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Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Hello again! I have taken quite the sabbatical, haven't I! I started homeschooling my middle child this year. Though I adore homeschooling, I wanted to see how much of my time it would zap. It zaps a lot! Here we are, the week after Christmas. This is a special week for me and my family. Every year while the kids have off, my husband takes off work and we essentially lock ourselves inside our house, and have a quite "staycation". We drop off the face of the earth! We love this time, and anticipate it all through out the year.
Last year this time was when I had the revelation that I wanted to cook everything I possibly could from scratch. A whole year has passed, and with homeschooling, I have not gotten as much done as I would have liked. BUT, this week has rekindled that passion for cooking. My husband (as usual) got me some terrific cooking tools for Christmas, and a WONDERFUL cookbook! He encourages me to cook on our week off. This year I have learned to make my own alcoholic eggnog (waaaay better than the store bought kind!), Lepp cookies (those will be gone fast!), old world soda bread (I think this will become a staple in our house!), homemade pizza using a cast iron pizza stone (oh baby, there's NO going back!), meringue cookies, among other things. I will be posting these recipes in the following weeks.
I am also going to pick some recipes from the FABULOUS book my husband got me for Christmas, try them out, and have the family rate them for you all! Stay tuned! Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year to you all! <3

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Weekend Apple Pancake

I was browsing breakfast recipes that include apples (I love using apples and pumpkins this time of year), and came across a WONDERFUL recipe for a Pa Dutch style apple pancake. Note, these are NOT pancakes ,  but a big, puffy, cake style pancake. My family adored it, and I will certainly be making this again! I am in love with this recipe! Enjoy!

Weekend Apple Pancake
2 large or 3 medium apples, preferably tart ones like Granny Smith
4 tablespoons white sugar, divided
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
5 eggs
Powdered or cinnamon sugar, to serve
Heat the oven to 400°F. Peel, core, and quarter the apples, then cut them into medium slices (1/4-inch thick or less). Then cut the slices in halves or thirds. You should have about 3 cups of chopped apples.
In a small bowl, mix 3 tablespoons of sugar with the cinnamon and ginger and set aside.
Cut the butter into chunks and place them in a deep cast iron skillet or 8x8-inch baking dish. Put the skillet or baking dish in the oven for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the butter is melted. Take the pan out of the oven and sprinkle the 1/3 cup brown sugar over the melted butter. Carefully spread the apples on top of the brown sugar and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mixture over the apples. Put the pan back in the oven to caramelize the apples and sugar.
Whisk the flour with the remaining tablespoon of sugar, salt, and nutmeg. Gradually add the milk, whisking constantly with a large wire whisk to beat out any lumps. When the flour is smoothly incorporated into the milk, beat in the vanilla and the eggs one by one. Beat by hand for 2 minutes, or until foamy. Let the batter rest for 5 minutes. By now the sugar should be bubbling around the apples.
Take the pan out of the oven and pour the batter over the apples. Bake for about 20 more minutes or until center is set and sides are lightly browned. The pancake will puff up dramatically but fall after a few minutes after you take it out of the oven.
If you want, serve with powdered sugar or more cinnamon sugar. I usually find that it is just sweet enough as it is.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pumpkin Morning Glory Muffins

I'm BAAACK! And I have a delicious recipe for a hearty, fibrous, fall-fantastic muffin!
Here's what you need:
2 cups flour (2 all purpose, or 1 bread and 1 all purpose, or 1 whole wheat and 1 all purpose, whatever combination you so desire) I used 1 bread flour and 1 cup all purpose
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp nutmeg
1 whole carrot (chopped in food processor)
1 apple, peeled and cored (thrown in the food processor with the carrot)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup shredded coconut
3 eggs
1/3 veggie oil
2 tsp vanilla
2/3 can pumpkin
If you want to, add a little wheat or oat bran, some ground flax seeds, and some steel cut oats. Just for good measure (and extra fiber)
Mix together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and sugar. Add carrot/apple mix (that was chopped fine in the food processor). Add pumpkin, and oil and mix well.
I like my muffins big, so I greased a BIG muffin pan (holds 6 big muffins). Put it in the oven at 350. If making small muffins, bake for 20-22 minutes. For large ones like I made, it's more like 32 minutes.
Don't these look great!?


