Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Delicious Pumpkin Soup

Super easy and wonderful. :)

32 oz can vegetable broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
28 oz. can pureed pumpkin
3 T brown sugar
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp coriander
1/8 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
chopped cilantro
salt to taste

In a large saucepan add vegetable broth and whipping cream. Bring to a slight boil. Turn down to medium heat and add pumpkin, brown sugar and spices. (If too thick add water 1/2 cup at a time until desired thickness acquired) Simmer approx. 15-20 min. Top w/cheese and cilantro.

Basic White Sauce Recipe

Here's a recipe that's been long promised to several people, so I thought I'd finally get it posted. I use it often to make home made mac and cheese and as a canned cream soup alternative.

1 T Butter
1 T Flour
1/4 tsp. salt

2 T Butter
2 T. Flour
1/4 tsp. salt

3 T Butter
3 T flour
1/4 tsp. salt

4 T Butter
4 T Flour
1/4 tsp. salt

Melt butter in heavy saucepan over medium heatuntil bubbly. Use a wire whisk to work in flour and salt until smooth.

Stir in 1 Cup milk, stock or combination


Add 1/2 cup grated sharp cheese and 1/4 tsp dry mustard ( I use MEDIUM thickness for mac & cheese)

Use tomato juice as liquid; add dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil and oregano

Saute 1/2 cup chopped celery and 1 T finely chopped onion in butter before adding flour.

Use chicken broth or bouillon as half the liquid. Add 1/4 tsp poultry seasoning or sage and diced cooked chicken if available.

Saute 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms and 1 T finely chopped onion in butter before adding flour.

Makes slightly over 1 cup. MEDIUM-THICK compares to undiluted condensed soups and is approximately the same amount as a one 10 oz. can.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trying a Few New Recipes!

If I have the ingredients, I will try to make nearly anything. Strangely, I usually have a lot of odd ball things to work with so there's usually a high chance I can try it.

I've been a fan of making my own cleaners for years. My favorite book is
Clean House Clean Planet by Karen Logan. It's dog-eared plenty with pages loose and barely in order, but it's well loved.

Today I was inspired again by Julie at Towards Sustainability to try a few recipes.

Here is one: Dishwashing Liquid
** I ended up subbing lime essential oil because I'd used up my lemon. It works GREAT! The whole non-sudsing thing is different, but that was all. My dishes passed the squeak test, so that's all that mattered to me! I'll be adding this recipe to my repertoire.

And another: Home made Deodorant
** Loved it! Well, at least it feels wonderful. I haven't put it through the full summer sweat test yet. By the ingredients it should kill bacteria pretty well. I love both tea tree oil and witch hazel. The aloe was nice and refreshing to put on. I wasn't able to pry the stinkin' ball out of my roll on deodorant container so I opted for a spray bottle and so far its working. I'll have to monitor the clogging factor for that.

And yet another: Light Moisturizer
** So far so good. It did feel really cool on my face and the glycerin kept the aloe from feeling like a dry mask after a while. I like this combo and I think it wiil be really healthy for my skin.

And hold on, yes, another: Toothpaste
** Well... Let's just say I didn't have the stevia and should've. I'm sure it's a preference thing and the cleaning power was great, but salty peppermint toothpaste was hard for me to use. I'm going to use it until its gone, but I will be adding stevia asap!
I must say that the toothpaste recipe reminds me of what Aunt M showed me as a kid. People can and have used such things as plain baking soda and plain salt to brush with when needed. It's something to consider if you are in a tight spot. :)

Instant Oatmeal Packets

I'm not one who embraces making convenience food, but here is a recipe my family begs me to keep on hand. I am happy that this is mucho healthier than the ones bought at the store AND the proportions are better. My family is older and the serving sizes of the commercial brands are less than satisfying for breakfast. The big plus for this is that may DH loves to put some of them in his locker at work for a snack.


Makes 8 single serving packets

3 cups quick oats
8 plastic sandwich bags or ordinary envelopes, approx. 6 1/2 by 4 inches

Put 1/2 cup oats in a blender and whirl at high speed until powdery; reserve in a small bowl and repeat procedure with an additional 1/2 cup of oats. If using a food processor, powder the 1 cup of oats in one motion.

Into each sandwich bag put 1/2 cup unpowdered oats, 2 tablespoons powdered oats, and a scant 1/4 tsp salt.

You can store it like this and then add your flavors, but I like to add them ahead of time and I haven't had any problems so far.

