Friday, May 6, 2011

Recovering a Footstool

This footstool had seen better days.  The vinyl ripped along the top seams.  I'd been meaning to try to recover it for quite some time, but never got around to buying the fabric.  Mainly because I've never learned to sew more than a straight stitch with a machine.  Well, that and the thought of finding an upholstery weight fabric that would look good with my chairs and rug.

Spring cleaning came around and I washed the twill curtains that were hanging on my slider doors.  I ironed them and hung them.  One panel was at least 3" shorter than the other.  I've washed them before and they hadn't shrunk.  Why now?  What a waste of fabric.  I went and bought new non-twill curtains (having learned my lesson about the vagaries of twill).  I started thinking about the footstool, and the ruined curtains, and how much sturdy fabric they contained.

So I did some internet research.  Do you know that there aren't ANY patterns for recovering a drum shaped footstool?  Apparently, you throw them out and buy new.  Not this girl scout.

I wondered, I pondered, I mulled it over and thought maybe I can cut a circle of fabric for the top, and stitch it to a length of fabric for the sides, and put some quilt padding in it to fill in where the buttons were...

So one day, I dragged out the sewing machine, the mending basket, the ruined curtains and my good scissors (that only I know where they're stored).  I took a deep breath and said to myself "Here goes".
I turned it upside down on the fabric.
Roughly cut around it.

Trimmed it closer into a circle.

Cut a length of fabric to wrap around the stool.
Pinned and stitched the two together.  Having the circle on the bottom and the long length on top made it easier to sew.

Gave it a trial fit; took it off and placed a few layers of quilt batting between the fabric and the footstool.

Replaced the cover, upended it again, and trimmed off the excess length.

Using my handy-dandy Black & Decker staple gun I tugged the fabric taut, folded the raw edge under and alternated stapling (12:00-6:00, 9:00-3:00, 1:00-7:00, etc.) to keep it evenly centered within the top circle.
Here it is.
Please comment, I need a pat on the back after that!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Holiday Leftovers: Ham

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
We had a lovely spiral sliced ham for our Easter dinner. 
I used the leftover slices to make Scalloped Potatoes and Ham.  This is pure comfort food.  Recipes like this have been around for generations.  My grandmother made a heavenly one: tender potatoes, salty ham, thick creamy sauce and onions just starting to turn sweet.  My mother used to sprinkle flour over layers of potatoes, onions and ham, pour milk over it, put it in the oven and hope for the best.  Usually it turned out runny and curdled looking - it wasn't very good. 

I spent years pouring through old cookbooks looking for a recipe that would produce my grandma's masterpiece.  The old cookbooks told me to do what my mother had done - not good enough.  Some later recipes called for using a can of cream of mushroom soup instead of milk and flour.  Creamy results, but the flavors were just wrong!  Other recipes advocated boxed scalloped potato mixes and ham.  I tried it. yuck.

So, I thought I'd just make a cream sauce like you'd make for macaroni and cheese but without the cheese and stir that into the potatoes. Yes siree, Bob!  That's what I'm talking about!  Tastes like grandma's.

The best part is the browned crusty bits around the edges...

Scalloped Potatoes and Ham
1 onion, sliced thinly into half moons
4 cups potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
3 cups ham, diced
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
pinch ground nutmeg
3 cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 350F.
Spray a 13x9 glass baking dish with non stick.  Why glass?  Gets those edges nicely crusty!

Slice potatoes and onions, put into cold water while you prepare the sauce.  Why? Soaking the potatoes keeps them from turning black and soaking the onions keeps their flavor from being too strong.

Melt butter in a saucepan large enough to hold all the milk.  Wait for it to stop foaming, then stir in the flour all at once.  Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Why? If you don't cook the flour, your sauce will taste like raw flour even after baking.

Add the milk, pepper and nutmeg and stir constantly until it thickens and boils.  It will get very thick.  That's ok, because the liquid coming out of the potatoes and onions as they cook will thin it out a bit in the oven.

Drain the potatoes and onions in a colander.  Give it a couple shakes to remove all the excess water.  Dump into a heat proof bowl large enough to hold the potatoes, onions, ham and the sauce.  Add the ham.  Pour the hot sauce over all.  Using a large spoon, carefully fold the sauce into the meat and vegetable mixture.  Try not to break any potato slices, but get everything evenly coated.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.  Uncover and bake 1 hour longer.

Serves 6 to 10.

I put the ham bone in my crockpot with an onion studded with a couple whole cloves, a large carrot, some whole peppercorns and a bay leaf.  I put it on high and let it go all day; then turned it to low and let it go all night.  The following day, I put the covered crock in the refrigerator to cool.  I'll use the broth and meat tomorrow to make Bean Soup.