Monday, December 29, 2008

Week 14: Hot Buttered Rum

Okay, winters in California are not that cold, but it has been getting down in the 40's and we were eager to try a hot buttered rum. I am not sure if I had ever had one, but we thought it would be fun to make it for the holidays. So off to the internet we went to try and find a recipe. Well we found quite a few and found out that you can make a "batter" ahead of time or just use some butter and spices for one cocktail. If you are not worried about calories, this is a great and easy drink to make on a cold winter’s day! We liked making up some batter and having it around to make a drink anytime. Have fun and enjoy a wonderfully comforting winter hillbilly drink!

Hot Buttered Rum Batter

  • 1 cup brown sugar

  • 4 oz unsalted butter, softened

  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

  • 1 ½ teaspoons nutmeg

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Step 1: Mix all batter ingredients together in a bowl.
Step 2: I put the batter on a piece of plastic wrap and shaped it into a log, so it would be easy to slice when chilled. Refrigerate in a sealed air-tight container for up to 2 months.

Hot Buttered Rum Cocktail

  • 2 tablespoons hot buttered rum batter (1/8 slice from your batter log)

  • 6 oz boiling water

  • 1 ½ oz dark rum

  • 1 tablespoon light cream or ice cream

  • Nutmeg to garnish

Step 1: In a hot beverage mug, combine 2 tablespoons of hot buttered rum batter with boiling water and stir well.
Step 2: Add rum and cream.
Step 3: Garnish with nutmeg

Special items needed: none, just rum

Makes 8 servings. Calories 301 per serving!!

If you don’t want the temptation of having batter around, then just put a dash of each of the spices and a few tablespoons of butter in a mug and add hot water and rum. You can also skip the butter and basically you are making a hot toddy! Less calories too and still good. If you want a non-alcoholic version of the recipe, just add about 1/3 cup ice cream in replacement of the rum. Super Yum! Enjoy!

Recipe credit to: Stephanie Jolly

Monday, December 22, 2008

Week 13: Mr. B Dog Biscuits

I got a dog almost two years ago and his name is Byron. Due to a change in my work schedule, I was working out of my home a lot and thought it might be nice to have a dog. My boyfriend really wanted a dog, but couldn’t have a dog in his apartment complex. We decided to look online one day for fun and came across this pretty "funny" looking photo of Byron. He was all shaved down and had the longest tail on the planet! We called up the rescue group to see if we could stop by and see him. The next thing I knew, Byron was at my condo with all his stuff and "spending the night" to see if we got along. I was floored! What do I do with a dog? Byron just sat there looking at me, asking what’s next? Help!! I got soooo lucky, with a wonderful, sweet, and even tempered dog. His hair has grown out and I think he is the cutest dog on the planet! (Okay dog lovers, I know YOUR dog is the cutest dog, but hands down, Byron wins!!) We have had people say they were going to bump us off, so they could get my dog! Byron has been amazing and I can’t imagine life without him. If you have a dog, you know they love walks (Thanks Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer!) And treats. Byron has a pretty sensitive stomach so I decided to make some homemade dog biscuits that were good and healthy. Well, as an early Christmas present, Byron got a dog bone cookie cutter and some recipes for homemade dog biscuits, so I decided to make some and also give them as gifts to the rest of the dogs on the block! Merry Christmas Dixie, Miho, Flur, Esmay, Ruby, Herbie, Tammy, and rest of the Pasadena dogs!

There are hundreds of recipes out there and I was looking for an easy recipe that I could make up with just ingredients I would always have in the house. Below is the first I have tried and they came out nice and pretty tasty too. It is really just a human biscuit recipe. Byron seemed to like them, so I guess we are good. Enjoy doggies and Happy Holidays!

Easy Dog Biscuits

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • ½ cup wheat germ

  • ½ cup dry milk powder

  • ½ teaspoon salt (love the Kosher salt)

  • 6 tablespoons margarine or shortening

  • 1 egg

  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar

  • ½ cup water (more if needed)

  • Optional ingredients: 1 teaspoon: grated carrot, garlic powder, or grated cheese

Special items needed: none

Step 1: Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Step 2: Combine flours, wheat germ, powdered milk, salt, and margarine/shortening. Mix until it resembles cornmeal. I love getting my hand messy and your dog will love your scent!

Step 3: Beat the egg and brown sugar together. With a fork is fine, no mixer needed. Stir into the flour mixture.

Step 4: Slowly add water to the mix and stir until it makes a stiff dough. I needed to add more water since my flour is always dry. You basically want the dough to stick together, but not too sticky so you can roll it out.

Step 5: Knead a little and roll it out to ½ inch thick. Cut biscuits with cutter (dog bone shape preferred and loved by dogs. You don’t want to get them mixed up with other cookies in the house.)

Step 6: Bake for 30 minutes. Let cool and store in a sealed container.

Have fun and enjoy your hillbilly treats!

Recipe credit to: Michelle Jordan, Treat Cookbook.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Week 12: Homemade Marshmallows

Okay, I love sugar! Cotton candy was my favorite treat as a kid and I loved making so’mores over a camp fire. I came across a recipe in the July issue of Bon Appetit for homemade marshmallows by a great blogger, Molly Wizenberg and her award winning blog, Orangette. Check it out! I guess I just never thought of making marshmallows and decided I needed to try them for the holidays. Oh, my gosh!! How amazing are homemade marshmallows! I don’t think I can ever buy store bought marshmallows again. This simple recipe is really good and loaded with sugar, so how could you go wrong?

I decided to package these up this year and give marshmallows as gifts to friends. My first batch I decided I was going to make peppermint flavored marshmallows since I had a little peppermint extract left in the pantry. A word of caution, take it easy with peppermint flavoring! It is pretty strong stuff compared with vanilla extract, so go light and mix it with vanilla. I used about 1/8 teaspoon and I swear my sinuses clear with this batch of marshmallows. Experiment and have fun! Almond extract is my next experiment. Enjoy!

Homemade Marshmallows:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray

  • 1 cup cold water, divided

  • 3 envelopes unflavored gelatin, 1/4-oz envelopes

  • 2 cups superfine sugar (regular white sugar is fine too, but this melts really quickly!)

