a "been-there" mom of six offers encouragement
to wives, young mothers, and those not so young,
and simple common-sense approaches to
the "ings" of life:
child-rearing (hints and helps), homemaking (all areas),
cooking (simple, cheap, and do-it-yourself)
making (toys and gifts), preparing (for the unexpected),
maintaining (sanity and peace in this increasingly crazy world) and more---
all aspects of making the most of making do on little---
and having fun in the process.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Spreading Butter Further

As the food budget gets tighter it is helpful to find ways to s-t-r-e-t-c-h it a little further.

There are several ways to extend butter, as well as ways to make "stick" butter into soft, spreadable butter---the kind that costs more to buy. I love both the taste and the savings!!!

Four variations, comments and suggestions from internet sites:

          Mix 1 stick of soft butter and 1/2 cup of oil. I usually mix 3 sticks of butter at a time with 1-1/2 cups oil.  Pour it into a container and store in your refrigerator. It stays softer than butter, but might separate if you leave it out of the refrigerator too long. Use it the same as regular butter or margarine.

        Stretch your butter budget and make it a little healthier. Make your own and know what those ingredients are that are in it!
        Cut back on saturated fat and use much less butter on your toast and muffins by softening 2 sticks of butter to room temperature. Then put the whisk attachment on your stand mixer (I use a Kitchen Aid).
Start whipping those two sticks of butter while you slowly drizzle one cup of vegetable, olive, or canola oil into it. (Your choice of oil). I like the canola because olive oil adds it's own taste to the butter. Canola oil leaves the butter tasting like butter.
        Scrape up the sides now and then to incorporate all the butter into the oil. Whip until light and fluffy. It might look like a light cake batter when it's done. Pour it into individual containers with lids and refrigerate until needed.
        Use for frying eggs or sauteing vegetables because the oil raises the burning point of the butter and it won't burn as easily. It's delicious on toast, English muffins or crackers. It stays soft right out of the refrigerator.
        Try grilled cheese sandwiches. The butter just glides across the bread. I hope you try this. My nutritionist was thrilled when I told her about this.
Deb from Williamstown, New Jersey - http://www.thriftyfun.com 

        My favorite way of stretching butter is to mix equal parts butter and equal parts margarine to create a tasty butter spread. Add a few drops of vegetable or olive oil to help the mixture remain soft in when it is refrigerator. The mixture turns into a versatile buttery spread that has real butter taste, performs like butter in cooking and pound-for-pound is cheaper then using either straight butter or an imitation butter spread. Because margarine is generally made from vegetable oil, the mixture offers up fewer servings of polyunsaturated and mono-saturated fats then butter alone.
        The spread is easiest to make by first bringing to room temperature one stick of butter and one stick of margarine. Place together in a bowl and mix with a spoon. A food processor may also be used. While any brand of butter may be used, keep in mind that not all margarines are created equally. Pick one that is low in transfat. The debate rages on as to which is better for your health; margarine with its low polyunsaturated and mono-saturated fats or butter which is a natural product made by agitating cream.
        While some diets encourage butter abstinence, others encourage people to refrain from all processed products, like margarine, so mixing them and using the mixture in moderation seems to be the best way to win this debate.
        When refrigerated, the butter-margarine mixture will harden slightly to a nice smooth texture that is perfect for spreading on toast or crackers. Its texture also lends itself well to creating flavored butters, like cinnamon butter, and the mixture can be mixed with herbs or other seasonings like honey, chives, dill, cinnamon, apples or other flavorings.
Missy Gauvin,

        My sister uses this recipe. Take 1 pound of butter and let soften. In a large mixing bowl put butter, 1/4 cup of canola oil and 1/4 cup of water. Blend well. Put butter in small containers and keep in refrigerator. You cannot freeze this recipe, but the butter will stay soft and it will last a long time in the refrigerator. If 1/4 cup water and canola oil is not enough just add a little more. This will still have that good butter taste Vegetable oil would probably work just as well.

          You can also save a lot of money by making your own flavored butters --- honey, cinnamon, fruit, nut, or savory (chive, garlic, etc.) by beating desired amounts of flavoring into butter or extended butters.

