How to Make Dishtowel Vegetable Storage Bags

My dishtowel drawer is a hot mess smorgasbord of fruits, vegetables, flowers, chickens, funny sayings, and colorfully striped images, all printed on cotton rectangles. The super-absorbent among them, often dingy and stained, are the workhorses of my kitchen. The others, those with high sentimental value or less absorbency, have been smushed up in the back of the drawer for eons. They are the ones now being repurposed into vegetable storage bags.

I use the storage bags as I harvest food from the garden.

I use them to store veggies in the fridge after they have been washed.

I use them to hold electronics when I travel.

The idea came to me while harvesting greens in my backyard. I didn’t want to mix the kale, lettuce, and spinach leaves together yet didn’t have enough containers to keep them separate, so I decided to repurpose my stash of dishtowels to make harvest containers.

I started with my favorite towel, one my mother bought me from France while on one of her annual painting trips with artist friends. Talk about high sentimental value.

This painting of my mom was created by one of her friends on that trip. It captures a moment in time when she was happy and healthy.

This towel was from a pair that fell into the category of loved but not absorbent enough. I ended up making two bags with them, one for my sister-in-law, Lesley, and the other for my friend, Jennifer, both of whom garden.

I am a scrappy seamstress, but I don’t let that stop me, and I hope you won’t let it stop you. I had to finish this one by hand because my sewing machine died.

I used the trimmed remnants from this first bag to make the drawstring.

My husband gave me the idea to use shoelaces instead. I ordered an assortment of 54″ laces from Amazon.

How to Make Dishtowel Storage Bags:

Supplies:
Clean dish towels, any size works
54″ shoelaces

Instructions

Fold dishtowel in half with right sides facing. If the towel is too wide for your intended use, trim off some of the width.

Pin side seams together. On the bag opening side, leave a two-inch gap. This is where the tunnel for the drawstring will be. Sew the side seams and trim off the edges to reduce bulk.

Sew the tunnel opening. You can do this the quick way, which leaves you with an unfinished edge,

or you can unfurl the original seams, fold the frayed edges under, pin them, and create a more finished edge.

Next, fold over the top one-inch edge of the fabric, pin it down, and sew the drawstring tunnel.

Run your shoelace through the tunnel, and you are ready for business.

One dishtowel will stay in my collection forever, and there is a story about it here. RIP to my dear and funny friend, Carol, who died two years ago from breast cancer.

.

Some other Fun How-Tos:
How to Make a Heart Tree
How to Make Cork Bulletin Boards
How to Build a 4 x 4 Raised Garden Bed
How to Make Whole Milk Ricotta
How to Peel an Orange or Grapefruit Quickly

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.
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© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

Pistachio, Lemon, and Basil Butter Cookies

This cookie. Oh. My. Goodness. You eat one and a few minutes later, you are already thinking, I think I’ll have another!

The texture is somewhere between a scone and a Mexican Wedding Cookie, making it the perfect cookie to have with a cup of coffee or tea. There is a harmonious balance of savory flavors: the crunchy roasted pistachios, the hint of basil, and the subtle background taste of citrus, all in a lovely buttery dough. The cookie dough is as good as the cookie!

Yield: 3 dozen

Ingredients:

1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
4 cups (18 ounces) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon table salt (as opposed to the larger crystals in flaked or kosher)
2 generous tablespoons lemon zest (from 1 large or two average-size lemons)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 lemon)
⅔ cup roasted, unsalted chopped pistachios (I use Trader Joe’s), or almonds
⅔ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

Mise en Place:
I’ve included a tutorial on preparing these ingredients at the end of the recipe.

Instructions:
Mix the butter, sugar, and egg together in a bowl for just a minute on medium speed, scraping the batter from the sides and bottom as you go. You do not want a big fluffy batter.

Next, add the nuts, basil, lemon zest, juice, and flour mixture.

