Butterbrickle Bread

Judy, a dear friend and neighbor, gave me a deliciously soft loaf of this bread just last week.  It was the softest (quick) bread I'd ever felt.  Then I tasted it, oh my, it was so delicious!!
 

She tells me that this recipe is probably about 50 years old and maybe even older. She has been making this bread at Christmastime for about the same number of years and it's always been a hit.
 

Judy was gracious enough to share the recipe with us.  Enjoy and Merry Christmas!
 

Butterbrickle  Bread

 

1-box of Butter Pecan cake mix ( Butterbrickle cake mix no longer in stores)

1-box of instant Coconut pudding mix dry

2/3 cup of salad oil

4 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 cup poppy seeds  ( don't use that much.  About 0.65 oz in the container)

1-cup warm water.

 

Mix all the above ingredients together and bake in 2 loaf pans at 275 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

It's December


What a busy time of the year.  It's also time to savor, sip and socialize.  I hope everyone is having a wonderful December.  I am so grateful for my many blessings. 

Here is a short list of to-do's to get ready for the coming weather.  Being prepared = less stress. 

  • disconnect hoses from exterior hose bibs
  • winterize sprinkler system
  • put ice scrapers in all of your vehicles
  • buy a bag or two of ice/snow melt to have on hand
  • bring snow shovels to the garage, if they aren't already there
  • pull out winter mittens, gloves and hats, so they are readily accessible
  • throw out the expired and purchase some new hot chocolate mix and marshmallows
  • if you're traveling this winter, ask a neighbor in advance to drive in and out of your driveway when it snows so that it appears that cars have gone in and out of the house/garage (snow tracks).  No snow tracks is a dead give away that the house is vacant. Better yet, ask a neighborhood kid to shovel the driveway while you are away
  • if you intend on using your wood burning fireplace, perhaps it's time to have it cleaned and/or inspected. Safety first.
  • drafty doors and window?  New weather stripping might be in order 
  • like to bake in the wintertime? Stock up on flour, sugar and chocolate chips.  Great fun with the kids on a cold snow day
  • drink wine, eat good food, play games and have fun, too!

Arepas

I believe it was 2005 when I had my first arepa in New York City. My brother David, who lives on the Upper West Side, is a hardcore foodie and when my son and I visit there, we always are taken on a full day, fun filled, food excursion.  On this one particular day in 2005, one of our stops included Caracas Arepa Bar. My first arepa was El Pabellon (shredded beef, fried plantains, black beans and dry white cheese) - along with a killer homemade hot sauce that they have on all of the tables.  Nick, my son, had the reina pepiada arepa (shredded chicken & avocado - served cold like a chicken salad).  He and I were hooked.  Since then, I have been obsessed with arepas and determined to find an authentic someone to teach me the proper way of making these pockets of delight.

To this day, el pabellon remains my favorite arepa and my son still favors the reina pepiada.  We visit the Caracas Arepa Bar every time we are in NYC.  In the interim of then and now, I have learned how to make the arepa, both of our favorite fillings AND I have created my own hot sauce, since after 10 years of (practically) begging for the recipe for the hot sauce at Caracas, they still won't share the recipe with me or anyone, for that matter.

Do you have an arepa story?  Please share it with us!  All of the photos here are my photos of arepas that I have made.  Food is fun!!!

Kick Ass

 

It's that time of year.  Itchy watery eyes, itchy nose, tickle in the throat, "Am I getting sick?!", we ask ourselves.  For years now, when I start feeling this way - at any time of the year -, I turn to the product 'Kick Ass'.  My son, Nick, used to tell me that I just like saying the name.  Well, I do. 
 

I purchase my Kick Ass at Whole Foods - in the herbal section.  Yes, it's a concoction of not so tasty herbs, although, the taste does not bother me.  I take Kick Ass Immune at the first sign of any possible cold coming on.  3-4 eye droppers of Kick Ass Immune in a small bit of water, then toss it back - like a shot.  They now make this product in a pumper and with that I simply put 2-4 pumps under my tongue without water.
 

