We Shall Return!

10406866_973124322763428_5824350206391150250_nHubby is currently working on our kitchen, so it’s off limits at the moment.

While he’s doing some renovations, I probably won’t be posting much on this blog. Until then, feel free to tune in to Stories from This Life or Books, Coffee, and a Whole Lotta Faith.

We shall return! And thanks to his hard work, with a shiny, new-to-us sink!

Very grateful for a hard working husband who is handy, resourceful, and frugal.

Homemade Lotion Bars

homemadelotionbarsBefore Christmas, I had decided to make all of our Christmas gifts. As my husband has plenty of female relatives, I thought that homemade beauty products would be just the ticket. I purchased the ingredients for products like lotion bars but didn’t get the chance to make them in time. The cocoa butter and beeswax lay on our shelves, just waiting for their big debut. It would take at least a month, but they would finally get their big opportunity.

With the cold, dry weather recently, our skin has become painfully dry. Unlike when we were younger, commercial lotion doesn’t seem to do the trick. My husband’s hands have especially suffered, and so I wanted to provide him with a healthy and homemade alternative. Enter the homemade lotion bars.

This recipe was super easy to mix up, with just melting and pouring involved. For a first try at making my own beauty products, it was definitely a win. Too, they hardened quickly in our cool basement, leaving us with beautiful lotion bars within hours.

And the verdict? The lotion bars are a perfect, portable lotion for those dry areas that seem to be perpetually dry. Made from all natural ingredients, it is very rich and nourishing, making our skin feel better almost immediately. Too, there is no greasy residue; even if you apply the lotion to your hands, there’s no problem with doing a bit of work afterward. My husband loves that particular aspect of them.

Any down side to these little beauties? They tend to leave little “crumbs” on your hands even with thorough rubbing into the skin. It is possible that we didn’t quite get the ratio correct, but I believe that this may just come with the territory of a lotion bar. Still it is a small inconvenience as compared with the other benefits.

All in all, these lotion bars were certainly worth the time spent in mixing them up. The lotion is rich and will be much more frugal in the long run as the bars will last a long time, much longer than a bottle of the commercial variety. And if I can give us a little comfort during the cold, winter months, then why not? I might have made the bars a bit late for Christmas, but my husband at least gets the benefit of them in the new year.

A Tale of Two Cookies

oatmealscotchiesMy husband and I are pretty much opposites in every area. Whether it is the choice of favorite science fiction show—Star Trek is the best!–or our favorite pastime, we seem to have differing opinions on most anything. Perhaps opposites do attract, and if so, we seem to be the confirmation of this saying. Our love has sustained us throughout almost ten years of marriage. Our personalities do make it difficult, though, when it comes to eating cookies.

Take, for example, the recipe for my latest cooking adventure, Oatmeal Scotchies. I found that our oven required a greater cooking time than that listed in the recipe. And the result? The cookies spread out and were quite chewy, with almost a sugar glaze on the bottom of the cookie. When I did my initial taste test, I feared that the entire batch was a loss. My husband, though, found them extremely tasty, stating that they were “perfect.”

As a contrast, my favorite cookie is this recipe for sour cream cookies. I suppose that the label, “Old-Fashioned,” would be a hint that this would be my idea of a “perfect” cookie. Light and fluffy with a hint of sweetness, this cookie is soft and cake-y. It is wonderful with coffee or tea, and it is certainly the antithesis of the oatmeal scotchies and their chewy texture.

So what are we to do? In order to maintain my own girlish figure, I tend to lean toward making those desserts preferred by my husband. The coconut oil chocolates satisfy my need for sweetness while still staying within the bounds of my fairly loose diet. However, I may make my favorite cookies every now and then. “Everything in moderation” is my personal motto when it comes to eating and other activities. And that includes the best cookies around, my husband’s opinion notwithstanding.

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Pumpkin Pie Reeses

pumpkinpiereesesWith just a tad of pumpkin left in a can, I needed just the right recipe to use it. Luckily I had found the recipe for Pumpkin Pie Reeses on Pinterest. It seemed like the perfect thing to make on a Sunday afternoon—using up the last of my pumpkin with a bit of sweetness for my honey. Well, that was the plan, at least.

My husband, who has enjoyed the coconut chocolates that I have made in the past, thought that these candies tasted “off.” He—the man who normally likes dark chocolate, even up to 80% cacao—scrunched up his nose and hesitated to respond when I asked how he liked them. I knew he didn’t want to hurt my feelings, and so he just wouldn’t give me an opinion other than the initial impression.

I tasted them and found them to taste like dark chocolate—not my favorite, but still fine. My assumption is that perhaps they weren’t sweet enough, or maybe just not the right combination of flavors for him. They may grow on him with time, but I always like to see a happy hubby when he’s eating my sweets.

Here are some possible suggestions if you make this recipe:

  • Use real chocolate instead of making the coconut chocolate for these goodies.
  • Add more sweetener to the chocolate and the filling.
  • Use this recipe for the coconut chocolates instead.

All in all, I had hoped that he would love this dessert, but it doesn’t seem like that will be the case. There will be more desserts, though, and always another chance to make him a happy hubby.

