A Hunting We Will Go

So, yesterday was the opening day of deer season in the Great Lake State.  After several years of not going out deer hunting, the husband decides that this year he is going to go out.  The reason for the lapse of hunting seasons were from a few years of hunting disappointments in a row, right after he got that elusive 12 point “trophy” buck. 

The first year after getting the “big one”, he forgot to zero his rifle, and misfired.  The next year, he took out a deer, almost as big as the “big one”, with his bow, but after searching the woods for quite a few hours, and calling his nephew and a few hunting friends to search with him, he was unable to find the deer.  According to him, the new expensive type arrow, that he just had to have, did not leave much of a blood trail to follow.  Several months later, a friend bird hunting in the area, found his lost deer, not far from where it was shot, in a heavy patch of thicket.  Another year the call of nature hit him, and he was caught with his pants down in the woods, when his deer came walking out of the woods in front of him.

This year, he went out, on the first day of hunting season, and with one shot, got his deer, a nice sized six point buck, dressing out at about 125lbs of venison.  He came home in the early afternoon yesterday, I heard him moaning and groaning before he ever reached the door.  He came in, and he handed me a plastic bag full of bloody guts, and says, “Here honey do something with this.”  Good thing I was in the kitchen anyhow.  As he took his well -earned nap, he had already spent a few hours out in the woods, dragging around his hunting chair, and setting up his blind.  Later I would find out, he had just got his blind set up, took him awhile, because he forgot how the blind was supposed to be set up, and had to read the instructions, and got his deer just as he got the final part of his blind up.  He had waited until later in the morning, when he had more light to haul his chair and blind out into the woods.

Anyhow, back to the sack of guts.  This was actually, as you hunters and hunter’s wives know the liver and the heart.  I got everything set up, got out the fillet knife, and after a good long washing session to get the blood rinsed off the meat.  I cleaned the membrane and other not so edible parts off the liver and heart, and filleted the liver into nice sized slices.  There was about 4 pounds of liver, which I cooked up and we had for supper.  I froze the leftovers up into three more meal sized bags, which I only have to heat back up.  Along with another bag of liver, I cooked up just to make liver pate with for the holidays.

Because we are now living in an apartment, he took the deer to the local processor to have it done up, which was fine by me, as it will be ready to pick up all nicely wrapped in freezer packages in a few days.   But yes, in the past, I have helped him cut and package the venison up in the garage.

 I am still going to have to make the jerky, as he was not going to pay the price per pound that they wanted to make it up for him, however, he did have the butcher make up some summer sausages for me.  Although, I have made my own in the past, he remembered all the hours grinding meat and stuffing the sausages, and decided it was easier for the butcher to do it this time.  Guess what girls; will be part of the adult kids Christmas presents this year?  Also, more than likely what will be on the menu for the family Christmas dinner.

The big frugal living tip is to have a hunter and or fisherman living in the household.  Even having our venison processed this year, the cost per pound of that meat, including the cost of the hunting license and other hunting needs, still comes out to less than a dollar a pound.

Let me apologize to my Vegan and Vegetarian friends and followers, there is not any alternative recipes for this group of recipes.  Although, I do eat lots of fruits and veggies and push them for healthy frugal meals, I grew up a country gal, and there is nothing better than fresh game or fresh caught fish.  When I was growing up, times were tough, and my brothers were hunters and we all fished, and this was about the only meat on the table.  My mom made the best squirrel stew, her baked rabbit with rice and tomatoes would melt in your mouth, the pheasant she cooked was moist and delicious, and her fried fish was the best, we even ate the tails!  Do not get me started on frog legs, and turtle soup, although I never cared much for raccoon, it is kind of greasy.






1 lb. deer meat, sliced thin

1 tsp. Japelano juice

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

3 tbsp. salt

1 tbsp. pepper

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. garlic seasoning

1/2 c. French dressing


Day before preparing allow meat to marinate overnight

in 1/2 cup French dressing, 2 tablespoons salt and

enough water to cover meat.

The following day drain lay thin sliced meat on cookie sheet

after adding 1 teaspoon Japelano juice,

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce,

1 tablespoon salt, 1 tablespoon pepper (black),

2 tablespoons soy sauce into a bowl

mix well then dip meat into bowl

then lay out (meat) on cookie sheet.

Bake at 200 degrees for 3 hours


Pepper Venison Stir-Fry Recipe



                1/4 cup cornstarch

                2 teaspoons sugar

                6 tablespoons soy sauce

                1/4 cup white wine vinegar

                1/2 teaspoon pepper

                1 venison tenderloin (about 1 pound), cut into 2-inch strips

                1 medium green pepper, julienned

                1 medium sweet red pepper, julienned

                3 tablespoons canola oil

                Hot cooked rice


In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and pepper; stir until smooth. Pour half into a large Ziploc plastic bag; add venison. Seal bag and turn to coat; refrigerate for 1-2 hours. Cover and refrigerate remaining marinade.

Drain and discard marinade. In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry venison and peppers in oil for 4-6 minutes or until meat is no longer pink and peppers are crisp-tender. Stir reserved marinade; add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with rice. Yield: 2 servings.

Add some fresh sliced mushrooms, and a bag of frozen stir fry

Veggies for a little variation on the same thing, and to

Increase the amount of servings for company.


Venison Stew


2 lbs. boneless venison cut into about 1 inch cubes

2 tablespoons of canola oil

4 1/4 cups water

1/4 cup tomato juice

2 large onions cut into wedges

2 celery ribs, sliced fine

1/2 lb. package of baby carrots cut in half

6 to 8 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/4 cup of frozen peas

1 Tablespoon of cornstarch


Brown the venison cubes well, put the venison cubes in

 Dutch oven

Add water, tomato juice, onions and celery, cook on low

Heat for about 2 hours or until the venison is tender.

Add potatoes and carrots and cook for about another

Half hour to 45 minutes over medium heat until the

Potatoes and carrots are tender.

Add peas and cornstarch (use a little water to mix cornstarch

Into a paste), cook until thickened and peas are tender.


Pass the Pasta, Please!

I have been missing in action from my blog; sorry we are a little late.  However, the exciting news is that my late blog is due to preparing some video recipes for a professional cooking contest, which I have been invited to participate in!!  I will let my family and blog followers know how that progresses, as well as share the recipes entered in the cookoff.

Looking for some inexpensive, delicious, and healthy meals?  Today’s blog features just this.  Complex carbohydrates cover the majority of today’s healthy plate of food.  Current dietary trends recommendations tell us that most of our calories should come from complex carbohydrates.  Pasta is one of those complex carbohydrates that cover the plate with delicious food.

Add complex carbohydrates with B vitamins, and a tasty combination of good for you veggies, some protein (which is optional) and you have heaven on a plate!!



Pasta Primavera


¼ pound of asparagus spears, fresh or frozen diagonally sliced into 1 inch pieces

½ cup of broccoli florets, fresh or frozen

½ cup of Chinese blend Vegetables, fresh or frozen

½ cup of yellow squash, sliced

½ cup sliced zucchini

½ pound of fresh mushrooms sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 Tablespoon of chives, fresh or dried

8 ounces of linguine

½ cup of hot water

2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice

1 chicken bouillon cube

½ cup of milk

1 Tablespoon of cornstarch

½ cup of Parmesan cheese

½ Teaspoon of Basil

Salt and pepper to taste



Start your pasta and cook according to package directions.  While the pasta is cooking, steam asparagus, broccoli, Chinese mixed vegetables and squash in about ¼ cup of water, either on the stove top or in the microwave, about 5 to 8 minutes until crisp tender.  Set aside.  Spray a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray; heat skillet.  Add mushrooms and sauté 2 to 4 minutes until the mushrooms are tender.  Add reserved vegetables, chives and 1 Teaspoon of water.  Reduce heat and simmer about 5 minutes.  Set aside.  Combine hot water, lemon juice, bullion, and bring to a boil.  Combine the milk, and cornstarch in a small bowl; stir well.  Gradually add the mixture to the lemon juice and bullion, stirring constantly.  Cook over medium heat about 5 minutes, again stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and bubbles.  Pour sauce over cooked and drained pasta, and toss gently.  Add Parmesan cheese, basil, salt and pepper.  Transfer pasta to a large serving platter, top with the vegetables.  Sprinkle with a dash or Parmesan cheese.  Serve and enjoy.  Yield about 6 one cup servings.




Spaghetti Carbonara




1              pound(s) spaghetti

8              ounce(s) (8 slices) bacon, cut 1-inch-thick crosswise

Coarse salt

Freshly ground pepper

3              large eggs

3/4 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving

1/2 cup(s) milk or canned milk







Set a large pot of water to boil (for pasta). In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, 8 to 12 minutes; transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate.

Salt boiling water generously; add pasta and cook until al dente, according to package instructions.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk together eggs, Parmesan, and half-and-half. Set aside.

Drain pasta, leaving some water clinging to it. Working quickly, add hot pasta to egg mixture. Add bacon; season with salt and pepper, and toss all to combine (heat from pasta will cook eggs). Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional Parmesan cheese.



Skillet Gnocchi with Shrimp and Asparagus




1 tablespoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoon(s) extra-virgin olive oil

1 package(s) (16-ounce) shelf-stable gnocchi

1/2 cup(s) sliced shallots

1 bunch (es) (about 1 pound) asparagus, trimmed and cut into thirds

3/4 cup(s) reduced-sodium chicken broth

1 pound(s) (26 to 30 per pound) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on if desired

1/4 teaspoon(s) freshly ground pepper

1 pinch(s) salt

2 tablespoon(s) lemon juice

1/3 cup(s) grated Parmesan cheese





Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add gnocchi and cook, stirring often, until plumped and golden in spots, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and shallots to the pan; cook over medium heat, stirring, until beginning to brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in asparagus and broth. Cover and cook until the asparagus is barely tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Add shrimp, pepper, and salt; cover and simmer until the shrimp is pink and just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes more.

Return the gnocchi to the skillet along with lemon juice and cook, stirring, until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, sprinkle with cheese, cover, and let stand until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. 

Nothing taste better than homemade pasta!!  This is a recipe for one of my favorites.  It is easy to make, and the results are really yummy.


Ravioli (Dough and Choice of 4 Fillings)




3 cups unbleached white flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

1/2 cup water

Ricotta Filling 1

1 1/2 lbs. ricotta cheese (drained)

1/4 lb. freshly grated Romano cheese (about 1 cup)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/4 lb. mortadella or 1/4 lb. ham or 1/4 lb. prosciutto or 1/4 lb. salami, chopped fine (optional)

1 dash nutmeg

Salt and pepper



Ricotta Filling 2

1 1/2 lbs. ricotta cheese (drained)

2 eggs

1/4 cup freshly grated Romano cheese

1 1/2-2 tablespoons finely minced fresh Italian flat leaf parsley

1/4-1/3 teaspoon cinnamon

Salt and pepper


Beef and Spinach Filling

1/4 lb. lean ground beef

1/4 lb. ground veal

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic

1/2 cup cooked chopped spinach, squeezed dry



1 tablespoon chopped Italian flat leaf parsley

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese

1 dash nutmeg

Sausage Filling

3/4 lb. loose sweet Italian sausage links (or casings removed from links)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 tablespoons freshly grated Romano cheese (If you prefer a less sharp cheese, freshly grated Parmesan cheese may be substituted for the Romano)




MAKING THE FILLING: Ricotta Filling#1: In a large bowl, blend all filling ingredients together until smooth, set aside filling until needed.

