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Benefits of Using a Home Food Dehydrator

If you thought the time of the home food dehydrator was long past, you would be mistaken! In fact, there are more reasons than ever before to consider using a dehydrator at home, the current economic standings for starters. There are many different types of dehydrators on the market today, even units that require no electricity! If you are still on the fence about buying a home food dehydrator, consider the benefits below.

How many times have you wanted to stock up on fruit that you found for a bargain price? Most families, unless they are mini football teams, will never be able to eat large quantities of fruit or fresh vegetables before they spoil. Enter the home food dehydrator, you and your family can eat as much of the fresh food as you like and dehydrate the rest for handy snacks and cooking ingredients. Soups and casseroles are just as tasty with dried peppers and onions as they are with fresh!

Have you ever wondered what causes food to spoil? Part of the cause is water, more accurately the bacteria within the water. When you dehydrate food, all water is removed and bacteria can no longer survive and multiply. This means dehydrated items have a much longer shelf life than raw food items. Fruit, vegetables and meat can easily and safely be stored, providing safe healthy treats.

Are you tired of the same old snacks and food? Using special seasonings and marinades with your home food dehydrator can spice up your life so to speak. A nice teriyaki marinade on chicken or beef makes for delicious meat jerky for snack time. Live a little and experiment with different seasonings and flavors, you might just find dried cinnamon apples are tastier than any candy bar!

Most people today are constantly on the go, which makes watching what you eat difficult. When you can obtain a greasy calorie laden burger in record time via the drive through instead of waiting 20 minutes to be served a healthy salad at the local restaurant, it is easy to see why people are not eating healthy. Using a dehydrator at home can provide a myriad of healthy snacks you can take on the go, instead of unhealthy fast food take along a dried fruit melody and some beef jerky.

Can you think of more uses for a home food dehydrator? Whether you simply want more snack options or you are a serious survivalist preserving food for any eventuality, this is a product you cannot do without. Save money buying in bulk or stocking up on sale items, keep your food longer and provide the family with healthier alternatives to fast food and vending machines with your very own food dehydrator!


Three Steps to Making Fantastic Tea

Is the tea that you make always bitter tasting and not very good? It's not fun taking the time to brew a pot of tea and then being unable to drink it because it tastes horrible. Here's some simple tips and steps to follow to ensure that every cup of tea you brew tastes great.

If you are using plain tap water this could be a big cause of your poor tasting tea. The minerals and chemicals found in tap water can play a part in altering the taste of your tea and in making it bitter. You should always try to use filtered water when brewing tea. This doesn't mean that you need to use expensive glacier filtered water! A simple water filter such as a Brita can do the trick.

Also make sure that the water you are boiling starts off cold. Warm water is no good. You also definitely don't want to re-boil any day old water that is sitting in your tea kettle. You want to fill your kettle with cold, fresh water. This alone can go a long way in brewing a great tasting pot of tea.

Incorrect water temperature is a big mistake that most people make. Boiling water poured immediately from the kettle is too hot and will burn the tea leaves. This is one of the major causes of bitter tea. Here's two simple ways to solve this problem. The first thing that you can do is to let the freshly boiled water cool down for a few minutes before pouring it over top of your tea. The second method that works is to stop your kettle before the water reaches the boiling point. Either of these methods will do the trick and will prevent the tea leaves from being burned, resulting in a poor tasting cup.

The third important factor in brewing a great cup of tea is the steeping time. Letting the tea steep for too long can also lead to bitterness. A good guideline is to steep tea for two or three minutes. Some teas such as rooibos do well with a longer steeping time. The best thing to do is to try out different lengths of time. Different people have different tastes. Experimenting is the only way to brew tea that matches your unique tastes.

Follow these three simple tips and you'll notice the difference in the quality of tea you brew.


Explore the Different Kinds of Kitchen Knives

Everyone's kitchen should have a good set of kitchen knives. But there are so many different kinds of kitchen knives out there, how do you choose the ones that you need?

There are carving, pastry, cheese and steak knives to name a few. We should start with steak knives because everyone should have a good set of steak knives, whether you eat steak or not. It's a good idea to have these kinds of knives because they can cut lots of food besides meats. They can cut breads without smashing it down because these knives are serrated like a saw; apples and other hard covered fruits like pineapples and melons. Vegetables are another good food a steak knife can cut through that a butter knife cannot.

