reposting from a few years ago…

BUTTER LAMBS

Years ago when my husband and I lived in Buffalo, New York, there was (and still is) a big Polish Catholic tradition of purchasing butter in the shape of a lamb for your Easter celebration.

I don’t ban the bunnies, but I feel a lot happier with a few lambs and crosses around my house, especially at this time of the year.  Those sorts of things are getting more difficult to find nowadays on account of having to make store shelf room for the camouflage plastic eggs and the Barbie tin pails that someone out there feels is a MUST-HAVE for your modern egg hunt (I have to admit that those little rubber duckies they have this year are adorable!).

So when we lived in Buffalo, I joyously bought my butter lamb every year. When we left Buffalo, I was very sad to have no more.  So I make my own now.

Some people make a “wooly” lamb by making the butter all squiggly through a garlic press, but I just use a plastic mold that you might buy for making chocolate lambs.   I have 2 kinds:  one has a front and a back that makes a whole lamb, and the other is for chocolate lollipops–the front of a lamb without a back.

You can purchase a whole lamb mold at a baking supplies shop or at the Polish Art Center.

Here’s how to make a butter lamb!

1.  Using clean hands or the tip of a table knife, press semi-firm butter into the molds.  Keep looking on the front-side as you’re pressing, to make sure you get the air bubbles out.

2.  Scrape the back-sides level, wipe off the excess around the edges, and attach the two sides together.

3.  Put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes.

4.  Carefully take the lamb out of the mold.  Using a knife and/or paper towel, trim the excess off the seams.

5.  Traditionally, peppercorns are used for the eyes; I melt a few chocolate chips and use a toothpick to paint the eyes.

6.  Traditionally, the lamb has a bow or sash, and a toothpick flag with a red cross is placed in his back.  I usually put a red or purple ribbon bow on mine, using melted chocolate to attach it.

May you have a blessed Easter, Friends!

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  ~~Isaiah 53:6

 

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BETTER LATE THAN NEVER:  PI DAY

Yes, I should have done it when my Youngest Son wrote and presented a speech on it a couple of years ago (which made him quite famous).  But it’s “better late than never”, so yesterday we celebrated BIG.

We ate nothing but pie.

The menu looked like this:

It was terribly hard to choose, because there really are an awful lot of pies out there.  I didn’t include any of the cream pies, for example, nor did we have any ice cream pie. There’s a whole slew of Bisquick Impossible pies, and they are all fantastic.  Plus, there are only so many hours in the day for this cook to deal with it!

So, the night before, I worked on breakfast and lunch.  These are all made with gluten-free flour, but if you want to use wheat, simply substitute regular wheat flour for the Better Batter GF flour mix that I used.

Because my guys take their lunch to school, I made the French Canadian Tourtiere first, to kinda set the tone with its decoration. 

It comes from my battered La Leche League’s Whole Foods for the Whole Family cookbook and is a hearty meat pie that is a favorite in this house.  I bake it in a 10″ pie pan instead of the 9″  they recommend, because usually my grocery store gives me more meat than the recipe calls for.

French Canadian Tourtiere

pastry dough for a 2-crust 9″ pie  (go to the end of this post to see
    my gluten-free pie crust recipe)
1 1/2 lbs. mixture of lean ground pork and hamburger (sometimes my
    store sells a “meatloaf mix” that includes veal
1 medium onion, chopped
1/8 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
dash of pepper
1/2 C. hot water
1/4 tsp. crushed celery seeds
1 large potato, grated

1.  Brown the meat and onions in a large pot.  Pour off the grease.  Add the
      rest of the ingredients and cook  uncovered for 20 minutes. 
2.  Make the pie crust, put the meat mixture inside, and add the pie crust
      top.  Prick with a fork.
3.  Bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes until the crust is brown.

Next, I worked on the Ham & Cheese Pocket Pies.  These are the to die for sort of things that are great for picnics, snacks, and travel. 
 

