Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Homemade Hot Sauce

I had a bunch of peppers leftover from my mini pepper plants over the summer, and I have been debating what to do with them. I used some to make pepper jelly, but it was SO spicy. I tried adding just a few into a jar of salsa, and talk about some KICK! They were too hot to really do anything with, so I decided to make a batch of good ole' homemade Louisiana hot sauce :)

I adapted this recipe from one I found in the book Little House in the Suburbs (great book, btw).

What you need:
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup tabasco peppers with the stems cut off
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp garlic

Simmer the salt, peppers, and vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to do this in a well-ventilated area.
WARNING: It is best not to breathe at all if possible during this step. If you must breath, you may want to put your shirt over your nose and mouth. You probably also want to turn off your AC or heater, because when that thing kicks on in the middle of the project and those potent fumes start swirling around, it's not good! (Not that I know from experience...)

Next, take the mixture off the heat, cover it, and let it cool. Take this time to air out the house. Or just go outside and take some deep breaths without feeling like your throat is burning.

Once it is room temperature, add the garlic and blend the mixture in a food processor until sludgy. When you open the top of that food processor, it is another good time not to breathe.

Then pour the sludge through a fine sieve to strain out all of the skins, pulp, and seeds.

Then pour it into a bottle and keep it refrigerated. It should stay good indefinitely! I made three batches, which gave me 1 3/4 olive oil bottles. I guess I could have measured it in cups before pouring it...oh well.

I was just curious to see if my chickens, who eat literally anything, would be interested in the leftover pulp. It smells so strong!

Yep, they ate it all...

Monday, December 29, 2014

How to Harvest and Make Ground Ginger

As I was cutting back all of the dead summer plants in my garden this winter, I had Christmas on the brain. Cutting my ginger plants, which have such lovely and potently fragrant white blooms during the summer, got me wondering if ground ginger (and gingerbread cookies!) could somehow be derived from my ginger plants. A little research soon uncovered that ginger root and ground ginger do come from the beautiful flower that I happened to have as a decorative plant in my garden!

It turns out to be a simple process, so I decided to share! Also, I got to use three of my Christmas presents in the process (mandoline, dehydrator, and electric food mill). Love, love, love new kitchen gadgets!

In case you are wondering if you have it in your garden as well, there are several different varieties, but my plants look like this:

After the ginger plants die back in the winter, it is the perfect time to harvest the root, which is actually a rhizome, to use as a spice for different recipes. You will want to dig up a few of the rhizomes that are from the previous year's growth rather than the new growth that just started in the past spring. Either will work, but the older the rhizome, the stronger the flavor will be. I had a few rhizomes growing out of the garden into the yard, so I started with those.

After digging up a few and rinsing them off, I was ready to get started on the experiment! As you can see, these rhizomes still have some green on them as they are younger, but the older ones will have a completely brown skin.

 Peel off the skin off with a vegetable peeler. The inside will have a thick, white, fibrous texture. Some recipes call for ginger root, and you would use the ginger at this point for those recipes. But for recipes calling for ground ginger, we continue the process.

 Use a mandoline slicer to create thin slices. Side note- mandolines are amazing!

Put the slices in a dehydrator on medium for about an hour. I was surprised at how fast the ginger dried! It ends up looking like paper thin sawdust curls.

 Put the completely dehydrated ginger flakes in a food mill or coffee bean grinder.

 Grind for a minute or so until most of the ginger is a powder.

Shake the powder through a fine strainer or sifter to separate out any pieces that didn't chop up fine enough.

And what you have left is ground ginger! You can store it in an airtight glass container or spice jar. I can't believe the price I have been paying for ground ginger and ginger root while I had it growing in my backyard all along! Go figure.

What about you? Do you have any ginger in your yard???

Sunday, December 28, 2014

DIY Decorative Magnetic Chalkboard

This has been one of my favorite projects that I have made this year! It is a magnetic chalkboard in a decorative frame with a touch of shabby chic-ness! There are quite a few steps to make this, but here goes...

What you need:
- wooden plate frame
- plaster of paris
- acrylic paint
- paintbrush
- sandpaper or sanding block
- 9 in. baking tin
- chalkboard spray paint
- chalk
- ribbon
- decorative fabric flower, feathers beads, etc.

First you will need a wooden plate frame. A family member of mine used to collect those painted plates with scenes from different movies, etc. Well, to go along with these collector plates, they had boxes of wooden plate frames. So, you will need one wooden collector plate frame.

Lay your frame on some newspaper. Now it is time to paint it with some homemade chalk paint. You can buy chalk paint, but mixing your own is cheaper, and you can choose from any color of paint! To make chalk paint, simply mix your choice color of paint with a little bit of plaster of paris. I couldn't tell you the proportions because I usually just go by the consistency, which is different for each paint. You don't want it so chalky that it is clumpy- it should still be smooth, but thicker than regular paint.

Once your chalk paint is mixed, put a thick coat on your frame. Only one coat of paint should be necessary with the chalk paint. Don't get too perfectionistic with your paint job, you are going to be sanding it off in the next step anyway! Let it dry completely.

Now take some fine grained sandpaper or a sanding block and sand down the chalk paint so that the wood shows through along the edges of the frame. This should look like natural weathering, so it will be uneven and rustic looking. Be sure to use the wood's natural rises to your advantage to give it more depth. Here are two frames side by side of before and after the sanding.

