Gluten-free for those who can’t have traditional crust and don’t want to bother with alternatives, for those who just don’t like crust and for those whose crusts just won’t work out, (see my previous post of easy crusts!), I offer this alternative: Pumpkin Pie Pudding

I was just plain tired of working on fancy crusts to have the grandkids eat around it, so here we have :Pumpkin Pie Pudding: Same double batch of filling in both the pie and the pudding. (If the color seems a bit dark, it is because I made the pumpkin from scratch, in a slow-cooker. I don’t recommend it if you are pressed for time! It also uses a lot of energy to make. It is not cost-efficient.)

Just take pumpkin pie filling and place it in a deep baking dish , then, (very importantly), place the filled dish into a larger, deep baking vessel filled 2/4 to the top of your pudding with water ; I used a roasting pan. Bake @ 375F for about 40 minutes or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Pumpkin Pie Filling/Pudding

1 large can of plain , cooked pumpkin

2 eggs 1 cup of sugar 11/2 cup of heavy or whipping cream or canned milk,(evaporated, or for those lactose intolerant, unsweetened coconut, almond or rice cream)

2 teaspoons ginger

1 teaspoon nutmeg

1 teaspoon allspice

1 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

* If you do not have all of the above, make up the difference with allspice OR use 1 Tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Bake as above

I think you will be pleasantly surprised. Happy Thanksgiving to my US f Friends and a Happy Day to All!

You Can Make Pie Crust and Savory Pastry/(Vegan)/Chiffon

Thanksgiving is approaching in the United States and with Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, many people are in the mood for PIE.
Most people like pies. Many people dislike pie crust and even more hate or hesitate to try to make their own. We’re going to try to dispel both of those dislikes with a choice of several homemade pie crusts, which can be made vegan, and made ahead of time.

I am going to ask you to try more than one of these, as one person can have a completely different ‘touch’ from another and some just may not come out right for you, although one or another may very well become your signature crust. My mother made incredible Oil Pastry with which she made quite a name for herself. I, on the other hand, professional though I became, cannot do it justice. Maybe you will have better luck. However, I consider the other recipes fail-proof.

Done right, each of the pastries,(except the Graham cracker one), become flaky and fine. And most,(again, not the Graham cracker one), can be used for pot pies, meat pies, hand-held savories and appetizers, quiches, baked brie, etc. But I promise you, they are easier than you think and most are freezable.

You can’t crimp? My mother deftly did hers perfectly but I never had the patience to practice. I can’t take credit for the idea, but I have been cutting out edging with small cookie/pastry cutters for 30 years. Now, that is almost all you see on TV and in magazines. It is attractive and easy. Here is one example:

Use small cookie cutters to make easy, beautiful edging on your pies

Use small cookie cutters to make easy, beautiful edging on your pies

You can use any shape of cutter to suit the pie or occasion, (as I used shamrocks in the photo),be they leaves or apples for apple pie, leaves or pumpkins for …you get the idea. You can make egg-shaped ones around a pie for Easter, turkeys for Thanksgiving, dreidels for Hanukkah…again, use your imagination, but I suggest you have at least a small, all-purpose leaf-shaped cutter. With that, you can’t go wrong.
If you want a top crust, you can always use a bigger cutter and overlap the cut-outs.

Roll the crusts out to a consistent and thin round shape. You want to start in the middle and roll your way out, .Press gently at first and go from the middle outward. Roll on at least four directions.
There are mats you can buy to roll dough on, or you can use wax paper or parchment paper. If you use wax paper, you will have to put two sheets overlapping on the bottom; you can move one sheet around on top.This method is best used to the Oil Pastry.
For the others, I use a well-floured , large wooden cutting board. Be sure to flour your rolling pin. If it sticks to your pastry, rub all the stuck dough off with flour before attempting to roll again, or it will just keep sticking.(Do not wet the rolling pin until you clean it when you are finished.)
I inherited a marble rolling slab and matching rolling pin from my aunt. many people swear by them as they can be chilled so that pie crust, (and other dough), will not become loose or stick; it will be more delicate without the use of much added flour when the pastry is rolled. If you are that much into pastry, you won’t need my advice! If you need to read this, stick with added flour.

Move the crust carefully into the pie plate . This is best done by gently folding the dough into quarters and placing the folded point in the middle of the plate. If you use wax or parchment paper, you can invert the crust flat right over the plate. Do not stretch the crust; it will shrink as it bakes. Gather the over-hanging pastry up to the edge and crimp all the way around, then cut off the excess with a sharp knife .If you are going to cut shapes for the edges, cut all around the edge with a sharp knife, then re-roll the pastry a bit thicker and cut shapes. Overlap them around the edge. Press them together.(You may need to slightly dampen your fingers with water to get the cut-outs to stick together but do not over-wet the pastry.)

Before we get started on the recipes,, a couple of them will call for butter , margarine or shortening to be “cut into” flour. This means to incorporate the fat into the flour until it is evenly distributed; it should resemble corn meal. This is the best way to get a flaky crust and there are many ways to make it come about: with a pastry cutter, sometimes called a pastry blender:

A simple pastry cutter or pastry blender  helps make flaky crust

A simple pastry cutter or pastry blender helps make flaky crust

You can also use a fork, or two knives, (cutting through the flour with both hands simultaneously), or a food processor.

If you need a pre-cooked shell, that is, if you want to put a filling in it that does not need to be baked, you will need to weigh down the pie crust when you bake it to prevent it from shrinking a great deal and lifting up in the bottom. There are pie chains and pie weights you can buy, but generations of bakers have successfully used dried beans. Bake the pie shell at 350F until the desired shade of brown is obtained and when cool, remove the beans, weights or chain.
There are also pie guards available, but I use aluminum foil, in strips, placed lightly over the edges of my pies for the first half of the bake-time. This keeps the top edges of the crust from over-cooking and possibly burning while the rest of the pie bakes , and the crust browns on the bottom.

I prefer to use clear glass,(baking glass, that is Pyrex , tempered glass, etc), to make sure that I can see if the pie is browning on the bottom.

Oil Pastry:

This recipe is the one my mother always used and everyone raved. This one can easily be made vegan.

½ cup + 1 Tbsp. cooking oil (*see note)
¼ cup milk [can be almond or rice]
2 cups flour
½ tsp. salt

Measure oil and milk into one container; do not try to mix.
Mix the flour and salt; add the oil and milk quickly and mix thoroughly.
This pastry is best rolled between sheets of waxed paper, or can be rolled using extra flour, which will make it a bit tougher. This makes a delicate crust, but can easily be patched.

