Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Carnival is Coming Home

Just a reminder. The Make it from Scratch carnival will be hosted right here next Tuesday! Don't know how to participate? It is easy. Check out the simple as 1-2-3 instructions here. Just remember Sunday is the last day to enter your submission to be included in the next carnival!

Black Bean Chili

I am truly a throw it together kind of cook. Recipes normally serve as guidelines when I cook, not rules to follow to a T. Many of our meals are made without any recipe guideline at all. They are just put together with a little of this and a little of that. This style of cooking has served me well. I am able to cook with what we have on hand, and usually can come up with something that tastes pretty darn good, if I do say so myself.

The downside to cooking this way is that nothing I make ever quite turns out the same way each time. My husband once commented to me that he didn't think we'd ever eaten the same thing twice in all the years we've been married. Though a bit of an exaggeration, there definitely is a bit of truth to that statement. When something turns out really well, I often am at a loss to reproduce it.

The weather of late has me craving the comfort foods of winter. One of our family favorites is chili. Nothing warms a body like a steaming bowl of chili served with some homemade cornbread. Last night I pulled out the ingredients we had on hand. There were no red beans, but there were black beans and a can of chopped chilies that I had forgotten were there. Throw it all together in a pot, and the end result was quite delicious, worth repeating. So below is my best estimation of what actually went into that pot.

Black Bean Chili

Warm up with this slightly spicy chili on a cool ...

See Black Bean Chili on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Carnival #139

This week's carnival is a must see! (Well they all are aren't they? But this one is particularly good.) The carnival has so many wonderful fall ideas from costumes to squash to apples. Head over to Frills in the Hills to check them all out!

Hard to pick favorites this week, but here are a few that I found extra special!

Apple Gingerbread Cake
This looks like an absolutely delicious way to combine two favorite fall flavors. I'm really wishing I had some right now for breakfast!

Roasted Butternut Squash with Moroccan Spices
I love the spice combination in the recipe. I can just smell it cooking now.

15 Rice Quickies

Rice is one of my favorite frugal pantry staples. It is so versatile! Check out these quick and easy rice ideas.

Thanks for joining us this week!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Halloween Fun in a Flash

With less than a week left till Trick or Treaters hit the road there's still plenty of time to put together a fantastic costume and trick or treat bag. Here's some ideas.

  • Paint a plain fabric bag or tote with fabric paint using either stencils cut out on freezer paper and ironed onto the plain bag OR use kitchen sponges cut into pumpkin or bat shapes OR make it really easy by just printing Halloween images on iron-on transfers.
  • Make use of your sports gear and be a "professional athlete". Football, baseball, soccer, or even a basketball player.
  • The the artist within come out with a paint stained smock and a french beret hat. Cut out a painter's palette out of cardboard and use markers for the paint spots. Carry a paint brush or tape it to the palette.
  • A bathrobe, hair wrapped in a towel, fuzzy slippers and a facial mask turns you tiniest diva into a Spa Princess.
  • Use old sheets or pillow cases and become a mummy, ghost, or make super hero masks and capes. Mummy's get wrapped in strips of sheets or toilet tissue. Use felt or whatever you have lying around the house for super hero symbols.
  • Zombies are really easy. Dress in old play clothes - the more worn the better. Shag up the hair. Paint the hands and face a chalky color with some dark circles around they eyes and shade in with a charcoal color below the cheekbones and neck for a hollowed look. Walk stiffly making loud moaning sounds.
  • Use your little one's pretend play toys to complete costumes such as firemen, policeman, handy man, chefs, doctors, etc.
  • Rock and Movie Stars are just as easy. Use clothes already in the closet accessorized with fun sunglasses, funky hair paints, feathered boas, costume jewelry and other accessories.
Turning your kids into their favorite cartoon characters is really easier than you might think. Wild Man loves Ni Hao Kai Lan. A solid color sweat suit, black felt, head band with hot glued ears made of matching fabric as the main suit, and some easy face painting can easily turn him into Rin Tue the Tiger or Tolee the panda. Same goes for Boots from Dora. Tails can be made of socks, stockings or other materials. Find more great costume ideas here and here.

Safety Reminders
  1. Have your child carry a flashlight or have reflective tape on your costumes so motorist can see you. Ideally, do both to ensure their visibility in the dark.
  2. Don't trick or treat alone. There is safety in numbers.
  3. Only visit homes of people you know.
  4. Inspect all candy before allowing you child to consume any. Toss anything suspicious and not in original wrappers.
  5. Have Fun!
Jenn also blogs about recipes, saving money and other crafts at the Frugal Front Porch.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A sweet little note pad.

