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A Vintage View of Homekeeping

Bird Brain February 18, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Crafting,Garden,The Great Outdoors — LotusMama @ 9:03 am
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Robin

Originally uploaded by shorter.chip

I’ve had robins on the brain lately. It must be my impatience for spring because I’m definitely not a bird lover. But there is something about robins that I enjoy.

The robins that hang around in Washington don’t look like this fellow (at least not the ones I’ve seen). They are bigger, less “puff ball” shaped, and have a deeper red breast. I have to say I like this little guy better. I found him on flickr and I think he might have been photographed in Ireland.

So I’m keeping my eye out for signs of life and hoping some robins make their way to my yard. I’m planning on bringing some robin designs inside too, either with embroidery or photo transfers – something crafty, which hasn’t jelled in my mind yet.

Next time I’m at the store, I’ll find some of those blue-shelled malted balls that are already on the shelves for Easter and make some of these Robin’s Egg cookies.

Yep, definitely have some bird on the brain.

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Grapefruit are a pain to eat. Cupcakes, anyone? February 9, 2009

Filed under: Baking — LotusMama @ 1:05 pm
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I don’t have the fancy grapefruit spoons with the serrated edges, so when I eat a grapefruit half, I generally run a knife around the outer edge and then just take my chances digging into the fruit with a plain spoon. The end result is a bit smushed up, with lots of juice left in the bottom of the grapefruit rind. Which, with all the brown sugar I typically sprinkle on the surface isn’t a bad thing; grapefruity and sweet goodness.

While eating a grapefruit today for breakfast and struggling with the fruit, I thought “Gee, perhaps I should get some of those serrated spoons…” Then I thought, “Nah, I’ll just use the grapefruit in something else. Mmmm, cupcakes…” Yep, I went from healthy (mostly) breakfast food to baked treat in the blink of a eye.

My first thought was to take the recipe from The Brown Derby for the grapefruit cake and change it into cupcakes. Sadly, this recipe only has a couple of tablespoons of juice in the whole thing and I don’t think that is enough for a really good grapefruit flavor. I went in search of something better and I think I found it here. This recipe calls for 1/2 cup of juice and pulp, which is basically what I have when I try to eat my grapefruit. I think this will be perfect with a little cream cheese frosting.

So really, this was a long way of saying that having the right tool for the right job is important. It keeps people from mangling their grapefruit and from eating cupcakes. Hmmmm, well I’m against the mangling part anyway.

 

Banana-fanna-bo-banna February 3, 2009

Filed under: Baking — LotusMama @ 9:43 am
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Banana bread is one of those things I really love but I don’t always think about making. Usually, we eat bananas up too quickly to have any lingering around that are getting mushy. I’m one of those people that likes my banana without any brown on the skin, in fact a banana that has just turned yellow is my most favorite. Sure, these kind of bananas are a little more “spiky” as NR would say, but that’s what I like – no mushy banana flavor for me.

But as it happened, I had four small bananas that were really getting spotty. Once the spots starts it is all over for me, so making banana bread became the plan. The question was though what recipe to use. I like my banana bread full of walnuts; hubby and NR want theirs without nuts. I like my banana bread to have a brown sugar flavor, with allspice and vanilla in the mix too. There are so many banana bread recipes out there, it is hard to know what recipe to go to – my previous adventures in banana bread have yielded “ok but not exciting” results. I’m not sure what I’m looking for from the banana bread but at least for Hubby, his benchmark is the banana bread his grandma used to make.

I’ve never had her bread and I don’t have her recipe, so duplicating her bread wasn’t the plan. Happily, the recipe I chose apparently was very close to her bread, just by accident. It’s nice when those things happen.

I took the recipe from my copy of the “Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook” by Christopher Kimball (editor of Cook’s Country) and I made a couple of tiny tweaks. I added allspice, just a tiny pinch, and I used all four of my bananas which probably put the amount of banana beyond the 1 1/2 cups called forĀ  in the recipe. I also added a wee bit more salt. The bread had a great banana flavor and a nice texture. It didn’t have bells and whistles, no brown sugar or nuts, but it was pretty good with a bit of butter. I might just have to buy an extra bunch of bananas to ensure we have more banana bread in the future.

Recipe for Banana Bread, adapted from The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook

2 cups flour

1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Tiny pinch of allspice

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 stick of butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/2 cup (or a little more) mashed ripe bananas

Heat the over to 350 degrees. Grease a standard loaf pan with vegetable oil spray. Whisk flour, baking soda, allspice, and salt. In a separate bowl, beat the butter, sugar and eggs for 2 minutes in a stand mixer on medium. Mix in the vanilla and mashed banana, mix for 30 seconds. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Scoop mixture into prepared pan and bake for 50 – 60 minutes (until cake tester comes out clean – it was 50 minutes for me). Let cook in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes. Invert the pan on to the rack and let the bread cool completely.

