Thursday, October 23, 2014

Manly Scones

Every man needs to know how to feed himself.  Learning to bake is practical but I get hassled about it sometimes.  Of course, my stuff gets eaten.  This is a guy's variation on Scones-basically a seasoned biscuit.   These are a great alternative to the donut shop or the diner and  are portable, easy to make and  taste good.  

3 Cups of Bisquick or other biscuit mix
1/4 cup (1/2 of a stick) or butter or margarine
1/4 cup of sugar
1 cup diced deli ham or crispy bacon
1 cup cheddar shreds-fat free does not work
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
butter and Tony Chachere's

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Mix the eggs and milk together.  Mix the biscuit mix, sugar and cut in the butter until it is like coarse meal.  Mix in the meat and cheese. 

 Pour the liquid in at once and mix it by hand ONLY until it is all moist-don't over mix or they will become bricks

Scrape it out onto a well floured surface and pat it into a circle about 3/4 inch thick.  Flour the top well and cut it into 8 pieces.  It will be lightly sticky.  lift the wedges with a spatula and put it onto parchment on a cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart. you have to shape the up a little-I use a pie server to scrape and shape.

Bake until golden brown, about 20-25 minutes.  Butter the tops while hot and sprinkle with Tony's to your taste

From start to clean up is about 30 minutes and you can put them in a zip bag after they cool.  

Friday, September 19, 2014

Cafe au Lait on the cheap without an Expresso Machine

Time for something different. I usually only drink strong black coffee and live in a small town where the nearest fru-fru coffee place is two towns over.  Include my frugal unwillingness to spend $5 for a coffee or $100 for an expresso machine and creativity has to kick in.  I read in a newsfeed that you can "Steam" milk for coffee in a microwave oven.  
After a little experimenting, here is my personal Cafe au Lait.  

You can also add cinnamon, cocoa, vanilla, real sugar,honey or whatever makes you happy.  Using the press, the cost for this cup is just shy of forty cents.  Walmart even carries disposable coffee shop cups if you are in to that!  This recipe fits into a 20 ounce travel mug.

Start with your favorite coffee.  I add a table spoon of Splenda also.  This is better with dark roast from my coffee press, this takes about 10 minutes,  but quicker from the Keurig, which take about 3 minutes.  Use what you brew's.

Shake 1/3 cup of cold 1% milk in a closed jar for the time it takes the Keurig to brew or for a full minute.  I haven't tried it with higher fat milk.  Should make more foam and come out a little sweeter.

Take off the lid and microwave  for 40 seconds-you may have to experiment with your oven.

The milk will foam to the top of the jar.  Let it settle for a second before you handle it. Pour it into the sweetened coffee and scoop out the foam  onto the top of your cup and enjoy  

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Apple Butter Recipe for big batches: Mass without Mess *Pumpkin Instructions too

One of my fondest childhood memories is Apple Butter.  My granny had an orchard for much of my young life and home-canned many jars of spiced apples, apple sauce and amazing apple butter.  They were all picked at the same time and she had to do something with them or lose them.

These days I don't pick them but the 4-H and FFA sell 50 pound cases as a fund raiser.  A friend at church gave me one of these cases.  I ate what I could, gave a bunch away and thought of Apple Butter. 

This is useful for you if you have access to an orchard, find a bargain on aging fruit at the grocery or get big boxes from fund raisers. You can stop at the Apple Sauce stage!  This is pure and only has sugar added  if you want it.  Could even be used as baby food. 

I called my mother, searched my granny's recipes for this recipe and adjusted it.   It is EASY and CLEAN as long as you have an electric roaster oven and a food mill.   With my mom's coaching here is the process and recipe to make it in large batches.  Remember that the Electric roasters cook from the sides and not the bottom.  Always have a little water on the bottom to Keep things from sticking.

Recipe:  Can be scaled up or down

25 Pounds of apples, washed and quartered ( made 2 gallons of apple sauce)
3 cups of sugar-adjust to suit your taste and your apples
4 Tablespoons of Cinnamon
1 1/2 Tablespoons of All Spice
1 1/2 Table Spoons of Nutmeg
1 lemon-juice and zest
2 Tablespoons of good vanilla

Quarter the apples and remove those plastic lables and stems!  Leave all peelings, cores and seeds.  This is a source of pectin. 

First add a quart of water, more if the apples dry out. Cook until they are the consistency of apple sauce, stir away from the sides occaisionally. 

Run the apples through a food mill in small batches, discarding the peeling as the sauce is collected in a large pot. I used the medium screen.


You can stop here and either can or freeze the sauce.  For apple butter, place back into the cleaned roaster and add the spices.  adjust the sugar to suit your taste. Cook with the cover on sideways, allowing the moisture to escape but holding in the heat, stirring often, until it reduces by half and it gets to a deep brown color.  This will take several hours.
 Can according to the directions found at and clean the outsides of the jars thoroughly.  The butter is sticky. 

