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Saturday, March 31, 2012

>Extracting the Right Stuff

Don't these look so wonderful?  Do you even know what they are? Good guess but its not licorice.  These are vanilla beans  over 50 of them (who knew I would get so many when I ordered) I wish that I had smell a puter, because the scent is outstanding!   So what am I doing? It is simple, I am making homemade vanilla extract.  Vanilla is one of my all time flavorings for baking.  Have you seen how expensive a tiny bottle of  "pure" vanilla is?   Let me tell you that even that is not pure vanilla extract, there is added water and SUGAR!   A Facebook friend of mine tipped me off that I could have a high quality vanilla at the fraction of the price...EARS ARE OPEN!   So here it is in simplified form.  Step one take about 5-6 vanilla beans and split from the end. (Great bulk vanilla purchases can be made on Amazon...just watch the customer ratings)

Add one cup of vodka to the split beans ...Now this one was fun!  Let me just say that you cannot walk into any grocery store and pick up vodka (well at least in NC)  It involves going into what my daughter likes to call the "ALPHABET" store. (ABC = Alcoholic Beverages Ctr) .  Well yes this one was a fun step for me.  I will say until the idea of making vanilla extract was presented to me, I had never been in this type of store...GASP, I KNOW!  So on the day I went to buy Vodka, I dressed in my most inconspicuous hoodie sweatshirt, mask...JUST KIDDING!  Of course when I went in I had no idea where to start, thank goodness the salesman did and better yet I am pretty sure he had sampled each one! (Well not that day).  I felt empowered and a bit stinkerish (my word) because now I had given people something to talk about ahahaha (EmBEE went in the ABC STORE). I was felt empowered. I have been back a couple times now, for more extract and baking adventures :).  The next  step was simple....SHAKE! SHAKE SHAKE!

Now the next step, Let sit for 6 mos!  Shaking the bottle every few days. Every day for for the  first few weeks.  Once I figured out the extract process I realized you could make several kinds.   Orange (3 large oranges, rinds peeled to one cup of vodka), Lemon (5 -6 lemon rinds peeled off to one cup vodka)  Coconut,  Almond.       The list became endless and so did all the little glass bottles in my pantry.  I think glass works a whole lot better than plastic, just my opinion.

Almond extract is just a little different.  The recipe is 1/2 cup of crushed almonds to 1 cup of vodka . The almonds will not be the typical scent you expect because they are sweet almonds in the US . Typical almond extract is made with bitter almonds (which are not sold in the US, because they are poisonous) And here we go...PEACH or nectarine seeds.  SURPRISE!  They are poisonous as well, but in large adding 5-6 are not going to hurt your extract. Surely all that vodka does something to them..

So happy experimenting!  Special note, if you look around you will find a lot or recipes stating only 3 vanilla beans per cup. Professionals use double strength vanilla, so add those extra beans!

I'll let you know how they all turn out!   I can see Christmas gifts will be easy this year. I just have to remember to start in JUNE!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Genetic tests and Aqua Zumba!

I do not have photos for this post....but be glad, I can tell you they wouldn't have been pretty!   Splashing and moving in ways that would be illegal if they weren't being done underwater, but it was soooooooooooooooo much FUN! I am referring to the cardio class at the Y called Aqua Zumba.  It has now reached the top ranking in my favorite class.  I really like regular Zumba, but with Aqua Zumba there is not any room for embarrassment because no one can see what you are doing since its under water (and believe me you would have be appalled...eeek) It was a GREAT workout too, but since it was in the water it didn't feel like one.  High Tempo music, big moves, swiveling hips, yep you get the picture.

Anyway let me back up a little bit to why I was at the Y.  I have always been challenged with my "weight issues" so I decided to take matters into my own hands...agressively...AGAIN! (hahahaha) .  My track record with weight loss has been interesting to say the least. If you have heard about it, I probably have tried it...let see : Carbo addicts diet, Atkins, Thermogenics, motionless exercise (it does work), fat free, vegetarian (oh that one didn't last long...tee hee)  Herbal caps, nautilus, walking, all of the above, none of the above haha  They all provided some measure of success but not long term (usually the 20-30 pounds I lose all the time).  See what I mean...GUESS WORK!  I found out that I didn't have to guess anymore...I could know how my body loses weight. For me that is EXCITING!!!  There  is a genetic test that looks at your genetic make up and tells you what plan will work for you, how YOUR body loses weight! Incredible right? I know I thought so.   It is through Inherent Health Genetic Tests. Simple to do...swab the inside of your mouth, let the sample dry..mail it back, WAIT and VOILA...customized to YOU, workout and food recommendations.  What ? The Results of my test?   My makeup / generic pattern is responsive to Carbohydrate restriction and High Intensity Workouts! (Which is why one of the reasons I was a  Aqua Zumba)  It makes sense, some of the plans that I had success with did reduce carbs.   Anyway I am once again starting this Journey, but this time equipped with a few necessary tools!  You may be wondering but EmBee...doesn't it tell everyone the SAME thing...guess what NOPE! One of the NC news Channels did a report on it and different people received different results!

