Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Buttermilk Pumpkin Pancakes (and muffins!!)

The original recipe came from www.makinglifedelicious.com, here: http://makinglifedelicious.com/2010/10/01/buttermilk-pumpkin-pancakes/

They turned out so good the kids wanted them for a second day!   My day-two recipe variation is in red.  This made about 16 pancakes plus a dozen muffins - which all disappeared by day's end.

Buttermilk Pumpkin Pancakes

▪ 1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (2 1/2 cups)
▪ 1/4 cup teaspoon sugar (3/4 cup)
▪ 2 teaspoon baking powder (4 tsp)
▪ 1/2 teaspoon baking soda (1 tsp)
▪ 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (1 1/2 tsp)
▪ 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (replace all spices with 2 generous tsp of pumpkin pie spice)
▪ 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
▪ 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
▪ pinch of ground cloves
▪ 1 cup buttermilk (1 cup buttermilk + 1/2 cup milk + 1/2 cup yogurt)
▪ 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (1 cup pumpkin + 1/2 cup applesauce)
▪ 1 large egg (2 eggs)
▪ 3 tablespoons canola oil, plus more for the griddle (skip)
▪ OPTION: Try mixing in a few chopped toasted walnuts or pecans

▪ 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, kosher salt
and spices and whisk to combine.  Mmmm....this smells like pumpkin pie already.  In a liquid
measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, egg and oil.  Add the wet
ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Oil your hot griddle (about 300 degrees).  Using a 1/3 cup measure, pour the batter onto the
griddle.  Cook the first side until bubbles begin to burston the top and the very edge starts to look
more solid, about 3 minutes.  Flip and cook the second side until golden brown, a couple minutes
more.  Makes about 9 pancakes.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


I've been building up to this for a while... a jam-making day... my house smells dee-lish, the kitchen is a bit of a disaster, and the kids have been up to who knows what... LOL

Red Wine Strawberry Jam - this sounded like a good use of the leftover bit of red wine in the back of the fridge from a dinner some weeks ago.  We'll see how it turns out.  
http://www.foodreference.com/html/red-wines-jam-1108.html - The recipe made 2x500 ml plus a bit.  I think it would nicely make five 250ml jars if you increased the fruit just a bit.

Strawberry Rhubarb Jam - But of course.
Loosely inspired by this recipe: http://www.savingtheseason.com/journal/fancy-strawberry-rhubarb-jam.html  But I used more sugar and I used pectin instead of lemon juice.  I'd like to come back to this again and make it her way sometime, though.

Up next, after I thaw a bag of rhubarb or go pick some more from the neighbor's back yard... 

Spring Blush Jam - one of my favorites, a combo of strawberry, rhubarb and pineapple.  A microwave version of the recipe is online here, which makes it even easier to make it on a hot summer day: http://www.rhubarbinfo.com/jam

In the queue...

Strawberry Jam - I want to use this recipe, but I need to track down a vanilla bean...  http://www.foodinjars.com/2009/06/strawberry-jam/

Spiced Strawberry Butter -Sounds fabulous, for slightly more grown-up taste buds.   http://tastykitchen.com/recipes/canning/spiced-strawberry-butter/

Happy Jamming!  :)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


So ... I made butter.  And it was easy.  And delicious.  :)

This page spells out the how-to really well - take a look:  http://1greengeneration.elementsintime.com/?p=685   Basically you just over-whip cream until it separates, drain the buttermilk, then make pancakes with the buttermilk and serve with the butter ;)

Cost-effective?  Not really, not compared to margarine on sale for $1.99/tub... but definitely better for you.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Air Drying Clothes Without A Clothesline

