MODERN DAY MARTHA

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    The Art of Homemaking

    Friday, September 10th, 2010

    I often feel like a boat set adrift without a compass when it comes to homemaking.  So many times I have not had any idea what to do next or how to manage the tasks that arise in my daily life.  My mother in law has been singing the praises of a book she read as a young mother.  I was recently as my sister in law’s house and saw the book on her shelf.  I borrowed it and can see why it made such an impact in their lives.

    The Art of Homemaking by Daryl V. Hoole is a wonderful book that inspires me as a homemaker and as a mother.  It was written in 1967 by a lady who really knew her stuff!

    Book1

    “By systematically keeping your home clean through daily and weekly work, coupled with extra deep cleaning periodically, you will be able to rejoice in your sparkling home all year round…”

    I can see the value of that.  Makes perfect sense…

    Here are her eight points for an orderly home:
    1.  Let each room fulfill its function.
    2.  Streamline each room.
    3.  Keep neat closets and drawers.
    4.  Have the courage to throw away.
    5.  Label all stored items.
    6.  Store some food.
    7.  Learn the fun of filing.
    8.  Take care of the children’s toys.

    The next paragraph offers hope.  She says, “It’s never too late or too early.  Form the orderly habit now.  You know, if you make the things you have to do a habit you won’t have to force yourself any longer.  Then you will enjoy a neat home, peace of mind, and you’ll be able to find things – even in the dark!”

    She has so many great suggestions and thoughts on the entire process of making a home from organizing, daily schedules and cleaning that reading this book actually makes me excited to get up and take care of my home.

    I think many of the things she says are very logical and I probably could figure it all out after maybe 50 years, but I don’t have that long.  Or what I really mean is that I don’t want to spend that much time trying to figure it all out.  I want to know it all now and get on with my life.

    The first best thing that I have learned from this book, is her schedule of cleaning; there are daily items, weekly items, quarterly and yearly items.  The second best thing is really a complete mindset change about my tasks.  I have to decide to take pleasure and joy from my job and not be bogged down by the fact that I am doing the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…  I have a problem with this one.  Big time!

    One of the things I love about this book is that it was written in 1967.  You can really see that by the adorable illustrations.  Also by some of the things she says.  It’s too cute.  But instead of being too old fashioned to be useful, I am finding it to be exactly the opposite.  There are some old fashioned comments but I just laugh and keep reading.

    tomatoes

    One of the ways I have been implementing her teachings into my life is to make use of the ample garden bounty that my family and neighbors have shared with me.  I recently canned a really basic tomato sauce and tomato juice.

    To make the tomato sauce, I sauteed onions and garlic in olive oil.  Then I washed, cut off the yucky parts of the tomatoes and quartered them.  Next I put them in the blender and pureed the heck out of them; seeds, skin and all.  Then I dumped them in the pot with the onions and garlic.  I boiled the sauce until it reduced a bit and got thicker, probably a good hour.  Then I put into clean pint jars, put the lids on and turned upside down for the lids to seal.

    The juice was also very simple.  I washed the tomatoes, cut off the yuckies and put into my juicer.  The collected juice was then put in a pot on my stove and brought to a boil.  I boiled it for nearly half an hour to make sure that any little bacteria or other beasties were properly disposed of and then I ladled the hot juice into clean quart jars, put the lids on and turned upside down to seal.

    UsedTomatoes

    The day before I was able to process a bunch of corn to be used in the future.  I shucked it and then boiled the cobs and all for 5 minutes.  I pulled them out of the water and set aside to cool.  After cool, I cut off all the kernels.  Then laid them out on two jelly roll sheets and put in my freezer over night.  When frozen, I measured 3 cups worth into vacuum pack bags, sealed them up, labeled them and put back in the freezer.

    The only special equipment I needed for these three projects were a vacuum packer and a juicer.  All the rest were things that I think most people would readily have on hand.

    Next on the homemaking agenda is to really figure out my schedule and figure out the best way to put it in a place that I will use it.  I’m really wishing for an awesome homemaking iPhone app about now!

    I’ll get back to you with the schedule and maybe you’ll find it useful too.

