Friday, January 29, 2010

5 Minute Ice Cream

Jeff and I have always enjoyed running down to the local $1 a scoop ice cream place in our town after dinner, but now that we are eating dinner together almost every night instead of just on the weekends, I've been looking for easy and less guilty desserts for us to enjoy.

I found this recipe a few weeks ago on Dianasaura Dishes and thought it sounded perfect for our situation. In a matter of minutes you can have soft-servesk ice cream, minus the cream, sugar and hours other recipes require!

Banana Ice Cream


3 bananas
+/- half a cup of milk

1) Peel and chop your banana's into small pieces. Then, freeze them.
2) When your ready to make your ice cream, simply throw the frozen banana pieces into the food processor along with 1/4 cup of milk and whirl. Continue to whirl and add milk until your bananas reach a creamy soft serve consistency. Hold onto your food processor while doing this step.
3) Either eat now or return to the freezer until firm if you want hard ice cream.


The above was the original recipe I used, but as you can imagine, this recipe is very open to changes. For example:

-add a small amount of nuts and chocolate chips for added sweetness. We had a couple nut clusters lying around so we threw those in.
-substitute a different fruit for one of the bananas. We tried half a mango we had from breakfast and we substituted the regular milk for light coconut milk which we had left over from a curry the night before. The result was a refreshingly tropical ice cream!

There are some other additions I haven't tried yet but plan to are: strawberries, kiwi, blueberries, raspberries or a spoonful of jam! I'd be careful with how many berries you add simply because their water content is so much higher. You should be fine as long as you adjust the amount of milk you put in. If you happen to have some nilla wafers lying around, that could be tasty to add as well. Even if you do an add in like a little chocolate or a cookie, it's still better for you that the double chocolate marshmallow caramel crunch style ice creams you'd get at the store. Feel free to comment if you have any other recommendations.

A Note of Caution

*I know all of you would be wise enough to not freeze your fruit in one giant mass. If you did, your food processor would have to tackle a large hard frozen ball which would be pushing the limit of its powers. If you try and make it chop up said frozen ball of fruit, you might think for a moment that you have broken your beloved food processor, and you will start coming up with excuses that you will tell your boyfriend about how the food processor was really broken, that have nothing to do with your lack of forethought. I know you won't make this mistake, but just in case, you have been warned.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mish Mash

Hello friends, I hope you all had a wonderful weekend that was either productive, relaxing or a little bit of both! That last one is definitely the weekend I had. On Saturday Jeff and I repainted what is soon to be my office/hobby room/guest bedroom. It is now a blank slate for me to decorate! I'm torn between doing a Moorish look with lots of bright Mosaic tile type colors or giving it a quiet relaxing New England feel (like in Practical Magic). I'm leaning towards the first one as I feel a big splash of color could be fun. A lot will depend on what color the sleeper sofa I eventually buy is. I would like one that transforms into a full size mattress and is around $300. If you see anything send me an email!

The rest of my weekend was pretty relaxing. I bought a new pair of chucks that were only $12! I'm bit embarrassed to admit this, but I already have four pairs of chucks and i only bought these because they are in the same colors as this blog. Oh, and my mother told me to. I couldn't be a disobedient child now could I?

On Sunday one of my dearest friends came over and we enjoyed a great afternoon filled with food, mimosas and facials. I definitely want to recommend the Cornish game hen recipe I used along with the blog it came from. I have prepared this recipe twice now and it's both very easy and tasty. It is one of those main courses that looks a lot more impressive than its preparation is. As for the blog, Dianasaur Dishes focuses on making good low cost meals. I have made several of her dishes now and have been quite pleased with the results. I am also trying to practice her recommendation of taking a moment to think of food presentation when I'm at home. I've been practicing on our breakfasts and have found I really enjoy adding another layer of creativity to my cooking.

Lastly, I want to recommend a blog for my friends who have no yard. Life on the Balcony is a popular site that covers all the different types of plants you can grow on a patio or in an apartment. Even if you just grow a little herb garden and a few tomatoes it can save a decent amount of money and make your cooking more fun!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Granola Goodness

You may not know this, but I am a granola addict. The only thing that keeps me under control is the fact that the granolas I like are six bucks a bag! I don't want chocolate chunks or tons of sugary sweetness in my granola, just crunchy nuts, some oats and dried fruit. My favorite is BareNaked's banana granola, but alas, it is in the six bucks a bag category. This would be fine if I only nibbled on it occasionally but the addict within me wouldn't allow it.