So I have found a plan, adopted a workout plan that is High intensity, but low impact (I will obey the instructions of my chiropractor...start slow,  In fact when I mentioned Aqua Zumba he emphatically yelled ...DO THAT!)  I have had a bad track record in my workout history...but no more, I think I might be smarter now...LOL. I am going to do the Nutrilite Carb Reducer Plan.  So yes of course I will be blogging my progress, even a pic or two (Maybe!)  So here I go again starting at  (mumbles something)..okay 262 (cough).   I CAN SUCCEED!  I WILL SUCCEED and SO CAN YOU!


If you are interested in doing the Genetic Test yourself...go to Order tab at my Website.  Create an account, then click on Partner stores...Inherent Health Genetic Tests is there.   You can do  several different kinds of tests...weight, heart, bone and nutrition to name a few.  (I did the heart one as well,  but I will blog that another time)

Click the link below to watch the newscast (I found it to be fairly positive for what the media can do ) 

Friday, March 16, 2012

A car dealership with INTEGRITY! Yes it is Possible!

I know what you're are looking at my title with disbelief!  I know this to be true.  I have had my share of  "dealings" with buying used cars, and lets just say there have been to many bad choices, but not with FRANK MEYERS AUTO MAX of Winston Salem, NC.  Now I know that this is not typical material for my blog (but hey it is MY blog, speech), but a truly great place has been under negative fire by the local media, who has decided to "to sensationalize" a report by the FTC!

Let me tell you about this super fun place (yes I know it may not be for everyone...but it is fun) .  It may be a bit unconventional in your typical car buying experience but never unethical.  A family owned business that has been in business for a long time ( I don't want to get my facts wrong on the actual time frame) , this place gives to the community .  Its "Everybody Rides"  Trademark phrase is truly their heart!  This place goes above and beyond to do what they can for their customers (sometimes its close to miraculous).  Guiding them in wise choices.  I sure wish I had a salesman try to give me wise advice on our van purchase three vans ago, where we ended up UPSIDE down with tons of negative equity (that's another story).  Can they help, not always, in fact I was in the position a few years ago, when I had gone to the dealership to start a car upgrading process, but due to some financial setbacks just couldn't quite qualify (remember the "negative equity", yep that too) .  Now I did not leave empty handed even then!!!!  What do you mean EmBee??? They gave you a car??? Hahahaha...NO, but they gave me the best thing any place could give HONESTY!!!  They also gave me some direction, some advice on how to 'clean up'  a suffering credit record and how to turn around the upside down car situation.  No pressure to jump into another payment I  couldn't afford,  no pushing a car I didn't want.  So yes, you don't find that too many places.

Fast forward to this last fall.... After taking the "path" of recovery we tried again,  At one of the "special promos" offered.  Even then it took patience but we were able to realize our dreams.  Salesman who aren't out to pressure you, they listen to you, take notes and help guide you to a car that meets your needs.   We were able to become owners of a pre-owned vehicle with a LIFETIME ENGINE WARRANTY (blinks eyes in disbelief).  The FTC came in to do a ProActive review of car dealerships across the US ( no complaints were issued, this was random) , but I'll let the Owner tell you about that! (Click the link below)


Now you understand!  So I will say that this is the place I love to refer people.  I will continue to do so!  Zany costumes, a GONG ceremony , customer referral rewards, Video games while you wait (this is great for those who have kids or impatient husbands..hahaha) , Coffee, Wifi... A place truly out to "satisfy its customers".  (I am not even reviewing the Service Ctr) and do business a different way, making car buying what it is supposed to be!

OH YEAH...The BBB report...You really trust that???  FM Auto Maxx was not a part of the BBB. They choose to address customer issues on a personal level, with HIGH SATISFACTION RESULTS. (Of course if you google BBB's  ratings of those who don't join their organization and pay their dues, you'll understand, but that is not a topic for this blog)    They have 4.5  to 5 star ratings in all their other  reviews! !!!  I am confident you will not be disappointed!!!   So yes I am speaking out this time!


Round 2 ..additional video clip

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yummy and ...RUNNY????

Yes you all know I love something sweet.  I am constantly trying to tweak my favorite recipes to make them sweet and healthy!!!  Today was no different. In fact in an effort to cut out excess eating I have avoided playing  in the kitchen ..(GASP... I KNOW).  Today I decided that a "healthy" coconut cream pie was in order. While the kids so "diligently" took their timed tests, I scurried out to the kitchen to begin a new level of experimentation.  Preheated the oven....Grabbed my "go to" pie crust recipe (its FAST), opened the flour tin....UMMM who used the flour last because THERE IS NONE!  Check the time.... 25 minutes till the next test, yep trusty Harris Teeter here I come.  So yes I dash into the store grabbed the flour, trying not to be distracted by the "sales" .

