Tammy's Kitchen

The Ultimate Guide to Homemade Play Dough in Winter-Themed Scents and Colors

Homemade play dough in winter-themed colors and scents

I've been wanting to make my own scented play dough ever since my friend Melissa gave us some of her homemade holiday-scented play dough 2 years ago. Melissa had the creative idea of using flavored/scented teas in place of the water called for in basic play dough, and it works fabulously, adding more variety to the extracts and oils I already have on hand.

In fact, I didn't buy anything special to make any of these kinds of play dough! The ingredients, coloring, spices, oils, extracts, and teas were all things I already had sitting around.

Ruth (3)

Homemade scented play dough is very versatile and flexible. There are a variety of ways to achieve the desired "flavors", so you can pick and choose based on what you have in your cupboards. (I resisted scraping seeds out of a real vanilla bean for my "sugar cookie dough" play dough... I mean, it's just play dough, after all.) ;)

Here is the basic homemade play dough recipe. This is the one my mom made, and is very popular in books and online -- and no wonder, because it's easy and good. :) It's safe and easy enough for the kids to do most of the making, non-toxic (but not tasty), and kind of addictive to make once you get started! ;)

Gingerbread Spice Play Dough

Basic Homemade Play Dough (makes 2 cups)
takes 5-10 minutes to mix up and 5 minutes to heat

1 cup all-purpose flour (sift if lumpy)
1/2 cup salt
2 teaspoons cream of tarter
1 cup water or cooled tea (for flavors -- see below)
1 1/2 tablespoons oil (vegetable or canola)
Food coloring, as desired

Directions:

1. In a 2-quart sauce pan, whisk together the flour, salt and cream of tarter. Add the water and oil and whisk until smooth. Add desired food coloring. (Keep in mind that the color will get slightly darker after it's heated.)

2. Place pan over low heat and cook and stir until it thickens and forms a ball (about 5 minutes for a single recipe). When it's impossible to stir and looks like a bug sticky lump, it's done! :)

3. Turn out onto the counter or a mat, scraping pan clean with a spatula. Knead the warm dough a couple times, and place in a loosely-covered container to cool. (Or, let the kids play with it right away!) Store in a sealed container or ziplock bag when not in use.

For gluten-free homemade play dough, check out Michele's recipe at Frugal Granola! :)

Hot Cocoa Play Dough

Now comes the fun part: picking out some spices, teas, oils, or extracts to add to the basic recipe above and making some holiday-themed play dough that looks and smells awesome! Seriously, if you're like me, you won't be able to stop opening the lids to smell your play doughs when you're done making them.

I'll tell you about the (successful) flavors/scents I've created, and include my as-yet-untested ideas for even more winter flavors at the bottom of this post.

Do NOT worry if you don't have everything listed for the flavor you want to make. Get creative and use whatever you have!! For example, I didn't have all of these teas on hand so I used vanilla or vanilla caramel tea in a number of the recipes. I like to buy Bigelow's holiday teas on clearance or on sale with a coupon, but it's also okay to use something else!

Think of these recipes as a starting point to get you going, okay? :)

Eliyahu (5)

Ready? Here is:

Fir Tree / Evergreen (green)
Sugar Cookie Dough (tan)
Peppermint Stick / Candy Cane (pink)
Egg Nog (yellow)
Gingerbread Spice (brown)
Orange / Orange Spice (orange)
Hot Cocoa (dark brown)
Cinnamon Stick (red)

More ideas for holiday-themed play doughs

Tips for making homemade play dough

How cheap is homemade play dough?

Fir Tree / Evergreen Play Dough

Fir Tree / Evergreen Play Dough

This evergreen tree scented play dough is one of my favorites. It just smells SO GOOD! If you only have rosemary on hand, it will still smell wonderful, but I had pine and fir oils which put it over the top. I could smell this all day! It's like a walk in the woods...

