Reuse and Repurposing in the Kitchen

Crochet dishcloths

Over the past month, I’ve been working to reduce and repurpose when I can.  One thing I’ve been making a lot of over the past few weeks are dishcloths.  I’ve been doing my best to do my small part for the environment; reducing trash and reusing items when I can.  I have a huge stack of dish towels that I keep in my kitchen that I’ve been collecting for the past 20 years.  I use them like crazy instead of paper towels, but I have to admit that even though they’re very functional, they are very, very ugly!  Most of them are stained, faded and several are ripped.  So I thought that it was time to make up a set of dishtowels that had a bit more of aesthetic appeal.  This was a great project to work on all throughout last month, because tossing a cotton skein in my bag with a hook was really easy to tote around to everywhere that we I needed to go, and I would just pick them up and work on them whenever I had some extra time – even sitting in the car during traffic standstills!

But I am so happy with the results!  I love the bright splash of colors that they lend to my otherwise neutral kitchen.  I used my favorite dishcloth pattern (which is free here) and made up a couple of dozen.  I tried to be mindful of the scraps as well.  What I’ve been doing with these cotton scraps are making jar covers.  I had written last month about how a friend had paid me to make a couple of them up for her mason jars, and they turned out so pretty that I decided a few for myself would be a great way to use up those scraps.  But instead of covering up my mason jars, I’ve been hanging onto glass jars that I buy in the store – jars that hold spaghetti sauce, salsa, olives, and pickles.  After we use them, I clean them out and get as much of the label off as possible.  But a lot of the times, there’s always a little bit of paper label stuck to the jar.  I had previously thrown those jars away, because they didn’t look nice at all (yet I kept my dingy old towels, go figure!).  But I decided that crochet covers were the perfect option for hanging onto them and covering up the ripped labels.  And so I have a pretty shelf full of jars that are being reused for teabags, wine corks, and other kitchen items.

crochet jar covers - mellieblossom.com

And finally, since I was on a roll with reusing food containers, I have also been keeping my old metal cans from canned food as well and scrubbing them off when I have used their contents.  I was just using them for storage, and thought that I might crochet around them as well, but when I was visiting my local craft store, I came upon these pretty duct tape patterns, and found that duct tape was an easy and lovely way of making metal cans both look nice and be a practical storage solution.

pretty duct tape
I love how the tape matches perfectly with my skirt!

repurpose tin cans - mellieblossom.com

The crochet jar covers are easy enough to make.  I’ve previously used this pattern here, but lately, I’ve taken to just making them on a whim.  I basically just make a chain that’s just big enough to fit around the bottom of whatever I’m covering (usually around 34-40 chains depending on the size), and then go round by round up in whatever color or stitch you want to use.  In the rainbow one above, those are all bpsc all the way up.  I added a drawstring of a long chain and then for the final round did an (sc, ch1) repeat, then I wove the drawstring through the holes and tightened it up.  The lid is scrapbook paper with modpodge.  The jar below is a spike stitch pattern with a couple of sc in between.  I don’t know if I like it as much as the others, but it’s functional and in use, and I’m too lazy to change it any time soon!

reuse jars and cans - mellieblossom.com

As I go through the jars, I keep them on the floor next to my crochet table, and then whenever I have extra time or need some extra storage room, I’ll just make one and use it as I go along.  Extra jars are saved for birthdays and holidays where cookies and candies can be placed inside.  That’s crochet in a nutshell, right?  Functional and decorative!  And it makes me happy to do my little part in reducing trash as well. 

~Mellie ★

Rainbow Crochet Jars

Rainbow Crochet Jars

I made this pattern a long time ago when I wanted something to cover up my kitchen cleaning wipes.  But a few weeks ago, out of the blue, one of my friends mentioned that she saw some rainbow crochet mason jar cozies online somewhere, and could I make a couple for her?  And then, overhearing the conversation, another friend thought that was a fine idea and that she might like some as well.  So, I got out my cotton and looked up this old pattern again. 

Rainbow Crochet Jars

I had fun making these for my friends, and I loved how they turned out.  So much, in fact, that I decided that maybe my kitchen needed a few of these as well.  I have a decent sized collection of mason jars that I regularly use.  And then I thought, wouldn’t it be an even better idea to make cozies for the jars that aren’t as lovely as mason jars.  I’m talking about the pickle jars and the olive jars that all have labels that never completely come off.  The ones with these white paper tears that won’t come off no matter how hard I scrub them.  Or the jars with the label glue that is apparently not water soluble, counting from how many times I’ve run them through the dishwasher.  

Rainbow Crochet Jars

These are the jars, I decided, that need a coverup, as it were.  And so as of right now, I have a queue of patiently waiting jars lined up next to my crochet basket, waiting for some new clothes to get them back to work. 

Rainbow Crochet Jars

The pattern is very easy and can be modified with no problems.  I used a granny stitch for the quart jars and then an alternating [dc, ch1, sk1] for the pint and a half jars.  For the various sized ones I have, I’ll just fudge around with the foundation chain until I get it to fit well, and then start the pattern from there.  These work up quickly, and are a vary satisfying project for some instant gratification crochet. 

