Monthly Archives: June 2016

Why Make Cookies/Crackers from Scratch?

Yesterday I made a fruit/cheese pie. I didn’t know what I was doing, as I had no recipe per se. My pie is ricotta, fruit, fruit syrup (the failed apple/cherry jam, remember that? Here’s a (link)).

It’s good!

What is disappointing is the crust. The recipe I used as an inspiration had a vanilla wafer crust, made like a graham cracker crust. A few months ago I had a yen for s’mores, so bought all the ingredients, including the “name brand” graham crackers. The crackers were “off,” and when I looked at the package in detail realized that some other company had “improved” the cracker. I’d forgotten about that when I bought the vanilla wafers yesterday.

I love vanilla wafers. Because of that, I rarely buy them. I’ve been known, when really depressed, to eat an entire box with cups of hot milk. They’re dangerous, for me. So, yesterday I went from the small market in the next town (only had generic vanilla wafers) to the C store (had a hole where the vanilla wafers should have been) to the market, where I bought, with satisfaction, that yellow box.

When I got home of course, I had to sample. They tasted funny — then I looked at the box, and found that they weren’t produced by Nabisco anymore, but were Nabisco brand, made by another company.

My reaction was three-fold — 1) I will absolutely start throughly reading boxes of cookies and crackers before I buy them. 2)I will avoid everything labeled “Nabisco.” 3)I looked in a cookbook (Better Than Store Bought) where I’d looked after the graham cracker incident, and was relieved to see that there’s a vanilla wafter recipe too.

I’m going to make them from scratch.

There’s nothing wrong with the graham crackers or vanilla wafers, but they’re different. To my taste whatever they’ve changed hasn’t improved them.

I have the same sort of problem with nearly all cake mixes. The results taste like chemical fluff to me, not cake. The only brand I’ve found which I like is Dr. Oetker, so in my pantry you’ll find, almost always, one box of Dr O’s vanilla cake mix. I can add chocolate or whatever to it if I want, but the basic cake is good. I gave up on Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines and . . .  because every one I tried tasted chemically to me.

Cake, like cookies and sweet crackers are not staples here, so my changed habits are not going to put “Nabisco” or “Betty Crocker” et al out of business.

I find it ironic though, that the convenience foods I would like to count on I can’t. And, while others are eating a lot more prefab entrees, we almost always eat scratch foods these days. The exceptions were baked goods, jams/jellies/preserves, and rice mixes.

Good bread became too expensive a while back, so we started baking our own. It seems sweet baked goods are next on the list. Savory rather than sweet crackers are also likely to join the list  of DIY foods here — ever read the per lb price for a box of crackers? It’s more than the price of ground beef in many cases! I always thought my cooking life would go the other way: in my youth and middle age, when I had the vigor to do so, I’d  do “from scratch” cooking, then use mixes in my “dotage.”  Guess not.

With the warning about graham cracker/vanilla wafers in mind, here’s the recipe for my Summer Fruit & Cheese Pie. Easy peasy.

Make (or buy) a sweet cracker/cookie crust in the usual way (butter/crumbs). Put it in the fridge to chill.

Clean, cut, pit, etc. about 1C sweet cherries. Repeat with about the same amount of strawberries. (The strawberries I used were just starting to be “ugly” in that some of them were soft but not slimy or black.) You want the fruit to be small cut, not minced, but not halved necessarily either.

Heat about 1/4C syrup  so that it’s runny. (I used my failed apple/cherry jam. You could probably use melted apricot jam or honey or maple syrup?). Let cool slightly. (Don’t cook the cheese.)This is not super-sweet like many baked goods/desserts. If you have kids or are a total sugar hound, you’ll probably want to add more syrup than I did.

I put the cooked fruit and syrup in the mix and thought that was a mistake, yesterday, when I tasted it, as the previously cooked fruit had a different consistency from the other fruit. Today I can’t tell the difference between the previously cooked fruit and the fruit which was added raw. Your mileage may vary.

Open a 1 lb package of part-skim ricotta. Put into a bowl, stir. Then stir in the prepared raw fruit. Finally, add the cooled fruit & syrup.  Store in fridge in between steps, if needed because of the cheese! Lastly, put the fruit mix into the chilled pie crust and pack it down firmly. Invert another pie pan over the top as a lid and put in the fridge over night or for several hours. (I don’t use plastic wrap.)

Needs to be kept in the fridge, but enjoy!

J

 

 

Solids vs. Patterns

I have for years bought almost exclusively solid colored clothing. Why?

