Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Homemade Limoncello

If you have never had limoncello, you don't know what you are missing! Limoncello is an Italian lemon liquor that is traditionally sipped after dinner. Served chilled, it is the perfect way to finish a delicious meal.
It can be hard to find in stores, so we were so delighted to find out how easy it is to make it at home!




Limoncello is made by steeping lemon zest in grain alcohol - Everclear. The lemon infused alcohol is then mixed with simple syrup, and then chilled! In some states or counties you can't buy Everclear. If you can't buy it in your area, you can substitute vodka.
We found this recipe and lots of tips for making limoncello at limoncelloquest.com - an entire site dedicated to limoncello!




The Recipe:
1 750 ml bottle of Everclear
8-10 medium size lemons
2 1/2 cups of water
1 3/4 cups of sugar
You will also need a glass container to age the lemons and Everclear. We like using an old apple sauce jar. You will also need bottles to store the finished limoncello. You can buy new bottles, or save your Everclear and other wine bottles.




When choosing lemons you want to use organic if possible. They won't have wax and pesticides on the peel. If you can't, make sure you wash them very well! You also want lemons that have beautiful flawless peels.




Now it is time to zest the lemons. You can use whatever method you prefer - peeler, knife or micro plane. You just want to make sure you get NO pith (white part of the peel) into the limoncello. It will make the limoncello bitter.




Put the zest in your glass jar, pour the Everclear over the top, and close the lid.
Now for the really hard part. You have to WAIT - something that us Mamas are not good at. In the recipe that we used, they recomend waiting 45 days. We have never been able to wait that long We try to wait at least a week. Apparently it makes the drink smoother if you wait. There are many recipes out there on the web, and some have you only waiting 4 days. Maybe one of these days we'll find a little patience and wait the full 45 days.
The peels will lose their color and get hard and crispy.




Our pantry is full of all sorts of things waiting and brewing. Label everything. You don't want to mix the Homemade Enzyme Cleaner with the lemoncello!




Finally it's time to make the limoncello!
You are going to add simple syrup to the alcohol mixture. Mix the sugar and water in a pan. Stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Let the sugar completely cool!




While it is cooling, you can strain the the zest into another pitcher. Discard the peels and then pour the liquid back into the jar. Strain the liquid again using a coffee filter. (When we peeled our lemons with a vegetable peeler, we didn't need to use the coffee filter).
After the syrup is cool, add it to the lemon liquid.




Pour the limoncello into two clean bottles. Again, our recipe says you should let this age another 45 days. We don't, we just stick one bottle in the freezer and one in the pantry. When the bottle in the freezer is completely cold (it won't freeze) it will be ready to serve. (Don't drink it warm! Yuck!)
Most people serve it in chilled glasses with no ice. Some like it over ice. We have also heard it is delicious over vanilla ice cream.




If you enjoy the limoncello, you can also try making other citrus flavors. We have made orangecello (delicious!) and as you can see we are now making limecello.




Even the kids like it when we make limoncello. They know it means lemon-squares and homemade lemonade!

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Tin Can Cakes: The Epic Struggle


Sometimes we see a project and think, "That's so cool and crafty! We have to try it!" But sometimes, we see a craft and think, "That's kinda goofy... We have to try that!" So it went with our Tin Can Cakes.

We saw the picture below floating around Pinterest and thought it was soooo cute!Ok, so rummaging around the recycling bin to do a little baking may be a little odd, but after a little research we realized that other, more talented bakers use this technique when building sculptural cakes to make things like tree trunks and castle towers. For us, it was more a matter of, "Can you really bake a cake in a tin can? Really??" Turns out you can!

What You Need:
  • Clean, dry tin cans, labels removed
  • Flour
  • Cooking spray
  • Cake batter

We'll start by warning you that our attempt at Tin Can Cakes did not turn out as picture-perfect as the ones that had originally inspired us. But we decided it was better to be honest in our posting and maybe someone can learn from our mistakes. Or at least have a good laugh!

First, preheat your oven to 350 (or whatever your cake batter recipe calls for). Then spray your cans with the cooking spray and then coat the insides with flour. Place them on a cookie sheet. We decided to only make two cakes in cans and used the leftover batter for cupcakes.

