Upcycled Fire Starters

Whether its a grill, fire-pit or fireplace, getting the fire going is the hardest part. There are all sorts of products out the for starting fires, and they all come with a pretty price tag. Over the years my family has tried a variety of DIY fire starters for the fire-pit at my grandparents farm. The one thing they all had in common? You still needed charcoal lighter fluid to really get the fire blazing. Alas, that day is gone!

Upcycled Firestarters

We’ve all heard at least one dryer fire story. But did you know that the same thing that causes dryer fires to be so destructive can make an amazing fire starter? Dryer lint. It is incredibly flammable but doesn’t burn out too fast. Making dryer lint the perfect fire starter.

Supplies:

  • Dryer lint
  • Empty toilet paper rolls
  • Newspaper
  • Twine

So here’s how it goes! Stuff the toilet paper rolls full of dryer lint. The tighter you pack them the longer they burn.

Fire Starter #1

Then roll the toilet paper roll up in the newspaper and immediately pinch the paper on either side of the roll. This will prevent the paper from unrolling.

Fire Starter #2

Then tie your twine around either end. Use something organic like cotton, hemp or sisal to prevent burning plastic.

Fire Starter #3

Viola! You just made your own fire starters by using up stuff you would have thrown out or recycled! Surround them with some dry kindling and you’re golden! I hope these prove to be as useful for you as they have for our family!

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

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Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

Prepare yourself for a restaurant quality bread side you’ll want to eat again and again! This version is semi-homemade because I used store-bought yeast rolls, but you can easily make rolls from my Homemade White Bread recipe for a completely homemade treat!

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

I prefer Kroger brand yeast rolls, but any yeast roll will do. If you are making rolls from scratch, omit this first step. Set 16 rolls out at room temperature until they have thawed. Once thawed, cut each roll in half.

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread #1

Melt your butter. Stir the Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt and Italian seasoning together with the butter. Toss the rolls in the mixture and pour into a greased, round cake pan. Let rise until doubled in size (about an hour depending on your kitchen temperature).

Top the rolls with the remaining mozzarella cheese before baking. Bake the rolls for 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees. Serve by itself or with my Homemade Marinara Sauce for dipping!

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread #5

Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread

  • Servings: 8-12
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 16 Frozen Yeast Rolls
  • 1/2 Cup Butter, melted
  • 1/2 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated
  • 1/2 Cup Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • 1 tsp. Parsley Flakes
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/2 tsp. Italian Seasoning

Directions

  1. Thaw the yeast rolls.
  2. Cut yeast rolls in half.
  3. Melt the butter.
  4. Combine the butter, Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup mozzarella cheese, parsley, garlic powder, salt and Italian seasoning in a bowl.
  5. Toss rolls in butter mixture.
  6. Pour roll mixture into well-greased, round cake pan.
  7. Let the rolls rise until doubled in size. Approximately 1 hour depending on kitchen temperature.
  8. Top rolls with remaining mozzarella cheese just prior to baking.
  9. Bake rolls at 350 degree Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Freezer Friendly Chicken Parmesan

My husband tends to pick the more expensive options for lunches. A very popular freezer meal brand charges $2.50 for one portion of chicken and a whole lot of pasta in the Chicken Parmesan meal. That’s HALF the tasty part for $2.50. You’ll be delighted to know that these 2 chicken fillet portions will only cost you $1.75 each! I know I was!

Chicken Parmesan (Freezer Friendly)

I hadn’t ever fried anything before making this, but after a few batches I feel like an old pro. First, I prefer canola oil for two reasons. It doesn’t affect the flavor of the breading and it has a higher flame point than olive oil. The flame point is the temperature at which the oil will catch fire, and because I’m a big old chicken… I prefer a higher flame point.

The first thing to do is prepare your chicken. After playing around with it, two smaller portions of chicken reheat much better than one large portion. If you are serving immediately this obviously is a mute point. Cut up all of your chicken.

Chicken Parmesan #1

Then I set up my assembly line of chicken, seasoned flour, egg wash, bread crumbs and a plate for the breaded chicken.  Each piece of chicken gets dredged in all three dipping stations. Flour first, then the egg wash and finally a heavy coat of bread crumbs.