Water: Use 2 tablespoons of dried rosemary and just over 8 ounces of boiling water to make a "tea"/infusion. Let steep for 20+ minutes. Strain out the rosemary and use 1 cup of your rosemary "tea" in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: Add powdered rosemary

Oils and extracts: Pine oil, fir needle oil, or rosemary oil

Coloring: As green as you want it! :)

Sugar Cookie Dough Play Dough

Sugar Cookie Dough Play Dough

I love how this scent turned out, and Joshua says it's his favorite. It smells good enough to eat! I wanted to scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean to add to this play dough, but didn't. ;) It's still amazing. (Coconut extract is awesome.)

Water: Use Bigelow's vanilla tea or vanilla caramel tea. Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: None

Oils and extracts: 2 teaspoons vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon coconut extract

Coloring: None needed, especially if you're using dark tea and dark vanilla extract! :)

Peppermint Stick / Candy Cane Play Dough

Peppermint Stick / Candy Cane Play Dough

This one's easy, affordable (peppermint oil is one of the cheapest!), and Ruth's personal favorite since it's PINK. I love the smell. Peppermint is always a winner.

Water: Brew some peppermint tea, allow to cool, and use 1 cup of peppermint tea in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: None

Oils and extracts: Use a tablespoon of peppermint extract, OR about 10 drops of peppermint oil (and 2 drops of spearmint oil, optional)

Coloring: Any shade of pink! If you're not making Fir/Pine play dough, you could make this one green instead of pink.

Egg Nog Play Dough

Egg Nog Play Dough

I think this one smells just like real egg nog! Yummy. :)

Water: Use Bigelow's EggNogg'n flavored tea. Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

If you have everything else for this flavor, you can just use plain water and it will still be GREAT.

Spices: 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Oils and extracts: 1 teaspoon rum extract and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coloring: Yellow!

Gingerbread Spice Play Dough

Gingerbread Spice Play Dough

This is Eliyahu's favorite. He calls it "the one that looks like sand" because he keeps forgetting the word "gingerbread". Mmmmm....

Water: Use Bigelow's Ginger Snappish flavored tea. Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: 1+ tablespoon powdered ginger, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves, and 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Oils and extracts: 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and 1/4 teaspoon maple flavoring

Coloring: None needed! :)

Orange Spice Play Dough

Orange Spice Play Dough

Having good quality orange oil on hand made this one a no-brainer. We love this Boyajian pure orange oil, and it's cheaper than buying the little bottles of orange extract at the grocery store (plus it's way better).

Water: Use orange spice tea (lots of brands have this flavor!). Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: 1 teaspoon ground cloves, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Oils and extracts: Orange extract or oil (quite a bit -- until it smells really orange-y), cinnamon oil (3 drops), and clove oil (2 drops)

Coloring: Orange! Due to the ground spices I added, my orange spice play dough is a darker shade.

Hot Cocoa Play Dough

Hot Cocoa Play Dough

I used dark cocoa powder to make this hot cocoa play dough super chocolate-y. Yum!

Water: Use plain water as called for in the basic recipe, but add an additional tablespoon of oil to the recipe (2 1/2 tablespoons of oil total).

Spices: 1/3 cup cocoa powder (baking cocoa, NOT sweetened)

Oils and extracts: 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Coloring: None needed

Cinnamon Stick Play Dough

Cinnamon Stick Play Dough

I love the cinnamon scent, but couldn't get the red shade I was after. Brown may be a better color for cinnamon play dough, allowing you to add plenty of ground cinnamon! :)

Water: Use Cinnamon Spice tea or herbal tea (any brand). Steep teabag in just over 8 ounces of boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Remove tea bag and use 1 cup of the tea (cooled or warm, but not hot) in place of the water in the basic recipe.

Spices: 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon (or more, if making brown play dough)

Oils and extracts: Cinnamon oil

Coloring: I used red, but will probably go with brown next time.

