Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Handy Cooking Substitutions

Okay, so I had a break somewhat from cooking since the kids were out of school and really planning out our weekly meals.  Now everything is in full swing and I am constantly looking for new recipes, quick fixes and even shorter trips to the grocery store.  Sometimes my shorter trips to the grocery store finds me forgetting that all important ingredient needed for some of my recipes.  Have you ever found yourself in this situation?  If the answer is yes, then it's a great thing to have a substitution list to refer too.  Here are three that I think you will find most invaluable.
  • For 1 teaspoon baking powder, use 1/3 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar.
  • For 1 ounce chocolate chips, use 1 ounce sweet baking chocolate.
  • For a 6-ounce package of chocolate chips, melted, use 2 squares , unsweetened chocolate, 2 tablespoon shortening and 1/2 cup sugar.
  • For 2 ounces of semisweet baking chocolate, use 1 ounce unsweetened chocolate and 4 teaspoons sugar.
  • For 1 square or ounce of unsweetened baking chocolate, use 3 tablespoons cocoa and 1 tablespoon shortening.
  • For 1/4 cup cocoa, use 1 ounce baking chocolate and decrease fat in recipe by 1/2 tablespoon.
(Keeping sugar, shortening and cocoa on hand wil get you out of many other chocolate binds.)
  • For 1 cup powdered sugar, use 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed well.
  • For 1 cup granulated sugar, use 1-3/4 cup powdered sugar.
  • For 1 cup cake flour, use 1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all -purpose flour and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • For 1 cup miniature marshmallows, use 10 large marshmallows.
  • For 1 cup brown sugar, use 1 cup granulated sugar.
  • For  cup beef or chicken broth, use 1 bouillon cube or 1 envelope powdered broth base dissolved in 1 cup boiling water.
  • For 1/2 cup salted butter, use 1/2 cup unsalted butter plus 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • For 1 cup ketchup, use 1 cup tomato sauce, 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons vinegar.
  • For 1 cup corn syrup, use 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup liquid or 1 cup honey.
  • For maple syrup, use equal amount of corn syrup.
  • For 1 cup half-and -half, use 7/8 cup milk and 1/2 tablespoon butter or margarine or 1 cup undiluted evaporated milk.
  • For 1 cup heavy cream, use 3/4 cup milk and 1/3 cup butter or margarine.
  • For 1 cup sour cream, use 1 cup plain yogurt.
  • For 1 cup buttermilk, use 1 cup plain yogurt.
  • For 1 can of sweetened condensed milk, heat the following ingredients until sugar and butter are dissolved:  1/3 cup and 2 tablespoons evaporated milk, 1 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons butter.
  • For 1 cup plain yogurt, use 1 cup sour cream or 1 cup buttermilk.
  • For 1 cup mayonnaise, use 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 1/2 cup mayonnaise or 1 cup sour cream or pureed cottage cheese.
  • For 1 teaspoon allspice or cardamom, use 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves.
  • For 1 teaspoon apple pie spice, use 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon plus 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/8 teaspoon cardamom.
  • For 1 teaspoon dried basil, use 1/2 teaspoon oregano and 1/2 teaspoon thyme.
  • For 1 whole bay leaf, use 1/4 teaspoon crushed bay leaf
  • For 1 teaspoon chives, use 1 teaspoon green onion tops, finely chopped.
  • For 1 clove garlic, use 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder.
  • For 1 tablespoon fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon dried herbs.
  • for 1 tablespoon fresh horseradish, use 2 tablespoons bottled.
  • For 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, use 1/2 teaspoon vinegar.
  • For 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, use 1/2 teaspoon paprika plus 1/2 teaspoon chili powder.
  • For 1 teaspoon dry mustard, use 1 tablespoon bottled mustard.
  • For 1 small fresh onion, use 1 tablespoon re-hydrated instant minced onion.
  • For 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, use 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg.
  • For 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, use 1 teaspoon bottled steak sauce.
For the complete lists, visit:  extension.missouri.edu/extensioninfonet.  Click on Food & Nutrition, Preparation, then Modifying Recipes

Tourmalated Quartz


This is tourmalated quartz.  I have been sitting on these beads for the last 3 years trying to  decide what I want to do with them .  I have finally decided on knotting them on black silk.  My particular beads are graduated faceted roundelles.   Check back later this week to see my final design.  While writing this post I found some really interesting information on the the gemstone's properties.

Tourmalated Quartz Gemstone meaning

This super lucky stone has the luck of both the quartz and tourmaline. The luck in this stone is very strong. Many use it by rubbing it when powerful luck is needed.