Brush off the paint dust and get ready to make the chalkboard part! What makes the adorable magnetic chalkboard center of this decorative frame? A simple dollar store 9 in. baking tin.

Take your baking dish and spray paint the back side of it with chalkboard paint. Make sure the pan is completely covered with a thick coat of paint. It is better to do several thin coats letting each coat dry before adding the next to get the best effect.

Then attach the baking tin to the frame. The frames already come with hardware on them. I take all of it off, saving the screws and the hanger to use again later. Use a hammer and nail to punch five holes in the lip of the baking tin- one on each side, one at the bottom, and two at the top the exact distance of the holes in the hanging hardware. 

Use the screws saved from before to screw the baking tin into the frame with a hand held screwdriver.

Now you should have a completed frame!

Next you can add any decorative touches that you want. I use fabric flowers, beads, and feathers. Hot glue your decorative touches to the frame. I also add a piece of chalk tied to a ribbon that is glued to the frame so that something to write with is always handy!

There are lots of different designs that you can make using these plates frames. The magnetic chalkboard is my favorite, but I have tried several other designs as well.

You can use sheets of cork to create a corkboard.

Or you can slice wine corks and glue them onto fabric covered cardboard to create a corkboard with a little more dimension.

I think these plate frames are the perfect decorative touch for any home as well as keeping organized! Which one will you make?

Saturday, December 27, 2014

DIY Picket Fence Boot Rack

Our latest little homestead project was making a boot rack to organize all of our outdoor shoes that tend to pile up by the back door. Since our chickens free range, the shoes that we wear in the backyard, are used ONLY for the back yard. So when we take them off at the door, it turns into a piled mess of old tennis shoes, boots and flip flops. Enter new idea for a boot rack to keep it organized so I don't trip over them getting to the door :)

We used some leftover supplies that we had leftover from other projects, so it isn't for looks- just function at this point.

- 1 part of a section of picket fence
- 2 2x4x8 boards
- 3 fence boards
- wood screws

First we cut the section of picket fencing we had leftover so that it was only 4 pickets long. Next, I custom measured pieces of the 2x4 to go out from the fence at the bottom to equal the width of 2 fence boards. Then I measured 2 more pieces to use as vertical stabilizers and screwed them all together.

Next I cut 2 of the fence boards to the length of the base and screwed them on top (actually DH handled all of the power tools).

 Next we cut some short pieces of 2x4 to create the brace for the top shelf. We measured so that it would equal the width of one fence board, and then screwed them together.

 We added the top shelf onto the supports, and then added a screw into the back of each picket to make the whole thing a little more sturdy.

 All done! Took less than half an hour! Not bad for a Saturday afternoon project. I will probably paint it later...maybe next Saturday.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Fabric Paint Stamped Tea Towel

A friend of mine has an adorable house, and it is difficult to give a decorative gift to someone with an adorable house, because everything always looks perfect! If you need a gift for a person like this, don't give up and buy a gift card just yet! These super cute and trendy fabric stamped tea towels are a great idea. They are custom made, so you can fit the colors and designs to any decor, and even a non-crafty person can create a memorable gift for yourself a friend.

What you need:
- Cotton linen tea towels (I used Aunt Martha's)
- Martha Stewart Tintable Fabric Medium
- Acrylic paint
- Rubber stamps
- Ruler
- Pencil
- Foam brush
- Waxed paper

To make these adorable stamped tea towels is an easy project. First gather all your supplies- choose which paint colors you want to use and which designs of stamps. Next think through the design that you want to put on the towels (the possibilities are endless!). I did four different designs for this particular project. 

First pre-wash, dry, and iron the towels to have a clean surface to design. Next, lay out the design. I measured where each stamp would go in advance, and marked those spots with a pencil, making a tiny dot.

I also put my towel on top of a plastic tablecloth, just in case any paint bled through!

Take your first color of paint and mix it with the tintable fabric medium. Make sure to shake both well before using. When mixing the two together use a 1 to 1 ratio of paint to fabric medium.

After you mix the paint, I use a foam brush to paint it onto the shiny side of waxed paper. I then put the stamp into the paint on the paper to make sure that the paint is evenly coated on the stamp before stamping it onto the fabric. You could also paint it onto the stamp with a brush, but I like the waxed paper method.

Carefully stamp your design where the dots are marked, making sure to recoat the stamp with paint in between each stamp on the towel. You may want to practice stamping the paint on paper before you go to the fabric, just to get the hang of it!

Use as many colors and designs as you would like! Cleanup between colors is easy- just rinse out your stamp and brush with warm water. Since the paint is acrylic, rinsing it off is a breeze!

Once you are finished, let the towels dry for 24 hours. I know...waiting. 
After that, you have to heat set the designs to make them permanent. This is the most boring part. Iron on the wrong side of the fabric using a DRY iron (steam could smear the design) set on medium to high heat.  Iron in small sections, making sure that each section is heated evenly for 3-5 minutes. Yes, add up those minutes in your head and you will realize that 4 towels took over an hour. So, put on some music or a movie, get comfy, and iron away.  

Once the design is heat set, the towels are finished! The are machine washable and dryable on the delicate cycle. Now these tea towels are ready to take your kitchen cuteness to the next level! The great thing about this project is that you can use this same method on anything fabric- pillow cases, shower curtains, table runners, cloth napkins, curtains, throw pillows, table cloths, lampshades, Christmas tree skirts, etc. So once your kitchen is cute, start custom designing everything else in the house!

How did yours come out???