Photo credit: Gracie
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Photo credit: Gracie
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
The Thanksgiving countdown has begun. How are your preparations coming? Quite honestly I am rather behind, and will be sprinting to get everything done by Thursday! Yesterday, I had a small panic when my oven stopped working, but it is functioning again, thankfully!
I'm taking a few minutes this morning to check out the MIFS carnival hosted this week at Frills in the Hills. Here are a few favorites:
I just adore cranberries this time of the year. I love homemade cranberry sauce, and I love them in breads. Chutney, however, is one way I've never tried a cranberry. This looks delicious.
Wreath Ornaments Made with Pickling Spices
What an interesting, and I imagine fragrant idea.
This is a reminder to myself to make these again. We've made them exactly once. We loved them, but haven't made them again. I really should make a large batch to keep them on hand.
Thanks for joining us for the carnival this week. The Festival of Frugality is also up and can be found at the Financial Blogger. Hope you Thanksgiving preparations come along smoothly!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Now that Macy is in Kindergarten we are starting to get a lot of birthday party invitations. Little girl birthday parties are so much fun, aren't they? But birthday parties in general can get out of hand when you're spending $20 each and going to one every few weeks.
The last party Macy was invited to had a Tinkerbell theme and I just *happened* to see some very Tinkerbellesque tulle type fabric at JoAnn's the week before the party. Did I mention it was on sale from $9.95 down to $3.99 per yard, plus the lady gave me a 20% off coupon? Love love LOVE a bargain!
And I love a quick and easy project! Here's what I did:
1. Unfold the fabric, then refold it lengthwise. I made the top layer about 2 inches shorter than the bottom layer for a frilly-fairy-leaf effect. Iron with a barely warm iron if needed.
2. Fold the top down about an inch and pin, sew a hem across to make casing for your elastic waste.
3. Using a safety pin, thread your elastic through the waste band you just made.
4. Lay flat and cut petal leaves...unless you're making something other than a Tinkerbell skirt of course. You could sew some ribbon on like binding in a contrasting color!
5. Fold with right sides together, pin down the side, sew all the way down. This will change it from one big long piece of fabric into a skirt. Turn it right side out and you are halfway to Tinkerbell.
Now you have the cutest little outfit ever for a little girly girl. My daughter has already requested on for Christmas!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
I know this jar of meat doesn't look all that appealing, but I promise you that inside this jar is the tastiest quick meal starter ever.
Let's face it. Even those of us who thoroughly enjoy cooking and are committed to making food from scratch for our families, need a few quick and easy meals every now and then. The way I see it, we have two choices. We can buy heavily processed convenience foods filled with who knows what, or we can create some convenience foods of our own. I'd rather make my own. My favorite "convenience" food is canned stew meat.
Canning meat is a little time consuming, but the process is easy and the time involved is mostly passive while the pressure cooker is running.
First you need meat. Canning is perfect for the tougher cuts of meat. I can the leg meat and other small pieces from venison, but this process works for other red meats like beef, lamb or pork. This is a great way to preserve meat when you come across a fabulous sale.
Trim as much fat as possible, and cut the meat into cubes or chunks.
Pack raw meat into clean, hot jars. Loose pack and leave one inch head space. Put lids and rings on.
Process at 11 pounds pressure; 75 minutes for pints, and 90 minutes for quarts.
As the meat cooks under pressure it becomes extremely tender. Far more tender than I've ever been able to cook stew meat on the stove or in the oven. It also creates its own broth. The meat and broth together make a delicious quick start to a meal.
So, how do you use canned stewed meat? Here are some ideas:
Soups or Stews.
It is great for chili, vegetable soup, beef stew or any other stew or soup you like to make that calls for meat. Just add some water, tomato juice or more broth, vegetables, and spices.
You may need to drain the meat a little for this use. Reserve the broth for later use. Mix in vegetables throw it in a crust and bake.
Beef and Noodles
Cook the noodles in broth. Add the stew meat and spices, and thicken with sour cream or corn starch.
Sautee mushrooms and onions. Add some flour and then slowly add in the meat with the broth to create a gravy. Serve over mashed potatoes, toast or both, hot roast beef sandwich style.
Drain the meat. Add barbecue sauce. Heat and eat.
Beef and Rice
Cook rice in broth and water with spices and vegetables. Add in the meat.
I love having this ready cooked meat on hand to use when I've failed to plan or the plan has failed. It is cheaper, tastier, and likely more nutritious than any convenience food I could pick up at the store.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
This week the carnival is at Frugal Changes. Oh my goodness! There are so many wonderful entries this week. Here are a few that I really enjoyed.
Making Fabulous Paper Flowers with Tissue Paper
An easy and fun craft that could be done with the kids. I thing these will be great to do in the dead of winter to add a little spring to the house!