Yehoshua (7), making play dough
Yehoshua (7) stirs the play dough for a couple minutes, until it's too thick for him

When I get time to try new flavors, I'll update this post! Here are more of my ideas:

Chai Tea Play Dough -- Using chai tea, chai spices, and/or spice oils

Mocha / Cappuccino Play Dough -- Use strong instant coffee, cocoa powder, and vanilla extract

Caramel Apple Play Dough -- Use caramel and apple flavored teas, ground cinnamon, and vanilla extract

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough -- Use Bigelow's Pumpkin Spice tea and ground pumpkin pie spices

Chocolate Mint Play Dough -- Like the Hot Cocoa Play Dough above, but add mint extract or oil

Sugar Plum Fairy Play Dough -- Use Celestial Seasonings Sugar Plum tea or Bigelow's Cherry Almond tea, vanilla and almond extracts, and color it purple!

As you can see, the possibilities are practically endless! :) I'd love to hear your flavor ideas in the comments section below! :)

Fir Tree / Evergreen Play Dough

Tips for making homemade play dough:

Adding the oils and extracts:

I added most of my oils or extracts at the beginning, before heating the play dough. You can stir them in at the end, but I found the dough thickened so quickly (and I had little helpers!) that it was easier to just add at the beginning. In the event that you forget to add them at the end, you could also carefully knead them into the play dough (I've done that, and it worked okay).

Cream of tarter:

Find an affordable source for cream of tarter, since that is the most expensive main ingredient. I got mine at a bulk food store. It's worth checking at your health food store, bulk food store, or bulk section of your grocery store for the best price, especially if you want to make lots of play dough and give as affordable gifts! :)

Adding glitter:

You can also add glitter to your play dough after it's made (just knead it in). Note: It will take a lot of glitter. :)

Storing the play dough:

Jars are nice (and affordable and reusable!), and you can dress them up with fabric, ribbons, and cute tags. I've found that packing the play dough into a jar can make it difficult to pull out easily, though. I prefer shallow, wide jars or else plastic containers instead for ease of use. :)

Sugar Cookie Dough Play Dough

How cheap is homemade play dough?

Just for fun, Joshua and I figured out how much it costs to make a batch of homemade play dough. I used the prices we pay at Costco for our ingredients.

For 2 cups of play dough (basic recipe):

1 cup all-purpose flour -- $0.09 (50#/$14.95)
1/2 cup salt -- $0.05 (25#/$3.95)
2 teaspoons cream of tarter -- $0.10 ($5.45/lb)
1 cup water -- $0.00
1 1/2 tablespoons oil -- $0.03 ($9.59/5qt)

Total cost for basic play dough: $0.27 for 2 cups

The expensive part comes in when you start adding all the "extras" like oils and extracts, or buying special containers or supplies to "dress it up" as gifts. ;)

Extracts for Egg Nog Play Dough
Vanilla, rum, and nutmeg made Egg Nog Play Dough smell just like real egg nog!

By the way...

Moshe's version of "helping"

...this is what Moshe did yesterday to "help" while we made play dough in the kitchen. The contents of our recycling trash can are just so exciting... ;)

From scratch: Perfect chewy oatmeal chocolate chip granola bars (new recipe)

I love granola bars. But most of the ones from the store (unless you're spending an arm and a leg and getting the super duper healthy ones) are like an on-the-go cookie in my opinion. :)

I tried Christy's recipe for "Perfect Granola Bars" this week. And this recipe does taste like a really good chewy oatmeal chocolate chip cookie! So, I tend to think of these as more of a dessert than something that could be regularly called "breakfast".

The kids and I loved these granola bars. We made two batches and they were all eaten in less than 24 hours, if that's saying anything. (Actually, it's probably saying something about my lack of self-control and bad parenting if we ate 36 granola bars in 24 hours' time!!)

What I like about these Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Granola Bars:

They're easy to make. Really, 15 minutes and they're ready to go into the oven.

The recipe seems foolproof. Perfect results --yes, all two times I've made them this week. ;) But really, after dealing with fall-apart granola bars and takes-too-many-special-ingredients granola bars, these are like magic.

They're cooked enough. The oats don't taste raw to me. :) I love the hearty flavor of the oats, whole wheat, and honey. Joshua said he prefers his granola bars without much of a honey taste; I couldn't really even taste the honey. At any rate, they're much better than the gooey "chewy" granola bars from the store, in my opinion. :)

They have chocolate.

