Scrubbies!

My daughter-in-law’s mother, Donna, is the sweetest, kindest person you would ever want to meet. She has been a blessing in my life for my son, my grandchildren and a wonderful friend for me!  One thing Donna has shared with me is her scrubbies!

Make your own nylon scrubbies

Our Christmas Gift from Donna – a package of scrubbies!

These scrubbies are so useful.  They are made of nylon netting and crocheted into a size that is perfect for the hand.  You can scrub anything with these – from toilets to teflon, and beets to feets!  Of course, you will want to keep your cleaning scrubbies separate from your food scrubbies! 🙂

She even gave us a dozen for Christmas! Here are a few 

The only problem is – anyone who sees them in my house wants one!  Since I decided I would love to do as Donna has, and grace my family and friends with scrubbies, I needed to learn how to make them!

I only know the basics of crochet, but that’s okay, because that’s all you have to know to make one!  To make one scrubbie, all you need is about 4 yards of nylon netting that you have cut into 2 to 3 inch strips, and a size “J” or 6 mm crochet hook.  And some patience!

DIY crochet nylon scrubbers

Keep a couple of these and a crochet hook in your purse. When you have idle time, make a scrubbie!

Donna taught me how to cut all my strips at once, then roll them into packages with a rubber band, each package enough to make one scrubbie.  This way, whenever you are in the car on a long trip, waiting (and waiting) at a doctor’s office, or sitting on your back porch listening to the birds sing, you can bring out your little packets and crochet hook and make a scrubbie or two!

My first attempt wasn’t really a total flop.  I got the basic shape down, but I was obviously twisting the netting too tightly and making my crochet stitches too tight.

DIY Nylon Scrubbies

Donna’s is on the left. Mine is on the right! 😉

By the time I got the fourth row done, my scrubbie was less than half the size it should have been!  And it took me the better part of an hour to do it!  Hahaha – Donna can make one in 5 minutes – no kidding!

So, I tried again.  This time I didn’t twist as tightly and I pulled the netting through with the crochet hook through much further with each stitch.  I think I am getting the hang of it.  My second scrubbie looks almost decent.  It will certainly work as intended, though it isn’t as neatly crocheted as the ones Donna makes.  No worries, though, as I know that I will get better and better as I make more and more!

DIY scrubbies

My second attempt. A little better.

Donna makes hundreds and hundreds of the scrubbies and gives them away to her family and friends.  She has also sold them at fund raising bazaars.  Imagine putting together a gift basket with some of these scrubbies and a few bottles of homemade natural cleaners, soaps and candles for a bride to be or as a housewarming gift!

Donna packages her scrubbies with a cute little saying on one side and instructions on how to make scrubbies on the back.  Then she binds them together in packages of 1, 2 or even 5 scrubbies.  I modified her poem a little and made my own package with directions on the back also!

DIY crochet scrubbies

For a gift or to sell at a fund raiser, package them with a cute little poem and directions to make more on the back!

Here are the directions of how to make a scrubbie:

How to make nylon scrubbies

 

I hope you make some scrubbies!  Oh – and take care of where your scrubbies are – the disposal likes to eat them!

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Wheat, Almond & Acorn Bread

Making bread with almond and acorn flour

I have read (several sources) that a plot 10 x 20 (or 200 square feet) planted in wheat, will yield enough wheat flour (about two cups) to make one small to medium sized loaf of bread every week for a year!  Wow.

Since no one in my family is gluten intolerant and I just adore hot bread out of the oven, that information makes me extremely happy!  Holy cow – I can grow wheat over the leach field that lays right in front of our future home!

So, I got to thinking.  What if I used an alternative type of flour, one I can grow in my vegetable garden (soy or bean flour) or off a nut tree (acorn or almond flour) and use it to stretch the wheat flour further?  If the bread takes about 2 cups of flour, and I substituted 1 cup with another type of flour, then I would still have that 1 cup of wheat flour to use elsewhere – say, for pasta!  Or cake.  Or zucchini muffins.

