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Archive for August, 2008

Yes, I admit it.  I am in full-fledged rebellion over the price of a loaf of bread at the store.  Along with just about everything else, bread has gone up to around $3 or more a loaf (to get anything decent).  I checked at Sam’s Club, and you can get a 25# bag of flour for less than $9.  Now, I’m no financial expert, but it doesn’t take much number crunching to realize making bread on your own is much easier on the pocketbook, not to mention it tastes better and you can actually pronounce all of the ingredients in it.

I’ve been making bread off and on for years, but got serious about it about a month ago after walking out of the grocery store breadless because of the cost.  We’re all extremely satisfied with the results of my bread machine adventures.  Even kiddo is eating the crust (something he never does on store bought loaves).  My bread machine has been a workhorse these past few years, and it’s definitely been flexing its mechanical muscles lately.  On average, I’ve been baking 3 loaves a week, and trying to bake an extra loaf to stick in the freezer for days I’m crunched for time (or just get sidetracked and forget to throw the ingredients into the machine).  If there’s any bread that goes stale before it’s used, I make French toast with it or turn it into croutons.

The bread we like best, hands down, is Golden Egg Bread.  I’ve modified it slightly to make it stay softer a bit longer – those notes will follow.

The orginal recipe:

2 eggs
6 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup warm water

3 cups bread flour (I use regular flour)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons sugar
1 package yeast (or 2 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast)

Bake on regular white bread setting with the crust of your choice (we prefer light on this one).  It makes a wonderfully tender loaf that is great for sandwiches or just about anything else.

MY MODIFICATIONS:  I use 2 tablespoons honey and 2 tablespoons sugar, and also 2 tablespoons butter (yes, the real stuff) with 4 tablespoons olive oil.  This has seemed to really make a big difference on the loaf staying softer for a longer period of time.

Be forewarned – I think I am becoming a bread snob….homemade bread throws rocks at the store bought stuff.  😛

G’night!

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My pressure canner just came in, and I have a stack of recipes to try.  I’ve been water-bath canning for several years now (jelly, spaghetti sauce, etc.), but wanted to try preserving some other things as well.  I need to make some grape jelly before I get too carried away, but I have pear honey on my “to do” list, and also cheese sauce.

I found the instructions for canning cheese at:  http://jordansfarm.wordpress.com/recipes/ – scroll down towards the bottom of the page.  She has tons of great information on her blog! I bought a #10 can of aged cheese sauce and am going to attempt to break it down into smaller quantities.

There is just something about seeing rows of filled canning jars on the shelf that makes me smile!  😀

I’ll try to get my spaghetti sauce recipe posted one day soon.  It’s a multi-tasker in my kitchen – I use it over pasta, on pizza, and also as a dipping sauce for breadsticks.

Have a wonderful day!

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Fair warning – this is a long post!  🙂

Well, I finally made my own laundry detergent yesterday, and I must say – I am impressed (even more so after running the numbers on it!).  Granted, I did make my own bars of soap so that figured into the total cost.  You could use commercial bars if you preferred.  Overall though, this batch will wash approximately 288 loads at about .05 cents per load (YES, you read that right!!  I couldn’t believe it either!).  The total cost was less than $15.00.  Yes, it takes a little more time to mix it up, but to save that much on laundry detergent every year, it’s a no brainer.  We really do pay dearly for the convenience of manufactured laundry detergent.

Here’s what I used:

12 cups Borax (20 Mule Team – in the laundry section at Walmart) – equiv. to 1 full box plus a handfull from another

8 cups baking soda (5 pounds)

8 cups Washing Soda – (5 pounds) (I never could find this in the laundry section, so I did some digging on the internet and discovered it is also used as a pool chemical to balance the pH.  I found a 5 pound bottle at Wally World for about $6.)

8 cups grated bar soap (more on that in a minute)

I used a pretty good sized plastic tote to mix all of this up (be sure to wear a mask or at least put a bandanna over your mouth/nose so you don’t breathe the dust from it).

I have two words for you on grating the soap – SALAD SHOOTER.  I bought one off of Ebay several years ago for about $4, but you could probably find them at Salvation Army, or ask around on your local Freecycle board.

After I grated the homemade soap with the Salad Shooter, I decided to try to grind it a little finer by running it through the blender with some of the baking soda.  (I’ve heard some people had trouble with the grated soap not dissolving in the wash.)  Use PULSE on your blender and don’t over-blend or it will clump up in the bottom of your blender (ask me how I know 😛 ).  Only do a couple of handfulls at a time.  Also, I measured the grated soap first, then blended so I’d have the correct amount for the recipe.  The blender didn’t powder the soap completely, but it did a good enough job that it melted in the wash, which was my goal.

To store the laundry soap, I recycled a freshly washed cat litter container with a lid (you could spray paint it if you want – I covered mine with contact paper).  Be sure to mark it as LAUNDRY SOAP.

You only use 1/8 cup per load.

Now…for the handmade laundry soap…I’ll try to get basic soapmaking instructions uploaded one day.  I used to teach soapmaking classes online a few years ago, and I still have all of the notes from it.

