Friday, February 28, 2020

My Daily Artisan Bread

Photo: Wikipenda Commons
Sooo. I'm on an artisan bread kick. The kind sold by a good New York deli: Hard and crusty on the outside, yet fresh, fluffy and soft on the inside. Costing about $10 for a small loaf, it's not as easy to find nowadays with more and more mom and pop shops closing their doors. Often it's easier and certainly cheaper to make a loaf myself. Oh, and mine are 2 pounders! I use all-purpose flour, then toss in some whole wheat flour and ground flax seed for fiber and extra nutrition. The following is my basic everyday bread recipe:

Debra's Daily Bread


12 ounces water (room temperature)

1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 extra large eggs
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup of non-fat dry milk powder
3 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup of ground flax seed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Optional: 2 teaspoons dried garlic (or more)
butter to coat the bread pan and top of unbaked bread


1) Start by pouring 10 ounces of lukewarm water into a large bowl. (I use a wok pan.) Stir in 1/4 teaspoon dry yeast. (Hold the balance of the water. If the dough is too dry after all the flour is sprinkled in, pour in a little more water.)

2) Toss and mix in the rest of the ingredients, eggs, dry milk powder, salt, flours, ground flax seed and olive oil. (Note: Extra virgin olive oil is almost wasted when used in baking, but it's the only cooking oil I stock, so it gets used in cooking, broiling and baking😊.)

3) Optional: I like to add some garlic. It's a subtle flavor. You will need to add more than 2 teaspoons if making garlic bread to really taste the garlic.

4) You can use the long handle end of a cooking spoon; or a small spatula to fully incorporate the flour to form a ball of dough. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl clean with the spatula. 

5) Let the dough proof overnight in the bowl or wok. Proofing for 12 hours gives the bread a delicious flavor. I butter the top and cover with plastic wrap and a towel.

6) The next morning, use the spatula to press the air out of the dough. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough as needed. (Since I proof in a large wok, I don't need to dump the dough onto a flat surface. Only one thing to clean: the wok.) Work the dough by stirring, and you can fold it over a couple of times if you feel like it, not much is required. It should feel elastic and smell like yeast.

7) Form the dough into a loaf, or circle, lay it in a well buttered pan; and butter the top of the loaf. 

8) Let the dough rise again in a warm place, this time until it more than doubles in the pan. I leave home, run errands and return several hours later.

9) Bake in a 400 degree F preheated oven for 45 minutes covered and 10 - 15 minutes uncovered. 

The recipe is forgiving in the following ways. You can use bread flour; or 100% whole wheat flour. 100% whole wheat will make a dense, less fluffy loaf. As mentioned, I like my bread crusty on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside, which is why I use a combination of all-purpose and whole wheat flours. The ground flax seed is for extra health benefits like fiber, lignin (lowers cholesterol) and Omega-3 fats. 

Bread flour has slightly more protein than all-purpose flour. [12% - 14 % vs. 8% - 11%] Since I never buy bread flour, I toss in eggs and milk for extra protein. You can also substitute regular milk, as opposed to, using water and dry powder milk, if you wish.

Extra Tip: If you toss in 1/4 cup of uncooked oatmeal flakes you get multi-grain bread. I sometimes toss in a cup of oatmeal, then reduce the all-purpose flour by as much as a cup, but anymore makes a loaf of bread dense in lieu of light and fluffy.

Finally bake the shape of bread you desire: round, loaf, or artisan and unstructured. You decide.

Perhaps I'm biased, but think my recipe has better ingredients than the upmarket shops who have replaced the old mom and pop bakeries in my neighborhood. Cut into thick rich and tasty slices. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Okay Blended Rose Oil

Photo: shutterstock
Lately I'm obsessed with rose oil. An essential oil extracted from the petals of several types of roses, rose ottos are removed by steam distillation (a separation process), while rose absolutes are drawn out by solvent (liquid-liquid) extraction. It takes about 60,000 roses to produce 1 ounce of rose oil making it one of the more expensive essential oils to buy. But forturnately, we don't need much to reap its benefits. (And naturally I've found an affordable, quality rose oil product for us all!)

Rose oil comes from 2 types of roses: The damask rose (rosa damascena) grows in BulgariaChina, India, Iran, PakistanRussiaSyria, Turkey and Uzbekistan, and the cabbage rose (rosa centifolia), which lives in France, Egypt and Morocco.