Recently I've seen several posts on various blogs about making your own granola, and then when I saw the movie It's Complicated last weekend there was yet another reference to it. I had never considered making my own granola before. I always assumed it must be some magical process that takes years to master. How else could something so delicious be made?

I took all these references as a sign however, and after going over several recipes decided to strike out on my own and give it a try. Since this project was about saving money I used a lot of ingredients I had lying around the house. I look forward to trying some other variation soon (perhaps a banana heavy variation), which won't be long considering the fact that this batch is almost gone!!! I will learn to pace myself. I will learn to pace myself. I will learn to....

Pantry Granola

1.5 cups steele cut oats
1 cup chopped almonds
1.5 cups chopped walnuts
.5 cups whole peanuts
couple dashes of salt

.5 cup of cooked apples pured
.25 cups of honey
3 Tbsp. walnut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
a splash of no sugar added banana syrup (very optional)
2 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. nutmeg
.75 cups of dried apricots quartered
.75 cups of dried cranberries


1. In a large bowl, stir together the oats and nuts. I had steele cut oats on hand, but most recipes call for rolled oats.

2. Place all remaining ingredients in a blender and whirl until smooth. Pour over the dry ingredients stirring well.

3. Spread the granola out thinly on two baking sheets and bake for 20 minutes stirring twice. Then, if you are having to use two oven racks, rotate the sheets so the top sheet is now on the bottom. Bake for an additional 20 minutes stirring twice.

4. Remove the granola from oven and allow to cool slightly before pouring into a large bowl along with the dried fruit. Once the granola has completely cooled you can store it in an air tight container for up to a month.

Some Notes:

I love the taste of this granola, even though I burnt mine slightly, but don't expect the liquid ingredients to smell good in the blender. I cook with my nose so I almost threw it out but either out of laziness or a sense of adventure I decided to give it a try. Once it starts baking though it smells like happiness and hugs!

Also, if you like a very dry granola this one might not appeal to you. It has a slight stickiness that causes me to eat it with a spoon (I'm often typing while eating so sticky fingers just won't do). I think next time I'll go a little lighter on the liquid and see if that helps.

Lastly, if you love granola but don't have some of the liquid ingredients that I used on hand, just do a search for granola recipes. There are a ton of variations on the liquid, most of which don't call for the apples for example. Since I have apple trees I happened to have canned apples, but if you are missing some of the ingredients you can probably find another recipe that calls for stuff you have on hand.

Here are the two recipes I looked at to make mine:

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Dutch Oven's Madien Voyage

You know when you spend days, weeks, months or years pinning for something but for one reason or another (usually price or availability) you are unable to have it. Then one magical day, you are given one as a gift and the wait is over and you wonder, "was this really as awesome as I thought it would be?" If it was a 6.5 quart red dutch oven you were pinning for then the answer is YES!!!!!!!

For the last year or so I have wanted one of these versatile pots, but unfortunately they are quite expensive and I just couldn't justify it nor risk it getting injured by roommates if I did splurge. Now however, I am roommate free and this little Christmas miracle ended up under my tree.

Mr. Red and I had our maiden voyage together last night making Grandmother's Chicken from Sunset. I did do a couple of changes so feel free to check out the original recipe. I did some substitutions for stuff I had on hand. It was the perfect meal for a blustery winter evening, and with this pot clean up was a snap. All I had to do was wipe out this one pot! I definitely recommend this recipe if you need a surefire hit. Jeffry not only went back for seconds but thirds as well!

Poulet Grandmere


2 Tbsp. Olive Oil

6 Chicken Drum Sticks

1 tsp. of Salt

1 tsp. of Pepper

1 white or yellow onion chopped coarsely

6 whole garlic cloves peeled

2 sprigs of thyme

2 inch sprig of rosemary

1 pound of fingerling potatoes halved

3 slices of thick cut bacon cut crosswise into 1/4 inch wide pieces

1 pound of cremini or button mushrooms cleaned and quartered

2 cups turkey broth


1) Heat the olive oil in the pan. Season the Chicken pieces with the salt and pepper and fry until the skin is crisp and deeply brown. Remove from oil and set aside.

