Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oh Oh It's Magic

Today our weather is decidedly spring like; cool and wet, but the past several days we had a heat wave. With highs in the 90's  we wanted a little something to cool us off. We decided on Magic Milkshakes

If you've never tried this recipe from the Hillbilly Housewife site, you are missing out. It is a very simple and economical recipe that produces a sweet and cool treat. We've been making them for a few years, and have tried many variations of the basic recipe. This new one, I'm calling it Irish Magic, may be my favorite. 

We made a blender full of the original version for the kids, but my husband and I were looking for something different. We decided to try to make them with Irish Cream.  They were delicious! 

Irish Magic

An adult version of Hillbilly Housewife's Magic Milkshake.

See Irish Magic on Key Ingredient.

Don't forget tomorrow is the first. Have you tried something new this month?  Please join us for Firsts on the First

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Carnival #113

Welcome to the edition #113. We are so glad you joined us here at the carnival's home. This week the carnival is packed with frugal ideas, wonderful recipes, and beautiful things. Read on. 

A Fresh and Clean Home

It is spring, and time to throw up the windows, air out the house, and do a little spring cleaning. Check out these great ideas for frugal cleaning products.

Homemade Cleaning Products

Homemade Carpet Refresher 

Rebatching Soap~Tutorial

Eating for Less
Many of us are looking for ways to trim our budgets. Here are some ideas for cheap cooking, and to use up what we have. Waste not. Want not.

Sweet and Delicious
Indulge your sweet tooth. 

Hot Fudge Cake 

Black Bottom Pecan Pie 

Carrot Cake 

5 Minute Chocolate Mug Cake 

More from the Kitchen
Find even more delicious recipes, and some healthy cooking ideas.

100 Awesome YouTube Videos for a Healthier Kitchen

Top 10 Lower Cholesterol Foods 

Made Your Own Curry Flavored Rice Mix 

How to make Spaghetti Bolognaise: recipe 

From the Omalos Plateau: Cretan Rusk Salad 

Penne with Spinach and Ricotta 

Scrambled Eggs Benedict Florentine 

A simple, seasonal salad 

Making it Pretty...

Image transfer methods 

Bangle wristwarmer tutorial 

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed 

Upcycle Plastic Bags into a Water Bottle Holder 

Thank you for joining us for this week's Make it from Scratch carnival. We greatly appreciate your links and social bookmarks to the carnival.

Want to participate in the carnival? Next week the carnival will be hosted at Lighter Side. Submit your posts via Blog Carnival

Monday, April 27, 2009

Monday's New Face

Jenn here, a new voice at Make It From Scratch. I'm a SAHM mom with three fabulous kids of my own plus two great step kids. I've been married to the love of my life for a little over three years. We've got several goldfish plus a cat and a dog who don't quite get along! I can't imagine why! lol I am a southern city girl accustomed to the hot humid big city life in middle Tennessee-everything's open 24/7, busy traffic, coffee shops, Walmart, shorts, tank tops and flip flops...

At least until we moved to Hallock Minnesota early last year. There's a population of nearly 1,500. NO Walmart. NOTHING is open 24/7. ZERO coffee shops. Everything's closed on Sunday except the grocery store and gas station! PLUS we have some of the country's harshest winter weather with subzero temps six months out of the year. Talk about an adjustment! ;) My daily and weekly trips to the stores are reduced to monthly trips and the fast food has nearly been cut from our diet (not hard since there's only ONE restaurant in town!) We make due with what's on hand and buy only what we need at the local grocery store in between trips. This has led me to live a more handmade lifestyle. The simplicity of our new lifestyle has done wonders for my marriage, character, and my new philosophy in raising my kids. I am truly blessed and hope to share some of what I learn with you here every Monday.

This past week has been a little slow when it comes to making anything from scratch. I've been sick with strep throat so I piled up on the couch for most of the week. (I was such a smarty pants thinking it would pass; I miserably waited till Thursday to go to the doctor. For Future Reference-seek immediate doctor's care when experiencing difficulty eating and drinking combined with fever and chills!). If it's been a while since you've been sick-TRUST ME-your kids are telling the truth when they tell you how crappy they're feeling! Thankfully, I'm MUCH MUCH better now and will be making who knows what this week! I will leave you with this little crafty idea I came up with after our Christmas Kitty arrived.

