Saturday, December 22, 2012

Yuletide, Oathing & 13 for 13

Yule is upon us yet again and it's time to start looking towards the new year.  Where did the time go? 

One aspect of our Yuletide festivities is Sumbel.  It's a sacred rite which involves making oaths for the next year.  One of my friends, Cat, posted on her blog about the 13 for 13 at Life Skills Challange 2013.  I figured I could make my oaths and then use the 13 for 13 website to update my progress as the year moves forward. 

You can check out my skills and also join yourself. 

Until then, I wish each and every one of you a blessed Holiday Season no matter what you're religious views or lack thereof.  Glad Yule!

The Yule Tomte and his Yule Buck. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Making Liquid Laundry Detergent

If you've been buying laundry detergent lately, you know how expensive it is.  Even the cheap stuff is not cheap anymore. I come from a long line of die-hard Tide users.  It runs about $8 for 50 ounces of the stuff. Yikes!  Sure, you can get coupons &/or catch it on sale, but it's still crazy expensive.  A 5 gallon bucket of homemade detergent costs approximately $2.35 to make & lasts a long time!  It's quite a savings in the long term.

So last summer, I started making my own detergent. Yup, I make my own.  So does my mother (the Tide queen!), my best friend, an aunt, and several cousins.  It's so easy and so inexpensive I doubt if any of us will ever buy commercial detergent again.

So here the 'scoop'..ha ha..I'm SO funny!
Notice spoon and grater.
Here's what you'll need:
Approximately 4 gallons hot water
5 gallon bucket
1/2 cup Borax (20 Mule Team is what's usually available)
1 cup Washing Soda (Arm & Hammer is easy to find)
1 Bar of soap (Most recipes call for Fels Naptha. I've also used Zote and Colgate's Octagon).
Add Borax and Washing soda to bucket.

Fill bucket about 3/4 full of very hot water and stir until Borax and Soda are well mixed.

Heat 4 cups of water to boiling in a saucepan. 
While water is coming to boil, grate soap into a bowl.  I've read some people use a food processor but I do it the old fashioned way.

Once the water comes to a boil, slowly add soap flakes and stir until melted. Do it slowly.  Do not add all at once or you'll end up with a big ball of hot soap.
Keep adding soap until you have a nice pan of soap soup. By the way, you're house is going to smell extra clean while you do this so pick a scent you like!

When all soap is melted, pour into hot water and stir until mixed.

This is the 'hard' part.  Put the lid on the bucket and wait 24 hours.

When you open the bucket you can see a variety of things. 
EEEK! I've been slimed!
Sometimes, the detergent will look just like Jello.  Sometimes, it will look like 'real' liquid detergent and sometimes you'll end up with sorta slimy water with blobs floating in it.  It really doesn't matter.  It looks kinda gross but works just fine.  If you don't like it, take a hand-blender and mix it together.

We usually just use it straight out of the bucket.  If you don't want a bucket of slime hanging around your laundry room, you can decant it into used laundry bottles.  Make sure to shake before each use.

If you want to get fancy, you can add 10 to 15 drops of essential oil to the detergent.  I've used lavender.  It doesn't scent your laundry so for me, I just keep it simple.

To use, add about 1 cup per load.  It will not suds like store-bought detergent but your clothes will be nice and clean. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Cooking the Kale and Swiss Chard!

Finally!  My little garden has paid off.  I waited patiently for this moment! 

Here is my first harvest of the kale and Swiss chard I planted awhile back.  A big ole sink full!
I am please with my haul!
After I rinsed it, I spun it dry in my Salad Spinner.  I tell ya, those things are wonderful.  Of course, since it was nice and fresh, it was definitely making it to the dinner plate tonight. 
My favorite way to cook greens is to not over-cook them.  I don't care for mushy veggies in general and particularly greens. YUCK!  I lightly saute them and everyone raves.
Not pictured...sugar.
Garlicky Good Greens
1 mess of greens (I had a large colander full)
Garlic (I used 4 cloves)
Fresh course ground pepper-to taste
Sea salt-to taste
Crushed red pepper-just a pinch (of course if you like hot stuff, feel free to add to taste)
Sugar-about a teaspoon
Olive Oil-about 1/4 cup at most
Water-about 1/2 cup
Remove stems from kale and chard.  Discard (or put in your compost pile).

