Thursday, November 10, 2011

Furry Feeding Frenzy

If you have pets (I have a zoo!), you know that providing healthy food and snacks for them can be quite costly.  While snacks are not necessarily important for dogs & cats, they provide much needed vitamins and minerals for rodents such as rabbits and guinea pigs whose diet includes pellet food, roughage (timothy hay) and a variety of fruits & vegetables.

Princess Socko & Mr. Chalkie Bunny
When feeding vegetables to rodents, it is wise to research what types are healthy and harmful to the specific type you own.  Always do a quick search to make sure the vegetable or fruit isnt harmful to your pet.  Just because it is green doesn't mean its good for them.  An example would be Iceberg Lettuce, one of the main causes of digestion issues. You think rabbit, you think lettuce, right? Wrong. Only the dark green leaves like that of Romaine lettuce is good for them. Here's a good list of healthy foods. 

Veggies and fruits are considered snacks to most rodents and is something they crave more than anything.  Princess Socko can hear a carrot bag rattle from a mile away and she'll let you know it promptly. Fruits are given less often as the sugar is not needed (very much accepted) and can be harmful if given too much. While store bought snacks claim to provide a source of vegetables & fruits, they also use honey as a means to bind the treat together.

Honey is not good for rodents and I wouldn't recommend feeding it to them. Aside from honey, most store bought  treats contain nuts & seeds, while both piggies and rabbits enjoy those types of treats they are quite fattening.  What's even worse is that seeds and nuts are a common choking hazard for guinea pigs and smaller rodents.

With all that said ( I tend to ramble alot...)  I have researched various ways to prepare homemade snacks for my rodent babies and found this simple recipe makes for the perfect amount of healthly & sweet.

Chalko Tasties
  • 2 mashed bananas*
  • 2 carrots  shredded
  • 3 tbs oats
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (made myself by grinding up some oats)**
*Squeezing the banana inside the peel with your hand works wonderfully and slides out effortlessly into your mixing bowl.

**In place of the "oat flour"  you can use grinded pellet food for that particular pet. (It is not recommended to feed guinea pigs, rabbit food or vice versa.)

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Mix banana, carrots & oats, then add in oat flour and mix well.

Using a cookie dough scoop, form the "dough" into little balls and place on a greased cookie sheet.

Cook for 15-20 minutes or until firm.  Let cool completely and serve.  Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag in the refrigerator.
Freezing Tip:  After the cooling process place the cookie sheet of snacks into your deep freeze and chill until completely frozen.  Then remove the snacks and seal them in a plastic bag.  This method (props to my mother in law on this one!)  ensures that each snack is individually frozen thus allowing them not to stick together when stored in one container.

Storage Tip:  You can also use your food dehydrator for these instead of serving them fresh.  While Chalkie Bunny enjoys them both ways, The Princess prefers the dried version.

Enjoying their tasties.
Background Notes:  Princess Socko Nug Nug (as named by my then 2 yr old, Stone) was rescued from a local pet store where her owners had brought her in for being "too old"  and not wanted.  :(  I had gone in that day to buy some fish for my 30 gallon aquarium and came home with a guinea pig. I couldn't help myself.

That holds true for Mr. Chalkie Bunny, who was the last baby rabbit being sold as a feeder rabbit.  The naive non hunter in myself had no clue what that meant until my dear husband explained that the sweet innocent baby bunny was going to be someone's dinner. Thankfully he was the only one left or I would have had my hands full today.

Moving along.....

As I said it is not necessary to give snacks to dogs or cats, (mine would disagree) snacks are useful for praising good behavior or overall making for a much loved mommy. I will not lie and say that my furries (and others, told you I had a zoo!) are not spoiled beyond reason.  In my home they are not pets, they are furry (some scaly) family members and you can't tell them otherwise.

In addition to our rodent furries, we also house two dogs, Casper (a boxer/pointer mix, rescue) and Fluff (a bischon frise/cocker spaniel purebred mutt of fluffiness) as well as two cats, The Bob (a stray that never left) and Princess Tink. (a precious girl in need of a safe home.)

