Grind your own wheat flour

After years of ‘window shopping’ for a grain mill, I finally have my very own, and am grinding my own whole wheat flour, since last December.

THE GRAIN MILL

This is the grain mill model I purchased. It grinds up to 700g of berries per batch. 700g is about 4 cups of wheat berries, which makes 5-6 cups of flour.

Link to the product page (or click on the picture above): https://amzn.to/31whDgC

The bottom section of the grain mill is the powerful motor, and the upper compartment holds the grain and the blade. The appliance is heavier than it looks. On the back of the appliance there’s a handy red handle to use in pouring the flour out.

THE WHEAT

Where to buy:

Wheat berries can be purchased by the pound here, at a local feed & seed store. I most recently paid 75 cents/pound. Wheat berries can also be purchased at some natural food stores, or ordered online. Here are a couple of options on Amazon:

How to prepare the wheat:

I inquired with our local extension office about clean and safe preparation and use of wheat berries purchased from a feed & seed store. Their instructions were:

  • Use hard wheat; not the soft variety;
  • The wheat should be dry. Don’t wash it, because that will soften it, which will make it unsuitable for grinding.
  • Freeze the wheat berries for a couple of days, to kill the things that take up residence in growing wheat. (There’s a great discussion about those little ‘things’ here. In other words, don’t be grossed out about what’s in wheat; just follow the steps from the extension office.)
  • Sift the wheat berries with a wire mesh strainer, to remove dust and the things that got killed in the freezing process.
  • Eat only cooked or baked foods made with the wheat; nothing raw. (Translation: This is one of the reasons you’re not supposed to eat raw cookie dough. Sorry kids; this bums me out too.)
  • The standard food handling rule applies: Wash your hands before and after handling the wheat berries.

THE GRINDING PROCESS

Measure the wheat berries, sift, and then pour the berries into the mill.

Grind for about 5 minutes. The grinding compartment and wheat get very hot, so I run the mill for one minute at a time; letting it cool for a few minutes between each minute of grinding.

Here is what the flour looks like after 1 minute of grinding and again after 5 minutes. The two pictures might not look all that different, but they feel different to the touch. After 1 minute, the texture is a little bit grainy, like a very fine sand. After 5 minutes it is a soft powder.

STORAGE AND SHELF LIFE

Wheat berries have a years-long shelf life. You can buy and store wheat berries in bulk, without fear of them going bad. I’ve stored them for years in a dark cabinet in an airtight container. I noticed no change in taste, smell or texture.

After grinding, the whole wheat flour should be stored in the frig and used within about 3 months. I grind my berries on an as-needed basis, and keep a cup or less of the flour on hand in the frig. King Arthur Flour recommends storing whole wheat flour in the freezer. https://shop.kingarthurbaking.com/items/king-arthur-premium-100-whole-wheat-flour-5-lb

Is it necessary to use a mill to make flour? Probably yes. I’ve tried grinding wheat berries in an electric coffee grinder. It produced tiny granules the consistency of fine sand, but did not make flour. The granules didn’t go to waste though. They were a super tasty addition to my oatmeal.

I’ve tried grinding wheat with a food processor, and no, it simply didn’t work.

BAKING WITH WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR

Whole wheat flour creates a more dense, flatter, heavier product. If you don’t want that, use a combination of wheat flour and all-purpose white flour. My general ratios:

  • In cookies, I use a ratio of 1 part whole wheat to 3 parts all-purpose flour. (1/4 c. w/w : 3/4 c. a/p)
  • In breads, I use a ratio of 1 part whole wheat to 2 parts all-purpose flour. (1/3 c. w/w : 2/3 c. a/p)

In my recent post about DIY make-ahead bread machine mixes I used 1/3 whole wheat flour from my mill. See that darker colored flour in the bottom of the jars? That’s the w/w flour. That combination gives some of the benefits of whole wheat, but not the flat, heavy loaf. It retains the lighter, fluffier texture from the white all-purpose flour.




HOW ABOUT SOME MUSIC?