Kellie is a tree-hugging wife, mom to three, and late-night crafter. She blogs regularly at Greenhab and the Green Phone Booth.

I bought some of these teeny tiny little composition books during back-to-school time for $0.19 each. I knew I could find something crafty to do with them! These are going to make sweet little stocking stuffers. (Hopefully my mom isn't reading this!)

I started with a tiny comp notebook that was about 3" wide by 4" tall. Perfect size for the purse or car. I found a bunch of fabric sample squares at my local thrift store last month. This piece is 8x8". I used some ribbon so the user can tie it closed, but that isn't necessary. You might want to add some other little decorations to the front.

I cut the front fabric piece a little narrower than the width of the book, to allow the black spine to show, since it coordinated with my fabric. I cut it long enough to wrap around the bottom and create a pocket on the inside for business cards. You can really use your imagination on this and create it as you go!

Here I wrap the fabric around to the inside and press it with my finger so I know where the crease should be, then I removed it from the book and ironed it flat. I hemmed the bottom of the fabric (which would eventually be the top of the inside pocket).

Once that was done, I put the fabric in place and secured it with some binder clips. I did this to avoid the little holes that would be created by the pins I normally use when sewing. The binder clips held the fabric in place for the most part, but you just have to go slowly and make sure the fabric doesn't slide around.

You'll also want to add your ribbon at this point, before sewing. I slid mine in between the inside cover of the book and the pocket. You could sew it onto the outside and cover it up with a cute little button. Or you could use a piece of elastic, sew both ends in there, then use the elastic to wrap all the way around the book. Lots of ideas there!

Using a zig-zag stitch, I sewed all the way around. Then repeat on the back cover. I didn't make a back pocket.

When I got done I decided that the front looked too plain, so I sewed this little piece of canvas on and stamped my mom's name on it. You'll want to do that kind of thing before you sew the fabric onto the book, or you will see the stitching inside. (Lesson learned!)

This was such a quick and fun project. I'd like to do a patchwork version with some tiny little scraps I've been saving. The options are really endless.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Using Leftover Buns

Whenever I buy buns for hamburgers or hotdogs there are always a few left. What to do with them? Often I will throw them in the freezer with the heels and other leftover bread, to use for bread crumbs later.

Other times, if we are having an Italian type meal. I will make garlic bread with leftover buns. The simplest way is to just spread butter on the buns and sprinkle with garlic powder or garlic salt. If I am feeling more creative, I will mix softened butter with garlic powder, Parmesan cheese and other Italian spices like oregano and basil. It is really yummy with a bit of mozzarella cheese too. Stick the buns under the broiler until they are nicely toasted. Be careful they go quickly from not at all toasted to burnt.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Carnival #138

Welcome to Tuesday and the Make it from Scratch carnival! The carnival in its entirety can be found this week at 11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven. There is a little bit of everything this week. Here are some I found particularly interesting.

Herbed Olive Oil Crackers

Several posts on making your own crackers recently have me very interested in trying this at home!

100 Delicious Dirt-Cheap Recipes for the Starving Students
Though obviously geared toward college students, this list of frugal recipe links would be helpful to anyone trying to keep to a tight food budget. Besides, you gotta love any list that includes 12 different recipes for ramen noodles!

Chocolate Pudding

MMmmmm chocolate.....

Thanks for joining us for the carnival this week.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Homemade Herb Blends

With some basic herbs you probably already have in your pantry, you can make custom herb blends cheaper, fresher, and faster than the higher priced store versions. Here's a few recipes I pulled from my Reader's Digest Homemade cookbook.

Italian Herb Blend - Mix the following.
6 tbs drieds basil-crumbled
3 tbs dried oregano-crumbled
2 tbs dried parsley-crumbled
2 tbs dried thyme-crumbled
1 tsp dried garlic

Chili Powder - Mix the following.
3 tbs ground paprika
1 tbs ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1 1/8 tsp ground cayenne
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Creole Seasoning - Mix the following.
2/3 c ground cayenne
1/2 c + 2 tsp salt
1/4 c garlic powder
1/4 c onion powder
1/4 c chili powder
2 tbs + 2 tsp ground black pepper

Curry Powder - Mix the following.
1/4 c ground coriander
2 tbs ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground celery seed
1 tsp ground ground black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cayenne

Herbal tips
Herbs should be stored in airtight containers in cool dark dry places. Most will keep for about 6 months.

