Saturday, September 24, 2016

Remake Boutique

For years I sewed all my own clothes--well, most of them anyhow.  I even did nightgowns and slips.  I started making my own patterns out of store bought  pieces that fit nicely, and pretty much stopped purchasing patterns.  However, almost the fabric stores that I used to frequent have disappeared--I guess as people don't sew anymore, they just go out of business.  Joann's is all I have left here on the south shore, and I'm not always happy with what I find there--very often the colors are not subtle enough for me, and I rarely come across fabric that I fall in love with.  Prices also keep rising, making the cost of a garment more than I can buy it for in the store.

Enter the discount stores, and the outlets with seasonal markdown racks.  These days I head right to the back of the store to the clearance racks, and give them the once over.  For a couple of dollars I can pick up something in a fabric I love, and if the size isn't right or something else needs to be changed, I can take that baby apart, and put it back together the way I want it to be.  I pretty much leave the hard parts alone (zippers, pockets, collars) which means I save the work of doing the hard stuff.  Today I redid a poorly sewn bottom hem of a blouse  and added a couple of buttonholes and buttons to a too low cut neckline.  I have bought size 3x skirts and cut them down to fit, and reset the cuffs on a couple of blouses that had extra long sleeves.  I can cut down pants, leaving the side seam and pulling them in from the middle.  Of course, the one day I had a pair of capris that I was all set to make smaller, when I discovered that they actually fit...Oh well.  Time to diet...

I confess that I have trouble parting with my old things--my closets are too full at this point.  Most of the things are what I made myself, out of fabrics that I love, but I guess it's time for them to go.  Some days I do better than others, depending on my mood.  I keep a bag going out on the front porch that gets picked up periodically by Big Brothers.  It works out pretty well as a trial "parting".  Usually if I put something in the bag, I figure I can get it back if I want it.  Most of the time I find "out of closet, out of mind", but I do occasionally retrieve something, like the two skirts that I will take off the too small waistbands and put in elastic.  They are good colors, and I get tired wearing grey and black all the time.

So--End of Season again!  Anybody want to bargain hunt with me?

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

How Can This Be Cake?

Once upon a time, a long time ago, a recipe came forth for Chocolate Cake that seemed to defy all the traditional rules of baking.  I don't know why it works, but it makes very nice chocolaty cake (or cupcakes, which I made for Easter dessert.)  I'm thinking it qualifies for vegan, since there isn't any dairy, but I confess, I am not up on what is or isn't supposed to go into vegan food.  Here's how it goes:

Crazy Chocolate Cake

2 1/4 c Flour
1 1/2 c Sugar
4 1/2 tbs unsweetened cocoa
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt

Whisk these together in your mixing bowl.

1/2 c vegetable oil
1 1/2 tbs vinegar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 c water

Whisk these together, then pour into dry ingredients, and mix well.  Pour into greased 9x12 pan.
Bake 350* for 30 minutes.

I believe I reduced the amount of water for the cupcakes.  Recipe above made 20 cupcakes.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Who doesn't love Lasagna?

I confess I could eat Lasagna every day.  It is so delicious, and so bad for you.  And--a pain to make.  A friend shared a recipe that simplifies the process, and I have played with over several years, and I am happy with my present version.  We had it again the other night, and GF asked for the recipe, so I decided to put it up here on good ol' Grammy Confesses.  I hope you give it a try!

No Boil No Bake Lasagna

First, the sauce:

1 lb ground beef (recipe says "or half ground pork"--bet it would be awesome with Italian sausage...)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1-28 oz can tomatoes (you can use crushed, or whole that you have put through the food processor)
1 Tbs dried oregano
2 Tsp dried basil
1 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp black pepper
2 Tsp brown sugar
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce

Brown  the beef, add in the onion and after it looks softened, add in the garlic, and cook until fragrant. Then add the tomatoes, and all the rest.  This doesn't need to simmer more than a couple of minutes before you turn off the heat.

9 lasagna noodles--the regular kind, right out of the box
2 c ricotta
8 oz shredded mozzarella

Put the noodles into a flat pan filled with water, and leave them there while you hunt up a baking dish that will fit into your microwave.  (Mine measures 7 1/2x11" inside dimensions, and is perfect for three noodles.)  Spoon about 1/4 of the sauce into the bottom of the baking dish--I kind of scoop up the tomato, leaving the meat for the middle, but it doesn't matter.  Lay in the first three noodles over the sauce.  Put half the ricotta in spoonfuls on top of the noodles, and spread it out as best you can.  Sprinkle on half the mozzarella, and cover with another 1/4 of the sauce.  Do another layer the same way, using most of the meat into the two center layers, with the last layer of noodles on top, and cover with the last of the sauce.  (You don't have to be scrupulous about the meat...)

