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Autumnal Resolutions

October 15, 2011

I’m taking a graduate class on the decline of community. Yeah, how depressing is that? But it makes me think a lot more about how I spend my time. So I’m making some autumnal resolutions. Because January is the worst time for resolutions anyway.

  1. Turn off the effing television. When you’re unemployed but in school and are home basically all day, it’s super-easy to have the TV on constantly. I’m going to make a concerted effort to leave it off unless I actually feel like watching it, because otherwise it’s a serious distraction and once it’s on, it’s hard to turn it off (especially if there is an NCIS, Doctor Who, or Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations marathon on).
  2. Bake bread more. I haven’t done this in a while and I’ve been buying bread. When I’m home all day. Yeah.
  3. Go outside once in a while for godssakes. Again, I’m home ALL THE TIME. The boy and I have gotten better at going hiking and such, but when the weather is crappy, it’s hard to get outside. Which is why when the weather is nice, I should be spending like all of my time outside.
  4. Pick up after yourself. I have the terrible habit of not cleaning up after myself when I’m done cooking in the kitchen. Which means I have a chronically messy kitchen. Which is not conducive to cooking, much less bread-baking. Also, the rest of the house needs better picking up too.
  5. Early to bed and early to rise. This one is hard because the boy is a night owl and I already get up kinda sorta early (read: I wake up at 7:30 when the alarm goes off, but generally don’t actually get up until 8:30). But I always feel like I waste my mornings instead of using them effectively.
  6. Stop wasting time on the stupid internet. This one will be really hard. First thing I do most mornings is check e-mail and Facebook, when then leads to blog reading, which then leads to mindless stupid searches on Etsy or Epicurious or just the plain internet. TIME WASTER. Lame.
And here is some stuff I’ve actually been doing pretty well at:
  1. Saving money. When you don’t have any, it’s easy to have the willpower not to spend it. Even though I sometimes break down and blow a few bucks (read: generally less than $10) at the thrift store.
  2. Using leftovers. This one is hard, but I’m getting better at it. It helps that the boy comes home for lunch.
  3. Cooking from scratch. I’m getting really good at this one. Being home all day means you can watch pots of simmering beans or soup or plan ahead to defrost stuff (usually) to roast it or whatever. It’s also good for baking bread, if I got off of my lazy butt and did it.
  4. Doing homework. I forgot that when you’re in grad school full-time, it means that it takes you a long time to get your homework done. Luckily, I’m doing pretty okay on this. Not great, but okay.
  5. Working out. I know, right? The boy has been good about reminding me to do so, but I’ve been working out on the elliptical for at least a half hour 4-6 times per week plus stretching and we also go on long (read: 4-5 mile) hikes on our days off. Sadly, I gained about 5 pounds (muscle, I hope!) but have now maybe lost a pound or two. And I’ve been doing this since the beginning of September. *sigh*
Okay, so those are the resolutions, fulfilled and as-yet-unfulfilled. Do you have any autumnal resolutions?

Vintage cookbooks can save you money

September 15, 2011

No really. I’m obsessed with vintage cookbooks. I prefer ones written after Fannie Farmer (inventor of standardized measurements) but before Campbell’s canned soups took over cooking in the 1950s and ’60s. And farm-y ones? Fantastic. Ethnic European cookbooks? Even better.

Did you know that Project Gutenberg has vintage cookbooks on it? Yep. They are awesome.

My favorite bits of vintage cookbooks? Their interesting treatments of vegetables, fruits, and meats. They are often frugal, too, as they were written for the average home cook, not written by chefs wanting to wow you with their food porn and “creativity.”

I particularly enjoy recipes using vegetables uncommon in today’s cooking repetoires (like turnips, celery root, etc.), old-fashioned fruits like gooseberries, and whole grains in baking and cooking.

I own a lot of vintage cookbooks (just check out the bookshelf), but one of the most interesting is Adele Davis’ Let’s Cook It Right. Adele’s got a lot of controversy around her other books (and her methodology), but this one is just a straightforward cookbook from the 1940s advocating whole grains, less sugar, organ meats, lots of vegetables, and lots of milk and dry milk (“the perfect food”). It also has a lot of very unique, interesting-looking recipes. I’ve decided to go against my archivist tendencies and have started marking up my cookbooks. Because my historian tendencies realized that marked up cookbooks are historically more interesting than pristine unmarked ones. So I dog-eared all the recipes that looked good.

