Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Halloween Everyone

Photo: BoulderWorldHalloween
Halloween is a spectacular holiday of imaginative decorations and fun costumes. Monsters, wild beasts, bats and black cats come out to play, while vampires, witches, ghosts, zombies and all forms of evil beings rise to walk the earth. But despite sharing space with the undead on Fright Night, no one gets hurt, or at least that's what they want us to believe! Look below: Several eager hosts are waiting for the night's trick-or-treaters to visit. Won't you come in?
Gates open and lights turn on to help you find your way.
The flickering orange and flying black welcoming committee will greet you!
Refreshments are brewing. Hope you like creepy, crawly things!
A helpful, bandaged guide will lead you in the right direction, "Follow me!"
Antidote, anyone?

Monday, October 26, 2015

Top Round London Broil Steak

Photo: Pinterest - London broil board
When you think of a desirable cut of beef, usually the most expensive cuts, tenderloin, fillet mignon, or porterhouse come to mind. They are from parts of the cow that don't get overworked and so have marveling, or fat that is clearly visible before cooking. The pockets of fat, or marveling, produces a tender piece of beef.

As mouthwatering as higher priced cuts are, I often prepare a cheaper piece of beef for an equally satisfying dinner. 


I'm very fond of Top Round "London Broil" steaks. Admittedly, this cut requires braising -- slow cooking in liquid -- to tenderize what is otherwise a tough piece of beef. However with braising, the meat falls apart when pierced with a fork; and it is a lean, delicious cut of beef. There is no fat to trim. Add potatoes, carrots and a green salad for a balanced, stick-to-your-ribs supper.

Here in the USA, supermarkets sell beef as London broil steaks, but the term really refers to a cooking method, and the packaging should also list the cut of beef: Top Round, Flank, Shoulder, Shank, etc.

Not only is a Top Round London broil steak easy to prepare and tasty to eat, it is easy to clean up! You can make it in a crock pot, but I usually simmer the meat in a covered skillet on a stove top for 3 hours. Here's my easy-breezy-one-skillet recipe:

Set aside a 12'' pan brushed with olive oil.

Top Round London Broil Steak

Ingredients:

1 1/2 to 2 pounds top round steak (If thicker and heavier, technically, it's a roast, but as long as the meat is flat, you can use the skillet-on-a-stove-top method.) 
2 stalks of celery
3-4 carrots
1 small onion
3-4 garlic cloves

Seasonings to taste: salt, pepper, dried garlic, onion powder, ground celery, a few turns of the nutmeg mill, dried oregano, Herbs de Provence, Worcestershire sauce (or a squirt of soy sauce and cider vinegar, sans WS)

Optional: potatoes

Directions:

1) Take the steak (or steaks) out of the refrigerator and season both sides to taste with the dried spices. I use salt and dried spices as a rub, then let the meat rest at room temperature for at least 10 minutes.
2) After resting, sear the meat on both sides in an oiled skillet.
3) Next scrap the bottom of the pan before adding 4 cups of water. Mix the meat scrapings in the water for flavor. Bring the water and meat to a boil, then lower the flame. Cover and simmer.
4) Dice the garlic cloves, onion and celery. Add to the pan, along with carrots and quartered potatoes, if you wish. Add the Worcestershire sauce and remaining spices to the skillet.
5) The potatoes and carrots will be tender after about 20 minutes. Remove and put aside while the meat continues to simmer. Alternately, you can put the potatoes in to cook the last half hour, or so. Either way works.
6) Keep simmering until the meat is tender. I turn the meat over about every hour. If your water evaporates, add another cup. You can test by poking the beef with a fork. It will fall apart when done.
7) When the meat, potatoes and carrots are tender, remove from the liquid. Place on a serving plate.
8) If you wish, add some corn starch (per the directions on the box) to thicken the gravy. Make sure you scrap the bottom of the pan to make the gravy. Taste and spice again if necessary.

Supermarkets often sell top round steaks at $2.69-$2.99 per pound on sale, which is a steal! 

Although it takes time to tenderize, there's no real labor involved. Leftovers make delicious beef sandwiches, or a 2nd meal during the week. Bon Appetit!
Photo: dreamtime.com

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Thursday, October 22, 2015

Top Heat Protectors For Blow Dryer And Flat Iron Users

Photo: Farouk
Every day I wash and blow dry my hair. Some days I also get out my flat iron to eliminate frizz. If you apply heat to your locks daily like I do, it is essential for the health of your hair to use a spray on/leave in hair protector before you blast and fry your locks dry.

Usually I don't like styling products in my hair. What's the point of a wash if your hair feels stiff from mousse, gels and volumizers? So I don't use them. The one exception is a heat protector:

My favorite is Tresemme Thermal Creations Heat Tamer. While it guards against heat damage during a blow dry, I can't feel the product in my hair. It leaves my hair clean, soft and shiny. It seems to reduce frizz too. On windy days, I also spray it on dry hair to get out tangles. 

