Thursday, November 29, 2012

Personal Pet Pillow

I have a little chihuahua that loves to burrow. Her favorite place to burrow are the pillows on the bed. Not just amongst the pillows, but IN the pillows. I don't mind really. Except when I so easily forget and throw a pillow off the bed to make it only to discover it contained this miniature dog.
 She is usually buried all the way in, I just happened to catch these pictures when she was on the edge.

I saw a pattern for a circular pillow and thought why not make her one of her own with a little cover that she can climb into. I stuffed it with the stuffing from an old pillow for two reasons. I didn't have a new bag and the scent she knows is already in there.

There is no pattern, but really it's just a few circles all put together, stuffed and tied. I'll try to explain what I did through the pictures.
 I found the biggest round bowl I could find, marked it and then added a few inches by just measuring out all around the circle. I did attempt to make a pattern for future use. It's just a wedge that can placed on fabric that is doubled twice. If you place it on the square corner correctly it will make a circle. You will need two fleece circles.
I used the same wedge to cut out the cover. I then cut the top off to make the opening for my little one to crawl into. I hemmed only the even top edge before pinning it to the layers of fleece. You could use any fabric for this cover. Or omit it altogether. I did not do a fancy hem, just turned once.
I sewed the top on first, but realized after the fact I could have just layered it altogether and made one circular stitch leaving on opening large enough to fill the pillow. The seam should be at least 3 inches into the circle. That will leave material to cut and tie. 

Now, clip all the edges around the case part about every 1/4". Throw it in the wash now to fray the edges before stuffing the pillow. You don't have to, I just figured it would dry faster if I washed it before filling it.

Sorry about the glare.
One more step before stuffing it. Clip into the seam but not through it every 1/2" all the way around the pillow. Tie the front and back cut together (my example would be tie one purple cut to one blue cut) all the way around except where your opening is to stuff the pillow.
After you have that much tied, fill the pillow with whatever stuffing you chose. Tie the remaining fronts and backs together. Now go get your pet and try to convince them that this lovely new pillow is just for them and upset them by coaxing them into the opening to really prove it. (The better method is to put a treat inside the opening and let them discover a hidden treasure.) I also discovered that this little bed works for all the animals. As soon as one leaves it another one takes it over. 
Here is a bad video of Little Bit snoring away in her new bed. Forgive the mess, my honey just got back from the field and there is stuff everywhere.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

DIY Spice Blend

I discovered a couple of places to buy spices super cheap. This makes me very happy for a couple of reasons. Cheap spices and buying in bulk. This also means that making my own spice blends will be cheaper and can be made in larger amounts.

I'm not getting anything from these companies for mentioning them but I really loved what I ordered so I am simply sharing with you. 

The first one was Marshall's Creek Spices and the second was My Spice Sage. Marshall's Creek has flat shipping with larger sizes. My Spice Sage has free shipping with an assortment of sizes. The selection is fantastic. 

So I ordered every spice that I didn't have that was on the Mrs. Dash label. I have to tell you, there are SO many different things in Mrs. Dash! You'll see soon what I mean. Depending on how often you use these spices it might be a good project to do as a group with everyone pitching in. 

I searched the internet for copycat recipes and they all varied quite a bit. I listed all the ingredients on the label and then mixed and matched until I ended up with this combination. 

I doubled this recipe because we use so much and ended up with 1 cup of the mix. 

1/4 cup crushed dried minced onion flakes
4 teaspoons crushed dried vegetable flakes (My Spice Sage has the closest blend to what is on the label.)
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried orange peel
2 teaspoons coarse ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried savory
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon celery seed
1/4 teaspoon True lemon powder
1/8 teaspoon crushed dried rosemary
1/8 teaspoon ground bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder (it's on the label and I had some but you can probably skip this if you don't have it.)

Measure everything out into a food processor. I reused the measuring spoon for each spice but I wiped it off after each use. 

