Friday, September 29, 2017

Snowdrops and cauliflowers

The snowdrop bulbs arrived this morning, as hoped.  And, as usual in this tiny realm of mine, the first order of business before planting is to remove enough pachysandra to make room.

I love pachysandra, hate seeing bare earth stretching out between plants, much better to me to have plants pushing up with a sea of green around them.  But it is aggressive.

So here's the lovely Dutch bulbs, awaiting my planting, complete with a gift card sort of thing with a stamp closing, all very civilized.
And here's the bucket of pachysandra removed from the future snowdrop bed, and wet down to wait next door 

for friend to plant them in this space

He already put dibs on any pachysandra I pull out.

And the snowdrops, planted, covered with some good organic stuff, watered in.  Watch this space next spring!  it's where my current six bulbs are, but not disturbing them.  I hope that removing the pachysandra will encourage them, too.  Maybe the competition from the new arrivals will spur on a bit of proliferation, too.

Meanwhile, back at the stove, Handsome Son will be coming for dinner, so the menu is all about cheese cauliflower, roast chicken breasts, with tiny pies for dessert.

The chicken breasts I pounded with a mixture of flour, seasalt, pepper, and Old Bay Seasoning.  Thinking about Washington is good for happy pounding, I find.  Hitting something is timely.  So they're in the fridge, and will be started on top of the oven in the castiron pan, then finished in the oven along with the cheese cauliflower.

I made the cheese sauce, using half and half sharp cheddar and shredded Parmigian,  and steamed the cauli.  This steamer was a wedding gift from my MIL.  That was in 1963, and it must have been used daily since then.  Definitely proved itself.  There's a tight fitting lid, which I removed to show you the contents.

Then added one, the sauce to t'other, the steamed cauliflower, and the dish is in the fridge, ready to be warmed through this evening.   

Dash of red pepper and shredded cheese over the top after it cooled. 

This afternoon a bit of study of Chinese art, and calligraphy and a spot of practice, too, if I'm up for it.  It's all go!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Thriftie as reward for thriftiness

Yesterday, the annual dental checkup, and once again, no boat payments for the dentist, an old friend, but comments on my good dental care.  No further work required.  come back next year.

So, the thriftie being just down the road, I thought I'd stop in there and reward myself for not having to spend massive $$ at the dentist.  And while I was there, unload the trunkful of items I cleared out of my storage place, all very good, but no longer useful to me.

And the Thriftie Goddess was with me, because for $12 total I found this perfectly lovely linen shirt, in a color I think is eau de nil, very posh, and a linen vest of a kind I've been wanting for years and years.  It pays to be a small size at the thriftie, less competition in that area.  And if you don't mind the care linen needs, actually a ride in the dryer often substitutes for pressing, it's all good.

And today, I ordered a bunch of snowdrops to plant on the patio to augment the six brave little fellers who come up year after year, never fail and never multiply either.  As usual with my gardening, when I want to plant, the first order of business is to pull out a lot of pachysandra.  My neighbor already said he wants it, so that's good.  It will have an immediate home a few yards away.  So as soon as the bulbs arrive, that will happen. 

What with the Montauk daisies, now in full swing, and apparently impervious to early frost, too, and the Rose of Sharon, also going all out, along with the sedum, Fall is taken care of.  Then adding to the spring end, the snowdrops will kick in in late January or early February.  Very little down time, all in all.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Sheet anchors and Simon Brett

I have an older mattress, not one of those deep newer ones.  But the sheet manufacturers seem to have lost interest in older mattresses, and I had to buy a sheet set which was intended for the deeper one.

That meant the bottom so-called fitted sheet is way too big, slides around, bunches up and is generally not what you want to deal with in the middle of the night.  Been wondering for ages how to figure out a fix for this, toying with stitching elastic across the corners to hold them better, and never got around to it.

Then in one of those catalogs you leaf through idly, not expecting anything interesting, came across these, the answer:

But they looked oddly familiar, and I remembered, oh, these were known as suspenders (britspeak), and you had to fasten two to each stocking to hold them up.  Miserable days when even young kids had to wear a garter belt.  

At the age of eleven, high school starts earlier in the UK, our uniform demanded long lisle stockings, so as young as that we were forced to wear these horrible things, which would spring apart at awkward moments, and required you hold your skirt down all the time.  

