Friday, January 13, 2012

Time for more yogurt!

So, this morning I ate the last of my yogurt, so I set another batch to start.
Found out, you cannot heat the milk on medium high, using a gas stove.  It didn't scorch, but I had to filter the last of it through cheese cloth.
We'll see how it turns out.  I am still getting the hang of it.

A friend made a 1/2 gallon in her crock pot this week!  Unfortunately, my crock pot is 7 qt.  Way too big for yogurt.

Anyway, I've been eating it with either honey (Tastes much like FAGE!) or with all fruit preserves (stirred up like a fruit on the bottom).  Now, once you stir it up, it does become a tiny bit runnier, but it is delicious.  I made 15 cups of yogurt for less than $2.50.  A stellar savings of $17.35.
Update: 1/12/11
The yogurt turned out great, again!  I have ordered this, Yogurt Culture.  I will keep you posted about how it turns out!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Halloween Wedding!?

So My friend is getting married this fall . . . A halloween themed Wedding!
 I have so much fun talking to her about the planning and relive planning my own destination wedding . . . The excitement, the horror, the mini-meltdowns . . . all to make this day the best that it can be, filled with memories for all involved, but mostly the happy couple.  "Til Death do Us Part"

When I planned our wedding, our original destination was New Orleans at the Maison Dupuy ( ), with the entire party staying at the Dauphine Orleans ( I stayed there in the summer of 2003 . . . simply amazing hotel and staff.  One afternoon by the pool, I spent a couple hours catching anoles in the ivy with a little boy . . . Not sure who had more fun!

Anyway, Hurricane Season 2004 was rough, and while we hadn't set anything in stone, I had my mom in one ear and my fiance' in the other . . . . worrying about what would happen for our wedding the following year.  We had planned on getting wedding insurance (something very new at the time), but finally, we changed to The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee.

We were married in front of the stone fireplace of the Black Bear Lodge at Country Pine Log Resort ( with our nearest and dearest.

Anywho, I'm researching ideas to help my friend with little details . . . Please comment with any tips on Bridal Party Boutonniere ideas, etc. . . . I love using my creativity to help others. . . . SO fun!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


So today, I am making yogurt ( the first time ever.

 I recall my mom making yogurt when I was growing up.  She had this space-age looking device that warmed the containers, which the milk was cultured.  I don't recall eating that specific yogurt, but I am sure I did.
Now, NI Man says I don't need a fancy yogurt maker, just a place to keep it consistently warm.

So I boiled and cultured my milk, placed it in pint jars and sealed them with BPA-free plastic lids from Ball Canning. (I found these darlings at Wal-Mart, when shopping for the jars themselves; which I purchased at Discount Drug Mart). $10 for a dozen jelly jars, $3 for the Caps, Milk (on sale at CVS this week) $2.49 a gallon.  I'm only making 8 pints to start.  I will update this Post once the process is complete.  Keep your fingers crossed that it works. 
While those live active cultures are doing their job, I am gonna: clean the bathroom, take care of baby fish, fold laundry and make some oatmeal jars.
It totally worked.  I must've checked about 4 times in the first two hours.
Then I got caught up in my chores (Classes start in a week, Dontcha Know!) . . ..

Hubby got home and I was like, "OH, I wonder what my "yogurt" looks like!" and went down the steps as quickly as my poor feet will let me. . . .
****Aside: It says to place the containers somewhere consistently warm.  My friend used her oven on low, as directed by: .  However, not liking to heat up this tiny house any more than necessary AND using what I have handy . . . I placed them on top of our dehumidifier (which could almost heat this house) and wrapped in two towels.  It took about 6 hours.****

I am straining one in cheesecloth. and the rest are chilling in the fridge!

LOOK!  Yogurt!!!

Protein = Brain Food

We all know that eating a good breakfast is essential to starting the day off right.
One of the great things about the holidays is left overs, but did you know you can make them last even longer?
My hubby gets a ham from work for Christmas.  Since I don't eat ham, his mom prepares it and send the leftovers home after we eat as a family.
To keep those leftovers from going bad, I portion it out or chop it up coarsely and place in a gallon freezer bag. Lay it flat and pop in the freezer (on a baking sheet is great).  This way, it takes up less space once frozen and since it is flat, I can break off chunks as needed.

This morning DSS had ham with Two Eggs  and a tangerine for breakfast.  Sorry, he was hungry and I didn't get to snap a pic.
I toss the frozen ham into a pan with a lid on medium heat. Once warm, I crack two eggs over it and cover, turn the heat down slightly. This will keep the ham from burning.  The steam that builds up bastes the eggs, which is our little guy's favorite way to eat them.  I love the glass lidded pans I inherited from my Mom, after she got new ones.  I can monitor how the eggs are cooking, without letting that precious steam escape.  I shake the pan now and then to see how firm the yolks are.  Once they are close, I turn off the heat. [I have a gas stove, but if you use electric, simply move the pan to a cool burner.] The steam will continue to cook the egg.  Once done, I place the plate face down over the pan and flip it over. Add a slice of cheese, which melts while I am peeling the tangerine. Add a dash of sea salt and fresh ground pepper and serve!

The little guy gets a flavorful, protein packed breakfast to fuel his active mind during school~ Yum.

Don't forget to set a good example by eating a healthy breakfast yourself.  I know how hard this is, my immunosuppressants decrease my appetite.  So I keep pre-made Irish Oatmeal with fruit in the fridge, I heat it up while I am packing his lunch and making breakfast.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Pet Food . . . More Ingredients is not always better!