It's art!
Pulse until the right consistency. I pulsed a little too long but that's okay, it's just finer. 

Store in airtight container. (I refilled my bottle and then sealed the remainder in a jar using my FoodSaver.)

Just a picture of all the spices I vacuum sealed. Not sure why I haven't thought of doing this sooner with some of my lesser used spices.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Mikey's Beef Pot Roast and Veggies

This is one of our favorite meals. It does take some prepping but it is completely worth it. Serve it with some fresh bread and it can't be beat.

This isn't the roast I grew up on. This is the roast that my amazing husband taught me to make. (My northern food is just too dry for him.)

There is also no exact recipe. You have to make judgement calls by how many people you want to feed. The amount I made here is enough for four people and one meal or two people and two meals. (Probably a little more but we'll say that to be safe.)

What you'll need:
Carrots - 8
Potatoes - 6
Rutabaga -1 large or 2 small
Onion - 1 medium
Beef Chuck Roast - 2 pound
Flour -  1 1/2 cups
Corn starch - 2 tablespoons
Beef bouillon - 2 cubes or 2 teaspoons
Water - 1 1/2 quarts

Peel your carrots.

Peel and cut your rutabaga. Not sure how? Go HERE to see how easy it is.

Peel and cut potatoes. These were fairly small so I just cut them in half. They will cook faster than the carrots or rutabaga so don't cut them too small. Cut up an onion into larger size dices. (My picture has disappeared!)

Drop your bouillon into 2 cups of water in a microwave safe container. Heat for 2 minutes and mix to dissolve. Set near the stove. You will need it soon.

In a bowl that your roast will fit in mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, 2 tablespoons corn starch, salt and pepper. My husband tells me this, "Add pepper until you think you have too much, then add some more." I used over a tablespoon in this mix.

Get your roast out of the package. When buying a roast make sure it has fat marbled through it. This is what gives you a tender juicy roast when it's cooked.

Add enough oil to a large stockpot to cover the bottom. You probably want it 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep. Turn on medium to start heating.

While the oil is heating, thoroughly cover the beef roast with your flour mixture. Press it in and make sure you get the mixture into all the nooks and crannies of the roast.

Carefully put the roast into the hot oil.

Let it brown for several minutes. Turn and brown the other side. Once it is browned place it into a large roasting pan.

Here is the hard part and I'm not sure how well pictures will work. This really needs a video tutorial but I'll try.

Make sure your hot bouillon is near the stove along with 1 quart of very hot water.

You are now going to make roux. What is that? A mixture of flour and fat that is cooked and used to thicken soups and sauces. There are three types of roux: white, blond, and brown. White and blond roux are both made with butter and used in cream sauces while brown roux can be made with either butter or the drippings from what you are cooking and is used for darker soups and sauces. This is a brown roux.

Pour the leftover flour mixture into the hot oil. Stir to mix it up. If it's too dry add just a few drops of oil at a time until it looks more like a thick paste. Keep heat on medium high.

Watch carefully so you don't burn the mixture

Continue to cook the flour mixture until it turns a deep golden brown. You will have to stir constantly at this point so it does not burn.

Carefully start to pour in the hot liquids. Bouillon first, then the water. This creates a great deal of steam and if you have an overly sensitive smoke alarm like we do it will probably go off. Have someone nearby to fan the steam away from the alarm.

Continue to boil the liquid until it has thickened into gravy. Stir often. In between stirring place the vegetables around your roast.

Once your liquid has turned into gravy pour it over the meat and vegetables. The goal is to have everything submerged. (Mostly anyway.)

Bake at 350F for a couple of hours then begin to check for doneness of vegetables using a fork. This roast cooked for just a little over 2 hours before it was done and very tender.

It is best to let the roast set for 30 minutes untouched before serving. While you are waiting make some rice to put gravy on.

Honestly the best pot roast ever. The time and steps involved are worth it. 