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Simply Delicious Hummus!

I am a HUGE fan of hummus! I love plain, red pepper, roasted garlic, caramelized onion and all other variations of hummus! Hummus that the store costs anywhere from $4 something to $7 something (depending on size and fancy pants brand). Making hummus is not only EXCEEDINGLY simple, BUT doesn't cost much, considering that the ingredients that DO cost the most, you get the most out of! Here is my VERY SIMPLE and favorite recipe for hummus. You can take this recipe and build off of it. Caramelize some onions and then throw it in. Roast a red pepper, take the skin off and seeds out and throw it in. You like garlic? Put extra in. Spinach and artichokes. Whatever you like!
1 can (drained) chick peas
1/4 cup lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic minced or chopped
2 tablespoons sesame tahini
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper to taste.

Throw all the ingredients into your food processor. Blend away until smooth! Break out some celery, carrots or pita bread and enjoy your heavenly homemade hummus! Mmmmmmm!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

It's Ice Cream!! Or is it??

We go to Ocean City NJ every year. On the boardwalk there was a store called Bashful Banana. They make Banana whips, which are heavenly!! They take a frozen banana and run it through a juicer. That is simply IT! SO, I decided to try this at home, but without an expensive juicer. Here is the recipe I came up with. Very simple! The kids will adore it, and you will not feel guilty about eating it. It's a banana (and some milk).
Peel your bananas and freeze them. for 24 hours is good. when you are ready, chop your frozen banana up into slices, and put them in a food processor. Add a little bit of milk (maybe 1/4 cup?) and blend in the food processor. It should be light and fluffy, like the consistency of soft serve. THAT, my friends, is IT! There are some fabulous things you could add to make it more interesting if you like. Some ideas would be ~ peanut butter, chocolate chips, m&m's, chocolate syrup, strawberry syrup, other fresh fruits, nuts, or put sprinkles on top and some whipped cream for a sundae!!
If you try this delicious alternative to ice cream, leave me a comment and let me know what YOU think of it!! Happy eating!

The Winner of the Homesteading For Beginer's DVD!!

We have a winner for the Homesteading for Beginner's DVD giveaway!!! We picked randomly (you all had wonderful answers and I wish I had a copy to give you ALL!!). And the winner for the DVD IS......
LINDA STUBBS!! Congratulations Linda! And thank you to all of you who entered and shared about the giveaway on FB and Twitter. :0)

Monday, July 25, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies Aren't Just For Christmas!

I love baking chocolate chip cookies over the Christmas Holiday. But this year I decided to take it a step further. Why not STOP buying cookies all together, and make cookies for the family every week or every other week? No preservatives, dyes, or high fructose corn syrup! I have made chocolate chip cookies, and other cookies almost EVERY WEEK since January of this year. I have made dark chocolate cookies with white chocolate chips, sugar cookies, short breads and I have ALSO made Oreo cookies!
This is my very favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe.
2 and 1/4 cup flour
2 sticks butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 large eggs
2 cups chocolate chips

In the handy dandy mixer, cream together 2 sticks butter (I like to use 1 stick salted, and 1 stick unsalted), 1/2 cup white sugar and 1/2 brown sugar (packed), and 1 tsp. vanilla. Once mixed, add 2 large eggs. add in 1 tsp of Baking Soda and 2 & 1/4 cups flour. After it's all mixed, add 2 (generous) cups of chocolate chips. I also added rainbow sprinkles to this batch, for the fun of it! I use a cookie scoop (I'm sure you can get them ANYWHERE) to put my cookies on the baking sheet. I put twelve cookies on the cookie sheet, 3 in a row, and bake in the over (at 375 degrees) for 7 minutes. when you take the cookies out, let them sit in the pan for 1 minute before taking them off to cool. Then let them cool on a cooling rack (covered in wax paper) for the time it takes you to put new cookies on the sheet, and bake them. This ensures they don't break and crumble (that will happen if you move them too soon, or too much).
Your family will be so thrilled you are making Christmas cookies all year round! And it is better for them too!

