Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Homemade Life, February 28

For A Homemade Life this week, I thought I would share another English muffin recipe, a whole wheat one this time, and also some of the spice and seasoning blends I use.

First, a recipe for


1 cup milk
2 Tblsp. sugar
3 Tblsp. butter or margarine
1 tsp. salt
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1 cup lukewarm water
Pinch of sugar
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour

Heat the milk until just below boiling. You can do this in the microwave or on top of the stove. Put sugar, butter in salt in a large mixing bowl and pour the hot milk over them. Stir and let stand until mixture is lukewarm.

In a small bowl, combine the lukewarm water, the yeast and pinch of sugar. Stir well and let stand for 5 minutes, until the mixture looks bubbly.

Add the yeast mixture, the whole wheat flour and 1 1/2 cups of the all-purpose flour to the milk mixture in the large mixing bowl. Beat with electric mixer (a hand one is fine) at medium speed, about 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.

Stir in enough additional flour to make a stiff dough. Turn out on floured surface and knead about 2 minutes.

Wash and dry the mixing bowl, then grease the bowl. Place the kneaded dough into the mixing bowl and turn it so that the top is greased too. Cover bowl and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough. Divide dough in half. Roll out one half to 1/2-inch thickness. Cut dough into 3-inch circles with a floured biscuit cutter. Place the rounds, about 2 inches apart, on ungreased baking sheets which have been sprinkled with cornmeal. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes.

Heat a nonstick griddle or skillet. Place the English muffins, cornmeal side down, on the hot griddle and bake over medium heat until well browned, about 10 minutes on each side. Remove to wire racks to cool.

Makes about 18 English muffins.

We liked these a lot. I actually got about 20 or 21 English muffins, but my biscuit cutter is slightly smaller, so that may be why. I don't like the flavor quite as well as the oatmeal ones, but these wheat ones are very good -- and they rose a lot higher, for some reason. I also found that they burned more easily, so I would recommend turning them every five minutes, and I also suggest not putting a muffin in the center of the griddle, but just placing them in a ring or square around it. If you happen to own two griddles, or a large rectangular type, that speeds things up. I think an electric griddle would also work very well.

Now, for the seasoning blends. First,


2 Tblsp. oregano
1 Tblsp. basil
1/2 Tblsp. onion flakes or onion powder
1/2 Tblsp. garlic powder
1/2 Tblsp. thyme
1/2 Tblsp. fennel seed, crushed
1/2 Tblsp. paprika
1/2 Tblsp. coarsely ground black pepper

And the recipe also called for 1/2 Tblsp. ginger and 1/2 Tblsp. dried lemon peel, but I left these out.

Combine all spices and place in an airtight tin or plastic container or a glass spice bottle.

The following recipe is great when recipes call for an envelope of Italian salad dressing mix as a seasoning.


1/2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. each: pepper, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, sweet red pepper flakes
Pinch of paprika

In a custard cup or small bowl, mix all together. Whirl briefly in a blender if you like a finer texture (I skip this step). Makes the equivalent of 1 packet Italian dressing mix. May double or triple the recipe if you need more than one packet of mix in whatever you’re making.

You often find recipes that call for a packet of ranch dressing mix, too. This is the homemade substitute I use:


2 Tblsp. plus 2 tsp. dried minced onion
1 Tblsp. dried parsley flakes
2 1/2 tsp. paprika
2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

In a small bowl, combine all ingredients. Store in airtight container -- a jar, tin, or small plastic container would work well. For each packet of ranch dressing mix called for in a recipe, use 1 Tblsp. of this mix.

Sometimes recipes also call for onion soup mix as a seasoning, or a can of cream soup as an ingredient. Here is what I do instead:


3/4 cup dried minced onion
1/3 cup beef bouillon granules
1/4 cup onion powder
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. celery seed, optional

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl; store in an airtight container in a cool dry place for up to 1 year. When a recipe calls for onion soup mix, use 5 Tablespoons mix for each envelope of onion soup called for. So many recipes seem to call for a package of onion soup mix, and this is far more economical.

Do you hate buying canned soups for use in recipes? This recipe makes a perfect substitute for 1 can of soup.

3 Tblsp. margarine
3 Tblsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup milk or other liquid (as specified in variations)
Melt the margarine in heavy saucepan; blend in flour and salt and cook until bubbly. Remove from heat and gradually stir or whisk in liquid. Return to heat and cook, stirring, until smooth and thickened.


