Home-made flavored coffee creamer

2014-09-06 10.29.29 This isn’t particularly healthy, and it’s not sugar free, but I’ve been making my own flavored coffee creamers for a few weeks now, and this is one of my favorites.

In a large mason jar, I put:
1 can sweetened, condensed milk (I think the can is about 14 ounces)
1 can Thai Kitchen Organic Coconut Milk, 13.6 Fl Oz- Thai kitchen is the only one I use. I tried two other brands a year or two ago, and I disliked them so much I have been afraid to branch out any further, and I am very happy with Thai brand.
Here’s the tricky bit- I didn’t really measure it. I used DaVinci Gourmet Sugar Free Syrup, Kahlua, and I just poured it over the top of the cream and coconut milk, probably a little over about an inch of liquid in the top of the mason jar.
Cinnamon- I like cinnamon. I think I used a scant tablespoon.

Blend well.

That’s all.  Put a lid on and refrigerate.

About that blending:  I put the blender apparatus to my blender on the mason jar and blent the stuff until all the cinnamon was well mixed. You could use a stick blender, too. You can’t really just stir or shake with the Thai brand of coconut milk because it’s too thick, and then you will have tasty but very unattractive clumps of coconut milk in your creamer and it looks like curds of sour milk and your husband will be horrified. Just trust me on this.

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Where my babies were this morning


in the air over...

in the plane

They have safely arrived in Estonia.

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Discretion, for the Commonplace Book

“I couldn’t seem to stir up any of my usual cutting comments in response.  I was discreet, I suppose.  Really, I didn’t care, and I see now that it amounts to the same thing.”

 The Thief (The Queen’s Thief Book 1)

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Home is Where the Frugality Is

home is where the frugality isOne of the best ways I know of to save money is, of course, not to spend it in the first place. And for me, the best way to do that is to stay home. It’s easier to stay home if you keep your pantry stocked with the basics- those things that send you running to the store when you run out. Sometimes, it’s actually more frugal to use a more expensive substitute than to run to the store- and not just because of the gas you save (assuming you would need to drive instead of walk to the store).

The more simple your tastes, the fewer things there are to run out of. Drink water. If you are not used to this start with water with a bit of lemon or lime juice and/0r peel. Then gradually reduce it until you can drink straight water. It’s healthier for you, too.

Learn some basic substitutions so that you can make do without a special trip to the store. Instead of running to the store, run to the computer to look up substitutions. HEre are some I’ve used:

Brown sugar: put a Tablespoon of molasses in a cup of white sugar and mix well

Dish soap: A dab of laundry soap or even shampoo will work when you are out of soap for handwashing dishes.

Bar soap- a dab of shampoo on a wash cloth will still get you clean.

Window cleaner: Vinegar; ammonia; or the windshield cleaner you use to refill your car (this is sometimes cheaper than the purchased kind anyway)

Scouring powder: baking soda and salt

Eggs: For pancakes you can substitute cottage cheese, which is only more frugal if it saves you that trip to the store and you needed to use up the cottage cheese. But it actually tastes pretty good.

Here are some other egg substitutions- they will all change the texture of baked goods a bit, but they work:
1 tsp cornstarch plus 1/4 cup water, combine first (this is for one egg)
or just use 2 Tablespoons cornstarch right into the dry ingredients of the recipe for each egg.
2 tablespoons arrowroot flour, same as above
in cake recipes you can mash up one banana for each egg, but this will change the flavor.

WE use this flax seed substitute for the eggs:

Grind about 2 Tablespoons of flax seed (your coffee mill will work, and you can try your blender. You should have about 1/4 cup of ground flaxseed. Whisk this into 3/4 cups of cold water and continue whisking while you bring the mixture to a boil and boil it for three minutes longer.

It keeps in the fridge for about two weeks if you want to make it up for a different recipe. Flaxseed egg substitute binds like eggs, but it won’t, of course, add the lightness that real eggs would. That doesn’t matter for a poundcake- a poundcake is supposed to be dense, heavy, rich, and sweet. But I wouldn’t try to make a light white cake with this.