2) Pour off all but 2 tbsp. of the cooking oil and reduce to medium-low heat. Add the onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, then add the potatoes and bacon. Stir occasionally until mixture is well browned, about 10 minutes. Pour off all but a thin layer of fat.

3) Add mushrooms and turkey stock and bring the liquid to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced by 1/4. Then arrange chicken skin side up on top of the vegetables.

4) Transfer the pot to the oven and bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the chicken is done.


- I definitely recommend a sweet white wine with this meal. I had a Riesling with it and it was sooo tasty.

-On step 2 the bacon never truly seemed to brown, but don't worry, it won't be goopy when it's all done.

-Don't skimp on the mushrooms. An equal amount of mushrooms to potatoes may seem like a lot, but they will shrink up.

-Don't reduce the liquid any more than 1/4. A LOT of the liquid will be gone after you pull it out of the oven and you want some of that to pour over your veggies and chicken.

-I used drumsticks because it's what I had on hand, but feel free to use any bone in chicken meat.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Perfectly Organized

In preparation for buying this springs seeds, I decided I needed to take stock of our current collection. I knew we'd have some duplicates since Jeff and I had separate garden's last year and I both wanted to take stock of those, so we didn't buy yet another duplicate, and see what we had used up. Now, some might think my organization is a bit over the top, but I am very excited about it. I decided to make a chart listing all our seeds ,and following Jeff's recommendation and tutelage, I created an Excel spreadsheet to do the job.

After going on a search for wayward and forgotten seeds and logging them into my chart I discovered that we have 56 packages of seeds. Of those, 4 of them are chives. Who buys four packages of chives? We also have way more types of spinach, lettuce and carrots than I realized, but at least those are of different species and are planted multiple times throughout the year. I now have my seeds organized by their overall type (ex. Carrot), their specific species (ex. Scarlet Nantes), the type of crop they are (ex. Root), their planting times and then a general notes section for each packet. Being so organized is...delightful. Now when I go to the seed store I can just print up my chart and take it with me.

In addition, I sorted all the seeds alphabetically into a binder. This binder has a divider which separates it in half. I sorted all my edible plant seed in the first half, and the ornamentals in the second half. Oh yeah, you know you're jealous!

Monday, January 11, 2010

A Room of One's Own

Over the weekend I cleaned out shed #2 at our house which is now officially a room for Robin. It has a window, a long counter space, running water, electricity and lots of shelves; which means it has everything I need to function as as a potting bench, bouquet assembly station, garden tool storage center, seed starting station and peaceful get away. Basically the room, which I'm considering naming Robin's Nest, will be the organization hub of all my outdoor activities. My favorite rose bush also happens to be sitting right outside the door (If it was flowering right now you'd understand why).

The shed is currently a bit, well, Shed-Like. Perhaps I have read too many remodeling articles on Sunset, and have thus set my expectations a bit too high, but I would like to make the space a bit prettier while not sacrificing it's functionality. Perhaps somewhere between Sunset's ideas and Jeff's response of, "It's fine. It's just a shed." This coming weekend my mom will be visiting and I intend to pick her brain on how I can fix a few of its flaws. For example, I believe they used regular tape to tape the drywall corners and it is now peeling up along with the plaster they put over it. The main plan is a fresh coat of paint on the walls and cabinets (after fixing the peeling tape of course), some gently wafting curtains, replacing the particle board shelves with plywood, and perhaps doing something about the old peeling floor. How hard can it be to lay some lino?

For now however, the shed is de-spidered, clean and organized which is good enough. If you have any ideas or recommendations (I get really intimidated by picking out paint colors) feel free to chip in your two cents.

Irish Cream Cookies

Just incase you haven't had enough sweets over the last month, or if you are looking to reward yourself for doing good on your New Years resolutions, I've procured a cookie post for you all. This also looks like a great one to keep in mind for St. Patty's Day which is only a few short months away. Thanks for the post mom!

