A Malou Woobie – The Coziest Scarf on the Planet

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.

Annie
Cozy time!

 

Salmon with Warm Spinach, Pomegranate, and Lime

The other day someone asked me, “What do I do to cover up the smell of fish?  I like it, but sometimes it just tastes and smells too strong.”

Pause.  Beat.  “Ahhh, okay, how ‘bout let’s talk about how to buy fresh fish first.”  Because it shouldn’t smell fishy at all.  The adjectives and phrases that should be coming to mind are something in the vicinity of briny, salty, like the sea, like an ocean breeze that travels across the water picking up moisture and the scent of it’s inhabitants.  NOT, whew!, dang, this stinks!, but maybe I’ll eat it any way.

This is as true for the taste of fish as well as the smell.  It should feel silky on your tongue and almost melt in your mouth.   It should suggest of the sea, not hit you over the head with a low-tide mouthful.

To buy fish well, you must ask to smell it before you buy it.  (See the above for what it should smell like.)  You must also look at it.  You want pieces that are full, firm, and shiny but not watery.  They shouldn’t be dry on the surface or be in anyway falling apart.  If you are buying whole fish, look at the eyes.  They should be clear, not opaque.  Don’t be afraid to offend the fish monger, the good ones understand.  Even the smell of the store is a hint.  It should be and smell clean and yes, with a hint of fish, because after all that’s what they are selling, but the scent of ocean is what you should come to mind when you walk in the door.

Be brave and ask questions.  Develop a relationship with your local fish monger.  Who knows, they might even grant you a fish story or two.

Salmon with Warm Spinach, Pomegranate, and Lime by Elizabeth Poisson

 

Salmon with Warm Spinach, Pomegranate, and Lime
2 pounds of salmon, skin removed and cut into 4 to 6 salmon fillets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons tamari or soy sauce
several grinds fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound fresh green beans, stem ends removed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons grated ginger
6 ounces spinach; about 8 cups lightly packed
zest from 1 lime
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice; about 1 lime
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
pinch of salt, if needed
wedges of lime for garnish
lime zest for garnish

In a deep dish platter, marinate the salmon with the vinegar, tamari, and pepper for 15 minutes while you prep the rest of the ingredients. Reserve the marinade.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully add the salmon, top side down, cover with a lid, and pan-sear for 3 minutes. Carefully flip the salmon and sear for another 2 minutes or until the salmon is still slightly darker pink in the center. Remove the salmon from the pan to a platter and return the pan to the heat. Add the green beans, garlic, ginger, and reserved marinade and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes or until the beans are bright green and hot all the way through.

In a large bowl, combine the spinach, zest, lime juice, pomegranate seeds and hot beans. Taste for salt. Transfer the greens mixture to individual plates or to a platter and serve the salmon on top. Garnish with lime wedges and lime zest.

Serves 4 to 6

 

How to Make Delicious Baking Powder Biscuits

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 (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010
Use a pastry knife to cut in the butter until the mixture resembles a coarse meal.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010)
Feel the dough with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Add liquid and stir with your hands.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Use your hands to best tell when you’ve added enough milk.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Only mix until combined,
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Press the dough flat with hands dusted with flour.
Baking Powder Biscuits (Photo by Elizabeth Poisson (c) 2010 )
Cut out the biscuits with a biscuit cutter and bake!

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

Cardamom Bread – Must Make

This recipe was given to me by a crew member who had fantastic memories of her mom making it growing up.  That mom is Betsy Maislen and has since come sailing with us for many years in the fall as my end of season lifesaver.  She’s funny, quick, and a wonderful cook.  She still make this recipe at home even though it’s just she and her husband.  I’ve adapted it a little to fit my recipe format, but left the rest of it the same as it needs no changing what so ever.  Your house is going to smell amazing!bread baking, homemade bread, baking bread, how to bake bread, cardamon bread

Cardamom Bread Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Cardamom Bread Photo Rocky Coast Photography

Cardamom Bread
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
6 tablespoons butter, plus a little extra for the bread when it comes out of the oven
1 cup whole milk
3 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons table salt
8 to 15 cardamom seeds, cut hulls, pulverize centers (or 1 teaspoon ground cardamom)
8 cups flour

In a small bowl, combine water, yeast and sugar and let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine butter, milk, eggs, second sugar amount, salt and cardamom. Add yeast mix and then flour. Knead well for 10 to 15 minutes by hand or 4 to 6 minutes by machine. Rub the bowl and dough with a little oil and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside to double, about 1 hour. Remove from bowl and shape into 2 loaves. Place into 2 greased bread pans. Let rise another 45 minutes or so to double again. Bake in a 325F° oven for 35 to 45 minutes. Rub with butter when hot. Let rest in pans for 5 minutes and then remove.

Annie
Heaven in a pan

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?

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.