General Kitchen Knives

In the general knife category we have a chef's knife, bread knife, paring and utility knives. The chef's knife is usually large and can chop just about anything from onions to tomatoes with easy. A bread knife is like a saw, serrated so as not to smash the bread down. A paring knife is a small knife used for pealing things or intricate, delicate work such as de-veining shrimp. And a utility knife is a medium sized knife meant for all types of cutting jobs, however, it's too small to handle large cutting jobs, so it's best for general purpose usage, some compare it to a butter knife, only sharper.

Carving and Boning Knives

A carving knife, also known as a V-shaped knife is used most often when carving a turkey or ham or some type of meat. They are very sharp knives and the only sharpening needed is back and forth against a metal rod every now and again. Among the meat knives is a boning knife, which as the name suggests, helps when boning a fish and a fillet knife which can also be used with fish, although it can also be used with other meats.

Small Kitchen Knives

Small knives come in handy for, well, small jobs, such as peeling, decorating and trimming. The peeling knife, also known as a bird's beak knife because of its tip on the end that points down, are often used the same as paring knives so there is usually no need to have both.

Good Knives for Cooks

Then there are the miscellaneous knives that someone who cooks a lot can use. However, someone who barely knows where their kitchen is can probably live with out these types of knives. They are the cheese knives, one for each, soft and hard cheeses; the Asian knives, Santuko, the Sashimi, Usuba and Deba Hocho knives and finally the specialty knives which would be your tomato, oyster, de-veining, grapefruit, chestnut, mincing and tourner knives.

How a Kitchen Knife is Made

The construction process of the knives is important to know, and just as vital as owning them, and knowing which knives you own. There are at least seven different types of materials knives can be made of; you have the knives made of carbon steel which is carbon and iron. These are very inexpensive and very sharp. Next, you will find the knives that are made out of plain stainless steel. These are the low end stainless steel and are used mostly in flatware such as knives, forks and spoons.

Then you get into the higher end alloys for your better made knives. One good example is the high carbon stainless steel which refers to a higher-grade of stainless steel. Then there are the laminated blades. These use the greatest various materials and sandwich them one on top of the other with the harder surface in the center and the softer ones on the outer.

Some knives are made of titanium, a much lighter weight, further resistant to wear and more bendable than steel. However, it's not as firm and won't hold a sharp edge as long. Ceramic blades are very hard and durable and hold a good, razor-sharp edge for many months and maybe even a year with absolutely no upkeep at all. And finally, plastic knives are not very sharp at all; they are used mainly for cutting vegetables and soft things.

There are several different styles of handles as well, such as wood, which is not as easy to care for as the plastic but are more attractive. The plastic handles don't absorb microorganisms as much as the wood or composite handles, which are made of two or more types of wood.

Whatever knife set you are choosing, always choose one that has the tang the width of the knife. The tang is the blade going all the way through the handle; this gives the blade balance and will not cause it to crack off if you do some heavy cutting.

Know your kitchen knives and get the best set for you.


The Health Benefits of Goji Berries

Goji berries are shriveled red berries that look like red raisins that grow on an evergreen shrub found in temperate and subtropical regions in China, Mongolia and in the Himalayas in Tibet. They are usually found dried, have a slight tangy taste, and belong to the nightshade (Solonaceae) family. Some other Names for Gojji berries include Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, and Fructus lycii.

Goji Berries have more vitamin C pound for pound than oranges. Scientifically controlled studies using vitamin C for colds show that it can reduce the severity of cold symptoms, acting as a natural antihistamine. The vitamin may be useful for allergy control for the same reason: It may reduce histamine levels. By giving the immune system one of the important nutrients it needs, extra vitamin C can often shorten the duration of the cold. Being an important factor in collagen production, vitamin C is useful in wound healing of all types. From cuts and broken bones to burns and recovery from surgical wounds, vitamin C taken orally helps wounds to heal faster and better. I love using the dried goji berries in a salad for zap flavour and healthier salad.
Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years by herbalists in China, Tibet and India to:
- protect the liver
- help eyesight
- improve sexual function and fertility
- strengthen the legs
- boost immune function
- improve circulation
- promote longevity

Goji berries are also rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin's key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65.

