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User of little pieces -- of time, fabric, food, land, even trash. I am fascinated with the mighty power of the Small and Bypassed to transform into usefulness and beauty. As a mother of seven, living for decades on one income, I have practice using up Every Little Bit of Every Little Thing. My treasures have grown now and I have the joy of teaching preschool. I find this gift for making practical use of the Small and Bypassed, PLUS the gift of time to create, has channeled into simple, artistic expressions of small things.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Grand glittering pinecones!

Glitter for the girls . . . glitter for the boys

My favorite pants are corduroys . . .

I don't love glitter messiness, and neither does Miss Warna Solari, my co-teacher in preschool, but these darling grands helped me test out glitter cones for a preschool Christmas craft, and I do love the results. Terah Gregg came up with a less-mess method, so it's a go.

The cones were free, which is my favorite dollar amount, and my glitter is a garage sale or thrift store purchase at $1.50 for several little containers (Too long ago to remember where I got it! It could have been last month and that would be too long ago . . . )

We will need more glitter for preschool, and will purchase what we need, but seriously, if you have some sitting around you aren't going to use, send it my way, if you are so inclined.  I will give you the preschool address!

I love to use up materials that are gathering dust more than I love to buy new things. I think second-hand purchases count for the using up. 

It's not just thriftiness, though that's part of the "love". Raising seven on one lower income bolstered frugality fo' sho'! It's more the challenge of Not Wasting Things; Making Do With What You Have that I love.

Back to the cones.  While the waxed paper did a good job of catching excess sprinkled glitter for reuse and mess control, Terah's idea is better.  We need containers small enough to not use tons of glitter, and large enough to roll the glue tipped pine cones in.  And I've heard from friends that putting the glitter in a zip-lock type bag and shaking it up is fairly safe in terms of keeping glitter contained.

We used Tacky Glue, but school glue is fine.  I watered down the Tacky glue just a tiny bit -- a few drops of water to a couple tsp. glue stirred together in a small bowl.  We took the cones in hand and painted glue mostly just down the tips of the cones, and after sprinkling glitter on the cones (or rolling the cones in the tubs of glitter) laid them to dry on waxed paper.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

That's a fine mess! Simple granola, polenta, and all that stuff. . . .

Oh, for heaven's sake!

There are so many recipes for granola, and I don't even really have one.   I throw mass quantities of old-fashioned oats into a very large bowl.  That's step one.

Step two through eleventy:

Add and mix in a cup, each, of whatever I have one hand, which this morning was: 

coconut, sweetened or un-, flakes, shreds or ground
sunflower seeds
sesame seeds
wheat germ
wheat bran

Add and stir in well:

1/2 cup of apple butter in the bottom of a quart jar just to get the jar out of the fridge
about 3/4 cup brown sugar
about 1/4 cup of black strap molasses
a huge, heaping tbsp. of ground cinnamon
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp of cloves and nutmeg

That's it for this morning.  I will pour this into two large steam table pans I inherited from Grandpa and Grandma Toad's restaurant closing years ago, and bake it at 250 for a couple hours, stirring every 1/2 hour or so.

If I had any, when it cools completely, I would add craisins and chopped dates, but I am out.  Maybe I'll pick some up later today to toss with it.

I don't add fat of any kind to keep the calories, expense and staleness out of the granola.  I make such a large amount that it may last us 3 weeks to a month, and once heated, cooking oils become even LESS healthful than they were before -- rancid, toxic . . . blah.  I don't know about butter?  I just don't use it.  Oils do add crispiness and richness.  You decide.
Additions to the granola -- almost any kind of nuts, leftover breakfast cereals, mini-chocolate chips or dried fruits (when cool), sweetening can be honey, sugar, molasses, any of the more healthful sugars are great, sometimes I add a box of store bought granola from Aldi instead of much sweetening at all simply because one box is SO sweet it will sweeten the whole batch (over 30 cups is what I usually end up with) and we love the crunchy stuff in it.   Raisin Bran, also from Adli, is a good addition, too.  Obviously we are not purists with organic, homemade, etc.  I love to use organic, pure foods, but that's not always how it goes here.