Fill your cans no more than halfway full with batter. We did ours about 3/4 full. Mistake #1...

Pop your tray into the oven . The original recipe said to let them bake 15 minutes. We started checking on ours after about 20 minutes, but they weren't fully set and done until about 45 minutes. When they were finally done we realized that perhaps we filled our cans a wee bit too much.

Once they were done a toothpick inserted came out clean, pull the tray out of the oven. Let them sit in their cans for at least 10 minutes, if not more. We didn't wait that long... Mistake #2 (more on that in a minute). After you let them sit, run a butter knife around the edge of the first can - the cake should then slide out pretty easily. As we mentioned before, we didn't wait long enough and our first cake was still too hot and wouldn't stand up. The second one did much better!

So there you have it: our adventure with tin can baking. They may not be pretty but we had a lot of fun! The moral of the story is "When life hands you ugly, falling over tin can cakes, slather them in frosting...."

"...and let the family tear into them!"

In the words of 6-year-old Jack: "A Masterpiece!"


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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Homemade Liquid Soap

Rebecca has been having trouble with her computer, so we are going to try posting today with the iPad app for blogger. We'll see how it goes.
We got this great idea from One Good Thing By Jillee- she has fabulous projects! She used this simple idea of turning inexpensive bar soap into liquid soap.
As you know, liquid soap is so much more expensive than bar soap. When you buy liquid soap, you are really just paying for water. We took a 3 pack of Ivory soap, and made 48 oz of liquid soap. It cost us $1.18 to make verses $6.99 to buy a 48 oz refill bottle of Ivory hand soap.
What you need:
3 bars of soap
6 cups of water - you can add more or less if you find you don't like the consistency.
Grate the soap with a cheese grater. Heat soap and water over medium high heat. Stir until soap all dissolves. Pour into a glass jar or bowl and allow to cool. After about 24 hours it will thicken to the right consistency. Fill your liquid soap dispensers and store the rest in a covered container.

**Update**

We had one batch that we didn't stir as much as it cooled. It set in two layers - one liquid and one solid. We put it in the blender and pulsed for a few seconds. The batch turned out perfect!



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Monday, February 20, 2012

Refrigerator Reminders


Our husbands are great! They help with the kids, cooking, and housework (yeah, we're lucky gals!). But sometimes they need a little help remembering the "Honey-Do" lists we give them, or they "magically" get misplaced. So we decided to help them out by turning an ordinary picture frame into a dry erase board. But where to put it? We realized that it needed to be some place the menfolk can't miss it: The Fridge! Here's how we did it!

What You Need:
  • Picture frame
  • Paint (and possibly primer)
  • Magnets
  • Glue Gun

Our picture frame was a great deal, but it was not the most attractive one in the world. So we first sprayed it with a coat of primer. Don't forget to take the glass out before you start painting!

And once that dried, we chose to spray paint it with this sassy Paprika color (the same color we used on our Recycled Wall Art).

When it's dry, flip it over, remove the stand that's attached to the back. Then hot glue your magnets to the back, being sure to keep them clear of the little door in the back in case you want to change up the any paper or fabric you might put inside. Our frame turned out to be heavier than we thought, so we had to use quite a few magnets to hold it up!

Replace the glass, flip it over, and stick it to the fridge! Now your new dry erase board is ready for "Honey-Do's"....

and "I Love You's"!



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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Agghhh!!! Water Rings!

Unfortunately this happens all to often (especially if you have children or friends who haven't heard of coasters). You move a hot or cold drink only to find a big ugly water mark on your wooden table. Ughhh! Rebecca found this guy on her coffee table and thought the table was ruined. She tried a trick that had worked in the past, olive oil rubbed over the stain. Nothing. Homemade Nana suggested mayo on it. Nothing. Auntie said she had heard that regular toothpaste would remove a water ring. Again nothing! So we started scouring the internet and found howtogetridofstuff.com . They suggested using a hair dryer or an iron to get rid of water rings. Could that work here? We gave it a try.





We used a blow dryer on high. We held it fairly close to the stain. Slowly it stared disappearing! YEA!!!!


After about 20 minutes the stain was almost completely gone. We put a little olive oil on it to moisturize the wood. The results were amazing!!



