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The DIY Life: Habanero Pickled Eggs

2 Oct

Having backyard chickens means that there are times when we are buried in fresh eggs. Right now, the chickens are still laying pretty regularly, but the time is looming when the days get shorter and cooler and the girls will slow down production. So, while eggs are plentiful, I decided to pickle some. Beet eggs are usually the type that people are most familiar with. Since I’m limited in what I can do in the kitchen since I have no countertops, I decided to do a simple pickled egg and make it spicy. I made some jalapeno pickled eggs last year, but they really lacked the heat I was looking for. We grew habanero peppers in the garden this year, and they’ve done well. So I decided to use those for the heat factor. In 7 days, you’ll have nicely pickled eggs with a heat that varies. These are great to have on hand for a flavorful boost of protein, or to have out as a snack for guests with assorted meats and cheeses.

Habanero Pickled Eggs

Habanero Pickled Eggs

18 hard boiled eggs, peeled

3 cups vinegar

3 cups water

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dill

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

1 tablespoon pickling spice

6 cloves of garlic, mashed and roughly chopped into chunks

4 habanero peppers, tops trimmed off

 

Add all your ingredients (except the eggs) to a large pot and bring to a boil. Once boiled, remove from heat, stir and let sit to cool slightly.

Add your eggs to a heat safe glass container – I used a 1/2 gallon mason jar.

Pour the brine over the eggs until the container is almost full. Be sure to get the peppers, garlic and any pickling spices from the brine into the jar so that they can continue to flavor. You will have extra brine, but that is ok.

Add the lid to your jar and let cool for about an hour, then place in the fridge for 7 days to allow the mixture to pickle. Shake the jar each day to get the seasonings, spices and peppers to move around and flavor your eggs evenly.

After 7 days, your eggs are pickled and you can enjoy them!

The DIY Life: Canning your own fresh made pasta sauce – Tomato Basil

13 Sep

I realized when looking into my freezer, stuffed to the gills with bags of frozen garden tomatoes, that I had never posted the recipe for Tomato Basil sauce last year. Then I looked at my drafts and confirmed it. And I’m thinking, hmmm….we are coming up on the end of tomato season here in Pa, with the last bushels available for purchase at the local farms thinning out and thought ya, I should probably post that recipe. You know, as a reminder to folks who want to can some sauce to get their hands on some tomatoes…and those who have tomatoes get canning! Below is my original, forgotten about post from Tomatopalooza of 2012. Tomatopalooza of 2013 hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know what my sauce yield will be. I still have some sauce on the shelf, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get on canning sauce. Plus, I’m waiting for hubs to hook me up with an outdoor propane stove so I can can on the deck under the the open sky. *hint hint hubs*

Enjoy the post from the past!

 

Tomatopalooza continued – this round consisted of a basic pasta sauce with simple flavorings so that it can be canned and stored for later use. With the surplus of tomatoes I have in the freezers, I needed to get a head start on making pasta sauce. We don’t eat TONS of pasta anymore because of the heaviness of it and the fact that it packs on pounds unless you are planning to run a marathon – so pasta becomes a special treat instead of a weekly meal. But I wanted to stop having to buy canned pasta sauce. I have become a huge fan of being able to look at a the jars on my shelf and be able to recite – and pronounce – all of the ingredients, regardless of the jar. And gifting someone a jar of something I made from scratch is so fulfilling. People are so appreciative of something, anything in a mason jar. And canning makes me feel proud and empowered. In control of my food source. It also makes me feel in touch with my family history because my Bubba was the canning icon in our family. Sadly, she passed away when I was only 7 so she never got to share her wisdom with me but I can feel her in the things I do.

This batch of sauce was something I spread out over 2 days. Since all my tomatoes were frozen, I thawed them in a HUGE pot over the next two nights, draining off any of the water that seeped out of the tomatoes (this made the cooking down process much faster!) and piling more in as the tomatoes settled and squished down. Out of roughly 40lbs of tomatoes, I ended up with 8 quarts + 6 pints of sauce. It wasn’t super thick like some of the commercially produced sauces but it was a nice consistency. We had some for dinner and with it being just a basic tomato sauce I added spinach, ricotta cheese, some salt and some cooked sausage. It was great!