In recent years, goji juice has become popular as a health beverage. Companies marketing goji juice often mention the unsupported claim that a man named Li Qing Yuen consumed goji berries daily and lived to be 252 years old. Marketers also list extensive health benefits of goji juice, even though there are few published clinical trials in humans.

In traditional Chinese medicine, goji berries are eaten raw, brewed into a tea, added to Chinese soups, or made into liquid extracts. Goji berries have appeared in snack foods in North America. For example, the health food store Trader Joe's sells a goji berry trail mix. Whole goji berries are available at Chinese herbal shops. Goji juice can be found in some health food stores, online stores, and through network marketers.


Why Do You Need Extra Pantry Shelving?

If you are looking for some extra space in your kitchen but do not want to do an extensive remodel, kitchen pantry shelving may be the answer. With many families taking advantage of buying food items in bulk when they find them on sale or when they make a trip to their local warehouse club, there is even greater need for extra shelving when they return home to find a place to store those extra items.

You can look at this as being a good problem to have, since you have saved a great deal of money and yet have enough food to feed your family with for a long period of time, but it can also be a problem if you are going to have to store that food somewhere other than in kitchen pantry shelving.

Then there are those families who shop at salvage grocery stores where the price is so much cheaper on all the items their family uses the most. Having extra kitchen shelving can be a life saver in this instance, because you may be bringing home lots more food and need a place to put it. That extra pantry shelving can mean the difference between eating well and enjoying it more, and eating out of cans and boxes and enjoying it less.

Of course, you have also heard of the phenomenal savings to be had when you do extreme couponing, and maybe you have seen some of those TV programs that highlight families using coupons to bring home huge amounts of groceries and other items they are going to be using throughout the year. This is definitely where some extra kitchen pantry shelving will come in handy because where else will you store those 50 boxes of cereal you just bought for $1 if you don't have adequate pantry shelving to put them on?

It really doesn't matter how you purchase the groceries and other items that are typically stored on kitchen pantry shelving, it is not unusual to find that most households, regardless of size and financial means, can always use extra shelving.

Some ideas for good use of kitchen pantry shelving might look like this:

1. Under shelf baskets that slide in and out can be placed hanging underneath a shelf that allows room at the bottom.
2. Stacking shelving allows you to make better use of the space you already have.
3. Wall and door racks are perfect ways to store those small items that seem to take up so much space. Items like spices, muffin cups, and envelope mixes fit well into this type of organizational tool.
4. Gravity feed can racks are a good solution to keeping your canned foods organized and rotated according to date of purchase.
5. Turntables are a great idea when you have limited space, and allow you to keep track of things like spices and baking items and you get to utilize every inch of the space you have available.

Regardless of your need for kitchen pantry shelving, there is a solution that will help you feel more organized, and provide you with storage for all your purchases.


Inexpensive Chicken Recipes

I have noticed in this hard economic time more and more people are turning to food that cost less, that means for meat most people are eating more and more chicken. In fact, my husband who works for a local grocery store as a meat cutter says the beef sales are down about 30% from last year but the chicken sales are up 25%. With us all eat more and more chicken that means we are probably eating it night after night which becomes really mundane. So what do you do?

You find ways to keep the chicken exciting and make sure from night to night it is different. Meaning you need to find recipes that are high in flavor but still keep costs down. Then we tend to run into another problem flavor means time, right? And let's face it most of us don't have a lot of time to make dinner with work, kids and soccer practice. So now we need recipes for chicken breasts that are cheap, flavorful, AND don't take much time.

You're in luck because I just so happen to know a few, well okay a lot, of recipes just like that. Here is one that is very quick, tastes great and you can customize it to your families tastes and size.

Chicken Rice
3 c cooked rice (you can use white, brown, instant, or even Rice-a-Roni)
2 Chicken breast cooked and cubed (I will cook 5-6 breast for my family of 4 and then freeze the other rest)
1-2 c of your choice of frozen veggies (I personally like something green, like broccoli, peas, or green beans with mine)

You add all of this together on Medium heat adding a little water if necessary for 10-15 minutes. Then season with pepper a little salt and if you choose, garlic powder.
Serves 4.

