Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Start of Fall and Pumpkin Muffins

First Puffins of the season.
Fall hasn’t officially started yet, and it  only recently got under 90 degrees for a high.  But it’s September and that’s essentially when fall starts in my mind.  When I was a kid my favorite season was summer. With the tomatoes, my birthday and swinging in the hammock, summer was the best.  As much as I loved summer I was ready for fall because that meant school started!  Yes, I know I was (am) a huge dork because I looked forward to the new school year.  Hear me out though, fall meant new sweaters and shoes!  I got to color coordinate new notebooks and folders according to subject!  What could be better than that?
I could use a bigger knife.
Pumpkins.  I don’t have school to look forward to now, so my fall enjoyment has been transferred to pumpkins.  And I have to admit, pumpkins are better than new shoes, matching notebooks and folders, and dare I say it... Trapper-keepers.  I love pumpkin in everything.  Pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, toasted pumpkin seeds, heck, even pumpkin wedding cake.  Most of all I love the blending of muffins and pumpkin, fondly known as Puffins.

Andy and I are trying out Car Free Sundays, and last Sunday we moseyed over to the Nashville Farmer’s Market for lunch with a friend and to pick up some probably-not-locally-grown produce. There we saw a bounty of pumpkins; giant ones, jack-o-lanerns and pie pumpkins for a steal.  Since we were travelling by bicycle a small pie pumpkin was more a more realistic option to bring home.  My first pumpkin of the season!  Oh life is good.

I like to roast pumpkins.  The flavor isn’t much better than canned, it’s definitely not easier, and it takes longer.  But when you buy canned you don’t get pumpkin seeds!  Yes, you can also buy toasted pumpkin seeds, but they’re not nearly as exciting as toasting your own and adding exciting and fun flavors yourself.  Plus, this blog is called Antique Modernism, so there needs to be some antique methods used.  Roasting pumpkins is easy if you have the right equipment and pumpkin.  Roasting pumpkins is a pain the behind if you have a $12 blender and you cut your pumpkin into tiny pieces.  Also, be sure to get pie pumpkins and not just any old jack-o-lantern, pie pumpkins are meatier and meant for food.  Jack-o-lanterns are grown for size and ease of carving and are watery/flavorless.  
The pie pumpkin is small and my chunks look like happy pumpkin smiles!
First things first, roasting pumpkin.  Wash the pumpkin and then take your biggest knife and split the pumpkin in half.  Some people leave it there and roast the pumpkin halves (and I might try that next time), I cut my pumpkin into eighths to make it easier to scrape out the flesh later.  Place your pumpkin bits on a baking sheet (face down or not) and roast for about an hour in a 350 degree oven.  Adding just enough water to fill the bottom of the pan about a quarter inch will help soften your pumpkin and cause it to not stick.
Pumpkin smile done and happy to be delightfully roasted.
I believe the black tips came from the little fireball (see below).
I heard somewhere (that should be a giveaway statement for a bad idea) that you can flavor that water with a little whiskey for some nummy puree.  Since I like my whiskey, I saved that for drinking and used the ¼ bottle of Southern Comfort I received from my Grandpa.  Since it seemed like there was enough liquid with just the SoCo I didn’t add any water.  A little while after popping the pumpkin pieces into the oven I heard a whoosh and saw a little fireball in oven.  It might be better to add some water to your flavoring alcohol when roasting pumpkins.  Your pumpkin is done the flesh can be pierced easily with a knife.  Then scrape out the flesh and puree it in a blender or food processor.
Before puree.
If you have a crappy blender that you bought for cheap, buy canned pumpkin.

Once you have delicious pumpkin puree you can start your fall off to a great start by making Puffins (not the bird or the cereal, but a delightful baked good).

Fresh puffins cooling off before being devoured.

Pumpkin Muffins
Adapted from 500 Best Muffin Recipes, Esther Brody

2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use 1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup wheat if you don’t have vital gluten)
2 tsp vital gluten
½ cup lightly packed brown sugar
¼ cup chopped candied ginger (if you have some leftover from making Sticky Toffee Pudding)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp nutmeg
1 egg
½ to ¾ cup milk (you might need to add more milk after mixing, depending on how much liquid is in your puree)
1 cup pumpkin puree
¼ cup oil
½ tsp vani

How To
  • In a large bowl combine flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Make a well in the center.
  • In a smaller bowl whisk up the egg, then add milk, pumpkin, oil and vanilla.  Add to dry ingredients and carefully stir until just moist.
  • Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin (greased or lined), this should only make 12 so you can just fill all cups equally (unless you’re not into equality).  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, turning the pan ½ way through.

Enjoy your muffins right away or wrap them in plastic wrap and tinfoil and freeze for delayed gratification!  Next recipe: how to toast pumpkin seeds.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Apron is Done!