Now what dog doesnt love dog biscuits of any kind?  I know my two really love those peanut butter biscuits, but I decided why buy them when I could make them and know exactly what was going into them.  I searched for homemade peanut butter dog treats and found a wonderful blog called Come On, ilene! that had just the recipe I was looking for. Peanut Buttery & healthy.
  • 1 cup of oats
  • 1/3 cup margarine
  • 1 cup boiling beef broth
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp  sugar
  • 1 beef bouillon cube, mashed into granules
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg, beaten (2 for a softer treat)
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour.
Now I didn't have beef broth as the recipe stated, so I put a cup of water and a beef bouillon cube into a pot and the cube dissolved as it came to a boil.

Pour the oats, margarine & boiling broth into a mixing bowl and let it soften, about 10 minutes.   Stir in the other ingredients, except the flour.  Mix well, then add the flour one cup at a time until a soft dough forms.  I used the dough hook on my kitchen aid (aka The Ice Queen) so there was no need to "knead".

Roll the dough out about 1/2 inch thick on a lightly floured surface.   Using  any shaped cookie cut, make several cuts into your dough.  I was able to reknead and reroll several times and ended up with 120+ dog bones.  

Taste Tested & Doggie Approved

Casper and The Fluff as usual love a good dog biscuit, but one of their favorite treats are Frosty Paws, doggie ice cream goodness.  These little goodies are quite spendy for the amount that you get, so thanks to my fantastic sister in law, April, I was shown a recipe to make my very own.  Special thanks to Brett Winn, the original creator of this special frozen treat.

Frozen Dog Treats
  • 32 oz plain yogurt
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 2 tbs of peanut butter
  • 2 tbs of honey

Mix all ingredients together.  Pour some of the batter into a ziplock bag and snip the end. (just a little snip will do.)  Squeeze filling into ice cube trays (you can also use egg cartons), I used two full size ice trays and one mini cube tray.

I had a tiny bit of batter left so I gave it to The Fluff for a bit of taste testing.

100% Fluff approved.

Put your trays in the freezer and chill until firm.  I let mine set overnight to ensure they were well frozen before moving them to a gallon ziplock to store in the deep freeze.

Now for the kitties.  I dont know about your cats but mine LOVE cheese, but really who doesnt love cheese?  The Bob has been known on several occasions to snatch some cheese cubes off the counter!  With that said I went in search of some cheesy cat treats and came across Pet Place.  They have several different variations of cat treats, but I chose to make the Savory Cheese Treats for my cheesy kitties. (Or as my BFF would say  Quesoy Gatos!) 

Ultimate Cat Stars (as named by Mason, age 3 )
  • 3/4 cup  wheat flour
  • 3/4 cup shredded cheese
  • 5 Tbs grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • chicken broth
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the first 5 ingredients in your mixer. Add  chicken broth until a dough ball forms. (Again using The Ice Queen's dough hook)  Roll the dough out on a heavily floured surface, as it is quite sticky, about 1/4 of an inch.

Bob just knew. 

Grease a baking sheet, I used foil and cooking spray, this makes the treats slide right off the pan into a bowl when finished.
Using a tiny cookie cutter, cut out desired shapes.  You can also use a pizza cutter and make tiny squares.  This makes alot of treats, I stopped counting after 200  tiny stars. 

Some of the treats stuck in the cutter, so I used the stopper part of a medicine dropper to push it free right onto the cookie sheet.  Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes, watch carefully as they may burn.

Tink thought they smelled divine.
With the leftover dough, I rekneaded & rolled it out several times and was able to make 38 dog bone shaped treats as well.  With the tiny bit of leftover, I used a pizza cutter to make small squares.  Waste Not Want not.   Store them in an air tight container or ziplock bag.

The cheesy treats were the biggest hit, loved by both the dogs & the cats.  It takes alot to make Bob beg!

I hope your furry friends enjoy these recipes as much as mine have!  If you have no pets of your own these treats would be a wonderful gift for a pet loving friend.  Just bag or bottle them up and add a festive bow!

Please leave a comment and let me know what they think!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adventures in Laundering... Clothes That Is!

