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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Tom carved this jack-o-lantern for MBB, the Halloween Birthday Girl!

Quilt Beginner? Take a Class!

If you live in the Northern New Mexico area close to Las Vegas, NM, and have always wanted to learn to quilt, now's your chance!

I am teaching a beginning quilt making class. It's an eight class series that gives all the basics you need to begin your quilting journey.

By the time you have finished the class, you will have a completed quilt in your hot little hands.

Here's what the quilt looks like, but it is much prettier in person when it isn't  photographed at night with a flash and then cropped by a weary woman at ten o'clock at night. But you can get a sense of the type of quilt you will make and of course yours will be much cuter --- because you made it!

For more information on the class and to sign up, call Ann at Thread Bear 

(five-zero-five) four-two-five-six-two-six-three

Now back to your regularly scheduled program.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Quilty Pleasures-Finally a Finish! Dashes and Patches

I hope you folks out there on the East Coast are snugly and safely tucked in with plenty of projects and reading material for the duration of your storm. I think hurricanes and tornadoes are much scarier than earthquakes. In Southern California, we don't know when an earthquake will strike, so blithely go about our lalala lives until it actually happens.

Then we're all, "Earthquake!" Since we moved out to New Mexico, I watch the "Earthquake!" comments from afar on Facebook. First one "Earthquake!", then another, then the comments about how it felt. Then the "Are you okay?" questions start followed by the "Shucks! Weren't nuthin'!" comments. When we lived in SoCal my favorite earthquake times were when talking to a friend on the phone, they would say, "Earthquake! Whoa!" and in a few seconds, I would feel the floor jiggling or rumbling and say, "There it is."

Anyway, hang in there, East Coasters, and be glad you had some lead time to get ready.

I am on a mission to finish the many quilting projects lurking in various containers and bags piled in the sewing room's corners. I love to take classes and start stuff, but then the siren song of another project calls and I cast the current project aside to start something new.

This Dashes and Patches quilt was started in Dimmett, Texas, at the amazing Ogallala Quilt Festival. Ann, who owns Thread Bear in Las Vegas, and I traveled there to view the quilts and to take a couple classes, one which was taught by notable quilter and teacher Yvonna Hayes. The quilt is mostly nine patch and churn dash blocks, but my big old fat quarter pack of Denyse Schmidt's Hope Valley fabric didn't allow for all the non-pieced blocks Yvonna had in her pattern, so I had to make some four patch blocks as substitutes.

The contrast is subtle in these fabrics which is just fine with me, since it's going on our bed, shared not only with Tom but also with Ms. Pearl and Miss Bonnie. A light colored quilt just won't work. I tried my Aunt Martha quilt on the bed for a while and it just didn't go well with dog and cat hair.

Below is the back which used fabric from In the Beginning's Chickadee, designed by Julie Paschkis. I used this fabric for two reasons: I loved the brilliant, jewel-like the colors and it's just as gorgeous as the front of the quilt. When I get bored with one side, it can be flipped over.

Note the sides, where I had to add just a smidge because it just wasn't wide enough! Don't you hate when that happens?

Because this quilt will be laundered often, the binding was machine stitched. I tried something new, which was fusible thread in the bobbin when stitching the binding to the back of the quilt. When the binding was brought to the front, I ironed the binding to the fusible thread, eliminating the need for any pins or clips as I top stitched. One caveat: I used the same fusible thread for another quilt binding last night and it wouldn't fuse! The fabric was different, so maybe that was the problem, or maybe since the quilting went right to the edge the thread caused a barrier to proper fusion. I will experiment more with this stuff to see what's up. But it turned out well on this quilt.

Binding front
Here's the back side of the binding. Using this fusible helped to keep the binding in place, so the stitching on the back actually ended up where it should, for the most part.

You also have a close up of that yummy Chickadee fabric, which is still for sale at Thread Bear in Las Vegas, NM.

Binding back

The quilting was done by prize winning quilter Claudette Maitland of the Turquoise Angel Quilt Shop in Angel Fire, NM. It's an all over long arm panto called Fleur de Lis, I think.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Freezer Apple Pie Filling

My applepeelercorer in action.
A couple weeks ago I promised you an apple pie filling recipe, but then I hemmed and hawed and wrote about everything else.