Garnier's Frutis Style Flat Iron Perfector is another effective spray-on treatment. It's a close second only because I do feel product coating my mop of fine hair after a blow dry. For coarse hair, this may not be the case. Containing argon oil, it is sold as a straightening mist. The spray tames frizz and leaves hair looking sleek.

Choice is good! Tresemme (about $6.50 for 8 ounces) is slightly more expensive than Garnier (about $3.50 for 6 ounces), but both are sold at the corner drug store where there is often a 2 for 1 deal, so you can try them both to decide which is best for the texture of your hair. Thereafter, you can benefit when one of them goes on sale.Emoji

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Are Expensive Flat Irons Better?

The IZUTECH Flat Iron is $200 smackers
Yes, sometimes they are better, but not necessarily. When you use a flat iron to straighten, you are frying your hair. Just like a good kitchen skillet, a good flat iron gets hot quickly and conducts heat evenly. It lets you straighten strains of hair with a single pass. The frizz is conquered while doing the least amount of damage to the hair.

Look for ceramic, titanium, or tourmaline plates. Some of the super cheap flat irons might be made of materials that don't conduct heat as well as ceramic, titanium or tourmaline does; or have a thin ceramic, or titanium coating (over aluminum) that wears out fast. Look for solid not coated plates.

One-inch plates are perfect. Smaller than one inch, and the process of straightening takes all day; and over one inch is hard to control. Speaking of control, look for a flat iron that allows you to adjust the heat. Smooth, floating plates -- they extend beyond the surface -- won't pull or break off your hair.

Personally, I own a $19.99 model, called the BioSilk Ergonomic Tourmaline Flat Iron that I got at Bed, Bath and BeyondIt is made by Farouk, the same manufacturer of the popular, high end CHI Flat Irons. It heats in 10 seconds. Purchasing it was pure dumb luck. I give it 5 stars for performance and durability.

While I wouldn't settle for a lemon, I don't like paying $100+ for a flat iron since they all burn out eventually with use. So if you take a chance on a flat iron for less, go with one made by a company well known in the hair industry. They know the terrain, and you can return what doesn't work out. Also examine the flat iron: Like the looks and feel of it.
The Remington Anti-Frizz Therapy Straightener is getting raves. Under $45, it has the important features, plus excellent customer satisfaction. Again, I'd rather replace two of these than one $100+ flat iron. Pay the piper only if you get value. Unfortunately, hair appliances don't last twice as long because they are twice the cost. So perhaps you don't need the top of the line, you just need a straightener that performs as it should. Leave some bucks in your wallet on this buy!

Next I'll write a follow up blog on heat protectors, a hair styling essential when frying your hair. :) Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Stylin' In A Hermès Scarf

Photo courtesy of Hermes
Hermès silk scarf is a thing of beauty. Touching and playing with the scraves at the retailer's flagship Madison Avenue store feels so gooood! It's a practical, not to mention, ultra expensive accessory in a fashionable wardrobe. Queen Elizabeth II and Catherine Denuve wear a collection of Hermès scarves, as did Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Jacqueline Onassis.

Genuine Hermès scarves are made in France of Jacquard silk. If the scarf is manufactured anywhere else, or made of other silk, it is a fake. The standard size is 36'' by 36,'' and a real Hermès scarf is nearly always hand stitched towards the front. It is never, ever machine stitched. That's one reason why they're so darn expensive ... and oh yeah, there's the French aspect. The French like to keep their merchandise exclusive, so that we'll all want one. In the case of these luxury silk scarves, who won't want one?

There are a myriad of vivid colors and clever designs. According to the UK's Daily Mail, each scarf is "painstakingly screen-painted." The designers are commissioned from all over the world -- most are not famous. Hermès prefers to hire artists as designers with no prior fashion experience. As the company likes to say, every scarf tells a story.

Understand that owning a Hermès scarf might complicate our lives. It could introduce fearSince normally I don't spend $400 - $766 for a status scarf, I'd be terrified of losing it. Just imagine: What if $400+ slipped right off your neck, and in a hustle and bustle, you failed to notice!? That would feel terrible, wouldn't it?

It might entail more work: Consider, how you would clean it: Reportedly, dry cleaning thins the silk; therefore, hand washing is recommended by some experts. However, you need a special silk cleaning solvent to hand wash a Hermès scarf. Plus, you have to be mindful of the temperature of the water, least the silk shrivel up, or the dyes bleed. So with scarf ownership, see how complicated life becomes? Holy moly, the additional stress!

Sooo, do we still want a Hermès scarf? Mull it o-v-e-r carefully ... 