Sour Cream or Butter for a baking recipe: These will also change the flavor a bit, so it depends on what you are making- an equivilent amount of apple sauce, canned pumpkin, or cooked, mashed pumpkin/acorn squash/sweet potato- depends on what you have in your hand.=)

Or this, which also works on baked potatoes- Makes 1 cup
1 cup of tofu, drained
1 Tbsp. olive oil (or other)
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. white rice vinegar (or apple cider, though it will have a stronger taste)

Put all ingredients except the oil in your blender. When this mixture is smooth, gradually add the olive oil for the creamy texture.

You can use this in baking or as a topping. Of course, not everybody has tofu ‘on hand.’ We usually do.=)

Pancake syrup:

You could top the pancakes with fruit on hand, corn syrup, thinned honey (here the idea is simply to stay at home) or you could make this very frugal version, which for years was the only syrup we used:

1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed (or more packed if you want sweeter)

3 cups water

5 teaspoons cornstarch

Cook in a saucepan until slightly thickened- use a whisk to break up cornstarch if needed.


1 teaspoon maple flavoring for best pancake syrup flavor. But I’ve used vanilla, because I always have this on hand. I’ve used orange extract and cinnamon because I usually have those on hand and we love those combinations.

The above recipe is the cheapest version I know. You can also do this one:

1 3/4cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

boil, cover, and cook one minute. Cool slightly

add 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring

Both these receipts are from The More With Less Cookbook- as is this other syrup:

Combine in saucepan:
1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups water
bring to boil, stirring constantyly
2 cups fruit- if the fruit is canned, reduce the sugar and use the canned juice to replace the water. Frozen fruit also works.
Simmer until fruit is done, remove from heat and add
2 Tablespooons lemon juice

Serve hot over pancakes, waffles, or French toast

We also sometimes make our own salad dressings in a pinch- some recipes are posted here.

And it pays off to be a bit daring sometimes. This Basil Walnut dressing is wonderful as a salad dressing, but it’s even better as a toasted bagel spread- and Our Jenny-Any-Dots made a substitution I never would have dreamed of trying- we were out of walnuts, so she used almonds instead. Had she asked me, I would have told her not to bother, but she didn’t ask and I did not know until later. Later we made it with walnuts, and we actually vastly prefer it with almonds- so it’s a ‘basil-almond’ dressing and bagel topping.

Those of some of our stand by substitutions- here are some suggestions from others:


6 Responses to “Home is Where the Frugality Is”

Mama Squirrel Said:

Thanks for all the reminders, dear DHM!

I have found that having a box of commercial egg substitute on the shelf is also a good way to keep from needing to run to the store. Not as cheap as some other methods, but still slightly cheaper than fresh eggs (where I live, anyway).

I’ve also substituted a cupful of tofu when making pancakes or waffles–basically the same as using cottage cheese.

I’ve found that gluten-free websites, allergy-cooking websites, and vegan websites often have very creative ideas for substitutes. When we make our Sloppy Joe recipe that originally called for a can of tomato soup, we now use a can of tomato paste topped up with enough milk to make a cupful–and adjust the seasonings a bit. (It’s a good substitute if you have the tomato paste and not the soup.) I tried making tomato-paste-plus-milk tomato soup from the Tightwad Gazette and didn’t like it much; but mixed in recipes it seems to work.

I often substitute one form of tomatoes or other tomato products for another, depending on what I have or what needs to be used up. Our chili might be made with all canned tomatoes, all fresh, or a combination.

You also learn substitutions when you have picky eaters or there are other things you know you just can’t serve. I have a cucumber-hater who will eat zucchini, so we have zucchini in the salad instead.

Uncommonadvice Offered a good idea:

Great advice. How about putting vinegar in the tomato ketchup bottle so we can get the last of it out?

imagine offered:

I have always loved these type of things, even more so now that our grocery store in our small town has closed. Not to mention the price of gas.

One of our favorites is a real money saver. Mix ketchup with worcestershire (sp?) sauce. I do not measure, so it is just to taste, it makes a great steak sauce so comparable to A-1 that most people do not taste the difference!

DianeScraps Shared:

Not a food thing but conditioner is great for shaving and also works for handwashing clothing items


How about you?

