Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Welcome to My Kitchen

In the vein of cutting the power bill we have set up an outdoor kitchen of sorts. One of the things we realized really heated up our house during the summer months was the heat from the stove and oven. So...... what about cooking outdoors? (It's kinda like camping:))

We don't have a gas grill, but we do have a turkey fryer. We had bought this really interesting oven years ago (y2k preparation) and never used it.

I wondered if it would fit on top of the propane burner. And if it fit would it work? It has been two weeks now and almost all our baking- muffins, toast, bread, a layer cake, cookies, pizza, etc. has taken place in this oven- I love it.
Look inside- I can fit 4 large loaf pans easily.

When we aren't baking I simply remove the oven and cook with our pots and pans over the burner. All of our cooking, with the exception of crock pot dishes ,takes place on this burner. There are of course adjustments and finagling to get the meal ready at the same time, but all in all I think it's going to work.

I'm amazed at how hot dishes stay when pots are insulated. I fixed dinner one evening before we headed out to a meeting. I left about an inch of water in the bottom of a pot of cooked pasta noodles, put the lid on the pot, and wrapped towels around the pot. When we arrived home three hours later and unwrapped the pot the pasta was steaming.

How's my power bill doing? We are running about 1/2 of our normal usage which was about 100 kw hours/per day. Our goal is to keep it in the 50kw hours/per day range.

Hope we can keep it up in the middle of summer :0!!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Well Done.....very well done my good and faithful one

These words echoed through my mind and heart yesterday as we stood with the White family in their time of grief.

The tiny casket, hopes dashed, dreams of life, glimpes of personality bursting forth, the excitement of awakening each day to see him...life and the fullness of it all suddenly over. But not really "over". As we stood, sang, and prayed truth sounded forth. You see Willy was not here with us, but with Jesus- praising God. An eternal soul was birthed at conception. A soul from the parents of believers carrying the promise of ..." a God unto thee and thy seed after thee." Gen. 17:7.

Every minute of pregnancy, every thought, every prayer offered up was not in vain for the soul lives on. In a day and age when pregnancy and life is so devalued and disregarded... this mother did well. Yes, she did very well. She gave all she could- what a beautiful picture of "giving up your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable serving of God." Romans 12:1

Well done Robin- very well done!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Frozen Bread Dough

A reader asked me recently how many loaves my bread recipe makes. We weigh our dough so the loaves look better and cook evenly. We put 2 pounds of dough per bread pan and for my recipe that yields 4 loaves with sometimes a little dough left over.

Sometimes we make a little mini loaf from the extra dough. I like for my husband to take these to his work as little thank yous :). Also, if we don't need that many loaves or don't want to run the risk of the bread going bad we frequently freeze our dough. This dough makes terrific rolls, pizza dough, doughnuts, buns, etc. We have not had luck using the frozen dough for a loaf of bread. I don't know why, but it doesn't seem to rise and bake as well in a loaf pan. The rolls, buns, etc. rise and bake up beautifully.

Of course, you can always freeze the baked loaf.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Homemade Laundry Soap

....it's a long story, but I ran out of laundry detergent after just being at Walmart- so frustrating especially because shopping is not just a hop, skip and a jump away.

Because we had made our laundry detergent several years ago I had all the ingredients on hand so it was basically easier for me to make it than go buy it.

In searching for recipes I ran across an abundance of them. I chose recipe #3 and the above picture shows the fruit of my labor. I'm figuring this will last at least one month- maybe more because we have a front loading washing machine.

P. S it smells wonderful - I used lavender and tea tree essential oils.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Have Any Deer Meat Left?

You may want to try this. It was really good!

