Make Ahead Make Over 4 Bean Salad

4 Bean Salad

4 Bean Salad, no sugar added recipe

Recently, my mother was ill and I catered her a meal that included four bean salad.  Store bought mixtures are far too sweet tasting for me, so I made over a recipe from the early 1970’s.  This original recipe was in the Better Homes and Gardens Blender Cook Book.  My make over version eliminates table sugar and cuts the sodium by at least half.  You can find my version by going to my main web site, www. and clicking on the “Cooking At Home” tab.

If the site is down for maintenance, it means that I am busy posting the recipe and check back in about 20 minutes for the computers to update.  But do check out this recipe.  It is fast, easy, nutritious, and can be stored in the refrigerate until you finish eating it up.  I have never seen it go bad, although I am sure it’s possible.  I enjoy having something like this that can be eaten cold, which is great for catering, picnics, hot weather, and a spur of the moment pot luck dish.

In the case of my mother, I had to drive more than an hour to her home.  All the food I took could be eaten cold and kept well in a cooler with ice.  It was just luck that I made this and other recipes when she happen to need it.  She was better by the next day; I think having good food ready for her to eat had something to do with it.


Free for Gardens

Just ask your local Starbucks to save their left-over coffee grounds for you.  It’s best to call them in the morning and let them know when you will be in to pick up the grounds, since my local store said that they suspended this program when customers used to throw trash on top of their neatly stacked coffee ground bags.  I suggested that they store the grounds behind the counter.

Starbucks Grounds for Gardens

Starbucks Grounds for Gardens

Money Saver Tip:  The bags are nice to stuff with weeds, so nothings goes to waste!

Having a Ball with Ball Brand Products and EPCOT

Freezer storageIf you attended the Walt Disney World Back to Basics lecture by Chef Tony Marolla, his first cooking tip was to use ice cube trays to freeze various small item amounts such as coffee for frozen coffee drinks, herb butters, and wine.  All are great tips and some of them I have used in my home kitchen, but I found that getting them out of the ice cube trays and then storing them into plastic bags difficult and it took up a lot of space in my small freezer.

Ball silicone products to the rescue.  These trays make it easy to remove just one cube at a time and have covers included so that you can efficiently and neatly store them in your freezer.  They are BPA free and dishwasher safe, of course.

While I was in the store isle that sells Ball canning jars, I was amazed and delighted to find additional handy products for our modern life.  There are infusing tops to put a slice of fruit for your fruit water into a wide mouth glass canning jar, and shaker tops for regular mouth glass canning jars that can be used to store your custom spice blends.  Before the season changes and these items are difficult to find in local stores, I have been stocking up on beautiful green and blue canning jars and various accessory products, such as the Frozen Herb Starter two packs.  You might consider this yourself, if you enjoy cooking at home; or, you might consider buying them now as a gift.

If you are near the Orlando International Airport, the WalMart store located North of the airport on Semoran (Highway 436) and Lake Margaret Drive currently have an excellent selection of Ball preservation and canning products.

Fun Snack that is not Just for Children

On a recent grocery shopping trip to my local Whole Foods, I noticed this box in the cookie isle.

Smart CookieThis looked like one smart cookie, so I decided to buy one box and see if the cookies tasted good.  I am happy to report that the cookies take excellent and they are a good source of iron.  This makes them good for everyone, not just for the little ones.

Flipped over Flip Box!

Months ago, I saw an HGTV show that discussed among other new innovations, a folding cooler called Flip Box.  As soon as I saw it, I knew that I wanted one.  I didn’t know that I would want two.

I found the first one on the East side of town at a Bed Bath and Beyond store.  This one is the perfect size to keep my groceries cold on the way home from the store.  I keep it in my car.

The second one is a bit larger and I found it at BJ’s Wholesale Club.  I like to use this size to help me clean out my refrigerator and freezer.  I don’t worry about food safety, while I take my time and carefully scrub those glass refrigerator shelves encased in fragile plastic.

When not doing shopping or cleaning duty, Flip Boxes can be folded down to a lightweight and narrow size for storage. If I were planning a long vacation, both of my Flip Boxes would be tucked away in a suitcase.

World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe

Can Central Florida get any more fun?  We have another Chocolate Museum!  The newly opened World of Chocolate Museum and Cafe is on the East side of International Drive, just South of Sea World.  Indulge your chocolate cravings seven days a week from 11 AM to 9 PM.  There are tables and chairs where you can relax and dine-in on chocolate by the piece.  For an educational chocolate experience, take the tour for $16.95 per adult and $12.95 for guests age 4 – 12.

Update: Cappuccino and WiFi are available!  In addition to pretty and delicious chocolate by the piece, stunningly beautiful pastries have been added to the menu. Talk about your eye candy!