Friday, October 25, 2013

A Do-Over: Healthy Whole-Grain Mix for the YUMMIEST Pumpkin Pancakes EVER!



Oh my goodness, y'all.  Yes, I have posted on these pancakes twice before. But when I went back to reread the earlier posts recently as I was getting ready to make another big batch -- I was horrified! The posts were absolutely awful! How embarrassing. I can only say, I was new to this type of blogging back then and didn't really know what I was doing, but ... two posts about a pancake recipe without actually including the recipe?! Only links to inspiration recipes with descriptions of what I changed? Not great. Neither were the HORRENDOUS photos. So I have taken the other posts down and revisiting this recipe yet again.

Why, you may ask, would anyone bother to write THREE posts on the same recipe? Well, let me just tell you how good these pancakes are.  No.  I can't even begin to describe it. You just have to make them. You won't regret it. They are so soft and moist, so fragrant, so tender -- it is impossible to wrap your head around the fact that they are also packed with whole grains, have a bit of veggie, and are low in sugar. Oh, and did I mention they're 100 calories per pancake? It just doesn't compute.

Where I live, there is a legendary pancake restaurant, and pumpkin pancakes are one of their specialties. I've had them, and they're delicious.

I like these better.

Better yet, H loves them, and has since she was tiny. Without further ado, here is the actual recipe:

Healthy Whole-Grain Mix for Pumpkin Pancakes
Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Homemade Whole-Grain Pancake Mix

4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups oats (old-fashioned or rolled)
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
2.5 Tablespoons cinnamon
1.5 Tablespoons ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil

To make pancakes:
1 cup homemade mix
1 cup milk or buttermilk; OR 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
(optional) 1/2 tsp vanilla
(optional) a handful of pecans

Yields: 10 batches of about 8 pancakes each

1.  Grind the oats in a food processor until they are well-chopped, but not powder.
2. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl or stand mixer. Slowly drizzle oil into the bowl as you mix
well. (I use a pastry cutter at first, then finish up with my hands. When the oil is mixed in, it will make a clump when you grab a bit.)
3. Store mix in freezer bags or other airtight containers. The mix will keep indefinitely in the freezer.
4. When ready to make pancakes, add the liquids, egg, and pumpkin to the mix and let the batter stand for at least 20 minutes before cooking (this allows the oats to soak up the liquids).
5. Heat a pan to medium-hot or an electric griddle to 375.
6. Drop by quarter-cupfuls onto the lightly-greased pan or griddle. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until the edges are dry. Then flip and cook about two minutes on the other side.

That's it!

I ran it through a nutrition calculator and this is what I got. (This assumes you use 2% milk for the liquid, and no pecans.)


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 68 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories
97
Calories from Fat
40
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
4.4g
7%
Saturated Fat
1.2g
6%
Trans Fat
0.0g
Cholesterol
26mg
9%
Sodium
160mg
7%
Total Carbohydrates
11.7g
4%
Dietary Fiber
1.6g
6%
Sugars
2.7g
Protein
3.4g
Vitamin A 48%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 5%Iron 4%
Nutrition Grade C
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutritional Analysis

Good points

Mind you, I add just a few more calories to mine by drizzling them with real maple syrup. SOOO worth it.  The maple perfectly highlights the pumpkin flavor. A match made in heaven!


The pictures don't do them justice. They taste so much better than they look. :-)


Monday, October 21, 2013

Tutorial: Turn a plain youth t-shirt into a (puffed-sleeve) toddler tee in under 15 minutes


If you know me, you know that I love Halloween.  Especially making Halloween costumes.  This year, H was able to tell me what she wanted to be.  We went through a costume catalog together for inspiration, and she informed me that she wanted to be a "ducky."  I decided to make it a comfortable and simple t-shirt-based costume.

But, of course, I also wanted to keep things inexpensive (we are talking about something she's going to be wearing for a few hours, right?) and didn't want to go to a lot of trouble by doing things like dyeing a white onesie yellow or something.  So I picked up some larger (and extremely cheap) t-shirts at Hobby Lobby and decided to cut them down to make the top and pants for her costume.

Here's how I did the shirt.  I based it on a similar tutorial I saw online someplace a while ago.  I also added a little gather at the top of the sleeve.  I will definitely be using this method again -- it was SO fast and easy, and the result is very cute!  I'm thinking about all the times I wanted to find a little red t-shirt for her over the summer and grumbled because apparently clothing makers think red is only for boys...

PS. I used a serger, but you can easily use a regular machine. There are some great tips on sewing with knits at Dana Made It.




