Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Ammo

I have added these two items to my arsenal of cleaning products.

"Rubbing alcohol? Sure. But olive oil are you serious!?"

Serious as a heart attack. Although I may switch to a cheaper oil, since EVOO is a little expensive to be cleaning with.

I'm sure you're wondering by now what on earth I can get clean with olive oil.

Well, this:

So to most people, a shiny, spotless stainless steel fridge isn't anything spectacular - but I have two sets of greasy, sticky, touching-everything hands wandering past this fridge multiple times a day. We bought the fridge in October, and until today it has never been shiny. Try as I might with my old standby vinegar, and even soapy water, NOTHING could get those greasy little fingerprints off the bottom of my fridge - and all of the above mentioned attempts left streaks. Vinegar doesn't leave streaks on my windows and mirrors... So why the darn fridge?

I had almost resolved myself to buying some horrible stainless steel polish - but then I turned to my trusty friend Google, and there it was! The (mostly) natural solution to my sticky problem.

Clean the fridge with rubbing alcohol, then buff it with olive oil.

The olive oil "wax" helps make it easier to buff off finger prints when those little fingered people do happen to touch your fridge.

It worked like a charm, and even though rubbing alcohol isn't exactly safe to drink, it is used routinely as an antiseptic in first aid, so I don't feel too horrible about using it.

What have you used for stainless steel that is a more natural solution?

-- Post on the go

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Vinegar – the Nectar of the Gods

Okay, so maybe not the nectar – but the cleaning agent, definitely.

When we bought our new house, I decided that I was just going to buy a bunch of vinegar and a bunch of baking soda instead of stocking up on 409, Windex, and bleach. We’re trying to get rid of the amount of artificial junk we have in our house (I say as I’m eating Flavor Burst Goldfish – DH bought them – it wasn’t me!). We already started washing with soap nuts, and now it’s the only thing I use in my laundry (except for a little vinegar and baking soda).

Vinegar is effective at killing bacteria and mold (perhaps more effective even than bleach). And your kid could drink vinegar and be safe. Bleach on the other hand... Once I realized how effective vinegar is, I had to start cleaning with it. Granted, my house smells a lot like vinegar on my “deep cleaning” days, but it’s better than a bleach smell.

And I used to have to cart around 5-6 different spray bottles to do my cleaning.

Now my cleaning looks something like this:

For a regular load (one with no peed on sheets, etc), I use my bag of soap nuts and 1/2 c. baking soda. I’m going to try out borax one of these days (probably next week, since I need to get some borax for a preschool activity we’re doing tomorrow). So far the soap nuts with the baking soda has been working great, and I can get the baking soda dirt cheap in bulk at Winco.
For towels and for loads that have V’s pee-soaked sheets (still having a hard time with nighttime dryness, but he’s getting there – he is only 3 1/2 after all), I add vinegar to the rinse cycle to make sure to get all the urine smell out, and I run it through an extra rinse.
I still use Shout for a stain remover, but I am going to start trying a soak in a borax solution. I soak stained clothes anyway (I keep a few dish pans in the laundry room for this purpose – you could use dish pans, an old bucket, or a gallon ice cream pail – I used those for a while).

After reading an article recently about cleaning tile floors, I decided that from now on I am going to wash my floors the old fashioned way – down on my hands and knees. I just bring along my handy dandy spray bottle full of white vinegar, and a rag, and spray, wipe, spray, wipe (with an occasional scrub when there is a spot that doesn’t just wipe away). It takes only slightly longer than using a mop and bucket, but I’m not using water so I don’t have to worry about little feet walking across my freshly mopped floor. Another advantage? I can actually see the floor, so I can make sure I’ve mopped up everything – even corners and edges (which are easily missed with a mop).

For the bathrooms, I do a “swish and swipe” every day, which involves spraying the sinks/counters with my vinegar bottle and wiping them down, then pouring a little splash of vinegar in the toilet and cleaning out the inside of the bowl. This keeps the bathrooms in guest-ready shape, and I don’t have to worry so much about my “deep cleaning” bathroom days. On those “deep clean days” I wash the entire toilet bowl (inside and out) with vinegar from my spray bottle and a rag. I mop the floor in the bathroom the same way, and the tiles in the tub, and the tub, and the faucets, and the mirror... basically all I need is that one spray bottle of vinegar. And a few rags – I always use a different rag for the toilet than I used on the counter, or I do the counter first and then the toilet. For obvious reasons. I usually use a paper towel on the mirrors so I don’t leave fuzz on them, but the vinegar doesn’t really streak, so that’s good. Bye-bye Windex.

