Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sleeve Ironing Board

How did I manage without my nifty new sleeve ironing board??  I cannot recall, so I highly recommend a sleeve ironing board!  Shopping for something else at Jo Ann Fabrics, I saw it (for $14.99, but whew, I had a 40% off coupon). 

Here it is set up with my cousin's pants, which she asked me to hem into capris.  When I sew for extended family, I trade time, so she's doing a bit of childcare in exchange for the capris.

And looky, my sleeve ironing board tucks neatly in behind my big ironing board. 

Monday, August 30, 2010

Pimento Cheese

Remember I told you I canned pimentoes?  This all started when I helped my friend Rebecca move and I tasted her dad's amazing pimento cheese spread.  I tried to be nice, but I was very insistent that I have the recipe.  He looked me in the eye and said it started with canning pimentoes (pickled red bell pepper - I guess I thought those red bits in the middle of green olives just came with the package, but no, they are a condiment in their own right). Pimento cheese spread is a Southern thing, I learned, although my husband said he has seen it for sale in Northern deli cases.  But I know the Virginian recipe I got from Rebecca's dad is superior.

I made the first batch of pimento cheese spread last night, to go with our Sunday night meal of popcorn.  It's not very photogenic, and the Sunday night meal is prone to strangeness as you can see Genevieve eating her popcorn out of a wooden box.

We walked downtown for ice cream then, which I intended to take a photo of since it's been such a lovely summer tradition for us.  But Ben had a total meltdown in the ice cream shop and so I only remembered my camera when the children stopped to play an outside piano on the way home. . . .which has also been a  lovely summer tradition.

Pimento Cheese Spread - - with thanks to Ben S. and his cousin in the Shenandoah Valley
1/2 c. mayo
3/4 lb. sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 small onion, minced
1 cup minced pimentoes
1/2 c. salad olives, diced
Tabasco to taste

Mix together.  Eat on bread or crackers or straight out of the bowl when no one's looking. (If you want, I will post the recipe for canning the pimentoes too).

I want you to know that we do still eat Sunday dinner, but it's mostly repeats of meals I've already posted on.  Let's just say when I have a new, photogenic Sunday dinner, I will post on that.  Otherwise you should assume we are fine and eating big Sunday dinners.


12 large red peppers, ground (I used my food processor)
3 c. sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. salt
2 c. vinegar

Combine and simmer one hour.
Pack hot pimentos into hot 1/2 pint jars, topping immediately with heated lids and rings.  Allow to cool and check seal.  This is known as open-kettle canning and is not generally recommended by the officials anymore, but I feel comfortable doing it for pickled things.  If you are not comfortable, definitely process in a hot water bath for whatever period of time you would do pickles.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

My Love

In this heart lies for you
A lark born only for you
Who sings only to you
My love
My love
My love

I am waiting for you
For only to adore you
My heart is for you
My love
My love
My love

- - -two verses of a song by Sinead O'Connor, sung by a quartet as my bridal processional. . .

Eleven years ago, today, wearing my mother's wedding dress, made for her in 1973 by my grandmother. . .

I stepped into marriage with my sweetheart.  And it has been deeply joyful and fun and very hard.  I am grateful to God for such a good man, for such a good marriage. . . for our children and the family we are making.

My first cousins, the girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, looking at a swan on the lake.  This is my favorite photo from our wedding.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Making Yogurt

In a small bowl or glass liquid measure, put 1/4 to 1/3 cup plain yogurt.  Set aside with a whisk and rubber scraper.
Prepare incubation method (I have a yogurt "maker", so I plug it in to warm and get out 6 yogurt cups).

Heat 1 quart of milk in a saucepan, covered or not, using a candy thermometer to check that it reaches 180 F and checking/stirring often.

Sit the saucepan in a cold water bath to cool to 105 F, still using the candy thermometer to check.

