The Best Food Apps That You May Not Know About

July 24th, 2013

Kitchen Pad App

These days it’s rare that I go anywhere without my smart phone. I can barely remember a time before this handy portable technology, especially when it comes to cooking. I’m constantly using it for food planning and prep: making lists, checking recipes and setting timers.

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It seems that I’m not the only one attached to the usefulness of this little device.

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According to Supermarket News, 1 in 3 shoppers uses their smart phone when shopping for food. There are so many helpful apps out there how do you know which ones are the best ones? Here are just a few of my favorites.

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All Recipes Dinner Spinner – $2.99

(Available for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire)

You’ve probably heard of online recipe database All Recipes. This app gives you access to over 40,000 recipes. You can even make a shopping list based on the recipes you choose. Simply put in your ingredients, shake the phone and a new recipe appears.

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Kitchen Math – $.99

(Available for iPhone, iPad, Android)

I’m all for anything that makes life easier. With Kitchen Math you can quickly convert cooking units to ensure are using correct food proportions. It also converts cooking temperature, which is particularly handy if you have a foreign or an old-fashioned recipe.

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OpenTableKitchen Pad Timer – $1.99

(Available for iPhone, iPad)

Some larger meals can get out of hand and keeping track of cooking times can become nearly impossible. That’s where this app comes in. Keep track of up to 9 timers at once with visual cues on which timer fits which burner.

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Open Table – Free

(Available for Android, Blackberry, iPhone, iPad, Windows Phone, Kindle Fire)

Sometimes you need a quick way to make a restaurant reservation. It doesn’t get easier than Open Table. Browse menus and make reservations at over 20,000 restaurants. Accumulate points with each reservation and trade them in for free meals in the future.

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Food 52 – $3.99

(Available for iPhone, iPad)

Even the most seasoned host or hostess needs advice as some point. Food 52 is a community-based app where you can ask any question regarding cooking or party planning and receive an expert response. The app also features video walk-thrus and recipes for all of the major holidays.

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Cupcakes! – $.99

(Available for iPhone, iPad, Android)

This one is more for the kids (but adults can play too!). Bake your own virtual cupcakes by choosing a batter (27 flavors!), liner and toppings. Then share your finished cupcake over social media. Hours of fun with no mess.

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What are some of the best food apps you have used? I would love to hear some suggestions!

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Fun Father’s Day Gift Ideas – Gifts any Dad Would Love

June 11th, 2013

Us dads may not mention it much, but we really love being spoiled. Father’s Day rolls around once a year and it’s the perfect excuse to gather our families and just hang out enjoying bring dads. For me the day is about two things – fun and family.

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Need some fun Father’s Day gift ideas for your dad? Here are some gift ideas that he will love.

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Wireless_Speaker2Outdoor Wireless Speaker and Dock – $150
Does your dad love his tunes? Now he can enjoy them out while he’s barbecuing or hanging in the backyard. This outdoor wireless speaker can transmit from 150 feet away and connects to any MP3 player or stereo. It is weather resistant so Dad can even listen to it out by the pool.

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Art-Of-ShavingThe Art of Shaving Shaving Cream – Sandalwood – $22
Dads may not always show it, but they secretly love to be pampered. This shaving cream from the Art of Shaving is proof. Available in a woodsy scent, it can be lathered, leaving skin feeling smooth and moisturized.

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GolfBBQSet7 Piece Golf Grip Grilling Set – $60
The novelty BBQ tools set is perfect for the grill master who also loves golf. The set comes with a spatula, fork, tongs, grill cleaner, golf bag case and even golf ball shaped salt & pepper shakers. Dad can imagine he’s hitting the links while barbecuing up some sausage links.

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Picture 10Vintage Leather Case for iPad – $50
If your dad loves his iPad as much as I love mine then this is the gift for him. Not only does it look good, but it also provides protection for the device. Both stylish and practical, it is available for the iPad 2 & 3 and the iPad Mini.

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Beer-Bites-Bowl Beer Bites Snack Bowl – $22
This is a fun gift your dad will proudly bust out at his next football party or barbecue. It holds chips and nuts perfectly, but I think these Beer Bread Cheese Bites would also be a nice treat served in this beer-shaped dish.

