Diva Tasting: Italian Trifle….

Italian Trifle
Ingredients
1 Small Can Of Dark Cherries Drained and Patted Dry
1 Teaspoon Rum Flavored Extract
1 (3.4 Ounce) Package Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix
1 (3.9 Ounce) Package Instant Chocolate Pudding Mix
2 (3 Ounce) Packages Ladyfingers
1 Pint Heavy Cream
1 Teaspoon White Sugar
2 Ounces Almonds, Lightly Toasted
Directions
  1. In a small bowl, drain cherry juice and add rum; set aside. Prepare vanilla and chocolate puddings in separate bowls, according to package directions. Allow to set up 5 minutes.
  2. In a 9×13 inch baking dish or trifle bowl, place a layer of cookies on the bottom of the dish; cut a few of the cookies in order to create a tight fit, if needed.
  3. Sprinkle cookie layer with 1/3 of the cherry juice mixture and spoon vanilla pudding over the cookies, spreading to the edge of the pan. Repeat steps with cookies, cherry juice and chocolate pudding. Make final layer with cookies and remaining juice.
  4. In a medium bowl, whip cream and sugar together until soft peaks form. Top dessert with whipped cream, sprinkle with almonds, and garnish with whole cherries. Refrigerate for 2 hours or more before serving.

Diva Tasting: Storing Eggs… Food for Thought….

5 Things You Don’t Know About Storing Eggs
Keep eggs fresh and protected with these simple steps.
Many people think that storing eggs in the plastic holder that comes standard in most refrigerator doors is the way to go. Why else would fridge manufacturers add that nifty little feature?
However, this is a common misconception, so it’s time we set the record straight: This method is far from the best way to store eggs in your refrigerator.
Turns out, leaving eggs in their store-bought container and storing them on the middle shelf of your fridge is actually the best way to keep them fresh longer.
So if you, like many others, having been storing your eggs all wrong for quite some time now, learning these five often overlooked do’s and don’ts of smarter egg storage can help you fix your faux-pas and quickly improve your food safety IQ.
1. Don’t ditch the store-bought carton.
No matter how much you love those adorable ceramic egg cartons or want to make use of the plastic egg-holder insert that came with your fridge, keeping your eggs in the Styrofoam or cardboard container you purchased them in is your best bet. These materials do a better job of cushioning your eggs to prevent breakage. Plus, the “best by” date is clearly marked, too.
2. Do keep eggs in a closed carton at all times.
Along with other criteria, in order for an egg to be USDA-grade, it’s required by law that eggshells be sanitized before being packaged and sold. But this process actually strips the eggshells of their natural protective oils — that makes the shells’ thousands of tiny pores more easily permeated by strong odors that could be lurking in your fridge. That’s why storing your eggs in their original, closed carton will help protect them from absorbing any strange food scents that could be circulating.
3. Don’t store eggs in the door of your refrigerator.
You may be under the common misconception that eggs should be stored in the door of your refrigerator, but the truth is, eggs are best stored in the main portion of your fridge on the middle shelf, ideally toward the back. The reasoning is that the temperature of your fridge stays the coldest and most consistent in this area, whereas the temperature of your refrigerator door, on the other hand, is prone to fluctuations, since it gets opened and closed regularly. And since eggs should be stored at temperatures of 45°F or lower, according to EggSafety.com, those fluctuations could pose a food-safety risk.
4. Do keep eggs facing upside-down in the carton.
We’re conditioned to think that the pointed side of the egg is the top, while the larger, more rounded side is the bottom, so it only makes sense that that’s how we’d naturally arrange them in their carton, if we were putting them in ourselves. But the next time you buy a carton of eggs, take a look at how they’re oriented — they should be round side up, pointed side down (assuming no one has messed with any). That’s because there’s a naturally occurring air bubble inside each egg’s rounded side, which helps keep the yolk more centered inside the egg and, in turn, will help your eggs stay fresh longer.
5. Don’t return used eggshells to the carton or reuse cartons.
Since eggshells are so permeable, bacteria that forms on used eggshells can easily contaminate the rest of your eggs, making them unsafe to eat — so never return used eggs to a carton, if you don’t plan on discarding it immediately. And you should never reuse an old egg carton for that same reason, too. According to the Food Safety and Inspection Service, “Egg cartons have been approved for a specific use and should be considered one-time-use packaging. Bacteria from foods that these packages once contained may remain