Mix on “stir” speed until all the ingredients are blended. Don’t overmix, or cookies will be cakey. Chill dough for an hour or up to two days.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350º. Line three cookie sheets with parchment paper. Use a teaspoon to scoop up a rounded heap of chilled dough or use a #40 cookie scoop to do the job. (Find out what “#40” means here.)

Shape dough into rough balls and place on cookie sheet.

Flatten dough with the bottom of a glass. Use your fingers to shape the sides so the edges are smooth.
 

Bake for ten minutes and then rotate pans on oven racks and cook for another 8-10 minutes. Check bottom of cookie for doneness. It should be light brown.

Remove pans from oven and place cookies on a cooling rack.

Personally, I think these cookies are better the next day, but I have also seen them disappear at a party two hours after coming out of the oven!

A Note About Reading a Recipe:

When reading the ingredients list of a recipe, note the difference that has to do with the measured volume, for example :

⅔ cup roasted unsalted chopped pistachios
⅔ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the pistachios, you measure ⅔ cup of nuts after chopping. For the basil, you measure ⅔ cup of leaves and then chop them.

The Mise en Place Tutorial:
Measure out the flour, salt, and baking soda. I weigh flour (as opposed to using measuring cups) because it is faster, less messy, and assures consistent results. All-purpose flour weighs 4.5 ounces per cup, multiply that by 4 cups, and you get 18 ounces. Be sure to zero out the weight of the measuring bowl first.

If using a measuring cup, fluff up the flour in the bag with a spoon, spoon into a measuring cup, and level with a knife. If you stick the measuring cup directly into the bag and scoop it out, you could add as much as an extra quarter of a cup of flour. Multiply that by 4 cups, and you get an unintended extra cup of flour!

Whisk the flour, salt, and baking soda together to evenly distribute the ingredients. This used to be called “sifting.”

This is an old sifter.

Prep the add-ins: the zested lemon, lemon juice, chopped pistachios, and chopped basil.

Use a micro grater (Microplane) or a box grater to zest the lemon peel. I prefer the Microplane because it only skims the peel; the box grater digs into some bitter white pith. An average lemon yields a tablespoon of zest.

You can use a citrus reamer or a lemon squeezer to juice the lemons. If you use a reamer, pick out the seeds and leave the pulp.

To prep the pistachios, I pound the nuts with a meat mallet in their bag, remove what I need, and store the remainder in the freezer. Or, I pulse the nuts with the basil in a mini food processor.  Always taste a nut from the source bag before cooking with it; nuts have a lot of fat, and the fat can go rancid. If nuts don’t taste good or if they smell bad, don’t use them. They’ll ruin your cookies.

Snip the leaves off the stems and either chop with a knife or pulse with the nuts in the food processor.
 

You are now ready to mix these ingredients in the batter.

I hope you enjoy these cookies and have learned a little something in the process!

Related Posts:
Italian Ricotta and Lemon Cookies
Italian Sesame Seed Cookies
Award-Winning Chocolate Chip Cookies
 3-Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies
My Favorite Rollout Butter CookiesCookie Scoops as a Unit of Measure
Tools for the Cooking Life
How to Make Royal Icing and Decorate Cookies

I have adapted this recipe from one I saw in Edible Nashville. Thankful to my friend, Jill Melton, cook, gardener, writer, creative editor, and publisher of Edible Nashville, for sharing it.

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Make a Heart Tree

In 2010, I read an article in StyleBlueprint about a heart tree created by my smart and beautiful friend, Martha Ivester. I’ve been thinking about “hearting a tree” ever since. Last week, Martha posted instructions for how to make the heart pillows on Facebook. It was just the inspiration I needed to get started.

The tradition of hearting a tree started at Martha’s former church, The Parish of the Epiphany, in Winchester, Massachusetts. At first, parishioners hearted a tree by their church. Soon after, parishioners started hearting trees anonymously at night at the homes of friends and shut-ins who needed a boost of good cheer.

