A Diary of our Current Meanderings, Thoughts, and Adventures...


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

"Make your own...Whaaaat?!" Entry #5: Peach Iced Tea

Have I mentioned that fresh fruit is practically my favorite fruit? Do you know that I make fresh batches of brewed iced tea twice a week? When I got the idea to combine peaches in my tea, I got a little giggly.

I have particular memories of Snapple's peach iced tea on rides to and from the shore...Wawa peach iced tea after gymnastics practices...Turkey Hill peach iced tea for lunch during my student teaching days. What a great combo! Time to make my own. :)

On top of the nostalgia and peach/tea being a favorite combination to me...I had 4 peaches in my fruit bowl getting ready to go bad. Perfect timing to try my own summer treat!

Here's what you'll need to try yours:

Fresh/almost-going-bad peaches (I used 4 to get started) - sliced into small pieces
3 tbsp. agave nectar
1 tbsp. corn syrup
1 1/2 c. water
Food Processor/Blender Ice Cube Tray

Peel and slice peaches into small pieces.

Boil peaches on medium-high heat with water. Once boiling, let the peaches simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Check a peach to make sure its soft and slightly flaky.

Drain peaches from water, then put peaches into a food processor or blender. Add agave nectar and corn syrup into blender. Sugar and honey could be substituted instead.

Blend peaches and syrups. If the mixture seems very thick, add a few teaspoons of water and blend again.

**My initial goal for this recipe was to create a syrup that could be put into the drink itself, but the thickness seems better in an ice cube mixture. As the cubes melt, the mixture is incredible...even better than my long-standing memory/history with peach tea. :)

Pour peach mixture into ice cube trays.

Let ice cubes sit for 24 hours before using.

Add the tea over the cubes...Mmm...seriously delicious. And refreshing!

On a 91 degree day in South Jersey...when the AC is off to save some energy-this tea hit the spot!

How about you?? What delicious summer refreshments have you created?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

"Make your own...Whaaaat?!" Entry #4: Laundry Detergent

It has always bothered my to buy my own cleaning products. Always. I get kind of huffy, and even twitchy in the store when I put my hand on a bottle.
Why? Because in Little House on the Prairie, Ma made her own. Because chemicals are not meant to treat our houses, dishes, or clothing. Because I hate how expensive it is. Because I can do it myself, gosh darnit!

I have been making most of my own cleaning products for the last couple of years, but have always shied away from laundry. I don't know, maybe something about messing up my $3 t-shirts from the thrift store scares me. (Ha)
I wish I hadn't waited though...making your own detergent is just so.darn.easy!

Here is what you will need:

1/3 bar Fels Naptha or other natural bar of soap

1/2 c. washing soda (Don't confuse this with baking soda!!)

1/2 c. Borax

A large bucket or tub
(*You can find all of these ingredients in a mainstream grocery store. Wegmen's has all three right next to one another!)

1.) Cut your bar of soap to size, then grate the soap over a medium/large pot. Be careful not to leave too many large chunks of soap...they just don't melt as quickly. The first time I did this, I actually only used 1/2 of the measurments listed above, so as not to overwhelm myself with the product. Next time, I will use the correct meausurements!
2.) Add 6 cups of water, and turn the burner on medium heat. Stir occasionally. Your soap shreds will begin to melt and turn your water the color of your bar of soap.

3.) When your soap fully melts, and the water starts to simmer, it's time to add your washing soda and Borax. (Have I mentioned that these 2 ingredients are used in half of my other cleaning products as well? Can't go wrong having them in the house!)

Let the mixture continue to simmer until everything has dissolved. Then remove from heat.

4.) Get your large bucket and pour 4 cups of hot water. I would recommend a 5 gallon bucket. (I did not use it, but I would next time when I use the full amounts of ingredients, not half!)

5.) Pour in your soap/water mixture. Then...add LOTS more water: appx. 1 1/2 gallons, or 1 gallon and 6 more cups. *If you don't have a container holding more than 2 1/2 gallons, just half the recipe like I did.

