Friday, June 29, 2012

Crunchy Step: Freezer Jam

Strawberry season is wrapping up here in South Jersey.  This year I decided I was going to take advantage of the abundance of fresh jersey strawberries.  I looked up some jam recipes and found out I could make jam in my blender and just stick it in the freezer!  No cooking!  No "real" canning!  Just easy peasy blend and freeze.  It really appealed to my desire to be supermom and yet maintain a certain level of laziness!  Not to mention a money saver!  The only downside was that I had to call the Health store and ask if they had "Pamona's Pectin" a special, better for freezing, no sugar necessary pectin.  I hate making calls and asking questions.  I'm also scared of the health food store.  Why?  I have no idea it just intimidates me.  I imagine as I wonder aimlessly around looking at tiny bottles of essential oils and bins of grains I've never heard of that the clerks are standing behind the counter in their homemade clothes in perfect health and snickering, waiting for me to ask a really stupid question.  I am clearly a wanna-be, and possibly a nutcase.  Happily the lady on the phone put the pectin behind the counter and George picked it up.  I found a great recipe at Passionate Homemaking and got to work!

Here's the method:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Real Crunchy Step: Hand Soap

One thing my family goes through very quickly is hand soap. Although we do wash our hands an appropriate amount, the main reason we go through it so quickly is because my adorable, 3 year-old Aubree likes to use a ton of soap while washing her hands to create a sink full of bubbles. Then she wipes these bubbles on her arms, nose, the faucet, and any where else she can get to before I come in and stop her!

I usually stock up on the 7.5 oz Soft Soap brand liquid hand soaps when they are $1 each at Acme. Although this is not expensive, I was able to make a more natural hand soap for even less!

You will need:
1 gallon of distilled water
2 TBL of glycerin (found in the first aid section in stores, mine was called “glycerin skin protectant).
8 oz bar soap

I grated 8 oz of Ivory Soap (2.5 bars) into a 5 quart pot (often called a Dutch oven). I added the gallon of distilled water, and the 2 TBL of glycerin, and cooked on medium-high heat, stirring frequently until all the soap dissolves.

This took about 10-15 minutes to get all the soap dissolved. When dissolved, I took the pot off the burner to cool.

Then I waited…and waited…and wondered if it was working because it just looked like water…and waited more.

After about 4 hours it started to get cloudy.

Then it started to get thick and blob like. Then I couldn’t help myself and started to stir it here and there, even though I kept telling myself I might be messing it up. (Don’t worry, I didn’t mess it up!)

After about 11 hours it was thick enough, but still wasn’t smooth. I got out my hand blender and blended it until it was smooth. (You could also use a hand mixer). I found that the next day it was even a little more thick.

I poured it into the gallon jug the distilled water came in, and had enough left to almost fill an empty 7.5 oz soap dispenser. I tried it out and it worked great! It was even sudsy! Success!

Some tips: Soaps with moisturizers in them (like Dove) do not work as well with this recipe. If the soap is too thick, you can blend in some water until you reach the right consistency.

Cost Comparison: $0.99 for the distilled water, $0.97 for 2 TBL of glycerin (I spent $5.79 for the bottle), $1.46 for 2.5 bars of Ivory Soap, with a grand total of $3.42 for about 135 oz of hand soap (or 18 of the soft soaps). This saves me $0.81 per 7.5 oz soap dispenser.

I am kind of sad that I still have 4 Soft Soaps left.


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Friday, June 22, 2012

Real Crunchy Step: Freshener

It seems my house always smells like something:  dog, dirty diapers, food, salmon that fell behind some blankets by the freezer and couldn't be found for weeks (what?  Doesn't that happen to everyone?).  The whole smelly house thing really bugs me.  I've used my share of chemical products to dissipate the smells in the air and on the couch, curtains, carpets, and canine beds (I love when alliteration just happens like that!).  Those products though are so chemically laden that I had to stop using them.  I could not justify spraying chemicals in the air for the purpose of my family breathing them in.  YUCK!!  Living in a smelly house, however, is also a little yuck.  So when I found this home recipe for a freshener on Keeper of the Home  I decided to give it a try.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Real Crunchy Step: Homemade Lunchmeat

A drink, lunchmeat sandwich, a piece of fruit, two snacks: one that is junk food (such as a tastycake) and the other what I would consider a “medium” snack which is neither healthy nor completely unhealthy (such as a granola bar).  This is the lunch that my Husband, Danny, has packed for himself since he was a boy in school.  My Daughters and I are not big on lunchmeat sandwiches, only eating one on occasion. For the past 10 years since Danny and I have been married, I’ve bought at least a half a pound of ham, turkey, or roast beef lunchmeat almost every week.  This may not come as a surprise to you, but lunchmeat is expensive!  It’s also full of sodium and nitrates, and is not good for you.  For the past few months, every time I went up to the deli counter I would say to myself, “this is the last time you’re buying lunchmeat, next week you will make it yourself.”  This week was that week!

Following directions I found here
I coated my eye roast in olive oil, then covered it in black pepper, salt, and garlic powder (if I had onion powder, I would have thrown that on, too).

I lined a pan with foil, and put a wire rack on it. 