Air Drying Clothes Without A Clothesline
by Jill Cooper

We all know that if we don't dry our clothes in the dryer we save on electricity, but many of us don't think about how the dryer reduces the life of our clothes. For a long time I couldn't understand why so many people were buying scads of socks and underwear for their families every few months. When my children were growing up, they almost never wore out their underwear and socks and we owned only about a quarter as many pair as most people do now. I didn't even buy expensive things. I bought the least expensive clothes I could find. So what was happening?
Fast forward a couple decades. One day after folding my grandson's new underwear, I noticed that the waistband was terribly rippled. After doing some research, I discovered the answer: The dryer was destroying the rubber elastic in the socks and underwear. I rarely dried my family's clothes in the dryer, so the elastic never broke down. It doesn't just happen with underwear - Have you ever noticed pilling (those little fabric balls) on your clothes and linens and the resulting lint in the dryer? That is the result of the fibers being rubbed thin. The dryer also shrinks clothes and sets in stains.
The two reasons I think most people don't line dry their clothes are that they think it is inconvenient or they're just not sure how to do it. Here are some of the best tips I have found to air dry clothes without a clothes line.
Though I don't use the dryer to dry my clothes, I do use it for about five minutes or so-- just long enough to fluff the clothes. I put one load in the dryer and only leave them there as long as it takes me to load the washer with the next load.
If you don't have a clothesline, you live in an apartment or your homeowners association won't allow clotheslines, here are a few ways to air dry clothes without a clothesline.
You need at least one drying rack and some type of clothes rod. You can buy drying racks at most discount stores or hardware stores. You might hang a clothes rod in your laundry room above the dryer, use a sturdy shower curtain rod in the bathroom or get a metal clothes racks that hooks over the back of a door. You don't need much. I can hang two loads of laundry on one drying rack and 2 feet of clothes rod.

Hanging on a Clothes Rod
Hang as many items as you can on clothes hangers, beginning with the obvious things like dresses, dress shirts and blouses and hang the hangers on a clothes rod to dry. Be sure not to put the hangers too close together so the air can circulate. You can also hang things like pajama tops, t-shirts, small kids shirts and one piece outfits. Lightweight pants, pajama bottoms, skirts and sweats can be pinned on clothes hangers and even sheets can be folded and hung on them. If you are really short of drying rack space, you can hang socks, underwear, wash rags, hand towels and towels on hangers and add them to your clothes rod, too. You are using the bottom part of the hanger as a rod.

Hanging Clothes on a Clothes Rack
When hanging clothes on a drying rack, I start at the bottom with socks and underwear, wash rags and baby clothes. Young children's clothes and hand towels go on the middle layer and the top rack is for towels, jeans, pillow cases, sweaters, sweats, pajama bottoms and t-shirts. I try to use every inch of space, so if I put a pillow case on the rack and there are a couple of inches left next to it I put a sock there. I even hook bras on the corners of the rack.
Drying racks are handy because they can be moved to speed up the drying process. Place them outside on a sunny (but not windy) day. Inside the house, try putting them over a vent and the heat or air conditioner will dry them faster. If you don't have central heat or air then you can place them in front of your heater or a fan. Don't place clothes close enough to heaters to be a fire hazard.
If you are short on space and don't want to look at a drying rack in the middle of the room, do the laundry before bed, hang it and in most cases it will be dry by morning (especially if you set it above an air vent).
Try hanging large king sized sheets or blankets over your shower rod, over the rail of your deck, between two lawn chairs or folded in half or quarters over your clothes rack. When you fold large items, you must flip and turn them every 5-10 hours so that each side gets dry.
Sometimes it is useful to hang a clothesline in the basement or attic. Be sure to check out your department stores and hardware stores for other ideas. They have many clever items like retractable clotheslines, things to hang over doors and some not so new ideas like extra large drying racks that can hold two loads of laundry each.
Even though this may sound complicated at first, once you do it a few times it becomes second nature to you. Pretty quickly, you will discover the most efficient way to hang your clothes on the rack. I know automatically that three wash rags fit across the bottom bar of my rack and the two socks will fit next the that particular t-shirt. It's like putting a puzzle together- the first time takes you longer than the times after that because you know where the pieces fit.

Jill Cooper and Tawra Kellam are frugal living experts and the authors of the Dining On A Dime Cookbook. Dining On A Dime will help you save money on groceries and get out of debt by cooking quick and simple homemade meals. For free tips & recipes visit http://www.LivingOnADime.com

Friday, June 10, 2011

Recipe : Rhubarb Crisp

This is my personally jazzed-up version of the traditional rhubarb crisp.  I made the recipe-book version a few nights ago and, while it was good, it didn't really hit the spot I wanted it to hit.  I like there to be lots of topping, and for it to lean toward crunchy.  This variation on the standard recipe totally achieved that.  Sorry, there's no picture... I took it to a friend's house to share and, well, there's not much left to photograph.  Which is a good sign, right?  LOL

Anyway, without further ado, my personal take on a rhubarb crisp.  Enjoy!