Frankly, the real reason I rub it on my skin after a shower is I love the scent! It's my latest craze! But others seem to like it too. Whenever I spray on Diptyque Eau Rose Eau de Toilette and the new scent, Eau Capitale Eau Parfum (rose, bergamot and patchouli) at Bloomingdale's fellow shoppers walk up to tell me how good I smell!! Men ask what scent I'm wearing. It has happened several times over. And I know Dr. Hauschka's top-notch skincare line contains rose oil as a main ingredient due to its healing and anti-aging powers. But both luxury brands are expensive, so I had to find a more affordable, high end product to use daily.

Okay Rose Oil, a rose oil blend, has rose oil as its 1st ingredient, and the light oil smells divine! Very floral, pleasant and clean. Never overpowering or artificial like many perfumes. Plus, I desire the anti-aging properties of the rose oil. Heck yeah, I'm not giving that up!

Rose oil contains complex antioxidants and minerals. Not only does it soothe and moisturize dry skin, but it also has antiseptic and astringent components to treat acne, as well as, anti-inflammatory properties to slow down aging and help heal wounds. Some people also use rose oil to lighten skin or prevent scars.

Moreover scientistic studies show that rose oil eases stress, anxiety and depression, as well as, stimulates circulation and is an overall mood booster. Go here to read about several more benefits.

Okay Rose Oil is an excellent choice as you can dub drops directly into your skin and hair (yes, it conditions hair too). Like all essential oils, pure rose oil is too concentrated and should be combined with carrier oils before using. Here the price is right, the smell heavenly, and the high potency blend gentle and effective. Highly recommend!🌹

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Pearls: Queen Of Gems

Pearls are called the gem of Queens and the Queen of gems. As beautiful as diamonds, yet usually less costly, they are the only jewels made by a living creature. What's more, they are versatile and classy whether paired with denim or a little black dress.

A pearl is formed when an irritant, or parasite gets inside the shell of an oyster, or mollusk. To protect its soft mantle tissue, the mollusk deposits layers of calcium carbonate in the form of the mineral aragonite, which is held together by conchiolin, an organic compound. The mixture is known as nacre or sometimes called mother-of-pearl.

To correct a myth: Natural and cultured pearls are both real pearls. Nowadays almost no natural pearls are harvested due to pollution killing off sea life (stopping the production); the dangers of pearl diving; and/or the rise and efficiency of pearl farms. 

The natural pearls sold today are always vintage and therefore pricey because they are scarce and usually inherited.

When natural pearls were the only pearls available only ultra-rich people could afford them, unlike today. Also, oysters were killed to harvest the pearls, whereas today it is in the best interest of pearl farmers to nurture and care for the living mollusk (oysters and mussels). Their livelihoods depend upon it.

Moreover the composition and beauty between natural and cultured pearls are equal. The main difference is cultured pearls are formed by intention and not an accident of nature. Nowadays when a cultured pearl necklace costs over $150,000, it's because the pearls are large, perfect and uniform -- the result of going through thousands of pearls to find.

Cultured pearls are created in saltwater, or freshwater depending upon their source. Saltwater Pearls include the following: 

1) Akoya pearls are grown in Japan and China. They are usually
white or cream in color and round in shape. They tend to be smaller compared to the pearls grown in other regions, ranging from 2mm (tiny) to 10mm (rare) in size.

2) South Sea pearls come from Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They are white, cream or golden in color and are the largest in size of all pearls, ranging from 9mm to 20mm.
3) Tahitian pearls are produced in Tahiti, as well as, the French Polynesian Islands. These are the black cultured pearls you see, yet their colors can include grey, blue, green and purple. Typical sizes range from 8mm - 16mm.

$300,000+ undyed cultured pearls at Saks 5th Avenue. I love the research I must do to write these blogs!😍
The other source of cultured pearls: Freshwater pearls are grown in rivers, ponds and freshwater lakes, mainly in China. Today freshwater pearls rival and resemble Akoya pearls. This is due to many improvements during the 1990s in the pearl farming industry leading to greater quality, strength (thicker nacre) and number of freshwater pearls on the market, lowering their price and making them a favorite of jewelry designers and customers alike. 

When buying pearls, there are 5 characteristics to consider:

1) Luster - gives pearls their beauty.

2) Surface (complexion) - includes smoothness and the lack of blemishes. As an article of nature, however, sometimes blemishes add to a pearl's uniqueness and cost.

3) Size - The value of pearls rises starting at 8mm. Over 15mm is very rare and expensive. Fortunately, when I bought pearl earrings, the 7mm size looked more proportional and stylish in my ears than the bigger sizes. So bigger, more expensive isn't always better. Try on different sizes to know what size looks best. Like furniture needs space to create balance in a room, sometimes you need ear to surround and showcase pearl earrings!

