Saturday, February 26, 2011

Baby Shower Basket

I went to a baby shower today for a beautiful young mother. It was my friend's daughter. It wasn't that long ago that I was attending my own shower. It really puts a perspective on how time flies.

I made this gift basket pictured above. I got everything at Target. I built up the inside with paper and added the crinkled purple paper strips inside so it would be pretty. I packed it with diapers, wipes, lavender bath, lavender candle, infant gowns, infant bodysuit, socks, toy, diaper sacks, diaper cream, clothes hangers, pacifiers, a toy, bathtub temperature duck, and a little blanket baby.

This is the back shown above. I shrink wrapped it. I don't do things like this often so it was fun. Usually, I crochet a baby blanket. No time lately.

After I got back, I made some Lavender Milk Bath Salts. They smell awesome, and I can't wait to try them. I was experimenting with a new recipe.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Organic Produce via the Internet

A few years back, getting produce in the mail from online ordering was hopeful for some but not likely for those of us in the sticks. Now, more websites are offering delivery to us secluded Texans. Since my closest organic health food store that serves produce is around 1 1/2 hours away, I found somebody on the internet to try out.

I decided to give Papa's Organic an order. I was able to select a bi-weekly fruit and veggie combo box. Since the shipping will be higher to come to my part of Texas from California, I chose bi-weekly. I can cancel at anytime. Worth a shot.

I am supposed to be on the next bi-weekly shipment so in a few weeks, I will let you know how it all goes.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Splinter Be Gone

Yesterday, I got a splinter in my big toe. Wasn't sure if it was a small fine splinter or a piece of glass. Yesterday was also the first day that D (14 month old) broke something - a glass charger plate to hold candles. So, I did sweep up some small shards of glass.

Before I got out my tweezers, I grabbed my Epsom Salt. I put 2 cups in a bucket of hot water (gallon). I soaked my foot while the baby played in his bath (maybe 15 minutes). Surprise! The Epsom Salt drew the splinter out of my foot. It is gone, no pain, and no tweezers.

Something that I didn't realize before was that when you put this in your bath water, your body absorbs the Magnesium Sulfate. I read somewhere this can even help with osteoporosis. Wow! I put 2 cups in my bath as well. It make you feel kind of floaty in the water. I also put a dropper full of tea tree oil in there, too. That is also good for your skin and hair.

I made a quick salad today for lunch, and it looks great. It tasted even yummier. Grilled chicken salad. Mmm

Friday, February 18, 2011

Sniffing Oils on Friday Night

Yep, that is what I am doing. I am trying to put together a blend of oils for a fragrance that I may want to use on some of my household cleaners or salts. I took the advice of a book I was reading that said to dip some test strips just barely in the oil. Put only 2 or 3 scents together and make one strip higher than the rest (dominant). I wondered if this would really work as well as it sounded. It did. I would take turns holding each strip higher than the rest and then fan them in front of my face. I was breathing in the coffee bean aroma between smells so my nose would be clear. I read that there should never be equal portion of dominant smells. The smells just compete too much.

Had a good day today. I juiced earlier and shared with my husband and friend. Apple, Tangelo, Celery, Cabbage and Carrot! I am celebrating today. I have lost 11 pounds in the lat 3 weeks. Woohoo for the Elliptical.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lavender Love

I have been hearing everyone talk about essential oils lately and posting all the good uses. I am already a big fan of anything homemade and natural. 

I have made everything from bath salts to green tea facials although I am just learning and love trying all of my favorite vendors' products. This morning I made a backup supply of bath salts for when my new favorite stash runs out.  My child hood friend, Melanie, creates an amazing bath salt from her family business - SixLittleHands. You can view it on Etsy here. I put this in my whirpool tub and RELAX. The water just fizzes and feels all tingly. I love it.

I tried to use some of my oil to freshen my clothes. I put a few drops on a damp rag and put in the dryer. It does not fight against static, but it does make the clothes and utility room smell wonderful.

My biggest fun today was adding 5-6 drops of my Lavender Essential Oil to my homemade Window/Glass Surface Cleaner. It was 5:1 of Vinegar & Water. The reason I quit using it before was because it didn't smell that good to me. Before today, I never thought of adding a smell to it. I had recently purchased Watkins Natural Lavender All Purpose Cleaner for $5.99 and loved it. I made it myself for much cheaper - probably less than $1.  My homemade cleaner smelled amazing. Lavender is supposed to relax you so there is another plus. Make a cute label, and it will make you smile.

I am most impressed with the homemade surface cleaner. My appliances wiped up nicely. I wiped off my shiny chrome on my washer and dryer, faucets, appliances, marble counter tops, mirrors, glass, tv, and most important - Flat Top Surface Stove!!! Just buff it off with a dry cloth if you want it to be streak-free.

The cleaner that I made today was the best smelling cleaner I have ever used. Also, I won't worry that my baby is touching everything. No toxic chemicals today. And it is okay if it goes down your drain and into your aerobic septic system.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Taking Crocheting Too Far

I love to crochet and search for new patterns sometimes. I saw this on the Lion Brand Yarn site.

 Crocheted Cheese Burger

I wonder why does someone spend all this time crocheting fake food? For decoration?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Beef Tips and Rice Pressure Cooker

I was in a hurry for dinner and didn't know what to make. I had already cooked up a big batch of Jasmine rice today in my rice cooker, and it was being kept warm. I had almost 2 lbs of stew meat thawed so I decided to make some Beef Tips and Rice in my pressure cooker.
Everything looks better in Fiesta!

