Sewing At Home and For Sea

Recently, we posted on the Riggin blog, yes, hey, there’s a Riggin blog!  Yes, we posted on the Riggin blog about my winter projects.  While Jon gets to work with wood and metal, I get to work with food and fabric.  Usually I vacillate between knitting and food, but this winter fabric has taken my fancy.  And then I found a new love – an industrial machine.  My goodness these things are handy!

A long time friend, who has been doing the canvas work for the Riggin since the beginning of our ownership has always offered that I use her machines to make hand bags or some other fun project.  That’s not out of the question, but we had some things around the house that were needing some attention, so I approached her about her mentoring on something a little more complicated than bags.  She’s a peach and was game.

The slipcovers for our house settee were the first project.  I loved that so much, a slipcover for a chair upstairs was next.  Then I sewed a couple of things for the boat before I got back to pillow covers.  Hopefully, I will have time to do another slipcover for the office chair before the winter is out and the garden takes all of my attention.

Here’s a look at a few of the things I’ve been working on for the house.

sewing slipcovers, make your own slipcover, industrial sewing machine, diy home projects, sewing for the home, maine windjammer
Banding for the house settee. The fabric is a linen poly blend.
sewing, crafting, diy projects for the home, sew your own slipcover, industrial machines, house decorating
The settee covers installed and being used!
Different angle, same settees.
sewing, crafting, diy projects for the home, sew your own slipcover, industrial machines, house decorating
My new second home.
Apparently, I needed the whole shop – slipcover in the front, engine cover in the back, pillows to the right.
Cutting fabric for the pillows.
Chair before and after. I’m so pleased with the new look!

 

Tips for Organizing Your Freezer – Weeknight Dinner Stash

In this series of posts on organizing the freezer, I’ve written tips on labeling, containers, and thinking about your freezer as a pantry.  This post is about how to use the freezer to be smart about the time you spend in the kitchen and how to easily get one or two weeknight meals per week out of this one kitchen apparatus.

These posts began with a commitment to reduce the food waste in our home after Chloe (our daughter studying environmental science in college) came home from school with what seemed like a staggering statistic – between 30 to 40% of all retail and consumer food becomes waste.  That means 1/3rd of the food in our homes goes into our garbage stream.  That seemed astonishing to me.  As a business person, food costs are always high on my watch list, whether it’s in our business or in our home.  But then I thought about our freezer.  And how I wasn’t using it efficiently, and I decided to make some changes.  I started labeling everything.  I began using containers that would stack.  And once these two things were in place, I just naturally started to use our freezer more as a resource rather than like a stuffed closet that one dreads to organize or even dare approach.

Once the freezer was organized, it became easier to keep a better watch on my refrigerator and what needed to be frozen before it went bad.  In my family, it usually takes a couple of days before the leftovers are either gone or no one wants to eat them any longer.  That doesn’t mean they’ve expired, it just means we got tired of them.  When I see that happening, I know it’s time to move them into the freezer.  These leftovers have since become treasures.  Perfect for when I don’t feel like cooking, someone in the house is sick, or the day just got away from us but we don’t want to order pizza.  What was a tired leftover becomes a quick weeknight meal with a few minutes on the stove.

To reheat soups and stews, I run warm water on the outside of the container for 30 seconds or so until it releases.  Carefully, I turn it into a small saucepan or stock pot, add a little water, and cover with a lid.  Turn the heat to medium-low and let come to temperature over the next 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally.  Turn the heat down to low and add more water if needed while you prepare a salad or the rest of your meal.

To reheat pasta dishes or pot pies takes a little more planning.  Ideally, remove from the freezer in the morning and allow it to come to room temperature.  Then heat in a 350 degree oven until the center is hot.

In 2015 the USDA issued a Food Waste Challenge with these 3 objectives:

  1. Reduce – by all of the methods I’ve been writing about in these posts
  2. Recover – by finding secondary sources for surplus food such as food banks and pantries
  3. Recycle – by feeding animals the healthy surplus and the compost pile the spoiled food

BEFORE you toss those leftovers that no one is really interested in any longer, pop them in a container in the freezer.  These gems are weeknight emergency rations that make life super easy after a just a couple of weeks of this habit.

Annie
How do you save time and costs in your kitchen?

