Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Artificial Sweeteners and Almonds

You might use a sugar substitute in your cup of coffee and think nothing of it. However, when you bake with sugar substitutes you may have experienced problems. Sugar substitutes can' t stand up to the prolonged heat of the oven and therefore your baked goods can loose volume, taste less sweet, show tunneling or appear crumbly and lighter in color than those items baked with sugar. If you need to cut calories and carbs in your daily diet here are a few tips to keep in mind when using sugar substitutes during baking:

  • Add 1 tsp. vanilla extract for every 1 c. sugar substitute to enhance flavor

  • Flatten cookie dough before baking by gently pressing it with your palms. Sugar substitutes often prevent cookie dough from spreading.

  • Use cold brewed coffee inplace of some liquid in chocolate flavored recipes to enrich the chocolate notes

  • Create volume by using whipped egg whites instead of whole eggs. (2 egg whites for every 1 egg)

  • Reduce air tunnels in baked goods by cutting the fat into dry ingredients before adding the liquid ingredients

  • Achieve more height by switching from 9" pans to 8" round or square pans with 2" tall sides

Today is National Almond Day

A handful of almonds is an excellent source of vitamin E and magnesium. Plus almonds offer potassium (200mg), calcium(75mg), and iron (1.0mg).

These tasty nuts are a great way to stop that mid-afternoon "hungry" feeling. The protein, fiber and monounsaturated fat will keep you satisfied longer. There is also scientific evidence that suggests that eating 1.5 oz. per day, along with a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Small Batch Baking

What is it?

My Book Nook guest today was author and food writer, Debby Maugans who has perfected the art of "small batch baking". Her newest cookbook, "SMALL BATCH BAKING FOR CHOCOLATE LOVERS", is ideal for singles, small families, college students, retirees and brides-to-be. (And for ALL chocolate lovers, as well!)

If you have ever craved chocolate, gave in to the temptation of making a whole pan of brownies, and then proceeded to polish off all (or most) of the entire thing, you'll want to get this cookbook!

Debby explained that she got the idea for the book from her daughter, who would come home from school and request a dessert (at 8pm, no less!) Debby experimented and perfected all the recipes in this new cookbook.

There are over 120 pies, cakes, tarts, muffins, cookies and scones. You don't really need any special equipment other than a mini tart pan and a mini loaf pan -which she said you can pick up in the grocery aisle. When making the cakes, you can just recycle a tin can (a 14 1/2 oz. works best). You should use a can opener that doesn't leave a sharp edge and Debby has some recommendations in her book.

I shared one of her recipes after the interview today (see below). You can also get more information at her website:

Brownie Cookies
2 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
1 ½ Tbsp. unsalted butter
¼ c. firmly packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. well beaten egg
½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ c. all purpose flour
Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°. Line baking sheet with piece of parchment paper; set aside. Place chocolate and butter in medium, microwave safe bowl; microwave on MEDIUM until soft, about
1 ½ minutes. Stir until smooth. Stir in brown sugar; whisk in egg, vanilla, baking soda & salt until well blended. Stir in flour. Cover and refrigerate until dough is firm, about 30 minutes. Spoon dough by Tbsp. onto baking sheet, 2” apart. Bake until cookies have puffed then flattened, about 14 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Yield: 7 cookies.

Debby says these are great for an afternoon snack, crumbled to make your own "cookies and cream" blend of ice cream-or used as ice cream sandwiches!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Red hearts, Red Velvet and Red Birds


Red Hearts...

A day to celebrate love, joy and happiness in all stages and levels of relationships. With your spouse, your significant other, your friends, family and your children.

Remember decorating your shoe box to take to school in order to collect Valenine's from all your classmates. And then going through them, re-reading and examining them once you got home. Remember the boy (or girl) you had a secret crush on? And how you'd check out his or her signature and message on the Valentine? As if you could see there was really more to the message than a simple "You're Sweet", or "Be Mine". Did you agonize over which Valentine to give which classmate-because you wanted that "special someone" to realize the message behind the message? Ah, those were the days!

