Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Our "Going Green" program: Heating your home in winter

Savings Experiment: How to Save Money on Heat at Night (courtesy: Bank of America)

When winter chills get your teeth chattering, one way to stay warm--and save money on heating bills---is to throw on a pair of wool socks, some sweaters, winter boots and a hat, but who wants to do that while lounging at home? We certainly don't. After properly winterizing your home, you can lower the thermostat 5 more degrees to a comfortable temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit. In total, you will save $28.80 per month ($144 per year) by lowering the thermostat 15 degrees. Figuring in the cost of the thermostat ($50) and the cost of plastic sheeting and duct tape ($10.28), you will save $83.72 your first year.

Effective ways to help you maximize warmth & reduce costs.

Programmable thermostat

In order to start saving money now, it is essential that you purchase a programmable thermostat and lower your temperature during the night and during the time you are usually out of the house. If your winter heating bill adds up to $960, that means that from mid-October to mid-March, you're paying about $192 a month. By turning down the heat about 10 degrees for eight hours each day, you will save around 10 percent on your heating bill, which translates to $19.20 a month or $96 a year. (For our experiment, we turned down the thermostat from 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 65 degrees, from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.) A programmable thermostat can cost you anywhere from $30-$150 at discounted prices. Let's say you spend $50 on the thermostat. Even after figuring in its cost, you'll still save about $46 on your heating bill your first year.

Proper insulation

You can further decrease your heating bills with proper insulation. Although the best option is to insulate the walls of your home and start saving 50-60 percent on your monthly heating bill , the process generally requires a two to three-week renovation and costs approximately $2,000-$3,000, depending on the size of your home. Also, this is done to an owned property and since many of us live in rentals, it won't work for our experiment. However, you can still winterize your home with a bit of DIY work.

Insulate and seal windows

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, you can reduce your home's heating costs by up to 30 percent through proper insulation and air sealing methods. First, hold a lit candle to windows and doors on a windy day to test for air leaks. If frosts, water condensation or drafts are present, then you can purchase a heavy-duty clear, plastic sheet and tape it to the inside of your windows. This will cost about $10, depending on the number and size of windows in your home. (I usually purchase a clear, polyethylene sheeting at Home Depot for $8.28 and 3M duct tape for $2, so my total comes out to $10.28.) In addition, make sure to keep your bedroom doors closed. You can put old towels or blankets at the bottom of your doors to keep out cold air.

A different approach

You can also take a different approach, and lower the thermostat 10 more degrees instead of 5 and then use a space heater to warm up your bedroom to the aforementioned comfortable temperature. There's no reason why you should have to warm up the entire house when you spend most of your night in only one or two rooms. Therefore, lowering the thermostat to 55 degrees Fahrenheit and purchasing an electric heater to warm up your bedroom(s) might be a better solution. At discount prices, space heaters can cost anywhere from $30 to $100. We recommend programmable space heaters so that they can shut off when the room reaches the desired temperature. However, there are some caveats, so doing both is suggested.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Four family favorite holiday desserts

These recipes have either been in my family for years or have been developed by me and/or my daughters. We all three love to cook and enjoy developing recipes on our own. The first recipe listed below was found in a text book used at a chefing and baking school in Louisville. I made several major changes to it until I got it just the way I wanted it.

The second recipe, chocolate Fondue is a great recipe to serve at Christmas, delicious and fun to eat, kids really love it, as do adults. Serve it with a variety of fresh fruit, chunks of angel food cake and/or marshmallows.

Kim's cheesecake is a real favorite of all of ours. We have served it on Thanksgiving and Christmas both. She has developed and perfected it over a period of several years And it is one of the best cheesecakes I've ever tasted...smooth and delicious.

I've included a Christmas morning breakfast cake. This cake is a little work intensive, but definitely worth it. To begin with, it is beautiful. The cranberries against the white cake and cream cheese are very Christmasy. And it tastes heavenly.

