Saturday, January 31, 2009

Country Bumpkin Heads to the Big City!

No posts today folks....this girl's ditching this little one horse town and heading off to the big city for a day of shopping! Watch out Kamloops, here I come!

I'll check out the mall and Michael's crafts, perhaps a nice lunch.....I'll let you know if I find anything exciting.

See you tomorrow...:)

Friday, January 30, 2009

Creamy Lemon Bars

I have a weakness for lemons and this Christmas I tried to make some lemon bars that were gluten free.

I failed miserably!! They had an awful after-taste, probably because I made the shortbread crust with a bean based flour.....not good. I threw them all out. What a waste of lemons!

Not one to give up, I came across a recipe in one of Martha's Everyday Food magazines and decided to give it a go gluten free style.

Well to say the least, they were a complete success. Everyone loved them and they were completely gone by the next day! Yummy lemony goodness!

Creamy Lemon Bars

1/2 Cup margarine, softened
1/2 Cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
Zest of one lemon
1 Cup Gluten free flour
(I used 1/4 Cup tapioca flour and 3/4 cup brown rice flour)
**Note - sub in regular flour if you don't need gluten free.

Combine above ingredients and mix until a soft dough forms. Press into a square 8 x 8inch cake pan that has been lined with parchment paper and greased with cooking spray. Prick all over with a fork and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

2 large eggs, beaten well with a fork
1 can sweetened condensed milk (300 ml)
3/4 Cup lemon juice
(approx. the juice of 2 lemons - top up with bottled if you don't have enough)
Zest of one lemon

Combine next 4 ingredients and mix well. Pour mixture over the hot shortbread crust and return to the oven for another 30 minutes or so....until the custard begins to crack.

Remove lemon bars from oven and allow to cool in the pan. Leave in the pan and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. Remove from pan and carefully cut into 9 - 16 squares (we cut into 9). Sprinkle with icing sugar and serve.

Enjoy! I ate 3 of them :)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Artistic Talent Abounds - Part 3

Auntie Berta's PaintingTo continue (and I think finish) my family bragging session, I'm showcasing the artistic talents of two Aunts and my Grandfather.

The painting above was done by my Auntie Berta who is my fathers twin. She's retired now and has decided to take up painting again and is quite enjoying it.

Auntie Sally's Rabbit CupboardThis piece was painted by my Auntie Sally who is my mothers sister. She was having such fun one year making all sorts of Christmas presents and I was lucky enough to receive this lovely cupboard.

Grandpa's Horse CarvingAnd finally, this extra-ordinary piece was carved by my Grandfather, my mothers Dad. I'm amazed that anyone can take a chunk of wood, cut pieces off and end up with this! Unfortunately the horse isn't mine....:('s my Moms and she was kind enough to take the picture for me.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Baked Bruschetta Chicken

This is a super easy yet delicious meal to prepare.

It uses a few simple ingredients and most of the cooking time is in the oven leaving you free to relax while dinner readies itself. It's also very economical.

Baked Bruschetta Chicken

1 - 28 fl oz. can diced tomatoes, drained of juice
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 cup diced onion
(I used 2 diced shallots)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar
(this is optional and you can sub in wine or sherry)
8 Chicken thighs (skins removed and fat trimmed)
1 Cup grated cheese of choice

Brown the chicken pieces on both sides in a frying pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place browned chicken pieces in a casserole dish in a single layer.

Mix all other ingredients together (except cheese) and toss well. Spread the bruscetta mixture over the chicken and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for about 1 hour or until chicken tests done. Sprinkle the cheese on the bruscetta and return to the oven for 10 minutes to melt the cheese.

This recipe serves 4 people.

Note* - you can substitute the 8 chicken thighs with 4 - 6 chicken breasts.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Newsletters Are Great!

Ruby Beads my Mom won.The other day my Mom checked her email and in it was a newsletter she had signed up for.

This particular newsletter was from Carrie Hamilton of The Bead Tree and Carrie was inviting her readers to visit her blog and sign up for a contest she was holding.

Guess What? Mom won the beads in the picture above. How cool is that?

Alexandria BeadsI've decided that I like the idea of having a newsletter and have added a sign up form to the side column.

The Jovia Life Newsletter will be sent out approximately once a month to let readers know about Jovia Soap giveaways exclusive to my mailing list subscribers. The newsletter may also contain special coupons for sales discounts or free soaps with purchase.

Have any ideas about what you would like to see in a newsletter? Write a comment and let me know what your thoughts are.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Artistic Talent Abounds - Part 2

MoonlightMy subject for today's bragging session is my 15 year old daughter, Brianna.

Since an early age, Brianna has had a pencil, crayon, felt or some sort of writing implement in her hands. Even when she is watching TV, my daughter is usually drawing at the same time.

