Right tools for the job

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There is a special place in my heart for the clerk at our local kitchen specialty shop who gave me, yes GAVE me this little black scraper tool for removing stubborn stickers from things. I asked her if I could buy one when I saw her using it to remove a sticker before wrapping a gift for me and she said to her knowledge you couldn’t buy these handy little tools, but they had plenty since they came along free with some product they ordered for their business. (Presumably those dratted price stickers they put on everything that you can’t remove without this handy tool!)

Sometimes, well okay, ALWAYS after you have used the handy scraper to remove all the paper from the sticker there is glue residue left behind. That’s where the peanut butter comes in. If the item is not going to be used in the kitchen, I use Goo Gone or some other solvent product, but for food prep or serving items, I don’t want to use solvents. They are not welcome in my kitchen. So a little peanut butter on a paper towel works like a charm. Rub that glue residue and watch it dissolve and disappear. Yes, you now have a greasy smear of peanut butter on your glass (in this case), but a clean paper towel easily gets most of that off and a trip through the dishwasher finishes the job. You will never know there was a stubborn sticker there.

Before I learned this trick I had some cups that retained a gummy residue in perpetuity, no matter how long I soaked them in sudsy water or how many times I sent them through the dishwasher.

Radical Transformation Underway

Okay, maybe not so radical, but it sure felt that way, especially while I was doing it.

Sweater transformation1

 

I knitted this sweater a few years back and found I never wore it even though I was mostly happy with how it fit and how it turned out.  The bright circles are not buttons, but are pins marking the center line for the planned transformation into something I might actually wear.

While they are fast and easy to knit, I find that pullover sweaters are functionally useless for me these days.  I like a cardigan I can pull on and off as needed.  So I decided to try and make a cardigan out of this pullover that had been malingering on a shelf in my closet.

Having done steeks before, I knew a tight zig-zag would secure everything so I did that first:  2 rows of zig-zag stitches down the center front, about 1/4 inch apart.  Then, I took a deep breath and my Gingher shears and started cutting between the machine stitches.  Since the remaining yarn from this project is long gone, the option of picking up stitches and knitting a band on after cutting is also long gone.  I had to think about what to do to control that edge for…oh about 30 seconds.  I chose the fastest, easiest option that came to mind:  zig-zagging one more time over the cut edge, and I just let the stretch happen as I noticed it was wanting to do after the cutting and look at that now stable edge with the lovely ruffle, a happy accident that looks planned, at least to me and especially given the current popularity of ruffles.

Sweater transformation2

 

Say, Sam-I-Am, I DO like this sweater and I will wear it in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain…after I trim off the thread tails.

How sweet it isn’t

Coleslaw
My grandmother used to make coleslaw with this dressing and I remember loving it as a kid. Funny, my dad doesn’t remember her making it at all. He likes sweet coleslaw, which is about all you can get these days and every time I taste coleslaw, I think, “Ick, this is sweet, coleslaw shouldn’t be sweet, and where’s the horseradish?” So here it is:

3 oz. Sour Cream or Full-fat Greek-style Yogurt
3 oz. Mayonnaise
1 oz. prepared Horseradish (Too hot for you? Back off a bit. Needs more kick? Add more!)
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Celtic Sea Salt, or similar coarse salt (Adjust this according to taste)

10 oz. bag shredded green cabbage
8 oz. bag shredded red cabbage

Mix the first 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Add the cabbage or other coleslaw mix. Of course you can shred your own. And if you are feeling really healthy, throw in some broccoli you’ve shredded or ground up in your food processor. Grandma added chopped bell pepper and shredded carrots to the base of shredded green cabbage instead of using the red cabbage, but I liked the all cabbage version best. Aim for just over a pound of vegetables, shredded or finely chopped. The dressing will stretch to cover a bit more, much less than a pound of vegetables and you’ll have coleslaw soup. Some vegetables weigh more, some less. You’ll have to keep experimenting and you’ll soon discover if you have to increase or decrease the amount of dressing proportionally. This is what I use for the amount of coleslaw I make and it’s just about right.