I started with the smallest shirt I could find in the right color, which was a "youth" size XS.  I laid a well-fitting t-shirt of T's on top, lining up the collars and shoulders.  The sleeves of the pattern shirt need to be tucked in.




I cut all around the outside of the pattern tee, leaving about a 1/2 inch (a bit more at the bottom).

Uh-oh... I seem to be missing a photo here (sorry, I was throwing her costume together in about an hour and guess I got a bit rushed!). But it's easy to describe what I did next. I unfolded the sleeve of the pattern shirt and laid it on one of the sleeves I cut off the bigger shirt, just to get an idea of how much to trim off the bottom and side.  Make sure you trim the armpit side, and leave the hem intact! Also, if you want a puffed sleeve, make the sleeve an inch or two longer than the armhole, as in the photo below.  If you want them more like a standard t-shirt, the curve of the armhole needs to match the curve of the sleeve.  


I used the first sleeve I cut as a pattern for the second one, of course.


Next, I turned the t-shirt inside-out and serged up the sides, leaving the armholes open.  I just serged around the bottom so the t-shirt wouldn't roll up.  I would fold up and hem if this were going to be a shirt H would wear often, but it isn't, and the hem shouldn't really show, so I didn't bother.

Then I turned the sleeves inside-out and serged them closed along the bottom.



Next, I turned the sleeve right-side-out and sewed about 2 inches of basting stitches along the top of the shoulder, then pulled the bobbin thread to gather it to fit the armscye.


With the t-shirt wrong-side-out and the sleeve right-side-out but facing inward (hemmed end of sleeve pointing inside shirt), I lined up the armholes, pinned, and serged.  This was probably the trickiest part of the whole project, because the tiny little armholes were smaller than the arm of my serger, so I had to serge it flat and sort of pull excess shirt out of the way as I went.  Still, not a big deal.


As H says many times a day, "ta-daaa!" A cute, girly toddler tee out of a style-less, oversized craft-store number.  And for a grand total, I think, of less than $2.50.



Now to add some feathers!  Stay tuned for more on the ducky costume.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DIY Granite Wipes



Our new house is the first place we've ever lived with granite countertops. Being naturally... shall we say "frugal"... about such things, I pretty much instantly googled "DIY granite cleaner" and started making this spray, which works great. 

But eventually I found myself going, "How can we make this even easier? Is there such a thing as granite wipes?" Turns out, there is.  And, being frugal, I decided to DIY them.  (I bought the Weiman wipes in the photo above after the fact, to see how they compared with mine. Mine are extremely comparable -- maybe even a little better!)

Here is where I need to point out that using granite wipes is not the same as using granite cleaning spray and a microfiber cloth.  It just isn't.  You will not get the same beautiful shine, and you will probably get some streaks. (I have had slightly more streaks with the Weiman wipes than with the ones I made, but I got a bit of streaking either way.) If I'm having people over, I will reach for the spray bottle every time. But for day-to-day touchups, having the wipes in reach is very handy.  So here's how you make them. It's super-easy!



1.  Get some sort of empty plastic container. ;-)  A diaper-wipe box would work just as well -- maybe better.


2.  Cut a roll of paper towels to fit in the container. Don't worry about the cardboard tube right now. (A knife would probably work a lot better than scissors! But I managed.)


3.  Put the paper towels in the wipes container.  (Obviously, I started with a partial roll of towels, which was important because a full roll wouldn't have fit.)


4. Mix your solution -- the same as the link to the spray solution above: 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, 3 drops dish soap, about 1 3/4 cups water, and (if you want) some essential oil for the scent. 



5.  Pour over your paper towels until they're good and soaked.  If you have solution left over, pour it into your granite spray bottle!


6. Let it soak in for a few minutes, and then the cardboard tube will be easy to remove. You can also pour off any excess liquid.


7. Pull a wipe up from the middle, feed it through the dispenser lid, and you're done!

That's it!

I don't like my wipes to be very wet, so when I pull mine out, I sometimes squeeze a bit of excess liquid into the sink. But, you know... it's right there. ;-) 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Toddler-Friendly Halloween Decor!



Halloween is a much bigger deal in our new neighborhood than in our old one.  Our last neighborhood was mostly a mix of older (like retired) people and young people with no kids.  Our first Halloween there, I excitedly filled a bowl of candy and waited in costume on the front porch... and one kid showed up.  His family was new in town, too, so they hadn't gotten the memo: The place was a dead zone (haha) on Halloween.