*Note: My mother always used vegetable oil. Unless you plan on using this for savory (non-sweet) fillings, please do not use Extra Virgin Olive Oil; it is too ‘olivy’. My personal opinion is that grapeseed oil is too oily for this recipe and canola oil is not oily enough . Nut oils would be a good alternative, especially for sweet pies.
Please see the post just preceding this one on Oils.

“No-Fail” Pie Crust

A friend of mine offered me this recipe and a ‘frisbee’ of one. The recipe makes 4 crusts and she would make a flattened ball ,(her “frisbees”), wrap and freeze the ones she did not use; and so do I.

4+ cups of flour, spooned gently into measuring cups
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 ¾ cups vegetable shortening [* see Note]
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 egg ( or your favorite vegan egg replacer…use prepared replacer mixed thickly or extra finely ground flaxseed .This will alter the consistency of the crust, which is quite elastic with egg)
½ cup water.

Stir together flour, sugar and salt. Cut in shortening. Mix the water, egg or egg substitute and vinegar into the flour mixture all at once. Mix thoroughly and divide into fourths. Wrap and chill before using, or freeze in an air-tight bag.
This pastry is too soft to use without pre-chilling. Roll carefully after chilling on well –floured board.

*NOTE: Use pure vegetable shortening, not lard or ‘pre-creamed’ shortening that contains animal fat. If you are concerned about hydrogenated fats, there are non-hydrogenated shortenings on the market, although they are expensive. I found them perfectly suitable , although they make a softer crust that becomes ‘loose’ faster. Chill well.

Old World Crust
This crust is easy and forgiving, you don’t even have to use a pie plate. This is the best choice here for savory fillings. I use this recipe for everything from Rustic Tarts to pot pies to Baked Brie en Croute,(recipe will be in an upcoming series on Appetizers.) For tarts, I sprinkle the inside of the pastry with sugar and then sprinkle a bit on the top before I bake them:

! cup of flour
6 oz cold butter (or margarine for vegan)
1 oz. cream (rice-based or coconut can be used; coconut good for tarts)
½ tsp salt
[egg wash, (beaten egg) to brush on the outside, if you'd like, or brush with melted butter or margarine]
Cut or process the butter into t he flour; add egg and salt. Can be rolled on floured board and used immediately. (This one you will want to roll a little thicker than the others.)

The above recipe can be enriched with a bit of sour cream, mascarpone and /or silken tofu; more flour may be needed.

If you wish to use the above recipes for non-sweet fillings, you can add cracked pepper and/or herbs that compliment the rest of the recipe. Use a light hand in adding extra flavors, however.

Now, here is a recipe that is almost a NON-recipe. Graham-cracker crust is so easy, you’ll be amazed. Vegan Graham crackers are available and with the use of margarine, you are on your way.

Graham Cracker Pastry Crust

I packet (8) Graham crackers, crushed, (Use a food processor or place the crackers in a plastic bag and roll with a rolling pin until they are crumbs)
or use 1 ½ cups Graham cracker crumbs
[Vegan Graham crackers are available]
½ cup melted butter or margarine

That’s it. Mix these. You’re done.
(You may use cinnamon Graham crackers if you feel it will compliment your filling)

This can be pressed into the bottom and sides of a pie plate or in the bottom of a baking dish. If you need to bake your filling,(custard, pumpkin, etc.), then fill and bake. If you are going to use a non-baked filling,(whipped cream filling, pudding, ice cream, etc.) then pre-bake the crust @ 325F for 15-20 minutes; watch that it does not burn. There is, of course, no reason to weigh this crust down.

Although Graham cracker crust is unsuitable for fruit pies, you can add a layer of fruit or filling over a layer of custard or other thicker layer. Graham cracker crust is THE choice for chilled and ice cream pies.
Homemade Pie for the Non-baker
Here is a dessert that can stand alone or can be placed in a pre-baked Graham or other crust. Trust me, it’s a hit.

Chiffon is an easy, homemde dessert that can stand alone or make a delicious chilled pie

Chiffon is an easy, homemade dessert that can stand alone or make a delicious chilled pie

Chiffon

1 package, (regular size), flavored gelatin [Strawberry or strawberry-banana is a favorite in my family, as is peach, but any favorite flavor will do; lime is refreshing.]
1 cup boiling water
3 ounces of Neufchatel (low fat) or regular cream cheese, softened
1 cup whipping cream
1 Tbsp sugar

Add the gelatin to the boiling water and mix well to dissolve. DO NOT ADD ANY MORE WATER; it will be double-strength. Immediately add the softened cream cheese and dissolve. You can use a beater for this. Chill until thick and semi-set.[If it becomes solid, you can microwave it for 30 seconds on high or place in a basin of hot water. Beat with a mixer until smooth]. Whip the cream with sugar until it is very stiff. When the gelatin is chilled and semi-set, add the whipped cream to it. Do not add the whipped cream to the mixture when it is thin and cold.
Fold the cream in gently with a flat spoon or spatula. Now it can be placed in your pie crust and chilled,(or in a serving bowl, in individual bowls or shaped in a gelatin mold. To mold, chill it until very firm and set. Place it in a basin of warm water for a few minutes and invert unto your serving plate.)

If you are still unconvinced that you can make a homemade pie, or just need something nice but fast, try something like this:

Individual homemade 'pies' like this one made quite an impression with little effort.

Individual homemade ‘pies’ like this one made quite an impression with little effort.

Homemade Pie for the Non-baker

Although I used brandy snifters, believe me, they are just as good in any other type of container, including clear plastic cups.

Pie in a Cup
All you do is place a prepared Graham cracker crust layer, place custard, fruit curd, pudding, etc. over the crumb mixture. Add fruit or berries if desired. You may top with whipped cream or other topping.
Some suggestions:
Apple, pear, peach slices cooked with honey,(or sugar),ginger and or cinnamon. Add or top with crushed nuts.
Or use pie filling. Add vanilla and/or nuts.(Almond is good in cherry filling)
Cooked or fresh berries with custard.
Whip cream cheese , mascarpone or silken tofu with fruit curd or pie filling. Top with more filling or curd.
Lemon or other fruit curd with whipped cream or ice cream.
Ice cream and whipped cream layered and frozen.

