Sunday, January 31, 2010

Makin' It From Scratch #5 - Breakfast

Homemade granola with almonds & dried cranberries

I'm a huge, huge fan of breakfast. So, here are a few various made-from-scratch recipes for breakfast wonderfulness.

1. Granola

Granola is so expensive, so I think it is totally worth the time and effort to make it yourself.
Here is a recipe for Granola that I've tried and tested myself many times. My toddler loves it and I think it makes a very impressive gift. :-)

It's also been fun making up variations like Banana Walnut (adding dried banana chips), Maple Pecan (I exchange part of the honey with real maple syrup), etc. Check out the flavorings at the store (like banana or maple) to see what flavors of your own you can create. The add-ins are endless. Just be sure that if you're using dried fruit, do not add the fruit in until after the granola is done baking. Otherwise the fruit turns into rocks.

2. Pancake Mix

I love homemade pancakes. The kind from a box mix or the freezer section just don't compare. Here are a few mixes you can make yourself.

- A Multi-Grain type of mix (I would exchange the corn flake crumbs for cornmeal)
- Plain Pancake Mix
- Pancake Mix using Whole Wheat Flour

One idea is to make and freeze your own pancakes and waffles ahead of time. I've done this before and it is so much cheaper, tastier and convenient than store bought frozen varieties - after the initial making of all those pancakes anyway. We just pull a few from the bag and pop ours in the toaster or the microwave in the morning and they're awesome!

It's important to make sure they're cooled all the way before freezing them in a gallon storage bag and to double wrap them to avoid freezer burn/frost. (I also add frozen red currents to the batter before cooking if I have them. You could try adding dried blueberries too!)

3. Biscuit Quick Mix

Mmmm! I love biscuits. The great thing about biscuits is that they're so versatile. I make biscuits for biscuits & gravy, egg sandwiches (keeps my craving down for the fast food kind), biscuits with jam - whatever!

I usually make mine using butter, but if you'd like to have a Biscuick-type mix ready on hand, you can make your own using shortening.

Utah Quick Mix*

Makes 29 cups:
5 lbs. flour - about 20 cups (You can probably exchange a portion of white flour for wheat.)
3/4 cup double-acting baking powder
2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. salt
4 cups shortening (does not require refrigeration)
2 3/4 cups non-fat dry milk

Makes 13 cups:
9 cups flour
1/3 cup double-acting baking powder
4 tsp. salt
1 3/4 cups shortening
1 3/4 cups non-fat dry milk

Stir baking powder, non-fat dry milk, and salt into the flour. Cut fat into flour mixture until all particles of fat are thoroughly coated and mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. This can be done with a pastry blender, fork or electric mixer.

Measuring mix for recipes: Do not sift mix. Stir lightly before measuring. Lift lightly into cup and level with a straight edge (like a knife).

Storage: When deciding how much mix to make, consider how quickly it will be used and if you have a large enough container to make and store 29 cups. Store in a tightly covered container, at room temperature for up to six weeks.

Basic Biscuits

Makes 18 - 2 1/2" biscuits:
3 cups Utah Quick Mix
2/3 cup water

Makes 6 - 2 1/2" biscuits:
1 cup Utah Quick Mix
1/4 cup water

Heat oven to 450ºF. Mix Utah Quick Mix and water together until a soft dough is formed. Knead dough 10-12 strokes on lightly floured surface. Do not overknead or the dough will get tough. Roll 1/2-inch thick. Cut biscuits with a biscuit cutter or glass turned upside down, dipped in flour, or pat into a rectangle, and cut into squares. Bake on ungreased shiny baking sheet 10-15 minutes.

Variations: Add 1/4 cup grated cheese, 2 Tbsp. snipped fresh parsley, or other chopped herbs or raisins to mix before water is added and mix as above.

*These recipes are taken from a booklet "Utah Quick Mix" published by the Utah State University Extension Office. (Family Nutrition Program Publication #102)

There are a lot of quick mix recipes out there, so if you don't like this one very well, I'm sure you can find another version.

Good luck and happy breakfast!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Makin' It From Scratch #4 - Personal Care

I know there are a ton of things you can make from scratch for personal care like lotions and soaps, etc., but I picked out 3 things that I thought were a little on the uncommon side that you might not have considered making for yourself before. I haven't tried any of these yet, but deodorant is on the top of my list because I've already saved the empty deodorant tubes.

1) Hand Sanitizer
Mix one cup of aloe vera (the plain stuff with nothing added to it if you can find it), one half cup of isopropyl alcohol, and a drop or two of an essential oil you like. Mix well, put it in a pump bottle, and you have a much cheaper alternative to Purell that’s basically the exact same thing.

2) Toothpaste

Just mix half a cup of baking soda, a tiny dash of salt, 1/4 cup hydrogen peroxide, one drop of peppermint oil if you like it minty, and just a bit of stevia to make it sweet – stevia can be found at most health food stores – and just mix it into a paste.

