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.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Meal Planning II- Two Weeks at a time

Hey there.  I've been busy wrangling my kids, walking my pooch, and cleaning my house (And doing laundry.  There's always so much laundry...)   but I wanted to share the new way I do meal planning.  Well it's not so much new as perfected from last fall.

With the spring soccer season in full swing and my daughters both in rehearsals for local theater productions I've opted to simplify as much as I can.  Planning two weeks at a time just makes more sense.   I'm making basic meals, many without recipes.  (So no vintage creations for a while longer.)  I organize my grocery shopping so that I buy everything in one or two big trips.  My master grocery list is on a spreadsheet.  Hubby just about cracked up when I asked him to help me set it up.  This is just so not me.  I like short shopping lists on cute family stationery with my kids' names under their stick figures.    Now I whiz thru the store with the spreadsheet clipped to a clipboard and a pen clenched between my teeth.  I must say I look like a boss in my black yoga pants and mom bun.  Unfortunately this look rarely makes it to a yoga class.

Here's a pic of our meal plan for April 26 thru May 8th.  It goes with my hubby's pay periods so it's not exactly in the beginning or middle of the month.  I only plan dinners.  Breakfasts, lunches, and snacks are simple- leftovers or whatever one likes.

I still use the binder I showed in my meal planning video but there haven't been any new recipe additions in a long time.  Luckily I've built it up enough that everyone is relatively happy with our meals.  (And if not I remind them that I'm not a short order cook.  I'm a boss.  With a bun...)

Here's the accompanying  master grocery list.  I do one big trip the first week and another the second. I still may run in to buy a little unanticipated something (or a sale item) but for the most part this is it.

The prices are to help me stay on budget and the highlight colors tell me what to buy at which store.  I started crossing things off but stopped when I thought about doing this post so you could actually read it.  The best thing I ever did was to list the items according to categories.  Helps me whiz faster thru the store and there's less room for error.

How do you meal plan?  Does it change with the seasons or the school year?

I hope you are all doing well and enjoying spring.  It finally feels like it here in the midwest.  :)


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Book Review! Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell, Jr.

Hello there!  Happy spring to all.  It's the perfect 70 degree day to sit out on our porch and read but seeing as our porch furniture is still under a tarp and I just finished a fantastic book I'm content sitting in the living room tapping away on my computer.

Have you ever read a book that was so enthralling you didn't want it to end?  Mrs. Bridge is one such book.  It was written in 1959 by Evan S. Connell, Jr.  From the research I've found on line this was his first novel and his most acclaimed.  It lost the National Book Award to Goodbye Columbus, another fantastic book in my opinion.  Here is a link to an article published shortly after Connell's death which details his career.

The story is written as a serious of connected scenes.  Few are more than three or four pages.  Something about this format made this book easy to digest.  (It was also helpful to read in the ER with my daughter - all the nurses and doctor's stopping in.  Darling daughter is fine...)  Being a bit of a wordy writer myself I was impressed that Connell could say so much with so few words.  His choice of dialog conveyed such powerful insight into each characters' mindset, even for those  characters who say very little.

I found myself keeping a notepad by my bedside to jot down unfamiliar word choices while reading this book.  I probably should know more than I do but I also couldn't help but see how much our language has changed in 56 years.  Has anyone out there used trenchantly in a sentence recently?   Not me.  Even though I now know the definition.  :)

So now let's talk about this heartwarming story.  It starts very simply.  "Her first name was India..."  Then quickly we learn that she is expected to marry, meets Walter Bridge, and then we see her as a young newlywed lying awake watching her husband sleep and feeling uneasy about the future.  This all happens in less than two pages.  The next chapters describe the Bridge's life as each of their three children come along.  Mr. Bridge works a lot and Mrs. Bridge takes care of the home.  Many of these scenes of domestic life are lovely.  It's American suburbia at its best.  Mrs. Bridge has very specific lessons to teach her three children about their behavior and what is and is not appropriate.  When her young daughter Carolyn (Nicknamed "Corky"- how adorable is that??) answers the door and announces that the cleaning "lady" is there Mrs. Bridge gently explains that she is the "cleaning woman".  "A lady is someone like Mrs. Arlen or Mrs. Montgomery", India's friends.

