Archive for March, 2010

Perpetual Pancakes

Perpetual Pancake batter

I thought I had the perfect pancake recipe until I discovered this perpetual pancake and waffle batter at the grocery shrink blog.  Not only does it taste good, but you can make up the batter and store it in the fridge for up to two weeks!  This means that anytime you want, you can just pour some batter into a hot frying pan and have fresh, hot pancakes.  Since I am the only one in my house who really likes pancakes (Hubby seems to have forgotten already that he liked them when I served them on pancake day), this means I can have pancakes for breakfast anytime I want without cooking up a whole bowl full of batter!  Although they do freeze and toast well, I do so enjoy them hot off the frying pan which was never an option on a weekday morning…until now.

As a second bonus these pancakes are made from soaked grains which I have been reading lately  may actually be a lot healthier for you than eating just plain whole grains. 

Don’t they look yummy?    Ever since I was a kid I have always, always, always wanted to stack my pancakes this way – the way they always do in photographs.  Carpe Diem – I am 31 years old and for the first time ate my pancakes in a stack!  It’s the simple things that make life worth living, isn’t it?

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If you made it to the end of yesterday’s rather long post you might have realized that I was left with an extra pie shell.  Rather than try to whip up another 1892 concoction (I still don’t have any salsify) I pulled some mincemeat out of my freezer and made my first ever mincemeat pie.  With my first ever lattice top.  (Making a lattice top pie was a lot easier than I expected.)  

Ready for the oven

  The mincemeat actually has no meat in it at all.  It is made from the green tomatoes that were left in our garden at the end of the summer.  And it is GOOD.  The recipe can be  found in this book.  It is made with green tomatoes, apple cider, apples, raisins and dates, sweetened with honey and full of spice.  

This time I cooked the pie at 425 for 10 minutes and then 350 for 25 with much better results.  The pastry is still a little more crispy and brown than I would like, but definitely better than the orange pie.  I’ll just have to make more pies so I can get this right!  😉

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Recipe:  Orange Pie     Source: The Handy Reliable Cookbook  Date: 1892   

Pies, to me, seem to be one of those quintessential old-fashioned desserts.  And pastry making an art on which homemakers of the past built their reputations.  The Handy Reliable has a good selection of recipes for a wide variety of pies and tarts.  There were a few old standards I recognized (3 different recipes for apple pie and 3 more for lemon) and many sounded intriguing (salsify pie, for instance).  But the one that caught my attention as a good one to start with (not having any salsify on hand – I’m not sure I have ever even seen salsify) was the orange pie.    

If you know me at all, or have been reading this blog for a while, it should come as no surprise to you that in my very third recipe to try from this book I should come across the one pie recipe with a major printing error.  (As in, half the recipe seems to be missing).  And it will also come as no surprise to you that I decided to try to make it anyway.  I am nothing if not determined.   

Here is the recipe as it appears:   

Orange Pie  Two oranges, eight tablespoonfuls of sugar, four eggs, two-thirds tumbler of milk; beat the yolks, sugar, and grated peel of the oranges, being careful not to grate off.   

There you have it!  Ready to make pie?     

At least I know my way around the kitchen, unlike the poor women “brought up in hotels and boarding-houses ” where the “larder and kitchen were terra incognita to them” for whom this book was written.   Luckily, one of the lemon pie recipes appeared very similar to this one so I followed it as much as I could to try to fill in some of the blanks.   

I began with the crust.  There are three in the Handy Reliable.  I made the “paste for custards.”   

 Rub six ounces of butter into half a pound of flour.  Mix it well together with two beaten eggs and three tablespoonfuls of cream.  Let it stand a quarter of an hour; then work it up and roll out very thin for use.     

