Monday, April 25, 2011

Chef Stephanie's Picnic segment on Valley Dish

Crafty ideas and food safety

An American Picnic Craft Segment with Chef Tess Today on Valley Dish

Today I will be on NBC 12 Phoenix at 3:30 doing a craft segment  on Valley Dish as  part of the Picnic Theme Show! Don't miss it folks! It's going to be really zany fun! My basket is loaded! I'm ready to go!

One of the first things we do is take a sturdy laundry basket lined with a clean blanket cloth or towel for some of our essentials.  If I'm feeling especially Daisy Duke, I'll even tie a little knot like this. Ya know, just to be "country" and "down-homey". 

This cloth is also functional. It ensures that our utensils  stay clean and that our dishes don't rattle. It also is a lot stronger and less expensive than a lot of the picnic baskets out there. Note, we don't use it for dirty laundry. It's just for picnics.  I know you were worried about that. We also have a separate cooler for food that needs to stay cold. The cooler rides in the air conditioned part of the car. This is just for the non-cold items.
Salvage Chick  Diane Holyoak came up with this great  Americana Vintage  picnic box design for me. I've known Diane for years and am always impressed with her creative twist on things. Usually it revolves around some crazy piece of furniture she finds. She's remarkably clever and resourceful.  Maybe that's why we get along so well.  So when I saw her shabby sheik picnic accessories this last week,  I knew they needed a home with me. Much thanks to her for the great details in this project!  Look at this! It's an antique she re-made into a treasure box of goodies!
 The cups are old tin measuring cups! They're cleaned and sanitized of course, but way too cha-cha for words!
 The handles are just dolled up with some fabric tied on, but it's just so dang perfect!
She made this adorable ruffled star hand towel as well! It's perfect since I get to cover hand washing in this segment. Thanks Diane! You seriously rock lady!
My own personal touches include a few pet rocks. One to hold the dinner plates.
 This one for the dessert plates. I don't know what to name my pets yet. Any suggestions?
I'll be bringing my vintage  Love Bubble Cookie Tins (I've done a full tutorial for them already on the blog).
  I will be bringing a few of my newest creations. These are lemon curd strawberry butter bars. They will travel in the cookie tin for fun. Of course, I could totally share that recipe here...but it will have to be later. 

I really had fun with the tablecloth! It just screams kids and baseball. It's like apple pie and hot dogs right? It took hours on end to piece together all those jean squares too. You'll never be able to be as cool as me. Okay...brace yourself. It's actually pretty simple.

The quilted tablecloth is just a yard of jean fabric that I purchased pre-pieced at the fabric store. It actually was made already cut into squares and sewn together like that. I just finished the edges with the bright red polka-dot fabric.  
 I separated a white silk daisy and sewed a single one on each corner. Then I fastened a foot of gingham ribbon to the middle of each flower and tied it in a bow.
 I found great information on picnic food safety that I will be sharing on the segment from   here. 
Hopefully this gives you some great ideas for an All American picnic! There you go!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Temples and Easter Pageantry

In Mesa Arizona there is a special place of worship called the Mesa Temple. I gave guided tours of the gardens there in my late teen years and it has always held a special place in my heart, as that is also the place where Ace and I chose to be married over 15 years ago. Some of my friends have asked me  Why we build temples and if we go to church there to worship. Even more often I get asked What happens in temples?
When I go to the temple I have always felt a peace away from the world. That  peace the Saviour spoke of when He said:

 ‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.’”
Every year we host the largest outdoor  Easter Pageant . It is a celebration of the life and ministry of our Saviour Jesus Christ. It's a gathering of good people. All there to remember His life.  It lasts several nights, is free of charge and no donations are accepted. We took the boys to see the pageant this week.  The April breeze was gentle. The Spirit was strong. It was an outstanding experience. It always is.

We also have a beautiful Christus statue in our Mesa Arizona Temple Visitors’ Center

My favorite part of the gardens, especially at Easter, is the large number of olive trees. They have been in the gardens surrounding our temple since it was first constructed. Why? Because it reminds me of the garden of Gethsemane where my Saviour suffered for me. It reminds me that because of Him, this gospel is here in the first place and has the impact that it does in my life.

In a garden, this ressurection happened. It changed the world. It changed my life forever knowing it happened.

I know He lives. I know He loves me.

There it is.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Grandma's Ding Dong Bunnies and Auntie Em's Sweet Reminders


When we were kids, my Grandma W used to watch eight grandchildren. She was a saint for doing it. I will never forget how she gave countless hours of service to people in the church and neighborhood.  Easter was no exception.  One neighbor in particular used to make hundreds of Ding Dong bunnies to make extra money during the Easter season for her small family. Grandma insisted we go to her neighbor's home and help unwrap the confections and construct the bunnies.  It was always such a fun project.  I'm not sure how many years we helped, but I do remember wishing I could stuff more of those bad-boy-bunnies in my pie-hole instead of making them into treats for somebody else's basket! We rarely got to actually eat Ding Dongs at my house. You can imagine the torture that was!  Well, ironically, I am currently not eating sugar.  Auntie Em however was gracious enough to remind me of the Ding Dong bunnies and make some this year for me to remember Grandma.

