Starting your own seeds is one way to save money in your gardening costs. Another way is to make your own seed starting mixture. A variety of materials may be used to germinate seeds and root cuttings. These mixtures must be sterile and must meet certain other criteria.

They must be firm and dense enough to hold cuttings or seeds in place during rooting or germination. They must be of a consistency that will not alter drastically either dry or wet, since this would cause root damage. They must be porous enough to drain properly yet retain enough moisture so that frequent watering will not be necessary.

When starting seeds you can purchase large bags of pre-mixed soil designed especially for seed germination. I have begun to mix my own when I just wasn’t happy with the results of the store bought mixture.  The mixture I have been using is easy to make and does a great job. As you experiment with various components you will discover what works best for you.

Top soil, Peat moss, gardening

Ingredients to make your own seed starting mixture.

This is the combination I use:

top soil, loam, gardening

Top soil or garden loam.

1 part sterilized garden loam or top soil
1 part coarse sand or perlite
1 part peat moss

Pearlite is used to increase aeration in a mixture. It is derived from a type of volcanic rock and is processed into light, porous, sterile particles that hold many times their own weight in water.

Perlite, soil mixture, gardening

Perlite

Sand is used to add body and drainage to a soil medium, and is also excellent when used alone for root cuttings.

Peat moss is used in heavy mixtures to lighten and increaser porosity; it is derived from partly decomposed aquatic plants.

Peat moss, soil mixtures, gardening

Peat Moss

Now that we have mixed up our soil we are ready to start planting seeds! Hopefully next week I will start with my leek and onion seeds. They need time to grow and establish themselves before I can plant them directly into the garden. I enjoy starting seeds inside as it is a sure sign that spring is coming even when it doesn’t look or feel like it outside!

seed starting mixture, gardening

Homemade seed starting mixture.

 

 

I learned two things this week and it’s only Tuesday. In Vermont you can return vodka bottles for a $.15 deposit and how to make vanilla extract! Having not bought many bottles of vodka I had no idea the bottles were returnable; you learn something new every day!

This week I started my first batch of homemade vanilla extract. It won’t be ready for a while as I do have to let it sit for four to six months. To start your own batch you will need:

A large jar (a gallon or less, depending on how much extract you plan to make)
Vodka (the inexpensive stuff is fine)
Vanilla Beans (which I ordered through Olive Nation)
Kitchen Shears

vanilla extract, vanilla beans

Vanilla Beans

Begin by cutting through each bean lengthwise, leaving about an inch at the top of each bean so they stay together.

homemade vanilla extract

Cut vanilla bean.

homemade vanilla extract, vanilla beans

Carefully cut each bean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place all your beans into your jar.

Fill the jar with vodka. Put the lid on and store in a dark place for 4-6 months. Occasionally check the jar out and give it a shake.

Vodka, vanilla beans, homemade vanilla extract

Pouring vodka into the jar.

vanilla beans, vodka, homemade vanila extract

Cut vanilla beans and vodka.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the time period has passed, strain out the vanilla beans using a coffee filter lined colander. Bottle the extract in dark amber bottles and you’re ready to give it as gifts and start cooking with it yourself!

1 gallon of vodka takes 80 vanilla beans
½ gallon of vodka (1.75L) takes 40 vanilla beans
1 quart of vodka takes 20 vanilla bean

homemade vanilla extract, frugal tip

Homemade Vanilla Extract in the works.

homemade vanilla extract, prudent pantry, frugal tip

Labeled jar ready for the pantry.

 

 

As we head toward the middle of the month my focus is on healthy recipes. For the next few weeks I will be sharing recipes that are better for us. The recipe today is adapted from a Weight Watchers recipe I discovered years ago. It is actually an appetizer recipe but I have to admit I have never served it as an appetizer, rather I serve it with some brown rice and it makes an excellent dinner. Mix up a salad and you’ve got a well-rounded meal!

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as my family does. The great thing is that you can mix it up ahead of time and just keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to eat. It reheats wonderfully in the microwave. This recipe can be halved. It makes about 16 appetizer servings or feeds 6 for dinner.

Asian Meatballs

Package of ground turkey (about 20oz)
1 green pepper, seeded and minced

green peppers, chopped vegetables

Minced green peppers.

vegetables, green peppers

I use my mini cuisinart to chop the vegetables.

