Peach Mint Julep

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:56 am on Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This being the end of summer, we’ve got a lot of peaches and mint on hand, two flavors that (surprisingly) go great together. So DIY Cocktails and I decided to make a Peach Mint Julep.

The recipe is for one drink, but it would be great to make a pitcher and drink them on a rocking chair on a porch, Southern style.

What a refreshing way to celebrate the end of summer.

Peach Mint Julep

Ingredients:

    1 peeled peach
    3/4 ounce simple syrup
    3 sprigs mint
    2 ounces bourbon
    Sparkling water or tonic water
    Crushed ice


Directions:

Peel the peach. Cut into sections and remove the pit. (If you can’t get fresh peaches, frozen peaches should work well too.)

Strip the mint leaves off the mint sprig and discard the stem.

Combine mint, peaches, simple syrup, and bourbon in a cocktail shaker. Thoroughly muddle until the peach is smashed and has released its juices.

Pour into a glass and put a layer of crushed ice on top. Top with sparkling water. Enjoy!

Pepper Jam

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:50 am on Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Town Hall is a restaurant in San Francisco and they make a great pepper jam that they serve with buttermilk biscuits. One day, when contemplating what to do with all the peppers I grew, I checked to see I could find the recipe. It turns out there’s a cookbook by the Town Hall chef and the pepper jam recipe is online.

I made the recipe and was pleased with the results. The jam is sweet with a spicy kick. I served it at a party I had and it was a hit. Here’s the recipe:

Pepper Jam

(Adapted from Cooking My Way Back Home)

Ingredients:

    3 bell peppers (I used chocolate bell peppers)
    3 1/4 c sugar
    3/4 c cider vinegar
    1 tsp dried chile flakes
    3 oz liquid pectin

Directions:

Clean and sterilize 2-3 jars and lids.

Halve the peppers lengthwise and remove stems, seeds, and membranes. Chop into 1-inch pieces. Pulse the peppers in a food processor until finely chopped.

Put the peppers to a heavy-bottomed pot and add the sugar, vinegar, and chile flakes.

Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar. Lower the heat to medium-high, add the pectin, and cook, stirring until the jam registers 220°F on a candy thermometer.

Remove the jam from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Transfer to the jars. You can seal them using this method or store in the refrigerator for up to a month. Enjoy!

Lessons From My 2014 Garden

Filed under: Gardening — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:05 am on Monday, September 15, 2014

As my 2014 summer garden is winding down. It was a strange year. The plants I normally get a lot of produce from didn’t do well, while plants I’ve never had much of a yield from thrived.

Last year, I got a lot of tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, and blueberries. This year I got a lot of chard, carrots, lettuce, beans, and peppers.

But that’s what I love about gardening. Every year is completely different. You could plant the exact same plants every year and get a completely different yield.

That’s what makes it fun and exciting (and challenging and frustrating, too).

2014 FAVORITE PLANTS: My mulberry tree! I planted it in the winter and it produced quite a few berries right away. I love how mulberries taste, like a mix between a plum and a blackberry.

I also planted Gherkin Cucumber and am pleasantly surprised by how tasty the cucumbers are raw. Plus they’re cute.

And, of course, there was the delightful surprise of the Ananas D’Amerique A Chair Verte Melon.

2014 LEAST FAVORITE PLANTS:

I’m mad at all my other fruit trees right now, since I just didn’t get much in the way of fruit this year. The nectarine and cherry trees were as happy as can be, but didn’t give me any fruit. Last year, the blueberry bushes yielded 700 berries last year, but only 100 this year. My lemon crop was destroyed by frost. The strawberries were doing well but the crop was cut short by bugs (more on that in a minute). In fact, the only fruit-bearing plant that didn’t give my problems was the orange tree, which gave me a lot of oranges this year.

So all the fruit trees are in the dog house, is what I’m saying.

LESSONS:

An Experiment In Corn:

I tried growing corn in a planter along the front of my house. Here’s the corn after I put it in.

I learned a lot about corn. I learned that they like rich soil and regular, consistent watering. Even so, my plants didn’t get as tall as I wanted, only about 4 feet instead of the 6 feet I was going for. And the ears weren’t that great tasting. I’m not sure what the deal is, but I don’t think I’m going to bother with corn again. Corn is so cheap in season, and the corn plants took so many resources, it just didn’t seem worth it.

Then again, never say never.

