Saturday, March 30, 2013

And that's all my phone has to say about that...

Weekend phone dump. This week according to my phone:

 new art project for my kitchen. detailed post coming soon.

 finally feeling springy! Been high fifties, dress wearing weather all week!
 testing out the new Sig Sauer .40 and the target we (he) built
look! sugar peas in the making!
 Cicero. He knows what's up.

"Mama? What are you doing out there!?"-window watch cat
I never wanted a flower garden. I swore I wouldn't have one.
And then my house came with flowers. Dang it.
This is what a flailing cat who doesn't like a collar and ID tag
(required for on-base pets) looks like. He bites the plastic tag. Wild thing.
Making husband's early morning breakfasts in advance!
 Heat up in oven for 5 minutes and good to go!
A spring-time kity cat hat for a 5 year old little girl who is friends
with my littlest sister. The friend was recently diagnosed with cancer
and is undergoing chemo. Please pray.
Hope everyone enjoys their weekend! A happiest Easter to all!

Friday, March 29, 2013

How to Cook Whole Trout

"Guess what, I have a surprise for you!"
says the Airman in uniform coming through the door and holding his gym bag.
"Um...a cat brother for Trink?"
Nope. He pulls out a ziploc bag with two whole, fresh trout.
"...where did you get those?"
"Don't you worry about that..."
Medium length story made short, someone he works with is really into fishing and apparently caught enough trout to share. My husband was quick to volunteer his wife as someone interested in cooking whole fishes (and he was right).

As part of our life goals, when we grow up JoJo and I have decided want to be Phil and Kay Robertson (Duck Dynasty anyone? We are addicts!). Kay is adorable and can cook anything and Phil is a sardonic, bearded, redneck genius. They have great traditional values and they have been married over 50 years and are completely in love. They are also hysterically funny. Sound like good role models to me!
Cooking fresh fishes seems like a good place to get some more practice for moving toward that goal. I do cook fish pretty much weekly, but typically it is salmon and never does it ever have eyes and fins and all that. Thankfully the guy who gave them to him already gutted them out, so I don't have to worry about that part.
I have been browsing for trouty recipes; I slightly tweaked this recipe I found here. Instead of pan cooking, I baked mine (because I didn't have a pan big enough to fit 2 fish). I also added parsley and oregano.

Step 1: Well...I guess you'd have to either buy or catch your own trout and possibly gut it, but I managed to skip that step. (Pretty sure these are Brook Trout and not Rainbow, by the way)
Step 2: you might could want to take some photos with your raw trout. At least I wanted to. Bonus points for singing Gollum-like songs. Did I mention "I am different than most women"?
Step 3: Heat your oven to 350 and put some olive oil in your pan.
Step 4: Slice lemons thin and stick them inside the fish (which has been slit open due to the gutting and all that). Also insert about 3 cloves of garlic, minced. I also made a mixtue of salt, pepper, oregano and parsley and rubbed that on the inside of the fish. Just a little pinch of each, along with a little more olive oil.
Step 5: Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes (all depends on the size of your fish. The skin should get slightly crispy and the fish should be slightly flakey).
Step 6: ENJOY! So fresh and tasty! (Now, if you are wondering how you go about EATING it, like I was, this link here might be helpful!) We served ours up with some brown rice, homemade bread and asparagus.

I hope some of you get a chance to try it! This was our first experience with a fish not purchased in a store (one more step furthering us from being "yuppies"). Definitely very different from our usual salmon preference, but quite delicious nonetheless!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Thrifty Thinkin': Repurposed and Painted Jars for Cute Pantry Storage

As you know, I've been trying my hand at attempting to make as much of our food from scratch and buy as little packaged/process/pre-made foods as possible. But there are still plenty of things that I buy that come in some sort of container, like pasta sauce (although, soon I will be making our own!) and salsa. Often those jars, either plastic or glass, can be reused to store something else. Some of them are actually pretty cool too (Classico pasta sauce comes in a mason- type jar!).

 I've always tried to reuse containers whenever possible. Typically I remove the labels with hot water and a sponge and then send them through the dishwasher once. Then I use the jars to organize some of my pantry items, like dried beans, popcorn kernels or rice. After a little while though it was starting to look chaotic with a bunch of sharpie-labeled random jars with lids that didn't match the contents (such as Ragu lid on Kidney beans).