...and they're easy to make. If you have 15 minutes, you can pop a dish of these in the oven! (FYI, if you're seven years old like my son, it might take twice as long as that.) :)

I adapted Christy's recipe to use slightly less butter, and expanded the instructions a little so you don't end up smearing chocolate chips everywhere. But really, I hardly changed a thing -- her recipe is excellent! :)


I thought it would be interesting to do a cost breakdown for these granola bars. My kitchen scale was helpful for this since I buy everything in bulk quantities. (And my math skills are up to speed since Yehoshua is doing multiplication and division now.) ;)

Cost breakdown for Chewy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Granola Bars:
I purchased my ingredients at Costco, so I'm using the prices I paid there.

1 1/2 sticks butter -- $0.83 (at $2.20/lb.)

1/2 cup honey -- $0.78 (5.4 oz. at $13.99/96oz.)

1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar -- $0.12 (at $3.39 for 9 1/3 cups)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract -- $0.07 (from my 16oz. Costco bottle)

1 cup freshly ground whole wheat flour -- $0.20 (.28 lb at $0.60/lb. from WinCo)

1 teaspoon baking soda -- ? It came in a 10# bag at Costco! :)

4 1/2 cups rolled oats -- $0.63 (.91lb. at $0.69lb.)

6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips -- $0.58 ($6.99/72oz. w/coupon at Costco)

Total cost for 18 granola bars: $3.21 ($0.18 per bar)

My granola bars weighed an average of 2.3 ounces each with a calorie count of 261 per bar (~50% larger than the average store-bought granola bar). Obviously, these granola bars aren't made with puffed rice or other "light" ingredients! ;)

My next quest? Create a healthier protein- and fiber-rich chewy granola bar (without using peanut butter). Any ideas? :)

Related: My mom's Energy Bars recipe is really good (and chewy), but I don't always have corn syrup on hand (it uses 1/2 cup). In fact, I basically never have corn syrup on hand. And they're not quite as good (chewy + holding together) made with honey instead of corn syrup. But if you do have corn syrup, Energy Bars are a great on-the-go granola bar recipe, as well! :)

Easy weeknight dinner: Baked Teriyaki Salmon (new recipe)

I've said that salmon is my favorite fish, and it was is. (There was that run-in I had with sea bass last year... indescribable.)

Strangely enough, one of the first indications that I was pregnant this time around was that our normal 1-2 servings of salmon per week was totally not okay with my stomach.

I suddenly could relate to someone who says "I don't like salmon". Joshua's grilled salmon, which I normally love, was stomach-turning. I'd eat one bite and then fill up on vegetables or something else.

But! We did make Baked Teriyaki Salmon that I liked, even when all other salmon was a no-go. Hey, I practice the "take at least one bite" rule we have for the children. ;)

Baked Teriyaki Salmon recipe
Teriyaki Salmon, ready to be baked


Baked Teriyaki Salmon is super easy to prepare and has a slightly sweet teriyaki flavor and lovely brown color on the outside. I love salmon + teriyaki... they go together wonderfully! And while normally I prefer salmon grilled rather than baked, I really like how this teriyaki salmon turns out in the oven. It's just as good as the grilled version (see additional notes of the recipe for grilling instructions).

If you're on top of things, you can serve Baked Teriyaki Salmon with some rice (or rice noodles) and stir-fried veggies. So far, I've just served ours with steamed broccoli or carrots and rice.

Thankfully, I'm getting past the "I can't stomach salmon" ordeal. That's a very good thing since we still have 25 pounds of salmon in our freezer. Having affordable access to good fish is such a blessing! The Alaskan salmon we get here in Washington is just so much better than anything we ever bought on sale in Ohio or Missouri. As I've said before, good fish will NOT taste "fishy"! ;)


If you do have salmon in your freezer, Baked Teriyaki Salmon will take you about 5 minutes to mix up the marinade and then baking it is the only other hands-on part. (Do plan ahead so the salmon can marinate for a few hours or even longer.)