I roasted my roast at 500 degrees for 20 minutes, then at 300 for 40 minutes more. 

The directions said to loosely cover your roast for 20 minutes, then slice, however it was still too hot to slice, so I put it in the fridge. When it was cooled, I sliced it (with a very sharp, non-serrated knife) as thin as I could get it.  (Unfortunately, I didn’t get it as thin as I wanted it to be.)

 I then wrapped it tightly in wax paper, and put it in a baggie. If I were to freeze a portion of this (as I normally would), I would have wrapped the wax paper in a paper towel, and then put it in a freezer bag.

Cost comparison: Acme and Shop Rite both had Eye Roast Deli Meat on sale for $7.99lb.  Acme had whole eye roasts on sale for $2.99lb.  My 2.44lbs eye roast cost $7.30.  If I bought 2.44 lbs of the eye roast deli meat, I would have spent $19.50.  I already had the oil and spices on hand, so I didn’t spend anything on them. 

Was this a success?  Almost!  I think I could have sliced it thinner if I waited until it was completely cold.  I also got a tip that if I froze it a little, it would be easier to slice it thinly.  I was happy with the tasty, healthier lunchmeat that was a lot less expensive. Next time, I will try out the deli slicer that my Mother-in-Law owns!
Denise is the wife of Danny and mommy to three little girls.  She blogs at Better Than My Best about life and homemaking.

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Saturday, June 16, 2012

Let's Hear It for the Boys

I'm 3 months old!  I've gotten very smiley and chatty.  I can push up really well but I don't want to roll over yet.  I'm growing!!  I weigh 11lbs 5 oz and am in the 25% (up from the 3%)  I'm also making red blood cells and they may cut down my Epogen shots soon.  I've started really noticing my siblings and watching them. I also decided to start sleeping in my crib for half the night.  The other half I spend in Mommy and Daddy's bed.  My goal for next month is to be off my medicine!


I've been home for four months!  I love my family.  I love giving kisses and high fives and being held.  My favorite toys are cars, trains, anything with wheels.  I pretend I don't say much when we are with strangers but I actually talk non-stop.  No one seems to understand me though!  I can climb like crazy.  I like to play this game when Mommy is nursing and climb on the kitchen table and pour out any cups.  I put Mommy's phone in her coffee.  That was pretty funny!  I love to entertain by jumping off things or falling down.  People think I'm hysterical, especially Mommy.  I have a doctors appointment next week and I'm hoping to have gained some weight.  By the way, my Giarda is gone!!!!!  "Oh there ain't no bugs in me!"  I love my older sisters and adore my baby brother.  Mommy and Daddy won't let me carry him around though and I don't think that's fair!  Yeah, I'm pretty much loving life! 

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Crunchy Step 1: Loco Taco Seasoning

Who doesn't love tacos?  My family could eat them every night.  We once had a taco song and dance.  No I'm not kidding.  Everytime I made tacos preschool Christin and I would dance around the kitchen singing:  (to the tune of La Cucracha)  "I love the taaaacos!  I love the taaaaaacos!  I love the taco, taco,taco, taaaaaaaaaaacoos!!!"  And spin around in circles dancing and stomping our feet.  Really tacos are a full cultural experience in our home.  Everytime I bought tacos or a taco kit I spent between $.69 and $1 on seasoning.
Cause you know I love me some MSG.  Seriously, the ingredients on the back of a popular taco mix are: Maltodextrin, salt, chili pepper, onion powder, spice, monosodium glutamate, corn starch, yellow corn flour, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, silicon dioxide (anticaking agent), natural flavor, ethoxyquin (preservative)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ghetto Summer School

We're working on our skip counting this Summer and also graffiti, or not.  We are that awesome.
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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Real Crunchy Steps

Homemaking.  Are there any other professions that remain the same from generation to generation and yet there is always something new to learn?!?!  It's crazy (and overwhelming!)   Women have been doing this for thousands of years and yet none of us seem to feel like we have it all down!  There's always something new to learn.  Some trick we've been missing.  In my quest to be Supermom and gain that ever elusive Mom of the Year award I've asked myself over and over, "What can I do better."  Then I tell myself, "EVERYTHING" and just go grab a bag of chocolate covered raisins and a book and curl into a little ball of overwhelmedness.  (I'll post about coping skills later though)  Over the past few years I've been trying to be healthier and more frugal (combining the two is the biggest challenge) in what we eat and what we use around the house for cleaning, hygene, etc.  This summer my big goal was to take advantage of summers bounty by trying my hand at canning, freezing, and whatever other methods there are of preserving food  (I currently have glass jars in my fridge of veggie stock.  It's not pretty people.  Both George and I in our immense maturity have giggled about having jars of pee in the fridge.  We're mature adults though).  Then this morning I received a text from a fellow wanna be crunchy mom and awesome friend Denise suggesting we join forces each testing a different crunchy (healthy and natural) remedy for eating, cleaning, etc. and share our bounty.  Thus was born this summer's blogging series: Real Crunchy Steps!

Join Denise and I this summer as we take small steps aka Crunchy Steps toward healthier living .  We'll post our recipes, projects, and outcomes each week.    Look for the first post this Friday!!!  Loco Taco Seasoning (you'll never, ever guess what it's about!)

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