Saturday, February 28, 2015

Delicious Red Spinach

Have you ever tried fresh red spinach from the farmers market?  I hadn't until a few days ago when I spotted it while shopping at one of my favorite markets. At first glance I thought it was a mesclun of salad greens, but the sign said it was 'red spinach' so I took a closer look.  Never having laid eyes on red spinach, I bought a bunch intending to try it that very night.  

After looking up information on red spinach, I came to realize that this variety is from the genus Amaranthus, and its species is A. dubius.  What we know of as flat leaf or curly green spinach is from the genus Spinacea and its species S. oleracea.  Both, however, come from the same family, Amaranthaceae.  Red spinach is also known as Chinese spinach (yin choy).

Either way, it's worth bringing home a bunch from the market if you ever spot some in the produce aisle.

The first order of business is to rinse it very well in cold water.

After picking through it for blemished leaves, I place the bunch in one of my sinks and give it a very quick and gentle spray of cold water to remove any surface detritus.  Then it's onto a small soak. 

You'll notice while doing this that the leaves are formed in clusters which you can separate or leave intact.  Depending on how you plan to serve these tasty greens, it's up to you what you do with them.

In a large bowl, add cold water and with a few handfuls at a time, swish the leaves around very gently so that you don't bruise them.  This gentle agitation releases any hard-to-find grit or dirt from the leaves and stalks.  The dirt will settle at the bottom of the bowl.  Let the leaves sit for a few minutes before transferring them to a colander. 

You could do this in a water-filled sink if you have several bunches, but a bowl will suffice for a smaller bunch. 

It's important to use the leaves as soon as possible so that they don't wilt or become unsightly.  I wouldn't keep a bunch for more than one day in the refrigerator.

You can simply toss the red spinach in a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar (salt and pepper to taste) or some other vinaigrette of your choice for a simple and delicious salad.  If you love curries, why not make some lentil & spinach curry for a healthy dinner?  This recipe from Naturally Ella looks delicious!

Another way of having this (above photo), which I admit is my favorite way to eat spinach, is to sauté it with some garlic and good quality extra-virgin olive oil until the leaves are just wilted.  When it's done, sprinkle a little bit of lemon juice before serving and voila!

What's so good about red spinach other than the flavor?  Well, for starters, this green has three times the amount of calcium and five times the amount of niacin than regular spinach.  It's also a very good source of Vitamin A, C, iron and other essential minerals.  You can't help but feel like you're doing yourself some good by eating it, so I encourage you to try red spinach if you ever come across it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Never-Ending Snow

We can't seem to get a break from the snow here in the Northeast.  As much as people like the idea of snow and how it looks in the landscape, I assure you that it can be rather tiresome after a few days of it.  The month of February has been especially snowy and brutally cold for a lot of us in this part of the country.  With single digit temperatures and blustery days, it's been an effort just to get out the front door!  

In years past I've shown you photographs of what our home looks like with the first snowfall or a subsequent one, so I am a bit late in providing those for you.  I'm not sure if it was the cold or what, but I hadn't been in the mood to take pictures of the outdoors until a few days ago.

Friends of mine on the west coast can boast of warm temperatures, sunny skies and outdoor activities that they're enjoying right now, but I say to them, empathize with our 'being done with winter' sentiments here on the east coast, even if it is just for one moment.  OK, enough of my grievance with the cold and the snow, and let's get to the photos!

A snow-covered bench is surrounded by complete silence as I make my way outdoors.

It is rather beautiful to walk through the landscape when nothing is stirring and the last snowflake has fallen on the ground.  As I make my way out of the mudroom/office area and onto the back porch, I check to see how thick the snow is on the steps.  A good gauge for me is the teak bench which sits next to the well right across from the kitchen window.

Thick boots (my Wellies are just right), a heavy wool coat, a hat, a scarf and a pair of gloves is absolutely necessary right now.  You can't walk out the front door when it's in the single digits without any type of protection.

I never get tired of the view in front of the house.  A meandering driveway, an old Pennsylvania stone barn and perhaps some deer in the nearby woods if we're lucky.  Can you just make out the steps leading up to the driveway?  It's pretty bad when you can't even see them.

