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Monday, February 23, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal: Month of Lean Edition

Hello dear friends!  I hope you are keeping warm.  This coming month is our month of lean.  Car insurance, doctor's bill, lab fees, car repairs, etc,, after we pay all our bills we'll be fortunate if we are not in the red.   But that is the life of a retiree.  I do earmark my savings for such events, but the strange thing about me, is that when I put money into our savings account, I'm very reluctant to take it back out.  That's how we were able to retire at age fifty-five.  I was thrifty before thrifty was cool!  So we'll be eating from the pantry and not going anywhere this month, which is fine with me because it is too darn cold!   But the snow is very beautiful, and if we didn't love snow we wouldn't be living in Northern Michigan.  So here's the second edition of Sweet Briar Cottage Journal, hope you enjoy!


Kidney Bean Joes are a recipe I invented when we became vegans.  We are no longer vegans because we became bored with it, but we do eat 85% of our meals meatless and when we do use meat, it is sparingly, (less than a couple of pounds for the three of us a month) ditto for cheese.  BTW, did you know if you choose the sharper varieties of cheese you can use less because it gives you more flavor than the milder cheeses?   So given the choice go for the sharp or extra sharp Cheddar and cut back on the amount.

Kidney Bean Joes

1 (1lb.) can kidney beans, undrained
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp. brown sugar
3/4 C. catsup
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Brown the onions in a small amount of oil.  Add the catsup, vinegar, brown sugar and chili powder.  Stir in the undrained beans.  Add 1/4 C. water if you don't have enough "juice" from the beans.  Simmer until hot and sauce is thickened.  Season to taste.

You may have to adjust the vinegar to your taste.  Some catsups are very vinegary.  And of course there's always the matter of personal preferences.  When I make this my son always says it needs more brown sugar and my husband always says it needs more vinegar!   You can also add chopped peppers and/or celery if you like.  I just didn't have any handy when I made mine.

BTW, have you looked at the labels on kidney beans?  It's really hard to find any that do not contain corn syrup.  That's why I went back to canning my own.  Plus it's a lot thriftier.   You might want to read a  post I wrote about beans here.


 Bob-bob- bobbling along!  This weekend I knitted a cover for our hot water bottle, heavy with knitted bobbles.
The pattern is a free one on Ravelry.  Isn't  Ravelry wonderful?  Who would buy a knitting magazine or book when there are so many wonderful free patterns out  there on the internet?  Many yarn companies offer free downloadable patterns also.   The yarn is Coats and Clarks Royal Mouline Knitting Worsted in China Rose.  I don't think they make this yarn anymore.  I picked up a couple of skeins at the thrift store for fifty-nine cents each.  So the cost of this item was $1.18.  

Thrifty hint:  Hot water bottles are a wonderful old-fashioned way to keep warm.  And thrift and low-tech too! We fill ours before bedtime and slip it between the sheets.  When we climb in the bed is nice and toasty.  We find that if you can keep your feet and hands warm, you can sleep in quite cold rooms.  Our winters can be brutal here, this month we have hardly had any days in double digits and many days where the mercury has dipped below zero, so we have quite a arsenal of ways to keep warm. Here's a post I wrote about ideas for staying warm and cozy.


We love the flatbread sandwiches at Subway, but at $7 a sandwich , it's a bit rich for a thrifty ways.  Especially since we get the veggie ones and they have about a quarters amount of ingredients in them.   For seven dollars we can make eight of our own.  And the bread is so much better than any we can buy in the store.

Soft and Fluffy Chewy Flatbread

Mix  1/2 C. yogurt  with  2/3 C. hot water to make a warm mixture.  (The reason you use hot water is because the yogurt is cold).  Stir in 2 tsp. yeast  and 1 tsp. honey.  Set aside to proof (yeast mixture is bubbly).

