Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homemade Chocolate Syrup

A day without chocolate syrup is like a day without sunshine to my daughters. They seem to enjoy chocolate syrup on everything. Our supply was running low today, when I remembered that I had seen a Pin on Pinterest for chocolate sauce. It is a very simple recipe using five ingredients and no high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or strange chemicals. The taste is an intense, pure, and natural chocolate flavor.

  The only ingredients missing from this photo are salt and water.

Homemade Chocolate Syrup 
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2  teaspoons vanilla extract 

1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cocoa powder until most of the lumps are gone.  Add water and salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes, until thickened, continuing to stir frequently.  Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes, then add vanilla extract. Store in an air tight container in the fridge and enjoy within 2-4 weeks.

To make chocolate milk, add 1 tablespoon of chocolate sauce to a cup of milk and stir until combined.

Rich and delicious! I may never buy Hershey's Syrup again. 

Monday, August 27, 2012

I'm Back

I am sorry that I have been MIA .  It has been a little crazy around here.  I have had cakes to bake, appointments to make, kids to take, appliances to break, and dogs to medicate.
Did I mention that my dog Mickey is allergic to ragweed?  Yes, I am currently medicating my rescued lab-mix with Benadryl, per veterinary advice.  I have also been trying  an Internet concoction of baking soda and cornstarch to help relieve his itching and scratching. I figured it couldn't hurt to try it out, but I am not sure if it will be the cure.

 Mickey is so sad.

 I did try a new recipe over the weekend.  The recipe claims to be the IHOP pancake recipe. If you normally make your pancakes from scratch, you will not be wowed. If you normally use a mix, you may want to give it a try.  My daughters loved the pancakes.  The pancakes were good, but my husband and I did not notice a huge difference over my normal recipe.
I have also been working on some wine bottle crafts. You probably remember me writing about cutting a wine bottle with rope and acetone, well it does not work at home like it does on U tube.  I finally bought a bottle cutter and I am perfecting the process. I hope to make this or some of the other wine bottle crafts very soon.

I just wanted to let you know I am still alive and trying out the things I find online. I plan to be back soon.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

This is what I found on the carpet in my basement.

As usual, no one in my house was responsible for this stain. My best guess is that it is dry erase marker residue, but my daughters would not confirm or deny my suspicions.

 I wanted to share one of my favorite stain fighters for carpet and upholstery . With two messy children and an equally messy dog, this recipe has saved me on more than one occasion. I can not remember where I found this recipe, but it definitely works.  This stain remover also does not leave an oily residue to attract dirt like many commercial stain products.  If your carpet or upholstery has a Scotchgard coating, you may want to re-apply a Scotchgard spray to the affected area, after the area  is clean and dry.  This cleaner uses basic household products.

Carpet and Upholstery Cleaner

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup ammonia
1/2 cup alcohol
1/4 cup water

Mix all ingredients in a spray bottle and shake to combine. Spray onto stain and blot with a clean white cloth.

Look at my carpet now.  The stain is gone.

I have found this mixture very helpful on clothing stains also.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bread Update

This was my incredible breakfast this morning. It is the bread recipe I posted yesterday with the addition of 3/4 c of raisins and 1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon.  DELICIOUS! You have to try this.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Easy Crusty Bread

I love really good artisan bread.  Give me good bread and water and I would not have any complaints.
Carbs are my downfall.  Imagine my delight when I found this
 on Pinterest. It was like a dream come true!  Could it really be so simple?  I have always been intimidated by yeast.  The water is either too hot or too cold, the yeast doesn't proof and whole batch of bread is ruined. The whole process is so labor intensive and takes so much of your day.  Not anymore.  You have no reason to purchase an expensive loaf of artisan bread ever again. You can have fresh bread everyday.  This has to be the easiest recipe with the greatest reward.  Do yourself a favor and triple the recipe, because you will love this bread.

Crusty Bread
 (makes one 1 1/2 lb loaf)

 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
 1 1/2 cups water

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast.  Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms.    Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12- 18 hours. Overnight works great. Heat oven to 450.  When the oven reaches 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes.  Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball.   Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating.  Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough.  Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake for an additional 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool

Mix dry ingredients. Other additions can be added at this time (nuts, raisins, spices, cheese).  

Add water (straight from the tap, no need to check the temperature) and mix until shaggy.  Cover and let it sit on your counter for 12-18 hours.