4) Shape - There are 8: round, semi-round, oval, drop, baroque, button, pear and circle. Shape is subject to personal taste. Perfectly round pearls are the rarest and take a bit of effort to match, so have an edge in value.

5) Color - There are many hues including white, cream, pink, silver, gold, blue, purple and black. Color is determined by the lip of the living oyster or mussel. Different mollusks produce different colors and sizes.

Although only registering a 4.5 (out of 10) on the Moh's Scale of Hardness, if you take care of pearls they will last several lifetimes. Clean them sometimes (your skin oil and perfume dissolve them); and store them in a soft cloth, or pouch to avoid scratches from other jewelry.

Pearl rings were the first pieces of jewelry my parents give me; and over time a pearl ring, earrings and necklace were the first pieces of jewelry I bought for myself after I began working to look like a grownup at fancy shindigs.

Pearls are beautiful, timeless and budget-friendly. Most of us can afford a lovely set (earrings, ring and necklace) of freshwater pearls without mortgaging our house. Do you own pearls?

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Monday, February 17, 2020

Dupes For Charlotte Tilbury In Pillow Talk

Unlike reds or bight pinks, nude lipstick is so wearable for daytime because it's also low maintenance. I can't bring myself to spend $34 for one designer lipstick, the price of one of my favorite brands, Charlotte Tilbury. Pillow Talk, a brownish (hint of peach, hint of pink) nude is a huge seller as you can wear it every day. A matte formula, it feels creamy on your lips and has staying power.

'Tis time to find its dupes. Costing $5.82 - $9 depending on the retailer, the following have a matt finish, the creaminess and staying power of Charlotte Tilbury in Pillow Talk the original:

1) Flower Beauty Pouty Lipstick: Spiced Petal - the #1 doppelgänger

2) Flower Beauty Pouty Lipstick: Naked Blush

3) L'Orèal Color Riche Matte: #633 Moka Chic

Even the 3rd choice, L'Orèal's Moka Chic, if not an exact match, is a near-perfect match and beautiful shade for less! So alike on your lips, you won't notice the difference.

Perhaps 6 times more for the luxe brand is never worth the price. Think of all the money saved in a year's time by buying a dupe.

You're welcome!

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Friday, February 14, 2020

Be My Valentine

Wishing all my readers a Happy Valentine' Day. As the saying goes, "no wo/man is an island." Today we celebrate being part of an us ... i.e. relationships ... as friends, family, or partners.
Whether it's: I like you. I love you! I want to be near you. You make me happy. I'm glad you're in my life. 
A day set aside to express our fondness with hearts, cards, sweets, red wine, flowers, a lovely dinner, or jewelry. The words and deeds are up to you ... whatever makes sense in the relationship.
I want to thank my readers for stopping by or returning to THE SAVVY SHOPPERXOXO
Happy February 14th to each of you. On this day, let's go out to shower the world in goodwill. Be kind-hearted and love ❤️ everybody.❤️ 

May Cupid's arrows find you!💌

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Renpure Coconut Cream Shampoo And Conditioner

The Bargain: Renpure Coconut  Cream Shampoo and Conditioner

The size: A generous 32 ounce bottle with a pump. 

The store: Bed, Bath and Beyond

The cost: $3.97 each.

It was too good to leave on the shelves, so I bought a shampoo and conditioner. What a steal!

Made by Tom Redmend and family, the company has 30 years of experience making environmental friendly shampoo and beauty products. In the 1970s an earlier generation of Redmends created the familiar Aussie shampoos and conditioners. In 2008 Tom and Cindy Redmend launched Renpure to put safe and affordable hair care products on the market. With carefully chosen nourishing ingredients, the coconut cream line is all plant-based, and it has no sulfates, parabens, dyes, phthalates, propylene or glycol. 
Coconut oil is rich in vitamins, fats and minerals. The shampoo is gentle and moisturizing on all hair types. The conditioner adds extra moisture and shine, plus tames frizz. Certainly my hair feels very clean and soft. Highly recommend them. There are several formulas to address hair concerns.

Despite containing only pure, clean ingredients, Renpure is mass produced and therefore sold at Walgreens, Walmart and Target. This isn't the cheap shampoo and conditioner of yesteryear.

Too good and true. A must try!

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Sunday, February 9, 2020

Best Dressed At The Oscars 2020

Photos courtesy of Page Six, CNN & Harpers Bazaar: 1) Kaitlyn Dever in Louis Vuitton; 2) Zazie Beetz wearing unknown designer; 3) Renée Zellweger in a custom Armani Privé; 4) Penelope Cruz in Chanel; 5) Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Vera Wang; 6) Brad Pitt wearning a Brioni suit; 8) Margot Robbie in a vintage Chanel; 9) Adam Driver and his wife, Joanne Tucker looking smashing in ??

