Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mesh Bag Dish Scrubby

Since I started learning to crochet, I have paid more attention to any crochet projects on blogs.  Some are much too advanced for me to do more than look at right now.  I have found a few that are very doable for a beginner.  This project featured at Mooberry Farm Homesteading Journal is one of them. 
I had saved several mesh produce bags for some unknown reason.  Mine came from a bag of lemons.  The amount of yarn needed is minimal.  I could have used scraps if I had any.  The cost to make it was practically $0.  I am still slow so this took me about 20 minutes to complete. 

You can find a tutorial for making your own mesh bag scrubby here.  I have already started asking people to save their mesh produce bags for me.  I love that it is washable and made from items that would have been tossed in the trash.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Baby Shower

My cousin is eight months pregnant with her first baby so that called for a baby shower.  She only wanted to have one shower, and I was put in charge of it.  I knew I wanted to do something a bit out of the ordinary.  I do not mean that the way other people or even myself have done it is not nice.  I simply wanted something different. As luck would have it, the colors I chose for the shower were the ones being used in the baby's nursery.

My dear husband gave me the idea of grouping the tables rather than stretching them out.  He also helped me set up many of the decorations.  First up was the gift table.

I put pink tablecloths with lime green runners on the table for eating.  I have used the bowls dozens of times.  I filled them with pink and green tissue paper.  I used Imaginisce Snag 'Em stamps to bring in the theme.  I thought it matched rather well.

Our menu included banana nut mini-muffins, doughnut holes (homemade with my Babycakes maker), French toast sticks and syrup, homemade vanilla yogurt, granola, fruit, breakfast casserole (sausage, egg, and cheese), and mini-biscuits with ham.  We also served orange juice and coffee.

I labeled everything using the same Princess stamp.  It was not the fanciest shower as I was working with a limited budget.  I received many comments on how nice everything looked.  My cousin was happy which was all that mattered to me.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Daring Bakers' Challenge - Quick Breads

The Daring Bakers’ February 2012 host was – Lis! Lisa stepped in last minute and challenged us to create a quick bread we could call our own. She supplied us with a base recipe and shared some recipes she loves from various websites and encouraged us to build upon them and create new flavor profiles.

I intended to be much more daring than I actually was this month.  Life got in the way.  I did end up making banana mini-muffins.  I suppose the fact I picked out the recipe online and made them for a baby shower with no trial run was fairly daring.  I am notorious for doing that though.  I figure sharing it with a large group of people is a good test of how yummy something is.  The less I bring home, the better it must have been.

I used this recipe.  The fact that it is so highly rated makes my decision to use it much less daring.  I did use an egg substitute due to a three-year old niece with a severe egg allergy.  (She gets told she cannot eat many, many foods.  She proudly told me that she could eat these.)  I also added in some vanilla.  They were a big hit, and I will be making the larger version to keep in the freezer for myself. 

Friday, February 17, 2012

Weekly Spending & Bread Baking

I had $20 that was reimbursed to me which brought my bi-weekly grocery money to $120.  My first purchase was four bags of Bob's Red Mill granola from Amazon.  This is my favorite granola to eat with my yogurt.  I paid $13 for this.  I also got a Boston butt which will go into the crockpot overnight and then be shredded for barbecue.  This also cost $13 and will likely give us at least five meals.  I bought two boxes of cereal for $4.  My only true shopping was done earlier in the week.  I bought two boxes of salt, bananas,  a cake mix, three bags of chips, and fish filets.  My total came to $14.  All together I spent $44 plus $2 toward Sunday paper purchase.  That leaves me with $74 for next week. 
Now onto the bread baking.  I had a good French bread recipe but the loaves it made were too small.  I tried making one loaf, and it was too big.  I felt a bit like Goldilocks.  I was searching for my "just right" sized loaves.  I found a couple of recipes online that were similar.  I actually combined the two of them together to make my own recipe, which is completely unlike me.

The loaves turned out to be nice sized.  They were much better than what I had ended up with in the past.  They rose well and baked to a nice golden color. 

I love the baking pan I purchased from Amazon just for baking French bread.  It has lots of tiny holes in the bottom which helps the crust of the bread crisp while the inside remains chewy. 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Freezer Cooking - Cake Batter

I often find myself needing a few cupcakes and prefer the taste of fresh baked ones.  I saw a post on a blog regarding freezing cake batter.  I love freezer cooking and was very interested in this.  The post mentioned that the batter could be put into a freezer bag, frozen, and then thawed when ready to bake as cake layers or cupcakes.  It also stated that the batter could be put into cupcake liners and frozen. 