I've picked a couple of paintings from her sketch book that I have found to be particularly interesting.

The top picture was a gift to her father for Christmas 2007. If you look carefully at the bottom of the picture (sorry for the glare from the camera flash), you can see a trail of though a lone individual has travelled through this pristine valley just before our arrival.

DragonflyI've picked this picture because it's so fun and bright. The way she uses colour just amazes me....of course being her Mom, everything she does amazes me!

Strange PlacesNow this painting! This one makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland and I've just dropped down a really weird rabbit hole!

As each year goes by I see so much change in my daughter and in the things she does. She's slowly stretching her wings and soon she will be flying from my little nest. I sure hope she keeps up with her art even if it's just for her own enjoyment.

Well...for me too....I plan to fill my walls with her artwork!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Avocado Dip with Gluten-Free Crackers

I absolutely adore avocados!

There's something about them that makes my taste buds sing and I can't seem to get enough. I would probably eat them everyday if they didn't cost so much!

This little recipe is great as a dip for crackers, veggies or chips and would also work wonderfully as a dressing.....just add a little milk to make it pourable.

Avocado Dip

1 large avocado, mashed
3/4 Cup Sour Cream or Plain Yogurt
(light varieties work well but fat-free tends to make the dip runny...use those to make this a dressing instead)
1/4 Cup Mayo or Miracle Whip Dressing (light varieties work well)
1 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp each of Celery Salt, Onion Powder and Dried Dill
1 tsp Dried Parsley

Combine all ingredients until well blended and refridgerate for 1 hour to blend the flavours.

I made up some crakers from a recipe I found on Bob's Red Mill. Many gluten-free baking recipes I have come across just don't taste quite right but this is one worth making.....even my daughter likes it....the fusspot!

*Note - For the 'normal' people, this recipe can be made with regular wheat flours as well.

Gluten-free Crackers

1/4 Cup Brown Rice Flour or the Hearty Whole Grain Bread Mix by Bob's Red Mill (any GF flour would do)
1/2 Cup All Purpose GF flour
1/2 tsp Xanthan Gum
(only if making the GF version)
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp each dried Dill, Thyme, Celery Salt, Garlic Powder, Onion Powder
2 Tbsp Parmesan Cheese
2 Tbsp Margarine or Butter, softened
3 Tbsp Sesame Seeds or Ground Almonds
2 Tbsp Milk
1 tsp Vinegar
(cider or wine)
1 Tbsp Honey

Combine together all flours, powders, cheese and nuts. Blend in the honey and margarine until mix resembles course crumbs. Add the milk and vinegar and form into a ball.

I used a teaspoon measure to scoop out small balls of dough onto lined cookie sheets. I then used a flat bottomed glass dusted with flour to squish the balls flat. About 1/8" thick works great. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or lightly golden. Flip all crackers and bake an additional 5 minutes or until deeply golden. Keep a watch on them as they can burn quickly.

Cool slightly on pans then remove to racks to finish. Store in a sealed container. These are great since they can be frozen and still taste wonderful.



Once in a while I will be holding a 'Timed Sale' in my Etsy Shop, Jovia Soap.

Today from 12 noon PST until 8 pm PST all purchases of Jovia Soap will receive 25% off. The rebate will be refunded back to your Paypal account along with any shipping refunds (overcharges or Jovia's Best Buy).

Yes...offers can be combined! Purchasing during the sale gets you the 25% off AND if you buy 6 or more, you also get the $5 shipping rebate.

Happy Shopping!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Artistic Talent Abounds - Part 1

Pottery by Jane Perala
Pottery by Jane Perala

It dawned on me the other day that my family is riddled with artistically talented people. Funny that I never thought about it before but it has always been that way.

I've always loved to create it sewing, crafting, cooking, gardening or soaping and I now I can see why.

Over the next few days I will showcase a few of my families artistic talents. I'm sure I will be missing some very talented members but alas I do not have pictures of everyones wonderful creations. (This is a hint to anyone in my family who has something to show would be the time!)

I'm going to start off with the most talented person I know.....My Mother, Jane Perala. As you can see by the photos on this page, she is very artistic and it shows in all forms of media she pursues.

Pottery by Jane Perala
Pottery by Jane Perala

As a child growing up, I remember my mother sewing things for me quite often. In particular I remember a nightie, a dressing gown, a suit (didn't like it!) and a lovely doll that only recently gave in to the ravages of playful children.

Later my Mom took up the hobby of Pottery. In no time at all her talent exceeded that of her teacher and she was asked by the Community College (where the classes were held) to take over and teach the class.

Over the years, my Mother took her hobby and turned it into a thriving business. Our back yard sported a large propane tank and massive fire brick kiln. My Mom doesn't do things in a 'Small' way!