Chiffon

(All of these will work in a Graham cracker pie crust, as well).

You have made individual pies and you will make an impression.

Sliced fruit , a sprinkling of sugar, a bit of butter and you have a  beautiful dessert made with easy Old World Pastry

Sliced fruit , a sprinkling of sugar, a bit of butter and you have a beautiful dessert made with easy Old World Pastry

Rustic Tarts

One recipe Old World Pastry

1 ½ cups thinly sliced pears or apples
3 tsp. butter or margarine
add’l Tbsp melted butter or margarine
1 Tbsp. Sugar,(can be coconut sugar)
beaten egg for egg wash, if desired
1/8 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, if desired

Roll the dough to a consistent thinness of 1/8 inch ,(no thinner).
Place on a buttered baking sheet or pie plate, (or line with buttered parchment paper.)
Place sliced fruit in the middle, add nuts, if using. Sprinkle with the sugar and dot with the 3 tsp. butter.
Gently bring the sides up to almost meet in the middle and press close to the filling.
Brush with beaten egg or melted butter or margarine.
Sprinkle with sugar.
Back @350F for approx ½ hour or until browned.

I hope all of you who celebrate have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Any questions?

Oils; For Cooking,Dipping and in Recipes

Several months ago I gave a recipe here which required Olive oil. I specified “not Extra Virgin”. Tamara Leigh, The Kitchen Novelist, visited and asked why. (If you have not visited her site, please do yourself a flavor favor! Her recipes are one-dish complete and are often a bit more upscale than mine, but easy to prepare and as beautiful as they are flavorful! Click here:Tamara Leigh:The Kitchen Novelist

I explained why I asked for non-Extra Virgin Olive Oil, (or to borrow Rachael Ray’s term “EVOO”), and promised Tamara that I would do a post about different types of oils, their qualities and the best types to use in or with different foods.
Tammy, this one’s for you!

And there are many types of oils. Here is just what is in my local supermarket and believe me, in a big city there must be even more to choose from:store oils 1store oils 2
And even more, above the Italian section:store oils 3

We will start with Olive Oil:
The both major types of Olive Oil, “Pure”,( or “Virgin”) and “Extra Virgin” available in America today are milder than those of the past, as modern tastes demand. My sister, who has only recently tried her hand at cooking, called me a short time back and wanted to know why the Olive oils she has been buying do not have the same strong flavor that we knew as kids. Her question was, “When did they start ‘virgining’ olive oil?” She had no idea what she was talking about. Let’s see if I can enlighten her and everyone who needs to know.

“Extra Virgin Olive Oil” is made from the first pressing of olives. This, contrary to what most articles and cooking shows tell you, does not make it “best” for every use. EVOO is greener than ‘Pure’ Olive Oil; it contains particles of the fruit. The flavor is strong. Prove it to yourself by comparing the taste of the two. If you do not like to use Olive Oil, it is probably because you have only been exposed to Extra Virgin Olive Oil. EVOO adds a flavor to whatever it is added to or is cooked in it. It has a distinctive flavor and even if you love it, it does not always compliment the other flavors in a recipe. If, and only if, you like the flavor, it is good in salads and dressings, as something in which to toss pasta to keep it from sticking,(I prefer butter or margarine), or to bake fish in,(coat the pan or foil and pour over the fish , with or without herbs.) It also burns very easily; you don’t want to fry in EVOO, ever. I do use it in some recipes, if I want the taste of EVOO in, say a meatless sauce, but I seldom add I t otherwise. My mother NEVER used in cooking. Enough said.[Notice that I did not say "marinara " sauce. Marinara does not mean "meatless"; it means "of the sea". Most do not contain fish, clams, what have you. That is a pet peeve of mine!]

“Pure Olive Oil” is now what they are calling what was once always labeled as “Virgin” Olive oil; it is sometimes simply labeled , “Olive Oil”. This oil is from the later pressings of the olives. It is clearer, with a cleaner flavor, if any at all. It is suitable for all types of cooking and in recipes, although I do not use it in baking anything other than, at times, breads or savory,(non-sweet), pastries. It is also not suitable for deep-frying, as it will burn easily, although not quite as easily as EVOO.

There is a difference in quality of Olive oils but if you are getting most of your information from me, most of the time, the price will guide your decision.
I will admit to being partial to Italian Olive oils, after all, my extended family in Italy had olive groves (!) I always buy Mediterranean Olive oils, if Italian is not in my budget. The prices vary. Unless there is a sale on the smaller sizes that makes it worth while, I buy it in the gallon can.(Watch your unit pricing; bigger, although usually, is not always the best buy.) All oils will tell you the country of origin, you just have to read the label carefully. My local supermarket’s brand, (and other “bargain brands”), vary from which countries the oil(s) originate. There is a code on the can: A= Italy, B=Spain, C=Greece, D=Tunisia, depending on which sources were least expensive and/or available to them at the time of packaging. Today the “pure” Olive oil was a “D”,(Tunisian), while the top of the EVOO was stamped: “A, B, C”; ( a blend of Italian, Spanish and Greek oils). Next time, who knows? But I have used them all  with no problem whatsoever.
[Personally, I do not trust the cheaper oil from China. We have had too many recalls of foods from there and too many times have they been caught violating standards. Our government has little control and too few inspectors. I buy no foodstuffs from China.]

I did splurge for a better, smaller bottle of Italian EVOO to use for dipping oil, (to be discussed below), and in certain recipes, (as by drops in cream cheese-herb filling for stuffed olives; the recipe will be upcoming in post on appetizers. You need to know how to make hors d’oeuvres and appetizers. Yes, you do.)

BEWARE of “Lite” or Light” Olive oils. These are ‘watered down’ ,(diluted),with lesser oils, such as Safflower oil and sold at an inflated price. If you don’t like the flavor of EVOO, don’t use it, or mix it with other oils yourself.

Olive oil is food. It is healthy. If you are following a healthy diet,(and I hope you are), still use it in moderation, along with all other fats, but please use it.

As with off-brand Olive oils, “Vegetable oil”,( the least expensive oil on the supermarket shelves), is often a mix of whatever oils are available to the bottler, although the main ingredient is usually Soybean oil. The cheapest ones may contain Cottonseed, Corn, Sunflower, Flaxseed oil or Palm oils. I have no problem with using them for almost any recipe. Flavor is almost non-existent in them, so they don’t interfere with the flavors of your recipes and are some of the best for adding to sweet breads, muffins, cakes, waffles and other recipes calling for oil. They have a high-smoke point ; they can take high temps, so they are good for cooking and deep-frying.