Canned, the sauce will last a year, refrigerated a couple of months.  I have not tried freezing it but that should work too.

I tried this with pears.  It was tasty but gritty.  Remove the cores and stems before cooking the pears and use the smaller food mill screen. 

Enjoy on pancakes, toast or biscuits.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Recycled Wood Project: Outdoor Writing or Potting Desk

I wanted an outside desk to hold my materials in a prayer garden. I needed it to be sturdy, weather proof and portable too.   This is the outcome and can be used as a writing desk,  potting desk or a plant stand.

I am still a novice at woodwork and learned a lot from this project. 

This desk, seat,  and bench are a recycling project that is technically easy and  can fit whatever lumber you have at hand, even repurposed pallets.

The measurements can be changed to suit your space and materials.  Some might prefer to have one tall enough to stand behind.   I did purchase a 12' 1x4 but the rest was from the scrap box.  The cost is about $50 after buying deck stain, screws and glue  It could be used in a garden or greenhouse also.  This particular desk is where I will study on my back porch.  It should last for years.

Steps and Dimensions:
1. Cut and Assemble the Frames from 1x4 Lumber
Glue each joint and screw with 1 5/8" deck screws
Dimensions for The Desk:  17"x48", The seat:  30"x 12", and the bench: 25"x 12"
For the desk and seat, install  2x2  brace at the center of the frame,flush with the top-see the photo below.

2. Cut and shape the Legs.  Use 2x4 lumber for the desk and seat, 2x2 for the bench.  Cut as shown, router, cut as desired or just leave them square. They should be flush to the top of the frame.
Lengths:  Desk: 27", Seat: 20", Bench 16"

3. Cut the slats from 3/4" by 2 1/2 " lumber
Desk: You need 7, 52" long.  Space them to overlap the frame 2", front and back, 1" on the sides.
Seat: You need 4, 40" long. Overlap the frame 5" on the sides and 1" on the front and back
Bench: you need 4, 25" long.  They are flush with the edges of the frame.

The backsplash for the desk is from this same lumber, 52" long with two 11" pieces cut and attached to the sides.  They are trimmed at an angle-See the photo for details. Glue them into place and attach with screws from the back

4. Install the slats to the tops of the frames,
Square the legs in the corner-glue and screw into place. Set the frame on a level surface and square in two direction.  Allow the glue to dry according to the instructions on the bottle.
Attach the backsplash to the back of the desk's top with blocks as shown.  Use a 1 1/2 screw through one of the slats to hold the front in place.

5. Sand and finish.  I used "Penetrating Deck Stain".

The legs were cut from 2x4's, drawing a line from the center of the bottom of the leg to where the board meets the frame.  They are flush with the top of the frame.  I routered the edges with a rounding bit to give it a little decoration.  This is optional.  Notice the brace in the middle of the frame.  You could use a 2x4.  This one is a 2x2.

Coated Deck screws and "Gorilla Glue were used to help with the weather.  Squaring the legs in both directions is tricky. You can adjust them by changing the tightness of the screws.  The glue gives you several minutes to get things "plumb" before it sets.
Follow the instruction and things go very well.  Titebond II and Liquid nails/outdoor are  waterproof, a little easier to work and give longer working time but the Gorilla seems quite strong and long as you have a clean moist surface. 

This lumber has been saved from other projects, scrounged from a friends construction scrap, salvaged from some demolition at church and the leavings from a mission project.  Keep and eye out and you can find lots of raw material for these projects.  Many are using pallets.  They are difficult to take apart but they are usually hardwood and useful.
The strips for the top of the desk and seats were slats from a "Danish" style bed that I rescued from a trash pile, abandoned from a garage sale.  They were spaced by a wood scrap, Cut to length, glued and screwed into place

The sides could be left square or trimmed
attaching the back splash-no glue needed
The back splash was cut from these same slats, screwed together from the back and attached with these short blocks.
attach with a 1.5" screw through the bottom
The desk and bench  was designed to fit a space into an outdoor garden but now has this great porch!  Cedar would be a better material if you were leaving it out and exposed.

The pieces can moved around and  used for seats, plants or even a step stool.  They then fit back together and fit into a two foot space next to the wall.  

Find a finish that suits you. Here are some options: Stain and urethane-ok for indoors but would not take the beating of weather, pots and dirt.  Plain spar varnish-tough but an annual application would still be necessary, exterior house paint-cheap, easy and lots of colors but I want the wood grain for this one.  I settled on "Penetrating Deck Stain", available from any good paint counter.  There are a number of brands available. This product is made  for wooden house siding, Decking and outdoor furniture.  It was reasonably priced and easy to apply with a foam brush.  This brand is water base, soaked into the wood quickly, and did not smell.  Make sure it says "UV inhibitor" on the can.  The results are great but they only had one color.  Other brands may come with more choices.  In the future all the desk will need is a scrubbing and then another coat of stain.  The can says it will last 4-5 years.