Monday, March 31, 2014

Kitchen Experiment - Meatball Sliders

I love cooking and I love new recipes. This past weekend we had a potluck at church before watching the March 2014 General Women's Conference This gave me a perfect opportunity to try out a new recipe.

The inspiration for this came from Pioneer Woman but as usual, I made changes as I went.

First, the ingredients. No, Cheerios are not included. Think of it as a photo bomb and move on. The original recipe called for bread crumbs but I have always preferred cracker crumbs and I had a sleeve of saltines that someone had thrown into the wrong cupboard without a box. I also like my meat seasoned with more than just pepper and salt. I love my Thrive seasonings! For this recipe I used Italian Seasoning and Salad Blend. I also used Thrive Onions. Rounding out the seasoning is the old standbys, salt, pepper, and garlic. Finished off with slider buns, Hunt's garlic and herb spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese.

Let the fun begin!! You can't have meatballs without meat. This time around I used 1 lb ground beef and 1/2 lb of homemade Italian sausage. I seasoned my own pork the night before to let the flavors meld. I am trying to reduce the amount of chemicals I bring home from the store. Making my own seasoning blends for pork is just one more step towards that goal. I've also noticed that the ground pork I buy does not seem to have as much fat as the sausage I was buying. Double bonus!

Next step was to add crushed crackers and then season to taste. I used minced garlic, Italian seasoning, salad blend with onions, parsley and chives, pepper and sea salt. The onions were saved for later in the process. I also added a little bit of milk and a fresh egg to help hold it all together.

Mix up all that flavorful yumminess ...

The original blogger over at Pioneer Woman had used a measuring spoon for making tablespoon sized meatballs. How ingenious! I will definitely be doing that for now on. I ended up with 34 meatballs of a uniform shape and size.

Here's where I used the rehydrated Thrive onions. I really should have used fresh onions but I forgot to get some onions when I went to the store. Yes, I had a list. No, I did not bring it with me. Anyway, I warmed a little bit of oil in my wok and added the onions for more seasoning.

Once the oil was sizzling, I started adding the meatballs just a few at a time until the bottom was reasonably full. I did end up doing the meatballs in 2 batches so that I had room to rearrange them as they cooked.

The easiest way to rearrange them? Just shake the pan! As they rolled around they became coated in the onions. Don't they look yummy?

Here is the first batch of meatballs. I realized that at this point I could probably freeze them so I could get two meals out of one afternoon's work. Since I never know when my fibro is going to flare up or when something else will keep me out of the kitchen, I try to make ahead as much as I can while I'm feeling good. At this point, there are no preservatives or artificial chemicals in my meatballs. Just the way I like them!

However, since this was a potluck, I put the first batch into the pan when the second batch was done and then dumped a can of Hunt's over the top. Eventually, I will be canning my own spaghetti sauce but until that happens I rely on Hunt's Garlic and Herb because that is the sauce I have found to contain the least amount of added sugar that is still reasonably priced. I let this simmer all afternoon to get the best blend of flavors.

I had planned to make 24 sliders but on my way home from the store, a chicken decided to cross the road. Of course I slammed on the brakes and my groceries went flying. The only thing damaged was two slider buns. I can live with that. I put a slice of mozzarella cheese onto each bottom ....

Then a meatball with a little bit of sauce .....

Then finally the tops. I covered the tray loosely with tin foil and when I got to church, I slide the whole works into the oven for 15 mins to make sure it was hot and the cheese was melty.

Things I will do differently next time: 

  • Mix the meat up before hand and put it in the fridge for a few hours to encourage the flavors to meld.
  • Add the rehydrated onions to the meat and use fresh onions and garlic in the oil. The rehydrated onions started to burn before I was done browning the second batch.
  • Flatten the meat balls before browning. The meatballs kept trying to roll off the buns.
  • Make a bigger batch so I can freeze extras for later meals.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Spring Cleaning - DIY Cleaning products

It’s that time of year again. Time to open up the windows and deep clean all the nooks and crannies. Start by cleaning out your cleaning supplies. Did you know that many cleaning supplies on the market today can be toxic? When we spray the counter with that anti-bacterial, grease cutting super cleaner, we end up breathing that in and harming our lungs. Plus the cost of all those fancy products can really take a hit on the old budget. In the interest of reducing our home’s toxicity and reducing costs, I turned to Google and Pintrest for natural cleaning tips. Here are some of the recipes I found for do-it-yourself cleaning products.

