Made the Bread, Bought the Butter, pt.3

No Shake n Bake

Then I moved on to oven fried chicken. I have made several different versions of this recipe always hoping for it to be just one step closer to the crispy goodness of deep fried chicken. I loathe deep frying and its mess and splatter and danger and leftover oil. Deep frying is actually quite tricky to get something crisp that isn't oil soaked.

Made the Bread, Bought the Butter, pt.2

Umami map

Then it conveniently was Super Bowl time and a perfect excuse to make homemade onion dip. I have consumed many containers of the classic Lipton onion soup mix + sour cream dip at Super Bowl time. In fact, as one who is perpetually confused by the game of football, the dip was a major incentive to watch the game.

Made the Bread, Bought the Butter, pt.1

Everyday Bread on cutting board

I got my hands upon Jennifer Reese's Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: What You Should and Shouldn't Cook from Scratch. This seemed totally up my alley. Here I am trying to live this nouveau home-ec life and here is a kindred spirit in liking to mess around in the kitchen but it rather ended right there. Thankfully, Ms. Reese explained her situation otherwise I would have spent the whole book rolling my eyes at her yummy-mummy lifestyle.

Step Outside, Spring is Here!

Rose bush Leaf buds opening

The weather is warming, trees buds are swelling, irises are sprouting and it feels like spring. The Vernal Equinox is nearly here as a late winter storm passes through, and the trend is definitely toward Spring. I often hit a wall in late winter and lose my momentum. Spending time outside is one thing that refreshes and recharges me. Feeling the sun, breeze and nature around me clears my head and helps me move forward again. Going outside to walk, bike, garden, even backcountry ski are my Winter to Spring reset button.

A Thermostat That's Smarter by Half

Albert Einstein

Last fall I installed a 'smarter' thermostat as our old bimetal thermostat had started short-cycling the furnace. A local hardware store had a sale on programmable thermostats for $25, and I installed one that day. Within a day or two I had the thermostat programmed to our preferences and I haven't touched it since. The one question remaining - is the new 'smart' thermostat more energy efficient than the old 'dumb' one?

I can happily say that the new programmable thermostat IS more energy efficient!

Too Cool in the Kitchen

Oven Glow Bar Igniter

If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, your oven is probably working. We had the opposite problem recently - a decidedly cool kitchen. After weeks of our oven taking longer and longer to heat up, it suddenly stopped heating at all. Thanks to a classic Fix-It-Yourself book, Google and a bit of DIY troubleshooting I found the problem. The Glow Bar Igniter in our oven was no longer heating sufficiently to start the gas oven. Happily, it was an easy fix.

The Map Moved Under My Feet

2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map for New Mexico

Did you feel that? It felt like the earth moved under my feet. Actually, it was a shift in climate, as marked by the 2012 USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map. The PHZM (Plant Hardiness Zone Map) is the guide gardeners use to decide what plants will likely grow, or not, in our yards. The 2012 version of the PHZM shows that the hardiness zone lines have shifted for most of the U.S. My home has shifted from Hardiness Zone 5b (1990 map) and is now solidly in Hardiness Zone 6b (2012 map) which is 10°F. warmer.

Let's Stay in for Coffee

Fresh Brewed Coffee

It's been a tough week or so here at the EcoFamily homestead. Our ~16 year old (yes, it really lasted that long) drip coffee maker died. Don't worry, we didn't go without coffee. But, my skill at coarse grinding coffee beans with a 'whirly-blade' grinder for french press coffee has much room for improvement. Of course, I did try to repair the old coffee maker, but the thermistor that died didn't have any useful markings.

A Toast to Fall's Harvest

Homemade Hard Apple Cider

The Winter Solstice has passed and short, cold days are here. If you planned ahead, the fruits of Summer and Fall are stored in your pantry. We preserved some Gravenstein apples in a very traditional American way - by making hard cider! After all, there are only so many jars of applesauce, apple butter and dried apples you can use.

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