Sunday, December 9, 2018

8 Modern Christmas Movies for Your Holiday


1. The Nightmare Before Christmas

This stop-motion musical is well established as a modern classic. It also serves the double purpose of being one of the great modern Christmas movies and an amazing Halloween flick. As you probably know at this point, this fantasy follows the king of Halloween as he attempts to recreate Christmas. It’s fun and it’s sweet without being corny. Plus, try not to dance along to “Oogie Boogie’s Song”!

2. Scrooged

A modern retelling of the classic Charles Dickens novella A Christmas Carol, it features some of Bill Murray’s finest moments. He plays a mean TV executive who treats everyone badly. Of course, four ghosts visit him and show him his past, present, and future, and his attitude changes. This journey of horrid characters who turn into thoughtful people always offers great Murray moments. 

For some more modern Bill Murray love, his 2015 special A Very Murray Christmas is quite joyful. Plus, it’s directed by Sofia Coppola, and the amount of cameos in it is astounding!

3. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Could it be that original SNL cast members make the best Christmas movies? This Chevy Chase classic features everyone’s worst nightmare: a messy, impossible Christmas. From a tree that’s too big to carry home to power outage over Christmas lights, it’s everything that can go wrong. And Chase is magnificent as the growingly annoyed family man who eventually has it with everything. 

4. A Bad Moms Christmas

A sequel to Bad Moms, this silly and fairly dirty girl comedy is an endearing mess. There are better modern Christmas movies out there, but its brand of raw comedy is uncommon during the holidays. Plus, it stars a cast of incredible women, including Susan Sarandon and Christine Baranski.

5. Love Actually

Perhaps the most hearted of all modern Christmas movies on this list. Over the past 15 years, this British ensemble comedy has turned into a classic. With an all-star cast including Oscar and Emmy winners, it’ll give you a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. The cue cards scene is the most iconic, but I personally prefer the awkward naked flirting between Martin Freeman and Joanna Page.

6. The Grinch

The newest film on this list of modern Christmas movies, this is another retelling of the Dr. Seuss classic book. Starring the commanding voice of Benedict Cumberbatch, it’s the newest “it movie” for the season. Even if it doesn’t live up to the ‘60s TV movie, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a timeless story. Plus, the cast includes legends like Angela Lansbury and Pharrell Williams!

7. The Holiday

A sweet romantic comedy about two ladies who switch apartment, this is perfect for a lazy December Sunday. It’s so rare to see Kate Winslet on something as light as this, and she’s really fun and fresh in it. The fact that she’s accompanied by legendary actor Eli Wallach and comedy master Jack Black certainly helps! Cameron Diaz’s story is also quite lovely, and she has great chemistry with Jude Law. 

8. Die Hard

There’s a lot of discussion on whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or just a movie that occurs during Christmas. I’m here to tell you that doesn’t matter and you should watch it again anyway. This ‘80s classic has Bruce Willis facing off Alan Rickman during a Christmas party. For hours, Willis hides from the terrorists taking over Nakatomi Plaza, while getting hurt a lot and getting a phone buddy. It has everything from family reunions to explosions. What’s not to love about it?

Homemade Cannoli Recipe


Your first batch of homemade cannoli may not look like the perfect ones you find in those fancy Italian bakeries, but I promise they’ll taste just as good.

Maybe even better, since the satisfaction of checking something off your baking bucket list often tastes almost as good as the recipe itself!

How To Make Cannolis:

Cannoli Shells

  1. Combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt together in a food processor. Add the butter and pulse until it resembles small pebbles. Add the egg and cold wine and pulse until the dough just barely begins to hold together. Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until smooth, 3-4 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Lightly coat the dough with flour and roll it through a pasta machine set to the thickest setting. If you don’t have a pasta machine, use a rolling pin to roll the dough out as thin as possible on a lightly floured surface, to 1/8-inch thick.
  3. Use a 4-inch, round cookie cutter to cut circles from the dough. Take one circle at a time and pull it into a 5-inch oval. Repeat with the excess dough, kneading it back together and cutting it until you have 12 ovals.
  4. Place the egg white in a small bowl and set aside. In a wide pot with a heavy bottom, heat shortening or the vegetable oil of your choice to between 350 and 380 degrees F. Line a large plate with paper towels.
  5. Wrap one oval of dough loosely lengthwise around a mold or 1-inch-diameter wooden dowel. Brush one end of the dough with egg white, then pull the dry end over the top and press down to seal. Repeat with three more dough ovals.
  6. Using tongs, carefully lower the dough into the oil and fry until golden brown, turning them as they fry, 2-3 minutes. Remove the shells with the tongs and transfer them to the paper towel-lined plate to cool.
  7. When the shells are cool enough to touch, remove the molds and repeat with the remaining dough in batches.
  8. Dip ends of cooled shells in melted chocolate if desired, and let cool until dry.

