Monday, August 31, 2009

Fried Pie...YUMMM

Fried pie will be a popular lunch box treat this year. It is a travel friendly treat plus portion control is a SUPER simple. Easy enough to make. Fried pie can be made in any shape with your favorite pie dough recipe or the store bought version. Talk about FUN for lunch!

Another plus? So many tasty ways to enjoy a fried pie. Savory. Sweet. Hearty. Decadent. The perfect main course, appetizer or dessert! It's also fabulous at party's, picnics, and large gatherings!

Some of my favorite pie fillings:
  • cookie dough
  • ham, cream cheese, and sharp cheddar
  • tomatoes and cream cheese
  • fruit and jam
  • marinara, mozarella, and pepperoni
  • shredded meat with gravy
  • shredded chicken with taco or enchilada sauce and cream cheese
  • pot pie filling with mixed veggies
  • candy bar chunks
  • marshmallow and chocolate chunks
  • peanut butter and chocolate
  • peanut butter and jelly or jam
  • bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, and cheese
  • baked beans with crumbled bacon
Yummm-MMMM! The list goes on and on! Here's my recipe:
  • Heat vegetable oil to 375 degrees. (I use a deep fryer)
  • Mix 1 cup all purpose flour, 4 tbsp shortening, and enough cold water to form a ball of dough.
  • Roll it out on a lightly floured surface to about 1/8" inch thick.
  • Use a biscuit cutter or a large glass to cut rounds.
  • Place filling on one side of the round, wet the outer edge with water, fold over and pinch closed. Pinch the edges several times to ensure a solid seal.
  • Fry till light golden brown-around 4 minutes.
  • Drain on a cooling rack placed inside a baking pan.
  • Roll sweet fried pies in granulated sugar or top hearty pies with shredded cheese, garlic salt or other spice combo.
  • Store in air tight containers in refrigerator or freezer. Reheat in microwave or oven (oven method maintains crisp flaky pie texture).
Dough Tips: Lots of people use butter instead of shortening in their pie dough. The trick with butter is to work with it quickly so it stays cold. I don't have a food processor making it difficult to work with the cold butter quickly enough to get a good pie crust. Butter flavored shortening will give you the buttery taste without the hassle of working with pie dough.

Recipe Tips: I find half moon shapes are simpler and work better in the fryer than a whole circle shape. Half moons flip easier in the fryer and cook more evenly. If you are really good with frying pies, then go for more fun shapes like hearts, stars, etc. *You don't need a deep fryer to fry pies. You can use vegetable oil in a skillet or pot just make sure it's heated to approximately 375. Get the oil too hot-the pie cooks too fast, temp too low and it gets soggy instead of crisp and flaky.

*If for some reason you don't want fried pie, simply prepare as above, scoring the top of the pie dough and bake at 350 till golden brown. I'm southern so I like 'em fried!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Make Your Own Treasure Hunt

~Heather also blogs at HEATHER LESSITER and The Fat Bottomed Girl.~

My kids love to do treasure hunts and scavenger hunts. It is cool to find "treasures" hidden in your very own back yard; the excitement, the mystery, it is all so much fun! Read on to find out how to have your own homemade treasure hunt.

This is a fun activity for a birthday party, too; perhaps one with a pirate theme even! Hide a treat bag for each guest that they get to take home with them.
For this particular treasure hunt, I kept some paper tubes from foil and plastic wrap. I thought the brown color would lend itself well to hiding the treasures outside. I placed the treasures in zip-top bags and then into the tubes.

I had been buying small things here and there when I was at the store without the kids, so they had no idea that these treats were even in the house. I even kept the entire hunt a surprise from them. I planned it out ahead of time, so all I had to do was hide the treasures as I went about my daily routines. They were so excited when I told them there would be a treasure hunt after lunch!
The "treasures" I used were:
Paper lunch sacks- This is where they'll put their treasures as they find more of them. I marked them with each child's name. I know this isn't exactly a treasure, but it was one more stop for the kids to make and they thought it was cool.
Gumballs- these are something I keep around as it is.
Swedish fish- I little extra I picked up at a local chocolate factory.

PEZ- No dispensers, just the candy you put inside of them.
Coins- quarters in this case.

Since our hunt was for a wide range of ages, I made the hunt a bit harder. The older kids helped the younger kids. If your kids are very young, you could simply draw or print pictures of the places the treasures are hidden. Tailor the clues to your child's capabilities and your craftiness. You can either have an individual treasure or loot bag for each child or do as I did and have group treasures that will get divided evenly.

