Saturday, May 31, 2014

Tools! We've GOT tools!

Lee decided to build a loft area in his shop.  It was getting crowded. Some of the equipment he uses for woodworking or car rebuilding take up a lot of room.  He wanted to get the things he didn't need regularly up off the floor.  He buys tools, I buy him tools.  He's got lots and lots of tools.


There is a family story that fits in here.  My uncle also liked to do woodworking and car rebuilding.  One day he told my aunt that he was going to the store to get some tools.  Being rather cheap frugal, she was incensed.  "Tools!  We've GOT tools!" she yelled.  I guess she thought a hammer, a wrench and a screwdriver ought to be sufficient tools for any project.


Rather than argue, my uncle began having tools delivered to his brother's house, a few blocks away.  The story got around, as will happen in a small town.  When friends would drive by and see my uncle out working, they would yell out the car window, "Tools!  We've GOT tools."


So we GOT tools, too and they take up a lot of space, so the non-tool items have to be stored elsewhere.  Hence the loft.


Lee measured to make sure the vehicles could park (mostly) under the loft and I made sure we could walk under the loft.  Because he placed it in the corner, he could attach a lot of the 2X10s he used for support to exiting posts holding up the shop.  He did have to place on support post next to the lift, but it is easily avoided.  If you don't run into the lift, you won't bump into the post.


He asked me to help getting those first boards placed and then did the joists and the subfloor all by himself.  In the heat.  In the top part of the shop.    I told him I would help, but he never asked and I never thought to go out and offer.  I guess he would prefer to do that all by himself rather than help me clean toilets (which is what I was doing) and then have me go help him.  Hard to imagine.


So now it is mostly finished.   Lee still needs to decide where to place the stairs.  We are thinking of a spiral staircase to take up less room, or maybe some fold down stairs.  Permanent stairs are also being considered.  Neither of us wants a ladder.  Too awkward.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Blueberry Oatmeal Streusel French Toast with Warm Maple Rum Sauce

My son sent me a cookbook for Mother's Day. How did he know I liked to cook?  In fact, we all like to cook.  Well, the kids and I like to cook.  Trista is developing a nut butter business in the UK.  Travis helped his way through U. C. Berkeley by cooking for his fellow students in the Berkeley Band House one day a week.  Tara cooks where she can, but is currently working 12 hour days and the commute adds an hour each way.  So not much cooking for her these days.


The book he sent is The Art Of Breakfast by Dana Moos.  The subtitle is How To Bring B&B Entertaining Home.  Perfect!  Except I am turning home into a B&B.

I invited a friend over for dinner/breakfast last night.  I served the French Toast as a dessert.  It is always good to get a second opinion (and assistance with the eating)  and it was marvelous, darling.  If you come stay at our B&B, ask for it for breakfast and I will make it for you.  We have already have had requests from people reading the blog and staying in the B&B.  I need advance notice, though.  This is an overnight breakfast.  Fix it and set it in the refrigerator overnight to bake in the morning.  I made it before noon and served it for dinner and it was great, so don't obsess about the resting time!

I made a modified version of her recipe.  I cut it down from the original, to be made in a 9X12 pan to serve 8 to 10.  This served 6 very generous portions, but you can double it for the bigger size.


Blueberry Oatmeal Streusel French Toast

1 cup pecans
8 slices bread, I used white whole wheat
1 cup blueberries, next time I will add another 1/2 cup.  Can't have too many bluebs.
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups half & half
1/8 cup brown sugar  Here is my confession.  The larger recipe called for 1/4 cup and that is what I put in the smaller version. Ooops.  It was fine and not too sweet, but I will make an effort to not do that next time.
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

6 Tablespoons butter, softened  The larger version called for 1 stick.  The amount was pretty small for my mixer so I added a bit more butter.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon dark corn syrup
1/2 cup rolled oatmeal, not the instant or quick cooking version
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Maple Rum Sauce (to follow)
Fresh sliced peaches or blueberries for garnish  I will add the peaches when they become ripe and not flavorless, sour things like they are now.


I have a toaster oven and chose that to toast the pecans.


If you don't have one, heat the oven to 350° and toast them for about 15 minutes.  It only took 8 minutes in the toaster oven at 350°.  Let cool.


Rinse the blueberries, pick out any wrinkled or unripe ones and pull off any remaining stems, dry and set aside.


Spray with Pam or butter a 1 1/2 quart baking dish.  Cut the bread in 1 inch cubes and layer in the prepared dish. 


Spread the blueberries evenly on top of the bread cubes.