Soft Homemade Pretzels
I haven't had a big soft pretzel in a long time. These look so good!
An interesting way to repuprose a T-shirt. I like it!
Thanks for joining us for the carnival this week! And while you are checking out carnivals be sure to check The Festival of Frugality this week!
Sunday, November 15, 2009
I shared this on Frugal Front Porch yesterday. I thought I'd share it here too since the holidays are quickly approaching and some of you may be looking for a new cocktail to serve at a dinner or party.
This is the perfect drink to keep you warm during this cold holiday season. Spiced Apple Pie Cocktail. Yummy and delicious. It is best served warm but you could chill it or even kiddie-proof it by adding a bit of ginger ale! You can even turn this into tea if that's more your style.
1 red apple - cored and chopped or pureed
1 green apple - cored and chopped or pureed
1 nub ginger root - sliced thin
3/4 c white granulated sugar
2 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
4 c water
Southern Comfort or other preferred rum - optional
Cook top 8 ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat till all the sugars are melted, the apples have softened and the mixture is nice and bubbly. Approximately 10 minutes. Turn off heat and allow mixture to steep and additional 5 to 10 minutes. Turn this into a tea by adding another two cups of hot water and an orange pekoe tea bag at this time. Pour mixture through strainer or cheese cloth to remove apples and ginger and serve with a shot of rum or whiskey.
Makes approximately four 1 cup servings.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Soups and stews are staples in our fall and winter menus. I find them so warm and satisfying on a chilly day. It also helps that they are frugal menu choices, in most cases, and can be made from what you have on hand. That is my kind of cooking!
A good soup starts with a good broth. Making your own broth is a healthy and economical alternative to purchasing canned broth for your recipes. It also is very easy.
It is hunting season around here, and frequently you will find a pot of venison bones simmering on my stove. Those "leftovers" from the meat processing will become the base of many body warming soups over the winter months.
You don't have to have a hunter in the family though, to make your own broth. Making broth is easy, and can be done with any meat. I most often make venison broth, but often I make chicken broth. To make chicken broth, I roast a chicken one night for dinner, and the next day use the carcass to make broth.
Place the bones in a large stockpot. Cover them with water. Cover the pot and simmer until the broth is to your liking. Larger pieces, like venison, will take longer. Those will need to simmer for three to four hours. Smaller pieces, like chicken, only need an hour or less. Remove the bones. It is not essential, but I often will also strain the broth at this point. Meat that remains on the bones, or that is caught in the strainer, can be picked off and added back into the broth. Allow the broth to cool. When the broth has cooled skim off the fat.
Many cooks will add spices and vegetables to the simmering pot to enhance the flavor of the broth. I do not. I make a simple broth, and then add spices and flavorings when I use the broth later.
If you have made a large batch of broth, it is easily preserved. It can be frozen in freezer containers, or it can be canned. I prefer canning for the ease of use later. Broth should be pressured canned at 11 pounds pressure. Pints need 20 minutes, while quarts need 25 minutes.
Making your own broth is a very easy procedure. The time involved is almost entirely for simmering, and the end result is so much better than buying broth in a can. I encourage you to give it a try!
Many soups in my home start with this basic broth, but my favorite jump start to soup is starting it with canned stew meat. Check here next Thursday for more on that!
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
This week the carnival can be found at Gotta Little Space. Thanks to Rina for hosting this week! Here are a few of my favorites:
The Wonder of Green Smoothies
Fruits and veggies all blended together in a yummy drink, or so Sarah claims. Interesting....
Homemade Applesauce Muffins
I have quite a bit of applesauce from this season. These muffins sound like a delicious way to use my sauce.
Spicy Chicken Noodle Soup
This sounds like a delicious variation of an old favorite.
Thank you for joining us this week!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Roasted peanuts of any flavor are usually more expensive than their plain unsalted non-roasted counterparts. For this reason I choose to roast my own peanuts at home. I get the gourmet flavor without the gourmet price tag which comes in really handy during the holiday party season!
Honey Roasted Peanuts
- 2 c unsalted non roasted peanuts - already shelled will make it easier but if you're determined to do it super cheap and are really motivated then shell away ;)
- 2 tbs honey - just eyeball it
- salt - to taste
- You can sprinkle with salt after removing from the oven. It turns out well either way.
- Be sure you use PARCHMENT paper not WAX paper. Parchment paper does not burn in the oven and is non stick while wax melts and can burn if placed in a hot oven.
- Give it a gourmet flair with a sprinkle or paprika, ground red pepper flakes, garlic powder, ground Italian spices, cinnamon, allspice, or other spices.