An Experiment With Grocery Store Onions:

As I wrote before, I put some sprouting grocery store pearl onions in the ground and ended up with a surprise bunch of full-grown onions. They were fun to pull up. I’ll probably make French Onion soup with them.

Too Much Lettuce:

My method of growing lettuce was just too successful this year. I ended up with so much of it, there was no way I could eat it all. Next year I’m going to focus more on spinach and other greens that can be cooked and frozen.

You Can Get Control Of Insect Infestation (Without Poison):

Every year, there is a new pest. This year it was Largus Bugs. Though they’re pretty harmless if there’s just a few around, but if there are hundreds of them–as was the case with me–you have a problem. They suck the juice out of fruit, so they were happily destroying my strawberry crop for awhile. But I just buckled down and killed tons of them, and then the plants rebounded. Now I’m getting strawberries again.

Sometimes gardening isn’t so pretty.

And sometimes it is:



Always Amend Your Soil:

The biggest mistake I made this year was I was lazy about amending my soil in two of my big raised beds, and so didn’t get as much squash and tomatoes as I usually do. Lesson learned: I will never be lazy about this again.

What I’m Changing Next Year:

    I’m going to put in more blueberry plants and increase the amount of water they get.

    I’m putting in regular orange carrots instead of weird purple ones.

    The raspberries are going to get more water too.

    I’m not going to prune my nectarine so drastically and see if that makes any difference in why it’s not producing anymore. (Tips on this?)

    I’m putting in spinach instead of lettuce.

    I’m planting stringless green beans. Mr. Savvy is very particular about strings on green beans.

    I’m amending the soil!

How To Freeze Basil

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:11 am on Friday, September 12, 2014

savvyhousekeeping how to freeze basil preserving

As I have mentioned, I have a lot of basil this year. My method for preserving it is simple: freeze it in ice cubes.

The best thing about this method is that you can use the basil as needed. All I have to do it remove the ice cube from a bag, stick it in a strainer, and let it melt. The basil will be wet and soft and taste better than dried. It can be added to any dish that calls for basil.

How To Freeze Basil:

Equipment:

    Basil
    Ice Cube Trays
    Scissors or knife
    Water
    Plastic bags or other freezer-safe containers


Directions:

Cut the leaves off the basil plant. Discard the stem (they are great in vegetable broth). Cut the leaves into pieces and push down so they are packed into each indentation of the ice cube tray.

Slowly fill the tray with water, then freeze until the ice is solid. Remove the basil-ice from the tray and transfer in a plastic bag for storage. Use the basil as needed.

5 Ways To Save Money In College

Filed under: Money — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:39 am on Thursday, September 11, 2014

When I graduated from college, I learned I was tens of thousands of dollars in debt. Here I was just starting out in life, yet I was heavily in debt and had to start paying right away. It was depressing and scary.

So I feel for the people in this NPR piece who are struggling with student-loan debt. Some of them owe $80,000 or $100,000. While that’s excessive, the burden for paying for college is worse than when I was in school, and the price of education is still going up.

It took me 10 years to pay off my school debt. I don’t regret going into debt for my education–getting a college degree is one of the best things you can do for yourself–but I could have owed much less if I had gone about things differently.

So learn from my mistakes. Here are 5 Ways To Save Money In College:

1. Pay Attention To The Loan Terms.
Don’t just sign papers. Try to get loans that have low interest rates, or better yet, no interest rates–they do exist for student debt. Understands the terms of the loan: what are the monthly payments? What are the penalties if you don’t pay? How long can you defer payment after you graduate? It’s important to know what you’re paying for school, if for no other reason that it’s a motivator to do well in class. You certainly won’t want to pay for the same class twice.

2. Reconsider The Dorms. Let me put it this way: when I graduated from college, the vast proportion of my debt was from living in the dorms. Had I gone right to living in a house with roommates, as I did later in college, I would have had a LOT less debt to deal with. There are benefits to staying in the dorms, and many schools require you stay there your first year (although I find that rules are usually negotiable), but dorms are often overpriced for what you get. You may do better living off-campus, so do a cost comparison.

3. Cut The Meal Plan. Make sure you are paying for what you will actually eat. My first year, I paid for eating in the cafeteria three times a day when I really just ate there once. That was a waste of money. Also, consider feeding yourself–a microwave and a small fridge (if allowed in the dorms) may be cheaper than a meal plan.