Pour approximately one cup of the cooled milk into the starter yogurt.  Whisk well.  Pour the combined starter and milk back into the saucepan and mix everything, again well.  Use the rubber scraper to make sure you're not leaving behind the good stuff in the saucepan and bowl.

Pour the starter and milk into prepared containers, with loosely fastened lids, for incubation.  Incubate at 110 to 120 F for at least 2 hours, usually 3 and up to 5.  When it is jelled, refrigerate immediately to stop the bacterial growth (the longer yogurt bacteria grows, the more tart and firm the yogurt).

Notes on the Method:

There are tons of ways to incubate yogurt - explain your method in the comments if you wish, to help along people that don't have yogurt makers.

Most recipes tell you to sterilize everything you are using to make yogurt.  I don't bother:  all my things are just clean from being washed with all the regular dishes.  If you are having trouble getting yogurt to set, try  using boiling water to sterilize all the utensils and containers you are using.

Making yogurt with skim milk will give thin, watery yogurt which is fine for baking; for eating straight up, I'd recommend at least 2% milk.

When you heat the milk at the beginning, you are killing any potentially competitive bacteria, so don't skip this step or you may end up with just spoiled milk, not yogurt (yup, I learned this firsthand); you will introduce the desired bacteria in the starter.

I make a cold water bath by plugging my sink and putting in a few inches of cold water and a tray of ice cubes. You can allow the milk to cool without the cold water bath, but it takes a lot longer.

One time, irritated with a batch that wasn't setting, I went to bed and checked it in the morning.  It had set!  Usually, however, my yogurt sets in 2.5-3 hours.

How I use yogurt:
In recipes where sour cream or buttermilk is called for.  To use yogurt for buttermilk, you may want to add a tablespoon or two of milk per cup to get a more accurate consistency.

To make salad dressings.

Smoothies - or popsicles.

Peach kuchen.

Occasionally as a snack with fruit or granola.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fresh Peach Pie

We love this pie so much, even my husband who usually has no desire for dessert.

The options listed with the recipe include blueberries, peaches, and strawberries.  In June, I make it with just strawberries.  But the version Genevieve is proudly (hungrily) holding is white peaches with a few blackberries.  The later photos show yellow peaches with blueberries, at a picnic.

Fresh Peach Pie (called Strawberry Pie in Simply in Season)

First, bake a tart crust.  I usually do this when the oven is on for another reason and then I tuck the crusts, still in their pans, into a bag and into the freezer.

Cut together until crumbly and pea-sized, or smaller:
1/3 c. WW pastry flour
2/3 c. white flour
1/3 c. room temperature butter
2 Tbs. powdered sugar
pinch salt

Press into a 9" tart or pie pan.  Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, until golden.  Cool. 

For the fruit filling:
Mash in a saucepan:
1 cup sliced peaches

Add and whisk together:
1/2 c. water
1 scant cup sugar (depending on your fruit, less)
3 Tbs. cornstarch

Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils.  Boil and stir for 1 minute.  Remove from heat.

Stir in:
2 Tbs. lemon juice

Allow to cool.

Fold in:
4-5 cups sliced peaches (I usually mix in a few berries of some sort)

Spoon into cold shortbread tart crust.  Chill for 2-3 hours before serving.

P.S.  I suddenly need to post all my summerish thoughts before it's too late because the weather is crisp right now, I'm making a school dress for G, and the first butternut squashes have appeared on market. 

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Chubby Red Teapot

I finally found my birthday present, when I wasn't even looking for it.  My birthday was in March, but I could not find an everyday teapot that I liked for a price I could stomach.  I already have a frilly, packed-away chintzware teapot and I saw plenty of those for sale.  What I wanted was sturdy, bright, and simple.  As I stood in line to pay for undies at TJ Maxx last week, there it was and when I turned it over, it was only $5.99.  Hooray!

I'm already planning a tea cozy.

