Just a quick little note

Oh my, how time flies! Constantly, I do things I want to tell about, things I want to write about. But at the end of the day, I’m just so happy to switch off the computer and relax a little. What I’ve been up to: a lot. The biggest thing might have been, that we switched rooms for one-and-a-half (!!!) weeks. Our little girl has her own room now. It has been for a while when I started noticing, she was being distracted by our presence at night. She woke up at night very often, and sometimes only stopped crying when we put her bed outside, in the living room. Now with a baby coming, I didn’t want to have her and the newborn sleeping in the same room (she cried a lot in the evening, it the baby is going to be like that she will have major sleeping problems). So the decision was made: before the baby comes, she needs to have a place of her own, to be able to sleep really quietly. And it had to happen now, I didn’t want to wait untill the baby arrives. I’m a little afraid she will feel second-place anyway, and moving her out then would only make this worse. So we gave her the big master bedroom. And we moved our bed to the smallest room in the house. We have to get on the bed to open the window, I need to climb over my love when I need to get out of bed at night. But it’s cozy. Small, but cozy. And there is enough place left for the crib (this means, when we take out the door.. A curtain will come instead, but we still have some time left). This whole ‘moving’ ment, we had to change things in every room except for the bathroom. And it ment, I had to give up my sewing room. Now there is a little desk in there, an electric piano and a book shelf. It’s fine like that, I didn’t sew that much lately anyway. Oh wait, that was BEFORE the moving. AFTER the moving, I finished a maternity skirt (tutorial coming soon!), did a lot of repairing and made a finished-in-one-afternoon sweater. In the kitchen, in front of the window, which made lots of curious neighbours looking inside (you’re sewing! How nice! What are you making?). Well, they look inside anyway, we like this a lot. They are all great, we’re so lucky..
Besides moving and sewing, I finished knitting little miss Sara a hat. I also had one mitten finished, but I miscalculated a little. Her hands are a lot bigger than I thought.. Would be nice for a newborn. 🙂

By now, it’s getting really cool here, and my belly is growing enormously. My coat actually did not fit anymore. Good, I could close it, but it would move up, pulling my clothes with it, creating a naked back, no matter how many layers I would put on. So a coat is definitely needed here! I’ve now been looking for two months already, but my size is just difficult. And I don’t like to look like an elephant already, or like carrying a baby on my back. So last week I made the decision to sew a maternity coat myself. A pattern was needed, and the fabric. How to get a fabric without having time to go from shop to shop, and without spending too much money? I spent hours on the internet, searching. In the end, I found a fabric that I think is exactly what I need, but going to a shop might have been the quicker way. Though I couldn’t have done it on the couch, in the evening. Which is also worth something.. I found two patterns, one maternity and one wrap-coat (is this called like that?), without buttons. After two days of doubting, I chose the last one. Then my mother emailed me and told me, she had bought me a pattern and she would send it to me by mail. The other pattern I liked! So now, I’ll try to make a nice combination of the two. Today, the wrap-pattern arrived, so I can finally start copying and cutting out, while waiting for the fabric to come. It’s a 100% wool, very thick and heavy fabric in a dark marine blue. I think it will be lovely. And warm! I need to prepare for some heavy frost here, it has been three extreme winters in a row, and I am afraid it will be no different this year. The only problem I have now is not knowing if my sewing machine can handle the thick wool. But it’s a kind of felt wool, so I don’t need to secure the edges (oh, how time-saving this will be!), and I think I could do the sewing by hand, if necessary. Nice and warm on the couch at night. I’m going to get romantic now..

Oh my, I wanted to make Christmas presents by hand this year. Where did time go? Need to start the ‘elving’, as Amanda (http://www.soulemama.com/..

Since the moving-around, things somehow have been a little easier. Sara is sleeping better (mostly through the night, getting in at 7pm and waking up at 8am), things are more organised, and I have A LOT more working area in the kitchen. Did I mention already that we have a new couch? A neighbor asked us, if we were interested in her old couch. I took a look at this two-year-old, hardly used (!) ‘old’ thing, and decided we could use it. I am so happy with it! It looks brand new, and it makes our living room much more comfy. Things just look clearer, nicer, and it’s somehow easier to keep everything clean with the new way things are. All the toys are in Saras room, cleaning up there at night takes me three minutes, and the living room and kitchen just stay clean, empty, nice. This is a good feeling. Things need to be in order for me already.. Nesting?

A very, very big thing is that I started to read a BOOK today. I don’t really remember when that last happened. I had bought it for a while, and only the title already inspired me. It’s Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider, I’ll write about it when I get further.