Cream of chicken: Use 1/2 c. milk and 1/2 c. chicken broth as the liquid. Add 1/4 tsp. poultry seasoning or sage.
Cream of celery: Saute´ 1/2 c. chopped celery and 1 T. finely chopped onion in the margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Cream of mushroom: Saute´1/4 c. finely chopped mushrooms and 1 T. finely chopped onion in margarine before adding flour. Use milk for liquid.
Tomato: Use tomato juice as liquid. Add a dash each of garlic salt, onion salt, basil, and oregano.
Cheddar cheese: Use milk for liquid. Stir into the finished sauce 1/2 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese and 1/4 tsp. dry mustard.
Cream of shrimp: Drain the liquid from a small can of tiny shrimp into a measuring cup. Fill cup with milk to measure 1 cup of liquid. Add a dash of pepper, onion salt, curry powder, and paprika to the finished sauce, and stir in the shrimp.

And now for some baking spices:


1/2 cup cinnamon
1 Tblsp. nutmeg
1 Tblsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger

Blend ingredients. Store in a tightly covered container -- I use an old International Coffee® tin. Use along with sugar in apple pie, applesauce, baked apples, etc. Use 1 1/4 tsp. for each 6 cups of sliced apples. You may find that cookie or muffin recipes call for apple pie spice as well; it’s a convenient blend to keep on hand in your pantry.


1/2 cup cinnamon
1/4 cup ground ginger
2 Tblsp. nutmeg
2 Tblsp. ground cloves

Blend ingredients. Store in a tightly covered container; again, I use an old International Coffee® tin. Use as your recipe directs; in pumpkin pie, use 3 1/4 tsp. per can of pumpkin. Again, many other recipes for cookies or desserts may call for pumpkin pie spice, so it’s a useful spice to keep on hand.

I just used some apple pie spice in my granola this week. It was very tasty in granola.

Well, there are some of my favorite homemade ideas. Hope they will be helpful to someone else!

To see more homemade ideas shared by others, go to Life on a Back Road. You will find lots of inspiration there!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Show & Tell Friday for February 27

For Show & Tell today, here are my few beloved pieces of Hall's Kitchenware. I had never even checked out what the pattern is called, but found out just now it is the "Red Poppy" pattern. Relatives of ours were cleaning out an apartment they owned, many years ago, and told me and Mr. T we could come in and take anything we liked for our own use. That's where we got our bed, a nightstand, and other furniture. In the kitchen was this wonderful kitchenware, along with some assorted Fiesta ware pieces. What treasures!

Here is the sugar bowl and cream pitcher.

A salad bowl -- at least, I use it for serving salad.

I love this souffle dish!

Here is a pretty pitcher, called a jug on the site I looked at.

I believe this is a coffeepot. It seems too large and tall to be a teapot.

Here is the coffeepot with the sugar and creamer, to give you an idea of its size.

That is my simple Show & Tell for today. To see what others have shared for Show & Tell Friday, head on over to There is No Place Like Home. Happy Show & Tell Friday!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Thought for today

Here is another quote I found among some yellowed old clippings I had saved. This one gives some good advice as to how believers should spend their time:

"Spend your time in nothing which you know must be repented of; in nothing on which you might not pray for the blessing of God; in nothing which you could not review with a quiet conscience on your dying bed; in nothing which you might not safely and properly be found doing if death should surprise you in the act." ~ Richard Baxter

That last part made me think of something I read about one of my ancestors in an old genealogy. It was said that he was found dead in his chair with his open Bible on his lap.

This quote really challenges me. We only have one day guaranteed to us -- the day we are living right now. Are we using our time wisely?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The completed puzzle

Here at last is the completed jigsaw puzzle of the painting "Walking to Town" by Fred Swan. Some of you will remember seeing this partly finished puzzle on my blog earlier, in a post about winter decorating.

A number of years ago I came across this beautiful Christmas card featuring a Fred Swan painting called "Walking to Town". 

