Empower yourself to perform basic repairs

Why pay when you can DIY?

Save money and make better quality food

Go back to basics and learn to can.

Reduce, Re-Purpose, Recycle

Yep, even your old clothes.

Learn Basic Techniques to Boost your DIY Ability

Woodworking is an important skill for many projects.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

DIY Burlap Bubble Wreath

My hairy armed companion shows off my progress with my burlap bubble wreath. While it was intimidating at first, after I found a few tutorials I was quickly on my way to making a fabulous bubble wreath. I experimented while making this one and found that a combination of 3" and 4" pieces worked best. 

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Baking Bread at Home Finale!

Baking Bread at Home III

     Earlier this week we baked whole wheat bread and learned about the science that is baking. For our Grand Finale, we're going to bake a nifty little loaf of Earl Grey Bread and make Homemade Corn Bread. This post is all about the recipes, let's hop in. 

Earl Grey Tea Loaf
Rule 3: Quality ingredients create quality baked goods.

   Moist and lightly spiced, this loaf is perfect for breakfast or an afternoon tea break.

  • 1/2 c. softened butter
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 3/4 c. flour (I prefer unbleached all purpose flour)
  • 1 1/2 t. baking powder (without aluminum)
  • 1/2 t. sea salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla
  • 1/2 t. orange zest
  • A pinch each of powdered cinnamon, cardamon, and nutmeg
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 3 bags of your favorite earl grey tea

1. In a small saucepan, heat the milk until nice and hot - do not scald. Tear open the bags of tea and sprinkle into the milk. Remove from heat and allow to steep until the milk takes on the color of the tea and it has a nice strong scent. Set aside and allow to cool completely. 

2. Set your oven to 350 degrees to preheat. Beat the butter and eggs with a hand/stand mixer until the butter becomes fluffy. Beat the eggs in, one at a time, then add vanilla, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and milk.

3. Pour your wet mixture slowly into the dry while beating the mixture. 

4. Either prepare your loaf pan by placing parchment paper into the pan and spraying with cooking spray (leave an overhang) or by greasing and then very lightly flouring the pan.

5. Add the dough to the pan and bake for approximately one hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of your loaf comes out completely clean. 

6. I like to drizzle honey mixed with a bit of orange zest over the loaf as soon as it comes out of the oven. 

7. Allow to cool for approximately one hour then transfer to a rack to finish cooling before slicing. 

Homemade Corn Bread - Try not to think about the calories...
Rule 4: Over-mixing can ruin soft breads like this.

  • Just under 1 c. of buttermilk (if you must be precise, 14 T.)
  • 1 3/4 c. flour
  • 1 c. cornmeal
  • 1/8 to 1/4 c. honey
  • 2 t. baking powder (no aluminum!)
  • 1/4 t. baking soda
  • 4 T. unsalted butter (melted and cooled)
  • 4 T. bacon fat
  • 1/4 c. crumbled bacon
  • 3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 T. fresh chives, chopped
  • Approximately 1/3 c. of creamed corn
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Add the bacon drippings to a large cast iron skillet and place into the hot oven for 10 minutes.
  2. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and baking soda in a glass bowl.
  3. To this mixture add the creamed corn, crumbled bacon, cheddar cheese, and the chopped chives.
  4. In a separate bowl, mix together the buttermilk, melted butter and the egg.
  5. Pour the liquid (all at once now) into the dry ingredients and mix just until all the dry ingredients are lightly moistened. Pour the hot fat on the batter (which will pop and bubble so be careful) and mix just until the oil is completely absorbed into the batter.
  6. Pour the batter into the hot skillet and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
  7. Let this delicious corn bread cool 5 minutes before you slice it. I know it's killing you, just wait or it will be a wreck. 
That's all for this week. I hope you enjoyed my little baking bread at home week. Coming up next week, we're going to talk about a few basic household fixes including how to fix a broken door handle. 

Hope to see you all back then!

~DIY Spice!~

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Baking Bread at Home Week Cont'd

Making Bread at Home II

     When we last visited this subject, I showed you how to bake whole wheat bread at home. Today, as promised, we will be visiting some of the science behind baking. It'll hold you over for the Homemade Corn Bread and Earl Grey bread being featured this Saturday. Warning: CONTAINS SCIENCE

     I'd like to take a moment to talk about baking ratios. I, embarrassingly, first became aware of baking ratios only a couple of years ago when I stumbled across another blog: A Tuscan foodie in America. After becoming aware, however, I found myself in a seemingly endless expanse of possibilities and found a nifty new foodie high: being free from strict recipes.

