Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Fall Foliage

Over the weekend I knew it was time to photograph our surroundings because the fall foliage was just the right color and texture.  I try every single year to capture the landscape at the perfect moment.  If I wait too long or if the weather is off, everything can change overnight and I'm left with bare trees and a barren landscape.

Going up our driveway in the mornings during the month of October, I'm always observing at what's happening around us; the flora & fauna don't need a calendar or a clock to work their magic.  I can always tell on these morning drives up the driveway when I need to photograph.  Luckily, there  haven't been any blustery rainstorms, official hurricanes or unusual icing conditions which have prevented me from taking advantage of the beautiful fall foliage here at home.

The weekend was such a marvelous two days for me and my family.  Not only did I have the good news regarding my niece's health, I also had the chance to catch my breath and bake several batches of cookies and granola to share with a few people.  In between all of this I decided to grab my camera and take a walk around the grounds since I did promise you a few weeks back that I would.  Keep in mind that the temperatures haven not risen above 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but with a sweater and some light gloves it hasn't been uncomfortable.

Unless I'm out for some exercise with no intention of photographing in the afternoon, I almost always head up our driveway towards the barn to see what's happening.  It is here where I have surprises from nature waiting for me, whether it's the trees, shrubs or the many wildlife that surround us.  The bend along our driveway always reveals such stunning colors at this time of year, so when I get to a certain spot as I make my way up the hill, I stop to photograph and see what's happening.

Take a small walk around our home with me and see the landscape through the photographs I took just a few days ago.

Enjoy!


This is the end of our driveway as it leads onto the road.  Believe it or not, it takes me a full 2-3 minutes of walking to reach this point.  I find it to be such good exercise heading up the hill.

It's right about now that we get a plethora of 'woolly bear caterpillars' throughout the lawns & meadow.  The tiny little creates are purported to predict the winter weather based on the amount of dark brown rows, but from what I've gathered, it seems to be one of those 'wives' tales'.  Even so, these little individuals are very adorable.  The one above was crawling along a set of slate steps in front of our house and decided to take a rest on this brown leaf.


Along the western edge of the driveway near our house is a set of maples and beeches.  The one in the foreground is a majestic beech tree that always shows such splendor during the Fall.  Over the summer I had a visitor from New Hampshire who stopped by, because he just had to return to the property after so many decades.  

This gentleman, apparently, used to play here on the grounds as a child during the Depression in the 1930s and he told me that in those days, there weren't any trees between the house & the old barn.  He remembers an 'outhouse' being located in that spot! Imagine that.  He also tells me that the family who lived here used to keep horses up at the barn.  It seems that he used to take out one of the horses to ride it around the meadow when no one was watching!

I took a moment ask him lots of questions while he was here, because I knew he felt like doing a little storytelling.  For a short while I thought to myself: this could be you in 50 years telling stories about this place to some other individual.  


The beech that's in the foreground in the other picture is such a spectacular specimen.  Look at the leaves.   Such beautiful browns and yellows.


A lot of leaves have fallen and, as you can tell, the driveway hasn't been swept yet.  We have a lot of black walnut casings and acorns that litter the driveway in October.  It's always a struggle to drive up here without crushing them.


Around the bend, looking up the driveway, you can see the beautiful colors.  This is where I have my "wow" moment in the Fall.

In a few months this will all be bare. 


Here is another beech tree that is quite old and beautiful.  It has such a nice and complex root system that grows above the ground.  For some reason we get a lot of stunning moss at the base of the tree which I leave alone.  Some walnuts and ash trees can also be found in this area, but what's spectacular about this spot is that acorns fall by the hundreds.

Here is another view as I look onto the meadow.  You can almost feel and sense the last vestiges of summer, but make no mistake.  Fall is here to stay.


Dark shadows that cover large patches of the field won't be here for long.  As soon as all of the leaves are gone (except for the evergreens, of course) sunlight will drench this entire area during the day.

The field won't be mowed again this season.  What remains here will just die down for the Fall and Winter months.  I told you before that it makes me sad to think of all that verdant growth going dormant, but it also makes me crave next year's seasons.  It's something to look forward to.


Here's a photograph looking back toward the barn.  The range of colors is simply breathtaking.  I can't imagine doing without the seasonal colors of Fall here on the east coast.

These wonderful trees line the edge of the driveway.  You can see that orange-hued beech I showed you earlier on the left-hand side.  That single evergreen next to the deciduous trees will be the only source of color here in a few weeks.


The beech.



At this point I was already beginning to feel a chill, so I had to make my way back home along this path.



