Author Archives: Sarah

One Minute No Sew Superhero Cape

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Do you have some mini superheros running around your home? Then you know the basic issues with those capes.

You can improvise by tying a blanket around their neck.

Get ready to hear, “Mom, could you tie it again?”

You can splurge on Velcro-attached capes, or get crafty and sew one yourself.

Have fun pulling that Velcro off your laundry.

Here’s what I came up with this afternoon. All I needed was an old T-shirt and scissors.
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Cut from the bottom of the shirt up to the collar, forming a rough triangle.

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Carefully snip around the collar.

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Done.

This is a cape that they can put on and take off by themselves, and has no special washing instructions.

I hacked up the front of the shirt to make cleaning rags, so this old T-shirt now has two uses.

Have fun and make one for yourself!

Who has a good kumquat recipe?

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I took an extra loop on my walk the other day, and it yielded an unexpected benefit. I noticed that a neighbor had loaded kumquat trees! I wondered if she was interested in exchanging some kumquats for some kumquat marmalade.

When I went back to ask for some, she was so excited that she offered to help me pick them!

Within a few minutes we had harvested about two gallons of the perfectly ripe fresh kumquats.

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I have had kumquats and strawberries in various stages of cooking, soaking, and macerating over the past few days. I can eat maybe 5 plain at a time. They are delicious, but not something that I can just sit and eat in one sitting, like say, grapes. I need serving suggestions.

Here’s what I’ve got so far.

1. Kumquat Marmalade

2. Strawberry Kumquat Marmalade

3. Candied Kumquats

4. Cinnamon Kumquats from the Ball book

5. A strawberry kumquat-ade type drink(definitely need a better name for it!)

6. Kumquat Preserves

How do you like to eat kumquats? What we would do you do with so many kumquats? I may go take her up on her offer to go back and get more, but I want to make good use of what I have, and not waste these delicious little fruits.

I know I have some creative and resourceful readers- what are your ideas?

Did you start your tomatoes on Valentine’s Day?

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This year, I’m trying to eke out a bit more from my winter garden. Hopefully having the garden busy with radishes, turnips, and mustard greens will keep me from poking bean seeds into cool soil.

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I love being able to harvest the dinner vegetable just minutes before cooking it.

More kale, three types of turnips, and hopefully some carrots will be making an appearance soon.

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I did get some tomatoes, peppers, dill, and cucumbers started this week. It seems as though winter is over, and I do have a few rows that will be available.

I need to save some more seeds this year from my ‘National Pickling’ cucumbers. I use them to make refrigerator pickles, and we look forward to them each year.

Really, if I could only grow one vegetable each spring, I think cucumbers would be it.

What is your favorite vegetable to grow in the spring?

 

Woodland Themed Baby Shower Cake Tutorial

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I love chocolate cake. When I was talking over cake ideas, the idea of a log cake for a woodland themed baby shower was tossed out for consideration. Gotta be chocolate.

Three cakes from Pinterest were sent to me as inspiration (this one, this one, and this one), and I started looking at cakes and sketching ideas.

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Woodland Themed Cake

I decided to to do a tall log on its side, and to do the outside log detail out of chocolate fudge frosting, and to fill it with mocha filling. The cake would be chocolate, of course!

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It was 6 layers tall, and so needed some simple engineering to keep it from collapsing from its own weight. I used dowel rods to support the top three layers on their board.

I kept the cake extremely cold or frozen during the stacking and crumb coat.

I used a small offset spatula to add the grooves in the bark, and added accents of light brown with remaining mocha frosting.

The top was the lighter brown mocha, with the rings added using small round tip, then smudged slightly.

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Woodland Cake Stand

A little green was spackled on too, to look like moss. Hunter green leaves (I used a Wilton #352 tip) added interest on the sides and fastened the toadstools on the cake.

Yep, that’s a real slice of wood as the cake stand! A piece of parchment paper protected the  cake (and eaters!) from splinters. 🙂

I made little toadstools out of marshmallow fondant, let the the caps and stems dry separately overnight, then painted the caps with Wilton red frosting color. Half of a toothpick helped support the toadstools, and white frosting glued them together and was piped on in polka dots. I really liked the color that they added.

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Woodland Cake Idea

Bunting(made by the crafty mommy) and a cute little fox garden pick completed the look.

