Thursday, April 30, 2020

MIF and a squint at books

I heard yet another rerun of the tea discussion today: milk in first or not. The original idea being, and I strongly doubt it, that putting a drop of milk in first prevented  your china cup from cracking.

 Except that real tea drinkers pour the tea first, around a silver spoon if you're nervous about grandma's cups, then add milk to taste, depending on the strength of the tea. First cup out of the pot not as strong as later ones. It's a minor art.

 My mom used to say the best tea with milk in, was the color of a golden sovereign. A useful tip if you'd ever seen one, I suppose. She had, they still being legal tender, if very hard to come by, in her youth.

Vital supplies, more under the shelf.

Speaking as one whose tea is more builder's than Downton Abbey, charges roaring like a wild beast out of the pot, I still put milk in second. In my Chinese mug. No saucer, my dear, averted eyes, pearls clutched.

So that being settled, and I'm sure you were engrossed, on to snooping.

I like how many people's homes we can see into via online meetings and newscasts. I always like to see the books and wonder if they've hidden the Agatha Christies and put out the Decline and Falls for bragging rights.

Here, with no editing, is a ramble round my four walls, getting closer by the day. Enjoy peeking.

 Cookbooks, not many

 More cookbooks

 Writing, musing


 From art teaching days

 Knitting, see that ww2 British one?

 Weaving, stitching, tapestries


Handmade and blanks

Rereads, Heyers, Pyms, Bensons, Delafields. Handsome Son gallery on top. Frames of handmade paper.

I gave away many artbooks and other readables during the Great Winnowing. Haven't missed them, what with Kindle, ebooks, audiobooks.

But I still enjoy browsing in paper books.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Music continues, supposed to be good for the brain. Jury's out.

So I continue to play music. It's very good for your breathing to play a wind instrument. As I find when I try an extended exercise, gasp, achh..

Then after working on the exercisesyou see here, for alto recorder, moving on. These exercises are like those ghastly Czerny piano exercises which turned generations of young players off forever.

 They're really about dexterity, very important. But it's not about music, just about developing the physical ability to actually play it. Like learning to drive so as to take road trips.

I never had a piano teacher as a kid, started at six, who actually grasped this.  But they weren't performers, just local ladies who'd probably done coursework.  No joy in it. Which accounted for my misery and longing to dump the piano.

 I did have much better singing teachers, and never wanted to dump my voice.  My mom wanted me to develop  good breathing technique, to help with severe asthma. She was very smart, wanted to avoid addictive asthma remedies available back in the 40s.

 So she  arranged singing solo and in a children's choir. And we found I turned out to have a good voice. It's the facial architecture -- high roof of the mouth gives resonance. It also enables good tone on recorder and flute. Lucky.

 I eventually took up violin in middle age, with great encouragement from serious musicians who thought it was wonderful just to be trying it. They knew all about the work and all about the joy.

 My hands aren't designed for violin though -- pinkie fingers set low, so the stretch to play notes is a big strain. Take a look at great string players and see those lovely long pinkie fingers, it helps a lot. I had to move on for fear of injury, sad day.

 And later recorder and flute, more work, tons of joy and friends and playing together. Ensemble playing with friends is what I like. Not performing. I've outlived my string ensemble, and quite a few of my recorder friends. That wasn't in the plan, though.

Then today, after Rooda exercises, on to some lovely stuff.

Morley, played,  first line on soprano recorder, second line on tenor recorder.

Then I declared my musical journey paused till tomorrow. I might sing a bit. We'll see.

So that's the Great Doh, Re, Me Me, Me!

Monday, April 27, 2020

Accidental cooking

Just got a reminder from my cookbook book club about this month's chef, Marcus Samuelsson. Checked it out on Hoopla, though ebooks aren't my preferred form for cookbooks, but no choice right now.

He's a Swedish Ethiopian, great imaginative chef, came to Harlem  and owns The Red Rooster restaurant. The book of the same name is a social history of Harlem, the waves of cultures that have enriched it, and the food and drink that resulted.  Worth reading even if you don't cook from it.

However the first thing I noticed was a spice mix, berbere, new to me. So I had to try it. After going to YouTube to learn how to say it. Three syllables.

 It involved all three of my spice cabinets and quite a few of the contents. I had to sub one or two things, oddly enough, common items like paprika and dried onion flakes. But I think I got close enough for starters. It requires fenugreek, and you did know that fenugreek seeds are methi? Same thing. My Asian store sells it as methi seeds. Good to know.

It involved several stages, toasting the first group of spices

Grinding them in my ancient coffee grinder

Mixing them with the second group

And finally trying the mix.

 Sliced sweet potatoes for roasting seemed like a good test. I'll let you know... off to cook now.  At every stage the smells of the spices are amazing.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Current state of play on the Big Star Thing Maybe

Two layers of fabric now, the back one a lovely batik, the top the piece I dyed.

