Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christmas Sewing

I've been working on my Christmas sewing projects. One has been in the works for a while and others I just started yesterday. For several years now I have given handmade things to everyone in our family, the kids usually find a mix of handmade and store-bought/vintage gifts tucked under the tree. Every year it's the handmade things that bring me the most joy to give. There is really nothing like seeing someone you love open something you produced with your own hands, if they love it and use, all the better. The scarf and hat sets I knitted for the kids two years ago have seen more use as leashes in their favorite game of "Dog and Owner" than for warmth, but at least they use them for something.
A set of potholders with a matching dishtowel are all ready to be packaged up and sent off to my sister along with some fleece dolls for her little ones. My mother's gift is almost done, can't say what that is, she'll find out! A sister of mine who has a birthday today has something that is halfway finished. The fabric for a darling stuffed elephant is waiting to be cut, that's for Sweet Baby Girl. Last night I even squeaked in a handmade treat for myself.
If you are thinking of making some things for people you love this Christmas, give it a try. Choose something simple that uses materials and skills you already possess and you will find more joy than ever before in giving gifts this year!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Photo

I know this is the second week featuring a certain toddler's hair. Jumping on a friend's trampoline brought on a major static attack, cracked me up. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving Day!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Year of Pie: Spiced Pumpkin Pie

At our home, we are serious about Pumpkin Pie. It was the first thing I ever cooked for my husband when we were dating. Over the years it has been his birthday "cake" multiple times, kind of to be expected when you have a late October birthday. I have made it from fresh pumpkin many times, even tried cooking down the pumpkin puree in an iron skillet to make it extra rich before adding it to the pie filling. You name it, I've tried it.

The real breakthrough came from an old Bon Appetit magazine salvaged from the free bin at our library. Several years ago, the actual magazine met it's fate but the torn out page found a permanent home in my recipe file. What sets this apart from the back-of-the-can recipe is the combination of sugars, the spices and the addition of molasses and real cream. No evaporated milk to be found here friends, just the straight up real stuff. My only change from the original recipe is to use a homemade crust instead of the frozen crust they call for. Don't mean to sound like a food snob here, folks, but a pie crust is really easy to make. Do not fear the crust. Try my recipe and you will see for yourself what a difference it makes. That said, let's make some Spiced Pumpkin Pie!

In a good sized bowl, combine your dry ingredients. I love the contrasting colors of the four spices all together.

Here are the four different spices I used. All my spices and herbs come from our local natural foods store where they have a bulk herb section. Not only is the selection incredible, they are very fresh and much much cheaper than what you find at the grocery store. I could just stand there and open each jar one at a time and smell them all. I keep my spices in 4 ounce canning jars, they are a perfect size and you can enjoy all the pretty colors whenever you open the cabinet.

Above you can see the three eggs, funny how different the colors of the yolks are. Also, you can see my favorite eggbeater. This one hangs by my stove and gets used everyday. If you don't have a sturdy vintage rotary beater, find yourself one. You'll be forever grateful, they are so very handy.

This vintage pyrex bowl has a pretty cross-stitch pattern that you can't see on the outside, inside it has the beaten eggs, molasses, heavy cream and pumpkin puree. Pumpkin puree from a can. I love it.

Pouring the cream/egg/pumpkin/molasses mixture into the sugar and spice mixture. It's kind of mesmerising pouring in there isn't it?

Here is the pie, ready to go into a hot oven. The sacred magazine page is sitting right by the pie.

And now the finished pie, still slightly puffed from baking. I have a thing about crust, incase you hadn't noticed. The bottom of the crust must be golden and baked. Obviously this presents some problems since it is on the bottom of a searing hot pie plate. This is why I alway use glass. When I think it's just about done, I carefully take it out of the oven and lift it up high enough to see the bottom crust. If it's not brown enough, it goes back in to finish. An underbaked crust is the ruination of many good pies. Bake that crust!

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon ginger
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree (one can)
2 tablespoons molasses
3 eggs
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 nine inch pie crust

Stir together the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, molasses, eggs and cream. Pour into the first mixture and then into the pie crust. Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake about 40 minutes or until the center is just set. Cool and serve with lots of freshly whipped cream.

Serving with lots of freshly whipped cream is just what you'll find me doing this Thursday, this and The Other Pie.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Photo

What better way to scoop homemade laundry soap than with an antique silver spoon!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Raisin Scones

Every couple of weeks we have hot scones for breakfast. Basically a scone is a lightly sweetened biscuit. Beyond the basics, the sky is the limit with scones. You can bake up savory scones with herbs and cheese to serve with a rich stew in the winter or quiche and a beautiful salad in the summer. Of course, small dainty scones with strawberry jam and devonshire cream is a must for tea party. This recipe is tried and true, and it's bona fide since it comes from a bread book written by a British baker. I have adapted it a bit for my taste and I always double the recipe to feed the horde. This recipe is dedicated to my dear friend Sally, who has never been too old for a tea party!