Rhubarb Crisp
serves 4-6

approximately 4 cups of chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb (optionally include some strawberries)
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

If using frozen fruit, simmer for just a bit to thaw and soften the fruit.  Drain most of the liquid.   If using fresh fruit, just mix together the fruit and the sugar (skip the water) and let it set for 15 minutes or so.  Pour fruit into a prepared baking pan (8" or 9" square, or pie plate).


1 cup quick oats
3/4 to 1 cup dark brown sugar (or 3/4 to 1 cup white sugar mixed well with 2 tbsp dark molasses)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 to 1/2 cup sliced almonds (pecans or walnuts would likely work as well)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup soft margarine or butter (more is okay)

Mix together well and sprinkle over the fruit.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Help for Families Affected by Tornadoes

Please click here if you are able to make a donation or would even just like to send a card of encouragement:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Recipe : Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe found here:  http://www.wholegraingourmet.com/recipes/43-cookies/22-multigrain-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

These turned out quite good, in spite of the overly healthy-sounding title.  LOL   I used a generous cup of Robin Hood multigrain flour instead of the white wheat flour and millet the recipe calls for, and it worked quite well.  I also skipped the nuts because the kids would never eat them if there were nuts poking out.  There is just enough peanut butter in them... enough to add a bit of protein but not enough to be overwhelming in taste, meaning even my kids who don't like peanut butter would eat them.  I used my small scoop from Pampered Chef and got 36 cookies from the recipe.

Multigrain Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup natural brown sugar
1/2 cup organic sugar
1/2 cup organic peanut butter
1/2 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup + 2 Tbs white whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1/4 cup millet
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper, or lightly grease.
Whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda then set aside.
In a large bowl beat sugars with softened butter for 3 minutes. Beat in eggs and peanut butter. Add oats and beat at reduced speed until combined. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
Stir in millet, chocolate chips, and nuts. Scoop dough into balls on parchment paper, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
Allow cookies to cool for three minutes before removing them from the baking sheet.

If you're interested, I used the calculator at SparkPeople to figure out the nutritional details:    Calories 100.5, Total Fat 5.5 g, Total Carbohydrates 13.4 g, Dietary Fiber 0.8 g, Sugars 8.2 g, Protein 2.0 g.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Recipe : Mile High Blueberry Muffins

These are fabulous muffins.  Seriously.  Definitely worth making!

Mile High Blueberry Muffins 

2 1/2 cups unbleached flour
3/4 cup sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter
1 cup plain yogurt -- room temperature   (I used strawberry, very good!)
2 eggs -- slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups blueberries

Preheat oven to 400°.

Generously grease muffin pans, or use paper liners.

In a large bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder & baking soda.  Cut in butter using a pastry blender or a fork, until mixture resembles fine crumbs.

In a small bowl, stir yogurt until creamy. Blend in eggs & vanilla extract. Pour all at once into flour mixture & stir until flour mixture moistened. Do not overstir. Gently fold in blueberries.

Fill prepared muffin cups 2/3 full. If desired, sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a bit of additional sugar. 

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from pans immediately. Serve warm.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Menu

Just thought I'd share what we had for Easter Dinner today...

Roast Turkey 
- Dry brined for two days then roasted for 1/2 hour at 450 degrees followed by 6 hours at 300 degrees and about an hour at 350 degrees when I had to increase the temperature to bake some other things alongside.

Baked Ham
- Roasted at 450 degrees with the turkey then baked in Pampered Chef's "Deep Covered Baker" alongside the turkey.  Slight error in judgment as far as baking time goes... in the future, note to self, wait til after lunch to put the ham in the oven.  It turned out all right on the inside, just the outside was rather *ahem* overdone.   With cloves, of course, and a honey glaze.

Mashed Potatoes
- Yukon Gold, of course... boiled then whipped up in the Kitchenaid with salt, pepper, margarine and chicken broth.

Glazed Carrots
- Nothing too complicated, just boiled carrots with butter and honey.

Mashed Turnip
- Just because... seemed like we should have another vegetable on the table.

Sweet Potato Casserole
- A side dish and a dessert all in one!  Equally yummy beside turkey or in a bowl with whipped cream... sweet potato and coconut under a kind of crumble topping... mmmm....

- Stuff n Such.  I don't make stuffing.

Strawberry Shortcake
- Just because I wanted it.  Even though it's only April.  With Ann's tea biscuit recipe.  But I cheated and used Cool Whip.

