hand cut fries – at home…

Hand cut fries are something you can make at home. Seriously.

Want to know why making them at home is not only possible, but better than out?

1. If your like me and live 25 minutes from the nearest restaurant, well, it just makes sense to know how to make them. And if your a city/town dweller, well, what’s the harm in knowing how?

2. You can choose to go organic, plus your oil will be super fresh (unlike most restaurant deep fryers which cook up all sorts of foods, sometimes for days, with the same oil…).

3. They will cost you a fraction of the cost of going out.

4. They will be made with love.

…revel in the simplicity of homemade hand-cut fries…you’ll wonder why you don’t make them more often…

Here’s what you’ll need;

Print this recipe!

Russet potatoes (I actually used yukon golds and they worked just fine and were delicious!) – quantity depends on how many you’d like to make. I used about 12 smallish potatoes – russets are larger, so less would be needed.

1.potatoes

My suggestion, cut up 3 russets and see how much you end up with – if you need more, cut up another, if its enough, perfect. If it’s too much, store cut potatoes, covered with water, in the fridge for up to two days. Who says you can’t have fries (homemade) twice in one week?

Coarse salt or sea salt

High heat oil – I use sunflower oil. Peanut oil works well too.

A pot for frying. I use my wok or cast iron frying pan. Any heavy bottomed or deep heavy bottomed pot will do.

You’ll also need a slotted spoon, some brown paper (think paper bags), a tea towel (or two), a candy/frying thermometer (if you don’t have one, don’t fret), and (if making a few batches) a cooling rack (with baking sheet placed underneath) to store cooked fries on while keeping warm in the oven…

Here’s what you’ll need to do;

Fill a large glass or ceramic bowl, half-way, with cold water.

Slice potatoes into the thickness and length you like – here’s yet another added bonus – you choose how thick or thin to make them!

2.hand cut potatoes

As your chopping away, place the cut pieces into water, in bowl. This helps release their starch as well as prevent browning. Add more water as necessary…

Once all potatoes have been cut and covered with water, pour cut potatoes into a colander and drain cloudy water. Refill bowl with fresh cold water. Add potatoes again. Continue this until water is no longer cloudy. Two or three times should do…

Drain water again, though now, place cut potatoes onto a tea towel and thoroughly dry. Remember, water and oil do not mix. So, if you need to use a second tea towel to ensure their super dryness, do so.

While your drying the potatoes, get the oil heating up. You’ll want to use enough oil to cover the potatoes, yet not so much that the oil would bubble over once heated up with potatoes in…trouble for sure…

*be sure to leave enough space at the top of the pot for the bubbling hot oil and the potatoes – do not overfill your pot.

If you have a candy or frying thermometer, great, use it. The oil should be between 350 degrees F and 375 degrees F. If you don’t have such equipment – don’t fret. If you drop a 1″ cube of white bread into the oil and it browns in 60 seconds or less, your up to temperature. You can also try tossing a cut potato slice into the oil, if it starts to sizzle, a lot, well, it’s probably up to temperature… if it doesn’t, let it heat up some more…

The key is to not overcrowd the pan.

Too many and the oil will cool and the fries will absorb too much oil and become soggy. Too few and they fry up super fast – almost to the point of burning…so best to cook in smaller batches, leaving enough room around each piece to allow for proper cooking.

Once potatoes have been added to the hot oil, increase heat, slightly, to compensate for the heat absorption from the fries…Keep an eye on them as they cook. Stirring occasionally and regulating the heat as necessary.

4.sizzeling and crispin'

Once the fries look nice and browned, remove with slotted spoon and place on paper bags/paper. Salt generously.

Turn heat slightly down while removing. Once all fries have been removed, increase heat again to bring back up to temperature and repeat the process all over again…

I place the salted and cooked fries onto my cooling rack (seems to prevent them from getting soggy) which is also placed over a cookie tray (to catch the ones which fall through the ‘cracks’) and then tuck them into the warmed oven (200 degree F) until all fries have been cooked or all food is ready to be served…

5.fried and salted

This recipe can also be used with sweet potatoes – sweet potato fries – YUM!

