Sunday, July 24, 2011

How to freeze fresh corn from corn-on-the cob!

There are few things better than good freshly picked corn, cooked and taken right off the cob!  Delicious!  
Since I was a little girl, we have taken summertime corn, and frozen some to enjoy during the dismal winter months when fresh vegetables are harder to come by.  I had often been the helper in this task, but it wasn't until just a few years ago that I got step-by-step instructions, and tackled the task at my house, with my kid as helpers!  (I guess I'm a grown-up!)  If you are unsure of the specifics, I hope this post will help you out with all the little details that will lead to some great eats this winter!

Here's what you'll need...
  • freshly picked corn on the cob, and variety.  
  • A large, deep pot for boiling
  • Ziploc freezer bags (regular Ziplocs are not sturdy enough, and your corn will be freezer burnt.  Even better would be a FoodSaver or vacuum sealer.
  • some large bowls or containers
  • a good sharp knife
  • plenty of ice  
1.  Start with good quality corn, of any variety.  There are many different types to choose from.  Our favorite is "Cotton Candy", but we like "Silver Queen" as well.  A perfectly ripe ear is not too bloated, but nice and full.  You should be able to easily puncture the kernels, and the juice should run milky.
2.  Using freshly picked corn is very important to preserving taste for longterm storage.  Room temperatures begin to quickly breakdown the sugars in corn, so if you have a delay between harvest until you are ready to freeze, be sure and refrigerate the corn.  Husk the corn and get off as many of the silks as possible.  I usually use a soft-bristled vegetable brush.  This is a great job for dad and the older kids to handle outside!

3.  When the cleaned corn is ready, you can start by bring a large pot of water to a full rolling boil, so you can blanch the corn.  You also need to have ready a large bowl or container of ice water.  This is to stop the cooking process so that the corn is not overcooked.  A disposable roasting pan is perfect for this job, and makes for easy clean-up too.

4.  Now that the water is boiling add the corn in order to blanch it.  Blanching kills the enzymes that will breakdown the flavor and change the textures over time.  Corn needs to be blanched for about 5 minutes.  As soon as you put the corn in the water begin counting.  If it takes more than 30 seconds or so to return to a boil, you are using too much water, or maybe too large of a pot.  Put the lid on the pot and boil for 4-5 minutes. (note:  you can reuse the same blanching water for several batches)
5.  As soon as the timer sounds, remove the corn with tongs, and place immediately into the icy bath.  This will cool the corn down and stop the cooking process.  You do not want cooked corn, only the enzymes that will damaged your stored corn to be eliminated.  Cool the corn until it is cool to the touch.  This usually takes about the same amount of time as the blanching does.
6.  Remove the corn from the cob.  Now, I'm sure books have been written on the correct procedure and tools necessary for this process.  I will just share with you my way, with my tools... I hold my ear from the cob end, and remove about half of the kernel with the blade of a sharp knife.  I then use the back of the blade to scrape down the ear and remove the juice and remaining kernel.  .  I just do this on a cutting board, and then scrape the corn into my large bowl after every 2-3 ears I scrape.  You can also put the small end of the ear of corn into a bundt pan.  The cutout holds the ear in place, and the pan serves as a catch for the kernels.  If you prefer a corn scraper, you can get one at your local kitchen store, or, has several great corn scrapers to chose from.

7.    Decide what size increments you want your corn stored in.  I always use quart size freezer bags, since that is a perfect portion for my family a meal, but I always do a few gallon sized bags to have on hand for family gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I know I will be feeding a crowd.  If you don't have a vacuum sealer (and I don't, although I would love one!), then be sure and use bags intended for the freezer.  It's important to be sure and remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag.   Use a measuring cup to scoop the kernels into the bag, remove the air, and seal.
8.  Be sure and label  the date on your bags with a Sharpie.  Stack them flat, and put into the freezer as soon as possible.  You're all finished!  You've got a freezer filled with fresh vegetables for your family to enjoy for months ahead.  All you need to do is remove the bags, defrost in microwave, and allow to cook until thoroughly heated.
Your hard work will pay off when you have a freezer shelves that look like this...
There it is... easy-peasy, lemon-squeezy!  Let me hear from you!  Questions or comments... hit me up!  Thanks for reading.

Keep Shining!

The Woo-Hoo Gal

I'm linking this up to the linky party at Momma Made It Look Easy. and at Raising Memories.