      As you can see from the handy chart (based on Ruhlman's book: Ratio), baking is only a matter of using the right ratios. [Fat=Butter in almost every case btw. but why not go crazy and add some bacon drippings? ...you're welcome] Additionally, baking ratios are based on weight, so use of a scale is a highly recommended.

      For my purposes though, this chart perfectly demonstrates the science (chemistry) that baking is. The difference in how you combine your ingredients can give a variety of results- as best seen here in creating a pound cake vs. a sponge cake. To create the light, soft texture of a sponge cake we whip our eggs and sugar first before adding other ingredients. We are using identical ingredients, but using alternate ratios and adding ingredients at alternate times creates elementary reactions which influence the final result.

      Although the basics are correct: you can certainly create a bread from bread, water, salt and yeast using yeast as your only leavening (an ingredient which is used to add softness and 'fluff') agent, you may not be planning on baking a dense bread or an un-leavened bread such as matzah.

      For best results, additional leavening agents should be added. The foremost example I can think of is baking powder. Baking powder uses moisture and heat to react and create gas ie: bubbles. You can achieve a similar effect by beating your egg whites (superficially adding bubbles) and adding them separately rather as a whole egg.. but this effect will likely not last through the process of kneading and rise time indicative of most breads.

      A common, and incorrect, inclusion to leavening agents is vital wheat gluten. This additive can help your bread to rise, but cannot do so on its own. Were we to only use this alone, we will likely bake a very chewy loaf of bread. As an example: when I make whole wheat bread, I use both baking powder and vital wheat gluten to improve the overall texture and reduce density.

   So let go of your cherished recipe box for a moment and allow yourself the freedom of experimentation. Remember, it's OK to fail, that's the only way we learn to do better next time.

Questions? Send an email or leave a comment in the section below.

~DIY Spice ~

*You can also purchase a rather elegant version of the ratio chart for $20 from Ruhlman's website.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Baking Bread at Home Week

Making Bread at Home I

      I don't think there is anything better than walking into a house where fresh bread is being made. The savory and sweet smell of toasting grain and melted butter on a cold day, what could be better? 

   ~ If you have been following my blog for the last three months after transitioning to my new site, you've probably browsed over my Sunday Brunch post. If you are looking for an excellent focaccia bread recipe I must selfishly implore you begin there. ~

     Today, we're going to make two whole wheat breads (one for bread machine)

Later this week, to celebrate the new site: Earl Grey bread, and Homemade Corn Bread. I'll also talk about baking ratios so you don't have to worry about exact recipes.

My Handworked 100% Whole Wheat Bread (Approx time 5 hours - hands on time  is about 30 minutes)
Rule 1: When in doubt, grease it...


  • 1 to 1 1/4 c. of lukewarm (temp cannot exceed 110 F or the yeast will die) water
  • 1/4 c. of either vegetable oil or melted butter (using butter will produce a slightly more dense bread)
  • 3 1/2 c. whole wheat flour (I recommend King Arthur Flour)
  • 2 1/2 t. instant yeast
  • 1/4 c. nonfat powdered milk/baker's special dry milk
  • 1 1/4 t. sea salt
  • 2 - 3T. vital wheat gluten
  • 2 T. honey
  • 1 t. baking powder (a non-aluminum containing powder for best results)
  1. Dissolve the yeast into 2 T. of the lukewarm water and allow to froth up a bit.
  2. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. 
  3. Transfer the dough to a lightly greased surface, oil your hands, and knead until the dough becomes smooth and supple (should take 5-8 minutes). The dough should, at this point, set but still be firm enough to knead.
  4. Transfer your dough to a lightly greased bowl and cover a warm, barely moist towel. Allow to rise until puffy and doubled. This will take 1 to 2 hours
  5. Remove the dough from the bowl and gently shape into an 8" log. Place the loan in a greased bread pan, gently cover with plastic wrap (also greased) and allow to rise for another 1 to 2 hours. 
  6. When it comes near to the end of your rise time, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350F.
  7. Bake your bread for 20 minutes, initially, then tent with foil and cook another 15 to 20 minutes. (I do this to prevent over-browning) Technically we're cooking to temp when we bake our whole wheat bread. Ideally, we're going for 190F, if you're being precise, remove the bread once it 'temps' at 178F, as it rests, the temperature will continue rising for a time.
  8. When you remove the bread, immediately rub down the loaf with a light coat of butter - this will ensure the crust doesn't become overly hard. 
     Not so bad. It took longer than you expected, I'm sure, but the flavor is out of this world. Once you're comfortable making this basic whole wheat bread don't be afraid to get creative with it. Try this with any of the following: carmelized onions in - cheddar on top, fresh herbs, dried and fresh fruits (try dates - thank me later), or molasses in place of honey and cinnamon and nutmeg in the dough. 

