Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Upcoming Posts

I know I've been a little MIA lately but I've been rather busy lately. As I stated in my last post we have a new addition in our family, so I've been spending most of my days with her.
How cute is she? I love my cousins.......since I've been "hanging out with the baby" I haven't been at home a lot and when I'm am at home I'm generally studying for finals. I don't know if I mentioned before that I'm currently working on a Master of Science in Accounting degree. I'm pretty much done with finals and since I won't be coming to see the baby everyday anymore I'll be posting a lot more.

Here are the upcoming posts:
Garlic Knots - this is a variation my Great-Grandmother's roll recipe
Liquid Laundry Soap - basically liquid soap made from 100% coconut oil
Unpaper Towel - My next step is moving away from disposable products
Traditional Corned Beef - This is a 7 day process that so I will probably be posting this closer to New Year's
Super Creamy Alfredo Mac N' Cheese - This recipe was inspired by my grandfather, it's super delicious and I can't wait to share it with you guys!

I also wanted to take a moment to say hi to all my new followers. Thanks for following my blog, I hope you find something that you find cool and want to try.

My aunt, who is a GREAT cook,  is launching her new blog January 1. She has a lot of great posts and giveaways planned for the kickoff, I'll make sure to include more information about that when we're closer to the launch date.

Until next time,

Monday, December 6, 2010

Using Leftover Turkey: Day ? - Corned Beef

It's been a while, but we got a new addition Friday night so I've been a little busy. My aunt had a baby........YAY! My family is very close so I had A LOT of stuff going on. We had the baby and a 2nd birthday this weekend. I had a super busy day at church yesterday and I'm on newborn and babysitting duty for the rest of the week. Needless to say, I been busy but I wanted to share something with you.

I ended up making turkey salad out the rest of the leftover because we've been so busy. I'll post the pics later when I get back home. Most people think that turkey salad tastes just like chicken salad, that's not true. In my family we smoke all our turkeys and one had a jerk rubbed on the outside, so it had a very different taste.

Corned Beef
What does corned beef have to do with leftover turkey? Great question. Well I used my delicious turkey stock as the cooking liquid for my corned beef. I made my corned beef in 45 mins in the greatest cooking device ever.............the electric pressure cooker.
I love this thing. LOVE IT!!!!!!!! I have always been afraid of pressure cookers because they can explode but I don't have to worry about that this puppy. It has a built in safety precaution that doesn't allow the unit to be opened if there's any pressure built up inside so I don't have to worry about opening it too soon and having corned beef on my ceiling. If you don't have a pressure cooker you should definitely get one of these and they're relatively cheap. On Overstock they start at $45.

If I get a chance to make something cool this week I'll do another post but right now I'm not entirely sure that's going to happen. I want to make some liquid laundry soap this week but we'll see.

Until next time,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Using Leftover Turkey: Day 1 - The Cats

My first use of the turkey requires no actual work. How is that possible you ask? Well because I fed turkey to the cats.
Aren't they cute? This is actually a pretty old picture. Jack Bauer (the black and white one) was little and cute then, he's still cute but FAR from small.
Within the last year or so I noticed that the cats would vomit pretty much whenever they ate. We switched cat food and nothing changed, the vet said they were fine so we assume that just had a hairball problem. We got all the special hairball treatments, nothing helped so finally we just accepted this was our life. Well about two weeks ago we ran out of cat food and I didn't feel like going to the store (lazy, I know) so I gave them shredded chicken. They loved it but even better no vomiting. I continued feeding them either chicken, turkey or tuna for about 10 days, eventually I went to the store and bought a small bag of food. Within 5 minutes of pouring the food in their bowl the vomiting began. Now at this point I have to conclude, even though this wasn't an official experiment, that something in cat food is making them sick. I know that I can't deal with preservatives and artificial ingredients so maybe they can't either. 

