Friday, June 24, 2011

Friday Favorites

Real Outdoor Living - has project lists and how-tos on making decks, fencing and other outdoor wood projects

10 S'More recipes - just perfect for a summertime treat

Raised Organic Vegetable Garden Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 - They have a very limited space and I thought it was really great what they did with the space they had available

30 days of Summer Entertaining - the bottom of the current entry she has the back entries to the rest of the days

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kitchen Tips: Cinnamon Sugar and other odd things my Grandma taught me

I've been wracking my brain trying to come up with material for a post and finally hit upon one the other day. It started with a simple recipe that called for a mixture of cinnamon and sugar to be sprinkled over the top of my fresh peach cobbler.

I have always had a small shaker of cinnamon and sugar mixture in my kitchen, just like my Grandma Pearl did. The first thing I learned to make on my own was cinnamon toast, under her watchful eye. She kept a shaker of cinnamon and sugar in her kitchen in case we children wanted a snack. It was easy, and relatively mess free.

I find myself using my shaker for more than just toast. Sir will sometimes sprinkle his cereal with the mixture, or when I'm baking, I'll sprinkle some over the top of what I'm making, like the peach cobbler from the other night or anything that suggests a sprinkling of sugar on top. Suggested ratio is 1 teaspoon cinnamon for every tablespoon of sugar, but you can tweak to your liking.

I was thinking about other tricks I got from Grandma and I realized, she's all over my kitchen.

* I keep a bag of onions that I've chopped up in the freezer to save time. Along the same line, I freeze ginger root to make it last longer and easier to grate into recipes.

* When I make things in the Crock Pot, I turn the pot on low while mixing the sauce then add the meat, makes the wet ingredients blend better.

* I also keep a shaker of baking soda near the sink to help wash off fruits and veggies. (ok, this one didn't come from Grandma, but from Aunt Phyllis!) It's also good for cleaning off cutting boards and scrubbing pots and pans too.

* Fresh herbs from the garden always taste better store bought. So I have a small herb garden out back where I have Basil, Oregano, Mint, Thyme, Rosemary and Sage. I pick them at the end of the season and dry them to use through out the winter.

* When making sauce or other liquid based dishes to freeze, drape a large freezer bag over the rim of a small mixing box, it makes it easier to fill.

Those are just the tips I can remember off the top of my head. My little Kitchen Witch up there is a reminder of my Grandma Pearl, she always had one in her kitchen. It was said that if the witch was facing towards the kitchen, then it was your turn to cook dinner, if her bottom was facing towards the kitchen, go out to eat! I named her "Pearl" after my Grandma.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pita Chips

One of our grocery stores has a clearance section of bread. And often I can pita bread from 40 cents to 70 cents a pack just depending how many packages they have left to sell. And I buy them to make pita chips.

Pita Chips

Pita bread
1/4 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375. Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with cooking spray.

Cut pita pockets into triangles and then separate them where they are still connected to the other half.

Mix oil and toppings. (I did basil, oregano, rosemary, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, onion powder, parmesan cheese, sea salt)

Brush both sides of pita bread with the oil/herb mixture.

Bake for 6-10 minutes until they are crisp. Flip/stir at the half way mark. Let cool before serving. Store in an airtight container.

Some possible toppings:
Sea salt
Parmesan Cheese
Herbs of choice
Cinnamon sugar with melted butter instead of oil

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

2 Book Reviews

Real Simple: The Organized Home

Just like the magazine, the book had really good photos. And the photos showed some good organizing ideas. But the downfall of this book is that it didn't describe really how to implement its ideas. There isn't hardly any text in the book and no captions or how-to instructions to go with the photos to tell you how to create that in your home. In the back of the book, it has a resource list but not an index of what item went with each resource. So although I found some great and interesting containers in the photos, there is no clear way to find those items without just going through each resource which is a big list. If you like Real Simple's photos you will enjoy this book. If you enjoy real simple's tips and ideas, you won't enjoy this book, as it really doesn't give much written content and how to create the ideas put forth in the photos.

Decorating Small Spaces: Live Large in Any Space (Better Homes & Gardens)

The book is only good maybe for section to do layouts. It has graph-paper and then cut-outs that so you can arrange your room. But if you are wanting a book that will tell you how to get the most space out of your small room - this probably isn't the book for you. I mean it has some nice ideas for hidden compartments behind mirrors, under the stairs or over doorway type storage solutions. I don't feel it was really a book for utilizing space in small rooms rather a book of utilizing space in any/bigger size room/house. Many of the photos show medium to large rooms that look airy and not in need of space.

The solutions I did kind of like in the book of course then didn't go into detail on how to create the idea and I notice many of the purposed ideas were the same. Another annoying things was the layout of the text because it was confusing to follow and hard to read.

Overall I found some of the photos in the book inspiring. And even a few might be worth while to implement in a future house but won't work in our current house. The book offers some ways to utilize and organize un-used space more creatively. But BH&G didn't focus enough on actual small rooms to create space so for me it didn't live up to expectations.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday Favorites

A to Z - How to Decorate Series - A to Z has gathered some great bloggers together to do a month long series on decorating Being Hard on Yourself - "focus on progress, not perfection–to forgive myself when I’ve gotten negative, and then start anew from right where I stand."

180 Popsicle Recipes - link up to recipes for homemade popsicles to cool off for the summer

Vermontucky Lemonade - from Smitten Kitchen - just looks like a great summertime cocktail

DIY Concrete Garden Spheres - from Design Sponge

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Product Review: Bamboo Towels

In the interest of trying to have a greener, more eco-friendly house I picked up a pack of bamboo cloths while at the store a few weeks ago. The packaging promised that they would be anti-fungal, anti-microbial, anti-bacterial. The package said good for dishes and washable Great! I thought, I love my all purpose microfiber cloths, but they STINK even after washing them with vinegar in the rinse water. I was very excited and promptly began using them.

They clean up well, are generously sized and wonder of all wonders, don't smell bad after a few days sitting beside the sink!.

However, I am really less than impressed with them:

1) They are supposedly washable. They fray badly and tear in the washing machine. Now, maybe it would be better if you washed them by hand, but I don't have the time or inclination to do that.

2) The ones I have are about the size and shape of paper towels.. therefore, last week when I was in school and Sir saw one sitting on the side of the sink... he thought I had left paper towel there and... threw them out.

3) For the price I paid, I'm not convinced that they are worth it. I know Trader Joe's carries another brand and honestly, I haven't tried them, but the nearest Trader Joe's is over 40 miles from our house. Should I find myself in that neighborhood then I will stop and procure them, but going 40 miles out of the way for eco-friendly towels with gas prices near $4/gallon here does not seem like a smart thing to do.

Here's one of the towels after two trips through the washing machine...


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