Diet culture be damned, there’s more to this concept than just what goes into our bodies. Fresh aloe is my secret weapon for happier, healthier skin and a glow that outshines the gloomiest winter days.
While lasting change starts from within, I strongly believe that aloe should be a topical ingredient only. There are proven benefits to drinking small amounts of pure aloe juice, but quite frankly, it tastes like straight poison to me. There is no amount of compelling research out there that would convince me I should drink the culinary equivalent of drain cleaner. Thus, when I found myself with a large leaf of fresh aloe on hand, I knew right away it was better suited for the bathroom than the kitchen.
First things first, in case you’ve only seen the little bottles of goop in the cosmetics section, aloe is a succulent that is prized worldwide for its medicinal properties. There are well over 400 species of aloe with aloe vera being the most common. Dubbed the “Plant of Immortality” by ancient Egyptians, the first record of the plant comes from 6,000-year old carvings within the tombs of deceased pharaohs. Its modern name comes from the Arabic word “Alloeh”, which translates to “shining bitter substance”, and the Latin word “Vera”, which translates to “true”.
Aloe is the Swiss army knife of skin care. Whatever ails you, there’s a good chance that a gentle application of aloe vera gel will help.
Bottled aloe gel has added preservatives to extend shelf life. Cut the crap and go straight to the source! Fresh aloe leaves are available in most grocery stores these days, particularly Whole Foods Markets and similar health food shops. It’s more cost-effective and easy to use.
To use, apply on clean skin as desired. It’s safe for use on the body, hands, and face alike.
Fresh aloe is a game-changer for healthier, happier skin.
Building your dream home from scratch is no small project. Between location scouting, permitting, designing, and actual construction, you’re looking at years of hard work and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Don’t give up hope, though; there’s a better way to start building! You don’t need to be a millionaire or even remotely handy to enjoy the instant gratification of a newly constructed gingerbread house.
‘Tis the season for erecting walls redolent of cinnamon and spice, frosted with freshly fallen confectioner’s sugar snow. Anyone and everyone can call this place their home, at least in spirit, for a short but sweet holiday memory. Only slightly more complex than making gingerbread people, there’s definitely an art to this edible architecture. For anyone daunted by the task but drawn to the cozy abodes, I’m here to help. This is everything you need to know to make your best gingerbread house yet.
You can’t build a house with shoddy materials, and the same goes for the edible version. Your foundational cookies must be strong, resistant to spreading in the oven, but still delicious. I will not compromise flavor for function, which is why my Gingerbread Cut-Out Cookies are always my go-to solution. You can make a batch of each to add color variation between components, or stick with something more classic for the nostalgic simplicity of it.
Some recipes suggest baking off large sheets of cookies and cutting them afterward to ensure the sharpest, most accurate lines. That would make sense if we were talking about woodworking or sewing patterns, but that same logic doesn’t hold up to baking scrutiny. This approach is more likely to cause walls to crumble or crack in the process, leave rough, crumbly sides that can muck up the icing, and either under-baked centers or over-baked edges. Measure carefully, cut the shapes you want first, then bake.
As the edible glue holding everything together, royal icing is critical for sturdy construction. The thing is, it hardens very quickly once exposed to air. Only make a small amount at a time to prevent crustiness or excess waste at the end. Only make enough to fit in a piping bag at a time.
Putting up the walls and keeping them up is always the most difficult step. Use unopened canned foods to prop them up and keep them in place until the icing has set. Don’t rush this, and don’t add the roof until you’ve removed the cans!
Use royal icing to adhere the foundation of the house to a sturdy base, like a flat plate, platter, or cake cardboard to prevent it from sliding around. This also gives it greater stability, and makes it easier to transport if needed.
Even if your best efforts look more like a run-down shack than a grand Victorian mansion, no one will care if it tastes good. Lavish it with candies, make a mess, and just have fun!
Barring any premature nibbling, your gingerbread house will be good to eat for 5 – 7 days after baking.
You can use coarse sand paper (new, never used for wood or anything non-edible!) to carefully remove some height.
Use royal icing to glue it back together, letting it set on a flat surface first. Let it dry completely before continuing. If it’s very noticeable from the outside, use more icing, candies, or fondant decorations to cover it.
It might be too hot or humid where you’re building your house. If need be, scrape the failed icing off and make a new batch with much less liquid to start again.
Colored sugar and simple sprinkles are still plenty festive! You can always emphasize royal icing designs instead for a more elegant approach.
The beauty of gingerbread houses is that they’re only short term dwellings, meant to house the holiday spirit, which is always a gracious guest. If you build it, Christmas cheer is sure to come.
When it comes to celebratory meals, sushi is always at the top of my list. For birthdays, anniversaries, and other milestones, nothing could do proper justice to the event like a glorious platter of carefully rolled maki or dainty nigiri. From childhood to this very day, it’s still my number one request for a fancy treat.
