Saturday, November 22, 2014

Last Garden Pick of the Summer

Every year, the VERY LAST crop John picks from the garden is...drumroll, please.... RADISHES. Although he has radishes earlier in the summer -- they can be strong. For whatever reason, the radishes he plants in September are amazingly mild....
He also picked the last of the parsley -- right before the first freeze...
The radishes ARE AMAZING....huge, and crisp and flavorful...
I am about to build one of my FAVORITE SANDWICHES....and here are the three ingredients...
Thinly slice the radishes....
Soft white bread, mayonnaise, layers of thinly sliced radishes...some salt....
I am talking a little bit of serious heaven here, people...this sandwich is SO DELICIOUS...the radishes are crispy and so mild.  It's the kind of sandwich you think about in the middle of the night...
And, I have to say -- I MISS WONDER BREAD!!
I understand that products come and go. But how did we lose Wonder Bread?? When that bakery went out of business -- we also lost Twinkies, remember? I believe the Twinkies are back -- but apparently, nobody is going to resurrect Wonder Bread.

It got such a bad rap -- refined white flour, empty calories, no nutritional value, we should all be eating whole wheat, blah, blah, blah...trying to do the right thing -- in the interest of better eating habits -- the sales plummeted and, eventually, the bakery closed...

I'm just saying -- I MISS WONDER BREAD.  No other bread even comes close to the soft, deliciousness that was the Wonder Bread of my childhood.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Missing the Garden...

Last week, we woke up to temperatures of 8 degrees.  As much as I enjoy the seasons...starting the winter off in a vicious Polar Vortex is pushing my conviction....

After just two days of the bitter cold weather, I have a new understanding for the flocks of Snowbirds those-- otherwise-hardy-Midwesterners -- who go south for the winter.  I used to call them pussies.

But now I get it...

Hell...who are we kidding?  I envy them.

AND -- I am really missing the garden...

If you are a gardener, you know that every season comes with it's own gifts and pleasures. That's the whole point of having a garden, really.

This year, the first big mouth-watering crop was the asparagus. We picked it every-other-day for over a month. It was a GREAT year. Lilly loved looking for the asparagus (the weeds would hide it just enough to make it exciting), and we enjoyed eating it hot, with butter. Then cold, tossed with vinegar and oil. And sometimes creamed -- over toast.

One of the biggest rewards of the garden is, of course, the tomatoes. By the time we were sitting on the porch, eating BLT sandwiches made with the first tomatoes of the season...our mouths were watering. It is always one of the best moments of the year.
Every summer, I look forward to hearing from Linda Boothman when she makes her first mayo/peanut butter/tomato sandwich...

If you live in Iowa -- you can grow beautiful garlic, onions and lettuce, cabbage and cucumbers, green beans are very big here.
...but all that is just killing time until you can PICK THE SWEETCORN.
For our family, the big gardening victory is marked by Elliott's birthday. July 8, we ALWAYS have pesto for his birthday dinner. That takes two cups of basil -- and it is usually the first pick of the year. It is a mouth-watering, delicious Farro family tradition.
For his birthday dinner, Elliott always gets snow crab legs...and a big bowl of pesto spaghetti.
In the Fall, gardeners wait patiently for their squash and pumpkins. John dug buckets of Yukon Gold potatoes that will last us through the winter...
There is NOTHING better than fried potatoes...
This morning, on this bitter cold day, I opened the refrigerator and saw the final Garden Crop....tomorrow, I'll blog about it.

******************

P.S.  -- I know this bit of weather/whining is completely inappropriate, considering I don't live anywhere near Buffalo, New York...



Thursday, November 20, 2014

Frozen Chicken Pot Pies

My family was trying to kick a serious cold/flu/bug. So, I made a big pot of chicken soup. Normally, I would freeze the leftover soup. But, for a little switch-up, I decided to turn the soup into Chicken Pot Pie -- and put THAT in the freezer instead.

We all love homemade Chicken Pot Pie --

I decided to make SEVERAL pies -- so I needed to add more stuff to the soup, and thicken it.

Filling:
I chopped a bunch of carrots, celery and onions and sauteed them in a separate pan. I added them to the soup, along with a can of corn, and a can of condensed cream of chicken soup. It was a REALLY BIG POT of deliciousness now -- but still a little thin for a pie filling. So I added a flour/water slurry to thicken it.

It tasted great....and it's nice and thick.  But now -- it doesn't have enough chicken.

So, I shredded an entire rotisserie chicken into the gigantic pot of deliciousness.

I declared the filling PERFECT.

Pie Crust:
As the filling was cooling -- I rolled out four pie crusts (Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts) and blind baked them for 10 minutes.  Lilly loves to put the parchment paper in, then add the marbles/rocks to keep the crust from bubbling up.


Freezing:
If I add the top crust -- it will make them very fragile in my freezer. So, I covered the one-crust pies with plastic wrap and placed them in the freezer overnight (in a single layer). The next morning, I was able to stack them neatly in a corner. (and I double-bagged them)
I ended up with such a LARGE POT of filling -- I made FOUR huge pot pies for the freezer!!
 Baking:
I put the frozen pot pie (covered with foil) in a 375 oven for an hour. I took it out, made sure the filling was completely hot...then replaced the foil with a newly-rolled-out-top crust and popped it back in the oven. The top crust was golden brown in about 15 minutes...

