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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Smelly Balls (It's Not What You Think!)

Father's Day is this weekend!  Did you find the perfect gift for that special Dad in your life yet?  If the Dad in question has a sense of humor and likes to smell good, then I have a great idea for you:

Smelly Balls


Sounds gross, right?  Don't worry, it's not what you think!  These balls are made out of clay, and they actually smell good.

You can infuse these balls with your favorite essential oils, and then use them to freshen any space.  They work great for dresser drawers, closets, cars, lockers, bathrooms, or even in shoes.  They are so fast and easy to make, and your favorite dad will likely get a good chuckle from the silly name.  They can also be personalized for the recipient; when I made these for my husband, I had each of our children dip a finger into some cinnamon, and then press it into the clay, so that each ball would have a child's fingerprint on it.



To Make Smelly Balls:


Supplies

Oven Bake Modeling Clay
Pencil or small dowel
Toothpick (Optional)
Spices for coloring (Optional)

1.  For each ball you would like to make, tear off enough clay to roll into a ball about 1 inch in diameter.  Roll the clay between your palms to form a ball.

2.  Use a pencil or dowel to poke a hole into the clay ball--do not poke the hole all the way through.  This hole is where the essential oils will be dropped into.

3.  If desired, you can use a toothpick to carve a design into the ball.  In addition, you can use spices, such as turmeric or cinnamon to add color to your design.  Dust the spices on, or dip the tip of the toothpick into the spice to press it into the clay.  The spices can also be kneaded into the clay before rolling it into a ball for speckles of color.

4.  Place each ball onto a cookie sheet, hole side up, pressing lightly to flatten the bottom somewhat.  Bake the balls according to the clay package directions.

5.  Allow the balls to cool completely and harden before using.  Once cool, a drop or two of your favorite essential oil can be put into the hole, and the smelly ball can be placed in the desired spot.

If you plan of gifting these balls, you can make a simple label describing what they are and how to use them as shown in the picture below.



It is also nice to include a bottle of an essential oil along with them.  Some essential oils that men may prefer include:  peppermint, vanilla, lavender, cedar, lemongrass, lemon, cinnamon, and cloves. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

Whoopie Pies

Whoopie pies, made popular by the Amish, are a dessert sandwich made by enclosing a vanilla frosting between to chocolate cake-like cookies.  This recipe has been modified somewhat from it's original Amish version however, mainly to substitute a healthier fat for the shortening that was initially called for.



Whoopie Pies (Printable)


Cookie Outside

2 cups sugar
1 cup soft butter or lard
2 eggs
4 cups flour
1 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon vinegar + enough milk to make 1 cup)
 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or grease well with butter.  

In a large bowl, cream together sugar and butter.  Mix in eggs.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

Add flour mixture to the creamed mixture alternately with the buttermilk, mixing after each addition.

Add the vanilla extract and mix well.  

Mix together the baking soda and hot water, and add to the batter, mixing well to incorporate.

Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls, one inch apart, onto one of the cookie sheets and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  

Meanwhile, prepare the second cookie sheet in the same way.  Once the first sheet has finished baking, place the second sheet in the oven.  Remove the cookies to a rack from the first sheet, and drop more cookies onto it to be ready to go into the oven once the second sheet has finished.  Proceed this way until all the batter has been used.

Spread filling (below) onto the flat side of one cookie, and top with another cookie to make a sandwich.

Filling Inside

2 egg whites, beaten
1/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 cups butter, softened

In a large bowl, mix together egg whites, milk, vanilla, and 2 cups of the powdered sugar.  Then add remaining sugar and butter.  Mix well, until the frosting becomes thick and creamy.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Homemade Graham Crackers Recipe

Graham crackers have been on my "To-Do List" for quite some time, so I finally decided to tackle the project.  Fortunately, it wasn't even much of a project; graham crackers are surprisingly easy to make.



By making your own graham crackers, you can avoid some of the less desirable ingredients used in most grocery store shelf, boxed products--namely the high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated vegetable oils.  You also have the ability to adjust:
  • The type and amount of sweetener used.  For example, you can use all honey if you'd like, or substitute molasses, which is a sweetener that would complement a graham cracker well. If you decide to try a different sweetener, keep in mind that you may need to adjust the amount of flour. 
  • The type of fat used.  You could try coconut oil, lard, or tallow in place of the butter.  Perhaps you'd like to try olive oil?  Or even substituting half the fat with a fruit puree, like bananas or applesauce?

As far as the flour goes, I went out and bought some graham flour to make these crackers, but upon further investigation of the issue, have found that graham flour is pretty much the same as whole wheat flour.  The difference is that the bran and germ are ground separately from the endosperm of the wheat berry. 

I would imagine that you could just substitute whole wheat flour for the graham flour if it is too difficult for you to find it.  Will it drastically effect the taste or texture of your crackers?  Honestly, I don't know, I haven't tried it, but I'd like to.  I'm also interested in finding out if other types of flours could be substituted, such as rice, millet, or oat flour.

The recipe itself is pretty simple--much like mixing up a batch of roll-out cookies.  It took me less than an hour to make them. You can cut them into rectangles, or if you'd like to please the kids, use cookie cutters and make fun shapes.  These crackers are good served with a glass of milk or a hot cup of coffee.


Graham Crackers (Printable Version)

3 cups graham flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper, or grease with butter.

2.  Combine the first 3 dry ingredients.

3.  In a separate bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar.  Beat in the egg, honey, and milk.  Beat in the lemon juice.  Beat in the vanilla.  Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.

4.  Divide the dough in half.  Place one half onto each cookie sheet.  Roll each dough half out to a thickness of 1/8 inch.  Using a pizza cutter, cut the rolled out dough into rectangles.  Prick each rectangle with a fork.  Optionally, you can sprinkle the dough with a cinnamon-sugar mixture if you would like.