Why?  For the simple reason that your dog (or cat) may become one of the rare pets that develops food intolerance.  If this is the unfortunate case, the more carbohydrate sources and the more protein sources you expose your pet to, the fewer options you will have when it comes to offering them a novel diet.

It used to be that high quality pet food had commonly found ingredients.  Now, when you read the bags, you see a myriad of carb and protein sources.  Even those which claim to be single source carb and protein, are actually One Animal Protein and one Major Carb Source.  However, when you read further, that Bison and Potato diet also contains Pea Protein.  Pea Protein used to only be found in Veterinary Prescription Diets, keeping it on the novel (new to your pet) list.

My wonderful 11 year old hound/terrier mix developed food intolerance when she was 3 or 4.  We started out on Hill's Prescription i/d at first.  She did well for several years, then we had to switch to Nature's Recipe Vegetarian Formula.  Once again, after several years, we are searching for a new diet.  We started out on Nature's Recipe Salmon grain Free Formula,  she started getting itchy (her normal response was to develop GI distress, THEN itchiness. . . . apparently, not in her old age!) . So we switched Carb Sources, but stayed with Salmon; repeated with a third formula containing Salmon and yet another Carb Source.

We are now on our fourth food in 6 months.  Back to chicken, a protein source that she has not been on in nearly 7 years.  It's only day two. Keep your fingers crossed.

So please, talk to your veterinarian.  Maintain consistency in your pet's food.  You never know when you may be at your wit's end trying to avoid the veterinary prescription diets with their prohibitive costs.  My dog would eat nearly $75 worth of food a month and she only weighs 45 lbs.

Follow Me on Pinterest

Oatmeal fit for a Railroader

This is a twist on the Irish Oatmeal Recipes out there, stylishly stored in Mason Jars.

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil.
Add a pinch of sea salt, the pour approx 2 cups of rolled oats in.
Turn down heat, simmer about 10 minutes.
Once water is brought back to a simmer, add 2 tsp  of warm kitchen spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, etc.; I like a dash of Penzey's Cake Spice blend and a dash of ground cloves).  Stirr occasionally.
Once nearly thickened.  Turn off heat (if using an electric stove, remove pot from hot burner).

Prepare your containers, whether they be Mason Jars or your handy plastic ware.
Add Frozen or Dried Fruit of choice, nuts (I like toasted pecans or sliced almonds) and a tablespoon of turbinado sugar or Maple Syrup (Trader Joe's has some great blends, I like the agave nectar and maple syrup blend). 
Divide Oatmeal evenly between containers.  A batch this size will make ~ 3, two cup servings for my hubby.
Use within 5 days.  Heat in microwave, add cream of choice, if desired.  I like Coconut Milk "Creamer". Stir and enjoy!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Keeping it Simple - Homemade Laundry Detergent & Household Cleaner

Simple ways to keep everyday life running smoothly without breaking the bank.

Homemade Laundry detergent
For laundry, I use a homemade powder. Into a food processer put 1 bar fels naptha soap, quartered, and 1 cup borax, and 1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda). Process into a fine powder. Some people just use regular soap, like Ivory or something, but I use fels-naptha. It’s cheap enough, about a dollar or so at the grocery.
The whole batch costs about $2, tops. It makes what seems like a small amount of powder, but you only use (get this ONE TO TWO TABLESPOONS for an entire load). I use it for warm and hot loads in powder form, and let it agitate in the washing machine with the water before I add clothes. It will NOT foam a lot, but it still works.
If you regularly use ice-cold water, you can make this powder into a gel soap. Or if you just like liquid soap, you can do it, too. Add a gallon of water to half this powder in a big pot on the stove. Heat to boiling and boil a few minutes. Cool to lukewarm. You’ll need to have empty containers to pour it in. Use only 1/4-1/2 cup of this gel per load.
This will make a ton as well, for very, very cheap.
 Also, make sure you are not using your cooking pots to make soap and other household products . . .
Note: if you have trouble finding the Washing Soda, which is just Sodium Carbonate, you can buy it at:
I'll be honest.  I just use this, because we always have it on hand for our reef aquariums.  Plus, it is hard to find around here. 
If you have REALLY Hard water, you can add some Calgon Water Softener to the mix.  I also like it with my whites, because it binds minerals in the water to keep them from redepositing on the clothes.  Leaving them dingy.

Household Cleaner
Into an empty, appx. 24-oz spray bottle pour
4 oz. vinegar
1 tsp. borax
fill slowly to the top with water, then squirt in about a tsp. of liquid dish soap (I use Method or Seventh Generation). Screw on the spray top and shake. I put in some orange oil and that makes it smell lovely.  (Note from me: Tea Tree oil is a good anti-bacterial/anti-fungal)
You can’t use it to clean mirrors or glass, but as a regular kitchen/bathroom cleaner, it’s absolutely wonderful. I’d guess that it costs me about five to ten cents a bottle, depending on whether the vinegar is bought in bulk and store brand.

Play around with essential oils, find a mix that makes your heart sing.  I like Peppermint and Grapefruit, Ylang Ylang & Vanilla, During the holidays: Cedar & Juniper are very festive (I add a titch of clove too).
The following list contains oils that should be avoided* during pregnancy:
  • Basil
  • Cedarwood
  • Cinnamon
  • Clary sage (OK during labour)
  • Clove
  • Cypress (OK after 5 months)
  • Fennel
  • Hyssop
  • Jasmine (OK during labour)
  • Juniper
  • Lemongrass
  • Myrrh
  • Parsley
  • Pennyroyal
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Sweet marjoram
  • Thyme