Saturday, February 27, 2010

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

Mmm. Chocolate cake! I have never been a big fan of chocolate cake. Then I found this recipe! Not too chocolaty. Moist. Chewy. And oooh so good!

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 1/2 cups quick oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup melted margarine or butter, melted
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 cup baking cocoa (the powdered kind)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Get out your trusty mixing bowl and spatula.

Mix oatmeal and boiling water together the large mixing bowl. While that is sitting, grease one 9X13 inch pan or two 8 inch round pans. Add in the margarine and stir, making sure it is completely melted. At this point, it will look like runny oatmeal.

Add in the sugar and mix well. Then add in the eggs and beat till smooth and glossy. Add vanilla, salt, cocoa, and baking soda. Mix well. Add in the flour and mix well again.

Pour into your greased pan(s) and bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Or till a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

See that little crumb on the plate to the left of the cake. Yeah, I ate that right after taking this picture! :o)

Allow to cool for 10 to 15 minutes before cutting, if you can wait that long. I have never used icing on it but I am sure it would be yummy with some. But it really doesn't need it!

This cake freezes really well!! I usually freeze all but a couple pieces to eat later. All you have to do is get out a piece, warm in the microwave for a minute or so and top with vanilla ice cream! A quick and easy dessert any day of the week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Frugal Tip Friday: Dish washer Soap

I have always gotten liquid dishwasher detergent because it works so well. Then I heard a great tip that can save you a good bit of money in the long run while still getting your dishes clean.

Most powdered dish washing soaps are cheaper than their liquid cousins. The biggest problem with them is that they tend to leave soap scum and a white film on all your dishes. Well, there is a solution to this!

First, get out an old (but clean) ice cream bucket. I use these for everything by the way! Measure out 4 cups of the powdered dishwasher detergent and pour into the bucket. Next, measure out 4 cups of baking soda and pour into the bucket. Get out an old spoon (I use a metal one that has been bent a few too many times from dipping out hard ice cream). Stir the two powders together, not too quickly or you will send a fine dust into the air that will make you sneeze! :o) Put the lid on the bucket and store under your sink like normal. (Make sure you label the bucket!)

Next time you do a load of dishes, use the spoon to dip out what you need into the two soap cups in the door of the dishwasher like normal. Then, and this is the secret to not having the soap scum, pour about 1/2 cup of white vinegar into the bottom to the dishwasher. At this point, I just eye ball the vinegar.

The vinegar will react with the baking soda (just like in your 3 grade science fair volcano project) and will rinse your dishes clean.

The baking soda will make the washing detergent last twice as long, for half the cost, and still get your dishes clean!

You can buy large boxes of baking soda in the laundry detergent aisle. You can also buy 1 gallon jugs of vinegar in your favorite super store (you know which one I am talking about). It is in with the regular vinegar, just look down. :o) Oh and it's super cheap! Like less that $2.00!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thankful Thursday: Week #3


~Baby sneezes


~Wooden Spoons

~Chinese take-out

~"The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding"


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: A clean shower every time

This is an easy tip that can save you a good bit of time. Keep a sponge and your shower cleaner in the bathroom. When it comes time to take a shower, pull out the cleaning supplies and take them in with you. While your shampoo or conditioner is "setting" give the shower a good scrub! Do this about once a week and you will always have a nice, clean shower!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The start of my garden

Summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, beef steak tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and two kinds of flowers.

I am so looking forward to starting our garden this year! I have never been more ready for spring! I know a big part of it has to do with our having a little one to share it all with this year. I am so looking forward to watching her discover all that the plants and garden have to offer. Including the fact that many of her first foods will be coming from our own plants.
I started with a list of what I wanted to grow this year. The list consists of: bell peppers, potatoes, tomatoes (large, plum and cherry), summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. My mouth is watering just thinking about it!
I decided how many of each I want to plant. I made a list of then they need to be put to seed indoors (everything but the potatoes have to be started as seed). Then I figured out when I need to transplant them. Here are some great sites to help you figure this out...
Here is a look at my planting guide for this year.
Bell peppers- planning on 5-6 plants- start seeds indoors early to mid March- transplant out doors mid May to mid June
Potatoes- not sure how many we are going to plant yet- plant directly out doors late March to early May
Tomatoes (all varieties)- 2 large, 1 plum, 1 cherry- start seeds indoors mid to late March- transplant outdoors mid May to mid June ( no sooner than Mother's day)
Summer squash, cucumbers, and zucchini- 2 squash, 1 cucumber, 1 zucchini- start indoors early to mid April- transplant outdoors early to late May
These dates are for central Indiana. If you live in a different climate, these won't work for you.
I will be sure to update you on how the garden is coming. And please feel free to update me on yours. What are you planting this year? Are you new to gardening or are you a seasoned pro? Any tips on container gardening?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Granola: Not just for hippies anymore!


