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honey vs. sugar

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A few days ago, the Damsel talked to a friend who has a spot of hypoglycemia. If she eats sweet things on an empty stomach, she feels dizzy and lightheaded. So she switched to using honey rather than white sugar in her morning shake. Things didn’t work out for her the way she’d hoped.

This brings up the question: how does honey differ from sugar on a nutritional level?

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One could argue that since honey is less processed than sugar, it’s better for you. But once a spoonful of honey hits your system and is metabolized, there’s not much difference nutritionally. They have equal ratings on the glycemic index, which measures the sugar hit on your bloodstream. The amount of vitamins or protein or minerals in honey is so small it’s not worth talking about.

What about calories? There are 46 calories in a tablespoon of sugar, and 64 in a tablespoon of honey. Since honey is a little sweeter than sugar, spoonful to spoonful, that makes the calories pretty much the same too. (When substituting, you can usually use about 1/3 less honey than sugar in a recipe. If you have a fussy recipe, you may need to also reduce the liquid a smidgeon to compensate for the moisture of honey.)

Then there’s cost. Sugar’s cheaper, no doubt about it. Prices vary widely for both items. You can save a little by buying in bulk, but some folks can’t face the thought of a 5 gallon bucket of solidified honey. (Just so you know…solidified or crystallized honey is still fine to eat, and can be restored to its delicious pourable/spreadable state by heating it. The Damsel has even successfully melted honey packed in a plastic gallon container by putting it in the oven on the lowest setting, although it frightened her.)

The reasons for using honey instead of sugar boils down to pretty much just one thing: taste. Honey has its own unique flavor that can’t be duplicated by white sugar in some recipes. But once it’s past your tongue, your body sees little difference.

There is one thing that should be mentioned…some folk who have managed to find/eat local honey…honey made by bees that buzz in their own vicinity…have noticed an improvement in seasonal allergies. You might want to give that a try if you are one of the allergic.

For help on how to measure the pesky sticky stuff, see this post:

Measuring Honey

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shelf life of food

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Here’s a handy chart showing the shelf life for many common foods. Do any of these surprise you?
As you may know, expiration dates are often wildly inconsistent with reality. You may be pitching food that’s perfectly good.
Comments below:

The Shelf Life of Food

The Damsel is no expert on this topic, but she does think one item on this infographic is quite wrong . . . the one about eggs. A few hours on the counter and they are bad? No. Many countries don’t even refrigerate eggs in the store. They are sold at room temperature. Yes, refrigerate your eggs when you bring them home, but it’s perhaps an example of a food where folks have become overly cautious. No one wants salmonella, but eggs sit in the nest for a “while” before being picked up, yes?

And yes, they can be frozen. See this post: How to freeze eggs

And this: Testing eggs for freshness

There you go.


Infographic by LindsaySnowOsborn.
Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.
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Shortening. The stuff dreams are made of. Pie dreams, that is.

Have you ever wondered why shortening is called shortening? What’s short about it?

One explanation is that baked goods typically made with shortening, like pies, cookies, or biscuits, are different from yeast breads that you knead. When you knead dough, you are attempting to make the gluten strands long and elastic. On the other hand, when you make pie dough, you try to work the dough as little as possible to avoid formation of long gluten strands so the crust will be flaky and light. So bread=long, pie=short. Shortening.

But, shortening has been called shortening probably long before people understood about “long gluten strands” or “forming a gluten matrix.” Those words don’t sound very 15th century, you know?

There’s actually evidence that “short” was used at one time as a synonym for “tender.” Ahh. Now that sounds a bit more historical. The Damsel finds it curious and interesting indeed that both meanings for the word “shortening” work pretty well.

It will be easier for us all if you think of shortening as “pie crust ingredient” instead of  “big blobs of solidified fat.” Some things are better the less you think about them. Besides, Grandma made pie all the time and she seemed quite at peace.


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how to seed a pomegranate

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When the Damsel’s Knight in Shining Armor was a boy, his family owned an amazing orchard full of all kinds of citrus trees–and pomegranate trees. He might have liked to know this trick back then, but he was only a wee tyke at the time. Someone else had to grub out the seeds for him.