Mohair Teddy Bear by Jane Perala
Mohair Teddy Bear by Jane Perala

Eventually she lost the desire to pot and developed an interest in collectible mohair teddy bears. Far be it for my Mother to just make up a couple with pre-made had to develop and design her own versions.

She soon was selling the bears and the patterns in magazines, online and at specialty craft fairs. Her bears have also been featured in a couple of beautiful coffee table books (of which I have my own copies!)

Lampwork bead by Jane Perala
Lampwork Bead by Jane Perala

During her teddy bears years she persuaded me to join her in making handmade soaps. She took a one year hiatus from the bears and we went crazy...did I mention that she doesn't do 'small'.

We made so much soap that we ended up starting a soap making business which I took over when she went back to her bears.

Lampwork bead by Jane Perala
Lampwork Bead by Jane Perala

Jump forward many years and many bears later.

Lampwork is the new black and my Mother has invested herself fully into this new passion. As you can see, her talent is evident in pretty much anything she applies herself too. This art form should keep her busy until it's time for her to retire and take up a different challenge.

Wonder what that will be? Painting? Nah.......probably metalwork!! She'd get to play with bigger flames.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Another Good Morning.

Leave me alone!!My daughter was a tad bit vexed with me this morning!

I had the audacity to say no when she asked for a ride to school this morning so that she could wear high heeled shoes. I told her to wear runners and change into the heels once she got to school. My reward for this ingenious thought was an "I hate you" as she flounced off. It's a good thing I don't take comments like that personally or my self esteem would be next to nil with the amount of times I've heard that one!

I think I fight back pretty well though. My response is always..."I know honey but I love you anyway." This of course ticks her off even more.

But why stop there? A mom needs to irritate her children once in awhile just to keep the balance even. So I started following her around with the camera trying to get shots of her temper tantrum just like we used to do when she was little. (sure wish I had a scanner to show you those pics...they're priceless)

Talk about stepping it up a notch! I am now the meanest mom and everyone else gets rides to school. Though...even with all her huffing, puffing and grumbling she was wearing a semi-smile. As you can see, she was really good at hiding her face. I didn't get a single picture of her face. Her ducking and twirling to avoid the camera was very well executed...I didn't have a hope. She even walked down the stairs backwards. By this time it's a bit of a game and we're both giggling.

You have got to give the girl credit for perseverance as well. Her next ploy was...."I'll let you take my picture if you give me a ride." And she's not dumb either. She didn't fall for my..."Turn around and I'll think about it!".

Nope. My daughter laughingly responded with..."No way! You're sooo bad! You're lying. How does that feel, knowing that you're lying to your daughter?" I grinned at her and said that I was okay with it!

Well, she got her shoes on (the flat ones), grabbed her backpack and in a little whirlwind, flew out the door....but not before leaving me with an "I love you Mom".

Another good day started. :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Swiss Cheese Salmon Dip

Swiss Cheese Salmon DipI have got to say that this dip is to die for! So yummy and quite rich.

You may have noticed that most of my blogs seem to be about food. I've gotten in a little bit of trouble because of this!

I'm afraid my Mother has voiced her displeasure. She has informed me that she finds my blog rather difficult to read since she has decided to try to trim up a little and my recipes aren't helping her at all! I have been requested to please either blog about some other topics or about recipes that are a little more calorie reduced. (She's only teasing me by the way....she actually loves my blog).

Unfortunately this next recipe doesn't fall into that category at all! Calorie increased maybe....but definitely not reduced.

I found this one on the ever popular Kraft Canada Website and it's original name is Hot Crab Dip. It no longer is a crab dip since I had salmon and not crab!

Swiss Cheese Salmon Dip

1 250 gram pkg. Philadelphia Cream Cheese, softened (try the light one Mom)
1-1/2 Cups of Swiss Cheese, grated (does Swiss Cheese come in a light version?)
1/3 Cup Miracle Whip Salad Dressing or Mayonnaise (once again feel free to use the light versions)
1/2 Cup Baked Salmon (1 tin of canned salmon would work as well...or any other seafood for that matter)
1 Green Onion, chopped
1 tsp. crushed Garlic

Slowly blend the Miracle Whip or Dressing into the cream cheese one tablespoon at a time making sure to mix well with each addition. If you don't do this you'll have lumps of cream cheese in the dip...not a bad thing if that's what you would like :)

Add the remaining ingredients and blend until fully incorporated. Place mixture into an oven proof dish and bake at 350 degrees until heated through (about 15 - 20 minutes) and the Swiss cheese is melted. I placed mine into 4 Pyrex ramekins thinking to save a couple for the next day. With two teenagers in the house, I should have known better!

