Simple [Sim-puhl]

Simple [Sim-puhl]
1. easy to understand, deal with, use, etc.
2. not elaborate or artificial; plain
3. not ornate or luxurious; unadorned

Thursday, October 24, 2013

In a Pickle

I've always wanted to make my own pickles, but I did not relish the idea of canning a bunch of pickles as I usually just eat them on a sandwich now and then. Still, I do enjoy pickles and even though they are usually four or five dollars for a jar and every time I buy them I sigh a little to myself. One day I was reading about the many uses of vinegar and I found this recipe for The Very Easy and Never-ending Jar of Pickles. Now I make my own fresh and delicious pickles regularly. I used to use dry dill, but fresh dill tastes so much better it's worth investing the three dollars in a plant.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Homemade Cold Cereal

Hot cereal is one of the comforts of home during the cold months of the year. Of coarse it's been industrialized with instant oatmeal packets and two and a half minute Cream of Wheat (not that they're not absolutely delicious or anything.) But there is something so genuinely nourishing about a pot of oats simmered and seasoned from scratch with only the extra effort of two to five minutes more of your morning. Fresh ingredients always feel better in the tummy. This combination is commonly known as "the love"; it is patience, creativity and gut instinct mixed into a creation to be consumed by those you take care of -Good care of. Well there's nothing like some good old-fashioned corn meal mush, or oatmeal, or cream of wheat, or Malt o' Meal -to warm you up nose to toes when your about to head out into the snow. But, there are times when hot cereal just doesn't shine it's best and it's mostly on hot days or times when you just want to munch and crunch on something sweet and just as nourishing. Cold cereal was something we just didn't eat when I was growing up because it was more expensive, less nutritious, and less satisfying. Still we would beg Mama to get us cold cereal so we could see what we were missing out on. Mama being the wise one, would come home from the store with huge bags of Corn Flakes or Cheerios or those straw bricks my dad seemed to like for as unknown a reason as ever there was. (He always liked weird stuff like rye bread and sauerkraut, and okra, and just about anything a child didn't even want to try. Flavors I grew into eventually; except okra, not touching that.) We would stifle our disappointment as we swallowed mouthful after mouthful of bland fiber. Finally we convinced Mama to buy Fruit Loops and at least Honey Nut Cheerios and everyone was much happier, but not healthier.
It wasn't until I left home and could decide for myself what to be frivolous on that I tried every sugary cereal I could find and decided Mama knew best. All that sugary cereal was usually a let down and left my teeth feeling all caked and grimy. Then I discovered granola and it became my guilty financial splurge. I splurged on a lot of sophisticated food during that chapter of my life, most of which was also disappointing. When I married and money mysteriously became even tighter I learn to give up on the sophisticated and less-satisfying pallet I had developed. "Eat what you love, but don't be a pig about it," became my new diet theory. I found a cookbook on amazon that peeked my interest being a "from scratch" -raised kind of cook and homemade food connoisseur. It had recipes for all homemade from scratch versions of store-bought favorites like Fig Newtons, Oreos, and cream cheese. I was afraid to spend the extra money on it in case the recipes turned out to be disappointing. An unfortunate repeated blunder in the past. However, after reading another blogger's review of the book I decided it was really my kind of cookbook and finally ordered it as a gift to myself. I had never enjoyed reading a cookbook so much and had it read cover to cover two days after it arrived. I was thrilled to learn I could make my own granola, and how easy it sounded! I rounded up the ingredients and with some trepidation followed the recipe to exactness. When my first batch of granola came out of the oven smelling all crisp and cinnamony I had such pride in my accomplishment and such high hopes that I now could munch and crunch granola guilt-free to my heart's content. I was sorely disappointed... It was bland, and far too cinnamony, and not even close to the sweet crunchy clusters I enjoyed so much from a package. How could the homemade version let me down so thoroughly! I decided to stick to my occasional splurge at Trader Joe's and forget the episode all together. What a waste! I had enjoyed reading the cookbook so much I began to follow the authoress' blog, it was funny and inspiring and the recipes were diverse and looked delicious, but I didn't dare try to make any. Then at the beginning of the year she posted a new granola recipe. It sounded wonderful, how could the orange and chocolate combination not be delicious? So I decided to give it another chance, and slowly but deliberately I bought the ingredients. I finally had them all, but not the motivation so I waited several more months until this week I decided I really wanted some nutritious cold cereal without the BHT or the over generous grams of sugar and high fructose corn syrup in it. (Commercials lie constantly BTW especially about what's good for you; in English class we called them "fallacies," but deceit is deceit by any other name.) So I bought some fresh oranges and today I trusted in myself and made the new granola. I tasted the cocoa nibs before I put them in having never tried them before; and yeah, there's another waste of four dollars -I threw them away instantly. Yucky, I'll just stick to nice sweet and silky chocolate chips thank you very much -to be added to the bowl before munch time of coarse, no need to melt them in the oven. I trusted my gut and added a couple handfuls of slivered almonds too because I do like toasted slivered almonds in the store-bought granola. Lastly, I used a Thick n' Rich maple syrup and already ground flax seed instead of whole. The rest of the directions I followed exactly and waited anxiously as it baked. Before removing it from the oven I decided to test the crunch. It was delicious! All lite and orange flavored and crunchy with just the right amount of sweetness! It even formed clusters! Finally, success! I'm so excited to have my own homemade granola I can make and enjoy a variety of ways. I enjoy adding chopped candied ginger and chocolate chips, but really it's just wonderful on it's own!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Clean Home: A Chemical-Free Zone

When one is pregnant she is supposed to avoid fumes and chemicals as much as possible, so it was the perfect time for me to implement a chemical-free environment in my home. (Besides the noxious fumes of my Mother-in-law's perfume that seems to permeate the house that is) Try convincing an aged woman to cut the cologne... Just try.
I decided to try a couple of recipes for homemade cleaners on a couple of blogs I enjoy reading. One is for window cleaner, and the other is an all-purpose cleaner. I tried them out this week and paired with a good scrub brush, a microfiber towel and some baking soda I cleaned my bathroom top to bottom. I do use paper towels when I clean my commode because using something I plan to wash and reuse later just grosses me out for some reason. But still, if that is all the paper towels I use I feel that is pretty forgivable.
I love having a squeaky clean bathroom, unfortunately it doesn't stay that way long. But, that just gives me an excuse to use my homemade cleaners again. These homemade cleaners work great to remove hard water stains and soap scum. The baking soda is wonderful to scrub the toilet bright and it's also good for the septic system. I don't have to hold my breath while I clean or run the fan anymore! The only drawback is the floor does smell like vinegar for a while after it's cleaned, but I will try a milder solution for the floor next time and see if it helps.
Hooray for economical and simple healthy solutions!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Soaps' Up

I tried an experiment this past year. I found this recipe for homemade foaming hand soap and decided to see how long it would last my household and if it would be cost effective. I started making my own foaming hand soap to use my bathroom last year with one quart of Dr Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap I bought at the grocery store for $12.99 and I still have a third of the bottle left. I'd say frugality success!
I have been very happy with the cleaning power, the gentleness on my hands (as I am a frequent washer,) and ease and convenience of making the soap! The Dr Bronner's liquid Castile Soap is ultra concentrated, it's made of natural oils and glycerin (which I learned last winter are actually stripped out of many commercial soaps and therefore dry our skin out so we have to contsantly apply lotion.) 
In one shopping trip I purchased a year supply of hand soap for my family that easily fits under the bathroom sink! I don't think I'll ever go back to bars or liquid soap.