To die for br
ead pudding
serves: 8

1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup Brandy
2 tablespoons melted butter
1 loaf day-old French bread
3 cups heavy cream
1 cup orange juice
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons vanilla
Bourbon or Lemon sauce
whipped cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine raisins and Brandy in a small pan. Heat just to a simmer. Set aside.
Us part of the butter to coat a large, glass baking dish.
Tear bread into chunks and put into baking dish.
Beat eggs and sugar until thick. Add vanilla, remaining melted butter, cream and orange juice. Mix together.
Add raisins in Brandy. Pour mixture over bread and let sit for at least 3 hours.
Bake at 350 until brown and almost set (aprox. 45 min).
Spoon into dessert dishes, pour sauce over top and garnish with whipped cream.

Chocolate Fondue
serves: 6-10

6 ounces dark good chocolate
3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
2 tablespoon Gran Marnier or Kirsch
fruit, chunks of Angle food cake, and/or marshmallows

Combine all ingredients in a double boiler, Stir until melted and well blended.
Transfer to a Fondue pot. Keep warm. Supply each person with a long fork and a small plate.
Have guests take turns dipping fruit, cake and/or marshmallow into the chocolate

Kim's Pumpkin-marble Cheesecake with chocolate crust

serves: 8-10

2 cups chocolate cookie crumbs
1/2 cup fine chopped pecans
1/3 cup soft margarine or butter
2 8/ounce pkgs Philadelphia cream cheese
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 eggs
1 15.3/ounce can pumpkin
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Combine cookie crumbs, pecans and margarine or butter.
Press into bottom and up 11/2 inches of sides of a 9/inch spring form pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for ten minutes.
Combine cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla.
Mix at medium speed until well blended.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. Reserve 1 cup batter.
Add remaining sugar, pumpkin and spices to remaining batter & mix well.
Alternately, layer pumpkin and cream cheese batters over crust.
Cut through batters with knife several times for marbled effect.
Bake at 350 degrees fro 55 minutes.
Loosen cake from rim. Cool before removing from pan. Chill & serve.

Christmas Morning Breakfast Cake

i cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 large eggs
2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/3 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2-1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries

Chop cranberries and add 1/2 cup sugar. Set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Cream butter and sugar. Add vanilla and eggs and mix well.
Mix dry ingredients together.
Alternately, add sour cream and dry ingredients to butter mixture.
Stir in cranberries and spread in bottom of a 10/inch spring form pan.

8 ounces softened cream cheese
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cranberry preserves

Beat sugar and cream cheese until smooth.
Add egg and vanilla and beat well.
Pour over cake batter, leaving a one inch border.
Heat preserves until pourable. Pour over filling.

1/2 cup flour
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup coconut
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped nuts
4 tablespoons melted butter

Mix all topping ingredients together
Sprinkle evenly over top.
Bake 55-60 minutes at 350 degrees.
Top will be jiggly.
Cool to room temperature and refrigerate.
Freezes well.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

How to make delicious holiday appetizers

It isn't always easy to juggle work, family and a social life. And yet most women enjoy giving parties and entertaining friends and family, especially during the holidays. Christmas is so festive and a great time to have fun decorating the house, buying gifts and cooking and baking special recipes and dishes for the ones they love. If you are working and taking care of a home and children, having enough time to do all the things you want to do during the holidays is a real challenge.

The first thing you need to do is to decide if you will be having a party, preparing Christmas dinner, or just serving snacks and drinks to friends and family who drop by during the holiday season. If you are doing all three, it would be a good idea to start way ahead of time and freeze a lot of your food items.Appetizers are always a delicious addition to dinner, a party, or to go along with drinks at a cocktail party of informal gathering.

I have included six different appetizers here. Some can be made ahead of time and frozen, others can be made the morning of or a day or two before your party. When guests drop by or when you are ready to start your party, you can take out what you need from the freezer, defrost it and pop it in the microwave or oven, if need be.