(The hand sanitizer and toothpaste recipes come from The Simple Dollar blog.)

3) Deodorant

This is copied and pasted from Christine's blog of Hyde's Handmade Soaps.

1/4 c. baking soda
1/4 c. cornstarch
10 drops tea tree oil (it's cleansing)

you can just use that in a powder

or add 2 + Tab. of coconut oil for a stick
( I melted my coconut oil in the microwave)

Mix it all together and smash it in to an old deodorant container.
Coconut oil is hard at room temperature so you can let it sit and it will firm up
or I put mine in the freezer for a few minutes to make it hard.
If you don't live somewhere hot you can keep it in your bathroom. If you have a problem with it being to soft keep it in the refrigerator.
I hear you can use lavender oil as well.

All of these recipes sound simple and seem like good replacements. I'm not sure how the deodorant works in humid states, but it seems to work in a hot western state. I'm excited to try it out!

Have fun!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Another Bread Recipe & Progress Report

Note that I posted another bread recipe below on my post "Makin' It From Scratch #1 - Bread". It's for the Oatmeal bread in the photo and it's wonderful. The bread makes especially delicious toast!

Progress Report: I finished the last of my first batch of homemade instant oatmeal. I noticed that if you put it all in one container, some of the ingredients settle more than others (like salt). So, with the next batch I'm going to try mixing it really well each time before I take some out. I can see how doing this in baggies would eliminate that problem, but I find it's simpler for me out of a container.

Also, the Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Bread stayed really, really moist and wonderful. I stored it on the counter in a plastic bag and it hasn't gone dry at all like the 100% Whole Wheat Bread did. I think it might be the molasses in the recipe.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Makin' It From Scratch #3 - Laundry Soap

I have loved using my homemade laundry soap powder. We have cut down significantly on laundry detergent cost since we've switched to making it ourselves. And a bonus is that it does a great job in cleaning our clothes.
I found the recipe on Hyde Handmade Soap's blog (And by the way, she makes fabulous soap!).

Here's the recipe:

Laundry Soap Powder

3 c. Borax
2 c. Soda Wash
2 c. Baking Soda
2 c. bar soap, grated (I used a cheese grater with small holes - the smaller the pieces, the faster it breaks down in the water)

Mix all in a bucket (We keep ours in a large #10 can). Use 1/8 c. - 1/4 c. per load.

You can also add a cup of an oxygen cleaner (like Oxi Clean - I used a generic brand), but keep in mind that if you add bleach to your laundry you won't be able to use the laundry soap with the oxygen cleaner in there as well.
One note: for a half load I put in 1/8 cup of detergent, for a full load I put 1/4 cup. Another note is that your laundry detergent will smell like whatever bar soap you use. I bought a big pack of Ivory because it was inexpensive. So, that's what our laundry soap smells like. It doesn't seem to affect the end result though. Our clothes just smell clean. :-)

I also have a liquid laundry soap recipe. It's a little more involved (which is why I've just stuck with the powder), but my friend Clara swears by it.
Here's the recipe from her blog:

Liquid Laundry Soap

1 bar soap, grated
1 cup Washing Soda
1/2 cup Borax
1 cup Oxy-Clean powder (optional, but we like it)
4 cups + 3 gallons Water

First, pour 4 cups of water into a pot on the stove and bring to just below a boil. Whittle or grate the bar soap (brand doesn't really matter.) into the water and stir until dissolved.

Put 3 gallons hot water in a 5 gallon bucket. Pour in the hot soapy water and stir. Add 1 cup Washing Soda and continue stirring. Add 1/2 cup Borax and stir, and finally add 1 cup Oxy-Clean and stir thoroughly.
Let the mixture set up over night. We usually get a thick gel layer on top of a watery layer and stir or shake it just before use. We get about 50 loads of laundry out of this.
(Check out their cost comparison and laundry test.)

Also, the blog "The Simple Dollar" has a post about the liquid laundry soap and has some great pictures and cost comparisons too. Go here.

Give it a try and have fun!

P.S. 7/27/2010 - Found another recipe that I plan on trying out soon:

Blog Feature

I was doing research on making homemade bran flake cereal and came across this nifty blog. Check it out!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Makin' It From Scratch #2 - Instant Oatmeal

So, I just wanted to make sure to point something out about this little series I'm doing about making things from scratch. I realize that the main reason why we buy convenience food is because it saves us time. Not everyone has time to make their own bread, etc.

But I do feel that we get lulled into the frame of mind that we have to buy the convenience foods because there's no way we could make it ourselves. Not only that, but saving money right now is a big priority for my family and making as much of our food from scratch can help with finances big time. So, money and independence are the reasons why I wanted to explore what I really could make from scratch myself - and of course I had to share it.

