Saturday, July 27, 2013

Backyard Blackberry Cobbler

    It's no secret that we here at “Oddly” are proud of our domesticity. The whole blog is devoted to our sewing and cooking and food-fixing abilities, for Pete's sake! That said, what is more domestic than making food for an after-church snack? Not a lot, unless it would be “making food for an after-church snack while wearing heels and an apron in the kitchen whilst simultaneously breastfeeding.” But even I'm not that much of a fanatic.
    It's also no secret that we love foraging and saving money. In that vein, here is a post about how I made blackberry cobbler from the blackberry bramble in my backyard.
I've been picking berries from the bramble for awhile now (read: fighting the resident backyard rat and winning), but didn't have time to deal with them, so I just washed them and threw them in quart bags in the freezer. The fiance was signed up to bring snacks for church, so I figured as a good, thrifty, domestic fiancee, I would do the good, thrifty, domestic fiancee thing and help him out. Enter: blackberries.
   The recipe I used, from “The Pioneer Woman,” (who, by the way, has all the recipes for all the things, and the hipsters love her), called for self-rising flour. I was like “There is no way I am buying self-rising flour for this one cobbler, that's not thrifty at all!” So I got on the Internets and looked it up and lo and behold, all you have to do is mix up some flour, baking soda and salt, and voila! So I mixed up all the things and accidentally exploded a bit of butter in the microwave because I forgot to cut it into chunks first. Oops. Apparently butter melts from the inside out when you microwave it?  I poured the batter into my pan, which I forgot to grease (hope that's not a problem...) and then loaded it up with lots and lots of blackberries, until the pan almost overflowed.
Blackberries - the more the merrier!
Then I just popped it into the oven for an hour, and it turned out great!

So now I have the fiance out buying another quart of milk because I need to make another cobbler here in a little bit. I want to have a balanced snack table.  Not nutritionally balanced, mind. There are two snack tables, so I need two cobblers, duh.    

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Birdie Dress

     Once upon a time, I found some super cute little birdie fabric in the remnant bin at the MOST AMAZING FABRIC STORE ON THE PLANET. I wanted to make a skirt with a contrasting border, so I bought some solid magenta fabric as well. Later on, I decided that I have enough skirts (enough to fill 3 5-tier skirt hangers), so I thought “Hm... I could make a dress out of this!”
Birdie print.  Atop my free Craigslisted wicker dresser!
     The dress pattern I used called for like 3 yards of fabric, but that's for noobs. It also said “simple to make!” but I didn't let that slow me down either. I was raised to never follow the directions when it came to sewing, so if it said “simple to make,” you can be darned sure we'd find a way to make it way more difficult than necessary.
"Simple to make!" screams the pattern.  Oh, just you wait.
     Keeping that in mind (and the fact that I only had a 1.5yards of birdie fabric and about half a yard of magenta), I decided to make a dress with contrasting inserts on the sides and fashion fabric down the center front and back. I just folded the pattern pieces and made sure it cut an extra 5/8” around them, for the seam allowance. Many sewing projects have been ruined because I forgot a seam allowance (not really, but it sure makes it more difficult). The pattern also called for some pretty hefty bust darts. If you know me at all, you'll know I don't have a very hefty bustline. So those had to be altered. But it's better to alter the darts than to have no darts at all – as some dame or another said - “Your clothes should be tight enough to show that you're a woman, and loose enough to show that you're a lady.” Or something to that effect.
     So after watching the extended version of “The Fellowship of the Ring,” two episodes of “Arrow,” and one episode each of “The Bachelorette” and “The Daily Show,” the dress was finished! And it doesn't look too bad! Next time I use this pattern, I think I'll take a little more in on the center front bodice (it's a little blousier than I'd prefer), but on the whole, it was a pretty successful venture, especially considering that I only had to buy an extra ¼ yard of fabric to finish off the skirt!

Also pictured - my $20 Craigslisted desk, my 3/4 size
Singer sewing machine, and my kaffiyeh bulletin board.
Also my wood floors, which make cleanup a breeze!
Oddly, looks kinda good.

Foraging and Mini Pies

(I was this close to titling the page "Phoraging on the Phamily Pharm = Phree Phood" in homage to my  pharmaceutical background where "Ph" is used as much as possible and pronunciations are made up, but then I knew I'd hate myself. Lucky you.)

Mini Pie filled with foraged berries! It all comes together! And my second-ever
lattice crust. I feel incredibly accomplished.

Free is good.  Foraging for your own free berries that cost ridiculous amounts in supermarkets or simply aren't available is way better.

Black raspberries make pretty stains.

There was a family reunion recently and my parents and I took some time to tromp around my grandparents' and late great-grandparents' farms.

The barn on my late great-grandparents' farm. It's huge.

Inside the barn. Isn't it wonderful?

The granary. It has slatted bins on each side for ear corn and a space above
for loose grain.

While in the largely defunct orchard at my great-grandparents' farm, we saw a bush loaded with gooseberries. Mom and I each picked a handful, joking that I could make a tart.

And then we saw more bushes. And some mulberry trees.  We stepped into full-on Foraging Mode. In the absence of aprons, we had to make do.  

Mulberries are very delicate and if your hands aren't purple by the time
you're done, you're not doing it right.

The barn at my grandparents'. Excellent for various pirate adventures when
we were children due to the  two separate piles of moldering hay bales with
a rope swing conveniently situated to swing between the "ship" and "land."

The granary. It has four solid-sided bins that are filled from above. An elevator
runs grain through the upper window into the upper level and the grain then
falls through 12x4" openings in the floor to the bins below.

