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Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'd never given much thought to how I would dye...

Dying is a bit of an intimidating process; not many people do it anymore. Recently, though, my husband has become a spinner - not a crazy exercising cyclist, but a real spinner of fiber, straw into gold, and all that. Last spring he spun me some lovely soft gray yarn. He thinks it's lambs wool and mohair, but I think it's softer than that. To me it feels like lambs wool and cashmere.

I took one ball of yarn and wound it into a skein so the dye could more easily get at the fiber. I bought some "fiber reactive" dye at a local fabric store, then I searched the internet for instructions for the dye I had purchased. (Happened to be Jaquard Acid Dye. The instructions I found were here. ) Since the instructions talk about "pounds" of fabric and I only had a small skein of about 1 ounce, I had to do some math to figure out how much dye to use. In this case, the instructions said to use 1/3 to 2/3 ounce of dye for each pound of fabric. An ounce is 1/16th of a pound, so that's 1/16th of 1/3 of an ounce. Long math story short, I ended up putting about 1/4 teaspoon of dye in my pot. I was going for baby blue, but ended up with more of a royal blue, so I could have gone with much less!

In a nutshell, the method I used involves heating the yarn in water on a stovetop, and keeping it at a specific temperature for about half an hour. At just the right moment, you add vinegar to set the dye. As the yarn steeped, I kept the hole in the center of the skein from closing with a large spatula. (I should mention, when you skein your yarn, be sure to cut a couple of short pieces and tie your skein in two places to hold it together during the dying, or you'll have quite a tangled mess.)

When your yarn nears the end of the dying process, most of the dye has been absorbed by the fiber. This is pretty amazing to watch. As you can see below, the water is nearly clear and the yarn has become a dark blue.

Carefully remove the yarn from the pot of water, being careful not to scald yourself or let it tangle, and let it drain over the sink.

Then place it on a towel, roll it up in the towel and squeeze out as much water as you can. The yarn will be surprisingly dryer at this point. Because I didn't do a lot of stirring during dying, you can see that there are slight variations in the depth of color in the yarn. (I like it that way!)

Now hang the yarn someplace to dry for about 24 hours. I fashioned a crude hanger out of a small tube and heavy gauge wire. The cut ends of the wire are stuck into the ends of the tube so I could slide the skein onto the tube and then stick the end of the wire in the tube.

Next I knit a little sweater for my as yet unborn grandson.

It seemed like forever, but he can finally wear it!

Apple Cake

This cake is a recipe that my neice modified to make healthy. I tried it and I love it! It is so moist and yummy, you'd never know it was whole wheat!


3 eggs

1/2 cup natural sugar (look for anything that says "evaporated cane juice" on the ingredients. It has a lower glycemic index, and it tastes like sugar because it really, truly is just sugar).

1/2 cup agave nectar (I've seen this at grocery stores and at Costco - it's also an all natural, low glycemic index sweetener)

1/4 cup vegetable oil (use one that's heart healthy, like canola)

3/4 cup apple sauce

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups whole wheat flour (freshly ground hard white wheat or soft white wheat* is best)

1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups diced apples (no need to peel them)

1 8-oz package reduced fat cream cheese

1/2 cup natural sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs and sugar until fluffy and pale. Add agave nectar, oil, applesauce and vanilla; mix well. Sift dry ingredients and mix into the wet mixture. Stir in apples.

Coat 13 x 9-inch pan with non-stick spray and spread batter evenly into pan.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.


Soften cream cheese. Add sugar and beat with rotary beaters until creamy. Spread on apple cake.

*Soft white wheat is also called Durum. When it's ground into a flour, it's called whole wheat pastry flour or semolina. It's perfect for baking non-yeast or quick breads, as well as for making pasta. It's not recommended for making bread, as it's lower in protein and won't rise well. This is also what makes it perfect for quick-rise cooking. The lower protein makes the batter less tough. It has a shorter shelf life than hard wheat, so don't store more than you can use in a year or two.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Pinto Beans

Many, many years ago, when I got married, someone gave me a bucket of pinto beans as a start to my food storage. I had grown up eating beans so I thought this was great. It took a lot of trial and error, though, to figure out how to successfully cook beans. Often when I tried to cook them they would remain hard after hours and hours of cooking. Ever heard the expression "tough beans"? Well, I came to understand it pretty well. When you have "tough beans" there's not much you can do about it! Now after many years of cooking and experimenting with different kinds of beans, pintos are still my favorite. They have a creamy, buttery flavor when cooked from scratch that I love. Who knows, maybe it's just because that's the kind of beans my mother always cooked. They are definitely a comfort food for me!