Let's hope that our Fall & Winter seasons are mild this year.  I'm already looking forward to Thanksgiving here at home, because I love cooking and baking up a feast.  The warm aroma of stuffing being made early in the morning, the glistening turkey getting carved and the endless heaps of mashed potatoes and gravy is what it's all about.  I'm thinking about my table setting and how I want to change it from last year's bright reds & oranges.  For that I'll have to go through the linen closet, china cabinet and silverware drawers.  I may even craft something to liven up the house.  I owe you some crafting, don't you think?

Happy Autumn!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Wonderful End of the Week

I finally have some time to sit down and write a few thoughts.  At some point yesterday when I was on the phone with a friend of mine, she said to me: "you never seem to sit down".  It's true.  There is always something that needs to get done, some item that needs to get put away, cleaned or organized, some email that has to get written and meals that need to get prepped.  This is every single day.  However, yesterday was different.  Yesterday, I had to sit down. 

It's not often I write about my personal life or that of my family, but while I was reaching for my phone  yesterday afternoon I noticed that I had several messages, one of which was from my brother, Erik.  He had typed two sentences that were to the point, but carried a lot of meaning: "She's through with her medication.  She is in remission!"  I believe the tears of joy began rolling down instantaneously as it sunk in that my little niece was out of the woods with her leukemia battle.  Every single emotion, every single thought from these past two years came rushing back to me in a matter of seconds.  This forced me sit down and take a moment to be thankful.  

To every family member, every friend, every doctor, nurse and medical staff, and to every single one of you readers who had my niece in your prayers throughout her treatments since 2011, I thank you.  Without the emails, notes, phone calls and visits from well wishers, our family would not have been able to get through this ordeal.  I don't think I'll be able to thank everyone enough or properly for the support you showed my niece, but do know that from the bottom of my heart, I am grateful.  

I'm truly grateful.

David



Monday, October 21, 2013

Welcome to Heritage Home

Welcome to Heritage Home.  I'm so pleased to finally be sharing the creation of an online shopping experience with all of you here.  What began as an idea to sell one particular item has led to a merchandising division of Good Things by David, with several products that I love having in my home.  This extension of the blog is not something I had even entertained a year ago, but since then, the concept has taken on new dimensions and I couldn't be more delighted with the results.  I feel like all of this has grown organically for me, and the timing to be entering the arena of retail couldn't be any better.

The brand 'Heritage Home' came through weeks of brainstorming and working closely with a superb graphic designer (more on her later) to capture what I was aiming for.  Home is comfort.  Home is what we're all drawn to.  The notion of 'Heritage' rings true for me and every one of you.  



Several months ago I wrote a post entitled 'From Generation to Generation' which resonated with many of you.  The post dealt with how I felt about learning, creating and sharing through the generations.  This was the concept I wanted to capture and work with for my store.  

When you visit Heritage Home and browse through the selected merchandise and through the sections of the website, you will understand what I am talking about.  The excerpt below is taken from Heritage Home.


Heritage Home was created as a source for unique home products.  
I've been collecting contemporary, antique and vintage housewares for a number of years, some of which have been showcased on Good Things by David.  My wonderful copper cookie cutter collection has brought me and my family a lot of joy over the years.  These unique cutters are meant to be cherished through the generations.  
It gives me great pleasure to bring to you a new era in collecting for today's home.  One-of-a-kind cutters designed by me and made by talented American coppersmiths will cover the seasons of the year, as well as special occasions and milestones.  With creative designs and freshly updated decorating ideas, I will make it easy for each and every one of you to produce the best cookies for your loved ones using American-made cookie cutters.  The designs & groups of cutters you see here are exclusive to Heritage Home.  
Several other products for the home inspired by my very own collections are introduced in a new light for a contemporary sensibility.  Items which make my life easier, nicer and more enjoyable are all hand-selected for each & every one of you. 
I want to bring you the quality & standard of living you've come to expect from Good Things by David directly to your door.  Quality has always been important to me and it is my intent to provide you with items that I love.  My hope is that you make these unique products a part of your home.  





Let me personally thank every single family member, friend and committed reader for the support and undying enthusiasm you have shown throughout this process.  The synergy of my blog and its merchandising division wouldn't be possible without it.

I also want to thank my business associates (please visit my good friend, Janet's online store, Oui Sugar!), blogging colleagues and the several artisans, artists & craftsman who have made this vision of mine possible.  I hope to be creating and sharing these wonderful "Good Things" for years to come. 


Experience Heritage Home Now!





