Friday, February 28, 2014

Breville Immersion Blender

I use a Breville immersion blender.  Some people call them stick blenders.

I use mine every day.  I talk about that in my post on homemade mayo and also my post on scrambled eggs.

For the record, I am not employed or compensated by the Breville company in any way.  I recommend this appliance because I own it, use it and like it.

In fact, I use it so much that I kind of wore it out.  The blade end separated from the stick and wouldn't work any more.  So I emailed Breville and told them about it, and they sent me a replacement stick free of charge.  I consider that great customer service from a company that stands behind its products.

Personally, I think everybody needs one of these.

Immersion blenders and scrambled eggs

In another post I wrote about making homemade mayonnaise, I talked about my immersion blender and how I use it every day.  Here is a picture of it:

Just kidding.  That picture was taken in the galley of a cruise ship, and it’s used by the chef to cook for hundreds of passengers.  He looks like this:    

Kidding again.  He didn't wear a goofy chef hat, and the kitchen wasn't really on fire either.  But that massive blender really was hanging on the wall like that.  It gave me profound blender envy.

So.....   my own blender is actually a Breville, and it looks like this:

And as I said, I use it every day.   For homemade mayo and salad dressings.  To puree soups.  I even make a healthy version of gravy by pureeing the pan juices from a roast with soft cooked onions to thicken (and flavor) without flour or added fat.

Most often I use it to make scrambled eggs.  I know what you’re thinking… big deal, Granny, who doesn’t know how to make scrambled eggs?   True.  True.  But let me show you how to make GOOD scrambled eggs.

First you need to know how to scramble them.  I put the raw eggs in a bowl with just a little bit of water, maybe ½ a teaspoon per egg.  And I use the immersion blender to mix them til they're just a little frothy.

Then you need to know how to prepare the pan.  Heat your pan on a medium-low setting. (I don’t know an exact temperature; the burner settings on my stove go from Low to 10.  I use 4.)  
Then toss a couple of pats of good butter into the pan to melt.  Salted or unsalted doesn’t matter, but quality does.  Use fresh, real butter.  If you use margarine or cooking spray, you are on your own.  In that case, I don’t know WHAT you are putting in your eggs.

Then you need to know how to cook them.  First sprinkle some salt over the melted butter, and then pour in your eggs.  If you like pepper, now would be the time to crack some in.  Or even a pinch of dill weed or a bit of chive if that’s how you like it.

Now let the eggs set a bit and stir them up from time to time.  You don’t want to let them sit and get browned.  You also don’t want to harass them.  It’s a balance thing.

Finally, you need to know when to quit.  You know that, in order to cook meat correctly, you have to remove it from the heat before it reaches the final desired temperature, because it continues cooking for several minutes.  Just like a burn will keep “cooking” under your skin if you don’t immediately cool it with cold water.  (You did know that, right?)

Eggs are the same way.  You need to take them off of the heat just before they are done.  You want them to be creamy, but not sloppy.  You want them to be cooked, but definitely not dry. 

If you don’t believe me, just try it my way.  I think you will be surprised how good simple, well-prepared scrambled eggs can be.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

Makin' Mayo

Making your own homemade mayonnaise is not that hard.  But why bother when you can pick up a jar of mayo at any grocery store?  Well, I can make the claim that my mayo is made with the freshest and healthiest ingredients and without chemical preservatives and artificial flavorings.  That’s a fact, and I think that matters.  I can also claim that it tastes better than any commercial mayo on the market.  That’s an opinion, so try it and then judge for yourself.  It’s not difficult or complicated.  It doesn’t require equipment or ingredients that you don’t already have... probably.  It is far less expensive than any comparable product – oh, even any inferior product – available at your grocery store.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Infused vinegars in pretty jars

I love citrus vinegar.  It's the best for making homemade mayonnaise and salad dressings (which you can read about here.)  But don't go looking for it at the grocer's -- make your own!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

And now it looks like this....

Experiments with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Primer Red and Napoleonic Blue

Picture a well-built, but outdated and banged up child's table and chair set.  A relic from the 1990's in honey oak with a wood-look formica top and a generous sprinkling of scratches, paint stains, and probably boogers... yep, that was in my house.  The thing is, a generation of children played, ate and created at that little table, and a new generation has begun to do it all again.  It was worth some TLC.

I wanted something cheery and kid-friendly, but not overly bright.  I decided to give Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Primer Red and Napoleonic Blue a try.  I painted the chair and the sides and legs of the table in Primer Red.  Then I enhanced the spindles of the chair and some of the carved details with the Napoleonic Blue and finished with clear wax.

Rather than paint over the formica top, I taped off the edges with 3M painter's tape and spray-painted the inside with chalkboard paint.  Finally I stenciled a little lettering detail at one edge and used a black Sharpie pen to outline the letters.

And now it looks like this.  A new generation is using this furniture to play, eat and create.  It is pretty and durable -- I scrub it off daily, and all the surfaces have held up just fine.

