Monday, June 30, 2014

Basil Frozen Custard

My freezer is looking more like an ice cream shop by the day. In the past few weeks I have made,

Chocolate custard
Chocolate gelato
Chocolate ice milk
Vanilla Custard
Vanilla Ice Cream
Vanilla ice milk
Raspberry sherbet
Peach bourbon sorbet
Peach ice cream
Strawberry ice cream
Cherry frozen custard
Chocolate mint ice cream
Raspberry gelato

...and today, basil. I should start selling it by the scoop in front of the house. Anyway, I really feel like I've perfected my technique, and can turn out a pint of good quality ice cream without too much thought. Given that it stays hot here well into October, it was a worthwhile skill to cultivate.

I have an ungodly amount of basil growing in the garden. There's only so much pesto you can make, and though I encourage every neighbor I see to take some, it keeps growing back practically overnight. After making a tomato salad with handfuls of torn basil, mint, and chives I went looking for other ways to use the glut. I recalled having made basil ice cream once, a very long time ago and thought it was due for a revisit. If you're interested in a really rich basil ice cream, I spotted this one in the Guardian last weekend- . I wasn't looking for something quite so fancy, so I came up with a pared-down version. I do like his idea of whipping the cream, and folding it into the custard though-something to try another time.

I know you're wondering, what is the difference between frozen custard and ice cream? Where I live, in the American Midwest, it comes down to the addition of egg yolks. In other places, it literally means a pudding that has been frozen (also good, but not what I'm making here). Where gelato skips the cream in favour of egg yolks with milk, frozen custard has both milk/cream and egg yolks. It is a completely different experience than ice cream in the way it melts, the texture, and the heaviness of it. I don't have a preference between gelato/ice cream/and frozen custard which is why I often have several types in the freezer at once. It comes down to a mood thing, and how much you want to consume in a sitting.

So what was it like? Bright. Very, very bright. I'm glad I skipped the urge to add a handful of lemon balm as it would have been too much, but a drop or two of vanilla wouldn't hurt next time, and it might give the overall flavor some depth. I like basil, but I can't see sitting down to a big dish of this because it just makes me want cheese. And garlic. I do think it would be perfect with a fruit plate salad on a very hot day. I'm sure it will be eaten, but I don't think it is a good way to use up a glut of basil. I guess I'll continue freezing pesto.

You Will Need:

2 cups tightly packed basil leaves (I used Genovese, but the purple would be OK too, in fact it might be better. Strangely, that basil isn't producing like crazy. Go figure.).
1 cup milk (I used 2 % because that's what I had)
1 cup heavy cream
4 egg yolks graded large
1/2 cup sugar (you may prefer more)
A few drops of green food colouring (optional)

Heat the milk and cream to a boil. Remove from heat, pour into a bowl, and stir in the basil. Let steep several hours in the fridge, or overnight if you can. Strain, and return the mixture to the stove. In a heatproof bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until light (I just use a whisk). Heat the milk mixture to a boil, then pour a few drops into the egg mixture, whisking as you pour. Go very slowly at first, then whisk in the rest of the milk. Return it to the pan, and clip on a candy thermometer. The custard needs to cook to 175 degrees F. to be safe. If you like to live dangerously, cook it until the custard coats the back of a wooden spoon, and it does not fill back in when you drag a finger across it. Get out your finest sieve and place it over a heatproof bowl. Strain the custard through the sieve to catch any egg that might have cooked, or stray whites. Whisk in the food colouring, if using.  Immediately place the bowl in an ice bath to quickly chill the custard. When cool to the touch, place in the fridge for several hours, or overnight to set.

Make the frozen custard either in a machine, or in a metal tray in the freezer, scraping with a fork every 20 minutes to avoid the formation of ice crystals. Transfer to a container to ripen in the freezer several hours before serving.

Serve with garlic bread in a chilled glass to be all elegant-n-shit.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Burlap Children, Vintage Bags, and Guet Apens (the perfume, not the movie)

Meet Ralph and Dolores, the burlap children. We named them for the couple that had our telephone number prior to us-we get at least half a dozen calls a day for them. I suspect Ralphie and Dee weren't so great about settling their bills in a timely manner. Anyway, here they are in all their 60's glory.
When I spotted them at Hand-Me-Ups back in March, I knew immediately that I wanted them. I also knew I was alone in that desire, and that if I were patient, the children would end up in the 1/2 price room where I could pay $10.00 rather than $20.00. I liked them, but not twenty dollars worth. Week after week, I'd see they were still there, and of course, they were. Of course they were! Trust me, no one else in Omaha wants this sort of thing. Last week, they finally made their way to the room at the back of the store, and I knew it was time. I had a brief moment of panic when I could only locate Ralphie, but they just hadn't moved Dee to the other room yet, and set her down in an out of the way corner. With great relief, I forked over my ten bucks, loaded the children into the Tempo, and raced home as fast as my little Ford could drive (which honestly, isn't all that fast because the excelleration is shit when the air is on).

