Posted in Branding and Marketing, Small Business Tips

Under-appreciated Branding and Advertising Tool: button makers

I recently found myself volunteering to make about 100 buttons for my mom’s church group’s national convention: one each for the delegates to wear and extras to trade with delegates from other states.
And as I was studiously working in a familiar loading and pressing rhythm, I thought how nice it was to be reunited with the button maker I had purchased for a former employer. Naturally, we parted on great terms since he continues to let me borrow the button maker.

You see, for short-run branding and advertising needs, you can’t beat the cost and ROI of a single-purchase button maker for about $300, and supplies so cheap!

For large runs of general branding items, you’re still going to get the best cost through outsourcing. But when you need it dated, featuring the employee of the month 12 times a year, or fewer than 500, make the investment in the button maker and give yourself the freedom to design what you need and make only the number you need, even if it’s the night before you need them!

Buy the American Button Machines 2.25″ kit shown above here.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Easy Spanish-style Sausage and Rice

My best friend has her abuela’s pot for making Arroz con Pollo, but my family is much less discerning of that level of authenticity. Instead, we get close with this flavorful sausage and rice dish.

You’ll need

  • 1 family size package of Vigo Spanish Rice (with seasonings included in the package)
  • 2 lbs cooked link sausage, such as kielbasa, turkey sausage, venison sausage, etc.
  • 1-2 packages of frozen peppers and onions (roughly 1-2 cups of chopped frozen or cooked peppers and onions)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup whole green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced (optional)

Cook the rice according to package instructions.

While the rice cooks, slice cooked sausage into coins and brown in skillet.

Note: Vigo seasoned Spanish rice is not corn-free. Use unseasoned white or yellow rice and Sazon with Saffron seasoning.

Thaw/steam frozen peppers and onions (with poblano pepper if using) in the microwave. Or, if using fresh veggies, sautee in skillet after sausage is all browned.

Spanish_Sausage_and_Rice.jpgWhen rice is finished, mix in browned sausage, warmed peppers and onions, and olives. I leave my olives whole because all of my peeps like them; feel free to slice or chop yours up if you need to hide them ;-).

Serve directly from the rice pot, accompanied by fresh fruit salad or seasonal marinated vegetables.

Tip: maintain healthy overnight blood sugar by skipping the “bread on the side” with dinner when you already have rice, pasta, or potatoes. Even non-diabetics can experience unhealthy blood glucose levels when consuming extra complex carbohydrates.

Posted in Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free

Colombia Restaurant 1905-inspired Summer Pasta Salad

I’ve eaten at the Colombia Restaurant just once and was most impressed by the simplicity and the goodness of their signature salad with their 1905 salad dressing. But I can’t eat lettuce, so I looked for a way to make this a robust salad without it. Enter pasta…or quinoa or even rice for a Northern Italian-style dish.

Here’s what I used for the “salad”:

  • 1 box of orzo pasta, prepared according to package instructions (GF: use any small piece gluten free pasta; GF & CF: use quinoa)
  • 3 standard cucumbers, seeds removed, quartered lengthwise, chopped
  • 6 roma tomatoes, sliced in rings
  • 1 cup green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, whole or sliced (I like whole)
  • 8 slices of swiss cheese, cut into 1/2-inch squares (or julienned if that’s easier)
  • 1 package of diced prociutto (4 oz)
  • 1 package of julienned Citterio ham (4 oz)
  • 1/2 cup pepperoncini rings (optional)

For the dressing, which is based on the Colombia Restaurant 1905 dressing:

  • 1 cup good oil (EVOO)
  • 1 cup ACV
  • 1/4 Worcestershire sauce
  • 4-6 cloves of garlic, minced finely
  • 1t dried oregano
  • 1t black pepper
  • 1/2 t salt

Whisk up the dressing and let it sit out on the counter to marinate for several hours before you dress the pasta salad.

Dress and serve at is or over a pile of lettuce to make it more “salad-y.”

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

1-pan Dinner: Chicken Marbella with Roasted Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts

IMG_1859For a family of 2-4, this meal can be made using 1 cutting board, 1 chef’s or chopping knife, 1 mixing bowl, and 1 large baking sheet. You can make clean up even easier by lining your baking sheet with foil.