The front porch is the first thing to clear off before shoveling the walkway.  Just past that small hill is a fox den and the home of our resident groundhog, Henry.  I was telling a reader that we're counting the days until he emerges from his little den.  We'll see!

What driveway?  Yes, it's there, but it's completely covered in powdery snow.  

The stone barn abuts the sloping hill which leads up to the large meadow.  As soon as the temperatures go up a bit, one will undoubtedly hear the dripping sounds of melting snow coming off the rooftop and front porch.

Those small tracks were probably made by one of the foxes or by some deer.  It's funny to see them using the trails that we use.

The three bay facade of the stone barn is very simple and unassuming.  A two bay hay loft is what's found on the second floor and the uppermost floor is a storage area which has odds and ends.

This set of stairs leading up to the field is barely visible, but thankfully on this particular day they were not icy.  

Built in 1830 of local stone, this type of Pennsylvania stone barn is known as a bank barn.  Bank barns were built against a sloping hill to take advantage of the landscape.  If you're interested in seeing what it looks like on the inside, click here.

The edge of the meadow clearly shows a bleak landscape, but take my word for it, in a matter of weeks after we've thawed from winter's grip, everything will transform into a verdant panorama.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of some deer, but alas, they were not in the area.

The tall evergreens look beautiful with their snow-covered boughs.

The Barn.

As I make my way back home in this photograph I can't help but wonder when we'll see the little snowdrops that honor us with their presence in the early spring.  I'm thinking of how I want to arrange them on my table and in my kitchen.  Their beguiling scent is unlike any other.  

In the meantime, I hope all of you are keeping warm wherever you may live. Don't worry, spring is right around the corner along with better temperatures, sunny days and the cheerful appearance of the wildlife.  Are you ready for spring?  I know I am!



Monday, February 23, 2015

A Pictorial Overview of 2013

This picture video from 2013 that was made for me by Google, is one I've never shared here on the blog.  It's nice for me to go back and review an entire year of posts, but it's even better when a short video condenses my posts through photographs.  I know it's a little late, but I hope you enjoy it anyhow.

Good Things by David 2013 Video
(Please sign onto your Google account in order to view this.)

I'll be posting very soon what my home currently looks like with all of the snow we've been getting here in the Northeast.  In the meantime, stay warm!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Swedish Limpa Bread

Baking bread while it's cold out is a good way to warm up one's home.  Over the past few months I've been baking Swedish Limpa Bread on a regular basis because it seems to have a little bit of everything.  There is a hint of sweetness that is just right with every bite, and yet, it's perfectly savory to have with eggs for breakfast because of the rye flour.  The recipe I turn to, which I'm quite spoiled by, is from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. If you don't own this book you really should add it to your cookbook library, because there is a lot to learn from Bernard's recipes, tips and anecdotes.

Have you ever had limpa?  If so, then you understand that enjoying a slice of it slathered with butter or some marmalade is one of life's little pleasures.  I love having this toasted bread with my tea or with a cup of coffee if I can help it. Don't tell anyone, but I've also had it with some nutella spread and it is amazing!  Keep reading.

As I said, I've been baking Limpa this Fall and Winter, so there is a fresh loaf at all times in the freezer just waiting to be toasted and reheated.  Thankfully I've managed to find the exact recipe online for all of you to try, if you aren't familiar with it, and let me just say, you've been warned!  Once you master the recipe once you will try it again and again, perhaps adding something or subtracting something to suit your tastes.  There aren't too many ingredients and with only two rises, you can have loaves warm and ready for dinner in no time.  The one thing I recommend you not omit is the freshly grated orange zest, for it is essential to the bread's flavor.

Swedish Limpa Ingredients
I always find it best to set out my measured ingredients before I begin the recipe.  Some may find this fussy, but I find it to be an absolute must if you want success when baking.  As you can see, the flours are separated (per the recipe), the raisins are a mix of golden and regular Thompson, the molasses and sugar are ready to be added and the orange zest is fragrant and fresh.  The caraway, cumin and fennel seeds are sitting in my Mason & Cash mortar and pestle from England, waiting to be pounded.  The recipe doesn't call for this, but I like to crush the seeds as I'm doing the initial kneading so that I release the essence of the seeds.