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This isn’t the PTSD post I wanted to write

PTSD bad dayFor a change of pace and in a bit of balance, I wanted to write a post about what it’s like to live with somebody who has PTSD, because of course, that is certainly no picnic at all. In fact, I’ve been wanting to that from the beginning of publishing the PTSD stuff.  I tried, about half a dozen times.  I think I wore out the words ‘backspace’ on that button.   It turns out,  I can’t write that post. It would be secondhand at best, and I’m not objective enough to do it anyway.

On the one hand, I do understand it’s hard, it’s not fun, it’s unpleasant in just about every way, it’s another kind of trauma, and it means you totally lost in the spouse/mom lottery, but on the other hand, those with PTSD do not have it by choice. It’s not like they can just walk away from PTSD. Those who have to live with somebody with PTSD have that option of walking away, and they mostly take it. Even those who stay can walk away at least momentarily- they can escape for hours and hours at a time. Yes, they don’t go through it unscathed, and  at the back of their minds there is always that regretful, sad knowledge that their family member is not like the other ones and many things in their lives will never be like other people in many sad, bitter, frustrating, and unpleasant ways because of the PTSD, but there is still at least momentary relief and escape not offered to the one who actually has PTSD.

OTOH, if you have a family member with PTSD, it’s also a convenient scapegoat- you can blame every disagreement, every single clash of opinion, everything that annoys you, everything they say and do and most of the things you say and do on the crazy person and everybody else sympathizes with you.

See, I can’t write that post.

I can only write about what I know about PTSD, and that is what it is like to have it.

I haven’t been detailed about it, but I have been clear enough, I think, that the first of the traumas contributing to my PTSD stem from childhood as far back as I can remember and no doubt at all before that (have I mentioned the scars I still have on my face from the abuse of my very first first babysitter who started watching me when I was six weeks old?  yeah.  I think I was doomed from the get-go).

But I don’t talk about the more recent trauma, and I still just can’t imagine what it would be like to be in a place where I could type it, let alone say it out loud.

Not too long ago while cleaning up parts of my inbox, I stumbled across something I wrote shortly (as in within a year) after that of which we do not speak. Here’s part of it- it was part of a prayer request to a small email group I was on, and pretty much everybody in that group knew what had happened to me.  I wrote:

“I am so tired of being so needy, so much of a downer, and bringing grief to other people’s lives again and again. But I really need prayers. I never have a good day, but most days I can fake it better than others. The last few days haven’t been that way, and there are far too many of those days anyway. I also do not open up well, it hurts to do that, and it is hard for me. I have been a private person all my life, keeping my griefs and pains to myself, seldom crying in public, a coping mechanism I needed to survive a very painful childhood, so that is hard too, and once the floodgates are loosened, I do not know how to close them again…. People say things that are helpful and encouraging, but I cannot hold onto those things. Please forgive me for not being stronger, for not being more supportive of others….”

Most people wrote back with loving, supportive comments and promises to pray, and they were lovely and encouraging and came across as sincere.

Two people sent me scathing rebukes, one in particular stood out in a ‘seriously? I can’t believe he said that’ sort of way- he fixated on the ‘most days I can fake it’ comment and rebuked me for being a dishonest hypocrite.  Christians should never ‘fake it.’ That’s being dishonest and a sin.

One sweet, wise, generous-hearted soul who had some searingly painful stuff going on in her own life at the time wrote back telling me she thought I needed to go see a doctor or a therapist and consider medication. I wish I had listened to her then. Actually, even then, it wasn’t that I was unwilling as much as I was seriously unable to pick up a phone, make that appointment and drive myself to the doctor (who at that time was a 45 minute drive away).

She also encouraged me not to fake it, not because it was a ‘sin,’ but because she just felt it was healthier at that point for me to quit pretending I was okay when I was quite palpably not at all okay.

