Saturday, July 12, 2014

Natural Apple Chips





I have been trying to eat better these days. Eating better means lots of fruits and veggies. Eating better means a lot less of what I really crave - crunch; the kind of crunch you can only get from a chip or thin cracker. I spent some time on Pinterest looking at lots of recipes for apple crisps but found most to be too chewy or coated with sugar/cinnamon. After much trial and error, I have come up with a plain, simple apple chip that doesn't look all the great but has a wonderful flavor and, more importantly, a good solid CRUNCH!

A lot of the recipes I found online had you dusting or dredging in sugar and spices. I don't think it is needed. The apples are great all by themselves. Most any kind of apple will work but my preference of taste and texture is a good old Red Delicious. (Note the photos were taken with Fuji - good flavor but texture not as good). If you don't have a mandolin and plan on making these often, it is a purchase I highly recommend. It is very difficult to get a slice uniformly thin using a knife, and the uniformity is important for the crunch.




I start by cutting out the bottom (the top can stay as I always have a thick piece left at the end of  the slicing).




I set the mandolin on the thinnest setting and slice about three apples (two apples if you are using a regular size cookie sheet.)




I line them on the cookie sheet overlapping just a bit as they will shrink over time.




I put them in a 250 oven for about two hours





I take them out and flip them and put them back in the oven for about 20-30 minutes




At this point I start testing them. They should be starting to turn a little brown.  I take one out and leave it to cool on the counter for ten minutes. If it is crunchy, they are ready.  If it is a little leathery, cook for another 10-15 minutes until they are to your liking (I probably like mine a little browner than most would.)




After they are done, take them out and let them cool COMPLETELY before storing in a gallon ziplock bag. They keep for several weeks. (At least I think so ... I usually eat them up in a few days!)

[Note: we tried drying pears and bananas but the results were less than satisfying.]

Friday, March 14, 2014

Orange Creamsicle Meringues



We occasionally get requests for Eggs Benedict and, I must admit, I make a mean Hollandaise Sauce.  Since the sauce uses egg yolks only, I will have three eggs whites left over.  What is perfect for using up three egg whites?

Meringues!

I absolutely love perfectly done meringue cookies but have seldom succeeded in creating them.  Popping one in your mouth and having the crunchy exterior give way to what can best be described as a solid foam that dissolves almost immediately is sublime.

Experiments have been done in this kitchen with numerous recipes; some plain and some with additions of cocoa, chocolate chips and Nutella.  But, I think I have finally found a good, all round site for instructions on making these little delicacies: www.thekitchn.com/recipe-meringue-18607

Never before had I been given permission to add alcohol and this has opened up so many possibilities! Since I had half of a fresh orange that needed using, I started there. It didn't take long to decide on Grand Marnier, a wonderful orange flavored liqueur.  Before starting the basic recipe, I grated my orange rind in a small bowl (maybe 1 TBLS), covered it with the liqueur (about 2 tsp) and set it aside to marry.

I would post the recipe here but really want you to go to the original site above for easy to follow meringue steps. These little guys can be tricky and this author does a great job of describing the process (and I have seen a few who did not!).  When you get to "Add flavorings," whip in the mixture above.  If you want them to be a stronger color, add more than the three drops of orange food coloring I did.

I love the fresh taste of the citrus.  I may try lemon next time.  Enjoy!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Down Pillows - Purchasing and Cleaning


A good down pillow can last you a lifetime if you know what to get and how to take care of it.

When shopping, look for 100% down.  Let me repeat, you want 100% down. Not 95% down with 5% feathers.  And, the higher the white down to grey down ratio the better. Ours are 75% white to 25% grey. Also pay attention to the amount of fill. Our standard size pillows are a medium loft and have about 26-28 oz. of fill. Most pillow stores will carry a "gentle, medium or firm" option. A pillow like ours should cost you at least $100. While you are purchasing your pillow you should also be getting the best pillow protector you can find. Go ahead and pay the money. You will have it almost as long as the pillow (we started replacing ours after about 10-12 years.)

Before you do anything, wash and iron the pillow protector and put it on the pillow. Next, throw the whole thing in the dryer on hot for 15 minutes. It is ready for the pillowcase and your bed!  

Now, every time you change your sheets, throw the down pillows in the dryer while the sheets are washing. They should fluff back up to their original size. When they don't, the pillows have absorbed enough of your body oil to need washing.

Don't be afraid. We wash our pillows once a year and have been using them for 16 years now. Just make sure you leave the pillow protector  ON while washing. Here is a pile I did the other day.



Check for stains first. You can spot clean the pillow protector or, if it is really dirty, take it off, wash & dry and put it back on the pillow before washing.



 I use my regular detergent along with a little Oxiclean and run them on a warm wash/cold rinse. When you open the dryer you will be amazed. It is kind of like washing a fluffy cat - there's not much there when they are all wet.



Washing is the easy part.   Drying them takes several hours.   Toss them in the dryer with a tennis ball or those fancy rubber dryer balls and set it on warm/hot for 60 minutes. (Note: I can put two standard in the dryer together but I need to do the king size pillows one at a time.) Check them and fluff some more.  After they have puffed up again, I take mine out to sit in the air for awhile and then give them a good squeeze to see if they are still moist.  If so, back in they go for a little longer.  Since the pillow protector was on, it is usually clean and wrinkle free. You can take yours off and iron it at this point if needed.





