Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spicy Stir-fried Broccoli with Tomato-Chickpea Ragout

I love broccoli and am always looking for a new way to serve it. This tasty little number from Tracy O'Grady of Willow in Arlington is sure to spice up your plate!

4 servings

· • 1 pound whole broccoli or florets
· • 4 large cloves garlic
· • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
· • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
· • 7 ounces canned chickpeas, drained
· • Kosher salt (optional)
· • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter (optional)
· • Crushed red pepper flakes
· • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water, plus more as needed

If using whole broccoli, separate it into individual stalks and discard their tough ends. If using broccoli florets, set aside.

Cut the garlic into very thin slices. Drain the tomatoes, reserving the tomato juice. Place the tomatoes on a cutting board and cut them into fairly thin strips.

Heat a large skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. When it is quite hot, add 2 tablespoons of the oil; it will immediately scatter around the skillet. Add the garlic slices and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, constantly stirring or shaking the skillet, until most of them are golden brown; do not let them burn.

Add the tomato strips and reduce the heat to medium; cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly, then add the reserved tomato juice and the drained chickpeas. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with salt, if needed. Add the butter, if using, and stir to mix well; a pale red ragout (sauce) will form. Reduce the heat to low and keep warm. (If the ragout becomes too thick, add water as necessary.)

Meanwhile, heat a large saute pan or skillet (not nonstick) over high heat; when it is very hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil (again, the oil will scatter). Immediately add the broccoli and cook for 2 minutes, stirring or shaking the pan or skillet. The edges of the crowns or florets will begin to brown; that is okay. Season with the crushed red pepper flakes and salt to taste, if using. Add 1/4 cup of the water and quickly cover; let the broccoli stalks steam for 4 to 5 minutes, until tender. If using the florets, steam for 2 to 3 minutes. (Add the remaining 1/4 cup water in increments if the liquid in the pan or skillet evaporates too quickly).

The broccoli will be bright green; remove from the heat and uncover. To serve, divide the
tomato-chickpea ragout among individual plates, then pile the broccoli on top. Serve hot.

I promised one reader a machine mayonnaise recipe this week. I apologize that I didn't get that ready but have no fear, I'm working on it!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Carnival #161 - Coming Home Edition

This week is the final roaming edition of Make it from Scratch. In honor of that occasion, Mary, who is also a contributor here, has put together an extra special edition of the carnival. Check out her Make it from Scratch - Coming Home Edition at Simply Forties. There are a lot of great submissions this week. Here are some of my favorites:

Curtains for a $1
I just love when a little patience and a little creativity come together to give you just what you need!

Kale Chips
I love greens. The family? Not so much. Maybe, these kale chips would change their minds.

Mixed Berry Cobbler
Thinking about making this for dinner tonight.

So, now the changes to the carnival begin. In addition to the carnival being here every week there are other changes coming. The first change is that the carnival will be moving to Thursday. Our next carnival will be Thursday April 8. This carnival will also begin the Mr. Linky format. No need to submit via Blog Carnival. Just stop by here on Thursday to link up your made from scratch post.

For those of you accustomed to using Blog Carnival, there will be a transistion time. Blog carnival submission will still be taken through April, but after that the MIFS blog carnival will be deactivated.

Thanks for joining us for the carnival this week. And thanks for riding through as the carnival transitions. Hope to see you linked up right here Thursday April 8!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning Recipe

Here's a great spice recipe I got from Sierra at the FunOnABudget Yahoo group.

  • 4 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dehydrated onion
  • 1/2 tablespoon dehydrated garlic
  • 1/2 tablespoon crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried fennel
Mix together and store in a shaker. Shake or rub 1 tablespoon seasoning onto 1 pound steaks, pork chops
and hamburgers before grilling or broiling.

This recipe for McCormick Montreal Steak Seasoning serves/makes .5 cups

I love making my own spice recipes at home. It's cheap, adds flavor without adding calories and I can tailor it to my family's preference. What are your favorite spice combinations??

I love this Yahoo Group. Fantastic simple and cheap recipes, crafts, and various home keeping tips are shared by the community members. You can enter your email address below to join and gain access to all the posts and submit your own.
Subscribe to FunOnABudget

Friday, March 26, 2010

Payday Candy Bar Cookie Bars

So awhile back a post popped up in my Google Reader about these candy bars that are a rarity even in the country of their origination - the US of A. They're called Payday. Have you heard of them? Or even tried one?

Anyway, the post was a recipe for making a cookie bar type version of the candy bar. It looked delicious; studded with peanuts, chewy from marshmallows and a simple yellow cake base. Easy enough. I bookmarked it to make 'eventually' and promptly forgot about it. That actually happens to me a lot - how about you?