Mmmmmmm…………. zucchini muffins.  😉

I have been doing a lot of experimenting with almond milk lately (Almond Milk Frozen Yogurt and Almond Milk Ice Cream) and so I have a lot of almond flour in my cupboard right now. When I make almond milk, the left-over pulp is dried and then ground into flour.  I have also been playing around with acorn flour, so I decided to give it a go and see what I can come up with!

Almond mealHere are a few pictures showing the different flours I am going to use.  The first is of dried almond pulp.  This is what is left over after you extract the almond milk.  The second picture shows the difference between blanched almond flour and unblanched almond flour.  When you blanch almonds, the skin slip off easily, so that the resulting meal/flour is a creamy white color.  When the skins are left on (which makes Making bread with three floursperfectly acceptable almond milk) they are ground up and used just like the blanched almond flour, except the texture may be just a bit more grainy.  Some people refer to unblanched almond flour as “almond meal”.  To me, it’s almost like having wheat flour and whole wheat flour.  The third picture shows the three flours that I am going to experiment with to get a good recipe for bread.  The top left shows unbleached all purpose wheat Almond and Acorn flour breadflour. I hope to be able to grow my own wheat on our future homestead, but this wheat is store-bought.  The top right is blanched almond flour that I made myself.  The bottom shows the acorn flour.  I gathered acorns, cracked the nuts out of the shells, ground them up a bit and leached them in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks, changing the water every day.  Once the bitterness of the tannin was removed, the acorn meal was allowed to dry and then I ground the dried acorn meal into flour.

My first experiment didn’t turn out exactly as I had planned. Bread made with almond and acorn flour The bread tasted pretty good and it rose about 1/3 again it’s size, but I think there was too much liquid involved.  It came out of the oven with the top of the bread looking almost like browned cheese.  It was a bit more dense than store-bought sandwich bread, but not too dense, and actually had a good crumb. Just as I had supposed, the sweetness of the almond flour offset the bitterness of the acorn flour, but not completely.   The crust was a bit more crumbly than I would have liked, although it cut well with a serrated knife.Bread using acorn flour

Okay.  So, knowing that it tasted good, had a decent texture, but didn’t rise up very much and didn’t have the best crust, I figured I would just tweak the recipe a bit. 😉  I like doing that!

I think there was just too much liquid in the batter, so I decided to try the same recipe again with only one egg and 1/2 cup of water. Bread made with almond flour Also, instead of using 1/2 cup of acorn flour, I used 1/3 cup and 2/3 cup of almond flour (instead of 1/2 and 1/2) with the 1 cup of wheat flour. With the dough hook on my mixer, I “kneaded” the bread for about 3 or 4 minutes, though it was a bit looser than conventional wheat bread dough.  But, this batter does have yeast and gluten, so I thought it couldn’t hurt.  It didn’t pour into the pan like the first batch and I had to plop it in with a spoon, which  I think was a good thing and more like the bread I was trying to get.  I let it rise 2 hours, and indeed, it rose up above the level of the pan.  This was a lot considering the batter barely filled up 1/3 of theBread made with almond and acorn flour pan to begin with.

I preheated my oven to 375 and let the bread bake for 20 minutes.  Mmmmmmm……. My whole house smelled so good!  The bread didn’t rise any more in the oven, like I was hoping it would, but when I cut the bread………………..

