Sunday, May 29, 2011

Quiche - the EASY Way

Quiche has been one of my all time favorites. I've enjoyed some wonderful flavor combinations in a number of delightful cafes. But I've always hated making it myself. Oh, the filling ingredients are a breeze but the crust has never come easy to me no matter which recipe I've used. I've tried ready-made pie crusts but they are too oily and get soggy. So, I quit making quiche altogether even though I had gone to the effort of making my own, personal quiche pan/dish.
When I made the pan/dish, I thought I'd be clever and print my filling recipe inside. Silly me. Once the crust was in, I could no longer read the recipe. Duh ! Sometimes, I wonder where my brain is.
Anyway, this is my recipe. Super simple. I've even substituted condensed milk for the cream and had it come out just fine. The "filling" can be any combination of things you particularly like. I'm fond of spinach and mushroom (with grated onion added to the drained spinach) and a bit of feta cheese tossed in for good measure. Other favorites are asparagus and ham, broccoli and chicken, and bacon-tomato-feta & black olives. Whatever you like.
Today, desperate for quiche at any cost, I actually lined the bottom of the sprayed pan with Saltine Crackers and topped them with a sprinkling of Swiss Cheese. As a crust it worked out great. I'm thrilled. Using the crackers instead of making a crust cut the prep time to almost nothing. Give it a try. You'll be surprised.
I grabbed a couple of links you might be interested in:
click HERE for filling combinations and alternative filling recipes, and
click HERE to find a huge assortment of quiche and tart pans.

Friday, May 27, 2011

8 Recycling Uses for Plastic Bottles

Before discarding that next plastic bottle, take a look at it with new eyes to see if it has an additional use.WATER & SODA BOTTLES
1- Try cutting the bottoms out of 1 and 2 liter bottles, removing the caps and planting them upside down in your flower beds. Filling them with water when your plants need a drink will direct moisture deep into the ground, to the plant roots, where it's needed.
2- Surely most have gotten an email about adding a bottle top to a zipper type bag. It seemed like busy work to me since the bags already open and close. But I tried it on a large bag of rice and it's really quite handy because the bag can be reduced in size as the contents are used. Simply cut the neck of the bottle off, as shown above, and thread the open top of the plastic bag through.
To keep the bag from slipping out of the bottle neck, I've folded it back and secured it with a rubber band. Replace the cap and there you go!
MILK BOTTLESMilk Bottles have many uses.
3- One of my favorites is as a freezer container for casseroles. When the bottle is cut just below the handle (as shown), the resulting "bowl" holds the right amount for a square casserole dish. For a layered casserole, layer the contents in reverse order. When you're ready to use it, turn it upside down in the casserole dish to thaw.
4- The "milk bottle bowl" is also a good size for freezing an ice block of punch. Freeze additional punch instead of water and it will not only stay cold it will not dilute the punch.
5- The "milk bottle bowls" are also great inserts for the summer picnic cooler to keep items from ending up in the melted ice water.
For the Garden:
6- With the bottoms cut out, they make perfect, little greenhouses for starter plants in the early spring, protecting the tender leaves from the cold. Save the bottoms. They can be planted, (with the top edge just at the top level of the dirt) and filled with water for trapping insects and slugs.
In Addition:
7- Milk bottles and gallon bleach bottles, when filled with water, make great hand weights and they are absolutely FREE.

8- I was introduced to this bright idea while out to sea, on a boat with no head. You can take it from there. The size and shape of the cut bottle helps level the playing field between little girls and little boys when nature calls at inopportune times.
Click HERE to link to a ton of unusual uses for plastic bottles - from making mouse traps to building houses with them.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Memorial Day - 2011

There will be no Memorial Day family bar-b-que at my house this year. I won't even make it to the service at the war memorial. I am under the weather and most of my children are far away. So, this year, instead of being busy with preparations and planning a moment of reflection, I find myself just remembering... remembering "thank you"s to the Military at airports, the previously unknown Sailors we'd invite to share Thanksgiving dinner, the flag I placed at my father's grave and the flag folded in silence and given to my niece at the funeral of my little brother. Memorial Day is confusing to me. In part, I am strengthened, standing tall and proud, uplifted by the Lee Greenwood song "I'm Proud to be an American - where at least I know I'm free..." The other part of me is reduced to tears as the haunting notes of "Taps" sounding from a solitary bugle replay in my mind. I think of my brother and father and husband and of the boys in my high school classes who traded youth for a uniform and I want to say "thank you" but some are no longer here. Then I notice the red, white and blue of our flag against our clear Florida sky and I know that as long as that flag flies, as long as there are those of us who truly cherish our liberty, our fallen are never forgotten. Every Memorial Day, I find myself balancing on this same emotional see-saw, and every Memorial Day, I eventually recover my equilibrium. What I conclude is this: that Memorial Day actually is a two-sided coin: the heartbreaking sadness of sacrifice and the abundant blessing of the liberty it has secured. THANK A SERVICE MEMBER AND FLY THE FLAG PROUDLY
(All photographs on this blog are protected under Copyright)
I give permission to download and use any of my American Flag photographs.
Click HERE to access the collection.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Being Prepared for a Sudden Emergency