I served this with cheese bread chunks for the rest of the family and gluten-free crackers for myself. It also happens that this dip is very tasty spread on top of steak or chicken.

Enjoy those calories!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Great Finds - Retro Kitty

Retro KittyJust a quick moment to share a little bit of wonderful!

Karingrow's Shop on Etsy has these fantastic prints. I just love the Retro Kitty especially....makes me think of the Disney Movie 'The Aristocats'.

Here's a little quote from Karin's profile...."A perfect day in "Karin-ville" would start off with me working in my garden, creating a new art piece, then finishing the day lounging under the palm trees in my hammock with a fruity cocktail."

Sounds like something I could easily get used too!

Yellow Chickadees

White Chocolate Orange Macaroons

White Chocolate Orange MacaroonsWell....the truffles are all gone now :( so I had to make something else to satisfy my sweet cravings. Thank goodness I didn't make any New Years resolutions!!

This is an ultra easy recipe that I found in the "Style at Home" magazine May 2005. I did of course mess with it a little. I substituted the flour with Bob's Redmill Gluten Free All Purpose, added white chocolate chips and instead of vanilla extract, used orange extract.

White Chocolate Orange Macaroons

2 1/2 Cups shredded coconut
1/3 Cup gluten-free flour (or regular for you normal folks)
2/3 Cups sweetened condensed milk
1 tsp orange extract (or sub in 1 Tbsp orange zest)
2/3 Cup white chocolate chips

Combine all ingredients, mixing well until the coconut forms a sticky mess. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a parchment or silicon lined cookie sheet (or coat with cooking spray). Squish them together a little to form more solid mounds.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15 - 20 minutes or until golden. You may want to watch them since they can burn easily. Lightly golden and they will be nice and moist. Let cool for about 10 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

Try drizzling dark chocolate over the cookies for a more upscale look.

Makes about 24 delicious macaroons.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Avocado Cucumber Salad with Baked Salmon

Avocado Cucumber Salad with Baked Salmon
The other day I found some wild salmon on sale at the grocery store and instantly had a craving for a salmon salad of some kind.

I decided on a mix of avocado, cucumber and baked salmon because it seems like a meal made for springtime. I've grown weary of these long winter days and really would like to feel like spring is right around the's not of course, but I can fool myself into believing it!

This salad is great served with fresh bread and a hot bowl of soup.

Avocado Cucumber Salad with Baked Salmon

1 piece salmon fillet (about 4" x 6" or however much you want)

Season the salmon fillet with your favorite seasoning (I used a lemon herb seasoning) and bake at 350 degrees until it is flaky and cooked through. Time will depend on the size of fillet used...mine took about 20 minutes.


1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (fat free versions if you like)
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder

Combine all of the dressing ingredients and put into the fridge to allow the flavours to blend while the salmon cooks.

1 long English cucumber, sliced
2 avocados, sliced

Once the salmon has cooked, use a fork to flake it apart into bite size pieces. Layer the cucumber, avocado and salmon on individual plates (cherry tomatoes would go nicely as well) and then drizzle with the dressing.

This dish serves 4 as a side dish and two as a main dish. Enjoy.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Coolest Valentine's Day Card Ever!

This wonderfully fun card is my latest Etsy purchase.

My husband will be the lucky recipient of this little treasure on Valentines Day and I hope he likes it as much as I do.

Not only does this card look great but it has the added bonus of an activity! Inside is a secret message (you can even pick your own) that must be decoded using the decoder ring. Now how fun is that?

I highly recommend a visit to Crankbunny's Etsy Shop where you'll find a fantastic selection of magical pop-up greeting cards.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Etsy Treasury Showcase - Sambuca Rose

How cool is this? Another feature in a treasury!

Etsy Treasury featuring Sambuca RoseFaye is the creator of this lovely treasury and the owner of thesilverpumpkin etsy shop. Faye makes these wonderful sock totes which are designed for carrying your knitting but I think they would be great for filling with all sorts of goodies!

Valentine ToteYou could use it as a makeup bag, really cool lunch bag, small purse, or just fill it with your treasures.

Safari Handmade Jovia Soap

'Safari' is a special order soap that I've just finished making for my Auntie Berta. After having ordered a boat load of scented bars from me, she discovered that her allergies weren't going to co-operate.

Since Auntie Berta had ordered so many different looking soaps, my dilemma was to create a batch that had some variety and were unscented. These colorful bars are the results of my endeavors and I designed them with an African theme in mind since that is the look of her powder room.....hopefully they'll match!

I think I might just explore the idea of making some decorative soaps that are unscented for my Etsy shop since so many people have scent allergies these days. I did a search on Etsy and discovered that most unscented bars weren't very colorful. The majority were very plain...either completely uncolored or with added herbs and spices.