I pulled out frozen salmon fillets Sunday evening and put them in the fridge to thaw and marinate for dinner tonight (Tuesday). Super simple and the whole family loved it, as always! :)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Frugal potholders tip, kitchen sink sprayer tip, and more!

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I can't decide on a kitchen tip today. Nothing in my photo folder seems ingenious enough to have a whole post dedicated to it. So, here are some random kitchen tips for this week! :)

Homemade pot holders

If you can do basic sewing, homemade potholders are easy to make. My mom came up with the idea of using a few layers of fabric from an old sweatshirt for the filling/padding in the potholders. We've been making them that way now for many years. If you have inexpensive (or hand-me-down) fabric for the outside, "upcycle" an old sweatshirt and you've got the materials needed for potholders! :)

Kitchen sink sprayer tips

I love that the kitchen sink in this rental has a sprayer! Some of my favorite uses for it:

1. Spraying hot water into the sink to make extra-bubbly dish water without using extra dish soap

2. Rinsing dry beans or lentils before cooking them in my crock pot

3. Rinsing wire cooling racks after washing

4. Rinsing/cleaning the sink after tooth-brushing time :)

5. Spraying out my plastic dish-washing brush when stuff gets stuck in it

Rinse out empty chocolate syrup bottle

Empty chocolate syrup bottle? I rinsed it with a little hot water and added it to my morning coffee. :) We don't usually buy chocolate syrup though. It tastes too "fake" to me. :)

Oven circulation tip
Blurry picture of pumpkin dinner rolls :P :)

When baking multiple things in the oven at the same time, stagger the sheets or pans and rotate half way through baking (switch the bottom one to the top and vice versa). Always leave at least an inch of space between the oven walls and the pans (and other pans!) so the air can circulate, and your food will cook more evenly.

Where is Ruth?

And lastly (off-topic), can you find Ruth (3) in this picture? She disappeared one day and I had to check every room a couple times before I finally found her in here! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, we need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Using frozen food (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
2. Adding milk and cheese to soups (The Local Cook)
3. Soft and fresh cookies tip (Living So Abundantly)
4. Powdered egg replacer (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
5. Keep things from boiling/running over (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
6. Manicotti, noodles, and frozen banana bread tips (The Bz House That Love Built)
7. Homemade chicken stock tips (Jessica at Delicious Obsessions)
8. Using spaghetti as a cake tester (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
9. Rotating food storage (Anna at Kolfinna's Korner)

Giveaway: Smart Sweets ebook (and free apple crisp download!)

Smart Sweets ebook

Remember how much I liked The Everything Beans Book? I was excited when Katie told me she had another ebook coming out mid-November!

Smart Sweets is a healthy desserts ebook with 30 tried-and-true recipes and lots of "real food" tips for making yummy kitchen treats on the healthier side.

I received a review copy and enjoyed thumbing through it. Smart Sweets is packed with info, like all of Katie's work. If you're looking for healthier dessert recipes that have been tested and are reliable, Smart Sweets is a great resource!

I've been able to follow Katie's recipes without any problem and with good results. Sometimes a recipe is a little open-ended, as Katie says, "No one tells you how much pizza sauce to put on a pizza... right?" Ummm, I am that person who gives pizza sauce measurements in my pizza recipes! ;)

The handy FAQs at the end of each recipe stretch the recipes to 2+ pages in length, but will leave you confident that you're on the right track, even with making substitutions or variations on the recipe itself. Smart Sweets is 89 pages in all.

One of the recipes in Smart Sweets is for apple crisp. You can get a FREE download of this recipe here! I had fresh apples from Joshua's parents' tree and made the crock pot apple crisp version of the recipe.

I wasn't sure how apple crisp in the crock pot would turn out, but we all ended up liking it! Of course, it wasn't quite like baked apple crisp. We served it in bowls, with real whipped cream. I liked the spice combination and the topping was soft enough for Joshua to chew. And, it was kinda fun to make a dessert in the crock pot! ;)

Go here to get the FREE apple crisp download, which is an excerpt from Smart Sweets!

Katie is also giving away 5 copies of Smart Sweets to readers here!

