Sunday, January 25, 2009

Make your own slider burgers

Have you been tempted to buy those special pans to make your own slider burgers? If you have a grill pan (or even if you don't), you probably have everything you need to make some sliders at home, for a fraction of the cost of going out to Chili's or TGI Fridays.

I just baked a batch of my homemade dinner rolls to use as buns and prepared my hamburger meat like I normally would. Basically, here is the recipe:

Makes 16 mini burgers

2.25 lbs. ground beef
1 packet dry onion soup mix
2 Tbsp. A-1 steak sauce
garlic powder, to taste
black pepper, to taste

1/2 chopped onion to sprinkle in the bottom of the pan.

To form patties, fill a 1/4 cup measuring cup with hamburger meat and empty onto a plastic lined cutting board (for easy clean-up). Pat meat down to form patty. Heat grill pan on medium heat, sprinkle onions onto center of pan, place 4-5 patties in center of pan and place grill press onto patties. Cook until brown on bottom and flip over. Patties are pretty much cooked at this point but I like to brown both sides. Slice rolls in half and place patties, cheese, and additional condiments, as desired. Enjoy!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

My first sock bun!

What do you do when you can't sleep? I watch videos on YouTube. It was 4:30 a.m. and I found videos on styling long hair. One of them mentioned a "sock bun" and since I'm the curious type, I just had to do more research and, finally, make my own! What is a "sock bun"? It is a form over which you make a bun-type hairstyle and it's made from...wait for it...socks! Mine was made with two of my husband's discarded tube socks (I keep them in a basket by my sewing machine with other discarded clothing) and two new jet black knee high stockings. I used two socks because I wanted my bun form to be large and firm. What you do is cut the toes off of the socks and stockings, put one tube sock inside the other and roll them down to form a donut shape. Put one of the knee highs with the elasticized top through the center of the donut and roll the knee high around the donut. Do the exact same thing with the second knee high to make the donut more opaque and completely cover the whiteness of the tube sock. If you have blonde hair, you'd probably use a nude colored sock instead of black. This is so that if my hair doesn't completely cover the donut, it won't be so obvious. I've read that if you don't cover your sock with a piece of stocking, your hair will get really tangled. I didn't want to find out first-hand!

I know my first sock bun is kinda messy but my second one was much better. I now know that this type of bun is very popular with ladies in the military and performance artists like figure skaters and dancers. I can see myself wearing my hair like this a lot.

Here are a couple of the videos that got me started:

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My new glass tea kettle

Did I need another kettle? No. Why then did I feel compelled to buy this one? I just loved the idea that I could watch the five stages of tea water that Angela at Tea With Friends blogged about. In fact, this is the same kettle she uses. You can't beat the price at $9.95 from KMart. Also, I have made my masala chai in this kettle and it works very well. I made my chai for some friends last week in my usual saucepan on the stove but, as usual, when I pour it into cups, I lose about 1/3 down the drain. Now, I can pour out the chai very neatly and not lose a drop. I just remove the whistling lid while brewing the tea (before adding milk) so that it reduces a bit. It's easy to clean, too. Perfect!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Bialetti Mukka Express

Cruising YouTube can be very dangerous for me. I forget what I was looking at but somehow I came across a video for this cappuccino maker. What came next? EBay, of course! I placed a bid on three of them! I actually won one and it's in the mail as we speak.

Ummm, why did I buy this? I've had less than 10 cups of coffee in the past year! It just looked so good that I couldn't help myself. My mom always said that I have no sales resistance. Isn't that the truth? Anyone have a bridge for sale?

January 10, 2009
I must tell you that I wasn't totally sold on the Bialetti Mukka Express before today. I have a super-wazoo Breville Cafe Roma that I got for Christmas a couple of years ago that makes excellent cappuccino. I'm not sure why I had to have the Mukka except that I was so curious after watching the YouTube videos. I wouldn't have bought the Mukka if I had to pay full price but I got it for such a great price on eBay that I had a hard time passing it up. If you want my honest opinion, if you want a good cup of cappuccino and not spend $300 on an espresso machine, you can get these two products (I've had both of these!) at a much better price and be just as happy: the Bodum Frother and a regular stove top espresso pot. You just don't get the "cool factor" that the Mukka has! I loved my Bodum frother until I broke the glass carafe. I bought it at Ross for less than $10.00 but haven't seen one there again. You can find the espresso pots at Ross as well for around $10-15.

The instructions for the Mukka said that the pot works better the more you use it and it was right! I made 4 pots of cappuccino today and they all turned out fabulous! I think it was better today because I was using whole milk instead of 2% so my milk was so rich and frothy. Just make sure you run water through the top of the pot right after you make coffee or else it'll be a bit harder to clean. Also, don't try to unscrew the bottom of the pot without removing the pressure valve on the'll hurt yourself trying to unscrew it. It won't loosen if there's still pressure in the bottom.

Chai Masala- Take 2

I couldn't help but tweak my first recipe because I think the cardamom was a bit too strong for my tastes. Here is my second recipe:

Chai Masala #2

Makes 28 servings

2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

To make 2 servings:

Bring 2 cups of water, 2 tsp black tea (Assam is my choice), 2 tsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp chai masala to a boil. Let boil approximately 5 minutes until water is a deep amber and has reduced a little. Add 1 cup milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat before it has a chance to boil over.

