Saturday, January 31, 2015

Eats: Zucchini "Crab Cakes"

Hello! I like crab cakes, but don't like how expensive they can be. Thus, when I saw a recipe for mock crab cakes using zucchini, I set it aside to try sometime. 

That "sometime" became this week, starting with a purchase of zucchini from the reduced produce rack at the grocery store. The marked-down zucchinis were on the small side, so I thought they'd work well in this recipe. 

I made the "crab cakes" today and they turned out well! They were easy to make and quite tasty. I did make several changes to the recipe, though. I'll give you the recipe first, then mention what I did differently. 

Zucchini "Crab Cakes" (adapted from a recipe by Shirley B. Bowles, Wyoming, Delaware, that appeared in a Gooseberry Patch cookbook)

2 cups zucchini, peeled and grated
1 cup seasoned bread crumbs (see notes below)
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1 tablespoon seafood seasoning (I used Old Bay)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients together and pat into cakes. Fry in an oiled skillet or deep fryer. Serves 4 to 6. 

Notes: I don't use seasoned bread crumbs, so for this recipe I used some cereal crumbs I had stashed in the freezer, plus 2 tablespoons  soy grits, 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning and some wheat germ. I just used enough of everything to equal the 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs called for the recipe. But if you have seasoned bread crumbs on hand, by all means use them!

I added the soy grits (partially cooked, cracked soybeans) to increase the protein count of the "crab cakes", since zucchini has less protein in it than crab does. Soy grits have a very mild taste, so they worked well in this recipe. 

I beat the eggs first in a mixing bowl, then added the rest of the ingredients and mixed everything together. 

To avoid the mess and calories of frying, I baked my "crab cakes" instead. To do this, I preheated the oven to 400, then lined a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a 1/4 cup measure, I scooped the mixture onto the baking sheet. (I ended up with nine "crab cakes"). I sprayed the tops of the "crab cakes" with cooking oil spray and baked for 10 minutes. 

After the 10 minutes were up, I turned the "crab cakes" over with a small spatula, sprayed the tops with cooking oil spray, then set the timer for another 10 minutes. When time was up, I had these:

The zucchini mixture had seemed a little "wet" when I formed it into the cakes, but the eggs and "bread crumbs" must have helped bind everything together. The "crab cakes" baked up beautifully - they didn't fall apart and were crispy enough on top that I didn't miss the frying step at all. 

Since it's been so long since I've had a real crab cake, I can't say how close these taste to the real thing. I doubt that they would fool anyone, but zucchini "crab cakes" are fine as they are!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Thrifty Acres: 1968 Flashback

Hello! Picked this up recently at a thrift store:

The Telephone Book, by Joe Kaufman; published in 1968 by Golden Press. 

I thought it'd be fun to see how much things have changed since 1968. As the book is subtitled THINGS WE USE on the title page, several common (or then-common) household objects are shown. 

So what's different sine 1968? Well, for one thing phones have certainly changed in size and shape. The above is a rotary dial phone. And yes, I'm old enough to remember when phones looked like this, as I was eight in 1968.


My mother was preparing meals for a family of nine throughout most of 1968 - that number changed to 10 when a sister was born in September of that year. Mom never had a stand mixer like the one shown above; might have made things easier for her. I've occasionally seen ones like this in thrift stores, but even though I like older things, I'm fine with my modern-day Kitchen Aid version.

Note that the mom above is wearing a dress and heeled shoes. I don't remember my mom dressing like this when she baked.


My mom sewed constantly, but I don't recall her sewing machine looking like this. Perhaps I just wasn't paying attention. Saw a sewing machine that looked a lot like this one at a thrift store a few days ago. They were asking 35 dollars for it, I think. Again, I'm happy with my current sewing machine, but as I spied the one at the thrift store, I couldn't help but wonder if it still sewed well. It certainly looked as durable as the one above looks!


We had a kiddie-size phonograph like this, plus a few records. I seem to recall one of recordings had a bunch of railroad-themed songs on it. I loved listening to those records!


