Archive for February, 2009

A Quick Break

The writers here at Women Not Dabbling in Normal are taking a quick break to do some work in regards to the technical and writing aspects of the blog.  We hope it won’t take too long.  See you soon!

Read Full Post »

Knitting Afghans

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by Howling Hill

When I was a kid my maternal grandmother attempted to teach me to knit. It was a catastrophe. We both got very frustrated. You see, I was trying to do what I saw her hands doing. I was sitting across from her so I attempted to move my hands in the same fashion I saw her hand moving but I was doing it backwards. It didn’t occur to either of us for me to get up and sit behind her so I could mimic her precisely.

Fast forward to 2008. I said to a woman I was friends with I wanted to learn how to knit. She had the same desire so she went and picked up some knitting needles and a book and we sat down for a weekly Knit N’ Bitch (UK Stitch N’ Bitch). Unfortunately our friendship ended but the legacy of my knitting has continued.

Now realize I’m excellent at starting projects and wretched at finishing anything so knitting has become a challenge for me in more than one way. I have finished a couple things including two baby blankets and a bunch of washcloths which was a big accomplishment. However, one of the first things I started knitting I’ve yet to complete. It’s a Hufflepuff scarf but I’ve not figured out how to attach the tassels. I don’t think I’ll wear it which is why I haven’t finished it because it’s *huge*. Anyone who’s about 6 feet can wear it with comfort but my 5’3″ frame is dwarfed by the scarf. Let me know if you want it and I’ll mail it to you otherwise it’s just going to get dusty and take up space. I’d rather someone wear it.

The biggest problem I’ve had — aside from completing projects — is learning how to read a knitting pattern. I’m still really, really fuzzy on a lot of the lingo. And since I’m not one who learns from books (I need to see something then repeat it) I’ve not advanced any further in my knitting. I’m excellent at knitting and purling but anything like a stockingette or dropping stitches eludes me still as does how to connect tassels or two squares together. But practice makes perfect, right?

I’ve started an afghan for Wolf’s niece who is getting married in May. I got the pattern free from Lion’s Brand Yarn. I am really enjoy making stuff for other people, something which comes as a surprise to me. In the past I’ve always been one to just buy something unique especially when it came to weddings. When I got married I found it was the handmade gifts which meant the most to me so I wanted to start making stuff for others in hopes my craft means more than a rice cooker (no matter the rice cooker we got is the most used shower gift). This is the first time I’m making a gift for a wedding.

I tend to write out the patterns because it confuses my brain a little less than seeing stars (*) and “rep”, etc. Basically what the * and “rep” mean is to repeat (rep) from the star. So, for example after you knit P1, K9, P9, K1, go back and repeat those same stitches. I did so four times though now I realize I should’ve done it at least six. This afghan will be long as opposed to wide because I want the married couple to snuggle under it together and as it is now it’s only big enough for one person.

Niece Blanket
This is a picture before I finished it. In the picture I was on row 120 and just started the sixth skein. I have six more skeins but I think I did ten skeins instead of twelve. I wanted it to be big enough for two to snuggle under so I had to make it long instead of wide. I would suggest adding another block or two to the width to make it snuggable.

Edited by Kathie: Pattern removed due to copyright issues.

If you decide to make this afghan please show pictures!

I have an account at Ravelry if you want to check it out. Just put “h0wlinghill” into the search function (zero not the letter O) because, for some reason, I can’t add a link directly to the page.

Read Full Post »

i have a lot of cook books floating around here. i like to have a variety of recipes to choose from. who doesn’t?

one of my all time favorites is the fanny farmer cook book. there are so many helpful tips and information in addition to the recipes. it’s quite a hefty little cook book! the pages are covered with splatters from a sloppy cook. i like how each type of meat is broken down with diagrams of cuts and descriptions of the cuts, along with the best way to prepare them. the same is done for fruits and vegetables too. it’s a cook book i highly recommend to anyone wanting to cook from scratch!

the nourishing traditions cook book is another great book that talks about preparing foods in the ancient tradition, soaking foods and keeping them alive (as opposed to just baking them such as granola which is supposed to be a no-no…we love it here so i make it anyway!). in addition to recipes, the columns are filled with customs of tribes around the world on food preparation and statistics of their health.

the sunburst family cook book is a hippy style cook book that offers alternatives to cooking with sugar and refined flour. recipes usually use honey and whole grain flour as well as other types of flours and sweeteners. it is vegetarian based.

