How to Make Fried Okra

Monday, August 22, 2016

Fried okra is a Southern delicacy that you really need to try if you haven't yet. And with Summer bringing in fresh okra from the garden, there's really no excuse for not giving this recipe a go at least once.

It's really very simple to make. Just swing by your local Farmers Market and buy a big bag of okra to get started. If you've really never made it before, a handy tip is that you'll want to choose smaller sized okra because they'll be more tender than larger ones.

Southern Fried Okra

Fried Okra


Oil for frying
2 lbs fresh okra
1 c milk
1 c plus 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
3/4 c yellow cornmeal
4 tsp seasoned salt
1 Tbsp cornstarch

  1. Prepare okra by washing and removing stem ends. Cut remaining pieces in 1/2 inch rounds.
  2. In a large straight sided skillet, pour oil to a depth of 2 1/2 inches. Heat oil until a candy thermometer reaches 350 degrees.
  3. In a large bowl combine okra and milk. Let stand for 15 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornmeal, seasoned salt, and cornstarch.
  5. Working in batches, drain okra and dredge in flour mixture. Use a spider skimmer or a slotted spoon to lower into hot oil. Fry for about 4 minutes or until golden brown.


Southern Fried Okra


Now that you have fried okra under your belt, you might want to add some other Southern dishes to your repertoire. These are tried and true Harris Sisters recipes that won't disappoint:



Chocolate Cake with Mint Frosting

Saturday, August 20, 2016

We've just finished celebrating Jaxon's birthday again this year. Fun fact about Jaxon: he was born on 8/8/08. The number 8 is considered to be lucky in China, and this year was his eighth birthday, so we've joked that this was his "lucky" birthday.

So, what did the lucky birthday boy request for his birthday cake this year?

He wanted a chocolate cake with mint frosting. Since this was no ordinary cake, I decorated it with Junior Mints for our Birthday Boy and it was delicious! This scratch cake was simple to make and you'll be able to make one for yourself in no time flat. Lucky you!

Homemade Junior Mints Chocolate Cake with Mint Buttercream Frosting

Chocolate Cake with Mint Frosting
(Junior Mints Cake)


CAKE


FROSTING

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbsp milk
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
4 drops of green food coloring

GARNISH

22 Junior Mints candies

  1. Prepare Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Cake as directed. Let cool.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar, milk, and peppermint extract. 
  3. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the food coloring. Beat until blended. 
  4. Use to frost cake as desired. 
  5. Arrange 15 Junior Mints candies around outside perimeter of cake. Place one Junior Mint in the center of the cake and arrange the remaining 6 Junior Mints around that candy to create a flower pattern.
  6. Refrigerate cake.
Homemade Junior Mints Chocolate Cake with Mint Buttercream Frosting


The Hershey's Perfectly Perfect Chocolate Cake is a tried and true Harris Sisters recipe. Harris Sister Deanna has it every year for her birthday cake.

It might also taste good with these other frosting recipes - give them a looksee:


A Beginner's Musings on Retin-A

Friday, August 5, 2016

Earlier this summer, I started using Retin- A cream for the first time, and I thought I would share my thoughts about it with you.  Before I began, I did a lot of research but it seemed that most people who were talking about Retin-A had been using it for a long time, and didn't necessarily remember the early days when they were just starting out.  Well, I would say that I'm still in those early days, but it's been several months now and I feel like I have a few pointers of my own to pass along for other first time Retin-A users. So here goes....


I should begin by saying that Retin-A is a prescription drug.  Your doctor can prescribe it for you and answer any specific questions or concerns you may have.  I am not a medical professional- just a lay person passing along my personal experiences and what has worked for me.  :)

Retin-A was traditionally prescribed to help treat acne (and still is today).  However, over the years, medical professionals discovered that it also has the added benefit of improving the appearance of your skin by minimizing fine lines and wrinkles.  Thankfully, I haven't needed acne medication in many years, but since turning 40 earlier this year, I thought it was a good time to start some serious skin care, and so I turned to Retin-A in that quest. 