I wrote her back:

“I [agree with you that I] am probably clinically depressed, whatever that means (does that sound ugly? I don’t mean it ugly. I mean ‘who am I to self-diagnose?), As for ‘faking it,’ quite often I just have to so we can function. We are really busy. We have houseguests constantly- we have had an average of one family each month come and stay with us for anywhere from one night to a week, and we are having at least four more sets of houseguests between now and the end of the year (by groups, in this case, it’s two families of three, one single guy, and one married man who is coming without his family on a business trip. We did have a family of 12 last month). There will probably be more. We have company every Sunday afternoon and every Tuesday night, at a minimum. We’re having company tomorrow night, too, and last week we had guests three nights in a row in addition to our usual Sunday afternoon/Tuesday evening rotation. Most of our houseguests are friends and Christians, but some of the overnight guests and nearly all of our other company are people we are trying to… help… to reach out to in some way. I really can’t just sit and cry in front of them. Some of them I have only met in the last year and they don’t even know [about that of which we do not speak]. It’s hardly the sort of thing I say when introducing myself. I have to hold up. And sometimes I just can’t hold up anymore, I need a venting space in order to keep on holding up the next day.”

She wrote back pointing out what seems totally obvious now- maybe, she said,  we should stop having so much company. Of course I couldn’t just sit and cry in front of houseguests, she agreed with me about that, but, quite reasonably, her solution was that maybe we could put a halt to having all those houseguests.

We didn’t.
Instead, my husband signed us up to be foster parents, in addition to the regular company we continued to have.
Well. I couldn’t even imagine myself capable of doing that, I couldn’t travel to the classes, sit in them for hours, get my house safety proofed and presentable (besides my own personal issues, we had THREE large dogs at the time, one of whom was not exactly child-friendly), but I thought it would be a reasonable compromise to bring the Two Little Boys into our lives more than we had been.  So we did that.

And we continued to have company.
I also continued to participate in activities that psychologically are known as (even though I know this is a word that has gotten much rightly mockable over-use recently) triggering. Some of them have actually always been triggering, I just didn’t know that word, and I didn’t know that some of the things I did which I considered character flaws were actually useful and necessary coping mechanisms, and I had always gone right ahead and done them even though I had never gotten anything but stress and anxiety out of them and nope, not gonna tell you what they are.
And we continued to have company.

Right up until I just took to my room, locked the door, and quit coming out to greet the guests that other people invited over.  I actually did this two or three times before the flood trickled down to a thin little rivulet.

As I continued to try doing those other things that had always been triggering and not just because of that unspeakable trauma (as well as a few new ones stemming from that Thing), I started in on a whole new batch of symptoms.

I had dizzy spells so serious I was terrified of passing out in the shower because obviously the most important worry if I were to faint there would be that paramedics would see me naked.

(actually in this small town my biggest and a quite realistic fear is that the paramedics on call would be the two grandmothers who wouldn’t be able to lift me out of the tub and onto the cart, or that it would be that one guy my age who turns out to be a courtesy cousin because my step-grandmother was his grandmother’s cousin, and I am not making any of this up)

I had heart palpitations and ended up sweating through my clothes in a number of activities that shouldn’t have caused any of that. I had back spasms so severe that sometimes just walking a store started them off and I would have to double over my shopping cart, or a shelf, trying to get them to stop.

I had thinning hair, and other symptoms so serious sounding my doctor sent me to have my thyroid checked and checked again because he suspected cancer.

I didn’t tell anybody until the results came back normal, because it’s totally rational to keep that possibility a complete secret from everybody.

I couldn’t remember things and I used to have the memory of an elephant.

I had absolutely no energy. I had blinding head-aches. I had random aches and pains, I woke up in more pain that I had been in when I went to bed, sometimes my joints ached like I’d been beaten (I wondered about fibromyalgia), other times they burned. I hurt so much- it hurt to make the bed, to bend over to pick up a piece of paper, to carry a laundry basket, to walk any distance at all.

I’ve never been the most patient person in the world, but my fuse pretty much just disappeared, as in, I no longer had a short fuse, I had no fuse. I attributed it to the constant physical pain I was in.

I got hives, in particular connected with two or three specific activities that were, I now know, ‘triggering.’  I scratched the skin off of my itching hands to the point where I carried band-aids with me everywhere I went because my hands would be bleeding by the time we were done with whatever it was.

In short, faking it in an attempt to soldier on was just not working for me.

