Sunday, April 29, 2007

Strawberry Shortcakes

While making a quick stop for some loss leaders on Saturday (my LEAST favorite day to shop, but circumstances made it unavoidable this week), Steven asked if we could buy some strawberries.

He hasn't liked strawberries in the past, but he is 4, likes strawberry pop tarts and things could change at a moment's notice.

I try not to refuse my kids fruit or vegetables when they ask for them, so I agreed to the request. I planned on making strawberry shortcakes with them. Usually, I buy the sponge cake-type shortcakes for this, but I am trying new things and trying to make things from scratch more.

I looked up the recipe in my Bisquick cookbook and went to town. The only difference is that I used the homemade baking mix for them.

Strawberry Shortcakes

2 lbs. strawberries
1/2 C. granulated sugar

2-1/3 C baking mix
3 T. granulated sugar
1 C. milk
3T. butter or margarine, melted

Strawberry topping:
Wash, hull and slice strawberries. Coat with 1/2 C. sugar, mix well and refrigerate.

Heat oven to 425*. Mix baking mix, sugar, milk and butter well. Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browning on edges. Remove from pan to cooling rack. Cool completely. Store in refrigerator.

To serve:
Split shortcakes open, top with strawberry mixture and whipped cream if desired.

They turned out very well! We all enjoyed them better than the sponge cake kind... except for Steven who refused to try even a bite of them. Oh, well. Like I said, he's 4.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Energy Efficiency in the Kitchen

One of the places in our homes that uses the most energy is the kitchen. Think about it- running water, using hot water, heating food on the stove top, baking in the oven, thawing food, chilling food, washing dishes, reheating food, making coffee, brewing tea. There are thousands of things we do each and every day that require energy. Many of us don't think about how to conserve energy in the kitchen.

Here are some tips on how to save or better use the energy in our kitchens.

~Running the dishwasher is more energy efficient than washing by hand.
~Only run full loads. A dishwasher is made to run most efficiently with a full load.
~Open the door and let the dishes air dry to save electricity.
~Make sure the dishwasher is clean. Rinse dishes in cold water before washing to avoid colgging the drain in your dishwasher. Clean the drain trap frequently.
~Run cold water with your disposal. It is actually better for the disposal and saves on heating the water.
~Rinse or soak your dishes in cold water to save on heating costs.
~Insulate your pipes. Water cools down as it sits in pipes. Insulating the pipes will slow that process and retain the heat or cold better saving you energy and water in the long run.

~Only use pans on the correct sized burner. Using a small pan on a large burner wastes energy.
~Only use your highest burner setting to bring water to a boil. After that, turn it down to the lowest setting needed to maintain the boil. The extra heat will make the water/liquid boil faster, but it won't make the food cook faster.
~Thaw foods in the refrigerator or on the counter top. Thawing in the microwave takes more energy and foods that are frozen take about 33% longer to cook.
~Cook in your microwave, toaster oven or electric skillet. They use 1/3 to 1/2 of the energy of your stove top or oven. (This is my favorite tip!)
~Cook in the dish you will serve the dish in. This will save time and energy when you are washing dishes.
~Use the window in your oven door. You'll save 25 to 50 degrees of oven temperature by doing so.
~Mix by hand. Cake batters and cookies don't take that much time to mix by hand and it will save you a lot of energy if you are a regular baker. Save that mixer for things like frosting.

~Cool foods on the counter top before storing in the refrigerator or freezer. Putting warm food in the fridge or freezer will lower the temperature inside and make the appliance run longer to bring it back up.
~Make sure your refrigerator is set at 40 degrees F and your freezer should be set at 0 degrees F. This is the most efficient settings and the safest for storage.
~A chest freezer is more energy efficient than an upright model. Cold air sinks, so an upright loses more when it is opened.
~A traditional top-bottom model refrigerator/freezer is more energy efficient than a side-by-side model. The top-bottom models use the natural flow of cold air to recycle the cold air from the freezer to cool the refrigerator portion.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Easy Swiss Steak

Easy Swiss Steak
4# Round steak, tenderized
2 Cans condensed Tomato soup
1 soup can of water
Salt & Pepper
Flour for coating
2T Butter
2T Vegetable oil

Trim fat and bone from round steak. Cut into pieces about the size of your palm. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to your taste. Poke with knife or fork to tenderize further and help incorporate salt and pepper into meat further. Dredge each piece in flour.

