Don’t Light Those Scented Candles!

Still life with candle and a stick of cranberry

As the holiday season is in full swing, many people pull out their wonderful holiday decorations of candelabras, votives and candles in wreaths. But many of those candles are scented to smell like cinnamon spice, apple, or even pine tree or more. As tempting as burning those scented candles may be, they may be causing more harm than good.

Many candles are made from paraffin wax, and when this wax is heated, the toxic chemicals benzene and toluene are released – the same chemicals that can be found in diesel fumes! These toxins are also known as phthalates , which can cause major health effects if inhaled and have been linked to cancer, asthma and common allergies.

The wicks of the candles can also contain heavy metals, most commonly lead. Inhaling lead can cause hormone disruption and behavior problems.

Not all candles are harmful. Be sure to read all labels fully to see what materials are used in the creation of the candle.

There are many alternatives to achieving the beautiful aromas of the season without the use of candles, such as:

  • Soy-based candles with wooden wicks
  • Essential oils
  • Beeswax candles with wooden wicks
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • A small live tree in a pot
  • Wreaths made from fresh branches

My favorite solution for a natural holiday scent is this Holiday Stove-top Potpourri:

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 orange (sliced)
  • 2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons cloves
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1 sprig of rosemary (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Fill a saucepan with 2 to 3 cups of water and toss in all ingredients. Simmer on low. Add water as needed to freshen up.

Perfect End-of-Summer Recipes

It is the last weekend of summer and time for one last BBQ before we put the grills back into storage. If summer has to end we might as well make good food to send it off right. Here are some great recipes to help make the perfect Summer’s end feast!

Watermelon “CAPRESE” with Balsamic Glaze

Photo Courtesy: www.skinnytaste.com
Photo Credit: http://www.skinnytaste.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 red seedless watermelon, sliced 1/2 inch thick (calculated with 16 oz)
  • 8 – 1 oz thin slices fresh mozzarella
  • 1 loose cup baby arugula
  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp balsamic glaze

DIRECTIONS

Use a 4-inch star-shaped cookie cutter (or any shape) and cut 16 stars out of the watermelon (about 1 oz each). Save the excess watermelon for another use.

Arrange the watermelon on a platter, then layer with cheese, arugula, 1/4 tsp olive oil and a pinch of salt on each. Top with a final star, drizzle each with balsamic glaze and serve.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Turkey Burgers with Orange Mustard Glaze

Photo Credit: www.foodnetwork.com
Photo Credit: http://www.foodnetwork.com

INGREDIENTS

Burgers:

  • 1 tbsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
  • 3 lbs ground turkey (white and dark meat)

Glaze:

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup diced jalapeno peppers, with seeds
  • 1 9 oz jar orange marmalade (with peel)
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp chili powder

DIRECTIONS

Prep the burgers: Combine the salt, paprika, pepper and granulated garlic in a small bowl. Form 6 turkey patties and sprinkle on both sides with the seasoning mixture.

Make the glaze: Heat the vegetable oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic and jalapeños and saute until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the marmalade, mustard, black pepper and chili powder and cook about 2 minutes, until fully combined. Reserve until ready to use.

Preheat a grill to high. Grill the patties until nice markings are shown, about 5 minutes per side, then reduce the flame to medium and cook until well done, 12 more minutes, flipping after 5 minutes. At the same time, toast the buns on the grill.

Serve the burgers on the buns; top with the glaze, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Serve with pickles.

For the full recipe click HERE.

Banana Split Kebobs

Photo Credit: www.delish.com
Photo Credit: http://www.delish.com

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 bananas, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 24 1″ pieces pineapple
  • 12 large strawberries, rinsed, dried, and halved
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • ½ cup peanuts, chopped

DIRECTIONS

Assemble the kebobs: thread two pieces of banana, pineapple, and strawberry onto skewer. Repeat process to assemble 23 more skewers. Place all on parchment-lined baking sheet.

In a microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate in microwave using 30-second intervals and stirring in between until completely smooth.

Drizzle chocolate over fruit kebobs and top with chopped peanuts.

Freeze until ready to serve.

For the full recipe click HERE.

When you should harvest your vegetables from your garden

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There’s nothing better than growing your own vegetable garden. You spend a lot of time all summer taking care of your garden in order to get the most out of it. That’s why it’s important to know when it’s the right time to begin harvesting. This not only depends on when your crops are ripe, but also the length of your growing season.

Below is a list of garden vegetables ,along with the best time for picking each kind.

  • Asparagus: When spears are 6-8 inches tall and as thick as your pinky finger, snap them off at ground level and new ones will begin to grow. Stop harvesting about 4-6 weeks after the initial harvest.

  • Beans: Pick before the seeds start to bulge. They should snap in half easily.

  • Beets: These are ready as soon as you see the top of the beet above the soil line. You can leave them in the ground longer if you prefer larger-sized beets. Also, you can harvest the green tops and eat them as well.