 I used half unbleached white flour and half whole wheat pastry flour, and substituted milk for cream.  Even so this was one of the nicest pastries I have worked with.  Following the directions for the lemon pie I doubled the pastry around the edges as I placed it in the pans.  The recipe made enough to fill two pie plates.  I really had no idea from the orange pie recipe if there would be enough filling to make one pie or two, a small pie, or a large pie, so I went for one of each.  Incidentally the lemon pie recipe called for baking it on a “dinner plate.”  I’m not sure how that would work…   

Two crusts, ready to fill.

 Then I made the orange filling.  Following the directions up to the point given, then adding the milk and the juice of the two oranges.  Because I can’t leave well enough alone have been trying to use less white sugar I substituted half honey and half turbinado sugar for the sugar the recipe called for.   

It seemed really runny to me, but I put it in the pie shell anyway.  I probably could have put it in the smaller crust, but this would leave more room for meringue, right?   Time to pop it in the oven.  This is where old-fashioned recipes break down for me and technology had to step in.  There are no cooking directions in the orange pie recipe.  The lemon pie recipe states to “bake until done.”   (My heart once again goes out to those poor girls cooking in their kitchens for the first time…)  Google comes to the rescue with an old-fashioned orange pie recipe that seems similar.  Bake at 450 for 10 minutes and 350 for 25 – 30.  In the oven it goes.   

After 5 minutes at 450 the edges of my pie crust were dark brown.  So much for building a reputation on the glory of my pie crust…   

I immediately turned the heat down to 350 and cooked it for the rest of the 30 minutes.   

Ta da!

 Meanwhile I am proud to say that I whipped my egg whites by hand (I had cheated by going to Google for temperatures so figured I’d make up for it by forgoing the electric beaters.)  I must admit that I had to use both right and left hand in turns to keep my wrists from falling off but I have never been so proud of seeing stiff white peaks form in my eggs.  (Our great-grandmother’s must have had some muscular arms!)   I added two tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar for sweetness (so much for my thing against white sugar…).  I piled it on top of the hot pie and baked it until nice and golden brown.   We ate it chilled as dessert for dinner tonight.  The verdict?  Hubby, who can eat his way through a tub of ice cream or bag of cookies in a matter of days, found this orangy, but tart, and definitely not sweet enough.  For me, the one who considers plain unsweetened yogurt to be dessert, this was nice, and light, and plenty sweet.  I read somewhere that the modern North American consumes about 26 pounds of sugar per year and before the turn of the century (1890s) the consumption was only 5 lbs per person per year.  Perhaps this is why the Handy Reliable’s desserts are less sweet than what we are used to.    I find the less sweet stuff I eat, the less sweet something has to be for it to taste sweet to me (how many times can a person use the word sweet in one sentence?)   This means that our ancestors could cook really scrumptious desserts and use half the sugar we do now, and still be happy.   They don’t call them the “good ‘ol days” for nothing! 🙂

The artistic shot




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And the winner is…..

Thanks to everyone who commented on my giveaway post.  I am really excited to tell you that if you commented – you’ve won!!  (Now aren’t you glad you entered?)   I really didn’t feel right choosing between six of you, especially since in my heart of hearts I knew I would send something to half of you whether you won or not, just because you’re you!   And for the other half, I’m just glad you stopped by.   And what’s the point of inheriting  a huge stash of fabric if you have no-one to share it with?

All you have to do to claim your prize is send me an email with your mailing address. (dreamsinseams at ymail dot com).   Also, if you didn’t specify colour, please do.  I really want to make something that you are going to love to use.  And hey, if you have a particular liking for 70s polyester or bright florals or geometrics or tiny flowers or whatever, let me know that too, it will help me narrow down the choices. 

Happy Friday!

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Another Super Cape

One more day for the giveaway

If you saw this cape, you knew that I couldn’t make a cape for one nephew and not the other.  Here is the second cape.  It had to be very similar as Nathan wants everything his older brother wants, right down to the colour!  The only thing I changed was the superhero symbol – the N fits much better on an oval. 

