Posts tagged ‘homemaking’

April 1, 2011

Show & Tell: Brotform Proofing Basket

I’ve always LOVED school and when I was a little girl “show and tell” was the ultimate!  I especially loved “show and tell” right after Christmas and my birthday.  Here’s the beginning of my grow-up version – self-indulgence at it’s best!  I received so many lovely and thoughtful gifts for my birthday a few weeks ago.

Two summers ago, I set out to really learn and understand yeast-based baking.  I’d baked before, but I really wanted something more like a class.  So, I checked out many, many books from the local library (and order others) on bread baking.  Some titles I read included The Bread Makers Apprentice, Crust and Crumb and Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads.  I read these books cover-to-cover and tried many new techniques and recipes (Poolish and Biga bread starters).  My head ached from all the new information, but I loved the journey.

In my study, I discovered the beauty and usefulness of bread proofing bowls.  Well, guess what I got for my birthday this year?  Yes, a Brotform Proofing Basket!!  Love it and I used it as soon as I could….

Not a great pix – but isn’t it just lovely?

My sour-dough bread dough (and do you see my organic bread cloth beside it? *smile*)…

I baked it on my bread stone – look at those pretty lines…

Looks beautiful and tastes yummy!

More show & tell to come…

You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit. Job 10:12

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March 29, 2011

Eureka Experience

Last year, I had a EUREKA experience about gift giving. For one thing, the gap between what I wanted to give and my budget widened last year when I made the leap from earning a paycheck to full-time homemaking. Additionally, I love unique, beautiful, handmade, quality, excellent and inspired creations. With many art, fashion, design, textile and decorating classes (and several degrees) under my belt, my taste runs toward the expensive, the artsy and the just plain different from every other Joe. Also, I was just plain tired of “Made in China,” big box retailers,  and the overly franchised everything – UGH!

Like I said, I had a moment.  It was one of those moments where you just want to pinch yourself really, really hard and ask “what is your problem?”  Why not make gifts? Okay, it’d been a few years since I’d sewn and I’m not feeling as artsy as I was say in college. But, it wouldn’t be “Made in China,” it would be unique, it would be personal, and it would be FUN!

And, then I got the brilliant idea of making things in fours.  With 8 nieces and 4 sons – easy math!  I’ve 4 nieces who are between the ages of 13 and 21, and 4 between ages 3 and 7.  This simple idea revolutionized my whole world and I was inspired (so much easier to do life when you’re inspired!).  Now instead of agonizing over what I’m going to get for so-and-so, I have a plan and I’m constantly finding tutorials, patterns and ideas for my next series of fours.

Last summer, I began my journey with four sundresses each with a matching doll dress for my younger nieces.  They were so cute I wanted to keep them all – my sons thought I was a little touched by that point. At that point, I realized my skill-level needs to dramatically increase to compete with the demands of my demanding & creative side….

Well before Thanksgiving, I’d my holiday gifts planned and I was so excited for the Season (a big coup for me). Christmas was probably the least stressful and more enjoyable I’ve had in years.  I’ll have to blog about Mermaid Land sometime in the future – it was grand!

I’ve started my next round of gifts for the older nieces and had earlier bookmarked a really fun pattern – here.  It’s a reversible purse so I needed fun fabrics….

The pattern was really easy to follow and I loved the results!

Please excuse the really old and ugly ironing board cover…  I’ve found some patterns to replace it, but that project is toward the bottom of the list right now:)

I’m really not sure 4 is enough….  I may have to make a few more for kicks!

How about you?  How are you breaking free today from the norm and finding freedom in the challenging and unchartered waters of your life?

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Galatians 5:1a

February 2, 2011

Doughnut Love

Yeast-raised, homemade doughnuts – what’s not to LOVE?  I’ve grown quite fond of yeast-based recipes that are begun the night before as is the case with these little scrumptious morning treats.  The original recipe is from The Pioneer Woman’s website (the post can be found here).  As I indicated, the dough is made the night before, placed in the fridge to slowly rise, and in the morning Viola! doughnut dough – YEAH, half the battle is won!

