Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year And Yummy Shrimp Dip

I know it is rather last minute to post a New Year's Ever recipe, but time seems to have gotten away from me, lately. This is is super simple to make, but oh, so delicious. It's a favorite with chips, but it is also good with crackers, and a nice addition to a veggie tray.

Shrimp Dip

1 (8 oz) brick of cream cheese, softened
1 (16 oz) container of sour cream
1 (4 oz) can of tiny shrimp, undrained
1 bunch of green onion, minced fine
5 - 6 dashes of Tabasco or hot sauce (optional)

Beat together cream cheese and sour cream with an electric mixer. Add in can of shrimp (juice and all) and green onion. Beat until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate for an hour or two to let the flavors combine. For more twang you can add the Tabasco or hot sauce.

P.S. Happy New Year to the best bloggy friends, ever!!!!! May 2011 be a wonderful year for each of you!
Thanks for your support and all your wonderful comments!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What I Spent My Christmas Money On

Every year I save any Christmas money or gift cards that I get to spend on the after Christmas sales. I am very boring when it comes to spending Christmas or Birthday money. I always seem to spend it on something I want or need, but can't bring myself to buy out of the regular family budget. This year I received a $30.00 gift card to Bed, Bath, and Beyond from my employer. I also received $20.00 in cash in a card, and returned a pair of dress boots that weren't my size for another $15.00 dollars (Child #2 accompanied Dear Hubby on the after Thanksgiving Day sales, and scored the boots for 50% off. I believe, I see another Tightwad in training.....I am SO proud). My grand total to spend was $65.00. I needed a second calendar, and I found one (with cute pictures that I can frame after I am done using the calendar) for 50% off at the mall. The final cost for the calendar was $6.00. I dropped my pizza stone on the floor and broke it into several pieces, earlier this year. I have been making pizza on my cookie sheet, but it is just not the same. I found a new pizza stone at Bed, Bath, and Beyond for $14.99. I have really needed new bathroom towels for a long time, but I have been making due. You can see through most of mine, at this point!  I consider towels an investment purchase (the last time I bought towels was probably 8 years ago). I never have good luck with cheap towels. They always shrink up funny, they aren't as absorbent, and they tend get get holes in them fairly quickly, too. A decent towel that will last for years are about $10.00 a piece. I lucked out today at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. They had some really nice towels on clearance for $5.99 each (regularly $9.99 a piece). I bought 5 bath towels and 2 hand towels ($4.59 each) for total of $39.13 ( $34.13 after I used a coupon for $5.00 off your total purchase). Today's shopping spree cost me $55.12. I am so excited to have fluffy towels, again. The best part is there are few dollars leftover. Maybe I'll hit happy hour at Sonic for a Diet Cherry Coke to celebrate!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Random But Frugal Thoughts

I have been really focusing on eliminating food waste this week. I have also been focusing on digging out from under the layer of clutter Christmas always seems to bring. The pile of Christmas goodie plates, that has been covering our kitchen table, from all our wonderful neighbors are slowly being consumed. Children are great for consuming sugary goodness.....I wish I could blame them for being the sole culprits, but I can't ( Oops! I just confessed ANOTHER sin!). I turned the rest of the Egg Nog and a dozen leftover rolls, that were a little on the stale side, into Egg Nog French Toast for breakfast. The turkey has been recycled into sandwiches and Fricassee. However, the troops are begin to balk at the turkey entree line up for the rest of the week, so I will probably put the rest in the freezer to use later. On the upside, I got a Presto Multi Cooker/ Steamer for Christmas that I have been itching to try. I think I will pull all the odds and ends out of the freezer (a.k.a chicken nuggets, french fries, tater tots, fish sticks) the assorted veggies that need to be used up (zucchini, green chilies, carrots, mushrooms) and have a deep fat fried fest. tonight. Not healthy, necessarily, but FUN!