Monday I mixed up a cake mix and put the batter into cupcake paper lined muffin tins.  Once the cake batter was frozen, I put the frozen cake batter cups into gallon freezer bags.

I apologize for the horrible photo.

Yesterday I removed four paper cups of batter.  I preheated the oven to 350 degrees and immediately put the muffin tin into the oven.  When the oven was heated, I set the timer for 15 minutes.  This seemed to work well, and the cupcakes were perfectly done.  I think they rose better and had a nicer shape when cooked this way.

When they cooled I frosted them and stuck in a chocolate candy pick.  They were soft and had no indication of having been cooked from frozen batter.  The best part is that I was able to cook just four rather than 24.  I need to cook a dozen this weekend but expect the results to be the same. 

I am excited about how well this little experiment turned out.  I will definitely be mixing up more cupcake batter to freeze.  I can do that when I have extra time and easily cook cupcakes at a moment's notice. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ruffled Cabbage

I have many family members that garden.  I guess gardening is just in my blood.  My dad went to his brother's house over the weekend and brought home a different variety of cabbage.  I apologize that I do not know the name.

It is a bit hard to see in the picture, but the leaves are ruffled and a bit curled on the edges.  The cabbage was lunch on Sunday.  It had a very mild taste as opposed to the stronger taste of the cabbages we have been growing.  I can definitely see this variety having a place in our garden next winter.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Homemade Duster

I have been spending quite a bit of time on Pinterest recently.  I have found many good ideas so I do not think it is wasted time.   I do limit myself to how long I can browse the ideas.  One of the items I found was a reusable duster.  I already had a handle but did not use it often.  I liked the shape of the dusting cloths but hated the waste.  I had been using a cloth which was not wasteful but lacked the shape.  I followed this tutorial and in minutes made a reusable duster that combined the best of both.

The blog states that flannel is the best with polar fleece as an option.  I had a piece of fleece leftover from the blankets I made as Christmas gifts.  I decided to work with what I had.  I ended up with enough fabric to make five dusters.  I was actually so excited by it that I dusted the entire house.  I was pleased with how well it collected dust and even happier that I could toss it in the laundry basket. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Weekly "Grocery" Spending

I use the term 'grocery' loosely to describe my spending this week.  I used up all of the $59 I had left.  Not all of it was for groceries though.  I spent some at Lowe's and Dollar Tree for potting soil, plants, and pots.  Taking that into account I have added a garden line to my budget sheet.  I did not need the money for groceries this week, but I know that I am going to buy garden stuff so I need to plan ahead for it.

Now to the actual groceries - at Save-a-Lot I bought butter, milk, corn flakes, pudding mix, and crushed pineapple.  The last three were needed for dishes for a family that suffered a death this week.  I spent $11.38. 

Second stop was Harvey's.  I took advantage of a Unilever deal Buy $15 and get $5 off instantly.  I bought eight bottles of salad dressing and a jar of mayonnaise.  Counting the money I spent on coupons I paid about $4 for all of that.  I also bought bread flour, cheese, and fruit.  My total for everything was $29.60. 

I have no set menu again this week.  We have been busy the past couple of days, but I was not tempted to eat out.  We have plenty of food on hand.  A time or two our meals are "on your own" as we have had leftovers to finish up.  Not having a menu makes meal planning a bit harder so I need to get back on track next week.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Rooting African Violets

Until the end of last year I never had an African violet of my own.  When I worked (long ago), I took care of one.  When I was in Lowe's browsing through the clearance plant racks and saw one for 75 cents, I snatched it up.  A couple weeks later I was gifted with a second. 

The colors are the same, but the petals of one are a bit ruffled.  The leaves started growing out of control so I looked into rooting more plants.    I cut three leaves with a sharp knife and put them in old pill bottles.  Apparently the tan bottles help the water stay fresher.  My husband even came up with a nifty contraption so I could hang three in the kitchen window.

Then I prepared to wait.  The websites stated that it could take four to six weeks for roots to appear.  This week I needed to add a bit more water to the jars.  Imagine my surprise when three weeks later I had tiny roots on the leaves.  I need to pick up some soil at Lowe's this week and plant them.

