Handmade Gifts – Crock Pot Apple Butter

Again this year I am making my Home Made Apple Butter.  Great gift idea!

Crock Pot Apple Butter

6 1/2 pounds apples – peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (add when finished cooking)

  1. Core and slice apples. I do not peel mine.
  2. Put the apples in a 4 quart or larger crock pot, then add the sugar and spices. Stir the mixture the best you can then cover and cook on high for one hour.
  3. Cook on low (stirring occasionally, I stir every hour), until the apple butter reaches a spreadable consistency and is dark brown in color. This takes 12 or more hours depending on your crock pot.
  4. Transfer to hot, sterilized jars (aproximately 8 half pints), I boil my jars and lids and imediately fill as I take them out of the boiling water. Take care not to fill past the headspace line. Refrigerate any jars that fail to seal properly.

 

To Freeze: Allow the jars to cool. Then, place in the freezer. Use within a year, for the best quality.

 

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Yield: 4 pints

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 hours

Ingredients:

Directions:

Notes:

– I used a combination of Granny Smith, Red Delicious and Honey Crisp apples for this recipe. I also increased my recipe to 9 pounds of apples and adjusted the rest of the recipe accordingly. This yielded 12 half pints.
– The sweetness of your apples will depend on how much sugar you use. I used mostly brown sugar as I try to stay away from white sugar. Adjust according to your apples and preferences.

– You can speed up cooking time by keeping it on high but you MUST stir every hour.
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OOPS! Holiday Shopping- A Year of Living Cheap

Don’t let the frantic pace of the holidays make you lose site of your budget goals.  Don’t buy that first gift you see because  you just want to get it over with and move on.  THINK! 

Ask yourself, is this really the gift you want to give?  Is this the price you want to pay.  Is there something that is more appropriate or something  they will appreciate/use more than this item?

Take a few minutes to sit down, write down the names of the people you want to give gifts to this holiday season.  Then go over the list again and eliminate the people that should not be on the list, don’t let emotions guide you, be practical.  Write at least two gift ideas that are inexpensive and would mean something to the person you are giving the gift.  No gift has to be expensive  if it comes from the heart.  A handmade item often times will mean more to the recipients than an expensive gift bought in haste.

My mom would rather receive a card that tells her how much she has meant to me than something I bought.  So buy a nice card, and write with your heart.

You still have time to plan ahead and get the right gift.  Do not let the fast talking marketers make you buy, THINK.

You will be glad you did when the holidays are history and you can look back with a smile and know they were the best.

Come and visit me at:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/DragonAlleyJournals

http://stores.ebay.com/Dragon-Alley-Journals

http://dragonalley.webs.com/

https://twitter.com/DAJournals/

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Protect your Car – A Year of Living Cheap

You can save yourself hundreds maybe even thousands of dollars every year by making sure you check your car fluids every month to three months, depending on the age of your car.  

Check the motor oil. The oil should probably be checked after the car cools down for an hour.  Pull dip stick out all the way, wipe it off with a paper towel then  reinsert, pull it back out and you can see the level of your oil.  The dip stick has markings on it as to your oil level.  Check your owners manual to see when to add oil and the correct oil to add.

Check the transmission fluid (if you have an automatic transmission). This is usually done with the engine running and fully warmed up, either in Neutral or Park, depending on the make and model. It will be the second of two dip sticks. As with the oil, locate it, pull out  the dip stick , wipe it off with another paper towel (don’t use the same one), push it all the way back in, then pull it out and read the level. Again, look for a level between the two marks on the dipstick.  Always check your car manual to see when to add any fluids.  Never over fill.

Check the brake fluid. Consult your manual for the location, or look around for a plastic reservoir such as one labeled brake fluid. If your reservoir clear or semi clear, you can read the level of fluid right through the plastic. Wipe dirt off the outside, if you need to. ONLY add fluids when your car manual says to add.  NEVER over fill.

Check the coolant.  Your car must be cooled down to do this one.  Most coolant reservoirs are up front near the radiator.  Cars are designed to operate with antifreeze as a coolant, or a mix of 50/50, NOT just water .  On my car it says to add when level is below the minimum level, but all cars are different so, again, check you car manual.