Although I use a large pressure cooker for canning, I have smaller nicer ones that I use for my everyday cooking. You can cook chicken in no time, and the meat will fall off of the bones. That takes 10 minutes under pressure. You can cook pinto beans in around 55 minutes. Roast is done in less than an hour. Boiled Peanuts!!! I could go on forever.

Fagor Splendid 6 quart Pressure Cooker. This is the best sized pressure cooker for everyday cooking I have found. It has more than one safety feature and will not allow you to open with pressure. Not all are created this nice.

Beef Tips & Rice

Ingredients: Cooked rice, 2 lbs stew meat (cubed), 1 onion (chopped), brown gravy mix, 3 cups water, salt, garlic powder, pepper, soy sauce, Worcestershire.

Anyway, here is how I cooked my Beef Tips. I heated up a few tbsp of olive oil in the pressure cooker saucepan with lid off. I seasoned my meat with garlic powder, salt, pepper. 1/2 tsp is a good amount if you are unsure how much to put of each season. Brown your meat. I dropped a chopped onion to cook over my beef cubes. After the onions started cooking down,  I added 1/4 cup or a few good shakes of Soy Sauce, and 1/4 cup (few shakes) of Worcestershire, 2 cups of water, and mixed up one packet of gravy mix with a cup of water. Most people add brown gravy mix. I had some Cajun red gravy mix so I used that. I added the gravy mixture in and stirred well. Locked on the lid. I cooked on med-high until I reached pressure. Then, I lower my burner but kept hot enough to remain under pressure. I cooked for 20 minutes and then released the pressure. You may need to thicken your gravy a little bit. I have a container of brown gravy mix that shakes out. It is Tony Chachere. Sometimes I add it to stuff I want to thicken instead of flour or corn starch. Learning to cook with pressure cookers on an electric stove is an art. Learning to cook with one on a flat top stove is a tricky skill!!! I also can on my flat top stove.

The Beef Tips and gravy tasted like it had simmered for 2 hours just like most recipes call for. If you are a busy mom, get a rice cooker and a pressure cooker. No more boiling stuff for hours in the kitchen. Soups don't have to cook all day. I think of it as Cooking Smart with your time.

This got my little 13 month old baby boy's approval. The meat fell apart and was easy for him to eat. This is him after eating, bathing, and now brushing his teeth.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Snow again... Ugh

Living close to Texarkana, we don't usually get too much snow. We get little bits of flurries and occasionally it will stick. This year has been different. This is our third time to get snow. We had it for around 4 days the first time. Then, shortly after, we got it again. The day we got snowed in the second time, my son developed an abscessed tooth. Oh, the feeling of helplessness. Now, it did it again. I think it may have only been one week or less since the last one.

This is a view from my back porch into our back yard. Our backyard drops off and is two different levels. Alex said this was really soft snow and wasn't able to snowboard as good down the back hill. haha

We didn't get it very heavy this time, but it is just enough to become annoying.

Friday, February 04, 2011

I Can Can

Last week, I canned twice. Ground Beef and Potatoes. Last Friday night, I decided to can ground beef. Here is how I did it.

This was my first time to can strictly a meat. This was kind of a test. Ground beef is cheap, so that is why I canned ground beef.

Update: I have tasted the ground beef, and I would probably not can this again. Although it preserved it, the texture of the ground beef was not good to me. It changed the taste and texture. If I was broke and hungry, I would eat it.

I bought a 10 lb tube of ground beef because it was on sale for $10. Kaching! I cooked it with some onions and seasoning. I also put water in it while I was cooking it because I wanted to help get some of the grease off of it. It is important to not can foods that are too greasy because that can mess up the sealing process. (so I have heard) I then drained the meat after it was cooked. I tasted it and made sure that it tasted good with seasoning.

While I was cooking the meat, I got all of my equipment ready for pressure canning. I got my quart jars ready as well. I spooned ground beef in the jars and topped off with beef broth. I left 1 inch headroom. 

I processed for 90 minutes and was able to fill 3 quart jars. These jars will be great the next time I make spaghetti sauce, tacos, or casseroles. Once the jars came out of the pressure cooker, they looked the same as when I put them in but bubbling.

As they cooled overnight, the grease rose to the top and created a ring around the top. This is normal. I saw this in other people's pictures. When I reheat this, I will do as always (bring to boil for a few minutes or really hot in skillet).

Wednesday night, I canned potatoes. I saw a video where people were cooking mashed potatoes from canned potatoes. Looked easy on the fly. So, I had to try.

I bought a 10 lb bag of potatoes for cheap (a little over $3). I peeled, quartered, and chunked all of the potatoes. I covered them in water in a large stockpot and brought to a boil for 10 minutes. Then, I packed my jars to an inch of headroom left. I added 1 tsp of salt in each quart and covered with hot/boiling water. I sealed and then cooked under pressure for 40 minutes (quarts). A 10 lb bag of potatoes will yield 6 quarts of potatoes. I made 2 pints instead of one of my quarts. One of my pints did not seal so I used them the next day.

These potatoes will come in handy next time I am making soups, mashed potatoes, or casseroles.