Cannoli Filling:

  1. Place the ricotta (drained overnight in cheesecloth or a nut milk bag) and powdered sugar in a mixing bowl. Mix together gently with a rubber spatula until well combined. Add the zest and chips and fold until evenly distributed. (Cream can be refrigerated up to one day in a covered container.)
  2. Place the cream in a disposable pastry bag and cut a 1/2-inch diameter piece off the end/corner. Insert the tip into one end of a shell and pipe the cream in, filling it halfway. Then pipe the rest in the other end. Repeat with the remaining shells.
  3. Dip the pastry shell in chocolate chips, crushed pistachios, and sliced almonds if desired. Dust the finished cannoli with powdered sugar before serving.



How Long Do Cannolis Last?

Cannolis are best right after being filled. The cream filling can cause the shell to soften and become soggy if they sit too long. However, you can make them a little in advance.

Prepared Cannolis: Store in an airtight container for up to 6 hours or in the fridge for up to 2 days. Refrigerating the cannolis will cause them to go stale quicker.

Cannoli Cream: Store in the refrigerator for 1 day or freezer for up to 30 days.

Cannoli Shells: Store in a sealed airtight container at room temperature for 3 to 4 days or in the freezer for up to 30 days.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

CLASSIC PIZZELLE


No Italian holiday is complete without crisp, buttery pizzelle. Rather than the typical anise flavor, we've made them a bit more neutral with a splash of good quality vanilla. Nonna turning over in her grave? You can still use the anise.

INGREDIENTS

3 large eggs
5 1/4 ounces sugar
3/8 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 1/4 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
4 ounces melted butter

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Beat the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until well combined.
  2. Stir in the flour and baking powder, mixing until smooth.
  3. Add the melted butter, again mixing until smooth; the batter will be thick and soft.
  4. Heat your pizzelle iron. Grease it as directed in the manufacturer's instructions. As the iron heats, the batter will stiffen.
  5. Cook the pizzelle according to the instructions that came with your iron. In general, they'll take between 45 seconds and 2 1/2 minutes to brown.
  6. Remove the pizzelle from the iron, and cool on a rack. If desired, use a pair of scissors to trim any ragged edges.
  7. Dust cooled pizzelle with confectioners' sugar, if desired.

You find a pizzelle cookie iron here at Amazon

TIPS:

Flavor to taste: classic pizzelle are often flavored with anise extract or anise seed. Butter-rum, lemon, or rum flavors are also delicious. Simply add extract to the batter to taste. Start with 1/4 teaspoon; amounts will vary a lot, depending on the strength of the extract you choose.

The best way to grease your pizzelle iron is to dip a towel in vegetable oil, and wipe it all over the iron's interior plates. This helps avoid the sticky residue you may get from spraying the iron with non-stick spray.

Pizzelle Casserole with Cannoli Filling

Serves 6–8

This recipe is brought to you by David Venable host of "In the kitchen with David" on QVC

Ingredients:

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1–1/2 cups heavy cream
1–1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
The zest from 1 orange
32 oz whole milk ricotta
24–30 pizzelles, setting aside 3–4 for topping the casserole

Preparation:

Using a stand mixer fitted with a wire whip, whip the cream cheese until it's light and fluffy. Reduce the speed, then add the heavy cream, powdered sugar, vanilla, and orange zest. Slowly increase the speed until you have soft peaks. Add the ricotta cheese and chocolate chips, reserving 2 Tbsp of the chocolate chips for topping the casserole. Blend well. This is your cannoli filling.

Spread a thin layer of the cannoli filling in the bottom of a 2- to 3-qt casserole dish and cover with a single layer of the pizzelles. (The first layer of filling is to keep the pizzelles from sliding around.) Add another, slightly thicker, layer of the filling and top with more of the pizzelles, also in a single layer. Continue layering the filling and pizzelles in this way until you've filled the casserole dish or used all the filling. The filling will be your final layer before adding the toppings. 

Using the pizzelles you set aside, roughly crumble them over the casserole. Next, sprinkle on the reserved chocolate chips. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Does CBD Really Help With Pain?