When Papa Bear, the Bear and I went to Trader Joes earlier this month, we stopped at a WalMart on our way home because I had a few free product coupons I wanted to use that were only good in the States. While standing in the checkout line, I spotted it - a Payday candy bar! For just a dollar, I added it to my basket.

Papa Bear had apparently not only heard of them - but has tried them before, so he let me rip the package open and have the first bite. Yep, it's a pretty good candy bar. When we got home, I printed out the cookie bar recipe and made it just a few days ago.

Honestly? These are really good. Almost too good. And they actually do have the flavor and texture of the Payday candy bar. Impressive!
Give 'em a whirl:

Payday Cookie Bars

Framed via The Lonely Baker
Makes one 9x13 pan

1 box yellow cake mix

2/3 cup butter, softened

1 egg

2 cups mini marshmallows

1 bag peanut butter chips

2 tablespoons butter

2/3 cup corn syrup (I substitute
golden syrup)
2 cups crispy rice cereal

2 cups salted peanuts

Mix the cake mix, butter and egg; press into a slightly greased 9X13 pan. Bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until the edges are golden.
Sprinkle marshmallows over top of crust. Bake for another 5 minutes.

Melt chips, butter, rice cereal and corn syrup in a saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in cereal and peanuts. Pour over base and spread evenly. Cool, cut into squares.

I blog regularly at Gotta Little Space - come say hi!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cheaty Mini French Vanilla Flans

This is a great recipe when you find yourself with an abundance of milk as I recently did.  Usually I would make my own ricotta, but I felt like a little treat and have had this recipe on standby for a while..

You may like use this recipe to make a large flan also - just use a tin that does not have a removable bottom, as this has no prepared crust.  I used 6 x large remekins.

1 1/2 cups plain flour
4 cups (1 liter) milk
4 eggs, beaten
2/3 cup granulated or caster sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste (or seeds from 1/2 vanilla pod, or, 1 tsp vanilla extract)

Preheat your oven to 425 F or 220 C

Sift flour into your mixing bowl, and add your sugar, combine well.

Make a well in the centre of the flour/sugar and add your beaten eggs into the well. beat gently until all combined. (use an electric mixer is you don't have a stand mixer)

Then gradually whilst still beating, add milk, one cup at a time until all combined.  You will want it to be light and frothy, be sure that there is no flour on the sides of your bowl, if so move off with a spatula and beat again until all combined.

Lastly, add the vanilla and whisk through until well combined.

Pour into greased ramekins/flan plan  and place on middle rack of your oven with no obstructions above (they do rise!) and cook for 15-20 minutes (longer for the large flan about 35-40mins) until browned on top.

Cool for a few minutes, then sprinkle with icing (confectioners) sugar or your favourite coulis.

Lovely eaten hot, warm or cold.

So lovely Make it from Scratch Readers: If you've got a fridge full of milk, what do you do with it?

You can find more step-by-step cooking from scratch posts and much more at my blog, Frills in the Hills - the fabulous life of our family of five - the fun, the food and the frugality.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Caponata is a great dish for practicing your knife skills because there is a lot of chopping. Concentrate on getting all your pieces a similar size. It's also a good way to enjoy winter vegetables in a different way. The olives and capers give it that great Mediteranean flavor.

1 cup olive oil, for frying, plus more if needed
3 medium eggplants, cut into small dice
3 small green zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
3 small yellow squash, quartered and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
2 onions, chopped 1/4-inch pieces
6 celery ribs, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 cup roasted red peppers, thinly sliced
1 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1 cup capers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano leaves
2 cups prepared marinara sauce

When you make a caponata you want to cook each vegetable individually in a very hot saute pan over a medium-high heat with a bit of olive oil. After each vegetable is cooked crisp tender, set it in a large bowl. Put a little more oil in the pan and cook the next vegetable adding it to the bowl until you have all the vegetables are done. Cook the onions and garlic together.

Make the "agrodolce":

Combine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and reduce by half over medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.

While vegetables are still warm, combine with the roasted peppers, olives, and capers. Pour the "agrodolce" vinegar over the vegetable mixture and toss to coat. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the chopped herbs and marinara sauce and stir.

Serve the caponata at room temperature.

Caponata goes very well with roasted meats.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Carnival #160

Welcome to Make it from Scratch! The complete carnival can be found this week at Simply Beck's Bounty. Here are a few of my favorites!

Beet Mash Chocolate Cupcakes
This recipe has me curious. Can you taste the beets? Does it give the cupcakes a red tint? Hmmm.... We make zucchini brownies that are scrumptious. I wonder if these would have the same effect of sneaking something healthy into something that tastes like a treat.

Starting Seeds Indoors
I always like to see how others approach their gardening to find new ideas. This post links to a wealth of articles to help you get your seeds going inside.

