Sunday, March 31, 2013

After Easter Vittles

Photos: Deviled Eggs courtesy of Food and Wine and Butter Cookies by Debra Turner
On the left are classic deviled eggs topped with paprika (plus I added freshly ground nutmeg).

On the right are my (baked this morning!) butter cookies.  We can taste vanilla, butter and a hint of pecans in every bite.  Into a recipe for butter cookies, I threw in a cup of ground, uncooked oatmeal and about 1/3 cup of pulverized pecans.  [Note: I reduce the butter to ½ cup (1 stick) and the sugar to ¾ cup.]  So tasty, there's no need for frosting.  A chocolate chip eye is the perfect finish.  We served the more perfect-shaped bunnies to guests.  From the same batch, I made some star-and-heart-cookies for an after Easter tea party.  Those I can decorate with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Tea
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Friday, March 29, 2013

Happy Easter From The Savvy Shopper

Photo by Orbmiser/flickr
Easter is a holiday of bright, lively colors ... from dyed eggs ... to budding flowers ... from baby ducks ... to Easter dresses.
Photo by Almaharri
Easter is a time of renewal and new beginnings ... in nature and religious faith.
Photo by Handful Of Quietness
This little bunny reminds me of A Tale Of Peter Rabbit.  He is perfectly content resting in gentle hands unlike Peter Rabbit, who was chased after by mean, old Mr. McGregor after entering Mr. McGregor's garden and eating his "lettuces, green beans and radishes."  Had Peter not gotten away, Mr. McGregor would have hit him with a rake and served him up as a pot pie!   This little guy is in much safer hands.
1909 Wessler Easter postcard - on Ebay for $2.99 here
Now that a new season is here, stop to notice the flowers ... enjoy the spring ... and a Happy Easter Everyone!

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hearty Split Pea Soup And Cornbread For Meatless Mondays

Photo by EatMoreBalance.com
Recently I stopped buying canned soups.  As I said in previous posts, either my tastes have changed, or canned soups have changed.  I used to like them; now not so much.  These days I make a batch of homemade soup, eat a meal, then freeze the rest in 16 ounce containers to be nuked (i.e. microwaved) later for quick meals.  One of my favorite soups to prepare is hearty split pea.  Sometimes I make it with smoked ham, and sometimes I make it vegetarian.  Even without meat, you have a complete protein by pairing the soup with corn bread or Irish soda bread.  It's definitely a stick-to-your-ribs-square-meal.  Below are my recipes: 

Split Pea Soup

Ingredients:
16 ounce bag of dried split peas
8 cups water
1 large onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 small tomato, diced (if you have one, if not omit)
1 bay leaf
1 ½ double bouillon cubes, or 3 small cubes (contains salt, so don't add salt, separately)
1 tablespoon dried garlic
12 turns of the black pepper mill
a sprinkle of dried celery
a tiny sprinkle of red pepper flakes
a dash of Worcestershire sauce
a sprinkle of nutmeg
a sprinkle of parlsey flakes

Directions:
Throw all the ingredients into a stock pot on a stovetop, bringing it to a boil, cover with a lid, then lower the heat and simmer for about one hour, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.


Golden Yellow Corn Bread

Ingredients:
1 cup yellow corn meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon sea salt (or smoked salt)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ cups buttermilk  You can substitute milk, Russian kefir, plain yogurt, or sour milk, whatever you have on hand will work.

Optional spice: 
12 turns of the black pepper mill
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
A sprinkle of garlic powder
A sprinkle of onion powder

Directions:
1. Put all the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl; follow with the wet ingredients.
2. Mix with a folk.
3. Pour into an oiled cast iron skillet and cover with a lid.
4. Cook on the stove top until golden brown. Flip over and cook the 2nd side until golden brown. (Or you can bake in the oven about 30 minutes until golden brown.)  When done in the center, remove, let cool slightly. Cut and eat.

I like the idea of meatless Mondays for several reasons.  Many of us grew up eating too much meat. Several studies suggest eating less meat can reduce your risks of preventive illnesses like cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Meatless Mondays also help reduce your carbon footprint.  It takes a lot more water and fossil fuel to raise livestock than to grow vegetables and grains. So going meatless one day a week is good for your health and the environment.  With so much hunger in the world, it's a painless and delicious way to make a tiny difference.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Papyrus Greeting Cards

Greeting cards by Papyrus
Recently my mom said, "Now that everyone carries a phone everywhere, you can't get ahold of anyone!!!  Years ago when you called someone at home, a child ... or someone answered the phone and it lead to a conversation!"  