The frenzy over CBD (also known as cannabinoid, the non-psychoactive component found in a cannabis plant) isn’t slowing down. Canada just legalized the use of recreational cannabis, including CBD, allowing residents to try CBD products to improve issues like anxiety, sexual performance and poor sleep. Many wellness centers are also jumping on board, using products like CBD oil, arguably one of the most commonly used forms of CBD,  as a way to alleviate customers’ various ailments.

One of those issues? Muscle pain. Studies suggest CBD works as a pain reliever and may even help to relieve the symptoms of arthritis. Anecdotally, people have credited CBD for helping them with their back pain. One of the main ways people do this is by using CBD oil in a massage.

How CBD Massages Work And What The Science Says

A CBD massage treatment typically involves CBD oil that is mixed with another carrier oil or cream before a massage therapist applies it to the skin. The practice is said to help multiple pain-related conditions.

“Receiving a massage with CBD oil can potentially be very beneficial to patients who are suffering from symptoms such as localized pain, arthritis or inflammation, and skin disorders like eczema or psoriasis,” said Dr. Tanny Raz, the director of medical business development at Apollo Cannabis Clinics, a medical cannabis research organization and treatment center in Toronto.

The practice may also be an aid for those living with chronic pain who struggle with sleep. Individuals with a pain-related condition often complain that their discomfort wakes them or prevents them from getting deep, quality sleep. Meanwhile, research shows that being well-rested can help people better deal with pain. Studies have found that CBD may increase the amount of sleep people get (based on self-reporting), and research also suggests CBD has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory benefits.

That’s the good news. But here are the important caveats: Research shows there are many benefits to getting a massage, including reduced tension and pain relief, so there’s no definitive way to say it was the CBD component of my massage that alleviated my pain. Also, like all treatments and medicines, CBD oil and massages are not right for everybody. Some people report feeling nausea, irritability or fatigue when using these products (typically when they’re ingested). There’s always a chance you can have a skin reaction with topical treatments. It’s always a good idea to discuss any new health regimens with your health care provider.

Is Using CBD For Pain Safe, Or Even Legal?


CBD is becoming more widely available for purchase and in spas and massage therapy centers across the country. However, contradictory laws at the federal and state levels have contributed to some confusion about its legality, and CBD oil may be classed as illegal in some states. Additionally, many CBD products aren’t approved or tested by the Food and Drug Administration. If you’re worried, check the rules in your area to make sure everything’s OK before purchasing or proceeding.

When it comes to CBD oil massages specifically, experts say the treatment has no immediately known dangers associated with it (separate from any normal skin-related issues, reactions or irritations that may result from any other massage). 

“Since there is no known case of a cannabis overdose on record, cannabinoid therapy is in a league of its own when it comes to safety,” The World Health Organization states that there is no evidence of any public health-related problems or abuse or dependence potential associated with the use of pure CBD.

In a world of wacky wellness trends that don’t always do a lot of good, CBD massages stand out as among the more effective and relaxing techniques that are generally harmless for most people. That’s a fad I’m personally happy to adopt.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Here’s What You Probably Didn’t Know About Coffee


If you’re a coffee drinker, you probably know everything about the difference between Arabica and Robusta beans, dark and light roast, and caffeinated vs. decaf.

You have likely noticed that just smelling coffee can give you a boost of energy before you take your first sip, not that it’s enough to make you skip that cup of joe.

Coffee is clearly an extremely popular and widely consumed beverage, so it might not surprise you to hear that coffee is the second most traded product in the world (after oil), with 25 million farmers in over 50 countries involved in its production.

But how much do you know about the history and the science of coffee? Get ready for a fascinating look behind the curtain of your morning pick-me-up.

The world’s most expensive coffee costs up to $600 a pound

For that much money, it’s got to be something truly special. We guess that’s one word for it,  this particular coffee is extracted from the feces of a Sumatran wildcat called a civet. The animals love the berries but are unable to digest the beans.

The beans are therefore fermented in the stomach of the animal before being excreted. This apparently produces a smooth and chocolaty coffee with no bitterness once the beans are collected from the feces (and, we assume, washed). To each their own, we guess.

It only grows well near the equator

Today, the majority of coffee is grown in Brazil, which produces a full 40% of the world’s supply. That’s twice as much as 2nd and 3rd place producers, Colombia and Vietnam. The only state in the U.S. that grows coffee commercially is Hawaii, with its distinctive Kona beans.

