Tuesday, June 21, 2011

TAKING TIME OFF

For some time now, I've been teetering back and forth with whether or not to continue contributing to my blog. I still LOVE all things related to cooking and food, but have kinda lost my drive to blog about it. It has become more of a chore than the passion it once was for me. So, instead of declaring the end of my blogging adventure, I'm declaring time off. That's a lot safer to say, right? That way, I can continue blogging in a week, a month, or just "fade away". 
I have appreciated all the support my blog has received through comments here, as well as by mouth. There are SO many wonderful blogs out there! Blogging has broadened my view of cooking and baking, and has encouraged me to pursue a fun, new hobby; photography! So, I'll send you out on these. They turned out pretty cute for a beginner, if I do say so myself!

My girls, middle and right, with their cousin

"kissing cousins"

My niece

My 3 kids

My niece and nephew

until next time...

Friday, June 17, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - PLAYDOUGH

Photo by Instructables.com

School's out and the kids are always looking for something to do, and parents are always trying to come up with something for them to do!  Good old playdough can keep kids hands busy for a while, but if you're like me, any you might have had on hand is now rock-solid. I'm sure many of you have made your own before, but for those of you who haven't, this is SOOO easy and SOOO cheap, and can be made from stuff you likely always have on hand!


PLAYDOUGH


Basic ingredient ratios:
2 cups flour
2 cups warm water
1 cup salt
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon cream of tartar (optional for improved elasticity)

food coloring (liquid, powder, or unsweetened drink mix)
scented oils

Mix all of the ingredients together, and stir over low heat. The dough will begin to thicken until it resembles mashed potatoes.

When the dough pulls away from the sides and clumps in the center, as shown below, remove the pan from heat and allow the dough to cool enough to handle.

IMPORTANT NOTE: if your playdough is still sticky, you simply need to cook it longer!
Keep stirring and cooking until the dough is dry and feels like playdough.
Just keep cooking a bit longer and it will work!

Turn the dough out onto a clean counter or silicone mat, and knead vigorously until it becomes silky-smooth. Divide the dough into balls for coloring.

Make a divot in the center of the ball, and drop some food coloring1 
in. Fold the dough over, working the food color through the body of the playdough, trying to keep the raw dye away from your hands and the counter. You could use gloves or plastic wrap at this stage to keep your hands clean- only the concentrated dye will color your skin, so as soon as it's worked in bare hands are fine.

Work the dye through, adding more as necessary to achieve your chosen color.

1 If you use unsweetened drink mix for color, test on a small ball first- it won't go as far as the "real" food coloring.

(To prevent my hands from becoming stained, I put my dough in a plastic resealable bag, then drop in the coloring. Let all the air out, seal, then massage the coloring through the dough.)

Play with your playdough- I really don't need to help you there. It's entirely edible, if a bit salty, so it's kid-safe.

When you're done, store your playdough in an air-tight container.
- If it begins to dry out, you can knead a bit of water in again to soften the dough back to useability. Once it's dried past a certain point, however, you'll just have to start over; thankfully it's not terribly difficult.
- If it gets soggy, you can re-heat it to drive off the extra water the dough absorbed overnight.  This is usually the result of high humidity, but is fixable!

You can also bake it in the oven to make hard dough figures and ornaments, then paint or otherwise decorate the surface.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

"SPICY" MARINATED BURGERS


While searching for a turkey burger recipe, I came across this one, but almost dismissed it because it's title said "spicy", and just saying the word spicy makes my kids tongue burn! But, once I got looking through it, I realized I could adjust the spice level to my family's liking. And I'm glad I did. These turned out so moist and flavorful! 

SPICY MARINATED BURGERS         makes 5 burgers


1 1/4 lb. lean ground beef or ground turkey (I used turkey)
1/4 C. water
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire
1 tsp. EACH, BBQ sauce, Chili powder, Cumin (I suggest 1/2 tsp.), Cajun seasoning (I omitted this to cut down on spiciness)
1/2 tsp. EACH black pepper, red pepper flakes 
1/4 tsp. EACH tabasco sauce, liquid smoke
Buns & toppings of choice. I used Sandwich Thins, bacon, cheddar cheese, lettuce, and red onion*

* A tip for using raw onion - soak sliced onion in cold water, then pat dry to decrease its "bite".

Combine all ingredients but the ground meat and mix together in a medium sized bowl. Crumble beef over the top of the mixture and then use your hands to thoroughly combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour to "marinate" the meat. Shape into 5 patties, then grill to your liking. Serve on bun with desired toppings.

Friday, June 10, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - PUDDING POPS


These pudding pops are an easy, tasty treat for the summer days ahead! You can make them any flavor you like, and can use sugar free pudding if you like. It's been MANY years since I've even looked at the price of pudding pops, but I know the average range for frozen treats (other than twin pops) is $3-$5. One box of pudding makes about 9 pops, so for a little over a dollar per batch, the savings will add up fast!

PUDDING POPS                            makes 9
recipe from Kraftfoods.com


1 large package instant pudding mix (vanilla is shown above)
3 C. cold milk
9 Oreos, crushed (optional)
3/4 C. thawed whipped topping (such as Cool Whip)

1. Make pudding according to package directions.
2. Fold in crushed Oreos and whipped topping.
3. Spoon into 9 small paper or plastic cups or popsicle molds
4. Insert wooden pop stick or plastic spoon into each for a handle.
5. Freeze until firm, about 5 hours.

**To easily remove from cup, Place bottom of cup in warm water for a few seconds, then press up on bottom of cup.

Friday, June 3, 2011

FRUGAL FRIDAY - CAKE FLOUR

Have you ever pulled out a recipe to make and it calls for cake flour, but all you had on hand was all-purpose? If you are like me, you just go ahead and make it with all-purpose and figure you won't know what you are missing out on. Well, here's a simple way to make your own cake flour by adding cornstarch. Cake flour will lighten your baked good and make it soft and delicious! Not to mention, save money and a trip to the store.

There's a great step-by-step to make this on Joy The Baker.




Wednesday, June 1, 2011

HOMEMADE OREOS


This is an oldie, but SUCH a goodie! I haven't bothered posting this in the past because I'm sure that everyone already has this recipe, or some form of it. But, since it is such a beloved cookie in our home, I finally figured what the heck. There just might be someone out there who has never made these and would appreciate trying them out. 
Yes, a boxed cake mix is used, but hey, that's what makes them so easy to make, even if it is 10:00 at night! 

HOMEMADE OREOS                      makes about 2 dozen sandwich cookies


Cookies:
2 pkgs. Devils Food Cake Mix* (do NOT make according to package)
4 eggs
1 1/2 C. shortening
Blend all ingredients together well. Dough will be very thick and stiff.  Roll into balls and place on ungreased baking sheet. Flatten very slightly. Bake @ 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake! They may appear doughy, but will set up as they cool. Let set on baking sheet a few minutes, then remove to cooling rack. When completely cool, spread the following filling between 2 cookies. 

Filling:
8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
1/2 C. margarine or butter, softened
4 C. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
Blend cream cheese and butter until smooth. Mix in vanilla, then add powdered sugar. Blend until powdered sugar is fully incorporated and mixture is smooth. May need to add slightly more powdered sugar to get the right consistency. You don't want the filling oozing out the sides of cookie, so slightly thicker is better.

*Any flavor cake mix can be used such as strawberry or lemon.