I've never understood the antipathy to pantyhose, which came as the answer to dreams, in the sixties, when they first came on the market.  Much better idea.  I'd seen a Chinese friend, wearing the cheongsam, that dress slit up the side, wearing them, and she explained that they were obtainable in Hong Kong.  Eventually they got to the US, and it was great.

Anyway, it seems that the mfr must have had a warehouse full of these things which became as useful as buggy whips, after the pantyhose market got going, and here's a great way to resell them!  So I applied two of them to the sheet, and they work.  Didn't get around all four, pretty tricky just to get two firmly in place. And they're called sheet anchors, fabulous dramatic name!

Also, if you're mildly interested in pantomime, such as wondering what it is, Simon Brett's Cinderella Murder is a great tutorial on that art form, as well as a pretty good mystery.  

I've tried to explain it to American friends who know it's a Christmas special sort of thing, largely family stuff, kids always taken as a treat.  Based on various nursery rhymes and fairytales, Cinderella, Aladdin, Jack and the Beanstalk.  

But bafflement ensues.  You say the Principal Boy is always played by a woman?  and the male hero by a man, but the Ugly Sisters are men?  And the heroine played by a woman, so there are love scenes with her and the Principal Boy played by another woman? Aladdin's widowed mother is played by a man?  Aladdin by a woman?  There's cross dressing? and double entendre jokes?  and this is traditional childhood fare?  And there's no mime in pantomime?  Explains a lot about brits, they conclude.  But read this mystery, and you'll get a lot!  it's also funny.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Dollivers Return, and Take a Knee

Some blogistas have been asking where the Dollivers have been for months.  And the fact is that the mood around here hasn't been up to the whimsical level it takes to create Dolliver adventures.

But this weekend, it seemed appropriate that our lovely inclusive group of Ds should show solidarity against racism and police brutality to minorities, by taking a knee.  It's what they can do.

And I'm glad to report that the sports teams have taken the Dollivers lead and knelt, in complete groups, in solidarity.  Well, maybe they weren't the first, since Kaepernick was out there alone for a while, but anyway, they're on it now. 

It's about protesting misuse of power, and about expressing First Amendment rights in a respectful, nonviolent way.  Everyone doesn't get that, but that's okay.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tiny pies

So I proceeded to make a couple of dozen tiny pies, to use up most of the apple mixture and the wonton wrappers.  Still have some of both left, but I can save for another time. 

The leftover apple mixture and wonton wrappers into the freezer close together so I remember to use them for pies.  The rest of the eggwash was this morning's breakfast, a little omelet, all my food seems to be miniature these days, on a slice of homebaked toast, yesterday's bread output.

Eggwash on the bottom wrapper, then a spoonful of apple mixture, another wrapper on top, seal by pressing all around, turn over press again.  

And a 400F oven for ten minutes gives you a nice lot of very crisp pies, lovely crackle in your mouth, then a mouthful of tangy apple.

Might be good party food, come to think of it.  Easy to make in quantities, hold and eat, though there's the flying flake factor in this kind of food.

And it's just right for a little something with your afternoon tea.

Monday, September 18, 2017

When daisies pied, and violets blue, etc.

Well, this morning the Montauk daisies budded up to almost opening, and there are tiny pies happening, so Shakespeare described my kitchen this morning.  

Yes, I know his pied daisies meant something different, but I can take poetic license, too, if he can.

Anyway, here's the making of the tiny apple pies.  

and at the same time a recipe of bread, wheat and white, rising.

They'll all bake later today, just heat the oven once.  That cloth is in fact clean from the laundry, though it looks a bit weary.  You know how the cookbooks tell you to use a CLEAN cloth, as if you were going to throw the dog's blanket over your bread.

The filling for the pies is: Staycrisp, I think that's the name, apples from the farm, two, sliced up on the slicing side of the grater.  I never used that before, always looked at it wondering what it's for, then realized, oh, cheese, apples, slicing, maybe.  Works fine.

That's macerating with sugar and molasses (equivalent of brown sugar which I don't have in the house) and a big spoonful of cornstarch.  I may add in a bit of cinnamon, fresh ground.

And the wonton wrappers are thawing ready for use.  I've made half moon pies in the past, but this time maybe I'll make round ones, full moons, nice single serve equivalent.  There will be a follow up if this works out.