Peanut oil is THE best oil for deep–frying. It will not smoke and therefore, it is the only oil that is allowed to be used for cooking on submarines. It is also good in baked goods, both sweet and savory; it adds a very slight taste that I find enhances many recipes.(If you pop corn the old-fashioned way, made with Peanut oil, it is delicious!) Some people with peanut allergies are able to eat foods made with or cooked in Peanut oil, although I would err on the side of caution if a person is not sure if it will kick up their allergy. I use it extensively. (I also buy this in the bargain size…and on sale when I can!)

Almost all Corn oil is a by-product of solvent extraction. The Corn oil is then highly processed, but there is still often a lingering taste. Although it has a high smoke-point, using it for frying increases the transfer of flavor. Again, the flavor can be an enhancement, but not always.

Canola oil is not, technically, ‘vegetable’ oil. It is made from highly processed rapeseed. It is less oily than Vegetable oils and frankly, I am not impressed with it. (There is some concern about its erucic acid content.)

Safflower and Sunflower oils are light oils,good for salads and within recipes. They have a medium-high smoke-rate but are quite expensive. I don’t know anyone who fries, (deep fries), with these oils.

Grapeseed oil is just that, oil made from grapeseeds, often  those of Chardonnay.It is a lighter oil, (much life Safflower), has little taste, and has a fairly high smoke-point, so it is often used in stir-frying.It is very good in salads and can be used in many of the same places I suggest for Nut  oils, (see below),and anywhere you would use Vegetable oil, although the price is much higher.

I have friends in India who swear by Coconut oil and use it not only for cooking and eating, but for skin care. I find it bland, although my husband eats it as a spread,( it is semi-solid  at room temperature). It has a mild taste, but it will impart its flavor into foods. I think it enhances many cookie and cake recipes, or to cook Coconut Chicken,(recipe will be posted in the future), but if anyone does not like coconut or may be allergic, it may not be a good idea to use it. Coconut oil also has a low smoke-point; do not use it to deep-fry.

Nut oils, such as Hazelnut, Walnut, Almond, etc. are very expensive…and very delicious!
They are fantastic on salads, or drizzled on fish before baking. They are good by drops in cheese fillings for dates, in spreads and dips, or in baked goods. Although they are very costly, little is needed. (These may affect people with nut allergies.)
“Truffle Oil” is Olive or Safflower oil infused with truffles…and terribly expensive. Buy only if you really know and like truffles. Use as Nut oils, or for dipping.

Sesame oil is VERY strong flavored. You should add it one drop at a time to flavor your cooking oil when making Asian or some Easter European-inspired foods. It is good, (in minute quantities), in cheese spreads, cheese balls or salads, including chicken salad, especially if you use sesame seeds in the recipe.

Also on the shelves you will find flavored oils. These are oils that are infused with herbs, alone or with spices. Some are Chili infused. These are generally Olive , Soy or Safflower oils that have been heated and had the desired flavoring items added. After some time, they were strained and bottled. Some are called “Dipping Oil”, and the herbs &/or spices remain in the bottle. They are often tasty, but you may get sticker-shock! You can easily make your own. To infuse flavors takes a couple of steps,(heating, adding, waiting, straining, but it’s worth it). “Dipping oil”, however, is a matter of simply adding whatever flavors appeal to you and which compliment the rest of your offerings. Here is a simple sampling:dipping oil 1

What is shown is a better Extra Virgin Olive oil with a little salt and basil,(dried , with a fresh sprig, because I had it; it isn’t necessary.)I added salt and a little parsley. The other has salt, cracked black pepper,(any would do), garlic granules, and ground rosemary. Use any dried herbs you like. Examples: Italian seasoning, (usually made of basil, parsley, marjoram, oregano, rosemary and thyme,[no sage!]) Mix or match any you have of these or other herbs.. Add garlic or onion powder. If you use garlic or onion salt, omit salt; if you are avoiding salt, do not add it at all. (“Mrs.Dash” or other non-salt additives, used alone, will work.) You can add a dash of dried lemon peel, or hot pepper flakes. If you have dried sweet peppers and or tomatoes,(flakes), you can add them, with or without finely diced olives.
Let your cabinet and your taste decide!

Try adding a splash of Thai Sweet Chili sauce, or Sesame oil,(either, alone) to your oil.
Again, if EVOO is too strong for you, use a good grade “Pure” Olive oil or any other better oil, (such as Safflower or Sunflower oil).

Traditionally, Italian bread is used to dip; French bread is acceptable, as are multi-grain types. Gluten-free breads are usually hearty and can easily be used.
Slice the breads thinly or pull the middle out of your Italian/French bread or rolls. Make the pieces big enough to pick up but small enough to avoid ‘double dipping’ . And don’t be afraid of them getting stale, as you want them slightly-to-very dry; damp bread is not good.
Try one or more before your next sit-down dinner or when family and friends gather; it is a perfect vegan snack or appetizer.

Keep all oils out of sunlight and away from heat. Do not store over your stove or next to your oven, so that the heat will not spoil them and because cooking oils are, of course, quite flammable. We don’t want any terrible accidents.
Since I usually buy the largest sizes of some oils, I keep a small bottle,(pint or quart), ready at hand and keep the rest in the coolest spot I can find, a cabinet against an outside wall in the Winter and then move them to near an A/C vent in the Summer!(It gets hot here.) You can keep them under refrigeration but many oils solidify and are hard to use or measure. DO keep Nut, Sesame and Truffle oils in the refrigerator. These spoil quickly if not kept very cool and you will probably use them sparingly over time. They will last much longer this way.

Do not use rancid, (spoiled) oil. You will be able to tell the difference by smell or by taste.

Did I cover everything? Are there any questions?

Guest Novelist,Artist Elaina Lee/ Full Day of Recipes

I am so please to FINALLY have our time with Elaina Lee. I have been playing tag with her for some time now! Elaina is a novelist whose other claim-to-fame is her beautiful designs for other writers’ book covers. Here are two of my favorites that capture the essence of the stories within:

Sarah Ballance’s  Hawthorne:

Perfect cover for Hawthorne, a haunting story

Perfect cover for Hawthorne, a haunting story

And Jeff Salter’s  Called To Arms Again:

Patriotic novel

Patriotic novel

Elaina is going to grace us with a full day of easy and delicious meals for family and friends, so I will let her speak for herself in the prepared notes she sent to me, along with her recipes with photos.

