Friday, August 29, 2014

Household Sciences -- Meat Cuts and their Uses

In today's supermarkets the Meat counter and display cases are quite different than 50 years ago.  Often if you bought your meat from a grocer or a butcher you would ask for the 'cut' of meat that you want and if you were not sure what to do with it the Man at the counter would often be able to tell you the best way to cook the piece that you have bought.



Now, stores do not provide the information that many of us could use when first starting up our own household.   When I was first married, there was still much that my Mother had not taught me about cooking so one of the early meals I provided for my new husband was quite a disaster!

I bought a chicken to roast for us to celebrate our 1 month anniversary.   Now I had no problem cooking some potatoes and mashing them adding a bit of butter and milk and salt and pepper to make very smooth mashed potatoes.  Warming up a can of corn was pretty basic as it was just, well, warming up the corn in a small pot on the stove....

But the chicken...  I am not sure why I had not up to that point in life learned anything about cooking meat.   I bought the chicken from the local grocery store, washed it, put it in a small roaster pan that had been a wedding shower gift and popped it in the oven for 4 hours....  Yeah, 4 hours!   This was alot of years ago, so I cannot remember if I took the time to baste the chicken or even if I checked how it was cooking in that time...   It actually looked very nice when it came out of the oven and I put it on a serving plate.  In my childhood home, my father always took on the task of carving the roast, whether chicken, or beef or pork or whatever else might be on the dinner table, so I handed the knife to my new husband and even though he said he had not done it before I explained the way I could remember my Dad doing the job.

(this is not the chicken I cooked - it is a photo from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Book - 2009 which is beautifully illustrated and excellent explanations for good family meals)

 Knife and big fork in hand my husband tried to saw through that chicken....   And he sawed, and sawed and sawed...  it sort of crumbled like dried out bread, it definately did not slice at all!  Good thing we were young and in love cause that chicken was obviously not at all edible.   Laughter and even the refusal of our cat to eat that Roast Chicken is still a funny memory between me and my Hubby.

It took me awhile to learn why -- I did not dare to ask my mother what might have gone wrong with that roast because my mother tended to use mistakes as a way to make fun that was not funny and if she knew of it, the story would have haunted me for years....  So I had to figure out what happened for myself....   I soon after discovered the first big error with that chicken was that I bought a "stewing hen".  Next was that roasting it for 4 hours just toughened the already tough meat.   What a way to learn about cooking! But I must say I did learn that lesson very well!   I don't think I ever had the same knack of roasting a chicken or a turkey as well as my mother, but then I did not have the advantage of taking a Household Sciences course as an extra choice in my school years.   Yes, we had Home Ec, but the detail in our cooking classes never included the details needed to understand MEAT.

In my Mother's Household Sciences Textbook are a couple of pages that are rarely explained or shown to new home cooks...



These two pages explain quite clearly where certain 'cuts' of meat come from on an animal.   A more modern and a very detailed explanation of what to look for in your supermarket when you shop for beef can be found at the following links...




and for chicken or turkey...


There are alot of wonderful sources of information on the internet when it comes to understanding cooking and choosing meat.  It is to a home cook's advantage to learn about how and what methods to cook various cuts.

I also want to point out that the FOOD NETWORK and most of the shows they feature DO NOT give instruction on choice of ingredients. If you discover an idea from one of the celebrity chefs it is a good idea to research the recipe and methods of cooking by going to that chef's web page...

Have fun with your adventure in home cooking because everytime you try something new you learn so many things about what it is to be a home cook!

Oh and PS, don't fall for that current trend -- Restaurant Quality - Home Cooked Meals are so much more satisfying because YOU did it and it tastes GREAT!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Embroidery

One of my "collections" is embroidery transfers or iron on embroidery designs.  These were quite common 40 and 50 years ago.  For a time there were a few companies that promoted and sold tube "paints" to use with embroidery patterns and they were very popular with young women who wanted a touch of hand made in their homes but didn't have the time to actually use thread and needle to create embroidered towels, pillow cases and monograms on special items...