I have polenta cooling in my sweet, old bread pan that I inherited from my mother.  These pans (I have four) held of lot of her delicious banana breads; a history of some serious love and sacrifice in these pans, but that's for another time.

You will find hundreds of recipes for polenta online, and mine is probably one of the simplest, so dress it up!  Our plan for this batch is to slice it thin, and fry it in butter.  A definitely dressed DOWN affair, but delicious and inexpensive!

Bring four cups of water into which you have added 1 to 2 tsp. of salt to a simmer.  In a bowl, stir together 1 cup of cornmeal and 1/4 cup of flour.  When the water begins to simmer, whisk the dry mixture into the wet, continuing to simmer until it thickens, and then turn it way down, cover it, and let it continue to sploop and thicken for ten more minutes or so.  

 It reminds me of Lisa Douglas's pancake batter on Green Acres -- another happy childhood memory!

Once it's thickened, stir in a tbsp. or so of butter, pour it into the bread pan and let it cool on the counter.  When it's cooled, put it in the fridge where it will continue to firm up until you are ready to slice and fry it in a little butter. 

Oh, my goodness!  Fry it in bacon drippings. We seldom have bacon, but I've had it fried in bacon drippings before.   Served with maple syrup????   Serious "Yum" factor.

Frying it:  Using medium high heat and butter to cover the bottom of the pan, fry slices (1/4" thick or so) until browned on one side, flip and brown on the other.  Doesn't take long -- a few minutes.

Polenta can be served in so many ways!  As mush which sounds disgusting but tastes good, with additions of cheese and onion as a side dish, seasoned with sage and thyme as for stuffing and served with gravy . . .

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life, the bazaar and chicken soup with homemade noodles . . .

The military is flying overhead; an unintentional reminder of traumas and dramas rocking our world. So much devastation and so many broken hearts and baked-hard hearts -- and how weird that life just goes on. Recently I spoke to My Little Elephant and we noted the speed of life and that maybe it's a good thing. Time may or may not be short on this planet, but there's eternity waiting in the wings. 
We need to take better care of each other.
Grandfriendboy is snuggling on my lap which is a sign that he isn't quite himself. Catching a cold or an allergy or a sinus thing. He is usually too busy to cuddle with me except at naptime. Then he needs to be close to see the pictures in "The Monster at the End of This Book," and "Silly Tilly," and "We're Going on a Bear Hunt." 
Today, before entering his sleepy haze, he asks if he can nap with his eyes open. I say, "Sure." He tells me, "Sometimes I snore" and begins making buzzsaw noises. I close my eyes and return gusty reciprocal saw snores. I find myself a solo snorer in a few seconds and find his eyes fixed on me in apparent fascination. I can only assume my snoring is causing my face to vibrate in a curious way -- our skin gets a little loose, you know, when we get older, allowing this to happen. Sad but true.
Soon he is gently snoring, for real, and I slip downstairs, remembering I need to post pix of the Bazaar Saturday, and thinking, as I do SO often, how grateful I am that my daughters are good cooks. Saturday I called home after the bazaar and asked Anna to make homemade noodles, and by the time Mamasan and I walked in the front door twenty minutes later they are nearly ready to toss into soup which I quickly throw together with:
a couple cups of leftover corn and baked potatoes
8 cups of water, give or take
a couple tbsp. chicken bouillon give or take
a couple tbsp. dehydrated onions
a 15 oz can of green beans
3 cups chopped leftover chicken
about a tsp. each of black pepper, oregano, ground celery seed
about a tbsp. of curry powder
This made a lot -- more than enough for the eight of us that evening, which means lunch the next day was taken care of.
Here's what it takes for Anna's noodles, but noodles are not rocket science and the variations are legion:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or pasta flour
1 tsp. salt (you can leave it out)
2 eggs
2 tbsp. milk
Stir this all together and knead until it's smooth and elastic like bread dough.  If the dough is too wet, add a bit of flour at a time.  If it's too dry, add some liquid, but try to gauge it for dryness before it's well kneaded, because it's hard to knead in liquid.
When I was learning to make pasta, the recipes I used said you want a stiff dough.  I was frustrated because in trying to achieve stiffness my dough was always too dry to roll out well, and I would have to knead in more milk or water, which made the dough slimy!  I finally gave up on "a stiff dough" and started making a soft, pliable dough, which is much easier to roll out, and therefore more fun.  Which is good!
Cover with plastic if you want to let it sit for 20 minutes or so.  Letting it rest helps it not to snap back when you roll it out.    I never want to wait, so I just keeping rolling along. . .
Dust your rolling surface with flour, pluck off a piece of dough maybe the size of a couple of biscuits, flour it if needed, and roll it out to about 1/8" thickness or thinness.    Slice the noodles into the widths you like -- I use a pizza cutter, toss them with flour so they don't stick together (The flour will thicken the soup), or just drop them right into your simmering soup.  They will take about 15 minutes to cook depending on how thick/thin they are.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Pancakes in a pinch! The recipe . . .

