Our First Ooooby (Out of Our Own Back Yard) Meal for the Season

Today, we had our first Ooooby meal for the season – Korean Garlic Chive Pancakes.

Even before rhubarb, even before asparagus, garlic chives appear in my garden. Garlic chives, aka: Chinese chives, Oriental garlic, and Chinese leek.  In case you are unfamiliar with garlic chives, you might like to know that they are a plant that is much like regular onion chives.  But, as the name suggests, garlic chives’ flavor is rather garlicky, yet less so than regular fresh garlic. Garlic chives can be used in much the same way as onion chives, as a seasoning or as a garnish. Yet, because garlic chives are larger and more robust plants, they may be used as a vegetable, too.  

Garlic chives pancakes is a simple and inexpensive meal.  There are many variations, but the basics are: an egg, a little salt, a bit of hot pepper, some flour and water to make a thin batter, and a big handful of garlic chives, of course.  Fry the batter in a little oil and serve with dipping sauce. My boys love this meal.

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Garlic Chives Pancakes

Beat:  1 egg.

Stir in:  1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 cups flour (all purpose wheat flour or rice flour will do).

Add:  1 1/2 cups cold water and mix to a thin batter consistency.

Stir in:  cut garlic chives and cut green and/or red chili and/or julienne carrot for color,  if you wish.

Fry: in a little hot oil until batter is cooked through.

Serve:  with dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Mix together:  2 tablespoons each soy sauce, vinegar (rice wine vinegar is nice), and water.

Stir in a minced fresh garlic clove and some minced chili pepper.

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Garlic chives, allium tuberosum, is a hardy perennial.  That means that once they are planted, they do not need replanting, because they come back on their own each spring. They grow in much the same way as regular onion chives, except that the leaves are flat instead of tubular. Garlic chives will grow in USDA hardiness zones 3-9.  They grow to about 1 to 1 1/2  feet high, and have a fragrant, creamy white flower that attracts pollinators to the garden.

If you wish to grow your own garlic chives, start them by seed or propagate them by bulb. They enjoy well-drained soil and either full sun or partial shade.  They can spread aggressively if allowed to go to seed, so to control spreading, deadhead the flowers after blooming.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Feeding the Soil, Which in Turn Feeds the Plants That Feed Us

Fort Edward Community Garden Sign copy

Today, Josh and I prepared the raised bed at our community garden. When we arrived at our little plot of land, the bed was bare, and had a few weeds growing. So, we pulled up the weeds, raked out some trash and dug down a bit to see what the soil was like. We did not see any evidence of worms or other small life forms. Yet, we know that alive and healthy soil is full of worms and other small critters. So we set out to fix that.

Josh and I went home to get some worms from our worm bin and some supplies in order to make them comfortable in their soon-to-be new home.  When we returned, we dug a little trench down the center of the bed, and put in some red wigglers and many, many worm eggs. Then we covered them over with soil. Worms do not like sunshine!  Next, we watered the soil. Worms do like moisture.  Finally, we put on a layer of leaves to cover over the soil, and provide the worms with something to eat until the compost arrives.

A good friend of mine, and organic gardener, Moira Ryan, who we dearly miss, always advised, “Nowhere in nature, does bare soil exist”.  That is to say, when soil is left bare, the life in it is destroyed and then the soil disappears. Many folks may not think of soil as alive, but it is. Amazingly, there is more life living in healthy soil, than can ever live on top of it. Healthy soil will be alive with worms, other small critters, micorrhizae, and all sorts of microbes that I have come to think of as ‘the micro-herd’.   All of this life is desirable and we should encourage it and support it. This is the reason that when we garden, we try to disturb the soil as little as possible and this is why we keep it covered.

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Once we finished preparing the bed and covering the soil, we then stepped back to see how nice it looked. We thought to ourselves that perhaps we might lose our leaf mulch if there was a big wind. That would not be a nice thing to happen to our neighbors, finding our leaves all over. So we topped it all off with some cardboard boxes. To hold them in place we used a few pieces of wood. A good rain would sure help the soil and the soil critters a great deal right now. We intend to keep the leaves and cardboard in place in order to retain soil moisture and to also keep the weeds down.  An extra bonus of the mulching is that it will all eventually break down into new and healthy soil.