I was even organized enough to make the card well in advance (his birthday isn’t until the end of April!)  I’m usually more of a finish-the-quilt-on-the-way-to-the-party kind of person so I’m really proud of myself for being this organized!  (And yes, I really did sit in my friend’s car once sewing on quilt binding on the way to a baby shower…)

I’m still working on my card-making skills but I do like the beaver on this one.  In the grand scheme of the birthday I am sure that a handmade card from Auntie Andi isn’t going to rate too high on the list of memories so I’m not too worried about my lack of professional card-making skills.  🙂

If you want to make your own cape you can find the tutorial here. 

Have a super day!  (Yes, that pun was very intentional.  That’s just the kind of girl I am.)

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I’m having a giveaway this week.  Check it out here.

This post is really not the kind of thing I usually blog about (there is nothing here about sewing or gardening or recipes from 1892) but I was SO excited about this project I just had to share. 

For the past two days I have had the pleasure of setting up my school’s new preschool classroom.  The preschool won’t open until September but had to be ready for inspection tomorrow!  I wish I had before shots to show you because you wouldn’t believe the transformation that happened in just two months – there used to be a huge brick fireplace in this room!

Although I am not going to be the preschool teacher I was chosen for this particular job because I used to be the head teacher and administrator of a large preschool.   It was only four years ago that I left that job but in some ways it feels like it has been forever since I was teaching those little ones. 

Setting up the room brought back a lot of fond memories of reading books about Clifford and Blue,  singing “shake your sillies out” with guitar in hand, creating crazy creatures out of mountains of play dough and the joys of watching those little ones grow almost right before your eyes.  Those were good days. 

And good days will be had in this new classroom as well.  The pictures really don’t do it justice (flourescent lighting and my camera really don’t get along).  Every time I walk into the room I just want to stay there and relax and play!

Walking into the room.  To your left there will soon be a water table AND a sand table.  We bought some really swanky sand and water toys too – I really want to try out the water pumps, they look like fun!

 Some of the dramatic play center.  Underneath the table there are two strollers and a shopping cart ready to roll!

Cosy Corner – I’d like to curl up with one of those cute pillows, wouldn’t you?

Block centre.  That large shelf on the left will soon be filled with wooden blocks of all shapes and sizes. 

More dramatic play.  The baskets on the shelves are full of dishes and food, and the large blue bin is full of dress-up clothes.  I must admit that I couldn’t resist chopping up a few velcro “vegetables” as I put them into the basket.  Why didn’t they have those when I was a kid?

One end of the meeting area.  There is a white board, chalk board and magnetic board.  On the other side is the most deluxe teacher’s chart stand I have ever seen (it took 3 hours to put together!)  I am sorry I didn’t get a picture of that, it was a sight to behold.  (If you’re not a teacher you probably don’t understand the excitement, but when you spend all day trying to flip chart paper over without the holes ripping and organizing pocket charts and white boards over and under the chart paper, while your big books are toppling to the floor, and your class is rolling on their back laughing as if it were a comedy act, a chart stand that makes all of this easier is a beautiful thing!) 

Storage for Lego and all sorts of math and science fun.  There is a lot of storage in this room!  I love it!

A cosy little meeting area.

There is one photo I did not get to take.  The back of all the drawing surfaces in the main meeting area are shelving units.  This is where puzzles and table activities are stored.  There are also a whole bunch of cute little tables with cute little chairs and over in the corner a listening centre. 

I am in love with this room.  It almost makes me want to teach preschool again.  Almost.  Because I love what I am teaching now too.  (Despite the lack of velcro veggies…)

Hope you enjoyed the tour! 

We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming….

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When I saw the pattern for “Granny’s Clothespin Apron” in One Yard Wonders I knew it was a project I had to make.  My clothespins are stored in a white plastic bucket that we inherited when we bought this house.  There is really nothing wrong with the bucket, but this apron would be so much prettier and how easy to just grab the pins out of the apron as you hang the laundry!

Of course, I couldn’t make “Granny’s Clothespin Apron” out of anything else but my granny’s fabric.   There were a number of fabric contenders, from very retro to modern quilting fabrics, but in the end I choose something that really looked like it came out of Gran’s fabrics, the type of fabric she used all the time for her projects. 

