Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Lamb Stew

We split a local lamb with friends Ron and Marilou this year and tonight I made our first supper from it.  I love lamb.  Unbeknownst to my brain, however, my fingers checked yes to the getting the lamb organs.  Ron and Marilou gave their lamb liver away to someone who likes it (according to Joy of Cooking, lamb liver is the most desirable; in my opinion, no liver is desirable).  After a little research, I decided to use the lamb heart along with the other lamb cubes in the Italian-Style Lamb Stew I made from Simply in Season

And I confess it here:  I did not tell my family there was lamb heart in the stew.  I guess I will find out now how often my husband reads my blog!  I was surprised to taste that the heart (I had chopped it smaller just in case it was gross - maybe it would disappear into the sauce if it was small, right?) tasted just like beef.  And really, the stew was delicious with rosemary, red wine, tomatoes, and white beans.   Everyone said so and had seconds.
I served the stew over pasta with bread to mop up the delicious sauce.  Ben garnished his stew with pomegranate arils, but the rest of us used grated parmesan. 

I like the warmth of a tablecloth in winter, but I extend its cleanliness by giving the children wipeable placemats.  Ben still sits on his booster, but he doesn't always wear a bib.  I usually get more exercised about a bib at breakfast when his clothing is clean.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Make-Do Booster

This is our booster seat:

The Word Finder and Thesaurus in their tape-mended box.  We appropriated it from the bookshelves a long time ago when Genevieve decided she wasn't going to sit in the high chair any longer and we hadn't bought a huge plastic contraption.  We looked around for the nearest thing to a telephone book and, lo, it is perfect. 
If I ever found a cute vintage booster for cheap, I would put the books back on the shelf.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I did it! A batch of goodies went to a local consignment store yesterday under the "Thrift at Home" moniker.

I have been working at blinding speed the past week and a half to produce all this stuff.  I'm putting the pictures here For the Record.

I did enjoy all the work, though, because I love playing with colors and I varied the colors to please myself.

This pale blue (faux) linen was scraps left from the bridesmaids' dresses in my wedding.  Paired with a traditional plaid and ric rac.

I love this color combination so much that it's going to appear again. It's a gorgeous Anna Maria Horner flowered chartreuse, and I backed it with olive green. Topstitched in rust, the color of the rose stems.
Brown scraps from this skirt, striped scraps from the ties on the beach dress, the last of the blue sheet used in the caftan and the comforter.  Topstiched in brilliant blue.  A simple scarf.

A comforter scrap again.  Could be a table runner, but I was thinking scarf.  Machine quilted in various colors.

Apron scraps. Playing with applique.

If you're local and want to know, email me and I will point you to the shop.  For the rest, I put one of the oven towels in the etsy shop, but it was snapped up already. Sometimes I think, wow, this really might work!

Friday, November 26, 2010

"From the Hands of Your Earth"

This is the song, from our church hymnal, that has been running through my mind. So I set it to the few Thanksgiving pictures I snapped.
From the hands of your earth
and the lap of your sky,
your gifts are poured on us each day.
Your arms surround us with your care;
accept our love and thanks, we pray.
 - lyrics by Jean Janzen, a Mennonite poet

[baked butternuts, waiting to be scooped out for pie]

[always patched, always tasty] 

[dried out for the cornbread dressing - recipe in More with Less]

[turkey brining]

[turkey carcass turning into stock overnight in the crockpot]

So many blessings, so many undocumented and unnoticed.  Thank you, God, even for the blessings we can't name. . . "accept our love and thanks, we pray. . ."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What to Eat the Day After Thanksgiving

My pumpkin pies are in the fridge.  The bread is staling on the counter for the dressing.  The turkey is brining.  I love Thanksgiving. 

But I'm still going to give you a recommendation for what to eat the day after, when you're done with rich, heavy food.   This is a wonderful light meal, full of crisp, clean flavors.  Better than a celery or green grape cleanse, I bet.

Warm French Lentil Salad (adapted from Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective)

Cook 1.5 cups lentils with 1/2 tsp. salt until tender, but not mushy - using about 3 c. water (they recommend du Puy/French lentils - I just use my regular old green ones) .  Set aside.

Saute until the fennel bulb is just softened:
1 fennel bulb, chopped (or several stalks celery)
3-6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground fennel seeds (I have whole ones and I just grind them around in my mortar & pestle a little bit)
1 and 1/2 tsp. thyme

Mix the sauteed stuff with the lentils.