Irish Soda Bread
This is a wonderful how to for this easy bread. I should be making this more!

Thanks for checking out the carnival this week. Be sure to see the whole thing at Simply Beck's Bounty.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Make a Custom Chalkboard From Tile

Finished Chalkboard Tile Last Friday I had the privilege of teaching a small class of elementary students how to create easy tile coasters. While I was excited to do this, I wanted to show the kids other fun things they could do with everyday things lying around their home. One of the things I showed them was a homemade chalkboard using peel n stick tiles. The process is super simple.

Here’s what you need:

  • chalkboard paint
  • peel n stick tiles
  • newspaper
  • paint brush
  • fine grit sandpaper
  • cardstock, ribbon, or other embellishments

Cover your work area with several layers of newspaper. Grab a peel n stick tile. They are usually pretty big (around 12” x 12”) and I had some left over from a bathroom flooring project.
Sand the top of the tile with a fine grit sand paper. Wipe clean with a damp cloth and allow to thoroughly dry. This will give the paint a surface to adhere to.

Pull off the back paper exposing the sticky side of the tile. Using newspaper (the comics are a good page to use here), cardstock, foam, fabric or other medium to cover the back. Be careful when covering this side of the tile. Once the paper, foam, or fabric is stuck…it is stuck! Trim off the excess and sand the edges.
Flip the tile over and place on top of a block, book or something else to slightly elevate it off your work surface.

Paint several layers of chalkboard paint according to the manufacturers directions. Allow to completely dry.
Personalize the chalkboard with a bit of Modge Podge, some cutout letters (I used my Cricut), colored paint, stickers, buttons and anything else to add a personal touch.

Peel n Stick Tile Tile read to paintCaution: Wet Paint Lined up ready for personlization

Finish the project in a number of ways.
  • Drill a hole at the top near each corner, thread either rope or ribbon through and knot to form a hanger.
  • Use hot glue or Gorilla glue to adhere a strong magnet to the back to hand in a locker.
  • Leave as is or hot glue some fabric trim around the edges for a trendy carry around version.
Finished Chalkboard Tiles

Friday, March 19, 2010

Make a Market Tote

Kellie is a crafty momma who blogs regularly at Greenhab: The Browns Go Green and the Green Phone Booth.

I am officially ready for the farmer's market to start! I was standing in line at the store the other day, behind a woman with a cute little tote bag. I asked her if she made it and she told me that it was just a freebie canvas bag that she covered in her own fabric.


And now I've stolen her idea to make this cute little market bag for myself.

For this project you'll need a canvas bag and some cloth to cover it. I picked up this cute vintage piece of fabric at a yard sale last summer and have been waiting for the perfect project for it.

Measure your bag. Add one inch to the width (that's 1/2 inch on each side for seam allowance) and add 1.5 inches to the height (that's 1/2 inch at the bottom for seam allowance and 1 inch at the top to fold over). If you're using a bag with a bottom that is squared off, you'll want to add half the depth onto the height of the fabric.

Ex: You have a 10 x 10 inch bag with a bottom that is 3 inches wide. Your width will be 10" + 1" (seam allowance) = 11" total. Your height will be 10" + 1.5" (to account for the bottom) + 1.5" (seam allowance) = 13" total.

Once you have two pieces cut out in this size (one for the front and one for the back of the bag), place them right sides together and sew the sides and bottom, leaving the top open, of course.

If your bag has a squared off bottom, you'll now want to square off your corners on the bag you just made. I always find this part hard to explain. You want to take the right side seam and make it face the bottom seam. This will make a triangle for you like this...

If your mat has diagonal lines like mine, it makes it easier to measure the next part. If the bottom of your canvas bag is 3 inches wide, you want to measure 3 inches across and mark a line with your fabric marker. In the photo above, you can actually see that mine is 6 inches.

Sew across the line you just made, then cut the excess triangle off like so...

Now turn the top of the bag down 1 inch and press. Turn your bag right side out. Place your canvas bag inside of the bag you just made. I pinned the bottom corners together to prevent it from shifting and pinned the tops of the two bags together.

Sew all around the top of the bags, very close to the top. I sewed a second line about an inch lower as well for durability. As you can see, my bag has a little pleat on the front. I'd like to say it was on purpose, but I accidentally sewed the sides with a 1/4 seam allowance instead of 1/2 and had too much fabric...blah blah blah...

Now you're done!

The canvas bag I used had two pockets on the outside. I flipped it inside out so that the pockets are now on the inside and I can use them for wallet / cell phone / keys.

This is such a frugal way to give new life to an old canvas bag. Have fun!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Lemon Bars

Add it to the list. Really? They are this easy to make? Why didn't I make these from scratch a long time ago?

