Friday, January 31, 2014

Cooking with Food Storage: KAF 2014 Recipe of the Year

I got an email the other day from The King Arthur Flour Company. It was announcing their recipe of the year. Now, I have to tell you that I love this company. (I am not affiliated with them in any way, just a satisfied customer.) I get their newsletter and catalog (it has lots of wonderful recipes in it), read their blog and buy many of the products in their catalog. I also have a few of their cookbooks. While I believe that their products can be a bit pricey, you will definitely get what you paid for! I love everything I have purchased from them over the years, some of which I have featured here in previous posts.

So with that in mind, I knew I had to try it: Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread. I love to bake bread and since all I ever use is whole grains, I knew this was right up my alley! It was super easy to make. I didn't have any problems at all! Best of all, it didn't take any extra gluten, vitamin C or dough enhancer! It only used basic ingredients! No wonder it was the recipe of the year! 

As usual, I listed the recipe with my comments. If you want to see the original recipe, you can do that here.

Classic 100% Whole Wheat Bread
1 - 1/8 cup lukewarm water ( I used 1 cup, mine was a bit warmer than lukewarm.)
1/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil.)
1/4 cup honey, molasses or maple syrup (I used molasses.)
3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (I used hard white wheat flour that I made myself from hard white wheat berries.)
2 1/2 tsp instant yeast or 1 packet active dry yeast (I used 3 tsp instant yeast.)
1/4 cup powdered milk (I used powdered whole milk. The brand name is Nido, I got it at the big box store.)
1 1/4 tsp salt (I used slightly over 1 tsp salt.)

I started by proofing the yeast. It is instant yeast, so it doesn't need proofing but I did it anyway. I measured the 1 cup of water and 1/4 cup of molasses. Then, I poured some of the water and molasses into another measuring cup, stirred a bit, and added the yeast.

I set that aside and added all the other ingredients into a large bowl. While I started stirring with a spoon, I quickly realized the spoon wasn't needed and started kneading in the bowl with my hands. When the yeast was ready, I added it and kneaded a bit more. At this point, it was quite sticky. The instructions say to let it sit for 30 minutes so the flour can absorb the water. I turned it out on to a piece of freezer paper and set the timer for 30 minutes.

The 30 minute wait made all the difference in the world! It was no longer sticky! The instructions said to grease your hands before you start kneading, so I did. However, I am not sure it was needed. The dough didn't stick to my hands, the freezer paper or anything else for that matter. As per the instructions, I kneaded for 8 minutes. Then I cleaned the same bowl I mixed it in and lighted greased it. I placed the dough in the bowl for the first rise. 

I covered mine with a dish towel and place it in the oven to rise (just to get it out of the way). The instructions stated it should take between 1 to 2 hours to rise, mine took 1 hour and 10 minutes. My apologies here, I forgot to take a picture after the first rise! Even though the instructions said it may not double in size, mine did. Roll the dough into an 8 inch log. (I measured mine to be sure it was 8 inches.) Grease a 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch pan (I used olive oil PAM) and place the dough in the pan.

Lightly cover with a piece of plastic wrap that has been greased. (I used olive oil PAM here too.) The second rise was supposed to take 1 to 2 hours as well, but mine only took 45 minutes.

After I carefully removed the plastic wrap, I baked it in the kitchen oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. The instructions said to tent it with aluminum foil after 20 minutes, and I did. No chance to use the Sun Oven, I made this bread during the big snowstorm on Tuesday. This is what mine looked like when it was done.

I turned it out onto a cooling rack and brushed it with butter. (Butter keeps the crust soft.) Sometimes I like a crunchy crust so I won't always brush with butter, but this loaf was for sandwiches so I really wanted the crust to stay soft.

When it cooled, we tasted it. I am not normally a fan of 100% whole wheat bread. Usually, I add oat flour to all the bread I bake. It adds a really wonderful flavor and takes just a bit of the bite off the whole wheat. Well, this bread didn't need oat flour!. Wow! Was it really good! 

Overall, you could not ask for an easier recipe, or better flavored bread! The only regret I have is I didn't make two loaves!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Meyhem in Dixie! It Snowed!

I grew up in New York. I hated the cold then and I am not a fan of it now. I recall shoveling snow from Halloween to Easter when I was a child. When I moved to the south, I really didn't expect to ever see snow again! 