Ralphie and Dee were filthy. I mean, really bad. The silk flowers were easy enough to clean as they were only tacked on with pins. I applied some Dawn detergent to remove 50 years of dust, cigarette residue, and cat hair from the flowers, and I'm pleased to say they came back beautifully. The canvas I vacuumed with the hose attachment until nothing else came off, then I hit it with a lint roller. So far so good. I removed the paper from the backing as it was water stained and I was concerned their might be some ancient mould growing behind it. Fortunately, it was clean, so I gave that the vacuum and lint brush treatment as well. It was going so well, I never imagined a damp cloth on the frame would turn the paint to a glue-like wet smear. Right, not waterproof paint. I realised it quickly, so the damage was minimal, but the stink of the old, decomposing paint was really something. It was difficult to wash from my hands as well. Lesson learned-go carefully with the water on old paint.
 They're signed, "Maxine."  I couldn't find anything on the web, and maybe they were a one-off by someone named, Maxine-but they're a very good example of the style. My bedroom wall really isn't the best place to showcase them, but with a bit of imagination, I could see them in a children's playroom, or a shared bedroom over the night tables. I may move them to the upstairs hallway presently occupied by a Miller Studios swan, but for now I'm keeping them where I can see them first thing in the morning, and last thing at night, after all, I waited months to bring them home.

I've had some recent luck with vintage handbags, so I thought I'd share some of the more interesting examples.
 Vintage Ronay bag, still has the mirror. I'm not an expert, but I'd put the bag in the 50's, if I had to make a reasonable guess.
 Such a pretty thing. I have no occasion for a bag like this, but for a couple dollars I couldn't very well leave it.
 This metal bag is even more impractical. I have a metal case clutch that belonged to my mum that holds a lipstick, mirror and has room for some cash and cigarettes. This bag is less of an organiser, though I doubt it would hold much more. It had a very faint tarnish on the back, and the lovely man at the thrift store refused to let me pay full price for it, and insisted I take it for half. At $2.50. I tried explaining to him that it was a deal at full price, but I think he wanted to do something nice for me, so I thanked him, and took it home at half price. People can be so thoughtful and generous.
 Nope, not getting an Eppi-pen in this one. Forget the phone, wallet, and keys too.
 This beaded bag would be perfect for a young girl playing dress-up. My mother gave me a white handbag and an orange floral hat for dress-up when I was small. Little did she know everyday would become dress up. Someone's daughter will end up with this for a birthday eventually, maybe with some gloves tucked inside.

Now, to the matter of the Guet Apens.
Back in '99, I bought a limited edition bottle of the newly-released Guet Apens perfume by Guerlain. It was pricey being 4 ounces of perfume, but the bottle was beautiful (a copy of the 1931 Jicky bottle, though thank god it didn't smell like Jicky which could have been more appropriately named, "Sicky") and I bought it without ever smelling it (there was no tester). I got it home, opened it and sniffed-oakmoss. That was it. All I could detect was a faint whiff of an uninteresting scent, and if there was any difference between the top note and the rest, it was lost on me. Slightly annoyed at the money I had just dropped on a large quantity of perfume I didn't care for, I sealed it up and forgot about it for fifteen years.
As I've been thinking about scent of late, I decided to open it and see if I still disliked it. In the decade and a half it sat unopened the perfume has aged into something quite lovely. Now the scent of violet comes through strongly along with other sweet florals, and Tonka bean. There's still an earthiness to it, but it has receded bringing the floral cent to the fore. Well, that changed my mind-it only took 15 years to properly age! Thinking I might like another bottle to compare, I went to Ebay only to find I now own an absurdly priced bottle of perfume. No shit.

My first thought was, "decant this stuff and sell it on Etsy, you can buy a used car with that kind of money. A nice used car."  Will I? Probably not. I may indeed decant some for use, and then tightly re-seal the bottle to see what it turns into in the next decade. Perfume is such a curious thing,  but what a wonderful surprise it was to open the bottle, and smell how it transformed into something so magnificent. I feel much better about my initial investment even if it took 15 years to enjoy it. There's a lesson in this about patience to be sure, and it now had me curious to smell aged versions of perfumes I didn't quite click with straight from the box. Perhaps I could have learned to love Joy had I given it a decade or so?

