Simple lemon air freshener (and an update)

This is a lemon.

Hello All,

I have had another brush with bad health and that is why I deserted you momentarily. One part of this latest episode involved an abscess, a Golden Staph infection and an associated inability to use my dominant arm, the other part involved having the office of a Rheumatologist calling me to make an appointment before I even knew my pathology results were back…

Oh dear.

I have made some yummy things in the interim and one post is coming soon. However, I thought I should share something quick and easy with you for now. A lemon air freshener.

I can’t tell you where this came from. It appeared as a meme in my Facebook feed a few months ago but wasn’t attributed to anyone.

We now have THREE cats. The Accidental Cat, Sara, seems to have issues with entering the litter tray properly. This means that her rear end is often not occupying the designated air space.

Ahem.

When shall we three meet again?

Cats. Sara is the grey one.

Consequently, there is a fair bit of unaccustomed cleaning activity being carried out in the Budget Bounty household. This is often accompanied by much giving of thanks that there will be no carpets anywhere in the New House – once it is built. Also a certain ‘pungency’ of the atmosphere tends to occur alongside such events.

This little air freshener is coming in handy. It’s also doing the job without setting off any allergies, exacerbating hayfever or triggering asthma like a lot of commercial air fresheners can do. Just saying.

This is a lemon.

This is a lemon.

Firstly, get thou a spray bottle of some kind. It will need a capacity of at least 500 ml, which is 2 cups or half a litre. If you are American, a pint will do.

Then find a nice, juicy lemon. If you want it even juicier, then roll it on a hard surface to break up some of the internal structure and release more juice.

Squeeze it into a small jug.

This citrus squeezer is one of my favourite gadgets.

This citrus squeezer is one of my favourite gadgets.

Add 2 level tablespoons of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and wait for the fizz!  Stir well.

Chemistry in action.

Chemistry in action.

Once it has settled and you can be sure there are no undissolved lumps, add 2 cups of tepid water. Stir well.

All mixed up.

All mixed up.

Now, even the best juicers can let seeds and bits of pulp through into the resulting liquid. You don’t want those in your spray bottle or the works will get clogged up. Strain it. I placed a teeny tea strainer in the mouth of my funnel and strained it as I filled my bottle.

I am a multi-tasker. (Hear me moan as I finally get to sit down…)

Bits get strained out - which is good.

Bits get strained out – which is good.

Place the nozzle on your spray bottle and give it a small shake before each spray.

The finished article.

The finished article.

You’re welcome.

Simple

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

1 lemon

2 tbsp bicarb or baking soda

2 cups water

Method

Juice the lemon into a bowl or jug.

Add the bicarb. The mixture will fizz up a little, this is not something to worry about. Stir well.

Add 2 cups or 500 ml of tap water. Mix well.

Strain to remove any stray lemon seeds or fruit pulp.

Use to fill a small spray bottle or atomiser.

Shake before using.

This mixture will impart a slight lemon fragrance to the air and the bicarbonate of soda will help to absorb any bad smells that may already be there.

The Accidental Cat explores a favourite bird hide of her clowder mates.

The Accidental Cat.

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How to make evenly-sized cookies – easily.

 

This post uses some of the content from this one.

Anyone who has ever had to deal with judicially minded offspring or youngsters – you know the ones, “Muuuuum, it’s not fair! Her cookie is bigger than mine!” needs to be able to say “they’re all the same size”; and mean it.

Also, it’s sometimes a useful thing in the adult world to know that everything has the same amount of calories kilojoules bad stuff diet disasters  the portions are all the same size for planning purposes.

So, when I make cookies, I use a metal ice cream scoop with a 1 inch diameter to measure them out onto a paper-lined baking sheet.

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later...

A one inch ice cream scoop will save you trouble later…

This method means that they are all around the same size which helps with both portion control and arbitrating amongst the youngsters.

We’ve all been there.

It also helps if the kidlings are assisting you with your baking…

Aren't they cute?

Aren’t they cute?

 

It won’t ensure that each child’s portion has the same amount of choc chips if they’re included in your cookie, but the rebuttal to that is that, if they are counting instead of eating, then they aren’t hungry enough for more cookies.