What do you think? I know most people would still prefer deliciously lovely scents but are you one of those who just can't tolerate scented products? What would you prefer....colorful designer soaps or the crisp clean look of plain soaps?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Etsy Treasury Showcase - Knockout

Etsy Treasury with my 'Knockout' Handmade soapMy Jovia Soap Knockout has been featured in an Etsy Treasury!!!

Kristin, the owner of Etsy shop SewnSunday was kind enough to include me in her selection of wonderful items. Kristin's shop specializes in sewn items using bright and fun cotton prints and recycled felted wool sweaters.
Turquoise Garden Clutch
Turquoise Garden Clutch
Turquoise Garden Clutch

Thanks for including me Kristin!!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Great Finds - Display Pieces for Shows

Cake Stand
Yesterday I was at the local Bargain Shop (that's actually the stores name for those who don't have one) and found these wonderful dishes. As soon as I saw them I knew exactly what I wanted my display theme for craft fairs and markets to look like. I can picture my soaps piled high on each piece looking like exotic treats being served up for tea.

Oval Platter Tray
Obviously I bought the dishes....can you blame me? They were pretty cheap too! For the three pieces I paid a total of $35 and I'm contemplating going back for another cake stand and platter.

3 Tier Stand
Now all I have to do is find some white, mini wooden pantry shelves to put on the tables as well. And of course apply for some craft shows!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Chocoholic Cravings

The Christmas stash of chocolate goodies is long gone and I've been battling the urge to get some more for about a week now. I finally decided today to try out a Chocolate Truffle recipe that I found on the Food Network.

Here's the thing about me and recipes....I like to use them but I always corrupt them. I seem to have this desire to deviate from the tried and true to see what I come up with. Sometimes this works really well and sometimes it doesn't. Today's results are still undecided. While the end product is wonderful, the trial of getting there was a little more adventuresome than I had planned.

My first deviation was substituting Kahlua liquor for the brandy. Now this was a good thing since I think the brandy would have been way too strong.

My second deviation occurred when the recipe called to chill the chocolate mixture and then use a melon baller to scoop out balls to roll in your hands. This sounded far too messy and I figured I had a brilliant idea. I would pour the mixture into these cute little ice cube trays and freeze them. Once they had frozen hard, I could then just pop them out. Sounds reasonable, right? Wrong!

Hours later I am at a loss as to how on earth I'm going to get the chocolates out of the tray. It seems I didn't take into account the Kahlua....alcohol doesn't freeze very well! Something I inconveniently forgot.

So here I am melting the mix in the microwave and scooping it out with a baby spoon into a measuring cup. I'm pretty much covered in chocolate by now and not quite sure what to do.

Along comes the next idea...thankfully this one works. I lined a small rectangular pan with foil and poured the mixture into that. Then I placed it into the fridge until it was firm. Once it was hard enough to cut, I cubed it up into bite size squares and froze them.

I didn't want to cover the truffles in both chocolate and cocoa powder/nuts,etc. as the recipe called for....I wanted them covered in just plain chocolate with a sprinkle of raw sugar. So that's what I did.

Once again, I deviated. The maker of the recipe talks about making sure the chocolate will 'snap' when you bite into it but to be honest, I hate that. When I bite into a chocolate, I don't want to be worried about all the outside pieces flying off and onto the floor. I just melted it with 2 tablespoons of butter until it was glossy and started dipping.

By the time I was done, I was again covered in chocolate. I won't lie....since these were just for us, I licked my fingers....a lot! My kids don't care and if they had been there, there would have been quite a bit of chocolate sneaking going on.

As a result of all that finger licking, I now feel quite ill. I couldn't even eat one of the finished truffles but I am assured that they are Divine. My teenagers are currently eating them all up!!

**Note - If you're feeling up to making Chocolate Truffles, just follow the link at the beginning of this entry.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Review by Casual Lavish

Casual Lavish

Recently I sent some soaps to Casual Lavish and Vanessa, the owner, was kind enough to do a review for me. After trying my soaps she asked if I would be willing to do a giveaway. Of course I said yes and so starting today (Sunday) and ending Monday night, you have another opportunity to win 3 bars of my soap. Just click on the link above and fill in her entry form.

Good luck!

***UPDATE*** And the winner is - Inge Maygind Jensen of Denmark!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Cookies for the Pooch

Brock waiting for a cookieBrock really, really likes his cookies. As you can see, he is licking his lips in anticipation while waiting at the freezer door.

Yesterday I ran out of Brock's cookies and decided to try a couple of new flavours. Cranberry Carrot and Pumpkin Peanut butter sounded interesting and I just happened to have the ingredients necessary.