Windshield washer fluid.  This is usually in a clear or semi-clear vessel.  Check the level and add water or washer fluid as needed.  Keep your windshield clean so you can see!

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Being a Small Business Owner

I have found that owning my own business has its ups and downs.  And much like a manic-depressive person the ups are glorious and the downs are debilitating.  Although my Dragon Alley business is not a traditional “brick and mortar”, it still brings in much needed income for my family.

So what do I do when my business is down, I evaluate.  I take a look at my online listings, and make improvements so they can be seen on mobile devices.  I make sure my descriptions are short to the point and clear.  I look at the product that is not moving and put it on sale.  If it isn’t moving, get it out of your store and move on to something that is more appealing to your buyers. Also diversify your product.  If you have one product, what do you do when everyone has bought that one product and no longer needs another?  You find another (or several if you are smart) product that is attractive to your buying audience!

I have also started doing Arts & Craft Shows.  Yes they are a lot of work but the benefits you get from meeting other crafters, that are having the same problems, is a HUGE bonus.  Ask them what they are doing to get out of their slump.  Exchange business cards and create a group that meets at least once a month to brain storm ideas.

I have also started attending seminars and free classes put on by my local Chamber of Commerce.  Yes, the city you live in wants to see Small Businesses succeed.  Small Businesses are the back bone of the economy in any area.

So read, learn and get out there and Support Small Business like yourself!

Here are some of my links.  Stop by and see me!

http://stores.ebay.com/Dragon-Alley-Journals

http://dragonalley.webs.com/

https://twitter.com/DAJournals

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Milk Free Cheese Cake- A Year of Living Cheap

What did our parents ever do without the internet?  I use the internet every day to research prices and products I need.  I also use the internet for recipes for thing I want to make, bake and create.  I have a lot of food allergies and this is such a huge help in finding substitutes of items in the recipes.

I love cheese cake but am lactose intolerant.  A lot of people can not have milk products and their symptoms range from simple gas to those of us that have to run quickly to the bathroom!  Since I want to take a cheese cake to our family Thanksgiving dinner and I can find no bakery in my area that makes dairy free cheese cakes that don’t cost an arm and a leg, I did my research and here is what I found!

PREP TIME: 30 MINUTES

COOK TIME: 1 HOUR

TOTAL TIME: 1 HOUR, 30 MINUTES

YIELD: 1 9″ CHEESECAKE

INGREDIENTS:

  • For the Crust:
  • 1 1/4 cup finely ground dairy-free graham cracker crumbs (from either store-bought or homemade graham crackers)
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 5 T. melted dairy-free soy margarine
  • For the Filling:
  • 4 8-ounce packages dairy-free cream cheese, such as Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese
  • 1 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • Egg Replacer for 4 eggs (I use Ener-G Egg Replacer) or, alternatively, 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dairy-free sour cream, such as Tofutti Sour Supreme
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • For the Topping:
  • Several tablespoons of dairy-free sour cream, such as Tofutti Sour Supreme
  • 1 21-ounce can cherry pie topping
  • Vegan Whipped Cream, for serving (optional)

PREPARATION:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease a 9″ spring-form pan well with dairy-free soy margarine. Set aside.

2. Make the crust. In a small mixing bowl, combine the graham cracker crumbs and white granulated sugar until well combined. Add the melted dairy-free soy margarine and mix until well combined. Press the mixture evenly into the bottom and up 2″ of the sides of the prepared pan. Place in the oven for 5 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack while preparing the filling.

3. Make the filling. Using a standing mixer or an electric hand mixer, beat the dairy-free cream cheese in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Add the sugar and continue to mix until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Add the Egg Replacer, beating until well combined, followed by the dairy-free sour cream and pure vanilla extract, beating well with each addition and scraping down the sides periodically to ensure even mixing. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 10 minutes, or until the top of the cheesecake is lightly browned. Spread several tablespoons of dairy-free sour cream over the surface of the cheesecake to fill in any cracks. Transfer to a wire cooling rack to cool completely for 1-2 hours, then transfer to the refrigerator for at least 2 hours to chill completely. Top with the cherry topping, then return the cake to the refrigerator for 1 more hour. Serve the cake cold with Vegan Whipped Cream if desired.

