March madness munching

this year March madness is about as good as it gets…keep eating!

Popcorn Balls


  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 18 cups popped corn


In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, water, syrup, vinegar, and salt. Cook over high heat until mixture reaches 255 degrees F (hard-ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Stir in vanilla. Pour over popped corn, tossing gently to coat. When mixture is cool enough to handle, press popcorn into 3-inch balls with lightly greased hands. Cool completely on waxed paper.

Onion Rings


  •             1 Vidalia onion, sliced crosswise into thin rings
  •             1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  •             1/2 cup cornstarch
  •             1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  •             1 teaspoon coarse salt
  •             1 can (12 ounces) seltzer water
  •             6 cups vegetable oil
  •             Coarse salt


  •  Line a baking sheet with paper towels; set aside. Place onion rings in a large bowl of ice water for 10 minutes; drain and pat dry. In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, salt, and seltzer.
  •  In a heavy 5-quart pot or Dutch oven, heat oil over high until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees. Working in seven to eight batches, place onions in batter; using your fingers, lift out, letting excess drip off. Carefully place in oil, making sure not to overcrowd pot; cook until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes.
  •  Transfer rings to prepared baking sheet, and season with salt. Keep warm in a 250-degree oven. Return oil to 375 degrees before starting next batch.

Madness Mix 


  •             4 cups assorted whole grain cereals
  •             2 cups pretzel rounds
  •             3 tablespoons olive oil
  •             1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated


  •   Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, toss together cereals, pretzel rounds, olive oil and Parmesan cheese.    Spread mixture in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cheese is melted and cereal is crisp and lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
  •  Spread mixture in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cheese is melted and cereal is crisp and lightly golden, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

This mix will keep for up to one week when stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

 thanks to Martha Stewart and Food  Network for recipes that look too good not to eat them…


more Friday food stuff

eating fresh fruit is so good for you- but picking fresh fruit is not always easy…here are some tips:

• Apples: Choose fruits that are deeply colored, firm, naturally shiny, and heavy for their size.

• Apricots: Choose fruits that are fragrant and slightly soft but not mushy.

• Bananas: Choose bright yellow bananas to eat right away or green bananas to ripen at home. Avoid fruits that are bruised or split.

• Blueberries: Choose berries that are firm, dry, and blue (not red or green). A white sheen is natural. Also check the bottom of the basket to make sure there aren’t any crushed or spoiled berries.

• Cantaloupes: Choose fruits that are fragrant and cream or golden in color (not green). Avoid fruits with soft spots, although the end opposite the stem should be slightly soft.

• Cherries: Choose berries that are plump, shiny, and darker in color. Cherries with intact stems have a longer shelf life.

• Figs: Choose soft, plump fruits with intact, bent stems. Minor bruises or tears are usually harmless, but avoid buying dry, cracked figs.

• Grapefruits: Choose fruits that have smooth, thin skins and are heaviest for their size. They should feel firm but slightly springy to the touch. Don’t worry about color.

• Grapes: Choose fruits that are firm, plump, and heavy for their size. They should be firmly attached to the stems without wrinkled or brown spots.

• Kiwi Fruits: Choose fruits that give slightly when pressed. Avoid fruits that are either rock hard or mushy.

• Lemons and Limes: Choose fruits that are fragrant and heaviest for their size. Avoid fruits that are shriveled.

• Mangoes: Choose fruits that are slightly soft to the touch and fragrant near the stem end.

• Oranges: Choose fruits that heaviest for their size and have firm, smooth skins. Don’t worry about color. For Mandarin oranges, make sure skins are firm, not shriveled.

• Peaches: Choose fragrant, deeply colored (not green) fruits that are firm but slightly soft to the touch.

• Pears: Pears are usually picked before they are fully ripe, but choose fruits that are free of bruises and look for any that are getting soft just below the stem. Ripen them at room temperature; placing them in a paper bag speeds up the process.

• Persimmons: Choose fruits that are deep orange or red in color. Fuyu types should be firm but not rock-hard. Hachiya types should be soft and squishy or kept at room temperature for a week or two until they soften. Dark spots caused by by sunburn are harmless unless the flesh is sunken or broken.

• Pineapples: Choose fruits that smell sweet at the stem end, have fresh looking leaves, and are heavy for their size. Avoid fruits with soft spots or dry, brown leaves.

• Plums: Choose fruits that are deeply colored, shiny, and firm but not rock hard. A white or gray sheen is natural.

• Pomegranates: Choose fruits that are heavy for their size. Cracks are a good sign that the fruits are bursting with plump seeds; just make sure there isn’t any mold in the cracks.

• Quinces: Choose fruits that are firm and golden in color.

• Strawberries: Choose berries that are fragrant, uniformly red (not yellow or green), and shiny with fresh green tops. Also check the bottom of the basket to make sure there aren’t any crushed or spoiled berries.

