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Many of you already know how to make your own vanilla extract, but those of you who don’t, you will be pleasantly surprised at just how simple it is.

I say that quite a bit don’t I? “It’s so easy.” It’s really simple.”

But so much in life has been done by big machines and bigger business that many have never had the chance to realize just how easy or how much healthier, and even cheaper, they are to do yourself.

And Vanilla Extract is no different.

You need:

Vanilla beans
Hard alcohol (vodka, rum, brandy, whiskey, ect.)

I used 2 vanilla beans,  8 ounces of vodka and a recycled bottle.

Cut the vanilla beans in about 1 inch pieces. Place them in the bottle.

Fill the jar with alcohol. Cover and wait.

It takes about 3 months to get a good vanilla extract, but it’s usable within days. It really depends on the beans.

But get this…
You can keep topping off the bottle with more alcohol and continue to have plenty of vanilla extract! This will work for at least 3-4 more full bottles. As the beans soften they continue to release vanilla-ey goodness.

What you brewing in your kitchen?

Live Well!
~S 

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This site is moving! Double posts are time consuming. I can only keep it up for so long. Come follow along at our new home! 

To all my lovely readers, may you enjoy this glorious Sunday with your loves! 

Moms and dads too. Sisters and brothers, friends and lovers. Enjoy your time together. Revel in the simple things.

The Mister, the babes and I were able to spend time yesterday with both of our momma’s. It was a beautiful day. I only wish there were more time. I made these baskets for both.

We were able to visit, had some dinner out and took some time just to be together. It doesn’t get to happen as often as it should. There’s an hours drive between us all. At least. And life can be so busy.

I filled them with some of my favorite things.

All hand made.

This stuff is glorious.

Lemon salt. Heavenly.

I had a lemon, lavender, rosemary theme going on. There’s been a lot of that going on around here lately. My three favorite things.

Enjoy your Sunday! Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there! 

Live Well!
~S

We’re Moving!
Come visit our new home….

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I was so excited at the number of phone calls, text messages, emails and comments I received yesterday over butter making. So many of you actually went out and bought cream just to try it. I love it!! 

Now that you have all of that glorious butter, let’s make it even better. By adding herbs, spices and zests you can create crazy, beautiful flavors.

Because it’s still very early in the season and my herb garden is hardly ready for much harvesting, but I do want to make this one with what I have grown myself, the first batch is going to be Garlic Chive Butter!

Look at these healthy chives anxious to get this season started

Take your butter out of the refrigerator and let it rest on the counter for a time to soften

While we are waiting can we just talk a bit about garlic?
It recently came to my attention  that the proper use of garlic is not common knowledge. And here I thought everyone knew the many ways of garlic.

The way you cut, or don’t cut, garlic affects the flavor. 

Leaving a clove whole will give you the least amount of garlic flavor in your dish. It’s all about surface area baby. The finer you chop, the more flavor you get. So if you smash and drop you will get a stronger flavor than whole. If you mince your flavor will be even stronger.

Then there is creaming the garlic.
This is my favorite. And here I thought all this time everyone knew how to cream garlic. What you have been missing! Creamed garlic gets buttery and melty. And you don’t even have to roast it… which we will talk about soon. I am seeing a For the Love of Garlic post in our future. Let’s cream some garlic….

Smash two (or more, but this recipe only needs two) cloves of garlic

Let’s not talk about the attention my cutting boards need, k?

Mince well

Sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. The salt has many jobs. It flavors the garlic so be sure you haven’t over salted this batch of butter. It acts as an abrasive to help break down the salt. And it helps pulls the juices from the garlic to help further break it down.

Now take the edge of your knife at an angle – about 20% – and drag it over the garlic repeatedly. You will need to scrape it back into a pile and repeat over and over. Be good to your knife! This isn’t a massacre.

Now you have creamy, buttery garlicy goodness!
This is great for dressings and marinades, spreads, tonics and just getting more garlic flavor into your dishes.

Let’s get back to the butter….

Add your garlic to the bowl. Now mince some chives.

You want them very fine

Add them in

And mix

You have Garlic Chive Butter. This is the ideal topping for those buttermilk biscuits you made with the leftover buttermilk.

