Archive for September, 2012

Pretzels (or Not Pretzels) to Eat by the Dozen

September 30, 2012

“Not” Pretzels

Several weeks ago the Chicago Tribune published the recipe for “Amish-Country Soft Pretzels.” They are one of the quickest and easiest yeast bread recipes I have ever made. It’s a fun one to do with kids (although you will have to share the finished product with them when done), or even, to make with friends or family as you gather round for brunch or a dinner party. My daughter renamed these “‘Not’ Pretzels” because they don’t taste exactly like a pretzel – but they aren’t made exactly like one either.

I made one minor change to the recipe – instead of using clarified butter, I used just a bit of olive oil.

A side note, here: These were coming out of the oven just as kids were coming through the front door after school. Keeping in mind that the recipe made 32 pretzels, there were still arguments the next day after all were gone about who got more. My advice, after you skim several off the top (a recipe finder’s fee of sorts), divide up equally in front of everyone and put in individual containers for each person. Then each person is responsible for their container and its contents. If they want to bury the container in the back yard and eat one a day, that’s their choice or if they want to eat them all at once, their choice, too.


“The Best” Granola Bars

September 18, 2012

I have a friend from college who whenever we talked food (which was often) would begin with “My mother makes the best …” And, you know, it was true – her mom’s shortbread cookies and Danish pastries were out of this world. Well, several weeks ago I quickly copied a granola bar recipe from a magazine at the orthodontist office. In my haste, I did not write the name of the magazine down. However, I have since changed it up quite a bit so here is my take on granola bars that I have named “The Best Granola Bars.” So give it a go and see what you think …

1.  Mix the following ingredients together in one bowl:

  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1/4 cup unbleached flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 T. flaxseed meal
  • 1/2 cup Grape Nuts cereal (nuggets)
  • 1 t. cinnamon
  • 8 to 12 oz. of mixed dried fruits – or just raisins or just dried cranberries
  • 2 T. unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

2.  In another bowl, mix together:

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 T. canola oil

3. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and spread into a greased 8″ x 8″ baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees until lightly browned/golden, about 30 to 40 minutes.

4. Cool, cut into squares and store in air tight container.

With this many ingredients, I like to first measure everything out and then mix away – it just seems that the process of making goes much faster this way. This is also a good step for younger cooks to help with – although the recipe is simple enough that with a bit of supervision, younger kids could make start to finish.


Making for Fun

September 9, 2012


This second week back to school has tested me in several ways: the onslaught of homework and the realization that 6th grade math is now beyond my ability (I am so in trouble if someone in Washington launches a “No Parent Left Behind” initiative); activities and meetings that have added to my to-do list expotentially; and Audrey, our Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, who has suddenly taken a liking to long, leisurely walks and will not stand for any talk about deadlines and schedules (in fact, any attempt to jumpstart the walk ends with all 50 lbs of her firmly planted on the ground).

Combine the school stuff with work deadlines – several consulting projects and a quilt for an upcoming fundraiser (more to be revealed here in the next few weeks) – and the lights don’t seem to go off in our home until about 11 or 12 each night. Last night as I worked away though, I listened to the laughter and busyness in the next room as my daughter and her friend had some creative downtime. For a couple of hours, they crafted items from polymer clay and made silly bands into jewelry.

Here’s what my daughter had to say about crafting:  “I like to make stuff because it is simply fun. One of my favorite You Tube channels is SoCraftastic’s. She [Sarah] has amazing tutorials and crafts ideas! One of my favorites and also the one I recently did this past week is a Silly Bandz bracelet. It’s really easy to make and is really cute looking! :)”

Here’s one of my favorite projects from her creative endeavors, a polymer clay donut, also from SoCraftastic …

Starting in the Fields – The Beginning of Fabric

September 2, 2012

Since Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882, to honor the hard work and achievements of Americans, it has also become synonymous with the end of summer, picnics, parades, and a last wave of summer release movies. Here are some films that look at the hard work that goes into growing the crops that ultimately become fabrics that we use to make quilts, clothing and many other everyday objects.

Please note, I am not a farmer, textile expert, or scientist. As you move through this list, I hope you are inspired, motivated to learn more, and will take a moment to pause and think about the story behind the fabric or clothing you are about to purchase …

Irish Flax Farming in the 1950s. I may be romanticizing here but the film shows the sense of community in this farming endeavor – certainly a lot of work but everyone pulls together. I especially love how the kids have found play in the hard work.

This short film, Be Linen by Benoit Millot is absolutely beautiful.

The Conventional Trap is a heart wrenching look at conventional cotton farming in India.

After the above video, I had to include one about organic farming in India, Back to Growing Organic Cotton, and one organization, Chetna Organic, that is helping farmers integrate organic farming processes that are sustainable  and profitable.