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Recipe: saffron cake

Phomopsis infection on Concord leaf
Source: Flickr

Saffron Cake
1 cup mashed potatoes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 cup potato water
1 cup milk
1/2 cup shortening
1/4 teaspoon saffron
1/4 cup boiling water
2 eggs, well beaten
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 cups bread flour

Thoroughly mix potato and 1/2 cup sugar. Dissolve yeast in lukewarm potato water; add to potato and sugar mixture. Cover; let set in warm place about 3 hours.

Pour boiling water on saffron. Bring milk to a boil. Add shortening, egg, sugar and salt. Carefully drain saffron water into this mixture (save saffron for Crumbs).

When lukewarm, add yeast mixture and 4 cups flour. Beat well. Cover; let rise until bubbly, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Add remaining flour or enough to make a dough that can be kneaded until smooth. Place in a greased bowl; cover and let rise about 4 hours or until double in bulk. Roll about 1/3 inch thick and place on greased cookie sheets. Brush tops with butter, cream or beaten egg. Cover with Crumb Mixture. Let rise about 1 hour or until double in bulk. Bake at 325 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes.

Makes four 9-inch cakes.

Crumb Mixture
2 cups light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup shortening

Mix ingredients well with hands.

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Create A Beautiful Garden With These Great Tips

Owning and maintaining a successful garden is about more than just having a “green thumb” or knowing when to plant your tomatoes.
There is plenty that can be learned through everyday knowledge and tips that experienced gardeners are often willing to share with any listening ears. All you have to do is be interested in learning the right way.

Keep herb plants trimmed and bushy. By consistently pruning your herb plants you will create a shorter path for nutrients and allow the leaves to grow fuller and quicker. Keep the plants short through trimming as well and increase the density of the leaves. When at all possible do not allow the herbs to flower.

It is obvious that plants require water to grow. It’s also important to know the amount of water that particular plants actually need. Overwatering or under-watering a plant can severely damage its growth and health. Overwatering can result in root rot, where the water-filled environment encourages the growth of microbes that eat away at the roots. Under-watering a plant can make it’s leaves dry and brittle.

You can easily make a homemade yeast trap to attract the slugs in your garden. Just use about half a teaspoon of baking yeast, a teaspoon of sugar, and water. Fill a glass jar with the mixture and put it in the ground, flush with the earth. Slugs will enter the glass jars, and eventually drown.

If space is an issue, try vertical gardening. Even with the limited space of condos and townhouses, many people have thriving gardens in the small area they have using vertical gardening. By using trellised gardens one can grow pole beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers in a small place during the summer, and in the fall a wide variety of greens can be grown in the same space.

If you are introducing children to gardening, start them off with an herb garden. Herbs are easy to grow and you can start them in containers, which are easier for children to handle. When children see that the herbs they grow can be used in your cooking, they will be very proud of their accomplishment.

If you need to hard prune, cut those trees back in the fall. Make sure it is late enough in the season that no new growth will occur. Pruning in a timely manner helps to keep your trees strong and healthy. It prevents over growth too, which means your trees are more attractive.

For a healthy, weed-free lawn, cut your grass at the highest point recommended for the blend of grass you’re growing. Cutting your grass too short won’t mean you have to mow less often. Instead, it allows weeds to take hold, and causes water to evaporate. Longer grass can better protect itself against weeds, drought, and pests.

Through the article, you should have picked up on a few tips that will help you plant and raise your garden with a little better results. As you can see, it takes a combination of time, care, and planning to make it reach the full potential. Of course, having a “green thumb” doesn’t hurt.

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Recipe: chocolate hazelnut swirl ring

Chocolate Hazelnut Swirl Ring
1/2 cup warm water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
Nonstick cooking spray
1 cup Nutella, warmed slightly (see instructions)
2 tablespoons water (for brushing)

In large bowl using electric mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt. Add butter and 1 cup flour. Mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Add remaining 2 cups flour and mix for 2 minutes.

Grease a large bowl with nonstick spray and place dough in it, turning once. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 1 hour in warm place until double in volume.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper.