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Honey Candy and Loving Our Families

honeycandyandlovingourfamiliesOccasionally, my husband has some trouble with a recurring dry cough, possibly due to a previous bout with pneumonia. After suffering through a relatively sleepless night, he mentioned that he would like to have some hard candy.  He has in the past used cough drops to relieve some of this problem, but their taste can be unpleasant after a time. Of course, we had a discussion about whether or not to purchase hard candy, but ultimately we decided to make our own. Having made honey candy this past Christmas, I decided that that recipe would be not only tasty but also soothing to this throat.

You might be wondering if this recipe is truly frugal. I would have to answer, “It depends on your pantry.” If you currently purchase small quantities of honey, then it won’t be cheap to make this recipe. However, if you buy raw honey in large quantities, then it most certainly will be frugal and much healthier for your family members to indulge their sweet tooth. You can either buy raw honey locally or online, but it is certainly one of the easiest food items to store. Too, as food prices rise, having it in your pantry is also a good investment. Just make sure the container in which you store your honey is opaque and impervious to pests; one final consideration is that it is best to store the container in a place where the temperatures will not fluctuate greatly. Honey is an easy way to break into storing larger amounts of food items as it will stay good for a long period of time.

But is this recipe easy? Well, I wouldn’t say that it’s easy, but it is certainly doable by most anyone, even with little experience and with very minimal equipment. In the past, I have avoided making candy of any sort as I just felt I wasn’t up to the task. With all of the different terms such as “hard crack” and my accident-prone nature, I thought it best. Providing for our families, though, often overrides these concerns and makes us a little more brave. My husband was suffering, and I could help him. So I got out the saucepan and thermometer and went to work.

cookingthecandyI can share a few tips from my experience, not necessarily about the cooking itself, but rather about making it more pleasant. First, it takes a loonnngg time to get the mixture to hard crack stage, and so make sure you have some entertainment. Personally, staring at boiling sugar is not fun for me, and so I asked my husband to turn on my favorite Star Trek episode. Too, it is hot work. Keep that in mind before you begin. Finally, you may want to have someone with strong, quick hands to pull the candy at the end. My husband took over the candy at this point as he has experience with pulling taffy and seems to enjoy the task. I must say that I was more than happy to hand it over to him.

As far as storing the candy, you can layer the candy between pieces of wax paper, or you can be a bit lazy like me and pour some powdered sugar in a bag and then throw the candy in there. The sugar will keep the candy from sticking to itself. And, I must say, my husband likes the extra sugar.

Although food can simply be sustenance, it can also be a way to show love, especially if it is something needed by our family members. For my husband, this candy soothed his cough and allowed him to sleep through the night. Too, making homemade candy should be healthier than the commercial type. For these reasons, my fears of making hard candy were set aside for a time. I gained some experience with a somewhat difficult task and showed my husband a little love.

Homemade Candy for My Hubby

homemadecandyformyhubbyIt’s been kind of rough lately around our house. With me partially unemployed and my husband unemployed, we have to struggle sometimes to keep our spirits up. We do try to focus on the essentials of life, but occasionally life just wears you down. So I decided to make something special for my husband–homemade candy.

Now, I don’t claim to be a chocolatier or professional candy maker–or even a mom who’s just darn good with sugar. My only claim to fame was being a fan of the song, “The Candy Man Can,” as a child. No, I just know what my husband likes. So, banning any sense of inadequacy or warning, I forged ahead and made candy.

I selected as the main attraction Cream Cheese Peanut Butter Balls. I had made something similar in the past, so I assumed that this would be easy peasy. Don’t you just hate it when you enter a project with your spirit soaring and your hopes high, just to be brought back to reality a moment later? I was on a chocolate high, thinking myself the latest Giada. Well, obviously, I’m not. Everything went well until I melted the chocolate for the first batch. It seized up. Undeterred but frustrated, I managed to get things going again and finished the dipping stage. And then, as I was repackaging the chocolate, one of the melting discs fell out of my hands, on to the floor, and disappeared into nothingness. With animals around and fears of chocolate poisoning in my head, I panicked. I tore the kitchen apart and cleaned everything, eventually finding the errant chocolate disc underneath the stove. So much for Giada.

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Having rested from the original candymaking session and cleaning, I decided to try another recipe that I had seen recently. It was Irresistible Coconut Oil Chocolates. I saw the beautiful little candies on the page and thought, “I can do this!” Well, sort of. It turns out that the silicon molds are much more important than I thought. As I didn’t have one, I thought that I would just pour the mix into a greased 8×8 pan. It did work, but the bottoms of the chocolates were wet, which made them difficult to remove from the pan. Still, they taste wonderful and melt in your mouth. They are quite unique and were much easier to make than the bonbons. coconutoilchocolates

Well, obviously I’m not Giada or even a second-rate chocolatier. But when you’re frugal, you often have to take that leap and do things that you wouldn’t normally do. And that is often rewarding in itself, that despite obstacles and a possible lack of skill or knowledge, I made something yummy for my husband.

Although the candies aren’t very pretty, they do taste very good. Perhaps too this might be a way for us frugal folks to pretend that we’re a rich housewife with fancy chocolates. Sit on your couch, close your eyes, and eat those bonbons crafted by your own hands. What could be more satisfying than that?