Make your own cat teaser toy using things from around your home. Cut 3 long strips of fabric (18" is a good length), knot together at one end, braid and tie off leaving several inches unbraided. Wind several milk jug rings & soda can tabs or unused jingle bells onto an old key ring. Tie the ring to one end of the fabric and watch your cat enjoy. It's durable and depending on the fabric you use, washable. Sandy still plays with this one and hasn't worn it out yet!

I love to cook and create with just about any medium so there's no telling what new things I'll be writing but you can bet it will be lots of fun. I also write at the Frugal Front Porch if you'd like to read more about me and the other things I'm working on!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

1, 12, 16, 113

No I am not playing the lottery, but passing on some special numbers for Make it from Scratch. 

This Friday is the first of the month. Around here that means Firsts on the First. I challenge you to try something new, something that you've seen and thought, "that looks easy," or something that you always wanted to see if you could do it yourself. Try it. Post about it, and share your post with all of us this Friday by adding your link to the Mr. Linky that will be up Friday morning. Tell your readers and challenge them to try something new too. 

That is where you will find Make it from Scratch on the list of 100 Best Blogs for Living Healthy on a Budget. Thanks to the blogger at Surgical Technician Schools. 

And on the 100 Best Blogs for Healthy Home Cooked Meals, you will find Make it from Scratch at sixteen. Thanks to the blogger at Pharmacy Technician Certification. 

One Hundred Thirteen
The 113 edition of the Make it from Scratch carnival will be hosted right here this Tuesday. We hope you will join us then! 

We also are in need of hosts for the upcoming carnivals. It is fun, easy and brings traffic to you blog. Please leave a comment or send an email if you are interested in hosting an upcoming carnival. 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Homemade Bubble Solution Recipe

~Heather also blogs at HEATHER LESSITER/It's All for the Best and The Fat Bottomed Girl.~

In our house, a favorite outdoor game is blowing bubbles. When all else fails, bubbles always gets the thumbs-up! This means that we go through bubble solution FAST! It is really inexpensive to make yourself and the kids will think you're a genius!

1/2 Cup concentrated liquid dishwashing detergent
6 Cups water
2 teaspoons glycerine (found in the pharmacy near the lotions)

Mix all together and enjoy!!!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Create a Flower Pot from a Log

Kellie will not be with us for the next two Fridays. She is just a little busy with a trip to Ethiopia and the adoption of two children. Read about their adventures at  The Brown's Journey to Africa. While she is gone I thought I'd share some older favorites from Stop the Ride

It is funny when ideas strike you. I get some of my best ideas while doing simple repetitive tasks, like washing dishes or hanging clothes on the line. This particular idea came when I was stacking a wood pile. Not only was it a mindless task that gave me the time to think about other things, I was inspired by the one of the objects of the task.

When we moved here trees had to be cleared for the houses and for the electric lines. Now, we have a lot of cut wood around. Much of it is nice fire wood, but some of the logs are rotten and look like this.

As I was stacking the nice wood, and debating throwing the bad wood on the camp fire pile, I had my idea. Wouldn't these rotten pieces of wood make lovely planters for the porch? Today I found out.

I chose three rotten logs that would sit well, and that were interesting. One of them was rotted through all the way, one almost all the way, and the other about half way. For the first two, I wadded up some plastic grocery bags as a filler. The idea is to make the pot lighter, create drainage and use less soil. I've read about people using water bottles as filler. I didn't have any. Since I haven't learned to do all the neat things Cindy does with plastic bags, I figured this was a pretty good use for them.

Then I added a few scoops of dirt. (My scoop was an old sour cream container.) Then added the plants. I splurged on $3 of annuals at the store the other day. In the pot I put two New Guinea Inpatients, an alyssum, and a wave petunia. Then I added a couple more scoops of dirt around the plants, and watered.

I must say I was very happy with the result, and even happier that each of these only cost me a dollar (for the flowers) and some change (for the potting soil.)

