Thursday, July 21, 2011

You Have to Check Out What I Got In the Mail!

Y'all, I was so excited when this package came in the mail yesterday.  Like, really, really excited.  Because this is what was inside.

Of course I was excited because it was a bona fide Kindle, but I was also over the moon because I bought it brand new for exactly $.06.  Yes, you read that right - six whopping cents!  And, I could've gotten it for free if I had been slightly more patient.  You wanna know how?  Ok, you can quit twisting my arm now.  I couldn't wait to spill the beans anyway. :0)

You're probably familiar with Swagbucks by now, but just in case you live on Jupiter or something - Swagbucks is a site that you can set as your homepage or download to your toolbar and you use it as a search engine just like you would Google or whatever your search engine of choice would be.  The difference is that Swagbucks rewards you for searching with them - in - wait for it...Swagbucks (SB).  You didn't see that coming did you?  You can also earn SB by taking a 10 second daily poll, watching short videos, taking advantage of special offers and a host of other options.  I mostly just use it as a search engine and take the daily polls and still earn enough SB to buy great stuff.  You can redeem your SB for a gazillion different doodads or gift cards.  I always redeem them for gift cards because I figure a gal can buy anything her little heart could desire on there.  Which leads me to my next tid bit for you...

Did you know that has a buy back program?  So does Swagbucks for that matter, but we're talking about now. They will buy back books, DVD's, and games and gaming consoles.  Seeing as how we're a homeschooling family, we have books coming out of our ears at the moment.  So, I did a check of all the ones we're ready to part with to see which titles were part of's buy back program.  It was really simple.  They have a detailed explanation on their site.  Anyway, I added the books I would be returning to my "cart" and when I was finished I simply had to print off the shipping label they provide (and pay for), box up the books, apply the shipping label, drop it off at a UPS drop center and wait for my credit.  I was surprised at how quickly they received my shipment and credited my account.  When I saw how easy that was I started pilfering through all those old DVD's that never get watched and sent them in, too.

Between my credit for Amazon's buy back program and the gift cards I was able to redeem through Swagbucks, I came up exactly $.06 short of being able to purchase my new Kindle.  I have more SB to redeem, but have to wait until August to do that, as you're only allowed to redeem 5 prizes per month through Swagbucks.  I figured $.06 wasn't worth waiting an entire month for just to be able to say that I got it for free.

So, if you're doing some summer clutter removing and have books, movies, and gaming consoles or games that are just sitting around collecting dust - you should really look into's buy back program.  It's way easier than having a yard sale. :0)

If you're not already using Swagbucks as your search engine, I would highly recommend it.  If you're searching anyway, why not get rewarded for it?  If you decide to look into it, I would be very grateful if you link through the Swagbucks banner on my left-hand column over there.  I'll get rewarded if you link up through my site.  And then, if you get people using Swagbucks, you'll be rewarded, too.  It's a win-win situation.


Friday, July 15, 2011

Tattler Reusable Canning Lid Review

I mentioned yesterday that I did my first round of canning for the season recently.  This canning session was a little different than most for me, though.  I had ordered some Tattler reusable canning lids.  The reusable canning lids are BPA free and consist of a flat white lid with a rubber ring that goes between it and the jar.  They have received great reviews and are supposed to be something that I can use for decades.  Y'all, buying lids every year can really crank the cost of canning up.  These are kind of pricey up front, but will be much more economical over time.

I had been anxiously awaiting my first go 'round with them.  I only ordered 3 dozen to begin with because I was unsure of how they would work for me.  I was a little uncertain about them having 2 pieces and not making the "pop" that assures me that they sealed properly.

I plunged head-first into canning my first seven quarts of green beans with the Tattler lids, following the the directions exactly.  Which, incidentally isn't any harder than using regular flats - unless you count the fact that the rings need to be tightened completely when they're pulled from the water after processing.  Big whoop.  I waited until the following morning to check and see if all of them sealed properly just to be on the safe side.