Melt butter an oil together in skillet (I use my electric skillet). Place prepared round steak pieces in skillet and brown on both sides (about 3 minutes each side).

Remove meat from skillet and drain off fat. Do not clean skillet or remove drippings.

Add tomato soup, fill one soup can with water and add that as well. Mix and return meat to the soup mixture. Let simmer for 45 minutes to one hour, turning meat occasionally.

Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetable of choice.

~ Let meat sit at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes before preparing. This lets the meat relax, distributes the natural juices and softens the fats in it. I do this with all red meats except ground beef.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Leftover Bread

Food typically goes fast in our house, but occasionally we have leftover bread that is not stale or moldy, but just not fresh anymore. I try to recycle/reuse it as best as I can.

Some ways I use my not-so-fresh bread:

1. French toast. French toast is actually much better when made with day-old bread. It will hold the egg wash better, won't get mushy and it won't rip to pieces while being dipped or cooked.

2. Bread crumbs. I try to make my own bread crumbs as much as possible. The heels of the loaves are great for this! I either toast the bread or just let it sit out and dry completely, put it in the food processor and voila! Bread crumbs!

3. Croutons. I like to use leftover French, Italian or homemade bread for these. The best method I've found is to brush or spray the slices of bread lightly with olive oil or vegetable oil, cube them up with a bread knife, toss in a zip-top bag with whatever spices you like (I like Italian- oregano, basil, garlic, parsley) and toast them in the oven on a sheet pan. Store them in an airtight container or bag.

Do you have any creative uses for leftover bread?

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What Do Consumers Want? Coupon Edition

As I flipped through our local coupon selection with scissors in hand, I was disgusted at yet another huge coupon. You know the ones I mean, they are either longer that the store receipt or wider than your cart. What is the deal with the huge coupon anyway?

I, for one, keep my coupons in my wallet. I like coupons that are compact, but not too small. I want them to be smaller than a dollar in size. I don't think any shopper likes to fiddle around with folded coupons in the middle of the grocery store. Am I right?

I also don't like the coupons to be too small. It is too easy to lose them in the shuffle. That holds especially true when the other coupons are gigantic.

I love coupons. It is the one section that I make it a point to look at each week. I even save them for other people if I see something I know someone will use. I also love when I can combine a coupon with a sale! I feel like I've gained a little in the battle if you know what I mean.

I know this has very little to do with the product itself. It has everything to do with layouts and which ad is on the back of which, but there has to be a happy medium somewhere.

Let me know what you think. Is there anything about coupons that you like or don't like?

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Pistachio Pudding Fluff

This recipe is one of my favorite items for all year get-togethers. The ingredients are simple and it can be whipped up right before you leave in about 5 minutes. No kidding! It can also be made the night before. It stores well.

I got this recipe from my husband's family. His Aunt- the one who will bring great food even when you tell her to just bring herself- brought this to one of the boys' birthday parties and it's been a staple ever since.

Pistachio Pudding Fluff
2 small boxes instant pistachio pudding mix
1 can pineapple (20 oz., crushed or tidbits)
2 cups mini marshmallows
1 large tub whipped topping, 16 oz.
5 Bing or maraschino cherries (optional)

In a large bowl, combine dry pudding mixes with the pineapple (juice and all); mix well. Stir in the marshmallows. Fold in the whipped topping completely without over mixing. Top with cherries for color if desired. Serve immediately or refrigerate until served.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Make It From Scratch #8

We've got a great variety of entries this week! Thanks for stopping by and checking it out and thanks to Stephanie for letting me host. I hope she is having some fun on the beach!


I am amazed at how crafty some of you are! All I can say is WOW!!!

Anastacia has been busy! I can hear the needles clicking now! Check out her third pair in the Anastacia Knits: 52 pair plunge at Anastacia Knits Pair #3. They look great!

What do you do with all of your plastic grocery bags? You'll be able to make a Crocheted Plastic Bag Keeper from Recycled Bags after visiting Cindy!

The ever-frugal, ever-crafty Alexandra made a special quilt for her little one. Sure to become a family heirloom!