How's that for a frugal flower pot? Now, if I'd just started the flowers from seed, and had compost ready for soil, these lovelies would have practically been free! Maybe next year! :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Czech for Lunch

Next week we are participating in a World Cultures Day. The country we are studying is the Czech Republic. We've been looking up statistics about the economy, the people, and lots of other interesting information. But yesterday we began looking at the best part of studying any country; the food. 

We began searching for a suitable recipe to take for the group on World Cultures Day. We needed something that was easily portioned, would sit well, and be economical. 

We found several good collections of Czech recipes, but the best I think was at Recipe Zaar. Most of the recipes we found used very basic, economical ingredients. Some of the dishes had rather involved preparation though. 

We still didn't pick a recipe for World Cultures Day, but since it was a cold rainy morning, and we couldn't get any outside work done, we decided to prepare a Czech lunch for ourselves. We chose recipes that were easy, and recipes which we had all the ingredients on hand. We chose  Knedicky (Potato Dumplings)Fazolove Lusky Na Paprice (Green Beans Paprika), and Rice Pudding.

How easy are potato dumplings?! Simply mix equal parts of mashed potatoes.  (And yes, we made them from scratch in case you are wondering.)  Then form the mixture into balls. The recipe suggested baseball sized balls, but we made ours more golf ball sized. Drop the balls into boiling water. They will begin to float when they are almost done. Just boil a few additional minutes, and serve. 

The rice pudding was basically the same as other rice puddings that I've made before. The main difference was this recipe included eggs. This gave the pudding a custard like texture. It was delicious.

My favorite of the three recipes we tried was the Green Beans Paprika. We eat a lot of green beans here because we grow them in the garden. I get tired of making the same old side dishes with green beans. This recipe is different, and will be added to our menus. I altered the recipe slightly to used canned beans. 

1 quart canned green beans
1/4 cup butter
1/4 tsp. paprika
salt to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup sour cream

Melt butter in a large saucepan. Add onions and cook until they begin to soften. Add paprika and salt. Sprinkle flour over the mixture and stir until the flour is dissolved. Add water and green beans. Cook a few minutes and stir in the sour cream. Serve hot. 

Czech cuisine is a cuisine I can relate to. It uses simple, economical ingredients to create satisfying and delicious dishes. That is my kind of cooking. I look forward to trying a few more of the dishes that we found while browsing the recipes. 

Do you have any Czech recipes? We loved to try them! 

Flag image: Ludas

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Carnival #112

Make it from Scratch can be found today at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven. This week's carnival is a feast for the eyes, full of fabulous recipes and pictures. There are some great articles and ideas this week. Be sure to check the entire carnival out, but here are a few that I found particularly interesting: 

An interesting experiment that finds a beautiful use for credit cards. 

An easy and fun craft to do with the kids. 

So simple. Why haven't I made this at home before? 

Thank you for joining us for the carnival this week. Next week's carnival will be hosted right here. We would love to include your post. Simply submit using the Blog Carnival Form

Would you like to host the carnival? Send an email to makeitfromscratch at yahoo dot com, and we will get you on the schedule! 

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Homemade Carpet Refresher

~Heather also blogs at HEATHER LESSITER/It's All for the Best and The Fat Bottomed Girl.~

Many of us are in the middle of our annual Spring cleaning- opening the windows, flinging the clutter and getting rid of the winter dust and blah. Ahhhh! Feels great, doesn't it?

One of the things I do annually is use a carpet refresher to give a cleaner scent to the house. There are several brands available in the stores, but making your own is so very easy and cheap! This can also be given as gifts when put in a pint canning jar topped with a pretty bow or hand made tag.

Homemade Carpet Refresher
1 part Borax
1 part Cornstarch
1 part Washing or Baking Soda
Essential oil in any scent you prefer (I like apple myself)

Mix the dry ingredients first in a well-ventilated area. (You might even consider wearing a fresh-air mask while mixing powdered ingredients.) Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil- which can often be purchased behind the pharmacy counter or with candle-making supplies. Gently stir the mixture until the oil is well incorporated.

