Friday, January 27, 2012

The Homemade Mix Post

Some of these recipes I'll type here for you and some of them I'll post a link because there are just too many recipes for one poor gal with tired fingers to type :)

When I make mixes, I usually make 6 at a time knowing that we will got through them before any of the ingredients will go bad. And some of the ingredients will because there are no preservatives in these mixes you will be making. Try to remember that if you only make chocolate cake occasionally making up 6 is going to be a waste of money. That said, I line up my gallon size zip top bags and fill with the ingredients. With a sharpie, I write what I will need to add, baking directions and pan size. Just like a normal cake mix but without the cardboard box waste AND you can re-use the bags over and over for the same type of mix if you clean them out well.

The first 2 are from Chickens in the Road, and I have been using them faithfully since she posted them.

Homemade White Cake Mix

Homemade Yellow Cake Mix

Homemade Chocolate Cake Mix

This is right off the back of the Hershey's Cocoa container:
In your bag put
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
To make the cake, dump your mix into a bowl and add:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 cup boiling water
Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

Homemade Brownie Mix

Measure into your bag
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 cup chopped nuts
To make the brownies, dump your mix into a bowl. Melt 2/3 cup shortening and 1/2 cup cocoa together and add to the bowl along with 4 eggs. Stir until just combined and bake in a 9x13 inch pan for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees.

Homemade Oatmeal Packets

I've seen this recipe several places, or a version of it, but most recently I saw it here: Once A Month Mom
Measure into bags:
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 2 teaspoons powdered milk
  • pinch of salt
  • brown sugar, cinnamon, dried fruit, or other ingredients of your choosing
To make the oatmeal, put the packet contents in a bowl and pour 1 cup boiling water over the oatmeal and let it stand for 2 minutes.


Vanilla Pudding Mix

3 cups nonfat dry milk
4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cornstarch

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 1/2 cup mix to 2 cups milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. Bring to a boil (stirring all the time) until the mixture is thick and take off the heat. Mix in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla (optional) and refrigerate until ready to eat.

Chocolate Pudding Mix

3 cups nonfat dry milk
5 cups sugar
3 cups cornstarch
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa

Mix and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 2/3 cup mix with 2 cups milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it comes to a boil and mixture is thick. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Coconut Cream Pudding Mix

3 cups nonfat dried milk
4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cornstarch
1 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon coconut extract

Mix the coconut with the extract and let sit until all of the extract is absorbed. Let it air dry on the counter, spread out on a cookie sheet or wax paper until it is completely dry. Mix everything together and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 2/3 cup mix with 2 cups milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the mixture has boiled and is thick. Refrigerate until ready to eat.

Butterscotch Pudding Mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk
5 cups brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups cornstarch

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container. To make, mix 1/2 cup pudding mix with 2 cups milk. Cook over a medium heat until mixture has boiled and is thick. Refrigerate until ready to eat.


Quick Mix Recipes, these include coffee cake, muffins, biscuits, pancakes and More! I fell in love with this one. Chickens in the Road is a great resource for excellent food recipes!

I also make up big batches of Hot Cocoa Mix (it's towards the end of the post) andHershey's Style Syrup.

One last place I want to point you towards is Budget 101 and this post on 179 different spice mix recipes. They also have a side bar full of other mixes and ideas.

Some of these might take just a little longer to mix than a box recipe, but they are so worth it. 5-6 ingredients and a few more minutes is wayyyy better than over 15 ingredients that you can't pronounce!. Go get busy, you have a lot of mixes to make :)








Thursday, January 26, 2012

Scenes From My Windows

Since the rain won't stop and I haven't gotten the canoe out so we can venture farther than the front porch, here are some things I have seen this week from my windows.


Drips. Everything is dripping wet.



Clouds and fog, the story of our winter lives :)


The girls use this pan to "cook" outside when they play. You can see the remnants of a mud pie in the bottom. Our lilac bush is reflected in the collected water.