This recipe above will feed four and it only cost me about 5 dollars to make. That ends up costing just over $1 a person and that to me is absolutely amazing. Would you like another simple recipe to keep you going for another day? Of course you do, so here it is.

Chicken and gravy
4 Chicken Breast
2 cans of Cream of Chicken Soup
1 c Rice uncooked (again white, brown, instant, or whatever)
2 c water for regular rice (1 ¼ c for instant)

You pour the rice into the crock-pot and then add the water. You will then gently put the chicken on top of the rice, the chicken will move the rice a bit and it is no big deal. Then you pour the soup in cover it up and cook. Cook for 8-9 hours on Low and 5 on High. Serve with your choice of veggie.
Serves 4.

This recipe cost a little more, but I average about $6, so that is $1.50 per person. At that price you should be able to stay under budget every month for food, or just reduce how much you budget.

I hope you have enjoyed this recipes and look forward to teaching you more.


Lose Weight Naturally With The Best Detox Diet

You always see the celebrities in their best form and you always wonder if you too can do it. If you think you can't, you are wrong. It is actually easy to lose weight if you only put your heart and mind into it. It is always mind over matter when it comes to things such as these.

Don't ever get yourself into the habit of starving yourself. Starvation is never a good way to lose weight. When you do this, you only end up enhancing your cravings and when you eat, you end up eating a lot more. So you ask, what is the best diet to start if you want to lose weight?

The best natural weight loss programs are listed below.

1) Ban Carbohydrates!

If you really want to stop your cravings and undertake a natural weight loss program, you need to reduce your carbohydrate intake. What foods contain carbohydrates, you ask? These would be things like rice, pasta, breads, and mashed potatoes. When carbs enter your system, they are converted into sugar which wreaks havoc on your system. If you are afraid that you will not have adequate energy when cutting out carbs, there are different ways to get this with a natural weight loss program. What are they? Even though it has carbs, replace white rice with brown rice, because it has a lower content. If you still want pasta or bread, you can opt for whole wheat pastas and breads with a high fiber content. Oatmeal is another great alternative because it, too, contains high fiber. Fiber aids in cleansing your stomach.

2) Eat more vegetables and fruit.

Eating fruits and vegetables is a great alternative to meats and other not-so-healthy choices. You can feel the sensation of fullness faster when you eat fruits like apples and bananas. Things like these are wiser to consume because they can stop cravings for fast foods and unhealthy snacks. You can even put together a salad with lettuce, tomato, cucumbers and onions or any other vegetables you prefer to replace a meal. When choosing a salad dressing, pick one that doesn't include a lot of added fats or mayonnaise, like a vinaigrette or other balsamic oil based product. You can add fruit to any meal or eat this as a snack to make you feel full and hydrate you.

3) Increase your water intake.

Speaking of keeping hydrated, a good natural weight loss diet will never forget to tell or remind you about drinking tons of water. Water keeps you hydrated. Water also helps in food digestion and food excretion. Prevent from drinking alcohol, concentrated juices and carbonated drinks.

Infuse exercises or working out in your diet and you will lose weight sooner than later.


The Amazing Multitude Of Health Benefits Of The Coconut

Coconuts are a bountiful gift to this planet. In Sanskrit (the mother language of India), the coconut palm is known as 'kalpa vriksha', meaning ' the tree that supplies all that is needed to live.' An ancient plant that is distantly related to grasses, the coconut has been used as a food and medicine since the dawn of history. Ayurveda (the art of science and medicine that has its roots in India) has long advocated the therapeutic, medicinal and cosmetic properties of coconuts.

The coconut's liquid filtration system is one of the reasons why this beloved plant is so nourishing. Every liter of water in its shell takes almost nine months to be drawn up and through the plant, where it is deposited in the nut. More electrolytes are found in coconut water than in most other plants, making it an ideal hydrating liquid. Drinking a mixture of 55% coconut and 45% green juice gives the body an immediate burst of natural energy.