Hell yes!!! Plumb crazy to think otherwise! Doesn't mean I'll buy one soon though. Right now, looking is so much cheaper. How about you?


Meanwhile, I shall soldier on with my $16 silk scraves from TJ Maxx. Frankly, I feel alarmed when I misplace one of those!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pixi Glow Tonic Has A Cult Following

You are looking at Pixi Glow Tonic, an exfoliating toner. Once only available in the United Kingdom, it recently arrived in the U.S. by way of Amazon and Target stores.

In the UK, it has a cult following. The tonic contains aloe vera, ginseng, witch hazel and glycolic acid, ingredients we could call the fantastic four, because they hydrate, tone, firm, and smooth the skin, giving it a lovely glow.

Without alcohol, the toner gently removes dead skin cells for healthy looking skin. It's the fresh, healthy skin that produces the glow.

Now that Target stocks Pixi Glow Tonic, the price in the U.S. has been cut in half. It sells for $15, making it a budget friendly toner that packs a powerful punch!


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Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fluffy Buttermilk Biscuits

Fluffy and flaky ... yes, ma'am!
Buttermilk biscuits are delicious. The secret ingredient to making them light and fluffy is lard. Unfortunately, lard is a heart attack waiting to happen. I can't bring myself to put lard in home baked goods even as a treat. Only a person being served his last meal should ever eat lard!

So the goal is to develop a healthier (notice I didn't say healthy) buttermilk biscuit recipe. It is not possible to make biscuits completely healthy because without white flour and butter, the result won't taste anything like a classic biscuit. You may be able to come up with something else that is tasty, it just won't taste like a buttermilk biscuit. But don't fret because I have a recipe for an almost healthy buttermilk biscuit. It's flaky; has fiber; and although I cut the amount of fat by half, you can taste the butter in each and every bite:

Buttermilk biscuits

Ingredients: 

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda {I put baking soda in for the buttermilk. It is optional.}
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup very cold butter
1 cup whole wheat flour

Lightly brush a 10 inch cast iron skillet with olive oil, and preheat the oven at 400 degree F. Have them ready, meanwhile ...

Directions: 

1) Into a mixing bowl, add 2 cups of white flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and sugar. Stir together, using a folk.
2) With a knife, cut the cold butter into little tiny cubes (work fast so the butter stays solid) and drop into the flour. Stir using a fork. 
3) Make an indention in the flour mixture, then pour in the buttermilk. 
4) Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring with a fork, or your hand until a dough forms.

This next step is tricky. To get fluffy biscuits, try not to over work the dough. Although you need to mix the ingredients well enough to get a proper biscuit dough, try not to touch it too much. Not overly touching the dough keeps the butter cold and results in a fluffy texture.

5) Sprinkle the whole wheat flour, a little at a time, on the biscuit dough, as well as, on your hands until the dough is only a little sticky. Knead lightly in the mixing bowl. When the flour is incorporated and your dough is elastic (but not too wet or dry),  you are ready to form the biscuits.
6) Pinch off the dough and quickly form the biscuits. (I don't roll the dough out, or cut with a cookie cutter. It melts the butter.) I gently form balls, then press flat.
7) Lay the biscuits in the skillet, touching each other. Crowded biscuits have nowhere to go but up. They will rise higher.
8) Bake for 15 minutes, or until light brown.

Makes 18 buttermilk biscuits. Fluffy and rustic style. Pop out of the oven and serve. As you can see before taking a photo, I ate 4 biscuits as a test to make sure they turned out. Someone has to do it!

Extra tip: When out of buttermilk, substitute 1 cup of regular milk with 1 teaspoon white vinager. Let sit for 20 minutes (to curdle) before pouring into flour.

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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Uniqlo's Ultra Light Down Vest Is A Steal


Uniqlo put their Ultra Light Down Vest on promotion this week for $29, so I added a second color to my wardrobe. I now own two -- one in dark navy blue and a new fun, bright pink. Not only are they an unbelievably lightweight design, but they are super warm. Layer them without bulking up! The quilted pattern is slimming and polished.

They are also easy to take on a trip. The vest comes with a pouch. You just roll it up and carry it on a plane or train. Unfold the vest when you get cold, or even improvise to use it as a pillow. The thin outer nylon material is also water resistant, so it repels moisture on a rainy autumn day. And, it has handy side pockets.

Sometimes a low price and all the pretty colors are too tempting, so I must stop myself from ordering more than I really need. The navy blue will act as my mix and match neutral color, and the bright pink will inject a little pizzazz into a dreary winter day. But if you look, the wine makes a lovely neutral color, and the red is lively too! Deciding may be hard!!

For men and women who have the height, I recommend ordering a size up for extra length, as well as, for the great combination of a fitted, yet slightly relaxed style. 

If you miss this price, don't worry. Another promotion will come around again.




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