<Ooops, just drooled on the keyboard, what's next?>

My Almost Whole Wheat Bread for Bread Machine
Rule 2: Bread machine ingredients are listed in order they are added...

  • 1 to 1 1/4 c. water (if dry, add the full 1 1/4 - if humid, stick to 1) (105 - 110 F)
  • 1/4 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 c. sifted whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 to 1 c. white bread machine flour
  • 2 1/2 T. vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 c. nonfat powdered milk
  • 2 t. yeast
  1. Add ingredients in the order indicated, leaving a small nest on the pile of milk powder for the yeast to sit in. You don't want it running and mixing with the other ingredients just yet.
  2. After adding the yeast select the wheat bread setting and then select light crust. 
  3. Once done, remove from the bread machine immediately and rub down the crust with butter to prevent hardening. 
Admittedly, this recipe is a LOT easier. I have to say the flavor of the bread machine bread is just as good but the texture isn't as nice as the handworked bread. If you have any questions or just need a little guidance, I'll be glad to answer any questions ASAP!

 Come back later this week for Earl Grey bread, Homemade Corn Bread, and the ratio rules for bread making. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sunday Brunch

If I plan on a Sunday gathering, I like to make a casserole to minimize my time in the kitchen. There are many  options for a breakfast casserole, but this is my favorite.

If your family and friends have some spare Sunday time, why not invite them over for little brunch party? 

Today, we're going to make Foccacia Breakfast Casserole, Super Simple Fruit Salad, and a pitcher of Basil Bloody Mary's (still delicious without alcohol). 

Foccacia Bread Recipe 

*To save time in the morning, I like to bake my foccacia bread the day before. It doesn't take very long, so you're more than welcome to do this in the morning if you prefer - if you are doing so, allow an extra hour and a half for prep time.
If extra time is only in your dreams, feel free to purchase foccacia bread for this casserole*

  •   2 1/2 cups all purpose flour (set aside a bit for flouring our kneading area)  [**you can substitute up to half with whole wheat flour - please see additional directions at the bottom of this page] 
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon honey
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (equivalent to 1 envelope) 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (or 1/2 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary (or 1 tablespoon fresh, chopped)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil (or 1/2 tablespoon fresh, chopped fine)
  • 1 cup warm water (do not allow your water to exceed 110 degrees F or the yeast will die)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil (if you don't like the taste of olive oil, try extra light tasting)
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Starting in a small, cold saucepan, combine the 1/2 cup of olive oil with the minced garlic, black pepper and all herbs. Cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes, and remove from heat just as the smell of garlic permeates the air (and before it  browns in the pan), set aside. 
  2. In a large, wide bowl, add the warm water and honey, stir to combine and pour in your yeast. Stir together a few more times, gently and allow to sit for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in 1 cup of the flour and 1/4 cup of your olive oil mixture to the yeast mix and gently stir until moistened and allow to rest another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining 1 1/2 cups of flour with salt and stir until the dough comes together. Dust your kneading surface with flour and transfer your dough to it. Knead until smooth. 
  5. Lightly oil the interior of another large bowl and transfer your dough to it. Cover with a warm, lightly moistened town and let the dough rise for about an hour in a warm place.
  6. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Then, coat a 9x13 baking sheet (with a lip) with up to 2 tablespoons of your olive oil mixture, place in the dough and using your knuckles or fingertips press the dough down gently ensuring the 'dimples' in the dough remain. 
  7. Using a pastry brush, cover the top of the dough with the remaining olive oil mixture and sprinkle with cheese.
  8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is a golden brown and remove to cool.
Foccacia Casserole Recipe 
Best straight out of the oven, serve it hot!