Combine the eggs, half & half, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon in a blender for about 5 seconds.  Pour the mixture over the bread.


Now for the streusel mix.  I used a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a paddle attachment.  Beat the butter, sugar and corn syrup on medium high until creamy, about 2 minutes,  Scrape down half way through and keep beating. 


Chop the toasted pecans and fold them with the oatmeal and nutmeg into the butter mixture.


Drop by spoonsful on to the top of the bread mixture and spread to cover the whole thing.  Cover with foil and place in the refrigerator overnight.


Go read a book or take a nice soak in the tub.  You have worked hard.  People will praise you in the morning at breakfast.


Set the dish out for about 1/2 an hour to bring it up to room temperature  When ready, heat the oven to 375°.  Bake covered in the foil for 40 minutes.  Place a rimmed cooking sheet  on the shelf below.  It WILL overflow and drizzle the most amazing blueberry flavored juices.  You don't want to be cleaning them up off the floor of the oven. 


Uncover after 40 minutes and continue baking for another 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to 275° and bake for 10 more minutes, for a total baking time of 1 hour.

Remove from the oven and let it rest for at LEAST 10 to 20 more minutes.  It takes time to set up so you can cut it into slices.

Make the rum sauce while the French Toast is cooling.

Maple Rum Sauce

3/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 Tablespoons maple syrup
3 Tablespoons plus 1 Tablespoon rum
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch


Combine the cream, sugar, maple syrup and 3 Tablespoons of the rum in a saucepan.  Bring to a slow boil over low heat. Dissolve the corn starch in the remaining 1 Tablespoon of rum.


Whisk in the corn starch mixture and cook until thickened, about 2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and serve warm.


Slice the French Toast down the middle and then divide each side into 2 or 3 generous slices.  Serve with the warm Maple Rum Sauce and fresh peaches or more blueberries.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Sold! maybe

Lee had the truck listed on eBay and it sold!  The first time no one bid above the reserve, so this time he had it as a "buy it now price" and it sold!


The new owner is in Oklahoma and we are not driving it there.  He must arrange for shipping.  But there are a lot of scams on eBay, so it isn't sold until we see the full price.   He has placed a deposit, so we will hold it for him until he makes the shipping arrangements.


I think Lee is pretty excited.  He wasn't sure he would ever make his money back on the truck.  He sold it for about what he has into it.  Assuming you don't count the many hours of work.  So I guess the work was the fun part.  And taking it to a few car shows.


And now he gets some money to buy a new car he has an eye on. 


Of course he is still working on the 1974 Camaro.  The carburetor is at a shop to be rebuilt. We are waiting on that and then it needs paint and a few tweaks.  Then maybe we will sell that and Lee can have only ONE car to be rebuilt in the shop!

What do you think we should paint it?  Red?  Black?


I've been trying to get some flowers in the garden outside the B&B.  Trying.  Somebody came in and ate the last ones I put in.  Or most of them.  I think I will keep the gate closed from now on to see if that helps.  Did you notice we had the fence and gate painted?


I didn't plant a lot of flowers.  Partly because that is an expensive way to feed deer...or maybe rabbits.  Mostly because I don't know exactly what I want to plant.  And the soil is terrible, so that even with a lot of amendments, a good portion of what I plant dies. 


This is where they dug out for the basement, so it is mostly hard packed clay, shale and rocks.


I got a few things in the vegetable garden.  Just one tomato this year. 


Last year they got too much rain and I had problems with them splitting on top.  I also got borers in my zucchini, AGAIN.  So I will probably end up buying those things from the local Farmer's Market in Daleville.


I planted a rhubarb last year that is finally producing this year.  I may use it for muffins or small cakes for guests. I planted a second one, in case they are a hit.  I always have to have basil. 

My garden will never be as good as the one tended by  Go check hers out.  Superb.

I need to buy more plants, but can't decide what to use.  Rosemary for sure.  Does anyone start corn in pots?

Southern States is my next stop.  I may try some seeds for the corn.


On the other hand, the grass is growing great.  So that makes us farmers.  Our crop is hay.  And we watch it grow.  Doing a good job of that!



Thursday, May 22, 2014

Cats and Books

I love my cats.  Beyond all reason.  They are messy and they scratch.  They leave hair everywhere and destroy furniture, not to mention small rodent destruction.

But I love them.

I am also a bibliophile.  I love books.  I read some on my iPad, but I prefer ones I can hold in my hand.  I read everyday and frequently finish a book a day, depending on how busy I am.  We have bookcases all over the house.  Generally the books in them are books I can't bear to part with or books I think I may refer back to.