How to enter the giveaway (5 winners!):

1. Go here and scroll down to see the table of contents for Smart Sweets.

2. Come back here and leave a comment telling me which recipe looks most interesting to you -- and (if you're not logged in) be sure to include a way for me to contact you if you win!

Giveaway is open from Monday, December 5 through Friday, December 9, 2011.

Five winners will be selected using random.org and announced on Monday, December 12, 2011.

Discount code:

Katie has also generously offered a 25% discount on Smart Sweets! (If you're selected as a winner in the giveaway, you will receive a refund for the ebook you purchased.)

Use this code to receive 25% off your order: Tammy25

This discount code is good now through December 19, 2011.

Full Disclosure:

I received a copy of Smart Sweets for review purposes. I am an affiliate for Katie, which means your purchase helps support both Katie and me as bloggers! :)

Weekly menu plan (December 5-11, 2011)

We've been trying to go grocery shopping every two weeks, but I've been running out of things! (So, our "every 2 weeks" had been turning into "every 10-12 days".) We promised ourselves that this time we'd make do without whatever we're running out of until a full 14 days has passed.

So last weekend, I bought TWO packages of eggs at Costco because 1 package (5 dozen) has been disappearing long before 2 weeks had passed. Almost on cue, I just started using from that second package today. I'm sure my egg nog cravings have nothing to do with that... ;) I have 2 1/2 gallons of milk left, which I'll try to stretch through the week (I bought 6 gallons last week). And when we do go to Costco next weekend, I'll take pictures and share prices. (I've been meaning to get back to posting my grocery shopping trips!)

Here's our menu for the week ahead:

Monday

Creamy Macaroni and Cheese, cooked peas and carrots, leftover gourmet bean soup

Tuesday

Teriyaki salmon fillets (recipe coming on Wednesday!), rice, cooked green beans (or whatever I can find in the freezer)

Wednesday

My mom's beef vegetable soup, cornmeal crescent rolls (I need better pictures of both of those because they're SO good!!) :)

Thursday

Salmon potato casserole (using leftover salmon), cooked peas and carrots

Friday

Burrito pizza (with a biscuit crust from this recipe), cooked veggies

Saturday

Depends on our plans for that day, but probably something in the slow cooker and leftover (frozen) cornmeal crescent rolls. If we have company, I'll figure out some sides to add to that. :)

Sunday

Grilled pollock (or something with pollock; we have lots to use from our freezer!), beans and rice, steamed broccoli

Baking I want to do this week:

Perfect granola bars
Make-ahead butterhorns -- I've had this recipe 10+ years and finally pulled it out for this week! :)
Homemade soft pretzels -- I have tried 4 different recipes for soft pretzels and am still looking for the perfect result! I found another one that looks promising... :)

Oatmeal for breakfast

Breakfasts:

Regular old oatmeal (x3)
Fruit smoothies (including blackberries from our freezer and homemade kefir) (x2)
Cheese and turkey sausage omelets (x2)

Lunches:

Beans with hot sauce and cheese (I will send this in Joshua's lunches too) or leftovers, bananas

Visit Organizing Junkie for more menu plans! :)

All of my weekly menu plans can be found here.

Thick and Chunky Homemade Pizza Sauce (new recipe)

This isn't my mom's pizza sauce recipe, but then I haven't had access to her bounty of garden-fresh tomatoes since we moved from small town, Ohio to the Seattle area. Whether it's apartment life or the tall trees that now shade most of our yard or the cool climate of the Pacific Northwest, I've been finding excuses to not grow tomatoes or even get out to buy tomatoes to make my own pizza sauce.

Now, I think it's totally fine to not make homemade pizza sauce... if you like the stuff from the store... which I don't really.

Yet I get these weird mental blocks where I feel like I just can't do something even when I've done it before and I know I could... if I would. Making pies has always been that challenge for me.


Recently, it's been my homemade wheat bread. I know, really! Me, the queen of homemade bread. I don't like bread from the store at all, but the last time I made my 100% whole wheat bread it flopped. Again. Seattle weather doesn't seem to be a friend to 100% whole wheat bread.

I'm going to try again, after I convince myself it will be okay and probably even turn out great. I can do this, I can do this... (Anyone else in the PNW have problems with 100% whole wheat bread??)


So back to the sauce. I finally pulled out an old recipe from a not-old friend, Sheri. (She's been mentioned here before; this post has links to some of my recipes that were from Sheri or created by Sheri!)

I hadn't made her chunky pizza sauce in 8+ years, but I made it again last month. It's actually easy to make. How could I think cooking from the pantry would be difficult, exactly? I don't know. ;)

At any rate, I'm hopefully pushing through that "can't make pizza sauce without my mom" issue, especially since I got organic canned tomatoes buy-one-get-one-free at Costco last month. And since homemade pizza sauce is just so good. :)

Have you encountered any cooking-related mental blocks lately? Dishes don't count. ;)

Can-free: Enchilada sauce (and a new enchiladas recipe!)

I do not normally like enchiladas very well. Not "real" ones, anyway.

Joshua's mom makes an enchilada casserole that's really tasty, but it involves flour tortillas and cream of chicken soup. Delicious!

My little sister Amy has her own version of enchiladas that are topped with things like shredded lettuce and tomatoes, filling that includes cream cheese, and "enchilada sauce" that's actually picante sauce. Again, it's delicious! But not really "enchiladas", you know?

Here are two reasons why I hate most "real" enchiladas:

#1. They're too hot. I can't eat them without drowning them in sour cream first!

#2. The corn tortillas taste raw to me. I love corn tortillas and prefer them over flour tortillas for tacos, but I don't like them when they taste raw.

I set out to create real enchiladas that we would all enjoy, with mostly healthy ingredients. Enchiladas that I would want to eat plain, regardless of the toppings like sour cream. Enchiladas that are affordable. Enchiladas that would use some of the corn tortillas in my fridge since Joshua can't really chew tacos very well right now. ;)


And to start, I needed enchilada sauce. I modified a recipe from a Vitamix cookbook. Guys, this enchilada sauce is awesome! I mean, it actually tastes good. And it has a flavor other than "hot". (If you want more "hot", just add some cayenne.)

Chili powder is one of the main ingredients in homemade enchilada sauce. I get my chili powder in a big bag at a bulk food store, so it wasn't a problem to whisk up this sauce.

And then make even more, because it's just so good and I'm craving enchiladas AGAIN. (Thank you, pregnancy!) I had no idea it was so simple to make homemade enchilada sauce or that it would be so good!


Next, I needed to tackle the "raw corn tortillas" issue I have with enchiladas. I'm not into frying and didn't want the bother of frying them in oil like Pioneer Woman's recipe. (Plus, that's a lot of extra calories.)

Instead, I decided to dry-fry them using my cast iron skillet and another saucepan on top. Remember my kitchen tip about my new favorite way to cook corn tortillas? It really is my favorite way to get hot, cooked, SOFT corn tortillas! :)


The resulting enchiladas were perfect. I loved them!

Joshua said "Wow, these are actually good. I'm glad I didn't tell you what I was thinking when you said you were making enchiladas for dinner." (!!!)

The kids all enjoyed them, too. When I made beef enchiladas again for lunch on the weekend, everyone was excited!

I'm positive it was the combination of my homemade enchilada sauce, cooked corn tortillas, and my homemade refried beans inside.

I'm thinking this is one of the cheaper, easier meals I can make, especially since I cook big batches of ground beef and put the extras in the freezer to pull out for quick meals. I'm also going to experiment with freezing the ready-made dish of enchiladas for an easy freezer meal. And, I'm going to experiment with meatless enchiladas (beans and cheese only). That sounds about perfect to me!

Do you like enchiladas? :)

More Than Alive giveaway winners!

Bulk herbs from More Than Alive
Part of my recent order from More Than Alive;
read about what I'm doing with these herbs in this post! :)

Thank you to everyone who entered in the giveaway from More Than Alive this week!

The 3 winners chosen using random.org are:

Heather Lynn (mhsnoe@)

Kimberly (knchock@)

Barbara (callaghan1812@)

I'll be sending you each an email with instructions for choosing your herbal tea blend or Cane Creek coffee!