She used toothpicks to stick marshmallow eggs into the tops of the Ding Dongs for ears. Licorice whips for whiskers.  Jelly beans for eyes. Royal icing for the decorations.

Bless you Auntie Em for bringing back a flood of Easter memories today. Smoooches!!

There you go.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Snicker-doodle Blondies You Are Evil.

 My original sin  genius Blondies had nuts and big chunks of chocolate in them. If you missed that recipe, it's a forever classic and can be found here.  However, it was recently brought to my attention by my ever sweet and amazing sister in law Jennifer, that I could probably make something more evil. In fact...she dared bring me such a confection.  She called them the Snicker-doodle Blondies. I almost passed out. Yup. It's still herb and spice week and you bet your sweet little doodles that we are going to have some of these on the blog! So, I changed up the recipe a little from my original Blondies recipe and zooom-bam-bah. What we have is a soft and caramel-like bar coated with a spiced sugar that will make you cry tears of joy and bliss. Okay...maybe you won't cry. I bet you'll write a song about them though.

Chef Tess' Butterscotch Snicker-doodle Blondies  

1/2 cup melted butter (cooled but not still runny)
2 cups dark brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla (double strength)
1 tsp brandy extract

1/2 cup sugar
2 T Wise Woman of The East Spice Blend

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9 by 13 inch cake pan. Mix all the ingredients  except for the white sugar and Wise Woman of The East Spice Blend, combine well. Spread in the pan. In a separate container, combine the sugar and Wise woman spice blend.  Sprinkle generously over the top of the Blondie and bake 25-30 minutes-- or until they look dry on top and almost firm to the touch. Let cool 10-15 minutes and cut into small squares. yield 36 Blondies...

There you go.

Herb Oils and Essential Oils (Rambling Review)

This seemed like the perfect product review to add to Herb and Spice Week! I think you'll agree. 

Identity Magazine contacted me in February  to let me know that I had won  a Family Physician Kit from Oil during their February "Love Your Identity Giveaway"! I was so excited. I don't win a lot of stuff, but I had no idea what the "Family Physician Kit" was. So I checked it out.

Family Physician® Kit

The Family Physician® Kit is a collection of ten nurturing essential oils, including six single oils and four blends. The stunning box includes tips for using the oils, as well as an audio CD featuring dōTERRA®'s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. David K. Hill. In this audio presentation, Dr. Hill teaches listeners how to care for their family's everyday health needs with simple and safe methods using the ten essential oils included in this kit. Includes 5 ml bottles of Lavender, Lemon, Peppermint, Melaleuca, Oregano, Frankincense, Deep Blue®, Breathe, DigestZen®, and On Guard™ to help families address a multitude of health issues.

The company representative Joni Lang was afraid that I wouldn't know what to do with the oils, but I was excited to try them. I'm adventurous. Plus, I had been looking for a more natural way to add flavor to my cooking and baked goods and this sounded like a good option. Joni wrote:

"I'm so glad you won! I was afraid my amazing oils might go to some one who would have no idea what to do with them, and they would just sit on a shelf.  I am so excited for you to get them and try them out.  I think you will be amazed at the purity.  They are not Certified as Organic because they grow wild in their indiginous habitat.  Not sure I would trust the Certified Organic label anyway as the FDA allow 10% chemicals and pesticides, and it can still be called Organic.  The FDA does have a list of essential oils that they have determined to be "Generally Regarded as Safe" or GRAS.  Our oils that meet that standard have a supplement label right on the bottle and are absolutely safe to ingest and cook with.  One of my favorite things is just to add a drop of Lavender in my cupcake frosting. So yummy!"  

Inside the family Physician kit were simple directions on how and where to use the oils.  Joni's website has some great information including an Essential Wellness Guide that showed was awesome. I enjoyed reading her  Introduction to Oils,  and some  Quick Oil References. 
I used a few drops of  the On Guard with a 1/2 cup of water in the morning to help with my immune system during the colds and flu that seemed to hit my family especially hard this year.
Most intriguing to me was the Oil of Oregano.  I have a dear friend who has sworn by this stuff for years. I've never seen her get sick. Why I haven't tried using it is way beyond me...yet there it was, staring at me. Okay. I'm going to tell you right here, it's the devil strong. You can't just put a drop on your tongue. You'll gage. But, I did purchase some empty gel caps and have been using it regularly. It's helped immensely!  
Another one I have come to love is the lemon oil. I use one or two drops in my bottled water with some stevia and I don't even miss Diet Coke. The lemon oil is so light and fresh tasting and it helps as a disinfectant,  for sore throat relief, neutralize odors and bacteria,  and a digestive aid.
I was very excited that this oil was so pure and safe for consumption.  You can't just use the oils in the craft store.  These are different.  Even some massage oils are not safe to eat. 

