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Friday, December 30, 2016

Do You Have Good Etiquette and Poor Manners?

A wise person once said, "never confuse etiquette and manners. Bad etiquette is using your dinner fork on your salad. Bad manners is pointing out that someone used their dinner fork on their salad. Manners will always trump etiquette."


To be clear, etiquette is very important. It is the silent code of respect among others. When we have a basic knowledge of etiquette and practice it daily, it is a type of security. Everyone knows what to expect. There are no surprises or uncomfortable situations. Dinners and parties run smoothly and it makes everything more enjoyable.

Now, after we have all mastered etiquette, we still must understand and exercise manners. Accidents happen. Pointing out a situation and making someone uncomfortable is very poor manners. Ensuring that everyone is treated with respect should always be the first priority.

Unfortunantly, all of the etiquette in the world cannot substitute for poor manners. For that reason, here are major infractions that you should avoid at all costs.

Major Manners Faux Pas
-To snub someone
- To judge them for poor etiquette
- To correct someone publicly for a simple mistake
- To make nauseating or inappropriate dinner conversation
- To dominate a conversation making yourself the primary or only subject
- To do anything to attempt to make someone else feel inferior
Remember, we are all equal. And, there is always someone who is better at things than you are. 


Manners are rooted in empathy. If you are an empathetic person, most manners probably come very naturally to you. If not, no need to worry. There is an abundance of resource material online and at your local library and bookstore. When in doubt, ask yourself if most people would be offended by what you are about to say or do. If the answer is no, then continue. If the answer is yes, then you should probably pass.

So, as the new year approaches, make it a point to practice both good manners and etiquette. You will be treating others with the respect they deserve, as well as showing yourself the respect that you deserve. And, if you are surrounded by others that do not hold these values dear, it doesn't matter. Do them for you because you are worth it. And, you never know, you may inspire others in the process.

Are manners and etiquette important to you? Did you know the difference? Have you ever committed a manners or etiquette faux pas?

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Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Lose the Holiday Weight with this Simple Tip

The holidays bring lots of delicious treats and and decadent dishes filled with nostalgia. And, we want to enjoy everything which generally means we sacrifice a few pounds on the scale to be able to have a little bit of everything. And that's okay, but now we want the weight gone! Here's the best habit to help you bounce back and maintain your weight.


Stop snacking. I know, I know, even when it's not a holiday, we are bombarded with snack foods. Chips and dip, snack bars, candies, cookies, cakes, hand-held foods in every shape, size, and color. No food is off-limits, but you need not eat them in between meals to enjoy them. When you snack throughout the day, you're not allowing your body to truly be hungry at meal times. You're also adding in a lot of extra calories that your body really does not need. In a society surrounded by snack foods and the fourth meal drive thru option, we have become scared of hunger.

Hunger is good. Not starving, but being hungry for the meal. This allows you to enjoy it. And, if you'd put forth effort for a home-cooked meal, this matters even more. No one wants their efforts taken for granted by ruined appetites due to snacking throughout the day. When you snack, you're mindlessly eating. Oh how setting the table and enjoying food there makes all of the difference! Allowing yourself to savor every bite and listening to your body's hunger and full signals allows you to take control of that number on the scale. While also allowing you to enjoy everything that you want.


Have your snack foods, just incorporate them into your meals. Have them as a last course or dessert, after your modestly portioned meal. Or do a spread of finger foods as the meal itself. Nothing should be off limits, except snacking in between meals. Be creative in how you incorporate these fun foods into your meal times.

And, if you must add in one more time to eat during the day, take after the French. They have a designated snack time, mostly for children, around four in the afternoon. It's called goûter, (pronounced goo-tay), which is both a noun and a verb. That is the only snack time. Even in weekends when it's customary to bake a cake with their children in the morning, they wait until the goûter to enjoy it.


This outlook allows them to enjoy the sweets, but during appropriate times. This also teaches adults and children alike, patience. A crucial added bonus in my opinion. So, enjoy whatever you want. Just do it during the mealtimes that work for you and your family. Banish snacking and incorporate those foods into your meals. Be mindful and practice moderation.

I hope that these insights help empower you to take control of your eating habits. Do you snack? Have you ever heard of goûter? Will you still snack?

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Monday, December 26, 2016

Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole - Making Mornings Easy

When you first wake up and you're resembling something more out of a Romero movie than your normal self, blindly staggering towards the coffee, do you ever wish for an effortless breakfast that doesn't consist of packaged convenience food? This recipe is your wish granted!


