Have you ever made tartar sauce?  It's simple, delicious, and has only the ingredients YOU put in it!  (No questionable preservatives, etc.)
Homemade Tartar Sauce

½ c. mayonnaise
1 T. chopped pickles (or use pickle relish)
1 T. minced onion
1 T. lemon juice
salt & pepper to taste

This is best if chilled at least 30 minutes, but still good if eaten right away.   Makes about 2/3 cup.

Now, how often do you really use all  of that tartar sauce?  You can stir it with a couple boiled and cubed potatoes, to make it into potato salad, or try this.....

Second-Day Tartar Sauce-      Ranch Dip!

To a half batch of tartar sauce (about 1/3 cup), add

1/4 tsp. dill weed
1/4 tsp. parsley
1/4 tsp. onion powder (recipe here)   
1 ½ tsp. minced chives
a dash of garlic powder, opt.


There were NO leftovers this time.  :D

If you're new to cooking with whole wheat, I recommend you also read Wheat Basics.

If you’re using whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour, there are a couple things to know for successful baking.  Whole grains contain fiber-rich bran and nutrient-rich germ, as well as the starchy endosperm.  Processed white flour contains only the starchy part, not the bran or germ.  Because of this, you'll need to adjust your ingredients a little bit, either reduce the amount of flour by 2-3 Tbsp. per cup used, OR increase liquid by 3-4 Tbsp. per cup used and increase leavening by about 1/3.   Otherwise, your baked goods will be more dense, heavy, and flat than they need to be.   See more on this below.

is the outer protective layer of the kernel, it's very high in fiber and minerals, and vitamins.  That fiber  is very absorbent.  Because of this, whole wheat flour (measured by weight) absorbs about 25% more liquid than processed white flour does.   Bran also makes it harder for gluten to form; its sharp edges tend to cut the tiny gluten strands.  Soaking the dough – mixing at least the flour and liquid, then letting it sit for a few hours or overnight - softens the bran.  That’s one reason European breads have long rise times. The technique works well for pancake batter and cake batter- leave eggs out of the batter until ready to bake, or soak covered in the refrigerator.

The germ is also high in vitamins and minerals, as well as protein, some fiber and fat (vitamin E).   Its name comes from the same Latin root as the word "germinate"; germen , which means to sprout or shoot.   The germ is the part of the grain that can grow into a plant.  It is dense and heavy, and therefore you'll need more leavening in the recipe.  The vitamin E, which is an oil, is the reason for whole wheat flour's short shelf life; this type of fat oxidizes quickly, which makes it slightly rancid.  Store fresh-ground flour in the fridge or freezer to prolong its life and vitamin content.  If you leave the flour at room temperature, it's at its best within 24 hours, but is still good (though less nutritious) for about a week.  It won't make you sick after that, just won't give you all the benefits it would have when more fresh.  Neither does it taste as good.  That's why bread made from freshly ground flour tastes so much better than bread made with whole wheat flour from a bag at the store.

To recap:  
either use about 20% less flour (2-3 Tbsp. less per cup used),
or increase water by about 3-4 Tbsp. per cup of liquid and add about 1/3 more of any leavening agent you’re using (1 tsp. more per Tbsp).  

Fresh-ground flour is fluffy and less packed in the cup, so there’s already less there.  For the most accurate measuring, go by weight, not volume.
This is a variation for a previous post, Creamy Chocolate Blender Frosting
which uses unsweetened chocolate instead.

Chocolate Blender Frosting
using milk chocolate chips

2 c. milk chocolate chips (1 bag, 11-12 oz.)
¾ c. evaporated milk
1 tsp. vanilla
⅓ c. sugar
4 Tbsp. butter (1/2 stick)

Chop chocolate, then put everything into a blender.  Blend on low until better chopped, then scrape down sides with a spatula. Blend on high until it becomes dark and smooth.  This may take about ten minutes, or only two minutes in a Vitamix or similar.   Makes 3 cups.

*TIP* to clean that last bit of frosting out of your blender, add about 3/4 cup of hot milk to it (depends on how much frosting is still in there), cover and blend.  The milk will clean the blender better, and will give you some very creamy hot chocolate!

For different flavors, try using a different extract than vanilla- maple, orange, rum, mint.  You could also add a teaspoon of frozen concentrated orange juice, a couple Tbsp. of maraschino cherry juice in place of the same amount evaporated milk (along with maybe a 1/2 tsp. almond extract).  Or 1/2 tsp. cinnamon for a nice winter flavor.