Have ready:
chopped salad greens, especially escarole or endive or something hearty and bitter like that
lemon wedges or some vinegar
toasted walnuts
feta or chevre

To serve:
Make a bed of greens, pile some warm lentils on top, then some walnuts and feta with generous sprinklings of the fresh lemon.  Eat with crusty bread (for example) dipped in olive oil and salt.

My children think all the dipping and sprinkling and garnishing is fantastic. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I Love My Hot Chocolate

1.  it's sooo deliciously chocolately, not just sugar-sweet like the pre-mixed stuff or the other homemade mixes I've tried over the years
2.  I've got a big supply.
3.  I think it's cheap (if I was better at math and not so lazy, I would figure it out; I buy my Ghirardelli bars on sale for $2).

Cocoa Mix (from Good Housekeeping January 2009)

In food processor, process:
1 and 1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 and 1/4 c. sugar
6 oz. semisweet chocolate, broken up (your hot chocolate will be as good as the chocolate you use, so pick your favorite!  I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate )
1/4 tsp. salt

Blend until almost smooth.  Store in airtight container at room temperature.  Makes about 3.5 cups, a nice big supply.

To mix up the hot chocolate, add 1-3 Tbs. mix to 1 cup cold milk and heat (I use the microwave).

Variations listed that I want to try, except I love it so much I haven't tinkered with it:
mocha (add some instant coffee)
Mexican (add 2 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. cayenne)
vanilla (add half a vanilla bean - pod and seeds - to the food processor)

A nice cup keeps me company as I work very hard at making things for the etsy shop and, very likely, for a local shop as well.  This is new territory for me, so I often wonder if my nervousness is normal or if it's protective shrewdness kicking in.  Time will tell!  But at least I've got a rock solid recipe for hot chocolate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Dollies Do Not Get Cold

First Genevieve swaddles her dolly Lana in a patchwork quilt I made with my grandmother when I was about 10.

Then Ben puts an extra quilt on.  It's a scrap that my other grandma gave me recently.  She had hand quilted these pre-printed nursery rhymes for my sister and me to sleep under in the pink bedroom we shared.  To look at those white squares with Little Jack Horner and whatnot took me back to how much Melanie and I fought over covers, told stories in the dark, and jockeyed to escape making the bed.  Maybe it was coincidental, but we didn't really become great friends until we stopped sharing a bedroom and I moved out to college.

I bound the scrap and gave it to my children to use for dollies.

Ben told me this morning that he wanted to hold a baby, a baby "wearing a shirt, a vest, and underwear."  Then I reminded my little potty-trainer that babies wear diapers because they don't know how to use the toilet yet.  And he went off to get his front-end loader.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

Making Fitted Sheets Fit Again

Anna at Pleasant View said her pillowcases wear out.  In this house, the fitted sheets lose their stretchy elastic before anything else and get turned into quilts and caftans; I have lots of orphan pillowcases.  However, I think I have figured out a way to prolong the life of fitted sheets with dead elastic. 

Can you see how I'm illustrating it? I measured 5" down either side of each corner seam. Then I connected those two spots with a 2.5" piece of elastic. Now there's a kind of "hood" that slips over the corner of the mattress. It took me about 10 minutes to fix that sheet.

And when I looked up from the clothesline, I saw the scarlet bush. Flaming beautiful. I've lived in this house eight years and I don't remember noticing this bush before. I want to look around more carefully, with more appreciation.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Pre-Thanksgiving Tomatoes

When our tomato plants caught late blight in August, they were just starting to produce green tomatoes (we are terrible vegetable growers).  But we harvested the green tomatoes, wrapped them in newspaper, and put them away in the dark liquor cabinet to be "Christmas tomatoes," which are supposed to be redly luscious by the time Christmas comes.
Well, my husband checked them last week, and lo, they were ripe sometime in October.  And now they're rotten.  Seems to be right in line with putting up Christmas decorations before Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

PB&J Alternative

I like peanut butter and jelly for a snack, but not for a meal.  Too sweet.  I make pb&j occasionally when the children need a hefty snack.

One of the sandwiches we do on days we don't have leftovers is a broccoli melt.

Chop up broccoli in small pieces, saute it in some oil until it is barely tender. Add some herbs or garlic if you want. Pile the broccoli on bread, lay some cheese slices on top, and run under the broiler until the cheese has melted or, depending how hungry everyone is, the tops are browned.