Cut up kale and chard.  The easiest way is to roll it into a 'cigar' shape & then slice it into thin strips.  Once you have sliced it all, place in a skillet.
Next, get your garlic.  Peel and cut off the root end. 
Using a garlic press, squish garlic on top of greens.  Yup, squish is a cooking term in my house.  If you don't have a 'garlic squisher', mince it.  Next sprinkle with salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes, and sugar.

Drizzle olive oil over greens and then add water to the pan.
Hard to see olive oil but it's there.  Other pic was too blurry.

Saute over medium-high heat, making sure to stir frequently until greens are getting tender and the water has evaporated.  Be careful and don't burn the garlic, otherwise it will become bitter.  You want the greens to retain their color but still be tender.  This takes about 10 minutes.  Yes, they will reduce a lot!  Always start with at least double the amount you want for the finished dish.

Serve and enjoy! 
I served my greens with Rosemary Roasted Cornish Game hens, Israeli couscous, and Rosemary sherry reduction sauce.  It was delicious.  Hubs asked if I could duplicate this exact meal for the In-Laws this weekend.  If that's not a compliment, I don't know what is!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Yuletide!

I absolutely refuse to put up Yule decorations before Thanksgiving.  I think Thanksgiving deserves our full attention.  It's an important holiday for families and for us as Americans.  We honor our forefathers and mothers and the blessings we have received throughout the year.  All good things. 

But now that Turkey day is officially over, it's time to start redecorating! WOOHOO!

My Mother-in-Law has gifted me the past few years with a beautiful set of holiday dishes by Pfaltzgraff called Winter Berry.  They are a lovely pattern and perfect for the entire holiday season.  She really put a lot of thought into choosing this pattern for me and I appreciate them very much.
So pretty!
They are now our primary dishes.  Yes, I have different dishes for the seasons.  I will admit I have six sets of dishes.  Yeah, you read that right.  Six sets!  I just love changing things out for every season. 

Things are a bit messy around the ole homestead right now.  I've been in the garage, pulling out boxes, checking light strands, and rearranging wreaths. 

Our typical Yule theme is blue and silver.  This year, I'm incorporating red into the blue with small hints of evergreen.  I think it'll be really pretty and will blend well from room to room.  The way our house is laid out, you can see the kitchen and dining room from the living room. Because of this, I have to be aware of how the whole pulls together.  I think I'll be able to pull it off.  When I'm done, I'll post some pictures and you can tell me how I did. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cookies for Turkey Day

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and I will be spending it with my In-laws.  My Mother-in-law is now gluten free.  Most of the desserts she makes include flour, so she can't eat them, so I wanted to make something special for her. 

I looked around online and saw a lot of peanut butter cookie recipes which were gluten free.  This recipe is a hybrid of several and makes a small batch. Perfect!

These are not super sweet so they are great after a heavy meal or with a cup of coffee for breakfast.  What?  Cookies for breakfast?  Hey, you only live once!

Gluten Free Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookies
Make about a dozen cookies
1-1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/8 cup white sugar
1/8 cup turbinado sugar
1/4 cup peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
2 tablespoon soft butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
Dash salt
1/8 cup chocolate chips
1/8 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat oven to 350F. 
Combine all ingredient except chips & blend well. 

Add chips and blend again until chips are evenly dispersed into dough. 

Using a cookie scoop, scoop out cookies onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake approximately 12 to 15 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool then devour!

Here they are, all dressed up for their trip tomorrow.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Soup For Supper

It's one of those windy cool Autumn days that just requires homemade soup.  And bread.  Yes, homemade soup and bread! 

I rooted around my freezer and pantry and decided upon Chicken Noodle soup with my Honey Oatmeal bread.  Mmmmmm. Sounds so good!  Hubs will be thrilled. 

So the bread is in the bread maker and yes, the house smells wonderful.  Now on to the soup.

I'll be honest, I have a tendency to just throw stuff together.  I only really measure for baked goods because they are picky recipes.  I promise to try to keep track of the amounts of ingredients for you. 

