Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Best Salad for Potlucks

Summer potluck season is winding down, but you never know when you want an easy, tasty salad that can handle no refrigeration.  I got this recipe from my Aunt Elena, after walking around a reunion carrying the empty bowl, looking for the person who made the delicious salad.  She did.  And now I do too.

Curried Couscous Salad

Stir together in heat-proof bowl:
1 3/4 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups boiling water
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
juice and zest of half an orange
3/4 cup sweetened, dried cranberries.

Stir occasionally until water is absorbed (10ish minutes).

3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 scallions, chopped
handful chopped parsley
juice and zest of half a lemon
3/4 cup toasted, chopped walnuts
fresh ground pepper, to taste

Serve at room temperature.

I almost finished the leftover salad until I remembered to take a photo - and then I was running around the house doing something related to laundry or canning.

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Rise and Fall of the Potholder Loom

Genevieve has completed 2 potholders of the random bright variety.  She has a serious stash of the fabric loops, thanks to A's creative reuse shop.  Most of the time, Genevieve plays with the loops as bracelets, toe sandals, toy food, and any manner of odd placements.

One evening, after too much socializing, I came home jangled and snatched that loom and made a potholder, playing with the colors with a bit of intention.  It was marvelously soothing.  I still get a little soothe when I handle the potholder in the kitchen.

And when Genevieve realized I had co-opted her loom, she started another potholder. . . only to lose interest at the first frustration.  I helped her untangle and restart, but she still put it aside.

I hope that she learns the rewards of following a creative burn through to the finish. . .but I think she's too young for me to push it.

However, those little Colonial girls were stitching samplers by Ben's age. . . .

Saturday, August 27, 2011

What I Got From a Bushel of Tomatoes

This is a bushel of tomatoes, folks. In my urban shopping cart.  Two boxes, $7 each this year (it varies from $4-8, depending on the growing year).  

I fetched the tomatoes from market early one morning, came home and fed my family breakfast, then went back to do the regular market shopping with Ben in tow, his eye on treats from the standholders.  I did not can tomatoes that day, in case you wondered.

First, pizza sauce from the Simply in Season recipe.  I do not bother to peel the tomatoes - just whiz them in the food processor.

Now, after a few hours of simmering, the sauce is richer and darker.  A friend stopped by in the evening to work on our ailing laptop, and sniffed the air so appreciatively. 

Then, I set aside the good part of Thursday to deal with the rest of the tomatoes.  First I made salsa, again using a Simply in Season recipe.  I think that for the fourth year in a row, I still did not add enough hot peppers.  Hot peppers are just so darn unpredictable!

Then the remaining tomatoes were peeled and canned as whole tomatoes - just cored, peeled, and smushed down in jars.  Ben, age 3, washed and fetched all the tomatoes for me.  Genevieve, almost 6 years old, peeled many of the tomatoes!  I dunked them in the boiling water, then in the cool dishpan water.  She fished them out and peeled them with her fingers.   Wonderful children.

From a bushel of tomatoes, I got:

12 pints pizza sauce
11 pints salsa
16 quarts whole tomatoes

And now, the final things on my 2011 canning list are apple chutney (also from Simply in Season) and applesauce.  Welcome, autumn!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lemon Zucchini Cornmeal Cookies

The recent favorite at our house - a Martha Stewart recipe that was just odd enough I had to try it. No leavening, no eggs. Cornmeal in cookies? Bake at 325 for 25 minutes?  My interest was piqued.

They are lovely, buttery cookies with that refreshing lemon and a nice crunch from the cornmeal.

See how excited Genevieve is?  She was demonstrating her love for "the best cookies ever!"  I have some secreted in the freezer - think I'll put them in her first-day-of-school lunch as a love note.  And that whole business of packing lunches for my school girl deserves a post in itself.  Hoo boy.

Ok, back to the kitchen full of tomatoes and jars.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our Very Own Ice Cream

My friend Crystal told me about her Donvier ice cream maker - not electric, but not dependent on ice and salt and constant cranking either.  I've drooled over ice cream recipes on the internet long enough.  When I trolled ebay and found one for $17, I snapped it up.

I used the uncooked basic vanilla recipe in the little booklet.

We ate it with fresh peaches.  I am so pleased that the ice cream was made with local cream, eggs, and milk, and that it only makes a quart at a time.

So, what flavor should we try next?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Making a Modest Hemline

Suddenly I realized that I was avoiding a favorite dress because it felt too short.

I took a cue from Eva and added a colored band to the hem.  However, I made the band extra-long, pinned it around evenly, and then just ruffled it as I went along.

My husband opined that I should use a bit of that solid poppy red elsewhere in the dress, so I used the last scrap as a belt.  I was going to sew it to a buckle, but I like the spontaneous nature of the little square knot.

