Category Archives: food

(Many) Shoes and (Pumpkin) Pie

Hi, my name is Wink and I used to blog with frequency. I’ve been with the busy, however, what with this whole the-boyfriend-is-moving-in dealio, as well as filling my free time with helping a local estate liquidation company organize and price a hoarder house for an upcoming sale. Since we last met…

That there above-mentioned boyfriend* moved in. He didn’t bring a lot of Things into the household, but what he did bring was Not Small. We had his parents over for dinner last night, which forced the issue of (finally) organizing the living and dining rooms. They look pretty dang good right now, at the expense of the guest room and basement. Which currently look an awful lot like the hoarder house I’ve been working in.

The hoarder house. Whatever you’re picturing, it’s wrong. This house is in an upper-middle-class neighborhood, and was inhabited by an upper-middle-class couple. For decades, these were “normal,” rational people. And then, about 10 or so years ago, the woman cracked. In a ceaseless attempt to fill that crack, she bought stuff. Lots of stuff. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. In fact, during the last couple of years, she bought so much stuff and with such frequency that she didn’t always have the time to remove the price tags or even take items out of their shopping bags before heading out to buy more stuff. A professional organizer was hired to help deal with all the stuff, which only wound up making more room for more stuff. Which she filled. And then she died. Leaving behind a husband who had grown accustomed to living in a smaller and smaller space, and a hell of a lot of stuff. So the husband moved out and said “to hell with all of this stuff.”

I’ve been to estate sales described as hoarder homes, and I’m always disappointed (?) that they don’t look like the dark, magazine-and-newspaper addled homes that I’ve seen flash by on the news. (I hear there are a few different reality shows that focus on hoarders, but I’ve never seen one so I can’t compare.) I now know how much work goes into clearing those homes out so people can actually walk around in the space. Which seems obvious, but I never did put 2 and 2 together. For two or three weeks now, we’ve been going through this house room by room, clearing out the receipts and tissue paper and shopping bags (we filled a roll-off Dumpster) and trying our best to organize and price the remaining clothing and shoes and furniture and DVDs and artwork and cosmetics and collectible figurines and avoiding altogether the packed-to-the-rafters basement, which will have to be an entirely separate sale.

So anyway, if you live in the greater Denver area, you should really swing by this sale. We’re running the first half (pre-basement) for four days, and while the selection will be greatest on Wednesday (day 1), I can guarantee that there will still be plenty left on Saturday (day 4). Everything is in like-new (or brand-spanking-still-with-tags-new) condition. In an interesting twist, when we finally worked our way into the husband’s home office, we found that it was loaded with antique books and historical artifacts from his family. So this sale has the brand new AND the very old!

Above-mentioned pie: I’d stopped in at Dollar Tree for something or other, and was greeted at the door by a display of canned pumpkin. Canned pumpkin! For a dollar! How could I pass that up? Pumpkin pie is super easy to make, especially when using a store-bought Graham cracker crust (which I knew I had in the pantry), so I whipped one up. A week later, I made an eggnog cake for no reason other than I had some eggnog in the house. I’m crafty that way.

A few posts back, I’d mentioned that I was going to have to start meal planning now that there are two mouths to feed. I’ve been doing it, and it’s surprisingly easy so far. I understand how it might get tedious over time, but so far, so good. This week we’ll be eating a lot of recipes that call for fresh tarragon because I needed it for one recipe and you can only buy one size package which is enough for, like, four different recipes. I used it last night to make the béarnaise sauce required for Sautéed Steak, Henri IV, my very first attempt at a Julia Child recipe. It was delicious and pretty easy, if a bit fussy to plate. Tonight we’ll dine on Fluffy Cracked Wheat With Mustard And Tarragon, and tomorrow I’ll roast up some tarragon chicken.

Part of the meal planning adventure includes serving up something every Wednesday from one of my many vintage cookbooks, and we’re two for two so far. On Halloween I cooked up an Irish Stew (or, since it was Halloween after all, Slaughtered Lamb stew) in ye olde pressure cooker. Actually, I used ye olde (1954) Mirro pressure cooker cookbook, but my spiffy late-model (2011) Cuisinart pressure cooker did the work. I’ve never eaten, let alone made, a lamb stew before, and I have to admit that I am floored by how absofreakinglutely delicious it is! And because pressure cookers are magical things, I went from raw veggies in need of dicing to hot stew ladled into a bowl in just about an hour.