Next I picked up a little coffee grinder at my favorite thrift store for about five bucks.

First I gave it a first coat of Primer Red...

(Spoiler alert:  Future ugly thrift store makeovers pictured!)

After the red was completely dry, I used a tiny amount of Napoleonic Blue to enhance the details.  To do this, I used a cheap, natural-bristle paint brush and just a dot of the blue paint on a paper plate.  I swished the dry brush through the paint until the brush was just barely tinged at the edge.

Then I slapped it over the corners, ridges and knobs.  And also very lightly across the flat surfaces.

I finished with a coat of dark wax.  

And now it looks like this.

Come see this post where I party:
Twirl and Take a Bow

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What's Blooming - February

What's Blooming Here Today?

Here is the Ohio Miami Valley; Today is February 18, 2014

What's blooming here today?  Snow!  But the gardens at Wegerzyn Gardens Metropark are beautiful, even so....

And now it looks like this....

Experiments with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint in Paris Grey and Coco

Unfortunately I have no "before" pictures of two items I bought at my favorite thrift store for under $5 each.  The clock used to be dark-stained wood with a heavy, glossy varnish and a shiny brass frame around the face.  The photo carousel had a boring, homogeneous, mid-tone teak-looking finish.  Chunky, clunky, awkward and ugly, both.  But I did like the carved grapevine detail on the front of the clock; there seemed to be some possibility there.  As for the carousel, I liked nothing whatsoever about it.  I almost left it behind, but something about its practicality grabbed me.  Under the lid is a little compartment for storing... more photos?  Who knows, but I'm a sucker for any kind of hidden storage.  So I decided to see if chalk paint could fix even this much ugliness!

For the carousel, I decided to try Annie Sloan chalk paint in Paris Grey, just one coat.  Then I distressed it heavily, and I finished it off with a coat of dark wax.  I actually like the little thing now.  I'm thinking about using it to display some flowering window box photos I shot in Germany last October.  (Who am I kidding?  It's gonna be pictures of the grandkids!)

I also tried painting the clock with the ASCP Paris Grey, but for some reason I wasn't as pleased with the result.  Next I tried giving it a light over-wash with some watered down ASCP in Coco, then lightly distressed the edges and the carvings.

Still it just didn't do it for me.  The brassy framing around the face still looked shiny and fake to me.  And the grapevine carving just didn't pop the way I wanted it to.

I tried to come up with a solution -- maybe a darker wash of Graphite over the carvings?  Try another color altogether?

And then it came to me:  THE WAX, STUPID!

 I brushed on a coat of dark wax, wiped off the excess with a clean cloth diaper and buffed the piece all over with a shoe shining brush I stole from GrandDad Fabuloso.  (He'll never miss it!)

For the record, if you get wax on glass or mirror, scrub it off without delay.  Like, right that second.  That may sound like a no-brainer, but some of us just have to learn things the hard way.

And now it looks like this:

Friday, February 14, 2014

Fresh, Organic, Seasonal, Local.... This is why I started this blog!!!

Last year I participated in a community-supported agriculture program, aptly called "The Happy Box."  Throughout the growing season, I received weekly deliveries, straight to my door, of produce raised organically and fresh-picked by a local farmer.  And let me tell you, people:  there ain't nothing better than that!

"My farmer" is Milan Pajev, a Bulgarian horticulturist who first came to this country in 1998 through an international fellowship program at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences.  A few years later he was joined by his wife Tanya, and together they pursued their dream of building an organic agriculture program in Ohio's Miami Valley. Starting with only 6 customers, the Happy Box program of Fulton Farms began!

From the first week of March until mid-December, participants receive a weekly delivery of, well, whatever is ripe and ready!  Beautiful, fresh herbs, greens, fruits and vegetables, lovingly and locally grown.

Heck, yeah I'm signed up for the 2014 growing season, beginning the first week of March.  Every week I plan to share the contents of my box and what I do with it!  My goal this year is to cook, preserve or utilize every item with no waste.  (I admit, I lost a lot of my produce last year due to unfamiliarity: some things I didn't know what to do with; sometimes I didn't know what the dang thing was!)

Get ready for some good cooking!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

And now it looks like this

Dresser Re-do with ASCP in Cream

I'd been following a lot of posts on Pinterest about painting furniture with Annie Sloan chalk paint, and I decided to try it out.  I had a ratty old dresser in my basement that was starting to get all mildew-y, and I had already decided to just throw it out, but then I thought, "Hey, why not try painting this beast?  If it doesn't work out, no loss...."

Sunday, February 9, 2014


I'm Nan.  I am a retired financial analyst, full-time granny nanny, world traveler, health food enthusiast, chef wannabe, avid home decorator, and lover of all things efficient and clever.

I'm not young, famous, glamorous, scandalous or obscenely wealthy, but I am FABULOUS!  I love my life, I have many interests, I enjoy having a good time, and that is what I plan to share in this blog.  Welcome!