Ricotta Filling#2: In a large bowl, blend all filling ingredients together until smooth, set aside filling until needed.

Beef and Spinach Filling: Brown beef and veal in butter with the whole clove of garlic.

Remove garlic and let meat mixture cool.

Mix spinach, parsley, eggs, cheese and nutmeg into cooled meat until well blended, set aside filling until needed.

Sausage Filling: Brown sausage in frying pan, drain fat and allow sausage to cool.

When sausage has cooled, mix in eggs and cheese, set aside filling until needed.



MAKING THE RAVIOLI DOUGH: Sift flour and salt together.

Place flour mixture on a board, making a well in the center of the flour.

Drop eggs into the flour well, using your hand or a fork, break the yolks and beat eggs slightly.

Combine the eggs and flour together, gradually adding enough warm water to make stiff dough.

Knead dough well, until smooth; cover the dough and let it rest for 15 minutes.

Cut dough in half and roll each half of the dough out on a floured board, into a very thin sheet (about 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick).



FILLING THE RAVIOLI: Drop about 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoonful’s of filling about 1 1/2 inches apart all along the dough.

When the sheet of dough is fully dotted with dabs of filling mixture, cover filling with other sheet of dough.

Using your fingers, gently press dough between each dab of filling to seal it.

Cut ravioli into squares with a (zigzag edged) pastry cutter, or very sharp knife.

DRYING THE RAVIOLI: Allow ravioli to dry for one hour before cooking.



COOKING THE RAVIOLI: Drop ravioli into 6 to 8 quarts of boiling, salted water and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until dough is tender.

Remove cooked ravioli from pot carefully with a skimmer or a large slotted spoon, and drain well.

Place drained ravioli on a serving platter in layers, alternating layers with your favorite sauce and a sprinkling of grated cheese between each ravioli layer.

Serve hot.


Until next time, remember to Reuse, Recycle and Repurpose!!

Cooking Oriental Style to Save Money Part 2 of 3

In the last blog we looked at two basic sauces, and some of the different things that could be made with these sauces.  I also added some recipes for complimentary dishes to go along with the main entrees. In to this, I also added some of the basic food preparation techniques.  In today’s blog we will be continuing with this same theme.


Today’s Sauces:

Teriyaki Sauce

Plum Sauce

Asian Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce




Teriyaki Sauce


¼ cup soy sauce

2 Tbsp. rice vinegar

2 Tbsp. brown sugar

¼ tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 inches fresh ginger, grated

Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

2 Tbsp. water


Mix the cornstarch and water, add the rest of the liquid ingredients, then add the rest of the ingredients, stir well. If you wish to thicken the sauce prior to putting it into the stir fry.  Place mixed ingredients into sauce pan, over medium heat, stir until mixture thickens.  It is just as easy to add the sauce mix, as is into your stir fry.  If you prefer a thicker sauce, then add more cornstarch and water to the intial recipe.  Additionally, use a dark soy sauce for a more potent flavor, and add more to taste. This sauce is used to thicken, marinade, and flavor stir fries.  You can purchase this bottled, but the fresh made sauce is much better and cheaper than any bottled sauce you will find.


Easy Plum Sauce


1 cup plum jam

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 teaspoon onion powder

1/2 teaspoon 5 spice

1 pinch of salt

1/3 to 1/3 cup water, depending on how thick jam is


Mix ingredients well, put in microwave safe small bowl,

Microwave 30 to 35 seconds, stir well, and microwave for

another 15 seconds.

Cool, and store in fridge



Asian Sweet and Spicy Dipping Sauce


1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons chili paste with garlic (or to taste)


Combine sugar, water, vinegar, and salt in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.

Reduce heat and simmer until syrupy, but do not allow sauce to caramelize.




Teriyaki Noodle Bowls


Teriyaki Sauce one recipe portion

Noodles & Vegetables

1 lb. frozen stir fry vegetables

8 oz.  Soba noodles, rice noodles, or thin spaghetti

1 Tbsp.  Vegetable oil

1 cup of cooked thin sliced beef, or chicken, or shrimp (this is a nice way to use of leftovers)


Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Once the skillet is hot, add the frozen vegetables. Stir and cook for only about 2 minutes, just to slightly heat the vegetables. At this time add the cooked chicken, beef or shrimp. Briefly stir the teriyaki sauce and then pour it into the skillet. Allow it to come up to a simmer, at which point it will thicken. The vegetables will finish heating through as this happens. Turn the heat off once the sauce is hot and thick.

Add the drained noodles to the skillet and stir until they are coated in the sauce. Divide the noodles between four bowls and then spoon any leftover vegetables from the skillet on top. Enjoy!


I went a little on the light side with the soy sauce. If you want a teriyaki sauce with more punch, add an extra tablespoon of soy sauce. You can taste the sauce after it thickened in the skillet with the vegetables to see if you want more soy sauce. Remember, once the noodles are added the sauce will be spread out thinner, so you want the sauce to be slightly stronger in flavor.




Szechuan Green Bean Stir-Fry


¼ to ½ recipe of Teriyaki Sauce, to taste

1 tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons of vinegar, white or balsamic

2 teaspoons sugar

¼ cup of water

1/4-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste

1 teaspoon plus 2 tablespoons cornstarch, divided

2 tablespoons sesame or canola oil, divided

4 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons 5 Spice

2 teaspoons of  toasted sesame seeds



Whisk 1/4 cup water, Teriyaki Sauce, tomato paste, vinegar, sugar,

Crushed red pepper to taste and 1 teaspoon cornstarch in a small bowl.  Set aside.

Use remaining cornstarch to coat meat.


Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a wok or large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the pan.

Add green beans, garlic and seasonings; cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  

Add the remaining 1/4 cup water, cover and cook until the beans are crisp-tender,

2 to 4 minutes. Stir the reserved Teriyaki sauce mixture and pour it over the green beans.

Cook, stirring, until thickened, about 1 minute. Add the meat back and cook,

stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute more.


Spring Rolls


1 tablespoon oil

2 cups your choice of meat (cooked ham, Chinese barbecued pork, raw pork, or raw chicken, cut julienne; you can also add tiny shrimp or leave out the meat entirely and substitute more vegetables)

6 mushrooms, cut julienne

1/2 cup bamboo shoots, cut julienne

1 cup mung bean sprouts

1 small carrot, shredded

1-1/2 cups Chinese or regular green cabbage, shredded

2 scallions, shredded

1/4 cup chicken broth (or vegetarian broth for a vegetarian version)

2 tablespoons oyster sauce

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch (corn flour)

1 package spring roll or egg roll wrappers, thawed if frozen

1 egg, beaten


4 cups oil for deep-frying

1 recipe of Plum sauce for dipping



1. Prepare filling: Heat oil in a wok. Add meat and stir-fry briefly (until cooked through, if raw). Add vegetables and stir-fry about 2 minutes. Combine chicken broth, oyster sauce, sugar, and cornstarch. Add to wok and stir-fry until sauce thickens. Let filling cool before filling spring rolls (refrigerate if you’re in a hurry).


2. To prepare each spring roll: Position one wrapper like a diamond with one point facing you. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in a log shape across the bottom about 2″ from the lowest corner. Fold the bottom corner up over the filling and tuck it behind the filling. Roll the packet up once to enclose the filling securely. Moisten the three remaining corners of the wrapper with beaten egg. Fold the left and right corners to the center and press down firmly to seal, forming an envelope. Finish rolling up, sealing the top corner. Repeat with remaining packets.


3. (Spring rolls may be prepared a few hours ahead and refrigerated, covered with plastic wrap, until ready to cook. Make sure they do not touch each other or the dough will stick together.)

4. In a deep-fryer or wok, heat 4 cups of oil to 360 -375 degrees F. Deep-fry spring rolls a few at a time, until crisp and golden. Drain on paper towels. Serve the spring rolls hot, whole or cut in thirds, with plum sauce as a dip.

 Makes about 2 dozen spring rolls




Thai Marinated Chicken Pieces with Asian Sweet Spicy Dipping Sauce


2 cloves garlic, peeled

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

salt and pepper

3 pounds chicken thighs

1 recipe Asian Sweet-Spicy Dipping Sauce


In a food processor or blender combine the garlic, cilantro, soy sauce, oil,

salt and pepper. Transfer the sauce to a large bowl.

Wash and thoroughly dry the chicken thighs.

Add to the marinade in the bowl and toss to coat well.

Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 24 hours.

Rotate the chicken in the Flat Standard Basket for 45 minutes,

Or until browned and cooked through.

Serve with Asian Sweet-Spicy Dipping Sauce.




Sautéed Bok Choy and Broccoli




1 pound book Choy

1 pound broccoli

2 tablespoons vegetable oil, such as safflower

1 garlic clove, chopped

1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

1 to 2 tablespoons homemade Teriyaki Sauce



Cut white stalks from bok Choy; slice into 1-inch pieces. Coarsely chop green leaves.

Peel stalks from broccoli; slice 1/4 inch thick. Cut florets into bite-size pieces.

In a large skillet, boil 1/2 cup water. Add bok Choy stalks and broccoli; cover. Simmer over medium-low until broccoli is bright green, 5 to 7 minutes. Uncover; cook on high until water evaporates, 2 to 4 minutes.

Add bok Choy leaves, oil, and garlic. Cook, tossing often, until garlic is fragrant, 2 minutes.

Press ginger in a sieve over skillet to release juices. Stir in Teriyaki sauce.



Pork & Shrimp Pot stickers


 2 cups water

4 cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 recipe of Plum Sauce or Asian Dipping Sauce, or use both.



1. To make the dough, bring the water to a boil. In a large stainless-steel bowl, combine the flour and salt.

2. Slowly add the boiling water in ¼-cup increments, mixing with chopsticks until a ball is formed and the dough is no longer too hot to handle. All the water may not be needed.

3. Knead the dough on a floured work surface until it becomes smooth and elastic, 15 to 20 minutes.

4. Form the dough into a ball, return it to the bowl, and cover it with a damp cloth. Allow the dough to rest for 1 hour.

  To form the wrappers:

1. Add more flour to the work surface. Divide the dough in half.

2. Shape one portion into a log and roll it back and forth under your palms to make a thin sausage shape measuring about 1 inch in diameter. Cut into ½-inch pieces.

3. One by one, stand each piece on end, flatten the piece with your palm, and roll out to form a circular wrapper about 3 inches in diameter and 1/16 of an inch thick. Repeat with the remaining dough.


Note:  There are several ways to prepare the Pot Stickers.  They can be pan fried, they can be deep fried, or you can steam them in the oven or microwave.  To steam them, to make a dumpling, place in casserole dish, place a large over proof bowl, with water, under the casserole dish, bake at 325 degrees, for about 45 minutes.  Also, make sure that you add about 2 Tablespoons of melted butter into the casserole dish that you are steaming in, add BEFORE placing pot stickers in the dish.

Serve with Plum Sauce or Spicy Asian Dipping Sauce or both.  This is also good with Orange Sauce, which will be featured in our next blog!!


Until then remember to Reuse, Recycle and Repurpose!!