What do you like your fries with?

I like mine with fried fish – fish ‘n chips – dipped in organic ketchup and malt vinegar. Super deliciousness – at home…

Enjoy!

these old drawers

0. drawer in place

While walking past the wood pile, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted two drawers. Two drawers that were obviously old, yet useful and practical for what I had in mind.

These beauties in disguise were tossed atop dilapidated doors, scraps of wood, disintegrating decking, bait tainted pallets, broken chairs – wood rubbish – they were part of the enormous pyramid shaped mound of wood – known around here as the ‘wood pile’.

2.drawer 1  3.drawer 2

I knew, instantly, I had to have them. They had to come home with me. Just like this had to come home with me a few weeks ago too…oh, the things I drag home…

So, I stepped carefully onto a few bits of heaped rubble and then steadied myself while leaning in to reach them. I picked each one up, inspected more closely and decided, yes, they are worth taking…they were haggard (obviously), but I saw their potential; train track storage.

1.both drawers in place

Finn loves trains. Train play is so much more fun now that Finn has a train table (Michael built it). Assembling wooden train tracks on floors which are anything but level (we live in a 200+ yr. old Maine farmhouse), is a struggle no child or parent should experience – children’s train tracks should not require shims…nor elicit tears…

So, now that the train table has been built (thanks Michael!), a whole new love of train play has ensued and more storage was needed…especially since we’ve recently scored all this track and plethora of bridges; also picked up for free during one of our weekly jaunts to our local transfer station

free track

We had quite a bit of track and accouterments already, though train play can always be expanded upon…

In come these old drawers…

They were the perfect width, depth and height to fit under the newly built train table. And the best part of all was that one of the drawers already had partitions! Organizing the  track types, while making them easily accessible has never been easier!

4. inside drawer 1

Yeah for the dump! (:

A bit of wood putty, a light sanding, two coats of paint, a little help with the castors and some fun contact paper and Finn now has some super cool track storage, which fit perfectly under his custom train table…and best of all, they make organizing and accessibility easy and fun – especially for a three year old!

Recycling and re-inventing at its best!

6.castors going on5.finished 7.drawer in use

stuff

1.both drawers in place

Try this idea under a bed or anywhere low drawers would fit…storage solutions made affordable, easy and fun.

enjoy!

lunch is served

Now I don’t need to tell you how to make egg salad, I’m sure you already know how…but just in case, here’s a friendly reminder for a lunch or brunch idea that can be as fancy (think bread, crusts removed, finger sized) or simple (rolled in a tortilla) as you like…

Add a little decadence – serve champagne with your finger sandwiches…or any sandwich for that fact!

Not only is egg salad good for just about any day, but it’s also perfect for picnics (keep chilled of course – sandwiches and champagne) and meals on the go. It’s inexpensive (even with organic eggs), requires little time and the ingredients are common to most.

Get the kids involved. Peel, smash, enjoy.

Simple Egg Salad

Print this recipe!

1.hard boiled eggs

7-8 eggs, hard boiled and peeled.

2.peeling eggs(I wasn’t too worried about the state of the eggs once peeled, they’re just going to get smashed up anyway!)

2 heaped spoonfuls mayonnaise (or however much you prefer)

1 teaspoon english mustard

course salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

3.mashing eggs

Smash eggs with masher (this makes them super fluffy).

4.blended

Add mayonnaise, mustard.

Mix until blended.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

5.egg salad roll-ups

Serve on sliced bread, rolled in a tortilla or on a Portuguese roll.

Don’t forget to include fresh greens too!

Lunch is served!

Now, where is that champagne?

Enjoy!

old shelf – new shelf

We’ve been in need of some shelving for Finn’s reading nook… It’s a very small nook at the top of the stairs (it used to be my office) and while its been his ‘space’ for the past year, it was in need of a little re-do. It needed shelves and it needed white paint on the floor (it had been a dark red not a nice red).

