Using iGoogle to Streamline Your Daily Life

by Divine Domesticity on August 30, 2008

Google is so much more than just a search engine. Sign up for a free gmail email account, make igoogle.com your homepage, and check out the hundreds of possibilities to streamline your daily life. Just click the "Add Stuff" link at the top right corner of your page and have fun exploring!

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Here are a few items that I use on a daily basis:
  • Google Reader - Subscribe to your favorite websites and be alerted when they update
  • Check your email - iGoogle lets you check for new emails from hotmail, gmail, and other services.
  • Have fun - Feed koi fish, play mario brothers, or get cute pics daily from The Daily Puppy
  • Beautiful themes - themes created by talented artists that will change through out your day.
  • Check the weather, display the date and time
  • Sticky Notes - I use these like crazy! One is for my grocery list, one for menu plans, one for daily to-do lists. You can customize the colors and placement.
What do you use on your iGoogle homepage that you can't live without?

Top 3 Natural (and Cheap!) Cleaning Products for Your Home

by Divine Domesticity on August 26, 2008

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Photo by ms. Tea

When I was younger, I didn't think twice about what chemicals were in various cleaning products. Then I got pregnant, and I was startled by the warnings found on the bottles of very common household cleaning products. Now that my daughter is about to turn one, I worry about residues left behind when we use such products. Here are three of my favorite natural products to use around the home that you don't have to worry about.

  • Vinegar
  • Lemons/Lemon Juice
  • Baking Soda
Vinegar  - Vinegar is the ultimate all purpose natural cleaner. Best of all, it is cheap! Fill a squirt bottle with a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water. Spray down your stove top, counters and sink after preparing meals. Let sit for a few minutes, then wipe up. Once it dries it leaves no scent.   

Keep a separate squirt bottle in the bathroom that is filled entirely with vinegar. Use it to break down soap scum and the ring around the tub and toilet. For those with extra sensitive skin, like myself and my little girl, add 1/2 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle while washing your laundry. It helps to break down laundry detergent residue. (source) 

Lemons - My all time favorite tip for using lemons has to be to run the peel through your garbage disposal to get rid of funky smells. Orange peels can be used as well. If you have an abundance of peels, throw them in a ziploc and stash in the freezer. Pull out a few peels as needed and let thaw on the counter for a few minutes. Toss them in the disposal, and tada! Yummy smelling sink! 

Baking Soda - Stinky carpet? Anyone with pets and children know how quickly carpets can get funky. Baking soda will absorb those odors! Sprinkle baking soda on carpets and rugs and let sit for 10 minutes, then vacuum.   
      Use baking soda on your electric stove top. It is very mild and wont scratch the finish. (source) 

        These are just a few tips to utilize frugal, natural products to clean your home. What are your favorite tips?

        Funky Chicken and Sesame Noodles

        by Divine Domesticity on August 23, 2008

        My pics aren't looking too hot as of late. I desperately need to find a room with good lighting in this place, and quick. Please don't be afraid of the Funky Chicken, it isn't his fault he looks so scary.

        I doubled the amount of pasta and sauce for the noodles. I also cut my chicken into quarters before cooking in vegetable oil. The noodles were by far my favorite part. Just delicious. The chicken was good, but at times overpowering. I have a feeling I'm going to make the noodle component of this dish a few times a month when I want a quick and cheap dinner. Enjoy!


        Funky Chicken with Sesame Noodles
        Serves 4-6

        Sesame Noodles
        1 lb angel hair
        1/2 cup soy sauce
        1/4 cup sesame oil
        1/3 cup sugar
        3 scallions, thinly sliced
        1/4 cup sesame seeds (or more)

        Funky Chicken
        1/4 cup soy sauce
        1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
        2 cloves garlic, minced
        1/4 cup brown sugar
        1 teaspoon fresh ginger, chopped (or 1/4 teaspoon dried)
        4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
        sesame or vegetable oil, for sauteeing

        1. Sesame noodles: Cook the pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse.

        2. In a jar, add the soy sauce, sesame oil and the sugar. Shake until well blended and the sugar has dissolved. Pour this over the pasta. Toss with scallions and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.  Set aside while you marinate and then cook the chicken.