 I'm just laying out ideas for reverse applique, had several different designs going, not settled yet, but I would like to get into the reverse applique. It might end up being more significant  than the positive appliques.

Reverse applique involves cutting the top layer in the shape wanted, to expose the bottom layer, then stitching the raw edges inside.

 So, when I have the positive appliques, then the base fabric then the reverse appliques, there will be three layers. And maybe I'll do further reverse appliques into the reverse apps. I'm really liking this idea.

And wanting to get drawing and cutting and hooping.

Just pushing thoughts about right now.

Stretching, crackers and stretching crackers.

Today I'm reporting on my exercise progress. I have been faithfully doing a 20 or 30 minute program every other day. Not daily, because it involves weights, and it's better to give your muscles and joints at least a day to get the benefit.

 And today I think I need to make it every third day. Just need more recovery time. The reason I remember to do it is that I set an alert to go boingggg half an hour ahead.

So I'm redoing the boingggg thing. Very content with my level though, no aches and that, just tiredness that means more rest is rx.  The exercise is about maintaining strength, but the daily, when it doesn't rain, walking, is about stamina. We all need as much of both as we can handle right now. And mental stability is a side effect of movement.

Then during a distance convo yesterday with neighbors, one of whom is a great cook, about this and that,  while they were outside in the sunshine  painting doors on sawhorses (don't ask), the subject of crackers came up.

How you can make them at home. And know what's in them. No preservatives. So today I thought, hmm. I've made them with whole-wheat flour in the past. That was in the olden days when you could just go to the store and get whole-wheat flour. Any time!

Now I have my precious smaller supplies of flour I can grind, and ap. So I figured I'd try making them with ap flour. Brand I'd never used before, so it might need adjustments.

So here's the cast of characters

Olive oil, water flour, seeds, seasalt.

I adapted a recipe from Caroline Cooks, an online website.

I got about four dozen crackers out of one cup of flour, not bad. Made two batches, and found I needed to add water, a tsp at a time, to get a kneadable pastry. her recipe needs a food processor, so that might make a difference. And she used another flour.

I fancied adding seeds, another recipe, and made a mix of caraway, fennel, mustard and celery. If you're a person who can't navigate seeds because of dental architecture, skip the seeds. But I like them a lot.

 Before adding extra water

 After extra water.

You rest it after kneading. Or maybe it's the baker who needs to rest. Then divide in two and roll out separately.

Batch one done

Batch two ready to bake

And done.

The first batch I tried pressing the seeds in, following instructions, with limited success. So the second batch I rolled the seeds in as  I went. Much better. More in the dough, fewer on the floor and the baker.

Also I had to add a couple of minutes to the baking time, for batch one, then even another extra minute for batch two, to get crispness.

Crime scene. The pizza cutter is to cut out the crackers.

When you cook and blog, the cleanup also includes the phone screen.

It all came out happily. See soup and cracker lunch. Soup is tomato, pink bean, carrot and various spices.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Potato musing

Handsome Shopper included some large very good white potatoes in my haul this week. And what with the flour question (on which I've kindly been offered a lifeline) I've been thinking potato bread.

It uses some flour, but the mashed potato is a good partner. Then I started reading recipes.  Folks, I wanted a quick bready thing, not a part time job. So many floofy, fancy, gadgety ideas involving equipment. I had planned on a bowl and a fork. And half a page of ingredients, way beyond potatoes and flour.

So I thought I would postpone the bread and just make a nice supper. Microwaved one big spud 9 minutes, peeled and mashed it.  Really nice texture.

 Chunk of butter, swoop of warm milk, salt, pepper, egg, grated Italian cheese of some kind, flour to bind it -- could have used more, next time, then -- frozen chives snipped in. Would have been fresh chives but that would have involved getting wet. Raining all day.

Rolled the cakes I shaped with a  spoon in the last of the Italian breadcrumbs, sauteed in cast iron pan till all hot and sizzly, fan on to avert a smoke alarm excitement.

 Three meals (eight cakes) from one spud. Maybe with an omelet or bit of fish or something.

Another time I'll see  about potato bread.

Meanwhile this is fine. No need to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Power outage, but we are not dismayed

Messages from various folks, HOA, power company, son in different development, power out locally. Not weather, someone brought down a pole on the nearest main road. Pitch dark.

So I hauled out the battery lantern my neighbor made me have last time there was an outage. And the LED flashlight likewise.

And thought what did lighthouses do when they had a small light they needed to create a big beam from..aha, mirrors, magnifiers. Forward the full page magnifier.

Propped it up, and it definitely works. I am woman, hear me roar! Power's back now only out an hour in the end. I must think about a mirror setup in addition, for future reference.

Meanwhile neighbor had come over to see was I in the dark, make sure I'd found the lantern etc, good guy. I didn't tell him about the magnifier idea. He'd have narrowed his eyes estimating whether it was one of my jokes that he doesn't get.