Unless I think of something better, the teapot will be tucked beside the microwave for easy grabbing and a little eye candy.   You understand why it's not going in my coffee and tea cupboard from this photo.

I'm ready for cool weather now!

I wonder how long I will reflexively, abstractedly shop through china sections in stores before I remember with a jolt that I can stop looking:  I have my teapot.  Surely I'm not the only one who does this!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


I've fiddled around with homemade popsicles for a while now in this way:

1.  melted a little unflavored gelatin in warm water, added it to the light syrup left from a jar of home canned peaches

2.  smoothies made with yogurt, fruit, a smidge of vanilla

3.  just yogurt

4.  leftover pudding

5.  very ripe banana mashed with some orange juice

My children still make a royal mess when they eat popsicles, but it sort of answers the ice-cream-cone-lickin'-jones, so I make the effort.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Greek Breakfast

Before breakfast recently, I saw this next to the back door I had opened, early, when I got up. . .

And I wondered if Ben had woken up and come downstairs before I knew it . . .

Yes,  . . . and was happily taking advantage of the rainwater-filled pool.  I sneaked back inside and grabbed my camera.  Precious.

Then we went inside and I cooked breakfast, inspired by a Greek dish I read about in Saveur.
We had earthy greens, sauteed with lots of olive oil and salt (and I added one garlic clove), next to a tender fried egg with thick bread on the side.

Oh man. I didn't realize I missed bitter greens in the midst of the lush summer produce. It was such a satisfying breakfast.

* * *
Now, a breakfast question for you:  I find it hard to eat eggs and toast without drinking a bit of orange juice.  Sometimes I am happy with tomato juice, so I guess what I like is the acid.  Mostly my OJ habit is not really very healthy or local and if it weren't for stocking up on concentrate at the discount grocer, it would be an expensive habit too.  We do actually drink small glasses of the stuff and I water down the children's juice by half.  But still!  I'm interested in new ways - new side dishes maybe? - to eat our mainstay breakfast that do not rely on OJ every time.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

They Play Hard

And we allow the children to make messes, but at the end of the day, we clean it all up.

I'm finding that the older they get, the more involved and complicated the messes get.   I am able to bear with it as long it gets cleaned up. . .

. . .and then I have a responsive burst of creativity in the quiet, composed house and I make a sewing mess of my own. . .

Friday, August 20, 2010

Picking a Cantaloupe

Man, the cantaloupes are good this year!  My uncle, a farmer, taught me how to choose a good 'lope back when I worked at his roadside stand as a girl. 

The sweetest cantaloupes have a well-developed, raised webbing on their rind - the more defined and rough, the better.  I don't know why this is so, but this tip has never failed me.  The cantaloupe is ripe when the stem end does not show any green and the other end smells good and sweetly cantaloupe-y.

Now, about choosing watermelons, I know nothing.  And I've heard that there is no good way to choose a watermelon.  Is this true?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beach Girls, 2010

Since I was in high school, a group of girlfriends and I have gone to the beach every summer for a few days, even through all the changes in our lives.  I'm sharing a few tidbits here, including a few things For the Record.

This year we blessed K as she bought a little cabin in New England.

With a little luck, a crockpot and a microwave, we ate well (the actual move, with all the furnishings, is coming later).  We made Asian beef using A's own farm-raised beef and C microwaved individual ears of corn in their husks for four minutes (I had no idea you could do that!  next time I don't have an hour to do my corn on the grill, I'm going to nuke 'em; do you all know this corn cooking trick??).   C microwaved the green beans too, but alas, there was no stove to make brown butter.  I used to eat steamed green beans plain, but this year I have been browning a smidge of butter to put over them:  perfect love every time!

K picked some end-of-season blackberries around the cabin; we ate those for breakfast with C's granola and yogurt with great satisfaction.

To help furnish the kitchen, I had made two pot holders.  Here are my children holding the potholders just after I made them, and then in their proper kitchen, at K's cabin.  Isn't that window over the kitchen sink lovely?

