Tip Of The Week: #74 Comes From Martha & Rachael

Okay, we have all had it happened–suddenly we get an inspiration to bake, rare though it is, and unless you have a professional pantry like Martha Stewart or specifically planned to bake a particular item and you  bought everything ahead of time at the grocery store–like we’re all so-o-o organized, right?  You may be out of a particular item–say powdered sugar or super fine sugar.  But don’t  dismay if you have regular granulated sugar.

Both Martha and about food suggest using granulated sugar and processing it with a metal blade for 5 minutes–use more than recipe calls for because some will turn into powder–and process for 5 minutes.

Without and need powder sugar?  Rachael says do same thing, but longer.  Choosing Voluntary Simplicity suggests using a blender for better results since it breaks down the sugar crystals easier and in less time.

Did you know commercial powdered sugar contained cornstarch???

Facebook Finds: Great Homemade Holiday or Hostess Gift

This recipe shared on Facebook has given birth to a new category of Fabulous Facebook Finds on MarkdownMom.  This comes from the Land o’ Lakes Company® and is an easy recipe and with its’ presentation in sealed glass jars identified by chalkboard labels spells fantastic  homemade gift!



Homemade hot fudge
by land o lakes

1/2 cup Land O Lakes® Butter
1 cup real semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

Combine all sauce ingredients in 2-quart nonstick saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or until butter and chips are melted and sauce is smooth. Remove from heat.

Stir in flavor variation from below, if desired.

Pour into jars or other airtight containers for gift giving. Store refrigerated. Reheat as needed.

Cookie Exchange: Good Deal or Not???

The Holidays are an endless source of approved indulgences.  A time to make merry, and to sample all the goodies this special season can offer–and, oh my, yes there are many! Ho, Ho, Ho!!!  For example, Christmas cookies, so many to choose from and don’t they look wonderful and colorful on a sideboard.  But to get a nice assortment from a bakery, it’s easy to spend $50-$75 for these confections.

You can, of course, save money by  baking your own, but in order to have a variety that captures the eye as well as the palate, you have to plan in advance, your materials, your kitchen to go into full production, and have time.  Groan–so much work, so little time…

The light bulb turns on with a bright idea:  A Cookie Exchange!  The Cookie Exchange was born to answer the call of hostesses with the mostest for creating that last pièce de resistance for their buffet table–with less fuss and small muss.  Great idea, win-win, right?

However, not all Cookie Exchanges are created equal and may be more work than you expected.  The idea is to make 1-2 dozen of one type of cookie for each participant –the more participants, the more variety of cookies.  In theory, if you have 12 participants, you make 12 dozen cookies of the same recipe to exchange and you receive 1 dozen each of 12 different holiday cookies creating a beautiful assortment for your table.  Right??? Maybe not!

Follow these Guidelines from Markdown Mom to avoid the pitfalls of a Cookie Exchange, and there are pitfalls, Virginia:

  • Know the baking abilities of all participants. Just like planning  a family potluck dinner–there is always one kitchen challenged relative you ask to bring either an hors d’oeuvres tray or the green leaf salad.  Look for Pillsbury Bake-Off Winners!
  • Know ahead of time the cookies they will bring to avoid duplication.   Additionally, you do not want to spend oodles of time and expensive ingredients and exchange for cookies of less effort and quality.
  • Cardinal Rule:  no substituting homemade with store bought  if that happens, you  either keep her/his portion of your cookies, or depending how insulting that store bought cookie is–say an Oreo–you pelt them with their share of your cookies  and blacklist them from future Cookie Exchanges.
  • No cookies made ? Even though you agreed to participate,  save yourself the embarrassment, call in sick.
  • A successful Cookie Exchange should be photographed and accompanied with recipes–in a number of years,  you’ll have a book!
  • Give ribbons for the best decorated, flavorful, etc.–a quality control incentive.

****Better yet, sign up for a Cookie Exchange offered through Community Education of your local school where you can go and make and exchange cookies in one night.  This way, you get an assortment, somewhat smaller, but you don’t have the clutter and disruption in your kitchen, you meet new people, plus you may  gain a a few tips and baking shortcuts, and you can always blame the instructor!