If you have group treasures, you will want to set the first clue aside to give to the kids. Place the second clue with the first treasure, the third clue with the second treasure and so on so that when they find the first treasure, they will find the clue to the next spot. I make a list of the treasures and where to hide them before I get started so I don't forget what goes where.
Before you turn the kids loose, you may want to lay out some ground rules, especially if you have a range of ages, such as 'no running ahead' so the younger kids don't get left behind or hurt and 'divide the treasures equally'. I like to outline these in the first clue.

Your treasure hunt can be as complex or simple as you like. If you aren't into giving your kids candy as their treasures, here are some other items you could use:

~ Craft supplies. Place a different item in each spot. When the hunt is complete, the supplies they have found can be used to make a craft! They will have fun trying to figure out what they'll be making along the way.
~ School supplies. Hide all of the things they'll need for school!
~ Coins. When they are done searching, they can count up the total. This would be a great way to sneak in a math lesson at the same time!
~ Coupons. Make coupons for things like renting a movie, having a friend over, reading a story together, family game night, staying up 15 minutes late, Mom makes your bed for one day, etc.
~ Random items such as lip balm, stickers, notepads, markers, bouncy balls or cars. This list could go on and on.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rich. Moist. Chocolaty. Zucchini?!?!

Yesterday was a long day. At the end of it I enjoyed some much needed peace and quiet while doing the dishes. The kids were occupied in quiet activities. I was lost in my thoughts when I noticed that it was dark outside.

Dark? I panicked a little. How did the day slip away from me. The kids should be in bed. I looked at the clock and it was only 8:30. Wasn't it just yesterday that I was battling to put the kids in bed at 9:30 because it was still light outside? Where did the summer go?

The first of September is next Tuesday, and here at Make it from Scratch the first of the month is a time for everyone to share new things they have made from scratch. We call it Firsts on the Firsts. I love Firsts on the First because it challenges me to try new things, and move things from my "someday" list to my "done" list.

Summer is normally a time when I try a lot of new things. There is an abundance of produce to work with, and we need new ways to prepare it. This summer should be called the Summer of the Zucchini. Even with losing most of my plants to the dreaded vine borer, we have had an abundance of zucchini. We've made many old favorites, and tried many new ways to prepare it this summer. The latest of which is Zucchini Brownies.

Zucchini Brownies

Moist and chocolaty cake like brownies with zucchini.

See Zucchini Brownies on Key Ingredient.

These were quite delicious, and probably the most moist made from scratch brownie I've ever made. They weren't quite as dense and fudge like as I might like, but they are still extremely good.

I did not peel the zucchini before shredding, and only slight hints of green could be seen in the brownies after baking. If your family is highly picky and would balk at the green in the brownies, simply peel before shredding.

Yet another new zucchini recipe that has found a place in my stash. I love trying new things. Especially when they turn out as well as this! I hope you join us on Tuesday to share something new you have tried recently.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Carnival #130

This week It's Frugal Being Green is our hostess for the Make it from Scratch carnival. Thanks to Carrie for putting the carnival together for us. Be sure to check out the entire carnival! Some of my favorites:

Chicken Salad Filled Puffs

These sound incredibly yummy!

How to make your own pectin.

We make a lot of jams here. Making my own pectin would make those jams even more frugal. Very interesting.

24 Ways to Fill an Omelet

I'm always looking for new ways to serve eggs.

Don't forget that next Tuesday is the first (already.) In addition to the carnival it is Firsts on the First! share something new that you've tried to make from scratch!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Fun Fruity Drinks

Like most adults, I drink an alcoholic beverage on occasion. Mostly when we go out to dinner. I prefer the fruity sweet drinks (like many women) as opposed to hubby who likes either Crown n' Coke or Miller beer (like the majority of men). Restaurants charge any where from $4.00 to over $6.00 for one regular sized drink. Mega or super sized drinks can cost much more. This is as much as a dessert in many places making dining out incredibly costly. To reduce the cost of dining out without sacrificing a good drink, I've adjusted to making my drinks at home. Since I don't know much about mixing drinks I turned to iDrink to find out how to make my favorite drink, a Hurricane.

Splash grenadine
2 ounces orange juice
4 ounces pineapple juice
1 shot dark rum

Mix the orange juice, pineapple juice and dark rum (I prefer Southern Comfort) over ice. Add enough grenadine to color the drink red. Enjoy

There's tons of recipes for a hurricane but the one listed above and this one are my favorites. Normally it's served with a cherry and orange wedge garnish.

Another variation of this is my favorite: Sparkling Hurricane. I created it myself. Use the above recipe, reduce your pineapple juice to 2 ounces while adding 2 ounces or so of 7up, Sprite, or other lemon lime flavored soda! This is really yummy but remember to drink in responsibly and NEVER EVER drink and drive!

For the kids, serve them a Shirley Temple. Lemon lime soda with a splash of grenadine garnished with cherries and orange wedge.

