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Monday, August 24, 2015

Mmmm Homemade Tortillas

Have you ever not done something because either you thought it was too much work or it wasn't really possible to do?

I love learning how to do things. Even if it may have been a cheap alternative to just go to the store and pick up something, I often find out that the homemade item is generally so much fresher and tastier than the store bought equivalent.

Besides, you never appreciate something more than when you know how to make it.

Last week was one of those weeks that fell when neither of us got paid due to when our pay schedules fell so it was time to get really creative in the kitchen to feed ourselves.

One of the items that we have constantly is tacos or burritos. We had no burritos/taco wraps however. Being broke, going to the store was out of the question.. so it was time to roll up my sleeves and take the plunge.

And I'm glad I did.

These are SO much better than store bought. A word of caution though, they do take a bit of time and will get your space messy,  so if you are going to make them, make a lot all at once. I quadrupled the recipe and froze them for future use. We used them last night and even after thawing, the quality is was far superior to what you buy in the store-probably because there wasn't any preservatives.

Mmmmm Homemade Tortillas!

The recipe I took from a book I bought from the library discard sale, The Home-Cooking Cookbook by Natalie Sylvester. This book appears to have been written in 1972 and the book is  the author's attempt to document her family's recipes. Honestly, the majority of it was desserts but this little recipe was a gem.


3 heaping Tbsp of shortening
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 to 2 cups water

Mix together and until dough forms a ball.

Divide into about 9 balls. Roll out to a tortilla shape, if not perfect, that's perfectly fine. It'll taste perfect!

Heat up a skillet big enough to handle to tortilla.

No grease in the skillet, no oil, we are after a dry heat.

Drop your rolled out tortilla on the dry skillet. When it appears to be drying out, flip it.

Once you can move it around in the skillet, you are all set.

Remove it, let it cool then use for tortillas, enchaladas, breakfast burittos, flautas, etc.

I found that this was no more difficult than making cookies and when you make a bunch and freeze them they are not only economical but so much better tasting than store bought! They taste very fresh even after thawing from being in the freezer. They also are a lot "lighter" tasting than the ones you buy in the store.

Overall, a win/win!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Eggs! Glorious Eggs!

Eggs! Glorious Eggs!

I was starting to believe that I had the only chickens in the universe that didn't lay eggs.

Then it happened..

                                              The clouds parted and universe smiled.

My son went to check on their water and there they were, two beautiful and perfect chicken eggs.

You could have knocked me over with a spoon.

To use my niece's phrase, I was one happy chicken-mama..

So proud of my girls.

They weren't very happy with us taking the eggs.

I've noticed since they've started laying they think they're all grown..

And voice their opinions quite readily.

Really! Do you know how long we've been up?
They let me know each morning that they've been ready to start their day for HOURS...

Even when it's only 7:30am... they sit in their house and grousing about not being able to go out on their own.

Having a curfew at their age!.. Humf!

"Get on it lady, let us out!"....

But they do a great job... we had three with double yolks.

Farm fresh eggs!

Love these stupid chickens! Totally, unequivocally, love these silly girls.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Graphic Glasses


We got these at "Dog Town" in Rochester, NY.

 I admit it... I'm addicted to pretty graphics.

...And I LOVE these!

They are just so nostalgic but fresh about the graphics that really appealed to me. I know they are just bottles but I hate to throw out something that is actually quite beautiful.
I don't know why, I have a thing for glass. Old glass windows, old glass bottles..I probably need a self-help group....
And another confession... I have always wanted to get one of these. Hippy craft maybe but I always thought this was neat.. and macramé.. but not the owls... those things were in every house I think I went into as a child...but I digress....
Cutting bottles always scared me. I guess I thought they would just explode in my hand. But it's actually really easy...

Set your spacer so that the cutting line is where you want it. I wanted it just above the "Cane Sugar". Slowly, pull the bottle TOWARDS you to get a good score line. You may need to adjust the small cutter wheels to get them to touch the bottle to score it.

Showing the score line... and the pretty graphics!
Won't these make pretty glasses?

Now you need a candle and preferably an ice cube. My water had gone out and I was waiting for the plumber to call (which he never did the !@X&!) so I was improvising with a popsicle and a lunch box freezie.

Hold the bottle about 1/8-1/4" above the flame. Don't put in in the bottle in the flame as I learned the hard way. It will still break but not as cleanly and more than likely you'll have little off breaks into the glass making the glass unusable.

Quickly take put your ice cube (or popsicle, although it makes a big mess!) Keep alternating
between the two. The glass breaks along the score line due to thermal stress.


Who hoo success! It really happens before you realize it. You'll hear little pops as you are going through the heating and cooling process but don't fear, it literally just falls apart at some point, there is no big explosion or pop.