Happily, every single jar sealed like it was supposed to.  That was enough for me to be a convert.  I must say that I was really impressed with these and will be adding to my supply soon.  These truly were easy to use and I would highly recommend them.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Crispy Beans

My parents went on a trip this past weekend and my mom hit up the health food store before they left for some snacks to take in the car with them.  She told me about these crispy green beans that were so delicious.  They were baked until crunchy, sort of like a potato chip.  I asked her what was in them and she read me the ingredient list that included canola oil, salt and a handful of other ingredients I didn't recognize.  I told her I bet I could make them.

As things would turn out, a couple of days later I spent all morning picking green beans in our garden.  I canned all of our blue lakes, but I had a bunch of the hericots verts that I didn't feel like cooking for supper and didn't have everything I needed to pickle them.  Then I remembered my mom's crispy beans. I figured I would take a shot at recreating the health food store version that my mom picked up.  I am SO glad I did.  I think we have a new favorite in our house - and they couldn't be easier.

Crispy Beans

fresh green beans (I think a slender bean would turn out best, but haven't tried the thicker variety.)
olive oil
salt (I used sea salt.)

Snap the ends off of the beans and give them a good rinse and dry.  Place them in a bowl and drizzle with enough olive oil to cover.  Toss to coat.  Lay on a cookie sheet or two, depending on how many beans you have.  Sprinkle with salt.  Place them in a 200 degree oven until no longer chewy, but crispy.  This will take about 6 - 8 hours.  The key to these beans is to cook them low and slow to basically dehydrate them without burning them.  The best way to go about this would be to stick them in the oven in the morning and let them cook all day - or stick them in the oven before bed and let them cook all night.  Don't let the length of time in the oven keep you from trying these.  The temp is extremely low and you don't even have to flip them over.

The nice thing about these crispy beans are that they only have 3 ingredients, no preservatives and your kids will love them.  I don't know about you, but I would much rather see my kiddo reaching for a green bean than a gold fish.  These are ridiculously inexpensive (especially if you have a garden) and take all of 5 minutes to prepare.  Once they're in the oven you barely have to think about them.

Just a word of caution though, these are very addicting.  They didn't stick around long at our house.  I've made 2 batches of these, so far, upon request.  Have I ever mentioned how much I love having a garden?  :0)


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Homemade Granola

In the interest of cleaning up our diet and eliminating processed foods from our house I made the decision to stop buying boxed breakfast cereal.  We've been without it for about a month now.  I'm also into simplifying at this point and cooking three times a day doesn't quite fit that bill either.  So what's a gal to do? Well...I've found a solution that is really working for us right now.

Enter, homemade granola.  This stuff is great.  Not only is it a much better option nutritionally, but it's very versatile.  We eat it as a cold cereal with milk, straight as a snack, as an ice cream topping, on yogurt, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.  :0)

One batch makes about a gallon of granola so it lasts quite a while.  The beauty of this basic recipe is that you can tailor it to suite your taste buds - or at least what you have on hand.  You can switch up the variety of fruits, nuts and spices.  You can also use gluten free oats or eliminate them all together if you're on a grain free diet.  So, what are we waiting for?  Let's make granola!

2 c. almonds
2 c. walnuts
2 c. oats
2 c. coconut
1 c. sunflower seeds
1 1/2 c. dried fruit
1/2 c. ground flax seeds (optional)
1 T. cinnamon

1 stick butter, coconut oil, or combination of the two
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. honey
1 T. vanilla

In a food processor, take turns chopping the almonds and walnuts.  There will be larger pieces and smaller, powdery pieces. This is fine.  Dump them in a large bowl then add the next 6 ingredients, stirring it all together.  I used dried cranberries, in case you care.

In the meantime, melt butter, brown sugar and honey over med-low heat in a sauce pan.