There you have it, a few fun fruity drinks for you and the kids. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Make Your Own Rubber Band Gun

~Heather also blogs at HEATHER LESSITER and The Fat Bottomed Girl.~

My 11 year-old son saw a video on YouTube demonstrating how to make your own rubber band gun using household items. He HAD to try it! It is so cool that I told him we had to post it here.

Materials Needed:
Standard 12 inch ruler
3 rubber bands
1 short pencil (about 3 inches)
1 long pencil (sharpened with the lead broken off)

Step 1: Tape the short pencil to one end of the ruler (on the flat side of the ruler) as shown leaving about 1/4 inch of the sharpened end sticking out past the end of the ruler.

Step 2: Hold the long pencil perpendicular (pointed end up) to the ruler about 9 inches from the end you taped the short pencil to.

Step 3: Secure the long pencil to the ruler using two of the rubber bands by looping the rubber band over each end of the pencil. Twist and loop the rubber band around the pencil as many times as necessary to tighten it down. This will be your trigger and the tighter you make the rubber bands, the further it will shoot.

Step 4: Loop the last rubber band over the short pencil end and stretch it over the pointed end of the long pencil. The sharpened ends of the pencils will help your rubber band slip off a bit easier.

Step 5: Aim away from people and pets, pull the trigger (bottom of the long pencil) and let 'er rip!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Guest Post: Homemade Yogurt

Today Katie from Kitchen Stewardship shares how to make homemade yogurt with tips and hints for success.

I’ll bet a lot of people are apprehensive about making homemade yogurt for a variety of reasons:
1. too much time
2. too complicated
3. afraid it won’t work out
4. growing bacteria just sounds scary and dangerous

My job is to dispel all your fears and teach the no dishes, no fuss way to make homemade yogurt. Here’s your motivation:
1. At current prices of $1.99/gallon for milk and $2-3 per 32 oz. tub of plain yogurt, I save $6-10 every time I make a gallon of yogurt, which I do every 2 weeks or less. That’s about $200 a year off my food budget.

2. Nutritionally, I can be totally in charge of the ingredients. No high fructose corn syrup or fake foods for my family. Just the health benefits of yogurt, thank you!

3. Environmentally, I save about 100 32 oz. plastic tubs from going into landfills or being recycled every year.

4. If you compare to the little plastic presweetened cups, the savings are immeasurably greater in every category. For example, the last time I read the nutrition facts on a 6 oz. yogurt cup, it contained about 45 grams of sugar. One teaspoon of sugar has 4 grams, and an 8 oz cup of milk has 12. I don’t think I could add enough fruit to make 45, so I guarantee you can cut your sugar intake…significantly…by using plain yogurt!

How Much Time Does it Take to Make Homemade Yogurt?
Grand Total: 15 minutes active work, an hour and a half that you’ll need to be at home.
• 5 minutes to pour milk into jars
• a few minutes over the next 20 minutes to check on temperature
• a few minutes to move the jars to the fridge
• wait an hour
• 5 minutes to stir in the starter
• a few minutes to get the jars in the freezer and then the fridge

How Complicated is it?
The basic steps:
1. Heat to sterilize the milk. (185 degrees)
2. Cool milk to proper incubation temperature. (90-120 degrees)
3. Add starter yogurt.
4. Incubate at warm temperature 4-24 hours.
Click here for raw milk modifications and experiments.

Let’s get started. There are a bunch of ways to do this, but here’s the easiest method, in my opinion. I realize this post looks very long, but it’s just because I want to hold your hand through every step to take the fear out of the process, which is really simple once you read through this and try it once.

Supplies necessary:
• Glass jars (quart canning jars or empty mayo or spaghetti sauce jars work great)
• Milk (any, from skim to whole)
• Candy thermometer, but I can show you how to do it without one too
• Pot large enough to hold your glass jars
• 2 Tbs of plain yogurt per quart of milk (Buy the freshest yogurt possible at a store and make sure it has “live and active cultures”. I prefer Dannon. I know it has the three top cultures that I’m looking for to help the gut. The little cups are often on sale for 40-50 cents.)
• picnic cooler
• bath/beach towel
• timer

• Run jars and lids through the dishwasher to sterilize. I just cap them and put them away until I need them (assuming if no air gets in, no bacteria will either). They should be totally dry before capping. If you’re a real baby stepper, just put this step on your to-do list for this week, along with “print and read yogurt directions”. Then NEXT week you can tackle “make yogurt” on a day of your choosing!
• Get out picnic cooler and clean bath towel.