The following Wednesday, I turned to my copy of 641 Tested Recipes from the Sealtest Kitchens for something a little less meat-centric and more retrotastic. I had hardly flipped through the pages when I came across Peppy Cottage Cheese Peppers (“A man’s main dish”) and knew that I had the week’s winner. Green peppers, stuffed with a mixture of rice (I used brown), cottage cheese, sautéed onion, tomato sauce, a bit of Worcestershire sauce, and topped with diced bacon. Not vegetarian, but at least it wasn’t based on meat. And while the squishy pink filling in the peppers looked dubious going into the oven, this turned out to be another will-make-again recipe.

My selection for this week is something called Applesauce Meatballs (Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes, 1949), and I’ll have to report back with the results at a later date. I plan to serve them up with a side of spaghetti squash seasoned with, you guessed it, fresh tarragon. If there’s still any tarragon left at that point, I’ll put it in a small bottle of vinegar to steep for future use.

And on that note: until next time, my dearest readers!

*For the first time in 12 years, someone else did my laundry yesterday. IT IS DELIGHTFUL.

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Filed under collections, day job, food, Halloween, holidays, kitchen, life-threatening clutter, reviews, romance, relationships, shoes, vintage

That moment when…

Gingerbread cupcakes with buttercream brains.

It’s Thursday night and you’re baking festive cupcakes for a party the next night and at the same time you’re boiling a roasted chicken carcass to make stock and then it’s Friday and you go to work and you go to the party (and you don’t forget the cupcakes) and Saturday you spend most of the day moving your boyfriend’s stuff into your house and then there’s a costume party and Sunday you spend the whole day moving more of your boyfriend’s stuff in and the house is a bigger wreck than usual and you spend all of Monday trying to get a grip on reorganizing furniture and clothing and wall art and you’re barely making a dent but you at least get the living room chairs out of the kitchen and that’s when you realize…

…that you never strained, let alone refrigerated, that chicken stock. The pot is still sitting on the stove. Since Thursday. And you pour the whole thing out. Because it may smell delicious (and it does) but 4-days-at-room-temperature chicken stock is probably how the zombie uprising will begin.

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You May Be Right, I May Be Crazy…

Be True To Your Work, And Your Work Will Be True To You

…But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for. —Billy Joel

A long, long time ago (the early ’90s), in a land far, far away (Brooklyn), I was a student of design. I suppose I still am a student of design, but back then I was given specific (and sometimes not-so-specific) assignments. Okay, that’s still the case too. But at that time I had full creative control as well as very few design prejudices. And so it was for a packaging assignment that I conceived of a line of aerosol home air fresheners. At a time when the available options on the supermarket shelves were this or that floral fragrance, my line was based on food aromas. Although my entire portfolio of work from that period was lost when I moved to Colorado, I still remember that the two scents I fleshed out were Roasted Coffee Bean and Warm Cherry Pie. And that as part of my idea for a boutique line of higher-end home fragrance, the predominant color of the packaging was black.

I don’t recall my overall grade for the project, but I do remember that my professor lambasted me during the classroom critique for using black on a product that had any relation whatsoever to food. Black, it seems, is not an appetizing color.

Ahem. The following case studies were all gathered via the dieline (a collection of “the world’s best packaging design”). Clicking on any image will take you to a brief article about its product and creative process.

Okay, I’ll stop here. I think you get my point. There were certainly features of my presentation that day which could have been improved upon, but I firmly defended my color scheme. The professor overruled my argument, but I’ve never once doubted my decision. We never got the chance to do a second round of drafts in school, but real life is different. If you believe in a particular feature of your design but the client says no, you may yet be on the right track. What can you do to improve your concept so that the client falls in love with your vision? After all, that’s why the client hired you, instead of The Other Guy.

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Tirammmmisù

Do as I say, not as I do.

Tiramisù!

First, if you’re opposed to the consumption of raw eggs, stop right here. Come back tomorrow, when I share with you all how I manage to turn some unattractive TV trays into (hopefully) pillars of retro beauty.

Superfluous photo of Yolky, my goofy egg separator (which fits perfectly on a Fire King soup bowl) by JO!E.