That bugged me. Plus, I am always down for a craft project, so I decided to give those jars a little make over.

First, I picked up a can of Krylon Indoor/Outdoor (basically good on any surface) spray paint in my favorite shade- Cherry Red- at Michael's (40% of with coupon, so around $3.00).
This part was quite the process. I guess I over-estimated the power of spray paint. I brought the lids outside and soon realized that it might just take 3 million coats to cover up the lettering on the lids. But with a little patience (and a final coat count of 5) I got them to be thoroughly Cherry Red. In hind sight, some sort of white primer would have been a really good idea. But it worked regardless.

Next came the fun part. Painting random designs all over the red lids. They don't actually match, they just sort of...coordinate, which is basically a summation of most things I surround myself with. I love color and these lids are sure colorful now. I used an array of acrylic paints and just fooled around with flowers and patterns until I was happy with my lids.

I allowed them to dry for a couple hours and gave them each two coats of  glossy acrylic Americana Sealer (also from Michael's, 40% off for about $3.00).

After letting them dry overnight, I put them back on my jars and now they are super spiffy and bright!

I still have plenty of spray paint left over, so my plan is to continue adding jars and painted lids to my collection as I empty out store bought products. Now my pantry makes me smile! Art belongs everywhere!

Only caution with these is that they are NOT washable. I don't really care since the contents will be pretty consistent and dried beans don't make much mess, but you wouldn't want to try and store anything wet or messy in them. If cleanup is needed, a damp paper towel should do the trick.

These would also be great for office storage for little bits and pieces like paper clips. Or, great in a bathroom for things like cotton balls and Q-tips too! You can make them match your decor! It would also be a fun project for kids to help out with (adults do the spray painting and varnishing, but let kiddos decorate!). I'm thinking it would be super cute for a little girls room/bathroom for storing little hair clips and dainty whatnots.

It is really fun to find purposes for everyday items, especially if they are cute! Let me know if you give them a try!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Thrifty Thinkin': How to use Aluminum Foil as a Dry Ball

You know what they say, "one woman's wad of aluminum foil is another woman's fabric softener." (What? You haven't heard that one?)

As you may know, I am on a bit of a health/thrift/frugal/DIY kick. Besides becoming pricey over time, did you know that dryer sheets are full of all sorts of nasty toxin and chemicals which can harm not only your skin, but your overall health? In this recent post I wrote about how I switched my Snuggle fabric softener and sheet addiction over to more healthy (and cost effective) alternatives. I have to admit, I still have a stash of dryer sheets in my laundry room (closet), but once I use them up I will not be purchasing more for my laundry.

Truthfully, this post shouldn't really be a "how to" because the instructions are as simple as can be. Ready? Taking notes? Your one and only step is this: rip a sheet of foil, wad it up, and throw it in your dryer with your clothes.
That's all folks. A ball of aluminum foil is not only cheap, but it is great at ridding laundry of static and combating wrinkles. It doesn't add any scent, obviously, but I use scented detergent and scented homemade liquid softener in my wash cycle. You can use the same ball over and over again. I've been using mine for a month, and while it has smoothed out a bit, it still does the job just fine. I guess after a long period of time you might want to replace the ball, but that is easy enough to handle, yes?  The only down side to this method as far as I can tell is the ruckus it makes banging around with the clothes. It doesn't do any damage, it is just slightly noiser than just clothes in the dry alone. My cat thinks it is interesting to listen to though...
I'm very happy with this method and will gladly be keeping it in my laundry routine.
Another, but slightly more pricey alternative, would be an actual plastic dryer ball. Blue, spikey looking guys? Have you tried them? My mom bought a bunch at a dollar store and I used those when I lived at home. I also hear that they have some with a tube which you can add essenstial oils too, if you want a little added freshness.

Rumor has it you can use balls of felted wool (and scent them) for a similar effect, but that I haven't attempted. If you're interested in trying that method out (I am!) see this tutorial here.

Also, I haven't tried this yet, but I have read that you can use paper coffee filters with a few drops of essential oils on them (or fabric softener) if you want something more in sheet form.

