The Best Ultra Quick Beans and Rice Recipe

Over the holidays Mom came up with a quick healthy dish that she thought would be a side but Melanie and I ate as our main course.  It is so simple I don’t even need to write out a recipe card for it.  Wanna hear it?  Here it goes…

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King of Vanilla Creams

JPatz_20140711_3J8A3827-Edit_WebI heard on Clark Howard a few weeks ago that Consumer Reports claimed that Costco has the best widely available vanilla ice cream.  That seemed like a worthwhile thing to test, especially with another niece coming to visit for her Golden Ticket trip.  So we collected several big brands and the three of us tried them (several times).

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The Best Women’s Underwear

So let’s take a sharp left turn and talk about women’s underwear for a moment.  Wait.  Hear me out.  This site is all about sharing good information with as many people as I can – especially about products that can change your life.

As long as I’ve known about my wife’s relationship with her underwear I’ve known it is a bad one.  She complains that it doesn’t fit right or, more frequently, that it is bunching up in places that it should not.  A couple of years ago she noticed that I’d buy a pair of socks, test them for a while, and if I liked them, I’d buy more (see more on my current favorite socks here).  She started doing the same thing with underwear.  It is a relatively cheap expense but it is something that literally affects your life every day.  You should have an underwear solution that works well for you.

People would rave about this brand or that style, but just like everyone who tells you that beets are good (you just haven’t had them cooked the RIGHT way), they were wrong.  She even checked around online Googling various incriminating search phrases and perusing the forums.  In her latest attempt she found two contenders and surprisingly both of them worked out.

First we have an offering from Maidenform, the Signature Micro Hipster Panty (alternative Amazon link here), which can be purchased at JCPenny’s and other places.  It is made from microfiber (like exercise clothes) with a cotton middle part.  The combo of fabric and cut make these comfortable and relatively stay-in-place undies.  They are cheap, come in several colors, and can be washed normally.

The real winners, and the ones Melanie can’t stop talking about, are called Vanishing Edge Microfiber from Soma – especially the hipster and bikini cuts.  Soma is a specialty shop that you might have at a local shopping center, but if not, they can be purchased directly from the corporate website.  The magic of these panties is that they have a thin strip of silicone around the leg holes.  If you are not familiar with silicone, think of a rubber band or swim cap and you are pretty close.  Some women have said they would not like the rubbery feel against their skin and that it would probably feel cold or be hard to put on.  Melanie says she never notices it at all and putting them on is no different than any other underwear.  She says they stay in place and they do not leave panty lines at all.  She has run half marathons in them and they didn’t budge.

The only trick with the Vanishing Edge is that they shouldn’t be put in the dryer.  I’m sure you wouldn’t destroy them like a pair of wool dry-clean-only pants, but to maximize their life it makes sense that you’d air dry them.  Melanie’s easy system for handling this is to put her dirties in a mesh bag that we keep by the clothes hamper.  They get washed with the other dark colored clothes and then put on our drying rack.  Because they are microfiber they are almost dry when they come out of the washer and are ready to put away in a very short time (an hour?).  As the sales lady told her, “You can practically just blow on them and they are ready to wear again.”

Sorry I’m not providing any images with this post, but as many of you know, I try very hard to use only my images on the site, even if it advertising for someone else, to avoid any hint of copyright infringement.  I even make a point of making many of my images look homemade so there is no question that I didn’t steal them.  So as you can see, I’d have to take pictures of my wife’s undies and I think that is probably not the best idea.  Follow the links and you’ll see every size, color, etc.

PS  I didn’t say “crotch” one time in this article.

Best Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Feeling hot hot hot?  Well, then it’s time for homemade ice cream.  I’ve given you some of the very best homemade ice cream recipes I know of already – Vanilla, Oreo Mint, Peanut Butter Cup, and Peach.  You can get a printable version of all four here.  We worked on them until each was the tastiest we’d ever had.  The only complaint we got was that there was no chocolate recipe.  As you can see below, that situation has been rectified.