  • 2/3 cup light corn syrup

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract (or any other flavor)

  • ½ cup sweet rice flour or potato starch or corn starch

  • ½ cup powdered sugar

Special items needed: candy thermometer

Step 1: Line 13x9 metal pan with tin foil. Spray foil with non-stick spray. I lined the tin foil so it went over the top edges so I could use it as handles to take out the marshmallow slab later.

Step 2: Pour ½ cup of cold water in your heavy-duty mixer (I love my orange Kitchen Aid mixer!) If you have a whisk attachment use that. It seems to work well. Sprinkle your 3 envelopes of gelatin over the water in the mixer. Let stand for about 15 minutes while you are mixing up the rest.

Step 3: Now the fun part, making candy! How scary! Okay, this part is actually pretty easy. I was pretty frightened about HOT molten candy and getting burned, which seems to be a trend of mine lately. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining ½ cup cold water in a medium saucepan.

Step 4: Over medium heat stir until sugar dissolves and then raise the heat. Now place in or hold your candy thermometer in the saucepan and just let the syrup come to a boil. Boil, without stirring until the syrup reaches 240 degrees (soft ball measurement), about 8 minutes. Be sure not to touch the tip of the thermometer to the bottom! We already broke one thermometer and got mercury all over our dish, so out that one went!

Step 5: Remove syrup from heat. Turn on mixer with the water and gelatin on stir/low speed. Now the tricky part, just slowly pour the syrup into the mixer. I would go really slow and careful. This liquid is pretty hot and you will notice steam starting to come out of the mixer as it cools. Pour all the syrup in and slowly begin to raise the speed to high or 10 on the Kitchen Aid.

Step 6: Mix until very thick and stiff for about 15 minutes. It will really start getting white and fluffy! Don’t be tempted to touch the beautiful fluffy stuff while mixing!

Step 7: Add in your vanilla extract or any extract flavoring you would like. I noticed by adding a little liquid to the fluff, it really would move around so pour in the extract slowly and let it mix for about 30 seconds.

Step 8: Scrape marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan. Smooth top with a wet spatula. Let stand at room temperature until firm, about 4 hours.

Step 9: I know there seem to be a lot of steps, keep going you are almost to the sugar coma finish line. Now stir together the rice flour and powdered sugar. I found sweet rice flour at Whole Foods, which was pretty reasonable and has a nice flavor. (Other recipes I saw used potato starch or just plain old corn starch.) Now you will sift a good amount of your sugar-starch on your working surface. I put down a cutting board since I was going to cut into the marshmallows. Turn the marshmallow slab out onto your sugar-starch surface and peel off the tin foil. It is pretty sticky so you can put some of the sugar-starch on your hands as you are working with it. Sift more sugar-starch on the top of the marshmallow slab to coat.

Step 10: Coat your knife with the cooking spray just this once and cut into pieces. Bon Appetit has you cut them into 24 pieces the size of 2 inches, but these seemed a bit big, so we cut them into about 1 inch size. Up to you and how big your want the marshmallows. Try mini-marshmallows! Toss each marshmallow in the remaining sugar-starch mixture and coat. Much easier to handle now that all the stickiness is gone.

Step 11: Eat! If you don’t finish them right there and then, you can store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. I put mine in a big zip lock bag and that seems to be working fine.

I checked out a few other web sites and blogs online about making marshmallows and they are all pretty close with ingredients and methods. Some people put in food coloring or cocoa for a chocolate marshmallow. You can also use cookie cutters for fun shapes for the kids in all of us! It’s easy and they are sooooo yummy! Enjoy a little hillbilly cookin'. Happy Holidays!
Calories: 52 calories each if cut into 24 pieces. It’s nothing compared with the calories in your cocoa!

Recipe credit to: Bon Appetit, July 2008 Issue

Family Cookbook Update

Okay, I just got my printed copies of my family cookbook that I discussed in Week 6. It turned out Amazing!! Thank you!

Once I had completed all my photo edits and inputting the cookbook recipes, I just had my boyfriend proof read it (Thanks Scott!), and I submitted it for print. Pretty simple. The books arrived all individually wrapped in plastic for protection. I chose hard cover with a cover wrap so I could add additional photos. I also ordered premium paper for the book for a few dollars more per book. My cookbook was 62 pages and each book was under $30 each for the 6 I ordered. So, really did a good job and the print quality was really nice. I am really pleased and my family will love this special holiday gift.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Week 11: Forever Pork

Okay, my boyfriend has been reading cookbooks again! A friend of our’s discovered Adelle Davis’, Let’s Cook It Right, cookbook and I had never heard of her, but this woman was writing cookbooks back in the 1940's and knew her stuff. We realized after reading some of her book that we don’t know how to cook meat! Period. I think we all want our food cooked quickly and we are willing to sacrifice taste and flavor to get our food cooked in 30 minutes! Adelle has radically crazy ways of cooking meat and the key is low heat and cook it for days. We decided to try roasting, which is a dry heat method, and purchased a 4 lb. pork shoulder for $1.19 per pound, so our investment in this little experiment was low. We ended up cooking the pork shoulder in the oven for 19 hours! Yes, that is not a typo, 19 hours. One would think that just shoe leather would be left and we were a little worried about food poisoning, but Adelle could not steer us wrong. The meat was so juicy we could not believe it! The outside had a nice crust, looked like a smoked ham, and the inside was moist, tender, and full of flavor. We were amazed and realized we have a lot more to learn about cooking meat.

I would recommend picking up one of Adelle Davis’ books at a used bookstore or online. Most of her books are out of print, but if you can find one, you will learn more about cooking than just watching the Food Network. (Love that channel!) Try the ultimate way of cooking hillbilly, long and slow.

Forever Pork:

  • Picnic pork shoulder

  • Olive oil

Special items needed: lots and lots of time

Step 1: Place your pork shoulder in a roasting pan and brush on some olive oil. Put the fat side up.
Step 2: Insert oven thermometer in pork.

Step 3: Cook it forever. Okay, pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F. Cook the pork at 300 degrees F for 1 hour to make sure you are killing any bacteria on the surface.