The guest of honor was very happy  with the cake. 🙂

Chocolate and coffee- one of my favorite combinations!

How to Strain your Homemade Yogurt to Make It Thick

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You can make your own yogurt at home, but if you are expecting mounded spoonfuls, you will probably be disappointed.

Making homemade yogurt is easy (see how in my post here), and straining it requires practically no effort.

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After the culturing time, simply pour your warm yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth. I used a double layer.

A friend of mine didn’t have  cheesecloth and used coffee filters instead, and she was able to get the Greek yogurt consistency that she wanted. I tried it that way too, and it worked just fine.

I set mine in the fridge to strain, that way it is cold at the end of the straining time.

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You should have a commercial yogurt consistency in just three hours. Leave longer if you want Greek yogurt.

If it gets too thick, simply whisk in some of the whey.

Don’t throw away the yellow whey that is left!

I store my whey in the fridge and have used it in place of milk in a muffin recipe. I want to try it in homemade bread too. A few nights ago I replaced most of the milk in a waffle recipe with the whey.  They were the softest, most tender waffles I have ever eaten.

I’m guessing that the fine texture was due to the acidic whey reacting with the baking powder-maybe one of you foodies could confirm my theory?

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Have you made homemade yogurt yet? Do you strain yours, or eat as is?

What do you do with the whey?

Crisis averted, everybody! I’m reading about chickens this week.

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I really wanted goats last week. I read about their milk production, thought about inexpensive milk, cheese, butter… and went a bit crazy.

Thankfully, I have some level-headed readers who tactfully brought up some of the drawbacks to having goats.

1. Escaping. Ha! That’s just what I need, a dog and two goats roaming the neighborhood. I can just imagine me driving around, ” Excuse me, have you seen a yellow Lab and two goats wandering around here?” Nope. Just can’t do it.

2. Noise. Apparently if you only have one or two they might make lots of noise. No, not for me. I have enough noise, thank you.

3. Space. We have a pretty big backyard; but fitting my gardens, dogs, humans, and (hopefully chickens!) as well as goats would be a bit much.

Thank you to all of you who gently but firmly reined me in from turning my backyard into a mini farm. You gave me enough of the good characteristics of goats that I have not ruled them out forever, but I am not actively searching Craigslist for goat listings anymore. 🙂

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I’ve been reading about chickens. This book has some pretty neat coops.

Also, reading about using a broody hen to raise mail-order or feed store chicks has been interesting. I’m eyeing my dog’s kennel with a repurposing eye now.

Anyway, I’ll show you how to strain your homemade yogurt soon, and also share a woodland themed baby shower cake I decorated. No goats will be in either of those posts! 🙂

Now I Want a Goat. Well, Maybe 2 Goats.

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I thought I was going to need a cow for my family.

Then I read that a cow can produce 10 gallons of milk a day. We like milk, but that is a bit much.
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So I got this book from the library, and learned that apparently a goat can produce 200 gallons a year. Still a lot of milk, to be sure, but we easily go through 2 gallons a week, and that doesn’t include other milk products such as butter, cheese, yogurt(I’ve just started making my own!), and ice cream.

I also read that goat milk tastes like cow’s milk, which is a definite plus.

Drawbacks:
1. You’re supposed to have 2 so they can keep each other company.

2. They need to be bred to keep up milk production, and with that of course comes a time when you should let her rest from making milk and then feed her kid(s). Oh, and I’d will have to find a buck to borrow, since I don’t think I could convince my husband to get three goats. Actually, he probably won’t even go for two, especially since we live in a neighborhood… Anyway, back to dreaming. I guess that makes #3.

3. We live in a neighborhood. Chickens might be stretching it.

So I think Nigerian dwarf goats would be nice, they’re rather small (50 lbs) and probably would produce about as much milk as we need, plus we could use surplus for butter ( which I could freeze) and yogurt. I would be fun to also try my hand at making cheese.

I wonder if I could have them in my backyard. Probably not. It would probably violate some zoning law.

Maybe we should move to the country so I can have some goats.

And chickens.

Hmmm. Maybe I should just start with chickens, but the book estimates that i could have milk for about $1.70 a gallon, and that’s after factoring in feed costs!

Do any of you have goats? What have been your experiences?

Are they noisy? Smelly? Worth the feed and work? Are they good with human kids? Does goat milk really taste like cow’s milk?

Do you think the neighbors would notice??? I have a privacy fence… Maybe they would like some fresh feta cheese??

Somebody talk some sense into me.

Tell me they really stink and that the neighbors will surely complain. Tell me I don’t have room and that the human kids will have nowhere to play. Tell me to start off with three chickens like a normal person and see how I like that.

But fresh milk!!!!!

Risky Business: Planting in January

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If you’re supposed to make hay while the sun shines, shouldn’t you also plant seeds when the ground is tilled? Even if it is January?

I was able to plant 3 types of turnips, kohlrabi, mustard greens, cabbage collards, kale, daikon radishes, and lettuce. The center box has Yukon Gold potatoes on the left, red potatoes on the right.

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I planted my rows east to west this time, and scattered seeds in wide rows. These winter greens and root veggies don’t need much cultivation, so I just left about 6 inches for me to navigate between rows. The less bare ground there is, the less area weeds have available, especially since I am not going to mulch the little paths.

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My husband mulched the center path with these leaves from somebody else’s yard, anybody recognize the type of tree?

We’ve had some nice rain, some pounding rain, and varying temps, so we’ll see how it goes. I planted carrots too, but I have had such a tough time with them. I planted a Kaleidescope variety of colors, so it will be fun if I actually get to harvest them.

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After the pounding rain, I checked on the seeds, and of course noticed some that had been washed into low spots, but was excited to see some of the daikons had started to sprout. I’m really hoping for some great vegetables from this garden. Fall/winter can be a great gardening time in North Florida. What about you? Are you snowed in for the week?

I recently did a woodland themed cake for a baby shower and plan to share that with you soon.

How To Make Homemade Plain Yogurt

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I still have a hard time believing that I actually made yogurt at home. This is going to be one of the easiest, yet most impressive recipes you’ve made. It’s really simple, and I refuse to complicate it in a long drawn out post.

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All you need is 2 quarts of milk and 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with active cultures.

Heat the 2 quarts of milk to almost boiling (200 degrees), then let it set until just warm (115 degrees).

In a separate cup, whisk 1/2 cup plain yogurt into a bit of the warm milk, then mix it all together.

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Leave in warm place (I used my oven with the pilot light on) for 8 hrs or overnight. It will look similar to the picture above.

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Chill in fridge for a few hours, scoop out the liquidy whey, stir to smooth out the chunks, and serve!

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That’s it!

Heat, cool, mix, set in oven, chill in fridge.

This yogurt is quite a bit thinner than store yogurt, but I have a theory that I’m going to test. Hopefully I can make it thicker without extending the waiting time.

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So far I’ve enjoyed my yogurt mixed with a bit of blueberry jam(if you like fruity commercial yogurts you will probably like it this way), in a peach smoothie, and with granola and honey.

It is so good.

You have got to try making yogurt! I thought it was one of those complicated products that needed special equipment and expertise, but if I can do it in my kitchen, so can you!

If you try it, I’d love to hear about it!

IT WORKED!!! I Made Yogurt!

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I have to admit, I was a bit apprehensive about eating milk that had been left in a warm oven overnight. I was eager to see if the yogurt had gotten firm, and how it would taste.

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I skimmed off some of the liquidy whey, as I had read that homemade yogurt is not as firm as store yogurt (sometimes due to the companies adding gelatin). I did not strain it, but did find it to be fairly thick. I typically use yogurt for smoothies, so soft yogurt is not a problem for me.

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My husband likes sugary yogurt with fruit, but he was brave enough to try it for me.

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Yep, he thought it was really gross. I think that was his first time ever trying plain yogurt.

Anyway, he happened to read me a bit of a survival book last night about how you could tell if a plant is edible. Apparently you put it on lips for 3 minutes, then on tongue for 15 minutes, then chew and leave in mouth for 15 minutes, then swallow it and see if any adverse effects appear within 8 hours. If you feel discomfort or irritation after any step, stop; but if you’re still doing fine after the 8 hours, the plant is edible. 

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So, if I’m still doing well in 8 hours, I’ll report back to you with what will be probably the shortest ever yogurt making tutorial. It was really easy, so I don’t intend to complicate it.

Did I save money?

Well, I got almost 2 quarts of plain yogurt for the cost of 2 quarts of milk and half a cup of yogurt. Essentially, I doubled the value of the milk, based on dairy prices here.

Have you ever made yogurt? Would you be interested in trying it?