Saturday, January 31, 2015

Homemade Sourdough Crackers

Another sourdough product that's so easy to make: SOURDOUGH CRACKERS! [see video below!] We especially like these crackers baked 'til golden brown and crispy. You may like to add honey, herbs, or other seasonings to the recipe but this is just the basics here.

If you do not have a sourdough starter see this video to learn how to make your own:
Sourdough Starter

Mix well 'til a stiff ball of dough is formed:
1c sourdough starter (fed within the last 12 hours
1/4c butter (or other fat)
Optional seasonings (herbs, spices, parmesan cheese, etc. These may be added later with the salt and baking soda or added now)
1c - 1 1/2c whole grain flour

Allow to sit on the counter for 8-12 hours, turn on to counter, break apart, sprinkle on 1/4t salt and 1/4t baking soda and knead 'til well combined.

Roll out thin using a rolling pin or pasta roller. Place on to greased baking sheets, sprinkle with kosher salt (or other salt) and optional seeds. An egg wash may be applied first to help the salt and seeds stick. Bake at 350 until golden brown. Check after 10 minutes and then every few minutes thereafter; the thinner ones may need to be removed sooner, the thicker ones may need to stay in longer.

Cool on a wire rack. Store in an air-tight container.

For other sourdough videos please see my sourdough playlist on youtube.
For more videos please visit our youtube channel: Frugal Home and Health
Or see the recipe tab above.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Apple Cake using Home-Canned Apples

In this video I demonstrate how to make a delicious, moist apple cake using home-canned apples. The video is at the end of this post; the recipe is as follows:

This recipe is an adaptation of my favorite, most versatile cake recipe. For other uses of the same recipe, see my blog post here: Altering a Basic Cake Recipe

3c whole grain or all purpose flour (or a mixture of both)
1T baking powder
1t cinnamon
1/4t salt
1/2c honey or other sweetener of your choice
2 eggs, beaten
1/2c melted butter or other fat of your choice
1 1/2t vanilla
1 quart jar of home-canned sliced apples, liquid included

Have ready: 9x13 greased and floured cake pan
Preheat oven to 350*

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients in separate bowls. Pour the wet into the dry and mix well until combined. Pour into the prepared cake pan and sprinkle with optional cinnamon and sugar (if not using frosting) - 1T sugar and 1t cinnamon.
Bake at 350* for 30 minutes, or until the center is firm to the touch.
Allow to cool before serving.

For other videos please visit my youtube channel! Frugal Home and Health

Sunday, January 25, 2015

What's for Dinner?

I couldn't have said it better myself so I decided to ask permission from Jaimie at An American Homestead if I could share her post titled "What's For Dinner? Real Life Tips for Getting Dinner on the Table".
My additions will be [in italics and brackets].

So ... here it goes ...

Everyone wants to eat everyday! Multiple times a day! There’s no stopping it and most often that thankless repetitive job falls to us mothers. I’ve been asked by numerous people to offer suggestions on how I regularly make healthy and simple meals. I guess if I can get dinner on the table while living the demands of an off grid life, anyone can do it! One woman asked recently, “Do you ever work so hard that you are just too tired to make dinner? What do you do in that situation?” The answer to her first question is a definite YES! And this article is my answer to her second question. These are the things that I have found that help me the most when trying to get a quick and healthy meal on the table.

Remember that food is just food.

Ma Ingalls feeding the fire for the smoked venison.
Ma Ingalls feeding the fire
for the smoked venison.
I put this as number one because I remind myself of it all the time. Please keep reading and I’ll explain. Food can be enjoyable and often is. But when I am strapped for time and have a million other things to do, I try to remember that food is just food. It helps me put things in perspective. Because I live on our off grid homestead, I’ve often thought about how the original homesteaders would have eaten over a century ago. I’ve come to the conclusion that they kept meals simple because a lot of their time spent with food was focused on production and preservation. They planted their own gardens, baked their own bread, and made their own cheese. They raised livestock and hunted for wild game; which they butchered, salted, and smoked to keep without refrigeration. For a summer dinner, they could have had a slice of bread with sausage and cheese, and raw vegetables from the garden. In the winter, they may have cut up some smoked venison and fried it up with some potatoes stored in their root cellar. My point is that we as Americans have come to believe that we need so much variety! Healthy meals, made with real ingredients (not processed), are really possible without a lot of stress if we remember to keep it simple.
[I really appreciate that she put this point first ... food really is just food and meant to nourish our bodies. Keeping things simple helps to keep things in perspective and takes the stress out of meal preparation on those days when time really is too short.]

Have a plan.