A little vinegar/water solution in a spray bottle is perfect for this job, too. I can’t believe how good at cleaning some vinegar is. It’s nuts.

I read the other day about using vinegar to spray down your cutting boards and letting them sit out over night (so the vinegar smell can dissipate). I might try doing that, because I hate nasty cutting boards. I also use it on my counters after cutting meat, or dividing up the 10 lbs tubes of ground meat I buy on sale for the freezer.

The only thing I haven’t tried with vinegar is cutting grease, but I also read that a borax and/or washing soda are good at that, so I might need to try that out. I did buy one spray bottle of 409 when we moved in, just to make sure I could clean everything. It’s kind of my last resort tool. In case nothing else works.

Well, there you have it – why I clean with vinegar and only vinegar.

What is the staple of your cleaning products? Do you think you could switch to vinegar and sodas if you haven’t already? How about mopping? Think you could do hands-and-knees mopping?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving Dinner – Homestyle

I prepared my very first Thanksgiving dinner ever. Since I was married in 2005, we have spent Thanksgiving with DH’s parents. This year, they took off to visit some of their children who live in another state, so DH and I had my sister and her DH over for Thanksgiving dinner. I thought I needed to chronicle the event for posterity’s sake (and so that I can remember what I did the next time I do my own Thanksgiving – which might be a while).

I was freaked out about cooking a turkey (DH always complains about dry white meat). So I looked up online “How to cook a thanksgiving turkey.” Well, then I came across this site. Pretty straightforward, that one. So I checked out the website, and decided I would cook my turkey that way.

It’s been snowing here lately, and we’re a one car family (DH rides his motorcycle when the weather is good). So I hadn’t been able to do regular grocery shopping, not to mention Thanksgiving shopping.

The morning of Thanksgiving, I had to run out to the store to pick up pumpkin, pie crusts, a roasting pan, and a digital thermometer, among a few other things. Even getting the turkey in late (around 10am), we still started eating Thanksgiving dinner around 6:30pm – not too bad for a first Thanksgiving dinner, if you ask me!

A word about pies – if you don’t have pie tins, round cake pans work okay. But get some pie tins. Oh, and remember to put the pies on cookie sheets if you don’t want pie filling all over the bottom of your oven.

Note to self – do Thanksgiving shopping well in advance, and prepare the turkey the night before. The end.
Oh yeah, and buy some pie tins. You’ll need those next year...

On our Thanksgiving menu:

-Roast Turkey
-Gravy from the turkey drippings
-candied sweet potatoes
-mashed potatoes
-green bean casserole
-blueberry pie
-apple pie
-pumpkin pie (which turned into pumpkin bake due to my lack of pie tins)

Roast Turkey
Above, I linked to the site I visited to learn about cooking a Thanksgiving turkey. Next time I think I will try cooking the turkey upside down (breast side down). Word on the street is that it makes for more moist white meat since all the juices drip down into the white meat.

Probably my best tip for you? Invest in a digital food thermometer. I’ve mentioned a food thermometer previously on this blog, but I think it is absolutely critical for getting a moist turkey. The #1 reason I’ve read about for dry turkey is over cooking the turkey. You should remove the turkey from the oven as soon as the turkey reaches a safe internal temperature (from the USDA’s website, that temperature is 165 deg F). So keep your thermometer on hand and make sure to check that turkey.

Another thing I did was wrap the turkey in tin foil. This was per my MIL’s instructions when I called to ask her about roasting a turkey. She lines her roasting pan with one long strip of tinfoil down the long end of the pan, with a foot or so of tinfoil hanging over the sides. Then she lines the pan across the short way with two overlapping pieces. Then she plops the turkey in there and folds it up. It worked well for me.

The last tip is to let the turkey rest after you take it out of the oven. That way the juices all soak back into the meat.

Even our leftover meat has been good.

I think because I seasoned the turkey really well (see the turkey website) I didn’t have to add much to the gravy. I started with a little butter and cornstarch (you can also use flour), let that get all bubbly, then added the turkey drippings. I did add a little salt and pepper at the end. Just stir it while it boils for a while until it thickens up.