Okay, so I know the last post was a really obvious one. Bread is something a lot of people make from scratch just because they like it. In my mind homemade bread is more like a treat than a staple, but I am trying to change that. This past week we survived on just one loaf of homemade bread (100% whole wheat). Even though the dough rose beautifully, it was still a little dense. (It made great toast!) However, my 2 year old son ate it just fine, so I think that's the ultimate test. This week I think I'll try just a white bread using unbleached flour and see how that compares.

Anyway, on to the exciting post for the day:
Instant Oatmeal.
Need I say that store bought instant oatmeal is expensive and rather BLAH? Well, here is a revelation!

I am ashamed to say that it never occurred to me that I could make instant oatmeal myself. Well, guess what?? You CAN! I cannot stress how EASY this is. It took me 5 minutes to mix this recipe up and it was absolutely delicious!!! Store bought can't touch this stuff.

One minute in the microwave, a little milk and ooooooh. This tasted so, so good. It could have been the fact that I'm 8 1/2 months pregnant and it was snack time, but no. It really was that yummy and tasted so fresh!

Here's the recipe:

Instant Oatmeal (Cinnamon Raisin)
(may be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled - you may need to, it's that good!)

2 cups quick oats
1 cup quick oats (blended to a powder)
1 tsp. salt
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins

Mix all ingredients really well and place in an air tight container. Makes about a 1 quart mason jarful, or 8 servings.

To serve, scoop out a 1/4 cup of the mix, add 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup boiling water (depending on how thick or thin you like your oatmeal). Stir and let stand for 2 minutes. (Or add the water to the oatmeal mix in a bowl and microwave for one minute.)

To make it even more quick and convenient you can divide the mix into separate baggies. For this method, do not mix all the ingredients together. Instead in each plastic bag put:

1/4 c. quick oats
2 Tbsp. powdered oats
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 Tbsp. raisins

To prepare, add 1/2 c. - 3/4 c. boiling water and let stand for 2 minutes. Makes 8 servings. (And if you're really thrifty, you can reuse your baggies!)

You can try different variations. I've seen apples & cinnamon (using minced, dried apples), cranberry & walnut (using dried cranberries) and blueberries & cream (using dried blueberries and powdered creamer). Have fun coming up with your own!

(And when you go out to buy your oats, do some research on places near you that sell oats in bulk. It will be far, far cheaper than buying those dinky little canisters.)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Makin' It From Scratch # 1 - Bread

Oatmeal Bread (Recipe Below)

Since I had so many links and recipes for a bunch of homemade things, I decided to not overwhelm people and to just feature one thing at a time. I decided to start with bread because it is a recent commitment of mine to stop buying bread. I just made a loaf yesterday and it's yummy which makes me feel confident that I can do this! I'm making my own bread for several reasons:

1. To save money
2. We have some huge buckets of wheat to grind for flour
3. I want to know exactly what's going into the bread my family and I eat
4. We don't eat a ton of bread, so it's feasible to make one loaf every few days.

This is a big goal for me because good bread has eluded me for many years until I found out a few key things:

- Kneading for 10 minutes or more really is important.
- Even if your loaf is golden brown, "sounds" hollow, and has sat in the oven for the allotted time, it doesn't mean that it's done! The most reliable gauge: taking the bread's temperature. 190ºF means your bread is really done. Remember that number. 190.
- Your recipe is everything.

If I can bake good bread, so can you! And it might take awhile to get used to homemade bread (how weird does that sound?), but I am totally excited! Okay, enough chatting, let's get down to the recipes.

100% Whole Wheat Bread
(From my good friend Clair's blog. The best homemade whole wheat bread I have seriously ever had in my life.)

For 1 loaf:

(This recipe was originally for 3 loaves. If you'd like that version, just leave a comment and let me know.)

1 & 2/3 cups warm water
1 Tbsp + 1tsp oil
1 Tbsp + 1tsp dough conditioner
2 Tbsp + 2tsp gluten
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp honey
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole wheat flour (fresh ground is best)
2 tsp yeast

2 cups whole wheat flour

Stir all the ingredients together, except for the second 2 cups of flour. Add enough of the last 2 cups of flour to make a kneadable dough. (I found I only needed about 3 1/2 cups of flour total.) Knead for 10-15 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic. If you don't have a Kitchen Aid or Bosch mixer, using a bread machine to do the kneading works nicely (but take it out of the bread machine to rise and bake in the oven), but you can do it by hand too which is what I do.

Grease a bread pan well. Shape the dough into a loaf and put it into the pan. Allow to rise, covered, in a warm, draft free place until it has doubled in size - and believe me it will - about 30-45 minutes. Only do one (1) rise. This is important!! If you let the dough rise more than once or for too long it can affect the taste of the bread in a negative way. (How cool is that? Bread that only needs to rise once!)