I have linked to the original post on the Ball canning site for those of you wanting to not do such a huge batch of sauce. Me, I can’t help but do everything in bulk!

Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Ball Canning

Yield: will vary depending on how long you cook the tomatoes and what type you use. 

2012 yield: 8 quarts 6 pints

40lbs frozen tomatoes – preferably Roma’s

2 cups chopped Vidalia onion

16 cloves garlic, minced

¼ – ½ cup dried basil

Citric acid or bottled lemon juice – refer to canning book for amounts based on jar size

Canning jars, lids and bands – sterilized and hot according to proper canning methods.

The day before cooking sauce, thaw your tomatoes in the pot you will be cooking them in. Drain off any “water” that seeps out of the tomatoes. Add your onion, garlic and basil to the pot. Use a potato masher to break up the frozen tomatoes. Cook until everything is boiling and onion is soft.

Strain the mixture through a food mill to remove seeds and skins. (At this point, you may put the strained sauce into the fridge and cook down another day)

Cook the strained mixture down until reduced by half for a thin sauce.

Add your citric acid/bottled lemon juice to each jar according to size. Fill with sauce to 1 inch headspace. Add to PRESSURE CANNER and process for 15 minutes for both pints and quarts at 11lbs of pressure, adjusting for your altitude.

No pressure canner, or you’re scared of it? You can process jars in a water bath canner as well: 35 minutes for pints

Let cool on counter for 24 hours. Remove bands and wipe down jars and store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Any jars that did not seal can either be reprocessed or stored in the fridge for use.

***Follow all canner directions for both pressure and water bath***

The DIY Life: Healing Salve

19 Jun

Every so often I make something from scratch and think, hmmm….I MAY need an intervention. And then I take a moment to gather my thoughts and realize, nope, I’m good. Making this healing salve was one of those ohmygoshwhatthehellamidoing!!! moments. BUT – why aren’t MORE people doing stuff like this? I mean, it was simple enough. And people were making their own medicines and salves long before traditional medicine came into play. Don’t get me wrong. I am glad we have hospitals that can heal us, where they perform surgery under sedation, not where they give you a bottle of booze, then cut at you until you pass out like back in the day. Whew. But still. There is something to be said for the healing powers of natural things. Things found in nature, not created in a lab. Enter in this healing salve. It’s simple enough to make, with quality ingredients easily found on the world wide web (see below for links to small businesses I purchase from). This salve is anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, moistening, and soothing. And, it’s all natural. The ingredients are simple – coconut oil, olive oil, dried comfrey, dried calendula, beeswax, honey, and lavender oil. That is it.

This took me about 30 minutes total – with roughly 10 of that hands on. EASY. Mine turned out slightly darker than MrsHappyHomemakers, I’m guessing because my olive oil was a lot greener than hers. I had some baby food jars that I had originally set aside for another craft but decided to use them to store this salve. The recipe was enough for 2 jars. I’m looking forward to seeing what it does in the long term for any wounds. I put some on a cut that was already healing and it felt nice on my skin and softened the rough edges of it. After I finish are jar I’ll decide whether to make another batch!

homemade neo

Click HERE for the recipe, as well as details on what each of the ingredients does!

I purchased my herbs and lavender oil from Ancient Indigo Herbs. Get your own here. Fast shipping, and quality products.

Beeswax purchased from Mill Creak Honey. Get your own here. Fast shipping of an unfiltered great quality beeswax. I purchased one pound just to have it around for future recipes!

Apple Pie in a Jar – Apple Pie “Shine”

2 Apr

When I think of apple pie, it reminds me of being a kid, playing outside and being able to smell the delicious fragrance of freshly baking apple pie flowing out the open windows in the spring. There is just something about that smell and taste. It’s childhood.