I'm sure there are some people who would say that I shouldn't feed my cats straight meat but cats are carnivores. They don't need vegetables and fruit, if you tried to feed a cat whole, unprocessed fruit and vegetables they won't eat them. At one point I considered feeding my cats Blue Buffalo cat food but even they have other ingredients besides meat AND it's really expensive. In my area, a 2.5 lb bag is $10, do you know how much meat I could buy them for $10?

I've haven't gotten to a point where I feed them raw meat yet. As of right now I still cook it but eventually we're moving to the raw. 

Until next time,

Monday, November 29, 2010

Using Leftover Turkey: Prep Day

I know that I was supposed to be doing a week of bread next..........but after making 20 dozen rolls for Thanksgiving, I'm really not feeling making ANY bread for at least a week. When we were cleaning up from Thanksgiving dinner my grandmother gave me the turkey carcass, she figured I could do something with it. I hate to disappoint so I'm going to make as many turkey dishes as I can with the carcass.

As with any carcass, the first use is to make stock.

Isn't that beautiful? Making this stock was crazy easy, I put the carcass in the slow cooker, filled with water and let it cook on low overnight. I turned the slow cooker off around 10:30 this morning but I didn't pick the turkey until 7 pm. Why the long wait? 1) I've been doing laundry and forgot. 2) I don't like burning myself (don't ask).

WARNING: picking turkey is not pretty or fun. There's no gadget that you can use for this, so mentally prepare yourself and stick your hand in. All you have to do is separate the bones from the meat. Sounds easy right? It is..............just do it and don't think about it.
Once you've finished separating the meat from the bones strain your stock and your done! Super easy right?

I'll be back tomorrow with use #1 for leftover Thanksgiving turkey. 

Until next time, 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Chicken Experiment - Final Thoughts

The rest of my week wasn't quite as successful, mostly because I wasn't feeling all that great.

Tomato Soup
I used some of the stock I made to make tomato soup from a recipe I saw on Keeper of the Home. When I was originally reading the recipe I was trying to figure out what the baking soda was for. I didn't realize until I was actually making the soup that the baking soda was to neutralize the acid in the tomatoes. Since I used tomatoes that I canned myself, they had a little extra acid from the lemon juice I put in bottom of all my jars. Overall, the soup was really good but thin. I ended up reducing mine by a lot. I will definitely make this soup again but I'm only going to use about 2 cups of stock instead of 4.

Chicken & Broccoli Fettuccine Alfredo
I was reading one of my favorite blogs, Heavenly Homemakers, and found a great recipe for easy alfredo sauce. When I saw it, I had to make it. As I've said before, I LOVE TO EAT and one of my favorite things is alfredo sauce. That's not to say that you can slop alfredo sauce on anything (I once ordered the blackened cajun chicken alfredo from Red Lobster, it was horrible).

half a chicken worth of picked chicken
1 batch of Heavenly Homemakers easy alfredo sauce
1/2 bag of frozen broccoli
fettuccine noodles

Make the alfredo sauce first, then throw in the chicken and frozen broccoli.
Turn the pot on medium/low, put a lid on and let everything hang out for about 15 minutes.
Cook the amount of fettuccine you feel is adequate. (I personally like more sauce and toppings than pasta so I don't make a lot but that's up to you)
You really don't have to drain the pasta, I fished mine out with tongs and threw it directly into my sauce.
Mix everything together and serve.

It's tasty, delicious and super easy.

At this point we had been eating chicken for a little over a week. I couldn't think of anything else to make and honestly I was a little tired of chicken. So I fed the rest of the chicken to the cats. I recently discovered that feeding them cat food was making them sick so I've been feed them tuna, chicken and turkey (cats are carnivores). They were quite pleased. They had been eyeing the chicken since I brought it home.

Final Thoughts
I definitely think I proved my original theory that we could eat off two chickens for a week. I actually think we could have went two weeks but I'll leave that for another experiment. It definitely takes creativity and research to try to use the same main ingredient over and over again.

I'm currently working on a bread experiment and I just ordered potassium hydroxide so I will be making liquid soap soon (SUPER EXCITED ABOUT THAT).

