Monday, October 29, 2007

Biscuits, Egg McMuffins and dumplings(Edited)

I didn't realize that when I cut and pasted this recipe, it overfilled the area allowed and that the instructions weren't readable. Sorry. I usually check and try to be very careful with my posts. But I don't usually go to the page itself to check it. If ever you find another non-readable page, please let me know so I can go correct it.

I've had a request for my biscuit recipe. The Mom's angel biscuits is my favorite one.

Mom's Angel biscuits

5 cups
3 Tbs
1 Tbs
Baking Powder
1 tsp
baking SODA
1 tbs
or 1 pkg. yeast
3/4 cup
mayo or shortening
1/2 cup
warm water
2 cup
Buttermilk, warmed

1 Combine dry ingredients in bowl. Add mayo, water and warmed
buttermilk. Blend well. You can either use it now or
cover and chill. This dough will be a soft dough.
2 When ready to use, spoon a large spoonful into flour canister
and shape into a round shape. Place on greased cookie sheet.
Then turn on oven and set your cookie sheet near oven vent.
When the oven is to temperature, bake biscuits at 400 for
10-12 mins. Until golden brown.

Yield: 2 doz cat head biscuits. Eat what you want 'n' freeze the
rest. Nuke for a minute or two when you're ready to eat a
frozen one.

Cooking Tips
If you use shortening, it must be cut into the dry ingredients
before adding liquid to mix. The mayo keeps the cooked biscuits
soft - even when they've gotten cold. In other words, they
don't get that hard outer shell that regular biscuits get.

When using Mayonnaise for baking (to keep the cooked baked
good soft when it's cold) you must be sure to use REAL Mayo.
Not "Miracle Whip", not salad dressing, not "lite" or "reduced
fat" mayo, but the real stuff. Otherwise it won't work properly.

Oh, for all the Yankees (can ya'll tell I'm from the South? hehe) and my foreign friends I will explain what a "cat head" biscuit is. It's a biscuit that's the size of a cat's head. True, I swear it.
Without all the fur - fur's nasty, we don't eat that. Of course, cat is probably nasty too and we don't eat them either - unless you're from a different culture. I've heard that there are some cultures that do eat cat!

Most American's roll out their biscuit dough to about 1/2" thick and use a 2" cutter (or a kitchen glass like you'd drink water out of if you have company - no, honey, NOT the Mason jar, we only drink from one of those if we're by ourselves or on a picnic!) . Then they transfer the dough to a cookie sheet, mush the left-over, cut up dough together and reroll it until the dough is used up. That method is supposed to give you 5 dozen (That's right FIVE DOZEN) hockey pucks, I mean biscuits. And they measure 2.25" x 3/4" Just about right to play hockey, but no size to make a meal out of it. Plus, by the time it's been rolled out a couple of time, the resulting biscuits have some real chewiness to them. Makes 'em REALLY good for hockey then! If you insist on rolling and cutting, at least use an empty tuna can for the cutter (yes, you clean it first. Tuna biscuits - ewwweeeee. I don't like fish. Not much anyway. Fried catfish and smoked mullet are about my only fish eating forays. Shrimp and lobster don't count!) And for pity sakes, roll the dough out THICKLY I'm talking 1 1/2" worth of thickness. 1/2" thick biscuits - shudder!

Cat head biscuits are good size biscuits. The kind you can open up and put stuff on - like fried egg and a sausage patty, scrambled egg and bacon or sausage gravy. Substantial enough to make it a meal by itself. Who needs Micky D's? By the way, you do know that all an Egg McMuffin is is a buttered, toasted English muffin with a piece of Canadian bacon on the bottom, a fried egg on top of that and an piece of cheese topped with the other side of the muffin? So break your eggs in muffin tin sections, and bake at 350 until the yolk is just set. While the eggs cook, butter and toast your muffins and then make a batch of these all at once, wrap well, put in a zipper bag and freeze. Take one out, unwrap it from any plastic, wrap in a paper towel or cloth napkin and nuke it for 1-2 mins. Now you just saved $$$. And you know what's in it. I got one at Micky D's once and it had the root bottom slice of an onion on it. Talk about YUCK! And I took it to go, so there was no returning it. (I discovered it quite a few miles down the road!)

When I make my biscuits, I use my large serving spoon - this is larger than the regular spoons that you'd eat soup with, but smaller than the 1/2 cup size, slotted buffet-type spoons. I use this to just plop the mixed, unkneaded dough into my flour container. (This practice may be why the old recipes tell you to sift the flour. lol)

You can just scoop some flour into a mixing bowl and use that instead of getting dough particles in your flour canister. Anyway, you're wanting to take a big spoonful of dough and put it into the flour. Coat the dough with flour and shape into a round shape, with a flat bottom, tucking in the edges and making it smooth as you shape it. After doing a few, you'll get the hang of what you're doing. My biscuits start out about 3" in diameter and about 1 1/2" high. They rise and spread some as they cook so they end up larger, about 4" in diameter and about 2 1/2" high.

There's another way to make these. Take all the dough, knead it for a couple of seconds with some more flour - just enough to get it to a smooth dough instead of rough pieces of dough. Then pat it out onto your lightly greased cookie sheet and lightly score it with a knife into biscuit size portions. I'd make 5 scores the long way (6 pieces) and 3 scores the short way. (4 pieces) That would give you 24 biscuits. Don't cut all the way through the dough. Let it rise a little while the oven preheats.

Now there's one last way to make biscuits. My exMIL used to keep self-rising flour in a container. She'd pop the top, add her mayo to the top of the flour and stir it about. Then she'd add milk - yup right in the canister. She'd use her fingers to stir the milk in, then pull out some dough, shape and plop on the cookie sheet. That's a woman that's been making biscuits for 60+ YEARS. Personally, I'm not that brave. I'd have the whole canister oozing milk.

Here's my dumpling recipe:

Dumplings x1
This is good for one or two people

1 ½ cups
2 tsp
baking powder
¾ tsp
3 tbs
shortening or mayo

¾ cup

1 °If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt
2 Measure flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Mix together
3 Cut in shortening thoroughly, until mixture looks like meal. Or use mayo and add to milk then
4 Stir in milk
5 Dip tablespoon in cold water. Dip up dough, use second spoon dipped in cold water to drop dough by spoonfuls onto hot liquid. (Instructions say to drop on meat or vegies, not in liquid, but it's always worked out in the liquid for me.
6 Cook covered, 10-15 mins or until dumplings are fluffy and then another 10 mins without the lid.

Yield: 8-10 dumplings

Dumplings x2

This is good for 2 or 3 people

3 cups
4 tsp
Baking powder
1 ½ tsp
6 tbs
shortening or mayo
1 ½ cups

1 °If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt This recipe has been doubled.
2 Measure flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Mix together
3 Cut in shortening thoroughly, until mixture looks like meal. Or add mayo to the milk.
4 Stir in milk
5 Dip tablespoon in cold water. Dip up dough, use second spoon dipped in cold water to drop dough by spoonfuls onto hot liquid. (Instructions say to drop on meat or vegies, not in liquid, but it's always worked out in the liquid for me.
6 Cook covered, 10-15 mins or until dumplings are fluffy remove lid and cook another 10 mins.

Yield: 16-20 dumplings

Dumplings x3
This is good for 3-4 people.

4 1/2 cups
2 tbs
baking powder
2 1/4 tsp
½ cup
shortening, or mayo

1 tbs
shortening or mayo
2 ¼ cups

1 °If using self-rising flour, omit baking powder and salt This recipe has been tripled.
2 Measure flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Mix together
3 Cut in shortening thoroughly, until mixture looks like meal. or add mayo to the milk.
4 Stir in milk
5 Dip tablespoon in cold water. Dip up dough, use second spoon dipped in cold water to drop dough by spoonfuls onto hot liquid. (Instructions say to drop on meat or vegies, not in liquid, but it's always worked out in the liquid for me.
6 Cook covered, 10-15 mins or until dumplings are fluffy, remove lid and cook another 10 mins.