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Tips for Decorating Small Spaces - Bathroom Edition

Decorating a small space is of course much more challenging.  I  have dreams of a fabulous, luxurious bathroom... one that's large enough to host a small dinner party, complete with a leopard-skin covered chaise lounge and a gorgeous chandelier!
You know something along this line...
 Oh my goodness, I am drooling over this one!...
My reality is actually more along the lines of finding a good spot to cram the extra rolls of toilet paper!   Besides... who wants a dinner party in the bathroom?!
Good news!   You can add style to your small space, and stay on budget  WITHOUT having to buy this hideous leopard print toilet seat lid...
I have no words to tell how horrible I find that!

Do you have a small bathroom that needs your attention?  Here are some decorating tips that will help you maximize your small space!

  • Clear out the clutter
NOTHING makes a room look smaller than clutter!  If you haven't used things in your bathroom in over six months, its highly unlikely that you ever will!  I recently put a large basket of barely used bath products, lotions, hair care products, etc. on the kitchen table and let my girls and their friends see if they wanted any of them.  If you have a good amount of still decent products, you could donate them to a local homeless shelter.  Get rid of those ratty, mismatched towels, and cut them up for rags.  If your rag bag is running over, you can donate your old mismatched towels as well.  Less is more!  Better six new, matching towels, than twenty-six that look like they have been through the war!

  • Choose color wisely.
Color is one of your best tools for making a small space appear larger.  Cream colors, sophisticated neutrals, and icy blues are just a few of the best color combinations that can open up a tiny room into a bigger living area. 

Keep in mind that the use of color is all about illusion.  Pale and cool colors can make your room look bigger and brighter, and of course, deeper darker tones will make your room cozier and more closed in.  Light and brightly colored walls are more reflective which makes a space feel open and airy.  Painting your trim and molding white, or lighter than the walls can give the illusion of the walls being further back, and thus more spacious.  
  • Choose fixtures to scale
Be sure that cabinetry and accessories are scaled to meet the needs of a small room.  Choosing larger items can cause the room to seem smaller and cramped.  Using smaller throw rugs can give the feeling of more floor space.  Notice how the smaller scale mirror, and sparse accessorizing make this small space seem uncluttered and comfortable.
  • Clever use of space...

Being creative with your storage options can make all the difference when it comes to making your small bathroom work for your family.  Don't forget to take advantage of your vertical space!  Use walls to your full advantage!  Look how the clever use of shelves and hooks can maximize your usable space!
  • Create light...
Good lighting can help your bathroom avoid looking cramped or even depressing.  Use bright overhead lighting as well as sconces, or wall-mounted lighting.  The addition of a skylight in your bathroom might not be as difficult as you think, and is a wonderful addition of natural light.  Make good use of mirrors to reflect the lighting in the space.

I hope these simple tips are helpful to you as you deal with your small bathroom, and learn how to get the most from your space.  Decorating is not only for style, but for optimum functionality as well.  Better Homes & Gardens has a wonderful section on their website for dealing with small bathrooms.  You can check out more wonderful information from them here.

So, until you receive an invite for a dinner party in my new fancy, 1,000 square foot bathroom, I'll join you in this challenge, but let's try to "just say no" to leopard print toilet seats, but if you have to have one I'll love ya anyway!

Keep Shining!

The Woo-Hoo Gal

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pantry Makeover Reveal...

Okay, here it is!  It may not be some super classy high-end design, but I finished my pantry project, and I 
L-O-V-E it!  
I started with this horrifying mess...
(Princess #1 is still mortified that I show you all this!  She's fairly certain that Social Services will now come inspect our house and take away her little sisters!)

Next I emptied the entire pantry and washed down the walls, shelves and floor with a bleach solution so everything was nice and sanitized.
Then I had to make the tough decision not to paint and stencil like had wanted to do.  The paint was not really in bad shape, and it would be a complete nightmare to take down all those brackets.   I was "prewarned" by my Main Man that I would be own my own if I decided to tackle that job!

