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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Feeling Pickled!

When life (or Mom) gives you a bunch of cucumbers and dill... you make pickles!
I have an issue with canned pickles. I don't like them. But I love the fresh deli pickles... and my husband could eat them all day long.

On to my next experiment in the world of fermentation. I spent some time searching the web for the perfect pickling recipe and the issue I had was that they all had relatively the same ingredients but different ways to put them together. Odd. Why would I heat up the salt and water? I didn't have to do that for any other fermenting. When it came down to it, I figured it was my experiment, I was going to do it My way (with help from several websites to figure out ingredient amounts).

Ingredients: Per jar
couple Peppercorn
1/2 tsp Ground mustard (can use more whole mustard seeds, but I used what I had)
1 tablespoon Sea Salt
bunch of Dill leaves and flowers
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar (organic with mother)
3 Garlic cloves
Onion slices

Stuck everything except the onion and salt in the jar before adding the cut cucumbers. Add Salt.
Top with filtered water and onion. I used the onion to keep the cucumbers submerged in the brine. Put the lid on and shake it up.
I left these in the sink to ferment 4 days before I put them in the fridge. The water did get cloudy and bubbles appeared at the top while they fermented.
Before putting them in the refrigerator, I did taste them to make sure they were done and to my liking. I actually let them sit out another day before cooling them.

They are super tasty! and crunchy and I think that the onions even taste good. I am really amazed at how easy and fast this is to make. Why didn't I try this sooner?!

Have you tried fermenting anything lately?

Shared at: Blue Friday, Show and Tell,

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Fermenting Experiments

This summer has been fun in the experiment, idea, and travel departments. So many things to do! 

I have been enjoying the benefits of some food fermentation. My first thoughts when tracking down the recipes were, "This is easy!" With easy in mind, I wanted to tackle some of my favorites: Sauerkraut and Pickles! Let's discuss the Sauerkraut.
I love Sauerkraut. Yummm. And now after having the fresh stuff... I don't think I can ever go back to the store-bought squishy stuff.

What I used: 1 Giant cabbage. Sea Salt. Garlic. Huge Bowl. Mandolin. Knife. Mason Jars.
 I sliced the cabbage up in order to shred it with the Mandolin.
Every time I added a new layer to the huge shredded cabbage bowl, I sprinkled Salt over it. I might have used a total of 2 or 3 Tablespoons.
My little helper massaging the Salt into the cabbage.
 Once I finished slicing, I squished. You need to massage (squish) the salt into the cabbage. It doesn't take long to start feeling the wet brine all over your hands (hope you don't have any open cuts!). I squished for about 20 minutes for this entire mountain of cabbage until the pieces looked translucent.
It's wet!
I chopped up a couple garlic cloves at this point to give it a little spice and tossed it in with the cabbage. Then I started stuffing. I jammed as much Sauerkraut into each jar as I could and then pushed down so the brine covered all the cabbage. (In hindsight, I would have added a sliced onion or something on top to keep the kraut submerged.) Put the lid on and stuck the jars in a corner to ferment.

You can see the Brine a little in this picture. No water added, I promise.
Next time it would be a great idea to leave the jars in the sink to ferment since they actually bubbled over the top onto my counter leaving me with a bit of mess and smell to clean up 2 days later. I added filtered water to keep the Kraut submerged. The jars shouldn't be left in the sun, so it will have to be covered up. I tasted it after 3 days and put them in my refrigerator to slow down the fermenting process. Easy! (you might choose to leave it out longer, it is all to taste.) It would take longer if I chose to ferment all of it together too, but since they were portioned in jars, it was rather quick.

The result: Even though the cabbage started out green, after fermenting the Sauerkraut really is white. I am so glad I thought to add the garlic! It gave the Sauerkraut a bit of a bite. It has a really nice flavor and is still crunchy! So good. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pinwheel Hats

While chasing down useful party items at the 99cent Store, I came across these very bright ball hats and thought to myself, "Self, wouldn't it be fun to have a few people wearing Tweedle-Dee hats?" So I have been brainstorming the best way to turn these headgear items into pinwheel heads.

I went through several drafts in my head. I thought of using a straw and wire, but wasn't really sure how to attach it. I thought of taking the top knob off the hat and attaching it to the top of a straw, but on closer examination I didn't think I could remove the knob. I thought of making a hole on either side, but I really wanted the spinner to spin rather than just be decorative.

In the end, it was just a matter of checking to see if I could in-fact do it. And I choose a non destructive route to try first. I am happy to report that this wheel can easily be removed to make these "normal" (as normal as a brightly obnoxious hat can be) hat.