Cooking Oriental Style to Save– Part One of Three

Just recently, my oldest daughter asked me for my Oriental Chicken Salad Recipe with the Peanut Sauce.  This led to a discussion, that the Thai Peanut Sauce is used in a number of the oriental recipes that I make.  As, my family will testify to, this Nana can throw down some Oriental Food that taste as good or better than you will find in your favorite Oriental Dinning Establishment.  So, I promised Char, my oldest daughter, that I would publish a series of blogs featuring my best and most thrifty Oriental Recipes.

Back quite a few years ago, when I was serving in the Army, I had a friend and roommate of mine, that her parent’s owned a Chinese Restaurant.   As her home town, was much closer than my home town, we spent many days off and leave times at her parent’s home.  It was affordable for me to only go home to see my parents, about once a year.  However, my friend’s parents lived about two hours away from the military base that I was stationed at during this time period.

As I have always had an interest in the culinary arts, it was not long before I asked how different food dishes were made.  As my friend, also worked in the family restaurant on all of her leave time, it was only a matter of time that I was also recruited to help.  My friend, who had spent her life learning and working at the family business, was just as eager to get out of working on her time off, as I was to get into the kitchen and find out how things were done.  So it was a friendship made in heaven, well least in the heavenly smells of the kitchen

One of the first things that I learned was that the Traditional home meals were different, than usually found on the restaurant menu.  The restaurant menu was geared toward, and prepared for what the typical American looked for and expected to find at an Oriental Restaurant.   While the family meals were an exploration into the fine art of Oriental cooking and meal presentation.

The sauces, spices, and preparation techniques are what creates the meal into an explosion of taste, sight, and textures to the palate.  Oriental cooking is also about frugality.  True Oriental cooking uses fresh ingredients that are readily available and in season to make it not only look wonderful but taste incredible.

First, I am going to start with the basic sauce recipes, and then add recipes that use the basic sauces.  The world of Oriental Cooking, takes in a whole lot of different regional areas and ethnic backgrounds.  This diversity includes Thailand, Vietnamese, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, as well as Indian.


Thai Peanut Sauce


2 tablespoons sesame oil or tahini

1 teaspoon 5 spice seasoning

1/3 cup peanut butter

1/4 cup soy sauce

1/4 cup hot water

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1 teaspoon white sugar

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, minced (optional)

1 teaspoon Woreshire Sauce (traditional recipe calls for Fish Sauce, but this is an ingredient that a lot of Westerners, including myself find hard to handle, and it is also hard to find in different areas.)


Mix the dressing until well blended, can use immersion hand blender

Or use Wisk.



Oriental Chicken Salad


1 cup shredded bok choy

2 cups shredded lettuce

1/2 cup very thin sliced celery

1/4 cup shredded carrots

1 cup thin sliced green onions, use tops and bulbs

2 chicken breast, pan or oven fried, cut into bite sized pieces

3/4 cup roasted, salted cashew pieces

One recipe serving of Thai Peanut Sauce


Mix the dressing until well blended, can use immersion hand blender

or use Wisk.

Toss chicken pieces and salad ingredients together, except for the cashews.

Add Dressing, toss ingredients again.  Top with cashews and serve right away.


Thai Peanut Noodles


8 ounces spaghetti, rice noodles, ramen noodles, or lo Mein noodles

1 bunch green onions, sliced (white parts only)

½ cup crushed peanuts (optional, as garnish)

The sliced tops from the green onions, used as garnish

1 or 2 red radishes thin sliced, used for garnish optional

1 recipe to 2 recipe servings of Thai Peanut Sauce this depends on taste and how saucy you like your noodles.


Cook Pasta to al dente, stir fry the green onions, white parts only, until soft.  Well drain the pasta, add the onions, and stir well.  Add the Thai Peanut Sauce to the pasta and again stir well, top with the green onion tops, thin sliced radishes and crushed peanuts to serve.  Note:  I prefer to use thin spaghetti noodles, or rice noodles, but have used all of the suggestion of noodle types with yummy results.


Sweet and Sour Sauce


1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup of soy sauce
2 Teaspoons raspberry, plum or cranberry jelly
1 cup ketchup
1 cup sugar
1 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup crushed pineapple
1/4 cup Corn Starch
1 teaspoon red pepper (optional, if you do not like your sweet and sour with a little bit of hot omit)


Blend cornstarch and pineapple juice together to form thin paste. Place all other ingredients into sauce pan, then
add cornstarch and pineapple juice blend. Cook over medium heat, stiring continously until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat.



Thai Shrimp and Noodles


8 oz. spaghetti, broken

1.5 lb. broccoli florets (5 cups)

1 lb. fresh or frozen shrimp in shells, peeled/deveined, with tails intact

2 Tbsp. sesame oil

1 Tbsp. 5 Spice Seasoning

3 cloves garlic, minced

4 green onions, chopped

½ cup Pineapple Chunks

½ cup thin sliced cucumber or zucchini

1/3 cup chopped cashews or almonds

1/2 of recipe of Spicy Sweet and Sour Sauce

Dash  or more of Chili Oil or Hot Sauce (omit if you do not like it hot, add 3 or 4 or more dashes if you like it hot like I do!!)


In a 4 quart pot bring a large amount of water to boiling. Add pasta; cook until pasta is almost al dente, about 15 minutes. Add broccoli; cook for 2 minutes. Add shrimp; cook 2-3 minutes or until shrimp is pink.

Meanwhile, in a bowl, combine Spicy Sweet and Sour Sauce and soy sauce, sesame oil, 5 Spice Seasoning and garlic. Drain spaghetti mix; return to pan. Add Sauce mix, green onions, pineapple, zucchini or cucumber slices and nuts. Toss gently to coat. Turn into serving bowl. Makes 6 servings.



Light Oriental Fry Batter

note:  this recipe will usually cover about two cups of meat, you may need to make a bigger batch if your chicken, shrimp, or pork pieces are larger.  I always use a double batch for Large or Extra Large Shrimp.  The Chicken and Pork, I try to cut into bite sized, and even pieces.


1 cup of corn starch or rice flour

2 egg whites

about 1/2 cup of club soda

2 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce


Beat the egg whites until frothy, set aside.  Slowly add the club soda to the corn starch, you are going for a kind of thin but not runny batter, you may need to add a little more or a little less.  I eyeball it, the base part should look like a thin but not runny white sauce.  Now add the soy sauce, and then slowly turn in the egg whites.  Let your batter rest about 5 minutes.  The batter is now ready to fry with.  Also note, you want to keep the meat or shrimp that you are frying very cold.  I usually put the meat in the freezer for 10 to 15 minutes, and then place it in a bowl, over a larger bowl filled with ice.




Add two to three Tablespoon of a good oil, such a peanut, or canola oil into the bottom of a non stick wok, electric fry pan or non stick skillet.  Heat oil until it is hot  Dump your meat into the batter, keep the batter and meat or shrimp in the bowl over the ice.

Stir the batter and meat or shrimp until it is well coated.  Take a pair of tongs, or a fork, shake off excess batter and start adding the meat or shrimp in a few pieces at a time to the hot oil.  It is important not to over load the skillet.  I have a fairly good sized wok and electric skillet, so I can get in about half of the meat, keeping it well sepperated so it does not stick together.  You will get it sticking together a bit, but you can use a spatula to seperate any pieces that stick together in too big a bunch.

Cook until well brown on one side, about 3 to 5 minutes, if your wok or skillet has a temperature setting set to about 350 to 375 degrees for the cooking process, and 400 to heat the oil.  Turn the meat over, and brown on the other side for another 3 to 5 minutes.

Once well browned, and looking yummy turn the heat down to medium low heat and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes, to make sure especially with chicken and pork that the juices are clear and not pink or bloody.  Depending on how big of pieces you are using, you may need to increase your cooking time.

The Shrimp take less time.  You are going to cook the meat a little more along with the vegetables before you add the sauce.  Remove the first batch of meat, and set aside on a platter or cookie sheet in a warm oven.  Cook the remaining batch of meat or shrimp.  Once your next batch of meat or shrimp is all browned and cooked place in the oven with the earlier batch.

In the same skillet or wok, add another Tablespoon of oil.  Now add your vegetables, and cook them for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the green veggies are looking nice and green, the onions, carrots are tender but all veggies are still crisp.  Now, you are going to add the meat back in, place your Wok or Skillet over low heat, put the lid on, let the meat and vegetables steam for about 2 minutes.  At this time you are going to add your sauce, and stir it it.  Turn up the heat to medium low heat and heat until the sauce is hot, usually about another minute or two.  You want to watch to make sure your vegetables do not over cook.

A lazy way to do the vegetables, is to simply steam them in the microwave, before you start the meat, until they are almost done,  set them aside,and when all the meat is cooked put them in the skillet or wok, along with the meat or shrimp and the sauce.  Then just heat the mixture until heated through, and you get  perfect tender, crisp veggies for your stir fry.  This was a little trick I learned from helping out in the Oriental Restaurant.  Again for the pork and chicken, for the reheating process I give it another 3 to 5 minutes.  Add the vegetables if you use the microwave method, at about the 3 minute mark and give them about another 1 to 2 minutes to heat through with the meat and sauce.

Deep Fry Method

Fill Deep Fryer or Large Dutch Oven about 3/4 full of a good oil, again peanut or canola.  Using a thermometer heat your oil to about 375 degrees F, another way to tell if the oil is hot enough is to put a bread cube in the oil.  When the bread cube browns all the way through to crispy the oil is hot enough.  When the oil is hot enough, start dipping your meat or shrimp into to batter a few at a time.  Again, drain off any excess batter, add to the hot oil a few pieces at a time.  It is also really important using this fry method not to overcrowd the meat or shrimp.  About a dozen large shrimp, and about the same amount of meat cubes, I have found is a good number.  Brown well, and drain on wire rack, with paper towels underneath the rack.  You can use just paper towels to drain on, but the rack has the advantage of draining the oil, and not leaving the meat or shrimp in the oil as it drains.  Place into warm oven, and continue doing in batches until the meat or shrimp is done.  You need to again, make sure if you are cooking pork and chicken, that it is well done.  I always take a piece out from each batch that I cook, and cut into the piece to make sure the meat is cooked properly.  Meat should be tender, and no pink or red juices flowing from the meat.  This is where it is really important that you do not have your oil on too high of a heat, or too low of a heat.  You want to keep your oil as close to the 375 mark as possible, and do not over crowd your frying meat.

When using the deep fry method, it is always easier to steam the vegetable portion in the microwave until nearly done.  Then combine your fried, cooked meat, vegetables and sauce together in a large pan and heat through until the meat, sauce and vegetables are warm.  ALWAYS, ALWAYS PREPARE YOUR SAUCES AHEAD OF THE FRYING PROCESS, AND HAVE THEM READY TO ADD.


Sweet and Sour Shrimp (can use Pork or Chicken)


1 Full Recipe of Spicy Sweet and Sour Sauce, omit the Red Pepper from the Basic Sauce

1 Full Recipe of Meat prefried, using preferred method, about 2 cups

1/2 cup of carrots, thin sliced, on a diagonal

1/2 cup of  sweet onions sliced into bite sized pieces

1/2 cup of thin sliced cucumber or zuchini slices

1/2 cup of pineapple chunks, well drained if using canned, use the juice for the sauce

1/2 cup small chunks of bell green pepper, cut bite sized

1/2 cup of small chunks of sweet red pepper, cut into bite sized chunks.