Yield: 24-30 dumplings

My servings are based upon hungry teenagers. I'm sure regular people would eat less. I'm about sure that each large dumpling would be one serving of bread in an exchange diet.

Also, I use the same spoon to make dumplings as I do to make the angel biscuits. I cut WAY back on the SALT! We eat a lot, but don't use much salt. I don't like salty dumplings.

I haven't tried this recipe yet, but I know you can do much the same with the angle biscuit recipe.

Paula's Purty Nearly Instant Biscuits

6 cups
self-rising biscuit flour (OR 6 cups flour, plus 3 tablespoons baking powder & 1 Tbs salt)
1 cup
shortening (or mayo - if'n ya hate cutting in that bleeping shortening!) mix it with the buttermilk.

2 cups
buttermilk OR sour milk OR yogurt thinned with a little milk or water

1 This recipe is inspired from somebody's very dear friend named Paula. It involves preparing biscuits from scratch and then freezing the unbaked biscuits. Paula created the idea because her family always wanted her good biscuits for supper, and she needed a way to make them hot, and fresh, even on days when she didn't feel like baking. The results are divinely inspired.
2 First get out a large mixing bowl. Measure in the self rising biscuit flour (or flour, baking powder and salt). Add the firmly packed shortening and mash it into the flour with your fingers or a fork. DO Not Overmix. The shortening should be casually combined with the flour, and small chunks the size of dried beans should remain. This is what makes the biscuits flakey. Now stir in the buttermilk or sour milk or thinned out yogurt. Stir it up until you have a nice soft dough. Knead the dough about 10 or 12 times. NO more, No less. This activates the gluten in the flour just enough to make good biscuits. Roll the dough out into a nice thick slab. I use a rolling pin, but any sturdy jar or glass will do. Cut the dough into biscuit shapes. Use a clean can or glass rim, if you don't have a biscuit cutter. Tuna cans are just the right size for big breakfast biscuits. Continue rolling and cutting until all the dough is used up. (Or make ya some o' them cat heads or pat it into your pan and score em.)
3 Lay waxed paper on a plate or large pan. Arrange the shaped biscuit dough on the waxed paper. Freeze a couple of hours or overnight. (If I leave any bread product more than a couple of hours, they start to dry out. So freeze for a couple of hours or cover with plastic wrap.) When frozen, the biscuits can be gathered up and stashed in plastic freezer bag.
4 When you want to cook them, just take out the specific number you want and place them on a lightly oiled cookie sheet or pizza pan. Bake in a preheated 425 to 450° oven for about 10 minutes. The biscuits will rise up beautifully and will be a nice golden brown when done.
5 These biscuits are better tasting, and much cheaper than canned whack-'em-on-the-counter-biscuits. The whole recipe makes between 30 and 35 medium sized biscuits, or about 20 big breakfast size biscuits (grand-sized).

Thursday, October 25, 2007

An alternate cistern

I haven't actually made this cistern myself. I live in North Ga, and even though the state is in a "drought", we've had plenty of rain where I live. However, this is one of those ideas that I've kept in my mind - you never know when you'll need something like this.

Most houses have rain gutters with a downspout. The downspouts drain the water away from the house - unless you reroute the water to where you want it.

What I have seen done is to make a small 55-60 gal. cistern with a trash can under a downspout. They took a large, clean trash can and build a small fence around it, about 3 feet high and just a bit wider than the circumference of the can. They placed the can in the middle of it, on top of a couple of bricks and put some large gravel around the can to stabilize the outside of the can - to keep it from tipping over as it fills. They then cut the downspout so that the end was just inside of the trash can. They cut a hole in the lid, just large enough that the downspout could fit through it and let the lid close. They also covered the cut area with small screening - to keep dirt and leaves out. They also fit a small piece of screen at the top of the downspout for the same reason. You will have to make sure that you check for leaves in the gutters/downspout or it will block the downspout from draining.

You can make one of these for each corner of the house. That would be about 240 gals. of extra water. If you can have some other clean trash cans around, you could dip off the water to the other cans and keep letting your spouts funnel water to the fenced cans.

NOTE: If you DO NOT have a fenced yard or have small kids, I would use food grade 55 gal drums to do this and use a siphon to remove the water from it. Any kind of bucket - even a 3 gal bucket with water in it is a drowning hazard to a small child. Being top heavy, they fall forward and can not get back out and are dead before anyone finds them. The food drums have two 3" openings in the top. The lid is one solid piece and no one can fall into it. Also the fence keeps the barrel from being tipped over. 55 gals of water weigh a LOT and a kid pulling on it would be badly hurt if it fell on them.

I have also seen a threaded drain port about 2" from the bottom of the can/barrel. The port lets you attach a hose to it and turn water access off and on.

I have also heard of people getting a new septic tank sunk in their yards and having the flow from their downspouts funneled into that. They used a submersible sump pump (new) to drain the water as needed. Some people also put in a drain field so that when the tank is full, the water has someplace to drain to. It would depend on how much rain you get as to what you will need.

Here are some links I found:

This site has a LOT of neat stuff!

Everlasting chicken - was Magic chicken

Ok, my 18dd suggested I change the name of this post. I'd forgotten that "magic" has other connotations - pot (and I ain't talkin' 'bout what 'cha cook in!)

I thought I'd include my everlasting chicken recipe. I use this recipe to make several meals from one fryer size (3-4 pounds) chicken. You can make 1 large pot of soup, 1 large pot of either chicken and rice or chicken and dumplings or a smaller pot of each. You will also have breast meat to make another meal out of, plus more chicken meat from wings, back, neck and scraps that didn't come off with the breast and then more broth.

First I thaw my frozen chicken (if it was frozen), then wash it out, pick off any missed pin feathers and remove the giblets. I then take Mr or Ms chicken and put it into my large soup pot, cover it with water - to about 2" from the top of this large pot. I then season it with salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Adobo and poultry seasoning. Bring it all to a boil and reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for about 20 mins.

I then remove the meat from the pot. I have a partially done chicken and about 6 cups of stock.
Next I remove the legs/thigh quarter from both sides and set that aside. I preheat the oven to 350 degrees, while that's heating I re-season the chicken itself with the above spices, sans salt. I put the chicken and the giblets into a roasting pan and cook the chicken for another 30 mins or until the meat is tender.

While the breast meat is cooking, I remove the meat from the thigh/leg quarters. I put the fat, skin and bones aside, I'm going to use them again later.

When the meat is off the quarters, I then need to make some choices. What do I want to make with this batch of broth. I can make a large pot of soup, or I can wait and make the soup from the later broth I make from the scraps and bones. Normally, I make a batch of either rice or dumplings. I have a ds, Thang #2, that is a bottomless pit, so I make 3 cups of rice to the 6 cups of broth, or split the broth into two pans and make dumplings. I could just make the dumplings in one pot, but we like the fluffy dumplings and found that 2 pots made better dumplings for our taste buds than one pot did.

Chicken and Dumplings
Chicken cut or shredded into pieces
Biscuit dough (This is Southern U.S. biscuits, made with flour, salt, baking powder, milk and shortening/lard/oil. Biscuits in the rest of the English-speaking world are cookies to us. We DON'T want sweets here lol)

Make your biscuit dough with about 1/2 more milk than the recipe calls for. You don't want a stiff dough that you can knead, but you don't want soup either. It needs to be stiff enough to use a spoon to scoop it out. (if I need to post a recipe, email me and I will. It's late and I don't want to go hunting for it now. lol)

Now put the chicken and broth on and bring it to a boil, then turn it down to simmer.

To make dumplings, you will need a cup or glass of cool water and two kitchen spoons, not measuring spoons, but what we call table spoons. Bigger than what you stir your coffee/tea with, probably a soup spoon elsewhere. Here's what to do: dip one spoon in water, dip it into the dough and come up with a lump of dough on your spoon. Now dip the second spoon in the water and use it to push the dumpling into the now simmering water. Keep dipping the spoons into the water before you go for the dumpling dough and they will slide right off the spoons.

