Tuesday, June 11, 2013

6 Pretty No-Bake Desserts Anyone Can Make

Good news for hot days: You can (not) bake your cake and eat it too with these easy summer dessert recipes.

Blueberry Angel Food TrifleBlueberry Angel Food Trifle Serves 8 or more
• 8 cups cubed angel food cake, from a 12- to 16-ounce store-bought cake
 • 4 cups prepared vanilla pudding
 • 4 cups blueberries
 • 2/3 cup heavy cream
 •1 tbs. powdered sugar
 •1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

  Spread one third of cake cubes in bottom of large trifle bowl (or any deep 3- to 4-quart bowl). Spread one third of pudding over cubes; top with one quarter of blueberries. Repeat twice, finishing with third layer of pudding.

 Whip cream with sugar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Spread whipped cream over top; garnish with remaining blueberries. Refrigerate trifle for at least 2 hours, or up to 24, before serving.

Retro CakeRetro Cake
Serves about 20
• 30 chocolate wafer cookies
• 3 tbs. cold water
• 1 packet (1 tbs.) unflavored gelatin
 • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
• 3/4 cup frozen blueberries
 • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
• 2 cups cold heavy cream
•1 tsp. vanilla extract

 Line 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil. Cover bottom of pan with cookies (about 20), breaking them as needed to cover pan. Pour cold water into small bowl and sprinkle gelatin over water; let sit for 2 minutes.

Combine raspberries, blueberries, and sugar in medium heavy saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves and mixture is warm to the touch. Stir in gelatin mixture. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Mix heavy cream and vanilla in large bowl; beat using electric mixer until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Gently fold in cooled berry mixture, taking care not to deflate cream.

Pour half of berry filling into prepared pan; smooth with rubber spatula. Insert remaining cookies into filling vertically (for a pretty cross section when you slice cake later). Spread remaining filling over cookies; smooth with spatula. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

Deepest Chocolate MousseDeepest Chocolate Mousse
Makes six 1/3-cup (75-ml) servings. Gluten-free.
• 3/4 cup whole milk
• 1/4 cup freshly brewed strong coffee
• 6 ounces good-quality semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
• 2 eggs, lightly beaten 2 tablespoons dark rum (optional)
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• 1/4 teaspoon salt Unsweetened whipped cream, to serve
 In a small saucepan, warm the milk and coffee over medium heat until the mixture just comes to a simmer.

Place the chocolate in a heatproof glass or metal mixing bowl and pour the milk and coffee mixture over it. Stir once, then let stand for 5 minutes.

Scrape the mixture into a blender and add the eggs, rum, vanilla, and salt. Blend until well combined. Pour into six small cups or a 1-quart dish and chill for 2 hours, or until set. Serve with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream.

Key Lime PieKey Lime Pie 
Makes 24 treats

• 2 cups (4 ounces) salted pretzel sticks
• 1/2 cup granulated sugar
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened

• 3 tablespoons cream cheese, softened (try light or reduced fat)
• 1/4 cup fresh Key lime juice
• 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
• 1/2 teaspoon Key lime zest, plus extra for garnish
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1/2 cup homemade whipped cream or store-bought

Line a mini muffin tin with foil or paper liners and set aside. To make the crust, combine the pretzels and sugar in a food processor and process until medium crumbs form (do not overprocess into a powder), about 30 seconds. Add the softened butter and process until the mixture begins to thicken.

Transfer to a clean bowl. Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. Press the mixture against the bottom and sides of the cups to form pie shells.

Place in the freezer for 30 minutes. For the filling, combine the cream cheese, Key lime juice, condensed milk, lime zest, and vanilla in a large bowl. Mix well with an electric mixer or food processor for about 4 minutes, until completely combined.Spoon the mixture into the prepared shells. Tap the pie pan against a hard surface to even out the filling. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Garnish with the whipped cream and the lime zest.

Star Bursts
Star Bursts
Serves 8 or more
• 2 cups Greek yogurt
• 3 tbs. fresh lemon juice
• 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
• 15 ice-pop sticks, cut in half
• 30 Starburst candies

Put yogurt, lemon juice, and orange juice in bowl. Stir with rubber spatula until evenly blended. Spoon mixture into ice cube trays, filling each slot about three quarters.