Trains are running during the day again. I used to really be bothered by the clickity-clack and banging of them, but now I don't really hear it and it just sounds like home!


They would really like it to stop raining so they can play in mud puddles :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Things I Never Knew I Needed Until I Got Them

I was blessed this Christmas to get some really great gifts. Useful gifts are my favorite, and I usually ask for things I can use in my kitchen or home. I am not one of those people who get mad if you get them a waffle iron or a vacuum lol.

Anyway, I thought I would show you a few of the things that I received this year. Well, last year. If I had known how awesome these things were I would have had them on my list years ago.

Maybe some of you already have these, but if you don't you should try to get them. They are handy and really nice to have around.

First up is this little gem:


It's a salt hog! Nothing could be more convenient than having this sitting on the counter. I can scoop a little out as I cook or it's super easy to use a measuring spoon to quickly get in there and get some salt. So much better than dealing with the pour spouts on the salt box. I usually buy 2# boxes of course kosher salt and those spouts can be a pain in the rear. Well no more! I love this things.

And then there is:



My mini butter bell. You pack the cup there full of butter, add a little cool water to the crock and put the cup back into the crock. The water seals off the air from getting to the butter, thus preventing it from going bad as quickly AND it keeps it at room temperature so it's soft and spreadable all the time. This one is just so cute, it makes me smile to look at it.

Or there's this one:


The mega-sized butter bell. I put the mini in the picture for size comparison. The large bell works the same way as the little one, only it hold 1/2 cup of butter (1 full stick) instead of 1 Tablespoon of butter. They are both awesome!

Probably one of my favorites:


I can just about guarantee that this is the only piece of Le Creuset I will ever own, but at least it's a cute piece. It's a pie bird if you weren't sure. Instead of cutting out vents in your top pie crust, you put this little guy in there and seal the crust around his shoulders. The steam escapes out his mouth and he looks cute all at the same time. I LOVE making cherry pie with a pie bird, I think it just looks nice!

And last, but not least, is this:


It's a chocolate dipping fork! This would have come in handy when I had 300 Christmas chocolates to dip....oh well, I have it for next year :)

I'm always on the lookout for interesting, useful and unusual kitchen gadgets. Things like this save me time and keep my kitchen looking pretty too. Can't beat useful and pretty ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Vietnamese Sandwiches



Let me start out by saying that I am not Vietnamese, I have no Vietnamese relatives and I know absolutely NO Vietnamese people. This recipe came to me by way of All Recipes and I have no idea how authentic it is. Probably not very, but I read most of the comments and added or subtracted ingredients until I got what I'm showing you here. Authentic or not, it's tasty.

It has an unusual combination of flavors and textures that lend themselves to warmer weather, but that's not to say they aren't nice in the winter too. It's light, flavorful and QUICK. Like....maybe under 15 minutes total, not counting the time to marinate the pork.

Vietnamese Sandwiches
via All Recipes, recipe in it's original form found here.

4 boneless pork chops or slices of loin sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 cup Spicy Sweet Chili Sauce
1 large (or 2 small) carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced
1-2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
1-2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 cup cilantro, or to taste
lime wedges
4- 5 or 6 inch buns (I used an outdoor roll)
Mayo
Spicy Chili Sauce

Marinate the pork chops in 1/2 cup chili sauce in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour and up to 8 hours. Either broil or pan fry the pork chops, if you pan fry choose a non stick pan and don't use any oil. While those are cooking combine the carrot, onion and salt in a bowl with the vinegar and the sugar, making sure to use equal parts. Use enough to coat the vegetables, but not to make them swim in liquid. Start out with the 1 tablespoon of vinegar/sugar and add a little at a time from there but be careful to keep your ratio 1:1 vinegar/sugar. Toast the buns, spread on mayo and drizzle with more chili sauce. Add the cooked pork chops, pickled vegetables, cucumber slices and cilantro. Serve with a lime wedge on the side.