I used:

  • Hot Glue
  • Felt
  • 1/2 a pipe cleaner
  • cut up milk carton
Yes, the materials look a lot like what I made my Crown with.

First, I cut out my pinwheel shapes from the milk carton plastic. Then covered them in felt after I cut a hole in the center of it to make it easier to cut a hole in it later. 

 Then take your hat and twist the pipe cleaner around the circle knob tightly.

Stick on the yellow pinwheel piece and wind the rest of the pipe cleaner tightly into a wannabe knob.

I think they are really cute. If I was to make them again, I might just paint the pinwheel rather than felt it to save myself the felt and glue and make it a little lighter for the pipe cleaner. But it got the job done and only took me about 20 minutes to convert 3 hats.

My little model. The hat is too big for her...

Ta Da! Not too bad, if I do say so myself.
Shared at: Dedicated House, Mop it Up, Make it Pretty,

Friday, May 31, 2013

Easy Crown

While preparing for the next big birthday bash, I have been racking my mind for ways to save money and still  give a great party. I have made most of the decor, sewed costumes (parties are just more fun when you get to dress up!) and hot glued until I realized (several times) why it is called "Hot" glue.

I want to devote several posts to pieces of this party that I have done. So ... this is the first! 

I was thinking about how to make a crown for my little man without going to Burger King to ask for one. I don't even know if they still have kid crowns. I also want it to be something 5 year old will willingly wear, so the fit and feel needs to be comfortable. Here is what I came up with using 2 felt sheets (80 cents), a milk jug (free), and sequins (50 cents). The price is right...

I cut up the gallon milk jug into a shape of a crown - it is the perfect size for his head! - and glued the felt around the crown with the seam up.

Cut the felt and glued the loose pieces.

Looks like a crown!

Time to decorate!

Ta Da!

Shared on: Show and Tell, Mop it up, Frugally Sustainable,

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Water Kefir Trials

I have been working on several projects recently. Don’t worry, I will be posting all my experiments… I have been creating decorations for a blog-worthy birthday bash, experimenting with sourdough, considering taking on Kombucha, and playing at flavoring some water kefir.

Water Kefir is a fermented drink full of beneficial bacteria. I have never been a fan of yogurt and the thought of popping probiotic pills rubs me wrong, but the process of making my own beverage with the probiotic benefits intrigues me.

So… Here I go!
I spent $12 for 1/4 cup of water Kefir grains, also known as SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts), on Amazon. They remind me of tapioca since they are a bit slimy.
When I got my grains, I added them to a mixture of organic sugar, molasses and water and let them sit for 2 days.
You can see the grains at the bottom eating up all the sugar.
I decided to do a second fermentation to let it become naturally carbonated. Sounds cool right?! I don’t like soda because of the ingredients and how it makes me feel when I am done drinking… so I am excited to see how it comes out! (I am jumping up and down in my seat. Just so you know.)

Batch one: I removed the grains and separated my completed Kefir into 2 containers. One contains blue berries and black berry with cranberry juice. The other has a slice of ginger and 2 tablespoons of Lemon juice.

After I let this batch ferment for the 2nd time, I had a bit of a dilemma. I was going to be out of town for 3 days. What do you do with your grains? I had read about exploding jars when you let it sit too long and I didn't want to come home to a mess. I also didn't want to kill off my new grains… I did read that if you give the grains sugar water and put it in the fridge it will be okay while you are away. Although this is a little contrary to the idea that the grains need to stay warm and at room temperature, I thought I would try it. Into the refrigerator it went with a ½ cup of sugar in a mason jar.

I was a little disappointed when I came home to discover that ½ of my grains were gone. I decided to compensate for the missing grains by adding extra sugar (1/2 cup instead of 1/3 cup) to the next batch and let it sit about 6 hours longer than I did previously. I think the adjustments paid off since many of my missing grains came back! (these grains multiply, by the way)
Just so you know the type of Molasses I used.
Also used a mixture of Turbinado and dehydrated Cane Juice
While Batch #2 is fermenting on my counter, I was able to try my finished water kefir! Yum. I have to admit that I was a little worried since the informational paper that came with the kefir grains said, “Sometimes after shipping, the grains are reluctant to ferment. You may need to repeat this process up to 3 times before they are fermenting heartily.” Luckily, I didn't have any problems and my water kefir turned out nice and bubbly.

I was pleasantly surprised with the taste. I liked the berry juice version better since the one with the lemon tasted a little more yeasty. The berry version tasted like a mild wine cooler. It was sweet, but not in a lip-pucker way, more in a cheap wine or grape juice sort of way. I liked it. My husband was a little confused with the taste – but he was a real skeptic to begin with. By the 3rd batch, I think it started growing on him.