Last weekend my eleven year old needed a snack to take to a lock in he was going to. I let him search through the cookbooks to find a recipe. It only had to meet two criteria. One: we had to have all the ingredients on hand. Two: it had to be quick and easy.

He ended up in a cook book of family recipes compiled by my sister-in-law. He chose a recipe from my Aunt Nancy, Lemon Bars.

I thoroughly enjoy lemon bars, and anything lemon usually makes it to the top of my husband's favorites list. Even so, I can not remember the last time I made lemon bars. I had never made them from scratch. Why oh why? They are so easy. So easy, in fact, that the eleven year old pretty much made them by himself. 

Lemon Bars
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup sugar
Mix together with a pastry blender until it resembles small crumbs. Press into a 9X9 pan. Bake at 350F for 15 minutes.

2 eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sugar
Mix together and pour over the baked crust. Bake for 25 minutes at 350F. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Note: if using a dark pan lower the heat and reduce the baking time.

We will be making these again..and again...and again.

Photo credit: rpunzeir - {Michelle}

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant -Tomato Ragu and Smoked Mozzarella

Delicious and healthy, what more could you as for?!


· Active Time:45 min
· Start to Finish:1 1/4 hr

For Quinoa Cakes
· 1 1/2 cups water
· 1 cup quinoa
· 1 large egg, lightly beaten
· 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For Topping
· 1 1/2 lb eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
· 1 small onion, finely chopped
· 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
· 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
· 3 tablespoons olive oil
· 1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
· 1/2 cup drained bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed and chopped
· 3/4 cup water
· 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
· 1/4 lb smoked mozzarella, diced (1 cup)

Make quinoa cakes:
· Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.
· Meanwhile, wash quinoa in 3 changes of water in a bowl, then drain well in a fine-mesh sieve.
· Stir quinoa into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in egg.
· Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lightly brush with oil. Lightly oil a 1-cup dry-ingredient measure. Pack enough quinoa into measure with a rubber spatula to fill it two-thirds full. (If spatula becomes sticky, dip in water.) Unmold onto baking sheet and gently pat quinoa into a 4-inch-wide patty with spatula. Make 3 more quinoa cakes, brushing measure with oil each time. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes.

Make topping while quinoa cooks and chills:
· Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and drain 30 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of eggplant to extract liquid, then pat dry.
· Cook eggplant, onion, garlic, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, roasted peppers, and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is very tender and mixture is thick (if dry, thin with a little water), about 10 minutes.

Cook quinoa cakes:
· Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa cakes and cook, turning once carefully and adding remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes total (pat cakes to reshape with cleaned rubber spatula while cooking if necessary). Transfer to plates.

To serve:
· Return eggplant ragù to a simmer and stir in parsley and half of mozzarella, then simmer, stirring, until cheese just begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Spoon over quinoa cakes, then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.

Cooks' notes:
· Quinoa cakes can be formed 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
· Eggplant-tomato ragù, without parsley and mozzarella, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Carnival #159

The carnival is up and running at Stop the Ride! The food post in this carnival are wonderful, and there are plenty of other craft and d-i-y posts this week. Go check the entire carnival out. Here are a few of my favorites.

Ham and Asparagus Frittata
I can not tell you how excited I am to get asparagus from our garden this year. And I have plenty of eggs and ham on hand. This recipe will be perfect!

Family Memory Game
This is simply adorable. Would make a wonderful gift too.

Chocolate Easter Egg Basket
In a word: WOW!

Enjoy the carnival!

Monday, March 15, 2010

BBQ Bacon Wrapped Hawaiian Shrimp Dinner Recipe

BBQ. mmmmm

Bacon. more mmmmm

Add them to shrimp? The ULITIMATE mmmmmmmm!

I don’t have any Irish dish or green shamrock to share with you today. Just this scrumptious dinner I made the other night! I created this dish after realizing the only thing I had thawed for dinner was bacon. Don’t get me wrong, the fam would SOOOO eat a plate full of bacon and eggs for dinner but I just wasn’t feeling it. I remembered there was some jumbo tiger shrimp left in the freezer. I also know frozen shrimp take no time at all to thaw in a bowl of cool water.

Dinner problem: SOLVED!

BBQ Bacon ShrimpIngredients

  • 14 jumbo shrimp
  • 14 bacon strips
  • 1/2 tbs course ground pepper or peppery mix
  • 1/2 can chopped pineapple plus the juice
  • 3/4 cup of BBQ sauce – any flavor or brand


Bacon shrimp in the skilletCarefully wrap one bacon strip around one shrimp. I start at the tail and work my way toward the head but feel  free to do it however you like. To ensure the bacon stays in place, “pin” the loose end of the bacon to the shrimp with a toothpick. Cook the shrimp over medium heat on a skillet till the bacon is crispy. Depending on how large your shrimp are, you may need to stand them on their sides to get all the bacon nice and crisp. Do this in batches to avoid over crowding the skillet ensuring even cooking. Once all the shrimp are cooked, sprinkle with pepper. Place half a can of pineapple chunks in the pan till caramelized. While the pineapple is cooking, combine the BBQ sauce with approximately 1/4 cup of the pineapple juice in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook till sauce is warmed through. Place caramelized pineapple over shrimp and finish it by pouring the heated BBQ sauce over the entire dish.