Friday, October 18, 2013

Caring for Cutting Boards


I'm getting ready to condition some of my cutting boards here at home, so I thought I'd post this entry from last year as a reminder.  This is how I care for these kitchen tools every month.


A good, solid cutting board is one of those kitchen tools that every cook should have.  As one who spends a lot of time in the kitchen cooking up meals for my family, I rely heavily on my cutting boards to get me through many culinary tasks.  Although my boards experience a lot of cutting, dicing, slicing, chopping & mincing on a daily basis, I treat them gently by maintaining them well.  Any type of cutting board is an investment for the home cook, and it's one that shouldn't go to waste because of neglect.

Wood is my preferred surface for cutting boards, but there are other types available to the home chef, such as polypropylene (these I highly recommend for cutting meats because they can be cleaned in the dishwasher) and bamboo, which are suitable for any kitchen.  A wooden board, however, is sturdy, beautiful to look at and is easiest on knives for cutting.  They are prone to splitting and cracking if not taken care of properly, but if you follow a few simple basics, a wooden cutting board will get you through years of meal preparations.  This is what I do in my kitchen.

This small collection of cutting boards sitting on my dough counter is due for a monthly oiling.


A good food-safe mineral oil can be found in supermarkets, hardware stores and at any kitchenwares store.  I don't recommend using a vegetable oil for cutting boards because over time it can grow stale and give off an unpleasant odor.  Not a good thing. 

  • A new wooden cutting board should be oiled every single day for the first week in your kitchen and then on a weekly basis for the first month. 
  • Every wooden cutting board should be oiled once a month.

Add a few drops of mineral oil to the cutting board.


Work the oil into your cutting board with a paper towel, making sure you get every inch and all around the edges.  After 5 minutes, wipe off any excess oil with a clean paper towel. 

Edges are the areas most susceptible to cracks and splits if there is excess humidity in your home or if the air is quite dry.  Wood likes a stable environment that isn't too humid or too dry.  



All done.  The boards are well oiled and ready to assist me in my next culinary endeavor.  Some of these boards have been in my kitchen for about a decade now.


 If I've just used my cutting board for preparing a meal and it isn't too dirty or stained, I simply sprinkle some coarse kosher salt on the surface.


Using a lemon half, I scrub the cutting board all the way around.  The lemon acts as a natural disinfectant and 'detergent', while the salt acts as an abrasive.  When I'm done, I simply wipe off the excess salt.  I then dry the board with a clean kitchen towel and store it either on my counter or on a shelf.   

If your board is excessively stained or odorous, you can wash it with a mild dish soap and hot water. 

  • Never let a wooden board soak in water because it will absorb moisture; this will make it swell, warp or split.
  • A wooden cutting board should never be cleaned in the dishwasher. 
  • Keep a separate cutting board for meatspoultry and seafood; this board should always be washed with dish soap & hot water.  If there is excess wear & tear after years of use, replace the board.  Deep grooves and nicks can harbor harmful bacteria. 

This round paddle cutting board is quite special, because it's inspired by an antique.  It is one of my favorite cutting boards!  Working with a skilled American craftsman, this 12" board along with a 15" version, will be available for purchase next week through my online store.  Exclusively made for you!  The wood conditioner you see here is specially formulated by the craftsman and will also be available for purchase.  It conditions, restores and maintains cutting boards naturally.  



If you own a cutting board or plan on buying one soon (I hope you do when my versions are up for sale!!), make sure you have a bottle of food-safe mineral oil or that wood conditioner paste I'll be offering, to help you maintain its beauty.  Cutting boards make thoughtful gifts for friends and family, especially for those who are just starting to put a home together.  It is my belief that every home cook should have at least two cutting boards in their kitchen (one for pungent ingredients & one for everything else).  As you can see, I have several ones that I use for specific tasks.  I'm not one who likes to use the same surface for strongly-flavored ingredients (think garlic & onions) and for something delicately flavored like fruit or a tea bread.  Having said that, I encourage you to keep a regular routine for maintaining the cutting boards in your kitchen; it doesn't require much to do this.  Caring for a cutting board is a wise thing for the home cook. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Autumn Harvest Granola

Granola is always in my pantry because it's a quick go-to breakfast or snack for us here at home.  I've shown you one of my favorite recipes before and have since altered it here and there over the months, from batch to batch.  For the Fall season I decided to add a bit of spice and expand on the dried fruits & nuts in order to make it even more tasty.  Autumn seems to herald in all of those sweet combinations that suggest warmth & spicy aromas, so what better way to capture it than with some delicious granola?