Repeat this process until all of the chicken fillets have been breaded. You’ll want to fully attend to them once they are in the frying pan, and you don’t want to leave the hot oil unattended.

Chicken Parmesan #5

Now you want to prepare your frying pan. You only need about 1 cup of oil, potentially a little more if you have a really large frying pan. Keep in mind it only needs to cover one side of the chicken. Heat the oil on medium-high heat until the oil starts to become wavy. Once the oil is ready, cook the fillets for about 1 minute on each side. You want the breading golden brown but not burnt.

After both sides are golden brown place the fillets on a broiler pan. (I jerry-rig my own with a cooling rack on a foil-lined sheet pan.) Top each fillet with a generous amount of my Homemade Marinara Sauce, then grated Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.

Then you bake them for 8-10 minutes at 400 degrees. Make sure the chicken is cooked through and your cheese is completely melted. Then label and package in freezer safe containers (these are my favorite). When my husband takes these to work he always stores them in the fridge until lunch time, and then microwaves them for 3 minutes until heated through.

Freezer Friendly Chicken Parmesan

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Moderate
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Ingredients

  • 4 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breasts
  • 2 Cups All-Purpose Flour, salt & peppered
  • 4 Eggs + 2 Tbsp. Water, Beaten
  • 2 Cups Panko Bread Crumbs
  • 1-2 Cups Canola Oil
  • Mozzarella Cheese, grated
  • Parmesan Cheese, grated

Directions

  1. Cut chicken breasts into fillets.
  2. Mix flour, salt & pepper.
  3. Make egg wash with eggs and water.
  4. Form an assembly line with seasoned flour, egg wash and bread crumbs.
  5. Dredge chicken in flour. Tap off excess.
  6. Dredge chicken in egg wash. Let excess drip off.
  7. Dredge chicken in bread crumbs. Don’t be stingy!
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 until all fillets are breaded.
  9. Heat canola oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat until oil is wavy.
  10. Fry each fillet for 1 minute on each side or until golden brown.
  11. Place fried fillets on a broiler pan.
  12. Top with a generous portion of my Homemade Marinara Sauce.
  13. Then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
  14. Bake chicken fillets at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-10 minutes, ensuring chicken is cooked through and cheese is melted.


To reheat from frozen: Allow to thaw in the fridge from morning to lunch. Reheat in the microwave for 3 minutes or until heated through.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

I love sauce, especially red sauces. While this will always be my favorite, this marinara sauce has quickly become a must-have staple in my freezer. Its perfect for spaghetti, dipping bread or topping Freezer Friendly Chicken Parmesan. I served it over Christmas with my Cheesy Garlic Pull-Apart Bread, and I think the bread may have become a delivery system. There was no marinara left behind!

Homemade Marinara Sauce

As far as sauces go, this one is pretty quick and fool proof. The most time consuming part is letting the sauce simmer to develop the flavors.

Start by heating the olive oil on low-medium heat. The oil is ready when it looks wavy. Saute the garlic and onion until they are translucent, pictured below.

Marinara Sauce #1

I like to go ahead and open the can of tomatoes and measure out the spices while the garlic and onion are sauteing. Once they are ready, you risk them burning if you wait to add liquid.

Marinara Sauce #2

Pour in the tomatoes and spices, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30-45 minutes. By now the flavors have developed, you can adjust salt and pepper to taste. The marinara sauce is very chunky at this point. To smooth it out either use an immersion blender (like this immersion blender I got for Christmas which is so much easier to use than a conventional blender and reduces clean up) or dump the whole pot of sauce into a blender and pulse until desired consistency.

Marinara Sauce #3

Use immediately or store in freezer safe containers to use for up to 3 months.

Homemade Marinara Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. Garlic, minced
  • 2 Cans Crushed Tomatoes (28 oz.)
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • 1 tsp. Basil
  • 2 Tbsp. Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Garlic Salt
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Heat olive oil on low-medium heat until wavy.
  2. Saute garlic and onion.
  3. Add in tomatoes and spices. Reduce heat and simmer 30-45 minutes.
  4. Use immersion blender or conventional blender to smooth sauce to desired consistency.

