Saturday, February 24, 2018

learn and do sous vide edition

Do you sous vide?  I am brand new to the sous vide club.  My daughter got a sous vide as a wedding gift and she brought it home with her once on a visit to the farm and we made pickles and sampled some Limoncello that she had made at home.  I had been interested in having one of my own but hadn't gotten around to biting the bullet and getting it purchased.  I haven't been to any big fancy kitchen shops lately and I haven't seen them in our local stores.  Then, lo and behold just after  Christmas my sister and I spotted them in the larger Walmart in the neighboring town.  It was a different brand than the one that my daughter has and we decided that I would check out the reviews online before deciding to purchase.  A week later we were in the same neighboring town in Target and they had them too.  This time it was the same brand as my daughter's and they were marked down to save $40.  They had two left and we each bought one.

For those unfamiliar a sous vide (pronounced sue veed) is an immersion circulator.  It is a computerized heater with a pump that is placed in a pan or tub of water.  Food is added to the cooking container in plastic bags or glass jars and the sous vide warms the water to a specified temperature and holds it at that temperature while circulating the water around the bags or jars.  The food takes longer to cook, often an hour or hours, but it uses temperature not time to determine doneness.

The claim is that it can cook steak or other meats to perfection, restaurant quality even, in a bag in a pot of water with just a quick sear at the end..  I have not tried cooking meat yet but I have gotten my feet wet, pun intended, and I can share my first attempts.

The first thing I tried were hard cooked eggs.  We are big fans of deviled eggs and I am the one that brings them to our family gatherings.  I think that I have tried all of the old wives tales for how to get easy to peel eggs.  Sometimes they work and sometimes they don't.  One online sous vider promised perfectly cooked eggs that were easy to peel.  I tried them once, and the results were okay but nothing to write home about.  The yolks remained bright orange and moist and the whites were pretty tender and broke when I was trying to peel them or cut them in half but they tasted fine.  I might give them another try.    

It has been Meyer lemon season in Minnesota.  We can't grow them here but there are a few weeks about this time of year when Meyer lemons can be found in the stores.  I had bought a bunch and decided to use them in my early sous vide experiments.  First I made limoncello.  The sous vide is used to infuse the alcohol with the lemon zest which is then strained and combined with simple syrup.  Traditionally the lemons are soaked in the alcohol for weeks and the sous vide reduces that time down to two or three hours.  My daughter makes her limoncello with Everclear but she lives close to Wisconsin and can hop over the state line and get the real thing.  On my side of the state the Everclear that can be sold in Minnesota has a lower proof and so I used vodka.  It turned out pretty yummy.  Right now I have it in canning jars in my freezer.  It doesn't freeze but is icy cold when you take it out.  I am planning to pour it into a pretty bottle or decanter for serving.  The Meyer lemons give it a really nice flavor.
Meyer limoncello

Then today I used the juice from those same lemons that I had zested for the limoncello in a Meyer lemon curd.  In the past my recipe for making lemon curd involved a double boiler and constant stirring.  With the sous vide, you whisk together the juice, sugar and eggs and pour it into the bag with the cubed butter.  The bag is placed in the water and once the contents of the bag reach 160 degrees the bag can be emptied into a bowl and whisked a few times to incorporate the melted butter into the rest of the ingredients and then poured into jars.  I left the lids ajar until the curd had cooled and then refrigerated one and put the rest in the freezer.  I made a first batch to test and when it was done and wonderful I decided to use the remainder of my reserved juice to make another batch.