Friday, July 22, 2011

My Very First Giveaway!

I am excited to announce my very first giveaway! The people at Forgotten Way Farms were kind enough to send me a DVD, that I reviewed and am going to GIVE AWAY! The DVD is entitled "Homesteading For Beginners Volume 3". The DVD is 120 minutes long and loads of information on canning (meats, potatoes and tomatoes), making noodles (the Amish way), culturing buttermilk and sour cream, AND has a bunch of recipes using their canned goods! It also comes with a recipe book, that has all the recipes on the DVD!
To Enter: Leave me comment telling me why you'd like to get your hands on this DVD. For extra entries, facebook and/or tweet about it! Make sure to include a link to this page! Post 1 comment for each things you do, for more chances to win! I will announce the winner on Tuesday July 26th. Good Luck!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wow Butter

I just wanted to share a product I tried today! My daughter has a pretty severe peanut allergy. She can't eat or touch peanuts in any way. So we usually get her soybean butter for her PB&J's. I have had a few different brands of soy butter. None were amazing. But this new soy butter I got this past week (at Walmart!) is called Wow butter and it's GOOD! The consistency is like creamy peanut butter and it's the closest in taste! It is made in a peanut, nut, and dairy free plant. I just wanted to pass this along, if there were any other peanut free families out there! Yum!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Culturing and Fermenting Foods With Cultured Mama

Today I got the honor of interviewing my friend and fellow blogger Michael, from over at Cultured Mama, about the art of culturing and fermenting foods. This is something I have recently discovered, during my journey in making all my foods from scratch, using all natural ingredients. I have not successfully cultured any of my OWN food (though if you recall I did try a sourdough starter, unsuccessfully). I really want to learn more about this process, and Michael was kind enough to talk to me about all she knows about culturing and fermenting foods!

Me: Michael, for the people who aren't familiar with culturing foods,what exactly are cultured foods?

CM: Cultured foods are foods that have been fermented, often through the introduction of enzymes in the form of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. It was a common preservation method before modern refrigeration, and fermented or cultured foods often improve with age, rather than going bad, because the bacteria and yeasts fight off bad critters that might otherwise spoil the foods.

Foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sourdough, naturally brined pickles, sauerkraut or kimchi are some examples of cultured foods. Old fashioned ketchup and soy sauce and other condiments made using traditional methods are also cultured foods. (A natural brine of sea salt, whey or culture starter is different from the white vinegar brine commonly used for grocery store pickles or sauerkraut. A white vinegar brine does not impart the necessary probiotics [enzymes] required for it to be a truly cultured food.)

Me: Why are cultured foods good for us?

CM: Cultured foods are excellent for our digestive health. They help repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria and yeasts and maintain balance in the digestive tract. They also aid in the digestion of our food and help stave off infection by boosting our immune system (most of which is located in the gut!)

Once upon a time, folks ate a cultured food with every single meal, either in the form of condiments or sometimes as the entire meal! Consider a Reuben sandwich that is prepared using traditional methods: every element, from the sourdough bread, to the corned beef, to the sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and condiments are cultured foods! Even the butter it is grilled with can be a cultured food. Wash it down with a traditional beer or glass of kefir and you have just had an incredibly probiotic rich meal!

Me: Who would they most benefit?

CM: EVERYONE benefits from eating cultured foods and taking in as many probiotics as possible. But some folks are in much more desperate need than others. If you have had a lot of antibiotics or suffer from digestive issues or immune system disorders, probiotics in the form of cultured will help immensely.

Since cultured foods and ferments are literally in a state of pre-digestion, they are often easier to handle for folks who are sick or have trouble digesting their food. I recommend EVERYONE eat more traditionally prepared foods, whole foods, and living foods, like fermented and cultured foods prepared using old world, traditional methods.

Me: You sure know your stuff! How long have you been culturing foods?

CM: I've been culturing for close to four years now, and am slowly adding to my repertoire.

Me: So What have you cultured or fermented?

CM: My first fermented food was the mayonnaise recipe from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon Morell, shortly followed by the ginger carrots recipe from the same book (seriously, it's like a food bible.) I have corned beef, and made traditional pickles, fermented many different fruits and veggies and made some simple soft cheeses. My favorite and most common cultures that I have going in my kitchen on a day to day basis though are kefir, kombucha, and sourdough. 

