It's Turkey Day here in the US! I hope everyone has a wonderful day and a wonderful dinner! Let us all remember that giving thanks is something that doesn't just happen one day a year. It is a year long journey that starts with having an 'attitude of gratitude'!
One of the things I love about this time of year is the fact that it is full of blooms at my house! These plants really don't require a lot of care and I love it when they reward me with flowers. Here is what's in bloom at my house today. I have two orchids in bloom with another one on the way. This first one is an oncidium. The blooms stay open a very long time. The first flower opened in the middle of October and I still have 12 flowers left on two stems. I bought this plant about 10 years ago.
This orchid is a cattleya. It just opened this week. I got this plant as a gift 7 years ago. I don't really know how old it is. It has five other flowers on it besides these three.
This orchid is called Brassavola Nodosa. What I like best about it is the fragrance. It only scents at night! When daylight comes, you can't smell anything. A few hours after nightfall, the whole rooms smells sweet! It should open in a few days. This plant is about 11 years old.
This is what it will look like when it opens. I got this picture from Wikipedia.
I also have cactus in bloom. This plant is 25 years old.
This cactus is 11 years old. The pot has two separate cactus plants in it. One has this pretty salmon color flowers and the other has white flowers. Most of the white ones haven't opened yet. They should soon.
This is a flamingo plant. It is still a baby. It is only about a year old.
You could easily have these plants blooming at your house too! You can find cactus plants everywhere this time of year. I walk by orchids at the home improvement stores all the time. None of these plants require direct sunlight, so it makes them easy to grow. Purchase small plants and they will be very inexpensive! I hope you enjoyed the tour of my 'holiday blooms'!
Just in time for the holidays, I am providing a list of homemade versions of some of the most popular foods on the market. If you are on a tight budget this year, these homemade substitutes will save you money (in addition to being much healthier)! Last week I posted Part I which included Bisquick mix substitute, boxed yellow cake mix substitute, cream of chicken soup and a generic cream of... soup substitute. You can see those recipes here. I have researched many substitute mixes over the years as I looked for new ways to save money. Today, I am posting a few more of my favorites. I have tried all of them and they taste delicious! Homemade Stove Top Stuffing Mix 6 cups cubed bread (Cut up into small pieces like the boxed brand. I usually use whatever bread I have on hand but it tastes better if you don't mix different types of bread. For example, don't use 3 cups of sourdough bread and 3 cups of oat bread together.) 1 TBS parsley flakes 3 tsp chicken bouillon 1/4 cup dried minced onion 1/2 tsp celery seed (or 1/2 cup dehydrated celery) 1 TBS poultry seasoning 2 tsp garlic powder 2 tsp ground pepper Bake bread 8 to 10 minutes on a sheet pan. In a large bowl toss bread with remaining ingredients till evenly coated. Store in an airtight container. This will keep for 1 to 4 months or 12 months frozen. Cook just like you would for the prepackaged mix: To serve four people: Combine 2 cups stuffing mix with 1/2 cup boiling water and 2 TBS melted butter. To serve the entire batch: combine 1 1/2 cups boiling water and 1/3 cup melted butter. This recipe comes from my friend Chef Tess. You can see the original on her blog, here. Homemade Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix 1 cup sugar 3/4 cup cornstarch 3/4 cup nonfat dry milk powder 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 whole vanilla beans (you can substitute 2 tsp to 2 TBS of vanilla powder) In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, milk powder and set aside Split open the vanilla beans and use the back of a knife to scrape out the seeds. Add the seeds to the sugar mixture and whisk well to evenly combine. Use a fork to break up the chunks of vanilla beans, if necessary. Combine 2 cups of milk with 1/2 cup of the mix in a medium saucepan over high heat. Whisk constantly until it boils. Immediately reduce heat to a simmer and continue to whisk until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 3 to 5 minutes). Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. If you make your own vanilla flavoring, you will know that vanilla beans can be very expensive! Youare not saving money by making this when you purchase whole vanilla beans unless you can get them cheaply. Another good alternative is to use 2 tsp of vanilla powder in place of the vanilla beans. Vanilla powder is a little harder to find but much cheaper. King Arthur Flour sells it. So does Emergency Essentials, you can see their products here and here. One of these cans from Emergency Essentials will last for years! The vanilla powder tastes just as good as the vanilla beans in this recipe! When serving this mix as pudding, I will use 2 TBS of vanilla powder. If using this mix in a cake recipe, I will use 2 tsps. You can see the original recipe here. Homemade Kool-Aid Concentrate Mix 1/2 cup unsweetened fruit juice 2 tsp honey (you can use a bit more to taste)