It was really easy to make (except for one step where I read the directions wrong and accidently sewed the two pieces together backwards…sigh….) and it turned out fine even though I had quite a bit less than a yard of this fabric and had to cut the waist ties a few inches short. 

I was so excited to put this on yesterday to bring in the laundry!  (I really am easy to please.)  It was so much nicer to just slide each pin into the apron as I took the clothes off the line, rather than bending down to put them into the bucket each time.   And it made me feel a little more like the accomplished “manager of the household” that I strive to be.  Ahh..the power of the right outfit! 🙂

Old bucket kicks the bucket


new apron steps in


Now the fun part – in honor of my 101st post (I can’t believe that I have written 101 posts!   Hats off to you if you have actually read all 101  – thanks for being here!) I am hosting a giveaway.  The prize…. a clothespin apron made just for you!  Now, if you don’t have a clothesline, or just wouldn’t be caught dead wearing a clothespin apron (I know you’re out there…) I don’t want to leave you out, so I will also make a reusable fabric shopping bag as a prize if you would prefer.    The fun part – you choose the colour and I will make the item of your choice out of one of my grandmother’s fabrics.  I will happily send these items anywhere, so everyone can enter.

How to Enter:

1.  Leave me a comment telling me which item you would like to win (apron or bag) and your favourite colour. 

2.  If you are a regular reader of my blog, leave a second comment letting me know that you are and you will have a second chance to win.

Good luck!  I will leave the comments open all week and announce the winner Friday evening.

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It’s Spring!

Today is the first day of spring, and unlike other years here on the East Coast of Canada, it actually feels like spring today!  The kind of day when you can head out onto the deck in your slippers and without a coat.  I celebrated thisday of unseasonably warm weather by hanging my laundry out on the line for the first time this year – yippee!  Simple pleasures, I know, but I take great satisfaction in this weekly chore.

Today hubby asked, “wouldn’t it just be faster to throw it all in the dryer?”

True, it would be.  But then the dryer would be on all day, using electricity and filling the house with its loud hum (not to mention the annoyingly loud buzzer that goes off when the clothes are dry.)  And, because I refuse to use dryer sheets, his shirts would be full of static, and I’d be crackling and popping and giving off shocks all day as a result – delightful.

And what is it about us that makes us want to do everything faster anyway?

While I hung the laundry out today I got to bask in the sunshine, enjoy the sounds of birds chirping and our resident feline’s rumbling purr.  And I had time to just let my mind wander.  I thought about the garden and where we would plant each of the veggies this year, I mulled over a problem I am having in my classroom and came up with several possible solutions, I said a few prayers for loved ones who are sick and grieving, and I planned out the rest of my day.  I emerged from the deck with my laundry basket a calmer and less frazzled person. 

Oh…and the laundry got dried too.  Amazing!

Sometimes I wonder if our modern “conveniences,” these things that are supposed to give us more time to do “other things,” sometimes keep us from finding joy in the small moments and activities of life. 

But I didn’t say any of this to Hubby of course.  What I said to him was “Yes, but I’m saving us money.”   Which made him smile and continue on with his own activities.  (I know the way to the heart of my man – frugalness is very important to him.)

Can’t wait to sleep in those sun-dried sheets tonight!

Happy Spring!

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I’ve been pattern testing again.  This time I was testing this cute apron pattern from Puking Pastilles  (If you’ve read the Harry Potter series you are probably smiling right now, and if you haven’t read them…well…you really should).  Despite my aside right there her blog isn’t actually about Harry Potter, but it is full of really fun sewing patterns, like the cape I made my nephew last week.   

I really enjoyed making the apron.  I learned how to do two things I had never done before – piping and knife pleats.  She made both really easy and I can’t wait to do some more.  I also just really love the design and if I had lots of little girls in my life I would happily make a whole bunch of these. 