And good company, of course, who contributed some very nice wines to the table.... all in all, a great meal... and now we all need a nap.  LOL

I guess I should add something on here that's consistent with saving money, so by the way, I'm boiling the turkey scraps for broth now...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Paska (Easter Bread)

Recipe borrowed from one of my favorite recipe sites, here:

The instructions are for using a kneading machine, which I don't have... I just followed through the same steps mixing by hand and it worked out fine.  I didn't have any regular milk so I used So Good Coconut and it was fine... also had no lemon zest but I thought almond extract might go well with the coconut milk so I went that way.  Very tasty.  It's a nice bread, with frosting and sprinkles.  Yum!


1 cup milk (1/2 cup cream and 1/2 cup milk)
1/2 cup melted butter
1 cup water
3 Tbsp. yeast
1/4 tsp. salt
8 - 10 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
10 cups flour

Heat milk just to a scalding level, then add butter which will melt in the milk.
Add 1 cup water to the milk mixture and by now this will have cooled down the hot milk.
In mixing bowl blend half of the flour with fast rising yeast, and add salt.
Add liquids and blend for 5 minutes on lowest setting.
Combine sugar and eggs and lemon zest into a mixing bowl and beat for several minutes.
Add remaining flour and add egg mixture into the kneading bowl, and knead at a high setting till the dough pulls away from the mixing bowl.
Dough texture should remain soft.
Let the dough rise in the mixing bowl till doubled in size. Cover with saran wrap and towel.
Meanwhile prepare your baking pans with cooking oil or parchment paper.
Shape your dough into preferred pans and let rise again for 1 hour or till doubled in size.
Bake at 325 degrees. Buns need 20 minutes, while loaves need about 35-40 minutes.
Ice with your favorite spread.

2 tablespoons cold water
41/2 tablespoons white sugar
2/3 cups shortening
1 egg
21/2 cup icing sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla1

Dissolve white sugar in water. Shake or stir frequently. Set aside. Beat remaining ingredients to the consistency of whipped cream. Beat in sugar and water mixture. Store covered in refrigerator. Will keep up to 3 months.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are You on the Road to Debt and Destruction?

Copyright Deborah Taylor-Hough
Used with permission.  All rights reserved.

Every year since 1996, over one million personal bankruptcies have been filed in the United States. The majority of these are the direct result of poorly managed consumer debt. I was informed recently that outstanding U.S. consumer debt (non-mortgage related) totals much more than a trillion dollars. The most disturbing fact behind
that staggering number is that thirteen percent of that one trillion dollar figure, or thirteen billion dollars, was delinquent.

Thirteen billion dollars of delinquent consumer debt. Over one million personal bankruptcies each year. Are YOU on the road to debt and destruction? Take this simple quiz and find out. 

Do you regularly pay for groceries with a credit card?
Do you spend money now, expecting your income to increase in the future?
Do you hide purchases from your spouse or other family members?
Do you have difficulty imagining your life without credit?
Are you becoming an expert at juggling each month, deciding which bills to
pay and which ones to let go until the next paycheck?
Do you pay off your monthly credit-card bills, but let other bills slide, such
as medical expenses and utilities?
Have you taken cash advances on one credit card to pay monthly payments
on other cards?
Do you feel anxiety when you think about or discuss your financial situation?
Do you have little or no money in savings?
Do you make frequent impulse purchases?
Does your installment debt (not including mortgages) amount to more than
20 percent of your income?
Has the stress of your financial situation caused turmoil in your relationship
with your spouse or other family members?
Are you at your credit limits?
Do you fail to keep an accurate record of your purchases?
Have you started to receive collection letters, notices or phone calls?
Are you afraid to answer the phone in case it’s a collection agency?

How many times did you answer “Yes,” to the preceding questions? 

0 -  You’re doing great! Full speed ahead! 

1 - 2  You still have a green light. You can probably proceed in relative safety. Your splurging is not out of control ... yet. 

3 - 4  Slow down! You have a flashing yellow light and have entered the severe caution zone. You may need to start exercising a bit more self-discipline in the area of finances. It’s time to draw up a budget, pay off your debts, and reevaluate your spending habits before you find yourself in over your head. 

5 - 6  Red light! Stop! You seriously need to gain control of your spending before you proceed any further. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. You’d be wise to seek out a credit counselor or financial planner for
immediate help in changing your spending habits. You are well on the road  to financial catastrophe, but there’s still hope. Turn around now! 

