My Mother’s Reuben Sandwiches

My Mother's Reuben RecipeYou know who I don’t understand? People who hate mayonnaise. I’m not talking about those who  just have a preference for a different condiment; diversity is encouraged. It’s those that turn a snooty nose up at it, like it’s so gauche or pedestrian an ingredient, like one should be ashamed to cook with it. As I’m oft to do, I blame Paula Deen for this mayonnaise snobbery. Her love of it, while unabashed early in her career (along with butter), soon became an example of her gluttony, or excess, and an opportunity to ridicule her. Instead of waving her fat flag high and owning her love for delicious things (Julia Child did say that fat gives things flavor and no one should question Julia’s handle on flavors), Paula succumbed to a cruel public, and though she continued to cook with these “shameful” ingredients, she began acting embarrassed when pressed to reveal that a recipe contained mayonnaise or butter. Noting a specific amount, she’d lower her eyes from the camera and wince as she called for a cup of mayonnaise, an entire stick of butter; like an admonished child. Paula has a lot to apologize for and, really, this is low on the list, but it still makes me pretty salty.

We’re not here to talk about Paula, though, we’re here to discuss Reuben sandwiches – and mayonnaise. Chances are, you’ve had a Reuben before; thinly sliced corned beef, Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, and Russian dressing toasted all together on rye or pumpernickel bread? A delicious classic. Reubens were popular in my house growing up, most likely as a result of my half-Swiss heritage and my family’s love of all things sauerkraut. Even as a tiny wee, I liked them and as I grew up and tasted other varieties, I formed a solid love for the sandwich.

My Mother's Reuben RecipeBut, like most things, nothing is as good as my mother’s version. She makes one, seemingly small, change to the original recipe and yet, I swear, it takes the Reuben to a totally different level of savory that just can’t be beat. The difference? She swaps mayonnaise in for the Russian dressing! If your nose just went up in the air at that idea, we’re not friends anymore.

I know what you’re thinking – “Come on! It’s just mayo! It’s not that different!” WRONG. It is so different! Here’s the thing: she mixes the mayonnaise into the sauerkraut and what happens is the sauerkraut, though drained, releases a bit of moisture and forms this creamy sauerkraut concoction that, sandwiched between melty cheese and corned beef is…my mouth is seriously watering as I try to think of the perfect adjective…which, I think, is adjective enough.

Try these. I promise that you will not be disappointed. My mother promises too and she never fibs.

My Mother’s Reuben Sandwiches
Yields 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:
8 slices of rye or pumpernickel bread
1lb of thinly sliced corned beef
1/2lb of Swiss cheese
1-14oz. can of sauerkraut, drained well
2/3 cup of mayonnaise
Butter

Directions:
In a medium-sized bowl, add the drained sauerkraut and the mayonnaise and blend well; set aside. Prepare sandwiches by layering one slice of bread, corned beef, 1/4th of the sauerkraut mixture, Swiss cheese, and the other slice of bread; repeat for 4 sandwiches. Over medium heat, melt 2 Tablespoons of butter in a skillet and allow to melt completely. Add sandwiches and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Check for a golden brownness – or any brownness if you’re using a dark pumpernickel – and flip, cooking for another 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and everything is warmed through. When finished, remove sandwiches from pan and allow to cool slightly for 2-3 minutes; this allows the sandwich to firm back up a bit so that everything doesn’t spill out the sides when you go to cut it. When ready to eat, gather lots of napkins and dive in!

A Femme Fraîche Original: Free Mother’s Day Printable Image!

If you haven’t yet figured out that sentimental something to give your mom this Mother’s Day – Pssst! It’s this Sunday, May 12th! – I’ve got you covered! Download and print the lovely, little above image that I handmade in honor of the day and gift it however you choose. I’m giving this to my own mom as a framed piece; I printed it on some 5-inch by 7-inch matte photo paper, put it in a pretty little cherry wood frame, and sent it straight to New Jersey with my DIY garden markers for the occasion. But you could also turn this into a card or even your mom’s desktop wallpaper!