A whole lot of words without pictures today. But as I said, a tutorial is planned on the maternity skirt (without a pattern!), and I hope to be able to post some pictures of finished projects soon. Things are happening here! Things I want to share. So I’ll try. And I’ll run around with my camera a little more.
Now: pattern copying!

What are you up to?

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Laura Ingalls Wilder – My Little House Apple Pie

As a child, I have always been fascinated by the stories about little Laura and Mary. We started with just three books my mother had as a child, having them read to us over and over again. We were never bored with the wonderful life of the pioneer family. Soon, my brother and I started collecting the books, which resulted in having all of Laura’s books and a few of her daughter Roses. One book always kept missing, The Little House Cookbook by Barbara M. Walker was out of print in The Netherlands. By then, I didn’t ever think about getting it in English. When I started to study singing, my professor (an American woman from California) happened to be a fan of the books as well. It had been for years we talked about the cookbook, when she surprised me last year with an English version. She looked everywhere for it in the States, and finally had a friend organise it to come from the Mulvane, Kansas library to me. My dear (by now not professor but)  friend wrote in: Lending period: 26 June 2010 – to eternity. I can’t describe my happiness at this moment. Finally I had it! And it is just a lovely thing to have. Every recipe is introduced by little parts of the ‘Laura and Mary’ stories, as we used to call them, and the illustrator is the same as for the other books: Garth Williams. The very first thing I made is one of my all-time favorite dishes: apple pie. I love love love apple pie. Closed on top, open on top, with stripes on top, with raisins, nuts, vanilla sauce, thick cream filling, you say it, I’ll love it. What smells better than warm apple pie? And it is actually easy, isn’t it?

Not so my Laura Pie. Oh my, first a lot of calculating. In Europe, we don’t measure in cups, but in gravity. And a cup of flour does not have the same weight as a cup of lard (what is lard, anyway?). How big is a 9-inch pie pan? Calculating out all my ‘kilograms’ and translating the things I had never heard of until that time -I was not yet common with English recipes- took me a lot of time. Than the procedure was kind of new to me: the ingredients have to stay as cold as possible, otherwise you’ll not get the perfect dough (I was very good at this the first time. Second time, I thought I could go without, resulting in a dry and far to crumbly crust..). It was quite a struggle and it took me like forever. And the filling was quite unusual to me: adding cloves and nutmeg was something new to me, I never came much further than cinnamon. When I had my work done after what felt like three hours, I was completely overwhelmed by the result. I loved it! It was just as described by Barbara Walker:
Thick, rich juice and crumbly crust were the marks of a well-made apple pie. Not-so-well-made ones had thick crusts made soggy with thin juice. Or the juice cooked over and gummed up the pie pan and oven. (p. 124)

The second thing was what happened with my second try. No chance to sleep in or to be unprecise..
Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of my first pie. And unfortunately, my dear one did not like the not-sweetened crust (the more sugar, the better, right? :)). The good thing was, I got to eat it all myself!

For one 9-inch pie shell (this is the doubled recipe, because you make a covered pie):
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (plus some dusting flour)
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups of lard
Butter for greasing the pie shell

Chill everything, including bowl, on ice or in refrigerator. Make hands cold. Prepare a cup of ice water.
Mix flour and salt in the bowl, spoon the lard in and blend with your cool fingers (not with the warm palm! And no machine, this makes the whole thing warm as well) until uniformly coarse. Continue to toss as you add 6 tablespoons of ice water. Press the dough into a ball and chill it until your filling is ready.

Prepare the filling, you will need:
1 lemon
2 pounds of tart apples
3/4 cup of brown sugar
3 teaspoons of flour
Ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg: a pinch of one or all (all!)
1 tablespoon of butter

Prepare the zest of the lemon by peeling with a sharp knife (can you manage? …), not cutting in the white skin, set aside. Press the lemon (the quickest method is to half it, put a fork in it and turn this around – turn lemon around fork. I saw a cook doing it like this and it works so well!), put juice in a bowl. Peel, core and slice the apples into the bowl of juice, toss.

Get out half of your dough. Dust pastry surface and flatten dough on it. With rolling-pin, roll the dough out from center to edge, give it a slight turn, and repeat. This makes it evenly and  prevents the dough from sticking to the board! Repeat until 1/8 inch thick and 2 inches wider than the pie pan. Butter pie pan, fold the dough circle in quarters, place it in the pan and unfold it (you might want to dust it slightly, to make the unfolding easier). Trim with a knife around pan edge.
Line with a layer of apple slices. Strew the layer with a third of the sugar and a third of the flour (make sure there are no lumps!). Repeat until all is used up. Now strew the zest and spices on top and dot with butter (you might want to cool this again, until you’re finished rolling out the left dough).

