Monday, September 16, 2013

Cream of Something Soup

Here's something that I make and keep on hand at all times. I used to occasionally use Cream of Mushroom (or celery or chicken, etc) soup for recipes but never without wishing I could somehow get that creamy texture without having to resort to canned soup. I try to avoid processed foods, partially hydrogenated fats, soy oils, and other known not to be good for us ingredients. The thing is, some of those recipes that call for cream of something soup are so tasty! And family pleasing! And often easy! So I figured some smart person had come up with an alternative. And they had. And I tweaked it.

Here is my "go to" Cream of Something soup. I make up a multi-batch and keep it in a marguarita mix bucket in the cupboard. You could probably come up with issues about the ingredients but you will have to admit that you know what they are and while they would offend the organic purist, they are far better than the canned alternative.

Cream of Something Soup

1 cup non-fat dried milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
4 Tbsp dried minced onion
1 tsp dried basil (or marjoram if you aren't a big fan of dried basil, like me)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp Better Than Boullion chicken (cream of chicken soup)
1 tsp Better Than Boullion beef (creamy pot roast)
1 tsp Better Than Boullion ham (sausage gravy)
1/4 cup dried mushrooms, ground (cream of mushroom soup)
2 Tbsp additional dried onion (yum)
You get the idea...

For the equivalent of one can of condensed soup, use 1/3 cup dry mix and 1 1/4 cup water. Mix well (while the liquid is cool) and cook until thickened.

If it is a crockpot recipe, I sometimes just mix the water and cream of mix in a gravy shaker and pour it into the crockpot and proceed as if I added a can of soup.

I hope you find this helpful. I also appreciate that I don't have all those cans that need recycled AFTER I lug them home from the store.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Prepare to Be Prepared

Putting together emergency car kits and a first aid kit doesn't have to be difficult or overly expensive. Here I will review what I decided to include in ours. One thing to remember is that while you don't want to need any of these things, you can't think that stuff only happens to other people. And you should also keep in mind that there's no sense including things you don't know how or are unwilling to use. It might pay to spend some time reviewing a basic first aid book and a basic survival guide. And it may not always be yourself that benefits. I have, more than once in my life, been the first person on the scene of an accident. It should feel good to know that you could have something to help someone else in their time of need.

Some things in our kits are just a portion of a bigger package that I split up, some items come from the camping section of the local department store. Figure out what will work for you and give yourself some peace of mind.

Emergency Car Kits
Energy Bars
Water bottle
Hand and body warmers
Toe warmers
Emergency poncho
Emergency blanket
Empty tin can
Strike anywhere matches
Fire starter
Led flashlight with batteries
LED headlamp with batteris
Emergency Candles
Empty tin can
Car phone charger
Toilet paper
Small garbage bag
Hand sanitizer
Baby wipes
First aid kit
Safety pins
Linen hanky
Zip-Top Bag
Backpack, small
Pocket Knife
Duct tape
Leather gloves
Folding shovel
Jumper cables
Rope or cord
Sewing kit
Notepad and mechanical pencil

First Aid Kit (This is a kit geared toward illness as well as injury)
Cold medicine
Flu medicine
Cough drops
Excedrin Migraine
Tylenol PM
Anti nausea
Anti diarrheal
Antiseptic wash
Hydrogen peroxide
Isopropyl alcohol spray
Alcohol wipes
Burn care
Hydrocortizone cream
Triple antibiotic
Eye wash
Smelling salts
Snake bit kit
Colloidal silver
Hand sanitizer
Baby wipes
Liquid bandage
Assorted bandaids
Butterfly closures
Sterile pads
Gauze roll
Finger cots
Cotton swabs
Silk thread
Latex gloves
Ace bandages - large and small
Triangular Bandage
Eye patch
Needles for suturing
Paper and pencil

Our first aid kit is pretty complete and both my husband and I have had beyond the basics first aid/first responder training. Your kit may be simpler and much smaller. It's still empowering to know you are as ready as you can be.

And sometimes the most important skill is the power of observation and information gathering. I once witnessed a rollover car accident and, with my friends, was among the first on the scene. This was on a major interstate and the accident was immediately called in for help. The most important tools we had? Watches, pens and paper. One young man had been thrown from the vehicle and I was able to take his pulse and note that, along with his respirations, then I began to question him and I could tell he would not be conscious for long. I was able to get his name, age and the important fact that his parents had been in a truck hauling a boat somewhere ahead of them in heavy holiday weekend traffic. I was not in a position to provide medical care, but I was in a position to gather potentially important information for the paramedics that soon arrived to find an unconscious young man and my notes.