I’m not talking about meal planning, although that can be great if that is your thing. I did meal planning for a few years. It worked, but I spent way too much time meal planning! It was just another thing that needed to get done. When I say to have a plan, I mean to realistically think about what you have to fix and how long it will take you for the time you have to spend on it. I try to think about dinner in the morning so that I at least have an idea of what I will fix. This is really important if you need to get something out of the freezer. When the time comes for dinner prep, I can grab my ingredients and get started because I already know what I’m making.
[Meal planning can vary for everyone, depending on each family's needs and situations. Whether planning meals for a week or two at a time, waiting until the morning of to figure out what's for supper, or a combination of something in between, all are meal planning. For 2-3 years I cooked for several adults each night and HAD to plan ahead, at least a week at a time. Now that I'm only cooking for our little family, it's easy to plan the morning of. We go through seasons of having families over every week (usually this stops in the warmer weather due to late work hours); during these times I am sure to have in mind at the beginning of the week what I will be making for our company later in the week. Sometimes I even prepare most of it a day or two in advance so my time is free the day of to do other things ... like relax so my mind is fresh for our guests!]

Keep your kitchen clean and picked-up.

Drainer overflowing!
Drainer overflowing!
This is a tough one for many people and something that I struggled with a lot when I was a new mother. Before I had my first child, I had worked full time. When I made the change to stay home, I just could not get used to the idea of having to clean and pick-up the kitchen throughout the day. I wanted to do it once and be done! Well, I’ve since learned that cleaning throughout the day is a lot easier than cleaning a huge mess at the end of the day. This is so important for meal preparation because if you can’t find room to cook, you won’t do it. Cleaning up after each meal means that you can enter your kitchen at any moment and start cooking. You won’t need to waste valuable prep time cleaning up before you can even get started with dinner.
[This is a very important tip!! Keeping the kitchen clean is my number one cleaning priority!! I prefer the dishes to be washed and put away after each meal, however sometimes I need to let them sit in the drainer ... that's ok as long as they are not sitting dirty in the sink unless absolutely necessary! I like the 'flylady' system of 'shining the sink' before you go to bed each night. What a blessing to start your day fresh with a CLEAN KITCHEN!!]

Get rid of kitchen utensils that you never use.

My most essential kitchen tools.
My most essential kitchen tools.
And keep the rest of them organized and easily accessible. It’s a pain when you have to fish around in a drawer overloaded with utensils for a pair of tongs or a wooden spoon. Keep only what you use and get rid of the rest! Meal prep goes so much quicker when you can quickly put your hands on what you need. I actually keep the things I use most often on my kitchen counter. My knife block and cutting board are always out where I can use them and my cast iron skillet is always sitting on my stove. Isn’t that a beautiful skillet? It was my grandmother’s and I love it!
[I try not to have anything on my kitchen counter because it's so small ... but I DO like to have my  most-used items easily accessible. This seems to be an ever-evolving process for me!]

Pick a good time of day for dinner prep.

Simmering soup in a dutch oven.
Simmering soup in a dutch oven.
It doesn’t have to be right before dinner. Try to make it a time when you have limited distractions. I usually do most of my dinner prep in the afternoon while my youngest is napping and my oldest is at the kitchen table doing schoolwork. This is the best time for me to work in the kitchen. During this time, I bring all my ingredients together. I chop what needs to be chopped, grate cheese, get baked potatoes ready to go in the oven, make biscuits, etc. All I have to do before dinner is put a pan on the stove to cook or put a dish in the oven. This time of year (winter) I usually have my wood stove going, so I will often prepare something that can simmer on top all afternoon and be ready by dinner time. It’s my off grid crock-pot!
[Excellent tip ... you do not have to prepare all of your meal right before you cook it! Do various components at the most convenient time for you and your family. When my work load was a lot heavier and I planned meals a week at a time, I would often take the time to prep ingredients for several meals at once. This cut daily meal prep time down a lot.]

Choose something you already know how to make.

My homemade biscuits.
My homemade biscuits.
This is important when you are strapped for time. You don’t want to worry about carefully referring to a recipe when you just need to get dinner done. If you are trying to broaden your cooking skills, do that a little at a time. Every couple of weeks, pick a new recipe to try when you don’t have too many other things going on. Make that effort worthwhile and choose something that will be delicious time and after time! Learn how to roast a chicken, make biscuits from scratch, or cook up your own spaghetti sauce. In future articles, I plan to cover some basic foods that I believe are essential when building your cooking skills.
[I like to have a list handy in my homemade cookbook binder of all our favorite meals. When I'm pressed for time it's nice to look at that list and get a few ideas before moving forward. Another thing I find helpful is to have the ingredients accessible. We purchase a lot of things in bulk; instead of keeping these items in large bags I keep smaller containers within reach. Here is a post I did a while ago that shows some of my containers for our bulk items though I no longer keep the ones on the counter but on a shelf in the kitchen.]

Keep a well stocked pantry.