'til we eat again
          Simply, Gail

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Lofty" Freeze 'n Bake Sugar Cookies

I have been scouting around for sugar cookies for an upcoming activity. I found a few store-bought ones that would do (especially the "Lofthouse" ones, but I could not bring myself to pay a minimum of 39 cents per cookie. Plus I like homemade!
Thanks to "photo by loff"" since I didn't have a photograph. Naturally, I used more frosting. I think "Lofthouse" sprinkles are traditionally the "rod" type, but I used the same as above. When I was looking for a photo for this post I discovered several copy-cat "Lofthouse" cookie recipes. They are probably all very good but this one has one big additional advantage-----

One mess to clean up and four batches of fresh-baked cookies whenever you want them.

In one of my old and falling apart cook books, "More Make-A-Mix Cookery," I found not only the perfect solution---but one that we (the four-tasters) all agreed tasted like Lofthouse cookies! With an additional plus, the dough is made ahead and frozen----giving you make-ahead convenience and fresh-baked results.

Following the original recipe is what I did to make the larger, thicker, "lofty" type.

Food for Thought: A roll of frozen dough, along with the baking instructions, also makes a welcome gift when you need something spur-of-the moment.

Slice and Bake Sugar Cookies
recipe makes approximately 12 dozen cookies

2 cups butter or margarine, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon flavoring
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda

In a large bowl, cream butter or margarine and sugar. Beat in eggs, and flavorings until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl combine flour and baking soda. Gradually stir flour mixture into egg mixture until blended.

Divide dough into four pieces. Shape each piece into an 8" to 10" roll. Wrap each roll in one piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Place wrapped rolls in a plastic freezer container with a tight-fitting lid, or wrap each air-tight in a piece of heavy-duty foil. Label. Store in freezer. Use within six months.

Makes four rolls of about 36 cookies each.

To bake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet(s). Cut frozen dough into 1/4 inch slices and place about 1/2 inch apart. Sprinkle slices lightly with granulated sugar, if desired. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until edges start to brown. Remove cookies and cool on wire racks.

Turning good cookies into Lofty ones!

Instead of making four rolls of dough I made two fat ones.  When it was time to bake them, because of their thickness, I had to let them thaw slightly until the knife would cut through. I cut the roll into about 3/4 inch slices and placed them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. I did not sprinkle with the granulated sugar and I had to bake them longer. Watch carefully---You don't want them to be crispy-done. Cool on cookie sheets for three or four minutes and transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

Frost generously with a butter-cream frosting and top with sprinkles (the Lofthouse signature!).

'til we eat again,
           Simply, Gail

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When Good Competes With Good - Part 2

ONCE AGAIN. . . a review.

What happened to time for day dreaming? Cloud watching? Spontaneous fun? Leisurely meals together?  A real meal together at all?

Choosing good versus evil is obvious. Choosing good versus good is not.
Can too much of a good thing become a bad thing?
Have we become caught up in the thick of thin things?
Can we slow down before we stretch ourselves to the breaking point?
Are our priorities in order?

While the answers are most likely apparent and elementary, the how-to's of slowing down may seem impossible.

In spite of what we know of the unimaginable hardships of those of previous generations, it has been said that we, in our time, are facing much greater challenges. Our battles are not of enduring physical labors and trials. Our battles are much more insidious, much more horrendous. Battles for our families. Battles for our very souls.

Good – Better – Best

The following are excerpts from an article in the youth section of the September 2011 Ensign magazine. Mary-Celeste Lewis related her situation of finding herself over-scheduled four years ago.

“I knew I was doing too much. I was in school plays, taking challenging classes in school, and was involved in several other activities. . .practicing music and editing the school newspaper had lost their element of fun and had become work.
“My activities were good, but there were too many of them. I had to choose the best ones. As I tried to decide which activities to forsake, I realized that the gospel of Jesus Christ was the best priority anyone can have. I put prayer and scripture study at the top of my list, and since then, my life has run more smoothly. . .If I study my scriptures before I play games or even before I do my homework, everything important will get done.
“When I base my life around the Lord, instead of adding Him in as an afterthought, my life has an added measure of peace and success.”

But what about families and homemakers?

An effective way to begin prioritizing all the necessities of daily life---when there is more than self involved--- is basically just another way of determining between Good - Better - Best. Take a serious look at all you have to do and work towards placing each in their correct place or order.

