Subscribe to Life of a Happy Mom Subscribe to Life of a Happy Mom's comments

Archive for the ‘Tutorial Tuesday’ category

If there is one thing that makes me happy, it is finding ways to simplify my life. One of those ways is using parchment paper.

Maybe you’ve seen it in the store next to the aluminum foil. Maybe you’ve even used it to bake cookies. But I’ve found several uses for parchment paper beyond the obvious use of lining my cookie sheets to cut back on oil and save scrubbing later.

In fact, the thing that motivated me to first purchase it was not for baking cookies. It was for making lasagna.


Yes, lasagna.

Let me explain.

When making a lasagna, you are supposed to bake it covered. But unless you have a glass or metal lid for your casserole dish, you probably just use aluminum foil. But there is a problem. The acid in the tomato sauce eats at the foil. So unless you use a really deep dish or make a shallow lasagna, you need something to protect the foil.

I worked for a couple of months in a cafeteria, and I learned that they would cover the pans with plastic wrap before adding the foil. This effectively protected the foil, and it wasn’t hard to remove later.

So I did that. Until my husband pointed out that the hot plastic was probably just as bad as the aluminum.

This left me with few options. Until one day I had the brilliant idea of using parchment paper! I cut it to fit the top of the pan and covered it with foil, and presto, problem solved!

Of course, I started using the parchment paper to line my cookie sheets, and was pleased that I didn’t need to use the oil spray that my husband didn’t really like me using in the first place. I wasn’t so worried about cutting back on the little bit of fat, but those sprays are actually not good for you, being processed and refined and mixed with aerosol.

I also discovered that recipes for kale chips say to line the baking sheet with parchment paper. After making them, I can see why. Oh, and if you haven’t ever had kale chips, get some kale and make some! They are delicious. Even my son likes them! Too bad he is allergic to kale.

Here’s another use for parchment paper. I like making my soy souffle once or twice a month, but it is always a bear to clean the pan afterwards. Greasing the pan does nothing. It sticks something fierce, and no amount of soaking will make any difference in the amount of elbow grease required to remove it. And I hate scrubbing and scrubbing.

So I got creative. I decided to try lining my baking dish with parchment paper.

And you know what? It worked! Yup, by cutting the paper to fit and creasing it a little, I was able to make it sit in the pan while I poured in the batter. Then I baked it as usual. The result? I still have to wash the pan, but it takes about as much time as it does to wash a plate or bowl. See?

Now, I probably won’t line all my casserole dishes with parchment paper for every use. But of course, most casseroles don’t stick half as badly as my soy souffle.

Have you ever tried parchment paper? Have you found any creative uses for it? Please share!


This post is participating in the link-ups at The Modest Mom and Works for me Wednesday.

I haven’t done any tutorials since I moved into this home, so I figured it was time to do one. This method of making soy concentrate is going to be the basis for the next two recipes. Keep in mind that you could use it to make soy milk (by adding twice the water), but that is just too much work, in my opinion, especially when I have a soy milk machine. But I can’t use it to make small quantities of concentrate, so this is what I do when I need some.

First, you will need to soak soy beans. This is 1/2 cup of dry, organic Laura soybeans (the second best price and the best quality I have found), soaked overnight.

It is essential to think ahead for any recipe using soy concentrate. I suppose if you had some soy milk powder that didn’t have vanilla in it, you could double the amount of powder, but it would cost a whole lot more. I don’t happen to have any soy milk powder in the house! I either plan ahead or do without.

Once the soy beans are ready, bring about two quarts of water to a boil. When it’s just about boiling, turn on the hot water on, and when it’s hot, put the soy beans under it to rinse and heat up. The water should not be on strong enough to make the beans spill out.

If you time it right (which I never do, just so you know), the water should be boiling now (mine’s usually been boiling for 5 or 10 minutes). Fill your blender with the boiling water to warm it. Glass blenders are best, because they retain the heat longest. It will warm quickly—probably 30 seconds or less, and you want the water to be as hot as possible. Now get a strainer and pour your beans into the strainer, then quickly dump the water from the blender over them.

Now rapidly dump the beans into the hot blender and add 2 cups of the boiling water. Blend. Be careful not to start the blender on high, or at best you could have a very hot mess all over. ***Here’s how I like to start it. You’ll want to blend about 2 minutes.

