kitchen elves needed.

Unless you were a complete suck up growing up, you avoided the kitchen when cleanup was needed. I know I did, although I always ended up somehow being the one that cleaned up the kitchen for the most part.

But in my defense my mother is still a master at getting other people to do what she wants done, and she was relentless when we were growing up. Come to think of it, she was also very good at getting other people to cook for her. It’s not like we had Mrs. Bridges in the kitchen it was more like me and my father. (But I digress.)

Mrs. Bridges was the beloved Cook from Upstairs, Downstairs the PBS Show. She had a veritable army of footman, maids, scullery maids, and kitchen help. Most of us don’t live like that, and never did. Which means we really appreciate a little help around the kitchen.

However I have noticed throughout my life, that cleaning up the kitchen means completely different things to men and women. And I love and adore my husband, but he and I have vastly different perspectives on this topic. And he gets really annoyed when I try to talk to him about it like I did this morning.

Face it, there are just days being a domestic goddess is harder than others. When I came down to the kitchen this morning I felt like the he-man woman haters club had held a chapter meeting in my kitchen.

There was stuff everywhere (including grains of rice lodged underneath the glass cutting board) and both sinks were loaded with dirty dishes.

So I spent a good part of my morning before getting ready to work cleaning up the kitchen and loading and running the dishwasher. That also meant time vacuuming up additional grains of rice from off of the floor.

I know, I know there are bigger problems on the face of this earth, but cleaning up the kitchen in a small house to me is a really big deal. Which means when you come in the front door it’s not too far to the kitchen. So as a woman you want everything to look tidy. Or at least I do personally.

I also live in a male household. So cleaning up the kitchen generally speaking falls to me. Not because anyone is chauvinistic, it’s just because I have a little bit of OCD going on when it comes to cleaning up.

Yes…one of my pet peeves are indeed dirty kitchens. I used to know someone that was such a slob and a pile-maker in the kitchen, that every time I came home from her house I had to clean something else up. I think to this day every time my kitchen is too dirty it reminds me of theirs.

I am also stepparent to a teenage male, and sometimes I don’t even think he sees what is in the kitchen. He is focused on being a teenage male. So he comes into the kitchen he gets what he wants and he leaves. That can be a little frustrating when it comes to cleaning up as well.

However, when my sister quipped recently that she didn’t believe either of her children (niece and nephew) knew what the dishwasher was, I know this is not just a male thing it’s just a kid thing. And I know from my other friends that there are many similar tales of “kitchen destruction” left in the wake of various aged children.

I guess it’s the whole thing when you’re a kid you don’t understand, but when you’re a grown-up you understand all too well. It’s kind of like you never understood why your mother got annoyed when there were multiple boxes of half eaten cereal in the cupboard, until you open your own cupboard and you have four open boxes of teenager designated cereal, and two are the same thing.

It seems to me that when we were growing up for the most part we had little assigned chores we were just expected to do. If we were lucky we got a little allowance out of them, but most of the time it was just we were expected to do it. We were expected to help.

Whenever I mention this, this is where my husband asks me if I was a robot growing up, and no honey, I wasn’t. We just had chores we were expected to do. And that was for me when my mother’s inner Pennsylvania German shined through, so I try not to be a bear about it as an adult in my own house. But I haven’t quite figured out what the balance is which will get me help once in a while when I need it …without me sounding like a nag.

It would be really nice to have occasional kitchen elves visit me. Unfortunately I live in Chester county, so I’m far more likely to get a mouse instead ūü§£

Thanks for listening to my womanly gripes, and men? Live dangerously help your ladies clean up the kitchen. One benefit will be will you save money on hand cream and manicures.

Thanks for stopping by.

deluxe pumpkin bread

Let the madness begin! Almost time for Thanksgiving! This morning I made the cranberry orange relish and this afternoon, pumpkin bread.

I somehow managed to pinch a nerve in my neck/shoulder so it has been slowwww going.