As an adult, I like to enjoy apple pie in different variations. Cookies, cupcakes, cakes, tarts. As a grown up beverage, it can’t be beat. I did an Apple Pie Sangria with a jar of this mixed into the batch. It was AMAZING. Slightly potent, but AMAZING.  The best way to make a batch of that sangria is to actually have a jar of the Apple Pie “Shine” to mix into it. It’s easy to make, and just as easy to drink. My second batch was a little less potent, so I may add another shot of grain to the jars upon opening them. The recipe listed below is my variation of the recipe given to me by a friend. I think it makes something great tasting become epic tasting!

apple pie shine

Apple Pie Shine

1 gallon apple cider

1 gallon unsweetened apple juice

3 cups brown sugar

2 tablespoons molasses

2 vanilla beans, split lengthwise

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons vanilla extract – do not use imitation

1 liter (plus a couple extra glugs if you are heavy handed like me!) moonshine, Everclear, or the highest proof vodka you can find

Take and put all of your ingredients into a large pot, with the exception of the alcohol. Bring to a boil and let boil for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to dissolve brown sugar and molasses. After 10 minutes, remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Add your grain alcohol, stirring to combine.

Fill clean pint or quart mason jars to bottom of threads on jar, wipe rims and add lids and screw bands, twisting to finger tight. Rinse jars to get rid of any sticky residue and store in a cool dark place. Let “age” about 1 month to get rid of any strong booze flavor. Enjoy ice cold, shaking the jar before passing the jar around with friends! Tastes just like apple pie – in a jar!

Raspberry Almond Breakfast Quinoa – Filling, GF, Vegan – and 4 days worth of breakfast!

13 Mar

Let’s face it. If you are a working stiff Monday – Friday, you can be hard pressed to eat a breakfast that is healthy, filling, and easily prepared the night before. Skipping breakfast is not an option for me, and it shouldn’t be for anyone else either. Breakfast is the meal that gets our motors running, our brains firing on all cylinders. Your body NEEDS fuel.  My fellow working stiffs need me to eat breakfast. Otherwise, by 11 am, hunger has mixed with anger, making me hangry…and things can get ugly. So unless I’m not feeling well, I eat breakfast. I’m trying to lose some weight, tone up, and make some adaptable life changes. Eating healthier. Now, I’m not doing a gluten-free diet. I am trying to cut out white pastas & breads, white rice, “whole wheat” pasta’s & breads that aren’t really all that more nutritious than plain old white bread. I’m working to incorporate more whole grains, more quinoa. I’m lucky in that I don’t HAVE to do GF. That my stomach won’t be in an uproar if I eat a sandwich on wheat bread. But I know so many people out there don’t have a choice but to be GF. And since so many people are having to adopt a gluten-free lifestyle, it makes gluten-free food items more readily available to the general population. A welcome side effect. Now, back to the recipe. I’ve been experimenting with quinoa, using it in place of rice and pasta where I feel it’s a good substitute. But everything I’ve been using it in thus far has been a savory dish. I wanted to try it in a sweeter option, like something for breakfast. I wanted to incorporate fruit, since I know that I’m not eating enough servings of it each day. I wanted the recipe to taste good, be healthy, but not lack flavor. I wanted it to be something I could make a big batch of, and reheat throughout the work week. Raspberry Almond Breakfast Quinoa was born. It’s quick and easy to make, has a small list of ingredients, and is a healthy, portable, filling breakfast option! I get 4 packed pint jars worth.

If you aren’t into using almond milk, you could totally replace it with your regular milk. I think chocolate almond milk would also be a tasty sub. Raspberries aren’t your thing? Try blueberries or strawberries in the same ratio. Or do a mix! Use fresh if you have them. I’m using berries that I froze over the summer. Based on the ingredients I used, this recipe is around 125 calories per serving, with maybe 2 grams of fat. You can also sprinkle on some cinnamon, or unsweetened cocoa powder for an extra flavor boost!

raspberry almond breakfast quinoa

Raspberry Almond Breakfast Quinoa

1 1/2 – 2 cups frozen raspberries

1 cup organic quinoa, rinsed thoroughly

1 1/4 cup organic vanilla almond milk

slivered almonds, about 1/4 cup – optional

Stevia to sweeten

In a medium saucepan, add your almond milk and 1 cup of the raspberries. Cook over medium heat until the raspberries start to soften and break apart. Add your quinoa, letting the mixture come back up to a boil. Simmer on low for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside for 10 more minutes. Once the mixture has cooled slightly and thickened, sweeten with Stevia to taste. I used about 1 1/2 teaspoons Stevia powder for mine to get it to the taste I wanted. Portion your quinoa mixture into pint mason jars, filling right up to the threaded part of the jars. Top each jar with the other cup of raspberries, sprinkling each jar with slivered almonds. Seal jars and store in fridge. You can reheat this on the stove, in the microwave, or enjoy it at room temp. Either way, it’s good!

raspberry almond breakfast quinoa closeup

Sriracha Salt. You’re Welcome.