I’ve started collecting the best of these kinds of recipes as I make them. And, of course, coming up with my own. Like the other night when I made roasted broccoli which I tossed with penne pasta, leftover roast chicken, and a sauce made of pasta water and olive oil and a little granulated garlic. The boy asked that I put that one on permanent rotation.

Eventually, these will all go into that cookbook I was talking about. Someday. Of course, writing the cookbook is the easy part. The testing is the hard part! I’m not really a cook who cooks by measurement. I cook by taste and instinct.

And those vintage cookbooks? They will always be a source of inspiration for inexpensive, delicious, and creative recipes.

Do you have a favorite vintage cookbook?

Autumn is here…

September 9, 2011

Yes, yes it is. No, I’m not paying attention to the hot weather and the preponderance of mosquitoes. It’s here, dammit! Do you know how I know it’s here? I keep buying wool sweaters (well, let’s be honest, I’ve been collecting Goodwill finds all summer) for wearing and for felting and turning into other things. Like mittens. I made soup for the first time since spring. Chicken and corn chowder. It was delicious. Roasting chicken for two hours with basting ever half hour is a new hobby (just parts, though, not a whole one). I’ve even rendered chicken fat down to schmaltz. I saved bacon fat from all those BLTs this summer, too (much easier to do when you bake the bacon). Both are now residing in my fridge. The bacon fat has made excellent fried egg sandwiches, which I’ve also become obsessed with.

Oh, and I got laid off. But it’s kind of okay, because I’m now going to school full-time (instead of part-time) and I don’t have to drive as much and I spend less money because I’m making less and I actually have time to work out (and, oddly enough, do so). Although what I’ll do when I’m all graduated in the spring and student loans come do, I don’t know. Hopefully I’ll have a job by then. If not, I’ll be kind of screwed.

I’m also kind of, sort of, maybe someday going to start an Etsy store. Or rather, I already have, except I haven’t listed anything to sell yet. I’ve got stuff ready to go up, I just have to take the damn pictures.

Oh, and the FarmHouse project? Yep, still going. Which is why I haven’t posted anything all summer.

Here are some things that happened this summer:

