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Toad Pumpkins Add Whimsy and Warts to Fall Decor

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Painted pumpkins are an easy and popular alternative to carving the traditional jack-o-lanterns. And the Toad pumpkins, with their small shape and interesting “warts” will add even more whimsy to your designs. Toad pumpkins are easy to grow from seed, have a bright orange color and will need approximately 85 days to grow to maturity. They weigh between 1.5 to 2.5 lbs., which is the perfect size for a project with children. The more water you give it, the more warts it will produce! You can purchase Toad pumpkin seeds from my Home Grown Seed Collection.

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Amaranth flowers bloom in hot summer day

Two-for-One Plants: Amaranth

Amaranth flowers bloom in hot summer day

By Amy Renea
See full article in the September issue of Naturally

Amaranth is an under-appreciated native grain with a host of beneficial uses. It grows easily in most of the United States and can be found growing wild in many U.S. states. Typically, wild amaranth is ‘pigweed,’ but you might also find various cultivars popping up in your garden that have seeded from a neighbor’s garden. My initial exposure to amaranth was in our first house where a tiny seed of ‘Hopi Red Dye’ had managed to settle in the cracks of an aging sidewalk. I didn’t know what it was, only that it had beautiful wine red leaves, so I let it go. That tiny little seed in that tiny little crack with its tiny little red leaves grew and grew and grew until it was 6 feet high. Beautiful plumes developed and seed was set for the next generation. I was hooked for life.

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tea tree oil

Tea tree oil: Nature’s Disinfectant

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Tea tree oil might be the most essential of the essential oils. Native to Australia, the oil of the tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) was issued to infantry men in that country in the early 1900s to treat infections. And they were on to something. Scientific studies have shown when used in combination with other oils on wound dressings, tea tree oil can inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus like Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans. And, when combined with geranium oil, tea tree oil inhibited the growth of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria.

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drying chilis

Dry Your Peppers with Ristras

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It’s that time of year, when there’s a chili in the air.

The ristra, a strand of dried peppers commonly seen in the New Mexico area, is a symbol of abundance and hospitality. This time of year, they decorate the walls and doorways of homes and restaurants as peppers air dry on strands of string or twine. Some say drying outside enhances the flavor, but you’ll have to find out for yourself.

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Make Your Coffee with Cold Brew-sion

The idea of hot coffee in the middle of summer is not appealing at all. However, with a little bit of planning, you can enjoy the smooth taste of cold-brewed coffee. It’s all the caffeine, with less acidity. I actually look forward to summer and the opportunity to make it!

Our friends at Westrock Coffee have shared a very detailed method for cold brewed coffee on their blog, and their method guarantees the very best flavor out of the beans. We can attest to their passion for coffee. (More on that below.)

However, sometimes I don’t have the usual implements and need a cold-brew alternative! So, I’ve discovered a few simple methods for cold brewed coffee for those on the go.

Big Batch of Cold-Brew:
1. Finely grind 1 cup of beans.
2. Add to a pitcher with a tight-fitting lid. Then add 4 cups of room temperature water. Attach lid securely. This prevents refrigerator flavors from affecting your cold brew.
3. Let sit overnight, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
4. Strain the mixture through a filter.
5. This mix will be concentrated. I typically put it in a mason jar with a lid, and dilute it in my cup each morning with more water and ice to taste. Add milk and sugar, if you like. And you’re ready to go!

This method makes about 5 to 7 servings!

 

No Filter, Small-Batch Method:
For this, you’ll need a ceramic teapot with a strainer.
1. Grind a handful or two of beans.
2. Add to the mesh strainer section of your teapot.
3. Fill with water. Cover the end of the teapot with a plastic baggy or a dish towel to keep refrigerator flavors out of your coffee.
4. Set it in the fridge overnight.
5. Wake up and pour coffee into your mug. This will be fairly concentrated, so add water to taste. Then add ice and milk and sugar, if you’re so inclined.

 

 

Westrock CoffeeI can’t help but recommend Westrock Coffee for your home brew. It’s what we drink in my office because of Westrock’s passion for coffee and commitment to fair-trade practices. The company improves the lives of the farmers they partner with by paying them a fair price for their coffee as well as offering training and support to increase yields. And I’m grateful for the ability to enjoy a great cup of coffee and help others at the same time.