Then we headed over to my grandparents' farm and availed ourselves of the black raspberry bushes taking over a ditch and foraged the edges of the timber surrounding the yard for more raspberries and mulberries.  When I got home, I weighed it, and we ended up with just over two pounds of fruit.

I promise they didn't come in the clamshell! That's just what we found that
we could dump our haul into.

The whole delightful haul. Post washing. Gooseberries in the foreground,
 mulberries in the left corner, white mulberries in the middle and black
raspberries in the back.

So I had to make some sort of pie. I didn't really want to make a pie that involved cooking the fruit into a mush before pouring it into the pie shell so I looked for a pie made with fresh berries. The only one I found was from an old "Farm Journal's Country Cookbook" from back when avocado green cookbooks sounded like a good idea.

I also didn't wan't to cramp my style by limiting myself to a single pie. So I made some mini pies in muffin tins! This allowed me to make various pies such as gooseberry, gooseberry-mulberry, and mulberry-black raspberry, and black raspberry. (Mulberries need something else with them, whether another berry or rhubarb is up to you. Mulberry-only pies are gross.)  I'll give the recipe verbatim, then note my changes afterward.

Empty shells, berries heaped pre-sugar-flour addition, post addition, and
butter patted, awaiting lattice or whole-crust tops.

Mulberry-Gooseberry. Gorgeous color.

I used Mom's Never-Fail Pie Crust. Except I did my best to make it fail by tweaking it just for fun.  The changes I made were to use a spice grinder to grind one cup of oatmeal into flour (to add some whole grains and maybe a different taste) and used half shortening and half butter (butter tastes better, but shortening is less expensive). And it still worked! Easy to roll out and a flaky result after baking. This is a solid recipe.

Never Fail Pie Crust
3 c. flour (I used 1/3 oat flour)
1 T sugar
1 c. shortening (I used 1/2 butter and half shortening)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vinegar
1 egg

Cut shortening (and butter, if using) into flour and sugar with pastry cutter until crumbly. Mix together salt, vinegar, and egg in liquid measure and fill to ¾ cup mark with water. Add to flour mixture. Knead slightly and divide into 3 parts. Roll and fold into quarters for transfer to pie pan. Bake at 410°F for the first 10-15 minutes, then turn down to 375°F for the remainder of the cook time (as prescribed by filling recipe).

*I rolled 1 1/2 inch balls for each muffin tin.  Makes at least 12 double-crust muffin-tin pies.
**Makes enough for 3 full-size single-crust pies and enough for at least 2 double-crust pies. Remember to cut decorative vents in the upper crust with a knife or cookie cutters, as desired.
***Dough may be refrigerated for a week or so or frozen for... awhile... if you have excess.

Gooseberry Pie
Pastry for two-crust pie
1 1/2 cups sugar (I only used 1 cup and that was sufficient)
1/2 cup flour
4 cups fresh gooseberries
2 Tablespoons butter or regular margarine

Stir sugar and flour together.
Distribute half the gooseberries in pastry-lined 9-inch pie pan. Sprinkle with half the sugar-flour mixture.  Top with remaining gooseberries and then with remaining sugar-flour mixture.  Dot with small pats of butter.  
Add top crust with vents cut in it; seal and flute edge. Cover edge of pie with foil to prevent over-browning. 
For a sparkly, pretty crust, lightly brush the tops with a little milk and sprinkle with sugar. This will cook into a crispy topping.
Bake in 410°F oven for 10-15 minutes, then turn down to 375°F for 25-30 minutes, until juices start to bubble through vents; remove foil last 15 minutes of baking. Cool.

*I put a half filled each pastry-lined muffin tin with berries, put a tablespoon or two of the flour-sugar mixture on the berries, filled the tins to heaping with berries, put a couple more spoonfuls of the flour-sugar mixture on and then topped it all with a few thin pats of butter.  Use a couple extra scoops of the flour-sugar mixture if your pie only has gooseberries in it. Those are more tart and could used a little help. To bake, bake at 410°F for 8 minutes, then turn down to 375°F for 12-15 minutes or until juices are bubbling and tops are golden brown. I did not need foil protectors for the mini-pies.
**This recipe also works for finely chopped peaches.  I sprinkled a few pinches of cinnamon on top of the fruit before adding the sugar.

Baked goods only count if they're displayed on parchment paper or burlap.
Or barnwood.  Well, two out of three isn't bad, and anyway, my grandpa
might have objected if I started ripping siding off his barn.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

What We Wore...

....around town.

My younger sister came to visit me for the weekend recently so we fancy-pantsed ourselves up and went trekking around town.

I made this wonderful planet dress about a month ago and felt it was time to break it out again.  I bought my shoes somewhere. Not a thrift store. What a disappointment. My stylin' purse was bought three years ago on a "Tropical Biology Field Trip" to Costa Rica. My best friend hates it and would consign it to a fire if she got the chance.

.....oh crud. So turns out, the sister was behind the camera and so we didn't get any pictures of her. She wore black cut-off shorts (DIYed!!), thrifted(!) Reebok high tops and a blousy v-neck patterned top that she probably bought at the mall and paid full price for, silly girl.

So we traipsed up and down Mass Street and then went home and picked three cherry tomatoes. Maybe it was four.  Huge crop.

Sorry I forgot to strain my sternocleidomastoid for these pictures. The sister did and that's why she deleted the only picture of herself. Silly girl didn't know that's the best way to present yourself.

Photo cred to the sister.