If you have any questions or comments for Either Elaina or me, please feel free to comment below.
I present to you, Elaina Lee:

Hello! I’m Elaina Lee, award-winning author and cover artist. I have two sons, one in the 10th grade, who attends high school, and another who is four and currently being homeschooled. For the past year and a half I’ve been trying to slowly wean us from processed foods. I say slowly because the teen has been having issues giving up the chemicals. When I really began to notice what we were consuming, the lack of recognizable ingredients started to bother me. If it’s going into my children’s mouth, I want to know what it is! At first the task seemed a little daunting. Then as I began to cook and make all our sweets and dinner breads and breakfasts for the week, I realized it wasn’t so hard after all! Plus, the extra money in our pockets has been nice, I’ll admit  I’d like to thank Tonette for having me as a guest today as I share some very simple and delicious recipes. I’ve covered an entire day of meals! I hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

BREAKFAST –

Delicious and easy Apple Scones

Delicious and easy Apple Scones


Spiced Apple Scones with Icing
These scones are very easy to make, but be prepared to get your hands dirty! To me, that’s half the fun. Sort of like when you were a kid and could ‘bake’ in the mud. *grin* We’re currently in Apple season, so finding a good deal on Apple’s should be breeze for most of you right now, depending on where you live. You will notice an apple theme going on here, as my youngest and I went apple picking for a field trip and I still have apples I’m trying to figure out what to do with! The icing is optional, another great way to make these is to sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on the tops before baking.

Ingredients -
1 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup white sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp salt
1 cup butter
1 egg
1 cup peeled apples, finely chopped (about two apples)
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp clove

Directions –
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a small bowl, blend the sour cream and baking soda. Set aside (make sure the bowl isn’t too small, as the sour cream expands in the bowl).

In a large bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder cream of tartar, salt and spices. Cut in butter (if you don’t have a pastry cutter, you can use a fork for this. The butter can be softened to make this easier, but NOT melted!). Stir the sour cream mixture and egg into the flour mixture until just moistened (the batter will appear to be very dry, don’t worry). Fold in apples.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and then with your hands ‘knead’ the dough until the dough no longer has dry areas (I just fold it over onto itself a few times). Pat dough out until it’s about ¾ inch thick. This is where you’ll get messy!  Using a knife with a sharp edge coated lightly in flour, cut scones into triangles (if you can’t get them perfect, don’t worry, it won’t affect the taste). Each time you cut a new scone, be sure to re-coat your knife so it doesn’t stick into the dough. I keep a small mound of flour off to the side and just lay the knife edge down on both sides before cutting. Place cut pieces onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (this stuff is your best friend when baking!) about an inch or so apart.

If you don’t want to frost your scone, sprinkle them with a cinnamon and sugar mixture if desired.

Bake scones for 12-15 minutes until golden brown on bottom.

For the Icing –
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp milk (more if needed)
1 tbsp corn syrup
¼ tsp vanilla

In a small bowl sift the powdered sugar (a small strainer will do this). Add the milk and mix on a low. Add corn syrup and vanilla. If when thoroughly mixed the frosting is still in lumps, add another tbsp of milk. Add in small increments only! You want your icing to be thick.

You can either spread the icing with a butter knife OR you can spoon the icing into a bag (this is messy, but then you get an excuse to lick your fingers… just sayin’). Cut the very tip off a corner (the smaller the better). Squeeze the bag until icing comes out and now you can pipe the icing over the cooled scones.

And now your done! Yay! Delicious home-made scones! This recipe is very versatile. You can replace the spices with a dash of orange zest and orange extract and use cranberries for the fruit to make orange cranberry scones. Or remove the spices all together and use blueberries. Experiment, have fun, most of all, enjoy!!!

LUNCH –

Easy, tasty Ham Salad

Easy, tasty Ham Salad

Ham Pasta Salad –

I’m not normally a lunch making gal, I’ll admit. My family at lunch time has to fend for themselves (unless you’re the four year-old. He has it made). But this last weekend my husband, father and oldest son where building the front deck on our house so I had to come up with something. We live a good distance from any store, so I had to be able to make something that I already had in my freezer or fridge for meat and whatever my mom happened to have in her garden for produce. I was lucky enough to stumble across this recipe that is so delicious and can use absolutely anything you have on hand for produce. I’m listing what we used, but if you don’t have it and happen to have broccoli or zucchini, throw it in there! Make the dressing in the morning so the flavors mix together well by lunch. I made the entire thing in the morning and just covered the mixture without the dressing and put it into the fridge until everyone was ready to eat and then mixed everything together before serving.

Ingredients –
8 ounces pasta (shell, macaroni, spiral…)
1 pound cooked ham (I used left over ham and shredded it with a fork, but you can use cubed ham sold in packages)
1 bell pepper (I used green and banana peppers)
1 onion, chopped
1 half large pickle (or whole if you have a pickle loving family), chopped
1 tomato, diced
½ cup sliced black olives
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup sour cream
2 ½ tsp beef bouillon granules
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp the pre-chopped stuff)
½ cup pickle juice

In a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise, sour cream, bouillon, salt, pepper, garlic and pickle juice. Cover and refrigerate. Cook pasta according to package directions. While your pasta is cooking, prepare your vegetables. Mix meat, vegetables and pasta in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Before serving, add dressing.

This was NOT dry the next day, but we noticed the ham lost its smoky flavor, so we felt this pasta was best served the day of making it. If you’re family prefers bread and butter (sweet) pickles to dill, you can use them instead.  Don’t be scared by the ingredients, this was a hit with everyone in my family who ate it.

DINNER –

Red Beans and Rice –

Ready in a jiffy Red Beans and Rice

Ready in a jiffy
Red Beans and Rice

Being a southern family, my husband loves it when I cook the staples, Red Beans and Rice being of them. This is a simple, very flavorful meal.

Ingredients –
3 cans red beans
¼ cup olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 celery stalks
1 large can chicken broth (or three normal cans or a can and a box – around six cups)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 tsp Cajun seasoning (I use the stuff that comes in a big green shaker and is ‘Creole’ – don’t know if I can say a brand, so that’s as specific as I’ll get, LOL!)
1 lb andouille (we use just regular smoked sausage), sliced

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Cook onion, pepper, garlic, celery and sausage until sausage begins to brown and vegetables are soft.

