Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

I had to be out driving most of yesterday, and heard about, had to reroute my own driving on account of, and even saw accidents all over.   Please be very careful and have a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Quick and easy bread warmer.

Several years ago I received a bread warmer for Christmas.  That particular one was a large piece of fabric with a pocket in the middle that held a rice filled sack.  The sack was to be heated in the microwave and then slipped into the pocket before placing the whole thing in a bread basket, where you would ultimately fold the ends of the fabric over the bread.  It was a great idea, but after burning my fingers several times while trying to get that hot sack in the pocket (it was too close a fit to use a bulky oven mitt to protect my hands), I just resorted to putting the rice pack in the bottom of the basket by itself and then putting a towel on top to wrap the bread in.  Much simpler.
Fast forward many years and you'd find me in the sewing room, whipping up a whole bunch of them to put in the bread baskets we'll have on the tables this coming Saturday, for our big Thanksgiving dinner.  Y'all remember we do that for my mom's side of the family the Saturday before don't you?  Well, we do.  When I started to make them, I thought how great it would be as a gift.  You could buy a really inexpensive basket, make a little warmer for it (with heating instructions pinned on), bake up some goodie, and then wrap it all up in some cellophane and a ribbon, and voila - simple, inexpensive, but usually well appreciated.  At least, most of the people I know like to get baked goods as a gift and if they come with a little something more, then all the better.  So here's how to do it if you know someone who would appreciate that kind of thing.

You'll need to start by making a pattern by tracing around the bottom of your basket.
Cut out around the area you traced.  Make it a little larger so you can cut it down if you need in order to make it fit well.  You don't have to be absolutely perfect.  You're filling the pocket with rice - it won't always be shaped perfectly.
You'll need to cut 2 layers of a lining - mine was just unbleached muslin, and 2 layers of your outer fabric.
I stacked mine together and cut them at the same time.  I also cut it out with a pair of pinking shears to leave a raw, zig-zag edge.  I did this both because I thought it would be cute, and because it would save a lot of time since I wouldn't need to clip the curves and turn it right side out later.
Lining is not absolutely necessary, but the bag will be more durable if you use it.
Then you'll sandwich the 2 lining layers between the 2 outer layers.  Make sure the fabric is right side out.
Stitch around the edge using a 1/4" seam, and make sure you leave a small opening to add the rice.
For the record, I stitched around it twice, just to reinforce the seam.
The opening only needs to be large enough to fit the end of a funnel.
Make sure the tip of the funnel is in between the two lining pieces.
Add plain, white rice until the bag is a little more than half full.  It's best if it will lay fairly flat in the bottom of the basket.
Finally, stitch the opening closed.
T.Lynn wanted a picture of the group I had waiting to have the final stitching done.
She was helping me fill the bags with rice, so how could I refuse?
There you go.  Heat it up, put in a flour sack towel and it's ready for some biscuits.

How long your bag will need to be heated will depend on it's size.  Start by putting it in the microwave for 30 seconds and then increasing by 30 second intervals until the bag is hot.  Next time you'll know how long it will take and you can just start with that amount of time in the settings.  Use an oven mitt to get it out of the microwave.  These rice bags hold heat for a long time, and if you want a moist heat, you can put a cup of hot water in the microwave with it while you heat it up.
Allow to cool and make sure it's dry before storing in a dry area.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest,

The Chicken Chick

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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

This is an absolutely delicious soup, and perfect for fall.  It's thick, and has a creamy quality to it, without actually adding any cream.  It's not one that most of the family likes though, so this recipe only makes enough for about 4 or 5 people.  It could easily be adjusted for more by using larger veggies and more broth.

Butternut Squash Soup
1 smallish butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into cubes
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tbls. butter
1 qt. chicken broth, or stock
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste

Melt your butter in a large pot, and cooked the onions until they are translucent.  Add the squash and the chicken broth and simmer until the squash is very soft.  About 20-30 min., depending on how big your chucks were.  Remove from heat and blend.  I just used my immersion blender and mixed it up right in the pot, but if you don't have one, you could put it through your regular blender in batches.  If you use a regular blender, return it to the pan and heat it up again if it cooled too much.  After it's been blended you just add salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste and your all done.

Super easy, and delicious.  What more could you ask for?

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

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Friday, November 2, 2012

Nasturtium Vinegar

I love nasturtiums.  They are among some of the prettiest flowers.  I've grown them before; usually the jewel mix, but I like the Alaska mix too - the foliage for those is mottled with white.  This year however, I found a pack of mahogany nasturtium seeds.  Oh - I wanted to grow those.  I've made nasturtium vinegar with the other varieties, and I liked the reddish orange color it turned out, but I could just picture the lovely red that would most likely result from using the mahogany flowers.
They are absolutely gorgeous, don't you think?
To make the vinegar, you'll want to cut off a bunch of the flowers, but beware, bees and other stinging things love nasturtium as much as you do.  I received a very painful reminder of this as I was picking.  And once I had them inside and was giving them a rinse, I discovered another little stinging critter, this time a bumble bee, in among the flower heads.  I took the whole bowl back outside to coax him out of there.  I don't use chemicals on my garden, but I rinse off the flowers just to make sure there aren't any creepy crawlies in there.
Once you've divested the flowers of all of their little hitch-hikers, put them in a quart jar and pour in enough white vinegar to cover them.  You'll have to push them down, as they like to float.  You could use white wine vinegar if you like.
Let it sit for about a week and then strain off the flowers.  I lined a small, fine mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and set it directly on top of a wide mouth pint jar.
Warning - it smells pretty yucky when you first take off the lid, but once the spent flowers are out it will be fine.
There you go.  It did turn out a beautiful color, and I can't wait to use it in a vinaigrette. 
 Another reason to love nasturtiums - they taste peppery, and I like pepper.

I've linked this post with the Farm Girl Friday Blog Fest.

I've also linked with the Homestead Barn Hop,

There are plenty of great ideas and useful information being shared through these blog hops.  I hope you get a chance to check some of them out.

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