Well, after I made the pie filling but hadn't yet canned it, I read in several places that cornstarch is not recommended for canning. The heat doesn't conduct well enough through the cornstarch to make the mixture hot enough during the canning process, rendering it not safe. A product called Clear Jel was recommended for thickening the apple mixture instead of cornstarch.

So I froze the pie filling instead of canning it, a quart of filling in each of four gallon sized freezer bags. Then I jumped into making other apple products. I worried about the cornstarch in the frozen apple pie filling. Maybe I shouldn't share the recipe, I wondered. I wouldn't want to poison anyone. So I practiced the art of avoidance and didn't write about apple pie filling.

Then I felt guilty because a promise is a promise. I said there would be an apple pie filling recipe, even though I posted this one, a danged good one,  a couple years ago.

After a little internet research, I found the exact same recipe (including cornstarch) on another site, but they called it Freezer Apple Pie Filling and none of the comments had an issue with cornstarch. The cornstarch issue must be for those who can. Who can can. Okay, enough.

So now I feel better. Here's the recipe. As I was making this pie filling, I did a little tasting and this would not only be good for pies, but for topping a cheesecake, added to oatmeal, or to plain Greek yogurt, well, you get the idea that this stuff is totally awesome, dudes and dudettes!

Freezer Apple Pie Filling


16 cups apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (that's my peeler slicer corer in the photo)
4 T lemon juice
3-4 cups white sugar, depending on the tartness of your apples
1 cup cornstarch
4 t ground cinnamon
1 t ground nutmeg
1 t salt
8 cups water


1. Toss the apples with lemon juice in a large bowl
2. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, spices and salt in a medium bowl.
3. Pour water into a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.
4. Whisk the sugar mixture into the water in the pot and bring to a boil. Boil for two minutes, stirring constantly.
5. Add the apples and return to a boil. Reduce heat and cover the pan. Let the apples cook for 6-8 minutes, until they are tender but still hold their shape. Watch out or you may end up with applesauce if you cook it too long.
6. Cool for 30 minutes.
7. Ladle the pie filling into 4 quart sized freezer containers with 1/2 inch headspace or into 1 gallon sized Ziplock bags. If you are using bags, try to remove excess air before sealing.  Cool at room temperature for no more than 1 1/2 hours.
8. Freeze.  Or make a pie right now.

Pie filling can be stored for up to 12 months.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Black Cherry Tomatoes

I know summer's over, but some tomatoes are still producing inside the Growing Dome.  I am a happy October gardener. How long they will last depends on the temps this winter, but a lady in Pecos had tomatoes up until a February deep freeze of -20 killed them. She covered the lettuce and other greens, though, and they survived just fine.

The tomatoes are called Black Cherry.

Most of the red cherry tomatoes were gone by the time these guys ripened in late August and I'm still picking about ten a day in October. That's not many, but I still have the Cherokee Purple ripening, too, with green ones still on the vines.

A word about Black Cherry plants: They grow gimormously and I should have done a better job helping them to climb. Instead, they slumped over the tallest tomato cage so I used another tomato cage to prop it up. Branches are crawling across the dome's floor. It's The Plant That Ate Guadalupita!

How do they taste? Black Cherrys taste sweet with little or no acid depending on how ripe they are when picked. When you bite into them there's a burst of fruit flavor. Some folks describe it as smoky, but I don't get that.

Here is a link  with more comments about this tomato which I will be growing again next year.

I bought my seeds from Tomato Fest.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Monday, October 15, 2012

Canning Chaos-Slow Cooker Apple Butter

It is wonderful to have a bumper crop of apples. I just had to add that link because how the heck did bumpers get into the crop business? Now I know and so do you.

I have been busily slicing apples, making them into apple pie filling, apple butter, jarred apples and dried slices.

Trudy's gave us this amazing peelercorerslicer, which she had when they lived in Apple Valley, CA. When they left their apple trees, she passed it on and it's been getting a workout.

This contraption has made peeling almost 100 apples a breeze! And no, I didn't peel them all at once. That's for hard core canners. I am a lightweight, believe me.

People around here don't waste a thing, so canning, freezing and drying are part of life, just like it is in other agricultural parts of the United States and in some hipster enclaves in Brooklyn. Just kidding: I know there are folks everywhere who have decided they want to know where their food comes from and have been preserving their hearts out. And that's a good trend, don't you think?