So I thought I would pick out a few of these designs just as inspiration.  They probably were fairly common designs in their "hey day" but not so much now...

Here are a few that probably were meant to be embroidered on crisp white kitchen curtains or maybe special dish towels...







The nature of these transfers over time seems to be that adjacent or printing on previous pages seems to 'bleed' through the paper.  So these pictures show that 'bleed' through.   Also because they were meant to be ironed onto fabric they were printed 'backwards' so that when placed face down on fabric they would transfer in the mirror image or right way.

Oh and by the way, these are not for sale because I have no idea if they might be under copyright or even who that copyright might belong to.   I am simply posting them for 'inspiration'

I may be going through my collections and perhaps will add a few more of these designs in the next few weeks....
Check back if this sort of thing is of interest to you....

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Floral Mandala -- a Crochet Motif

Lately I have been seeing a interesting change to DOILIES on some of the social sites such as Pinterest and on various blogs...

I wonder who thought to take the idea of lacy doilies from fine thread crochet to using bright yarns -- mostly the cottons such as handicrafter yarn by bernat; lion brand's kitchen cotton and Lily Sugar and Cream, or other bright cheery yarns.

Take a look at this Pinterest board to get an idea of the variety and perhaps find a link to make your own.  I am not sure exactly what anyone really uses these very pretty bits of art for or where you would put it once it is finished...


Recently I was in one of my local second hand stores and hiding in a corner was a stack of Magic Crochet and Decorative Crochet Magazines.  These publications stopped producing magazines about 10 years ago but now and then you can find a few if you really look and are alert for them.

I suspect that they stopped printing these because, well, who uses Doilies anymore?  So if no one uses them, surely no one would be making them.

But somebody had the bright idea to make these doilies into the Modern world and made them into little works of art...

Well, my version as I said is a motif pattern from Decorative Crochet Magazine and I must say, I am very pleased with how it has turned out.


This particular pattern comes from January 1989 and originally was meant as a motif in a table runner.  If you use the regular crochet cotton, it should be about 6.5 inches and when you join 36 of them together they make a nice size table runner...   But using various colors of the 'kitchen cottons' the one I made measures 12 inches across...


I had actually started one previous to this one but I started with that blue then a dark navy blue but somehow the colors were not working that well so I began again and this is what happened....  My niece suggested beginning with red and white, so I did and I think it is an immense improvement over my first try at this idea, but, then again, doing the next round in red, or maybe pink then white, just might work.
Hmmm.... now I have talked myself into trying out some more rounds on this one to see what happens!


I was thinking that it might be nice to provide the instructions here, but after a bit of reading, I do believe that this particular pattern would be copyrighted.  The author of this design tho is Colette Beiline and as I said it can be found in Decorative Crochet Magazine January 1989 -- or I have listed that particular issue in my Etsy store (but there is ONLY one copy).

I wonder if these mandala's would be something people would buy?  Perhaps I will test out a few in my store in the next few days and see what happens....

So really if you might be thinking that you could make one for yourself, take a look at some of those 'olden days' crochet doilies and bring them into the modern world with COLOR!

That is one of the most fun things about crochet -- the experimenting just to see how it might turn out if you just change a little thing...



Saturday, August 23, 2014

A Long Journey Begins with the First Step...

I was thinking about shutting down my blog.  Surprisingly, I had some very interesting comments that there are people who want to read what I say!  

I mostly write because I like to write about the stuff I think about and I think about some pretty wild stuff that I never write about.  If I wrote all that I thought, people would definately wonder how any person could think the way I do, so I try to be as 'normal' as I can.  

One of the things I noticed even as a child that some of the things I wondered about and asked questions about were not usual, many things I said were "out of the blue" and I know that some family members may even have questioned my sanity!  My mind will follow and explore any new tangent it is set upon...

