Saturday, December 17, 2016

Strufoli the easy way

Strufoli (Honey Clusters)

Okay, my blog is not about cooking, baking or any food discussions. It's about art.  Well, today I realized making traditional Italian strufoli is an art!
I'm not a master, but I've been making them for at least 40 yrs and have gotten the process down quite well.
The recipe is traditional, no fancy additions. It's a peasant cookie and I see no reason to change it.
EXCEPT for the shape of them! And the method!
Traditionally, the dough is shaped into little balls, fried, coated with honey and then stuck together in a big mound. You break off a chunk to eat. Honey clusters.

Well, the balls have a little chewiness to them. Not crunchy. Everyone in my family prefers them
more crisp.  I don't know if my mom or my Aunt Jean came up with the idea of frying them in strips. That's the way we did it from there on. The result is crisp and light.
My great aunt Pia made them the traditional way, piled high like a tree and sprinkled them with the tiny colored candy nonpareils.

One of my Italian friends also makes strufoli.  She also cuts them in strips instead of balls.  So, I guess her family came to the same decision!  She calls them "squeelies".  I was so puzzled by that name. Never heard it before. I searched all over the internet trying to figure out what that word was in Italian, but no luck.  Yesterday, while I was frying, I heard a distinct squealing sound when the cookie was in the hot oil.  Now I believe they nicknamed them after the sound they make!
Cut, fried and waiting for a honey bath

Back in the 60s, my mom got a copy of this Italian cookbook. Probably bought it in Shop Rite. Hers is ripped up and well used. I found this one on ebay.  It has the recipe and technique. I will add in my changes. It took me three hours start to finish to do 3 batches. Each batch fills a large cookie sheet.

Add caption

Okay, so one batch. 2 cups of flour & 1/2 tsp. salt in my Kitchenaid mixer. Add 3 eggs, one at a time stirring to combine. Add 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  I let my machine knead this with the hook for 5 minutes at least.  It turns out to be a smooth dough that totally cleans the sides of the bowl.  Looks like pasta dough. It's stiff. I put it in a zip lock bag so it doesn't get dried out while I am setting up my machines!
 In the old days, they rolled it out.  Not me!

I have an electric motor that attaches to the hand crank pasta maker I've had for at least 35 yrs.
Pinch off a piece of dough the size of a golf ball.  I feed it through the pasta maker at the #3 setting. After I've done that with the entire ball of dough, I change the machine to #5 and put them through again. #6 is as thin as it goes.  That's TOO thin.
I toss around a little flour on my butcher block surface. The dough isn't sticky.
Still, better to use too much flour than none at all. 

With a pizza wheel, you can cut the long strips into pieces 2-3" long.
They curl and get funky when they hit the hot oil.

I use an old Fry Daddy.  Add several inches of canola oil. Temperature at 365 which is donut frying temp. 
Drain them on paper towel lined cookie sheets

This is when they do the squealing!  Do not walk away! They are done very quickly.  Pretty much when they stop sizzling. I flip them around in the hot oil as they cook.  Use long tongs to take them out. They will NOT be brown.

No, this is not spaghetti sauce! LOL!  It's one cup of honey being warmed. Not sure why it looks orange.
You can cheat and add a little good old fashioned high fructose corn syrup (Karo Syrup) to stretch your honey.
That's ok, you can't tell the difference.
I toss a few of the strips in the warm and thinned honey, take them out and stack on a big platter. It's ok if the strip isn't completely covered in honey. They drip on each other and the honey gets shared amongst them. 

Very sticky strufoli ready to give to my Irish friends!

Saturday, November 26, 2016

So, we had our first ever Artisan and craft sale today at the American Legion Hall on
Mountain Rd. in Shokan.

Considering we didn't do much advertising, it was fairly well attended and we pretty much
filled the space with vendors. I'd say it was 50/50 paintings and sewn items.  And one woodworker,
my brother.

I think any day spent talking with friends, neighbors and new acquaintances is a day well spent.
If I came home with all my paintings, I wouldn't have been upset. But, I did sell six of them!
Four of them went to people I know, and two to new acquaintances.  I'm always happy to meet the buyers in person.

I've been a merchant with Paypal since 2001.  Today was the first time I used the Paypal Here.  It's a mobile swiper that reads credit cards.  Worked like a charm!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Weidners' Blue Barn

The Hatchery
5 x 7
oil on panel

Blue Barn
8 x 10
Oil on panel
$95 plus shipping

I just finished a four week plein air class through the Woodstock School of Art. I've been taking this same July workshop for several years.  I've said it before, but I just love my instructor! Kate McGloughlin! She makes it so fun. 
I never would have been painting on these days if it weren't for her and the fact I signed up back in February.  To say those four Thursdays were HOT would be putting in mildly.

I was feeling sick on two of the days following the class. Probably didn't drink enough water. I get so into what I'm painting that I forget! I mean, how old do I have to get before I GET THAT?  If a  migraine wasn't enough to teach me, I don't know what will.