Every year, the week after Christmas (and the entire month of January, too) I get the urge to redecorate. I've decided that it's more I want to shake up the "same old, same old" at my house. There is rarely any money in the decorating budget, so I usually have to compensate by rearranging furniture. If I move furniture from one room to another (using a cedar chest for a coffee table in the living room, and throwing a quilt over the back of the couch) it feels like a whole new room. Organizing and decluttering also helps curb my urges, too. When I am organized I feel like I am in more control of my crazy life. Plus, the house seems to stay a little bit cleaner, too. Yesterday, I decluttered and organized my little boy's room, and Child #2 are her Best Buddy did the same thing in her room ( Best Buddy and I moved the furniture, so she wouldn't rip out the surgeons handy work). I will be picking a project or two to work on every day until all the closets and rooms are organized. Woohoo!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Frugal Pumpkin Pie

One of my goals for 2011 is to completely cut out food waste. I must confess that I throw out a leftover or two every week, and this has given me no end of guilt! Throwing out  food is just like throwing money in the garbage (or compost heap). I am confessing my sin (one of many) to you in the hopes that I will now feel accountable for my wastefulness. Tonight I made my first step. I have a fridge full of odds and ends (who doesn't right now). Included in the miscellany, is half a cooked butternut squash, a cup of leftover candied sweet potatoes, and 3/4 of a quart of egg nog, and a couple of refrigerator pie crusts. I got a stellar deal on eggs at the grocery store last week ($4.82 for 5 dozen medium eggs), so I have quite a few eggs right now. After weighing my options I decided to whip up a couple of Pumpkin Pies using up my leftovers. Pumpkin Pie is a favorite at my house. Child #3 can eat one all by himself....if I let him, so I am fairly certain they will be eaten in short order!

For any one who would care to try my concoction here is the recipe. I adapted my tried and true Pumpkin Pie recipe out of the Better Homes and Garden's New Cook Book.

Frugal Pumpkin Pie
(makes two pies)
2 single unbaked pie crusts
3 1/2 cups pumpkin, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes (or any combination that equals 3 1/2 cups)
1 cup sugar (or 3/4 cup Splenda)
1 table spoon pumpkin pie spice
4 large eggs (or 5 medium eggs ) slightly beaten
1 1/2 cups evaporated milk ( I used egg nog in place of the evaporated milk)

Mix together pumpkin, sugar, and pie spice. Add in beaten eggs and mix until well combined. Slowly mix in evaporated milk and continue beating until thoroughly combined. Divide pumpkin mixture between to unbaked pie crusts. Bake at 375 for 50 - 55 minutes; until a knife inserted in the center of the pie comes out clean. Cool completely on a wire rack. Refrigerate after completely cooled.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

This Week's Menu 12/26

I am happy to report that Child #2 is finally on the mend! She has been in the upright position for the better part of two days. Hopefully now the chaos at my house will calm down a little bit, and I can get back on track! Menu planning went kaput last week, but bless my sweet friends, who took time out of their busy Christmas schedules, to bring soups and casseroles to feed my crew.  I ended up cooking a turkey yesterday, and I will be incorporating leftover's into this week's menu.

Turkey Sandwiches on Leftover Rolls
Shrimp Dip
Leftover Cookies

Turkey Fricasee
Mashed Potatoes
Leftover Candied Sweet Potatoes
Green Peas

Turkey Stuffed Cresents
Steamed Carrots
Home made Applesauce

Turkey and Noodles
Green Salad

Navajo Tacos (Chili and Fry Bread) 
Jello Salad

Friday (New Year's Eve)
A Hodge Podge of Snacky Foods with the Neighbors


Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Since I can't send you all a personal Christmas card, I thought I would do the next best thing. HERE'S WISHING A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS to all my favorite bloggy friends! You are all wonderful,and I hope you all enjoy your day!