The bag with the cubed butter and mix ready for sous vide

out of the bag and ready to whisk

finished lemon curd
My next attempt was a foray into homemade cheese making.  I have made homemade ricotta and homemade marscarpone in the past.  It involve careful watching of the temperature and with the sous vide I was able to put the milk in the bag and the bag in the cooking container and let the sous vide bring it to temperature without risk of scorching and constant watching.  I used goat milk to make goat cheese or chevre.  The milk is heated to temperature.  Lemon juice is added and the milk/lemon mixture is allowed to stand for ten minutes to allow the curds to form.  The mixture is then poured into a strainer for 1-2 hours and the whey is separated from the curd.  The curd is salted to taste.  The cheese ended up soft and spreadable but I think that it will firm up a bit when refrigerated.  I am considering adding herbs or garlic to the cheese for a flavored variety.  One quart of goat milk makes a cup of cheese and a couple of cups of whey.
sous vide working its magic

finished goat cheese
And supper, a salad with greens from the winter greenhouse with goat cheese, apple and pecans.

Sharing with BNOTP here.

Monday, February 12, 2018

It is finished

I have finally completed the dish pantry project that I first shared as almost finished here.  At that point I had done most of the work on the pantry itself and then discovered that the door did not fit the opening.  In hindsight the way to build the front wall that contains the door would have been to build the door frame and then the walls around it.  I considered planing off part of the door but the amount would have been significant and would probably have been more noticeable than I would have liked.  I eventually decided to hang the door from a barn door track.  This option has some challenges of its own.  Most doors on tracks are mounted on the wall so that the track covers the opening and slides fully to one side.   The door is wider than the opening so when closed it overlaps the opening and when it is open it hangs along side of the opening.

In my situation The door and the opening were sort of similar in size so no overlap.  The door opening was also centered and I had walls at both ends of the rail that limited how far the door could slide in either direction.  I also did not have very much clearance between the low ceiling and the top of the door.  So off to the store I went.  My sister went along and we were able to find a rail system that met my needs.  Although the black wrought iron rails have a definite farmhouse feel the wheel system on them is too tall for the space that I have.  I ended up buying one that was a brushed silver colored metal, maybe nickle.  It had the low profile that I needed and since I have quite a bit of metal in my adjoining kitchen already, stainless stove, shiny chrome industrial wire shelving and brushed metal under cabinet rails it fit in.

Of course it was too long for my space so back to the store for a tool to cut it.  A dremel made pretty quick work of the cut and did a nice job.  Next was figuring out how high to hang the bar.  The system that I chose had a two piece hanger that went on each end.  They needed to be level but they couldn't be attached with the bar in place.  The bar needed to be the right height so that the door would be off the floor so that it would glide properly when moved but not too high.  And the bar was a round one, not the flat ones that most rail systems have.  So there were a lot of curved surfaces to consider that were difficult to measure.  I eventually got the rail installed where I thought was the right height only to have the door a little long.  I was not about to rehang that hardware so I carried the door out to the shed and cut a little off the bottom.  Of course it was not able to hand straight so I wasn't sure how much to cut off and I could have cut a little less off than I did but I am happy with the results.

After the door was finished it was to finish up the rest of the area.  This is the main entrance to the house and it all needed a little freshening.  I removed a wallpaper boarder, new white paint on the walls, cubbies and the door and new black paint on the floor.  Here are a few after pictures.

The door

the barn door track

The floor

the cubbies

The door

Sharing with BNOTP Metamorphosis Monday here.

Monday, January 15, 2018

My Wexford Obsession

I thrift with my sister but we haven't always been thrift store addicted.  It happened innocently enough.  My younger daughter decided that she would start collecting vintage decor and dishes with the intention of starting a side business renting her treasures for parties and photo sessions.  One of the first patterns that she acquired was a group of Wexford stems.  Wexford is a sturdy pressed glass pattern made by Anchor Hocking in the 1940's thru 1960's.  The vintage glassware has a pretty distinctive pattern, small diamonds towards the top and larger diamonds towards the bottom.  Some places this is referred to as criss cross and occasionally it is called a waffle pattern.  When we noticed some glasses in Goodwill that matched my daughter's glasses we snatched them up.  My daughter lives across the state in a metropolitan area. My sister and I felt that while my daughter shopped the big city we could check the stores in the towns that we shopped and pick up things that she might like.