You have to understand that I make a large batch of this so that it can be packaged up and parceled out to people in the neighborhood, but one can always cut the recipe in half if need be.  I like to keep some in one of my vintage Ball jars so that during the week I can have a light breakfast with my yogurt & banana, but I also love to have it in the afternoons when I want a boost of energy.  


Packed with oats, wheat germ, a few types of seeds, some nuts & dried fruit, my Autumn Harvest recipe is going to be a hit with you if you like homemade granola that doesn't have a lot of additives.  Gather your ingredients from a reliable source and mix everything together over the weekend.  You're going to find this a very wonderful addition to your pantry.

Enjoy!  


The Ingredients
  • 6 cups {600 g.} old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 2 cups {140 g.} wheat germ or oat bran
  • 1 cup {115 g.} raw pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup {110 g.} sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup {100 g.} chopped pecans
  • 2 cups {175 g.} sweetened flaked coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups {227 g.} dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, apricots)
  • 1/2 cup {85 g.} chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1 1/4 cups {300 ml.} pure maple syrup
  • 1 1/4 cups {300 ml.} canola oil
  • 3 tsp. {15 ml.} ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. {5 ml.} ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. { 1.25 ml.} ground cloves

Yield: approximately 16 cups granola

Equipment: 4 baking sheets lined with parchment paper or silpats & 1 extra large bowl.





Center oven racks
Preheat to 350° F (177°C)

1.  In a large bowl, combine the oats, wheat germ, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, chopped pecans, flaked coconut, crystallized ginger, and dried fruits.  Add the maple syrup.

2.  In a measuring cup, add the spices to the canola oil and whisk to combine thoroughly.  Add to the granola ingredients and toss to combine well.  Everything should be moistened.

3.  Spread the granola between 4 prepared baking sheets.  Bake granola for approximately 15-20 minutes, just until the mixture is getting brown.  Don't let it burn, especially around the edges.

4.  Remove from the oven and let cool completely on the baking sheet until it has hardened.  Break up the granola once it has cooled and package it up or store the mixture in an airtight container.
When I break up the granola I fill a large bowl to make it easy for portioning.  With a measuring scoop I can divvy up the granola into bags or jars.

This is what I consider a good breakfast.  In addition to a banana and a cup of espresso (or two), some granola mixed with nonfat yogurt gets me through the morning without feeling empty.  Make it a habit to have your own homemade granola in the pantry and I guarantee you will never buy some from the store ever again.  It's that good!




All packaged up and ready to head out the door, bags of granola are good treats to hand out to those who love it.  If your nice enough to want to do it, type out the recipe for them to try at home or simply make more to hand out in the future.  It's a great gift for the holidays, but it's also good to have any time of  year.  I hope you make some.



Friday, October 11, 2013

Heritage Bee & Hive Copper Cookie Cutters


I’m pleased to introduce this special edition set of heritage copper cookie cutters designed by me for Good Things by David.  Having worked closely with American coppersmith, Michael Bonne, to create these wonderful iconic images, nothing gives me greater pleasure than making them available to you for your very own home.  Everyone here knows how much I cherish my collectible copper cookie cutters which have been featured  extensively over the years, and it is because of this passion for them that a brilliant collaboration was formed to create a limited-edition set.  Soon to be available exclusively through a store I’m creating, the charming Bee & Hive duo will allow you to bake & decorate unique cookies which are bound to become family favorites.


Who doesn’t love baking delicious cookies in adorable shapes for family and friends?  It’s a time-honored tradition in my house that I have enjoyed doing every single year for various special occasions & celebrations.  This type of gift giving is one of my favorite things to do.  A number of you have shown me your creative talents and artistry with cookie design, and I applaud every single one of your exceptional cookies.  Now it’s time to create more cookies!

What started as a conversation with my friend, Janet, has turned into a new venture.  The collaboration for my set of cutters, along with her very own set of cutters, has sparked an interest with some of you who have known about this special project for some time now.  For those of you who are new to this, now is your chance to own a set of tailor-made copper cookie cutters.


Made in America 
Created Exclusively for
 Good Things by David  


Heritage Bee & Hive Cookie Cutters 

 Coming Soon!



The closed-back copper cookie cutters have clean edges which make cutting out cookie dough a breeze.  Made in the tradition of some of my collectible cookie cutters, the Bee & Hive are large enough to give ample room for creativity.

The hand-stamped Good Things by David handles are comfortable to hold, so using them to make whimsical cookies will be a joy.  I'm beyond thrilled with the quality of my cookie cutters and I know you will be too.