Rinse beans and place into pot with sausage and vegetables. Add broth. Season with bay leaves, cayenne, parsley and Cajun seasoning. Stir. Bring to boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 2-2 ½ hours.

About twenty to thirty minutes before you’re ready to eat, make enough white rice for everyone. We usually make 1 ½ cups dry or 5 cups prepared.

DESSERT –

Delicious and quick dessert

Delicious and quick dessert

Apple Crisp

I love apple crisp, but for some reason had yet to make it. I needed a dessert for Tonette, and this can be one of those areas of baking that can be intimidating. Thinking of something simple that wasn’t a cookie was a challenge. While everyone loves cookies, I wanted something outside the box, but that was as easy as a cookie. Enter the crisp. I may actually make this again this weekend it was that good!

Ingredients –
6 apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger (optional)
½ tsp ground clove (optional)
2 tbsp water
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 cup flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
¼ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon (yes another one!)
½ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350

Mix the sugar, 1 tbsp of flour, cinnamon, ginger, clove, apples and water together in a bowl. Set aside.

Combine oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and butter together. Place half the mixture in the bottom of an 8×8 dish. Gently pat to form a crust. Place apples on crust. Sprinkle the remaining mixture over the apples.

Bake for 45 minutes.

Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Yum!

I hope everyone enjoys these recipes and I’d like to thank Tonette for having me!

If you’re in the mood for a fun, light-hearted read to wrap up summer, be sure to check out my Southern Romantic Comedy, A Very Southern Affair. Available now for only $0.99!!!

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords

You can find Elaina at – http://www.elainalee.com

OR

www.forthemusedesign.com

Thank you so much for joining us, Elaina.I’m sure many of our readers will enjoy using your recipes, and, I hope, enjoy your work.

Don’t be a stranger!

Anyone care to ask a question of Elaina, or make a comment?

Care Packages

The post of a month ago I suggested being prepared by keeping and emergency bag packed and how I have used them as gifts, especially for anyone anticipating a hospital stay.
I am going to reiterate many of the suggestions plus food suggestions for those who travel for work or research, those in the armed services, in the Peace Corp, on mission, students in college or boarding schools, personnel with limited funds or away from cities, indeed, anyone who is away from home and could use a boost or some hard-to–find items.

Care packages for those serving overseas can make quite a difference to those especially in isolated or dangerous spots. Thank Heaven for flat-rate U.S. Postal boxes! It makes this sort of package affordable. When my son was in Iraq, I sent many boxes to him filled with foodstuffs,(just before the flat rates took effect!). He liked to volunteer at the hospital on base and would be there odd hours, or when his guard shift was late. The closest mess hall would close early and the trek to the open one made for much less sleep-time, so he would nosh on the parcels from home. I also sent personal items to a young female medic serving in Afghanistan, and helped with a church group that sent packages to service personnel. We sent  boxes  to a priest friend in Guatemala.Here are some ideas for any and all away from home. After all, even President Jimmy Carter sent ‘care packages’ to his mother when she was serving as a nurse in India with the Peace Corps, and a friend of mine had  daughters in college and then in a convent. Their request was always for their mom to send my Chocolate Drop Cookies.(Recipe :January 2013 archive.)

Foodstuffs generally need to be non-liquid, non-perishable, (that is, do not need refrigeration before or after opening). Depending on the taste of the recipient, (or a good guess), drink mixes are a good bet,(instant tea, pre-sweetened “Koolaid”, lemonade or Tang). Local and purified water can be, well, yucky. Depending on the weather, hot chocolate mix, Ovaltine, or instant coffees are good, as well as some powdered, flavored creamers and water-enhancers,(Crystal Light), and powdered milk. Unlike when I was trying to find them for my son’s boxes, sugar packets or small containers,(including coconut sugar) are more easily found these days, along with many other small or single-serving size condiments.(Hot sauces, picante sauce, mustard, mayo, ketchup are big hits.) Herb blends,(Mrs. Dash or mixed herbs), pepper and regular and flavored salts go a long way to help bring flavor to bland foods.Cheese powders are also good and available through some stores and mail order , such as King Arthur Flour.[King Arthur Flour]

Here is a limited list to mix and match in the boxes. Try to give a variety in each package, even if you plan on sending more than one box.

Chips, Pretzels (of any kind)
Flavored crackers,(peanut butter, cheese, herbed)
Dry cookies*
[* Unless you know the recipient's taste, stick with comfort/basics. Animal crackers are surprisingly popular. Homemade cookies can easily become moldy, as my mother found out when shipping goodies to my brother in Viet Nam. My uncle sent them by the slowest mail; it was a waste and a disappointment. Please make sure cookies and crackers do not get squashed or crushed]
Dried fruits: raisins, Crasins, cherries, pineapple… there are many kinds in every market; for the most varieties, check the “Natural Food” aisles; Fruit in squeeze pouches

Instant oatmeal or grits

Dried peas
Corn nuts and Mixed snacks
Nuts, of all types,including sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Hard candies [No chocolate for hot climates, it melts too easily. Go for butterscotch, mints, hard caramels, "Smarties", hard wafers, Tic-Tacs, jaw breakers, "Nips", "Red Vines"/"Twizzlers", etc. individually wrapped. Any gum sent to a hot climate should be candy-coated: Gumballs or "Chiklets"]

Granola and cereal bars
Energy bars
Potato sticks
Tuna ,Salmon , Chicken in foil packets, including prepared filets and salads
Individual canned vegetables, fruits and ready-to-eat meat, dishes, (enchiladas, hash, stews)
Canned cooked beef and chicken, ‘deviled’ or spread and Vienna sausages (all available in chicken)
[Please note that in Muslim-run countries and territories, pork products,( such as Deviled ham and mixed Vienna  sausages), are not allowed to be imported, nor are any products containing alcohol,(which would be a bad idea anyway). Even if the recipient is not in the military, Armed Services sites are a wealth of information for do's and don'ts. When in doubt in areas not covered by the US military sites ,please contact the country’s embassy/consulate or check with the individual school or institution.Some do not allow nut or peanut products. You would not want for your recipient to lose all of their goodies and possibly lose other priviledges.

NOTE: Overseas packages must contain a list of all items on a form from the Post Office. PLEASE fill it out as you pack.Add lines and write clearly, but small,if necessary.