I do think that you should adjust amounts to your family's preferences.  I mince the carrots, celery & onions because my Hubs isn't a big fan and he will eat them this way.  If you like them, cut them into bigger chunks.  Just remember, they will take longer to get nice and tender.  You can also use leftover chicken or turkey instead of starting from scratch.  No homemade chicken broth? Use canned or dry broth starter.  I often use all three.  No sherry?  Leave it out.  It will be delicious without it.  Or try some white wine.  I use Reames frozen Egg Noodles to save time.  Feel free to make your own or you can use dried noodles.  Again, use what you have on hand and what your family prefers.  As you can see, I didn't use fresh carrots because I was out.  I added 1 cup canned carrots when I added the broth.
The Lineup

Chicken Noodle Soup
2 tablespoon Olive Oil
1/2 cup minced Onion
1/2 cup minced Celery
1/2 cup minced Carrots
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 lb. chicken tenders, cut into small cubes
6 cups Chicken broth
2 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tablespoon Garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground Pepper
1/2 cup Cream (optional)
1 package Reames Egg Noodles
1/4 cup Sherry (optional)

Saute onion, celery and carrots in 2 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat until tender but not browned.

Add the other tablespoon olive oil and chicken.  Turn heat to medium high and saute until chicken is slightly browned.

Add chicken broth, bay leaves, parsley, garlic powder and pepper.  Bring to boil then turn down and let simmer for about 20 minutes.

Add noodles and cream and cook until noodles are almost done, approximately 10 minutes. Add sherry and cook until noodles are tender, approximately another 10 minutes.
Noodly goodness!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Lesson in Hurricane Sandy

Before I say anything else, I want to send my prayers and thoughts to the thousands who were and still are in the path of Hurricane Sandy.

I have several East coast friends who were in the brunt of the hurricane and have seen their updated pictures throughout the evening and early hours this morning. It's bad, people. Very bad.

One of my friends is a Councilman in New York and lives on Long Island. Although our politics don't always agree, I have to say Dan is definitely a man who works for his people. He was out in the middle of the storm, tracking flooding, fallen trees and electrical outages, reporting his findings in real time to his constituents. His reports & photos were both horrifying and fascinating.

This, my friends, is why we prepare.

Photo Credit: Dan Halloran
Photo Credit:  Dan Halloran

I had friends who took a very laisse a faire attitude in the days leading up to Sandy. I worry for those folks. It's the old "It won't happen to me" thought that gets people in serious trouble.  Few have been online today due to power outages, so I wait.  I can only hope that they are safe and their property didn't suffer too much damage. 

Meanwhile, the last 24 hours have really hit the message home for me.  Will I be a victim or will I take responsibility for me and my family?  I know my answer!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pork Butt!!

Doesn't that sound awful?  PORK BUTT!  Sounds like a nasty little taunt but it's not. 
Photo Credit to Crazy Neighbor Lady blog.
This is what I made from the leftover meat from the Smokey BBQ Pork I made earlier this week.  It was delicious and will definitely be made again.  Sorry.  I forgot to take pictures.  Next time!

Pulled Pork Soft Taco
Leftover meat from Smokey BBQ Pork
Ground Cumin
Broth from Smokey BBQ Pork
Corn tortillas
Chipotle Slaw
Monetary Jack or Cheddar cheese, shredded
Onion, chopped
Shred the leftover pork and put in a medium size skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle liberally with ground cumin. Add a few tablespoons pork broth and stir to combine. Separate pork and gently warm until the pork has absorbed most of the pork broth. Set aside.

Heat a small skillet on high. Add 1 corn tortilla to pan. Let warm for approximately 30 seconds, flip and warm another 30 seconds. They burn quickly so be alert. Put warmed tortillas inside a folded tea towel to keep warm. Continue to cook and put in towel until you have the desired number. I typically eat 3 to 4. Hubs will usually eat 4 to 6.

To assemble taco:
Place tortilla on plate, add pork, then cheese, slaw, onion and top with cilantro. Fold and devour!

Chipotle Slaw
1/4 cabbage
1/4 cup real Mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Rice Vinegar
2 tablespoon Chipotle Powder

Shred cabbage. Mix mayonnaise, vinegar and chipotle powder. Add cabbage and toss. This is better if made a few hours before so the chipotle can really infuse the mayo.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Hoping for Best, Planning for Worst

Having a homestead means a lot of different things to different people.  For me, homesteading is all about self reliance.  I also see it as a viable way to provide the Fam with options.

By growing some of our own food, I spend less at the grocery store/farmers market and therefore, I don't have to work full time.  I get to choose what crops I grow and how I grow them.  I can preserve a variety of items to line the shelves of my pantry.  I guess in a nutshell, homesteading to me equals freedom. 