I bought my ice cream scoop on eBay. It was in a set of three, with the largest 2 inches across. They cost me something like $3 including postage from China, so the fact that I really only ever regularly use the one doesn’t bother me as a waste of money.

However, I do use the larger ones for scoops of mashed potato and pumpkin if I want to prettify a dinner serving or use them to top a cottage pie.

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How to line the base of a springform tin.

I often feel that the hardest parts of making a cheesecake are:

  1. lining the tin, and
  2. getting the cake out of the base.

Strangely these two things are intimately linked. Whodathunkit?

This used to frustrate me terribly until a chef friend casually mentioned the workaround.

(Hi Kath! *waves frantically*) I intend to share it with you here.

This is a springform tin.

A springform tin

A springform tin

If you have a look at the base of a spring form tin it will look something like this.

See the lip?

See the lip?

That there raised edge is the reason you have such trouble getting the cake off the base and onto your serving platter.

Try turning it over.

See the difference?

See the difference?

See how it’s all opposite to the other side? (She asked, stating the bleeding obvious…)

This is the side you want to be putting your cake onto to bake, that way it can just slide right off without getting caught on the lip.

To make this even easier, it helps to cover the base with baking paper.

Tear off a piece that’s a fair bit larger than the base. This will give you room for tearing bits off in the ensuing struggle…

Take a piece of baking paper

Take a piece of baking paper.

Now place your base on it with the raised surface downwards. Fold the edges of the paper over.

Wrap your base up.

Wrap your base up.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Now turn it over and place it into the ring of the cake tin. It’s tempting to simply place the ring over the base and tighten it – but this will not work.

Trust me on this.  Save yourself the heart-wrenching sobs and just lower it into the tin, okay?

Lower the base into the tin.

It’s okay. Just take deep breaths.

Push it down as far as it will go and tighten the ring. You will think you have failed miserably because it will look a bit like this.

Turn the whole thing over.

It will look something like this.

It will look something like this.

Now tug on the edges of the paper to pull the sheet as flat as you can. Take it slowly, but don’t be afraid to tug firmly. The base will begin to straighten out. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you don’t want lots of loose paper and folds across the base either.

See the difference?

See the difference?

Push the base firmly down in the ring to ensure it is locked in place. Leave the paper folded under the tin, this will make it easier to remove once cooked. Remember your tin is now raised slightly because the lip of the base is pointing downwards, this will give you a space for the paper to gather without affecting how level the tin sits in the oven.

Now start baking your cake.

If you are using a bain marie (dish of water) to make your cake, then simply create a shell out of one piece of aluminium foil to protect the paper and guard against leaks.

If you are not using a bain marie, then place the cake tin on another baking tray to make it easier to handle.

Most recipes call for the cake to be chilled for a period of time. Leave the cake in the tin while it is first chilling in the refrigerator.

When it is time to remove it from the tin fold out the paper from under it until it is as flat as possible. Now release the spring on the ring and lift it away.

The paper that extends from around the cake will give you the means to simply slide it off the base with complete ease.

Tug on the paper to remove from the base.

Tug on the paper to remove from the base.

Then place it close to the edge of a cooling rack. Pull the paper straight down at a right angle until the side of the cake is over the edge of the rack and the paper is clear.

You should be able to insert a long spatula between the paper and the cake and lift it free. Place on platter, decorate if you wish and serve.

Now you can take it to someone else’s place and know that you will have the base of your springform tin the next time you use it…

You’re welcome.

Serve and enjoy.

Serve and enjoy.

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When life gives you lemons…

Future cleaning products.

I would naturally suggest that you make lemon butter or lemon curd if you were handed large amounts of lemons.

Lemon Butter.

Lemon Butter.

Although, there’s any number of other things you could make with them, like Caraway and Lemon Biscotti or some of the other recipes I have planned to post for you.

But, what can you do with all the leftover lemon shells? They look like sunshine and smell heavenly and it always feels like such a waste to simply toss them into the compost…

Make a cleaning spray with them.

