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3/30/2015

Erin SheehanI had a cup of pineapple leftover in the fridge that had to be used up this weekend. When I saw a recipe that called for crushed pineapple in the local paper I knew I had to try it. They came out great. I hope you can whip up a batch to share with your family this Easter.

waffle

Carrot Cake Waffles

1 cup soy or almond milk with 1 tablespoon white vinegar added*
2 eggs
3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup crushed pineapple
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups white flour (can substitute half wheat)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

*Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a 1-cup measure. Fill to top with soy or almond milk and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Buttermilk can also be substituted.

Preheat waffle iron and spray baking surface with oil if needed.

In medium bowl, mix together eggs, brown sugar, oil, pineapple, carrot, milk/vinegar mixture and vanilla. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Add to the batter and stir just enough to combine. Add in walnuts and stir enough to evenly distribute them.

Cook waffles according to your waffle iron directions. Makes about 6 medium-sized waffles.



3/18/2015

Erin SheehanWith all the baking I do and being a bit Irish (can you guess by my name?), you would think that I’d have made Irish Soda Bread before, but no. Last Saturday was my first attempt. I would have searched through my grandmother’s cookbook to find her recipe but it is already packed deep in a box for our move, so I had to rely on the Internet. I combined a couple of recipes and came up with the recipe below.

Irish Soda Bread, fresh from the oven.

The bread was delicious for the first day and a half, but after that it dried out. We used it for French toast last night for dinner, which was great!

Irish Soda Bread
Yields 1 large loaf.

3 cups white all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup buttermilk (add 1 tablespoon vinegar to a scant cup almond, soy or cow’s milk)
1 egg
1/3 cup raisins
Few additional tablespoons of milk (plant-based or dairy)

Mix together the flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl or in your KitchenAid mixer.

Add the softened butter, buttermilk and egg and mix it together. Add in raisins and combine well.

Use your hands to form a dough ball. Knead with your mixer or on a floured surface for 2 to 3 minutes, or use your KitchenAid with the dough hook.

A loaf of Irish Soda Bread ready for the oven.

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 375 F. Shape a loaf and put it on the prepared cookie sheet. Cut an “X” in the top of the loaf. Cover lightly, and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes. Brush loaf with additional milk.

Bake either on a pizza stone or your cookie sheet for 30 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Bake another 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.



3/11/2015

Erin SheehanFour years ago I lost nearly 2,000 pounds. That is to say, I sold my car. It’s been so long it finally feels “normal” just to have one car.

In August 2010, the university where I work started providing free access on local bus routes to all employees. I wasn’t very familiar with the bus schedule so I spent some time figuring out how I could get to work and back without driving. After about a month of thinking it over, I took my inaugural bus trip. It went just fine, and I quickly started making a habit of riding the bus.

For the first few months I still drove in once or twice a week, relying on my car to run errands or make special trips before or after work. In December 2010, I drove my car to work for the last time and have relied on the bus ever since.

After three months of seeing my car sit in the garage day after day, I finally gave it a deep cleaning and put it up on Craigslist. In a few short weeks it sold and suddenly we were a one-car family.

car

I can’t deny that I missed the car at first. There were times when Jim and I had to go in opposite directions and both wanted to drive. Once I took seven bus rides in a single day. Another day I walked nearly the entire 3 1/2 miles home from work in pouring cold rain. But we have gradually worked out most of the kinks, and along the way I think Jim and I have gotten a lot better at sharing.

I find myself relying more and more on walking, biking and taking the bus to get around. My favorite non-car activity is going to garage sales. Summer weekends I map out a route, put on my backpack and hit as many sales as possible. It’s not unusual for me to ride 20 miles on a Saturday just going to yard sales. Naturally biking is quite self-limiting in terms of how much I can spend. When you are on your bike at a garage sale with 5 or 6 miles to ride home, believe me you weigh EVERY purchase! Which is good because we have enough stuff!

I’ve never added up how much money I save by not owning a car, but it has to be at least a few hundred dollars a month. I also don’t have the stress of unexpected repair costs, traffic jams and winter driving in snowy weather.

Walking to the bus stop has been a real boon for me as well. I do my best thinking while walking, and I’ve made friends both on the street and at the bus stop. I feel like fellow walkers and transit riders provide a loose support network for one another, and I’d hate to lose that because I was wedded to my car.

Urban planner Jeff Speck calls cars “gas-belching, time-wasting, life-threatening prosthetic devices.” I’m not sure I entirely agree with him but his words do resonate with me. Try a week or even a day without your “prosthetic device” and see how it goes!



3/5/2015

Erin SheehanI poked around in our “junk drawer” last week to discover a bag of Kit Kat candy bars left over from Halloween stuffed in the back. Uh oh! Jim and I don’t usually eat candy, so I had to think about what to do with it. I decided to use it in a cookie recipe, because we DO eat cookies!

Scrounging around in my pantry, I also found an extra vanilla pudding mix that I had bought for a planned pumpkin trifle that I never made. I remembered seeing a chocolate chip cookie recipe that called for pudding mix so decided to try to mix them up with the candy. They came out terrific.

Cookies 

We shared them with friends and neighbors and never told anyone that the candy was left over from October! This is the recipe I used:

Leftover Halloween Candy Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 (3.5 ounces) package instant vanilla (or other flavor) pudding mix
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups white flour (can substitute up to 1/2 whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup candy, cut into small pieces

KitKatPreheat oven to 350 F.