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Flipdown-Clock2 Retro Flip Down Clock – $37
Give dad a blast from the past with this retro flipdown clock. Dad can literally watch time pass by the minute on this gear-powered clock. It’s sleek design makes it perfect for any nightstand or desk.

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Game-Of-Thrones-Cookbook2A Feast of Ice and Fire: The Official Game of Thrones Companion Cookbook – $23
Indulge dad in a feast fit for a king – or multiple kings – in this cookbook based on the hit TV show Game of Thrones. The book features recipes from all over the continent of Westeros, including Lemon Cake from Kings Landing and Pease Porridge from the Wall. Any fan of the show will love this book.

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For more great gift ideas, check out my post on grilling tools.

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7 More Essential Grilling Tools for National Barbecue Month

May 8th, 2013

Happy National Barbecue MonthMay is here and the cold, Winter months are officially behind us. Here in Portland we saw 80 degree temperatures this past weekend which meant people were lounging in shorts, cleaning off their grills and cooking up some tasty barbecue meals. These behaviors are fitting given that May is National Barbecue Month.

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A couple of summers ago I put together a list of grilling tools you shouldn’t be grilling without. To celebrate 2013’s warm weather streak I decided to update that list with some more grilling essentials. Here are my picks:

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Flexible-SkewersFire Wire Stainless Steel Flexible Grilling Skewer Set ($9.99) - If you love kabobs, but have limited grill space to work with, these skewers are for you. Not only can you adjust the shape of the kabobs for maximum grill space, but you can also marinate the foods right on the skewer. This means no more having to handle pre-marinated foods before they are cooked.

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Grilling-Station-BinsCharcoal Companion Grilling Station ($23.45) - One challenge with barbecuing is transferring the raw uncooked meats to the grill. These trays are the perfect solution. Keep raw, uncooked meats inside the “raw” tray and transfer already cooked meats using the “cooked” tray. You can even marinate raw meats directly in the tray!

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Jalapeno-Grilling-RackKing Kooker Jalapeno Rack ($15) - This contraption may look silly, but it makes some of the best grilled jalapenos you’ve ever tried!  The rack holds 36 jalapenos in place so they grill evenly. Simply fill up the rack with cored jalapenos and place on the grill. Easy!

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BBQ-Branding-IronBBQ Branding Iron ($19) - Sometimes a piece of beef is cooked so perfectly you need to give credit to the “master griller”. Now you can brand your meats with any message you want. Just slide the letters into place on this metal branding iron and you are set!

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Flexible-Grill-LightBBQ Grill Light ($26) - Sometimes a grilling session is going so well that it continues on after the sun goes down. That’s where this flexible grill light comes in handy. Simply attach to your grill and adjust so you can keep an eye on the grill and keep the party going.

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The-Barbecue-BibleThe Barbecue! Bible ($14) - Looking for some creative grilling recipes? Look no further than this book. The book not only provides recipes, but also grilling tips and techniques and answers to common grilling questions.

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Meatball-Grill-RackNon-stick Meatball Basket ($20) - Always wanted to grill meatballs, but never had a way to easily do it? Enter this handy meatball basket. The basket holds 12 meatballs in place while the grill cooks them evenly. And the best side dish for some meatballs? Italian Focaccia bread.

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Which grilling tools are on your “must-have” list for this summer?

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Khayeltisha

April 23rd, 2013

IMG_0321During a recent trip to South Africa, my family and I had the opportunity to visit the township of Khayeltisha. Khayeltisha, meaning “New Home” in Xhosa, is the largest and fastest growing township in the city of Cape Town, South Africa. During the Apartheid Era, blacks were evicted and forced from their land into designated areas. These areas, called ‘townships’ often do not have proper sanitation, electricity and telephone services.

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I was shocked to learn that a quarter of the South African population is unemployed and lives on less than $1.25US a day. The high unemployment rate and poverty levels have driven millions into segregated townships and rural areas, such as Khayeltisha. Living conditions are extremely poor in these communities. Most homes in Khayeltisha are made out of timber and sheet metal and are also known as “shacks.”  Since  the African National Congress came to power in 1994, there have been major improvements to the condition of Khayeltisha. These improvements include IMG_0295new brick houses, schools and a central business district in the township. There is even a transportation system in Khayeltisha. The Golden Arrow Bus Service and Metrorail trains are available for residents to use. Also, several taxi’s travel to areas outside the township. Although the living conditions have improved, the crime in Khayelitsha remains very high.