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Master the Mason Jar Dessert

15_12573Mason jars might be the most useful item in your kitchen, and it seems like the internet – we’re looking at you, Pinterest – keeps finding new uses for them! Some of the trends we’ve seen include, packing a salad lunch, creating luminaries and, of course, desserts. They’re the perfect size for single-serving parfaits, puddings and pies.

Because mason jars are made to withstand high heat in the canning process, they can also be used for baking everything from cobblers to cupcakes.

Little Rock’s renowned South on Main restaurant has a mouth-watering menu of seasonal mason jar desserts, and Chef Matt Bell and his team have reached Mason Jar Expert Level. Some of the restaurant’s most popular desserts are banana pudding, berry cobblers, bread pudding and s’mores. He has some tips for creating your own desserts at home and says the process is fairly simple. All you need are basic ingredients and the right ratios.

“For cobblers, we basically make a cobbler filling with berries, sugar, cornstarch, then put that in a jar,” he said. “For the topping, we use our biscuit dough and put a little on the top of each jar, sprinkle it with sugar in the raw, and bake it.”

Though mason jars generally do well with baking, as a precautionary measure, his chefs put the filled jars in a deep pan and add water to buffer the heat and prevent the jars from cracking.

“You want to use a water bath, like you’re making custard,” he said. “It’s not so much for the dessert, but it’s to protect the jars. They’re made to be heated, but it’s a step we like to take.”

He’s also had success using the mason jars to make cakes.

“Yes, you’ve got to compensate for the cake rising,” he said. “The guideline would be to fill it like you’d fill a muffin tin. Don’t fill it to the top, or it’s gonna go all over. Usually when we do cakes, we fill them halfway, and when it cooks, it picks up another third of the space. So when it’s done, it’s three-fourths full give or take, and then we’ll top it with buttercream or a cream cheese frosting or something like that.”

When layering desserts like puddings and parfaits, he has a certain ratio he likes to hit.

15_12589“I like to have three layers of filling and two layers of the crunch, whatever it might be,” he said. “So, for the s’mores jars, we’ll start with the fluff and do a layer of graham cracker and chocolate, and another layer of fluff and graham cracker and chocolate, and finish with the fluff.”

He says a dish like banana pudding would work the same way: “Start with pudding, then add vanilla wafers, pudding, wafers, and finish with pudding. It almost doesn’t matter the size of the jar, but we feel like, for texture and consistency, it works best if you have three of the filing and two of the crunch, crumble, cookie, whatever it might be.”

Two layers of crunchy stuff, three layers of sweet fluff. Got it.

He also loves the to-go aspect of mason jar desserts. Put a lid on it, and send it home with guests. He says the layers don’t tend to shift much once they’re in place.

“If you’re hosting a party, and you want to send someone home with something, what an awesome takeaway,” he said. “Here’s a cobbler, lid’s on it, heat it up tomorrow and have it.”
We agree.

Try this recipe for Mason Jar Pumpkin Smores to get started.
You might also try our Orange Marmalade Cake,
Pecan Praline Bread Pudding
Or Texas Peach Cobbler

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Fresh Iced Tea Popsicle Recipes

Our episode, featuring a trip to Charleston, S.C., brought us to the only tea plantation in the United States. Tea is so Southern and so delicious, and we got a closer look at how it’s grown and processed on the plantation. And we’re so thankful tea is still around. We can’t get enough of it, iced or hot!

This episode and the heat of summer, prompted a search of the internet for iced tea popsicles. We were inspired by some light and healthy recipes online, especially those using fresh fruit and one with matcha, a green tea super food. These two recipes were tested and approved in our kitchen.

Matcha and Milk Popsicles
3 cups almond milk
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp matcha green tea powder
Zest of 1 lemon

Mix ingredients together in a bowl until smooth. Fill molds with mixture and freeze until completely frozen, 3 to 4 hours.

 

16_05041Blackberry Black Tea Popsicles
3 cups black tea
2 tbs honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1 pint blackberries

Reserve 1/4 blackberries. Mix all other ingredients until smooth in a blender.  Divide remaining berries between molds and top with tea mixture.

 

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Lavender Room Spray

Materials

  • 3/4 cup water (I use tap water, but distilled is fine too)
  • 2 tablespoons vodka, witch hazel, or real vanilla extract
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil
  • 5 drops lemon essential oil
  • 5 drops rosemary essential oil

Directions

  • Combine in an 8oz spray bottle, shake well, and spray as needed.