I decided to take the easy way out and add a little fun and color with some repositionable decals.  You can find many different designs at craft & home stores.   I found some multi-color geometric design tiles at Home Goods for only $9.99!  Woo-hoo for bargains!
(Can I just pause here and give a word of testimony about TJ Maxx/Homegoods?  
Love, love, LOVE that place!)  
Aren't those cutie-patootie?  Here, look closer...
My Home Goods only had one set of these tiles, but I think I'll look for another one.  
Well, here it is, the finished product... A nice organized pantry! 
Woo-hoo!  I'm so happy with this!  So, here's what's amazing, with the exception of  a little purging I did, the same items are still in the pantry, but now they are orderly and in their place.  And, no... I bought no new containers.
Let me show you.  
Here are extra laundry supplies, tp, and paper towels...
 Next is cleaning supplies...
 The green basket and the one next to it are filled with extra stock of things already in my kitchen cabinets such as seasonings, salt, hot sauce, salad dressings, etc.  The basket on the right is candy and cookie making supplies, like the cookie press, decorating bags, sprinkles, etc.
 The top shelf is where I have some of my party supplies.
Beside them are some plastic platters and the picnic basket.
 Here are the staples...sugars, Splenda, flour and cornmeal, and below that more back up food items, as well as a basket filled with light bulbs.
 The next shelf has a basket for doggie supplies, the multi-color basket is kitty stuff, and the green container on the right is filled with candles and candle holders.
 The bottom shelf is where I put my glass vases (in that container on the left) and then items I don't use every day, but frequently enough that I don't want them store away.
 On the floor level there is a hand-held vac, lunch boxes & thermoses, and household tools.
 I am just to happy with this, I could stand there and look at it for a while!  By the way, the drawer unit on  the right is filled with all my table linens and placemats.
Why did I wait so long to do this?... I have no clue, but I am so, so happy that I did!  Nothing feels better than an organized house!  I have one more finishing touch I'm going to add this week, but I didn't want to leave you hanging to show you what I had already finished.  Since I kept my commitment of not buying new storage containers, this only cost of this makeover was $9.99 for the tile decals.  
I hope you are inspired to get your clutter under control... you will be so glad you did it!  Happy organizing!

Keep Shining!

The Woo-Hoo Gal

*  You might like to read my previous post here Pantry Makeover.

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Pantry Makeover

A few weeks ago, will cruising through "Blogland", I was stopped in my tracks by the gorgeous pantry redo over at House of Smiths.  Shelley has absolutely phenomenal taste, and I love anything she does, but this pantry redo blew me away!  

I went and took a look at my pantry...

Just keeping it real here folks! Well... here it is in all its unorganized, messy horribleness.  My oldest princess who is home from college this summer saw me taking this picture, and the convo went like this...

"Please tell me that is not going on the internet."  
"Of course, it is baby, I'm a DIY/decorating blogger, and I have to keep it real."  
"Have you no shame?"
"Yes, I wear the pantry 'cone of shame'."

I know, I's downright awful.  Now you know why my family sometimes laughs when I go to organize and design for others!  This pantry is by far the most disorganized, messiest zone in our house.  Now it's not nasty, just a jumbled mess and catch-all.  I do have something to say in my defense... Our house is on a crawlspace = no basement, and we converted our attached garage to 2 bedrooms and a bathroom, so that leave one small outdoor shed for total storage for a family of six!  But, despite that, I have to get this space under control. It makes me break out in hives just to find a ziploc bag!  

First thing to do?  Empty it.  Oh. My. Word.  There was a village of pygmies and a litter of chinchillas in there... it was awful.  I made 874 trips out of there, BUT...

Yipee!  There it is, all empty and scrubbed down, and a clean slate for designing!  
My little heart was broken when I realize a  painting and stenciling project like Shelley did wasn't very practical.  As a matter a fact, it seemed a completely overwhelming tasks to remove all of those many, many screws & brackets that hold up wire shelving...not nearly as easy to paint as wooded ones.   Well, I made a decision and moved on with a plan.  I'm still adding a couple of final touches, but I'll post the end results very soon.  My one going to Target or Ikea and spending a lot of money on containers.  I wanted to make it nice using the things I already had.  
Stay tuned... I can't wait to show you the reveal!

Keep Shining, 

The Woo-Hoo Gal

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

All you need is a can of white spray paint!

For the budget conscious DIYer like me, a can of spray paint can be your greatest tool!  There aren't many things that don't look better when spruced up with a coat of white paint.  I love the brand-new, clean feeling that white accents add to my spaces.  I want to share a few simple projects I've done recently using my trusty can of white spray paint!