    Yumminess. Or not. :)

    Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

    So, as promised, the curry chicken salad recipe from last night. I LOVED it, but I give it with the simple warning to let the people you’re serving it to know what it is ahead of time. Things were kind of rushed at dinner time last night, and I just served it on croissants with no description, just like I serve regular chicken salad, and apparently the taste came as quite a surprise that wasn’t exactly pleasant. But I think it’s completely delish, so I offer it here. (I snagged it from AllRecipes.com but made some changes, which is what I’m putting here. If you want the original recipe, follow that link.)  This made enough for about 4 croissants full.

    2  cans of precooked chicken
    1/2 stalk celery, chopped
    1/2 small apple – peeled, cored and chopped
    1/4 cup golden raisins
    1/4 cup seedless green grapes, halved
    1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

    1/2 teaspoon curry powder

    3/4 cup mayonnaise

    Mix everything together, and let sit in the fridge for about an hour before serving to let all the tastes mix together. Serve on croissants, bread, lettuce, whatever you like!

    Hope you enjoy it!

    A few of my favorite things

    Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

    Fresh produce. We recently discovered a tiny farm with a produce stand close to our home, and I love stopping by for fresh, yummy goodness. Today we got squash, plums, tomatoes, strawberries… it doesn’t get better than that.

    Fun blogs about doing art with kids. These two are my current favorites- SO inspiring!  Filth Wizardry (best name EVER!)  and The Artful Parent.

    Books about butterflies. We’re obsessed with them around here recently. A World Of Butterflies is stunningly gorgeous- an art book more than an identification guide. We found Butterflies & Moths (Smithsonian Handbooks) to be much more helpful in that regard.

    Pruning back our flowers. I don’t even know if pruning is the right word- basically just taking all the dead brown yucky bits off. (We had some casualties around here during the couple day heat wave.) There’s just something wonderful about pulling off all of the deadness to reveal the green beneath… I think there’s a potential post in that, so I’ll leave it for now. :)

    Finding a fun new recipe. I discovered what looks to be a delicious one for curry chicken salad. If it turns out as wonderful as it looks, I’ll share tomorrow!

    What’s one of your favorite things today? Do share!

    The Post about Zucchini

    Friday, August 27th, 2010

    The alternate title of this post is, “The Post Where I Learn that Zucchini is Spelled with an H”…

    I love the idea of gardens full of produce.  That beautiful cornucopia of squash, tomatoes, beans, and all things fresh and good.  Don’t forget those delightfully green and refreshing cucumbers!  I love gardens.

    I don’t have a garden but I am hoping that 2011 will be the year of my first garden.  We will see…

    While I love the idea of gardens, I am not always sure what to do with the produce that my wonderfully generous neighbors pass onto me.  So I decided that this summer will be the year that I learn how to feed zucchini to my family.

    I don’t find zucchini by itself all that exciting.  I think it is stunning to look at.  I love the bright, vivid green and yellows motled together on a smooth shiny surface.  I just love it.  However, eating it has always left me a bit disheartened.  I don’t find the flavor as exciting as I wish I did.

    So to remedy my bias toward zucchini I have decided to learn some recipes that will utilize its true yumminess.  Here are a few that I have found:

    Lemon-Zucchini Cookies (See my comments below before attempting these delicious cookies)

    Stuffed Zucchini with Potatoes and Peas

    Zucchini Oven Chips

    Zucchini Gratin

    Double Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

    Zucchini Bread

    I have made two of these recipes (the lemon-zucchini cookies and the zucchini bread).  Both turned out super yummy.

    Now before you make either of those, I have a confession.  I hate following recipes.  I am what you might call an “organic cook”.  Not organic in the sense that I only purchase organically grown items, but organic in the artistic sense of the word.  I like to use recipes as guides.  I rarely, if ever, follow a recipe exactly as it directs.  I add a little bit of this and a little less of that depending on how the fancy strikes me.  My results are not always consistent but usually they turn out great.  Some people might call that a flaw, but I just call it Cooking Character.  I have Cooking Character in spades.

    The bread recipe above turned out delish!  The only change I really made to it was that instead of egg substitute I used actual eggs.  I think I used about three eggs, maybe four.  I also used my whole zucchini which came to more like 3 1/2 cups instead of the 2 1/2 the recipe calls for.  I do really like the amount of spice in this recipe.  It turned out quite flavorful.  Kind of heavy, but I don’t mind heavy.