This coleslaw has attitude. Forget that sickly sweet stuff they offer in restaurants and go bold. More proof that low-carb doesn’t have to be boring!

Secret’s Out

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Secret recipes are doomed to die and isn’t that sad? Therefore, I am sharing the secret of my (extremely) locally (sort of) famous “Tennis Tuna” with the wider world: lots of mayonnaise, ditto sweet pickle relish, a little freshly ground pepper, a splash of vanilla and mix with a fork until there are NO CHUNKS of tuna left. Basically, mix ’til it hurts. The vanilla is the real secret, passed down from an aunt who was an amazing cook.

My tennis team wants finger sandwiches made from this tuna at every match, thus the moniker.

Puppy Love Scrubs

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Long ago I decided I would never “take in sewing” for money. This has allowed me though the years to take on only projects I want to do for people I care about and is no doubt why I still like to sew.

Here’s a fun example: a scrub top for someone dear to me who works in a veterinary clinic and has to wear scrubs every day.

There are so many cute animal fabrics to choose from it was hard to decide, but this one was sui generis, my phrase of the week, lifted from a biography of Winslow Homer.

How many times will I have to use it to cement it in my vocabulary? Sui generis: peerless, without equal, just like the recipient of the scrubs, in fact!

Comfort Food

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Rice pudding, Armenian Style:

In a saucepan over medium to medium high heat, place one quart of whole or extra-rich milk, 1/2 cup long grain white rice, 1/2 cup sugar and (optional) a pinch of salt. Stir frequently as it comes to a boil.

When it is bubbling nicely but not boiling over, set a timer for 45 minutes, lower the heat gradually to maintain a slow simmer and continue to stir periodically while you are doing other things in the kitchen. Do not allow it to boil too energetically or to stop boiling altogether, admittedly a delicate balance to maintain, especially on certain ranges.

As you approach the 45 minute mark, the pudding will start to thicken and develop a skin, which you must repeatedly stir back in. After 45 minutes, evaluate the thickness of the pudding and if it needs to cook down more, keep adding time in 5 minute increments until you like the consistency. This varies according to the milk, the rice, the weather, your mood, your stove, etc.

When your personal private magic consistency has been achieved, spoon the pudding into dessert cups, small ramekins, small bowls, or whatever you have on hand. I like the Crate and Barrel footed glass dessert dishes and for one batch this size, I use 6 of them.

Sprinkle each serving generously and as evenly as you can with cinnamon and pop in the fridge to chill for a few hours.

Now you have a choice: when the pudding is completely chilled, you can cover it immediately with plastic wrap to keep it soft or you can leave it uncovered several more hours or overnight and it will develop a thickened, chewy crust. Then you must remember to cover it or it will dry out too much.

The crust is optional and is both traditional and deliberate in our family, but I do wonder if it was originally a happy accident when someone forgot to cover the pudding after it had cooled. It’s delicious with or without the crust but please, just don’t try to cover your pudding while it’s still warm. The pudding will sweat and the moisture will collect and rain down on the cinnamon and it will not be pretty.

This is my favorite kind of recipe, long on method but requiring just a few simple ingredients which are completely transformed by careful attention into something delightful. Enjoy!

Daily Bread

  • almond bread

 

Since embarking on La Vida Locarb, what most people know as bread has been off the table for me and it is one of the foods I miss the most.  Mind you, I’m not talking about the pillowy concoctions that pass for bread in the supermarket aisles, but my own homemade bread made from whole grains freshly ground minutes before being transformed into dough.  Sigh. That was my daily bread in every sense.  It wasn’t only the eating of the bread that satisfied, but the enjoyment of the process of engineering the transformation from wheat berries to sticky mess in the mixer bowl to springy dough to fragrant loaf.