Well, for the third time in 13 years, I have been disappointed. 

Here is another picture a few hours later.

The problem with snow in the south is we don't have any snow plows. The snow must melt on its own. And, until it does - nothing happens. Schools are closed, stores are closed, all activities are canceled and everyone stays home! Since it has been so cold the past few weeks, I am not sure if this visit will be over quickly!

 In my household, I am not the only one who despises the snow!

This picture was taken when it first started snowing. Actually, I am amazed that I got her to step in it! She only stayed there a few seconds and then she made a mad dash back to the front door. Now, the grass is completely covered! If we didn't shovel her a pathway to the grass, she would bust her kidneys! Certainly a princess can't be expected to 'go' in the snow! This one won't!

It snowed all day! At times, it was coming down really hard! It didn't stop until after 8:00 p.m.

Personally, if I never see snow again it will be too soon.

Monday, January 27, 2014

How Is Your Frugal Journey Coming Along?

Sometimes it is necessary to step back and think of the ways your frugal journey is working and more importantly, not working! There is always room for improvement. My biggest frugal goal this year is to get my husband to agree to turn off the cable! We don't need it! While he agrees that TV is almost 100% garbage, he isn't ready to let go of cable entirely (yet).

So, in the meantime, I am looking for other ways I can improve on my frugal journey. I believe making my own cheese will help! Cheese is expensive, and I can make it cheaper. I plan to show many more cheesemaking posts this year, so stay tuned! 

Last week I went Internet surfing to find other ideas on how to be more frugal. Here is a list of what t I found.
  • The Money Drain has a good post about saving money. This post references a lot other sites the author found around the Internet.
  • The Reader's Digest has a post about 6 New Year's Resolutions for Saving Money. While some of the ideas are basic, I never considered a few of them before, so I am posting it to help you think of new ideas as well.
  • The Reader's Digest also has a post about ways to save at the grocery store by not falling for the marketing tricks the stores use to entice you! It is called 50 Supermarket Tricks You Still Fall For and it is quite good! Let me add here that one of the best ways I know to save at the grocery store is to not buy processed foods! Make your own instead! There are lots of recipes on this blog (as well as the Internet in general) about making homemade substitutes for things that come in a box.
  • WFMY, a TV channel in Greensboro, NC has a 52 week challenge to get you to save $1,400 by the end of the year. They even offer easy tips on how to do it. I really like this one! This can easily cut $1400 out of your yearly spending and you won't notice most of it!
  • One more from The Reader's Digest. This post is The Best Time to Buy: 43 Cheap Finds Throughout the Year. Here in the US, everything goes on sale at some point during the year and you can capitalize on the savings if you time your purchases right!
  • MSN Money has an article on 9 Easy Ways to Save $100 a Month. While some of these ideas I have mentioned before, such as bring your lunch to work instead of buying lunch out, this author suggests that you only need to bring your lunch a few days a week to start. What a great idea! Start small with one day a week. Then you can work your way up to a few more days each week. I also like a few of the other ideas mentioned. Comments to the post have additional ideas on how to save money!
  • Market Watch has a post on How to Be Smarter About Money in 2014. This article talks about your overall attitude towards money. Tips such as automate savings so you pay yourself first, involve the entire family, and others help set up a successful framework so you can use the other ideas listed here to create the details in your plan.
The ideas listed in these posts are more for the intermediate traveler on a frugal journey. If you are new to this journey, you can start with other posts I have written here. Scroll through the posts and you will find many simple ideas you can introduce into your own household. While all the ideas may not be relevant for you, be sure to scroll through the entire list. I am sure you will find something you can implement this year to help you save money!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Cooking With Food Storage: Cranberry Bread

I am a serious cranberry lover. Unfortunately, this is one crop that I cannot grow myself here in the south. My husband always buys me at least 10 bags of cranberries in November so I have enough to make it through the holiday season. Berries not eaten by January get dehydrated so I can eat them at my leisure for the rest of the winter. 

One of my favorite recipes for cranberries is cranberry bread. I make this bread all winter long! It is delicious with dried cranberries as well as fresh. The other day I found a bag of cranberries in the back of the freezer that I overlooked when drying all the rest. I knew exactly what I was going to do with it!

Unless you have an orange tree, (they do grow well in pots in a south facing window) you will need some fresh ingredients for this bread. While all the instructions listed are for one loaf, I doubled all the ingredients and made two loaves. 