While we drove to the cabin and while we snoused around the area, I knitted a scarf for Ben.  As she was reading a novel about knitting, C itched to knit again, and in my capacious knitting bag, I found her some little balls of cotton yarn and sz. 7 needles.  She took home a pretty dishcloth (directions here).

This is the first time in seven years there were no nursing babies along - I'm sure this simplified and rarefied our pleasures.  We need to think of a better name for our little group because we do not need the beach to have this treasured time. 

And now I'm home, happy for my home and my family and my bed.  When I got home, I was much amused to find my husband in the kitchen, blanching and freezing his precious okra.  He loves it and had in mind to pickle it, but as I flatly refused to consider preserving another thing until applesauce, he did the easier thing and froze it.  He wants to try using it in stir fries and curries this winter; I'm planning on a few pods for soup. 

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Consarned Tomatoes

They're finally done and amazingly, I can still eat them.  I got three baskets (also called a box, also called a half-bushel) for $4.50 apiece.  Very cheap.

I canned 21 quarts of whole tomatoes (I still have some jars left from last year).

I also made half a batch of pizza sauce (recipe in Simply in Season) that resulted in 9.5 cups for the freezer.  Here's a thrifty thing I do:  I don't make a lot of tomato sauce in the summer because it involves lots of heat and humidity to reduce it.  I want that heat and humidity in my house in the winter, so I use my whole canned tomatoes to make sauce then.

I canned 11 pints of salsa (Simply in Season) and 4 of them did not seal.  I wanted to hurl them against the neighbor's house.  But the next morning, I dredged out the salsa, heated the canner up again, used new lids and hallelujah, they sealed.  And the smidge that didn't go in the jars was very picante, just the way we like it, so I was consoled. 

A little.  Because I still had tomatoes ripening in the living room and I had met my desired tomato quota.  So I chunked up their butts, pureed them in the blender, and boiled them down for however long it took me to watch Dirty Dancing (inspired by this post and thinking of Patrick Swayze's death earlier this year) and work on the Klara Annabella.  I was giddily transported back to high school.  And that's the best thing I can say about the 6 cups of tomato sauce that resulted.

I almost gave up canning this week.  I'm not joking.  But the only thing I want to do yet is applesauce and that can wait until autumn.

Now, finally, let's talk about that apron I am wearing in these pictures.  I made it last summer just in time to can peaches.  The pattern is McCalls 2811 from the Retro Collection.  It's the perfect apron for canning because it covers me completely, has pockets, and lots of rick rack.  The border print and cherries are so bright and 1950s that I automatically feel clever and attractive.  (Thanks to my husband for the apron photos.)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Wearing the Crinoline

A year ago this month, I purchased a vintage crinoline for $40 to wear under a 1950s silk party dress.  It was a great evening, dressed to the nines for a charity ball, but alas, my crinoline has lived in its bag ever since.

My friend also called it a "can can!"

Until I stopped by a thrift store and bought this circle skirt for $2.50.  (My husband said bemusedly, "I never thought I'd be married to a woman who wears sequins."  The sequins are there, a little subdued in the photo  - thank goodness, because I intend this skirt to be daytime wear!) 

Somehow I remembered my bagged up crinoline and looky, it goes under my skirt and makes it so deliciously swishy and wide!

When my dear friend Rebecca bought me the white flower brooch, I had no idea what I would wear it with, but it was selected under the principle that "if you gather things you love, they will play together nicely."  

I love how all the elements of this get-up go together, but I don't feel matchy-matchy or costumey. I wore the outfit again today to substitute teach, minus the crinoline and the brooch, with more casual black shoes.

Now, this has been a bright spot in a week of slightly insane preserving.  I did not intend to can and freeze all week long, but thanks to the tyrrany of the produce, that is what happened.  I'll be leaving for a little vacation with some dear girlfriends - maybe one more post before then if the consarned tomatoes will only get done.