Category Archives: Simple Cooking

Simple Cooking

Ranch Dressing – Homemade With Herbs From Your Garden.

Ranch Dressing is the leading dressing for salads.   This Homemade Ranch Dressing recipe is easy to make and is made using fresh herbs from your garden. So while your planting poseys in your flower beds… leave a little room for growing the popular herbs,  chives and parsley.  They are a wonderful perennials and they are the main herbs used in Ranch Dressing.

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Both herbs, parsley and chives, like to be planted in rich soil and they like the sun.  However, my mom had a beautiful bed of parsley that grew under some bushes… and it did very well.   Parsley and Chives winter over very well, even in cold temperatures. They are up and ready to begin harvesting by the middle of May.

A bit of advise about harvesting your herbs.  Parsley should be harvested frequently so it keeps coming back.  Harvest it while the shoots are relatively young.   If you are going to be using chives for eating, prevent them from flowering by cutting out all the flower buds as they appear.  Allowing them to bloom restricts the growth of new leaves.  Harvest your chives from the outside edges cutting them 2″ above ground.  They will continue to grow and you can harvest them frequently during the entire summer.

Cut parsley stems close to the ground and it will continue to reproduce.   Wash it.   I know… I’ve heard that your not suppose to wash herbs… but the thought of eating  tiny gnats doesn’t appeal to me, so, I wash it well and hold it by the stems and shake all the water out.  (Yep.. I was right.. there are those little bitty gnats.)  Dry the parsley carefully with a towel.  I cut the parsley fine with a small pair of scissors I keep in the kitchen.

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Wash and dry the chives too.  Using the scissors, snip the chives in 1/4″ lengths.

Any extra herbs left… just leave them in the bowls and both herbs will dry in about 2 days.  If you get a bit nervous… cover the bowl lightly with a paper towel.  Shake the bowl now and again so the herbs will dry evenly.

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I pick up a few small jars at Ikea.  Each time I harvest the herbs and dry them they are added to the bottles.   Soon, several bottles will be filled and ready for winter use.  (Great Christmas gifts.)

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This homemade Ranch Dressing was such a hit with my family that I’m going to keep an ample supply in my fridge all summer long.

They ingredients are very simple:  1 Cup Sour Cream,  1 Cup Mayonnaise,  1 Cup Buttermilk.  1 heaping T.B. Chopped Chives,  1 heaping T.B. Chopped Parsley,  1 Large Garlic Clove Crushed (About the side of a quarter… and some times I use a bit extra… Mmmmmm garlic!)  2 Tesp. of Fresh Lime.  (Yield 3 Cups and it keeps for several weeks.)

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In a mixing bowl, combined the Sour Cream, Mayonnaise, and Buttermilk.

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Add the cut Chives.  Yes… it’s okay if you sneak in a bit extra.

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Add the cut Parsley.  Smell the aroma!

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I love my garlic press because it saves so much time.  Press your garlic and add it to the mixture.  Yea for garlic!

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If you put your limes in the microwave for about 15 seconds… it will warm them… then roll the lime with the heal of your palm until the lime is soft.  Wow! lots of juice.

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Add the lime juice.

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Mix all  together with a wire whip.  Place it  in fridge for a few hours so the flavors blend well.

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Heap this Fresh Ranch Dressing on your crisp green salad.

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If you want something delicious.. try this Fresh Homemade Ranch Dressing on potatoes.

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And fish is to die for with this Ranch dressing on it.

So… get busy and plant yourself a little herb garden and enjoy this Fresh Homemade Ranch Dressing recipe all summer long.

Till Later,

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  During the winter months, use the Ranch Dressing recipe I posted earlier this year. You can use your own dried parsley.

P.P.S.  Click on the related posts below and learn more about herbs.

P.P.S.  I think I’ll head for the kitchen.  A green salad sounds really good!