I flavored Batch 2 in 4 jars (or I meant to…)
1.       Berries and Cranberry juice (like previous batch)
2.       Berries, ginger slice, fresh crushed mint and cranberry juice
3.       Lemon juice, berries, little bit of cranberry juice and Lime juice
4.       Lemon juice, Lime Juice, ginger and mint (going for a mojito flavor…)
I got a plastic strainer to filter out the grains.
Supposedly, medal will react with the grains. Can't have that!
See my grains.
Sadly, I misjudged the amount of Kefir so I ended up with flavors #1-3 and the inch and a half of juice in number four got dumped to fill up #2 and 3. So we will see what I end up with…

I drank up the first batch, while the 2nd fermented for the 2nd time. (still with me?) I really like the light headed feeling I get when taking a big swallow. This is probably due to the carbonation or maybe the yeast. I drank a little to aid digestion before eating. I even gave some to my kids when they asked for some “soda” aka sparkling juice, and they really didn't seem to mind. Score for Mom!
See the bubbles on top? And this is after Fermentation 1!
Batch #2 went in the refrigerator after a couple more days and Batch #3 got divided and I tried some different flavors. I made a point to write down what was in each flavoring batch so I can duplicate the ones I like.
Batch #3 flavors to try: (1) Berry juice with apple slices and raisins; and (2) Berry juice with raisins.
I added egg shells to this batch for extra mineral umph.
Interesting shape they are in after fermenting. Discolored and thinner than before
After Batch #2, Look at all the grains I have now!
They really DO multiply when they are happy.
From Batch #2, I really liked the refreshing flavor of the mint and lime combination with fruit juice and berries! Wish I had added lime juice to Batch 3. Oh well, there is always the next one!

Speaking of the next one. My grains doubled! I now have enough to divide into 2 batches. Nice!

I hope this wasn't too confusing. Generally, I was drinking the previous batch while a new one was fermenting... I am looking forward to trying out more flavors to find the right fit for my family's tastes. Here is a great page on flavoring at Delicious Obsessions that helped me.

Have you tried any home fermenting?
If you are visiting for the first time, join me on Facebook!

Shared at Saturday Show & Tell at Cheerios & Lattes, Anything Blue at Dedicated Housewife, I Should be Mopping the Floor Mop it Up, Old Fashioned Recipe Exchange, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways , Make it Pretty, Traditional Tuesday,

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Reusablly Cute Snack Bags

Sandwich bags
The idea of making some cute snack bags just sounded good to me. I have been washing some ziplock bags to reuse one more time. Not all of them. Just the ones that had silly things in them like carrots or raisins and crackers. Dry snacks and leftovers that are not meat. My kids know to hand me empty bags and I like to keep one in my purse, which comes in handy!

I have been looking for the time to make these and searching for the right tutorial. I had a way in mind that I wanted to make reusable snack bags… but alas I did not find a tutorial that made sense to me or that made the bags quite the way I wanted. So here is another tutorial to add to the Internet.

While making these I have hopes of saving some bags from landfills. And also saving money on all those bags that inevitably get tossed into the garbage. Did you know that recycling centers will not take ziplocks? What?!

The first one I made was ok, but I figured it out and made the others look Good. After the first couple, the others took about 10 minutes each. Really fast.

To make the bags I used a cotton outside with a washable nylon lining and a 2 inch Velcro strip.

First thing was to measure the ziplock bags in order to sew them to the same size.
Sandwich bags are 7 x 8 inches so I cut pieces to 8 x 10 inches to accommodate a Velcro closure.
Snack bags are 5 x 8 inches so I cut pieces to 8 x 8 inches to accommodate the Velcro closure. Note: all the pictures that I took are of the sandwich bag size the snack bags are half the size.

I first sewed the inside lining. The seam will be on the outside when you sew them together.
Then I sewed the cotton outer fabric inside out so the seam is sandwiched inside (get it?). 

Putting the pieces together I started with the shorter side. It looks a little confusing, but since I wanted both seams hidden, I actually had to (initially) put the pieces together and fold the edges down then hold them together to figure out the position needed to sew. But it isn't difficult and very worth it!

Then the large side, which will be the closure. I sewed the sides first.

I used a pin to keep the pieces together before finishing it off.

Last is velcro. Sew the top and bottom pieces.

Ta Da!

I made a few other fabric options as well. Like super hero and space ones for my son. I am actually thinking of making a bunch more for gifts or even to sell on etsy. I just need more hours in the day!

Overall, I am very pleased with these bags. To wash them I turn them inside out and stick them in a lingerie bag so the Velcro doesn't stick to my clothes or towels. Easy as can be!