Sunday, December 17, 2017

5 Simple Steps To Clone A Red Lobster Chocolate Lava Cakes

Lava cake - Photo: Flickr
It's amazing how so many people love chocolate cakes. One of my favorites is the "Red Lobster Chocolate Lava Cakes". It's sooooo delicious! If you are like me, I urge you to try this recipe when you have time. You'll fall in love with it. Trust me... :-) 

So here it is: Red Lobster Chocolate Lava Cakes 
Number of Servings: 6 persons 

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 6 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 (10 ounces) package frozen raspberries thawed, puréed in a blender
  • Fresh raspberries, optional
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, softly beaten
  • Fresh mint sprigs, optional
  • Confectioners' sugar for dusting, optional


1. Spray inside 6 individual custard cups or soufflé dishes with nonstick cooking spray; then set aside. In a small heavy saucepan over low heat, melt chocolate, stirring until smooth. Add butter and sugar; stir until melted. 

2. Pour chocolate mixture into large bowl. In a small bowl, mix together flour, cocoa, and baking powder. 

3. With electric mixer at medium-high speed, beat chocolate mixture; add eggs and flour mixture; beat about 6 minutes until thickened. Divide mixture evenly among prepared dishes; cover with plastic wrap. Freeze at least 2 hours or overnight. 

4. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. 

5. Remove and discard plastic from frozen cakes. Bake 15 to 18 minutes, until edges, are set and center is moist. Cool cakes slightly before inverting onto serving platters. 

Miam miam! :-) Enjoy! © 2006. Joana Steele.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Guide to Vines and How to Vine Beauty with Your Garden

Vine on Metal Arch - Photo: Wikimedia
If you find yourself bored with the usual assortment of flowers and shrubs in your latest landscape design, maybe it’s time to do a little experimenting by adding VINES to your garden.

Advantages of Having Vines In Your Garden
Vines are often overlooked as a lovely complement to your garden. Not only do they bring additional and much-needed color and enchantment to your yard but also extra shade, screen, and shelter when you wish to spend a quiet afternoon reading your favorite fruit.

Vines make maximum use of the vertical space in your garden; a feature you’d no doubt welcome when you’ve used up every inch of space of the soil.

What’s more, there are also a number of vines that can provide you with edible fruit, bringing your one garden one step closer to Eden-like perfection. 

Lastly, vines can also become quite useful when there are areas where you wish to avoid deep roots from appearing. Vines can serve as ground cover and help prevent slopes in your garden from erosion.

Adding Arbors for Your Vines
More often than not, people tend to add an arbor or two in their gardens when they plan to include vines in their list of botanical and horticultural jewels. Although an arbor surrounded by vines is a clichéd symbol, nobody can still deny its picturesque charm.

If you’re of the same mind as well, just make sure that you choose rustic looking wood – painted, stained or treated – for your arbor. Keep in mind the maintenance costs as well when you’re out for an arbor entryway for your garden.

The arbor must suit not only your personality and garden but also the color and structure of your vines as well. Since most vines are fast-growing, expect your arbor to be fully encased in vines in a year or two.

When the Vine Twines
Twiners - These are the type of vines that possess very flexible stems which twine around a support – an arbor or even a tree trunk, for instance – and examples of these would be wisteria, morning glory vine, and hyacinth bean.

Root Attachment – These are the types of vines that attach its self – rather than twine – to walls, posts, roots or any adhesive disc for support. Examples of these would be the well-known English ivy and a number of forms of Virginia creeper.

Tendril – There are some vines that have modified stems or leaves that wrap themselves on supports; examples of these would be the popular passion flower – also known as clematis - and sweet pea vines.

Leaners – These vines do not possess any built-in structure that could use another object or plant for support; for that reason, these vines would have to be either tied to or woven through arbors, posts or any other structure. The best example of this type of vine is climbing roses.

Another Classification of Vines
Perennial – Example of perennial vines would be wisteria, Carolina Jessamine, gold honeysuckle and climbing roses.
Annual – Example of annual vines would be moon vine and morning glory

Other Tips
When you’re selecting the types of vines you wish to weave through your garden as an enhancement, make sure that it’s really something you wish to do. Vines, after all,
take a long time – a few years more or less – to grow and establish and would look quite awkward in their early stages. It would be such a pity if you cut them off when you find yourself impatient with their slow growth.

Lastly, keep in mind that some vines are naturally heavier than others and would need a sturdier type of support for better growth and easier maintenance.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Lardo di Colonnata : A Tuscan Delicacy

Lardo di Colonnata - Photo: Wikimedia
Pork is a staple food of the mountain regions of northern Italy, where it's often said that a well-butchered pig should leave 'nothing but the oink' behind. As a pig is typically around 30% fat, thrifty locals had to come up with a way to use and preserve this valuable source of protein, and the result is Lardo.

