Friday, October 24, 2014

Cooking With Wood

We recently returned from a trip to Colonial Williamsburg. I must say, I spent more time enjoying the free things rather than the ones you have to pay to see.

That being said, I have a hard time going in to the shops and not buying something.  The shopkeepers are dressed in period clothes and try not to answer questions about cell phones and cars, that kind of thing.  They do take  a "letter of credit"  from Miss VISA, however!

I found a couple of wooden utensils that looked great. 


The lemon juicer was probably from China, but the pie server was from a nearby state.  It had a finish on it that disappeared when I got home and washed them.  They were sanded, but not as smooth as I wanted.

I got some 220 grit sand paper and sanded them a bit, paying particular attention to the handles.  I also spent some time on the pie server, thinking it might help thing slide off more easily.  I didn't even attempt to sand the ridges of the lemon juicer.


Next I put several coats of Mineral Oil on them.  I once again ignored the ridges of the lemon juicer.  The bottle of Mineral Oil suggested 3 or 4 coats.  I used a rag to rub in a liberal amount for each coat. Then I wiped it dry after 20 minutes.  I let it sit for several hours between each coat.  I kept recoating the pieces until they seemed  less interested in absorbing more know, they looked away and wanted to watch TV instead!

I gave them a final polish with a clean, dry rag and they are ready for my kitchen drawer.

I like the scoop on the pie server and intend to try it the next time I serve a frittata for my B&B guests.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Long Drive For Some Gingerbread

We recently had out of town guests.  As a Bed and Breakfast, we regularly have out of town guests, but these guests were family.  We had taken them to most of the local attractions over the previous visits, so this time we took them to Williamsburg.

Williamsburg is about a 3 to 4 hour drive, so we went for a few days.  Naturally, we had to stay in a B&B.  If you have a B&B, you try to stay in them when you travel.  Not only are the breakfasts usually better than the food you get in a hotel, but you can get ideas for your own business.  OOOH.  Does this mean this trip is a write off??  I sure hope so!

We stayed in the Newport House in Williamsburg.  The house is built from historical architectural plans back in know, except for the bathrooms, electrical, etc.  The rooms were furnished with reproduction pieces from the period.  The hosts also use the second floor for a ballroom and hold Colonial Dances there.  Guests dress up in period costumes, available for rent, and dance away.


The host is a former museum director and designer of historic ships, including those used in movies.  As he serves you meal, he gives you a history lesson on Williamsburg or other local historic sights.  He is quite the story teller and even uses appropriate accents.  Bed and Breakfast guests are generally outgoing people and usually like to chat with the hosts about local points of interest.  If you want to pound down coffee in peace and quiet, this is not the place for you. 

The Newport House is a short walk to Colonial Williamsburg.  I was having back problems, so we parked a bit closer and then walked.  I had purchased tickets for the tour in years past, so I opted to just walk around and see the sights.  Also, standing to listen to the re-enactors with a crowd in a small room would not be an option with current said back problem. 


I always love a horse drawn carriage.  That would have been my ideal job, back in the day.  If I could pass for a man and if the weather was always as beautiful as it was in Williamsburg this Fall.


 The gardens are fun to observe. 


I would love a formal garden, if I had a formal gardener.


As a Botetourt County resident, I had to take a picture of Botetourt Street.  Same Lord Botetourt, different part of the Commonwealth.


The last time we visited Williamsburg it was summer and so hot, humid and crowded.  This visit was in the Fall, so school was in session, and it was a Monday.  What a difference. 


The main place I wanted to see was the Raleigh Tavern Bakery.  They make the best gingerbread there.  I have purchased their recipe book, but they must have left something out or changed something.  Mine are good but theirs are better.


So I walked almost to the end of Duke of Gloucester street and went in the bakery.  I bought a box of individually wrapped gingerbread and a hot cider.

It was worth the drive.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Black Dog Salvage

One of the places many of our guests like to visit when in Roanoke is Black Dog Salvage.  I know we went there many times when we moved here and were finishing our house.  Now they have a television show on the DYI Network called Salvage Dawgs.


The television show follows the owners as they travel around and salvage architectural items from old buildings to sell in their Roanoke store.  They also buy and sell items from other sources, in case you have a barn full of things of great value.

Unless you are a medical museum, why would you want an iron lung?  Kind of scary to think about that, isn't it???

They also make one-of-a-kind items out of doors and car parts and other things they salvage.  If you are restoring an old home or trying to build a new home that has old architectural elements, this is the place to find what you need.


They have old doors, windows, shutters, tin ceilings, columns, down to tile soap holders and light fixtures. 


They also have a huge outdoor area with cast iron tubs and iron fencing, among MANY other things.

There is a section of the store with different vendors and it has new and reimagined items.


I like to have a few pieces of yard art.  It is fun to see a bit of a sculpture and then get closer and find something cute, hiding in the bushes.

