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Homemade by Jade

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  • Tracey Boyer
  • January 17, 2015 07:23:21 AM
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A Little About Us

A blog about homesteading and getting back to a simpler lifestyle. Posts include subjects such as cooking from scratch, backyard gardening, canning, cooking, crafts, sewing and household DIY.

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How to Make Bird Cakes

​​It's getting to be that time of year.  Cold, snowy and just a difficult time for our fine feathered friends outside.  I imagine it's hard for a bird to find food during winter with no plants blooming and no worms spending much time on the surface of the ground.  Having snow on the ground would make it even harder.  This is why I always keep my bird feeders full during cold weather.  When I have time, I even make little bird cakes to hang on the...


​​It's getting to be that time of year.  Cold, snowy and just a difficult time for our fine feathered friends outside.  I imagine it's hard for a bird to find food during winter with no plants blooming and no worms spending much time on the surface of the ground.  Having snow on the ground would make it even harder.  This is why I always keep my bird feeders full during cold weather.  When I have time, I even make little bird cakes to hang on the trees.  They love them and the fat they are made with helps keep the birds plump and well insulated from the cold.  I have four recipes that I like to use to make my bird cakes.  They are all easy and pretty quick to make.  Making them is a great family activity, perfect for the holidays.

​Many bird cake recipes call for suet.  If you don't know what suet is, it is basically fat.  When you trim the fat off a beef roast or the edge of a pork chop, that fat is suet.  If you don't have any solid meat fat to use, you can use bacon grease or even shortening like Crisco.   What you need is some type of fat that you can melt to a liquid form and then when chilled, it will harden to keep the other ingredients together for the birds to peck.  


My Four Favorite Bird Cake Recipes

Bird Delight

In a saucepan over low heat, melt the suet
Add all the other ingredients and stir to mix
Spoon into large paper cups or muffin tins and insert a drinking straw through the middle to make a hole for the string
Cool in the refrigerator until solid, peel away the paper cups and pull out the straw
Slip the string in the hole tie to a tree branch or bird feeder
Bird Bread
  • 2 cups melted creamy peanut butter
  • 2 cups cornmeal or stale dry cereal blended into crumbs
  • Warm water
  • 3 cups wild birdseed
  • 1/2 cup raisins and chopped peanuts

Soak raisins in warm water to hydrate them
Slowly melt peanut butter, (can substitute bacon grease) over low heat. 
Add cornmeal or cereal crumbs. 
Add birdseed, raisins and peanuts and stir to mix
Slowly add enough warm water to form a stiff dough
Spread mixture on a greased cookie sheet about 1/2 inch thick and refrigerate overnight
Cut or break into pieces to tie to tree branches

Bird Muffins

Melt suet over low heat 
Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until mixed well
Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray and spoon in the mixture
Refrigerate overnight and tie to low hanging tree branches

Bird Balls
  • 1 cup suet
  • 2 cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup white or yellow cornmeal
  • 2 cups wild bird feed with sunflower seeds

In a saucepan on low heat, place suet, peanut butter, and molasses and melt together
Add oatmeal, cornmeal and bacon grease and stir till mixed
Add birdseed a little at a time while stirring until you get the proper consistency to make balls
Make 2 inch balls and freeze for a couple hours.
These balls can be tossed on the ground or placed in a feeder

If you don't have time or ingredients to make bird cakes, you can still help your birds by feeding them left over food.  Below is a list of foods that it is safe to feed birds.

Apple slices
Banana
Cooked rice
Chopped cooked pasta
Shredded hard cheese
Roasted melon, pumpkin or squash seeds
Cereal (low sugar is better)
Crackers (unsalted is better)
Dry dog or cat food
Unsalted nuts
Berries
Uncooked oatmeal
Bread and Cornbread
Cake, cookies and doughnuts  (small amounts)

These are just a few things that you can feed birds, however, if you are thinking of feeding something to your backyard birds, it is a good idea to Google it and make sure it is ok 
because somethings are not recommended, like raw tomatoes or mushrooms.

​This picture to the right is what is called a suet feeder.  Instead of tying your bird cakes to tree branches you can put them in this feeder and hang them anywhere you have birds.  You can also put fruit slices or bread in them for the birds to eat.  They just hang on the wires and peck! 

​I hope you have a great week!


Jade    :)


After Halloween Trifle

​If you are like many households, you are drowning in candy after Halloween.  Whether it's from your children's haul or left overs because you bought to much or didn't have many kids, you look at all that chocolate and think "what am I going to do with all this?" Well, I have a great idea for what you can do with all that chocolate candy, though I have to confess, it's NOT any less fattening, it's creative, pretty and really delicious!​ ​I...