I took this old basket that I found in my mom's basement...  
 A little clean up and some white spray paint and turned it into this...
I love it!  It's a great place to store some healthy snack options that the kids are welcome to anytime
I found these great metal art pieces on clearance at Target.  They were perfect for Princess #2's bedroom, but the oil rubbed bronze was the wrong color...
Since these were so dark, they needed a coat of primer,
But in no time I had this great addition hanging on her wall!  Isn't that pretty against those lavender walls?  LOVE!  I will take you on a "tour" of her room soon.  It's almost finished, and oh, so cute!
In the entry closet, I have a stack of various frames that I am no longer using, so I decided to give a few of them a makeover.
(Look at that adorable, squishy little angel!  That's Princess #3 who is now 11. sigh...)
I also decided to use these two...
Look at that... my styles are all over the place...  Ornate & antique with sleek & contemporary!  Well, a fresh coat of paint will help blend these styles.
Here they are after a coat of primer...
And now, they are like brand new!  
I loaded the 8x10 with my new Independence Day printable from Pink Ink Doodle.  
You can follow the link, and get your own printable!  Tell her the Woo-Hoo Gal sent you!
The other 2 frames look great, but they haven't found new homes just yet...
Of course spray paint comes in handy for more complex projects, too.  You can read here about an 80's brass light fixture, that I gave a modern PB Teen look with the use of white spray paint, and some grosgrain ribbon.
So if the budget is tight, but you're ready to see some changes all you need is some white spray paint, and to go "shopping" in your garage, basement or closets.  Everyone has a treasure just waiting to be repurposed!  If you're not using it anyway, what good is it doing stuck on a shelf in a basement?  Don't be afraid to get out the paint and let the  inner creative you loose!

Keep Shining!

The Woo-Hoo Gal

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Mama's Baked Squash

Summertime is time to enjoy those fresh-from-the-garden vegetables, and fabulous dishes that can be made from those vegetables.  One of our favorite veggies around here is yellow crookneck squash.  
One of our squash plants in this year's garden.

Another all-time favorite at my house is Baked Squash.  When I was a little girl, and Mama would make this for supper, my brothers and I literally fought over it!  You know something is good when the kids are counting how many there are and how many are theirs!  Just like we did as kids, my kids do the same when it comes to baked squash.  It's super simple, and as usual I don't have exact measurements, but I'll do my best!

Here's what you need:

  • Fresh crookneck squash, about a dozen.  (you want the "baby" ones, the big ones don't work well in this recipe.
  • a sleeve of saltine crackers
  • half of a white onion, minced
  • 1/2 - 3/4 stick of BUTTER (not the same as margarine!)
  • one egg
  • a "dollop" of sour cream... how much is that?  Well, I don't know, but till it looks right
  • bread crumbs
  • Salt, pepper & paprika to taste
First, after you have your fresh squash, give it a good bath...
Next put in a pot of boiling water and cook until fork tender (maybe 15 minutes).  If a small knife or fork glides in easily, it's ready. 
(By the way, that big one in the center I later ditched.  It's just too large for this recipe.)
After the squash are fork tender, take a knife and trim the stems both ends.
The next step is to cut the squash lengthways.  Go ahead and do all of them at once so they can begin to cool off, and to stop the cooking process.
And then open them up like this...
Use a teaspoon, and scoop out the squashes innards...ok, I hate that word too!  
What shall we call them?  Squash guts?  No, that sounds disgusting!  
Squash insides?  Nah.
The yellow goop?  
I'm open to suggestions here... (my lack of culinary expertise is showing...again!)
Anyhoo, moving on...
No, that is not my hand... I am not THAT hairy!  My Main Man was helping me out because those things were so hot they were burning my little baby fingers!  
(No eye-rolling, please!)
Now put all your {insert your term of choice here for the interior contents of the squash}, and add your butter first.  The heat of the squash will begin to melt that yumminess...
Now lay your squash shells out on a cookie sheet (I spray mine with non-stick spray), and let's get working on that filling...
Add your minced onion... 
Then your crumbled crackers...
Then the "dollop" of sour cream...
 Next you need one egg...
Mix these ingredients all together, add a little salt & pepper, and it should look something like this...
Stuff the shells, top with a sprinkling of bread crumbs, and paprika, and put them on a cookie sheet...
Bake on 425 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, or until they look a little like this...
Enjoy this delicious, but simple side dish that everyone in your family is sure to love!

Keep Shining!

The Woo-Hoo Gal

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.