In an endevor to save money, my husband and I decided to make our own laundry detergent. Even though I am an avid couponer and sale watcher, I still spend entirely too much money on laundry supplies.

I do about 6 or 7 loads of laundry every 3 days! I stil haven't figured out how a family of 4 manages to go through that many clothes, but add that up and that's about 70 loads of laundry a month. Somtimes it's more if we need uniforms or special attire or someone is sick. Meaning? That's a heck of alot of detergent and fabric softener!

Not to mention, the water bill and the electricity used (next year my husband is making me a clothes line!). So, we have to save somewhere. And, that somewhere has to be with the laundry supplies themselves.

So, at my husband's suggesting, I began researching homemade laundry detergent. Together, we settled on a recipe we felt we could easily manage and afford.

Together we went to WalMart and bought the standard supplies. Then, for a little extra smell good, some essential oils. After smelling many not so smell good oils, we settled on the Linen scent... ya know, because we're cleaning linens and such.

The detergent itself does not have much of a fragrance. We wanted the fresh clean scent. Lesha suggested we buy essential oils because she's been using it in her homemade fabric softener for quite some time, now.

My husband and I measured and mixed ingriedents. Meaning I measured and poured the powedered parts while he grated the soap! :) He did the "hard" part, which turned out not to be so hard at all!

After shaking our bucket, we decided to test it out on a load of towels. We decided on the towels for our test load in case anything bleached or got eaten alive it wasn't our clothes.

Well, not only did the towels come out smelling great, they were extremely clean! It was better than Tide, Gain, Purex, All, or any other detergent my husband and I wasted money on before. And, they smell so much fresher!

When I told some people about our experiment, they thought we were crazy. Especially after I told them it cost us about $25.00 to get it started, $30.00 if you count the essential oils.

But, let's consider this, shall we? If you're paying $20.oo for Tide, $15.00 for All, $20.00 for Gain, or $8-10.00 for Purex for only 60-96 loads, you're paying about 3 times the amount for laundry detergent as I am!

I paid $30.00 for about 3 1/2 gallons of powdered detergent that only takes 1/8 cup per full load of laundry. Which means? I can do more laundry for my $30.00 than you can for your $30.00. And, with those savings? I buy more diapers for my 11 month old. (Diapers are one thing you won't watch me try to get around economically too often. I refuse to use cloth diapers... its just not my thing.)

So, if you'd like to try the tried and true detergent here's your recipe:

  • 12 cups Borax
  • 8 cups washing soda   
  • 8 cups baking soda
  • 8 cups shaved Fels-Naptha Bar or Ivory Bar soap

Mix together in a large bucket. Use 1/8 cup per each load

(My husband and I added approximately 2.5 oz of essential oils to our to give it a fresh scent as the detergent itselt does not have a frangrance.)

 The basic ingredients.

Note: If you're having problems locating the ingredients for the detergent, look down. We found all the supplies on the very bottom shelf, all neatly stocked next to each other. Retailers have found that if you place to more expensive brands at eye level, the consumer spends more money. Look down for better savings!

The essential oil was found in at Walmart in the craft department.

The finished product. 

Lesha's Note:  I didn't have enough baking soda to make this and fabric softener this time but I wanted to try it.  So I found another recipe that's much smaller and quite similar.   1 bar of Fels Naptha soap (grated.), 1 1/4 cup borax and 1 1/4 cup  washing soda.  I grated the soap into an ice cream bucket, added the fragrance to that (about 5 cap fulls), stirred it up and then added the powdered ingredients.

Make sure to mix it up each time you do a load of laundry the fragrance accumulates at the top.    

Just as with the laundry detergent, my husband and I decided to try to make our own liquid fabric softener in our continued effort to save more money.  Lesha swears by it, as she has been making her own for quite some time.

After researching (you'll find that I do quite a bit of that), we discovered we already had everything for the basic recipe at home!  Lesha suggested, as she did with the detergent, to add essential oils for fragrance.  So, we bought Linen scent to give our laundry the fresh, clean smell.

We tested the fabric softener, just as we did the detergent, on the towels. Again, this is to prevent any damage to our clothes while we experiment.  We were hoping for the ourstanding results we recieved with the detergent.  The fabric softener did what the name claims...  it softened the fabric.  It just didn't seem, to me, that it did as great a job as my favorite national brands:  Downy and Gain.