Today, I’m going to give you the recipe for Tiramisù exactly as it is written on this (Italian) package of (Italian) ladyfingers (imported from Italy).

Are you catching that? I want to make this clear: this is an authentic, traditional, Italian recipe. As promoted by Vicenzi, the “No. 1 in Italy” brand of savoiardi (ladyfingers). This tiramisù may not be what you’ll find in your local supermarket bakery, and it may not be what you’re accustomed to. It is, however, delicious. And incredibly easy. When made according to these instructions.

Tiramisù
Ingredients for 6–8 servings
400 g Vicenzovo ladyfingers
400 g mascarpone
4 eggs, separated
100 g sugar
2 cups espresso
30 g cocoa powder

Beat the egg yolks with sugar until thick and foamy. Whisk in mascarpone. In separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff. Fold the mascarpone mixture into the egg whites. Line a rectangular dish with halve of the Vicenzovo ladyfingers dipped into coffee and cover with half of the mascarpone cream mixture. Top with a second layer of dipped Vicenzovo ladyfingers and mascarpone cream. Sift cocoa powder over the whole surface. Refrigerate until serving time.

The very first time I made this, it was exquisite. The only change I made was to use, instead of the Vicenzovo “hard” ladyfingers, an equivalent amount of Trader Joe’s Soft Lady Fingers, which had fallen into the back of my pantry and gotten stale anyway. They fit perfectly into my large Pyrex baking dish, and with the addition of the eggy mascarpone cream and a dusting of cocoa powder, the result was heavenly.

But I still have 400 grams of these Italian ladyfingers in the pantry. And an invitation to dinner with friends. “I’ll bring dessert,” I say. But this time…this time, things will be a leeeetle bit different.

Egg yolks, sugar, faux-mascarpone.

Have you shopped for mascarpone lately? My local supermarket carries two brands, at $5 and $6 per container. This recipe requires two containers. Now don’t get me wrong, I like my friends and all, but that’s a steep price for someone as cheap frugal as I am. Enter: the Internet. And an assortment of recipes for making a mascarpone substitute. I can’t imagine that any of them will taste like proper mascarpone, but I pick a substitute formula that I think will come closest: a mixture of neufchâtel, sour cream, and heavy cream. The ratios required will make too much “mascarpone” for this particular recipe, but I figure hey, did anyone in history ever once complain that their tiramisù was too creamy? Probably not. So I mix up a batch, thus cutting calories while doubling the prep time and dirtying an extra mixer bowl.

Lay, lady, lay.

I start lining my Pyrex dish, and these ladyfingers are not the same size as their Trader Joe counterparts. I have to break them to fit, and even then, each layer of ladyfingers is coming in well shy of the prescribed 200 grams. Oh heck, it’ll be fine, right? Right? I spread the layers of floofy (technical term, that), creamy cheese mixture, I dust with cocoa, it looks lovely. See photo at top of this post. Delightful, right? Because of all of the extra cream mixture, the dish is precariously full. I set it into another, larger dish for travel, and head to see my friends.

We dine on delicious black bean and corn tacos, we chat, we laugh, and now it’s time for dessert. I grab a spatula and some plates, and start serving…tiramisoup. The scant amount of ladyfingers can’t soak up all of the extra cream mixture. Well, that’s okay, it will still taste like…cream cheese. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I mean, look at cheesecake, right? But this does not taste, or feel, like tiramisù. It has a vague tanginess that cream cheese has, and which mascarpone does not. And it’s soupy. So, follow the recipe as instructed. Use a big enough pan. Learn from my mistakes. And enjoy!

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Filed under food, friends, kitchen, packaging, reviews

Happiness Is…

If this photo had been staged, I’d have refilled the mug and cleared the background clutter.

