Friday, July 29, 2011

Quick Summer Update

Just so you don't think I forgot about you all--here is a quick summer update!

What a crazy, busy summer we have been having!  I wish I could say we have been taking exciting vacations or accomplishing amazing things--but really, it has just been everyday stuff.  I had a list of things that I wanted to accomplish this summer: projects around the house, craft projects, and even starting on Christmas decorations and presents, but sadly, my list is hanging forlornly on the fridge in hopes I will remember to take it down and conquer it's tasks.  Between the kid's work and babysitting schedules, drivers ed (and trying to squeeze in the required 40 driving hours needed), and my husband's crazy travel and work schedule some days I am not sure if I am coming or going.  It is the summer of the chauffeur (that would be me!).   

I am working on several tutorials--but my camera battery died and I misplaced the charger--so hopefully SOON I will have some new post up.  We are also coming up on canning season, so hopefully I will be able to add some more canning posts.  I am hoping to do some spaghetti sauce and relish soon!

Hope you are all enjoying your summer!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

All-purpose Cleaner

No, I haven't forgotten about you all!  We have just been busy enjoying the summer weather and trying to find time to do some family things together.  It seems like it gets harder to find family time as our kids get older, between different work schedules, travel,  friends and hobbies, everyone is always going in a different direction.  I have also spent a few days working on my UFO (un-finished objects) sewing box and helping a friend with some sewing.  I finished up a stack of layering tank tops for my daughter and am working on a purse I cut a year and a half ago!  

On to today's post--my favorite all purpose cleaner.  I have been making my own cleaning products for years.  I started making my own cleaners simply because we were on a limited budget and I disliked spending $4 for bathroom cleaner that smelled funny.  A lot of my original recipes came from reading old magazines (even in the 60's women were trying to save money on cleaners) and books and then experimenting till I found something I liked and worked well for me. 

All-Purpose Cleaner

1/2 C. vinegar* (a great disinfectant)
1 tsp. borax (add water softening properties)
1 tsp. liquid soap (use castille or dish detergent)
2 tsp. baking soda (add disinfecting and odor removing)
15 drops Tea Tree essential oil (a great antibacterial-antimicrobial oil) (Or use your favorite essential oil)
warm water
Use a funnel to pour vinegar, borax, liquid soap and baking soda into empty spray bottle.  Beware when you add the baking soda the mixture will foam up a bit. 

Fill bottle with warm water to within 1" of top.

Place  top on bottle and shake gently to mix.  Be sure to label your bottle.

~I use this spray for all my general purpose cleaning in the kitchen and bath.

*I use an orange vinegar--place orange peels  in a jar and cover with white vinegar.  The orange oils in the peels help break down grease, disinfect and add a pleasant smell.  Add additional vinegar as needed.  Replace peels every 3-4 months. 

~This also works with lemon, lime or grapefruit rinds.  Or use your favorite herbs for an herbal vinegar, lavender and thyme work well but make a dark colored vinegar (it doesn't stain).

~I use the orange vinegar straight for cleaning the greasy range hood and to clean our grill.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Garlic Oven Fries

Garlic Oven Fries

Pair these with hamburgers and shakes for an All-American meal!
Baked Garlic Oven Fries

Olive Oil
Minced Garlic
Rosemary (or favorite herb)

This is one of those makes as much as you need recipes, so no measurements are given.

To make the Garlic Oil:
Place olive oil in small saucepan, add 1-2 Tbsp. minced garlic per 1/2 C. of oil.  Add in a few sprigs of fresh rosemary or other herb.
Garlic oil with Basil

Heat over med.-low heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Strain and store in airtight container.

Wash and cut desired amount of potatoes into french fry sticks (we use 1 potato per person).

Toss cut fries with just enough oil to lightly coat.  I use about 1 Tbsp. oil per 3-4 potatoes.  Place on greased baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees for 35-45 minutes, until golden brown.  Turn potatoes a couple of times during baking to brown on all sides.

Add salt and pepper to taste and dip in some homemade ketchup!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Homemade Marshmallows

Homemade Marshmallows

One taste and you will never eat store bought marshmallows again!
Homemade Vanilla Marshmallows

You need:
3 pkgs. unflavored gelatin
1 C. ice water
1 1/2 C. sugar
1 C. light corn syrup (*or alternative)
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
powdered sugar

1. Place gelatin in bowl of mixer and add 1/2 C. cold water. Do not stir. Let sit and allow to "bloom".
"bloomed" gelatin
2. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine remaining 1/2 C. water, sugar, corn syrup and salt.  Stir to combine.  Place over medium heat and cook (without stirring) until mixture reaches 240 degrees (soft ball stage) on a candy thermometer. Immediately remove from heat.