How to Make Homemade Yogurt, The Easy Way
The very first time you make yogurt will take a little more attention, because you’ll have to check temperatures to figure out the timing with your refrigerator. After that, it’s a piece of cake!
1. Put your sink washcloth in the bottom of the pot. This will prevent the jars from breaking if they start shaking when the water boils (especially if you forget about them).
*Added bonus: You know how sometimes even after washing your dishrag, it still smells sour? This will knock the stink right out!

2. Pour milk into your jars to about an inch from the top.

3. Place jars into the pot and fill pot with tap water around the jars.

Milk ready to boil in the pot. You can see two mayo jars, one canning jar, and a spaghetti sauce jar.

4. Put candy thermometer on edge of pot. Cook on high heat until boiling (now your thermometer is sterilized). Sometimes I put a spoon in there too so I know it’s sterile for stirring the yogurt starter in.

5. Move thermometer into one of the jars; turn heat to medium-low or so, just enough to keep the water boiling.

6. When the milk is at about 185 (you can’t burn it with this method, so if you forget it for a while, it’s OK!) turn off the heat and put lids on the jars.
The no-thermometer method: When a “skin” appears on the top, you’re at temp. Just scoop the skin off and throw it in the sink.

7. Cool the jars of milk in the refrigerator. Optional: Take starter yogurt out and let it sit on the counter. This ensures that it’s not too cold when you mix it into the warm milk. You can also cool the milk in a sinkful of cold water with ice. It works in about 20-30 minutes with water just halfway up the sides of the jars at my house!

8. Put a lid on your pot of boiling water and arrange the towel in the cooler so you can put the pot in there without melting anything, then close the lid, towel and all.

9. Your goal is to get the milk down to about 110 degrees. Incubation happens between 90-120 degrees, so you have decent wiggle room, but 105-112 is optimal. At my house it takes 50 minutes.

The first few times you make yogurt, you’ll figure out what your fridge can do. Keep your thermometer sterile and check after about 45 minutes, or leave the thermometer in the jar for the first time only and check at intervals, keeping in mind that opening the fridge will change the temperature in there just a bit, so adjust next time when you simply set the timer.

No-thermometer method: You can learn what the jars feel like from the outside. I’ve found that I can’t hold onto the jars with bare hands for more than a few seconds, it’s still too hot. Give it 5-10 more minutes and check again. 118 degrees is the temp at which enzymes and yogurt bacteria die. It’s also the temp at which humans say “ouch!” God built in a way for us to know when our food is too hot for our health! Another way to check the temp of the milk is to use a clean spoon and drip a bit onto your wrist. You want it to feel warm, but not painful. Remember that your body temperature is about 98, and your goal is approximately 10 degrees higher. If you do have a thermometer, I would recommend the first few times to use it and your wrist so that you know what 110 feels like for future reference.

*If you miss and it gets too cold, just heat it up again in the pot on the stove. It’s just milk at this point, so you’re not out anything!

10. Stir in ~2 Tbs. plain yogurt for each quart of milk. Stir gently; remember that you’re dealing with living organisms and you don’t want to knock them senseless! More is not better; too much starter can make bad yogurt. Again, these living organisms need room to reproduce. If you ask too many to live together, it’s like making tenements and living conditions aren’t as nice for your friendly bacteria!

11. Get those lids on again and nestle your jars in the cooler. Keep them wrapped in one half of the towel and take the lid off the pot to let the heat out, then close the lid of the cooler to keep the heat in.

My yogurt jars happily nestled in the cooler, ready to incubate. Before I close the lid, I'll wrap the towel end from the right around the jars.

Keep the cooler still, more or less. Jiggling will affect the consistency of the yogurt. Don’t let the kiddos “cooler-race” in the kitchen! If you have no room in your kitchen, put the cooler in another room and leave yourself a note to remind you when to take the yogurt out.

12. You have to make a call on whether you check your yogurt temp every hour or so (you can add more boiling water to the pot if the temp is getting too low) or just let it go and see what happens. Keep in mind that again, when you open your cooler, you’re affecting the temperature. I would recommend leaving it alone, and as long as your cooler is tough enough to keep the heat in the first time, you will never have to babysit your yogurt. This is NOT rocket science!

13. Incubate 4-24 hours. Shorter incubation makes sweeter yogurt, longer is more tart. Also lower incubation temperature makes sweeter yogurt and higher makes more tart. I’ve had good success between 4 and 8. I forgot it once when my goal was 4 hours and found I liked it better at 6. I forgot it once at 6 hours and found that 8 is fine, but I liked 6 better. More recently I read that after incubating a full 24 hours, almost all the lactose is eaten by the bacteria, making the yogurt extremely digestible. I tried leaving one jar for 24 hours, and it wasn’t too bad. I usually shoot for about 16 nowadays. Experiment to see what you prefer!

