Tag Archives: homemade

Book Review: Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs

Beyond the Square Crochet Motifs:

144 circles, hexagons, triangles, squares, and other unexpected shapes

Book By:  Edie Eckman

5cupcake

5 cupcakes out of 5

Review by Amanda McMillen

Over the holidays I was at a family member’s house and she had a copy of this book. She let me borrow it for a few days and I fell in love with it. After returning it I managed to get myself a copy for the Kindle.

The author Edie Eckman has written several books but so far I have only read the one! When it comes to the world of fiber arts she has done it all. After working in a yarn store she started writing patterns, and teaching. She is also an editor for yarn companies and independent publishers.

I have not read a lot of crochet books because I find that I tend to prefer blog posts. Many of the books I have read in the past end up making me feel overwhelmed. This book is far from intimidating. The patterns are easy to understand and she clearly explains everything about them. Noobs to the most experienced crocheter can gain something from this book.

One of my favorite parts of this book is that she explains how to use graph patterns. This is something that has alluded me for years. There is even recommendations on which patterns to to use, to help teach yourself how to read them. Each motif has a written pattern and a chart pattern. Like so many other craft books, this one is filled with amazing images. They are clear without taking over the content.

Although the only patterns in the book are the motifs themselves she offers creative ideas to use them. There is even a recipe on how to create your own designs.

Pros:

  • Easy to read patterns and technique tutorials
  • Beautiful images
  • Good tips and tricks
  • Easy to use and well organized

Cons:

No major cons. This books was better than expected! Although there are great ideas for uses of the motif, they are all drawings. I do kind of wish there were some photos of finished products using them.

You know I had to make some of these the first night I had it!

I have made a few motifs so far, but one really stands out as a favorite!

Motif 112

I like a traditional granny square but sometimes they get a little boring. This is a different take on it. I am planning on making an afghan for my daughter using this motif with a regular granny square done in two colors.

This book has so much to offer, so in between making squares I will be making a scarf from some of the more open round motifs, I just have not decided how I want to join them yet. Thankfully the book offers tips on how to join pieces!

Have you read this book?

What is your favorite motif? I am thinking about trying to host a crochet along this year and using this book for the projects.

Disclaimer: I am not being paid to do this review. I have not
received any compensation from the author or publisher.
I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate program, so if you buy this book through the links in this post you will be helping this blog, and my family.

Oops… My bad

So earlier today I posted a free pattern… I also made a PDF file of the pattern, and set it up for free download on Ravelry.

I forgot to activate the link…

So if you tried to download it  today and could not, I am very sorry.

Here is the link to the pattern for Basic Arm Warmers PDF file.

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/basic-arm-warmers

arm warmers resize

Cinnamon Honey Butter

A good friend of mine has started a page on facebook called Recipe Results. We always see these amazing recipes on facebook and pintrest. So often we wonder, does it work? She tests as many of these as she can, and posts the results. When I can I try to contribute as well.

If you ever have tried any of those recipes, I am sure she would love to hear your feedback as well.

Today I am trying one of those recipes:

I am going to make a few minor changes, but nothing major.

I am not sure who made this post, but I found it though Better Gnomes & Cauldrons. (If this is your post, let me know! I will share the info.)

I am making some homemade butter for this. I am also suggesting to use raw local honey if you can find it. Cinnamon and raw local honey are both very good for you. They are both anti-inflammatory and both good for upper respiratory and allergies!

So this is a really good way to enjoy your toast and feel better.

It did not take long to whip this up, and the kids had fun helping! My daughter shook the heavy whipping cream while my boyfriend sang “Whole lotta Shakin goin on.”

This recipe has earned a permanent place in our fridge! I think it is an absolute must during cold and flu season!!!

Live Raw Sauerkraut recipe

I have wanted to make some raw sauerkraut for a while now. First I had to use up the cooked stuff that my boyfriend made me. (He makes really good cooked sauerkraut. I really need to get that recipe from him…)

So today I did a search for recipes, because I lost the one I wanted to try. For once I am happy I lost a recipe, because I found something better. I was going to post this a week from now, with the steps I take to make it. After some thought I would rather give you the info I found today. I really like the information on this webpage, and really need to read the rest of the site. (totally on my ever growing to do list…)

Here is a recipe for raw sauerkraut that is also alive and full of probiotics! They use liquid whey! If you have never used whey, it is really amazing! It is a natural by product of Greek yogurt and cream cheese. I have posted about it before, with instructions on how to make it.

