Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Eggplant Bacon - dehydrated

     Having a good sized vegetable and fruit garden has allowed me to save on grocery costs. However sometimes when a particular crop is coming in...I can end up with more than what we can consume freshly. The solution is to either can, freeze or dehydrate the excess bounty.
     That is where I found myself recently with a large amount of Japanese eggplant, normally I dehydrate them in slices to be used in cooking at a later time however... I wanted to try something different.

Dehydrated eggplant slices - plain

    I had come across this blog Real Food Tulsa that had an interesting post on Eggplant Bacon. Intrigued, I decided it was worth a try especially since I had all the required ingredients on hand.

Dehydrated eggplant bacon

    When dehydrating any food item it is important that the size or thickness of what you dehydrate is consistent. To maintain a uniform thickness in the sliced eggplant I originally opted to use my mandoline slicer. But I was having some trouble getting it to slice nicely, the eggplant was not feeding through the mandoline slicer easily. I needed to improvise... so...I cut each eggplant in half lengthwise set each half between a pair of chopsticks then using the chopsticks as a guide for my knife I was able to get perfectly proportioned and uniform slices. My slices ended up approximately 1/4 inch in thickness. This results in a finished product that is similar to thick cut bacon.

Improvised slicer guide for proportioned slices

    I followed the posted recipe with just a few minor adjustments to suit my tastes and using what ingredients I had on hand. Since I had more than the suggested 2 eggplants, I doubled the marinade. After slicing all the eggplant I let it marinate for one hour. I then placed the marinated eggplant slices on my Excalibur Dehydrator trays and set the dehydrator temperature at 125 degrees.

'Bacon' Marinade
2 medium eggplant cut int bacon like slices
4 Tbsp soy sauce
4 Tbsp maple syrup
4 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp liquid smoke
1/4 cup bottled lime juice
2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp paprika
fresh ground black pepper approx 1/2 tsp
2 Tbsp olive oil

    While the eggplant was dehydrating I decided to reduce the remaining liquid marinade to a syrup like consistency. I simmered the marinade over a low flame until it was fairly thick and nicely concentrated. I then used this to brush over the slices before they were completely dry. I did this approximately 4 hours into the drying process, I brushed each eggplant slice with the concentrated marinade glaze on both sides and returned each tray to my Excalibur to finish dehydrating until crispy. Since I had started this project late afternoon, I let my dehydrator run over night and by morning the eggplant bacon was nicely dry and crispy. Drying times will vary depending on how thick you slice the eggplant and the wattage of your dehydrator.

    After cooling I stored the eggplant bacon in quart sized mason jars and vacuum sealed them for storage...

Vacuum sealed jars for long term storage

    But not before I had some with my lunch...turkey swiss on white with garden lettuce, tomato and eggplant bacon...delish!!

Turkey swiss on white with garden lettuce, tomatoes and eggplant bacon...delish!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sweet Corn Cob Jelly

    I was recently gifted some lovely early bi-color sweet corn from some very good friends. Since it was more than we could eat at once I decided to prep it for the freezer following the directions on our site Cooking the Deals. As I was getting ready to take the clean cut corn cobs to the compost bin, I recalled seeing a recipe for Sweet Corn Cob Jelly on this site: Canning Homemade! I decided to give it a try, I followed the direction exactly as written and I have to admit that it was probably the easiest jelly recipe I have ever made. The jelly set perfectly and has a very light, sweet almost lemony floral flavor.

This recipe is an excellent way to get even more from your produce. So this lovely gift of a dozen ears of corn netted a total of one dinner,

seven containers for the freezer for future dinners and one pint and 3 half pints of sweet corn cob jelly. This will definitely be one for must make file!

Cucumber Chips

What do you do with garden cucumbers too large for pickles and too many to eat before they go soft? Make cucumber chips in three flavors...garlic herb, ranch and sea salt vinegar... a healthy no guilt snack that is easy to make.

Slice your cucumbers approximately 1/8 inch thick either by hand or with a mandolin into a bowl. Add just enough olive oil to just barely coat the cucumber slices and toss gently. (The olive oil can be optional, it mainly aids in keeping the cucumber chips from sticking to the trays for easy removal) Place the sliced cucumbers on your dehydrator trays and lightly sprinkle with your seasoning of choice. I made two trays each of three different flavors.

The first was ranch using Hidden Valley powdered ranch seasoning and dressing mix.

The next two trays were made using the Weber Roasted Garlic and Herb seasoning, this seasoning is great on any vegetable.

Lastly, before placing the last of the cucumbers on the dehydrator I added some balsamic vinegar and after placing them on the trays I sprinkled lightly with Morton sea salt however a kosher salt or any larger grained salt would also work well.

Place your trays in your dehydrator and set at 125 degrees and dry for approximately 4-6 hours or until they are crisp.

These make a great, guilt free healthy snack.


Friday, August 22, 2014

Actual Homemade Laundry Soap

I've seen so many recipes for homemade laundry soap where you're just taking other store bought soaps, grating or melting them, and mixing them all together. I never quite understood that. If you want to make laundry soap, then let's actually make laundry soap!

I'm not sure how long this recipe has been around, but I remember my grandpa making it when I was a kid. When he couldn't make it anymore, my dad started making it. And when a friend posted about wanting homemade laundry soap, I asked for the recipe to share with everyone.

Here goes...

First you need rendered lard. My grandpa and dad would always do this outside in the garage on a camp stove with an old pot. You'd think it's because they're guys and need to be in a "man cave" of sorts while cooking or something, but it is rather stinky, so I would suggest doing it out there. (I'm pretty sure grandma made grandpa do it out there!) Here's a crock pot tutorial I found online. You wouldn't have to do it in a crock pot though.