UPDATED NOTE:Prayers for the Joplin, MO tornado victims of yesterday.
There is a significant difference in an emergency and a tragedy. This year has already taken "emergency" to the extreme.
We are witnessing the tragedies of earthquakes & tsunami in the news, millions of acres burning in Texas, record setting tornadoes in Alabama and other southern states, the Mississippi is flooding...and hurricane season is just days away. No amount of preparation will see us safely through all circumstances but it will help is through most of them.
Whether at home or away, with family or with family scattered, most emergencies happen without warning. In the immediacy of the moment, your mind will rush to a number of things: what is the phone number of the children's school, how much cash is in my wallet, what do we do for food, we only have the clothes on our backs. And, if the emergency leads to actual loss, contact information will be most needed and loss of family photos will be most heartbreaking.
Click HERE to access an entire section on Preparedness.
In the meantime, here are some basic preparation measures that all of us can take if we will only take the time:
An emergency kit in the family car:
  • Change of clothes/shoes for every family member
  • Water (gallons)
  • Blanket(s)
  • Food (MRE's or even protein bars)
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Wet wipes
  • Personal needs (glasses, contact solution, inhalers, meds, etc.)
  • Cell phone charger
  • Flash light & extra batteries
  • Matches or cigarette lighter
Information to bury or hide securely to prevent theft:
(** indicates need for a hard copy as well)
  • Cash (a few hundred to a thousand dollars in $5's & $10's) Click HERE for 9 ways to make $$$ fast.
  • Flash Drive containing: Account & Phone numbers for Bank, Insurance, Utility & Services** - Contract & payment information** - Address Book** - Medical Information** - Photographs - Email contacts - Computer account(s) passwords
  • Individual photographs of family members w/ descriptions & contact information written on the backs
  • Several days of critical medications
  • Credit Cards not usually on your person

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Providing Shade for Tender Plants

As the morning sun begins to top the trees, some time around 9 AM, the Cilantro along the deck rail stands proud and tall, leaves glistening with the evening dew. By 11, the surface soil is dry and calling me to water, careful not to wet the leaves. The futility of this late morning ritual became evident a few days ago as I became aware of the increasing number of browning leaves, sunburned to a crisp by the heat of the afternoon. Checking the watering needs, I found that the soil completely dry to the bottom of the planters even before the sun went down.
With twice-daily watering already becoming a burden, my mind began to stray to possible sources of shade, preferably something that would filter the sun rather than block it out altogether. From twigs with paper flags to cocktail umbrellas taped to wooden skewers, it seemed my direction got more outlandish with each flitting idea. But the thoughts all had a common theme, something on a stick. Ah-ha! Silk flowers. Remembering the bag of tulips, used as decoration for an event a couple of years ago, I found myself on the deck in the middle of the night planting fake flowers.
Whether this idea was a stroke of genius or not is yet to be determined but, in theory, the approach is a sensible one. The plastic stems should be safe in the soil. The leaves and flowers do provide a measure shade which will vary with the intensity and direction of the sun. And, the stems slip out of the soil for harvesting as easily as they slipped in.
And, other than the fact that it's a little late in the season for tulips, they look nice, almost natural, in the boxes that were rapidly becoming useless in the scorching sun. And the Cilantro is oh so happy.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Garden Mixture of Food & Flowers

Now that I have land enough for a 'proper' garden, age and ability limit my space. Filling pots on the deck with a mixture of flowers and foodstuffs accomplishes the multiple goals of being decorative, functional and thrifty. Here, Basil provides a backdrop for the graceful Blue Salvia, a growing habit shared by the abundant Rosemary. The Rosemary shares space with Parsley and Sweet Red Peppers, in their own pot, will be anchored by the red Dalia. With a later addition of something white, this corner of the deck will be ready for a red, white and blue Fourth of July.
The Cilantro planted from seed in the railing boxes, is ready for use and new seeds will fill spaces left from the season's continuing harvest.

Because I can no longer bend to meet my garden at ground level, I'm working on a couple of plans to literally bring the ground up to meet me. It's a simple matter with unlimited funds but my goal, as always, is to do it with as little cost as possible. I'll keep you informed.