Category Archives: Very Pinteresting…DIY Ideas

Taco Pasta Bake ****Updated

taco pasta bake

I saw this recipe on pinterest yesterday and decided I just had to try it, I made it last night for dinner and made a few changes but it was so popular that we had no leftovers, my son asked if I could make it again tonight he liked it so much.  So here it is:

1 small box of pasta (any kind, I have used wheels, elbows, mostaccioli it doesnt matter use your fave shape) 1 large onion, diced and sauteed until translucent in 1tbsp of olive oil, 1 lb of ground beef or ground turkey (we have switched to turkey around my house), heaping 1/8 c home made taco seasoning or 1 store bought package, 1 cup water, 1 8oz pkg cream cheese, 1/4 cup shredded tex mex cheese**optional add ins depending on whether you like beans 1 can pinto beans or kidney beans (your preference)–, and/or 1 can fat free refried beans

boil pasta until just cooked then drain and set aside, brown ground beef/turkey after the onion is cooked, drain any fat in the pan,  add taco seasoning (heaping 1/8 of a cup if you make your own), and 1 cup water w/ ground beef, beans and onion for 5 min, add cream cheese and tex mex cheese to beef mixture, stir until melted remove from heat, put pasta in casserole dish, pour the beef, bean and cheese mixture over the top and mix in.  bake at 375* uncovered for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Serve with sour cream, and/or extra tex mex shredded cheese and sliced avocado ( I like all of the above on top) it is OMG delicious!

Home Made Biscuit/Baking mix

***Update 2-12-17 Now I have been using this recipe for several years and have found that anything that I make with it comes out lighter and much more delicious than anything I ever made with store bought Bisquick so it has become something I always have on hand and have made some changes to the recipe to improve it.

So, I was thinking, what else in my kitchen, that I use  quite a bit, can I make myself?  I was looking around on Pinterest, and saw numerous recipes for home made baking mix to take the place of store bought Bisquick.  I have always had Bisquick around and my mom always did too.  I figured the ingredients are pretty simple and if I make it myself not only will it be less expensive but also healthier since there won’t be any preservatives or chemicals that I can’t pronounce. This recipe costs me even less to make, all told, it takes approximately $5 worth of ingredients and in bulk it replaces about 3 boxes of Bisquick.

After some test runs, this is the best and my own bulk version of this recipe:

5lb bag of flour

3/4 c baking powder

1/4 c sugar

3 Tablespoons salt

3 cups butter flavored shortening

Mix it all in a very large bowl, I have a big stainless steel bowl that I also use for bread making.  I used a potato masher instead of a pastry blender to mix it and it blended it perfectly, keep blending by turning the bowl and pushing the masher down the sides of the bowl until it has a crumbly appearance. Like this:

finished baking mix in the canister

finished baking mix in the canister

This mix can be stored for 8 weeks or so in an airtight container, longer in the refridgerator which is where I keep it. I am using a large cereal storage container, it can also be kept in the freezer and it will last for 6 months. I have also written down the most commonly used recipes (biscuits, coffee cake and pancakes) and used packing tape to attach to the side of the container so we don’t have to go looking for recipes.

I use this often in my house, my son loves to make pancakes, we like biscuits, coffee cake on sunday mornings or holidays as well as a coating for chicken when mixed with spices and there is a pot pie recipe you can make with it that is delicious! If you don’t use baking mix often you can cut the recipe down by half or thirds. This mix substitutes for Bisquick in any recipe that calls for it.  follow this link for Bisquick recipes:  http://www.bettycrocker.com/recipes/product-recipes/bisquick-recipes

Try it and let me know how yours turns out or if you come up with a new idea for something to make with it!  as always, thanks for reading 🙂

Make your Own Taco Seasoning

**UPDATED 1-12-17

Making your own taco seasoning  not only saves money but it tastes so much better than the packaged taco seasonings and doesn’t have all the chemicals and preservatives that the store bought packets have, and which by the way include silica (You know those packets that come with shoes and bags, etc that says “do not eat”  and is actually what sand is made of …..yepper!  that is an ingredient in commercial taco seasoning!)  This was yet another Pinterest idea that I tested and I can say it worked out really well although I have also made some changes to the ingredients as an improvement. I have been making my own for several years now and have no plans to go back to store-bought much like with the home-made baking mix, soooo much better and less expensive than bisquick!  If you haven’t seen that post, follow this link https://syrinxasylum.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/home-made-biscuitbaking-mix/

tacoshaker

I have started keeping and washing some empty containers of different types to store all of these new home made products in, recycling at its finest!