Note: If you incubate longer than 8 hours, I would recommend setting a teapot to boil and pouring the contents into your pot. For 24-hour-yogurt, I add boiling water before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. I’ve never “checked” on the temp of my yogurt - I prefer to leave it alone - and I’ve had no problems.

14. When the time is up, put the jars into the freezer for about an hour. This improves the texture. No room in the freezer? (I did have a broken jar once when I put it directly into the ice.) Just go right in the fridge. If you forget the yogurt in the freezer, it’s fine. Yogurt can freeze! Just thaw in your fridge.

Note: Don’t get too interested in what it looks like until the yogurt is cold. I have a feeling stirring, and definitely shaking, the jars at this point hurts the process.

15. That’s it! You have created yogurt!

What Does it Look Like?
Most of the time, the finished product will have a yellowish “whey” around the thicker yogurt. This is normal! You can pour it off (into your soup, preferably - there’s protein in that whey!) or stir it in, depending on what consistency you want.

See the whey? Looks gross, but it's just what you want!

8-hour yogurt on the left, 16-hour on the right. The 16-hour yogurt is a bit thicker, but not appreciably so.

The Easy Clean up

Lay out your towel to dry and use it for your showers. Air dry your pot and cooler and put them away. Your only “dishes” include a spoon and a thermometer (maybe). Nice!

When your yogurt is cooled and ready to eat, take out a few Tablespoons for a starter for your next batch. Store it in a clean container and date it (I use a glass baby food jar that has been through the dishwasher). Best practice is to take your starter out first so that it’s the least contaminated by folks dipping out yogurt throughout the week.

I’ve found that I can make a batch every one to two weeks or so and the starter is still plenty strong. I might buy a new starter at the store every two months. If my yogurt starts getting runny, especially twice in a row, I can solve it by buying a new starter.

Visit Kitchen Stewardship’s Easy Homemade Yogurt for serving suggestions and troubleshooting tips, plus nutrition notes on skim vs. whole milk and organic milk. Katie @ Kitchen Stewardship shares weekly Monday Missions to challenge you to take baby steps towards being a better steward of God’s gifts of your health, earth, time and money.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home Canned Apple Pie Filling

Last week we began picking apples. Our first apples are wild ones that are firm and tart. They are great for baking, and many of them become apple crisp. We also can a lot of apples, mostly in the form of applesauce.

In previous years I have canned apple slices. One year they turned out pretty well. The next they were just mush. I think the difference was in the type of apple used. This year I wanted to try something different.

A friend mentioned she had a good recipe for apple pie filling. Perfect!

apples peeled, cored and sliced
9 cups water
1 cup corn starch
4.5 cups of sugar
2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Bring 8 cups of the water, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and lemon juice to a boil. Mix remaining cup of water with corn starch and slowly add to boiling mixture.

Pack apples into hot sterilized jars. Pour the boiled mixture over the apples, leaving 1" head space. Seal and process in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.

I'm not exactly sure how many apples I used, but I ended up with 6 quarts of filling. It all looked pretty in the jar, but the real test is in the tasting. We opened a jar last night. After all, we have to know if we like it before I make another batch.

I used it to make an apple crisp. Using the canned pie filling is not as good as fresh apples in my opinion, but the filling was quite delicious. The apples were soft, but did not turn into mush. I will be making more of this pie filling. The only thing I will change is using less sugar when I make the crisp topping. The sugar in the filling is more than sufficient.

Need more ideas for apples?
Crockpot Apple Butter
Apple Ginger Preserves
Make your own Apple Cider Vinegar

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Carnival #129

Thank you, thank you to mommy2my9 (or should we say 9.5?) for hosting this week's edition of the Make it from Scratch carnival. Be sure to check the entire carnival at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven. Picking favorites was pretty hard this week, but I narrowed it down to three. Here are some of my favorites from this edition:

Ballet Slippers from a Washcloth
I have a love hate relationship with slippers. They are a must have in the winter, but I haven't been able to find a pair that keep my feet warm without making them too hot. This quick and economical project may be a solution.

Recycled Plastic Bag Shell Purse
Long time Make it from Scratch participant Cindy has simply outdone herself this week. This is a beautiful project.

Ricotta Hotcakes
I simply must agree with Liss, *drool.*

Thank you for joining us for the carnival this week.

Some other carnivals you may enjoy:
Festival of Frugality
The Homesteading Carnival
All things Eco

Monday, August 17, 2009

Denim Wallet Project

I upcycled an old holey pair of denim jeans and an equally old and holey western style shirt, tossed in a bit of felt and WHA LA! A boy's denim wallet was born.

