Friday, September 30, 2011

Plum Cake

Another blast from my past. My step-grandma, Gudrun Paetz, used to make a similar cake each fall. I will forever remember her by 2 things. She was mean as a snake, and she made a damn good plum cake. However (sorry grandma) this one is better. If you have access to Italian plums you should give this simple, delicious cake a try.

Plum Cake

12 ripe Italian plums, pitted and halved
1 Tbs. Butter
1/4 cup sugar

1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
2/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8" by 8" glass baking dish. Cover the bottom with parchment paper (important!).

Melt 1 Tbs. of butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the plums and 1/4 c. sugar. Toss and stir, gently, for approx. 5 minutes, or until the plums release their juice and make a lovely syrup. Arrange the plums in the bottom of the baking dish, cut side down. Pour the syrup over the plums.

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

With an electric mixer beat 1/2 c. butter and  2/3 c. sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, sour cream and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Don't over beat.

Spoon the thick batter over the plums and use a spatula to smooth it evenly. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for one hour. Use a knife to loosen sides of cake from the baking dish. Place a plate on top of the cake and carefully invert it. The cake will eventually fall to the plate. Remove baking dish. Carefully peel off the parchment paper. Enjoy your delicious creation with a nice cup of coffee.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Whole Lotta Hankies!

I am not a collector. I simply prefer the feel of cloth on my nose. Remember when you could find hankies at the Five and Dime stores for next to nothing? Now they are as scarce as hen's teeth. You can find them new, but who wants to pay over $20 per hankie? You can also find them on some vintage fabric sites for $10 and up.  I was happy to find one at an antique mall for $1.20. And I am always on the lookout for handkerchiefs at yard and estate sales. So you can imagine my joy when I hit the mother lode last Saturday. Over 60 lovely (most looked unused) handkerchiefs for........wait for it.........$5. SCORE! I will never need to buy another hankie again.

Floral Embroidery

Floral Prints

Misc. Prints


Crochet and Tatted Trim

White and Ecru

Even one with bees.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chicken Soup & Scones

After one last little spurt of summer we seem to have slipped full on into fall. And that means it's time for some warm, tasty comfort food. When I visit Costco I like to pick up one of their incredibly cheap roast chickens. Once we've eaten most of the meat off the poor thing I then use the carcass to make soup stock.

Chicken Stock

1 cooked chicken carcass (meat removed and reserved)
1 large onion, quartered
2 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
3 celery ribs, roughly chopped
rosemary, twig
2 bay leaves
2 garlic cloves, chopped roughly
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
1 teaspoon salt

Put ingredients in a stockpot or large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil  then reduce heat and simmer uncovered, for two hours. Skim off any foam. Strain the stock through a cloth-lined colander or metal sieve. Discard the solids. Let stock cool, and refrigerate, you will find the stock will turn to a jelly, when cooled in the refrigerator which is the sign of a great stock. Use the stock within a day or 2 or freeze the stock in preferred sized portions. Using an ice cube tray works very well for small portions that can be popped into casseroles, soups or sauces.

Once you've made your stock you are halfway to having delicious homemade chicken noodle soup. The rest is easy.

Chicken Noodle Soup

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup sliced celery
1 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 small potato, diced
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 tablespoon dried parsley
1 batch homemade chicken broth (see above)
2 to 3 teaspoons salt (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
3 to 4 cups dried egg noodles (depending on personal preference)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken (reserved from making stock, above)

Melt butter in large pot. Saute the celery, carrot and onion for 2 minutes. Add potato, thyme, poultry seasoning, parsley. chicken broth, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add noodles and chicken, reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes.