 

Watergate cake with cover-up frosting January 13, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Vintage Recipes — LotusMama @ 9:46 am
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It all started innocently enough on Sunday morning. I sat down to do a little crocheting on a baby blanket before the rest of the house was awake. I typically like to have some background noise going while I crochet so I flipped on the TV, which just happened to be tuned to an infomercial hawking Time-Life’s Romantic Classics of the 1970s. Every song was one I knew. Now, given that I was born in 1971, my musical decade should be a little later but truly I probably know more 70s songs than any other decade. The commercial only played snippets of the songs but I got to hear Helen Reddy’s You and Me Against the World, Neil Sedaka’s Laughter in the Rain and one of my all-time favorite groups, Bread. In fact, IF this song doesn’t sum up the 70s love ballads, I’ll eat a whole pot of fondue:

I was listening to these bits of the 1970s, wishing they would play a bit of David Cassidy (they never did) and thinking I should get some John Denver songs off iTunes (because I wasn’t going to shell out 5 easy payments of $29 bucks for the compilation) when the next bit of 1970s culture hit me, though later that day.

My grandmother gave me her collection of vintage crochet patterns, circa 1975. There were many cute patterns mixed into the acrylic wonder that is 1970s crochet, but as any crochet fan will tell you, things kinda hit the skids for the craft during the 1970s. This was the age of bright orange ponchos and granny square hats, crochet bikinis and purple acrylic roller derby outfits. Crochet has only just begun to recover.

It was no coincidence that I was wearing my “bell bottom” jeans – well, bootcut is sort of like bell bottoms – and a pair of green suede wedgies. All I needed was a “Starsky and Hutch” style sweater and I would have been right in style for 1975.

Alright, so clearly I have the “Me Generation” in my mind lately. Sure, I enjoy reruns of Charlie’s Angels and I’ve been known to groove out to ABBA; I even saw KC & The Sunshine Band at my state fair and I still think Englebert Humperdinck is the best male singer ever.

Ok, I’ve said too much. Humperdinck has pushed me over the line, hasn’t he? Perhaps you will forgive me if I share another 1970s gem with you – the Watergate cake with cover-up frosting.

My family has loved the Watergate salad for years but I just discovered the recipe for the cake. Apparently, they are both likely named for the infamous break-in and cover-up; one explanation I read is that Nixon loved pistachios. Well, nothing says presidential crimes like pistachio pudding. So, if you are feeling a little nutty, get your Bee Gees album going (you know you have one) and try out this recipe.

“Here is a fantastic cake recipe that I like to prepare for special occasions,” writes Nels Wenman. “It was sent to me by a cousin in Arizona.”
Watergate Cake with Cover-Up Icing
1 (18 1/2-ounce) package white cake mix
1 (3 1/2-ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
3 eggs, unbeaten 3/4 cup oil
1 cup lemon-lime carbonated beverage
Cover-Up Icing
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 cup finely chopped pecans
Combine cake mix, pudding mix, eggs, oil and lemon-lime in a bowl. Beat until well-blended. Pour into a greased and floured 13X9-inch pan and bake at 350 degrees 45 minutes. Cool. Spread with Cover-Up Icing and sprinkle with coconut and pecans.
Cover-Up Icing
2 (1 1/2-ounce) envelopes nondairy whipped topping mix
1 1/2 cups milk
1 (3 1/2-ounce) package instant pistachio pudding mix
Beat whipped topping mix, milk and pudding mix together until smooth and thick.”
—“My Best Recipe,” Los Angeles Times, June 17, 1976

I found the recipe at my favorite historical food site so all proper credit has been given; I too am not a crook.

 

The good, the bad and the sticky – New Year’s Eve January 1, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Holidays — LotusMama @ 9:52 am
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I can’t remember the last time I went out for New Year’s Eve. It might have been eight years ago when I was pregnant with my son and my family went out to a fancy dinner, which I could barely eat. That’s the last memory I can pull up but I’m sure there has been stuff since then. A midnight reveler, I’m not. Not surprising, we didn’t have any great plans for this Eve.

However, something remarkable decided to happen on our ho-hum evening just the same. My cousin’s baby girl decided to be born on New Year’s Eve instead of New Year’s Day. Talk about a humdinger of a New Year! Congratulation to momma and baby. I hope the fireworks didn’t disturb their rest.

