Simple advice for a better life.

Wine Corks – Interesting Backsplash

Container filled with hundreds of wine corksI would be very interested in knowing how many of you are into wine cork collecting?

Pinterest has  numerous  arts and crafts ideas from wine corks.  You should check it out!

You will find cork floor mats, coasters, place mats, wall decor, candle holders, Christmas Tree decorations, etc.

My daughter and her husband have been collecting their wine corks for few years now, with some help from other family members as well.

They were contemplating several ideas to use up those wine corks , but once their basement was finished, which  includes a fairly spacious kitchen, they knew exactly which cork project to pursue.

Yes, you guessed it….a very interesting backsplash for their new kitchen.

Today I will share some pictures I took of that project, which began with my daughter’s idea, and finalized by her husband, with a helping hand from his dad.

This actually turned out to be a nice family project.

Wine Cork backsplash - begining stages

It all started with a special backing board attached to the wall, to outline the backsplash area.

They also installed extended (protruding from the wall) electrical outlets, to allow for the thickness of the corks in the backsplash.

Wine Cork backsplash - close up

As you can see here, the electrical outlets are nicely fit on the surface of the cork backsplash.  Nice job!

Wine Cork backsplash - close up 2

Here is a close up view of the corks, placed in a specific pattern, to create a very interesting backsplash.

Wine Cork backsplash

At last, the finished project, with lots of corks still left over…ready for another project…?

Please note, there are some color corks placed strategically throughout the  backsplash,  to add a little more color and character.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the outcome of this project.

What a great way to recycle wine corks, and be surrounded by many memories of the numerous occasions these wines were shared with family and friends.

Please share your comments, plus other ideas and experiences you may have with creating interesting projects from wine corks.

 

Hot Soups for Cold Weather

Chicken-broth-with-potato-balls-knedleCreamyTomato-soupUkrainian-Red-Beet-Borscht-Quick-and-Easy

With the cold weather upon us, we begin to crave comfort foods and hot soups.

Thanksgiving turkey is all gone by now, but I still have my homemade soup stock (frozen) from the turkey carcass which I cooked last Friday.

If you are tossing out the carcass from your roasted chicken or turkey, you are wasting a great base for a soup stock.

Saurkraut-Soup-Kapusnyak

Today I made some sauerkraut soup from the Thanksgiving turkey soup stock, which my husband and I really enjoy on a cold day, accompanied by a piece of crusty bread.

If you indeed tossed out the leftover turkey carcass, you can use chicken broth or beef broth to make your favorite soup.

Cream-of-Broccoli-Soup

Homemade Broccoli Cheese Soup.

Corn-Potato-Chowder

Homemade Corn Potato Chowder.

Mushroom-and-Veggie-Soup

Ukrainian Mushroom and Vegetable soup.

CreamyTomato-soup

Deliciously creamy Tomato Soup.

Ukrainian-Red-Beet-Borscht-Quick-and-Easy

Ukrainian Red Beet Borscht, quick and easy recipe.

Cabbage and Sausage soup

Hearty Cabbage and Sausage soup.

French-Onion-Soup

My husband’s favorite soup – French Onion Soup.

Chicken-broth-with-potato-balls-knedle

Soups are not only filling and delicious, but they are also known for their healing powers, as listed in this article.

Here you have it, all in a nut shell….lots of delicious soup recipes for you to try and enjoy.

Orange-Apple-Cranberry sauce 2Thanksgiving turkey meal would be incomplete, without some delicious homemade cranberry sauce.

If you always use the canned cranberry sauce, because you think that making your own is  too difficult, think again.

Cranberry sauce is so easy to prepare, your under 10-year-old children can do it, honestly.

And best of all, it tastes so fresh, and absolutely delicious.  You will never use the other kind again.

This recipe yields 2.5 -3 cups of sauce.