There is a great advantage to being an odd thinker -- it is not that I am smarter than anyone else, in fact I know I am not, but I am always willing to listen and think about things and I form an opinion (much of them I keep to myself) but that opinion can change with new and improved information.

Now, after having said all that I am thinking about Food.   A few weeks back I decided to write about Food on Friday's.   I missed my POV (point of view) on food yesterday because I was not feeling at all well.

For about 5 years now, I have been slowly discovering that my 'innards' have become quite sensitive to certain things.   For almost all of that time I thought that food was upsetting my system because of bacteria or not washing fruit properly or not cooking things thoroughly.  I thought my upset system was my own fault!  Or maybe my husband trying to find a way to get rid of me?! (thats a joke--well, it is one of the odd things I wonder about!)

Five years ago, my doctor with the help of some other doctors came to the conclusion that I had/have acute ulcerative colitis, but they only ever said maybe... Maybe it is diverticulitis... Maybe it is Cancer....   They never found anything after digging around in my colon and giving me a variety of tests and as my system slowly healed itself, they never came to a conclusion.   There was and still is something wrong though.

As I said, I was feeling quite miserable yesterday and that carried through all night so I was awake and back and forth to the toilet about a hundred times.  It was a painful and "feel sorry for yourself" night with a little bright spot of working on a couple of projects, knitting a dishcloth and then making a crochet mat in dishcloth yarn...

Now, Lately I have really been questioning my diet and the diet that my family eats and has eaten for many, many years.   You know what you are supposed to eat to stay healthy, I know, or thought I knew what I should eat to be healthy.   Well, you think you know, anyway.  Fruits, Vegetables, Meat, Carbohydrates, lots of water - and don't forget FIBER.   Some people even pay for meetings to organizations that will help keep you on track and teach you portion sizes and what your food choices should be.  I  tried that, but still I had problems and I did not loose weight because what was good for "everyone" was not at all good for me.  Alot of what I was told was good for me, turned out to be NOT so good, but no one else ever really noticed because they did not spend the hours I did sitting in a little room staring at a wall and hoping there was toilet paper within reach!

I think I took my first step while I was suffering though yesterday and last night's misery.   A "light bulb" went off!   I am now beginning to believe that this pain and suffering was not my fault other than not realizing what was happening to me and not correctly connecting it to the actual food I was eating and how foods that should be good for me actually were NOT!

A few days back I read about a study done of how Doctor's often diagnose maladies...  Not all doctors, but the study said as much as 50% of doctors will look to the internet and wikipedia for answers!   Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with diabetes and when I told my doctor that I was learning alot about it by reading the internet he said that I should be careful about what I read there.   So I stopped researching medical stuff online.... But HEY! if there are doctors using online research to answer questions from patients, why am i not doing it myself and getting the information direct, instead of translated and condensed.

So I started reading a variety of articles on intestinal problems, all sorts of information, starting with what these doctors said I MAY have -- Well, I don't have what they said!   I do believe I am one of thousands, or millions who have IBS, irritable bowel syndrome....

This comes as somewhat of a revelation because so much of what I have experienced is described in how to look after a system that just doesn't treat food as it should be when it goes through the digestive process...

Blueberries, grapes, cherries, an apple a day! Foods that are anti oxidents and have lots of good things including vitamins and fiber.   NOT FOR ME!

One article I read said "that most people are unaware that there are two kinds of fiber"  SOLUBLE and INSOLUBLE.   I definately was not aware that the difference for me could be immense!

So, I spent yesterday and last night suffering because of BLUEBERRIES!!!  Yes, healthy, good for you, tasty blueberries.   I did not eat more of them than any other person would have eaten, but they are poison to me -- and now as I review some of the other things that I eat on a regular basis, believing that it is good health giving foods, it turns out, they are not.  Some of the "good for you" foods are damaging me!