putting it by with honey is excellent for jelly and jam recipes using honey instead of sugar. they generally turn out a bit runny but around here, sweet is sweet.

those four preside within easy reach for reference. the rest of my varied stash hang out on a higher shelf, some being rotated during the season they are needed the most:

dry it, you’ll like it! is about dehydrating just about anything, including meat.

wild fermentation is useful during harvest season to make krauts, pickles and such.

solar cooking gives me ideas during the summer on how to use my solar oven.

in addition to those perennial favorites, i have another assortment that sits even higher:

the vegetarian epicure

the vegetarian epicure, book 2

fields of greens

vegetarian times

moosewood cook book

moosewood restaurant cooks at home

the barefoot contessa

the naked chef

the little house cook book

cooking by moonlight

that is the short list! there are plenty more hidden around the house as well. the problem with that is i use maybe 1-2 recipes out of the majority of the cook books and so they sit around collecting dust and getting in my way, thus the reason they are up high on shelves.

to solve that problem, i have compiled my own cook book of sorts for my household binder. i type the recipes on a page created in word, including the source book and page number for easy reference and then print the pages out and keep them in my binder. i have 4 sections: entrees, sweets, breads, misc (sourdough, kefir, kombucha, etc). when i try out a new recipe, i’ll add it to my word document and print the page once it’s full and add it to my binder. that way, i’ve always got my tried and true recipes within reach without trying to remember which cook book i found a particular recipe in and spend half the day trying to find it. and even though i love my fanny farmer cook book, having all the recipes i truly enjoy all in my binder saves me from trying to remember the name of the recipe. i still use my fanny farmer book weekly but if there’s a specific recipe i want, i go straight to my binder. the bonus is, when i travel, i generally take my binder along since it always has travel information in it as well. so, if i’m staying away from home, i still have an arsonal of recipes at my disposal any time i feel like whipping something up. and yes, even when camping, i use it!

now that i’m organized, who’s got some more cook book suggestions for me??? what is/are your favorite cook book(s)?

Read Full Post »

Southern Fudge Pie

It’s funny that one of the easiest recipes I make is the most requested.  I’m not sure where I even got it originally, but it’s now an old standby.

I talked to my friend “L ” recently by phone long distance, and she told me she had just make 3 of “those” pies.  I said what pies are “those”?  She said, “you know…those….the fudge pies you brought me after each of my sons were born, and I still remember it to this day…heaven! ”  

24 hours of heavy labor, and the fudge pie she remembers…cool!

She continued, “You swore it was so easy, it was like 3 or 4 ingredients you just mix up and that was it, and I didn’t believe you, so you gave me the recipe.  And now we make it all the time!” 

(I won’t mention the fact neither of us are today the same weight we were back then or speculate on just how much this recipe may have figured into that…)

Another friend, “A,”  rented a room from us back in the day, and we shared a household for several months…which means all sharing a kitchen daily(which takes sharing to a whole new level!).  The transition was made terminally unbearable a bit rocky when she got up regularly at about…ohhh..FOUR A.M. (or was it five?) to run her teeth-jarring, skull-rattling, gravel-crunching whole grain through the electric grinder to make her homemade bread. 

The ACTUAL bread, later  pulled hot from the oven,  helped soothe much of the residual grumpiness emanating from the remaining non-morning-people.   Her other occasional specialty, an awesome homemade salsa made with all fresh ingredients, after a long day at work, achieved the restoration of  peace and tranquilty…until the next early morning. 

Then one day “A” got on a fudge pie kick, having hijacked my recipe and taken it to whole new levels of baking frequency.  Mi cucina es su cocina.

It happens.  Two women hardwired for chocolate, and sharing a small space. Hello, my name is Robbyn, and I’m a chocoholic.  “A” was the ultimate choco-enabler and, together, we made record time in receding all 12 steps from facing our denial 😉 

Here’s the really simple recipe.  You may like it, or not.  But for sure your hips will remember it with great attachment! Or you may embrace your inner co-dependant and share it with friends who inexplicably eat a few bites, make embarrassing mouth noises,  and fix you with an unblinking Pit Bull glare if you seem ready to cut yourself another piece.     Just       leave      it       there…

…it’s easy enough to go make yourself another one that’s all your own to share.

If you don’t have it already, here’s the soooooo easy recipe:

SOUTHERN FUDGE PIE  <—(caps not meaning to scream, but you can scream it if you like)

2 eggs, beaten

3 Tablespoons cocoa

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup butter, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

1 unbaked pie crust (your own, or the ready roll-out sort)

Mix dry ingredients together;  Add eggs and mix with fork;  Stir in vanilla, butter, and pecans.  Pour into crust. 