Why not be ready to make a difference for yourself and others?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Naturally, I Like to Clean


I’d quote the source but this recipe is available in dozens of places on the internet if you go looking. I don’t know the origination of it.

1/3 bar Fels Naptha Laundry Soap, grated
6 cups water
1/2 cup washing soda
1/2 cup borax

Heat 6 cups water and soap in a large pan until dissolved. Stir in washing soda and Borax. Mix and heat until dissolved. Boil 15 minutes. Remove from heat. (It will have the consistency of honey.*) In a 3 or 5 gallon bucket, add 1 quart of hot water, then add the soap mixture. Mix. Add enough cold water to make a 2 gallon mixture. Mix until well blended. Let sit 24 hours. The soap will gel.

Use 1/2 cup for each load. Store in covered containers. (I use old ice cream buckets with lids.) I also add 1/8 cup baking soda to my load to soften the water for better cleaning. And for a clean rinse and fresh scent, I add 1/2 cup vinegar and 1/2 cup water to my fabric softener dispenser and then top that with a few drops of lavendar essential oil.

Makes 2 gallons. (Cost is approximately 40 cents per gallon; 32 loads per gallon)

Notes: If you are using a wooden spoon, I would suggest you dedicate it to making cleaning products. Not necessary if your spoon is metal, nylon or plastic. I also have never used a pan with non-stick coating for cooking this up. I use a stainless pan. I don’t know if it would harm a non-stick finish.

If the detergent doesn't gel or reach honey consistency it will still work.

Stir before each use as this soap does separate. Detergent can be stored in a liquid detergent bottle. Just shake it up each time you use it.

This detergent will not suds up in the washer, but it is still getting your clothes clean.


From The Naturally Clean Home (Karen Siegel-Maier)

2 cups water
2 tsp borax
8 drops pine essential oil
4 drops cedar essential oil

Combine all ingredients in a plastic spray bottle. Shake before each use. Spray on surfaces and wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge.


From; Mary Hunt’s e-newsletter

General Bathroom Cleaner:
Original blue Dawn Dishwashing Liquid has some kind of miraculous quality about it that makes it "melt" through stubborn soap scum and hideous build-up on showers and tubs, no matter whether porcelain, acrylic or fiberglass. Use it straight up.

Heavy-Duty Tub and Shower Cleaner:
Take a spray bottle and fill it halfway with white vinegar. Heat in the microwave. Fill the rest of the way with blue Dawn. Apply sprayer and shake to mix well. Spray on your tub and shower walls. Allow to sit for a few minutes and rinse away. It will totally melt all the gunk, slime, sludge and other stuff that builds up including a bathtub ring. So amazing.

My notes: I have used ultra-concentrated Dawn at ½ the volume for original Dawn. I don’t use a microwave but vinegar heats up just as easily in a saucepan on the stovetop.


From Natural Cleaning for Your Home (Casey Kellar)

½ cup isopropyl alcohol
½ cup vinegar
2 tsp liquid soap blend (or liquid castile soap, such as Dr. Bronner’s)
6 cups warm water

Mix the ingredients together in a large plastic jug and shake well. To use the cleaner, pour some into a plastic spray bottle. Clean windows and mirrors with a soft cloth or newspapers. Shake well prior to each use and store in a cool, dark place.

My notes: It’s only gentle on you, not the grime. And the newspapers work great - don’t ever waste another paper towel.


½ tsp baking soda (you can use up to 1 tsp, according to your personal preference)
1 Tbsp vinegar
2 squeeze type containers (ie. Honey bottles, ketchup or mustard picnic bottles, Wilton drizzle bottle)

I use two recycled honey bottles with the squeeze tops. Place the ½ tsp baking soda in one with about ½ cup of warm water. Place the vinegar in about 1 cup warm water in the second container. Wet hair in the shower and apply the baking soda water. Direct the solution to your scalp and massage it in as you apply it. When you’ve worked that in begin drizzling your hair with the vinegar solution. Work it through your hair until your hair is saturated. If you have more hair than me, you may need to use more water in your solution. Then rinse your hair thoroughly. You will be able to comb it easily as the vinegar also works as a detangler.

