It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!


Family, Friends, Food, Fun. I love Christmas! Families gather around the world to revel in  the joy of the holiday season and family fellowship. Friends party and exchange gifts. Cards and family newsletters are sent to all the wonderful extended families. Lurking in the background of every event is the best food EVER. December is the month of candy making, bread baking, cupcaking, diet forsaking, tastebud waking, leftover taking, and overstuffed stomach aching. December is also the month of peppermint – drinks, candy, ice cream. For years, December was the only time you could find peppermint chocolate chips in the grocery store, which is why peppermint brownies were considered a Christmas treat. These brownies are a huge hit at any gathering.

Christmas Peppermint Brownies


  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 – teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1¾ – cups Hershey’s chocolate–flavored syrup
  • 4 – eggs
  • 1 – cup flour
  • ½ – teaspoon salt


  • ½ – cup butter or margarine, softened
  • ½ – teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 2 – cups powdered sugar
  • 4 – drops green food coloring
  • 1 – tablespoon water


  • 9 – tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 – 10 ounce bag mint chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 13x9x2 pan. In a large mixing bowl with the mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, salt, vanilla, and chocolate syrup. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the flour. As soon as the flour is moist, turn the mixer on medium and beat the batter for 3 minutes. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake the brownies for 30–40 minutes, until done. The brownies may look wet in the middle so use a toothpick to make sure they’re done. Allow the brownies to cool to room temperature. It’s ok if the brownies pull away from the sides of the pan as they cool.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, cream the butter and powdered sugar. Beat in the water, peppermint, and food coloring until the filling is creamy and turns a soft green. Spread the filling evenly over the brownies, just to the edges. Refrigerate the brownies at least 2 hours, until the filling is set.

In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter and mint chocolate chips, stirring occasionally. Do not boil the chocolate. When the butter and chips are melted, remove the pan from the heat and cool the chocolate for at least 30–60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spread the frosting over the green filling and refrigerate the brownies until the frosting is set. Store the brownies in the refrigerator.


Who Doesn’t Want Free Money!


Glad I got your attention. This is a public service announcement. 16 years after my mom passed away, I found a lockbox key in some of her things. If you know me, you know I’m not one to assume the box was closed and time to throw the key away. Besides, everyone loves a good mystery, right? I started researching the key. The original bank was absorbed by Wells Fargo and I have no idea which branch to contact. However, enough years have passed that the box would have been emptied due to unpaid rent and the contents sent to the State. Mom only lived in 2 states in the last 30 years, so that narrows the search. So far I haven’t found anything from a lockbox, but I found money for my sister, brother, cousin, nephew, and stepsister. You, too, could have money waiting for you to claim it. And claiming is free. Don’t go to one of those websites from a private company, they will charge you for helping you claim your own money.

Here’s what you do. Each state has a website for ‘Unclaimed Property’. Find your state’s website and enter your last name in the Last Name box and click SEARCH.  Peruse the entire list because it’s not always in alphabetical order and sometimes your name or address can be misspelled. Look for yourself, family members, and any business names you’ve used and claim everything that’s yours. You will have to produce specific documents if you are claiming property of a deceased relative. Even if it’s not much money, think of it this way: the less stuff the State has to keep track of, the less accountants the State needs, the less taxes you have to pay.

You may be thinking there’s nothing for you so why bother. Everyone thinks that and yet there are probably billions of dollars being held in this country. How does this happen? It’s money that a company tried to send you or your family and the company couldn’t reach you. Maybe because of misspelling your name and address or you moved or your family member passed away. There are a number of reasons a company can’t get money to its rightful owner, so you have to help them out and look for your family. The money can be royalties, utility deposits, insurance payouts, vendor refunds, legal settlements, forgotten bank accounts and lockboxes, final paychecks, or even child support. What if the lockbox contained your Grandma’s wedding picture? You’d want that back. So take a few minutes and do some searching. Get what’s coming to you.

Gorge the Gourd!


Isn’t it a little backwards that we gorge on pumpkin before Halloween? Shouldn’t we be gutting all of our carved pumpkins on November 1st and baking those wonderful pumpkin pies? Well maybe that’s the logical way, but honestly we just can’t wait any longer. The cool Fall air kindles that pumpkin craving. Just look around. We have pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin shakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cake, pumpkin pancakes… pumpkin, pumpkin, pumpkin.

I have some terrific pumpkin recipes in my cookbook. If you love pumpkin, you will love every one of those recipes. Today, I’m sharing a simple snack for that pumpkin fix. I know you will enjoy it.

Fall Dip

  • 1 – 3.5 ounce box butterscotch pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon allspice
  • 1 – 5.1 ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
  • ⅛ – teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ – teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 – 15 ounce can 100% pure pumpkin
  • ¼ – teaspoon ginger
  • 1 – 16 ounce tub Cool Whip, thawed

In a large mixing bowl, combine the pudding mixes with the cinnamon, ginger, allspice, and nutmeg. Blend in the pumpkin with a mixer on low speed. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat in the Cool Whip until the dip starts to thicken. Put the dip in a nice bowl and refrigerate at least 3 hours. Serve the dip with animal crackers or graham crackers.

My Personal Life Hacks


I remember the first time someone suggested using Google and now it’s a household name. In fact, it’s a verb just like Xerox, when many of it’s original peers have faded from the scene. Still, I have very little patience sorting through my Google searches. So you’ll understand when I say, I searched for a National Heloise Day, but didn’t find one on any of the National Name Day sites I searched. In honor of Hints from Heloise, I am posting a few of my personal life hacks today.

I see so many shares of ‘life hacks’, ‘cooking hacks’, ‘cleaning hacks’, etc. on social media, I wanted to share a few of my own. I also want to Hail Heloise as the original ‘hacker’ for her decades of sharing and adding a positive note to each edition of the news.