(angels descending from heaven singing a beautiful chorus)Bread with wheat, almond and acorn flour

………..it was beautiful.  It had a wonderful texture and sliced with a bread knife just like I was hoping it would.  Of course, the taste is the most important criteria for success and, let me tell you, this was a HUGE success!  Hubby and I both agreed that it tasted Baking bread with alternative flourswonderful.  We had some slices with my homemade crockpot plum butter that I put up last summer and decided this recipe was a winner!  I may still tweak the recipe a bit here and there because I want to see if adding just a bit more yeast and another 1/2 cup of flour would make a bigger loaf – more of a sandwich sized loaf.  But, at this point I am happy.  Really happy! 🙂

Here is the recipe I ended up with:

1 cup wheat flour, 2/3 cup almond flour, 1/3 cup acorn flour

1 packet yeast

1/2 cup warm water

1 teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons grape seed oil (or olive oil)

3 tablespoons sugar (cane non GMO sugar)

1 egg, slightly beaten

Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup warm water, according to packet directions.  Add sea salt, grape seed oil, sugar and the egg, mix well.  Add in flour.  At this point I used my mixer to “knead” the bread for about 4 minutes.  If you aren’t using a mixer, just make sure you mix it well.  Place in a bread loaf pan (I buttered mine first) and let it rise about 2 hours, or at least until doubled in volume.  Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.  Pop out of pan and cool on a rack.  Enjoy!

Now – on to the pasta recipes!

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Frozen Yogurt from Almond Milk – Yummy!

I finally did it!  I made an Almond Milk Frozen Yogurt that tastes really good!

My first three attempts at making almond milk yogurt can be seen here.  The problem was getting an almond milk yogurt to taste good and have the right creamy, thick consistency.  When I tried the first recipe using cornstarch, all I could taste was the cornstarch!  I thought that maybe the problem was the starter, so I tried using plain dairy yogurt instead of a supplement starter, but again, the cornstarch flavor was a problem.  So, I tried using potato starch and then cream of tartar to thicken the yogurt.  The potato starch made the yogurt taste, well, potatoey and acidic, but not the tangy yogurt acidic flavor, if you know what I mean.  I can’t even describe how the cream of tartar tasted.  Not really bad, but the aftertaste or the after FEEL on my tongue just wasn’t very pleasant.  My thinking was that I needed to find a thickener that had the least amount of taste or aftertaste on the tongue.  Frozen Yogurt made from Almond Milk

So, I decided to start back at square one.  Just almond milk, starter and sugar.  That’s it.  My plan was to ferment this mixture and then if it turned out really thin but still tasted good, I would add plain gelatin to give it a thicker, and more creamy consistency.  However, since my goal is to make frozen yogurt, I wasn’t sure if the thickness of the yogurt would matter very much.

But I didn’t have to add the gelatin!  The most simple recipe without thickener turned out to be fairly thick and creamy!  I couldn’t believe it!  All I had to do was drain off some of the whey, and it was just as thick and creamy as any Greek dairy yogurt you can purchase at the grocery store! So, why on earth did those recipes I followed in the first place add cornstarch or cream of tartar or even guar gum of all things?

Here is how I made my Almond Milk Frozen Yogurt:

I made my almond milk the usual way (2 cups of blanched almonds with 4-1/2 cups water in a blender, blend for 2 minutes, strain out milk) and heated four cups just to a simmer.  This may be the key.  You are supposed to heat the milk to 180 degrees to pasteurize it, but when making dairy yogurt it is important not to get the milk too hot or it might scorch and the protein in the milk would be destroyed.  However, this wasn’t dairy milk and perhaps getting it just to the boiling stage is what made it thicken??  I will have to experiment with this a bit more just to make sure.  Nonetheless, it certainly didn’t hurt anything.  I took the almond milk off the heat and added 1 tablespoon of cane sugar (not GMO beet sugar!) and stirred to completely dissolve.  Do not use honey – especially raw honey – for several reasons, the most important being that honey is a natural antiviral/antibiotic, which may kill off the good starter bacteria you are using to ferment!  But you do need some type of sugar for the bacteria to “eat” (which is what fermentation is all about), and the almond milk in itself doesn’t have enough natural sugar for this process.  I have read that it is safe to use Agave, but I also understand that Agave isn’t any different than sugar when it comes to glycemic index, tooth decay, and general health.  Anyway, once the almond milk and sugar mixture had cooled down to between 100 and Cherry Almond Frozen Yogurt 110 degrees, I added 2 capsules of the starter and gently stirred this into the mixture.  For my starter, I used a supplement (in capsule form) that contained acidophilus, bulgaricus, thermophilus and bifidum – each capsule holding 500 million viable organisms.  You can find these at any health food store, usually in the refrigerated section.