Essentials: Time spent with the scriptures, in prayer; and in building family relationships.

Necessities: It is important to know how to live and how to take care of each other. These things include cooking skills, proper nutrition, exercise, raising families, provident living, care and cleanliness of our homes, self-reliance, and service.

Niceties: Such things as hobbies, sewing, reading a good book, sports, crafts, etc. It is nice to have time for these things but if we are not careful, they can infringe on the time that should be spent on the essentials and necessities.

When you prioritize and do the important things first, it is amazing how many of the “nice-to-do things” get done. And, as just as Mary-Celeste discovered, your life will have an added measure of peace and success.

Hopefully, I have given you some food for thought. I wish I had exact and automatically successful how-to’s for you but I don’t. As I said in yesterday's post, there are no one-size-fits-all answers. I do know where to search however, and so do you.

Remember, with God nothing is impossible.

Portions from parts 1 and 2 were taken from a previous Desert Saints Magazine article. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Schedules: When Good Competes with Good

Are we too busy?
Should we slow down?
What can we do?
How can we do it?

Let's talk priorities. . .again

Somehow, as modern advancements have made our life physically easier and less time-consuming, we have over-booked our new-found freedom.
Rare are times for swinging, or laying on the grass watching the
clouds float by (and discovering objects in them), or just day-dreaming.
When was the last time you took time to do nothing? Do you miss it? 

Frazzled parents hustle frazzled children between back-to-back activities— too often organized activities with rigid requirements, expenses and expectations---Activities that are no longer leisure fun but stressful commitments.

Rare are the neighborhood block and backyard games; the pick-up games in the middle of a street; exhilarating and unstructured recreation for the simple fun of it.        

Way back in the "good old days" children were automatically a part of the family work force. There were cows to milk, pigs to slop, gardens to tend, and multiple other tasks and responsibilities, many needing to be accomplished before the “five mile walk to school in knee-deep snow.” The need for heavy physical labor left little room or time for anxiety and stress. They still found time for simple fun.

Unfortunately, in too many ways, we have come a long way. Our myriad responsibilities rarely include providing the actual necessities to sustain life. Automation and modernization has given us lots of free time. The remaining necessary chores require little of us physically. Our brains are now taxed much more than our bodies. Not a healthy balance.

Our amusement and entertainment needs are becoming more and more extravagant.

Activities, events, and things that were previously luxuries or reserved for special occasions are now considered entitlements. Preschoolers in caps and gowns may be cute, but when special occasions are made special too soon, what is left for the traditional mileposts of life?

Our married children are very active in church and in their community. They read their Scriptures and have daily prayer. They set aside one evening each week just for the family, and their children are involved in extra church activities according to their ages. The boys are active in scouting.

They also take music lessons, play recreational sports and are involved in their school activities. They have maximum homework and minimal chores. Everything they are doing is good. Most things are even very, very good. They are productive.

But, their chores, their homework, their commitments are not just tightly scheduled but actually booked solid with very few unaccounted for minutes.

What happened to time for day dreaming? Cloud watching? Spontaneous fun? Leisurely meals together?  A real meal together at all?

There are no one-size-fits-all answers to simplifying family time. Tomorrow I'll give you a few possibilities to try on for your size or that of your family's.

Until then, here is some food for thought.

Choosing good versus evil is obvious. Choosing good versus good is not.
Can too much of a good thing become bad?
Have we become caught in a thick web of thin things?
Can we slow down before we stretch ourselves to the breaking point?
Are our priorities in order?

While the answers are apparent and elementary, the slowing down may seem impossible.

In spite of what we know of the unimaginable hardships of those of previous generations, it has been said that we, in our time, are facing much greater challenges. Our battles are not of enduring physical labors and trials. Our battles are much more insidious, much more horrendous. Battles for our families. Battles for our very souls.

I wish I had exact and automatically successful how-to’s for you but I don’t. There are no one-size-fits-all answers. I do know where to search however, and so do you. Remember, with God, nothing is impossible.

Excerpted from a Simply Gail column in DSM.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Halloween: Homemade, Cheap, and Creative

These costumes took so long to make, I made them wear them until
the foot bones connected to their knee bones.
I really regret that --- even to this day, 40 years later.