Peanut or tree nut butters, with or without chocolate or jelly mixed in them, preferably in plastic jars
Dried beef
Beef or Turkey jerky

Use your imagination and good sense.  The needs of a young person away at school or a Marine in Iraq would be quite different, as would the needs of a nurse serving in a village in Africa or a teacher on an Indian reservation. Take into consideration the weather, food-knowledge and equipment available to the recipient. A college student with a refrigerator and microwave  can receive more than a missionary on the move through jungle climates.

Leave all foods in their original, sealed packaging,(you may remove the outside boxes to save space.) Please include zipper-close plastic bags for un-finished chips, cookies, etc.

Person items are very much appreciated by all who are away from home, especially in a distant land. Here are some suggestions for both sexes:
Stick deodorant
Bar soaps
Decent disposable razors
Lip balm
Cotton swabs
Body/foot powders
Moist wipes
Pre-moistened, (or dry, impregnated with cleanser), facial cloths
Flavored floss picks
toothpaste
toothbrushes
Ointments or creams in tubes, (such as Vitamin A&D,)
Gold Bond, Lanacaine or other anti-chafing gel or sticks
Stick or towelette insect repellant
Coco butter sticks
Cake or push-tube moisturizer,( available through “Faith, Soaps and Love” [Faith , Soaps and Love
these can also be taken on-board an airplane in carry-on luggage; they are an excellent idea)
Slipper socks/thick socks/booties…for sheer comfort
Eye mask (sleep mask)
Ear plugs
nail files and clippers, large and small
tweezers

One possible ‘liquid’ would be single-use eye drops

Other items that are helpful are puzzle and game books, card games, note paper and envelopes, mechanical pencils and pens, prepaid phone cards. G or PG type books, (informative are good, as are clean joke books; “Garfield”,”Wizard of Id”, etc.) General interest stickers are huge with kids everywhere.

Anyone around children would appreciate crayons and coloring books or non-aggressive paperback coloring books.(Avoid sending any particular type of religious unless you are certain it is acceptable.)

Pack as tightly as possible to avoid shifting  and breakage,(without crushing foods). Open bags of candy and individual packets of cocoa or oatmeal to fill in spots and scatter small candy into crevasses.

Please feel free to make any additional suggestions that you can think of in the comment section so others can use them, too.

I hope you will consider sending some comfort to someone who is away from home and could use a little support. I have found that care packages do as much, if not more, for the soul as for the body.

Guest Accommodations

Unless you have extra rooms or you are an ‘empty nester’, you may be pressed for room when you have someone stay overnight or longer. Consider planning ahead and being creative.
Years ago I had the most darling townhouse. I had planned on finishing the basement and adding a bedroom, as many people in the complex had, but I never got that far. The two bedrooms upstairs were occupied by my husband and me in one and the other by our sons. What I did do was instead of buying a sofa, I put a daybed in the living room. We had several guests stay on it and it came in very handy when my husband broke his ankle which made going upstairs very difficult. It was very handy when I was ill, as I could rest while the kids were nearby. And it was deep and comfortable enough for the boys to nap on when they were little.
When we moved, it was here, twelve-hundred miles away to a bigger place, but no one liked my daybed. The people here refused to sit on it. It didn’t look like a bed, per se. Even with its cover set and some extra sofa-type throw pillows, it just wasn’t something the “Locals” accepted. So I moved some of my book shelves from my ‘library’, moved them into the living room and put the daybed in there. Someone I knew was moving and offered a sofa-bed to me, which I put in the living room. Someone else offered a nice set of bunk beds which I put in one son’s room. The other son decided that he liked the top bunk, so I had an extra bed in his room. When an old friend brought his son and three daughters to visit us, I had more than enough room for them all. I no longer have all that room, the daybed is gone. But I still have the bunk beds and I now have a double bed in the other bedroom, and we have always had a roll-away bed. So although it is usually just my husband and me, we often have our grandson, and sometimes our two granddaughters, stay with us. What we have now, I have plenty of room when my cousin, her husband and their two children come from two states away for Thanksgiving, which is nice.
That is a luxury, I know, but if you don’t have a spare room or two, do consider a sofa bed, a daybed, or a futon that flattens out or some of the other ideas within this posting.
There are air mattresses that I am told are very comfortable and convenient; frankly, I could not get up and down from them any more,(bad knees). I had a group of young people here some years back and even the recliners were taken as sleeping places. (I insisted that fitted sheets be pulled over the chairs before they slept and they really make an acceptable bed.)
Be creative. If there are young people, consider using the floor. With enough extra quilts underneath, it usually works. Young ones like to build ‘houses” or ‘tents’, in living rooms or on the floors of their parent’s room; let them have fun.
If you have camping equipment, pad and sleeping bags work well for this. If you don’t have pads, use quilts.

Find those quilts on sale and be stocked; throw none away when they are a bit worn, you redecorate or change the size of your bed, and that goes for sheets. You can always use them as ‘tents’ or for sofas and chairs. Where do you put them? Under beds, up high in closets, stacked on the floor in closets, in cubby-holes under stairs, piled on a spare bed, or folded and stacked in an empty corner of a bedroom or den, out of the way. You can use one of those extra sheets or thinner bedspreads to cover them, if you don’t have the blanket bags they came in. (If you sew or know someone with a sewing machine, you can straight-stitch a couple of sheets and make “bags” for the blankets…You could do it by hand. You can buy blanket storage bags. If you have room, you can buy a blanket box. (I have a large one, but it holds material for sewing projects that I usually take forever to get done!). Is anyone old enough to remember “Hope Chests”? In some circles they were given to teenage girls in the ‘hope’ for their future home. In it they collected fancy housewares, especially linens, to take with them to their home when they got married. I am sure this practice in the United States has fairly well died-out, since it was a hangover from a girl going into a marriage with a dowry and a trousseau. At any rate, if there is one in your family or you find one at a garage sale, grab it. They were made to fit at the bottom of a bed and can be used as a blanket box. A foot locker will do, too. Fine blanket boxes can be placed in any room and could easily be used as a coffee table, or if padded as mine is, can be as a window seat or a bench.