Bake 350F about 1/2 hour.  Start checking it after 20 minutes — you want the filling firm in the middle but not overcooked.  Remove just after filling firms but might seem a tad undercooked…it will firm more as it cools.  Enjoy warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and roasted pecan chips, or just accompanied with an ice cold glass of real, creamy milk.

Surely this recipe must have some nutritional or anecdotal merit…I think it may well be an ancient remedy used to soothe individuals awakened perpetually-early by Hyperactive Morning People, but don’t quote me on it… 


Read Full Post »

Originally published at Women Not Dabbling by a guest writer (Eva) filling in for Gina

Hello! I am stepping aside today for a guest writer with a great topic! ~Gina


Thinking of getting animals? Think again.

By Eva


Why do you want animals?


What type of animals, which breed?


Start with something easy. Easy is small, cheap, easy to fence, easy to shelter – that often means chickens or maybe rabbits.


Talk to someone who has the animals you are interested in. Not someone who is trying to sell you his or her animals as they have a vested interest. Once you have narrowed it down to a few types of animals talk to several people who have these types. Ask them why they chose them, what problems they have had.


Think the whole process through – getting your first animals, raising them, housing through the winter, dealing with predators, fencing, watering all year, selling extras, acquiring new animals, dealing with sick and dead animals, slaughter. All of this may seem intimidating. You don’t have to learn it all at once or even before you get your animals – you just have to be willing to learn. An experienced neighbor is an invaluable resource.


Are you allowed to keep animals on your property? Sometime zoning and/or neighbors can make it difficult or impossible.


Consider if you can afford the animals. Housing, feed, vet costs? For years? Animals are a long-term commitment.


Make sure you have fencing and housing in place before you get your animals.


Do you have a vet nearby who has experience/expertise in this type of animals? Lots of vets only take care of pets.


Where will you buy supplies? A good feed or hardware store nearby makes keeping animals easier.


Sharon has an excellent run down on which types of livestock to get “Little Livestock for Urban and Suburban Gardens” http://sharonastyk.com/ February 12th, 2009


Things to consider when choosing a breed


  • Is it a healthy breed?



Does the breed you are considering have easy births and are they considered to be good mothers? It’s a lot easier for an animal to mother and feed her young than for you to do it.  Multiple births are often touted as being more productive, but can lead to more problems.



Giant or tiny breeds tend to be inbred and may have health problems. Also consider what size animal you are comfortable working around. Here we have a farm rule – no animal that we can’t comfortably wrestle to the ground. I’ve heard other people say: “no one shits bigger than me on this farm”.


Breed diseases

Is this breed known to have any diseases?  What about pests and parasites?


  • Is it a common breed?


How hard is it to find more of this breed in your area? Unusual or exotic animals may be good or seem like fun but when it comes time to replace a few animals you’ll be glad not to be shipping animals across the continent. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t consider only the most common breeds. Pockets of different breeds exist in different place. Again look around.


  • Feed

If you can add an animal to your mix that eats the same feed as the animals you already have you have less to keep track of. Or if you keep animals that can eat a food resource that is currently wasted or not fully utilized. Consider the cost of feed and if you can grow some or all of it yourself. Where will you store the feed? Think about making your storage vermin proof.


  • Yield

Is it a high producing breed? Do you want a lot of milk, meat? Consider that animals that are bred to be very productive often have problems. All that “extra” often comes with a cost – more difficult births, higher feed consumption, more illnesses. Consider whether it is worth getting several animals that produce less, rather than a one high producing animal.


  • Do you like them?

Chose both a breed and a type of animal that you like. This may seem obvious but it makes chores easier. It’s a lot easier to tend your animals well if you genuinely enjoy being with them. If you think they are ugly, mean, or smell bad you are less likely to take good care of them.


  • Do you have helpers?

Other family member who are willing to help take care of the animals? Neighbors who can look after them for a day if you need/want to go away?


Eva dabbles in gardening and food activism. I have also mastered the following rural skills: sheep shearing, baking in a wood cookstove, using a chainsaw, making do and being satisfied with what I have.