This casserole is so easy because you mix it the night before. So, in the morning, all you have to do is put it in the oven and, bam, home-cooked breakfast without the work first thing in the morning. This was perfect for our Christmas morning and will probably be a weekend favorite as well.

The only thing that actually has to be cooked the night before is the ground sausage. You could even take that a step further though. During your meal prep daus, you could scramble sausage to freeze as well, making this recipe that much easier.


This recipe is great for building onto as well. You could add onions, peppers, ham, bacon, tomatoes, anything that you would like in an omelet would probably work in this recipe. So, don't be afraid to experiment with variations.

Something to keep in mind since this casserole stays in the fridge overnight, be aware of the baking dish you use. If you're using an aluminum pan, no worries; but if you're using glass, then you have two options. Either let it sit on the counter in the morning until it's not cold, or put it in the oven before you turn it on. The second way is the simplest and is the way that I personally do it. Nothing will ruin a breakfast quicker than glass shards in your casserole.


Sausage, Egg, and Cheese Casserole Recipe (Step-by-step instructions video)
1 lb Ground Sausage (Cooked and Drained)
6 Eggs
1 Cup Milk
6 Slices of Sandwich Bread
1 Cup Shredded Cheese
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Dashes of Pepper

Directions
1. Scramble eggs and milk in medium mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper.
2. Cut crust off of bread and cut into 1-inch cubes.
3. Stir bread into egg mixture.
4. Stir in sausage and cheese.
5. Out in casserole dish, cover and put in fridge overnight.
6. In the morning, bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes until butterknife inserted in center comes out clean. Enjoy!


I hope that you enjoy this casserole as much as we do! If you make it, please share a photo on Twitter using #Alacuisinellc. Have you ever made this casserole before? Do you have a variation?

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Friday, December 23, 2016

Medicinal Mistletoe - Miracle Herb?

We all think of a festive kiss when we think of mistletoe. We hang it up and let it work it's magic. And, that's about the extent of our concern with it. But what if it could do something really cool, like cure cancer?

American mistletoe is toxic and should never be ingested. European mistletoe on the other hand, is used routinely to help cancer patients. Its estimated that around 70 percent of individuals fighting cancer are using mistletoe to help them win the fight.


Medicinal applications of this healing herb originated in ancient Greece. It's history of use include treating convulsive disorders, menopause, hypertension, headaches, arthritis, and even infertility.

In the 1920s, studies were conducted on its effect on cancer. It became widely used in Europe shortly after. Then, in 2005, a study concluded that European mistletoe can cause complete remission of pancreatic cancer. The results of study after study conclude the same. Mistletoe has a debilitating effect on cancer cells.


Mistletoe can also regulate the immune system. There are also connections to beneficial properties for diabetics. Perhaps more trials will be executed in the near future to thoroughly study those particular benefits.

Raw mistletoe in any form is incredibly toxic. You can find European mistletoe extract for purchase and through select clinical trials. Any medicinal use of mistletoe should only be conducted under the supervision of your healthcare provider.


So, the next time you look at a bundle of mistletoe hanging, kiss your loved one and take a second to be thankful for this medicinal miracle! Did you know that mistletoe has healing properties? Have you ever used mistletoe that way?

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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Chocolate Covered Spoons - For Coffee and Cocoa Lovers

These chocolate spoons are so festive for this time of the year. They would make great last minute stocking stuffers...or you could keep them all to yourself! I still haven't quite decided what I'm going to do. These are perfect for anyone who loves taking their coffee or hot cocoa to a whole new level.


For these, I use the plastic spoons that mimic actual flatware. I normally buy them from Sam's Club, but you can get them from most large stores. I think they really dress them up and  give them an elegant look. And, we all know that I like pretty things!


If you're giving these as a gift, I suggest using cellophane bags to wrap them. You should probably add a tag that says what they are and what's in them depending on the toppings and add-ons that you use.


I, personally, really like dipping them in crushed candy canes after the Chocolate. I just run them through the food processor for a few seconds. Its so easy and adds a festive touch!


Chocolate-Dipped Spoon Recipe

1 Cup Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
1 Tbsp Oil
Plastic or Wooden Spoons
Optional toppings and add-ons (peanut butter, crushed candy canes, coarse seat salt, sprinkles, chopped nuts, coconut, crushed pretzels, and caramel dipping sauce)

Directions

1. Melt the Chocolate Chips and add the Oil if necessary to thin.
2. Dip the bowl of the spoons into the Chocolate.
3. Add toppings to decorate.
4. Allow to dry on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Enjoy!
*** If using peanut butter or caramel sauce, dip spoons in them first, then coat with the chocolate. ***


I hope that these add a little something extra to your holiday cheer! Have you ever made these before? What's your favorite way to decorate them? If you make these, please share a photo on Twitter using #Alacuisinellc.