Now this is more like it! I love this recipe! A beautiful cup of chai for pennies a cup! Wonderful! I can't wait to share it with my friends. What I love about using the ground spices rather than fresh is that it's portable and I can mix up a batch and give it away in a little container, whereas if the spices were fresh, like the ginger, it would be more perishable and just a bit more work to prepare.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Masala Chai With Recipe

I've been on an Indian chai kick lately for unknown reasons. Perhaps it's because it is quite cold outside and the taste of the warm spices mixed with hot tea and milk is so comforting. Who cares that I'm lactose intolerant and by drinking all of this milk I could power four of my neighbors' homes for a week with my natural gas? Thank goodness the kids went back to school today and the hubby was at work! Poor dogs!

Tonight I've invited a friend over to share some chai with me. I can't wait for her input as her step-mother is from India and she is very familiar with this style of tea.

What's the difference between Chai Masala and Masala Chai? Glad you asked! "Chai" means tea and "masala" means spice so chai masala are the spices used to make the Indian spiced tea and masala chai is the finished spiced tea, according to my research. Please someone, correct me if I'm wrong!

Although I did have whole cardamom pods, I chose to go with the ground spices to make this easy.

Here is my first attempt at making my own Chai Masala (tea spice):

Makes 32 servings.

2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cardamom (I might reduce; just a bit heavy on the cardamom for me)
3/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/8 tsp ground black pepper

To make 2 servings:

Bring 2 cups of water, 2 tsp black tea (Assam is my choice), 2 tsp sugar, and 1/4 tsp chai masala to a boil. Let boil approximately 5 minutes until water is a deep amber and has reduced a little. Add 1 cup milk and bring to a boil. Remove from heat before it has a chance to boil over.

Again, this is just a first attempt. I know everyone's tastes are different and I'll most likely adjust the measurements again. I just like that it's not the overly sweet, syrupy chai I've come to expect at the coffee places and that I can adjust the flavors to my taste. Oh, can I just tell you that I've got enough cardamom to last me a year or so? The green pods were just $1.99/ounce and I bought 2 ounces! I couldn't get over how cheap they were because I saw a little jar yesterday (about an ounce) for $11.00!

Homemade laundry detergent & dryer sheets

Saving money is always important, but I just had to try this out of sheer curiosity. The Duggars do it! I guess they'd have to with all the laundry they do. You can find many sites and a few videos on the subject if you just Google "homemade laundry detergent". I have been doing this for almost three months now and so far I've been quite pleased. I still use my liquid All on the rare occasion because my husband sometimes brings home his work clothes that are so stinky that my homemade detergent just can't cut it. I'm sure there's a homemade remedy for this as well...vinegar or baking soda perhaps?

Making liquid laundry detergent is a bit more labor intensive but the same recipe can yield so much more detergent and is, therefore, more cost effective than the powdered version. I just prefer powdered over liquid for this.

Here is the basic recipe that is repeated all over the 'net but I found it here:

Powdered Laundry Detergent

2 cups finely grated bar soap, i.e. Zote, Fels-Naptha
1 cup washing soda (NOT baking soda!)
1 cup borax

1. Mix well and store in an airtight plastic container.

2. Use 2 tablespoons per full load.

I tried grating a bar of soap for this and it felt like more trouble than it was worth since I did it in my small food processor, like I saw in one video, but it took longer to clean my processor than it did to grate the soap! I wasn't about to risk grating my knuckles doing it on a box grater as I saw on another video, so my lazy butt went to the store and bought the cheapest powdered laundry detergent, a 3 lb. box of Sun, which was about $3.00 US. Since I can't find washing soda (sodium carbonate) in my area I have been substituting it with Purex 2, which contains both sodium carbonate and sodium percarbonate, the latter of which is listed on the box as a bleach alternative. I bought a 1 lb. box for less than $3.00 US. You can find sodium carbonate in the swimming pool supply section of Wal-Mart in a product called PH Plus but at $7.00 US, it is not an option since the whole reason I'm doing this is to save money. Also, in my area, the Hispanic stores carry a bar laundry soap at less than $1.00 US. I think the box of Borax that I bought was also about $3.00. I found all of these at Wal-Mart.

Even though I'm not grating a bar of soap, I use basically the same ratios of:
2 parts powdered laundry detergent
1 part Purex 2
1 part Borax

I found a 3 tablespoon scoop in my junk drawer and I have been using that to measure my soap for each load.

After all this time, I have only just finished my first box of Sun, haven't finished a whole box of either Purex 2 or Borax! I haven't taken the time to do a real cost analysis of making my own detergent but it really seems to be working out cheaper thus far. Did I mention that I average 2 full loads of laundry a day, every day? I've already done 4 loads today and I'm not done's bed sheet day!

How do I soften my laundry? I was intrigued when I saw that people have found ways to make their own fabric softener sheets so I figured that since I'm on a roll, I'd try it as well. You can see a few alternatives at TipNut. I wasn't a fan of using either old towels or flannel because of the lint and/or fraying associated with them so I used some scraps of microfleece I had laying around, which doesn't fray once cut. I cut the fleece into roughly 4" x
6" pieces. One formula I found was to dilute 1 part of liquid fabric softener with 6 parts of water. I found this was too watery but dilution really depends upon which fabric softener you start with. Try 3:1 water to softener. Once you do it a few times, you get a feel for what the diluted softener should feel like to the touch to get your laundry as soft as you like. Mix the fabric softener and water in a lidded container and soak the strips. When you need to use them, take one or two and wring them out before tossing into the dryer. Dry as usual. There is no need to wash the strips when the load is dry. Simply put them back into the container to soak. Wanna know a side benefit of this fabric softener solution? Remember those fleece Swiffer-like duster cloths I made a while back? I have found that when I soak those in the softener solution, wring out and let air dry, they attract much more dust. You have to let them air dry after soaking as putting in the dryer defeats the purpose.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Funny tea commercial!

Happy New Year! Here's a funny commercial I found on YouTube today.