Diva Tasting: Zuppa Toscana II Soup…

Zuppa Toscana II Soup
Ingredients
1 Pound Ground Italian Sausage
1 Pound Ground Beef
1 1/2 Teaspoons Red Pepper Flakes
1 Large White Onion, Diced
4 Strips Bacon, Diced
2 Teaspoons Garlic Puree
4 Cups Water
2 Quarts Chicken Stock or As Needs
1 Pkg. Russet Fingerling Potatoes, Halved
1 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
2 Boxes Frozen Spinach, Thawed and Drained
Directions
  1. Combine sausage, beef and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium heat; cook and stir until meat is brown and crumbled, 7 to 10 minutes. Drain excess fat; place in a bowl.
  2. Cook onion, bacon, and garlic in the same skillet over medium-low heat until bacon is crisp and onions are soft, 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Combine water and chicken broth in a large pot; bring to a boil. Stir in potatoes; cook and stir until soft, about 15 minutes. Pour in cream; simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Add sausage, onion mixture, and spinach; cook and stir until flavors combine, about 20 minutes. Serve with polenta or cornbread.

Diva Tasting: Halloween Treats For Busy Moms …

Halloween Treats For Busy Moms Snacks
Witches Hats
Ingredients
2 (16 Ounce) Packages Fudge Stripe Cookies
1/4 Cup Honey, Or As Needed
1 (9 Ounce) Bag Milk Chocolate Candy Kisses, Unwrapped
1 (4.5 Ounce) Tube Decorating Gel
Directions
  1. Place a fudge stripe cookie with bottom side up onto a work surface. Smear a small dab (about 1/8 teaspoon) of honey onto the bottom of a chocolate kiss, and secure the candy piece to the center of the cookie, covering the hole. Use decorating gel to pipe a small bow onto the cookie at the base of the candy piece. Repeat with remaining ingredients.
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Acorn Treats
Ingredients
1 Tablespoon Prepared Chocolate Frosting
24 Milk Chocolate Candy Kisses
24 Mini Vanilla Wafer Cookies
24 Butterscotch Chips
Directions
  1. Smear a small amount of frosting onto the flat bottom of a candy kiss. Press onto the flat bottom of the vanilla wafer. Smear a little more frosting onto the flat bottom of a butterscotch chip, and press onto the rounded top of the cookie. Repeat with remaining ingredients. Set aside to dry, about 30 minutes.
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Gouls Teeth
Ingredients
4 Apples, Cored And Cut Into 8 Wedges
1 Cup Peanut Butter
1/2 Cup Candy Corn, Or As Needed
Directions
  1. Slice each wedge of apple in half the long way, making two smaller wedges. Spread about 3/4 teaspoon of peanut butter on one cut side of a small wedge, and place 5 or 6 pieces of candy corn sticking out of the peanut butter for teeth. Spread 3/4 teaspoon of peanut butter onto the cut side of second small wedge. Lightly press second wedge to the tops of the candy corn teeth, with the peanut butter to the inside, to form lips. Repeat with remaining apples, peanut butter, and candy corn.
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Rice Krispie Pumpkins
Ingredients
5 Cups Rice Krispie Cereal
1 M & M Candy ®
1 Cup Chopped Salted Peanuts
1/2 Cup Butter Or Margarine
3 Cups Miniature Marshmallows
4 Drops Red Food Coloring
3 Drops Yellow Food Coloring
4 Sticks Red Or Black Licorice, Cut Into Thirds
Directions
  1. Grease a muffin pan and set aside. Place cereal, M & M’s and peanuts into a large bowl and set aside.
  2. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in marshmallows, red food coloring and yellow food coloring, adjusting color if needed to get a nice shade of orange. When the marshmallows are completely melted, pour over the cereal and stir to evenly distribute the candy, nuts and marshmallow.
  3. Use a greased spoon to fill the muffin cups. Insert a piece of licorice to act as the stem, and mold the popcorn around it. Let stand until firm, 10 to 15 minutes, and then pull the pumpkins out by their stems and admire your pumpkin patch!
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Iddy Biddy Ghosties
Ingredients
1 (12 Ounce) Package White Chocolate Chips, Or As Needed
24 Peanut-Shaped Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
48 Miniature Chocolate Chips
Directions
  1. Place chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and heat on low in microwave for 1 minute; stir. Continue heating on low several more times, 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each time, until white chocolate is warm and smooth.
  2. Use 2 forks to dip cookies into white chocolate; set cookies on sheets of waxed paper. Place 2 miniature chocolate chips onto one end of each cookie for eyes; set cookies aside until coating has hardened, about 20 minutes.
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Halloween Bark
Ingredients
16 Halloween-Colored Chocolate Sandwich Cookies, Chopped
2 Cups Broken Small Pretzels
1/3 Cup Raisins (Optional)
1 1/2 Pounds White Chocolate, Broken Into Squares
2 Cups M&M’s
Orange And Brown Sprinkles
Directions
  1. Spread the cookies, pretzels and raisins evenly onto a lightly greased small baking sheet. Melt chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or in the microwave, stirring frequently until melted. Remove from the heat while there are still a few chunks, and stir until smooth. White chocolate burns easily.
  2. Drizzle chocolate with a spoon over the goodies in the pan, spreading the top flat to coat evenly. Top with candy corn and sprinkles. Let cool until firm. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container.
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Majik Wands
Ingredients
1 (15 Ounce) Package Pretzel Rods
1 (16 Ounce) Container Prepared Vanilla Frosting
1/2 Cup Sprinkles Or Colored Sugar For Decoration
Directions
  1. Dip each pretzel rod into frosting, not quite half way. Roll in sprinkles to coat the frosting. Abracadabra, you have a magic wand!
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Diva Tasting: Party Starters….