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Monday, December 19, 2016

Six Children's Kitchen Crafts for the Holidays

Christmas is almost here! Presents wrapped and under the tree, check. Goodies baked, check. Hot chocolate stockpiled, check! So, now that everything is ready, what are some fun things to do with your kids while you wait for Christmas day? Here's six fun crafts to occupy the rest of the week.


1. Painting mugs - this craft is so simple! All you need is some dishwasher-safe acrylic paints (less than $1 each at craft stores and Wal-Mart), painting supplies, and mugs (only $1 each at Dollar Tree), and painter's tape. Put down a drop cloth and have fun! After everyone finishes painting, let sit for one hour, then bake per directions on paint bottle. Fun works of art for the whole family!

2. Painting ornaments - such a fun craft to do with children of all ages! These are great for adding to your tree or for giving to family and friends as stocking stuffers. You can find the complete recipe with directions here.


3. Bird Feeder - if you like birds, why not make birdseed "ornaments" with cookie cutters. This thick mixture is perfect for little hands to mold into all types of fun shapes! Complete recipe and directions here.

4. Dog treats - let the kids make something extra special for Fido this year. These easy treats will show your dogs how loved they are. Complete recipe and directions here.

5. Herb Garden Magnets - these cute little containers will help you get a jump-start on your herb garden for the new year! All you need are some seasoning tins, herbs, soil, magnets, and glue. Detailed directions here.


6. Sugar Scrub - this scrub is so posting that it's perfect for anyone on your gift list. Teach kids about measuring, mixing, and the joy of giving with this easy recipe!

Hopefully, these ideas will bring you happy memories this holiday season! Please share any pictures of you doing these crafts on Twitter using #Alacuisinellc. Have you ever made any of these? What are your favorite holiday crafts?

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Friday, December 16, 2016

Sugar Scrub Recipe - Perfect Last Minute Gift Idea

Are you looking for an awesome gift for everyone in your list? Have you waited until last minute and want an easy and reasonably priced recipe that you can make yourself? Look no further, sugar scrub is your friend!

This recipe is so easy and it works wonderfully. You can customize it by adding more or less sugar depending on the consistency that you want. The great thing about using coconut oil is that it doesn't leave an oily residue, so it can be used on the face and body!


I suggest using lavender essential oil instead of peppermint. I know, I know, peppermint is all the rage around the holidays. But, peppermint oil can have detrimental effects on new breastfeeding mothers' supplies. So, instead of screening everyone on my gift list, I use lavender.

Besides being such a mild and well-tolerated oil, lavender is also amazing for easing headaches and migraines, relaxation, skin irritations, and it can really lift your mood. It is such a great overall choice that it is what I always use.

With that being said, if you feel comfortable using peppermint or some other oil and you know how to add it safely, then, by all means, use whatever you want. The point of this recipe is to make a sugar scrub that you and the special people in your life will enjoy.


If you are using regular coconut oil, you may have to soften it first. To do that, just put it in a microwaveable container and hear for 7-10 seconds at a time until it's mostly liquid. If it becomes warm, allow it to cool slightly before adding sugar. If you're using fractionated coconut oil, you won't have to do anything to it first, as fractionated oil is always in liquid form.

For more information on what fractionated coconut oil I use as well as this recipe in action, I will post my video here as soon as it's available.


Sugar Scrub Recipe

1/2 Cup Coconut Oil
1/4 Cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Lavender Essential Oil

Directions

1. Soften Coconut Oil if needed.
2. Combine Coconut Oil and Sugar and mix thoroughly.
3. Add Lavender Oil and mix again.
4. Pour into jars and sela with lid. Enjoy!

I hope that you enjoy this recipe. I love making it for my family and friends as gifts throughout the year! If you make this recipe, please share on Twitter using #alacuisinellc. Have you ever made sugar scrub? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!

All views on this product are my own but I am an Amazon affiliate and I do make a comission on sales through my affiliate links.