Candied Sweet Potatoes
4 medium sweet potatoes or yams
4 TB butter
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. water
Boil the potatoes until tender; drain. Peel and cut into fourths lengthwise. Put the butter and sugar in a heavy skillet and heat, stirring occaisionally, until melted. Add the potatoes and turn until lightly browned. Add the water, cover, and simmer over low heat for about 10-15 minutes.

These were the best candied yams I had ever had. And I love simplicity in food – no pineapple or marshmallows for me.

I made the bread cubes myself by putting pieces of bread in the oven on super low heat (like, 175 or something) for about an hour. Then I cut them into small cubes and used them as the cubes in this recipe.

1/4 lb butter                               4 c dry bread crumbs
4 TB finely chopped celery           1/4 tsp ground pepper
4 TB finely chopped onion            salt to taste
sage, rosemary and thyme (or poultry seasoning) to taste
1/2 c. chicken broth (optional)

Melt the butter in a skillet and stir in the onion and celery. Cook over low heat until the onion is soft. Add bread crumbs and toss to coat. Add the salt and pepper and seasonings. If you want a more moist stuffing, add the chicken broth.

DH and I had gotten in a little argument about the stuffing the evening before Thanksgiving. I like to make things homemade from scratch (then I have more control over what my family is eating). But DH couldn’t seem to describe to me how he wanted me to make the stuffing, so I was almost prepared to go buy some Stove Top. I’m glad I made it from scratch, though, because I loved it, and he loved it (so did my sister and her DH). I think next time I may leave it in the pan a little longer.

Mashed Potatoes
These were pretty easy. DH doesn’t like the peels in his mashed potatoes, so he peeled them. Then we boiled the potatoes for about 10-15 minutes. The most important step in mashed potatoes is to put them back in the hot pot on the burner after you drain them. That helps all the extra water to evaporate do you don’t have soggy mashed ‘taters. I actually turn the burner off and then just put them on top of the still-hot burner. If you have a gas stove, you’ll just turn the heat down way low. Now mash the potatoes with a little warm milk and some butter. Decide how lumpy you like them. If you like them really lumpy, just use a fork or a hand masher to mash the potatoes. If you like them smooth (like DH does) I put mine in the KitchenAid and beat them that way. You could also use a hand mixer to get them more smooth. If you like whipped potatoes, you’ll want to use more milk and butter and beat them on a high speed.

Green Bean Casserole
This was my sister’s dish and it was absolutely amazing. None of that Cambell’s and French Fried onions – completely from scratch, this casserole was to die for. She’ll be guest posting soon with more details, and then I’ll link up here.

Blueberry Pie
pie crust (both top and bottom)               1 c sugar
4 c fresh or frozen blueberries                 1/4 tsp salt
3 TB flour                                               1 TB lemon juice
1 TB butter
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line the pan with pie crust dough. Mix the flour, sugar, and salt in a bowl. Add the blue berries and lemon juice and mix well. Dump the blueberry mixture into the pie, dot with the butter, and cover it with the other pie crust. You can do a lattice top, a regular top, whatever, just make sure you cut vents in the top. I cut a heart shape out of the middle of my pie and placed it overlapping the heart shaped hole. It turned out really cute. (My son called it the “heart pie”). Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 F and bake 30-40 min until the top is browned.

Apple Pie
pie crust (both top and bottom)              1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 c sugar                                               1 1/2 TB flour
1/2 tsp salt                                           6-8 large, firm, tart apples
1 tsp cinnamon                                              (Braeburn are best)
2 TB butter
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a pan with the pie crust dough. MIx the sugar, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and flour in a large bowl. Peel, core, and slice the apples (I peel the apples, then use a corer/slicer, then slice the slices so they are a little thinner). Toss the apples in the sugar mixture, then dump them in the pie crust. Dot the apple mixture with the butter, then cover with the other pie crust. Again, cut vents in the top. I just did four little teardrop shaped vents in the center of the pie like a flower. Bake the pie for 10 minutes and then lower the heat to 350 F and bake 30-40 minutes longer until the top is brown. (You can cook this pie with the blueberry pie in the same oven – just don’t forget the cookie sheet under the pies!)