When dough has fully risen, punch down and transfer to floured surface. Roll dough into a 12 x 16-inch rectangle and spread evenly with warmed hazelnut spread, leaving 1 inch bare at edges. Beginning at long end, tightly roll dough like a newspaper, forming a 16-inch long log. Brush 2 ends with water and bring together, pinching to form ring. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Using sharp knife sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, make 12 slices into the ring, being sure bottom, interior portion stays intact. Allow 1 inch between each slice. Gently separate buns, and let them rest against one another like dominoes. Brush ring with 2 tablespoons water and sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons sugar. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until golden brown. Let cool slightly before serving.

To warm hazelnut spread: In microwave, heat on high in microwaveable bowl for 5 seconds. Or on stovetop, heat on low heat in pot until creamy.

Servings: 12; serving size: 1 slice

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Recipe: king cake

King Cake
This Louisiana favorite has its origins in France.
A Mardi Gras party would not be complete without a King Cake. The "king" refers to the Three Kings of the Epiphany. This also explains the cake’s other name, "12th Night Cake," as Epiphany is the 12th night after Christmas. A pea, bean, or small plastic doll (often of Jesus) is usually baked into the cake. It is good luck to find the prize. The finder must also provide next year’s cake and host the Mardi Gras party. The cake is traditionally topped with three colors of sugar icing. The colors represent the colors of the Mardi Gras: Purple for justice, green for faith, and gold (or yellow) for power. Some say the three colors also represent the Three Kings.

1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees F)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
3 1/2 to 4 1/2 cups flour unsifted
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup warm milk
5 egg yolks
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, cut into slices and softened,
plus 2 tablespoons more softened butter
1 egg slightly beaten with 1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 (1-inch) plastic baby doll

Pour the warm water into a small shallow bowl, and sprinkle yeast and 2 teaspoons sugar into it. Allow the yeast and sugar to rest for three minutes then mix thoroughly. Set bowl in a warm place, for ten minutes or until yeast bubbles up and mixture almost doubles up in volume.

Combine 3 1/2 cups of flour, remaining sugar, nutmeg and salt, and sift into a large mixing bowl. Stir in lemon zest. Separate center of mixture to form a hole and pour in yeast mixture and milk. Add egg yolks and using a wooden spoon slowly combine dry ingredients into the yeast/milk mixture. When mixture is smooth, beat in 8 tablespoons butter, 1 tablespoon at a time and continue to beat 2 minutes or until dough can be formed into a medium soft ball. Place ball of dough on a lightly floured surface and knead like bread. During this kneading, add up to 1 cup more of flour (1 tablespoon at a time) sprinkled over the dough. When dough is no longer sticky, knead 10 minutes more until shiny and elastic.

Using a pastry brush, coat the inside of a large bowl evenly with one tablespoon softened butter. Place dough ball in the bowl and rotate until the entire surface is buttered. Cover bowl with a moderately thick kitchen towel and place in a draft free spot for about 1 1/2 hours, or until the dough doubles in volume. Using a pastry brush, coat a large baking sheet with one tablespoon of butter and set aside.

Remove dough from bowl and place on lightly floured surface. Using you fist, punch dough down with a heavy blow. Sprinkle cinnamon over the top, pat and shake dough into a cylinder. Twist dough to form a curled cylinder and loop cylinder onto the buttered baking sheet. Pinch the ends together to complete the circle. Cover dough with towel and set it in draft free spot for 45 minutes until the circle of dough doubles in volume. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush top and sides of cake with egg wash and bake on middle rack of oven for 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown. Place cake on wire rack to cool. If desired, at this time, you can "hide" the plastic baby in the cake.

Colored sugars
Green, purple and yellow paste
12 tablespoons granulated sugar

Squeeze a dot of green paste in palm of hand. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the paste and rub together quickly. Place this mixture on wax paper and wash hands to remove color. Repeat process for other 2 colors. Place aside.

3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice
3 to 6 tablespoons water

Combine sugar, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons water until smooth. If icing is too stiff, add more water until spreadable. Spread icing over top of cake. Immediately sprinkle the colored sugars in individual rows consisting of about 2 rows of green, purple and yellow.

Cake is served in 2- to 3-inch pieces.