The Slice The Life 2020 Album Draft continues. For the latest ‘desert island album’ picks, click here.

Latest Run-Sew-Read picks are:

For Round 3, I sort of shook things up with a bluegrass-gospel pick:

For Round 4, I went back to rock and roll:

Six more rounds to go!

New washing machine shut off valves (and more)

Last summer I recommended checking your main water shut off to your house. This summer it’s the washing machine shut offs and hoses.

Like my former main house shut off valve, the washer shut offs were this round red handled type, that can’t be trusted to last more than a few years.

This time the old washer shut off valves didn’t break or start leaking, but recently, when I tried to turn them off, the cold water valve was stuck open. I didn’t try to force it to turn, because I’ve had one of the handles break off in my hand and the valve start spraying water (a la last year’s post).

The new shut offs. I replaced the washer shut off valves myself, with these Shark-Bite connections, and cpvc pipe. As you know if you’ve done any DIY plumbing projects in recent years, Shark Bite connections are a literal game-changer, making anyone and everyone a potential plumber. They push into place. Honest. No cement, flame torch or solder required; and no leaks.

New utility sink! I also used this as an opportunity to add a utility sink, which I’ve wanted for years. I loved the sink instantly. It gives me a place to fill and empty the mop bucket, and rinse off and soak big things. It will also serve as a backup to hold washer discharge water if there’s ever a blockage in the drain (which has happened before).

New washer hoses, too. Murphy’s Law dictates that all of my ‘simple’ DIY plumbing projects will expand into a second project. This time it was new washer hoses. As I was reconnecting the washer hoses to the new shutoff, I realized one of the hoses was going bad. Turns out, the cold water hose was so corroded at the washer connection, that it wouldn’t come loose. I feared in removing it, I might also break the connection on the washer itself. I applied some WD40 and stepped away from the project to give it time to work. Success. The hose connection came loose with some gentle coaxing, and without breaking anything else in the process.

Not good.

I’d wanted the metal braided kind of washer hose, but the store didn’t have that type in the length I needed. I could have ordered and waited on them, but I wanted everything installed that day. These will be good for several years anyway.

“Alexa, drop in on Mom.” (There’s an Echo in here.)

My wheelchair-bound mom with advanced Parkinson’s, is in a care home, locked down for the pandemic. My last ‘normal’ visit with her in her room was back in February. Then came the lockdown. Earlier this month they started allowing limited visits, so my brother and I gave the required 24-hour notice of our visit, drove 5 hours each way, to talk to her outside, for 30 minutes, from behind a strip of tape that kept us 10 feet apart, with lawnmowers working all around us. She can only talk in a whisper volume, and has trouble verbalizing her thoughts and enunciating, so we could hardly make out anything she was trying to say. After 5 months, and 5 hours of driving, and all of us wearing masks, not even a hug was allowed. But we did get to see her, and take her a bottle of Coke and some homemade cookies, and that gave us all a boost.

The other thing we took to her was an Amazon Echo Dot device for her room. It has been an unbelievably helpful communication facilitator.

This post is a recommendation and review of the Echo Dot device. It is not solicited or compensated. The device has been a Godsend for us in our situation with our mom, and I want to share the information for anyone who may find themselves and a family member similarly situated.

From the moment Amazon introduced Alexa, ‘she’ was banned from my devices and my home. A device listening in my house all the time was not okay. Then I began reading about Amazon’s Echo Dot, and realized it can help my mom, who can no longer dial her phone, check messages, text, use email, etc. We got the Dot to her, and programmed it with a handful of close family members and trusted friends as her contacts. The Echo Dot picks up her whisper voice, and can understand her voice commands. She can talk to her contacts simply by saying, “Alexa, call _____.”

So, where Alexa was once banned from my house, ‘she’ is now listening day and night in the form of an Echo Dot on my front room table.