I can't begin to tell you how many colds that I have thwarted over the past 8 years.  Honestly, almost all of them.  They now have Kick Ass 'Biotic' which is used if your cold is already in progress.  The key is to catch the feelings/symptoms of a cold coming on and then quickly take the Kick Ass Immune.  I have used the 'Biotic' just once.  They also make a Kick Ass Sinus. 

You see I'm ready for winter with the extra large bottle on the left.  Next to that bottle is the immune 'pumper' that I now keep in my purse so I can take it at the first sign of a possible cold.  I did purchase the 'sinus' and 'biotic' to try at some point, if necessary.
 

Have any of you used this product?  We'd love to hear your story about it!
 

These products can also be found on their website: https://wishgardenherbs.com/  
 

Our cell phones have more bacteria than a Toilet Seat

Okay, this might not have any thing to do with a home that cooks except for the fact that often while we are cooking, we are also intermittently using our cellular phones.  Cell phones are germ magnets.
 

Have you even used a paper towel to open the door of a public restroom? Or tried to squeeze out without touching the handle after someone else opens the door? Do you use your foot to flush the toilet? Of course I do, because those things are loaded with germs! 
 

Cell phone and acne?  Yes, I believe it.  I've seen it happen in my own family. 

 

I read this in an article recently; Lets face it, we are always touching dirty things. The problem is, we are also always touching our phones, transferring that bacteria to our devices! We wash our hands, but never clean our phones! Have you ever used your phone in the bathroom? (Don't worry, we all have.) Then it shouldn't surprise you that 1 in 6 cell phones have fecal matter on them! 

Our phones don't just collect the bacteria from all of the grossness we touch, they BREED bacteria! Our phones are always warm from the battery and we store them in tight, dark spaces like pockets and purses. Your phone is where germs go to party.

Not only are the extra bacteria on our phones bombarding our immune systems, they can also cause some serious facial effects. Some types of acne come directly from talking on the phone! Pressing your cheek and chin against your phone can exacerbate acne by allowing bacteria to get into those pores, causing chaos.

"People are just as likely to get sick from their phones as from handles of the bathroom" - Dr. Jeffery Cain (President of the American Academy of Family Physicians)
 

What to do? 

http://www.popsugar.com/tech/How-Properly-Clean-Your-Smartphone-22021396

http://www.samhealth.org/aboutus/newsevents/featuredarticles/Pages/clean-cell-phone-tips-and-tricks.aspx
 

Please share with our readers any cell phone cleaning tips that you might have. 

 

Curb Appeal

 

The way your house looks from the street ~ attractively landscaped and well-maintained ~ can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell. Homes with attractive curb appeal command higher prices.  Keep it simple.  Keep it clean.
 

Let's start with some obvious:

  • Fill in any bare spots in the lawn.
  • Trim overgrown bushes or trees; cut down ones that are dead or diseased.
  • Scrape off any peeling paint and touch up those spots. 
  • Power wash or paint the house, if needed. 
  • Have any roof damage repaired.
  • Use the trimmer/edger and cut away any grass or plants that are encroaching on the sidewalk or walkways.

Let's add some color:

  • add colorful outdoor pillows to porch bench or chair
  • fill attractive pots with lots of annuals that will add color for 'pop'. Please don't use artificial, silk or plastic flowers
  • place two urns on either side of your front entry - fill will annuals (flowers) of different height for interest. - In the wintertime, use evergreens in pots with other winter hearty decorations
  • consider painting your front door or other exterior doors

little more in-depth appeal:

  • Consider a brick walkway or brick front stoop
  • Pump up the landscaping with texture (perennial grasses) & seasonal color
  • Remove older, overgrown shrubs that block windows and walkways. Replace with fresh landscaping and mulch

Italian Pork Stew with Polenta

I'd like to thank a faithful Monday morning Homes That Cook blog follower of ours, Kaitlyn, for sending in these amazing photos of the Italian Pork Stew from the Homes That Cook book. This was Kaitlyn's first time making this dish and I'll tell you, it looks like she did an amazing job. 

I can almost smell the deliciousness in her photos as I recall being so delighted when my grandmother and my aunts made polenta with pork stew for Sunday dinner.  Wonderful memories of growing up and sharing many delicious meals around my grandparents very large dining room table.  Salute!
 