There are so many options for herbed butter. Here are some of my favorites…

  • Lemon Black Pepper – lemon zest and black pepper. Perfect on chicken fresh off the grill.
  • Chipolte Lime – chipolte or chili spice and lime zest. Great for grilled corn.
  • Parmesan – just grate in some parm. This is perfect for corn too. Or focaccia, baguette, oat biscuits….
  • Pepper Thyme – fresh (always best) or dried thyme and lots of black pepper
  • Lemon Terragon – lemon zest and minced fresh tarragon.
  • Cilantro Chili – fresh cilantro and chili powder. Great for corn on the cob!
  • Sweet Cinnamon – honey, cinnamon and vanilla bean make this a great topping for french toast!
  • Gremolata – garlic, parsley and lemon zest. A dollop added to the top of a sizzling steak as it hits the plate. Yum.
Get creative – Think cardamom, ginger, grapefruit zest, basil, sun dried tomato, lavender!

What’s your favorite Herbed Butter combination?

Live Well!
~S 

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Did you know that eating fat doesn’t make you fat? It’s true!

That stuff they call margarine isn’t real food either. It’s gross, it’s harmful and you should stop using it! But you don’t really use that junk, right?

Real food is always better. Always. But even the ones you think are real and wholesome aren’t always as they seem. Take butter for instance. Did you know that butter, yes, the real kind, usually has added preservatives? It’s sad but true. But there’s hope.

Making butter is ridiculously easy! 

Cream, a mason jar and twenty minutes easy.

Fill a mason jar half way with heavy cream.

Put the cover on.

Now shake the day lights out of it!

Shake, shake, shake…

Shake, shake, shake….

The cream will get thick. Keep shaking.

When you think something MUST have gone wrong, keep shaking.

You are almost there….

And then all of sudden, it will happen! The thick cream will separate – buttermilk and butter.

Strain the buttermilk….

But save it for something else like soaking chicken or making biscuits.

Now you have to rinse the rest of the buttermilk out of the butter.

Add some salt if you like and roll into a log and refrigerate.

You have butter!

AND buttermilk!

This butter doesn’t have preservative like that other stuff, as I mentioned, so you want to use this within two weeks.

It isn’t always cheaper to make your own butter but it can be. It depends on the cost of cream and the amount of fat. Some cows produce a fattier milk. If you are lucky enough to know someone with goats (or even better, have your own!) butter can be made with goats cream too. It will be a bit different, but just as good.

I got about 3/4 of a  pound of butter from one quart of milk. Plus about 2 cups of buttermilk. That is a savings over purchasing butter and buttermilk separately. And I don’t get the preservatives.

There is an easier way….

You can use a blender, mixer, hand mixer or food processor and cut the time in half.

There can be mistakes…

The second time I made butter, or attempted to make butter, it was a disaster. We took turns shaking the jar, the mister, babes and I. How fun! We sat and watched TV, chatted and made butter together. But in our fun we somehow missed the separation phase and just kept shaking. We ended up with what looked like chunky whipped cream. Which is just what I turned it into, with a bit of honey (or sweetener of choice) and a bit more whipping.

What happened? We shook the buttermilk back into the butter. Yes, it can happen. I had no idea. I also don’t know if the process can be altered again. I had had enough shaking for the night and never cared for the experiment to be finished.

Now let’s get a wee bit technical…

I’m not saying go ahead and smother everything you eat in butter. I’m not Paula Dean. Although I do love her to pieces. I’m just saying butter isn’t as scary and horrible as we tend to think. And it’s way better for you than something bugs won’t even touch! (Some still claim this isn’t true,but I tried it once and found the margarine free of ants and butter loaded with them. I did not, however, leave it long enough to find out if they moved over once the butter was gone.)

  • A 1994 Harvard Medical Study showed that eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53%
  • More recent studies have shown a strong link between consuming trans fat and earlier death
  • Butter does not contain trans fat – margarine does (minus a few newer varieties)
  • Both butter and margarine have the same amount of calories
  • Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods
  • Butter has many nutritional benefits – margarine does not, unless they are added
  • Butter tastes better!
That old urban legend about margarine being one molecule away from plastic is truly false, however, real food is always best. Something made with “ingredients” like margaric acid, used in making margarine, is not.
If you aren’t into making your own butter at least opt for the real thing. Ditch that tub of tasteless, dyed stuff.