******I store this taco seasoning in an empty parmesan cheese shaker container, the benefit to this is that not only can you measure the heaping 1/8 cup that you need to make tacos out of one side but you can also use the sprinkle side to treat it like a condiment to add zing to other foods, this version could be classified as medium as far as level of heat, to make it hotter just add more cayenne and red pepper flakes to your liking or to make mild use a little less. I store the excess in an empty mayonnaise jar to refill the sprinkling container and because we use it a lot and it’s easier to mix up a bunch at one time to save time later. We use this in chili, add it to rice while its cooking to make Mexican rice and on so many other things just like you would use salt but we are a family of Mexican flavor lovers.

I make this in large batches and since I buy my spices at a discount all the time (for instance the $1 and even .50 spices that is at walmart and even big lots.  I am sure that making this quantity is saving us money, and we know for sure what the ingredients are so is also healthier i.e. no additives or preservatives.

mixstorage ingredients

Ingredients (on the left are the amounts for regular size batch which makes about 1-2 taco dinners ****on the right in parentheses is the amount for a large batch)

3 Tablespoons Chili powder (1 cup)

2 teaspoons paprika (1/2 cup)

2 teaspoons onion powder (1/2 cup)

1 heaping tsp salt (2tablespoons)

1 teaspoon garlic powder (1/4 cup)

1 teaspoon cumin (1/4 cup)

(this believe it or not is what makes it have that “taco” scent, who knew?…well, YOU will as soon as you open the container 🙂  )

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (1 tablespoon)

optional depending on how much heat you like:

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper (1 tablespoon)

pinch red pepper flakes (2 teaspoons)

Measure all your ingredients into a bowl, mix slightly, use a small funnel to pour from the bowl into your storage container, then shake well before each use to make sure they stay well mixed right before you use it.  and that is all there is to that, see?  couldn’t be easier!

******Here is another Pinterest recipe from my blog for Taco Pasta bake that use this seasoning for.  We love this so much we make it almost every week now! follow this link for that recipe:  https://syrinxasylum.wordpress.com/2013/02/27/taco-pasta-bake/

taco pasta bake

Making felted soap, like having a loofah with soap already in it

My friend Shanon told me about this idea so I must give her credit for it.  The point of making felted soap is that you end up with a bar of soap that has an exfoliation covering on it as well as being pretty.  These would make great gifts and there are so many creative possibilities for the outer covering made out of wool roving.   This post represents our first attempt at making this project, it was really easy and also really fun oh and soapy…..very very soapy!

What you need:

assemble your supplies

assemble your supplies

Wool roving (ours came in a skein like yarn) basically roving is just carded wool that has not been spun into yarn and comes in many different colors.

a bar of soap, any kind but special soaps like Yardley’s or the like would be ideal

A pan of very hot but not boiling water

First, wrap the roving around your bar of soap until it is completely covered, be creative, there is no wrong way to do it just as long as the bar is covered.  Wrap in one direction, then the other, you can even wrap again until it’s as thick as you want it to be, cut the roving when you are done and place the end on the bar so it will blend in during the felting process.

soap bars covered in wool roving

soap bars covered in wool roving

Next, you take your covered bars and begin to wet them with the hot water, once they are saturated, you just keep rubbing them vigorously so that the strands of wool become a solid piece of felt.  It’s really quite amazing how this happens, just dip them in the hot water periodically and keep rubbing with your hands until you feel like the surface is cohesive.

dunking and rubbing

dunking and rubbing

just keep on rubbing!

just keep on rubbing!

Finally, take your bars and roll them in an old towel to get out as much of the excess water as possible then just let them dry overnight.  Here is what ours looked like when they were done:

finished felted soap

finished felted soap

If you try it let me know how yours come out, send pics if you can!  As always thanks for reading, I will be working on new ideas to share with you.  I have a personalized photo and signature quilt in progress for my mom that I plan to share in the very near future.

