Friday, June 24, 2011

Soap in your bucket!

Well, hey there!!! I haven't babbled to you in a week!! I've missed talking to you! lol. How've you been? I've been a bit busy this past week, and not a blog post to show for it.
So, Last Friday & Saturday night I was babysitting my sister-in-laws three little monsters. Amazingly, Saturday they played nice together (all night!), they were all actually quiet, I got my baby girl to fall asleep early, AND the two boys were even getting along! I'll take that as an epic win for me and my hubby.

So in that time span I didn't really get to cook anything, nothing blog-worthy anyways. Seriously, who wants to hear about me heating up frozen pizzas? I didn't think so.
But I can find something else to talk about besides what comes out of my kitchen, I'm sure. It just happens to be my favorite thing to tell you about. Capitalize on what your good at! Hmm, lets see... what else am I good at besides producing mass amounts of dirty dishes, you ask? 


Ah yes, the one necessity that no one in their right mind loves, but is forced to do. Unless, of course, you want to smell kinda funky. I actually know someone who lives like that! You wanna nickname someone Skunk? I know a person you should totally talk to! I certainly don't wanna smell funky though, so laundry has become a daily company-keeper of mine. 

Laundry, laundry, laundry! Until, of course, my washing machine broke!!! Any idea how hard it is to catch up two weeks of laundry for two adults and a baby?!?! Holy cow! It has to wait until the hubby comes home from work because he has the car, and it has to wait until whoever is being kind enough to let me use their appliances isn't climbing mountains of laundry themselves. It's taken a week and a half, three houses, and good lord knows how many loads. I cannot wait until mine gets fixed, its really one of those things that you hate until you don't have your own anymore, then you love it, you want to hug it, you want to be its friend for forever... uhhh *cough, cough* sorry lol. 

When I became a stay at home mom it became a huge adjustment stage for my husband and myself to find cheaper, more efficient methods of doing just about everything. It gets easier as time goes by, I promise. So if you're anything like me and you have a conniption fit every single time you think you can't do something right; stop, sit down and take a deep breath. I've been doing this for about 6 months now and I cannot tell you how many times I've had to follow my own advice. Yeah, sure, we don't get up every morning, throw on whatever our working outfit used to be, and head out the door, but staying at home with a little one can be just as hard, even harder sometimes. There's a lot to it! Taking care of the baby, making sure she doesn't get into anything that she shouldn't be, preparing meals, making nap time happen, cleaning the house, changing diapers, mending torn clothes, doctors appointments, cooking meals for the adults, doing laundry, cuddling the baby because she bumped her head on the coffee table, making bedtime happen, packing lunch for daddy, doing dishes, picking up after every ones gone to bed, its a big list that goes on and on, in no particular order either. But it all can most certainly be accomplished. Corners can be cut and money can be saved in the process. You can get around the brand names that possess America. Once I realized this my life became SO much easier.

Today, I'm gonna share one of my favorite ways that I've cut the proverbial brand named cord. My laundry soap. Oh Yes!!! Expensive bottles of crazy colored soap need not apply! I make my own, right here in my house.  It's really easy and it's also extremely cheap. Now, since I made my last batch about a month ago, it never really dawned on me to take pictures of the momentous occasion of penny pinching glory. So I'll give you at least pictures from the internet of what the packages of the ingredients look like, I know it helped me find them when I first went out looking.

Here's what your going to need:

A 5-gallon bucket (If you can't get your hands on a free one, I've heard that you can buy them at Walmart for around $4.00)
A large painters stick (for stirring)
20 Mule Team Borax (A box of this can be found at Walmart in the laundry isle for about $1.75)

1 bar of Fels Naptha (This can be found at Walmart in the laundry isle for about $1.00)

Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda (This can be found at Walmart in the laundry isle for about $1.25)
**NOTE: You want to make sure you get the super washing SODA & not the super washing Detergent.**

Here's what you need to do:

Fill a medium sized pot about half way full of water, put it on the stove to heat. You want it to be hot, but not boiling.

While the water is heating up, take your bar of Fels Naptha and cut it up to really really small pieces by whatever means necessary. I've heard of using a cheese grater for this, I bet its probably a really effective way of going about this step. I used a knife and a cutting board & went to town on my bar of soap.