So right now I have milk heating in a slow cooker to make cream cheese. With the whey I will be making this sauerkraut! I may also try it again with the vinegar brewed in lemons once that is done.

I am pretty excited and plan to be posting more about this.

Here are the ingredients for this recipe:

  • 2 large cabbages. Reserve 3-4 large leaves – enough to cover the surface of the brewing container
  • 2 large onions
  • Optionally, other vegetables in season. I have also used hot peppers, carrots, beets, beetroot, caraway seeds, a wide variety of fresh herbs, radish, curry powder, ginger and garlic, all with great success
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt. Use more salt if you are not adding the whey below, less if you have a good raw milk kefir whey. The salt helps promote the lactic acid bacteria in competition with bad bacteria
  • 1 cup filtered water.
  • 1 cup of liquid whey. If whey is not available, use 1 cup of lemon juice, or half a cup of vinegar, preferably apple-cider vinegar. White supermarket vinegar is a poor alternative. The clear liquid whey that forms as kefir or yogurt sours as it ages is by far the best starter, and will make a reliable and delicious sauerkraut by introducing plenty of lactic acid bacteria
  • 2 Tbs juniper berries (optional)
  • 2 Tbs seaweed such as wakame, kelp or dulse (optional)

For the steps read Grow Youthful‘s sauerkraut recipe page.

It will be days before I can even start mine, because I have no whey on hand, so my boyfriend is cooking me up some of his yummy yummy sauerkraut!!!

Sweet Berry Vinegar!

So I have been experimenting with making my own vinegar. There has been a lot of ups and downs but I am excited to say, I got this now!

back to basics

Vinegar is very useful. I am not sure it is the cure all that some people say, but I’ve found it the most useful thing in my pantry. It clears up dandruff, helps digestion, kills parasites, cleans the house, and helps with inflammation. I am told it does even more, but that is what I have tried.

The vinegar you buy in the store is pasteurized and distilled and that kills a lot of the stuff that is good for you. You can not buy unpasteurized vinegar, so I learned to just make my own.

I have read many methods of making vinegar, and to be honest it is a little overwhelming how much I found. Some recipes sound simple, where some sound like you need a full lab to make it.

Let me tell you how I did it:

vinegar

First I started by making a Mother of Vinegar. That really was not as hard as I thought at first.

To make vinegar you have to feed the mother sugar that it can ferment to create alcohol and that is what turns to vinegar. Anything that ferments can be used, but you do want to keep the flavors of that in mind while doing it. Old, but not rotten fruit is the best thing to use. Most old fruit is starting to ferment already.

I used a glass one gallon tea pitcher with a spout on the bottom. It has to be glass or ceramic. Vinegar is an acid, so you do not want anything corrosive. I cleaned everything with a bleach sanitizing solution (1 tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water), and let it air dry.

A few weeks before starting this I bought a bunch of fruit. I let the kids help themselves but I got extra hoping some would get old. I used what was left to make the vinegar.

  • 1 plum
  • a handful of strawberries
  • a handful of grapes
  • 1 green apple

I cut everything up, making sure nothing was rotten. I covered the fruit up with wine and apple cider vinegar. I used the Bragg kind with the mother in it. For extra sugar I added some honey.

Honey can slow things down, because it does not go bad. I found it really added to the over all flavor though.

I poured in the mother of vinegar, and the solution it as made in. I used a coffee filter to cover it up. It’s important that it is able to breath, but you want to keep things out. It is possible to attract vinegar flies. Store it in a warm, but not hot dark place.

Do not be surprised when you smell an alcohol smell in the room it is fermenting in. Once a week I would pull it out, and check on it. The whole family would smell and taste it. We were always surprised by how good it was!

After a week we noticed, it formed a new mother.

 

Every two weeks we would feed it by adding more fruit, or a little wine.

Last weekend when tasting it, we realized it was done! I pulled out the many layers of mother, and set them aside. I poured out the vinegar into the bottles, and filtered the fruit out. Since it is unpasteurized I am keeping it in the fridge.

I sure it will be great in salad dressing! I know it was good when the bratwurst was cooked in it!

I have started a lemon vinegar now, using the mother I saved from this one. I have used 8 lemons, some white wine, and some apple cider. It  is almost a week old now.

Pumpkin Yeast Bread

I love pumpkin! I am sure I have said this before. I love pumpkin bread too, but recently I have wanted to start making yeast breads. I have not done that since my oldest son was very young. I recently decided that I want to stop buying bread and want to make all of the household bread.

