Archive | October, 2012

How to Make a Mess of Granny-Style Green Beans

15 Oct

Growing up, there was never a shortage of home-cooked, heart-warming, comfort food on the table.  Between my mom and my grandmother across the street, we always had a hot meal for supper every night and for lunch on the weekends.  Strangely, though, as much as I was around all this food and women cooking it, I was never officially “taught” to cook by either of these women.  That means that all of the cooking you see going on here has been self-taught with just an influence from my forewomen.  Since I was never given the specifics on the art of country cooking (and let’s face it, that’s probably a good thing — who wants a mug of bacon grease in their fridge?!?), I have had to sort out my own method for recreating those comforting favorites that I ate as a child.

When Mr. Homemaker and I returned from our recent European vacation, we were both craving some home cooking.  Normally I would call my mom or grandmother and request something but on this occasion we were just too tired to leave the house.  So the next day, I went to the grocery store and picked up the essentials to make roasted chicken (recipe coming), mac and cheese, buttermilk biscuits, and these green beans.  Now, since I do not keep the above-referenced mug of bacon grease in my fridge, this recipe is not exactly the same method by which my mom and grandmother prepare their green beans.  I like to think my version is perhaps a bit healthier?  I’m not kidding anyone — I know there’s bacon fat in these beans and they’re cooked down to a non-bright green, but I just feel better that I don’t put a big scoop of congealed fat in mine 🙂

So without any further ado, an actual written recipe for creating a soul-satisfying “mess” of deep-South, homestyle green beans!

Granny-Style Green Beans

Serves 8

3 slices bacon

1/2 cup diced onion

1/4 cup white wine

2 pounds frozen flat green beans (Italian-style, or “pole beans”)

1-2 cups water

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste

Cook bacon in large pan until some of the fat has rendered but do not cook until crisp.  You just want there to be some grease in the bottom of the skillet to sauté the onion.

Add the onions and saute until golden and tender.  By now your pan probably has a nice coating of brown stuff stuck to the bottom so we will use the wine to deglaze it and scrape up all the savory bits.

Push all the onions and bacon to one side of your pan.  Pour in the wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to remove the stuck-on goodness.

Once the bottom of the pan looks reasonably clean and all the wine has evaporated, add the green beans and enough water to cover.  Stir in salt and pepper to taste.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until reduced, about 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes.  You want your beans to be nice and soft.  You can cover them for the last 20-30 minutes of cooking or add more liquid if needed.  Enjoy!

Shorts! Simplicity 1808

12 Oct

Because the genetic code passed on to me by my parents included sequencing for excessive junk in my trunk, I have always had a hard time finding bottoms to fit — things that fit in the waist are too tight in the hips and if something fits in the hips it gapes in the waist. Shorts seem to be exceptionally tricky for some reason, so when I started sewing, shorts were high on my list of must-makes. I recently saw these cute shorts on the Nordstrom blog and thought I would try to recreate them.


They have cute pleats in the front which I think are more flattering for my fuller front thigh, and the back waistband (couldn’t find a pic), is elasticized. Then I came across this pattern:


and decided that it could be easily adapted to suit my goals. I did make a few alterations. First, I omitted the tie belt. Second, I stopped the elastic at the side seam instead of carrying it around as depicted in the pattern. Third, I separated the pocket piece into two so I could have my pocket lined in a different fabric.

In terms of fit, I made a muslin first in a slightly stretchy cotton woven. The shorts ended up being really big (I could have taken an inch out of each side seam), so for this pair I cut a size smaller.


Unfortunately, when I made my fashion fabric pair, I couldn’t pull them up over my hips. Luckily, letting out all the waist seams to the max and tapering it down gave me just enough room to shimmy into these if I do it just right. I can’t explain this.


Here’s a pic of the front pleat and pocket detail.  Dark clothes are hard to photograph so I tried to lighten it up a bit to show the details — still not a great photo.


A view from the side showing how the elastic portion of the waistband stops at the side seam.


Now the back view — ugh!  Will not be wearing these with my shirt tucked in!!  I would like to add welt pockets and belt loops but I don’t know if that would fix the crumpled paper bag appearance of my back side.  After I finished my shorts, I saw Lauren’s version where she used a single wide elastic and stitched over it with a 3 part zigzag.  I think her back waistband looks much better so if I make these again I will employ that technique.


A view of my cute silk charmeuse pockets.