Place juice in a saucepan and heat over low heat. Add the honey and stir until dissolved. You can make this a Gatorade substitute mix by adding 1/4 tsp sea salt to the juice/honey mix. Use 2 - 3 tsp per glass of water or use the entire amount with 2 quarts of water. Any leftover concentrate can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. You can see the original recipe here. If you have kids at home, I bet they will drink a lot of Kool Aid/soda while they are on break from school. Kool Aid (and soda for that matter) is nothing but artificial ingredients. This is a much healthier alternative. It is also much cheaper! Besides, you can make any flavor you like! Try some of these boxed mix substitutes in your cooking this holiday season! You can make them ahead and store in glass jars if you would like! (I store mine in canning jars.) They sit on my shelf just like the boxed versions would. Once you find out how easy they are to make and use, you won't want to return to the box version again! Take it from me, when you use these boxed mix substitutes, you will save money! Now, how frugal is that?
On Monday of this week I showed you how to make an Amish Friendship Starter. It is a sweet sourdough that can be used to make many different kinds of quick breads, muffins, and even cakes! Today, I thought that I would start with the basic Quick Bread recipe.
You can see the original recipe here. Below I have listed it with the changes I made. Amish Friendship Bread 2 cups starter 3 eggs 1 cup oil (Next time I make this, I am only going to use 1/2 cup. I have difficulty eating a slice with this much oil in it. I used olive oil.) 1 cup sugar (I really don't think this is necessary! Way too much sugar! I only used 1/2 cup and next time I am going to use 1/3 cup.) 1/2 tsp vanilla (I used 1 tsp. I made my own. You can see how to do that here.) 2 tsps cinnamon 1 1/2 tsp baking powder (I used 2 tsp.) 1/2 tsp salt (I used a scant 1/2 tsp.) 1/2 tsp baking soda 2 cups flour (I used whole wheat made from soft white wheat berries.) 1-2 boxes instant pudding, any flavor (I used one small box of vanilla.) 1 cup chopped nuts, optional (Although this is listed as optional, I think you should add nuts. I made one batch with nuts and one without. The nuts win! I used walnuts.) In a separate bowl mix: 1/2 cup sugar (Again, this is too much sugar! You will only waste it if you use 1/2 cup. A more appropriate amount is 1/3 - 1/4 cup.) 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon I started with the batter. I added each ingredient to the mixing bowl and then whisked it in before I added the next. I went right down the recipe and added them in the order listed. Here is what mine looked liked when I finished. The picture is of the batter without the nuts.
Next, grease the loaf pans. You will need two. I greased mine with Pam olive oil spray. Then, take some of the sugar/cinnamon mixture and lightly dust the pans. Here is what mine looked like.
Pour in the batter. Fill the pans about 1/2 full. You can sprinkle the rest of the topping on the batter before you bake it. Here is mine.
Let me add here that I think the topping isn't necessary. The second batch (the one I made with the nuts) did not have topping. Personally, I like it better without the topping. I did dust the pans with the sugar/cinnamon mixture for both batches. I didn't need to make up any more for the second batch. The 1/3 cup of sugar and 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon dusted all four pans and I still had enough for the topping you see in this picture. Bake at 325 degrees for one hour. I wanted to use my Sun Oven because the sun was quite bright the day I made these. However, it was very blustery! So much so that it reminded me of the children's book Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. With that much wind, the reflective panels can act like a sail and will tip the oven over! I learned this the hard way. Then you have an awful mess to clean up off the oven and the patio! I opted for the kitchen oven. Mine needed to bake about 70 minutes. Here is what they will look like when done.