If you are like many households, you are drowning in candy after Halloween.  Whether it's from your children's haul or left overs because you bought to much or didn't have many kids, you look at all that chocolate and think "what am I going to do with all this?" Well, I have a great idea for what you can do with all that chocolate candy, though I have to confess, it's NOT any less fattening, it's creative, pretty and really delicious!

​I have to apologize for not having a picture of this After Halloween Trifle.  Much to my sorrow, I could not make one this year.  The reason?  We live out in the country and don't have any trick or treaters, so we don't buy any candy.  We don't have any kids living here whose candy we could raid!  Last but not least, my husband is diabetic and if he even looked at this dessert, he would probably go into a diabetic coma.  I'm just kidding, but it is the truth that he could not eat this without bad consequences, so me making it is pretty much out.  But!  Just because I can't make it does not meant that you can't!  The picture above shows a trifle just like what you will make except their is no candy in it.  The directions are easy, let's begin......

​First of all, I always made this trifle with caramel pudding, which is pretty hard to find in the store, so I have included a recipe to make it from scratch.  If you aren't fond of caramel, you can use whatever flavor pudding you like.  Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, banana, even butterscotch, all would be delicious, so go with what you like.  For whipped cream, I use cool whip because it is easier that whipping up the real kind.  You could also use a can of ReddiWhip.  Nothing about this recipe is carved in stone, you decide what kind of whipped cream you prefer.  I am not including a recipe for brownies because I am sure you all have one already, or you can use a box mix or even buy them at a bakery.  How much or little effort you want to put forth for the ingredients is strictly up to you.  I remember in my younger days I was usually pretty exhausted the day after Halloween, so this recipe is perfect!

​Day After Halloween Trifle

Ingredients:
  • 9 x 13 pan of brownies 
  • 3 cups of whipped cream
  • 3 cups of caramel pudding (or the flavor of your choice)
  • 3.5 cups of cut up chilled candy bars, peanut butter cups and M&Ms
​Directions:

In a large glass bowl, take 1/3 of the brownies and break them into 2 x 2 inch pieces and place them in the bottom of the bowl
Take 1/3 of the pudding and spoon it evenly over the brownies
Sprinkle 1 cup of the chopped candy over the pudding
Cover the candy with a layer of whipped cream
Begin the next layer with the second 1/3 of the brownies and keep stacking layers until you get three complete layers
Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup of chopped candy on top as a garnish

I chill mine for at least 2 or 3 hours before serving.  Don't make it too far in advance of serving because the brownies will soak up the pudding and whipped cream moisture and get soggy.  

​This is my favorite trifle bowl.  The great thing about it is that you can use it for so much more!  It is great for large salads like taco salad, pasta salad, green salad or 7 layer salad.  I also use mine for fruit salad!

​Caramel Pudding Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6 cups milk
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1-1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons butter
 ​Directions:

Set butter out to knock off the chill
Scald milk in a large pot  (if you don't know how, check out this short 2 minute video)
In a medium bowl beat eggs until whites and yolks are blended
Add both sugars and 1.5 cups of the scaulded milk and whisk to blend
Slowly pour this mixture into the pot with the rest of the scaulded milk
Over medium heat, stir mixture about 15 minutes or until thickened to your preference
Remove pot from stove, pour in vanilla while stirring and then add butter
Continue to stir until pudding is cooled to room temperature.


I hope you enjoy your Halloween Trifle, I envy you and wish I could have some!  Have a great week!

Jade    :)


How to Make Sour Cream and Buttermilk

​Everyone that cooks has had that moment when you are making a dish and realize that you don't have one of the ingredients.  You have two choices:  pack yourself off to the store and get it (not a great choice for me as the closest grocery store is at least 10 miles away) or you can try to make due with a substitute, not knowing how it will make your dish turn out or taste.  Neither solution is ideal.  What if I told you that sometimes there is a third option?That third...

Picture

​Everyone that cooks has had that moment when you are making a dish and realize that you don't have one of the ingredients.  You have two choices:  pack yourself off to the store and get it (not a great choice for me as the closest grocery store is at least 10 miles away) or you can try to make due with a substitute, not knowing how it will make your dish turn out or taste.  Neither solution is ideal.  What if I told you that sometimes there is a third option?


That third option is to make it yourself.  We have actually made quite a few posts on this blog on making items from scratch.  Here are a few:

So today I have decided to add a couple more items to that list.  The biggest reason for this is that I have a hard time keeping sour cream and buttermilk in the fridge on a regular basis.  To be honest, I just don't use either of them that often, so when I buy them they usually spoil before the containers are empty.  I hate when that happens!  So I learned how to make them, so I can do that, when I need them for a recipe.
How to Make Sour Cream
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup half and half  (use heavy cream if you prefer thick sour cream)
  • 3 tablespoons of buttermilk

Directions:

Stir the two together and pour into a mason jar 
Drape a paper towel or thick weave cotton over the top
Screw on the ring only and leave it on the counter at room temperature for 36 to 48 hours

I know what you are saying:  The cream will spoil if you leave it unrefrigerated!  Normally you would be right, but in this case, the acid in the buttermilk will stop any bateria from forming and causing the cream to spoil.  However, once you get the sour cream the consistency you want, you should put it in the refrigerator, to stop the processing.  I warn you, though, since it has no preservatives, it will only last for about a week in the refrigerator before it will spoil for real!