Easy Meals – Meal Planning

Easy meals, which are fast, come from your past experience in your own kitchen. According to Becky Low, of the Utah Dairy Council, the definition fast food is the tried and true recipes you use over and over again.

Fast Fixin’s was a class I attended, hosted by the Utah Dairy Council. Assuming I would receive a stack of new recipes that would aid me in quick, easy meal preparation… I soon learned this was not to be the case. What I found was a common sense approach to meal planning. The cry, “What am I going to fix for dinner?” has been simplified.

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Generally… a mom cooks the same main dishes over and over again. Why? Because, she knows what her family will eat… and she knows how to fix them. As a rule, there are no unfamiliar ingredients and she most likely has the items on hand in her pantry. The meals are, for the most part, quick and easy because mom doesn’t have to “think” in order to prepare them.

It was a surprising to learn that most family menus consist of only six to ten favorites… which are rotated frequently. We are creatures of habit.

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Here are some suggestions to make your meal planning easy and still offer your family more variety.

1. Make a list of your family favorites…main meals you fix over and over again…for instance, Spaghetti. Post  the list on the fridge and let your family add to it. They may come up with meals they love that you’ve forgotten about.

2. Look at each meal, and ask yourself if the nutrition can be enhanced by adding a healthy ingredient to the main dish. You can also add a side of fresh fruit, cut veggies, salad or some other item that give your family increased healthy meals.

3. If you have a list of twenty meal suggestions… choose five to eight and make sure your cupboards are always stocked with the items you’ll need to prepare the recipe. When you come in from a late meeting, or from taking the kids to lessons and haven’t planned in advance, just look at your list and choose one of the dinners you know you have the fixins for.

Having your easy meals list on the fridge makes it simple for you think of “what to fix,” and have the satisfaction of knowing you have the ingredients on hand. Now that’s fast food!

4. Now that you have your basic meals… add new recipes throughout the month for your family to try so they learn to enjoy a variety of dishes. Prepare these meals when you’re not in a rush.

I like looking through my recipe box for old tried and true ideas I have forgotten about. And… of course… there is always the opportunity to try some of those recipes you’ve clipped out of the newspaper or magazines.

If you have any easy meals or and meal planning tips, please feel free to share them with us. We’d love to hear from you.

Till Later,
Insightful Nana

P.S. Easy meals and Meal Planning  are one thing… but does anyone out there know of any easy clean-up tips… besides using paper plates?

P.P.S. To make things eaiser for you… here is a Free Family Favorites List you can download for your fridge. You might be surprised what your family’s favorite meals are.

Lemon Easter Cake

Easter cakes can very from bunny cakes, chick cakes or plain dripper pan cakes.  This cake is not fancy but it really hits the mark with my family.  This  sweet, cold, and a refreshing Easter cake  is always a hit with my family members.  Not only is it  great tasting… but it’s really simple to make.  And, this cake that’s good anytime… especially  if your in a hurry to get to a summer party and need something special to take.    If you have helpers in your kitchen at Easter time… it’s easy for the kids to participate in the making.    Here we go.

These are the ingredients.  1 Lemon Cake Mix.  Veg. Oil.  Eggs.  Water.  These ingredients are for the cake mix.  Follow the directions on your particular cake mix because the amounts may vary a bit.  You will need one can of Sweetened Condensed Milk…. and Whipped topping.   An eight Oz. size will cover a 9×13 dripper pan.  However, I like lots of cream so I use the 12 Oz. size.   Who’s counting calories?  Jelly beans add the final touch.

Mix the cake according to the directions on the box.

Pour the cake into a greased and floured 9X13 dripper pan.   Bake at 350 degrees for about 25 Min.

Cool the cake for about 10 min.  Punch holes into the cake.  I use the end of my beater because it makes holes larger than a toothpick or fork.  Punch holes from 1 inch to 1/2 inch over the entire cake.  Poke the beater clear to the bottom of the cake.

The cake must be still warm.  Pour the Sweetened Condensed Milk on top of the cake.

Spread the milk so it will sink into the holes of the cake.  Place the cake into the fridge to cool.

Spread the topping on the cake

Decorate with jelly beans.  You can add coconut first… then add the jelly beans.  Some of my family do not care for coconut … so I don’t put it on… unless that part of the crew  is not coming for dinner.

Place the cake back into the fridge until it’s time to delight your guests and serve it up.

Here’s a quick video of me making this Easter Cake. I like action!

Have a happy Easter.  Enjoy this cool refreshing Easter cake.

Till Later,

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  You might consider keeping extra Jelly Beans on hand.  My grands like to florish their peice of Easter cake with a few extra Jelly Beans.

Cheesy Mexican Ranch Dip

Cheesy Mexican Ranch Dip is an impressive change to salsa when you’re serving chips.  It’s just perfect for fresh veggies or crackers too.  It has all the flavor of a Southwest taste with out the heat.  This Mexican dip is especially good to offer when you’re serving young children or those who can’t  tolerate the spice and heat of traditional salsas.

My good friend,  Karen Robison brought this dip to a church function a few weeks ago and,  the bowl was empty in no time.  I called her immediately and she said I could share this tasty Mexican Ranch Dip with you.

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The ingredients are simple:  1.   Two  8 oz. packages of Cream Cheese.  2.  1/2  large sweet red pepper.  3.  1/2 large sweet green pepper.  4.  Two green onions.  5.  One can of black olives.  6.  One can Fiesta Corn (or Mexicorn.)  7.  One package of Ranch Buttermilk Dressing.     (Pick up large peppers ’cause you’ll want to make another batch.)

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Slice the onions… including the tops.   Slice the olives thin.  Chop the red and green peppers fine.

Place in a bowl the two packages of Cream Cheese and allow them  to soften.   Add the ingredients in the following order, mixing each ingredient well before adding the next one.  1.  Ranch dressing mix.  2.  Onions and Peppers.  3.  Fold in Black olives.  4.  Fold in Fiesta Corn.

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Chill the Cheese Mexican Ranch Dip for at least two hour so the flavors will blend well.    Doesn’t it look good?  Yep… it is!

Serve with Chips… Crackers….or Veggies.

This is a dip you won’t be able to leave alone … so get plenty of ingredients so you can make a second batch…. quick!

Below is a four minute video… if you want to see the process in action.

Mmmmm.  Please enjoy!

Kathy
Insightful Nana

P.S.  Serve up this Cheesy Mexican Ranch Dip soon…. It’s a great pick-me-up during these last drab days of winter.  It will bring a brightness to your table and get you excite for Spring…. Or should I say… More Excited For Spring!

P.P.S.  Thanks Karen.

Super Easy Chocolate Cake Recipe

Just imagine, a Chocolate Cake so rich and moist… you’ll want to eat it all yourself and not share it with anyone.   Folks ask for this 40 year old family recipe more than any other cake recipe I have in my collection.   The truth of the matter is… besides being the best chocolate cake ever… it’s a hit with the cook,  because it’s so easy to make.  If you’re like me… time is short and I need recipes that are quick and easy.

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By the time you finish reading this recipe,  you’ll agree this is one of  the easiest  chocolate cake recipes ever.

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The ingredients for this ultimate chocolate cake are:  2 1/2 C. sifted Flour…. 2 tsp Soda… 1 tsp Salt … 1/2 C. Cocoa…  1 3/4 C. Sugar… 2/3 C. Shortening…  2 Eggs…  1 tes. vanilla… 1 C. Buttermilk…   1 C. boiling Water.   The reason this recipe is so easy… is that you dump all of the ingredients into one bowl.  You might call this a Chocolate Dump Cake.   Tip: Some stores are carrying 1/2  pint cartons of Buttermilk… just perfect for this recipe.   Just to be on the safe side… keep a can of powdered buttermilk on hand.  When you get a hankering for a good piece of moist, rich chocolate cake… you’ll be prepared.

