Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Make Your Own Fire Starters


The winter chill is upon us and there is nothing better the sitting next to a cozy fire. Commercial fire starters can easily run $9.50 for a box of 24. So why not make them yourself and save a little money this winter.

Take an ordinary toilet paper roll or a paper towel roll ( if using a paper towel run cut it in half so you can make 2).

Stuff your toilet paper roll with ordinary dryer lint until it is full.

Then place it in your fireplace or wood stove and lite.


Fire starters work because they are highly flammable please take all necessary precautions when using them. Safety first!

If you save your fireplace ashes this winter they will act as garden fertilizer this spring. ( more to come on that).

Always make sure your ashes are completely cool if your throwing them away in the garbage. They can catch your can, your house or even the garbage truck on fire. Last year alone there were several garbage truck fires due to the disposal of hot ashes.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Homemade Peanut Butter

Have you ever wondered how to make homemade Peanut Butter, its actually not that hard at all. It also has a whole lot less ingredients in it then what I read on a store bought can last night.


For this recipe I used unsalted peanuts though the recipe I was going off of says any kind of peanuts will work- salted, unsalted, roasted, honey roasted or even organic peanuts. Personally I think any kind of nut would work - especially almond and cashews since I know you can buy both of them as very expensive nut butters.

2 pounds of unsalted shelled peanuts (which came out to be 4 cups after the shells and skins were removed) Note the bag in the picture is a 5 pound bag and I didn't use it all.

1 Tablespoon of peanut oil per cup - Total 4 Tablespoons for the entire recipe. ( the original recipe called for only 2 teaspoons per cup but I found this to be way to dry and not spreadable at all so I added another teaspoon - which for those who don't know 3 teaspoons equals a Tablespoon).
I have seen where some people use grape seed oil instead of peanut oil - but in that case I'm not sure if the oil amount would be the same or not.

1 Tablespoon of Honey per cup as a sweetener. Total 4 Tablespoons for the entire recipe This is optional but I think it taste better this way.

This is what 2 pound of peanuts look like still in their shells.

This is what those same peanuts looked like after we took off the shells and skins. These peanuts are now ready for the food processor. This is 4 cups of peanuts we measured them out. For my food processor I felt that anymore then 2 cups of peanuts was to much so we made 2 batches of peanut butter and combined them in a jar.

So as I said I added 2 cups of peanuts to the food processor and turned it on. You are going to want to chop them until they are a fine powder. If you don't chop them as fine you will have a chunkier peanut butter.

After the peanuts are finely chopped to you liking you can go ahead and add the oil. 1 Tablespoon per cup of dry peanuts and turned the food processor back on.

Then I added 1 Tablespoon of honey per cup and again turned the food processor back on till it was mixed in well.

When your happy with the consistency and level of sweetness it is done and can be stored in a jar.

I placed my jar of peanut butter in the refrigerator since I didn't use any heating in making it. I also knew with the size of my large family it would not take that long to finish it. They love peanut butter. To be honest I'm kind of surprised they didn't finish it in one sitting.
This peanut butter is thicker then commercial ones. I also find it to have a slightly different taste as you can taste the peanuts in it.

Long Term Storage

1. The government "experts" do not recommend canning peanut butter though before 1978 a recipe for just that was in the Ball canning book. They are one of the foremost experts on canning. This has caused major controversy among the canning community.

2. It is "safe" to roast the nuts in the oven and can them. So if you wanted to have your nuts roasted and canned it wouldn't take long to make up a batch of peanut butter.

3. It is safe to freeze peanut butter - though I do not know how long it will keep.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

How to make Sweet Cream Butter from scratch

Have you ever thought about making your own butter? This is a fun activity to do with kids. It can also be made in a jar by shaking it back and forth until the separation of butter and buttermilk occur. While making butter is a fun activity do you realize it can be a very useful skill to have. Here in the north snow storms are a common occurrence, as a result the store shelves are often picked clean. What would happen if you walked into the store and there was no butter or margarine? Knowing how to make butter from scratch will give you one more option and since this seems to be a lost skill in the modern era there is a pretty good chance that what you need will still be on the store shelves.

