Saturday, January 28, 2012

Confession #12: It IS possible to make alot out of a little

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My husband and I sat down a few days before the New Year and wrote out our families budget for the year. Nothing like ringing in the new year by realizing you have nothing to ring in the new year with. We realized most of our money goes to groceries, so we decided to challenge ourselves and go the whole month of January without going to the store. Well, let me tell you, it's day 28 and I am SO ready for this month to be over. I started a shopping list and it is getting longer by the minute.
We have been eating a lot of rice with beans and pasta with tomato sauce (good thing I canned so much this year). I have been making our own bread, granola, yogurt, and, as of this week, crackers. It's actually been a great adventure for me. For the most part, I have really enjoyed it, you may hear a different answer from my husband.
I figured it's about time to share some of my adventures of being barefoot in our empty kitchen.  

Tuesday: I was having friends over so I made "wheat thin" like crackers and cinnamon swirl muffins. I served it with tea and two types of jam that I canned earlier this year. I happened to have a chicken that had been thawing in the fridge for two days and roasted it. After we ate our fill of roasted chicken on rice, I pulled all the meat off the chicken and simmered the bones, juices, and water for three hours. After my whole house smelled like chicken broth, I drained the liquid and returned it to the stove. Meanwhile I roasted the final of my pumpkin stash. I pureed the pulp and saved the seeds for roasting. I made soup with the pumpkin and fresh broth (recipes are at the bottom of this post). I took the pumpkin soup to my MOPS soup exchange that evening. Everyone seemed to approve. 
The end of my Winter pumpkin stash

Wednesday: I made 2 loaves of pumpkin bread and pumpkin granola with some of the leftover pumpkin puree. I served pumpkin soup with homemade wheat bread for lunch. For dinner we had some of the leftover chicken and rice. 

All roasted and cooling on a rack
Thursday: We still had pumpkin bread, enough chicken for sandwiches, and some awesome potato soup I took home from the soup exchange. I made coconut cookie for dessert (from allrecipes)

Well there you have it. three days worth of food with just a chicken, pumpkins, rice, and regular pantry items. Better add butter, milk, and baking powder to the shipping list.  Is it February yet?
The chicken bones

Roasted Chicken
Mixed together the following seasonings and rubbed them inside and outside the chicken.
2 tbs poultry seasoning
1/2 tb seasoning salt
1/2 tb mustard powder
Fresh chicken broth
1/2 tb ground black pepper
Mixed together
2 TB lemon juice
2 TB grape seed oil
4 garlic cloves crushed
Poured it on top of the chicken and roasted it for  at least 1 1/2 hours @ 350 degrees

Curry Pumpkin Soup
Curry Pumpkin Soup
6 small pumpkins or 5 cups puree
2 TB butter
2 TB brown sugar
1 1/2 tb curry
1-2 cups chicken broth
Cayenne pepper to taste

If using fresh pumpkins, cut tops off. Scoop out seeds (save for roasting) and place on a cookie sheet. Fill pumpkins with water and add a little water to the cookie sheet. Place in the oven at 400 degrees for 60minute or until tender. Let cool. scoop out all the meat and blend in a food processor with a little water.
Melt butter and brown sugar in large pot. Add in curry, pepper, and pumpkin. Simmer for 10 minutes. Sir in chicken broth slowly until you reach a consistency that you like. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with fresh homemade bread if you can!

Fresh Homemade Bread for a bread maker:
7 1/2 oz water
1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached flour
1/2 TB dry skin milk
1 TB sugar
1 tb salt
1 TB butter
1 1/2 tb dry active yeast

Dump everything in the bread machine. Set on "whole wheat" or "normal, light" and walk away. If you are using a timer, add the water, butter, sugar, salt, dry milk and flour in that order. Make sure the flour covers everything so all you see if flour. Add yeast on the top. When it beeps. take out and cool on a wire rack.

Fresh Pumpkin puree
Pumpkin Bread (make two loaves)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tbs baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tb ground cinnamon
1 tb ground nutmeg
1/2 tb ground cloves
1/4 tb ground ginger
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 egg
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup grape seed oil
2/3 cup water
3 TB honey

Mix first 7 ingredients together in a large bowl, set aside. Stir together egg, apple sauce and pumpkin puree. Add in sugar until smooth. Stir in oil, water, and honey. Mix into dry flour mix and pour into two bread pans. Cook for 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Cook on a wire rack.

Cinnamon Bread
Cinnamon Bread/Muffins
1/3 cup white sugar
2 tbs ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 TB baking powder
1/2 tb salt
3 TB honey
1 egg
2/3 cup applesauce            
1/3 cup vegetable oil

cinn/sugar combo all over. Pour the rest of the dough on top and finish with the rest of the cinn/sugar. Put in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes (muffins for 20). Cool on a wire rack.

