Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wedding day survival kit for under $20

A friend of mine had a bridal shower coming up.  I went to pick up the crock pot she had on her registery but the store was sold out.  Being of limited funds, I came up with a Wedding Day Survival Kit.  I was at a certain box store therefore able to get everything I needed for very inexpensively.  Including items I had laying around the house, I paid less then $20 for the gift.

Wedding Day Survival Kit for under $20
  • plastic "shoe box" storage bin ($0.96)
  • Johnson & Johnson first aid kit ($0.97)
  • hand sanitizer ($1.00) i used one I had from a spree at Bath & Body Works during their 5/$5 sale
  • mini deodorant ($0.94)
  • lint tape roller ($0.50) came in a 2 pack for $1
  • Wisps :1 use tooth cleaners ($0.94)
  • tissue pocket pack ($0.25) came in multipack of 4 for $1
  • hand lotion ($0.94) i got mine at that box store but can be picked up at Bath & Body Works during their 5/$5 sale
  • bottled water ($1.50)  this may be something some people already have around the house so could be done cheaper
  • chocolate bar ($0.70)
  • iced coffee mix ($0.70) these came in a multipack.  That Seattle based mermaid logoed company makes one of the only good instant coffee that can be mixed in cold water
  • note pad ($0.25) came in a 4 pack for $1
  • pen ($0.50)  most people have these laying around, mine all had adverts on them
  • gum or hard candy ($0.70) 
  • lip balm ($0.94)
  • wet wipes ($1.00) 
  • bobby pins ($1.00)
  • 2 alcohol "nips" ($5) obviously, youll have to go to another store for this. "Nips" are those mini, 1 shot, bottles.
  • ponytail holders *
  • small scissors *
  • mini sewing kit *
  • Tums*  i was able to use what I had and put them in an old (clean!!) pill bottle
*items I already had

This kit that I made had things that I found useful on my wedding day.  Gear your kit to your bride.  My bride-to-be was someone who enjoyed coffee, if yours doesnt, try those single serve Crystal Lite packs.  Doesnt eat chocolate?  Try package of peanuts.  Choose a sanitizer and lotion scent that your bride-to-be enjoys.  If she's a smoker, maybe spend a little extra and throw in a lighter and pack of her brand.  Or, if shes a smoker, add an inexpensive purse body spray.
I used old pill bottles (washed out, of course!) for things that I already had and just split up: bobby pins, tums, ponytail holders

Sunday, October 28, 2012

homemade mexican chocolate and homemade caramels

I found a great recipe for homemade caramels earlier this week.  Thought I would give it a try but didnt read the red bit at the end about their gooeyness.  I thought maybe it was due to my sweetened condensed milk substitution but I guess it was just the way the recipe is.  I also had a good bit of melting chocolate laying around.  Inspiration struck.  Its Halloween time, Im sick of ordinary chocolate.  I decided to go south of the border with it.

Mexican Chocolate
10oz of melting chocolate (its a weird amount, I know, but its what I had left over)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp chili powder
1/8 tsp cayenne powder

I find the best way to melt chocolate is in the crock pot on low.  It doesnt take very long and heats it low enough as to not seize the chocolate.
Put chocolate into crock pot.
Melt on low.
Once chocolate is melted, mix in seasonings.
Pour melted chocolate into a form, I used ramekins but anything will work.  Muffin tins also work well.
Allow to cool.

*Since I had leftover yummy caramel, I poured some of the caramel on top, allowed to cool, then added more chocolate to make a layered disk.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Bushel of apples

There is a local farm stand that is open until Halloween.  Being Upstate NY, they always have large amounts of local apples.  In preparation for my housesitting for them, my parents picked up a bushel of apples for me to process.  My motto tends to be "work smarter, not harder".  Here was my setup: Bin #1: apple scrapes & cores for cider, Bin #2: lemon water for apple rings to dehydrate, Bin #3: mangled apples for sauce, Bin #4: nice apple slices for pie filling.

Dried Apple Ring
I cheat and use a dehydrator
This is really easy and mostly up to personal preference.
Prep apples by peeling, coring and slicing (*save all the scrap for cider).
To make dried apples in the oven:
Lay rings out on cookie sheets, season if you like with cinnamon and nutmeg
Turn oven to lowest temperature

Leave apples in oven 8-10 hours or overnight
Seal in air tight container

6 cups of prepped apples, peeled & cut. (*save scraps for cider)
3 tbs lemon juice
1/4c white sugar
1/4c brown sugar
1c water
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp clove

Put all ingredients into pot and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for 30 minutes.  mash or blend depending on how smooth you like your applesauce.