This method will amaze you and make you want to buy more, more, more pomegranates–partly because they are so yummy and partly because this is just fun to do.

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Score the pomegranate with a sharp knife, but don’t cut all the way through.

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With your thumbs, pry the pomegranate in half.

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Ahh. So delicious…and so pretty.

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Pull outward with your thumbs along the edges, sort of flattening and loosening things. Prepare it for the mystery that is to come.

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Turn it cut side down over a bowl. And now–although it may seem shocking, strike the fruit with a spoon. Don’t be timid. Beat it. Pummel it. Spank it. All over. Beware that juice may fly, so using a large bowl like the Damsel shows here helps contain the violence.

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There may be a few seeds clinging to the fruit that you can pick out with your fingers, but most of them will come free. Repeat with the other half, and enjoy. Perhaps more than six.

(If you don’t get that reference, google up the Greek myth about Persephone.)

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Have you ever been happily making a yummy thing, and get half way into it when you realize you don’t have one of the ingredients?


This happened to the Damsel yesterday, when she attempted to make pumpkin pie squares. The recipe called for a yellow cake mix, and the pantry had no such thing. The solution, though, is so easy that you may decide you don’t need to buy yellow cake mix ever again.

Simply mix:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk (optional)

Store in a baggie or some such. It should keep for months since it’s just dry ingredients. This makes an amount equal to a regular cake mix box of 18.25 oz. Use it in your recipe just like you dumped it out of the box. Or just proceed to use it in your recipe, as the Damsel did yesterday.

Or, yes, you can even bake it into a yellow cake, and chances are, you’ll like it even better than a silly old box cake.

Here’s how:

Preheat oven to 350, and prepare a pan with ye olde grease-and-flour.

1 recipe Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs

Proceed just like with a box cake…combine all ingredients and beat two minutes. Bake carefully at:

8″ or 9″ cake rounds — 20-25 minutes
13 x 9 pan — 35-40 minutes
cupcakes — 12-15 minutes
tube/bundt pan — 45-50 minutes

If you’ve omitted the dry milk from the mix, just replace the 3/4 water with milk. All will be well.

yellow cake

Yellow cake can be yours. No store necessary.

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giveaway winner

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Random.org says the winner is Muum! Congratulations. Please email your shipping address to mhovley at gmail dot com and the Damsel will be happy to send you a little SUDDEN DARKNESS. Also include if you would like the book personalized.


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Something wonderful happened at the Cottage by the Mountains.

You may know that the Damsel also writes fiction. Her first novel was published last year, and she’s been working on a sequel for like, forever. But here’s news: the sequel, tentatively entitled Glimmer of Light, has been accepted for publication. A spring release is planned.

The Damsel has been dancing ever since she heard! So happy…and in celebration, she’s holding a giveaway of the first novel, Sudden Darkness. You can read a little about the book here, on Amazon. Click!

Entering is simple. Just comment. Tell us your favorite old-school skill or trick, whether one you read here or one of your own. That’s all you must do.

The giveaway will run until Oct. 1. U.S. residents only, please. If you subscribe by email, please click through to the website to leave a comment. Thank you!

Sudden Darkness

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If you’ve never had the luxury of sleeping on a ironed and lightly starched pillowcase, please proceed to the ironing board.

Maybe it’s not for every day, but this is one of life’s little pleasures that Grandma knew all about–and we’ve forgotten. Try it once, and see if you don’t agree.

“But I don’t iron,” you may say. “I’d rather die.” The Damsel understands. She’s said these words before.


It may sound painful but ironing a pillowcase is a quick job indeed. The Damsel estimates your survival percentages to be quite high.

But what about that starch thing? Who has spray starch around anymore, and why would a person spend their sheckels on such?

Let the Damsel put your mind at ease. You can make your own spray starch in, like, 30 seconds, out of stuff you probably already have. Here is the list of necessary ingredients:

  • spray bottle
  • cornstarch
  • water (you can also add a couple of drops of essential oil for a nice scent)

Yes. It’s just as you suspected. Starch = cornstarch, at least for this purpose.