7 - 16  DANGER! DANGER! You’re careening out of control and emergency measures are needed. You are about to experience a financial crash of monumental proportions. You need to slam on your brakes and come to an immediate stop.
The wisest course of action when you find yourself on the wrong road is to turn around and go back. If you keep heading the way you are, you’ll only go further away from financial stability. If you’re in the Danger Zone and traveling this far down the wrong road, you should cut up all of your credit cards and close the accounts, now! Don’t spend one more penny on anything but the most basic necessities until you’ve called a credit counselor for assistance. (And please don’t run out and purchase something today, thinking that you’re about to cut up your credit cards! That’s the type of thinking that brought you down this road to begin with.) 

Remember, you’re not a bad person for being in this situation, but you’ve made some big mistakes. Now is the time to start making proper decisions about your finances. You can get off this wild ride, but if you don’t take immediate steps to fix the problem, you could soon become just another personal bankruptcy statistic.  

–This quiz was excerpted and adapted from A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity by Deborah Taylor-Hough (SourceBooks). Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Deborah Taylor-Hough is the author of a number of popular books including the bestselling Frozen Assets cookbook series, Frugal Living for Dummies®, and A Simple Choice: A practical guide for saving your time, money and sanity. She also edits the Simple Times email newsletter. Visit Debi online at www.SimpleMom.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Recipe : My Chili Creation

This recipe is one I put together after reading several chili recipes online... I took what sounded like the best parts of each one, put them together, tweaked things a bit and voila!  And now I'm going to be really generous and actually share it... even though this is one that I really ought to keep a secret.  LOL


vegetable or olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms (or use 1 can)

2 lbs ground meat (beef, pork, turkey, chicken, sausage or a mix)
salt and black pepper

1 can diced tomatoes (13 to 16 oz)
1 6-oz can tomato paste
1 can beef broth
1 can dark beer (optional)

2 16-oz cans kidney beans
2 16-oz cans black beans (or use 4 cans kidney beans)
1 cup corn kernels (fresh, frozen or canned, optional)

3 tbsp chili powder or flakes
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp cocoa
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cayenne (optional)
1 tsp coriander (optional)
2 tsp paprika
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 cup white or brown sugar

1 tsp cornmeal
1 tsp flour
1/4 cup water

Put 4 tbsp oil in a large pot.  Add garlic, onions and peppers and cook until onions are nearly transparent.  Add mushrooms and cook a little longer.

In a frying pan, cook the meat with a bit of oil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Cook until meat is done.  

Drain off undesired liquid from the pan (keep a bit).  Add the meat and the canned tomatoes to the pot with the cooked vegetables.  Simmer for five minutes.

Add the tomato paste and beef broth to the pot.  Stir, and cook for two more minutes.

Add the beans and continue to stir.  

Add seasonings.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for one hour.  Add sugar and simmer for an additional 30 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix cornmeal, flour and water.  Stir into chili and simmer for another 20 minutes.

Serve hot. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Recipe : Chocolate Chip Cookies (with a secret ingredient)

This recipe is from Jessica Seinfeld's cookbook Deceptively Delicious: Simple Secrets to Get Your Kids Eating Good Food.  It sounds weird... and I guess it is... but I have it on the word of 2, 3, and 6 year olds that these are deelish.  They sort of look like they have macadamia nuts in them, but without the expected crunch.  So my advice is, warn adults, but don't say a word to kids.  They won't know the difference anyway.   (By the way, she has a second book out now!!  Double Delicious!: Good, Simple Food for Busy, Complicated Lives)

Since I was making them for company instead of the cookie jar, I made them a little big, using very full tablespoons, and the baking time ended up being closer to 20 minutes.  Start checking at 11 minutes depending on the size you make them.  They don't really spread very much, just a bit, and it's a little hard to tell when they're done.  You want the top to be set and not shiny, and the edges to be just starting to brown.

Chocolate Chip Cookies 
(with chickpeas)

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup soft margarine
2 large egg whites
2 tsp vanilla
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
3/4 cup raisins (optional)
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half whole wheat flour)
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats (I used quick oats)
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray (I used parchment paper).

In a large bowl, beat the sugar and margarine until smooth.  Beat in the egg whites and vanilla, then the chickpeas and chocolate chips.  Add the flour, oats, baking soda and salt, and mix until a thick dough forms.

Drop the dough by tablespoonful onto the baking sheet, spacing about two inches apart.  Flatten slightly.  Bake until golden brown and just set, 11-13 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Transfer to a rack to cool.