5 of MarkdownMom's Favorite Quick & Easy Holiday Fudge Recipes Plus 1

Cookie, candy,  bars and all sorts of bite-size goodies make the holidays more festive and are great  treats to give and receive.  Here are a few of MDM’s favorite candy recipes collected from the internet:

1.  Two Minute Microwave Fudge.  Always a favorite and easy to make.

1 lb powdered sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter or 1/2 cup margarine
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Sift powdered sugar, cocoa, and salt into a 1 quart microwave safe bowl.
Stir in milk and vanilla.
Mix well.
Place butter on top.
Microwave on high, 2 minutes.
Beat with wooden spoon until smooth.
Stir in nuts (OPTIONAL).
Spread in 8 X 8 X 2 inch baking pan.
Chill about 1 hour or until firm.
Cut into pieces.

+1.  Crock Pot Chocolate Candy by My Fridge Food

2.  Easy Peanut Butter Cup Fudge posted by Kitchen Krafts

3.  Homemade Pumpkin Fudge by ZipList

4.  Quick and  Easy Peppermint Fudge by Food Network

5.  Super Easy Chocolate Cherry Fudge by Group Recipes

Rachael Ray Cooks Up Deals With Meals






Rachael Ray’s friend, Gretchen Monohan, is a source for what’s hot and new, and today she comes with items to make traveling during the holidays easier and less stressful,  and you can save up to 84%. 

From  travel size hair dryers, totes, foldable ballet flats, to lightweight rolling luggage, and more.  Check it out at the Rachael Ray Show.  While you are there, copy the great party cheese ball recipes–hot this holiday season!


Okay, Labor Day Weekend spells the end of summer and perhaps the last family summer picnic.  Hot dogs, burgers, potato salad and more.  Sounds heavy, right?  Where does dessert come in–yeah, I know there’s always room for jello, but come on that squiggly mixture can turn into a gloppy mess in hot weather, and it’s not that exciting.

What would you say to a frozen delicious dessert that can rival your favorite gelato, frozen yogurt, is super healthy and  takes minutes to prepare?  Yonanas is a new kitchen gadget that takes those bananas turning brown and turns them into a delicious soft ice cream or fruit popsicle.  Great for the family and cost effective, too.   $49.95+sh, best price on shipping and handling at HSN.

Without a heavy dessert to slow you down, you can scoop all those Labor Day Weekend bargains!



MDM's Savory Garden Risotto


Description: MDM’s Savory Garden Risotto is MDM’s take on The Good Earth’s delicious Summer Risotto.  This dish can be eaten alone or served as a side dish with baked chicken or salmon.  This dish is colorful to look at, savory, and fragrant.  Best of all, it is easy to make!  Any grocery store will carry these ingredients, but MDM recommends going to a farmer’s market or local organic co-op for vegetables, herbs, and cheese.  You can use boxed risotto, which is the fastest.  Or if you have your own favorite home-made recipe, you may use this as well.


  • 1-pint sweet bell peppers (red, yellow, and orange)
  • 2 medium sized zucchini (quartered and chopped)
  • 2 medium sized summer squash (quartered and  chopped)
  • Virgin olive oil to sautè vegetables
  • 1 to 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium sized lemon (use juice and grated rind)
  • 2, 5.5 ounce boxes of Creamy Parmesan Risotto
  • Fresh grated parmigiano reggiano  cheese
  • Fresh dill (chopped)


Chop sweet bell peppers, zucchini, and summer squash and mix into a medium-sized bowl.  Chop garlic cloves and add to frying pan with virgin olive oil.  Sautè vegetables from bowl and set aside.  Cook creamy parmesan risotto (per box instructions) in pot [or use own recipe for making creamy risotto].  In medium-sized bowl mix risotto with sautèed vegetables.  While still hot, mix in grated fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese, chopped fresh dill, and grated lemon rind.  Squeeze lemon juice over dish to taste.  Serve immediately.  Enjoy!

Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 10 to 15 minutes

Serves: 4 to 8 people

Eating Healthy In The Twin Cities

Food Co-ops are a great source for fresh organic food, but not all are created equal–some are more equal than others.  Seward Co-op, located at 2823 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis,MN, offers an array of fresh food and new products.  This store not only continues to offer spices and teas in bulk, has one of the best deli buffets where you can sample the hot before buying, but continues to look for new products worthy of their customers. MarkdownMom recently visited the Co-op and experienced a sensory overload to all the wonderful aromas and bright colors of its current inventory. Can’t find something?  Just ask their knowledgeable and friendly staff, but above all just enjoy!

