Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Year of Trying

Hello All!

June 21st marked Try It or Buy It’s first anniversary!  Thanks for following along thus far, and I hope you stick it out to see what other messes I can make in my second year of blogging! I made some slight changes to the blog's appearance, and added a top ten posts thing on the side bar.  For those of you who don't come to the site, come check it out.

So what were the most popular posts over the last year?

Diaper Wipes come in first place, and I can’t blame you, those things are useful!  We go through about a dozen a day right now! Not to mention once you use them you'll never want to go back to those flimsy disposable ones- cloth wipes actually keep the poop off your hands.

Chocolate Hazelnut Spread comes in second.  I was surprised how popular this post was, but I guess everyone loves Nutella as much as I do!  My current favorite way to eat this treat is spread on pretzel chips- it’s crisp and salty, sweet and smooth- Perfect.

Laundry Soap is third- way to be practical, people!  We are currently alternating between the homemade stuff and my back stock of Seventh Generation that I bought while it was on sale about a year ago! (It was a big sale.)  I’ve done both Ivory soap and the Yardley’s, and I think they work about the same, but I prefer the non-smell of Ivory.

Tortilla Chips are in fourth place, no shocker.  Making chips is fast and easy and incredibly delicious. 

Pillow Covers are fifth.  I am actually gearing up to make another set, this time for myself.  We’re getting a new couch, and I thought covers for our throws would be a good idea- both because they could match nicely, and because I could throw them in the wash next time Elizabeth spits up all over them!

My personal top five are a little different. 

S’mores Granola Bars- during the school year we were making these once a week! 

Sisal Bath Scrubber- You can laugh, but I use this every time I shower, and it’s still holding up very well!  I will say that it stretched quite a bit- it’s almost 50% longer now than when I first knit it.  My sister wants me to make her a long one that she can scrub her back with.  Not a bad idea!

Sugar Free StrawberryJam- I made this again this summer, and it came out even better than my first batch!  My mom says it’s more of a strawberry butter because of its consistency, but I just call it delicious.

This year's batch of jam- so good!!

Vanilla Extract- This gets you a lot of bang for your buck, and it takes about 3 minutes to set up.  It’s great when things work best when you leave it alone!

Chocolate Syrup- I almost went with Hot Cocoa Mix, but we are in the midst of summer and its 95 degree days.  There isn’t much better than an iced mocha, or chocolate milk blended with a frozen banana!  Give it a whirl!

Wow- it is very evident that I have a sweet tooth by the looks of my top five.  What has your favorite project been this year?  I’d love to hear your comments, and please let me know if there’s anything you are itching to see Tried.  Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Soft Pretzels

I'm not a big soft pretzel gal, but two people have asked, one of which was my husband, so I decided to give it a whirl.  This was supposed to be last weeks post, but I failed to read the recipe all the way through before starting the project (common problem for me), and didn't realize how long the dough had to rest.

We made a half batch from this Allrecipes recipe, and on my husband’s suggestion we made half salted, and half cinnamon and sugar.

You will need

1 (.25 oz) packet dry yeast ($2.19 per 3 packets, $2.19/3 = $.73)

1 cup warm water (free)

½ cup sugar ($3.29 per 5 lb, $3.29/ 80oz = $.04 x 3.75oz = $.16)

1 tsp salt ($.47 per 26oz, $.47/30.69tsp = $.02)

2 Tbsp organic butter, softened ($5.49 per lb, $5.49/32 Tbsp = $.17 x 2 Tbsp= $.34)

½ an organic egg (whisk in a bowl and eyeball half the whisked egg) ($3.19 per dozen, $3.19/24 = $.13)

3 ¼ cups organic flour ($4.99 per 5 lb, $4.99/80oz = $.06 x 17.88oz = $1.12)

1 organic egg yolk ($3.19 per dozen, $3.19/12 = $.27)

2 Tbsp water (free)

About 2 Tbsp coarse salt (I used kosher) ($2.99 per 48oz, $2.99/94.42 Tbsp = $.03 x 2 Tbsp = $.06)

About 1 tsp cinnamon ($1.97 per 2.37oz, $1.97 x .067 oz = $.13)
This is what I consider stiff dough, which was a little over 3 cups of flour, total.
Dissolve yeast in warm water in the bowl of a mixer.  Add ¼ cup of the sugar, salt, butter and egg, mix till combined.  Stir in 1 ½ cups of flour; mix until smooth.  Add enough additional flour to make a stiff dough (mine came to about 3 cups, total).  Cover bowl tightly and refrigerate for 2-24 hours (Or, forget about the project, and refrigerate it for 27 hours like me!). 
After 27 hours in the fridge, here is the risen dough.
My log divided into 16 pieces.

Punch the dough down. On a lightly floured surface, cut your dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 20-inch rope, and shape it into whatever you like.  Place pretzels on a greased baking sheet.
In a small bowl, combine egg yolk and water; brush over the pretzels. Sprinkle with salt or with the combined remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 25 minutes. Bake at 400 degrees  for 15 minutes or until brown.

