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Genius printer hack you won’t believe

Have you ever had to print a paper or mailing label NOW and realized your black ink cartridge is out of ink? As much as I try to keep an extra on hand, sometimes I run out without a backup. Something I’ve found that works in a pinch is to simply remove the black ink cartridge. This forces the printer to use the color cartridge to print the document instead.

With and without the empty black ink cartridge removed.
With and without the empty black ink cartridge removed.

The label on the right was my first attempt at printing a mailing label before realizing that I was overdue for a new black cartridge. The label on the right was printed with the black cartridge removed.

My printer will usually print one or two jobs this way without complaining, then I may have to put the old cartridge back in for a bit then remove it again if I need to print something else. Usually by that time I have been able to get a replacement cartridge.

It’s always better to be prepared, but in a pinch this trick works like magic. It has certainly saved me a rushed trip to buy ink on more than one occasion.


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Sewing Chores: Tips to maximize sewing time

Even if you love sewing, there’s some parts that can be a chore. Ignoring those tasks or leaving them for later can result in wasted sewing time and money. Here’s a list of chores I try to tackle when I have a few minutes so that my real sewing time is spent actually sewing.

Bobbin winding

If you have a Side Winder, bobbin thread running out mid-project might not be a big hassle. If you rely on your machine to wind bobbins, though, running out means stopping your work, re-threading your machine to wind a bobbin and then setting it back up to sew. To prevent this headache, when you have a few spare moments, wind a few bobbins in your most commonly used colors. If you have a project in mind, wind a couple of bobbins in the needed colors. Keep extra bobbins on hand and wind at least one for every different thread color you have. 

Pre-winding extra bobbins makes this notice less annoying.

Clean your machine

Lint, threads and dust build up over time and can cause poor stitch quality or even damage your machine. It’s a good idea to make a habit of brushing the debris out at the end of each project, or during projects with linty fabrics.

If the inside of your machine looks like this, you should probably clean it more often.

Periodically you’ll want to vacuum out your machine to really clean it. Vacuum attachments made for cleaning computers work well for this. Some people use canned air, but that’s not recommended. It pushes some of the debris deeper into your machine.

Oil your machine

Once your machine is thoroughly clean, take a moment to oil it according to your manual. This will keep it running smoothly and reduce the need for costly repairs. If you don’t have the manual, you can usually find one online. 

After oiling, always sew a few rows on scrap fabric to soak up excess oil. That way, you won’t risk ruining a project with oil spots. 

Tidy up

The best practice is to put away tools and excess fabric as you go. It’s easy to get distracted and forget, though. Taking a moment here and there to run through your sewing area to tidy up when you aren’t working on a project can save sewing time later.

Keep a shopping list

Nothing is more annoying than having to stop work because you ran out of a necessary supply. Make note of supplies that are low or that have run out on a notepad to take on your next shopping trip.

Prewash fabric

Unless you know your final project will never be washed, you should always prewash your fabric. One way to make sure this happens is to wash it as soon as you bring it home from the store. You could also work it into your usual laundry schedule. Having a prewashing routine prevents delaying a project or worse, giving in to the temptation to make something and have your final product ruined in the wash.

Tip: Serging or zig-zag stitching the cut edges will prevent excess fraying in the wash.https://subearthancottage.com/random-sewing-tip-painless-prewash

These are the chores that, for me, are the biggest sewing time-wasters when neglected. Please share your dreaded sewing chores and tips to keep them from becoming time-wasters in the comments.

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10 Reasons I Love My Electric Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)

This was originally posted in 2017. I’ve been using my electric pressure cooker a lot lately to have easy, healthy meals. It’s been a while since I’ve shared, so I thought it was a good time to revisit it.

Last Christmas my lovely parents bought us an 8 qt. GoWise Pressure cooker that I have used almost daily ever since. This is the exact one I have:

With all the sales happening, and the Instant Pot craze still going strong, I know lots of people will be getting an electric pressure cooker and then wondering what to do with it. At least that’s what I did. Now that I’ve used mine for a while, I have some favorite uses for it to share with newbies. I have never used an official Instant Pot, so I can’t say how they compare. They should work about the same, though, so if you have an Instant Pot or other similar electric pressure cooker you should be able to enjoy all this awesomeness, too.

10 Reasons I Love My Electric Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)

Easy Instant Pot Boiled eggs:

Boiled eggs on the stovetop are easy, unless you’re getting ready for work or school or have young children or are otherwise easily distracted. Then you either burn them or undercook them. Peeling them also is hit or miss. Sometimes the shell comes off easily, other times it takes half the egg white with it.