You can learn more about the Certified Pure Therapeutc Grade (CPTG) standard HERE. 

I've been using the oils to flavor my olive oil for cooking and baking.
4-5 drops of the oil of oregano and 4-5 drops of the lemon oil make a very refreshing addition to any olive oil. Plus, there's not any flecks of herbs in there.  It's an amazing way to impart a ton of flavor without a lot of mess.  Traditionally when I've made herb oils it has taken about a week for the flavor to really reach full potency. This is instant. What's not to love about that?

I'm sure I'll be using these a lot more in the future. Thank you Joni for the chance to use your amazing oils! I'm  so happy with them!
Visit Joni's Oil Essentials website here.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Culinary Herb and Spice Remedies 101 (The Alchemy behind the flavors)

Last week I taught an herb and spice alchemy class at Preparing Wisely in Mesa, Arizona and promised to share a few of the things I would be teaching my students during the class here on the blog for the people around the world who obviously couldn't attend.  It was pretty comprehensive and full of great recipes on matching spices and herbs to complement ethnic flavors. If you want to read more about those recipes go here. The other side of the class was the whole medicinal use of culinary herbs in food.  

I think a lot of times this "herb and spice" side of eating is completely  misunderstood as just perhaps a "flavoring".  Adding herbs and spices traditionally was not only for flavor, but also for health.  I hope today I can share some of the bare basic homeopathic uses for some of the most common culinary spices and herbs. These are probably remedies your great grandmother used long before there were modern medicines. None of these statements have been reviewed by the FDA. FYI. That's not saying that they don't work, it's just saying they are not tested yet.

  For general information, I store my spices whole and grind them fresh so I don't lose any of the essential oils or nutritional value of the spices. I keep them in a cool dark place in non-porous glass containers. I also grow my own herbs organically in my garden.  The pictures you see, are all my own.  Seriously, these are the short descriptions. This is also a short list. There are many herb and spices not listed.  There are long books on this subject so I'm just scratching the surface here.  Shall we begin then? We'll start with Spices, the seeds and barks of edible aromatic plants. Then we'll move on to the herbs (leaves, stems and flowers).
 Allspice. It is a sweet spice generally used in cakes, cookies and desserts.
 The natural oil is used topically as a pain reliever and the powder is an antioxidant with what is believed to be antic-cancer action.
 Cardamom seed— A sweet  spice with lemon notes.  I use it often when I mill my flour. It adds a light fresh taste to pastry and cakes. It is also used in many Indian dishes.  Medicinally  it is favored as a carminative  to ease digestive gas, cramping and flatulence.
Clove--Sweet Spice  used in desserts and in some sauces. Medicinally— essential oil used as an aromatic and pain suppressant (I used it sparingly on teething baby and it worked) , antiseptic, powder to alleviate vomiting (antispasmodic)
 Nutmeg--Sweet spice used in cakes, pastries, and some sauces. Medicinally used as an —antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, digestive aid, gastric stimulant, prevent vomiting, and help boost appetite.
 Cinnamon--Sweet Spice used in desserts, cakes, pastries and teas. Medicinally used as a digestive aid , antiseptic, uterine stimulant (cramps), help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics.
 Dill Seed---from the dill weed plant Weee! This actually happened in my garden folks. I loved seeing the dill go to seed. Licorice notes used in pickles, sauces and many ethnic dishes. Medicinally the seeds are used mashed and then infused for stomach ills, colic, diarrhea, anti-bacteria, and a carminative. I actually used mashed dill seed infused in a tea  and then strained and cooled for my colic babies and it helped immensely.
Fennel seed used in sweet cakes  and savory applications like fennel sausage with a  pronounced licorice note.  Medicinally it is used for colic,as a digestive aid, to normalize appetite, as a liver cleanser,  to reduce uric acid and to soothes gout.
 Coriander Seed used ground in Spanish, Indian  and Oriental cooking with heavy lemon notes. It is the seed that produced the fresh herb cilantro!—Medicinally it is used for it's properties as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, digestive aid, colic, joint pain reliever.
 This is my cilantro that went to seed. Yes folks. I did grow my own coriander this year too! How cool is that?