The Drop In

Not only can the Echo Dot call your contacts’ phones; it can also ‘drop in’ on other Echo Dots or Alexa-enabled devices. It works like an intercom. I say, “Alexa, drop in on Mom.” I’m instantly talking to her through the Echo Dot in her room, and the sound is loud and clear, as if she’s here in my house.

The first time I ‘Dropped In’ on Mom, it went perfectly. I dropped in, started talking, she heard me and we had a brief conversation, as if she were here in the next room, rather than another state. We ended that drop in with agreement to do another one soon.

Then I started getting ready for bed, and let Myrtle-the-dog out one last time. I happened to glance toward the Echo, and realized it was glowing green, which meant someone had Dropped In and could hear me. It was Mom, trying the Drop In for herself. I frantically thought back through the last few minutes, trying to remember if I’d said any cuss words or something else I wouldn’t want Mom to hear. It was a flashback to being a busted teenager. I now watch my language even in my own house, because you-know-who might be listening.

caught ted GIF

It’s been a couple of weeks, and the Echo has been amazing for her. She can make a shopping list of things she needs someone to bring or send to her. She can call her friends and family, and Drop In on those of us with Alexa devices. Her voice is loud and clear. I can assist remotely by adding to her contacts, and reading her shopping list, etc., from the Alexa app.

Shopping List. She can say, “Alexa, put socks on the shopping list.” And we know she needs socks.

Routines. We’ve set up a couple of Alexa ‘routines’ for her. One is for morning. She can say, “Alexa, good morning.” It will tell her the day, time, weather, and a news briefing from the Kansas City Star. There’s a ‘good news’ briefing, that will give her a good news report. There is an evening routine with tomorrow’s forecast and a news briefing.

Music. She tells Alexa to play 50s music, Elvis songs, classic country, and more. Alexa does what she requests.

Meanwhile, here at my place, I’ve now gotten a Smart Plug, that allows me to say, “Alexa, turn on/off the light.” Each morning Alexa reads me my calendar for the day, the weather report, and a news briefing when I say, “Alexa, good morning.” Alexa is now maintaining my grocery list. And now that the MLB season is underway, I can ask, “Alexa, what time is the Royals game?”

Wrapping this up…, if you are like the pre-Alexa me, you’ll want to keep banning her from your home and devices. It’s a privacy thing. I don’t blame you. But if you have a need to stay in touch with a vulnerable family member or friend, even temporarily, the Echo Dot works, and works well. All it requires is a plugin and a wifi connection. It has restored our ability to have a daily conversation with our mom, and she can contact and talk to us and her other close friends and family at will, even though she can no longer operate her phone.

Link to Echo Dot page on Amazon (or click on one of the pictures above): https://amzn.to/3jEbU0w

DIY Bread Machine Mix in Re-Useful Jars (and some desert island music)

These bread mixes use six basic ingredients and cost only pennies per loaf. Having a mix ready to go makes the bread-making process super efficient and low-effort. A one-loaf mix fits perfectly in an 8oz instant coffee jar.

The tiny Tupperware cups hold the yeast, sugar and salt.
(I use instant coffee in my mochas, so I end up with about three empty jars per year. If you don’t use instant coffee, try empty 30 oz mayo jars. )

The mix ingredients are: Flour, sugar, yeast, salt, margarine and powdered milk (not pictured).

I like to make up four to six mixes at a time.

Here are the finished mixes lined up in the back of my frig.

Download the bread mix recipe here:


Preparedness tip:

When the pandemic was declared, the store shelves were immediately emptied of bread; and yeast, flour and other baking staples. Thereafter, they were unavailable or in short supply. As a regular bread maker, I had a supply of yeast and flour on hand, plus some DIY bread mixes made up; and a couple of freshly-made loaves in the freezer. Never expecting a pandemic or grocery shortage, I’d considered that modest stockpile to merely be a convenience. But it ended up getting me through the the shortage.