Another common idea among a lot of homesteaders is preparing for future.  I'm not one of those who believe the world will end on 21 December 2012.  Nor do I think our country is on the verge of a major social upheaval which will plunge us into some sort of Mad Max barbaric free-for-all.  I do think global warming is a real concern.  I think this will impact us more deeply than most realize.  With droughts come fewer commercial crops.  Between that and the high fuel costs, food and goods prices will increase exponentially.  This is the future I am preparing for.

Another issue I am preparing for is the possibility of a major electrical grid shut down.  My Hubs pointed out how antiquated and venerable our grids are.  Believe me, when Hubs points something out, I listen. He's not into 'prepping' at all! 

And last but not least, I live in Tornado Alley!  We have serious thunderstorms every Spring, Summer, and Fall.  In the Winter, we get ice storms.  We get tornadoes, floods, crazy heat waves, and ice almost every year. Oh, and let's not forget earthquakes.  Yup, we get earthquakes in Oklahoma. Don't you wish you lived here? 

One ice storm can knock power out for weeks.  Believe it or not, so can a heat wave.  Even if our house doesn't get hit by a tornado, the neighborhood can and we could again be without electric and possibly water.  Heck, we may not even be able to leave the neighborhood due to fallen trees and debris. 

So yeah, hoping for the best and planning for the worst is just dealing with reality.  If we have a tornado, ice storm, or heck, a zombie apocalypse, at least I know my family be prepared. 

Friday, October 26, 2012

A Tasty Low-Carb Breakfast

Since I've been changing my eating habits, I've had to get creative in the kitchen. It's pretty easy at lunch and dinner, but breakfast has been somewhat of a challenge.

Eggs have been my go-to for a high protein, low-carb meal.  I typically make some sort of omelet or else I make scrambled/fried egg with a side of bacon, sausage or ham.  Don't get me wrong, I do like a traditional American breakfast, but after two weeks I'm getting a little bored with it. 

Since I love veggies (you should see my omelets!), I decided to switch things around a bit.  This is what I came up with.  I can make many variations using different ingredients. 

Feeling Mexican?  Throw in some cumin and chili powder, use lean chiorizo, and top with a bit of salsa and Queso Fresco.  American? Switch the spinach for mustard or collard greens, leave out the garlic powder and hot pepper flakes and use country ham with an American cheese slice. 

Other changes can be using kale or Swiss chard for the spinach.  Change the green pepper to red peppers or roasted peppers.  Use different types of cheeses.  Throw in some mushrooms or leftover low-carb veggies.  Switch up the spices.  The possibilites are almost limitless! 

Italian Skillet Fry
One Serving
1 teaspoon Olive Oil
2 tablespoon Onion, chopped
1/4 cup Green Pepper, chopped
2-1/2 cups fresh Spinach
2 teaspoon Garlic Powder
Salt to taste (Optional. Cheese & sausage have plenty already)
Pepper to taste
Hot Pepper Flakes to taste (Leave out if you don't like spicy)
1/4 cup Italian Sausage Crumbles (I had this on hand. Use regular Italian sausage if you don't)
Cooking spray
1 egg
1 slice cheese, about 1 ounce (Shredded mozzarella or Parmesan are best but use what you have)

Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet. Add peppers and onions and cook until both are softened. Add spinach, garlic powder, salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes and Italian sausage. Saute until spinach is wilted. Add a bit of water if this mix starts sticking but make sure all of it has boiled off before plating.
Put on plate and set aside.
Rinse and dry pan.
Spray pan with cooking spray. Fry the egg to your desired level of done-ness. I like mine over medium (set white, runny warm yolk).
Once egg is cooked, cover with cheese, take off heat, and cover pan with lid to allow cheese to melt.
Put egg & cheese on top of spinach and serve.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Smokey BBQ Pork Dinner

Today, Fall has truly arrived!  When I got up, the temp was 64.  An hour later, it was down to 52.  It's dark and windy and I love it!  Time to break out the crockpot! 

Hubs requested BBQ tonight so I'm making Smokey BBQ Pork and homemade Mac & Cheese.  Just the right kind of stick-to-your-ribs meal for this weather. 

Since we both like spicy food, I'm adding Chipotle sauce to the BBQ sauce.  Not only does it add a kick of spice, it also adds a nice, smoky flavor. 