Let me know if you try this out! It is so simple!

Friday, March 22, 2013

And that's what my phone has to say about that...

My month according to my phone:

*nothin' ununsual here.*
*fox fetish*
*the sun came out! 2nd day of Spring!*
*baking breads*
*this is how the cat likes to sit and watch me study Astronomy*
*homemade fettuccine and orecchiette pasta*
*husband, cat and I playing cribbage*
*painting watercolor poppies*
*cutifying my pantry*
*spy eyes*
*As you can maybe tell, I am not an Instagramer. Main reason: I don't have a smart phone and I don't care too, really. I actually hate phones of all kinds. I occasionally take quick pictures on my phone, like these, usually for the purpose of texting a friend or family member. But for real photography I would much rather use my Canon D-SLR.

*as you can also tell, my life greatly revolves around my spoiled catson. Cat lady to the core, right here! Maybe I ought to take pictures of my husband...or things other than art projects, Trink and foods...hmmm....

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Thrifty Thinkin': How to Make Homemade {Potato} Bread

Since moving to Washington and trying to be as frugal as possible, I have taken up making all of our breads. Not that we spend loads of cash on bread, but it is still an improvement and it is so much better for you without the preservatives and chemicals! Plus, it tastes a heck of a lot better.

I don't have a bread machine, and I don't know anything too fancy. My mom taught me how to make bread when I was a kid, and lately I've just been experimenting with different recipes and variations. I am not much of a fan of store bought sandwich bread, but my husband is partial to Potato bread. Often I send him to work with sandwiches for lunch and potato bread is always his preference. After making bread for a couple weeks I started to play around with potato bread recipes. The outcomes have been mighty tasty and the husband is a fan of homemade bread now! Success! My loaves don't look like the store bought (WHY is potato bread always yellowish in the store? Potatoes aren't even yellow...?), but it tastes delicious!

Here is how I make it:

First off, to make bread you need YEAST.
I use an activedry yeast that needs to be "proofed" before you can use it in bread. A lot of people use instant yeasts, but I am not familiar with those and cannot speak for them...
First, preheat your oven to 200. Once it is warmed, shut it off. This will just be a warm area for the yeast and bread to do what they need to do.

For this recipe you need, 2 1/4 tablespoons of yeast. Put it in an bowl and add 1/4 cup of warm water and a table spoon of sugar. Mix it up and put it in the oven (now off!) for 10 minutes. The yeast should double in size by the time 10 minutes is up; this is how you know it is active and ready to use.

While you wait for the yeast to proof put these ingredients in a bowl:
3 cups of bread flour (potato flour can be incorporated here if you have it available, I however, do not have any of that yet),
 2 tablespoons of sugar,
 3/4 teaspoon of salt,
3/4 teaspoon of oil (I use olive),
1 cup of hot water,
1/2 cup of milk and
1/2 cup of mashed potatoes (I just prepared and used the flakey instant kind)
then add in your proofed yeast and mix all the dough together.

The dough should come together into a sort of sticky mess. If it is too dry, add a bit more water.

Then, clean and flour your counter (and your hands) where you will knead the bread.

 Next: knead that dough! I've always been told by my mother that you need to knead the dough until it feels "smooth like a baby's bottom." But if baby butt analogies don't quite help you understand how long something takes, I'd say something like 8 minutes. If you need a little help or refresher on kneading, HERE is a good Youtube tutorial which may help you!

Once you have kneaded the bread, place the dough into a well oiled bread pan and put it in the still-warm oven to rise for 1 hour. (If you want to form your own loaf and not use a bread pan, you should let it rise in a oiled bowl, covered with a damp dishtowel).

Once your hour is up and your bread is fully risen, take it out and heat the oven back up to 350. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool and slice.

 If left out or in the fridge, because the bread has no preservatives, it will go stale if not eaten in a day or two. If you have a big family, eat it up quick! Or, you can do like I do for just my husband and I. I place the slices in a freezer bag and freeze it, thawing it out as we need it for toast and sandwiches throughout the week.

Hope you enjoy this scrumptious bread! Be sure to have a nice thick slice with butter or cheese when it is fresh out of the oven and still warm! Nothing better!


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