In the Fall

In the Fall

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Make Your Own English Muffins

It was time to make bread again.  I have been making the same kind for a very long time, so I decided to try something different.  We only use bread for toast in the morning and a sandwich once in a while.   Since English muffins are meant to be toasted, I decided to make English muffins.  It was easy, and they turned out pretty well.  I buy bulk yeast, and I think it has lost some of it potency.  The English muffins didn't rise quite as high as I had hoped, but still acceptable.  They are made in a mixer.

English Muffins

1 cup hot water
1/2 cup milk
2 teaspoons honey (we get unfiltered honey from local bees)
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 Tablespoons softened butter

In your mixer, mix together water, milk, honey and salt
Add 2 cups of flour and the yeast.
Mix until you have a soft batter.

Cover the bowl and let it rise for an hour or so.

Add the butter and the rest of the flour.  Mix until well blended.
Roll out dough about 1/2 inch thick on a floured surface and cut into circles.  Let these circles rise until doubled.
Then cook on a buttered electric griddle set at 350 degrees.

When brown flip over and cook the other side.

I wasn't sure the center was done this way, so I put them on a cookie sheet and baked in the oven at 350 degrees
for 15 more minutes.  It seemed to work fine.  Perhaps not using the griddle and baking in the oven for twenty minutes or so on a greased cookie sheet would do the same thing. 

The honey we get.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Bluejay Peanut Feeder

On one of our trips to the thrift store, I saw a familiar item.  One of my Facebook friends posted a picture of a slinky-like wreath full of peanuts.  She had bluejays lining up one right after the other to grab a peanut.  I looked these wreaths up, and they were pretty pricey.  They were at least $20.  The one I found was in the craft section of Goodwill, and I'm pretty sure they didn't know what it was.  I was so excited and it cost $1.99 minus my senor discount.  I brought it home and filled it with peanuts.  I hung it on the side of the bird feeder.  Nothing even came close to eating those peanuts.  It rained and they got wet a few times.  I thought getting wet might be a good thing in case the peanuts were rancid.  Still nothing.  Once in a while I would see a bluejay try to jump from the ground, but they couldn't make it work.  I thought they would be perching on the wreath and grabbing the peanuts that way.  I finally gave up and put the slinky wreath away in the garage.  Then a few days ago, my friend mentioned that the bluejays were busy again.  I bought a new bag of fresh Unsalted Peanuts, specifically for birds and animals.  This time I hung it from a shepherds hook.  I put a few peanuts on a platform feeder to attract the birds.  The bluejays lined up and ate the peanuts.  Within thirty minutes the peanuts on the platform were gone.  I watched as the bluejays eyed up the slinky.  They were scared of it.  The next time I looked out the window, there were at least ten squirrels in the yard.  They weren't scared of Slinky.

I put a rod through the slinky to provide a perch for the bluejays.  All it did was give the squirrel a pivot point.

Yum, yum, yum.

Notice the rod was knocked out immediately.


I guess this method isn't going to work.  It's hard to out smart a squirrel, so back to the drawing board.  The Bluejays aren't going to starve and seem perfectly happy sharing regular birdseed with the other birds.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Making a Pine Cone Wreath

My hydrangea's are dry.  I wrote about drying them a few weeks ago.

When they are dry, I usually remove the old flowers from the vases and replace them with the newly dried flowers.   Then I take the old ones outside to my grapevine wreath.  I just stick them in anywhere in the wreath to get a final use out of them during the fall season.  As fall draws to a close and winter sets in, I take them out of the wreath and put them in the compost pile.  One hydrangea blossom gets a lot of use.

This year as I was decorating for fall, I remembered one of my past projects.  When my daughters were young, we didn't have social media or computers or cell phones.  They didn't watch TV from morning to night.  They played with friends and used their imagination.  We often did projects together.  I remember a project we did in the fall with my friend Judy.  It was a fun activity.  We made pine cone wreaths.  To start with we would go on adventures to find the pine cones.  We liked looking for all different kinds and shapes of cones.  We would separate them into the different types.  It was an inexpensive activity.  The only thing we had to purchase was the wire ring and some wire on a spool.  I imagine I have a picture of one of those wreaths somewhere, but I have no idea where.  I decided to recreate one of those wreaths this year.  I didn't have my partners out in the woods collecting cones, but I had fun searching by myself.  I discovered I had every kind of cone I needed right on our own property.  I guess I knew I would make another wreath some day because I kept one wire ring.  I moved it to Princeton, and it has been sitting in the garage waiting for me for twelve years.