In this picture I have one pan from the first batch and both pans from the second batch. I used smaller pans for the second batch and had some left over so I used muffin tins for the remaining batter.
The quick bread is quite tasty! I am making a second batch of starter and with it I am going to bake double chocolate chip cupcakes and pumpkin bread!
If you are on a tight budget this holiday season, (And who isn't? The cost of food keeps going up!) you can still bake up all your special treats without it costing a fortune! The key is to stay away from boxed products. You can make many of them yourself for much less! In addition, the boxed versions all include artificial ingredients to keep the product fresh. Artificial ingredients aren't healthy and you can avoid them when you make these products yourself. Here are a few to start you off: Homemade Bisquick Mix: 6 cups all purpose flour 3 TBS baking powder 1 TBS salt 1 cup vegetable shortening
Sift flour, baking powder and salt three times into a large bowl. Cut in shortening with a pastry blender until mixture resembles fine crumbs. Store mixture in airtight container in the refrigerator up to four months. Use whenever your recipe calls for Bisquick mix. You can see the original recipe here. Homemade Yellow Box Cake Mix 4 1/2 cups all purpose white flour 1/2 cup cornstarch 2 1/2 cups sugar 2 TBS baking power 1 TBS salt 1 cup shortening (or butter) 1 TBS vanilla (I make my own, you can see how to do that here.) Sift flour, cornstarch, baking powder and salt at least once to remove lumps. Combine shortening with dry ingredients until it resembles fine crumbs. You can use a pastry blender or a Kitchen Aid mixer with the paddle attachment. Use in place of a box of yellow cake mix. While there are lots of homemade substitutes for a box of cake mix on the Internet, I don't think any of them are as good as this one! This one came from my friend Chef Tess, you can see the original recipe here. Homemade Cream of Chicken Soup 2 1/2 cups chicken broth (I make my own. You can see how to do that here.) 1 1/2 cups milk 3/4 cup flour 1 TBS seasoning mix (You can use what ever you like here or try this one: 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/2 tsp garlic powder, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp parsley.) Combine the chicken broth and 1/2 cup of the milk in a large saucepan. Bring to a low boil. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk the flour and seasonings into the remaining 1 cup of milk. Whisk until smooth and thick. Pour the flour and milk mixture into the saucepan with the broth mixture over low heat and stir continuously, whisking until it simmers. Continue to simmer and stir until the mixture is smooth and thick, about 5 - 10 minutes. This makes the equivalent of 2 cans of condensed soup. You can see the original recipe here. While this canned soup substitute seems like a lot of work, here is another one that isn't. Homemade Condensed Soup Mix Recipe #2 2 cups powdered milk 3/4 cup cornstarch 2 TBS minced onion (dried) 1/4 cup chicken bullion 1 tsp basil 1 tsp thyme Use 1/3 cup of the mix and whisk with 1 1/4 cups of water. Cook and stir until thickened. Use in place of a can of condensed soup. This recipe is in my food storage handbook that I created years ago. I didn't note the source! I copied it from somewhere because it is in my handwriting. My apologies to the author/creator! I have additional recipes for homemade versions of vanilla pudding, stove top stuffing mix, and a few others. I will post those next week in Part II! If you like this post, you may also like:
I really like the idea of making my own sourdough starter. The problem I have with starters is the need to continuously feed them. When you know how to make your own starter, you can create it on demand and not be burdened with continuous feeding. If you use your sourdough starter in place of packaged yeast all year round, then it would be worth it to continuously feed and care for your starter. But for people like me who only use sourdough starter on occasion, it is a waste of flour (and money) to continuously feed it. It is much more useful to learn how to make it yourself when you want to use it. I have previously posted about how to make sourdough starter for bread. You can see that here. Today's post is about how to make a friendship starter. Friendship starter is a sweet sourdough starter and used for quick breads, cakes, muffins and other types of sweet breads. You can see many kinds of recipes that use a friendship starter here. (It is also called Amish Friendship starter.) Here is how you make it: Just like all starters, you can not use any metal containers or tools with a friendship starter. Wood or plastic tools with a glass, plastic or ceramic jar are best. This is what I am using.