P.S. Don't forget to save all the cute little gift bags and ribbons from your gift unwrapping revelry. It is the    frugal thing to do, after all.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Not A Christmas Post And Sour Cream Sugar Cookies

Monday was Child #2's 15th birthday. My children are allowed to pick the dinner and dessert menu on their birthday's (even if it doesn't meet the essential requirements of a well balanced meal). Child #2 requested that we go to the local Pizza Buffet restaurant for dinner, and that we have sugar cookies for dessert. Sugar cookies with pink cream cheese frosting and sprinkles, of course. She has a thing for pink........and sprinkles. Sadly, the cookies are still sitting in a plastic storage container in the refrigerator. Sunday morning she woke up with horrible pains on her right side, right under her rib cage. We spent Sunday morning in the ER trying to discover the reason for her pain. The ER sent us home later that day with pain medication, and a voucher for a return visit the following morning for a whole battery of tests. My poor baby! She spent her Birthday morning in the ER being poked and prodded ( Wrapping pink compression tape around your recently placed  I.V. DOES NOT make it a Birthday present. Her words not mine!). She spent her Birthday afternoon in surgery to remove a non functioning gall bladder, and her Birthday evening having an adverse reaction to the morphine she was given to manage pain (A room full of parents, well wishing friends, and nurses still is not considered a Birthday Party in her eyes, either.Even if we did string the Hello Kitty Birthday banner across the room). She did come home yesterday afternoon, which made her a much happier girl (still in pain, but much happier). Now, Nurse Mommy  is making her take her medication, walk up and down the hallway, and cough ( I am NOT her favorite person right now). Hopefully, in a few more days she will be a much happier camper!

Now, for the happier part of the post..........SUGAR COOKIES! Soft, rich, buttery deliciousness! I have sworn by this recipe for many moons now. They are pretty much fool proof. The key is to let the dough sit in fridge overnight. Let it get good and cold, then they roll out like a breeze. These are a little taste of Heaven (in my opinion, anyway).

Sour Cream Sugar Cookies
 (makes 4 dozen cookies)
1 cup butter, softened (I use butter flavored shortening)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
6 cups of flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup sour cream

In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine dry ingredients. Add dry ingredients to the creamed mixture alternately with the sour cream. Beat well after each addition. Place dough in a greased bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.  On a floured surface, roll  portions of the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out shapes and place on a well greased cookie sheet about an inch apart. Bake at 375 for 8 - 12 minutes, until they are lightly browned. Let cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool completely before frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 (8oz.) brick of cream cheese, softened
1/2 tablespoon vanilla 
51/2 - 6 cups powdered sugar

Cream butter and cream cheese until light and fluffy. Add vanilla. Beat in powdered sugar one cup at a time. Refrigerate any unused frosting.

Handy Tips:
  • Fill an empty Parmesan Cheese container with flour. Use it to sprinkle the flour your rolling surface.
  • Sprinkle decorations on cookies over a paper plate or bowl. You can pour the unused sprinkles on the plate back into the container to use another time. 
  • After frosting the cookies. Spread in a single layer on a cookie sheet, and place in a cold place for 20 minutes (I just set them in the garage to chill in the winter time). Then you can stack them between layers on waxed paper for storage without the frosting sticking. Keep uneaten cookies in the fridge.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Delectable Ham Sauce

Ham always seems to end up on my Holiday menu, and at our house ham equals ham sauce. A Great Friend shared this recipe years ago. It has been on the menu ever since. It is light and creamy with a bit of a twang! It is delicious poured over a hot slice of  ham (or turkey), but is delightful the next day spread on rolls for sandwiches. It is even a tasty dip for  Little Smokies, cheese slices, or Summer Sausage. It will stay good in the fridge for a week.

Mustard Sauce

1/2 cup sugar (or Splenda)
1/2 cup white distilled or apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons dry mustard powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter or margarine

In a medium saucepan combine sugar, mustard powder, and cornstarch. Whisk together vinegar, milk, and beaten egg. Whisk wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Cook over medium heat; stirring constantly until sauce comes to a boil and thickens. Take sauce off of heat and stir in butter until thoroughly combined. Refridgerate leftovers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's My Blogiversary Today!