One of my original sketches for the Bee created at home.  This was a prototype drawing that I was mulling over during the process of designing the Bee.  There were many other sketches, but I settled for the one above.


I wanted to keep the Beehive as simple as possible with soft edges and rounded curves.  One problem that I did encounter midway was the opening of the hive.  It was much too wide, so it got downsized.


This is but one design.  I love the color combination and the sparkly effect that sanding sugar gives this cookie.

I don't know of any Bee in nature that is this color.  Pure whimsy!  That's one of the joys of decorating cookies.  One's imagination can create just about anything when icing cookies.


These tasty and colorful cookies were made using my very own Heirloom Sugar Cookie Recipe.  The icing is none other than the Perfect Royal Icing, tinted in various shades of pinks, oranges and yellows.



In a very short time you will have the opportunity to shop for this unique set of cookie cutters presented to you.  With the purchase of a Bee & Hive cutter set I will include a decorating guide showing you how to create the cookies you see here.  Keep in mind, however, that several other decorations will be included in that recipe & decorating card (for customers only).  This set of contemporary Americana will become an instant heirloom meant to be passed down through the generations.  


I hope that you become a part of this experience and create cookies with me!



David

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rice Krispie Square Pops

It's been a very long time since I had a rice krispie square, so when a few people requested them recently, I wasted no time and went to work.  Popular with kids and adults (you know you like them), these sweet treats are probably one of the easiest things in the world to make.  Nothing more than toasted rice cereal, melted marshmallows and butter, the squares come together in a matter of minutes.  Waiting for them to set is perhaps the most difficult thing to do since their enticing sweetness makes you want to dig right into them, but this too can be remedied.



While searching for the 'krispie' treat recipe (it had been decades!), I was amazed to see how creative people can be with their squares, or rounds, or shapes.  For this particular batch I wanted the original square with nothing added to it.  To make it easier for people to devour one, I decided to put each square on a lollipop stick.  As tempting as they are to just grab and bite, the sticky quality of a rice krispie treat can be quite messy.  


Let's get to the squares because you should waste no time in making some for your home or for the office, but they will probably be an even bigger hit if you make some for your kid's classroom.  If you package each one in a cellophane bag tied with some string like I did, you'll be made in the shade.

A bit of retro.  A bit of sweetness.  Delicious!

Rice Krispie Square Pops Ingredients
  • 12 cups toasted rice cereal
  • Two 10 oz. bags of marshmallows
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
Yield: Eighteen 3x3" square pops

Equipment: Two 9x2" square cake pans, parchment paper, baking sheets & 18 lollipop sticks


Prepare two 9x2" square baking pans by spraying them with nonstick cooking spray.  Line one side of the pan with parchment paper or waxed paper and leave a 2" overhang on each side.  This will make it easier to lift the block of treats.

Cut a separate piece of waxed paper to press down the mixture when it's ready.

Put the toasted rice cereal into a very large bowl.

In a large pot over medium heat, add the butter and marshmallows.  Stir with a heatproof spatula or a wooden spoon (reserved for sweet preparations) until every marshmallow is melted and the mixture is smooth.

Immediately pour the contents over the rice cereal.  Using two spatulas or spoons, mix the melted marshmallow mixture with the rice cereal until thoroughly combined.


Divide the mixture between both pans and press down evenly with the piece of waxed paper.  

Let the rice krispie squares set completely before lifting them out.  If you want to speed up the process, refrigerate them until solid.  You can also put them in the freezer to set even faster.


When set, gently remove the blocks onto a cutting board and cut into squares.  I had been asked to make generous squares so I made 3x3" blocks.  Each 9" pan will make 9 generous squares.

Cut evenly and set them on silpat or parchment-lined sheets.  Gently insert lollipop sticks into each square.  They can be enjoyed now if you like.

However, if you want to enhance them with chocolate (another request), do this.


This if for 9 Chocolate-Dipped Rice Krispie Squares.  Double the recipe if you want all of them to have chocolate.


Ingredients
  • 6 oz. or 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons whole milk
Melt 6 oz. (or 1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips with 4 tablespoons of whole milk over a bain marie.  You can also use a microwave if you like.  Stir until the chocolate sauce is smooth and thick.

Using a spoon, drizzle chocolate over the tops of the squares, turning them as you go.  Set them onto the prepared baking sheets and let the chocolate set.  

I set these in the refrigerator before packaging them up.


Choose cellophane bags that are the right size for them and drop one per bag.  Tie with a colorful piece of twine and voila!  They're ready to be taken wherever one needs a treat.  Packaged like this, they can even be sold at a bake sale.  


Make some this week!