Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Frugal Kitchen: Easy Peach Cobbler

Here is an easy dessert recipe that will work just as easily with Spring's fresh berries as well as peaches.

Peach Cobbler
1 cup sugar
1 cup self rising flour
1/2 stick butter
3/4 cup milk
1 large can sliced peaches

Mix sugar and flour together thoroughly.  Add milk and stir.  Melt butter and pour into baking dish.  Next pour the batter in the dish without stirring.  Pour the peaches and juice into the dish without stirring.  Place in oven preheated to 375 degrees F.  Bake 1 hour or until done.

Any type of canned fruit in juice will work for this recipe.  If you use fresh or frozen fruit, mix it in a bowl with a couple of tablespoons of sugar.  Let it sit until juice forms; you may need to smash it a little with a spoon.

Serve this cobbler with vanilla ice cream, whipped cream or with just some milk poured over the top (the way I like it).  Enjoy!

God bless,

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ebay Complaint Service

When I have done a house clutter purge I will donate some things to charity or sell the items on Ebay.  I'm not going to get into how to use Ebay, but tell you about my experiences with their complaint service.

If you have a problem with an Ebay vendor or buyer and you can't negotiate on your own with them, then use the complaint service that Ebay provides.  I have had very good luck with them with a couple of purchases that didn't work out.

First of all, make sure that you get your product in a timely manner and in good shape.  Check closely to ensure that you have actually gotten the product you ordered and not a cheap substitution.  When a vendor says that it's not their responsibility, don't believe it.

Provide the complaint service with as many facts as possible in the order they happened.  The more info you give them the better they will be able to investigate.

Here are two scenarios that happened to me:

I had purchased gold jewelry findings from a vendor, but they never arrived.  I had paid for priority mail, so that they would come quickly and to provide tracking.  When I contacted the vendor he claimed that the package was mailed, but he wouldn't provide me with the postal tracking number.  I had a feeling that the package was never mailed and if it was, it was not sent priority mail.  Ebay told him to provide a tracking number, it proved to be a false number, so Ebay took the cost and postage from his account and credited my account.

In the second transaction I had ordered a Speedo brand, lycra fabric.  When I opened the package the pattern on the fabric wasn't right.  I checked the selvage of the fabric and saw that it was a different brand completely.  The vendor told me to return the fabric, but that I had to pay the return postage.  Ebay said differently, I was credited with the full amount and the vendor decided to let me keep the fabric rather than pay return postage.

I strongly recommend that you take advantage of Ebay's service rather than ignoring a disappointing transaction.  You might be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

God bless,

Friday, April 13, 2012

Strawberries: Hydroponic vs. Conventional

First of all, this is strictly my opinion based on my experiences.

I am the original u-pick strawberry fanatic since I am unable to grow them in my garden.  We used to have a big plot when I lived in Nebraska, but it is much harder to grow strawberries in Florida.  So, I enjoy going to u-pick farms and have tried the strawberries at several of them.

Picking at a hydroponic farm is quite a different experience.  The first thing to strike me was that there was no dirt.  The ground was covered and there was a fiberglass type product in the pots.  We had to disinfect our hands before picking and use sanitized scissors provided by the farm.  And you don't really pick the strawberries, you snip them.  The nice thing was no leaning down, but I missed the whole being on the farm experience.

Hydroponic Strawberries

The hydroponic strawberries took much less cleaning when we got them home, but when we went to eat them, what a disappointment.  They only had a mild flavor and seemed watery.  I was so unimpressed I never went back to the hydroponic farm.  I honestly don't know if this is a common occurrence or if it was just a problem with this farm.

Our visits to a traditional u-pick farm were much different.  While the strawberries were grown under plastic mulch, the areas surrounding them were very organic.  Dirt, weeds, grass and critters grazing in the nearby field.  We grabbed our boxes and went out to get dirty and pick strawberries; no cleaning up beforehand.  Fingers were used to pinch off the strawberries and our boxes were filled in no time.  Our backs were a bit sore, but it was nice to be getting some exercise outdoors.

Traditional Strawberry Field

Cleaning the dirt farmed strawberries took some effort.  I usually just agitate them gently in several sink fulls of clean water.  The dirt falls to the bottom and I just scoop them out.  And the taste; they were amazing.  Very flavorful, juicy and meaty.  I much prefer the traditionally grown strawberries to the hydroponic ones.

Once again, this is just my experience.  If you have had experiences with hydroponically grown fruits and vegetables please comment below.

God bless,

Monday, April 9, 2012

Strawberry Season

We are at the very tail end of the Florida strawberry season.  This year, due to warm temperatures and adequate rain, we have a bumper crop.  As a result prices are low and strawberries are plentiful.  California strawberries are also starting to show up in the stores.

With so many strawberries available it is definitely time to make strawberry jam.  Rather than give detailed instructions on canning on this blog, I suggest that you buy a reputable book on canning jams.

The recipe I prefer is in the old Joy of Cooking book I received as a wedding present 30 years ago.  This recipe does not use pectin.  Pectin is a convenience as it pretty much guarantees a good jell, but pectin does require more sugar to get a jell.

Another family favorite is strawberry shortcake.  Just cut up your strawberries and mix in some sugar.  Allow it to sit, refrigerated until juice forms and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Many people in this country actually don't use shortbread as a base, but I like the recipe for shortcake in (yep, you guessed it) the Joy of Cooking.  It is a true shortbread recipe.

Sometimes I make a quick strawberry side dish that is good served with pork.  Mix a small amount of sugar with your cut up strawberries, then add a teaspoon full of balsamic vinegar.  The vinegar really accents the flavor of the strawberries.

Enjoy the fruits of this spring season.

God bless,

Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Blessed Easter

Today is Easter, a time of renewal and contemplation.  The Lord sacrificed himself in order to give us the chance to live a full life, unfettered by sin.  Let's think about what we are doing with our lives and how we are treating ourselves and others.

None of us are without flaws, but the Lord has given us the opportunity to begin anew.

Have a blessed Easter,

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Amazing Shrinking Dawn Detergent

Shrinking package sizes without shrinking prices is one of the little tricks manufacturers use to fool consumers into believing they are still getting the same deal at the same price.  It is one of my pet peeves because it assumes that the consumer is too stupid to figure out what is happening.

The most striking example of this practice has been with Dawn dishwashing detergent.  One year ago the small size, which would go on sale for 99 cents, was 13 ounces.  Six months ago the size reduced to 11 ounces.  Now the small size is 9 ounces.  I have also seen the sale price going up to over a dollar  in some stores.

Keep doing the math.  If the size of this product keeps reducing it may become less expensive to buy a larger size.  Personally, I am not dedicated to just one brand, so I'll just switch to a detergent manufacturer that is a little less deceptive.

God bless,