Because I was reading one of those “capsule” dressing books and it said that colors go out of style much slower than patterns do. That made sense to me, and in the 10 years or so since, I almost never buy or wear patterned clothes. (There are exceptions, but they’re just that, exceptions.)

I have adopted the same strategy at the house, basically. I have decided that I will use classic patterns (plaid, stripes, dots, gingham checks) and solid colors. My personal favorite type of plaid is what I call a thick & thin plaid, like this rug from Dash & Albert:

TattersallBlackecruWovenCottonRug_RDA036_product_list

which they call tattersall. I’m probably wrong, but who cares? Anyway, that’s my favorite kind of plaid. Almost all my tablecloths are that type of plaid, if more colorful than the Dash & Albert rug.

I have a boatload of colors I want to use for the house, but intend to use black and white to anchor the entire thing, like with the rug, my current favorite for the stairs.  I just have to figure out how long it needs to be. . . .

Also, I inherited a bunch of Black and White scotch crates. They look like this one at the National Museum of American History:

 

AHB2009q23877.jpg

 

Although mine aren’t in as good shape, not museum quality — but the price was right.

This is the way I’m going, decorating-wise. We’ll see how it all works out.

I’m not likely to be making or buying something like Mackenzie Childs’ work, but it definitely is an inspiration I drew from. Don’t know her work? Much of it looks like this:

mackenzie-childs-mackenzie-childs-mini-courtly-check-pedestal-platter

Although her new line doesn’t seem to have any b & w checks anywhere. Also being married to someone who takes lots of pictures, usually black and white, had something to do with my color scheme choices too.

Not sure how this will work out.

Curious why I’m focusing on these details before the house is clean?

It’s the only part of the house clean/purge/redecorate I enjoy. So, it’s my carrot for doing the hard work I don’t enjoy.

J

 

 

Yesterday’s Plan

Don’t know if it will go according to plan, or not, but here’s the plan anyway!

  • Food: Dehydrate more: cherries, spearmint, etc. Make: cherry/apple jam. (I made apple-cherry sauce/syrup, no gel darn it! 2:02pm) Freeze the last of the rhubarb. Do something with the ragtag end of the strawberries before they go bad. Make a batch ‘o salad for dinner and to help clean out the fridge.
  • Cleaning: Pick up laundry room and dining room — restore them to their prior, really clean condition. Clean a fridge shelf?
  • New:
  1. Get the new register cover on (requires a trip to the hardware store). Required talking to DH, who knew where the screws were we already had that would work. 2:26pm
  2. Get another box of papers sorted? Deal with the papers you’ve already sorted.
  3. Start on the bedroom, as moving the couch out has to happen soon.
  4. The usual: laundry & dishes. worked on both during the day.
  5. Do something in the garden: — fertilize, plant the fall peas, I picked up a few piles of leaves and generally made things neater.

11:41am (made jam), 1:11 pm (general yard clean up), 2:26pm (got register cover on)., watered 4:00pm, of course it rained 4:26pm.

I’ve been looking at rug runners, for our staircase. I started out thinking I had no idea/no preferences one way or the other. After looking at 100 or more rugs in the past few days, I discovered I had a very specific idea of what I want. However, I don’t expect to get it, because it’s only available now at trendy shops, sigh. Have to decide to wait, buy something I can live with now, or just forget the whole thing until I’m really ready to repaint the stairs, etc. (No conclusion on this except that if the perfect rug shows up at a perfect price, it may change my priorities, pretty quickly!) 1:57pm

J

 

PTSD/Abuse Trap

I realized something the other day. That is, that since the “Breakthrough” post what, last week? (link) I’ve done a lot of work on the house, got 2 rooms cleaned up and culled, and no emotional/PTSD backwash, that is, no panic.

I also, after Thursday, when I got done with the 2nd one with help, stopped working on it and intend to not work on it (except to maintain or restore those 2 rooms) until next Monday. And no guilt, that is, no beating myself up with “shoulds.”

Both of those reactions were part of the trap the PTSD/abuse/self-esteem/brain washing (whatever) issues most of my life:

If I worked on something, it wasn’t done well enough or quickly enough, and mostly it wasn’t finished at all. When I quit, I’d then beat myself up because I was a loser who never finished anything.

A few years ago, I realized I had a similar trap about dealing with pain. I call it the Emotional Function Badguy. When I created this graphic, it was the first time I saw it was an endless loop I could not escape.

function bad guy

The PTSD/Abuse Trap was similar:

Clean?

(yes) -> Panic!

(no) – > Vile/Disgusting!

Keep cleaning?

(yes) -> Not fast/good enough! -> Panic!

(no) ->Wimp!