I make Brock's cookies quite large since he is a big dog and will swallow little ones without chewing at all. I also store the cookies in the freezer so that they are hard, crunchy and last a long time.

Cranberry Carrot Dog Cookies

Cranberry Carrot Dog Biscuits 5 Cups Flour (whole wheat, rye, buckwheat...try a variety)
1 Cup Rolled Oats
2 Eggs
1 Carrot, grated
1-10 oz can Cranberry Sauce
1/2 Cup Vegetable Oil

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and blend until completely mixed. Knead dough, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. You can either roll out the dough and cut out shapes or make balls and flatten them. Bake the cookies on a lined or lightly greased cookie sheet at 250 degrees for about 1 hour or until hard and lightly browned. The length of time will depend on how large you make your biscuits.

Pumpkin Peanut butter Dog Cookies

Pumpkin Peanutbutter Dog Biscuits4 Cups Flour
1 Cup Rolled Oats
2 Eggs
1-10 oz can Pumpkin
1/4 Cup Vegetable Oil
1/4 Cup Peanut Butter

Make in the same manner as the Cranberry Carrot Cookies.

Next time I think I might try something like Salmon and Seaweed or Bacon Cheeseburger Cookies. I know that no matter what sort I make, Brock will be quite happy to eat them!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Luxury Body Care - Whipped Shea Butter

Many of you may have noticed that with the cold weather comes that dreaded phenomenon.....scaly skin.

What is it about winter that turns our lovely summer flushed skin into something that should be in a horror movie? I have often thought that aside from the drying weather, it's the abundance of clothes we wear.

Longer socks, long pants, long sleeve shirts and sweaters and perhaps long underwear are rubbing against our skin all day long and many are made of absorbent materials like cotton. The idea, of course, is to wick away moisture from the skin to keep our bodies warm and dry. Unfortunately, our clothes don't know how to regulate the amount of moisture to remove and the result is flaky, alligator skin.

Whipped Shea Butter is one product that can help relieve dry, flaky skin and it is incredibly easy to make. The following recipe requires very few ingredients and only makes a small amount...about 1.5 cups....a little goes a long way with Shea butter and because it doesn't contain chemical preservatives, it's nice to have it as fresh as possible.

Whipped Shea Butter

1/2 Cup Shea Butter
1/3 Cup Carrier Oil*
(sweet almond, apricot kernel, avocado, hemp seed, hazelnut, camellia, evening primrose, borage, or olive oil infused with calendula or chamomile are all good choices)
1/8 tsp Rosemary Extract or Vitamin E oil (optional but will help to prolong the life of the oils)
1 tsp Corn Starch (optional...makes the butter feel less greasy)
1/8 - 1/4 tsp essential or fragrance oil (optional)

Place the Shea butter in a mixing bowl and begin to beat with a stand mixer or electric hand mixer until the butter is creamy. Have may take awhile for the friction of the beaters to soften the butter. If the butter is too hard, soften slightly in the microwave for about 15 seconds but do not melt. Gradually add the carrier oil a small amount at a time and blend completely between additions. This is important or you will get lumpy butter.

If you are adding Rosemary Extract or Vitamin E oil add it now. Once that has been blended in add the cornstarch and then the fragrance or essential oil. Blend the mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated and spoon into a wide mouth jar.

Whipped Shea butter resembles thick whipped cream. It will be light and fluffy and should absorb quite quickly. I find the best way to use it is to apply a small amount after a hot shower. Your skin is hydrated and the oils help to lock in the moisture.

Now go and enjoy a little do-it-yourself luxury that is inexpensive and fun.

*Visit Soap Making Essentials for information about the carrier oils and what they will do for your skin.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jumbo Shrimp in Merlot Cheese Sauce

Jumbo Shrimp in Merlot Cheese SauceTrying to figure out what to have for dinner can be frustrating. Sometimes I feel like we have the same things all the time, over and over.

Roast chicken, pork butt roast, spaghetti, meatloaf, eggs, beans, yawn.....Don't get me wrong, I love all of those meals but I get a little bored with them at times.

So this morning when I went into the freezer to pull something out, I was quite excited to see a package of jumbo shrimp left over from Christmas. Yippee!

The following recipe took about 30 minutes to prepare. Basically as long as it took the rice to cook.

Jumbo Shrimp in Merlot Cheese Sauce

1 Cup rice
2 Cups water

Start rice cooking while you prepare the rest of the meal.

1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 Cup sliced mushrooms
1 tsp crushed garlic

Saute mushrooms and garlic in butter until mushrooms are soft. Reduce the heat to medium.

125 grams (1/2 package) cream cheese, diced
1/4 Cup Merlot (red wine)

Add the cheese and wine and continue to heat until the cream cheese has almost melted.