In a large bowl, combine the butter and shortening with the white and brown sugar. Stir in your pudding mix. Add in both eggs and vanilla and mix well.

In a second bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture; stir well. Blend in candy pieces.

Drop teaspoons full of dough onto ungreased cookies sheets about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Cool for about 5 minutes before removing from the pan to a cooling rack. Yields about 3 dozen. Enjoy!



2/25/2015

Erin SheehanOver the weekend I went to put together a platter of cheese and crackers and realized we had run out of crackers. I’ve never made my own crackers before, but I thought, why not? I love to bake, especially trying a new recipe.

crackers

I ended up making two kinds of crackers, a white cracker and a wheat cracker. The white cracker recipe is below. I did find them a bit messy, quite a few of the poppy seeds fell off, but they are tasty! Homemade always tastes best, anyway, I think!

White Crackers

1 cup semolina flour
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup white flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup warm water (I used zucchini milk)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons seeds: poppy or sesame
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt (optional)

Mix together the semolina, flours, salt and sugar in a medium bowl or in your KitchenAid mixer.

crackers2 

Add the water and mix it together. Use your hands to form a dough ball. Knead with your mixer or on a floured surface for 2 to 3 minutes.

Place back in bowl, cover with plastic, and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

cracker1 

Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 450 F.

Divide dough into three equal parts. Taking one at a time, roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/8-inch thickness on your floured surface. Transfer dough to the parchment paper.

crackers3

Brush with oil to form a very light covering. Sprinkle some of the seeds and salt (if using) on the top. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the dough and roll firmly over it with your rolling pins to help the seeds adhere. Remove the plastic wrap and prick your dough with a fork every couple of inches. Use a pizza cutter to cut dough into the size crackers you want.

crackers4

Transfer dough and parchment paper to oven, onto a pizza stone if you have one, otherwise on your cookie sheet. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, rotating the parchment paper about halfway through baking to ensure even browning. Watch the crackers closely to make sure they don't burn. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

final

Yields about 4 dozen small crackers. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.



2/20/2015

Erin SheehanI have a habit I know many people think is gross, but I’m hooked. I admit it: I use hankies. I haven’t used Kleenex in more than 20 years. I am a little self-conscious about it. Sometimes I wonder what people think when I whip a handkerchief out of my pocket, unfold it and blow away, then – back it goes in my pocket! Not to the garbage. Sorry, onlookers!

I am very fortunate to have a large stash of pretty, vintage ladies’ hankies. Some belonged to my mom and grandmother. Some came from a close family friend. Years ago women embroidered and tatted beautiful designs on hankies. They are nice to look at and nicer to use than tissues.

hankies 

There are lots of reasons to drop your tissue box. First, you will save money. Not a lot, but little things have a way of adding up. At $1.50 a box, even if you only use two or three boxes a month, you’ll save enough to buy some super-duper dirt for your container garden, seeds, and maybe even a new watering can if you need one. No more carrying in boxes of tissues from the store, and you never have to worry about running out of hankies!

Using handkerchiefs saves resources. It doesn’t use trees and keeps tissues out of the landfill. It does use a little water for washing, but we’re doing laundry anyway. A couple of hankies a week don’t really add significantly to our wash loads.

hankies 

I find hankies are a lot easier on my skin than tissues. Tissues tend to make my nose raw and dry. Hankies are soft and kinder to my tender nose!

One of my favorite things about using hankies is no more tissues accidentally going through the laundry. How many times have you had a mess of itty-bitty tissue pieces all over your freshly washed clothes? If you leave a hankie in your pocket and it goes through the wash, no big deal. No mess to clean up.

If you decide to give hankies a try, you can find vintage ones through garage and thrift sales or Etsy. New ones are available at many dollar stores, but I don’t find the material of the new ones very nice. You could make your own if you are crafty! If you aren’t already using hankies, I hope you’ll give them a try for a week. Let me know how you make out.

hankies 



2/12/2015

Erin SheehanJim and I had the offer we made on a house accepted this week. It’s an exciting time for us, as I’m sure you can imagine. We’ve been renting for nearly seven years and look forward to owning our own home.

The kitchen and the neighborhood are what sold us on the house. The kitchen is big, beautiful and full of light. It has enough room to fill many canning jars and for an army of helpers. I look forward to cooking many meals there and putting up hundreds of pounds of garden produce.

Kitchen

2 

The neighborhood is a walker’s paradise. We’re a block from the public library and just a few blocks more from restaurants, stores and a pharmacy. Our street is tree-lined and welcoming. Since telling friends where we’re moving, many people have responded, “I’ll be able to walk to visit you!”

My vision for our new home is one where friends and neighbors know they are always welcome to come in and sit a spell. Where the backdoor’s always open and the coffee is always on. Homemade cookies in the cookie jar and fresh baked muffins on the counter.

Our new kitchen has space for a large kitchen table. I imagine friends and neighbors sharing a cup of tea or coffee and chewing the fat. No need to call ahead, just come on in and feel at home.

Our new neighborhood appears friendly and tightly knit. We’re looking forward to becoming a part of this vibrant community. Although the backyard isn’t as large as we might like for gardening, there is electricity out to the back, which means we could put in a chicken coop someday.

The next few months of packing and moving come at the same time we’re usually starting seeds and putting in the garden, so this year’s garden may not be quite as big or as productive as we would hope, but in the end we know everything will work out. And I do hope that some of you will come on over and have a visit in our new kitchen once we’re moved in!





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