When you have all the dough into the pot, cover the pot and set the timer for 10 mins. Listen to make sure it doesn't boil over - with the lid on, you may need to turn it down just a tad, but you do want it to be simmering. At the end of 10 mins, take the lid off and let it cook for another 10 minutes. Test a top dumpling. It should be light and fluffy. The inside should be cooked. If it's still gummy, let it cook a minute or two longer and it should be done. Also note that the top dumplings will be fluffy, but the dumpling underneath will just be clumps of cooked dough. Some people like the more solid dough a lot. We don't like them as much, so that's why I use two pans - even though I could get all the dough into one pot - even when it's a triple batch of dough.

When I do two pans of broth, I double or triple my recipe to have enough fluffy dumplings. So one batch of biscuit recipe should be enough for one pot of broth for normal people.

Chicken and yellow rice - VERY easy to make
meat from 2 thigh/leg quarters
6 cups broth (add water if you're a little short on the broth. Or water and bullion if there's no broth)
3 cups rice
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp Adobo
1 tsp salt

Measure broth and rice carefully! Too much of one affects how the rice will turn out!
Put the ingredients back in the big pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low (3 on mine on a scale of low to 9, 9 being the hottest), stir well, put a tight-fitting lid on the pot and set your timer for 14 minutes. DO NOT remove the lid, stir or otherwise mess with it. LEAVE it ALONE! When the timer goes off. STILL DO NOT remove the lid, stir or otherwise mess with it! Just take it off the heat and let it sit for 10 mins.

At the end of this time, you will have perfectly cooked rice, no sticking to the bottom of the pan, no undone rice and no soupy rice - unless you've either not measured carefully, don't have a tight-fitting lid or opened the pot. I've fixed rice like this for 30 years and the only time it has ever failed is when I've gotten lazy with measuring the broth or rice. This means getting to eye level with your measuring pitcher for the liquid and using a knife to scrape the excess rice off the top of the measuring cup instead of scooping and shaking the rice sort of level.

The turmeric will give the rice a nice yellow color.

I serve this with my Aji picante (Colombian salsa)that I posted before. (And if someone will tell me how to link back to that post, I'll gladly link it for everyone.)

Salsa Colombian style (Aji Picante)
6 Roma tomatoes, or 3 regular tomatoes, diced small
1 med onion, diced small
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
red wine vinegar
olive oil

Place in a medium size bowl and mix together tomatoes, onions and peppers. Add vinegar to 1 1/2" to 2" below vegies. Pour a 1/2"-1" layer of oil over all. Add salt and stir well. Use fresh.

Back to our chicken in the oven. When it's done, remove the meat from the bone. You may save the breast meat either in two halves or shred it. You can make another meal or two from this meat. Either chicken sandwiches, chicken salad or baked breast meat with potatoes/rice, vegies and bread or salad. You will also have meat from the wings and back, as well as scraps of meat from other parts. Save these for the next round of broth-making.

More Broth
Save the skin, bones and scraps from the chicken from the oven as well as any goodness on the bottom of the roasting pan. Do NOT add the liver, this will make the broth have too strong a flavor - unless your family is just crazy about the taste of liver. I've been known to add some water to that pan and "deglaze" it, then add that to the broth pot as part of the water. Add the ones from the thigh/leg quarters. Add a couple of carrots, not peeled, just broken into about 3 pieces, 1 onion, not peeled, just cut into quarters, 1 or 2 stalks of celery - again, just broken into 3 pieces. Place into a roasting pan or into your big pot and cover well with water. Add the usual cast of characters: salt, onion powder, garlic powder, Adobo and poultry seasoning. Place in the oven at 350 for a couple of hours, replacing the water as needful or place on stovetop and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for a couple of hours. (Can put this in the crockpot too!) At the end of this time period, you have a nice broth. Strain it (I just pour it into my colendar, with a bowl underneath it to catch the broth). Toss the bones, skin and cooked out vegies. You can either put it into a container overnight, remove the fat and use; or go head and use it. The fat will pool at the top and you can skim it off with a spoon.

Chicken noodle soup
Egg noodles
Bits of chicken from deboning the chicken
Anything else you'd like to add - shredded carrots, potatoes, cooked rice instead of noodles, diced celery, diced onions, etc.
Seasonings to taste

Put the broth, noodles and bits of chicken into the soup pot along with anything else you'd like to add. Bring to a boil and lower heat. Cook until the noodles are done. If using uncooked rice, make sure you use 1 cup of rice to at least 3 cups of broth, perhaps even 4 cups of broth. You want soup, not a pot of rice.

Chicken gravy

You can also use some of the broth to make gravy and shred some chicken into it. Serve it over rice, potatoes or bread.

For each cup of broth you want to make into gravy, add 3 tablespoons of flour to another bowl. Add just enough water to make a slurry. Pour the slurry into the hot broth and bring it to a boil, stirring constantly. Adjust your seasonings.

Chicken Pot Pie
Gravy from above with some meat (or not)
pie crust, biscuit dough, corn bread dough, tortillas, mashed potatoes, etc. Enough for 1 or 2 crusts (one for top and one for bottom - if you want a bottom crust)
frozen mixed vegies
diced potatoes (see note below)

This is so simple. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Select your pan - pie plate, 9x13, cast iron skillet, casserole, whatever you want to use.
Mix gravy with meat and vegies. If you want a bottom crust, pat it into your chosen vessel, otherwise grease with your choice of stuff so you can get it out of the pan when cooked. Then pour the mixture into the pan. Top with whatever your using for a top crust. If a solid crust, cut a couple of small slits into it. Place your pan on a cookie sheet (to catch any overflows) and put in the oven for 30 minutes or so. You want to heat the food through and brown your crust.

All of these recipes can be frozen - unless you add potatoes to anything. I've heard that other people freeze potatoes, but I've never had good luck with the texture after doing that.

There you have it. One miracle with chicken.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Newly licensed - Thang #1

Okay. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I can now send the child to the store without me. On the other hand....MY BABY! What if she wrecks? What if she gets lost? Ok, so she won't get lost that easily - she's grown up around these parts. But, uhmmmm, she's not such a good driver yet. She forgets really important things like her blinker. She has a bit of trouble parking. Could all that only be because I'm in the car? Because I make her nervous? I make HER nervous??? I'm the one that used to be a paramedic. I KNOW what can happen with a car!!
And it's raining and she took her brother, Thang #2 ALL the WAY to Walmart - 16 miles from here! Without me.

Okay, breath, mom, breath. Hysterical moment over!

She's very responsible. She bought and paid cash for her own car last year. She's 18 1/2 and holds down a part-time job as a Customer Service Manager for the store where she works. She's still finishing up high school or she would be working full time. She even found a sale on a pair of name brand shoes for her brother. Regular price was $48 and with tax it came to $26 - cheaper than the cheap shoes at Wallyworld. She's been paying her own bills for about 2 years - except for a period when she couldn't find a job. She's never bounced a check on the account she's had since she was 15 1/2.

So why is my stomach in my throat? Could it be the severing of the ties? Now she can go and do without me. Now I'm not her ride any more. She's free to come and go as she wishes. Scary!

After buying Thang#2 some shoes, they went to their dad's house, ate pizza with dad, step-mom and Thang #3. Despite the hard rain which I had them wait out at dad's, they are now home safe and sound.


I may not be cut out for this phase of life. lol

And we've all grown from the experience.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

EASY Fleece shrug (like a shawl, but with arms)

Ok, it's getting cold here in North Ga. The temp was 51 at 9:30pm. I'm not going to running the heater until I can't put it off any longer. We need to put on more clothes to keep warm. So what does that have to do with a shrug and what the heck is a "shrug" anyway?

A shrug is sort of like the sleeves of a shirt/sweater, without the body of it. It goes from one wrist, over the shoulders and down to the other wrist. It's meant to add some warmth to arms and shoulders without overheating the rest of you. Unlike a shawl, it won't slip off with movement. The "sleeves" stop that from happening.