AND THE CHICKEN POT PIE was perfect.
...with a little help from my friends...



Pick a Midwest Ya Ya Picture

This is more or less a private post for Mary Mulari. I seem to be the KEEPER OF THE PHOTOS...and we're looking for a new picture to use for our BIG MIDWEST YA YA EVENT next spring...(soon to be announced).  If you happen to read this (not likely)...send me your vote: (ritafar@aol.com)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cleaning Vintage Silverplate

Every single week I MUST do some thrifting. Garage sales, thrift shops, auctions. I write about these adventures all the time. People ask what I'm looking for. The honest answer is that I'm seldom looking for anything specific. It's more like "I'll know it when I see it".

But there are things that always trip my trigger. Aprons, vintage bed linens, books, AND -- I am a sucker for an elegant, beautiful, round soup spoon. I started collecting them 15 years ago when my sisters and I went to Ireland.  Finding one is always a thrill for me...and finding a matching set?? Well...you can just about imagine!!
I have A LOT OF old silverplate...and it gets very tarnished.
Unlike Seabass -- nobody wants a blackened spoon.
For me, one of the thrills of finding vintage linens is washing them and bringing them back into my normal homemaking rotation.  And I feel the same way about my vintage silverplate....I have tried many products over the years...most of them very time-consuming.

Then, of course, in the new world we live in -- PINTEREST showed me a better way....

Here it is:  De-tarnish ALL your silver at once... line your sink with aluminum foil, add 1/2 c table salt, 1/2 c. baking soda, fill with hot water, then dump in all your silver! Let sit for about 30 min. The tarnish all transfers to the foil! 
Hey -- I HAVE ALL THOSE THOSE THINGS.  LET'S DO IT!!

 
Instead of using my sink -- I used a cake pan.
And I did exactly what Pinterest told me to do...
Pretty impressive, eh?
And -- oh -- I also collect unique spooners...
For me -- many things qualify as a spooner....it can be a vase, or a large mug...I think this was actually intended to BE a spooner...every now and then, it's important to do something conventional and expected...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Helen Farro's Pancakes

My mother-in-law, Helen Farro, taught me how to make pancakes in l970. Pancakes are a signature meal in this house. John always makes the Christmas morning pancakes, and he often makes them for Lilly on Sundays. Nowadays, I make a double batch to put some in the freezer. (Warren does not like to wait for his breakfast.)

I could make pancakes with one hand tied behind my back. My mother-in-law, Helen, taught me her recipe -- and it goes something like this:

2 cups of flour
2 tsp. of baking powder
2 tbl. sugar
dash of salt
2 eggs
1/3 c. oil
Start with 1 1/4 cup of milk -- and add more milk until it's the right consistency.

Like so many good cooks, Helen knew technique was just as important as recipe. These tips will help you, too:
  • Never over-beat pancake batter. (Lumpy is okay.)
  • Rest the batter for 30 minutes.(at least)
  • It's okay to have the batter too thick, (it's easy to add milk but impossible to add flour)...
  • Heat the griddle to 375 degrees, and make a test pancake.
  • Do not flip until the air bubbles start bursting

We have a 30" restaurant grill in our kitchen, and I can cook a dozen pancakes at once. IT IS A DREAM.  Oh, yeah, pancakes have always been part of the deal here at the Farro house.

Which is why it is awesome to discover a GAME CHANGER after all these years. I am proud that I was open to a NEW IDEA -- even though I believed my pancakes were perfect.

It happened one Sunday morning.  Lillian said, "could you put coconut in my pancakes, Grandma?" She recently discovered coconut. (she got an Almond Joy for Trick or Treat).
I INSTANTLY knew coconut was a great idea. AND WHY DIDN'T I EVER THINK OF IT??
I made the pancakes in the normal way -- but sprinkled a lot of coconut on the batter as the first side was cooking..
When I flipped the pancakes, the coconut got all toasty and crisp...
COCONUT PANCAKES ROCKED THE HOUSE. THEY WERE AMAZING. We ate them like we always do -- real butter and syrup.  Great idea, Lilly!!  Your Great-grandmother would be VERY proud...

There were a few leftovers -- and they were a delicious snack. It did occur to me that with a bit of Nutella -- I'd be having an Almond Joy moment!! (sinful, I know)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday, November 17 Laundry...

My clothes-hanging-up-life is about to undergo the bone-chilling change that Iowa seasons dictate...we had our first snow over the weekend. AND it was only 8 degrees this morning in Clinton, Iowa. ARE YOU KIDDING ME???
During the summer, the sheets will get dry in less than an hour.
But, in the winter, it's more of a freeze-drying situation...so they often have to stay on the line overnight so the moisture can evaporate...
So, I'm looking for some creative indoor-hanging solutions...
Which, as you can imagine, will only add to the mess in my basement...
This is simply the BEST book EVER when it comes to all-things-laundry...
I did not forget about my Midwest ya Ya Sister drying tip...but I keep forgetting to take a little picture to go along with it. Believe me, it is NOT WORTH THE WAIT...but I will share it next week -- promise...