Create powdered versions of dried herbs by giving them a whir in the blender or food processor.

Measure spices blends into several coffee filters folded and tied off with string or stapled closed for an herbal bag. Perfect for soups, broths, and teas. Place several herb bags in a decorative glass jar and give as a gift.

Freeze seldom used herbs to extend their shelf life!

Jenn also blogs about crafts, recipes and other home making tips at Frugal Front Porch.

Linked to Kitchen Tip Tuesday, Tightwad Tuesday and Tackle It Tuesday.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

I recently finished processing the last of our pie pumpkins. This time I didn't feel like making pumpkin pie. This time I was in the mood for pumpkin pancakes.

Amy from the Mother Load posted a recipe for pumpkin pancakes some time ago. I loved it since I first read it there. I've adapted her recipe to include more spice for that fall flavor I cherish.

Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes

Soft, fluffy pancakes full of fall flavor.

See Spiced Pumpkin Pancakes on Key Ingredient.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Carnival #137

This week the carnival is hosted by Rina at Gotta Little Space. Thanks!

Here are some of my favorites this week:

Blue Hubbard Squash Casserole
This looks quite delicious. Blue Hubbard Squash just may go on my seed list for next year.

Homemade Enchilada Sauce
Red chilies....yum.....

Super Crunchy & Cheap Granola
How many granola recipes do I have to bookmark before I actually make the stuff?!

Hope you enjoy the carnival this week!

Monday, October 12, 2009

4 Step Holey Rags

I don't know about you but when our socks start to wear out, the toes and/or heels are the first to go. Since I don't know the first thing about darning socks to repair the damaged area, I extend their life by cleaning with them. Something I think many of us do.

My problem starts when I toss them in the laundry. Unless they are unusually stained with something I've cleaned or laundered completely separate from the 'good' socks, they get cycled back into the sock basket - where I toss all our socks till we make time to match them up. While they hide in the sock basket, I'm looking all over the house for my 'cleaning' rags. FRUSTRATING!

My solution?

4 easy steps turns my lost damaged socks into dish or facial rags with a scrubbie side AND a soft side.

Step 1: Cut straight across the toe area of the sock.*
Step 2: Start at the top of the sock and cut straight down.*
Step 3: You should have a flat almost rectangle shape of solid sock fabric with the ribbed side on one end. Fold in half with the ribbed texture on one side, wrong sides together and straight stitch around the edge with 1/4" seam or less. Be sure to leave an opening to pull the fabric through.
Step 4: Pull fabric through the opening and top stitch around the rag making sure to tuck under the unstitched area to form an even edge.

*Be sure to position your cuts to go through the hole or damaged area so your finished rag doesn't have a hole in the middle of it.

Crew or tube socks work best but with small modifications, you can use this concept on most socks. With the no show socks or ankle socks, simple cut as described above and use a running stitch or use a serger to prevent the edges from fraying.

Now you have a rag that won't get lost in the sock basket and a never ending supply of holey rags.

Jenn blogs about easy recipes, crafts, and a frugal lifestyle at the Frugal Front Porch.

Friday, October 9, 2009

~*Homemade Sandwich Wrap*~

Kellie blogs regularly at Greenhab and the Green Phone Booth.

We are all about packing healthy, waste-free lunches here in the Greenhab household. Well, I am at least. My 4 year old told me the other day "I think I'll leave my lunchbox here today mom. If a kid forgets lunch they give you a tray full of food and chocolate milk." He's too smart for his own good some times.

I do try to teach the kids about the importance of not only eating well, but packing lunches that don't require any packages or wrappers to be thrown away. For sandwiches, we have a Wrap-n-Mat that's really functional, but it's lined with plastic, which I'm not too keen on. Then we also have this green wrap, which is all plastic and a bit wonky anyway.

Since I'm packing ten lunches each week, I need a pinch hitter in case one of these is dirty, or left at school by accident. I incorporated ideas from several wrappers I've seen to come up with this extremely easy to make design.

I used two handkerchiefs for this, because my daughter liked the colors and they'd been sitting in my fabric stash forever.

You'll want to start with two circles of your fabric. You can make them the same, as I did, or use coordinating fabrics. I used a pot lid to measure out my 14 inch circles. Pin the circles, right sides together. Stitch around, leaving a 1/2 inch seam allowance and a hole for turning. Notch all around the circle so that it lays flat when you turn it right side out. Turn. Press flat. Top stitch all around.