Until next time,

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Chicken Experiment - Midweek Update

This past Sunday I decided to try an experiment this week, that is supposed to be the purpose of this blog. I bought two whole chickens (I did cheat a little because they were cut up but it was cheaper than buying them uncut) and wanted to see 1) how many things I could make and 2) how many days we could eat off those two chicken. It's currently Friday and we still have the meat from one chicken that hasn't been touched yet, these are the preparations I've come up with so far:

Chicken Stock
When I got home from the store the first thing I did was make stock and I did this for two reasons. The first of which being that Kitchen Basics stock, although delicious, is expensive and since the purpose of this experiment is to maximize use of the chicken I had to make the stock. The second reason is that I wanted the chicken to already be cooked because I hate having raw chicken around and I thought it would make cooking easier for the rest of this experiment. 

Making stock is actually quite easy. You need chicken, an onion, some celery and carrots. As stated before, I did cheat a little, the chicken was already cut up so I didn't have to bother with that AND I bought baby carrots in a bag from the store. I usually don't by bagged produce but it was on sale for $1 and I couldn't pass that up. I don't have one of those super big stock pots, so I put one chicken in a 5 qt. enameled cast iron dutch oven and the other in my 6 qt crockpot. Throw everything in the cooking vessel of your choosing, cover with water, put the lids on and walk away. 

The chicken that I cooked on the stove was done in about 3 or 4 hours over medium-low heat. The chicken I cooked in  the crockpot on low was done in about 12 hrs. In all honesty the crockpot stock was probably done WAY before 12 hrs but after I finished with the stove batch I went to sleep, the extra time doesn't hurt anything. Strain the liquid away from the solids and pick all the chicken off the bones and VIOLA you have stock. I've read that some people like to leave the veggies and blend it together.............I'm not that kind of girl. I think stock should be clear. *shrugg*

Chicken Salad
I LOVE CHICKEN SALAD, my grandmother makes it all the time and it's always delicious. I don't know why chicken salad is so tasty but it is. Chicken salad is stupidly easy to make, it's chicken, mayo, relish and mustard. People add other things, my grandmother usually adds onions and celery but Dj doesn't like the texture difference so I leave them out. I've heard of people adding craisins and/or grapes......too adventurous for me. 

Chicken Pot Pie
Another super easy chicken dish. Pot pie requires: 
half a large onion
2 potatoes
2 stalks of celery
4 cups of the stock
4 tbsp cornstarch
1 sheet of puff pastry 
half a chicken worth of picked chicken. 

Cut up the veggies, saute them for a little while and add the stock, reserve about 1/2 cup of stock. 
Add the chicken and simmer for about 10 minutes
Thoroughly mix the reserved stock with the cornstarch and pour into pot with other ingredients
Pour everything in an casserole dish and top with puff pastry. (I usually make designs with the puff pastry but you can just lay the sheet on top if you want)
Bake at 400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.  

We ate this pot pie for 3 days and I didn't make one that was very big. I still have to figure out tonight and the next few days. I'm open to suggestions. 

Until next time, 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reversible Reusable Tote Bags

So I really want to stop using plastic and paper bags when I'm shopping, thus I've been looking to make some reusable bags. I've looked through TONS of blogs and I finally came across a tutorial that I like from Green and Unabashed.

I really liked the test bags but I made quite a few changes to the construction. So here's how I make reversible, reusable tote bags:

Items Needed
1 yard printed cotton or home decor fabric
1 yard solid or coordinating printed cotton or home decor fabric
rotary cutter (optional but recommended)
serger (optional but recommended)
self - healing mat

**Warning: DO NOT CUT OFF THE SELVAGE! You're going to need every bit of these 2 yards of fabric. I promise the selvage will be hidden. Just trust me.**

The first step is to press your fabric then fold lengthwise and press fold flat. I suggest that when folding your fabric that you have the right side of the fabric on the inside, it makes things easier later.

Measure 6 inches from the top of the fabric and cut. Set this piece aside, we'll get back to it later.