3. Turn mixer on lowest speed and SLOWLY and CAREFULLY pour the sugar mixture down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture.
Adding sugar syrup

4. Once you have added all they sugar mixture, slowly increase the speed of the mixture to high.  Whip until mixture becomes thick and is lukewarm. (this takes about 12-15 minutes).   Add vanilla in the last minute or two of mixing.
Whipped marshmallow mixture
5. While the mixture is whipping, prepare a 9x13 pan. Spritz lightly with cooking spray and then coat with powdered sugar.
prepared pan
6. When mixture is cool, use a greased spatula to transfer mixture to pan.  Smooth the top of the mixture and then coat with powdered sugar.
Mixture in pan

7. Let rest, uncovered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove marshmallows from pan on lightly dusted counter or cutting board.
Marshmallows removed from pan

8.  Using a pizza cutter,cut into desired size squares and roll in powdered sugar. 

~You can use any type of extract for these.  Try almond, maple or lemon!

~Add a few drops of food coloring to the mixture as it is whipping for even prettier marshmallows.

~This can be a little hard on your mixer, I actually burned the motor out of my first Kitchen Aid mixer making marshmallows.

~To eliminate the corn syrup, use the light sugar syrup recipe here.

Light Sugar Syrup (a corn syrup substitute)

Light Sugar Syrup

~This recipe makes a great substitute for corn syrup in all of your recipes (even hard candy recipes!).  It is great for families with corn allergies.

You need:

2 C. sugar
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar (opt.)
 a pinch of salt
3/4 C. water
1. Combine all ingredients in saucepan

2. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Once it is boiling, quit stirring and attach candy thermometer.
3. Boil until temperature reaches 230 degrees.
4. Remove from heat and store in jar.

~For a darker corn syrup substitute, use light or dark brown sugar.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Five Minute Bread--shaping and baking

Five Minute Bread

Now that you have a batch of bread dough ready to go, let's shape and bake it!

Dough right out of the fridge
Take your dough out and sprinkle one corner liberally with flour.
Sprinkled with flour
Pull the corner of dough out of the container, using the flour to keep it from sticking to your hands.
Pulling dough from container
Use scissors or your hands to cut off a piece of dough about the size of a grapefruit, or size desired.
 hunk of dough
Use your hands to gently smooth the top of the dough over and tuck it underneath, forming a smooth ball of dough.  (Hard to explain, but it's kinda like tucking in a baby).
smooth dough
It is okay if the underneath of your dough is not smooth.
bottom of dough
Set your dough on a piece of parchment paper, or well floured pizza peel to rise. Let the dough rise for about 45 minutes*.
Rising on parchment paper
Then get your oven ready, place a pizza stone in the middle of your oven and a metal broiler pan (or similar) underneath.  If you don't have a pizza stone, use a cookie sheet, it won't be quite the same, but it still works. About 20 minutes before your dough is done rising preheat oven to 450 degrees.
oven ready (now I realize mine needs to be cleaned)
When your dough  is ready (it won't really rise too much) dust the top lightly with flour and slash it a couple of time to allow it to expand when you put it in the oven.
slashed and ready for oven.
Place dough (still on parchment) on preheated stone and add 1 C. hot water to pan underneath and quickly close the door.  Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove the parchment paper from under the bread for the last 10 minutes to help brown up the bottom of the crust.

Cool (um, if you can stand the yummy smell), slice and enjoy!

*If you are like me and get busy and distracted and forget to get your dough out soon enough, you can just let it rise until your oven is hot (approx. 20 minutes) and then bake it-sometimes I give it an extra couple of minutes in the oven to make up for the fact that the dough wasn't quite as warm as if I had let it set the full time.  It may not be quite a big but it still tastes good and gets the whole meal on the table at the same time.

~The longer the dough sits in the refrigerator, the more of a sourdough taste it will develop.
~There is also a Healthy Bread In 5 Min. a Day book (which I also own)--I don't care for the sourdough flavor in my wheat breads as much, so when I make the wheat versions, I tend to use them in a day or two.
~They are coming out with a Pizza Book this fall, I have already pre-ordered my copy.