Prepare your vegetables, if using wok or electric skillet, you can do them in the same skillet you did the meat or shrimp in.  Or you can use the microwave method, if using the microwave method, start with the carrots first, steam for about 1 minute, add the rest of the vegetables and steam for another minutes, test for doneness and steam at 30 second intervals, and check doneness.  The amount of time it will take will depend on the size and power of your microwave.  I have a high powered, larger microwave and set at 100 percent, it takes about 1 minute for the carrots and another 30 seconds for the rest of the veggies.  When steaming add a few drops of water and cover with plastic wrap or a microwave safe lid.  Note:  I like to brown and carmalize my pineapple a bit just to add flavor, so I usually do this in the skillet after the meat is cooked.

In a large pan, or wok, add your meat, vegetables, and sauce and blend together.  Reserve about a half a cup of sauce for serving on the side.

To Serve up those wonderful dishes, my favorite is a big pan of stir fried rice.  If you do not have a rice cooker, cook your rice up a day ahead of time to let it dry out.  Put it in the refrigerator, uncovered overnight.  You want the rice, a little dry for making fried rice.


Best Stir Fried Rice

2 large eggs, beaten

2 stalks celery, chopped or thinly sliced

about 1/2 c. diced onion

up to 3 cups cold / cooked long grain white or brown rice*

2 to 4 T. cooked crumbled bacon (can use more if have and want to)

oil for stir-frying

soy sauce

Heat wok or frying pan on medium heat and add 1 Tablespoon oil.
When oil is hot, add the beaten eggs. Cook, stir, lightly mash with a fork,
until they are scrambled bits, but not dry; remove from pan.
Turn heat up to medium high, add 1 tablespoon oil to pan;
cook celery and onion, adding a bit of soy sauce as desired.
Remove from pan onto cooked eggs.
Add a little more oil to pan, let it get hot, then add the rice.
Stir-fry using a wooden spoon or fork.
When rice is heated through: add scrambled egg/cooked celery/onion back into pan;
mix thoroughly. Stir in crumbled bacon.
Serve hot. Top with soy sauce as desired. Makes 2 to 3 servings.

To make it a full Oriental Style Dinner, do not forget the Egg Drop Soup!!


Egg Drop Soup 


2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth or 2 cups of homemade chicken broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons chopped green onion


In a medium stock pot, mix cold chicken broth with cornstarch. Slowly heat over medium heat, stirring frequently.
Pour beaten egg into soup, and stir once around stock pot very gently, in order to break up egg. Remove soup from heat immediately, divide into four portions and garnish with green onions.

Next blog, we will look at everything from Homemade potstickers, and Lucky Dumplings, to Kung Pao Chicken.  Until next time, remember, to Recycle, Reuse, and Repurpose!!

More Depression Era Stories and Recipes

The Great Recession has now earned the dubious right of being compared to the Great Depression.

I was born in 1958, but I still remember how frugal my Grandfather was and my parents too. With my parents being frugal was a fact of life…not like we baby boomers who grew up in the throw-away society.

My dad never threw away anything that he thought he could repair, remake or use in some other way.  He grew up with making do with what he had, and so it was second nature to him.  So if something broke, and it had good wood on it or good metal scraps, he took the wood off and stripped the metal down and it might become any of a number of things to make, or be used to fix something else.

Dad was clever, had some very good carpentry and metal working skills, and could literally make something out of almost nothing. This led to him always having what my mother called the “junk pile” and she was forever after him to clean it up, and get rid of some of it.  Which, of course he never did.  Because, as he would say, “Mom, I never know when I might need something, like a part, or a piece of metal to rework into a part.”  My father always called my mother, Mom or Mama and my mother always called my father, Dad.  I was eight or nine years old when I discovered that my parents actually had names.

When dad died, we cleaned the “junk pile” up, and along with his collection of treasures, included every TV set that my mother and father had ever owned.  Mom had a friend, in the same age bracket, that it was his hobby to fix old sets, and we are talking a lot of the sets were the old tube type sets, that were given to him to fix up and use for parts.  Old Joe fixed the first old set up that mom and dad ever had, and got it working like new again.  It was second hand when purchased the first time, and in the late 1980’s when it was fixed back up, it was an antique.  Mom and Dad’s friend, Joe, resold it for about ten times the amount that Dad and Mom originally paid for it.

My mother was the same way in the kitchen, and in her household tasks.  Mom would take clothing, that could no longer be mended and it was repurposed into rag rugs, and quilts.  What could not be used for this type of item went to the rag bag to be used for cleaning rags.  My mother made a beautiful handmade quilt for each of her children and grandchildren.  My favorite nephew loved his special blanket so much, that my mother mended it for him a good many times.  He even took it off to college with him, and when it became too well worn to even mend, he stuck a piece of it in his pillow to keep.  My own special quilt, my mother used a Dutch Doll pattern on it, and embroidered on the pieces of the dolls is bright colors.  Although, I do not have the quilt any longer, I have pictures of it, and many memories of it keeping me warm at night.

For many years, Mom and Dad used a wood and coal burning stove to heat the house with.  It was a long time before they put gas lines into our small rural town.  I remember my mother cooking pots of beans on that stove, some of the best beans I ever ate.  She also put her bread pans and rolls on the stove top to rise on really cold days.  My dad put in a propane gas stove, a luxury, when mom and dad moved into the house, as it still had grandma’s wood burning oven in it.

My mother, who was a widow, actually moved into the old house before she married my Dad.  When mom first moved in with the boys, after the war, there was no electricity in the house.  Due to the war, there was still a shortage of electrical wiring, but she managed to barter for some, and got a friend that was an electrician (which she also bartered for his skills.)

The electrician was an old bachelor, and Mom agreed to cook his dinner meals for him and clean his house, wash and iron his laundry for a certain period of time in exchange for him wiring the house.  There was not enough money to spare to hire a helper, so together she and the electrician wired the house.  For a good many years, Mom ironed Mr. Ruck’s dress and work shirts each week, and baked him pies, cakes and bread.

When I was small this was one of the ways, my mother made extra spending money.  She had quite a few old bachelor customers, that she did the wash for, ironed for, and made baked goods for.  She also worked a full time job, which she quit when she became pregnant for my youngest sister.  This was about the time she started babysitting for all the neighborhood kids that their mother’s worked full time.  The money my mother made went for school clothing, birthday and Christmas presents,  household extras, and when my dad was laid off went to help pay bills.

Dad worked in an automotive related factory, and for a good many years he was laid off on a regular basis each year.  As he would say, “The Company would give us our Christmas Turkeys and Hams along with a layoff notice, every year a few weeks before Christmas.”  Dad always felt fortunate, that when the automobile factories, went bust in Michigan in the late 1970’s early 1980’s he was retirement age.  I might also mention, that a lot of the toys we had, Dad made for us, using things from his “scrap pile.”  He would work on his projects each day after he came home from working a full shift at the factory.  For

Christmas when I was five, Dad made me a bright blue pedal car.  He must have worked on it for months.  He had it all detailed to look like a small Buick car.  I later found out that he had purchased some of the detail parts, where he worked at.  They were seconds that were not good enough for the line.  A lot of the other workers would have just taken the parts, but not Dad.  He made sure that he paid for them.  The other workers teased him for this, as the parts would just go to the dumpster anyhow, to be resold for scrap iron.  A lot of times, the shop foreman would just let Dad go ahead and take the parts he wanted.  Dad worked, when he would get laid off at the factory, for a small carpentry company, where he would also obtain scrap wood and wooden pallets, the man who owned the company would always give Dad the scraps and pallets.  Dad made a lot of things from these scraps.  He made things like pantry cupboards for my mother, a Doll House for my sister, small wooden dolls, cars and airplanes.  Some of the things he sold for extra money.  He even redid, in later years, after he retired an old horse and buggy wagon.  He picked up the old buggy from some farmer he knew, who just gave it to him, and fixed it up and resold it for a nice sum of money.

My mother was not a seamstress, but her sister, my Aunt Alice was.  When my sister and I were small, Aunt Alice made a lot of our clothing.  Aunt Alice lived in another small town, about 25 miles away from our little town.  Aunt Alice was really talented, my younger sister who wanted to be a bit of a snob, was cut down a few pegs, when she realized all of her pretty dresses were handmade and not purchased at the “high cost” store that some of her friend’s mother’s purchased at.  I being the older sister, and not at all impressed with my younger sister’s catty little friends, let the cat out of the bag so to speak, and made it known that our Aunt Alice made almost all of our clothing.  The dresses and other clothing items were actually nicer than the store bought ones, and Aunt Alice always added extra baubles, and accessories like little purses and shoes that matched the dress.

One year she made us fur coats, with matching hats, and hand mufflers.  Aunt Alice also knitted and crocheted and made us all kinds of different clothing items, besides dresses.  Which I was a terrible tomboy, and did not like wearing dresses, so she made me cute little pant and matching shirt sets, and a lot of sweaters.

Little sister’s friends started teasing her about her homemade clothing, only to find out that her snotty little friends were actually jealous, because she always had matching items for each outfit, and things done in the latest styles.   Sister found this out when Aunt Alice made us both suede outfits, with hats, jackets and boots to match when this was the in trend, sometime in the early 1970’s.  My sister’s little friends all wanted and had suede vest, jackets, and so forth, but none of them had a full suede outfit.  Her one friend’s mother (who had been my mother’s best friend growing up), asked my mother where she bought the outfits from, because her daughter just insisted she had to have one.  Mom told her friend Em, that Alice had made the outfits.  Em bought the material, and paid Aunt Alice a quite hefty sum to make her little angel an outfit too.  It was after this incident, that little sister’s snotty little friends quit teasing her about the homemade clothing, which they were always eager to borrow from her, anyhow.

So, my Depression Era parents lived a frugal life.  There is a lot to be learned from this little story.  Dad and Mom took care of things they had, they fixed, mended, repaired items instead of throwing them away.  They both worked extra jobs, and made things to sell or barter with.  Most of the Birthday, Christmas and other occasion presents they gave were handmade. Our clothing, for the most part, was homemade.  My dad wore the same winter work jacket for years; Aunt Alice mended it, and replaced the zipper a bunch of times.  Clothing was always mended, until it could not be mended anymore.  Then it was repurposed into quilts, rugs, and cleaning rags. The work boots that Dad wore, which were always really good ones, he got each year free, as he sold mail order shoes and boots for the Mason shoe company for a lot of years.  Which was a little side job he started to make extra money for lean times.  He also usually sold enough to cover the cost of Mom’s, myself and my sister’s winter boots, school and dress shoes each year.  My grandfather, my mother’s dad, had sold Mason shoes for a long time, and got Dad into doing it too.  This was how my Grandfather got shoes for himself and his family during the Depression.   Dad sold good work boots and shoes, to a lot of the people he worked in the factory with.

This was the same thing my Grandfather had done, Granddad worked in the local elevator during the depression, and he sold boots and shoes to his co-workers and area farmers.  Often times he sold on the barter, and layaway plan.  He was quite clever at it too.  He might take a part of butchered hog or bushels of fruit in payment for a farm families shoes, and then resell what he took to the local store owner at a small profit.  If he had made enough cash sales to cover for some free shoes, he would keep what he had bartered in hogs, beef, chicken, eggs and use it for his own family.