In a dream I made pumpkin yeast bread, so when I woke up I looked it up and found it is really a thing! Everyone referred me to the King Arthur Flour Recipe.

Since it has been close to 10 years since I made yeast bread, I was being rather ambitious when I decided to make a shaped loaf. I made a standard loaf, and a loaf that kinda looks like a pumpkin.

IMG_1289

I plan on attempting this again sometime, and I am sure with practice I may actually get good at shaping bread.

Pumpkin Yeast Bread

1/2 cup warm water
2 packages (2 tablespoons) active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups puréed pumpkin, either fresh or canned
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
6 1/2 cups (approximately) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

*Note* I don’t care for ginger so I substituted cinnamon and used clove rather than cardamom.

I really enjoyed making this. I recommend this recipe to anyone who makes bread or wants to try. It was easy, but it is sticky for a yeast bread. I had read that in the comments so I was thankful for the warning. If you are familiar with bread making you are warned!

Today I am making Rye Sourdough.

Since the Pumpkin Bread went so well I want to try another King Arthur recipe. It is for a bread machine but I am sure I can alter it.

Sourdough Rye Bread

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 tablespoons molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
1 extra-large egg
1/3 cup water
1 recipe sourdough starter 
2 1/4 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, plus 2 to 3 additional tablespoons if the dough appears wet after the first 5 minutes of kneading
3/4 cup white or light rye flour
1 1/2 teaspoons table salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast or instant yeast
4 teaspoons to King Arthur Whole-Grain Bread Improver

*note* I don’t have bread improver, and I am not sure I want it. I am not going to use it.

It is not often I have molasses already in the house, but we tried a really good stuffed acorn squash recipe that called for it. I admit that is part of the reason that I want to try this rye sourdough.

Well I am off to the kitchen to fill my home with the smell of warm fresh bread. That just maybe one of my favorite smells ever.

How to Cook Pumpkin for Pies & Breads

A long time ago I was taught how to cook up a pumpkin for pie. I love pumpkin pies, and I really can not get enough of them.

Every fall I cook a year’s worth of pumpkin, portion it out and freeze it. This is a really easy but time consuming project. Once you taste a pie made from fresh pumpkin you will never settle for less!

back to basics

IMG_1261

First thing you should do is pick the kind of pumpkin you want. I did not take pictures of this, but I wish I had. There are different types of pumpkin but the most common will be Pie Pumpkins and Large Pumpkins.

  • Pie Pumpkins: These are smaller and sweeter to taste. You can reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, but these will yield less pumpkin goo.
  • Large Pumpkins, or Jack O Lantern Pumpkins: These are larger, and less sweet.  They are more common and have a stronger gourd taste. If you increase the brown sugar in the recipe it really brings out the flavor. This is my favorite, if nothing else because of volume.

Other Pumpkins:

I have never used these before so I do not know anything about them. Feel free to experiment. I am sure the cooking would be the same. Here are some of the ones I have seen.

  • White Pumpkins
  • Heirloom Pumpkins

I am sure there are far more varieties then most people know. Keep in mind, a pumpkin is just a winter squash, so you can use it in any squash recipe! I LOVE pumpkin! Be sure to try my Pumpkin Stir fry recipe too!

Once you decide what kind you want you get to cook it!

There are many methods to cooking pumpkin and I have tried at least most of them. This is my preferred method.

First I cut the top of the pumpkin off, like you would a jack o lantern. After cutting off any usable pumpkin from the top I just throw it away. Next I cut the pumpkin in half cleaning out the seeds and goo.

You will quickly learn that pumpkin is a little harder to cut than you expect. I suggest using a very sharp knife with a comfortable grip.

Cut the pumpkin into cubes, about the size you would for potatoes, or a little larger. Once cut toss into a large stock pot and fill with water. I also add salt so that it will cook a little faster.

As you see I have kept the dark skin on the pumpkin. That is because it is difficult to remove raw. I have destroyed so many knives and potato peelers trying to remove it.

I prefer to only fill the stock pot half way, and cook fewer pieces at a time. I find it takes just as long to cook fewer all day as it does to fill the pot. You get your temperature up faster this way and the pieces cook quickly.

To check if the pieces are done I insert a knife into the chunks. If it’s soft enough to go through, it’s done. Once soft I strain it with a colander and and let it cool.

When cool I use a simple table knife to cut the dark skin off. It is not harmful to eat but it does not blend well and does not digest well either. I think it makes for ugly pumpkin goo.