Has anyone had this happen to them, liking a perfume better after it has aged a while? I honestly couldn't believe my nose.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Flip Your Wig

"That girl is such a tramp she has landing lights on her thighs."
Sorry, I was slipping into Joan Rivers character. This photo is pretty much out of the box without any washing, cutting or styling, so I'm not ready to make any decisions. I do like the salt and pepper blend of the wig with the darker hair beneath. For a $25.00 wig, I'm not too disappointed. I think I can make it work, but I perhaps I will cut fringe into it. Is it more Andy Warhol than Joan Rivers? I can't decide.
I'm less sure about the Betty Rubble meets Anne Sexton look. I'm pretty pale for black hair anyway, but again, it may look better after a wash, set, and cut. I can see this working for a 50's look, and possibly the early 70's. There's a lot of hair on this wig, which is kind of nice for a cheap-o.
I want to thank Jessica from Chronically Vintage for directing me to the site The site is well organised, the prices are excellent, and the variety is mind boggling. My wigs arrived 6 days after placing my order, and were nicely packaged. Honestly, I'll probably go to a wig shop for my daily wear wigs, but this was a great way to figure out what sort of styles I might like (or not) and with a bit of styling I expect them to look less costume-like. On the other hand, given the way I dress, who would notice? I really am fortunate to have made so many wonderful friends through the blogging community who are willing to share their tips, and advice.
Thank You, Jessica!
This is the hair I wore today...mine! Kinda pales in comparison, no?

Outfit Particulars:

Lady Capers 1970's printed polyester jacket-Thrift World .98 cents
Blue gauze top-K Mart
Western Belt-Can't remember-old
 70's Turquoise and silver clamper bracelet-Mum's
Plastic blue bracelet-Gordman's
Earrings-K Mart
Rings-some new, some old

I'll leave you with a peek at my perfume tray. You'll notice the two full bottles at the right which were recent purchases. I always liked Tabu, but my best friend wore it, so I felt like it was her scent, and I should get my own. We're 500 miles apart now, so I think it is OK. I've been wearing Shalimar and Mitsouko most of my life (until they reformulated Mitsouko-horrible!)but there's also a bottle of Innisfree, and Aqua Allegoria in lavender. I don't wear that one, I spray it on the sheets when changing the linen.

I went to pay for the bottle of Emeraude, and the woman at the register looks at the bottle, then at me and mumbles, "Another woman bought a bottle of this recently. She was...quite old."

Yeah, well some perfumes you have to grow into, I guess. I remember my sister buying me a beautiful bottle of it for Christmas in the early 70's and thinking it was on the strong side (it was the era of Heaven Scent, and Jontue) but now it seems like a really deep, lovely scent. There's a reformulated version of Evening in Paris available now, and I'm curious to see if it smells the same. That was the first perfume a boy bought for me (I was 8) and I kept the little pen-shaped flask for years. I still can't picture him going to the drugstore, standing at the cosmetics counter, and purchasing it, but his sister swore he did it by himself, and she was about to become a nun so I'm sure she didn't lie :). It must have been one of the last bottles, because Evening in Paris disappeared from stores shortly thereafter. The other fragrance I liked was Jungle Gardenia, which is also available again via the Internet. I wore that until it disappeared in the early 80's. The one scent I never dared to wear was Tweed, as it was my grandmother's perfume. It was discontinued in the states some time ago, but again (thanks to the Internet) is available again. I'd like to buy a bottle just to remember my grandmother, but I really don't know if I'm quite ready to wear it-perhaps I have a few years before I age into that one.

If you're interested in the oddball perfumes, take a look at Vermont Country Store
That place is like a supply house for old ladies! Obviously, I feel right at home there. If you're needing a long-line bra, or granny panties they can get you outfitted as well (obviously, they are not compensating me in any way). Just whatever you do, don't buy the Blue Waltz perfume-no one is old enough for that.
Have you re-visited any perfumes from your youth recently?

Friday, June 27, 2014

That's "Mumu" not "Moo-Moo"

OK, how about, "Patio dress?" Maybe you prefer, ""Float dress." What do they call this sort of thing where you're from? I'd call it a housedress.

