I Get to Look at This Every Time I Go to the Gym

15 Sep

Fixin’ Up the Kitchen

15 Sep

I have been a bad little blogger. I think the flood anniversary got to me a little, especially while watching some of those New England towns get hit. And work has been stressful, which makes me less industrious on my days off.

But this month, I have been trying to focus the energy I have on getting the kitchen fixed up. Here’s one “before” view:

There are a lot of things I love, like the original cabinets and tile counters. And I adore the vintage enameled metal stove. I really do, but I’m going to get a new stove. The thing is, the oven doesn’t really work, and I have to use what is essentially a large toaster oven to bake everything.

I mean. If baking cupcakes six at a time and making lasagna in two pans that must bake separately does not prove my love then I don’t know what would. But I want to break free and oh, say, roast some meat AND some potatoes. I dream big!

My mom is visiting in early October, and my goal is to have it done, or mostly done, by the time she gets here. The main task is repainting, but the counter tops also need regrouting, which is something I’ve never done. I’ve painted plenty, but never with so much old, peeling paint to tend to first.

Like so.

Stage one of scraping. It’s one of those things that you can just go and go on. And at some point you have to decide you’re done and it’s good enough and then move on. That’s if you want it done within a reasonable amount of time.

I’m also going to improve on the storage and the work surfaces. Adam says that if I get a big cutting board, he’ll make me a rolling cart with that on top. He has been helping me by spackling and smoothing the ceiling. So glad to have the help.

Adam likes how it looks sanded, with the two colors and the plaster wall showing through.

I do, too, but I am still painting over it. I was going to use the same colors, but this is so much work, I may do other shades of green, just so it looks different and exciting to me. Gonna finish all the prep work before I decide.

Shrimp Remoulade

30 Aug

A few years ago, a friend gave me some homemade tarragon vinegar. In my search for recipes that called for it, I found this one for shrimp remoulade. I don’t know where I got it, so I can’t give credit where it’s due, sorry!

Remoulade sauce has many, many variations, and while the Louisiana kind can be either oil- or mayonnaise-based, it usually has paprika. It is most often served with shrimp, but it also works with crab cakes, fried green tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, or fish.

For me, this simple cold shrimp salad is the perfect summer dinner. And though I make my own tarragon vinegar now, I’ve seen it in the grocery store, so you don’t have to!

Shrimp Remoulade

2 TB Creole (brown) mustard, preferably Zatarain’s

1 TB paprika

1/2 tst cayenne

2 1/2 tsp salt

1/4 c tarragon vinegar

1/2 c olive oil

3/4 c chopped scallions, including 2-3 inches of the green tops

1/4 c minced celery

1/4 c chopped flat-leaf parsley

3 pounds raw medium shrimp

romaine lettuce

Sauce:

Whisk together the mustard, paprika, cayenne and salt in a deep bowl

Beat in the vinegar

Whisking constantly, pour the oil in a slow, thin stream and beat until smooth and thick

Add the scallions, celery, and parsley and mix well

Cover and let rest at room temperature for at least 4 hours

Shrimp:

Shell and devein the shrimp

Rinse under cold water

Bring 2 quarts of water to a simmer in a large pot (add a little salt if you want)

Drop the shrimp in the water and cook uncovered for 3-5 minutes until pink and firm

Drain, let cool, then chill the shrimp until ready to serve

Assemble:

Mound the torn lettuce on individual plates

Arrange the shrimp on top, spoon some sauce on top and serve immediately

I use about 2-4 TB sauce for each salad, so you will probably have some left over. I like to let the leftovers come to room temperature before using.

Sewing Some Simple A-line Skirts With Zippers

24 Aug

I bought all the fabric I used SO long ago, and this summer all these skirts have been in heavy rotation.

I used an out of print pattern: Burda 8879. My friend had already cut it out, so I had to trace and modify it to my own measurements. Once I got that down, I was able to sew them up quickly.

Now I’ve been loosing some weight, so I need to rip the seams and take them in a few inches. That will involve reinstalling the  side zipper, but I’ll do it (happily) one day while I watch a movie or something.