Tips for Organizing Your Freezer – Use it Like Another Pantry

Last year I took a good hard look at the crypt that was my freezer and determined to do better about being organized and thoughtful about using up food that we already had on hand before trucking off to the grocery store.  What I found was that a little organization and intention went a long way and that with a little labeling and a little container love I’d created a system that not only reduced our food waste, but turned my freezer into another pantry of sorts.

ways to organize your kitchen and your freezer

Before I got organized about my freezer, it was a place where all food went to die.  After a resting period in the tundra, it moved directly to the hens or the compost pile depending on what unidentifiable object I thought I was looking at.

Use Your Freezer Like a Pantry
Now, however, I use the freezer as I believe it was intended, as an extended pantry.  With labels on everything and containers that stack and easily organize, I no longer dread opening the freezer, but instead go to it on a regular basis to supplement and add to meals in the works.  When I’m doing my regular rotation of food in the fridge and clearing out little bits of this and that, the freezer is just one more place I go for inspiration.

Also, no longer is the freezer a stuffed-full, can-barely-close-the-door sort of place.  Instead, I use it often to pull weeknight soups or stews that can be ready in minutes.  Just add salad or cooked greens and presto, dinner is ready.  The freezer stock is rotating on a regular basis just like my dry pantry items.

  1. Make soup, omelet, or pizza kits with little leftover bits from the fridge – remember to label everything
  2. Think about your freezer as if it were another pantry. Use it often and regularly.

Annie
How do you organize your freezer?  What works for you?

The Great British Baking Show – I had to try a recipe

Who has not spent an afternoon snuggled on the couch with their daughter watching The Great British Baking Show?  If you haven’t, you need to.  Especially the earlier seasons.  I’m still a little unaccepting of the recent changes to the show, but that’s just me and eventually I will move on.  However, Mary Berry is still my favorite host and will be forever and ever.

Of course after spending an afternoon watching, any self respecting foodie has to try a recipe or two.  This one is a perfect winter time cake.  We made ours and had it with tea in honor of, well, Britain, but it would be just as good served after dinner as a special dessert.

The recipe for Mary Berry’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake is on the BBC website.

Mary Berry's Frosted Walnut Layer Cake
Mary Berry’s Frosted Walnut Layer Cake

 

Tips for Organizing Your Freezer – Use Matching Containers

Last year in the interest of getting more organized in the kitchen and reducing the amount of our food that went to the chickens or into the compost pile, I started to focus on how to use our freezer better.  Having worked in the restaurant industry for years before running the galley on the Riggin for the past 20 plus years, I already had a good process around rotating refrigerator stock, shopping to a list, and using up leftovers.  But the freezer, on the other hand, was a place where perfectly good food went only to emerge some months (years?) later as unidentified mystery items destined for the compost pile.

organizing the freezer and the kitchen

Like most habits that end up sticking, it’s the simple things that matter.  Simple changes.  Simple processes.

Use Matching Containers
What I found was the simple process of labeling made a huge difference.  The next thing I discovered, and I know this might begin to sound like a Marie Kondo ad, but using containers that matched and could rest on top of each other really worked.

The ability to stack the smaller containers on top of each other is key.  Also, with the containers the same size, everything just fits nicely and just naturally organizes better.  I have a bottom freezer, so labeling the tops of the containers makes it so I can see all of the labels at a glance without moving things around much.   If you have a top freezer, then the labels should go on the side of the container for the same reason – you can see them at a glance.

As for the storage containers themselves, I bought a sleeve of pint and quart-sized freezer containers and another sleeve of interchangeable lids.   Normally, I am not a fan of buying plastic.  Period.  But after trying to use recycled yogurt containers with the lids popping off on a regular basis (yes, that would be the lids with the labels on them) I gave up and switched.  And I gotta say, it worked.

Here are a couple of tips that I found helpful:

  1. Use pint- and quart-sized freezer containers that match
  2. If freezing a pasta dish or pot pie, use an oven proof container so you can reheat in the oven
  3. Use interchangeable lids
  4. Label the top of the lids for a bottom or chest freezer and the side of the containers for a top freezer
  5. Store the containers, labels, and permanent marker together
  6. Use freezer bags for irregular shaped items or what won’t fit into a quart-sized container

Annie
Organized and loving it!  Stay tuned for more posts in this series.

