Thursday, October 21, 2010

Italian Crock Pot Chicken

Italian Crock Pot Chicken
It's autumn, the time of year when I start craving richly flavored slow cooked foods.  I wanted an Italian chicken dinner and daydreamed about a recipe I used to make a very long time ago, which contained stewed tomatoes, onions, garlic powder and chicken.  You plopped the chicken breast on a piece of foil, added the veggies, closed it up and baked it.  It was yummy, but didn't make enough sauce; and the 45 minute baking time seemed interminable after a long day at work.  I had a baby eggplant and some sliced cremini (baby portabella) mushrooms that needed to be used up.  Here's what I came up with:

The Ingredients
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut in 1/2" cubes (about 1 1/2 cups), optional
1 medium onion, sliced in half moons
1 rib celery, thinly sliced
1/2 large carrot, sliced in half moons
1/2 cup coarsely chopped crimini mushrooms
4 cloves garlic*, minced
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, still frozen
1 pint home canned tomato chunks or a 14 -16 oz can
1 (15 oz.) can tomato sauce
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 Tablespoon Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon garlic powder*
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 stem fresh rosemary
*we really like garlic!  Feel free to reduce the quantities.

Spray the slow cooker with non-stick.  Place onions, carrot, celery, mushrooms and eggplant (if using) in the bottom of the slow cooker.  Place chicken breasts (still frozen) on top of the veggies.

In a bowl, combine tomato paste, tomatoes and their juice, tomato sauce, chopped garlic, garlic powder, spices and vinegar.  Pour over chicken.  Place rosemary stem on top.

Cook on High 4-6 hours, propping the lid open with a toothpick the last hour, to help thicken the sauce.
Serve over hot cooked spaghetti with slabs of fresh, buttered bread.

The aroma was mouth-watering!

The eggplant gives a slight cinnamony flavor when it cooks with tomatoes, which I LOVE and my husband tolerates.  The next time I make this, I will leave out the eggplant.

I was delighted at how well this turned out.  The chicken wasn't dry, because it goes in frozen on top of the veggies.  Bone in chicken would be even juicier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Think back to the last really good deal you got on laundry detergent.  How much did you pay for it?  Did you pay more than .29 a gallon?  I make my own laundry detergent, it cleans great and deodorizes - just like the stuff you buy in the store.  But, it costs 29 cents a gallon

Interested?  Here's how I do it:

The ingredients
That big chunk of soap was made by my lovely mother-in-law, Anna.  I have at least 5# left.  It keeps forever as long as you keep it dry.  You can buy Fels Naptha, which is the same thing.   I found the 20 Mule Team Borax and the Arm & Hammer Washing Soda in the laundry detergent aisle in the grocery store.  The Fels-Naptha can often be found there or at the hardware store.

Your initial investment will be around $12.00 and will make a LOT of detergent.  This recipe will yield 2.5 gallons of liquid detergent.

Here's the math:
Fels Naptha Bar Soap  $1.75  makes 3.5 recipes  .19 per gallon
Washing Soda $4.95 makes 27.5 recipes .07 per gallon
Borax  $4.99  makes 76 recipes .03 per gallon
Save up some old laundry detergent or screw top milk bottles.

Use a box grater to grate 1.5 ounces of bar soap (not bath soap).  Put a cup of water in a very large stainless steel pot and add the grated soap.  Stir with a non-wooden spoon until the soap melts. 

Add 10 cups hot tap water, stir. 

Weigh out 2 ounces of washing soda onto a paper plate.  If there are any lumps, squish them out with your fingers.  Add to the pot, stir.  Weigh out 1 ounce of borax, remove lumps like before, add to the pot and stir.  Cook, stirring until both powders dissolve.

Add 10 additional cups of hot tap water and cook until it is all quite hot.  Cover, turn off the flame and leave undisturbed overnight.

 The next morning, there will be a thick layer of gel floating on top of liquid.  Whisk it very well until all gel particles are very, very small.

Look at your old laundry detergent bottles; how many ounces does the label say is inside?  You will fill your container with HALF that amount of water and the rest with the laundry detergent.  For best results, place the bottle in the sink and measure in the water and detergent with a measuring cup and funnel.  Adding the water first helps prevent foaming.  You want to be pretty accurate - too much water can affect how well the detergent works.

Testimonial:  I have been using this detergent for over a year now.  It's low sudsing and hasn't caused any problem with my front loading HE washer.  My whites get white and my pastels aren't muddy and my darks don't fade.  My clothes look great; they don't smell like anything but cloth. My husband doesn't smell like flowers and I don't smell like a pine forest. If you want scented detergent, you can add essential oil to the mixture. 

I don't use fabric softener, but you can fill your softener dispenser with white vinegar if your clothes are a little scratchy.
One recipe cost less than .72 and filled all these (the milk bottle is 1/3 full).
Here's the recipe in condensed form, which I adapted from The Dugger Family site:

Liquid Laundry Detergent
makes 2.5 gallons, 160 (1/4 cup) loads

1 cup hot tap water
1.5 ounces grated soap (Fel Naptha, Zote or homemade)
2 ounces washing soda
1 ounce borax
10 - 15 drops essential oil (optional, I don't use it)

  1. Put the hot water in a very large stainless steel pot.  Add the grated soap.  Stir continually over a medium-low flame until soap melts.
  2. Add 10 cups hot tap water.  Stir.
  3. Add washing soda and borax.  Cook and stir until the powders dissolve.
  4. If desired, add essential oil to scent the detergent.
  5. Add 10 cups additional hot water.
  6. Stir, cover and leave overnight to thicken.
  7. Whisk very well.
  8. Fill clean containers HALF full of water (measure it!); then fill with detergent (measure it).
  9. Shake container before each use, as it will gel.
Use 1/4 cup per load in front loading machines; 1/2 cup in top loading machines.