I got the container as a gift. It is from the King Arthur Flour company.It is specifically designed to hold sourdough starters. The key to the container you choose for your starter, is to make sure it has a loose cover. You want air to get in, and bugs to stay out.
Day 1: Place in the container: 1 cup flour 1 cup milk 1 cup sugar If you search the Internet, you can find friendship starter recipes that include instant yeast. Just as when making a regular sourdough starter, if you add the yeast, your starter may be ready a little bit faster - but it really isn't necessary to add it. For my starter, I did not add any yeast. Also, I used fresh milk and white all purpose flour from the store. While using fresh ingredients from the store isn't really 'cooking with food storage', after I use this starter in a recipe, I am going to feed it with powdered milk and whole wheat flour. Stir the mixture well. Mine got all bubbly right away!
Day 2, Day 3, Day 4: Stir the starter well. Day 5: Add to the starter: 1 cup flour 1 cup milk 1 cup sugar Stir well. Day 6, Day 7, Day 8, Day 9: Stir the starter well. Day 10: Stir the starter well and add: 1 cup flour 1 cup milk 1 cup sugar You starter is now ready to use. Save one cup of starter (to start the 10-day process over again) and use the rest in your recipes! You will probably have a cup or two left over to give away to friends, if you would like. (Maybe that is why it is called a friendship starter?)
Here is a picture of mine before I added the new ingredients on day 10.
Personally, I think this starter tastes better than regular sourdough. It may be because it is sweeter, the sweetness seems to help take away a strong sour flavor. I have use this starter before, in the basic Amish quick bread recipe. Although it has been a long while since I made one, I recall that it had a wonderful flavor! I am looking forward to making it again! I will post my results with that recipe soon!
One of the reasons I wanted a temporary rainwater collection system is because I don't need it all year round. I want the 'regular' gutters to work if it rains in the winter and early spring. So, a temporary system is more convenient for me because it is so flexible. I can change the location of the rain barrels if need be, or I can omit using them for a year if I decide I want to take a break from gardening. I am really pleased that my rainwater collection solution does just that! I detached the rain barrels and downspout last week and it was a breeze to do. If you recall, here is what I set up for the summer.
I disconnected the barrels first. I drained out the water (into the garden) and then cleaned them. I used a long handle brush and cleaned both the inside of the barrel and the outside. They cleaned up easily. When they were dry, they went into the garage for the winter. I knew it would be a few days before I could get back outside to remove the temporary downspout. So in case of rain, I set up this system. It ended up not raining at all so it really wasn't needed.
Taking down the temporary downspout and replacing the original piece could not have been easier! It didn't take more than 15 minutes! I cut off the plastic straps that held the temporary downspout to the original and removed the screw holding it to the gutter on the house.
Then, I put the original piece back on (I stored that in the garage for the summer). All the pieces were a bit cold - it was chilly outside. I had to fiddle with them a bit to get them to fit correctly. I think that was because when I took them apart, it was hot outside. They were probably a bit more flexible because of the heat. Anyway, it wasn't that hard to put back together and few minutes later, everything was done!
I think I am going to leave the blocks where they are for the winter. I don't see any reason to store them in the garage. Overall, I have to say I was really pleased with my collection of rain water this year. It saved a lot of money on our water bill this summer! The barrels paid for themselves before the summer was over!
Next year, I am going to purchase a plain barrel and connect my own faucet. (I am on the look out for some barrels now.) That will be much cheaper than paying retail price for ready made rain barrels! I would like at least two more barrels for next year's garden. My goal is to reduce my water bill even more next year. That will go a long way to helping us meet our goal of living a frugal life! If you like this post, you may also like:
This is a topic that is very close to my heart. However, I have neglected writing about it for quite some time now! Certainly long enough to tell you that there have been many, many exciting updates made to the FamilySearch.org website! All of these updates were made to make it easier for you to find your ancestors!