For me, the message of “Home is where your mom is,” is resoundingly true. I may have my own home, the one I’ve made for myself, the one I share with Bear, but my sense of “home” – what that feels like to me, what it is – has been cultivated almost single-handedly by my mom (also known as the gorgeous lady in the above photo holding onto a miniature me). So much so, in fact, that the concept of “home” and “mom” feel inextricably linked for me, even when my physical home doesn’t still include her. This message seemed the perfect way to articulate that the truest sense I have of what “home” is, always includes her influence and her presence. If I can’t be with her to celebrate the day, at least I can remind her of these things from afar.

On an end note, I also want to just say that Mother’s Day can be hard. I know that not everyone has a good relationship with their mom, or one at all, and that not everyone has a mom to begin with, or a mother who is living, or, frankly, feels better off without theirs. That’s real stuff and I get it; Father’s Day for me is intense for some of these same reasons. Holidays that focus on family, that reinstate specific gender roles, traditions, sets of “values,” and that favor heteronormative unions and familial structures make days like this Sunday sad and complicated for a lot of people. So, whether you’re celebrating this weekend or not, or if you’re a mom or not, I hope that, either way, your weekend is lovely and spent surrounded by sunshine, the people that make you feel best, and the beauty of spring having sprung.

DIY Garden Markers

Let’s pretend it’s for real spring. Like, the kind of spring that blows in with warm days and cool nights, that lasts a few weeks before the temperatures really rise and the humidity of summer is upon us. Let’s pretend the 70-degree days of just this past weekend hung around, that it didn’t drop 40 degrees overnight, and that I didn’t, prematurely, put away the down comforter. Let’s pretend that I was able to spend part of the day outside today turning over my small gardening plot in the side yard, laying down new ground cover, and bringing home my plants from the store. Let’s pretend that it didn’t, instead, flurry this afternoon, forcing me to drag my slippers back out and abandon my pitcher of iced tea in the fridge for the hotter, steamier variety.

Sigh. Let’s just pretend.

You see, I wanted to take photos of these adorable DIY garden markers among the beautiful, green, thriving plants of a garden, but Midwestern weather and I are having a bit of a tiff right now, so that’s not yet possible. For some of you, it may have already happened, while for others of us it feels like a distant dream, but whenever your vegetable garden is planted, consider brightening it up a bit with this simple craft, no? Most of the items needed are available from your local dollar store and the rest, which can be found at a craft store, or even Amazon, will only run you a few dollars more.

The best part about these, aside from being really cute and totally unique, is that a few thick coats of Mod Podge make them washable and able to stand the test of time by not peeling or chipping. They’ll last for years to come, fairly safe from the elements (I can’t yet promise that they won’t fade), which also makes them a really wonderful gift! Did someone say, Mother’s Day?

I just labeled my set with a marker and some cute handwriting, but I can see using a fancy paper cutter, like a Silhouette or a Cricut (oh, how I yearn for one or the other!) to create more elegant lettering, should you have access to one. Depending on fonts, colors, and pattern of paper, the sky is really the limit in how you customize these for your own. Charlotte made the green ones below to match her manicure. How femme is that?!

Since it seems I still have a few weeks to go in prepping my summer garden, I’ll be sending this batch to my mother and grandmother in hopes my good deeds will have me rewarded with some sunshine and warmth. Hopefully, they’re up for the task of growing more than tomatoes and basil this year! What’s on your list to grow this summer?

DIY Garden Markers
Supplies:
Wooden spoons
Acrylic craft paints
Foam brushes
Paper plates for your paint palette
1 piece of scrap paper for the label’s pattern
Craft glue
Mod Podge, original
Scrapbook paper
Scissors
Sharpie marker

Use the outline of a wet spoon on scrap paper to create a pattern for your labels.