I can not believe that it has been a year since I started blogging! I give full blame to my Dear Sister In Law, who after many months of cajoling, finally convinced me to take the plunge! I really didn't believe that anyone would care one iota about what I had to say. I am just a silly gal, after all, who has made frugality a bad habit.........mostly out of necessity, but partly just for the fun of it! I am amazed that in the past year I have made so many fabulous new bloggy friends, from all over the world, and have had over 25,000 hits!
So, thank you Dear Friends for supporting my humble blog, and especially all of you who leave comments! I enjoy reading everything you have to say! You are all FABULOUS!! I have thoroughly enjoyed my blogging experience this past year (dare I say, it has become the high point of my day).  Hopefully, something I have blogged about has helped make your lives easier.

Since, it is the Christmas Season, here are some holiday posts from last year that many of you may not have read. With any luck, they may give you an idea or two!
For those of you who are new to Tightwad Mom's Frugal Forum, or are just wondering why I started blogging you can read about it HERE! Once again, THANK YOU ALL for your support!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Week's Menu 12/13

"A Day Late And A Dollar Short!". That should be my middle name! Every year, about September, I faithfully promise myself that I am going to simplify Christmas.....and be organized. I kept this in the back of my head; around Halloween I started picking up a gift here or there. November I faithfully wrote out detailed notes (a blue print if your will) of how Christmas 2010 was going to go down. I even had several Pow Wows with Dear Hubby (a.k.a. date night) to make sure we were on the same page....check, and DOUBLE check! Yup, this years was going to go off without a hitch. There was even going to be time to spare! Oh wait, I forgot I have, two, three, FOUR of them (five if you count Dear Hubby). They just keep throwing projects, concerts, and activities my way; all willy nilly! Sweet Moses! I can't even catch my breath! Oh well, at least THE PLAN was well executed in theory. Now, I'm down to Plan by the seat of my pants, and hope for the best!!!!

( I have gotten a few things done. Just not enough!)
Woo Hoo! Now that I have that off my chest, I feel much better! Here is my belated menu for this week:

(this is Child #1's Birthday dinner request, a little bit late)
Chicken Alfedo
Green Salad 
Triple Berry Cheesecake

French Toast 
Orange Juice

Pizza Pasta
Sauteed Crookneck Squash
Green Salad ( trying to use up a surplus of lettuce)

Turkey A La King
Buttermilk Biscuits
Baked Hubbard Squash
Green Peas

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
Tomato Soup
Sliced Oranges

Date Night 
Something easy for the kids

Navajo Tacos (aka Chili and Fry Bread)
Lettuce and Tomatoes
Pudding Salad

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fabulous Fudge Recipes!

 (picture courtesy of  recipezaar)
I just ran into one of my Fabulous Friends at the grocery store a little while ago, and she asked that  I repost my Creamsicle Fudge recipe from last year. Click Here for the recipe! She has lost the recipe, and her step son has requested a batch for the Holidays. Since, when I posted it last year I probably had two followers (both family members who felt sorry for me) I thought reposting would be a grand idea. The holidays just aren't the same with out a piece of fudge or two. This recipe is delicious, and  a perfect treat for those that do not care for chocolate (although, I do consider that a sin!). While I'm at it, Jaimie at Jamie Cook's It Up has shared her Creamy Dreamy Fudge recipe, as well! I must confess I am not a stellar fudge maker, but Jamie's recipe looks like something I can manage. As long as we are on the subject of simple and delicious fudge recipes go check out Prudy's blog (Prudence Pennywise). She has a wonderful post on making easy Chocolate Bark. Although, Chocolate Bark is not technically fudge, it looks delectable, and  easy is always on my list this time of year!!! Jaimie and Prudy are both the kind of cooks that I want to grow up to be...someday! So, go forth, and learn from their culinary expertise!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This Is Why I Was Late Posting This Week's Ridley's (Associated Foods) Deals

I am a day late posting this week's Ridleys deals, but I think I have a very good reason! Last night was our Church's Annual Christmas Dinner and program. I am President of the Primary Organization of our Church(Ward) (children ages 18 months to 11 years). This year the Chair Person for the party (who happens to be a very good friend) asked if the children would sing a couple of Christmas Songs (in costume) for the program. I spend a busy day, yesterday, rounding up and organizing extra costumes. All the hard work  was worth it, though, when I heard all the darling children belting out "Away In A Manger" (in fact, I must admit that I teared up a little bit).