This isn't so much a recipe as a guide to making granola. Granola is super expensive to buy in the store! And even though it is supposed to be "healthy" it is often packed with fillers and who knows what else. It is actually quite easy to whip up a batch!
Ingredient Options
  • 2 cups Oats (the quick kind, not the old fashioned)
  • 2 cups Rice cereal (like the kind to make rice crispy's)
  • 1/2 cup peanuts (or any other kind of nuts)
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet, milk, butter scotch, white, any will do) You can also use M&M's
  • 1/2 cup dried fruit
  • 1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Anything else you can come up with

All but the top two are optional. It's your choice! Mix all of your choice of ingredients together (holding back the chocolate chips, raisins and dried fruit till after cooking). Once mixed well, pour it out onto a cookie sheet. You may need two, just make sure it is no thicker than 1/2 inch.

Granola before toasting.

Place the granola in an oven heated to 250 degrees. Toast it for 15 minutes, stir, toast again for 15 minutes, stir, toast, stir... Well, you get the point. Do this pattern till you have toasted the mix for 45 minutes to an hour. 45 minutes usually does it for me. Allow to completely cool before mixing in the dried fruit, chocolate, and/or raisins. Store in a sealed container. I keep mine in an old oats container.

The finished product!
Serve on yogurt, as cereal with milk, or just as is. It will keep on the counter for 2 to 4 weeks, but ours never seems to stay around that long. :o)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Frugal Tip Friday: Zip Top Baggies

Drying baggies. (Note the pumpkin draining in the back ground.)

How many zip top baggies would you say you go through in the average week? 2, 3, 10? I would guess that we (there are 2 adults and one baby in our household), go though probably 5 to 10 per week. Mostly in sending Zach's lunch to work with him and in storing leftovers in the fridge or freezer.

One fairly simple way you can cut down on your trash and on your budget is to reuse your zip top baggies. I know this tip isn't going to be for everyone. Some will say "Ewww!" Others will exclaim "Way too time consuming for something so cheap!" I am not saying you will save your family a ton of money.

But lets just say the average family of 4 uses 10 zip top baggies a week. At 52 weeks in the year that is 520 baggies. You can buy them for about $3.00 a box (50 count). That's about 10 1/2 boxes a year. So, 10.5 boxes times $3.00 per box equals $31.50 per year.

I know, not a whole lot. But in today's economy, every penny counts.

So anyway, what I choose to do is to wash most of my used zip top baggies and reuse them. It is actually pretty easy. I just add them to my hand washed things. Dip some dish water up into the baggie, put your wash rag in it, slosh it around till it is clean, dump, rinse and shake open and turn it up side down to dry. As you can see in the pictures, I have quite a few drying. A lot of times I will let them pile up and wash quite a few at once.

I do have a few "Rules." I don't wash and reuse baggies that have contained raw meat. If the baggie is really messy, I don't mess with it. If it is going to take me more than a few seconds to wash, it isn't really worth it to me.

I especially like to reuse the baggies that have labels for certain things. Like when I make mini pizzas for snacks and meals (I usually make a few dozen at a time). I label the baggies with either cheese, pepperoni, or pepper, depending on the type of pizza in it. Then I can reuse the baggies for the same thing.

Anyway, it saves money and on the landfills. Maybe not too much of a time saver, if it was it would be in the Quick Tip Tuesdays, not Frugal Tip Friday. :o)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Thankful Thursday Week #2

~Fuzzy socks

~Hilarious old crafting magazines from the 70's (thanks Mom!)


~Memories *tears*

~Baby skin


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: 15 minute Power Clean

Ever have a big pile of clutter in one room that belongs in another room?

Or maybe you are like me and your coffee table is a jumbled of odds and ins.