It is so nice to have fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables, but gardening, to us, is about much more than just growing food. This project will be a part of Josh’s homeschool curriculum.  He can learn about horticulture and community building while working on this project. Furthermore, because the small act of gardening puts one in touch with nature, it is natural that he will be learning about environmental issues, too.  In this way, our summertime fresh-food project will be a hobby that produces, rather than a hobby of consumption.  Our little garden plot will produce fresh fruits and vegetables, some healthy outdoor exercise, plus an educational opportunity in the sciences, social studies, and in creation care.  This is truly a More-with-Less adventure.

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On Mother’s Day, my dear son and I plan to return to our little garden plot in order to install some fencing for trellis, and perhaps plant a few cold weather crops, too.

When we were done working today, Josh said, “This is fun!”

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Growing Community

I’ve been busy preparing for the gardening season.  Last fall, my family had the old trees in our front yard cut down.  This was done for safety reasons, but also to allow more sunshine into our yard.  We will be planting more and more of our yard, each year, to fruits and vegetables. This year, we added 12 more blueberry bushes, so that now we have a total of 15. We also planted 4 pear trees. We had the branches of our trees chipped and shredded and left in a huge pile in our lawn. I’ll be spreading that over my growing beds this year to act as mulch.

The reason I am mulching, in this way, is because it is very good for the soil and for my plants, too. Mulch helps to smother the weeds, so that there are less of them. It also keeps the moisture from evaporating from the soil, so less watering is necessary. Because the soil then stays soft and moist, when there are weeds, it takes less effort to remove them. Plus, as the mulch decomposes, it adds organic matter to the soil, so very crucial for the wellbeing of the microbes, fungi and other critters that are an important component of healthy, living soil. Mulch, therefore, provides a healthy environment, full of nutrients that my plants need, while at the same time, saving me effort in the long run.  Furthermore, I spend less money on and use less resources such as water, and I have no need for pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers.  This way of gardening is truly an example of living more-with-less.

Fort Edward Community Garden Sign copy

Image Source:  http://www.fortedwardchamber.org/community.garden/

Yesterday, I joined the Fort Edward Community Garden. The Fort Edward Community Garden was begun last year through the vision and effort of the Village Baptist Church, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and others in the community. Its purpose is to provide a place for community members to come together to grow fresh fruits and vegetables and also to support the Fort Edward Community Food Pantry. The garden is located at the corner of Canal and East Streets. I was glad to have met some really nice folks who are also interested in gardening and growing their own food, and supporting the local community and economy.Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace copy

Image Source:  http://www.wcldc.org/news/page/2/

I understand that before the summer is over, there is to be a farmer’s market, Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace, in the village, too. It is planned that there will be market space for vendors both inside and outside of the 200-year-old storage building that sits behind the Fort Edward Town Hall. Plans for renovation, through volunteer effort, are currently under way. In addition to building renovations, the sight is planned to have sidewalks, lighting, and public restrooms. The Fort Edward Canal Street Marketplace is being designed with heating and cooling so that it can be a four-season marketplace, serving the community by offering us local products year round. How exciting!

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Proud to be an American?

I did a small ‘ethnoraphic study’, and spoke with a young lady who I assumed to be an African-American.  When she questioned me about racial discrimination in the southern states, I suggested that perhaps she might know better than I.  This is when she explained to me that she was from one of the Caribbean islands and came to this country when she was very young. I apologized and told her that it was very wrong of me to have made an assumption based solely on her skin color.

It is interesting to consider that how we think about race in ‘America’ is unique.  We, many times, use a hyphenated distinction to clarify an ancestral heritage.  For example, we might distinguish some ‘Americans’ as African-Americans, Asian-Americans, and even Native-Americans.  Yet, we rarely do so for those with a European heritage.  We should ask ourselves why this may be.  We might even ask ourselves what we mean when we use the term ‘American’.

I would suggest that using the term ‘American’ to describe U.S. Americans is quite ethnocentric, for sure.  There are two entire continents that are named America, in which there are many, many countires.  When ‘we’ refer to the U.S.A. as ‘America’ it is not acknowledging that there are other Americans who are, in fact, not U.S. citizens.

I think that it is good for me to identify myself as a U.S. American of European descent.  This is not unlike my recent and intentional use of my white-skin racial classification.  If I intentionally acknowledge my dual privileges as a U.S. American of European descent and my white-skin privilege, then I am more likely to be acknowledging others’ disadvantage.  Then I might be more likely to work to change the unjust system of power and privilege.  Attempting to be ‘colorblind’ does not acknowledge others uniqueness or their possible disadvantage.