Read Full Post »

I have come across another article from an old Organic Gardening Magazine ( September 1975 –authored by Jane Nordstrom) and thought that I would type it out for you all this week.
Maybe some of you have heard of this…but in my many years of bread making and doing self sufficiency this was the first I had come across in some detail the idea of using malt for my bread in place of sugar. Most recipes seem to substitute malt for some of the sugar and then either use (still) a bit of refined sugar or a substitute like honey or molasses. Personally honey or molasses in my “regular” bread is not my favorite anyway—though I know many enjoy it for their selves. And though I don’t have pictures for you since I am just trying it myself as of this weekend I am adding some links for you to research this further. This idea seems to have been popular in the 70’s. This one I am re typing from OG is, as far as I have found, the earliest reference still around though.
Hope you all enjoy it.

Diastatic Malt – The Secret of Sugarless Bread
Better bread, higher in protein, lower in cost, uses an Old World yeast food that makes sugar unnecessary.

Professional bakers in Europe have an ingredient in their yeast breads that is virtually unknown to home bakers in the U.S. It is a unique yeast food and bread improver called diastatic malt.
You may have noticed that most recipes for yeast breads call for a small (sometimes not so small) amount of sugar, even for those breads which are not meant to be sweet. The purpose of the sugar is to feed the yeast and increase its gassing power. Sugar, because of its ability to caramelize, also makes the crust brown. But these are the sum of sugar’s virtues in bread, and we all know about its manifold vices.
People who are concerned about nutrition often substitute honey or molasses, which perform the same functions of feeding the yeast and browning the crust. But more effective still is diastatic malt. Not only does it do everything sugar does, it has other significant qualities. Diastatic malt is full of enzymes and vitamins which increase bread’s nutritional value. In addition, the catalytic action of these enzymes on the yeast and flour improves both flavor and appearance of the loaf, fosters a finer texture, and helps the bread stay fresh. Is it any wonder the travelers remark about the superiority of bread in Europe?
Just what is diastatic malt anyway?
That was my question when I first learned about it in a letter from my daughter who was apprenticing in a Swiss bakery. I remembered seeing cans of Blue Ribbon Malt on grocery shelves when I was a child, but I had no idea what malt really was nor where it came from. I thumbed through every cookbook I had, but found no reference to diastatic malt. Most cookbooks don’t mention malt of any kind, except possibly a passing reference to malted milk. Even the dictionary referred to malt only as a “germinated grain used in brewing and distilling. “
I took the dictionary’s lead and began reading books on beer making. That is how I discovered what malt really is. It is sprouted grain ( usually barley) that has been roasted and ground. It is then dissolved in water and filtered to remove the husks and bran, after which it is reduced to a syrup or dehydrated to make a powder. I also learned that DIASTITIC malt, unlike conventional malt, has been dried and processed at a low temperature (under 170 degrees) so that its special enzymes are not destroyed by heat. Much later I learned form my daughter that these enzymes have the power to transform the starch in flour into maltose and dextrin – yeast foods which assist in the fermentation process. These enzymes also help in the production of soluble proteins for the yeast’s use.
After checking several sources I was finally able to obtain some diastatic malt syrup at a beer supply store, and thus began an adventure in baking bread with malt rather than sugar. The bread was great. The problem was that the malt syrup was so thick and unmanageable it was a nuisance to use.
At about that time my husband happened to be reading a book on Mesopotamia. In it was a detailed description of how the people of those ancient times made malt for their alcoholic beverages by sprouting barley kernels and then drying them in the sun. That is when I made the critical connection. Malt was not so exotic after all. I had been sprouting mung beans in my kitchen for years. Why not sprout barley as well and carry it two steps further – dry the sprouts and grind them? There would be no need to filter out the husks and bran since my malt was to be ground and made into bread rather than beer.
The problem was where to find the grain. Hulled barley would not sprout and there was no unhulled barley anywhere. I searched through health food stores in New York City and wrote many letters to organic grain suppliers, but to no avail. Finally in an encyclopedia, I learned that malt can be made from wheat as well as barley, and that the enzyme action is the same.
For several years now I have been making my own diastatic malt with wheat berries. They are available at any health food store. I am convinced that diastatic malt makes the subtle difference between a good bread and a great bread.
Used in place of sugar, honey or molasses in any yeast bread recipe, the action of the diastatic malt is so powerful that only a small amount is needed. One teaspoonful will be enough for a batch of dough yielding three to four loaves. A little more won’t hurt but use restraint. Once you have made your own diastatic malt and see how easy it is, you may be tempted to simply dump it into the dough, believing that “more is better.” It is true that diastatic malt is richer in nutrients than the grain it was made form. However, if used in excess it will overwhelm the yeast (give it indigestion, so to speak). This will cause a breakdown in the texture of the loaf during baking and will yield a sweet, sticky fiasco.
For those who do not wish to make their own, Schiff Bio Food Products, Inc. makes a dehydrated diastatic malt called Dimalt ( This company no longer makes this product—you can find malt through King Arthur Floors now).