5.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned*.  Cool on the baking sheets set on wire racks, and then break the cookies apart.   Store in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days, or freeze for up to 6 months.

*Note:  To get the crackers to be a bit more crisp, while avoiding burning them by leaving them in the oven for longer, put them on wire racks overnight to dry out a bit more.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Country Fried MEATLOAF: Use Up Those Leftovers!

I purposely made extra meatloaf so that I could try this recipe out, it sounded so delicious.  It combines two of my favorites:  meatloaf and fried breading.

The recipe should be useable for any meatloaf, as long as it holds its shape once chilled, so that it can be sliced and breaded.  The recipe we use is my husband's, and it came from his Betty Crocker cookbook.  He has modified it over the years, perfecting it for our family's tastes (the most important modification is the topping--ketchup, bbq sauce, and honey).

So, the next day, when your leftover meatloaf has chilled into a firm lump, you can slice it up, bread it, and fry according to the recipe.  I served the meatloaf with a basic beef stock gravy, but I would imagine that a white country gravy would be just as tasty.  It also would be delicious served on homemade buns for sandwiches.  The recipe can be halved, double, tripled--whatever you need to do to get the right proportions for the amount of meatloaf you have leftover.


A delicious use for leftover meatloaf.  Breaded and fried to perfection.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Very Fast Homemade Valentine's Card

Are you a procrastinator like me?  There's nothing like last minute.  Luckily, time crunches can inspire great ideas.



This Valentines Day card is very simple, requires minimal supplies, and above all else, is creative and handmade.  The ultimate display of affection is assembling something with your own massive, callused, hairy hands.

All you will need is:


  • Heavy paper (Use what you have:  card stock, a cereal box, a manilla folder, even construction paper will work in a pinch)
  • Newspapers, magazines, junk mail (Anything with lots of big letters printed on it)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Markers

 The assembly is quite simple:


  1. First, fold the heavy paper in half to form a card.
  2. Next, cut out letters from newspapers and such to make a message of your choice.  Since the card has a ransom letter look to it, you may want to make your message pretty ransom-ey.
  3. Cut out hearts from any kind of paper you'd like.  I used a combination of construction paper and newspaper hearts on my card.
  4. Glue the letters and hearts to the front of the card, and allow to dry.
  5. On the inside of the card, you can glue a rectangle of newspaper or other paper and write your message on that.  (I had originally planned on continuing the ransom letter look on the inside, but I got tired of cutting out letters, so chose to just write a message instead).
And you're done.  I told you it was easy.  :)  Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Soapmakers: Why You Shouldn't Use Vinegar if You Come into Contact with Lye

It was one of the first things I learned when I began making my own soap; I read it in books and on the internet:

"Always keep a jug of vinegar on hand when you are working with lye.  Vinegar neutralizes lye."


Soapers, have you heard this?  Do you practice the habit of keeping vinegar nearby when you make your soaps?  So did I, until recently, when I read an interesting post on a soap forum, and then decided to research the claim myself.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Homemade "Everything" Buns

Soft and fluffy, these buns are great as a side with salad, to use as sandwich rolls, hamburger buns, or even just eaten buttered as a snack.  I take advantage of my bread machine's dough cycle to make these buns, but they can just as easily be made with a mixer or by hand.

When making any bread recipe, you may need to slightly adjust the amount of flour or milk added, depending on the humidity levels in your home.  If the dough looks too dry, add a little drizzle of milk; conversely, if the dough is too sticky, sprinkle in a little more flour.  The dough should form a smooth ball and be springy to the touch.  As my husband says, "It's all in the dough ball!"





Everything Buns (Click for Printable Version)


The Dough:
1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons milk
1/4 cup honey
3  tablespoons melted butter
4 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons fast acting yeast

The "Everything" Topping:
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon water
sesame seeds
poppy seeds
dried onion flakes
garlic powder
sea salt

1.  In your bread machine pan*, add the dough ingredients in the order recommended by your bread machine's manufacturer (generally liquids are added first and are then topped with the dry ingredients).

2.  Start the machine's dough cycle.  While the dough is mixing, generously grease a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with butter and lightly flour a work surface.

3.  Once the dough cycle is complete, remove the dough from the bread pan and place on the lightly floured work surface.  Divide the dough into 12 pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball (see a demonstration here). 

4.  Place the dough balls into the greased casserole dish.  Cover with a towel and allow to rise until dough balls have doubled in size.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

5.  Meanwhile, combine the egg yolk and 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl, and grab a pastry brush.  Have the rest of your "Everything" toppings ready to sprinkle on.

6.  After the 20 minutes has elapsed, remove the buns from the oven and brush with the egg yolk mixture.  Sprinkle on sesame seeds, poppy seeds, onion flakes, garlic powder, and salt to taste.  Return the the oven and bake for an additional 5 minutes.

7.  Remove casserole from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.  Pull buns apart and serve immediately.  If you do not wish to serve the buns right away, pull them apart and place them on wire racks to cool completely before packing into an airtight container.

*Alternate instructions for mixing by hand or using a mixer:

By Hand:

Mix dough ingredients together in a large bowl, and then turn the dough out onto a floured surface.  Knead by hand for 10 to 15 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Wipe the large bowl out and generously grease it with butter.  Place the dough into the bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise until double in size.  Proceed with step 3 above.

By Mixer:

Combine dough ingredients in mixer bowl with dough hooks attached.  Mix on low until all ingredients are combined, and then increase speed to medium-low and mix for about 4 or 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Remove the dough from the bowl, wipe out the bowl, and grease liberally with butter.  Return dough to bowl, cover with a towel, and allow to rise until double in size.  Proceed with step 3 above.