Tuscan Kale, Cannellini Bean, and Kalamata Olive over Polenta

Kale, a humble vegetable, was all but unnoticed ten years ago except for by the most savvy of gourmands or those diehard back-to-the-landers. Those in the know were aware of what many have just recently discovered – that kale is not only super easy to grow, but it‘s also as delicious and versatile a vegetable as anyone might find.

Purple or green in color, Russian or Italian in variety, kale has become the academy award winner of vegetables – a virtual unknown thrown into the limelight by both it’s talent and the audience’s’ appetite for greens.

Because kale has so much “tooth,” meaning it has a hearty and chewy mouth feel, it can take center stage in place of meat. Only the staunchest of meat-eaters will be the wiser. As a green it is also what could be called an entry-level green – not so bitter or peppery for first-timers or kids with more sensitive palates.

We used to be more accepting of all things bitter, but as salt and sugar have become more prevalent in the American diet, our tolerance for the bitter flavors has waned.

Enter kale. Roast it with a little oil, puree it in pesto, whizz it in a smoothie and in general boost your iron; vitamins A, C and D; anti-oxidants and fiber. Go green!

kale, garbanzo bean, and polenta recipe

Tuscan Kale, Cannellini Bean, and Kalamata Olive over Polenta
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups sliced red onion; about 1 large onion
2 cups carrots peeled and cut into 2-inch by 1/2-inch sticks; about 2 carrots
1 cup pitted Kalamata or other black olive
1 tablespoon minced garlic; about 1 large clove
1 (16-ounce) can cannellini beans, juice included
8 ounces kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped; about 8 cups
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Several grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 ounce grated Parmesan cheese; about 1/2 cup lightly packed, for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet or stock pot over medium high heat. Add the onions, carrots and olives and sauté until the onions begin to brown on the edges, about 7 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté another 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until heated through but the kale is still bright and chewy. Serve over polenta with grated Parmesan cheese. Use your favorite polenta recipe or find mine here.

Serves 4 to 6

Tips for Organizing Your Freezer – Label Everything

Organize.  Budget.  Plan.  Diet.  What a perfect time of year to focus on getting organized and tidy in one or more areas, such as, ahem, my closets.  But closets are for another day.  Today is about the freezer.  I’m not really a New Year’s resolution sort of gal, but I do like this time of year for checking in about my habits and making sure that I’ve got a good handle on the life I’m choosing by the choices I’m making.  And while the garden is asleep and the winds whip and roar outside, it feels satisfying to turn my attention toward the house and our inside life.

labels for organizing the freezer

One of the things I focused on last year around this time was our food waste.  And while the compost pile is always ready and willing to receive any and all organic matter, I wanted to get even better at consuming our food before it headed to the big pile out back.  I already had a handle on rotating stock in the fridge, using up pantry items, and having a pretty good plan for leftovers and little bits.  I’ve written about good strategies for leftovers before and will be sharing more as we go along this winter.

The freezer, however, was another story. You know, that place that we relegate unused food, wait until it has freezer burn, and then a year later throw the unlabled and unknown mystery items into the compost pile?  Might as well be Siberia.   Yup.  That’s the thing I wanted to be better at.  So I’ve come up with a couple of strategies – all of which I knew and none of which I did much of until last year.

Label Everything
All of the changes I made were fairly small and didn’t take much doing, but the biggest of all was labeling everything that went into the freezer.

Basically, if I don’t label, I may as well just skip the freezer and toss everything in to the compost bucket straight off.  Once something goes into the freezer without a label, it’s never coming out as something useful.  Why not?  Because I NEVER remember what the thing is.  I always tell myself I will.  But I don’t.  Because it get moved around.  Because once it’s frozen it doesn’t look exactly as it did when I first put it in there.  Because I can’t smell it to figure out what it is.  Because I can’t taste it to figure out what it is.  Because.  Just.  Label.

Once I gave in to the idea that my intellectual prowess was not strong enough to overcome the freezer vortex, I started to love opening the freezer.  A year later it’s even more organized than it was initially and it’s something I use all the time, not a place to relegate unmentionables.

To make things easy, because who has time for anything else, here are a few tips:

  1. Make up labels ahead of time, so all you need to do is write and slap
  2. Store the labels and pen in the kitchen somewhere close
  3. Use a waterproof pen or marker, not a gel pen that will smear if it gets wet
  4. Label the top of the lids for a bottom or chest freezer and the side of the containers for a top freezer so you can see the label easily
  5. Date everything

Annie
More to come in this series – stay tuned!