A little rolling…  A little cutting…

(I had to improvise a bit since my doughnut cutter has gone missing along with my pastry cutter…  A canning ring & salt shaker lid did the trick!)

A little time for the doughnuts to raise…

Fry the dough & glaze the doughnuts & bar the doors…..  Every time, I turn my back another dozen goes missing (I’m sensing a conspiracy here)…

One time, I only made a single batch.  With four growing boys, we nearly had mutiny here.  Now, I always double this recipe.

If you’ve looking for a special Valentine’s breakfast treat or a gift for someone you LOVE, homemade doughnuts made with love & sprinkled with red and pink confections are a delicious and thoughtful gift:)

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is LOVE.  1 Cor. 13:13

January 20, 2011

Inspiration: Red Gingham

Be very wary – I’ve some red gingham and I’m determined to use every scrap of it.  Currently, I’ve an infatuation with all gingham in it’s glorious array of sizes and colors, but I absolutely drool over red gingham.  Perhaps it the season of transitioning from the Christmas to Valentines, but whatever it is, I’m inspired!  I’m dreaming of a white and black kitchen with some pretty punches of red gingham.  For now, I’ll settle for sewing gingham curtains and kitchen do-dads.

Maybe some of these gingham lovelies will inspire you as well…

Ingenious and cute doorstop from Bouf.com

Isn’t this darling from Etsy reminiscent of a 50’s diner?

Oh, my! These snappy Betsy Johnson numbers will make doing dishes simply dreamy…

Ruffled, red gingham from Country Curtains to frame my world.

Order and a healthy dose of inspiration for my kitchen shelves from this cozy Etsy shop.

Inspiration overload! – this teapot cosy from Not on the High Street has me running for my sewing stash.

From the French Pantry on Etsy, to my pantry. My homemade raspberry jam will be tasting even sweeter.

And the super special, secret ingredient to all home-cooking – made with LOVE – also found on Pouf.com

Dreaming of a white and black kitchen with pretty punches of red gingham (image from BHG)…

Those who live at the ends of the earthstand in awe of your wonders.From where the sun rises to where it sets,you inspire shouts of joy. Psalm 65:8

May 10, 2010

My Mom and Hostess Cupcakes

Hostess cupcakes aren’t simply a tempting treat. For me, they are a nostalgic reminder of childhood and of my mother. As a child, I was awakened each year on my birthdays at precisely 7:58 am with a Hostess cupcake and a festively burning birthday candle (she may have only done this a handful of times, but it’s etched in my memory now as if it were every year. It’s funny how children’s memories work). Because of this I gleaned three significant facts.  One – From an early age, I knew exactly what time I was born. Two – I knew that my birth was an important event to my mother. Three – A hostess cupcake for breakfast, I knew it was a very special day.

Growing up in the ’70’s and ’80’s, we didn’t eat a lot of store bought sweets. In our family, there were huge gardens from which we produced much of our food. Hostess cupcakes were a major treat in our family. My mother did have a knack for procuring some of the best sweets when she was inclined. One such treat was the rare Orange Hostess Cupcake which was available (and still are) in limited quantities at significant times.

Hostess cupcakes are nostalgia food for me. They remind me of my early morning birthday surprises, and my mom teaching us to savor and celebrate special moments with special treats.

So…  For Mother’s Day this year, my goal was to duplicate those precious gems to reflect how precious and rare it is to have a Mother like I have.

First, I found an orange cupcake recipe….

Then, I made a filling ala Organic & Chic Filled the cupcakes…

Improvised an orange-flavored white chocolate ganache with white chocolate chips and orange juice concentrate…

Spread the ganache….

Used left over white chocolate chips to create the signature seven Hostess swirls…


Handmade cupcake cards from me and my creative boys, a new cake-carrier with a spiffy ribbon and…

It was a Happy Mother’s Day with lots of Hostess Cupcake LOVE!

