taste but at this point most of my guests are halfway done with theirs. 

     This salad is a great way to eat healthy!  Don't eat those cardboard box portions of sadness when you could be eating this well.  Give it a try and live the good life, your body will thank you later!  

Saturday, September 15, 2012

TGA Test Kitchen: Baked Brussels Sprouts with Romano Cheese

   I love Brussels sprouts especially when baked in the oven!  They acquire a nutty almost-sweetness that makes them amazing.  I prepared these sprouts by drizzling some extra virgin olive oil over them, just enough to coat them.  I placed them onto parchment paper, which I prefer over foil, and lightly salted them. 

     Next, they went into a 325 degree (F) oven for about 25-30 min.  Once they were cooked through and slightly caramelized on the outside I took the micro-plane to a block of Pecorino Romano cheese and tossed them around with my tongs to mix.  Finally, I shredded a little more cheese on top to form a crunchy cheesy crust and baked them for an additional 5-10 min.  The Romano should be crispy at this point.  If you don't like Brussels sprouts now, you might not have any hope. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

TGA Test Kitchen: Fresh Apple Cupcakes a variation on Paula Deens Pearlicious Cake

  This is a people pleasing recipe right here!  It comes from Our Lady of Butter, Paula Deen.  It is called Pearlicious Cake and it is amazing with or without the sugary pear glaze.  My variation uses fresh apples and a slightly different amount of ingredients.  The following is the recipe for Pearlcious cake:  

1 1/4 cups oil
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all purpose flour
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1 t vanilla
2 cups chopped canned pears, well drained but save the juice for glaze
1 cup pecans-chopped

In a mixing bowl, combine the oil, sugar, and eggs, and beat well. Sift together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add this to the creamed mixture and stir until blended. Stir in vanilla. Fold in the pears and pecans. Grease and flour a 10 inch tube pan or Bundt cake pan and spoon in batter. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes at 325'.


1 T butter-at room temperature
1 1/2 cups powder sugar
2-3 T juice from pears

Mix butter and sugar first and then add juice a little at a time until you can pour it.

I personally don't care for the extra sugar on top of a delicious moist cake, so I skipped it. 

This time I used a Fresh Apple Cake recipe to make cupcakes instead of a bundt cake.  The apple cake recipe is actually much simpler than the pear cake.  The most difficult step is peeling the apples, and you only need about 4 or 5 of them.  Here is what you need to do for fresh apple cake:

Mix together well:
     1 cup salad oil (I used canola)
     2 cups sugar
     3 eggs
     3 cups flour
     1 teaspoon salt
     1 teaspoon baking soda
     2 teaspoons baking powder
     1 teaspoon cinnamon

Then Add:

     4 cups peeled, cubed apples.
     1 1/2 cups chopped nuts

The batter will be VERY thick and heavy.  Do not panic!  This is where you have two options... bake in a bundt pan for 1 hour and 20 min at 325 (F) or bake in cupcake form for only about 40 min.  I was pleased to find that the cupcakes came out just as moist as the bundt cake and were still moist and gooey. 

Now go into your kitchen and play.  Make a bundt cake for your next brunch since they are so pretty on a nice platter, or make individual little cupcakes that are great for sharing with friends or even stick one in your kids lunch box to show them how much you love them! 

From the Fairy's Garden: Rat-Tailed Radish

  I recently recieved a packet of seeds from a fellow gardener. They were rat-tailed radishes. I was very interested as I had never heard of such a thing. They are from Asia and apparently do well in the heat, so they should be great here in Florida. 

  I just planted two rows in a small raised bed today, after ammending the soil with some beautiful homemade compost.  I will repost in a few weeks, hopefully, with a small harvest of delicious little spicy rat-tailed radish pods! 

  For more garden ideas and tips, check out The Urban Garden Project on Facebook.  Like the page to get updates and ask gardening questions.    https://www.facebook.com/UrbanGardenProject

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Agenda day 1: Debaucherous Granola

This is my debaucherous granola recipe pre-oven.  This batch contains 3 cups of oats, 1 cup of flaked coconut (no sugar added), 1 cup of hazelnuts, 1 cup of cashews, and a handful of sesame seeds. 

To make the delicious sweet glaze you mix a 1/2 cup of oil or butter (depending on your health preference) and a 1/2 cup of honey or brown sugar.  The glaze also contains 1 teaspoon of vanilla and a dash (or two) of cinnamon.  I used Saigon, also known as Vietnamese, cinnamon which contains more cinnamon oil, so you should use less for even better flavor.   

Bake this sticky mess spread out onto two sheet pans in a 350 degree (F) oven for about 30-35 min or until its golden and smells toasty.  I used parchment paper to keep the granola from sticking to the pan, and WOW did it make cleanup soooo much easier!  Parchment paper is a bakers best friend.