Here at The Nickel and Dime, the little kitchen has been in chaos for a week, but the end is in sight and I dream of quality time in the sewing room during the chill months ahead.

I figure I will make another batch of apple butter. I used the Crock Pot so it was easy. All I did was layer apples and a sugar and spice mixture up to the brim of the cooker, plop on the lid and cook it for about 12 hours. I didn't stir it until the 12 hours were up. Then I removed the top, turned it to high and let it cook down for a couple more hours. 

Here's the recipe:

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

5.5 lbs apples, peeled and finely chopped
3 cups sugar
2-3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

Layer apples,  sugar and spices (mixed together) in a Crock Pot to the brim. Cover the pot and cook on high for 1 hour. Then turn to low and cook on low for 9-12 hours until thickened and dark brown. I didn't stir mine, but newer slow cookers seem to cook hotter on low, so you might want to give yours a stir or two if you have a new one.

Enjoy how fragrant your house becomes while this is cooking. 

After it looks brown and thickened, remove the lid, turn up to high for 1-2 hours. You can determine if it's thick enough by dabbing some apple butter on a saucer. If it holds its shape and isn't watery, you're done!

Now you can use a whisk or an immersion blender to smooth out your apple butter if you want.

Spoon into freezer containers, leaving 1/2 inch space at the top and pop into the freezer. You can also process this in jars in a water bath canner. 

Makes about 6 half pint jars of apple butter

Next recipe is for the apple pie filling, really!

While Ms. Pearl is happy to pose with a basket of red delicious apples, she wants you to know that she likes tomatoes but not apples.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Delicious Northern New Mexico Autumn

With a title like that, you're probably expecting an apple recipe or some other thing besides a post about October here at The Nickel and Dime. But I promise a few more apple recipes soon, really.

The other day I took Ms. Pearl for a walk and was wowed by the fall colors against our blue sky. This shot is from our driveway which has pasture on one side.

I can watch the wind work its way toward us. It moves in the far trees and the grass, its path rippling through the amber like a wave through water. It's like I am in the ocean on a surfboard watching a golden swell come closer.

On the other side of the driveway the oaks look brilliant.

The air feels crisp but the sun is warm. Ms. P decides we should walk toward The Enchanted Forest. She swims in the beaver pond which makes her day complete.

On the way back, Pearl alternately trots alongside and disappears into the trees, but when I call her, she reappears, just like a magician's assistant. "Here I am," she says. "Why are you worrying?"

The grass swishes against my jeans legs and little teensy burrs grab onto the denim. I use a broom to sweep them off when we get home.

Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.  ~George Eliot

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Potato Famine

My Irish ancestors must be rolling around in their graves right about now. I harvested my potato crop and this is what I got:

  Potato salad for one, anyone?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Solar Dog

It's autumn and the sun's angle has changed, shining through the south facing windows, helping to keep the house warm.

Ms. Pearl thinks this is just dandy. She lies in the sunpuddles, panting and soaking up the heat like an old codger in a sauna.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Apple Chips

Yesterday I took out the apple corer-peeler that Trudy gave us long ago and used it to cut up some Red Delicious apples. The apples this years are amazing, but we have decided the Red Delicious are actually the least delicious of our three trees.

That said, I decided to dry these guys and now I can say that they really are delicious! The mildness that is a Red Delicious has been concentrated during the drying process making them a worthwhile snack.

I have a dehydrator but was too lazy to dig it out, so I tried drying apples in the oven. It was easy and in two and a half hours at 250 degrees, they were done!

This is the recipe I used from Serious Eats. There was a short dip in some sugar syrup before I placed them on parchment lined cookie sheets. Halfway through I flipped the slices over. At the two hour mark I checked them again and they weren't dry enough so they got another half hour. It has been raining here, so I figure there was humidity in the air.

Four dried apples filled a quart sized plastic storage bag halfway. That doesn't look like much, but when I did a taste test, I realized that about three of these slices was plenty for a little pick me up snackaroo.

I'm doing more today, and I will take out the dehydrator to work alongside the oven. We have a crapload of apples on these trees and I don't want to waste them.

Next: Apple Pie Filling