After sorting the pine cones into long, round, small, large and the ones that need to be thrown away, I started shoving them into the wire ring.  First all around the outside and then the inside.

When that is accomplished it is time to fill in the spaces.  I usually wire a cluster of two or three cones together and start anywhere on the wreath.  I put the wire through, pull it tight and secure it in the back.  I sometimes wrap the wire around some of the cones that are only held in by tension.  I shake the whole thing when I'm finished to make sure nothing falls out.  If it does, I just put it back and secure it better.

  I work my way around, filling in as I go.

Pine cones make pretty rosettes if they are cut apart.

It's starting to take shape. 

The last step in the process is to glue small cones, acorns, walnuts or chestnuts in all the gaps.  I use a glue gun.  It's fun to walk around the yard to find things.  I was very disappointed this year because it is an off year for the oak trees.  I couldn't find any acorns this year.  Some years we have so many that we can hear them bouncing off the roof.  I had to use what I had.   We brought back some gum tree pods from South Carolina.  I am going to glue some of those on this wreath.  When everything is in place, flatten all the wires in the back and tuck them in.  Attach another piece of wire to form a hanger.  Sometimes I spray the final wreath with clear varnish.  If it is going to hang outside, that is a good idea.  Otherwise, the rustic look works well too.  Now I have to find a place to hang this one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Different Technique For Browning Ground Beef

I'm not posting a recipe today.  Instead I want to talk about a technique I use for browning hamburger.  Years ago, whenever I would buy hamburger on sale, I would freeze it in one pound packages.  Then I would have to thaw the meat on the counter or thaw in the microwave which resulted in cooked meat on the outside with a frozen center.  If I wanted to make a recipe with browned hamburger in a hurry, this didn't work very well.  Soon I discovered that if you fry out the whole package of beef and freeze it, a meal can be made in minutes.  So many recipes use browned hamburger.  Frying in a frying pan works fine, but you have to stand by the stove and tend to it until it is ready.  If the heat is too high, the grease splatters and makes the stove a mess.  My daughter told me that she uses another technique.  I have been doing it every since.

The first thing you do is get out your slow cooker.   Put the raw ground beef into the cold cooker.   I also add a chopped onion.   I usually do three to ten pounds of meat at a time.  Turn the slow cooker on high and chop up the meat a little.  Put the cover on and go about your business.  No need to add any water.  Then about every hour give it a little chop and stir.  After about three or four hours, depending on the amount of meat, the meat is crumbly and perfect for any recipe.  I drain the meat in a colander to get out the excess water and fat.

When the meat is cooled and drained, I divide it into one or two cup containers and put the containers in the freezer.  Then if you get home late and need a quick meal, the meat is all ready.  It thaws very quickly.  I wrote about making meatballs and meatloaf ahead of time in a previous blog, but this method of browning the meat works very well.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Lovely Walk On The Trail

 Today was an awesome day in Wisconsin.  I usually don't like Sunday, but today had all the elements of a perfect day.  The weather was sunny and warm with a cool touch of fall in the air.  Those of us in Wisconsin love our Green Bay Packers, and they won their football game in the last few seconds.  We took a walk on a bike trail that used to be an old railroad bed.  It was so pretty.  Every now and then a runner or bicycle rider would pass by.  We even discovered that we were in an area of the trail where there were some geocaches that we hadn't found yet. 

The colors are past peak in this area but still pretty.  

The leaves have frozen off but the wild grapes remain on the stems.

I think these are chokecherries.  If they are, I'm surprised they are still there.

A couple catepillars including a wooly catepillar.

The only downside to the day was that we walked too far in one direction not thinking about the fact we had to walk back the same distance.  We hadn't brought water and we were hungry, but we remedied that situation as soon as we arrived home.  Now on to my next project.  I will blog about that in the next few days.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Pesky Green Cricket

Ok, now I understand.  Almost three weeks ago I wrote about my daughter having crickets in her basement.  She attracted them with dog food and duct tape.  I mentioned in the blog that crickets didn't bother me, but they were annoying to her.