I did not paint my toes to match my dress, but I was amused by the view from my Sunday afternoon nap.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Squirreling It Away

I know my list of what I want to preserve this summer (crossed out the ones I did):

1.  approx. 20 quarts tomatoes
2. 1/2 bushel apples into sauce
3. 6 dozen corn
4.  pesto
5. 1 batch Simply in Season salsa
6. half-batch pimentos
7.  sour cherries
8.  blueberries
9.  approx. 18 boxes strawberry freezer jam
10.  approx. 8 quarts dill pickles
11. 1 batch apple chutney (Simply in Season)
12.  1 batch pizza sauce (Simply in Season)
13.  mint jelly

Compared to last summer, this is light.  But added to my job this summer, it's a lot.

Got my 6 dozen corn last week.

 The children husked it with me, and Ben stayed around and asked to help more.  Yes, please!

On to tomatoes and peaches this week.  I only got a peck of peaches, so I think I might just freeze them instead of hauling out the canner.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Emily tagged me - I was happy to play along and pick out posts from my blog to fit the categories.

Most popular post:
Thanks to a canning-jar-cloche mention on facebook, this is the most popular post on my blog. 
Farm Tour (Our Back Yard) with a Few Flowers

Most controversial post:
Oil is always controversial, no?
Doing Something About the BP Oil Crisis

Most helpful post:
A good reminder to ask our grandmothers how they handled things without disposables.
Old Fashioned Diapers and Wipes

A post whose success surprised you:
Just camping, I thought.  I guess camping is more about nostalgia than anything else (comfort, for example).
Camping Lists

A post that deserves more attention:
Because this salad is truly revelatory and beets are often maligned.
Raw Beets

The post that you are most proud of:
I think I flew my freak flag very prettily in this one.
Fried Dandelion Blossoms

And now I tag several other bloggers (I do read more blogs than the ones on my sidebar):

Sarah at spoonful

My French Corner

Tracy at Back to Basics

Friday, August 19, 2011

Queenie Would Be Proud

She taught me to make collards the Southern way, except I use bacon instead of fatback.  When I saw huge bunches of collards in market this week for $2, I snatched them up. 

To make the greens, I fry a little or a lot of bacon (depends how much meat we've had recently).  Throw the washed, chopped greens in on top.  Stir.  Add some salt - but be careful, the greens cook down a lot and I have oversalted many pots of greens.  Add a bit of sugar, something spicy like red pepper flakes or hot sauce, and some vinegar.  Cook, covered, for 10-60 minutes.  Queenie had something she called "pepper oil," which was a gallon jug of white vinegar and tiny hot peppers.  She would lace the greens with that pepper oil.

We have been feasting. 

fried Louisiana Boston blue fish (catfish was not at hand)
collard greens
cheese grits
grilled okra

(sigh of satisfaction)

Then, at Genevieve's special request,

black eyed peas (cooked simply and until very soft with salt, butter, and milk)
more collards
And there are still collards in my fridge.  I miss Queenie.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My Girl

is starting kindergarten in about a week.

Look at her - she's so sweet.  My heart.

And I haven't even gotten a letter from school yet, to tell me what supplies to buy, what teacher to meet, which classroom is hers.  This is not an auspicious start for any school year, especially for a thrifty mother who needs time to shop carefully for the crazy supplies I imagine are required.

At least I have laid in uniform supplies all summer long, snatching up uniforms on sales and in thrift stores.

It's time to prepare my heart (is it possible?) for my oldest to start school.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Job Effect on my Family

It's been a month now that I've had a parttime job.  On those two days, I get home at 6.  Normally my family eats at 5:30.  Lord help me, I am learning to go with the flow.

Usually I cook one of those job suppers and my husband does the other, and then I do the rest of the week because in our kitchen, it works better if there is a primary shopper, planner, and cook (that would be me - happily so - I love it).  My husband and I are learning to communicate better because I need to buy groceries that he wants to cook with, and he needs to know my menus so he and the kids don't eat it for lunch or something.

My husband does really enjoy cooking - we shared it pretty equally before the children were born.  When he was working fulltime and I was staying at home with the children full time, it made sense for me to do all the housework.  Now we are slowly divvying up some chores because we are fairminded people who like proportional play and work -

Our version of a reasonable house:
1. dishes done before bed
2. vacuumed at least once a week
3. meals at home, local food in generous supply
4. children helping around house
5. cleanish bathroom
6. trash out
7. bills paid weekly, inbox sorted

So those things we pitch in equally and take no offense when the other person issues a reminder.  Notice that the list does not include laundry, clean sheets, dusting, or the myriad other small tasks of housekeeping.  I am content with these things in my domain.  I haven't done zone cleaning for months (filthy windows and corners), can't keep track of the children's clothes, and wonder how much preserving I'll actually get done. . . but overall, I am happy.  I love the partnership and I haven't lost my home haven.