        3. Funkying the chicken: In a bowl mix the soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, garlic, brown sugar and the ginger.
        Make sure the sugar has pretty much dissolved. Add the chicken, making sure it's all coated with the sauce.  Cover and stick in the fridge for 1-2 hours.

        4. Remove the chicken from the marinade, and toss out the marinade left at the bottom of the bowl.

        5. Heat the sesame oil or vegetable oil in a large non-stick pan.  Add the chicken in batches and saute for about 10 minutes, or until done, adding more sesame oil as needed. Remove the chicken from the pan and let cool slightly.

        6. Slice the chicken diagonally into thin strips. Serve the chicken over the sesame noodles.

        Recipe from Recipezaar

        Black Bean WHA?

        by Divine Domesticity on August 19, 2008


        Brownies, I say!

        Brownies.

        Let that sink in for a moment.

        You may find it hard to believe, but they were quite good, albeit a bit too much of a coffee flavor for my tastes. They tasted almost like a flour less chocolate cake. Very hard to get out of the pan, though, which was my own fault as I had run out of parchment paper.

        So, next time: Cook a little longer, a little less coffee, stock up on parchment paper so I can line the brownie pan.

        I halved the recipe, used honey instead of agave nectar, and baked in a 8"x8" pan. Below is the original recipe.

        Amazing Black Bean Brownies from 101 Cookbooks
        Makes 12-16 servings 

        4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
        1 cup unsalted butter
        2 cups soft-cooked black beans, drained well (hs: canned is fine)
        1 cup walnuts, chopped
        1 tablespoon vanilla extract
        ¼ cup (granulated) natural coffee substitute (or instant coffee, for gluten-sensitive)
        ¼ teaspoon sea salt
        4 large eggs
        1½ cups light agave nectar
        1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line an 11- by 18-inch (rimmed) baking pan (hs note: or jellyroll pan) with parchment paper and lightly oil with canola oil spray.

        2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl in the microwave for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high. Stir with a spoon to melt the chocolate completely. Place the beans, 1/2 cup of the walnuts, the vanilla extract, and a couple of spoonfuls of the melted chocolate mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Blend about 2 minutes, or until smooth. The batter should be thick and the beans smooth. Set aside.

        3. In a large bowl, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup walnuts, remaining melted chocolate mixture, coffee substitute, and salt. Mix well and set aside.

        4. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer beat the eggs until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the agave nectar and beat well. Set aside.

        5. Add the bean/chocolate mixture to the coffee/chocolate mixture. Stir until blended well.

        6. Add the egg mixture, reserving about 1/2 cup. Mix well. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Using an electric mixer, beat the remaining 1/2 cup egg mixture until light and fluffy. Drizzle over the brownie batter. Use a wooden toothpick to pull the egg mixture through the batter, creating a marbled effect. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the brownies are set. Let cool in the pan completely before cutting into squares. (They will be soft until refrigerated.)

        San Remo Dip - Olive Garden Copycat

        by Divine Domesticity on  August 11th, 2008

        All in all, a suitable substitute. A little on the thin side, so next time I would simmer for a longer amount of time till it's nice and thick. Serve alongside toasted baguette slices. Yum!


        San Remo Dip
        Makes many servings 

        2 tablespoons olive oil
        2 tablespoons flour
        6 ounces shrimp, canned, reserve liquid
        6 ounces crab meat, canned, reserve liquid
        2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature, cubed
        1/4 teaspoon salt
        1/8 teaspoon garlic, crushed
        1 teaspoon prepared horseradish (I added more)
        1/3 cup Asiago Cheese, grated (ditto)
        2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated (ditto ditto)
        1/2 cup half and half, up to 3/4 cup
        1 1/2 cups marinara sauce, Barilla, drained to remove excess liquid
        1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, fresh, finely shredded for topping

        1. In a two quart sauce pan on medium low temperature, heat olive oil and blend in flour. Add to flour liquids that were reserve from the shrimp and crab, stir well. To sauce, add cubed cream cheese, salt, crushed garlic, horseradish, and stir until smooth. Add Asiago and Parmesan cheeses and stir until smooth.