Here are the different flavors and what to add:


1 T sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 2 T of chopped dried apples


1 T sugar


1 T sugar, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and pinch of nutmeg


1 T brown sugar and 1 T raisins


2 T wheat germ.

To Serve: Empty packet into a bowl. Add 3/4 cup boiling water; stir and let stand 2 minutes. Add more or less water to adjust thickness if desired.

Note: This recipe will not be as sweet as the commercial brands so add more sweetener if you want to.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Finally, A Granola Recipe I Can Do...

I love granola, but it usually is either too expensive to buy or too expensive/too much trouble to make. Most of them anyway are high in fat and aren't the healthiest anyway. I'm thankful to Path To Freedom's post on Skillet Granola. It fills a void with my family of "we're tired of plain oatmeal" to "hey, I can make it in like 10 minutes."

I found that I can substitute the sesame seeds for other things like "Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal" I wasn't a huge fan of this cereal by itself, but it works wonderfully in this granola. I also was able to add some tropical trail mix I got from the Dollar Tree instead of raisins. I really like the flavor. :) I prefer to eat this cold with milk like regular cereal.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sewing Up A Storm

With dreary weather upon us lately, I've been trying to catch up some much needed sewing projects and repairs. With a pile of torn jeans laying on the bench at the foot of my bed, I decided that I would just bite the bullet and fix them. Mind you, it wasn't anything major or beyond my abilities, it was just taking the time to take care of it.

I think my resistance to sewing often comes with the lack of space to leave my sewing machine up all the time. I usually make a pretty big mess at the dining room table when I sew and I get consumed with all of the projects I want to take care of while I have everything strewn out. No family meals at the table during this, sadly.

Well, so far this week here is what I've sewn:

-repaired 4 pairs of jeans with holes in them
-cut off and hemmed 1 pair of jeans (yes, that's me, I'm short!)
-made some attractive wiping rags out of "reclaimed" fleece, hemmed and all for drying washed chicken eggs. (Not wanting to use good towels or paper ones for that matter to do this.)
-made some cloth menstrual pads with material I had stashed. I'll have to post more on "why" later
-made cosmetic cleaning cloths out of fleece for using astringents and toners for the face (to save cotton balls/pads) This was inspired by Julie at one of my favorite blogs

I still have the sewing machine up and I keep thinking of many more things I could be sewing right now. I have a wish list ya' know. I still want to work in the holiday cloth napkins. I just need to do it.

My goal for all of this is to eliminate disposables if at all possible. It not only helps the environment, but it takes me off the buy-consume-buy treadmill for certain things. It hasn't been that far back in history when most, if not all of the things I'm replacing weren't used. Even in the Great Depression people didn't have many of the disposable expenses we have come to use today. Our being squeamish over so many things today has caused us to think these steps are barbaric in nature. But thanks to the "green" movement, many of the past practices are becoming more acceptable. Thank you green!

Homemade Laundry Soap

Well, I made another batch of laundry soap last night. It's been a while since I've done that and I was so thankful to be back on the wagon again. I'd had problems finding washing soda, so I finally broke down and ordered it in bulk online at a fairly cheap price. I now have enough to last me for years!

Here is the recipe:

Homemade Laundry Soap

1/3 bar (3 oz) bar Fels Naptha laundry soap
1/2 cup washing soda (Arm & Hammer)
1/2 cup borax (20 Mule Team)

First, grate laundry soap. In a large 2 qt saucepan over low heat add soap to 2 cups of hot water, heat and stir until dissolved. Add other ingredients and stir.

Add 1 quart of hot water to mixture.

In a 2 gallon household bucket, pour the mixture into it slowly filling up to 2 gallons with cold water. Stir.

Let stand for 24 hours before using. The mixture will probably be very gel-like in consistency when set. Stir to try to break it up.

Use 1 cup per load. This is a low sudsing detergent. (which is good for your washer)

** I used ZOTE at a substitute for Fels Naptha this time. It is also a laundry bar soap. You can usually find these in a grocery store laundry section. Wal-Mart here doesn't carry any laundry bar soap. I have known others to use regular bar soap such as Ivory as a substitute for it. (think Ivory soap flakes like they used to carry)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Taming The Paper Tiger

With two birthdays at our house within a week, the pressure to make each one special has been a challenge, especially when dealing with two completely different age groups. But, I think again, I was able to pull yet another rabbit out of the hat this year.