Once yeast is proofed add:

2 tbsp. oil (we use olive oil)
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. rosemary (optional)
2 crushed cloves garlic (optional)

Next add:

1/4 C. wheat gluten (make the bread soft)
1 C. spelt (or whole or plain flour)

Mix well.  Then add:

approximately  2 3/4 C. flour to make a soft dough.
knead 5 minutes.
 Cover and rise in a warm place until doubled.

Then punch down and divide into 8 pieces.

Rest dough 15 minutes.

Preheat a griddle to medium heat and light oil.  Roll out your dough one at a time to an 8 inch circle.
Place on griddle and grill for about a 1-1/2 minutes on one side until you see bubbles appear in the dough.  Turn over and grill an additional 30 seconds to 1 minute until dough has some dark brown spots on it.  Should look like this after you first flip it:


There you have it!  Perfect flat bread.  Delicious warm off the griddle.  If you save them for later it is best to rewarm them .


We've been making our own facial moisturizer and it's really pretty terrific.   We use aloe.  Every house should have an aloe plant ; they are so handy for burns, bug bites, itches, rashes, etc. (although it's not the most lovely of house plants).
To make the moisturizer just combine;

 1/3 C.  Aloe Vera gel (the stuff you squeeze out of the leaves
1 tsp. vitamin E oil
2 tsp. jojoba oil
1/8 tsp. citric acid
a drop of your favorite essential oils for scent (we used lemon)

Put in a food processor and whip it up.  We keep a small jar next to the sink and apply it after washing our faces.  The rest we keep in the fridge.  Lasts a couple of weeks.  I've found this to be gentler than the much more expensive moisturizers I had been using and it really does make your skin soft and smooth.  Seems to minimize the pores also.  As a matter of fact, I like my skin so much now, that I've given up using foundation that I used to use to cover up redness.


Have you heard about   It's a site where you can view magazines for free.  And there's lots of wonderful ones on there, such as British Period Homes, Mollie Makes, etc. , including many foreign magazines I've never seen before.  Aren't magazines expensive now days?  I used to have quite a magazine  addiction during the heyday of country magazines, but now with the advent of Pintrest, why would I buy a decorating magazine when I view thousands of images for free.  Why would I buy a cookbook or magazine when you can Google any recipe?  That's money I'll just keep in my pocketbook!

So that's this weeks edition of Sweet Briar Cottage Journal.  Hope you enjoy!


Monday, February 16, 2015

Sweet Briar Cottage Journal

Hello dear friends!  I've missed you.  Recently I've received a few sweet notes from some of my blogging friends and decided that I'd like to reconnect with you all once again.   I've decided to make change the format of this blog into a sort-of, kinda-like magazine.  Hopefully published twice a month.   We'll see how it goes, if anyone out there's interested, etc.  So here it goes .....


This week we are enjoying hearty meals as the temperature has dipped below zero.  Cabbage is always cheap around here, about 20 cents a pound.  It seems like it has been this price for decades, so stuffed cabbage is on the menu.  But stuffed cabbage is such a piddly recipe with it's boiling the cabbage and then wrapping it.  I always burn my fingers, so here's the flavor without the fuss:

Unstuffed Cabbage

Half a head of  a small cabbage, shredded
1 lb. Italian sauasge
1 onion
1 1/2 C. rice
1 quart V-8 juice
1/3 cup brown sugar

Brown the sausage and onion in a large pot.  Add the remaining ingredients and simmer until the rice is cooked and the cabbage is cooked down.  About 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Now of course, you know this is just a rough idea for a recipe.  You can add more cabbage to make the meal stretch.  I added carrots to mine because I have lots of them in the root cellar.  Plus they add more nutrition.  You can use less brown sugar if you like; we like ours on the sweet side, just as it was from our childhood.  I didn't have any tomato juice but did have some home-canned tomatoes so I used them  and added more water and some fennel and green peppers to spice it up a bit.  The key to thrifty meals is to be flexible.