Step 4: After 1 hour at 300 degrees, turn the oven down to 200 degrees. If you can get it to 160 degrees, then even better. We started at 150 degrees and turned it up to 200 degrees after 10 hours because we were a little worried it would not be ready for dinner the next day. We just keep watching the internal temperature of the pork and it was slowly rising. We ended up turning it up to 250 degrees for the last few hours, just so we could have dinner. We started at 10 pm and had the pork for dinner the next day at 5 pm. Adelle says that the slower you cook meat the more tender it will be. If you can stand it, cook the meat at the temperature you want the internal temperature of the meat to be and forget about it until it is done. (Make sure you have new batteries in your cooking thermometer)

Step 5: Cook pork until the internal temperature hits 160 degrees. Take it out and let the pork rest for 10-20 minutes. You could even take it out at 150 or 155 degrees, since the internal temperature will rise about 10 degrees as it rests. We had almost no drippings in the pan, just some olive oil that dripped off. Just carve it up and you are good to go.

This recipe is not hard, actually the easiest thing we have ever cooked, but you should have seen my boyfriend’s impatience at how long it was taking to cook the pork! We are believers now, just cook on low heat and you will have juicy, tasty meat! We also did some research on trichinosis, which is the fear with pork. We found out that trichinae, (the evil worms), die at a temperature of 122 degrees F for an hour of cooking or at 131 degrees F for several minutes. So there are no worries of getting trichinosis. Live a little and try the hillbilly way of low and slow! Enjoy!

Recipe credit to: Let’s Cook It Right, Adelle Davis

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Week 10: Limoncello

I came across this recipe in Cooking Light this year and thought it would make great Christmas gifts for friends. My boyfriend had tried limoncello with some Italian friends of his and we thought this would be a fun gift. Limoncello is an Italian liqueur that is good over ice, a lemon drop martini, mixed with sparkling wine, or could be splashed over fresh fruit. (I always add a little alcohol to my fruit salad, usually an orange flavored liqueur). This recipe could not be easier, getting the lemon rind off was the most work. I looked up some other recipes on the web and there were variations of how much time to let the limoncello sit, but 2 weeks worked for me. Also if you can use a peeler and just take off the yellow part of the lemon, it might give the liqueur less of a bite. I was amazed on the color the vodka took on. The lemon rinds were pale and almost white when they got done doing their magic. I found some nice bottles at the Container Store with a lid that holds pretty well. I also peeled a long lemon rind into the bottle for effect! I am putting together a gift basket for a friend with limoncello, two martini glasses, and a few martini recipes to use the limoncello. Nothing is better than a homemade gift for the holidays and nothing is more hillbilly than bootlegged limoncello! Enjoy!


  • 4 cups vodka

  • ½ cup lemon rind strips (about 7 lemons)

  • 3 cups water

  • 1 ½ cups sugar

Special items needed: none, just time

Step 1: Combine vodka and rind in a glass bowl with a lid. Let stand at room temperature for 2 weeks.

Step 2: Strain through a sieve into a bowl; discard solids.

Step 3: Combine 3 cups water and 1 ½ cups sugar in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, and cool to room temperature. Add to vodka mixture.

Step 4: Divide limoncello evenly among 3 sterilized (750-milliliter) bottles, and seal.

Yield: 7 cups (serving size: about 1/4 cup) Store in the refrigerator up to 1 year.
Calories: 125 per serving.

Recipe credit to: Cooking Light, November 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Week 9: Angel Food Ministries

The Holidays are quickly approaching and it seems everyone is feeling the pinch due to the troubled economy. I think this time of year is always hard for people since we tend to spend more money on food and presents, and I think this year will be even harder for people. My experience growing up with an Italian Mother and Grandmother was that food was an important part of the celebration and we always, always had more than enough food for any holiday meal. My Grandma Jam always had to have your favorite dish for a special meal and cooked as though we were having the entire church over for dinner, and sometimes we did! Manga! One year for Christmas, we had enough food to feed an army and she says to my Dad, do you think we need turkey roll? I am not sure what a turkey roll is, but boy did my Grandma think we needed more food.

Knowing that a lot of people will have to scale back this holiday season, we came across a great non-profit company that offers food for 4 people, for a week for $30! You can basically contact a ministry near you (nationwide) and schedule to buy as many food boxes as you would like for that month. This price is open to anyone, any economic background, no requirements needed to order. Not bad, we thought, so we decided to try it out and see. Here is a list of what we got below:

Angel Food Ministries - November Box

  • 1.5 lb. New York Strip Steak (4 x 6 oz.)
  • 3 lb. Split Chicken Breasts
  • 2 lb. Baby Back Pork Ribs
  • 2 lb. Chicken Chunks
  • 28 oz. Jumbo Charbroiled Beef Patties with Gravy
  • 1 lb. Smoked Sausage
  • 1 lb. Ground Turkey
  • 1 lb. Green Beans
  • 1 lb. Diced Sweet Potatoes
  • 10 oz. Peanut Butter
  • 15 oz. Cranberry Sauce
  • 7 oz. Beef-Flavored Rice & Vermicelli
  • 20 oz. Shoestring Fries
  • 32 oz. 2% Reduced Fat Shelf-Stable Milk
  • 6 oz. Pancake Mix
  • One Dozen Eggs
  • One Dessert Item (Box of cookies)

  • Quite a bit of food for $30! We found that most of the brands we did not know or could not find in our local grocery store, but all the meat products looked okay, we are not quite sure what the chicken chunks are, but the rest is fine. We guesstimated that this was close to about $40 to $50 worth of food if you were going to buy it all on your own, a 33% discount is not bad! The food does not include fresh fruit or vegetables, but you have an option to order additional meat or fresh veggies if wanted. But we thought, that for about $40 to $50 per week total with supplemental veggies and fruit, a family of 4 could feed themselves dinner for a week.

    They also have pre-prepared meals for $2.80 per meal, which is a balanced meal and probably better than the processed TV dinners at the supermarket. So all in all, we thought this was a pretty good value.

    Check out the site below and you can search for a location close to you. Food pick up is once a month and you have to order a few weeks before pick up, which for us was the third Saturday of the month and we needed to have our order in a few weeks before that. So this requires a little planning, but worth a try to help cut down on some food costs. When we arrived on Sat to pick up our food, we just gave our name and they had a box just sitting and waiting for us. Easy, fast, and more convenient than going to the grocery store! Thanks Angel Food Ministries!
    Check out the Hillbilly Housewife’s site, she prepares menus and recipes monthly based on the food provided at Angel Food Ministries, so you can find some economical and creative ways to use up the pound of hotdogs =). (We are not big hotdog eaters, but figured corn dogs would be good!)