Venison Meatballs

2 cups grated raw potatoes
1 tbsp. onion chopped
1/8 tsp. pepper
¼ cup milk
3 cups water
2 cups sour cream
1½ lbs. ground venison
1½ tsp. salt
1 egg
¼ cup butter
2-3 tbsp. flour
1 tsp. dill seed
Combine potatoes, venison, onion, salt, pepper, egg, and milk. Shape into 1½-inch balls. Brown balls slowly in butter in large skillet. Add ½ cup water and cover. Simmer for 20 minutes or until done. Remove meatballs.Stir in flour and remaining water. Simmer until thick. Reduce heat. Stir in cream and dill. Add meatballs. Heat, but do not boil. Serves 8.
Note: May be cooked by alternate method – Brown meatballs; remove to casserole. Make gravy, add sour cream and dill. Pour gravy over meatballs and finish in oven.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Rather Unusual Birthday-

Not mine mind you,
but my wonderful husband!!!

Happy Birthday Honey
- (hope you enjoy your cow:))

To Soak Or Not To Soak

After nearly seventeen years of baking whole wheat bread I've recently learned about the health benefits of soaking the freshly ground flour before baking in order to produce a lighter more digestible loaf.

I had read several articles on the subject, but to be quite honest I didn't want to change a system that had worked for many years. Bread making had become automatic for me and more recently for my girls who have taken over 90% of all the baking. Gee, now I have to do something else to make my homemade healthy bread more healthy!
Oh well, I might as well give it a try. If you are interested Sue Gregg has some really good information on the subject of soaking flour and also has some tips for adapting her recipes.

I'm generally pleased with the quality and taste of the bread using this new method, but its going to take a little time to perfect the system. In a nutshell you soak freshly ground flour in water and some acidic agent (lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt etc.) for 12 hours. This mixture becomes the base for your bread. From this point I make bread as I normally do by adding the rest of the ingredients (you do have to add some non soaked flour), kneading the dough, rising, and baking.

The first loaves were a little bit doughy and the rise time took much longer because the dough was at room temperature. The next time I added less water and the same amount of flour. This time when I got ready to make bread I heated the remaining water (really hot) and added that in with the rest of the ingredients. The rise was much better. I also added more flour while the dough was kneading.

Several months later-

.... here I am months later and we love our soaked bread. I think we have made every boo boo in the book, but now our system is working smoothly.

Here's our old recipe: (we mix and knead our bread in the Bosch mixer)

6 cups very warm water
2 cups oats
2/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup honey
2 T salt
4 T yeast
12-14 cups flour or until the dough cleans the bowl

Mix, knead, rise and bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes

This recipe made really great bread, but we much more pleased with the soaking method.

Here's the soaked recipe:

The night before we make bread- mix together 4 cups hot water, 1/4 cup yogurt, and 8-10 cups whole wheat flour. Cover and leave out on the counter until the next day.

The next day- add to yesterday's dough 2 2/3 cups very hot water, 1 cup honey and mix until the bowl of dough loosens up. Pour this mixture into the Bosch and add 2 T salt and 1/4 cup yeast. Add freshly ground flour until the dough pulls away from the bowl. Knead for 5 minutes, let rise, and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Some of our many mistakes:
Challange- the dough after sitting out for 12 hours wasn't warm enough to get a good quick rise- Solution- use slightly hotter water than usual for the remaining water; use freshly ground flour (it's warm) and let the bread rise in a warmer oven.

Challenge- the soaking dough becomes a hard clumpy mass
Solution- add the hot water to the bowl and let it soften the mass; stir and break up the dough with a mixing spoon until it becomes stirable then pour it into the Bosch

Challenge- help the mixer is slinging wet dough all over my kitchen
Solution- soak your dough in a glass bowl and add the water, honey etc. to the bowl to soften the dough before you pour it in the mixer and turn it on. If you try to soften the dough with the dough hook on it will slosh down the outside of the bowl all over the counter making a terrible mess- (can you tell I'm experienced :))

Challenge- I'm exhausted- you mean I have to do one more thing before I go to bed.
Solution- make it part of your dinner preparation routine. Don't wait until you get ready for bed do it during the day or as part of your dinner preparation- you just won't finish it until the next day.

Challenge- Oh no I forgot about my soaking dough and it's been over 24 hours.
Solution- go ahead and make bread with it anyway. We have let ours soak for as long as 48 hours and it is even better. It has a wonderful sour dough flavor.