Any extra frosting may be used as a base for some hot chocolate: 2-4 Tbsp. per cup of milk, use a blender to mix. Add more plain cocoa powder if you like.  (Personally, I use up my extra by putting it on a spoon...)

In the blender, combine 1-2 cups toasted hazelnuts (5-10 oz- depends on how nutty you want this) and  1 1/3 c. evaporated milk; blend nuts and milk together first.  Reduce milk chocolate chips to 1 cups, increase salt to 1/4- 1/2 tsp. salt, use 1/3 c. sugar and 4 T. butter.   Blend until smooth.  Taste, then add more sugar if you want this sweeter, up to 3/4 cup total.

Click here for more variations- caramel, coconut-chocolate, butterscotch, or peanut butter frostings.
Since I live in the area where tomorrow's eclipse is visible (see shadowandsubstance.com for a map) , I looked at the local planetarium's website to see what they recommended doing.  I remember, way back in Elementary school, making a box with a hole in one end to watch the eclipse.  It worked pretty well. 

The website I visited has instructions on making one of these 'pinhole projectors'... read all the way through the comments to find a helpful tip on sizing the hole.  Also in the comments was a simpler method- to use a pair of binoculars backwards... 

Here are the instructions.

"Hold a pair of binoculars with the big end pointed toward the Sun. You only need one barrel of the binocs for this, you can leave the lens cover on the other unused barrel.
The binocular will then project an image of the Sun out of the eyepiece. Tape a piece of white copy paper onto a large piece of cardboard and use it as a projection surface for the image coming out the back of the binocular. Experiment with distance from the eyepiece to hold the paper. A foot or two distance between the binoc eyepiece and the projection surface seems to work best for me. Experiment for yourself.
You’ll see what I mean when you try it."
-from http://clarkplanetarium.org/how-to-make-a-pinhole-projector/

BTW, you do NOT want to look at an eclipse without a special viewing device.  Sunglasses don't count, either.  You can severely damage your retinas.   A funny video that shows what can happen is Brian Regan's "Big Family Stuff", the sun part starts at about 2:58.
Side note: if you have these flowers, too, you have an edible weed in your yard. This is "pepperweed", also called "tall whitetop" - Lepidium latifolium-, a perennial in the mustard family. The seeds are good to eat and taste like... yep, pepper. The leaves and stems are also edible and taste spicy, similar to watercress or arugula. - Just don't eat them if they've been sprayed with herbicide. See other posts on this site for more "free veggies"!
This was a fun project with my preschooler- quick and easy for me, fun for her. 

To draw the butterfly outline, first start with a 9" paper plate.  You can draw it completely freehand, or try to follow the instructions below.  :-) The double dotted line in the center is where you glue the body.  I used a twig (and folded the plate backwards along each line so the wings could flap a little), but other options include a craft stick or pipe cleaner -- cut a length double plus 2-3" longer than the body should be, fold in half, twist together, leaving the top 1- 1 1/2" free, for the antennae.

  Draw a line horizontally, 3/4" below the center of the plate.  This is the line that will separate the top wings from the bottom ones.  Make a mark about 1" in from each edge along this line, then draw a curved triangle at each side with the mark at its tip and its base at the plate edge.

Next, draw a faint line from top to bottom, through the center, perpendicular to the first line.  Make a mark 3 3/4" from the top, and another one 2 1/2" up from the bottom of the plate.  This will be where the wings touch.  Draw a curved triangle with its tip at the mark and its base at the plate edge. 

Wouldn't these make cute decorations for an outdoor party?  Picture them hung with fishing line from trees, perched on tables or shrubs...
Cute as a button!  My mother-in-law sent this today.  As far as I could find on the Internet, the source is unknown.

Answers given by 2nd grade school children to the following questions:

Why did God make mothers?
1. She's the only one who knows where the scotch tape is.
2. Mostly to clean the house...
3. To help us out of “there” when we were getting born.

How did God make mothers?
1. He used dirt, just like for the rest of us.
2. Magic plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
3. God made my mom just the same like he made me. He just used bigger parts.

What ingredients are mothers made of?
1. God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world and one dab of mean.
2. They had to get their start from men's bones. Then they mostly use string, I think.

Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
1. We're related.
2. God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

What kind of a little girl was your mom?
1. My mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
2. I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.

What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
1. His last name.
2. She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
3. Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say NO to drugs?