My Grandfather always carried a change purse with him in his pocket.  Dad and my uncles would always laugh, because anytime Grandpa would pay for something, he always took out his change purse and paid for whatever he purchased from his change purse and count out to the last penny.  He never broke a bill.  Lots of times, they would be in a hurry and end up paying the tab, rather than waiting for Grandpa to count out from his change purse.  My Grandfather was also a fairly good cook, although my mother would complain that he went to heavy on the black and red pepper.  So today, because Grandparents Day, was just a few days ago, some of my Grandfather’s frugal Depression Era Recipes.


I am also including Granddad’s homemade beer and root beer recipes.  During the Depression, which also included Prohibition, Granddad ran a bit of an illegal operation (moonshiner).  He learned the art of brewing beer from his father, on the farm, and made beers and ales to sell during Prohibition.  During part of the Depression, my Grandfather had a pool and card room, and under the table sold beer, ale and wine that he had made to special customers.  His pool and card room had been a local saloon, before Prohibition.  He had always made his own beers, ales, wines and softdrinks for the business, before booze became illegal.  He was raided several times, but always had inside information before the raids.  His oldest daughter was married to one of the local G-men.


Root Beer Recipe 


1 cake compressed yeast

5 pounds sugar

2 ounces sassafras root bark [Note: it is not recommended that the sassafras root itself be eaten in any form];
1 ounce hops or gingerroot

2 ounces juniper berries

4 gallons water;
1 ounce dandelion root

2 ounces wintergreen


Wash roots well in cold water. Add juniper berries (crushed) and hops.
Pour 8 quarts boiling water over root mixture and boil slowly 20 minutes.
Strain through flannel bag. Add sugar and remaining 8 quarts water. Allow to stand until lukewarm.

Dissolve yeast in a little cool water.
Add to root liquid. Stir well. Let settle and then strain again and bottle.
Cork tightly. Keep in a warm room 5 to 6 hours, and then store in a cool place. Put on ice as required for use.


Farmers Supper


1/2 onion

2 to 3 slices of breakfast ham, can substitute with bacon or salt pork fried and diced up (Grandpa usually used Salt Pork when it was available; this was a common depression era meat because it was cheap, also called Side Pork and Fat Back.)

1/2 green pepper (optional)

2 small potatoes (cooked – see directions below)

4 eggs


Start by dicing the onion, ham and green pepper. Get out your iron skillet and let it warm up over medium heat. Add a little oil to the pan. Add your diced ham, onion and pepper and allow it to cook until the veggies are tender.

If you have leftover baked potatoes, use those. If you don’t have any leftovers, get out 2 small potatoes, poke some holes in the skin with a fork and bake them, or use the modern convenience of the microwave to make them quick.  Grandma, mom and myself, always made a few extra potatoes when baking for leftovers to use as home fried potatoes for this recipe and others.

Slice your potatoes and add them to the pan. Cook them until the potatoes are warmed through.

Get out a small bowl and add the eggs.  Scramble them well. Add the eggs to the pan and cook until they are done, stirring and scraping with a spatula as needed.


Faux Meat Balls


6 eggs, beaten

1 1/4 cups dry bread crumbs

1 tablespoon grated cheese

2 teaspoons dried parsley

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).

In a medium bowl combine eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Mixture should be moist and sticky, but should hold together when formed into balls.

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.


Homemade Pancakes


Mix together the following ingredients

1 c. sifted flour (all-purpose)

1/2 tsp. salt

2 T. sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

Add the following combined ingredients:

1 egg

3/4 cup   buttermilk or sour milk

2 T. oil


Make as you would pancakes made from a premixed store bought batter.

Makes 9-5″ pancakes

Grandpa also made corn cakes and buckwheat pancakes.  For buckwheat pancakes use ½ cup of buckwheat flour along with ½ cup regular flour.  For corn cakes use ½ cup of cornmeal along with ½ cup of regular flour.


Traditional Welsh Hand Pies (Pasties)

Pasties are a traditional dish in Northern Michigan, with each regional area having their own blend and take on making and serving this dish.  The historical origin for this recipe is that it was a typical lunch that miners, who were mostly, Welsh, Irish and Scottish, could take with them, and warm up on the oil lanterns while they were working in the mines.  It was easily eaten by hand, thus the name “Hand Pies.”


1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1/4 head green cabbage, shredded

1/2 pound red potatoes, scrubbed and diced

1 pound beef roast or steak cut into small cubes, about same size as your potato cubes

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

Coarse salt and ground pepper

All-purpose flour, for rolling

2 piecrusts (9 inches each), grandma and mom made them homemade, but can use the store bought ones these days


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, heat oil over medium; add cabbage and potatoes. Cook until beginning to brown, 7 to 9 minutes. Add beef; cook, breaking up meat with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste, Worcestershire, thyme, and 1 cup water. Cover, and cook until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Lightly mash mixture with a fork. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll each crust into a 14-inch square; cut each into 4 equal squares. Place 1/2 cup filling on one half of each square, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the filling. Brush borders with water; fold dough over filling to enclose. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. With a paring knife or scissors, cut 3 small vents in each.

Transfer pies to 2 foil-lined rimmed baking sheets; bake until golden brown, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.

Note:  These are usually served with some vinegar to drizzle over the top, also make sure your cubes of potatoes and beef are small, not big chunks, and can substitute hamburger or ground beef for the traditional beef cubes.  In times when meat was scarce, carrots, rutabaga, and turnips were added as fillers to stretch the meat or replace it.  The traditional recipe also calls for cubes or rutabaga, but many people are not familiar with this root vegetable, so I did not add it to the recipe.


Homemade Ale Recipe


1 (12 ounce) can light malt syrup

1/2 ounce hop
2 gallons water
1 (1/4 ounce) package dry yeast

In a large, non-reactive stock pot, add malt syrup and water. Add hops. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and boil for 1 hour, stirring often.

Cool then strain the hop mixture through a funnel, into a sterilized 7 gallon fermenting tank NOTE: I don’t know what a fermenting tank is, but I would guess a ceramic or glass jug (like a milk jug) with a cork or rubber seal.

Add the water and yeast. Seal the top with a stopper. Ferment for 1 1/2 weeks.

Strain the beer. Bottle and age for another 2 to 3 weeks.

Pull up a seat, make yourself some pasties, and have a glass of homemade root beer or beer to wash it down with, and enjoy.

Hope you found today’s blog entertaining, and learned a few things about how to make ends meet in tough times.

Until next time, Remember to Recycle, Repurpose, and Reuse!!

Fun and Frugal Entertainment for the Kids Part 3


You now have ideas for developing a craft box along with some project ideas to add to the craft box.  I am also going to add a few more craft ideas in this blog.

As a retired teacher, I wanted to stress that Arts and Crafts are very important areas of a child’s education that is often overlooked in the busy school system.  When it comes to teaching children, whether it is at home or within a school, art is an important part of the education system. Most parents will know of the obvious benefits from English, math and other more academic classes; however arts and crafts are overlooked. It is seen as something that is just a bit of fun, but in fact it actually benefits children in many ways.

First of all arts and crafts are two separate things and both bring different skills to a child. Art is carrying out something like a painting or drawing, whereas crafts are more structured and there is a goal to complete something in a certain way, such as making a purse or bird house.

First of all art is a way for children to express themselves, sometimes before they can even talk! It can really help them to understand their feelings. Using bright colors and getting messy with paints, pens, glitter and more items is a really fun and engaging activity for young ones to take part in. Enjoyment is a huge part of learning, obviously if you like something you will spend more time doing it, and so for children who like to get creative it will bring them great joy and they will want to do it well. If you have a child and have watched them carry out a painting, you will notice the look of concentration on their face, which is fantastic and should help improve their ability to focus.

When it comes to crafts these are more structured and the help of parents or teachers is usually required, some types of crafts are better for children who are slightly older too. Art helps with developing feeling whereas crafts help with the more practical and thinking skills. Children can get hands on helping to put together a hand puppet, weaving, doing cross stitch and more. It will help them to think ahead to the next step and also they will feel so proud once they have completed their little project.

From the above there are many beneficial skills that children will pick up, and the best part is they probably won’t realize they are doing so because the activities are so enjoyable! It is also helpful to develop communication skills, so they will ask for help if they need it and also as a great bonding exercise between parents and children. Make sure to include arts and craft activities at home and you can get a great range of products to help carry them out.

Organizational tip:  Just like a teacher develops lesson plans for her class, you should also take the time to develop a series of craft project plans.  This is to make sure you have materials in your kid’s crafting box that you can pull out quickly to do the craft.  It should not only contain a list of craft items, but a note on instructions for doing the project, and it also helps, if you have children of different ages, to develop the project and mark out what age group that the project it is appropriate for. 

You should also take the time to do the crafts with your children.  Not only is it some fun time that you can spend together, parents should be attentive to any special needs with craft projects, mostly just common sense things.  Do not let small children use objects they can choke on, even children 5 or 6 years old will still put things in their mouths.  Always use nontoxic items for doing your crafts with. Do not let small children handle scissors alone; even older children need help and supervision with the use of craft knives and hot glue guns. 

I can’t really give you an age list of when a child or teen should be allowed to use the hot glue gun alone, or use a craft knife.  My own children were very adept, because we started doing art project when they could barely sit by themselves.  My kids were babies, when I put there little fingers into pudding finger paint, and helped them paint swirls.  Because, they both developed very good eye hand coordination early, and learned to follow the rules early when using crafting tools, they were both fairly young when I let them both start using glue guns, crafting knives, and other tools.  They were both able to read, and follow directions.  I think the girls were about 9 or 10 years old when they were allowed with supervision to use a variety of crafting tools, and a little older when allowed these types of tools on their own.

I wanted to add also, a quick list of several good art and crafts projects for school aged children.  If you knit, crochet or sew, add some your own talents into projects for your children.   Such as sewing cards, this is just Cardboard Square with holes punched in a pattern, and a long shoe string. Teach your children to crochet or knit, and once he or she has developed enough skill, have him or her start doing some simple projects such as scarves or squares and move on to making stuffed animals.  Another project is weaving, and if you Google, you will find a lot of different kids projects for doing weavings.

I did promise to add some items for Fun and Frugal Entertainment that were not entirely Arts and Crafts oriented.  So the first fun thing today involves games with the children that you can play at home without having to spend high dollar on boxed games.

Here is a link to all of your favorite card games, cost to you a deck or cards or two, which you probably already have somewhere in one of your drawers, anyhow.



Here is a list of the rules for all of your favorite card, word, pen and paper and dice games:



A few trick every grandparent and parent should know:


Can you tell that I love Grandparents.com?  It is a really good resource website, and you can also download a really great PDF book file of 100 Free Things You Can Do with Your Grandchildren.  This is an excellent guide to have on hand and put into your own “Bag of Tricks.”

Your expanded “Bag of Tricks” should also include some new coloring books, markers and crayons, some books or comic books, appropriate to the age level of your child, and some crafting string or plastic laces.  It helps to include two decks of cards, a set of at least 5 dice, a set of dominoes, a cheap checker board/chess set (you and your child could make your own together), and a few fun things like Bubble Soap,  and Side Walk Crayons.   For the Bubble Soap and Side Walk Crayons here are some recipes for making your own homemade:



Giant Bubbles

  1. Stir water and corn syrup in a large bowl (at least 3 quart capacity).


  1. Add dishwashing liquid; stir very gently until well mixed, trying not to make any bubbles.


  1. To use, dip (do not stir) bubble wands into liquid and blow bubbles!


  1. TIPS for BIG BUBBLES: • If using large bubble wands, pour solution into a cake pan or skillet for easy dipping. • Stirring causes bubble solution to foam; foaming inhibits bubble formation. If foam develops, scrape off with a stiff card. • Bubbles work best on humid days. • Keep solution free from dirt, grass, bugs, etc… • Bubbles are non-toxic, but should not be consumed. Solution will irritate eyes; if bubbles get in eyes, rinse thoroughly with water.








