Helpful Software =)

If you are like me and you tend to be a paper brain, this FREE software program may just be what you need! Check it out! It’s available for Mac, PC, phones and online…  I’ve been using it now for a few days and it is FANTASTIC!  I can enter info using my iPhone, my computer, while I am searching the internet, by speaking, by take a picture, so many options!  Here is an example of what I did.

I was at the Farmers Market yesterday presenting a different community I built for local business owners and one lady asked me if I still sold soap.  The conversation ended with me agreeing to bring her some soap next week to the market.  So, I took a photo of her with my camera and entered it in Evernote with tags using her name and the word soap.   I then spoke an evernote reminder into my phone and it sent me an email reminding me to call her. Now I have an email, a picture in evernote and Ishould have a popup on my calender when the day comes as well…

This is also great for browsing the internet.  Yesterday I used evernote to take a photo of this web page and then I downloaded another free software called Skitch, which allowed me to take a photo of my desktop and then circle the items inside the photo.  I did this earlier today for something I wanted to share with my husband.  I took a photo of my notes and circled the highlights.

Visit the Evernote website for more ideas of how to use Evernote.

Short Cuts For Housecleaning

Here are a few tips I have tried to make the load a little lighter at home…

1. Pull up the covers before getting out of the bed, it’s much easier and makes making the bed a little bit faster

2. Don’t wash clothes after one wearing.  Wait until they have a stain or an odor.  This saves money on laundry, and less ironing time for you.

3. Scrub the shower while you are taking a shower

4. Never go anywhere empty handed.  If you are going to a room, take something with you that needs to be put away in that room.

5. Buy attractive storage dishes, such as corning ware that can be used for cooking.  This way you can serve in the same dish you cooked in and then the leftovers can go in the refrigerator still in the same dish.

6. Let your dishes air dry.  It saves time and it’s healthier.

Do you have a short cut tip that can help all of us save time and money?  Share with us!

The Cookie Exchange ~ bake one hour, have 15+ varieties of cookies!

I was perusing an old Southern Living book and ran across this great idea.  These ladies in Florida call it a Cookie Push and it’s basically an organized cookie exchange and here is how to do one of your own:

Planning the Cookie Exchange

1.    Start planning the last week of August, or earlier.  Gather with just a couple of people to make the invitations, cookie containers, name tags for the containers and recipe cards.  Each year choose a different motif for your Cookie exchange and reflect that in what you make.  For example, autumn theme, winter theme, etc.  Containers could be tins, baskets, shaker boxes, etc. (be sure to line them with cellophane or foil so the grease doesn’t get on anything it’s not supposed to
2.    Your goal is to have about 30 ladies attend, so be sure to invite more than that.
3.    Send the invitations out a month before the party.
4.    Choose recipes.  The point of a cookie exchange is to end up with a variety of cookies after baking only one type.  If everyone brings chocolate chip cookies to the cookie exchange, then the point of the cookie exchange will be lost.  Encourage the members of your cookie exchange to try new and interesting recipes.   Everyone loves to try new things and a cookie exchange will allow people to share this new recipe with several other people.
5.    Make a list.  Have everyone write down the recipe they will doing and make copies of it.  Hand these out to all of the people who will participating in the cookie exchange.  This way people will be more likely to stick to their recipes and you won’t end up with several batches of sugar cookies.
6.    Tell everyone to bake their cookies two-three days in advance. The biggest reason for no-shows is that they didn’t have time to bake their cookies. This is the busiest time of year.  After they bake them and allow them to cool thoroughly, they should be covered in an airtight container and refrigerated or frozen until they come to the exchange.  No one wants stale cookies to take home!

The Day of the Cookie Exchange

  • Have each person who is involved in the planning bring either a special hot drink or one plate of non-cookie snacks to eat at the exchange.  Serve this as people are arriving and you are arranging the table.
  • Take a picture of the beautiful table before the exchange begins
  • After everyone has eaten and socialized a bit, call the exchange to order by ringing a bell and gather into the room where the cookies have been laid out on the table as people arrived.
  • Take turns and everyone introduces themselves and their cookies and any story that might accompany the cookie. For example; “My grandmother’s, grandmother passed this recipe down….” or I burned the first two batches, then switched recipes…” or “When I was a child, my old next door neighbor, Bertha, used to make this for all the neighborhood kids…”  This part is fun, it is my favorite time of the party –because there is always a story….and there’s always a lot of laughter.
  • Play an ice-breaker game. (see below)
  • Then everyone carries their empty container and goes slowly around the table clockwise, taking 3 cookies from each plate
  • After everyone has been around, there should be enough cookies left to enjoy while you play another party game. (see below)

The Rules of the Cookie Exchange

1.    All cookies should be homemade, baked and main ingredient must be flour.
2.    No plain chocolate chip cookies, cookie mix cookies, no-bakes, meringues or bars.
3.    Please bring 10 dozen total cookies.
4.    The theme is Festive Cookies
5.    Arrange cookies in a basket or platter and be creative! Each person brings a large container to carry away their cookies, or the hostess can provide a take away container.
6.    Email a copy of your recipe before the party (or bring recipe to the party)
7.    Dressy attire is encouraged!
8.    RSVP ASAP with what type of cookies you are planning on baking – no duplicate recipes are allowed.
9.    There are prizes for the best outfit, the most original cookie and the most beautiful cookie display
10.    If you don’t have time to bake, or have burnt your cookies, but still want to attend, you must go to a real bakery and buy 6 dozen yummy cookies.

Party Games!

Two  are true, one is not (great ice-breaker game)

Sent in by Donna Brashier

This can even be played with friends that know each other well.
Everyone writes down two true things and one not true about themselves. When everyone is finished, you go around the room and read the 3 things you’ve listed about yourself. One by one everyone guesses which is not true. After everyone has guess your answer, you reveal which is not true and you move on to the next person. Each guest keeps a tally of how many things not true they’ve detected. The person that guesses the most things not true, wins.
More party game ideas
Here are some great cookie baking tips
And photos of other peoples cookie exchanges for some great ideas

Have you ever done a cookie exchange?  Tell us about it!

No Knead Ciabatta

Our family is very fond of Ciabatta bread, specifically panini, so I decided that it was time for me to learn how to make it.  A few weeks ago I went on a hunt online to find recipes and I came across two.  I tried one at that time and I wasn’t happy with the way it came out.  Then today I tried the other one and ohh, it is perfect.  The great news is, this is the easier of the two!

This might not seem like a post for the Shortcut Queen, because the rising time takes so long, but I just go about my day while it is rising.  And the actual working with the bread is more simple than making pancakes. The shortcut is that there is no need to knead! =)

I didn’t take any photos at the time because I didn’t think of it, but here is a photo from a week later  and a link to I also posted here a video where Chef John explains how to make it step by step, which is so helpful.   And it’s the easiest bread I have ever made.  The hardest part is waiting but it’s very worth it. =)

4 cups bread flour (I used 3 1/2 cup white and 1/2 cup wheat)
*Note: you can use All-purpose flour if you want
1/4 tsp yeast
2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp salt

No-Knead Ciabatta Bread from Foodwishes on Vimeo.