It turns out that Wexford apparently was pretty popular in our area because it has been readily available.  When we stop at Goodwill there is often one or more pieces and it is always reasonably priced. I now love it as much as she does and I now have many more pieces than she does.  She has not yet started her business.  Life has a way of intruding and she has had a lot of stuff going on right now and limited storage.  Perhaps soon.  When she gets ready to open her rental business I will happily share my pieces with her.  I don't have the place settings. No dinner plates, salad plates or saucers.  I have not seen them for purchase locally and have not searched them out online.  I do have many, many serving pieces.  I have six sizes of glasses, as well as punch bowls and punch cups.  I have footed sherbets, hexagonal salad plates, berry bowls.  More of some pieces than others but quite a bit of it.  Here is a sampling.  These pieces are currently displayed in my dining area.  The majority of the collection is in more functional storage on wire shelves in my basement.  None of the pieces are currently in the new dish pantry but I imagine that they will rotate in and out of there.
six sizes of glasses

canisters currently holding dog treats

ice bucket

two stacks of coasters

My newest piece was a gift.  Quite a long while ago I had written a post about my search for decanters.  I had read Helen, who blogs at Entertablement's, post about her husband's bar cart and her decanters and I was taken with the idea of a bar cart and I started my own collection of decanters knowing that at some point I would find the right cart to put them on.  Alas, I am still looking.  My good friend Kim, who blogs at Exquisitely Unremarkable, sent me a gift in the mail of a decanter that she found at an Etsy shop.  Unfortunately the decanter arrived in pieces having been broken in transit between the Etsy shop and the farm.  The only thing in one piece was the stopper.  It was a sad day.  Kim was not to be deterred and soon another package arrived.  This one arrived intact.  Turns out the decanter that she selected was the Wexford pattern and just happened to coordinate with my many other Wexford pieces. Thanks Kim!  It is a lovely piece.  It means so much to me that you would search out and send such a perfect gift.   
my new decanter

part of my collection on top of the bookcase

Friday, January 12, 2018

Learn and Do

The new year is a time traditionally when blog people look back to recap the passing year and look ahead to the upcoming year.  They post lists of their most popular posts or projects or recipes.  They set goals and make resolutions.  I am not one of those people who is successful at those tasks.  I tried posting my garden goals once on the side of my blog.  Eventually it disappeared from there, dying from inattention.  Some bloggers are writing about their one word for the new year, a fairly new type of resolution popular the past few years.  I have not been a 'one worder' either.  But I do have some things that I would like to accomplish and so perhaps some goals would be in order. A very vague goal, kind of on the order of that one word business.  I would like to learn and do new things.

I got started before the New Year.  I decided that my  (only) bathroom could use some upgrading.  My toilet had started to leak and I was having issues with my sink faucet.  I did some research, read some articles and watched some you tube.  I bought a new toilet and a new pedestal sink and I replaced my toilet.  All alone.  By myself.  And it is working.  With no leaking.  The pedestal sink is out of the box and laid out in pieces on my couch.  It is going to be installed today.   Or tomorrow.  Sometime this weekend.  Learn and do.  Our family is replete with DIY'ers.  We all tackle projects.  It is in our DNA I guess.

I have several woodworking projects that I want to accomplish.  One of them is nearly complete.  My dish pantry.  It just needs the door.  That will happen today.  Or tomorrow.  Or this weekend.  I kind of see a trend here.  I am a bit of a procrastinator but it is time to bite the bullet and get it done.  In order to do my wood projects I needed to get my own tools.  Now that I have tools I have no excuses.  More on these other projects later.
Another plan that I have involves food.  I like to cook and bake.  I have a huge number of actual cookbooks, a very extensive pinterest recipe collection and more ebook cookbooks than I should and tons of recipes that show up in my inbox from other bloggers.  I am not afraid to tackle complicated or unusual recipes, I just don't.  I live alone and much of the time I am cooking just for me so it is easy to do the easy, quick stuff.  My new plan is to learn to use an unfamiliar or exotic ingredient.  Not living close to a large metropolitan city I may have to be a bit selective in what recipes I select or plan far enough ahead that my big city offspring can shop for me before they come to the farm to visit.