This took me under half an hour to prepare. Pair it with a salad or sautéed mixed veggies. Plate over over a bed of cooked rice or pasta with extra sauce drizzled on top for a mouth watering meal your family won’t soon forget.

BBQ Bacon Shrimp

Don’t forget to enter my current giveaways at Frugal Front Porch:

Friday, March 12, 2010

How To Make Mascarpone

mascarpone\mas-car-pone: an Italian triple cream cheese

(occasionally mispronounced mar-sca-pone) dates way back to the 16th or 17th century, from an area in Italy southwest of Milan. It is said to be named after something called mascarpa, a milk product made from the whey of aged cheese, or from mascarpia - a word in the local dialect for ricotta; although that would technically be incorrect because mascarpone is not made from whey like ricotta is.

It is used in many applications these days - one of the most recognized forms is in tiramisu. There is a Martha Stewart recipe for Honey Buns that I've been meaning to try, that includes mascarpone as well as
crème fraîche in the filling. Mascarpone can be used in sweet and savory dishes, and it makes a fabulous thickener in place of sour cream or butter. It's delicious added to creamy pasta dishes and can be used as a base for dips and sauces.

When I made my Daring Bakers challenge for February (tiramisu), one of the must-make components was mascarpone. I don't like buying my own mascarpone because it's terribly expensive up here in Canada - I'm not sure what it costs in the US or abroad. A medium sized container (probably not even two cups worth) costs upwards of $5.00. Yikes!!

Now that I've conquered making my own, I doubt I'll buy it again. It's that easy. And the best part is, you know whats in it (heavy cream and lemon juice) and that it's as fresh as can be. Try it!!

I'll upload a picture as soon as I can take it - my camera battery died on me! Ack!!

Mascarpone Cheese
Vera's Recipe
Makes 12 oz

2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to the boil in a wide skillet. Reduce heat to medium low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium sized heat resistant bowl, then place bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, till it reaches 190F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.

It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating to reach this temperature. Then add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. It will coat the back of your wooden spoon thickly, and you will see a few whey streaks when you stir.

Remove the bowl from the water and let cool about 20 minutes.
Line a sieve with 4 layers of dampened cheesecloth and set over a bowl. Transfer the cream mixture to the lined sieve. Do not squeeze or press on the cheese.

Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate in the sieve, overnight or up to 24 hours. It will firm up and become thick and creamy. Keep refrigerated and use within 5 days.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Spring Cleaning Savvy

I (Stephanie) am taking a much needed break today. I am extremely thankful to Liss for providing this excellent post of tips and motivation to do a little spring cleaning (or fall cleaning as the case may be.) I definitely will have to try her cobweb tip!

Last Spring, I set myself a challenge - I wanted to do a 'real' spring clean of my house.  With 3 sub-six children in my care, it's not always easy but I enlisted their help and let them enjoy the weather warming up.  I got all the way through it and it is so satisfying I'm doing it again in Autumn!  Here's my tips:

Tackling the Cleaning
  • Pick a sunny day - it doesn't need to be warm, but sunny is great for the mood and motivation!
  • If you have them, involve the kids -give them a bucket and sponge and let the wash the outside of the house or a bucket of water and paintbrush, let the 'paint' or 'clean' it. They will feel useful and have fun!
  • Finsh your outdoor spring cleaning before moving indoors
  • Clean outside of windows, outer of house, gardens, clear out garages. If you still feel motivated in the evening, you can do jobs inside then.
Here's some outdoor cleaning tips

Cobwebs - how to minimise
Cobwebs are so annoying to me, so I follow Shannon Lushs' (Australia's clean queen) advice and after using a housebroom to remove the majority, and a dustbrush/damp cloth to rid the residue, sprinkle a few drops of lemon oil on the broom and brush around the places that spiders congregate - they don't like lemon oil, so won't return! Hoorah!