  • Any ONE of the following: 1 package of cooked bacon, drained and blotted to remove excess grease (any type of bacon is fine); OR 1 package of cooked, drained, and crumbled breakfast sausage; OR 3-4 large sliced portobella caps lightly sauteed and cooled 
  • 6-7 large eggs (you may need more or less if using different sized eggs)
  • A splash of milk
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • 3/4 cup lightly cooked roasted red tomatoes (follow the same directions as with these peppers),  remove excess liquid by straining these right before we add them to the casserole
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh spinach, washed with stems removed
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced or pressed
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • 1/2 to 1 cups shredded cheese (if desired, certainly not necessary) 
  • Foccacia bread

  1. Slice your foccacia bread lengthwise, allowing more height on the bottom, and scoop out 3 'channels' into the bread bottom and a slight dome into the top - set aside (I make breadcrumbs with the removed interior, yummy!)
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.
  3. In a skillet, drizzle some olive oil and add in the minced garlic. As the pan becomes warm and your garlic starts to scent, add a cup of your fresh spinach and,  tossing a bit, cook on low heat for 1-3 minutes. Slowly add remaining spinach until evenly cooked and a gorgeous dark green. Set aside.
  4. In a mixing bowl, whisk your eggs with a splash of milk, salt and pepper. (You may spice your eggs additionally as you please, feel free to have a bit of fun here.)
  5. Grease a glass 9x13 baking dish. Place the bottom of the foccacia loaf into the pan and pour over the egg mixture. 
  6. If you're adding cheese, add half over the top of the eggs now. 
  7. Bake the bottom of the loaf until the eggs are just set. You can easily check by wiggling your dish once it's removed from the oven. If the eggs are still overly liquid at this point, it will be evident by gently shaking the pan back and forth. If you find your eggs are too runny at this time, return to the oven. (we'll be cooking them a bit longer, so think overly moist scrambled eggs here)
  8. After straining your tomatoes, toss them in a bowl with the cooked spinach.
  9. Taking care not to overlap much, lay your bacon, sausage, or mushrooms over the eggs and cover with a light layer of the spinach, tomato mixture. (if using cheese, sprinkle remaining over tomato mixture.
  10. Lay on the top of the bread and press down gently, return to oven and bake until tomato layer is warm and the top of the bread is crispy.

Super Simple Fruit Salad Recipe

For the best results, use fruit that is currently in season or that is available at peak ripeness. You may select any of the following: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, peaches, bananas, oranges, honeydew melon, pitted cherries, and/or pineapple.

We're going to make enough to serve 8 today so, we're shooting for 10 cups of salad total. 

 Ingredients (for pictured salad)
  • 3 cups of fresh peaches, sliced
  • 3 cups strawberries, halved
  • 2 cups blueberries, whole
  • 2 cups kiwi, sliced
  • Additional mint leaves, left whole (optional)
   For sauce:
  • 3 tablespoons each of freshly squeezed lime juice (you can use from a bottle if needed), light brown sugar, honey, and fresh chopped mint leaves


  1. Make the sauce/glaze by mixing honey, lime, brown sugar, and chopped mint leaves in a bowl and lightly whisking to completely incorporate. Set mixture in fridge to chill slightly while you slice your fruit.
  2. Wash and chop fruits as indicated above.
  3. Once sauce is chilled slightly, combine with fruit in large bowl.
  4. Using individual dishes, place a heaping cupful of salad and garnish with fresh mint.

Basil Bloody Mary's
Are hand's down the best option for this brunch party. Unfortunately, I cannot take credit for these beauties - Please visit the blog, Abeautifulmess.com, for this recipe. You'll thank me!

That concludes our menu today, I look forward to seeing you around the kitchen/shop/garden ;-)

-DIY Spice

**if doing so, please add 1/2 tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to your whole wheat flour. Measure your wheat flour before hand, and add your vital wheat gluten to it and mix well.  -In step 3, add 1/2 cup all-purpose and 1/2 cup of your gluten enhanced whole wheat flour. In step 4, you're adding 3/4 cup of each. 

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Pickled Pepper Rings

      Pickling at Home may seem like an intimidating task, but the job requires minimal materials and investment. If you're already growing an item you would like to pickle, the cost is reduced further. In my case, I had several hot pepper plants which were producing more fruit than I could use at one time. The solution was clear: pepper rings.

Basic Equipment for Pickling/Canning:
  •  white vinegar
  •  non-iodized salt
  •   a pot large enough to hold your jars and have them covered with, at least, a half inch of water*
  • - a rack to go inside your pot (I use the round grate to a small indoor grill)
  • you can also purchase a canning   rack for a modest sum
  • - a pressure canner*
  • - canning jars with lids and rings**
  • - a jar lifter
  • - any specialized seasoning mixture (i.e., garlic, dill, black pepper, red pepper flakes, dill seed-dill pickles, cilantro and lime for salsas, etc.)