So I re-painted the floors (with floor paint we already had) and then hoped for some type of shelving or bookcase – something to keep books and toys on, while keeping things organized and easily accessible…and as luck happens, I found one. In the wood pile. At the dump. The very next day…

shelf - before

shelf – before

Now, this was certainly no beauty – obviously… Oh no. Typically I wouldn’t even had noticed it, but as I was walking past the wood pile – I thought, “I wonder what a coat of paint will do for that?” Then I thought, “I do need shelving for Finn’s reading nook…” My next thought was, “If it fits in the back of my car, I’m taking it.” And it did.

As I was unloading it and hauling it across the lawn, Michael says, “Wow, that’s nice…” Can you hear the sarcasm…? My immediate response was, “I know, I know – it’s not my style (at all) but just wait and see!”

So I got right to it. I scrubbed it, bleached it, lightly sanded it and then asked Finn to help me paint it and he was so excited to help, that we finished both coats, in one day (don’t worry, we were outside and it was a VOC free paint).

finn painting

finn painting 2

So two coats later and some gingham contact paper ($2.00 for the roll) and we now have a (useful and sturdy) ‘new’ shelf in the space.

shelf - after

shelf – after

Too bad it didn’t fit next to the window, instead of being slightly over the frame…

reading nook

Oh well, things don’t have to be perfect to be lovely…and in the end, it was free, useful and needed.  It didn’t end up in the wood chipper (see here for the other shelf I saved from the wood chipper). I didn’t drive all over looking for the ‘right’ shelving and I’m going to use the rest of the contact paper to re-cover the interior shelves in my pantry; money (and time) well spent I’d say.

contact paper

Added bonus, the shelf is not only useful now, but it could (at some point) be used elsewhere in the house (thinking laundry room), or we could add more shelves to allow for varied storage abilities or even paint the sides with chalkboard paint or magnetic paint and Finn could play away…free, versatile and useful, what’s not to love?

What have you turned into treasure lately?

enjoy

green deliciousness

Avocados. Love them. Sliced, chopped, cubed, or pureed. I eat them on toast, with eggs, black beans, pizza, quesadillas, soup, sandwiches…but when I’m in the mood for guacamole, I smash ’em up. I had a few ripe avocados and thought, why not? So while Finn napped, that’s what I did. Guacamole can be simple or complex – I went for simple.

1.guacomole ingrediants

2.scooped avocado

Cut avocados in half, remove pit/seed, scoop out deliciousness – I used an ice cream scooper (I usually just use a spoon) and realized, this is, the perfect tool for this job….

3.smashed avocado

Smash avocado (with a masher) with the fresh lime juice, and then add a bit of salt (to taste), cumin, chopped cilantro and and that’s it.

4.deliciousness

We enjoyed dipping organic blue corn chips into it, then into chipotle salsa…enjoy it as you wish…

Guacamole

3-4 ripe avocados

1 teaspoon cumin (or more, if you like)

a good pinch (or two) of coarse salt

freshly squeezed lime juice from 2-3 limes

1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro

Variations to add…

a bit of chipotle powder

dice fresh tomato

a dollop of sour cream

finely minced red onion

The great thing about guacamole is it can be as simple or complex as you like. Its only drawback is that it needs to be eaten fairly quickly – it doesn’t keep too long – but, is that really a drawback? (:

And below you’ll find a printable version – yeah, I figured it out (well, mostly…)!

How do you like your guacamole?

avocado PDF

Happy smashing!

how to start seeds indoors

It’s not as complicated as you might think. You’ll need some seeds (then plans as to where your going to eventually plant them), peat pots (I often use cardboard egg boxes), starter mix (how to make your own), water, a tray with an edge (to keep pots on and help with any water run-off), plastic wrap or a plastic ‘dome’, a warm place and an area (relatively warm) which gets indirect sunlight throughout the day. And most importantly, patience.