It never fails that as I'm going through the process, I think of several things I would've done differently if I'd only thought of it earlier. These are a few passing thoughts I'm going to try for next year:

1) Make cloth napkins with "Happy Birthday" embroidered on them.
I came to realize this would be a good addition to our party decorations. We use cloth napkins daily and never keep disposable ones on hand. This year I forgot to buy some for my son's party and had to point the boys to paper towels instead. Our daily cloth one's probably would've been fine, but somehow I always lean towards "safe" when it comes to entertaining wows. Mind you, our daily napkins are fine, but I think making some special ones would be better.
Tip: I buy really nice tablecloths on clearance for really cheap - the larger the better. I then cut them up into napkin size, serge the edges and voila! new napkins on the cheap. Instead of embroidering the napkins, I could use a rubber stamp with fabric paint to decorate them too. hmmm...

2) Make a birthday tablecloth.
I think I may do this too, again using something inexpensive, but resists staining easily. This will also reduce some of the need for additional decorations as it does make quite a statement at a party. Embroidering, stamping or whatever I am inspired to do to make it special/gender neutral!

3) Plates and cups?
I switched to plain white Corelle brand dishes long ago for daily use. I like these because you can add them to any holiday and they work. Clear plates have the same value. I'm absolutely comfortable using these for any family member.
I've wrestled over the cup issue. No glass because late night sleepovers lead to broken glasses at some point. I think my best option is reusable plastic cups in a wide range of colors. At least it will be easier to tell glasses apart when used.

I'm sure there are more reusable decoration ideas out there, but for now, this is a start. I just wish I'd thought of this years ago. With teenage children, my years of sleepovers and parties are drawing short, but hey maybe this could spark other holiday ideas? I'm thinking 4th of July napkins, Easter, Christmas, Valentine's day etc. This would sure take some of the pressure off each year as we prepare for each holiday and make it special.

Reducing the waste is where being green and frugal intersect. It's a great marriage.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Guaranteed Returns

You won't hear much right now about guaranteed returns in mainstream investment markets. There are only a few retailers that speculators are even willing to make positive predictions for this year. Wal-Mart and McDonalds top the list. That says a lot to me. Until things settle down and the roller coaster ride of the stock market begins to level out, we hang in the balance unsure of what will hold strong through the storm.

Years ago, one bit of investment advice given to me really stood out in my mind. There is an investment that has guaranteed returns. Know what it is? Did you know the returns are tax free also? It's called, CUTTING EXPENSES. Revolutionary, eh?

Think of this... If you spend, let's say $200 per week on groceries, cut it down to $150, then you've added $50 of tax free money to your income. Save it, don't just let it melt into something else you're wanting. Shave just a little off each and every expenditure you can, set it aside, then look at your end of the month totals. You'll be surprised.

Here's what I think about this. If we drew up spreadsheets as fancy as some of our 401K statements with graphs and everything, we would be surprised at how profitable we could make our "home" investment look. Plus, we have a bit more control on the day to day operations, unlike some of the greed we've seen going on at Wall Street. You are the CEO of your own company at home. Work it out. :)

Give it a try, what have ya' got to lose? (I bet less than you already have)

Why A New Blog?

As many may already know, I am also the owner of the blog, Gardening 4 Life. It's my first blog and I am completely hooked on blogging now! My intentions for setting up Gardening 4 Life was to blog about gardening and everything else that goes along with it. It's coming along just fine, even in the quiet of winter. Soon I will be off and running as outside chores begin to pick up and boy, do they pick up quickly!

Now as for the new blog I'm committing myself to... Well, I can't tell you how many times I come up with something I want to discuss, then realize, "Hey, that's not about gardening!" Then I try to refocus on something I can post about there. I usually have plenty of ideas, but it doesn't encompass many of the quirky things I have running through my head, such a frugal living and the stuff that goes along with it.

Deep ingrained in me is the drive to try new things to be more frugal. I've been a student of this for as long as I can remember. The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyzyn has been my inspiration over the years to push the envelope, challenge the status quo and think outside the box.

I've been sitting on the edge of my seat for a long time reading the many blogs I enjoy wanting to say, "This is something I've been doing for years and instead of calling it "green" it was called other things like "frugal", "tightwad" and "penny-pinching." Many of the same concepts are crossing over into the green movement that used to be looked at as miserly. I LIKE the new acceptance of these set of ideals because it JUST MAKES GOOD CENTS!

I'm hoping that the years of research and life lessons on frugality that I have will be a blessing to those who may be looking for a little extra help now. I also hope it will give me a forum to finally say something in the right place and time!