This was put into my new Dash Greek Yogurt Maker and the timer was set for 12 hours.  From my research, the more time you give the cultures to ferment the sugars, the better the “tang” in the finished yogurt!

Let it be, let it be, let it be oh let it be!  Whisper words of wisdom, let it be! 🙂

(Don’t stir!)  Don’t you just love the Beatles!!???

After twelve hours the yogurt tasted pretty much like almond flavored yogurt.  It was fairly smooth and creamy with a good bit of “tang”.  The almond flavor wasn’t too strong, but the taste was there.  However, Yogurt is not what I want – I want Frozen YogurtAlmond Milk Frozen Yogurt

So, to compliment the almond flavor of the yogurt, and since I had some frozen cherries in my freezer, I decided to make Cherry Almond Frozen Yogurt!

I chopped up about 1/2 cup of cherries and 1/4 cup of blanched, slivered almonds and added them to the yogurt mixture.  Since I felt it needed just a bit more sweetness (it is dessert, after-all), I added 4 drops of my homemade stevia syrup.  You can see how to make stevia syrup here.

The entire mixture was added to my handy-dandy IceCream Maker and within a few minutes I had Cherry Almond Frozen Yogurt!  Yum!  It was really, really good.  The flavor was very much Cherry Almond, it was creamy and just sweet enough. Cherry Almond Milk Frozen Yogurt

I am so glad I finally got this recipe worked out!  My next flavor to try will be Pineapple and Coconut or perhaps Raspberry and Dark Chocolate!  Pretty much anything that would go with almonds would work well with this recipe!

If you have any suggestions for flavors or if you have tried making Frozen Yogurt with Almond Milk and have a different recipe that works for you, please let me know in the comment section below!  I would love to hear from you!

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Free Kindle Gardening Books!

Pantano Romanesco tomatoOh my goodness!  I love free books!  I just “purchased” six gardening e-books for my Kindle and I can’t wait to read them – especially with spring right around the corner!  I also picked up a couple of free e-books about raising chickens!  Ya-hoo!

Did you know that you can “purchase” these free books even if you don’t have a Kindle! Just download the “Kindle for PC” app on Amazon and you are good to go! It’s free! Here is a list of the ones I just “bought” and their links:

NOTE:  The first set of books I put on this link are no longer free.  So, I went back to the free kindle book list and found these:

SORRY – Not free anymore.  I will update this again when I find more free kindle gardening books!

 

Grandma’s Herb Garden Secrets

How to Improve Soil Condition in Your Garden

Survival Seeds For Life  

Composting:  A Comprehensive Guide   

Vertical Gardening;  Ultimate Guide   

Beginner’s Guide to Raised Bed Gardening  

Victory Garden Guide for Self Sufficiency  

Growing Vegetables Like A Pro  

And then these books are about raising chickens: These are no longer free either: 

Backyard Chickens For Beginners  

Backyard Chickens Crash Course  

Remember to get these soon because I don’t know how long they will be free to “purchase”!  And make sure you double check the price before you click on the purchase button!  I think these are usually free for only a week or two.

I love that Amazon offers free e-books.  So far, I have about 50 free e-books from Amazon – from cooking with almond flour to classics like Jane Eyre!

By the way – this is my 100th Post and I thought it would be appropriate to publish it on my One Year Blog Anniversary!  I posted my first article on January 14, 2013, and I am proud of what I have accomplished so far! Pretty good for an old lady like me!  🙂

The rumors are true: when you start blogging it’s so much fun it’s hard to pull yourself away.  I have made new friends and learned a lot of new skills!  If you don’t have a blog and were thinking of starting one, I would encourage you to do so!  You won’t regret it!

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