Our church was having a Sunday evening meeting for one of our members to report on a short term mission trip to Ireland. Since good Christians can never seem to get together without food being involved (See Acts 2:46) we decided to have cookies and ice cream. I was one of the women who were asked to make “themed” cookies for the occasion. OK, when I think of Ireland the first thing that comes to my mind is Bailey’s Irish Cream. Since chocolate chip cookies are my favorite cookie, the following recipe was perfect. They are delicious (especially warm from the oven) and were a hit at the meeting. I actually use Carolanns Irish Cream which I like better than Baileys (and is about 40% cheaper) but the added flavor of Irish Cream to a basic chocolate chip cookie is amazing. So grab a few warm cookies and enjoy the cold, foggy weather.


½ c butter
½ c granulated sugar
½ c brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
½ c Irish Cream
2 ¼ c flour
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 (6 ounce) pkg chocolate chips
¾ c coconut
½ c chopped pecans

Cream butter, sugars and egg until fluffy. Add vanilla and Irish Cream. Mix dry ingredients and blend into creamed mixture. Add coconut, nuts and chips. Drop onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 374 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The New Year

Happy New Years everyone! I trust you all had a fun and safe time while celebrating. Although I've never been one to make New Years resolutions, the beginning of the year is a good time to take stock of different projects or goals I wish to accomplish in the next 12 months. Here is my list for garden/home related projects for this coming year. I have no doubt that more will be added, and a few dropped, before the year is out.

1) Install front yard garden
-building raised beds
-planting strawberry patches in front planters
-picking a cover for the ground instead of grass, perhaps bark
2) Practice the art of worm composting
3) Clean up out building #2 for use as canned goods storage and seed starting center
4) Finish decorating and weather stripping the hookah room
5) Research and install a rain barrel if possible
6) Replace the section of privacy fence that blew down in the last big storm
-This includes learning how to build a fence
7) Rebuild chicken coop roof, perhaps with a living roof
8) Rehab the poor overgrown corner garden
9) Turn the old metal bath tub into a pond (Jeff’s pet project)
10) Build bench seating around the second back patio
11) Battle the snails for dominance in the front yard
12) Find a local shelter or food bank that accepts fresh produce
13) Start a food and seedling swap group with other gardeners I know

Friday, January 1, 2010

Body Scrub

Now that I am no longer a student receiving financial aid, I am taking the idea of saving money to heart even more than usual. In addition, I have had some spare time to look into homemade beauty products. Being on a rather small income doesn't mean that you have to forgo all of life's little comforts, it just means you have to be a bit more creative about it. One that is particularly easy in the area of skin care is making your own salt or sugar scrubs. They will leave your skin both moisturized and exfoliated and provide a perfect little pick during these short winter days. They also make great inexpensive gifts.

I purchased the oil I used at Marshalls of all places for $6.99, the Epsom salts from Wal-Mart for about $3.00 and the sugar came from my pantry. For the same price you'd pay for one jar of salt scrub from the store you can make a years supply at home!

Sweet and Salty Body Scrub

1/2 cup of Epsom salts

1/2 cup of white sugar

1/4 oil of your choice, I used walnut

Mix the salt and sugar together and then add oil. Store in a clean jar of your choice. I used some funky little half pint mason jars.

The recipe I took this from on Sunset used sunflower oil, but I had read that walnut oil was also a good choice. I especially like it because as opposed to a lot of store bought body scrubs I've used, the scrub with walnut oil is much lighter and I don't feel greasy afterwards. I accidentally bought toasted walnut oil because I was in a hurry, but aside from the scrub itself smelling like freshly toasted nuts (and you might be into that sort of thing), the smell does not linger on the skin.

If you want to add a scent, you could also add a few drops of your favorite essential oil, but make sure it is cosmetic grade which is different from the oils you'd use for aromatherapy. I don't know what the difference is but all the sites I've looked at warn about that.

Feel free to experiment with different oils (jojoba, olive, emu, sesame), but do a google search on whatever oil you plan to use first just to be safe. Also, as I did with my walnut oil, test it out on one arm first to make sure you don't have some weird reaction to it before you cover your whole body with it.