I have long been a fan of Mr. Swan's work, but this one really spoke to me. Sometime later, I discovered that a counted cross-stitch kit of the painting was available. I saved my pennies and took advantage of a 50% off cross-stitch kits sale at Michaels to buy this kit a few years ago. I have yet to actually stitch this design, but hope to start it before another Christmas comes and goes!
A good friend of mine learned of my fondness for "Walking to Town" and found this jigsaw puzzle, which she then gave to me for my birthday. What a wonderful gift! Mr. T and I had many hours of enjoyment putting this puzzle together. (This is a White Mountain Puzzle, made here in New England, for those who may be interested.)

Monday, February 23, 2009

Menu Plan Monday for February 23

A cold windy morning here in northern New England. We got about 9 or 10 inches of new snow between Sunday afternoon and overnight. We can count on snow up here for some time to come yet. In fact, the prediction for the entire afternoon is snow showers. Here's my menu plan:

MONDAY: Leftover Italian Sausage & Vegetables, Focaccia Bread

TUESDAY: Oven Fish Chowder, Baking Powder Biscuits

WEDNESDAY: Potato Soup, Cheddar Cheese Bread

THURSDAY: Slow & Easy BBQ Chicken, Potato Salad, Asparagus MIxed Vegetables

FRIDAY: Broccoli or Spinach Quiche, Asparagus Mixed Vegetables, Orange Slices OR Hot Spiced Grapefruit

SATURDAY: Hot Dogs, Homemade Baked Beans, Macaroni Salad

SUNDAY: (potluck at church) Pepper Jack Chicken, Spanish Rice, Coleslaw, Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake

If you would like to see menus which others have shared, head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie and check out the links. Often, well over 300 people share links to their weekly menus. You'll find some great ideas and often recipes too.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Homemade Life, February 21

Okay, I have been thinking a lot about what I might share for A Homemade Life this week. I do so many things in the course of a week using homemade ideas. This week I used a few of these ideas, some of which I've posted on my blog in times past. I'll provide links for those.

One thing I did this week was to wash down the fronts of my kitchen cabinets. I wanted to hang some tri-bead hearts from the cabinet knobs, but I desperately wanted to wash the cabinet fronts first. To clean them, I used a homemade cleaning solution my pastor's wife shared with me years ago:


1/4 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar
1 cup clear ammonia
1 bucket hot water

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bucket. Use for washing walls, cabinet doors, or any kind of grimy dirt. Will also strip wax off floors, so try not to drip onto a waxed floor unless you intend to strip off the wax.

I have noticed recently that our local supermarket is featuring its own brand of refrigerated "Scoop and Bake" muffins. I've made bran muffins on this principle for years. You make the batter, store it tightly covered in the refrigerator, and bake muffins as needed. The batter will keep for at least 4 weeks in the refrigerator. Here's the recipe:


Combine the following in a very large bowl:

4 cups bran buds
2 cups all-bran
1 quart buttermilk
2 cups boiling water
1 teaspoon salt

Let mixture cool until it’s lukewarm.

In another bowl, cream together:

1 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
4 eggs

Add the creamed ingredients to the bran mixture.

Sift together:

5 cups flour
5 teaspoons baking soda

Stir the sifted ingredients into the bran mixture.

If you like, you may also stir in 1 to 3 cups of raisins at this point.

Muffins may be baked right away, but keep in mind that this recipe produces at least 5 dozen muffins! The idea is to store the batter in a covered container, like a Tupperware® bowl or a covered plastic pail, in the refrigerator, then bake the muffins a few at a time as needed. The batter will keep for at least a month in the fridge.

When ready to bake, fill greased or paper-lined muffin cups only half full. Bake at 375º for 20-25 minutes, until the muffins test done.

Another homemade item I use all the time is laundry soap. This works well for almost all laundry needs. However, my husband's greasy, ground-in, grimy logging clothes are too much of a challenge for it.

Homemade granola is a breakfast staple at our house. Here is the basic formula I go by.

And this is the specific blend I frequently use for granola.

Well, those are my ideas for this week.
To see more homemade ideas shared by others, go to Life on a Back Road. You will find lots of inspiration there!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Show & Tell Friday for February 20

For show and tell today, I thought I would show all of the pillowcases I made for Christmas gifts this year. I'm calling this the pillowcase parade!

I got the idea for these pillowcases with printed edging from this post by Anna at Pleasant View Schoolhouse. I skipped the rickrack step to make them quicker and easier. I made pillowcases for many folks on our Christmas list this year and am happy to say that I had to buy hardly any fabric at all. I used mostly fabrics I had on hand.