Here are a few starters for holiday parties:

Puff Pastry Starters/Treats

ASPARAGUS, PROSCIUTTO AND FONTINA TART

1 Sheet Of Puff Pastries Thawed

1 Bunch Asparagus Blanched And Dried

1 8 Oz Fontina Cheese Shredded

Dijon Mustard

Roll The Sheet Into A 14×16 Rectangle. Spread Mustard Over The Surface 1 Inch From The Edge. Fold The Edge Over 1/2 Inch All Around The Crust And Crimp With A Fork. Place Asparagus Spears On The Inside Of The Crust. Sprinkle Fontina Over The Top. Bake At 400 Degrees For 20 Minutes. Until Crust Is Golden Brown. Cool 5 Minutes And Cut In Squares To Serve Warm.

SMOKY SAUSAGE CUPS

1 Sheet Of Puff Pastry Thawed

2 Cups Smoked Sausage Diced

1 Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

1/2 Cup Marmalade

Cut Puff Pastry Into 2 Inch Squares And Place Each In A Sprayed Mini Muffin Cup. In A Medium Bowl Add Diced Sausage, Mustard, And Marmalade. Mix Well. Place A Large Teaspoon Full Of Mixture Into Each Mini Pastry Cup. Bake At 400 Degrees For 15-20 Minutes Until Pastry Is Brown. Plate And Serve Hot.

HOLIDAY BRIE EN CROUTE

1 Sheet Of Puff Pasty Thawed And Edges Rounded To Form A Circle

1 Round Of Brie

1/2 Cup Cranraisins

1/2 Cup Apricot Preserves

1/2 Cup Slivered Almonds Toasted

Directions

1 Sheet Of Puff Pasty Thawed, Rolled To 15×15 In Square, And Edges Rounded To Form A Circle. Spread Preserves Over The Rounded Crust 1 Inch From Edge. Top With Cran-Raisins And Almond Slivers. Place the brie in the center of the pastry circle. Fold two sides over the brie. Then fold the remaining 2 sides over the first two. Blot any leakage from the pocket off the outside crust. Decorate by placing a basket weave of criss crossed pastry strips over the top and baste with beaten egg. Place folded side down onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes until golden brown. Let sit about 10 minutes before cutting. Serve with apple slices and crackers.

SAUSAGE AND DRESSING STUFFED PUFF PASTRY

1 pound sage sausage

1 medium onion diced

1 cup dressing

1 egg beaten

Cut 1 inch strips on both sides toward the center fold line of the sheet. Leaving a 3 inch strip in the middle.

Lightly brown the sausage mushrooms and onion in a medium-high skillet. Remove from skilled and Fold in dressing until blended. Place down the center of the pastry and criss cross the cut strips over the mixture. Baste with egg over the top and bake at 375 degrees for 30 minutes until brown. Slice in 2 inch strips and serve.

SPICY CHICKEN PUFFS

2 Cups of Roasted Chicken Diced

1/2 Cup Coconut Milk

2 Leeks Sliced thin

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 cup Roasted Red Pepper diced

1 egg beaten

Cut pastry sheet into 9 squares. In a skillet on medium-high heat place 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil and add sliced leeks, ginger, curry powder and peppers. Cook until leeks are translucent. Fold in diced chicken until blended. Pour in coconut milk and simmer for about 3 minutes. Place a heaping teaspoonful of mixture into the pastry squares until used up. Wet the edges of the pastry. Fold each corner to the center over the mixture and pinch into pockets. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees until the crust is brown.