• Watermelons: Choose fruits that are firm and heavy and sound hollow when thumped. A properly ripened watermelon should have a yellow spot on one side where it sat on the ground.

if you don’t eat fresh fruit, try a fruit salad or have fruit with yogurt or ice cream

thanks to

websites too good to miss

I come across so many good websites while I’m writing Ask Mom they’re too good not to pass them along…

if you know about any good websites please send them to me so that I can pass yours along, too and I’ll post the best every Thursday

 if you and your pets need a friend check these out


 fun and good food come to you


very good ideas for making your place look great


have fun and laugh- it’s good for you


fast face fixes

If looking in the mirror in the morning  is not your favorite thing to do here are some quick fixes to help you start your day looking good …

blotchy face- put a cool, wet towel on the back of your neck, it will help constrict your blood vessels and lowers your body temperature which will make the redness go away, then splash cold water on your face

no more puffy eyes- wrap a bag of frozen peas in a dish towel and put it on your eyes or a washcloth soaked in chamomile tea will take the puffiness away

fix a tan- if you have a streaky self-tan squeeze lemon juice on a cotton ball and wipe it over the streaky orange places or rub baking soda onto damp skin

pillow creases- if you have lines on your face that were not there when you went to sleep you probably have pillow case creases- splash your face with warm water and massage in moisturizer, hydrating your skin should be a big help

bottoms up- dry the underneath layers of your hair first, then the top layers and don’t start with your hair soaking wet

more $$ questions

Ask Mom- I have an acquaintance who is a lawyer and I asked him to help me out with a small problem. He helped me and did a good job but do I have to pay him?

Really?!? of course you should pay him, unless he went to law school and became a lawyer because he loves helping people and he’s independently wealthy. Even if he didn’t bring up payment you should ask him how much you owe him. If he says that you don’t owe him anything, you should show your appreciation for his help by sending him a check for a reasonable amount, or send him a gift certificate for a great restaurant, make a donation in his name or invite him out to good meal or sports game.

to pay? or not to pay?

Dear Mom, this question is as much about the principle of the thing as it is about the money. When I go out to eat with a group of friends my bill is always the smallest. I am a vegetarian and don’t drink so I order salads or pasta and dessert usually, while everyone else is eating food that costs a lot more than mine, and we always split the bill. If the cost of hanging out with friends is that I have to pay for their food I will keep doing it, but is there any way that I can still eat with them and not pay for their food?

There are ways to nicely handle this, but make sure that you pick your battles and that this is one that you really want to fight without losing your friends. Is there really is a big difference between the amount you would pay for your own bill rather than splitting the bill? If the amount of money is big then as you are sitting down to eat, say “Is it ok if we pay for our own food and drinks?” It’s hard to say no to that, or “I’m going to get a separate check today, if that’s ok?” It’s more like an announcement than a question, but be prepared to stop getting invited to go out with your friends!

eat up March Madness

here’s my March Madness confession: I made a bet that I really want to win so I cheated when I picked my bracket! I wrote the name of each team playing against each other on an index card and put one of my assistant’s favorite treats on each card, whichever treat she ate that’s the team I chose…we have only lost 2 games!!!

even if your bracket is busted you’ll like these snacks, they’re low calorie and they’ll fill you up…so at least the games won’t be fattening

 chunky peach pops


  • 1 1/4 pounds  ripe peaches, (3-4 medium), halved and pitted
  •   Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup  freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1/4 cup  sugar, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon  vanilla extract


  • Coarsely chop peaches in a food processor. Transfer 1 cup of the chunky peaches to a medium bowl. Add lemon juice, orange juice and sugar to taste (depending on the sweetness of the peaches) to the food processor. Puree until smooth. Add to the bowl with the chunky peaches and stir in vanilla.
  • Divide the mixture among twelve 2-ounce or eight 3-ounce freezer-pop molds (or small paper cups). Freeze until beginning to set, about 1 hour. Insert frozen-treat sticks and freeze until completely firm, about 1 hour more.


  • MAKE AHEAD TIP: Store in the freezer for up to 3 weeks. | Equipment: Twelve 2-ounce or eight 3-ounce freezer-pop molds, or small paper cups with frozen-treat sticks

 watermelon salsa


  • 3 cups  finely diced seedless watermelon, (about 2 1/4 pounds with the rind) (see Tip)
  • 2   jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (see Ingredient note)
  • 1/3 cup  chopped cilantro, (about 1/2 bunch)
  • 1/4 cup  lime juice
  • 1/4 cup  minced red onion, (about 1/2 small)
  • 1/4 teaspoon  salt, or to taste


  • Place watermelon, jalapenos, cilantro, lime juice and onion in a medium bowl; stir well to combine. Season with salt. Serve at room temperature or chilled.


