Monthly Archives: December 2008

Oatmeal Cookie Recipe – Cooking For A Crowd

This cooking for a crowd, oatmeal cookie recipe, is a winner in our family.  It’s a nice variation from the traditional oatmeal cookie recipe because it’s filled with chocolate. Mmmm…. good.

The ingredients for these oatmeal cookies are simple and your probably have everything in your kitchen pantry.

Place 2 Cups of Butter… or 4 cubes of butter in a large bowl with 4 Cups of Brown Sugar.  (No Margarine)

Cream the Butter and Sugar together and add 4 Eggs.  Cream again.

Sift together the dry ingredients.  2 1/2 Cups Flour, 2 tes. of Salt and 2 tes. of Soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the creamed butter and sugar mixture.

Add 6 Cups of Oatmeal.  I use Quick Oats.

Mix together well and form a Oatmeal Cookie Dough.

Press 1/2 of the Oatmeal Cookie mixture into the bottom of a greased 12″x17″ pan.

In a bowl, add 1 Can of Condensed Milk, 1 tes. of Vanilla, 1 Tb. of Butter, and 1   12oz package of Semi Sweet Chocolate Chip.

Melt the the microwave.  Stir the mixture frequently… so the chips don’t burn.

Pour the Chocolate mixture onto the Cookie Dough and spread evenly.

Take 1/4 to 1/3 Cup of the remaining Cookie Dough and pat flat.  Place on top of the Chocolate Mixture as seen in the photo.  Repeat the process until the chocolate mixture is covered.. A top crust.

When the Chocolate Mixture is covered, bake in a 350 oven for 20 to 25 min.  Don’t over bake.  As soon as the top crust browns lightly… it’s done.  Remove from the oven and cut into 2 inch squares.

Serve with ice cream or a cold glass of milk.  Mmmm. Good.

Hope you enjoy!

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  If you’re not cooking for a crowd.. and want a smaller batch of Oatmeal Cookies….. simply cut the Oatmeal Cookie dough portion of the recipe in half.  Use the entire Chocolate recipe as is… You will have a thicker Chocolate layer… which alright with me… I love chocolate.  This Oatmeal Cookie Recipe fits in an 11″ X15″ pan.

After Christmas Storage Tip

After Christmas organization and storage is made easy with all of the storage containers for decorations that the stores carry.  I love the plastic boxes that are long enough to store long gift wrap rolls and the like.  Those see-though storage containers sure beat card board boxes and they make organization easy.

Over 30 years ago, I was given a crystal candy dish… which is not stored with the Christmas decorations that end up under the stairs.  It’s placed on the top shelf in my hutch, where it will be protected until the next Christmas.  Since it’s used only once a year…it collects dust and it has to be washed before use.  At least that’s how it use to be… until I learned this little storage tip.

I now place the dish and all other small collectibles in a plastic bags before I put them away.

When the holiday season rolls around again, off goes the bag and the dish is clean and ready for use.

Keep this little storage tip in mind when you put those infrequently used items away in the “black hole” of  those hard to reach corner cupboards or the cupboard over the fridge.

Till Later,

Insightful Nana

P.S.  This organizational tip can be used all year round. Place any silver plated items in plastic bags.  It retards the tarnishing process.

Cough Medicine Alternative – Back To Basics

The FDA issued a cough medicine warning to all parents of small children. It states that, over-the-counter cold medications should definitely not be used for children under the age of two. It’s not a wise move to give your older children the medication either. Doctors say, “Find an alternative.”

Vicks Vaporubfoot The cold and flu season is at hand and what’s a mom to do when her child is coughing it’s head off at 2 o’ clock in the morning. Here’s a little tip that my daughter Katie offered, as we sat around our dinner table.

Take children’s Vicks VapoRub and rub it into the the soles of your child’s feet. Cover his feet with socks and in no time at all, your child will stop coughing.

Now, I thought it sounded a little “airy fairy”…. but if it works…it works. She swears by the method… not only for her children, but for herself. “No kidding… it works… It’s like magic,” she says. (Katie uses the full strength adult rub for herself.)

Why not give it a try the next time your child has a cough. Anything is better than putting your child at risk by giving him over-the-counter medications that the FDA and doctors have warned us about.

Till Later

Insightful Nana

P.S. If it works for you… let us know!