Last year, I was beginning my house hunting during October, and I drove through what is now our current neighborhood many times scouting it out.  It was so exciting!  Most of the houses were decked out with fun decorations galore.  And from our experience trick-or-treating at our in-laws' house (in a similar neighborhood just a few minutes away) I am expecting approximately ten bajillion cute trick-or-treaters at my door come the 31st.

(That comes with anxiety of its own. I have NO IDEA how much candy to buy. And should I buy all candy, or are trinkets like stickers OK, too? It's keeping me up at night, practically! But I digress.)

After being Halloween curmudgeons like our old neighbors for the past several years, I was excited to decorate this year.  Of course, we didn't have any decorations, really -- and with a 2-year-old in the house, I knew I wanted it to be strictly cute and not scary at all.  (Especially given her reaction when we accidentally wandered into the Halloween yard inflatable aisle of Home Depot the other week -- she was NOT happy.)

So I decided to go with a pumpkin patch theme with a full-sized homemade scarecrow, and, once again, Handy Hubby came through and did most of the work.

I did the fun stuff, like drawing the pumpkin shapes...


... and making the scarecrow head...


... while he did the actual labor -- involving building a PVC scarecrow frame, cutting out pumpkin shapes, and making doohickeys (technical term) for the back of the pumpkins so they will stand up.




We both did the painting and scarecrow dressing/stuffing together.  Team O!  I had originally planned to paint lines down the pumpkins to look like ridges, but the first several attempts turned out looking really bad, so I decided they looked enough like pumpkins as-is. ;-)

I was a little afraid H would be nervous about the scarecrow (whom we have named Buddy), but she got over that quickly.  Now, she insists on visiting him every time we're outside. The weird thing is, she calls him Daddy about half the time.  And when she found a spare, unstuffed "Buddy" head I had discarded (trial run -- too small), instead of finding it creepy, she started carrying it around and calling it her "Daddy puppet!" Kids are so weird.

Here's Buddy at night. Can't take credit for the cool lighting -- the landscape lights were already here when we moved in; we just stuck him in front of one.





So, what do you think? Too spare? I think I am going to fill it out a bit with some real pumpkins I bring home from this year's pumpkin patch visit, and I may also tape some black paper bats into the high entryway window so they will be backlit at night. Any other suggestions?



Friday, October 25, 2013

A Do-Over: Healthy Whole-Grain Mix for the YUMMIEST Pumpkin Pancakes EVER!



Oh my goodness, y'all.  Yes, I have posted on these pancakes twice before. But when I went back to reread the earlier posts recently as I was getting ready to make another big batch -- I was horrified! The posts were absolutely awful! How embarrassing. I can only say, I was new to this type of blogging back then and didn't really know what I was doing, but ... two posts about a pancake recipe without actually including the recipe?! Only links to inspiration recipes with descriptions of what I changed? Not great. Neither were the HORRENDOUS photos. So I have taken the other posts down and revisiting this recipe yet again.

Why, you may ask, would anyone bother to write THREE posts on the same recipe? Well, let me just tell you how good these pancakes are.  No.  I can't even begin to describe it. You just have to make them. You won't regret it. They are so soft and moist, so fragrant, so tender -- it is impossible to wrap your head around the fact that they are also packed with whole grains, have a bit of veggie, and are low in sugar. Oh, and did I mention they're 100 calories per pancake? It just doesn't compute.

Where I live, there is a legendary pancake restaurant, and pumpkin pancakes are one of their specialties. I've had them, and they're delicious.

I like these better.

Better yet, H loves them, and has since she was tiny. Without further ado, here is the actual recipe:

Healthy Whole-Grain Mix for Pumpkin Pancakes
Adapted from King Arthur Flour's Homemade Whole-Grain Pancake Mix

4 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 1/2 cups oats (old-fashioned or rolled)
3 Tablespoons sugar
3 Tablespoons baking powder
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking soda
2.5 Tablespoons cinnamon
1.5 Tablespoons ginger
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 cup vegetable oil

To make pancakes:
1 cup homemade mix
1 cup milk or buttermilk; OR 1/2 cup plain yogurt and 1/2 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
(optional) 1/2 tsp vanilla
(optional) a handful of pecans

Yields: 10 batches of about 8 pancakes each

1.  Grind the oats in a food processor until they are well-chopped, but not powder.
2. Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl or stand mixer. Slowly drizzle oil into the bowl as you mix
well. (I use a pastry cutter at first, then finish up with my hands. When the oil is mixed in, it will make a clump when you grab a bit.)
3. Store mix in freezer bags or other airtight containers. The mix will keep indefinitely in the freezer.
4. When ready to make pancakes, add the liquids, egg, and pumpkin to the mix and let the batter stand for at least 20 minutes before cooking (this allows the oats to soak up the liquids).
5. Heat a pan to medium-hot or an electric griddle to 375.
6. Drop by quarter-cupfuls onto the lightly-greased pan or griddle. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, or until the edges are dry. Then flip and cook about two minutes on the other side.

