Tuesday, January 6, 2015

"Chinese Takeout" Lemon Chicken Homemade Edition!

This is the easiest way to make lemon chicken.  My family inhales it.  I have to make a double batch every time.  Pictured here is orange chicken.  This time I used orange juice because I only had 1 package of orange jello & no chicken broth. 

Here is the recipe:

1 Tbsp oil
1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut
1 pkg snow peas trimmed
1 small red pepper, cut
2 pkg Lemon Flavor Gelatin (1 for less lemon flavor)
1 Tbsp Cornstarch
1/2 C chicken broth
2 Tbsp Kraft Zesty Italian Dressing (I add more for the tanginess)
2 Cloves minced garlic

Heat oil add chicken.  Cook thoroughly.  Add snow peas & peppers.  Cook.

Mix dry gelatin mix & cornstarch in small bowl.  Add broth, dressing & garlic.  Stir until gelatin is dissolved.  Add to skillet.  Reduce heat to medium.  Cook until sauce is thickened.  Stir frequently.

I omit the peas (gag.  I'd rather eat dirt than peas) and red peppers (because I have a white girls stomach and it would revolt if I ate anything spicy.) I also add more liquid to make more sauce. 

Pour over rice or eat alone with homemade fried rice or chow mein.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I see the sun! AKA: Living in the PNW is a good reason NOT to clean your windows.

Oh the sun!  We don't see the sun quite nearly as much as we should in the Pacific Northwest during the winter.  Now I know why.  It helps us from seeing how disgusting our windows are. 
I'm sitting in bed, sick with whatever I picked up at the ER with my youngest, longing to be in the glorious sun light with the beautiful, healthy people.  Then I notice something.  "What is that all over my windows?"  Hand prints, streaks, & film.  Yuck.
I had to clean it.  It was mocking me.  Mocking me.  I went to the cabinet, no glass cleaner.  Gasp.  I went to the pantry, NADA.  A choice word or two went through my mind.  I started this "No Spend January" group, so I knew I could not run out to the store to get a bottle.  Enter Google.  I found a great recipe, actually a couple from CrunchyBetty.com.  I like this one the best.  It doesn't leave a film on the windows.  BUT, you should spray & wipe the windows at least twice to make sure you get all the dirt off and wipe all the liquid off the windows otherwise there WILL BE streaks.  It also helps to use newspaper too.  The black & white pages not the colored pages.  It leaves no particles  on the glass like paper towels do.
Mix: 1/2C of rubbing alcohol, 1/2C water & 1 Tbsp vinegar.  I sterilized my water by boiling it.  The recipe won't fill up the entire bottle, but you can double or triple the batch.  Yes, I reused the old Windex bottle with my new environmentally friendly cleaner.  The batch I made probably cost me about .50.  Try it out.  I'm sure you are going to love it. 

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Homemade & Cheap Dishwasher Soap

New year, new ways for me to save!  I joined a group called Living Well Spending Less & January is a "No Spending Month".  And guess what I just ran out of in my stockpile?  Dishwasher soap.  ACK!
I couldn't spend unless it was a need.  This is a need, but I remembered I had posted sometime ago about homemade dishwasher soap. I haven't used the recipe because I had enough premade soap in my pantry.  I read the reviews on line & couldn't justify buying it.  I made some & love it.  So I ended up making 192 loads of dishwasher soap for $3.25 in less than 2 minutes!  That comes out to $0.017 a load.  I use equal amounts of Borax & Washing Soda.  I can get 8 cups total into a half gallon canning jar.  I use 2 tsp. for each wash. It seems like I do at least a load of dishes a day, especially when the kids are out of school.  This will last me until June or July.  I figured I save at least $17 + my time.  Easy & natural ~ can't bet that!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Homemade Bourbon Whiskey BBQ Sauce - AKA: Oh Dear Lord. I've died & gone to Heaven.

This is part three of getting my family away from store bought condiments & preservatives.  So far I have made ketchup & taco sauce.  All with great results.  If you missed my post about my homemade ketchup, go here, & taco sauce go here
Here in the PNW, Autumn comes quick.  Chilly nights make the tomato skins crack.  I had to get out there in September & pick all the green tomatoes that were left on the vine.  When it was all said & done I had 6 brown paper bag full.  Yesterday, I finally used up the last remaining tomatoes from my garden.  I'm so happy to be able to see my clean counter top. 
I decided to make some BBQ.  I tried a recipe from the Ball Canning website, but it was too hot & vinegary for my taste.  Then I came across this little gem from allrecipes.com.  Go here to bookmark it.  Here is the recipe in its entirety:
Bourbon Whiskey BBQ Sauce:
1/2 onion, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced

  1. In a large skillet over medium heat, combine the onion, garlic, and whiskey. Simmer for 10 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Mix in the ground black pepper, salt, ketchup, tomato paste, vinegar, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, brown sugar, and hot pepper sauce.
  2. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Run sauce through a strainer if you prefer a smooth sauce. 

    I played around with the recipe to suit my situation.  For example I wasn't going to use store bought ketchup & paste when I had my own tomatoes.  Secondly, I wasn't going to go out & buy liquid smoke.  Finally, I found out I had no Worcestershire sauce or garlic cloves. 