Who will you be sharing a meal with this week?  What will you make?  We'd love to hear your stories.  If you'd like to share a story, recipe or an experience, please send it in an email to Lettiann@Lettiann.com

Dice the pork into similar small to medium bite size cubes
 

Brown the pork in a stock pot with sauteed onions

Almost there...... yum!
 

tart your polenta when you are close to dinner time

Kaitlyn's Homes That Cook book, far left, looks very handsome in that iron book stand

Lovely presentation.  Thank you for sharing, Kaitlyn!

This recipe is available on page 114-115 of my book entitled Homes That Cook. Available on Amazon.com or visit www.HomesThatCook.com for more information.

Tips for a quick sale with the benefits of home staging.

Are you going to be putting your home on the market soon?  Are you wondering what is the best use of time with tasks you can do to prepare your home to be listed and seen by potential buyers?  Here are some good ideas for getting your home ready to put on the market.


Buyers are looking for ‘that feel’. They want to walk into a house and have it feel warm and inviting. Effective use of space, furnishings, paint and accessories can do wonders in this area. You don’t want to make the buyer ask “I wonder what kind of people live in this home?”
You want buyers to say: “I can see myself living here.”

The rooms in your house that matter the most are the Kitchen, Living Room, Master Bedroom, and Master Bathroom. You really want to impress potential buyers with these spaces. Focus on updating, de-personalizing, de-cluttering, and neutralizing these spaces.
When a home is staged, it sells quicker, for a better price, and with fewer negotiations. If you take the time to do home repairs, and spend some money up front for staging and upgrades, it will pay off in the end.

Disassociate yourself with your home.
-Say to yourself, “This is not my home; it is a house- a product to be sold.”
-The way you live in your home, and the way that your home is marketed and sold, are two very different things.
-Make a mental decision to ‘let go’ of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.
-Say goodbye to every room.
-Don’t look backwards-look forward to the future.

De-Personalize and De-Clutter
-Pack up personal photographs and family heirlooms. Buyers can’t see past personal artifacts and you don’t want them to be distracted.
-People collect an amazing quantity of junk. If you don’t need it, donate it or throw it away.
-A big part of staging is just packing up early! Pack away things you can live without for awhile. Make sure closets and cabinets aren’t overcrowded.
-Pack away knickknacks and collectibles. It is distracting to buyers. We want them to stay focused on the house.
-Clean off kitchen counters. Find a home for your toaster, coffee maker, mixer, etc. in a cabinet or pantry.
-In the bathroom, put toiletry and shower items out of sight and into a container that can be stored under the sink.
-Storage areas and garages need to be addressed as well! These spaces need to be organized and de-cluttered.

Streamline Closets and Cabinets
-Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors. Think of the message it sends if things are messy and disorganized. Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if they see everything organized and neatly in its place. It says you probably take good care of the rest of your home as well. Fabric bins, woven baskets, and plastic storage containers give a wonderful organized and streamlined look.
-A few ideas to get you started: Neatly stack dishes, turn coffee cup handles facing the same way, hang shirts together, buttoned and facing the same way on white hangers, line up your shoes, straighten and color coordinate stacks of towels in the linen closet, organize food by size and type in the pantry.
Rent a Storage Unit or POD
-Almost every home shows better with less furniture.
-Give each room a single purpose. You don’t want the buyer wondering “Now what is this room used for?”

Make Minor Repairs
-Patch holes in walls.
-Touch up paint on walls and trim.
-Fix leaky faucets.
-Fix doors that don’t close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.
-Replace burned out light bulbs.
-Repaint walls in warm neutral colors. (You don’t want buyers to remember your home as “that house with the orange bathroom”)
-If you have considered replacing worn bedding---Do so now! Especially in the master. The master needs to have the feel of a luxury hotel room.
-Less is more when it comes to window coverings. Remove heavy draperies. Open blinds and let the light shine in.

Container Creations - Give Your Planters A Fresh Look For Fall!

We have a guest blogger today, my friend Donna Sagen.  Donna owns a company here in the Kansas City Metro area called Container Creations.   Today she shares with us tips for fresh fall container plantings.  To learn more, visit her website:  http://mygardencombos.com/

Whew! After starting fall off with a few warm days, it appears that the cooler temperatures are here to stay!