Cover the baking dish with waxed paper.  I cut a long piece that will tuck under the short ends of the baking dish to keep most of the steam in.  Set the dish onto the microwave tray, and rotate it to check that those ends are underneath.  Microwave for 33 minutes.  Now for the tricky part.  I use 80% power--high is too much, and medium is too low.  I don't know how your's will work, so you just have to give it a shot.  The top noodles should be soft, but not dried out, the sauce and cheeses set up, not loose.

Remove the waxed paper, and sprinkle with 1/2 c Parmesan cheese, and microwave for another 5 minutes. Let it rest another 5-10 minutes before cutting.  

The last time I made this, I let it sit for quite a while before we were ready to eat, doing the last microwaving when we were ready for it, and it was perfect--noodles soft, cheeses all firmed up nicely.  I would never go back to wrestling with cooked, slippery noodles again!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Crumbling Foundations

Any sewer relies on having sturdy thread, and spools of every color they make.   Leftover threads are saved for future projects, and predictably, the thread storage box is pretty large.  And, I confess--some if it has been in there a long time....Who can resist the basket at the cash register that has all the odd colors reduced--one never knows what the next fabric will require.

The newer threads are packaged on long tubes instead of spools now, and I have a number of them all lined up neatly on the side of my thread box.  I was noticing whitish powdery flakes, but didn't think too much of it until I went to wind thread onto a bobbin, and the tube started to break into pieces and finally fly up and off the spool holder of my sewing machine.  The whole tube just disintegrated.

I figured I could salvage the thread by winding it onto plastic bobbins, but it takes about six bobbins for one unused tube.  I ordered bobbins and storage boxes (thank you, ebay) and set to work.  After a few tries, I figured out how not to end up with a big tangled mess, and how not to have pieces of white plastic flying all over the room.  I still have quite a mess to clean up.

Initially, I thought the thread was Guttermann's, and I dropped them an email to tell them what was happening.  I heard back, and they were concerned--asked me to send them some of the defective plastic tubes, and they would send me some thread.  When I went back to my thread box, I discovered that the crumbling threads were all from Singer, so I emailed back, and apologized for my mistake, and had a nice note back.

I emailed Singer, and they answered and said that they sub-contract the thread to another company, and if I wanted to contact them, etc, etc.  So much for brand reliability.  The Singer thread is made in China.  Well, you get what you pay for.  Stick with the Germans.  BTW, I still have wood spools that came out of my grandmother's, and even my great grandmother's....

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Learning Curve

There should be a name and formula for a handcrafters trial and error way of learning how to make something.  I see an idea (and I confess, most of my creativity comes from other people's work...) and I think "I would like to try that!"  or "I could do that!"  Sometimes it turns out well, and I can add improvements, other times, not so much...

I saw a post on a friend's FB page for "Yarn Balls".  They are just what the name implies--balls of yarn that you put into your dryer along with wet clothes, and they work to soften the clothes, eliminating the need for chemical fabric softeners and dryer sheets.  They are made with 100% wool yarn, and felted in the washing machine, so that the fibers bond themselves to each other, and they work  crazy good.  There are any variety of videos showing how to do this, and since I have bags of yarn in my closet that will never be used for anything else, I decide I want some of these babies.  Wind the yarn, put it into old pantyhose, tie it off, and wash in hot water in the washer, then dry.  Cut away the nylon, and voila!  Yeah, right.

The first batch of six, I put into the pantyhose, and tied them off like beads on a necklace.  Dropped them into the washer, and when I came back, the nylon had torn apart on several of them, and the yarn had wrapped around and around the washer's agitator, so that I had to get a scissor and cut away the huge tangle.  Several of them survived.  Luckily, I have a lot of yarn.  Not so many pantyhose, however, especially in the winter, when I live in knee socks and boots...

Second attempt.  I had some odd cone yarn, already in balls, and so I used that as a base, and wound some yarn around them that I knew would felt well.  I raided my stash of pantyhose, and found some knee-highs that had dead elastic tops, and this time, tied the balls  using cotton string, and cut them apart, so they were individuals in the washer.  Learning curve step one.  When the wash cycle is done, some of the strings have worked their way off the nylon, the felting yarn has come off the cone yarn, and massed itself to itself--another big mess--nothing salvaged this time, except the cone yarn balls, which have not felted, or oddly, come unwound.

Third attempt.  I used some brain cells thinking up a feasible substitute for the pantyhose, since I had exhausted my supply.  In my attic is a roll of white nylon that must have been meant for sheer curtains, folded double so that it is more than 120" wide.  I cut about 10" and stitched it into a tube.  This time, I put each ball into it's own separate covering, knotted each end, and into the hot water they go.  Another step up on the learning curve:  I do not ignore them.  After about 5 minutes, I check back, and find that as the yarn compresses, the covers are not shrinking along with them, the way pantyhose would have done, and some of them are beginning to unravel inside.  I pull them out, rewind the ones that are coming apart, and reknot to take up the slack in the coverings.  After that, things go better, and I now have a collection of yarn balls, which I intend to pass along to people who will give them a try.