That was the good part of the evening. The bad part of the evening came in the form of a movie we rented from Netflix. For those who have seen Tropic Thunder and who enjoyed it, all I can say is

(sound of crickets, a baby – perhaps my cousin’s daughter – wails in the background)

I can’t remember when I’ve seen a worse film. Really. I’ve seen some clunkers but this one was so bad it left me wanting eye-bleach at the end of it. I get that it was a parody, I get the spoof, yadda yadda yadda, Tom Cruise in a fat suit, exploding bodies, Jack Black tied to a tree (that sounds more interesting that it was, trust me).

Well, on to the sticky portion of the night. The plan was to make pineapple upside cake and it would have gone off without a hitch if I had actually had some pineapple in the cupboard. Alas, no pineapple. But I did the next best thing. I used a pineapple, strawberry and mango fruit blend from the freezer. After thawing out the fruit on the stove, I strained it and put that in the bottom of the pan. The final result still had pineapple but also had some other, dare I say, tropic flavors going on. And above all, it was sticky. Sticky with brown sugar goodness.

It was while eating this concoction of the sofa, watching Tropic Thunder and the scene with Jack Black in various fat suits (yes, there were fat suits a-plenty in this film) that I thought perhaps January would be a good time to pull back on the sweets. I have a feeling parfait with fruit and low-fat pudding may be making some appearances around here.

There you have it – the (really) good, the (really) bad, and the (just enough) sticky. I hope your New Year’s was exciting or at least couch-comfy. Here’s to a great 2009!

 

Random Recipe Monday – Snowball Potatoes December 15, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cooking,In Season — LotusMama @ 4:23 pm

Apparently, I laughed a little too soon about the snow. We had another two hours of snow in the afternoon, which didn’t add up to much but which did add plenty of ice. The road is still iced up today and Mama doesn’t drive in the snow/ice, so I’m homebound. No Donner Party moments ahead though; I have some stuff in the freezer. I think a nice meatloaf might be in order (much to NR’s sadness, I’m afraid). But perhaps I can tempt him with some snowball potatoes.

I haven’t made these before but they do remind me of the klub that I still need to make for Dad – although with cheese inside the potato instead of ham (and they are baked, not boiled – alright they are nothing like klub). Of course, NR doesn’t love mashed potatoes or cheese so on second thought, he might not be a fan. Then again, he is a sucker for advertising. The chance to eat snowballs for dinner just might be too much to pass up.

Potato Snowballs (by Ingrid Hoffman)

Ingredients

* 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 2 ounces Oaxaca or any other soft white cheese, cubed
* 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
* Salt and pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Put potatoes in a large pot and fill with water until potatoes are just covered. Add the 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are very soft, about 40 minutes.

Press potatoes through a potato ricer or pulse in a bowl with an immersion hand blender until they are mashed. Let sit for a few minutes until just cool enough to handle.

Cut the white cheese in 1/2-inch cubes.

Prepare a baking sheet with foil wrap and coat with vegetable spray or rub with oil.

Put bread crumbs in a small bowl.

While mashed potatoes are still warm, form into 2-inch balls and insert 1 cheese cube in center, then roll into bread crumbs and place on cookie sheet. Wash hands and dry after every third ball so the potatoes will form evenly and not stick to the bread crumbs in your hand. Quantity should make about 10 balls.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, serve immediately.

Recipe found at foodnetwork.

 

Eggnog – not just for getting drunk anymore December 9, 2008

Filed under: Baking,Cooking,Holidays — LotusMama @ 4:40 pm
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Have you tried eggnog? Of course you have. Everyone has, right? What about real, bonafide, full of liquor eggnog? It is potent stuff. I assume all the liquor is there to kill any germs from the raw eggs but still, a little dab will do ya. Personally, I’m more of a virgin eggnog drinker myself, though a tiny dash of rum is a nice addition. The grocery store variety is ok with me – no worries about uncooked eggs there – even if it does have a zillion calories per glass. It’s still such a holiday drink that I can’t help buying at least one quart.

Which, unless you drink it all, leaves part of quart hanging out in your fridge after New Years. So what to do with the stuff? I wondered that myself and here are some interesting alternatives to guzzling down the nog:

How about an eggnog cupcake with bourbon caramel cream cheese frosting? Or perhaps a stack of eggnog pancakes on Christmas morning or New Year’s Day?

Had enough sweets? Ok, what about chicken with eggnog cream sauce or eggnog sweet potato gratin (same link). Perhaps a slice of eggnog bread would be good with the chicken.

But, in the end, if you just want to just drink your nog, and you are feeling extra friendly toward those kind folks at the liquor store, here’s Martha Stewart’s very own recipe. (Be sure to read the disclaimer at the top of the recipe; it does call for raw eggs.) You’ll need plenty of bourbon, rum and cognac on hand.

Cheers, everybody!