Elin Simpsons’s Winter Potato Soup
One bag of potatoes
1 small onion
One package of bacon
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup of sour cream
1 can of chicken broth
1 tsp each of basil, oregano and thyme
1 pinch of white pepper and salt

Peel and cut the potatoes in cubes. Put them in a large pot. Add the chicken broth and fill with water until just covered. Add the bay leaves and spices. Boil until potatoes are soft.
While the potatoes are boiling, cut the onion and bacon in pieces. Saute in a little olive oil until done.
When potatoes are soft, mash them up in the pot. Leave chunks if desired. Add the onions and bacon, as well as the cheese and sour cream. Heat through until cheese melts.
Top with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh chives.
Serve with Swedish crisp bread and butter.
Tip: Exchange the bacon for your favorite sausage or leftover chicken or turkey.
Chewy Coconut Cookies
Chewy Coconut Cookies (from Allrecipes)
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut (unsweetened)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C.) Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in the coconut. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.               
  3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly toasted. Cool on wire racks.               
"Wheat Thin" Like Crackers (by Kitchen Stewardship)

Photo by Kitchen Stewardship

1 ¼ c. whole wheat flour (can use spelt flour, traditional whole wheat or white whole wheat)
1 ½ Tbs. sugar (or honey)
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. paprika
4 Tbs. butter
¼ c. water
¼ tsp. vanilla
salt for topping

Combine the whole wheat flour, sugar, salt and paprika in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender or two knives, cut the butter thoroughly into the dry mixture until it looks like large crumbs, no bigger than a pea. Some people use a food processor to cut in the fat, but I prefer to save dishes and keep it all in one bowl. Combine the water and vanilla in a measuring cup, plus honey if using, and add to the flour mixture. Mix well until combined and dough forms.
Use parchment paper, a lightly greased cookie sheet, or an ungreased baking stone. I roll the dough right out on the stone or mat, after flouring it lightly. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife and cut the dough into squares or triangles, about 1 1/2 inches each. Fork pokes make them look extra authentic.
Make sure your oven is preheated to 400 F.

*The recipe calls for 5-10 minutes of cook time. I cooked mine for 5 minutes and while they were a little moist, I put them in the dehydrator. I liked this because that way they didn't burn on the edges. They were crisp and evenly cooked. I also used honey instead of sugar and used only sea salt.

What's left in our fridge
Liana wanted to help out too

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Confession #11: Someone interviewed me!

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Well, call her crazy but Sarah from Ball Hank n' Skein wanted to interview me for her blog. She is mad talented with a hook, made Liana booties and two hats (see photo below). But for some reason she wanted my advice...weird! Anyway, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

The Interview

Check out Liana in her many colors of Ball Hank n' Skein (click to go to the facebook page):

Liana's pom pom rainbow hat.

Super cute baby booties
Cute flower ear flap hat

Thursday, January 19, 2012

VANESSA'S IT LIST: 10 children's books every bookshelf should hold

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Each month I will offer my "it list" for your viewing pleasure. Some of the different "It Lists" to come include:
10 children's books every book self should hold
Top 10 places that I've traveled
10 amazing slow cooker recipes
10 books a housewife shouldn't live without
Ten uses for old jeans
10 reasons to NOT turn on the TV
10 delicious recipes using a dehydrator
10 yummy recipes using a bread maker
10 items I couldn't live without
10 ways to enjoy a power outage
and much, much more!
So kick off your shoes and enjoy "Vanessa's It List"

Ten Children's Books Every Bookshelf Should Hold

Disclaimer: Notice I didn't say "top ten children's books" I want to make it perfectly clear that this is not a top ten. There are far more than ten books that people should have for their children. These are rather a list of ten books that I figure most houses don't have but, in my opinion, should. The unspoken hero's of books. There will be no mention to Goodnight Moon and Guess How Much I Love You in my list. Don't get me wrong, I love those books, but I was always a sucker for the underdog.

Also I am a big fan of small bookstores so you wont find a link to Amazon on this blog. I will however, encourage you to join paper back swap and see if you can't find the books there, for free!

Let the list begin...

#1. Christina Katerina and The Box
Actually this book describes me perfectly. A girl gets a box and turns it into a fort. But instead of trashing the box, she turns it into something else. It is a wonderful story of recycling and using ones imagination. Moral: Imagination is wonderful.

#2: The Wheedle on The Needle or any Serendipity Book
 As you can see I have quite a lot of these books. Written in the 70's by a brother and sister, these books are all about "Full House" endings. Every book has a moral, weather is be loving yourself for who you are or being nice to others, these books will teach your little ones values and entertain them with wonderfully colorful illustration.Morals: Pretty much covers them all!