My Ham & Cheese Pocket Pies

GF Crust:  I use the directions from Better Batter for Hot Pocket Dough, which tends to stick together better:

    2 C. Better Batter flour
    1 tsp. salt
    1 C. butter
    4 T. cream cheese
    8 T. ice water
    egg white

1.    Combine the flour, salt, butter, and cream cheese in a food processor
      until coarse crumbs form.  With motor running, add ice water and process
      just a bit more to form a dough.
2.    Divide it into 16 balls and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Wheat Crust:  Just make your favorite pie crust for a 2-crust 9″ pie.

Mix together:

1 lb. shaved ham–chopped
1 C. cheese (cheddar or mozarella)
15 oz. can pizza sauce

Make the pockets:

1.    Roll out each ball into a circle.  With the GF recipe, I do this between
      2 sheets of saran.  Gently remove the circle from the saran and hold it in
      one hand while using the other hand to scoop up some of the meat/cheese
      mixture and place it in a row in the center of the circle.
2.    Fold the circle in half and crimp the edges with your fingers.
3.    Place all the pockets onto a greased cookie sheet, brush with egg white,
      and bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.

Try really hard to get the pockets sealed well, but for those of you who know GF flour, that can be hard to do! 

One great thing is that it never seems to matter whether or not you succeed in making these perfectly beautiful–they always look great in the end!

I made the Connemarra Apple Tart next.  It is gently sweet with a slightly cake-like crust.  In place of the self-rising wheat flour, I used Better Batter and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder.  The recipe can be found here (although my own calls for 1/4 cup of sugar in the topping as well as in the crust).

The next day, I armed myself with video versions of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and continued on baking.  First up was the Impossible Broccoli Pie, creamy-cheesy-smooth.  With Betty Crocker now selling a gluten-free version of their Bisquick, it was impossibly easy to convert the original recipe (its real name is Impossible Brunch Pie).

In looking for more side dishes, I decided to try a new recipe for a Vidalia Onion Pie.  I notice that in eating leftovers today, it is the pie I have been gravitating to the most.  I found it at allrecipes.com.  Once again I used Better Batter to make a single pie crust, baked it for 8 minutes at 350 degrees and stuffed it full of the onion mixture.

Next came the Chicken Pot Pie.  I’ve combined many versions of this old-fashioned dish to make my own, as simply as possible.  The chicken and onion, already chopped, come from my freezer.  The spices are so important to make this dish stay away from blandness.

 

My Chicken Pot Pie

2 C. chicken–chopped (I do chicken & turkeys in big batches, then cut it up
      and freeze it in 2 C. portions for whatever recipe might come along)
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. marjoram
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. sage
1/2 to 1 tsp. basil
1 1/2 C. chicken broth
3 large carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 C. onion, chopped
1/3 C. flour (Better Batter)
3/4 C. milk
5 oz. (1 C.) frozen peas, thawed

1.    Bring carrots, celery, onion, and broth to a boil; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. 

2.    Drain the broth from the carrots/onions into a microwavable dish such as a
      medium glass casserole that already has the flour and milk in it.  Mix well with
      a wire whisk and microwave this into a thick sauce:  Microwave on HIGH for
      1 minute; stir.  Micro on HI for 1 minute; stir.  Micro on HI 1 minute; stir.

3.    Meanwhile, put these into a large mixing bowl:  chicken, carrots/onions, peas,
      and spices.  Then add the thick sauce and stir.

4.    Pour all into a greased 9 X 13 glass dish.

5.    Make pastry dough for a 2-crust 9″ pie and roll it into a rectangle shape of
      14″ X 10″.  Lay it on top and make slits for the steam.

6.    Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour till golden.

Last, but not least was the Cherry Pie.  HOWEVER:  Are you exhausted from reading all this?  I certainly was from making it!  So the cherry pie never got made.  I don’t think any of us noticed at all.
__________

My Gluten-Free Pie Crust

With Better Batter gluten-free four mix, I just use my regular old pie crust recipe and substitute it for the wheat flour, cup-for-cup.  My recipe comes from the back of the Crisco can:

2 C. flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 C. Crisco shortening
6-8 T. water

With GF flour, it’s easier to see how much water you should be adding.  You have to make sure it isn’t too dry or it will be a crumbly mess.  So add enough water to make it really stick together–almost gloppy.