For my older two granddaughters, I used this princess-inspired starry pink print to edge their pillowcases.

For grandson Darrin, I made this reindeer-trimmed pillowcase.

For his parents, this pretty rose trim will go well with their quilt.

For grandson Sam who loves all things Thomas...

and you can see that he loved his pillowcase!

For granddaughter Julia, this red snowflake border will look nice with her red bedding.

For her parents, this pretty winter border seemed like a good choice.

And then, for my parents' January anniversary, I decided to make some pillowcases with a border of cross-stitched roses. I bought these pillowcases inexpensively at Wal*Mart and cross-stitched the border from a chart using waste canvas. Here is one of the finished cases.

I chose to do this rather than stamping on a design for two reasons: 1) Not wanting to buy a transfer (I had no suitable ones on hand) and then get frustrated if it didn't turn out well; and 2) Frugality again -- I had the chart for this rose border as part of a kit to cross-stitch towels (this is something I inherited from someone else's craft stash), so it seemed a simple matter to gather up some floss, baste on some waste canvas (which I also had on hand), and have at it. It wasn't as simple as I thought it would be, but the project is finally done. And I hope I will have the sense to talk myself out of it if I ever think of using waste canvas again...

To see what others have shared for Show & Tell Friday, head on over to There is No Place Like Home
and check out the links. Happy Show & Tell Friday, everyone!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Out my window today...

We had a major snowstorm overnight that continued until around ten this morning. Here's what I saw out my windows today at mid-morning.
This is what I saw from the front porch door looking toward the road.

And this is the wintry woods out back.

This is from the dormer window over my sewing desk.

And just for fun, the window in the door to our balcony.

Hope you have enjoyed this look from my windows (and doors)!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Menu Plan Monday for February 16

It's another bright, sunny, cold morning here in northern New England. The sun is beginning to have some real warmth to it, so that's encouraging. Here's my menu plan:

MONDAY: Crockpot Ribs, Baked Potatoes, Green Beans

TUESDAY: Leftover Crockpot Ribs, Potato Salad, Asparagus Mixed Vegetables

WEDNESDAY: Tortilla Enchilada Soup, Cornbread

THURSDAY: Chicken Shepherd's Pie, Orange Fruit Slaw

FRIDAY: Pizza, Breadsticks, Alphabet Vegetable Soup

SATURDAY: Hot Dogs, Homemade Baked Beans, Coleslaw

SUNDAY: (As mentioned some time ago, our church has now gone to a weekly -- rather than monthly -- potluck with an afternoon service to follow, to save heating the building twice on Sunday through the winter months, so my Sunday meal each week now through the end of March will be for the potluck.) Italian Sausage & Vegetables, Focaccia Bread, Royal Raspberry Chocolate Cake

If you would like to see menus which others have shared, head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie and check out the links. Usually close to 300 people -- sometimes more! -- share links to their weekly menus. You'll find some great ideas and often recipes too.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

By special request...

One label for flour sack dish towels. Today, I had a comment on a blog post I wrote back in 2006. It was all about flour sack dish towels and how I was embroidering different sets of them to give as gifts. I mentioned how I used the clean, dry "clamshell" plastic containers such as baby spinach is packaged in. Then I made up a label for the flour sack towels to place over the existing label that identified the produce.

Lilbunnie asked if I would share the label. At first I wasn't sure that I had saved an editable version of it, but it turns out I had, so I was able to just remove the name "Mom" from the label. Anyone who wants to print out the labels can easily write in their own name in the blank space. You'll see the label up at the top of this post. I don't know if others might be interested, but here it is, anyway. Lilbunnie, I hope this is helpful to you.

And below are a few of the towels I have made. They are addictive! The variety of embroidery designs available (both in stores and on line) is amazing!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Homemade Life: Homemade English muffins

Years ago, I made whole wheat English muffins as a birthday gift for a relative several years in a row. They were very well received, but I'd forgotten all about them until recently. I was sort of brainstorming with myself as to what foods we normally buy that I might make homemade, and remembered those muffins. I went looking for the recipe but didn't find it right away. The one I found first was for oatmeal English muffins, and so I tried that. They are delicious! So I'm sharing that one today. I'll share the whole wheat one another time.

Oatmeal English Muffins

1 cup boiling water
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 cup canola oil
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
1 pkg. active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
1/4 cup warm water
pinch of sugar
3 to 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In large mixer bowl pour boiling water over oats. Stir in brown sugar, salt and oil. Cool mixture until lukewarm.