    Try something a little hillbilly! Have fun and enjoy.

    Angel Food Ministries:
    Hillbilly Housewife:

    Tuesday, November 18, 2008

    Week 8: Easy Microwave Popcorn

    My boyfriend lovessss popcorn at the movies. I do too, with a Diet Coke. There is something great about watching a movie and eating popcorn. We have been watching more movies at home with Netflix and we were just missing the popcorn that we would get at the movies. Scott came across a simple easy recipe to make popcorn in the microwave. As a kid we had an air popper or used to buy that tin-foil type that you put over the stove burner and it would pop up like crazy!! I don’t have room for another kitchen appliance and those tin-foil type poppers take a little bit of work on my part, so this microwave popcorn recipe is simple, easy, and inexpensive.

    I know this may seem pretty simple to make popcorn, just buy a bag from the store and stick it in the microwave and you are done, right? But, have you seen the price difference between buying a 6-pack box of popcorn vs. just a plain bag of unpopped popcorn kernels. The price difference is staggering, okay a few dollar difference, but is Orville’s popcorn worth a 10x difference in price? You are certainly paying for the convenience of a sealed bag of popcorn with processed ingredients? Here is a simple way to make popcorn in the same amount of time as the pre-packed stuff and add the flavorings you want to the popcorn. Nice, natural, and a little hillbilly.

    Microwave Popcorn:

    • ½ cup unpopped popcorn

    • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil

    • ½ teaspoon salt, or to taste

    Special items needed: brown paper bag

    Step 1: Mix together the unpopped popcorn and oil in a bowl. Use your hands, it’s fun and a good way to get messy. Now that your unpopped popcorn is nice and greasy, pour it into a brown paper lunch pag, and sprinkle in some salt. Fold the top of the bag over twice to seal. Make sure you have it standing upright. Don’t need to lay it down like the store bought sealed bags.

    Step 2: Cook in the microwave at full power for 2 ½ to 3 minutes, or until you hear pauses of about 2 seconds between pops. Carefully open the bag to avoid steam, and pour into a serving bowl. Don’t get greedy and try and pop all the kernels, popcorn is cheap, stop popping when you hear time between pops. The last thing you want is a house filled with burnt popcorn smell. Yuck!

    Experiment with different types of oils, olive, walnut oil, etc. to add different flavors and try flavored salts to add an interesting taste. I have truffle salt, vanilla salt, and lavender salt that I am going to try next. Yeah, that is it. Inexpensive, healthy, and a quick snack. Enjoy!

    Recipe credit to:

    Sunday, November 9, 2008

    Week 7: Crochet Rag Rugs

    Here is another great holiday gift idea, make homemade rag rugs! I remember these great rugs as a child and they always reminded me of Grandmothers and old farm houses. There is something great about a rag rug and the practicality of using up old scraps of fabric was a perfect way to make something useful and needed, back in the old days. I am half German and the term "use it up" came up a bit when I was a child. Nothing went to waste, my Dad would find ways to use up things and create something different out of something old and broken. Heck, my home office desk I have is an old door that my Dad painted, added some book shelves, and used on old metal clothing rack as the base. It does not get more "use it up" and hillbilly than that! The hole for the door handle makes a great spot for all the cords and cables!

    So I think I have always been fascinated by rag rugs. Using old pieces of cloth, scrap fabric, old sheets, and clothes was truly a brilliant way to take things that were no longer functional as their original use and turn them into a usable rug for the floor, bath, or kitchen. Nice & hillbilly! I learned how to knit about 5 to 6 years ago, but I had never crocheted before. One Christmas while visiting at my boyfriend’s family, his step-Mom taught me how to crochet a rag rug and I have made a dozen since. I love it! There is only one stitch you need to know for this project and if you do not know how to crochet, I would recommend picking up a simple book on how to crochet or go online. I have the Idiot’s Guide to Knitting and Crocheting. I also found a few websites below that may help. Here are some of my tips on making a crochet rag rug.

    Special items needed:

    • Large crochet hook. Size K or Q

    • Scissors

    • Fabric cut into about 1" strips

    Step 1: Select your fabric. I know I spoke of using up old cloth, but I actually like going to the fabric store and selecting "pretty" colors that go together, you decide. I like to have about 3 to 4 complementary colors that will look well together. Try for contrasting colors so the rug pops out a bit. Don’t worry about too many patterns on the fabric since you will not really see a lot of detail in a fabric pattern. I try and find fabric on sale that is less than $2.00 to $3.00 per yard to help keep costs down. I buy about 2 to 3 yards of each fabric. It will depend on how big you want your rug and you may want one color to dominate the rug. I find that the fabric usually costs me about $25 to $35 for each rug. I usually have left over fabric at the end of a rug and I incorporate it into another rug.

    Step 2: Wash your fabric first. It will make it easier to work with and softer. I was taught to iron the fabric so that it is smooth, but I am not real big on ironing so I just try and fold it and smooth it out as best I can.

    Step 3: Folding & cutting. Your goal is to try and get long strips of fabric when you are done. So, you want to fold the fabric end to end, and then fold it over on itself a few times so that when you cut it, you will have strips that are the length of your fabric (2-3 yards long). I usually have a rectangle of fabric about 12-20 inches long now and I can still easily cut it with scissors. You don’t want the folded fabric too thick or it will be hard to cut. Now you are going to cut about 1-inch strips. Use a ruler if needed, but I don’t get too crazy with the size, they are all going to get folded and crocheted together. I separate each fabric color into their own bags so they are easy to get to, see, and find.