Merchant Gift Cards

Merchant gift cards were the third most popular gift, behind clothing and the CD/DVD catagories.Gift cards.  Now that Christmas is over, you need to be aware of a few more gift card facts… especially if your were a recipient of such a gift.

Use your Christmas gifts cards soon or you may not be able receive full value later.  Last year, more than $26 billion was spent on gift cards.  Also, last year, consumers lost about $8 billion on cards that expired or were not used.  When a card is not redeemed for one reason or another, it is called “breakage.”

Home Depot claimed $43 million in profit for gift card “breakage” over a three year period of time.  Last year, Williams-Sonoma Inc. gained an additional $12 million for unredeemed cards.  Consumer Reports conducted a survey which indicated that 27 percent of those who had received a holiday gift card last year, had not redeemed them.

Perhaps you are in that group.  I know I’m guilty.  I’ve been known to hang on to a card thinking, “I’ll wait until there is something very special that I want.”  Into the dresser drawer the card goes for safe keeping.  Several months later, I’ll run across the card in the corner of the drawer… only to put it back in the same place.  “I’ll wait until there is something very “special” that I want.”  For some reason, I never find that “special” item.  I’ve discovered cards that were several years old… still waiting for that “special” purchase.  Sooo… I’m one of those 27 percent who have added to the profits of companies without a fair exchange of product.

If your gift card is unredeemed in a matter a few months, some companies impose a service fee.  In other words, for every month you do not redeem the card, a percentage of the card’s value is deducted.  If you wait too long, your card may not have any value because it has expired.

Some state legislatures are stepping in and passing laws that are requiring companies to display the expiration date on the card.  Illinois and New Mexico recently passed laws requiring a card to last for five years before expiring.  More and more states are jumping on board to help the consumer come out on top.

It has been reported that retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Blockbuster, Kmart and Toys R’ Us have dropped expiration dates and service fees on their cards.  It’s certainly a step in the right direction.  However, it’s really the responsibility of the recipient of the card to make sure she gets the full value of the gift by using the card soon after she’s receives it.  It was the intention of the giver of the gift card for you to purchase just what you want.

With what I know now… I’ll not be tucking my cards in my dresser drawer anymore!  I don’t want to add to the unearned profits of retailers and I want to be respectful of the giver of the gift by not wasting her money.

Till later,

Insightful Nana

P.S.  Guess what!  Borders Bookstore took my two year old gift card for full value.  Thank Goodness! Way to go Borders!

Giving Christmas Gift Cards

Giving Christmas gift cards is a great way to go… especially when you don’t know what the recipient of your gift would enjoy.  But… here’s a word to the wise. Before you make the decision to purchase a gift card or gift certificate, make sure you keep these 5 money tips in mind.

1.  Make sure your card has no expiration date, especially if you purchase the card from a shop that is independently owned rather than a chain store.   To the disappointment of many businesses, some states have passed laws to eliminate expiration dates on gift cards.

2.  If the recipient of your gift doesn’t spend the full value of the card for one purchase, check to see that the remaining money on the card can be spent at a later time.

3.   It may feel awkward, but encourage the recipient of the card to use it soon.  You may have to be creative in this area… as it may be a touchy subject.  Perhaps casually discuss with them what they plan to purchase.

Surprisingly enough, stores count on people not using their card.  More than $1 in $4 that is spent on gift cards goes unredeemed. The card often gets tucked in a drawer someplace and is never used.  Stores make thousands of extra dollars on unredeemed gift cards.

4.  Consider giving cash instead of a gift card or a gift certificate.  Perhaps you know what the person has been wishing for, or saving for.  You could earmark the money by mentioning the item in a card.

5 .   If you are buying a card or certificate from a small chain store, make sure it is valid at all of the stores.  Often, small franchise owners do not honor the cards that are purchased from another store.

Happy gift giving!

Till Later

Insightful Nana

P.S.  When wrapping your gift card, or gift certificate, place it in a large box first.  It will add perceived value to your gift.

Free Printable Christmas Gift Tags

These Christmas tags have been designed for your convenience and ease.  Why run out and purchase gift tags and mini cards… when you can have these free printable Christmas Gift Tags at a push of a printer button?

