Killing Ants

I don’t know about you, but I struggle with the ants here.  Most people complain about the cockroaches, but I’ve had that under control for several years now.  (Just put out 20-50 cockroach traps in every nook and drawer.  Change every 3-4 months)  But ants have always eluded me.  I could never find a trap they liked for long.  They ALWAYS came back.  I looked up some ideas online.  Seems like Borax will do them in.  Dehydrates them or something.  But how to administer it?  Drops around the house?  Sprinkled in with powdered sugar.  Again, nothing worked for long.  Until I mixed it with a little water, made a solution, and added honey.  Good bye ants!  As long as I leave a little (like 2 TB) out on the counter in a mini container (or bottle cap) they wander by but never stay.  Take about 1 TB borax, add 2 TB hot water, stir until there are still some crystals at the bottom.  Add 2 TB honey or sugar syrup.  Mix and set out on the counter.  It does dry up over time, so you’ll have to replace it about once a month, but it really truly does the trick.

anttrap

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DIY Cinnamon Room Scent

One of the things I miss about the US while living in a foreign country is familiar smells.  Like pumpkin spice candles filling the room with scent.  I’ve brought candles back with me from the States, but they are gone too soon and I’m left bereft.  Without cinnamon…

Last year I finally thought up a solution.  It’s so simple you’ll love it too.  Be you at home or abroad.  I had two of these:

candle

And, nerd that I am, had no clue what it was.  I also had some horrid smelling oil that I assumed went into the top, but which burnt and smelled even worse when I poured it in and tried to warm it up.  Anyway – lightbulb!  Poured in some olive oil, and spices of my choosing and there it was, the comforting scent of cinnamon spice filling my room.  I’ve since moved on to coconut oil, but you can use olive oil too, just not a strong tasting one.

You need:

1 TB coconut oil/light olive oil

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. cloves

That’s it!  Light a votive underneath, give your oil and spices a stir and leave it to fill up your room with “holiday” cheer 🙂  Feel free to experiment.  I’ve added ginger, cardamom & anise, but didn’t really like the combination.

Gluten Free Pie Crust

piecrust4With Thanksgiving coming up, I thought I’d share my recipes for pie crusts.  I used to bake pies quite often before going gluten free, and considered myself an expert – but there is no expertise when it comes to making gluten free pie crust.  It’s like trying to give a cat a bath.

So here’s what I’ve come up with, and you’re not going to like it.  Use lard.  That’s right, the god-awful white colored shortening that should never be consumed.  But guess what?  It works like a charm for gluten free pie crust, and you’re going to put sugar in anyway, so it’s not like this is healthy food people.  Give it a try 🙂

Pie Crust Tips & Tricks

*Use lard*Roll out the dough between wax paper

*Make your dough slightly on the sticky side

*If you use butter, it will crumble and fall apart.  However gentle coaxing may produce a usable crust.  If that is the case, do not serve the pie warm, let it cool to room temperature first.

*If attempting a double crust, freeze the rolled out crust first before removing the wax paper and flipping it over on top of your filling.  Freezing also works if you’ve flipped the crust into your pan, but are having trouble removing the last piece of wax paper.  Paper will come off nicely once the crust has frozen, about 30 min.

Pie Crust:

1 c. brown rice flour

1/2 c. white rice flour

1/2 c. potato starch or corn starch

1 tsp. flax

1/4 tsp. salt

1 TB sugar (if it’s a sweet pie)

sift/mix together.

Cut in 5 TB lard (or 1/2 c. butter)

piecrust1Mix in 1 egg, 1 tsp. vinegar and 1/4 c. cold water.  Don’t mix well, just kind of fold together.  Add 2 TB of water as needed if you have flour left over.

piecrust2Form into a ball, press between 2 sheets of waxed paper, and roll out.  Don’t roll out too thin, the crust should be thicker than those made with wheat flour.  Loosen both sides of the waxed paper, tear off one of the waxed papers, flip the crust over onto your hand and quickly slide onto the pie plate.  Remove last piece of wax paper.  If it’s sticking too much to the waxed paper, just press the crust into the pie pan and freeze for 30 min, take it out and remove the wax paper.  Should be a breeze now.  Gently lift up on the overhanging edges to get the bubbles out and to fit the pan correctly.  Trim the overhanging crust to the edge of the pie pan.

piecrust3You should have enough crust left over if you want to make a double pie crust.

Press the edge of the crust against the first two fingers of your left hand, using the flat of your right index finger.  Do this all around, slightly raising the edge of the crust.  Using both index fingers at the the same time, press out with the left finger, while pulling in with the right.  Again, do this around the pie pan to create a nice boarder.  The crust is now ready to be filled or pre-baked.

If you don’t want to mess with the finicky pie crust, I suggest an almond crust, similar to a graham cracker crust.

1 c. ground almonds

1/3 c. powdered sugar (use 4TB cocoa, and 4 TB powdered sugar for a chocolate crust)

pinch of salt

2 TB coconut oil or olive oil

Toss together with a spoon, press into the bottom of your pie pan.  Easy peasy.