Note: I don’t dry, curl, straighten, crimp or otherwise torment my hair. I also do not color my hair. This process leaves my hair shiny, manageable and soft. I cannot speak to what results you will achieve if you heat or chemically treat your hair.

After using these products, you couldn't give me their commercial versions.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Just Peachy!

Sweet Peach Sauce

1 Tbs olive oil
2 cups sliced red onion
3 cups chopped, peeled peaches
2 cups chopped tomato
2 Tbs minced, peeled fresh ginger
½ cup cider vinegar
½ cup fresh orange juice (about 1 orange)
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper

1. Heat olive oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.

2. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

3. Add peaches, tomato and ginger and cook for 2 minutes.

4. Add the vinegar and remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.

5. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

6. Place the peach mixture (1/2) in a food processor and process until smooth.

Yield: 3 cups

Or do like I did and make a double or triple batch, pack the hot sauce into hot jars and water bath for the appropriate time for you elevation. That's going to taste might fine come January and February!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Oatmeal Raisin Wookies

Let me present to you my recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Wookies (Waffle cOOKIES):

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup applesauce (no sugar added)
5 Tbsp firmly packed brown sugar
5 Tbsp xylitol (birch sugar)
1 egg
2 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
1/3 cup raisins
Nonstick spray

For your mis en place, put the egg, whites and vanilla in a small bowl. Whisk together the flour, salt, soda, and spices. In another bowl, mix the oatmeal and raisins.

Heat your waffle iron. (Mine has settings 1-4. I used 3.)

In a large bowl, whisk together the butter, applesauce, brown sugar and xylitol until smooth and caramel-like. Add egg, egg whites and vanilla. Whisk until fully incorporated. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the flour mixture and then the oatmeal mixture until all dry ingredients are moistened. It will initially seem liquidy but will quickly thicken up. Use a medium cookie scoop and place a scoop of batter in each quadrant of your waffle iron. Cook for 90 seconds and remove to a plate. Repeat.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Tie One On! - The Clothespin Apron

2/3 - 1 yard of fabric
Matching thread
Two large buttons

Marking pen or pencil
Sewing maching
Serger (optional)

This project requires 2/3 yard of outdoor home decorator fabric. I used Waverly Sun N Shade Outdoor fabric for this apron. The standard width is 54 inches. If your fabric is narrower, you will possibly need more. I chose this fabric because it is durable yet light in weight. It come in many colorful and attractive patterns. I have learned that a white or off-white clothespin apron will look soiled in short order if you are wearing it outdoors and bumping up against things.

You will be cutting five pieces to construct this apron. The layout I used is this (clicking on the image will give you a larger view):

There is the main body of the apron (16.25" x 23.5"); two pockets (10.75"x15" each); and two ties (3"x34" each).

Once your pieces are cut, the method for assembly is:

1. Fold ties in half lengthwise with the wrong side showing. Stitch one short end closed then turn the corner and stitch the length of the the tie using a 1/4" seam. To make turning easier, you may wish to tie a knot in the end of a length of heavy yarn and lay it into the folded tie before stitching, leaving the knot extended out of the end you first enclose with the seam. When you have sewn the length of the tie, you can pull on the yarn to being turning the tie right-side out.

2. Fold the two shorter sides of the main body of the apron 1/2 inch and press. Turn the raw edge into the pressed fold to created a 1/4" turned seam. Stitch.

3. Repeat this technique to finish the bottom hem of the apron.

4. Mark the pocket placements by drawing a line (using an appropriate fabric marking tool) that is 2.25" from the bottom edge and 1.25" from each of the side edges. This will help you place the pockets later.

5. Finish the side and bottom edges of each pocket. This is preferably done with a serger or it can be done using the zigzag feature on your sewing maching. (This step is important because the outdoor fabric is prone to fraying and yet it is too heavy to create unnecessary turned edges.)

6. Finish the top edge of the pocket with the same technique used on the sides and bottom hem of the apron. Turn 1/2" and press. Turn raw edge in to pressed fold and stitch close to the edge.

7. Fold pockets at each bottom corner, aligning straight edges and then marking a stitch line. Your line should be 2 1/4" from fold to finished edge. This will give the pocket depth.

8. Turn the corners right-side out and turn the extra fabric created by making this seam toward the bottom of the pocket. Since this apron will get a lot of hard use, I wanted to incorporate as few sewn edges as I could and to leave the corners intact so that I didn't have weak seam areas. These folds of fabric will also help the pockets natural tend to stay open.