Here is the recipe for the pumpkin bread:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon each ground nutmeg, cloves, cardamon

3 eggs

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 cup canola oil

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar ‚Äď I prefer light

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup dried cranberries

1 cup chopped pecans

1/2 cup diced dried apricots

1/2 cup dark raisins

1/4 cup minced candied ginger

In one mixing bowl combine all the dried ingredients

In a second mixing bowl combine all the wet ingredients with the sugars.

When the wet ingredients and sugars are mixed, stir in the dry ingredients. Then fold in the nuts and dried fruit and candied ginger.

Pour into two greased and floured 8″ x 4″ loaf pans. Bake at 350¬į for 50 to 55 minutes (or more- today my oven took 1 hour and 5 minutes) or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

YUM!

baking powder breakfast biscuits

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baking powder breakfast biscuits

Preheat your oven to 450¬į

In a bowl blend 2 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, 1/2 cup sugar.

In a second smaller bowl whisk together 3/4 of a cup of buttermilk, 1/2 cup canola oil, one beaten egg.

Work the wet ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir together lately. Do not overwork your dough.

To the dough add 1/2 cup of seedless raisins dark or white your choice, and a little less than half a cup of low-fat granola without fruit in it. The granola that works best for the ones that are just flavored with cinnamon and not much else and not huge pieces of nuts. This time I used Woodpecker low-fat granola that I purchased at Pete’s produce on 926.

Use a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. This recipe yields 12 to 14 biscuits, so break off pieces of dough accordingly and shape into a quick ball and then flatten somewhat and lay on the cookie sheet a couple inches apart.

Bake 12 to 15 minutes depending on your oven.

Serve with butter, honey, apple butter, pumpkin butter, or your choice of jelly.

(The plate the biscuits are sitting on in the top photo came from the Smithfield Barn)

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household tip: death to fruit flies

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Fruit flies are annoying and they seemingly appear overnight no matter how clean your kitchen is – especially if you compost and collect appropriate scraps in a kitchen container to add to your outside bin.

Anyway, I was taking out the kitchen compost scrap container today and noticed a couple of fruit flies, so it was time to bring out the easy-peasy fruit fly trap.

Ready?

Take a small container, I use an orphaned coffee cup that holds about 6 ounces. I go into my cupboard and pull out my apple cider vinegar and fill the coffee cup a little over 3/4 full with apple cider vinegar, to which I add a few drops of dish soap. Then I leave it on my kitchen windowsill.

Do this and your fruit fly drama will disappear almost overnight. If you have a large infestation it may take a couple of days.

Basically I leave this cup filled with vinegar on my window sill into the fall off and on. All you have to do when you see enough drowned fruit flies is wash them down the drain and fill the cup and start again. It couldn’t be easier and is an organic solution.

Apple cider vinegar also seems to keep food smells at bay, so it has another use.

sunday morning is for baking

Well, even out here where there is plenty of green and trees between houses, the misplaced sound of a buzz saw way before 8 a.m. will jar you awake.  Such was the case with me, so I decided to get some baking out-of-the-way for later.

It’s Lemon Pound Cake day.¬† I found this recipe in Real Simple that I tweak:

Serves 12   Glazed Lemon Pound Cake

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 325¬į F. Butter and flour a 12-cup Bundt pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and¬† baking powder.¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†
  2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and lemon zest on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes.   Beat in 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice, then the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.                             
  3. Reduce mixer speed to low. Add half the flour mixture, then the yogurt, and then the remaining flour mixture. Mix just until  combined (do not overmix).                             
  4. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 65 to 75 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.                             
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the confectioners’ sugar and 1 of the remaining tablespoons of lemon juice until smooth, adding  the remaining lemon juice as necessary to create a thick, but pourable glaze.  

Ok so above is the recipe straight.  I fiddle with everything, and what I do here is I add the zest of TWO lemons to the batter, I add grated fresh ginger, and I do a lemon soak before the glaze;

My lemon soak is juice of 2 lemons, grated zest, 1 cup of confectioners’ sugar and a couple of tablespoons of a liqueur called Framboise¬†(right now I have an US Framboise out of Bonny Doon Vineyards.)