I am taking some of the meat out before I add the sauces so I can make another pork dish later this week.  I love what I call 'twofer' cooking.  Saves time and money.  Can you guess by the seasoning that it's going to be something Mexican?

Opps! Liquid smoke didn't make it into pic!
Smokey BBQ Pork
1 pork butt (around 3 pounds)
1 onion, quartered
2 tablespoon Garlic powder
2 tablespoon ground Cumin
1 tablespoon salt (or to your taste)
1 tablespoon fresh ground Pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoon Liquid Smoke (I used Mesquite but use Hickory if you have it. Both are good)
1 bottle BBQ sauce (use what your family likes)
1 can Chipotle Sauce

Heat crockpot to High setting.  Spray liberally with cooking spray. 
Cut onion into quarters and put in crockpot then add pork butt.
Sprinkle pork butt with garlic powder, cumin, salt, and pepper & bay leaves. 
Add just enough water to come halfway up the side of the pork. 
Add liquid smoke to the water and cover.
Cook meat until very tender. 
Drain broth from Crockpot and save.
Don't throw away this brothy goodness!
The meat should fall away from the bone and be easy separated with a fork.

Put 1/2 of shredded pork in Crockpot.  Add 1-1/2 cups BBQ sauce and 1 can (approximately 3/4 cup) chipotle sauce and mix well.  You can add a bit of the broth if you like a thinner sauce.  We like ours thick. 
Turn heat setting to LOW and let simmer for at least an hour to allow flavors to mingle.
Serve as is for a plated meal or on toasted buns for a delicious sandwich.

Extra Creamy Mac & Cheese
Makes 4 generous servings

8 oz. pasta (use whatever shape you like)
1/4 cup butter (I use salt free)
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sharp cheddar
1/4 cup Parmesan
1/4 cup Monetary Jack
1/4 cup Munster or Swiss

Shred cheeses.  Set aside.  Do not use pre-shredded cheese. 
Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and set aside.
In a saucepan, melt butter then add flour, salt and pepper.  Stir until flour is just barely starting to brown.  Whisk in milk slowly and stir until sauce has thickened.
Add small handfuls of cheese, stirring to melt.  Continue until all cheese is used and melted.  Add pasta.  Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Gardening and Eating

Here is my little garden now.  We've had rain, lots of sunshine and cooler weather lately.  Looks like my greens are liking it!  Temps are starting to drop again (YEAH!) so sometime this weekend, I think I need to mulch my garlic.  Won't be long until I can start cutting the kale and chard. YUM!

You've probably noticed I haven't been posting as often.  I've been busy.  I'm looking for a new job and I've been focusing my energy in a new way of eating. 

I've been following The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet.  I love it!  In a nutshell, you eat three meals a day, two of which are very low to no carb meals.  The third, called your Reward Meal, you can eat whatever you want.  Well, almost.  They do suggest you follow 1/3 protein, 1/3 low carb veggie & 1/3 carbs plus a large salad.  Basically, a normal, healthy, well-balanced meal.  I'll admit I've pushed the Reward Meal to its limits a few times but it has not been a problem. 

After following the program for nine days, I've lost over a pound.  OK, I know that doesn't seem like much but remember, once a day, I get to eat anything!  And I do.  I have my meal and I have dessert and I have wine!  Each and every single day!  If I only lose 1 pound a week eating this way, so be it!  I never go hungry.  I never have to deny myself a craving.  And most importantly, I don't obsess over food anymore!  That is a major change! 

For the first time in my life (seriously), food is not my priority.  Before, there was a running commentary in the back of my mind that sounded sorta like this...'What time is it? Is it too early to eat lunch?  What am I cooking for dinner?  How many calories have I eaten today?  If I eat this for lunch, I have to skip dinner.  I'm hungry.  I'm hungry.  I'M HUNGRY!  Is it time to eat yet?...on and on it went.  Every.  Single.  Day.  Does that sound like an addict to you?  Sure does to me.

If this sounds familiar, check out the CAD.  There is a test to see if you are addicted to carbohydrates here.  It's not for everyone but if you score high on the test, give it a shot.  I know I'm only nine day in but I'm totally sold!  Maybe it will help you too.

If you want to follow my progress, I've started another blog, The Healthy Hausfrau.  I'm posting daily progress, recipes, and thoughts on the CAD.  If I get brave, I'll even post my weights but I'm not quite there yet.  ;)