Almost Instant Bubble Blower

How to Recycle a Drink Bottle


“Take a plastic pop bottle of any size and cut it off about 1- to 2-inches below the neck of the bottle. (It will look like a funnel). Save the bottom of the bottle for another project. You may decorate it or label ownership with a permanent marker. With the lid off, dip the other end (cut edge) of the bottle into bubble solution in a shallow pan and gently blow air through the neck of the bottle. You have an instant bubble blower.”



Homemade Sidewalk Chalk


What You Need

  • A Mold
  • 1 cup Plaster of Paris
  • 3/4 cup Water
  • Medium Sized Bowl
  1. Powdered Temper
  2. Find a mold for your sidewalk chalk. Anything from a toilet tissue roll or small paper cup to fancy candy molds will work.
  3. Mix together 1 cup of Plaster of Paris with 3/4 cup of water.
  4. Add color to your mixture using powdered tempera paint.
  5. Blend well and let stand for a few minutes.
  6. Pour your mixture into the molds you chose.
  7. Set aside and let dry completely.
  8. Once dry you can remove your chalk from the mold.
  9. Set it aside to dry for approximately 24 hours more.
  10. Take your chalk outside and create fun masterpieces!


  1. Powdered tempera paint is available at most large craft stores.
  2. Experiment with making swirled colors by adding the paint and stirring very little.
  3. Drying time can take from several hours to a few days depending on the size of the mold you chose.

I really enjoyed sharing my tips with you, and hope that you found some useful ideas for having some old fashioned, frugal fun with your children.

Until the next time, remember to Recycle, Reuse, and Repurpose.   Do not miss the next blog, where I will be sharing some more Depression Era recipes and Trips for Frugal Living that I collected from my parents over the years. 

Fun Frugal Entertainment for the Kids Part Two


The first blog in this series was how about how to put together a homemade arts and craft kit to keep the kiddies from being bored.  Today’s blog is a section of ideas for using your newly made arts and craft kit, so you can put together your own “Bag of Tricks” to help keep your bored youngsters, happy, content, bring out their inner creativity and maybe have some fun helping them!

Basic Sculpting Ideas:

Make Some Clay Bears using one of the recipes for the salt and flour clay.  Prepare your sculptures on a lightly greased cookie sheet, for easy clean up line the cookie sheet with foil first, and give it a light spray with Pam or other spray oil.


This is the base or starting piece for your bear.  You will not want to make it really big, as it will take too long for your clay to dry, and it may crack and break if made too large.  Your base should be no larger than about 4 to 5 inches.  This will be the bears arms and legs.


Build up the bear’s belly in the middle of your base.


Take a ball of clay and shape the head, you will note in the picture that the clay is scored, this will help it stay on the form better.


Now Start turning you form into a bear, by shaping and adding details like the ears and the eyes.  Use a wooden bamboo skewer to help shape and make the textures.



A drinking straw also helps define the details.


Here are some finished bears,   Put your bears into the oven, 250 degree for about one half hour, depending on the size of your bears.  Watch closely, checking every five minutes to see if the sculpture has hardened.  I have actually dried this clay with in the microwave, a few pieces at a time.  You need to use a microwave glass plate, with some wax paper or parchment paper over the top.  Microwave in one to two minute intervals, until the piece is dry.  You need to watch really close, as the clay will burn.   Once dry, your bears are ready to paint and decorate!


Another bread dough piece, to give you an idea of other things you can make.


Some salt dough Snow family ornaments.

You can do pumpkins and scarecrows for Halloween.


Reverse Painting Pictures

Don’t just throw away those take-out tubs you get at the deli or supermarket. Instead, let your kids use them as canvases for reverse painting, a style that calls for painting in layers — from the details out — on the inside of a clear container.

What you’ll need

  • Clean, see-through plastic container
  • Acrylic paint and brush
  • Craft foam
  • Scissors
  • Tacky glue
  • Markers
  • Googly eyes

How to make it

  1. On the inside of the container, paint the first layer of detail, such as the black spots on the ladybug, the teardrops on the turtle shell, or the swirls on the butterfly wings (we trimmed our butterfly container first to resemble wings). Let it dry for 10 to 15 minutes or until the paint no longer smudges.
  2. Add as many more layers as you wish — each in a different color — by painting right over the original design. Just be sure to leave some plastic exposed if you plan to apply another coat and allow each layer to dry before moving on to the next.
  3. Use the container as a guide to cut a body from craft foam. Glue on or draw details such as eyes and antennae, then glue the craft foam to the painted shell.


Log Cabin Activity 

What you’ll need

  • Cardboard box
  • Felt or other material
  • A collection of 50 to 75 small twigs, broken into 5 to 6 inch pieces, put notches in the sticks to fit them together or use craft sticks if you are unable to forage.
  • Tree Bark
  • Pine Cones
  • Glue/Craft sealer
  • Scissors and a craft knife, please assist your children when cutting pieces
  • Image
  • How to make the project

I found a cardboard book box that was just large enough to accommodate the length of the sticks.

I then built a log cabin with sticks and glued the sticks as I went.  I found that notching the ends before I started fitting the cabin together, helped me fit the sticks together better.

I had quite a bit of foraged materials left so I went ahead and built a few more items.


Pretty soon I had a whole village made.  To this I added a bag of dollar Store Cowboys and Native American plastic figurines.  The grand children had a ball playing with the village.  They also helped make and paint the village and it sits in the playroom for the next visit.  My youngest daughter did a version of this project for school one year when she duplicated Fort Mackinaw for a Michigan History assignment.  For that project we used clothes pins, but as an after thought it think it might have even looked more authentic done with twigs and bark.

One of the benefits of foraging for your craft materials in this project, is that it also adds the addition of taking the kids on a long walk to gather the materials that you need.  It is the perfect craft making project for a weekend spent with the grandchildren or children.  It is a good fall project, and you can add to it, by picking fall leaves for another project.  On this outing the grandchildren and I also found a hickory nut tree and picked up a sack of hickory nuts, and then we picked up apples from my uncles back yard.  All three kids had something to do, and we did it in stretches to keep them from being bored.  We made candy apples while the cabin crafts were drying, and cracked and picked nuts for cookies that we made later in the weekend.

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog.  The last of this particular blog series will cover some frugal and fun non craft activities for keeping the kids from being bored. Until next time, remember to Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose!!

Frugal Entertainment for the Kids or Grandkids

Whether it’s a rainy weekend or sun-filled summer vacation, if you’re a parent of school-aged children, at some point you’re going to hear “I’m bored!” There are plenty of ways to keep your young ones entertained and inspire their creativity that don’t involve the latest smart phone, television or computer. Here are just a few ideas to help you and your kids beat back boredom.

Today, my frugal blog readers, I am going to introduce you to “Nana’s Bag of Tricks.”  Many years ago, as a young teacher, one of my first teaching experiences was substitute teaching.  Most of the time, I did not know where I would be until the actual teaching day, and one day I might be with a class of preschoolers and the next day a class of highschoolers.

While most of the teachers that I subbed for had well organized plans for the substitute teacher, sometimes even the best laid plans would go awry. To cope on those days, I developed my Special Bag of Tricks.  I had a big shopping tote bag loaded with educational games, toys and activities that I could adapt to all age groups.  It took a lot of thought to develop and several years to really get it right.  Of course, by the time I had just gotten the Bag of Tricks mastered, I received my first full time teaching job and had to reorient and redo my Bag of Tricks to include a special section for substitute teachers in my classroom.

So, Mom and Dad, Grandpa or Grandma, here is a revised version of my Bag of Tricks to help keep those bored youngsters from driving you crazy.  I learned a long time ago, as a parent and then a teacher, is to “keep those little hands busy, to keep them out of trouble!”  This was the life milestone, where I became my own mother, somewhere between having two screaming toddlers, two small dogs, a full time job, and trying anything and I mean just anything  to get something done in my messy home.

The first thing is to keep a Kiddie Crafting Box, Bag or other Storage Container filled with things to do.  This is the first process in developing your own “Bag of Tricks.”  Tip from the wise, keep your craft items in a place where only you have access to it.  Do not put it out where your children have instant access to it.  One, you take it out, so it is something special that your child can do when he or she is bored, and none of your other suggestions work.

Secondly, you will also save yourself a great deal of mess from small budding artist who decide to paint or decorate things you may not want painted or decorated.  You also eliminate waste, by doling out what you are going to use.  Older children and teenagers like to help themselves, and you may open up your “Bag of Tricks” only to find an empty bag.  On the same line of thought, do not take everything out at once.  Just take out what you will be using for the specific project that you have planned.

This will be a three part blog, so I will be giving you some ideas for projects that you can make, other things to keep on hand, and other creative ideas to keep the kids busy.  Today’s blog is getting started, to develop your own “Bag of Tricks.”

Here is a list of Basic Craft Items you should keep on hand at all times:

Paper, glue, clay, paint, and beads/ other baubles.

PAPER:  Save your paper grocery bags, and light weight cardboard boxes, such as Cereal Boxes.


White school glue is a must, but if you find yourself out of it, here is a recipe for paste that can be used for most paper projects:


Mix some flour, water and a drop or two of mint extract together and you have a fairly good paste that will work well with many projects.


Modeling Clay, several recipes:  I have included some for play dough, polyform modeling clay, and paper Mache.

Salt Dough Recipes (these are the Play Dough like Recipes.)

To Bake: You can allow dough to air-dry for a few days or bake on a cookie sheet in a slow oven (200°F) for several hours until done (they will sound light when tapped). Remove from oven and allow to cool before handling.

Recipe #1

1 cup flour

1/2 cup water

1/2 cup salt


3/4 cup flour

3/4 cup cornstarch

2/3 cup salt

2/3 cup water


1 cup table salt

1 cup flour

1/2 cup water


3 cups flour

1 1/2 cups salt

1 1/2 cups water


Directions: This one’s a little different than the others, mix all ingredients together minus the flour, then slowly incorporate flour (mixing well each time). Knead dough until its smooth.

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 1/4 cup water

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Storage Tip: If you don’t use all the dough in one sitting, wrap it well with plastic or place in a sealed container and store in the refrigerator (will keep for a couple days).

Adding Color: Mix food coloring with the water before adding to dry ingredients. You can also add food coloring once the dough has been kneaded and is of the right consistency, add a few drops of food coloring until you reach the shade of choice.


Pulp Recipe for Your Paper Mache Projects

Materials Needed:





Also, Paper Egg Cartons, make a really good paper base, a little better than the Newspaper, easier to actually mold and form.


A pulp mixture is great for making smooth, fine details in your paper Mache creations. It would, however, take a lot of it to complete a larger project.

Tear the newspaper into tiny pieces and put them in a large bowl. Add just enough warm to hot water to completely cover the newspaper. Let soak overnight.

