Many Thanks

Pida bread


There are so many blessing for which to be thankful on this day I hardly know where to begin so I’ll start small.  My new-ish Breville mixer is such a step up from the new generation of Kitchenaid stand mixers that I’m actually thankful my previous mixer bit the dust so I could find this gem.  It powers through even whole wheat dough, although today I’m just making Pida Bread from my 2-2-2 Good Bread recipe:

  • 2 cups All-Purpose Bread Flour
  • 2 cups Bread Flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons cold butter
  • 2 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water, divided

First, notice only one ingredient is not 2 of some standard measurement:  the water.  Now on to the method:

In 1/2 cup warm water, dissolve the yeast.  Measure out 1 cup of room temperature water in another pitcher and set aside.

Combine the dry ingredients in mixer bowl and stir well.  Drop in the butter in small chips.

With the dough hook installed and the mixer running at the recommended setting for kneading bread, slowly pour in the liquids.  Knead for a maximum of 10 minutes in the machine.  Once the dough is formed and starting to become elastic at about 5-8 minutes, I like to take it out and finish the last bit of kneading on my bread board because I have never outgrown the joy of playing with dough.  When the dough is smooth and elastic, form into a ball.  Oil your rising bowl, place your ball top down first to pick up a little of the oil and then turn it upright and cover lightly with a damp kitchen towel.  Allow to rise in a warm spot for about 90 minutes.

Divide and shape.  If making baguettes, I shape 2 of them directly as the shaping into the baguette form adequately deflates the dough. I then place them on a baking sheet dredged with cornmeal and then sprinkle more cornmeal on top.  Next, cover with waxed paper or the kitchen towel again and let rise for 30-40 minutes.  Slash just before placing in oven to allow a good oven spring.

If making pida rounds, I divide the dough, round each half into a ball, gently press flat into a circle to deflate and round it up into a ball again, then let rest for 10 minutes to soften as the rounding and deflating energizes the gluten and it will fight the final shaping unless you let it rest.  After the 10 minute rest, I take each ball and press into a well-greased 9-inch cake pan.  Make the traditional pattern of slices on the top with a sharp knife.  Brush with milk and then sprinkle with sesame seeds.  Cover and let rise for 30-40 minutes.

Bake either style of bread in a pre-heated oven at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

For easiest slicing and a crustier crust in either style, allow to cool and then reheat in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes, but also delicious sliced immediately and always slathered with butter!  I also have it on good authority that the baguettes make nice French Toast.  It makes sense since if there is any left over, it gets stale overnight and stale bread makes the best French Toast.

Most of all, I am thankful for all the wonderful people in my life with whom I love to break bread.  Many thanks and love to you all, wherever you find yourself today.


5 1/2 down

Boatneck tee 1
Here’s the problem with stash-busting: if you sew up some stashed fabric but you still have a usable piece left-over, you haven’t really reduced your stash. Sigh.

This is a wearable muslin of Christine Jonson’s Shirred Tee, only I omitted the shirring because as stylish as it looks in all the reviews on, I realized that the ENTIRE top would be self-lined resulting in a t-shirt that is virtually unwearable most of the time in my climate. Even in winter I wouldn’t wear a double-thick t-shirt because I like to be able to layer jackets and sweaters over tees. But I wanted a boatneck top and this pattern is about all I could find with that detail, so I eliminated the shirring and empire seam, drafted a front and back neck facing and made a simple basic boatneck t-shirt. This could become a TNT (tried and true) pattern with a little more adjustment. It’s a bit snug in this fabric, which has 40% stretch if you really pull and lazy recovery so I need to go up a size for firm knits and keep this draft for the really stretchy stuff above 50% stretch across the grain with lycra to aid snappy recovery. I believe I might also give it a FBA before trying it again, even on a stretchier fabric.

Yes I do see that pucker on the sleeve seam, but this top fits so tightly you don’t see that when it’s on.

Adoption readiness

Kefir strainer
I’m adopting Kefir grains this weekend. Kefir is reputed to be many times more beneficial than yogurt and lower carb to boot. Supposedly, any metal is anathema to the living grains so I laid in this non-metal strainer in order to separate the grains from the milk as directed. This claim is suspect since one of the sites that stridently proclaims that contact with any metal will kill the grains clearly shows photos of a standard metal mesh strainer being used to drain off the kefir and save the grains for re-use. Well, just to be safe. Here’s to my new Kefir grains, slainte!

At the turn of the season…

2013 Garden salad


For a short time in the fall, if you get your lettuce seed planted early enough and have indeterminate tomato varieties still hanging on bravely, you can have bursting-with-flavor, vine-ripened tomatoes plus tender, sweet early lettuce leaves and thinnings from your garden in your dinner salad at the same time.  Bliss.