For this dinner, you’ll need

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or comparable chicken strips or chicken thighs)
  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (Yukon gold, red, russet – whatever kind you like)
  • 1 lb brussels sprouts, cleaned and halved
  • 1 Vidalia or sweet onion, large diced (optional)
  • 2-4 T good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)

For the Marbella marinade, you’ll need

  • 4 prunes, chopped roughly
  • 6-8 green Spanish olives stuffed with pimentos, chopped roughly
  • 1 T capers, chopped roughly
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup good oil (olive, grapeseed, coconut)
  • 1/4 apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper

The night before you’ll be cooking this dinner, combine all of the Marbella marinade ingredients and whisk to mix well. Pour over the raw chicken (yep, it can even be frozen still); make sure the chicken is one layer when you put it in the fridge. It is super important that you marinate the chicken overnight.

For baking, prehead the oven to 375°F, line your baking sheet with foil and spray it down well with cooking spray.

Toss your diced potatoes and halved Brussels sprouts in good oil and salt and pepper. You can certainly add any other spices you like at this time; for pairing with the Marbella flavors, I recommend lemon pepper or dijon, something with a strong, tart flavor to contrast with the salty and sweet of the Marbella.

Lay out the chicken in a row across one end of the pan, layer the potatoes in the middle in one layer, and layer the Brussels sprouts and onions on the other end of the pan. Pour any remaining Marbella marinate over the chicken.

Place the pan on the upper rack in the center of the oven, and set the timer for 30 minutes.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, nut free, soy free

My Mom’s Mother’s Day Special: Salmon Croquettes, Charleston Macaroni Pie, Marinated Cucumbers and Onions

According to my blog, it’s been more than five years since I last made salmon croquettes. These have always been a super special occasion food, mostly because salmon is so expensive. So when I told my mom that I was thinking of making salmon croquettes for dinner on Mother’s Day 2017, she immediately rounded out the meal with Macaroni Pie a la Charleston Receipts and marinated cucumbers and onions.

Marinated Cucumbers and Onions

Start at least 1 day ahead by peeling and slicing kirby pickling cucumbers and Vidalia sweet onions into a container with a lid. Add 1.5 T salt and 1.5 T black pepper. Fill with apple cider vinegar halfway up the pile of veggies. Add water until veggies are just covered. Put the lid on and refrigerate. And if you’re like me, put a sticky note on the lid warning away the snackers lest you find the container empty before dinner.

Macaroni Pie a la Charleston Receipts

Charleston has a side dish variation on macaroni and cheese that we call “pie” because it uses an egg-milk custard to firm up into nice, cheesy, cuttable squares. You can make this ahead and heat it up for 30 minutes at 350°F, but it’s better to make it fresh, especially for special occasions.

Salmon Croquettes

Make the salmon croquettes fresh using canned salmon, being sure to remove all of the skin and bones (especially the spine) and breaking up the salmon well. These pan-fried salmon patties rival crab cakes as the best seafood “pattie” food on the coast, even though salmon isn’t native to our waters. Check out how to make them here.

Posted in Children, God Loves Me!

Children’s Sermon on John 10: 3-5 – Jesus Knows Your Name

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Swim Coach Chris Puglia with South Carolina Special Olympics USA Games 2014 Swimmers Amanda, Tate, and Travis

Scripture: John 10: 3b – 5

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

Who here is on a sports team – any time of year? Swimming, dancing, soccer, football, gymnastics, baseball, running, bowling, lacrosse…

And how do you and everyone else know which team you’re on when you’re playing a game or competing? Colors of the uniforms

And how can your coach tell you apart and know your names to call out suggestions to help you win? You’ve spent time together in practice and your coach has learned who you are and your name.

And how do you know which coach’s voice belongs to your coach? You know his/her voice and how he/she talks.

In today’s Children’s Church lesson, we hear the same kind of being known and of knowing about Jesus, about how He knows our names and we know His voice so we know which voice to follow to make good choices in life. As I read the scripture, think of yourself as one of the sheep:

He [Jesus] calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

For Jesus, He knows our names and who we are instantly. But for us, we have to learn how to tell Jesus’s voice from other influences, sometimes just our own wants. So we come to church and we study and we ask our teachers and parents and leaders how they learned to know Jesus as well as He knows us.

Will you pray with me?

Dear Jesus
Thank you for knowing my name.
Thank you for protecting me as your sheep.
Help me to know your voice.
Help me to follow your guidance.
In your name, we pray,
Amen.