Speaking of which, last Friday night's dinner with Handsome Son worked out a bit too successfully.  

 I used the ravioli from the freezer, all of them, and a big red sauce with farm tomatoes, homemade pesto and hot Italian sausage. Parmigian to shake over, and hot peppers.  Incidentally, the thawed ravioli tend to stick together, but they separate fine in the boiling water, so you can just put a clump of three or four in at once, and it works.

It entirely filled a great big earthenware serving bowl, the one you see on the left with the cooked ravioli waiting for the sausage and sauce, and I thought I was set up for the week in addition to a generous dinner for Son.  Famous last words.  He enjoyed it to the point where I have eked out two more small dinners for me.  And this is a slim guy.

We had the shortbread for dessert, and he said, after tackling several of them, did you make these? Gosh, they're as good as from the shop.  I choose to believe he means from a high end bakery, rather than the supermarket shelf...

Friday, September 15, 2017

Tomato Harvest Home

This is the entire crop of tomatoes I raised this year.  Which required a week on the windowsill to ripen.

Full disclosure, aka excuses, it was from a packet of seed given to me in June by a non gardening friend.  Of the packet one seed germinated.  And, being late to the game, was late in blooming and fruiting.  So this was the whole lot.

This is why I shop at the farmstand. 


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Exciting parcel from White Flower Farm

When you order from a trusty supplier such as White Flower Farm, you have to get your word in early before they run out, but then they send at the right time to plant.  So by the time this parcel arrived yesterday I'd almost forgotten I'd ordered them way back in the spring.

Reblooming irises.  I've been wanting at least one for maybe 40 years, ever since I saw a great garden of them at the local community college, the prized area of one of their horticulture professors.  I was amazed when I first saw it one September long ago, because I had no idea irises ever bloomed again in the Fall. And it was only this year I found a supplier.

These species bloom in spring, then take a rest, then come back in Fall to do it again.  So I'm embarking on three of them.  Given the way irises multiply, this is probably a lot.  One light blue, two white, always loved white iris.  

They're planted out front where the colors will blend with the current purple and white ones, and will be fading just in time to give way to the daylilies and the yellow sunflower type daisies.  Then in fall, you see the Montauk daisies just budding up nicely? next fall they'll be accompanied by the reblooming of the blue and white iris.  At least that's the plan.

So the rebuilding of the destroyed front yard after the reno is getting there.  

I put one white one here, but first had to uproot a huge bag of pachysandra to make room for it.

Then the other two went in so that they will form a curve seen from the street, since I like my neighbors to enjoy this, too.  I cleverly remembered to put the name tag in beside the new planting, because it has the color on as well as names. You see them sticking up. Each area involved digging up and uprooting tons of pachysandra which is great stuff, but tends to get aggressive with its roots.  But it breaks up soil clods a treat, as good as potatoes.

 I trimmed back, again, the Russian sage, which loves it here and grows madly, in order to see the Montauk daisies and the clump of chrysanthemums behind them.

And from the daffodils to iris, to daylilies, to daisies, with the Russian sage blooming right over the season and the pachysandra always going, and the pink sedum, Autumn Joy, blooming in September, and the chrysanthemums, whose color I have forgotten from last year, I have a nice long season going.  In among the pachysandra are pots of herbs, the lavender going while iris are out and after, and the thyme bushing all over, with tiny white flowers.

Amazing how much work  plants,  you can pack into a tiny area...I do a lot of thinking about this teeny place, because it needs to look nice from the street, and from my kitchen window, and from the sides, since my walkway is beside it.  

It's not like having a fence and backing plantings up to it, a bit more challenging.  I do have that on the patio, much easier for decision making, but I still want it to look nice from indoors as well as for passersby walking out back, and for me when I sit out. I know the spot I see best from the sofa, for armchair gardening purposes, always a good thing.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Yogurt cheese, ravioli, and Cooking for One

I thought you'd like to see the yogurt cheese complete.  And the whey that came off it.  

You'll notice that it's about half and half solid to liquid.  The whey is great in soup, and can go in any color soup without changing its appearance. I have Indian friends who add honey or sugar to this cheese, for a dessert type food, and other hardy souls who salt it.