TIPS- for a small amount, try using one cup of each dry ingredient and about 6 drops of oil.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Stenciled Travel Bags

We are so excited to be leaving for Ethiopia this Sunday. As the day approaches though, I feel my green resolve weakening. Its tempting to run out and buy travel-sized convenience items or plastic baggies - real travel weakness! I admit to being slightly obsessive-compulsive about organization. I like ziplocs for medicine and one for camera cords and cell phone chargers, one for hair care products and one for toothbrushes.

I like being uber-organized, but plastic baggies just don't fit into this green lifestyle. Today I took a little time to make some travel bags. I used my son's old chambray crib sheet and made draw string bags in various sizes. Here's how I made them (there may be a better way, but I kind of make things up as I go along)...

Take a rectangle of fabric, fold the sides over 1/2 inch, then over again, and iron. Fold the rectangle in half so that the right sides are facing each other.

Fold the top down one inch, iron, pin. Flip the piece over, then fold down the top of that side one inch, iron, pin. You are making the casing for the drawstring. Sew all the way across each side.

Refold so that the wrong sides are now facing and the right sides are out, iron, pin. Sew each side from the bottom all the way up to the line that you just sewed across for the casing. Don't sew the casing shut!

Now you're ready to insert the ties. You can use ribbon, twine, yarn - whatever floats your boat. cut two pieces. Insert the first piece from the right through both the front and back casing. Tie the ends together. Then insert the second piece from the left and tie.

Next I made a stencil out of a cereal box and sponge-painted on a red cross on one (for first aid items - antibiotic ointment, band aids, etc.) and Rx on another (for prescriptions and other medicine). Be sure to slip a piece of cardboard inside the bag before you start painting in case the paint bleeds through. I like the sort of used and abused look that the sponge painting gives it.

Kellie blogs regularly at Greenhab: The Browns Go Green!

Using Leftover Easter Eggs

The fun of Easter has come and gone, and now you are left with lots of hard boiled eggs. What to do with them? Here are some ideas. 

1. Deviled Eggs
This is a favorite in my house. Simply peel the eggs. Slice them in half long ways. Remove the yolks to a bowl. Mix yolks with mayo, mustard, and a pinch of salt. I like to add a bit of horseradish too. Fill the egg whites with the mixture and sprinkle with paprika!

For a variations of this old favorite check Deviled Eggs and Deviled Egg Recipes. Some very interesting option can be found there. 

2. Egg Salad & Beyond
Simply chop up the peeled eggs and mix with mayo, mustard, and perhaps a bit of chopped onion or celery. Chopped up hard boiled eggs are good added to other mayo based salads like potato and macaroni salad too. 

3. A Healthier Salad
Chop up the eggs and add them to your green salads. 

4. Curried Eggs
Just found this in my favorite cookbook. It sounds yummy. 

2 TB Butter
2 TB flour
1 tsp. chopped onion
1/2 tsp curry powder
1/8 tsp. pepper
1/3 tsp salt
1 C hot milk
6 hard - boiled eggs

Saute onion in butter, add flour, seasonings, and the hot milk. Simmer, stirring constantly until thickened. Slice the eggs and reheat in the sauce. Serve on rice or garnish with fingers of fresh toast. 

5. Or how about these unusual recipes found around the web? 

What are your favorite ways to use leftover Easter eggs?

image credit: Cobalt123

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Carnival #111

Grow it yourself. Cook it yourself. Craft it yourself. You'll find it all in the Make it from Scratch Carnival today at I've Got a Little Space to Fill. Be sure to check the entire carnival, but here are a few that were of particular interest to me. 

A little history, and a recipe. I like it! 

Baked potato bar is a regular feature on our dinner menu.  This recipe would add a nice variety to our normal choices. 

I've done a little foraging from time to time. It is a hobby I wish I had more time to develop. Some great information in this post. 

Hope you enjoy the carnival today! You may also like some of the things at The Homesteading Carnival.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Homemade Chicken Pot Pie

I know that I usually post a craft tutorial on Saturdays, but my sewing machine is giving me fits this week. I had a post all planned to teach you how to make nice cleaning rags out of old t-shirts and everything I did to that machine only made it worse. It sat there mocking me asking, "What are you going to do about this? Huh?".

My answer is, "Post a recipe!". Ha ha!!! Take that, sewing machine!!!