I should make a comment on the reason for all that effort, as opposed to just rinsing the beans and blending in water. There is an enzyme in soybeans that is activated when the bean is broken. This enzyme is what gives homemade soymilk its “beany” flavor—the flavor that store-bought soy milk does not have. However, the enzyme can be killed before it reacts if the water is hot enough. That’s why we heat the beans, the blender, and then blend in boiling water. Soymilk made this way tastes better than anything my soy milk machine can make—it just takes too much effort to make it! Maybe when all my kids are grown and gone. . .

Let it blend for a couple of minutes. You want it very fine. Now, pour it into a 2-quart saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. I say slowly, because it’s already very hot, and soymilk will boil over very quickly (as it nearly did in the picture below while I toyed with the camera settings!), so you need to watch it. I stir with a rubber spatula, so I don’t scratch the bottom, but also try to prevent it from building up. You could use a double boiler and let it go 15-20 minutes (it probably won’t boil over then), but that uses more energy.

I cooked it with the fiber in it because it was just too hot to strain. If I were making soy milk, I would strain it out as best I could with the spatula, then put the pulp back in the blender with cold water, blend briefly, then I would strait it out well. But I’m making concentrate, not milk, so I am not adding water. Now I let it cool in the fridge. Within a couple of hours, it will be cool enough to strain through a cloth, but not too cold.

This should make 2 cups of concentrate. If it isn’t quite enough, top the jar off.

Make sure your concentrate is thoroughly chilled before using in recipes, unless it calls for hot concentrate. It should be chilled for making next week’s recipe, as well as mayo or similar recipes.

You could also use this in recipes calling for evaporated milk. You would want to add a little sugar to sweet recipes, like pumpkin pie, though for savory dishes, like creamy soup, you wouldn’t want to. Be sure to add an extra dash or two of salt to the recipe, especially if it is initially a tad low in salt, because this doesn’t have the salt content that store-bought soy milk does. Also, keep in mind that if you are going to cook it, you can skip the cooking in saucepan step; just chill in the blender (in the fridge—it cuts down on bacteria growth), strain, and use. But use within a day or two, because uncooked it won’t last very long.

Next week I’m going to share my recipe for a soy base that can be used to make anything from sour cream to sweet whipped cream to mayo.

Note: I got this method from the cookbook Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley, but I did not copy their text. I have made the recipe so many times that I just wrote it from memory, so I don’t think I’m breaking any copyright laws. But their book does have some excellent recommendations on using it, and I highly recommend it.

More and more people are turning to rice milk as a dairy alternative. Some are vegans or allergic to dairy and looking for an alternative to soy. One lady I know said she uses rice milk because she is worried about getting too much protein (which really not only possible but happens every day to many people in the US). But the rice milks available are quite expensive. A quart of Rice Dream at WinCo (a discount grocery store in my area) runs over $2 a quart (I’m thinking it’s closer to $2.50, but I haven’t checked it lately). Even buying it in bulk at Costco or Sam’s Club is still pricey, especially if you drink a lot of it.

So when my son turned up allergic to both dairy and soy, and refused to drink plain water, I did what many parents in my situation do, and turned to rice milk. After a couple of weeks, though, I decided to make my own. I found a recipe here, and this is what I am demonstrating in the video below (please note that the original recipe makes 4 quarts, not 2, but my son can’t drink it that fast):

You might also want to see how I start the blender when making rice milk. And don’t forget to label the jars so that you know how long ago you made the milk!

I am participating in Smockity Frock’s link-up carnival. Please go there to see what Connie and her friends are demonstrating this week.

Tomorrow I’ll be showing you a neat tip for making your own olive oil sprinkler. You know, so that when you turn it upside down it puts out a teaspoon or less per shake, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally dumping half the jar in your recipe! You won’t want to miss this!

Have you ever put your ingredients into the blender and turned it on, only to have it splash bits of solid food up above the water line? This used to frustrate me to no end, until I figured out this handy little trick. Watch and learn!

Be sure to hop over to Smockty Frocks to see what Connie and her friends have to share!

Connie @ is doing a link-up today. Head on over there and check out her demonstration and the other links!

Disclaimer: This method of canning beans is not conventional. Normally you would soak the beans and parboil them for 30 minutes first. However, I found this link had an easier way to do them, so I tried it. It worked. So I thought to myself, if I can can salsa in a waterbath canner with onion and garlic and other seasonings, why can’t I can beans in a pressure cooker with the seasonings in them already? If you want to follow my method, be sure you are familiar with canning. I am not giving every single step clearly in this demonstration, and if you are not familiar with pressure canning, you could make a fatal mistake. And please understand that this is not a recommended method; try it at your own risk.