However, with an overal price tag of about $2.00 a bottle, I decided to try again.  (My husband put the softener in the load of towels, I decided to try with the white load.)  This time, the laundry came out perfect!  The third load I tried it on, the colors, also came out perfect!  I don't know if my husband just didn't use enough with the towels or if it wasn't mixed as well.  After the colored clothes came out perfectly softened and smelling nice, I was completely sold on the homemade softener!

I highly reccommend this to anyone trying to save some money!  It works just as well as the pricey national labels!

Just a fair warning:  if not mixed properly it will explode!  Just ask my husband!  ;)

The recipe is as follows:

  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2.5 oz of your favorite essential oil (optional)

Mix 2 cups vinegar with 2 cups baking soda in an old fabric softener bottle.  Make sure it still has a lid!

Add 4 cups cold water to the vinegar and baking soda gradually as it fizzes.  Swish the mixture around carefully to evenly miss.

Lesha's Note:  In order to prevent explosions. (So sorry I didn't mention to the hubs. lol) I add 1cup of baking soda, 1 cup of vinegar, 2 cups of water, let it fizz.  Add the second cup of soda, second cup of vinegar and the last two cups of water, let it fizz.   cap it (loosely or it will explode), shake gently, open, add the  fragrance, close loosely and shake lightly. )  My softener is in an old snuggle container that has a cap and a spout, I always keep the cap lose until the vinegar & soda are done fizzing. Its also a good pratice to shake the softener prior to each use to ensure a nice mixture of ingredients. 

Pour 1/4 cup into your washing machine at the beginning of the rinse cycle.

*To add a simple touch of frangrance, I suggest 2.5 oz of your favorite essential oils.  Though this step is completely optional.

If you're wanting to "make" your own fabric softener sheets, it's really easy too!  Simply sprinkle some of your liquid fabric softener onto a washcloth and throw into the dryer.  You're clothes come out soft, smelling clean, and static free!  It's that easy!

Lesha's Note:  You can also soak a dish towel in the fabric softener, wring it out,  let it dry overnight and toss it into the dryer with the clothes.  Can be used several times before resoaking and beginning the process again. 

For those of you that have messy children like we do, you'll notice you go through a lot of stain remover.  After all, clothes are expensive and we try to keep our clothes as clean and spot free as possible.

We made our own stain remover with water and baking soda.  This, however, did not work well for us.  However, what I did find that worked was this:

Dampen the stain on the clothing and rub a Fels-Naptha bar onto the stain.  Let it sit 1 minute and throw into the wash.  The directions are on the Fels-Naptha bar as a pre-treater.  I've, honestly, never seen results like I have since using the Fels-Naptha bar!

One bottle of Spray and Wash or Shout, seriously, only lasted  2 laundry days.  That's it!  (Keep in mind, I have an 11 month old and a 7 year old, they make lots of stains!).  And, when I do laundry ever 3 days, that's a lot of pretreater I've wasted my money on.  And the results?  Simply mediocre.  Sometimes that stains came out, sometimes they didn't.  With the Fels-Naptha bar every stain has come out!  And, so far I've used the bar for 4 laundry days.  And, it looks like I have about 100 laundry days left in the bar.  So, for 97cents, I say this is the best dollar I've ever spent!

Just to show you how well it works, my 11 month old daughter had a chocolate cupcake with purple frosting at her first Halloween party.  She was wearing a white shirt. (I know, not smart on my part, right?)  Needless to say, purple frosting ended up all over the place...  very little of which ended up in her mouth. 

Here are the before and after pictures (and the stain sat on the shirt for 4 days):



Using the Fels-Naptha bar requires a little more time, however, I have found that the results are well worth the "elbow grease" used. 

So, I hope you have all learned a few ways to save on your laundry supplies.  With just a few simple ingredients, most of which you probably already have on hand, you can make the best detergents, softeners, and stain removers! 

Not only will you save your money by using these tips, but you'll save your clothes as well!

Happy Laundering!