Friday, November 23, 2012


I could post all kinds of scientific stuff about rutabaga here. Where it comes from, how it grows, what vegetable family it's in, etc. I won't. I will say this. If you have never had rutabaga it is one vegetable you want to at least try.

It is cooked the same way as other root vegetables. Potatoes, turnips and carrots. You peel, cut and boil. I like my rutabaga just about any way it is served. I don't love many (most) vegetables. I simply tolerate them. This one though I could eat on very regular occasions. Our favorite way is in a pot roast.

Google rutabaga and see all the ways you can eat this healthy veggie. Raw, boiled, fried, mashed and so on.

So, you went a bought one. Now you are staring at it and wondering, "Now what?" They can be stubborn buggers if you don't know how to peel and cut them properly. So here are some pictures to walk you through.

The first thing you will notice is that it is covered in wax. This extends the already very long shelf life of a picked rutabaga. (I've had them in my fridge for as long as three months and they are still good.) Grab a vegetable peeler and start peeling it off, working around the edges then the top and bottom. You want to make sure that the bottom surface remains somewhat flat.

After you have it peeled, stand the rutabaga on it's flat bottom on a cutting board.
With a very sharp larger knife, cut the rutabaga in half.
Now lay the rutabaga on the flat cut side and cut again into the size of chunks you want to cook with. Larger for longer cooking roasts and smaller to have just boiled rutabaga with butter.
I left mine at this size because they are going into a roast. I would cut them all in half once more for plain boiled. The pot roast recipe will be posted soon.

This was also a very small rutabaga. No matter the size the same method works. Have you ever tried rutabaga? What is your opinion: Love or Hate?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

3 Ingredient Butterfinger-Pinterest Test

I love Butterfingers. Not only how they taste but how they crunch. When I saw a copycat recipe on Pinterest, I just knew it was on my list of things to try soon. Bonus: Only three ingredients! Sounds even better. I waited until after Halloween to buy candy corn so I didn't have to spend too much if the recipe didn't work. I also bought name brand candy corn just to be safe.

The pin in question is this one:

Doesn't that look yummy? It did to me anyway. I could tell the texture wasn't going to be like this pins namesake but I truly love Butterfingers so much I was willing to give it a try.

So let's try it out.

Gather up:

1 lb. candy corn
16oz jar peanut butter
16oz pkg. chocolate candy coating (I used Hershey's milk chocolate pieces and a teaspoon of shortening.)

Pour your one pound of candy into a microwave safe bowl. My bag of candy was more than a pound so I just set the bag on my scale and removed enough until it actually weighed one pound.

Melt candy corn in microwave on high 1 minute.

Stir and continue cooking in 15 second intervals until melted, stirring after each interval.

Keep melting and stirring until it becomes this. (It took me about 2 1/2 minutes total)

Stir in peanut butter. At this point the candy begins to harden almost immediately and it becomes very hard to stir. Very, very hard. You might need to tag team with someone. I had to take small breaks of a couple of seconds then keep going because it was just going to get too hard to stir. The candy stuck to the sides, not the peanut butter.

My hands HURT by the time it was mixed up.

Spread mixture in an 8x8 pan lined with parchment. I used a 6x9" pan.

Cool completely. (Get impatient and put it in the fridge.)

Cut into squares. Or logs.

Dip in melted chocolate candy coating.  Or put it on a fork and spoon the coating over it. Gently scraping off the excess. Drip chocolate all over while you are transferring to set.

Lay on waxed paper to set. (Get impatient and put it in the fridge.)

Once you have patiently waited for them to set, grab one and try it. I was expecting so much more. I took one bite and knew this was not my beloved Butterfinger. It was a funky textured chocolate covered peanut butter log. My husband tried it and liked it because it reminded him of a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.

So in conclusion. You will have to make up your own mind with this one. I did not like it for what it is supposed to be. However, for a candy treat (or to use up leftover candy corn) it's not all bad. Especially for peanut butter lovers.