Our garden produce canned for the winter.
Our garden produce canned
for the winter.
I don’t make many trips to the grocery store. I make most of our meals from the food I have stored in our pantry or the produce from our garden in the summer. I spent a lot of the summer and fall canning our own garden produce and livestock, but I also have a good amount of bulk food stored. Things like wheat berries, corn, beans, rice, olive and coconut oil, sugar, salt, coffee, oatmeal, baking powder, baking soda, different kinds of vinegar, canned milk, spices, and peanut butter.
[For me, part of having a well stocked pantry is having plenty of home-canned convenience items on hand. Home canned soups, seasoned beans, meat and vegetables all make for super quick meals in a pinch that are also healthy and tasty! Here is a link to some of my canning videos and posts. Also, here is a link to a post I did a while ago about stocking the pantry and meal planning ... though it looks like I need to update it a little!]

Don’t cater to picky eaters.

This is a hard one for me, but I keep at it. My toddler is in the picky stage. I remember when my 8 year old was his age and doing the same thing. He grew out of it and will now eat most anything. I know my youngest will too. I want him to learn to eat what I put in front of him. I know what my family likes and I really try to make meals that they will enjoy. But if the kids don’t like something, our rule is that they aren’t getting anything else. They have to eat what they have been given. I won’t be a short order cook.
[Amen to that. When my oldest, now 21, was less than 2 years old he decided he did not want to eat his food. Fortunately for the both of us he did NOT have a choice as that was the only food we had left. I wrapped it up and gave it to him the next morning for breakfast. He refused to eat it. I wrapped it up and gave it to him for lunch. He refused to eat it. I cannot remember if it was supper that night or breakfast the following morning (pretty sure it was breakfast) but finally he ate it and asked for more. I did not have this problem with him again and did the same with my other two children. If I found one did not particularly like something I tried to serve it more often so they would get used to it. Even if they never grew to like it they at least tolerated it. They are now all pretty much adults and they enjoy so many different foods and are not afraid to try new things. I believe my  mission was accomplished.]

Don’t stress when your dinner plan doesn’t happen.

At the end of the day, no one will go hungry because you didn’t get a perfectly home-cooked dinner on the table. With that said, try not to get takeout either. Just because the circumstances of life haven’t enabled you to cook dinner, you don’t have an excuse for takeout. Anything you eat from home (even if it is cheese and crackers) will probably be more healthy than any restaurant fair.
[Sometimes we are in situations where we simply have to eat out ... and that's ok!! It's there for a reason. But if it's just a matter of lack of time, it's so quick and easy to throw together a few jars of homemade soup or meat and vegetables to make a soup or stew, pull out a freezer meal like the freezer lasagna I just posted the other day ... or eat cheese and crackers! Be prepared! You won't regret it.]

So that’s it. These are things that I do everyday. I know they help me get dinner on the table. I hope they have given you some encouragement in fulfilling what can often be a thankless job. Do you use any of these tips? Do you have any to add to the list?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Freezer Lasagna

Freezer Lasagna is SO EASY and such a blessing to have on hand. We make freezer lasagnas in bulk, give some away and keep some for ourselves. Here is how we do it. (VIDEO DEMONSTRATION AT THE END!)

The sauce is really up to you but I'll share what I did this time ... though each time might be a little different. You may have your own favorite recipe, favorite store-bought brand or maybe you score on a deal at the discount store?

2lbs hamburger, browned (optional ... for a vegetarian variety use about 4c of cooked lentils)
1 large onion, diced small
1 large bell pepper, diced small (I used some of my dehydrated peppers from last year's garden)
1/2c extra virgin olive oil
1 large bowl (my large bowl is 14qts) heaping full of kale (remove stems and chop small) (I used fresh kale grown from the kale seeds we saved a few years ago)
4 qt jars home canned tomatoes or 4 large cans diced tomatoes (28oz size I think?) - liquid included
4-6oz cans tomato paste
2T salt
2T basil
2T sugar
4 or more cloves of garlic, crushed (or at least a few teaspoons of garlic powder/granules)

In a larger, heavy-bottomed stock pot saute onions and peppers in the olive oil. Add the chopped kale and continue to saute till the kale has reduced.

In a blender, blend canned/jarred tomatoes and tomato paste (this is optional; some of our diners do not appreciate chunks of tomatoes so I blend them up. Also, blending them together makes it much easier to mix in the tomato paste). I find it easiest to do one jar of tomatoes and one can of paste per blender load. Pour into the stock pot. Add the optional ground beef or lentils and spices. Taste it. Maybe you need more of something? Add it.

Cover and simmer for a while, stirring occasionally; allow to cool before using. Sometimes I make the sauce one day, let it sit over night and use it the next day ... the flavors seem to combine better.

