Monday, January 31, 2011

Make-it-from-scratch Monday: Oatmeal Molasses Bread

Since I posted the last bread recipe, I've really been enjoying making my own bread. I made my own English Muffins (which really aren't baked at all, come to find out) and then tried this recipe of my grandmother's.

 My paternal grandmother was a fabulous cook and baker, and some of her baked goods were legendary. However, I do not ever remember her baking bread- it was always pies or cookies. Even my dad couldn't recall her baking bread. But she must have, because she was born in 1903 and started keeping house in the 1920s, when it was not likely she bought bread at a store. Since this recipe uses some archaic ingrediants, I am going to assume it is from that period before my dad was born (1937) or from the war years when she couldn't get sugar or butter. She also moved from rural Lancaster County out to urban Pittsburgh about that time, so it seems likely that was the end of her bread baking.
This recipe was published in the Lititz Moravian Church (of which she was a member after she moved back from P'burgh in the 50s) cook book about 30 years ago. I was actually paging through the cookbook looking for something else when I saw this, and thought I'd give it a go:


So first mix the softened oatmeal, molasses (I assume "Not New Orleans-type" means "unsulphured"), softened butter (instead of shortening, blech, but it was one of Grandma's favorite ingrediants) and salt.

Add the yeast-water mix. (This is one of my favorite kitchen smells- yeast working.)

Add 2 beaten eggs- I used large instead of medium, but reserved about 1 T of the egg for later- and 2 c. flour. (I used 1 c. white and 1 c. whole wheat.) The dough is quite wet, almost like Play-doh.

I added another 2 cups of flour and kneaded it for a while. Then I set it in a gently-warmed oven (heated to 200 and then turned off) to rise for 1 1/2 hrs.

While that was rising, I prepared 3 loaf pans, by greasing them and dusting them with oatmeal- you need to add a lot of grease or the oatmeal won't coat it.

Once the dough had risen, I divided it into 3 loaves and brushed the tops with the reserved egg mixed with a bit of water, and then some oatmeal. Then it needs to rise again for about an hour. Maybe more, because I think they were still on the small side after that time.

But they baked up into cute little loaves, that had a very distinctive taste. The molasses tang is definitely there, but the oatmeal somehow disappears into the rest of the flour. It's certainly not a sweet bread; more of a sandwich bread. I did end up giving a loaf away along with a jar of homemade marmalade to the neighbor who plowed our driveway that same day, and I think that would be about a perfect taste pairing.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Trash-picked Tuesday: Vintage Lawn Furniture Pt. 4

People throwing away perfectly good lawn furniture never ceases to amaze me. I mean, who doesn't need an extra lawn chair for parties or picnics? Especially well-made, functional vintage lawn furniture!

Maybe it's the cold weather around these parts and someone wasn't thinking straight, but I found this lovely aluminum and wood chair out by the curb with a "free" sign on it. Well, if it's free, it's for me!

It also brings back memories for me, because my grandmother used to have these exact same chairs on her front porch.

It may be a while before I can really get out and enjoy it, though! ;)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Make-it-from-scratch Monday: Winter soup and bread

For this week's MIFS Monday, I spent a nice cold winter's day making lentil soup and honey-wheat bread. I got the lentil soup recipe from Aunt Martha, and borrowed a wonderful bread recipe from 50sgal over at the Apron Revolution . You might have heard of her; she's living her life completely as if it were 1957.

Anyway, both of these were firsts for me. I've never made lentil soup before, and believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever baked my own bread.

I've always been quite interested in self-sufficiency, and since I'm home a lot now, I have been wanting to make my own bread. And do more cooking with stable pantry staples like dried beans. Add that to my canning and our garden, hunting and fishing trips, and we're trying to eat more like our grandparents' did in the Depression and WWII eras, rather than the industrial farmed/overly processed food of my generation.

I won't copy the recipes here, and I didn't take any photos of the process (don't know what I was thinking) but I will show you the finished product, with a jar of my homemade marmalade:

I took 50s gal's honey/oatmeal bread recipe and made it with 2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour and 2 c. white. After the first rise I rolled it out and sprinkled it with cinnamon sugar and craisins, then let it rise again and baked it. It was definitely a success- tasty and really quite easy. The craisins really make it good, and the honey adds a bit of sweetness, without using white sugar. I encourage any of you at home on a cold winter's afternoon to try both of these recipes!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Practice in Time Vintage on Etsy: Vintage and Value!