Cranberry Bread
2 cups flour (I grind my own flour. I used 1 cup hard white wheat, 1/2 cup soft white wheat, and 1/2 cup spelt.)
1 cup sugar (One cup sugar really isn't necessary, I used 1/2 cup.)
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup cranberries (As I mentioned above, dried cranberries work very well in this recipe.)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts.)
1TBS orange zest (I didn't have any orange zest, I used lemon.)
1 egg (I used 2 TBS powdered eggs, reconstituted with 3 TBS water.)
2 TBS vegetable oil (I used olive oil.)
3/4 cup orange juice (I never purchase fresh orange juice. I used a can of frozen concentrate leftover from Christmas - it was for a holiday punch that I didn't make. 1 TBS of concentrate in 3/4 cup water works well.)

Start by combining all the dry ingredients and mix well. Add the cranberries and nuts.

You want the flour mixture to coat all the pieces so mix them in well. In a separate bowl, combine the egg powder, vegetable oil, orange concentrate, and water. I added the water all at once. First, I measured the 3/4 cup needed for the orange juice liquid. To that I added 3 TBS more for the egg liquid. Mix well. Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined. 

Try not to overmix this. It will make the bread dry and crumbly. Mix until everything is moist and then stop. Pour into a greased pan. I used PAM olive oil spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes.

My goal was to bake one in the kitchen oven and bake one in the Sun Oven then take a picture of them side by side. While it was very cold outside, it was also very sunny. When I was setting up the Sun Oven, I put the first loaf in the kitchen oven and forgot to take a picture!

It took a long time for the Sun Oven to get hot. I made this bread fairly early in the morning and the outside temperature was 39 degrees. The Sun Oven only got to 300 degrees. Not what I wanted but doable. I knew it would probably need to bake about 1 hour and 45 minutes before I even tested to see if it was done. The loaf was in the Sun Oven for about 25 minutes when my husband suggested we take Molly for a long walk. I said yes! So, I took the loaf out of the Sun Oven and put it in the kitchen oven to finish baking while I got ready. 

That is when I remembered to take a picture! So, here is my loaf pan out of the Sun Oven, ready to go into the kitchen oven to finish baking. 

I baked it 38 minutes in the kitchen oven. This is what it looked liked when it came out.

Let it cool for at least 10 minutes before you try to take it out of the pan. I let mine completely cool in the pan because as soon as it came out of the oven, we left for our walk. It came out perfect! As soon as we got back home, we each had a slice.

I always double this recipe and make two at a time. The extra loaf freezes very well! That way, you can have one on hand to bring to work or take to a party whenever you need it! YUM!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

No Vacuum, No Problem!

9 Month Update

As many of you may know, my vacuum died about 9 months ago. I decided to go without one for one year to try to understand just how my great-great-grandmothers managed to keep their houses clean.

Although it has only been 9 months, I almost feel like I have never had a vacuum! I don't even miss it! All I can say is, it really is possible to have wall to wall carpet and not have a vacuum. I never would have believed it if I didn't experience it myself.

Still, winter cleaning is different than summer cleaning. Since winter arrived, I haven't been outside much to beat the rugs. It has been way too cold! I can't stand cold weather, so I make do by gently shaking the rugs on the floor. (The rugs on the wall to wall carpet are also gently shaken on the hardwood floor.) It does make just a bit more dust in the room I use to do this, but not enough to be a problem. What I have noticed is the rugs are not quite as clean as they were in the summer when I was beating them. They seem to gather dirt faster than they did in the summer. While I do notice it, it isn't a big enough issue to get me to go outside and beat them in the cold! I will continue this 'indoor cleaning' practice until the weather warms up!

This year, we have the additional problem of lots of heavy winter rain. All the rain brings mud into the house, so the rugs have mud on them as well as normal dirt. When mud is ground in, even vacuuming won't remove it, so I don't think my lack of a vacuum is contributing to this problem. My solution has been to wash the rugs more often than was needed during the summer. This is quite a bit of effort, (I am not thrilled with this chore) but it gets the rugs clean. I wait until I truly can't stand the rug any longer and then wash it. In the warmer weather, I was washing the rugs about every 3 months. Now, I am washing them monthly. The rugs at the entryways are washed more frequently than that.