Anyway, the important thing was that I got to paint at two old farms that I've never painted at before. 
This one is from my dear childhood friend's home here in West Shokan. I spent many Saturdays growing up playing here with her.  It is a retired chicken hatchery. The layers were Leghorns. 
  Some of the large coups are gone, but this cute little barn still stands in excellent condition. South Mountain is seen in the distance.  I seem to think her horse may have called it home back in the 60s and 70s, but I can't really remember.  Sheep used to graze these fields and while they are still being hayed, the woods are starting to encroach.  I completed two paintings that day. 

I am so happy her sister, Jen, is taking care of the old Hickory Hill Farm that the Weidner family has owned for generations. The first farm was taken by NYC and sits in and out of the water of the Ashokan Reservoir. They moved their operation up to this location in the early part of the last century.  So much history.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

A plein air shelf

Last night I came across a great blog by Thomas Jefferson Kitts. He generously shared his design and a diagram to make your own. You can buy these for about $35.00 made from plastic, but with an $18.00 shipping fee, I decided to pitch the DIY to my husband.

I told him about it last night about 9PM. Printed out the diagram.
When I got home from Mass this morning, he presented me with my very own shelf! It's absolutely perfect! Made from wood he had in stock.
I will stain and varnish it. 

It will hold my oil palette very nicely with room for clip on palette cups. 

Here it holds my John Pike watercolor palette which was too big to travel with before. 

I have been trying to perfect my plein air set up for some time. My DH gave me a medium French resistance pochade box for Christmas a few years ago and I love it! I reviewed it here on this blog at that time.

I never have enough space to lay down my equipment. I don't want to make it more complicated than it already is. Last year, I saw a clever "store boughten" shelf that attaches to the tripod legs. Yes, my grandmother actually used to say store boughten!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Old Gatehouse: Mohonk

Old Gatehouse: Mohonk 
10 x 10
$75. plus shipping

I've joined a plein air group again; this time it's watercolor.  A newish medium for me, but I like it! There's a learning curve, for sure!

Last week we gathered at the old gatehouse that led people up to Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz. That was many years ago.  Now, you drive right up to the hotel.

This day was very nice.  A little buggy and lots of people walking on the old road, but neither a distraction.  I spent most of my time trying to sketch the scene out on my paper before starting.  That's so foreign to me. When we oil paint, I just sketch it out in thinned paint. 

The architecture was hard to capture, so I kept it on the vague side. The roof was in the process of being reshingled, so there was black paper on the big roof.  I painted it to match the rest of the tower and I'm sure it's orange again by now! 

I mounted this one on a cradled panel by Ampersand. I used Liquitex Matte Gel to adhere it. I then sprayed it with a couple coats of Grumbacher matte fixative and  I finished it with several layers of Dorland's wax medium to protect it since there's no glass over it.  I saw several artists do this and followed a couple of websites. Check this one out. First time I've done it this way and I'm hoping it holds up!

Currently on display at the Olive Free Library, downstairs. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

New Art Show

I've been terribly delinquent about posting this year!  Not that I haven't been painting a lot, 'cause I have.  I think I have a blockage due to my dissatisfaction with the quality of photos I take of my paintings.
I've taken photos outside, for the most part, to get the most accurate color representation.  However, they still don't look like they do in person.  I also have tried setting up a photo shoot area with two clip on lamps holding daylight bulbs, a tripod, a darkened room, but still they come out just so-so.

If I were ever going to get serious about selling art online or entering more selective art shows, then I would have to bite the bullet and have a professional photograph them.  I've only done that once and I have to admit that the results were outstanding!

Speaking of art shows,  a new one is about to start on May 22nd.  It's at the Woodstock Jewish Center. I sold two paintings there in December when they had the holiday show.
The theme of this new show is Summer.  I entered two plein air landscapes and they accepted both.

Not sure if I will attend the opening or not, but I would like to!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Shurter Farm

11 x 14

In 1984, my mom and dad bought what was left of the Shurter Farm. They were living in West Shokan at the time and my mom had two horses, but not a lot of pasture. She really wanted more room for them. 

So, they sold their home and bought an old farm along Samsonville Road.  My father built a log home and big barn which stands to the left of this scene. The old cow barn was in terrible condition and he had to tear it down. He built himself an equipment building on that foundation. That would be the building above on the left.  

After living there for 22 yrs, my dad decided he wanted to downsize. At 79 yrs old!  So, they sold off the fields you see here with the house and built another on the remaining land just down the road. My mom, who is now 83, still has horses so he had to build her another barn. 
 I wasn't crazy about this plan, because it's hardly downsizing!  It's been almost 10 years and now it seems like they've been in the new place a long time. My mother still misses the log home, but the new house is easier to take care of though she has three bedrooms and two baths! 

The horses she had in '84 have passed away, but she has a retired race horse and two miniatures to take care of every day.  Two other minis she left at the farm above, because the ladies that bought the first farm love them and have become very dear friends of our family.  They turned my dad's equip. barn into a rental home.  

About a month or so ago, I was contacted by a very nice couple that recently bought a home in Samsonville NY.  Coincidently, this is the view from their home!  They love it here and asked if I ever do paintings of High Point Mt.  Here is their commissioned painting of High Pt Mt with the Shurter barns and horse pasture! I hope they like it.