After years (literally!) of saying so, I've finally gone and done it. I have finally opened my Etsy shop:

I'm adding inventory slowly, but starting with the absolute best of the best. These are the pieces I've selected over the years I've been buying vintage clothes, which I feel to be the highest quality. Those of you looking for things to wear to Viva- now is your chance to shop, before the goodies are gone!

Some of them will be hard to part with, like the black Asian-inspired 50s dress- that is so killer!!!!
But I'm done kidding myself that I will ever fit into some of them. My loss (or lack thereof? LOL) is your gain!

And all the menswear I've bought over the years for hubby- he will only wear vintage to a few events, and doesn't need a closet it's going to the shop!

Then the kids clothing... man, I have bought some incredible stuff that my kids grew out of so fast. Some they never had a chance to wear.  Watch for those to be uploaded soon.

I will add a Bargain Basement section once I have all the other categories done. I can't believe how much work it is to measure, take photos and get the listing done, all while fending off two little "helpers" that want to help me measure!

So take a look- click on the photos at right- and let me know what you think. I know that I need to take better pictures; I am just really bad at that. But any advice you experienced sellers have for a newbie? I've never even bought anything on etsy, so I have 0 feedback....

And, if you are a follower, I will take 25 % off any purchase between now and March 1!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Trash-picked Tuesday: For the Birds!

Yesterday my son was home from school for MLK day. Fine; everyone needs a day off once in a while. But today we woke up to an ice storm, and there's no school again. So what to do with two kids who want something to do, and a mom who is not a big fan of plopping them in front of the TV?

Do a trash-picked Tuesday post with bonus: kid activity!

(And FYI, for 2011, I'm broadening the definition of "trash-picked" to include recycling things we already have, that might have gone into the trash anyway...)

This project recycles three things we had around the house:

1) our Christmas tree - we finally took it down on Sunday
2) some pinecones used as Xmas decor
3) a wooden clementine carton

Some of you might be able to guess what the project is, from the first two items: pine cone bird feeders!

 I think many of us did this in kindergarten or scouts. Nowadays most schools would probably prohibit this because of the blatant use of peanut butter contraband!

So anyway, after taking out the tree and propping it up outside by the barn, we gathered up the required materials:

Peanut butter, bird seed, pinecones and string. Easy!

Tie a string about 18 in long around the top of each pinecone- good activity for kids learning to tie!

Smear the cones with peanut butter- the more the better!

Roll to coat with the birdseed.

Place them in the box for transport. I lined it with wax paper to keep the seeds from leaking out the bottom. 

Tie to your old Christmas tree outdoors, and watch for the birds (and maybe some deer) to enjoy! When all the birdseed is gone and the tree is really ratty, find a tree recycling program and donate it to be made into mulch.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

SusieQT collects: Anodized aluminum

Hi all- I thought I'd share some of the things I collect on a semi-regular basis. I know most of you are as vintage-obsessed as I am, and you may collect the same things. However, most of the time, for me, it's not just a "collection" to sit on the shelf and admire. I buy things I can actually use, and most of the things I buy are intended to replace modern items around my home so I can live a more vintage lifestyle.

Although I do have my share of things that just gather dust on the shelf and look pretty, on the whole, I'm not out to preserve things as investments (most of the time- but remember that I am a museum professional and that is still part of my mindset, but that's another post entirely!) After all, I do have two little kids running around and have to expect breakage now and then!

So, what is the perfect vintage material that is also kid-friendly? Anodized aluminum!

Items from my collection, including a tea pot, cocktail shaker and various cups.
Anodized aluminum is a process in which aluminum is hardened and dyed (if you want to know all the technical details: ) to make it suitable for a range of industrial and consumer appllications. Like many of the post-war "miracle materials", it was originally developed for military purposes, but found fame in the more humble realm of the suburban housewife in the late 1940s and 50s. It was light, colorful and unbreakable. Perfect for the outdoor patio and for the suburban parents and their 2.5 kids!  To that end much of the items available today are food and beverage containers.