Of course, sushi is not the kind of indulgence one can splurge on casually or in great volume. While I’d like to invite everyone I know and love to join me in such revelry, quite frankly, I don’t make that kind of money. I do, however, make that kind of food, which is why I’ve come to realize that throwing a sushi party at home is an even greater sort of celebration.
There are many ways to go about this. First, consider whether you want guests to be able to roll their own sushi or simply eat what your prepare. I think it’s a whole lot more fun to have a hands-on activity, and it puts much less stress on the host if they’re not doing all the work.
Don’t worry; I don’t even use mine anymore. Lay down sheets of parchment paper to help everyone roll up their sushi creations, and simply throw them away when it’s all said and done. Use compostable parchment paper to prevent excess waste.
Let’s work backwards to figure out portion sizes. The average sushi roll uses about 1/3 cup of cooked rice, and let’s say most people will eat 2 – 3 rolls each. That means we want at least 1 cup of cooked sushi per guest. My basic formula makes 4 cups, which you can halve, double, or triple accordingly, always erring on the side of extra. Leftovers are great for making fried rice or ochazuke the next day.
Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links. All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.
Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 132Total Fat: 1gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 415mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 0gSugar: 6gProtein: 2g
Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link. I have experience with all of these companies and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something through my links.
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.
The luxury of making your own sushi is having endless options for fillings, freed from traditional, tired, or simply uncreative menus. You could truly put anything in the middle of your maki, including veggie burgers and guacamole, if you so wished. Go ahead, use this as an opportunity to empty out your fridge, freezer, and pantry if you’re entertaining on a shoestring budget! For more thematic options, my favorites include:
If you don’t have some sort of soy sauce or tamari for dipping, that’s a crime and I’m never coming to any of your parties again. Beyond that, there’s plenty of room for different ways to finish off your rolls with style:
It might take some time before everyone can finish rolling their own, so don’t leave anyone hungry while they wait. You can prepare all sorts of small bites and starters well in advance so you can stress less.
When in doubt, good old ice water has never done me wrong. If you’d like something a bit more festive to say “kampai!” with, consider both spirited and sober options.
If you’d like some more inspiration to get this party started, here are a few more recipes you’ll love:
It’s no exaggeration to say that every company out there making anything vaguely resembling a liquid is now making hard seltzer. The Saturday Night Live sketch is so hilarious because it’s true, and you know what? I would legitimately purchase a variety pack including Men’s Jackets or Belts and Ties as flavor options. In fact, I have casually dropped cans of “Yard Darts” and “Skinny Dipping” into my basket as if those were on par with commonplace Lemon-Lime.
This profusion of hard seltzers can be chalked up to a number of intersecting trends. Alcohol sales shot through the roof during the height of pandemic lock downs, but most people weren’t trying to get smashed before noon. Lower ABV drinks have seen a resurgence as a more moderate choice, less intoxicating and more refreshing, perfect for a wide variety of occasions. Flavored sparkling water was already on the rise as a healthier alternative to sugary soda, so this extension of the concept appealed to the population that wouldn’t be as likely to crack open a heavy, high-calorie dark beer.
For me, a standard 12-ounce can of hard seltzer is the perfect serving size. It’s reasonable to drink in one sitting so leftovers won’t go flat, and is just potent enough to provide a comfortable buzz. Most 12-packs include four different flavors to keep things interesting, without having to commit to just one taste. Even if you get stuck with Jiffy Lube hard seltzer, it’s never so bad that it’s completely undrinkable.
That said, we can still do better. Hard seltzer is made from fermented cane sugar or malted barley, which is converted to alcohol. This takes special yeast and enzymes, just like wine-making. However, for even better and more consistent results, who said we need to go through all that rigmarole from scratch?
Sparkling water and vodka. That’s it! You can use plain water and straight vodka to completely control the flavors through added extracts, fruit juice, or purees, or use infused options for one or either to make it even simpler.
If you’re hosting a party, set up a DIY hard seltzer bar with a variety of options for guests to mix their own. This way, they can also control the intensity of the alcohol, better accommodating both non-drinkers and heavyweights.
= 1 Cup / 8 Fluid Ounces with 4.5% ABV
That’s roughly equivalent to most hard seltzers on the market. You easily have the advantage over the competition though, because it’s infinitely scalable and much less expensive in the long run.
If you want to go au naturel, cut the sparkling water with half fruit juice or puree, like peach nectar, apple juice, or tropical punch, both for taste and sweetness. That’s usually enough for me, but if you have a real sweet tooth, a drop of liquid stevia will help take off the edge.
If you’re a hard seltzer aficionado, what’s your favorite flavor? For upscale indulgence, I do love a bracing cucumber-basil lemonade, but by the same token, I still wouldn’t turn down Desk if you offered it.