    The cookie recipe was all wrong, in my opinion.  It turned out amazingly delicious but I just wanted to warn you that I am recommending a recipe that I completely changed.  Hear me out first before you skip that one by.

    I started out making it as Martha Stewart recommended but I thought it was too runny and not really sweet enough.  As is, I think it would make a nice tea type cookie.  That’s not really what I was craving so I added about 1/2 C brown sugar and added more flour, maybe about 3/4 C.  Then I decided to add a few eggs because I have a huge carton of fresh, delicious eggs sitting on my counter.  Why not?  I also added some baking soda so that they would rise a bit.  Oh also, in the interest of full disclosure, I added some applesauce as well.  Ok, ok, ok, I also doubled the recipe, did half butter and half applesauce, and in the additional flour that I added about 1/2 C was whole wheat flour.

    OK, so basically I made an entirely new recipe but I think if you try the recipe Martha Stewart suggests, you will like it.  That’s all I am trying to get across here.  It also makes a great jumping off point if you want to experiment and try it your own way.  I have eaten way too many.  I’m feeling a little ill.  Like WAY too many, not just a few too many…

    The next recipe I am going to try is similar to the zucchini gratin recipe above.  My mom was telling me about it over the phone.  You basically make a quiche type dish with eggs, zucchini, bread crumbs, cheese, etc and bake it until it is solid in the center.  I might make that tomorrow night.  I think it will be super yummy!

    Finally, the old stand by recipe in our house for using up zucchini and other summer squashes is a stir fry.  How can you go wrong with that?  It’s always fresh tasting and (dare I say this word one more time?) delicious!

    Do you have any favorite zucchini recipes?  Please share them in the comments.

    2 for 2 :)

    Sunday, February 7th, 2010

    I made two new recipes this week, both “borrowed” from others.

    Homemade pot pie (thanks Brookey!)

    Shepherd’s pie (thanks Chef Ramsey!)

    Plates were licked, so Success!

    What yummy meals have you made lately?

    Instant spice

    Sunday, February 7th, 2010

    I know I just posted, but I had to share my morning’s inspiration to add instant spice to our day:

    Add chocolate chips to the pancakes.


    100_7185

    100_7188

    What’s your recipe for instant spice?

    Frito Boat

    Thursday, November 19th, 2009

    The other night my wonderful fiance introduced me to my new favorite meal–a Frito boat.  It was fun to eat (I felt about 5) and super yummy.  Enjoy :)

    Ingredients:

    1 small bag Frito corn chips per person

    1 large can chili

    grated cheese

    Instructions:

    1) Heat chili

    2) Open bag of corn chips

    3) Grate cheese

    4) Pour chili into bag of chips and top with cheese

    5) Eat!

    Does anyone have any fun (and maybe slightly embarassing…) meals to share?  Frito-Lay ingredients admired but not required :)

    Take a chance on cheese

    Friday, October 30th, 2009

    OK, the title of the post is a little groan worthy. But you know you love Abba. And  Erasure. (You really should go check out both videos, it will make your day a little gigglier.)

    Anyway.

    Yesterday I hosted book club at my home, and as with any good gathering, we had to have food. We read To Kill A Mockingbird, and as it is full of mentions of food, we decided to have refreshments that were mentioned in the book. If you’ve read the book (and if you haven’t, go read it!), you’ll remember the scene toward the end where Scout is dressed as a ham for a play.  So of course, we had to have something with ham, in honor of Scout. :)

    I had something roughly in mind, but when I came across this recipe, I decided to go for it, despite the fact that I don’t like Dijon mustard and am somewhat afraid of Gruyere cheese.

    Oh.

    My.

    Goodness.

    So good.

    This was great as a savory refreshment (our other offering was angel food cake with strawberries- definitely on the sweet side), but it would be absolutely divine as a rainy day lunch.

    Or dinner.

    Or both.

    I might make it again tomorrow.

    So without any further ado, and with all credit to Ina Garten, the lovely Barefoot Contessa herself, the recipe.