To make this solution work, it is critical that you have washable rugs! Many of mine are from the big box stores. (The rest I made myself.) I like the fact that you can get rugs inexpensively at the big box stores! They have lots of colors and styles to match any decor.  If washing the rugs wears them out, I can easily replace them. (So far, so good on that point - my rugs are holding up well for now!)

I truly believe the key to not having a vacuum is a good broom. Don't skimp here! Purchase a really good one, the best you can afford. You will be glad that you did later! It will get a daily workout. Another 'must have' item is my carpet sweeper. I know I have said this in previous posts, but this journey/experiment would not be possible without my Hoky PR3000.

It will even lift the nap of the wall to wall carpeting! The strokes it leaves look just like a vacuum did it! My carpets look great! 

While I am managing well by washing the rugs more often to keep the mud out of the house, I will admit, all this rain has created one problem that needs special attention. Even though I wipe Molly's feet off when she comes inside, I have mud on the carpet in my master bedroom  (This is the only room with carpet that she enters frequently.)  I can tell because I have white carpet and now a large spot at the foot of the bed has a slightly red hue. I can even feel it when I walk on the carpet. I have two solutions to this problem and I think I will incorporate both. First, I am going to have to shampoo the carpet. I am not sure if I will rent a carpet cleaner or just use a mop with some Resolve cleaner. Once I do that, I will place an area rug over the 'problem' area to avoid this in the future. 

I expect I will have to rearrange all the rugs in the house to find a suitable match for the ones needed in the master bedroom. I want to avoid the purchase of any new rugs for this purpose, if at all possible. 

I will let you know how it all turns out at the next update! In the meantime, the experiment will continue!

I can not say enough good things about this carpet sweeper. Even if you have a vacuum, I believe this sweeper should be on the 'must have' list! It will save you from having to bring out the big vacuum for everyday clean up!

Monday, January 13, 2014

More Treats for Man's Best Friend

Over the holidays, I happen to have an overripe banana left over from a bunch my husband bought. Probably, most people would throw out an overripe banana, after all it was only one and a small one at that. Not me! I had to find a use for it. An Internet search brought up lots of different choices. I modified the one I picked, and also made it gluten free. These treats do best stored in the refrigerator.

Banana Blueberry Treats
1 1/2 cup gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Flour. However, if you have garbanzo beans in your food storage, you could grind them up and use that.)
One medium banana smashed (You could use 1/4 cup dehydrated bananas, reconstituted.)
1/8 cup honey (You can use a bit less if you would like, the fruit is sweet enough.)
1 TBS ground flax seed (I added two tablespoons. Flax seed oil is excellent for a dog's coat. Molly eats it as part of her regular diet.)
2 TBS water
1/2 cup blueberries (I used dehydrated blueberries, reconstituted.)

Start by reconstituting the blueberries and bananas, if necessary. If using fresh, smash the banana.

Add all the other ingredients except the blueberries and mix well.

When everything is incorporated, fold in the blueberries.

This dough is quite sticky, so I decided to drop them on a cookie sheet. Use a teaspoon, these should be small treats. If your dog doesn't eat fruit regularly (mine does) you don't want to give them too much at one time. If you want to use cookie cutters, dust the work area liberally with flour.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes. You will have a happy dog!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Spend Just a Few Dollars and Never Clean Your Shower Again!

Well, almost never! I have been using this trick for about a year or so and it works great!  What is it? 

A squeegee! I am serious about how little you will need to clean your shower if you use one. The process is simple, the last person to take a shower in the morning uses the squeegee. At my house, that person is usually me. On occasion, it is my husband.  I will admit, he was not a fan of the idea when I started. However, over the course of the past year, he has seen how clean the shower stays when the squeegee is used on a daily basis. So he has started to squeegee too! (You may find it a bit harder to get the kids to use it on a regular basis.)

I can hear you saying now, "I don't have time to squeegee after every shower!" I understand. If you are late for work, the last thing you want to do is spend time squeegeeing. (Is that a word?) Since I have been doing this for slightly over a year now, I have a much better handle on exactly what it takes to keep the shower clean.

Let's start with a picture of my shower. It isn't huge, but it isn't small either. It can hold two people. It is 100% white tile with white grout. It hasn't been the easiest shower to keep clean these past 13 years.

When I first started, it took an extra ten minutes to squeegee the door, walls and floor. Way too long when I was in a hurry! However, I have since learned that the idea isn't to remove every drop of water, all you need to do is remove the majority of it. I timed myself this past week and it took 3 minutes from start to finish. Really! 