Me: What is your favorite recipe using cultured ingredients?

CM: That's a toughie. I have some go-to recipes that I make a lot but I probably make sourdough waffles the most, because it's a quick breakfast in the morning.

Me: This is great, but Is culturing an easy process? Can anyone do it?

CM: It's AMAZINGLY easy. And ANYONE can really and truly do it. It takes planning and a minor investment of time, but once you get your groove going and it becomes part of your kitchen routine, it actually SIMPLIFIES prep time, believe it or not. Breaking up your food prep into night before and morning tasks can seem a bit daunting at first, but once it becomes routine, like I said, it makes your time in the kitchen much easier.

Besides, most cultures are truly set it and forget it. You throw a bunch of stuff in a clean jar, throw a lid or tea towel over it, and just let it sit for a few days before tossing it in the fridge for future use. It doesn't really get much more simple.

Me: Are there any resources on the Internet that are your go-to, when it comes to culturing and fermenting foods?

CM: I have a lot of mommy blogger friends that I refer to often, like Cooking Traditional Foods, Nourished Kitchen and Gnowfglins.   I am also part of a network of traditional foodie moms called The Nourished Living Network, and we all commonly blog about such things. Also check out this great opportunity with a company that sells fresh, healthy organic products - Beyond Organic

Me: Michael, Thank you so much for your time and all your great information! Do you have any advice or insight to the person who has never heard of this before and wants to try it themselves?

CM: kefir (dairy or water) and simple pickled veggies will lead you down the delicious and nourishing path to making artisanal breads, cheeses, and incredible ferments to amaze your friends and astound your taste buds. Not to mention improving your health! :-):-)

Thank you so much to Michael! Be sure to check out her website, Cultured Mama, Like her facebook page (Culutred Mama), and all the great resources she listed! If you have any questions, or comments about your own experience, leave a comment below!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Bodacious Baked Beans

I am a big fan of baked beans! I have tried so many different kids of baked beans, I wanted to make a little different spin on them. So here is my "beefed up" recipe for baked beans. I am calling them Bodacious Baked Beans! This recipe is for a crock pot.
Cook up a pound (or so) of ground beef, and drain the fat. Also cook up a half of a package of bacon. Crumble your bacon when cooled. In your crock pot add - 1/2 onion chopped small.
I big can of Pork and Beans, 2 cans navy beans (drained) and 2 cans Pinto Beans (also rinsed).

 1 Cup of ketchup, 1 cup of BBQ sauce and 1/4 cup brown sugar. I also added some garlic powder to taste. throw in your beef and bacon and give it a good stir! Cook this on high for about 4 hours. Man these were tasty! They go great with some hot dogs! And you'll really WOW em' at a potluck!

Perfect Pepperoni Bread!

I went to a potluck picnic this weekend and wanted to bring something really different. I LOVE a good loaf of bread. At parties I'm the one usually stationed at the bread and dip bowl. So this time I decided to make some pepperoni and mozzarella bread.
For my bread, I made my recipe for pizza dough (the recipe I had said "refrigerated bread dough" - pssh, really?). See my post about homemade pizza, and you'll get the dough recipe there.

Once the dough is done rising, roll it our into a rectangular shape. Not too flat please, we do want some depth to this bread.
Next sprinkle your shredded mozzarella cheese all over the surface.

 You don't need a thick layer, we are making bread, NOT pizza! Next add your pepperoni slices all over your mozzarella layer. Start at one of the short ends and roll your bread up. Tuck the sides under and put it in a greased bread pan, with the seam side down.

Bake it in a 415 degree oven for 35 minutes.

 When it's cooled off, slice it up and watch it GO! I didn't have a crumb left over from the party! I will definitely be making this again!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Crockpot Lasagna is Stupendo!

Lasagna is so tasty, and now even easier to make! I love to make lasagna in the crock pot. The initial cooking and mixing takes a little bit, But then you layer your ingredients in the crock pot and let it cook all day!