 #3 Bartholomew and the Oobleck
This is one Dr Seuss book that doesn't get much attention, but it should. It is full of fun tongue twisters that you would expect in a Dr. Seuss book. Bonus: click here to bring the story to life by making your own Oobleck! Moral: Being happy with what you have.
 #4 Ultra-Violet Catastrophe!
Doesn't the title alone make you want to smile? This book is a wonderful tail about how you are never too old to use your imagination and you are never too young to play with your elders. Moral: Embarrassing your imagination at any age.

#5 Katy No-Pocket
Try not to love this book, I dare you! As you can tell by the book's title, this is a story about Katy (who is a kangaroo) who has no pocket. Follow her and her son on an adventure in search of a pocket. Moral: Sometimes our short comings are our best features.

#6 Gregory, the Terrible Eater        Do you have a child in your house who wont eat his veggies? Well imagine a goat who wont eat his trash? Moral: Don't be afraid to try new foods.

#7 The Big Orange Splot               Can you imagine a world were all the houses looked the same? Well if you lived on Mr. Plumbeans street you would. But what would happen if a bird dropped a bucket of paint onto his house? Moral: Don't be afraid to be different. 

#8 Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
Ever wished you were someone or something else? Well, you're not along, Sylvester wished the same thing. Only his wish came true! Moral: There is no better person to be, than yourself.
#9 The Little Old Man Who Could Not Read I struggled with reading allot when I was younger and so this book is near and dear to my heart. It is about a little man who thought he could get through life without learning to read. Moral: The importance of literacy

#10 Lovable Lyle
 If you think crocodiles are scary then you are not alone. But you obviously haven't met Lyle. He is a nice and gentle crocodile. Most people love him...there not everyone.
Moral: Don't believe stereotypes.

                                                                Honorable mentions:
Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs       There's No Such Thing As A Dragon
Read this after loosing a loved one        The power of our words

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

These Are A Few Of My Favorite Things. Januarys 10

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I am going to have a monthly list of some of my favorite upcycled/re purposed projects that I have found on other blogs and websites. These are all things I have tried and loved. Here are the first 10. So kick off your shoes and enjoy.

#1.  Newspaper Basket (free)
My husband writes for our local newspaper so we always have extra newspapers lying around. Since I am pretty addicted to pinterest lately, I searched for craft ideas using newspaper. This is my favorite one I found. I only started this a week ago and haven't had time to completely finish it so please ignore the top of my box. I still need to had the top piece. But I thought I should post my version so you can see how awesome they are! You can see the complete finished product and step by step instructions on the link below. This box actually inspired me to make my Burp rag blankets.

Newspaper Basket idea courtesy of How About Orange

#2. Paint Chip Banner
 (Paint chips were free, punch was $12)

This summer I took my daughter to our local home improvement store and picked up as many paint samples as I could. I had so many projects already going that I didn't do anything with them until a few weeks ago. Again, I search "paint chip crafts" on pinterest and got inspired by all the awesome ideas. I liked this one so much that I went out and bought at butterfly punch from JoAnns with my 40% off coupon that I clipped out of the newspaper (before I folded it up to make the basket).

Paint Chip Banner photo and idea courtesy A Little Bit Funky

#3. Recycled T-Shirt Scarves (free)
There are a lot of blogs that offer a tutorial on how to make these super cute scarves out of old t-shirts. Not saying that one is better than the other. I just happened to stumble apron this one first.
I had tons of old t-shirts that a friend gave to me. I turned most of them into rags but I wanted to try this awesome scarf I saw. I think I like the dark blue one the best. And Maybe if I try making one again, I will add a braid or two in with it.

T shirt scarf idea courtesy of Ette Studies

#4. Homemade Lip Balm ($.35 each)
 I re purposed my old makeup containers for lip balm. I really liked the way it turned out. And the most exciting part is that I had most of the ingredient already. I used grapeseed oil instead of olive. And the only flavor I added was lavender because that it what I had on hand. But you could experiment with different flavors. The awesome thing about this craft is that it takes about 10 minutes (max) to do. Great gift idea.

