Best Pie Crust Recipe Ever

Julie's Cherry Pie
Julie's Cherry Pie

The best pie crust recipe ever. That’s a bold statement, I know. But my Mom said it was the best pie crust ever, and she’s like George Washington when it comes to lies, so it has to be the truth.

After a flood of Facebook posts and Tweets about struggles with pie crust, I figured it was past time for me to put together a post about my obsession with consistently delivering pie crust heaven during the holidays. You see, I love pie. Not like a normal, healthy person likes a good pie. More like the way a crazy, OCD person loves something.

My Grandma made great pie. But she used lard (and later shortening) and I’m totally not going there for a variety of reasons. So I use butter. I won’t lie and say this pie crust is easy, or for beginners, because there’s a reason the title of this post is Best. Pie Crust. Ever. and not Easiest. Pie Crust. Ever.

So if you’ve made a few pie crusts in your time and are ready to try to achieve true pie Nirvana, read on! Read more

More on natural wool dyes

PICT5486I’ve been experimenting with home-made dyes for several years now whether it was dying play silks with Kool-Aid, looking for natural dyes for wool, dyes for home-made zero waste wrapping paper, or dying easter eggs.

This week, I dyed some wool roving with saffron and berries and the results were nice enough that I wanted to share!

Saffron Dye
Saffron makes perhaps the most vibrant natural wool dye of any of the ones I’ve experimented with, and one that seems to stay bright through multiple washings. I’ve dyed both play silks and wool with this dye, and you can bet we’ll be doing some yellow Easter Eggs this spring!

1 T saffron threads
1 c white vinegar
2 Q water
1 ounce wool roving

PICT5482
Bring the water to a boil and add the saffron threads. I think the *ideal* next step would be to steep the dye for about an hour, then strain and reheat to a boil. As you might be able to tell from the tiny saffron threads still stuck to my wool, I did the slightly less ideal strain-with-a-spoon-because-you’re-in-a-hurry method. Live & learn.

Add the white vinegar, stir, and turn to low. Run your wool under hot water until it is evenly wet and then add to the pot and let it simmer for an hour. At this point, remove from heat and let it sit for up to 12 hours or until desired color depth is achieved (I did the wool pictured above overnight). Gently remove the wool and submerge in cool water until the water is clear. Let as much water as possible drain from the wool and either place in a lingerie bag and hand spin (outside) to dry, or lay it in a sunny location until dry. Do not wring the wool out, because it may start to felt if you do!

Berry Dye

I have dyed eggs and play silks with straight blueberries and have found the resulting color rather blue-gray. Wanting something a bit more purple, I added some raspberries to this mix. As you can see from comparing the picture of the finished wool up top to the picture of the dye bath below, the wool did NOT maintain the brilliant violet red color of the dye and is more of a muted purple. I’m still happy with it, but will be looking for dyes to get a more vibrant red color.

Notes: Beets would work in place of raspberries, and I used frozen berries for this batch, but fresh would also work.

1 c blueberries
1/2 c raspberries
1 cup vinegar
2 Q water
1 ounce wool roving

PICT5479Bring water to a boil and add the berries. Mash them up as they cook so that as much juice as possible comes out into the water. Remove from heat and, when cool enough to work with, strain, crushing the berries in the strainer to get the remaining juice out. Return water to a boil and add vinegar. Turn to low. Run your wool under hot water until it is evenly wet and then add to the pot and let it simmer for an hour. At this point, remove from heat and let it sit for up to 12 hours or until desired color depth is achieved (I did the wool pictured above overnight). Gently remove the wool and submerge in cool water until the water is clear. Let as much water as possible drain from the wool and either place in a lingerie bag and hand spin (outside) to dry, or lay it in a sunny location until dry. Do not wring the wool out, because it may start to felt if you do!

Links to other articles/posts on home-made dyes:

Beat the winter blues with a little green

Our herb garden lives in the kids' play room
Our herb garden lives in the kids' play room

I may still have a little chard, carrots, oregano, and rosemary alive in the garden, but my garlic’s planted, my horseradish is harvested, and outdoor gardening season ’09 is pretty much officially done. Although Seeds of Change has apparently lost its mind and started sending spring seed catalogs in November (!!), it’s early, even by my insane gardening standards, to begin plans for next year’s garden. So what’s a bored gardener to do to beat the winter blues?