8 scallions, thinly sliced
2/3 cup dried bread crumbs (sometimes I used seasoned)
4 Tbsp minced water chestnuts (almost the whole small can)

water chestnuts, canned vegetables

Water chestnuts

2 egg whites
2 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
½ cup sweet and sour sauce
1 cup unsweetened applesauce

Preheat oven to 375. Spray a nonstick jelly roll pan with cooking spray. In a medium bowl, lightly combine the turkey, pepper, scallions, bread crumbs, water chestnuts, egg whites and soy sauce.

ground turkey mixture, meatballs

Combine ingredients well.

ground turkey, bread crumbs

Combine all ingredients except applesauce and sweet and sour sauce.

 

Shape into meatballs, about 1” in diameter ( I make them slightly larger when serving this for dinner). Place on the pan and bake until cooked through and browned about 15-25 minutes.

turkey meatballs, asian meatballs

Form into meatballs, place on pan.

Meanwhile in a 2-quart microwavable dish, combine the sweet and sour sauce and applesauce; microwave on high until hot and bubbly, 2 minutes.

applesauce, sweet and sour sauce, homemade

Sauce mixture

applesauce, prudent pantry, sweet and sour sauce

Sauce ingredients.

Stir in the meatballs and serve with toothpicks. When I make this for dinner, I place the meatballs in my casserole and pour the sauce over. When ready to serve I heat it briefly in the microwave until hot and bubbly, then serve over rice.

meatballs, brown rice

Asian meatballs served on brown rice.

asian meatballs, meatballs, homemade

Cooked meatballs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Linked To: LoveInTheKitchen, TastyTuesdays, AHumbleBumble, ShareYourStuffTuesdays

table salt, kosher salt, sea salt, prudent pantry

Salt comes in many varieties.

I have already mentioned many of the items I keep on hand in my pantry; wheat berries, oats, vinegar, baking soda, barley, quinoa, and dried beans. Salt is another item that is perfect to store in your pantry. Both table salt, kosher salt and sea salt are good items to have on hand.

Kosher salt — which really should be called koshering salt — is a coarse-grained salt, named for its use in the production of kosher meats. (It helps to draw blood out of meat, much like drawing water out of eggplant or zucchini.) Unlike table salt, which since the 1920s has had iodine and starch added, kosher salt is additive-free.

Kosher salt differs from table salt in other ways, table salt is granular while kosher salt is shaped like a tiny, delicate, four sided pyramid. Similar to the difference between a snowflake and an ice cube! It helps kosher salt to dissolve in half the time.

Sea salt is made by the evaporation of sea water. It is a finishing salt added after the cooking to brighten the flavor of the food. Though salt is salt (containing approximately 2400 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon), sea salt has fewer crystals per teaspoon than table salt or kosher salt — and, therefore, less sodium.

Salt can be stored indefinitely. Iodized salt can yellow over time, but it is still good. Salt might also cake, if there isn’t any anti-cake ingredient already in the salt. Store in an airtight container to prevent this. If it’s already hardened just dry it in the oven and break it up. It will still be perfectly usable.

In addition to using salt in cooking and preserving food salt also has many other uses around the house.

Test for rotten eggs. Put an egg in a cup of water to which you’ve added two teaspoons of salt. A fresh egg will sink, but one that’s iffy will float.

Grease: Remove grease spots in a rug with a mixture of 1 part salt to 4 parts rubbing alcohol. Rub hard, going in the same direction as the nap of the carpet, then rinse with water.

Red Wine: Immediately blot up all moisture from the spill, and then sprinkle the area with salt. Let the stain sit for 15 minutes. The salt should absorb any remaining wine in the carpet (turning pink as a result). Then clean the entire area with a mixture of ⅓ cup vinegar and ⅔ cup water.

Candles: Stop new candles from dripping by first soaking them in a strong solution of 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup salt for several hours. Let the candles dry, then burn them as usual.

Fireplaces: An occasional handful of salt thrown into your fireplace fire will help loosen soot inside your chimney. It also makes a cheery, bright yellow flame.

Rust: Mix salt and cream of tartar, and moisten with enough water to make a paste. Apply to a rust stain on a piece of metal outdoor furniture; let it sit in the sun until dry. Repeat the process if necessary. Another rust removal method is to make a paste of lemon juice and salt. Apply paste to the rusted object, and rub with a dry, soft cloth.

In the garden: Kill the grass growing in the cement or between patio stones. Sprinkle salt on the grass and pour very hot water over it. Or sprinkle coarse salt on the grass, let stand all-day or overnight, then pour hot tap water over it.

As you’ve seen, salt is not just for the dinner table. It can be great for cleaning and home repairs as well.

