Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Scandinavian Christmas Nightie

I wish I had a white painted barn or an old farmhouse, white, with a bleached wood bench for Genevieve to model this nightie.  It says Christmas in Scandinavia to me (or an LL Bean catalog shoot).  Every time I see this nightie, I get a happy holiday vibe.

She barely let go of her pink nightie which had worn thin and short, been patched, and was fraying.  However, as soon as the Scandinavian nightie was done, she ditched the old nightie so fast I had to get Ben to "model" it for posterity.

Everything for the new nightie was from my stash (important these days as I condense my sewing space). She chose the striped flannel and, due to that voluminous 80s skirt and ruffle, I had to supplement the stripes with the flowered flannel.  I was thrilled to dig through my pretty stash of woven ribbon for a little piece for the bodice, and it only took a few minutes to hunt out the eyelet lace.  I have already explained my philosophy of (not) matching buttons, and I told Genevieve the button in the middle is a kiss from me.

Originally, I thought the nightie was long enough without the ruffle and I was worried about tripping hazards, but Genevieve begged and got her floor-length nightie.  We are both very pleased with the Scandinavian nightie; she barely lets it out of her hands to be washed.  Success!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Things For the Shop (But Not Black Friday!)

When I listen to the noise, they say it's Black Friday and the sales and lines are enormous.  I am not interested, even though I love bargains and some years I fret about the bargains I may be missing at the cost of the time in lines and traffic.  Not this year.

However, I know that my Etsy business always picks up close to the holidays as people buy presents.  So I put in some extra effort and added some new things to the shop

And now I am off to continue dismantling my sewing room.  I have sewing ideas, but no space for the work at present.  We are jiggering around kids and bedrooms and work spaces.  I abhor the chaos, but I am purging stuff and looking forward to the freshness afterward.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My Very Favorite (Easy!) Pizza Crust

I will make almost any kind of food at home because I'm stubborn like that, but secretly, I do think some food is best made by the professionals.  They've got special equipment or ingredients or knowledge that I would prefer to leave with them.  I'm thinking of sushi, macarons, artisan sourdough bread, croissants, and yes, pizza.

I have blogged about homemade pizza a lot over the life of this blog, but it was always second-best to the pizza shop a few blocks away.  This revelation might hurt my thrifty cred, I know, but it's the truth.

But I have a new truth!

In the past, I saw two routes for homemade pizza dough:  a yeast dough that is like bread, or an artisan dough that requires pizza peels and baking stones. I adore homemade bread, but I don't like that flavor and texture under pizza sauce and cheese.  And I'm not willing to store big single-use items (the peel and stones) for the occasional pizza.

My new truth, my third route, is this crust from Smitten Kitchen that I've been making for at least 2 months.  I like that it's not fussy and  I can slap it together in minutes with pantry staples.  When it's time to make pizza, I just have to stretch the dough out into the pans; this stretching does take some getting used to, but it is totally worth it to me when I consider the alternatives.  And the flavor and texture of this crust is amazing!

naked dough
If you recall the phenomenon of the no-knead bread from Jim Lahey, this pizza dough borrows his technique of a pinch of yeast and a long setting time (it doesn't rise in the true yeast-bread manner).  Then it is baked in a super-hot oven to give a chewy, non-yeasty crust that definitely reminds me of a pizza shop. . . made homemade with love and whole-wheat flour.  Yesssss!

Lazy Pizza Dough, slightly tweaked from Smitten Kitchen

Mix in large lidded bowl:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/8 tsp. yeast for a 22 hour rise-time (use 1/4 tsp. for 12 hours and 1/2 tsp. for 6 hours)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/4 cups water

Mix until craggy dough forms.  May add another Tbsp. water.  Cover tightly and allow to sit at room temperature for the time you chose with the amount of yeast you chose.  Grease two 11x14 rimmed baking sheets (or equivalent) and sprinkle with cornmeal.  Divide dough in half.  Flour it lightly so it doesn't cling so much to your fingers.  Pat/stretch/dangle dough to fill each pan.  I find it helps to "play piano" with my fingertips to push it out.  Put on toppings.  Bake in lower racks of oven at 500F for 13-16 minutes.

Note:  May refrigerate dough once it has risen.  It can hold this way for 3 days, but set it out at room temperature for 2-3 hours before using.  I have also successfully frozen the dough.

Breakfast one morning: spinach and brie and pizza crust.  Amazing.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Someone is Done with Her Christmas Shopping

I wish it was me, but it's my friend from church.  She bought 10 picnic napkins out of my shop in September and ordered 10 more.