Of course, I had VIP seating for the event! That's me hunkered down in the corner by the stable. We had a baby Angel and a little lamb that weren't so sure they wanted to make their theatrical debut, last night! I guess your never to old to participate in the Nativity. As far as I'm concerned, this is the best part of Christmas! Bless all the other ladies that helped put our little production together! P.S. Plastic tablecloths, tissue paper, clothes line, and garland from the Dollar Store make fabulous Nativity costumes (inexpensive and disposable).

Now that I have bragged a little bit, I will get back to the real reason for this post. There are several great sales this week at Ridley's. I will be stocking up on a few things for the Holiday.
  • Chex Cereal, assorted varieties, 3 for $3.00 (for your first 3)
  • W.F. Boxed Cereal (assorted varieties) $1.35 each
  • 2 liter Coke Products $.98 each
  • 2 liter AW or 7UP $.98 each
  • Terry's Chocolate Oranges $1.85 each (these are on all 4 children's Christmas lists)
  • Don Julio (8 inch) 10 count, Flour Tortillas $.98 each
  • Nestle Hot Chocolate (8-10 count box) $.98 each
  • American Beauty Pasta (12-16 oz) $.94 each
  • Sugar Tree Spiral Cut Ham $1.27 pound
  • Super Saver packs of bone in Chicken Breast $.1.19 pound
  • Super Saver packs of Chicken Drumsticks or Thighs $.57 pound
  • Land O Frost Deli Shaved Lunch Meat (10 oz, assorted varieties) $1.99 each
  • W. F. (16 oz) Cottage Cheese $1.29 each
  • 5 pound bags of Russet Potatoes $.88 each
  • Medium Yellow Onions 3 pounds for $1.00
  • Navel Oranges $.39 pound
  • Small Grapefruit 4 for $1.00
  • 3 pound bag of Clementines $2.88 each
  • 38 pound box of Sunkist Navel Oranges $12.49 each (a great Christmas gift)

Monday, December 6, 2010

This Week's Menu 12/5

( I like reading posts with pictures. Here's a picture of  yummy  Cheesecake.I made two that look just like it for our Church Christmas Party tomorrow night.)

This week is going to be a nutty, crazy, Holiday filled week! Lots of  activities to keep my on my toes. Luckily, several events involving dinner, so I get a few nights out of the kitchen. HURRAY! I'm going for quick and easy this week!

Pork Roast 
Fried Potatoes

Pork Roast Sandwiches
Potato Chips 
Cucumbers and Lettuce

Taking Cheese Cake to our Church's Annual Christmas Dinner

Child's #1's 18th Birthday (he works at a local Mexican restaurant)
He is working on his Birthday, so we are surprising him by eating dinner at the restaurant and bringing Chocolate cupcakes to share with the restaurant staff.

My Office Company Party
The kid's are eating frozen pizza (and are excited about it!)

French Dip Sandwiches (bumped from last week)
Home Made Buns
Any leftover veggies that need eaten

Bread Sticks (made foom the rest of the Refrigerator Dough)
Green Salad

Any one else in the throws of  HOLIDAY CRAZINESS  this week?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Anatomy Of A Frugal Christmas Tree