Make your own deodorizing dog shampoo, works better than storebought!

Lily all fresh and clean and happy!

Lily all fresh and clean and happy!

If you have a dog, you know how stinky they can get.  I tried a lot of different kinds of commercial dog shampoos to try to make her smell fresh after her bath and not just like a wet dog.  Even the ones billed as being “anti-stink” or “stink free” still left her smelling only slightly better and not for very long.  I decided that since I have been making so many of my own things lately I would try making a better dog shampoo and I think I have perfected it.

Here’s what you need:

1 c baking soda,

1/2 c Borax

1/4 c washing soda

1 tsp essential oil ( I used sweet basil oil and it leaves her smelling wonderful!)

3-4 Tbsp clear shampoo (I used suave ocean breeze scent)

finished product

finished product

mixing the ingredients

mixing the ingredients

Add about 2 c of water and mix all the ingredients thoroughly in a bowl or large measuring cup (to dissolve the powdered ingredients) and pour into a storage container.  I used an empty laundry detergent bottle but any 32oz container will work.  Fill the container the rest of the way with water and shake.  Shake well before each use as well.  Use liberally when bathing your dog, it is a bit harder to rinse out than other shampoos but you will be amazed at how much dirt is in the bath water and at least for my dog, she smells perfectly fresh for at least 2 weeks after her bath.  Try it and let me know how it works for your dog!

Late August in the Garden, the Eggplants are here!

The garden did not fare as well I had hoped this year, we had a very rainy summer and the cucumbers and squash did not survive despite my best efforts.  I think they just got too much water, they all had flowers on them especially the squash but no fruit ever did develop and finally the vines all turned brown and died.  The other problem may have been that using window boxes for them was not a good idea, they weren’t deep enough for a proper root system to form so next year I will be looking for deeper containers to grow those in.  It’s a lesson that I will use to make next years’ garden better, it’s all a learning experience for me.

The good news is that the eggplant seeds that I planted all the way back in February have finally matured.  It seemed to take forever for them to grow and I repeatedly thinned them based on which ones seemed the most viable.  I now have 5 mature plants.  At this stage they all have multiple flowers on them and one plant has had an eggplant start growing from a flower.  It has been very interesting to me to watch the process as I have never in my life seen how they grow so during all stages of the process it was new to me.  I was very excited to see fruit actually growing a little over a week ago and I took a picture of it.  It started out white in color with only a little light purple striation to it and really did look like an egg.  I was very surprised that it took 6 months for the plants to get to this point.  We are lucky to have a long growing season here in the south.

eggplant flower

eggplant flower

Eggplants growing

Eggplants growing

early eggplant fruit

early eggplant fruit

first stage of eggplant fruit development

first stage of eggplant fruit development

eggplant2

 

Yesterday when I got home from work I was pleasantly surprised to see that this “egg” had turned purple and shiny!! 

 

turning purple and shiny!

turning purple and shiny!

I will be interested to see how large it gets.  I transplanted that plant into its own pot hoping it will continue to send roots down.  I moved another robust plant to its own pot months ago and that one is covered in flowers so I believe I will have a pretty good crop of them or at least I hope it continues.  My tomato plants were looking pretty sad, it looks like something has been munching on the foliage although I never saw any pests on them.  Last night I pruned off all the damaged foliage and tied up the rest of the plants on one side of the gazebo like a trellis, there are some flowers and a little green tomato so we shall see if they can rally and produce some more tomatoes.  We have picked quite a few but not as many as I had hoped since I have 3 very large plants in that pot.  We have diced them up and put them in spaghetti sauce and in alfredo so at least we got some output from them.  Again, I think all that rain did a lot of damage to them.  I fed all these plants with miracle grow last night and harvested some more basil.  The basil has grown beautifully this year, this is at least the 4th time I have harvested it, I just cut off the tops and leave 6-8 inches of the plant so it can grow back, like giving it a haircut.

We used some of it in our seafood alfredo dinner last night and I have to say there is nothing like fresh basil just harvested to add flavor to your Italian cooking!  I have been trying different methods of preserving it for future use.  I have some of it frozen in ice cube trays using olive oil (saw that idea on Pinterest LOVE that site!)  There are 2 ways; water and oil but I felt that using water would just leave me with wilted leaves and too much moisture.