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I had the opportunity to visit and stay in the township for a night. My family and I stayed at IMG_0303the Kopanong Bed & Breakfast (”kopanong” means meeting place in SeSotho). Established in 1999, this bed and breakfast is run by a wonderful woman named Thope and her daughter named  Mpho Lekau.  Thope and Mpho welcomed us with open arms and made our stay there very special. Mpho gave us a walking tour of Khyaelitsha and it was an incredibly eye-opening experience.

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On our walk through the township we saw the local food market and several barbershops located in tin pods. We were shocked by the IMG_0318 lack of electricity and water. Although the living conditions were poor, the joy and happiness that filled the community was exemplified through the actions of the children and residents of the area. As we were walking through the community with Mpho, she was waving and saying hello to everyone she saw, although she did not know them all. It was evident that the community cares deeply for one another and is friendly to visitors.

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In spite of the poor living conditions and high unemployment and crime rates, the people in Khayeltisha express their joy, faith and confidence through their smiles, positive attitude and tight-knit community. Visiting this township not only made me realize how fortunate I am but also inspired me to give back to communities such as this one. Hearing about poverty is one thing, but experiencing and seeing it first hand is another. I feel so fortunate I was given the opportunity to learn and experience the Khayeltisha community with my family.

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Different Types of Flour – They’re Not All Created Equal

March 27th, 2013

National Flour Month

Powdery and pure, flour seems like a simple ingredient. It is, after all, the base of most baking recipes and baking mixes. But this past weekend my notions of flour as an uncomplicated element changed. I came across a recipe that didn’t just call for flour – it called for cake flour. Not knowing the difference yet motivated to make the recipe, I went ahead and used the standard flour I had in the pantry. Big mistake. My anticipated light and fluffy cake turned out more like a dense pound cake.

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Maybe I’ll stick to baking mixes.

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This disappointing result led me to do some investigating and I was surprised to find that not all flour is created equal.

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The process of milling flour involves grinding a grain into powder form. The grain contains starch and gluten, two elements that help form a finished good’s texture and shape. Wheat is the most common grain used to mill flour. It is classified by two categories – hard and soft. Hard wheat, high in protein, is perfect for breads, and soft wheat, lower in protein, is better suited for cakes and pastries.

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When it comes to varieties of flour, the name says it all.

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All-Purpose Flour
All-purpose, the most common wheat flour contains a mix of hard and soft wheat, which is useful, though not always ideal, in most types of baked goods. Most All-Purpose flour sold in the US has been enriched; meaning nutrients such as Vitamin B and Iron that had been lost in the refining process are added back to the product.

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Cake Flour
Cake flour is made with soft wheat, meaning a lighter and fluffier finished product. Cake flour is almost always bleached with a chemical like chlorine because the process toughens the protein molecules and allows the flour to hold more sugar and water.
If you don’t have cake flour on hand you can easily improvise with all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Simply measure out all-purpose flour in the amount the recipe calls for, remove 2 tablespoons and replace with 2 tablespoons of corn starch. Sift the flour and cornstarch together and, voila, instant cake flour!

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Pastry flour
The amount of protein in pastry flour falls in between that of cake flour and all-purpose flour. The flour absorbs less liquid than cake flour, creating a more flakey texture. It is ideal for pastries, pie crusts, cookies and biscuits.

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Whole Wheat Flour
Milled whole wheat flour makes use of the entire wheat kernel. It contains fiber and nutrients such as potassium and magnesium that white flour does not. It is also lower in carbs and calories. Because the wheat kernel has a harsh taste, whole wheat flour is usually combined with all-purpose flour to make baked goods. It is ideal for hearty, dense breads.

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Self-Rising Flour
Some commercial bakers who bake in large quantities prefer to use flour with leavening agents already mixed in – self-rising flour. This saves them the time and effort of measuring out additional ingredients when baking. Self-rising flour should not be used as a substitute for regular flour because of the leavening agents. It is mostly used for dense items such as scones, biscuits and muffins.

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Spelt Flour
Also known as farro, spelt flour is a non-wheat flour made with the spelt grain. Nutty and sweet in flavor, spelt flour is a great alternative for people with wheat allergies. It is rich in nutrients and easy to digest, but it often comes with a higher price tag.