Tomorrow we will talk about flavoring your butter!

Live Well!
~S 

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I am often asked what crazy things I’m up to. It seems to entertain some that I do these, apparently, strange things like make my own sauerkraut and beer. And for others, they have said it makes them tired just hearing about it.

I don’t think I’m the kind that never shuts off. But I do like to be busy. And I do like the feeling of taking an active role in the creation of the things my family uses. I know what’s in them. I know that harmful chemicals and other potential toxins aren’t slipped in. That they are not only better for my family, but the environment as well. I know that they are fresh and wholesome.

It’s a bonus that I am usually saving money as well. And this one is a perfect example.

Laundry detergent can be filled with stuff  like alkyl phenol ethoxylates, ammonia and phosphates. The results can range from skin irritations to immune disruption, poisoning and even cancer.

Did you know that even Seventh Generation is considered toxic and potentially harmful?

Read more about it here.

Making your own laundry soap is super easy. It’s fast and it’s CHEAP!

Here’s what you need –

2c finely grated castile soap – 1 bar (I use Kirk’s for this. It’s the cheapest I have found)
1c baking soda
1c borax
1c soda ash (super washing soda)

*essential oils of your choosing if you would like to make it scented. I prefer lavender or grapefruit.

Grate the soap very fine in a food processor or with a hand grater. Mix everything in a large bowl, adding the scent a little at a time to be sure it gets mixed well.

Makes – 5 cups

Use – 1/8c per load

Cost – 2-6 cents a load!
The higher being with a heavy amount of essential oils and top price for the products.

That’s it!

You can make it a liquid soap by adding water and heat. Use a 5 gallon bucket to mix and store it in.

For liquid soap –

1 bar grated castile soap
1/2c borax
1c washing soda
1/2c baking soda
3 gallons water

Add the soap to 6c water in a pan. Heat until the soap melts. Add the sodas and borax and stir until it dissolves. Remove from heat. In a   large bucket add 4c hot water. Add the soap mixture and stir. Add remainder of water and stir. It will take about 24 hours for the soap to gel.

Use – 1/4 – 1/2c per load

Cost – 2-6 cents per load!

Now let’s compare….

Tide Laundry Detergent costs $17.97 for 96 loads. 19 cents per load.
Contains (ingredients list)  ethanol, phospates, alcohol sulfates, benzene sulfonic acid and other potentially harmful chemicals.

Home-made laundry soap costs approximately $10.04 or less for economy sizes. Roughly 5 cents per load.
Contains sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium carbonate (washing soda), sodium tetraborate (borax), coconut oil and vegetable glycerin.  And takes an extra 10 minutes to prepare.

And to add to the fabulousness (it’s a word. sort of) of home-made laundry soap, it works just as well. Swear!

Oh, and you get to scent it any way you like. I love that part.

Have you made your own laundry soap?

Live Well!
~S 

 

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Making your own yogurt is super easy!

I mean – boil milk, whisk in cultures, cover and wait – easy.

Yes, even you can do it.

Here’s what you need –

1 quart whole milk
1 Tablespoon plain yogurt (yes, just your favorite store bought yogurt)

In a pan heat the milk slowly to just before a boil. You can get technical with this and use a thermometer, but  it really isn’t necessary. You just have to heat it until the top is shiny and tiny bubbles just start to form around the outside. But if you are worried you won’t do it right, or just like to use your fancy little thermometer than heat it to 180-185 degrees. You shouldn’t get a skin, but if you do just take it off.

Now for the hard part. Take it off the heat and wait for it to cool. You have to wait until the milk is warm enough to activate the cultures but not kill them. About 140 degrees. You can put it in another bowl to help the process along. Or even put it in a water bath.

When the milk is cool whisk in the yogurt. Now, don’t get all over zealous with the yogurt. Adding extra will not make it more yogurty (there I go again) or speed the process any. It will have adverse effects. Trust me. One tablespoon per quart of milk. But you don’t have to be super precise either. I told you, this is easy.