Apple Pie Filling
Instead of making pie now,
I put it into a ziplock to freeze until needed
4 cups of prepped apples, peeled and sliced (*save scraps for cider)
1/3 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp clove
pinch of salt
2 tbs butter

Mix all ingredients, except butter, together in a large bowl.  Pour into pie shell.  Add butter in dollops on top of filling.  Bake at 425* for 40 to 50 minutes.

Apple Cider 
apple scraps boiling
Apple scraps (from 2/3 of bushel)
water (1.5 gallon or 25 cups)
cinnamon sticks (3)
whole clove (palm full)
nutmeg (1/2 tsp)
brown sugar (1/2 cup)
white sugar (1cup) (I used splenda to make it lower in sugar)

Put apple scraps in a large pot.  Fill with enough water to cover scraps.  (Measure as you go.  My rations are based on 25 cups (about 1.5 gallon) of water.)  Place all ingredients in pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 3 hours.  Cool down and strain.  Will keep in fridge for about 2 weeks.

Canning Made Simple
Canning jars with lids and rings
large pot
small pot
hand towels (at least 3)
  • Place hand towel on the bottom of large pot, put empty cans/jars into pot and fill with enough hot water to cover and fill jars.  The towel should be large enough to prevent the glass jars from touching hot metal of the pot.  
  • Boil for 20 minutes to sanitize.  
  • While the jars are sanitizing, put lids into small pot of water, bring to a boil.  Turn off burner and leave lids in water until ready to use.
  • After the jars have been sanitized, they are ready to fill (see above for applesauce, apple pie filling, or apple cider).  Fill almost all the way, leaving at least an inch of head space.  Clean the threads and top of jar.
  • One by one, remove lid from hot water, dry, put on filled jar then screw ring on just short of tight.
  • Put jars back in large pot, add water if needed to cover jars with at least 2 inches of water. Boil for 10 minutes.
  • Remove, tighten rings, place on towel away from drafts for 24 hours.  My favorite part is listening to the telltale pops of the jars sealing!
I highly suggest picking up a canning kit.  You can get them at "major retailers" for about $20.  They include specialized tongs to lift jars, a funnel specialized for jars.  These things came with my mom's large canning pot kit (they run about $60) and I have found them indispensable.  As for the canning pot itself, you can do just as well with a large pot from your own kitchen.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Fall yumminess

Its been a while, but Im back online and cooking with a vengeance.  Husband and I moved into a nicer apartment with a much nicer kitchen.  Our new roommate is a vegetarian so its less that Im trying new dinner recipes and more baking.  Last night and today I made some yummy fall foods.
                     Dinner was a pumpkin sweet potato soup, no-knead bread and pumpkin cider.

                                                             Pumpkin cider from Aldi's

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Soup  (for once its my own recipe)
1 md onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 tbs margarine                                
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbs salt
1 tbs pepper
1 15oz can pumpkin
3 md sweet potatoes, cubed
4 c vegetable stock
2 c water

1) In large pot saute onions, celery and carrots in margarine until onions have clarified.
2) mix in seasonings
3) add remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil then simmer for 30 minutes, until sweet potatoes are soft.
4) use potato masher, food processor or wand blender to get desired consistency.  *I like a smoother soup so I mashed with a potato masher then used my wand blender.

Amazing No-Knead Bread from Frugal Living

6 cups bread (recommended) or all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
1/2 t. instant or active-dry yeast
2 1/2 t. salt
2 2/3 c. cool water
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Add the water and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated; the dough should be wet and sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rest 12-18 hours on the counter at room temperature. When surface of the risen dough has darkened slightly, smells yeasty, and is dotted with bubbles, it is ready.
  2. Lightly flour your hands and a work surface. Place dough on work surface and sprinkle with more flour. Fold the dough over on itself once or twice and, using floured fingers, tuck the dough underneath to form a rough ball.
  3. Generously dust a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with enough flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran to prevent the dough from sticking to the towel as it rises; place dough seam side down on the towel and dust with more flour, cornmeal, or wheat bran. Cover with the edges or a second cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours, until it has doubled in size.
  4. After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 425-450 degrees. Place a 6-8 quart heavy covered pot, such as a cast-iron Dutch oven, in the oven as it heats. When the dough has fully risen, carefully remove pot from oven. Remove top towel from dough and slide your hand under the bottom towel; flip the dough over into pot, seam side up. Shake pan once or twice if dough looks unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.
  5. Cover and bake for 40-50 minutes. Uncover and continue baking about 5-10 more minutes, until a deep chestnut brown. The internal temp of the bread should be around 200 degrees. You can check this with a meat thermometer, if desired.
  6. Remove the bread from the pot and let it cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.

*Mine turned out a little squat because my dutch oven is short and round*