Whole wheat bread, nope - insoluble fiber -- I should eat white bread!  or oat bread because oat fiber is soluble and wheat fiber is not (and it is not that i should be gluten free, because that is definately not a problem in my system)

Lots of fruit and vegetables, nope - again insoluble fiber -- doing without veggies is practically impossible so cooking is a good option because it breaks down the fiber that my system has a problem with... Which means that fruits and veg that are normally eaten raw are not particularly good for me -- time to cut out blueberries, but blueberry jam should be okay - do you think?

Oh, and no salads with or instead of a cooked meal!  And I thought it was Wendy's (burger place) not safely preparing those delicious salads that taste great going down but cause immeasurable pain coming back out!  It is my system, not their food prep...

Well, since this has only been the first step, I have a huge amount to learn yet and I surely will not pretend to know much about it, except what I have learned that makes me suffer.... blueberries, miserable nasty blueberries; rice cakes, popcorn, high fiber cereals, lettuce, cabbage --- OMG I know lettuce is at least as nasty as blueberries!   I am learning, slowly....

And I am still trying to learn about my son's diet needs too, so that he does not have to suffer a bout of kidney stones again...  Whew!  I never imagined food could be so complicated....

I don't think I will stop writing this blog.  There are too many things to still learn about and if what I write about helps me, maybe it can give you an idea or two to explore and expand upon and learn about along with me....

Next time.... Pictures and less seriousness....  How about crochet?   And not nearly as long!


Friday, August 15, 2014

The Advantage of even the Smallest Garden

I don't have alot of space in my yard -- in fact, my yard is not much larger than my living room!

I have never really lived in a house or a place where I could plant rows of peas and beans and corn and carrots so over many years I have made some choices of plants that are usually successful in containers and that I LIKE!

I plant geraniums every year now.  They are bright and grow so quickly and thickly they often overflow the sides of the containers they are planted in.  I always plant red ones.  My mother loved RED geraniums and even though I started to grow geraniums each year as a memorial to her, I have grown to enjoy and love them at least as much as she did!


I usually choose one or two herbs to put in my little patio deck garden -- this year -- THYME (that's it in the center of the above photo--one starter plant of thyme has overgrown the ageratum-that should look like the photo below but doesn't)


With such an abundance of THYME I am using it in all kinds of foods I have been cooking.

I am a cook who doesn't really follow recipes.  I often look at a recipe in a book and "wing-it" without referring to the recipe again...

I actually heard Chef Micheal Smith (on his show Chef at Home) say that when you have a recipe in mind but add your own touches you then discover some "family favourites" that  may even become those 'secret' recipes that other people ask you for!

Well, I can't say I get asked for my secret recipes but I can say I have come up with a Family Favourite.   Thyme is a very important part of this little story because without it, the recipe just becomes beans in spaghetti sauce (or something like that)

Lentils and Vegetable Cassarole

1 small onion, chopped up fine
3 nice nice size carrots, chopped up as small as you can
1 can (store label) 540 ml or 19 oz lentils, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup white or brown rice - whichever you prefer
1/2 or more of a good size green pepper - i only had a half so that is what went in
2 cups homemade or low sodium chicken broth
1 - 398 ml or 15 oz can of crushed or diced tomatoes
 and

quite a bit of fresh thyme -- hard to measure cause I just took leaves off the stems til I got tired of doing it!
1 garlic clove, crushed or chopped up really fine

In a 1 1/2 quart size baking dish that has been well greased or sprayed with a cooking oil spray, mix together all the ingredients.  Very Easy Procedure!
Put the casserole/baking dish in the oven that was preheated to 350F for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

If you want to s-t-r-e-t-c-h this recipe a bit you can add a couple stalks of celery, chopped up fine and/or a zucchini chopped.

Because salt is often in purchased chicken broth and in my homemade broth I do not add salt to this dish but I let each person know that if they wish a sprinkle of salt and pepper on their own serving is perhaps an option...