In addition to the bread mixes, I try to keep an extra unopened 4 oz jar of yeast in the frig, and a spare bag (or 2) of flour in the freezer, plus however much is in my flour canister. Flour came back to the store shelves fairly quickly, but four months into the shortage, I was down to less than half a jar of yeast. This month, jars of yeast finally came back to the store shelves. Even if you don’t do a lot of baking, don’t be afraid to buy yeast by the jar, and don’t worry if you can’t use it up before the sell-by date. In my experience, it keeps well past its sell-by date.

Slicing made easy.

Do you dislike slicing a bread machine loaf as much as I do? The loaf shape is awful for slicing. To make the process happier: Cut the loaf into quarters, and then slice and use one quarter at a time. The other three quarters go in the freezer. When I need one from the freezer, it thaws in just a few minutes, or 30 seconds in the microwave.

My bread machine is this one, which has been discontinued, but there are still some models in the Amazon warehouse. I’ve never been picky about what features are on my bread machine. I’d probably be happy with any machine at any price.



Desert Island Music!

(It’s the Slicethelife 2020 Album Draft!)

Which ten music albums would you want with you when stranded on a desert island? Ten bloggers (me included), are participating in a 10-round desert island ‘album draft’. Round 2 is currently underway. All of the album draft bloggers except me are ‘proper’ music bloggers; and some are musicians as well.

The link below will take you to a listing of the draft picks so far. Check in now and from time to time over the next eight weeks, to see what albums have been drafted and why they were selected. Feel free to drop us a comment about the picks.

2020 Album Draft

A selection from the Run-Sew-Read picks so far:

Mask making continues, and gets more creative.

As masks have finally become plentiful, with enough supply to meet demand, my one-person mask making sweatshop is still operating, but I’ve slowed down production in order to indulge in more creativity. I’m using the same patterns as I was here and here, but have continued to experiment and add ‘improvements’ and improvisations.

I’m enjoying the process, and am grateful that I can do this one thing to help people navigate the pandemic. I’m inspired by all of the creative masks I see. Our community is under a mandatory mask order right now, and what I love most about it (besides the way it makes people keep each other safer) is looking at everyone’s masks. I love the vast array of prints and designs. Instead of people-watching, I’m now a mask-watcher.

My neighbor gave me a mask she made! I had given her a mask very early on. Then a few days after that, she came over asking where I got my pattern. Of course I printed her a copy to keep and use. Then one day she came over with this mask for me! She had worked her own details into it; filter pocket and good nose wire included. I love wearing it as much as I love my own. So, I say go exchange masks with fellow mask makers!

Another neighbor informed me that her mask was stolen from her car. So you’ve been warned, that the coolest masks have street value. Protect your valuables.

How long will we be making and wearing masks? I don’t know, but I just pulled fall and holiday woven cottons from my fabric storage, thinking I might as well get started on masks for the upcoming seasons.



And for some mask-making nourishment…

One big chocolate chip cookie…
For the sheet cookie, I added an extra cup of flour; spread the dough on a 1/4 -size sheet, and baked 2 minutes longer than specified for drop cookies.

It’s from this totally awesome recipe book.

Which apparently is still in print, which is a good thing.

Lockdown foods–the mocha cinnamon pudding edition

It was February 2011 when I tore this recipe from my Runners World magazine.

Nine years later, I finally decided to make it and see if it tastes as good as it looks. Answer: Yes it does.

For nine years, it kept falling out of my recipe book, and got stepped on, stained, torn; and almost tossed in the garbage numerous times. But then I’d look at the ingredients and again decide to hold onto it, since it looks easy and tasty, and not unhealthy.

Enter the coronavirus lockdown. I finally made the pudding. It uses normal ingredients. I didn’t need to make a trip to the store.

Ingredients List:

  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 c. lowfat chocolate milk
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Substitutions:

  • For the bittersweet chocolate squares, use 2 Tbsp. cacao or cocoa powder + 2 Tbsp. shortening.
  • For the chocolate milk, use 2 tsp. cacao or cocoa powder + 4 tsp. sugar + 2 c. skim white milk.

The pudding was indeed fast and easy to make.

It is very tasty. The coffee, chocolate and cinnamon flavors are all quite prominent. I think I’ve made it four times now; or maybe five.

