Monday, November 14, 2011

Christmas Cookie Contest

It's that time of year again!  We're having our Christmas Cookie Contest at Mystery Lover's Kitchen.  We'll bake and taste (poor us!) and select ten finalists.  You get to vote for the overall winner! 

Send your recipes to KristaDavis at KristaDavis dot com.  You could win these!

Pastel Sanding Sugar
Primary Sanding Sugar

Powdered Food Colors
Cute Flower Cookie Stencils

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Late July Multigrain Snack Chips

Not too long ago, I overheard someone in my grocery store say "Ugh.  Organic food.  Don't want that!"  She turned her cart quickly to avoid the organic food aisle.  The truth is that the days of shoe sole taste and cardboard box texture organic food are long gone. 

We all have our favorite brands, organic and not organic.  Late July is a brand that I've found to be consistently good.  They make delightful mini peanut butter sandwich crackers.  They even come in little bag sizes that are perfect for school lunches.

So when I saw that they were making chips, I was eager to give them a try.  Like their other products, the chips are organic.  The great news is that they're multigrain and made with non-genetically modified grains, which are hard to find in chip land.  But that's not all.  They're certified gluten-free, and don't contain synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, artificial flavors, colors or preservatives.

For those watching their weight, the news isn't too bad, either.  About 13 chips contain only 110 calories.

Now, with all that going for it, your expectations of something snackingly decadent are soaring downward, aren't they?  Yeah, mine, too.  I should admit here to an addiction to that orange powder on Doritos.  I'm not all that easy to please.

Late July knocked this one out of the park.  I love these chips!  I've tried the Dude Ranch Chips which have a slightly tangy, salty taste and the Mild Green Mojo chips which leave a little kick behind in your mouth.  I'll buy them both again.  And again and again.

Read more about this interesting company here --

Five cupcakes to Late July for fabulous snack chips that we'll reach for every time!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gourmet Cheese Crackers

So you have company coming for dinner and not enough time.  What's the easiest thing for them to nosh on before dinner?  A cheese platter, of course.  All you have to do is make it look pretty.  But instead of plain Jane crackers, add some daelia's Hazelnut Biscuits for Cheese and you'll instantly have an upscale, gourmet cheese platter. 

They have tiny bits of fig in them, which sets them apart from -- well, just about every cracker I can think of.  They're even good on their own.  I have a package stashed in the pantry, just in case someone drops by!

Read more about daelia's Biscuits for Cheese at their website.

Five cupcakes to daelia's Hazelnut Biscuits for Cheese!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Battery Operated Hedge Trimmer

Have you ever linked three long extension cords together to cut hedges?  Me, too.  The process of connecting everything was such a chore that I was always putting it off.  So, when the electric hedge trimmer died, I wasn't altogether too sad about it.

I'll admit that I had some reservations about buying a battery-powered hedge trimmer.  Would it have enough power to cut anything?  Would it weigh too much to lift? 

I took a chance on Black & Decker's 18 Volt Cordless Hedge Trimmer, which I found for about $100 at my local big box store.  It has a 22-inch long blade, which is plenty long for my purposes.  The battery is rechargeable.

So far, I have used it on forsythia, small tree branches, brush, young cedar trees, and garden bushes.  It cuts through almost anything the size of a pinky finger.  I'm neither towering nor brawny, but I find that I can use it easily.  The battery only runs for half an hour, but by that time my arms get a little weary, anyway.  I have walked my yard with it, trimming as I strolled.  Fabulous!

A perfect hedge trimmer for Harriet Homeowner.  And no more messing with extension cords!

Five cupcakes to Black & Decker's 18 Volt Cordless Hedge Trimmer!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Environmentally-Friendly Dishwashing Liquid

It seems like I'm obsessed with dishwashing!  My favorite dishwashing liquid (for hand-washing dishes) has become very hard to find.  I've churned through a slew of brands, some overly stinky, some that dry hands, some that just didn't work as well as I would have liked.  I use my dishwashing liquid a lot, so I'm very conscious of how my hands feel after using it.

I'm thrilled with Ecover's Grapefruit & Green Tea Dish Liquid.  It does have a light citrus scent, but I don't find it unpleasant or overwhelming.  It's gentle on my hands, too.  It's biodegradable, and made with plant-based and mineral ingredients.  You can read the complete ingredient list here.

The price came in lower than what I usually pay at a big box store.  One of my favorite things about it is that I don't have to rinse, and rinse, and rinse to get rid of it.  It bubbles nicely and then politely rinses off.

Five cupcakes to Ecover's Grapefruit and Green Tea Dish Liquid!

Friday, July 15, 2011


Teresa at my local health food store knows everything about cheese.  She's an expert on all kinds of other things, too, but I've never seen anyone who knows cheeses like she does.  (With the exception of Avery Aames, of course!)

One day when I was shopping, a woman was buying Cablanca.  She explained that her daughter had issues with dairy products, but not with items made from goat's milk.  I didn't go into details, but apparently goat's milk is much lower in lactose.  Teresa forced me (forced, I tell you!) to try the cheese.  It's now the favorite cheese around my house.

I confess that prior to trying Cablanca, I avoided goat cheeses because I associated them with feta.  Other people always get excited about feta, but while they exclaim over it, I quietly slink away thinking ewww.