To be super-quick, you could saute the broccoli ahead of time, even in a big batch for several lunches.

Here we ate our sandwiches with red beet eggs.

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Vintage Cinderella Dress

I picked up this dress for Genevieve at the thrift store for a few dollars and it's a real find:  heavy, rich plaid, dainty cotton lace, and an attached crinoline.  The brand name is Cinderella, which my mother recognized as expensive little girls' dresses.  A few days later, I noticed that a three-corner rip in the skirt had been carefully mended by hand.  The plaid was matched precisely and I'm sure no one noticed at church yesterday.

Genevieve loves it for the crinoline, for the fullness.

I love it with her red Mary Janes.

For more photos of Genevieve in her dress, look at the new Cinderella sewing patterns in my etsy shop.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Do We Know How to Roast Beef?

I have deep sensory memories of returning home from church as a child, opening the squeaky back door, and sniffing a houseful of roast beef.  So satisfying and delectable to come home to!  So when I make roast beef, it is usually for Sunday dinner after church.

But roasting beef is not easy.

It seems that generations past knew how to roast beef, but when I look for techniques and even recipes in my cookbooks, I'm so lost. Gradually, after discussing this often with other cooks, I've picked up a beef roasting lexicon and method of sorts. Please add your tips (or trials) in the comments.

How I Roast Beef  [credited where possible]:

1. Use a fully thawed beef roast and salt it well the night before you want to roast it [Alice Waters].

2. Drizzle a little balsamic vinegar over the roast when you set it in the roasting pan - it's a tenderizer [Esther Shank].  I use grass-fed beef, which is lean and not as soft as the fattier, grocery store beef.

3. Sprinkle well with pepper, marjoram.  Lay onion slices over and around the roast  - occasionally, I insert garlic cloves in slits in the roast.

4. Pile scrubbed root vegetables around the roast - bigger vegetables are better because smaller ones will bake into mush.  Potatoes, turnips, carrots, mushrooms.  Sprinkle those with salt and pepper too.

5.  Add 1-2 cups of liquid to the bottom of the roasting pan - water or wine or combination.

6. Cover loosely. I use a black enamelware roasting pan and its lid fits while allowing steam to escape (a tight fitting lid means you are actually steaming the beef - another cooking technique; no lid is what Martha Stewart and Alice Waters recommend and that is actual true roasting, but boy, you have to know what you are doing to roast without steam!)

7.  Bake long and slow [my mother].  I do a 3-4 pound roast at 325 for 2.5 to 3 hours.  It has a chance to come to room temperature first before the oven comes on, which is what Alice and Martha both recommend.

8.  Allow to rest for up to half hour while you make gravy, etc.  Slice thinly. 

Whew.  Maybe we can discuss gravy another time.  That's another kitchen skill that is hard to pin down in a recipe, something you have to learn at a cook's elbow before you timidly venture out on your own. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Breakfast Eggs in a Raggedy Nest

My friend Rebecca taught me to shred up leftover baked potatoes and freeze them for instant hashbrown potatoes.

Inspired by Deanna Beth's post, I fried some up with a little onion and then made four little nests.  I put an egg in each one and a sprinkle of cheese over the top.  Clapped the lid on top until the whites were set (for my family) and the yolk was firm (for me). 

Same breakfast makings, just more fun.  Especially since my Great-Aunt Isabelle gave my children a copy of The Pigeon Lullaby and we are singing and talking a lot about birds and their nests right now.

Monday, November 8, 2010


My mother spotted watercress in the creek near the cabin.
I snipped a big dishpan full. My family loves watercress, but I had only found it at market, not growing wild.

It tasted so good after all the hot dogs, bacon, Oreos, chips and soda.  Mom told me there is a spring on my dad's family farm where watercress grows; I want to get my dad to take me there.  I'm not obsessed with watercress - I just want to know these details about the family farm, about my dad.  Who knows what other stories a little jaunt like that could bring up?

The Cabin

We were at the cabin in the mountains this weekend, a needed break for city slickers.
All the windows have white ruffled curtains and golden paper shades which inspires my imagination so much.

So restful.

I amused myself with a little series while I was there. The cabin has a marvelous old woodburning cookstove, so I photographed a few vintage linen oven towels on it. Not at the same time that I fried the breakfast bacon on it, but while I listened to my mother tell stories of her mother baking on a similar cookstove.

The oven towels are in my etsy shop.