Flours: the bread flour of choice in my kitchen is from King Arthur.  I've experimented with different rye flours and have come to love Arrowhead Mills Rye Flour and Hodgson Mill Rye Flour.  The choice is yours.

click on the link above

Ever since I bought myself that giant KitchenAid 7qt. mixer, I have loved how quickly the ingredients come together.  I've done this recipe by hand and believe me when I tell you that if you have a stand mixer in the kitchen, use it for this.  Rye breads are heavy to knead by hand and you will indeed have to employ a lot of elbow grease should you choose to do it the old-fashioned way.

Give yourself a good amount of counter space to do the final kneading by hand.  That giant board on my dough counter is used for this purpose, because it sits a few inches lower than a standard counter. I love working here by the sunny window.

Find a good bowl to allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free place.  This stoneware bowl from Martha by Mail is perfect.  

The generous recipe makes two loaves.  Once they've cooled down, slice the breads as thin or thick as you feel like and enjoy them.    

Tip:  since the breads don't contain any preservatives, they will only keep for one day.  What I do is slice them completely and seal the loaves in zip-top freezer bags after they have cooled, removing every bit of air.  They then get placed in another zip- top bag to prevent any freezer burn.  Whenever I feel like having some, I remove as many slices as we're going to consume and toast them.  I've kept this bread for up to a month in the freezer and have never had any problems with it.

Limpa and nutella heaven!  If I'm not having it with this chocolate chestnut spread, then I reach for some good butter and/or marmalade.  With a cup of coffee or with a cup of tea, Limpa is bound to become a favorite at your house.  Make some this week!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

However you're spending your day and whether you're enjoying chocolates or cookies, I want to wish you and your loved ones a sweet Valentine's Day.  


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Valentine's Day Play-Dough Craft

I came across this wonderful crafting idea via PBS on my newsfeed this morning and thought I'd share it with you.  For those of you who have kids, making play-dough or having it in your home is nothing new.  Tinting play dough in reds, pinks, and white for Valentine's Day is a great way to get the little ones to create beautiful hearts. 
Photo Credit: PBS Parents

Contributing editor to PBS Parents, Jamie Reimer, takes you through easy step-by-step instructions.   Jamie Reimer also hosts a wonderful website which has an abundance of crafting ideas & projects.  I highly recommend taking a moment to peruse through it.

Jamie's website: hands on: as we grow.

Why am I posting this here on Good Things by David, you ask?  Well, for the simple reason that I love doing this with cookie dough whenever I'm baking different flavors or colors.  Jamie's creations remind me so much of the cookies I love to bake.   

For the adults, make some marbled cookies this Valentine's Day and for the kids, let them get creative with play-dough.  

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Valentine Heart Cookies

Valentine's Day gets everyone in the mood for something sweet.  If you want to express your love by baking sugar cookies for your sweetheart(s), then I highly suggest doing so in the shapes of hearts.  Heart cookie cutters are everywhere baking supplies are sold, and with the multitude of online sources, you can create a variety of shapes and sizes to suit your whimsy.  I have a few heart cookie cutters in my collection, so for these, I turned to some of my favorite.

The Best Valentine's Day Cookies!

love these heart cookie cutters by de Buyer.
Made in France, the set of graduated heart cookie cutters 
are deep, sharp and seamless.  
To my mind, they have the perfect heart shape.

Let's get to the cookies because I know you're going to want to make some this week for Valentine's Day.  You can make a few of them for your household or you can make batches of them to take to work, to your kid's school or for a bake sale.  Roll up your sleeves, get a sturdy rolling pin and dig out those heart cookie cutters from your pantry.  You're going to have fun making Valentine Heart Cookies!  

In order to get an even color when tinting sugar cookie dough, it's very important to add the food coloring while you're creaming the butter and sugar.  This enables the food coloring to get distributed evenly when adding the dry ingredients.  If you wait until the dough has formed to tint it, you run the risk of leaving color streaks.  Not pretty.  

For my Heirloom Sugar Cookie Recipe (and I highly suggest you use it for these cookies!), add 1 teaspoon of red gel paste food coloring for the entire batch.  I'll let you in on a little secret: swap out the vanilla extract and use strawberry extract to enhance these Valentine's Day treats.  Tasty!