First, let’s go shopping. You will need distilled white vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, unsweetened lemonade drink mix, Epsom salt, Kosher salt, liquid dish soap (I used Dawn Original), laundry soap bar (Fels Naptha), washing soda, and borax. You can also invest in some essential oils if you like but it is not required. It definitely helps to have plenty of rags & sponges, a couple spray bottles and some resealable containers. You will need a fine grater for the laundry soap (although I have read that you can microwave the soap for 2 mins to melt it and then stir briskly until it starts to flake). Remember, Dollar Tree is your friend. In fact, I use the cheap brooms from Dollar Tree as long handled scrub brushes for those stubborn spots and the corners. I bet the cheap mops can also be used to wipe down shower walls or clean tall windows. I just haven't tried that yet.

Now, let’s make our products …..

Bathroom Cleaner:

3/4 c. baking soda
juice from 1/2 a lemon (about 1/4 c)
3 tablespoons salt
3 tablespoons liquid dishwashing soap
1/2 cup vinegar
10 drops essential oil (optional)

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl to make a paste; use scrub brush or sponge to apply to tub, shower walls, & sinks. (Be sure to test a small area to make sure paste does not scuff tub surface; if so, eliminate the salt from the mixture! Rinse well with water and a wet rag, then dry with a clean rag or old towel.

My results: I got a pretty mint green foam instead of a paste. I used the foam to wipe down the bathroom and I must say that I was impressed. The porcelain and chrome gleamed. I dumped the left over foam into the toilet and ran a brush around. It didn't remove that stubborn water ring but so far neither has anything else. 
Bonus: This can also be used on pets since all the ingredients are non-toxic. Dawn Original and vinegar are both suggested for flea control by several sources.

Toilet Bowl Cleaner:

1 cup baking soda
1 cup vinegar
10 drops essential oil (optional)

Turn off flow valve to toilet & flush 1 or 2 times until water is drained. Pour in baking soda, then slowly pour in vinegar, being sure to get vinegar to cover as much of the bowl surface as possible, then add essential oil. The baking soda will react with the vinegar–this is normal! Use your toilet brush to scrub surface & remove any rings or stains. Turn water back on and flush.

My results: Meh. Turning the water on and off is more work then I'm willing to do on a regular basis but the water level in our bowl is normally low enough that I can still use this method. It's cheap and there are no added chemicals so I use it. Actually, I will first scrub with just the baking soda, then add a little bit of vinegar and scrub again. It keeps the water ring knocked down but doesn't completely remove it.

All Purpose Cleaning Spray

1 tablespoon borax
1 tablespoon washing soda
1 teaspoon dishwashing soap
1 cup vinegar
4 cups hot water
25-30 drops essential oil (optional)

Whisk all ingredients together well in large bowl, then pour into spray bottle. Spray on, then wipe surface clean with a damp cloth. Can be used to clean and disinfect almost any surface!

My results: Note to self, read and follow all directions. I tried to mix this directly in the bottle and it took a long time to settle down so I could actually use it. Since I have adobe tile counter tops, it's kinda difficult to actually see the dirt and stains but I think it did a good job. The dish soap helped tame the vinegar smell plus that smell disappears once the surface is dry. Next up was the stove . I admit I am not the world's best housekeeper and our stove shows that. Everything just wiped right off using this cleaner. The vent hood wiped clean easily too. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Glass Cleaner

1 1/2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
5-10 drops essential oil (optional)

Mix vinegar, water, & essential oil together in spray bottle. Spray on glass & use squeegee, crumpled newspaper (Tip: use newspapers that are at least 2 weeks old to avoid black fingers!), or a lint-free rag to get a streak-free shine. Also works well to shine chrome and counter tops after you’ve disinfected them.

