Gorge the Gourd!

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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.

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My Personal Life Hacks

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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

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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

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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.

A Cookbook Filled with Family Favorites and Age-Old Classics.

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I spent 30+ years in a cubicle, programming computers.  Late in my career, I began to notice that nobody cooked much anymore.  Everybody works now days and there’s so much to do after work that it’s just easier to head for fast food on the way home. These realizations inspired me to start writing down my family recipes.  Six years later, I had prepared and written up over 600 recipes that I had been collecting from family and friends over my lifetime.  All this cooking and typing made me want to encourage others to cook more or learn to cook and save all their family recipes, too.  I was inspired to learn more about the basic ingredients my family used and share that knowledge with my readers to help them feel more confident on their cooking journey.  And now Caveman Chemistry is ready for you.  Purchase my cookbook on http://www.lulu.com.  I know you will enjoy preparing and eating my family’s favorite dishes.

Valerie and Her First Book

Valerie and Her First Book