Busy, Busy, Busy… Can It Get Anymore Busy?

Wow… things have been going like gangbusters around here, so much so that I haven’t even had a chance to write! The bulk of my current projects are finished or this close to being finished. So, now I will try to catch it all up.

In between projects, I have taken little bits of time to do some baking. This is where the whole growing up in a large family hits home every time. You see I grew up cooking and baking in a household that usually encompassed between seven to twelve people (and sometimes guests and friends), I learned to cook in large quantities. And it was more like cooking by sight… so you looked at a certain number of, say potatoes, and thought, ‘yes this is enough for eight’ but then you threw in some more. Just in case. And I am telling you that there was never leftovers!

Unfortunately, I never figured out a way to undo that kind of thinking. And that goes for baking as well. My mother would bake a chocolate cake and before it cooled enough to frost, it would be two thirds eaten! Always make more than “enough”.

So, baking for me was like that. One of the things I still do that I learned growing up was to save the ends of a loaf of bread for bread pudding. You know, the crusts that no one wants to eat. Well, I still do that as a loaf of bread in my house today can last a long time. So, when it has been around a while and no one is eating it, I will throw it in the freezer. For bread pudding. This can include bagels and raisin bread and regular ole white bread. So, I had quite a bit filling my tiny, inconvenient freezer, so I made bread pudding.

DSCN3469You have to start with bread crumbs. So I pulled it all out, sliced and diced and toasted it all in the oven. A double batch of bread pudding (see? it is already starting) requires 4 cups of bread crumbs, but I usually throw another half to full extra cup to make sure it comes out okay… ie not too mushy.

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So, of course I prepared more than I could use in a single instance of baking. Are you starting to get the whole “way too much” theme?

DSCN3471So, three extra bags of 4+ cups of bread crumbs were readied for the next baking session. Thank heavens for ziploc bags!

DSCN3472And here is the end result. I have a copy of Better Homes and Gardens red and white cookbook from 1948 that I still use for my baking recipes. Nothing healthy here, these are recipes with lard and butter and lots of sugar! Eaten warm, this is like french toast on steroids!

At the same time, I also had bananas in the freezer. My mom could really bake, and her pièce de ré·sis·tance was her banana bread. She was famous for it. Well, at least in our town she was famous. She had people who would bring her ripe bananas and ask her to make her banana bread. Some of us kids bandied about the idea of going public with it… you know, “Ma Benson’s Famous Banana Bread”… in the same vein as Mrs. Field’s Cookies or Otis Spunkmeyer’s Cookies. Alas, it was not to be.

But having at least enough very ripe bananas on hand for two loaves, out came the bread pans and my wonderful, how-did-I-ever-live-without Kitchenaid mixer. While it was mixing bananas, the pudding was baking. Then the banana bread went it.

Have you ever had warm, out of the oven, homemade banana bread with butter? Just this side of heaven!

DSCN3473I set the loaves to cool and grab my camera but when I returned, someone had already sliced and eaten two very large pieces! I am telling you, this is almost too good to be legal! 🙂

So, that was one day… all the while working on other projects as well. I just have to get it all written!
julie

Change-Up In The Line-Up

Even though we don’t “do” Christmas in my house, there is definitely a different feel. We sort of slacked off the last couple of days in the garage, finishing up the numerous projects and spent more time just being together.

One family tradition that I still do, is our famous homemade bean soup. We have ham one day and then we munch on what’s left, in the meantime, the bone is thrown into a big soup pan and we bring it to a boil and then it simmers for hours over the next couple of days. Navy beans are soaked and then added to the mixture, and then more cooking. Finally, potatoes are peeled and cut up and added, then more cooking. We bring it to a boil and then its moved to the back burner and it simmers pretty much all day.

DSCN2979We feast on this for days… today it was breakfast, lunch AND dinner! When the level drops down too much, we add more beans and more potatoes – this time we actually added more ham. When I was growing up, this was a staple in my house. This fed us much more than you could imagine, potatoes and beans were cheap and could make things stretch a helluva long way.

I also indulged in a little baking. If we aren’t the slaves to our habits, I don’t know what. Growing up, we always kept the ends of breads and day old buns, kept in plastic bags in the back of the freezer. There were always ways to use these pieces, even if it came down to thawing and eating as is!