Once your water is warm & your soap is all nice & chopped up, put the soap in the pot. Stir until all of the soap has disintegrated & your left with just liquid. Turn the stove off.

Pour your pot of soap water into the 5-gallon bucket.

Add 1 measured cup of the Super Washing Soda

Add 1 measured cup of the Borax.

Stir like a mad man until all of the powder has dissolved.

Take your pot that you melted the soap in, fill it with hot tap water. Then pour that into the bucket and stir.
Continuously do this until the liquid is about 3 inches from the rim.

Let your new laundry soap cool over night.

Your going to have to stir it like a mad man again about three times, a few hours apart before the soap actually stays the way it should. You don't have to stay up all night doing this, I ended up stirring it whenever it happened to cross my mind in the next 14 hour span.

There you have it! Your very own laundry soap!!! Do you have this amazing feeling of self-accomplishment now?!? That feeling is like a drug to me.

When your doing your laundry, about 1/4 - 1/2 cup of detergent is all you really need for a normal load. I just keep a plastic cup by my bucket & wing it.

If your anything like me and you just HAVE to see what it feels like in that bucket, your hand should run through what feels like gooey water. You'll actually feel it going thru your fingers. Don't worry, that's how its supposed to feel. Seriously, there's really not many ways to do this wrong.

Now here's some more amazing news! The best I can figure, my laundry detergent will cost me around about $25 a YEAR now. That's what it used to cost me in a month & a half!!!! For that price, my laundry is softer than ever, stains come out just as easily, and I'm not scrounging about looking for change because I'm running low on Tide.

AND! my last bit of amazing news! I know a lot of you have those awesome washers that require HE detergent. Well the only thing that makes the HE detergent special is the fact that its low sudsing. Yepp, that's right, your paying all that money on special detergent because it makes fewer bubbles. The great news is this laundry soap that I just told you how to make is also a low sudsing formula. That makes this a win for everyone!

Now you can launder with pride!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Super Scrumptious Spaghetti Sauce

During weeks like this there's a point in the morning that I realize I have to figure out dinner, & quick before it slips my mind again. Reason being that we didn't plan the meals out for this week, & funds were extremely limited. We had to use what we have, but that isn't a dinner death sentence! I have some things stockpiled! Yesterday I discovered there wasn't that much in the house as far as easy dinners go, and baby girl wasn't too  happy about hanging out in the living room by herself for too long, at all really. So I needed something that prepares quick, and is fairly easy to make. I decided to take a shot at making my very own spaghetti sauce using a variety of canned tomatoes.

In all of my infinite wisdom I FORGOT to take any pictures of it. I have none! It didn't even dawn on me to take pictures of the finished product until it was too late.  So, no picture-aided recipe today. I will, however tell you how I made it. I have to share something! And, if you were wondering, it was really yummy! And! One awesome thing is that it makes enough sauce for more than one meal, provided your husband doesn't dump it all into his lunch for the next day! lol.

Ingredients: (all of the cans are either Hunt's or store brand)

1 large can of crushed tomatoes (28 oz.)
**You would normally use two regular 12 oz. cans, I just had the big can in the pantry.**
1 can diced tomatoes with onions & green peppers in it
2 cans stewed tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
1 can carrots
1/2 large onion
Minced garlic (I used the stuff from the jar! So much easier!)
Olive oil


Open all of your cans & drain the diced tomatoes, stewed tomatoes and carrots.

Dice up your onion & separate it to two equal piles. (Whatever you think is half is perfectly fine. No ones gonna judge you, I swear! It's just you and your kitchen!)

Dice your carrots up into small chunks. (If you have a really picky eater, you can put our carrots into the blender with the tomatoes in the next step, if not just put them to the side for a few minutes.)

Put all of your stewed tomatoes & one of your piles of onions in a blender, cover & press the 'puree' option (I know, "why not just use tomato puree?" well, a) I didn't have any. b) I'm really glad I didn't, this came out WAY better!) I only let it run for about 15-20 seconds.

Put a bit of olive oil in a pan & let it warm up on medium-high for a minute or so.

Then put your onions in the pan to cook.