How to Make Buttermilk
Buttermilk is a common ingredient in older cake and other baked goods recipes.  If you are like me, you don't keep buttermilk on hand, so when you need it for a recipe, you have none!  Never fear, you can make your own.  Here's how:
Ingredients:
Directions:

Mix the ingredients together and set out on the counter for about 10 minutes until it thickens a bit.
It is ready to use.

It is not identical to the store bought kind but it is very close and in cooking it works exactly the same.  Buttermilk is just milk that is slightly fermented.  It will keep in the fridge for about a week.
​​
I hope this helps you all out when you get in a pinch for something you don't have.  Have a great week!

Jade    :)

Image:  https://www.flickr.com/search/license=4%2C5%2C9%2C10&advanced=1&media=photos&text=homemade%20sour%20cream 


Cheesecloth Ghosts and Spooky Shirts

​I love making Halloween decorations!  I have to force myself not to make them the whole month of October, because if I did that, I would have to start renting a storage space just to house them!  That being the case, I have to carefully choose only the coolest crafts to make, and this one definitely qualifies.  I saw this on You Tube and I immediately knew I had to do it.  The ghosts are adorable to sit or to hang!  The shirts are really spooky and great to sit in...

Picture

​I love making Halloween decorations!  I have to force myself not to make them the whole month of October, because if I did that, I would have to start renting a storage space just to house them!  That being the case, I have to carefully choose only the coolest crafts to make, and this one definitely qualifies.  I saw this on You Tube and I immediately knew I had to do it.  The ghosts are adorable to sit or to hang!  The shirts are really spooky and great to sit in the corner of any room.  This is how to make them.....


​Both of these items are basically made in the same way, by stiffening fabric.  Stiffening your ghost or shirt can be accomplished several different ways.  You can buy a stiffening 
agent, or you can make one.  If you want to buy your materials, I recommend any of these, they all do a good job.

However, if you want to make your own stiffener, it is a lot cheaper and not at all difficult.  It can be made two ways, with cornstarch or with glue.  Both work equally well.

How to Make the Stiffener
Cornstarch Stiffener

Ingredients:


Whisk and microwave in 30 second increments up to two minutes until thickened.
Glue Stiffener

Ingredients:


Stir until well mixed and you are ready to go!
Below are a couple of great videos showing methods of making really cute ghosts.

Spooky Shirts

Picture

The method of making spooky shirts is a bit more complex.....well, more messy at least, but it can also be fun!  You just take the shirt that you want to use, soak it in the stiffener and put it on.  Well, it is better if you either don't wear anything under it or woment can wear a smooth sports bra.  Once you have the wet shirt on, smooth it down and you can either let it dry naturally or I used a hair dryer to speed up the process.  Either way, you will be wearing it for a while, so make sure that you are not allergic to any of the stiffening ingredients.  

Once it is dry, peel it off and set it somewhere to finish hardening and jump in the shower to wash off the stiffening agent.  Let the shirt stand and dry for at least 24 hours.  When it is fully dry, you can set it on a small lamp (leave the shade on to prevernt fires) or you can stuff the inside with Christmas style strings of lights. You can get strings of lights in all kinds of Halloweeny colors like orange, green or purple. Either a lamp or the light strings will illuminate your spooky shirt and make it look cool!

I hope you enjoyed today's tutorial and have decided to make some of these cool decorations for your house this Halloween!

Jade    :)


Image Credits:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tt4AzqkiM7w
https://www.flickr.com/photos/pauliina/3480343371/sizes/l



6 Ways to Say Good Bye to Summer

Say Goodbye to Summer and Have Fun Doing It! ​I know it seems hard to believe but summer is coming to a close. The long, hot, lazy days have already gone bye bye for many people and the cooler temperatures are taking over more and more frequently. Autumn is arriving and even though that is exciting, have you said good bye to summer?​ How can you say good bye? Here are 6 fun things you can do, before the leaves begin to fall. Notice I said FUN....

Say Goodbye to Summer and Have Fun Doing It!

I know it seems hard to believe but summer is coming to a close. The long, hot, lazy days have already gone bye bye for many people and the cooler temperatures are taking over more and more frequently. Autumn is arriving and even though that is exciting, have you said good bye to summer?


