Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Homemade Cleaners

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Mary Hunt's Cheapskate Newsletter or that I', we'll say. Toby & Liv love to tease me when I say, "Oh wait!  I have a coupon for that."  Truth be told, though, I'm not ashamed of being considered cheap.  My "cheapness" has allowed me to be a SAHM for many years, attend college & still allow us to do a few things we want to do along the way. So it's served me (& us) well. 

When I first was introduced to homemade cleaners, I was drawn in by the lure of cleaning without harsh chemicals & ingredients I couldn't pronounce. Mine & Liv's asthma required we clean with something besides store bought cleaners & I recently read an article a friend posted about new studies linking breast cancer to household cleaners.  Health reasons were the 1st reasons I got into homemade cleaners. Since then I have realized the cost benefit as well.  

A quick internet search will net you thousands of homemade cleaner recipes.  The ones I'm going to include on this blog are the ones I personally use & can attest to their ability to do just as good a job as the brand name cleaners sold at the store.

Let me preface this blog by saying that I am a HUGE fan of vinegar so you're going to see the word "vinegar" a lot. Vinegar is one of those things that has about a million & one uses &, although it stinks while you're using it, will not leave an odor in your house.  It also does not seem to bother mine or Liv's respiratory systems. 

I mop with a strong vinegar & water mixture & I recently used vinegar to clean our carpets (put it in the carpet cleaner instead of carpet cleaning solution) & it worked fantastic! 

Side note:  Vinegar is vinegar.  I buy the cheapest (which is generally Kroger brand at my local Rulers).

My other household favorite is:  Original Blue Dawn.

My all-purpose, go-to cleaner is a mixture of Dawn & vinegar.  Now some people cut this mixture with water or use different measurements of each.  What I use works so I'm not going to tweek what works.  Feel free to tweek away if you want (& let me know how it goes if you do :) 

Take a spray bottle.  Fill it 1/4 of the way with Dawn, fill the other 3/4 with vinegar.  Put the nozzle back on & shake.  

I originally made this mixture for cleaning the showers & tubs.  (A job I absolutely loathe doing & one which I'd never found a cleaner that would really do a good job without a lot of elbow grease).  

This mixture not only does a fantastic job, it requires little scrubbing. I also use it on the sinks & toilets.  It works great for cleaning counter tops in the kitchen as well.  

I spray it on the shower/tub, toilet, & sink & let it sit for a few minutes.  Then come back & wash everything down, rinse, & I'm done.  One of the greatest things about this mixture (besides it's lack of requiring massive amounts of scrubbing) is that it retards mold & mildew growth. I've been amazed at how well it fights off nasty mold & mildew in the bathroom & even on the shower curtains/doors.

Glass/Mirror cleaner:

1 c. alcohol
1 c. water
1 Tablespoon vinegar

Mix these together in a spray bottle & you have a great window, mirror & glass cleaner that doesn't streak. 

Homemade Laundry Soap

There are nearly as many homemade laundry soap recipes out there as homemade cleaner websites.  The following was given to me by my friend, Allison & is used by many people I know. (According to a friend who uses it in her HE washer & several other sources I've read, it is safe for use in HE washing machines too.  It doesn't create suds.)

It is super easy to make, is a GREAT stain remover (it actually took out stains that had been in a couple of items for many washings & dryings!) & is VERY cheap to make.

I've also heard that it has been recommended by an asthma doctor for his patients because it is great for people with allergies & asthma.  So that's another plus!

12 cups Borax
8 cups baking soda
8 cups washing soda
8 cups Fels Naptha (finely grated)
(*Note:  1 bar of Fels Naptha = approx. 2 cups grated)

It's important to get the Fels Naptha grated very finely so it can dissolve quickly in the wash water.  I recently used my food processor to grate mine.  (I grated it with the grater attachment & then ran it through the chopping process).  Since it's just soap, it didn't hurt anything & the food processor & attachments washed up just fine. 

To use:  add approx. 2 Tbsp to washer

One other thing I've noticed with this soap: I don't really have much need for fabric softener or dryer sheets.  The clothes are soft, smell good (without smelling "flowery"), and have little to no static after being dried.  