The 10% discount on any order from More Than Alive (includes the Berkey water filters!) is still valid through the end of today, December 1, 2011. Discount code: 00009

Full disclosure, as always: When we purchased our Berkey water filter from More Than Alive several years ago, we were so thrilled with it that I signed up as an affiliate with More Than Alive. Purchasing through my links helps support this website. (Thank you!!) The discount code is valid with or without using my links. :)

Review and giveaway: The Money Saving Mom's Budget by Crystal Paine

The Money Saving Mom's Budget book

Giveaway details are at the bottom of this post!

The Money Saving Mom's Budget is a fresh, inspirational book to help you take charge of your finances and get more for less! From "cut the clutter" to "never pay retail", Crystal outlines simple budgeting guidelines and practical ways to make the most of what you have, whether it's time, money, or possessions.

I've been friends with Crystal for many years and, naturally, have read her blogs from the start. I admit to wondering how much new content would be presented in her book The Money Saving Mom's Budget.

I was delighted to find that her book does not read like a compilation of blog posts. ;) It's more "meaty", covers some things in-depth that are not really discussed on her blog, and is just plain encouraging! I also love the real-book format (rather than an ebook) so I think it's definitely worth the $11 to get the book!


One of the more radical stances presented:

"I believe everyone should use coupons. There. I said it. Wait. I take my statement back. If you are one of the .0002 people in America who has never touched food unless it was grown in your own yard, you make toothpaste out of tree bark, and use cloth toilet paper, then I'll exempt you. But the rest of you? You're nonexempt." (p. 86, The Money Saving Mom's Budget)

Ouch. Okay, so I do use a few coupons. At Costco. ::cough, cough:: And when I make my semi-annual trip to a store like Wal-Mart or Target, I usually have a few coupons in hand.

But how realistic is big coupon savings regularly for a larger family that buys little processed food or toiletries? The one-time frozen vegetable deal at Target is just not enough to convince me that with coupons, I can regularly get 10+ pounds of organic frozen veggies for less than $11/month, which is what I pay at Costco. (I share more reasons for doing most of our grocery shopping at Costco in this post.)

I'm probably just coupon-impaired, because Crystal says on page 87, "...you can save at least $25 to $50 for every hour you invest in strategic shopping." About 20 percent of the book discusses couponing and "the drugstore game".

I especially enjoyed the chapter "25 ways to lower your grocery bill without using coupons". Some great, practical tips like "shop every other week" (YES!) and buy in bulk (YES!). :)


Toward the end of The Money Saving Mom's Budget, Crystal reminds us to look at the return on our investment when trying to find ways to save money.

"Personally, if I'm not saving at least $20 per hour by implementing a particular frugal practice, then I'd rather invest my time elsewhere. Of course, this rule doesn't apply if it's something I really enjoy doing." (p. 143, The Money Saving Mom's Budget)

While $20 per hour sounds rather high to me (we don't earn $20/hr. in our household), it's definitely worth considering whether it's better to do something ourselves or to pay for convenience. :)

Perhaps a good exercise would be to list things that can be done "more frugally" in order of greatest ROI to least ROI, to help figure out what should be top priority.

Buying ketchup? Sure. Throwing a load of laundry in the dryer? Okay. Cooking dinner? Not optional. ;)

The Giveaway (5 winners!):

In exchange for honestly reviewing this book, I received a pre-release copy of The Money Saving Mom's Budget. I'll also get one of the final copies after it's released in January.

I'm giving away that copy here! Update: Crystal just emailed and said I can give away 5 copies here! Yay! So there will be FIVE WINNERS instead of just one!

To enter, just leave a comment on this post with one of your favorite money-saving tips, and (if you're not logged in) be sure to include a way for me to contact you if you win! :)

Giveaway is open through midnight (PST) December 31, 2011. Canada and U.S. only, please. Five winners will be chosen using random.org and The Money Saving Mom's Budget book will be shipped to the winners in January, 2012.

Links in this post are my Amazon.com affiliate links, of course. ;)

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