While I love warm summer nights and summer flowers, I think my favorite season for planting pots is fall. Fall is so much easier on the plants…mid-seventies during the day and fifties at night…most of the summer plants perk up now and stay beautiful until we get our first frost (around October 25th in Kansas City!).

While it’s okay to let some of your planters keep their summer status, I really enjoy changing the pots at the front door for the seasons. Fall pots will typically take a light frost and get us through Thanksgiving.

So, what to plant now? Grasses, cabbages, mums, pansies and ivy are all quintessential fall plants. There are a few other plants that can take a frost and give that fall look too…

  • Coneflower                            
  • Annual Black Eyed Susan
  • Coral Bells
  • Petunias
  • Snapdragons
  • Stock

Since most plants love fall, the most important thing about putting together a fall pot is COLOR! The colors have to work together to give us a comforting, fresh feeling. Our website has a “chapter” on how to use colors in your pots, so you may want to read about that HERE… Pumpkins are a great way to add color…Add some pumpkins around the base of your planters and down the steps! And maybe add a couple of mini pumpkins to your planters too!

or larger pots, I also like to use some shrubs, such as pyrancantha, caryopteris or beautyberry. Usually, I just walk around the nursery to see which shrubs look good at the time that I need them. It doesn’t really matter if they are hardy or if they need sun or shade at this time of year. If you are planting in the shade, you need to get flowers that are already starting to bloom.

n this pot, we used a Caryopteris ‘Lil Miss Sunshine’ to add that beautiful blue and lime green! So it seems that we are not the only ones who enjoy the bounties of fall. As soon as we finish planting, out come the deer, bunnies, squirrels and chipmunks to see if there’s anything they might like to nibble! What I have found that works pretty well against these creatures is hot pepper wax. The wax sticks to the plants and pumpkins without hurting or discoloring them..and it doesn’t wash off!!!

nyone can do fall pots! If this is your first try, start with those quintessential plants. Grab an ornamental grass (I really like Shenandoah Switch Grass), a cabbage, a couple of small mum, pansies, and ivy…Add some pumpkins and you’re all set!
 


Potato Pancakes

Potato Pancakes

 

I've had three potato pancakes in my life that have left an impression on me.  The first being the potato pancakes at Barney Greengrass Restaurant on the Upper West Side in New York City.  I love the combination of them adding a dollop of sour cream along with a dollop of applesauce and finishing it off with a sprinkle of chopped scallion. 

The second most delicious potato pancake I've had was from a Jewish neighbor of mine, Barbara Katz, who surprised me at my front door one day with a warm plate of her delicious pancakes.

After meeting my now virtual assistant, Galina, who lives in LA, she was kind enough to share with me/us her mother's recipe for 'filled' potato pancakes. So simple and delicious.  I hope you'll give them a try.  This recipe can be found on page 20 of my book, Homes That Cook.  Enjoy!

Dryaniki

(Filled Potato Pancakes)

This recipe is from one of my team members who was born and raised in Russia.  She tells us that Belarus is known for potatoes and therefore they used potatoes in almost everything. This potato dish is one of her favorites as it brings back so many wonderful childhood memories of cold snowy winters with her mom standing by the stove preparing this delicious dish.

 Ingredients:
5-6 medium potatoes
salt to taste
2 tbsp flour                                                                                                                                         

Filling:
½ lb. ground turkey, chicken, beef OR pork
½ of a medium onion, minced.
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
salt & black pepper to taste
chopped parsley to taste

 **Galina’s mom did not cook the meat filling in advance, however, you may, if you’d like. Grate potatoes on the finest grater, stir in salt and flour. Brown the meat in a skillet along with salt/pepper, onion and garlic.
Add oil to a separate skillet. Once the pan is hot, spoon one or two tablespoons of the potato mixture into the heated skillet and add alittle bit (1/4 -1/2 tsp) of the meat filling, over the potato mixture then spoon a tablespoon or two of the potato mixture on top. Cook for a few minutes then flip it and cook it on the other side for a few minutes.

Serve it with sour cream and chopped scallions (optional).