Ingredients for Hot Pepper Rings:
  • Approximately 1 pound of hot or sweet peppers
  • 2 cups of water
  • 3 teas. of pickling salt (any non-iodized salt)
  • 3 - 1 pint canning jars with lids and rings
  • 3 cups of white vinegar
  • 3 cloves finely minced garlic
  • A pair of rubber gloves - if handling hot peppers


1.  Wash all jars, lids and rings with anti-bacterial dish soap and rinse in hot water. I usually wash my pot
      and rack as well. Set the rings aside to dry.
2.  Place your rack in the pot and fill with enough water to cover the pint jars once added.
3.  Bring your pot of water to boil. Reduce heat and keep water simmering. Place empty jars and lids in/on
     your canning rack.
4.  Wash the peppers thoroughly, discard any which are blemished or show signs of insect damage. Then
     slice the tops from the peppers and slice into the size desired. It is a good idea to keep the slices
     between 1/4" and 1/2". Feel free to mix pepper varieties if you wish.
5.  If trying to remove some heat, do your best to shake out the seeds from the rings. I keep them in, I like
     it hot!
6.  In a small pot, heat the vinegar, water and garlic until barely boiling.
7.  Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the large pot - pour any water in the jars back into the large pot.
8.  Fill each jar with the peppers, leaving only 1/4" headspace to the top of the jar, and ladle hot liquid into
     jars maintaining same. Tap jars lightly to remove air bubbles or use a plastic spatula to stir them out.
     Place one lid on each jar and wipe the ridges for the ring clean.
9.  Using your fingertips, gently tighten the ring on the jar until just tight.
10. Using the jar lifter, place the jars back into the large pot, ensuring water completely covers the jars.
11. Process jars for about 10 minutes in nearly boiling water. A rolling boil is far too hot, but you'll want to 
      see rippling at the surface.
12. Remove the jars from heat and set somewhere safe to cool - out of sunlight on a heat resilient surface.
13. Press the lid of each jar down gently with your finger, if the lid pops back up, the jar failed to seal.
      Return it to the processing pot for another 10 minutes. If it still fails to seal or you see water seeped
      inside, you may rinse and use the peppers immediately or store in a refrigerator for up to 3 days.
14. Let sealed jars sit for 48 hours, undisturbed, and check for seal again. If the seal has not taken, discard
      the contents of the jar. If the seal is good, store the jar in a cool, dark place to maintain integrity.

Your peppers will pickle in 3-6 weeks. They will store for about a year. 


ONLY use fresh produce-without blemishes and while at peak of ripeness-for best flavor
NEVER fill a canning jar with any kind of crack, chip, or visible flaw in the glass
NEVER place your canning jars in the bottom of a hot pot of water with no rack
ALWAYS use fresh, filtered water for any water going into the jars

* Pressure canning is the best method to maintain the highest standard of food safety, and the most effective way to avoid food borne illnesses from canned foods. It is 100% required (absolutely not kidding about this, no exceptions) for low acid produce and any kind of meat product. If you have any doubts about the acid content of the produce or when you must use a presser canner, please feel free to contact me.

** Do not reuse glass jars from the grocery store purchased with items already inside, these jars are almost impossible to reseal properly and can cause food borne illness when used for home canning. While it is tempting to, say, reuse a pickle jar for making homemade, do so at your own risk.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Make your own Taco Seasoning

Making your own spice blends means experimenting. Luckily, I have done the experimenting for you in this case.

You may be asking, "Why make my own taco seasoning? I can buy the stuff in the supermarket for $0.99!" The answer is simple: SALT. Spice blends you purchase at the store have an inordinate amount of salt content. You miss out on a lot of the flavor of your dish when there is too much salt.

So let's get started!

You'll need: 1/2 t. oregano, garlic powder and sea salt. 1 t. onion powder, chili powder and paprika and 1 1/2 t. cumin powder. You can also add a sprinkle of cayenne pepper if you'd like.

Blend in a small dish and use about 1 1/2 T of seasoning per lb of ground beef. (I put the entire result in..yum
!) You will also add about 1/2 c. of water to your beef when you add the seasoning and cook it down.

Don't forget, thrifties, you can always double or TRIPLE your ground beef and seasoning mixture and freeze for later for a super-easy weeknight meal.