 Caraway seed gives rye bread it's distinct flavor and is also often used in sauerkraut. Medicinally it is a stimulating expectorant for congestion, antispasmodic, digestive stimulant, and the oil is an antiseptic.
 Black Pepper is used ground  in savory dishes and breads.  Medicinally it's used for coughs, heartburn and indigestion, toothache and canker sores.
 Cumin seeds  used ground. When you smell it you'll think, "Mexican food". Medicinally they are good carminatives which help to relieve abdominal distension. It helps to digest food and improve peristalsis. Another use which is very rarely known is that it helps to minimize the abdominal pain during menstrual periods when consumed for 2 weeks prior to the date of menstruation. It is good to consume with warm water. Read more: here


Tarragon is used in sauces and breads most often in French cooking. I think it's one of the Kings of herbs. I can't list all it's medical uses but it's often used as a diuretic, antidepressant, to promote appetite, fight fatigue, calm nerves, and has been used to aid sleep as a mild sedative. Read more about it here.
Rosemary is used in sauces, soups and teas. Most often in Italian and Greek cooking but also French. It couples great with chicken and is often one of the first ingredients in poultry seasoning (or chicken soup). It is used medicinally antispasmodic, relaxant, stimulant to circulation and nerves, cardiac tonic.
 Thyme used in sauces, soups and poultry. Medicinally it's used as a uterine stimulant, antiseptic, expectorant, diuretic, antibiotic, astringent
Dill used for salads and in Greek and French cooking. It also makes the most amazing  Cottage Dill Bread. Medicinally it's used  for stomach ills, colic, diarrhea, anti-bacteria, and a carminative.

Oregano used in sauces, soups and salads most often in Italian, French, and Mexican dishes. 
To soothe colic, make a tea, leave to cool, then strain the herb to leave a clear liquid. Feed the baby a little
at a time. Try the same preparation for to relieve coughs in adults. Additionally, prevent or relieve a heavy chest by eating lots of oregano at key times. Hay fever sufferers may find some relief by sprinkling the dried herb on salads, whilst eating oregano in winter dishes can help loosen phlegm during the long months of the common cold. 
I use Oil of Oregano in my olive oil for dressings and also as a supplement in gel caps.It is one of the strongest and most effective broad spectrum antibiotics known to man. It is natural and safe to use. It will not create more mutant strains of bacteria. It effectively kills bacteria of every variety using only tiny amounts. It is also effective against fungus, parasites and viruses. More on that to come but I'm seriously happy I won these  Essential Oils  from Joni Lang during a Giveaway at Identity magazine. I'm so blessed that I  have been able to use them!  More to come on these. 

 Parsley  is used fresh to impart new life and flavor to dry herbs (add at the end of cooking just before serving). Fresh parsley is loaded with LIFE! Medicinally it is used for—Kidney and bladder problems, anticancer properties, antioxidants,  stimulate the nervous system, adrenals, and liver function. It's also good for killing bad breath...but that's just a side note.
Basil most famously used in pesto and Italian cooking but also used in French and Oriental cooking.
 Medicinally it is used as an antiseptic and antidepressant. It restores and calms.

Juniper Berries used in mulling spices, pickling spices and some savory spice blends.
 Probably most famous from my post on using Pine Cones for Dinner! ha! This is what they look like on the tree. When they dry they will be a deep almost black purple. Medicinally they help with a kidney cleanse, removing blood toxins, destroying fungi,  improving the optic nerves, brain function, easing colic
and  easing digestion.

 I did a great post on the Edible Flowers of the Sonora Desert. Edible flowers are also in the "herb" category and have to share my two favorites. I use them often as a hint of flavor but many don't realize that I am also using them relax and sooth my guests. I'm most famous for using my lavender and rose petal in my Wise Woman of the East Spice Blend to add sophistication and vintage charm to pastries and desserts. It's used anywhere one would use cinnamon. Seriously's also a nerve tonic. It will make you happy. See...and you thought it just tasted good. BE sure you use FOOD GRADE flowers only. Many of the "craft store" branded flowers have been treated with chemicals that are harmful for human consumption.  If you don't grow your own I've been know to  get mine at Penzey' or a local health food store that carries herbs called The Good Apple.
 Lavender flowers used aromatically and also ground in desserts and some French cooking. I adore it in Tapioca. Medicinally it is used as a relaxant, antispasmodic, circulatory stimulant, diuretic, nerve tonic, uterine stimulant. 

Rose Petal  used in desserts, frostings and aromatherapy. Medicinally used as an antidepressant, calming sedative, digestive aid , aniti-inflamitory,  and anti-viral agent.

Like I said before, this isn't a complete list, not even by a long shot. I do hope however that it has given you some good ammunition when facing herbs and spices in the homeopathic world. It's really quite exciting to think that those amazing flavors can actually help heal and bless the lives of those you love. It's not just's a whole healing art.

There you go.