Homemade Ghee -or- DIY Clarified Butter

So many recipes in the Paleosphere call for ghee. What’s ghee? Ghee is another name for clarified butter! What’s clarified butter? The stuff that you dip your fingers into at a seafood restaurant… or lobster tail if you are trying to exhibit table manners. Seriously, how tasty is clarified butter? So tasty!

Wait? Butter is Paleo? No. Butter is not Paleo-friendly because it comes from cream, which contains casein and lactose, but when you make ghee, you remove the milk proteins and are left with a delicious nutty fat that is perfect for roasting, sautéing, searing, stir-frying, or melting and drizzling over your favorite veggie.

ANYWAY… it turns out that ghee is incredibly easy (and quick!) to make. I made this really early in the morning because I am a freak and like to wake up before the sun. True story. Then, I used it to make steak and eggs and baked apples. I even thought about putting some of it in my coffee and making Paleo butter coffee, but I thought that might be going a little overboard for one morning. Maybe I will try that next week. ūüôā

Ingredients and Supplies:

  • 1 pound butter
  • Glass jar for storing the ghee – I used a pint Mason jar
  • Cheesecloth
  • Wooden spoon/Solid spoon to skim the foam
  • Pot

Directions:

1.  Over a low heat, melt the butter in your pot.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Use a low heat so your butter does not burn.

2.  Try to avoid stirring your butter as it is melting because you want to milk solids to foam up and separate from the fats. When it starts to look like the picture below, use a wooden or solid spoon to skim the foam off the top.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Not stirring is so hard

You might have to do this a few times to get all of the milk proteins out.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Just keep skimming, just keep skimming…

3. ¬†When it starts to look like the photo above, let it boil for 10-12 minutes. The milk solids may start to brown and float to the side. That’s ok! You want that. That is giving the ghee a deep nutty flavor.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

5

4.  When it the bubbling slows and the browned milk solids start to fall to the bottom of the pan, your ghee is ready to be strained.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Strain any browned bits out.

5.  If you are using a mason jar, place 3 layers of cheesecloth over the mouth of the jar and loosely screw on the lid. You want to make sure that the cheesecloth has a little give to it. Notice in the photo above the gap between the cloth and the rim of the lid. Strain any browned bits or foam out.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

This will be HOT. Do not grab it right away!

6.  Discard the cheesecloth. BE CAREFUL! The rim, jar, and ghee will be hot! Let it cool for a bit before you start to handle it.

Ghee - Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com

Ta da!

When it cools, it will solidify and turn a nice silky color. You can just scoop out however much you need and start cooking. Since the milk proteins have been removed, you do not need to refrigerate your ghee; however, I do to be on the safe side.

Now, stop reading and go make some ghee!

Heart-Shaped Origami Bookmark

Hello, Internet! I have missed you. I have been MIA on the blog for the last six weeks because I have been furiously trying to find a job. I never dreamed it would be as hard as it was to get a teaching job, but I am happy to report that I will be teaching 7th/8th grade Language Arts come fall (read: in 2 weeks. Eek!). Woo hoo!

I have a pin board called For My Future Classroom. It was a space for me to collect a bunch of teaching-related ideas since I didn’t know what grade I would be teaching up until a few days ago. Now that I know, I have a new board called Teaching Middle School¬†and have been furiously trying to weed through my old pins and find new pins. This got me thinking about the state of all of my other pin boards, and I went a little organization crazy. When I first joined Pinterest, I would pin things without verifying the content or the links. Thus, I had an unintentionally large collection of pins that led nowhere. Nothing is more frustrating than seeing a fabulous pin and having it lead to nowhere!

I spent a good amount of last week cleaning up my Pinterest boards. I worked very hard verifying links, writing meaningful comments on each images, and choosing engaging cover images. I still have a few boards to go through, but I am about 85% finished. I hope you enjoy my shiny, new, well-organized collection of pins!

While going through my Gettin’ Crafty¬†board, I stumbled upon a pin for a heart-shaped origami bookmark.