Directions:
To create your DIY Garden Markers, first paint your wooden spoons with two coats of acrylic craft paint. As you finish the last coat of your final spoon, place the spoon on it’s back onto the piece of scrap paper to make a mark, as seen in the image on the right. This mark will serve as your pattern for spoons’ labels. Finish painting the final spoon and allow to dry. Cut out the pattern for the label and then use it to carefully cut shapes out of the scrapbook paper for each spoon. When all of your labels have been cut out, use the marker to write the name of each vegetable. Adhere a label to the back of each spoon with craft glue, smoothing out any wrinkles as you go. After each spoon has had it’s label affixed, paint the entire spoon from top to bottom with a fairly thick coat of Mod Podge. Continue applying first coat of Mod Podge to all spoons. When finished, begin again with the first spoon and apply a second coat. You will want to apply a total of 3-4 coats per spoon. When finished, allow the spoons to dry completely. I suggest waiting at least 12 hours before using.

 

A Visit Home & My Mom’s Strawberry Shortcake

3 of the 13 dozen eggs I dyed for a (flustered) family friend’s Easter event.

My blogging has been a bit lagging lately only because I had to make an unexpected trip home to my mother’s house, my childhood home. Everyone and everything is fine, so it’s been a good visit, filled, so far, with lots of laughter and food. Time spent home is generally happy, as I get to see some of my most favorite people – my mom, grandma, and bestie who comes in from the city to lounge around in the country with us. Here are some photos of what being home has looked like so far.

Love at First Sight: New-to-me vintage desk!

My mom and grandmother are my two best sources for being inspired to make my own home a space that nourishes and makes comfortable anyone who comes through the door. For as long as I can remember, they have both always gone above and beyond to demonstrate love, care, and friendship through their domestic prowess. People who have come for a meal at my mom’s house, or who have stayed the night for a visit or en route to another destination, have always commented on the warmth they felt at her table, at the comfort felt at slipping into a bed made fresh with sheets and blankets hung to dry in the sun.

I’m a work in progress (still trying to learn their love of cleaning), but by example, they’ve taught me how to build my own sense of “home” with the intention of making it as welcoming to others as it is for me. Oh, how this dream will only be further realized when I, someday, have a guest room of my own and don’t, instead, need to make up the couch for visitors. Apartment or house, no guestroom or 3 guestrooms, though, there will always be my mother’s strawberry shortcake to welcome in friends both old and new.

This isn’t strawberry shortcake in the traditional sense of the dryer, flakier, individual biscuit-like cakes, but a moist, vanilla, 13×9-inch cake with strawberries and cream layered on top. I love conventional shortcake, but since this is what I grew up calling “shortcake,” this is where my heart is.

My mother has always made this cake with a mixture of fresh and frozen strawberries; the former for the texture and the latter for the moistness they give the cake. I’ve made it on my own with entirely fresh and just sliced the strawberries 2 hours before serving with a little sugar, which produced a natural syrup that did the same job as the frozen berries. Depending on what you have access to and when you want to make it, this cake can be an any time of year stunner.

Mom’s Strawberry Shortcake
Yields one 13×9-inch cake, ~12 servings

For the cake:
1-1/4 cups of flour
1-1/2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1-1/2 cups of white sugar
3/4 cups of milk
3 Tablespoons of butter
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

For the topping:
1lb. frozen, sliced strawberries, thawed
2lbs. fresh strawberries, sliced
2 cups of heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup of white sugar

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 350°, grease and flour a 13x9x2-inch baking pan, and set aside. In a small mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, beat eggs for 4 minutes with an electric mixer. Gradually add sugar and beat on medium speed for an additional 4-5 minutes until light and airy. Add the flour mixture slowly and beat on low speed until combined.

In a small saucepan, heat and stir milk and butter together until the latter melts. Drizzle into batter along with the vanilla extract and whisk to combine. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool cake completely.

In a chilled bowl, add heavy cream and sugar. Beat with an electric mixer until creamy and soft peaks form. With the end of a wooden spoon, poke holes in the surface of the cake and pour frozen strawberries and juice over the top of the cake. Add the juice slowly, so that you can account for how much you want to use. Add the fresh strawberries to the top and then cover with the freshly whipped cream. This will last in the refrigerator, covered, for 5-7 days.