Not only does it make a quick dinner, it really stretches the meat budget by using so little for a meal. I have been told that thin slices of radish and jalapeno pepper are also a traditional addition to this sandwich. So is pate in place of the mayo....I just didn't think my kids were going to go for that one ;)

Friday, January 20, 2012

5 Ingredient Granola Bars



I'm always looking for a granola bar recipe that works consistently. I have some recipes that I like, a lot actually, but the results are somewhat hit and miss. You can make them exactly the same two or three times and they will only turn out 50% of the time. It's frustrating, it wastes money and it wastes time.

I saw the recipe for these Peanut Butter Granola Bars on The Marathon Mom a couple days ago. Since today is going to be my baking day, I decided to try them out while I was waiting on other things to get done.

The recipe is simple and only has 5 ingredients, unless you add the optional wheat germ then it has 6, and they were all things I had in my kitchen already. How nice is that?

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
as found on The Marathon Mom

1/2 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (if you don't have coconut oil, Crisco works just as well)
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
2 Tablespoons wheat germ (optional, but nutritious)
1/2 cup peanuts

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the peanut butter, honey and oil. Mix in oats, wheat germ and peanuts. Spread into a greased or foil lined 8x8 inch pan. Let sit on the counter or in the freezer until cooled. Turn out onto the counter or cutting board and cut into bars. Makes about 1 dozen.



I couldn't be happier with these. She also has a Chocolate Granola Bar that I plan on trying soon. I wrapped these in parchment and stored them in the fridge.....they aren't going to last very long around here, but they are so easy to make that I don't mind at all.

I think I'll make a double batch of each flavor next time and have a whole bunch of handy snacks ready to go!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Crafty

Yesterday I had to take Kevin to town to the dentist and run some errands. The weather has been positively nasty here the last couple days. Snow, freezing temps...and now today we have gale force winds and blowing heavy rain. My internet has been spotty at best. Our Netflix keeps turning on and off.

It's been the perfect few days for yarn work :)

I'm not a knitter, although I wish I could learn how. I like to crochet so I just stick with that. Yesterday I dug out my stuff and got to work. I made this scarf in a couple hours:


It's a ruffle scarf and I LOVE it! It worked up really quick and easy. I found the pattern here, it's a keeper.

I had more than 1/2 a skein of yarn left so I searched around on Ravelry (have you been there yet? Tons of knitting and crochet patterns for FREE) to find something to make for the girls. I settled on some wristies that were too cute for words. The pattern can be found here. They are really cute and work up really fast. They are also really easy to size up so you can make yourself some too.

My first one looks like this, I'm still working on it's mate.


I see my problems in it and I'll fix them the next time around, but working in the round was new to me. I was excited to learn something new! And to be honest, they don't have to be pretty to work right? These will keep their little hands warm, but their fingers more free to play and grasp things. Not that our house is really that cold, but sometimes they will be nice just to snuggle down in. So far, they love them.

I like that the cuff can be folded down or left long so you can put it over a sleeve or under a sleeve. When the reach and bend their arms, their arm will still be covered and warm.


All in all a couple cute, simple ways to keep my hands busy on some really nasty days. I'm just using Red Heart Super Saver yarn for these projects, but I would love to make some up out of the Homespun stuff I've seen out there or even some soft baby yarn. Better to practice with the cheap stuff first though ;)

Gotta go refill the hot cocoa mugs now~ stay warm and tell me what you're working on!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weekly Menu Plan

I'm late getting this done today but it was a typical Monday....I'll just leave it at that! I haven't shared my meal plan in a while and I thought I would start doing that again today. It helps keep me on track, focused and accountable. If I put it out there for the world to see then I have to make sure it gets done, ya know? In no particular order:

Breakfast-

Oatmeal w/brown sugar and cinnamon x 2
French Toast
Bacon, eggs and toast
Yogurt with granola x 2
Scrambled eggs and toast

Lunch-

Leftover Pizza
Quesadillas
PB&J x 2
Grilled Cheese
Leftover soup
Soft tacos



Dinner-

Fried potatoes, eggs, sausage and toast
Spicy pork sandwiches
Chicken tortilla soup
Biscuits and gravy
Taco salads
Frito pie
BBQ chicken, cornbread and green salad

Desserts-

Baked peaches with whipped cream
Hot chocolate cake
Cherry pie

This week has a lot of hodge podge menu items. We condensed 2 freezers into 1 and I have a few items I am trying to use up before they get freezer burned. But, I like having all that food on hand. Grocery shopping should be a breeze!