Well, last weekend, I got a great deal on some end-of-season herbs from the last Farmer’s Market of the season (sniff, sniff) and planted an indoor herb garden to keep the kids and I occupied until we can reasonably start planning next year’s garden and starting seedlings in January. All it took was some leftover pots, a little potting soil, and a sunny window. Read more

A few tips on making Mozzarella

I know a lot of folks who, like me, love the idea of making mozzarella from scratch. But I also know quite a few people, myself included, who have tried it and failed miserably. This weekend, I think I finally had my mozzarella breakthrough, so of course I had to share it here.

First, the recipe. I have been trying to make Ricki Carroll’s 30-Minute Mozzarella recipe, from her book Home Cheese Making. I love that she recommends local, minimally processed milk, and that her web site has lots of tips and pictures. But my mozzarella curds NEVER looked solid enough to pull back with my fingers or cut with a knife, so I wasn’t really surprised when my cheese kept not turning out. Read more

My make-it-from-scratch philosophy

I blog a lot about things I make from scratch and I realized that I have an underlying philosophy that I’ve never spelled out. So here goes.

When I was young, I was fortunate to spend many of my weekends on a farm my parents owned with a friend of theirs about two hours from the suburbs where I grew up. This property, which I think was about 80 acres, was a true working farm with steers raised for beef, a couple of old circus ponies, an outhouse, some great old rickety barns, a farm pond, a giant vegetable garden, and acres of woods. Read more

Heart-healthy & Earth-friendly look the same when it comes to diet

A friend on mine recently asked me for some advice on eating a low sodium diet because she was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure. I realized as I typed up all my tips that a heart-healthy diet looks a whole lot like an Earth-friendly one. Just another reason to think about the foods we eat and to choose carefully in ways that will likely vary from the typical Western diet.

My husband’s father has high blood pressure, and my Dad did too, so because there is a genetic factor, I’ve been watching our salt intake since before I learned  that what I eat makes such a huge impact on my carbon footprint. Here’s what I do: Read more

Quick & Easy Halloween Costumes for Beginners

G&LI wasn’t up for spending $40 a piece on my kids’ Halloween costumes this year, so I decided to make my own. Let me preface this by saying that, although I make a LOT of things from scratch, my skills with needle and thread and pretty much entirely lacking. So I needed something that was not only cheap, but EASY. Here’s what I did:

Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and lots of the other big-box craft stores that carry Halloween fabric tend to mark theirs down to half price at the beginning of October. So I was able to get 30% off on some cute “spooky eye” fabric as well as some stretchy black velor. I bought three yards of each–you may need more or less depending on how large your children are and how many costumes you’re making. I picked out a roll of black and orange ribbon (also on clearance) to use for ties and any other decorations I might need. Read more

A little more on root cellaring

carrotsA few weeks back, I was interviewed for an article in the Boulder Daily Camera called Preserving Your Roots about home root cellaring. I got quite a few questions from friends about one particular part of the article: storing carrots. Since I harvested a full 5-gallon bucket’s worth of carrots this week from our community garden patch, I had the opportunity this weekend to document the process of preparing these carrots for a winter of storage and thought I’d share it here.

Although I have often peeled, chopped (or grated), blanched, and frozen carrots in the past, by April, I’m desperate for something with a bit of crunch. Two years ago, I tried taking the last of the late fall carrots from the farmer’s market, sealing them tight in zip-top bags, and storing them in our extra fridge. They lasted until March, but took up a ton of space that I might have used on another scarce commodity in Colorado winters–good fruit! Read more

Blog Action Day: Why what you eat makes an impact

Today is Blog Action Day and I’m proud to be participating with other bloggers around the world in raising awareness about the topic of climate change. With all the press the upcoming talks in Copenhagen have been getting, doing something tangible about climate change can seem overwhelming, or out of our hands as individuals. It’s not.

Regardless of what is decided on Washington (where cap-and-trade legislation is taking shape) or Copenhagen, there is something that most Americans do three or more times a day, and how they do it has a real impact on their carbon footprint. That’s right folks, eating. Read more

My 15 minutes of fame…

If you read the Boulder Daily Camera, you might have seen a familiar face on today’s front cover. Actually, three familiar faces: myself, Gabriel & Lily. I was interviewed last week about my efforts to cellar onions, garlic, squash, and potatoes over the winter using a system of shelving and lidded bins. Little did I know that I’d get a blurb on the front page pointing to a pretty cool story a few pages later! Take a look to learn more about building your own root cellar. And check out another great article on how to figure out what you need to store for the winter.