Each of these locations enjoys the year-round warmth and humidity associated with equatorial regions, a climate that is much preferred by coffee berries. In fact, the area between latitudes 25 degrees North and 30 degrees South has been nicknamed the “Bean Belt” for this reason.

Coffee has been banned many times throughout history

As world governments became more advanced, so did efforts to harsh everyone’s buzz. Coffee was banned in Mecca in 1511 because officials were sure that it caused radical thinking.

Italian clergymen took it a step further in the later 16th century by labeling coffee satanic. By 1623, Ottoman leader Murad IV decided to institute punishments for drinking coffee, such as being beaten or thrown into the sea.

The Swedish government made owning coffee paraphernalia illegal in 1746, and that included mugs and dishes that could theoretically be used for other things.

Another attempt to ban coffee occurred in 1777, when Frederick the Great of Prussia banned coffee because he was worried about beer sales. But as we know, nothing could stop the runaway train that is coffee consumption. (And beer is doing just fine, too.)

Shepherds discovered coffee in Ethiopia around 800 A.D.

The legend goes that goat herders in the early 9th century noticed that their goats seemed to dance after eating coffee berries. A local monk got the idea to make a beverage with the berries, and after drinking it, he predictably stayed up all night. That event marks the birth of the original cup of coffee, but in the earliest use of coffee overall, the berries were mixed with fat to create an energy-rich snack.

If you prefer your history codified, the first written record of the coffee plant comes from Yemen at the end of the 15th century. After discovery of the plant, coffee was very quickly exported to the rest of the world. Cultivation began in the 1600s.

Coffee stays hotter when cream is added

And now for a little something about the science of coffee. Adding cream to your brew actually keeps it warmer longer, even though the initial addition of cold cream cools it somewhat.

Overall, coffee with cream cools 20% slower than black. That’s true for a couple of reasons. First, the darker the beverage, the faster it gives off heat. And second, the more viscous the beverage (coffee with cream is thicker than black coffee), the slower it gives off heat.

There is also some evidence that the caffeine in coffee with a dairy additive (milk or cream) is absorbed more slowly by the body. That can decrease the zing you get from it. However, it’s not decreased by much, and other things play a greater role in how quickly caffeine is metabolized, including how much fiber you also have in your stomach.

Coffee is a fruit

The coffee “beans” that we use are actually seeds. More accurately, they are the pits of a stone fruit that resembles a cherry. Grown on bushes, coffee cherries contain two seeds, positioned with the flat sides together. About 10-15% of coffee cherries have only one seed, which is called a peaberry. It’s commonly believed that peaberry seeds have more flavor, though there’s no real proof of this claim.

But what happens to the cherry when its seed is extracted? Unfortunately, up to 46 billion pounds of them are simply thrown away.

Concerned about the waste, some companies are starting to produce a product called coffee flour, made from dried coffee fruit. It is said to taste nutty and slightly bitter, with as much caffeine as dark chocolate. But the nutritional benefits are the real surprise. Coffee flour is a rich source of fiber, antioxidants, iron, protein, and potassium.

Coffee is healthy

And finally, you don’t need to feel bad about drinking so much of it. Many regular coffee drinkers harbor some guilt about their habit, but that shouldn’t come from the quality of the beverage itself. Sure, if you spend half your food budget on Starbucks or dump a full day’s worth of sugar into each cup, that’s not great.

But coffee drinkers get health benefits from the habit, too. The coffee itself has high levels of antioxidants as well as potassium, manganese, and B vitamins.

And research shows that the caffeine in coffee offers protection against Alzheimer’s, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Women also seem to have a lower risk of skin cancer when they consume caffeine regularly.

So the next time you are sharing a cup of coffee with a new friend, or an uncomfortable silence falls over the breakfast table, you’ll have lots of interesting tidbits about coffee to share.

And don’t let anyone hassle you about your little habit – coffee is one addiction that’s okay to lean into. In fact, if you want to help save the planet, buy coffee flour, too.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

These Truly Bizarre Things Could Only Happen At Walmart


It’s no secret that a lot highly questionable things have been known to go down at Walmart. Whether it’s the strange items that are for sale or the customers who are buying them, there’s never a dull moment in or around a Walmart. Check out some of the craziest things ever captured at a Walmart.