4. Be Smart About Books. Textbooks are notoriously expensive, so don’t just buy them in the student bookstore. Shop around. Most college towns have bookstores that sell used textbooks for cheaper than the school, and there are websites that sell used textbooks for a fraction of the retail price. There are other options too–you can share a book with a classmate or get it out of the library, although this can be difficult and annoying during exam times. Another option, and this worked for me, is to wait until you get to the class to see what the professor actually uses. Many times, they will assign books that they barely glance at during the class, so wait to see what the syllabus says before purchasing. It can save a surprising amount of money.

5. Don’t Procrastinate. Late fees. Parking fees. Handing in student aid forms after the deadline passes. Not getting a scholarship because you didn’t apply in time. All these things have one thing in common: procrastination. And procrastination is expensive. I racked up hundreds of dollars in parking fees because I was too lazy to get the change I needed to pay the parking meters. Eliminating procrastination can save thousands over the course of a college education–and isn’t a bad policy for studying, either.

So there are my tips. What tips do you have for saving money in college?

10 MORE Awesome and Easy Kid Snacks

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:26 am on Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My post on 5 Awesome And Easy Kid Snacks seems especially pertinent right now, with kids going back to school and all. Plus, I’m always looking for new things to feed Savvy Jr. So here are 10 MORE Awesome and Easy Kid Snacks:

Hungry Mice: The mice are made out of hard-boiled eggs with raisin eyes and almond ears. And of course, don’t forget the cheese.

Fruit Train: A train from watermelon, bananas, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and a piece of pineapple, held together with toothpicks. So cute!

Fruit Snake: Strawberries and bananas, cut and arranged in a snake shape, with a strawberry for the head and a blueberries for the eyes.

Veggie Flower: Cucumbers, tomatoes, celery, spinach leaves, carrots, and radishes, arranged in the shape of a flower. Serve with hummus, ranch dressing, or some other kind of dip.

Fruit Flower: Here’s the same idea with bananas, almonds, pretzels, tangerines, and chocolate chips (could also use blueberries).

Banana Rolls: Take a whole wheat tortilla, spread peanut or almond butter inside, then place a banana in the middle. Roll and slice into sushi-shaped snacks.

Apple Mouths: Slice apples, hold them together with peanut butter, and add marshmallows for the teeth.

Dinosaur Sandwich: Cut the bread in the shape of a dinosaur, make a sandwich. Then use cheese crackers for its spines and feet, and stand him on some grapes.

Apple Sandwiches: If that’s too complicated, try these apple sandwiches. Fill two apple slices with options like nutella, peanut butter, almond butter, raisins, granola, chocolate chips, or anything else that sounds good.

Green-Eyed Kitty: And for my personal favorite, make a cat with a round sandwich of your choice, kiwi slices for eyes, and bananas for the ears. Adorable.

Brownstone Bookcase

Filed under: Pretty/Cool — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:06 am on Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This Brownstone Bookcase is so attractive. A little pricey at $600, though.

Easy Zucchini Pickles

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:11 am on Tuesday, September 9, 2014

I’m already overwhelmed by zucchini. It’s no wonder since my zucchini plants are huge.

Therefore, I tried Judy’s Zucchini Pickles, which are served at the Zuni Cafe in San Francisco.

The ingredients are pretty common–apple-cider vinegar, salt, sugar, mustard, onion, turmeric, and zucchini, of course–and the pickles are ready in only a few days. They are a little bit spicy and a little bit sweet, i.e. a perfect side for grilling.

Mr. Savvy wants to try them with pulled pork. I say yes to that.

Click here for the recipe.

6 Bell Pepper Recipes

Filed under: Food/Drink — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:52 am on Monday, September 8, 2014

Check out that mighty fine orange bell pepper I grew in my garden!

I have a rainbow of bell peppers in my fridge thanks to my garden and my pepper growing experiment. Here’s some ideas for what do to with them:

Roasted Red Peppers

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Baked Eggs In Bell Pepper Rings

Spanish-style Lamb Stew with Roasted Red Peppers

Polenta-Stuffed Peppers

Sausages and Peppers Yum!

What’s your favorite way to have bell pepper?

5-Minute Cardboard Wheelbarrow

Filed under: Kids — Savvy Housekeeper at 7:32 am on Friday, September 5, 2014

Check it out: the 5-Minute Cardboard Wheelbarrow. It’s made out of a cardboard box and PVC pipe. A great toy for little time and money.

Is there no end to the toy potential of a cardboard box?

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