Lip Balm recipe courtesy of Crunchy Betty

#5 Wooden Spool Doll ($.25 each)
The funniest thing about this is that it came off a website that was designed for kids. But I didn't want to wait until my 15 month old was old enough to make it on her own. So I made it for her (she can make another one when she is older). I came across a bunch of wooden spools at a thrift store for 75 cents and couldn't pass them up. I used left over yarn I had from a previous project and went to work. It was so easy, even a child could make this...
Spool Doll Pattern courtesy of Artist Helping Children

#6 Cloth Wipes ($.75 for 100 wipes)

I knew the moment we found out I was pregnant that I wanted to use cloth diapers. But I never really thought about cloth wipes before I started researching what diapers to buy (I am happy with my Flip diapers, but wish I would have tried making my own). I came across this blog when I was looking into diapering solutions. As you can see from my photo, I changed her pattern a bit, but you will get the general idea from her site. I used an old sheet and a couple thin towels that I picked up a the thrift store.
 Cloth Wipes inspired by Progressive Pioneer

#7 Fitted Sheets ($.25-$1.50 depending on size)

I have a bunch of fabric from the sheet left over from the diaper wipes so I decided to make some fitted sheets for my bassinet and changing table. I found this pattern online and just changed the sizes because it was for a crib. In addition to the sheet, I used an old fleece blanket that I didn't have any use for. I made three changing table sheets and five crib sheets. I think I spent a total of $3.00 of all the fabric and elastic.

Fitted Sheet Pattern idea courtesy of Domestic Bliss

#8. Cloth Blocks ($.25 for 3)
You know how I mentioned the fleece I used for the fitted bassinet sheets? Well, I still have a little bit left over after I made the sheets. So I looked into some other projects I could make. I came across this website and changed their pattern a little to make it a taggy cloth block instead of just a block. In order to do that, all you have to do it sew the ribbons into the fleece before you sew the fleece (or whatever fabric you use) together. I also added a few bells in the block to add some fun noise for my daughter to enjoy and stuffed it with polyfil I found at the thrift store. The block on your right I made with fabric scraps. And I made a matching ball rattle and taggy blanket to go with it.
Baby Block Pattern courtesy of Make Your Own Baby Stuff

#9 Pillowcase Dresses ($.25 each)
Amanda Blake Soule. Inside she has many different craft patterns using old materials. The pillowcase dresses were one of them. I found some cute patterned pillow cases at the thrift store for .25 cents each. Added a little ribbon I already had and made my own bias tape. It was really simple and looks really cute on Liana.
Pillowcase dress pattern courtesy of Prudent Baby

#10. Baby Booties (free- $.25)
I just loved this pattern when I came across it. I used fabric scraps and elastic I had lying around since it only calls for a small amount of material. The pattern is vary simple to follow and doesn't take vary long to complete. The most amazing thing about these, Liana can't take them off! She is all about taking off her socks, but never tries to take these off. They are awesome. And when she grows out of this size, I will just expand the pattern.  Baby Bootie Pattern courtesy of Great Turtle 

Well those were a few of my favorite things. Hope you enjoyed (you can put your shoes back on now)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Confession #10: Burp rags make a great weave

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Directions: Woven upcycled burp rag blanket.

Step 1: Gather up at least four different burp rags (I used six). Fold them in half (hot dog style), half again, and than one more time (see photo to the above). Cut all of the folds which should leave you with 8 strips. Do this with all your burp rags.

Step 2: This step is a little boring, so I would recommend turning on a good movie while doing this project. Anyway, you're going to want to turn all of your strips into bias tape. Which means you need to dust off your iron (if you're like me) and fold a strip in half, iron. Open it up and fold sides into the center, iron. (See both photos). Repeat with all strips (hence the boring part).

Step 3:  Line half of your strips on a table. Once you have them all lined up weave your first vertical strip in an pin it down. See the photos. Continue weaving all of the rest of the strips until you get to the end.


 Step 4: Pin all around the outside of the blanket. This will hold the whole blanket together. You could even lift it up and move it. Which is exactly what I did because at this point it was 11:30 pm and I wanted to sleep.

After a (somewhat) good nights rest I was ready to finish the blanket. I was able to finish all rest of these steps in less than an hour.

Step 5: Sew all around the blanket. Make sure you are sewing both strips together.

 Step 6: Now trim the edges so that they are about 1/4 inch past your seam.

 Step 7: Pick out a piece of complementing fabric for the beck. If you have a plain burp rag, that would be perfect. But since I didn't I found a fabric scrap that was big enough.
Place the weaved blanket onto the back and pin together. Sew all the way around, again.

 So for this last step you have some options. You can either make your own bias tape with a fabric of your choice (see step 2 again). Or you can buy bias tape already made. I usually would be all for making your own bias tape for the recycling aspect and because I love to save money, but I went to a church bazaar last year and bought a bag of fabric and bias tape for a dollar! So since I had some already I picked the color I liked the best and rolled with it.

Step 7: Once you have the bias tape ready, you need to pin it on your blanket. I like to pin it on one side at a time. Sew the side (with a zigzag pattern), and pin the next. Repeat with all four sides. Cut any extra strings poking out have yourself a new(ish) blanket!

 I ended up using a little more than half of all my strips so that means: I can make another blanket! I think I am going to try to make one with thinner strips for Liana's many dolls.