Thursday, May 26, 2016

Make It Yourself - Taco Seasoning

I've had this recipe for quite a while, although it is not mine. This one was written by Bill Echols and can be found on allrecipes. Please be sure to visit the original recipe and give it a 5-star rating! I looked it up one day when I discovered that I was out of taco seasoning. I had also discovered that I didn't want to drive into town to get more. Luckily enough, we always have a well stocked spice cabinet. Not only do I want to teach you how to make this delightful concoction, but how to use it as well!

1Tbsp Chili Powder
1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
1/4 tsp Onion Powder
1/4 tsp Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1/4 tsp Dried Oregano
1/2 tsp Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper

Just combine your ingredients in a bowl. Store in an airtight container if you are saving it for later. I typically use the whole batch when I cook, but you could cut it in half if your family likes a milder taco meat.
So, to use this with ground beef (or turkey, if you desire,) brown the meat in a skillet, and drain if it is greasy. Add the seasoning (whole or half, whichever you prefer) and 3/4 c water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until the water is gone.

Alternately you can use taco seasoning to make shredded chicken for tacos, quesadillas, or flautas. You can either simmer on the stove, or put it in your crock pot. Take 2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts and place them in the bottom of a sauce pan or pot. Pour in enough chicken broth to cover almost completely. Sprinkle the taco seasoning over top. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about an hour. If you are using your crock pot, do the very same thing, but set to low and let it cook for 6-8 hours. I like to start it before I go to work so I can shred it when I get home. You can use frozen breasts or thawed, either way it should work out fine.

There you are! Happy taco-ing!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Seed Paper

For a while now I have been thinking about dandelions as a food source. They are hardy, easy to grow, and nearly the entire plant is edible. I've already published a post about eating dandelions as a salad. The thing I've been trying to figure out is what the best way to cultivate them might be. Their wispy little seeds do a fine job of spreading the plants far and wide, but what if you are looking to plant them all in one spot? What if you want them evenly dispersed over a specific patch of dirt? I found my solution the other day while exploring the Fireflies and Mud Pies website: seed paper! This way the dandelion seeds should all be stuck in a biodegradable sheet, and would stay wherever you plant them. Genius! In addition to dandelions, you could make this paper for any type of flower with wispy little seeds. I really enjoy Western Salsify plants, so I could make some seed paper to plant them in my flower garden. Likewise, you could make it with sowthistle or prickly lettuce seeds. Both sowthistle and prickly lettuce are, like dandelions, edible greens, and make good animal fodder.

Here's what you'll need for the project:
Wispy Seeds
Scrap Paper (Junk Mail, Newspaper, etc)
A Food Processor or Blender
Cheesecloth or a Flour Sack Dish Towel
An Embroidery Hoop
A Bowl of Similar Size to the Embroidery Hoop
A Rubber Spatula

First, use your embroidery hoop and cheesecloth (or dishtowel) and make a sieve for forming your paper.

Locate a bowl or dish of similar size to your embroidery hoop. This will catch the water as it drains off of your wet paper.

Either a food processor or a blender will work for this project. Don't worry about ruining your equipment, as paper breaks down easily in the water and will wash out easily if you clean it right away.

I used prickly lettuce seeds for this demonstration, but any sort of wispy seed will do. Dandelions or sowthistle if you're growing for animal fodder, Western Salsify, Marigolds, Daisies, or Black-Eyed Susans if you're growing for a flower bed.

Just look to your "to be shredded" bin for paper to recycle! Remember that junk mail or newspaper can be used, but avoid paper with a waxy coating or receipt paper. Regular old dull paper will break down easier in the blender, as well as in the ground.

Tear the paper into small pieces before adding to the blender.

Add water and begin to process. Continue adding water until the paper is broken down into a pulpy paste.

Place your embroidery hoop sieve over top of your bowl.

Spread about half of the paper pulp onto the "sieve." You might need to tighten your dishcloth or cheesecloth at this point, as it will likely sag under the weight.

Sprinkle your seeds evenly over the top of the paper paste.

Use the remaining paper paste to cover over your seeds.

Allow the seed paper to drain until it is dry to the touch, then move it to a warm area to continue drying. I put mine on top of my clothes dryer for a few days. Once it is completely dry you can store it in an envelope or zip top bag until you are ready to  plant! When you are ready to plant, just put it where you want your plants to grow and cover over with soil. As you water, the paper will break down and allow the seeds to germinate.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Wax Paper Stained Glass

Often times when I tell people about my recollections from childhood they are astonished at just what I remember. This is the case with Wax Paper Stained Glass. When I was in kindergarten my family lived in Evanston, Wyoming. The school I attended was large, and had a lot of interesting programs and activities. We always had good crafts and projects in my class, and as near as I can remember, this was one of them. I've been meaning for quite some time to recreate this childhood activity, so here's how I did it!

First things first, I gathered my tools and materials together. I found my used crayons and vegetable peeler at the thrift shop. I also brought a paper plate, wax paper, construction paper, an iron, and some patterned scissors into the equation.
Your first step will be to select the colors for your stained glass, and peel back the wrappers a bit.

Cut some pieces of wax paper. Honestly, the bigger the pieces the easier it will be to make.
If you are planning on making a large stained glass, or a lot of small ones, it might be beneficial to scrape off a lot of wax with your peeler, and collect it on a paper plate.
This was a big mistake. This is waaaay too much wax for this sized piece of wax paper. It escaped off of all the edges. It was a huge mess. Remember, a little goes a long way.
Sprinkle just a little of your crayon shavings onto the wax paper and cover it with another wax paper.
Cover your crayon/wax paper sandwich with a piece of fabric and set your iron to low.
Iron until your wax is melted and spread all out.
Take a piece of construction paper and measure out a frame. You will need a front and a back. 
Don't forget that you can trim your "art" to make it easier to frame if necessary. 
Using white glue, fix the front and back of your frame to your "art."
Find a pair of patterned scissors, if you have them, to trim up the edges and make it cute.
Punch holes in either of the top corners. This is for your hanger.
Using a piece of ribbon or string, make a hanger.
That's it! Find a sunny window in which to display your artwork!