This is where the 15 minute power clean comes in handy.

Get out your trusty laundry basket, go into the living room and pick up all the items that don't belong there. Next, go into the kitchen, take out all the items that are in the basket that belong in the kitchen and put those up. Then pick up any items that are in the kitchen that don't belong there. Continue this patter through the house, till everything has been put in it's proper room. I swear, this only takes me maybe 15 mintues! And it is actually a little fun! Hurrying through the house, spotting items, digging through the basket to make sure you found everything. Kinda like a Mommy scavenger hunt. :o) Ok, so maybe all the cleaning supply fumes and vinegar is getting to me, but hey, I'll take fun where I can get it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

One Hour Cleaning Days

"Arg! I am so sick of this house being a mess! Why can't I keep it clean? I hate wasting half of my Saturday cleaning!"

Yes, I have said these words a thousand times. And I am guessing they ring true for some of you as well. Well, there is an easier way! There is hope! :o)

I use what I call "One Hour Cleaning Days." Everyday I have a different room that I clean. Just one room a day. And just one hour a day. Shhh, some times it is less. Here is my list of days and what I clean on that day...

Monday: Kitchen

Tuesday: Bathroom(s)

Wednesday: Spare bedroom(s)

Thursday: Master Bedroom

Friday: Living Room

Saturday: General picking up, sweep and mop the floors, special projects

This is the list, as it is, right off my refrigerator.

On the day that I clean the bedroom, I know to also strip the sheets and blankets off the bed and wash them. The bathroom day, I know to switch out the towels and wash rags. This way I know that they are getting washed at least once a week. Kitchen is general cleaning. Living room is dusting, picking up (please, never look at my coffee table!) and putting away what doesn't belong there. Saturday I sweep and mop all the floors. I also work on special cleaning or organizing jobs that need done. Ie: switching over winter/summer clothes in storage, cleaning the refrigerator out, or scrubbing the floors.

Mind you, these days do get forgotten or looked over or changed sometimes. Live is not perfect! If it was, there wouldn't be a mess in the first place!

Some rooms don't take me a full hour. Other rooms can take me more but usually don't. You can also choose to do it in less time. Maybe half hour. Or maybe you want to do a half hour in the morning and then again in the evening. Whatever works for you!

I also have 15 minute power cleans that I do daily, but I will tell you more about that tomorrow.... :o)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Pumpkin Bread

Ok, can I just say "Yum!" I think I could eat this picture!

Honest, it tastes even better than it looks!

I figured since I taught you how to cook and clean a pumpkin, I should give you something to do with it. And if you don't feel like making the pumpkin yourself, feel free to buy a can! I'll never know! :o)

This is a super easy bread recipe. It reminds me of a zucchini or banana nut bread in that is it really moist and, like the zucchini bread, has a good spice to it.

2 cups fresh or canned pumpkin (this is one regular sized can)
1/2 cup vegetable oil (or canola, that's what I use)
1 egg
2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon (more if you like)
1/2 tsp. pumpkin spice (more if you like)
3/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups flour (white, wheat or half and half)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)


1: Preheat oven to 350' on bake. Grease a bunt pan, one regular sized bread pan, or two mini bread pans. I would think you could do this in a muffin tin but I have never tried it to know how many it would make or how long to bake it. I would guess at least a dozen and probably 30 minutes.

2: Mix all but the last three ingredients together till smooth. Then add in the last three and mix till smooth again.

3: Pour into the pan/pans and spread evenly. For the bunt or regular sized bread pan-bake at 350' for 1 hour and 30 minutes. For the mini loafs- bake at 350' for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

You can't see it in the picture, but it was still steaming. :o) I am impatient!

4:Remove from oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan. Turn out onto a cutting board and force yourself to give it at least a few more minutes before cutting into and taking a big bite.
This is really good with a little butter on it! Have it for dessert, for breakfast along side bacon and eggs, or for an afternoon snack. It is yummy no matter when you try it! It's spicy, moist and you can still see little orange bits of pumpkin! Mmmm. I think I will go have me another piece now!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Frugal Tip Friday: The Dryer

You: Is that your dryer?
Me: Oh yes, that is my dryer.

You: And what the heck is inside it? Are those tennis balls?

Me: Why yes, yes those are tennis balls!

You: But why?

And that conversation brings us to the first Frugal Tip Friday post!

Why do we use fabric softener or softener sheets? To make our clothes soft, cozy and smell good, right? But did you know that fabric softener is actually not good on our clothes, not to mention our skin? The softener acts like your hair conditioner. It coats everything, leaving a very thin film, that makes it feel soft. And as for your skin; any chemical that touches your skin is then absorbed by your skin. So any lotion, perfume, cleaning supply, or soap. Eww. Not pretty!
Ok, but we all love soft towels and sweaters that smell like a spring meadow, right? So what is the solution? Beat the towels into submission? :o) Ok, so maybe not that bad. By adding a couple tennis balls into the dryer, it helps to separate the fibers in the fabric, instead of allowing them to clump together causing stiffness and "hard" clothes. It also helps to fluff the items in the dryer and makes the clothes dry faster. Cool, right?
And as for scent? If you absolutely can't live without it, now that you don't need the dryer sheets for softness, you can use less. Take one dryer sheet and cut it into four even pieces and use one piece per load. I keep a hand full precut sitting on the top of the dryer. You get all the smell you need and even a little extra (but not so much) softening power. Note: in the picture, to the left of the tennis balls is my little piece of dryer sheet.
And for those of you that use liquid fabric softener, there is help for you too! :o) Get out a medium plastic container with a tight fitting lid. (glad ware, Tupperware, sherbet container, what ever you have on hands) Mix 1 part fabric softener to 3 parts water. So if you use 1 cup of fabric softener, mix in 3 cups of water. Next, get out a regular old sponge. Cut it into four equal parts and put them into the container with the diluted fabric softener. Next time you do a load of laundry, when you put the clothes in the dryer, pull out one sponge piece, wring out the excess softener and throw it in the dryer with the clothes. This works just like a softener sheet.
There are of course commercial products that act like the tennis balls. Below is a picture of one option. You can get a set for around $5 (I will not swear by this price) at Wal-mart in the section with the laundry hampers and ironing boards. I have never used these myself but have heard only good things about them. We just had tennis balls on hands (yes, we own rackets too and do use them on occasion). The tennis balls were about $2 for a three pack of the cheap brand at Wal-mart. When the tennis balls wear out, and I have no idea how long that will be, I will probably buy a set of the dryer balls. I believe they are supposed to last 3 years.
I found these on Babies-R-Us' website. The ones at Wal-mart are, I believe, blue.
Also, don't use fabric softener on your towels and wash rags. The softener that coats all the fibers and makes them softer also makes them less absorbent. Cloth diapering folks, you too! Just say No. Sorry! But we have found that the tennis balls do just fine at making our towels nice and soft with out the added benefit of commercial fabric softeners.
So how is this frugal? Well, in the end you need about 1/4 the fabric softener that you needed before. Less sheets used = less money spent! And it cuts down on drying time so it saves on your energy costs as well!
Oh, and it sounds cool. :o) Thump thump thump!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thankful Thursday Week #1

#1: ♫Music♫ to dance and sing to while going about my daily tasks.

#2: Snow! Lots of it! And even though I am so ready for spring, it is still so beautiful!

#3: The promise of Spring. ☼

#4: Google!!!

#5: Cast iron skillets. Cast iron anything!

#6: Prayer. Enough said!

#7: Warm, home made blankets on cold winter nights.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Peter Peter Pumpkin Cooker

This past October I got 4 beautiful pie pumpkins from my Mom. I had never in my life cooked a pumpkin but I was determined to at least give it a go. As always, I turned to my trusty Google search bar and began looking. I found out it is actually rather easy and even fun. The pumpkins store well, so if you find them on sale, grab up a few! I got mine in October and I cooked up the last one in early February and it still had lots of life in it! Store in a cool, dry place. Mine were on the floor in a corner in the kitchen for most of that time.

Now how to cook the lovely!

Step One: Pick a Pumpkin and prepare the oven

My pumpkin of choice!

You want one that is as bug bite and blemish free as possible, but don't get carried away. It doesn't have to be perfect. Wash outside of chosen pumpkin, removing all the dirt and grime. No soap, just cool or warm water. As for the oven, you are going to need to remove all but one rack and set it to the lowest setting. Then preheat the oven to 350' on bake.

Step Two: Cut open and clean the pumpkin
A big spoon, a good cutting board and a sharp knife (I used my butcher knife) are all the tools you need for this part. Cut around the pumpkin, being careful not to hack into your thumb. When you have the pumpkin in two halves, scoop out the seeds and most of the "stringy" stuff with your spoon like you would when carving a jack-o-lantern. Then cut a hole in the top around the stem, nothing too big, maybe two inches across. Then do the same to the bottom. These will be the vent holes when cooking.

Step Three: Place in pan and cook

The cooked pumpkin after placing it on a wire rack.

I used two 8 inch round cake pans but any pan that has about 2 inch sides will do. A couple 9X9 inch square pans, a couple 9X13 inch pans, some deep dish pie plates, what ever you have on hand! Spray the bottom your chosen pan and all cut edges of the pumpkin with cooking spray. Place pumpkin *cut side down* in the pan. Then you are going to add water about 1 inch deep around and in the pumpkin. I find the easiest way to do this without spilling water everywhere (trust me on this one!) is to fill a large measuring cup with water, open the oven door, place the pans with the pumpkin in it on the rack, then pour the water in the hole in the top and around the outside. Go slow! Once you have about an inch of water, push the rack in, close the door and bake! Bake at 350' for 45 minutes to an hour. When you can poke into the skin with a fork with little effort, the pumpkin is done. I have found that older pumpkins take a little longer.

Step Four: Cool and scoop

Beginning to scoop the flesh out.

The rind/skin after all the flesh is removed.

Remove the pumpkin from the oven carefully and pour some of the water out, preferably in the sink, not on your kitchen floor and feet. Turn the pumpkin halves over onto a wire rack over a cookie sheet, if you have them (if not, just turn them over and leave then in the pan). Cool them till you can comfortably touch the pumpkin without burning yourself. You can let the cool completely if you like, I am just not that patient! Using your trusty big spoon from before, scoop out the "flesh" of the pumpkin, being careful not to get any of the rind/skin. Scoop it out into a big bowl until you have all that orangy goodness.

Step Five: Do the mash!
Ok, so you aren't going to do the Monster Mash (unless you want to, then by all means go ahead)! You are, however, going to mash/puree the pumpkin. There are three basic ways in which to do this. One: scoop amounts into a food processor and whirl till thoroughly pureed. Dump out and repeat till done. Way too much clean up for me! I hardly ever use the food processor! Two: use an old fashioned potato masher or fork or pastry cutter to thoroughly puree it all. This works fine, but I prefer the last method. Three: use your hands! :o) Oh yeah! Nothing better than mashing warm, mushy, slimy pumpkin between your fingers. Ok, so maybe not for everyone but come on! What adult didn't want to do this as a child? In fact, this would be a great time to bring the kiddos into the room to help. Give them a small bowl of it and let them go.

Step Six: Finish up

The mashed pumpkin and the filter lined colander.

Line a large colander with a few layers of cheese cloth, a tea towel or coffee filters. The filters is my method of choice and it has worked great! Dump the mashed pumpkin into the colander and set said colander over the bowl that the mashed pumpkin was just in. Place the two bowls in the fridge over night or for about 8 hours. You can do longer if you need to! This allows extra moisture out of the puree. After the 8 hours, you can use the pumpkin to make pies, breads, cookies, anything recipe that calls for canned pumpkin. I put mine in zip lock baggies in 1 and 2 cup amounts and freeze it (with the baggies laying down so they are flat and store in the deep freezer easier). Label it well, though with the *bright* orange color, how could you not know what it is?
So why cook your own pumpkin when you can just go to the store and buy a can?
~It is cheaper! I can get about 8 cups of pumpkin (that is 4 cans) from one good old gourd.
~It makes your house smell wonderful!
~It's fun!
I will be sure to post some good pumpkin recipes in the future!

This is it!

Well, this is it. I've started it. Now, will anyone read it? I am not sure what I am going to do with this Blog, or where it will take me, but I am looking foward to starting this journey. To those of you who will/are reading this, thanks! I can only hope that you might find this interesting and helpful in some way. I plan to write about home making, frugality, cooking, tips, being a wife and new Momma, birth (home and otherwise), cloth diapering, and many other things. I will also try to write about anything that one of my readers suggests or asks about. I would be happy to help find answers to any questions you might have as well. Anywho, here goes!