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

 

Homemade Peppermint Patties

Peppermint patties are a refreshing treat. Even though they are packed full of sugar the sweetness is cut by the peppermint flavor which pairs perfectly with chocolate. I get asked every Christmas if I’ll be making them. They are a crowd favorite!

Don’t let yourself be intimidated by candy-making especially since this is about as straightforward as you can get. I’ll walk you through it as always!

peppermint-patties-1.jpg

First, let’s make the filling by combining the shortening, corn syrup and powdered sugar. Knead the ingredients together before adding in the peppermint oil to taste. Shape the filling into patties just slightly larger than a quarter. Freeze the patties before dipping.

Before removing the patties from the freezer, melt your chocolate according to package instructions. (You can buy the chocolate melts on sale for next to nothing at your local craft store. The link is to help you know what to buy.) Then dip your frozen patties into the chocolate with a fork. As shown above, tap off excess chocolate by tapping the fork on the side of the bowl. Place the dipped patties on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet and freeze or refrigerate until chocolate is set.

Peppermint Patty Graphic.png

Once the chocolate is set, package your peppermint patties for the perfect gift! Happy candy making!

Peppermint Patties

  • Servings: 4 Dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 1/3 C. Shortening
  • 1/3 C. Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 lb. Powdered Sugar
  • 1 lb. Milk or Dark Chocolate Melts
  • 1 Bottle Peppermint Oil Flavoring

Directions

  1. Combine shortening, corn syrup and powdered sugar together in a bowl. Knead together until well combined. (If the mixture appears too thick, add a little corn syrup. If the mixture seems too thin, add some powdered sugar.)
  2. Once filling is well combined, start adding in the peppermint oil until you have reached the desired flavor.
  3. Roll small balls of filling and flatten into a patty.
  4. Put patties on wax paper-lined cookie sheet. Freeze for 30 minutes.
  5. Melt your chocolate in a microwave safe bowl according to package instructions. Stir frequently.
  6. Using a fork, dip frozen patties into melted chocolate. Rest patty on fork and tap fork on side of bowl to knock off excess chocolate.
  7. Place dipped patties on a wax paper-lined cookie sheet.
  8. Freeze or refrigerate patties until chocolate is set to increase sheen of chocolate.

Storage: Once the chocolate is set the peppermint patties keep at room temperature.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri

Y’all! Prepare to be wowed by one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES!!! Seriously, this stovetop potpourri will make your house smell like a Christmas wonderland. Unlike my Autumn Stovetop Potpourri  which I created this year, we have been using this Christmas version for many years.

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri - My Royally Cheap Life

Boiling water is a great way to get moisture into your home during the dry winter months, but its incredibly boring! Finding a way to make it smell pretty in addition to humidifying the air was awesome! As always, I prefer to use natural fragrances to add scent to my home.

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri #2

Four ingredients makes for a simple way to make your house smell amazing. This is a great recipe to use for parties or just because. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Christmas Stovetop Potpourri

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1 Orange, sliced
  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks
  • 1/2 cup Cranberries
  • 1/2 tsp. Whole Cloves

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a large pot of water. Simmer on low-medium heat, adding water as the level decreases for as long as desired.

*Do not leave unattended.*

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Coconut Oil Eye Cream

This DIY version of an anti-wrinkle cream was one of the first things I made with coconut oil, years ago. My mom was complaining about how expensive tiny bottles of anti-wrinkle eye cream was, and I had recently read about the benefits of coconut oil on wrinkles and stretch marks.

Eye Cream Graphic

Most drugstore wrinkle creams have Vitamin E in them, which made it an obvious addition. That’s it! Coconut oil & Vitamin E make an excellent anti-wrinkle cream both safe and gentle enough to use on your whole face, including around your eyes.

Melt 1/4 cup of coconut oil in a double-boiler. Once the coconut oil is completely melted, remove it from the heat. Stir in 10 drops of Vitamin E Oil. Pour into a jar and allow to cool before using. Use once or twice a day.

For quality ingredients see My Favorite Ingredients.