    I peeled & seeded 8 quarts of tomatoes.  Cooked it down to desired thickness.  I added 1/4C of whiskey, I didn't want to over power it.  Then added the onion & garlic powder,  salt, pepper, brown sugar, & hot pepper sauce.  I let it cook a bit more so the alcohol would cook out.  I processed it for 25 minutes in my water bath canner.
    It came out AWESOME!  I am never going to use another recipe.  My husband wants to use this on the next tri tip we buy.  Try it out & tell me what you think.  Now I am putting my canner away, jars & lids away.

    Wednesday, October 16, 2013

    Thrifty tip: Saving Marigold Seeds

    Who doesn't love Marigolds?  Those little ruffled yellow & orange flowers just add a pop of color to any spot & they keep bugs away.  Did you know you can that you can gather the seeds and regrow them next year?  I didn't.  This seriously easy.

    Pull or cut the spent flower off.  Let it dry. Or if you are lazy like me, wait until it is dry on the plant then pull it.

    Pull the dried petals out.  Sorry for the dark photos, but I'm not a photographer.

    Pull the seeds out of the bottom & store them for next year.  The seeds are thin with black on the bottom.  Each one can grow another plant.  Each flower could hold around 50 seeds.  If you planted & cultivated each seed you'd have 50 plants for free.  Which could save you a lot of money.  Even if they were $1 each that's $50 you saved!


    Wednesday, September 25, 2013

    Homemade Taco Sauce

    In my house we eat a ridiculous amount of Mexican food, in particular, tacos.  We have tacos at least once a week.  It's just easy & everyone eats them without complaining.  I am trying to cook from scratch & trying not to buy processed food. The most easiest way to start lessening my family's dependence on processed food is with making my own condiments. 
    I haven't bought taco sauce in the past 2 years.  In my humble opinion, I like my sauce more than the store bought stuff.  That's saying a lot because I am picky about my food.  This recipe is similar to the previous post about making ketchup.  See the post here.  (Yes I am reusing the same pictures.)

    Use as many or as little tomatoes you want.  I use about 6-8 quarts of tomatoes.  Peel tomatoes (lightly cut an X into the skin and drop them into boiling water.)  Leave them in the water for about 10 seconds and put them in cold water (ice water is preferred).  The skins will slide off.  Core & cut.  Leave pot uncovered.  Once soft run through food mill to remove seeds.  Unlike the picture, you don't need onions or red peppers.
    Reduce the tomato mixture to desired thickness.  Cook on low for 4-8 hours stirring from time to time to prevent sticking.  I prefer my sauce a bit thick so when it covers the spoon & doesn't fall off too quickly I know it's done.  The only thing I add after reducing the tomato mixture is my homemade taco seasoning.  If you're using my recipe for taco seasoning, I used at least 4-5 tablespoons full.  I really don't know how much I just pour some seasoning in until I like the way it tastes.  I'm that kind of cook.  I usually can get 6-8 pints of taco from 6-8 quarts of tomatoes.  Have fun & let me know what you think.

    Tuesday, September 10, 2013

    Once you try it, you'll never buy it again: Homemade Ketchup

    I have been making my own taco sauce for the past couple of years and it's pretty easy.  Cook down tomatoes, run through a food mill, add my homemade taco seasoning & water bath it.  This year I had so many volunteer tomato plants in my garden & they are producing tomatoes to the nth degree I decided to try to make ketchup.  Why?  We are trying to eat homemade food to help our children with their epilepsy.  Less chemical or man made products going into their body. 
    My ketchup label says this:
    "Tomato concentrate (water & tomato paste), high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, vinegar, salt, onion powder, spice & natural flavoring."

    Thank goodness for my Ball Blue Book of Preserving.  I found a wonderful recipe that I will use forever.
    • 4 quarts of chopped, peeled, & cored tomatoes (abt 24 large)
    • 1 cup chopped onion (1 med)
    • 1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper (1/2 medium)
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
    • 1 teaspoon whole allspice
    • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
    • 1 stick cinnamon
    • 1 c sugar
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 tablespoon paprika
    • 1 1/2 cups vinegar
    Combine tomatoes, onion & pepper in a large sauce pot.  Cook until tomatoes are tender.  Puree using a food processor or food mill.  Cook puree rapidly until thick and reduced by one-half.  Tie whole spices in a spice bag.  Add spice bag, sugar, salt & paprika to tomato mixture.  Simmer 25 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent sticking.  Remove spice bag,  Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Adjust two piece caps.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.  Yields about 3 pints.
    To peel tomatoes lightly cut an X into the skin and drop them into boiling water.  Leave them in the water for about 10 seconds and put them in cold water (ice water is preferred).  The skins will slide off.  Core & cut.  Leave pot uncovered.  Once soft run through food mill to remove seeds.

    Once reduced add spice bag & other ingredients. 

    *Remember to use iodine free salt or sea salt when canning.

    The finish product.  This picture does not do it justice.  The color is vibrant.  It's a deep red-orange almost like the color of marinara sauce.  The flavor is AH-MAZING.

     In the water bath canner my pretties.

    The finish product:

    4 pints of tomato heaven.  While it is not a thick as store bought, probably because there is no corn syrup to thicken it, but it comes very close.  If you cooked it down a bit longer it would be more like store bought.  My has the consistency of taco sauce. 
    NOTE: I don't know how many quarts of tomatoes I had.  I just used what tomatoes were ready, I probably used more. than the recipe calls for.  I did cook my sauce longer than it said and at a higher temperature.  I think from start to finish it took about 8-10 hours, mostly just waiting for the puree to cook down.