9. Lay the pocket on a surface, right side up, and locate the center point of the top edge. Mark the place of your buttonhole. Create a buttonhole that is appropriate to the size of the button you have selected. The button hole should vertically on the upper edge of the pocket.

10. Lay your pocket again on a surface facing up. Make a mark on the top edge of the pocket 1.5" from the bottun hole toward the right and another to the left. Now fold these mark points toward one another and stopping just before reaching the buttonhole itself. This please will ensure that while your pocket is roomy, the top will not droop down and allow the contents to spill. Make sure all three layers of the folded pleat are aligned on the top edge and stitch through all layers. Repear this on the other side of the buttonhole. Your pocket should now have a tidy pleat that will permit the button to peak out of the center.

11. Fold the sides and the bottoms of the pockets in 1/2" (wrong sides together) all the way around the pocket and place pins to hold the turned edge in place.

12. Place the pocket on the apron in the right hand position, lining up folded edge with botton and right markings. Fold apron in half and make sure the pocket does not extend past the center. If it does, just ease in the extra a little. If it doesn't quite reach the center, that's OK.

13. Stitch the pocket in place from the top, very near the folded edge, and keeping it aligned with your placement markings. This will create less bulk and a double stitched seam for sturdiness.

14. Fold the top edge of the apron, wrong sides together, 3/8". Press. Turn again 1 1/4" and press. This creates a strengthend waist band.

15. Slide the raw edges of each tie into a folded end of the waist. Stitch each tie in place securely. The stitch the long folded edge of the apron waist.

16. Mark the button placement by placing the marking pen/pencil throught the buttonhold on each pocket and finding a position where the pocket looks like it's closed as much as you would like. (Stitch your buttons on using the sewing machine. (Stitch length 0 and width appropriate to the button holes. Draw front threads through to back by lifting back threads until you can see the loop. Tie threads in the back and trim to knot. This will fasten the button on more securely than hand-stitching may.)

Now fill your pockets with clothespins and be a laundry day fashionista!

Note: If any of these instructions don't make sense or if some step appears to be missing, please let me know. I am new to writing instructions and I appreciate any input you have.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Raising the Bar

Here's the nitty gritty:

1. Measure the space you plan to use in your refrigerator. This is your starting point. I actually made room to accommodate taller containers than I originally thought I'd use.

2. Visit a Walmart, Target or other store where plastic storage containers are found. Keep an open mind and peruse your options. I originally thought I'd get one large, shallow container but couldn't find one that would make the most use of the space. I found that these two containers would utilize the full width and depth of my shelf.

3. Find containers that fit within your main container(s). I actually spent a bit of time trying out a variety of insert containers. I looked for small containers that had straight sides, so that I wouldn't have wasted space as I seated them next to one another. I also realized that while a quart container of grape tomatoes or cauliflower would be about right, I did not need that large of a container for sunflower seeds. So I ended up with one quart freezer containers and one cup freezer containers that fit well in an arrangement together to make the most of the available space.

4. Take them home and wash them. Clean out your fridge. And see how your larger container(s) fit. Don't like the way it works? Get creative and move things around. Who says that a produce drawer can't hold small containers of dairy products? Who says egg cartons can't be stored on their sides?

5. Empty your produce drawers of all your salad items and prep them for the salad bar. You'll want to use a lid for items such as onions, which could make everything else smell like them, or for cucumbers, which are best when not dried out to the same humidity level as, say, mushrooms. If they don't need to be extra moist or aren't likely to share their aroma, I leave the small container open within the larger container to make it more convenient.

6. I leave half of one large container open to keep my lettuce handy, also. Line it with a paper towel, wash and tear your lettuce, place it loose in the open side, and cover lightly with a damp paper towel. Really, salad making doesn't get any easier than this.

7. Get creative with your salad bar contents. Don't think only produce, think of canned items that could jazz up your salad building, nuts, eggs, whatever you like to eat.

8. Remember, it's not just for breakfast. What would it be handy to have ready to go for making other meals a snap?

Here are some ideas to get you started:

What's in my salad bar right now?
Romaine lettuce
Iceberg lettuce
Hard boiled eggs (peeled and in fresh water)
Sunflower Seeds
Grape Tomatoes
Sweet Pepper

Things I have/will have in my salad bar:
Garbanzo Beans
Kidney Beans
Black Beans
Banana Pepper Rings
Mandarin Oranges
Snap Peas

Go crazy - It's all good for you!