Growing up, I really thought it was, "moo-moo" like the noise a cow makes, and being a shapeless sort of dress I just naively assumed that was what it was all about. My mother wore them at home, and as she was incessantly complaining about her figure ("I'm off to see Omar the tentmaker for a new frock") I never questioned it. Poor woman, she had such a short life, and she spent practically all of it measuring the caloric value of everything she ate, and weighing herself. I doubt she ever enjoyed a meal without obsessing over it.
(well, that was a bit off topic, wasn't it? )
 Clearly, I have no such obsessions, and these days hearing "Moo-Moo" only serves to remind me that I have made a batch of raspberry buttermilk sherbet, so I'd better remove the belt before I tear into the entire gallon. Share? Good heavens no, make your own, and quit bothering me. I'm relaxing .
...just get a leg on the vanity photo and...what the hell?!
I should be at the pool, but Mother Nature had other ideas. Boo. Hiss.
The entire week looks like this, so plan-B is spending as much time at Film Streams as possible. I mean, that's my plan-being an art house cinema, they could be doing a Jarman retrospective or something horrible. I guess I could stay home and keep working on that gallon of sherbet.
Outfit Particulars:

Vintage Hawaii-made Mumu-Thrift World, .98 cents
Belt-80's, had it forever
Bangles-here and there
70's metal earrings-Hand-Me-Ups
Painted ring (I think it is bone, possibly ceramic) Hand-Me-Ups
70's brown beads-Hand-Me-Ups (plastic, but REALLY heavy)

 Puffy sleeves from hell. In a good way. I should mention that the cotton is just lovely-smooth, crisp, and so new feeling I doubt it was ever worn.

Are you going to keep making that sad face at me? *sigh*. Fine, go get a spoon...but stay on your side of the container, we've been sick enough around here and I don't need your germs in my sherbet.

Want the recipe?

2 lbs. frozen raspberries heated and sieved through fine mesh to remove seeds
1/2 cup (or more to taste) granulated sugar
3 cups buttermilk

Heat the raspberry puree and sugar whisking just until sugar is dissolved. Whisk in buttermilk. Chill well, then prepare either in a machine, or using metal trays in the freezer (that's how I do it).

Yes, it makes a lot, but you still won't want to share.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Cold Poached Salmon With Roasted Corn

One of my summer survival tricks is preparing the evening meal in the cool of the morning. Turning on the oven at the hottest part of the afternoon is defeating, and no one wants a hot meal when the mercury is inching towards triple digits.
This is more a guide, than a recipe as I was trying to use some of the (too many) herbs taking over my garden. I wouldn't go out and buy chives, lemon balm, or fresh tarragon for a poached fish salad-use what you have, and really any dressing will do. The same goes for the poaching liquid. I used dry vermouth, but white wine, or even broth would be absolutely fine. The idea is getting a meal cooked early, and giving it time to chill for the evening meal.

For the fish:

Salmon fillets
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup dry vermouth
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 generous sprig of lemon balm
1 sprig of fresh thyme
a bay leaf

Bring the liquid to a boil in a large skillet and add herbs and seasonings, reduce to simmer and place in fish skin side down. Cover, and cook until done-about 10 minutes, but it will vary with the thickness of your fish. Remove to a plate to cool, then chill.

For the roasted corn:

Scrape the kernels from about 6 cobs of corn (you may as well make extra, it lasts a couple days). Combine with 2 tablespoons corn oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and black pepper. Pour onto a rimmed baking sheet and cook 30 minutes at 400 degrees F. stirring occasionally. When the corn starts to turn slightly brown, it is done. If you have a sweet red pepper to chop up and add in the roasting pan-do so, they're great together. If you are making the corn to serve with southwestern food, add some chili powder and garlic to the mix.

For the salad dressing:

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1 tablespoon snipped chives
1 tablespoon chopped chervil
2 teaspoons dill
1 teaspoon granulated sugar

Mix well, and make at least 30 minutes before serving. This makes quite a bit, but again, why not make enough for future meals?

Assembling the salad:

I used a variety of lettuces, and then I added lovage and orange mint leaves as well. Again, I'm not suggesting you buy them, but if you have them in your garden, the combination is lovely in a salad.