My results: I don't do windows .... I mean I haven't tried this yet

Furniture Polish

3/4 cup olive oil
juice from 1/4 lemon
1 tablespoon vinegar
3-4 drops lemon essential oil (optional)

Dampen rag & squeeze out excess water. Dip damp rag into furniture polish, the wipe on surface of furniture. Buff off with an old dry towel. Can also be used to polish stainless steel!

My results: I don't have any furniture that needs polishing. Laminate over press board just doesn't need the same type of care as real wood. If anyone would like to try it and report back that would be fantastic.

Stainless Steel Cleaner

2 tablespoons baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar
2 cups warm water

Mix ingredients in spray bottle. Mixture will foam up; when it stops bubbling, put on cap and spray stainless steel surface, then wipe clean & dry with lint-free rag. To add extra shine, use furniture polish above.

My results: I don't have any stainless steel so I really can not evaluate this one. Anyone want to try it and report back on your results?

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent #1

1 Cup Borax
1 Cup Washing Soda
1/4 Cup Epsom Salt
Lemon Juice

Mix dry ingredients together. Gradually add enough lemon juice to get everything clumping together. You will end up using approximately 8 tablespoons, maybe more, maybe less. Firmly press the mixture into ice cube trays and then let sit out over night to dry.

My results: We have mixed opinions on this one. I have found it to work best when you add a little vinegar to the rinse dispenser. It is also very important to pre-rinse greasy dishes and to make sure the water is hot from the very beginning. Which means in actual practice, we often end up with cloudy and/or greasy dishes. I believe part of that comes from the fact that we need a new dishwasher but in the mean time the experiment continues.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent #2

1 Cup Washing Soda
1 Cup Baking Soda
3 packages unsweetened lemonade drink mix
1 Cup of Kosher Salt
1 Cup Water

Mix all dry ingredients together.
If you are using this as a dry powder: Omit the water. Then pour all dry ingredients into an airtight container. Add one tablespoon of dry powder mix to your dishwasher dispenser.
If you are making tabs: Add water, wait for fizzing to stop (about 1-2 minutes). Then add your mixture to ice cube trays, pressing with your fingers or back of a spoon. Let dry in a warm and sunny spot for 24 hours or till completely dry. Remove and add to an airtight container. Add one tab to the dishwasher dispenser.

My Results: The daughter didn't like this when using 1 Tbsp but I had good results with 2 Tbsp of powder. Adding vinegar to the rinse dispenser is a must. We also need to run the hot water in the sink so that we start with hot water in the dishwasher. May as well pre-rinse the dishes while running the water. Daughter is convinced that homemade cleaning products do not work. Period. I am convinced that the problem is the dishwasher. The store bought stuff doesn't always work either.

Fabric Softener

essential oil (optional)

Add 1/4-1/2 cup vinegar with several drops of your favorite essential oil to the rinse cycle (or simply place in fabric softener compartment of your front load washer.)

My results: Vinegar is also a whitener/brightener plus a natural deodorizer. I have 4 dogs and 3 cats. I love my lab but his natural oils darken everything and he stinks. Between the homemade laundry detergent and the vinegar, his blanket comes out clean and fresh every time. Even cat urine odors are eliminated. Since I don't have a fabric softener dispenser in my machine and I always miss the rinse, I put the vinegar into the bleach dispenser. Use tin foil balls in the dryer to eliminate static.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1 bar Fels Naptha soap (or similar hard bar soap)
1 cup borax
1 cup washing powder

This homemade laundry detergent is so cheap and easy to make that you will kick yourself for not trying it until now. Grate Fels Naptha then stir in borax and washing powder. Use 1-2 tablespoons per load. (Tip: This detergent works best in warm or hot water; for cold water washing you may want to first dissolve in 1/4 c. of hot water.)

My results: I have been using this for several months now and I will not go back. The Fels Naptha has a pleasant lemony scent which makes the grating almost a pleasure. My clothes come out of the washer smelling like clean, wet cloth. There are no heavy perfumes. I have very sensitive skin and I react to most laundry detergents but I have had no issues since switching. When I calculated the cost this came to about $0.07 per tablespoon. Odors are eliminated instead of just covered up which means odor causing microbes are eliminated. In the past, I have pulled “clean” clothes out of the dryer that I could still smell my perfume on. It always made me wonder what else was being left behind.
Bonus: I spend less time treating stains! I wash everything on cold and have not had a problem with the detergent dissolving except when I tried a different soap.