Friday, November 6, 2009
I've been mom to a boy for 4 years now, but just recently became mom to a little girl. There are so many cute things out there for little girls - clothes and shoes and purses and accessories - I can hardly stand it. This is definitely where Doting Mom and Environmentalist don't mix very well. I'd love to go right out and buy every adorable thing I see, but it's just not the environmentally responsible thing to do - not to mention that times are a bit tight. But throw a little Crafter in the mix and you have a winning combination!
My little girl Macy is growing out her hair right now. It had been shaved at one point and I think it's super cute short but, like every little girl, she wants long, flowing hair. Needless to say we've been using lots of clips, rubber bands and head bands. I thought for her Christmas stocking I'd whip up a bunch of headbands with elastic that will actually stay on her head.
Here's how I made them. I'd urge you to measure the head of the person you're making this for and use those measurements, not mine!
Materials: scrap fabric, elastic.
Cut scraps for the headband: A front and back (Same fabric, or coordinating so that it can be reversible). I measured from behind one ear, over my head, to behind the other ear and added 1/4 inch to each end for seam allowance. I made mine 3' wide (plus seam allowance), but would recommend a small width for children.
Cut your elastic. This time I measured from ear to ear, under my head, pulling it so that it's snug but not too tight.
Cut a scrap to make the casing for the elastic. You'll want to take the length of the elastic and add about 4 inches to get your casing length (Ex: my elastic was 9 inches + 4 inches to allow for stretch = 13 inches long). I made the casing piece 2.5 inches wide.
Once your pieces are all cut, you'll put the 2 headband pieces right sides together and sew both of the long sides. Turn right side out, press. Turn each end in 1/4 inch and press.
Fold the casing in half, press, sew, turn right side out, press. Then, using a safety pin, thread the casing with the elastic. Be sure not to let the elastic slip back inside.
Finally you'll insert each end of the casing/elastic into the open ends of the headband. I folded in the corners so that the ends were about the same width as the elastic casing, then sewed it all shut.
I wanted this to have a gathered look where it was wide at the top, then gathered more towards the ears. Unfortunately that just didn't work well with the fabric I used, which was fleece. (Good thing I have a lot of fabric scraps to practice with!) Next time I'll cut the headband fabric so that it's wider at the top (middle) and more narrow towards the ears.
Here's the finished product. I was having a hard time modeling it and taking the photo, so Macy modeled it for me. You can see here that it's a bit too wide for a child's head, but I thought it looked like a good size on me. I'll be making hers more narrow.
I can't wait to make some of these in coordinating prints and solids so that they're reversible. You could also use a ribbon to tie it closed instead of elastic. I thought elastic would be best for my little girl since she's not tying bows herself quite yet.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Three weeks to Thanksgiving..... THREE WEEKS! It is time for the procrastinating hostesses, who have barely given a thought to the mass of people that will be at her house for a Thanksgiving feast in just THREE WEEKS, to get with it and start making a plan. Oh yes, my name is right at the top of that list!
To help us (and mostly I mean myself) get a move on, MIFS contributor Jenn and I have pulled together previous Thanksgiving posts found here, Frugal Front Porch and Stop the Ride. Here is a little Thanksgiving inspiration for us all (me!)
If you are hosting Thanksgiving at your house, there is so much to do. You'll want to have a clean house, and there are of course all the food items to prepare. It can't all get done the day before. You need a plan of attack. Here are some ideas:
Thanksgiving Day Game Plan
Pulling Off a Thanksgiving Feast
Oh my favorite part!
The main dish.
Roasting the Turkey
Potatoes and More!
Fried Green Beans
Pumpkin Pie or Pumpkin Pie made from a Pumpkin
Mason Jar Peach Cobbler
Easy No-Bake Cheesecake
Beans and Rice with leftover ham.
Makin' it all look pretty and festive!
Three weeks really is plenty of time to make and execute a plan for Thanksgiving. (Even if I did panic a little when I realized Thanksgiving was so close!)
top image credit: Lawrence OP
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Welcome to this week's edition of the Make it from Scratch Carnival. Make it from Scratch is all about making things for yourself. Sometimes we make things for the sake of frugality, and sometimes to express creativity. Often making something from scratch is a combination of both. You just never know what you may find in this carnival. Sometimes everything from A to Z!
A little bit of this and a little bit of that. That is how I cook. Sometimes it turns out quite well, and worth trying to remember. Black Bean Chili is posted at Make It From Scratch.
Butternut Squash Risotto: Transcendence in a Bowl is posted at Cheap Healthy Good. Kris promises us that it is creamy and rich beyond it's calorie count. Oh it looks good!
Corn and Molasses Bread is posted at Condo Blues. This would go great with my chili.
Dreaming of Spring is posted at Beading Arts. Just because it is chilly outside doesn't mean we can't look to spring.