Why did your mom marry your dad?
1. My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my mom eats a lot.
2. She got too old to do anything else.
3. My grandma says that mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Who's the boss at your house?
1. Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to.
2. Mom. You can tell by room inspection. She sees the stuff under the bed.
3. I guess mom is, but only because she has a lot more to do than dad.

What's the difference between moms and dads?
1. Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them...
2. Dads are taller and stronger, but moms have all the real power 'cause that's who you got to ask if you want to sleep over at your friends.
3. Moms have magic, they make you feel better without medicine.

What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Moms don't have spare time.
2. She pays bills all day long.

What would it take to make your mom perfect?
1. On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
2. Diet. You know, her hair. I'd diet.

If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
1. She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.
2. I'd make my mom smarter. Then she would know it was my sister who did it not me.
3. I would like for her to get rid of those invisible eyes on the back of her head.
I hate playdough.  It gets stuck in the carpet, smells funny, dries out, and gets thrown away.  My children, however, love playdough. 

Here's a way to let them have fun with playdough, have it over and GONE in one session, and not waste anything!  Whatever the kids roll out gets baked- as crackers!

Other things you can use as playdough: yeast dough, homemade Tootsie Rolls, Peanut Butter Balls (all recipes are also in my cookbook)

Edible Playdough

1/3 c. water
1/3 c. quick oats (or one envelope instant oatmeal and an extra 1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. water)
1/2 c. flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp. baking powder, optional
2-6 drops food color, optional

Bring the water to a boil, add oats.  Let sit a couple minutes to plump and cool slightly.  If adding color, it's easiest to do right before adding the flour.  Stir in flour, salt, and baking powder (a pinch of sugar is always popular; omit if using sweetened instant oatmeal).  Stir until you've worked in at least half of the flour, then dump everything onto the counter and knead until smooth.  Mixing in the flour while dough is warm or hot helps it become more elastic.   (So does cooking the oats.)

If you have a toaster oven, it's the perfect size to bake in.  Oil or spray a cookie sheet, and bake at 400 degrees until the crackers are crisp.  This may be anywhere from 10-25 minutes, depending on how thick they are.  (Hint- the thinner, the better they'll be!)  Anything thicker than about 1/4 " will never be crisp, just hard.  Teething biscuits.  Entertaining to chew on.

The baking powder is not necessary, but it helps lighten the crunch of the baked product.  This is nice because those little fingers rarely roll out the dough evenly.
This color is from adding about 1 1/2 tsp. dried beet powder when cooking the oats.  After this, my daughter said she wanted purple- so I added 3 drops blue food color.

I make beet powder when my garden beets become too big and a little tough to eat normally.  To make the powder, slice the beets thinly, dehydrate until completely dry, then put them in a blender or food processor.  Grind to a powder.  Store in an airtight container, like a jar with a screw-on lid.  Best nutrition within one year.

The ideal thickness is about 1/8" thick, but...  it's for fun, with a bonus snack at the end!  My kids love that they're making actual food.

The bar cookie, not the hair...

Blondies are similar to brownies, only without the chocolate in the batter.  This recipe makes a soft, chewy, dense, buttery version.

The recipe came from Cook's Illustrated (same company as Cooks' Country and America's Test Kitchen), though I've tweaked it a little.  I LOVE their stuff; each recipe has a mini cooking lesson with it, as they discuss what they were trying to make, what happened with each of the experiments they made, and what made the difference in the PERFECT batch.  If you want to see a little of the background information on this recipe, here's a description.


1 1/2 c. light brown sugar
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp.) butter, melted and cooled
2 large eggs
4 tsp. vanilla (yes, really that much)
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt (1/2 tsp. if using unsalted butter)
1/2 c. EACH semisweet and white chocolate chips (I used 1 c. white)
1 c. pecans, chopped coarse

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a 9x13 pan.  (I used an 11x15 for the batch that had nuts, and they weren't too thin.) Stir the brown sugar and butter together, then whisk in eggs and vanilla.  Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Scrape into the pan and sprinkle with the nuts.  Bake 22-25 minutes or until a toothpick stuck in the center comes out with just a few crumbs.  Cool 2 hours.

CONGO BARS (my family calls these "Hay and Gravel Bars" because of the coconut and nuts)

Add 1 1/2 c. toasted coconut when you stir in the chips. 

There is NOTHING like fresh strawberries and whipped cream!