I don’t have any gadgets or anything fancy from ‘specialty’ garden shops – I just use what I have.

I buy the seed starter mix from a local gardening shop (the bigger bag usually lasts me two seasons). I typically (though not for these photos) re -use egg cartons (cardboard) and pierce small holes in the bottoms of each holder for drainage.

egg cartons

 

A large sheet pan (picked up at the dump) comes in handy for storing all the pots while the seedlings are emerging – it also makes moving them around very easy…I picked up a spray bottle for $1 and use it just for watering the seedlings (year after year) and while I did re-use a plastic dome for years, it finally gave way and now plastic wrap is what I use (and re-use). I know, plastic wrap? I haven’t been able to find a suitable (and earth friendly) substitute…any ideas?

So that’s what you’ll need and here’s what you’ll need to do;

1. Place pots on a large tray (with sides preferably, but not necessary). I fill each ‘set’ of pots on a smaller tray, first, then move onto the bigger tray once complete.

pots filled

2. Fill each pot (peat pots, seed trays, or pierced egg cartons) with the seed starting mix . I use an old metal measuring cup to scoop and fill…be sure to fill each to the top, the mix will settle once moistened.

watered

2. Water thoroughly.* This will take a bit of time…I water the mix and then let it rest awhile before planting. The water may rest on top for awhile before finally settling, fully into the pot. Do be sure the entire pot is moist before planting and then be sure to keep it moist once the seeds are planted.

*I sometimes use a watering can with a very narrow spout for this. It allows more water, quicker, than the spray bottle. Though, if you try this method, do go slowly as the water will quickly accumulate on top and spill over the edges if done to rapidly…seed starter is made to absorb and hold onto water, it’s different than soil, thus absorbs it differently – at least at first…

making holes

3. Take a pencil or pen and use its’ bottom to create holes (at the recommended depth) in each pot of soil, for each seed to be planted in. No gadgets necessary…

read your seed packet

4. Read the planting instructions for each seed type (some like to be deep, others do not) and plant accordingly.

seed in

I typically place two to three seeds in each pot to ensure one will sprout…I then usually end up with three seedlings, though I simply ‘thin’ once big enough and keep the strongest looking one. If I have the space, I’ll even re-plant the ones I’ve ‘pulled’…it’s hard ‘throwing’ those little ones away…above is a coriander seed I had saved from last year…

cover gently

5. Cover with soil, gently (if necessary – some seeds need to sit right on top).

spray seed

6. Water thoroughly with a fine spray mist.

cover with plastic

7.Cover the pots or trays with a clear plastic bag, plastic wrap or dome and be sure to label each set of pots with the date and seed type. It can get confusing after awhile…

8. Place in a warm location with indirect sunlight. I keep mine next to the wood stove at night and then once morning arrives, I move them onto an ottoman in the dining room

covered on tray

and once the sun comes ’round to the sunroom (which we can now start to use!!) I move them again, onto the ottoman in there. Yes, I am busy with these seedlings, but it’s worth it. If your lucky enough to have a spot which receives indirect sunlight all day, all the better.

If you don’t have a warm spot to overnight them, consider using an electric blanket (do be cautious and mindful about possible fire hazards!) or making your own. Check out what Kate over at The Museum of Forgotten Pickles has done to make her own heating mat.

9. Lift plastic daily and check moisture levels. I check them first thing in the morning and then just before I go to bed. You want to be sure to keep the seedlings properly moistened. Try not to let the ‘soil’ dry out or the seeds won’t be able to grow. Using your spray bottle, moisten daily (if needed).

emerged seedlings

10. Remove plastic when seedlings emerge. Oftentimes a few will emerge, though others haven’t yet. This is where the plastic wrap comes in handy, because I can pull back the area where the seedlings have emerged and leave the others covered…sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. These are baby tomatoes…

11. Keep seedlings moist until they are big enough to transplant. Want to learn how to transplant?  Read here.

12. ‘Thin’ seedlings to one plant per pot, once big enough… Meaning gently remove all but one plant; best to do after watering, as the water will help keep the seedling you want to keep in its’ place.