In the inquiry on healthy versus unhealthy fats, coconut oil tips the scales in terms of its nutritional value. While it is a saturated fat, not all saturated fats are harmful for us. Coconut oil is cholesterol-free and does not change into a trans-fat, which means it can be used at high heat. It has also been shown that coconut oil is more powerful than olive oil in controlling cholesterol. Also, because it is a medium-chain fatty acid, it is easier for the body to digest, meaning the fat can be used more readily as fuel.

In terms of its nutritive and cosmetic applications, coconut oil is one of the most important oils in the spectrum of fats. It is useful to the thyroid, helping the production of anti-aging steroids, DHEA, pregnenolone and progesterone. Heart disease, cancer, obesity, senility and other common diseases related to aging are abated by these steroids. Capryllic and lauric acid are also found in coconut, which both help control bacteria, funguses and viruses in the body. In fact, caprilyc acid is the most effective combatant for yeast invasions, making coconut a good oil to work with regulating systemic and localized flare-ups. If these qualities aren't enough, using coconut oil as your oil of choice in cooking can help regulate blood sugar, aiding harmony in all body systems. When using coconut oil medicinally, adults should use at least two or three tablespoons daily.

Cooking with coconut oil is a delightful way to introduce this supplement into your life. Try using it instead of margarine, butter or other vegetable oils. Also, consider using fresh coconuts that are not too old (i.e., forgo the coconut shavings and buy a whole coconut instead).The flesh is primarily fat, and it can be chopped and eaten with fruit for a delectable treat. Coconut oil is also great as an oil for veggies, tossed into your morning smoothie or slathered on bread with spices or preserves. If you're looking for a way to enhance oats or rice, coconut oil adds a special note to a normally humble dish.

Coconut's reputation as a skin nutrient is well-documented, and people with many skin types can benefit from its moisture-giving qualities. In aromatherapy, both virgin and fractionated coconut oils are used. A way to see the difference is to remember that virgin coconut oil looks more like coconut flesh. It is a solid fat that is used in both cooking and body care, and it can be mixed with aromatic oils. While it is certainly a dense oil, virgin coconut oil doesn't leave the skin feeling too oily, as it is absorbed rapidly. Fractionated coconut has similar qualities, but it is made by physically reducing the size of the fat molecule, removing the section of the molecule that makes it a solid. This creates a liquid oil that has no odor, lasts a long time (its molecular structure makes it "fully saturated," meaning it has no atomic space for oxygen to attach, thereby deteriorating the oil) and is quickly consumed by the skin. Sometimes coconut is mixed with other oils, like jojoba, resulting in a nutrient-rich cream. With so many coconut oils to choose from, mixing coconut with aromatic oils is a simple way to add to your health and beauty regimen.

One more thing about the fabulous coconut: this oil is great for use in as a moisturizer for couples. Both the taste and smell of coconut add to the delights of loving partners. A great way to experience coconut is by mixing it with vanilla and cacao oils. Smooth this concoction over your lover's skin and enjoy.

In terms of versatility, the coconut is a marvel of nature and a perfect oil to work with in aromatherapy and nutritional healing. It can be used in body work, cooking and skin care, and its radiance is highlighted when complemented with essential oils. Use it in any form and expect results - the coconut has long been our friend, and its beneficial qualities continue to be discovered and cherished the world over.


Sugar Free Candy: Sweets without the Calories

Candy junkies and sweet tooths everywhere can finally join hands in a sugar worship hosanna--without the sugar. There are so many delicious new recipes and sweet treats on the candy market that feature sugar substitutes and natural sweeteners that have been engineered into a familiar sugary form. You can now indulge without ruining your diet or sacrificing variety.

Sugar free candy in all your favorite varieties can now be found, just a few clicks away online. And make sure to browse through a selection of nostalgia baiting classic candies, like crispy, buttery Malt Balls and bright, colorful Gummy Bears. For gum chewers, classic sugar free gumballs and sugar free mint gum make tasty alternatives to the sugar shocked bubble gums flooding the market today.

No matter what your craving, there's a sugar free candy to satisfy it. Taste test some of these tantalizing treats yourself, or give them as gifts to a few candy loving, calorie counting friends.