Imagine that your ancestors came here from another country (that includes about all of us here in the US). How would you get to see birth certificates or marriage certificates from the 1700's? Well in the past, unless you traveled to that country, or hired someone to travel there for you, you would never know who these people are! While Ancestry.com, and other websites like it, have been around for a few years now, they are expensive. FamilySearch has them all beat because it is FREE! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints wants everyone to know who their ancestors are. It really is true that you can't know where you are going if you don't know where you came from. Church members volunteer their time to enter this data by Indexing records. They are then available for everyone in the world to see. I know you can find information about your ancestors too! As an example, here is the marriage certificate for one of my great-great-great-great grandparents.
It is important to remember that you can access this website from anywhere in the world, no matter where you live. Let me give you some information on the new features that were recently added:
You can add photos and memorable stories to each ancestor you add to your family tree. The best part about this is these stories are available in Google search results so others can see what you wrote. What a wonderful way to connect with other people who share an ancestor with you!
Just in the past 6 months, 200 million new records have been added from the following countries (listed in no particular order):
plus many more!
If you need help, there is now live support to help you! These people volunteer their time to answer your questions over the phone or via chat. How cool is that!
I strongly encourage you to spend some time looking for your ancestors. I can't think of a better gift to give your family this holiday season. All it takes is a few moments of your time!
It is quite rewarding to find the people who made you who you are. I can honestly tell you that I feel so blessed because I know who my ancestors are. I think about them every day! And, I look forward to meeting them someday!
Here in the US, it is Veteran's Day. Today is the day we honor all members of the armed forces for their service to our country. Please say a special prayer for those service members who didn't survive to see their family members again!
From this veteran to all the others, THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE!
I have been busy this fall, so I just had to let the garden tend to itself. Some veggies are doing very well, some are not. Before I start on how the garden is doing, I want to show you my newest plant purchase.
This is a vanilla plant. When it is about 3 or 4 feet tall, it should flower. As you can see, this lives in my bathroom. I am trying to take advantage of all the moisture there. In the summer, it will go outside. I have needed a new plant for a while because when Molly was younger she destroyed my last one. One of the side benefits of having a puppy! I tried to regrow it from some of the leftover pieces but none of them really took off and they never flowered (the plant was quite old anyway.) My husband and I went to Miami a few weeks ago to visit relatives and bought it. While this should help on my journey to self-sufficiency, I don't expect that I can completely eliminate my need to purchase vanilla beans. I just won't have to buy as many as I do now. (I go heavy on the vanilla when I cook.) In addition to being used in the production of vanilla flavoring, on occasion they will be used to make vanilla bean ice cream.
The peas are doing very well. I planted two varieties, one bush and one pole. Both are English peas.
My apologies about the picture! I took it very early this morning and I didn't realize that it had shadows until I posted it.
The onions are doing great too although you can barely see them in the picture. What you can see very well are the weeds!
I have a lot of weed issues in the onions! Going to have to fix that soon! The weeds will steal all the nutrients out of the soil. I have mixed results from the garlic so far. Some that I purchase locally, sprouted quickly. The ones that were saved from my crop last June, are sporadic. Here is a picture of some of the local ones.
Oops! Another bad picture. All you can see is one garlic plant! You can also see that I am still the proud owner of a rock. I really don't know what to do with it! It seems quite happy sitting in the yard, but I am getting tired of looking at it! Strawberries are producing well.
What I really like about everbearing strawberries is you get two crops ofvery large strawberries in the spring and fall and then smaller ones during the hot summer months. They truly produce from spring until very late in fall! Broccoli is up and growing too!