Dress the greens lightly with the salad dressing. Scatter on some roasted corn, and top with the chilled, poached salmon fillets. If you have them, snip additional chives over the fish, and drizzle on a bit more of the dressing. Serve well chilled.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Appropriate Dress

 Much as I enjoy a wild get-up, sometimes an understated dress is called for. My wardrobe has a number of these, "workhorses" that can be made casual with accessories, or work appropriate with the addition of a jacket.
 Easy-care polyester blends get a bad rap as far as I'm concerned. Anything that can be machine washed and tumbled dry without requiring an iron is my kind of fabric. This particular dress is quite light, and perfect for a hot humid day like today. Contrary to the reputation, polyester does breathe, and dries quicker than cotton should you break a sweat. Not that I do, but if I did, this would be a good fabric.
See that hemline? Just where I like it (a few inches below the knee).
Oh, look! They finished the hem so nicely. When's the last time you saw that on an inexpensive item of clothing? This dress is late 70's/very early 80's. Now they save 1/2 cent skipping that step, as the clothes are made to be disposable.

 Outfit Particulars:

70's/80's polyester shirtdress-.98 cents, Thrift World
Naturalizer vintage shoes-Thrift World
1960's French handbag-Goodwill, Council Bluffs
1960's bracelet-Hand-Me-Ups, Omaha
1980's earrings-Had them for years
Nan Tights-Attention control top (I think I have a new favourite brand-they're indestructible)

I had the school forms notarized and posted off to the state this morning, so I am officially now on summer holiday (yippie!). Danny's still under the weather, but sooner or later he has to be through with this. I am going to sleep until 10 AM every morning until late August, and god help anyone that interferes with that. With any luck I'll be in bed by 9 PM each evening. In-between sleeping and eating, you can find me lounging at the pool, yelling at the kids to stop splashing. Get a good look at me in an appropriate dress because from here on out, you'll be seeing plenty of patio-dresses, swimsuits, and a dressing gown or three. Hallelujah, let's do summer!
So long, closed-toe shoes. Sandal time has arrived.

OK summer, ready or not, here I come...look out...CANNONBALL!
Last one in is a rotten egg.



Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Recent Finds

I've had a good run of thrifting finds of late, so let's have a look inside the Vermont Basket Company hamper ($5.99-Hand Me Ups) and see what I've brought home.
 Hats galore!
The woman at the thrift store mentioned that I always buy such unusual items, and she wondered if I am an art teacher. It took me a second to reply, because I do teach art, but more from a history perspective than a, "get out the manila paper and tempra paints, we're going to make art!" direction. If my mother had been there, she'd have let loose with a boisterous laugh at someone mistaking me for an art instructor. My first day of school, I brought home some drawing we'd done in class expecting it to be displayed on the fridge like I'd see at friends homes. Mum took a look at it, binned it, and told me my time would be better spent doing useful things like cleaning my room. It was the era of "no colouring books for children because it inhibits their imaginations", but as mother pointed out to someone once in response to why I had such books, "She needs the lines." Sure, she could have been a bit more sensitive about it, but if I'm being honest, she had a point. Anyway, in Omaha wearing nice clothes and hats gets you pegged as the art teacher.
Speaking of tasteless art-a foil picture! I adore these, and this one must have been expensive as the owner went to the trouble of taking it to the expensive shop for framing. Mr. ETB groaned at the sight of it, knowing it will end up in the bedroom with the freaky lions and the pair of children painted on burlap (that will be another post). I offered to have him a poster of Barthes made, to reflect his tastes in our home, but he just shrugged and told me to do as I like. I like foil paintings, thanks very much.
 ...paper laminated trays...
 ...Americana note cards...
 ...and a brass lamp that must weigh 25 lbs.
I also like a nice pair of mid-century wall sconces. You never know when the power will fail, and you'll be forced to resort to candles. Easier to strike a match in the dark than fumble for batteries in the torch, and let's be honest-Mag Lights are durable torches, but not terribly flattering to skin tone. No one ever says they fell in love by torchlight, do they?

Finally, I found this lingerie bag/mending kit/hankie bag in a last-chance bin at the thrift store. A bit of research about the company Victoria Vogue indicates they've been around for a while making things like makeup applicators and powder puffs, but I wasn't able to find out much about this particular rayon bag. Worth .25 cents at any rate.
 The original pins and needles are still neatly arranged in the case.
 Hard to imagine anyone darning hose post-war, but perhaps old habits die hard.

 The clothing finds have been exceptional of late as well, and hopefully I'll get a chance to wear some of them soon. We haven't been out much as Danny is still sick, and though the antibiotic took care of the sinus infection/lung stuff, the poor kid is now house-bound with a nasty reaction to the medication. This makes three weeks? He rarely gets sick, but this has been a doozy. He's getting tired of plain toast, baked potatoes, and ginger ale.

Anyone finding great items recently?