I used 1 small container of ricotta cheese, 1 bag of shredded mozzarella cheese, and one container of fresh shredded Parmesan cheese (not powdered). I also used one egg, and fresh herbs from the garden (Italian flat leaf parsley, Oregano and Basil) Mix that all together very well.

 Next I used frozen meatballs and Italian sausage. I defrosted the meatballs and sliced them up, probably about 2 cups sliced. I put some water in a frying pan and fried the sausage until done (over medium high heat). I sliced them up and used about 2 cups sliced as well (I put the rest with the meatballs I didn't use into the freezer to use the next time I make pizza)

 For the tomato sauce I used a bottle of Bertoli Garden style pasta sauce, 1 can of diced tomatoes and 1 can of our favorite pizza sauce (it's listed in my pizza recipe).

I used uncooked, regular old lasagna noodles. Nothing special. Cover the bottom of your crock pot with a little layer of sauce. Add your first layer of noodles. Cover that with the cheese and then the meat. Sauce, noodles, cheese, meat, sauce - repeat until you only have enough for one last layer. I then put noodles, cheese, meat and sauce and covered it. Let it cook on low for about 6 hours and TA DA! you're lasagna is ready to eat. Throw together a salad and slice up some Italian bread and you've got a meal!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Flour Tortillas ~ delicioso!

I think making your own flour tortillas is the easiest and one of the most satisfying breads to make! Not only that, BUT you won't find a tastier tortilla anywhere!! Also, they are thick and filling! With store bought tortillas, my husband will have 2 (at least) burritos. With mine, it's 1 and done! I can't say enough goodness about them!!
I make my tortillas BIG when making them for burritos. Here is my recipe -
As always, I used my handy dandy mixer, with this attachment. Mixers really make cooking easy!
Ingredients: 4 cups of all purpose flour
a teaspoon of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons LARD
OK, side note here. You can use shortening for this. I, however, LOVE to use bacon fat I store away into used (and cleaned out) coffee cans. I save bacon fat, chicken fat, all that good stuff! You can use it as lard, or in place of shortening (it tastes fabulous in a pie crust you're using for a pot pie. DO NOT use it for a sweet pie, though. Veggies taste WONDERFUL tossed in chicken or turkey fat, sprinkled with salt and pepper and broiled!!) OK, back to the list
1 & 1/2 cups water.
Put the flour in the mixing bowl. Add all the ingredients EXCEPT the water. Turn your mixer on stir and let that all mix up (will be crumbly). Add the water a few drips at a time until the dough is moist and sticking together. You may not need to use all the water. You just want the dough sticking together enough to form it. That's it.
Heat some oil in a frying pan (I use cast iron - I love my cast iron!). Put the heat on medium high.

Take out some dough a bit at a time (experiment with different sizes til you can eyeball how much you want or need). Flour your surface and a rolling pin. Toss the dough in the flour a little, then start to roll it out. Roll it out like you would a pie crust, making a circle. Make them AS FLAT AS POSSIBLE. They will puff up!

When it's as thin as you want it, plop it in your frying pan. You'll only need to fry it about 5 minutes or so. Then flip it and cook about 3 minutes or so. You'll need to experiment with this one, as I don't have an exact time.
After that, remove your tortilla from the pan, place it on a plate and make the others. You can wrap it up and save it for later, or just fill it and serve them fresh! Mmmm, fantastico!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mom's Mint Iced Tea

Summer also reminds me of my Mom's mint iced tea, made with fresh mint from the garden! My Mom used to make this for us every summer, and we LOVED it! I now make it for my kids and they drink a whole pitcher in just a couple days! Here's my recipe:

I use Lipton decaffeinated tea bags for the tea.

                                                       And fresh mint from my "garden".
                                                      You will also need: 1/4 cup Lemon Juice
                                                                                       1 cup of sugar

In a 2 cup measuring cup, put 6 tea bags in and 3 "stalks" of mint (I put the whole thing in, not just the leaves). Fill the measuring cup with boiling water and let it steep for 1 hour. When the hour is up, take out your leaves and tea bags and add your tea to your pitcher (I use a 2 quart pitcher). Add 1/4 cup lemon juice, and about 1 cup of sugar (or less if you like it less sweet). Then add cold water to fill your 2 quart pitcher!  That, my friends, is IT! You kiddos will LOVE this tea, and probably your husband too! (I pretty much GUARANTEE IT!)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer is for Blueberry Pie!