(photos here by my husband - he usually is the park parent!)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Easiest Grilled Corn on the Cob EVER

Remember when I told you how I grill corn?   Complicated and lengthy, relative to what I'm about to reveal to you.

First I thought I had discovered the easiest way:

Husk the corn down to the very last pale green slip, so the kernels are still covered, but only with one layer of husk.  Tug off what silk is sticking out the end, but no need to actually silk the ear or get all precise.

Lay the ears on a hot grill - probably medium (my grill is so old that its setting is reduced to on or off).  Turn occasionally for 20-30 minutes, keeping the grill lid closed as much as possible to help the ears steam.  But the fire will also caramelize some of the kernels through the blackened husk.  It will also singe and spark in the silks, but don't worry, nothing will come of it.

Pull back the remaining blackened husk at the table - a very messy job, clearly a family meal - and butter and salt.

My friend Crystal discovered that you can grill naked corn! Just husk the ears completely, rub or brush lightly with olive oil, and grill to your caramelization preference. Unbelievably easy! This is now how I do it.  Boiled corn, forsooth.

It can't get easier than that unless we just eat it raw and actually, my husband made a fantastic corn salad the other week with raw sweet corn.  Ben keeps asking when we're having corn salad again.  So much good summer food, so little photography and posting about it. Life before blog!

Bonus: refrigerator cheesecake and blueberries for dessert.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Coffee Does Not Froth

As I discovered when I used the nifty little Ikea frother at the beach cottage.  Milk froths.  Right.

I was there with my beach girls. . .

reading, walking, swimming at the beach proper.

A beach girl modeling a cover-up I whipped up:  a very oversized, men's cotton shirt with white ball-fringe around cuffs and tails.  Whimsically excellent for protecting skin.  In my mind I call it a bathing chemise because that sounds whimsically retro to me - but it doesn't really describe the garment all that well.

And inspired by my Pearl Party fascinator, we all made fascinators for pennies from a creative reuse store.  I love those places!  Look at the dangling black leaves on this one.  My favorite.

We are 18 years into this summer tradition ("makes you sound old," says my husband), and this year we started nibbling at ideas for our fortieth birthday beach year.  My goodness.  Forty.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Oxblood and Mint

One night I was reading in bed when I looked up:  there was the burgundy rose pinned to my mirror as usual, behind the mint-colored pump on my lotion bottle.  The colors electrified me. Epiphany!  I immediately began planning some kind of mint-green and burgundy ensemble. 

The first thing I managed to get my hands on were a pair of sandals. I can tell you there's no cordovan trend right now because I looked hard and long for my cordovan sandals (and found them under my nose at a local shoe shop for - deep breath - $21!!). 

Now I must have burgundy/oxblood/cordovan with all my clothes right now. I've never before liked this color, and consequently have only sandals and a ribbon right now in my wardrobe. 

I have the mint fabric and the pattern ready to go to Make My First Dress For Myself.  Then my nighttime burgundy and mint vision will be fulfilled and I will also have reached a goal this year, which was to sew a dress for myself.  Just need the time!

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Dignified Entry

My husband, an architect, talks a lot about the importance of a dignified entryway.  People want to feel like they are entering a special place when they come to a building - a beautiful, thoughtful entrance sets the tone for the life inside that building.  My husband deplores buildings where entries are hard to find or grimly functional, especially homes where all entrances are through an attached garage.

We didn't have to do much to our entry, just paint it (and it could use another coat again).  I try to sweep out front and wash the foyer floor at least once a month.

But the foyer needs more than the paint we slapped on.  My husband has plans for tiled floor and walls. (We own a 3-unit house and live in first unit, so our foyer is a common foyer.)
Inside the foyer to our front door, there is a clear path for stowing shoes on trays under the bench.  More about the floor cloth here.  And I will add, in this post, that you must walk differently on a floor cloth than a rug.  A floor cloth rumples more easily, even with all those towels I put in it.  But it's so easy to wash and shake out and we love how it looks.

We do have an outbox for small objects in the radio cabinet at the front door, but sometimes the larger things (bags of newspaper for Rebecca's garden) are just waiting for takeoff for a few days.  I need to show you the radio cabinet sometime - my husband refinished it specially for this spot and function.

Seems like things need to be next to the door to make it out the door at our house.  How do you handle the in and out of objects in your house?

I made this post for Like Mother, Like Daughter's linky party "A Reasonably Clean Welcome!"

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Van Gogh Bouquet

The gorgeous colors of high summer.

And a watermelon, avocado and feta salad for lunch.  Sprinkled with snipped herbs and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette.  I expected to love it, but it was only ok.  Very pretty, however.

Watermelon seems to be turning up in all kinds of recipes this summer.  Rebecca told me about a watermelon and corn salad she made the other day.  Reminds me of how strawberries crossed over into salads - was that in the 90s?  My, I wonder what combination is coming next.