If you start with a premade crust, you can make this pie in about 15 minutes.  The recipe is sized to fit in an 8-inch crust.  Almost all of the time here is hulling and slicing the berries.  The sauce is a cinch.  

There's also a simple variation for non-stringy Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!

1 8-inch pie shell  (for some good recipes, see Crash Course in Pies)
1 lb. ripe strawberries, washed
1/2 c. sugar
2 Tbsp. Instant Clear Jel*
1 drop orange essential oil, OR use 1 Tbsp. orange juice OR 1/16 tsp. orange extract

Topping: (optional but YUMMY!)
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. Instant Clear Jel*
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla

For the filling: Hull the berries (remove the green leaves).  Put a small handful of the ripest berries in a blender; puree.  Add a little water if needed to make 1/2 cup puree.  Add the sugar, Clear Jel, and orange oil; blend about ten seconds.  (If you don't have a blender, you can mash the berries by hand.  Or you can use all water and no berries, but the flavor and color of your pie will not be as good.)   Slice the rest of the berries and mix it with the strawberry sauce.  Pour into the pie shell.   Store in the fridge until time to serve.

For the topping: in a medium bowl stir together sugar and Clear Jel.  Add the whipping cream and vanilla; beat to stiff peaks.  Spread or pipe onto the pie. 

*The Instant Clear Jel thickens the sauce and keeps the whipped cream from going flat.  If you can't find it for the sauce, substitute 1 Tbsp. cornstarch OR 2 Tbsp. flour, then bring the sauce to a boil to thicken it.  Cool before adding sliced berries.  For the problem with the whipped cream, eat the pie quickly!  Actually, there are other things that you can use (yes, cornstarch works, but who wants to cook then chill cream again?), a couple include:
-1 tsp. unflavored gelatin softened in 1 Tbsp. water then melted and whipped in to the cream,
-or 1/2 package instant vanilla pudding powder (omit the 2 Tbsp. sugar)
-or whip with 4 oz. softened cream cheese and an extra tablespoon of sugar

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie: instead of using the handful of berries for the sauce, slice one stalk of rhubarb.  Cook it with the sugar, then puree with Clear Jel and orange oil.  If you want the pie with chunks of rhubarb, cook 2 stalks instead, use half for the sauce and half stirred into the filling.

Here I used a premade crust (found it at the dollar store!)- but I've got to admit the homemade ones taste better.  Our favorite was a crumb crust made with butter and then baked, this brought out a butterscotch flavor.  If you don't want to bake, just freeze it for ten minutes.  The crumb crust does fall apart when you serve the pie; if an intact slice is important to you, use a rolled-out crust.





Years ago a college friend gave me a cookbook her family had put together.  Though I haven't tried all the recipes in it, I'm inclined to say there's not a bad one in the bunch- everything I've tried has been fabulous.  Even the strange-sounding recipe for "Vinegar Dumplings" was amazing.  I may need to post that one later for you!

This recipe is from that cookbook.  Apparently 'Chalupa' is a misnomer, to be authentic you'd use thin, small, fried corn tortilla 'boats'.  But this tastes really similar and is simpler.
This batch is big; feel free to cut it in half.  The bean/meat mixture freezes well, though, so maybe make the whole batch and have some on hand in the freezer for a quick meal! 


2 lb. boneless pork roast *
1 lb. pinto beans, sorted and rinsed *
1 Tbsp. chili powder
1 small can green chilies
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 1/2 tsp. salt
* I used beef roast and black beans

corn chips
shredded cheese
chopped onion
diced tomatoes
sliced avocado

(Start making this about 6-7 hours before you want to eat. Or see 'Faster Chalupas' below.)   Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put all ingredients in a Dutch oven or roaster; add enough water to cover.  Bake, covered, for one hour, then reduce to 275 degrees.  Cook another 4-5 hours.  Add more water if the beans aren't all the way covered by it. 

Remove pork, cool and shred.  Meanwhile, cook the bean mixture with the lid off for 30-60 minutes or until thick.  Put shredded meat back into bean mixture and heat.

Serve on a bed of crisp corn chips and top with shredded cheese, lettuce,  onion, tomatoes,  avocadoes, and salsa. 

#1:  use a pressure cooker.  Mine took about 30  minutes under high pressure in a Kuhn Rikon.   Plan on 1 hour instead if you have a regular pressure cooker.

OR #2: use leftover roast and 3 (15 oz.) cans of beans, undrained.  Add all seasonings except for the salt, combine and simmer for at least 15 minutes to blend the flavors.