Imagine that.  You didn't need to text, email, or tweet a "friend," nor wait for a typed reply.  No peck, peck, pecking ever.Goodness, I know we can't live in the past, but let's keep it simple ... and meaningful.

Personally, I'd rather have one telephone call in lieu of 50 text messages, a face-to-face chat over 100 emails and a handwritten card instead of a column of electronic greetings.  To tell you the truth, sometimes I don't even open electronic greetings.  But I would never leave a handwritten card unopened, plus I save cards with heartfelt notes.  They become memories.

Several years ago, an elderly neighbor sent me an Easter card that I still have.  She said, when my parents first moved next door to her, she watched my dad carry me outside in a snowsuit to show me the falling snow.  She wished me a Happy Easter and told me to enjoy the Spring ... then passed away a short time later.  I'm glad she took the time to write and reminisce, and she inspired me by her example.  It's quite nice getting an Easter card.

Papyrus has unique and beautiful selections of stationery and greeting cards for all occasions. Expect to find rich paper with glitter and foil at reasonable prices. If you hit a sale, you can get a box of expensive cards for under $5.  It's always a good time to let someone know you care. (My Papyus Christmas cards are bought and on hold.)

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Irish Soda Bread: Sweet Or Savory?

Photo by All About Food
I can't claim any Irish ancestry, but aren't we all Irish on St. Patrick's Day?  I do love meat and potatoes, Irish stew, cabbage, root vegetables and Irish soda bread.  I started making soda bread because it tastes similar to buttermilk biscuits, but you can substitute healthier ingredients: like butter instead of lard and whole grain flour in lieu of all white flour.  Soda bread is delicious served warm.  Here is my recipe:

Irish Soda Bread

For Savory
Ingredients:
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
1 ¼ cups buttermilk - I use low fat (1.5% milkfat).

For Sweet
You will add ½ cup sugar, 1 cup raisins. (= Irish American soda bread)

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Stir the first 5 dry ingredients together in a mixing bowl.
3. Mix in the beaten eggs.
4. Next incorporate the cubes of butter until you get a coarse mixture.
5. Here is where you add the sugar and raisins, if you want to sweeten your soda bread. I always opt for savory, skipping the sugar and raisins.  Does that make me a salty girl?
6. Pour in the buttermilk and mix until a dough forms.
7. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it a little bit, then shape it into a round, slightly flatten loaf.  Be careful not to over knead, or the bread will turn out tough.  Aim for a sticky dough.
8. Place the round dough on an olive oiled baking dish.  I use a cast iron skillet.
9. Cut a cross [like this +] about 1 inch deep into the dough with a sharp knife. By scoring the top, the bread bakes evenly and is easy to slice. 
10. Bake about 55 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and done in the center.  Cool, cut and eat.

Extra tips:  Soda bread is tasty fresh out of the oven, so I often split the dough into two loaves, bake one and wrap the other in aluminum foil, freezing it for another day.  On a busy day, I just pop the frozen one into the oven and bake.  Voilà, fresh bread without the work!  At times, I will sprinkle the tops with raw oatmeal before baking.  For savory soda bread, I like to toss 1/3 cup of caraway seeds into the batter -- provided my guests like caraway seeds (Delish!).  Have a Happy St. Patrick's Day.
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Monday, March 11, 2013

Are You A Downton Abbey Fan?

Photo: itv
I am spending far too much of my leisure time re-watching seasons 1, 2 and 3 of Downton Abbey.  It's so well written and cast that I catch little details with each viewing.  Isn't it the best series to air in a long time?  Unlike so many other shows, Downton's twists and turns make perfect sense while being totally unpredictable.  Worth the price of the Blu-ray or DVD.

Each season the cast has grown, both in numbers and as a result of their experiences.  There are 24+ characters featured-in-detail, and I love the ensemble acting.  Even the bad characters are layered and gain your sympathy as plots thicken.  I truly appreciate how neither the series, nor the characters are black and white.  The creator, Jullian Fellowes, writes about times and a class system he knows very well.  Mr. Fellowes' wife is the daughter of an earl.