PARMESAN CHEESE TWISTS

1 Egg Beaten

1 Pastry Sheet

1 Cup Parmesan Cheese Grated

3 Tablespoons Fresh Basil

1 Teaspoon Herb De Provence

Pinch Of Sea Salt

Roll pastry out to 10×14 and cut in half. Baste one side with egg mixture to cover entire sheet. Sprinkle cheese, herbs and a sprinkle of sea salt over mixture. Place second half of pastry sheet over the top of the first one and baste with egg mixture. Cut into ½ inch strips and twist and place onto baking sheet.

 

 

Diva Rambling: Appreciating others….

I’m all over the place this week.  I always enjoy the perspective of people who enjoy nature from whatever forum they choose. Beauty is beauty.
WIZARDRY
Humanity – third free book on iTunes
The current civilization of Human species has come a long way in the last five thousand years. The technology is mesmerizing, architecture astounding and knowledge is touching nebulae and far flung galaxies. Our values however are perhaps not showing same level of progress. There is continuous war and hunger. Inequality is increasing every moment, pursuit of wealth has made most of us blind from the misery of our brethren living just few moments away from us. Environment is a concern for the tree hugging minority only. Destruction of forests, extinctions of wildlife species and increasing temperatures globally is a commonality not even worthy of daily news anymore. This age of individuality and trying to live life through social media has made our planet more ignorant, less tolerant and a troll infested realm. I hope, wish and pray that some of these terrible trends will reverse in the not so distant future and humanity snaps out of this current craze of abominable behavior. This short book of poems and images try to highlight my humble observations in an abstract setting.
I will try to spread this message of compassion and equality until the time is upon me. Here is the latest installment in the form of a book at IBOOks store (free), please click the link below:
Humanity
Colour in the fabric of the Universe:  my second book
This book is dedicated to the most beautiful creation of nature, God, Allah, Yahweh, Buddha or whatever you believe in. Women, girls, ladies, fairer sex, the better halves, beauties, fairies! you are the colour in the fabric of this universe and only lonely solely in-charge of sanity that prevails.
I am a humble photographer, part time poet of no known variety and full time admirer of life around me. The beauty I see in our species and in the nature, I hope we can preserve it for generations to come and all feel part of a global village and remove our egos and unimportant quarrels and start coexisting in this world peacefully and promote love not hate, spread happiness and contentment not greed and materialism. I will try to spread this message of compassion and equality until the time is upon me.
Please spread the word and in the meantime enjoy these most humble creations of my lens and pen. The link below will take you iBooks store for this free book.
https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/colour-in-fabric-universe/id1204933447?ls=1&mt=11
AB, London

Diva Rambling: Hacks for the pantry….