I start out by putting 1 to 1 1/4 cup of beans in each jar. I used only 1 cup for the black and pinto beans, but 1 1/4 cup for the black-eyed peas. One cup is never quite enough for a meal of those:

Top them off with water and let them sit overnight. Actually, these sat almost 24 hours, because the black beans take longer to swell up. The next morning:

Preparations included 4 quarts of water (which proved about a cup short), 1 can of tomato sauce for the pinto beans (I put about 8 oz. with each batch, because my husband doesn’t like them without tomato), 3 quarts of water in the pressure canner, and water to soften the rubber on the lids:

While the water was heating, I rinsed the beans, pouring off the soak water and filling them 3 times with hot water (to heat them). I left the last rinse in the jars until I was ready to add the seasonings, and added hot water around them to keep them warm:

Here is what I put in: cumin, chili powder, onion, and garlic in all 3 kinds. The Braggs went in the pinto beans and black-eyed peas:

Dumped out the water, started adding the seasonings:

Believe it or not, a little Manzanilla olive water is my secret to delicious pinto beans!

After adding the rest of the seasonings, I put in boiling hot water:

Lids and rings:

Oops! Someone likes cameras!

In the pot, making sure they don’t touch each other or the sides:

I put the lid on and let it vent for 10 minutes, then put the weight on and brought it up to 11 lb pressure. Okay, so I missed 11 lb and it got to 13, but it came down after that. Never went below 11 lb for the duration–90 minutes:

Then I took them out and let them cool. Don’t they look lovely?

I’m not worried, because they will probably all be eaten before the month is out. Now I need to can some lentils… if I can find the time!

Today Connie @ and I each demonstrate something for Tutorial Tuesday. Click the link above to see what she’s demonstrating.

When I was asked to shorten a skirt with three layers, I decided I absolutely had to get a rolled hemming foot. But I couldn’t figure out how to use it. The instructions that came with it were very obscure and useless.

So I went looking for a good video. I found this one. I thought I would post it, rather than reinventing the wheel, especially since my sewing machine is now packed for the upcoming move!

See how easy that is? I was able to get the job done in about 2 1/2 hours–and I probably could have gone faster if I hadn’t been learning. I’m glad I bought it, too. I was able to use it on two subsequent projects. It only cost me $15 and earned me nearly $100 in less than two weeks! Very, very worth it!

And sometime next month, after we are moved and settled and I have my sewing room set up and find the camera–if you’ve ever moved, you know what I mean!–I plan on doing a video demonstration of another use for the rolled hemming foot. And yes, I’ll be doing the video myself.

Don’t forget to enter the contest to win one of the items in my store! Multiple entries allowed! Click here to find out more.

Connie of Smockity Frocks and I have decided to do a link-up. Every Tuesday we will have a demonstration, either with videos or with pictures (mine will probably be pictures for a while.) We will be doing this every Tuesday. So in a way you get two for the price of one!

I’ve been making tofu off and on for over a year, so I think I’m an expert by now. Well, not really.  There are still a couple of things I can’t figure out. I’ll mention them below. But in any case, for those who might be interested in what goes into making tofu, here it goes.

I start with 3 quarts of soy milk. I make it in this machine:

I never use the amount of beans they say to use. They say to use 1/2 cup of beans for one batch (using about 6 cups of water). This makes the milk too week. I use 3/4 cup of beans and it makes them just fine.

Then I strain it out with a cloth (the glove was because the milk had been in the fridge and was, well, frigid):

Doesn’t it look nice?

Then I heat it up to between 150° and 180°:

When it gets into that range (preferably not the higher end of the range), I get 1 cup of hot water and mix in my coagulant. I use 1/2 tsp of nigari and 1 tsp of calcium sulfate:

Sorry I didn’t get a picture of the next step, but it’s pretty self explanatory. I pour the coagulant into the milk while stirring it. While it sets, I set up my press. I don’t like this press, but it’s all I’ve got. I want a tall one that will take all the mixture into it at once, so I don’t have to strain out so much liquid. You’ll see what I mean. Anyway, the press:

And a few minutes later, it’s ready to mold:

Now it’s time to strain out the “whey” (think of curds and whey); I use a fine mesh strainer, because the liquid drains too slowly out of the cloth:

Unpressed tofu:

Soy whey. I usually save a quart or so and use it in my cooking in place of water. Good in soups, bread, muffins… anything where you wouldn’t taste it:

My weight system:

Clean-up time:

The end result:

Any questions?