So the ravioli came to be.  This is fun to do.  You will notice that if you use wonton wrappers instead of going the long route of making your own pasta, they are a bit translucent.  They do seal nicely, though, so you don't get any separating in the boiling water.

The filling was hot Italian sausage, browned, mixed with an egg, a helping of yogurt cheese, and a big shake of shredded Parmigiano.  I added no seasoning at all, since the sausage had plenty, and the yogurt cheese was tangy, the Parmigiano salty enough. 

Full disclosure on the sausage: I forgot to get them out of the freezer early enough, and they were still partly frozen when I sauteed them. So the skin wouldn't come off as planned, and I had to scrape the meat from it.  However, it made some very nice cooked skin with a bit of meat, which is now in the freezer in the chicken bone bag, to use in a future soup as flavoring. And I still had plenty of the meat for the ravioli filling.

This batch of filling made just under two dozen ravioli, most of which are in the freezer for the next time Handsome Son comes to dine.

Egg wash around each wrapper edge to help it seal, then a spoonful of filling in each, press down all around the edges, then turn each one over and press down again.  These get dropped into boiling water, just a few at a time so as not to lose the boiling point, and when they come to the surface give them just a minute before lifting them out to drain.

Cook's privilege, the first few.  Good without any sauce or anything.

I got the Cooking for One book, and recommend it to people who love meat, and have a budget for the more exciting seafood.  I don't, so it might not fit my kitchen, though I may yet find something, and she has some great ideas about how to keep using the same base in interesting and different ways.  

That way you don't have to eat the same meal over and over, always a good point for a single diner. I also like her assumption that you can be a good guest and host to yourself, enjoy the process of both cooking and dining. So definitely take a look at this one.

And here's a little afternoon tea, fresh hot biscuit with yogurt cheese spread, to accompany my reading.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Ravioli makings and yogurt cheese, thinking ahead

I've been browsing through The Splendid Table cookbooks, and suddenly thought of making ravioli.  Not from their books, in fact, just one of those tangential ideas that fly out from seemingly unrelated contexts. Haven't made them for ages.

So today I added wonton wrappers to the lineup of  hot Italian sausage already in the freezer for whatever it fits with, and whole milk plain yogurt, and a supply of eggs. I probably only need one egg, but it looked nice to display them all.

I've made my own pasta for ravioli, and it was good, but not enough to justify that much work at least not right now, before I've recovered from the Rustic Apple Tart.  So the wonton wrappers are a great substitute.  You use them for dumplings of various sorts, but for ravioli I find them good, too.  I do like cooking the sort of things you plunge into boiling water and wait till they emerge at the top.

And since it's a while since I made yogurt cheese, which I use in many places where cream or cream cheese or ricotta is listed, since I like it better, I set some up to go. Here's the whole container full, turned out into a cheesecloth-lined strainer set on a bowl to catch the whey.  This is whole milk, since I want that consistency for the ravioli particularly, but I've made it with nonfat, too, and it's fine but not as coherent as the whole milk version.

And here it's in the fridge till tomorrow, with a glass lid on, to drain slowly, to set up a nice cheese consistency ready to use.

Kept the original container for the whey which will feature in some future soup.

This is all very good, because it means I have to wait till tomorrow for the cheese to be ready for the ravioli caper, fine by me, I can read my mystery story, an Emma Lathen set in the Baltic,  instead of pounding about in the kitchen.  And have a cup of tea, too. Such larks.

Tomorrow I'll sizzle the Italian sausage, beat in the eggs and some cheese and various spices for the filling and go from there.  I'll probably freeze a bunch of them, since you can't make just a couple of ravioli.  And they can go with various sauces, but I think I'll make a red sauce this time.

Oh, and a postscript on the Rustic Apple Tart -- Handsome Son stopped in for a cup of tea and a healthy hunk of the tart.  I whined at great length about the complications, multiple tools, and various other things and whether it was worth it really.  

He listened patiently, so tactful, don't know where he gets it from, certainly not from his parents, and said, well, it was worth it, how soon will you make it again?  Oh.  So I undertook to do it for some future special occasion.   

Speaking of which, Carol G., a friend in stitching and a blogista, mentioned a great cookbook she, herself a seriously good cook, swears by, The Pleasure of Cooking for One.  So I've put it on request at the libe, and will no doubt have some adventures with it for your future reading pleasure.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Rose of Sharon triumphs

During the renovation, my little planted areas took a beating.  Some plants just gave up, others were trodden on, equipment put down on them, ladders settled into their roots, and still they rose.