Preserving in olive oil seems to be the best method.  I froze the chopped basil by filling compartments of the ice cube tray, then pouring the olive oil just enough to cover.  I have already used some of these cubes by putting them in a pan (I used 4) , letting them thaw over heat, thickening with a little flour to make a roux (thickened starter for any white sauce), adding fat free half and half and fresh grated parmesan and viola I had a very nice pesto parmesan sauce! 

 

Bsil preserved in oil and salt in a jar kept in the fridge

Bsil preserved in oil and salt in a jar kept in the fridge

freshly harvested basil

freshly harvested basil

basil frozen in Olive oil "cubes"

basil frozen in Olive oil “cubes”

 

I am also experimenting with putting the chopped basil in a glass jar and using the same method, covering with olive oil and about ¼ tsp salt and keeping in the fridge like you do with garlic but that probably won’t keep as long as the frozen ones but I can take out the amount I need for a particular meal as needed since it doesn’t need to thaw first.

I hope this post helps out you other “foodies” and gardeners out there!  Have a great day and a great weekend and as always, thanks for reading! 🙂

I can't believe how tall it is

I can’t believe how tall it is

So, here we are in mid-july.  The flood waters have receded finally but the garden seems to have quadrupled in size from the deluge.  The tomato plant is almost my height, I looked over this morning at it was above my shoulder and at eye level.  For some reason my cucumbers are covered in blooms but I still only have the 2 actual cukes and they are round, I thought they would lengthen as they matured but no, so far still round, hmmmm gotta try and figure that one out.  The squash plants are similar, they have flowered over and over but I don’t see any actual squashes yet but I check every day!  We have 1 ripe tomato finally but the plants are covered with little green tomatoes.  We harvested basil twice now to make our own pesto sauce.  There is nothing like pesto made with freshly cut basil, it’s amazing!  I will be interested to see what the eggplants do, I have never grown them before and the plants are becoming very large and kind of shrubby.  I don’t know how the fruit forms so it will all be new to me!  This has been fun experience after not vegetable gardening for so long, I am already making plans on how I will do things differently next year and what else I will grow.  If anyone has any tips about my cucmbers or eggplants please share!

my cucumbers are round?!

my cucumbers are round?!

The eggplants loved all the rain!

The eggplants loved all the rain!

julygarden julygarden2

peaches almost ready

peaches almost ready

first ripe tomato

first ripe tomato

yellow squash closeup

yellow squash closeup

I just found out some more information about eggplants, apparently now I am waiting for them to produce purple flowers that will change into the fruit. 

this is the flower I am looking for on my plants

this is the flower I am looking for on my plants

  • “Eggplant seeds need to be started indoors about two months before your region’s last frost date. Kept moist and warm, the seed absorbs water and germination occurs. The seed uses its stored energy to produce a small root and two seed leaves. These seed leaves, or cotyledons, provide enough energy until the seedling can grow a set of true leaves.

Seedling to Plant

  • The seedling continues to grow indoors until the weather warms outside. The seedling needs to be kept in a sunny window so it doesn’t get lanky. During this time, the seedling adds height and leaves, and the roots will typically fill the pot. When daytime temperatures average 70 degrees Fahrenheit, the eggplant can be planted outside in a garden area that receives full sun.

  • Flowering
  • Over the next couple months, the eggplant adds more height, fuller leaves and deeper roots. Eventually, small green buds form at the ends of several stems. Within a couple of days, these buds open to reveal the eggplant’s showy purple flower.

Flower to Fruit

  • As bees and other pollinators visit the eggplant flowers, pollen is transferred from one flower to another. When pollination occurs, seeds develop within in the eggplant’s ovary. The ovary itself becomes fleshy and grows into the eggplant that are harvested and eaten.

Fruit to Death

  • Eggplants are annual plants, which means they complete their entire life cycle in one year. Once the eggplant has finished producing fruit, or if no flowers are pollinated, the plant starts to shut down. The leaves stop producing energy for the plant. Within a few weeks, the plant withers and dies.”

Read more: http://www.ehow.com/info_8457682_eggplant-growth-stages.html#ixzz2Yko9Leol