Roll out the other part of the dough the same way as before. Moisture the rim of the bottom crust with a wet finger, cover with the top crust. Pinch edges together with a fork or your finger. Vent the top crust!

Bake on 425 degrees (220 Celsius) for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees (175 Celsius) and bake 30-35 minutes more, until crust is golden brown. Please put something at the bottom of your oven to prevent any dripping caused cleaning-your-oven-afterwards..
Serve warm with heavy cream.

Needless to say, I think this is so wonderful! The spices are the perfect thing to add to every apple pie you make, if pioneer like or not. The combination with the lemon zest makes is warm, spicy and fresh at the same time..

Please let me know if you tried this out! I would love it to hear your comments/ideas..

Some cooking and baking..

There has been quite a lot going on in my kitchen the past few days. Especially, I’m getting back into a baking rhythm. I used to bake something every Saturday afternoon, to have something nice for the weekend and the days after. This didn’t really work out regulary anymore since the birth of my girl. But there have been quite some home baked pies and cakes here in the last few weeks. But let’s start with something not sweet, shall we? 🙂

We have been eating a lot less meat since I was in Heathers Vegan Workshop, which also had a lot to do with me struggling with pregnancy illness. Now this obstacle is gone, but the feeling of not needing meat is still there. So when we eat meat, I try to make a special dish with good quality meat. Every Friday there’s a nice little ecological market close to daycare, where I bought some deer meat last week. Sunday, this was turned into a lovely deer goulash (meat, carrot, onion, lots of mushrooms, garlic, laurel, salt, freshly grounded pepper, water and wine do most of the trick, adding the component time to it makes it wonderful). A recipe told me to add some tomato paste, after the cooking time (I let it simmer for over two hours) I was shocked by the fact that it tasted like tomato soup. So I took out half of the liquid, added more red wine and let the alcohol disappear. Some flour added to bind the whole, finished. It was really incredibly good..
But what to do with the leftover liquid? Next day, I felt like eating tomato soup for lunch. I took about 3/4 cup of the ‘bouillon’, added one can of tomatos, some Provencal seasonings, pepper and sea salt, let it simmer for a while and pureeing it afterwards. I had no idea how to make tomato soup, but it turned out lovely! Some cheese, tomato soup poured over it, a spoon of heavy cream on top, some fresh parsley, a warm toast: my lunch was fantastic.. And it was so easy! I’ll do it again..

There is another recipe I want to share with you, it gave me a very happy man in the house.. Actually, this was one of my favorite dishes as a child. We called it Poor Mans Dish, and it’s really a cheap and nice dish. So, here we go.
Take about 1kg of potatos, clean them and slice them thinly (somebody brought home some big ones.. I love that..). Try to keep them in order.

Now, make a mixture of 700ml milk (I used soy/oat and added some cream and water – just what I had at home, this also works), salt, pepper, nutmeg and about 5 cloves of garlic. Put the potatos in a greased baking pan (the bigger, the better. Give each potato slice as much room as possible. It will thank you with a lovely crust – my pans were definitely too small) and pour the milk mixture over it.

Put it in the oven for about 40 minutes at 200 Celsius / 400 Fahrenheit, until potatos are tender and have a nice dark crust (remember: mine did not turn out so nice because the pans are too small!). Enjoy!

Let’s now switch to the sweet part.. Monday I wanted to have a cake, and I decieded to make Kladdkaka, a Swedish sticky chocolate cake. It really is done in a total of 40 minutes. With total, I mean total. Litterary. Who doesn’t want a cake that quick? You need about ten minutes to stirr together the ingredients, than you bake it. The baking time differs from tast to tast and oven to oven, I bake it for 25 minutes. You might want to wait a little before starting to eat. You might. Or you just eat it straight from the oven. There is just one big negative thing to say about this cake. It is too small. Way to small. I had to hold back to save something for the next day. But let’s call this pregnancy related eating, shall we? My picture is not as nice as the one on the website where I found the recipe, and I didn’t even take time to put some powdered sugar on it, but here it goes:

If you got hungry, take a look at the website of Rebecka, you can find this recipe in January 2011. She is a Swedish young woman, sharing her Swedish recipes in English to all baking fans. I think it’s incredible..

Next time, I will show you my version of the Laura Ingalls Little House Apple Pie I made today (I got the Little House Cookbook from a dear friend, I am so happy!). My neighbour was impressed, she kept eating. I don’t think the pie will last until my next post. Only half of it left..