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. 1 Thessalonians 3:12

 

 

 

April 29, 2010

Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Chicken Noodle Soup

Martha does it again…. Found a fabulous chicken recipe on her site from Lucinda Scala Quinn’s cookbook, “Mad Hungry.” I deviated a bit from the recipe, and found the result to be delicious and extremely fast to cook – about an hour for a whole chicken! The trick is to cut the chicken down the backbone, fry in a pan and then throw the pan and all in the oven. I really got into punching the chicken to flatten it so much so that the recipe was dubbed by my family as “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em Chicken!” Looks like I may have to add this cookbook to my collection…

Sorry, no pictures of our dynamite dinner, but I do have a few of the home-made chicken noodle soup made from the left-overs.

April 27, 2010

Dandelions

The darling of seasons, SPRING, has arrived. Flowers are popping up to treat winter weary eyes with their unmatched beauty. One of the first lovelies is the humble dandelion. Just as the majestic lion is the crowned king of the beasts, dandelions are the reigning monarch of SPRING!

Recently, I read an article about the woman who brought dandelions, not indigenous to North America, to Minnesota for her famous dandelion bread and other concoctions. Dandelion bread – who knew? I’ve had dandelion greens in my spring salad green mixes, but the thought of bread opened a whole new world. I began to research and found other recipes such as dandelion wine (my grandmother used to make) and jam, but what really caught my fancy was dandelion syrup.

I read several references about Swiss grannies in the Alps with jars and jars of dandelion syrup. Now not only was my curiousity peaked, but now my imagination was in full bloom. I had to have some – I became a bit obsessed. If little Swiss grannies can, I can too!

Gathering my faithful foragers, we picked a bucketful of the fragrant spring blossoms (fortunately, I’m closely related to some certified organic farmers so I knew where to find the good stuff!). Alas, my busy bee-like boys soon got bored, and grabbed their baseball equipment. Apparently, the romance of gathering spring flowers for sweet and sticky syrup was lost on them. I knew once they tasted dandelion syrup, they would be transformed. Undaunted by their lack of enthusiasm, I acquiesced and joined the ball players. Even though I was stuck in the outfield, I managed to continue to pluck a few more dandelions and chase the occasional ball that came my way. In the end, we had a ton of fun and my bucket of flower heads was full.Then came the work of separating the petals – this was fairly easily managed with a knife. I covered the blossoms with filtered water, boiled for the designated amount of time, turned the heat off and let steep overnight.

In the morning, the mixture was strained and I was left with a yellowish, dandelion blossom tea. I added sugar and some lemon juice, and the mixture was simmered for about 3 hours. The end result was a unique and special syrup rather honey-like in taste.

Dandelion syrup is a delightful addition to warm cornbread or wheat germ pancakes. I’m excited about the possibilities; a whole new world has opened up to me. I’m now eyeing the fields of yellow dots of sunshine with a fresh point of view (my taste buds). Dandelions, the reigning monarch of Spring, have found a new and sweet place in my heart!

Follow some of my rabbit trails for dandelion recipes & inspiration:

5orangepotatoes.blogspot.com

fxcuisine.com

yummysupper.blogspot.com

fat-of-the-land.blogspot.com

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Flowers appear on the earth; the season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land.” Song of Solomon 2:12

April 13, 2010

le fort café et boulangerie

Here’s what’s cooking at Le Fort Cafe et Boulangerie a.k.a The Strong Cafe and Bakery (it’s always better en Francais – oui?):

Breakfast was a warm Oatmeal Porridge reverently referred to (by me) as “Heaven in a Bowl.” The organic steel-cut oats are cooked to perfection and served with a dollop of butter (real, of course) and raw, locally harvested honey (Ravencroft Farm). A comfort food and taste sensation, Irish oats are pure bliss in the AM! But, alas, the food critics they demand more. They find this simple fare, well, simple. Consequently, the pressure for a pleasing lunch selection was keenly felt, I had to rally…

Lunch….hmmm… Did I mention I had a deadline yesterday and so my 14 year old graciously offered to help with lunch?  I was Chef (chopping vegetables, barking out orders, emailing attachments, and re-emailing attachments) and he was Sous Chef. Well, when I told him to add 2 cups of flour to the mixing bowl (homemade egg noodles for the chicken and vegetable soup boiling away on the stove), he assumed I’d meant for him to add them to the bowl of cherries (hand-picked last year) with a handful of sugar and a pinch of pectin thawing on the counter. Barely making my deadline, I rushed back to the kitchen for some quick kneading of the noodle dough. And then, I saw the bowl – a pink, pasty mixture of cherry delight.

