Wednesday, September 28, 2016

An Amish Sawmill

Sometimes the answers to questions are right in our own backyard.  It is really important to pay attention.  I touched on that briefly with the Monarch butterfly blog.  If I hadn't been aware, I would have missed the beautiful metamorphosis.

It all started with a project my husband has been working on for most of the summer.  Some of you know he is constructing a garage-like structure for his old pickup truck.  I will write all about that when it is done.  In the meantime, I was trying to say to anyone who would listen that I don't want the building to look like a tin can or a metal shed.  I want it to look like our other structures, hopefully with logs and rough cut boards.  Many ideas were suggested, but none really struck my fancy.  I am not a carpenter, but I know what I like.  My main criteria was to look out my kitchen window and see something pleasant.

One day we had a carpenter stop by who had done some work for us.  My husband mentioned the problem he had (probably mentioned me in the conversation).  He told the guy that we had been to one of the big box lumber stores to look for siding ideas.  We saw some log siding and despite the higher cost, that was what I wanted.  My ears perked up when the term "Amish Sawmill" was mentioned.  We had heard of these, but we never knew where they were or anything about them.  That is strange in itself because we live very close to Amish country and have visited other establishments many times like greenhouses, bakeries, furniture stores and food stores.  We thought it was worth checking out before we made a decision.  The carpenter asked my husband if he wanted to check it out and he actually took my husband there first.  They came back with enough log siding for our job at a very good price.   The siding is of much better quality.  It is thicker and is made from local trees as opposed to trees from different climates.

I was happy.  Maybe this project wouldn't look so ugly after all.  As everything progressed, it was time to build the window frames.  My husband was going to use 2 x 4's.  We all know by now that a 2 x 4 isn't 2 inches by 4 inches and that it is really 1.5 inches by 3.5 inches.   As a result, the siding was too thick, and we needed 2 inches and not 1.5 inches.  This project has become a figure it out as you go project, so we went back to the sawmill.  This time I went along and took the camera.

This sawmill is called D.W. Sawmill.  It is on County Road JJ near Westfield, Wisconsin.  It was a bigger operation than I thought.  As we drove up, the first thing I noticed was the house.  It was your typical white Amish house with clothes on the line and a buggy parked in the yard and another buggy in an old barn.

We saw a woman and two little children but I didn't feel comfortable photographing them without their knowledge.  Next door was the wood product operation.  They had a lot of lumber made out of all kinds of woods.   They had all dimensions plus beams, shiplap, tongue and grooved, wavy siding and log siding.  It could be rough sawn which we wanted or planed smooth.  I don't know exactly where the logs come from, but we were told they were local.  There was the smell of wood smoke and a whirring sound in the air.  One of the building was used for kiln drying the wood and another building was the sawing area.

There was an office and behind it a little building that looked like an outhouse.  We found out that this wasn't an outhouse at all.  It was where the cellphone was kept.  Amish don't have landlines but apparently they are allowed to have cell phones.  They get power from gasoline engines so maybe there is a little generator in this building to charge the phone.  I didn't ask.

Best of all, we got what we wanted in the size we needed.  You can't get that from the big lumberyard in the city.  The prices were awesome.  Even with the 11% off come on event at our big box store, we got a much better deal at the Saw Mill.  Helping the local economy is another bonus.  From now on this will be our go to lumberyard if it is possible.

Bye, bye...see you soon.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Air Fryers

As many of you know, I love my pressure cooker and write about it often.  I have another small appliance that I like but until recently it never occurred to me to write about it.  It is called an air fryer.  It is an appliance that looks like an old fashioned egg shaped hair dryer.  Young people won't know what I am talking about, but the older generation will have seen them and some of you have actually used them.

This is my GoWise air fryer.

Hair dryer from the 1960's

Almost ten years ago I had pelvic radiation as part of my cancer treatment.  As a result, I am unable to eat fried foods.  Fortunately I don't like deep fried or greasy foods.  My husband, on the other hand likes fried fish, french fries, onion rings and mozzarella sticks.  He also likes to have fried potatoes and bacon with his eggs in the morning.  I usually don't make this for him but several days a week he cooks this kind of breakfast for himself.  Needless to say, it isn't that healthy and the stove gets splattered with grease.

After seeing demonstrations on TV, we decided an air fryer might be just what we needed.  We all know that deep fried foods require a big pot of hot grease.  You heat the oil to a certain temperature and lower the food into the oil.  You cook the food until browned.  Then you have to drain the hot grease from the food and eat right away.  A lot of the fat remains on the food and smells up the kitchen and your clothes.  Even pan frying foods leaves a lot of fat in the food.  Air fryers don't use extra oil or very little depending on the food.  It heats the air in the fryer and circulates it really fast around the food.  It causes the naturally occurring fat in food to brown.  Most frozen foods already have fat on the surface so none needs to be added.  Homemade recipes may need a little oil added.  I have a sprayer from Pampered Chef.  I just give the food a little spritz if it needs it.

Put your own oil in the bottle and spray.

To use the fryer, you just put whatever food you want to make in the fryer basket.  It looks a little like a deep fryer basket, but there is no pot of grease. This is digital so you can choose the preset food you want to cook or manually put in the time and the temperature recommended by a recipe specific to the food.  You press the start button and it will beep when it's done.  If you want to check as you go, you just pull the pan out and when you return it to the fryer the timer starts where it left off.

My husband is really liking the result.  We often make sweet potato fries and onion rings.  They are hot, dry and crispy on the outside without being greasy or soggy.  If you put the food on a plate or paper towel, there will not be a grease spot. Grilled cheese turns out perfect.  It is heated and melted all the way through and is crispy not greasy.

Grilled ham and cheese.

Air fried onion rings from frozen.

Sweet potato fries and homemade chicken nuggets.

The air fryers come in different sizes.  I have the smaller 3.7 quart size which is perfect for the two of us.  They also come in a 5 and 10 quart sizes.  My husband can put in a cup or two of frozen hash brown cubes sprayed with a little oil and some bacon, push a button and have his favorite breakfast.  This fryer is also very easy to clean.

This is the pan after making a grilled sandwich.  Nothing to wipe out but a few crumbs.

There are Facebook groups and hundreds of recipes on Pinterest.  People rave about the chicken they make that tastes just like the rotisserie chicken they buy at the grocery store.  I haven't tried that.  The chicken nuggets I showed in the picture were made by dipping the piece of boneless skinless chicken breast into some melted butter, and then into the flavored crumbs.  I just placed them in the fryer and fried for 15-20 minutes.  They are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.  You can also grill food or bake a cake without heating the oven or a frying pan.

People say they don't have room to store all these small appliances but because of these two appliances, I have eliminated my rice cooker, egg cooker, the George Foreman grill and other gadgets.  I think it's worth the money and cooking at home and controlling your ingredients is always a better option for many reasons.  You may have a different experience, and this is only my opinion.  I would say if I didn't like it and I am not recommending any specific brand.  You will have to research the features and the price.  As with everything the price varies a lot.  After using my Amazon and Ebates points it reduced my cost to $29.  If it didn't work out I didn't have a lot invested.  I'm glad I took the chance.