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Monday, February 13, 2012

Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries


Valentine's Day is tomorrow and many of us still need to find the perfect sweet little something to complete our romantic plans. We think we found the perfect treat when we came across this idea from The Sweets Life for Cheesecake-Stuffed Strawberries. They are not only quick and easy to prepare (they can even be made in advance!) but will definitely impress your valentine!

What You Need:
  • 1 lb. strawberries, washed and dried
  • 1 (8 oz) pkg. cream cheese
  • 3-4 Tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • graham cracker crumbs
  • piping bag (or a plastic bag with the corner snipped off)

First slice the green tops off your strawberries. If they are not already hollow, clean out the insides a bit.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla.

Fill your piping bag (or plastic bag) with the cheese mixture and fill each strawberry.

At this point you can cover them up and pop them in the fridge until you are ready to serve! Once it's time for dessert, pull them out and sprinkle with the graham cracker crumbs! Yummmm! Sorry! Had to take this last pic with a phone!

The perfect little Valentine's Day dessert!

Happy Valentine's Day!



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Thursday, February 9, 2012

Got Milk? Make Plastic!

Rebecca's boys made her this sweet Valentine's Day necklace out of
milk! Not only was this lots of fun to make, it was also very educational! This process turns milk into a mailable solid that will dry very hard. All you need is milk and a little vinegar. Jonah thought it was so cool, he plans on using this for his upcoming science fair.


We made one pendent and used 1 cup of skim milk. If you wanted to make a larger project you would need to use more milk. The one cup made about 1 1/2 tablespoon of "plastic".


What you need:




  • skim milk


  • vinegar


For every cup of milk you will need 1 tablespoon of vinegar.



Heat your milk over medium heat until it is hot, but do not boil!Take off the stove and stir in vinegar. The milk will separate into curds and whey!Using a fine strainer, strain the milk. Do not press the curds into the strainer (they might stick). You could also use a coffee filter.Dump the curds onto a paper towel and blot off the excess liquid.(sorry, the pic is a little dark)Next we pressed the curds into a flat disk. You could also mold the curds freestyle.We used a small cookie cutter to cut out the pendent. We used a skewer to make a hole, but next time we would use something bigger. The plastic shrunk a little as it dried.
It took the pendent a few days to be totally dry. Then we painted it using nail polish. (you could use other acrylic paint) Then mom had a cute necklace just in time for Valentine's Day!

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Bacon Love



Ahh..nothing says love like roses...except maybe roses made out of BACON?? Are we serious?? Absolutely! Normally this would be the kind of project you might expect to make for that special man in your life for Valentine's Day. But at Maggie's house, she's the one who swoons over bacon. So when a friend showed her this project idea, she knew this was her idea of romance!

What You Need:
  • bacon
  • muffin tin
  • broiler pan
  • artificial roses
  • vase
  • hammer & nail or a drill


First, preheat your oven to 375. Then using the hammer and nail or drill make a hole in the bottom of each cup in your muffin tin. This will allow the bacon grease to drain out. It should be noted that the original instructions called for mini-muffin tins but we were not about to put holes in ours. We picked up a muffin tin at the dollar store but they only had regular-sized ones. They worked fine!

Next, lay out a single slice of bacon and roll it up.

Place it in a cup of your muffin tin standing up, smooshing out the bottom a little to help them stand. Repeat with the remaining bacon. Put the muffin tin on top of the broiler pan (to catch the escaping grease) and pop them in the oven for 30-40 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure your roses don't get over-done! A couple of ours fell over in the baking process, but they still worked beautifully!

While the roses cook, prep your stems. Again, our supplies came form the dollar store so we were at the mercy of what we could find there. Looking back we think we'd like something with a few more leaves, but you make do with what you find, right? To ready the stems for the bacon roses, simply take the flower part off. Make sure to return the green plastic pieces back to the stem, as these will help hold the rose buds in place but push them a bit further down the stem to make adequate room for the

Once the bacon roses are done, take them from the muffin tin and let them cool and drain a bit on paper towels. Then slide them onto their stems and set them in a vase! Now you are ready to show that bacon-lover in your life how much you really care!

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