I think it very important to acknowledge my extreme privilege because then I find myself acting with much more generosity toward others who do not enjoy the same privilege.  I have found the need to take this position because I have learned of the difficult life of Bolivian coffee growers, the Mexican migrant farm workers, and the Mexican women working in the maquiladoras just south of the U.S./Mexico border, for example.

Coffee growers, for the most part, live a very impoverished life – even as they grow one of the world’s most profitable commodities – and even as many of us are willing to sip Dunkin Donuts or Starbucks at $2.00 per cup while the growers, many times, do not even earn enough to cover the costs of growing.

Mexican migrant farm workers (including children) are oftentimes used for the harvest of the foods we eat (affecting their education that contributes to a cycle of poverty for these families).  The harvest of tomatoes (here in the U.S.A.) is one very good example of the use of child labor in agriculture.  The film, The Harvest, documents the unacceptable condition of child-workers that live this life.

The stories of the young women, who are exploited as they work in U.S.A. owned ‘American’ factories just south of the U.S./Mexican border (maquiladoras), are documented in the anthology, Ethnography at the Border, by Pablo Vila.  These stories have given new meaning to the description, ‘American Made’, for me.

Acknowledgment of my own extreme privilege in relation to these American neighbors of mine prompts me to now be aware of how my shopping decisions affect them personally and this encourages me to make changes in my actions to either better their situation, or else minimally, to not contribute further to the hardships they already endure.

For example, I now purchase my coffee from Equal Exchange, a cooperative of growers and distributors that was created so that coffee growers could avoid the use of ‘coyotes’ (middlemen) in the marketing of their product, and thereby realize a greater profit for the growers.  I now grow a larger and larger garden of my own each year so that I am not relying so much on the exploitation of child-labor for my food needs.  Additionally, I now make an attempt to know about the working conditions of those that produce the goods and services that I consume such as is the case in the maquiladoras.  This way, I can support the businesses that I believe offer working conditions that are less exploitative and offer greater equity of profit for their workers.

When we, U.S. Americans, do not acknowledge that there are, in fact, very real differences in the life circumstances between us and our less-privileged American neighbors, we are much less likely to see our own position of domination in this hierarchical system of oppression.

If any of us drink coffee or tea, or consume chocolate that is not ‘fairly traded’ or if we eat foods that we did not grow ourselves, or used goods that are produced overseas in ‘developing nations’, there is a very real possibility that we are, through our purchasing decisions, oppressing and exploiting others.  We all play a part in a hierarchical system of domination, but for the most part, are completely unaware of this fact.  In the very same way that many white-skinned folks are ignorant to their position of racial privilege, so are most U.S. citizens ignorant to their position of extreme privilege in world wide affairs.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Guerilla Gardening


http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_finley_a_guerilla_gardener_in_south_central_la.html

Ron Finley describes himself as an artist.  His canvas is unused city-owned land and his paints are fruit and vegetable plants.   Inspiration for his work came from looking closely at his ‘own backyard’ and realizing that the problem and the solution are one and the same: food.  What he saw was a food desert where the only food available was fast food, and he also saw the declining health of the South Central Los Angles population, and a city that has almost 26 square miles of city-owned vacant land, enough space to grow approximately three-quarters of a million tomato plants!.  Finley’s solution for his neighborhood’s problems is to engage in guerrilla gardening and to grow healthy and accessible food in what he names a ‘food forest’.

Guerrilla gardening is growing food on unused land that is often an abandoned site or other area not being maintained.  Guerrilla gardening is a form of political activism – nonviolent direct action or constructive program – and it is intended to create positive social change – specifically, the dismantling of the domination system in our food system. Where gardens such as Finley’s food forest spring up, amazing things begin to happen. Community gardens work to reduce the impact of poor nutrition by improving access to healthy food.  Yet they empower us to do so much more than simply that:

  • They can improve our health through exercise, fresh air and sunshine in addition to providing us with fresh and nutritious locally grown food.
  • They build community through the formation of community garden clubs.
  • They act as education centers that teach about gardening and the environment, plus exercise, healthy food choices, how to work together in community, and how to bring about positive social change.
  • They provide us with a new hobby to enjoy, and one that pays benefits instead of costing money.
  • They improve our environments and help us to save limited natural resources.
  • They provide for more nutritious meals while spending less money so that we may reach out and help others too.