Also because we have a "cheese fiend" in my house, I grate about a cup of whatever cheese is handy and top each serving with a bit of cheese.  I particularly like mozzarella and a bit of Parmesan, my son prefers good ole` chedder and my husband prefers none.

There were no comments or complaints that this main dish was meatless -- maybe they didn't even notice?!   There was about 1/4 of the total left over and all plates came back clean, so by that standard this was a HIT!


and a few strawberries and ice cream for dessert...

(can you find the dinosaur?)

I now need to explore some more recipes and ideas to use with my over abundance of THYME....

and if you try out this recipe, just tell people you invented it!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Emergency!

Yes, we had to visit the Emergency at our Local Hospital this week...  Well, not we, my younger son, who is about to turn 36....

He has his own suite as part of our home and on Monday morning about 4am, he came and woke me out of a lovely sleep and said there was something wrong...  Deep, nasty pain in his lower back and left side.  Hmmm.... Appendix?  He said he had been in pain since about 2am and couldn't wait any longer.  So we got dressed and his father and I drove him to the Emergency....

Now of course he is old enough to get himself on whatever list to wait for a Doc to see him and evaluate what the problem was...  We sat with him for awhile and then decided that $4 an hour to park was pretty costly for us to just sit, so we left him waiting in Emergency with of course his cell phone to call us if needed or to play games or other stuff while he waited.  We went home.

It's not very exciting waiting in Emergency and at home I can be much more productive doing crochet or working on my Etsy Store.   I finally gave him a call around 10am but had to leave a message cause he wasn't answering -- I wondered, maybe we should go back to the Hospital but as I was trying to decide to do something or wait, the phone rang and he said to come pick him up.... We did.

He was not quite 'there' (drugs for the pain) and he said the doc put him on a list for an emergency CAT scan and they would call him when to come back --- they suspected Kidney Stones.

Whew! and OH OH...

At least with that news I had a focus -- you know how MOMS are, right?  Even if you can't do anything about it, you have to find something to do to fix the problem....

Research.  First what are kidney stones, how do you get them, how do you fix them, how do you prevent them ????   Kept me busy the rest of the day reading web pages and learning about them.    And I did learn some of what I can do to fix the problem -- Food.

More things to learn!


A change in much of my son's diet is needed to prevent a recurrence -- which the doc says is quite likely once a person has had kidney stones once, so since One Person is as important as All in this Family, we are all going to work on making a few changes...

I am not going to give you hours of details of the things I learned about kidney stones except to say the DIET part means Less Meat, Less Salt, Less Tea or Coffee, Less Saturated Fats, Less Sugar -- Sort of sounds like the kind of DIET that is and has been touted by doctors and dietitians of what everyone should be eating...

My first step though in Dietary Changes has to be finding ways to reduce Meat. The men in this house eat meat practically for every meal -- so finding alternatives is fairly tricky...   Beans seems to be the main alternative.

So the day after the big EMERGENCY, I thought I would head on over to some of the local 2nd hand stores to see if I could find some recipe books to give me some insight into cooking with beans...


I found a few good deals with a stack of Taste of Home magazines for Light Cooking, each one 25 cents, and a Company's Coming Low Fat Cooking by Jean Pare`.   I took some time digging through a few of the recipes that I had collected in various note books of my own or cut out of the newspaper...


The really difficult part of a change in Diet is that as of now, the Kidney stones have passed out of his system and with no pain now, the inclination to change is somewhat lost and fading fast... 

I am thinking that this really is one of the important parts of being THE MOM in a  family, to keep the change that is necessary ON TRACK!

Yeah, they are grown-ups and can think for themselves but (and I guess I cannot say it out loud with 'the men' present) they expect the MOM to take care of stuff like this.   I sure don't see my son checking out recipes and looking up the whats or the wherefores of this event...

This Friday really is about huge changes in Food!  If you have ideas or experience, leave me a comment!  I can use every bit of info that comes my way....