Red Velvet...

A sweet way to say Happy Valentine's Day is with Red Velvet Cupcakes. Did you know that this recipe was originally created for Eaton's Department store in Canada back in the 1940's? Other's say that it is attributed to the Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York. The cake, which is red in color (hence it's name) get's it's color from the combination of the vinegar (acid) when it reacts with the buttermilk. During World War II, foods were being rationed, so bakers used beets and/or beet juice to get the red color. However, the best way to get this cake to a true red color is by making a paste with 2 Tbsp. food coloring and mixing it with the cocoa powder before adding it to the batter. This cake saw a resurgence in popularity in the 1989 with the movie "Steel Magnolias" because in the south, the grooms' cake is often baked in the shape of an armadillo and features the Red Velvet Cake recipe.

Red Birds

It's so nice to take just a few minutes to relax and enjoy life and the little things that bring can bring joy and a smile. I watched a family of cardinals yesterday. The male, with his brillian red feathers, seemed to glow among the drab brown bushes. His female counterpart, was not quite as "showy", but seemed to be the one to demand attention as she held "court" with some sparrows on my porch railing. By taking time today to observe the small details, you can step back from all the turmoil and stress that might be pulling at you and just BREATH and RELAX for a few moments. Try it....

Friday, February 11, 2011

Toys and Treats

I'm not sure if kids get the chance to use their imaginations anymore-what with wii games, the internet and t.v. I used to spend hours playing "Barbies" with my sisters, neighborhood kickball games in our backyard and board games with my siblings and my friends. I guess my favorite toy from childhood were the board games that we received each year from "Santa". Christmas break was spent learning the games and playing them over and over and over....

I had the chance to interview Chris Byrne (The Toy Guy) today during the Book Nook segment. Chris has over 30 years experience in the toy industry and is also the content director for He was talking to us from the Mattel Showroom at the Javits Center in New York City in order to give us sneak peek on what we can expect to see on store shelves this year. Chris said that the Movie and the Entertainment industry drive some of the trends. Look for Justin Bieber dolls (with real hair!), 30 different toys to mark the newest "CARS" movie, action toys and figures for the latest "Pirates of the Carribbean" and "Transformers"-a big hit in the '80's (when my son was playing with the originals). Technology also plays an important part in toy development. Look for V-Tech's "Ino-pad", similar to Mom and Dad's I-Pad, but geared for kids. Classic toys-such as Lego (which appeal to kids as well as the "kid" in all of us) are also always popular.

You can check out "The Toy Guy's" website: .

You'll find lots of information on the newest toys, reviews on the top toys as well as book reviews and reviews by parents.

Today is Peppermint Patty day. Not sure if it's in refrence to the "little red-headed girl" in the Peanuts cartoon strip, or if it is to celebrate the candies.

I shared a recipe to make your own Peppermint Patties (see below) and we also talked about easy Valentine treats. I found a yummy recipe for Waffle Cookies ( you use your waffle iron). I am hoping to find some time this weekend to try them. I've posted the recipes below. If you try them, let me know what you think!

Peppermint Patties
¾ c. sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ tsp. peppermint extract
4 c. confectioners’ sugar
3 c. semisweet chocolate chips
2 tsp. shortening
In large mixing bowl, combine condensed milk and peppermint extract. Beat in enough confectioners’; sugar, a little at a time, to form a stiff dough that is no longer sticky. Form into 1” balls, the place on waxed paper and flatten with fingers to form patties. Let patties dry at room temperature 2 hours, turning once. IN medium saucepan over LOW heat, melt chocolate with shortening, stirring often. Remove from heat. Dip patties, one at a time, into chocolate by laying them on the tines of a fork and lowering the fork into the liquid. Let cool on waxed paper until set.