  1. I got laid off in July. Bummer.
  2. I got a free, vintage New Home, console-mounted 1940s electric sewing machine that mostly works.
  3. I got a free, vintage New Home, portable-with-carrying-case 1940s electric sewing machine that I’m not sure if it works or not because I haven’t tested it yet. And yes, it’s exactly the same as my first one, only portable.
  4. I knitted a lot.
  5. I helped a friend can peaches.
  6. I hoarded more wool and wool blend yarn than is probably good for me.
  7. I went thrift store shopping. A lot.
  8. I went home to Fargo for a visit and a family reunion and it was awesome.
  9. I became obsessed with wool sweaters from thrift stores (hello? Can’t go wrong with a 100% wool sweater in good conditions for $2.50-5.00) and both wearing them and turning them in to other things.
  10. I spent way too much time on Etsy.
  11. I discovered and have since become somewhat disillusioned of GnomeTown, one of those stupid games on Facebook.
  12. I did not cook as much as I should have, mostly because it was so damn hot outside.
  13. I went swimming in rock pools.
  14. I went hiking. A lot.
  15. I learned the joys of salted tomatoes.
  16. I bought a lot of new cookbooks and weeded out some (read: a quarter of my stash) old ones.
  17. I set up the craft room. Mostly.
  18. I purchased and cleaned/refurbished some ridiculously cheap vintage furniture.
  19. I did not spend enough time outside.
  20. I got viciously and repeatedly and subversively attacked by mosquitoes, who somehow did not like the taste of the boy, just my feet and ankles. Seriously, at one point I had over 40 bites on each foot/leg. It sucked.
  21. I started doing homework again. Yikes!
  22. I for some reason became obsessed with the impending apocalypse after reading “Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs” randomly at Barnes & Noble one night after trying to escape the heat.
  23. I started writing fiction again.
  24. I got uber-frugal in my cooking/prep. My little fridge-top freezer is getting full again, and it doesn’t even have ice cream in it.
Okay, I think that’s a long enough list, no? So here’s my To Do list for fall:
  1. For godssakes can something! Applesauce sounds delicious and ridiculously easy.
  2. Make ridiculous amounts of soup and share it with people.
  3. Get the sewing machines fixed, or at least cannibalize one so that the other works.
  4. Once said machines are fixed, start sewing shit and wearing/using/decorating with it or put it on Etsy. Curtains and produce bags are high on the list. Followed by clothes and satchels.
  5. Continue to look for a job.
  6. In the meantime, do a really well in school.
  7. Try to keep the house clean on a regular basis – especially the kitchen, because having a clean kitchen makes me want to cook more.
  8. Learn some new knitting techniques because mine, while skilled, are rather limited.
  9. Finish cleaning up the previously filthy basement (no really, you have no idea), particularly the giant double sink to be used for hand-washing sweaters, of which I now have a boat load.
  10. Using plastic mesh, 1×1″ wooden slats, rope, and some nails, build myself a giant hanging sweater rack to flat-dry said handwashed sweaters.
  11. Throw some parties, because for godssakes your side porch with fireplace was built for them.
  12. Actually pick up my violin and/or guitar occasionally.
  13. Start baking instead of buying bread.
  14. Keep the yard looking decent.
  15. Continue to compost, but turn the pile every once in a while so the animals stop eating all the scraps.
Does anyone else always feel like fall is more “new-beginning-y” than New Year’s? Maybe I’ve been too-long steeped in academic life. It’s just really nice.
Also, remember when I said I was going to write a cookbook? Yeah, still working on that, but with new angles. Mainly, peasant/farm-style food and American flavors and forgotten vegetables and promoting frugality and cooking from scratch. Should be awesome.
And now that I’ve FINALLY updated this blog, it’s late and I’m off to bed. But not before I quickly wash the crock pot and start my favorite overnight whole grain porridge. It’s seriously wonderful. I might even share the recipe with you tomorrow. :D

ABCs of Eating

May 29, 2011

I stole this from Amanda of Lessons in Farming:

A is for Apple, what’s your favorite variety?

For eating fresh I love Honeycrisp and Jonagold. For cooking I adore Opalescent, which is an heirloom variety I’ve only ever found on five very old trees in one local orchard.

B: is for Bread, regardless of nutrition, calories, or whole grains what is your favorite type to have a nice big piece of?

French from Adam’s Fairacre Farms. Crusty and cornmealy on the outside and super soft on the inside. Or Old Order Amish Bread, which takes 4 hours from start to finish but has the most amazing flavor. But mainly, super-soft homemade white bread. Or Icelandic brown bread, which I’ve only ever had at the Scandinavian Hjemkomst Festival.

C: is for Cereal what is your favorite kind currently (just one!) Currently-

For a long time I was hooked on Price Chopper Brand Cinnamon Toast Crunch. But now I like 365 Organics Honey Multigrain Flakes with organic raisins that I add myself.

D: is for Doughnuts, you might not currently be eating them but what kind do you fancy?

Best ever were the Norwegian sour creams sold at the Donut Hole (like glazed old-fashioned cake doughnuts but so, so much better). Close second is the old fashioned cake doughnuts (spiced with nutmeg) from a bakery by my house. Doughnuts in the Northeast just can’t compare. And Dunkin’ Donuts? Complete and utter crap. Ditto Krispe Kremes.

E: is for Eggs, how would you like yours prepared?

Scrambled with lots of stuff in them, or as an omelet.

F: is for Fat Free, what is your favorite fat free product?

Skim milk is pretty good, but I try to avoid totally fat free products (except perhaps marshmallows and jelly beans) because fat is generally compensated with by sugar.

G: is for Groceries, where do you purchase yours at?

Adam’s, Price Chopper, and Blooming Hill organic CSA.

H: is for Hot Beverages, what is your favorite hot drink?

Hot mint herbal tea, hot blueberry herbal tea, hot cider (the real stuff!), mulled wine, and homemade hot chocolate.

I: is for Ice Cream, pick a favorite flavor and add a fun topping.

