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.


Flameless Battery Candles

Flameless Candles, USB Shelf

Flameless Battery Candles on a USB Shelf


Living in Florida, I have a more stylish and automatic solution for dark hallways and occasional power outages.  I have many flameless, also called battery operated, candles in strategic locations around my home, including on top of bathroom wall cabinets.  My family like them and my guests love them.

The picture that I have posted is on a shelf that has two lights that can be charged by a USB connection.  I found this shelf on sale at Lowes Home Improvement Store.  It is installed over a doorway that leads into a windowless hallway.  On top of the shelf, I have several battery operated candles with timers.  Each timer will turn on automatically and provide a small amount of light for five hours before it will automatically switch off.  I have the hallway candles on a staggered schedule, so that there will be some light regardless of the time of day or night.  If you live in a home with a stairway, I would suggest installing several small accent shelves every few steps and place some flameless candles on each one.  It will be beautiful and practical. It will make a great house warming gift!

I prefer the candles that have the five hour timers and use double A size batteries.  The triple A ones will not perform as well, and without a timer it will be too much of a problem to remember to turn them on nightly and off every morning.

You can find these type of timer candles at big box stores, such as WalMarts.  Jo-Ann Fabric and Crafts also sells them, and in various colors, sizes and scents.  Bed Bath and Beyond carry taper candles for your dining table that have five hour times too.  Romantic and safe.

Recycling Electronics

The EPA website gives a list of stores that offer recycling services of electronic devices, such as cell phones, iPods, iPads, tablets, computers, Macs, PCs, and TVs.  However, it does not tell you that if you live near a mall with a Microsoft store, you can walk in any time and hand them your old PC and they take care of recycling it for you.  Although Microsoft does not give you any monetary consideration, you don’t have to fill out any forms; so, it’s quick and easy.

Apple offers a recycling program through their website,; a free prepaid mailing box will be sent to you for qualifying items including PCs; and if they have any reasonable value, an apple gift card will be mailed to you.  Apple mall stores do not accept items for recycling.  However, old working iPods will be accepted in the mall store and you will be given an immediate ten percent discount toward a new iPod.  Details are on the website.

Wherever you decide to recycle your old electronic device, you will feel good that you are doing something good for your home, planet Earth!  Everyday should be Earth Day!

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.

Ten Most Fun Places to Shop in Central Florida

Want to score a perfect 10 in both buying and giving gifts?  Think outside the big box stores or online shopping carts.  Here are my top ten shopping experiences in Central Florida:

Brevard County:

1.)  Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Center Gift Shop; this Monday there might be the added bonus of a Mars launch. Let’s do launch!

2.)  SPCA Thrift Shop on US 1 in Titusville. Be sure to ask about their wooden nickel program.

3.)  Brevard County Main Library Gift Shop; North of 520 and East of US 1 in Cocoa.

4.)  Rockledge Gardens; US 1 in Rockledge Florida. Knowledgable and friendly staff will help you with all of your gardening questions.

Lake County, Orange County, Osceola County or Lake Buena Vista:

5.)  Animal Kingdom Gift Shops in Walt Disney World.  Animal Kingdom is adjacent to a Rainforest Cafe Restaurant and Gift Shop for more shopping fun.

6.)  Lakeridge Winery in Clermont on US Highway 27

7.)  Orlando Science Center Gift Shop on Princeton Street in Downtown Orlando

8.)  All Habitat for Humanity Thrift Stores.  Although the stores are all different, the goal of helping the homeless is the same.

9.)  All Salvation Army Thrift Store.  You feel good shopping until you drop here, because you know that your money is helping those less fortunate.

10.)  Most health and nutrition stores in Central Florida.  Some stores have calendars available this time of year where the proceeds support micro businesses in developing countries.

Wherever you travel, please have a safe and enjoyable experience.  Remember to relax and think outside the box when you are finding a parking spot.  Whenever possible, going a few traffic lights out of the way, turning around, and finding another entrance can save you time and frustration.  Remember not to block any intersections; the timing of our yellow lights is shorter than in other places in the United States.


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!