Good luck- let me know how yours turns out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Meet Your Breaker Box

For those of you who tuned in earlier we are into seeing how low we can get our power bill.

One the of the steps I mentioned was identifying those power hogs- heating and a/c systems, hot water heaters, clothes dryer, etc. While turning off lights is important we don't want to "strain at a gnat and swallow a fly". Another important step is becoming familiar with your breaker box- I hope yours is in as convenient location as ours is. If not, I'll have a suggestion for that in a minute so don't tune out :).

If your box is not labeled and major breakers identified now would be a great time to do that. Stand beside your box with a roll of masking tape and marker. Flip each breaker off and have children stationed throughout the house as you turn them on again letting you know what breakers control which switches. As you identify the switches they control label them. This may take some time, but it will be worth it in the long run. An electrician built our house and thankfully ours was marked very well, but in the ten years we have lived here we have rearranged and renamed rooms so it's always good to update your information. One other little tip- tape "on" those breakers you don't want to ever turn off. For instance we learned the hard way it was not worth it to turn off the outlet that ran our cordless phone and computer modem :).

These particular breakers are important- your hot water heater, stove/oven, freezers and/or refrigerators, and a/c system. Now because I'm home most all day and my breaker box is very convenient I can turn these breakers on and off to accelerate our savings. Yes, it is very important I remember to turn them on again. For instance we turn our hot water heater off at night and most of the day. We turn it on again in the evening to wash dishes, start the first load of laundry, and for baths. If all this jiggling of the breakers is not for you they do make an electric :( timer you can put on your hot water heater that will turn it off and on for you. We have really been amazed at the savings from this simple step. The water stays very warm even with the heater off. Of course we are entering summer so we don't need our showers to be quite so hot.

What about the other breakers? Why would I want to turn those off? As you are all aware many of our electric appliances use power even when they are off. The timer /clock on your stove and microwave, the clock on your coffee pot and on and on. If not being used why not turn them off ?- or you can unplug them.

The other reason is to help everyone think differently. Do I really need to turn that light or that switch on? Well, if I'm used to the power being off chances are I'll find another solution- maybe move to in front of the window. Gee, what a great idea!!

What about you- what great ideas are you having?

Monday, March 23, 2009

A New Perspective on Perspective

I’ve always loved the story from John 21:4 and following which talks about Peter and some other disciples fishing all night and catching nothing. The next morning a “stranger” appears on the shore and asks if they have any meat. They answer back “no” and “the stranger” tells them to cast their nets on the other side. Verse 6 says “so they cast out, and they were not able at all to draw it, for the multitude of fishes.”

One Sunday in church the question was posed, “why did the disciples follow the instruction of a stranger?” Now we all know today that that “stranger” was Jesus, but scripture tells us they didn’t yet know who the "stranger" was yet they followed his instruction anyway. Why? What would motivate a tired, empty boated bunch of fishermen to follow the command of a complete stranger? Could it have been perspective? See the fishermen were in the boat, but the “stranger” was on the shore. He had a totally different view point. He might have seen a huge school of fish. I don’t know, but I do know He always has the perspective I need in my life. I want to walk by sight He wants me to walk by faith.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

What we do with slightly stale bread and end pieces

Who wants to finish that heel of yesterday's bread when a fresh loaf has just come out of the oven? So, I'll snatch up the little left over ends and heels and cube them, toss them in a zip lock bag we keep in our freezer and soon they'll become oven baked french toast.
Here's a simple recipe:

Oven Baked French Toast

Let frozen bread cubes thaw out in a 9 x 13 glass pan- maybe set them out the night before (if you forget and have to use them frozen it's no problem because they thaw out so quickly)

In a mixing bowl combine:

3-4 eggs

1- 1 1/2 cups milk

dash of vanilla flavoring

dash of cinnamon (if desired)

about 1/4 cup pure maple syrup

Pour this mixture over the bread cubes and bake at 350 degrees 30 minutes or so until set. Remove from the oven, drizzle with pure maple syrup, and serve.