I have less stress when I roll it out between 2 sheets of saran.  Still–sometimes my frustration level gets really high.  Be assured that rather than killing yourself over getting that rolled-out dough over to the pan without tearing, you might just consider throwing the broken bits on top of the pie.  That’s what I did with the rectangular Chicken Pot Pie above (see the photo).  Looks OK, doesn’t it?

MAKE THE BEST PINCUSHION EVER

When I was young, Mother sometimes made gifts for her sisters at Christmas time.  One year she made these pincushions–completely wonderful because they have the thread contained right inside, making mending projects so easy.  These pincushions will last for years and years.

 

My sons made their own pincushions as a sewing project when they were younger.  This year I made several–one for my future daughter-in-law and a few as thank-you gifts for those who helped us with the wedding.  No complicated pattern needed.  Here’s how:

MATERIALS NEEDED FOR 1 PINCUSHION
1/3 yard fabric OR pre-quilted fabric
a whole package of bias tape–double-fold, extra wide
1/3 yard quilt batting (if you did not buy pre-quilted fabric)
stuffing–at least 1/2 LB, possibly more
9-10 small spools of thread:  white, black, navy, brown, light & dark gray, baby blue, tan, and heavy-duty craft tan     *** See note about size at the bottom

1.  If you bought pre-quilted fabric:
Make a 9 1/2 ” circle of out paper.  Use this to cut out 2 circles of the pre-quilted fabric.

If you bought regular fabric, you will have to quilt it yourself:

Make a 9 1/2″ circle out of paper. 

Use this circle as a guide to cut out 4 circles of fabric that are 10 1/2″ to 11″ in diameter.  (I make these bigger because it all tends to shift and get out of line when you’re sewing the quilt lines.  This makes it easier to deal with).

Also cut out 2 pieces of quilt batting that are 10 1/2″ to 11″ in diameter.

Wedge a piece of batting in between 2 fabric pieces, WRONG sides together (remembering that the raw edges will end up being covered with bias tape).

Sew straight lines 2″ apart to quilt.  Do this with the other piece of batting and 2 fabric pieces.

Lay the 9 1/2″ paper circle on top of each again and cut them out to that size.

2.  Sew the bias tape onto the raw edges of both quilted circles. 

When you get to the place where the 2 ends meet, tuck one end under and over the other end to make a neat finish. 

3.  Lay both quilted circles on top of each other, and pin them together.

4.  Make a 6 1/4″ paper circle.

5.  Lay it in the center of the quilted pieces and trace around it with a washout marking pencil.  This will make your sewing line.

6.  Sew the 2 quilted circles together, stitching around the inner circle–but leave an opening (about 3 inches) so that you can put stuffing inside later.

7.  Sew “pockets” for the spools of thread to go into:

Sew the quilted circles together just at the bias tape, spaced every 2 3/4″ to 3″.  You should be able to get 10 of these pockets, with an 11th one that may or may not be too small for a spool of thread, but is big enough to tie a bow at the end.

8.  Stuff the inner circle with batting.

9.  Sew the opening closed–by machine if you can manage it with a zipper foot, or by hand if you cannot.

10.  Take the remaining bias tape and make it skinnier so it can be used as a “rope” or string.

One way to do this is to fold it in half and sew it. 

A prettier way is to partly open the tape, fold the 2 halves inward, and THEN fold it in half and sew it.

11.  Place a spool of thread into each pocket, threading the bias “rope” through the holes of each spool.  Do it this way:  thread spool #1; continue the rope into pocket #1; continue the rope into pocket #2; THEN place spool #1 into pocket #1.  Thread spool #2, continue the rope into pocket #3, etc.

 

Make sure commonly used colors (such as white) are nearer to the opening end so they can more easily be removed if they get empty.