More entertainment options of the era - on the left, a TV, complete with rabbit ears, and on the right, Mom's grooving to the sounds coming out of her transistor radio while at the beach. Transistor radios were a must-have back then. A few years after 1968 I received a pocket-sized one for Christmas - the perfect size for smuggling into bed unnoticed. One of my older sisters had a really cool model, a bright yellow Panasonic that was ball-shaped (except for its base, of course).

Many vacuum cleaners still look like the one above, but I wanted to show that once again, the lady of the house is shown wearing a dress and shoes with heels. I've seen chairs very similar to the floral-decked one at thrift store - in fact, that blue/green floral print seems to be rather common on thrift store furniture. 


Ah yes, I remember my dad and uncles using cameras like this, with the flashbulbs that had be changed and all that. We've come a long way with photography since then!


A typewriter - manual, no less. I got a bit of a jolt when I saw the typewriter eraser near it (the thin round object with a little brush on it). I haven't seen this kind of eraser around in ages! I suppose they became obsolete when Wite-Out and other typewriter correction fluids were invented.

I often see electric typewriters at thrift stores, and occasionally manual ones too. 

Toasters still work the same as the one seen above, but mine doesn't have that cute floral design on the side. It's not made of chrome either. 

I didn't take a picture of The Telephone Book's very last page, as it shows the still-typical scene of a young boy being tucked into bed by his mother. "When the clock says 7 o'clock I go to bed". 

Wow, 7 o'clock? The boy in the illustration looks to be around four or five. Do kids that age go to bed that early now? I don't recall our daughter doing so when she was that young. 

But in 1968, when I was eight - I swear, my bedtime was around 7:30. My parents insisted on an early bedtime for the longest of times! It was a way to get peace in their household of eight kids, I guess. 

Flashbacks of consumer goods from decades ago are always fun, but remember: 47 years from now, what will people think of the "THINGS WE USE" today?
 











 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Get Carded: Expect The Unexpected

Hello! Even after many years now of getting a handmade greeting card from me on his birthday, my husband still acts bemused when he views the latest one. Such was the case yesterday; he said he wasn't expecting the card to look as it did. I told him to expect the unexpected. He was doubly surprised when I pointed out that he had contributed the hand-drawn image on the card. 

The card's design began when I spied this as the top card in a pack from a vintage children's card game:

The card references my husband's name. The game is called Slap Jack and this deck was produced by Whitman in the 1970's. 

I decided it'd be fun to alter the card by adding a different face. Since it was going to be my husband's card, I decided to rifle through the box of old grade school papers his mom had saved to see if I could find something suitable. I think these papers date from when he was in 1st and 2nd grades, so we're talking mid-60's. 

My search yielded this:

I think my husband did a pretty good job on this figure, especially considering the fact that he'd been allowed to skip kindergarten. Thus, he was a year younger than the other kids in his grade. All I had to do was reduce the head portion of his drawing by half. I then cut a phrase out of another of his papers in the same box to alter the card further. And here's how the finished card looks:

Materials used:
  • white card stock
  • scrap of page from vintage science textbook
  • printed image made from 1960's artwork
  • "How good He is" cut from parochial school workpage
  • "happy birthday" stamped with black StazOn ink
As I'd said, my husband was quite surprised to be told that he'd drawn the face on the altered playing card. I showed him the original drawing and asked if it had been meant to be a self-portrait at the time. 

He had no idea, since of course he didn't remember having made that picture. But I am quite sure that as he was working on it, he never dreamed it'd be featured on a birthday card some 50 years later.

But like I said, he should know by now to expect the unexpected!



 

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Hopes Springs Eternal In The Garden

Hello! It's a well-known fact that it's all too easy for a gardener to get seduced by the lavish photos and copy found in gardening catalogs. In the dead of winter, the trials and tribulations of the previous growing season have been forgotten. 

I'm no different - in spite of having a small plot, barely enough sun and visits from various critters who like to eat my produce before I can pick it, I still am looking forward to putting a garden in again. Yes, hope does indeed spring eternal! And this year I have two new-to-me catalogs to peruse:

High Mowing Organic Seeds is based in Wolcott, Vermont. Rare Seeds is the catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds of Mansfield, Missouri. High Mowing features 100% certified organic and non-GMO seeds, and Rare Seeds' emphasis, of course, is on heirloom seeds. Both catalogs are free and both make for great reading. 