Again, there’s no way out. No positive side.

What’s different this time?

Clean?

(yes) -> No panic

(no) -> I did good, I can take a few days off.


If you’re me? The change is bizarre. I’m relaxed. It’s okay that I’m not cleaning. It’s okay that the rooms have degraded somewhat; I can fix it,. It’s okay. I can clean or not, and that’s okay.


F’n amazing.

 

Weird Day

  • We bought some necessary (and expensive) things, about 1/2 off, thru promo gift cards and a sale today.
  • We were invited to a party I wanted to go to, in the not-quite local big city today — but the invite was emailed yesterday — and we had made plans to do this and that necessary chore, so we didn’t go.
  • A good friend of mine is in a lot of pain. I didn’t find out about it until late tonight, because we were gone most of the day.
  • One of my favorite people associated with the gallery we’re involved with died today.
  • A pic of my friend/previous employer (who I haven’t seen in about 4 years) was on FB today.
  • The feral cat who was climbing in our laps two days ago today decided we are evil and to be run away from (although our food is mostly still okay).
  • Someone posted a list of passive aggressive phrases, like, “No worries,” which I use all the time, trying to be polite.

The world is just weird today.Weird in that things are not what it seems they should be. We did better than I’d expected on the items we bought. I’d concluded the party wasn’t going to happpen (or we hadn’t been invited) when I didn’t hear anything a week or two ago, etc.

Just weird.

 

I Hate Smug

My problem with a lot of self-help blogs, house-decorating blogs, in fact many blogs these days, especially those written by most women is that there’s this cutesy “style” which is smug, deprecating, and I find obnoxious.

Sure, fine. It’s the way you and your friends write. As if  — I couldn’t figure that out? But I’m of another generation. If you were going to lecture people about how to do something in my time, you had to actually be an expert, not just moderately more accomplished than I am without any training or attempting to do what you’re talking about.

One of the people who reads this blog has worked in the financial sector for a long time, another has been a cataloging librarian for a long time. If either of them want to tell me something about their field, I try and shut up and listen. But because you can write an entertaining piece about cataloging/sorting things or money/financial matters, even if I read it, unless you have credentials or I know you in real life, I’m not likely to pay much attention.

I like entertaining reading. Honestly! I admire your skill. However, even if I try and make your “1 simple thing to make your home better” which involves 5 essential oils (none of which I own), a diaper (ditto), and a patio table big enough to seat 4 (ditto) and Gawd only knows what else, I will want to pitch something at the screen if I read about your perfect rehab of your “flat” in NYC you pay $100/month for, because you know how to shop, etc. ad nauseum (Look it up if you don’t know what that means!).

Every reader is certainly due entertaining writing. It IS possible to do that and not be smug. And I, for one, will be heartily glad when that notion occurs to the bulk of the blog writers! I read the stuff anyway, usually because I want the info. But walk away grinding my teeth.

If I’m smug — please call me on it! I hate smug.

J

Wednesday’s Work

Cleaned the dining room ceiling/light this morning before I went off to my appt.

basket

Found a HUGE lidded basket to hold the extra pillows and maybe some of the out of season bedding. Yay! Also bought a Canada Dry crate (I had one, but it fell apart.)  which will finish the new crate/bookshelf in the dining room under the counter.

I took the stuff in my car to the storage.

canada dry crate

When I got back,  just because I had it in my head to do so, I culled/straightened/cleaned and organized the bottom of the bathroom closet. I removed the laundry basket/frame which was there. The bag is getting washed and then the whole thing will be donated probably. The new one pictured below is $12, no one is going to pay me anything  much for a used one! Problem with the thing is that it’s too big. I avoid doing laundry because it’s 2-3 loads and cumbersome to take the big bag to the laundry room when full. So, I avoid doing laundry; which just isn’t going to work.

laundry basket with frame

As I think of it, I’m reorganizing, replacing, finding new ways to store things, etc. It’s coming together, slowly.

I cleaned the top of the wardrobe. Cleaned the basket. Put the stuff into the basket (have to load the basket on the floor, then put it on the wardrobe, and the lid is on upside down. But the pillows and one of the winter blankets are in the basket, much neater than the helter-skelter pile of pillows and blankets that was there before. I need at least one more way to organize the remaining out-of-season bedding, but I’ll think of something, eventually.

I have a mixed mind about this entire process.

  • I think it’s kind of fun to find solutions to problems which I was busy ignoring in the past.
  • I keep wondering if the VOICE OF DOOM” that is, the PTSD, will kick in big time. But so far, I’m fine!

We’ll see.

J