12.  Tie the “rope” into a bow and you’re finished!

**** 10 small spools can fit into the instructions I gave.  However, nowadays they’re hard to find.  I had to drive out of town (Joann Fabrics) to get them and even then, they were new-fangled with fancy tops that make them taller.  If you buy these kind, either reduce the number of pockets you make (and make the pockets larger) OR cut off the fancy tops and bottoms.

Comparing an old-fashioned spool with a new-fangled one

This is after cutting off the tops and bottoms

THANKSGIVING 2010

We spent Thanksgiving Day in Pittsburgh, which was a first for us.  But it was convenient too:  Oldest Son was delivered to us at the airport there and then we hopped on over to eat with our relatives.

Our nephew and niece live in an astounding house.

It wasn’t so very nice when they bought it, but still there were treasures.

This window is on the landing as you walk upstairs.

The banister for the main stairway.

Many of the floors look like this.

There is a fireplace in almost every room.

AND they are very clever with restoring and with decorating.

Things went along in a typical fashion.

 

And now it’s time to continue our thankfulness while turning in a different direction, moving from one holiday to the next:

XANGA THANKSGIVING SMORGASBORD 2010

I have been invited to a special place for Thanksgiving this year!  ItsWhatEyeKnow invited a bunch of bloggers to come to her site for dinner, and she asked us to write about what we are bringing to the feast.  Because some folks are bringing a dog and a cat, I was asked to bring festive food dishes for them to eat from.

I have just the thing.

Years ago when we lived in the Big City, I didn’t have much of a social life (but then, who needs one when newly married?).  I worked as a school librarian (traveling between three elementary schools) and I became good friends with some of the older ladies who worked at Drake School:  the nurse, two secretaries, and the library clerk.  These four invited me to join them in something they did like clockwork every week without fail:  they made ceramics at Florence’s house. 

Florence had a whole little workshop set up in her basement.  She owned a kiln and poured her own slip, molding it into greenware for us to clean, paint, and glaze.  She charged a small fee for the firing and for use of her various glazes, and we also paid for the greenware itself.

But most of all, we enjoyed each other.  We talked and chatted and told stories and gossiped and laughed up a storm.  How fortunate I was to have their company!

Many of the items I made are for the holidays, so I especially think of them when I get out my ceramics to decorate the house.  And since we often made the same things, I know that they or their families are doing the same.  How I miss them!

So this year, I will share my ceramic pumpkin dishes for the cat and dog to eat from, provided they are mannerly and don’t knock them about:

For the cat

For the dog

In the meantime, I hope you yourselves are enjoying great fellowship with friends and family–some old and some new, some present with you, some far away, and some only in your memories.  We’re thankful for all, aren’t we?

TIE UP YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST

If you’re looking for a craft to get you in the mood for Christmas gift-giving, I would highly recommend making a man’s tie.  It doesn’t require a sewing machine and it can fill a specific need that can’t be found anywhere else.  It will result in lots of compliments to the person who wears it (and to you, by default).

Here is one of ours that gets many favorable comments.

My husband has two of them for falltime.

 

People also remark upon his Christmas tie every year.

He always wanted one with cows:

And here is a tasteful one for St. Patrick’s Day:

Buy yourself a pattern from the store (or find one online), and for easiest future use, trace it onto non-fusible interfacing–then you can use it again and again without it coming apart.

It takes a yard of fabric.  It does take time and careful hand-sewing, but it’s worth every minute.

WE LOVE FLOWERS

I wasn’t planning on getting anything for the cat on Valentine’s Day, but I guess my husband did just that.  Wheezy is CRAZY about roses.

He uses the ol’ Grab and Run technique.  He starts at the end of the hall in order to build up speed.  Then he hits the table, grabs a petal, and rip-tears into a different room to play with the prize.  Life couldn’t be better.

It’s comical, but so dratted annoying!

This is where my flowers end up for most of the day.

Title of this painting:  Remembering Flowers