The carrots are not. I planted two varieties, one from my saved seeds that I gathered this summer and the other I purchased. Both are nantes varieties. I think next year I am going to move away from the nantes family. I know they are popular and a lot of different varieties are sold, but I have a hard time getting them to germinate. Right now, I need the carrots to come up because we are out of carrots! I don't store many cans of dehydrated carrots because we always have fresh ones to eat from the garden. We will just have to do without until I can get a crop to grow! My pepper plants just won't die! They are still making peppers and I am still dehydrating them. I am up to 300 now, and I have about 30 more waiting to be chopped up and dried. This is the only crop from the summer I have left.
Parsley is doing very well too. Time to harvest some more!
Tomorrow I am making some Christmas soap so the weeds & parsley will have to wait until next week!
These cookies are light & airy with a wonderful maple flavor! I found the original recipe in my King Arthur Flour catalog, but you can see it online here. I used food storage ingredients for my version.
Here is the original recipe with my noted changes: Maple Drop Cookies 2 large egg whites (I used meringue powder.) 1/4 cup maple sugar (I ordered mine off of the Internet, from here. King Arthur Flour sells it as well. Do a Google search and I bet you can find it locally too.) 1/4 cup pure maple syrup 1/8 tsp salt 4 TBS unsalted butter, melted (I made my own butter. You can see how to do that here. I also made a second batch with powdered butter.) 1/2 tsp vanilla extract (I used one teaspoon. I made my own vanilla extract. You can see how to do that here.) 1/8 tsp maple flavoring, optional (I made one batch with maple flavoring and one without. The cookies taste better with the maple flavoring.) 2/3 cup all-purpose flour (I used whole wheat flour.) Whisk together the egg whites, sugar and salt. Here are my ingredients before I added the water.
Whisk until the ingredients are foamy. It didn't take long.
Whisk in the maple syrup, butter and flavors until incorporated. When I used butter powder, I reconstituted it with water before adding. I used a bit more water to make it smooth. Add the flour and whisk until smooth. This is what mine looked like.
As you can see in the picture above, I used a very large bowl. However, the batter doesn't make much so you don't need a large bowl. A small to medium bowl will work well. Drop by teaspoon full on parchment paper. The original instructions state that the less batter you use the crisper the cookie. I was looking for crispy cookies. I tried different amounts to see if I could get it 'just right'. What I liked was a heaping 1/2 tsp full, spread thinly. The thinner, the better. If you spread them thin, you will get about 50 cookies. If you want them a little thicker, you will get about 35. Bake at 350 degrees for 7 to 9 minutes. I didn't bake mine in my kitchen oven. It was a beautiful sunny day, so I used the sun oven. Although it was quite sunny, I couldn't get the sun oven to 350 degrees (I had wispy clouds floating by). I had to settle for 325. I baked mine about 25 minutes. (Don't use parchment paper in the sun oven. I didn't have any problem getting the cookies off of the cookie sheet.)
They are quite good! Very crispy, and full of maple flavor. If you can't find or don't want to buy maple sugar, try using regular sugar with 1/4 tsp of maple flavoring. I bet they will be just as good!
You may be thinking that it is still too early to think about Christmas. Not for me! I start putting up the decorations on November 1st. I just love to look at them! I wish I could leave them up all year long! Another reason I like to think about Christmas this early is to plan and set a budget for our festivities. I do this to help me keep the spending down to a minimum. My husband and I try to live a very frugal life. It is our goal every year to try to live on less than we did the year before. Without careful planning, that goal can go right out the window at Christmas time! It is really easy to get caught up in the rush when at the mall (or any store) and find that impulse purchases have just blown your budget! Christmas should be about celebrating the birth of our Savior, cherishing time with each other, and not about spending money. So to try to help keep your Christmas budget under control this year, I have listed some websites below that have quite a few tips to help you do just that! 3 Ways to Have a Frugal Christmas Free and Low-Cost Christmas Gifts Frugal Christmas Checklist Frugal Living Christmas Ideas Frugal Christmas Foods Frugal Christmas Gifts Ideas 5 Frugal Tips for a Christmas to Remember Plan ahead and think about what you are going to spend on your festivities now! When the bills come in January, you will be glad you did!