Monday, September 26, 2011

Mum Sense

It's homecoming week at my son's high school.  The big game is on Friday night and the dance is on Saturday night.  My son is a Junior this year, and he asked a young lady to the festivities.

It is traditional for the boy to give the girl a mum corsage to wear to school on the day of the game.  When I first heard about it, this is what I was envisioning...

But this is The Great State.  Everything is bigger in Texas.  And sometimes gaudier.  And if it's both big AND gaudy, it's perfect!  I present to you the Texas mum corsage.

Really.  You can't make this stuff up.

Mums typically have a backing to which you attach an artificial mum(s), stuffed animal(s), ribbons, braids, charms, and bells and whistles (literally).  You can also add lights and even a little mesh bag filled with Hershey's kisses.

The mum my son bought = $80.

 The average mum probably costs around $80 and can go up to over $200.

Is that crazy or what?!  The girls also are supposed to get the guys a similar-looking but smaller version called a garter that they wear on their arm.

What do you think it costs to actually make one of these?  My guess is that the average mum adds up to about $15 in materials if you buy in bulk and maybe $20 in labor (it might take an hour or two to make one if you know what you're doing). That's a pretty hefty profit!
I suggested to a couple of co-workers that their kids spearhead a drive to bring the sense back to the mum tradition.  One has a son who is a football player and the other has a daughter who is a cheerleader, popular kids who could sway the masses.  These particular moms also think it is ridiculous to spend this kind of money on something you wear for only a few hours, especially since you also need to pay for a dress (or suit), a restaurant dinner, and homecoming dance tickets.  Wouldn't it be a good idea, I suggested, if there was a smaller, less ostentatious mum you could buy whose proceeds would be donated to a worthy charitable cause, like maybe towards those who lost homes in the Texas wildfires?

Unfortunately, no one wants to be "first" in trying to change a tradition, especially a teenager.  What we need is to somehow make it "cool" to have a mum that celebrates helping others and is worn like a badge of honor, not the badge of horror there is now.  In my opinion, we need some sanity in this mum madness.

I would love to hear some ideas on how such an idea could be successfully implemented!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Experts

If you are a cooking enthusiast like me, you have probably heard of Cooks Illustrated magazine

and the companion PBS series, "America's Test Kitchen."

If you haven't discovered them yet, these folks are cooking experts.  They make the same recipe dozens of times, tweaking different components (both the ingredients and the process) to produce the ideal technique and flavor.  They use a combination of science and art to create kitchen masterpieces, and then share the results with those of us who don't have the time or inclination to "experiment."


This is their stated mission: 
"America’s Test Kitchen is a real 2,500 square foot kitchen located just outside Boston. It is home to more than three dozen full-time cooks and product testers. Our mission is simple: to develop the absolute best recipes for all your favorite foods."
I have an online subscription to Cooks Illustrated so that I can turn to their expertise when I need advice on everything from cooking techniques to product recommendations and reviews. The annual online subscription cost is $35, about the price of a good cookbook.  But you can access a lot free through the America's Test Kitchen website, including recipes and great instructional videos.

You can also get a free weekly newsletter from Cooks Illustrated with recipes and other goodies emailed directly to your inbox.  Click on this link, then on the Free Newsletter link in the left sidebar.  My latest newsletter had a link to a free knife skills tutorial that is part of their new online Cooking School that I used to sharpen my knowledge and technique.

I am in no way compensated for my recommendation of Cooks Illustrated or its subsidiaries, I just wanted to pass along some interesting and useful resources.  Enjoy!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A Different Kind of Salsa

My church Lifegroup met at my house tonight, and I needed a savory appetizer that was interesting and quick to put together.  I thought of this salsa which I have made many times before for other gatherings.  It always garners an enthusiastic response and lots of questions because usually no one can totally figure out what's in it.  There are two requirements:  fresh ingredients and a rest in the refrigerator of at least 6 hours so that the flavors can blend.

Pepper Jack Salsa
Adapted from
(click here to print)

1 or 2 ripe Haas avocados (black, bumpy skin), diced
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 medium Roma tomato, diced
4 oz. can chopped green chiles
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
3 oz. chopped black olives (1/2 of a 6 oz. can)
8 oz. pepper jack cheese, finely shredded
1/2 cup bottled Zesty Italian salad dressing
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all of the above ingredients and mix gently but thoroughly.  Refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Serve with tortilla chips and/or crackers.

The flavors in this Salsa will dance on your tongue!

 Linking to:

Friday, September 9, 2011

A-peeling Banana Bread

I was rummaging through my freezer today and came across a bunch of frozen bananas.

When the bananas start getting overripe, I pop them into the freezer for future use.  Sometimes I leave them as is and sometimes I peel them first and put them in a ziptop bag.

They're easier to deal with if they're peeled first, but sometimes I slip up and forget to peel them.

I decided to make our favorite banana bread today.  I found this recipe several years ago.  You know how you think to yourself, "Do I really need to try yet another banana bread recipe?"  Well, the answer is heck yeah!  This is the Best.One.Ever.  Better than Mom's, and that's saying something.  But I did embellish it...with my favorite chocolate chips, just like Mom used to do.

Moist and A-Peeling Banana Bread
Adapted slightly from
(click here to print)

  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 6 Tbsp.butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 large egg and 1 egg white
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 8 ounce container sour cream (light is okay)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp.salt
  • 1/2 Tbsp. baking soda
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Grease 1 large (13x7 inches) or two small (7x3 inch) loaf pans.  In a small bowl, stir together 2 Tbsp. sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon. Dust pans lightly with cinnamon and sugar mixture.

In a large bowl, cream butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar.  Mix in eggs, bananas, sour cream, vanilla and cinnamon.

Mixture should be light yellow and creamy.

Stir in salt, baking soda and flour, nuts and chocolate chips (if using) until just incorporated.  Do not overmix.

Divide into prepared pans.  Bake for 1 to 1 1/4 hours, until a skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan(s) for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.

Slice and enjoy!

 Linking to :     Miz Helen's Country Cottage
                        Everyday Tastes
                        Mangoes & Chutney

Monday, September 5, 2011

Magic Beans

Over the Labor Day weekend, we were invited to a barbecue.  My contribution was these baked beans, which are incredibly easy to make and delicious.  People really go crazy over these!  Every time I bring them to a potluck, someone asks for the recipe.  The different colors and textures of beans provide a nice contrast to the perfectly piquant sauce.

Calico Baked Beans
Slightly adapted from
(click here to print)

4 cans (about 14 oz. each) beans of your choice,  rinsed and drained thoroughly
(I use black beans, pinto beans, red kidney beans, and cannelini beans)
1 (28 oz.) can baked beans (I use Bush's and drain off about half of the liquid)
8 oz. bacon
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup ketchup
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. yellow mustard
pepper to taste

Cook the bacon until crisp.  Remove to paper toweling to cool, then crumble.  Drain all but about 2 Tbsp. of the bacon fat off from the skillet.  Brown the onions and garlic in the remaining bacon grease, then add the bacon back into the pan. Set aside.

Combine the sauce ingredients and mix well.

Add to the bacon mixture and stir to combine.  Add the beans and mix gently but thoroughly.

Place the mixture into an oblong glass baking dish or crockpot.   If using the oven, bake at 350 degrees for about 1 hour.  If using a crockpot. cook on HIGH for about 3 hours.

These magic beans will disappear!

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delightfully downing
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33 shades of green
this chick cooks
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