Hope you enjoy - as you can tell the ingredients are not exact, but you get the idea. Use what works for you. The amount of milk and eggs you need is based on the amount of bread cubes you have.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Simple Ways to Cut Your Power Bill

Do you know there are some simple really easy things you can do to cut your power bill? We may have gone a little overboard over here :), but if you want to learn some simple ways that you can save, read on. But.... be forewarned it gets additive. Once you see your kilowatt hours dropping you'll soon be flipping those breakers off :0.

For starters- learn how to read your power meter. This is the place to begin because once you learn to read your meter you can actually see the savings on a daily basis. Also, in Alabama our power bills have loads of good information. They detail the amount of kilowatt hours used: last billing; one month ago, and one year ago. Pay attention to the billing cycles- they differ in the number of days- so not all billing cycles are equal. We look at our meter each day at the same time to tell the amount of power used in the previous 24 hour period. How are we doing? More? Less? Don't forget to calculate how much your power company charges for a kilowatt hour by simply dividing your bill by the total number of hours used. This varies widely by state and area. Now that you know your usage and cost per hour you can see the dollars as the meter turns.

Next, identify your power hogs. What in your home uses the most power? This website has tons of information concerning power usage, kilowatt hours, and many tips on saving electricity and taking care of your electric appliances. In a nutshell here are the biggies- hot water heater, a/c, stove, oven, clothes dryer- you get the picture.

Step 3- be creative. Make simple changes like turning off the hot water heater breaker at night, putting up a clothes line, or maybe cutting off your refrigerators and freezers for a few hours. Check to see how your changes are affecting your power usage. Set a goal and see if you can stay within that goal. Make it a family fun project. We try to report each morning at breakfast how we are doing.

Why? Well, the most obvious reason is to save money. But, an even bigger issue we believe is the issue of stewardship. How well are we managing God's resources- be it money, time, material possessions or whatever He has in trusted to us for a season? Are we making the most of those resources.

Hey, if you've been doing these things all along- give yourself at pat on the back and enjoy your new found popularity- finally it's vogue to be thrifty.

Stay tuned for more tips ....

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Great Little Gadget

Do you have an instant read thermometer? I think ours was under $10.00 at Walmart and it has been a real life saver. No more partially cooked bread. When in doubt remove the bread from the oven, stick in the thermometer and wait for it to reach 200 degrees. If it doesn't in just a few seconds- your bread needs a little more time in the oven. Couldn't be easier. And this is just one application -it works for many other dishes.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Cornbread Salad

This is one my favorite easy to make, easy to take salads. The variations are endless and I don't think I've ever had one taste bad. (I was out of sour cream when I took the picture above- it is really pretty with dollops of sour cream)

Here's the recipe I made most recently:
Cornbread Salad
1 pan cornbread (made however your family likes it- sweet, buttermilk, spicy, etc.)

1 head washed romaine lettuce torn into bite size pieces

1 pint grape tomatoes sliced

1 green pepper chopped

1 package green onions chopped

1-2 cups grated cheddar cheese

1-2 cups cooked corn or canned

2-3 cups cooked pinto beans or canned

2 cups cooked diced chicken

1 1/2 cups sour cream mixed with 1/2 cup salsa

extra sour cream for topping


In the bottom of a large glass bowl layer the torn romaine lettuce pushing it up the sides of the bowl to form a lettuce bowl. Next add a layer of: crumbled cornbread, chicken, pinto beans, green pepper, green onions, corn, tomatoes, and cheese. Top this with a layer of the sour cream/salsa dressing. This should take up about one third of your bowl. Begin the layers again starting with the romaine lettuce and ending with the dressing. For the last layer start with the romaine lettuce, layer the cornbread, beans, and chicken, then end with the vegetables. Top this with grated cheese. Next, alternate dollops of plain sour cream then salsa around the bowl. You can add slices of cornbread around the edges of the bowl, sliced tomatoes or whatever you have. Fresh cilantro would be wonderful, also (thanks, Jen!) and look what a gorgeous salad you have!