    Wait- a little further ado. I really do suggest sticking to the recipe, just to try it. Don’t just substitute Cheddar like I always do. Go with the Dijon. Splurge a little. It’s so worth it.

    Oh, and I’ll also mention, the recipe says this makes 6 servings.  Just so you know.  If you were just making it for yourself, I’d only make 1/2, it doesn’t keep well.

    Ingredients

    nocoupons

    • 1 package (2 sheets) frozen puff pastry, defrosted (recommended: Pepperidge Farm)
    • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    • 1/4 pound black forest ham, sliced
    • 1/2 pound Swiss Gruyere cheese, sliced
    • 1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

    Directions

    Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan.

    Lay 1 sheet of puff pastry on a floured board and carefully roll it out to 10 by 12 inches. Place it on a sheet pan and brush the center with the mustard, leaving a 1-inch border around the edge. Place a layer first of ham and then cheese, also leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the border with the egg wash.

    Place the second sheet of puff pastry on the floured board and roll it out to 10 by 12inches. Place the second sheet on top of the filled pastry, lining up the edges. Cut the edges straight with a small, sharp knife and press together lightly. Brush the top with egg wash and cut a few slits in the top to allow steam to escape.

    Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until puffed and golden brown. Allow to cool for a few minutes and serve hot or warm.

    NOTE: I baked it for 25 minutes at 400 degrees (I saw it suggested multiple times in the comments) and it came out perfectly. Your oven may vary.

    Chocolate Cherry Cookies

    Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

    The best thing, well, one of at least, about being an adult is not having to wait for cookies. Right now, it’s getting late in the evening, but I just pulled a batch of warm cookies out of the oven. Baked because it’s going to rain tonight (I hope) and it’s fall and my husband and I just wanted cookies. Sometimes you have to give in and let go and bake cookies.

    To this end, I am sharing a recipe. I love these cookies. Addictive, easy, and almost healthy. But don’t let that stop you from whipping up a batch when the mood strikes. Go on. Share some with someone you love.

    Chocolate Cherry Cookies

    makes about 3 dozen

    Ingredient List:

    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature

    1 cup packed brown sugar

    2 eggs

    1 tablespoon vanilla

    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

    1 teaspoon baking soda

    2 teaspoons cinnamon

    1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    2 cups rolled oats

    1 cup high-fiber cereal with flakes and twigs (I use “Twigs Flakes and Clusters” from Trader Joe’s. Kashi “Good Friends” is another good choice)

    1 cup dried cherries, sour cherries are the best

    1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

    Method:

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

    Cream together the sugar and the butter until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, beat until well incorporated.

    In a small bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda and spices.

    In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, cereal, cherries and chocolate chips.

    Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and slowly blend (on low if using a stand mixer) until just mixed. Add the oat mixture and blend (on low if using a stand mixer) until the dough comes together and the ingredients are distributed fairly evenly throughout.

    The dough will be very soft and clumpy because of all the good stuff in there.

    Drop dough in rounded tablespoon fulls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Make sure to keep the dough mounded–the cookies will flatten out in the oven. Bake for 12 minutes or until the centers are just set but still look a bit underdone. Let cool on the cookie sheet for about 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

    The cookies will keep for about a week in an air-tight container. But I doubt you’ll be able to keep them around that long.

    It’s (Often) Salvagable

    Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

    Beef Wellington

    I attempted to make the beef wellington from the above video Sunday night.  Joey watches Dexter (which is super scary, as an FYI…), and we invited over his good friends JJ and Georgina to watch it and eat a yummy meal.

    It was an epic fail.  I just couldn’t get anything to work out…I bought the wrong meat, the mushrooms wouldn’t puree, I didn’t give myself enough time, etc.  To top it all off, trying to comfort me, Joey reminded me that “No one cares about the food, Brandy.”  This had the opposite effect of what was intended, as now I was grumpy that no one cared even though I was going to all this trouble.

    Long story short, we ordered pizza and it was fine.  Fun, even.

    Last night I tried to rescue the ingredients I had spent so much money and time on.  I seasoned and sauted some red potatoes and made a green salad with mustard dressing.  I pan friend the beef steaks.

    Joey ate two servings.  Meal=salvaged :)

    Any stories of salvaging a meal?