1.  Start low and slow: Retin-A comes in three prescription strengths: 0.025%, 0.050%, and 0.100%, with the 0.025% being the weakest and 0.100% being the strongest.  I have started with the 0.025% and I would recommend the same to anyone just starting out.  Remember, this is a drug.  It is strong, even in it's weakest form.  There is no need to jump in full strength.  That's something you can work your way up to over time.  You have the rest of your life to use this product so it's best to take your time and see how your skin will react.  Lots of people report redness, peeling, flaking, and even scabbing when they first start out with Retin-A.  Fortunately, I did not experience any of these things. However, I took it really slow and easy.  I started by applying Retin-A once every other night, instead of immediately starting out with a nightly application.  I also began by applying a layer of moisturizer to my skin first to make a buffer between my skin and the Retin-A.  Once I saw that I wasn't experiencing redness, burning, or flaking, I slowly worked my way up to a nightly routine and eventually ditched the moisturizer too.  I would say after the first two weeks, I was applying Retin-A as directed, with zero side effects.

2.  Be patient: As your skin adjusts to the use of Retin-A, you may experience more breakouts than usual.  Remember, it is also an acne treatment medication, and it works by drawing impurities from deep within your skin to the surface.  I did experience a little of this in the first couple weeks.  It was nothing major, and I was aware that that was a possibility so I wasn't terribly concerned.  It took a couple weeks for everything to even out, and I haven't had any breakouts since. And even though I didn't experience any major redness or flaking, that is very common to new Retin-A users, even if you take things slow and easy.  If you do experience those types of things, it is reasonable to back off on your application to once every few days or even once a week until your skin becomes more used to the product. 

3.  A little goes a long way:  It only takes a pea sized amount of Retin-A to treat your entire face. Just divide it between your cheeks, chin, and forehead and rub it in evenly.  Apply at bedtime directly onto clean skin and that's it.  My only skin irritation that I've experienced was when I applied too much and my skin just felt angry.  It didn't look angry, but it sure felt it.  It felt tight and itchy and almost the way a sunburn feels.  I haven't overapplied since and I haven't had any more issues.

4.  Keep away: Retin-A is not intended for use around your eyes, and certainly not in your eyes.  The skin under your eyes is just too thin to tolerate it well.  Same goes for your eyelids.  The closest you should try to get are near the edges of your eyes where your eyes naturally crinkle- the crow's feet area.  And just dot it on and then rub it in well.  I have accidentally gotten too close to my eyes a time or two and awoke with red eyes in the morning.  No bueno.

5.  But don't miss a spot: Don't forget about your neck and decolletage!  I use a pea sized amount on my face and another pea sized amount for my neck and upper chest area.  One tube of Retin-A cream is prescribed for 45 days, and I have had no issues with staying within 45 days per tube even with 2 pea sized amounts per application. 

6.  Wash up: This one may be obvious.  Or maybe not.  But be sure to wash your hands once you finish applying your Retin-A.  I cannot overstate enough that you should not get this in your eyes, and if you just leave it on your hands when you are finished, you are definitely taking a risk that you might accidentally rub your eyes and transfer it.

So that's a little of what has worked for me.  I am really enjoying Retin-A, and my skin is looking so healthy!  It's an amazing product that I intend to use for years to come.  I've also added a few new skin care products to my morning routine as well, and will fill you in on those in another blog post. More to come!  




The Easiest Way to Cook Corn on the Cob

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

It's summertime, and that means plenty of corn on the cob for your dinner table, picnics, and barbecues.  And for years, that also meant shucking and cleaning the corn before boiling a big pot of water to cook it.  But those days are long gone in this household.  I have discovered the joy (and ease) of microwaving corn on the cob and haven't looked back since.  


Here's how it's done. 

  • Put your corn directly into the microwave, in it's husk.  There is no need for a special microwave dish either.  Just plunk it in there. 
  • Next, set your microwave timer to 4 minutes per ear of corn.  So 4 minutes for one ear, 8 minutes for 2, 12 minutes for 3, and so on. 
  • When your corn is done, it will be hot, so use an oven mitt to remove it from the microwave. 
  • Using a sharp knife, cut the stalk end off. 
  • The husk will peel right away, and your corn will be perfectly done!




No Knead Peasant Bread

Sunday, July 31, 2016

This recipe is a real winner. I find most often when I mention making homemade bread to someone, it sparks images of days of yore, churning one's own butter, etc., etc., followed promptly by some exclamation of "Ain't nobody got time fo' dat!"

Well, this recipe is definitely one you'll want to keep around, if for no other reason than to APPEAR as though you spent hours in the kitchen when you really didn't.