While I'm up and moving, I HATE long sleeves. Normally, I go out in the snow without a jacket, sweater or coat. I overheat very easily and really prefer to be cooler than hotter. Unfortunately, as soon as the sun sets, especially when I sit at the computer or read, my body temp seems to drop and I get COLD. To the point of miserable, cold! My right hand will be icy in no time, my feet freeze (ok, perhaps I should put some shoes/slippers on once in a while. lol) and my arms are goosebumped.

I've knitted slippers for the feet and a fingerless glove for the hand. Tonight, I realized that even with shoes on, my arms were just cold but that the rest of me was fine.

I happened to look over at a pile of material that I've been going through making various napkins, feminine protection, wipes, hankies, etc and saw a piece of scrap fleece. I bought this remnant for about $2.00 at Walmart. It's a piece that's 21" long and 60" wide. All of a sudden I got a really bright idea.

I picked up that scrap, put it over my shoulders with the 60" side going from wrist to wrist. I used a pin to mark where the "sleeve" needed to stop so that I could get in and out of it. I did that for both arms. I then turned the material so that the wrong sides were together (the sides that want to "roll" inward is the "wrong side") and pinned near where I had marked the material for the "sleeve" to stop. I held the two "sleeves" together to make sure they were even. I then zig-zagged from the wrist end to where the pin was, making sure to backstitch both at the start and end of the stitching so that the stitching wouldn't come out. I stitched about 3/8" from the edge and sewed a seam 12" long - before I ended the stitching. I just used the same thread I had been using to sew some light-colored material. (This is a black background with bright dots on it.) I trimmed the threads and turned it right-side out and slipped it on. It's working GREAT! my arms aren't cold anymore. My torso isn't hot and I have freedom of movement. The wrist ends are rather baggy, not fitted at all. When it gets really cold, I may make the wrist end tighter, but I don't think I'm going to need to.

So the mental picture is a piece of material that is a rectangle and then it's sewn up on each side so that there is a sleeve, then an open, unsewn piece of material and then a second sleeve as one continuous piece of material and that's a shrug.

I'm very heavy, so the wider piece of material is needed to cover me. If you're thinner, you could probably get away with a piece of material that was only 16"-18" long and 60" wide. If you're a smaller person and the 60" makes the sleeves too long, trim the sleeves down a bit to fit.

It's taken me longer to type this up than it did to make the shrug. I don't think it took me 15 mins from the time I thought about doing it until I was wearing it. My kind of project!!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Beef and chili burritos

I had a college roommate whose family came to visit and made this delicious concoction for dinner. It is SO good. I don't make it much any more, my kids won't eat this either. I think this is another meal I'm going to go ahead and make for me, then freeze.

Beef and chili burritos:
1 lb ground beef, browned and drained
1 onion dice and cooked with the meat - if using store-bought chili
1-2 cloves of garlic, also cooked with the meat - if using store-bought chili
2 regular cans of chili (I make my own and use 2 cups or so of it instead.)
1 can of mushrooms (really doesn't matter if it's the small or large can. One is 4 oz and the other is 8 ozs., so it will depend on how much you like mushrooms.)
1 can of black olives, sliced (Regular size can, not the little one.)
1 med onion, diced
1-2 tomatoes, diced
Shredded cheese - your choice. I usually use cheddar or jack
Sour cream
Splash of red wine vinegar (opt)
Flour tortillas - Burrito size

Brown meat and vegies if using canned chili. Drain, add chili, mushrooms and olives. Heat well on low. Place other ingredients in individual bowls to pass around as people make their own burritos.
Heat tortillas in microwave, covered with damp towel to keep warm.

When ready to make:
Place warm tortilla on plate. put 2 tablespoons of meat/chili mixture down center of tortilla. Add a tablespoon or two each of tomatoes, onion, shredded cheese and sour cream. Sprinkle with a little red wine vinegar. Fold ends up toward middle - about 1/3 each side. Then fold each side over about 1/3 to make an enclosed package. Now it's ready to eat. YUM-YUM!

My favorite vegetarian recipe

Several times a week I make vegetarian meals. At one point in time, I ate vegetarian all the time and this is the first "recipe" that I learned to make. It's pretty easy to make. I will admit that I don't measure anything with this, I just always "eyeballed" it. So the measurements are an approximation, but they really should be close. Adjust as you need to for your family and their likes (mine won't eat this. They also don't eat "chunks" in the sauce. That's why there's the real deal and then the powders - for the picky amongst us.)

Lentils and rice:
Brown Rice
water, stock or bullion
Spaghetti sauce (I make mine homemade, but you could use store-bought sauce)
Grated cheese (whatever kind you like. Cheddar, Mozzarella, Parmesan, etc.)

How much of the ingredients you need depends on how many you're wanting to feed.

I would use 1 cup of lentils to 1/2 cups of brown rice and be eating this forever. Or you could make it and freeze it. (Seems like this was 1/2 a small bag of lentils and about 1/4 - 1/2 small bag of brown rice.) This would make about 3 1/2 cups of lentils/rice - without the spaghetti sauce.

Add liquid to more than cover it. I would add about 4 - 5 cups of water, stock or what have you to the lentils/rice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and cover it. I simmer it, stirring every 5 mins or so, for 45 mins, until the grains were tender. (Take a bite of both lentils and rice and see if you like how done it is.) If there was any liquid left I used to drain it off. Now I just use less water and watch the fluid level as it cooks.

While the lentils and rice cook, I make my spaghetti sauce, but don't add any ground beef and/or sausage to it.
Spaghetti Sauce:
28 - 36 oz can of tomato sauce, puree, diced tomatoes - whatever floats your boat
1 6 oz can of Tomato paste
1 6 oz can of water (from rinsing out the tomato cans)
1 onion, diced (size of onion depends on how much sauce and how much onion you like) and/or 1 1/2 tsp onion powder
1 -2 cloves of garlic, minced and/or 1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt (we don't use much salt at our house. Up it if you need to)
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp brown sugar (opt)
1 can black olives, broken into pieces or sliced (opt)
1 can mushrooms (opt)
1 tsp cumin (opt)

Saute the onions, if you're using them until they are soft. Then mix all the rest of the ingredients together. Bring to a soft boil, lower heat to low and COVER - unless you like wiping up tomato splatters from the stove and any surrounding areas! Let simmer until the lentils/rice are done.

Once the lentils/rice are done, drain any water from the pot and mix in spaghetti sauce to make a nice consistency. You want it to be moist, but not soupy - unless you just like a lot of sauce. If there's sauce left over, freeze it in serving size portions or put in ice tray for smaller cubes to add to eggs or burritos.

To serve:
We would just put the mixture in individual bowls and then cover the top with grated/shredded cheese. Personally, I like med. sharp cheddar best. You can also serve this with sour cream.
Add a green salad and perhaps some garlic toast. YUM. Shame my kids won't eat this. sigh. I think I'm just going to make me some and freeze in meal-size portions. My roommates and I sure did like this and it's cheap - if you don't add the olives and mushrooms.

Rice bags for heating

A number of years ago, my then 10dd made us all some rice bags. She's 18 now and those bags have lasted this long and seen a lot of use.

Here's what she did:
Cut some cotton or poly/cotton fabric to a 10"x 10" square (or make a 10" x20" rectangle)
She put the wrong sides together and sewed almost all the way around the bag, left an opening to turn the bag and be able to fill it.
She then filled it with about 2 cups of rice. Just regular, long-grain, uncooked rice.
She then sewed over the opening.

Whenever we need some heat - either on an aching body part or to warm a cold bed, we place the bag in the microwave and nuke if for 1-4 minutes. The amount of time depends on the wattage of your microwave and whether or not you're using this for a heating pad or wanting to warm a bed.

BE VERY CAREFUL using this with small children or elderly person! The bags can get very hot - depending on how long you heat it. They can be heated hot enough to cause a serious burn on a child or elderly person.