So many garden sculptures are ugly or tacky.  I hope I made the right choices.

I think they are cute, at any rate.


What's not to like about a kid hugging a bunny and a wee hedgehog?  Now to find the perfect spot...

Friday, October 17, 2014

New Furniture vs Cats

We have two gorgeous and sweet cats we fostered and then adopted from a shelter.  They are much adored by me and liked tolerated by Lee.  That being said, they ARE cats and do cat-type things.  Like scratching furniture.


When we lived in Orange County, California, they were inside cats.  Coyotes are protected there and freely roamed the neighborhood each night.  We got them when they were 2 weeks old and bottle fed them.  I was able to clip their nails and kept the furniture scratching to a minimum.  They had scratching posts.

I don't believe in removing claws from cats.  They have no defenses if they get attacked.  It is not a kind operation or one that will be beneficial to their health, like spaying and neutering.  It involves amputating their fingertips.  A lot of vets won't even do it, unless they are convinced the owner intends to put down or abandon the cat if they don't.


When we moved to the country, we started to allow them out for short periods of time.  I stopped clipping their nails.  I thought they might run into a predator and a bit of bloodletting might save their worthless sweet selves.

We have acres of trees. Yet, they still come in to have a scratch.  Mostly they scratch the scratching posts we have scattered around the house. If we catch them scratching a couch we put them out.  Bad kitty.  Unfortunately, this means we have trained them to scratch the furniture when they want out.  Or that they have trained us, most likely.


After 7 years, I decided it was time to get some furniture that had no rips in the corners.  They were delivered on Tuesday.


I want to keep them longer than 7 years, this time.  I went online and bought something called Sticky Paws.  It is essentially double stick tape for furniture.  You place it on the corners of furniture and when the cats touch it, they don't like the stickiness and go somewhere else.   We also went to Petsmart and bought four new scratching posts, so the something else is a choice selection of scratching posts.  The Sticky Paws need to be replaced when they are no longer sticky.  Until they stop, please, God, the behavior.

Before removing the backing.

Now when I hear scratching, it has only been on the scratching posts.  I quickly run over and hold open the closest door, in case they might want to go out.  I have done this at least 20 times in the last two days.  About one third of the time they go out.  The rest of the time they ignore me or stare at me as though I am crazy.


I am crazy.  I am a trained door opener for spoiled cats...cats that started out life in a dumpster covered in fleas.  I have a college degree.

On the other hand, I have a sister with a Master's Degree, and she has FOUR cats.  And they sleep on her BED.  So I consider myself the saner one in the family.  Not sane, mind you.  But sane-ER.

Animal lovers reading this will run the gamut from thinking I am normal to mean...because the cats don't sleep on the bed.  Normal people are shaking their heads.  All I know is that they haven't scratched the couches in my hearing and I am going to buy a case of Sticky Paws.  And maybe get some stock in the company.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apple Strudel

I like to serve fresh fruit for the breakfast guests.  It is now Fall and I tried to think of something for those times when berries, melons and other breakfast fruits are hard to get or just plain taste like cardboard.  I thought I would search around the Internet for some apple recipes.  I also have been really happy using pre-made puff pastry for some breakfast items, so I looked for apple and puff pastry recipes and found some.  I changed them a bit and ended up with a pretty good strudel.


Apple Raspberry Strudel

1 egg
1 Tablespoon water
1 Tablespoon flour
2 Tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 cup raspberries, if available  These are optional.
1 sheet of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, thawed  The box holds two sheets.


1 Tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg


If you place the Puff Pastry in the refrigerator the night before, it will thaw over night.  Leave it in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.  If it gets too warm, it is harder to work with.

Heat the oven to 350°.   Prepare a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat.  Set aside. 

Place an egg and 1 Tablespoon of water in a small bowl and mix with a fork.  Set aside.


I used to have a handy gadget that peels, cores and slices apples.  It broke the last time I used it, so now I do it by hand.  It is pretty fast if you cut four times around the core of the apple and them peel the four sections.  Place them face down on the cutting board, cut the wide pieces in half and thinly slice them.  Place them in a medium bowl and sprinkle them with the lemon juice. 


Toss them so that they are lightly coated and set aside.  The lemon juice should keep them from turning brown while you finish making the strudel.


In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar and spices.  At the same time, place the sugar and spices in a small bowl.  Stir with a fork and set the small bowl aside for later.


Lightly flour your work surface.  Get the puff pastry out and remove one folded sheet.  Fold the paper over the remaining sheet and return it to the freezer.  Unfold the puff pastry and use a rolling pin until in measures about 16X12 inches.  Make sure it is not sticking to the work surface.  If so, lift it gently and sprinkle in a bit more flour.

Put the apples in the large bowl with the sugar and four mixture and stir until everything is coated. 

Gently spoon the apples along the short side of the rectangle, leaving about a 1 inch border.  Dot the top with raspberries.