For years, I designed Christmas products.  In fact… we would begin designing for the next Christmas on January first of the new year.  It seemed like we lived Christmas 24 hours a day…365 days a year.  Designing  printed materials was my favorite area of design.  Putting these Christmas Gift Tags together for you was fun.

Christmas Greetings is a collection of icons on layered backgrounds.

Christmas Past is a collection of hand-painted Christmas icons.

Three Christmas Mini cards can be used as a tag or a small card you can tuck under the ribbon of a gift.

Just fill in your information below so I can send you the link for all the Christmas Gift tags.  You’ll never have to give me your information again… and you’ll automatically received all future offerings: The   newsletter… all freebies and Information directly in your in box.  You may opt out at anytime… but if you do… you”ll miss out on a lot of great things.


Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  Print your Christmas gift tags on card stock, sticker paper, or photo paper.

Holiday Credit Card Protection

Holiday credit card protection should be up most in your mind… when you find yourself amid the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping.  However, because you are generally in a hurry, planning a party, purchasing a gift or just juggling kids through a store, it’s probably the last thing in your noggin.  In other words, your mind is scattered all over the place.  Unfortunately, it’s an ideal time for dishonest folks to take advantage of you.

Here’s a few tips that might be helpful during the holiday season:

1.  Keep your card in your purse rather than in a pocket.  Your card can easily slip out of a pocket and be picked up by someone who may take advantage of you and not turn the card into the lost and found of a store.  Also, store employees often suspect cards that are removed from pockets rather than purses to be fraudulent.  They are trained to watch.

2 .  Take note whether your card has been return to you after you have made a purchase.  Employees sometimes are so busy with so many transactions that they are not aware when they don’t return your card.  Your card should be returned to you along with your receipt.

3.  Make sure your card is signed on the back.  Often times, your original signature has been rubbed off  because of the frequent use of the transaction machine.  Sign it again with a permanent marker.  Retailers do not have to be responsible for fraudulent purchases if your card is not signed.

4.  Give yourself plenty of space at the ATM.  Thieves will try and stand close enough to see which pin number you enter into the machine.  I use to be frustrated by the busy photography that is printed on my debt card.  You know the kind…the ones with mountains and trees… which you have tip and tilt to see the numbers.  Well, I discovered that it’s for my protection.  It keeps on lookers with sharp eyes and keen minds from seeing my numbers and quickly memorizing them

5.  Don’t carry with you all of the credit cards you own.  Take the less frequently used cards out of your purse and store them in a safe place.

6.  When making purchases on on-line, make sure your purchase is being made through a secure site.  If the site begins with https instead of the usual http, you are assured it’s a protected site.  Shop on sites that offer a privacy policy.  Know how your personal information will be handled.

7.  Make a list of the cards and their numbers and keep them in a safe place at home.  If you lose your card, or it is stolen, you will have a quick reference.  The fraudulent use of cards often takes place within hours or at least days, so the sooner you can report it the better.

Protecting your credit card may mean the difference between a happy Christmas and a stressed one.

Happy shopping!

Till Later


P.S.  When you get home from shopping, check your purse and make sure your cash and cards are intact.

P.P.S.  Thanks to the honest person who pick up my card off the ground at Costco Gas and turned it into the lost and found.  Thank goodness there are plenty of honest people out there too.  And don’t worry about the picture of the credit card…It’s long expire and the numbers have been removed.

Free Christmas Printables For Kids

These free Christmas Printables will keep your kids busy for a few hours while you wrap gifts or do a bit of last miunte cooking.   Santas and Snowmen are the most popular icons for Christmas… and kids love them.  Again, I’m offer you two options… black and white (coloring sheets) and full color copies (for those who what to just cut and paste.)

My two grandsons, Randall and Glade did a nice job on their project.  They took their artwork home to hang on their bedroom wall.   Pssst… do you think Randall is thinking he would like to color a Santa too?  Who knows!  I love these kids.

Tall Santa Full Color

Tall Santa Black and White

Tall Snowman Full Color

Tall Snowman Black and White

If you miss the last free Christmas printables for kids …download them now to go along with the new coloring printables.

Have a great pre-holiday with your kids.


Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  You can use these free Christmas Printables for gift wrap decor.  Just cut the icons out and glue the to a paper bag…. insert the gift… tie it up with a bow and Waaa Laaa.  Great way to wrap a teacher or grandma gift.