Before I get into making my own seed starting mixture there are a few things I have to do regarding my houseplants! When I can’t work outside in the garden I tend to focus on my houseplants and take care of them. I’ve already transplanted my orchids and my aloe but one plant still to take care of is my peace lily.

spathuphyllum tango, houseplants, repotting

My peace lily before repotting.

Many people have a peace lily (spathuphyllum tango) in their home; it is very easy to care for and produces wonderful flowers. They thrive in indirect bright light. They like heavy watering but also like to dry out in between watering. Do keep pets and children away from this plant, as it is one of the many poisonous houseplants. Although they prefer a more compact root ball every other year or so I divide the plant, which seems to keep it pretty happy. When the active growth slows down or the leaves become smaller it is time to repot. My plant is flowering less and less and it is extremely crowded so I know it’s time to re-pot.

Repotting is rather easy. You can divide the plant into a number of new plants; perhaps you have a friend you would like to share with?

First fill a slightly larger pot that has drainage holes halfway with potting soil. Choose a pot only slightly larger because the plants grow well in crowded conditions. Make a small space in the middle of the soil for the divided peace lily plant.

houseplants, repotting, potting soil

I have a new pot ready, filled with potting soil.

Loosen the dirt around the roots of the peace lily. Use a gardening spade to loosen the soil, and then carefully lift the plant out of the container. You can also tilt the container on its side and squeeze on it to loosen the soil from the container. I gently pull the plant out of the pot over some newspaper, usually in the garage.  Today it was too cold for such a project in the garage so I made a huge mess over a sheet on my kitchen floor. When you start pulling the plant apart you will realize it is made up of many plants. You could actually put each plant in it’s own pot! After separating the plant I set aside the ones that will get re-potted. Rinse the dirt off the roots and run the roots of the plant under cool water.

repotting houseplants, plants

You can see the many baby plants.

houseplants, root bound, repotting

My peace lily is really root bound.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

houseplants, repotting, prudent living

Separating the plants I want to repot.

washing roots, repotting

Selected plants ready for a root washing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Place the peace lily in the new container. Fill it with potting soil, and pack it down around the roots. Water the peace lily to keep the soil moist. I usually give the leaves a wipe with a damp cloth as well. I now have two plants and a pile of discarded plants for my compost pile!

repotted peace lily, houseplants

In a few weeks this plant will start to fill out again.

repotted peace lily

Repotted peace lily.

 

Once my peace lily is re-potted I can now focus on our spring vegetable garden. I have placed my seed order and as soon as my seeds come in I will be starting certain varieties inside. I look forward to having my kitchen filled with baby seedlings, a sure sign that spring is coming!

There are many ways to save money on your grocery budget. You can keep track of sales and purchase items at a discount. You can buy in bulk and you can grow your own food. Another way to save money is to make your own mixes. Not only are these mixes easier on your wallet but they can also be much better for you. Many seasoning packets and mixes are full of MSG and other additives, things our bodies just don’t need. Here are a few recipes for you to adapt in your kitchen.

Homemade Rice Seasoning Mix

Ingredients

¾ cup chicken bouillon granules
½ cup dried parsley
1 tbsp. basil
1 tbsp dill weed
2 tbsp, dried onion flakes
1 tsp seasoning salt
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
1 cup almonds, coarsely chopped (optional)

Mix together and store in an airtight container. When preparing rice, combine 1 cup rice, 2 cups water, and three tablespoons of the seasoning. Bring your water to a boil and add rice & seasoning. Reduce to simmer and cook for eighteen minutes.

Homemade Baking Mix (AKA Bisquick)

Ingredients

5 ½ cups sifted flour
1 tsp baking soda
3 tbsp baking powder
1 cup shortening

Mix all ingredients well until crumbly. Store in an air tight container.

Homemade Shake & Bake

Ingredients

4 cups flour
4 cups ground inexpensive crackers
4 tbsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
3 tbsp paprika
¼ cup vegetable oil

Mix well and store indefinitely in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Before moving to Vermont I used to make our own homemade pancake syrup. It was much tastier than the products I could find in the store and we rather enjoyed it. It’s no where near as good as real maple syrup but not a bad replacement.

Homemade Pancake Syrup

Ingredients

3 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cups water
3 tbsp molasses
1 tsp vanilla
2 tsp butter flavoring
1 tsp maple extract

Bring all of the ingredients to a boil, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Turn off burner, but leave pot on burner until the bubbling stops.

 

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