Niki at The-A-Team made a soap she calls "the mildest of the mild". Sounds like it would be perfect for anyone with sensitive skin. She gives us the recipe for a cold-process Sleepy Baby Soap.

Before her clean getaway (on vacation, that is), Stephanie decided to give Homemade Dishwasher Detergent a try. Simple recipe, but did it work out? Click on over and find out.


GP almost got a separate category for a VERY informative post! Microwave Magic will give you several uses for your microwave and a great recipe for Hot Cross Buns! YUM!

Don't let her blog title fool you. Lisa at 'Sew What's Up?' made my tummy rumble with, what she claims to be, "The most yummy quick, instant gratification cookies ever!!!" Give her No Bake Oatmeal Cookies a test run.

I tried something new right here at The Fat Bottomed Girl when I made Iced Tea (Or Sweet Tea) Concentrate. The first one turned out great, so I made a bunch of them tonight to freeze!

WHEW! I made it through my first time hosting. How did I do?

I had a blast! It was fun to see what everyone made. Keep up the good work! See you all next week back at Stop the Ride!

Monday, April 9, 2007


Don't forget that I will be hosting the Make It From Scratch Carnival right here tomorrow. Make sure you stop by and check out all of the AMAZING entries we have!!! It will be so much fun!!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Iced Tea (or sweet tea) Frozen Concentrate **Updated**

**Update to add: If you prefer, you can leave the sugar out. **

We drink a lot of iced tea around our house. When the weather turns warmer, we can go through more than a gallon a day. It seems like I am forever making iced tea when it is nice outside.

So I was making some juice from a frozen concentrate the other day and wondered why the same concept wouldn't work with iced tea.

I've never seen frozen iced tea concentrate in a store... I wonder if there is a reason why. Does it not have a long freezer life? Does it get bitter after so long? Or, has no one ever thought of it since you can make it from tea bags?

I decided to give it a shot because I think this could be a real time saver for me. To make iced tea, I usually heat 48 oz. of water in the microwave and let 3* of the large, family sized tea bags brew for an hour. I remove the tea bags, add just under a cup of sugar and add cold water to make a gallon. If I had concentrate in my freezer, I wouldn't have to wait an hour for more tea and it wouldn't be warm when I finish it.

To make the concentrate, I figured that since I use about a cup of sugar, I should at least have double that in water. I heated 20 oz of water (figuring that the tea bags will soak a little of it up permanently), added the tea bags and let it brew for two hours. (I thought that I should let it brew longer since there wasn't as much water as I usually use.) I added just under a cup of sugar and stirred it until the sugar was completely dissolved. I put it in the freezer since it was relatively cool (never put warm or hot items in your freezer- let them cool first).

That was a couple of days ago. Today, we were low on iced tea and it was just before supper. I got out the container of concentrate and set it in some water to thaw the sides a little. It popped right out of the container and into the pitcher. I filled it up to the gallon mark and stirred. It didn't take very long to thaw out completely.

I tasted... Excellent!!

My plans for this is to make several concentrates at one time. Even though I let them brew for a longer period of time, making more than two concentrates will save me time instantly!

Try it for yourself and see if you get the same results! Let me know about it!

*I prefer Luzianne brand. One bag is supposed to make a quart, but if you let it brew long enough, I find that 3 will make a very tasty gallon.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Homemade Vanilla Extract- *Updated*

**Update to add**- Vanilla can be bought online or at some grocery, natural and gourmet food stores. We have also had friends who were visiting some of the Florida Keys and other islands bring some home for us. They are much cheaper that way.

We learned how to make vanilla extract from a friend when he was showing my MIL how to make homemade angel food cake (btw- yummiest thing ever!).

Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and commented! I'm getting all kinds of new ideas for posts here. Keep the requests coming!

Vicki gave me the idea to post this. Thanks, Vicki!

Vanilla Extract
3 whole vanilla beans
1 quart brandy (We use J&B, but any will do)

Place the vanilla beans in the bottle of brandy. Re-cap tightly. Write the current date on the bottle. Let sit for 3 months, turning the bottle over and back once a day. After 3 months are up, you can remove the vanilla beans and discard. Use in any recipe calling for vanilla extract.

~To make sure you turn the bottle each day, place it on the counter top near your sink or coffee maker.

~Purchase small bottles and fill them with your homemade vanilla extract for gifts. You can even make your own labels on the computer!