Tis the Season for DIY

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Tis the Season for DIY

Super easy, quick and fun Christmas d.i.y. with the kids today. Inexpensive and can be made into a sweet treat to hand out to tons of people, making each gift costs less than a dollar. Toss in a nice cellophane bag and throw a bow on it and you’ll brighten a lot of days with minimal blow to your wallet! Also, the work labor is cheap because you can pay them in decorated pretzels.

It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. Melt chocolate or get the chocolate melts at your local store(they come in a ton of colors and flavors, so I totally recommend). Melt your choice following the instructions on the bag and then hand dip each pretzel and place on parchment while your children go nuts and throw sprinkles all over the place!! (I rolled up towels and placed around the edges of the parchment so nothing would go ricocheting across the room and I wouldn’t be sweeping up sprinkles all the way until 2014.)
Wait until cool and dry and then tuck them away between layers of parchment or throw them right in our cellophane bags and head right out the door.

Make sure you dip the broken pretzels in the chocolate and eat them. This verifies nothing is poisonous and this is a necessary step in the making. I promise.

DIY Vanilla Extract

So, I love to bake.  Love it.  LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE.

I also love to be cheap. LOVE x INFINITY.

I think one of the biggest wallet blows whilst baking is a good vanilla extract.  I’m always a little gutted to walk down the aisle and see the price of a decent vanilla extract(and personally I just can’t bring myself to buy the imitation, I love baking and I respect baking).  When I started reading around, poking about Pinterest, et cetera, I saw a recipe for vanilla extract. What did I say? YOU can make your own vanilla extract!  Guess how much it’ll cost….go ahead….

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Vanilla Extract

vanilla beans(2 or 3)*

vodka**

a glass container(depending on your container you may want a funnel and if you don’t have one, you can fashion one out of paper if you’re really in a pinch)

a knife

5 seconds of your day

Clean your container and make sure it’s nice and dry.  Get out your vanilla beans and slice them length wise(my favorite part because it smells so yummy and I spent all night sniffing my fingers like a weird beast) then place them in your container. Use your funnel and pour your vodka into the container. Put lid on and place in a dark, dry area.

Now comes the hard part:  let it sit for 8 weeks, shaking every day.  I try to shake it when I get my morning coffee together.

You can use them just like store bought vanilla extract.  Some people top it off as they go, some people wait until it is low and then refill it and wait another 8 weeks.  You can use these beans over and over for I’ve read 8 months to a year. I’ve read some people who said that they have gone even longer.

*Some people use the casing of the vanilla beans after using the beans for another recipe, also.  If you need your beans for something, you may as well try it out, right?

**You can use other types of alcohol for you base.  I’ve read that some people have had wonderful results with Jack Daniel’s in particular while some people have used rum.  Try different things out. You can buy 2 vanilla beans for the price of a bottle of vanilla extract so you will end up winning either way.

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I had originally made the vanilla extract on July 19th and as of today, August 5th, this is how my vanilla extract appears…

If you look at my bottle in particular, you can see loose vanilla beans in the bottom and oils in the top.  The color has obviously shifted from completely clear to a nice amber/brown.  I can’t wait to try it!!

Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent

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Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent

One of my favorite DIY cleaning adventures thus far has been this laundry detergent. Super easy to make, easy to get your hands on the ingredients(seriously, we’re already on the internet, utilize it) and I love how my clothes feel when they are done.
I followed the recipe from shalommama.com(if you click the photo of my detergent, you can reach the page with a lot of her input and information)

1 box Borax powder
1 box Washing Soda
3 bars Fels Naptha soap
1 32 oz. container oxygen bleach
40 drops essential oil (I used sweet orange)

Grate the soap bars.  Mix everything together.  Put in a container. Use. TADA!

The hardest part was grating the bars of soap, as my food processor is too small for the bars to fit and I needed some me time. The only items I ordered online that are on this list are the fels naptha and the oxygen bleach, because I didn’t want to use oxyclean. I DO WANT TO POINT OUT, if you can buy borax and washing soda in the store, please, save yourself money and do that. I was pricing everything out and these boxes both are only about $3 each in the grocery store but if you order them online, they are around $10+. Really, it’s not worth it to buy online. I am hoping to find an oxygen bleach I can trust locally because I feel like it would make it even more reasonable of a price.
Also, I added the essential oils and while they make my laundry area smell absolutely delicious, they don’t seem to make it through to the end product for me. I’ve even tried applying it to some homemade wool balls and nada. Oh well, right? At least when I throw my doors open, it smells fresh and bright.

I have a smaller sized washer, not high efficiency, and probably older than me, so I just use a 1/4 cup measuring spoon and eyeball it depending on the size of my load. Much better for me, since I was using liquid before and I couldn’t tell you how much I used on anything, I just pushed the button and fell asleep.