The kit comes with some jeweler's grit as well as a piece of glass sandpaper. I found the sandpaper worked fine but at some point I may go back and actually sand them on the grinder. I was a bit concerned it may ruin the bit as the glass is so much heavier than stained glass I typically work in.

Now isn't this just neat?

I just love it. It's something I wanted to do since I was a kid and I think it's such a fun recycling craft.

I guess everything that was old is new again. Try it, it's really fun (and hopefully you won't have to resort to using a popsicle!)

Monday, August 3, 2015

April Showers Bring AUGUST Flowers!

Me, like my light fixture, was in quiet need of mending.

Forgive the radio silence please. I'm afraid the past month or so (actually six months)  has been rather frightening and frantic. Unfortunately, I had an enlarged thyroid and had a thyroidectomy three weeks ago.

After removing it, we discovered that while the side that was huge and causing issue was free of cancer, the side that was "normal" in all aspects, had 2mm of cancer. Very little but still very scary. Still the evil "C" word!  Needless to say, all wells that ends well and with the thyroid removed, I am able to resume normal life.

In my time off recouping, I was able to finish one rag rug and finally this weekend, the quilt that would never end's top has finally been completely pieced. I had anticipated that this was going to be my May quilt but with the multitude of pieced blocks, it gobbled away four months of time! In the end I do like it, but now on to starting the quilts I'm making for Christmas gifts!

Quietly recouping...

Groj Cat says it's nice but needs a bit of cat hair to be perfect.
He'll assist in that.
When I decided to make the Peony Quilt, I knew I wanted to make it a different color than the traditional red. The red quilts are beautiful, but I like to be different. I had my heart set on a deep aquamarine/teal blue quilt and had planned that but I'm a girl that loves color so a one color quilt, although beautiful, is something I would get bored with fast. Instead I choose to do all solid colors but many different colors. Then just when I thought I was all set and had them pieced, I started thinking, "This quilt needs some apple green flowers. Then, maybe I should add some red... then.. well, you get the picture.

So this quilt is another Quilt in a Day confection.
Three of each block set is pieced, with a total of five of each of these blocks being pieced before joined to the other two to create the three peonies. A wall hanging could be done in a day and maybe if I had been smart and choose to do the 24" block set instead of the 12" with stems I may have had a better chance, but I love the final result.

After a hard, long winter, you want May to bring bright an cheery flowers. Hopefully your "May Flowers" quilt doesn't take you until August to finish it!

Here is how it is pieced.

First step is to make the individual blocks. As you see Eleanor's block is created with flying geese and a log cabin block in the center. Four small white blocks are added in each corner.

Next take three of these and add one white block if you are adding a stem and leaves. If not add another flower.

Sew down the stem on one side.. Keep your step a little to
to the left...... 
Then rip out a small section on each side flower and using her template or in a free form style, add some bias stems.

Then flip over to cover your raw edge with a finished edge.

Rip out a small section and tuck in. Sew down.

Now, again rip out a small section of the top flower and tuck in the stem. Sew down the straight bias stem. When you sew your stem in, sew the opening closed on the back side.

Showing the fusible web side and the front side.

Create the side leaves by tracing them onto fusible webbing and sewing them with the glue side facing the right side of the leaves. Turn inside out and sew down the leaf veining. Now fuse to the block and sew around that.

Now do that 15 more times.

Yep, that is why it took 4 months.


Of course, supervision had to be there the entire time to make sure everything was done up to proper standards.


And quality control joined him...

I wanted to keep the palette simple so I choose a mint green border to give it that 1930's feel without going too pastel. I love the fact that it feels so "fresh" and bright. This is the quilt you put on the bed after "Spring Cleaning" to just perk up your spirits!

If I may be a little immodest, I think this is a stunner. I love the colors. It's bright without being gaudy.

Eventually it will get quilted. I think I'm going to put the Grandmother's Garden quilt on the back of this so it will be reversible (and I get two quilts quilted at once!).
Have you ever made one of these quilts? Did your grandmother have one or make one? What is your favorite quilt pattern?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Yes, She Can Bake A Cherry Pie Charming Billy....

The cherry tree has exploded with sour cherries again and this year is harder than most to get them off because of my work schedule.

I've been sending the boy out every day but as anyone that has a teenager knows, what you envisioned them doing is rarely what they do. He does a respectable job but we literally could fill bucket baskets with cherries.

I went out last night after work and in less than an hour had picked an entire Pyrex mixing bowl full. I can't just leave them. After all, I planted these trees so that we could have produce from our own land.

It's also a nice conversation starter with the neighbors who walk down the road. We got talking about cherries, then chickens....

My cherry pickin chickens....

And in mentioning the chickens, I keep a chicken bucket for any of the narly cherries. The chickens love their special treat.