In the electric pressure cooker, I can put a dozen eggs in the steamer basket with a little water, push the button for eggs (mine has 1,3, and 5 minute settings for soft, medium and hard), and forget about it. The end result is perfectly cooked eggs that peel so easily my two year old can do it.

Potatoes:

Even in the microwave, I have a hard time getting potatoes and sweet potatoes to cook properly. It seems like I always have to restart it a few times to finally get them done. With the pressure cooker, I set it for 15-17 minutes depending on how soft I want them, and they are always done. I’m trying to quit using my microwave all together, too, so the pressure cooker is definitely the faster option compares to the oven.

Slow cooker recipes:

Anything you’d make in a crockpot can be cooked in the pressure cooker. You can either use the slow cooker setting, or, if you forgot about cooking dinner until after lunch, you can cook it under pressure and have it done in an hour or less.

Not only that, but, unlike with a slow cooker, you can use the sauté setting to brown meats or anything that needs browning first. That means more flavor with fewer dirty dishes.

Beans:

If I forget to presoak dry beans, I’ll put them in my pressure cooker for five minutes to do a quick presoak, drain, and add back to the pot along with the seasonings and broth or cooking water, then cook using the bean setting. It’s possible to skip the presoak entirely and go straight to cooking, if I’m short on time, but I prefer to presoak when I can.

If I get them cooking early enough in the day, I’ll switch to the slow cooker setting after they’ve cooked with pressure. That gives them the super yummy, second day flavor on day one.

Stews, soups and curries:

Browning meats and onions in the pot add flavor, and you can use the pressure then slow cook trick to further develop the flavor.

Bone broth:

Normally I would simmer bones all day on the stove for broth. With the pressure cooker, I set it to the two hour maximum time and get yummy bone broth. Easy Homemade Chicken Broth in an Electric Pressure Cooker

Stackable foods:

Smaller meats like chicken breasts, vegetables and rice can be put into separate heat-proof containers and steam cooked at the same time. I usually cook too much at once to do that, but when it works out, it is handy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen like using the oven. Easy All in One Electric Pressure Cooker Meal

Rice:

It cooks rice even better than my little rice cooker, and I don’t risk burning it like I do on the stovetop. (There’s lots of distractions here, people.) I don’t use it much for rice, though, since I usually cook curries and things I serve with rice in the pressure cooker. Whenever my rice cooker dies, though, I’m seriously considering a second, smaller pressure cooker as a replacement.

Yogurt:

I haven’t quite perfected yogurt with any method yet, but so far, the best I’ve made is in jars on the trivet in the pressure cooker. It is still a little runny, but it works well for smoothies.

Baking in an Instant Pot:

I’ve only done this once, but thought I’d mention it. You can bake cakes and breads in it by setting the bread or cake pan on the trivet and adding water to the pot for steam. This helps keep the bread or cake moist, which is especially handy for baking with gluten or grain-free flours.

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Ways to use your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker.
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Quick Drawstring Bag Tutorial or How to Reuse Your SubEarthan Cottage Soap Wrapping

I wrap my soaps in fabric because it looks nice, it allows the soap to breathe (read here for why), and because it feels better than plastic. I often wonder what happens to the wrapping. I’m sure there are some that toss it. I know of one person who collects the fabric for quilts. For those of you who, like me, don’t want to throw away something that could be useful but don’t know what to do with it, I have a tutorial for a drawstring pouch, just for you.

This is done with the wrapping from one of my soaps, but you could make it in any size you like.

Materials
Cloth wrapper from soap (roughly 8×11 inches)
Jute string from soap (about 29 inches)
Thread

Tools
Needle or Sewing machine
Safety pin or Bodkin
Scissors
Iron

First, iron your fabric flat. Then, fold down a long edge about 3/4 of an inch to one inch and press. This is for the casing. It doesn’t have to be super precise.

Sew a straight seam along the bottom of the flap to form the casing. All the sewing can be done by hand or machine. I have no time or patience, so I choose machine. Fold your material in half with right sides together like a book.

The fold is at the bottom of this photo.

Next, starting just below the casing seam, sew down the side and across the bottom. I use anywhere from a 1/4 to 1/2 inch seam allowance for this. Again, it doesn’t have to be precise.

With scissors, clip the bottom corners, being careful not to cut your stitching. You could probably skip this step, but it helps the corners look square and crisp. Turn your bag right side out.

Now it’s time to thread the string. Tie one end of the string to a safety pin, large paper clip, or attach a small bodkin. This makes it easier to work it through the casing. Thread it through the casing, safety pin first.

Once you get the string to the other side, remove your safety pin or other tool and adjust the string so that the ends are even.

