Thursday, March 26, 2015

Freezer baking day

Today is freezer baking day. On the far left is cornbread to go with our soup tonight, made with applesauce that I canned earlier in the month. (I substitute applesauce for oil or butter in many of my recipes and cannot believe the moistness and flavor difference...yum!) The middle container holds pumpkin muffins for Hubby's lunches.  The loaf behind is also pumpkin bread.  Farthest away is a pan of toffee bars...and as you can see, it is the cook's prerogative to sneak the first piece!  Since it's just the two of us, this should hold us for a couple of weeks. I do a great deal of baking, since, except for a weekly burger-dive splurge, we primarily eat all our meals at home and from scratch.

There are also two containers of unfrosted yellow cupcakes, which later will be frosted and set out for a family reunion this summer. It might sound like I'm a bit hasty to make cupcakes for a summer function this early, but at our house, and I bet at yours too, time always seems to be in short supply. Hubby is currently in chaplaincy ministry and ordaining to become an Anglican priest, and already our calendar for summer is rapidly filling up.

In the back bay window, you might be able to make out my the long gray pot, which I filled with marigold seeds yesterday. I've also got some tomatoes started, as well as some zucchinis. 

Rise and Shine

These delightful dishtowels were embroidered and sent to me by a dear friend. They are far too pretty to use but are perfect accents in my quaint little kitchen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Canning pears

Today it's pears...still have half a crate to do.  Funny how many pears actually go into one quart jar.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Canning applesauce

Today, I'm making applesauce, and later jelly, distilled from the cores and peel scraps. An odd time of year for doing such things, I know, as the snow flies outside my window, but we buy fruit to support a local 4H fundraiser and I figure it's a win-win.  Canning is downright fun when you aren't doing it in the oppressive August heat.  I use applesauce in the majority of my baked goods, in place of butter or oil, so these will probably not be featured by themselves as dessert.  I have a box of pears to do tomorrow, and they are gorgeous! 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ivory soap slivers

"The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing be lost...Nothing should be thrown away so long as it is possible to make any use of it, however trifling that use may be..." 
The American Frugal Housewife
Lydia Marie Child, 1833

I cannot believe how much a bar of soap can stretch, just by doing this simple thing. I take the slivers left behind in the soap dish, break them into even smaller pieces, and force them into an old liquid hand soap dispenser bottle that I have kept for just this purpose. I then add some water, put the top back on, shake a bit and I have lovely liquid hand soap. It is not uncommon to make an entire full bottle just from those bits and pieces.

Now, I will qualify the above statement by saying that I always buy Ivory soap in bars. I believe my thrifty tip would work for other soaps as well, but I adore everything about Ivory soap--its creamy texture, its scent--which to me is what angels must smell like on wash day--and its 'almost pure' ingredients. Heck, I even like seeing it neatly and virtuously stacked in my bathroom cupboard, and since Ivory soap is 130 years old or thereabouts, I'm sure I'm not the only housewife that has gotten a little rush of satisfaction from surveying a stockpile of those snowy sweet bars. Unwrapping a new one, with the beautifully embossed lettering on its smooth sides, is like unwrapping a present.To say I am biased (and only a little quirky) is perhaps an understatement, but I do think that this product foams up well into liquid, and it delights my senses. (And no, this is not a paid endorsement.)

I also have used this liquid soap as a spot remover, and it works quite admirably for blood and grease stains.

Grandma's Apricot Filled Cookies

Since it would be unheard of to visit Grandma Ellen and not be offered these scrumptious cookies, I'm going to try to do the next best thing. Here is the recipe copied word for word as she wrote it for my mother.  (Notice how intuitive the instructions are. Just how much flour? She definitely is an experienced baker assuming she is talking to another experienced baker, who knows what this dough should look like by sight and feel.)
I don't believe my mother ever made these cookies, and I know I haven't. It is probably the highest compliment a cook can give another cook when, even after receiving a coveted recipe, the recipient doesn't replicate it, because of a nagging uncertainty as to whether it will be made as well.  I'm going to try someday, but I indeed wonder if I can come close to that 'special something' that is the signature of every cook's 'best dish'.
The clearest way I can describe these delectables is to say: imagine a shallow pie made out of flaky shortbread, with a spoonful of apricot jam in the center. These are similar to a thumbprint cookie, but because they are made with two cookies pressed together, they have a feeling of biting into a really dainty pie.  (The cookie jar above is very similar to the one I remember on her yellow formica table.)

Apricot Filled Cookies from Ellen Olson

1 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour or sweet cream, or half of each
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. lemon zest
Flour to make not too soft dough. Roll out and bake at 350 degree oven, about 15 minutes.