I'm planning on blogging a few of these recipes this week! Yay! for new recipes :)

What's on your menu this week?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

They Better Not be Messing With Me

Look, look, LOOK!


They better not be pulling my leg.....I have hot cocoa stuff ready and waiting to go. Mittens have been found, jackets are at the ready and boots are lined up by the fire.

BRING IT WINTER! We're ready and waiting for you!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Burnin' Up



Dusk on the old homestead.

We've been busy little people today. Winter has been mild (have I told you that yet?) and we try to take advantage of the days while they are here. Since everything isn't soaking wet, clean up is a lot easier.

Some of you know that we have been remodeling this house since we moved in. When you remodel and do handy projects on your days off and weekends, messes seem to pile up. You don't have time to go to the dump or take care of the mess because you are trying to fit in 3 days worth of work into 1 day.

Small piles become large ones, stacks of wood start to have offspring, bags and boxes pile up here and there. Pretty soon the piles all run together and you look like a junk yard exploded in your yard/behind your house/everywhere.

In an effort to get our junk cleaned up, we started a burn pile today. Very fun for everyone involved. Find junk! Throw it on the pile! Burn!!! Who doesn't like a good fire? Be honest, fire is fun. It's dangerous, deadly and not to be taken lightly....but still fun.

So, that's what we did today. We burned junk.



And you know what we found out?



Fire attracts midget hobos! Who woulda thunk it??!!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Winter-ish

Stark apple branches and the pale blue winter sky.


Brrr, it's cold. 19 degrees to be exact. But so far this winter we have been very dry. Not much rain, no snow...I don't think our ski resorts are even open right now. Very weird. If we don't get some wet stuff soon, we're going to have one heck of a dry fire season. You know, the kind that burn the whole state up. Woohoo. Loads of fun.

I dislike this dry winter. Everything is barren and stark, but not the pretty way when it's wet and snowy. We're working on having some serious problems....our fruit trees are budding.

Budding apple trees.


Our strawberries have come out of dormancy and are growing.

Strawberries growing and growing.


Our berry bushes are STILL producing fruit. Kevin picked raspberries off this plant about a week ago.

Raspberry bushes still producing.


In short, really cold weather now could be disastrous for my summer fruit crop. Not only that, the absence of any precipitation is making our snow pack really low. Low snow pack=low water tables=dry, dry , dry.

A cup of my favorite hot cocoa sitting on the frozen water in a cast iron pan. Brrr!


But, not all is lost. It's still cold outside and cold outside means hot cocoa! Here is my most favorite hot cocoa mix to keep mixed up.

Hot Cocoa Mix

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Use the Hershey's Dark, sooo good!)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cornstarch
warm milk

Fill a mug 1/2 full with cocoa mix (more or less to taste), and heat up enough milk or water to top it off (how much will depend on the size of your mug). Add to hot cocoa mix, stir really well and add marshmallows. When I make this for the adults, I'll add a teeny-tiny pinch of cayenne pepper. It adds a nice little warm kick, but isn't spicy or weird tasting at all. Also, a 1/2 teaspoon of homemade vanilla is a great addition :)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cheesy Potato Soup


We love soup. We usually have soup once a week for dinner and leftover soup for lunch a couple times. Soup can also be an incredible way to stretch your budget, turning bits and pieces of leftovers into another meal. This quick and tasty potato soup is a great way to use leftover mashed potatoes and have a meal on the table in no time at all. Of course, leftover mashed potatoes aren't required to make the soup.....you can boil a few and leave them chunkier than you would for mashed potatoes, you can use all potato flakes if that's what you want. It's up to you!