Waffle Cookies
½ c. packed brown sugar

¼ c. sugar

½ c. butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla

1 egg

½ tsp. salt
1 c. + 2 Tbsp. all purpose flour

¼ tsp. baking soda

½ c. flaked coconut
½ c. mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ c. chopped cashews

Confectioners’ sugar, optional
In large bowl, combine sugars, butter, egg and vanilla. Combine flour, salt & baking soda; gradually add to sugar mixture. Stir in coconut, cashews and chocolate chips. Drop batter by tablespoons 1” apart onto a preheated waffle iron coated with cooking spray. Bake for 1-2 minutes or until golden brown. Carefully remove to wire racks; cool completely. Dust with confectioners’ sugar if desired. Yield: 3 dozen.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Interruptions, Immune Systems and Interviews

On Monday, I spoke with Marsha Egan. Marsha is a certified business leader, coach and CEO of the professional coaching firm-The Egan Group. Marsha checks in with us on the program every few weeks and her topic this week was "Interrupting". Since I have a tendency to do this on occasion, I wanted to get some tips on how to avoid it in the future. Marsha said it's important to let people finish their thought. If you need to, silently count to three before you begin speaking. If you are constantly interrupting others, you may be percieved as being "rude". I don't mean to be rude. I sometime get so caught up in the conversation and eager to share my thoughts, that I don't wait but I'm going to use Marsha's trick of counting to three... For more tips check out Marsha's website

Today I spoke with Dr. Susan Rupp of Columbus Chiropractic. During the cold and flu season our immune system can become compromised. Chiropractic care helps the spine and nervous system but can also alleviate problems with the immune system. You can also stay healthy by:
  • getting enough sleep
  • staying hydrated (yes, even in winter!)
  • exercising
  • eating healthy foods and snacks
  • and washing your hands frequently

Yesterday I interviewed Allen Shawn. Mr. Shawn is a well known composer and as well as author of two other books. His newest book, "TWIN: A MEMOIR" is the compelling story of his life and that of his twin sister Mary, who was diagnosed with autism and institutionalized at the age of 8. His book delves into the science, history and heartbreaking effects that autism can have on those who have been diagnosed and also their family members.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Cherries and Chocolate

February is National Cherry Month and Chocolate Lovers month.

What is your favorite "Chocolate Combo"?

  • Chocolate with peanut butter -(peanut butter cups!)

  • Chocolate covered raisins? Almonds? cherries?

  • Chocolate with salt-as in chocolate covered pretzels

  • Chocolate with whipped cream-a steaming mug of hot cocoa swirled whith whipped cream and cinnamon on top!

  • Chocolate with wine...

Maybe you just love pure, unaltered CHOCOLATE!

I like all of the above but I think my favorites are chocolate covered cherries (love the gooey, sweet goodness that drips off my fingers) and chocolate with coconut (a Mounds candy bar has just a little bit of heaven in every bite!)

I'd love to hear your favorite chocolate pairings

It is also National Cherry Month-probably because of the famous "George Washington and the Cherry Tree" myth. Here is a quick and easy cherry dessert that you might want to try:

Cherry Chocolate Pie
11 large marshmallows
1/3 c. milk
1 (3 oz.) piece milk chocolate candy bar, chopped
1 (8 oz.) container frozen whipped topping, thawed and divided
1 graham cracker crust (10”)
1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling
In large saucepan, combine marshmallows, milk and chocolate. Cook and stir over medium low heat until smooth. Cool completely. Fold ¾ c. whipped topping into chocolate mixture. Pour into prepared crust. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Top with pie filling & remaining whipped topping. Cover & refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight. Yield: 8 servings.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Freezers and Frozen Tundra

It's a GREAT day to be a Packer fan, Cheesehead, or lover of all that is Green and Gold! What a fantastic football game. The Green Bay Packers (in case you haven't heard) won Super Bowl XLV! Fourth Super Bowl win, 13th NFL Championship! Our team worked very hard, through much adversity to perserve and come out on top. So here's to the Frozen Tundra and the world champions-the Green Bay Packers!