 Fractionated Coconut Oil that I use from from Amazon.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Easy Etiquette to Navigate those Dinner Parties this Season

We've all been there at some point, where we sit down to a dinner party and have no idea what plate is for what or what fork to use first. Maybe it's because we haven't really attended very many dinner parties or perhaps we were so busy in the pursuit to adult that we missed this important lesson. Today I'm going to discuss the basics that will get you through practically any dinner party during this holiday season. You can watch a video where I go into more detail here.


-First, let's start with the flatware. Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right. If you're setting a table and get confused, just remember that fork has four letters and so does left and knife and spoon have five and so does right. You may have a dessert fork or spoon above your plate as well. If you have a cheese spreader above your plate, you're in for a real treat because there will be a cheese course!

Regarding flatware, always work from the outside in and from the top down. So, start with your outermost knife and fork and work your way in with each new course. If you aren't quite sure, watch your hosts and do what they do. Once you have picked up a piece of flatware, it should never touch the table again. Rest it on the edge of your plate, carefully.


-If you have a bread plate, it will be on the left above your fork(s). Take one piece of bread at a time, please. When eating your bread, tear off one bite-sized piece at a time, butter it if so desired, and eat it. No butter sandwiches at the dinner party.

-Drinks go on the right above your place setting. If it's a glass or water goblet, grasp it around the thickest part. If it's a stemmed wine or champagne glass, grasp it around the stem. Do not clink glasses for a toast, they can break. If you are not having a particular drink, just put your hand over your glass and say "no, thank you". Do not invert your glass on the table.

-Cloth napkins go on your lap folded over once before you start eating. Dab your mouth before taking a sip or as needed, but do not wipe your face.

-Wait for the host or hostess to start eating before you do. Try to eat at the same pace as your host. Everyone should finish around the same time. It's very rude to wolf down your food and watch everyone else as they eat.


-If you realize that you used the wrong fork or forgot to do something, don't panic or draw attention to yourself. Just keep going and if it's something that needs to be rectified, discreetly inform your host(ess). Do not take over the conversation. Let everyone talk. Try to add to the conversation, but do not make it all about you. Even if people are gracious enough not to point it out, they will consider it, when making the guest list for the next party.

Have fun! Someone who is being enjoyable company and trying to use proper etiquette will always be an appreciated and welcome guest.

I hope that these tips help you feel confident at dinner parties around the holidays and throughout the year. Did you already know about these "rules"? Do you exercise proper etiquette daily?

For more information on proper etiquette, Emily Post and Vanity Fair.

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Monday, December 12, 2016

Easy Yogurt-Dipped Pretzel Recipe, Perfect Treat or Gift

Yogurt pretzels are a simple thing to make. They are fun and tasty, although the calorie count is not for the faint of heart! Seriously, don't look it up, just enjoy these little delectables a few at a time and you'll be fine. Moderation is always key and these pretzels taste so good that they're worth it.


The first time I made these, the yogurt didn't coat the pretzel as well as I would've liked, so I ended up doing the process twice. You can watch that video here. To avoid that, you can make the yogurt mixture and put it in the fridge to stiffen up a little first and then proceed with the dipping and setting.

This recipe would be a fun project for children. Getting to dip the pretzels into the yogurt would also be really good for developing hose fine motor skills as well as teaching patience. And, it's vegetarian, so for those with certain dietary restrictions, this can still be an acceptable snack.

Another great thing about this recipe is that you put it in a preheated oven that's turned off, so, this really frees up your time. You can make them in the morning before work or errands and let them set in the oven with no fear of burning your house down. And, that's always a good thing!


Yogurt-Dipped Pretzel Recipe

2 Cups Yogurt
5 Cups Confectioners Sugar
Bag of Pretzels (any kind)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 250 ° F. Put Yogurt in medium mixing bowl.
2. Using a hand mixer on low, mix in Confectioners Sugar 1 cup at a time until it's all thoroughly mixed
3. Spray a cooling rack with nonstick spray. Dip the pretzels in the yogurt one at a time and place on rack.
4. Put rack on a baking sheet. Turn oven off and place pretzels in oven.
5. Allow to set for 3-4 hours. Enjoy! (Their shelf life is 3 days.)


I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. You can enjoy them with your family or give as gifts in little jars. You can also add a couple of drops of food coloring to make them even more festive. The possibilities are endless! If you make this recipe please comment below or share on Twitter using #alacuisinellc. Have you made these before? Do you have a different recipe?

