Over 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yields about 4 dozen small crackers. Store in an airtight container for up to one week.
I 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.
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.
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.
Jim 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.
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!
We canned a whole lot of tomatillo salsa last fall. Although we only had two plants, they were very prolific. Beyond making salsa, I don’t really know what to do with tomatillos, so I’ve been trying to figure out ways to use up some of the salsa. This recipe is a great way!
This recipe is easy to put together and will feed a crowd. It works well for brunch or dinner.
Mexican Tomatillo Casserole
1 package (12 ounces) frozen spinach
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 green bell or ancho peppers, chopped
6 eggs (lightly beaten)
16 ounces firm tofu, drained and mashed
4 tomatoes, chopped and well drained (I used frozen garden tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
6 large (12 inch) flour tortillas
2 cups tomatillo salsa
Cook spinach in microwave according to package directions. Drain well and set aside.
In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté peppers for about 10 minutes, or until soft.
Reduce heat to low and add eggs. Stir eggs occasionally and cook until they start to set. Add tofu and cook another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from stove and add spinach, tomatoes, salt and cheeses. Stir well.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Pour about 1/3 cup of tomatillo salsa into the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch pan.
Lay tortillas one by one flat on the counter. Spread 1 cup or so of your egg/tofu filling in the middle of the tortilla and wrap it up carefully, folding in the outer edges to completely enclose the filling. Place each filled tortilla in your pan, close together. Pour the salsa over your filled tortillas. If you like, you can cover the dish and chill it for up to 24 hours.
Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes. (Add 15 minutes if it has been chilled.) Serve hot. Yields 6 large servings, or 12 if you cut each filled tortilla in half.
I try not to use paper towels for environmental reasons and also because I don’t like paying for them. I know they are inexpensive, but we try to be frugal as much as possible. Sometimes you do need something to wipe up with in the kitchen, so when I came across the idea of making un-paper towels on Pinterest, I decided to give them a try.
I’m a beginner sewer, but with something that I’ll just use in the kitchen I figured I could make all kinds of mistakes and no one would ever know or care. It’s not like I’m wearing the un-paper towels!
I used extra drying towels we had and my mom provided some flannel for the backing. To make eight un-paper towels you’ll need two yards of flannel and two large drying towels or two yards of absorbent cotton fabric.
First, wash and dry your fabrics first in case they shrink.
Next, cut your fabric. To cut the cloths, I used a rotary cutter and mat. The cutter goes easily through both layers and you can cut them quickly. Line up both of your fabrics together (right sides facing each other) on the mat and cut to the size you like. I made mine about 9 by 8 inches. Because they will be more absorbent than regular paper towels, I thought a bit smaller than regular paper towels would work well.
Sew the fabric together with a straight stitch about 1/4 inch away from the edge. Leave a couple of inches open on one side so you can turn your towel right-side out.
Trim excess fabric so you won’t have bulky seams and pull the fabric through the gap you left so your towel is now right-side out.
Turn the edges under and sew up the hole you left with a straight stitch.
That’s all there is to it! We keep ours next to the “regular” paper towel holder, which I’m hoping we can let run out and never refill again!
Our webbed chairs we use up at the lake finally gave up the ghost at the end of last summer. They didn’t completely give way, but close enough. Like my grandparents, I hate to throw things out, so rewebbing them made a good winter project.
I ordered webbing from Amazon.com. As it turns out, I got the wrong size, and the color certainly doesn’t match, but I think they will be serviceable at least. I was able to reuse the attachment hardware, so the only cost was some time and the webbing.
The first step is to remove the old webbing. I didn’t want to have to replace all of it, just what was worn through, but if you want it to match you’ll have to take it all out. It’s a good idea to take enough care when removing it that you can measure one of the pieces you take out so you have an idea what length you’ll want for your new webbing strips. You also want to take care to preserve the hardware.
There are different types of attachments for webbed chairs, so be careful to note how your webbing is attached so you can recreate it.
Cut your webbing into the appropriate lengths. Longer is better than too short! Too short pieces have to be thrown out and that cuts into the money you’ll save by taking the time to do this project to begin with!
Fold one end back (look at the pieces you removed as a guide) and tuck the edges underneath so that the end makes a “V.” For the type of attachment hardware I had, I used scissors to poke a small hole in the center of the “V” for the attachment clip. Next I inserted the clip into the hole in the chair and wove the webbing through the chair.
The next step got a bit tricky. To figure out where to put the other attachment clip, I lined it up without the clip, pulled the webbing as tight as I could and then used the scissors to make another small hole where the clip would go. Then I pushed the clip through and inserted it into the chair. It takes some strength to get it in there taut – I had to have my husband do it for me.
Keep going until your chair is finished. It doesn’t look terrific, but at least I know I did it myself and I saved the chairs from the landfill!
Roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious and good for you. They are high in Magnesium, Iron and protein. For years we discarded ours as we processed pumpkins from the garden. This fall we realized that we have been throwing away usable (and yummy!) food all this time, so no more!
Here’s an easy how-to for roasted pumpkin seeds. Next time you process a pumpkin or a squash, hold onto those seeds!
How to Roast Pumpkin Seeds:
Cut pumpkin and remove seeds, working them out of the pulp as much as possible.
Clean the seeds using a colander and running water. You aren’t going to get them perfectly clean, but at least get the chunks of pumpkin off of your seeds.
Dry the seeds on a small towel. They don’t have to be totally dry, but not soaking wet either.
Preheat your oven to 400 F. Place oven rack on top shelf.
Spread the seeds onto a baking sheet in a single layer. If you have too many seeds to spread in a single layer use two baking sheets. Some recipes call for oil but I’ve never found it to be necessary and adding oil can even make your seeds chewy instead of crispy, which you don’t want.
Sprinkle the seeds with salt to taste.
Roast from 10 to 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so with a spatula. How long you roast depends on how large the seeds are and how crispy you want them. I like them very crispy and go the full 20 minutes, but you don’t want them to burn, so be careful!
I hope this inspires you to never throw away the good food lurking inside of your pumpkins and squash ever again!