When the onions are about half way cooked put about a tablespoon or so of minced garlic in the pan too. Cook until the onions & garlic have browned a bit.

Then add the carrots & tomato paste to the pan. Cook this for about 4-5 minutes, constantly mixing & moving it around the pan. After the 4-5 minutes have passed remove the pan from heat.

In a large pot, pour in your crushed tomato, contents of the blender & contents of your pan.
**You can use a crock pot instead if you'd like. I'm sure it'll come out just as yummy!**

Mix, mix, mix & mix some more!!!

After your done mixing; season to taste with the parsley, oregano, basil, salt & pepper.

And then mix some more!!!

After you're arm feels like it's about to fall off from all of your crazy mixing, turn the stove to a low setting & let your sauce cook anywhere between 2 & 7 hours (Depending on how much time you have before hungry tummies find their way into the kitchen.) Just make sure to mix it about every 45 minutes.

And your done! Super easy & super yummy! Add some spaghetti & garlic bread and you've got a meal!

Happy Eating!! =)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Do you have an awesome ancient grill press?

Ever had one of those days where almost nothing goes right, but at the end of the day nothing going right worked in your favor? Yesterday was totally one of those days. Oy, what a roller coaster. Anyways! Everything worked out in my favor after all (including dinner being a big hit!) so all is well in my book. I washed dishes with delight last night. I was, however, preoccupied when I started to cook dinner. I seriously wasn't paying any attention forgot to take pictures when I started! I'll try to fill in all of the blanks though!

One of the more horrific things that happened yesterday was the back brakes deciding not play nice with my car anymore. Thanks to my husband and some amazing friends of ours, its all fixed. The down side was my car stopped me from trying a new recipe that I'd come up with the day before because there wasn't enough time anymore. The good news is that it lead to last nights dinner!! w00t!

Chicken Quesadillas!!! Yumm!!!

Now, if your anything like me you have an awesome but ANCIENT grill press/waffle iron that you wouldn't trade anything for because it works like an absolute dream.

HOWEVER! I know I'm just a little out there and this is probably not a common thing to find in everyone's cabinets. So you can use your fancy new age quesadilla press, grill press (if it has a flat option), or you can go totally old school and use a skillet!

Ingredients! (This is to make enough for two, adjust it as you need!)

- 2 chicken breast (boneless, skinless is the easiest way to go but use whatever you have!!)
- 2 green bell peppers
- 1/3 of a large onion (this is totally optional, I know not everyone loves onions.)
- 1 good-sized tomato
- Soft tortilla shells, room temperature (I used the little 8 inch ones)
- Shredded cheese (whatever kind you like, we used the mexican blend and mozzarella. Only because we ran out of the mexican blend half way through...oops)
- Taco seasoning, either 1 packet or how ever much the instructions on the canister say to use. (I used Old El Paso Original seasoning, but any taco seasoning will work.)
- Salt, pepper, onion powder & garlic powder. (these are just my usual seasonings that I use when cooking meat, use whatever your most comfortable with!)
- Butter or margarine (which ever rocks your socks!)

Instructions! Get ready for the magic!

Cut your chicken up into about 1 inch pieces.

Put it in a pan on medium-high. Season with the taco seasoning, salt, pepper, onion & garlic powders.

Cook until it's done all the way through & then just put the chicken aside in a bowl to cool for a little bit.

Dice up your bell peppers & toss them in that same pan that you just took the chicken out of. The seasoning that got left behind in the pan gives the peppers an added yum-factor that I'm sure you'll love!

**You can toss in a tiny bit of margarine to help cook & flavor the peppers if you like. I did!

Cook the peppers at a medium heat setting until they soften a bit, just enough to take the initial crunch out of them is all you need. Put the peppers in a separate bowl as well.

Dice your onion up to about 1/2 the size that you diced your peppers. 

Put about 1 tablespoon of margarine in the pan & let it melt at medium heat. Then put the diced onions in there too. 

Cook the onions down until they've softened. I just wait for them to start becoming clearer around the edges & the lines in them start becoming defined. (This is in no way an exact science for me! Don't judge. lol) This is going to take a few minutes. As soon as they're done just take the pan away from heat.