Knot the ends together once or twice to keep it from coming out.

Ta-da! It’s done! Perfect for organizing your purse, storing jewelry or other small items, or as a small gift bag.

Or holding your favorite bar of soap.

Tutorials are always a little complicated to write because it’s easy to overlook small steps in things you do frequently. If something is unclear, please ask. 🙂

If you have any other creative uses for a SubEarthan Cottage soap wrapper, I would love to hear it!

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Gluten free chocolate chip cookie recipe

Gluten Free Cookies SubEarthan Cottage

At least from what I’ve tasted, most store bought gluten free chocolate chip cookies are very dry and either too sweet or lacking in flavor. Chocolate chip cookies are practically a staple food, so I hacked my grandma’s cookies recipe. The results are definitely not dry, lacking in flavor or too sweet.

Jump to Recipe

The biggest change I made, of course, is using gluten free flour. My preferred flour is Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 gluten free flour. Others will work, but if it’s not one that is blended to be a direct substitute for wheat flour, you will probably want to add about one half teaspoon of xanthan gum.

Even with the 1 to 1 blends, sometimes the cookies spread more than I like. The original recipe calls for one cup and two tablespoons of flour. If I have it on hand, I’ll replace the two tablespoons of flour with a generous one tablespoon of coconut flour. That prevents them from spreading too much. Chilling the dough for a few hours or overnight helps, too, but who has time for that? Besides, the sooner they go in the oven, the less cookie dough I’ll eat.

The original recipe calls for shortening. I would much rather use butter, but one of my boys is lactose intolerant. Straight coconut oil adds to the spreading problem, so I compromise and use half shortening and half coconut oil. The small amount of milk in most chocolate chips isn’t a problem for my son, but using for dairy-free chips would make these completely dairy-free, too! If dairy isn’t a problem, feel free to swap all the fats with butter.

The final change happened after staying up late watching Martha Stewart bake cookies. She mentioned that brown sugar helps make the cookies be moist. The original recipe calls for more white sugar than brown. I tried a few different ratios before settling on using equal amounts of brown and white sugars.

The final result is a yummy, gluten free cookie that isn’t dry and crumbly.

Gluten free chocolate chip cookies

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 well beaten eggs
  • 2 cups 1 to 1 gluten free flour plus 2 generous tablespoons of coconut flour (or 2 cups plus 4 tablespoons 1 to 1 gluten free flour)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 generous cup of chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 375° F.

Cream together the shortening, coconut oil, sugars and vanilla. I usually use a mixer for everything, but you can do it by hand, too.

Fold in the eggs and mix well.

In another bowl, sift (or just mix really well) the dry ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients and mix well.

Stir in the chocolate chips. If you are patient, chill the dough for a few hours or overnight.

Otherwise, grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or silicone liners. Greasing is what the original recipe calls for, but I prefer the results from lining the sheets.

Form your cookies (I use a 2 tablespoon sized scoop, but you can make them bigger or smaller) and place them two inches apart on the sheets.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them during the last few minutes. You want them to be golden and not doughy in the middle.

Cool for a few minutes on the sheets before removing them.

A few notes on the recipe: My recipe is actually double the original. I almost never made a single batch because it’s not really any more effort. If you want, you can save some of the dough in the fridge for a few days.

I also don’t have an accurate cookie count, mainly because cookie dough is delicious. I think I can usually get about 36 cookies with my 2 tablespoon scoop, but that is a a very rough guess.

Gluten and Dairy Free Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Yummy gluten and dairy free chocolate chip cookie recipe. Can be made with real butter and flour if you don't have those restrictions.
Cook Time8 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: chocolate, cookie, dairy free, gluten free
Servings: 36 cookies

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups gluten free 1 to 1 flour
  • 2 tbsp coconut flour Or 4 more tablespoons gluten free flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips Make sure these are gluten and dairy free!

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375° F.
  • Cream together the shortening, coconut oil, sugars and vanilla. I usually use a mixer for everything, but you can do it by hand, too.
  • Fold in the eggs and mix well.
  • In another bowl, sift (or just mix really well) the dry ingredients.
  • Add the dry ingredients a little at a time to the wet ingredients and mix well.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips. If you are patient, chill the dough for a few hours or overnight. This helps prevent spreading. I am not patient, lol.
  • To bake, grease your cookie sheets or line with parchment paper or silicone liners. Greasing is what the original recipe calls for, but I prefer the results from lining the sheets.
  • Form your cookies (I use a 2 tablespoon sized scoop, but you can make them bigger or smaller) and place them two inches apart on the sheets.
  • Bake for about 8-10 minutes, keeping a close eye on them during the last few minutes. You want them to be golden and not doughy in the middle.
  • Cool for a few minutes on the sheets before removing them.