Around here fall is synonymous with The Puyallup Fair. It has become so ridiculously commercial and expensive that I no longer attend. But I do miss the scones. A scone is simply a triangular biscuit. I actually prefer scones as cutting out circle shapes from biscuit dough seems wasteful. The first step to making my scones was to prepare a baking mix similar to Bisquick. But instead of shortening I wish to use lard in my baking. I am cutting out all hydrogenated oils from my diet. I believe those are bad for our brains. A doctor once explained to me how he thought hydrogenated oils cause Alzheimer's. Our brains are made up of fat. The fats we ingest create brain cells. When fat is hydrogenated it changes the shape on a molecular level (way over my head) and our brains can't use it properly. Like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Since learning this I have switched exclusively to butter and corn oil. But for baking I need good old fashioned lard. I know that Mexican folks use a lot of lard in their cooking and we just happen to have a large Hispanic community here in Tacoma. I headed for the Hispanic grocery store. I did find lard but it, too, is now hydrogenated. Might as well use shortening. Dang. Where to find "real" lard? On a whim I stopped at the Carniceria (Hispanic meat shop) down the street from us and asked for lard. Once the fellow understood what I was seeking he pointed to a refrigerated case filled with tubs of a brownish substance.

He assured me this was lard. Really? I thought lard was white?  I was again assured, by the lady at the checkout counter, that this was truly lard. I headed home with my prize, still unconvinced. But after some research I discovered that Hispanic lard is indeed brown as they render it with some of the meat remaining. Leaf lard, which is used in baking, is taken from a different area of fat (around the kidneys) and is white. Oh well, this lard is what I have access to and I'm gonna use it.

Homemade Baking Mix

For each cup of mix use:
1 cup flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lard

If you want to prepare 4 cups at a time:
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons lard

Put all ingredients into a bowl and use a pastry blender to cut in the lard evenly. Once thoroughly combined you can use it as you would Bisquick. Store it in your refrigerator until needed or use immediately.

Makes 8

2 cups baking mix (above)
3/4 cup milk

Mix together in a bowl. Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead 12 times. Pat and or roll the dough out into a 1/2" thick circle. Cut it into 8 wedges. Place on an ungreased baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Slice and spread with butter and raspberry jam. These are even better than fair scones.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blueberry Booch

I have been experimenting with different techniques for flavoring kombucha. So far I have had success with placing pieces of fresh fruit into the individual bottles. Which is great for short term storage. But now that the weather is turning it will be more of a challenge to keep my brewers above 70 degrees. To prepare for this I have been bottling as much booch as I can. I don't want bits of berries floating in my kombucha for months at a time. But how to get that fruit flavor? Someone on the Kombucha Kommunity site proposed using a secondary ferment, on the fruit, before bottling. Here is my first success. Blueberry Booch. I started with a gallon of black tea kombucha and fermented it for nearly 2 weeks. Then I made a syrup using 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/2 cup of water. Once the sugar was dissolved (and the liquid still hot) I added 1/2 cup of fresh blueberries and smashed them with a potato masher. I removed the SCOBY from the kombucha and stirred in the berry sugar mixture. The booch was placed back into the fermenting closet for another week. The result? The kombucha fermented again, forming a new SCOBY (not useable due to the embedded berries). The finished booch is delicious. I have since bottled it and will have it on hand this winter.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

One Last Peek at the Garden

This spider's happily munching away.

I didn't plant a fall garden this year and my summer garden is winding down. The zucchini plants are looking mildewed and scruffy but the beans and tomatoes are still sputtering along.

Green beans are one of my favorite vegetables to grow. They always seem to do well. Slugs and bugs don't bother them, and they are easy to blanch and freeze. Thanksgiving wouldn't be the same without green bean casserole.

Sweet little cherry tomatoes. Most of these never make it indoors I pick and eat them, straight off the vine. I have learned to only plant one of these bushes per summer. Otherwise, like zucchini, I end up with way more than I can eat.

The Early Girl tomatoes are still trying to ripen before the frost. I think I finally have enough to make a batch of spaghetti sauce.

And here is my lone onion, a Walla Walla. I got the sets planted too late and this is the only one that will reach maturity. The others still look like green onions. It is hiding under the rosemary.