After this, your laundry detergent is done! You will need to let it sit for about 24 hours before using it. It will solidify, but not in the way you might be thinking. It comes out much like the fat from a cooked chicken, or a thickened egg drop soup.

My only problem now is...what to store it in! If you have a 5 gallon bucket with a lid...this is a good option.

Here are some other ideas I have for containers, I just haven't purchased one yet. Container Option #1 or Container Option #2. Do you have any ideas for me??

You only need a 1/2 cup of detergent per full load of laundry. I have now tested this recipe on dish towels, bath towels, baby laundry and adult laundry and have found it works well with everything!

Hope you have as much success as I did!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Make your own...Whaaaat?!" Entry #3: Tortillas

Guacamole may be one of my favorite foods. Wait...no, no, salsa. Better yet...burritos. My point is: Mexican food is one of my all-time weaknesses. I love all things Mexican-food related. When I started making my own tortillas to go with all of this goodness, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
The best part is how stinkin' easy they are to make. Just be warned, once you try these, you will never want a bag of store-bought tortillas again.

Here's what you'll need:
4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder

2 tbsp. shortening/lard
Appx. 1 c. water

Start by mixing all of the dry ingredients together, like so.

*I should also note that wheat flour works just as well as white, however I would not do more than 2 of the 4 cups with wheat. They will become too stiff to work with.

Stir together, then add the shortening. Now the fun part...Noa's favorite part, in fact. Use your clean hands to squish the shortening into the flour. You should do this all through the flour til it's evenly spread. Then add the water a little at a time, continuing to mix with your hands until a nice dough ball forms. (pictured below)

Then create smaller dough balls, about an inch and a half around. This batch made 12 dough balls, which is more than enough for a family of four's tacos! Also, be sure they are each pretty large, otherwise you will end up with itty bitty tortillas that you can't fit any toppings on!Next, the smashing!! Another kid-friendly favorite part. :)

Push the dough down into circles, then roll them out until they are quite thin, but not so think that you can't pick them up without them breaking apart.
Your tortillas do NOT need to look like perfect circles. Infact, I prefer mine to look like outlines of continents on a map. ;) (See Australia below)

Next, turn your burner on to medium heat, using a non-stick skillet. I prefer my pancake skillet so I can do more than one at a time! Lay out the tortillas on the skillet and wait until you see your tortilla starting to form bubbles. Check the back, and if small brown spots are beginning to occur, flip your tortilla to get the same done-ness on the other side.

Voila! Tortillas. :) These guys are pretty hearty if you ask me, so you should plan for about 2 per each person you are cooking for. Tacos were the order of business for us last night, so here are my tortillas at work, pictured with spiced ground beef, homemade salsa, sour cream and monterey jack cheese. Mmm....

They are a favorite with everyone in my household, especially the little one!!

You should also try these with fajitas, quesadillas, egg and cheese wraps, whatever! Enjoy. :)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Make your own...Whaaaat?!" Entry #2: Freezer Fudge

One of my favorite parts about the Jersey shore is the fudge. The last time I was at the shore, I ordered. 1.5 lbs of fudge. I couldn't believe I was taking a box that weighs as much as a small pet of PURE chocolate home with me... Bryce and I devoured the box in a weekend. I had always wanted to try my hand at making my own, but the thought was too daunting. Until...I found this--Freezer Fudge.
This recipe was passed to me by word of mouth from a mom at a mom's group I meet with. It takes 5 minutes to prepare and is the pefect after-dinner chocolate treat. Delightful.

1/2 Cup of Chocolate - Chocolate chips, barred chocolate, or cocoa powder all work, but I prefer a yummy piece of dark chocolate, or dark chocolate chips
1/2 stick butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup of shredded coconut if you wish

Start by melting down the chocolate chips with the butter on low heat. Slowly add the oil and sugar and stir until sugar has dissolved well. Add vanilla and salt. When chocolate mixture is starting to bubble and sugar has dissolved, add coconut. You could also add nuts, dried fruit...whatever you'd like!