Lardo di Colonnata, to give it its full name, is a delicacy produced from pork fat in and around the Tuscan mountain town of Colonnata. Happily, for fans of cured meat, it's not only a frugal way of preserving pork fat over winter - it's delicious too!

It's made in large vats known as conche, fashioned from marble quarried at the nearby 'white mountain' of Cararra, which are first liberally rubbed with garlic. Next, layers of pork fat, salt, and a special mix of herbs and spices are added until the vats are full. The conche is then sealed with a wooden lid and left in cool mountain caves for 6 months or longer to mature in the clean air.

After the maturation time is over, the conche is opened to reveal a silky-smooth, meltingly tender 'meat' which can be eaten in much the same way as Parma Ham or another prosciutto.

While Lardo is often used to keep roasted meats moist by placing a thin layer over the skin, it is also delicious simply sliced thinly and eaten with bread, olives, and a good extra virgin olive oil as part of an antipasto course. It is not at all tough or greasy, and is well worth trying even if the idea of eating pure fat leaves you a little apprehensive!

Despite the long years of making Lardo in the traditional way, most of the examples that you may find in your local deli or store will have been made in a much more industrial setting, mainly as a result of modern hygiene laws taking precedence over customs and heritage. Gone are the marble conche and the mountain air, replaced by stainless steel and air conditioning.

However, visitors to the area around Colonnata may still be lucky and get hold of Lardo made in the old way that has been proven over the centuries - just don't tell the authorities if you do!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Removing Old Trees

Old tree - Photo: Maxpixel
Sometimes a tree gets to the point where it is necessary to say goodbye to it. It can be a painful choice to make, but sometimes the tree gets too close to the house, gets too diseased, gets an incurable infestation of some pest, or grows too tall and gets close to a power line. If any of these things occur, it's best to do the right thing and get rid of the tree. Although you might have spent hours and hours getting the tree to where it is today, it is almost dishonorable to the tree to allow it to suffer in bad conditions.

Once you have made the choice to remove the tree, you need to plan its removal. I can’t begin to count how many windows I’ve seen knocked out or cars I’ve seen crushed because of poor planning in the tree removal process. Decide what direction you want it to fall, and accurately measure to make sure it will fall completely clear of anything else that it could possibly cause damage to.

Once you have the falling direction planned out, you should climb up the tree and tie two long ropes near the top. Anchor them on the opposite side of the one that you want it to fall towards. This will allow you to adjust the direction the tree is being lowered in, just in case it starts leaning towards anything it could destroy.

Now that you’ve taken all the necessary precautions, you are ready to begin chopping. If you plan on using a manually operated saw or axe, please step back and consider how insane that is. Chopping down a tree by hand will take you forever, and will not even begin to be as accurate as using a chainsaw. If you don’t have a chainsaw, you shouldn’t even consider doing it without one. Ask around with your neighbors and see if anyone has one that you could borrow. If that doesn’t work, rent or buy one from your local home improvement store.

Before you start chopping away at the tree, you should wear proper eye and face protection in case any wood chips fly towards your eyes. I had a friend who blinded his right eye while cutting down a tree, so I hope all of my readers do not make the same mistake as he did. Whenever you operate a power tool, always be sure to wear proper protection for any exposed parts of your body.

When making the cut, you do not want to just cut a straight line into the tree. It is best to cut a sideways “V” into the tree. This is because if you cut the straight line, the tree will end up rolling to one side or the other. If you cut in a “V”, the tree will be able to fall in the exact direction that you want it to fall. Occasionally it might be a few feet off due to human error during the cutting process, but if you have some strong friends pull on the ropes you tied, you can line it back up with the path you wanted it to take. The entire process shouldn’t take more than an hour.

Removal of the stump can be slightly more difficult. You have several choices; you can rent out a stump chipper that will completely destroy the visible section of the stump. Or you can spend countless hours digging it out. Digging out the stump is much more thorough, but takes forever. If you have kids this shouldn’t be a problem. Kids often find the thought of digging fun and are excited to go outside and dig all day long with their friends. This was the method I used, and I had the entire stump out within a week. Keep in mind that my stump was about 1 foot in diameter, and digging probably won’t work for stumps much larger than that.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

BROCOLI Salad Basics

English: Broccoli salad served at a Minnesota ...
Broccoli salad served at a Minnesota potluck supper. Made with raw broccoli and chopped the red onion, crumbled fried bacon, plumped raisins, mayonnaise, sugar, and vinegar.
(Photo credit: 
Broccoli salad is a very versatile dish that can be made in an endless variety of ways. Here is a breakdown of the most popular ingredients and dressings.


The first ingredient is of course fresh broccoli. 2 heads will do for an average sized salad. Chop the stem off and cut the flowerets into bite-sized pieces.

Next, add some chopped vegetables. The favorites are onion, celery, carrots, and cauliflower. Just add as much as you like until it looks like a good mix.