Spencer had his own piece, which he promptly destroyed.
A few of my ropes.  Why use a fabric measuring tape?  Because it's been out for days since Spencer uses it as his "Game Show" for it's button.
Here's what the baby was doing during our pretzel shaping.

Even though this project took a while, it was a fun one.  To divide the dough into equal pieces I shaped it into a log, then divided it in half, then halved the halves, then halved those, and cut it longwise.  I had trouble rolling the pieces out into ropes on the counter, but found success rolling them between my hands, instead. (Side note- for some reason rolling them in my hands brought the theme song to Pee Wee's Playhouse to my head, and I couldn't shake it!)
I shaped them on the counter and transferred them to the pan, but I would recommend shaping them on the pan, they got a little misshapen in transit.

Don't they look tasty?  There are only 15, Spencer's never made it to the oven.  The ones on the right are salt, and the ones on the left are cinnamon-sugar.
Try It

$2.96 for 16 pretzels, or $.19 per pretzel.  

Buy It

$3.49 for 6 frozen Super Pretzels, or $.58 per pretzel.


Well, I didn’t have time to weigh the pretzels before I left for the weekend with my sisters, and when I got back all the ones that I had frozen were gone.  So they are tasty, even after being frozen and defrosted (at least according to my husband!), but I have no way to compare the cost accurately. 

I wasn't blown away, but the only time I eat a soft pretzel is on the rarest of occasion when the planets align and I am both in the mall AND neeeeeding a treat that isn’t coffee.  Therefore, I will conclude that if you are a pretzel person, by all means Try It, and try it with your kids, Spencer loved that he got to play with the dough!  If you are like me, stick to the mall pretzels, they’re way more pretzely.  My biggest complaint is that they just seemed like flavored bread, but my husband disagreed, and especially loved the cinnamon sugar ones which he said was like a pastry (he doesn’t eat a love of sugar).

NEXT WEEK: Anniversary Post!! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Playing with food and other such randomness

Linoleum Scuffs
My son uses his little chair from his art/breakfast table as a step stool around the house.  I don’t mind this practice at all, it means he’s more self-sufficient, however, the chair was painted by an 8th grader who decided it was important that the bottom of the chair legs also be red and yellow.  This means major paint scuffs on the linoleum which does not come off with regular mopping.  I read on Yahoo a tip to rub toothpaste into the scuff to remove it.  It worked alright, but it required a lot of scrubbing.  Anyone have a better solution?

...and after.  It's not perfect, but it's a big improvement!
Edible Play dough… Known in my house as Peanut Butter Balls
Confession- I used to love to watch Jon and Kate Plus 8.  You don’t have to tell me how ridiculous this is, I’m aware.  Anyway, on one episode Kate makes the kids edible play dough out of equal parts peanut butter, honey, and powdered milk.  I called my sister afterwards to tell her of this wonderful idea, and she laughed and laughed.  Apparently that is EXACTLY my mother’s peanut butter ball recipe.  Either way, Spencer loves it.  He and my mom make peanut butter balls on a regular basis in small batches, rolling them in a little powdered sugar and storing them in the fridge or freezer.  They're delicious, too.

Spreadable Cream Cheese
We go through a fair amount of cream cheese in our house- Spencer loves bagels and frozen waffles with the stuff, and my husband and I love Triscuits with cream cheese and jalapeno pepper jelly.  We generally buy cream cheese in brick form, but I miss the texture of the spreadable kind.  I had an epiphany the other day when I remembered a trick from working in my college cafeterias.  There were two, and they both used the same bricks of cheese, but one threw theirs in the standing mixer for a few minutes to whip it up, and the other did not.  The whipped was MUCH better.  To duplicate this, throw your brick of cream cheese in the mixer with the whisk attachment for a few minutes.  That’s it.  So much better.

I know this is the paddle attachment, but the whisk worked so much better!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Brown Sugar

Well, we're gearing back up post baby, a little slowly, but back on track!  Thanks for sticking with me!
I ran across the recipe for brown sugar some time ago, but had no need to ever try it, since brown sugar is so inexpensive.  Last night, however, I needed half a cup of brown sugar and found my pantry lacking.  I did have granulated sugar and molasses, which are the only ingredients you need.

You will need

1 cup granulated sugar ($3.29 per 5 lb, $3.29/80oz = $.04 x 7.5oz = $.31)

1 Tbsp molasses (2 Tbsp for dark brown sugar) ($3.45 per 12fl.oz, $3.45/12fl.oz = $.29 x .5fl.oz = $.14


Put the sugar in a small bowl and drizzle the molasses over it.  Mix with a fork until fully incorporated.
For real, that’s it. 
...and after.  So simple!

Try It

$.45 per cup.

Buy It

$.37 per cup.


This took no time, but it’s still more expensive than store bought.  I will continue to Buy It for the most part, but it's still a great trick to have up your sleeve in a pinch!