Scratch Recipes For Salad Dressings

A scratch recipe for salad dressings is getting down to cooking basics.  With so much rich food that grace our holiday tables… it’s nice to offer a good healthy “Green Salad”…  to even things out.  I promise, your guests and family will appreciate the extra effort you go to, if you use these scratch recipes to make your own salad dressing… because they are so good.

These three recipes use basic ingredients you usually have in your cupboard or pantry.  So.. save a few coins and make your own dressings and get raves.  There is nothing like the “real” thing.

The three salad dressings I’m sharing with you today are: Rick’s Honey Basil, Evelyn’s Creamy French, and Basic Buttermilk Ranch.   These recipes have been in my recipe box for years and they’re so easy to prepare.

Rick Carter is the husband of Rebecca, my fellow designer.  He’s does the cookin’ at their house and she does the clean up.  What a deal.  He’s one of the finest chefs I know.  He often would cook and bring lunch to our work.  We were often treated to his secret specialties… such as “Bear” and “Ostrich.”  Never a dull moment.  Rick’s Honey Basil dressing is a nice substitute for Italian.

The Ingredient are   1/2 C. Cider Vinegar…1/2 C. Honey… 1/2 C. Oil (I use light Olive oil but Veg. oil works great.)  2 tes. Sesame Seed Oil… 1/2 tes. garlic powder… 1 heaping tes. of Spicy or Hot Mustard…. 1 tes. Dried Basil… 1/4 tes. Salt… Dash of Pepper.

You can put all the ingredients in a blender (except the dried basil) … or you can use a hand blender to mix.

Blend at high speed until all ingredients are mix well.

Stir in dried basil by hand.  Refrain from blending basil in blender.

There you have it… Rick’s Honey Basil Dressing.

Evelyn is my mom.  Her Creamy French dressing adorned our Thanksgiving and Christmas tables as long as I can remember.  We called it the “Red Dressing.  It’s not only delicious… but it’s bright color is a spiffy addition to your holiday table.

The ingredients are:  1 1/4 C. Ketchup… 1 C. Oil… 1/2 C. White Vinegar… 1/4 to 1/2 tes. garlic powder… 1/2 tes. Dry Mustard…  A scant 1/2 C. Sugar… 1/4 tes. black pepper.

Combine all the ingredients together in a blender or bowl.

Blend all of the ingredients together at high speed.

This Creamy French dressing is so good… you’ll keep a fresh batch in the fridge all year long.

I don’t ever remember my mom every purchasing a bottled dressing.  She always made her dressings from scratch… and that included her Buttermilk Ranch.

The ingredients are:  1 1/2 C. of Mayo.  (She sometimes would substituted the 1/2 C. Mayo for Sour Cream).  It make the dressing a little more mild. 1 tes. Onion Powder.  1 tes. Garlic Powder.  2 tes. Dried Parsley.  1 1/2 C. Buttermilk. Add Salt and Pepper to taste.

Put all the ingredients in a bowl… not a blender.

Mix together with a wire whip.

This is so good… you’ll be telling Hidden Valley “good bye.”

I love a fresh green salad… don’t you?

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  If you’ve got a great salad dressing recipe and would like to share it… let me know and we’ll post it on Back To Basics.  Contact me by e-mail.

Holiday Chili Dip Recipe

This Chili Dip Recipe is a quick and easy answer for a Holiday crowd.  It’s so easy, I’m almost embarrassed to give it to you.  I said… “Almost.”  Why would I keep any secret back that would make your life easier during rush of the holiday season?

If you keep the ingredients on hand… you’ll be ready for any last minute invitation  to join a party.  You can actually say… “May I bring something,” and mean it sincerely.   This dip recipe has been one of our family’s favorites… for over 30 years.

All you need is one can of Chili Without Beans.  No Beans allowed here.  Yes, they do carry it at your local store.  1  12 oz  package of Cream Cheese.   Thats it… really.  Oh…. and you can pick up the chips on your way to the party.

I usually put mine together on top of the stove… but you can use the microwave… just check it often and stir it a lot.  Plop the cream cheese on top of the chili.

And stir and heat until all of the cream cheese it melted.

Serve with your favorite chips.

This ones a “no brain-er” but a good one.


Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  I’ve even been know to take all the ingred. to a gathering and mix it up there so it’s served piping hot.