 

What to do with a bunch of dill

DSCN4703I got lucky this morning at the market – dill!  Like most produce here, dill is seasonal.  So if you wanted some fresh dill to put in salad dressing, soup, or another dish you’re out of luck.  Dill is only sold here in the winter months.  Which, even though it’s near 80 today I was able to find 🙂  I’m not a huge fan of the stir-fried dill dishes here, they are a bit on the strong side for me – where you take this whole bunch, chop it up and fry it with garlic.  很好吃

Yeah.

Instead, wash and chop the dill into 1″ slices, dump into a ziplock bag, and freeze.  Pull out a few pieces or a chunk as needed.  Here’s my favorite fresh dill recipe too:

Vibrant Tasty Green Beans

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival

moonfestI’m so happy to have come back and not missed the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Because you know what that means?  Moon cakes 🙂  Here in Taiwan, everyone has a BBQ with their friends and families.  There are fireworks (of course), pomelo, moon cakes, snacks of all kinds; and everyone is in front of their house with an itty-bitty BBQ.  Kind of peaceful and sweet.  I’ve made attempts at re-creating a gluten free version of the moon cake above.  Not my best culinary creation, so I’m not including a recipe.  Instead:

DSCN4682Yeah.  Doesn’t look very appetising to an American.  These are Apple Pears.  Chances are, you can find them in your local grocery store, especially if you live on the West Coast.  There are many different varieties, large and brown to small and almost yellow.  They are lightly sweet, and have a delicious crisp crunch to them (better than an apple in my opinion).  So how to pick a good one?  I’m not sure… but it should feel firm, and not be too dark brown or tinged green.  Peel off the skin on the outside (bitter and chewy), then slice like an apple.  Like I said, they have a delicate flavor, so don’t try them the first time if you have just had something strong before hand.  Savor alone 🙂

中秋節快樂!

Lentil & Rice Pancakes

lentil pancakes2These turned out to be blueberry pancakes.  Aren’t they lovely?  I didn’t take a picture until the pancake was halfway gone because it was that good.  I know you’re thinking lentils should be a savory item, served in soup.  But if you forget about that, lentils make gorgeous pancakes, crepes and waffles (still working on that muffin recipe).  You don’t even notice a different flavor or texture to the pancake.  Try it yourself, you’ll love it 🙂

Lentil & Rice Pancakes

*Start this the night before: rinse and soak 1/2 c. rice and 1/2 c. lentils overnight.

Wake up, drain your rice & lentils and place in your blender.  Add:

1/4 c. milk/soymilk

Starting on low, and moving towards high/puree, blend your grains.  It doesn’t work well at first, but be persistent, and you’ll get them mostly mashed up.  It’ll still be a bit gritty at this point.  Add:

1 egg

2 TB milk

Blend again at high until smooth, at least 2 minutes.  (If you decide to skip all this adding liquids slowly business you’ll most likely end up with gritty pancakes.  Rice is hard, and it takes a bit to grind it up – you’ll also need a good blender.  My small Phillips blender would never do this, I had to break out the old beast in the back of the cupboard)

Once smooth add:

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 TB oil

1 TB honey

Blend until smooth.  Once you add the leavening agents, the batter will thicken up again, but it should still blend smooth.  Hopefully you’ve heated up your pan/griddle by now, to about medium heat or medium low.  Pour the batter onto your pan, making a circle about 3 inches in diameter.  Place blueberries on top if you desire.  Flip the pancake over slowly, it tends to splatter if you flip it too fast.  Makes 6 medium sized pancakes.

You can also sprout these grains if you have the time.  I find that I forget to plan ahead, and it’s all I can do to soak the grains overnight.  Do Not try to make this without first soaking the grains, or only soaking them 2 hours.  Gritty pancakes is what you’ll get.lentil pancakes

Back from Vacation

vacationI know I’m not the most prolific of bloggers… but I didn’t give up on all this, I was just gone for 3 months on vacation 🙂

We were able to take a break for health & family reasons, and I swear we travelled the whole continental United States (except for Texas, that is).  It’s good to take a step back and contemplate things for a while.  Jump in the ocean (brr) see friends and family, read a few books and wander Trader Joes again (sigh).  Which brings me to –

WHAT is up with “Natural Flavors” ya’ll??  I mean seriously, it’s in everything now (including organic food items) and it’s a chemical item that is not labelled in your food, and basically could be anything.  I used to think it was just vanilla extract, but they didn’t want to waste time and ink to write that out on the food label, so it became “natural flavoring” instead.  But no.  It’s anything “derived” from a natural substance, meaning chemically derived.  As my cousin pointed out, MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate) now has to be labelled on foods, but not Glutamate.  Which is pretty darn close, and he’s allergic to it as well – so he avoids the “natural flavors” on foods just to stay safe.  Seriously America, you need to boycott this and demand for it to be removed from foods.  Rant rant.  I had sources for all this info, but I’ve been chasing kids all day and didn’t want to spend the time finding them again.  Look it up for yourself and decide.  As for us – we’ll abstain.  I suggest you do the same.

Well, back to my pile of dishes.