When I am making my Honey Pumpkin and Shrimp Stir Fry I stop the process here. You can eat the pumpkin like any other squash at this point!

If you want to make pumpkin goo there is one more very simple step.

Mash the Pumpkin! I use a food processor.

In the past I have used mixers, and blenders too. I have even used a non electric hand mixer before. All of these have about the same results. I suggest avoiding blenders though, because they get hard to clean and turn out to be more mess and hassle. I mash them just like I do potatoes.

As you see, this really is easy. The bigger the pumpkin, the longer it takes. If you use a lot like I do, a full day of pumpkin cooking is worth it. If you use less you can get a smaller one and only spend an hour or two.

Cooking With Fresh Pumpkin Tips:

  • This method of pumpkin cooking makes the pumpkin watery. You may want to reduce the liquids in the recipe, or strain the pumpkin overnight.
  • Fresh pumpkin is lighter in color than canned. Your pies will not have the same rich color as store bought ones. This is also a way to tell if they used fresh pumpkin or not.
  • Unfrozen pumpkin goes bad quickly. It is important to freeze right away. Remember you did not add preservatives.
  • Once thawed out, use within 24-48 hours. As with all things, if it smells bad throw it out!
  • Cooked, frozen pumpkin in a deep freeze can last a year. Most people say only 6 months. I have kept mine for a year, but if it gets freezer burn it does not taste as good. After a year it sometimes smells bad once it is thawed out.

I finally have a Mother Of Vinegar

back to basics

What is more basic than making your own vinegar? I have not made vinegar yet, but I have made a mother. This is key to making good vinegar.

This was easier the second time around than I expected. Anyone can do this, and learn from my fail! Do not let your forming mother get hot. Do keep it warm in a dark place though.

On July 1st I posted about trying to start a Mother of Vinegar.

The method I used to start it is a pretty common one, but it didn’t work. After some reading I decided that I may have let it get too hot. I read it should be warm, but this is Texas and warm means something else here.

mov

So this is what it looked like from start to finish. I was really disappointed.

Lots of people suggested using Bragg Apple Cider Vinegar to make the mother. So for the second one I mixed 1 part apple cider Vinegar to 2 parts old white wine. I did not take a photo of this, for some unknown reason.

(PS: on the Bragg website I saw a thing about a free sample so I just signed up for that!)

I also stored this one in a different place. I found a warm, dark place that was different than the last. This was almost 3 weeks ago.

The other day, I glanced at it really fast, and was shocked to see a mother already starting to form! I am so excited!

sept25edit

This picture was taken this morning!!! The mother is still kind of thin. I want to wait to use it, so I can give it time to get thicker. Once thicker, I can peal a layer off to use for vinegar. I want to start with apple, but I was reading something about pineapple vinegar, and I think that would be an interesting flavor.

I have never eaten homemade vinegar, but I am told there is a world of difference. I noticed that the Bragg smells better than other vinegar I have bought. I am sure homemade will be even better.

Here is a better picture to give you an idea what is in my jar:

sept25 mother angle

I hope that in a week or so I can start some of my own apple cider vinegar! I found these really pretty apples at the store that I want to make a pie from. I am planning on using the scraps from that. I may include some pears or berry bits too!

Have you ever made vinegar?

If so, did you use a mother? What methods and flavors do you make?

Cottage Food Laws

I am not sure how but I managed to miss the existence of Cottage Food Laws! Seems the first of this month it even was made somewhat better for Texans. I found the most useful website!

Texas Cottage Food Law

Now I can not sell these baked goods over the internet, or ship them. I can however share the recipes on this blog! I have some new ones I will be testing soon!

Also:

It is Pumpkin Time Again!

So I will be pulling out my tried and true pumpkin recipes and testing some new ones to add to the list! Are you excited? I am!!!!

What’s on your Hook Wednesday!

I have been so busy with back to school and trying to get extra hours at work that I have not had time to crochet or knit much. When I do have time I have been trying to learn how to make socks. Socks are the main reason I wanted to learn how to knit.

wed hook

Seems like every time I think I am doing well on making a sock, I find I have messed up so bad, that I have to start over. I still have not been able to complete one yet.

As you see I am not far. I did most of this yesterday, and hop to be “turning the heal” today.  I am using Socks 101 from Knitty to learn how to make my own pattern.

If my hands let me, I want to make a mini witch hat. I have arthritis in my right hand, and knitting seems to be easier than crocheting these days.