How To Bring Big Style To Small Spaces

Really, I think this advice works for both big and small spaces.  My husband and I are planning on building our next home, our first home together since we've been married, and hope to have it completed by next fall.  Although we are about year away from selling our current home, I'm already thinking about getting our house ready so that it shows well when we put it on the market.  I've found these tips to be very helpful.  Most of us just have way too much stuff.  The best part is, we can give a lot of it away which in turn could make another persons day!

1.  Add Color

2.  Accessorize Walls

3.  Warm It Up

4.  Spruce Up The Space

5.  Say No to Florescent lighting

6.  Story The Small Stuff

7.  Clear The Floors

8.  Dress Up The Furnitur

See the full story here:  http://blog.realestatebook.com/2015/09/02/how-to-bring-big-style-to-small-spaces/

Wine Making Update

Since my last post about getting started with my wine making 'bucket list' endeavor, I have bottled 30 bottles of sparking apple cider, 29 bottles of Nebbiolo wine, 22 bottles of Merlot, 12 bottles of Cabernet Sauvingnon/Merlot blend and 18 bottles of Cabernet Sauvingnon.

I just sampled, for the first time, the sparkling cider that I had completed about two week ago.  It was, I'd have to say, cold and delicious!  It will be perfect for fall gift giving.  The 'hard' apple cider was from a kit - I was skeptical at first, however, now I am a fan.  The cider takes much less time to create than the wine does.  Although I bottled almost 60 bottles of red wine, its drinkability will be best in time (more than a year), where as the cider was ready to drink in about 2 months.

Here is a photo of the bottled sparkling cider.  Yes, complete with my custom label and fancy foil. See, I told you, it's great for gift giving!

I currently have peach wine (from fresh summer peaches) in the carboy (large Italian glass jar made for wine making), which will be ready to bottle in a couple of weeks.  Peach wine will be ready to drink young - meaning, it will be ready to drink almost immediately after bottling. 

Later today I will be embarking on a new wine endeavor as I will be picking up fresh grapes and juice that I had ordered from California.  These items just arrived in Kansas City this morning. My order includes Zinfandel grapes and juice, and Sauvingnon Blanc juice. 

If any of you are interested in wine making, I'd be happy to answer any questions you might have - I'm still a novice, however, I do intend on keeping a steady stream of wine production in my basement and will learn more and more as I go.

Salute!

How To Pick A Good Avocado

My dear friend, Sandra Rico, often makes guacamole for us.  It is delicious and my family loves it.  A quick and easy way that I like to enjoy a good avocado is as follows: 

Smash/mash a ripe avocado with a fork. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice (I use 1/2 to a whole lemon), a little salt and pepper and mash that all together.  Spread this quick & healthy treat onto a cracker (I prefer Black Sesame Rice Crackers)  and you have a great refreshing snack!

Avocados.  Sometimes their fruit is flawless, yet other times you open them up only to find a dismal dark interior that can be very unattractive.  How can we tell the difference?  Here's how:

When you are selecting an avocado at the store, look at the stem area. Pick an avocado that still has the stem nub on it

Next, gently remove the nub.  If this is what you see (below), dried up and discolored, the avocado is probably not the best.

However, if you remove the nub and see a light or greenish colored flesh (below), odds are, this is a good avocado.

Fresh Connect KC

Yes, it's summertime and there is a plethora of fresh organic produce on just about every corner. From farmer's markets to fruit stands. Soon, the temperature will change and fruit and farmer stands will retreat for the fall. What to do?

For me, in lieu of weekly time consuming trips to Whole Foods, I simply place my order with a company that delivers organic items directly from the farmers to my door!  For those of you that live in the Kansas City Metro area, I want to introduce you to a company called, Fresh Connect KC. They are a local company that support local farmers, local artisans and ranchers. I believe that the owners themselves are farmers!  I have my order completed on their website by Monday morning at 10am and then boom, Friday it's at my door! 

My typical order includes a medium basket of organic vegetables (I can customize my veggie order or simply let them chose what's best that week), milk from a local dairy farmer, a dozen farm fresh eggs and often I'll throw in a pound or two of hand made pasta (linguini, yum!) from a local family owned Italian restaurant.  My order is just a tiny morsel of what they offer.  Other items include; local grass fed meats, panty items, deli items, and so much more.  You literally don't have to to make a trip to a grocery store at all if you so choose.  I changed my order up every now and again because there is always something new and delicious to try.
 