Posted in Being Healthy, Cooking, corn free, gluten free, nut free, soy free

Teriyaki Pork, Fried Rice, and Hibachi Veggies

18237847_10155296972689116_6937488602022063762_oI LOVE the show and the flavor of a great Japanese hibachi meal, but I don’t have one of those amazing, huge hotplates for making everything at the same time. So I turned to what I know of cooking rice casseroles and oven steaming veggies to see how I could make this dinner easier and faster. Here’s how it goes:

  • Time at Counter: 30-45 minutes
  • Time Food is Cooking: 60 minutes

Sorry – I didn’t think I’d be blogging this whole meal, so I didn’t take pics along the way. I’ll add some next time I do this dinner…which should be soon based on my family’s reviews!

Prep the Fried Rice for the Oven

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In your 8×8 or 9×9 baking dish, pour all of the ingredient:

  • 1 cup uncooked white or brown rice (regular, not instant or frozen)
  • 1.5 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (or use my soy-free soy sauce)
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots mix (get the store brand on sale some time)

Stir to combine the liquids and put in the oven for 1 hour.

NOTE: you can use any combination of veggies you like; just keep the total amount to no more than 1.5 cups or you’ll overwhelm your rice.

Prep the Hibachi Veggies for the Oven

Chop, dice, slice, or whatever cut you like up to 4 cups of raw or frozen veggies. Keep in mind that frozen veggies will not be crisp when cooked. I like to use

  • 3 fresh zucchinis, quartered lengthwise and then copped into 1-inch pieces
  • 4 fresh large carrots, cut into coins or half moons (for the fatter end of the carrot)
  • 1-2 sweet Vidalia onions, thick sliced and quartered
  • 1/4 soy sauce
  • 4 T butter or margarine

When I have them or think of them, I’ve been known to add sliced water chestnuts, baby corn (chopped in 1/2-inch pieces), bamboo shoots, mung bean sprouts.

Toss veggies with soy sauce and top with 5-6 pats of butter (4 T butter or margarine). Cover with foil and put in the oven for 20 minutes with foil on and 20 minutes with foil off. Stir veggies when you remove the foil.

NOTE: by this time, you’ve been at the counter for about 15-25 minutes, depending on how efficient (faster and maybe messy) versus perfectionist (slower and cleaning as you go) you are in the kitchen. You’ve got anywhere from 15-25 minutes to go, depending on your style.

Prep the Teriyaki Glazed Pork Loin

Put a large skillet, preferable cast iron, over medium heat with 2 T of your favorite cooking oil; do NOT use butter or margarine for this step. You’ll need the equivalent of 2 boneless pork chops worth of cubed pork per person. For my family of 4, roughly 1/4 of a large pork loin renders generous portions.

  • for 2 adults: use a package of 4 boneless pork chops
  • for 4 adults: use 1/4 (about 8 inches) of a large pork loin
  • for 6 adults: use 1/2 of a large pork loin

TIP: don’t buy cut boneless pork chops; they are nothing more than that huge pork loin on the bottom shelf sliced up. Watch for the pork loin to be on sale or BOGO. You can save TONS of money slicing your own pork chops – thin for skillet frying or oven cooking and thick for grilling.

While that skillet is heating up with the oil, get cubing and drop your cubed pork in the skillet as you cut it. No need to wait to add it all at once.

As long as you really do have your skillet on medium and not higher, you won’t have to worry about burning, or even stir for about 10 minutes. Give it a quick stir every 2-3 minutes, checking to get the pink sides down. After about 20 minutes, even if you still see a little bit of pink, pour in a bottle of teriyaki glaze – I use Kikkoman – or roughly 1.5 cups of my soy-free teriyaki sauce reduced (assume you’ll need to do this before starting this dinner). Drop the burner down to low, stir to coat every piece, and let it simmer and thicken further while the rice and veggies finish in the oven.

Now is a great time to pour yourself a glass of Japanese plum wine or a nice Riesling or Late Chardonnay or Moscato for a little sip of sweetness against the slightly salty hibachi dinner. Sit down and rest until the timer goes off.

BONUS: you’ve only got 3 cooking dishes, a cutting board and maybe a couple of measuring cups for clean up. No collections of mixing dishes to try and fit into the dishwasher or on the drying rack.