The free pattern is here, and it also includes my most favorite heart applique pattern as well.  <3

Rainbow Yarn

And on another unrelated, but still rainbow note, I was cleaning out another closet and came across this great yarn that I purchased a year or so ago before I moved (unpacking is like treasure hunting sometimes!)  I only have one skein in this dye lot of this Crystal Palace Sausalito yarn, so I’m trying to find the perfect project to make with it.  It’s a light fingering weight wool-blend yarn, so I’m thinking of something like maybe some  hand mitts?  A headband?  If you have any ideas, let me know in the comments.  Yarn this colorful doesn’t usually last too long around here!

 ~Mellie ★

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

January’s in full swing now! I’m loving the quietness now that the bustle of the holidays are over. The temperatures outside dropped drastically, and we’ve been snuggled up indoors with pajamas and blankets, good books, hot coffee and one of my favorite winter breakfasts – steel cut oats.

I started making overnight crockpot steel cut oats in my some years back because I loved waking up to a hot and hearty breakfast on cold winter mornings. But I had to experiment a lot to get them to the point where I was either scrubbing the crockpot for a good half hour in the mornings or waking up every half hour or so to see that the oats hadn’t gotten too hard on top; double-checking them over and over.

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

Little by little, though, I changed a little bit here and there until I got a method set up for perfect overnight crockpot steel cut oats – where you can sleep in an extra few hours if you want to, and where cleanup is a breeze. And perfectly made steel cut oats awaits you for breakfast every morning.

The first change I made was to stop putting the steel cut oats directly in the crockpot. Even when I’d spray the sides of the pot with cooking spray, I would still be stuck with a baked-on mess pretty regularly. Instead, I started using a long and narrow bowl that I would spray with non-stick spray, and put the steel cut oats and water in there then. After that, I put the bowl in the crockpot and then add enough water to the crockpot so that it comes to about level with the oats and water inside the bowl. This saves a huge mess and actually doubles by cleaning the crockpot while still cooking breakfast.
The second major issue that I changed was the way it cooked overnight. Sure, if I knew I was waking up in 5 or 6 hours, I could set it on low without too much trouble; but after 8 or 9 hours, even on low, there was a good chance that the top of the oats would be hard as a rock.

  Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

So after a few changes, I found the best, and most flexible way to cook crockpot steel cut oats. Here it is:

 

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats
perfectly cooked overnight steel cut oats
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Ingredients
  1. cooking spray
  2. a narrow bowl that will fit inside the crockpot when the lid is closed
  3. 1 part steel cut oats (e.g 1/4 cup)
  4. 4 parts water or other liquid (e.g. 1 cup)
  5. seasonings, such as salt, brown sugar, cinnamon, etc
Instructions
  1. Take a narrow bowl that will fit in your crockpot with the lid closed.
  2. Spray or grease it lightly.
  3. Place steel cut oats in with a 1:4 ration of liquid
  4. Add salt, if desired, or any other seasoning (brown sugar, cinnamon, dried apples, raisins, etc)
  5. Place the bowl in the crockpot and fill the crockpot with enough water that it is level (or close enough to level) with the level of the water in the bowl.
  6. Cover and let cook on high for 1 hour.
  7. Turn the crockpot to the “warm” setting, and go to sleep.
  8. In the morning, the steel cut oats should be perfectly cooked.
  9. Add any extras as desired (I usually top my oats with sesame seeds or slivered almonds) and enjoy your healthy, minimum-effort breakfast!
mellie blossom http://www.mellieblossom.com/

All that’s left to do is enjoy!  Have you had success with steel cut oats in the crockpot?  I’d love to hear about your methods as well!

Overnight Crockpot Steel Cut Oats

 

~Mellie ★

How to Eat Raw Kale

How to eat raw kale

Since it’s the start of a new year, something that’s on my list of resolutions (and probably a few more out there as well) is to start eating healthier. One of the healthiest foods out there is kale. The problem with kale, especially if you’re not too familiar with it, is the question of what to do with it. Obviously it can be cooked in any way, but raw kale is a different story.

When I first starting buying kale, I expected to throw it into my salads like any other green. I’d seen and tried the “baby kale greens” at the grocery store which are tender and young, and naturally just figured that mature kale would be just as easy to work with. But if you’ve tried kale greens, you’ll know that if you eat one raw, you need to chew… and chew… and chew…

  How to eat raw kale

I wanted to find a way to get the texture and nutrition from kale without always having to cook with though. I tried adding lightly steamed and cooled kale at times, but it wasn’t what I was looking for. It wasn’t until one day, by accident; I came across the best way to eat kale! It takes very little prep work, and the kale lasts for well over a week. And it’s so easy!

Here’s how to eat raw kale:

Buy a head of kale. Bring it home, wash it, remove the stems and let it dry somewhat (it doesn’t need to be completely dried). Tear the head up into pieces (large, small – whatever you like) and put the kale into a bowl.

Grab a bottle of extra-virgin olive oil and drizzle a little bit over the kale, depending on how much kale you have. It doesn’t need to be saturated, so start light! With clean hands, mix the olive oil into the kale, coating all the leaves lightly. Again, you don’t have to be precise about it, just a basic mixing will do.

Take the bowl of kale, cover it, and put it in the refrigerator for several hours. I usually let it sit for a good day, sometimes two. When you unwrap the kale, it will be crispy and chewable – perfect for salads or eating raw.

  How to eat raw kale

One of the best things about this technique is that it livens up wilted kale pieces, too. And I’ve noticed that for me, at least, the kale lasts for up to two weeks without any noticeable change in texture.

I’ve been eating kale like crazy since I started doing this, and even my kids have been enjoying it. It will definitely be a part of our menu this new year!

~Mellie ★