Monday, October 28, 2013

Tips for Baking the Perfect Idaho Potato

I did most of my growing up in SE Idaho.  I know this post is a little late in the season... all the potato harvesting is done by now but this fall weather is perfect time for baking potatoes (especially to go with a meatloaf...).  I am kind of a potato nazi;  I can't stand a poorly baked potato, and I always eat my potato skins!  That's where all the fiber and protein is.

Tips for Baking the Perfect Potato: (much of this info I gleaned from a random un-cited handout but some of it I know is from the Idaho Potato Commission)
Never bake Idaho potatoes in aluminum foil.  Foil seals in the moisture and steams the potato, making the texture pasty instead of dry and fluffy.  Aluminum foil can be applied after baking, however, to hold the serving temperature longer. 
Scrub the potatoes well, and dry them thoroughly.  Prick with a fork in a few well placed spots (or try rubbing the potato with oil before baking, instead of pricking the skins).  This allows the steam to escape.  Medium sized potatoes should be baked in a 425 degree oven for 55 to 65 minutes or baked in a 350 degree oven for one hour and 25 to 35 minutes.  Higher heat gives darker, crisper, skins with fluffier interiors.  Potatoes are done when a fork slips easily in and out.
 Becoming a connoisseur: You can tell an Idaho potato connoisseur because he or she will never open a baked potato with a knife.  Instead, the connoisseur will poke a zigzag pattern into the top of the potato with a fork, then will press the ends of the potato together to open or "blossom" the potato.  The connoisseur recognizes that the blade of the knife flattens the surface and alters the fluffy texture of the properly prepared Idaho potato.

Celebrate Spud harvest by making delicious perfectly baked potatoes!

PS-If you ever get the chance visit Shelley, ID about the 3rd Saturday in September for the Annual Spud Day!  They serve free baked potatoes with a milk box, and you can watch people do a tug of war over a giant pit of mashed potatoes (plus all sorts of entertainment, a parade, contests, good food and vendors).

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Excellent Pumpkin Cake with Light and Creamy Frosting

I made this cake and took it to church for a potluck dinner. I got rave reviews. The recipe was easy so I wanted to be sure to share it.

I started with a Pumpkin Cake I found on Allrecipes  I altered it a little, so here's my version.

Pumpkin Cake III

2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cup applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin (or a 15oz. can) or cooked & pureed pie pumpkin
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/3 tsp ground ginger 

Directions (from Allrecipes)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 12x18 inch pan. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl combine sugar, oil, and applesauce. Blend in vanilla and pumpkin, then beat in eggs one at a time. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Spread batter into prepared 12x18 inch pan.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Allow to cool.


Found in a Facebook share from this gal: ---she has lots of good looking recipes on her wall...) 

This is SOO delicious. It WONT melt at room temperature like regular whipped cream!
It's VERY stable. Its wonderful used for frosting a cake or even dipping fruit in it! Not TOO sweet.
Very versatile!

**This recipe makes 5 cups**

1 (8 ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese, softened [I used neufchatel)
1/2 cup white sugar [yes regular granulated sugar]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract [I used orange extract because I didn't have almond on hand]
2 cups of heavy cream


Combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla extract and almond extract in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your mixer.

Once all in the bowl, mix on medium speed until smooth.

While the mixture is still whipping, slowly pour in the heavy cream.

Stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl a few times while you continue whipping until the cream can hold a stiff peak.

I slathered this over the sheet cake and then using a star frosting tip did a zigzag border around the outside edge.  Simple yet so tasty.  I'm not sure if this frosting is sturdy enough to hold up a multi-layer cake, but if you try it out let me know.


Monday, October 7, 2013

Pregnancy Woes: Veins Part 2

I wrote about this a couple months ago.

Pregnancy Woes: Veins

I've been trying my best to deal with my vein issues.