Pie dough (enough for two 2-crust pies)
1 bag Frozen Mixed Veggies (Mine had peas, carrots, Lima beans, green beans and corn)
2 cans Cream of Chicken Soup
1 to 1.5 Lbs. Cooked Chicken
Salt and Pepper to taste
5 Mini pie tins

-Heat oven to 375 degrees.

-Divide pie dough into 10 even-sized balls. Roll one ball out and press into one mini pie tin. Repeat with four more dough balls until all the pie tins are lined with dough.

-Cube cooked chicken (leftover chicken works well for this) and place into large mixing bowl.

-Combine the frozen veggies, cream of chicken soup and salt and pepper with the chicken until well mixed. (At this point, you could heat this mixture on the stove top to save on the baking time a little, but that is up to you. Just be sure to watch the pies in the oven closely so they don't burn.) Pour or spoon chicken mixture into mini pie tins.

-Roll out remaining dough balls, one at a time, and place each over the top of the filled pie tins.

-Press a fork into the edges of the dough to seal them. With a sharp knife, cut steam vents into the top of the pie dough near the center.

-Place pies onto a large baking sheet with sides (to catch any filling that might leak out during cooking) and place in oven.

-Bake about 30 to 40 minutes until tops are golden brown and filling has reached an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees.

-Remove from oven and allow to cool about 10 minutes before serving.

Heather is a wife, mom,
school cafeteria worker,
councilwoman and babysitter from Ohio.
She also blogs at Heather LessiterIts All for the Best
and The Fat Bottomed Girl.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Healthy Whole Wheat Banana Bread

I always keep a box or two of Jiffy banana muffin mix in the pantry for those times when our bananas have passed their prime. This week I decided to make it from scratch and see if I could do better than last week's bread disaster. Since I'm trying to watch my diet a bit, I looked through a bunch of recipes, then altered them to fit my needs. This bread turned out great. It's not a dessert-y, sticky-sweet, feel-a-little-guilty-eating-it banana bread. It's more of a whole wheat bread that tastes slightly like bananas. I've had a slice each morning, warmed slightly, with butter on top and a cup of coffee. a little slice of heaven!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread

1/3 cup applesauce (I didn't realize I was out, so I used apple butter instead! Most recipes used 1/3 c of oil though.)
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons water

Mix wet ingredients together, add baking soda and mix well, then stir in flour. Pour into greased bread pan. Bake at 325 for about 45 minutes.
Kellie blogs regularly at Greenhab: The Browns Go Green

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Crab Stuffed Shrimp

In promotion of their 15 meals under $15 menu, the Outback Steakhouse is sharing some of their recipes. I had the privilege of receiving their recipe for Crab Stuffed Shrimp. Our whole family is seafood lovers, so we were all very excited to try this recipe. 

To the crab stuffed shrimp we added some crusty bread, a salad, and called it a meal. It was quite delicious, though some members of the family preferred the shrimp solo, without the stuffing. There was stuffing left after the shrimp were prepared. We took that extra stuffing, rolled it into small balls and deep fried them. They were wonderful!

Below is the recipe: 

Crab Stuffed Shrimp

¼ pound Butter

¼ pound Diced Onion

¼ pound Diced Celery

1 ½ tsp. Chopped Garlic

2 Tbs. Sliced Green Onions

¼ tsp. Salt

1/8 tsp. Black Pepper

1/8 tsp. White Pepper

1 cup Bread Crumbs

¼ pound Lump Crab Meat

  1. Place sauté pan over medium heat. Place butter in the pan and allow to melt.

  2. Place onions, celery, garlic, green onions, and seasonings in pan and cook for 6-8 minutes.

  3. Place mixture into a blender and blend for 20 seconds. Caution: Mixture will be HOT.

  4. Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl adding bread crumbs and drained crab meat. Fold in with a spatula until blended.

Lemon Pepper Butter:

½ cup Water

2 Tbs. Flour

1 ½ Tbs. Lemon Juice

½ pound Butter

1 tsp. Lemon Pepper Spice

Combine water, lemon juice, flour and seasonings in a sauce pan.

Over high flame, whisk until mixture thickens. Remove from heat.

Slowly add softened butter in small amounts until all is blended.