I first encountered Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds' inventory when we visited the Petaluma Seed Bank in Petaluma, CA last month. I don't think I'd ever seen seen so many seed packets in one place in my life! It was really hard to pick among such variety, especially since we had just a short time in Petaluma. We came home with four seed packets:

For our stir fries: Long Bean Chinese Green Noodle (green beans that grow up to 20" long) and Salad Blend Siamese Dragon Stir-Fry Mix(a mix of Asian greens for salads and stir fries).

Early Purple Sprouting Broccoli (will supposedly overwinter) and Leutschauer Paprika Pepper. Never have seen paprika plants sold in garden centers, so one time I ordered seeds online. There weren't many seeds in the packet, however, so eventually they were used up. Didn't ever get around to ordering any more, but now I can grow them again. Our homegrown paprika tasted way better than commercial version of this spice! 

On the back of these seed packets was a plug for the seed catalog, so I emailed my request. Rare Seeds arrived earlier this week and I haven't even looked at it all the way through yet - at a little over 200 pages long, there's a lot to read! 

I enjoyed the information given about many of the seeds, such as "a Roman heirloom that was sent to us by Mr. Barbetti, from Italy" (Pantano Romanesco tomato), "Sent to us by a seed saver in Sweden" (Ivory Egg tomato), "...found in a clay pot in a cave in the southwest USA (Ancient #WM187 watermelon) and so on. 

And it turns out that the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, for all its down-home-sounding name, is actually a rather ambitious business. They actually own the Petaluma Seed Bank store and have recently opened a second shop, Comstock, Ferre and Co. in Wethersfield, Connecticut. Meanwhile, at the headquarters in Missouri, their farm, pioneer village, and restaurant welcome visitors. They host festivals at these three sites as well. 

By comparison, High Mowing Organic Seeds is much more low-key, but when I saw it written up on the Gardenista website, I ordered their catalog as well. At a little over 100 pages, it's easier to keep track of the different varieties, and there's a more-than-adequate variety for a small-space gardener like me. 

But without recalling that I'd done so, I'd already purchased a seed packet produced by High Mowing Organic Seeds:

Above, the type of "gardening" I'm doing this time of year -  sprouts. This trio of alfalfa, clover and Sandwich Booster Mix are drying after their final rinse/dehulling. The Sandwich Booster Mix is from High Mowing Organic Seeds; purchased at a food co-op in Lexington, KY last March. Wonderful yield from just 1 tablespoon of sprouting seeds per tray; the only problem is waiting for the seeds to grow long enough! It's worth the effort though. I might order some more sprouting seeds from these folks, as their catalog offers other interesting sprout blends. 

Sprouts are fun to grow and very nutritious to boot, but just the same, I'll be as glad as this tomato when it's time for outdoor gardening:

Image from a vintage magazine. I do love tomatoes in season!




 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Made It: Return To Counted Cross Stitch

Hello! I did a lot  of counted cross stitch in the 1980's - so much, in fact, that I sold some of what I stitched at craft shows. 

I also used more elaborate patterns to create gifts, like this 5x7 framed picture that I made for my mother sometime in that decade:

A close-up:


Yes, it was quite the labor of love, but I knew my mom would like it. She displayed it on the fireplace mantel in her house, which meant it was one of the first things you saw when you walked in the front door. I reclaimed this needlework shortly before the house was sold last year(she had died three years before that). 

But eventually I stopped doing counted cross stitch; maybe I'd gotten burned out from doing it so much. It also didn't seem quite as popular as it once had.

More recently, like a lot of other needle arts, counted cross stitch seems to making a bit of a comeback. After a friend's counted cross stitch projects renewed my interest last year, I began looking for  patterns and other supplies so I could get stitching again myself. Due to that previous lull in popularity, I found everything I needed at thrift stores, and made this "signage".