Tap tray on hard surface to even out mixture. Insert blunt end of each ice-pop stick into a Starburst; place one in each ice cube slot. Tap tray against hard surface again to even out. Freeze for 4 hours or until solid. Carefully flex tray to release pops.

Gingersnap and Cinnamon Icebox Cupcakes
Gingersnap and Cinnamon Icebox Cupcakes
Makes 12 cupcakes.
• 48 crisp gingersnaps
 • 1 1/3 cups cream
 • 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
 • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
 • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, plus more to garnish
 • Pinch salt

Set out twelve paper or foil muffin-cup liners and place a gingersnap in the bottom of each one. In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl, using a hand mixer), whip the cream with the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon until the mixture holds medium peaks.

Spread a spoonful of cream over each gingersnap, and top with a second cookie. Repeat until you have four gingersnaps and four layers of cream in each paper liner.

Dust with cinnamon (tap it through a fine-mesh sieve) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. The cookies will almost certainly have softened to a cakelike texture, but you can test one by inserting a knife in the center to make sure it goes in easily.

10 Weird Reasons You’re Getting Bitten By Mosquitoes

 We love when you work up a sweat. Mosquitoes buzz: Whom they love to bite, where they like to hang out, and which repellents they hate the most.
By Lauren Gelman

 We love when you work up a sweat.
 You think we’re drawn by the aroma of your “sweet blood,” but it’s really the carbon dioxide you exhale that makes us beeline toward you. The harder you breathe, the more CO2 you emit, so you’re especially attractive after a jog.

Hate getting bitten up? Blame the ladies. We don’t like to admit this, but male mosquitoes do not eat human blood: They get all their nutrition from plant nectar. We females need your blood, which contains a protein that helps our eggs develop. After we have a blood meal, we can lay anywhere from 100 to 400 eggs.

Love beer? So do some of us. It’s crazy, but we can tell when you’ve been drinking because your skin chemistry changes, and it lures us in.

Smelly feet are simply delicious. In fact, scientists have shown that we find your tootsies ten times more alluring than Limburger cheese (but really our favorite body part is your hand).

To evade us at a party, don’t be a wallflower. When we smell a huge mass of carbon dioxide, we fly toward it; after we get there, it’s easier to attack the people on the perimeter of the group than those smack-dab in the center.
If your home’s landscaping is well tended, we won’t like it as much. We like to hang out in thick, overgrown vegetation. The darker and more humid, the better. If you keep your lawn mowed, pool skimmed, and bushes trimmed, your backyard won’t be very appealing. Removing puddles of stagnant water is also a great way to repel us—that’s where we like to lay.

We’re thrilled when you buy DEET-free repellent. DEET, along with picaridin, is among the stronger types that help keep us away. Each type blocks different receptors that allow us to track you down. We’re also not big fans of lemon eucalyptus and the compound IR3535, although these are a little weaker than DEET and picaridin.

Got those CO2-emitting traps in your yard? Great! You may think you’re outsmarting us with these devices, which emit carbon dioxide to lure us into a trap. But they may attract more of us than they are able to trap, increasing our presence in your yard. UV bug zappers aren’t effective either: Only a fraction of the pests they kill are mosquitoes.

Pregnant? Yum. If you’re a woman who’s expecting, you emit more carbon dioxide and your abdomen has a higher temperature than when you’re not pregnant, drawing some of us right to you. Sorry, baby.

When it comes to West Nile, end-of-summer bites may do more harm. It’s simple logic: We bite birds who have the West Nile virus; then we bite humans and spread it. By summer’s end, we’ve had more chances to bite infected birds.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

4 Quick Holiday Home Makeovers

Practically point-and-click, these decorating tweaks won't make you break a sweat — or the bank — as you prepare your home for holiday visitors.

1. Brighten Up the Bathroom
  1. Brighten Up the Bathroom

Even if you sing Adele while you soap up, this "Yellow Submarine" shower curtain by Jan Habraken lightens what can be the house's darkest room. And it's kid-friendly yet not adult-repellent.

2. Stow Your Stuff
2. Stow Your Stuff

Sweep off those surfaces in time for guests. The felt storage bins at West Elm are 16 inches square and can hold unopened mail, unread magazines, unfilled papers, and more.