I didn't make the full batch above, but I bought enough to make about 3/4 of the above batch. I didn't figure it up exactly, but the ingredients cost me less than $10 & I will end up getting probably about 1-1/2 - 2 months worth of washing out of 3/4 batch. Considering I use to buy at least 1 of the big bottles of Tide per month, plus a bottle of Downey & at least 1-2 boxes of Bounce....I'd say the savings is pretty obvious :) 

Grease Stain Remover:

The best thing I have found to remove grease stains from clothes:  Plain ol' Original Dawn.  

Yep, I've even had it take out old grease stains that had been washed, dried & were set-in.  (Obviously, it's much easier if you catch it before you wash it, but I'm notorious for forgetting & washing stained clothes...)

Simply put full strength Dawn on the grease stains, allow to sit & soak into the fabric (I usually let mine sit at least overnight) & wash.  This almost always works.  I've only had a couple of REALLY bad grease stains that wouldn't come completely out with this method. 

This is my most commonly used cleaners.  I have some recipes for homemade drain cleaners that I am going to put to the test next week on a slow draining bathroom sink.  I'll try & remember to post if I find a good recipe :) 

In the meantime, Happy Homemade Cleaning!!! 

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Canning How-Tos

A few years ago I spent several days with my Grandma Patton (one of Liv's great-grandmas) learning how to can.  While it was old hat to her, it was all new to me so I wrote down everything we did step-by-step.  Since I've heard a lot of people mention canning recently, I thought that now might be a great time to add these to Mom's Kitchen.

Freezing Corn

1.) Shuck, de-silk (is that even a word), & wash the ears
2.) Cut the corn off the cob but don't get super close to the cob. 
I have heard that this product is AWESOME for this job, but haven't tried it myself yet: 

(Kernel Cutter from Pampered Chef, $7.50)

3.) Scrape cob if you want creamed corn, otherwise use just the kernels you cut off.
4.) Add salt...we used 1 tsp (measured using an actual spoon not a measuring spoon) per dozen ears ???  (I'm not sure about this.  We used 1 tsp. per kettle we made but I'm not sure how much went in one kettle).
5.) Put on the stove or in the microwave & bring just to a boil - DO NOT boil for an extended amount of time.
6.) Remove from heat & allow to cool
7.) Place in baggies & freeze

Guide:  10 dozen ears = approx. 10 FULL quart baggies. 

Canning Green Beans

We tried canning green beans in a pressure cooker, but found that by the time you wait on the pressure to come up, wait for the allotted cook time, & wait on the pressure to go down, it's just as quick to do them in the canner the old-fashioned way.  So I'll put the directions for both here, but we use the canner (not the pressure cooker) when we do can them.

Canner method:

Break beans & wash.
Put them in jars.  Really stuff them in there or you'll wind up with only half full jars.
Add a tsp of salt to each jar - again using a regular spoon not a measuring spoon
Heat canning lids by placing in a pan of hot water for a few minutes
Fill the jars with water
Place lid & ring on each jar & tighten
Place the jars in the canner
Cover the jars up to the rims with water.
Bring to a boil.  This can take an hour.
Boil for 3 hours.
Remove carefully.
Listen for pops to know the jars have sealed.


Pressure cooker method:
(These are based on the instructions that came with our pressure cooker - ALWAYS read the instructions that come with yours & follow YOURS if they differ from these)

Break & wash beans
Fill jars (again - make sure you get them good & full)
Add tsp. salt (using a regular spoon)
Heat lids in hot water
Fill jars with BOILING water
Add lid & ring & seal
Put jars in cooker
*Here's where you need to follow YOUR instructions. In our directions, we had to cook them at 10 psi for 25 minutes.  But there was also some venting & waiting on the valve to come to a hard rock as well...I just don't remember all of the exact steps.  I do know it ended up taking us longer than the canner method & so we never went back to the pressure cooking method. 