Rice for a Crowd

Rice for a crowd


Okay, so you know how to make Rice Pilaf from reading my previous post and you have mastered that, right?  Super!  One day, you may want to make LOTS of rice pilaf for a big party.  The recipe is basically the same but I have converted everything to weight and changed the method slightly to accommodate the larger batch.  Here you see everything staged to make several batches.  I make 4 batches of the bulk recipe to serve over 100 people, start around 8 in the morning and have it ready by 11:30 to serve at our annual end of harvest BBQ.

Hope you have an accurate kitchen scale that will measure both ounces and grams because for consistency weighing ingredients is so much better than measuring with cups and spoons:

  • 3 cubes butter (12 0z., or 3/4 lb.)
  • 520 grams Cut Fideo (approximately 6 cups)
  • 1120 grams white rice (6 cups)
  • 45 grams salt (2 Tablespoons)
  • 36 grams lemon juice (2 Tablespoons)
  • 2 Large Cans Swanson’s Chicken Broth (49 oz ea.)
  • 6 cups water (50 oz.)

The method is basically the same as before except you will need 2 very large stockpots.  In the smaller of the two, pour the liquids and heat to just below a simmer while you are sauteing the fideo in the melted butter.  Brown the fideo, remove from heat, add the rice and stir well.  Add the heated liquids, the salt and the lemon juice.  Return to heat and wait for a brisk boil to resume before covering, reducing heat to low and cooking on low for 30 minutes.  This rice will stay hot for several hours if you DO NOT OPEN THE LID until you are ready to serve and wrap the pot in heavy towels or some other insulating material.  When I open the first batch at noon (remember I started at 8 in the morning?) it is still piping hot.  Stir well before serving.  The lemon juice helps prevent the rice from getting too sticky, although this big batch tends to be stickier than the normal size based on one cup of rice and one can of broth. On the stove in the photo above you see my largest All-Clad Stockpot…and I own 3 of these just for this annual event.  It may be their 20 quart model, I can’t remember.  It’s BIG.  If you had a restaurant kitchen, you could make this much rice all in one batch, but you’d have to be the Incredible Hulk to stir the vermicelli and lift the hot liquids to pour them in.  I have found this 6-cup batch to be the very limit that I can manage.  You should be able to serve around 50 normal party-goers with one batch.  I have to make 4 batches to serve around 100 because this crowd has been waiting a full year for the rice, we serve a lot of it on each plate and we offer takeout boxes for the leftovers.


Stashbusting con’t.

Blue Oxford Shirt


This was some of the oldest un-sewn garment fabric I owned, but cotton Oxford Cloth shirting never goes out of style so now my old fabric is a new shirt and one more piece of yard goods is out of the fabric closet and into the clothes closet.

Also a pattern that had been around for a while has been used.  I’d been wanting to try New Look 6598 for some time.  I like it, but my Coldwater Creek wing collar shirts are made without that facing piece at the back neck you see here edged with with serge stitching.  I suspect they have a single purpose machine for attaching the collar/front band all in one pass.  There is no other way I can see to get as clean a finish as they do.  Anyway, I always prefer a collar on a stand over this style of construction with a facing because every piece is contained and controlled with machine stitching.  When you are wearing the shirt, no one sees the difference, but when you put the garment on, there is always a little fussing with that facing, which is just tacked down, to make sure it behaves and doesn’t flip up where you can’t tack it.

Happily, I got a reprieve from a recent moment of weakness that allowed me to think I needed to purchase more fabric from  I am not putting a link in for that site, not wanting to enable anyone else’s fabric buying problem.  They were having a lovely sale on knit fabrics and I somehow convinced my self for a few minutes that my collection of knits was getting thin and I ordered 4 pieces of new fabric (to get up to the free shipping amount!) when I had only removed 3 from my stash at that point.  Then I frantically sewed up another piece while I awaited delivery so at least there would be no INCREASE during my stated time of stash-busting.  The delivery never arrived.  I think I mercifully never actually finished the order after all.

So this project makes 5 down and X-5 pieces of fabric left.  X being the mystery number of fabric pieces in my stash when I began and no, I do not want to do an inventory to determine what the original value of X was, thank you very much.

Tom-ay-to, to-mah-to!

Tomato Harvest 2013


This is how you know it’s really summer.  And that once again you have planted far too many tomato plants.  And that you better lay in a supply of bacon.  For all the BLT’s of course!