Baby it's cold outside!   Here's what I'm wearing to stay warm:

Thrifted Eileen Fisher 100% merino wool skirt  $3.50
Thrifted cable knit sweater $3.50
Garage sale vintage Trifari pin $1.00
Belt $5.00 on sale from Meijers
Underneath heavy cotton tights.

I wear this with my old brown riding boots, but since I haven't been going anywhere, I usually wear this with my slippers. 


My son loves pancakes, but maple syrup is expensive and if you look at  the label on pancake syrup, you see that it is mainly corn products, which we avoid because of the GMO issue.  Almost all corn products made in the USA are GMO, unless labeled otherwise.  So we make our own syrup with organic cane sugar and cane syrup (we use Lyle's Golden Syrup).

Imitation Maple Syrup

4 C. sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
2 tblsp. cane syrup (or corn syrup if you want)
2 C. water
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. maple extract

1.  Combine sugar, cane syrup, and water  in large pot.  Stir until sugar dissolves; bring to boil.  Cover and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Do not stir while boiling  (causes the sugar to crystallize)

2.  Remove from heat.  Cool slightly.  Add vanilla and maple extract. Stir until extracts are mixed in.


My husband calls me the queen of substitutions.  I can find a substitution for just about any ingredient in a recipe, but here's one time I might have taken it too far.  My children wanted some chocolate chip cookies but I knew I was out of some ingredients because  it was getting close to pay day.  I definitely knew  I was out of chocolate chips but that wasn't a problem because my husband had received a large chocolate bar as a gift from a supplier, so I just chopped that up.  So I started to make the cookies.  First obstacle was I was short 1/4  C. of butter, so I made up the difference with shortening.  Next I discovered I was out of brown sugar, so I made some using 1 tbsp. molasses and 1 C. sugar.  I was sure I had eggs, but nope.  Had to use 1 tbsp. flax seeds mixed in 1/4 C water.  Fortunately, I did have baking soda.  But not enough flour, being about 1/4 C. short.  So I emptied out my oatmeal container and used the fine oats on the bottom, plus some of the regular oatmeal to make up the difference. Guess what?  The cookies turned out great and the only ingredient that was in it's original form was the baking soda.

Knowing how to make substitutions is very valuable thrifty skill.  Here's some common substitutions for eggs  (all are equivalent to 1 egg):

 1 tbsp flax seed in 1/4 C. hot water (let set until it starts to gel)
1/4 C. applesauce or 1 small banana
2 tbsp. water plus 1 tbsp. oil plus 2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 C. tofu


Some of you have inquired to what I have been knitting lately.  Recently finished up this shawl in Paton yarn in sea green.
I like the cabled edging.

 Currently on my needles is an Irish Aran style afghan.


I have waist length hair so the ends can look a little unhealthy and um, let's say rough.  This is a hint I heard on an old timey radio show I was listening to on YouTube.   Put Vaseline on the ends and wrap your hair in towel for half an hour, then shampoo out.

The first time I tried this I used too much Vaseline ( go light on the application) and it was really hard to shampoo out.  The next time I did it, I used less and I really shampooed the heck out of the ends.  It really did make the ends smooth and soft.  To tell the truth, I couldn't stop touching my hair it felt so nice.  BTW, another tip I read about long hair care in a Victorian era magazine was to treat your hair like fine silk when washing it.  Never pile it up on top of your head and treat the ends gently.


This month we are enjoying  studying animal tracks  in our back yard.  You can find all the information on line.  It's a good old-fashioned skill that children of yore used to know.  Through tracking we discovered that our resident fox lives under the brush pile in the area of the yard we call The Fen.

We are also watching the Coal House series on YouTube.  One of those wonderful BBC series where families reenact the past. This time it's coal miners living in 1927 Wales.  Makes me grateful that I live in the present era!

So that's it for this edition of my little magazine.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Let me know what you would like to see in the next edition.  Love and Peace to all!