It will look something like this after 12 hours. Pour it out onto a well floured surface. I floured a piece of parchment paper, which also helped me transfer it to the pot and remove it.

Cover and let rest until pot is hot.


I still can not believe that this is what you see when you take the lid off of the pot. This is the bread I have dreamed about.  I am making raisin cinnamon bread tonight. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Perfect Iced Tea

Nothing says summer like sitting on the porch sipping a tall glass of iced tea.  I have always enjoyed iced tea, but it always tastes bitter when I make it at home.  Once again Pinterest to the rescue.  I found out how to make the perfect iced tea. This tea has a secret ingredient that claims to remove the bitterness. I can't believe someone from the south did not share this secret with me when I lived in Atlanta, so much for southern hospitality.  This recipe claims to be adapted from Lone Star Steak House (who knows if that is true). You should never believe anything you read on line.

 Perfect Iced Tea (makes 2 quarts)

6 regular size tea bags
2 cups boiling water
6 cups cold water
1/2 - 3/4c sugar (optional)
1/8 t baking soda (secret ingredient)

Add tea bags to the  pitcher with baking soda. Pour boiling water over tea bags and steep for 15 minutes.

Remove and toss out tea bags, add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add cold water and refrigerate until ready to drink.  Serve over ice and garnish with lemon.

I made some adjustments to the recipe.  I used green tea and I sweetened with agave nectar. Agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, which means you should use less.. I used less than 1/4 cup because I like my tea with a hint of sweetness.  The tea is delicious, but I think a shot of sweet tea vodka in your glass  might be a nice addition to this sipping drink.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Dawn and Bacon

Maybe you don't have laundry problems, but I do.  I will give you an example.  You are making bacon for BLT Sandwiches and not wearing an apron, because you are cooking the bacon in the oven to avoid the mess.  Somehow when you are flipping the bacon the grease spatters onto your shirt. The shirt goes into the laundry and you forget to treat the stain. The shirt then gets washed by your husband, who is being so sweet and helping you out with the laundry, and proceeds to the dryer where it is locked and set forever. It looks something like this after it comes out of the dryer.
I was reminded of this little trick (that I had forgotten) while on Pinterest. If you notice an oily stain on your clothing after it has dried, put Dawn on the spots and let it sit for at least an hour. I let mine sit for about 8 hours.
Wash again as you normally would and you should be happy with the results.

No more grease spots on this shirt! This trick would probably work for lip gloss and chapstick stains that get set in the dryer, when you forget to check your pockets, not that those things ever happen here.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gone But Not Forgotten

My daughters had a sleepover at their cousin's house this week.  I had forgotten how quickly you can clean a house, when you have no children. Let me rephrase that, how quickly you can do anything.  You can shop, clean, prepare dinner, clean-up dinner and have time and energy to do almost anything. Not to mention that your house stays clean for longer than 10 minutes.  I love my children and missed them, but daily chores didn't seem like chores while they were gone. Dinner, laundry, and cleaning were very simple while they were gone. No complaints about what was being served for dinner, no arguments over who is setting or clearing the table.  I'm thinking that empty nest thing will be a dream. To be able to do what you want, when you want without commplaints is such a treat. And then it happened, I opened the door to my daughter's closet and all those things I asked her to put away fell out onto my feet.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

DIY Grout Cleaner

I have been meaning to clean the floor grout in the bathrooms for a while, but something more fun is always happening. Pinterest had a Pin for grout cleaner, so no better time than today. The problem with DIY is you "do it yourself" unless you can find someone to do it for you.

The cleaner consists of 3/4 c baking soda and 1/4 c bleach mixed together.  Scrub the grout with an old tooth brush and wipe with a wet cloth. This made enough for me to clean two bathroom floors. I was a little discouraged at first because I didn't seem to notice a difference.  Then the grout started to dry and the magic happened.  The photos really do not do it justice.



This floor has a light grey grout so the clean is not as noticeable.


I am hoping I will be motivated to do the kitchen and hallways soon, but I am just waiting for my brain to come back after breathing all those bleach fumes.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Older and Wiser

I am another year older and I think wiser.  August 6th is my birthday.  I celebrated with my family over the weekend.  Mom asked me to make the cake.  Yes, my mother asked me to make my own birthday cake for the second year in a row. Before you start thinking that my Mom is a terrible person, I need to explain that my Mom has had a series of mini strokes over the past two years and things just have not been the same ever since and probably never will be again. Do not ask me why she could not purchase a cake from a bakery for the occasion, she loves to shop. It probably never occurred to her that asking me to make my own cake was a rude thing to ask, because I make cakes for all the family birthdays.  The human brain is a funny thing after a stroke, sometimes it processes data and sometimes you wonder if it is working at all.