Healing properties of Tourmalated Quartz

Tourmalated Quartz is clear or milky Quartz with black Tourmaline needles. The clear quartz is an amplifier while the black tourmaline is a cleansing, grounding influence.
  • Assists with clear thinking
  • Protects from unhealthy energies
  • Clears energy patterns

Crystal Properties

Clear with sparkling black tourmaline inclusions.
  • Associated Crystals: Rutilated quartz, snowflake obsidian and tree agate.
  • Candle Color: White.
  • Chakra: Brow and crown.
  • Element: Air and water.
  • Flowers & Plants: Hyacinth and thistle.
  • Herbs - Incenses - Oils: Cypress, juniper, mugwort, rosewood and wintergreen.
  • Planet: Pluto.
  • Zodiac: Scorpio.
Metaphysical Properties & Uses:
  • Animals: It helps environmentally over-sensitive animals to become more tolerant.
  • Children: It helps environmentally over-sensitive children to become more tolerant.
  • Environment: -
  • Finance & Prosperity: -
  • Health & Healing: Tourmalated quartz is a balance restorer for body, mind and spirit. It will help with clogged arteries, lesions (internal and external), scars and sinus related headaches.
  • Home: Tourmalated quartz is good for getting rid of the past and will help you to live for the present and plan for the future. It will be a source of inner strength for you.
  • Ritual: Tourmalated quartz should be used in knot rituals to stop others harming the vulnerable.
  • Work: Tourmalated quart will help clear the air of gripes and pettiness.

We are in a boutique now!

Visit and see our newest items for sale at Bella Viaggia.  They are locate in the Laurel Wood shopping center on Poplar Ave. and Perkins in Memphis, TN

August Birthstone: Peridot

The modern birthstone for the month of August is peridot
The vivid green of the peridot, with just a slight hint of gold, is the ideal gemstone color to go with that light summer wardrobe. It is after all the gemstone of the summer month of August.
The peridot is a very old gemstone, which has become very popular again today. It is so ancient that it can be found in Egyptian jewelry from the early 2nd millennium B.C.. The stones used at that time came from a deposit on a small volcanic island in the Red Sea, some 45 miles off the Egyptian coast at Aswan, which was not rediscovered until about 1900 and has since been exhausted for quite some time. With that said, the peridot is also a thoroughly modern gemstone, for it was not until a few years ago that peridot deposits were located in the Kashmir region; and the stones from those deposits, being of an incomparably beautiful color and transparency, have succeeded in giving a good polish to the image of this beautiful gemstone, which had paled somewhat over the millennia.
How green? It all depends on the iron
This gemstone has no fewer than three names: 'peridot', 'chrysolite', from the Greek 'gold stone', and 'olivine', for the peridot is the gemstone form of the mineral olivine. In the gemstone trade it is called 'peridot', derived from the Greek word 'peridona', which means something like 'to give richness'.
The peridot is one of the few gemstones which come in one color only. The rich, green colour with the slight tinge of gold is caused by very fine traces of iron. From a chemical point of view, peridot is an iron magnesium silicate. The intensity of the colour depends on the amount of iron actually present. The color itself can vary over all shades of yellowish green and olive, and even to a brownish green. Peridot is not particularly hard - only 6.5 to 7 on the Mohs scale - but it is easy to look after and fairly robust. Peridot cat's eyes and star peridot are particularly rare and precious.
The most beautiful stones come from the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. However, the peridot as a gemstone also exists in Myanmar, China, the USA, Africa and Australia. Stones from East Burma, now known as Myanmar, have a vivid light green and fine inclusions with a silky shine to them. Peridot from Arizona, where it is popularly used in native American jewelry, often has somewhat yellowish or gold-brown nuances.
An ideal summer stone
The peridot adds a wonderful variant to the colour spectrum of green gemstones. Increasingly, it is processed not only to one-offs, but also for use in series jewellery. And since the world of fashion is just in the process of rediscovering its love for the color green, the popularity of this rich green gemstone is also very much on the up.
Thanks to the rich finds in Pakistan and Afghanistan, there is enough raw material on the market, so the 'right stone' can now be found to cater for each individual taste and each pocket. Large, transparent stones of an intense color are, however, rare and correspondingly expensive. The peridot is a gemstone that you should definitely get to know better. Its fine pistachio to olive green is the perfect complement to a fresh, light summer wardrobe.
Zodiac gemstone for leo:   onyx
Ancient traditional birthstones:
Hebrew: carnelian
Roman: carnelian
Arabic: sardonyx
Hindu: ruby
Polish: sardonyx
Russian: alexandrite
Guardian angel: verchiel
His talismanic stone: : diamond
Reference:  Crystal User's Handbook by Judy Hall, ICA website