Overall, I am pleased with my shorts and feel like I have made some progress in my sewing and pattern alteration skills.  I would like to try the Thurlow pattern by Sewaholic next to see if I can get a finished product that works with a shirt tucked in 🙂


Pattern:  Simplicity 1808

Fabric:  Carolina Herrera cotton sateen (shorts), print silk charmeuse (pocket and waistband lining)

Notions:  1/4″ elastic

Finishes used:  Serged seam allowances, machine blind hemmed, stitched in the ditch to secure waistband facing

Top:  Oldie from Target

Shoes:  Seychelles from earlier this year

Necklace:  Premier

Bracelets:  Kenneth Cole from Dillard’s

Best Ever Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

10 Oct

It’s been a while since I’ve given you a recipe for something sweet.  I won’t hold out on you any longer.  I don’t know if you’ve ever made homemade ice cream before, but it is one of my favorite food memories from childhood.  It was always exciting to come in from playing outside all day and hear the groaning of the ice cream freezer’s motor — wondering what flavor my mom would’ve made for us.  It also frequently meant that we would have company over to enjoy it with us, something else that I enjoyed as a child (and still do!).  While my mom’s specialties included black walnut, banana, strawberry — it was the vanilla that was always my favorite.  And while this recipe directs you to freeze your ice cream completely firm before eating it, we loved eating the soft treat immediately from the ice cream maker.

Do you have memories of homemade ice cream from childhood?  Do you make homemade ice cream now with your children?  If you don’t have the equipment, I suggest adding it to your Christmas list so you can be ready when spring rolls around (not that I don’t make ice cream in the winter 😉 ).

Now for the reasons I love this recipe.  First, the flavor is over the top.  The addition of vanilla bean and vanilla extract ensures that your taste buds will be delighted.  It is like Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla but SOOOOOO much better.  Next, the inclusion of a small amount of corn syrup keeps the ice cream soft even when completely frozen.  This means it scoops easier, no microwave zaps required.  Finally, the use of egg yolks to make a custard base creates a rich, smooth, and creamy ice cream that is perfect on its own but would also be a good base for some homemade caramel or hot fudge sauce.  And yes, I think this is better than the vanilla ice cream recipe in The Perfect Scoop.

So what are you waiting for?  Whip up a batch now and enjoy a scoop!


Vanilla Ice Cream

1 vanilla bean

1 3/4 cups heavy whipping cream

1 1/4 cups whole milk

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

1/3 cup light corn syrup

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 large egg yolks

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  With the tip of a paring knife, scrape out the seeds.  In a medium saucepan, combine the vanilla bean, vanilla seeds, whipping cream, milk, 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, corn syrup, and salt.  Heat over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is steaming steadily, 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl of ice with a small amount of water in it.  Place a small bowl in the ice and set a strainer on top.  You will pour your ice cream custard into this ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Whisk the remaining sugar into the egg yolks in a small bowl.  When the cream mixture is hot, transfer 1/4 cup into the egg yolks and stir constantly to combine.  Transfer a little bit more cream into the yolks, stirring constantly.  This will temper the egg yolks to keep them from scrambling.  Now, pour the egg yolks into the pan of cream and return to the stove over medium-low heat.  Stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the back of the spoon (it will register 180 degrees F on a candy thermometer).  Remove from the heat and pour through the strainer into the small bowl in the ice bath.  Stir in the vanilla extract and return the vanilla bean to the mixture.

Once the mixture stops steaming (about 10-20 minutes), transfer the bowl to the fridge to chill completely (at least 4 hours).  Once chilled, freeze the mixture in your ice cream freezer according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  When the freezer is done, transfer the ice cream to a freezer-safe container and freeze until firm (or eat it right away!).

Adapted from Cooks Illustrated via Dishing the Divine.

Sewing Finds in Great Britain

9 Oct


In my last post I mentioned a recent intercontinental trip — Mr. Homemaker and I took a little vacation to Great Britain last month!  We had known for a while that we wanted to go because one of my friends from medical school is spending a year there doing a fellowship.  We decided that planning a trip to visit them in Scotland would be a good excuse for us to make our first trip to Europe together.  We took an overnight flight into Glasgow then caught the train to meet our friends at their flat in Edinburgh.  While the weather was a bit chillier there than it is here, that didn’t stop us from tromping all over the place.



Once we explored Edinburgh, we spent a night at Dalhousie Castle then took the train into the Cotswolds.  While there we visited Bath, which I thought was a lovely place and can’t wait to go back.  Finally, we took the train into London and spent three nights before heading back to reality and (warmer temperatures!).  In London, we booked a room at the High Road House in a residential neighborhood called Chiswick.  According to their website, their hotel chain is a members club for people in the film industry but when rooms aren’t filled, they reserve them to commoners like us.  While I think the London hotel is low-key compared to some of their other properties (like Miami), I did spot one celebrity that I recognized while we stayed there (Hugh Dancy).