 But once again I found another purpose for the magnifier. I like everything around me to be capable of  at least two functions if not more.

The new currency

Handsome Son, currently also
Handsome Shopper, brought me my list today, other items already put  away, and here's the produce. Scrubbed, but I always did that

And here's the star of the show ( grocery receiving is exciting these days) introducing Gold!

Which it is. He tells me flour is now on his permanent shopping list, any kind, any distributor, any size.

Doesn't take a lot to make me happy. Seeing him, if only through a storm door, and having a chat is good, too. Actually best of all.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

New discovery, tonnato sauce

Yes, not a typo. Tonnato.  I came across it in my morning email feed today, and instantly realized this is exactly what the universe was designed to give me this morning.

I'd never heard of it, probably because it's usually served on top of veal, which I will not be a part of. It's one of the cruel foods, unnecessary agony inflicted on animals to make a luxury food. Don't get me started on pate de foie gras or lobster either.

Anyway, back to this sauce: I was wondering how to use my can of tuna (yes, I know about the boats, but I can only do so much).  And this recipe hove into view. Mayonnaise, garlic, capers, anchovy paste, lemon juice, cayenne, olive oil, tuna.

All the ingredients present in the house, more important than ever when venturing out is hazardous for me, and I want to impose as little as possible on the safety of Handsome Son and friends.

So here's what I plan to dress the last of the roasted sweet potatoes with.

 You had to be here to get the wonderful smell. Like the south of France, vivid memories of salade nicoise eaten in Nice.

 And the rinse water is now in the freezer for future soup use.

I think it's a savory sauce for all seasons.

Cornoatbread and Adventures Under the Sink

Yesterday went a little differently than planned. The exercise was fine. I did the first fifteen minutes, rested the last five. It's pretty strenuous, though I did drop down to 5lb weights from my usual 8lb, in deference to the interval since I last used them.

Note to self: adjust the video speed a bit to slow down till you get used to the routine. And don't spend time getting the rarely-used laptop working again, what with updates, hangups, freezing, and generally acting like a cat when you come home after a trip. The phone set on the music stand is fine.

And I tried cornbread using oat flour in place of the whole wheat I've used up.

It tastes fine, needed a few more minutes baking and is tenderer than with wheat flour. I think maybe because no gluten. I might add a pinch of wheat gluten next time.

 But it's certainly a Good Thing.

After that things went a bit south. Cleaning up dishes after baking,  I switched on the disposall, mainly to speed up the sink draining, and it just hummed back at me. This means it's live, but not working, like a household hanger-on.

So  I did the usual first step, try to push the blade in a circle using the handle of a big wooden spoon. Usually something lodged under the blade can be moved on this way.

No joy. So I located the little red button under the unit, pressed. Nothing happened, no reset. Big sigh. Now to find the Allen wrench and remember what to do next.

Top right-hand, recalcitrant Badger, bottom center Allen wrench.

 One YouTube assist later, and a scrabble around in the Drawer of Stuff You Might Need Sometime yielded the wrench. Then a  search  in the bathroom for a hand mirror, unit being near the floor, and the operative works being situated at the bottom of it.

 Finally wrench  thing inserted, in the middle of the doings, and turned,  and I got the blade moving from underneath. Both ways, essential to make sure it's unjammed.

This is exciting work, done lying on the floor, and through a mirror. See white mirror frame.  Gives your brain a workout. They should recommend it as a deterrent to Altzheimers, like those puzzles. More useful too.

Switched on  Bingo. Working. Triumphant  Blast of Trumpets.

Celebratory pot of tea, slice of cornoatbread. Nice liedown.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Mills grinding fairly fine

Since I can't get flour at the moment, one helpful shopper neighbor called asking if flour gluten was flour, it came in just small boxes? Answer: no, it's an ingredient you add to your flour. Other kind shopper asking if cornmeal is like whole-wheat flour, well, no, it's more of a partner, really. These are good cooks but don't bake.

Upshot: no flour.

Nearly at the end of my supply of whole-wheat, not much ap, so I got to work thinking about substitutions.

I've used oat flour in crumbles but not in breads, so here's a thought.

 And why not make rice flour while we're at it.

The coffee grinder is one of the most useful items in the kitchen. It doesn't reduce rice the way a grinding mill would, it's gritty, like chickpea or lentil flour processed at home this way. But oatmeal reduces fine, likewise spices.

I expect to have to add vital wheat gluten to oats or rice, because they don't have gluten,  in order to make bread, but I should think baking powder would work if you're using it for cakes or pancakes.

 The low or gluten free quality of oats, rice, corn, etc, matters to gluten-sensitive people, who probably have this all thought out already.  I should probably follow up that line of research next, to find alternate flours.

Stay tuned for interesting experiments. And let's hope supplies of oatmeal and brown rice hold up.