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and pinch of sugar. Let stand 5 minutes, until bubbly. Stir the yeast mixture and the egg into the oat mixture. Stir in enough flour to make a moderately stiff dough. (I find that the 3 cups is usually plenty.) Cover the dough and let it rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. It does not need to double.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to a 3/8-inch thickness. Cut into rounds with a 3-inch (or larger) biscuit cutter. Place the rounds on baking sheets sprinkled liberally with cornmeal. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Bake the English muffins on a lightly greased (or nonstick -- my choice) griddle over medium heat for 20 minutes, turning them every 5 minutes. (I advise you NOT to put an English muffin in the center of the griddle. I did that the first time, and it made some of the muffins far too dark -- almost burned. On my griddles, I found I could fit 6 muffins in a circle around the edge, and that worked well. I also kept 2 griddles going at once, and so was able to cook all 18 muffins in a shorter amount of time.)

Yield: 16 to 18 English muffins.

I have gotten 18 muffins from this recipe each time I've made them. My cutter is about 2 3/4" in diameter, which produces English muffins just a tad smaller than we like them. I will be keeping an eye out for a larger biscuit cutter the next time we are anywhere near a kitchen store.

To see other homemade life ideas, go visit Life on a Back Road. Lots of inspiration there!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Menu Plan Monday for February 9

It's high time I got back to posting my menus. I've been planning my menus all along, as I've done for a good 35 years, but just haven't found the time to post them. It's a bright, sunny, cold morning here in northern New England. It's predicted to warm up, though, through the day. Here's my menu plan:

MONDAY: Southwestern Chicken, Spanish Rice, Asparagus Mixed Vegetables

TUESDAY: Mexican Egg Bake, Breakfast Potatoes, Orange Slices

WEDNESDAY: Potato Soup, Cheddar Cheese Bread

THURSDAY: Pork Chops with Apples and Sweet Potatoes, Coleslaw

FRIDAY: Pizza, Breadsticks, Alphabet Vegetable Soup

SATURDAY: Roast Turkey, Mashed Potatoes, Stuffing, Cranberry Sauce

SUNDAY: (As mentioned some time ago, our church has now gone to a weekly -- rather than monthly -- potluck with an afternoon service to follow, to save heating the building twice on Sunday through the winter months, so my Sunday meal each week now through the end of March will be for the potluck.) Italian Wedding Soup, Focaccia Bread, Dessert (yet to be determined)

If you would like to see menus which others have shared, head over to I'm an Organizing Junkie and check out the links. Usually close to 300 people -- sometimes more! -- share links to their weekly menus. You'll find some great ideas and often recipes too.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

A Homemade Life: Homemade Italian bread shells

My daughter Carrie, over at Life on a Back Road, is starting something new on her blog -- a feature called A Homemade Life, complete with a Mr. Linky, where people can share their ideas and links for homemade goodies of all kinds. I want to get in on this, and I imagine some of my readers and friends will want to join in, too. If you don't have your own blog, no problem -- Carrie shares the details of how you can still get involved.

Recently, I tried a pizza recipe that called for an Italian bread dough shell -- the usual brand name is Boboli®. I just rebel against spending money for such items if it's possible to make them at home. I went looking on the internet and found this one, which I adapted slightly. It worked out really, really well, tastes delicious and looks just like the kind you can buy. I didn't total up the price of the two crusts made from the recipe, but it has to be a whole lot cheaper than the $3.19 for one price at my local supermarket!

Rachel asked if I would share the recipe, so here it is.

Boboli®- Type Pizza Crust

This is a bread machine recipe. If you happen not to own one, just prepare this as you would a standard yeast dough.

1 cup water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
Additional shredded Parmesan cheese for tops of crusts

Add all ingredients except additional Parmesan cheese to bread machine in order listed. Set bread machine on dough setting.

When dough cycle finishes, form two crusts on pizza pans, sprinkle with shredded Parmesan cheese, cover and let rise again.

Bake 5 to 10 minutes at about 450º until light brown.

Cool. Use right away or package in plastic bags and freeze until you are ready to make the pizza.

Yield: 2 crusts.

So, if you are interested in more homemade goodness, go on over to Life on a Back Road and see what others have shared. Be sure and share your own ideas, too!