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Sunday, July 5, 2020

Save Energy

There's a hashtag trending on social media promoting the limitation of single use plastic. I am totally on board with that concept, although the goal has been a bit harder to achieve during the pandemic. Plastic bottles of hand sanitizer and tubs of wipes to disinfect surfaces are everywhere and I understand their importance. One tiny change that I have made is to switch from plastic bottles of laundry detergent back to the boxes of powdered detergent that I remember from childhood. In the good weather I also try and hang my clothers outside instead of wasting energy using the dryer. I must admit that the clothes, towels in particular, can be a bit stiff, but it is worth it for the smell of fresh air especially when your sheets have been dried outdoors. Heavenly.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Lily of the Valley Essential Oil

We are both blessed and cursed with having an abundance of lily of the valley in two different gardens in our yard. We are blessed to have a plant that grows so easily with so little care, makes a beautiful bouquet, and smells delightful. The flowers in the front yard garden bloom first, the ones in the back about two weeks later which is perfect for extending the length of time that our house can be imbued with their fragrance. On the negative side, it is very difficul to contain their weed-like spread. They have partially pushed out the irises in both front and back yards that were transplanted from my grandmother's house, and I can barely find my chive plant any longer.

 

In the spirit of DIY projects this spring I decided to try turning the flowers into an essential oil. Every day for twelve days running I picked the blossoms and placed them in a jar that contained almond oil. Each day I strained the oil and added new blossoms leaving the jar out of direct sunlight. Naturally, some of the oil was lost each time I strained the mixture. Instead of the oil becoming infused with the delightful scent of lily of the valley, I was left with a rather rancid smelling oil. Oh well! I enjoyed painting them.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

French Onion Soup

French onion soup was a favorite of my mother's. She ordered it if it was on the menu when she and my dad went out to eat and she also made it at home. She had these cute little earthenware bowls that she ladled the homemade soup into and topped the bowls with Swiss cheese that she melted under the broiler. Even though it is June, today is chilly and in my current DIY mode, I plan on making some French onion soup.

 

Ingredients

 

1/4 cup unsalted butter

 

3 tablespoons olive oil

 

4 cups slivered onions

 

4 (10.5 ounce) cans beef broth

 

2 tablespoons dry sherry

 

1 teaspoon dried thyme

 

salt and pepper to taste

 

4 slices crusty bread

 

8 slices Swiss cheese

 

Directions

 

Melt butter with olive oil in a stock pot on medium heat. Add onions and continually stir until translucent. Do not brown the onions. Add beef broth, sherry and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and simmer for 30 minutes. Heat the oven broiler. Ladle soup into oven safe serving bowls and place one slice of bread on top of each. Layer each slice of bread with a slice of Swiss cheese. Place bowls on cookie sheet and place under broiler until cheese browns slightly.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Stocking Up

Canned goods and dried beans flew off the shelves of supermarkets at the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown. At one point I had put together a list of items for my husband to pick up. He texted me pictures of empty meat displays and barren shelves that had once stored paper napkins and paper towels. One item on my list was "couple of large cans of tuna". Little did I know that my husband would interpert that as the 66 oz size, the size that looks as is it should be in the kitchen of the school cafeteria. I realize now that he was not left with any more reasonable size options and amid the chaos and long lines he simply took what was available. We made it work though. I used almost half of it in a pretty tastey tuna noodle casserole with peas and gruyere cheese. I froze the rest!

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Wild Mustard Green Pesto Illustrated

Spring has made a late arrival here in New Jersey as we have had rather chilly weather and very little sunshine. The weeds have arrived though,and seeing the mustard greens sprouting up around the edge or our yard and along our road is a thoroughly good thing. With social distancing and sheltering at home being in full swing, I've had the time and inclination to be more creative with my cooking. I'm not much of a gardener, the zucchini seeds that I started inside have not even germinated after waiting patiently for three weeks. That said, I am a much better forager and I also enjoy the fact that foraging is free.

 

Mustard greens can be identified by using the photo below. They are very healthy, smell a bit like mustard and have a sharp, spicey taste. We quickly gathered a bunch and plucked the leaves from the stems out on our patio, and stored them in a plastic bag. We decided to use them to make a pesto. My son took over, since he was making dinner, and served it with baked flounder. It was delicious. The fish was a bit dried out, so the pesto saved the day. Today for lunch I added the pesto to oil and vinegar for a salad dressing and we plan on trying it with pasta.

 

Recipe:

 

3 cups washed and dried mustard green leaves

 

6 cloves garlic

 

1 cup walnuts

 

1/2 cup olive oil

 

Blend everthing in a food processor. You may need to adjust the amount of oil. Asiago cheese is also a nice addition to the pesto.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Kitchen Still Life

I originally got my easel for working outdoors doing plein air landscapes, but have found it to be equally handy for working in different spots around the house. I set up in the kitchen and did a quick layout, waiting for some sunshine and highlights to work on a finished piece. I chose a dark blue Mi-Tientes paper and worked on the side with less tooth. My box of pastels fits neatly into the drawer in front of the easel.
The artwork is 8x10 inches. Email me if you are interested in purchasing the piece!

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Compost!

These are some simple guidelines for composting that I have printed and posted on the side of my refrigerator. I am a big advocate of composting since it keeps our food scraps out of the landfill and leaves me with some rich soil to add to my garden each spring. It also doesn't involve spending any money once you have figured out what kind of bin that you need. When we started a compost pile about ten years ago our recycling center was actually giving away the bins. There are all kinds of guidelines online about making a bin. Just keep in mind that the compost needs to get air and you need to be able to get a shovel in there to turn it.

 

I like keeping the guidelines on the fridge since I tend to forget to add enough of the "brown" material that provides the carbon. We still get a newspaper delivered, so lately I have been better about adding shredded paper. This landscape was done in October at Merrill Creek. Just email me if you would like a pdf of the image. I would be happy to send you one!