And speaking of frozen....freezing... freezers...

I spent part of the weekend with my daughter, cooking in the kitchen and making meals for her freezer. She works for the American Cancer Society and has a very hectic schedule-sometimes working 10-12 hour days. She doesn't have a lot of time to prepare meals so a few times a year, we get together and stock her freezer with breakfast, lunch and dinner entrees. This time we even made a few desserts. I think we made almost 30 breakfast meals (waffles and french toast), and about 50 lunch/meal entrees, (chicken, beef, pork). We used the "Debbie Meyer Genius bags" which works great for preserving and freezing. The bags come with a hand held tool that sucks out the air and really seals in the freshness. Plus the bags lay flat and take up less space in the freezer.

Here are a few tips if you want to maximize the space in YOUR freezer:
1. Label everything. Keep a marker and freezer labels handy.You won't have to guess how long it's been in the freezer if it's labeled.
2. Wrap it up. Use durable, leak-proof containers or heavy duty plastic freezer bags. Press to remove all air and store raw meats on the bottom shelf to minimize contamination.
3. Follow the FIFO plan. (First in, first out). By using oldest foods first you will waste less.
4. Do monthly check-ups. throw out food that has been frozen too long, or use up food that you might have forgotten about.
5. Pack it flat. Always allow food to cool to room temperature before freezing; once cool, freeze immediately. Freeze in a single layer and stack them after they're frozen.
6. Make single servings. A pound of bacon or an entire batch of cookie dough can be too much to thaw at once. I purchase bacon, separate the slices; lay them between layers of wax paper on a cookie sheet; and freeze. Once frozen, I place them (still between wax paper) in a large freezer zip lock bag. This way I can cook 1-2 slices of bacon as needed. Works great!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Bikes and Blizzards

Since I began hosting "The Idea Exchange", I have read many books. (89 during my first year - 2009, and 123 during 2010. If you only read one (1) book this year, this is the one!

I was very pleased to be able to talk with Mark Scharenbroich, an emmy award winning keynote speaker and humorist about his new book, "NICE BIKE: MAKING MEANINGFUL CONNECTIONS ON THE ROAD OF LIFE". The book details 3 powerful actions that will transform your business relationships, improve your productivity, develop higher levels of customer engagement and will also help you connect in your personal relationships as well. The three basic principles are:

*Acknowledge-make the extra effort to be more aware of others.

*Honor-recognize what is important to the other person and be an active listener.

*Connect-show appreciation, say 'thank-you' and take time to connect.

Mark says he first got the idea for the book when he came to Wisconsin for a speaking engagement in Neenah. It was the week of Harley Davidson's 100th anniversary celebration and he noticed that when "bikers" greeted other bikers, they always started the conversation with "Nice Bike". He realized that by acknowledging and then recognizing what is important to others gives us a way to connect. Mark weaves many stories that showcase these concepts.

The idea is so simple...

I believe this should be required reading for every supervisor, manager and CEO as well as every employee, parent, teenager and spouse. It is going to be my "go-to" birthday gift for everyone on my list this year because it is INCREDIBLE.

~"Nice Bike, Mark Scharenbroich"~

Here in Wisconsin we are just coming out of a HUGE winter snowstorm-of blizzard proportions! We received about 11 1/2" of snow here in Beaver Dam, (many other places received more), wind gusts hit 45 miles an hour and road conditions were the worst we've seen in a decade. There were over 160 run-offs during the past 2 days in our county and some people spent Tuesday night stuck in their car! Of course, here at the radio station, we never close. I was here early on Tuesday and even earlier on Wednesday morning to field all the snow related cancellations/closings and delays. News reports say that this storm hit 30 states and affected over 1 million people! Were you one of them? Do you have a story that you'll be able to tell your grandchildren some day?
I am thankful that everyone I know stayed safe and I am very grateful to my neighbor. He used his snowblower to clear my driveway both Tuesday and Wednesday!