I love making Blueberry Pies in the summertime! The blueberries are sweet and ripe, and usually on sale at the grocery store, so you can buy a bunch for your pies! Here are the ingredients I use for my pie, and how I make it! I also make the crust, as you can see below! First off is my crust recipe. Very VERY simple to make (the hardest part, in my opinion, is rolling the dough out).

Pie Crust:
 2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons shortening
4 to 6 tablespoons cold water, 1 tablespoon at a time

This is the attachment I use for my pie crust dough. For bread doughs and pizza crust I usually use my dough attachment, but for my pie crusts, this attachment works the best. (I don't know what I would do without my trusty ol' mixer!) I add all the ingredients except the water. Mix your dough in the stir setting or even the #2 setting. Add your water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough sticks together and the bowl is clean. See the picture below.

Now your crust is done. It may look and seem a little crumbly, but you want it that way. Too moist and it will stick all over your surface and won't roll nicely. You are going to divide this dough in half. Half for the bottom crust, half for the top.

You want to roll this dough as thin as you can, WITHOUT breaking it. I put a little flour on my surface and a little flour on my rolling pin. As you roll it out, flip it (gently) a couple of times. I do this to make sure it isn't sticking to my surface. I also break off any jagged edges that are much longer and add them back to the middle of the pie crust, flip it over and roll it. Place your pie crust in your pie plate, then roll the other half of the dough out the same way. Let this dough sit on your surface, until your filling is done cooking.

Blueberry Filling:
8 cups blueberries (4 pints)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup butter (half a stick)

Take half of your blueberries and add them to a big pot with your sugar and butter. The other half you will will mash (raw) with a potato masher or fork or whatever you like. After the pie filling is done cooking, you will add the two together and stir.

When you first put your blueberry ingredients into your pot, this is what they will look like. But as the mixture gets hotter, it will all dissolve, and look like what you would find in a can of blueberry pie filling. I crush the blueberries in the pot a little as I stir.
After you've added your raw, smashed blueberries to your cooked filling, add it to your pie crust!

                                                        Doesn't that look DELISH!

After filling your pie shell, you want to add your other rolled pie crust to the top, sealing the edges together and cutting some slits in the top crust for ventilation. Be as fancy or as primitive as you wish!

You want to bake this pie at 350 degrees for between 30 and 40 minutes (until the crust is golden brown). I want to warn you, put a cookie sheet on the rack under your pie, because the filling will drip out! If you want the pie to be set and thick, make it a day ahead of time and refrigerate it. Otherwise it's runny when it's warm (but still tastes amazing!). I like to have a big ol' slice of this pie with some french vanilla ice cream! Enjoy!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

DIY Laundry Detergent

This laundry detergent is easy to make AND lasts a very long time! Here's what you need: a large pot (used only for making detergents from now on), Large wooden spoon (only for detergents), Arm and Hammer Washing Soda, 20 Mule Team Borax, and Fels Naptha (it's a bar soap in the laundry detergent isle. You can find the washing soda and Borax in the laundry isle as well!). And lastly a container to store your detergent. I use a medium sized Tupperware container. This recipe makes 2 gallons, so make sure it is large enough! You could use a 5 gallon bucket (ask your local bakery or bakery department at the grocery store. They give them away, because they do not reuse them.)
These ingredients are NOT expensive to purchase, and they last you a LONG time! We bought our ingredients back in the winter (January?) and we still have PLENTY left. In fact, the only thing we will need to replace, maybe in a couple months, is the Fels Naptha which only cost us .99 cents!! Here's the recipe -
1/3 bar Fels Naptha , 1/2 cup washing soda , 1/2 cup borax , water.
Grate 1/3 of your Fels Naptha bar into your large pot and add 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, and boil for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and immediately add the washing soda and borax. Stir until everything is dissolved. You're going to add enough cold water to this mixture to make 2 gallons. We add some water to our container first, then add the hot detergent mixture, and the remaining cold water (to keep our container from warping from the heat).
The mixture will be VERY watery. You have to let it sit 24 hours before using it. The next day it will be a gel on top and liquid underneath. I usually give it a good stir to mix it all up.
You want to use 1 cup of laundry detergent for large loads (sometimes I add a little more for good measure). This detergent works great and is SO cost effective! Happy Washing!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My Home Made Ant Trap!