1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese
1/2 Cup grated white cheddar (or other white cheese)
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 Cup milk

Add the above 5 ingredients and heat until cheese has melted. Do not boil or the milk will separate. Reduce heat to simmer.

1 Tablespoon butter or margarine
1 pound/454 grams cooked jumbo shrimp (tails removed and drained of water)
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 green onion, chopped

In another fry pan, melt the butter and saute the shrimp and garlic together until warm. Add to cheese sauce and stir. Sprinkle with green onion, serve on a bed of rice and with a side of veggies or a salad.

This dish makes 4 average servings.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Homemade Vanilla Bean Extract

Homemade Vanilla ExtractVanilla extract is one ingredient that we tend to use over and over in our kitchen. Flavoring whipped cream, cookies and fudge, even adding a smidge to some hot chocolate for that little something extra.

Last year I was given a gift of handmade vanilla extract and I am going to share that recipe with you. It's a snap to make and requires only a couple of ingredients. Vodka, vanilla beans, pretty bottles and patience are all you need and if you start now, you'll have some wonderful handmade gifts to give this next Christmas.

Vanilla Bean Extract

375 ml bottle of Vodka (or Rum for something different)
2 Vanilla Beans (preferably from the Health food shop for a better quality bean)

Pour 375 ml of Vodka into a decorative bottle that seals tightly. Slice the vanilla beans open lengthwise (no need to cut them in half) to expose the seeds and pulp. Slip the beans into the bottle and seal tightly. I also added about 2 tablespoons of brown sugar but it's not necessary.

All you have to do now is place the bottle in a cool dark place for 4 - 6 months and give it a shake every month or so. Once the vanilla bean extract is ready, just use it straight from the bottle leaving the beans inside.

As the extract is used up, you can top up the bottle with Vodka and give it a shake. This way your extract won't run out! The extract should last for many years since it is alcohol based but I recommend adding another vanilla bean every year or so to keep the flavour strong. The bottle I was given said it would last for 7 years.

For gift giving, add a nice label or hang tag with instructions and tie up with a ribbon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Let it snow, Let it snow......

Brianna, Nick & Brock playing in the snow
I'm beginning to wonder if the snow will ever stop! Even though the kids had to shovel the driveway, they seem to be having fun. The dog thinks he's gone to heaven!

Cinnamon Chocolate Brownies

Cinnamon Chocolate Brownies
Finding out that I wasn't able to eat anything with gluten in it was a bit of a shock. Do you know how many products contain gluten?

Wheat flour is the first ingredient that comes to mind and it's obviously a big one....bread, cakes, wraps, cookies, crackers, pastry...the list is huge. Consider pre-made products like gravies, sauces, pasta, cereal, candies, sandwich meats, soy sauce, fake crab and caramel flavourings. All of these are just a few of the items that often contain gluten and had to be eliminated from my diet.

Since I had to give up all of those carbs, I was bound to lose some weight, right? Not a chance. Once you're not able to have something (I'd almost kill for a plain old cheese sandwich) you discover how much you really want it. And when you want something bad enough, you're bound to find a replacement. The key, is to find one that rivals what you can no longer have.

Take brownies for instance. Oooey, gooey, soft and chewy. I don't know anyone who doesn't like a good brownie. Luckily, there are recipes out there that are gluten-free and delicious at the same time.

The following recipe has been adapted from one I found on Karina's Kitchen called Dark Chocolate Brownies. This recipe can be made with regular flour as well.

Cinnamon Chocolate Brownies

1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup margarine

Heat chips and margarine in microwave until just melted.

2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup sugar
(brown or white)

Whisk eggs, vanilla and sugar together until smooth. Add the slightly cooled chocolate mixture and stir until combined.

1/2 cup finely ground almonds or almond meal
1/4 cup gluten-free flour(I used Bob's Redmill All-Purpose)
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp xanthan gum (if using GF flour)
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder

Combine all dry ingredients and stir into chocolate egg mixture. Mix until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour into greased 8 or 9 inch square pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until it starts to brown. Do not overcook or it will be crisp and not chewy gooey. Don't be alarmed when the center falls after taking it out of the oven....even regular brownies do that.

Allow to cool and then cut into squares. For best flavour, chill the brownies. If you want to spruce them up a little more try adding 1 Tablespoon of instant coffee to the melted chocolate mixture for Mocha Brownies or add nuts and chocolate chips.


PS...I ate a brownie while writing this blog...yummy!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Three Pretty New Soaps

Here are three more new soaps I created during the holidays. It will be awhile before I post anymore new varieties...I took a bit of a break but I'll be back in the studio tomorrow creating and designing.

Amber Current Handmade Soap

Amber Current Handmade SoapRipe red currents combine with musk and amber to create a soap that smells bright and crisp with soft warm sensual notes just below the surface. An enticing blend of tart and sexy all in one little package.