Fold your fabric in half widthwise and measure. Hopefully you're using fabric that is 44 or 45 inches wide, which means that your halfway point should be 19 to 19.5 inches from the top, cut at your midpoint. At this point you should have two pieces of fabric that folded is 18 inches wide and 19 inches long.

Cut 3 by 3 squares from the bottom of the fabric.

Remember that 6 inch strip of fabric from earlier? It's come back into play now. So first you need to iron out the fold crease. Next make cuts every 8 inches, this will give you four 8" x 6" boxes and an extra piece.

You need a 5" x 3" template. I cut a 8" x 6" box out of a cereal box and then cut a 5" x 3" whole in the middle. You don't have to do that, honestly you could cutout a 5" x 3" box out of a piece of paper, as long as you center it. Regardless of how you make your template trace the 5" x 3" and draw something that resembles  an envelope. IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE PERFECT!
Open the large piece of fabric and pin the box to the top, right sides together. The box should be centered on the large piece, which basically means there should be 5 inches on either side of the box. (See I told you the envelope didn't need to be perfect) 

Sew along the OUTSIDE of the box your just traced.

Cut along the inside "envelope" lines, cut as closely to the corner stitches as you can but DO NOT cut through  them.

Pull everything through the hole you just made and press the opening down.

Serge down the side and across the bottom.

Now open the holes at the bottom of the bag, lay the top of the opening on the bottom of the opening and sew closed. Repeat on the other side.

Repeat all the above instructions with the second yard of fabric. 

Once you have two bags constructed, put one inside of the other, right sides together and serge the two bags together along the top. Leave an opening so you can flip the bags to the right-side-out.
Press the seams down and top stitch.

I also top stitch along the bottom of the handle opening but that's optional.

There are a lot of steps involved but overall it's a quick process and the end result is fabulous.

Give it a try and let me know how your bags came out.

If you read this tutorial and think, "That's really cool but I'm not/can't/don't have the time to do all that" I sell these totes. http://www.etsy.com/shop/kaclopton

Until next time,

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Homemade Whole Wheat Oreos

I'm allergic to chocolate so I couldn't eat these but I thought the kids at church might enjoy them. THEY WERE A HIT!

All this came about because Dj wanted homemade cookies and cream ice cream (which I still haven't made). I adapted this from the recipe posted on the Cupcake Project

2.55 oz whole wheat bread flour (hard wheat)
2.55 oz whole wheat pastry flour (soft wheat)
2  oz unsweetened cocoa
6.75 oz white sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp softened butter


Mix together dry ingredients

Add wet ingredients (doesn't look too great does it)
Divide dough into equal portions and place on a lined baking sheet about an inch apart, they spead A LOT, and flatten. (I'm a perfectionist so I actually weighted mine. Each cookie was exactly 1 oz).

Bake at 375 F for exactly 9 minutes. After baking set on rack to cool. The cookies need to be COMPLETELY COOL before adding filling. I was impatient and made a horrible mess. 

1.75 oz shortening
9.15 oz powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 tsp vanilla extract

Whisk butter, shortening and vanilla extract together (I would suggest using a stand mixer or hand beater). Slowly add in powdered sugar a little at a time until it's all incorporated. The picture is from when I attempted this by hand = not smart.
The easiest way to add the filling is to put it in a zip top bag and use it like a pastry bag.
Put filling on half the cookies and top with remaining cookies. 
This is the result:
As I stated earlier I was impatient and didn't wait for the cookies to fully cool before adding the filling. 

That's it!

I didn't actually taste these because I can't but the kids LOVED them. My mid-20 friends told me that they were ridiculously sweet. They loved the cookies but thought the filling was too much. Next time I'll use a cream cheese filling. 