APPETIZERS (you can freeze)

Curried sausage balls
Prep: 20 min. Bake time: 15 min

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
8 ounces finely shredded Cheddar cheese
3 cups biscuit baking mix
1/2 cup finely minced green onion
1/4 cup finely minced red bell pepper
1 tablespoon Curry powder

Combine all ingredients and mix well. This can be done by hand, with a heavy duty mixer, or in a large food processor. Shape into small balls and freeze for up to two weeks. When ready to serve, place on a baking sheet (with sides). Bake at 350° for 12 to 15 minutes, until browned on bottoms. Serve on a platter right from the oven or place in cruet and cover with your favorite bar-b-cue sauce. Set tooth picks and small plates next to sausage balls.

Spinach balls
Prep: 10 min. Cook time: 15 min.

6 eggs, lightly beaten 6 oz. pkg. stuffing mix 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1/4 tsp. salt 1/8 tsp. pepper 2 (10 oz.) pkg. frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

In a bowl, combine eggs, stuffing mix, butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Add spinach; mix well.Can freezr at this point for up to two weeks. When ready to serve, shape into 1-1/2-in. balls; place in an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve on platter, with tooth picks and small plates handy.

APPETIZERS (make the morning of or day before)

Lemon-Basil Cheese Ball
Prep: 15 min. serves: 24

1 8-ounce carton mascarpone cheese1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese (4 ounces)3 tablespoonss finely chopped pistachio nuts2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh basil4 teaspoons finely shredded lemon peel1/8 teaspoon pepper

1. In a mixing bowl, beat mascarpone with an electric mixture on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Stire in Gruyere. Stir in pistachios, basil, lemon peel, and pepper.
2. Line a 2 cup bowl with plastic wrap. Transfer cheese mixture to bowl. Cover and chill 3 hours or until firm. (Can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.) To serve, unmold onto a serving plate; remove plastic wrap. Serve with pita chips or crackers. Makes 24 servings

Artichoke dip

Prep time: 15 min. Baking time: 20-25 min.
Serves: 10

2 6-ounce cans of artichoke hearts
2 cups mayonnaise
2 teaspoons garlic powder
3 teaspoons lemon juice
8 ounces grated Parmesan cheese

Beat all ingredients together with mixer on medium for one minute. Mixture will keep in refrigerator for 2 days. When ready to serve, empty mixture into an oven proof dish and bake at 325 degrees fro 20-25 minutes. Serve with chunks of French bread

Appetizers (somewhat time consuming, but incredible)

Brie wrapped in puff pastry

(easy)Prep: 15 min., Bake time: 25 min. Make ahead the morning of the party (except for baking)
Yield: serves 8-10


a sheet of puff pastry, thawed

1 eight-ounce round of Brie cheese

1/2 cup whole pecans

1/3 cup brown sugar

2TBL butter


Heat oven to 400 degrees. Melt butter and sugar together and add pecans. Unfold pastry on a floured surface. Put cheese in the center. place pecans and brown sugar mixture on top of cheese. Fold pastry over the cheese to cover it. Trim excess pastry and press to seal. Reserve scraps for decoration, if desired. Beat egg with 1 TBL water. Brush seams of pastry with mixtture. Place seam side down on a baking sheet. Brush with egg mixture. Bake 25 minutes or until golden. Let stand 20 minutes. Serve with crackers or chunks of french bread.

Sundried Tomato and Basil Spread (a little more complicated, but awesome)
Prep: 25 min., Chill: 8 hrs. Make this recipe up to 3 days before the party.
Yield: Makes 20 servings

2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 teaspoon salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 1/3 cups sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened and divided
1/3 cup tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 1/2 cups firmly packed fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Vegetable cooking spray
Garnishes: fresh rosemary sprigs, sun-dried tomatoes
Crackers or baguette slices