In the meantime, I did three family weddings, six grandbaby births, stayed with my daughter in the NICU when Striderling was born for nearly all of December,  took my kids to camp, interpreted church services (a stressful and incredibly mentally taxing activity I am ill equipped for that was supposed to be temporary but apparently I was the only one who thought so), and cooked, cleaned, had company, and went to bed for longer and longer periods in between those things.

I quit doing more and more things- sometimes not exactly voluntarily.  If I was getting ready to go somewhere and suddenly found myself hyperventilating and sweating, my ears ringing, my mouth dry as sawdust, seeing stars or some horribly sick-making flashing dark and light pattern in front of my eyes, I went back to bed until I recovered, and didn’t go, but I thought there was some undiscovered physical cause.  When I fought through and tried anyway, I always paid for it later, and recovery times took long and longer to the point that life was a recuperatory, invalid like experience.

I’ve always had a low tolerance for noises or for being startled, and my startle reflex amped itself up to impossibly ridiculous levels.


It was like I once stood in a vast and open space, and like a CGI scene in a movie, that space was evaporating around me, closing in until  the space safe and available to me was enclosed by the walls of my room and bathroom, while the distance between my room and the front door felt like a thousand miles.

All of it, once I started looking up PTSD, was pretty much textbook PTSD, even the physical symptoms.   There was just nothing I could do about it on my own because I couldn’t get anywhere on my own.  Shasta actually made the first appointment for me with a therapist because I could not make the phone call.  he is generally the one to take me to my appointments because he’s the only off work in time to do it, and I can’t get myself there.

And there’s more I would or could say but I don’t know that I should say or how to say it, so I will just end with this:

I didn’t write all this to whine, to enlist your sympathy (although I will certainly lap it up if offered) or pity, or simply as an exercise in public exhibitionism. (Is there private exhibitionism?).

I wrote it for this- if anything I have written here sounds familiar to you, get help.

Get help.  Especially if it sounds like somebody in your life who has been breaking your heart, hurting your feelings, leaving you woefully confused about why they are seemingly pushing you away, and driving you crazy and making you say unhelpful things like, “But if you would just….” or “Isn’t it time….” – please.  That’s not helping.  It’s making everything worse.

Get them help.  Get you help.  Get on the internet and google all the things that have been annoying and frustrating you. Find a good therapist.  Educate yourself (and you know, maybe it’s not PTSD. Maybe there’s something else going on. You probably won’t find out or fix it by staying at home getting annoyed with each other).  If you have kids, you have a serious parental responsibility to be informed and to inform them.  Knowledge is power.

A lot of people mock self-diagnosing, but pretty much everybody I have read about or talked to who has PTSD got help first because they googled and learned something about what they might be dealing with.

And if it is PTSD, once you’ve made sure you understand that it is a brain trauma and not a series of bad choices willfully made, figure out what the triggers are and what the particular specific symptoms are and stop urging the PTSD person to just go right ahead and shoot themselves in the head with those activities that are triggering and relive that trauma all over again and again and again.

But mostly, get help, get information, get knowledge, get wisdom- not just for the person in your life with PTSD, although I have to say I do think they deserve to have somebody love them seriously enough to LOVE them with all the unconditional warmth and devotion possible as well as to be informed,  but for you, too.

Because you deserve attention and sympathy and understanding, too.

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citizens as cash cows for local civic authorities and law enforcement

This is a long and thoughtful read, not just about Ferguson, but about poverty, racism, the court system, the financial incentives courts and police have for adding charge after charge, fine after fine, fee upon fee.

I’m not all that sympathetic about the speeding tickets.  I am sympathetic about the way they are handled, about the fees for registering your car, the fines for not registering the car, the cost of being poor, and the complete lack of sympathy or any bureaucratic heart for the situations they create in the first place, and exacerbate in the second.

The Little Boys’ mom went for help to get out of a dangerous, horribly dangerous, situation.  The help included moving her to a nearby state to a town where she knew nobody, had no resources of her own, and no transport. She got a job while still in the battered women’s shelter and walked to that job and to her doctor appointments.   But the state in its mercies, moved her again, this time to a second story apartment in another small town with no public transport.  She could no longer make it to her job, or anywhere else on foot, except a local convenience store and a fast food restaurant.  She did get another job she could walk to and the state in its mercy docked all her wages to pay for a situation entirely of the state’s own making.  She quit, and I cannot blame her.  I hate the situation the state created for her.  It’s unjust, inhumane, and it’s insulting to then force her to pay for it.

