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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The livingroom again

The wheels in my head have been turning. I have been thinking about the living room again. In this post I professed to finding it a bit dark and cluttered with too much furniture, but I felt there was nothing I could do, as the space functions well, is comfortable, and I share it with multiple other people who may not want much to change. So I have been brainstorming small changes that would make a big visual impact.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sage and Brown Butter Mashed Potatoes with Cheddar

Mashed potatoes make me happy. Really, really happy.  They are the ultimate comfort food. This variation has some extra sophistication and savoriness thanks to sage, brown butter, and sharp cheddar. So this is what love is? It's good to be in love. Even when your sweetheart is potatoes. I love you. The flavors of this dish are complex enough to be savored on their own, but also subtle enough to take a back seat if you wish to use them as a vehicle for braised meat and rich gravy like I did here

Coming up...

This weekend I am looking forward to trying some new simple recipes that use...


I have a pretty nice assortment at the moment, I feel like I ought to have guests over for wine and some of this:

Do you have a  favorite recipe that uses sharp cheddar? How about bleu cheese? Brie? I am thinking some kind of onion tart might be in the mix, maybe with the bleu cheese. And maybe gougeres? Not quite sure yet, but whatever I make this weekend, the star of the show will be, yep, cheese.

I have my workshop back!

This winter has been long. And snowy. And I know it's not quite finished, we even got some snow today. But, my good old back alley workshop is back in action- dry, and no longer filled with snow piles. So earlier this evening I officially started off the season with a little bit of spray painting.

For the most part things are just as I left them out there before the snow started falling, see that paintbrush on the ground in the top of the photo? My bad. I guess it was there all winter, hidden by masses of snow.

Also it seems the empty aerosol cans are still in the recycling bin I put them in last fall. Complete with brown leaves.
I can't, though, take credit for this guy:
yeah, guessing that used to be a jack-o-lantern. Disgusting, though somewhat fascinating in a science fair kind of way.

And on to my spray painting project:

These frames were found at goodwill, and each have a piece of handmade art. I love the idea that these were handmade by someone, and then anonymously donated to goodwill, where they ended up coming home with me. They are going to be added on to our art gallery wall in the hallway (affectionately known as the wall of weird art). I like to think that there is always a chance someone will come over and recognize one of them, and know their story. I'd love to know a little something about whoever it was who made each of them.

I am going to share the entire gallery wall soon, I realized I have never shown it on here. But for now, here is a sneak peek, my 2 newest additions:

I like to imagine this little bunny was lovingly cross-stitched by someone's grandma, to hang in a nursery. I saw it and for some reason it just made me smile.

And this little water-colored bird makes me smile too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Of curtains and chairs, and function over form

Have you seen these curtains from ikea?
ikea stockholm blad panels

I can't help but think these would look pretty nice in my living room, replacing the solid colored gold panels there currently. I am hesitant only because of the not so nice $60 per pair price tag, so for now I am looking for similar cheaper alternatives. I love the idea of something patterned, though.

Red Wine + Cake + Red Wine

Some of you may have noticed I went a bit awol this week, even after teasing to post recipes for both Brown Butter and Sage Mashed Potatoes with Sharp Cheddar and a really yummy citrus-y beet salad. Those are still to come, up until now I had no time!

And why did I have no time? Because I decided, with only a week before the application deadline, that I would really like to go back to college. I may have mentioned on here before that I am taking a course in the mornings before work at a local community college, and originally it was my plan to keep at it that way for a few more semesters before applying to a university. Well, I got a sudden idea in my head that I don't want to wait! I want to start asap. I will still have to find a way to balance work, but I think some big changes could be in store for me come september.

Anyway, all of this is to say that I spent the last several days writing a college essay, and calling the admissions office over and over to discuss transfer credits, and tracking down someone to write a recommendation letter, and discovering that my SAT scores have expired.

It has been a whirlwind few days. Especially with my class back in session now after break, and my job really picking up with the spring market. And by the end of a couple days like that all I really want is a little red wine. And some chocolate cake. And some more red wine, which happens to be baked into the cake. Yes.

You can find the cake recipe right here it's an absolute winner, so simple to make, and really moist and delicious. I think this will be my new go to chocolate cake recipe. The ingredients are so simple! I was concerned with only unsweetened cocoa called for that it would not be chocolaty enough, but it really surprised me!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Carrot, Apple and Ginger Soup

Um, this was delicious, just saying. A fragrant, quick, vegetarian soup that is light, comforting, and a great starter for a late winter meal. Garnished with apple, carrot and fresh mint, and with flavors of ginger, nutmeg and allspice, I am sure this will become a classic I make again and again much like the butternut squash soup with pears and cumin, sweet potato and peanut stew, roasted garlic soup and kale and white bean soup I keep coming back to.  

I guess I am a soup person, because really, nothing could make me happier. I served this as a starter, but it could also make a great lighter meal, served with hearty whole wheat rolls and a green salad sprinkled with some chickpeas for extra protein. And, don't forget, carrots will help your eyesight, right? Which actually I could use as I am finding I have to wear my glasses more and more these days. Heh.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Rosemary Honey Carrots

This recipe is one my mother introduced me to over a year ago. It is from one of her favorite cookbooks, The 150 Best American Recipes edited by Fran McCullough and Molly Stevens. Every recipe she has tried from that book has been successful, so I felt it was about time I borrow the book. More recipes from it soon to come, including Sage, Brown Butter and Sharp Cheddar Mashed Potatoes!

This recipe was created by Tom Collicchio (love him!) and published in the New York Times. The best part is it could hardly be simpler: tender young carrots are pan roasted in a bit of olive oil, seasoned with salt, fresh ground pepper and fresh sprigs of rosemary, then drizzled with a mixture of melted butter and honey. Simple as that, and delicious!