And here is the link I used. http://dairyfreecooking.about.com/od/cakes/r/Cherry-Cheesecake.htm  

Enjoy!

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Making Soy Candles – A Year of Living Cheap

Soy Candle Making 

This craft is an easy and inexpensive way to make wonderful gifts.  All you need is:

2 lbs Soy Flakes

2- Four cup glass measuring cups (microwave safe)

Scented essential oils

Wax Candle Color

8 Four ounce jelly jars or 10-12 votive jars

HOT PADS!!!!  Do not touch the measuring cup when taking it out of the microwave with your bare hands.  HOT, HOT!!

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Empty half of the 2 lb bag of soy flakes into each of the glass measuring cups.  Microwave one at a time on high for about 3 minutes.  Add your wax color and microwave one more minute.  If not melted, add 30 seconds at a time.  Mixture must be clear.  Place the measuring cup on a hot pad to protect your counter top.  Remember the hot pads for your hands.

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After you have melted all your wax, let the containers sit for about an 30 minutes, stirring the mixture occasionally.  Add your essential oil at this point.  I used lavender and peppermint which are my favorite.  I get my oils at my local herb shop, Desert Sage Herbs http://www.desertsageherbs.com/Desert_Sage_Herbs/Welcome.html

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While your soy mixture is cooling down, prep your jars with wicks.  I use wax wicks and not the wood wicks.  This is a personal choice as I have not had any luck with the wood wicks burning.  They usually flare, sizzle and then go out.

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use Tacky Wax to hold my wicks to the bottom of the jar.  Some people use hot glue, but I have had more success with the Tacky Wax (you can also use it to put posters on your wall without ruining your paint with holes!).

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After waiting the 60 minutes your mixture should be looking cloudy and a little slushy.  Now is the time to pour your candles.  Again use care as the glass will still be very warm.  After pouring your candles IF you want to add anything to the candle, now is the time.  I add lavender flowers to my lavender candles.  I sprinkle the flowers on top and use a tooth pick to push them down into the candle.

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Clean up is really easy, just use soap and hot water. 

Let the candles completely cool, then you can move them out of the way.  Wait 24 hours before you add any lids.

The cost for the wax is not too expensive.  I buy mine online and get 10  pounds for $20.00 which includes shipping.  Expect higher prices if you go to a hobby shop.

Go forth and create beautiful gifts for your friends or for yourself!

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Please leave comments or suggestions on this blog!

 

Saving Money on Every Day Items – A Year of Living Cheap

Maybe you have seen the recipes on Facebook for items you use every day.  Recently I tried a couple and here are the results. 

Liquid Fabric Softener: 

2 cups hair conditioner

3 cups white vinegar (helps eliminate odors in your clothing)

6 cups hot water 

Mix until everything is combined in a smooth liquid.  Do not shake, this forms too many bubbles and then is hard to transfer to your old fabric softener container. Makes just shy of 3 quarts.  This works great and I found that there is no difference in how my clothing feels. 

The above cost me about $1.25 compared to the almost $9.00 it would cost me at the grocery store.  AND you can pick what scent you want! 

Ladies, hair conditioner is also great when shaving your legs.  It makes for a very smooth shave and when you are done you have softened the skin on your legs. 

Make your own Febreze:

Insert a funnel into the top of an old Febreze spray bottle

Pour 1/8 cup of your favorite fabric softener or conditioner into your old 32 ounce spray bottle.

Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to the bottle

 Fill the rest of the bottle with warm water so everything will mix together smoothly

Replace the cap and shake the bottle well (you will have bubbles from the shaking but they will dissolve).

This cost pennies compared to buying at the store and AGAIN you can pick your scent.  Works great, I love it!

How to clean your drains: 

This is not only cheap but easy on your pipes and the environment!

  • Pour 2 cups of boiling hot water down your drain.
  • Next add about 1/2 c. baking soda.
  • Then, mix 1 c. vinegar and 1. c very hot water and pour it down the drain.
  • Cover with a drain plug (let it sit for 5-10 minutes.
  • Flush it once again with boiling water

There are so many ways to save money, you just have to look for the ideas and be open to trying them.  Once you do you will never go back to the “store bought” item again!

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