Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ice Cream Keeper

Whenever I make ice cream from scratch, I always have a dilemma: what to store it in. I recently found a great ice cream container at Williams-Sonoma. Made by Tovolo, the container is the perfect shape for storing and scooping homemade ice cream. Its size and shape fits easily in a crowded freezer, or even a freezer door. So much better than the too-large plastic container I've used in the past. Go here to get the recipe for the blackberry-lemon ice cream shown below.

Tovolo makes some pretty interesting kitchen tools, including these fun ice molds in skull, Tiki and "rubber ducky" shapes. You may recall my husband gave me these Tovolo ice sphere molds for my birthday one year. I use them frequently when making cocktails.

This is not a sponsored post.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Homemade Lavender Fabric Softener

If you love the smell of lavender like I do, you'll want to experiment with lavender essential oil. At night, before going to bed, I mix a drop of it with unscented hand lotion to moisturize my hands. The scent of lavender is very soothing and calming -- perfect for bedtime.

Another way to use it is to put three or four drops of the oil on a cotton ball and add it to your vacuum bag (or simply vacuum up the cotton ball). The smell of lavender will fill the air as you vacuum the house. 

I visited the Aura Cacia website recently to get more ideas for how to use essential oils and found a recipe for lavender fabric softener. All you need is white vinegar, baking soda and lavender essential oil.

Here's how to make it:
Add 2 tablespoons of baking soda to 1/2 cup white vinegar.

Note: do not mix the vinegar and baking soda in a 1-cup measure, as I did below. Use a 2-cup measure or larger. Remember from science class what happens when you mix baking soda and vinegar? Well, as I was taking photos and my husband was adding the baking soda, the mixture quickly bubbled up and over the cup and ran all over the counter! Should have known better! We had a good laugh over it.

When the fizzing stops, add 90 drops of lavender essential oil (this produces a strongly scented mixture, but when my clothes and towels came out of the dryer, they didn't smell strongly of lavender). Pour the mixture into a glass bottle or jar. To use, gently shake the jar and add 2 tablespoons (for a small load) or 4 tablespoons (for a large load) to the rinse cycle of your washing machine.

Here are more ideas for using lavender essential oil:
There are many other fragrances too, such as lemon, sweet orange, eucalyptus, patchouli and rose, as well as blends. I'd like to begin experimenting with more essential oil recipes and scents. Do you use essential oils in your beauty or house cleaning routines?
This is not a sponsored post.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Using a French Press to Make Coffee

As a young adult I "learned" to like coffee for the caffeine benefits. Then I began to really like the stuff. Then I had to stop drinking it and didn't touch it for 10 years or more. Why, you ask? Because I was having heart palpitations and was told caffeine could make them worse, so I quit cold turkey. I gave up caffeinated tea also.  

Well recently I began drinking coffee again and have found it's having no effect on my heart (those palpitations are few and far between now). I think after such a long time away from coffee, I appreciate the process of making it and drinking it more than ever before. I'm also a newbie to coffee shops and all the fancy drinks they sell. I'm the one in line asking "What's the difference between a macchiato and a cortado?"

My husband uses a drip coffee maker to prepare his coffee, but years ago he used to use this Boden French press. During my trip to Seattle in May, I saw that my friends use a French press too, and so I started using it to make coffee and found that I love the process. So when I returned home, I dug out our French press. I've always loved the look of one, and the method is quite simple and enjoyable

To make coffee in a French press, first add four scoops of ground coffee to the container. I've been buying ground coffee that is really meant for drip coffee makers, which means it's too finely ground for the French press. Once I get through all the coffee we have in our pantry (which is a bunch thanks to our local grocery's buy 2 get 3 free specials), I'm going to start buying more coarsely ground coffee for the French press. I am anxious to see what kind of difference it makes.

Heat the water (I use our electric kettle, which I love) and just before it comes to a full boil, fill the French press container with the hot water.

Let the mixture steep four minutes. I use a timer so it doesn't sit too long. I find that four minutes is the right amount of time for a rich cup of coffee without bitterness.

After the coffee has steeped, slowly push down on the plunger to press the grounds to the bottom of the container.

I like to use turbinado sugar to my coffee ... an idea I got from my friend in Seattle. I store it in a pretty glass container on the kitchen counter.

I also add half & half to my coffee. My husband prefers his black. I am definitely not that much of a die-hard coffee drinker to drink it black. I need the sweetness and the cream!

I store leftover brewed coffee in a jar in the fridge so I can enjoy iced coffee in the afternoon or the next morning. Sometimes I also use the leftovers to make coffee ice cubes. I really enjoy iced coffee in the summer! I can remember my parents drinking iced coffee when I was a kid and I thought it was so gross, now I love it! Add a little chocolate syrup and voila, you have a fancy iced mocha -- without the fancy price tag! 

