Saturday, September 22, 2012

Homemade Beef Jerky

Recently I have discovered Wellness Mama and have really been enjoying her blog.  It's extremely informative and eye-opening.  I have mentioned in the past how I have struggled with weight and other health issues such as PCOS and insulin resistance.  I have always thought that the reason it's so hard to lose weight and be healthy in general is that there are so many different theories out there regarding what is healthy and what isn't.  Her blog doesn't necessarily follow the norm of what we've been told is healthy all these years, but after reading the facts and the reasoning behind the theories, it makes perfect sense to me.  Personally, I have been doing what "they" say is healthy for years now, and it's not working.  Therefore, our house is going grain-free.  In addition, we are beginning to change the products we use to natural and chemical-free. 
That being said, I will be posting a lot more healthy, low-carb, grain-free recipes as well as recipes for DIY natural health and beauty and cleaning products.  This is one recipe that I got from Wellness Mama.  Here is the original link.
I have always been pretty picky about beef jerky, mostly because it's hard to find a brand/flavor that I like.  Recently I discovered Simms Beef Jerky, which you can buy at Aldi.  Not only is it moist and delicious, but it has a wonderful sweet flavor to it.  But even at Aldi's prices, the cost adds up quickly.  Plus, it contains additives and extra sugar and carbs that I don't need.  The thought of making my own beef jerky had crossed my mind before, but I had no idea it was this easy.
Here is what you'll need:
Ground beef (preferably 20% fat or less)
Spices of your choice
Baking sheet with a rim
Large mixing bowl
Put the ground beef in a bowl.  Add whatever spices you want.  Using clean hands, mix the meat with the spices.  (I used some of my homemade taco seasoning in this batch)
Next, line your baking sheet with aluminum foil and spray it with cooking spray.  Spread the meat over the baking sheet.  You can use a rolling pin for this step, but it's not necessary.
Use a knife or pizza cutter to cut into pieces (this will make it easier to break into pieces when it's done)
Set your oven on its lowest setting.  Mine is 200 degrees.  Put the baking sheet with the meat on it in the oven.  In about an hour, it will look like this:
But don't get too excited, it still has a long way to go.  Cooking times vary based on the temperature you are cooking at and how much meat you are cooking.  Mine took about 6-8 hours to cook at 200 degrees.  Did I mention you will want to do this when you're not planning to leave the house?  It's a good idea to check it often so you don't overcook it.  Also, you will need to flip it about halfway through.  Plus, if you see any grease/fat accumulate on the baking sheet, it will need to be drained.
Once your beef jerky is done, let it sit on the baking sheet to cool.  It will also dry out a little more as it cools.  Then, break into pieces and enjoy!


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dip-Dyed Candy Corn Shirt

This idea was a long time in the making.  I actually first thought of this last fall... I thought, Gee it would be nice to have a fall-themed shirt to wear to fall events, such as Trunk or Treat at our church, HallZOOween at the Zoo, etc.  But then I got too busy and didn't get around to making one.  My original thought was to buy 3 similar shirts in orange, yellow, and white, and then cut them up and sew them back together to make one shirt.  But while I can sew, it's not my strong point, and I came up with this idea instead which seemed much easier (not to mention cheaper).
This was not my first experience using fabric dye (see some of my other projects here and here).  But it was my first experience with dip-dying.  The only difference is that you have to be creative and find a way to hang the shirt in a way that only the part you want dyed hangs down in the dye bath.
Here is what I started out with:
One $6 cotton shirt and 2 $2.29 boxes of fabric dye in yellow and orange.  That's a total cost of $10.58, which is much better than $18 (what my original idea would have costed). 
You will also need a plastic container larger than 3 gallons, plastic gloves, salt, and a large spoon that you can designate for projects such as these.  It helps to have several large disposable plastic containers.  I used gallon jugs. 
Start by placing your large plastic container in a utility sink or other area that you don't mind getting dirty or possibly dying another color.  Add 1 cup of salt and the yellow dye packet to the gallon jug.  Then add 4 cups of very hot water and mix well.  Add to the large plastic container.  Then add 2 more gallons of very hot tap water.  Use the spoon and mix well.
Hang your shirt so that the bottom 2/3 hangs in the dye bath.  (Don't mind my icky basement sink).
Use the spoon to stir the dye bath.  Try to keep the fabric moving around as much as possible so that it dyes evenly.  After 10 minutes, remove the shirt and dump out the dye bath.  Put on your rubber gloves and rinse the shirt out until the water runs clear.  Be careful only to rinse the part of the shirt that has been dyed, otherwise you may accidentally dye the top part of the shirt too.  Once the shirt has been rinsed thoroughly, run it through the washer on regular cycle with warm water.