Beat 2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Set aside.
Process dried tomatoes in a food processor until chopped. Add 1 (3-ounce) package cream cheese, tomato paste, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; process until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Spoon into a bowl, and set aside. Wipe container of food processor clean.
Process garlic and next 4 ingredients in food processor until chopped. Add Parmesan cheese, remaining 3-ounce package cream cheese, and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt; pulse just until blended, stopping to scrape down sides.
Spray a 6-inch springform pan with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup butter mixture evenly on bottom of springform pan. Layer with half of tomato mixture, 1/2 cup butter mixture, and half of basil mixture; top with 1/2 cup butter mixture. Repeat layers with remaining tomato mixture, 1/2 cup butter mixture, and remaining basil mixture. Top with remaining butter mixture. Cover with plastic wrap; chill at least 8 hours.
Run a knife gently around edge of pan to loosen sides. Remove sides of pan; carefully remove bottom of pan, and place layered spread on a serving tray. Garnish, if desired. Serve with crackers or baguette slices. (from Brenda Dills, Southern Living Magazine)

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Friday, December 4, 2009

Holiday House Tour and Festival - Louisville, Kentucky - December 5 & 6, 2009

Gargoyles, chameleons, serpents and swans ... turrets, towers, bays and gables ... wrought-iron fences, hand-carved doors, stained-glass windows ... hidden balconies, secluded courtyards, and secret passageways ... terra-cotta, glazed brick, tile, marble and stone ... Old Louisville is a feast for the eyes, and as such, Kentucky can boast one of the most splendid residential neighborhoods in the entire country. A leisurely stroll along the tree-lined streets of Old Louisville can transport a visitor back in time to an era when a man’s home truly was his castle.

Victorian Gothic abounds, as do shining examples of Richardsonian Romanesque, Queen Anne, Italianate, Chateauesque and Beaux Arts architecture, making Old Louisville the country’s largest Victorian neighborhood. As a National Preservation District, it ranks as the third largest only after Boston and Georgetown. The picturesque boulevards, streets and alleys of Old Louisville boast miles of grand mansions and comfortable dwellings, thousands in all, embellished with architectural styles and elements of centuries past from all corners of the globe.

Old Louisville has a very colorful history - mostly of local importance - and this history is kept alive and well in the many stories and anecdotes swapped in the parlors and salons of its gracious homes. First developed between the 1870s and the early 1900s, many consider the Southern Extension, as residents called it, Louisville’s first suburb. A major catalyst to its growth came in 1883 when Louisville hosted the extremely successful Southern Exposition and received international attention when then-resident Thomas Edison showcased his incandescent light bulb. When it finally closed its doors in 1887, savvy developers started to sell off the land on the newly-dubbed Saint James and Belgravia Courts, realizing that image-conscious Victorians would snatch up anything reminiscent of London aristocracy. The rich and elite poured into the posh “new” neighborhood, and residents applied the name “Old Louisville” to the district in the 1950s.

While “Urban Renewal” caused the destruction of similar neighborhoods all around the country, most of Old Louisville somehow managed to escape the wrecking ball. After a blighted period in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, residents of Kentucky’s largest city started to realize that they had a diamond in the rough. Instead of giving in to the planned destruction of priceless examples of architecture, locals banded together and had the entire area placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Old Louisville Preservation District today includes approximately 48 blocks of the residential core bounded by Kentucky and Bloom Street to the north, and between Sixth Street and Interstate 65 to the east and west.

Aside from the festive first weekend in December, Old Louisville also puts on its finery and southern charm in the springtime, just before the Kentucky Derby in May when crystal blue skies provide the perfect backdrop for a colorful explosion of azalea, dogwood and redbud blossoms. It shines in the crisp fall air of October as well, when hundreds of thousands flock to its quaint streets for the Saint James Art Show and stroll beneath a canopy of spectacular fall colors. Since the 1970s, Old Louisville has undergone an impressive renaissance, but it is still one of the “best-kept secrets” around. About 20,000 people, representing a wide spectrum of ages, incomes, races and lifestyles, make Old Louisville their home today. This diversity, as well as the beautiful, turn-of-the-century Victorian homes and friendly residents, makes Old Louisville an exciting place to live, work and play.

For more information contact:
Old Louisville Information Center
1340 South Fourth Street
Louisville, KY 40208
(502) 635-5244
olnc at



Download our 2009 JPG 8.5 x 11" poster here.