Sugar Free Gummy Bears

What's your gummy bear munching style? Do you eat them ears first--or are you a toe nibbler? A classic treat beloved by kids and adults everywhere, these sweet, fruity bears are entirely sugar free, so you can indulge without restraint, without even noticing the difference. They're perfect for sharing with friends, taking to the movies, or just enjoying as a sweet, good for you snack at home. Pick up a rainbow colored selection today, in your choice of custom packaging.

Sugar Free Chocolate Covered Raisins

Chocolate covered raisins are an absolutely delicious chocolate delicacy with a sweet, tender raisin filling. Always delicious, always a great choice for dieters and health conscious candy lovers. Bring a few handfuls to the movies, mix them in with GORP on the trail, snack on them at home, pack them in bag lunches for a dessert that's both smart and sweet--chocolate, fruit, and good taste make sugar free chocolate covered raisins a classic go-to when it comes to healthy snacking.

Sugar Free Gumballs

That familiar rainbow mosaic inside a glass bubble can only mean one thing--gumballs! Crunchy on the outside, chewy and sweet on the inside and an absolute classic in the candy universe. sugar free gumballs make great nostalgic gift packages. And since you can count the calories on one hand, they're totally guilt free. Order a bunch today in your choice of custom packaging and spice up any party by challenging your friends to a high-stakes bubble blowing competition.

Sugar Free Malt Balls

Delicious and crunchy, peanut butter dipped malt balls just might deliver a knockout sense of déjà vu--the perfect gift for nostalgic candy lovers. These sugar free treats are big on flavor and low on calories, so you can munch to your heart's content, guilt free. Introduce your favorite young candy lover to one of a prior generation's most familiar candy treats. Or, give them as a thoughtful gift to any sweet tooth with specific dietary needs. For diabetics, calorie counters, health conscious chocolate lovers, parents or anyone with a restricted diet, sugar free malt balls are the perfect way to dash that chocolate craving whenever it strikes.

Sugar Free Chocolate Covered Peanuts

The perfect accompaniment to chocolate covered raisins, these salty, nutritious peanuts are coated in a layer of rich, creamy, miraculously sugar free chocolate, so you can much to your heart's content without worrying about the extra calories. They're a convenient, delicious choice for quick energy on the go. Order your serving today in fun, customized packaging.

Sugar Free Mint Chewing Gum

Need to sweeten up some funky breath at a moment's notice? Just pop open a stick of sugar free mint chewing gum and enjoy the cooling sensation of delicious mint anytime. Its unique packaging makes this a sweet, practical gift for a sugar-free friend. Tuck it into your backpack for a delicious pick me up, wherever you are.

Five Pack of Sugar Free Gum

Your favorite sugar free gum for instant, on the go, cooling refreshment is now available in a convenient five pack. Signature packaging makes this delicious gum both a fashion statement as well as a delicious anytime treat. Share it with friends, use it as an ice breaker in unfamiliar social situations, give it as a universally appreciated gift--it's gum! Everyone has a place in their backpacks and hearts for a stick of sweet, minty sugar free chewing gum. Sugar free chewing gum is especially useful as an anti-smoking aid for anyone trying to quit. Now available packaged in seven delightfully eye-grabbing colors.

Practically any delectable candy treat you can think of is now available in an equally delicious sugar free incarnation. Take a few moments to browse the net and find your favorites with a healthy twist now.


Easy To Bake Easy To Make Popcorn

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Have you ever had that sensation? You go out to a circus, fair or amusement park, and suddenly there is this delicious scent; warm, buttery, sweet and accompanied by what seems the scent of freshly baked bread. And suddenly, you have the craving. Yes, I am talking about popcorn. That wonderful snack-king of the easy baking family. Most of us love nothing more than to have a large bag when we go to the cinema or sit down with the family on the couch on a Friday evening to watch a nice movie. Yes, popcorn is by far the number one when it comes to snacks enjoyed during good times.

But where does it come from, who created that lovely treat we often take for granted today?

Would it surprise you to learn that it was the Native Americans who gave us this delight? Indeed, thousands of years ago, the earliest evidence having been found has been dating around 3600 BC, corn was being popped - making it the oldest form of consumed corn.

The western world learned about popcorn from the Native Americans when in the 16th and 17th century the British travelled to America. From there on, popcorn was unstoppable. For instance, during the Great Depression, corn was one of the few food supplies which were available at a fairly reasonable price, thus turning it into a popular food group! It also caused the corn industry to flourish in a time when other businesses died out.