Once it's all melted, stir in vanilla and pour over the dry ingredients.  Stir very well.  Then, spread the granola mixture onto two greased cookie sheets.

Bake in a pre-heated 300 degree oven for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  It's done when you can smell the nuts roasting and it has turned a pretty golden brown.

Place this into your storage bags or containers while it's still slightly warm.  I used to store this in empty oat containers.  Then, I found my new faves - 1/2 gallon canning jars.  Can I just say I love these things? They have been in use non-stop for everything from granola to tea every since I bought them.  Bunny trail...I couldn't find them at Walmart, Meijer or any other places that I would expect to find them in the canning aisle of various stores.  I found them at my local True Value Hardware Store.  Incidentally, my True Value has the best selection of canning supplies anywhere.  Now back to our regularly scheduled programming...Now all that's left is to enjoy.  Let's look at the finished granola in my new fave 1/2 gallon canning jars one more time, shall we?

Purdy, ain't it?

All right.  That's all folks!


I'm linking this post to These Chicks Cooked.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Updated Cilantro Sauce with Pictures

This is just a short notice to let you know that I updated the post for cilantro sauce and included photos of the process.  It's quite simple and now you can see that for yourself.


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Freezin' Nanners

Do you ever have bananas get too ripe on you and wonder what to do with them?  Sometimes I'll make banana bread with them if I've got the time.  But, I don't usually have the time.  I had heard that you can freeze them and then use them for smoothies or what-not.  So, I tried it.  I found out that you just can't peel a frozen banana.  Light bulb moment!  Peel them first.

Stick those peeled nanners in a bag and throw 'em in the freezer and they'll be ready for you when you want to make those smoothies.  I suspect you could even use 'em for banana bread.  No peeling' required.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

First Fruits and a Couple of Recipes

My garden a couple of weeks ago.

This year we discovered the beauty of laying hay down in our garden.  It has made an enormous difference a number of areas.  It has cut the weeding back to a very manageable amount, not to mention that the plants are healthier than ever and absolutely thriving this year.  There is one added surprise to the addition of the hay in the garden - we seem to have a family of mourning doves nesting in there.  But, that's not the point of this post...

We planted two types of green beans this year - Blue Lake and the French green bean, Haricot Verts.  The Hericot Verts are evidently prolific producers and I was able to pick the first of them today.  There was enough for dinner plus left-overs.  These are super fast and easy to make using a recipe I got off of an old video from "The French Chef", Julia Child's PBS television show.  I rented the videos from the library and they were so old that they were in black and white.  Man, oh, man, did they have some great recipes on them, though!

Hericot Verts
Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil.  Add hericot verts (fresh or frozen) and boil for about 3 minutes until bright green and crisp-tender.  Drain and run under cold water to stop the cooking process. Put beans back into warm stock pot to dry the water off of them.  Add about a tablespoon of butter and shake to melt and coat the beans.  Then add lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.  That's it.  Easy peasy.

We also have zucchini and crookneck squash growing.  I harvested one veggie of each and whipped up one of our (many) favorite squash dishes.

Sauteed Summer Squash
Thinly slice 1 zucchini and 1 squash.  Finely chop 1 onion and 1 clove of garlic.  Pour a little olive oil (1 or 2 tablespoons) into a skillet on medium heat.  Add vegetables and toss occasionally until they are tender.  Season to taste with sea salt and Nature's Seasoning.  Super simple.  Great flavor.

Hericot Verts, sauteed summer squash, pasta salad and twice-baked potatoes

There is nothing quite like walking out into your own back yard and plucking dinner straight from the vines.  It is truly one of life's greatest luxuries.  The flavor and freshness absolutely cannot be bought.  And the reassurance that there are no harmful chemicals added to the food we're eating gives me great peace of mind.  I'm so thankful to finally have a slice of land to be able to grow our own food on.  I've got a lot of wonderful harvesting ahead of me this season and I couldn't be happier about that!