Stewart’s all the way! Star Gazer Light (chocolate malt ice cream with milky way pieces), Adirondack Bear Claw (caramel, toffee, and cashews) and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough are my favorites. No toppings necessary.

J: is for Jams or Jellies, do you eat them, and if so what kind and flavor?

Jam only, my friends, except with chokecherry jelly. Sour cherry jam is my favorite.

K: is for Kashi, name your favorite Kashi product?

Eh. I like the Autumn Wheat cereal well enough.

L: is for Lunch, what was yours today?

Chicken and vegetable salad sandwich with pretzels and ranch dip. Strawberries and cream for dessert.

M: is for microwave, what is your favorite microwave meal/snack?

Microwaving is pretty much for reheating leftovers. Unless I make popcorn.

N: is for nutrients, do you likes carbs, fats, or proteins best?

Can’t we just combine them all? Carbs are my favorite, with fats coming in close second. Proteins I could do without so long as I had carbs and fats. Lol.

O: is for oil, what kind do you like to use?

Olive oil, canola, and occasionally sesame.

P: is for protein, how do you get yours?

Dairy and about equal amounts of beans and meat, with chicken the preferred meat of choice.

Q: is for Quaker, how do you like your oats?

Old fashioned oatmeal cake! Or straight up oatmeal with dried fruit.

R: is for roasting, what is your favorite thing to roast?

Believe it or not, cabbage, apples, and root veggies all together. Also, ramps and asparagus are amazing when roasted.

S: is for sandwich, what’s your favorite kind?

Chicken salad, BLTs, and ham and cheese are all favorites.

T: is for travel, how do you handle eating while traveling?

I almost always travel by car or by plane and on long trips fast food makes me sick, especially when flying. So I try to bring sandwiches, fruit, cut veggies, crackers, etc. Fresh things that are not greasy or spicy. But always a little something sweet. And lots and lots of water.

U: is for unique, what is one of your weirdest food combos?

When I was growing up one of my favorite lunches was soft sliced bread (preferably white, but it was mostly wheat in our house) spread with Miracle Whip and topped with American cheese and then microwaved until gooey. Now I think it’s disgusting, but I ate it nearly every day for a while when I was young. Now my weirdest food combo is green cabbage sauteed in butter with onions, apples, and sausage. SO GOOD.

V: is for vitamins, what kind do you take?

None. I eat processed fortified breakfast cereal daily and try to eat a lot of different fruits and veggies.

W: is for wasabi, yay or nay?

ACK! Too hot. I don’t like super-hot ginger flavors.

X: is for XRAY. if we xrayed your belly right now, what food would we see?

Seltzer, a large marshmallow, and pretzels.

Y: is for youth, what food reminds you of your childhood?

Hamburger Helper, homemade applesauce, Scandinavian rice pudding, and Aunt Karen’s mashed potatoes.

Z: is for zucchini, how do you prepare it?

It’s delicious added to spaghetti sauces, sauteed with mustard and onions, or cut into boats, stuffed, and roasted.

New Project

May 28, 2011

Hello all,

I’ve been missing lately for two reasons: 1) work is crazy and 2) I’m working on a new project! Some friends and I have just launched a new magazine called FarmHouse. You should check it out. We throw parties and take pictures and cook and garden and do crafts and make clothes and talk about fashion and style and practical things like how to avoid poison ivy when going on a hike and how to throw a really great party.

It’s kind of like this blog, only better, ’cause there are three of us. So go check us out!

No excuses

May 8, 2011

I really don’t have any excuses for posting lately. Especially since my last class of the semester was last week. But I’ve been focusing my energies on other creative outlets. In a few weeks, following a party we’re throwing to celebrate spring, some friends and I are launching an online magazine. I’m also writing a cookbook. I’ve got 15 pages so far. Nothing is ordered properly, although things are arranged by season at least. Soon I’m going to have to start test cooking.

Did I mention yardwork? Something is eating my garden, or parts of it anyway.