Raisin Scones
adapted from 100 Great Breads by Paul Hollywood

1 2/3 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons of butter
2 medium eggs, beaten
scant cup of milk
1/2 cup raisins
sugar for sprinkling

Mix together the flours, sugar, baking powder and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or by hand (I always use my hands, they are your best kitchen utensil!). Mix together the eggs and milk, then stir into the flour and butter mixture. Knead lightly in the bowl or on a floured surface, adding more milk if the mixture is too dry. Knead in the raisins until evenly distributed. Pat the dough into a thick circle and cut out with a biscuit cutter. For breakfast I use a large size but for a tea party I would use my smallest cutter. Put the scones on a buttered baking sheet and sprinkle them with sugar. I only use raw sugar for baking and it makes the loveliest crust on the tops of the scones. If you only have granulated sugar it will be just fine, but raw sugar is amazing for this. It will make you will make you feel quite fancy indeed! Bake in a 400 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Serve right away with plenty of butter, jam and devonshire cream. Be sure to wear your best hat!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Photo

Here is my favorite photograph from this week. This also happens to be one of my favorite people. Yesterday evening, after a rain shower, the sun was shining and I sat outside with our youngest son while he played and chattered away. Right now he loves airplanes, balls to roll and throw and "big" spiders. As you can see, he has a head full of fabulous golden curls.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veteran's Day

I love Veteran's Day. For many years now I have called my grandfathers and my grandfather-in-law to thank them for what they did for me and our country when they were young men. This year I will call my grandfather in Michigan to thank him. I'll think of my paternal grandfather and the stories he told about seeing Paris at it's height of destruction after WWII. I'll also think about my husband's grandfather and all the stories he never told a soul about his four years of service in Europe during WWII. Then I'll call my little brother to thank him for serving two long deployments as a Marine in Iraq. Great courage is what it took to do their jobs to protect our country and years of great courage to come home and pick up their lives and carry on. Thank you!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Grade B Baby!

For several years I have been reading about Grade B maple syrup. The elusive syrup that is made after the Grade A syrup you find in the store, the stuff maple syrup makers save for themselves to pour on their pancakes and drizzle over their vanilla ice cream. An internet search showed where I could order some, after I won the lottery that is. I resigned myself to enjoying the regular stuff until that fine day when we could visit Vermont and hunt some down.
Well then, I was perusing our natural food store, filling up my jar with some blackstrap molasses from the bulk section, when what should I see but a spigot labeled Grade B Maple Syrup! Could it be? If you happened to see a woman crying in the bulk section, that was me. I filled up my jar, toted it home and proceeded to sample the nectar with a spoon. Of course, my husband caught me so then I had to share. Now every Friday morning you will find us pouring our Grade B (that's what we call it) over our pancakes and the person who cleans up the kitchen gets to lick the spoon!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Friday Photo

Inspired by my very own creative mother, I have been taking at least one photograph everyday. Doesn't sound all that ambitious, but sometimes I'll go several days without picking up my camera. To rectify that I have been taking daily photographs of life around me. And this, my friends, is my offering to you this week. I do hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Of Disasters, Culinary and Otherwise

Lately I have been slightly forgetful and distracted. Not too bad of a problem unless you forget to turn off the burner under a pan with a colander full of pasta in it. Then being forgetful tends to chap your hide. And did you know that after it cools, you can peel melted plastic right off of the beautiful pan you just "inherited" that same week from your mother-in-law. A great deal can be accomplished with a good dose of determination!

And a little note to self, if you put some chair cushions into the washer to clean them, check them first to see what they are stuffed with. In the off chance that they are stuffed with a million little chunks of foam, try another method of cleaning besides the trusty old washing machine. Otherwise you will find yourself scooping out wet little chunks of foam with a dixie cup for at least half an hour. And that's all the nuggets of advice from little old me today!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Thrifting Treasures

On a recent trip to see my family, my mom and I treated ourselves to a day of thrift shopping, antique browsing and non-stop talking in a town near their farm. Of course, since it was just us girls (Sweet Babe was with us) we ate yummy girl food for lunch at a charming lunch spot.

Two of my favorite finds of the day are featured in the photo above. I am delighted by the teacup from the Hotel Peabody in Memphis Tennessee which is still in operation. Of all the china patterns I have seen, this is one of my all time favorites. The weight of it is what makes it perfect. It's like those old restaurant mugs that are just the thing for a steaming mug of coffee on a cold morning. Extra cream please. In fact, I had my coffee in it this morning!

The New Encyclopedia of Modern Sewing is beautiful, full of photos and sketches from the fifties. I picked it up because it had a whole chapter about recovering furniture, something I plan to undertake quite soon. I do believe it will be right at home by my collection of Home Ec books from the fifties.

What is your favorite thrifted or antique treasure?