These pitchers (both colored and silver) and their accompanying sets of cups, are probably what most people recognize as being anodized aluminum patio ware. Interestingly, my mother-in-law recalls that some local dairies used to sell these filled with cottage cheese as part of a sales promotion.

 This is a cream and sugar set in its original packaging.

No dribbling! ;)

Color-Craft was one of the best-known makers, along with Mirro and Anoware.

This covered cake-carrier is probably my favorite item in the collection. It is very useful and is virtually mint, except for the use I've given it.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Make-it-from-scratch Monday: Venison (or Beef) fajitas

Today's recipe can be made with venison, or with beef flank steak. You will need about 1 1/2 pounds to generously feed 4. I am using one whole venison loin (some hunters call this the "backstrap") cut into finger-size strips.

 I know I have a few new followers since the last wild game recipe I posted, so I feel like I need to insert the usual disclaimer-- that we try to live off the land as much as possible, by hunting, fishing, and growing our own food. Wild game is by nature organic, free-range, contains no added hormones, antibiotics, is virtually fat free, etc, etc, etc... The animals that we hunt and fish feed our family, and our kids appreciate their food and know exactly where it comes from.

So without further ado:

Venison Fajitas

1 1/2 to 2 pounds lean beef or venison, cut into 3" strips (about 1/2" wide)
One large onion, sliced
One large green pepper, sliced
2 tsp chili powder, divided
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (or cayenne pepper to taste)
2 tbsp oil, divided

1) In medium bowl, mix pepper and onion slices with 1 tsp chili powder.

2) In another bowl, mix meat slices with garlic & onion powder, red pepper flakes, and remaining tsp of chili powder.

3) Heat half the oil in large cast iron pan until smoking. Add pepper and onion slices and cook, stirring occiasionally, until translucent. Remove to a separate bowl while meat cooks.

4) Heat other half of oil, and add meat in batches, searing until no longer pink. Cook no longer than 5 minutes per batch.

 It is important to cook the meat in two or three batches, so that the pan is always hot enough to cook the meat without letting excess juices boil the meat. If the meat starts to look like it's releasing water, there is too much in the pan and you will not get the "sear" that you need. The meat will be tougher and not as appetizing.

5) When all the meat is cooked, return the vegetables to the pan to heat through, about 3 minutes.

Serve with whole wheat tortillas, grated cheese, salsa, and sour cream.

Wrap and enjoy!!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Things I love about January!

January is one of my favorite months, and no, I'm not crazy!  Maybe it's the whole "new beginning" thing, or the fact that winter is not yet gray and dreary (that would be March).

So here are some of my favorite reasons to love January:

1) Snow. I love to shovel  (it's great exercise), my kids can sled in it (there is no better vintage outdoor pastime than piloting an old wood American Flyer down a hill) and I like to drive in it. I know, I said I wasn't crazy, even if you're starting to doubt me now. It's just all the other crazy people out on the roads that make me nervous. But my old 1997 Jetta is a great snow car- especially with a stick shift and an emergency brake for doing doughnuts in my parents' cul-de-sac.

2) Taking down the Christmas decorations. When I was a kid, I used to hate this, but as an adult I like the feeling of moving on and putting away the holiday clutter. Because by mid-January, that's exactly what it is....

3) I'm not yet tired of my wool sweaters and cozy winter outfits.

4) Snuggling under the down comforters with my sweetie. I turn the heat down at night to about 60, so it's nice and chilly....

5) The gym is so crowded, it's pointless to even go! ;)

6) My kids have a whole bunch of new toys, so they don't hassle me as much.

7) It's a great time to roast a whole turkey or chicken- it heats the house up and smells great!

8) Football- from Bowl Games to NFL Playoffs, these are the best football games of the year.
9) It's a great time to thrift- all those people who made New Year's resolutions to declutter bring their goodies to the thrifts!

What do you like (or dislike) about January?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Clothing Question, Pt. II (a.k.a. Thrifted Thursday!)

Thanks for all your great input to my previous post. I got to thinking about how I do have some really great stuff, and really just need to wear it. I just decided I should stop making excuses and dress a little nicer. Most of the time!