    Step 4: Now you are ready to begin crocheting your rug. You can decide if you want an oval or circular rug. If you want an oval rug, you are going to crochet a chain of about 20 stitches (more or less depending on the size of the rug). For a circular rug, I always get a little crazy when I do this, but I somehow just start crocheting around a chain of 3 or 4 stitches. This is where you are going to have to follow instructions from a book, but basically you create your chain, and then you keep crocheting around and around your chain. The key is to add extra stitches especially at the corners/turns and add them frequently at the beginning. The fabric will buckle and curl if you do not add extra stitches every so often. (I know this is vague, but I just add an extra stich every 10 stitches or so at the beginning of my rug)

    I usually take the strips and fold it in half, you will find some fabric has the darker color as the front and a lighter color on the back. I try and fold so that the lighter color does not show. It is not perfect, but I try and get my main color on the outside. Also, I try to end my rug with a dark color since the edge of the rug will get the most foot traffic and get dirtier.

    Step 5: Connecting fabric strips. Since each piece of fabric is between 2-3 yards, you are going to have to add and incorporate new pieces as you go. I usually crochet until I have about 3-inches of fabric left, I then take a new strip and lay it/overlap it on the back side of the fabric I am crocheting. It will be a little thicker at this junction, but if you fold the fabric over and continue crocheting, it will just work into your next few stitches. There are always a few ends that pop up sometimes, but that is part of the character of the rug I think. To change fabric and color, you just lay your new color just like you did the rest of your strips. I always love seeing the new color evolve as you work it into the rug.

    That’s pretty much it. It is great to work on this while watching TV, I feel so much more productive and am creating a beautiful rug! Once you get the hang of it, it goes pretty fast and you can stop anytime when you have decided the rug is big enough or you run out of fabric. Have fun and enjoy!!

    Sunday, November 2, 2008

    Week 6: Family Cookbook

    It is the beginning of November and the holidays seem just around the corner. I have begun to think about Christmas gifts for my family. I know it may be early, but all my family lives back in the mid-west and I have to ship everything to them, which takes a week and I don’t want to pay a fortune in shipping costs. So, that means I need to be done with shopping, wrapping, and ready to ship by the first week in December or so! That is a month out!!

    I mentioned I wanted to give some holiday gift ideas and some of the homemade jams and quick breads are great for local gifts. But what about something special for my parents that really have everything they need or will buy whatever they need throughout the year? An idea struck me! I come from an Italian family on my mother’s side and a German family on my father’s side. (Interesting household & combo!!) The Italian side is very animated and loud talkers, the German side is quiet and reserved, but it seems to have worked out pretty well with my parents celebrating their 40th year wedding anniversary this year!! The one thing that both sides of the family have in common is the love of cooking and great food! (Thank God, my youngest brother became a chef!)

    So, with all that said, what about a family cookbook? I have seen cookbooks sold at school fund raisers or my parent’s church produced a cookbook. I thought this would be the perfect gift for my parents, brother, cousins, and hey even myself. So off I was to find a software program or web site to set up the cookbook. Now the challenge began. There are a ton a website out there that will produce 1,000 cookbooks for you! I didn’t want that, I want to make maybe 5 cookbooks! Finding a site that would do small production for a reasonable costs, under $50 or so was the harder part. This is the criteria I was looking for in a web site for producing my cookbook:

    • Free software

    • No minimum quantities of books, I only need a few

    • Economical, it depends on how big your book is, but between $20 to $50 would be reasonable

    • Template application that would be easy to edit and put in photos
      Not just a simple plastic spiral bound cookbook. I wanted something a little nicer and classier.

    • Production time relatively short, under 2 weeks to produce. (Hey, I have a month to get this done!)

    Well after testing a few free software programs and trying out their format and templates, I found a site that so far is working out great. I am about half way through inputting all my recipes, so I have not gone through the production process yet or seen the final product. I will Blog about the end result in a few weeks! So the site I chose was...

    Check them out. They have templates for cookbooks, photos books, wedding books, poetry, etc. and there are different size formats you can choose for your book. You can sign up for free and download their software program for PC or Mac for free. The software is called, Booksmart and is pretty easy to use. I am not much for reading instructions or taking a tutorial and you can pretty much just cut and paste your text into the template. There is flexibility to change the book pages, add photos, change the style on each page, and just be creative. It is a bit like scrap booking, but digital.

    Here are a few things I would recommend to start your family cookbook.

    • Put all your recipes in a digital format. I set up separate Word files for each section of my cookbook so it would be easy to just copy and past my text into the software.

    • Scan any recipes you are not going to type in and put them in a .jpg format. You can insert them as a photo in the cookbook.

    • Sort through any photos you want to include in the cookbook. These can be uploaded easily in the software and inserted into your cookbook. Make sure your resolution is medium to high, since it will be printed. I tried to use some ClipArt and the software told me it was too low of a resolution to use and look good.

    • Input all your recipes first and then work on the color templates, background colors, etc. I found myself playing with this and not getting the cookbook together. Get the whole thing done and then pick your color theme and even insert your photos at the end.

    That’s really it! It takes time to copy and paste the data, but I think the book is going to look beautiful and will be a special treat for my family at Christmas. Good luck, have fun, and enjoy. Let me know how your cookbook comes out. I would love to hear any stories or share some special recipes you found. I am excited to share my Grandma Zita’s recipe from probably the 1940's Hunting & Fishing’s Cookbook, Squirrel with Dumplings. Now that's Hillbilly!

    Sunday, October 26, 2008

    Week 5: Pumpkin Bread

    Well, fall has arrived, well barely in Los Angeles, it is going to be 90 degrees today! But I grew up in the mid-west and loved fall, the change in seasons, falling leaves, hot food, and stews. I also LOVE pumpkin! I can’t wait for this time of year to try all kinds of great pumpkin recipes. I have experimented with all kinds of varieties of pumpkin and each is so different and great. Below is my current list of pumpkin cookbooks I recommend and try a few new things each year. The first two cookbooks have a good amount of photos, I love photos in cookbooks! I want to see what my food should look like when it is done!

    • The Pumpkin Cookbook, Hamlyn

    • Pumpkin, Joanna Farrow

    • Pumpkin, A Super Food for All 12 Months of the Year, DeeDee Stovel

    I do have a funny story about a pumpkin and raisin cheesecake that I made one year for Thanksgiving. My boyfriend and I were spending Thanksgiving at his grandparent’s house one year and I decided I was going to make this really interesting pumpkin cheesecake and I was going to buy "pumpkin in a can", but decided to cook a fresh pumpkin from scratch. I am not sure what pumpkin I chose, but the pumpkin flesh was soooo bright orange that my cheesecake was nuclear orange, not your traditional brown looking pumpkin pie. The taste was great, but the looks I got from the family were interesting and people were too scared to try it. More for me! So I am back to canned pumpkin, easy, hastle free, and the taste is fine. Here is a recipe I developed since there are hundreds of variations of pumpkin quick bread. I wanted to share this recipe since it is truly the best quick bread I have ever had.