“The most important aspect of making hearts is to gift them to someone,” said Martha. “One of my favorite memories of Nashville was the year eight moms and their children gathered together for two mornings of heart-making for friends who needed cheering up. We hearted a tree for a friend who lost a parent, for another who had a sick child, and for another who was going through treatment for cancer. The experience created a sweet moment of community and connection.” Martha currently lives in Copenhagen and still hangs hearts in front of her house for Valentine’s Day.

Thus inspired, I decided it was a good weekend to spread a little winter cheer on my street. My first task was to find a heart template; Google to the rescue! I chose two different sized hearts- a stout one and a long one. The stout heart image came from here.

I printed the hearts onto 8″ x 11″ sheets of card stock.

By the time I made the hearts and filled them with fiber, they looked like this sizewise.

Next, I searched the house for fabric. I recycled a bright orange tee-shirt,

a few of my husband’s tired-looking cotton shirts,

my kids’ old bandanas, and leftover fabric from various craft projects. The only item I had to purchase were the three bags of polyester filling.

To get started, lay out a piece of folded-over fabric with right sides facing each other. Trace the heart image onto the wrong side of the fabric with a marker. I aimed to get 3-5 hearts from each piece of fabric.

Next, use straight pins to hold the two pieces of fabric together before cutting them.

Sew the hearts together, leaving a two-inch opening on one edge of the heart. Be sure to double back over the stitching, so the stitches don’t unravel.

Using sharp scissors, cut little slits into the seam allowance around the heart’s curved edges to make it easier for the heart to lay flat once it is turned right side out.

Do the same around the pointed edge of the heart.

Turn the fabric right side out. Use a slim, smooth, pointy object to push out the point of the heart. I used the dull end of a paintbrush.

Fill each heart with polyester fiber.

Sew up the opening from where you inserted the filling.

I traced the heart image onto 15 hearts, then pinned all of them, then cut, sewed, snipped, turned them right side out, stuffed them with fiber, and hand-sewed all the openings shut — assembly-line style. It helped speed up the construction process.

Cut 36-inch strips of heavy-duty string to hang the hearts on the trees. I chose a thick cotton yarn that would not snap when tugged at. I used an embroidery needle to poke through the pillow and make the knot.

Martha likes to finger knit or crochet a chain-stitched string with colorful yarns when she makes hearts.

Attach a pillow to each end of the string.

Hang them on a tree and brighten someone’s day, including your own!

PS: No worries if your fabric print comes out upside down!

PPS: You may notice that the heart-opening is at the top of the heart in some of the photos. After I made the first few hearts, I moved the opening to the side of the heart. It was much easier to sew up that way.

Related Stories:
My Favorite Rollout Butter Cookies

 How to Make Royal Icing and Decorate Cookies

Chocolate Birthday or Valentine’s Day Cake

Lily’s Red Velvet Cake

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Start Seeds in a Recycled Milk Jug

Last spring, while visiting my friend Mary’s vegetable garden, I spied this group of milk jugs planted with vegetable seedlings.

Mary said she started using recycled milk jugs to start seeds when she saw another gardener doing so. We, gardeners, enjoy learning from each other!

The beauty of milk jug sprouting is once you plant seeds, moisten the soil, and tape up the sides, you can pretty much ignore the emerging seedlings until they are ready to be transplanted; no need for babysitting. The almost closed system keeps moisture in and uses the warmth of sunlight to nudge seeds from dormancy to germination. It is an efficient, green, portable, fun, easy-peasy way to start seeds.

I left Mary’s garden and headed home; I had an idea. A murder of crows had been invading my little backyard corn patch, digging up most of the seedlings as they sprouted.

By the way, the birds were after the kernel, not the green blades which they left behind. Arghhh. This bummed me out because I was nearing the end of my prized stash of Kentucky Rainbow Heirloom Dent Corn from Susana Lein’s Salamander Springs Farm in Berea, Kentucky.

Planting seeds in jugs seemed like the perfect way to grow a quick and controlled crop to replace what I had lost. I cut two jugs in half, filled them with dirt, seeds, and water, and taped them up.

Eleven days later, I opened the jugs and planted the bushy seedlings.

I covered the bed with shade cloth to keep all marauders out.