July Birthstone: Ruby

The modern day birthstone for July is ruby
Which color would you spontaneously associate with love and vivacity, passion and power? Red. Red is the color of love. It radiates warmth and a strong sense of vitality. And red is also the color of the ruby, the king of the gemstones. In the fascinating world of gemstones, the ruby is the undisputed ruler.
For thousands of years, the ruby has been considered
one of the most valuable gemstones on Earth. It has everything a precious stone should have: magnificent color, excellent hardness and outstanding brilliance. In addition to that, it is an extremely rare gemstone, especially in its finer qualities.
For a long time India was regarded as the ruby's classical country of origin.
In the major works of Indian literature, a rich store of knowledge about gemstones has been handed down over a period of more than two thousand years. The term 'corundum', which we use today, is derived from the Sanskrit word 'kuruvinda'. The Sanskrit word for ruby is 'ratnaraj', which means something like 'king of the gemstones'. And it was a royal welcome indeed which used to be prepared for it. Whenever a particularly beautiful ruby crystal was found, the ruler sent high dignitaries out to meet the precious gemstone and welcome it in appropriate style. Today, rubies still decorate the insignia of many royal households. But are they really all genuine rubies? Read on to find out more!
Only a little bit of chrome ...
Ruby is the red variety of the mineral corundum, one of the hardest minerals on Earth, of which the sapphire is also a variety. Pure corundum is colorless. Slight traces of elements such as chrome, iron, titanium or vanadium are responsible for the color. These gemstones have excellent hardness. On the Mohs scale their score of 9 is second only to that of the diamond. Only red corundum is entitled to be called ruby, all other colors being classified as sapphires. The close relationship between the ruby and the sapphire has only been known since the beginning of the 19th century. Up to that time, red garnets or spinels were also thought to be rubies. (That, indeed, is why the 'Black Ruby' and the 'Timur Ruby', two of the British Crown Jewels, were so named, when they are not actually rubies at all, but spinels.)
Ruby, this magnificent red variety from the multi-colored corundum family, consists of aluminium oxide and chrome as well as very fine traces of other elements - depending on which deposit it was from. In really fine colors and good clarity, however, this gemstone occurs only very rarely in the world's mines. Somewhat paradoxically, it is actually the coloring element chrome which is responsible for this scarcity. True enough, millions of years ago, when the gemstones were being created deep inside the core of the Earth, chrome was the element which gave the ruby its wonderful color. But at the same time it was also responsible for causing a multitude of fissures and cracks inside the crystals. Thus only very few ruby crystals were given the good conditions in which they could grow undisturbed to considerable sizes and crystallise to form perfect gemstones. For this reason, rubies of more than 3 carats in size are very rare. So it is no wonder that rubies with hardly any inclusions are so valuable that in good colors and larger sizes they achieve top prices at auctions, surpassing even those paid for diamonds in the same category.
Some rubies display a wonderful silky shine, the so-called 'silk' of the ruby. This phenomenon is caused by very fine needles of rutile. And now and then one of the rare star rubies is found. Here too, the mineral rutile is involved: having formed a star-shaped deposit within the ruby, it causes a captivating light effect known by the experts as asterism. If rubies of this kind are cut as half-dome shaped cabochons, the result is a six-spoked star which seems to glide magically across the surface of the stone when the latter is moved. Star rubies are precious rarities. Their value depends on the beauty and attractiveness of the color and, though only to a lesser extent, on their transparency. Fine star rubies, however, should always display rays which are fully formed all the way to the imaginary horizontal line which runs through the middle of the stone, and the star itself should be situated right in the centre.
Ruby-red means passion
Red for ruby. Ruby-red. The most important thing about this precious stone is its color. It was not for no reason that the name 'ruby' was derived from the Latin word 'rubens', meaning 'red'. The red of the ruby is incomparable: warm and fiery. Two magical elements are associated with the symbolism of this color: fire and blood, implying warmth and life for mankind. So ruby-red is not just any old colour, no, it is absolutely undiluted, hot, passionate, powerful color. Like no other gemstone, the ruby is the perfect way to express powerful feelings. Instead of symbolising a calm, controlled affection, a ring set with a precious ruby bears witness to that passionate, unbridled love that people can feel for each other.
Birthplaces of fine rubies
Which is the most beautiful ruby-red? Good question. The red of a ruby may involve very different nuances depending on its origin. The range of those nuances is quite wide, and could perhaps be compared to hotel categories, from luxury accommodation down to a plain inn or hostel. For example, if the gemstone experts refer to a 'Burmese ruby', they are talking about the top luxury category. However, it does not necessarily follow that the stone is of Burmese origin. It is basically an indication of the fact that the colour of the ruby in question is that typically shown by stones from the famous deposits in Burma (now Myanmar): a rich, full red with a slightly bluish hue. The colour is sometimes referred to as 'pigeon-blood-red', but the term 'Burmese colour' is a more fitting description. A connoisseur will immediately associate this colour with the legendary 'Mogok Stone Tract' and the gemstone centre of Mogok in the North of Myanmar. Here, the country's famous ruby deposits lie in a mountain valley surrounded by high peaks. Painstakingly, gemstones of an irresistible luminosity are brought to light in the 'valley of the rubies'. Unfortunately, really fine qualities are quite rare even here. The color of a Burmese ruby is regarded as exceptionally vivid. It is said to display its unique brilliance in any light, be it natural or artificial.
The journey to the world's most important ruby deposits takes us further on to the small town of Mong Hsu in the North-East of Myanmar, where the most important ruby deposits of the nineties lie. Originally, it was believed that these rubies would hardly prove suitable for use in jewellery, since untreated Mong Hsu ruby crystals actually display two colors: a purple to black core and a bright red periphery. Only when it had been discovered that the dark core could be turned into deep red by means of heat treatment did rubies from Mong Hsu begin to find their way on to the jewelry market. Today, the Mong Hsu gemstone mines are still among the most important ruby suppliers. In the main, they offer heat-treated rubies in commercial qualities and sizes between 0.5 and 3 carats.
Ruby deposits also exist in neighbouring Vietnam, near the Chinese border. Rubies of Vietnamese origin generally display a slightly purplish hue. Rubies from Thailand, another classical supplier, however, often have a darker red which tends towards brown. This 'Siamese colour' - an elegantly muted deep red - is considered second in beauty only to the Burmese colour, and is especially popular in the USA. Ceylon rubies, which have now become very rare, are mainly light red, like ripe raspberries.
Other ruby deposits are located in Northern Pakistan in the Hunza Valley, Kashmir, Tadzhikistan, Laos, Nepal, and Afghanistan. But rubies are also produced in India, where deposits with relatively large crystals were discovered in the federal states of Mysore and Orissa. These crystals have many inclusions, but they are, nevertheless, eminently suited to being cut as beads or cabochons.
Lately, people have begun to talk about East Africa as a source of rubies. Straight after their discovery in the 1960s, rubies from Kenya and Tanzania surprised the experts by their beautiful, strong color, which may vary from light to dark red. But in the African mines too, fine and clear rubies of good color, purity and size are very rare. Usually the qualities mined are of a merely average quality.
Colour above (almost) everything
As we have said, color is a ruby's most important feature. Its transparency is only of secondary importance. So inclusions do not impair the quality of a ruby unless they decrease the transparency of the stone or are located right in the centre of its table. On the contrary: inclusions within a ruby could be said to be its 'fingerprint', a statement of its individuality and, at the same time, proof of its genuineness and natural origin. The cut is essential: only a perfect cut will underline the beauty of this valuable and precious stone in a way befitting the 'king of the gemstones'. However, a really perfect ruby is as rare as perfect love. If you do come across it, it will cost a small fortune. But when you have found 'your' ruby, don't hesitate: hang on to it!
Zodiac gemstone for cancer: emerald
Ancient traditional birthstones:
Hebrew: onyx
Roman: onyx
Arabic: carnelian
Hindu:  sapphire
Polish:  ruby
Russian:  ruby
Guardian angel: verchiel
His talismanic stone:  sapphire