But the Great Depression wasn't the only time when popcorn came out victorious; in the Second World War, rations were at an all-time low. Not merely on luxury items such as sugar, but in general. Due to the recession Americans would eat three times more popcorn than they had ever done before.

To this day, there are no less than six states in the Unites States of America who all claim to be the popcorn state of the USA. Personally, I don't care about states - as long as I can have my portion of this easy baking snack when I decide to call it a family film night!


- 3 Tbsp of canola peanut or grapeseed oil (high smoke point oil) - 1/3 cup of high quality popcorn kernels - 1 3-quart covered saucepan - 2 Tbsp or more (to taste) of butter - Salt to taste


1) Heat the oil in a 3-quart saucepan on medium high heat.

2) Put 3 or 4 popcorn kernels into the oil and cover the pan.

3) When the kernels pop, add the rest of the 1/3 cup of popcorn kernels in an even layer. Cover, remove from the heat source and count 30 seconds. (Count out loud; it's fun to do with kids.) This method first heats the oil to the right temperature, then waiting 30 seconds brings all of the other kernels to a near-popping temperature so that when they are put back on the heat, they all pop at about the same time.

4) Return the pan to the heat. The popcorn should begin popping soon, and all at once. Once the popping starts in earnest and gently shake the pan by moving it back and forth over the burner. Try to keep the lid slightly ajar to let the steam from the popcorn release (the popcorn will be drier and crisper). Once the popping slows to several seconds between pops, remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and dump the popcorn immediately into a wide bowl.

With this technique, nearly all of the kernels pop (I counted 4 unpopped kernels in my last batch), and nothing burns.

If you are adding butter, you can easily melt it by placing the butter in the now empty, but hot pan.

Salt to taste.

Additional tips:

If you add salt to the oil in the pan before popping, when the popcorn pops, the salt will be well distributed throughout the popcorn.

Fun toppings for the popcorn - Spanish smoked paprika, nutritional yeast, cayenne powder, chili pepper, curry powder, cumin, grated Parmesan cheese.


How to Prepare a Dinner Party When You Are Busy

If you are a sociable kind of person, one of the things that you probably enjoy doing is hosting guests for dinner parties. Indeed, preparing a dinner party can be a lot of work, involving a lot of cooking, food preparation, table setting, and tidying up. In fact, making the house clean and tidy is one of the most important elements as you would only want your guests to see your home when it is neat and spotless. But as any talented host or hostess would agree, once the food is set out and the guests arrive, all your hard work is very well worth it.

However, in reality, if you are working full time and you are very busy, you probably do not have the time to make too many dinner parties unless you have constant household help. Most working mothers will tell you that after a hard day at the office, they do not have the strength to walk into the house and do a major cooking and cleaning job. It is far too hard. Even at the weekends, they are tired and it is just too hard to work so hard during the little free time that they have.

Yet this seems to be a terrible shame. In our busy lives, it is important to have the occasional social activity to provide a diversion from our tough work schedules. So how can you fit in making the occasional dinner party when you are working full time?

The answer is efficient planning:
-Plan your party well in advance - up to a month is good. In that time, slowly do a bit of cleaning every day so that you are not left having to do a massive cleanup the night before.

- Buy in the food you need a few days before and then spread the cooking over that week. Look at the recipes you are making and see what can be prepared and frozen a day or two in advance, rather than frantically cooking up a storm the same day.

- Decide on color schemes and the style of table setting a few days in advance and then plan accordingly. Make sure to have your napkins, etc, in several days before. Make sure that the tablecloth and other accessories are washed in advance also, so that you don't go crazy on the night when you discover that your favorite tablecloth is dirty. Similarly, plan the outfits you will be wearing early enough to make sure that everything is cleaned and ironed well beforehand.

- If you are able to, you could even set up the table the night before. Napkin folding is an easy task to do in advance, for example, and you could lay out anything that is not perishable carefully in the dining room the night before and then lock the door.

Perhaps the most important thing to have, in addition to the above, is a positive attitude. Rather than driving yourself crazy or beating yourself up over it, just do the best that you can under the circumstances and enjoy your guests!