13. Keep growing the seedlings in these beginning pots until each grows the first set of true leaves. Once they have this set of leaves they are able to be transplanted into bigger pots before going outside.

14. Keep in mind, plants which have started off this way will need a time for ‘hardening off’ before being able to be planted outdoors.

Hardening off simply means allowing the little tender plants time to get used to be outdoors  while still in their transplant containers, before they make the ‘big jump’ outdoors…

Starting seeds is not a complicated process. It usually takes anywhere from a week to a few weeks to see the first seedlings sprout (my tomatoes above popped up after only five days!) and when they do, it’s so exciting!

You’ll not only be proud of the fact that you’ve started your plants from seed, but you’ll also know what’s in them. If possible, avoid any Monsanto tainted seeds and go for organic or locally procured seeds…there’s enough GM seeds out there, let’s not add to them!

Have you started any seeds lately?

Enjoy.

lovely lentils…

No pantry should be without these fabulous legumes…they are super simple to prepare, inexpensive, and versatile. Plus, no soaking is required, they are quick cooking, nutritious and tasty – what’s not to love? Give ’em a go with this easy lentil soup recipe…

Never cooked lentils before? Have no fear. Three easy steps and they’re ready to go. Simple ~ really…

dried lentils

Any amount of lentils can be cooked in this way. Just keep the ratio the same… Most recipes call for a 2C (water) to 1C (lentil) ratio, though I like to add 1 more cup water into the ratio. So, double the water, plus one cup. That’s it.

How to prepare and cook lentils; 

1. Wash lentils – measure 1.5 cup lentils into strainer. Pick over – remove any debris, rocks, shriveled or ‘bad’ lentils. Thoroughly rinse under running water.

2. Pour rinsed lentils into saucepan and add 4 cups water. Add bay leaf.

3. Cook. Bring water to a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, and then reduce to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 20-30 minutes, uncovered. Add water if needed to ensure the lentils are just barely covered – this is why I add the extra cup of water in the beginning…to prevent possible burning…

4. Lentils are cooked once tender and no longer crunchy…strain lentils (if necessary) and remove bay leaf. Return to pan and add a generous pinch of salt or more to your taste.

They will stay fresh in your fridge for about a week (or freeze for longer storage – add a bit of cooking liquid or stock if freezing) Season with olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, vinegar and enjoy them on their own or add to curries and serve with rice or make lentil soup.

Lentil Soup

Ingredients

1 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic – chopped

1 cup minced celery

1 cup chopped carrots

3/4 cup freshly chopped tomatoes, or canned whole tomatoes, chopped or as I did – crushed tomatoes (I didn’t’ have fresh or whole) – they all work.

2.5 cup vegetable or chicken stock

2-4 Tbsp. lemon juice (depending on taste)

2 Tbsp. wine vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

3-4 cups cooked lentils

What to do; 

cooked lentils

Prepare 1.5 cups dry lentils (see above)

carrots, onions, celerySaute onions (in butter or olive oil) until browned , add mined celery and chopped carrots. Cook until veggies are tender.

Add veggies to lentils, be sure to get all the ‘juices’… Stir.

lentils, stock, veg.

Add stock. Stir and simmer 20 minutes over low heat.

Add tomatoes (whichever type you have on hand), lemon juice, and wine vinegar. Stir and simmer another 10-15 minutes.

Season with coarse salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Simmer on low 10 minutes. Taste and season as preferred…

lentil soup servedTop with freshly grated parmesan, feta, goat cheese or a dollop of plain yogurt…add some freshly chopped parsley, thyme or basil, a bit more freshly cracked pepper and voila – deliciousness is served.

Also, a spritz of fresh lemon juice can be added just before serving!

eaten...Yum.

Simple. Hearty. Warming.

Enjoy.