11 Mar

Nope. You read that right. Sriracha Salt. In the wild world of flavor, this salt is an odd yet flavorful addition to your spice cabinet. I don’t know if Randy Clemens, the author of the Sriracha Cookbook is the originator of the recipe for this tasty salt or not, but I’m just going to go with that.

I don’t have his cookbook. I like sriracha, but not enough to justify giving primo shelf space up for something devoted completely to this one condiment. I don’t know what his exact ratio of ingredients is for his personal mixture, just that it contains kosher salt, sriracha, granulated garlic, and cayenne pepper. I decided to keep it simple and make up my own mixture. I refused to research any further something as simple as a flavored salt. The process is pretty simple. Measure, mix, dehydrate. Boom.

My suggestion would be to use this as a flavor booster on already cooked foods. Sprinkled on eggs – scrambled or over easy. Sprinkled on roasted veggies, chicken, sandwiches. This would be a great replacement for season salt on wings. Anywhere you would season your meal with salt, this would generally be a decent replacement.  Using it in soup would be something I’d avoid. I think you’ll lose the garlic and sriracha flavor with all that liquid. Although the originator does suggest using the salt to rim glasses for adult bevs – this would be fabulous for a bloody mary!

If you make this, let me know what you think! Don’t feel like making it? Lucky for you, you can buy it from Randy Clemens via Etsy. Buying it’s a bit lazy. This is so easy, just do it yourself!

sriracha salt

Sriracha Salt

1/2 cup kosher salt

1/3 cup sriracha hot sauce

1 heaping teaspoon garlic powder

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix them up. Put a piece of parchment on a cookie sheet and spread the mixture in a thin layer over the parchment. Place in the oven on the lowest setting it will go. Once the oven reaches temperature, turn off the oven and let the mixture sit overnight to dehydrate.

The  next day, check the mixture. If it’s still moist, stir it, spreading it into a thin layer again. Put it back in the oven to dehydrate for an hour or two, until totally dry. Once the mixture has cooled, add it to a food processor and pulse until chunks are broken down, and it looks like orange red kosher salt again. Store in an airtight container and use on what you want whenever you want!

Lighter Snack & Lunch Idea – Lightly Pickled Shrimp!

4 Mar

Every time a new year arrives, the gyms flood with people trying to set new goals with their brand new good intentions. The produce aisle and whole grain sections at the grocery stores are cleared of all things healthy as people embark on a quest for better eating habits. Then it dies off, at the latest, in early February and most people go back to their bad food choices and lazy ways. I never make healthy eating or fitness a new years resolution because it’s like setting yourself up for failure. Healthy eating, fitness, lifestyle changes – you can’t give them deadlines. You’ve got to be mentally ready for the challenge. YOU have to want to do it. I think I’m mentally ready to start getting back into shape again after too much good food & beer. I’m cutting back on the good beer, but not cutting it out. Cutting things out leads to binging on those things because you feel deprived. I need REAL life changes and choices, not a quick fix to drop some weight right now, just to gain it back when I get back to normal.