This recipe makes a good amount, so be prepared to store extra away. I filled two of those jars pictured, one to the top and the other 2/3 of the way. I wouldn’t be surprised if I have enough to make it through a few months and I try to do a load of laundry every day.

Super Simple Side

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Super Simple Side

  1. Slice and dice a zucchini, make fun shapes, whatever you like
  2. Cut up red onion(about a 1/4 amount of the zucchini)
  3. Rip up or chop fresh basil
  4. Add two tbsp of lemon juice
  5. Salt and pepper to taste
  6. Mix & eat

It is refreshing. The red onion and basil give it immense flavor. I think it is my new favorite summer side dish AND it makes a great topper for a burger!

Easy Breezy

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Easy Breezy

I bought a few new small bowls and a tray last night so I decided to indulge in a Japanese style dinner. Tonkatsu, pickled cucumber and carrots, stir fried bok choy and leeks topped with sesame seeds in this photo. Everything in this photo was VERY easy to make, utilizing very few ingredients each!!

Baked Papaya with Coconut Milk

Boy, I haven’t been very good at updating this little blog.  I have been trying to get a little more creative in the kitchen recently, after getting a library card and deciding to get a new cookbook every visit.  I have been reading these cookbooks like novels.  I love it.  One thing I have to say, I am very annoyed when I get to a recipe that sounds delicious and the cookbook tells me to MICROWAVE ingredients.  No.  I will not.  I sold my microwave in a yard sale and replaced it with a toaster oven because it was just a flashy bread box prior.

Personally, I have always been bothered by microwaves.  I don’t like the idea of “nuking” food so that it warm or hot or softened or really anything.  I find that it warps the flavors and it probably is warping the genetic make-up.  I didn’t want to even have it plugged into the wall!!  BEGONE! 

So one of the recipes in the most recent cookbook was “Baked Papaya with Coconut Milk” which wasn’t baked at all, but much rather microwaved.  I also had an issue with the size of the papaya in the recipe.  My grocery stores only had papaya that were at least double the size of the one used in their recipe( I guess because I am closer to the source).  Needless to say, I have revamped the recipe.  It takes a bit of time but it’s something you can put in the oven while you are cooking dinner and then on to the counter while you eat.

 

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Baked Papaya with Coconut Milk

  • 3-4lb papaya
  • 1/2 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup condensed milk

Warm your oven to 350 degrees, fahrenheit.  Clean and dry your papaya, then lay it on it’s side, trying to find a nice flat stable base.  If it is too rounded all the way around, make a base by using a knife and simply cutting a flat area.  Once your papaya is situated, cut a ‘lid'(think of when you are carving a pumpkin, work on an angle so that the lid sits nicely on top and doesn’t fall in).  Remove the cap and then spoon out the seeds.  Mix your ‘milks’ and then put them inside.  Replace the cap and then top your papaya with foil and onto a cookie sheet.

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Pop it into the oven and let it bake for 30 minutes.  After the time is up, remove from the oven and let it sit on the counter for 20-30 minutes.  You can eat it immediately but this allows the temperature to cool so you can have a warm dessert rather than a blazing hot dessert.  Remove the foil, pull off the lead and then spoon out the ‘meat’ of the papaya and coconut milk mixture into a bowl or cup.  

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Act like you are on vacation while you are savoring your dessert!

 

 

Lasagna Roll-ups

Seriously delicious. Seriously easy.  Just mix up a container of ricotta, spinach(I just thawed a package of the frozen stuff), a handful of mozzarella cheese, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, a little garlic powder, salt and pepper and then spread it on your cooked lasagna noodles and roll those suckers up. Top it off with your favorite tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese.  Bake covered at 450 degrees for 20 minutes, uncover and bake for another 10-15 minutes(or until your cheese is golden).  If you don’t like the crunchy noodles, I recommend just keeping it covered the entire time.  Even the kids ate it up!!

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Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Salsa

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A few years back I worked in a restaurant that specialized in seafood in Beaufort, South Carolina.  One of my favorite menu items was their fried green tomatoes with shrimp salsa. The taste was immense!

The other day while shopping I spied with my little eye a basket of green tomatoes at the grocery store.  I had to get them and create deliciousness to share with the world.  Here is a super simple recipe I promise that you can make yourself and be proud of!

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

1 green tomato

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs

1 tbsp parmesan cheese

1 egg

3 tbsp milk(any kind, I used almond)

1/2 cup flour

salt and pepper to taste

olive oil

Let me give it to you easy, wash and dry your tomatoes and then slice them at about 1/4 inch thickness.  Set them to the side and turn on your pan to medium heat, added olive oil to the bottom so that there is a thin layer.  Prep three stations: 1. Place your flour on a plate, for dredging. 2. Get a bowl for your egg and milk, mix.  3. Another bowl or plate for you panko and parmesan cheese mix. Then it literally is as easy as 1,2,3.  Dredge your slices in the flour, dip them in the egg mixture and then evenly coat your tomato slice with the panko crumbs.  Top with a little salt and pepper and pop those puppies in the pan.  Don’t over crowd and make sure you check for even browning.  Once they are nice and browned, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels to help soak up excess oil.