Floor Cleaner

1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup baking soda
8-10 cups hot water
1 tablespoon borax
1 tablespoon washing soda
30 drops essential oil (optional)

Mix vinegar & baking soda together in bucket; add hot water, Borax, washing soda, & essential oil and mix until all powder is dissolved. Use mop or sponge to wipe down floor; wipe dry with clean dry towel.

My results: That adobe tile on my counters came from what was left over after doing the floors. I went looking for a safe but effective method of cleaning the floors. My son-in-law is a tile setter and he recommended just using vinegar. Between the animals and the lovely clay dirt outside, I wasn't convinced that just vinegar would do the trick. When I found the above recipe I figured I would give it a try. My floor looks great (when I actually get a chance to clean it)! Instead of essential oil, I add a capful or two of bubble bath for the same smell good effect.

Works Cited

"Green & Thrifty Cleaning Products." Living Well Spending Lessâ„¢. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <>.

"Household Cleaning Products: What Every Woman Should Know." – Women's Voices for the Earth. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <>.

"Homemade Dishwasher Detergent Recipe." Happy Money Saver Homemade Freezer Meals Homesteading. Web. 19 Mar. 2014. <>

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Spiritual Wandering - Part II

I decided to start blogging again. We will see how it goes.

Back in 2010, I wrote a post about Wiccan and Pagan belief structure and how it differs from the Judeo-Christian beliefs. I am happy to say that I have since discovered a Christian religion that is not misogynist. I am talking about The Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints, also known as Mormonism. Mormons are Christians. We believe Christ is the only begotten Son of our Lord and Heavenly Father, born of the woman Mary. Christ lived, taught, suffered, died and lived again so that we may one day return to our Heavenly Father. We believe in the Bible. We read the Book of Mormon as another testament of Jesus Christ ... just as we read the Book of John or the Book of Genesis.

One of the things that makes Mormons different from other Christian religions that I have looked into in their attitude towards women. The women of the church are respected for their dedication to serving Christ. They are held up as an example of following Christ's teachings. Everything that is righteous and good in this life comes from women and their influence. The public "face" of the church is male but everyone inside the church knows that nothing would happen without the women who work hard to make sure Christ's work is done and that the next generation is raised to fulfill God's plan. 

The written doctrine of the church spells out the duties and responsibilities of the priesthood. All men are considered priests. There are varying levels complete with titles. Women are more loosely organized as the oldest women's service organization in the world, the Relief Society. When the Relief Society was formed in 1842,  Joseph Smith organized the women under the same guidelines as the Priesthood. To me, this means that the work of the Relief Society is of equal importance as the work of the Priesthood. While the roles may be different, the work is as important. I have come to the conclusion that men need the structure of the Priesthood while women are able to function just fine without it. We are still teachers and leaders within the church.

The same is true within the family, which actually forms the core of the church. Church doctrine tells us that a man and a woman must form an equal partnership in order to raise children according to God's plan. The roles are different, but the work is equal. Men are responsible to provide for and to protect the family. women are to nurture and support the family. This is the ideal that God intended. 

This is not a bully club to be used against same-sex attraction and same-sex unions but is instead a template for greatest happiness. All love comes from God and should be celebrated. All abuse comes from the Adversary and should be condemned. Anything in-between is none of my business.

But what about the Goddess? In 2010, I wrote about the importance of acknowledging a Goddess and Her role in our lives. Just as we need our mother here on Earth, we need a Mother in Heaven. While the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints does not openly discuss or teach about our Heavenly Mother, it is acknowledged that she must exist. There are songs, stories and talks that either directly mention Her or hint to Her existence. Why the secrecy? One reason offered is that it is not because She is unimportant but more because She is so important that God does not want Her to be subjected to the abuse He and His Son have experienced. I believe this to be true.

I believe in the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. I also believe that I have a Heavenly Mother and I look forward to returning to her presence when my work on this Earth is done.

UPDATE: Today I discovered a list of references to Heavenly Mother. Since this gentleman has already done the work I thought I would include it here for you to read and decide for yourself.