She got a car eventually so she could drive to the grocery store, to doctor appointments, to school field trips.  But she cannot always afford the registration.  She says locally, the cops have actually been sympathetic to her circumstances and they don’t ticket her. But there are other areas where she knows she’d be pulled over.

Essentially, a lot of our regulations and fees and fines are basically fines for being poor or powerless.  They may not necessarily be intended that way, but that is how they function.  I have written before about how churches unintentionally burden the poor. The state does this, too, only there’s no escape at all because the force of the state is a FORCE.  The state makes it impossible for people to get a job, to earn money from home working in cottage based industries, and then increases dependency by offering welfare.  The state gives the disease and then forces the sick to trade their independence for treatment of the disease- but the cure is not without dreadful side effects.

I do believe there is institutionalized racism in the system.  I’m fairly certain if the Little Boy’s Mom and I were both pulled over for the same infraction in most of the towns in my state, I’d be more likely to get off with a warning than she would.   But there’s also just an inherent authoritative, ‘because we can’, us-vs- them mentality in the police force itself.

My son just got done paying off a 250 dollar charge for gravel that supposedly scraped a parked police car when he drove by it on his riding lawn mower.  Nobody who has heard of it really thinks that was an entirely fair situation.  Most of us don’t even believe he actually did that much damage to the police car, and since the car was parked on the side of a road with no shoulder, we think that’s a bit of a stretch to blame him.  He also tells us that the officer in the car who came to talk to him was rude and belligerent and unnecessarily bullying in his demeanor.   He was polite enough to me when he came, but I could see he had a chip on his shoulder- there was the swagger, and the mirrored sunglasses that he didn’t take off even though he was standing in the shade with the son behind his back.

We played the game. We all were polite, civil, compliant. We didn’t argue.  My husband took my son to the police station and talked to them about a payment plan.  It makes me angry, and I feel very strongly that by submitting, we only enable further entrenched self-interest on the part of our police force. But the alternative was an expensive and probably futile act of lawyering up, and making a name for ourselves, and worse, for our 16 year old son,  as uncooperative cop-bait in a very small town.

So my son paid.  He refers to it as extortion.  It did not increase his respect for local law enforcement or police in general.

Again, the really interesting thing to me about all this is that *everybody* we have told the story to doubts the cops- even when we don’t tell the story that way.  We say, “The Boy was driving the lawn mower on the gravel road and kicked up some gravel on a parked police car and scratched the paint, so he had to pay 250 dollars.”  That’s all.  And the first response is always something along the lines of , “I bet the damage was already there, and they just found a way to get somebody else to pay for it.”

This is from even our nice, law-abiding, middle class, very middle America, law abiding, white bread and pasta acquaintances.   All of them understand, too, that we really had no viable alternative but to just pay off the charge with smiles on our faces.

How bad must it be that even they are this skeptical of local law enforcement? And what would a family whose son had not been able to find a summer job (because we did not have the surplus cash) have been able to do against the injustice?

And how much worse would it be to live in a town where this sort of thing happened on a regular basis to you and all your neighbors, but you didn’t have the job, the time, the cash to make it go away?


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Tea and Chocolate

2014-09-04 11.55.43


This picture does not do it justice.  I have teas.  Oh, do I have teas.

Black Forest; Darjeeling; Mental Clarity; Rest Assured (with valerian, which I take for the PTSD); Jasmine; Celtic Breakfast (‘a malty tea of strength’), Black Tea Chai; Green Tea with essence of peach; Green Moroccan Mint; oolong; English Breakfast….

I haven’t even plumbed the bottom of the box.

I have Chocolate, too, Rich, Dark, Seattle chocolate.  Mint, eggnogg, and oh my stars and garters something so delicious it must be illegal in California, Fluffy Toffee -which might have just put me in a very pleasant haze of chocolate coma.

And I have some amazing friends, including this one, whose son works at Choice tea in Washington State, and which teas are all I ever use for Kombucha making.