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

 

$aving by Freezing – Learn What to Freeze, What NOT to Freeze & How to Freeze It

25 Poppasome Tokens of Appreciation

Approximately three years ago, when I started making freezer meals, I started researching what can be frozen to save money. I still find more items to freeze all the time, but I have yet to find a comprehensive list that covers all the items I’ve started freezing. That meant it was time to make one! Plus, I have to share what has helped save us hundreds over the years.

There are a couple ways to save money by freezing food. The first is by stocking up on in-season or sale items while the cost is low. Example: When butter is on sale for your stock-up price (my stock-up price is $2.50 and under) or berries from our berry bushes. The second is by freezing left-over product. Example: Buying buttermilk for a recipe? Freeze the remainder in pre-portioned amounts to thaw for future recipes.

Here’s a list of what you can freeze and how to freeze it!

  • Casseroles – Assemble in foil pans with lids and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before cooking according to the recipe. (Avoid casseroles containing cooked potatoes or rice.)
  • Berries – Wash and dry berries. Spread out onto a cookie sheet so the berries aren’t touching and freeze overnight. Place frozen berries in a freezer bag.
  • Milk, Buttermilk or Cream – If you’ve bought more than you’ll use either measure out in 1/2 cup or 1 cup portions or freeze in an ice cube tray. Thaw when needed. Just be sure to leave some extra room in the container for expansion.
  • Soups & Stews – Just avoid milk or cream based soups. If you do want to make-ahead, add everything except the dairy, freeze and add the dairy when reheating.
  • Flours & Meals – Since I started baking from scratch on a regular basis, I buy flour in bulk. 25 lb sack of flour. I keep a large jar of flour in my kitchen, but the rest gets divided into freezer bags and kept until I need a refill. I also keep our corn meal from the farmers market in the freezer. Freezing flours and meals extends their shelf life and prevents any pests from taking up residence.
  • Bananas – Bananas are different than fruit or berries in freezing directions. Freeze them once borderline over-ripe for banana bread or smoothies. Peel, cut into chunks, freeze on a lined cookie sheet overnight and package into freezer bags. Store towards the back of the freezer to avoid any thawing.
  • Lemon Juice & Zest – Lemons just don’t last very long, but when I want to make my lemon cookies I don’t want to have to go to the store for lemons… Zest your lemon, spread the zest out on a cookie sheet and flash freeze. Package the zest in an airtight container. After zesting the lemon, juice your lemon and strain the pulp. Freeze in an ice cube tray; you could even freeze in tablespoon amounts!
  • Nuts – Pecans, walnuts, almonds, etc. all store wonderfully in the freezer. Especially around Christmas I can find great deals on bulk amounts of walnuts and pecans at Costco. Just keep them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
  • Almond milk – This was a recent discovery! I like to keep it around for protein smoothies, but I never seem to use it up before it expires. Freeze into ice cubes and add to smoothies in place of ice cubes to make them extra creamy. Yum!
  • Meat (cooked or uncooked) – We buy most meat in bulk. When freezing meat, only freeze it once. Either freeze it uncooked then thaw it to cook but don’t refreeze, or cook the meat before freezing.
  • Cookie Dough – Anytime I’m making cookies I go ahead and make a double-batch just so I’ll have some in the freezer. To freeze cookie dough either shape into balls, flash freeze & package in freezer bags or roll into a log you can cut off and wrap in plastic wrap & foil.
  • Bread & Baked Goods – Baked breads, cookies, muffins and pies all keep very well in the freeze. Just let them cool completely before wrapping in plastic wrap and freezer paper.
  • Dough – Pizza dough, pie crust, bread dough and puff pastry all seem to keep forever in the freezer. Two boxes of pie crust cost $5.75, but this bulk pie crust recipe makes the equivalent of 10 boxes for $5.23 (the ingredients I needed to buy). More directions on freezing dough below.
  • Cheese – I like to buy shredded cheese when it’s on sale. Cheese will keep for about a year in the freezer.