As a start, yesterday I made a salad using wheat berries.  My friend Bobbie discovered the recipe and was going to try it.  I decided to try it too.  I had never cooked with wheat berries  before but they were good in the salad.  Wheat berries, roasted beets and feta cheese with fresh herbs and a homemade vinaigrette.  Tasty and filling.

And today I made a soup with several new ingredients.  I am a little embarrassed to say that I am slow to the coconut bandwagon but the soup that I made has both coconut oil and coconut milk.  It also has lime and turmeric and bok choy and several kinds of mushrooms.  It did not have tofu in it since I forgot to buy it so I went without it.  It was good.  Interesting flavors.

I have several other soups on my list.  Maybe my goal should be a big pot of a new soup each week.    And a salad.  With greens from the winter greenhouse once they are ready. 

I will have to do a Part 2 of this post with other things from my To Do list.  Stay warm. 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The dish pantry is done--kind of

I am an avid dish collector.  My sister and I hit the closest thrift stores pretty regularly, at least several times a month and there are some others that we frequent when we get further out of town.  Because I have been pretty successful at finding dishes that appeal to me I was finding myself short of dish storage.  I live in a small farmhouse and storage in general is nonexistent.  My house has a total of three small closets, one in each bedroom.  No linen closet, no broom closet, no coat closet.

What I do have is a small entry that at one time was added on to the house.  I don't think that it is original to the house.  When we moved here nearly 30 years ago this little entryway was sort of a pass through from the back door, which is the door that we use, to the kitchen.  On one side was a homemade closet only 11 inches deep with thin plywood doors and some hooks for hanging a couple of coats.  There was an upper cabinet and the lower cabinet and at some point after we moved we removed the doors on the lower cabinet and made three cubbies.

On the other side of the entryway was a shelf about a foot down from the ceiling and a built in bench with a lid that raised where you could sit to put on your shoes or boots.  We also took out the bench and added a three more shelves.  For quite a few years I used the area for pantry storage with canisters and canning jars and a table below the shelves.  When I was given a shelving unit from IKEA for Christmas one year by my daughter for in my kitchen that became my pantry storage and I put dishes on the entry shelves.

I have been coveting this pantry ever since I first saw it on pinterest.


My space is not nearly as big and certainly not tall enough to justify a ladder but wouldn't that be fun.  It is kind of an awkward place for dish storage, next to the exterior door but space is at a premium and that space is not well used right now.  I happened upon a narrow vintage French door about a year ago and it has been hanging out in my shed just waiting for me to use it.

I also like the narrow display area in this photo:

Farmhouse style is the popular kitchen decorating trend of this days because of its shabby chic accents mixed with simple and natural features. If you are looking forward to have a kitchen with farmhouse style, you don’t need to do big renovation for your kitchen, just insert into it some fun farmhouse-inspired storage projects. That’s […] 

So shortly before Christmas I decided the time was right to take on this project.  I don't have a lot of experience building anything this big by myself.  Our family built the winter greenhouse from scratch and I participated.  I have helped with projects and built some small stuff like bird houses and a rustic table.  And I do have that trouble with distorted vision.  I bought myself some tools that I have been wanting for a long time and some bead board and lumber.  I tore out the old shelves and started covering the walls with the bead board.  I built two narrow walls that would flank the door and built the shelves.  Then I painted.  And painted.  Two days before we were to celebrate Christmas I was washing dishes and glasses and putting them away in the new pantry and between loads I was painting my vintage door which was laying on the dining room table.  The door was kind of a challenge.  There were 10 divided lites to paint around both on the front and the back.  It was taking multiple coats and the morning of our celebration, I discover that the door I had been painting for two days would not fit.  One of my walls is apparently not quite plumb and so the door fits fine at the top but not at the bottom.  So back out to the shed it goes until I can decide what to do with it.