Store in an airtight container for up to three days.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Recipe : Mashed Potato Casserole

If you're looking to fancy up your potatoes a bit without making things *too* complicated, this is a good recipe to try out.  I didn't have any half-and-half, so I used chicken broth for all the liquid, and it still turned out all right, just a little on the yellow side.  The flavor is excellent.  :o)  It was a hit with the hubby and the three-year-old potato fan; child who doesn't like potatoes still didn't like it.  You win some, you lose some...

The top gets a little funny in the fridge, but it does reheat all right.  I would personally call this a recipe that you want to make when you know it'll get eaten up - company, pot luck, that sort of thing.  

Mashed Potato Casserole
Serves 8

4 pounds russet potatoes (about 8 medium), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
3/4 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 stick butter, cubed
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt
4 eggs
1/4 cup fresh chives, finely chopped

Directions: Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Bring potatoes and water in large pot over high heat to boil. Reduce heat to medium-high and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.

Heat half-and-half, chicken broth, butter, garlic, salt, and mustard in saucepan over medium heat until smooth, about 5 minutes. Keep warm. Drain potatoes and transfer to large bowl. With electric mixer on medium-low beat potatoes, slowly adding half-and-half mixture, until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down bowl and add eggs 1 at a time until incorporated, about 2 more minutes. Fold in chives.

Pour into greased 13×9 inch baking dish, mixture will be loose but will bake up firm. Use a fork to swirl peaks on top to promote browning and because it’s pretty. Bake for 28-30 minutes until potatoes rise and begin to brown. Let cool 10 minutes and serve.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Thrifty Tip : Cleaning your Coffee Maker

No need to go out and buy special products to clean and deodorize your coffee maker... read on!   Tips collected from all over the internet and assembled here for your convenience.  :o)

Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the inside of the coffee pot, let it set for a little while.  Adding a bit of salt will give more abrasion if there are stains.  Scrub with a wet cloth and rinse.  (You can add some vinegar if you want the bubbles)
Scrub down your coffee pot with hot soapy water, inside and out. Rinse the pot after cleaning.

Run one of the following through the brewing cycle (a full coffee pot full - use a filter)):
- mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar
- straight white vinegar
- water with two denture-cleaning tablets
- water with the juice from a whole lemon (or two)
- water with dissolved citric acid (a packet of Tang!)
- water with baking soda
This will not only deodorize the coffee pot but the brewing unit itself.

Run three fresh pots of plain water through the unit to get rid of any residue.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Recipe : Sweet Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins are a nice treat - sweet, light, and cake-like.  They work well with blueberries as well!

Chocolate Chip Muffins
found here:  http://raisinghomemakers.com/2011/sweet-chocolate-chip-muffins/

(Makes 12 muffins or 40 mini)

1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 c. all-purpose plain flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 c. semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 12 standard muffin cups with butter or butter-flavored nonstick cooking spray or line with paper liners. In a bowl, whisk together the melted butter, buttermilk, eggs, and vanilla until smooth.  In another bowl, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, add the buttermilk mixture, and beat until smooth and well mixed, 1-2 minutes. Using a large silicone spatula, fold in the chocolate chips just until evenly distributed. Do not overmix. Spoon the batter into each muffin cup, filling it level with the rim.

Bake the muffins until golden and springy to the touch, 15-25 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin should come out clean. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Unmold the muffins and let cool completely. Serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thrifty Tip : Non-Toxic and Inexpensive Carpet Cleaning

I have a carpet cleaner, and I love it.  But I don't love the $8+ price tag for carpet shampoo, especially since it doesn't always deliver results, and some people suggest that using carpet shampoo actually leaves your carpet MORE dirty in the long run as it turns the fibers into sticky little dirt magnets.  So, what to do?

This is where plain old, ordinary white vinegar is a shining star yet again.   Add a cup or so of white vinegar to the water tank of your shampooer and clean the carpet like normal.  No, the vinegar smell in the air will not stay around after the carpet is dry, even though you will smell it a bit while you're working.  If you'd like, you can add a teaspoon or two of dish soap, laundry detergent or even your own shampoo, but don't go crazy as you don't want a lot of suds happening.  You can also add your favorite essential oil for scent or for disinfecting.