        2. When the cheese have been melted and sauce is smooth add shrimp and crab, blend well. Let simmer until heated through. Finally add half and half a little at a time until the seafood sauce starts to simmer and begins to resemble warm pudding. Let sauce simmer for 12 - 15 minutes. Stir sauce so it will not scorch on bottom.

        3. In a shallow baking dish 9" diameter, spray with non-stick spray and place drained marinara sauce and carefully spoon seafood sauce on top. Sprinkle with freshly shredded Parmesan cheese and place in a preheated oven at 325, for 10 - 15 minutes, until heated through. Dip should not brown on top. Serve with bread.

        Recipe from http://www.floras-hideout.com/

        Blueberry Crumb Bars

        By Divine Domesticity on August 7th, 2008


        I am not a blueberry fan, but even I loved these Blueberry Crumb Bars. I kept mine in the fridge to cool before cutting into squares. I put them back in the fridge and served them cold, which to me was far better tasting then serving at room temperature. Enjoy!




        Blueberry Crumb Bars
        About 16 servings
        View printer friendly recipe


        1 cup white sugar
        1 teaspoon baking powder
        3 cups all-purpose flour
        1 cup shortening
        1 egg
        1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)
        1 pinch ground cinnamon (optional)
        4 cups fresh blueberries
        1/2 cup white sugar
        3 teaspoons cornstarch

        1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch pan.

        2. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and cinnamon, if desired. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the shortening and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

        3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar and cornstarch. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

        4. Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.

        Recipe from Allrecipes.com

        Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks

        by Divine Domesticity on August 6th, 2008

        There was a time, a long while back, that Giada drove me absolutely nuts. Nowadays none of the Food Network personalities annoy me. Not a one.

        I'm going to assume that I've matured and mellowed out.

        Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks are an easy little appetizer, although they can be tricky to eat.

        Prosciutto-Wrapped Breadsticks
        Makes several servings

        1 (11-ounce) container refrigerated breadstick dough (recommended: Pillsbury)
        1/3 cup grated Parmesan
        24 paper-thin slices prosciutto

        1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

        2. Line a heavy large baking sheet with a silpat (nonstick baking mat) or parchment paper. Tear the dough along the perforations into strips. Using a pizza cutter or a large sharp knife, cut each dough strip in half lengthwise to form thin strips. Working with 1 dough strip at a time, roll each dough strip in the Parmesan cheese and twist. Transfer the dough strips to the prepared baking sheets.

        3. Bake until the breadsticks are golden brown and crisp, about 20 minutes. Cool the breadsticks completely on the baking sheet.

        4. Before serving, wrap 1 slice of prosciutto around each cooled breadstick. Arrange the prosciutto-wrapped breadsticks on a platter.

        Recipe from FoodNetwork.com

        Easy Pizza Wontons -- Or, Easy Pizza Nachos!

        by Divine Domesticity on August 5th, 2008

        Not a recipe exactly...but a darn good idea. :)

        Easy Pizza Wontons -- Or, Easy Pizza Nachos!
        Serves 2

        1/2 package wontons
        1 package pepperoni
        1 package mozzarella cheese
        1 bottle pizza sauce
        oil for frying

        For the Wontons:

        1. Lay out a few wontons at a time and leave the rest of the package covered to discourage drying out. Add about 1 to 2 teaspoons of filling to each wonton. Be careful not to over fill. Wet all edges of the wonton with water and seal, forming a triangle.

        2. Heat oil to medium-high. Fry until browned on both sides. This is a very quick process -- about 15 seconds on each side, approximately. Drain on paper towels. Serve with a side of pizza sauce.

        For the Nachos:

        1. Heat oil to medium-high. Fry wontons until browned on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Top with cheese, sauce and pepperoni. Microwave until melted and gooey.