So, if you're not a feta lover, do not be deterred!  Cablanca is a goat gouda.  Who knew such a thing even existed?  It's white, though.  The gouda taste is there, but it's mild and subtle.  So far all my tasters love this cheese.  I've used it on top of pizza and it melted beautifully.  Most of the time, we eat it on crackers and it's a wonderful treat.  It runs 110 calories for one ounce, which is great for cheese.

I haven't tried this cheese with children yet, but I suspect they'll like the gentle flavor.

Check out to learn more about Cablanca.

Five cupcakes to Cablanca Goat Gouda!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Environmentally-Friendly Dishwashing Detergent

Lately, I've been buying one automatic dishwasher detergent after another and getting the same horrible results.  Nothing gets clean.  Oh, the dishes are sort of clean, but that's because I've been washing them by hand before I put them into the dishwasher.  And let's not even get into glasses.  Ick!  I was beginning to think I would have to go back to hand-washing my dishes.

Since the day my dog licked the powder when I poured it into the cup, I've been looking for dishwashing detergents that are as natural and environmentally friendly as possible (though it's worth noting that even when I went back to my old well known brand I had the same terrible results).  So I bought a big name brand that was supposed to be good for the environment.  It was a liquid, and I didn't even fill the cup completely.  I actually had to open all the windows because the odor of chlorine was so overpowering that I couldn't breathe.  And the glasses still looked unappetizing.

Now, I will admit that I have very hard well water, and I've chalked up my dishwasher problems to that for a long time.  Because of the hard water, I always add vinegar.

And then, because I didn't want to use the chlorine nightmare again, I picked up a box of Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent.  I had extremely low expectations.  I was certain my glasses would still be foggy and the pots and pans would have an icky film on them.  NOT SO!

I love this stuff.  It's biodegradable, and phosphate and chlorine free.  My dishwasher is running with it right now and there's no horrendous smell driving me out of the room.  Even better, my glasses look clean again!  Really clean.  Love this stuff.  At first blush it looks pricy, but when compared to the prices on other non-environmentally friendly brands, it come out fairly close.  It might even be less expensive than some of those little packet thingies.  In addition, I'm always getting Seventh Generation coupons, and they're usually very good -- often $1 off. Check it out at .

Five cupcakes to Seventh Generation Automatic Dishwasher Detergent!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Death to Dandelions!

They're actually very pretty. What a lovely spray of yellow. But when we see these little flowers, or worse, the subsequent clouds of seeds that develop, we see RED!

I have been fighting these pesky things for so long that I have actually contemplated eating the leaves -- if I can't get rid of them, might as well use them!

In my quest to rid the yard of dandelions, I have bought several tools which were designed to pull them out. A not inexpensive metal thing with teeth on the end comes to mind. It's rusting in the garage somewhere.

Recently, however, I saw a demonstration of Grampa's Weeder. Could it possibly be as good as they said? I ordered one right away. It's a very simple tool. A long wooden handle is attached to a fairly sturdy metal gadget. See those two prongs? There are actually four of them. You push them on the middle of the weed, then rock the stick backward, using that longer arm as leverage, which forces the prongs to close, grabbing hold of the plant. All done from a standing position.

AND IT WORKS! Excuse the shouting, but I am in love with this thing. I walk with it every day (makes a fairly nice walking stick, too), pulling out dandelions as they bloom. Will I get them all? Maybe not this year, but I'm trying!

The idea is to pull out that long tap root. Now, I have to say that it's spring and we've had a lot of early April showers, making the ground nicely soft for weeding. So far, I am delighted with it. Check back with me in the summer when the soil is dry and hard!

Read more about Grampa's Weeder at Grampa's GardenWare Co.

Five cupcakes to Grampa's Weeder!

Monday, March 7, 2011


Although I don't live too far from the Atlantic Coast as the seagull flies, for some reason our grocery stores are full of fish from half way around the world. Tonight as I ate fish from Australia, I couldn't help wondering if Australians eat fish from Virginia.

My Australian fish dining experience involved a Barramundi, a totally new fish to me. It's low in fat and contains heart healthy omega 3. Sold in the freezer section, it comes in a large pouch that says Australis Barramundi. The package claims that it's "one of the world's finest eating fish" and that it's "Australia's favorite fish." You can read more about this sea bass at The Better Fish.

Inside the package are two packages containing fish fillets. The fillets are fairly thin, which turns out to be very convenient for cooking. They can be baked in the oven, fried on a pan, or grilled. I chose to bake them and add a little bit of lemon butter garlic sauce on top. The fish has a very pleasant mild flavor, no overpowering fishy taste. The texture was great, it flaked nicely and wasn't mushy at all. Everyone present agreed that this is a fish we would be happy to eat more often.

Five cupcakes to Barramundi!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Himalayan Salt

One of my favorite comic strips is Pickles. I had a good laugh recently when a couple of the characters made fun of fancy salts and mentioned pink salt.

One of my new favorites is pink Himalayan Salt. It really is pink! The container says the salt comes from a region once covered by an unpolluted primordial ocean. They claim it's the "purest and most balanced salt on earth." Supposedly, our bodies metabolize this salt better than ordinary table salt.

I'm not sure about those claims, but I do find it to be a very pleasant salt. It's not as "salty" as regular table salt. While I suppose that could induce one to use more salt, I find that hasn't been the case for me. It has a pleasant taste and can be used wherever you use other salts, except perhaps for Kosher salt, which is quite different.

Learn more about Aloha Bay Himalayan Salt at Aloha Happily, it's a Fair Trade product.

Five cupcakes to Aloha Bay's Himalayan Salt!

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