  • Cabbage: When the head of the cabbage is solid all the way through when squeezed, it is fully matured and ready to pick.

  • Carrots: These are harder to judge, but can be picked when the carrot shows at the soil line and you can see the diameter of the carrot. They can be left in the ground longer once matured, and a light frost is said to sweeten the carrot.

  • Cauliflower: Similar to broccoli, when the head looks full and the curds of the head are smooth. They typically will not be the same size as ones found at the supermarket.

  • Corn: Once the silk turns dry and brown, the kernels should exude a milky substance when pricked.

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  • Cucumber: Check daily and harvest while they’re young. Timing and length will vary, but the cucumber should be firm and smooth. Over-ripe cucumbers can be bitter even before they start to turn yellow.

  • Eggplant: Slightly immature eggplants taste best. They should be firm and shiny. Cut the eggplant rather than pulling from the plant.

  • Garlic: Garlic tops will start to fall over and begin to turn brown when the bulbs are ready to be picked. Try to dig them up rather than pulling them, and allow them to dry before storing. It’s best to brush off the dirt instead of washing them.10584099_797756826923284_5225641105503497678_n

  • Kale: Kale should be deep green, with a firm texture. The flavor is best in cooler weather.

  • Lettuce (Head): Harvest once the head feels full and firm. Hot weather will cause them to go to seed quicker rather than filling out.

  • Lettuce (Leaf): Harvest the outer leaves once the plant reaches about 4 inches in height. Allow the younger leaves to grow, and repeat for most of the summer season.

  • Onions: Once the tops have ripened and fallen over you can dig up the onion, allow the onion to dry completely before storing.

  • Peas: These are best to be tasted to determine when to pick. If a sweeter pea is preferred, it is best to pick before the pea pods get too large and full.

  • Potatoes: “New” potatoes can be harvested when the tops start to flower. For full-sized potatoes, wait until the tops dry up and turn brown, then dig around the perimeter of the potato to avoid slicing it.

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  • Pumpkins: As soon as pumpkins have turned to the expected color and the vines are starting to wilt away, they can be picked. As soon as a pumpkin is cut from the vine it stops turning orange.

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  • Radishes: These mature rather quickly. As soon as you see radish pop out above the soil line is the best time to pick. Don’t leave them in the ground too long, as they will become tough and go to seed.

  • Squash (Winter): Similar to pumpkins, these can be cut from the vine as soon as they turn to the expected color.

  • Tomatoes: When a tomato has reached its color and is slightly soft to the touch, gently twist and pull from the vine.

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Now that all the hard work and harvesting are done, it’s time to enjoy the end results. There are many different ways to enjoy your harvest. Depending on how good a season it is, one way to enjoy your harvest in the winter months is to freeze certain vegetables or do some canning. Making spaghetti sauce or salsa is a great way to use up all those extra tomatoes and peppers. Happy Harvesting!

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Welcome Fall, Hello Pumpkin Cream Cheese Snickerdoodles!

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The leaves are changing color, the weather is getting cooler, and pumpkin-flavored foods and drinks are coming out left and right. Well, to fulfill that craving for delicious pumpkin treats and to celebrate the start of Autumn, here is an amazingly tasty recipe for the best snickerdoodles ever!

Easiest_snickerdoodle_recipe_of_all_time

Ingredients for the cookies:

  • 3¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. freshly-ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ cup light brown sugar
  • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for the filling:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients for the cinnamon-sugar coating:

  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • Dash of allspice

Directions:

To make the cookies, in a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2-3 minutes. Blend in the pumpkin puree. Beat in the egg and vanilla until incorporated. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. (If you have any more dry streaks on the bottom, fold together gently with a spatula until just combined.) Cover and chill the dough for at least 1 hour.

While the dough chills, make the filling. In a small bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla until smooth and creamy. Cover and chill this as well (for at least half an hour).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper. In a small bowl, mix together the sugar and spices for the coating thoroughly. Take one tablespoon of dough and flatten it into a pancake shape. Place one teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture in the middle of the pancake. Form another tablespoon of dough into an equally-sized pancake shape, and place on top, keeping the cream cheese in the middle. Gently pinch together the edges of the dough around the cream cheese to seal, then gently roll into a ball. Roll the ball in the cinnamon-sugar mixture to coat. Repeat with the remaining dough to fill the sheets, spacing the dough balls 2-3 inches apart. Dip the bottom of a flat, heavy-bottomed drinking glass in water to moisten slightly. Then dip it in the sugar-spice mixture, and use the bottom to flatten the dough balls slightly. (They won’t really flatten on their own, though they will puff slightly.) Recoat the bottom of the glass in the sugar-spice mixture as needed.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until slightly firm to the touch and the tops begin to crackle. Let cool on the baking sheets about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container or ENJOY right away!