Tarantula Hawk

Tarantula Hawk


Now this is something interesting to find doing what looks like figure skating school figures in your garage.  The circular movement pattern was obviously the result of this poor wasp having lost a leg somehow.  I’d never seen any insect that looked quite like this before so I ran to my California Insects book and discovered it is a Tarantula Hawk.  What a lifestyle this wasp leads!  I hope you followed the link and read the whole gruesome story and that you make a note in the picture of the intact stinger.  Yikes! Give these ladies a wide berth!  (The males can’t really sting but apparently they pretend they can.  Look for the curled antennae…those are the stinging girls!)

My only remaining question is why this lady wasp was frequenting our neck of the woods.  The tarantulas are all at higher (foothill) elevations in this area, AREN’T THEY???  Please say yes.

Good Riddance to Bad Fabric

Burnout fabric tops


There is some lovely rayon challis in my stash that I’d like to get out of the stash and into the closet in the form of wearable tops.  I’ve been considering a few patterns, among them Simplicity 8523, Vogue 8816, and Burda 7509. What I really wanted was a top that had a nice draped cowl style neck but as I looked at various patterns featuring this neckline I noticed that the ones for woven fabrics were all cut on the bias.  I find bias-cut garments to be uncomfortable to wear and generally a pain to cut out during the construction phase.  So the Vogue design (shown on the right above) very much intrigued me as only the top front piece was cut on the bias.  The part skimming the waist and hip are cut on the straight grain.  Reviewers on PatternReview indicate it runs very large so I cut a straight 10 and made the top out of this mystery fiber burnout fabric that has been in my stash far longer than the rayon.  Obviously, the fabric does not drape well enough for this design.  It’s hard to see this in the photo, but that draped area sticks out in front like some sort of crumb-catcher device.  Not attractive at all.  Plus, the fit is still too loose over the bust and waist and yet too tight over the hip and the top is hard to get past the shoulders when you put it on.  I could probably fix these things, but most likely will not bother.  I have a wonderful Vogue pattern for a cowl neck top for knits so maybe I will just stick with knits for this style and move on…

On to the Burda option.  I went ahead and tried this shirt even though it is cut on the bias.  I was in a hurry to see if it would work and didn’t want to fuss with all the bias finishes on the armholes and and neckline, which was originally cut to be a V-neck as shown in view B.  What I did was put rolled hems on all edges.  I actually like the look and the top fits pretty well so I thought I might wear it over a cami until I started itching like crazy within 2 minutes of putting the top on.  I am actually allergic to some fiber in this fabric blend and even with the rolled hem covering the cut edges something was poking through.  I now realize the only way I could have worn something made of this fabric was to use french seams as even serge-finished seam allowances would have allowed fibers to poke through and irritate my skin.  Pfffft.

The Simplicity style is probably my best choice for the rayons.  I made up a muslin of the pattern ages ago and made some fitting adjustments based on that so even though it’s plain and simple, in nice rayon batik I think it will make serviceable tops for 3-season wear around here.  Nothing wrong with plain and simple.  Some would call that classic.  A couple of classic shells would not go amiss in the closet.

The original inspiration for the purchase of this fabric is lost in the mists of time, but let me tell you it was a mistake on many fronts.  And I had lots of it. Sometimes these little misadventures in fabric acquisition have happy endings, like my favorite summer robe made of border print linen I thought I’d use for a pantsuit (you’d laugh out loud if you saw the fabric, perfectly nice in a robe but completely inappropriate for a pantsuit), or my striped denim crop pants of fabric that initially was intended to be a jacket, both of which were declared ugly and un-usable fabric by my 2 most trusted young fashion advisors.   This time, the only happy ending is that I got to try 2 patterns with no risk and I am now 4 fabrics down in my current stash-busting sewing spree.

While I continue mull the pattern choice for the rayon challis fabrics, I am sewing a sleeveless blouse of some shirting fabric that’s been hanging around for 15 years or so.  That would make 5 fabrics out of the stash and if the shirt turns out, 4 wearable garments in the closet!  Good thing because I caved on a sale and ordered some new knit fabric, but that’s another post.  Sigh.

Sew I Gather

Simplicity 2892


This is Simplicity 2892, a cute little summer top from a pattern I vow never to sew again.  I think it turned out well in the end, but the gathered yoke with the little ruffle set into the neckline edge was a lot of fussy sewing for what you get in the end.  I spent the better part of last Sunday gathering, adjusting and hand basting layer after layer.  I made it in a straight size 14.  It came out a bit large for the intended wearer, but not much and her measurements would put her right in a 14, so I took in the side seam and gave it a little shape at the waist.  That helped, but I might recommend going down a size from what you usually sew if you are brave enough to tackle all that gathering.  I think there must be other patterns that give a similar effect with much less effort, like New Look 6895?  Maybe I will try that one soon on this stash-busting summer sewing spree.  I’m certain there are some fabrics in the stash that would be just the thing…