Cut 4 Strips of fabric

Outer Wallet Fabric 10" x 5"

Inner Wallet Fabric 10" x 4 3/4"

Inner Credit Card Pocket 9 1/2" x 3 1/2"

Top Pocket 9 1/2" x 3 7/8"


Measure 1/4" from the edge of the fabric (wrong side),


mark with a straight edge & pencil. Spray with starch, fold on line and iron. Stitch the hemmed edge in place with a basic running stitch.

015Place the inner credit card fabric in the center of the inner wallet fabric. Right sides on both. Stitch sides and bottom with running stitch leaving top open.(Notice the top of the denim is hemmed. Fold over [approximately 1/4"] twice, press and stitch.)


Measure approximately 2 3/4" from the edge of the denim and stitch in your credit card holder. Flip the wallet around to other side and repeat! I used painter's tape to mark my guide.


Assemble the wallet. Line up the denim fabric with wrong sides facing each other. 025Stitch as close to the credit card fabric as possible without stitching over it. Using a seam ripper, fray the unhemmed edges, trim the excess to approximately 1/4".

Fold and press each side for several minutes to help the wallet keep it's form. Add any embellishments to personalize for a fabulous boy's wallet.


Read Jennifer's other craft and recipe ideas at the Frugal Front Porch.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Gift Tins

~Heather also blogs at HEATHER LESSITER and The Fat Bottomed Girl.~

I like to make my own breadcrumbs, but the time it takes to toast the bread and smash or grate them into crumbs plus the cleanup afterwards leads me to buy them more often than make them. Hey, a buck thirty-nine a can is well worth it to me most days.

Believe it or not, this actually does have something to do with my craft today. :o)

So I am left with these cute cardboard cans with nicely-fitting plastic lids that clean up so easily that I can't throw them out. I save them for the kids to play with or to one day make something with them. Today is that day.

These cute little gift tins would are perfect for small gifts or to fill with a treat and a gift card or cash! How sweet would this be for a teacher gift of pens or markers or notepads? This would make a nice way to give a small gift to a co-worker or neighbor as well. The containers are food safe, so why not bake up some cookies, wrap them loosely in wax paper and deliver them in one of these tins? You could make several of these up and have them at the ready for last minute gifts, too!

Depending on what paper you use, you could make them neutral for any occasion or tailor them to a holiday or event. Using card stock would be a great way to match colors for a grad party or baby gift. I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Oh! They are reusable, too!!!!

Materials Needed

Empty bread crumb container(s) with lids

Wrapping paper, butcher paper or card stock


Glue, double-sided tape or glue dots

Bow (optional)

Stickers or other embellishments (optional)

Step 1: Empty the container by tapping it over an open trash can or sink. I use a dry paint brush to get the crumbs out of the edges in the bottom, then wipe out with a very slightly damp cloth. Allow to dry. Remove the label from the container if it has one.

Step 2: Measure the can and then the paper you're going to cover it with. If you aren't sure about cutting it straight enough, simply cut the paper larger than you need and fold the edges in along a straight-edge.

Step 3: Place adhesive in a straight line from the top rim of the can to the bottom rim.

Step 4: Lay the can, with adhesive side up towards you, on your paper and bring the paper up around the sides so you can make sure it is straight before actually attaching it to the can. Press one edge onto the adhesive and repeat with the other edge.

Step 5: If you've used plain paper or card stock, you can decorate the sides with stickers, scrapbooking elements or photos. Let your imagination run wild on this one!

Step 6: Top with a bow, ornament, small toy or party favor.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Fried Okra

This year we tried several new plants in the vegetable garden. One of which you can see blooming here. I've been extremely please with our okra plants. The plants have been incredibly easy to grow. They have not needed any special attention. They have not been under attack by any pests. Their blooms, though a bit hidden, are beautiful. But most importantly, in a vegetable garden, they are producing a good amount of delicious vegetables.

We have used okra in stir fry's and stews, but our favorite way to eat okra is fried. Below is a quickie recipe that I came up with on the fly.

Fried Okra

See Fried Okra on Key Ingredient.

Okra has earned a spot in my garden. It will be there again next year in larger quantities. For an excellent article about okra see Okra: One of the Worlds Most Misunderstood Vegetables over at Food Blogga.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carnival #128

Gotta a Little Space is our hostess for this week's carnival. There is a wonderful variety this week of cooking, crafting, and sewing projects. Be sure to check out the entire carnival. A few that caught my eye:

Lentil Stuffed Tomatoes

Would love to make these...if my tomatoes ever get ripe.

Bite-sized French Toast
I think the kids would love these!

Using Safer Homemade Cleaners

A great list of ideas for homemade cleaners.

Thanks for joining us this week. hope to see your post included in the carnival next week! You may also enjoy the Homesteader Carnival.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Paula Deen's Peanut Butter Cake

Hubby's birthday is coming up next Sunday. His favorite sweet is chocolate peanut butter cups so I when I found this recipe I knew it was THE cake to celebrate his 34th birthday. I sure hope he likes it!