Make this salad fit whatever you need- the larger the bowl it can be an entire meal, or you can make a small salad to accompany your Mexican night.

substitute browned ground beef for chicken

cook the chicken or ground beef with taco seasonings and cool

leave out the meat entirely

use another type of cooked bean ex. black, kidney, white or mix the beans

leave off any of the vegetables your family doesn't like

use your imagination!

Hope you enjoy- let me know how yours turns out!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ladies- Let's Encourage Each Other!

What a refreshing perspective is shared in this post from Down to Earth- she says-

"If I were a young wife now, with children to raise, I would be learning everything I could about how to do the work in my home without modern appliances. I would learn to make bread by hand - good bread not just a get-by loaf; I would work out easy ways to do the family laundry - in case a time came when I didn't want to use electricity - once I worked it out, I'd go back to my washing machine; I would create a stockpile of groceries, and if I had a backyard I would learn to garden and raise chickens. I would teach myself to sew and knit. I would start mending clothes, I'd recycle and reuse everything I could. I'd start cooking from scratch with the intention of learning how to produce the most delicious and nutritious meals for the lowest cost.If I were a young wife and mother now, I would take it upon myself to save every penny I could to pay off our debt. I would encourage my husband and children to economise, make do and learn to go without. My focus would be on the long-term health and prosperity of my family and I would hope to teach myself enough to give us the best chance in this tough economic climate."

And if I might add, the more we would have to share with and help others in need. Good times or not -the more responsible we are with our resources the better it will be for our families and our communities.

The issue of stewardship keeps coming back to me. I know the tendancy is to think and live "frugal" when times are lean, but shouldn't we strive to be better stewards all the time. It all belongs to God to use as He sees fit. He just allows us to particpate.

I don't know how you feel, but after fighting the consume and spend mentality in my life for so many years its kinda fun to see "frugality"and "stewardship" come into vogue.

Let's encourage each other to think and live differently. The strength of our communities lies in our strength of our families and consequently the strength of our nation lies in the strength of our communities. ...a little leaven leavening the whole lump.

What about you - what are you doing differently?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

All Purpose Bag Out of......

Yes, a pillow case- what a fun idea. Thanks to the White family- for the idea and pattern.

Wouldn't this be a wonderful bag for- books, gardening, craft supplies? Yes, we will be on the look out for really cute pillow cases.

Here's a link to the directions. Enjoy!

Sleeper of a Bag

~Springtime in the Country~

For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; The

flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and

the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; The fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape, give a good smell. Song of Solomon 2:11

It was one of those March days when the sun shine
s hot and the wind blow
s cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens

It's spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!

~Mark Twain

By: Sarah

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Clean Clothes On The Line

After being without a clothes line for several years we figured it would be a good idea to put one up again. In addition to trying to save on our power bill the clothes look and smell great

So.......we are hanging clothes on the line and humming the tune to one of our new favorite songs Green Beans In the Garden- thank you dear West family for a terrific song with an even better message.

Here's the chorus:
Green Beans In the Garden
words and music by Cecilia West

Cause there's green beans in the garden
clean clothes on the line
yeah there's little bare foot children playing beneath the grape vine
the sun is shinning bright and the creeks a bubblin too
We've got a lot to be thankful for and Lord I wanna thank you

Monday, March 2, 2009

Homemade Doughnuts.....Yum!!!

O.K. it started like this- we dropped by a friend's house to deliver some honey and her kids were so excited to tell us about making homemade doughnuts. What a fun idea!! Their mom emailed me the recipe they used.

We tried it and they were delicious, but ....since I'm forever looking for short cuts -it got me to thinking. Would our bread dough work as doughnuts? Let's give it a whirl.

We took our regular bread dough, cut them like doughnuts, let them rise for 15-20 minutes, fried them in coconut oil, and tossed them in brown sugar and cinnamon. Boy, am I sorry I tried this!! They were really good. These will definitely be made again:).