Other recipes:

Disinfectant Organic Rug Shampoo

Use this recipe to disinfect your rugs from pet accidents or if it is often walked on while people are wearing shoes. This shampoo can be used in any carpet cleaner.
Mix equal parts vinegar and hot water. This amount varies depending on the size of the carpet you're cleaning and how much liquid the rug shampooers "soap" tank holds.
Add five drops of tea tree, lavender, Eucalyptus or thyme essential oils per eight ounces (one cup) of liquid.
Clean your carpets according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Thorough Carpet Cleaning Instructions and Recipes
(http://www.thriftyfun.com/tf248794.tip.html - read all the way down the page for more ideas)

There are five phases to getting your carpet really clean and keeping it looking like new.
  1. A thorough vacuum, preferably with a vacuum that has a beater bar to remove as much dirt, dander, and dust as possible
  2. Lightly pre-spray the carpet with my home-made prepared solution then wait 30 minutes
  3. Shampoo the carpet with my carpet shampoo in the machine
  4. Rinse the carpet with my rinse formula
  5. Make sure you have good ventilation to dry your carpet - open all windows and doors to get good air flow. If you carpet takes too long to dry you can end up with mildew and brown stains, so if it's cold turn on the heater.
Recipe for pre-spray: use an enzyme laundry powder and mix to the ratio as for clothes in cold water. This breaks down grease, dirt and dander.
Recipe for carpet shampoo: Palmolive Green dishwashing liquid (or Cussons or similar - but Palmolive is best) and washing soda (aka Lectic Soda; soda ash; sodium carbonate). The mix is 1/4 cup dishwashing liquid and 1/4 cup soda to 3 gallons (about 11 liters) water. This is where the action is and wow can't you see it in the throw out water.

Recipe for rinse: mix 1/4 cup "white" vinegar per gallon of water (3.7 liters). Cheap white vinegar is perfect. This step is very important as it removes any residue and prevents the brown staining that can occur. The browning happens because the carpet has been over wetted and dissolved dirt in the fibers is drawn to the surface again. The vinegar mix is slightly acidic and prevents this from occurring. It also deodorizes the carpet. Worried about the smell? Don't be, it goes as soon as the carpet is dry.

Because I have so much traffic, muddy paws, dogs lying about on the floor, etc. I do my carpets between 2 to 3 times a year. In between I regularly vacuum (twice a week) and to keep the carpets fresh, monthly I give a generous sprinkle of bicarb soda (aka sodium bicarbonate, baking soda) work into the pile with the beater bar (vacuum turned to nozzle) wait 30 minutes then vacuum. Buy generic home brand - it's the same as the more expensive brands. For a nice smell add 20 - 30 drops of you favorite essential oil and work into 500g before sprinkling.

TIP: place cardboard coasters under any wooden legs of table etc., otherwise the wood will almost irreparably stain your carpet.

Oh, by the way, this mix can be used on upholstery too! But as always check in an inconspicuous area first. Happy Carpet Cleaning! (10/20/2008)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Money Management Part Nine - Retirement Planning

This is a short post.  I will not make any claims to being an investment expert, and you should talk to a professional about retirement and estate planning.  But I didn't want to leave everything hanging with my friends Jack and Jill - I wanted to see them through to the end and find out where they would end up.  So, here is a brief recap of their timeline and a trajectory for their future:

Jack and Jill’s Timeline

June 2010 – bought their house and bought appliances on 18 month no-interest, no-payments plan
June 2011 – Richard gets them to track spending for a month.  (Kids are 2 & 4.)
July 2011 – They collect their credit reports and debt information to understand their financial picture.
August 2011 – Jill starts working from home part-time, and their new budget is implemented.
November 2011 – They worked hard and paid off their furniture account before the interest came due.
December 2011/January 2012 – Jill banked her $500/month for their emergency fund.
December 2012 – They have paid off Line of Credit, MC and Visa by now.
October 2013 – They have paid off Student Loan and Car and are now debt-free aside from their mortgage.
October 2014 – In one year they have banked six months of expenses.  Now they start investing for retirement and college.  (Kids are five and seven.)
January 2015 – They implement a new plan to pay down the mortgage using Jack’s raise.

Let's look at the future...

May 2022 – Their mortgage is paid off, thirteen years early and with over $50,000 interest saved.
June-August 2022 – They celebrate by saving for and enjoying a great family vacation (kids are now 11 and 13).

September 2022 – Now that they are no longer paying $1310.33 on their mortgage every month, they increase retirement investment to $1000/month, and the college accounts to $400/month.   To date, the retirement account currently has $111,360 and the college account has $26,202.  They have $960.33 per month freed up to do wish as they wish.  Their first goal is saving for Jill and the kids to travel to an African orphanage and work their for three months.  Jack will join them for four weeks, using his vacation time from work.  They also start saving for their next car purchase.

September 2027 - $78,618 has accumulated in the college account.  The kids are now 18 & 20.  18-year-old Bobby decides to attend college, while 20-year-old Sue has a small wedding and buys a house.  College is paid for in full with a half-share of $39,309 with plenty to spare.  He decides to take some of the remainder and by a car, which he gets a discount on for paying cash, and to put the rest in the bank for his own emergency fun.  The wedding and house downpayment are covered by the other half.  Way to be free from the start!

Onward to retirement...

December 2045 – Jack is 65.  After investing $1000/month for the last 23 years since the mortgage was paid off, the retirement account now has $2,844,602.  He decides to keep working half-time til age 70.  Cut investment amount to $500/month for five more years.

December 2050.  Merry Christmas, Jack and Jill.  Jack retires at age 70 with $5,053,712 in the retirement investments.  They move the money into an account with 2.25% interest compounded daily.  The interest on the account pays them $108,537 per year without touching the principal, which they excitedly plan to disburse as part of their estate to their children, grandchildren and several charities.

December 2045 – Jack is 65.  Retirement account has $2,844,602.  They move the money into an account with 2.25% interest compounded daily.  The interest on the account pays them $ 61,092 per year without touching the principal.  He supplements this income by working part-time, and with a small pension.

December 2045 – Jack is 65.  Retirement account has $2,844,602.   He stops investing additional money, but leaves the investment active.  The annual interest earned on the investment is $341,352, which even after taxes provides them with a very comfortable living.  (Especially since they have no mortgage or debt.)  They have the time, energy and money to enjoy their growing family, and look forward to an annual family vacation.  They re-invest lump sums on occasion, and have designed their final wishes to ensure their grandchildren’s educations and their children a head-start on their own retirement savings.  (Not that they’ll need it.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Recipe : Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

I made these for St. Patrick's Day but didn't get a chance to post the recipe yet.  It's borrowed from here:

I won't call it a cheap recipe by any means, and they do take some time to make - but in the end it's worth the time investment. They were really yummy!  I would like to see the brownie part be a little softer, because I found them a little dry.  But that might just be from them being kept in the fridge for so long, too.  If I make them again I'll try adding a bit of oil or applesauce or something, just to see what that does to the end product.  And the frosting - mix it nice and thick as it needs to support the chocolate on top.  If you have a crazy sweet tooth like me, double the frosting recipe to make a really sweet treat. ;)

Double Chocolate Mint Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
3/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Mint Layer
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup icing sugar (confectioner's sugar)
1-2 tablespoons cream
1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
a drop or two of green food colouring (optional)

Chocolate Glaze
3 oz. semi-sweet or milk chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon butter

Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
Melt butter in large saucepan on stove top.
Remove from heat and add sugar, cocoa, and vanilla.
Beat in eggs, one at a time.
Add flour and baking powder, and stir until batter is smooth.
Stir in nuts.
Spread evenly in a 9-inch square greased pan.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out 'almost clean'.  (Do not over bake for a moist brownie.)
Remove from oven and cool completely.

For mint layer, ombine softened butter, icing sugar, milk and peppermint extract and beat until smooth.  Add a little more cream if frosting is too thick. (Add green food colouring, if desired).   Spread frosting over cooled brownie base and chill.

To make chocolate glaze, melt chocolate and butter in glass bowl in the microwave.  Stir until smooth.  Spread evenly over mint layer and chill for 30 minutes before slicing.

Definitely Kid-Approved!!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thrifty Tip : Homemade Citrus Cleaner

This great tip comes from "The American Home" - go check out her blog for lots of great old-fashioned tips, tricks and recipes!

SIMPLE CITRUS CLEANER made from Vinegar & Orange Peelings

Add the clean and washed peelings from 4 oranges to one gallon of white or apple vinegar. Allow the vinegar to sit for 6 weeks. Then strain through a cloth and pour into spray bottles to use for cleaning all through the house. Mopping floors, cleaning woodwork, and cleaning counter tops are just a few of the uses we have found for this homemade cleaner. This cleaner is quite strong for example to mop floors use a 1/2 cup of cleaner with one gallon of warm water! The smell is wonderful and for a few coins you have created enough cleaner to last quite sometime.

HINT: You may use any citrus peelings you have to create this wonderful cleaner.