Connell uses these scenes to create a life for the Bridge family that includes their friends, their children and their children's friends, and their country club suburban life.  That is not to say that any of the characters were shallow or phoney or that there were no problems.  There are strange neighbors, uncomfortable social situations, and mental health concerns but Mrs. Bridge handles it all as pleasantly as pie. Connell's word choice and sentence structure create the easy feeling of a bygone era.  The story takes place in Kansas City during the 1930's and early 1940's.  None of the despair of the Great Depression is a part of the Bridge's life in the Country Club "district".   Perhaps Mr. Bridge is worried but he keeps it to himself.  He is usually at work, often staying at the office, or is behind a newspaper responding to India's attempts at conversation with few decisive words assuring her that everything will be all right.  Mr. Bridge also raises the children from behind the newspaper, saying to his son Douglas, "You'll express yourself when I say you can." in response to Douglas telling him how an undisciplined neighborhood boy's parents encourage their son to express his personality.  There's a dark humor that Connell has planted here in suburbia but it's no Lifetime movie.  When Mr. Bridge is at the office he seems to really be working.

The story follows the family as the children grow, move out (The eldest moves to New York rarely coming back to Kansas City.), and lead their own lives.  What impressed me so much is how Connell conveys India's boredom and self-doubt.  He describes how Harriet, the maid, does all the cooking and cleaning so India has nothing much to do.  She questions her purpose and expresses "the problem with no name"  a few years before Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique was published in 1963.  Although it is possible that Connell had read one of Friedan's published articles in the late '50s on the subject in preparation for writing Mrs. Bridge, I had to remind myself that a man wrote these words.  They were so on point.

The book's ending is a bit sudden.  So much that I went back to the library to peek at another copy to make sure some of the pages hadn't come out of my copy, being an original 1959 edition.  I also took a look at Mr. Bridge, the sequel Connell wrote in 1969.  The book tells the same story but from the view of Walter Bridge, India's husband.  Connell's writing style totally changed and while the chapters were still short I wasn't drawn into the story.  I couldn't tell if Connell was trying to write in a more masculine way to channel Walter's personality or if he just lost the feeling of the characters.  In any case I left the book at the library.

I highly recommend Mrs. Bridge to anyone who is interested in vintage domestic life.  I came across it wandering thru the stacks at my local library but you may be able to buy the book locally or on Amazon.  The movie, Mr. and Mrs. Bridge, came out in 1990 starring Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.  Our library had copies of both books with updated covers with scenes from the movie.

If you've read Mrs. Bridge or Mr. Bridge please share your thoughts.  I'd love to hear what you think. And has anyone seen the movie?  I'm planning on it!

Thanks for reading.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Delrich's Blueberry Muffins, Family Circle January 1950

Who doesn't like blueberry muffins?  Make that blueberry muffins with delicious Delrich margarine!  We don't use margarine so I substituted butter but seeing squeezable margarine in all my vintage magazines makes me laugh.  It had such promise.  Lowering cholesterol, keeping fresh indefinitely, and tasting so good- better than butter!  But times change.  Who would have thought that butter would come out the winner?  Of course there is much debate out there but seeing as I've never liked margarine I'm feeling better about preference.    

Here's the original recipe:

Here's the updated version:

2C All purpose flour
2 1/4 t Baking powder
1/2t Salt
2T Sugar
1C Milk
3T Butter, melted
1 Egg
2/3C Blueberries (If frozen defrost first then rinse and drain well)

Preheat oven to 425.

In a large mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.  Set aside.

In a large measuring cup pour the milk, melted butter, and egg.  Mix well.  

Pour the contents of the measuring cup into the flour mixture.  Stir until just incorporated.  Add drained the blueberries and fold gently until evenly distributed.  The mixture will be thick.  

Grease a standard muffin pan or use cupcake liners.  Fill the pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.  Cool on a wire rack.  

These were what I'd consider "adult" muffins.  Not the soft cake- like muffins my kids gobble down before I can get them out of the oven.  They're not too sweet and have the texture of a scone.  I loved them with a little butter and I think they'd be a nice addition to an egg breakfast in place of toast.  

Let me know if you try them!


Friday, January 9, 2015

No, I haven't fallen off the face of the Earth!

I'm still here but we've been hit with this flu-like virus (twice!) that has left us all unable to eat, cranky, tired, and generally miserable.  I have to say the weather related school closings have been well timed though.  My kids haven't missed that much actual class time.  Yay!!

I hope everyone has had pleasant holidays and is ready for 2015!  I'll be back with a yummy blueberry muffin recipe as soon as I can get it going.  I've got the ingredients so that's half the battle, right?

Stay warm if it's winter where you are.  :)