Pumpkin Pie
pie crust (just for the bottom)                1 1/2 c. cooked or canned
1 c sugar                                                        pumpkin
1/2 tsp salt                                           1 1/2 c evaporated milk
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon                                1/2 c milk
1/2 tsp ground ginger                            2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp cloves
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a pan with the pie crust. Combine the remaining ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth. Pour into the pie crust. Bake for 10 min, then lower the temp to 300 F and bake for about 45 minutes or until the filling is firm.

There you have it. Our Thanksgiving dinner. Sorry I don’t have pictures. Next time I’ll be sure to take pictures and post them. I hope this helps someone trying to cook their very first Thanksgiving dinner (or... your first good one!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

This scale.

To be able to step on the scale every morning and not have to write anything down or remember anything... and have it make a chart automatically... mmmm... love.

Actually I want a treadmill and a sewing machine (and I think I will probably be getting both). But this scale will be in my near future. I can feel it.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Ants on a Log

Well, what'd'ya know - it's still a classic.

I fed these to the kids for an after lunch treat. That's right - a treat. I told V that he had to finish his Mac and cheese before he could have one. The boy gobbled it up and wanted another. I'm saving the rest for 'witching hour' when I'm trying to make dinner and my children have turned into gremlins. Since they aren't particularly filling, they are a great before dinner distraction.

One tip - if you're like me a don't like to refrigerate your PB, make these a little ahead of time and leave them in the fridge during lunch. Then the PB won't be so runny for the kids.

Oh, and 18 mo J had issues chewing the celery since she only has her front incisors and 4 molars that are only partially erupted. But she liked it anyway and gnawed on it for a while.

So whip up these healthy classics for your next snack time!

-- Post on the go

Monday, November 8, 2010

Breakfast of Champions

After a short run and some weight lifting on a chilly morning, what breakfast could beat this:

Just a bowl of oatmeal - my chosen toppings? A little brown sugar, chopped almonds, ground flax seed, cocoa nibs, and a little whole milk. Yum.

-- Post on the go

Friday, September 17, 2010

whole-wheat-chocolate-chip-cinnamon-banana pancakes


Yes, they were as good as they sound.

A reader on our family blog mentioned how cruel I was for posting such a yummy looking pictures with a yummy sounding name, and not posting the recipe.

Well, I have two admissions to make:

1.) I rarely use a recipe

2.) I used Krusteaz Honey Whole Wheat pancake mix for these pancakes (there was some in the pantry from a previous tenant at our little furnished place we’re staying)

However, I do use a recipe for baking, and I do have a really yummy recipe for whole wheat pancakes:

Whole Wheat Pancakes

2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (or whole wheat pastry flour)
1/4 c ground flax seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 T sugar (I usually use honey and mix it with the milk and eggs)
3 dashes cinnamon (I use a lot more than 3 “dashes”...)
1 egg, divided
2 egg whites 1/2 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 c milk

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Put the egg whites in a bowl by themselves. Mix up the wet ingredients (mix the honey with the milk if you’re using honey). Combine the wet and dry ingredients. Beat the egg whites until they are stiff, then fold them into the pancake batter (this helps the pancakes to be fluffy – especially important when you’re making whole wheat pancakes).
Don’t worry about lumps – lumps are completely accepted in pancake batter, just so you know.
Now this is the part where you can add anything you want.

To be honest, the reason I added bananas to the pancakes was because when my little helper (18-month-old J) was up at the counter she found the fruit bowl and managed to pull the stems off of two bananas. So I had bananas to use. Why not stick ‘em in the batter! Then I got carried away and decided chocolate chips would add some yummy-ness. You could also use carob chips to go a little more healthy. And then afterward I thought some cacao nibs would be a perfect addition to some health pancakes! Next time. Well, I sliced up the two bananas (next time I will mash them as my three year old, V, refused to eat the banana chunks in the pancakes).

The combination of the flavors was absolutely delicious. One tip when you’re pouring the batter – the chocolate chips tend to sink to the bottom of the batter, so mix up the batter before each batch you pour on the griddle.

"To be sent greeting... by... the word of wisdom...

Given for a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints...

All wholesome herbs [or plants] God hath ordained for the consitution, nature, and use of man-

Every herb [or plant] in the season thereof, and every fruit in the season thereof; all these to be used with prudence and thanksgiving...

And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings... shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones...

And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint."