This scarf is the softest thing I own and I am, more often than not, wrapped up in it’s cozy warmth. I made one for Chloe’s birthday a number of years ago and borrowed it so often that she decided to return the favor (or get her scarf back) and made one for me in the same yarn. This is actually called a woobie, and the name is accurate. Malou Woobie is made with Malou bulky alpaca from Lang Yarn in 0025 navy.
I learned to make biscuits from my grandma while sitting on her kitchen counter as she measured by eye and hand a formula she’d made hundreds of times. When my grandma was gone, my mom, armed with the written recipe, finished my formal education into this culinary comfort food. There is a good bit of mystique that surrounds the making of biscuits, but in reality, just like pie crust, a little practice and some simple rules are the difference between hard tack and sublime.
Because the recipe is so simple, there are only a couple of places where a person can get a bit tripped up.
1. To start, make sure that the fat is well incorporated. Using a pastry knife is the easiest.
2. Like my grandma taught me, I use my hands to incorporate the milk so I can feel the exact amount of liquid to add.
3. Adding the liquid is the trickiest part. Too much and the biscuits aren’t fluffy. Too little and the biscuits are dry. The recipe wants just enough milk to incorporate all of the flour, no more. It’s okay to reserve a little to make sure your batch needs all the recipe calls for.
4. Don’t over mix. As soon as you begin mixing in the milk, gluten begins to develop and this is what makes biscuits chewy instead of fluffy. The less mixing the better.
5. Pat out your biscuits on a well-floured counter. Instead of rolling, which sometimes has us touching the dough too much, pat the dough out with your hands, again because working the dough too much makes hard, chewy biscuits.
6. If you find that you might have overworked the dough, a little helpful trick is to set the biscuit aside once you’ve cut them for 10 minutes or so to give the gluten time to relax before baking.
That’s it! Fluffy, buttery biscuits are yours!
Baking Powder Biscuits
This recipe is excerpted from my cookbook, At Home, At Sea: Recipes from a Maine Windjammer. My grandmother used shortening, and maybe even lard. Currently, shortening is out and butter is in, but to honor the history of the recipe, I’ve left shortening as an ingredient. It is a one to one replacement to substitute butter.
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 cup shortening
3/4 cup whole milk
Preheat oven to 450°F. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a sifter set in a medium bowl. This is an important step because you want to add air to the mixture so the biscuits are as fluffy as possible. Use a pastry knife to cut the shortening into the mixture until it resembles a coarse meal. Add milk, stirring until a soft dough forms. It is important to not overmix; you’ll hard tack instead of fluffy biscuits. Turn out onto a floured board and knead 10 times, then STOP! Roll or pat out the dough until it is 1/2-inch thick. Cut with a floured 2-inch biscuit cutter. Transfer the biscuits to an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes 12 biscuits
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.
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:
- Reduce – by all of the methods I’ve been writing about in these posts
- Recover – by finding secondary sources for surplus food such as food banks and pantries
- 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.
How do you save time and costs in your kitchen?
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.
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.
- Make soup, omelet, or pizza kits with little leftover bits from the fridge – remember to label everything
- Think about your freezer as if it were another pantry. Use it often and regularly.
How do you organize your freezer? What works for you?
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.
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:
- Use pint- and quart-sized freezer containers that match
- If freezing a pasta dish or pot pie, use an oven proof container so you can reheat in the oven
- Use interchangeable lids
- Label the top of the lids for a bottom or chest freezer and the side of the containers for a top freezer
- Store the containers, labels, and permanent marker together
- Use freezer bags for irregular shaped items or what won’t fit into a quart-sized container
Organized and loving it! Stay tuned for more posts in this series.