This recipe was easy to finalize since we had already tested different chocolate combos for the best brownies in the world.  All we had to do was modify the winner to pack that flavor into ice cream.  Just like the brownies, the challenge of chocolate ice cream is making it really chocolaty.  It is easy to turn the white cream brown but getting a strong flavor to match that dark color requires several kinds of concentrated chocolate and a little espresso. Both Melanie and I agree that it is the best chocolate ice cream we’ve ever eaten.

I think this ice cream could be a real winner with chocolate Oreos broken up in it.  If it didn’t melt so fast, it might be nice to add some cinnamon chocolate pudding right at the end of the mixing.  Of course duplicating Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk is never a bad idea.  You’d just need to mix in white and dark chocolate fudge pieces, pecans, walnuts, and chocolate-covered almonds.

Maximum Chocolate Ice Cream (Printable PDF version)
Makes about 5 cups

1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso
1-1/2 teaspoons boiling water
2 oz Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups heavy cream

1.  Freeze freezer bowl according to manufacturer’s instructions (probably overnight).
2.  Bring water to a boil in a medium bowl.  Stir in espresso powder dissolving completely.
3.  Stir in chocolate chips dissolving completely.
4.  Heat milk until hot but not boiling then add to chocolate mixture.
5.  Stir in cocoa powder dissolving completely.
6.  Cool mixture in fridge until very cold.
7.  Add sugar and mix on low speed for about two minutes until all sugar is dissolved.
8.  Add cream and mix about one minute until evenly incorporated.
9. Pour immediately into ice cream maker and operate according to manufacturer’s instructions until ice cream is thick and frozen (probably 30 minutes).
10. Eat immediately for soft serve.  Transfer to container and place in freezer for about two hours for firmer ice cream.

After you give it a try, let us know how you like it.  If you send me a picture of you enjoying your batch of ice cream (in a G-rated way), I’ll be sure to append it to this post.  Let me know if you want me to include your name or not.

The Best Apps for the iPhone 4s in 2012

We upgraded from our stupid phones to smart ones very recently and Melanie chose an iPhone 4s.  She loves it and is quickly adapting to life with the internet in her pocket.  Checking around with friends and various websites revealed a few of the best apps for the iPhone 4s.

Our criteria:  free, available through Apple’s app store, useful

Overdrive – This one is required to by our local library to download e-books and audiobooks.  So far we like it.
Redlaser – Bar code scanner.  This one seems to be the defacto standard for scanning products for more info and price comparison when shopping.
Runkeeper – Turns your phone into a GPS running watch.
Shazaam – Identifies songs by listening to them.
Web MD – For viewing the website.  I don’t know if this one will work out to be any better than just going through the browser.
Wikipedia – For viewing the website.  I don’t know if this one will work out to be any better than just going through the browser.  Oftentimes what you want to find out is info from Wikipedia so this a quick way to get to it.
Yelp – For viewing the website.  I don’t know if this one will work out to be any better than just going through the browser.  Great for finding local establishments.  When looking for my barber shop I could not find them even using a Google search but they were on Yelp.
Mapquest – Turn-by-turn directions.  It is tricky to find a free Garmin-style navigation program it seems.  Mapquest has worked for Melanie so far.
Gmail – Melanie wanted a separate app to view personal email.  It keeps labels intact unlike the built-in email app.  It is supposed to be able to do searches much faster too.
Dataman – Can set up a warning as you approach your monthly data limit.
Flixster – Movie app.  Haven’t tried it yet.
iHandy Flashlight – One of many flashlight apps.  This one also allows the light to strobe.
Grocery IQ – For making grocery lists.
Pandora – For streaming music.
Geocaching – This app by Groundspeak is the only app on this list that costs something.  It is $10 but it is an all-in-one geocaching app.  You can look up, find, and log geocaches all from this one app.  It makes geocaching a zero-prep event so you can just focus on playing.

Many of these apps Melanie has only had a chance to try out once or twice so I don’t know how robust they are.

Here are a few more that were recommended but she didn’t want:
Wunderlist – To do list.
Seesmic – Puts Twitter and Facebook stuff in one place.
Peak.ar – Tells you the height of nearby mountains just by pointing your camera at them.
Olive Tree Bible Reader – The only app on this additional list that costs money.  There are free ones available but this one is supposed to be very good.   Of course, I like the website http://www.biblegateway.com very much.

What other apps do you highly recommend?