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First, add 1 3/4 C. Sugar to your mixing bowl.   Add 1/2 C. Cocoa to the bowl.

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Mix well.  The sugar granules will help to break up the cocoa nicely.

Take a minute out now… and place a couple of cups of water into your microwave.  Bring the water to a boil.

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Add the rest of your dry ingredients to the bowl.  2 1/2 C. sifted Flour… 2 tsp Soda… and 1 tsp Salt.

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Mix well with a wire whip.

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Place on top of your dry mixture… 2/3 C. Shortening… 2 Eggs… 1 C. Buttermilk… 1 tsp. vanilla.    Begin to mix.

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When the batter begins to get a bit stiff… add 1 C. of boiling water.  Finish blending.  I don’t over blend this cake.  Just mix until all the ingredients are mixed well.

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Pour the batter into  a greased and floured 9 x 13 dripper pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

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Frost the cake with a butter cream frosting… Cut… and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Your probably wondering where you can get a hard copy of this Super Easy Chocolate Cake Recipe.  I hear you loud and clear… Simply fill in your name  and e-mail… and I’ll send you a download link immediately.  You’ll get two sizes to choose from.   When you sign in… I will automatically send you all future free goodies and newsletters.  You will not have to sign in again.

Bake this easy chocolate cake for your family this week-end and you be the judge whether this is not one of the best, rich, moist chocolate cakes you’ve ever put in your mouth.

Enjoy…

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S. Notice… I’m including a helpful video for this easy Chocolate Cake. So, now you can choose between reading the above recipe or seeing the quick process for yourself.

Recipe For Chocolate Brownies – Cooking For A Crowd

This recipe for chocolate brownies has been in our family for over 40 years.  Usually brownie recipes are quite small… but this recipe is a “Cooking For A Crowd” deal.

These chocolate brownies are perfect to take to a gathering.  But don’t expect to take any left-overs home… because they will vanish off the plate in no time at all.  If you want any… you better consider taking a few brownies and hiding them someplace before you leave the house.  Mmmm.  So Good.

Here it goes.

This chocolate brownie recipe makes about sixty 2″ pieces… and is so delicious.  Not only are they good… but they are easy to make and the recipe uses ingredients you already have in your kitchen.  No extra special chocolate.

In a bowl, sift together 2 3/4 C. of flour…  1 C Cocoa…  1 1/2 tes. Baking Powder… 1 1/2 tes. Salt.  I use a wire whip to sift my ingred. together.  Works just fine.

In another bowl put 3 C. Sugar.  I use quite a large bowl because all of your ingredients will in up here.

Measure 1 C Shortening in a small bowl.

Melt the Shortening in the microwave.

Add melted Shortening to the Sugar Mixture and mix well.

Add 6 Eggs and 1 tes. of Vanilla to the Sugar and Shortening mixture.  Mix well.

Add the dry ingred. to the Sugar and Egg mixture.  If you want to add nuts, add them at this time.  About 3/4 Cup is good.

The batter will be thick.  Don’t add any extra liquid… even if your tempted to.  Grease your cookies sheet.

Spread the batter on a 12″by 17″ Cookie sheet.  I use a professional cookies sheet with 1″ sides.  It’s called a “Half Sheet.”  You can purchased them at a kitchen specialty store.  However, I have seen them at Costco and Sam’s club.

Bake at 300 degrees.  This temperature is not as hot as cooking a regular cake.  I bake them from 25 to 30 min.   Don’t over bake…  As soon as a toothpick comes clean from the center of the brownies… they’re done.

Allow them to cool… and top them with the frosting of your choice.  My family like white and chocolate frosting… so I do half and half.  (I do notice the chocolate frosting goes first.)  Maybe it’s just me who likes the Cream Cheese frosting.  You can cut them into about sixty 2″ squares.

Mmmm. So good!

Enjoy!