3. Put Out the Welcome Mat
3. Put Out the Welcome Mat
Maine's lobstermen must now replace their "float rope" with "sink rope" to avoid entangling sea creatures. The Maine Float-Rope Company keeps float rope out of landfills by making it into doormats. Solid or striped, they'll add some summer to your doorstep beneath the graying skies of winter.

5. Tame the Bedside Table
4. Tame the Bedside Table That jumble of drinking water, reading material, writing implements, and ringing alarm clock next to your bed can coexist, says Martha Stewart Living. The Ferm Living "one-bedroom apartment cabinet".

Holiday Lights, ‘Gangnam Style’

“Gangnam Style,” the dance hit by Korean pop star PSY, has become perfect fodder for video reenactments worldwide, from dancing Thai prisoners to Ellen Degeneres’ JCPenney takeover to dancing lights. Yes, dancing lights.

 Texan John Storms “choreographed” his holiday light display to the record breaking hit. In a clip posted on YouTube (which has over 700,000 views), twinkly Christmas trees, snowflakes, wreaths and icicle lights blink on and off in sync with the music.

 After watching the video I couldn't stop wondering how, and why, Storms did it. So, I caught up with him to get some answers. For the past few years, he’s been decking out his family home in a spectacular menagerie of holiday lights and setting the entire display to music. He chooses tunes based on what his family likes and what’s popular. This year’s show has about a dozen songs.

 Storms started the extravagant displays as a way to continue the “aww factor” of his childhood and share it with others–and, it’s working. Storms said kids dance in the street and families tell him his “dancing house” has become part of their holiday tradition. “We do it to bring a moment of joy to the kids,” he said.

Storms lights up for the first time on Thanksgiving Eve and keeps it going until New Years Eve. Each year, he stocks up on cheap decorations during holiday sales, starts song selection and sequencing in September, then dresses up the house and tests the lights in November.

As a software quality assurance engineer, using Light-O-Rama software to sequence the lights and music isn't too tricky (though, some songs are harder than others), Storms said, and he makes his work available for other hobbyists to use in their own displays. He breaks each song down into foreground, background, vocals, etc. and then programs the lights accordingly. Each piece of the display, be it a tree or a light strand, is on its own “channel” that Storms can turn up, down, fade up or fade out.

For a technical “how-to” of the show, check out Storms’ site. To see more light shows, visit his YouTube page.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How to Eat Well for Less

Buy the best when it makes a difference, and fill the rest of your grocery cart with values.

Save on: Wine

Here's why: Consumers and wine experts liked inexpensive bottles—think Barefoot, Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw, Black Box—just as much as their pricey counterparts in a large-scale blind tasting.

Splurge on: Pasta
Here's why: Generic and bargain-basement pastas often end up as a mushy mess. You don’t have to spend much more to get chefs’ picks like Barilla or DeCecco, which are used in top restaurants.

Save by buying: Everyday oil
Here's why: When oil is going to be cooked, you can usually substitute vegetable or regular olive oil (even if the recipe calls for extra-virgin). High heat destroys much of the taste.

Splurge on: Extra-virgin olive oil
Here's why: Fifty percent of the olive oil sold in the United States may be adulterated with cheap filler oils. Ideally, taste before you buy, and check for a regional seal of certification on the bottle.

Save by skipping: Bottled water
Here's why: That idyllic blue stream on the label likely has nothing to do with your drink: 49 percent of bottled water in the United States comes straight from purified municipal tap water. Instead, use a simple home filter.

Splurge on: Honey
Here's why: You don’t need to go for a wildflower artisanal blend, but carefully check the label. Often the cheap “honey” in a bear squeeze jar is mixed with corn syrup.

Save by skipping: Hamburgers
Here's why:
Preformed frozen burgers cost more than plain ground beef—and you can make patties yourself in less than ten seconds each! Plus, E. coli might be more prevalent in the frozen patties.

Splurge on: Coffee
Here's why:
Consumer Reports’ two best supermarket coffees (Gloria Jean’s and Newman’s Own) cost about $13.50 a pound but scored significantly better on taste than $8-a-pound brands.

Save by buying: Frozen produce
Here's why:
It’s cheaper than out-of-season fresh produce and is also often higher in nutrients and better tasting because it’s frozen right after picking.