So for the first week I started getting a little more creative with my lunch choices. I wanted meals that would keep me full and give me the most bang for my buck calorie and nutrition wise. That’s why I started eating Spinach & Cheese Toasts – and I wanted to add in something that had some more protein than the mushrooms I was eating with it and it to be light, healthy & flavorful. So I decided to do a quick, light pickling of some medium sized shrimp. Don’t turn your nose up at the thought of “pickled” shrimp. These aren’t anything like eating a kosher dill pickle. These are brightly flavored without being too “pickled” tasting. They have zing from the apple cider vinegar and fresh lemon juice. There is a hint of spice from the red pepper flakes and garlic. They are just layered with flavor and I love it! I think these will be a great snack and lunch addition, as well as be a great option to take to a summertime picnic or BBQ as an appetizer to share! And the brine? Don’t let it go to waste. It’s lovely smeared on some crusty, whole grain french bread with a couple of the shrimp on top. I think it would also be great as a pasta salad, brining the shrimp overnight and then tossing the jar of ingredients into some pasta. Or quinoa. Next time I make this, I’m going to add in a couple extra shakes of the pepper flakes for a little more zing!

Feel free to double this recipe if you are making it for a group. I made this small batch because I wanted to only have what I would consume over a few days for lunches.

pickled shrimp

Lightly Pickled Shrimp

1/2 lb peeled and deveined shrimp, raw, tails off

1 tbsp old bay seasoning

1/2 tsp mustard seed

1/4 tsp celery seed

1/2 – 1 tsp kosher salt

1 whole lemon, juiced

1/2 cup olive oil

2-3 tbsp unfiltered apple cider vinegar

couple shakes of red pepper flakes

2 pinches parsley flakes

2 cloves garlic, mashed and minced

1/2 medium sweet onion, cut into half moons

Fill a small pot halfway with tap water and add the old bay seasoning. Bring to a boil and add shrimp, cooking until pink – about 2 minutes. Dump your shrimp into a fine mesh strainer and rinse with cold water until no longer hot. (you are using the mesh strainer so that you don’t lose much of the old bay seasoning!)

Take your mustard seed, celery seed & the couple shakes of red pepper flakes and pulse them through a food mill or grinder  a couple of times just to break them up a bit and release their flavors. Add your salt, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and garlic, stirring well to combine. Give it a taste and add more salt or vinegar to get the desired tang and flavor you are looking for.

In a mason jar, put a layer of shrimp, then a layer of onions, and keep layering until you run out of shrimp and onions. Pour the marinade mixture over your shrimp and onions, top with a lid, and put in the fridge overnight to let all the flavors melt together.

Before serving, let the jar sit out for at least 30 minutes. This will let the olive oil easily mix back in with the vinegar and lemon juices. Right before eating, give the jar a good shake to get everything mixed back together. Enjoy as an appetizer, alongside a sandwich, add to pasta, quinoa, rice – whatever your heart desires! Consume within a few days.

The DIY Life: an upcycle for canning rings

4 Jan

So, ya. Canning rings, or bands. Whatever you call them, I have a plethora of them. I have dented ones that get beat up from use. Rusty ones from old canning jars that people gifted me. Gold ones. Silver ones. Tarnished ones.  A LOT! When a canning ring gets rusty, or dented, you are supposed to stop using it for actual canning since it can cause issue with your jars sealing properly. Instead of tossing them, I string them onto a piece of ribbon and keep them separate from my good canning rings. The beat rings are the ones I use when I need to secure the lid on an open jar (I don’t give a rats ass if it’s dented for in fridge food storage!). I’ll use some of the rusty and tarnished ones as a craft jar option. But I STILL have a shit ton of these things. So, I decided to get crafty with them. But it had to be an easy craft. Otherwise I get bored and abandon the craft. With the front porch bench bare now that the holidays are over, I needed something to put on it. And my mason jar holding the lone candle just seemed, well, sad. All alone on that big old bench. It needed a buddy. Someone to snuggle up with.

This craft is so stinking simple it’s ridiculous. You could do this blindfolded, with one hand behind your back and it would still rock.

The “directions” are as follows: I strung together the rusted, dented, beat up canning lids onto a piece of ribbon. When putting them onto the ribbon, I made sure they were all facing the same direction. Once they were all on the ribbon, I pulled the ribbon tight- SUPER tight, double knotted it and cut off the excess. Once the excess ribbon was gone, I fixed up the canning rings making them all nice and orderly. Then I jammed my mason jar “candle holder” into the center and stuck it on the bench. TA-DA! When I told you I generally stick to easy crafts, I wasn’t lying to you. The only way a craft can get any easier is to not actually craft anything. Really.

canningring

I was tempted to put it on my kitchen table, but it looked out of place so I stuck with my original plan as an outdoor decoration. I think it looks lovely. And I am digging that rusty patina from the old rings. If you do this with new canning rings, it will still look nice. Want that weathered look? Hang the rings somewhere outside where they will be subjected to the elements. It will give them a nice weathered patina.