The recipe makes four coffee cup-sized servings.

Here’s the online version of the recipe. It’s easier to read than my nine-year-old poorly-preserved cutout.

https://www.runnersworld.com/nutrition-weight-loss/a20805554/mocha-cinnamon-pudding-recipe/



More things to savor. David Gilmour (of Pink Floyd) has released a brand new song. It has a Leonard Cohen influence. I’ve already lost count of how many times I’ve played it. Amazon download/purchase link.

David’s song is part of a book project by his wife, Polly Samson. It is about the island of Hydra, and Leonard Cohen’s time spent there. She recorded the audio book, and David is on that too. UK buyers can get the audio book now, I believe. We in the US have to wait until September. Sigh. The hardcover and paperback can be ordered in the US, but I want the audio book.

https://amzn.to/38vIg8z

Nelly Don Zero-Waste Apron (part 3)–Construction steps

After looking at the life and career of Nelly Don the iconic Kansas City designer in Part 1, and then deciphering the diagram for her 1925 patented zero-waste apron in Part 2, here in Part 3 are the apron construction steps.

The Apron and patent drawings:

Last week’s post provided measurements for drawing and cutting out the pieces, like this:

Nelly Don designed the apron to be sewn in one sitting, without having to remove it from the sewing machine. So now in Part 3 we sit down at the sewing machine and start constructing:

These are the chronological construction steps:

  • Hem all free edges
    • Side Panel (C) top edge
    • Pocket (D) top edge
    • Back (B) centers
  • Sew a Pocket (D) on each Side Panel (C)
  • Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E)
  • Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F)
  • Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B) and then to each side of the Front (A).
  • Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders.
  • Hem entire lower edge
  • Bind neckline
  • Sew ties to back pieces at the waist line.

Here are the above-listed steps in pictures:

Hem all free edges (shown in blue)

Hem all free edges.

Sew a Pocket (D) to each Side Panel (C), along the bottom edge of the Pocket, right sides together.

Then flip Pocket right side up, and top stitch across lower edge of Pocket.

Join Front (A) to Front Yoke (E), right sides together.

Join Backs (B) to Back Yoke (F), right sides together.

Join Side Panels (C) to Backs (B), right sides together. Catch the pocket side in the seam.

At this point, the your pieces will look like this:

Join Side Sections (C) to Front (A), right sides together. Again, catch the pocket side in the seam.

Join Front Yoke (E) to Back Yoke (F) at shoulders, right sides together.

Tada! Now you have your lovely apron. To finish it, turn under and hem entire lower edge and the armholes; bind the neckline; and sew ties to the back for the closure.

How about some finished examples? These were my practice attempts:

This wraps up the Nelly Don apron series. My obsession with the patent drawings has been satisfied…for now; although I do keep thinking of more ways to experiment with it. Have you made a Nelly Don apron? I’d love to hear about your experience with it.

Nelly Don Part 1 is here.

Nelly Don Part 2 is here.



Back to 2020, Series 6 of The Great British Sewing Bee is about to conclude. It’s been a fabulous series of talented sewing contestants and their creations. Last week was ‘Hollywood Week’, and it did not disappoint! https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=1148109945557937

Two weeks ago was ’80s Week’, and it was full of larger-than-life creations and personalities. https://www.facebook.com/greatbritishsewingbee/videos/568722604082017/

Nelly Don’s Zero-Waste apron (part 2)–measuring, drawing and cutting the pieces

The drawings of KC designer Nelly Don’s patented zero-waste apron, so intrigued me, that I committed myself to working out the measurements and construction process for the apron. My post last week about Nelly Don and her apron design (including a downloadable copy of her 1925 apron patent) is here.

And now, for the measurements and steps to cutting out the apron

The 1925 patent diagram shows a single layer of fabric. For my apron, I concluded the fabric needed to be 48″ long and 36″ wide (1 1/3 yds x 1 yd).

Drawing the diagram.  Start with the measurements across the yoke and work out the rest from there. 