This Grandpa and Grandson sporting event requires giggles, guffaws and groans. I hear this from my room where I am finishing Psalms, coffee and perusing Martha Stewart, in that order, which is not important to remember. 

Slipping down the stairs I hear cheering and squealing from Grandboy, who is sitting on the kitchen counter alert and leaning forward to witness . . .

"They're touching! They're touching! I get to pinch you!" 

"Ohhhhhhh, noooooooo. You get to pinch me. LAST time, I got to pinch YOU!" Pinching and giggling ensues.
Next time, they DON'T touch and it's Grandpa's turn to pinch.
"Where do I want to pinch. hmmmmmmm. How about HERE?" and little ticklish thighs get squoze and so many peals of laughter ring out, you think that boy is a giggle bell!

This goes on for fully 20 minutes!

What is it it that's touching or not touching that allows this pinching???  Pancakes on the griddle. If they touch, Luke gets to pinch Papa. If they don't touch, the pinch privilege is in Papa's strong fingers. 

Papa has to pull his pinches as he might pull a punch in a mock fight or this would not be fun. But as it is, Papa knows just how and where to pinch, and pancakes are squoze into a little boy's memory where they will be warm and ready to serve to his own children, perhaps, someday.

My part in this play is to keep the container of pancake mix filled up, and this morning Papa has used up the last of it, so I get out my ingredients and my giant bowl and my apron, because THERE WILL BE FLOUR FLYING!

You can use whole wheat or all-purpose flour, rye flour, cornmeal or corn flour, etc. Here's my recipe.  Tweak away.  Make it your own.  Play with the spices.  Mix it up!  And use a really big bowl because it can be messy with flour and whatnot floofing up as you stir:

10 cups whole wheat flour
10 cups cornmeal
1 1/4 cup sugar or to taste. 
7 tbsp. baking powder
7 tbsp. ground cinnamon, if desired
3 1/2 tbsp. salt
3 1/2 tbsp. baking soda
2 tbsp. ground nutmeg, if desired
6 2/3 cups dried milk powder if you have it, if not leave it out and add the milk in when you make the pancakes.

Mix all this dry stuff up, turning it over and over in the bowl until all is well blended.  Store in the freezer in an airtight container or two.

To make a batch of 4 to 6 pancakes, measure out 1 cup of mix, and for every cup of dry mix add 1 egg, 1 tbsp. of oil, and 3/4 cup of water if you added dried milk to the mix, or 3/4 cup of milk if you didn't.   You need the milk to help react with the leavening so the pancakes will rise. 

The amount of water or milk you add will vary somewhat with the grains you use.  I like to make my batter a little bit on the thin side, because as we are making the pancakes, the batter in the bowl will thicken up as the cornmeal continues to absorb liquid.  So REMEMBER!  You will need to experiment with the quantity of milk or water you use.

If you did not add dried milk to the mix, that cup of mix will make a bit more pancake.

Cook them on a med-high heat on a greased griddle.  When they begin to bubble and the sides start to look dry, flip them over and finish cook them. 

I love them with the sweet spices added.  I do not add butter or syrup to mine very often as I think they taste like slightly sweet cake donuts, which I can say nothing evil about! 

Anyway, they'll do in a pinch!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Pumpkin Chronicles -- The Sequel

Today I processed two $1 Medium pumpkins from Wal-mart. 

I ended up with eight pints of pureed pumpkin . . . . six in the freezer and two in the soup we ate for supper! That's EIGHT PINTS FOR $2.  Yes and amen.