If you have a pastry cutter it is useful here.  Or maybe you could use a spatula.  Lift the short side and fold it over the apples.  Gently roll it to the end. 

I also used to pastry cutter to assist in lifting the strudel to the baking sheet with the seam side down.  Tuck the ends under.


Brush the surface of the strudel with the egg wash, then sprinkle the top with the sugar and spice mixture.  Make several slits across the top.


Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is golden brown.  Remove to a wire rack and let the strudel cool on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes. 


Carefully remove to a cutting board and use a serrated knife to slice into about 6 slices.  I had company so I cut it into 4 pieces so we would each get a nice big chunk!


Monday, October 13, 2014

The Best Quick Dessert

I wanted a quick and easy dessert.  The strawberries are still good and I thought about a strawberry shortcake.  But I was going to be gone most of the day with company and I had to make dinner, too.

This is what I came up with and it was SOOOO good and fast and easy.  I'm calling it Strawberry Quick Cake.  I highly recommend it


Strawberry Quick Cake

1 store bought Angel Food Cake
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1 or 2 teaspoons Blackberry and Ginger balsamic vinegar.  I didn't measure, just drizzled
1 teaspoon Splenda
a few twists of black pepper
Best vanilla ice cream from your market

Slice the strawberries. Sprinkle them with Splenda or sugar if you don't have or don't use Splenda.  Add a few twists of fresh ground pepper.  Stir to coat.


Drizzle them with a bit of the balsamic vinegar.  Most places have a store that specializes in olive oils and vinegars.  That's where I got mine.  You can use a good quality PLAIN balsamic vinegar, but this was divine.  Stir again and let sit until time for dessert.


Place some thin slices of the Angel Food cake in a large cereal bowl.  Top with a generous scoop of ice cream.  Place the strawberries on top of the ice cream. 


You may wish to drizzle a bit of the balsamic vinegar left in the bowl over the ice cream and allow it to make rich, burgundy swirls in the white Angel Food cake.


So good.  So fast.  So, I'm going to fix it again!!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

I Have Been Invaded

Don't you hate it when that happens?  Your house gets invaded by ants  You wake up one morning and there they are, on the table, on the chairs.  Everywhere you look, ants.


Well, in my case, I was invaded by Aunts.  And they were invited and quite welcome!  I'm not entirely sure that they were aware that this meant they were my resident guinea pigs. I had some recipes I wanted to try and they were a captive audience.  Plus, Aunt Suzy and Aunt Donna are both excellent cooks, so I could count on a true opinion.  Well, Donna might tell me it was good to be polite.  Suzy would tell me the unvarnished truth.  Suzy is polite, but don't ask her if your butt looks big in these pants unless you want her to tell you.  You ASKED!

I wanted to try an apple recipe using Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry.  I found one for individual pies and that sounded like something I could use for my B&B guests.  I added some raspberries, but they are optional.

I started out to make the whole recipe, but my invading ants, er, Aunts, brought so much food with them, that I cut the recipe in half.  I will give you the whole recipe, but my future guests will get little pies folded into triangles, because they have to have room for the rest of the breakfast.  We had scrambled eggs with Cheddar cheese and cilantro and bacon.


Puff  Pastry Apple Pies

1 package Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator
2 Granny Smith apples
1/2 cup raspberries, optional
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons flour, plus extra for the counter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1 egg
1 Tablespoon water


Heat the oven to 400°.  Prepare a baking sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat to prevent the pies from sticking.  Set aside.

Mix the egg and water in a small bowl and set aside.

Peel and core the apples cut them into thin slices.  I just cut around the core, then peel.  It is faster for me.  Place them in a small bowl and mix them with the lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. 

Lightly flour your work surface.  The puff pastry sheets are folded into thirds.  This makes it easy to cut along the folds and then cut them in thirds the other direction.  This will give you 9 squares from each puff pastry sheet.


Place the sugar, flour and spices in a large bowl.  Mix the apples in and stir until they are all coated with the flour mixture.  Place about 1/4 cup of apples on top of half of the squares of puff pastry, making sure to leave the edges clear.   Dot the top of the apples with a raspberry or two.  Brush around the edges with the egg wash.


Pick up one of the squares of pastry dough and stretch it a bit to fit over the mound of apples and so the edges match up.  Press to seal and then use a fork to make the edge pretty!


Place the finished miniature pies on the prepared baking sheet.  I just used half of a sheet and so I had one extra piece of puff pastry.  I placed a large spoonful of apples on this and folded it over.  This is how I would serve these little pies to guests.


Brush some more egg wash on the top of the pies and sprinkle them with sugar.  Or cinnamon sugar, if you wish.  Make a small L shaped cut in the top of each pie and fold back the pastry flap.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden.  Cool for about 5 minutes and then enjoy!


The raspberries seemed to melt into the apples and a bit of the pink raspberry juice bubbled up and out the wee flap  on top of the pies.  So yummy.