This soft pink bar is decorated with dusty pink curls of soap.

Buttercream Handmade Soap

Buttercream Handmade SoapSweet, creamy, buttercream icing! I don't know about you but I could eat that stuff all by itself.....spoonful by delicious spoonful!

I also haven't got any self respect for my body when it comes to sweets.

It's a good thing this soap isn't edible....I can have my sweets and still retain my (cough) middle aged figure!

This bar is tan in color and I've placed curls of chocolate soap throughout so you get a whiff of chocolate along with the notes of vanilla and buttery, sweet goodness.

Ginger Tropics Handmade Soap

Ginger Tropics Handmade SoapGinger essential oil combined with notes of peach, citrus, papaya, vanilla and chocolate fragrances make this bar not too sweet but definitely mouth wateringly good.

I can imagine a bowl of fresh fruits smothered in a citrus ginger glaze, topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. Good grief...I love food!

This bar is very similar in design to Buttercream....chocolate curls and all.

That's it for now but stay tuned because there's always more soap to explore!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fast Friends Of An Unusual Kind

A little something extra tonight that I came across and thought you might enjoy. Heartwarming to say the least!

Watch CBS Videos Online

Good night and sleep tight!

Cumberland Pie Recipe

Serving of Cumberland Pie
Tonight I felt like some comfort food for a change after all the goodies I've been eating over the holidays. Something simple and not too rich.

Cumberland Pie is the recipe that came to mind and it's been quite some time since I last made it. This tasty recipe is inexpensive and usually makes enough that I don't have to cook the following night. I really, really like that part!

This dish is great served with a side salad and/or buns. Sorry the picture isn't very exciting...I need practice at photographing food.

Cumberland Pie

2 slices Bacon (or equivalent in bacon bits)
1 kg (2.2 lbs) Ground Beef
4 Cups finely diced veggies (such as carrots, cauliflower, celery, broccoli, mushrooms)
1/3 Cup of Flour (I use Bob's Redmill Gluten-Free All-purpose)
1 tsp. Garlic, minced
1 tsp. Tarragon, dried
1 pkg. Onion Soup Mix, Lipton
(or Gluten-Free version)
2 Cups Water (try substituting 1/2 of red wine or sherry for some water for extra flavour)
1 - 2 Cups Sharp Cheddar Cheese (optional)
Mashed Potatoes (optional - I cheated and used instant)

Scramble fry the bacon and ground beef. Drain off excess fat. Put the meat into a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Mix together the veggies, flour, tarragon, garlic and onion soup mix. Add to casserole and mix well. Top with water and bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour or until the veggies are tender and the sauce is thick.

I usually serve this as a Shepherds Pie - topped with cheese and then mashed potatoes. I then brown it in the oven to heat the potatoes through.

It can also be served as a pastry pie - Divide the mix between 2 or 3 deep dish pastry shells. Top with cheese and pastry. Bake until pastry is golden.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Valentine Handmade Soap Gift Set Giveaway!

Valentine Handmade Gift Set
I don't know about you but I really like winning free gifts!

With that thought in mind I decided it would be fun to hold a monthly draw for free Jovia Soap. All you have to do to enter is visit my website Jovia Soap, pick your three favorite bars and list them in the entry form below (this is a 'must do' in order for your entry to qualify).

The winner will receive three soaps of their choice (their favorites if they are still available) wrapped up in red paper and tied with a white ribbon. This cute little set is valued at $14 US and will make a great gift for that someone special.

This contest is open to everyone and will run until January 31/09.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Handmade Soaps at Jovia Soap

During the Christmas holidays I was hard at work creating a few new soaps to add to my Etsy Shop and here they are.

Knockout Handmade Soap

Smells like fresh running water with notes of floral and musk. Cool, crisp and

Colored a deep dark blue with stripes of charcoal....looking at this bar brought the words 'black and blue' to mind, hense the name..Knockout.

Though Knockout is designed to be a men's soap, it's light cool scent will appeal to women as well.

Chocolate Checkerboard Handmade Soap

Yummy, yummy in my tummy!! Almost but not quite....smells and looks good enough to eat but I wouldn't advise it!

Chocolate Checkerboard soap is deliciously scented with a combination of rich dark chocolate and cream fragrance oils and contains cocoa butter, cocoa powder and semi-sweet chocolate.

For a little added interest I've decorated this bar with a slate grey checkerboard pattern.

Orient Express Handmade Soap

Rich, exotic and sexy.

Orient Express is a seductive blend of musk, wood, floral and fruit scents and is suitable for either men or women.

Visit Jovia Soap to see what other new soaps I've created.

Hope you're having a Happy New Year!