Gift-Shopping 101: How To Choose The Right Gift Basket

No matter how old we are, we all enjoy receiving presents from our loved ones. From birthdays, anniversaries, and other important milestones in our lives, we have all received presents ranging from the most inexpensive to the costliest ones. No matter what we get, we love getting these not only because of the actual items we receive, but also because we relish the thought that we are loved and cherished by others.

Most people agree that the act of gift-giving is one that is mirrored in societies all over the world--with absolutely no exception. Whether a society is primitive (as in tribal societies in Africa, in South America, and Asia) or modern, a form of gift-giving will certainly be found. From conch shells, yams, and elephant tusks (typical stuff given in primitive societies) to any important object found in most modern societies, these presents have been given and have been received since time immemorial.

Parallel to receiving a present is of course the act of giving one. We love to give gifts as much as we love receiving them. We enjoy being able to express our love and concern, as well as our gratitude and appreciation to those around us. This is the reason why we usually take our time and choose the most appropriate items for these people. It has been said that the amount of time that we spend selecting the right present is proportional to the importance of the recipient to us. True or not, this certainly underlines the importance of gift-giving in our lives.

Aside from the gifting experience involved among members of a close-knit group such as a family, a group of friends and colleagues at work, there is also a group of people for whom we have also bought gifts although they play secondary roles in our lives. These are our neighbors, business associates, and acquaintances with whom we interact within a business or formal context. If giving a present to someone we are very familiar with is already very difficult, imagine buying one for someone you do not know very well at all. Fortunately, man has invented various ways with which we can continue the gift-giving tradition but without the hassle and stress normally involved.

No matter if you are buying a gift for a loved one or a business colleague, there is a wonderful idea which allows us to be creative while providing a wide range of options to help us identify the perfect item for the recipient. If you haven't considered them yet, why not look at gift baskets as the perfect option the next time you need to buy someone a present?

The most important challenge involved in giving such a package is of course the process of choosing exactly what to give, and this is where we would like to help you. Here are some guide questions you should ask yourself in order to choose the perfect package.

Tip # 1 For what occasion will the present be given?

More often that not, we give thoughtful packages when a particular occasion arises. On special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and traditional holidays, among others, we mostly give ones that truly commemorate the spirit of the occasion. Although most baskets are generic and can be given during any particular event, the best basket is one that truly reflects the important milestone which you are commemorating. For instance, while it is perfectly acceptable to send a festive and colorful package as a birthday present, it is not appropriate to send a similar basket to express your condolences to the family of a person who has recently passed away. The operative word here is propriety, and so you have to remember this when choosing the right basket.

Tip # 2 Who is the recipient?

Next on the list of things to consider, and not the least important one is of course the recipient. Just as there are various kinds of baskets to be given, there are as many kinds of people who will receive such baskets. You have to be able to identify the interests of the person and then choose themes that reflect or complement these interests. For instance, if it's for your parents' anniversary, consider age-appropriate materials suitable for their age. If it's for the bridal shower of a best friend, then you may be more adventurous and choose risqué items to put in the basket. Full consideration must therefore be given to the recipient. After all, the whole point is to make the recipient happy. If you give a present that the receiver will not be able to enjoy nor appreciate, then the whole ritual would have been a failure.

Tip # 3 What is your working budget?

The final consideration is your budget. How much are you willing to shell out for the recipient? Do you want to impress him or her? Depending on these factors, then you can decide how much you are willing to pay for a basket that you wish to give to the intended recipient. Typically, these baskets range from USD 30.00 to 70.00, with the pricier ones going well over USD 100.00. Of course, along with the price consideration is the quality issue. You have to keep in mind that not all baskets are made up of items of the same quality; thus, the higher the price of the basket, the higher the quality of the items in it. Do remember that most people know the difference between cheap knockoffs and the real thing, so buying cheaper versions may defeat the original purpose for which the package has been given. If you want to impress, go for the higher-priced ones or at least carefully consider the items within your working budget. Scrimping may make you feel good because you have been able to save money, but think about how this will bear an impact to the person who is on the receiving end.

By choosing to buy a gift basket, your next gift-shopping experience will certainly be an easier one!


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