Greek Sorority Bracelets

I have been wanting to do this design for a while and here is the first couple in a series.  They are for sale and will be on my website, http://www.mytraceelement.com

The first bracelet is made of sterling silver with bali beads, roundelles, sterling silver balls and 7mm alpha blocks for the Greek letters and 4.5mm alpha blocks for the pledge year.  The bracelet is accented with Swarovski Chatons and optional double-sided photo charm and corresponding sorority color dangle.  The bracelet is customized to fit a wrist size of 7"  t0 8-1/2".  The cost is bracelet without the options is $85.00.  The double-sided photo charm is $20.00 and the color dangle is $10.00.

My next design is very elegant and showcases Greek spirit through the display of it's corresponding colors.  This bracelet comes in either sterling silver (shown here) or gold filled.  The price for sterling silver is $75.00 and the gold fill is $85.00.  For color choices and more information please visit http://www.mytraceelements.com

Black Bean, Zucchini rice dish

Okay so I cook nearly everyday except most fridays and saturdays.  But when I do I love a good meal.  I'm always trying to find ways to sneak in those vegetables to my girls and with this dish I was a winner.

Black Beans and Zucchini
1 tblsp. of olive oil
1 large zucchini, quartered and chopped
1 medium bell-pepper, chopped
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can of Rotel tomatoes original
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 water
1 cup Jasmine Rice
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar and Monterey Jack cheese blend

Cook 1 cup of Jasmine rice according to its package directions.  While the rice is cooking, heat oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Add zucchini, bell pepper, onions and garlic; cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add beans and can of Rotel tomatoes.
Add Jasmine rice, water, salt and pepper to taste; stir well.  Cover and let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Sprinkle with cheese.  Makes 4 servings.