That's it!

I ran it through a nutrition calculator and this is what I got. (This assumes you use 2% milk for the liquid, and no pecans.)


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 68 g
Amount Per Serving
Calories
97
Calories from Fat
40
% Daily Value*
Total Fat
4.4g
7%
Saturated Fat
1.2g
6%
Trans Fat
0.0g
Cholesterol
26mg
9%
Sodium
160mg
7%
Total Carbohydrates
11.7g
4%
Dietary Fiber
1.6g
6%
Sugars
2.7g
Protein
3.4g
Vitamin A 48%Vitamin C 1%
Calcium 5%Iron 4%
Nutrition Grade C
* Based on a 2000 calorie diet

Nutritional Analysis

Good points

Mind you, I add just a few more calories to mine by drizzling them with real maple syrup. SOOO worth it.  The maple perfectly highlights the pumpkin flavor. A match made in heaven!


The pictures don't do them justice. They taste so much better than they look. :-)


Monday, October 21, 2013

Tutorial: Turn a plain youth t-shirt into a (puffed-sleeve) toddler tee in under 15 minutes


If you know me, you know that I love Halloween.  Especially making Halloween costumes.  This year, H was able to tell me what she wanted to be.  We went through a costume catalog together for inspiration, and she informed me that she wanted to be a "ducky."  I decided to make it a comfortable and simple t-shirt-based costume.

But, of course, I also wanted to keep things inexpensive (we are talking about something she's going to be wearing for a few hours, right?) and didn't want to go to a lot of trouble by doing things like dyeing a white onesie yellow or something.  So I picked up some larger (and extremely cheap) t-shirts at Hobby Lobby and decided to cut them down to make the top and pants for her costume.

Here's how I did the shirt.  I based it on a similar tutorial I saw online someplace a while ago.  I also added a little gather at the top of the sleeve.  I will definitely be using this method again -- it was SO fast and easy, and the result is very cute!  I'm thinking about all the times I wanted to find a little red t-shirt for her over the summer and grumbled because apparently clothing makers think red is only for boys...

PS. I used a serger, but you can easily use a regular machine. There are some great tips on sewing with knits at Dana Made It.




I started with the smallest shirt I could find in the right color, which was a "youth" size XS.  I laid a well-fitting t-shirt of T's on top, lining up the collars and shoulders.  The sleeves of the pattern shirt need to be tucked in.




I cut all around the outside of the pattern tee, leaving about a 1/2 inch (a bit more at the bottom).

Uh-oh... I seem to be missing a photo here (sorry, I was throwing her costume together in about an hour and guess I got a bit rushed!). But it's easy to describe what I did next. I unfolded the sleeve of the pattern shirt and laid it on one of the sleeves I cut off the bigger shirt, just to get an idea of how much to trim off the bottom and side.  Make sure you trim the armpit side, and leave the hem intact! Also, if you want a puffed sleeve, make the sleeve an inch or two longer than the armhole, as in the photo below.  If you want them more like a standard t-shirt, the curve of the armhole needs to match the curve of the sleeve.  


I used the first sleeve I cut as a pattern for the second one, of course.


Next, I turned the t-shirt inside-out and serged up the sides, leaving the armholes open.  I just serged around the bottom so the t-shirt wouldn't roll up.  I would fold up and hem if this were going to be a shirt H would wear often, but it isn't, and the hem shouldn't really show, so I didn't bother.

Then I turned the sleeves inside-out and serged them closed along the bottom.



Next, I turned the sleeve right-side-out and sewed about 2 inches of basting stitches along the top of the shoulder, then pulled the bobbin thread to gather it to fit the armscye.


With the t-shirt wrong-side-out and the sleeve right-side-out but facing inward (hemmed end of sleeve pointing inside shirt), I lined up the armholes, pinned, and serged.  This was probably the trickiest part of the whole project, because the tiny little armholes were smaller than the arm of my serger, so I had to serge it flat and sort of pull excess shirt out of the way as I went.  Still, not a big deal.


As H says many times a day, "ta-daaa!" A cute, girly toddler tee out of a style-less, oversized craft-store number.  And for a grand total, I think, of less than $2.50.



Now to add some feathers!  Stay tuned for more on the ducky costume.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

DIY Granite Wipes



Our new house is the first place we've ever lived with granite countertops. Being naturally... shall we say "frugal"... about such things, I pretty much instantly googled "DIY granite cleaner" and started making this spray, which works great. 