Finally I am home, multi tasking at getting dinner and whipping up the pie crusts (well technically rolling out ).  WOW this pastry crust looks so dark???  Well it turns out a grocery store faux pas ends up as an unexpected success!.  Yes I had accidentally picked up White Whole Wheat flour....sigh.   Except for one crust got a little "darker" than planned (I can put chocolate in that, no one will ever KNOW), They were good and Whole grain! (No pics though because, well honestly, they weren't pretty this time...due to my hurried (harried) state...LOL.

My go to Recipe is as follows (my Mom's  No Fail Pie Crust Recipe)

2  1/2 cups Flour

dash of salt

2/3 cup Vegetable oil

Using a fork, mix the above ingredients until "crumbly".  Add 1/4 to 1/3 c. ICE COLD water...stir quickly till it forms a marbelized looking ball, STOP STIRRING.  Divide in two .  Roll out each ball between wax paper or parchment.  Lay into pie plate and crimp edges. This recipe makes 2 crusts.... so you either can do 2 individual filled pies or 1 covered pie.  Now if you want to Bake for a filled pie...Bake at 475 for 8-10 minutes (not 12 like I did..hahahaha)

Now my quest for healthiness was this, Coconut cream pie made with coconut milk and Xylitol (thus reducing fat and sugar). I found a great recipe on the Food Network...Emeril's Best Ever Coconut Cream Pie. (google it)   Now the tweaking.  I must say the last time I attempted a recipe with corn starch in the recipe  well it could NOT even be called pudding...hahahaha, but ever determined to never give up I was going to try again.  Now from past events I KNOW you cannot totally leave out all the milk, because milk solids have something to do with how the pie sets up. So thanks to the already adjusted recipe ...I didn't have to tweak it to much . Using mostly Xylitol with a small amount of sugar, because alas the Xylitol was almost empty too!! (who's been baking in my kitchen????)...Following all the directions...into the pie crust the filling goes...yummmy (Fresh ground coconut from my extract experimenting and vanilla with extra beans soaking in it...added to the delicious flavor!   Chill two hours...slice and ...yep you guessed it, Runny!!! But I must say it was definitely waaaaay less runny than the raspberry pie last year, in fact I would call this pudding with a crust!  YAY  There is only one person I know that may not enjoy the flavor and that is only because he does not like coconut cream pie.

Now I did have another crust to fill, this was an easy breezy cheater recipe.... I didn't try to "healthify" it ...hahahahaha.  One large cook and stir chocolate pudding  following directions for microwave cooking (GASP...yes I use a microwave..hahahaha) of course to make it homemade tasting one Tablespoon of butter (everything is better with BUTTER) and 2 squares of Ghiradelli 72percent dark chocolate....when finished cooking stir in a teaspoon (okay I didn't measure) of highly edified vanilla...hahahhahahah.  Chill 2 hours.

Both pies were a nice back to boycotting baking for a while again.

Always on a quest for healthy AND tasty. ( I am determined that these two be friends)



Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Revealing Experience

I start this by saying WARNING WARNING...some images may be slightly disturbing ...hahahaha.  Okay so not really.  Last weekend the females in my family enjoyed a unique pampering experience. I have a friend who provides an awesome service. She is a certified skin analyst ... Sure EmBee...loads of fun, yeah yeah yeah I hear you, BUT it really was.  I set the appointment for all of the ladies in the house (but guess what men, you can do it too!!) specifically with the thought of helping my youngest daughter start on the right path to healthy skin care.  You see she is about to turn that preteen age where things start changing and those lovely things we call " hormones" start kicking in, so in planning this I though HEY I want to do this too! So needless to say we ALL got to experience the skin revelations! The appointment started with a very thorough questionnaire (okay well here goes)  and then individually for privacy sake we taken into the MACHINE ..hahahaha.  There your skin is scanned with an Ultraviolet light, and let me tell you NOTHING gets past the purple light of revelation (yes I am sure its more technical than that but thats the EmBee shortened . ( The ideal  is for you to be a nice even purple under the light.. (like this photo....BEAUTIFUL)

(Isn't she sweet for letting me post this ) She just had a little bit of dryness and that is all.... Mine (now don't scream in horror) was definitely less even hahahaha,Every variation in shading means something, anywhere from clogged pores, to dryness and so much more....It is quite obvious my skin care plan wasn't working. (oops)  The blessing is I was not left without hope ( I know I know isn't that wonderful).  My very sweet analyst was able to recommend a custom skin care plan for me, my girls and my mom ( Yes you only see two willing pictures for the BLOG) .  The cool thing is it is customized to my skin needs. Hey why should I buy a four step something if my skin needs call for two....or I need more this or that and less of something else.  Seriously customized skin analyzing makes complete sense!!!   Okay now we haven't even taked about the blemish tool that zaps a pimple and makes it disappear within 24 hours or LESS and the light up lip gloss...LOVE at first sight. Regardless of whether or not you use the products (which are really fantab, reasonable and rated in the top five) the skin analysis is soooo worth the time and price ..(which is alot less that a dematologist). Triad NC fans ...schedule an appointment and tell her EmBee aka MaryBeth sent you)...     okay guys can't wait to show you the eight week follow up pics ..I am sure they will look a whole lot better :)