For A Quick Tour Of SEWARD CO-OP Click On Photo

MarkdownMom Exclusive: For those of us that have been looking for a local source of farro, MarkdownMom was told by the buyers at Seward that they expect to have a supplier in a month. Farro is one of the most nutritious grains and following the historic adage that an army marches on its’ stomach, this was the principle fare of the Roman Legions. Farro is usually soaked before being prepared, unlike spelt which it is often compared with, but also unlike spelt it remains  chewy not mushy when cooked. Farro is a very versatile grain and can be used in soups, salads, as a vegetable dish, or as a substitute for rice.


When You Visit Seward’s Please Tell Them MarkdownMom Sent You!

Famous Asian Dish Recipe

The weather outside is frightful and wouldn’t it be delightful if we could replicate a local asian dish that would warm our tummies and keep our food budget within reason.  Markdown Chics has uncovered the secret recipe for Big Bowl Thai Hot Pepper Shrimp and adapted it to their user-friendly version.  O-h-h s-o-o good, you may never go out this Winter.



MarkdownMom Chics Version of Big Bowl Thai Hot Pepper Shrimp/

with Basil and Peanuts 


½ c lime juice

2 Tbsp. of canola oil

¼ c of white sugar

1 Tbsp. red chili pepper flakes

1 tsp. salt

25-30 medium to large shrimp

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ cup of red onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

½ c of freshly chopped basil

¼ c of peanuts (non-salted, non-roasted)

1 c of white rice



1. Add oil to frying pan and turn heat on to medium. Allow oil to warm.

2. During step 1, combine lime juice, salt and sugar in a bowl and mix. Set aside.

3. Add red chili pepper flakes and garlic to frying pan. Allow the garlic to brown.

4. Once garlic is done, add the lime juice mix. Stir the lime juice for 2-3 min until thickened.

5. In a pot, add water and allow it to come to a boil. Once boiling, add white rice and lower heat. Rice should be done in 15-20 min.. White rice can also be cooked in rice steamer.

6. Add shrimp to the frying pan. Coat the shrimp in the lime juice. Shrimp will turn pink-red when done, about 10-15 min..

7. Once shrimp are cooked, add peanuts, red onion, red and green bell peppers. Fry for an additional 10 min..

8. Add basil. Cook for 3 min..

9. Serve Thai hot pepper shrimp with basil and peanuts on top of white rice.

Healthier 'Mallow Bars

Click Here To View Recipe Slideshow

Everyone loves marshmallow bars, crispy, crunchy and oh-so-good!  You can make these sweet treats even healthier by substituting Cheerios® for the main ingredient.

This recipe can be changed to add other dried fruit such as raisins, blueberries, etc. and you can add nuts such as almonds chopped to make it even healthier.

Check out the Cheerios® website for more healthier recipes.

MarkdownMom’s  Healthier ‘Mallow Bars


3 Tablespoons butter or margarine

1 bag (10 ½ oz.) or 6 Cups marshmallows

5 Cups Cheerios® cereal

1 Cup Dried Cherries

*optional ½ Cup nuts (dry roasted peanuts, almonds, etc.)

Makes 24 bars, one bar is 120 calories, 3.5 grams of fat.


1. Butter 13×9-inch pan.
2. In large microwavable bowl, microwave butter and marshmallows uncovered on High about 2 minutes, stirring after every minute, until smooth.
3. Immediately stir in cereal, dried cherries or fruit and nuts. Press in pan, using buttered back of spoon. Cool about 1 hour or until firm. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store loosely covered.
Stove-Top Directions: Butter 13×9-inch pan. In 3-quart saucepan, heat butter and marshmallows over low heat, stirring frequently, until melted. Remove from heat. Immediately stir in cereal, dried cherries or fruits and nuts until coated. Press in pan, using buttered back of spoon. Cool about 1 hour or until firm. For bars, cut into 6 rows by 4 rows. Store loosely covered.