The hotel was immensely cute and their food and bar service were excellent, not to mention the fact that the bathroom was filled with full-size amenities — we had four different body washes to choose from each morning! To top it all off, the room was reasonably priced and it was a 3 minute walk to the tube.



While I am not a huge museum-buff, I did stop by the Victoria and Albert to view the Ballgowns exhibit while we were in London, and we visited the Tower and saw several of the other big sites.

Now, of course you know I squeezed in a little shopping while we were there.  I did have to be careful, though, because we did carry-on only for this trip (hard to believe if you know me!).



I knew I wanted to go to Liberty and I was open to any other cute sewing souvenirs I came across.  First up, while in Bath, I visited a cute little shop called The Makery, where you can actually shop online.  It was a darling, tiny little store that sold unique trimmings and fabric and also offered classes (of course, I didn’t have time for one of these).  While there, I picked up two lengths of patterned bias binding (blue floral and red and white dot) and a Molly Makes magazine with a free envelope of assorted buttons.  Next up, we stopped in Salisbury to visit Stonehenge and while there I passed a sewing machine store that also sold some notions, so I picked up the white buttons and a cupcake pin cushion.  Finally, in London I knew I had to visit Liberty and that’s what I had been saving all my pennies for.



While there, I met Chow, a very helpful and funny salesman who cut my selections of cotton lawn and cotton jersey.  I also found two pieces from the remnant table, one 2.5 yard piece in a brown, pink, and mustard shoe pattern and another small length of floral silk destined to become a scarf.  Yes, Liberty fabrics are a splurge, but how often does a girl get to visit the brick and mortar store in person?  Not to mention all the restraint I had exercised when packing my carry-on suitcase so I could fit a few cuts of fabric in it for the ride home 🙂

I will leave you with a few more photos from our trip; you can check out my Flickr stream if you want to see more (although I did not upload the entire 500+ photos).  Thanks for looking!  More cooking and sewing to come, so stay tuned 🙂








Thirsty Thursdays — Apple Pie Moonshine

4 Oct

Have you missed me?  Wondered if I had given up cooking AND sewing?  Never fear, I’m still here stitching and sautéing up a storm, but some intercontinental travel and work-related busy-ness have kept me from sharing my progress in this little neck of the web.   To make up for my absence, I am offering you the recipe for a much-requested liquid delicacy — Apple Pie Moonshine (hereby known as APMS) — just in time for your fall festivities!

APMS really does taste like apple pie in a glass — it is so smooth and delicious.  I have been racking my brain trying to recall who first turned me on to this tasty treat, but old age has gotten the best of me and I just can’t remember. Nevertheless, I first made it last winter for our annual holiday party and it was a huge hit.  I made a single batch and the dispenser I served it in was drained dry in no time.  While it is called “moonshine,” a quick use of some grade school mathematics will reveal that the final product is only about 20-25 proof, less potent than regular vodka or bourbon, so there is no risk of getting busted by the sheriff.  I guess it is called “moonshine” because it is made from pure grain alcohol and served in Mason jars?  Having made this now three times, I can tell you that it tastes fine right away, but the flavors mellow and it gets smoother if you let it sit a week or two in a cool, dark place.  In case you were wondering, the alcohol content is not changed by letting it sit, so don’t worry about it getting stronger.  But do keep in mind, because it is so smooth, it is easy to drink straight, so be careful — it will sneak up on you!

So, for all you girls who are always begging me to make you more Apple Pie Moonshine, now you can make your own! 🙂

Apple Pie Moonshine

Yield:  Approximately 9 quarts

1 gallon apple cider

1 gallon apple juice

3 cups granulated sugar

9 cinnamon sticks

1 liter 190 proof pure grain alcohol (aka moonshine or Everclear)

9-1 quart Mason jars

In a large stock pot, stir together the cider, juice, sugar, and cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the alcohol. Pour into jars, making sure each jar gets a cinnamon stick. Apply lids and store in a cool, dark place for a week or two before serving. Alternately, you can pour it back into the cider, juice, and alcohol bottles if you are planning to serve it at a party from a large dispenser.

P.S.  If you can’t buy pure grain alcohol where you live, you can use vodka instead.  To achieve the same final alcohol concentration, you will need to use 2-3/8 (that’s two and three-eighths) liters of 80 proof vodka and keep the cider, juice, and sugar measurements as listed.

P.P.S.  If you prefer your APMS to not have sediment in it, substitute another gallon of juice for the cider.  Basically, apple cider is just unfiltered apple juice, so opting for 2 gallons of apple juice will yield clear Apple Pie Moonshine.

Adapted from Moonshine Heritage.