I kiddest thou not.

All you need is your lemon ‘husks’, some plain old household vinegar and a largish jar with a lid.

If you are an instant coffee drinker with a fairly decent habit, you probably find yourself with largish glass jars all the time. Use one of those.

The vinegar you need is not the high-brow, ultra-gourmet, aged in oak barrels, caressed lovingly by mountain maidens type vinegar. No. You want this stuff.

This is vinegar.

This is vinegar.

Plain old household vinegar. You can get a 2 litre bottle at Aldi for around $1.20. You can now buy ‘household cleaning vinegar’ in the detergents section of many supermarkets, but you don’t need that. This stuff will do.

You’ll find it on the bottom shelf in the pickles and condiments sections of your supermarket aisles. I tend to buy 6 litres at a time.

Vinegar is acetic acid. Acid cleans stuff. Better yet, vinegar doesn’t contain nasty fragrances that will set off hayfever sufferers until the perfume finally disappears. It doesn’t need you to suit up in coveralls and goggles to use it and doesn’t come with a Poisons warning.

Zest and juice your lemons

It cuts through grease, it’s antibacterial, and it’s biodegradable, it’s also highly unlikely to trigger eczema and other skin reactions like harsher (more expensive) chemical cleaners. It also kills moulds and mildew, unlike bleach which simply “bleaches” them and makes things smell clean.

It can be used in all sorts of things. But sometimes you don’t want stuff to smell like vinegar for even a short time. (However, the scent does dissipate really quite quickly.)

So try doing this:

lemons in white vinegar

lemons in white vinegar

  1. Thoroughly clean your jar.
  2. Pack it with your used lemons.
  3. Fill with vinegar until the lemons are covered.
  4. Tightly cap the jar.
  5. Place in a dark cupboard for a minimum of 3-4 weeks.
  6. Strain the liquid from the lemons and reserve.
  7. Discard lemons.

The vinegar will draw the essential oils out of the lemons and take on their colour and fragrance.

It can then be diluted 50:50 with water and used to clean floors, glass, shower recesses and counter tops. Use  a microfibre cloth and it will be even more effective.

It may require a little more elbow grease than a stronger store-bought chemical, but you also won’t require breathing apparatus to be in the same room immediately after you’ve used it.

Sturdy, inexpensive spray bottles are available in most supermarkets or hardware stores. I use this kind.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

Spray bottle filled with lemony vinegar.

This is filled with undiluted vinegar. I had a greasy grill I wanted to get clean, so I didn’t add any water this time. As you can see, the liquid has taken on the colour of the lemons.

The house I am currently living in has hardwood floors throughout. It was costing me a fortune to clean them with commercially available liquids – then I discovered this. It cleans beautifully with a microfibre cloth on a swiffer-type mop, with no streaking at all and a fresh scent.

My subscribers may have noticed that I make large amounts of lemon curd when the fruit is in season as The Boy seems to inhale it. This leaves me with 6 half lemon shells for each batch. Into a jar they go, and I will keep topping up that jar until it is full. I have about 6 jars steeping in the back of my pantry at any given time.

It doesn’t go off.

Future cleaning products.

Future cleaning products.

You can also use orange peels in exactly the same way. So, if you are a maven for freshly squeezed OJ, here’s a way to generate less waste.

A word of warning though: do not use this spray on a marble surface, or you will get etching. That would be bad.

Laminates are fine, as is solid granite and other stones.

However, check with the manufacturer as I accept no responsibility for any damage that might be caused…

 

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Osso Buco

I have spent the vast majority of the day tucked up in my bed with a cat or two.

However, I did emerge long enough to make dinner.

The Boy had the stated objective of “making Osso Buco in the bomb” – by this he meant our pressure cooker. Unfortunately, he got sidetracked on his ‘puter and my tummy got rumbling; so I did it.

Thankfully his distraction lasted long enough that I was able to cook it, realise it needed more time, and do it over again. Which also gave me time to stir up a pot of polenta.

?????????????

Polenta

And a glorious dinner was had.

Polenta

Polenta

Now I intend to head back to bed and continue working my way through the exhaustive list of home remedies that has generously been flowing in over the last few days.