What I do is I line my pan (or pans as the case may be) with parchment baking paper after I do the grease and flour, so I can hike the cake or cakes out the pan or pans.

Anyway, I cool the cake or cakes post baking for 10 minutes, maybe a few longer.  Then I pull them out of the pan gently, peel down the parchment paper and allow to cool for 30 minutes all in all on a baking rack on clean parchment paper.

I then poke little fork holes up and down the cake (no need to make hamburger out of the top, so be neat!) and gently pour the lemon soak goodness over the top of the cake.¬† You will see today where I have propped up the new clean parchment paper with a single toothpick on each end of my cakes so the lemony-sugary goodness doesn’t run all over.

After that has all soaked in and everything is set I will either make a glaze or light lemony flavored royal icing and drizzle it over the top, or I¬†also sometimes¬†just dust with confectioners’ sugar before serving and adorn my platter with fresh mint sprigs and nasturtium blossoms. Today I soaked, I adorned with lemon royal icing, dotted with Nasturtium blossoms and mint sprigs.

In other fun of the day, my arugula is growing unmolested, apparently the blasted squirrels only liked the lettuce.

Remember you can still nominate this blog for a Country Living Magazine Blue Ribbon Blogger Award until July 29th, 2012.  I hope you can do that for me, and you can also read about the contest more HERE.

And in the nesting of it all, thanks to Food Network I have discovered The Pioneer Woman.¬† I am still not sure if her rancher hubby likes the cameras all over, but she has some terrific recipes. She has a website called (of course) The Pioneer Woman.¬† I am also digging Trisha’s Southern Kitchen with Trisha Yearwood.¬† Her website is here.¬† I also love Barefoot Contessa, but she has been all re-runs lately.¬† I used to watch Nigella Lawson a lot, but I got tired of the odd Euro pop music in the background and the fact they seemed to have an obsession with seeing her on camera raiding her fridge late at night.¬† But she has some great recipes.

I love to cook, and do collect old cook books.  And the bibles Mastering The Art of French Cooking are worth it to have in your collection.  Julia Child taught me to do roast chicken and many other basics.  There are also books by a woman named Kitty Maynard РAmerican Country Inn and Bed & Breakfast Cookbooks that never disappoint (mine are so tattered, I really should replace them.)

Cooking is also somewhat instinctual.¬† Almost everyone in my family cooks.¬† My late father was a fabulous cook.¬† I had one grandmother who was Italian and one who was Pennsylvania German.¬† I also learned a lot from an Italian Great Aunt, Millie, whom I still miss to this day.¬† Millie was a trip and if she was worried about her figure, she used to cut out the coca cola that she used to have in the afternoon for a while.¬† And my maternal grandmother? No one, not any diner on earth could make meringues on pies go as high or be as perfect as my mumma’s were.

As a kid, I soaked this all up.  I did not realize at the time I was soaking it all up, but I did.  My cooking style blends my heritage of Italian, Irish, and Pennsylvania German.  I can go haute or keep it simple.  I actually have a handful of  recipes uniquely my own  on Scribd, including my epicurious.com award winning Sunday Pasta Sauce Рyes I actually won a contest on this!

I should probably  write down more of my recipes, like my chocolate chip cookies or various incarnations of gnocchi, traditional bolognese, sweet potato soup, crab mac and cheese, cranberry sauces and chutneys, apple and fruit butters, and pies, salads, and such, but most of my cooking is out of my head Рa little this, a little that, judging flavors and textures.  And when I use recipes, I am bad, I will often have several recipes open and cook from multiple recipes at one time for one meal.  I am also the cookie fiend at Christmas, so I am happy to adopt any old cookie tins as I find them, especially vintage ones.  (Speaking of which, I need to start hunting for those tines soon РI gave too many away last year during cookie craze!)

Enjoy your day people. I am going outside.