So far I have come up with these options:

Rebuild the offending wall so that it is plumb and square.
Plane the door or the door frame so that it fits better.
Leave the door off and use the door for a different project perhaps like this:


Anyway, here is my dish pantry.  Without a door.


It is 53 inches wide by 25.5 inches deep.  There are 7 u shaped shelves that are 11.5 inches deep on the back wall and 9.25 inches deep on the side walls.  They are deep enough for my dinner plates but some of the platters protrude a bit past the front edge of the shelves.


I have soup tureens on the very top and five not quite complete sets of china, stoneware and glasses on the middle five shelves and platters on the bottom.

I know that it will need some adjusting.  I have some things that will probably be replaced with other things that are stored elsewhere in the house.  It was a fun project.  I am glad for the extra storage.

I am sharing this with
Dishing it & Digging it here.
Metamorphosis Monday at BNOTP here.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Do you bake bread?

I used to be a rare bread baker.  That changed this summer when I started to do the farmers market.  All of a sudden I was making bread twice a week.  When I started selling at the market I didn't have much for produce yet so baked goods were my way to have enough things to offer for sale.  There were other bakers at the market and other breads for sale.  I wanted to find my niche in the baked goods area, offering something different from the others so I made white bread as buns and small loaves and French baguettes.  Both were familiar breads.  I wrote about the baguettes here.
my baskets of breads at the market

My older daughter also has an interest in bread baking.  When she made known that interest she began to amass a collection of tools that she would need.  I helped with that. She has a beautiful cookbook on bread making that details what they recommend for baking fabulous artisan breads. A trip to the restaurant supply store for the bench scraper and cambro box for proofing that were on her Christmas wish list last year and a few treasures found while thrifting since have been my contribution.

She gave me my baguette pan for Christmas a couple of years ago and I have a couple of thrift store treasures that have found their way to my kitchen gear stash.  I am, after all, a gadget girl.  And I am also a cookbook girl.  During the market season my mom bought me a bread cookbook and my daughter sent me my own copy of the cookbook that was her inspiration.  Both are a treasure trove of information and recipes that I am excited to try.
the cookbook from my mom
cookbook from my daughter

After a couple of shoppers at the market asked about gluten free offerings I decided to try my hand a gluten free breads.  We do not have any family members that are gluten intolerant so it was not something that I had ever done but it was a need that none of the other market vendors were attempting to fill.  Gluten free baking has its own learning curve and its own specialty ingredients.  I love a baking challenge.  I have had some successes and some repeat customers.  I have one that I will be baking for even now that the market is done.  And that will be fun.

Each market day I would make baguettes and buns and little loaves and sometimes I would try something new.  A couple of times I used my Pullman pan or pain de mie.  It is a rectangular pan with straight sides and a cover.  The bread raises in the pan and the cover keeps the loaf from having an arched top.  The loaf makes squared off slices, kind of like the shape of commercial breads available at the store.  The pans come in two sizes and mine is the smaller one.  The bread is perfect sliced thinly for appetizer toasts or fancy tea sandwiches.
Pain de mie
I also tried my hand at focaccia.  I thought it was good but best fresh from the oven. Probably better to make and eat than make and sell the next day.

Another thrift store find just recently was a baking cloche.

It prompted me to get out the new cookbook and try my hand at an artisan bread.  There is a lot to learn and I started with a prefermented bread. A prefermented bread requires the making of a starter so it is not something that is done spontaneously.  I started my starter, called biga, on Saturday and baked my bread on Sunday.   I have extra biga in my fridge so I will probably be baking bread again over the next couple of days.  The bread that I made is a white bread, using only all purpose flour, but it has a slightly different taste and a little darker color.  It tastes great both fresh and toasted.  I baked a baguette from a baguette recipe using the biga.  Instead of baking on a stone I tried my baguette pan.  It turned out nice.  I also tried two artisan breads.  One recipe but one-half baked under the cover of the cloche and one-half baked in the cloche bottom without the cover.  The recipe was for one loaf but it was a fairly large recipe and my cloche is supposed to hold dough made from three cups of flour and mine was more than that. Both breads were good but the covered bread and the baguette had a chewier crust.  The baguette had a pan of water for steam in the oven and the cloche created steam from the moisture in the dough.  The unsteamed version had a softer crust.