Night All.

Cough, sniffle.

The most important tool in your kitchen.

This is a post without a recipe.

Sorry.

Instead, I’m going to talk about something close to my heart. Something that makes life just that little bit easier and multi-tasking a breeze. Something that every – and I mean *EVERY* – kitchen should have and cook should use.

A timer.

Yes, I said a timer.

A kitchen timer will save your sanity.

Use the timer on your oven

Use the timer on your oven

My mother was a great cook. She also burned things regularly. This was because usually she was trying also to stop my brother and I from killing each other, trying to stop the cat from killing the dog, doing the laundry and everything else that mums do – all at once – while cooking.

It could only end badly, really. And it did. Often.

A kitchen timer means that, if you put a pot of rice on to steam and the doorbell/phone rings, then you will get a reminder when it is done.

It means that pasta can be put on to boil, a timer set to let you know when it’s cooked, and you can go about making a quick sauce without losing track of your noodles.

You can pop some biscuits into the oven, go to hang some washing out and be reminded that there is something else that you are also doing…

Delegate keeping track of time to something else that won’t mind doing the job.

You have a timer if you have a microwave. Use it.

Just between you and me, the most use my microwave timer gets is when I am cleaning my kitchen.

Years ago when I was still working, my energy levels were pretty much nil when I got home from work, because MS fatigue. I would have just enough energy to go to work but none for anything else. One day, I came home to find my front door open. It took about 30 mins before I could tell if I had been burgled or not as my home was in such disarray!

This is just between us…right?

Anyway, I came upon a link to the Flylady.net site and slowly started getting on top of everything again. I did this 15 minutes at a time, using my kitchen timer. I haven’t visited the site for many years now, but when any part of my home looks like it’s going to take several days to get habitable, I set a timer for 15 mins and just do what I can. Then I have permission to stop.

Try this at your place. You don’t have to get it all done, but you’ll have more done than you would have otherwise. I’ll often have the kitchen spotless in that quarter hour.

In the same vein, I often find that when I’m gardening I’ll overdo things (good old MS again!) and end up paying for it for many days after. So, I manage my energy by taking a portable timer into the garden. I work for 15 mins, rest for 15 mins and repeat.

It works.

If you have small children, a timer can help you with kid-wrangling. Tell them they have to pick up their toys for 15 mins and then they get to stop. Stick to your word. They may drag their feet and muck around a bit at first, but after you’ve repeated the exercise on several days and they know you’ll keep your word (no fair setting the timer again immediately after!) they’ll start to play nice. Trust me.

Your timer can follow you into your bathroom in the morning. I always lost time in the mornings and found myself suddenly running 5 minutes late after a leisurely warm shower…you know what I mean, right? It’s not just me, is it?

A timer set for 5 mins when I got into the water kept me on track. Try it yourself, try it on your kids. Save your sanity while saving water.

If your teenagers have their own mobile/cell phones then they have a timer

Use the tools available on your phone

Use the tools available on your phone

If you have a tablet, you have a timer. If you have neither, then they can be bought quite cheaply at dollar stores, in supermarkets, pretty much anywhere – really truly.

Change your life, use your timers.

I suspect that I may be required to buy one of these. Sigh.

 

How to make Yoghurt

My latest batch of homemade yoghurt

Making yoghurt is one of the simplest things you will ever do. Trust me.

If you have a large family that loves the stuff, it will also be one of the most frugal things you ever do. Indeed, once you’ve got the process down, you can start getting them to take over from you.

The key to all of this is to remember that yoghurt has been around since the Stone Age.

It’s not complicated.

My latest batch of homemade yoghurt

My latest batch of homemade yoghurt

Mind you, there’s a few things we do for safety now, that weren’t done then – and our implements look a little different – but it’s still pretty much the same. All of which means that it’s pretty much idiot-proof.

To make yoghurt, you will need milk (cow’s milk, goat’s milk, soy milk) and either culture or starter. This post will use starter.

Find a plain yoghurt you like and that can be your starter. Hard, isn’t it?