A note about pillow allergies: It has been our experience that many, if not most, people who are allergic to feathers, have no problem with our down pillows. And, we have found that a lot of people who think they have "down" allergies do not react to our pillows. It may be their experience was either with pillows that had that 5% feather content mentioned above or they had slept on pillows not cleaned regularly.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beaded Sun-Catchers



Charlie & Cathy, long time regulars here at the inn, are responsible for quite a few of the goodies you see around the grounds. It started some years back when Cathy was taking a class making flower pots out of peat moss. I wondered if it would be similar to plans I had torn from a magazine for constructing giant concrete leaves. She decided we should  give it a try. They turned out great.  I kept the one in the round bed out front and gave the rest away as gifts.


Since then, occasional homemade additions show up; the tree bench out back, a smaller bench in the woods, and the mirrored gazing ball out front are all "C&C" originals.

This summer, Cathy found the bead sun-catcher idea on Pinterest. She collected inexpensive beads from different craft stores, I took apart some old jewelry and Charlie went to his wood shop to make us some hangers.


The wood hanger is about 15" long with a groove routed in the top the accommodate the lead weights we used as stops. Twelve holes were drilled for the fishing line and an extra hole was drilled at each end for the cable wire hangers. The 50 lb fishing line was cut into 12 strips about 20" long with a  round lead weight tied to one end.  The other end was fed through a hole and the beads were strung on and finished off with (fishing) slip sinkers to weight it down.





Cathy found the she liked having some beads that weren't clear that showed up better when the sun wasn't shinning and that she needed the blues, pinks and reds to stand out from all the green in the yard.  When we first hung this outside, the hummingbirds kept coming around to check it out!





I made one a little differently.  I had some old round metal buttons that were tied to one end of the string. Smaller beads from an old pair of dangley earrings that I really liked were mixed in with some of the bigger beads.  I only made five strands and hung them from an old small metal embroidery hoop (it took about five hands to get it lined up and snapped into place.


Mine has too many green beads to show up well outside so I have it hanging in the bathroom so I can enjoy it while soaking in the tub.

I have seen lots of versions of these online.  I liked the one done hanging from driftwood that had the occasional seashell mixed in.  Cathy said she was going to start checking out flea markets and garage sales for fun costume jewelry to use. If you make some, post pictures here so we can enjoy them!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Mountain Thyme's Vegetable Cream Cheese


I have long been a fan of vegetable cream cheese on bagels and came up with this recipe trying to recreate some we used to get at a restaurant back in Dallas.  Since opening the B&B, we find that we use it in many different ways.  We still serve it on bagels for breakfast but have tried it these other ways as well:

          ~ Cut cucumbers in very thin slices and spread it in between for "sandwiches"
          ~ Fill sticks of celery (these first two are great for low carb diets!)
          ~ Set out as a dip for chips or a spread for crackers
          ~ Roll up with tortillas and ham or turkey slices.  I usually add a little dill when I serve it this way.





Mountain Thyme Vegetable Cream Cheese Recipe

2-3 radishes, cut in large pieces
2-3 green onions, chopped
1/4 bell pepper, diced
2" inches of cucumber, peel and remove seeds
1 8oz pkg cream cheese
dash of garlic powder


If you use a food processor, you can chop the vegetables in large pieces (first picture). Otherwise, you will want to finely dice all (see second picture below).





After chopping, transfer vegetables to a strainer, add a generous pinch of course salt, stir and let sit and drain for 30 minutes.  This helps remove excess moisture. 


Dab with paper towel and mix with the cream cheese.  This keeps for at least a week covered in the refrigerator.

It is great to pull out for mid-afternoon nibbles with some carrot slices. And, as stated above, we use it lots of different ways with our snack trays, holiday gatherings and picnics!



Thursday, February 28, 2013

Valentines


Every year we pull out all the stops for Valentines.  We spend months planning & making the handmade  souvenir menus, deciding on table and room decorations and perfecting the recipes. Since many of our guests come year after year, we try to have something a little new each time.


This was a red and white year with lots of stripes and hearts ...



and polka dots.





This couple brought a little style to the event (this is only the second tuxedo in over a dozen years!)



Last year we did a sparkly blue and white snowflake theme.



Next week I will post a tutorial on making the menus and table decorations we had this year.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fun with TP Rolls

If life gives you lemons.....

Or toilet paper rolls.  As an innkeeper of a house with 11 bathrooms, we have tons of those!  So, when I see ideas on Pinterest for things to do with TP rolls, I "Pin It."  I saw several versions on this theme but this is the simplest.

Cover the roll in peanut butter,


roll it in bird seed,



and stick it on a branch.





The first time we put them out, the birds were suspicious and hesitant to try them.  I set a covered roll in each one of their regular feeders and they quickly caught on.  The seed "pods" are all up and down the holly bushes lining the porch, making for great bird-watching from the dining room. The birds love it as they have more feeding stations when the weather make foraging difficult.

I went ahead and made several of them and stuck them in the freezer so they are ready when I need them without all the mess.



One site has you add a string, which wouldn't work as well for me but is great if you have accessible tree branches.






This idea from Martha Stewart could be fun to try with my miniature bundt pans. They could be adorned with ribbons for the holidays and given as gifts to bird-watching friends. If and when I do it, I will post results.