Caring for your Drapes: Dry cleaning is expensive, especially for an entire house full of drapes. So here’s a way to cut back on dry cleaning. Once a year, take down your drapes and run them through the dryer on air (no heat) for an hour. Then, just put them back up. The dryer sucks out all the dust, bugs, and spider webs that can damage the fabric. Maybe have your drapes dry cleaned every 5 years. Your drapes will last a lifetime. Don’t forget to empty the dryer filter.

Disposing of Grease: When I was young, we used empty milk cartons to dispose of garbage that couldn’t go into the garbage disposal. What do I do now that milk no longer comes in wax cartons? I save my big peanut butter jars after I eat all the peanut butter. Let the grease cool a little so it won’t melt the plastic jar and pour the grease into the jar. Screw on the lid. Now grease cannot leak through the trash bag and all over the floor, garage, etc. Peanut butter jars are also great for shrimp tails, bones, and fat – anything that smells bad as it sits in the garbage bag.

Oiling your Leather: Leather dry-rots. Oiling leather nourishes it and helps it last longer. If the leather is dirty, clean it first. Make soapy water with original Dawn dishwashing liquid; try not to use soap with a lot of additives (extra smells). Wash the leather with the soapy water and rinse off the soap. Water dries leather, so don’t do this unless you’re going to oil the leather as soon as it dries. The thinner the oil, the easier it is for the leather to soak in the oil. Hydrophane Leather Dressing is a wonderful oil for leather. Pour some in a bowl and use a clean paintbrush to coat the leather. Try not to paint the stitching as oil rots the stitching. However, it’s cheaper to have your leather restitched than replaced. Let the leather soak in all the oil before using your couch, shoes, saddle, etc. Do not use solid leather soaps. The ingredient that allows the soap to dry into a cake will also dry out your leather. (The same is true with lip therapies. Solid lip therapies feel good going on chapped lips, but they also help dry your lips even more.)

Tasty and Beautiful Don’t Always Take a Lot of Time


Isn’t this pork tenderloin beautiful? And it tastes, Oh Soooo Good! But then, pork tenderloin tastes good roasted with just salt and pepper. Today I preheated the oven to 325. Then I placed the tenderloin with salt and pepper in a roaster with a can of whole berry cranberry sauce and a splash of diet Coke. That’s it! Push in the meat thermometer and cook to 170. About halfway through, I stirred the cranberry sauce and spooned it over the roast. Pair this with a salad and you have a whole meal, easy on the calories and your time. It may take a little over an hour to cook, depending on the size of your roast, but during that time you can get stuff done around the house, watch TV, or work on your taxes like me. Enjoy.

International Women’s Day – My Story


We’ve come a long way, Baby! Even in my short 62 years, lifestyles have changed so much. I still remember the hassle of hose with girdles and garter belts, pantyhose, and seamed stockings. Way back in the olden days, women were required to wear dresses to school and work – and we were not allowed to go bare-legged so the solution was to wear some kind of hosiery everyday. We would stand behind trees as the winter wind whipped up our dresses while waiting for the school bus to pick us up. It wasn’t until my Senior year in high school that the dress code was dropped and we could wear pants.  What a relief. In the workplace, pantsuits were allowed, but some companies still required dresses. And you certainly could not show up for a job interview wearing pants. I still cringe just thinking about all those days strapped into uncomfortable underwear. Men have no idea what it’s like, and back then they sure didn’t care.

I grew up in the Midwest and when you say Illinois, people always think of Chicago, The Windy City. Next door to Chicago, is Milwaukee. It’s pretty windy there, too. I did some computer work for St. Joe’s Hospital. One Monday morning, I flew to Milwaukee, picked up my luggage, and headed for the taxi stand. I could see it was windy, so before I stepped out the door I gathered the edge of my dress in both hands, along with a suitcase, garment bag, and briefcase. Despite holding my dress in both hands, the wind whipped my dress over my face as I walked out of the terminal. So embarrassing! And to make it worse, the cab driver let me know everyone noticed. I never travelled in a dress again. My company continued to insist that I travel in a dress, even when I showed them an article written about travel guidelines suggesting women never travel in nylons. I found another job and that company doesn’t exist anymore – these two facts are not related.

In celebration of all women everywhere and their stories, here are some chocolate cookies that just melt in your mouth.

Chocolate Truffle Cookies

  • 6 – tablespoons butter
  • 2 – tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 4 – 1 ounce squares unsweetened chocolate
  • ¼ – teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 – 12 ounce bag semisweet chocolate chips, divided
  • ¼ – teaspoon salt
  • 1 – cup sugar
  • 1½ – teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 – eggs
  • ½ – cup flour

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, chocolate squares, and 1 cup of the chocolate chips over low heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the melted chocolate from the heat and set it aside for later.

In a large mixing bowl with a mixer on medium speed, beat the sugar and eggs for about 2 minutes. Blend in the cocoa, baking powder, salt, and vanilla. By hand, stir in the melted chocolate, flour, and chocolate chips in that order. Cover the cookie dough and chill until firm – at least a couple hours.

Preheat the oven to 350. Using a melon–baller, drop balls of dough 2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake the cookies 10–12 minutes, until puffed. Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Shop My Small Business


Friday, November 25, 2016, is National Shop Small Business Day. A business doesn’t get any smaller than an independent, self-publishing author. If you’re looking for a unique Christmas gift, my cookbook would be a wonderful addition to anyone’s kitchen, beginner cook or seasoned chef. You can find Caveman Chemistry, Bringing Science Back into Cooking on, coil bound or paperback bound. Take a look, I think you’ll like it.