How to Make Your Own Diastatic Malt:

Place on cup of wheat or barley berries in a wide- mouth glass jar and cover the top with a pieces of nylon net or cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. Pour 4 cups of tepid water into the jar through the net and let the grain soak for about 12 hours or over night. Drain off the water from the swollen grain (save the water for bread liquid, soup stock, or for watering your house plants—it’s full of water-soluble vitamins and minerals.) Pour more tepid water into the jar, shake gently, and drain thoroughly. This rinsing and draining keeps mold from forming on the sprouts. Keep the jar near your kitchen sink and repeat the rinsing, shaking and draining three times a day for two days or until the little shoots are about the same length as the grains. There will also be tiny white rootlets. The temperature of your kitchen will determine the length of time required.
When the sprouts have reached their proper length, rinse and drain once again and arrange the sprouts evenly in thin layers on two large baking sheets. Place them in an oven at a temperature no higher than 150 degrees. The sprouts should be dry in 8 hours or less. They’ll give off a delightfully sweet, earthy fragrance as they dry. Or you can air-dry them by placing the baking sheets in a warm place, preferably in the sun, for several days until they are thoroughly dry. Then grind the dried sprouts to a fine meal or flour in a an electric grinder or blender. This amount will yield one cup of diastatic malt – enough for up to 150 loaves of bread. Store malt in a tightly closed glass jar in the refrigerator or freezer. It will keep indefinitely.

Whole Wheat Bread:

2 cups water
1 tsp diastatic malt
2 tablespoon yeast or 2 packages
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (olive is good but others can be used)
2 teaspoons salt
5 cups whole wheat bread flour.

Since I am retyping this out I am going to leave you to figure out how to make the bread. Simple instructions can be found most anywhere. Below are some links to take you to some other interesting places. As I said in the beginning: Enjoy. Oh yes…have a great week too.


Jane Nordstrom also wrote a few books. One deals specifically with this subject and is called “ The Barmy Bread Book”. You MAY be able to find it. Search hard — there are copies out there for under $25 dollars if you would really like one.

Lastly as an addendum to a previous article on pressure canning I did on January 19th,2009 (http://womennotdabbling.wordpress.com/2009/01/19/pressure-canners-and-all-their-uses/)
I wanted to add this link that I found by searching through the radical frugality link above:
http://missvickie.com/recipes/recipeframe.html –loaded with pressure cooking recipes, times and information.

Read Full Post »

Soup Pantry

We eat a ton of soup in the fall and winter months.  It’s comforting, easy, nutritious, and frugal.  In order to keep the soup flowing, I keep a well-stocked soup pantry and rarely follow a recipe.  Keeping your pantry stocked and full makes it much easier to throw together a quick and delicious soup in no time.

  • Save your bones, all of them in the freezer until you gather enough to make stock.  Keep different containers for poultry, beef, fish, pork, etc.  After your meals, put the bones in the appropriate container and when full make up a pot of stock.
  • You can save your veggie peelings for stock as well, though most folks probably use that for compost.
  • Save leftovers in another container in the freezer, as well.  Bits of leftover meats, veggies, legumes, and grains make a soup truly grand and stretch your dollars even further.
  • Keep your pantry stocked with canned and dried items to add flavor and substance.  Think vegetables, dried mushrooms, herbs, spices, and more grains.
  • Keep onions and garlic on hand, they can punch up the flavor of anything.
  • Canned tomatoes are usable in so many ways for chilis, soup ingredients, and a quick blend turns them into a wonderful soup base if you’re wanting something a little different than your usual chicken broth.
  • Most importantly keep permission on hand.  Permission for yourself to be daring with your ingredients, permission to combine things that you haven’t seen in a cookbook or on a blog.  Remember to use the ingredients that you and your family enjoy and get creative in making that soup.

Round out your soup meals in a variety of ways to keep it truly filling and slightly more substantial.  Homemade and/or store bought breads, biscuits, crackers, and/or croutons make a delightful addition to soup.  Shredded cheese can add tang, salt, and flavor when sprinkled on top of some soups.  Even tortilla chips or strips can add crunch and variety to the same old soup. 

Remember permission to be daring and different will get much futher than 100 soup cookbooks.  Mostly enjoy, sample, and try again and again.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »