Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Last minute holiday gift!

Hey there!  Busy busy here in my house.  I found myself out of the store bought candy I purchased en masse for teacher gifts, the mailman, UPS driver, etc.  (Despite buying too much, according to dear hubby.)

This was at 9pm.  Sooooo I did what any resourceful mom would do.  I got to baking.  And then I trotted down to the basement and found some things to make it pretty:  Mason jars and ribbon.

This just goes to show you that a simple cookie recipe (Toll House in this case.), a Mason jar, and a bow on it can solve all your problems.

I hope everyone is having a holiday season filled with joy and family.


Thursday, August 27, 2015

Make your own mixes!!

Hey there, friends!  With soccer season upon us (and my girls' ongoing theatrical studies!) I'm all about easy but REAL food.  My crockpot has been getting a workout as has my freezer.  To make it even simpler I thought I'd take some of our favorite recipes and turn them into mixes.

So here's what I did this morning:

See the mess on the counter?  This only happens once- when I make the mixes!  Another benefit of  using mixes.
For each recipe I measured out the dry ingredients and wrote what I'll need to add on the bag along with minimal instructions.  Here's a close up of each of the bags:

Still using Christmas bags!  Ho ho ho...

That's 4 White breads, 3 Banana breads, and 3 pancake batches.

The white bread is the Julia Child recipe I posted a few weeks ago.  Click on the link above.

Here's the banana bread recipe.  I've made it since my youngest was a baby.  It's from one of those community cookbooks in which cooks share their favorite recipes.  I've never met this "Barri Colman" but she rocks!  Thank you, Barri, wherever you are.  :)

The pancake recipe is from The King Arthur Flour Cookbook.  If you're looking for from-scratch recipes this would be a great addition to your cookbook collection!  

Note:  I halved the recipe and don't add the malted milk powder or vanilla.

Making your own mixes is really easy and saves time in the kitchen both in the cooking process and clean up.  You can do the same with your favorite recipes.  It took me less than 30 minutes, even with 2 little four-legged stinkers getting into mischief.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.  Feel free to share your recipes too.  I'd love it!!


Friday, August 7, 2015

Julia Child's White Loaf, Baking With Julia, 1996

Baking bread is more of a winter activity for me because a hot oven on an already hot day is just too much.  (I'm a middle aged woman you know...)  But this bread is worth it.

This all started last weekend when hubby went to the store with me and put a loaf of bread into the cart.  It was that red package from my childhood with the cinnamon, raisins and the Sun Maid Raisin girl on the package.  We came home, made dinner and went on with our lives until I had a slice of that bread toasted.  With butter.  And it was gooooooood!  Feeling guilty I scanned the ingredients and felt even more guilty.  I saw too many chemicals to count and that dreaded high fructose corn syrup.  

Fast forward to today, laundry day.  What better way to procrastinate than making bread, right?  Besides the kids and I scarfed down hubby's pick when he was at work.  So...

Here's the regular white bread, as the recipe was written.  

And here's the cinnamon raisin version.  Aka: A gift from above.

See there hubby and I had a taste?  We told the kids we needed to save some to bring to the new neighbors.   We don't have new neighbors...  This bread may bring out the worst in me.  Ha ha.

Here's the recipe:  

2 1/2 C Warm water, divided
1T Yeast (dry active)
1T Sugar
6-7 C All purpose flour
2t Salt  (Julia uses a whole tablespooon but this is too much for us)
1/4C Butter (half a stick or 4T), melted
Cinnamon sugar and small raisins to taste (optional)

Place a half a cup of warm water (It should feel like nice bath water- not burning hot but not tepid.) in a large mixing bowl or your mixer bowl.  Add the sugar and yeast.  Let sit for five minutes or so until it gets bubbly.  

Add the rest of the warm water, 3C of flour, the salt, and the melted butter.  Mix by hand or use the dough hook of your mixer.  Let the mixer run on a low speed adding a cup of flour at a time until the dough is elastic and smooth.   You may not use all 7 cups.  Bread is kind of like that.  If doing this without a mixer you'll need to take the dough out of the bowl and knead by hand adding the flour slowly as it gets incorporated into the dough.  

Cover the dough in the bowl with a dampened kitchen towel until it has doubled in size.  The time will vary depending on the weather and the temperature in your kitchen.  It usually takes about an hour.  

Punch the dough in the bowl.  Take it out and knead a few times by hand.  Bread trick from my grandmother:  If you leave the dough to rise too long just punch it down and let it rise again.   You'll know because it'll be HUGE and too airy. 