Given that she didn't need the napkins until Christmas, I took my sweet time as I worked on other projects.  My friend wanted bright or dark colors that would not show dirt easily, with patterned pockets.  I had fun!  The napkins are finally done and photographed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Home Canned Baked Beans

These beans are "baked" only in the sense of their flavor.  We love them.  My favorite baked beans are my mother's - she buys Bush's Baked Beans and then doctors them up.  Well, I think these baked beans are equally delicious and I can make them with local, organic ingredients if I choose.  I love to take a jar of these on vacation for a British breakfast or beans and weenies.

Home Canned Baked Beans - originally from Mennonite Country Style with tweaks by me

4 cups dry navy beans
1/4 lb. chopped bacon
2 cups chopped onion
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
2 Tbsp. prepared mustard
4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. black pepper
dash cayenne

Soak the navy beans for at least 8 hours in water to cover by two inches.  Cook 1 hour in the same water.  Reserve 2 1/2 cups bean liquid and drain the rest off.  Mix  rest of ingredients into drained beans along with bean liquid.  Place in quart or pint jars, leaving 2" headspace.  Process in pressure canner at 10 lbs. pressure, 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.  Yields about 8 pints.

These beans really siphon during canning.  "Siphoning" is when the liquid is forced out of the jars during processing, which results in a mess in the canning kettle and jars that don't seal as particles come between the seal on the lid and the jar rim.  Not good!  Whole tomatoes and salsa are also bad for siphoning.

To prevent siphoning, underfill jars and allow plenty of headspace.  In this batch of baked beans, I filled my jars too full because I didn't want to have 8 jars when my pressure canner only holds 7 quarts at a time - however, my effort was wasted because one jar didn't seal anyway due to siphoning, and it had to go into the freezer.  I need my freezer space for the eighth of beef we're getting this week!

I think I'm finally done with my canning, although I'll can stock occasionally as we eat turkey and chicken.  My next posts will be about other things, sewing, and. . . . news.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Knitted Cloths for the Laundry Room

I had a terrible assortment of old baby washcloths and random washcloths that I kept hanging in the laundry room.  These were for dirty kid mouths, dining room table wiping, and other general wiping (hopefully not the floor).

I knitted three washcloths from pink yarn, shooting some thin, irregular stripes through them.  It is such a tiny project in the scheme of my homemaking, but I love the happy colors.  The previous, terrible assortment went into the rag stash.

The pink is a marker for me and my laundry sorters that these are the laundry room cloths, not the kitchen sink dishcloths.  Small details that I love.

And then I lifted the camera and took a picture of the little amber bottle of pretty berries that Genevieve put together this fall and set on the table. We have any number of strange weeds trying to grow up in our fences.

Another detail of our household, captured by the camera.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Blackstrap Balsamic Apple Butter

Isn't that a fancy recipe name?  I'm quite proud of it.  It's almost as good as the apple butter, and boy, isn't this a good year for apples!  Our favorite snack right now is an apple out of hand.

When I buy apples to make applesauce, I buy seconds and I set aside two quarts of fresh applesauce to make apple butter with.  I use my slow cooker because it's so easy and the apple butter won't scorch.

I would say I like a medium-strong apple butter with subtle spice and deep flavor.  I've had some apple butter that was more like applesauce because it wasn't cooked down very long - thin and light brown in color - and I've had some apple butter that was so syrupy and black it looked like tar.  I like something in the middle.

The blackstrap molasses and balsamic vinegar at the end do not really reveal their presence, but rather amplify and deepen the flavors.  Some apples might have enough complexity on their own and won't need the touch of blackstrap or balsamic at the end. 

My very favorite way to eat apple butter is dolloped on top of cottage cheese.  Another favorite is on top of sweet potato biscuits.  And then we just use it as a toast spread for any old breakfast because we all love it.

Blackstrap Balsamic Apple Butter

2 quarts unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. blackstrap molasses, optional
1 Tbsp. best-quality balsamic vinegar, optional

Combine applesauce, sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and salt in a 4-quart slow cooker.  Put the lid on and turn on high for 1 hour.  Remove lid or cock lid so apple butter can cook down.  Stir occasionally, taking care to stir in any darkened edges.  When apple butter is deep chocolately brown and significantly reduced (this is a matter of available time and opinion), use an immersion blender to further puree the mixture.  Taste.  Add optional blackstrap and balsamic, starting with a tablespoon of each and going from there.  May need more sugar, too, depending on your taste and the apples you used.  
Store in the fridge for 4 weeks or so, or can pints in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes.  Makes about 3-4 pints, depending how long you cook it down.