But that’s not an excuse. The thing is, I’m just not in the blogging mood lately. I’ve cooked up a storm. I made a church lady rhubarb cake I need to tweak. I made lemon garlic pasta with collards and zucchini. I made creamy gorgonzola pasta with green beans. The boy’s parents came to visit for a weekend and of course with his dad we got a lot of things fixed around the house. We all went garage saling and I got some good deals, though I’m the only one who bought anything. And today? I went to an organic CSA farm where a colleague and I are sharing a share. I bought rhubarb and ramps and cider. Holy crap are grilled ramps with olive oil, salt, and pepper amazing. This CSA also lets you buy plants, but I resisted the urge to buy lemon balm and mint as I haven’t anywhere to put it. Tonight I’m going to plant my zucchini and green bean seeds and purple ruffled basil and dill and baby carrots (they look like radishes – they’re cute, we’ll see if they grow).

I already have most of the menu planned for our party, which is happening on a Monday night. Mostly because that’s when the boy and his coworkers have their weekends (museums are open on weekends). However, I have the real weekend off (although I have to work on Monday), so I’ll have lots of time to prep and clean. I spent our Christmas party running around making/baking/plating the food, of which there was too much anyway, and didn’t have much time to spend with our guests. So this time? I’m using that weekend to make everything (or almost everything) ahead of time. Here’s the menu:

  • homemade buns with honey and salted butter
  • sliced ham and herbed cream cheese
  • fresh radishes with butter and salt
  • roasted asparagus, carrots, and ramps with olive oil, salt, and pepper
  • rhubarb clafoutis and/or cake
  • strawberries and cream
  • homemade pita chips and hummus
  • sparkling wine
I can bake the buns and clafoutis and pita chips the day before. I can even cut up the veggies and make the honey butter and herbed cream cheese the night before. Then when I get home from work (hopefully around 4 or 4:30) I can clean up and start plating things and put the veggies on to roast, then the girls will come over around 6 pm to help me set up and take pictures for the magazine. By 7 we should be done – the boy will start the fire around 6:30 or 6:45 and we’ll light the candles and people will hopefully be showing up by then!
I’m going to try using my mismatched vintage saucers as appetizer plates and teacups for the berries and cream. We’ll use real wine glasses for the sparkling wine, but if anyone drops anything on that stone floor I will be angry. We might even picnic outside if I can get my giant picnic blanket done by then. I bought 6 yards of brown flannel at Walmart today (bad, I know, but it was that or drive nearly an hour to the nearest JoAnn’s to pay three times as much) that I want to sew into a giant blanket. However, I still don’t have an electrical cord for my 1930s sewing machine (the original one broke) and modern one’s won’t fit. *sigh* So we’ll see if I can hand-sew it.
Okay, I just heard the dryer beeper go off. I’m washing the new fabric I got and it’s time to get out the iron and switch around laundry.

Discovering Spring

April 23, 2011

Guess what? It’s spring. It’s cold and rainy, but sometimes it’s sunny and things are definitely growing and blooming. In fact, I’m discovering all sorts of cool things in our yard.

Like these daffodils growing randomly in the woods. I thought they were crocuses at first, and then they bloomed big and yellow!

When cleaning all of the grass and sod out of the garden, I found these teeny little bulbs as I sifted through the dirt. I wasn’t sure what they were, but I thought I would plant them and find out. Imagine my delight when they turned out to be grape hyacinth! Grape hyacinth are one of my favorite flowers. Too bad there weren’t more bulbs!

No, that’s not crab grass – they’re wild chives! When the boy mowed the lawn the other night it smelled like onions. You can eat wild chives, but I learned the hard way that you should pick only the thinnest and tenderest ones if you’re going to use them raw. Otherwise they can be a little tough.

Last fall we chopped down a giant patch of sumac, brambles, and these long, whippy vine-bush things. This spring, I discovered what they were:

Forsythia! And we chopped it all down. D’oh! Good thing it will grow back. In fact, this patch needs to be cut back quite a bit. Lol.

Anyway, I can’t wait to see what else I can find in my garden. I already discovered bleeding heart and a rosebush last fall. Can’t wait until they bloom. Pictures will ensue, of course, now that I have my lovely camera and a brand new computer with the memory capacity to handle all those high-pixel photos!

And now I’m off to go get ready for a trip upstate for Easter. A cold, cold, wet trip. Good thing it is supposed to be warm next week. I don’t mind the rain, but the cold has got to go!

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