Cucina Kristina | cucinakristina.com | heart shaped bookmark

I love reading!

I followed this video tutorial from The Cheese Thief¬†using a piece of paper that I cut from a magazine advertisement. She recommends using a 4 inch x 4 inch square in her video, but I found this to be slightly too small to manage the smaller folds. I used a 4.5 inch x 4.5 inch square and felt that the extra half-inch really made things easier for my stubby fingers. ūüôā

This bookmark is holding a spot in The New Rules of Lifting Supercharged, which I HIGHLY recommend if you would like to get stronger, leaner (or bigger if you are looking to add muscle mass), faster, and more fit.

DIY Dry-Erase Love Note Board

For the "little things"

For the “little things”

Inspired by my DIY dry-erase board, I started surfing Pinterest to get other dry-erase ideas. I was looking for something that would help me organize my pantry when I found this adorable dry-erase love note board over at A Content Housewife.

My husband and I work opposite hours so he is usually sleeping when I leave for school in the morning and gone by the time I get home from the gym at night. This is such a cute way for us to stay connected throughout the week.

You’ll need:

  • 1 frame – I got mine at Michael’s on sale for $7
  • 1 sheet of scrapbook paper – $.50

The font I used was called “Loopi” and you can download it here.

I made this for Valentine’s Day, but it would be a great one-year anniversary gift since the first anniversary is paper!

It is fun to find your partner has changed the note!

It is fun to find your partner has changed the note!

No-Cook Playdough

I never realized how difficult it can be to entertain a 3-year old for an extended period of time until yesterday. Apparently coloring on computer paper with a Bic pen and a highlighter is not a toddler’s idea of a good time. Who knew? I was frantically texting my best friend asking for quick craft ideas and she suggested making Playdough. GENIUS! Not only did the little guy enjoy helping in the kitchen, the dough kept him occupied for a few hours.

No-Cook Playdough - Cucina Kristina

Playing with Uncle Jesse

No-Cook Playdough - Cucina Kristina

Playing with homemade playdough

I didn’t have any food coloring, but as you can see, my nephew didn’t care. This went over infinitely better than my coloring idea, and took a few minutes to throw together. This would be such a fun rainy day activity!

No-Cook Playdough
Time: ~5 minutes

No-cook playdough recipe - Cucina Kristina

Our creations

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • Food coloring (optional)

Directions:

  1. Grab a little helper and combine all ingredients, except food coloring, in a bowl.
  2. Get messy! Mix by hand.
  3. Add food coloring until dough reaches desired color.

9 New Uses For Herbs

A friend of mine mentioned the other day that she wanted to start growing her own herbs because it would be cheaper than buying them every time she needs fresh herbs for a dish. For example, if a recipe calls for a sprig of rosemary, she will buy the tiny box of rosemary from the grocery store (these usually run about $3-$5 depending on the herb), use a sprig, and end up throwing the rest out because it goes bad before she uses it again. This got me thinking of ways to use up or preserve those fresh herbs.

I have been growing and drying my own herbs for years. Drying herbs is very easy and does not require any special equipment. All you do is bunch your herbs together and secure with a rubber band, then hang them upside down in a dark, dry place (closets work really well) and forget about them for a couple of weeks.

This bunch of sage is already dried, but you can see the rubber band at the top securing it together.

Cucina Kristina: Dried Sage

Dried Sage

I usually dry a bunch of different herbs at a time and hang them from one of those cheap hangers you get from the dry cleaner. I just twist the top apart, thread the rubber banded herbs onto the hanger, and hang them in my basement.

Cucina Kristina: Dry bunches of herbs on a dry cleaner hanger.

You can easily untwist these by hand.

Cucina Kristina: Dry bunches of herbs on a dry cleaner hanger.

Dried lime balm, pineapple sage, thyme, anise, and sage.

When I started this post, I only had a few ideas bouncing around in my head, but as I kept writing, the ideas kept coming. I’ve compiled a list of links and pictures of ways to use fresh and dried herbs. It’s a mix of my own ideas and links around the internet.