Fold the sides in and press with an iron so that the wrap will naturally fold along those creases.

Add your velcro to the top and bottom. I used the kind that just sticks on, because that's what I had on hand. You can use any kind you'd like. Fill with a yummy sandwich and enjoy! This will also double as a place mat for your child as s/he eats lunch.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Super Easy Firestarters

Fall is here. The cooler weather has not only increased our hot chocolate consumption, but it has made fires in the fireplace a regular event. Which means it is time to split fire wood, and time to make fire starters. I'll leaving the splitting to my husband, but yesterday I experimented with some homemade fire starters.

Fire starters are not a necessity. The fire can be started using newspaper, but that requires keeping kindling wood on hand. It is much easier to just have a slow burning fire starter on hand, and to start the fire with that and the logs.

Last year I made my fire starters with drier lint, wax, and egg cartons. Find the how to at Dryer Lint Fire Starters. These work wonderfully, but Suz of Family Makes Cents suggested an even easier way to make them. Yesterday I tried her suggestion.

How simple is this? Just put dryer lint into a toilet paper roll and burn. I cut my rolls in half to stuff. My first attempt didn't work so well. They did not burn. The second attempt I stuffed the roll loosely with dryer lint. It worked so much better, burning nice and slow to light the logs.

I think we will be making all our starters this way this year. In fact, I think this would be a great project to set the kids loose on some afternoon. They will be able to make up a bunch of these in no time at all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Carnival #136

Edition #136 of the MIFS carnival is posted today at Lighter Side. The week's edition is packed full of delicious sounding recipes. Here are a few of my favorites:

Chocolate Dipped Apples
Apples dipped in chocolate and drizzled with caramel. I am drooling!

How to Grow Oyster Mushrooms
We occasionally find these mushrooms in the wild, and they are quite good. This video post shows an easy way to grow them at home.

Make Your Own Vanilla
This one of those tutorials that I see around blogs every so often, and every time I tell myself that I have to try this. Here I am saying it again.

Enjoy this week's carnival!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Semi Homemade Hand Soap

We traveled quite a bit last summer for hubby's doctor's visits. We stayed overnight at various hotels because hubby couldn't physically handle the long road trip back home. Thankfully he's better and we're no longer traveling so much but it's left me with a rather large collection of hotel soaps. What to do with them???

Here's a nifty little project you can do with hotel soaps or any bar soap bits you have lying around the house.
  1. Grate soap bits with a cheese grater into a glass dish or double boiler.
  2. Add boiling water and stir till all the soap is melted.
  3. Add optional scented oil.
  4. Allow to cool overnight in a glass dish.
  5. Stir well.
  6. Transfer to soap pump with a spoon and large funnel.
I used one grated hotel soap bar and a half pint of boiling water. If the consistency is too thick for your needs, place the glass dish back in a pot of boiling water to re-melt the soap. Mix more boiling water, allow to cool, and stir when cooled.

It's that simple to have your own hand soap, semi homemade!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Homemade Hot Chocolate and Mix

The weather has suddenly changed to very cool and damp. The leaves have not yet turned, but it feels as if fall is here. The temperature drop has the kids clamoring for hot chocolate. So, this week we made the first hot chocolate of the season.

We make two versions of hot chocolate in this house. If we have an abundance of milk on hand we will make the real stuff on the stove top using the following recipe quadrupled:

Homemade Hot Cocoa
2 tsp cocoa
2 scant tsp sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 cup milk
1/2 tsp vanilla
Put the cocoa, sugar and boiling water into a saucepan. Boil 1 minute, add milk and heat. Do not boil. Add vanilla. Makes 2 cups.

Often there isn't an abundance of milk, and it is convenient to have a mix on hand to whip up a few cups for the kids quickly on a chilly day. For this reason we also make our own hot chocolate mix. The recipe we use is adapted from the one found at the Hillbilly Housewife site.

Hot Chocolate Mix
4 cups of dry milk
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup of powdered coffee creamer
3/4 cup of cocoa powder
one package of instant vanilla or chocolate pudding

Put all the ingredients in the food processor and mix until blended. To serve put 1/3 cup of mix into a mug and stir in hot water.

To store our mix we simply use a recycled creamer container. If you have a fun loving husband like mine, perhaps your container can also be labeled using a movie quote.

Either way I make it, we all enjoy warming up with a steaming cup of yummy chocolate! Hope the weather is warmer where you are!

Top Photo Credit: Happy Sleepy

Header designed by Crystal. Thanks!