#3 coffee can filled about 1/2 full with rendered
1 quart of cold water
1 can of lye

Soften the lye with the cold water, then pour the lard over and stir. Stir until it begins to set, then pour it into paper milk or half and half containers to harden. When it has fulled cured and hardened, grate with an old cheese grater.

When you use it, you either have to use it in hot water wash, or fill your washer partially with hot water, let it dissolve, then put your clothes in and finish filling with cold water, since it needs the hot water to dissolve.

Next time my dad makes soap, I'll try to take pictures or have my mom take some, so you have a visual to go along with it! Good luck, and happy laundry day!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Best Buy Buys 3/30/12

Guess how much the hubbs paid for this out of his allowance...

Go ahead, guess!
Did you guess $1.90? (If you did, you're right!) We have a Best Buy Rewards Zone card where he had a $5 credit, then using his Shopkick app on his phone (see below for more details on Shopkick), he had earned another $15 credit to Best Buy. The game was $19.99, and to use all $20 credit, the total before tax had to be $20 or more, so he bought a Sprite to go with it.

With ShopKick, you earn points by "checking in" at various stores like Best Buy, Target, Old Navy, Macy's, American Eagle, Aeri, and others. ShopKick also offers you the chance to scan certain random items to earn more points (10 to 25, and even up to 100 points). When you get to 500 points you have earned a $2 gift card (though not all stores offer the $2 amount). You can get gift cards in various amounts ($2, $5, $10, $20, $25, $50, and even $100), and for the most part once you redeem points for a gift card, you are given a code or barcode to give to the cashier at checkout. You can get gift cards to stores like Best Buy, Target, Starbucks, iTunes, Macy's, Old Navy, Toys R Us/ Babies R Us, Lowe's, CVS, and more!

Use the link below to download the app to your smartphone 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Make Your Own Hand Soap

Back a while ago, I found, what I thought, was a really good deal on Dial Foaming soap refills for $1.94 (with coupons, of course!). Turns out if I read the package, it wasn't foaming. So I was trying to find pump bottles laying around our house that would work when I came across a recipe to make foaming hand soap out of liquid hand soap. Well, I tried it, but wasn't too impressed. I liked the concept, but figured I could improve it. So, I did!


I didn't think it was foamy enough, so I used more soap. So, here's my improved recipe... (though I don't pull out my measuring spoons when I make it, I just eyeball it!)

Fill your foaming soap pump to about 1/4 inch below the "fill here" line with warm or hot water. Add about 1 tablespoon of liquid hand soap. (I've also heard using dish soap works, but haven't tried it.) Put the top back on and shake to get all of the soap dissolved in the water. Viola! Done!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Cheap Clothes for Ender!

Being as we don't have a ton of money to spend on little boy clothes, I'm trying to get this one dressed as cheaply as possible. Since it's summer/ fall and garage sales abound in the Midwest this time of year, I'm in luck! 

I went to one well before we knew it was a boy (though I already thought he was!), and found lots of boys' outfits. The lady doing the garage sale had them all nicely hung up, the outfits put together, and everything was organized by size. I ended up spending $10 on the clothes & several outfits below.

One weekend was our city-wide garage sale, so I bought a book to check out which ones had baby stuff and which ones didn't. (It was a whopping $1, but I think it was money well spent!) I went out two days to about 10 sales each day. I was a little disappointed that the vast majority of the clothes I could find at sales were little girls' clothes, but I did manage to find two sales that had plenty of clothes! 

The first sale I hit with boys' clothes (actually they had twins, one girl, one boy), was selling the clothes for $4 for anything you could stuff in a bag! It was a lot of onesies, sleepers, and well-worn clothes that I can use as play clothes for Ender. I even found a cute purple Reebok windbreaker jacket for my niece that I stuffed in the bag.

The next day I went out, I found, again, lots of girls' clothes, but not so many boys' clothes... until my last stop! They had a large snowmobile trailer they were using as a table with bins of boys' clothes lined up along the edges, sorted by sizes, with a sign that said 50 cents each. Jackpot! I got 66 pieces of clothing, and asked if they'd take $30 for it, and they did! Most of their clothing was nicer stuff to begin with, and was in better shape (not so many onesies & play clothes), so I didn't mind paying more for it. There were several things I can put Ender in to wear to church, and two swimsuits. I even found a pair of dress pants with a vest, sweater vest, and button up shirt (on the right side of the picture)... that alone would probably cost me $30 in the store, and it looked like it had been worn maybe once.

The other place I love to find clothes for kids is at consignment sales. I went to the Munchkin Market, and spent $41.50 on clothes for Ender (plus another $10 for a winter jacket & matching snow pants for Big Girl E). Granted it wasn't as many clothes, and I spent more, but the lowest price you see at a consignment sale is usually $1 (unless it's a discount day). Plus you're not wasting gas driving from garage sale to garage sale in hopes of finding what you need. It's all baby stuff, and there's A LOT!!!

I've also been lucky enough to get clothes from two different friends who have had boys. (With Big Girl E, the vast majority of her clothes were either hand-me-downs, or bought by grandma. So we still haven't had to spend to spend much money on her clothes.)

Now I just have to wash it all, and go through to see what sizes I'm going to need to fill in more, and which ones I should stop buying! But for $86.50 (including the cost of the garage sale listing booklet), I have a pretty good start on a wardrobe for him for the first year. Not bad, if I do say so myself! :)
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