1. Make tea.

Fancy herbal teas can cost you a pretty penny. Why not dry those herbs and make your own teas? Simply boil water, add herbs, and steep for about 10 minutes. You could use fresh herbs to make tea, too. Nothing is stopping you!

2. Freeze fresh herbs.

When you think of preserving herbs, drying automatically comes to mind. However, you can also freeze them in their natural state for use throughout the year. There are three ways you can do this.

– The first is to freeze them whole. Spread individual leaves or sprigs onto a cookie sheet and freeze.

– The second is to use ice cube trays. Scoop 1 tablespoon of chopped herbs into each ice cube space and cover halfway with water and freeze. The herbs will float to the top, don’t worry. This is why you fill the tray only halfway at first. When frozen, cover the rest of the way with water and freeze again.

– The third is to freeze fresh herbs in olive oil.¬†This idea from The Gardner’s Eden has been floating around Pinterest for a while, but I thought it was worth mentioning in case folks hadn’t seen it. I think it is a great idea. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it!

3. Make you own potpourri.

Once your herbs are dried, you can put them in a sash and use them to scent drawers or closets. You can also spread potpourri into a decorative bowl or dish and use around your home. If you’d like, you can mix in other scents. Add cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans, or dried citrus fruits. This idea works especially well with anise, rosemary, and lavender.

4. Infuse things.

You can infuse olive oil, vinegar, or butter. These would make great gifts for any occasion. If you get fancy jars, your olive oil and vinegar can double as kitchen decor.

5. Brighten up your home or office with a fresh herb bouquet.

The smell of fresh herbs seeps through the air as you work and has a very calming effect. Also, how cute would this be for a housewarming present or a hostess gift?

Cucina Kristina: Fresh herb bouquet

Rosemary, sage, and oregano. The scent is amazing!

6. Use fresh or dried herbs as gift toppers.

I did this for a kitchen themed bridal shower and used fresh rosemary and cinnamon sticks. I thought I was a genius when I came up with the idea, but it is already all over the internet. Sigh. Maya*Made has some great photos in her post on herbs as gift toppers.

7. Make your own spice blends, rubs, or mixes.

Here are some ideas that come to mind. Use equal parts of dried herbs. Be careful when you get into the powders as they tend to be strong. You can experiment, but in the case of powders less is more.

  • Italian herb blend: Rosemary, Oregano, Basil, Thyme, Sage
  • Scarborough Fair¬†blend: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, Thyme
  • Steak/chicken rub: Oregano, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper, paprika
  • Fajita mix: Oregano, cumin, chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, salt, pepper

8. Make flavored simple syrups. Use in cocktails, mocktails, and sweet treats.

I found this awesome step-by-step tutorial from Oh My Veggies for basil simple syrup, but you could use this method for any herb. She also lists some uses for basil simple syrup to get your creative juices flowing.

9. Press herbs, frame, and use as artwork. 

We all probably pressed leaves at some point for a school project, right? Why not do the same with herbs?¬†I’ve pressed many leaves and flowers in my day using the basic method I was taught during the 80’s. I’m sure it will work the same for herbs. Lay herbs flat between two pieces of newspaper. Place a few heavy books on them and wait about 2-3 weeks for the herbs to dry in their pressed shape. They can then be framed and hung in a kitchen.

Any other ideas? Please share!

DIY Dry Erase Board

My husband was out of town this weekend so I took the opportunity to do a little fall cleaning. Have you ever noticed what a disastrous mess you have to make in order to clean out spaces and organize them? I definitely underestimated the amount of time it would take to clean up our life, and thought I could organize 3 rooms, 2 closets, and a bathroom in a single weekend. Ha! On the upside, I did manage to completely organize our living room, add some fall decorations around the house, and knock out a few DIY projects.

When I was a Communications Editor, I used to attend a promo show every February. We would get tons of sample items and one of the most useful was this magnetic dry-erase board.

Snowmen year-round?