But eventually I found myself going, "How can we make this even easier? Is there such a thing as granite wipes?" Turns out, there is.  And, being frugal, I decided to DIY them.  (I bought the Weiman wipes in the photo above after the fact, to see how they compared with mine. Mine are extremely comparable -- maybe even a little better!)

Here is where I need to point out that using granite wipes is not the same as using granite cleaning spray and a microfiber cloth.  It just isn't.  You will not get the same beautiful shine, and you will probably get some streaks. (I have had slightly more streaks with the Weiman wipes than with the ones I made, but I got a bit of streaking either way.) If I'm having people over, I will reach for the spray bottle every time. But for day-to-day touchups, having the wipes in reach is very handy.  So here's how you make them. It's super-easy!



1.  Get some sort of empty plastic container. ;-)  A diaper-wipe box would work just as well -- maybe better.


2.  Cut a roll of paper towels to fit in the container. Don't worry about the cardboard tube right now. (A knife would probably work a lot better than scissors! But I managed.)


3.  Put the paper towels in the wipes container.  (Obviously, I started with a partial roll of towels, which was important because a full roll wouldn't have fit.)


4. Mix your solution -- the same as the link to the spray solution above: 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol, 3 drops dish soap, about 1 3/4 cups water, and (if you want) some essential oil for the scent. 



5.  Pour over your paper towels until they're good and soaked.  If you have solution left over, pour it into your granite spray bottle!


6. Let it soak in for a few minutes, and then the cardboard tube will be easy to remove. You can also pour off any excess liquid.


7. Pull a wipe up from the middle, feed it through the dispenser lid, and you're done!

That's it!

I don't like my wipes to be very wet, so when I pull mine out, I sometimes squeeze a bit of excess liquid into the sink. But, you know... it's right there. ;-) 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Toddler-Friendly Halloween Decor!



Halloween is a much bigger deal in our new neighborhood than in our old one.  Our last neighborhood was mostly a mix of older (like retired) people and young people with no kids.  Our first Halloween there, I excitedly filled a bowl of candy and waited in costume on the front porch... and one kid showed up.  His family was new in town, too, so they hadn't gotten the memo: The place was a dead zone (haha) on Halloween.

Last year, I was beginning my house hunting during October, and I drove through what is now our current neighborhood many times scouting it out.  It was so exciting!  Most of the houses were decked out with fun decorations galore.  And from our experience trick-or-treating at our in-laws' house (in a similar neighborhood just a few minutes away) I am expecting approximately ten bajillion cute trick-or-treaters at my door come the 31st.

(That comes with anxiety of its own. I have NO IDEA how much candy to buy. And should I buy all candy, or are trinkets like stickers OK, too? It's keeping me up at night, practically! But I digress.)

After being Halloween curmudgeons like our old neighbors for the past several years, I was excited to decorate this year.  Of course, we didn't have any decorations, really -- and with a 2-year-old in the house, I knew I wanted it to be strictly cute and not scary at all.  (Especially given her reaction when we accidentally wandered into the Halloween yard inflatable aisle of Home Depot the other week -- she was NOT happy.)

So I decided to go with a pumpkin patch theme with a full-sized homemade scarecrow, and, once again, Handy Hubby came through and did most of the work.

I did the fun stuff, like drawing the pumpkin shapes...


... and making the scarecrow head...


... while he did the actual labor -- involving building a PVC scarecrow frame, cutting out pumpkin shapes, and making doohickeys (technical term) for the back of the pumpkins so they will stand up.




We both did the painting and scarecrow dressing/stuffing together.  Team O!  I had originally planned to paint lines down the pumpkins to look like ridges, but the first several attempts turned out looking really bad, so I decided they looked enough like pumpkins as-is. ;-)

I was a little afraid H would be nervous about the scarecrow (whom we have named Buddy), but she got over that quickly.  Now, she insists on visiting him every time we're outside. The weird thing is, she calls him Daddy about half the time.  And when she found a spare, unstuffed "Buddy" head I had discarded (trial run -- too small), instead of finding it creepy, she started carrying it around and calling it her "Daddy puppet!" Kids are so weird.

Here's Buddy at night. Can't take credit for the cool lighting -- the landscape lights were already here when we moved in; we just stuck him in front of one.





So, what do you think? Too spare? I think I am going to fill it out a bit with some real pumpkins I bring home from this year's pumpkin patch visit, and I may also tape some black paper bats into the high entryway window so they will be backlit at night. Any other suggestions?