Remember, this is a low-suds detergent.  You will probably not see any suds.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

$51.02 in groceries for $11.85

 I got all the above (plus more) for $11.85!! 
 2 Hunts pasta sauce
5 lb. Gold Medal flour
2 pudding cups
12 oz.Gulden's mustard
12 Green Giant boxed frozen veggies
2 Pillsbury pie crusts
2 Pillbury crescent rolls
48 oz. Wesson canola oil
1 cake mix
The photo is missing the 12 oz. bottle of Gulden's mustard and the 48 oz. bottle of Wesson canola oil, which got put away by mistake before I could take the photo.

Jewel has a great General Mills deal going this month.  Purchase $25 of participating items, get $10 catalina for next trip. That term participating items fills me with dread.   It's very frustrating when I don't get a catalina because I chose the wrong item.  Something very minor in the wording on the box can make you think it's included, but it's not. Clicking around Jill Cataldo's site, I found a link  to a UPC list and took a look.  Turns out, there is a lot more included in the deal than is shown in the ad.  My goodness, pages and pages of items were available for this deal! I did a little copy and paste, printed it out (double sided, of course) and took it shopping.  I was able to check each item's UPC against the list and know it would count towards my $25 purchase.

Tomorrow, I will take those $5.00 coupons and buy more and get more groceries.  I don't know when this deal will end, but I have an upright freezer and we eat veggies every night.  Free veggies - woohoo!

We also visited Walgreens:

3 body wash for $4.00 total

2 shave gel for $2.00 total

2 Frizz Ease leave in conditioner for $6.19 total (sale price $6.79 BOGO1/2)
 Today my friendly deal finding bloggers have told me about some great deals for this week:
$ .29 Campbell soup
$1.00 Nivea body wash (for women)
FREE Nivea body wash (for men)
$ .51 CoffeeMate

FREE Mentos gum
$0.25 Duncan Hines cake mix

My favorite blogger, Jill Cataldo, won't have her deals listed until tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I'll check a few other spots.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Red Wine Hot Pepper Jelly

My husband harvested the remains of our garden this week.  Look at all those beautiful peppers!  My friends and family have been asking for my hot pepper jelly all summer.  It's very good on crackers with cream cheese, as a sauce for meats or as a sandwich spread.  For some reason, my pepper plants were very large, but didn't produce all that many peppers, just 2 or 3 a week.  Not enough to enjoy fresh and make jelly.  Well, now is the time! 

This jelly recipe is incredibly easy to make.  Start sterilizing your freshly washed jars, cut open the Certo pouch and place it upright in a mug - there won't be time for scissors when it's time to add the Certo. Chop the peppers finely,  (I use my food processor and pulse it), add them to a heavy pot along with sugar and red wine vinegar and bring to a boil.

Sterilize your jars. The water is 1" over the jar tops. The rack prevents breakage.

Starting to simmer, this is the time to taste for heat level.
 It will take a L-O-N-G time to come to a boil.  Keep stirring and DON'T walk away.  I opened a drawer next to the stove looking for a spoon rest.  I had a boil over.  We're talking lava surging over the sides of the pan.  I had to stop everything, pour out the drip tray, transfer the remains into a fresh pot and start heating it all over. That was after at least 30 minutes of wiping, rinsing the cloth, wiping, soaking the grates, wiping (you get the idea - learn from my mistakes).  I said it was easy to make, not idiot proof.  No, I didn't think to take a picture. 

When you can't stir down the boil, add crushed pepper flakes to taste.  Set your timer for 1 minute but don't press start yet.  Quickly squeeze in all the Certo and stir rapidly.  Start your timer.  Boil and stir until the timer goes off.  You can reduce the flame if it starts to foam up, but you want to keep it cooking as hot as possible for the entire time.

When the timer goes off, turn off the flame under the jelly and take your sterile jars from the canner.  Turn the heat up on the canner and cover it to get the water boiling while you fill the jars.  Add 6 lids to the canner. Jar lids can't be reused, so I wait to heat that last lid, in case I only get 6 jars.  Any last little bit goes in a plastic food storage container after it cools and into the fridge.

Ladle the hot jelly into hot jars.  A canning funnel will save you a lot of drips. Wipe the rims, add hot lids and rings. When the water in the canner is boiling rapidly, add the filled jars and process for 10 minutes.  Remove to towel lined heat-proof surface, cover with another towel and leave undisturbed at least 12 hours.  Then check for seal by pressing gently on each lid.  If a lid moves, you have a bad seal.  Refrigerate and use it.  It's safe to eat, just not shelf stable. Label the jars with contents and date. 

Here's the measurements:

Red Wine Hot Pepper Jelly
3/4 cup finely chopped hot peppers (I used 2 poblanos)
2 cup finely chopped bell pepper (I used 1 bell pepper plus 6 banana peppers)

1 1/2 cups red wine vinegar
6 1/2 cups granulated sugar

1 - 3 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes, optional
1 pouch liquid pectin (don't substitute dry pectin)

7 half pint canning jars
7 new jar lids
7 jar rings