To occupy your time while the onions cook, dice up your tomato to about 1 cm pcs. Basically just small enough to not make your quesadilla look like a crazy lumpy mess from the outside. It's totally against the laws in Quesadilla County!

Once you've got your tomato diced up, your onions cooked & your practically drooling over the food on your counter because it smells sooooo good, HOLD ON! Your almost there!!

You have to shred your cooled chicken up. Just into smaller pieces. Shred each piece up about 4 or 5 times. 

You'll go from having this:

To having this:

OH YEAH! Now it's time to put all of this together & cook it so you can stop drooling already! 

Turn on your awesome ancient grill press (or newer press or skillet. Whichever rocks your socks) to a medium setting & let it heat up while your preparing the first quesadilla. 

Take one of your soft tortilla shells and lay it flat on a plate.

Take a tiny bit of margarine and spread it over the whole top side of the tortilla. 

Sprinkle your shredded cheese on top of the margarine so that its spread over a good bit of the shell, it's going to act kind of like a glue to stick the shell to your food. (Using no more than about a half of a handful in this case is good enough, use more if your making this with the bigger tortilla shells)

After that, put your chicken, green peppers, onions & tomatoes on the shell. Then gently mix it all together with your fingers so its all evenly distributed. Eating a corner of just tomatoes would be weird, at least I think so. Once it's mixed to your hearts content make sure its all nice and flat. I seriously have a thing against lumpy quesadillas!

Sprinkle some more cheese on top, about as much as you used before. 

Take another soft tortilla shell, put a tiny about of margarine on it & spread it all around like you did to the first one. Put it on top, as aligned to the other shell as you can make it. 

And your ready for some cookin! 

Put it in your awesome ancient grill press for about 5 minutes. 
If your doing this in a skillet, at about 2 and a half minutes, flip your quesadilla over carefully, your food will try to commit kitchen suicide & come out from between the shells. I'm speaking from experience, lol.

Don't forget to be entertained because it looks like your grill press has a face now!

You want the outsides of your tortilla shells to be browned just a little bit. It'll be nice & crunchy at this point. 

Take it off the grill press (by whatever means necessary! I ended up using a really big spatula & holding a corner of it) & cut it up to quarters (I used a pizza cutter to do this because I like when things are easy.)


It was a huge hit here last night! I love happy eaters! I hope its a huge hit at your house too!

Well, I'm off to plan dinner for tonight! Happy eating everybody!

Oh, & Don't forget the dishes. ;)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Here We Go

Cleaning, cooking, saving money & of course loving up on that amazing family that I have!!! I totally love this way of life!

So here we go,

My favorite room in my house is my kitchen. Small as it may be, its where I'm content. What could be more satisfying than the aroma of freshly cut vegetables being mixed together and put in a pan to satisfy the senses? The rhythmic sound that inevitably beats life into the kitchen, dinner baking in the oven and most importantly the approving outcome of an almost silent room as fork & plate clink together? There's no greater compliment in my kitchen than a cleaned plate. And the dishes! Oh my my my, those dishes. Its a love/hate relationship, truly. But, they have to get washed. I need room to bake dessert too! What would life BE without a brownie or a cupcake to make life complete? It would be pure madness I tell you! Pandemonium!! 

Outside of the kitchen, I'm still working out all the little kinks in hopes of making my house run like the proverbial well-oiled machine I'd like it to be. I'm sure I'll figure it out eventually, I have faith in me! (w00t! for self confidence!) 

More importantly tho, my little baby girl has just learned to crawl and has finally cut her first tooth with the second not far behind! She'll be nine months old soon. My goodness how time has flown by. I'm serious, it feels like I just left the hospital with her not but maybe a month ago, with a new found fear of the world and all of the crazy drivers in it. She's nine months now?! That's how long she was in my belly for, for heaven sake!! It's just crazy talk. And speaking of crazy(!), there's my husband. I adore him beyond recognition. When I least expect it he's the one to make me laugh until I cry or make anything that's possibly gone wrong, go right again. He's made my life taking care of our baby possible. He's a pretty darn awesome guy, if I do say so my self. (And I do! lol) 

They're what my life revolves around, and life is so good.