Until next time, 

I love Auntie Anne's Pretzels But They're Not Whole Wheat

Auntie Anne and I have a love affair but in my attempt to 1) spend money wisely and 2) eat better I cannot continue to go there. Although that saddens me, it's for the best. So I attempted to make a whole wheat version of those delicious pretzels, here's how it went:

Whole Wheat Pretzels

1 1/2 cup warm water
0.25 oz active dry yeast
0.90 oz  brown sugar
0.20 oz salt
9.85 oz whole wheat bread flour (hard wheat)
5.85 oz  whole wheat pastry flour

Baking Soda Mixture
2 cups Warm water
2 tablespoons baking soda

to taste coarse salt
4 tablespoons butter (melted)

Dissolve brown sugar in water, then mix in yeast. After yeast starts to bubble, pour into mixing bowl. Mix salt into flour and slowly add to wet ingredients. Mix until a smooth, elastic dough forms. 
Knead for about 5 minutes. (Clearly I didn't knead this long enough but it was late and I honestly didn't care)

Cover and let dough double in size.

While dough is rising, prepare a baking soda water bath with 2 cups warm water and 2 Tbsp baking soda. Then shape. Now because I failed to adequately knead my dough I couldn't make those nice, thin, neat pretzels at Aunt Anne's but I was more concerned with taste than appearance.
 Dip pretzel in soda solution and place on greased baking sheet. Allow pretzels to rise again. Bake in 450 oven for about 10 minutes or until golden. Dip in melted butter and sprinkle on your favorite topping! 

I wish I hadn't been so lazy and properly kneaded my dough. The pretzel were DELICIOUS but I would have liked for them to be delicious and pretty. There's always next time. 

Until next time,

Saturday, September 25, 2010

CrockPot Hot Process Soap: Attempt 2

I recently decided that I was going to make my own soap, preferably castile soap (soap make from 100% olive oil). I did A LOT of online research and talked to a few people, it was time to take the plunge. I will admit that I was scared but I did it. I decided to make castile soap because I usually buy Dr. Bronner's (even though Dr. Bronner's isn't true castile soap) and I can get olive oil for cheap. Cold process soap has a 2-3 month wait before the soap could be used.........I don't have the kind of time, Christmas is exactly three months away and people are getting soap this year! I found three good posts for making bar soap using the crockpot hot process method that I followed (liquid soap is another day), they were from Soap-Making-Essentials, Such Treasures and Orthogonal Thought.

So I setup my lye prep area. Professional soap makers will probably laugh at me but hey, it's my first time.

And I setup my mixing and cooking area

I mixed my lye together and let it cool. In my research I found that the temperature of my lye didn't really matter. There's an ideology about soapmaking called the room temperature method, which basically says that I can mix my lye the night before, leave it overnight and use it the next day. I don't have children, so this is a great option for me. I really didn't want to fool with taking the temperature of the lye solution and the heating the oil. If you have kids and/or pets, but don't have a room that you can lock them out of this would probably be a bad idea. I've read a lot of horror stories about kids that accidentally poured lye on themselves.

I measured out my lye and water, I find out how much lye and water I needed at SoapCalc
Poured the lye into the water while stirring, and continued to stir until the water turned relatively clear again. I don't remember anyone saying that the water would get cloudy, so I was a little freaked out when the water turned white. You MUST do this in a well ventilated area. This chemical reaction kicks out A LOT of heat and A LOT of fumes.  
After the lye solution cools down, pour it in the oils (I'm using all olive oil so it didn't need to be heated). It immediately started to saponify, which is what made the light color under the oil. 
It took me 15 minutes of blending and stirring to reach trace. I hear that it takes longer to achieve trace with 100% olive oil soap, than with mixtures of oils. When I made Attempt 1, I used 85% olive oil to 15% coconut oil, I think it traced in about 10 minutes.

From here I turned the crockpot on low, put the lid on and let it go for about an hour or so. While I was waiting I cleaned everything in hot soapy water with LOTS of vinegar and started making oreo cookies (that's the next post). After an hour, I stirred my soap and it looked like this:
It wasn't quite done it, it was still soupy, kind of the texture of applesauce. So I put the top back on and let it for another 30-45 minutes or so. At that point I achieved the mash potato stage, which means my soap is done cooking........YAY!