All in all it has been great fun.  I will be sharing the recipes soon but in the meantime I will be sharing this post with Susan at BNOTP here.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

A few recent thrift store finds

I think I may have written in the past about how my sister and I got addicted to thrifting.  The story, in a nutshell, is that we started searching out treasures for my daughter who was contemplating starting a dish and decor rental service.  I don't know that I had ever been to a Goodwill prior to that time.  Now we have a whole group of stores in several towns that we shop often or sporadically.
My sister and I  have different things that we collect so we are rarely in competition.   I like white dishes of any vintage.  She loves silver platters.  I like sets of vintage china.  She collects small plates and bases and glues them together to make cupcake stands.  Kitchen gadgets are a thing that we both like.  I have not ever bought an article of clothing at Goodwill.  To be honest, there are parts of the store that I have not really even wandered through.  But I can spend an hour in the dishes and the home goods.  And the fabric/linens.  And a quick walk thru the pictures for interesting frames.
We believe that the reason that we find great stuff is that we shop regularly.  The great stuff rarely stays on the shelf for long and if you happen to be in the store when it happens to be on the shelf, that is when the magic happens.  Our closest Goodwill is in a slightly larger nearby town.  I think it is rare that a week goes by that we don't stop in.  I don't think that we have ever left empty handed.  Our Goodwill store generally has pretty good prices.  But we rarely pay full price.  If you donate, they give you  a coupon for 25% off your purchase. And on Wednesdays seniors get 25% off.  And one day a week a particular color of sticker is 75% off.  And sometimes we happen to be in the store when there is a special sale, like yesterday when everything was 30% off. 

Last week I found this.

The pattern is American by Fostoria. My mom was given this pattern.  It was passed down to her from her mom or her grandmother.  I don't remember her receiving it but I remember her having this pattern while I was still at home.  Her grandmother died about the time that she was a newlywed or within the first year or two of her marriage.  She has several sizes of glasses, a wine, a champagne coupe and a cordial as well as a water glass and serving pieces.  Over the years her collection has slowly expanded as we have added a few pieces here and there when we happened upon them at an antique store.  Since we have been hitting the thrift stores the pace has quickened.  We seem to find a piece or two quite regularly.  The pattern seems to have lost some of its value.  I remember paying $50 for a bud vase years ago in an antique store and now many of the pieces are less than $20  at and $5-10 and usually less at Goodwill.

This pitcher was priced at $2.99 but we purchased it with a senior discount.  Just so you know, Goodwill's senior discount starts at a very young 55 years and my sister and I barely qualify.  Replacements has the same one priced at $70. And then, just yesterday they had one more at the very same price so we bought that one too.  Now she can have a pitcher of ice water at each end of her Thanksgiving or Christmas table.  Mom generally has her pieces displayed in a beautiful antique china cabinet and rarely uses them.  They are not a delicate handblown crystal but a sturdy one so this year my sister and I decided that we will help set the table and drag out many of her pieces.  I will try to remember to get some pictures.
I have written previously about my plans to convert my chicken coop into a bar.  My kids are game players and I am hoping that the bar will be a great three season place for board games and cards.  In anticipation of that project I have been picking up barware when I see it.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that I have quite a bit.  This is my latest find.  It is a hammered metal cocktail shaker and six glasses.

I have been researching them and have found some that are very similar with a different handle on the cover or a slightly different pour spout but none that match exactly, at least not so far.  It is always possible that at some point the lid was swapped with another..  The ones that I have read about online are usually described as being silverplate and in an art deco style.  These were priced each piece  separately with the glasses at $1.99 and the shaker at $6.99 all before the senior discount. I love the patina.  

I haven't done a whole table in quite a long time but still going to join the fun at Between Naps on the Porch for Tablescape Thursday here.