Keeping your oven clean

I love to cook roasts in the oven at 200 degrees for at least 6 hours to ensure I have a tender piece of meat.  I add the potatoes, onions and carrots after about 2 hours.  I put about an inch of water in the glass pan and cover with aluminum foil.

So, what kept happening was the condensation rose and ran down the outside of the pan and then dripped onto the bottom of the oven.

To solve that problem, I made a well by running my fingers along the inside of the entire pan edge.  That way, the aluminum was down about a quarter inch or so and made the condensation drip back into the pan.

My smoke detector is very close to my oven and the least bit of smoke would set it off.  The drippings dirtied my oven and set off my alarm.

Saving money on dish detergent

I have a dishwasher, much to my dismay.  I hate dishwashers, but that is another subject.

I previously had a 99 cent (12 ounce) bottle of Dawn that seems to be diluted down.  I decided to buy the (24 ounce) Ultra Dawn for $2.50 on sale.

My mom, who is 91, thinks more is better and likes to squirt about a tablespoon of detergent on a coffee cup to clean it and then use about a gallon of water to rinse it.  lol

So, I decided to use the diluted Dawn which was less expensive.  Once it was empty, I put about 6 ounces of the Ultra Dawn in the 12 ounce bottle and filled the rest with water.  I now can make 4 bottles of the 99 cent size for $2.50 instead of the $3.96 it would have cost buying each 12 ounce bottle individually.




Moist cakes

Again, I love all that I learn on the u-tube videos.

I am not a person who makes cakes from scratch.  Cake mixes are pretty cheap and so handy.  I always buy when the cake mixes are on sale for under a dollar.  The IGA brand is just as good and they are usually 89 cents.  Even the generic Walmart or Foodlion brands are even better once you doctor them up with the butter and vanilla pudding mix.

So after reviewing many u-tube videos, this is my suggestion to you to make even moister cakes.  Use butter instead of the vegetable oil.  Just substitute the exact measurement of butter for the oil.

My other suggestion is add about an ounce or so of vanilla pudding mix to your batter and beat it longer.  Even if you are using a pudding in the cake mix, still add it.  So, now your batter is thicker and you actually get about 4 more cupcakes (in my case case.)

I seldom make cakes because with two of us, the cake gets dried out before we eat it all.  Plus, you can freeze the cupcakes before you ice them after you let them cool.  Keeps us from eating all 24-28 of them in a day or two.  No dishes or silverware to clean up either when eating a cupcake.

I love the butter cream frosting, too.  Also, not homemade but in the container.  I have plenty of time to experiment and make my own frosting but I really like the taste and I would rather spend  my time canning or dehydrating or vacuum sealing foods.  We all have priorities.


Cleaning shower curtain

I usually just buy a cheap clear shower curtain and replace it when I see it doesn’t  look fresh and clean anymore, and then recycle the old one.  By recycling I mean, I use it as a mat for my husband to lie on the ground working on our riding lawn mower or covering our well after insulating it or something like that.

After cleaning my claw foot tub, I  noticed the bottom of the shower curtains looked kind of orange-looking along the seam.  I was thinking darn, I have to buy two curtains or take them down and wash them.  This I have done before by adding bleach or Oxiclean to the water.  Noticing that only the seam really looked bad, I decided to fill the tub with warm water and add the oxiclean to the tub water thus saving me the time of taking them down, washing and rehanging them.  It worked perfectly.

I buy the generic oxiclean from the Dollar Tree and honestly, it works great.  It also made my bathroom smell nice and fresh.

Homemade potato chips

I would love to take credit for this fun discovery but I researched it on u-tube.  I never do anything exactly the way I read/see how to do things but my  chips turned out great.  My picky 91 year old mom with dentures even enjoyed them ALOT!

I often have a sandwich for lunch and had been wanting some Lays potato chips for weeks but they weren’t on sale (2 for 4.29) so I didn’t buy any.  I bought a bag for 2.88 at Walmart.

While eating the chips, I was looking at the 10 ounce bag and thinking about that price of 4.29 for 10 ounces versus the 3.99 for my last purchase of a 5 pound bag of potatoes.

So, I peeled the medium sized potato and then thin sliced it with the potato peeler.  You could also use a grater that has the slicer.  I knew there was no way I could thin slice the potato with a knife.

Then you want to wash then really well with cold water to remove the starch.    One guy said to refrigerate for an hour.  Just peel the potato slices into the bowl of cold water and rinse a few times.  It worked just fine.  Make sure you thoroughly dry the potatoes.  Water in grease can splatter.

Let your oil heat up in a frying pan.   I used vegetable oil but another person suggested canola oil.  I used the setting between high and medium.   Drop one thin potato in the oil and if it bubbles up around the potato, drop more in.  I just cooked one thin layer at a time.  I didn’t flip them over but pushed them down a few times.  Once you see the edges turn a little brown, remove the chips.  It took less than 2 minutes, I believe.

Drain on paper towel to remove excess oil.  Salt or add any spice you prefer.

 One medium sized potato made enough chips for at least one person and maybe two, unless you are a big eater.  Lol. They were delicious warm.  