Once your newspaper has soaked for several hours, get your hands into it! Play with it, mix it, and squeeze it through your fingers until it looks like oatmeal! Try to get as many lumps out as possible. If necessary, add a bit more water and let it soak a little more.

Once you have it as smooth as possible, add a few tablespoons of salt to help retard mold. Mix it again with your hands. Once mixed thoroughly, squeeze out any excess water and add a few tablespoons of glue. Now you are ready to use your paper Mache pulp!

If you don’t want to wait overnight, you can add your newspaper to boiling water and let it boil until the newspaper falls apart. You have to watch this carefully and possibly add extra water if necessary. You can also try letting your newspaper and hot water mixture sit for a few hours and then put it in a blender or food processor. Don’t forget to add the glue and salt once your mixture is smooth!

Tip from a Friend, “I used your method to boil newspaper pieces in boiling water in order to make paper Mache pulp. The method worked. However, the pot that I used was smeared in newspaper ink on the sides. I tried soap, baking soda, vinegar and finally came upon a solution that quickly removed the ink: vegetable oil. I used the oil and a paper towel & was able to quickly remove the residue in the pot. I thought it would be helpful to include this remedy in your article for those of us who end up with dirty pots.”  Even better solution is skip using the newspapers and use those paper egg cartons.  Use the newspapers as a drop cloth for cleanup.

Egg Carton Paper Mache Pulp Recipe

Materials Needed:

Cardboard Egg Cartons

Warm Water




Tear the egg cartons into tiny pieces and put them in a large bowl. Add just enough warm to hot water to completely cover the egg cartons. Let soak overnight.

Once your egg carton has soaked for several hours, get your hands into it! Play with it, mix it, and squeeze it through your fingers until it looks like oatmeal! Try to get as many lumps out as possible. If necessary, add a bit more water and let it soak a little more; or, if the mixture is too wet, squeeze out the extra moisture.

Once you have it as smooth as possible, add a few teaspoons of salt to help retard mold. Mix it again with your hands. Once you have mixed it thoroughly and squeezed out any excess water, add a few tablespoons of glue and mix well again. Now you are ready to use your egg carton paper Mache pulp!

Store your pulp in an air tight baggie or bowl in the refrigerator for several days!



3/4 cup white glue

1 cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons mineral oil (I used baby oil but reportedly even Vaseline will work)

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Non-stick pot

Wooden spoon


Add cornstarch to glue in a nonstick pot.

Mix together and then add mineral oil and lemon juice.

Blend well.  If it does not feel right, add a little more cornstarch if too thin, or if too thick add a little more white glue.



Make your own watercolors


1 Tabs white vinegar

2 Tabs baking soda

1 Tabs cornstarch

1/4 Tabs glycerin, can use equal amount of corn syrup as substitute

Recycled egg carton

Natural food-based dyes

Mix vinegar and baking soda together in a small bowl.  Expect a bit of foaming!  When the mixture stops foaming, add remaining ingredients.  Pour a small amount of mixture into each of the cups in the egg carton.  Add several drops of food coloring to each carton cup, making a new color in each cup. Add more than you think you need, the color will lighten as it dries.  Stir until the color is well-mixed.  Set the egg carton aside and allow mixture to harden overnight.


Homemade Doodle Paint

Squeeze bottles for the paint: I used 6oz. bottle from Wilton (you can get these in the chocolate making section of any craft store…I found mine at Jo Ann Fabrics they were about $2 for 2 bottles)

– Flour

– Salt

– Water

– Coloring: You can use tempera paint (wet or dry), food coloring or natural coloring agents such as beet juice, raspberry or blueberry juice reduction, etc. For mine, I used Wilton’s gel food coloring because they already come in almost any color imaginable (plus I already had them in my cabinets and I loved the concept of keeping everything non-toxic – or edible – too! You just never know…kids are crazy)!

– Glass/Plastic bowls

– Spoons/Whisks

– Funnel: optional…but it helps with getting the paints into the squeeze bottles

Follow this instruction for each paint color you’d like to create!

In a bowl, mix equal parts: Flour, Water & Salt. I used 1/2 cup of each and it worked really well for the squeeze bottles I had. Mix this really well with a spoon or whisk…no clumps. You can add more or less water depending on the consistency of paint you’d like, but it seemed that an equal (or just barely less) amount of water worked the best. Once that mixture is blended well, add a smidgen of coloring…and by smidgen …I mean smidgen! The more coloring you add, the more vibrant your paints will be. Get creative here…you can create a light pink and a dark pink paint by using the same coloring…just add more or less of the color depending on the shades you want to create! You can even blend colors together to create unique colors or other colors you may not have on hand – this might require Kindergarten art theory 101 (red+blue=purple), but you can handle it! Once the paint is blended with the coloring, use your funnel to pour each paint color into its own squeeze bottle. The paint is then ready to be put into the hands of your little Picassos. I love the fact that this paint is non-toxic and it can be made at the drop of a hat on a rainy day!

Word to the wise...this paint works best if you use a thicker paper (or even poster board) to doodle on – because of its water base, it might soak the paper if it’s in the hands of a Wiley toddler!  This is where those saved Cereal boxes come in handy; also save paper grocery bags work well too.


Finger-paints With Dish Soap


1 cup Flour

1 cup Water

1 cup Sunlight dish soap

2 TBS Food Coloring


Mix all items until there are no lumps and paint is smooth. Keep sealed in an airtight container and refrigerate.

You can divide the batch up into smaller amounts and use a different color of food coloring for each batch.

Cornstarch Finger Paint


1/2 cup cornstarch

2 cups water

Liquid food coloring


Mix cornstarch and water in a saucepan

And boil until the mixture thickens.

Allow to cool and then add food coloring.


Save Your Foam Trays

Use Foam Trays just like you would foam board.  Cut the foam into shapes, paint, use for 3D decorations.


Beads and Baubles

Do not purchase craft beads, make your own with the kids:


You do not have to purchase special paper to make your beads, old gift wrap, paper from magazines, or old catalogs, pretty colored junk mail, old newspaper; pages from old paperback books, the beads can be painted.

Other items that can be used, are buttons, you can also take the tops from any plastic container such as a milk jug, or pop bottle, and paint it to decorate.  You can take the lids from Coffee cans and other plastic container and cut them into shapes, paint and decorate, and you have little decorations.  If you are not really artistic, get some stencils from online, or use cookie cutters as a stencil, or make stencils from old coloring book pages.  You can also use this method to cut foam decorations.

Now, parents and grandparents, your bored kids can have a whole lot of fun with the just the basic craft items that I have listed in this blog.  This covers things that you can make at home.  The next blog I will offer a few ideas for craft projects that can be made using my basic Frugal Crafting Kit.  The final blog will give you a list of all kinds of ideas for activities, games, and learning activities that you can use not only at home, but on trips, at the doctors office, waiting in line, and other instances where you want to keep your children engaged and preoccupied.

Until the next time, remember to Recycle, Reuse, and Repurpose.

The Bread of Life

It takes 9 seconds for a combine to harvest enough wheat to make about 70 loaves of bread.


Each American consumes, on average, 53 pounds of bread per year.


An average slice of packaged bread contains only 1 gram of fat and 75 to 80 calories.

Assuming a sandwich was eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it would take 168 days to eat the amount of bread produced from one bushel of wheat. A family of four could live 10 years off the bread produced by one acre of wheat.


One bushel of wheat will produce 73 one-pound loaves of bread.


Early Egyptian writings urged mothers to send their children to school with plenty of bread and beer for their lunch.


Breaking bread is a universal sign of peace.


Bread is closely tied to religious expression and communion. Hot cross buns commemorate Lent and Good Friday, Greek Easter breads are set with eggs dyed red to denote the blood of Christ, and Jewish families celebrate the coming of the Sabbath on Friday evening with challah light, airy yeast bread made of six long strands of dough which are braided to form one large loaf).


In 1997, Kansas wheat farmers produced enough wheat to make 36.5 billion loaves of bread, or enough to provide each person on earth with 6 loaves of bread.


Farmers receive approximately 5 cents (or less) from each loaf of bread sold.


Bread is probably the one food eaten by people of every race, culture and religion.


Making your own homemade bread, may seem a daunting task to someone who has never made bread before.  However, it is not that hard to do, it requires just a few ingredients, and if you are not into doing a lot of kneading or have arthritic hands, a bread maker or good mixer will do the work for you.  I have the use of only one hand, so the bread maker is my friend when it comes to mixing and kneading my breads.  However, I do not like the way my particular bread machine bakes the bread.   So, I do this the traditional way, in my oven.

Making your own homemade bread and bread products is a very thrifty way to cut dollars off from your grocery list. Even with a busy schedule, there is always time to make bread.  I remember my mother for years, especially when my brothers lived at home, and were teenaged boys, baked bread once a week.

We would all come in from school, and the house would smell heavenly.  Mom always had a warm loaf of bread, some fresh butter and jam waiting for us to tear into.  Yes, I said, tear into, as this is the best way to eat warm bread, just tear off chunks.  My brothers and I always fought over who would get the heel of the bread.  Usually, I got at least one, being the littlest, and at the time the only girl.  There were always some homemade cinnamon rolls for later.  I remember one time, my brothers and I came home, and mom was not there, but the weeks’ worth of homemade bread was out on the kitchen table cooling.

My oldest brother decided that instead of sharing the heels, we would indulge and eat some extras, as the bread was there anyhow.  So, we indulged and it was so good we indulged some more.  The heels were all eaten, so my oldest brother cut all the crust off from all of the loaves of bread.  My mother came home, and there was her bread, all a mess in the kitchen.  As you may know, while many kids like the crust off from their bread, home baked bread with all the crust off is kind of like a mushy sponge.  So for the week, we had what was left of the bread, and all learned a lesson, in why mom only let us have one loaf to eat on bread making day.

Here is a collection of my favorite bread recipes:

The first one is my mother’s bread recipe, this is a treasure to me, as this is handwritten by her, and contains some wonderful memories for me, now that she has passed away.



Family Bread


4 cups warm tap water (not hot)

2/3 cup non-fat dry milk powder (instant powdered milk)

1/3 cup sugar or 1/4 cup honey

2 packets or 4 teaspoons dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

1/3 cup melted margarine or oil

12 cups (approximately) white or whole wheat flour or a combination


The first thing you need is a big bowl or clean dish pan to mix this up in. I use a huge metal bowl that is made of stainless steel. But I used to use the same plastic dish tub I washed the dishes in. I would wash it with a little bit of bleach, rinse it really well, and then dry it completely. In some ways it worked better because it fit on my lap more conveniently due to the rectangular shape. But the shiny stainless steel one does look more like I know what I’m doing.  So much for appearances.

So anyway mix the water, dry milk powder and sugar in the dishpan or bowl. Add the yeast, sort of sprinkled on top. Allow the mixture to sit until the yeast dissolves some; this will only take a couple of minutes. Add the salt, margarine or oil, and flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until it gets too stiff and then dig in with your hands. When the dough is in a nice cohesive ball, turn it out onto a floured kitchen table or counter. Or if you are using a dish pan, you can just leave it in there.

Now start kneading the dough with all of the love you have for your family. Press the dough and send big love vibes into it. Stretch the dough and impress all of your compassion and generosity into it. Remember why you love your kids, and your spouse and your mom or you dad, and just put it all into the dough. Knead it like this for a full ten minutes. Add more flour if you need to as you go along.

