Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Good Things!

I am a “saver”. I try to keep it under control so that I don’t turn into a “hoarder”, but I am always trying to find ways to repurpose items rather than throwing them away (not to mention saving myself money).

One way I “save” is by re-using food containers from the store. The 32 ounce cottage cheese containers are the perfect size for freezing stock, for example. The problem is, when I put them in the fridge or freezer, I often forget what I had in them, because my mind says “oh, that’s your cottage cheese”.

Well, no more! I found this on Pinterest and tried it myself at home. It seems like such a no-brainer, I can’t believe I never thought of it,

Acetone nail polish remover. I have this on hand all the time anyway. It takes a little patience, but if you soak a cotton ball and let it sit on the ink on a container, it will begin to remove it. A little rubbing, and away it goes! Now, I HAVE found that it doesn’t work on EVERYTHING. For example, it didn’t want to remove the ink from the LIDS of these sour cream containers, but hey, at least now I can tell it’s a re-used container.
The acetone doesn’t seem to hurt the integrity of the container at all, and being able to re-use them is a good thing for me. In this small town, the recycle center only accepts #1 and #2 plastics, and most of this type of container are #4 or #5. So its either re-purpose, or throw away. And I just HATE option #2. Don’t you?

I may never need to buy new containers again. And THAT’s a GOOD thing! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Jam Exchange 2012!

This summer has definitely been one for the record books. Extreme heat, drought, and a very poor growing season all combined to make this summer.....not very fun for canning.

For the past few years, I have been participating in Steph Chow's Jam Exchange, and it is SO. MUCH. FUN. What a good excuse to gather produce from the garden, make something lovely out of it and send it off to someone you've never met? And THEN! When that long-awaited mystery package arrives at your doorstep...well....its kind of like Christmas in July. Ok, technically September, but you get the idea.

Luckily, I got an early start to my jamming this year and finished off my first batch in May, before the heatwave crippled the entire midwest. Somehow I managed another batch in June, and then, just this last weekend, the third - an experiment. I have to mail my package fast, before I give the rest of my goodies away to family and friends!

I hope my jammy exchange partner (check her out at Blondie's Cakes!)enjoys the package heading her way on Monday, with one jar each of my Piña Colada (recipe here), Mango Habañero (recipe HERE), and the new experiment - Corn Cob Jelly! (recipe below!). I had so much fun putting these together, two long time favorites in this house and a new addition to the menu.

Corn Cob Jelly
12 large ears of corn
2 quarts water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 package powdered pectin
3-4 cups sugar

Cook corn; cut kernels from cobs and store for another use. Measure 2 quarts water into a large pot; add corn cobs.

Bring to a boil; boil hard for 30 minutes. (If you had the pot covered when you brought it to a boil, take the lid off now. Boil it down uncovered for a more concentrated result.) Turn off heat and remove cobs. Strain corn liquid through cheesecloth or a fine mesh strainer if you like a clear jelly. (I prefer to leave the corn bits in there! I didn’t strain it.)

Measure remaining corn liquid. I got a little over 3 1/2 cups corn liquid after it boiled down. Return liquid to the large pot. Stir in lemon juice and pectin. (Add a dab of butter to prevent foaming.) Bring to a boil. Add sugar cup per cup to match the measure of your corn liquid. Stir to dissolve sugar. Bring pot to a rolling boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. (I probably boiled mine for five minutes at this stage because the first batch I tried never set up very well.) Remove from heat. Ladle hot corn cob jelly into hot jars. Adjust lids and bands. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Tied in Knots

We are living in the electronic age. Everyone knows this. If you didn't, well, you've been living under a cyber-rock. Technology is wonderful...and horrible....all at the same time.

Evidence? That mess of look-alike black cables seething in your desk drawer, or jumbled about in the junk drawer of your kitchen. So many cables....a different one for every device. (one for everyone in the house, and each one unique), Kindle....GPS.... you name it, it comes with a cable.

Now, try finding the right one when you REALLY need it.

SOLUTION!!! Its sheer genius, really. I reorganized the basket I have in my computer desk where all the mystery cables reside. All it took was some 6-inch scraps of PVC, a sharpie and some zip ties.

Now, if I can just keep the husband out of it, it might just STAY organized!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Testing, Testing...

Anyone out there big scotch aficionados? We are trying to identify this old bottle....

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Vegan Challenge - Sweet Potato Oatmeal Breakfast Casserole

You might say I am venturing into unfamiliar territory. You could say I am getting out of my comfort zone. It would be reasonable to say I am eating outside the box.

I am going Vegan.

Okay, okay, stop laughing. Allow me to clarify. I am taking on a vegan challenge with a group of friends at work for one week. This is a part of a program that our Wellness Committee at work is promoting over the summer. The challenge is coming up next week, but I am trying to test drive a recipe or two in advance so that I know if I can stomach it or not before I invest in all the expensive vegan ingredients.

Today’s experiment? Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole.

Inherently, this recipe poses a couple of issues for me. One being that I am not a big fan of sweet potatoes. Two being….ditto for bananas.Three? Well, carbs and starches tend to be my DOWNFALL in the weight loss routine, not my salvation, but hey. Its only a week, right? Also, this recipe seems to harken to more autumnal days instead of the 100 degree heat wave we’ve been enduring here, but I digress.