It was flimsy and ugly, but it was free and functional so it lived on our fridge for nearly 2 years. We used it constantly to make our weekly grocery lists, and I decided that I wanted to have something a little more pleasing to the eye. So, I picked up a frame that was on sale for $8 at Michael’s and a piece of scrapbook paper ($.59 cents) and here is what we have now.

$8 frame + a piece of scrapbook paper = Super cute dry-erase board!

This project was so quick, inexpensive, and easy. I have no idea why it took me two years to get around to it. The design can be changed out to coincide with any holiday or event (birthdays, back-to-school, seasons, etc.) throughout the year. You could pick up 12 different pieces of paper, store them in the frame, and change it out every month!

How to Build Raised Garden Beds

Last year, my husband built 2 raised garden beds for our garden. I was so happy with the results, I talked him into building 2 more for me this year. They are relatively easy to build and provide many added benefits to your backyard garden including:

  • Customized soil¬†– This is probably the best benefit to a raised garden bed. It allows you to use your own mix of soil and compost to yield the best results for your plants. If you are into testing pH levels (I haven’t found this necessary yet) a raised garden bed will also allow you to group your plants for optimal growth.
  • Better drainage – A raised bed will provide your bed with better drainage. Because the soil is contained within the bed, they also help limit soil erosion.¬†
  • Extend your growing season – Raised beds warm up faster than regular ground soil which can extend your growing season. Not only can you plant seedlings earlier in a raised bed, but you can also continue to harvest longer due to increased soil temperatures.
  • Weed control – A raised garden bed allows you to put down a weed barrier before filling the bed with dirt. There is a lot of back and forth on the internet as to how necessary this is because weed barrier fabric does not stop weeds all together. However, a weed barrier plus a few extra feet of dirt will cut down on the amount of weeding you have to do throughout the summer. Personally, I think it’s worth it.
  • Better on your back – Believe it or not, raising your garden bed even a foot off the ground helps ease amount of back-bending needed to harvest and maintain your plants.

Last year I posted some photos of our garden beds without any step-by-step instructions. That is one of my most popular posts so I thought I’d post directions this time around. We used cedar wood because it is the most resistant to rot.

How to Build a Raised Garden Bed
Note:¬†Our beds are 5′ x 4′. You will have to adjust your measurements for beds of different dimensions. The instructions below are for 1 raised garden bed.

Materials:

  • Two 10-foot cedar planks and two 8-foot cedar planks. We used 2 x 6’s – Have your hardware store cut them in half for you. This will leave you with four 5-foot boards and four 4-foot boards
  • One 4 x 4 cedar board – Have your hardware store cut this into 1 and a half-foot pieces. These will be your posts.
  • 3-inch outdoor decking screws
  • Screwdriver
  • Level (optional, but helpful)

Directions:

1. Lay two of the post pieces 5 feet apart on the ground and lay the 5-foot planks across them.

DIY Raised Garden Bed - Step 1

Step 1

2. Using a straight edge, make sure the plank is flush with the edge of the post. Attach one plank at a time.

DIY Raised Garden Bed - Step 2

Step 2

3. Drill two screws through the plank and the post. It helps if you pre-drill the holes in the planks. Screws should be about an inch or so from the edges of the plank and approximately 4 inches apart.

DIY Raised Garden Bed - Step 3

Step 3

4. Repeat steps 1-3 with remaining planks.

nail location

Nail the planks to the posts. I have circled where we inserted nails above. Click to enlarge.

DIY Raised Garden Bed - Step 4

Finished bed.

A quick note: We left about an inch of space between the bottom plank and the ground. This was so we could dig small holes into the ground to help anchor the boxes. In hindsight, this was unnecessary as the boxes are heavy and pretty stable once they are filled with dirt. It is up to you as to whether or not you want to build yours this way.

DIY Raised Garden Bed - Step 4

Step 5 (optional)

5. Before removing your grass and filling your boxes with dirt, check to make sure the beds are level. I don’t think this step is necessary enough to go out and purchase a level, but if you happen to have one it is a good idea to check this before they can’t be moved.

I hope this was helpful. Happy planting!