Ingredients:

  •     1 orange, zest only
  •     1/2 cup orange juice
  •     1/2 cup cranberry juice
  •     1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and shredded
  •     3 cups fresh cranberries
  •     1/2 cup honey
  •     1/4 cup brown sugar
  •     1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  •     1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan, add the orange juice, cranberry juice, chopped apple and orange zest.
  2. Bring to boil, and cook 5 minutes.
  3. Add the cranberries, bring to boil again, partially cover the pot, and simmer on low heat for another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally,until the berries burst.
  4. Add the brown sugar, cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Simmer 5 minutes longer.
  6. Remove from heat, stir in the honey, and let it cool off.
  7. You can puree the sauce in a food processor, or leave it as.
  8. Transfer into a covered storage container, and keep refrigerated until ready to use.  It may be prepared several days ahead.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Garlic and Herb BreadI just baked another loaf of homemade bread, using the Dutch Oven (Cast Iron Pot with interior and exterior enamel, plus a lid).

The process is so simple, and the bread turns out awesomely delicious.

This time I got a little more adventurous, and modified the original recipe, to create a more flavorful bread.

I was a little skeptical at first, but once I noticed how nicely the dough was rising, and the aroma of garlic and herbs filled the air, I knew it will be a great success.

I will continue to experiment further with other ingredients, and keep you posted.

Whole Wheat Bread

This is my first loaf of Dutch Oven Bread recipe, made with a mixture of whole wheat flour and unbleached all-purpose flour.

This loaf was light, but due to the whole wheat flour, it was not as airy as the other ones.

Bread Flour loaf

This is my second loaf, made out of bread flour, making it quite airy, and much lighter than the whole wheat loaf. Both breads were quite delicious, especially when served warm with a thin layer of sweet butter….yum!

Since these breads are totally fat-free, they tend to age quickly.  However, their delicious taste does not change, and warming them up in the microwave, or toaster oven, brings back their original freshness.

Today I will share my recipe for a Dutch Oven bread, with an addition of oil, egg, and herbs, giving it more flavor, and hopefully a longer shelf life.

Ingredients:

  •  6 cups of Bread Flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
  • 2 1/3 cups water, room temperature
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil (or any oil of your choice)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. Basil, dried
  • 1 garlic clove, minced (or 2, for more pungent results)

 Directions:

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, Basil, and yeast.
  2. Set aside.
  3. Beat the egg, mix in Olive oil and minced garlic.
  4. Mix the egg/oil mixture with water, and stir into the flour mixture, to incorporate well to make a sticky dough.
  5. Cover the dough with plastic wrap, and keep in a warm, draft-free place (I keep it in a turned-off oven), for 12-18 hours, until light and bubbly (please visit the original site for step-by-step pictures).
  6. Flour your hands, and the work area, then remove the risen dough from the bowl, onto the work area.
  7. Keep on tucking the dough under, using as much flour as needed for your hands and the work surface, until you form a nice ball of dough.
  8. Place it on a well floured parchment paper, cover it with couple of clean linen kitchen towels, keep it in a daft-free area, and let it rise for 1-2 hours (it will double in bulk).
  9. At 1 1/2 hours of dough rising, turn on the oven to 425 degrees F and place the covered Dutch Oven in it, to heat it up.
  10. At the end of the 2 hours of dough rising, carefully remove the HOT Dutch Oven from the oven, pour 1 tsp of olive oil into it, and using a pastry brush spread the oil over the bottom and sides of the pot.
  11. Gently slide the dough off the parchment paper, into the oiled HOT Dutch Oven.  Replace the lid, and bake it for 40 -45 minutes.
  12. Remove the lid, and bake it for additional 10-15 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the bread reaches 200 degrees F.
  13. Carefully remove the pot from the oven, and cool it for 10 minutes, then remove the bread, and place it on a cooling rack.
  14. If yo wish, you may brush off most of the flour from the top crust of the bread, or leave it on, then brush some olive oil with a pastry brush, all over the top, sides, and bottom of the bread, and let it cool completely before slicing.

Once the bread cools off, the crust will be very crunchy, but it will soften up by the next day.

You may store this bread on a counter in the Dutch Oven, or place it in a plastic zip-lock bag.

This bread freezes very well, so you can either slice it all and freeze it to use couple of slices at a time, or freeze the whole piece.

I sliced 1/2 of the loaf, and kept it on the counter, and froze the second half in one piece.