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These are just a few of the wide variety of flours that are available. The type of flour used in a recipe can make a difference in the texture, shape and even taste of the finished good. Don’t make the same mistake I did by assuming that all flour is created equal.

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Celebrate National Snack Food Month

February 7th, 2013
French Toast Cups

French Toast Cups

If you’re like me you never say no to a snack. That little burst of energy between meals gets me through even the longest of days. Like most of you I snacked (heavily, ahem) during the big game this past Sunday. It’s fitting that the Superbowl fell in February this year because it is National Snack Food Month.

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To help celebrate (and motivate) I put together a list of some of my favorite snacks.

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French Toast Cups – These bite-sized breakfast snacks can really be eaten any time of day. Made with our Classic Beer Bread, each bite is full of cinnamon-y goodness.

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Caramel Apple Cake Balls – Sometimes you crave just a bit of sweetness. These little balls are the perfect solution. Sweet candy coats delicious bites of apple cake.

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Cinnamon Cream Cheese Bites

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Bites

Cinnamon Cream Cheese Bites – These are a hit with the kiddos. Sweet bites of cinnamon chip bread are topped with cool cream cheese and fruit preserves.

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Cinnamon Streusel Lemon Madeleines- They look like cookies but they are actually miniature cakes. Each lemony bite is coupled with crumbly cinnamon streusel topping.

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Apricot Almond Drop Scones – Did you know that 70% of scones are consumed in the morning? But really, these are an ideal any-time of day treat. Apricot and almond? Yes, please.

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Hope you enjoy some of these snack treats. As a reminder, Dassant mixes are now available over at Amazon.com. Hop on over for some great prices!

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Some Changes to Dassant.com

January 3rd, 2013

Dassant Mixes

Howdy, everyone. I hope that 2013 is treating you well so far. You may have noticed some changes on dassant.com and I wanted to take a moment to address them.

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The biggest change is that Dassant mixes are no longer available to purchase directly from dassant.com. But don’t fear – your favorite mixes are still available to buy online. Our friends over at Amazon will be taking over operations for us. We think this step will be a great convenience for our customers.

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As you probably know, Amazon is the world’s largest online retailer. The store sells almost any product you can dream of. Their check out process is clean and streamlined, and they ship items quickly and efficiently. You now have the opportunity to purchase Dassant mixes in packs of 6, allowing a great value per unit. You can save on shipping by either signing up for Amazon Prime or taking advantage of Super Saver Shipping. Amazon also makes it easy to leave feedback on products.

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Our previous review system on dassant.com is no longer available, but we have put together a fun testimonials page for you to read what others say about Dassant.  If you would like to leave feedback, feel free to do so on Amazon or contact us directly with your comments. We always love hearing from our valued customers!

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Another change is our brand new “Recipe of the Month” program. Each month a new recipe will be featured on the Dassant homepage. This month’s featured recipe is our Peppermint Brownie with Chocolate Ganache. If you have a recipe you would like to see featured in the future please let us know in the comments below.

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Dassant.com will continue to feature exciting recipes and, of course, Scotty Mac’s blog. We hope that you will come back to visit us. We are confident these changes will lead to new and exciting things in the future.

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As always, thank you for reading and please enjoy the new dassant.com!

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Scotty Mac’s Holiday Gift Guide – 2012

December 11th, 2012

We have just 2 weeks left until Christmas and Hanukkah is in full swing – have you finished your holiday shopping? If not, I have some ideas for you. This collection of gifts range from quirky to practical and there is something for everyone on your list.

Without futher ado, here is my 2012 Holiday Gift Guide.

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Tool Cookie Cutters

Tool Cookie Cutters ($19)

Sometimes Santa just needs some “manly” cookies. These cookie cutters shaped like tools should do the trick.

Wooden-Grill-Toy

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Melissa & Doug Grill Set ($15)

This one is for the little tykes. This wooden grill set is a great gift for little ones who like to be “just like daddy”.  Melissa and Doug toys are sturdy and built to last.

Pixar Movies

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Pixar Ultimate Movie Collection ($180)

This one is perfect if you are looking for the perfect gift for an entire family. This collection of favorite Pixar films includes Toy Story, Monster’s Inc, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles and more.

Owl-Measuring-Cups

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Owl Measuring Cups ($20)

These little owl measuring cups are a great gift for anyone who likes to be in the kitchen. The set of 4 cups are hand painted and are sure to be an adorable addition to any kitchen.