(This is what happens when a Charlie Brown tree gets it's BLING on!)
 Every year Dear Hubby and I argue over real vs. a fake Christmas tree. When we bought our house, the person we bought it from sold us his Christmas tree for $50.00.  The tree is 8 feet tall (we have a vaulted ceiling in our living room), and it would not fit into the smaller home he had just bought. We used that artificial tree for 10 years (he had used for 10 before that), but sadly the tree is on it's last leg. It's an some assembly required  project. It's kind of like a Christmas tree jigsaw puzzle. Each row of the tree limb were color coded. I say were, because, the colors have worn off or faded until they ALL look the same. One year I tried to recolor them with Sharpie markers, but that all rubbed off quickly. So, now it just "Russian Roulette". If you follow the picture diagram included, and you argue with your spouse for two hours if those are the red or orange limbs, the tree might come out looking normal, or it might not. Then there was the problem of the branches just popping out of their allotted slots at any given time and falling on the floor. This freaks out the dog who was sleeping under the tree, sending her into with corner with a nervous tick!  This also freaks out the stressed out Momma, and sends her into the corner with a nervous tick, too! Needless to say, two years ago, I made the corporate decision to retire the tree. I have been on the look out for the past two after Christmas sales to buy a new tree on clearance, but so far I have been unsuccessful! :(

The last two years we have had a live tree. We are lucky to live in a semi rural area. We can purchase a tree permit for $5.00 from the U.S. Forest Service. Dear Hubby and the kid's have been making an after Thanksgiving trek into the woods to find our Christmas tree. Dear Hubby's brother lives on the way to the place designated to cut our tree, so sometimes his family buys a permit and tags along too. Sometimes Grandpa tags along to offer advice. There is the cost of the gasoline we use to drive to where the tree is cut (about 40 miles from where we live), but they always stop and visit Dear Hubby's brother's family, and they are making family memories. I consider it money well spent. Now that you know way more about my Christmas tree adventures than you ever wanted to know, I will get back on track!

Artificial Christmas trees are definitely an investment purchase. You want to buy something you will be happy with for along time, and will hold up to some wear and tear. After Christmas clearance sales are a great way to find a cheaper Christmas tree. I have been going that route, because Dear Hubby is a MAJOR Christmas tree connoisseur . He is very finicky about the style and general "bushiness" of artificial trees; hence, my lack of success on the clearance sales.  I have also seen lovely trees at consignment shops, and thrift stores. Yard sales, Craig's List, and the classified section of you newspaper are other resources for finding a good used Christmas tree.

Decorating your tree can be a budget buster, too. I have been lucky, because my Dear Sweet Grandma started a tradition when my siblings and I were little. She would deliver a home made Christmas ornament for each grandchild along with our Christmas gifts. The theory behind this tradition was that at some point we would all grow up and go out on our own. When the time came we would have ornaments to put on our own Christmas trees. Grandma was a very wise woman! I was the only granddaughter, so I ended up with a bevy of  angel and pink themed ornaments. My mother carries on the tradition now for her own grandchildren. Each year  I alternate themes. One year I use our homemade ornaments. The next year I decorate with glass balls (bought on Christmas clearance for $.75 a box), snow flake ornaments (Dollar Store purchase) and candy canes (grocery store purchase). Dollar Stores are great resources for ornaments and garland. They are especially great for finding cheap filler ornaments. After Christmas clearance sales are also a treasure trove for ornaments and decorations, you can get very nice decorations for super cheap! Thrift stores are another great resource, too. I  have found boxes and brand new ornaments at thrift stores for $.50 to $1.00. Some are new and never been opened.

Making your own ornaments is another great option. The second Christmas we owned our house I was in the mood to create a themed tree, but we were on a very, VERY tight budget that year. My two oldest children were 5 and 2, and I was pregnant with Child #3. One afternoon, I invited my neighbor and her little kid's( who was also on a tight budget) to come over an make ornaments with us. First walked over to the common area in our neighbor that was loaded with pine trees. We gathered pine cones and brought them home. We painted the pine cones with craft glue and sprinkled them with white, silver, and gold glitter. After they had dried we attached Christmas ribbon to the fat end of the pine cone with a gold thumb tack. We also whipped up a batch of Cinnamon Applesauce OrnamentsSince I was going with a cabin theme I cut out fish, mouse, and lob cabin shapes. My friend used bell, angel, and star cookie cutters. We also whipped up a few Reindeer ornaments, too. Our little kid's had so much fun helping the Mommies make Christmas ornaments, and we use items we had salvaged from around our house. Oh my, I seem to be in a Reminiscent mood today, I apologize!