Remember my troubles getting the sewing machine to work?  I would like to take full credit for getting the machine functioning again and for ensuring it’s continued smooth operation.  However, my dear husband (AKA official taste tester and machine fixer) took the time to untangle my tangle of thread and chaos and set the machine straight.  As I went to work on the apron this past weekend Andy told me seriously, in a calm voice, “If anything goes wrong, come and get me right away.  Don’t try to fix anything yourself”  This was very reassuring and I attacked the apron with renewed confidence.

Winding the bobbin, before it all went to hell.

Laying out the pattern pieces for cutting.
Accurate cutting is key to getting  your bias tape to fit correctly.
Thankfully a lot of sewing on the machine wasn’t required and I spent much time hand sewing bows.  I really don’t enjoy bows.  It’s kind of a girly-girl thing and I’m not into that much (as I write about sewing an apron!).  These bows are lovely though, truly lovely.  If you’re ever sewing a project that calls for bows, don’t skimp!  They cover up mistakes and ugly spots!  Granted, if I were to actually use bows to cover up all of my mistakes then the entire edge would be a series of bows, perhaps some curly ribbons too.

Bows are your friend.

Monday, September 5, 2011

D-I-Y Lotion

Lavender Cream
If your husband says, “Let’s make lotion!” you stop what you’re doing and make lotion.  I’d been putting off making stuff from the Grow your own Drugs book because there’s a lot of ingredients to buy.  We had gotten some basic ingredients, beeswax, almond oil and essential oils.  But there were some ingredients we were missing.  Along with containers too, I didn’t know what to do about containers, so much money to spend!

So Andy’s spur of the moment excitement (“Let’s have fun!”) got me excited and I forgot about my worries.  Plus he found a recipe that only called for what we had on hand, which made the process quick and easy.

Actually, to be more specific the making of the lotion was quick and easy, the clean up was a little tougher.  Beeswax is a bit tricky to clean up, wiping everything down with paper towels worked to get the beeswax off of everything.  Here’s how the creation process goes.
Beeswax melting in almond oil.
First melt beeswax in sweet almond oil in a double boiler.  You want to make sure your oil is warm to the touch, but not too hot you can’t touch it.  At the same time warm water to the same temperature.  Once the beeswax is melted pour the warm water into a blender and turned it on.  Then we poured in the oil/beeswax combination to make an emulsion (you know, like making mayonnaise).  To this we added 5 drops of lavender essential oil, gave it a little more whirring, scraped the sides, another blitz (as the British would say, since it’s been that kind of week), and we’re done!
Emulsifying the oil and water.
Bam, making it was easy!  Next step it so simply scrape out all of your delicious smelling lotion and put it into adorable (and clean) jars.  There you have it!  Home made lotion!  Leave the cleaning to someone else!  The lotions from Grow your own Drugs call for using emulsifying wax, which I believe would cut out the need for a blender, which would mean lots less cleaning.
With half a recipe we made 2 small jars of lotion.

If you look at the ingredients in any natural lotion you should see these same basics, plus a little more.  One of the exciting realizations I’ve had after reading my natural care books is recognizing ingredients in products and understanding what they do.  I’m not entirely sure how the costs compare to buying ready-made lotion, but it certainly gives you control over what kind of scents you want and, obviously, how environmentally friendly your lotion is.  I’m really excited to use this wonderful lotion.  It’s already spread all over my arms and legs just from cleaning up.  My elbows are already softer.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Back in Action!

Patience is key when making toffee sauce.
Hey there folks!  Sorry it’s been awhile.  There are no excuses for abandoning my legions of fans (hello again mom!) for roughly a month.  One thing I blame it on is my evil, evil sewing machine.  “Sewing machine?” you say, “It is simply an inanimate object created to ease the lives of humans, a sewing machine cannot be evil.”  And there, dear reader, is where you’re wrong.  My sewing machine has conspired against me and my effort to create my first paid-for apron.  Which is the reason I haven’t been posting.  This apron was supposed to be done the first week of August and then I could post about it and then move on to other projects.  Alas, no amount of hitting or yelling could move the machine to work like it knows it should.  I’ll post something once I get this *$@#ing machine to work.  Without Andy’s cool head and mechanical knowledge sewing just doesn’t happen.  So once the machine realizes it can sew just fine (and perhaps, I learn to put a bobbin in correctly) apron #2 post isn’t going to happen.  I’ve learned to accept that.

But we still have to eat.  And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for the past month.  Working and eating, some sleeping.  But not taking pictures and blogging.  Until today!

The makings of toffee sauce, without the brown sugar...
Sticky toffee pudding.  What more can be said?  Possibly... what is it?  I’d never heard of this dish until a seminal episode of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares where the sticky toffee pudding was the best dish in the whole restaurant, despite the head chef’s chagrin.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love toffee. So this dish intrigued me, despite never having made a British “pudding” (or an American pudding without use of a packet for that matter).  It’s like a cake, or a quick bread with dates and a toffee sauce.