 Cleaning windows:
1. Brush off cobwebs as above, remove flyscreens and clean dust off with combo of dustpan brush and old teatowel.
2. Mix a window washing solution of :
  • 10 litres warm water  
  • 2 tb dishwashing liquid  
  • 2 tb cloudy ammonia  
  • 2 tb white vinegar  
  • 1/2 cup methylated spirit  
  • 1/2 cup cornflour (cornstarch)

 3. Wash on with sponges, squeegee off - rub any stubborn bits with added solution on paper towel.

Got a lot of stuff to clear out?
  • Have a yard sale or go in with people in your street for 'street sale'- or this is the time to get onto Craigslist and Ebay to SELL not buy! 
  • Donate toys to your local hospital/library/womens' shelter
  • Donate books to your local library
  • Donate women and childrens' clothes, blankets etc to your local homeless charities or womens' shelter.
Don't say you'll donate it later, offer it to a friend ra-ra.. get rid of it, and commit to doing it -whatever you don't sell at the garage sale - give to charity!

You can find more domestic adventures at my blog, Frills in the Hills - the fabulous life of our family of five - the fun, the food and the frugality.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cooking Skills - Hands vs. Machines

Cooking consists of numerous steps requiring several skills. Some of the steps can be carried out with a machine and some by hand. There are certain steps which, while they can be carried out with a machine, the ability to do them by hand is still valuable.

Which skills are important to master by hand and which can and should be delegated to a machine? Deciding can be both subjective and personal. In 1961 Julia Child, writing about making pastry dough in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, said, “A pastry blender may be used if you wish, but a necessary part of learning how to cook is to get the feel of the dough in your fingers.” Seventeen years later in Julia Child’s Menu Cookbook, Ms. Child said, “Of course you can make the dough by hand or in an electric mixer, but the food processor is sensationally fast and foolproof…” I guess even the venerable Julia Child never stopped learning and adapting and neither should we.

I never make pastry dough by hand, preferring to use the food processor. On the other hand, although I normally use machines to whip egg whites to stiff peaks and make mayonnaise, I believe it is important to be able to do both by hand. It’s hard work and not something I do as a matter of course, but I have successfully conquered both skills.

It’s easy to make perfect rice in a rice cooker or bread in a bread machine but can you do both without these specialty appliances? I knead bread dough with my KitchenAide stand mixer. I can certainly do it by hand and I have but normally I don’t. Knowing how the dough feels when it’s ready is important, kneadng it until your arms are ready to fall off isn’t something that is important to me. I’ve never had a rice cooker but the principal’s the same. I’d want to know how to do it in a saucepan on the stovetop before I gave it up to the appliance.

Even for home cooks, good knife skills are extremely important. Uniform dicing leads to uniform cooking. The proper use of sharp knives leads to less injuries and better looking food. Mastering the art of the mandoline is also a skill but I think it’s important to be able to turn out thin, uniform slices, dices and juliennes with a knife before you turn to the handy, time-saving mandoline.

The passage of time plays some part in the evolution of cooking skills. I've never churned butter and, other than grilling, don't cook on a fire. I'm perfectly content with my oven and store-bought butter. Neither of these are skills I'm particularly interested in mastering. If you've ever read a really old cookbook you know how hard it is to even understand some of the instructions.

Would you like to try mayonnaise by hand? Here's the recipe I use. It's copied verbatim from my old Mastering the Art of French Cooking (italicized notes are mine and yes, this is exactly the way this wonderful, classic book is written):

For 2 - 2 3/4 cups of Hand-beaten Mayonnaise

Use a round-bottomed 2 1/2 - 3 quart glazed pottery, glass or stainless-steel mixing bowl. Set it in a heavy casserole or sauce-pan to keep it from slipping (I put it on a damp, folded dish towel).

3 egg yolks
A large wire whisk
1 tablespoon wine vinegar or lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry or prepared mustard
2 tablespoons boiling water

1 1/2 to 2 1/4 cups of olive oil, salad oil or a mixture of each, if you are a novice, use the minimum amount

Points to remember when making mayonnaise by hand:

Temperature - Mayonnaise is easiest to make when all ingredients are at normal room temperature. Warm the mixing bowl in hot water to take the chill off the egg yolks. Heat the oil to tepid if it is cold.

Egg Yolks - Always beat the egg yolks for a minute or two before adding anything to them. As soon as they are thick and sticky, they are ready to absorb the oil

Adding the oil - The oil must be added very slowly at first, in droplets, until the emulsion process begins and the sauce thickens into a heavy cream. After this, the oil may be incorporated more rapidly.

Proportions - The maximum amount of oil one U.S. Large egg yolk will absorb is 6 ounces or 3/4 cup. When this maximum is exceeded, the binding properties of the egg yolks break down, the sauce thins out or curdles. If you have never made mayonnaise before, it is safest not to exceed 1/2 cup of oil per egg yolk.

Warm the bowl in hot water. Dry it. Add the egg yolks and beat for 1 to 2 minutes until they are thick and sticky.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, salt and mustard. Beat 30 seconds more.