A long, long time ago Halloween was a fun holiday for both young and youngish kids. Costumes, for the most part, were cute and happy and imaginative, and very often homemade. Even the scary ones were only gently scary. Trick or Treating was really special when you went to a home that handed out homemade treats. We even remembered, from year to year, the homes that did that! 
In most areas, that holiday is long gone. Homemade goodies are rarely acceptable.Candy must be commercial and securely wrapped. Even then, many city hospitals provide free x-rays to further secure the safety of what has been passed out.It's sad but it's a fact of life.

TRUNK or Treat
Hopefully you live in an area where kids can still be kids---safely. Trunk or Treat has become a popular replacement in many areas. Church parking lots become the "homes" and treats are handed out from car trunks. It is even more fun if the "distributors" take the time to decorate their trunk and/or themselves. Everyone knows everyone so homemade is okay.

It took hours and hours to make the skeleton costumes above. The skeletons themselves were painstakingly cut from oil cloth (a heavy waterproof plastic-y fabric that was commonly used for tablecloths) and then even more painstakingly appliqued onto the body of the costume.  The kids loved them----for the first couple of years. Because of all the work that went into them, I continued to make them, and then their younger siblings wear them until the foot bones literally came only to their knee bones. That is sad, and kids, I am sorry.

Years later Dave and I chaperoned a costume dance. One of the guys came as a terrific skeleton. It cost him $2 and about 20 minutes time. He bought a life-size cardboard skeleton--the type with movable joints and he disjointed it by using a pair of scissors to pop out the rivets. Then, wearing a black sweat shirt and sweat pants he had someone pin the bones onto them. The bones moved with him, and even stood slightly away from him at times. It was very effective.

A Bag of Beans!
Our daughter-in-law Cheri shared this idea for a cute, simple, and inexpensive costume, which can be adapted for either children or adults. Cut arm and leg homes in a clear plastic trash bag of the appropriate size to fit the individual. Once the person is in the bag, fill it with small oval inflated balloons in a variety of colors. Gather the top opening of the bag around the wearer's neck and tie with with a piece of ribbon. If you really feel further identification is needed for this bag of jelly beans you can make a paper label and fasten it to the front of the bag.

Homemade Halloween Make-up (from Amy Dacyczyn's book, The Tightwad Gazette)

Theatrical-type Grease Paint: Combine 2 tsp. vegetable shortening, 5 tsp. cornstarch, and 1 tsp. flour. Add 2 to 3 drops glycerin (available at drugstores) for smoothness. Add food coloring as desired. Brown Grease Paint: 1 tsp. vegetable shortening, 2-1/2 tsp cocoa powder, and 2 to 3 drops of glycerin.
They can be removed with cold cream, baby oil, or vegetable shortening.

Scar Tissue is created by mixing unflavored Knox gelatin with drops of hot water to make a paste. Apply "drooping open flesh" with a spatula. Gently apply a layer of baby powder using a powder puff or cotton ball. Pain with acrylic craft paint to resemble flesh and blood.

Looking for a special treat for a special time? A friend from long ago shared the recipe for chocolate caramel apples she used to make every year for the trick-or-treaters that came to her door.  She hadn't realized just how popular they were until she discovered that the kids that use to come to her home were now driving their own kids to her door on Halloween.

Mary Sue's Chocolate Caramel Apples
(recipe makes enough for 12-24 apples, depending on their size)
small, crisp tart apples
popsicle sticks or skewers
1 cup butter or margarine
2-1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
dash salt
1 cup light corn syrup
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
2 squares (2 ounces) unsweetened chocolate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped peanuts

Wash and dry apples. Insert stick or skewer into stem end of each. Set aside. Butter baking sheets. In large, heavy saucepan, melt butter. Stir in brown sugar and salt. Add corn syrup and mix well. Gradually stir in milk; add chocolate. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, about 12-15 minutes, until candy reaches firm ball stage (245 degrees on candy thermometer). Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Dip each apple into caramel sauce, turning to coat. Scrape excess off bottom. Dip bottom in peanuts. Set on buttered pan. After they cool, slide them onto cupcake papers. The apples should be made the day they will be served.

'til we eat again,
            Simply, Gail