Fingerless Glove

Cold weather is acomin' and my one had gets really cold. So last winter, I made myself a Fingerless glove for my right hand. It worked out really well. I also made a pair for the kids to give to their dad (my ex.- yeah, I know, but the kids...) He's a carpenter and they were worried about him being cold while working. Anyway, here's the pattern I used with my modifications at the end. I really enjoy having it to wear.

Fingerless Gloves

Materals: approx. 2 oz worsted weight yarn

Size 6 and 8 needles (straights or double points)

Needle for finishing.

Cast on:

Child/Teen/Adults 30/36/38/44

Using size 6 needles, work in K1, P1 for 3" to 5"

Begin glove:

Row 1 ,3, 5,[7]: Knit [if you need to change length to thumb]

Row 2 , 4, 6,[8] : Purl [if you need to change length to thumb]

Row 7[9]: Knit 14/17/18/21 stitches. Place marker, K 2, Place Marker, Knit to end

Row 8[10]: Purl

Row 9[11]: K across to markers slip marker, Increase in each of the two stitches (4 stitches), slip marker, knit across

Row 10 [12], Purl

Row 11 [13]: Knit to marker, slip marker, inc in first stitch, k in following stitches, inc in last stitch (6 stitches), knit across

Row 12 [14]: Purl

Row 13 [15]: Knit to marker, slip marker, inc in first stitch, k in following stitches, inc in last stitch (8 stitches), knit across

Row 14 [16]: Purl to marker slip marker, knit 8, slip marker, Purl to end

Row 15 [17]: Knit to marker, slip marker, Increase in first stitch, knit to last stitch and increase (10 stitches), knit across row

Row 16 [18]: Purl across to marker, slip marker, Knit 10, slip marker, purl across

Row 17 [19]: Knit across to marker, slip marker, increase in first stitch, knit to last stitch and increase (12 stitches), slip marker, knit across

Row 18 [20]: Purl to marker, slip marker, knit 12, slip marker, purl across

Row 19 [21]: Knit to marker, remover marker, bind off 12 (knit first stitch, knit next stitch and then slide the first stitch over the second stitch). Do this to marker, remove marker, then slip that last stitch back on with the rest of the to-be-knit stitches, knit it and all the others to end. (This binding off and reknitting that last slipped stitch keeps a hole from forming in bound-off area.)

Row 20 [22]: Purl across stitches

*Row 21 [23], 23 [25]: Knit

*Rows 22 [24], 24 [26]: Purl

Repeat from* for number of rows you want for palm length(remember to include the 6 rows below in calculating your length), ending with purl row.

If you want a tighter top, do six rows in K1, P1 ribbing and bind off.

Otherwise, knit six rows even and bind off.

Sew up side seam (if using straight needles) and fasten off end.


I used Size 2 needles to cast on and do the cuff

Cast on 47 stitches.

K1 P1 for 5” was how tall I made the palm.

Friday, October 12, 2007

What would you like me to blog about next?

I'm feeling like I'm a little short on ideas today. I guess I'm having writer's block.

Do any of you have something you'd like me to address? Any thing you'd like my take on?

I'm sure I can find something to ramble on about, but I was wondering if any of you had something you'd like to see or learn about.

Tortillas, chips, bean dip, nachos, taco salad and sopapillas

Ok, I also promised Lib I'd post a recipe for tortillas. I usually make flour tortillas, but I recently bought some Masa Harina to make corn tortillas. I've yet to try it but when I do, I'll let you guys know how it worked out.

Also, please note. I've been cooking alone since I was 9 years old. I'm now 54. I don't do a lot of measuring of spices in my recipes. I just know how much of something we like in our food. I've tried to estimate amounts for those that like to be able to measure. These measurements are a jumping off point. Remember that you can change the seasonings around in any recipe - especially if you know what your family likes. For instance, many people love fresh cilantro in their salsa and dips. I HATE the taste of cilantro, so I don't use it. My family and I don't like black pepper, so I regularly delete it from any recipe I receive. Feel free to add in what your family likes, remove what they don't like. Add more of less of a seasoning until it's got the flavor that makes your family happy. I'm of German descent. We like vinegary things. So if the salsa recipe sounds like it's too much vinegar, use less. Don't want to use olive oil, don't. Like cider vinegar instead of wine, use it instead. It will give the food a different flavor, but if you like it, use it instead. In other words, make these recipes yours.

Flour Tortillas

4 cups flour (I've used both white and whole wheat. Next time I make them with whole wheat, I'm going to add 1 Tbs of vital wheat gluten to make them more pliable.)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup lard (we've been using shortening. But take your pick - transfats or animal fat. I'll bet olive oil will work too, but I haven't tried that yet.)

Mix the flour and the salt. Cut in whatever you're using for fat. Mix in enough water to make a pliable dough. Start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed. (I've never measured the amount, I just add water and mix like pie dough until I have a pliable dough.) Knead dough until soft enough to stretch well. I break the dough into about 7-10 balls. (The fewer the balls of dough, the bigger each tortilla will be.) Let stand 30 mins, covered with a damp cloth. Then roll out paper thin or press in a tortilla press (mine was a whopping $5.00 from a friend with family in Mexico)
Cook in a medium hot skillet or griddle until tortillas start to bubble. If they start to stick, wipe the bottom of the pan with oil. I wipe my cast iron skillets with a cloth that I've dabbed oil on before I set them on the stove. (I have more than one skillet going for all things that I'm doing a lot of - pancakes, tortillas, grilling sandwiches, etc...) I preheat the skillets to medium and then bake the tortillas in them. If the tortilla get too big a bubble going, I will prick it with a fork.

These are so good, I have to double the batch! They also freeze well.

To make some really yummy chips out of these:
Brush the top of however many tortillas you want with oil or butter. If you wanted to you can spray them with no-stick spray. You can also sprinkle tops with salt, Parmesan cheese, etc., before you toast them. Cut them into 6th or 8th. Lay pieces in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 8-10 mins. or until toasted.

5 minute beans for fillings or dip

Grind either black beans or pinto beans in a grinder to make a flour.

2 1/2 cups water
3/4 cups pinto or black bean* flour
1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
pinch of garlic powder

Directions usually tell you to whisk the flour into the boiling water. This tends to result in lumps. What I do is take the flour and put it in a large cup. I then measure out some water and use part of that to stir into the flour. I make first a paste, then a slurry that will pour, into the rest of the water when it's boiled. So for this, I'd measure out 2 cups of water. I'll only use part of the water to make the flour into a slurry - perhaps 1/2 -3/4 cups of the water. When the slurry is made, put the rest of the 2 cups of water that didn't get used into a medium pot, with the remaining 1/2 cup of the 2 1/2 cups water called for and bring it to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and add the bean slurry to the pot. Pour the slurry slowly into the water, stirring constantly - scrape the cup to get all the goodness out. Then bring the mixture back to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook 4 minutes. You can add some Picante sauce, taco sauce or salsa to this if you'd like. I also like to add some cheese to it - any kind I have on hand - cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, etc.
This will be a little thin, but will thicken on cooling and stay thick even if you re-heat it.

*Note about black bean flour
Black bean flour tends to look rather blue-grey-brown when it only cooks a short time. This is fine if your using it inside of a tortilla or taco shell. Plain, it doesn't look as appetizing. So If you're using this as a dip, nuke in a covered dish for about 5 minutes on high. It will turn a better shade of brown.

Refried bean master mix for fillings or dip
3 cups pinto or black bean* flour
1 tsp cumin
1 tbs chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder (opt)
2 tsp instant minced onions or onion powder (opt)
Mix this together and store in an airtight container. (I freeze all my flours so that they retain the vitamins, which tend to oxidize quickly after grinding. But you may choose to store this on a shelf or in your fridge.)