If desired, brush the top of the loaf with some melted butter.
Be careful not to bump the pan when you put it in the oven or the dough might fall. Bake at 350ºF for about 30-40 minutes.

The bread is done when the internal temperature comes to 190ºF. If you're worried about the crust getting too brown, cover the top with a sheet of aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes of baking. Allow to cool completely on a rack before slicing - unless you seriously can't wait because the smell is too tantalizing. At least allow it to cool for 15 minutes.

Yield: 1 loaf

Oatmeal Bread*
(As seen in photo above)

3 cups unbleached bread flour
1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. brown sugar OR honey
2 tsp. instant yeast OR 1 packet active dry yeast**
1 1/4 cups lukewarm milk

**If you use active dry yeast, dissolve it in the warm milk before combining with the remaining ingredients.

In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy dough. Knead dough, by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (5 minutes) till it's smooth. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it'll become quite puffy, though it may not double in bulk.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface, and shape it into a log. Place the log in a lightly greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, cover the pan (with lightly greased plastic wrap), and allow the dough to rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, till it's crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the pan.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350ºF oven for 35-40 minutes until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190ºF. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.

Yield: 1 loaf.

*King Arthur Flour recipe

And here I'll insert a little rant about whole wheat flour you buy at the store. Not all whole wheat flour is created equal! Cheap "whole wheat flour" = bleached white flour + wheat bran added later. More expensive whole wheat flour like King Arthur, etc. = whole wheat kernels ground into whole wheat flour. It really does make a difference, folks. The best way to tell is in the texture. Whole wheat flour, to me, feels like fine, grainy sand is mixed in with the flour.

Here are a couple links for other breads that I like:
- Plain Loaf (Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day) The recipe is in the article, which I would recommend reading. Making this bread is great fun!
- Raisin' Bread (Cold Antler Farm) I've made Jenna's white bread recipe out of her book and it was really good. If you want the plain white bread from this recipe, just omit the cinnamon, sugar & raisins. Makes 2 loaves.
- Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Bread (King Arthur Flour - where I learned about internal bread temperature - GENIUS!!) (Note: This bread stays really moist! And it is a lot different than the one I posted above.)

Good luck! I'll have another feature coming soon!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Going Back to Homemade

I'd like to become less dependent on instant food. Early this morning I was trying to think of ways I could do it. I love cooking from scratch but 2 years of being a student/wife/mom made me docile towards instant foods (where before I detested and shunned them). Not to mention instant foods never add up to the same quality or price savings as making homemade.

So here are some things that I have been using:

1. Instant oatmeal
2. Hot cocoa mix
3. Laundry soap
4. Rice-A-Roni
5. Pancake mix (only during our move - I seriously always make my pancakes from scratch, but I know there are homemade pancake mix recipes out there)
6. Bread
7. Pancake syrup (Eww. I don't even know why I eat the stuff.)
8. Cereal
9. Macaroni & Cheese
10. Tortillas

Of course, for me, the solution for most of these is replacement or making them myself. I am already using my own homemade laundry soap, I found the 100% whole wheat bread and granola recipes from heaven, and I have tried going back to my childhood by putting apple sauce or honey on my pancakes. (A solution my thrifty mom thought up since she never bought pancake syrup.) As a teenager I also thought up another solution since I so desperately wanted that maple syrup: honey with maple flavoring. It's a little intense since it's honey, but it still is really good. Now that I'm a grown up I occasionally buy real maple syrup, but dang, that stuff is expensive!

The key to satisfaction and self-sufficiency is definitely not laziness or what the media terms as "time-saving" but really taking the time to fill your life (and tummy) with good homemade things - things that you can proudly say that you made yourself and where a "Made in China" sticker is nowhere to be found. At least that is what I think.

Later, I will post the recipes for the bread, granola, laundry soap, and other mix recipes that I have. Give them a try!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year and a New Place

Happy New Years! I'm typing from the floor in the basement of our new place in Maryland. The moving truck isn't scheduled to come until Tuesday, and let me tell you for someone who likes to stay busy and organize stuff, this has been the longest week ever! We got here Monday and I swear I never thought Saturday would come. Being away from the internet has been good for me - especially since it was a treat to have a lot to catch up on with my favorite blogs.
Already we've gotten snow... and then rain... and now most of the snow is gone and I laugh in triumph. Rain?? In January? We're not at high altitude in the west anymore baby! Even the air smells different here. I can actually smell the coast - which is not too far away and it smells lovely. I can't wait to see the ocean again.

I wonder about this new place. Will I be able to get local cheese or milk or will we be here long enough for us to get that little house on a few acres? A new place is full of possibilities just like this new year. I've got some good goals to work toward - not to mention a new baby coming next month. It's going to be a busy, crazy, frustrating time hopefully full of joys, successes and fun. Here's to the new year and a new start in a new place!
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