Then, you are going to repeat the steps to create the second dye bath with the orange dye.  Mix the dye up the same way, with 1 cup of salt and 4 cups of hot water, and add 2 more gallons of hot water.  This time, hang your shirt so that the bottom 1/3 hangs in the dye bath.

Again, stir the dye bath to keep the fabric moving.  This time, you will need to keep the shirt in the dye for 30 minutes.  Then, dump out the dye bath and rinse the shirt until the water runs clear. 
Then you will need to wash the shirt again.  To avoid bleeding the orange dye onto the rest of your shirt, hang your shirt so only the bottom 1/3 hangs in the washer.  Let it hang that way until your washer requires you to close it to go any further.  Then take it off the hanger and let the washer run through the cycle.
Hang up your shirt to dry.  You are now done.  What a cute shirt to wear to trick or treat, apple picking, hayrides, etc!  You can also use this same technique on a child's shirt or dress.  My only problem is I accidentally bought a shirt that was at least one size too big.  Whoops.  Oh well, better too big than too small. 


Saturday, September 8, 2012

Apple Cider Vinegar Astringent

I tried this out about a week or so ago, and it works so well, I had to share it.  I am always skeptical when I see new and different skin treatments because it seems like when I try something new, it's mediocre at best.  I have had lifelong skin issues, mostly due to having PCOS.  Sometimes it's worse than others, but I have always had problems with oily skin, breakouts, and red splotchiness.  I originally saw this on a pin on Pinterest which I can't find now, but it's so easy I remembered how to make it off the top of my head. 
You mix 1 part apple cider vinegar with 4 parts water.  I use the raw, unfiltered kind of apple cider vinegar, which you should be able to find in the Organic/Health food section of the grocery store.  I'm not sure if it would still work as well with the regular kind. 
You can use just about any kind of bottle to keep it in, as long as it has a small-ish screw-on lid.  I looked in my bathroom closet and saw that I had 2 bottles of rubbing alcohol open, so I just poured what was left of one into the other.  Then I removed the labels with a hair dryer, cleaned and dried the bottle, and poured the ACV and water in with a funnel.  Then I labeled the bottle.
I have been using it twice a day.  I give it a good shake before using it, then I put some on a cotton round and apply to my face.  I could tell a difference as soon as I started using it.  My face felt really soft and clean.  And then within a few days, I could tell even bigger differences.  My face is no longer breaking out, and even the red splotches are fading.  Trust me, this stuff works wonders!  And, on top of that, it's non toxic, and it's super cheap.  What more can you ask for?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Bean Bag Chair Yarn Storage

I was inspired to create yarn storage out of a bean bag chair cover by this post that I recently saw on Pinterest.  The post suggests using an empty bean bag chair cover to store stuffed animals.  Well, Angie already has a really good place to store hers, so I really couldn't use the idea.... or could I? 
A few days after seeing that pin on Pinterest, this idea popped into my head.  I remembered my mess of a craft room (which, I am slowly and steadily converting into an organized space... but there is still a huge pile of random craft supplies and Hobby Lobby bags on the floor) and particularly the trash bag in which I store most of my yarn.
I don't know what made me think to put my yarn in there, but why not?  Seems like yarn would be less lumpy than stuffed animals... and it satisfies a need for storage as well as seating.  Not to mention it's super cool that I have a great place to keep all of my yarn now and no one will ever know it's there!  I found this bean bag chair cover at Bed Bath and Beyond (which, oddly enough, appears to be the same one from the post about the stuffed animal storage)

I opened up the zipper, and one by one I put each piece of my yarn collection inside.
Then I closed it up and neatly placed it in the corner.
So excited about this!  How cool is it that all of my yarn is now out of the way AND out of sight?  And I have a cute little bean bag chair in the corner that I or Angie can sit in, and only I need to know that it's filled with yarn.  Plus all of my yarn can be easily accessed with a simple pull of a zipper!