  • Tip: Melon selection & storage: Look for symmetrical unblemished melons, without flat sides, that have a creamy yellow spot on the bottom indicating ripeness. At 92% water, this fruit should feel heavy when you heft it. Precut melon flesh should be dense, firm and appear moist. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week or keep in a cool, dark spot. Cover the cut surface of melon with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
  • Ingredient Note: The seeds and surrounding membrane are the spiciest part of the chile pepper. To increase the heat of the salsa, use some or all of the seeds, depending on your preference, along with the flesh of the pepper.
  • MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 day.


 veggies and dip


  • 1/2 cup  nonfat buttermilk, (see Tip)
  • 1/3 cup  low-fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons  minced fresh dill, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • 1 tablespoon  lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon  Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon  honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon  garlic powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon  salt
  • 6 cups  vegetables, such as baby carrots, sliced red bell peppers, snap peas, broccoli and cauliflower florets, cucumber spears, grape tomatoes


  • Whisk buttermilk, mayonnaise, dill, lemon juice, mustard, honey, garlic powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Serve the dip with vegetables of your choice.


  • Tip: No buttermilk? You can use buttermilk powder prepared according to package directions. Or make “sour milk”: mix 1 tablespoon lemon juice or vinegar to 1 cup milk.
  • MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate the dip for up to 3 days.


 indoor s’mores


  • 2   whole graham crackers, broken in half
  • 4   marshmallows
  • 2 tablespoons  bittersweet chocolate chips, melted (see Tip)


  • Position oven rack in the upper third of the oven; preheat broiler.
  • Place graham cracker halves on a baking sheet; top each with 1 marshmallow. Broil, with the oven door ajar and watching carefully, until the marshmallows are golden brown, 45 to 75 seconds. Remove from the oven and drizzle each S’more with a little melted chocolate.


Tip: To melt chocolate: Microwave on Medium for 1 minute. Stir, then continue microwaving on Medium in 20-second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval. Or place in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted.

 feta & herb dip with veggies


  • 1 15-ounce can  white beans, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup  nonfat plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup  crumbled feta cheese
  • 1 tablespoon  lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon  garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon  freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup  chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup  chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 cup  chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup  chopped fresh chives


  • Place beans, yogurt, feta, lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper in a food processor and puree until smooth. Add herbs; puree until incorporated. Chill until ready to serve.


MAKE AHEAD TIP: Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

 coco-nut bananas


  • 4 teaspoons  cocoa powder
  • 4 teaspoons  toasted unsweetened coconut
  • 2 small  bananas, sliced on the bias


  • Place cocoa and coconut on separate plates. Roll each banana slice in the cocoa, shake off the excess, then dip in the coconut.

most of the recipe ideas are from Fitness Magazine- enjoy


Friday Food Stuff

it seems like most of my mail is about food, not a surprise- so for a while Friday is going to be Food Tips Friday with good recipes following on Saturday

there’s going to be lots of jumping up and down and eating during March Madness, but you don’t have to gain weight doing it…

make good snacks in big batches and keep them around so that you can grab them instead of being tempted by junk food

almost anything with unsaturated fat is better than saturated fats- unsaturated fats are: canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, olive oil and peanut oil and saturated fats are: margarine, shortening, lard, butter and coconut oil

don’t drink your calories- drink flavored regular or flavored carbonated water and save the calories for food, make big pitchers of flavored water and drink as much as you want to

along with trying to eat low calorie food, you should also eat food that makes you feel full.  Lots of little calories can still add up- so the best food is food that fills you up without a lot of calories. Not a surprise that fruits and vegetables are the very best snacks because they are full of fiber and water. Fruits low in sugar and veggies low in starch are the best, cereal is ok especially if it’s whole grain because it’s much better than made with white flour, protein snacks will make you feel full for a long time, try- egg whites, cod, halibut or bass and white potatoes, popcorn and yogurt are all good.


Spring stretch

Stretching is a very good thing and the benefits outweigh the effort, that’s always a good thing…

check out these stretching websites…and s-t-r-e-t-c-h Slide Show: A Guide to 10 Basic Stretches  Top 6 Stretching Exercises  Lisa Balbach’s Stretching Exercises

ease into Spring

ease into Spring and Spring cleaning, start by organizing and tossing…

batteries- get some batteries and a flashlight ready for power outages, if you take the batteries out of the package, wrap a rubber band around them without letting the positive and negative ends touch, it can shorten the battery life and don’t put them in the fridge

spices- toss and replace old spices (9 months or more) and get a good container or spice organizer to keep them in, write the date you bought it under the name

important papers- scan your important papers, birth certificate, social security card, insurance papers,etc. and keep a copy on a memory stick, make a list of all credit card numbers and customer service phone numbers, too

knives- good time to sharpen knives and scissors

junk drawers- take all of your paper clips, nails, nuts and bolts, picture hangers and thumb tacks and put them into individual jars with lids. Put the jars into a shoe box, storage container or small unused garbage can with your tools, tape, string and glue so that the next time you have to fix something you’ll have everything you need to DIY

winter clothes- if you have more than 1 closet start making a winter clothes closet and a summer clothes closet, but clean your sweaters or blankets and everything that’s stained or dirty before putting it away. Cashmere and wool attract moths and bug larvae, but you can get rid of it by putting your sweaters into a large sealed bag and freeze them for a few hours before storing them!

quilts and comforters- before storing them for the winter make sure they’re clean and don’t store them in a plastic bag. Roll them up or fold them and put them in a pillow case or wrap them up in a sheet for the summer