Now I have Almond Bread.  It is tasty and satisfying and does make a good stand-in for the old yeasted wheat breads in my diet.  As for the transformation, it’s not so much the actual baking of the bread that satisfies since it’s easy and not much can go wrong there, but it’s the preparation of the ingredients that has taken the place of the complex process required to produce a good loaf of yeast-raised whole wheat bread.  Making this bread has lead me to the making of one of the primary and costliest ingredients: Fromage Blanc, and that transformation from milk to cheese is very similar to the one from flour to loaf.  However, you do not need to go so far.  The recipe for making the bread is really quite simple once you procure the ingredients:

  • 17 oz. finely ground almonds or purchased almond meal
  • 14 oz. Fromage Blanc or Dry-Curd Cottage cheese, or if you must, ricotta cheese.
  • 3.5 oz. olive oil
  • 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Celtic Sea Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Hulled Hemp Seed
  • 2 teaspoons ground flaxseed
  • 6 eggs

The method:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease 2 ceramic loaf pans WELL.  I use a release agent I make myself of canola oil and lecithin, but Pam will work if you are generous enough with it.
  • Combine all ingredients in mixer bowl and beat at medium speed for 2 minutes
  • Divide batter evenly between the 2 loaf pans
  • Bake in 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, all ovens are different and you don’t want to under (gooey) or over bake (too dry) this bread although it’s best to err on the side of doneness.  Some experimentation will be required until you settle on the optimum time.  For me, it’s 50 minutes.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes and then loosen loaf with a knife around the edges of the pan.
  • Remove the bread from the pans and allow to cool completely before wrapping in waxed paper and storing in plastic bags in either the refrigerator or freezer.  To thaw, place in refrigerator overnight.
  • To serve, slice thin and reheat in the microwave or conventional oven, or like me, devour in cold slices directly from the fridge.  Butter optional.

Be aware that while this bread is a low carb food (around 3-4 per slice, I think) it is NOT a low calorie food.  It is dense and nutritious, packed with protein and fiber and yes, calories, I have no idea how many.  Also be aware that since it contains no sweetener, it isn’t sweet in spite of its uncanny resemblance to the oh-so-sweet Banana Bread in texture and visual appearance.  That first bite is a surprise!

 

 

 

Comma love

Most people who misuse punctuation marks these days choose to abuse apostrophes. You may have noticed the alarming explosion of misplaced apostrophes currently plaguing all forms writing.

Personally, I prefer to err on the side of commas. I think it’s because commas help me to slow down, give pause, consider: not a full stop, not an exclamation, just a pause for breath. That’s what a comma can do. However I am going to make an effort to use them more judiciously in future and I just removed one from this sentence.

Well begun is half done. Now about those parentheticals…

Gifts

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As I was stirring the filling for Pumpkin Pie this morning, I noted how many of the things I was using had been gifts from loved ones. For instance, the spoon I always use for this task was a wedding gift some thirty-odd years ago from a dear friend, who is still a dear friend to us.

Each time I bake this kind of pie I think of our friend with fondness as I dig in my utensil drawer for this homely wooden utensil with the hole in the center and burn mark on the handle that still does the best job of combining the viscous filling ingredients of this pie filling.

The spoon is showing its age, as we are, but still gets the job done, as we try to do. Over the years of use, its edges have softened so it fits better and better into the curve of the bowl to quickly find each remnant of un-amalgamated pumpkin and gently incorporate it without whipping in bubbles, anathema to Pumpkin Pie filling.

There’s a marriage metaphor in there, somewhere, but mostly gratitude for the many beautiful and useful gifts we’ve been given over the years and the dear people who gave them.

Hammered!

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Many times I’ve seen references to the technique of hammering with a regular carpenter’s hammer on bulky seams that threaten to put your sewing machine in a bind if you try to sew over them, typically in pants/jeans hems. Since the only hammer in my possession was an ancient, rusty and not very trusty hammer (loose head), I had never tried it. Also, I was not convinced it would help much.

Well, count me among the hammer crowd now! Thanks to Angela Wolf’s Craftsy class on Alterations, and the recent acquisition of a clean bookbinding hammer that promises to remain clean, I tried hammering the bulky seam of these softball pants I was altering for a friend. After lots of very empowering whacking at the seams, the cover stitch machine cruised right over those seams! Thanks Angela!