Here I am publishing my favorite outfits at the Academy Awards while I'm watching the show and before the winners in the major catagories have been announced. I don't want to be influenced by anyone else's list of favorites. It will be fun to see who agrees with me. 

Brad Pitt won early, and he's just so cute I had to throw him into the mix. The last part of his acceptence speech when he talked about loading up his car to come to Hollywood, thinking about people he met, and now accepting his award (for what is truly his best performance) in "Once Upon A Time In Hollywood," has me tearing up a little. Touching! Success is a long road.

Also I tossed in Adam Driver and his wife as the most stylish couple. He, too, gives a great performance as an actor in a leading role in "Marriage Story." So he gets a nod from me!

It never hurts to have tuxedos and gowns expertly tailored to fit a person's frame perfectly. We could all look our best if we did. I may shop the racks, but I strive for this courturiered look!

Did you pick any favorites? Enjoy the show.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Homemade Sloppy Joe's Sandwiches

Photo: Chowkhound
Food is one of THE SAVVY SHOPPER'S topics because it takes a big bite out of a budget. No matter what, we have to eat every day! Today's feature makes an easy weekend dinner.

I never ate Sloppy Joe's as a child as my Mom never made it. To me it was a Hunt's TV spot called a Manwich.

According to Wikipedia, the sandwich was created in the 1930s in Sioux City, Iowa by a cook named Joe. Recently I obtained a 2020 calendar from my local Key Food Supermarket with the recipe, and decided to lighten it up a tad:

Homemade Sloppy Joe's


1 tablespoon butter (omit)
1 teaspoon olive oil (omit)
1 pound lean ground beef
1/3 green (or red) bell pepper, minced
1 medium yellow onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon brown sugar (I reduce it to half a teaspoon of brown sugar. Sweet enough for me.)
1 teaspoon yellow mustard (I stock Dijon, or brown mustard.)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (I use sea salt.)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
dash of hot sauce (optional)


1. Heat butter and oil in large skillet over medium/medium-high heat. Add beef and brown, breaking apart into crumbles as it cooks, about 5 minutes. (Note: I omit the butter and olive oil to brown the meat since even lean ground beef has some fat, which is enough to brown the meat.)

2. Add onion and bell pepper to the same skillet and cook 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add garlic and cook 30 seconds or so, until fragrant. Add tomato paste. Stir well.

3. Add ketchup, water, brown sugar, mustard, chili powder, Worcestershire sauce, salt, red pepper flakes and hot sauce (if using), and black pepper. Stir well to combine.

4. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until mixture has thickened to your liking. Remove from heat and serve over toasted buns. (Another tweak: I toast 2 slices of grainy bread in lieu of buns. I also like to butter one side of the bread so it browns better and for taste.)

Unlike canned Sloppy Joe's sauce, you control what goes into the pan. Lean and relatively healthy, this homemade recipe is the perfect blend of savory, tangy, zesty and a hint of sweet. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, February 4, 2020

All About Cocoa Powder

The word cocoa is a derivative of the word cacao. Cacao seed-like beans are roasted and dried, then formed into cacao bars, or ground into cacao (a/k/a cocoa) powder.

When shopping for cocoa, there are several varieties that may have you starching your head over which to buy. Here is a handy guild from King Arthur Flour that I will summarize. You're welcome!:

1) Natural cocoa - is solid unsweetened chocolate that's had most of it's fat removed before being ground into a powder. Baker's chocolate is an example. Use this one for cake frosting, brownies and hot chocolate.

2) Dutch process cocoa - is natural cocoa that's been treated with an alkalizing agent to lower it's acidity. This lets its pure chocolate flavor shine through, making it ideal to use in baked goods like chocolate cake.

3) Black cocoa - is new to me as my otherwise excellent supermarket doesn't carry it. It is a cocoa that's been strongly Dutched giving it a very dark color and intense flavor. Homemade faux-reos cookies (think Oreosowe their nearly black color to this ultra-strong cocoa.

You are wondering what is in that can of Hersey's cocoa in the back of your cupboard (the same one your mother bought over the years) aren't you? Its classic natural cocoa powder, although nowadays you have a 2nd choice: Hersey's Special Dark, a blend of natural and Dutch process cocoas.
These are the main 3 cocoa powders sold at the supermarket, the ones most of us use. Chocolate connoisseur bakers can click the links to read about the history, as well as, special blends of cocoa powder. Home bakers, you now have enough information to head to the supermaket!

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