I have been using the first ones that I made for a couple of weeks now, and they really do seem to soften up the clothes, and there isn't any static cling.  I put three into the dryer with a load of laundry, and who knows why they work?  I had purchased some plastic ones a while back, and they were useless, not to mention very noisy. 

So--I used up one bag of yarn, and no longer have to purchase dryer sheets.  A win/win!  And, I learned a lot...

Monday, January 20, 2014

It's Cold And Everybody Wants Soup!

Soup has so much appeal when it is freezing out.  It's warm, it's smooth, not a lot of chewing involved, and if you know how to spice it up just right, it's delicious!  This recipe originated on a web site, but I fiddled with it.  I don't know how much changing it requires before it becomes an "original" recipe, but here's what I did.  We just reheated the leftovers, and enjoyed a second dinner, plus one more container is headed for the freezer.

Creamy Crock Pot Chicken Soup

2 tbs vegetable oil
4-6 medium sized carrots, 1/2" dice
1 c chopped celery
1/2 chopped Spanish onion

4 c chicken stock
2 c water
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 pkg (5 oz) Carolina long grain rice and wild rice

4 tbs butter
1/4 c flour
2 c warm water
1 env powdered milk

salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a saute pan, and sweat the vegetables until they are a little soft.  Put them in the crock pot with the stock, 2 c water, chicken breasts and the rice package.  Set the crock pot on high for a couple of hours, then turn it to low for another 3 hours or so.  If you are out all day, set to low for the day.  Half the time I don't think about dinner until noon, so I give the heat a boost, just to get it cooking.

If you are at home, about an hour before serving, pull the chicken out and let it cool down so that you can shred it without annoying your fingers.  If you don't have the luxury of time, you'll just have to do it while it's hot.  In any case, put it back into the crock pot to reheat.

Melt the butter in the saute pan, add the flour, some salt and pepper, and anything else that occurs to you by way of seasoning, and cook until bubbling.  Dissolve the powdered milk, whisking out the lumps, and gradually whisk into the butter flour mixture, and cook until thickened.  Stir this into the crock pot.  By now things should be looking and smelling pretty good, so get the soup bowls out and ladle away!

The original recipe skipped the first veg saute, and used a box of Rice-a-Roni long grain and wild rice.  I couldn't find this in my store, and thought the Carolina packet looked fine, and it was delicious, so I'll stick with that.  Also, the thickener was twice the butter, and 2 c half and half.  I imagine this would be lovely and rich, but I wanted to cut the calories.  Also, I don't see why this wouldn't work with chicken on the bone--maybe legs, but certainly the boneless breasts made things simple.  Anyhow, just thinking out loud.  Hope you like it!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Pineapple USD Baby Cakes

I've been absent for a long time--ran out of things to say, I guess.  Or maybe too many hours on jet planes has fried my brain.  Anyhow, we had company last night for dinner, and since there was a test recipe from America's Test Kitchen that needed reviewing, I decided it would be a "comfort food" menu.  The test was Mac and Cheese that is made ahead, and frozen in a disposable foil pan.  It baked up very nicely, and we all thought it was pretty tasty.  The trick is to undercook the pasta so that it isn't mushy after being frozen.  So, what goes with M&C?  Meatloaf, and I thought a homey dessert would fit the bill--pineapple upsidedown cake.

So, since I can't help tweaking any recipe that comes before my eyes, I decided to make baby cakes.  That single slice of pineapple was just calling out for a starring solo appearance, and it made a very nice presentation.  And what has to be in a pineapple dessert?  Rum, of course.  A little of that went into the topping and the batter as well.  So--here's the recipe--made it up myself!

Serves 8 
8 Buttered  Ramekins
1 can Pineapple slices in juice
8 maraschino cherries
8 tbs brown sugar
10 tbs melted butter
1 1/2 cup flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 tbs rum
Heat oven to 350*.  Butter the ramekins.  Drain off the pineapple slices, saving the juice.  Put 1 tbs of brown sugar into each ramekin, patting it flat with a small fork.  Drizzle in some melted butter and a little rum.  There should be about 8 tbs butter left for the cake batter, and 1 tbs of the rum.  Put the pineapple slices on top of the sugar, with a cherry in the middle.
Cream the egg, butter, and sugar until light colored, and add in the rum.  Combine the dry ingredients and add to the butter mixture, alternating with the pineapple juice, finishing with the dry ingredients.  I didn't measure out the pineapple juice--just added enough to look like a good cake batter-not too thick, not too thin.  Pour batter over the pineapple slices.
Put the ramekins on a large baking pan, spacing them out so that the heat can circulate.  Bake 25-30 minutes, until top springs back when you touch it with your finger.  Cool on a rack-loosen the edges of the cake while it is still warm.  When the ramekins are cool enough to handle, upend onto the serving plates.  I think if you wait too long, the sugar in the bottom will not come out nicely. Enjoy!