A Method to my Madness: Why I Can

26 Nov

I’m not going to lie – it was pretty freaking awesome to have all of last week off. However, having to go to work today? Totally blows. I wish my company was closed in observance of the first day of rifle hunting here in Pa. That would have been super fantastic. Because I’d still be in my pj’s just finishing up the last swig of coffee and getting ready to bring down all the Christmas decor. Sigh. Now, onto the real reason for my post!

Food Preservation – when people think of food preservation they think about their great grandparents and grandparents. They did it because times were tough and it helped to save money. It was a great way to feed their  – at many times – very large families. They did it because it was part of their immigrant heritage – their mothers did it, so they too carried on the tradition.

My bubba was a canner. She’d preserve the fruits and veggies from my pap’s well taken care of, high yielding garden. Sadly, I never got to see this part of her life because when she passed away, I was 7 and she was 92. Her canning days were behind her. My gram never canned or preserved food, therefore my mom never did. Which means I was never introduced to it. But I got into it because I like to think because it is in my blood, part of my DNA. But the real truth it that I got bored with traditional cooking and needed a challenge. I needed something different. I was already creative in the kitchen, trying new recipes and being adventurous. But food preservation? That was something totally different. There was a science to it. And the thought of having shelves full of beautiful mason jars filled with foods I had preserved was very appealing to me. But I wasn’t sure it was something that would stick for me as a hobby so I did a test before I committed to purchasing all the stuff you’d need. I made a batch of strawberry jam. That first batch of jam? It was delicious. It was sweet, it was simple, it was easy to make. And I was in love with the fact that I could recite all of the ingredients that were in it, without having to look at a label. The idea of simple preserved foods made a home in my head, and my heart. The following year, we planted a garden. I gave in, knowing I was hooked and purchased more mason jars, a canning pot, and a pressure canner because hubs wanted to can deer meat. I tried my hand at pickles, pickled peppers, and canned tomatoes. I made a batch of Apple Pie Jam. Tomato Butter. Simple things that could be processed in a water bath canner. Only enough to take up just one shelf in the basement food storage shelves. The pressure canner sat for almost a year, unused while I attempted to get over my irrational fear of it exploding and blasting me in the face with molten hot deer meat and shards of glass. The hubs used it the first time around January 2012 to cold pack a few jars of deer meat. It didn’t explode. I got over my fear and jumped into canning a whole 23qt canner full of jars of deer meat. I survived. I was in deep.

This year, I went balls out on canning – take no prisoners. I canned 100+ jars of stuff, a variety – pasta sauce (tomato basil and spicy tomato), tomato jam, bruschetta mix, strawberry jam, apple pie jam, pinto beans, cannellini beans, greek style butter beans, potatoes, and my very first batch of chicken stock. And I’m not done. I plan on canning another canner full of deer meat with some potatoes and carrots for a kind of hunters stew. I want to do more potatoes because it’s lovely being able to pop open a jar and have almost instant home fries for breakfast. I’m going to can ground beef so we can have quick nachos, or chili. That Thanksgiving turkey carcass will be turned into turkey stock (I’ll have an upcoming post on how to make this soon!) This is just the tip of the iceberg for me.