I'm all about prevention and I wish I knew more about veins before my pregnancy.  If varicose and spider veins run in your family I would be prepared to deal with them during pregnancy.  I would take supplements for it before you see anything just to improve your vein elasticity and health.  If you see any signs of vein damage get some compression on them ASAP (if I had ace bandages I would have wrapped the affected area while I waited for my stockings in the mail).

Risk Factors For Varicose Veins []

  • Sex – Varicose veins affect more women than men.
  • Hereditary – It is a hereditary condition.
  • Obesity – Obese people are at a higher chance of developing varicose veins.
  • Pregnancy – Pregnant women are more likely to develop varicose veins. This is probably because of the higher volume of blood in the body that burdens the circulatory system. In these women, the varicose veins may disappear after delivery. [this was my experience with my last pregnancy I only slightly found one bulge near the end of my pregnancy and it faded. Hopefully my new ones will fade too.]
  • Age – With increasing age, the walls of the veins weaken and lose elasticity.
  • Certain jobs/careers – Long periods of sitting or standing at a job can raise the likelihood of developing varicose veins.

A leg exhibiting spider veins

So when I first wrote my other post I had a few bulges in my thigh and behind my knee of my right leg.  They are varicose veins.  They look like twisted and knotted veins under the skin.  Mine look kind of like the image with the greenish background although less defined and on my inner thigh. I don't want to share pictures of my own legs at this point...

Shortly after I started taking my supplements I started getting spider veins on my calf (kind of like the image above right but mine look like 3 bruisy splotches) .  They are not just itchy but when they get bad at the end of the day they are a bit painful.

I ordered some compression knee high socks... they definitely help.  I think wearing the compression helps prevent further damage and helps them to heal.  If I could stand the heat of wearing full pantyhose in August (or if I had AC) I would have worn them all the time.

I bought these knee highs at (best prices I found on the web) they are the value brand and I think they work just fine and I really feel the difference when I'm on my feet all day. I ordered medium 15-20mmHg in nude and the color was a little pale/cool... depending on what I wear with them it's less noticeable, but wearing a knee high sock I'm not showing much leg.  They are very snug and stiff so I found wearing them in flat shoes gives me a crease at the ankle... looks old and frumpy.  So if I wear them with a skirt or dress I wear a 1 1/2 - 2 inch heel and I don't have the issue.

I also ordered some full maternity pantyhose so I can address my thigh issues too.  I also ordered them in nude but the color looks a lot better (warmer color) than the knee highs.   Now because of my height (5'8") I just barely fell in the Lg category on the size chart (use pre-pregnancy weight).  I almost considered ordering the Med. because I'm vain and I worried that the they would not squeeze my scrawny calves very well... I am GLAD I went with the larger size because I am tall.  When I first wore them around 30 weeks or so, they didn't feel tall enough in the torso and they felt like they were actually pulling my pregnant belly down... This also added to that breathless feeling I was getting at that time in my pregnancy.  Luckily after my baby dropped (his head is right at my pelvic bone) they became much more comfortable and since the weather began cooling off, I wear them much more often.

Before the weather cooled I also ordered these: I figured they would let my feet breath and I could wear them with just about anything. The only issue is that I have pretty full thighs and some saddle baggage so I get a little bulge above the top band... so I don't wear them with yoga pants or slim fitting clothing but I wear them under jeans all the time.  I would prefer these in a medium compression but they only come in firm compression.  When I wear them I have occasionally noticed some edema (swelling) in my feet by the end of the day.  I like having these as an option because they are cooler than having my feet and belly covered in synthetic fabric... they are also kind of cottony but still slightly sheer.----UPDATE... one day I wore these and my feet swelled up pretty bad... with pregnancy edema is also an issue.  Since then I only wear them with nice snug socks.

I also ordered one pair of white knee-high athletic socks.  I actually got a different pair than I ordered.  They sent me some Mojo (a name brand) socks.  They have their name in black at the top and on the soles... I love these socks and plan to wear them all the time even after pregnancy (they feel so good on my calves and feet... giving them a constant hug).  They are not sweaty like nylons and just very stretchy and easier to put on.  I always am sure to keep my calf spider veins compressed or else they get worse.  I've been keeping my calves compressed all day and they are showing a lot of improvement.  I wear these socks if I'm planning on taking it easy during the day and I'm not on my feet too much (because they don't cover my thigh veins).