I tried to get a good picture of the roots, but they are still on the small side.  I was very excited that it was so easy.  I have already been looking on eBay and have seen several offers of African violet leaves in lovely colors. I may need to clear out the second window sill so I have room for them all.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Homemade English Muffins

I ordered a set of baking sheets from King Arthur Flour before Christmas.  A recipe for English Muffins caught my eye.  Last week when I had some yogurt that needed to be used up.  I went straight for the recipe.  It was simple enough to mix up.  After the dough rose, I rolled it out.  I used a cookie cutter to cut 14 circles.  These rested on a cookie sheet sprinkled with corn meal.  I then cooked them on a griddle.  It was amazing to watch them puff up and brown.

The smells brought my husband into the kitchen where we cut into one.  Hmmm....the yogurt gave it a wonderful sourdough taste.  Next we topped a piece with butter and homemade strawberry jam.  I will definitely be making these again.  I never thought it would be so easy or produce such yummy results. 

(I apologize for the poor picture.)

I ate one the next morning with cream cheese, and my husband had two turkey bacon, egg, and cheese muffin sandwiches.  We shared a few and put some in the freezer as a trial.  Using homemade yogurt these are quite frugal.  It is also hard to beat homemade when it comes to taste.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Freezing Avocados

Thanks to the Super Bowl and the usual parties that accompany it avocados were on sale this past week.  I did not have a party planned, but I love avocados and guacamole.  I bought six and brought them home to ripen.  When they did, I sliced them and put them in the food processor.  I added six tablespoons of fresh lemon juice (one for each avocado) and processed it until smooth.

I love the bright green color.  I divided the mixture among three containers and put it in the freezer.  I can pull out a container and add in the remaining ingredients and have delicious guacamole. 

This produced no trash.  I took reusable produce bags to the grocery store for the avocados and lemons.  The leftovers of each went into the compost pile.  I like foods with less trash and no preservatives (other than nature's preservative in the form of lemon juice).  It was fairly frugal as I have about $6 in all three containers.

I might pick up a few more avocados this week before the sale ends.  I expect it will be Cinco de Mayo before I see such a good sale again.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Grocery Shopping & Weekly Menu

Sadly no pictures again this week.  I was rushing to get the groceries put away and lunch ready as it was 2:30 pm when I got home.  I guess we will start with the shopping totals.  I took the money left from last week and put it toward my garden seed bill so I was starting back over with my two week total of $100.  I admit that one of my purchases was not grocery related.  I was in the Dollar Tree looking for a new sugar container and found a plastic canvas book.  I took the money for it out of the grocery budget, but since it was just a dollar (+ tax) let's all agree to let it slide.

My total at the Dollar Tree was $4.31.  In addition to the book, I bought steak sauce and two pairs of gloves for washing dishes.  The gloves are for washing dishes which is sort of grocery related.

Next stop was Save-a-Lot.  I got tortilla chips, tortillas, salsa, lemons, and milk.  I seriously need to work on making my own tortillas.  I know they will be healthier.  That might be a February to-do.  My total there was $12.82. 

Finally I went to Harvey's.  I am heading back next week when I get a few coupons together to do a deal.  Since I was already in town I decided to pick up a few things.  I purchased chips, Keebler Pecan Sandies (a treat for a recovering DH), steak sauce (with a coupon to compare to the off brand), soup (restocking my "sick shelf"), mushrooms, tomatoes, potatoes, avocados, and cheese.  My total for this trip was $23.87.

I have $59 left for next week.  I will use some of it to do a deal at Harvey's, but I might be able to avoid shopping again for the most part. 

Crab egg salad - We have plenty of eggs thanks to our chickens, but I do not care for plain egg salad.  I mix in a can of crab meat to make it yummy and still affordable.  We always get two meals out of this.

Bacon, tomatoes & rice, butterbeans - The bacon, rice, and butterbeans were from the freezer.  The tomatoes were home canned.

Shrimp, fries, slaw - I will use a cabbage from the garden to make slaw.

Steak, twice baked potatoes, salad  - The steaks and twice baked potatoes are from the freezer.  The salad is from the greenhouse.  I will add in some mushrooms and tomatoes from my shopping trip.

Pizza & salad - I have a bunch of lettuce from the greenhouse so we will be eating salad quite often.

Black bean enchiladas - I found one more container of black beans in the freezer so I want to use them before they get lost again.

Sandwiches - Weekends are always a questions.  We have a variety of sandwich options including tuna, barbecue, turkey, PB&J.