Monday, May 21, 2012

Potatoes in a Crock Pot

We've already had a number of 90 degree days in Georgia.  The forecast shows more are coming this week.  The idea of cooking a meal (and heating up the kitchen) seems insane.  On the flip side, I've been trying hard to do more "from scratch" cooking.  It's time for another outdoor kitchen.  This year, I am determined to do most of my cooking in crock pots.

My biggest source of inspiration is Stephanie from A Year of Slow Cooking.  She cooked something in a crock pot every day for a year.  During that year, she mastered all sorts of recipes and crock pot techniques.  I don't stop there.  Whenever I'm converting a recipe over, I do a bit of searching on Google to find out other suggestions.

Potatoes are so easy to cook in a crock pot.

To make baked potatoes (sweet or white), just wash the potatoes and put them in the crock pot.  Don't dry them off.  There's no need to add water.  Cook them on high for 3 to 5 hours or on low for 6 to 10 hours.  Crock pots vary and  potato sizes vary so times vary, too.  It seems like clean up would be awful, especially with sweet potatoes.  Nope.  It was a breeze.  Lots of people wrap the potatoes in foil.  The recipes I read about didn't call for wrapping so I didn't.  They were fine.  I'll try the foil method soon to see if there's a big difference.  I hope there's not.

The next potato recipe I decided to try were mashed potatoes which my husband loves.  There are loads of recipes for those in a crock pot.

The recipe I intended to use is shown below , but I never finished the recipe. I only made it through step 3. I never mashed them.  Dear hubby tried the potatoes before they were mashed and declared them the best he'd had.  I loved them because not only were they delicious - they were also so easy to make.

Wow - that looks like a TON of butter, but I used less than called for.

Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes
(I'm so sorry, but I can't remember my source)

5 lbs sierra gold potatoes or red potatoes, diced with peel
1 cup water
1 cup butter, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon salt, plus
¾  teaspoon ground black pepper
1 1/3  cups milk, warmed

1. Place the potatoes, water, and butter into a slow cooker.
2. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Cover, and cook on High for 4 hours.
4. Do not remove the excess water from slow cooker. This adds to the creamy texture.
5. Mash potatoes with a masher or electric beater, adding the desired amount of warm milk to achieve a creamy consistency.
6. Keep warm on low until serving.
7. Potatoes keep consistency for a couple of hours after mashing. Just keep the lid on the slow cooker and serve directly from there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Gray Ballfoot Table Before and After

I came a cross a nice vintage table a few weeks ago.  It was begging for a makeover.  The lady who sold it to me had held onto it for ages, intending to redo it herself.  She finally decided she didn't know if she'd ever get around to it.

It had great details including over-the-top claw feet.   Actually, it's not exactly a style I'm usually drawn to, but there was something about this table that I really liked.

By the way, I did a lousy job taking before photos.  The above picture is the best I've got.  And I had already begun painting one leg when this was taken.

First it needed some TLC in the structure.  It was a bit wobbly.  My husband is the king of making things sturdy.

Next it needed paint.  There were some deep stains in the top so there was never any thought of finishing it naturally.  I'm glad.  I knew this table would look great painted.

I used a medium gray that I had on hand and mixed in a bit of calcium carbonate to make chalk paint.   Love it.

Next, I did a little sandpaper distressing, then finished it with Fiddes Wax - first a coat of Light (which is clear), then a light coat of Rugger Brown.  The next day, I buffed it a little, which leaves it with a nice smooth finish - not tacky or waxy feeling at all.

Voila!  I love the finished look and went all over my house trying to see if  there was anyplace I could use it.  I have some tables I'm hoping to replace but this table unfortunately is too big for those spots.  Darn it!  It's going over to The White Booth.  I hope the new owner loves it as much as I do!

Vintage Caddies - Perfect for Cuttings

I like growing a plant from a cutting.  There's something very satisfying about seeing a pretty plant or bush and knowing you nurtured it along til it was well established.  I haven't rooted anything in a while - not since my rose bushes, which are huge and beautiful now.  This year, I decided to get back into it, mostly because I came across 3 wonderful vintage caddies over the last month.

The first caddy came with 4 pint sized milk bottles.  I couldn't bear to sell it.  To justify keeping it, I had to use it.  Use it or lose it.  A friend gave me some mint cuttings - more than I could possibly use in my tea. They were perfect to stick in those milk bottles.  I left the mint in the bottles til all the cuttings had a few roots and now they  have all been moved to a nice big pot where they will hopefully keep me supplied with fresh mint for a long, long time. There's also one sprig of rosemary in there.  I've never tried rooting rosemary. I have no idea if it will work or not.

About a week after I found the first caddy, I found another.  Also with cute little bottles.  Amazing.  This time, I stuck gardenia bush cuttings in it.  With buds.  Some have already flowered and gone.  Some of the buds are just beginning to open.  I put them on the windowsill in my entry room.  The smell all around them is fantastic.

After I planted the mint, the first caddy needed more cuttings.  My kitchen windowsill seemed lost without it.  So today I snipped some hydrangea cuttings.  I really should cut off the blooms to promote better root growth, but there's no way I'm going to do that right now.  When the cuttings are planted in the dirt, I'll do it, but for now, they are meant to be enjoyed.

Unbelievably, I found a third caddy.  This one came without bottles, but the sections are just perfect for mason jars.  Be still, my heart.  I plan to use my favorites - old blue mason jars.  I haven't decided what cuttings I'll put in them.  I really should sell this caddy.  I even went so far as to put a price tag on it.  After all, does a person really need three caddies?  For me,  the answer is YES!  I NEED them!!!!!!!!  Really I do!  (Am I going to end up on an episode of Hoarders?)


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