The apron was also a  perfect use for some of Gran’s fabric.  I just love those happy-looking flowers and I think they look great with the gingham and blue.  (And in case you are wondering, that is our brand new kitchen floor pictured under the apron…another week-end or two and the kitchen might actually be done!!  Yipppee!) 

I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the apron outside, too.  It was gorgeous here today.  Unseasonably warm and sunny, and you could actually listen to the snow melting!

And this little guy came to say hello to me too.  His name is Bailey and he thinks he belongs to our house and spends much of his time scratching at the door and meowing to be let in, or sunning himself on the deck, or crawling into your lap if you’re outside in the summer.   (Until his real owners come home that is,  and then he becomes a streak of orange running under the fence.) 

He loves to be picked up and he purrs before you even pet him.  I love a cat with a strong purr.  It’s very validating (even when he ignores me and purrs at the parsley plant in the window…)

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I spent some time this week reading “The Handy Reliable Cook Book” in search of some new recipes to try.  In doing so I came across I bunch of recipes I know that I will NEVER try (I enjoy exploring history through food but there are some limits…)  In so doing,  I realized just how much our food patterns have changed in the last hundred or so years, in a more practical way than even the pages of “In Defense of Food” and “Nourishing Traditions” could teach me.  Here is a sampling of the recipes:

Ox-Head Soup  After the head has been soaked for 3 – 5 hours…..

Could you imagine walking into your modern grocery store and asking for “one ox-head please.”  I can’t remember the last time I even saw a living ox, do you?

Boiled Bullock’s Head  This is a good dish for a large family…..

Large family or not, I haven’t seen too many Bullock’s heads at the grocery store either, or even the butcher shop for that matter.  What do we do with all those heads I wonder?  I’m not sure I really want to know.

Beef Tongue (corned or smoked) – Soak the tongue 24 hours before boiling.  It will require 3 – 4 hours, according to size.  The skin should always be removed as soon as it is taken from the pot.  An economical method  is to lay the tongue, as soon as the skin is removed, in a jar, coiled up with the tip outside the root and a weighted spoon on it.  When it is cold, loosen the sides with a knife and turn it out.

Now tongue certainly is still available at the local butchers, so someone must still be eating it, but it is certainly a very rare thing to find on a regular household’s menu.

Ox-Cheek Cheese – Split an ox-head in two, take out the eyes, crack the side bones, and lay it in water for a whole night…

I don’t know too many modern women who would get past that first step, and if they did, the second one might give them pause…

Boiled Calf’s FeetBone two or three calf’s feet as far as the first joint and soak them in warm water for two hours, then put them into a stewpan with sufficient water to cover them, and let them stew gently; take them out on a hot dish, and pour over them some good parsley and butter sauce.

Life before grocery carts and shopping malls.  When you went to the butcher and took the whole cow home….

Calf’s Brains and TongueSeparate the two lobes of the brain with a knife….

I mean really, took the whole cow.  And ate it too.

Black PuddingStir one quart of hot blood with two teaspoonfuls of salt…

See above comment about the whole cow….

It’s interesting how food has evolved, isn’t it?  The women reading the pages of this book knew their food.  It was no question that what they ate came from a real animal that at one time lived and breathed and died.  Sometimes they had to look it in the eyes before cooking it (or remove them!)  And the whole animal was eaten.  No shunning of the kidney or head or tail, or the hours it took to prepare it.  Ox-head soup took two days to make, that would take some planning!

I wonder what these woman would think of the freezer shelves stocked with pre-cooked food, of the people who grab their steaks and fillets and breasts off the shelves without ever really thinking about the animal it came from.   What would they do with shelf after shelf of food products stored in boxes and bags, of “fruit chews” in neon colours of red and blue and “meat” made from texturized vegetable protein and “fat-free” snack foods and convenience meals. 

One of the great things about living in the modern world is that we have the choice of not really thinking about what we eat.  One of the worst things about living in the modern world is that we have the choice of not really thinking about what we eat.    

What do you think?

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