Okay, I’ve been told to be more serious. Ahem.

All yoghurts contain bacteria which have digested the natural sugars in the milk and helped to transform the proteins. (For more detail read Yoghurt 101.) When you decide that you wish to try making this all happen under your roof, you’ll need to start by getting yourself some yoghurt.

In the chiller section of the supermarket you will find myriad yoghurts ranging from low-fat to sugar-free and everything in between. What you need to look for is a small tub of natural yoghurt.

When you find one, look at the ingredients label. It should contain nothing more than milk, milk products and cultures.

Greek yoghurt label

Greek yoghurt label

If your label says live cultures, then that’s even better.

You don’t need anything that has stabilisers or food numbers on it. Those ingredients are used to thicken the final result. They often do not have the required numbers of bacteria in them and, if you were to use that product as your starter, you would end up with something that resembles cultured buttermilk and you would hate me forever. Don’t do that.

See the additives. Avoid. The blurring is the label, not my photography...

See the additives. Avoid. The blurring is the label, not my photography…

Also, be aware that Greek yoghurt is not only a type but is also a method of making yoghurt. Use it as your starter by all means, but it will not set firmly. If you prefer the taste of Greek yoghurts to those formed with L.acidophilus then make your yoghurt from it, but know that it will require straining to achieve the firmness of the yoghurt in the tub you have purchased.

This isn’t at all difficult, but you may wish to try something that will give setting satisfaction first. 😉

If you find locating something this simple and unadulterated difficult to do, then try using a packet mix yoghurt for your first shot and putting aside some of that as your starter. Be pragmatic.

Packet yoghurt mixes can be handy but not terribly economical...

Packet yoghurt mixes can be handy but not terribly economical…

As an aside, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with using powdered mixes like these. Just be aware that they also use stabilisers – which can exacerbate some allergies. Also, there is no budgetary advantage to doing so. A packet of yoghurt mix costs around AUD$4.50 as does a litre of yoghurt at the supermarket. A litre of milk costs $1 or so. If you have several children eating several kilograms of yoghurt a week, making your own from scratch is much more economical.

Yoghurt will last for quite some time when properly stored in a refrigerator, but you need your starter to be relatively fresh so check the dates on any fresh yoghurt you may buy.

Next, you will need to get your milk and equipment all in the one place.

You will need:

  • a large saucepan or pyrex jug,
  • a thermometer (or your clean finger),
  • a small bowl,
  • a dessertspoon,
  • a whisk or fork,
  • a large bowl or covered container,
  • something to keep your yoghurt warm in.

Make sure everything is as clean as possible. The only bacteria you want to grow is that in the yoghurt culture.

Now, heat your milk. If it is raw milk it is safest to bring it to a boil (at least 85°C or 180°F) and then let it cool to the desired temperature. If you do this on the stove top, use a large saucepan and watch it carefully to avoid having the milk boil over.

Otherwise, you can heat your already pasteurised milk in the microwave using a large Pyrex jug – which is my preferred method.

I heat my yoghurt in the microwave, using a large pyrex jug.

I heat my yoghurt in the microwave, using a large pyrex jug.

It’s much easier to wash up the jug, I find, and then pouring it into the container in which I want it to ferment is much easier than pouring it from a saucepan. One litre of milk straight out of the refrigerator needs only 3-4 minutes on HIGH in my microwave and then I can place it on my counter and wait for it to cool down.

Allow your milk to cool to between 47°C (116°F) and 32°C (90°F). You can use a thermometer to test this or wash your hands and use a finger – since the Stone Ages, remember? – dip in a finger and count to ten, the milk will feel uncomfortably hot, but bearable.

This is important. Yoghurt bacteria are like yeast.  Too hot and the bacteria will die, too cold and they will remain dormant.

While you are waiting for your milk to cool, place two dessertspoons of your starter culture into a small bowl. A good rule of thumb is one dessertspoonful (2 teaspoons) of starter for each 500ml of milk.

Pace your starter culture into a small clean bowl.

Pace your starter culture into a small clean bowl.

Then, when your milk has cooled sufficiently, place half a cup or so into the bowl and whisk well.