To prepare
Directions usually tell you to whisk the flour into the boiling water. This tends to result in lumps. What I do is take the flour and put it in a large cup. I then measure out some water and use part of that to stir into the flour. I make first a paste, then a slurry that will pour, into the rest of the water when it's boiled. So for this, I'd measure out 2 cups of water. I'll only use part of the water to make the flour into a slurry - perhaps 1/2 -3/4 cups of the water. When the slurry is made, put the rest of the 2 cups of water that didn't get used into a medium pot, with the remaining 1/2 cup of the 2 1/2 cups water called for and bring it to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and add the bean slurry to the pot. Pour the slurry slowly into the water, stirring constantly - scrape the cup to get all the goodness out. Then bring the mixture to a boil again over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook 4 minutes. You can add some Picante sauce, taco sauce or salsa to this if you'd like. I also like to add some cheese to it - any kind I have on hand - cheddar, Monterrey Jack, Pepper Jack, etc.
This will be a little thin, but will thicken on cooling and stay thick even if you re-heat it.

*Note about black bean flour
Black bean flour tends to look rather blue-grey-brown when it only cooks a short time. This is fine if your using it inside of a tortilla or taco shell. Plain, it doesn't look as appetizing. So If you're using this as a dip, nuke in a covered dish for about 5 minutes on high. It will turn a better shade of brown.

Refried bean soup
You can also use broth instead of water, thin the refried mixture out and use this for a soup. Float pieces of tortillas - either plain or toasted into chips, or Fritos. Add some cheese, tomato pieces, onions, cooked ground beef, etc. You can have dinner in like 10 mins!
Serve with tortillas - flour or corn, some salsa and sour cream.

2 avocado, mashed
juice of 1 lime - about 1-2 tbs
onion powder or minced onion
Mix together. I never measure this. Just start with 1 tsp and add to taste. Let it sit for 10-20 minutes, covered, so the flavors can meld . Press the plastic directly on top of the avocado or it will turn brown - still tastes good, just looks yucky.

Salsa Colombian style
6 Roma tomatoes, or 3 regular tomatoes, diced small
1 med onion, diced small
1 jalapeño pepper, minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
red wine vinegar
olive oil

Place in a medium size bowl and mix together tomatoes, onions and peppers. Add vinegar to 1 1/2" to 2" below vegies. Pour a 1/2"-1" layer of oil over all. Add salt and stir well. Use fresh.

Either homemade or store-bought:
Tortilla chips
Bean dip
shredded cheese
sliced black olives
Sour cream
diced tomatoes*
Diced onions*
red wine vinegar and oil*
*or salsa instead

Place the chips on a plate. Layer dip and cheese on top. Nuke for about 45 seconds - just enough to melt the cheese. Top with olives, sour cream, guacamole and either salsa or the tomatoes, onion and some vinegar and oil.

Taco Salad
Above ingredients for Nachos, plus ground beef seasoned with taco seasoning and lettuce.

crush chips, place ground beef, dip and cheese on top. Nuke to melt cheese. Then add lettuce and continue layering as for Nachos.

After rolling out dough, instead of heating it in a dry skillet, drop the dough into a pot of oil and deep fat fry them, turning once. They will puff up. Drain on a couple of towels to absorb extra grease. Sprinkle with sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar, honey, nutmeg and/or cinnamon. Eat while still warm.

Hope you enjoy these dishes as much as my kids do.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pita bread recipe for Lib

Sorry Lib to take so long to get this posted. Things have been crazy the last couple of weeks.

Pita Bread/French Bread
1 quart (4 cups) warm water
1 Tablespoon yeast
1 Tablespoon salt
4 pounds of flour (this is usually white flour, but it should work just as well with whole wheat. Throw in 2 Tbs of vital gluten for good measure with the whole wheat and it will be more pliable.)

Place 3 lbs of flour, salt and yeast in a bowl and mix together. Add warm water. Add the other 1 lb of flour as needed to make a moderately stiff dough. Let rest about 10 mins.

Pita bread:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Pinch off pieces of dough and roll out into a circle. Make SURE you don't compress the edges of the dough - the pita can't rise if you do that.You decide on how big you want your final pita to be by how big a chunk of dough you use. Usually a ball somewhere between a golf ball and a tennis ball size. Roll or pat dough to about 3/8" thick - use two pencils on either side of the dough and use the rolling pin to roll over the pencils, with the dough between the pencils. When the rolling pen is no longer flattening the dough, it will be 3/8" thick. You want a circle of dough, so you're going to have to move the dough as you roll it out. Also the pencil trick will keep you from rolling over the edges.
Bake on bottom of gas oven - yes, that is the floor of the oven. Or for an electric oven, put a cookie sheet, upside down on the lowest shelf when you preheat the oven - or use a pizza tile on the bottom shelf. It will take a pizza tile about 1 hr to get hot enough. Tastes great, but uses a lot of energy for making one batch of anything.
Bake two or three pita at a time.
Bake for about 2 mins or until golden, then turn and bake on the other side for another minute or two. They should puff up. Use tongs to handle them.

Baguettes or French bread (same thing only one is smaller and thinner than the other)
Preheat oven to 350. Roll dough into two cylindrical loaves for Baguettes or one loaf for French. Place on cookie sheet that you have sprinkled a little cornmeal onto, cover and proof 30-60 mins for the baguettes or 1-2 hrs for the French bread - until doubled. When proofed, slash the top(s). You can also dust with flour shaken through a sieve or oatmeal, then floured.
Place pan in oven, drop 1-2 tbs water onto oven floor and immediately close oven door. Bake 30 mins - until inside bread temp is 200-210 degrees.

Do we need a recipe for flour tortillas? I have several if anyone is interested.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Hot wings and curly fries

I lived in Tallahassee, FL for many years and one of my favorite places to eat was a place called "Buffalo Wings and Rings". They had the best hot wings, curly fries and a fun atmosphere to eat them in.

I now live in North GA, and even if I lived in FL, I couldn't afford to eat out. But there's a way I can still have the hot wings. Make them myself. What a novel idea. How the heck do they make them anyway?

Well, I don't know how they make them, but here's how I make them.

First, I don't buy just the wings. They went from being about .29 cents a pound to $1.70 a pound. As the craze for hot wings hit, the prices went sky high. Too much to pay for bones and a little meat. Not when a whole chicken is on sale for .79 a pound!

So I do one of two things. I either save up my wings or I use other chicken parts for "wings". It's the heat that's fun. But crispy skin is tasty too. hummmm, nutrition or taste. Your choice.

I've gotten to where when I buy a chicken, I cut it into parts and freeze the parts, not a whole bird. I can make boneless, skinless chicken parts and use the bones and skin for stock. I cut my wing tips and save for the soup pot, to go with backs, skin and bones. You can either cut the wings apart at the joint or leave them whole. I left this last batch whole. Worked just fine. I've also cut breast strips into 1" x how ever long the breast is and used those for "wings". I seal my bags well and then freeze. I thaw before using the meat.

You have two choices for cooking the meat. You can deep fry it or bake it. I bake it. It's less fuss and grease. If you fry them, you would add the sauce after they are fried.

To make chicken wings:
First, preheat oven to 425 degrees.
I prepare my baking pan by spraying it with no-stick spray. I also use a stainless steel cooling rack for a rack to bake the meat on. I also spray the rack with no-stick.

While the oven preheats, you prepare the sauce.
The sauce is comprised of two items - hot sauce and butter. The more hot sauce, the hotter the finished product. The more butter, the milder the sauce. I used about 1/2 stick of butter to about 1 1/2 cups sauce. You may want to start out with 1/2 cup hot sauce. Personally, I like "Louisiana Hot Sauce" best. Use whatever brand is available to you. (Anyone have a recipe for making homemade "hot sauce"? It is not the same thing as adding vinegar to hot peppers which is what Southerners use on greens. This hot sauce I use is red, it's not "Tabasco sauce" it has less heat than that and it's not a Tabasco pepper that is used, but is still pretty hot. I also know it's not a Jalapeño - it would be green if it was.)