Once everything is stirred in, it's time to freeze the fudge. This fudge is a little stiffer than Jersey shore fudge, and needs to be kept in the freezer when not eating. That's what makes it the perfect summer treat!

Pour the fudge into a glass dish and let sit. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and put in freezer. The fudge should be ready in about 2-3 hours.

Isn't that easy? The only hard part is waiting for it to cool....(as seen in photo below :) )

Enjoy! Anyone else have any good, easy fudge recipes out there?

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Make your own...Whaaaat?!" Entry #1: Nutri-grain Bars

I've always been fascinated by making my "own" anything. When I was little, I would walk through the jewelry store and try to figure out if I could buy the right beads to make my own necklace. When I bought a home, and realized how awful chemical cleaners were for our health, I began making my own cleaning supplies and haven't turned back.

I've been moving more toward the food portions of "make your own"...particularly, snacks. Who doesn't love a great box of cheese-it crackers, name brand cookies, or a great jar of marinara sauce. What I never explored was..."How could I make this myself?"

So here goes, my summer series on my blog: "Make your own...Whaaaat?" First up:

Strawberry Nutri-grain Bars

I use the brand name of this item specifically because "cereal bar" can often be confused with granola bars, which are not the item I am going for this time. This is more specifically a combination of grains and oats, mixed with a fruit preservative. Such a great treat for an on-the-go-breakfast, between meal snack, or toddler meal replacement in some cases! (haha)

My favorite brand is Kashi TLC Cereal Bars, however, at about $5 a box, and only 8 in a package, I wanted to see if I could come up with my own version that are healthier, tastier, less processed, and just plain fun to make. I think I found it!

Start with:
2 sticks of butter/margerine
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
Appx. 1/2 cup Strawberry preserves/jam
2 tsp. almond extract

Cream butter and brown sugar together. Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Press 2/3 of mixture in 9x13 pan. This works best if you coat your hands with butter first so the mixture doesn't stick to your utensil or hands when pressing.

Add a layer of preserves. I used my homemade jam to make strawberry preserves. (I will add the recipe later!)

Take the rest of the oats/flour mixture and drop over top of the preserves layer. If you add 1/2 more of each ingredient, you can cover the entire layer completely making it much more like real nutri-grain bars in appearance. Since I'm obsessed with strawberries, I opted for just 1/3 of the whole mixture for the top.

Bake at 300 degrees for about 25-30 minutes, until slightly brown on top. Let cool, and then separate like bars.

If you'd like them to "keep" for longer than a few days, I suggest wrapping them individually in plastic wrap, and then sealing them in an air-tight container.

Enjoy!! :)

Yard Sale for a Cause!

Hark! The perfect berry

Strawberry Pickim' Pals

Cheering Mama on at a 5K!

The First Steps Toward the Shed...

Building, Building...

The Newest Addition to our Backyard - A Shed!

A Picnic Birthday Party for our 2-Year Old

Puddle Jumping Friends

Swim Lessons at the YMCA

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Season of Love

Today, as we make Valentines (pics to come) and think about all of the Valentine surprises we have in store for our friends and family, I decided to take a poll on what is loved around here. More to come, but I asked Noa first. Here were her responses, in order:

"Rosty the No-Man"
Joel n Lauren
"happy, dolly soul"
"pick me up"
"I way-ler" (IE: I am coloring)
"need a tissue pees"

More love in store to come!

For now, Hewletts

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Around the Hewlett House

What's been going on at the Hewlett house lately?

Here is the Top 8 List! (sorry, had trouble thinking of 2 more to round off to 10...)