Cooking Shrimp:

Butterfly shrimp.

Place flour in a container and toss shrimp until completely coated.

Deep fry shrimp at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 minutes.

Place 1 Tbs. of hot stuffing onto each cooked shrimp.

Drizzle 1 Tbs. of Lemon Pepper Butter over each shrimp.

Serve and Enjoy!!!!!

Thanks Outback for the wonderful recipe!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Carnival #110

Mary at Simply Forties has brought us a Make it from Scratch carnival today that is simply fabulous! Be inspired by the beautiful spring pictures, the delicious recipes, and creative projects! Some of my favorites this week: 

Vermicomposting. It is on my to do list. 

My poor little sewing machine has only seen the light of day for mending. I'd like to use it to actually make something! Simple tutorials like this one are just what I need to get started. 

Funny gives us some great encouragement to grow some of our own food, and some practical advice about making our gardening projects profitable. 

Be sure to check out the entire Spring has Sprung Edition of the carnival. We hope you join us by submitting a post for next week's edition! 

Some other carnivals you may enjoy: 

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Beaded Eggs

Usually, we do the standard colored, hard-boiled eggs for Easter. I have, on occasion, blown out the insides of eggs and painted them. This year, I was inspired by a segment I saw on Martha Stewart in which they coated blown-out eggs with glue and glittered them. They were fabulous!

My only problem with this is that I am practically out of glitter after Christmas. I did manage to get to the store, but I stayed away from the glitter since I knew I had some seed beads left from a fall project in my craft supplies. I just knew they would work! The bonus is that I saved the money I would have spent on new glitter, saved quite a glittery mess (since the kids were helping) and I used something I already had on hand. Woo hoo!

More bonuses: Using a syringe, you can save the egg whites and yolks to make scrambled eggs or for baking; these eggs can be kept for YEARS!

Pin or other tool (I used my tiny screwdriver set)
Syringe or aspirator (optional)
White Glue
Seed beads or glitter
Step 1: Using your pin or tool, poke a small hole in the top of your egg. Poke a slightly larger hole in the bottom of the egg. Poke inside the bottom hole to break the yolk. This helps it to come out easier.

Step 2: If you don't have a syringe (I used a large one from an ink cartridge refill kit), place your mouth over the top hole and blow into it. The insides should start coming out of the bottom. If not, you may need to make the bottom hole larger. Rinse your egg and allow to dry on a towel.

Step 3: Coat your egg with white glue (I used tacky glue) and then coat with beads. I found that it is better to work in small sections- about 1/3 of the egg- and let each section dry a bit before continuing. You will also want to push the beads closer together and push them into the glue for better coverage.

Matthew wanted to make an Ohio State "O" on one egg, so we (meaning I) painted the glue in an "O" shape and put on the red beads. We let it dry about 15 minutes before continuing with the white beads. It is now my favorite egg we made that day.

Heather is a wife, mom,
school cafeteria worker,
councilwoman and babysitter from Ohio.
She also blogs at
Heather LessiterIts All for the Best
The Fat Bottomed Girl.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Homemade Granola

What a week. Not only did we say goodbye to a house guest yesterday, but we have new guests arriving today. I haven't had any time for crafting, but did attempt my very first loaf of bread -- honey whole wheat. I felt such pride making it with organic, healthy ingredients, letting the dough rise, and smelling that heavenly scent coming from my oven. As it cooked, my mouth salivated at the thought of freshly made butter on my delicious bread. Then it came out of the oven. And it was about 2 inches tall. Boo-hoo. I have no idea what happened (or what didn't happen) but I promptly threw it out for the animals and have been pouting every since. I'm evidently the first woman on either side of my family not to inherit the cooking gene.

Today I decided to try my hand at granola, which I've also had on my to-do list for quite some time. Besides costing an arm and a leg these days, it always seems to come in a plastic bag (or a bag inside of a box), which is something I'm trying to avoid.