Slow Cooker Pot Roast with Coffee and Caramelized Onions

 My Uncle Dennis used to say that you know you're a grown up if you think onions and coffee taste good.  By his definition I am a grown  up, I suppose, though I still prefer a little sprinkle of sugar in my otherwise black coffee. But I wonder what he would have said about throwing those 2 things into a slow-cooker with a hunk of red meat, and letting it simmer and caramelize all day. I think he would have been into it.
I had never made a pot roast before, silly as that is. As I cook more I am discovering a lot of really basic things I have never attempted. I have grilled steak, and roasted meat and made beef stews, but never went to the grocery store, bought a big hunk of chuck, and browned it on the stove them cooked it slowly until it grew tender. I had never even bought meat from the deli counter before, actually. 

I went to the grocery store, and made a bee-line straight for the meat aisle, where all of the cuts of meat are packaged up and displayed in the refrigerator. I didn't see what I wanted exactly, and so, after calling my parents for some "I'm at the store trying to buy some red meat" advice (aren't parents great for that?) I ended up deciding to ask an employee at the deli to cut me a piece of chuck in the size I had decided I wanted, and I specified that I didn't know which cut I would be best off with, but I wanted to make a pot roast that could stand up to slow cooking. Moments later the same employee emerged from the back room with a beautiful portion of shoulder roast, tied up with string, and wrapped in plastic wrap.  

Really, it was beautiful. In fact as I stood in the checkout line, an older woman in line ahead of me turned as I unloaded my items onto the belt and said, in a thick Russian accent, "Beautiful meat!". That is just the kind of thing that would be creepy to hear in any other circumstance, right? I felt quite proud of myself, though, as I hurried home with my (incredibly heavy) grocery bags to start cooking.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Parmesan Polenta with Spinach

I had never made polenta from scratch before. Turns out I have no idea what I was waiting for- it is cheap, pretty quick, and simple. I mixed freshly grated parmesan, salt and fresh ground pepper, and a little extra butter into the mixture, but otherwise just stuck to the directions on the package.

I served it topped with a little bit of cooked spinach and onions, and had a healthy, flavorful lunch.

A few simple ingredients: corn meal (polenta/grits) butter, salt, and parmesan cheese. Also water, but I didn't photograph that part.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

My Favorite Recipes

Hello, happy weekend!
Yes, I am reusing a picture from last spring...I miss peonies!

I have a big day today, first a driving lesson, than an open house at a local art school (I am looking into options to transfer), then studying for my first midterm exam in 6 years. All of these things make me just a bit nervous, and when I am nervous, I crave sugar. So, yes, it is not even 9am and I am already hitting the chocolate chip cookies. Don't judge...We've all been there, right? I hope?

Well this probably means I won't have time to cook anything for the blog today (maybe tomorrow, if my studying goes well, or I just need a break). But since I have a few new readers around here (Hello! Nice to see you!) I  thought I would start the weekend off with a quick post featuring a few of my favorite recipes I have posted over here in the last year. This blog did begin as a cooking blog, even if my obsession with home projects got a bit more focus in recent months.

So here we go, my 5 favorite recipes from this blog:

1.  Zucchini & Thyme Tart - with a basic, buttery crust, fresh summer vegetables, fresh thyme and two types of cheese, I adored both the making (I used my mandolin slicer!) and the eating of this dish. It was pretty simple, but turned out beautifully. I have made this 2 times since, and look forward to the summer influx of zucchini to start making it again soon (Ok, I am hopeful about that whole groundhog thing...).

2. Sweet Potato & Black Bean Chili - I love this hearty, flavorful meal not only because it is easy to make and lovely to share with friends, but because it is actually vegan, making it a great option to make when you are serving people with different dietary restrictions. There is no meat, dairy, eggs, or gluten, plus lots of protein and nutrients. You can't go wrong. Also, that night somehow evolved into a dance party for three...

3. Chocolate Fudge Tart - I love this. I brought it to Christmas dinner as well, but added 1/2 a teaspoon of orange extract to the chocolate, mimicking the the orange infused taste of the whipped cream- so that even those who couldn't didn't eat the cream could have that delicious chocolate/orange combination.

4. Lemon Bars - A simple but delicious classic, I love these too much to leave them out.

5. Butternut Squash Soup with Pears and Cumin - This silky, rich tasting soup is made with delicious fall flavors, and low fat yogurt. It is healthy, but still complex and rewarding. I served it for some family and friends, and found out a few weeks later that one of the friends had made this soup again because she loved it so much!

Wow, picking 5 was really hard, and there were a lot of recipes that I almost included here, and posts that were my favorite to write that I feel I should have mentioned. My 1 year blogiversary is coming up, so expect another favorites round up soon!

Spell check thinks "blogiversary" isn't a word- pfft!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Um, Bacon Jam?

Wanting to get my crock pot back in action, but unsure what to make, I was browsing a round up of crock pot recipes from Martha Stewart's Everyday Food. I was mostly trying to decide if I would rather make a hearty beef braise, spicy chicken chili, or some sort of vegetarian soup. But when the words "Bacon Jam" appeared in front of me I decided I had no choice. I wasn't even sure if the idea appealed to me; but I had to try it. I love fruit jams (my current favorite is apricot) and am a fan of sweet and savory chutneys, but what exactly would bacon jam be like? What would you eat it with? The recipe suggested it on bread, which seems a little obvious but boring. I decided not only would I make this odd sounding jam, I would also experiment with a few different uses for it.

And as if it were meant to be, every single ingredient is one I have sitting on hand at home in my pantry (well, the bacon is the fridge...) How could I not give this a try?


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