Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tips from Mary Jane's Farm Magazine ~

This  morning I feel discombobulated, if you know what I mean. So I thought I'd give you some light reading...just a few tips to remind us all that there are shortcuts out there which work very well. And since we could all use some shortcuts--whether for cutting costs or cutting work--they come in handy.

These shortcuts or tips come from a magazine called Mary Jane's Farm, which boasts on the cover: Simple Solutions for an Everyday Organic Lifestyle. And Mary Jane has been very successful at bringing that way of life to her readers. So I just wanted to give you a few of her "Simple Solutions."

No-Fail Fire Starter: Here's an easy fire starter for your wood stoves and fireplaces. Form a bundle of 6-8 wooden matches and tie it with cotton string, leaving about a 4" tail. Holding the tail, dip the bundled matches into melted candle wax, getting the wax about 1" up the string. Let the bundle dry on wax paper. To start your fire, just pile kindling around the bundle and light the "wick." It will burn down, and once the wax melts, the matches will ignite. It gives a constant, slow burn so that the kindling has a chance to ignite. Another benefit of the wax is that it makes the whole affair waterproof (and thus a great lightweight fire starter for camping too.) 

Boost Your Gas Mileage: Did you know that you can improve your gas mileage by 3% just by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure? Plus, properly inflated tires are safer and last longer. If you're new to tire maintenance, learn how to check and adjust your tire pressure using the simple steps at www.dmv.org/how-to-guides/check-tire-pressure.php.

Do It Yourself Dish Scrubber: No need to spend money on another dish scrubber when you can make your own. All you need is a mess o' mesh. Recycle the plastic mesh bags that onions, potatoes, and oranges come in. Cut any labels off, then fold the mesh bag into a neat little square or rectangle. Loop a piece of fishing line through the loose end and tie it in a tight knot. Voila! It won't scratch pots and pans, and it can be sanitized and reused by washing in the dishwasher or washing machine.

Easy Felted Foot Cushions: Buy a heavy wool sweater at a thrift store or use one you own. Throw it into the washer. Wash with hot water, rinse in cold water to felt it. You can then cut out inserts for your rain boots. Bouncy, thick, and wonderful!

Easy-To-Peel Hard-boiled Eggs: Steaming your eggs makes a big difference when you go to peel fresh eggs. Just bring a little water to a boil in the bottom of a pan, and set the eggs in a steam basket for about 20 minutes. They come out perfect and so easy to peel!

Seal & Freeze Easily: The most-often suggested way of sealing a bag of food with air in it is to put a straw in the bag and suck out the air before quickly sealing it. An easier way to do this is to fill your sink with water. Put your food in the bag, and put the bag in the water--almost up to the top. The water will squeeze the air out of the bag so you can just seal it up. Works great for soups and other liquid or mushy foods that you can't compress to seal.

Computer Cool-Off: If your laptop is getting hot from sitting on the table because there's not enough air circulating around it to keep it cool, take some mesh desk organizers--the kind you put in drawers for pens and pads and stuff--turn them over and put them underneath your computer. The mesh won't get hot like propping a book or something solid under there. It lets the air move right on through!

Awesome Winter Breakfast: Steel-cut oats are whole oat groats that have been chopped into smaller pieces. They take longer to cook, but it's worth it. In a large pot, melt 1 tablespoon butter and add 1 cup oats. Stir 2 minutes to toast. Add 3 cups boiling water and reduce heat. Keep at a low simmer for 25 minutes without stirring. Combine 3/4 cup milk and 1 teaspoon vinegar with the oatmeal (vinegar "sours" the milk for make-do buttermilk). Stir and cook for 10 minutes. Spoon into bowls and top with stuff like cream, syrup or honey, cinnamon, berries, or pecans. Yum! 

Okay, okay...you didn't want or need any tips! So how about "another great Mary Jane's Farm recipe"?
This looks really good...partly because I love popcorn and partly because I love maple and pecans. 

Maple-Pecan Caramel Corn
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Makes: 10 cups

8 cups popped popcorn (1 1/3 cup kernels)
1 cup pecans, toasted
1/2 cup butter
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray. Add popcorn and pecans to bowl and toss to combine.
2. Line a large baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray; set aside.
3. Combine butter, sugar, and syrup in a heavy-bottomed 6-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, then cook, without stirring, until mixture reaches 300 degrees F on candy thermometer.
4. Remove from heat, and stir in salt and baking soda (mixture will foam). 
5. Quickly pour caramel over popcorn mixture, and with an oiled spoon, stir until thoroughly coated.
6. Turn mixture out onto baking sheet and spread into a single layer. Allow to cool slightly, then break into bite-sized pieces. Yummy!

That's it for today. I want to give Mary Jane's Farm magazine credit for all of this information, which came from the December-January 2009 issue. She has an interesting web site as well as magazine with a blog and member participation. I only wish I was a farm girl.

Have a good day!

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