To thaw the bread in one piece, for best results keep it in the plastic bag, and thaw is slowly in the fridge.

Frozen slices may be microwaved, or warmed up in the Toaster Oven.

My next bread recipe will use something different yet…stay tuned please, if effortless bread making interests you.

Enjoy!

Summer season - flower patchAutumn season - flower patch

Autumn season has been here for almost a month now, but the favorable weather we have been enjoying  makes us cling onto summer, at least for few more days.

Spring and Summer are my favorite seasons.  I like the beginning of Autumn, while all the leaves change colors, but once they fall off, and leave everything so starkly looking, I begin to miss my happy summer days.

Since I love gardening, end of Summer brings a lot of work into my already busy schedule, in preparation for the Winter season.

Today I will share some pictures of my garden during this transition period.  In the top picture you can see my East side flower patch in its full bloom during the summer, and how it is getting more and more bear at this time.

Westside flower patch - mid summerWestside flower patch - Autumn season

This is my West side flower patch during the Summer and now.  This one actually looks better now, since these flowers enjoy the cooler nights, and really spread out.

Red Canna standing strong...not wishing for early frostEvergreen all trimmed for winter, and Hydranga changed its color once againCosmos flowers still hanging in there

Here we have few of my summer plants  still trying to “hold their own”, to add a splash of color to my otherwise dreary looking garden.

The Hydrangea is a very interesting plant, since it changed its flower color for the 4th time this year.  It started with green color, then turned to blue, then changed to beige like, and now it is kind of burgundy.

My last veggie crop for this yearLast tomato crop - picked green, ripened with timePreserving a cucumber for seeds

 

These are my last crops from the Summer gardening.  I picked off the remaining green beans, few green peppers, and to my surprise, I dug up couple of potatoes….must have missed them few months ago.

A week ago I picked off all of my green tomatoes, spread them over a thick layer of newspaper covered with paper towel, on the table in my sunroom, and look how nicely they matured into beautiful red tomatoes.

The yellow looking cucumber is no longer edible, but rather a source of succulent seeds for next year’s crop.

Autumn season vegetable garden

This is how my vegetable garden looks like now.  Almost everything has been harvested, with the exception of  Dill Weed, Italian Parsley, Red Beets, and Sorrel leaves.

collecting dried up flowers for next year's seeds

 

Every year I pick off dried up flowers, and collect seeds for next year’s seeding of the same flowers.  This is a real money saver!  Seeds are not cheap!

Passion Fruit plantPassion fruit

Photographed above is my new plant in this year’s garden.  It is the Passion Fruit plant.

I failed to capture the beautifully dainty flowers this plant produces, but you can click here to see some pictures.

I am not sure how large this fruit will grow, and if it actually will be ripe enough to consume, but right now it is the size of an apricot.

If you ever grew your own Passion Fruit plant, please share some tips.

Nettle plant

To my total surprise, I found this plant growing in my garden…don’t know how it got there, but it is called Stinging Nettle.

Nettle leaves are edible, while still very young and tender, but once they mature, watch out….they are not a friend of mine.  You barely touch the plant, and it will sting you  something fears, and cause temporary blister like bumps on your skin.

While visiting Poland, I have noticed Nettle Soup (zupa pokrzywkowa),  and Scrambled Eggs  with Nettle, on a restaurant menu.   I wish I was brave enough to taste it, but maybe next time…

I have been told that Stinging Nettle has many homeopathic medicinal benefits, and found a link to support some of these beliefs, so please check it out.

My grandma used to brew dried Nettle leaves to soak her feet to relieve arthritis pain.

Now I understand why some chefs incorporate it into their favorite dishes, and here I thought it was just a nasty weed in my garden.

I still would love to know how it ended up in my garden, as this is my first time to come across Stinging Nettle here in the US.

I was so amazed by it, and did not want to destroy it, so I transplanted it into a pot, since like any other weed, this one will overtake my whole garden in no time, if I let it grow freely.

Have you ever experienced a contact with Stinging Nettle?

Please share your experience with all of us.

Happy Halloween - decoration

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

 

 

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