    Pumpkin Bread:

    Sift together:

    • 2 cups white flour

    • 1 1/3 cup almond meal (Trader Joe’s has an affordable house brand)

    • 3 cups sugar

    • 2 teaspoons baking soda

    • 1 ½ teaspoons salt

    • 3 teaspoons cinnamon (I go heavy on this)

    • 3 teaspoons nutmeg (I also go heavy on this spice too)

    • ½ teaspoon ginger

    Mix together:

    • 1 cup vegetable oil (Try some other oils for extra flavor like Walnut oil)

    • 4 eggs slightly beaten

    • 2/3 cup water

    • 2 cups canned pumpkin

    Special items needed: Almond Meal and Walnut Oil if wanted

    Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

    Step 2: Sift together all the dry ingredients. If you do not have almond meal, you can use all white flour or whole wheat. I found that the almond meal really adds extra flavor and moisture to this bread.

    Step 3: Mix together the wet ingredients. I bought some Walnut oil to try a little nuttier flavor to the bread. Canola oil, veggie oil, whatever you have should work fine. You are putting in a cup of this stuff, so this is not a "low cal recipe", but it tastes good.

    Step 4: Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until mixed. Pour into 3 average sized greased and floured loaf pans or what I like to do for the holidays is to buy some of the small disposable metal pans to give as gifts. Fill about 3/4 full so there is some room to let the bread rise some. If you grease them with oil first and shake around some flour in the pan to over the oil, it is easier to get the bread out later.

    Step 5: Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour or until the toothpick comes out clean. Cool for about 5 minutes and then turn out on a rack to cool completely. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze since this will make 3 loaves. Calories per slice is about 123 calories with just flour and 134 calories with the almond meal, each loaf yields 12 slices.

    This is the best quick bread I have ever made and I love quick bread!! You can use muffin tins if you wish. I found this is a great gift for the holidays and you can make them up ahead of time. Have fun, Happy Halloween, and enjoy!

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Week 4: Homemade Butter

    Well, this has been an interesting experiment for me. I had heard how easy and good it was to make your own homemade butter. I did a little research online, to see how it was done. I am not a big direction reader, so I looked up a few sites and decided that I was just going to go for it! So lately I am loving powdered milk, despite the scare in China on powdered milk in the last few weeks, since I don’t seem to drink milk fast enough before it spoils, I can just make up a batch of powdered milk, refrigerate it and it is great in my morning coffee. So I started with my nonfat powdered milk and put it in a jar and started shaking, and shaking, and shaking... Well, about 15 to 20 minutes in, after trading off vigorous shaking of the jar with my boyfriend, we realized that we were trying to make butter with, yes, non-fat milk, kinda difficult since there is no FAT in it to make the butter. Okay, lesson learned I thought.

    So I go out to the store and decide to buy a nice glass bottle of milk so I can use it for my powdered milk. I then picked up homogenized milk, since that was whole milk right?! So I put the milk in a jar again, and start shaking it, and shaking it, and shaking it... I was shaking that thing for over an hour. I even took the jar with me on my evening walk with my dog to see when this thing would finally turn into butter. Very hillbilly! I then decided this whole make butter thing was way over rated and I can see why we just buy it in the store and be done with it.

    Well, then a few weeks later my boyfriend tells me about an article he read about homogenized milk and guess what, homogenized milk is a process they do to keep the fat and water particles in the milk from sticking together. What!?! That was a dirty trick. No wonder days of shaking was not going to create butter. So, now with my new knowledge of milk products, I buy the good stuff, heavy whipping cream! Oh yes. Loads of fat. So I start the process for the third time, milk in a container and shake. I swear, not but 5 minutes later I had butter, a miracle!! Third time was a charm. How ridiculous is that? Easy, fast, and it really makes butter and the liquid by-product is buttermilk! So this hillbilly chick finally learned how to make my own homemade butter. And let me tell you, it rocks! Light creamy taste! So long story short, here is the recipe:

    Homemade Butter:

    • Heavy whipping cream

    • Salt to taste
    Special items needed: a jar and a strong arm

    Step 1: Measure whipping cream and put in a jar. 1 cup whipping cream will yield ½ cup butter and ½ cup buttermilk. I would recommend a glass container so you can see it working its magic. Don’t overfill the container, only about half full, since you need the milk to move around and bounce off the walls.

    Step 2: Put the lid on the jar and shake your little heart out. I found it only took me about 5 minutes. Some sites I reviewed said 10 to 20 minutes, but you are going to shake and shake and shake. Your milk will basically turn from liquid to whipped cream, and then to butter which separates and makes buttermilk. It will be noisy for the first few minutes as you shake and then it will get silent and foamy looking. It doesn’t seem like anything is happening, and then all of a sudden the fat separates from the water and all the butter particles stick together in a clump and are now butter. The liquid remaining is the buttermilk. Pretty cool.

    Step 3: Strain the buttermilk and butter. I saved my buttermilk for later when I plan to make some pancakes. Try and push out any remaining liquid with a paper towel from the butter. I think I even read to rinse the butter with water to help it keep longer. I added a little salt to taste and that was it! Refrigerate.

    Yep, pretty easy and faster than I had expected. The key is to have heavy whipping cream around! The taste is really wonderful! It is worth a try being a little hillbilly! Enjoy.

    Recipe credit to:

    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Week 3: Homemade Strawberry Jam

    I had intended to write about how to make homemade butter this week, but I have been having some difficulties and after about an hour of shaking a jar of whole milk, I decided that this was not going to be easy. One of the purposes of this Blog is to find easy homemade things to do and make, not shaking a jar until your arm falls off! So, I need to do some more experiments with how to make butter and hopefully next week I will have an easy method!