Here are some important things to note:

  • When meat or produce are frozen, some of the cells burst from the expansion of water. For this reason, it is imperative to only freeze these items once. For example, freeze before or after cooking, but don’t freeze, thaw, cook and refreeze – even though this is not a food contamination issue. Each time the food is frozen the taste will be affected. Repeated freezing causes the taste to suffer. *Once frozen, cooked food is thawed NEVER return it to the freezer as this increases your risk of food borne illnesses.*
  • To decrease the risk of freezer burn, allow cooked food to cool at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. This will decrease steam and condensation within the container. Decrease moisture and decrease damaging ice crystals!
  • Freezing yeast dough: To freeze yeast dough that only requires one proof, wrap in plastic wrap immediately after preparation and freeze. To freeze yeast dough requiring two proofs, let it rise the first time, shape into loaves/breadsticks/rolls, freeze as shaped (whether in a loaf pan or muffin tin) before wrapping in plastic wrap and freezing. Remove from freezer, place in or on baking dish, allow to thaw, rise and bake per recipe.
  • Freezing dough that doesn’t need to rise is simple. After preparing the dough, shape into how you want it stored, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze.

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Freezer Meal Prep Tips

As I sat preparing for my next freezer meal marathon, I knew it was time to share what I have learned with you. I started making freezer meals about 3 years ago. There has been loads of research, experiments and some pretty remarkable failures. Haha! But every time I make a freezer meal, I learn something new.

Freezer Meals Graphic.png

One of the experiments was how to go about making freezer meals. There are multiple methods to packing your freezer: making extra and freezing it, making one to two dishes a weekend or dedicating one day every month (or two) to a marathon session. I prefer to give a day to freezer meal prep, and then reap the rewards for at least a month! Play around with it and figure out a routine that works for you and your family.

Start with a list of what you want to make. (Avoid: foods high in water content like melon or potatoes, recipes with soft dairy like milk/cream or sour cream, and casseroles with cooked potatoes or rice.) Once you have your list together it’s time to organize your recipes. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need to buy for each recipe and organize into a shopping list.

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Go shopping! To make your dollar go further buy in bulk wherever possible.

Let’s get cooking! Group recipes by main ingredient. For example, all your recipes with ground beef, then all the recipes with chicken and finally the recipes with sausage. Specifically if I’m making lasagna sauce, I’ll use the simmer time to assemble burritos or make enchilada filling. The more you can juggle at once the faster you finish!

Package & Label: First, you need quality packaging. I use a variety of Glad Press n’ Seal, Ziploc Freezer Bags, plastic wrap, foil pans and reusable plastic containers. You WILL NOT remember what is what or when you made it… Invest in some permanent markers and labels; include contents, date frozen and directions for cooking on each item.

What is on my freezer meal menu?

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What questions do you have about making freezer meals? Leave them in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them! Until later, happy meal prepping!

See my post on Saving Money by Freezing to learn what you can freeze to save money!

 

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.

Homemade Chest Balm

As the temperatures drop, I’ve started looking forward to hot cocoa, wonderful treats and dazzling Christmas lights. Unfortunately, all those wonderful things mean cold and flu season aren’t far off. They’ve already started giving flu shots out at the hospital… I have a talent for getting at least one chest cold every year which sometimes turns into bronchitis. When at all possible, I treat my colds naturally. A good chest balm is a must for soothing a cough at night. Think of this as all natural vapor rub.

Young Living’s Breathe Again essential oil blend is the magic ingredient in this chest balm. The blend contains peppermint, myrtle, copaiba and four types of eucalyptus to open airways. If you are interested in more information on Young Living Oils click here.

Chest Balm Graphic

To make your chest balm simply combine the coconut oil and beeswax in a double-boiler until completely melted and combined. Remove from heat. Stir in essential oil and pour into a small glass jar. Let cool at room temperature until set.

 

Rub onto chest and neck to soothe coughs, sore throat and stuffiness. For an extra boost apply to chest before a steamy shower.

Organic Chest Balm

Ingredients

  • 1/2 C. Organic Coconut Oil 
  • 2 t. Organic Beeswax Pellets
  • 20 drop Breathe Again Essential Oil

Directions

Combine coconut oil and beeswax in a double boiler until fully melted. Remove from heat and add essential oil. Pour into jar. Let sit until set.

This blog contains affiliate links from which I may receive monetary compensation. I assure you that I only recommend the products I use, personally, for me and my family. Full disclosure policy here.