Guerrilla Gardening is a fine example of living more-with-less.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Domination System in Our Food System

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“What does the Farm Bill mean for me?”

The extension of the current (2008) federal Farm Bill expires at the end of September.  If a new bill (or an extension of the current bill) is not passed, federal price supports to farmers will revert to those of the 1949 permanent bill.  Some farmers, such as those involved in wheat or dairy production for example, would profit from the 1949 supports.  Yet farmers who produce commodities that were added after the 1949 legislation, such as soybeans would lose support.  This uncertainty makes it difficult for major food producers to plan for the future and to run profitable businesses.

 “I’m not a farmer, so why should I care?”

The Farm bill does not consist of only commodity support programs though. A larger portion of federal funding is dedicated to nutrition and food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition and Assistance Program (SNAP), which was formerly known as food stamps.  The Democrat-controlled Senate passed its version of a Farm Bill that included nutrition and food support programs in addition to commodity support programs.  The Republican-controlled House passed only commodity support programs and not the nutrition support programs.  Both programs have always been supported by both major parties until this year.  This is the first time in history that support programs designed to assist those needing food have been split from support programs designed to assist producers achieve security and profit in unstable production and market conditions.  During a time period of increased unemployment and increased underemployment, the House is proposing to cut $10 billion from the SNAP program over the next ten years.  This has caused the entire Farm Bill to be stalled.  This puts our nation’s food producers at risk while bipartisan politics try to reach an agreement.

The Farm Bill Also Affects Animal Rights

Additionally, according to Live Science’s August 9th Op-Ed, the Farm Bill Tramples States Rights to Protect Animals Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, states that,

“As members of Congress left Washington and returned to their districts for the August recess, opposition to the farm bill amendment introduced by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), began to swell. The King amendment is a sort of legislative kudzu, so invasive and dangerous it could crowd out hundreds of state and local laws setting appropriate standards for agriculture.”  and  “For the animal welfare movement, to put a fine point on its impact, King’s measure could easily repeal all the state laws against shark finning, puppy mills, extreme confinement of farm animals and the slaughter and sale of meat from horses, dogs and cats.”

How Our Tax Dollars Support the Degrading Quality of Our Food

If you would like a deeper understanding of how federal supports affect what farmers produce and how they produce it, please view the 2007 documentary, King Corn.


“King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In the film, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat—and how we farm.” (kingcorn.net)

Our food system has become a Domination System.

The system no longer works for our wellbeing, but instead we are dominated by the system’s need to create ever increasing yields and profit at the cost of our wellbeing, the wellbeing of our farmers, and of the crops and livestock they produce.  The domination system under which we all live is described by theologian Walter Wink in the Powers that Be.  I do recommend reading it.

We can choose to create another way to feed ourselves while also supporting our farmers and caring for animal wellbeing and the wellbeing of our environment.

. . .

We can grow a garden for ourselves with what space we have.

We can also support small local farmers.

http://www.localharvest.org

PickYourOwn.org

http://www.pickyourown.org

Before we can dismantle the current systems that dominate us, we must first create suitable structures and systems with which to replace them.

This is Gandhian Economics – Constructive Program

This is Jesus’ Third Way – Nonviolent Social Change

This is Restorative Practices – Creating Systems to Meet People’s Unmet Needs

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Profit for Charity Business Model

There is fantastic new new business model developing – the profit-for-charity.

I’ll share information about a few such organizations.

Albany Bagel Co.

I just learned about a company named Albany Bagel.  This company has the stated purpose to bring real bagels to the city of Albany, NY and to build community at the same time. All of the restaurant’s profits will be donated to charities within the city of Albany, NY.  They will be selling bagels at the Crossings Farmers’ Market in Colonie every Saturday this summer.

The Mennonite Girls can Cook cookbooks is another profit-for-charity business.

Mennonite Girls can Cook describes itself as a group of ten women who share recipes and and their faith, with a purpose, inspiring hospitality while using their resources to help needy people around the world.