Splurge on: Chocolate
Here's why:
One-dollar bars combine 20-plus ingredients to create a bar-shaped amalgam of brown chemicals. For $2 more, you could get real dark chocolate.

Save by skipping: Specialty baking mixes
Here's why:
Consumer Reports’ taste tests prove that Duncan Hines brownies are just as showstopping as ones made from pricier gourmet mixes.

Splurge on: Vanilla extract
Here's why: “Never use the artificial stuff!” says Susan Reid, editor of The Baking Sheet. “It has one chemical flavor note trying to make up for over 200 flavor notes found in true vanilla.”

Save on: Cheese
Here's why:
If you’re melting or mixing the cheese with other ingredients, go cheap! Save the $20-per-pound artisanal triple-crèmes for a special cheese plate.

Save by skipping: Light juices and light coconut milk
Here's why:
To make reduced-calorie versions of these products, companies simply add water (and maybe artificial sweetener or thickener). Buy the regular version and water it down yourself.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Vice Advice: I Quit Smoking. Now What?

What's the Damage?
Smoking can take a serious toll on your health, but quitters may bounce back more quickly than you think. Here, the truth about the damage done, and the repair plan to follow now.

What's the Damage?

First, congrats on kicking the habit. Breaking an addiction to the nicotine in tobacco is not easy. With each smoke-free year that passes, you lower your odds for heart disease, serious breathing problems, and cancers of the lungs, mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, and more. But you may not be in the clear just yet. Your heart and lungs remain at higher risk of disease than that of a nonsmoker for up to 20 years after you quit.

Can You Undo It?

Absolutely. You’ll see immediate health benefits shortly after quitting, but the full benefits take years to reap. Heart disease risk drops 50 percent within a year after kicking the habit, but it’s not until 15 years later that your risk of heart disease and stroke fall to the level of someone who’s never smoked. As for lung cancer: After 10 years smoke-free, your risk is about one-third to one-half that of continuing smokers; it falls to that of someone who’s never smoked within 20 years.

Even better: If you take these additional steps to improve your health beyond staying smoke-free, you can accelerate the recovery and end up even more immune to the diseases linked to smoking.

1. Be vigilant.
Habits and addictions do not die easily. Even if you’ve been smoke-free for years, it might take just one weak moment to reignite your habit. Always be mindful of the benefits of not smoking, and the self-respect you’ve earned in kicking the habit, and don’t let yourself be tempted.

2. Stay away from secondhand smoke.
Passive smoking nearly doubles your odds of a heart attack—and may be even more risky for former smokers whose lungs and cardiovascular systems are still recovering. Avoiding smoke at home, work, and when you’re out socializing is the biggest preventive step a former smoker can take, say Harvard Medical School experts.

3. Pack your plate with fruits, veggies, and whole grains.
These natural foods contain lots of cell-protecting antioxidants that further guard against heart disease, stroke, and several forms of cancer. And new research indicates they may even help you kick butt: A University at Buffalo study found that smokers who ate the most produce were three times more likely to not have smoked in the last 30 days than people who ate the least. Researchers aren't exactly sure why, but think that fruits and veggies may make cigarettes taste bad, thus making them even less appealing. Bonus: You get extra vitamins and cholesterol-lowering fiber.

4. Take care of your ticker.
Stay up-to-date with blood pressure and cholesterol checks to watch your risk of developing heart disease. And let your doctor know you used to smoke: He or she may be more likely to take stricter approaches to testing and treatment knowing that you are a former smoker.

5. Watch your lung health.
Stay alert for signs of problems, such as persistent coughing, shortness of breath, and chest pain. Tell your doctor right away if you experience any of these.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Creamy Peanut Butter Pie Recipe

No-Bake Peanut Butter PieQuartered peanut butter cups top this rich smooth pie from Rhonda McDaniel of Rossville, Georgia. "It's always a hit at gatherings," she says. "It saves time, too, because it can be made in advance and frozen until needed."

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2/3 cup whipped topping
14 peanut butter cups,divided
1 chocolate crumb crust (9 inches)

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar and peanut butter until light and fluffy. Fold in whipped topping. Coarsely chop half of the peanut butter cups; stir into cream cheese mixture. Spoon into crust. Quarter remaining peanut butter cups; arrange over the top. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. Yield: 6-8 servings.