Split the dough using a knife or kitchen shears into two even balls.  (Or not as I did with my cinnamon raisin edition because one loaf was larger than the other.)  Pat out the dough and gently stretch until it is a a rectangle shape with the short side the same length as your pan.  (So using a traditional 4"X8" pan the short side should be about 8".)  Fold the dough into thirds starting with the short side, like you're folding an old fashioned business letter.  (Does anyone do that anymore?) Place the dough seam side down in your buttered or greased pan.  Please don't forget to grease your pan!!!!!!!!!  You will be sad if you do.  :(

If you're making cinnamon raisin bread sprinkle the top 2/3 of the dough with cinnamon sugar and soaked and dried raisins before folding.  (Julia goes into how to prep the raisins.  Basically you let them sit for about 10 minutes in hot water, drain, and dry really good.)  I didn't do this and the raisins are falling out all over the place.  But I'm cool with that.  Slathered butter solves this problem.  

Cover with the kitchen towel again for another hour or so.  When the loaves have doubled again preheat your oven to 375.  When it's ready place the loaves on a middle rack and bake 30 to 40 minutes.  You'll know it's done because the tops will be a beautiful golden brown and the house will smell like freshly baked bread.  

Take the loaves out of the pans and let cool on a wire rack.  The bottoms should sound hollow if tapped.  If not put them back in directly on the oven rack for another 5 minutes or so.  Julia goes into using a thermometer to check for doneness but I've never missed with the bottom tapping method.  

Here's the original recipe from the 1996 edition of Baking With Julia.  She's a bit wordier than me.  Go figure.  

The kids eventually got a taste so don't call the authorities.  They took a break from their busy summer activities (Video games when I let them, drawing when I don't, and puppy playtime any time the pups are awake.) and devoured the what was left of the little cinnamon raisin loaf, half of a plain one, and 3/4 of a stick of butter.  I hid the big raisin loaf in the freezer.  Julia says it freezes well for a month so this will be a special first day of school breakfast if no one finds it.  



Monday, July 20, 2015

Another vintage kitchen!

Hi there ladies and gents.  I was browsing thru the local real estate listings and found a gem of a house.  It was built in 1937 by one of the popular builders of the era.  It seems the current owners had the sense to leave the original charm and chose to update very little.   Unfortunately the real estate listing touts this as a negative stating "Truly a gem to be brought back to it's original luster or build..."  Yes this beautiful home needs updating but I can't imagine it being a tear down.  Anyhoo, here's some pics!

If you look to the left you'll see a fold down counter.  A great way to maximize the space while still allowing access to the cabinet underneath.  I love the vents in front of the sink so the dish towels can air dry out of sight.  Why did this feature disappear???  It just makes sense.  

It looks like there are vents in the cabinet next to the fridge too.  Perhaps for potatoes?

I'd call this style "sophisticated early American".   That deep robins egg blue is beautiful with the honey wood accents.  

I also wanted to include the bathroom.  While the tile is outdated the colors are timeless.  The listing indicates that the home has 5 bathrooms but this is the only one pictured.

So where have I been?  We're enjoying summer with our newest little family member!  He's a 3 month old rescue pup named Charlie.  

I hope everyone is enjoying their summer.


Friday, June 12, 2015

Book Review: The Astronaut Wives Club, Lily Koppel

Hi there!  I'm back with a quick book review.

Hubby said it looks like the wives are standing around a Tide bottle.  Ha ha...

I absolutely loved Lily Koppel's book The Astronaut Wives Club.  In the book Lily Koppel chronicles the unique experience of being an astronaut's wife.  The stories are in many ways typical of the times though.   The ladies felt pressure to conform to the ideal 1950's housewife- always looking her best, being supportive of her husband (regardless of his behavior), keeping a clean home, and  raising respectful and well behaved children.  But in other ways the wives were held to an even higher standard.  They were living on their husbands military wages so while their husbands spend time away at NASA or Cape Canaveral they were expected to live this perfect life without hired help.  And then they were launched into their own orbit of press interviews and publicity tours.  As women often do they turned to each other for support (from choosing the perfect lipstick color for their first Life magazine cover to dealing with the "Cape cookies") but it wasn't until much later at their reunions that they are completely honest about their experiences.  The wives were expected to be a bit formal during the hard times even with each other.

If you have any interest in the American space program read this book.  It's more than the facts and figures of the space missions.  It details the astronauts as people- from the perspective of their wives.  Lily presents the stories in such a way that really captures the feeling of the times.  She also includes pictures.  (Can I tell you these ladies had taste!!  And on a military budget.  Well the Mercury ladies got some help from Lawrence Marcus of the Neiman Marcus Department store.)  Some of the pictures are mundane; two mothers sitting poolside with their toddlers, a wife and her astronaut reading the paper over breakfast.  But others capture the nail biting and chain smoking that often accompanies a husband's launch.

The ABC television network is set to premier a tv version of this book on June 18th.  Honestly I'm a little skeptical.  The promos I've seen look a little hokey.  I'm planning to watch it though.  As you know I love the 1950/1960 time period.  It's just that while Lily Koppel's book honors the wives and their role in the Space Race the tv show looks like it's making characters of them.  Stereotypical characters.  Blah!  I hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Oven Herb Chicken, Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook, 1962

As promised I have a recipe this week!  This one comes from the Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book circa 1962.  My copy was my mother's, probably a wedding or shower gift.