Large fast strokes work well. Your goal is to remove the soap residue and any standing water that may start mold growing. (Here in the south, mold grows on everything - inside the house and out. It is critical to remove any standing water in the shower to keep the mold at bay.) There isn't any need to wipe down the squeegee between strokes. If the squeegee is wet, it is no big deal. Remember, you are not looking to get every drop of water, just the big stuff.

Now, the question is: "How often do I clean the shower if I squeegee it every day?" Well, on average, I clean the floor of the shower every 4 to 6 weeks. If for some reason we go through a period where the shower doesn't get squeegeed every day, then it is closer to every 3 weeks. No one in the house has had any athlete's foot or other fungus problems. The walls of the shower have been cleaned with soap twice this year. That's it: twice! The soap I use to clean the shower is a combination of Dawn dishwashing soap and vinegar. You can see that recipe here.

I officially declare my experiment a success! There is no way I will ever be without a squeegee again!

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Goals for a New Year!

This time of year, I plan goals that I want to accomplish during the year. This year, I have a few personal and business goals in addition to self-reliance goals that move me along my journey to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. Some of them are on this goal cloud that I got from The Mormon Channel!

For the past five years or so, I have done a really good job of accomplishing most everything I set a goal for. Well, that streak ended this year! I didn't accomplish very many of the goals I set for 2013. I start again this year and try to increase my chances of success by creating a better plan of how I am going to accomplish them. 

So, here are the self reliant goals I want to accomplish this year. Some of them are goals I didn't get to accomplish last year, others are new ones:
  • Grow my own popping corn. This is a self-reliant goal of mine because we eat a lot of popcorn at our house! I don't want to have to purchase it at the store anymore! Although I bought the seed in time for planting popcorn last spring, it never happened. Looking back now, it was a good thing that I didn't plant them. I am sure I would not have managed to keep them alive. With all the rain we had last summer, I am sure I would have lost them to fungus diseases. With the new raised bed I added this past fall, I have plenty of room to plant popcorn this year. In addition, the spot I want to put them will give the plants plenty of sun exposure to combat any potential disease threats I may have this coming year.
  • Make soap from wood ashes. This is also a goal I had from last year. Although I have been making soap for over 20 years, I have never made soap with wood ashes. I didn't accomplish this goal last year because after researching what was needed, I realized I didn't have enough ashes saved up from the winter! This year, with the cold winter we are expecting, I should burn enough wood in my fireplace to get a sufficient amount of ashes. Hopefully, it will be enough to attempt to make soap. We shall see!
  • Make more of my own cheese. I have been making cheese for a few years now. This past year, I didn't get the time to make very much of it. So unfortunately, we ended up purchasing more cheese from the store than I made. This year, I want to reverse that! I hope to make the majority of the cheese we eat. I also plan to do more research into making my own vegetable rennet so I no longer need to purchase it.
I did manage to move forward in my journey to all non-electric appliances last year! Two of the goals I met were in getting non-electric appliances.
  • A hand crank blender. Over the past two months, I have grown to like my hand crank blender. (I have not grown to love it- it still has flaws!) Still, I am glad that I have it. (You can see my review of the blender here.) I do use it often.
  • A carpet sweeper. This appliance became a critical tool for me to help keep my house clean this year. You may recall that my vacuum cleaner broke back in early spring! When it broke, I set a new goal to go without purchasing a new vacuum cleaner for one year. So far - so good, with that goal! It was only possible because of this tool. (I promise an update on my year without a vacuum soon!) 

I also have a non-electrical appliance goal that I did not meet. That one was to fix up my treadle sewing machine and use it to make most of my clothes in 2013. I am sorry to say that it didn't even make it on the radar screen! The only dress I made last year was my pioneer dress for The Trek. (You can read about that here.) For the coat I am currently working on, I am using a 13 year old computerized sewing machine and my 23 year old serger. I still have some patterns for dresses and blouses from the 19th Century I hope to make this year. I would like to try to do that on the treadle machine. So, I will add fixing up the treadle machine to this year's goal list.

With all these goals, it promises to be a very busy year! My plan is to add one or two 'to do's' to my personal calendar each month so I stay on track to get them all accomplished.

I will post updates on my accomplishments as I work on each one throughout this year!