Melt the butter and a bit of sauce in the microwave or on the stove top. Carefully taste the sauce and see if it's hot enough (spicy vs temperature) for you. If not, add more hot sauce or more butter. (You may need to reheat it if you add much sauce - the butter tends to cool and clump if too much cold sauce is added to it.) When it's hot enough for your taste buds, your ready to put it on the chicken.

Personally, I just dunk the chicken pieces in the sauce, coat them well and then using two fingers, pick them up and plunk them on the rack. Or you can use tongs to maneuver the chicken pieces or put the chicken on the rack, then use a brush and brush the sauce on.
If you use your fingers MAKE SURE YOU DON'T TOUCH YOUR EYES until you've washed your hands - WELL!! It will burn your skin if you touch your face or tender skin areas!

Place chicken in oven and let bake for about 20 mins and then check the pieces. You're looking for crispy skin and cooked meat. If you used skinless meat, then just make sure the meat is cooked properly. I had very large wings that I was working with and it took about 35 mins to get them baked. I really should have let them go another 5 or 10 mins to crisp the skin, but I was very hungry and since the meat was done, when ahead and ate them. I just didn't have as crispy skin as I would have had I waited a while longer.

I serve these with celery sticks, carrot sticks, Ranch or Bleu cheese dressing and a bowl of hot sauce. At "Buffalo's" this extra sauce was known as extra hot, extra wet and they poured it directly on the finished wings. Sometimes I find curly fries at the store and will buy those. I'm trying to figure out if I can use my apple peeler/corer to make curly fries. I haven't tried it yet.

Please note, I'm a Southerner. I have an asbestos tongue. The comment on the Louisiana hot sauce bottle is: "Just one drop will do you." NOT! It might do a Yankee, but not me or most of my friends. We eat the stuff straight up. So unless you're a Southerner, Hispanic or other group that eats hot foods, go light with the hot sauce until you've found the heat level that you like. That's why I suggested tasting the sauce before you use it.

Cloth napkins

Ok, I've been doing all kinds of napkins for my family and as part of a swap. And I'm throwing out the last set of instructions. Those instructions are good for the OCD types, but for someone with ADHD, FORGET IT! I got too antsy with all the burning of my fingers and tedious folding and sewing. Then I did some without doing the mitered corner and then some more without ironing. Both faster still.

One, folding down 1/2" hems is fine - if you're doing polyester and have a relatively low heat going. 1/2" on the cotton setting and I was getting scorched fingers. And I'm a VERY experienced ironer. Used to iron my dad's long sleeve white shirts he had to wear for work as well as the family ironing. This was before "wash and wear" and home clothes dryers. And I started at 9 doing that chore. If you want to make a single sided napkin, allow for a 1" hem all around, so cut them 12" x 12" and you'll end up with a 10" x 10" napkin and less burned fingers.

Two, hemming 1/4" hems is tedious at best. In the factories where they make napkins, they have special machines with special feet that make those neat little hems or they serge them.

Three, 10" x 10" napkins are too small for my liking. Yes, it is the finished size of a store-bought paper napkin. But that paper napkin is folded into 4ths and you can open it out bigger if you need to.

Four, templates are a waste of time and effort. I don't like wasting time, effort or material.
Do I really want to cut off and throw away 4" of material from the side of the material I'm cutting. Can't I just make my napkins bigger?

So after about 15 napkins, here's the new procedure.

1. I prefer bigger napkins. So I'm looking at cutting material anywhere from 13" x 13" to 18"x18". I'm not going to be measuring exactly. I will figure out how many napkins of near that size I can get out of my material. But if I have to choose between an exact square of 17", or 15" napkins that are a rectangle, I'm going with the rectangle and not wasting those never ending small pieces that we can't use, but don't want to throw away. So unless you're planning on doing fancy folds with your napkins or you've got Barbie dolls that you are making clothes for or you want the scraps for a quilt, adjust your napkin size to use the entire piece of material.

2. I've learned that the lady at the store probably hasn't cut the material evenly, no matter how hard she tries. (the person before her may not have cut it so well.) So I went through and after washing and drying the material on "hot" so it won't shrink anymore, pressing it so that it was mostly wrinkle free, I then cut a little snip at one selvage edge and tore the material across the top. Sometimes I had to resnip several times to get it to tear all the way across. Usually, after the 2nd time of running out of fabric, but still not having torn it all the way across, I'd switch sides and tear from the other side. Sometimes I'd end up with a tear that was 1" on the one side and as much as 5 inches wide at the end! I'd do this to both ends of the material. Only once did I have a cut edge that was already squared - even though some LOOKED squared. Now I'm left with "squared" material. And I want to waste time doing this why? Because I can then fold the material and know that all sides should be even. As you read on, you'll see why I want mine squared. So after squaring, I then fold the material over, selvage edge to selvage edge, keeping it even all the way down the length of the material.

3. I use a tape measure and measure across my fabric to see how much fabric I have. (Selvage edge to center and multiply by two. Then I divide that number by how big I want my napkins to be, to see how many pieces I can cut from that width. I really don't want my napkins much bigger than 17", nor smaller than about 12".

That means that if I have a piece of material that's 36" across, I can get three 12" wide or 2 that are just over 17" wide. I'm choosing just over 17". So I divide the material in two and know that when I'm ready to cut, I will cut up the middle divide to have two napkins. (The napkins will be smaller, as the hem will use up part of the original measurement.) If my material is 45" wide, I'll fold the material in thirds and have 3 pieces that are about 15" wide.

4. Next I will measure my material length. Lets say it's 2 yards long. That 72 inches. That would give me 4 napkins with a bit left over. So here's what I'm going to do with the length. I'm going to keep the material folded in half or thirds selvage edge to edge, and I'm then going to fold the material into fourths the long way by folding it in half, then in half again. Sort of like folding bed sheets. I'm going to get them as even as I can, then I'm going to place the folded material on a hard surface and start cutting apart the layers. I do this by cutting through the center of the folds. I keep the scissors so that my thumb is facing down and the back of my hand is facing up. To cut, I move the material - either sliding it forward as I cut or turning it so I'm cutting along the edge. I pull the material and scissors so that the material is taunt. I do this as I cut. I press down firmly with my free hand, near to where I'm cutting to keep the material from shifting as I cut.

Sometime, the cut isn't as straight or even as it would be if I measured, pinned and then cut. I don't care about that. We'll fix that in the sewing part.

5. Now that I have the material cut into pieces, I'm ready to sew it up. I got tired of tiny seams, so I started sewing my pieces together, making a front and back. Then I top stitched the material. It was SO much faster and easier. This means that out of the 36" x 2 yards of material, I would end up with 4 napkins, finished size would be 17" x 17". The 45" x 2 yards would give me 6 napkins, finished size would be 14" x 17".

6. Take two pieces of your material and place them with the right sides together. Start in the middle of one side and start to sew there. (There's method to this madness of starting in the middle of the material.) So if I have a piece that 17" wide, I'm going to start sewing at about 8" from the bottom edge of the material. I'm going to make my seams about 1/4" to 1/2" from the edge. I don't bother pinning the material. It stays together pretty well by itself. If the material is a little uneven when you have the right sides together, just make sure you sew far enough from the edge to catch the shorter piece of material. Sew from the middle to about 1/4" to 1/2" from the bottom corner, leaving the needle still in the material, lift the presser foot, spin the material 90 degrees, drop the presser foot and sew the entire length of that side. Do this until you get to about 3" to 4" from where you started. DO NOT sew over where you started - you've got to turn the material before you sew that opening closed.