A tree skirt is the only thing I ever struggle with. I don't believe I have ever owned one. Every year  I have had good intentions of buying a pattern and  whipping one up on my sewing machine. Of course, that never happens. Then I decide that I will watch for one to go on clearance, but I never do. I have always ended up draping a fabric tablecloth,  an old twin sized quilt, a piece of Christmas fabric (bought on clearance), and this year a crocheted throw (afghan) I rummage out of a clearance bin at Walmart for $5.00. Maybe, I should put "Get Yourself A Decent Tree Skirt" number one on my Christmas To Do List!

Now that your have endured my "Stories From Christmas Past" monologue, hopefully, I have given you some ideas to help you decorate your own frugal Christmas trees! Which do you prefer, a  Live or Artificial Christmas Tree?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Have A "Jelly" Christmas!

I'm a big fan of giving home made gifts for the Holidays; made with love (and a little sweat), of course! I especially like to give home canned items and baked goods, because everyone is so busy they rarely make home made goodness for themselves. I don't mind whipping up a batch of something or other, or two. In fact, if you have read my earlier posts, you know that when my stress odometer hits warp speed, I bake or cook for stress relief! There is just something about rattling and banging a few pots around, and seeing my culinary creation transform before my eyes that brings on a kind of  bliss! Of course, there are few complaints, when I hit one of the stress induced frenzies. Generally, because the troops get to be my taste testers when I am done!

One of my favorite things to make for Holiday gift giving is jelly! In my humble opinion, home made jams and jellies are far superior to the store bought variety. I like to whip up several different varieties to have on hand to put in home made gift baskets, a simple gift for a co worker, or a  last minute hostess gifts. I live in a very close knit neighborhood, and a jar of jelly is a nice way to say thank you to our neighbors who do so much for my family all year long!

If you are thinking that jelly making is an advanced placement project, it's not! In fact, for anyone who wants to give home preserving a try, this is the perfect beginner project. I will also let you in on a little secret..... I use 100% fruit juice purchased in the juice aisle at the grocery store! I usually watch the grocery ads and buy the juice when it's on sale (sometimes there are even coupons to make it even cheaper). My favorite juices to use to make jelly are:
  • Welch's 100% White Grape/ Peach juice
  • Welch's 100% Concord Grape juice
  • Welch's 100% Grape/ Cranberry juice
  • Tree Top (or store brand) 100% Apple Juice
All you need to start your project  is:

  •  Several cases of small jelly jars (these can be found in the canning aisle of you grocery store, or at thrift stores and garage sales)
  • A half gallon or gallon of 100% juice
  • Several boxes of pectin (found in the canning aisle of your grocery store). A gallon of juice will make about four batches of jelly. A half gallon about two. You will need a box of pectin for each batch you make.
  • A bottle of Real Lemon juice (I add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each batch to increase the acidity of the fruit.)
  • A 5 - 10 pound bag of granulated sugar, depending on how much jelly you plan on making.
 Just follow the directions that comes in the box of pectin.

Skip the instruction that tells you how to make the juice from whole fruit. Start your jelly making by measuring out the amount of prepared juice called for in the recipe. Follow the instructions step by step, and voila, perfect jelly. You will need to water bath (boiling water can) the jars of jelly to seal them, but that is very easy. In fact, The Simply Canning blog has excellent step by step instructions for water bath canning! If you don't have a water bath or steam canner, a large deep pot that will hold a rack in the bottom will work. The water just has to be able to cover the jars by an inch, so that your jars will seal properly. Don't forget to label your jars. I use printer friendly address labels that I gussy up with my print artist program, but here's a great link for making canning labels from Sweet Preservation.

The beauty of this project is it can be made ahead of time! Once the jelly is made and sealed they can sit in boxes in the pantry until you need them. When your ready to gift your gift,all you have to do is tie a pretty ribbon around your jar, and deliver it to the lucky recipient.  How's that for one more item checked of the Christmas Gift Giving List!


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