Pinto beans are available right now at the Stake Cannery. The price is $15.46 for 25 pounds.


Sorting: First of all, dried beans must be sorted, or picked over, before you can cook them. There will often be small, bean-sized dirt clods or pebbles in among the beans. To sort them, carefully dump out a cupful of beans on a clean counter top. Don't dump them from any height, or they'll bounce and roll off the counter onto the floor. Sort through the beans a few at a time, looking closely for little rocks.

Washing: Place the beans in a bowl and cover with lukewarm water. Swish them around with your fingers. Drain and repeat until the water is clear.

Soaking: Dried beans must be soaked before they can be cooked. I know of two methods for soaking - quick and slow. I prefer the quick method. I found that I never had time for the slow method, as it requires remembering the night before that you want to have beans for dinner the next day. This just didn't work out for me very well. :)

Slow method: Place washed beans in a bowl and cover with water by an inch. Let sit overnight or for 12 hours.

Quick method: Place washed beans in a pot and cover with water by an inch. Place on high heat. As soon as it comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and let the beans sit for about an hour. When you can push your thumbnail into a bean, they're ready.

Cooking: I know of three methods for cooking beans: simmer in a pot on the stove top, simmer in a crockpot, or cook in a pressure cooker. The crockpot and stove top methods probably take about the same amount of time, but the crock pot has the advantage that it will not scorch on the bottom. I'm the kind of person who walks away and forgets things, so I prefer the crock pot method if I'm not in a hurry. :)

Stove top: Place soaked beans in a pot and cover by an inch of water. (If you used the quick soak method above, just keep the beans in the same pot and add more water if needed.) You may add seasoning at this point, but NOT SALT!! If you add salt at the beginning, your beans will more likely remain hard. Bring to a boil and simmer for 1-4 hours until beans are soft. You can test the beans by taking one out and trying to mash it with a fork. If it mashes easily, they're done. At this point you can add salt.

Crockpot: Place soaked beans in a crockpot and barely cover with water. You may add seasoning at this point INCLUDING SALT. I've found with the crockpot, you can add salt at the beginning of the cooking process without ill effect. Set the crockpot on high and place the lid on the pot. Cook for 4 hours, or until soft. Test beans by mashing one with a fork, as above.

Pressure cooker: This is the method I use most often. With the quick soak method above and a pressure cooker, you can have dried beans ready to eat in 2 hours. Not super fast, I know, but it's pretty quick in the bean world. :) Place soaked beans in pressure cooker and cover with water by one inch, being sure you don't fill with water higher than the fill line on the inside of your pressure cooker. You may add all your seasoning, INCLUDING SALT. Follow the cooking directions that came with your pressure cooker. Just as an example, my pressure cooker booklet says to place over high heat. When the rocker begins to rock, reduce the heat medium and keep a slow steady rock going for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and allow the pressure to drop on it's own. Voila! You have beans ready to add to a recipe!!


Millet is a small round grain that most Americans only see in bird seed. It is, in fact, one of the most nutritious grains in the world. It is a complete protein, and therefore is considered to be one of the least allergenic and most digestible grains available. It is often used in rescue situations as a first food for malnutritioned people because of it's so gentle on the digestion.

So why talk about millet in the context of beans? I'll tell you why! It has the same enzyme as Beano! I put a small handful of millet in my beans every time I cook them (about 1-1/2 to 2 tablespoons).


2 cups dry pinto beans, sorted and soaked.
Water - enough to cover, per cooking method above
1-2 tablespoons millet
1 teaspoon salt (leave out til end of cooking if using stove top method)
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon olive oil

Cook according to above method. When done, use in your favorite chili recipe, layered bean dip, or refried beans.

Note: If you're going to make one of those mock pinto bean desserts, such as Pinto Bean Pecan Pie or Pinto Bean Fudge, leave out all seasoning.

Another note: One thing I didn't know when I was a young bride is that pinto beans need to be refrigerated after cooking! Like other foods that are high in protein, such as meat, they spoil quickly. Unfortunately, I had to learn that the hard way.

Yet another note: Cook up a big batch of beans, then rinse, drain and put the left overs in the freezer in zip-top bags in 1-2 cup portions, according to your recipes. Defrost in refrigerator when ready for use.


Try having a pot of these ready in a crockpot when your teenagers get home from school. They'll love it for an afternoon snack of nachos, and it's healthy!