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Sour Milk Recipes

We used to get raw milk from this cow.

We used to get raw milk from this cow.

It is one of the ironies of modern life that kind of tickles me when I think about it, but when we come across a recipe calling for sour milk, we have to actually make our milk sour by adding vinegar, while most sour milk recipes were developed by our foremothers to use up the milk that had gone bad in days where most families had a dairy cow or knew somebody who did.

Granny Tea tells me that even though her family lived in town, they owned a cow that they boarded at the outskirts of town- just at the edge. When her father got home from work, the family would drive over to the edge of town and milk their cow. One milk cow produces more milk than most families can drink in a day, and even with butter and cheese making, the occasional crock or jar of milk would go sour. It was a wasteful housewife indeed who would throw out milk just because it was sour, so she made sour cream (which we now buy on purpose from the store) or used it up in a recipe calling for sour milk.

Now, raw milk is much better than pasteurized milk for sour milk, but you can use store-bought milk that is past it’s sell-by date, but not sweet enough to drink.

One of our kind readers emailed once to ask me if I really did use sour milk, milk past its sell-by date and slightly off in taste, in recipes calling for sour milk. I really do. Because my husband works at a grocery store, he sometimes bring me home a carton or two of the stuff, and then it’s free. I use it in any recipes calling for buttermilk. It makes great biscuits and pancakes. You can also use it for these cookies (this recipe is from another reader):

Sugar cookies
cream together:
1 C shortening
1 1/2 C sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt

alternately blend in:
4 C flour
3/4 C milk (I used sour milk as you know ;)

makes a very sticky dough, roll with lots of flour if you’re going to use cookie cutters, other wise, drop by spoonfuls and flatten with the back of a floured spoon, a butter knife, or a potato masher.
Bake 350 for about 7 minutes; they will be a soft cookie, bake longer if you like them a little stiffer or crisper.

I’m privileged to share some very old family recipes using sour milk.

Inside a cedar trunk full of all kinds of treasures, I found an old graph paper notebook full of math and physics homework and in the middle of the notebook was a section labeled “Favorite Recipes,” dated February, 1901. We are guessing it might be my great-grandmother’s and, ever thrifty, she used her children’s homework papers to copy recipes. But it doesn’t quite look like her writing either. Perhaps it belonged to my great-aunt when she was in high school. At any rate, here are two ginger bread and one spice cake receipt(s) as copied down by hand in 1901:

Gingerbread 1
1 cup of molasses
Butter size of an egg
1/3 cup sour milk
1 teaspoon soda
2 eggs
1/2 cup of flour

gingerbread recipe No. 2

2 cups of molasses
Three large spoonfuls of butter
3 cups of flour
1 cup sour cream or butter milk
3 eggs
1 tablespoon soda
1 tablespoon ginger

Spice Cake (very fine)
1 cup of molasses
1 cup of sugar
(1/2 cup) 2/3 cup of butter
1 cup of sour milk
3 eggs
3 cups of flour
1 tablespoon soda

I think the two different measures of butter in the spice cake recipe are because she made an adjustment after making the spice cake, but that’s just a guess. The 1/2 cup is the later revision. Don’t you love the ambiguous ‘spices?’

According to the 1911 cookbook, The Royal Baker and Pastry Cook, (I blogged about it here). Baking powder renders the need for cooking with sour milk unnecessary, but I think they’re selling something.=)

A recipe for shortcake is introduced by this long paragraph:

“[O]ld-fashioned fruit short cakes were generally made with flour, soda, sour milk, and shortening, and were restricted to the strawberry season. We now use Royal Baking Powder for lightening them, employ all the fruits of the various seasons, and thus feast ourselves upon the delicate confections almost the whole year through. The short cake made with Royal Baking Powder and sweet milk is incomparably better, surer, and more healthful than the old-fashioned concoctions. Too much skill was required in combining soda and sour milk. The milk had to be at just the right stage of sourness; not a grain more of soda could be used than was sufficient to neutralize the acid in the milk, or the cake would be yellow, with a disagreeable odor and soapy taste; if too little, the cake was heavy.