Disaster Prepping or Hurricane Season

Well, hurricane season is upon us and remembering the rule ” a gallon of water per person per day” got me thinking.

I am a frugal person in a lot of areas in my life and buying a gallon of water for each person for three days was about $9.00.  That is for drinking.  And to be safe, I want to buy enough for a week…thus, $21 more or less.  Store in a dark, cool place. You could refrigerate one and then after using three, purchase more.  It is good to rotate your food and water.

But that isn’t water for washing dishes, brushing teeth and bathing.  In a real emergency, we might need that on hand, just in case.

I started saving my juice bottles and filled them with water and stored them away, too.  My mother drinks a lot of prune juice, I love orange juice and my husband is a big fan of tomato juice.  That is at least three containers a week.  You could also save your two liter soda bottles or recycle your gallon water bottles.

I also store 2 one gallon containers of chlorine bleach with my (juice) water bottles.  I read that  16 drops of bleach will kill germs in water and I think I would do that as a precaution even if I were washing dishes or brushing my teeth with the bottled water I filled myself.

I have also ordered some long term storage food that keeps for 25 years….enough to last for a week or so.  It is dehydrated/freeze dried so it needs water, too.

I was given a butane cooking stove (like for camping) that I can use on my kitchen counter for making a pot of coffee with my glass percolator and even heat a can of soup, etc.

A gas grill with a burner on the side would be great, too but I haven’t purchased one of them, yet.  I plan to make that purchase at the end of the summer when the grills go on sale.  We aren’t much for grilling out so it isn’t a priority for us.

But, the best thing to do, since long term storage foods can be costly is to get a plastic tub and fill with emergency foods.  That way it will be easy to move with you if you have to relocate.

The most important part of your emergency food/water storage is to rotate the items.  Make sure you put foods in the tub that you and your family eat on a regular basis so you can rotate it out.

I would suggest cereal/oatmeal, dried fruit or canned fruit  for breakfast.  I have the long term storage milk which by the way, Augason’s Morning Moo is very tasty.  Canned hams that keep for years are about 3.29 for a pound at Walmart.  Also, a good breakfast food if you are fortunate enough to have eggs to go with them.  You can also buy dehydrated eggs.  Who knew?

As far as drinks go:  powdered milk, coffee, kool-aid with sugar for the kids, lemonade packets that you add to a bottle of water is great.

Soups are handy for lunches and even ramen noodles though I haven’t eaten them myself.  A can of soup (like sirloin tips with vegetables) over a bowl of rice makes a filling meal.

Canned potatoes and vegetables are easy to rotate out.  I love the candied yams so I keep a good supply of them.

As far as meats go, just look down the isle at the grocery store and look for as many meats that your family will eat.  Variety is great. We like the ham and the roast beef in gravy.

ALWAYS check expiration dates.  I write on top of the can the month and year with a marker so it is easily readable.

It may seem like a lot of trouble but if you have an emergency, you will be glad you took the time to prepare.  Running to the grocery store at the last minute may mean you will forget important items as well as the cupboards may be bare at the grocery store right before a hurricane.  We couldn’t find the small butane bottles for our stove before hurricane Arthur came our way this year.

I remember the horrible pictures of the disaster when Katrina hit Biloxi/New Orleans.  I can only imagine how awful it would feel to lose your home and then to not even know how you were going to get food for your family.

One last suggestion, add some comfort foods to your emergency food storage.  Hot chocolate, hard candy, chocolate and perhaps gum will add a little joy to your lives.

One last thing: flashlights, batteries, matches and a first aid kit are essential to feeling really prepared.

Good luck and be prepared.


Best Cupcake Icing Ever

You can have professional tasting cupcakes with the Wilton Decorating Icing that is sold in Walmart in the cake decorating section of the craft department.  This icing can be colored with food coloring and it is great.  My sister, Bonnie puts the icing in a pastry bag and using the decorating tips makes little stars all across the top of the cupcake.  So cute.  The best part is the taste.  Yum!

i haven’t figured out her recipe for the cake which is always moist.  I have read on YouTube that putting pudding mix makes a moister cake.  I love all the cooking tips on YouTube, don’t you?

Have fun baking.  And Bonnie, open a bakery.  Your cakes are beautiful and so tasty.

Deciding on your retirement location

My husband I are in North Carolina taking a turn caring for my 90-year old Mom.  It is quite a change for us to be away from our chickens and our two acres out in the country but we feel good about being with Mom and making her latter days of her life happy.

To be honest, I cried a lot when I first moved here.  I just missed my life that I had been living for 17 years out in the country with just me and my husband.   It is always difficult when you add another person to the mix, even when you love that person dearly.  Kind of like when you have a child.

I am around my relatives now which includes three sisters and one brother and nieces and nephews as well as Mom.  There are family gatherings, outings on my sister’s boat and meals with family at our home here.  Plus, one of my daughters (NC) and my only son (Washington, DC) came to visit.  I am hoping to see more of them since it is a lot closer for them to visit.

So, even though we had a lot of peace and quiet in Florida all by ourselves, there are things to consider as we get older.