One recipe of cooked pinto beans above
2 teaspoons taco seasoning mix
2 cups mild cheddar cheese, grated
Salt to taste
3 T butter or olive oil
1 cup salsa/picante sauce, mild
1 can chopped mild chilies
1 small can olives, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1 pkg nacho chips

Working in batches, place beans and cooking liquid in a blender and blend on medium speed until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. Blend 1/2 of the beans at a time. When blending the second half of the beans, place the following in the blender along with the beans: taco seasoning mix, butter or oil, salsa or picante sauce, chopped green chilies, and 1 cup grated cheese. Blend until puree has a very smooth consistency. Place all the bean puree into a crockpot and mix very well. Taste and add 1 teaspoon of salt if needed. Sprinkle the remaining cup of grated cheese, the green onions, and the chopped olives on top of the bean mixture in the order given. Turn the crockpot on low and cover with lid. When the cheese has melted (about 15 minutes), serve with nacho chips and picante sauce, placed in separate bowls. Serves 8 people.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Powdered Milk

Powdered milk is an essential part of food storage; however, it has a relatively short shelf life.* It needs to be rotated regularly, which means using it all the time. Don't like the taste of powdered milk? I'm with you on that one! Here are some recipes for using powdered milk that are pretty darn good!

The Stake Cannery has lots of powdered milk right now at about half the price it was a couple of years ago.; the price is $40.20 for 25 pounds. Remember, if you don't want to start out with a full 25 pounds, you can buy just one can. The only catch is, if there are no cans of powdered milk available, you will need to can the whole bag and leave the remaining cans on the shelf. Not a bad option. :) Contact your ward cannery specialist to schedule a time to go to the cannery.

Cream of anything soup mix

2 cups instant nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 cup instant chicken bouillon
2 T dried onion flakes
1 t basil, crushed (optional)
1 t dried thyme, crushed (optional)
1/2 t pepper

Combine ingredients, mix well. Store in airtight container. Makes 3 cups of mix, which will make the equivalent of 9 cans of soup.

To use: combine 1/3 cup of mix with 1-1/4 cups cold water in a saucepan. Cook and stir until thickened. Add 1 T butter or olive oil if you wish. Add chopped, cooked meats and vegetables as desired. This soup is considered low in sodium.

NOTE: Making your own mixes is a great way to get your family to eat healthier. For instance, my sons are allergic to corn, so I spent a lot of time making my own cream sauces for casseroles when they were little, as I couldn't use prepared cream soup from a can. With this recipe, I can substitute tapioca starch for the corn starch and use kosher bouillon (most bouillon has corn syrup in it). You may also have noticed the above recipe has no salt added. That's because most bouillon has tons of salt in it already! If you use a salt-free variety, you will want to add some salt. :)

Sweetened Condensed Milk

3/4 cup non-instant powdered milk (1-1/3 cups if instant)
3/4 cup sugar (granulated)
1/2 cup hot tap water
2 T butter

Melt butter in hot water, place hot water in blender. With blender going, add sugar and powdered milk. blend until smooth. Makes about 14 ounces. It can be stored up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

NOTE: This recipe can be used in place of one 16 ounce can of sweetened condensed milk in any recipe and you won't know he difference.

Creamy hot or cold chocolate mix

9-1/3 cups instant nonfat powdered milk
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
1-3/4 cups unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1-3/4 cups (or one 6-ounce jar) nondairy creamer

Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Sift mixture if there are little lumps of cocoa powder or powdered sugar. Store in an air tight container or gallon zip top bags at room temperature for three months. Stir before measuring. Makes about 11 cups of mix.

To Use: Mix 1/2 cup of mix to 1 cup hot water. Stir until dissolved. Add more water to taste. Chill if you want cold chocolate milk.

  • For mint hot chocolate, try adding a few finely crushed candy canes to the mix. They're all on clearance this time of year.
  • For Mexican hot chocolate, add 2 T ground cinnamon.

Yogurt from powdered milk

Remember this post from last year? It's another great way to use powdered milk!

Link to "Making yogurt from powdered milk."

Powdered milk reconstitution

To substitute instant for non-instant powdered milk or vice versa, use the chart below. Also, you can substitute powdered milk in most recipes by adding powdered milk to the dry ingredients and adding the water amount to the wet ingredients.

Water--------Instant Dry Milk-------Non-instant dry milk
1/4 cup-------1 T---------------------3/4 T
1/3 cup-------1-1/2 T----------------1-1/4 T
1/2 cup-------2 T---------------------1-1/2 T
2/3 cup-------3 T---------------------2-1/2 T
1 cup---------1/4 cup-----------------3 T
1 pint---------1/2 cup-----------------1/3 cup
1 quart-------1 cup-------------------3/4 cup
1/2 gallon-----2 cups-----------------1-1/2 cups
1 gallon-------4 cups------------------3 cups

*Shelf life of powdered milk

40 degrees F -- up to 5 years
70 degrees F -- 2-1/2 years
90 degrees F -- 6 to 9 months