It took about one minute for a crow to pull out the first seedling when I uncovered the bed. I set up a perimeter of string and dangling, flashy CD’s.

And an owl.

The plants did well. They grew as high as an elephant’s eye.

Eventually, I harvested and cooked the delicious, earthy-tasting ears.

Why do I love this corn? It is unusually savory instead of sweet. I love to roast the ears with a little olive oil and salt and cut the kernels off the cob. YUM!
 

The story doesn’t end there. (Does it ever?)

When I was cleaning out my garden tote in mid-October, I found these moldy, sprouting ears of Kentucky dent corn. I couldn’t throw them out.

I took one and stuck it in a recycled half-gallon jug.

I expected it to rot. Instead, it took off! I was thrilled by the unexpected growth from the individual kernels of corn on the cob. Many months later, the little jug garden is still thriving.

The scientist in me had to see if the sprouted cob was a fluke or if the results could be reproducible. I planted a two-year-old cob I had saved to show students an example of incomplete pollination. It, too, took off.

Plant a Seed with a Child and Share the Thrill of Growing Food Together

Milk jug gardening can be a fun, inexpensive, educational activity to do with children. Imagine how impactful it could be for a child to bring homegrown food to the dinner table, even if it’s only a few leaves of parsley or radish sprouts.

Free seeds for growing food can be obtained from seed exchanges at public libraries across the country.

During COVID, the Nashville Public Library Seed Exchange has let residents check out seeds online and pick them up curbside at one of their branches. This is what the seed bank looks like at one of the branches.

The seeds are donated by local gardeners. Members of one local non-profit, The Herb Society of Nashville, save seeds from their home gardens and get together seasonally to package them.

How to Make  a Milk Jug Greenhouse:

Supplies:

clean, plastic milk jugs (gallon and half-gallon sizes)
scissors
store-bought seed-starter dirt or the richest dirt you can find outside
a shovel or cup to spoon dirt into jugs
blue or masking tape
a marker
seeds
water

Instructions:

1. Using scissors, cut around the base of a clean jug about 4 inches from the bottom, leaving the plastic under the handle uncut to serve as a hinge for the greenhouse’s upper half.

2. Fill the jug with 3-4 inches of dirt. I have had good results using dirt from my garden. You could also buy bags of clean seed-starting potting soil.

3. Plant the seeds of your choice. It is fun to try seeds you may have in the house. I cut open a lemon, pulled out five seeds, and planted them, as well as a few cloves of garlic.

They all sprouted and continue to grow. I transplanted the garlic outdoors.

Months later, the lemon seedlings are still going strong!

4. Dribble water into each container until the soil is damp but not sopping wet. I do not put drainage holes in the bottom so I can bring the containers indoors.

5. Close the hinged top and tape around the cut edges of the plastic. Leave the jug spout uncovered for a little air circulation.

6. Label the container.

7. Place greenhouses outside if warm or inside in a sunny window if cold. After I planted the corn seeds, I went out of town for a week and left them untended. The seedlings flourished in my absence.

Radishes are good to grow if you want to see quick results but know that they do not transplant well. Keep the seedlings growing in the jug and encourage children to snip the greens to put in a salad or use in a sandwich.

Sowing seeds, tending plants, and harvesting food and flowers produce feelings of great satisfaction, joy, and wonderment while nourishing the body, mind, and spirit. Milk jug gardening is a fun and portable way to get started.

Happy Gardening!

Related Stories
How to Build a 4 x 4 Raised Garden Bed
Spring Planting Guide for Your Kitchen Garden
Growing and Cooking Sweet Potatoes!
Lemon Tree Very Pretty
Family Dirt
Asteraceae: My Favorite Family of Pollinator Plants
How To Curbside Recycle

Follow Judy’s Chickens on Instagram and Pinterest @JudysChickens.

If you enjoyed this post, consider becoming a follower. Be sure to press “confirm” on the follow-up letter sent to your email address.

© 2014-2021 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may not be reproduced without the written consent of Judy Wright.