How can you say good bye? Here are 6 fun things you can do, before the leaves begin to fall. Notice I said FUN. This list does not include chores!

1. Do your morning (or evening) exercise routine outside on your exercise mat. Enjoy the smells and sounds of the season.

2. Eat watermelon in the backyard with your kids and their friends. Remember eating watermelon when you were a kid?

3. Play outside with your kids after supper. Soon it will be dark by suppertime.

4. Pick the rest of your vegetables from your garden and make Summers End Soup for dinner. It's easy to make:
  •     6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  •     vegetables from your garden
  •     1 teaspoon garlic powder or fresh grated garlic if you grow it
  •     1/2 teaspoon basil
  •     1/2 teaspoon thyme
  •     a handful of pasta or rice whichever you prefer
  •     Put everything but the pasta or rice in a big soup pot and bring to a boil
  •     Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes
  •     Toss in pasta or rice and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until pasta or rice is done
  •     Serve with bread sticks or crackers and fruit
If you don't have a garden this year, visit a farmers market and pick up some veggies for your soup. Any vegetables you like will work like potatoes, onions, celery, carrots, peppers.  Whatever you love! 

​The farmer will appreciate the business and your family will appreciate the soup!

​5. Go the the lake or beach, one last time. Even if it is too chilly to swim, take off your shoes and walk along the shore in the water. Collect pretty rocks or shells. Say goodbye to 
the water until next year.
Picture

​6. Have a summers end BBQ. Cook and eat outside (even if you have to wear sweaters) Enjoy the company of friends in the outdoors. Don't forget the 
s'mores!

What would you add to this list of end of summer activities?  How do you say goodbye?

Jade    :)

Images:  ​https://www.flickr.com/photos/kstatelibrarian/4020352074/sizes/z/


How to Make A Magic Eraser Type Sponge

If you have ever tried a Magic Eraser Sponge, I bet you were amazed.  I know I was.  At our old house (before we moved to our homestead) we had a shower enclosure in the second bathroom. The bottom of it was always dirty from my husband showering after work.  He is a diesel mechanic and many times he arrives home quite black, and it seems that most of that black ends up on the shower floor.  I tried so many things to clean it and it just took old fashioned elbow...

If you have ever tried a Magic Eraser Sponge, I bet you were amazed.  I know I was.  At our old house (before we moved to our homestead) we had a shower enclosure in the second bathroom. The bottom of it was always dirty from my husband showering after work.  He is a diesel mechanic and many times he arrives home quite black, and it seems that most of that black ends up on the shower floor.  I tried so many things to clean it and it just took old fashioned elbow grease to scour it off.  The older it got, the harder it became to get clean.  That is, until I tried a Magic Eraser!
 
It still took a bit of elbow grease, but it came clean with what I would call a minimum effort.  It was pretty awesome.  The only bad thing about it was the cost.  Magic Erasers are like $1 each or more; not cheap considering they are only good for one use.  Actually I used at least two for the shower floor.  It irked me that they were so expensive, so I decided to do some investigation and see if there was a way to make them myself.
I found out that Magic Erasers and other products like them are made from a certain type of foam called Melamine foam.  It looks like any other sponge but it is really much more dense.  At the microscopic level, Melamine resin is cured into foam and it becomes very hard, but it is still pliable because of it's open cell structure.  It almost performs like super fine grit sandpaper.  It makes quick work of stains, but it also means it can damage some shiny surfaces.
Magic Eraser type sponges should never be used on wood.  Because it's surface has scratchy threads, it will damage wood surfaces by scratching off the clear coat and damaging the wood underneath.  The same goes for glossy paint, it can be dulled and scratched if scrubbed with these type of sponges.  I would not recommend use on appliances, either.  Stainless steel or the new dark gray or black appliances are especially susceptable to scratch damage or worn spots in the finish.  I would also recommend caution if you have a really shiny countertop, like granite.  You can damage the finish, if you are not very careful.  Alway take care to try a test spot on any surface you are not sure about.  Better to be safe than sorry!
To make your own Magic Erasers, you will need to buy some Melamine sponges.  I found them very reasonably priced on Amazon, at 100 pieces for less than $8.00.
While Mr. Clean claims they do not put any cleaners in their Erasers, I put a mild soap in mine.  I think it helps clean better and you don't have to use so much energy scrubbing.

 There are two ways you can use the cleaner:

  1. Soak your sponge in it before using
  2. Make the cleaner and keep it in a spray bottle and spray it on the sponge before using

​I prefer to soak mine, the amount below is perfect for a one time use.  I just make it and put it in a bowl and then drop the sponge in and let it absorb the cleaner.  Wring it out and you are good to go.


​Ingredients:


That's all I have for today, have a great weekend, and don't forget to check out our new recipe blog:  Jade's Homemade Recipes

Jade    :)

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