Hacks for dining on a budget.  Found this foraging for me.  Good suggestions: 
It is possible to eat well without breaking the bank. Here’s how.
Eating healthy is not just about organic foods and expensive grains with peculiar names. It’s also not artisanal handmade foods that could sink your budget or fish from far-off places that promise healthy fats and a steep bill.
Indeed, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to eat healthy. Actually, some of the most inexpensive and most ordinary foods are the healthiest. If you’re willing to sharpen your shopping strategy, do a little kitchen prep, and get creative with cooking, you can save a bundle. These tips and recipes will get you started.
1. Prep your own.
Peeling and chopping vegetables, cutting meat into cubes for skewers or stews, and washing your own salad greens do take some time. But, to save on dough, these are no-brainers. Cut down on prep time by keeping things simple, making only one or two dishes for a meal. As you get more experience in the kitchen, you’ll gain speed and efficiency and wonder why you ever actually paid extra for pre-chopped onions.
2. Shop smart.
Skipping between multiple stores may seem like a good way to shop sales, but you could end up spending more on gas and losing valuable time. Instead, take your entire list to a store that offers a large variety of seasonal produce, lean proteins, and must-have pantry staples at low prices, such as Walmart Grocery. Check your local store often, as seasonal offerings change regularly.
3. Be flexible when you shop.
If you’re planning to make ground beef chili, but you get to the grocery store and ground turkey is on sale, switch up the recipe, and save some cash. Likewise, it won’t matter too much if your salads this week are made with spinach or romaine, if you snack on oranges or pears, or if your veggie side dish is broccoli or green beans. Look for what’s on sale at your preferred store, and as long as you’re making a healthy choice, you may as well make a cheaper choice, too.
4. Canned is OK.
Fresh seafood is one of the healthiest foods you can eat — and also one of the most expensive. There’s nothing wrong with canned salmon and tuna. You get the same nutrients as you do from fresh, along with the convenience that it’s already cooked. Plus, you can keep it in your pantry for months. Other excellent healthy canned food choices include beans (rinse them before using to remove about 40 percent of the sodium), tomatoes, reduced-sodium broths, and fruits packed in water. This recipe for Yummy Lemon Salmon Burgers proves how inventive you can be with a simple can of fish.
Related: 16 Best Shrimp Recipes Ready in Under 30 Minutes
5. Frozen is good, too!
In many cases, frozen fruits and vegetables are just as healthy than fresh ones. Sometimes, they’re actually even better. That’s because many of the healthful nutrients in fresh produce can be lost in transportation from farm to grocery shelf. Frozen foods, on the other hand, are typically frozen within hours of coming in from the fields. That locks in nutrients at their peak.
Choose wisely, and buy plain vegetables without sauces and fruits without added sugar. Toss frozen vegetables into soups, stews, or stir-fries, or season them with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil for a simple side dish. Turn frozen fruits into smoothies, or serve them thawed over plain low-fat Greek yogurt for a protein-packed breakfast or snack.
Start using your frozen stockpile with this super healthy recipe for Garlic Chicken Fried Brown Rice that uses frozen peas, leftover brown rice, and chicken breast. And to start the day, this Strawberry Oatmeal Breakfast Smoothie, which uses frozen strawberries, is a complete meal in a glass.
6. Brown rice and beans.
These foods may sound boring and flavorless, but they’re far from it. As creative and frugal cooks from Mexico to India to Italy know, these staples are amazingly versatile and incredibly delicious. Canned beans are a great deal and they’re recipe ready, but to save even more money, you can cook your own dried beans. Brown rice, unlike white rice, is a whole grain with its naturally occurring fiber, B vitamins, and antioxidants intact, so it’s always the better choice. To get started, try Easy Texas Chili with pinto beans or Escarole and Bean Soup with navy beans.
7. Brown bag it.
Eating out for lunch, especially if you’re trying to stick to healthier options, can be pricey, but packing a healthy lunch takes only a few minutes in the morning. Don’t fall for single portion packs of cut-up fruits and veggies, applesauce, dried fruits, and nuts. They’re convenient, but you can portion your own and save a lot of money. Get yourself a trendy insulated tote and a few sizes of partitioned containers, and you’re ready to pack a budget-friendly (and delicious) lunch in style.
Related: Our Top 10 Healthy Lunch Ideas
8. Lean on pricey ingredients when their flavors go the furthest.
If you’re eating healthy, you’ll welcome a big punch of flavor from foods that may cost a little more, but a tiny amount of them can make a recipe more satisfying. Feta cheese, goat cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano, fresh rosemary (which lasts at least a week or more and can be used in all kinds of dishes), capers, olives, maple syrup, fresh ginger, nuts, and dark roasted sesame oil are just a few of the foods where a very small amount can transform the taste of a dish. This Asian Ginger Dressing which tastes great on (cheap!) cabbage salad uses just a bit of fresh grated ginger.
9. Your freezer is your friend.
Meats and poultry are probably the most expensive items in your food budget, so it pays to stock up when they’re on sale. But what if your family is small? No worries. Break down large packages of chicken pieces, pork chops, steaks, or ground beef or turkey into the number of servings you need for your family for one meal and then freeze them. Use heavy-duty freezer bags to ensure the foods stay fresh. Chicken and turkey can be frozen up to 9 months, steaks and chops for 12 months, and ground beef lasts for 4 months.
10. Build a plentiful pantry.
Some foods last for years in your pantry, so there’s no reason not to stock up when you find a deal on whole-wheat pasta; whole grains like brown rice, oats, barley, and bulgur; fruits canned in water; canned beans; tomatoes; and broths, to name a few. Be sure to rotate foods, putting what you just bought in the back of the cupboard. And check your stash before you shop so you’re not buying too much of any one item, even if it is on sale. With pantry basics on hand, you’re always prepared to cook up a meal on the fly, which saves the cost of ordering unhealthy pizza or going out for fast food. That’s an even greater savings in the long run.