Coat the dough with oil, about 2 tablespoons of it, and put it into the bowl or dishpan. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap and let it set in a warm place to rise for about an hour or so. It should double in bulk. It may take up to two hours on cool days, or in the air conditioning, so be patient.

Punch down the dough by literally pressing your fist into the center of it. Divide the dough into 4 equal lumps. Coax them into loaf shapes and place them into large (9 by 5-inch) well-oiled loaf pans. If you don’t have enough loaf pans, use casserole pans or cake pans, or whatever. Cover the dough with a cloth or more plastic wrap and let it rise again. It should take less time for the second rising. When the dough is raised up enough, bake the loaves at 350° for 40 minutes.

You can tell the dough is done if you turn it out of the pan and thump the bottom with your finger. It should make a dull hollow sound. If it does not sound hollow, put it back into the pan and cook it some more. Makes four loaves.



Florence’s  (My Mom’s) Famous Cinnamon Rolls




2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F (43 degrees C))

1/2 cup mashed potatoes

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup white sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 eggs

3 cups unbleached wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose white flour

1/2 cup butter, softened


1/3 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

1/2 cup raisins (optional)

1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts


1 1/2 cups unsifted confectioners’ sugar

1 tablespoon butter, softened

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 tablespoons warm water, or as needed


Prepare the dough by sprinkling the yeast onto 1/4 cup of warm water; set aside to soften for 5 minutes. Stir the potato flakes, milk, 1/2 cup water, white sugar, and salt together in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture reaches 110 degrees F (63 degrees C). Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl until smooth, then whisk in the warm milk mixture and yeast. Stir in the flour and margarine until a dough forms. Turn out onto a floured work surface, and knead until smooth and satiny, 10 to 20 minutes.

Place the dough into a greased bowl, and turn over to grease both sides of the dough. Cover, and set in a warm spot to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down, and knead again briefly to push out the air. Cover, and let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir 1/3 cup softened butter with the brown sugar and ground cinnamon until blended. Feel free to make extra if you like more filling in your cinnamon rolls.

Once the dough has rested, turn onto a floured surface and divide in two. Stretch and roll one half into a 10×14-inch rectangle. Spread half of the cinnamon filling onto the dough, and sprinkle with half of the raisins and nuts. Roll up the dough from the narrow end, and pinch the edges together to seal. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling. Grease two baking sheets, and cut each roll into 12 pieces. Arrange the cinnamon rolls onto the prepared baking sheets. Cover, and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

Bake the cinnamon rolls in the preheated oven until light golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool. Prepare the glaze by stirring the confectioners’ sugar with 1 tablespoon butter, vanilla extract, and 2 tablespoons warm water until smooth. Use additional water if needed to make a pourable glaze. Pour the glaze over the cinnamon rolls while still warm.



Easy Artisan Bread


3 cups of lukewarm water

1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt

6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour



Grab a very large mixing bowl, or a large container that you can cover. In it, mix the water, yeast, and salt. You don’t even have to heat up the water to a precise optimal temperature for the yeast. I’ve even used just regular tap water, and it’s worked well for me. Just let that sit together for a while (you don’t have to wait for the yeast to dissolve completely), then dump the flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon. You don’t need to knead this, and you’re not looking to make it come together into a dough ball. You just want everything mixed well, with no streaks of flour left, and you’re done.

Leave it in your container, covered (but not airtight, or it’ll pop), for a few hours. When it has risen and then deflated a bit, your dough is done. It’s ready to be used or stored in the refrigerator.

 To bake the bread, just grab a chunk of dough (they recommend a chunk about the size of a grapefruit, but I’ve done larger chunks with no problem). Dust your hands with flour to help prevent sticking, and gently pull the sides of the dough toward the bottom, rotating the dough, until you get a roundish shape with a smooth surface. It should only take you about a minute or less to do this. The dough won’t be entirely in the bottom, where it may look bunched up, but don’t worry about it.



Put it on a pan, such as a pizza pan that’s been oiled and dusted with cornmeal to prevent sticking, and let it rest for at least 40 minutes. No need to cover it. If the dough has been refrigerated, it helps to let it rest a little more, until it’s no longer chilled.

Twenty minutes before you are ready to bake, put a pizza pan in the middle rack of your oven, and put a broiler pan in the bottom rack. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Dust some flour on the top of your loaf, and make your pretty slashes, about 1/4-inch deep. You can do a simple ‘x’ across it, a tic-tac-toe grid, or the stripes, er, scallop pattern.

After twenty minutes of preheating, it’s time to bake. (You can put the bread in after 20 minutes, even if your oven hasn’t reached 450 degrees yet.) Slide the loaf onto the baking pan, and then quickly (and CAREFULLY, lest you burn yourself like some hapless people I know) pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler pan. Then quickly shut the oven door to keep the steam inside.

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until you get a nice brown crust. The crust will crackle and pop and make all sorts of happy noises as it sits on a wire rack to cool. It tastes best when you let it cool completely. Don’t worry if your beautiful crust seems to soften a bit. It will harden again, I promise.

 And that’s all there is to it. It honestly took me more time to type this out than to make a loaf of bread. And although it still does involve some resting and rising time, the amount of time that you actually handle the dough is really only about five minutes.


Challah Bread

This recipe was given to me by Grandma Esther, the grandmother of a Jewish family I worked for at my first job.  It is very delicious bread!  Grandma Esther, not only gave me the recipe, but also showed me how to bake bread.  Although, my mom always baked bread, this was the first actual bread that I learned how to make myself.


 7 teaspoons dry yeast

 1/4 cup warm water

 3/4 cup sugar

 2 cups warm water

 3/4 cup oil

 1 tablespoon salt

 4 eggs, slightly beaten

 8 cups flour

 1 egg, beaten with a little water

Sesame seed


Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup water and set aside.

It will soon start bubbling.

 In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar,

2 cups of water, oil and salt. Mix.

 Add the eggs and yeast mixture and mix well.

 Add 4 cups of flour, and mix well again.  Add the remaining

Flour, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition.

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead knead and knead some more.

then knead some more.  When the dough is smooth and elastic,

It is done.  You may need to add a little extra flour

or water to get it to that earlobe consistency.

 Place in lightly oiled bowl, cover with damp towel, let

Rise until double in size.

 Punch down, knead another few minutes, and return to the

Bowl for another rising.

 Divide into thirds by cutting with a knife, do not pull, and

Shape into loaves.

 Heat oven to 350

 Place each loaf into prepared pan or cookie sheet lined

With parchment paper.  Brush the tops with egg/water mix.

Sprinkle with seeds.

 Bake for 45 minutes.  When done, the loaves will sound

Hollow when tapped at the bottom.



German Dark Rye Bread Recipe


1 1/3 cups strong brewed coffee (or coffee substitute), just hot to the touch (140 degrees F)

4 tablespoons butter, softened (or vegetable oil)

1/4 cup dark molasses

2 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup rye flour

2 cups bread flour

1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 tablespoons raw oatmeal (optional)



Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and lightly grease two loaf pans.

In a small bowl combine the coffee, butter, molasses, dark brown sugar, and yeast. Mix thoroughly and allow to set until bubbly and creamy (a few minutes).

In a large mixing bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Stir in the yeast mixture. Knead dough (add more bread flour if necessary) and shape into a ball. Allow to rise covered in a warm place 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Punch down and divide dough and place each loaf in a bread pan. Allow to rise, again, covered in a warm place 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Bake for 30 – 35 minutes. Once done, brush each loaf with butter and sprinkle oatmeal over the top. Remove from pans and allow to cool at least 45 minutes on a wire rack. Serve warm with butter. Enjoy.



Doughnuts Vintage Recipe (My Grandmother’s Recipe)


To sugar doughnuts, cool first, then shake in a paper bag with granulated or confectioners’ sugar.


4 cups sifted flour

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 teaspoon soda

1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 tablespoons shortening

3/4 cup sugar

4 egg yolks, beaten or 2 eggs and 1 egg yolk

1 cup thick sour milk


Sift together flour, spices, salt, soda, and cream of tartar.

 Cream Shortening and sugar until well blended . . . Add egg yolks and beat until mixture is light and fluffy. Add milk. Add sifted dry ingredients and mix thoroughly until smooth . . . With as little handling as possible, roll dough on floured board to 1/4-inch thickness. Let dough stand 20 minutes. Cut with 2 1/2-inch doughnut cutter . . . Fry in deep Spry (375°F.) until brown, turning when first crack appears. Drain on absorbent paper . . . Makes 3 dozen . . . If sweet milk is used instead of sour milk, reduce milk to 3/4 cup, omit soda and cream of tartar, and use 3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder . . . Egg yolks make more tender doughnuts than whole eggs.

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog.  After finishing up the first week of my blog, and getting many wonderful comments, I would like to thank my growing list of followers.  Until next time, Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose!!

Frugal and Fun Entertainment Idea

Get to Know Your Neighbors, Keep in touch with old friends.   Start a Monthly Potluck Supper Club—one of the things that I miss, no longer living the rural life, is the great friends and neighbors that I have made over the years.  With the faster pace, and apartment dwelling both the husband and I missed the block bbq’s and friendly get togethers, we used to have.  So the hubby and I came up with an idea, and invited some of our new neighbors over for a potluck supper, to get acquainted.  


On another occasion we invited some old friends over for a similar potluck dinner.  We found this was a fun and thrifty way to have a good time.  Everyone invited brought a passing dish to share.  I furnished the meat, the hubby broke out his smoker, and we got some large cheap pork roast, for 99 cents a pound.  Which was marinated overnight, and then dry rubbed and smoked all day, and part of a next day on the smoker grill.   We took out the old bingo set, dusted off the old board games, like Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, and The Game of Life, and got out the decks of cards.  We also made it bring your own drinks, as we do not drink alcohol, but I did have several soft drinks and lots of ice. 


I made homemade lemonade and some homemade fruit punch, about 5 gallons of each, to make sure that we had enough for our thirsty guests. 

A Thrifty Tip:  Use some gallon milk jugs, wash and bleach them, dry them well.  Then fill the jugs about ¾ of the way full, put them in the freeze.  Let them freeze at least overnight, and take out the first few gallons you will need, about two before the party starts.  They will unthaw and be cold, and you will need less ice.  Once you have opened and used the first few jugs of your drinks, take out another few to unthaw and be ready for refills.  If you need to unthaw the jugs quickly, you can sit them in the sink in some hot water for a few minutes.  Of if you have a large enough microwave, put the container in the microwave, using the defrost cycle, and defrost for a few minutes, until the beverage is unthawed. Or serve them up slushy style, and not all the way unthawed!




The Potluck Club idea turned out so well, that at least during the good weather months that we have tried doing these get together about once a month. It saves a whole lot, as opposed to going out for a meal, or an evening of on the town entertainment.   The cost of the pork roast, or other inexpensive cut of meat, the soft drinks and other entertainment expenses were a lot less than we would have spent going out for an evening meal, followed by going to a movie.

We also incorporated some other fun activities into our potluck meals, such as a karaoke night, and a movie and dinner night.  This led to a Disco Party night, and a Bluegrass Night.  As the Potluck Party Club idea caught on, our neighbors and friends wanted to take their turns as hosting.  So we started rotating the event with our new neighbors and old friends.



Some make some frugal fun of your own!!  Until next time, Recycle, Reuse and Repurpose!!