Within the past couple of months I've acquired two more pattern books from thrift stores, like this one purchased at a 1/2 off Christmas sale:


This book was published in 1983. Although I don't care for the following design:

(no, I don't want a pig design stitched on a pillow)

the following Christmas tree looks quite modern:


When I saw that a page of Christmas ornaments in the book included a squirrel, I decided to stitch it up:


I guess you could say this is a rather stylized rendering, but at least it was very easy to stitch - a small motif and it used only two colors of embroidery floss. In fact, it was so easy to make that I worked it up while flying home from a trip to California last month. (yes, I looked on the TSA website first to make sure it was okay to bring scissors on a carryon. It is if the scissors meet specified criteria). 

Bought this a couple of weeks ago:


This pattern book dates from 1977, and there's a lot of hype on the back cover: "If you are a needleworker this book may be the best investment you've ever made. It contains 141 motifs for ready use for different forms of needlework...These are the designs most prized by needleworkers and the material in this book contains almost every motif a needleworker may want."

Well, I didn't want a chart for stitching up a creepy clown, a wishing well or an old-fashioned coffee grinder, but there were enough interesting designs to make it well worth the quarter purchase. 

Since I do like squirrels, I turned to that pattern first:

This took longer than the previous squirrel pattern, but was still simple enough that I could have done this while in a cramped airplane seat as well. 

Nothing like winter to have one dreaming of summer:


It's not very visible in the photo, but I'm filling in the sails with white embroidery floss. With the red, white and blue color scheme, this will be displayed with my 4th of July decor. 

In honor of my town's favorite flower, the book has a tulip design  I can do, and there's other spring/summer patterns like a tomato and a cluster of strawberries. There's a cute cat and oh-so-70's charts for mushrooms and owls too.  Most of the motifs are on the small side, so they don't take very long to make.

But I'd better pace myself so I don't get burned out doing too much counted cross stitch again!

 






Sunday, January 18, 2015

Made It: Not Just For Christmas

Hello! At the end of November I discussed the Christmas ornaments I was making for my nieces and nephews, as seen here.

Come Christmas Day, the kids - and their parents - seemed to like these ornaments. I think everyone thought they were harder to craft than they looked - they weren't hard at all; in fact, they were fun to make.

In fact, they were so fun to make that I made one for myself to use as a decorative accent in my home. I found a nice-sized plastic ornament at a thrift store last month (almost twice the size of the  gift ornaments I'd made), and punched out circles from a vintage children's book. Here's how it turned out:


I decided for the time being not to add glitter to my ornament, but I can always add some later if I want. I hung it up with fishing line, which makes it looks like it's floating in air.


All in all, this project has a lot going for it: relatively quick and inexpensive to make but the finished result is pleasing. It'll be hard to top this craft when it comes time to make the next batch of Christmas ornament gifts - but fortunately I have almost a year to worry about it!




Saturday, January 17, 2015

Outdoor Winter Market

Hello! Took notice earlier this week of the Holland Sentinel article announcing the inaugural Outdoor Winter Market, with the first market day being today (January 17th). True, there would be just six vendors - a far cry from the 50 sellers during the summer farmers market - but that's better than no vendors at all. 

To quote from the article: "The market hopes people will take adavantage of the opportunity to buy fresh, local produce even in winter while at the same time supporting farmers in the off-season."

Sounded good to us, so we headed down to the Outdoor Winter Market this morning. The small cluster of vendors was arranged in a semi-circle, with a small fire in the center to cast off a bit of heat. There was even a guy performing for tips on his guitar, just like the regular farmers market has. 

A steady stream of shoppers came and went while we were there, and I got the sense that customers were, indeed, glad to buy fresh, local produce at a time of year when most of the grocery store fruits and vegetables are from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. 

And what did we buy? 

A rutabaga, turnips, parsnips and Ida Red apples. We also could have purchased eggs, garlic, beets, kale, leeks, microgreens, breads, dried beans, wool products and more. 

So all in all, not bad for the first-ever day of the Outdoor Winter Market. If you live in the area and would like to visit it yourself, the remaining dates are February 7th, February 21st, March 7th and March 21st. The time is 9 am to noon, and the location is the same as the summer farmers market (Civic Center lot at 8th and Pine Streets). 

It almost felt like summer today: sunny and upper 30's as we walked over to the market location. I didn't even need to put on mittens or a hat.

Of course, I know that summer is really several months away yet, but it sure was nice to have a bit of "summer in winter" today.