Some of my quilts are in a wardrobe, some stay stacked on an unused chair in my bedroom. And do have extra pillows. You can put shams on them and leave them in plain sight or even used on a bed sofa as boosters.
There are a number of not only sofas but large chairs out there that open up to beds. I have seen a revival of ‘trundle beds’, small, low beds that roll out from under other beds. These are nice for children to have guests in for ‘sleep-overs’. Some people are putting “Murphy beds” in rec rooms, dens or bedrooms that they usually use for other purposes. Murphy beds are beds that pull down from a wall, they were very common in studio apartments at one time. They are usually hidden behind fold-away doors until needed; sometimes they look like paneling or stand free in a frame that looks like a set of shelves. Some hidden, fold-away beds are build to slowly lower and gently tuck the shelves that usually show underneath, so that the shelves are useful,(they remain upright and won’t dump what is held on them; think “Ferris Wheel”). Some fold away beds are build high, over another bed, to be pulled down when needed;( think “train compartment”).
I have seen antique furniture that look like a dresser, but found that they open to a bed. I guess people have always looked for a place to put guests when they have little space. The modern answer to that are upholstered ‘cubes’ that look like a large ottoman but unfolds to a narrow bed. Very convenient! I have seen what looks like a nice upholstered bench that turns into a single bed, as well.
Some of the newer, lighter, ‘roll-away’ beds now fold very flat and can be stored under another bed, or daybed. Or some that look like a beautiful narrow upholstered or wooden box that will fit up against a wall or behind a piece of furniture.

So, seriously consider where you just might be able to have an extra person or two sleep, or as I did, have a, (reasonably), comfortable place on each floor of your home, be it a daybed, futon, or fold-out sofa/chair or a hidden bed. You never know when you just might get a chance to have a nice visit with someone, or, in keeping with my recent theme, be prepared in an emergency.

Personal Emergency Preparedness/Gift Idea

In the previous five postings I discussed emergency preparedness from food to clothing, lighting and health care in general. I’d like to take this opportunity to advise you about being packed or semi-packed for an emergency, and what a thoughtful gift either a full travel bag or partial one makes.

Although I normally consider the bags necessary for hospital stays , they would be time-savers and life-savers in any other emergency that made you leave home quickly.

It took me some time to think of this, several emergencies, actually. After nearly sending my husband home with instructions as to what to bring to me when our then two-year old son had a concussion, I should have known that a bag should be ready. But, like most people, even a near-stay in a hospital with a child,(the docs decided to release him), I figured it would never happen again. When I got sent to the hospital some years later with a kidney stone, I was not prepared.
The docs saw another problem and when the kidney stone gave me trouble two weeks later, I had a bag packed, and was ready for subsequent hospital visits, even those for tests that should not have been overnight stays; I was ready anyway.

Even then, it took me until a couple of months ago when my son went unexpectedly to the hospital and I had to run out and buy some basics for him that I did consider throwing a bag together that any of my men could use in an emergency.

Ten years ago I had thought to give given a small suitcase to my daughter-in-law before the birth of my grandson. I packed in it what I considered most of the essentials: A nice robe, matching slippers, tooth brush, tooth paste, hair brush, hair ties, dusting powder, deodorant, disposable pink razor, nice lip balm, hand and body lotion, nice soap, facial cleanser and moisturizer…and room for her personal effects.

This idea is not just good for a new mother; anyone you know who will be going into a hospital or finds themselves in a hospital to be with a loved one appreciates the thought and help.

You can go as personal as you’d like, or as expensive as you’d like…depending on your budget, their needs and how well you know the gift recipient. Let those factors be your guide. Does she really need your help? Get as many basics as you can in travel sizes or samples from a cosmetic counter or beauty sales representative and make sure you add the robe and slippers. Can you afford better? You can add her personal fragrance, or line of fragrance products, skin care items, a book, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable giving a particular person hygiene products, then I gave a small case with a bedjacket, maybe some nice dusting powder or lotion, a pair of slippers, a notebook and decent pen, as I have done. Those have been big hits, especially with women facing surgeries that may make them feel that they are losing some of their femininity. Help make them continue to feel womanly and attractive; give them pretty, personal, pampering gifts.

For my men, I have in my closet a bag packed a couple of new boxer briefs, and tee shirts,(fortunately, they are all approximately the same size and only my husband lives with me now), a couple of pairs of socks, slippers, a robe, soap, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste and a couple of disposable razors…just enough to make any hospital stay comfortable, or to get them ready to get out of there. As a gift for a man, or young man, you can leave out the undergarments, (depending on your relationship, the man’s needs and his embarrassment threshold), but leave the robe and slippers. I’d add a notebook and pen, a book or magazine,(depending on their taste), and lip balm and maybe a nice men’s, or basic, skin lotion . If you know their taste, add aftershave or  body spray,(especially nice for a teenage fellow).

For a child, I’d give a robe and slippers or slipper socks, lip balm, body powder, nice soap. And add a book,(coloring books and crayons for smaller ones, game books for older ones, reading books for all). Add a game that can be played from bed.(I made a tabletop hopscotch game for a young girl who had leg surgery) Or any other without small, lose-able parts that you can think of.
If a family member is spending a great deal of time at the hospital with a loved one, consider a bag for that person. You might consider adding some food treats,(reasonably healthy ones) to the bag as well.

If you are packing a prepared bag for yourself, by all means add undergarments and some very comfortable clothing. You may be somewhere looking after someone else, and you will not be wearing hospital gowns. Make sure you have comfortable shoes.
Pack at least one book, pen and paper or notebook, plus any and all personal needs. Make it items that you will not miss in your daily life, but would be comfortable having or wearing. If money is a problem, start putting away some at a time. Do one for everyone in the family and take into consideration growth-spurts for children. Just today a train derailed and 1000 people needed to evacuate their homes in a southern state. You just never know.

The case need not be expensive, or even actually a case. A zipper or drawstring bag will do just as well. Remember to use your knowledge of the person for whom you are creating the gift. Use the person’s needs, embarrassment threshold and your own budget as a guide.

[Note: I just received a shipment from “Faith ,Soap and Love” of solid cake moisturizer.Tracy makes incredible soaps and lip balm and now this,a spill-proof heavy-duty fragrant moisturizer.  These would be great for a traveler’s gift as they can be taken on airplanes in carry-on luggage,(it isn’t liquid.) See  her products here:Faith, Soaps and Love.

Visit me on Facebook: Food,Friends,Family Facebook page

Or on  Four Foxes, One Hound:Four Foxes, One Hound…writer’s blog   

I am the Friday Fox.

Hope you visit me  here and at the sites above!