Notes

A few notes on the recipe: My recipe is actually double the original. I almost never made a single batch because it’s not really any more effort. If you want, you can save some of the dough in the fridge for a few days.
You can use all shortening instead of half shortening and half coconut oil, or use all butter or butter substitute. 
I also don’t have an accurate cookie count, mainly because cookie dough is delicious. I think I can usually get about 36 cookies with my 2 tablespoon scoop, but that is a a very rough guess.

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Easy Gluten & Dairy Free Fruit Cobbler

This fruit cobbler is easy to make and uses mostly pantry staples. From start to finish, you’ll have a delicious cobbler in under an hour. If you aren’t gluten or dairy free, I’ve included the ingredients for that, too!

Bob’s Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free flour blend* is my favorite for baking, but I’ve used others with success, too. If you use a blend that doesn’t have xanthan gum or something similar, I do recommend adding probably about 1/4 of a teaspoon of xanthan gum as well.

The assembly and not stirring part seems a little weird, but trust the process. My oven runs hot, so I start checking it after about 40 minutes. Sometimes different flour blends can make a difference, too, so the first time you make it, I recommend checking it early. When the top is golden and just starting to brown around the edges, it’s done. Enjoy!

Easy Gluten and Dairy Free Fruit Cobbler

This fruit cobbler is easy to make and uses mostly pantry staples. From start to finish, you'll have a delicious cobbler in under an hour. If you aren't gluten or dairy free, I've included the ingredients for that, too!
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Course: Dessert
Keyword: dairy free, easy, egg free, gluten free, simple, vegan
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 0.25 cup coconut oil Or your preferred butter substitute, or just butter if you eat dairy.
  • 1 cup gluten free flour blend I like Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1 Gluten Free flour blend. Use regular flour if you're not gluten free.
  • 1 cup almond milk Or your preferred plant milk, or just milk if you eat dairy.
  • 1 tsp baking powder I accidentally used a tablespoon once and it came out a little fluffier. I haven't decided which I prefer, so experiment and see what you like.
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 can fruit pie filling (20 oz) Cherry is my favorite, but apple and blueberry are really good, too.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract Optional, but I add vanilla to just about everything sweet.

Instructions

  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Add coconut oil or substitute to a 2 quart baking dish and place in the oven to melt. I do this even if the oil is already liquid to warm it up.
  • Meanwhile, combine the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
  • Add the milk and vanilla (if using) to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  • When the oil or butter is melted, add the batter to the baking dish. DO NOT STIR.
  • Pour the fruit pie filling on top of the batter. Again, DO NOT STIR.
  • Bake for about 50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Notes

The assembly and not stirring part seems a little weird, but trust the process. My oven runs hot, so I start checking it after about 40 minutes. Sometimes different flour blends can make a difference, too, so the first time you make it, I recommend checking it early. When the top is golden and just starting to brown around the edges, it’s done. Enjoy!

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*Note: If you make a purchase through this Amazon link, I will receive a small commission. It doesn’t change the cost to you.  

Fruit cobbler
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Easy fix for worn out denim jeans

Denim jeans don’t have to be tossed or cut up for crafts when they start to wear out. With a little effort, you can easily get some more wear out of your favorite jeans. For this tutorial, I’m using a pair of denim blue jeans that are still in good shape except for where my thighs touch. There they are really worn on one side and there is a hole on the other. Because of where the hole was located, I wasn’t comfortable even wearing them around the house, so I decided to try a simple fix.

Interfacing for support

First, I ironed lightweight fusible interfacing on the inside of the worn areas, making sure to completely cover all the worn out spots with the interfacing.

Reinforce with stitching

Once it fused and cooled down, I turned them right side out. Using a narrow zig-zag, I stitched back and forth over the hole and worn areas. This serves to secure the interfacing and add strength.

If you can, drop or cover the feed dogs on your sewing machine so you can move the jeans freely under the needle. The machine I used doesn’t have a way to drop them and I don’t have the special foot plate to cover them. Instead, I used a combination of repositioning and forward and reverse stitching to make it work.

Denim Jeans Fix

Depending on the location, you could use contrasting thread and decorative stitches to turn the repair into an embellishment.

Lengthening a slightly short pair of jeans

I also have a pair of jeans I love, but they needed a button sewn back on. They were also a little short, so I replaced the button and let out the hem while watching TV one evening. These heavy denim jeans are now ready for the coming colder months.

Buttons!

These have an obvious line where the hem was. They’re really cute so I don’t care.

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Easy denim jeans fix.