I hope that my supplements are improving my vein health but now that I already have these ugly veins and I have the extra pressure on my veins because of pregnancy I feel that the compression is necessary to help my veins heal properly.  My spider veins are actually getting much better... which is really saying something since I'm even further along in my pregnancy.  The itchiness is also decreasing... I think it's that itch you feel when something is healing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Controlling Eczema: Bleach Baths...

Okay, so you may be very skeptical of this post.  I was when I stumbled upon an article about Eczema and the mother mentioning this. 

I thought... hmmm that's interesting.  I was becoming frustrated with my 2-1/2 y.o.son's eczema early this spring and was getting frustrated because I knew that he was getting a lot of secondary infections from the inflamed skin, so just moisturizing as his pediatricians constantly suggested was not cutting it.

My husband often suffers from athletes foot, I don't know what it is but he was getting it this spring (most likely from an old pair of boots that he wears on outings--that increase in frequency in the spring). He uses the same bathtub that the kids bathe in.  I was noticing that DIY-son's common eczema patch under his knee (usually flares up when the weather warms up--from sweat/or irritation or just wearing shorts) was looking patchy like a fungal infection. See image below.  His has never gotten this bad but I could see raised borders and circular patches.
 So I started putting Clotrimazole Cream (name brand Lotrimin-original formula) on his itchy patches... Oh they really itch him (especially when he sweats or goes more than a couple days between baths).  But,  I worried that every time I bathed him he was getting re-infected and often scrubbed the tub before bathing him. And because we have a rubber mat in this bathtub at our new home (no texture on the bottom of the tub) I was trying my best to scrub it too and to be sure everyone draped it to dry off between use.  It was becoming such a pain and I was getting so paranoid that this vicious cycle would never end.

I started searching on the web for ways to treat/prevent eczema and preventing/treating secondary infections.  I stumbled on that first article then I looked for more articles on bleach treatments and found this article that describes studies that were done.

I thought I would give it a try, so I measured about 1/4 cup of bleach into his baths about half full and I felt so much better about the rubber mat and all the fungus it could be harboring... My daughter thought it was fun because it seemed like they were at the swimming pool.  I bathe him first and then I add more hot water (to warm it up more and she likes a deeper bath) before my daughter gets in.  Then her bath is much more diluted.

Within a couple days I was seeing results and his flare ups actually went away for much of the summer.

Our Regular Routine:
I bathe my son about every other day (about 3-4 times a week) If/when my son would get a patch under his leg or around his wrist I found it helpful to scrub the patches with a washcloth and mild soap while in his bleach bath to help remove and break up the rough dry and flaky skin.  Then following his bath I apply the anti-fungal cream first (if the flare-up has lasted a while and I suspected a secondary infection---which are becoming much less often) and then I use Aveeno extra dry skin lotion or an eczema cream (see my earlier recommendations).  I apply the lotion especially to his limbs and a little on his face (using a good water-barrier type lotion after each bath really helps strengthen his sensitive/delicate skin and prevent flare-ups).

The best part is, I generally only feel the need to scrub the tub about once a week!

Seriously adding a little bleach to my son's baths have really made a difference in our lives.  I wish I had started it when he was younger... (I'm not sure how early you may want to do this... maybe after 8 months or so... or when they start bathing in the community bath tub starting with very little bleach).

If his skin is looking really good I often don't bother with a bleach bath and maybe only do it once a week.  Eventually I'm sure he'll grow out of his eczema like his sister did (although hers was more mild).

For now, this is really making a difference and if your child is suffering from eczema it's worth a try (not like we never take our children to a chlorinated swimming pool---- which some people notice clear up eczema and acne conditions too).

Please share this with mothers that have eczema tortured children... I wish someone had shared it with me long ago.

Let me know if it helps!

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