But after picking all these cherries comes the second part of the process, how are we going to preserve them? After all, I still have tons of cherries from last year even after sending a bunch home with my parents on their last visit so clearly I don't need to freeze any.

And I have jelly up the ying-yang.

So this year I came up with a couple of different ideas.

Small Cherry Pies.
We've all seen and maybe made those little mini cupcakes but what about tiny pies? These would be great popping them into the mini muffin pan and baking off 24 of these for the holidays  or the next time your child tells you at 10pm that he needs a dessert for the school bakesale or class. How about back to school? Wouldn't these be absolutely darling in your child's lunchbox?

I used my Betty Crocker pie crust and just popped them into each muffin tin. Docked it and put it in the freezer. Then once frozen, made the filling and filled each little pie with another Betty Crocker pie filling recipe. Froze again then popped them into a freezer bag for later baking.


Normal Cherry Pie
I always make a couple of pies to put in the freezer for the holidays or when the mood strikes for a pie. They always come out perfect and who has the energy to do yet another dish when life gets so busy.

Individual Cherry Cheese Cake

I was thinking along the lines of doing a black forest cake but Oreo crumbs were more expensive than graham cracker, so graham cracker won out. Again breaking out the mini muffin pan, I took one stick of butter and a cup of graham cracker crumbs and adjusted the measurements, now more butter, now more graham crumbs, until l I had the texture of fine sand. I pressed a bit in the bottom of each mini muffin cup and baked for 9 mins at 350 degrees. I let it cool and made the following three ingredient cheesecake filling.

3 Ingredient No Bake Cheesecake Filling (Makes a lot)

1    small can sweetened condensed milk
2    8oz cream cheese
1    tsp or more to taste, flavoring. Rum is good as is vanilla

Mix together until fully incorporated. Put on top of each muffin tin of graham crackers and make sure to leave space for the cherry pie filling. Use your favorite recipe

Dried Cherries:
I got this idea from "Home Made in the Kitchen" (on Amazon currently for $. 01)** by Bluestein & Morrissey. (I highly recommend this book and bountiful kitchen for anyone who likes crafting and food... and foodcrafting). Their method, however,  left a lot to be desired. They essentially have you put the cherries in a 140 degree oven for 14 hours! First, I've never met an oven that goes below 170 and after 18 hours, my cherries were slumped but still juicy. I finished these off in the dehydrator which I think I'll go directly to next time but the idea was solid.


These would be great as a snack in themselves or put in any place you'd use raisins such as cereal, granola or cookies. They are tart and tasty! This is where the majority of the cherries are going to from this point out. These would be fantastic in oatmeal chraisen (Cherry raisins) cookies.

Chocolate Cherry Bread
This is another entry from Homemade in the Kitchen. I made several. Perfect for those office Christmas gifts.

Cherry "Pop Tarts" This was an idea from a book that escapes me at the moment . I was a mite too generous and mine turned out like mini pies. I got four when I was supposed to get six and honestly after using the recipe in the book, there was no way to get these in the toaster without the fear of destroying the toaster. Back to the drawing board with this one.

Cherry Pit Pie Weights I wish I could claim this ingenious idea but alas I can't, I read it in the aforementioned book whose title I can't remember. Instead of wasting rice or beans, or buying pie weights, use the pits for pie weights. After cleaning these up I put them in a warm oven until they were cool. Now I can use them for any pie I have to blind bake.

This weekend will be the last of the cherry picking... after this they are fodder for the birds.

But it's nice to know that our land is bearing food to feed the family. Feel like a modern day pioneer...

* Graphics courtesy of the Graphics Fairy website.


***Bonnet is Google Images.


Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Hey Buddy, You Want to Smoke?

Do You Smoke?

No, not we're talking about anything to do with nicotine, we're talking a smoker, like this:

We used some reward points and basically got this unit free.

It's really wonderful and no more difficult to use than an electric stove.

Essentially you first choose which wood you want to use. We typically buy this from Tractor Supply Company by the bag but for a sample pack to try what you like, or like me you went too early and this is all they had, they sell these for about $5.

In your smoker you will discover one container with a lid. That is where you put your wood.

 In the other metal container you put your water. Then just heat up your smoker for about 10-30 mins.

If you are going to do heavier pieces of meat, start them first and closer to the smoker. Because of their denseness, they will take a lot longer to get done.

I found that hamburgers take me maybe 20 mins in the smoker and the same or less with shrimp.

I let the roasts go for about three hours and they were still too rare for my taste. I would allow at least 5-6 hours for those.

I love the smoker for the lovely taste it infuses into the meat but also because it's a lot easier to use than a grill so I can access it all by myself without help.

It's my new essential summertime tool!