If my husband passed away, I would be without any of my family down there.  It is difficult enough when someone passes away but then to have to uproot your life and move, wow, that would be really hard.

So, this time taking care of Mom is our trial period to see if we could be happy living in NC instead of Florida.  We are in a condo so no yard to care for which appeals to my husband, I think.  But seriously, if I were to live here permanently, I would have to have some property where I can have a few chickens.

Even though I am 64, we found some part time work that gives us something to do and some extra money.  If it weren’t for that, I probably would have looked for some volunteer work to do.

So, when the time comes for us to make changes in our living location, we are going to be deciding whether to stay in NC around my side of the family or move back to our property in Florida. At times I feel in limbo. Not necessarily a place I like to be so I am focusing on having fun with my family and enjoying this time with Mom.

April 6, 2015 update

Well, it has been almost 2 years living here in North Carolina taking care of my mom.  Being a caregiver is a very difficult job.  It has been so confining for us and we are very spontaneous people.

Plans are that we are returning to Florida the first part of June and another family member is moving in with mom.  I feel bad leaving mom but I just can’t do it any longer and remain sane.  Mom doesn’t want to be left alone even for a few minutes even though she is not bedridden and cooks her breakfast and does her laundry.  Her nerves are bad.  Thank God I have three sisters who have filled in to let us get out of the house for awhile and even get away to go back to Florida to check on our property.  I feel bad for an only child who tries to do this by their self.

We may at some point in our lives move back where my family lives but now we are considering moving near one of my daughters who lives in another part of NC.  I definitely see why it is important to live near family as you get older.


Favorite Small Appliances

I was previously married and my ex-husband loved to buy gadgets.  He loved to cook so most of them related to the kitchen which is good.

My best buy ever is my Salad Master pots and pans.  I bought them in 1980 after some persuasion from my ex-husband.  The thought of spending $800 for them was one reason I was fighting his desire to have them.  But they have been great.  I got all sizes of pots and pans as well as an electric skillet and grater with a lot of attachments.

My mom use to buy a new set of pots and pans every couple years spending around $100 each time.  I know she spent way more than 800 dollars during the same 30 years.

So, one of my favorite small appliances is my electric skillet.  I love to put the meat in the skillet on low and let it cook for hours and make it so tender.   My Salad Master electric skillet is great because it is actually submersible so it is easy to wash.

I think my second favorite small appliance is my griddle.  Great for cooking big meals especially.  You can cook a bunch of bacon or sausage and then wipe it off with a paper towel and cook your pancakes or french toast.  It is really great for cooking a bunch of pork chops or you can cook your steaks on it.  I have a gas stove and I put my steaks in there but I have used the griddle.  I don’t use my griddle every day but I thoroughly enjoy it whenever I do use it.

I love my Hamilton Brew Station coffee machine, too.  The coffee doesn’t seem to get as strong when sitting.  You don’t have a coffee pot that you remove and pour.   You just put your cup under the ledge and push and fill your cup.  The pot turns itself off after two hours, too.   I believe you can get these coffee pots for about $30 bucks though there are some more expensive ones, too.

My microwave is also a much needed part of my kitchen though I don’t really cook with it.  I use it as a bread keeper most of the time.  I make popcorn, heat items and melt butter in it on a fairly regular basis.  Warming up meat in a microwave tends to make it tough.

Some people are afraid of gas stoves but I LOVE mine.   If the electricity goes out, you can always light the top burners with a match and still be able to cook.  I also like that I can tell if it is on low, medium or high easily and you can switch from one to the other faster than electric.  When you turn the gas off, it is off quickly.

I have never gotten into using a crock pot though I have had a couple of them during my homemaking years.  I don’t like the smell of meat cooking in it.  Silly, I know.  But I have been told cooking beans in a crock pot is great.  I recently starting cooking beans for my husband and actually learned that I like them, too.  Well, some of them anyway.  When you take all that time cooking beans and then forget about them and burn them, it really sucks.  I have only done that once and don’t intend to let it happen again.  I heard a crock pot will keep that from happening.

Well, these are my favorites that have been with me over my past 45 years of homemaking.  I have tried many others but they are either stored away or given away or sold at yard sales.  These small appliances have proven to be the most valuable for my everyday life.

Dividing Buns To Freeze

I love a bargain better than anyone I know.

At Winn Dixie, they had buy one get one free buns.  So I bought one hamburger and one hot dog bun.  Well, with only two of us I realized they would go bad before we used all of them so I decided to freeze half of them.  I took one layer of hot dogs (4) and replaced it  with one layer of hamburger buns (4).   Then I froze one pack and put the other in my bread box (microwave, lol).

I freeze my loaves of bread, too, especially if they are on sale.  The bread is so fresh when you take it out of the freezer and let it thaw.

I keep saying I am going to start making homemade bread.  I have all the ingredients but still no food thermometer.  I don’t trust myself to tell temperature for the water for the yeast without a themometer.  Plus, I don’t need to gain any more weight and I know how great bread tastes fresh from the oven.  Yum!!!!

Now, if I could just get that upright freezer I have been looking to buy.  I will need it if I am fortunate enough for my garden to flourish this summer.   Canning is in the future, too.  I hope.