I adapted this recipe from Little Birdie Secrets. I didn't want to make quite so much, just in case (see previous failure). Here's what I used:

3.5 cups rolled oats
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup honey
1/8 cup water
2 tbsp vanilla
1/4 cup nuts (almonds, chopped pecans or walnuts)
1 tbsp cinnamon
Dash of salt

Warm oil, honey, water, vanilla and brown sugar over low heat in a sauce pan. (You can skip that step, but I found it easier to mix the dry ingredients in that way) Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl. Stir liquid mixture in and mix thoroughly. Spread on a greased baking pan. Cook at 325 degrees for 20 minutes, stir, then cook for another 10 minutes. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get too brown.

Mix all of the ingredients together and spread out on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes. Stir and bake another 15 minutes. Scrape the bottom of cookie sheet as soon as it is done to prevent sticking. Cool and then store in an airtight container.

Let cool. Store in an air tight container. Enjoy!

(I love the heavenly glow above the granola in that photo!)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Natural Dye for Eggs

One of our favorite Easter traditions is dying eggs. The last few years we have skipped the purchased dye kits, and experimented with making our own dye from items already in our kitchen, like beets, carrots, and onions. 

Natural dyes create softer, more muted tones for your Easter eggs. There are many natural items that you can use to create your own egg dye. Look around the kitchen for items that have strong colors. They will probably make a good dye. 

Here are some ideas to get you started: 
Blue: red cabbage leaves, blueberries
Purple: grape juice, violets
Brown: coffee, tea
Green: spinach
Orange: carrots, paprika, chili powder
Red: cranberries, yellow onion skins, cherries, raspberries, beets
Yellow: turmeric, lemon rinds, cumin, saffron

To make the dye take a good amount of the material you are using, add a couple of teaspoons of vinegar and cover with water. Bring to a boil. The more material you start with and the longer you boil it, the stronger the color. Just remember you want the dye to be several shades darker than the egg color you are hoping for. 

Eggs can be colored by boiling the eggs and dyes separately. This is how I usually dye the eggs.  Strain the dye. Then add the boiled eggs to the hot liquid and allow to soak until the desired color. If you want deeper colors, plan for an over night soak. Put the eggs in the refrigerator if you plan to soak for more than a few hours. This will keep them safe for eating later. If you do not want to eat the dyed eggs, it is not necessary to refrigerate. 

Another option is to make and strain the dye, and then to cook the eggs by boiling them in the dye. Or you can make the eggs and the dye at the same time by boiling the eggs and the dying material together.  For either of these options, the color can be made deeper by keeping the eggs in the dye longer if the color is not quite right by the end of the egg cooking time. Again, you will want to refrigerate if a longer soak is desired. 

The eggs in the photo above were made by boiling the eggs and dye separately. They were soaked overnight in the refrigerator. What made those beautiful colors? The eggs on the top left were dyed in the coffee left over from my morning pot. The three on the right in the top row were dyed in a very weak carrot dye made from the peels and ends of carrots I used for dinner. The three orange/red ones in the middle row were dyed in dye made from the skins of yellow onions (also scraps from our dinner.) The pink eggs soaked in pickled beet juice.  And the beautiful blue and brown speckled eggs on the bottom were created using a secret only known to my hens. Those truly are naturally dyed eggs. 

Creating your own dyes for Easter eggs can be fun and educational. Experiment with different items you have on hand to create a wide range of beautiful colors. You may find some surprises when items you expected to be one color actually create a dye of another color. Enjoy the process. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Firsts on the First - Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin

Welcome to the April edition of Firsts on the First. Every first of the month I share something new I've tried to make or do in the last month. It is my motivation to keep trying new things, and move items from the "someday" list to the "done" list. This month I made Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin from scratch for the first time. 

No foolin' I've never made scalloped or au gratin potatoes from scratch. My family likes them well enough, but we've only had them from a box. It is time to change that. 

And like so many other things I've tried to make from scratch for the first time, it really was very simple. First slice up a bunch of potatoes, an onion, and some ham. Then mix them together in a casserole dish. 

Next, make a creamy cheese sauce and pour it over everything else. Mix it together and bake. 

Finally enjoy the creamy goodness while listening to rave reviews from your family. 

If you would like a more specific recipe, Ham and Potatoes Au Gratin is the one that I used as a guide while making this. 

Did you try something new? Share it with us by leaving the link to your post in the Mr. Linky below. 

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