Here's the little Rose of Sharon, planted last fall as a tiny shrub, and literally downtrodden repeatedly, broken, replanted three times, and suddenly she took off last week, and here's her first blossom.  She has about a dozen buds all of a sudden.

I think there's a lesson in here!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Rustic Apple Pie and Shadow Art 6WS

Out of bread again, and as usual wondering what sort to make. Not in the mood for actual yeast bread making, nor hot biscuits, but I found, via their Twitter feed, a  recipe from The Splendid Table  for Rustic Rosemary Apple Tart.  For which go here

That seemed pretty simple, no cutting and crimping, etc., and was a bit like clafouti, which I like a lot.  And involved fresh rosemary of which I have plenty.  And cooking apples of which I had a couple. So I embarked on it.

Now, in case you fancy trying it, be forewarned: rustic does not mean fast cooking.  In fact I am thinking of recommending a whole new way of presenting recipes.  You know how they name it, tell you why you will love it, list the ingredients,  then explain the procedure? 

One huge missing element is: the number and range of tools this simple item will require.  Then you could decide if it's worth it.  The way you look at a list of ingredients and decide if you're up for that many.  To some of us this is an issue.

Here is evidence:  this is the dish drainer containing nothing but the items required to make this rustic tart.  And it doesn't include the big bowls and knives I had washed and dried and put away already. Just sayin.  I did get to use my rolling pin and pastry cutter, which was good.  And my pastry scraper. And apple corer. And peeler. And pizza cutter.

That said, however, I did achieve a result that looked something like their picture, if a bit more rectangular

And had a first slice with afternoon tea.  With the Yorkshire tradition of a big slice of extra sharp cheddar on the side.

And found it was absolutely terrific.  My first shot at flaky pastry, and it was crisp and flaky and perfectly wonderful.  The apples were those Crisp whatevers, even better than Granny Smith, never thought I'd say that, and the tart works like a fruit Danish for breakfast, too.

Of course, being me, there were substitutions.  They wanted heavy cream and I said no, no, and used plain yogurt, needed a bit more than the recipe said, and it worked fine. And you could have used cinnamon, but rosemary is much better, so I used that. They don't mention parchment paper, but after a couple of annoying encounters of the sticking kind recently with the baking sheet, I did, and that was a good idea.

Handsome son is dropping by this afternoon and will also get to test this one.  It's about making and resting the pastry, and is a lengthy procedure largely because of all the waiting for the pastry to wake up, but now I think it's worth doubling the pastry recipe and freezing some for future use. This "simple" rustic recipe reminds me of those endless beauty regimens with the goal of looking natural..

Incidentally I think it's not fair when one of the list of ingredients is: one recipe of Flaky Pastry! which is another whole recipe in itself.  But okay, okay, the results are good enough to print this one out and put it in my Big Binder. 

And while I was polishing my nails on my lapel and gawking around vacantly while the pastry rested, I noticed the sun had come out, was shining through the hanging plants, and making a natural artwork on the green wall. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

September 1st, white rabbits, or rather blue and orange butterflies..

September first, who knows that that happened, so White Rabbits to everyone.  Or rather, since I had a walk on the Preserve this week, blue and orange butterflies.

There were gangs of happy kids sploshing about studying frogs and salamanders and generally shouting and getting muddy and having a great time.  No birds to be seen when there's noise, so I switched to searching out butterflies.

The Preserve has a lot of species, and this day I saw a little blue skipper, and a possibly dusky swallowtail, pictured here

but missing portions of wings, which is why I think even without the actual tails, that's what it might be.  Open to correction on that point from knowledgeable blogistas, of which we have a few.

And an orange, which could be one of any number of species.   Nobody settled long enough to really study, so guesswork ruled.  Whites and sulphurs flitting about, too.

And there were dragonflies galore, darners, and big biplane type ones in blue and orange and black. Not an expert on dragonflies.  I should join the kids one one of their nature programs and learn about them. They eat mosquitoes so are particularly welcome in this state where the mosquito has been proposed as the state bird.

Happy Labor Day weekend, to those blogistas to whom it applies, plain old happy weekend to the rest of the world!