So tell me, do you make coffee at home or buy it at a shop? What method do you use to make your coffee? Do you have a favorite coffee drink or brand? There's a locally roasted coffee that my husband and I think is the best. A local bakery uses it to make their fancy coffee drinks, which are to die for (but expensive!) -- a cafe mocha and a gluten-free almond horn and I'm in heaven.

Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on coffee!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Creamy Mushrooms over Polenta with Asparagus

This recipe for creamy mushrooms over polenta is one of our favorite meals. It's easy to prepare, though it does require the use of the broiler -- a little hot for summer cooking. Even so, I make it year-round because it is so yummy. I've made some adaptations to this Everyday Food recipe, adding cornstarch to the sauce to thicken it, subbing vegetable broth for chicken, and using a tube of prepared polenta (plain or Italian herb) rather than baking it in a pan and cutting into wedges. This last substitution saves time, which is important for weekday meals.

I've started using avocado oil in my cooking. It is a heart-healthy fat and, unlike olive oil, it has a 500 degree F smoke point, so it's great for broiling. For comparison, extra virgin olive oil has a smoke point of 375 degrees F and canola oil has a smoke point of 435 degrees F. At its smoke point, an oil begins to break down and can have a bad odor and taste. Avocado oil can be used in baking, stir-frying, sauteing and in dressings and marinades. I buy Chosen Foods brand. 

Creamy Mushrooms over Polenta with Asparagus

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons avocado oil or vegetable oil
1 lb. cremini mushrooms, rubbed clean with a damp paper towel, trimmed and sliced 1/4" thick
3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 tsp. cornstarch, diluted in a small amount of cold water
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tube prepared polenta, sliced 1/2" thick (I use Melissa's brand, refrigerated in the produce section of the grocery)
1 lb. fresh asparagus, tough ends removed 

1) Heat oven broiler with rack 5 inches from heat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium high. Add mushrooms and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add broth and cornstarch and cook until thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in cream and cook 2 minutes more. Remove from heat.

2) On a rimmed baking sheet, place polenta slices on one side and asparagus on the other. Brush polenta slices lightly with 1 teaspoon oil and drizzle remaining teaspoon oil over asparagus and toss. Season with salt and pepper. 

3) Broil until polenta is golden brown and asparagus is crisp-tender, about 6 minutes, tossing asparagus halfway through. Serve polenta with creamy mushrooms over it and asparagus on the side.

Bon appetit!    

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Antiquing Adventure

Yesterday my husband and I went on an antiquing adventure. Through Facebook I discovered a huge antiques mall only an hour's drive from our home. Located in an old mill, the mall has 88,000 square feet of sales space with more than 600 individual dealers. It took us several hours to see it all!

Some booths, like the ones below, were so beautifully styled it made me want to buy everything. I saw lots of ironstone china and lots of awesome baskets, both wicker and wire varieties. I also saw many vintage glove molds, like the one in the photo below, under the white table. Once upon a time, I would have snagged it, but I don't have the right place for it now in our house.

We came home with some goodies, including a cowhide rug for only $165. It's roughly 60" x 64". The larger cowhides were $225, but they would have been too large for our small living room. 
Other items we purchased include this vintage hoosier jar with a unique raised dot pattern. It is 7" tall and 4.25" wide and was a bit of a splurge at $29. The lid goes on and off easily, so I'll store something in it -- not sure what yet.
I picked up a $5 half-pint milk bottle to use as a bud vase. The pink flower is the newest dahlia to bloom in the garden. It's a variety my husband planted this spring and I love how different it is from the others.
An avid life-long fisherman, my husband is drawn to any booth with vintage fishing rods and lures. He bought this old lure which he says is hard to find.
I love things with fleur-de-lis designs, partly because of my French heritage maybe. This rusted finial appealed to me both for its design and its finish. It was just $5. I've added it to my collection of old finials displayed on my kitchen windowsill.

A couple of other items, not shown, that I brought home include a $2 starfish and $8 aqua Ball jar. I love old jars, and the pale aqua ones are so pretty!

So that was our Saturday antiquing adventure. I am so glad my husband enjoys this sort of activity as much as I do. We have lots of fun scouting antiques stores together, especially when my husband goofs around, trying on wigs and hats and acting silly. He's a lot of fun and keeps me laughing.

We discovered that this particular mall is dog friendly, so next time we go, we'll bring Henry and Ella. I feel sure they'd be well behaved and would love the attention from dog-loving shoppers.

Last week we took them with us to a dog-friendly gelato shop. Henry and Ella loved the outing since they both got to lick the bowls after we finished our gelato. It's fun taking the dogs places like that, and I love that more and more businesses are opening their doors to canine members of the family! 

I hope you have a wonderful week. Thanks for visiting My Little Bungalow.       
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