Variations to the sauce ... try adding in other vegetables like chopped spinach, shredded zucchini, sliced mushrooms and/or carrots. You may prefer other spices like oregano and/or cayenne. Sometimes we add in sliced black olives. It's really up to you.

2 - 32oz cartons of small curd cottage cheese (you may use large curd but I prefer small)
4 eggs, whisked
1/2c - 1c grated parmesan cheese
1/2c - 1c dry parsley

Mix till well combined. The parmesan cheese and parsley are really to your preference ... maybe you would like more? Maybe less? It's up to you.

Of course you will also need a few 16oz boxes of semi-cooked lasagna noodles (keep in a pan of cold water till ready to use) and grated mozzarella cheese - a lot or a little, depending on what you like. I used one single 24oz block of whole milk mozzarella but you might prefer more (most do ... I just try to be easy on the cheese).

This cooks easiest when it's thawed, therefore I highly suggest letting it sit out all day long before cooking. Cover and bake at 375 for about 35 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes OR until heated all the way through. FROZEN lasagna will need to cook much longer!! Bake covered for at least one hour. Check it. If it's a little cold then remove the cover and cook an addition 20 minutes or so. If it's still partially frozen keep it covered and bake till a little cold and proceed as instructed.

Maybe you have your own recipe? Or changes you've made to this one? If so, feel free to share!!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Natural Help for Scalp Psoriasis and Dandruff

A few people I know (my daughter included) have a terrible time with scalp psoriasis and several (including me) have issues with dandruff when the weather gets dry and cold. Last year a friend gave me a recipe to help scalp issues; I tweaked it and came up with something that really helps scalp psoriasis. We've had great results so I thought I'd share it here in case someone else is struggling with the same thing.

Use organic ingredients if possible.

4oz unrefined shea butter
3.25oz virgin coconut oil
2T+2t jojoba oil
1t castor oil
1/2t vitamin e oil
1/2t rosemary essential oil
1/8t lavender essential oil
10drops grapefruit seed extract

If shea butter is too solid, gently warm it but DO NOT heat it too much.
Place all ingredients into a high-walled container (like a gallon pitcher) and stick-blend till smooth and well combined. Keep in a clean, glass jar(s).
If it's hot in the house keep this lotion in the fridge for longer shelf life.

Both shea butter and coconut oil leave all the grease behind. I have found that babassu oil is a good substitute for the majority of the solid fats in lotion and penetrates well but I have not tried it in this scalp lotion. Let me know if you experiment with it or any other combination.

To learn more about the properties of each ingredient, please visit the Rose Mountain Herbs website ... they have a lot of good information and it seems their products are high quality, though I do not get everything from them - some of the items I purchase come from Azure Standard, Vitacost, Amazon and Costco. I've heard some mention Bulk Apothecary as well though I have never tried their store ... yet ... maybe I will some day.

But back to the scalp issues!!

What we found helped the most was the following routine: Wash hair with Burt's Bees Baby Bee Shampoo and Wash, Tear Free. Now, there is a clear baby shampoo and a milk-colored one; we get the milk-colored one. When a good lather has formed, place 4-5 drops of rosemary essential oil into the palm of your hand, rub on to both hands and then work into your scalp. The lather of the shampoo helps the essential oil to spread better. Rinse. If you can handle it, do an apple cider vinegar rinse (a tablespoon or two into a 12 oz squeeze bottle filled the rest of the way with warm water ... really the amount of vinegar to water will depend on your hair and scalp so you'll have to experiment to see what works best for you). Rinse again with water and towel off.

While your hair is still damp, gently work in the above scalp cream into your scalp. It's best to do this in the evening so you can sleep on it all night. The results will be kind of greasy, so be sure to have a towel on your pillow or wear some kind of cap or covering. In the morning you might need to wash your hair again. We wear head coverings so it's not really an issue to have greasy looking hair because no one can see it anyway.

Repeat every night as needed. When it clears up just do a maintenance application of the lotion as often as you need it (at least once a week?) but continue to wash your hair the same, including the essential oil each time.

For an added bonus, make an herbal vinegar hair rinse: fill a 32oz mason jar half full of rosemary and/or lavender. Add apple cider vinegar (raw, organic) to the top. Cover with plastic wrap and cap tight with the mason jar lid and ring. The plastic wrap will prevent the metal lid and ring from corroding. Keep on the counter and shake once or twice a day for two weeks. Strain. Throw out the herbs (compost them).

Now, what's this about Dandruff? Well, it happened by accident really. I used to get such tight, itchy, dry scalp in the winter time UNTIL I started washing my hair with the Burts Bees baby shampoo/wash and adding the essential oil as mentioned above. No more dandruff, no more tight, itchy, dry scalp.

There you have it. Please let me know if you try any of the things suggested here ... I'd like to know if they work or do not work for you. Also, if you have something that is working for you, please share!!