HedBandz,jpg

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HedBanz ($20)

Another great gift for the whole family, the HedBanz game is the ultimate game of “Who Am I”. Wear a card on your head and ask questions to try to figure out who you are.

Logitech-Keyboard

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Logitech Keyboard Pad ($85)

I bought this keyboard for my iPad not too long ago and I can’t recommend it enough! The keyboard doubles as a durable case for your iPad, making it both functional and stylish.

Smitten-Kitchen

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Smitten Kitchen ($20)

If you spend any amount of time in the online food world you have probably stopped by Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen blog. In this book she showcases the best of her blog. Great gift for any cook!

JawBone

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Jam Box ($179)

It may look like a strange contraption, but this little box is full of big sound. Great for any audiophile, this system wirelessly connects to your phone, tablet or computer.

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Have you found any great gifts this holiday? I would love to hear about it.

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Peanut Butter Fun Facts

November 8th, 2012

Peanut_Butter_Brownie_Bites_smallIf you love peanut butter, November is the month for you. It has the distinction of being “National Peanut Butter Lovers Month”. As a peanut butter lover myself, I will have no problem celebrating this important holiday.

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A while back I wrote a post on the interesting history of peanut butter and how it shot into popularity during WW2. Today I have a few more fascinating facts about the delicious food to share with you.

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- 75% of homes in America have a container of peanut butter in them. Approximately 810 peanuts go into an 18 oz. jar of peanut butter. It takes about 45 nuts to produce one ounce.

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- US and China are leading exporters of peanut butter. Domestically, Georgia produces more peanuts than any other state, providing around 45% of the national crop.

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- President Jimmy Carter grew up on a peanut farm and was a peanut farmer before he got into politics. Thomas Jefferson was the first president to grow peanuts.

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- Preference for chunky or creamy peanut butter depends on geography. Creamy peanut butter is preferred on the east coast, chunky is preferred in the west.

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- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter contain around 8 grams of protein. The food is also high in vitamins B3 and E, magnesium and fiber.

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- There are at least 10 unofficial peanut butter “holidays” a year, including National Peanut Butter Cookie Day and National Peanut Butter Fudge Day.

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PB_Sandwich

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If you need some delicious and creative peanut butter recipes I have a few suggestions for you:
Brownie Bites with Peanut Butter Frosting
Peanut Butter Banana Bread Sandwich
Peanut Butter Brownie Cupcakes.
Have a happy National Peanut Butter Lovers Month!

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Spooky Halloween Decorating Ideas

October 24th, 2012

Just because Halloween falls on a Wednesday this year doesn’t mean you can’t get into the spirit with a little spooky décor. Whether you are throwing a party or just expecting a few trick-or-treaters, some festive décor will go a long way. Here are some ideas I’ve found that are sure to scare!

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Halloween-Scary-Staircase

Spooky Stairwell
(source)

This is a great way to dress up a staircase during a Halloween party! Intriguing and fun, “danger zone” is always an interesting theme.  It might be a little too spooky for the littlest ones, but adults will love it.
Tip: Use flameless candles, especially if there is traffic on the stairs.

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Halloween-Treat-Table

The Treat Table
(source)

This idea from House of Smiths is perfect for a party or trick-or-treaters. The candy is labeled creative names like “Pumpkin Tuth”, “Crows Bones” and “Hallowed Frog Eyes”. Creative and fun for candy lovers of all ages.

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Halloween-Spooky-Spread

Spooky Spread
(source)

Ever been to the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland? The painting on the wall behind the green skulls reminds me of the décor inside the famed ride. A little cheesecloth can go a long way in transforming a simple dinner table into a spooky spread. That cheese selection looks delicious too!

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Pumpkin-Patch-Decor
Pumpkin Patch
(source)

It wouldn’t be Halloween without some ghoulishly carved pumpkins! This party table takes advantage of the changing fall colors. Black ravens and vintage Halloween decorations greet diners at the table. Imagine how neat this would look all lit up at night!

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Halloween-House-Decor

Halloween House
(source)

I think this house was built specifically with Halloween in mind! The window set up is perfect for this kind of shadow and light effects. The best part – those window clings were all hand drawn! Very creepy décor!

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What are some of your favorite decorating tricks for the holiday? I’d love to hear your spooky ideas.

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