Tuesday, December 23, 2014

~ Easy Hot Cocoa Mix ~

 This may be the easiest hot cocoa mix ever!  Really!

It has only three ingredients.  Powdered milk, sugar, and cocoa.  Simpy mix in  a large bowl, 2 1/2 - 3 cups of powdered milk, 2 cups granulated sugar, and 1 cup plus one tablespoon of baking cocoa.  Mix them together in the bowl, and you can be finished there, or in batches that will fit in your food processor, just pulse for a few seconds, and you'll have a super fine powder that will mix very nicely.  Just add hot water or milk to about 3-4 heaping teaspoons, and you're good to go!  I use about half milk/half water, but you can use any mix or just one or the other to fit your taste.  

Now pack it into a jar to give as a nice and thoughtful gift to a cocoa lover in your life, or for yourself, add a label with mixing instructions and you're done!  Easy!  It took literally about 5 minutes to make one batch of cocoa.  I made three batches in just a few more minutes, and it stores for a long time!  Just like the label says....Enjoy!  :)

Friday, December 5, 2014


Here's what you'll need for this project:

black oil sunflower seed
saved grease from cooking (bacon fat, hamburger grease, sausage grease, fat from roasts, etc)
waxed paper
knife (for cutting into individual sized cakes)
freezer space

 I really enjoy 'my' backyard birds all during the year.  During the growing season, they don't have much trouble finding food, but winter here is a different story.  The hardiest of the hardiest can manage, but life is tough for a songbird...any bird, or any critter when food is scarce though.  I  like to and enjoy helping them out a bit until the sun is shining and flowers start to bloom again.  So I feed them through the winter, usually black oil sunflower seed and corn.  I have feeders for woodpeckers and suet loving birds (and squirrels) too.  When I have leftover grease from baking, I save it up and use it to make suet cakes.  Here's how I do it, the process is very simple.

I first combine my left over grease and sunflower seeds, the amounts can vary depending on how much fat you have on hand, I had about 1 1/2 cups of fat and added enough sunflower seeds to make a consistency of cookie batter or Rice Krispie treats.  (Now I'm getting hungry!)

People will often try to save some money buying 'wild bird seed', but honestly, the cheaper seed mixes have weed seeds as fillers, and I know many birds eat weed seeds, but these are seeds that they pick through to get to the good stuff.  In other words, those seed mixes put in seeds that most birds don't eat, therefore, they sit on the ground until spring and then most likely will germinate into something you don't want growing in or near your yard.  The black oil sunflower seed runs about $10 for a 10 pound bag,   It can be found cheaper the larger bag that is bought, the price goes down the larger the bag.  I've learned from experience to stick with the minimum of sunflower seeds....every backyard critter from birds to deer love them.  They attract all kinds of birds.

After I've formed my large bird cake on a wax paper lined cookie sheet, I fold over the edges so I get nice firm sides.  This helps when it's time to cut them into cakes.  I place the cookie sheet with the bird cake into the freezer.  Once it's frozen, simply remove and cut into shapes of your choice.  I chose to cut them into 4x4 inch squares since that's the size of my suet feeders, but any size or shape will do, the birds don't discriminate!  Now, being that I don't like to waste anything, I wrapped the suet cakes in the waxed paper that I lined the cookie sheet with!  No waste!  If I were making these for gifts, which you can totally do, any bird lover would like a gift like this, I would have been more careful on cutting and wrapping, but these are for our use, so that wasn't a concern here.   I had a bit left over from cutting and I just placed the bits and pieces into a leftover container from sour cream.  These all go into a plastic or paper bag, and back into the freezer for a cold day.  

 Now on a nice cold day in January ( I can't believe I just wrote 'nice...cold...day...'), but on a nice cold day in January, I'll be able to trudge out to the back yard suet feeders and place a cake or two into the feeders, run back inside, and wait...and enjoy the bird feeding show.  And on the cheap too!  Consider that the cheapest suet cakes I can find that don't contain fillers that the birds don't like costs about $1.40 per cake, these cost a fraction of that, the cost of the seed and waxed paper.  :)  Nice return!!