  • 1 cup all-purpose flour*
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder*
  • 1 teaspoon salt*
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • Peanut butter (at least 1/2 cup; if using more, decrease shortening by an equal amount)
  • 3/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs


  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, salted**
  • 2 cap-fulls vanilla extract
*I plan to substitute self rising flour for the all purpose flour, salt, and baking soda. This will simplify this recipe a bit.
**I plan to dust the cake top with finely chopped peanuts instead of mixing the whole peanut in the frosting.


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F if baking with a metal dish; 325 degrees F if using a glass dish.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Add graham cracker crumbs, peanut butter, shortening, milk, and vanilla. Beat mixture with electric mixer on low until moistened, and then beat on medium for 2 minutes. Add eggs and beat for 1 minute. Bake in greased 9-inch by 13-inch pan for 30 to 35 minutes. Do not remove from pan to cool.

For the frosting: mix all of the ingredients together. Pour into a saucepan and bring mixture to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Cool slightly. With a wooden spoon handle, poke a few holes in the cake, and then pour the warm frosting over it.

Jenn also writes about frugal living, crafts, and cooking at the Frugal Front Porch.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Flip-Flop Sandal Card

~Heather also blogs at HEATHER LESSITER and The Fat Bottomed Girl.~

This simple yet adorable card is perfect for a summer birthday party. Depending on colors and materials used, the look can be changed for a boy or a girl. This one was made to match the birthday cake which was decorated with green and pink flip-flops.

Materials Needed:
Paper or printable shoe pattern*
Card stock
Ribbon or cording
Glue (I recommend glue dots)
Stamps and/or stickers (optional)

Step 1: Trace a child's shoe onto a piece of paper or print the pattern I made following the tips below*.

Step 2: Fold a piece of card stock and trace the pattern being sure to place the outer side of the shoe directly on the fold; cut the card stock along the lines.

Step 3: To cut the ribbon or cording to make the shoe straps. Lay the ribbon on the shoe shape to determine where the straps should lay to look correct and cut the pieces slightly longer than what you need.

Step 4: Using glue or glue dots, attach two ends of the ribbon at the point that would fall between the first and second toe. Fold the other ends under slightly and attach them to the shoe shape near the edges. Trim any long ends off.

Step 5: Use stamps, markers or stickers to embellish your flip-flop sandal card.

*Instructions for printing shoe pattern: Click on the picture below. Go to your file menu and click on "print preview". An over sized picture of the pattern will come up. Click on the arrow next to "shrink to fit". For a card that will fit into a standard envelope, type 35% in the box. For a slightly larger card that will fit into a business size envelope, type 40% into the box. Click on the print document button.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Roasting Corn on the Cob

Fresh sweet corn, one my favorite summer indulgences. The corn in my garden did not produce very well this year. We ate every last little ear it did produce though, and are patiently awaiting our second planting which looks much healthier.

The neighbor's corn, however, is big, sweet, and beautiful. And she has just invited me to come and pick all I want. I will be there today (after I pick my beans, again.)

Sweet corn is good about any way you fix it, but my favorite way is to roast it on the grill. Roasting on the grill is easy, and the taste is incredible. As an added summer bonus, grilling the corn keeps the heat outside, where it belongs.

The How To:

1) Preheat the grill on medium heat.
2)Remove the outer layers of the husk, and pull out the brown silk of the corn.
3) Place on the grill. Turn occasionally, and roast for about 40 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the grill heat, and the size of the ears. Pull back the husk a bit to check, but be careful. The corn will be very hot.

One additional tip: If your corn is not fresh picked, you will need to add one additional step. Soak the ears in water for half an hour or so to rehydrate the husk. This will prevent them from catching fire on the grill.

Removing the husk and remaining silk is an easy task after roasting. The corn will stay hot in the husk for quite some time. So, be careful when you started to shuck it.

Enjoy that sweet taste of summer!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Carnival #127

This week the carnival is traveling down under to Frills in the Hills for the Make it from Scratch Carnival, Aussie Style. Thanks to all who participated, and a big thanks to Liss for putting it all together for us! Here are some of my favorites this week.

Onion Soup
This sounds delicious; creamy and served over French bread. Yum!

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

We all need a little chocolate in our lives!

Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
A very simple (and economical) way to kill germs.

Next week the carnival will be at I've Got a Little Space. Hope you join us!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Easy Egg Drop Soup

Egg Noodle Egg Drop Soup

It's really not that difficult to make authentic Chinese Egg Drop Soup but I wanted some substance with it since it was a stand alone soup! I did some online research and found the same basic recipe but many methods to make it. The overwhelming problem with Egg Drop Soup was getting the egg to form silky ribbons instead of turning into a rubbery disaster. All the different sites kept repeating the key is constant stirring while slowly drizzling the egg into the soup. With a little ingenuity I resolved this problem so you can make Egg Drop Soup almost as easy as boiling water.