Next, spoon it into jars. I like to use a mixture of mason jars in various sizes. Leaving a space at the top to add fruit and such. We’ll talk more about that in a bit.

Now, place the jars in a pan and wrap with a towel.

Put this pan in a warm safe place like the oven. I’m not showing you this part. It’s scary and embarrassing in there. Must. Clean. Oven.

Be sure to NOT turn the oven on. NOT. 

Now you wait. Again. It takes about 12-15 hours for the process to complete. Give or take. Again, it isn’t precise. Just be sure to leave them alone. The more you disturb them the less likely they are to do as they are told.

Once they have set to a solid consistency they are finished. Ready to eat! Or flavor. Keep in mind, this is plain, unaltered yogurt. It will be tart. You can sweeten it with some honey or agave.

You can strain the yogurt in cheese cloth to make it thicker. Essentially, the difference between Greek yogurt and regular yogurt is the straining process. Greek yogurt is strained to make it creamier. Here in the U.S. you are buying “Greek Style” yogurt not actual Greek yogurt – meaning strained and thicker. True Greek yogurt uses sheep’s or goat’s milk. If you like yogurt thicker you can strain the end product through a piece of cheese cloth or even let the milk stay at that just before boiling point a little longer to evaporate the milk some.

You can make your next batch using some of this one and never have to buy yogurt again!

Now let’s talk about flavor!

You can add anything you like. Fruits, nuts and grains.

Here are some of my favorites – 

  • Pomegranate
  • Banana and walnut
  • Apple and cinnamon with honey and pecans
  • Frozen mixed berries
  • Orange
  • Cherries and macadamia nuts
  • Granola and dried cranberries
  • Chocolate chunk granola

Mmmm. I could keep going.

You can also use it for dips and marinades – 

  • Mixed with lots of fresh or dried herbs like chives, parsley, tarragon and garlic for veggie dip
  • Mixed with lime, ginger, cilantro and gram marsala for chicken
  • Mixed with coarse brown mustard, garlic, pepper and parsley for pork

The options are endless, as they usually are when in the kitchen. And yogurt is filled with healthy probiotics that are essential for healthy digestion and optimum immune response. They are killed off when heated, but used as a marinade yogurt helps keep meat moist and adds tremendous flavor.

Now let’s break it down….

I made 64 ounces of yogurt for $1.50

The cheapest I have found Chobani is $1.00 for 6 ounces. That equals $10.00 for 60 ounces!

4 ounces less – $8.50 more

Are you ready to try making your own yogurt?

Live Well!
~S 

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Yesterday I went to the fabric store. I love the fabric store. I could spend hours there. I did spend hours there.

I gave you a bit of a tease on my facebook page with this….

You see, because Valentine’s Day is well in the past I needed something to replace this….

I actually had planned on making this “replacement” before the heart garland, but for some odd reason was inspired to decorate, a little, for the “holiday”. So when the time came the vision had many weeks to brew.

I gathered my pieces of fabric and some twine and in a few short hours this beautiful Gypsy Garland was born.

I named it Gypsy Garland because of my present gypsy love. It’s colorful and whimsical. Fun and vibrant.

I simply love it. Feast your eyes…

Isn’t it lovely? I think I will make some felt owls to adorn it. And perhaps find some crystals or glass beads to hang from some of the branches.

My home has taken on this transformation with me. It was once a bit minimalistic with a classic feel of dark wood and clean lines. Now it’s taking on a bit of a whimsical feel with lots of texture and color. As my dreams come alive.

I plan to make another Gypsy Garland. One much larger with long pieces of fabric. It will adorn the trees as we dine al fresco. With lots of wine and laughs. With lanterns, masses of flowers and candles, and a great fire.

I can see the fabric billowing in the breeze. The twinkle of the candle flame. The fire flies dancing in the distance. I have been searching for years, but can’t seem to find fire flies for sale as you can purchase lady bugs and others. Good thing we have a great deal of our own. I can hear the crackle of the fire, the chink of glasses, the roar of laughter of friends gathered.

Oh, Summer, how I yearn for thee.

Have you made anything great lately?

Live Well!
~S

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