I learned two cool and important things today.  Pumpkin skin is edible!  The fact that you no longer have to peel pumpkin before use astounds me as does the fact that I did not know this until today; another reason to wash the squash.

The second sweet morsel is that you can puree it with an immersion blender.  In the pot you cook it in!  Less mess, fewer dishes to clean up.  Since I do not particularly enjoy cleaning up, this is as lovely as gossamer faerie wings highlighted with gold sprinkles and I do mean that.

The Pumpkin Chronicles

Recently, Facebook contained loads of pix of cute children in beautiful or creepy or somewhere-in-between costumes and tons of pix of Royal's fan's "Huzzahs!"  Currently, you will find red Starbucks cups monopolizing conversations.  But does anyone even mentioned that pumpkins -- the kind normally reserved for terrifying small children and beautifying porches everywhere -- were $1 each at Wal-mart?  No.  They do not.   I bought five.

Do you know how many people you can feed full with one big Jack-O-Lantern?  Up to 3,000 depending on the golden globe (World record is over 3,000 lbs).  Do you know how many healthful seeds you can get out of just one big orange squash?  Hmmmm?  No?  Rats!  Me either, but I'm curious.

And what about housing and vehicles for the masses!  Really?  No way?  Think back, friends.  Do Cinderella and Peter the Pumpkin Eater mean nothing to you?  Bibbity Bobbity Boo!  It can be done!

Seriously weirded out that the candidates haven't figured this out.  SMH!

The Miller family is serious about eating symbols.  Turkey, candy, apple pie, creches, pumpkins.

The butchery began with our preschool's Class Pumpkin.  (Don't tell the children!)  Eli washed it, gutted it, cutted it, and baked it.   She baked the washed, oiled, seasoned seeds as well, which we ingested, all except for the fibers that just would not chew down -- had to spit them out.  Not worth the fight.  The goats ate all the stringiness surrounding the seeds.  No waste.  Pat pat pat.

We ate some with butter, salt and pepper.  We ate some in chili, mashed with potatoes, and as pumpkin soup.  All seriously good.  Making the soup again tonight. 

Today I used up Class Pumpkin in pumpkin spice bread. and smallish round loaves of pumpkin caraway bread that may become soup bowls, and began processing two of the post-Halloween bargains.  Pumpkin pie will have it's day.

The how-to's and recipes:

Wash the outside of the pumpkin very well.  Who knows what's on it? All those hands and maybe fertilizers or pesticides or stuff from Hades . . .  the knife will invite what ever is on the outside to the inside.  Could be nasty. 

Cut it open, scoop out the seeds and guts into a bowl and tell them to be patient.  Slice the pumpkin into pieces that will be easy to handle for peeling when cooking is complete, and that will fit in your crockpot, soup pot or baking pan. 

You see it in the crockpot in the pix, and while that method takes forever,  it has it's benefits if you have a lot going on and don't want to think about it for a few hours.  At the same time I put larger chunks in the crockpot, I put some smaller ones in the soup pot.   I added about an inch of water to each, covered and put each on medium heat and within 45 minutes we were eating pumpkin with butter, salt and pepper from the pot. 

Eli baked Class Pumpkin in the oven at 350 with water added; it took a couple of hours or more to get done because we didn't cover it.  If you have other stuff to bake, you might as well take advantage of the energy already being spent.  Put the chunks of pumpkin in a baking dish, add about an inch of water, cover with foil, and let it cook alongside what ever else you have going on in there. Start checking for "done-ness" at 45 minutes.

While that's all cooking, bake the seeds.  Wash off the stringy stuff, and put them a bowl big enough to stir them around in with a couple tbsp. of oil, and sprinkle them with seasonings such as salt, pepper, garlic powder, cumin, curry powder, chili powder . . . whatever you like. Bake them at 375 until dried and lightly tanned, stirring them around every ten minutes or so.  Keep a close eye on them.  They don't taste wonderful burnt. 

For chili -- seriously just make your favorite chili recipe and add a couple of cups of pureed or chunked cooked pumpkin.  Adjust the seasonings and there you go!  Same thing with adding pumpkin to stews and soups.