You want the result to be quite smooth.

Blend your culture thoroughly into a small amount of warmed milk.

Blend your culture thoroughly into a small amount of warmed milk.

It won’t break, there’s no need to be delicate.

Blend well.

Blend well.

Now reintroduce the liquid in the bowl to the rest of the warmed milk, again blending well.

Introduce your culture mix to the rest of the milk and blend well.

Introduce your culture mix to the rest of the milk and blend well.

You’re pretty much done. Now all you need to do is maintain the temperature for 6 to 8 hours. My mother used to put the mix in a bowl with its own lid, wrap it in a towel and place in on the internal water heater overnight. I know some people swear by placing their yoghurt into an oven with just the pilot light on.

You could place it into a thermos or vacuum flask.

Some place their heated milk into a preheated crockpot or slowcooker. To do this preheat your slow cooker on High but switch it off when you add your yoghurt mixture and then wrap the whole thing in a towel overnight.

You could place your sealed container into a foam insulated box, esky, cooler box or chilly bin with a filled hot water bottle for company.

I use a commercial yoghurt making device that is a simple, plastic-covered foam flask.

The yoghurt 'flask'

The yoghurt ‘flask’

I place my yoghurt mix into a plastic container with a screwtop lid, half fill the flask with boiling water, pop the container in, put on the lid of the flask and leave it overnight.

You simply half fill it with boiling water.

You simply half fill it with boiling water.

Add boiling water and then your yoghurt mixture.

Add boiling water and then your yoghurt mixture.

I like using this because it’s so convenient. Firstly, I can simply take the set yoghurt out in the morning, wipe off the container and put it in the fridge as it is. Secondly, the flask itself takes up very little room and can be popped in a corner, on the dining table or anywhere else with very little trouble.

I will be offering one of these in a competition for my readers in the next few days.

I also like not having large containers of warm liquid to juggle (and most likely spill everywhere).

It is far better to make smaller amounts of yoghurt often, rather than large amounts infrequently. Your yoghurt depends on the freshness of the starter culture so, if you keep your own stocks ticking over, you will be able to continue using your own yoghurt as a starter for longer.

It’s also easier to cope with a litre or two at a time in your refrigerator than it is to cope with a gallon of it. Trust me.

Make up your yoghurt of an evening and it will be ready for the refrigerator first thing in the morning. Try not to leave it to ferment for any longer or it will become quite sour. Go about your day and let it set – leave it alone.

That evening it will be ready for you to strain off the whey, divide for portable lunches or breakfasts, flavour or use in other recipes.

Just remember to put a few spoonfuls aside to start off your next batch!

You may wish to enrich your yoghurt with milk powder or cream. This isn’t necessary, but it can give you a much firmer yoghurt. I shall include instructions for how to do this in the recipe below, but plain old milk is fine. 🙂

I will be posting a few ideas for how to use your yoghurt in the near future.

How to make Yoghurt

Ingredients

I litre fresh milk

¼ cup skim or full cream milk powder

1-2 tablespoons fresh commercial yoghurt

Method

Rinse all equipment in boiling water to sterilise.

Heat-proof glass mason jars with loose fitting lids are ideal for incubating and storing your yoghurt.

Pour  milk into a saucepan and then blend in the powdered milk until thoroughly dissolved.

Bring gently to a boil.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool until tepid – 45°C.

Place your culture into a small bowl and add ½ a cup of your cooled milk. Blend well with a fork or a whisk.

Reintroduce this mixture to the rest of your heated milk. Again, stir well.

Pour the culture mix into an incubating container and keep warm for at least 6 hours.

Do not disturb your yoghurt while it is setting!

When the yoghurt is set it will have a thin layer of clear, yellowish liquid surrounding it. This is whey and is perfectly normal (and edible).

Place your containers into the refrigerator to cool and set more firmly.

When you wish to eat the yoghurt, you may stir in the whey (it is high in protein) or strain.

Reserve several tablespoons of your yoghurt to act as your starter in your next batch.

Looking for things to make with your yoghurt? Try these:

Frozen yoghurt