One quart of heavy whipping cream will make about 1 pound of butter and a 1/2 quart of buttermilk.


1 container of heavy whipping cream. - I used a pint size which will make about a 1/2 pound of butter, but a quart will easily fit into the bowl.

Pour the cold, heavy cream into a chilled mixing bowl. Turn the mixer on and go slowly up to high speed and let the cream go through the stages of whipping cream, heavy whipping cream, and finally, two separate products of butter and buttermilk.

This is what heavy cream looks like - keep mixing.

As you can see the cream will start to change its look as it breaks down. - remember to scrape the sides occasionally to get all the heavy cream mixed in.

As the butter begins to separate from the buttermilk, turn the speed to low.

The butter is now ready to be drained.

Drain off the buttermilk from the butter.

As you can see you now have butter and buttermilk. the buttermilk is done and can be put in a container and placed in the refrigerator for making pancakes, biscuits or anything else that calls for it.
Your not done just yet.

The directions call for you to knead the butter with a wet wooden spoon or a rubber scraper to force out any remaining milk as you need. I have found it easier to do this by hand.

When it seems that all the milk is out, refill the bowl with ice water and continue kneading to wash out all the remaining milk. I found it easier after rinsing it in water to run it under cold water. I keep kneading it under cold water till the water runs clean to make sure all the buttermilk has been removed. This is important because any buttermilk left in the butter will cause it to spoil.

Shape the butter as desired you now have sweet butter.

If you want salted butter mix in a teaspoon of flake salt ( you can use regular table salt, though I would start with less and work up to a teaspoon. Remember it is always better to add less to start because you can always add more but you can't take it away)

If you want bright yellow butter instead of white add butter food coloring.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix

Hot Chocolate is a winter time staple for most families that you can now make yourself.

Prep time is 10 minutes     Makes 12 servings

6 cups of Instant Nonfat Dry Milk

1 1/2 cups of Sugar

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons of Baking Cocoa

1 1/2 cups Miniature Marshmallows (optional)

Combine dry milk, sugar, cocoa and marshmallows in a large bowl and mix well.

After it is mixed pour it into 2- quart size mason jars or another container with a lid to seal it.


(Note: picture taken outside for lighting purposes)

To Serve:

Measure 1/2 cup of hot chocolate mix into a mug. Stir in 1 cup of hot water or Milk. Makes 12 servings.

To give as a gift:
Place in a mason jar and decorate with fabric and a ribbon to attach serving instructions to it.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Planting Garlic

Did you know that mid to late October is the perfect time to plant garlic at least here in the Midwest. A fall planting will allow you to harvest your garlic mid summer. In our home the garlic will then be dried and turned into garlic powder which is a staple here.

The first thing you want to do after deciding where you want your garlic to be planted is to turn up the soil getting rid of as many weeds as possible. My son volunteered to help me out for this job.

You will then want to get some garlic to plant. For the first year you can purchase regular garlic at the grocery store this will work just fine. For the following years it is a common practice to save some of your new garlic to plant in the fall. So in theory with a little time and effort you could only have to buy garlic your first year and every year after that is just free bonus garlic.

To get the garlic ready to be planted you first need to peel it and separate out the garlic cloves. Each of those bumps on the sides of your garlic is a clove and will produce a garlic plant.

This is what the cloves will look like when they are ready to be planted.

Make 1 inch deep holes approximately 3 inches apart.

Place 1 clove of garlic in each hole pointed side up.

Cover with loose top soil.

Layer with straw.

I will watch how the garlic progresses and provide follow ups this coming spring and summer.