Monday, September 19, 2011

From Ugly Ducklings To Swans

Today (I lied, it was yesterday) I set about getting my "new" cast iron pans ready for duty. First order of business? Decide how I was going to tackle their rust issues. After some investigating I felt the easiest (and cheapest) method would be to soak them  in a tub of vinegar. I have plenty of white vinegar on hand, as that is what I use for fabric softener. I poured a gallon of vinegar into a plastic Rubbermaid shoe box, inserted the first of the pans and added just enough water to cover. I didn't want to dilute the vinegar too much. I let the pan soak for a couple of hours.

Then I removed the pan from the vinegar and put it into some fresh water to which I added a tablespoon of baking soda to neutralize the acid. I used a wire brush, followed by steel wool, to remove every bit of the rust. Then I coated the pans in lard and baked them for 2 hours at 350 degrees. I let them cool and then repeated that seasoning process twice more per pan. Here are before and after pictures of the pans.

Small Pan Before Restoration

Small Pan After Stripping

Small Pan After Seasoning

Medium Pan Before Restoration

Medium Pan After Stripping

Medium Pan After Seasoning

Large Pan Before Stripping
(The bottom of this pan looked good)

Large Pan After Stripping

Large Pan After Seasoning

I am very happy with the method I chose for removing the rust. It did a great job, quickly and easily, and without removing all the original seasoning. I'm not a collector and do not care one bit if my pans look perfect. They worked hard for that seasoning and I see absolutely no reason to strip them all the way down to bare metal. The vinegar removed only the rust. With a few uses the coloring will even out. I used both the small and medium pans, today. LOVE THEM! Even more than I thought I would. After my 3 coats of seasoning the pans are perfectly non-stick. Here's the small pan frying up our morning eggs.

And the medium pan making a grilled cheese sandwich.

I will never go back to those lame, worthless Teflon fry pans. These cast iron pans work great on my glass topped range (which I loathe). The pans are flat so they heat up quickly and evenly...unlike my Teflon pans with their weird concave bottoms. Clean up is a snap. NO SOAP! Run them under hot water and scrub with a nylon Quickie brush. Then set them back onto the warm burner to dry and coat them with a little bit of corn oil. That's it. Easie peasie. Treated properly they should never rust again.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Mission Accomplished

Hit some yard sales from 9 to 10 am, this morning. I was mainly searching for cast iron cookware. And I hit the jackpot. I stopped at 4 sales, bought at 3 of them, and found these pans at 2. The larger pan was $2 and the two smaller pans were $1 each. That's three rather rusty cast iron pans, all different sizes, for a total of $4. I'll have to invest some oven cleaner and elbow grease and should have some really nice pans. One is a Griswald, one is Wagner, and the 3rd is a no name USA made. I'll post some "after" pictures once I get them cleaned up. Now I don't have to be jealous of my friends' cast iron collections.

I also grabbed 8 boxes of canning jars for $2 per box, or $16 for all. Most are pints but there are some misc. sizes in there, as well.

I found 3 flip-top bottles. $2 for all 3. They are asking $8 per bottle at the local antique mall. You can buy them with beer in them for less than that.

And I scored this lovely Worthington plaid coat for $1.
It fits perfectly. Probably over $100 new. Barely worn.

As I was leaving the last sale I noticed their neighbor had set a tote full of medium sized planting pots out on the curb. For FREE. Guess where they are now?

Not a bad haul for $23.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Some New Goodies

I've been quiet but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. I'm still gathering items for my future homestead. I ordered a couple of things from I got a compost aerator, and this book.

The book is on seed saving. Harvesting your seeds to reuse the following year. I had borrowed a friend's copy earlier and wanted one of my own. The compost aerator makes it easy to turn the compost when it's in an enclosed bin, like the 3 I have. And I bought a couple of used books from a Ravelry friend. They are on raising goats. I hope to have both meat and dairy goats eventually. The lady also included a bar of her goat's milk soap.