If you are already familiar with soapmaking, then here’s the recipe:

1 – 42oz container of shortening (I used the cheapest thing I could find which had a combo of soy/lard/tallow in it.  Normally I am an ALL VEGGIE soaper, but lard is supposed to be particularly good for laundry soap, so I thought I’d try it.  The smell was not objectionable, which is a major reason I have never used it for personal soaps.)

13 oz filtered water

5.69 oz sodium hydroxide (lye)

0.8 oz orange essential oil (EO) (for scent)

I used CPHP (crockpot hot process) method on the soaping, and added the EO at the end of the cook.  It is not necessary to superfat the soap since it is used for laundry, hence the 0% lye discount.  This recipe is NOT to be used for bathing soap because it would be too harsh on the skin without any unsaponified oils left as moisturizing emollients.

The day after I made the soap, I unmolded, grated with the Salad Shooter (while the soap was still fairly soft), and put all the shreds into a plastic tote so it could dry out for a few days before I ran it through the blender.  I know the softer soap would melt better in the wash, but for long term storage mixed with the other ingredients I felt like it needed to be more “powdered”.

Note:  The soap recipe above will probably be enough for 2 batches of the laundry detergent when grated.  I used approximately half yesterday, and haven’t measured, but it looks like there’s enough left to do another batch.

I used a test run on a load of sheets right after I mixed everything up.  They came out smelling clean and fresh.  Kiddo said he liked the smell even better than the commercial stuff.   😀   The only other thing I may do is add 1/2 cup vinegar to the rinse cycle as a fabric softener.

Also, after I added the detergent to the washer and some of the water had started filling up, I stuck my hand into the water and swished it around to see how well the concoction had dissolved.  ALL of it had – including the handmade soap.  This recipe does not make a lot of suds, so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see lots of bubbles.  The commercial detergents are just that – chemicals that will bubble (similar to what you would wash your car with – they are very harsh).  Most people don’t think something is clean unless they see bubbles, which is not always the case.  Our great-great-grandmothers used their own handmade soap and kept all of their family’s clothes clean.

Have a wonderful day!  🙂

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Hubby drinks green tea by the gallon, so I came up with this as a cheaper alternative to buying the bottles of Lipton’s.

We use the Bigelow 100% Organic Green Tea bags from Sam’s (box of 175 bags is less than $7).

For one gallon of tea:

Boil 6 tea bags in a small saucepan (you don’t have to use a full gallon for this – just enough to fill the pan about 3/4 full). Turn the heat OFF after it comes to a rolling boil. Allow to steep for 10 – 15 minutes.

Strain tea into a gallon pitcher. Add 1/4 cup sugar (or to your taste) along with 2-4 tablespoons lemon juice (also more or less to your taste). Fill the pitcher with water, stir well. Refrigerate and serve.

Enjoy! 🙂

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Easy Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup pecans – coarsely chopped (you could use any kind of nut you prefer – cashews, almonds, etc. or a combination)
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup brown sugar (packed)
1/4 cup honey
dash of salt

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Mix the oil, brown sugar , honey, and salt in a large bowl. Add other ingredients and mix well. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and spread granola out evenly. Bake in oven for 45 minutes to one hour, stirring every 15 minutes until nicely toasted. When finished, throw a handful of chocolate chips on top and allow to melt. Let mixture cool completely, then store in an airtight container.

I have used applesauce instead of the oil.  It makes the granola a little “chewier”, but none of my family noticed the difference.  You could also use dried fruit (I love dried pineapple in this!) instead of chocolate chips if you prefer. I eat this like cereal with milk poured over the top. Everyone in our house loves it, and it doesn’t last long. I normally double the recipe – it’s that good! 🙂

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Crockpot Saucy Scalloped Potatoes

4 cups thin sliced potatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
12oz can Pet milk (evaporated milk)
lg onion, sliced (I use onion powder since kiddo doesn’t like onions 😛 )
2 TBSP butter
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Spray crockpot with non-stick spray. Combine potatoes with other ingredients and mix well – pour into crockpot. For thicker sauce, sprinkle 2 TBSP flour in between potato layers. Cook on high for one hour, then reduce to low for 4 to 5 hours until potatoes are tender.

For a one dish meal, add 1 1/2 cups chopped ham to the mixture. I also top with shredded cheddar cheese a few minutes before serving. WONDERFUL and very easy!!

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I started doing this to save a few dollars on milk. In our neck of the woods, milk is over $4 a gallon which is ridiculous. I am buying powdered instant milk and mixing it with a gallon of whole milk to make two gallons. It saves almost $2/gallon, and it lasts longer too. Kiddo actually likes this better than regular 2% (which we were normally buying. Hubby drinks skim (what a trooper!), so I just mix up the powdered for him).

I use an extra empty jug for this. Mix a gallon pitcher of instant milk (I use 5 1/3 cups dry milk and fill the pitcher the rest of the way with water – stir very well). Pour half of the whole milk into the empty jug, and then fill both jugs the rest of the way up with the mixed instant. If it doesn’t fill to the top, I use water. Put the caps on and shake it really well. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours (overnight is better) before drinking. I am even cooking with the stuff and can’t tell a difference.

Hope this saves someone a few dollars on their grocery bill! 🙂

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