  • Warm, milky coffee in my ancient I ♥ NY mug.
  • The end of a season of oppressively hot weather.
  • Related: Pendleton going back to the original ’49er cut.
  • Finding out that a previous client called me a “fabulous graphic designer,” and not even to me.
  • Mentioning the above on Twitter, and a current client replying by saying that I’m “seriously amazing” and then following with this.
  • Getting stuff checked off my To Do list.
  • Cleaning my stove before 9am, and it wasn’t even on my To Do list. (Although it needed to Be Done)
  • My boyfriend finally managing to fix his truck (specific problem still unknown, but the replacement of many parts seems to have done the trick) which means that he’ll once again have some evenings free for socializing. Not that we usually get together during the week, but now we can.
  • Finally deleting the 276 photos that were “stuck” on my iPhone. Ah, that feels better.
  • The Many Adventures of Rebop the Robot. I might let you in on this at a later date. Maybe.
  • Discovering (granted, two weeks after the fact) that Adobe released a CS6 update and I can now package files out of Illustrator!!!
  • Starting again to list fresh items at Tiddleywink Vintage and Winkorama. (It’s still an overwhelming burden, but it’s my overwhelming burden)
  • Making some progress on reorganizing the storage situation in my bedroom.
  • Being confident that my new bike is in good hands at small, independently-owned The Bicycle Shack, where my mention of “English, internally geared” was immediately responded to with “Sturmey-Archer hub.” They pass the quiz.

And Kitchen Pr0n!

I realize that the last Kitchen Pr0n post wasn’t that long ago, but I overlooked an item that time and added a few more things. And if anyone wants to help me reorganize my kitchen cabinets, yes please thank you! Anyway, here are the newest additions:

You know what a double-boiler looks like. The logo is the most attractive part of this Wards Signature Prestige model.

Missing from the last post is this vintage Wards Signature Prestige stainless steel double boiler. It’s not the double boiler of my dreams (you know you like to cook when you have a double boiler on your wish list), but it will certainly do the trick with fewer hands than a cobbled bowl-and-saucepan bain-marie requires. Now, if it were up to me, I’d have a Pyrex Flameware double boiler like my mom used to have. Model #6283, not the older #6762 version (which has a light blue tint to the glass, and is often logically referred to as Blue Tint, but once sellers realized that the Blue Tint model garnered more money, they started describing the newer, clear model as Blue Tint as well. And asking outrageous prices. Caveat emptor). When I asked her to be on the lookout for one for me, she told me to just buy a new one. At which point I had to inform her that Pyrex hasn’t manufactured a double boiler for decades, and she was dumbfounded. Because why doesn’t Pyrex still make double-boilers? Good question, Mom. Good question.

Not shown: the metal rod that does the work.

Next in line is this clever device manufactured for the sole purpose of mixing your natural nut butters. Now, I’m not generally a fan of single-purpose gadgets. But after years of mixing separated peanut and almond butter with a spoon or butter knife, and the mess it involves, I finally broke down and ordered this sucker. The test was a jar of almond butter that friends found in the back of their pantry, which had separated to a solid mass topped with an inch of almond oil. They were going to toss it, but I took it home to see if it could be saved. It took some doing, but with this tool I eventually got it back into “butter” consistency. Over time, and as long as I remember to buy this size jar (every different lid/jar combo requires its own mixer set), this tool will hold up for years to come.

Kitten With a Whip

While we’re discussing single-use gadgets, let’s get to this joy. A few weeks ago, I broke my Bodum “Aerius” milk frother device. I was inconvenienced, but the fact of the matter is that it was difficult to store in an already-cluttered kitchen, and not easy to wash the frothing screen. Around the same time, I was house-sitting for friends who have an Aerolatte wand, and I was impressed with its small size and frothing ability. However, when I went to buy one for myself, I found them to be expensive. It’s a pair of AA batteries and a spinning stick! I bought one of these motors from Radio Shack for a school project years ago, this thing shouldn’t be $20 (or more, depending on the model). So I held off, used un-frothed milk in my coffee (oh, the horror), and jumped on this red model—to match the Shoes And Pie Test Kitchen—I spotted at Cost Plus World Market for a mere $2.99. You can get your own multicolored 3-pack of them from their web site.

The Crown Jewels of gelatin molds.

Now for something completely different: I had no idea that the Test Kitchen “needed” this copper-toned aluminum gelatin mold until I found it in a thrift store. It’s enormous. 3 quarts, with room to spare! I cannot imagine a time whereupon I’ll be called to make this quantity of molded anything. But it’s fantastic, in its triumphant gothic-arch style. And while you may think it’s a single-purpose device, it can also be used as a chic Devo-In-Metropolis hat! (Which makes me think of “You’ll never guess what loud applause this cunning hat receives.” Watch the whole thing, but if for some reason you can’t, skip ahead to 1:55)

CAN I get you anything? Get it? CAN? Oh, I’m hilarious.