    Well, this recipe on how to may your own homemade strawberry jam is about as easy as it gets. I found that the jam in the grocery store was okay, nothing special and if you wanted to buy a really good brand of jam or jelly, then you would pay a fortune. My Mom suggested I try making my own, so to the store I went to buy some basic canning supplies and pectin. Well, low and behold, my grocery store did not have any pectin, just gelatin, and no glass canning jars. I then realized that I don’t think anyone in LA makes their own jam. Okay, there may be a few out there, but you really have to go out and search to find some supplies, find pectin, and jars. I did go to another "main stream" grocery store just last week and found a box of pectin. Look for the Sure Jell brand in a yellow box. I found some fancy, crazy pectin at Whole Foods, Pomona’s Universal Pectin, which looks more complicated, but I am sure it will be fine. The other place to find pectin is at a hardware store?! They also have canning jars. We are NOT going to can this recipe, so don’t get scared and think you are going to spend hours in the kitchen. This is actually a freezer jam recipe that you can just stick the extras in a plastic container and put it in the freezer. We will attempt canning in another Blog, as soon as I find an easy method.

    Now the fun part, let's make some delicious jam! The box of Sure Jell has a bunch of recipes for all kinds of fruit, so try them based on what is in season or what I did, just buy a bag of frozen strawberries and go.

    Easy Strawberry Freezer Jam:

    • 2 pints strawberries (fresh or frozen) If you buy the frozen, you don’t have to de-stem them. Just thaw the berries the night before you want to make your jam. Really simple.

    • 4 cups sugar (yes, I know this is a lot of sugar, but just do it)

    • 1 box of Sure Jell pectin

    Special items needed: just some containers to store your jam in.

    Step 1: Crush the strawberries in a bowl. I have a potato masher or you can use a fork to get the berries mashed.

    Step 2: Add your sugar to the crushed strawberries and mix. The box says to let stand for 10 minutes. I just added the sugar, mix and go to the next step, while I guess the berries are resting & getting jacked up on sugar.

    Step 3: Open the pectin mixture packet and mix with 3/4 cup of water into a small saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Now you just bring the pectin and water to a boil, continue stirring to make sure the mixture is disolved. Boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

    Step 4: Pour the hot pectin mixture into your bowl of sugared up strawberries and stir. You just want to make sure everything is mixed together well for a few minutes. That’s it! Yes, that’s it. Tada, strawberry jam!!

    Step 5: Okay, you need to pour your jam into containers. I put a few in glass jars that I am going to use or give as gifts, and then the rest in a plastic container that will go in the freezer. Make sure to leave some room/space at the top to allow for expansion in the freezer.

    Step 6: Let stand at room temperature for 24 hours to set up. Then stick in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks and you can freeze the rest. This can all be done in about 15 minutes plus your resting time.

    This makes about 5 cups of jam, so it is great as gifts for the holidays. The jam tastes sooo good! I found that I am using this jam all the time now, on pancakes, toast, etc. I also put a teaspoon on my homemade yogurt from Week 1. It gives it a little sweetness and is all natural. (well there is a ton of sugar, but still natural) I am going to try some of the other recipes in the box of Sure Jell, but this is an easy and great way to have something homemade and boy are friends impressed with homemade jam! Enjoy.

    Recipe credit to: The Box of Sure Jell pectin

    Saturday, October 4, 2008

    Week 2: No Knead Bread

    I love bread! I admit I am a carb addict and love hot out of the oven bread that practically burns your fingers as you break it apart and slather the piece with lots and lots of butter! But, I seem to have a fear of kneading bread! Or at least I think it seems like it is way too much work to make your own fresh homemade bread, let it rise, punch it down, knead it, let it rise, punch it down, etc. So... when I came across this recipe for a no-knead bread, I was ready to give it a try. Scott and I had actually heard about this recipe first from his cousin, Andy, who made it daily. Then my trusty Williams Sonoma catalog came in the mail and there it was, the perfect no-knead bread recipe! Okay I guess the New York Times published this recipe ages ago and it was all the rage, but I didn't get on the bandwagon until this year. This bread comes out absolutely beautiful, crispy on the outside, soft and yummy on the inside! After my first attempt, I thought I could go into business selling bread to local restaurants since it was THE best bread I had ever had or at least made. So here is my version of this recipe.

    No-Knead Bread:

    • 3 cups flour (experiment with mixtures of all-purpose, whole wheat, etc.)

    • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast (in the packets) Yes, I know there is barely any yeast!

    • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt

    • 1 5/8 cups warm water (105 degrees)

    • Cornmeal as needed

    • Optional: chopped fresh or dry herbs, olives, feta cheese, lemon zest (or anything you like)

    Special items needed: candy thermometer, cast iron dutch oven or oven safe container with a lid

    Step 1: In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, salt, and herbs if desired.

    Step 2: Add warm water and blend until sticky. I live in Southern California and it is dry, so I add a little extra water until it is sticky. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature.

    Step 3: Let rest for 12 to 18 hours! I know that is forever, but just let it do its thing. If I want bread for dinner the next day, I usually start the process the night before just before I go to bed. It will be ready for you the next day around dinner time.

    Step 4: Place dough on a floured surface, sprinkle with a little additional flour and fold it over on itself once, then twice. That’s it! Pick it up and put it back in the bowl, cover again, and let rest for 15 minutes. See no kneading required! I like it.

    Step 5: Get a cookie sheet out and place a towel on it (a smooth towel works best without cloth fibers sticking out) and sprinkle corn meal on the bottom. I prefer white corn meal, which is a whole other story and will write a Blog about various corn meal options in the future.

    Step 6: After the dough has had its little rest. Take it out and place it on the floured surface again and just move it around a little to try and shape it, sorta. I just try and get it into a round-ish shape. Place the dough on the towel with corn meal, sprinkle the top with a little more corn meal, and fold over the towel to cover the dough. Let rest for 2 hours.

    Step 7: About 30 minutes before I bake the dough, I turn on the oven to 450 degrees. At about 10 minutes before you are ready, put your cast iron Dutch oven in to warm up. I highly recommend a cast iron Dutch oven for baking a nice and crispy bread.

    Step 8: Take out the cast iron Dutch oven, remove the lid, and now pick up the dough in the towel and sorta scoot the dough into the Dutch oven. I try to center it best I can. Replace the lid and put it in the oven.