Today I felt the need for a bit of shopping therapy and headed out to find some yard sales. Unfortunately it's the end of that sale season and the offerings were few and far between. I only found one item to purchase, a large Foley mill for $3. "But Roxi, didn't you just buy a food mill for $5 recently?" Yes, I did. But the one I got today is much larger. It's the one on the left in the picture. I can't decide if I should keep the smaller one, or sell it?

Since the yard sales were a huge disappointment I hit a few thrift stores. I am jonesing for some cast iron cookware. No luck at either Salvation Army or Goodwill. I was making a quick sweep through Bargain World (the place where I'd found my Supreme Juicerator for $19) when I spied this.

Hmmmm....that looks like a dehydrator. Closer inspection revealed it to be an Excalibur. That's a very desirable item. I was stoked. But did it work? I found the testing strip at the back of the store and low and behold, the fan started up. I haven't actually tried it out properly, and it might not work. But it was only $9.99 and new they sell for over $100. Mine is circa 1981. If it works well I'll save up to get one with more trays. I like my other dehydrator just fine put it has stacking trays instead of these, that slide in. The advantage? You can put taller items inside it. The Excalibur is supposed to be able to make yogurt.

And I have a bunch of these milk glass yogurt cups with lids. Look, they fit inside!

I may be able to discontinue my search for a second yogurt maker and just use this. I'll have to try it out next week. I'll let you all know how it goes.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Call This A Harvest?

My garden is pitiful this year. This is over half my potato crop, and a third of my bell peppers. Tiny potatoes and a tiny pepper. But I grew 'em, and I ate 'em. They were good, too.

I am still holding out hope my tomatoes will ripen in time to be made into sauce. I'm ever the optimist. I like to hope for the best, while expecting the worst. Case in point, selling our commercial property. I had been holding out hope that someone would want to purchase it to keep a yarn shop in Tacoma. We did have 2 ladies show an interest but neither was able to follow through. I need to face the reality that it isn't going to happen and it's time to call in the professionals. We are going to meet with an agent, tomorrow, and possibly list with him. We aren't getting enough exposure trying to do this on our own. Why do I care if it's a yarn shop, or a beauty shop? It's not like I'm going to be in the same city. Probably not even the same county. I'm anxious to sell the building and go buy my homestead. Wish us luck!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

Road trip! We found out that a property we were interested in had a sale fail and is once again up for grabs. Whether or not this is a good thing remains to be seen.

The Good
It's in a gorgeous area. I think I could stand
to look at this scenery on a daily basis.

We ate lunch here, in nearby Randle, WA.
It may well be the only fast food joint in the area.
Check out that view in the distance.

This is a sparsely populated area. A big plus in my book. I am looking for a little homestead where I can live out the remainder of my years in peace. With just enough room for a greenhouse, some fruit trees, and critters. This is the pasture of the property we are interested in. Doesn't the husbeast look at home there?

My farmer man!

The Bad
This is the barn. It will definitely need some work.

The hen house.

Which you can't get to because of the blackberry bushes that are trying to take over the place. You can barely see the roof line. First order of business would be procuring some goats. A bonus? There are honey bees living in the wall of the hen house.

The outside of the house. Not too terrible.

The side entrance, into kitchen.

The Ugly
And I do mean ugly.
Now we venture indoors. First the kitchen.

The other end of the kitchen, looking into the living room.

The laundry room, off the kitchen.

The propane heat stove in living room.

The awful bathroom.

And the worst. The bedrooms.

They are the worst part of the house because the windows are basically just panes of glass set up there. And they leak. Must have been leaking for years. And there is dry rot in the floors under the windows.

There is very little, if any, value in the home. Each room will need to be gutted and redone. The plus is the small, square floor plan which would be easy to heat with a wood stove.

There are also many outbuildings, including a rather nicely built outhouse, but most of the other outbuildings will need massive work or be torn down. The garage isn't too bad.

I'm not sure we could get the price reduced enough to make this worth our while. We'll see.