8. Bread Making, and trying out new recipes, like Thai Red Curry Salmon (Mmm..) and soups galore.

7. Community living brunch. This consisted of all of our friends that live in our neighborhood getting together to talk about the ways in which we can be more intentional about our neighborhood, explore our community living dreams, and eat some darn good food. Brody and I also ended up matching, which was worth taking a picture of. He was being too shy to pose with me, but you get the idea. :)

6. Emmy & Noa take a trip to the Please Touch Meusam! We are lucky to have such a cool place for kids to explore. And with Groupon sending a great deal to us, Em was able to take Noa and have a great time. Here is Noa trying on a space suit, and riding a carousel--her favorite!

5. Bryce goes back to school! Bryce has started a program at Spring Arbor University in Michigan! It is an all online program, that is fairly intensive over 2 years. The program is in Spiritual Formation--something Bryce has always been interested in. We are excited for his new journey!

4. Snow, snow and more snow! Hard to believe that we are getting hit so hard 2 winters in a row with snow! But, we have all been enjoying it (somewhat) so far. Snow cream, snow angels, and walks in the snow--it's been a lot of fun. One day, Rob came over and played with the kids in the back yard. What a great time for kids...and hopefully Rob. :) Riley and Noa are especially fond of all things "snow".

3. Snow Days! With all the snow, come snow days. Unfortunately, there are no snow days in cyber school (boo) but when Bryce gets a day off, it really is so nice. Here is Bryce and Noa enjoying the ladybug tent on a snow day. :) 2. Home Renovations! I am going to include a slideshow at the bottom of the blog. I want to show you all the cool things being done but not all in the post, but I'll give you some clues: Piano (purchased on Craiglist for $150, probably worth $600), wood burning stove, exposed beams and lighting) Check for the slideshow soon!

1. A growing girl. Can you believe our Noa Claire is almost 2? We sure can't. She is something else, this girl of ours. The other day, I mentioned that she was going to start swimming lessons soon. She got so excited she started to shake...and immediately insisted on wearing her "baving soup". (shown below) She also went to the bathroom on her potty for the very first time! This girl is growing up--too, too fast!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snowy Day Recipe

I won't lie, I pride myself on my soups. I. LOVE. MAKING/TASTING/EATING AND EXPERIMENTING with SOUP!!

Soups I love to make: Corn Chowder, Chili, Baked Potato, Kale & Potato, Wild Rice & Mushroom, Chicken Noodle...and my newest favorite: Brocoli Cheddar. MMMMmmm....

This, my friends, is the perfect belly-coating, warm, and luscious meal you'll eat this winter. I've made it with a honey corn bread from this recipe here: Honey Corn Bread but next time I'd like to make my own.

Here is the recipe, and I hope you all enjoy!!

2 heads of brocoli--broken into small florets
4 large carrots shredded
1 red onion chopped small
2 cups light or heavy cream
2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
2 heaping tbsp. flour
1 cup water
1 stick butter
3 cups cheddar cheese (I did one sharp/2 mild)
2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder.

Simmer the butter on low until melted. Add chopped onions and simmer until transluscent. Add 2 tbsp. flour until a nice rue is formed. Add broth and water and turn up heat.
Once boiling, add brocoli and carrots. When veggies are soft, add cream and cheese to pot. Turn heat to medium and let sit and simmer. Then add spices to taste. I won't lie, I am a salt/pepper freak, :) so I add much more than what I've put here.

I hope you all enjoy this as much as my family did!

Friday, January 21, 2011

I promised pics!

Well, the living room is another step closer to being complete. :) Here is what we've done:

Exposed our brick chimney! The hope is to put a wood burning stove on the floor and through the chimney--in the works for the Fall '11!

Here is another shot of the brick, with our new lighting.

New recessed lighting! Remember the ugly ceiling fan? Gone! The gold lighting? Gone! We now have canned recess lighting on the sides of the ceiling. You can't see the other changes quite as well here, but basically, the exposed ends of the beamed ceiling have now been closed up on all ends with dry wall. All electrical wires that were exposed have now been hidden as well.
So thankful to my husband and our friends: Robert, Rob, Jarrod, Mike, Joel and Kent for their help on this project! :)