Canning Tomatoes

Our family cans tomatoes in 3 forms - cold packed, open-kettled, & as juice.  Cold packed are great if you like to eat them from the can, open-kettled are fantastic for use in soups, chillis, etc, & of course juice is good for adding to soups, drinking, etc.  In our household we use almost exclusively open-kettled tomatoes.

In most cases, you'll need to scald & peel the tomatoes first.
Put the stopper in your sink & load the sink up with tomatoes
Pour boiling water over the tomatoes.
Allow them to set until the jackets start splitting. 
Run some cold water in the sink over the tomatoes.
Rinse with cold water & peel.

Open-kettled tomatoes:
Use the above scalding method to peel tomatoes.
Chop tomatoes into large pieces.
Place in a kettle on the stove-top.
Bring the tomatoes to a boil.
CAREFULLY dip the hot tomatoes into jars.  
Add a tsp. of salt (with regular spoon) to each jar 
Add lid (which has been heated in hot water), ring & seal. 
Listen for the pops as they seal & remember not to tap the lids :) 

Scald tomatoes as mentioned above
Place tomatoes (mostly whole) in jars
Add tsp. salt (you know by now...use a regular spoon) to each jar
Put in the canner
Add water to the rims
Cook for 20 minutes after water comes to a boil.
Allow to cool & listen for the pops that mean they're sealing

Tomato Juice:
Chop up tomatoes & put on the stove to cook (no need to peel, but you may have to add a little water to the pan so they don't burn).  Allow the tomatoes to come to a boil.  Put in a blender & blend until liquid-y.  Run through a sieve to remove seeds, skins, etc.  Put tomato juice back on the stove & heat to a boil again. Allow to boil for a few minutes.  Take off the stove & fill jars.  Adding a tsp. of salt to each quart. Put heated lid & a ring on jar & seal.  Listen for the pops that tell your jars have sealed :) 

One side note:  A lot of people will say that the tomatoes won't keep without the hot water bath canning process.  We've been making juice & open-kettling tomatoes for years & very seldom do we have a jar go bad.  Granted, we usually use up our supply each year so maybe if you plan on keeping them for 10 years you should use the hot water bath method.  If you're using the cold-packed method you will have to use the hot water bath method or a pressure cooker. 

Happy Canning!!!! 

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Microwave Corn-on-the-cob

I thought I got this idea from Cris over at Goodeness Gracious, but searched her blog over & couldn't find the directions.  Then I thought maybe it came from Life As A Mom or Money Saving Mom, but couldn't find it there either. SO, if it came from you & I'm not giving you credit, then please accept my apology in advance.  I swear I'm not stealing your idea, it's just my memory must be going...haha! 

Anyway, WHOEVER gave me this idea is a genius!  The worst part of corn-on-the-cob for me is the waiting on the water to boil part.  This technique completely eliminates that issue as well as doesn't require the use of a big kitchen pot. 

Microwave Corn-on-the-Cob

Place ears of corn in microwave still in their husks on top of a dampened paper towel. I'd recommend keeping the ears in a single layer (not making a pyramid in the microwave).

(For my family of 3 I started with 3 ears which fit perfectly in my microwave.)

I microwave my 3 ears for 3 minutes, flip the ears over, & cook for another 3 minutes. You'll have to adjust the time for your # of ears, but on average I think about 1 min. per ear & then flip & go 1 min. per ear again seems a reasonable place to start. 
Although I did read where someone put there's in for like 5+ min. & caught the corn silks on you might want to keep an eye on it until you get your timing perfected ;)

CAREFULLY remove ears.  (They will be SUPER hot to the touch).  I let mine lay for a few minutes until they are cool enough to handle.  Then shuck the ears in the sink so the mess is contained & serve.  The silks & shucks will pull away easily & you can cut off the ends of the ear if you want/need to. After your meal the husks & silk are cooled & I just through the mess into the trash & clean up my sink.

The ears can be left in the husks & wrapped in a clean towel or aluminum foil or shucked & wrapped in aluminum foil to keep them warm while you make more or you can shuck & eat them immediately.

This method keeps the moisture in the corn &, I think, produces much better corn on the cob than the old fashion boiling pot method.