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Well, I still do this. Bread ends, hamburger and hotdog buns that didn’t get eaten, croissants and bagels that went uneaten. Well, I pulled them all out and sliced and diced them into small bread cubes and lay them out on baking sheets and getting them all toasted.

Then I pulled out my favorite cookbook. I think that this is the first cookbook I bought once I turned eighteen. And I’ve used it often. I mean, just check out this well worn book.DSCN2982Inside and out…

 

DSCN2983For me, this is the only cookbook for me. Including the ever popular bread pudding. The mere fact that when I was done prepping the bread cubes I had enough for 5 double-batches should tell me something, but I simply bagged up what I wasn’t going to use and pre-packaged them for ease for the next baking session(s).

It turned out really, really good. One of my best, I think. In fact, before I could even get photos for the blog, other members of the household had helped themselves to almost half of it! Good thing I made two pans, so I might be able to have some myself!

So, with that, I am snuggling onto the couch with The Kid and binge watching “Roseanne”. Hope everyone has the best holiday and celebrating in whatever way that makes you happy.

julie

Tiered Baking Plates… They Present Cupcakes!

Woke up this morning not feeling the best. You know how that goes. I am thinking that nothing is going to get done today, except making my way through the third (or is it fourth?) season of “Mad Men”. But I thought I would get at least one more post out of activities completed so far.

Yesterday was a bake-fest. The Kid was essential, he is going to make someone very happy in the kitchen. We made two and a half dozen cupcakes, a double batch of bread pudding (mmm my favorite) and baked cornbread muffins. I figured while the kitchen was a mess and the oven was hot, we might as well take advantage of it. The cupcakes were done specifically to show off something that I’ve been working on. Hopefully it will be successful.

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I’ve been collecting these clear plates and short candle holders from thrift stores and making these cupcake tiered plates. I love the elegant way it makes the cakes look and especially the four tiers.

Here are some more shots of the different tiered plates:

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It is what is wonderful about making these, the different styles and weights and diameters of the plates and the candle holders.

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I have endeavored to avoid holiday themed plates (like Christmas and Easter)  but there are so many styles to choose from.

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And the wonderful thing is that they can be as large – or small – as you may want. They can be two, three, four – even five – tiers and the taller they are, the more elegant they become.

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As you can see, the patterns couldn’t be more different. The largest plates, I have found, are the heaviest and therefore make a great base or anchor.

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The candlesticks are also different styles and heights. They all work well with the plates and they provide enough height between the plates to allow for cupcakes, pieces of cake or other candies or even sandwiches.

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I’ve done these with my own china pattern as well as collected a set much like the ones above. Sometimes I wished I did more entertaining, just so that I could use this!

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So, you’ve seen three and four tiered, aren’t they just fabulous? Oh, and while I do my thrift shipping I am always on the look out for certain things: clear platters and plates, candlesticks, any and all kitchen things in red; utensils that would work for chimes, sheets that work well for drop cloths, picture frames, decorative jars and cut glass, someone else’s craft materials (always a good deal) and the unusual items that would work well for other projects.

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Like these two square plates I just managed to see… I don’t know if they were once part of a larger set or someone else had found them and put them together. And just a few inches away sat a little while candlestick that screamed it wanted to be paired with the plates.

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Another quick snapshot with cupcakes this time.

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For example, I found this large jar that just called my name… I don’t have a use for it just now, but it was so cool and priced right. I have a similar jar, not quite so angular, that holds the matches that were collected for years – especially when we were smokers and did a lot of traveling. It used to sit on one end of the  fireplace and I always wanted a second one to balance it out, although the fireplace has different items now. What to put in it is still a question (if you have suggestions, lay it on me!).

Well, still have plenty of work to do and we have our neighborhood garage sale next weekend, which means I will be doing plenty of organizing and cleaning while figuring out what to sell. A fantastic opportunity to get rid of some things, maybe sell some of my finished projects and, of course, some American Girl accessories that I’ve made. I’m planning on setting the dollhouse out, just to see if I get any offers or interest. I would SO love to get this behemoth out of my entryway.

julie

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