Perhaps this was true with raw milk, but I have only once had cookies, biscuits, or pancakes made with sour milk turn out to be less than delicious, and then I do think we had waited far too long to use the milk. At any rate, it seems if you are going to cook with sour milk, you should leave out the baking powder.vintage cookie making

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Being Frugal: What You Have On Hand

Repost from 2008:

thrifty frugal vintage kitchen tools cupsNothing earth shattering here, just a couple simple, frugal things we did around here this week that were free or nearly free.

I’ve had my eye on one of those cute little lap desks- you know, where the bottom half is like a soft and cushy beanbag covered in some trendy fabric, and the top is a firm, flat surface for writing and laptopping on? But I could not really justify the clutter or the expense (even if it’s not much of an expense).  I realized this week that I’ve been making my own for several months.  I just grab one of our throw pillows and a wicker serving tray I’ve had for years- put the pillow on my lap and top with the tray (upside down, because it has a rim).  Works brilliantly, and when I am done I return the throw pillow to the couch and the tray to the top of the fridge.

My husband’s lunch: sometimes these are fancy, sometimes… not so much.  Earlier this week we had stroganoff over rice for lunch, and instead of putting the leftovers in the fridge for later, I got out his lunch container and took a few seconds to spoon in all the leftover stroganoff, topping it with a few vibrant dashes of tobasco sauce (he loves spicy) and a sprinkling of parsley to make it look more appetizing.  The side dish was some of our leftover cooked veggies (broccoli, cauliflour, corn, peas, and carrots, all combined)- topped with a small slice of cheese and a dash of pepper.  For dessert I gave hiim a chunk of the apple coffee cake we’d had for breakfast that morning, topped with a generous slice of habanero pepper (okay, no, not even he likes his dessert spicy).  I served the coffee cake as it was.  If I thought it needed a bit of jazzing up I’d have added a drizzle of a glaze made by mixing a smigeon of milk with some powdered sugar.

Speaking of stroganoff, my second girl was already nearly through making it when she realized our sour cream was actually a container of leftover chili.  Oops.  We live too far from the store to run in for sudden kitchen crises of that nature, so we looked it up in a cookbook we had and found two options- neither of them may be cheaper than sour cream, but they are cheaper than an unnecessary trip to town for cottage cheese, especially when you drive a 12 passenger van.  We used a package of cream cheese (about 1.00 at Aldi’s), a couple tablespoons of milk to thin it.  Or we could have blended cottage cheese, a couple tablespoons of milk, and a couple tablespoons of lemon juice.  Most people do have their stroganoff over noodles.  We have it over whatever grain/starch we have on hand.  Sometimes that’s pasta, other times it’s rice, biscuits, mashed or baked potatoes, and a few times it’s been crackers (this works better in a bowl.

The apple coffee cake was made from scratch, and we included an apple the Cherub had started butnot finished.  We cut off the bitten part, and diced the rest. No sense in throwing out 3/4 of a perfectly good apple.

The sliced off bit of apple, the egg shells from the eggs in the coffee cake, and a used teabag all went into the compost pile that afternoon (teabags make very nice additions to the compost pile, as do coffee grounds).  The compost comes in very handy when I want to repot plants for the upcoming wedding.

One final fix I used this last week was a creative bit of jury rigging that wouldn’t work in every situation- that’s the beauty of jury rigging, you use what you have to do whatever needs doing, and it will change from circumstance to circumstance.

cheapter than what you don't frugalThe button had come off the waistband of my skirt while we were camping, and the skirt didn’t stay in place without the button, and I had no needle, thread, or safety pin.  I used a barrette- slipping it through the nearest beltloop and then through the botton hole and fastening it.  Had the barrette not worked, I could have used the wristband of my watch (I tried).  It’s not that a watch or barrette is cheaper than a safety pin, but what you have is cheaper than what you don’t have.

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Now it can be told…



You know when my freezer failed and I had other plans that day, including company coming?  And when company arrived and my son told said company, “The house never looks like this, so don’t get used to it?”

The person seated on the right, in the gray shirt, is said company.  He is now formally engaged to the person seated on the left, our Jenny Any Dots.

He’s a carpenter entrepreneur from back east.  He and our Jenny will be living in New York.

2014-09-03 16.39.02

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