Rolled and cut, the cookie dough looks good as is.  Can you see the even coloring? 

Once baked and cooled, it's time to start mixing the Perfect Royal Icing and tinting it various shades of reds, lavenders or whatever strikes your fancy.  Oh, and if you wish, add strawberry extract to the royal icing.  Are you tempted?

It's important to have your mise en place when baking and decorating.  I allot a station in the kitchen for this task, next to a sunny window.  Stacks of cookies (top left), bags of tinted royal icing (top right) and candies/sugars (bottom left) are at the ready.  It's also wise to have a plate set aside to test out your piping skills and to remove any clogged pastry tips.  This makes everything tidy.

For the various hearts, I used two designs with one simple technique.  Using a smaller heart cookie cutter as your guide, trace a perfect heart with a food-safe marker (these are available at baking supply stores and craft stores-think Michael's!).  Make sure this is centered (top photo).  

Using the color of your choice, with royal icing, trace the outline of that marked heart.  Now you have two choices: either fill & flood the inner heart (middle heart) or trace the entire perimeter of the heart and flood the outline (bottom heart) with the tasty royal icing.  The former leaves the perimeter of the red cookie exposed, and the latter leaves an inner heart exposed.  

Let the fun begin!

Dots in a single color or in alternating colors can be dropped around the heart or along the edge of the hearts, but you can also create an special design by making your own creation.  

Write a love message for your cutie pie or make a lacy pattern for that special individual.  Whatever you create, make it extra special because the recipient is going to notice the effort.  

These are made with a lot of love after all. 

Don't these look adorable without being entirely covered in icing?  

Promise me you will make some for Valentine's Day.

 A Valentine's Day Heart Cookie from me to you.


Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Jadeite Basket Mystery

Dear David,

I have a piece of vintage glassware in my possession that I've been trying to do some research on.  It is unmarked, however at this point I think it is likely Fenton.  It is possible that it may be a rare Chalet piece.  I don't know that Chalet ever made any jadeite pieces though.  Can you help?

Truman J.

Truman, after doing some quick research on jadeite baskets, I've come discover that several glassworks created jadeite baskets for the home during the 20th century.  These included, Fenton, Mosser, L.E. Smith in the United States and Stevens & Williams Glass in the United Kingdom.  

Not being familiar with glass baskets myself, I asked several collector friends of mine what they thought.  I also turned to a Facebook forum on identifying antiques to see what people had to say about your basket.  

As it turns out there wasn't one definitive answer from anyone.  Without any markings on the basket, it has become somewhat of a mystery as to the maker of this exquisite piece of glass.  What everyone did agree on, Truman, is that you have a beautiful glass basket.

These three photographs taken by Truman show the different angles.  It's a stunning piece of glass that can grace any table quite elegantly!

Stevens and Williams Glass Basket
This is the only example of a jadeite basket attributed to Stevens and Williams from the U.K. that I came across.  I love the combination of the milky white handle against the opaline green bowl.

L.E. Smith Jadeite
Here we have an example of a hobnail glass basket in jadeite by L.E. Smith Glass.
Fenton Glass
One example of a Fenton Glass basket shows how thick the glass can be from this American glassworks and how dense the color saturation.  For more on Fenton Glass, click here: Fenton Art Glass.

If you are ever curious as to who made your Fenton Glass basket, every piece has their maker's mark on the base of the handle where it attaches to the bowl.  These are the marks of the artists who worked at Fenton.

Chalet Cranberry Glass
Although this basket isn't jadeite, the handle of the Chalet basket (notice the Chalet sticker) is very much like the one on Truman's basket.  Look closely at the bowl of the basket.  Can you see the lattice pattern that goes around the outside base of the bowl?  That pattern is very similar to the one on the jadeite basket below.

So, it is possible that the basket in question is indeed from Chalet Glass manufactured in Canada.

The bottom of the basket shows a definite pontil mark.  

Since I cannot solve this mystery, I'm going to leave it to you, the reader, to help us get some answers if at all possible.  Truman has written to some individuals to see what they had to say about his basket, so when he gets back to me, I will update you.  In the meantime, enjoy collecting!