Homemade Velvetta Cheese Clone


1 1/2 cups water- very hot

1/2 cup instant dry milk ( or powdered milk same thing) plus 1 Tablespoon

1 1/2 teaspoon of unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 lbs of cheese shredded ( 24oz) - Buy the block cheese and shred it yourself I'll show you why this is important later on. ( Mild Cheddar will give you the closest flavor but any kind will work)

Here is the official recipe - I will show you how to do this very easily later in this post:

1) Line a 8x4x2- 5" loaf pan ( a regular size bread pan)

2) In a blender put 1/2 cup of hot water, 3 Tablespoons of dry milk, and 1 teaspoon of gelatin in. Whip until gelatin dissolves.

3) Quickly add 1/2 pound (8oz) of cheese to the hot water mixture.

4) Whip until blended

5) Pour into a prepared pan

6) Repeat this twice until all the ingredients are used.

7) Cover the pan with more plastic wrap and chill overnight before unmolding.

8) Keep cold and slice as needed.

I found this way to be the easiest:

I have found it to be easier an less confusing to pull out 9 cereal bowl. In the top 3 bowls I put 3 Tablespoons of milk in each bowl. In the middle 3 bowls I put 1/2 teaspoon of gelatin in each bowl. And In the bottom 3 bowls I put 8oz of cheese. ( there is only 24 oz of cheese that your shredding so this will come out more then a cup in each bowl. - to avoid measuring you can just shred 3-8oz blocks of cheese 1 in each bowl).

I lined my loaf pan as the recipe directed.

Then I was ready to start. To make sure I had Hot Water like the recipe directed. I put hot tap water in a coffee cup in the microwave each time for 1 minute and 45 seconds.

When my first 1/2 cup of water beeped I pour it into the bowl (I was using my stick blender  you can use either a stick blender or a traditional blender). dumped in 1 bowl of milk. and 1 bowl of gelatin. I blended that up, it didn't take long at all. When that was mixed completely I dumped 1 bowl of cheese in and blended till the cheese was mixed well. I poured that mixture into the pan and started this whole process over two more times.
When the last batch was mixed I covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator overnight to gel up.
By the next morning it had the feel that bouncy feel to it.

For this batch we used Colby Cheese any flavor will work but I believe to get the closest match a Mild Cheddar may be your best option.

It had a good flavor and it would work well for cheese sandwiches. I am not sure about nacho's as I did not try them.
I decided to use mine in a ham and potato casserole we make up. Personally my husband and I didn't think it had to much cheese flavor when melted. It had a creamy milky flavor to it which wasn't bad tasting but not the normal cheese flavor our casserole usually has. Now my 18 year old daughter on the other had liked it and said she did taste a cheese flavor to it and that it didn't have the salty taste that traditional processed cheese has.

Here is why I stated to shred it yourself:
I actually made two batches Colby which I shredded myself and Sharp Cheddar which I bought a bag of finely shredded cheese. The Sharp cheddar did not mix up as nicely it more clumped to the bottom of the bowl. Because of that it didn't have as nice of a color to it.

The Colby is on the left and the Sharp Cheddar is on the right. You can easily see the color difference.

Where do I find instant dry milk and unflavored gelatin?

Instant dry milk can be found at almost any grocery store it would be in the baking aisle.

Unflavored gelatin can also be found in any grocery store usually in the same areas where you find Jello. It is not Jello though and it will be labeled unflavored gelatin. It will be either lower or higher then the actual Jello brand. Knox gelatin is a popular brand though any brand will work just fine.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Homemade Cinnamon Sugar

Cinnamon Sugar is one of the easiest things you can make. In this day and age when the budget doesn't go as far as it use to doing a few minor adjustments can make a difference. So here is how to take back at least a small portion of control over the grocery stores. You can use any brands at all. You can make this very inexpensive or you can use all organic ingredients the choice is really up to you.

Cinnamon Sugar

1 cup of regular white sugar

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

In a bowl put in 1 cup of sugar.

and 2 teaspoons of cinnamon to the sugar. ( Don't worry if your bowl looks like it has more cinnamon in it then this picture. It will to be honest I usually do not measure it out I have been making it so long I don't need to).

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together.

Put the cinnamon sugar in a resealable container and enjoy your savings.