These women explain that their simple recipe blog, which had the original purpose of documenting their family’s favorite recipes, has resulted in two cookbooks:

Mennonite Girls Can Cook, uses any and all funds generated through the blog or cookbook to feed the hungry by sponsoring a greenhouse project at

The Good Shepherd Shelter in Ukraine

The Mennonite Girls Can Cook Celebrations cookbook’s royalties for the first year will go to provide clean water for school children in Kenya through the

 WASH program…a project of Mennonite Central Committee.

These two cookbooks are more than just a collection of recipes, they encourage us to ‘think about HOSPITALITY versus entertaining’ so that we may discover a ‘joy in BLESSING versus impressing’.

Toms is a business that sells shoes and eyewear that is designed to help change lives with their One for One ® business philosophy.  They state that, ‘with every product you purchase, TOMS will help a person in need. One for One.®  For each item purchased, Toms either gives away a pair of shoes to a person in need or helps to restore eyesight to a person in need.  What a wonderful idea!

These business models show us new ways of thinking about how we understand and interact with one another.  These business models are designed with the wellbeing of people in mind, as opposed to a sole purpose of profit in mind.

If you are aware of any other profit-for-charity businesses, please drop me a note and include a web address if you have one.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Live Below the Line

Tomorrow I will begin a new project in More-wtih-Less Living.

This project is titled, Live Below the Line.

Live Below the Line is a campaign designed to bring about awareness so that we may take action to help meet the first of the Millennium Development Goals, that of eradicating extreme poverty worldwide.  Extreme poverty is classified as living on less than $1.50 a day. Today, there are more than 1.4 billion people living in extreme poverty.  That is more than four times the entire population of the United States.  By joining this project, I will save money that would otherwise be spent on groceries.  I will donate the money I save to organization(s) of my choice.  I also expect that I will develop a greater degree of empathy for those that must live in this situation every day of their lives.  In reality, I cannot live on less than $1.50 per day, because housing and taxes for one month, consist of more than an entire year’s worth of expenses for those living in extreme poverty.  It is good for me to remember that limiting my food consumption to equate to $1.50 per day is, in reality, a poor approximation to the conditions of those who do live on less than $1.50 per day.

I believe that eradicating poverty is more than just donating money to poor countries, though. Eradicating poverty also consists of learning about the conditions which bring about this poverty and correcting those conditions.

Please join me in learning about this very important issue.

It is important to understand that the decisions we make, here in the U.S., have impacts on others.

Please support institutions that promote equality.

Shopping with organizations and companies such as Equal Exchange, Sole Rebels, and even the The Salvation Army, which are all committed to helping others, can make a big difference if many folks join in.  This helps in more than one way.  It helps by directing our purchase dollars away from the companies and organizations that make decisions that promote inequality, while at the same time empowering those that do work for equality and justice.  Considering local and green purchases promotes greater social justice too.

See more about the Live Below the Line project here.

See more about the Millennium Development Goals here.

Please leave a comment and let me know which companies and organizations you support in this effort to shop Fair, Green and Local, so I can check them out too!

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Homemade Laundry Soap

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Laundry Soap is one of those expensive grocery items that we really can make ourselves, and make it much, much, much cheaper too.

You can make a liquid gel or a powder.

A five gallon pail of laundry gel costs only about $2.00.  That’s only 1 or 2 cents a load !

Here’s how:
Grate a bar of soap, add water and heat until it is dissolved.  Do not let it boil.
Pour into a five gallon pail and stir in Borax and Washing Soda until they are dissolved.
Fill pail with water and stir again.
When cool, it will gel.
Use between 1/2 – 1 cup in your laundry – depending on how soiled the clothes are.

If you prefer a dry laundry soap, grate the soap finely, add the washing soda and borax and use like any other dry laundry soap.

Use the bar soap of your choice.  Common choices are Fels Naptha and Octagon as pictured above.  Zote is another choice for laundry too. I sometimes use the little left over bits of bath bars instead of discarding them.  It’s easy to adjust the amount of Borax and Washing Soda to suit your own personal needs. Fels Naptha, Borax and Washing Soda can be found in many supermarket laundry aisles.  Note that this is Washing Soda, not baking soda.

You can make your own washing soda too.  It is very inexpensive to make from a bulk supply of baking soda.  Baking soda in bulk can be purchased at feed stores.

Bake your baking soda @ 400° for 30 minutes to turn it into washing soda.

Happy savings and simple living.

© Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog, 2013-2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Babbitt and Just Desserts Blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.