To mash them with potatoes, you can simmer peeled chunks together.  We didn't.  We had filled a big container with cooked, peeled Class Pumpkin and kept it in the fridge to add to the dishes we planned to make with it.  So for mashed potatoes, we peeled and boiled 4 medium potatoes and mashed in two cups of cooked pumpkin with 1/4 cup butter, about 1/3 cup of milk, and for extra deliciousness (and because it had been in the fridge for a long time) about 3 oz. of cream cheese.  Salt, pepper, so on and so forth . . .

There are so many recipes for pumpkin soup out there.  Here's my version that turned out really well:

1 medium onion, chopped and sautéed in 1/4 cup butter
2 or 3 cups of cooked pumpkin
1 quart of seasoned chicken or veggie broth
1/2 tsp salt -- you will adjust this and all seasonings to taste
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ginger
1 tsp. curry powder
1 cup of milk
1 cup of leftover rice -- totally optional, but I had it and theorized it would make the soup thicker and creamier since I wasn't using cream or evap. milk or half and half as many recipes call for.   It did make it a bit thicker, but not creamier because I didn't blend it long enough.  

Put sautéed onions and all the rest in a 3-quart or larger soup pot.  Blend it with an immersion blender or pour it into a pitcher-type blender, blend and return to the pot. Adjust seasonings, bring just to a simmer, remove from heat and serve.  I ate five bowlfuls of it :-).  It was that good.

For the pumpkin quick bread (see. pix) I looked up a basic spiced applesauce bread recipe and substituted the pureed pumpkin for the applesauce.  SCORE!  Any good recipe will make good pumpkin spice bread.

For the bread:

Mix the following in a bowl:

4 cups of wheat flour.  I used 2 cups bread flour, 2 cups reg. white.  I added the additional cup as needed while kneading
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. rapid rise yeast
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. caraway seed

Stir in:

1 cup very warm water
1/2 cup room-temperature, cooked, pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup oil

When the wet stuff is fairly well incorporated into the dry, knead by hand, adding additional flour as needed to keep it from sticking to your hands.   When it is smooth and elastic, turn it over in an oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in size.  Then punch it down, divvy it up into two loaves for loaf bread or four pieces to make into round loaves for soup bowls.  Cover again with the damp cloth and let rise until double.

Bake in a preheated 350 oven for 25 to 30 minutes for loaves and 20 to 25 minutes for soup bowls.  If you may them into regular size rolls, give them 18 to 20 minutes.

Pie is the next thing on our agenda.  There are smaller pumpkins bred for pie making.  They are less stringy and slightly milder than larger ones.  I haven't caught them on sale, sadly.  Blending the larger pumpkins removes the issue of stringiness, so the slight difference in flavor is all you really need to consider once the pumpkin is pureed.  The flavor of the larger pumpkins is not strong and the warm spicy additions to pumpkin pie complement both types. 

This is a true and faithful chronicling of our pumpkin adventures thus far.  There may be a sequel. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Psalm 139 -- Heart Dump -- or how not to tone your butt

What are those shoes that tone your butt, supposedly, by throwing you slightly off balance so that you are eternally having to focus on each step you take or you'll turn you ankle and fall on your face? I have some of those. They were half-price. If I walk through the yard with those on, and step on rocks and acorns, which are unavoidable, I can't think of a darn thing except where and how to place my next step!

This week, my mind and heart are wearing those shoes! There... are reasons, but nothing dramatic . . . just life's quirky way of encouraging overscheduling, and frankly, I wasted a lot of time off and on and got ticked at myself, and forgot something that involved someone else, and put myself first and felt self-righteous about it -- ugh . . . you know . . . that sort of thing. 
So tonight I just wanted to heart dump on someone, and couldn't think of anyone I wanted to do that to, and there aren't a lot of people I trust to take heart dumping seriously, and yes, I love my dh and children and friends, but this was not for mere mortals to handle, so I played a word game while listening to Poirot which Eli and Bill were watching, and then it was time for us to read from the Word before we part ways for the night and guess what we read . . . seriously . . . guess! I only have one minute left in my brain! (Kid History, #6? for those in the know.)

Psalms 139! Check this out if you need to do a heart dump or a mind dump or an emotion dump. The original eternally focused step . . .

Finding value in the Bypassed and the Small . . .