When life gives you lemons – right?  Okay, we’re trained experts here, we can handle this. Added was a few more packages of frozen cherries and more sugar to thaw & marinate on the counter. Today, it was cooked down a bit and it’s now slated for cherry cobbler (writing my own recipe) and cherry turnovers (left over puff-pastry from the Asparagus & Gruyere Tarts made for Easter – AMAZING!!).

It’s hard to think about lunch when you’d rather be a Pâtisserie Chef than just a plan old, boring Chef. As the critics began inundating with questions as to the identity of the Lunch Special, I started to grab. I pulled out my trusty 9×9 ceramic pan in a lovely, spring-green hue and buttered it (again real butter). After slicing the last few pieces of bread, I grabbed and quickly grated all the cheese ends I could find (we’re down to just cheddar – Gruyere doesn’t last here). I threw in some diced ham left-over from Easter; some free-range, organic eggs with their glorious bright orange yokes (indicating a high level of nutritional content); and yummy mushrooms who spoke (“eat me, eat me”) to me when I was rummaging through the fridge. Viola! The Lunch Special was in the oven.

Ham, oh my! A ham hock still remained in the fridge. While lunch was baking, the ham was tossed in the crockpot on a low heat with some water.  Last year, my attempt at Ham & Bean Soup became a copious amount of  salty, mushy bean disaster. But, not one to give up too easily, I’m starting again – perhaps, I learned something and this year it will be tres magnifique… FYI – Mere de Chef doesn’t love Ham & Beans so her attitude may have created a biased that affected the whole process.

Turns out lunch was not so special for all the foodies. One critic, in particular, spent most of lunch comparing the homey Egg Strata to Quiche (which is what he would have preferred to have).  When the general unrest trickled down to the rookie foodies who started to request items from the Ala Carte Menu, Mere de Chef pulled out her standard line perfected with years of use:  “I am not, nor will I ever be, a short-order cook!”

Remember the cherries and puff pastry?  The Cherry Turnovers turned out divinely, and proved to be a triumphant ending to The Lunch Special.  Mere de Chef can kick her feet up still donning her “power apron,” sip her green mint tea from mismatch chinz, contemplate her bowl full of cherries (literally and figuratively), lament another day without homemade yogurt, and plan for The Dinner Special…  Welcome to Le Cafe!!

“These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time.” Psalm 104:27

October 3, 2009

Harvesting “Les Raisins”

October 2009090Autumn is synonymous with harvest in the cooler north. The trees begin to show their fall splendor with shocks of brilliant red and golden yellow.  The garden is finally yielding its hard squashes and pumpkins for spice-laden pies and breads.  The cooler nights means that apples of all variety are finally ready to become apple crisps, dumplings and sauces.  And, the grapes…

Picking ripe fruit is an experience of utter joy.  The fragrance fills the air and the colors stimulate the senses.  I’ve had the pleasure of harvesting strawberries, raspberries, currants, cherries and now grapes this year.  But, it’s not only the harvesting.  It’s sense of community with those around you who are also caught up in the moment and in the pleasure.  The excitement in their voice as they exclaim, “You must see this clump.  There’s a bucket-full right here!”

Graeme

Graeme

Grapes, to me, are the grand finale of the fruit picking season. I am lost in the sheer pleasure of the experience feeling a special kinship with my very (very) distant relatives harvesting ancient vineyards in the French countryside. The Bible tells us the God has given us wine/grapes to gladden our hearts. Just the plucking of the fruit is enough to make my heart sing.

Forrest

Forrest

He makes grass grow for the cattle,
and plants for man to cultivate—
bringing forth food from the earth:

wine that gladdens the heart of man,
oil to make his face shine,
and bread that sustains his heart. Psalm 104:14&15

Colin

Colin

Drake

Drake

Grandmere

Grandmere

C'est moi!

C'est moi!

Grapes!

Grapes!