I have changed my mind.  A few nights ago when I went to bed, I heard chirp, chirp, chirp.  I got up and tracked the sound to the kitchen.  As I got closer to the area around our stove, the sound stopped.  I waited, and it started again.  This time it sounded like it was coming from the outlet next to the stove.  I thought there was something wrong with the outlet, so I pulled the plug and went back to bed.  The chirping started again, and I got up again.  I couldn't find the cause.  I can't even tell you how many times I got up that night.  Each time when I turned on the light, the sound stopped.  About 5:00 am the sound stopped.  I was exhausted the next day, but pretty much forgot about it.  The next night the same thing happened.  This time my husband heard it.  He thought it was on the other side of the kitchen.  He came to the conclusion it was a cricket in our house.  After a thorough search we weren't going to stay up any longer so I turned the sound machine up higher and shut the bedroom door.  The next night it was the same thing except the sound came from the cold air return in our hallway.  I tried the duct tape trick, but because we don't have a dog or dog food I put a couple pretzels on it.  I took off the cold air return vent cover and placed the trap in the duct.  The next day there was nothing on the tape.  By now I am ready to do anything to get rid of that pesky insect.  It was the fourth night.  I had lost my patience.  The chirping started after the house was settled down for the night, and it was quiet.  I bounded out of bed.  My husband was sound asleep.  I went downstairs and grabbed whatever aerosol insect spray I could find.  Then I waited.  This time the sound was coming from near the ceiling where the wall met the log trim.  I started spraying like a crazy woman.  The spray was running down the wall and out popped a cricket.  Not just any cricket, a GREEN cricket.  I didn't even know there were green crickets.  It looked a little like a grasshopper.  I saw it sail out of the wall, land on the floor and that's the last I saw of it.  It either shriveled up like the witch from the Wizard of Oz or it hopped away.  I never heard it again, but the next morning I found this on a watering jug I had on the porch.  Maybe it's the bothersome cricket or his friend waiting outside our front door for his return.  I think it's going to be a long wait.  I did hear one out in the yard today, but so far we are sleeping peacefully again.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizers are everywhere.  Where ever you go there are sanitizing wipes or a big bottle of gel available.  The thought process is that if we kill the germs both good and bad, we will stop the spread of colds, flu and disease.  As with all good things, there is a down side.  I have been seeing in the news that some of the chemicals in sanitizers are harmful.  I suppose to get shelf life, they need to add chemicals that aren't good.

For months I have been trying to make my own.  I added glycerin to rubbing alcohol.  That turned out sticky and watery.  I tried adding aloe gel to the glycerin and alcohol mixture and still got a watery mess.  The alcohol is so drying and was very strong smelling.  I put it aside and gave up.  Then this week I met a very nice young woman.  She was sitting at one of the health booths at the Woman's Night Out event I attended last week.  She was demonstrating essential oils.  I have used essential oils in many of the things I make but never realized how wonderful they are.  I decided to buy a starter kit and diffuser.  I invited this person to my house to present her products.  We ended up talking for two hours.  I learned a lot and can't wait to learn more.  I learned there are fragrance oils and pure oils.   I also gained a friend and new reader to my blog.  Hi, Michele.  During our conversation, I learned that Michele makes many of the products I make plus so many others.  She also has classes on how to make products that use essential oils.  I will be learning how to make cough drops, medicated Vick's type rub and a variety of other things.  She shared her recipe for, yes you guessed it, Sanitizing Gel.  I made it today and it is perfect.   The only problem I have is finding Aloe Vera gel without too many additives or colors.  I purchased some 100% Aloe Vera clear gel.  It still has some things in the ingredients list that I'm not sure about.  One of those ingredients inhibits the growth of mold which would be important.

Hand Sanitizer

5 Tablespoons Aloe Vera Gel
4 Tablespoons water ( I use distilled water)
1/4 teaspoon Vitamin E oil
8-10 drops of Pure Essential Oil

Mix together, in a bowl, the Aloe Vera gel and the vitamin E oil.  Add the essential oil and water.  Then mix completely.  You can add more or less water depending on how thick you want it.  Put into a small squeeze bottle.  Empty bottles can be purchased.  The oils are diluted enough so they won't break down the plastic

I debated about what essential oil to use.  I almost used a stress reliever oil to use when I feel anxious.  Then I thought peppermint would be good in the car when someone gets car sick.  The smell of peppermint helps upset stomachs.  I finally settled on Thieves Oil.  After all Hand Sanitizer should be used for sanitizing.  Thieves is a combination of spices like cloves, cinnamon, some rosemary and others.  It is thought that the combination for thieves oil came from the time of the bubonic plague.  Everyone was afraid of catching the plague so they stayed away from those who had it or the bodies of those who died from it. However there were some thieves who were brave enough or desperate enough to loot the homes and bodies of the plague victims.  The thieves were spice traders and would douse themselves with these spices.  Apparently they never got the plague.  When they were caught they gave up the recipe for a lesser punishment.  If it works on the plague, it may work on cold and flu.   This is not insurance against major disease,  but it could help kill germs.  On top of that, it smells good and softens the hands.