Great people, great quality, great items.  I so look forward to Fridays.  Our typical Friday evening meal is a quick and easy Olio aglio Olio, recipe from the Homes That Cook book, using the hand made linguini topped with fresh local sauteed spinach and kale, along with a lovely organic green leaf lettuce salad topped with garden fresh cherry tomatoes, local cucumbers and peppers.  Farm to table right at my door step! 
https://freshconnectkc.homedel.com/HDMI.aspx?

Wine Making 101

I took the plunge.  Why not venture into the world of wine making?  In the beginning of July, I purchased all of the necessary equipment to start making wine, about $300 on that first day, along with a Nebbiolo wine making kit @ $199.00.  After my Nebbiolo, with hopes to be a future Barbaresco or Barolo, was transferred into it's secondary fermentation, I started a batch of Cabernet ($194.99).  After the Cabernet was transferred (racked) into its secondary fermentation, I began a batch of Merlot ($194.99).  All of there are high end wine kits.  They are expensive because the grapes and grape juice are from a specific place or region.  For example, the Nebbiolo kit included grape skins and juice from the Piedmont region of Italy, right from where this grape grows. The Merlot and Cabernet were from a specific place in California. The Cabernet grapes skins and juice was specifically from the Lodi region in CA and the Merlot was from the Stag's Leap Vineyard in Napa, CA.

You can purchase less expensive kits or you could simply make wine from a concentrate.  You will sacrifice quality going the cheaper route.  I went with quality.  Still, approximately only $7-8 per bottle, not including the equipment, of course.  Oh how we (I) rationalize.

Each kit will yield approximately 28 bottles of wine.  The longer these wines age, the better they will taste. The Nebbiolo will be ready for bottling at the end of August and the two other will be ready to bottle mid September.  After bottling, they recommend waiting at least 6 months to open your first bottle.  I intend on storing one case of each of these wines for at least a year.  When I sample each bottle, I will record how it tastes at various stages in time. 

Now that my three lovely reds are in their third stage of the game, I decided that I'd like to try to make a wine from a fresh fruit.  Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie.....  Peaches, I thought.  The peaches in Missouri are at their peak of ripeness so, I jumped on the opportunity to learn how to make wine from scratch.  As we speak, the peaches are in their primary fermentation and they are fermenting nicely.  After talking with someone who was in line at the wine (cheese and beer) making supply store, he told me that I could make wine out of just about anything.  He goes to a local apple cider making business every fall and gets quite a few gallons of 'apple juice'.  Not the apple juice that we'd drink, I believe it the left over just after they press the apple or skins or something.  So, I'll be headed there this fall to collect some fresh 'apple juice' and start some apple wine. 

At the end of the day the intrigue for me is putting it all together, making something that is delicious that I can share with others, while I learn something new along the way.   Salute!

Investment Property Part #6

Here they come…..

In mid-November we accepted December 1st renters which therefore put us in a scramble to get the house finished and furnished. Deadlines are good. They make us move faster. The project could likely still be going on if we hadn’t ramped up the pace in anticipation of our first guests.

We did it, down to the shampoo and conditioner.  Not all of what we had planned and ordered was able to be completed before Dec. 1. and despite the fact that our counter tops and kitchen tile were not yet available for installation, our Breezeway Cottage did shine for its first set of guests who were from a Michigan based IT company that had contract work in Kansas City for the month of December. We were thrilled.

It’s now the end of July and we couldn’t be more thrilled with having our furnished rental.  We are proud of all of the completed work and our guests have really enjoyed staying there.  In between rentals my husband and I still enjoy going to the house to get away and enjoy a glass of wine and a cigar in the quiet, cool, breezeway.  

With our second investment property now fully completed and leased, our eyes are subtly scouring this same darling neighborhood for another unique, quaint, affordable property to scoop up.  I’ll keep you posted.  

What am I working on now?  My next endeavor? Wine making. I’ll tell you all about it next week.