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Friday, December 9, 2016

Life is a Little Easier with These Simple Kitchen Hacks

Sometimes it's the simple things that can make all of the difference. The holidays are busy enough that I'm sure all of us could benefit from these simple kitchen hacks. I personally utilize all of these tricks and they have really made my life easier. If you want to watch me go into a little more detail about these ideas, you can check out my video here.


1. Baking Kits
If you're going to be doing a lot of baking this season, making lots will save you a lot of time and headaches along the way. Pre-measure your dry ingredients for the recipes on your baking list and bags them separately in sandwich bags. Then combine them into a gallon storage bag and label it. This way, when you're ready to bake, all you have to do is grab your bag and then measure your wet ingredients. This is such a time saver!

2. Add baking soda when boiling eggs
Add a tbsp of baking soda to the water when boiling eggs. This makes them so easy to peel which saves time and eliminates frustration.


3. Use a bundt pan to cut corn off of the cob
This trick helps to contain the mess that generally comes with cutting corn off of the cob. After your corn is cooked and has cooled enough to handle, place in end in the middle of a bundt pan. When you cut the corn off, the kernels will fall into the pan and you can easily pour them into your freezer bags with no mess.


4. Use cloth napkins to store your vegetables and herbs
Make your fresh herbs, onions, and other vegetables last longer with this easy trick. Store all like items together in a freezer bag with a cloth napkin. Them keep them in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. The napkin absorbs the moisture allowing your items to have a longer shelf life.

I hope that these kitchen hacks help you during this season and all year! Do you already do any of these? What other hacks do you love?

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Fig and Onion Spread, Perfectly Sweet to Warm Up Your Appetite

This recipe is a favorite of mine. It combines just the right amount of sweetness and it's a perfect addition to a cheese course! (More on that at another time.) Spreading this recipe over a cracker paired with goat cheese is an ultimate snack, appetizer, or addition to your cheese courses. At this moment, I realize I might be obsessed with cheese courses. I'll reflect on that.


Seriously though, this recipe really takes minimal effort, you can easily do it while doing other things around the house. I recently made this whole also doing some holiday crafts and it was a perfect treat to enjoy after clean-up!

A side note, this has a shelf life of about three days, but I doubt it will last that long. You can easily make it for gifts if you make it the day before or morning of the exchange. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Fig and Onion Spread Recipe

1/4 Cup Olive Oil
1 Onion (diced)
2 Cups Figs
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinegar
2 Tbsp Sugar

Directions (Step-by-step video)

1. Heat oil in medium pot, stir in onion. Reduce heat to med-low and cover for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Stir in figs, cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add vinegar and cook for 5-10 minutes until liquid has reduced.
4. Remove from heat and stir in sugar until dissolved. Enjoy!


If you make this recipe, please share on Twitter using #alacuisinellc.

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Monday, December 5, 2016

Slow Cooker Santa Fe Chicken, Warm and Cozy with a Kick

Sometimes, I can be pretty obsessed with my slow cooker. I love making big batches of delicious meals and then freezing half to enjoy later. It helps me save time and my family gets to enjoy a large variety of tasty dinners!

I originally saw this recipe while I was watching How Jen Does It on YouTube. She has some really amazing slow cooker recipes and this one really stuck out for me.
I've changed a couple of things in her recipe based on my family's preferences and simplifying it to make it an even quicker dinner time option.


A little tip when cooking in your slow cooker, spray it with nonstick spray first so that things don't stick. Nothings worse than saving the time cooking only to find yourself spending considerable time scrubbing over the sink after.

I suggest serving this chicken over rice and topping it with sour cream and perhaps a little shredded cheese. You can use brown or white rice, whichever you prefer.

Santa Fe Chicken Recipe (Step-by-step video)

2 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
10 oz. Broth (Chicken, Turkey, or Vegetable)
1 can Black Beans
1 can Diced Tomatoes
1 1/2 cups or 1 can Corn
2 Tbsp Cilantro
1 1/2 Tbsp Minced Garlic
2 tsp Onion Powder
2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Salt
1 1/2 Tbsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)

Directions
1. Spray cooker with nonstick spray. Add chicken.
2. Add the broth followed by the rest of the ingredients.
3. Stir very gently.
4. Cook on high for 6 hours or low for 10 hours.
5. About 30 minutes before it's done, use 2 forks to shred the chicken. (If you're serving this with rice, now is a great time to cool it as well.)
6. Serve with sour cream and/it cheese and enjoy!


I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. If you decide to make this dish, please post a picture on Twitter using #Alacuisinellc. Have you ever made this recipe before? Do you have a similar recipe?

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