    Step 9: Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and test the bread by tapping it. You want to hear a hollow-ish sound to know if it is done. I usually place it in for another 10-15 minutes without the lid to help brown the top. I check it every 5 minutes or so. You don’t want to over cook the bottom of the loaf so, as soon as it is done and sounds hollow or has a thud sound take it out.

    Step 10: I remove it right away from the cast iron since it will continue to cook and place the loaf on a wire rack to cool for about 10 minutes. Then tear into the loaf, burn your fingers in the process, add butter, and eat piping hot bread!! It is yummy. That’s it! Pretty easy.

    Eat & enjoy! I find there is little effort in making the bread and you just need to plan your timing of when you want to bake it. You just need to give yourself about 3 hours total the next day to do the folding, resting, and baking. (Most of that is passive and you just need to be around the house) I found that it is best the day you make the bread and will keep crisp on the outside. If you store it, the follow day the crust has softened, but you can always just toast it again. The dough does not rise a ton, hey look, you only put 1/4 teaspoon of yeast in there, so it does pretty well with little yeast! We also tried using cast iron loaf pans and it worked great. There was no lid on the loaf pans, but seemed to rise nicely and still tasted great. Experiment, test, and try various flours, herbs, etc. I have made this so many times that you can do almost anything and it will still come out nice. Have fun and enjoy! See no kneading required!

    Recipe credit to: Williams Sonoma. Click here to view their recipe. Great site by the way!

    Thursday, September 25, 2008

    Week 1: Homemade Yogurt

    I love yogurt and when my boyfriend, Scott, came across a wonderful web site with all kinds of great recipes, we decided we had to try it. Let me tell you, our first attempt was amazing. I have tried variations since and made a few mistakes, but I think I am perfecting the recipe to how I like my yogurt. I never thought that making your own homemade yogurt was sooooo easy! I am not a big fan of plain yogurt since the store bought kind has a "bite" to it, but the homemade version is really mild and great when you add honey or some jam to it. I make my yogurt with powered milk, which I remember as a kid being "weird" tasting, but actually really like it now and it is much more economical than regular milk. I just don't drink milk fast enough before it goes bad, so being able to make us some milk anytime has been great. Here is the simple recipe for delicious homemade yogurt.

    Homemade Yogurt:

    • 4 cups water

    • 1 2/3 cups nonfat dry milk (or use any kind of fresh milk that you like)

    • 2 to 4 tablespoons store-bought, plain yogurt with active cultures
    Special items needed: candy thermometer, 2-3 bath towels (I'll explain later)

    Step 1: I like to mix the water and milk in a quart water bottle and shake it when I am using dry milk. It is easy to mix. Experiment with the quantity of dry milk, if you like thicker yogurt add a little more dry milk.

    Step 2: I heat the milk in the microwave, in a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup or any microwave safe container to hold the milk. I first set the microwave for 3 minutes and stir. (I found that there is less milk "scum" that forms this way. 4 minutes is too long, 3 minutes is just right). I usually just stir it with the candy thermometer to see the temperature. Then I set it for 1 minute and stir, and continue at 1 minute intervals and stir until it hits 180 degrees. I found with my microwave that it takes about 7 minutes total. The reason you are heating the milk is to kill off any other competing bacteria and I guess 180 degrees is their killing point.

    Step 3: I pour the hot milk into my container that I am going to store the yogurt, which also helps let it cool down. You now just let it set for about 15-20 minutes or until it cools below 115 degrees. (Trust me, you want to let it cool, I got so excited on my second try that I forgot to let it cool and put the store-bought yogurt in and 8 hours later I just had milk. I forgot about that magic temperature of 180 degrees and how it kills bacteria, so my little good active yogurt cultures never had a chance) Let it cool!

    Step 4: Now you can add the store-bought plain yogurt to the warm milk. Stir it in until dissolved. Basically you just need to buy a small generic container of plain yogurt to use as your starter. I then take the rest of the store-bought yogurt and put it into ice cube trays and freeze it. I then just take out a cube when I go to make a new batch of homemade yogurt.

    Step 5: Now the fun part. I just put the lid on my container, place it on a few towels and wrap the container up with the towels to keep it warm. There are recommendations of putting in the oven for 6-8 hours at 100 degrees to keep it warm, but who wants to be away from the house when the oven is on!? I found that wrapping it up so the container is insulated works pretty well and let it rest on my kitchen counter for 6-8 hours. Low tech and easy!

    Step 6: Refrigerate and eat! That's it. This is pretty easy and the yogurt tastes really good. Experiment and enjoy!

    Recipe credit to: Hillbilly Housewife. Check out this wonderful Blog with great ideas, recipes, and more! Love this site!

    52 Week Posts

    I love learning and exploring and decided that I am going to post a new post every week for the next year! Yes, 52 posts on various recipes, tips, and how to guides of simple things you can learn and do to become a little more hillbilly. I have some ideas, but would love to hear form you on things that you would like to learn to better enjoy the simple life.

    Have you ever made butter? What about about easy homemade ice cream with a zip lock bag? How to keep your cast iron shinny & beautiful. Looking for some homemade Christmas ideas for great gifts? Let me know what you are interested in and I will do some research and see if there is a simple and easy way to get to do it.

    Friday, September 5, 2008

    It's time to Go Hillbilly!

    I have made the decision to go Hillbilly! Yes, I said Hillbilly! Okay, I live in a townhouse in an urban town in Los Angeles. I cook with cast iron, make homemade yogurt and jam (YUM!!), and want to learn more about canning.

    I am thirty something and I think my generation never really learned how to cook from scratch, make bread, shop on a budget, save tinfoil, etc. Okay, I watched my Mom using a pressure cooker, which was scary!, and she did some canning of some amazing apple butter, but my generation never really had to learn all this, we could just go out and buy it. The store bought stuff never tastes as good as homemade either. So why have we settled for uninteresting food? For convenience?

    What I am finding now, is there are such simple pleasures in just cooking a great meal, making homemade strawberry jam that is out of this world, and just goin' hillbilly, a little! I propose that an urban woman can take a little extra time to learn a few techniques, cooking methods, how to shop for food, and save some money by Goin' Hillybilly!