Till Later

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  I’m convinced… once your try this recipe for Chocolate Brownies… .you won’t want to use anything else.  If you want to see me in action, making the brownies… watch the video below.

If you want a printable copy of the Chocolate Brownie Recipe… just fill in your information below and I’ll send you two sizes of the recipe.  Once you’ve given me your information… you won’t have to give it to me again. I’ll automatically send you recipe updates and other fun stuff.

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.

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.

Enjoy!

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.

The Dill Pickles Are Ready

Yep, the dill pickles are ready.  If you remember, we taught you how to make dill pickles last August… with a “Hands Off” warning.  No opening the jars until late fall.  Well, here it is… the first of December… and the dills are ready to eat.

The minute I took the first bite… the pains of putting them up was well worth it.  They are so crisp and good.  So… If you canned dill pickles in August, and you’ve forgotten they’re in storage… run right now and grab a bottle.

Great Eats!

Till Later,

Kathy Griffiths

Insightful Nana

P.S.  First of December… Hmmmm.  Holiday recipes are coming right up.

Perfect Whipped Cream Recipe

Here’s a perfect whipped cream recipe for your files. It has come to my attention that many cooks don’t use whipping cream because it never thickens properly. There are a couple of little tricks you can apply to be successful in whipping your cream for your desserts and pies.

There is a richness in flavor in thick whipping cream that you just can’t get when you use whipped toppings. Whipped toppings have their place… especially when you combine it with other ingredients. It holds it’s firmness better, if refrigerated over time, and does not separate as real cream will.  But, when your dressing a dessert or pie… there is nothing like topping it with real whipped cream.

1.  You will need one half pint of thick whipping cream.  If you purchase your cream by the quart, you will use 1 cup.

2.  Use 3 TB of sugar.  Most recipes call for 1/4 C… but that’s a bit sweet for me… especially if your dessert is particularly sweet.

3.  The next ingredient is flavoring.  The most common flavoring is vanilla.  Use 1 tes.  However, other flavorings can add an extra zing to your cream.  Maple flavoring is a delightful addition to your whipped cream… especially if your serving pumpkin pie.  I use about 1/2 tes. of maple flavoring.

Tip #1:  Chill your bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 15 mins. before you whip your cream.  Real cream takes a bit longer to whip than commercial toppings.  If you chill your bowl and beaters, your cream will whip faster and will hold the peaks longer.

Add your cream to a deep or large bowl.  If your bowl is too small, you’ll find that the beaters will flip cream all over the place… and on you.  As a child… we had a “whipping cream” bowl that was not wide but deep.  Cream was the only ingredient it ever held.  That ancient bowl, from my childhood, is in the possession of my sister Sheila… and is used for the same purpose.

Now… here is the important tip:  Do not add the sugar or flavoring to the whipping cream until you have whipped the cream a bit.  Turn your beaters on high, and whip the cream until it begins to thicken.  When you see a change in the consistency of the cream, or a thickening,  beat for a few seconds more before adding the 3 tablespoons of sugar.  If you add the sugar and flavoring to the cream at the beginning… your cream will not whip properly… if at all.

Add 1 tes. of vanilla or 1/2 tes. of maple flavoring.

Continue to whip the cream on high speed until it forms firm soft peaks.  Don’t over whip… It can change to a butter consistency very quickly.

If by chance you do over whip the cream, and it looks a little like soft butter…. don’t despair…. there is a way to recover it.

Just add more whipping cream.  You can fold it in by hand… your give it a quick run through with your beaters.  Just  don’t over beat again.

There you go.  Fresh whipped cream for your dessert or pie.

Enjoy!

Till later

Kathy Griffiths
Insightful Nana

P.S.  I love to lick the beaters after whipping the cream.  Don’t you?

P.P.S.  Remember now… don’t add the sugar and flavoring to your whipping cream too soon.  It’s the key to perfect whipped cream. I’ve added a video below so you can see the process in action of you want.