From there you can work out the width of the side panels, and the front and back pieces:

Here’s the process in a step-by-step slide show. If helpful, it can be viewed on Youtube in full screen; pause and rewind as often as necessary.

For shaping the simple round neckline in the yoke pieces, here is a pattern you can download and print on an 8 1/2″ x 14″ (legal sized) sheet of paper:

I tried some different dimensions and measurements for the apron layout, but the version I’ve described above is the only one that really worked. Some problems I encountered when varying the dimensions were:

  • Narrowing the yoke width also means the side panels become narrower, which makes the side pockets too narrow to be useful.
  • A longer/lower yoke meant the side panels became shorter, which made for a shorter apron; which then made the A-line angle more exaggerated. Alternatively, if the hem length were maintained, it made the side panels sit too far below the waist, or not extend all the way to the hemline.
  • A shorter/higher yoke made the side panels longer, which made them come up higher to the waist. This made a smaller, tighter waist because the front and back pieces are narrower at that higher point where the waistline is located.

So, there you have the apron pieces. Nelly Don designed the pattern so that the entire apron could be constructed without ever having to remove it from the sewing machine. I’ll tackle that in the next post…

Nelly Don’s zero-waste apron design

In 1925, Ellen “Nell” Donnelly, Kansas City based designer and manufacturer of women’s clothing, patented this iconic apron design.  It was designed to minimize waste of fabric, and economize assembly and production.  For the wearer, the apron was designed to:

  • easily slide over the head
  • provide full front protection
  • not slip off the shoulders
  • accommodate large sleeves; and
  • allow for maximum arm movement.

Nelly Don Handy Dandy Apron photo from KSU collection -- resizedNelly Don patent drawings

(Apron photo from Kansas State University.)

The company manufactured the aprons and also sold the pattern for home sewing.

Nelly Don apron pattern
Image from https://sites.google.com/site/apronhistory/home/1910s

Nelly Don apron ad
Image from https://indygojunction.com/blogs/indygo-junction-blog/nelly-don-vintage-made-modern-inspiration-from-a-kc-legend

Nelly Don led an interesting and sometimes dramatic life; always following her own personal code, and taking innovative care of her employees for the times.  She used the apron to keep her manufacturing company going during the Great Depression, and thereby kept her employees working.  She promoted women to management positions.  She offered health care assistance, high wages for the time, a pension, and work breaks with food and drink.  In 1931 she and her driver were kidnapped and held for ransom.  When unions attempted to organize her employees, she fought the unions in a marathon battle, keeping them at bay by showing her employees were better off than union members.  Here is a photo from her clothing manufacturing company in the Kansas City Garment District.

Nelly Don factory
Image from https://www.pendergastkc.org/article/bitterest-battle-ilgwu-and-unionization-kansas-city-garment-district

The story of Nelly Don, her garment manufacturing company, and her apron, have been expertly told elsewhere.  Check out these links for more about her life and business:

There’s a musical about Nelly Don’s life.  More info here: https://nellydon.com/pages/about-nelly-don-the-musical

There’s a fact-based novel about her abduction and rescue.  It’s a really good book.  I call it a must-read.  I recently finished the Kindle version, and as the Amazon reviews say, it was fast moving, well researched, and a quick read.  I would have loved for it to last longer. https://amzn.to/2XFjGOY

The Abduction of Nelly Don: Based on a True Story by [Patrice Williams Marks, (Jake) The Indie Editor, Brian Schell]

The Apron Patent:

The Nelly Don apron patent itself is brilliant reading.  Click on the image below to download a pdf copy of Nelly Don’s Apron Patent (4 pgs) :Nelly Don patent p2 of 4This 3-minute video has great images and footage from Nelly Don’s 1920s operations:

Nelly Don’s life in one minute:

Now, back again to the famous apron:

From reading about Nelly Don and her apron, I formed a small obsession with re-creating the apron from her patent diagram.  After several attempts, I believe I’ve conquered the challenge!  Stay tuned for the next post.