Rookie Mistake

xxxxx ran to grab something at Walmart and left his pizza unattended in his vehicle. Of course, the window was open just enough for somebody to reach in and snag a slice. Although we feel bad that this happened, you really should know better than to leave some fresh pizza by itself in the parking lot of a Walmart. Those parking lots are a war zone. We also think that xxxxx should count their blessings that the perp just took one slice when they easily could have taken everything if they wanted. It’s also surprising that they didn’t open any of the ranch or seasoning packets.


Parenting At Its Finest

When’s a better time do some quality parenting rather than on the weekly family excursion to Walmart? Tests have proven that the best way to change your child’s behavior is to publicly shame them in front of everyone they know at the town’s most popular store. All we know for sure is that this boy never lied to his parents again for fear of having to have another walk of atonement up and down the aisles of Walmart. We’re positive that this trip to the store was enough to scare this kid straight and was used as a warning to his brother as well.


All Tuckered Out

You know what they say – Sometimes you beat Walmart, and sometimes Walmart beats you. You would think that there have to be more comfortable places in Walmart to take a snooze, but it looks like this person couldn’t make it another step. The electronics section is just fine for them because the furniture area was just too far away to make it to. This person does have some pretty impressive sleeping abilities, or maybe it’s not their first time taking a quick nap at Walmart. Hopefully, someone notices them before the store closes and they’re locked in there all night.


That’s One Way To Do It

Sometimes, if your kid is being a nuisance while you’re shopping at Walmart, just strap them to the back of an electric cart. They’ll get a kick out of being dragged across the smooth ground and you’ll get some moments of peace and quiet so you can focus on your shopping. The only real thing you have to worry about is them getting run over by another electric cart, so just stay sharp and we’re sure it will all work out fine. You also probably won’t be the only person with this idea so make sure you look out for other kids as well.


Impressive

Nothing much to see here, folks. Just a woman with one of the wildest hair-dos ever browsing for some batteries at Walmart. The reaction on the man’s face driving by says it all. At the end of the day, that hair is nothing short of impressive and must have taken numerous years for it to get to that level. We hope that she had some hair product in her basket because it looks like she can use all the help she can get. Somebody also might want to check and make sure that she doesn’t have anything stuffed inside of that hair of hers because she could fit almost anything in there.


A True Fashion Statement

In all honesty, this man was probably the most stylish person in Walmart when this picture was taken. Clearly, he must have been sporting this look for a while for his hair to have gotten that long, and for it to be as full as it is. We wonder if he shaves any other part of his body to pull off this look or if it’s just all natural. By the looks of it, he seems relatively used to having pictures taken of him which is understandable because that’s not something you see every day. Something tells us that his wife isn’t the biggest fan of his style, but to each his own!


Service Squirrel

Nothing says ‘sanitation’ like bringing a squirrel into Walmart. However, the squirrel does seem to be relatively trained just sitting on the man’s shoulder. Hopefully, the squirrel doesn’t go around crawling around on any of the food or clothing, because we’re pretty sure that it doesn’t have all of its shots yet. We’re willing to bet that nobody told him that he couldn’t bring his squirrel into the store because Walmart is relatively well-known for not having too many rules regarding their customers. It’s one of those things that makes Walmart so appealing to some people.


Lockdown

Wow, this kid must have seriously messed up the last time he went to Walmart. His mom is taking things to the next level and she’s clearly not taking any chances with him. We’re pretty sure that there are more humane ways to keep your kid in line, but if it works, it works. As long as you keep a firm grip on the cart, that kid isn’t going anywhere and you won’t have to worry about him running away from you and maybe being bitten by a goat running around the aisles, or a squirrel with rabies.


Bring Your Grandma To Walmart Day

Okay, there has to be some kind of law against this. If you’ve ever been a little kid, you know just how uncomfortable those shopping carts can be. If they’re that uncomfortable when you’re five, there’s no telling how painful it is at this woman’s age. Not to mention, how is she going to get out of there? That’s going to take some serious effort and maneuvering which is going to be hard for this elderly woman. We hope that she got out alright and didn’t hurt herself in the process!


Have To Be Back In Time For Surgery

Walmart really is a lawless land. The only place you’re going to see something like this is a place like Walmart.This man clearly went shopping, purchased his items, and is now walking out of the store in the condition that he’s in. Notice how nobody is following him or trying to help him because it’s probably just another day working at Walmart for the employees. Hopefully, this guy made it back to the hospital safe and sound and his happy with his purchases that day. Maybe the hospital staff will keep a better eye on their patients next time too.