Now, onto WHY I can and preserve. It’s for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with the zombie apocalypse. Yes, I’m obsessed with all things zombie, but I’m not preserving mass quantities of food because of some potential viral outbreak that turns us into brain eating undead. I do it because it’s cheaper than purchasing it from the grocery store – I even beat the discount stores. But I’d still can even if doing it myself wasn’t cheaper. Because – onto the second reason I can – canning my own food means I have control over what is going into my body. I can recite the exact ingredients that went into all of those items I listed earlier, because the list of ingredients is small. I am canning veggies from my own garden, as well as local farms. For a little investment of my time, I can fill shelves with food that has no preservatives, except maybe a little salt, vinegar or lemon juice. I can take that surplus from our garden and turn it into pasta sauce that we can eat and share for a whole year. The third reason I can? Because I enjoy it. I love cooking. You have got to love cooking in order to be a food preserver. It is time consuming, and it can get hectic, because you have to process the veggies and fruits when they are ready. They do not wait until it is convenient for you. My August and September each year are now pretty much consumed with canning and freezing. That means the house is a mess, because between work and canning there is certainly no time for things like running the sweeper or dusting. The laundry gets done sporadically. I force myself to clean the bathrooms because well, they’re bathrooms and they get gross. And at times I do get frazzled and feel overwhelmed because I am living and breathing food preservation. After work, on the weekends. Yep, I live and breathe it for those 2 months. This year, when I was all done, I wiped the sweat from my brow and said whew! All done till next year! And then a couple weekends later, I canned potatoes. In the coming weeks I’ll can that deer meat “stew”. Why? Because I had a breather from Canapalooza 2012 and I want my new canning shelf to be FULL of jars, no empty spaces. And because I love to cook. And the last  reason why I can? It’s kind of a side effect, but I want to inspire other  people, both young and old to start canning or to restart canning. To be more mindful of what they are eating. I am only 32, and people are always surprised that someone so young is so deeply interested in something as old fashioned as canning. Hearing people say that makes me smile. My own mom wanted me to teach her to can before she passed away, because she loved the thought of controlling her food. And it would give her a hobby. If I can inspire just one person to take up canning from my talking about, or gifting them something I’ve made, it makes this whole food love/food preservation experience even more worthwhile.

The DIY Life: Candy Cane Sugar Scrub for holiday gift giving!

13 Nov

In the retail world, Christmas has officially arrived. There is Christmas music on the sound system, holiday decorations overflow into the aisles, holiday t-shirts are front and center. And that leaves me a little twitchy and itchy over the thought of gift giving. It’s too soon. We haven’t even made it through Thanksgiving yet. I haven’t yet decided on a home made gift to give!!! Last year it was a canister of this Homemade Laundry Detergent – it went over well and was easy to do. This year, I thought what about something pampering for the ladies? Something the boys can use too if they wanted, but it was pretty for the girls? And then while I was at the local Bath & Body Works it hit me – body scrubs! Sugar scrubs to be specific, because salt dries out the skin, and it’s winter, and we are all already dried out. Wait…maybe that’s why I got twitchy AND itchy about the upcoming holiday – because I’m all dried out!!! I searched the wonderful world of the internet and found a recipe that had a cute photo as well as the directions/ingredient list and adapted it for my use. I wanted a deep moisturizing scrub that would help cure that winter dryness we experience once the furnace is on while exfoliating all those dry flaky skin particles. I think this recipe does the trick. And it yields a nice batch – 6 1/2 pint jars, with about 1/2 a jar of leftovers for me to use myself!

I’ll be jazzing these jars up with some shimmery ribbon and a candy cane. What a cute gift that I hope the ladies will love! It takes very little time – I think I whipped this up in about 15 minutes and it’s easy on the budget.

Candy Cane Sugar Scrub

adapted from here 

Yield: 6 1/2 pint mason jars

5 cups granulated white sugar

1/3 cup olive oil

2 cups coconut oil

1 1/2 teaspoons pure peppermint extract

In a microwave safe bowl, heat the coconut oil until melted, in 30 second bursts. Once melted, add the olive oil and peppermint extract, stirring to combine. Add your sugar and mix until no dry sugar remains. Add to jars up the 1 inch head space mark. Wipe rims, add bands and voila!

If you want to do the layering effect to make it look like a candy cane, take half of your sugar mixture and add it to another bowl. Use food grade GEL food coloring – this works the best. Mix until you have a nice consistent color and then layer it in your mason jars – one layer red, one layer white, and keep going till your jars are full up to the 1 inch head space. The red layers may leave some red coloring on your skin, but it easily rinses off with some soap.

Note: Since this is an oil based scrub, you’ll want to be careful after using it in the shower since it will leave a slick film on your tub. I usually just rub the slippery areas with my foot and it’s all good.

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