The egg yolks are now ready to receive the oil, and while it goes in, drop by drop, you must not stop beating until the sauce has thickened. A speed of 2 strokes per second is fast enough. You can switch hands or switch directions, it makes no difference as long as you beat constantly. Add the drops of oil with a teaspoon or rest the lip of the bottle on the edge of the bowl. Keep your eye on the oil rather than on the sauce. Stop pouring and continue beating every 10 seconds or so, to be sure the egg yolks are absorbing the oil. After 1/3 to 1/2 cup of oil has been incorporated, the sauce will thicken into a very heavy cream and the crisis is over. The beating arm may rest a moment.

Then beat in the remaining oil by 1 to 2 tablespoon dollops, blending it thoroughly after each addition.

When the sauce becomes too thick and stiff, beat in drops of vinegar or lemon juice to thin it out. Then continue with the oil.

Beat 2 tablespoons of boiling water into the sauce. This is an anti-curdling insurance. (I've never done this.) Season to taste.

If the sauce is not used immediately, scrape it into a small bowl and cover it closely so a skin will not form on its surface.


Unlike store bought mayonnaise, because of the egg yolks handmade mayonnaise will be yellow. Fresh mayonnaise can be flavored with any number of things. To make aioli, which is a garlic mayonnaise, mash one peeled clove of garlic to a fine paste and add it at the beginning of the recipe before you start adding the oil. Try various herbs and seasonings for different mayonnaise flavors. I like to add a few drops of Sriracha hot sauce to an aioli - delicious!

What cooking skills have you mastered by hand even though you could do them with a machine? Do you think it’s important to know how to process food by hand even when you have a time-saving device? Do you regularly practice your knife skills? Are you more about the techniques or the recipes?

Join me everyday over at SimplyForties where I write about navigating mid-life - grown children, finances, relationships, social responsibility and yes, food!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Carnival #158

Thank you for joining us for the 158th edition of the Make it from Scratch carnival. The MIFS carnival is your chance to share your made from scratch projects. We love to see your sewing, cooking, needlecraft, art, garden, and other projects. It is so much fun and so inspiring to see ideas from bloggers everywhere.

There will soon be changes coming to the carnival. Starting in April the carnival will be on Thursdays right here at home base. We also begin transitioning to the Mr. Linky format. I am so excited for these changes, but on to this week's edition of the carnival.

RecycleCindy presents Thrift Store Sweater Upcycled posted at My Recycled

Kathryn presents edgi - 50 Ways to Turn Cute Tees into Truly Sexy Tshirts posted at Edgi Blog.

Kristan Roland presents Cherry Cheesecake Cupcakes posted at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen.

Shauna Henry presents Feast: Bite-Sized Easy Appetizer? Caprese Skewers posted at Your LifEvents Lifestyle Blog - Wedding Planning, Party Planning, Nesting, Kids, Parenting Advice, Dating Advice.

Karen & Traci presents Corn 'N' Frank Chowder posted at Goodies from Granny's House.

Sonja Stewart presents Homemade Gluten-Free Oreo Cookies; Seriously, Delicious! posted at Parenting Squad.

Kristen presents Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker: Corn Your Own Beef posted at Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker.

Lori Vaughn presents Easter Egg Topiary posted at Two Southern Girls.

Cyndi L presents Mixed media art education posted at Mixed Media Artist.

Other DIY
NHE presents Strawberry planting tips for home gardeners posted at Natural Health Ezine.

SVB presents How To Plan A Wedding Without Getting Stressed posted at The Digerati Life.

Robert Corrigan presents Are eBooks Finished? posted at Point And Click Coaching - Exposed!.

Ava Jones presents 50 Ingenious Ways to Keep Your Home Warm This Winter posted at Construction Management Degrees.

Thank you for joining us this week. Next Tuesday the carnival will be found at Simply Beck's Bounty.   Please submit your posts via Blog Carnival.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Roly Poly Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls

Before I begin my post, let me tell you how excited I am to be posting my first contributor post to Make It From Scratch! I'm Jen, I have ten kids (actually, as I write this, my tenth is still in utero, but due to make his appearance today...we'll see!) and I live in a tiny Mexican/American farming community in Chihuahua, Mexico. I write for five blogs including this one (11th Heaven's Homemaking Haven, life in mexico {and other places} a picture a day, 365 Days of TV-Free Toddler Time, and Mega-Family Blogs), and spend the rest of my time raising my kids frugally, naturally, and spiritually.

Without further ado, let me thank Stephanie for this awesome invitation to write for Make It From Scratch, and allow you to look into our "Make It From Scratch" world!

For one of my blogs, 365 Days of TV-Free Toddler Time, I try to do and post about an activity my three toddlers (ages 3 and under) and I do together everyday. Today we made Roly Poly Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls together! Here's how...

