Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fresh-Squeezed Orange Juice


Mr. Handsome and I have been on a fresh-squeezed orange juice kick. I know it's traditionally a breakfast drink, but we usually make it after dinner as a substitute for dessert.


I have always considered store-bought orange juice to be hit or miss. Every once in a while, you get a winner, and but you usually get a lemon (which is a real problem, unless you're in the mood for lemonade...excuse the pun).

Someday when we have more kitchen space (I really dislike clutter), we might invest in one of those fancy electric juicers, but for now, our handheld citrus juicer works just fine. And hey, when you spend 5 minutes making a single serving of juice, that juice is much more satisfying.


I am a firm believer in full-pulp orange juice, and our little $5 juicer seems to agree. The results have been delicious! At first, we used only Valencia oranges (known as juicing oranges), but then we started mixing in some naval oranges, and the already incredible taste improved by leaps and bounds. Do you enjoy fresh-squeezed orange juice?

Monday, March 20, 2017

Deviled Eggs Tutorial

Looking for a tasty snack that is decently healthy? How about deviled eggs? I recently prepared them for a get together, and they were a huge hit. Unfortunately, consuming plain eggs never fails give me a headache, so I only had a small taste, but they were great, and our friends loved them, too. Here is the recipe:

Easy Deviled Eggs

Ingredients:
12 hard-boiled eggs
2 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
4 Tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons white sugar
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
Paprika for garnish
Directions:
Cut each egg in half, lengthwise. Gently scoop yolks into a small bowl, and mash with a fork.

Add all remaining ingredients (except paprika), and mix together. 


 Arrange egg white halves along the bottom of a 9x13 pan.


Fill each egg with yolk mixture, as shown below. I used a spoon, but if you want to be extra fancy, feel free to try a pastry bag.


Sprinkle with paprika, and serve.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Baking Tutorial: Chai Cupcakes


I fell in love with chai cupcakes the very first time I tasted them, which was at my sister-in-law's wedding almost four years ago. After having them a couple more times since that day, I came to the conclusion that I had to figure out how to make them. They are just that good!

I came across a recipe on Taste of Home and made adaptations to make it slightly healthier and easier to follow. (They are still cupcakes, though, so there is only so much you can do to make them "healthy.") Hope you enjoy my tutorial!

Homemade Chai Cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes:
1-1/2 teaspoons of the following 5-spice mixture:
   1/2 teaspoon cinnamon  
   1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
   1/2 teaspoon cloves
   1/2 teaspoon cardamom (the "secret" ingredient)
   1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 
1-1/2 cups flour (I use unbleached white)
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup 2% milk

*Frosting:
3 Tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 to 2 Tablespoons 2% milk
Remaining amount of 5-spice mixture
Extra cinnamon for garnish
*In my opinion, one batch of frosting is just the right amount for one batch of cupcakes (makes 12). But if you're a frosting lover and want tons, feel free to double.

Directions

Cupcakes: In a large mixing bowl, use a fork or whisk to cream sugar and softened butter until all grains of sugar are mixed in (approximately 1-2 minutes).


 Add egg and vanilla, and cream until fully mixed in (approximately 1 minute).


 In a small bowl, make 5-spice mixture (cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cardamom, and pepper).


In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, salt, and 1-1/2 teaspoons of 5-spice mixture.


Gradually add milk and dry mixture to wet mixture. Whisk until fully combined.


Line a 12-muffin pan with muffin cups, and fill 2/3 full with batter. Bake 22-24 minutes at 350 degrees.


Cupcakes are done when toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. When cupcakes can be removed without burning your fingers, place on wire rack to cool.


Frosting: Once cupcakes have cooled, make frosting. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, beat softened butter until smooth. Beat in vanilla and powdered sugar until smooth. Gradually add milk until you have reached the desired consistency for decorating.  Add 1/2 of remaining 5-spice mixture, and taste. Add more if desired.


Decorate cupcakes. I use a piping bag (also known as a pastry bag). They are available at most grocery stores, but if you already have a pastry tip, you can use a sandwich-size plastic bag.


Garnish with a light dusting of cinnamon (and/or remaining spice mixture, if you didn't use it all in the frosting). Enjoy! Be sure to share your hard work with family and friends.
 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

More Memphis Snapshots

In addition to a visit to the zoo and the Peabody Hotel, we made a few other quick stops during our jam-packed day trip to Memphis, Tennessee. One of those stops was the Memphis Pyramid, home of a massive Bass Pro Shops. My fisherman husband was in heaven.