I put most of the books that I liked but don't need to keep in the B&B area for others to enjoy.  The books I kept in the office were the ones I want to keep.


Naturally that is where the cat decided to take a wee nap.  A cat nap, if you will.  Among my Louis L'Amour paperbacks.  And, yes, I have re-read them.  I particularly like the Sacketts, even though when I read them now they look like Tom Selleck and Sam Elliott in my head.  Not that there is anything wrong with that....

But there wasn't quite enough room for his fat self muscular body, so he dug around to make himself comfortable.


You put those back!

What do you do when one of your best friends messes with some of your favorite possessions?  sigh

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Chocolate Hazelnut Croissants

I saw a recipe to make chocolate croissants from purchased puff pastry.  It sounded super easy.  So easy that I decided I could remember it.  Oh, foolish me. 

I found some other recipes and remembered quite a bit of the one I had read.  So I decided to experiment and make a few different versions.  If this worked it would make a superb addition to the breakfast treats I make for my guests.

Of course this meant that I had to try all three versions.  In the interest of my blossoming B&B business.  Necessary, really...I do have two different groups of guests coming this weekend.  It is a struggle to be such a committed innkeeper...


Chocolate Croissants

Pepperidge Farms Puff pastry  If I can find it in Daleville, you can find it where you live.  In the freezer section.

raspberry jam, preferably seedless
Lindt Lindor Chocolate Hazelnut truffles, I found them in Walmart
1 egg
flour for dusting


Thaw the puff pastry in the refrigerator overnight.  There are two sheets of pastry in the package.  I removed one and put the other back in the freezer, after wrapping it in a Ziploc freezer bag.  Set the thawed puff pastry on the counter to warm up a bit while you get everything else out.


Heat the oven to 350°.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or use a Silpat.  I needed to use two sheets.


Make an egg wash.  I found many recipes for this.  Come on people, it is water and an egg!  I used 1 egg and 2 Tablespoons water.  Next time I will use 1 Tablespoon water, but still others said 1 teaspoon.  I doubt it makes a big difference.  Use 1 Tablespoon water and whisk it with an egg in a small bowl.


Dust the counter with some flour.  Divide the puff pastry along the fold lines  I wanted to make some mini croissants and two full size croissants.  You never know what you need to use for guests and I needed to try them all.

For the mini croissants, I divided the two of the strips in half, widthwise.  Then I divided the short strips into triangles.  I set the other strip aside for later.


It seemed to help to roll the triangles a bit wider with a rolling pin.  That gave more room to add the fillings.  In some I used about 1/2 teaspoon of Nutella.  Leave the edges clear to brush on the egg wash.  I put the egg wash on some first and then I put the Nutella first and the egg wash last.  Do what works for you.

What you shouldn't do is put the egg wash covered knife back in the Nutella jar.  Use a spoon to get some out and a knife to spread it. 


Roll up the triangles from the wide end.  If they seem to stick, use a pastry cutter to lift the end.  As you roll, gently press the egg wash edges to the pastry to seal it. Place the croissant on the prepared cookie sheet and curl it in a crescent. Brush the egg wash over the top of the croissants.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown.


If you want to try Nutella raspberry croissants, place a scant 1/4 teaspoon or so of seedless raspberry jam on top of the Nutella.  Spread it with a different knife.  Do the egg wash and rolling thing.  Then the egg wash thing on top.  Once again, bake until golden.
And here is the MAGICAL croissant.  The others are good.  Seriously good.  But these are Magical.

Take the remaining strip of puff pastry.  Roll it a bit wider.  Remember to keep adding a dusting of flour to the counter.  And don't roll out the dough where you have done the egg wash.  It might stick.


Cut the wider strip into a triangle with a pastry cutter or a pizza cutter.  Spread 1 to 2 teaspoons of Nutella on the triangle, leaving the edges for the egg wash.  Get out a Lindt Lindor truffle.  The chocolate hazelnut flavored kind.  I cut mine in half.  It just looked too big to fit.


Place the cut truffle in the wide end of the triangle and roll up, pressing gently on the edges to seal.  Form into a crescent, brush the egg wash on top and bake.  It might need a bit longer, because it is bigger.


The little ones are cute and have a nice little spot of Nutella.  The raspberry is delicious, too.  But the truffle one??  Oh, my.  SOOOO good.  Seriously.  Make yourself one...or more.  And you can keep the ingredients for months and pull them out to impress your friends. 


"Why, yes.  I DID make these delicious chocolate truffle hazelnut croissants!"