The pluses? I need SUBSTANCE for breakfast. If I can’t have meat, then I need something that’s going to stick to my ribs. Oatmeal seems to be a reasonable solution. After some investigation on the good ol’ internet, I turned up this little gem of a recipe at Oh She Glows and decided to give it a whirl. I have included my notes in the recipe below, but head on over to the site for the original recipe.

If you saw my Facebook post last night, you know that I definitely had my reservations as I was putting this together. Let’s just say that the unbaked mixture is…..visually unappealing. It is a very easy recipe to throw together and the ingredients are mostly basic. I didn’t have chia seeds, and they are not an ingredient that is even remotely available in my area. Heading back to the web, I found that flax seeds are a good substitute and I happen to have a jar of flax seed meal in the pantry, so I subbed that out for the chia seeds. Other than that, no problem at all!

All of that being said, fresh out of the oven, this is a pretty tasty little dish! I doubled the original recipe to make a 9x13 pan so I would have plenty to share at work today, and I am pleased to say it has met with rave reviews! It is definitely something I would be more inclined to eat in the winter, with its cinnamon, nutmeg, oats and sweet potatoes, but it definitely has the “stick-to-your-rib-ability” I was looking for, and it makes a large enough quantity that I can eat breakfast from the pan all week long!

So, for my first dish in the lineup, not bad at all! Next up – Veggie Burgers! Stay tuned!

Sweet Potato Oatmeal Breakfast Casserole

Oatmeal Ingredients

·         1/2 cup rolled oats

·         2 cups soy milk

·         1 small sweet potato, peeled, chopped (made 2 cups raw or 1.5 cups cooked)

·         1 ripe large banana

·         1 tbsp chia seeds (if you omit, you may have to reduce the milk. I used flax seed meal instead of chia seeds)

·         1-2 tsp pure vanilla extract

·         1 tsp ground cinnamon + 1/8th tsp nutmeg + 1/4 tsp kosher salt, or to taste

·         2 tbsp pure maple syrup

Crunchy Pecan Topping

·         1/3 cup chopped pecans

·         2 tbsp Earth Balance (or butter)

·         2 tbsp flour (I used spelt flour)

·         1/4 cup brown sugar (I used Sucanat)


1. Preheat oven to 350F. Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium sized pot. Add in the peeled and chopped sweet potato. Cook over medium heat, for about 5 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and set aside.

2. Give the pot a quick rinse and then add in the oats, milk, and chia seeds. Whisk well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low-medium and cook for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. With a potato masher, mash in the cooked sweet potato and the banana into the pot. I left some chunks for texture. Now stir in the cinnamon, maple syrup, nutmeg, vanilla and salt to taste. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Cook on low for another few minutes.

4. Make the crunchy pecan topping by mixing together the pecans, flour, Earth Balance (or butter), and brown sugar with a fork. until very clumpy. Pour the oatmeal into a baker dish (I used a 4 cup/8 inch casserole dish) and spread out evenly. Now sprinkle on the pecan topping.

5. Transfer the oats to an 8x8 casserole dish and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, at 350F. After 20 minutes, set oven to BROIL and broil on low for a couple minutes, watching very closely so you do not burn the topping. Remove from oven and serve. Makes 3-4 servings.

Nutritional Info (based on 4 servings with soy milk, without topping): 217kcal, 4 grams fat, 7 grams protein, 6 grams fibre.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Working My Fingers to the Bone….

I always thought the saying went “If you love someone, set them free”.

Apparently that is just a loose translation of, “If you love someone, go through hell and back to make them a custom shooting vest in full-on Remington colors, and practically inaccessible mesh fabric normally only available to wholesalers”

At least, that is my husband’s translation.

Allow me to give you a little background information. See, my husband is a die-hard Remington Arms fan. Which, in turn, makes us a Remington Arms family. The hubs is also a stickler for detail. So, when he started shooting trap competitively last year, the wheels in his brain started turning.

He wanted a Remington shooting vest. I could not deny the appeal. So I went shopping. As it turns out, Remington does make a shooting vest. It looks like this:

Very nice, no?


If you are going to go Remington, you’ve got to go big. At least, that seems to be how my husband’s mind works, because he quickly shot down this option in favor of a Remington Green and Yellow vest. Did you notice the material the vest is made of? Yes, that is mesh. A utility fabric. Normally only available to wholesalers. And he wanted a Remington logo on it. And he wanted coordinating green padded shoulders. And he wanted it for CHRISTMAS…..ahem…last year.

Needless to say, I didn’t make it. But, in all fairness, I told him that wasn’t going to happen when he asked for it. I had way too many other projects already in the works with a Christmas deadline. What I DID do, however, was scour the internet for green or yellow mesh and coordinating twill. It took awhile, but I managed to pull together all the elements needed and then…..stalled.

And stalled.

And STALLED some more.

I didn’t want to do it. I really didn’t. It was going to be a nightmare. They don’t make patterns for shooting vests. I know people who can just look at a garment and recreate it, without a pattern. I am not one of those people. So finally, shortly before Father’s Day (this was the secondary completion date requested by the hubby), I began work in earnest.

If you think velvet is a pain to work with…. corduroy….anything at all….nothing compares to the nightmare that is MESH. Especially THIS mesh. It has very large holes and for any piece of material you want to attach to it, you better have another piece of material BEHIND the mesh for the thread to grab onto.

And so…. After several days, more than a few “pinned” fingertips, and multitudes of curse words, the best Father’s Day present EVER was born.

Silly man thinks he’s going to talk me into making a matching one for a friend of his.

Silly, silly man……

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wine On!

Just a fun little craft project to brighten things up around here!