7. When you've got to the spot you're going to leave open, clip your thread tails, then begin turning the material inside out. Personally, I start at a far corner, stick my thumb into the point and then use my fingers to "gather" the material towards the palm of my hand. Sort of like putting on a pair of socks. Then when I have the material gathered, I turn it right side out. So I have one point sticking through the opening. While I have the corner handy, I stick my trusty scissors into the point to make it "pointier". I don't snip the tip on the wrong side, nor do I get out a pin and pull the point all the way out. That's too OCD for me and napkins. If I was making a dress or wanted to fuss, I would do that. But I keep remembering my kids wiping up spills with them and then not rinsing the napkin out and it being stained. Keeps me in line with the importance of what I'm doing. Which is to say that, in a year, I'm going to be needing more that aren't stained. So don't go overboard, just get 'em made. They will be useful and you'll use them. This is for use, not for sitting and looking pretty. Unless this IS for sitting and looking pretty. Then measure and pick away, so they are perfect. I will comment, that after I'm done, mine DO look pretty. I'm the only one who would actually notice any imperfections. Well, me and anyone who doesn't have a life and wants to find fault. lol

8. So after you've turned all four points, your ready to close that opening. NO you don't have to hand stitch that bad boy closed. We're going to cheat and sew it closed while we top stitch this puppy. Here's what to do. Smooth out the napkin, turning in the edges of the opening. Now we're going to start sewing again. Start ABOVE the opening - an inch or so above it will be fine. You don't need to back sew it to lock the threads, we'll take care of that at the end. Just start sewing, keeping the two edges inside while you are sewing. You will be sewing about 1/8" from the edge. This will catch the open edges and sew them closed. Sew over the opening and continue on down to the corner. Turn it as before and keep on sewing until you get back to where you started. Now sew about an inch over where you first sewed. This will lock both the starting and ending threads, but still look nice. Trim the thread tails and you're done. No pain, no ironing - except when you pressed out most of the wrinkles before you started cutting. You will have a very pretty napkin. It probably isn't a square, it'll be more of a rectangle.

Tip on the top sewing. It bothers me to see edges that are "poofy" from not having the inside seam all the way to the edge. This happens when you top sew without ironing. So while I'm doing the top stitching, I will stop and gently grab the finished seam and work it to the edge, then do the top stitching. I can do this quickly while I'm sewing. If that "poofyness" doesn't bother you, just do the top stitching without worrying about the edge. Or you could iron it before you turn it. That would be a PAIN! (See, I CAN OCD over things! That's why I have to keep reminding myself of what the finished product is used for! I was raised with if you do it, do it "right". I like Flylady's reminder that we don't have to do things perfectly, we only need to get them done "good enough".) Yes, there is a time for perfection. If I were making a gift, I would take more care with what I was making. For myself, I find that when I try to make things that are "perfect", I then either don't finish them or don't want them being used, or I get upset with whomever "spoils" the finished product. We're making something to wipe greasy, tomatoey, sticky fingers and faces on. We want to be able to toss them in the washer and dryer.

There are other options for napkins. You can go buy them already made. You can buy the paper ones or you can buy wash cloths/dish cloths and use those. I made these out of material I already had on hand, either that I had bought for something else and never got around to making it (and have forgotten what it was I was even going to make with it!) or mostly I've been gifted with material from people who no longer sew. I've got enough to last quite a while. But I still found a remnant on sale at Wallyworld and got 10 napkins for 1.50 - that's when I realized that 10 x 10 napkins were rather small.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

My favorite pizza crust recipe

We're experiencing a sharp reduction in our income and so have been living on our food storage - which really, we should have been using all along!

I have a nice electric grinder that will make a very good flour. I've been making flour out of whole wheat and some dried corn. We've been using both flours with our pizza dough. The whole wheat for the crust and the finely ground corn meal in place of greasing the pans. My pan of choice is my cast iron skillet, while my 15 yr old son favors a jelly roll pan. My 18 yr old daughter is an alien from some distant galaxy - swapped with my real child not long after birth. She doesn't much like pizza or whole wheat flour. Only a space alien doesn't like pizza - or whole wheat flour for that matter.

Here's the recipe we've been using in our automatic bread machine (ABM): (or by hand)
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp salt
pinch sugar
3 cups fresh ground whole wheat flour, you will probably need more flour if you use flour from the store. Store-bought flour has the chance to absorb too much humidity.
2 1/2 tsp yeast
corn meal for the bottom of the pan(s)

Add the ingredients in order to your bread pan. Set to "dough" setting. Turn on machine and make sure dough is of the correct consistency. Let it run for a few minutes and then look at the dough. The movement of the dough on the spindle is what kneads the dough. The dough should be moving around a lot on the spindle, not sitting on top of it or like melted wax in the bottom of the pan. If it's sort of just spinning on top, has sharp "peaks" of dough forming while it kneads, or the machine sounds like it's working too hard, you need to add water - 1 Tbs at a time until it is moving around on the spindle well. If it's sitting with a lot of wet looking dough on the bottom of the pan, you need to add more flour, again, 1 Tbs at a time. After doing an addition, let it knead for a minute or two to get mixed well before you add more water/flour.

As soon as the machine stops kneading, you can remove the dough from the pan. You don't necessairly have to let the dough go through the whole dough cycle - which takes about 1 1/2 hrs in either of my machines. If you have the patience/time to wait on it, it does makes a nicer dough. You DO need to let the dough rest for about 10-15 mins, so that the gluten can relax and not shrink back as you try to pat it into whatever shape you like.

A note about crust thickness here in the States. Years ago a pizza chain introduced something they called a "pan" crust. Most pizza here used to have an almost cracker thinness to the crust - about 1/4" thick. Then Pizza Hut introduced "pan" crust, which is a thick crust - about 3/4" - 1" thick. Next someone introduced "hand-tossed". It's about 1/2" to 3/4" thick. So I'm going to use these terms to define how thick a crust we make using this recipe.

We can get three 10" skillet "pan" pizzas, four "hand-tossed" pizzas, one jelly roll "pan" pizza or two jelly roll pans of thin crust from this recipe. Normally we make one 10" skillet pizza and one jelly roll pan (cookie sheet with sides on it) of pizza. I take about 1/3 of the dough and give my son 2/3 of the dough. When son makes his crust, he doesn't quite pat the dough into the entire area of the jelly roll pan, he likes a bit of a thicker crust. Done this way, I'd say both pizzas are of the "hand-tossed" thickness. We also make another portion of this with white flour for the alien child - if she'll even agree to eat pizza that day. We make a 10" skillet "hand-tossed" pizza for her and with the rest of the dough, we make bread sticks. Yesterday, her brother made garlic butter and put that on the sticks before cooking them. You could also sprinkle them with any type of cheese, salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, cinnamon and sugar, or whatever else your heart desires and you can do it before or after baking the sticks. I've watched both Domino's and Pizza Hut fix the bread sticks. They usually bake them first and then sprinkle either Parmesan cheese or cinnamon and sugar for the topping. Then they use marinara sauce for dipping sauce and just plain icing (confectioner's sugar, butter, vanilla and water or just the sugar and water). We use pizza sauce for savory sticks, icing for sweet sticks.

Once the dough has rested or finished the "dough" cycle on your machine, divide the dough as you'd like to use it. Sprinkle the bottom of your pan with some corn flour - in lieu of oiling the pan. Pat dough into whatever shape you want. Or if you know how, go have fun tossing it like they do in a real pizzeria.

Top with pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce or whatever sauce rings you chimes (you could even use Alfredo sauce - 2 cups thick white sauce with 1/2 - 1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan added to it.)

Top with your choice of meats, vegies and/or cheeses.

Bake at 425 degrees (hot oven) for 10-20 minutes. Thin crusts cook faster than thicker crusts.

I just bought a couple of unglazed terracotta tiles. I used one on the second shelf from the bottom of my oven - just sitting on the rack. It takes about 40 mins to an hour for the tile to preheat vs 15 for the oven to preheat to 425 degrees. I liked the way the pizza crust came out, I just don't use it often because of all the wasted energy to preheat it that long. I'm poor and can't afford to heat the stone just for 10 mins worth of pizza cooking. It's worth it if I'm making breads that day and will be using it for several hours of baking. It's great to make pita bread on, as well as peasant loaves of bread.

If anyone is interested, I can post the pita bread recipe at another time. Just let me know.