Hello again! We recently had a bunch of ants in our house! We had small ant on the kitchen counter tops, coming in from various places, and ants in our sun room. The ants in our sun room were little ants on the floor AND flying ants looking to colonize. I looked up a recipe for an ant trap that was as follows - 1 tablespoon Borax to 3 tablespoons sugar. Mix with a little bit of water (a little soupy) and add a teaspoon of peanut butter.
I tried this recipe, and to my disappointment it did NOT work for me. SO, I decided to make my own concoction up. I used 1 tablespoon borax to 2 tablespoons sugar and added a few drizzles of honey. I dripped some directly onto my counter top in the kitchen. I cut one part of an egg carton (1 hole for an egg) and filled it with my mixture for my sun room. Not only did the ants eat this stuff right up, they also have NOT been back since!! I think maybe the borax might have been diluted too much in the original recipe.
Let me just note, if you have children or pets make sure you DO NOT let them touch or eat this stuff!
If you have an ant problem, I hope this helps. It really worked for me!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I'm Trying My Hand At Starting Sourdough!

A friend of mine over at Cultured Mama posted yesterday how to make a sourdough starter. I told her I was surprised (and maybe a little confused) at how SIMPLE it is to make your own sourdough. It's simply a mixture of (warm) water and flour! The process is long (seems about 3 days) to begin, BUT it's not labor intensive at all! It's just a matter of waiting (I guess if you have issues with patience, this may be hard. Sit down, say a prayer for some patience and jump in!). Anyways, I started my sourdough starter today! I will post pictures as I go, so you can see what to expect! Right now I did 1/4 cup nice warm water, and 3 coffee scoop scoops of flour. It's about 6 tablespoons. Cultured Mama has an article on her page that is a bit more in depth with the recipe. Tomorrow I will see if there are any bubbles. If not I wait a little longer and if still no bubbles, chuck it and start again. If there are bubbles I add another 1/4 cup of water and another 3 scoops of flour. By the way I'm using all purpose, because it's what I had on hand. So you can see my picture of what my sourdough starter looks like about 15 minutes after I mixed it and I am letting it sit on my windowsill until tomorrow morning!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Chicken With Pasta and Veggies

Hello again! This is a quick and easy recipe, good for a warm summer night. Just see what veggies you might have on hand to use in addition to what I put in. This recipe made 2 dinners for a family of 5, and it's pretty cheap to make!

                                                        Chicken With Pasta and Veggies

Chicken breasts (I had 3 that I took out of the freezer)
paprika, salt, thyme, garlic powder and onion powder to season the chicken.
Bow tie Pasta (you can get this cheap at any discount grocery store)
about 2/3 cups cherry tomatoes cut in half
about 2 cups fresh spinach (washed but don't bother chopping)
1 larger zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 small package of whole fresh mushrooms, quartered
1 small onion, cut into chunks
about 1 cup (or so) green beans (I used frozen)
olive oil (or whatever oil you choose) to toss the veggies in before baking
rosemary, sea salt, basil, parsley and oregano to taste for the veggies
Parmesan cheese to garnish

Preheat your oven to 375. Season your chicken and bake it on a cookie sheet (lined with tinfoil for less mess) for about 40 minutes.

When the chicken is done, remove, let it cool and coarsely chop. On the SAME cookie sheet (don't remove the tin foil please), add ALL your veggies. drizzle with oil and season them. I reuse the cookie sheet because you'll also get some of the yummy drippings mixing in with your veggies and that will help flavor them in addition to your herbs!

