Tip of the Week

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crochet Baby gift

Do you remember any crafts your grandmother used to work on?  I know I can . . .

Now my grandmother used to do more knitting then crocheting, but I had an interest in it when I was a child.  But I never really found any truly inspiring crochet or even knitting patterns then (which really wasn't that long ago).  As a result, I gave up on crocheting.  I also did not have a great teacher (if my grandmother had been alive she would have been a great teacher).

Back to the present, I have started crocheting again.  I refreshed what I had forgotten on the basics of crocheting and started a beginner pattern.   My Aunt really inspired me to give crocheting another try.  All the fantastic yarns; colors, quality, material content . . . and so much more.  Even the new patterns were so much more appealing to me.  And there are plenty of free patterns from yarn company websites that are appealing.

I picked a beginner project and a baby gift at that for my sweet neighbors who just had a baby girl.  I first tried the baby hat since I wanted to progress to adult hats for myself and my family/friends.  Now, I will admit that it took me several tries before I finally got it down pat.  Reading the pattern, I find can be tricky, more so than learning the crochet stitches.  Once I finished the hat, I tried the baby booties pattern and that was easier and I was able to complete both after only ripping out the stitches once before I understood the pattern.

I added a little photo brag book and I had a cute, yet simple homemade gift.

Maybe I will try a baby sweater, toy or blanket for my next baby shower gift . . . until then I have my other crochet projects in the works and will share those as I complete them. 

Hopefully you will be inspired to try something (even crocheting) to make some homemade!

Friday, September 23, 2011

In love with vanilla

Are you a baker?  Or just love vanilla?  If so then this is the project for you.  Making your own vanilla extract.  Now it does require patience since it takes about 6 months for it to do it's magic.

Here's mine I just started.

I didn't buy the most expensive vanilla beans.  I shopped sales, farmer's markets and such to pick up 9 vanilla beans for 750 ml of vodka.  Yes, that's right vodka!  You need alcohol to make vanilla extract.  And I would say that you should buy a good vodka, maybe not top shelf, but definitely not the cheap stuff.

Most of the recipes I found in cookbooks by Ina Garten and Sur La Table showed the vanilla extract in pretty little bottles with pull-down caps.  Now those bottles are perfect if you are giving this as a gift.  Since this is my first attempt at making vanilla extract (and I don't really anticipate problems!) I just used a large canning jar with a plastic lid.

So far my vodka is starting to turn liquid brown and in a few more months I should have vanilla extract.  Exciting!  Putting all of this together was so quick and easy.  You would be amazed and wonder "why didn't I do this before?"  Well, start now!  You can even use the vanilla beans in the jar to continue make vanilla extract by adding more vodka.  Or you can use the vanilla beans for other dishes, then add more vanilla beans to continue making vanilla extract.

Now on to other projects.  I should have some crochet projects to share since I seem to be on my cooking and gardening projects at the moment.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Roasting Green Chilies

I love spicy foods and green chilies are fantastic to add to so many different dishes.  On my quest to eliminate BPA, chemical and pesticides from my food and life, I decided that I did not want to buy canned green chilies.  This lead me to several websites on roasting green chilies, I finally used the instructions on this one http://denvergreenchili.com/roastgreenchiles.aspx

So once you read about roasting green chilies you realize that one of those giant roasters would be the best way to roast.  Don't worry though, you can roast at home without a roaster and even without a BBQ.  Now it would be great to roast on a grill outside, that way you don't heat the whole house by using the oven.  If you plan on using the oven, as I did, try to do it on a cooler day that way you can open the house and not heat the house up or have to use the A/C.

Now keep an eye out, most grocery stores do not have New Mexico green chilies in all year round.  I found my local store had them on sale recently and I bought several pounds.  Those several pounds do not  take up that much space once you roast them.  Keep that in mind that it looks like a lot more that the final result.

Here is the process I followed:

Step 1:  Wash and dry the green chilies.  Turn oven to Broiler, temp. High

Step 2:  Line baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up) and spray with olive oil or oil of your choice.  Do NOT oil the green chilies.  Place several chilies on sheet with some space between them, do not overlap.

Step 3: Put green chilies in the oven on a top rack near broiler.  Watch carefully and turn 1-2 times, making sure all sides of the green chilies are roasted.  Refer to the website above for more information.

Step 4:  Take out of oven and place in another container (preferably glass or a baking dish, NOT plastic) and cover.  Let green chilies rest or "sweat". 

Step 5:  When they are cool enough to handle, peel skins and remove seeds.  I would recommend using food gloves to handle the green chilies as they are hot (not in temperature).  If you do not have them, you can use your hands, be sure to scrub with a salt skin scrub (which I found works best) as well as soap.  Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes. 

Step 6:  Place in a freezer bag or container.  You can chop if you desire to have the chilies diced before freezing or leave whole.

It is worth the time and effort to make a large batch of these green chilies and have them in the freezer ready for use when you need them.  Such a great way to have green chilies without buying more cans.