I did make my cake this year, but not without complaining about it.  My daughters decided they wanted to help, so it became a mother daughter project.  I let my daughters have free reign over the decorating and I did the baking. I knew that at least the cake would taste great, even if it looked disgusting. In case you were wondering, the cake was lemon poppy seed with a lemon curd filling and topped with lemon butter cream. The cake looked pretty good for the first decorating attempt of a 9 and 10 year old and the taste was out of this world.

This was one of my favorite birthdays.  It started out with me feeling sorry for myself, because my Mom was having me make my own cake, but I have the great memory of the beautiful cake my daughters created in love. I miss my old Mom and wish I could have her back, but I think she gave me the best gift ever this year.  I can’t wait for my next cake.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Gleaming Silver Without The Work

I had some very tarnished sterling silver pieces at my house, so I decided it was time to try another Pinterest Pin.  This one involves lining your kitchen sink with aluminum foil  (it may be less expensive to buy silver cleaner/polish). You then add 1/2 c salt (kosher salt works too) and 1/2 c baking soda to the sink.  Pour in boiling water to cover the items and let them sit in the sink for 30 minutes. Rinse the items and they should be beautiful.  If the tarnish is really bad you may have to do some polishing.

As you can see from this photo my silver candlesticks looked like they belonged in a haunted house.   The second photo is not perfect, but a definite improvement.  I also tried this magic with some silver earrings that were tarnished.  This time I used a glass pan lined with aluminum foil, because I had visions of earrings stuck in the garbage disposal.


This was a lot of fun. I felt like a mad scientist conducting an experiment, (insert evil laugh). The hardest part of this experiment, if you are an impatient person, is waiting 30 minutes.

Let me know if there is a Pinterest Pin you would like me to try out for you.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Julie's Jambalaya

Everyone needs a quick meal recipe for when life gets crazy.  School will be starting soon and so will the craziness.  Jambalaya, my go to dish when life is busy.  Jambalaya is a one dish meal that is quick, easy, inexpensive, and my whole family will eat it, if I leave out the shrimp. Just add a salad and you have the perfect meal. Jambalaya is my comfort food and brings back memories of my before children vacation to New Orleans during Mardi Gras. You may want to turn on some jazz, mix up a Hurricane and put on a beaded necklace to make dinner festive.

1 large onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 T olive oil or vegetable oil
1 lb fresh or frozen shrimp (in shells)
1 cup uncooked regular white rice
2 c chicken broth
1/8 t pepper
1/8 t ground thyme
3 shakes of red pepper hot sauce (Franks or Tabasco)
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 can (16 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 pound fully cooked smoked sausage, sliced in bite size pieces (increase to 1 lb if you omit the shrimp)

Cook and stir onion, green pepper, garlic and 2 T of oil in a Dutch oven over low heat 3 minutes. Add shrimp.  Cook, stirring frequently, until shrimp is pink, about 5 minutes. Remove shrimp mixture; reserve.

Cook remaining 1 T oil and the rice in Dutch oven over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until rice is light brown, about 10 minutes.  Stir in chicken broth, pepper, thyme, pepper sauce, bay leaf, tomatoes, and sausage.  Heat to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer until rice is tender, about 15 minutes.  Stir in shrimp.  Cover and cook until shrimp is hot. Remove bay leaf.   Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Two Flops and a Gold Pillow

You may have seen the tutorial about the no sew pillow cover on Pinterest.  I saw it and Pinned it.  The gold fabric was in the basement and I used an old throw pillow for the form.  Next time I will do this to keep with fabric I really like.

Next on the list was the Brownie in a Mug.  What a great idea! When the craving for a brownie strikes you just mix this up and you have your own personal, hot from the microwave brownie. This brownie tastes great, if you have no taste buds! It feels like hot, chocolate, play dough in your mouth.  I promptly threw the rest of the brownie in the trash.

I still am trying to cut those wine bottles.  I am disappointed that I have not been able to master the string and acetone cutting of glass for the wine bottle wind chime and wine bottle hurricane.