Elderberries can be a challenge for novices to the berry. Elderberry experiments posted at Stop the Ride.
Frugal? Simple Llama knows frugal. DIY iPhone Scanner posted at Simple Llama.
Garden tomatoes are just the best thing ever. I miss mine already. Wren Caulfield is using hers to make Homemade Pico de Gallo with Garden Tomatoes posted at True Adventures in Money Hacking.
Homemade Pizza is one of our favorite family meals. Gramma Greenjeans' Homemade Pizza looks delicious. It is posted at Better Gardens than Home.
I scream. You scream. We all scream for ice cream.
No, actually, drooling would better describe my reaction to Mrs. Accountability's Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream Recipe | Out of Debt Again posted at Out of Debt Again.
Kara presents Homemade Candy Corn posted at An Hour In the Kitchen. I can only imagine that these must be divine!
Mansef: A Middle-Eastern feast dish is posted at Funny about Money. A little lamb and a lot of spice all put together in the crockpot. I am so trying this recipe!
October Harvest Soup is posted at Local Nourishment using what is in season to create something delicious.
Plarn. Not sure what that is? Check it out! Plarn Plastic Bag Keeper posted at My Recycled Bags.com.
Quick breads are often the way to go, especially if you have a time crunch. Cranberry Oat Knots - A Quick Rise Yeast Bread sound quick and delicious. You'll find it posted at Making My Own Luck.
Rice and crockpot. Two of my favorite food things. Lizzie presents Spanish Rice in the Crockpot posted at A Dusty Frame.
Sausage, Swiss Chard & Potatoes Casserole posted at Family Balance Sheet. Love this flavor combination!
Tomato Soup is posted at Gotta Little Space. Homemade tomato soup is out of this world. Makes the stuff I grew up on taste like cardboard.
Vickie presents Chocolate syrup posted at Cooking with Vickie.
Whole Wheat Croissants redoux (Carnival of Super-Foods) is posted at The Titus 2 Homemaker. Oh croissants, yummy!
Zucchini Carrot Muffins is posted at Fortuitously Frugal. There have been so many wonderful Zucchini recipes this year! Think I need to pull some zucchini out of the freezer and get baking.
I hope you enjoyed this week's carnival. Next week our hostess is Rina at Gotta A Little Space. Please submit your post with the Blog Carnival Form.
Monday, November 2, 2009
The flu bug has officially hit my house. My oldest son, J-Man, started showing symptoms of the flu over the weekend. I am not a germ-a-phobe but thought it prudent to remind all the MIFS readers of some simple steps to reduce your exposure to the seasonal and H1N1 flu as well as what to do if you find yourself sick.
The image to the right is a microscopic view of the H1N1 flu virus.
- Wash your hands often with regular soap and water while you sing 'Happy Birthday' to yourself. This ensures you are washing long enough to kill any germs that can make you sick. Studies have shown antibacterial soap doesn't work any better than regular hand soap. It's the time you spend washing your hands that has the largest impact on removing germs.
- Try not to put your hands or other objects to your face. Kids do this far more often than adults but I can't tell you how many times I've caught myself nibbling on the end of my pen while in deep thought.
- Disinfect toys and hard surfaces at least once a week or more often if you have lots of visitors. Soak plastics in a solution of hot bleach-water for approximately five minutes and rinse with clean water for best results. You can also use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide mixed with water to disinfect hard surfaces. For larger items, use a weak solution in a spray bottle, leave for a few moments then wipe down to avoid damage to wood or other similar surfaces.
- Wash soft surfaces in hot water and/or with bleach. If the item can't be washed, toss them into the dryer for twenty minutes to kill as much bacteria as possible. If this isn't a possibility then try spritzing with a disinfecting spray (test on an inconspicuous area for colorfastness).
- Avoid highly populated areas if there are high numbers of the bug being reported in your area. If you find yourself in an area with a high number of sick people, wear a protective mask to reduce your exposure and wash your hands as soon as you leave the area!
- If you or someone in your home gets sick PLEASE stay home until you are fever free without fever reducers for 24 hours or according to your school or work's wellness policy. This will help reduce the spread of seasonal and H1N1 flu. I believe this is how J-Man caught it. My husband's friend brought his sick girlfriend over last Wednesday and just days later, J-Man is coughing with a fever!
- Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is the enemy and usually the largest reason for ER visits.
- Get tons of rest.
- Keep the fever low. Take a cool bath or shower, wet wash clothes around the neck, take fever reducers as indicated will help regulate your temperature. If you can't keep your fever under control, call a doctor or visit the ER. Dangerously high fevers can kill!
- Cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough to prevent spreading germs through hand to hand contact.
- See or talk to a doctor about taking an Antiviral to reduce the length of your illness. The sooner you get on Antivirals, the more effective they are against the flu.