Mix a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch in two cups of cold water until dissolved. Pour into a spray bottle. Shaking the spray bottle just before, and using the finest mist setting the bottle has, spray the fabric lightly and iron. This works beautifully but there are two things to be aware of. First, the mixture will get yucky in a few days, so make just enough to get you by. (hence the small spray bottle in the photo) Second, this works great for white fabrics but may cause white specks on colored fabric. You can eliminate this by heating the cornstarch/water solution to a boil and then cool. Now the cornstarch is in a more highly dissolved state and shouldn’t cause problems with colored fabric.

If you have vodka in the house **cough** use that in place of the water for a long-lasting mixture.

Quilters and sewers sometimes wash and then starch/iron fabric before cutting to give it extra “hand” that makes it a bit easier to work with.

Just as with purchased spray starch, you may notice flaking. Starching/ironing on the wrong side of the fabric is one solution.


The lost art of hand-embroidered pillowcases is another thing altogether.

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soft boiled eggs, perfect

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Have you enjoyed the deliciousness of soft boiled eggs lately? The Damsel fears cooking them is becoming a lost art, and that’s what the Old School is all about.

Soft but firm whites. Yolks that are thick yet runny. Nothing snotty or goobery. Perfect.

People used to (anyone still? yes? yes?) eat them in egg cups that looked like this:


The eater would cut off the top with a knife and then scoop out the deliciousness, bite by bite. So old-fashioned, so yummy.

The Damsel adores them, although not in the precious little cups. She loves them scooped out onto a piece of sprouted-wheat toast with plenty of salt and pepper. HEAVEN.

But some people fear the soft boiled egg, thinking they’re too fussy or difficult. Let the Damsel put you instantly at ease. If you follow her easy instructions your soft boiled eggs will be PERFECT EVERY TIME.

Put an inch of water in a sauce pan and heat to a boil. You will feel strange doing this, but press forward. You are going to steam the eggs instead of submerge them. You will like doing it this way for several reasons, and the first lovely reason is: that inch of water will come to a boil more quickly than a full pot. Less waiting=good.

Carefully set the eggs into the inch of boiling water. This will also seem strange–the eggs sitting there with only a bit of water under and around them. Have faith.

Cover and set the timer for six minutes. You can turn the heat down a little if you like, but the water should remain boiling.

Reason #2 for steaming vs. boiling: you can do several eggs in the same pan, or just one, or whatever your egg desires are. It’s still six minutes. With the submerge method, the number of eggs would mess with the temperature of the water and then you’d wonder, do I cook it longer? or ? Not so here. You can have confidence that your eggs will not let you down.

When the six minutes is up, run a little cold water over the egg until you it’s cool enough to pick up with your fingers and do whichever type of surgery on it you desire–egg cup style, over toast, whatever. The egg inside will stay warm.

The Damsel cuts the eggshell in half with a butter knife, in the general vicinity of her toast, and then scoops all the yum out onto it. Use firm but delicate pressure to cut through the shell. You’ll get the hang of it right away.


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measuring honey

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Honey. An old-fashioned and yummy ingredient if there ever was one.

If you have to measure honey for a recipe, do you draw a deep sigh? It’s going to be messy. Sticky. Gloppy. And then it’s going to stick to the measuring cup, and  the full measure of honey won’t get into the recipe. If there are kids in the house who have used the honey jar, just touching it takes courage. Opening it sometimes requires a superhero, with the lid all stuck tight.

It’s enough to make you want to bag the whole thing and take a lie-down.

Here are the Damsel’s tips for less stress when measuring honey:

  • If the recipe also uses oil, measure it first, then the honey in the same measuring cup. The oil will help the honey slide right out.
  • Or, spray the measuring cup with cooking spray for the same general result. (Use these methods for measuring syrup, too.)
  • Commit to yourself that you will wipe down the honey jar Every Single Time you use it. The Damsel buys honey in ridiculously large containers and then transfers some into a quart jar to keep in the kitchen cupboard, and she makes herself wipe off the jar rings and rinse the cap with hot water Every Single Time. This way she actually manages to open the jar all by herself most days, although she still welcomes superheros into her kitchen.

Also, the Damsel often nukes the quart jar for several seconds to make the honey pour into the measuring cup more readily. She hates waiting. (Take the metal cap off first)


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