Downton Abbey is a series in which you invest in the characters.  As complicated as events get  -- and whether you agree or disagree with how characters behave -- you understand and root for them.

Watching Downton Abbey makes me think about a bygone era and the evolution of mores.  My God, were times harsh for everyone both upstairs and downstairs. The days were long, while the years were short, and if you were a servant, the work was endless.

After watching a Downton episode, certain thoughts run through my mind. Far from being original thoughts; they are clichés, but they are nonethess true.  Life is over in a heatbeat.  The world doesn't begin nor end with our present age.  Nothing and I mean, nothing ... people, places or things last forever.   Time changes things.  People can change with time and be changed by the times, but the more times change, the more people stay the same.  As Mr. Carson notes, "Human nature is a funny business."

Downton Abbey gets human nature right, and I can't wait for seaon 4.  Although the show would survive it, I hope none of the remaining characters want to leave.  I'd like to see a season 5 also. Just saying.
The cast on a press junket in New York City. Photo by just jared.

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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Remembering Patsy Cline 9/8/32 – 3/5/63

It's been 50 years since the world lost one of its most iconic singers.  Because there will never be another talent like Patsy Cline, let's take a moment to remember her.

Patsy began singing on a radio show in Winchester, Virginia as a teenager to help support her family.  She had perfect pitch, and through determination and hard work went on to become one of the most respected and influencial female singers of the 20th century.  She was a pioneer, crossing over from the country charts into pop music and leading the way for female artists to headline music concerts ... which was unheard of for women in her day.

Patsy's lively personality, emotionally expressive voice and pivotal role in the music industry will never be forgotten by anyone who listens to her songs.
Photo: Patsy Cline website here

Aside from Cline's remarkable contralto voice, people who knew her always mention what a geniune and likeable person Patsy was.  Often described as generous and big hearted, she accomplished so much in just 31 years.  Not only did she reach the top of her profession, she was a devoted wife, mother and daughter and much loved by friends and Nashiville's music community.

Why not remember her spirit, as well as, her talent?

To understand what I'm saying, take another moment to read The Dash, a poem written in 1996.

R.I.P. the one and only Patsy Cline.  In every way, you used your dash well.

Patsy Cline's remastered albums are a must-have for anyone who loves a gorgeous voice. Click here and here to listen to two of her signiture songs. 

As musician Roy Clark, Jr. points out: Faded Love was forever a Bob Wills song -- Bob wrote it, recorded it and had a hit with it, but as soon as Patsy sang it, it became a Patsy Cline song.

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Sunday, March 3, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday To THE SAVVY SHOPPER

Photo courtesy of  pinkcakebox.com
THE SAVVY SHOPPER turns 4 years old today.  Where does the time go?  This site started because I wanted to see what all this blogging business entailed. 

My least favorite part of blogging is futzing with photos and the layout.

In the print world, it takes a team.  Either you work on the editorial, or the business side.  On the editorial side, staffers work as reporters, writers and editors.  There are separate art, photo and copy departments within the editorial side.  All these separate, but linked departments worry about different aspects of a magazine (or newspaper), with all their roles and efforts coming together to close (i.e. publish) an issue (or edition).

Until I began this blog I didn't worry about pictures, layouts or copy editing.  I don't think fussing with layouts and spotting misspelled words are my forte, but I like trying ... and stretching myself, as well as, succeeding.
And, I love how direct and democratic blogging is.  I don't have to pitch nothin'.  Anybody with a computer and a voice can do it.  If you enjoy learning, coming up with story ideas, have the skills to do some digging (research) ... use good judgment ... then have the ability to make it understantable for readers, you can be a blogger.  No capital required, but you will have to invest your time.  Oh ... and you should enjoy fiddling with words.  In fact, that's my favorite part, the writing.  On this blog, it starts and ends with the words.

THE SAVVY SHOPPER now gets a few hundred savvy readers a day, and YOU are awesome! Thank you for stopping by.  Here's to another year of fun facts and entertainment.  Please let me know if there are topics you want to explore.  Let's learn stuff.  Share your thoughts under comments.  Click here for free birthday gifts.
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