3 cups chicken stock

1/2 tbs salt

1 tbs freeze dried chives

1/2 cup uncooked egg noodles

1 tbs cornstarch

2 tbs cold water

1 egg + 2 tsp cold water


Bring top 3 ingredients to full boil on Med High heat. Toss in noodles and cook till al dente. While noodles are cooking: mix cornstarch and 2 tbs water in a separate bowl. Crack the egg plus 1 tsp cold water into a ziploc sandwich bag-seal-gently massage egg till beaten and set aside. (The goal is to avoid lots of air bubbles but to have the egg beaten well). Add cornstarch mixture when noodles are almost done and cook 2 additional minutes. Remove pot from heat, snip small tip off the corner of you beaten egg bag. Get ready to drizzle egg with one hand while constantly stirring with the other. (This part takes some finesse so you'll want to make sure you have the bag comfortably in one hand but still be able to control how you pour. That's why there's no photo of that step!) This method cooks the egg without over-cooking it resulting in light and tasty soup! Recipe makes enough for two lunch sized servings.

Ingredients Egg MixtureSnip Corner

Read Jenn's other recipes and craft projects at Frugal Front Porch.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Homemade Edible Jewelry

~Heather also blogs at HEATHER LESSITER and The Fat Bottomed Girl.~

I took a break from crafting this week and let the kids take over. I handed them a bowl of Lifesaver Gummies, a large bowl of Fruit Loops Cereal and some cotton crochet thread. They made bracelets and necklaces that barely lasted long enough to get pictures of them. We tied them up and they immediately started munching.

As they snacked and we talked, we started talking about other candies and cereals you could use. We started giving them cute names like ‘Breakfast on the Go’ and ‘Snacklets’. That gave us a great idea! We thought these would make great items for the kids to sell at school during their student store days.

The student store days are also called Factors of Production in 4th grade, but Matthew will be having a similar section this year in 6th grade. The kids learn all about running a business from research and development to marketing and sales. They can provide a service or a product. We talked about how easy these would be to make ahead, put into zip-top bags and label for sale. I can also see these being a great addition to any lemonade stand or bake sale!

So as part of our research, I'd like to ask you for additional ideas for these. What other cereals and/or candies would you use? Can you think of any other names that would be catchy or cute? Leave a comment and let us know! Thanks so much!

Firsts on the First - Preserving Cabbage

I've grown cabbage before, but only enough to eat. This year we planted quite a bit more in the spring, and started some from seed a few weeks ago for a fall crop. There is no way we are going to eat all that cabbage. Time to learn to preserve it!

A little over a week ago, we attended a play date with a group of friends. Hot dogs were grilled, and everyone brought a side dish to share. There was a bowl of coleslaw there that looked a little different than what I expect coleslaw to look like. I'm adventurous, so I added some of it to my hot dog. (It is a West Virginia custom, but one I've thoroughly embraced since living here.) It was different, but absolutely delicious.

Imagine my delight, knowing that I have a lot of cabbage, to find that it was a home canned slaw. Crystal was kind enough to share the recipe with me.

1 medium cabbage
1 large carrot
1 green pepper
1 small onion
1 tsp salt
1 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
2 cups sugar
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp mustard seed
*Boil syrup ingredients together one minute.
*let cool.
*shred together vegetables
*add salt
*let stand one hour
*Drain water from veggies
*rinse twice
*drain well
*pack tightly in pint jars
*pour enough syrup in each jar to fill space and bring to correct head space.
*process in BWB 15m.
*** Use as is or with mayo
My head of cabbage was fairly large. I doubled the other ingredients to accommodate. I did have some extra syrup left at the end, but just used it to make some fresh slaw for dinner.

I used the food processor to chop all the vegetables. The slicing blade worked very well for the cabbage, and the chopping blade did the job on the carrots. I used the grater on the onion and peppers, and I thought they were too fine that way. Next time I will simply chop those vegetables too.

I also packed mine in quart jars, and increased the boiling time to 20 minutes. My yield was three quarts.

And as if trying one new thing in a day weren't enough, I tried sauerkraut in a jar. I saw this recipe over at Laura Williams Musings last summer, when I had very little cabbage. This is a very simple recipe. Click on over there to see it.

I can't say for sure my cabbage preserving was a success, since we have not yet tasted the finished product. They sure do look pretty in the jars though!

How about you? Try anything new recently? Won't you share with us by leaving your link? Just click on the Mr. Linky image below!

Header designed by Crystal. Thanks!