I spooned this into a glass loaf pan that I covered in plastic wrap, during Attempt 1 I used unlined muffin pans but I had a very hard time getting the soap out. It works great......it's just not the prettiest because of the skewer marks from digging the soap out. Anyways, this is what the soap looks like now:
I'll come back tomorrow once I get it out the loaf pan. It's interesting because at one point last night it turned a really dark green. I think this is because I used really good extra virgin olive oil for this. I know what you're thinking why would I use high quality olive oil to make soap? Well, the gourmet market by my house sells it for $2.99/lb so it was the most economical option. I haven't gotten to adding fragrance and color yet but soon.

I'll post more on this tomorrow. Until then.....

Homemade Cream of Wheat (or Farina)

I love to eat......LOVE IT, and I have very fond memories of waking up for church on Sunday mornings at my grandparents' house and eating Cream of Wheat. I love Cream of Wheat, don't ask my why but I think it's delicious. I didn't realize how much it cost to buy it from the store however. I've been eating Cream of Wheat all my life and when I went to college my great grandmother (yes my great grandmother was alive, well and living in her house by herself until about 5 years ago) would send me boxes and boxes of Cream of Wheat. When she died I stopped eating Cream of Wheat and honestly I didn't realize that until about 3 weeks ago when I got a SERIOUS craving for Cream of Wheat. So I headed to Kroger to pick some up, I so happy to be going to get some until I got there. A small box is like $3.69. My thoughts were this exactly, "THESE PEOPLE ARE SMOKING CRACK ROCKS!" The box also says that it has some sort of chemical in it for quick cooking. They put that on the FRONT of the box, so just imagine what's on the side of the box. I couldn't do it, I just couldn't.  I immediately ended my phone conversation and launched my internet browser on my phone because I was determined to find how to make Cream of Wheat from scratch. I do have 75 lbs of organic wheat don't I?

I got home and after a little digging on Google I found this post on The Fresh Loaf (which is a really cool website by the way). I tweaked his recipe a little, the one person portion he made was just WAY too much. I ate it because I was excited but I couldn't eat anything else all day.

Homemade Cream of Wheat

1/3 cup wheat (I used hard white wheat)
2/3 cup milk
2/3 cup water

1) Mill wheat to medium coarseness, you can actually do this in a regular blender if you want. I just wouldn't suggest using whole wheat flour...........you'll end up with paste.

2) Add milk and water

3) Set timer for 15 minutes and stir occasionally

4) At exactly 14 minutes it'll be done. I stir in butter and honey for the last minute but that's just how I like mine.

So tasty and delicious. I love this because you can make it in any quantity, just decide how much wheat to use then add double that amount in water and milk. It's that simple. I calculated that it probably costs me about $0.20 per serving to make this and it's good for me. Check it out:

Nutrition Facts

Homemade Cream of Wheat

  Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
  Total Fat7.9 g
     Saturated Fat4.7 g
     Polyunsaturated Fat0.3 g
     Monounsaturated Fat2.2 g
     Trans Fat0.0 g
  Cholesterol23.8 mg
  Sodium71.4 mg
  Potassium23.1 mg
  Total Carbohydrate71.2 g
     Dietary Fiber4.9 g
     Sugars42.0 g
  Protein10.8 g
  Vitamin A9.1 %
  Vitamin B-120.1 %
  Vitamin B-60.5 %
  Vitamin C0.9 %
  Vitamin D16.5 %
  Vitamin E0.0 %
  Calcium19.5 %
  Copper1.3 %
  Folate0.0 %
  Iron1.3 %
  Magnesium0.6 %
  Manganese1.7 %
  Niacin0.3 %
  Pantothenic Acid    0.3 %
  Phosphorus    0.3 %
  Riboflavin1.0 %
  Selenium0.6 %
  Thiamin0.0 %
  Zinc0.6 %

This calculation includes the butter and honey. Can't tell me this isn't a good breakfast.

Until next time,