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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Very Fast Homemade Valentine's Card

Are you a procrastinator like me?  There's nothing like last minute.  Luckily, time crunches can inspire great ideas.



This Valentines Day card is very simple, requires minimal supplies, and above all else, is creative and handmade.  The ultimate display of affection is assembling something with your own massive, callused, hairy hands.

All you will need is:


  • Heavy paper (Use what you have:  card stock, a cereal box, a manilla folder, even construction paper will work in a pinch)
  • Newspapers, magazines, junk mail (Anything with lots of big letters printed on it)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Markers

 The assembly is quite simple:


  1. First, fold the heavy paper in half to form a card.
  2. Next, cut out letters from newspapers and such to make a message of your choice.  Since the card has a ransom letter look to it, you may want to make your message pretty ransom-ey.
  3. Cut out hearts from any kind of paper you'd like.  I used a combination of construction paper and newspaper hearts on my card.
  4. Glue the letters and hearts to the front of the card, and allow to dry.
  5. On the inside of the card, you can glue a rectangle of newspaper or other paper and write your message on that.  (I had originally planned on continuing the ransom letter look on the inside, but I got tired of cutting out letters, so chose to just write a message instead).
And you're done.  I told you it was easy.  :)  Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Soapmakers: Why You Shouldn't Use Vinegar if You Come into Contact with Lye

It was one of the first things I learned when I began making my own soap; I read it in books and on the internet:

"Always keep a jug of vinegar on hand when you are working with lye.  Vinegar neutralizes lye."


Soapers, have you heard this?  Do you practice the habit of keeping vinegar nearby when you make your soaps?  So did I, until recently, when I read an interesting post on a soap forum, and then decided to research the claim myself.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Homemade "Everything" Buns

Soft and fluffy, these buns are great as a side with salad, to use as sandwich rolls, hamburger buns, or even just eaten buttered as a snack.  I take advantage of my bread machine's dough cycle to make these buns, but they can just as easily be made with a mixer or by hand.

When making any bread recipe, you may need to slightly adjust the amount of flour or milk added, depending on the humidity levels in your home.  If the dough looks too dry, add a little drizzle of milk; conversely, if the dough is too sticky, sprinkle in a little more flour.  The dough should form a smooth ball and be springy to the touch.  As my husband says, "It's all in the dough ball!"





Everything Buns (Click for Printable Version)


The Dough:
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup honey
3  tablespoons melted butter
4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons fast acting yeast

The "Everything" Topping:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
sesame seeds
poppy seeds
dried onion flakes
garlic powder
sea salt

1.  In your bread machine pan*, add the dough ingredients in the order recommended by your bread machine's manufacturer (generally liquids are added first and are then topped with the dry ingredients).

2.  Start the machine's dough cycle.  While the dough is mixing, generously grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with butter and lightly flour a work surface.

3.  Once the dough cycle is complete, remove the dough from the bread pan and place on the lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into 12 pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball (see a demonstration here). 

4.  Place the dough balls into the greased casserole dish.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise until dough balls have doubled in size.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl, and grab a pastry brush.  Have the rest of your "Everything" toppings ready to sprinkle on.

6.  After the 20 minutes has elapsed, remove the buns from the oven and brush with the egg yolk mixture.  Sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion flakes, garlic powder, and salt to taste.  Return the the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

7.  Remove casserole from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Pull buns apart and serve immediately.  If you do not wish to serve the buns right away, pull them apart and place them on wire racks to cool completely before packing into an airtight container.

*Alternate instructions for mixing by hand or using a mixer:

By Hand:

Mix dough ingredients together in a large bowl, and then turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Wipe the large bowl out and generously grease it with butter.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise until double in size.  Proceed with step 3 above.

By Mixer:

Combine dough ingredients in mixer bowl with dough hooks attached.  Mix on low until all ingredients are combined, and then increase speed to medium-low and mix for about 4 or 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Remove the dough from the bowl, wipe out the bowl, and grease liberally with butter.  Return dough to bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise until double in size.  Proceed with step 3 above.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Very Fast, Mayonnaise-Free Deviled Eggs

This recipe for deviled eggs is great for anyone who doesn't like or is avoiding mayonnaise.  These deviled eggs are pretty enough to put out for Christmas dinner, but also fast and easy enough to make for a weekday snack.  The method used to hard boil the eggs also ensures nice, yellow yolks--no unattractive green.  This recipe is easily doubled, tripled, etc...


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Freshly Ground Taco Seasoning



I'll be honest, the only reason I made my own freshly ground taco seasoning is because I ran out of chili powder on taco night (the most sacred of nights).
     
I had a container of dried ancho chiles that had been sitting around for quite some time though, so I thought, why not grind them up into chili powder?

Since I also have all kinds of dehydrated goodies, like onion flakes and sun-dried tomatoes, I decided to dip into my stash and freshly grind all sorts of things.  I used a mortar and pestle for some ingredients, like the cumin seed, but found it to be too difficult to grind the peppers and tomatoes that way, so I switched to the coffee grinder for those.  I ground some uncooked white rice in the grinder before and after the spices so that my taco seasoning wouldn't taste like coffee, and my coffee wouldn't taste like taco seasoning.

This recipe is great for those who like to preserve their food by dehydrating.  The type of chiles you use in your seasoning will depend on how spicy you like it--ancho chiles are mild, so were a good choice for me, since I have toddlers eating with us.

Freshly Ground Taco Seasoning

2 tablespoons snipped, dried chilis (such as ancho, piquin, habanero)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon garlic flakes
1 tablespoon snipped, dried tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch

Combine all ingredients in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.  Grind until powdered.  Store in an airtight container.

To use:  For every one pound of meat, use 3 tablespoons of seasoning.  Add to cooked meat along with 3/4 cup water.  Bring to a boil; then, reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Friday, July 25, 2014

No-Roll Pie Crust

Ask me to finely dice an onion, and I'll do it.  Tell me I have to strip the leaves off a huge bunch of thyme, and fine, it's done.  Command me to peel five pounds of potatoes, and your wish is granted!  But ask me to roll out a pie crust, and you can kiss my apples.

For some reason, rolling out dough is probably my least favorite kitchen task.  I don't make cut out cookies, perfectly round biscuits (only drop biscuits), or fancy pie crust.  Rolling out dough generally turns into a sticky mess for me, so I avoid it.

But you know, sometimes, I miss pie. My good friend pie.  So now, I make a press-in-the-pan pie crust so that pie and I can spend time together.  It's very simple--I haven't screwed one up yet--and tastes just as good as a rolled out crust.





Sunday, April 27, 2014

Easy Homemade Carpet Powder

A quick and easy way to freshen your home is to deodorize and then vacuum your carpets.  There are many types of commercial carpet powders available for this purpose, by why spend the money when you can easily make your own for pennies?




Carpet Powder

Ingredients:

1 cup baking soda
1 cup borax
5-10 drops of a deodorizing essential oil (such as lavender or tea tree)
     or 1 tablespoon powdered, dry herb (cinnamon and rosemary work well)

1.  Whisk baking soda and borax together to combine.

2.  Add essential oil or powdered herb.  Mix well.

3.  Pour mixture into a shaker (an old Parmesan cheese or spice container works well).

4.  Sprinkle the mixture over carpets and allow to sit for 20 minutes, keeping children and pets off carpet.  

5.  Vacuum carpet thoroughly.