It's the same one displayed in Betty and Henry's kitchen in a Mad Men episode.  Lookee here:

It's between the spice rack and the window.

I chose this recipe because it was easy.  We all need an easy quick dinner sometimes, right?  This recipe isn't what I consider "from scratch" but I made it as close to healthy as I could given the time I had.  Here are the ingredients:

I found organic onion soup mix (but not onion salad dressing mix) and the ingredients in the package are pretty basic.  No chemicals I couldn't pronounce but the bread crumbs made up for it.  (I've tried homemade bread crumbs made from homemade bread but my family just doesn't like it as much.)  And that stick of butter.  At least it's organic...

Here it is the way I did it:

1- 3 lbs chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 pkg onion soup mix
1 stick butter
1t paprika plus more for sprinkling
1/2 to 3/4C seasoned bread crumbs

Melt the butter in a shallow bowl.  Stir in onion soup mix and 1t paprika.  Pour bread crumbs into another shallow bowl or plate.  Dip chicken pieces one at a time in the butter mixture.  Be sure each piece gets some seasoning- it tends to drift to the bottom.  Then immediately press each piece into the bread crumbs and place on a greased baking dish or jelly roll pan skin side up.  When all the chicken is on the pan  sprinkle each piece lightly with more paprika. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Check and top loosely with foil if the chicken is too brown.  Bake another 15 minutes or until cooked thru.  

Yummmmers!!  This was a hit all the way around.  Moist and flavorful.  (A stick of butter will do that...)  I had intended to make rice along with the green beans but as you know sometimes life gets in the way.  I had some salad remnants in the fridge so it worked out.  

I highly recommend this recipe.  You could easily make your own onion soup mix (There are recipes on line but I've never tried one.) and make your own bread crumbs to make it more "from scratch".  This will add some steps though.  You could also remove the skin from the chicken pieces to eliminate some calories and fat.  

I hope everyone had a nice Memorial Day weekend and official start of summer!


Monday, May 18, 2015

the Balm binge!!!!! And my thoughts on the Mad Men finale

Soooooo excited to share this with you!!!!!  Above is my makeup binge from the Balm.  While it's not vintage it is retro.  And adorable!!!  It's the kind of makeup women buy for themselves- not to impress a man, despite the pin up ladies and men on the packaging.  That's just for our delight.

Apparently this was all the rage about five years ago on Youtube.  (Back before I knew Youtube was for more than just teenage boys posting their Mario Kart races.  ...My then six year old was really into Mario Kart back then.)  The brand has a bit of a cult following and is popular among European and Asian Youtub-ers right now.  I remember seeing it at Sephora back then (It's no longer sold at Sephora.) but not being makeup obsessed like my friend Stacy who got me into the store I poked around in a few testers and moved on.  Well things have changed and now I'm the one who is a bit obsessed...

What I really love about these products is they are made without parabens.  (My hormones don't need anymore disruption, ya' know??)    Also the cute packaging comes with a little sarcasm.  You long time readers may have noticed I love my sarcasm...

I just received my big box from Hautelook today and haven't tried everything yet but I can tell you I loved the products I bought a few months ago.   The eye shadows and blush are well pigmented and easy to use.  (I'm not a beauty blogger so that's the best description I can give you...)   The concealer is better on blemishes than under eye circles if you have dry under eyes like me.  The eyelid primer is excellent and I love the double ended brush.  The only thing I opened was the eyeliner (Mr. Write (Now) - how awesome is that name???) in Bill be Mocha.  I'm telling you it's creeeeeamy-dreeeeeeamy!  Totally went on smoothly and I got the perfect thin line for the perfect backdrop to my less than perfect lashes.  And now my eyelashes rock.  Isn't that what eye liner is for??

My first goodies from the Balm.

Just so you know...this is not a sponsored post.  I bought all of this myself.  (Don't tell hubby.)  I think it's worth every penny!  

Changing gears for a minute- anyone watch the Mad Men series finale?  Oooooh that Don!  And poor Sally.  My heart ached for her.  I'm glad Betty could be loving in her own way.  I'm so happy for Joan but bummed Peggy didn't join her.  Am I the only person who didn't see Stan and Peggy falling in love?  I was kind of surprised.  Love Roger and Marie together.  He's finally met his match.  I hope Pete is sincere in his renewed love for Trudie.   I will miss my Sunday night treat.  :(

In honor of "the end of an era", as the Mad Men promo voice over guy quipped, I'm trying a new recipe this week from the 1950 edition of the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  I spied this exact cookbook in Betty and Henry's kitchen during the Mad Men marathon this weekend on AMC.  I'll post it here if it's a winner.