The trick is that it's a no knead bread - so much of the work of traditional bread making is cut out right there. AND, since it's peasant bread, you really don't have to put a lot of work into shaping the dough to having finished bread rounds that look pretty good. Even if they're not perfect, hey, that's the beauty of peasant bread.

You might also recognize this by more familiar terms nowadays of artisan or artisanal bread - those are just schmancy terms for bread that is made (or crafted) in small batches. And this certainly qualifies. So feel free to also call it that when you're serving it -  after all, doesn't it sound SO MUCH MORE difficult to make artisan bread? Exactly.

Super Easy No Knead Peasant Bread

No Knead Peasant Bread

2 1/4 tsp dry yeast (this equals one whole package)
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp granulated sugar
2 tsp salt
4 cups all purpose flour
1 egg white for topping (if desired)

  1. Mix yeast and warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes, add sugar, salt, and flour. Mix only until ingredients are completely incorporated. Do not knead. Let rise until doubled (45-90 minutes).
  3. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  4. Using floured hands, divide dough into two rounds and place on a greased cookie sheet. 
  5. If desired, brush tops of bread rounds with egg white for a shiny crust.
  6. Bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Then, reduce heat to 375 degrees and cook an additional 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Super Easy Peasant Bread - No Knead Recipe


Notes:
To serve this rustic bread, you can slice it or tear off pieces - your choice.

This bread makes an excellent companion to dipping sauces made of olive oil and spices or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Or, serve with your favorite jams and jellies for a breakfast treat.

How to Make Your Own Ranch Dressing Mix

Friday, July 29, 2016

Today I'm sharing a mix for ranch dressing. You mix up the spices and keep it in your pantry so that you can make a fresh batch of ranch dressing whenever you need. This mix is so easy to prepare, you'll wonder why you ever bought bottled ranch dressing in the first place!

Because you can mix up only the amount that you need, you never need to worry about checking the expiration date on your bottled dressing again. And, if THAT weren't enough to convince you, making your own seasonings, sauces, and dressings ensures that you control all of the ingredients and don't add unnecessary preservatives.

How to Make Your Own Ranch Dressing Mix

Ranch Dressing Mix

3 Tbsp dried parsley
1 Tbsp dried dill weed
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

  1. Mix all spices together. Store in an airtight container.
  2. To prepare dressing, mix 2/3 cup mayonnaise and 1/3 cup milk with 1 Tbsp of the dry mix. Store in refrigerator. Shake to incorporate before serving.


DIY Healthy Ranch Dressing Mix

Notes:
Make allergy-free ranch dressing by modifying the ingredients to suit any allergy needs in your household. For example, use almond milk instead of regular milk for someone with a dairy allergy. Use soy-free mayo instead of regular mayo for someone with a soy allergy.

You can adjust the ratio of mayo and milk to achieve desired consistency. As written, the recipe makes a dressing that is roughly the same consistency as bottled dressing. If you would prefer a thinner dressing, add more milk and less mayo.

Other tried and true Harris Sisters' seasoning mixes you might be interested in checking out:

What's the Difference?: Size 24 Months vs. 2T

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

As kid's consignment season approaches again, I am finding myself back up to my ears in Lexi's fall and winter clothing, shoes, and toys from last year that need to be prepped for this year's fall/ winter consignment sales.  If you missed my previous blog post about how to maximize your time and efforts when it comes to kids' consignment sales, you can check it out here



So as I am going through her things from last year, I am remembering that mostly she was wearing size 18-24 month clothes last fall and winter.  Some of those pieces were simply marked as a size 24 month.  Now, of course, she has graduated to a size 2T.  So what exactly is the difference, if any, between a size 24 month and a size 2T?  Or is that a trick question?  Logic would say these are the same thing, and it's a mistake a LOT of people make.

There is actually a world of difference in these sizes, so don't be fooled, and don't let anyone tell you differently.   Of course, kids come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, but in general, a size 24 month is intended for infants age 18 months to 24 months.  And a size 2T is intended for a toddler between the ages of 2 and 3.  So at the farthest end of each of these size ranges, these sizes are actually a year and a half apart, and it would be very unlikely that a child would wear the same size that entire time. Kids grow so quickly (and go through so many clothes) especially at these young ages.  

Incidentally, the dress Lexi was wearing in the picture above is a size 18-24 month dress.  She had just turned 18 months when this picture was taken, and it was big on her.  It would be at least 3 inches shorter on her now, if not more, and it's only been about 9 months.  Grow, baby, grow!