Some people like to add bacon. Fry up 6-8 strips until crispy, drain grease and set aside. Crumble bacon after it's cooled and add to salad just before serving.

Any type of cheese can be used. It can be cubed, crumbled, shredded, or creamed as part of a dressing.

Fruit is often added to these salads, usually raisins. Also popular are grapes, cranberries, chopped apple, mandarin orange pieces, or any dried fruit.

Adding sunflower seeds or nuts to the mix gives the salad a little extra crunch. Almonds, walnuts, cashews, and hazelnuts are good examples. Try not to chop the nuts too small. Keeping the pieces larger helps the flavor of the nut stand out a little. Toasting the nuts with a little seasoning is an option as well.

If you would rather not chop up any fruit or nuts just add some trail mix to the salad instead.


a. The standard dressing for this salad is a basic mayonnaise/vinegar/sugar mix:

1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar

* Mayonnaise can be mixed with yogurt to lighten it up.
* Flavoured vinegar can be used or substituted with lemon or lime juice.
* Artificial sweetener can be used instead of sugar.

b. An oil/vinegar dressing can also be used:

1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup sugar(optional)
1/2 tsp. salt

* Flavoured cider or wine vinegar is recommended.
* Spices such as celery seed, onion powder, basil, and oregano can be added.

c. Your favorite bottled dressing can be used as well. Any creamy or Italian style dressing will work fine on a broccoli salad. A good one to try is a 3-cheese ranch.

3-More Stuff:

Here are a few various items that could be added to make your salad something original:

* Any canned vegetable such as peas, corn or beans(black, kidney, garbanzo, waxed, etc.).
* Fresh vegetables such as mushrooms, chives, bean sprouts, green beans, cucumber and bell peppers.
* Seafood can make it interesting: shrimp, scallops, salmon, and calamari are good additions.

4-The Method:

* Add broccoli flowerettes and any other ingredients you are using for your salad bowl. If you are using crumbled bacon or bacon bits add them just before serving.
* Add your dressing, mix and refrigerate 2-4 hours or overnight.
* Stir salad again before serving.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017


Chicken Korma - Photo. Wikimedia
The Royal chefs of the great Moghul Emperors made an enormous contribution to the richness of the celebrated Northern Indian cuisine, using cooking techniques which were mainly similar to those of the western world but raising them to new heights with their exquisite blends of spices and herbs.

Kormas were created for festive occasions and are considered by many experts to be the greatest expression of the master chef's skills. A korma is mildly spiced and enriched with cream and ground almonds.

The korma technique can be applied to meats or to vegetables and calls for a thicker braising sauce than that normally used in western cooking. The use of butter and cream in the preparation results in a thick, savory sauce that clings generously to meats and vegetables.

Chicken Korma, reduced to simple terms, is nothing more than braised chicken but the judicious blending of spices that are used to create the braising sauce makes it one of India's most popular dishes. There are many great and complicated recipes but this one is simple, quick to prepare and will have your tastebuds dancing:

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cubed
1/3 jar of Sharwood's Curry Stir Fry Sauce
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp ground almonds
3 tbsp light cream
1 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

Heat the oil in a wok or deep-sided frying pan, add the chicken and stir for 5 minutes until almost cooked. Add the curry sauce, chicken stock, ground almonds, and cream. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the sauce has thickened. Serve immediately with plain boiled Basmati rice, garnished with the cilantro. Delicious with spoonfuls of Sharwood's Major Grey Chutney. Preparation time: 5 minutes; cooking time: 10 minutes. Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Battery Powered CHAINSAWS

Battery powered chainsaws are fairly rare in the United States, but if you are interested in a battery powered chainsaw you can find them.  It may take some digging to do.  There is one brand currently being offered that claims a single chain blade can cut 4,000 pieces of PVC pipe with only a small amount of oil required.

This saw has a chain tip guard to prevent kickback and extend chain life.  The electric brake stops within ½ second of releasing the trigger.  It also has hand guards.  A hex wrench allows for rapid blade changes and adjustments.

The chain guard allows fast entry to the blade and motor housing area.  The 12 V.N1-MH battery gives you a longer operating time. You can buy an optional handle if you will need a longer reach.  This 4.6-pound dynamo cuts through a variety of PVC piping diameters.

We found two other brands of battery powered chainsaws.  One made in China has a 12-volt battery and a shock absorption system. The other brand has an 18-volt battery and a 10-inch chain.  There is little information currently available on these saws and most of what is available is anecdotal.

On one message board, we found a discussion thread on cordless battery operated chainsaws.  One participant said he made 12 cuts and took down a five-inch sugar maple.

Another said he got one and it wouldn’t cut a two-inch twig – he had the chain on backward. Overall it looks like the ideal chainsaw for the occasional user who wants to do some light pruning or to take down small trees.