You could use regular breadcrumbs, I just enjoy panko because it gives them such a crunch and it’s an awesome balance because the tomato inside and nice and juicy.

Easy, right?  Only one thing can be easier, the shrimp salsa!  It’s as easy as cooking, peeling and chopping up 6 medium shrimp and tossing them into a cup of your favorite salsa.  Homemade or in a can, it doesn’t matter. Mix it up and serve either on top of your ‘maters or on the side.

Sounds way more fancy than you’d think it’d be with so little work involved.

Another day, another Pinterest recipe…or 3.

Now that Christmas is creeping near, I like to act like it’s cold outside(even though it’s been about 80 here every day) and make yummy cozy warm food–and there seriously is nothing better than a beef stew.

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 I don’t know what I read or when I read it, but I was hellbent on having my stew over top of mashed potatoes so it was important for me to find a recipe that didn’t have potatoes in the stew itself and I was SO happy when I found a recipe for Irish Beef Stew over mashed potatoes.  It was perfect, since I didn’t have any celery and I didn’t have any wine(the bottle I had was pretty old and opened a couple of months ago and I think I was just using it for decoration at this point(giving my kitchen a little class).
I stuck pretty tightly to the recipe, since I’m always nervous about starting something new to me, since I’ve always used those packets from the grocery store where the spices are all mixed in and ready to go.  The only big difference is that I made the recipe in my crock pot, adding ingredients as I prepped them.
First, I browned my meat and got my (low sodium) beef broth ready, since it was bouillon.  I pretty much burnt my meat, because for some reason it just tastes better when it’s seared to hell.  Right before I took the meat off of the heat, I tossed in the diced garlic to release a little flavor, and then I tossed it all in the crock pot and poured the broth on top.  I cleaned out my cast iron pan, since the fond of the meat wasn’t really flavorful so much as burned to the bottom, toss in a little more oil and browned my onions while chopping up my carrots.  I tossed those in, threw in herbs, and then added two additional ice cubes of my own homemade chicken broth(it was from a perpetual broth that I cooked down and then froze) for a little extra flavor.  Lidded it and set it on low and let it cook all day.
Within an hour I was salivating and I kept lurking over the crock pot because I have no self control.  I was very proud of myself because I did hold out!!  I did, later on, add another cube of my broth with about a cup of water because I love the gravy and I wanted to make sure I had a ton for my taters.
My potatoes were also an awesome Pinterest find, branching out from the fact that I had a container of ricotta cheese that was still half full after my eggplant involtini and honestly, I don’t cook with ricotta often so I wanted to make sure I didn’t waste it.  The ricotta mashed potatoes were seriously easily to make and seriously delicious.  It was creamy and flavorful and absolutely great with the beef stew.  I didn’t make a single change to the recipe and I was pretty happy with my decision.
Let’s just say, the mister and I both had seconds and I totally had beef stew for breakfast the next day.  It was AMAZING.  I totally recommend these two recipes, together or apart, especially since you can easily adjust them to a particular low sodium diet that we work with here.  The beef broth is the only real sodium factor in the stew and you can find a low sodium broth at the store just as easily as a regular sodium one. If you make your own broth, you’re a cooking jedi and you already know that you can cut the salt way out and skip right to the flavor and make this recipe with almost no salt at all(and with a crock pot and a few bones and left over veggies pieces and some herbs you can make the best broth in your town with ease). The mashed taters, I only added a little sprinkle of salt on top for a little flavor and I used unsalted butter.
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BONUS ROUND!!!!!

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I’ve been discussing sprouting beans in a little facebook group I am in. Someone wanted to know some information, etc, so I decided to go ahead and start a Sprouting board on my pinterest. There are mostly links to how-to guides and nutritional facts.  Sadly I couldn’t find the one link I was looking for, where it broke down the nutritional increases day by day.
I did decide to go ahead and sprout some garbanzo beans I’ve had for a little while and make sprouted hummus.  From initial soaking to sprouting, my beans were in their jars for about 4 days.  I tried a different approach since I didn’t have cheese cloth on hand and I used coffee filters to top the jars.  They worked very well and maybe one day I will dish out the cash for the awesome lids that have screens in them but for now I can DIY it.
I did cook my beans for about 15-20 minutes before I made the recipe, you can try raw if you’d prefer, but I figured I’d try it this way and build up to raw.
The flavor was immense. It had a sweetness to it that I adored and I was eating it by the spoonful.  I think a big factor in your hummus is using an olive oil you enjoy.