Roly Poly Peanut Butter Chocolate Balls


-2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
-1/4 cup water
-2 cups creamy or crunchy peanut butter
-1 cup powdered sugar
-1 cup light corn syrup
-4 cups Cheerios


Step 1: Line two cookie sheets with wax or parchment paper.

Step 2: Place the chocolate chips and water in a small saucepan and heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth.

Step 3: In a large bowl, combine the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and corn syrup.

Step 4: Add the Cheerios to above mixture and stir until the Cheerios are evenly coated.

Step 5: Now for the fun part. Together with your toddler (or anyone else who wants to help), roll the mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls, place them on the cookie sheets, and press them down slightly so the bottoms of the balls are flat. Here's how the 3-year-old boy did it...

Make sure you stand back and admire your work during the process...

If you have more than one helper, feel free to let him get in on the action as well, such as Twin A did, shown here...

Step 6: Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the cooled chocolate onto each ball, like so...

Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. If there are any left after you serve your family, store these treats in a covered container in the fridge. I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine did!

Thanks for listening. :)

Cooking with Kids-Easy Kid Friendly Recipes

My son, J, can be quite a handful. Mood swings, low self esteem, negative attitudes are just some of his struggles. He is on the high functioning end of "The Spectrum" of Autism. Through collaboration between his teachers, specialists, hubster and I, we discovered he loves to cook and help out in the kitchen. We use it as a reward for good behavior at home and school. Every Friday is cooking day at school as long as he's done well, tried his best, and maintains a positive attitude. He also gets to help me in the kitchen with dinner if homework and chores are done and he maintains a positive attitude. Giving him something to work towards, works for him.

Here are a few of the fun treats he made in school the past few weeks. They must be yummy since only a few treats ever make it home! Since they are made during school, they don't take much time and clean up is fast.

Sorry for the poor quality photo. These were scanned from pictures his teacher sent home of his cooking reward days.

Sunday Morning Sweet Rolls
(perfect for Mother's Day which is next Sunday, March 14th)

  • 1 pkg refrigerator crescent rolls
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 8 large marshmallows
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 tbl cinnamon
Preheat oven to 375 and grease a muffin tin with cooking spray. Mix sugar and cinnamon together. Dip marshmallow in butter, then sugar mixture. Wrap crescent roll around marshmallow, sealing all edges. Dip entire roll in butter and then sugar mixture. Place in muffin tins and bake for 10-13 minutes.

Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1 cup peanut butter

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1 egg
Preheat oven to 350 and grease a cookie sheet. Mix all three ingredients together. Drop by teaspoonfuls on a cookie sheet about an inch apart. Bake about 10 minutes.


Hamburger Cookies

  • vanilla wafer cookies

  • chocolate covered mint cookies

  • red, green, and chocolate frosting

  • melted butter

  • sesame seeds
Frost flat side of a wafer with a little dot of chocolate frosting. Top with chocolate covered mint cookie. Squirt a bit of red and green frosting on top for the ketchup and pickles. Place another vanilla wafer cookie on top of green and red frosting. Brush the top vanilla wafer with a bit of melted butter and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.

Jenn also blogs at Frugal Front Porch where she talks about food, kids, crafts, house work and anything else she can do on a budget.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Simple Seat Belt Cover

Kellie is a wife, mom, crafter and blogger extraordinaire. Her blog is Greenhab: the Browns go Green and she also blogs regularly at the Green Phone Booth.

The Browns have been seen around town lately sporting our clunker 1991 Ford Explorer. It's certainly not fancy but, since the engine blew in our nicer(ish) family car, it's gotten us from place to place and through two weeks of snow. (Anyone remember when you had to get OUT of the car to turn on the 4WD? Yeah, 'nuff said.)

ANYway... I always thought that a seat belt was a seat belt was a seat belt, but the ones in this car seem to be choking all of us. I thought it was just me, until the older kids started complaining about it too. My quick fix was to make little fleece seat belt covers for all of us. These are so easy that you can crank one out in under 10 minutes - and do it by hand too if you don't have a sewing machine

For this you'll need some fleece and some stick-on velcro. You could definitely use another soft material like flannel, but I think you'd need to add some padding to it.

First you'll cut two circles of your fleece. A seat belt is something weird like 1 & 13/16 inches wide, so I rounded up to 2", and made the whole circle 6". (I assume all seat belts are a standard width, but you might check yours just to be safe!)

Pin your circles together and sew, leaving a hole to turn it out. (After doing these I realized it would have been even easier to just sew the two pieces together, then trim the edges using pinking shears. I'll definitely be doing that next time!)

Next mark a line two inches in from each side, making sure the the two lines are 2" apart. Sew along each line so that the whole thing folds easily.

Add your stick-on velcro and voila! You now have something that looks like a little burrito....or a feminine product I guess.

Makes driving much more comfortable!

Header designed by Crystal. Thanks!