I didn't bake them for any certain amount of time, I just kept an eye on them to see if the spinach was wilted and the zucchini is soft, not raw and crunchy.
Meanwhile, boil your bow tie pasta according to the package (it's usually about 7 to 9 minutes), in a large stock pot. I always add some salt to my water. It seems to keep it from boiling over, but not all the time. When your pasta is done cooking, drain it and put it back into the stock pot. Add your veggies and chicken to the pasta and stir. Serve immediately and garnish with Parmesan cheese (as much as you like!). You can have some bread to go along with it (homemade is fabulous, but that's another recipe!), or you can eat it alone.


Granola Is Good

While we were grocery shopping this week, I decided to get myself some granola. My husband promptly replied "You can make granola yourself.". Duh! Granola at the store is between $4 and $6! I had a bunch of ingredients already on hand, so it was much cheaper for me to make it! AND I can add anything I like! I like mine with nuts and seeds and dried fruits.

 Crunchy Granola
preheat oven to 300 degrees.
about 1/3 cup coconut flakes
4 cups rolled oats (quick, steel cut, Irish, whatever you fancy)
2 generous pinches of ground flax seeds, wheat bran, wheat germ and ground almond meal
1/2 to 3/4 cups chopped almonds
1 cup apple cider
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tablespoons veg oil (or flax or grape seed or canola)
whatever dried fruits you wish to go in your granola (get creative!)

 here is my recipe that I threw together. And my adorable daughter Gigi helped me (she loves to bake!). Isn't she too darn cute?
OK, back to granola. Turn your oven on to 300 degrees. What I did was start with a Martha Stewart recipe I got a couple years ago off the web for Granola (Martha Stewart's granola ). And then I tweaked it. Here's what I used -
I had Gigi put as much of the following ingredients into a bowl as she wanted (ended up being about two nice sized "pinches" of each thing. Ground flax seed, ground almond meal (good for fiber), wheat bran and wheat germ. Then we added the shredded coconut (about 1/2 to 2/3 cups). I took a sharp knife and cut up salted almonds (to be honest I wasn't SURE how this would turn out, but it was fine - I added more honey to counteract the saltiness, and didn't add ANY extra salt to the recipe either). I added the sesame seeds (whatever I had left in the bag) and some walnuts I had laying around. We added dried cranberries, raisins and dried bananas to the mix. Then Gigi stirred it all up.

Next I took 1 cup of apple cider and boiled it for a few minutes, til some of the liquid boiled down. The recipe called for 1/2 cup honey, but I added more like 2/3, maybe a smidgen more. I also added a tablespoon or so of vegetable oil. I put in the cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla ,and I let that come to a rolling boil, stirring  for about 5 minutes at a boil like that. Looks yummy!
While that was cooking I added 4 cups of oats to dry mixture. I used quick oats, because they were on hand. You could try Irish oatmeal, or maybe even steel cut oats if you have them on hand. DO NOT use the packets of prepared oatmeal though, not sure how that would come out! Once you have your oats measure in, you want to take your liquid mixture and add it to the dry mixture. Stir right away! It's going to be dry, but try and incorporate every last little oat into the moist mixture. take your cookie sheet and rub a little bit of vegetable oil around the sheet, so nothing sticks to it. About 1-2 tablespoons. There's my big helper rubbing on my oil with a paper towel.
Then you take your granola mixture and spread it all around the cookie sheet. I had Gigi press it down for me to get it as thin as we could, so the granola would get crunchier. I like my granola crunchy, not chewy. It's a personal choice. If left thicker, it will probably end up chewy. But hey, if you like it that way, go for it!
Next you put your granola in the oven to bake for  about 40 minutes (I did mine about 45). Stir it every 15 minutes, to evenly brown the granola. When it was done cooking I took it out and let it completely cool before storing it away. If you store it warm, there is a chance it will not stay crunchy for you. And here is our delicious granola!
These ingredients may cost a little more up front, but will last you a long time! Get a BIG container of oats. The bags of wheat germ, wheat bran, flax seed and almonds may cost more up front, BUT you can add them to oatmeal, cereals, and smoothies. Mine have lasted me MONTHS and I am no where NEAR done using them yet. The only things you be needing to keep buying is the oats, as you run out, and the dried fruits. Much better than paying $4 to $6 a week on grocery store granola. AND no dyes, preservatives, additives or high fructose corn syrups!