Finally, the newest addition to the Test Kitchen is this graniteware canner, complete with jar rack. These have looked exactly the same for decades, so I’ve no idea how to tell if it’s 5 or 50 years old. The canning kettle I’ve been using is really a soup pot, too small to can anything in quantity, and the jars tend to rattle around and clink into each other dangerously. I’ve been wanting to buy myself a brandy-dandy real set, but keep putting it off. I mean, it’s not as though canning is a pressing need for me, and finances being what they are, well, there you go. For two years, it’s been “next season.” And then ta-da! This slightly banged up set shows up at the thrift store! And it fits on my stovetop! My overhead microwave limits the usable space, but this pot nestles in perfectly.

That’s all, dear readers! Have yourself a wonderful weekend. Shoes And Pie will be back on Monday with more adventures and rambling.

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In Which I Don’t Cook Anything

I apologize for the lack of images here, but I had no time to cook yesterday. I wound up eating cold leftovers for dinner, and sharing in someone else’s birthday cake for dessert.  So, how about an untested recipe or two?

Autumn is upon us, or at least it’s trying in this neck of the woods. Our forecast high today was only 55°F, but we should be back in the mid-80s this weekend. As we get ready for the cooler weather, let’s pull a few tasty-sounding warm recipes from Portable Electric Cookery (1970). If you make any of these, please let us know how it turned out!

Corn Pudding
(6 servings)
3 eggs
3 tbs melted butter
1 tbs sugar
1½ tsp salt
1â…“ cups milk, scalded
¼-slice small onion
1½ cups whole kernel corn
Butter a 2-quart casserole. Put eggs into blender, cover, process at Stir until beaten. Add remaining ingredients; cover, process at Whip only until corn is thoroughly mixed into batter. Pour into casserole. Bake 1 hour 10 minutes in preheated 350°F oven.

Pennsylvania Red Cabbage
(6 servings)
1 medium head red cabbage, chopped
½ tsp caraway seeds
½ cup vinegar
½ cup brown sugar
1½ tsp salt
dash pepper
2 medium apples, cored and quartered
2 tbs salad oil or bacon drippings
Put cabbage and caraway seeds in saucepan. Put ½ cup water and the remaining ingredients into blender. Cover and process at Chop until apples are coarsely chopped. Pour over cabbage. Cover and simmer 1 hour.

Nut Macaroons
(5 dozen)
2 eggs
½ tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup sugar
3 cups finely ground Brazil nuts, pecans or walnuts
Preheat oven to 325°F.  Put eggs, salt and vanilla into large mixer bowl. Beat on high (10) for 2 minutes. Beat in sugar gradually, beating 1 minute. Add nuts, blend in on low (1). Drop by small teaspoonfulls onto well-greased and floured cookie sheet, pushing batter off spoon with rubber scraper. Bake about 10 minutes. Cool a few seconds, but remove while soft.
(ED NOTE: This recipe seems more similar to one for macarons than for macaroons, but that it contains egg yolks is curious indeed.)

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Advertuesday!

Advertuesday? I think that should be nominated for Worst Portmanteau, 2012. However, what we have here are (vintage) advertisements, and it is Tuesday. The only thing that any of these ads have in common is that they all appear in the May, 1948 issue of Woman’s Home Companion. And that the magazine is too big to fit on my scanner, so rather than scans these are instead hasty photos, complete with uneven lighting and occasional glare. I hope you enjoy the look back! (Click each image to make with the biggering.)

Bon Ami scouring powder, 1948. STILL hasn’t scratched yet!

A model smile on Mrs. Ralph (Nicki) Ellis, by Ipana toothpaste, 1948.

Battle “infectious dandruff” with Listerine Antiseptic, 1948

Promise of a lifetime sparkle from Oxydol, 1948. Just what is IN this stuff?

Trade box tops (and a penny) for a Quikut paring knife, from Spic and Span cleanser. 1948.

Skip the dishes! Until you get Dreft dishwashing soap, that is. 1948.

Wanda Hendrix’s winning smile is the result of Pepsodent toothpaste (ahem, “dental cream”), don’t you know? 1948.

Invitation to make “Hash Mounds” for lunch with Armour corned beef hash, 1948

If it’s lovely to wear…it’s worth Ivory Flakes care. 1948.

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