Our little piece of the world

A mother, wife, and teacher aims to make life simple

Archive for the category “Household Items”

Cast iron skillet bread

I’ve posted in the past about my recent discovery of cast iron cookware, and how awesome I think it is… then I discovered that I could bake bread in my skillets… and now my life is complete.

I came across this recipe for italian herb skillet bread on pinterest, and was drawn in by how awesome the picture looked. I tried it (with my mom’s breadmaker recipe for dinner rolls instead of the pre-made dough), and I don’t think I’ll ever make those dinner rolls in any other way.

The bread came out perfectly crunchy on the bottom and soft and warm on the inside. Since the skillet held heat evenlyand baked the crust perfectly.

I’m on the lookout for other amazing things I can make in my skillets- any suggestions are welcome!

Making your own apple cider vinegar

I’m pretty exicted about this, because it marks a new page in my quest for self-sufficiency (that sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it?).

When I stumbled upon this blog post about how to make your own apple cider vinegar I *might* have giggled with glee. I’m not sure what it is about this that makes me so happy- it’s probably finding a use for something that I would normally throw in the garbage. Finding ways to take something that is normally expendable and common, and make it into something that I would normally buy anyway excites me a little bit too much.

Essentially all that is required is peels and cores from some apples that you’ve set aside after cooking something (we made apple sauce). You put these scraps in a bowl, fill it with water enough to cover the peels by about an inch, mix in 1/4 C of sugar, then weight the apple-stuff down with a plate. Cover up the bowl in order to keep bugs away, and let it sit for a week. Mold will form quickly (mine already has), but all you have to do is spoon it off. After a week strain out the apple stuff and put it in a jar, seperating the lid from the jar with a piece of cheese cloth (to stop the lid from corroding from the acidity). Leave it alone for 6 weeks (labeling it might be a good idea), and then you should have apple cider vinegar. I plan to pasteurize the vinegar by boiling it before canning.

This is not only awesome because you’re getting something for nothing (essentially), but it’s also great if you think about all the amazing uses for apple cider vinegar. In no particular order here’s what we have used it for in the past, or what friends use it for:

1) Removing stains from your teeth (dilute a bit and dip your toothbrush in it as you brush)

2)  To clean your hair (diluted)

3) To clean your face (very diluted- I’ve never tried this one because of my aforementioned sensitive skin).

4) To clean your house (kitchen, bathrooms, etc)

5) Add it to your bath (about 1/2 C) if you have a sunburn

Those are just a couple I can think of off the top of my head- pretty good for something that would have wound up in the garbage!

Why holidays don’t have to mean “more stuff”

This past Easter weekend brought with it a visit from my family- my brothers and my parents, to spend some much-needed time together. It was a wonderful time of relaxation, good food, and play. We played card games, tried new recipies, and read books. It was wonderful in its simplicity.

We put a lot of thought into the toys that our son plays with after this past Christmas season, and put together a plan to make sure that the craziness didn’t happen again. Because my son is an early january baby, he is inondated with gifts and toys for a couple of weeks around Christmas time. This year was more than a little bit overwhleming as our brothers and parents inondated him with gifts.

1) Before a gift giving holiday, clean out your house of any toys and clothes that your kid(s) are too big for/ not interested in. It’ll make the wave of gifts a little bit easier to swallow.

2) Be respectful and talk to your family about it first- well in advance of when they might start shopping. Don’t just complain.

3) If you are saying you don’t want certain toys for your child give alternate solutions that people can buy for them! People are still going to want to get your child something for gift-giving holidays, so give them some ideas that you can live with and that compliment the way that you want to raise your child. Books and clothes (both of which my son enjoys) are our go-to requests.

4) Set a good example. If you don’t want people to buy certain things for your kids, don’t get it for theirs either! I love to give kids books because (as a teacher) they’re age-appropriate for almost anyone, and you can never have too many!

5) If all else fails- don’t be afraid to donate your kids toys that you don’t approve of. If it’s going to drive you crazy, it’s not worth it. We’ve also found that the toys that we don’t like also seem to end up being the toys that our son doesn’t like- so he doesn’t mind when they disappear.

I am very fortunate that both my husband and I have very patient and respectful famlies, who consider our requests for more simplified gift-giving for our son. This Easter was great as people got him pajamas, books, money (that went into his savings account), and a little bit of chocolate.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Not too long ago, I came across this post about how to make your own laundry detergent. Not being one to look a cheap-laundry-solution in the mouth, I thought I’d give it a try. I’m certain that my husband thought that I was completely insane as I grated the bar of soap on the cheese grater and mixed all the ingredients in a gallon-bucket, but he did keep saying how good it smelled.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how well this soap has worked, and I do a lot of really dirty laundry (I am the mother of a two year old afterall). I got two very large jars of laundry detergent out of the deal, and I got to get rid of the ugly cardboard box in my laundry room… and yes.. it does smell better in there as well. I’m excited to see how long the soap will last. I do a lot of laundry and you only have to use a (heaping) tablespoon.

 

Cast Iron pans: Why they’re great and how to take care of them

While we’re waiting to move into our new house, I’ve taken to researching old fashioned household products that will stand the test of time. One item that I have tried and absolutely love is cast iron cookware. So far I have two skillets, one small (6″) and one large (12″). I started with the small skillet on a whim one day, and fell in love with how sturdy it was and how evenly it cooked. It’s also fantastic that I can use it outside on the fire, in the oven, or on the stovetop… oh, and the food tastes great too.

Cast iron is amazing for anyone looking to live life with as few harmful chemicals as possible. Cast iron is non-stick, but unlike Teflon it’s not that way because of chemicals, and the coating won’t come off either! Cast iron pans also have a reputation for lasting a very, very long time (as long as they’re well taken care of).

There are many articles online about the best methods to care for cast iron (this is one of my favourites), but for the most part the advice is the same:

  • Don’t use soap or harsh abrasives to wash them. Scour only with a metal brush. I have actually found very little to no need to scrub my cast iron as the non-stick coating is so great already.
  • Make sure that your pan is well seasoned. To season use a few tablespoons of flaxseed oil (or another oil, but flaxseed seems to be the favourite) and let it warm up gradually in the oven to 300 degrees, upside down. Let it heat in the oven for about an hour, and then turn the heat off- letting the pan cool gradually for about an hour.
  • When you’re cooking with your cast iron, use a small amount of oil in the bottom of the pan.
  • Once you’re done cooking, let the pan cool down for 10-15 minutes and then rinse it off with warm water and scrape off the excess food. I then put a tiny amount of oil on the pan and let it cool down completely upside down in the oven.
  • If you’re storing your cast iron in a drawer or cupboard put a piece of paper towel in between the items to allow air flow. Once we’re into our new place I’m planning on hanging our cast iron items on the fireplace.

I’ve got my eye on quite a few cast iron items, including a dutch oven and a griddle. Someday I’d also like to get a cast iron waffle pan like this one:

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