Cheesy Potato Soup

1 onion small to medium onion, diced (you want about a cup or so)
3 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 Tablespoons flour
1/2 gallon milk
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes, boiled potatoes or 1 1/2 cups potato flakes
2 cups shredded cheese (cheddar, Swiss or Monterrey jack all work really nicely)

In a large saucepan or stockpot, melt butter and add onions, salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat until the onions are translucent and soft. Add flour, stirring well to absorb all the butter and to coat the onions. Cook for 2-3 minutes to lose the flour taste. Add the milk, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Add in the potatoes and let it cook until it's warmed through and thickened, about 15-20 minutes. If the soup is hot and has not thickened as much as you would like, you can add some potato flakes or make a slurry out of a couple tablespoons water and a couple tablespoons cornstarch and add it to the mix. It should thicken up to you liking after that. Right before serving, stir in the shredded cheese, stirring well to melt throughout the soup. Serve in bowls with more cheese, sour cream, crumbled bacon, chives, green onions or other toppings of choice.

This soup is great with additions like ham, corn, carrots and even chopped green chilies! Serve with cornbread, bread sticks or crackers on the side and you'll have a wonderful, tasty, QUICK meal any day of the week!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Catch Up

It's a new year! I'm so sad that I didn't get to do an end of the year run down like I did last year. But hey, worse things could have happened.

What did happen though was that my laptop keyboard got fried, half they keys didn't work and I couldn't type anything with it. I was forced to use the on screen keyboard and let me tell you , it's worse than being the slowest hunt-and-peck typer around. There just wasn't going to be much blogging going on like that.

Now that I am all fixed up and can type more than 2 WPM, lets talk about the new year. I'm anticipating this new year to bring a host of new challenges and changes and that is exciting to me!

I don't do new year's resolutions but I do think setting some goals is a great habit to get into. So, with that said let me tell you what I have in mind for this year:

DIY

  • Lotion
  • Lip balms
  • Deodorant
  • Aftershave
  • Lotion Bars
  • Soap
  • Household cleaners
  • Muscle rub
  • Cough syrups
  • Teas
  • Home decor projects
  • Tips, tricks and helps

Home/Garden

  • Planting and starting seeds
  • Seed saving
  • Organic/non-toxic garden sprays and fertilizers
  • Weed control
  • Building a "root cellar" type building
  • Building a small, cost effective greenhouse
  • Putting the harvest up including canning, dehydrating, freezing, recipe ideas
  • Yard beautification ideas
  • Other misc outdoor projects

Cooking/Baking

  • 1 new meal recipe a week
  • More whole grain baking
  • 1 dessert a week
  • kitchen tips, tricks, hints and helps
  • Giveaways
  • Cookbook reviews
  • Promotion of blogs I have found and loved
  • Interactive learning experiences (I hope to do this one)
  • Homemade solutions to store bought items (think ranch, mayo, ketchup, BBQ sauce, taco seasoning, etc)
  • Any misc things that come along

I'm sure there will be a lot of other things that find their way into my brain as the year goes along. I want to expand my craft ideas, homeschool information and homemade ideas. As you can see, making things from scratch and DIY'ing it are high on my list of priorities this year. I have set a goal for myself: buy 50% less at the store. Now that doesn't mean we're going to be eating half as much, it means I want to consume 50% less retail goods. That means all across my spending: toiletries, household goods, groceries, clothing etc. I will not be giving up buying toilet paper though, just in case any of you thought I was really going off the deep end.

All in all I think this year is going to be one of the most exciting and educational yet. I'm branching out, leaving my comfort zone and trying some wild new things....and you can too cause I plan on taking you all along this with me :)

Now, what lofty goals have you set for yourself this year?