I'm not really big on New Year's resolutions- most of the time you're setting yourself up for failure. But I think resolving to dress a little better and wear more vintage is more of a "lifestyle adjustment" than a resolution, right? ;)

So without further ado, here's an outfit I picked up while thrifting this past weekend. I found a great vintage Catalina skirt with a button-up front at Goodwill for $3.99. And bonus: it has pockets created by the buttoned-up sides! The pockets are lined with a rose-colored nylon.

I found a top at a different thrift store (for $2) that matches the skirt lining color almost exactly. It's a modern (Target's Merona brand) short sleeve knit top, but it is very similar in style to a 1930s top. Paired with the skirt, a skinny belt, some great argyle tights (Target again) and 1940s oxfords, I think it's a better overall vintage look that my last outfit. :D

Now I have to go through my hats and find something gray...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Clothing Question

I have a question for all you vintage clotheshorses: do you limit yourself to just one era? Do you do just 30s, just 50s, late 60s, or do you mash it all up? Do you change it up on a daily basis?

I'm curious, because I've been finding a lot of 60s/70s clothes lately and while that is not my preferred style, they are easy to incorporate into a "vintage" wardrobe. I am wearing a 70s turtleneck sweater right now, and the nice thing about it is that it's not too precious to wear. Plus, I can just throw it in the washer. (Yes, it has a high polyester content...) It's a little too emo for my comfort zone, though- I feel like I should be wearing skinny jeans and a watch cap, and that is so not me.

If I had an unlimited clothing budget, ideally my style would be 1930s dresses with a couple 1940s suits and skirts thrown in. But that is just not what I have in my closet, and it's not really practical for me to dress like that right now while I'm home with my rugrats. Back before I had kids, when I was a working professional, I favored a classic 50s style of pencil skirts and cardigans.  I still have quite a few of those, but my dry-cleaning bills would be horrendous!

So this is what works for me, and it's all the vintage I can manage sometimes. How about you?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Make-it-from-scratch Monday: Curried Shrimp and Rice

Welcome dear readers to 2011! As mentioned in the previous post, I will be changing the weekly schedule here at the PIT. Trash-picked Tuesdays will be an occasional feature from now on, but I am hoping to replace it with a new regular recipe feature, "Make-it-from-scratch Monday". Hopefully, I'll be able to keep this up just about every week, but it may not work out; cooking posts are very labor-intensive! So we shall see...

My goal with "Make-it-from-scratch Monday" is to share with you tested, family-approved recipes and tips for getting dinner on the table. We are all pressed for time, so ideally the winning recipes will be simple, quick, and not require any exotic ingredients. I will endeavor to present you with step-by-step instructions, photos and a review of the finished product.

My family is probably a bit like yours, with a meat-and-potatoes (read: not an adventurous eater) husband, and two kids- a son who eats everything, and lots of it, and a daughter who eats only rice and noodles. For myself, I will try just about anything once!

Today's recipe is something I borrowed from the January issue of Everyday Food, but tweaked a little bit for the ingredients I had on hand. I have never been a big fan of curry, but this recipe has changed my mind. It has a little bit of an Indian flavor, without being too exotic- that wouldn't fly with half of my family. Plus, it is really quick if you use white rice or Minute Rice. I prefer brown rice, so that adds a bit to the cooking time.

You could substitute green beans for the peas, or eliminate them entirely if you're not a fan of peas. I also buy whole ginger root in a large piece, and freeze it in 1-2" pieces wrapped in plastic wrap. Once it's thawed, it tastes the same, but the consistency is a little softer and easy to chop. In a pinch, I suppose you could use a tsp of powdered ginger, but pick up the real thing next time you're at the store and freeze it.

Curried Shrimp with Rice and Peas

1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled
2 scallions, chopped (or one small onion)
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tsp curry powder
dash red pepper flakes
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup white or brown rice, cooked
1 cup frozen peas

1. In medium bowl, toss shrimp with the curry powder and red pepper flakes, ginger and scallions. Mix to coat.

2. Prepare rice according to package directions. If making brown rice, allow 45 minutes cooking time, white rice or boil-in-bag rice will take significantly less time. Add frozen peas to the rice during last 5 minutes of cooking time. (Or serve them separately- in my house we have some eaters who prefer not to eat the peas...)

3. In medium saucepan, heat oil over med-high heat. Add shrimp, stirring occasionally and cook until pink (3-5 minutes, depending on size).

Serve shrimp over rice and peas, garnish with lime wedges.