Built in the early 1990s as a 20,000-seat arena (used by the NBA Memphis Grizzlies and the University of Memphis men's basketball program), the pyramid is 321 feet tall and among the top ten tallest pyramids in the world. (Did you know that Memphis was an ancient Egyptian city?)


The idea for the structure, referred to as the Memphis Pyramid or the Great American Pyramid, was conceived in 1954 by a local artist. Bass Pro Shops opened a 535,000-square-foot retail store inside the pyramid two years ago.

In addition to the regular Bass Pro Shops goods, the pyramid features a wilderness-themed hotel, 600,000 gallons of water exhibits (including an alligator habitat), and 100-foot-tall trees. In the center is a 28-story freestanding elevator, which takes visitors up to a glass lookout. We elected not to pay the $10 per person for the elevator ride, but we enjoyed touring the store.


 It truly was a dream come true for Mr. Handsome!



While downtown, we stopped by the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot and killed on April 4th, 1968. The motel now houses the National Civil Rights Museum. We didn't have time to tour the museum, but it was very sobering just to be there. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Peabody Duck March

In addition to visiting the Memphis Zoo on our day trip to Memphis, Tennessee, we also stopped by the iconic Peabody Hotel to watch the historic Duck March, a daily event that has been going on for nearly 90 years.

Never have I seen so much hype over mallard ducks. When we arrived a few minutes before 11am, there were more than 100 people lined up near the elevator in the hotel lobby. Smart phones in hand, they were all waiting patiently for the arrival of the ducks.


At 11am sharp, the "duckmaster" appeared, and an announcement came over the loudspeaker. The elevator door opened, and out walked the ducks!



They made a beeline for the fountain, jumped in, and started swimming in circles. A little anticlimactic but still quite adorable.



Apparently these water fowl live in a $200,000 marble and glass structure called the Royal Duck Palace, located on the rooftop of the hotel. Despite the luxury quarters, the hotel is very clear that it does not treat the ducks like pets. They are raised at a local farm and only live at the hotel for a three-month term, after which they are returned to the farm.

Immediately following the march, everyone hustled over to the tiny fountain to snap pictures of the ducks. Again, mallard ducks are plentiful in the wild, but I guess there's just something intriguing about seeing them indoors. I stepped back to take a photo of the eager crowed.


And then I decided to get in on the fun and snap some duck pictures.


The duckmaster asked a little girl (no more than two years old) to help him dump food into the water. From the back, she looks just like my niece!



And that's the end of my duck gallery. Have you heard of the Peabody ducks or visited the hotel?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Vlog #2: Marrying Young


Hope you're all having a wonderful weekend! We woke up to a thick blanket of snow this morning in Nashville, but it only took about three hours for it to disappear completely.

Your comments and emails indicate that you enjoy a wide variety of posts, including recipes, organization tips, videos, pictures from our travels and day-to-day activities, and discussion questions. Well, this post is a video coupled with a discussion question. It's a topic that always makes my years perk up, and I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Homemade All-Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner


Let's bet honest. Cleaning the bathroom is far from glamorous, and it's always worse when you're using cleaners with heavy odors that leave you feeling lightheaded.

Over a year ago, I shared my recipe for a simple, homemade, multipurpose cleaner. At that point, I was using borax for my toilet bowls and Windex for my mirrors. I have since transitioned to solely natural products. The homemade cleaner I have been using on my toilet bowls is oh so easy to make! Here's the recipe:

Homemade All-Natural Toilet Bowl Cleaner

Ingredients:
  • 1/3 cup liquid Castile soap
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 1/4 tablespoons baking soda
  • 12 drops essential oils* (helps kill bacteria)
Directions:

1. Combine ingredients in a bowl with a spout, and whisk to blend.

2. Pour into a spray bottle or plastic squirt bottle. I use an old dish soap bottle, as shown in the picture above. Be sure to use bottles that are made of a more durable plastic (avoid the flimsy plastic used in disposable water bottles). Be sure to leave a little extra space in the container so it doesn't expand. I also leave the top open for a few hours before storing it.

3. Grab a toilet bowl brush, and start cleaning!

*According to the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy, the following essential oils have antiseptic, disinfectant, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties and are great for cleaning: lemon, lime, orange, lavender, peppermint, rosemary, eucalyptus, and tea tree.