Chai Spice Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Icing and Candied Almonds

23 Aug

I’ve been meaning to make carrot cupcakes for so long, but when I got those chai spices for a gift, it seemed like the time was NOW.

The chai spices are meant to be added to black tea. The mix has black pepper, cardamom, ginger, cloves, and cinnamon. If no one hands you a bag all mixed up, you could mix them yourself to your own liking. I used 2 TB total, so if I were mixing, I’d use 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ground cardamom, 1.5 tsp ginger and .5 tsp cloves. I’d probably add a dash of black pepper.

I like my carrot cake without some of the usual things like raisins, pineapple or nuts in the cake itself, so I based my recipe on this one from Paula Deen.

Chai Spice Carrot Cupcakes

2 c flour

2 c sugar

2 tsp baking soda

2 TB chai spices or 2 TB combined total of cinnamon, ground cardamom, ginger and cloves

1 tsp salt

4 eggs

1.5 c vegetable oil

3 c grated carrots

1.5 chopped pecans, optional

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients

Add eggs and oil, and blend with a hand mixer until combined.

Stir in carrots and nuts, if using.

Line cupcake tins with paper liners, then fill almost to the top of the liner. Leave about  .25″, as they will rise when baking, then sink back down as they cool. I can’t remember how many I made! Sorry. At least 12, I can say that.

Bake at 375 for 20 min. Cool completely before icing.

I used the same cream cheese icing I used for my red velvet cupcakes. Instead of vanilla, I added .5 tsp almond extract to go with the candied almonds I was putting on top.

Oh! And I shouldn’t be excited about this, but I had my first big recipe experiment fail! I tried making ginger cream cheese icing with ginger simple syrup, but the ginger flavor was not coming through at all. The icing was getting watery, so I tried adding some ground ginger, but that didn’t help. I could feel a bit of heat on my tongue, but no flavor.

I want to try another time with fresh grated ginger. I was also thinking that the cream cheese flavor may have been overpowering the ginger, so I would try a simple buttercream. But like I said before, I don’t do a ton of improvising when I cook, so I felt kind of adventurous to have tried something that simply did not work. It may not make sense to be glad about it, but it felt like a happy first for me.

Now on to the candied almonds.

I used this recipe and they were so easy. I almost didn’t make them, but they were so good that I know I will make them again. I had a ton left over, but they went fast when I took them to work.

I was glad I read some of the comments or I think I would have taken them off the heat too soon. It starts out like this, just nuts in thick syrup, simmering away.

And you wait and stir until the sugar coating on the almonds gets so dried out it has some white color. Once it’s to that stage, you spread them out on a baking sheet and separate any stuck-together ones.

They pretty much come out of the pot looking like that. Yum. I put some in a sealed plastic bag and pounded on them with a meat pounder. After the cupcakes were iced, I dipped the tops into a bowl of the crushed almonds. I added all those cinnamon-y sugar crystals to the bowl, too.

Adam said they were the best cupcakes he ever had in his life, and not as a figure of speech, but really the best cupcakes ever. So there you go!

I’m Excited About: We Live to Eat! Restaurant Week

22 Aug

This is the first year of this event, and it takes place Sept. 12-18. I’ve spent a good part of today looking at menus, and I have three restaurants I’d like to visit. Well, really, there are more, but I think three reasonable for one week.

The participating restaurants are offering $20 two course lunches and $35 three course dinners. On a bit of a tangent, I love fixed price menus! Not so much on a day like Valentine’s day, where you aren’t going to get the best food or the best value, but at other times, I love them.

With a fixed price menu, I feel compelled to order the most interesting offerings. And I sort of like being confined to just a couple choices, usually ones that I may not have considered if I was ordering from the full menu. I’m a sucker for a steak, man, what can I say? It’s hard for me to resist ordering a big hunk of beef.

And, continuing along this tangent, I have to just say that MiLa’s $20 three course fixed price lunch is the greatest deal in town. I still think about the coconut panna cotta with roasted strawberries  and mint oil I had there once. Ah! And I would have never ordered that if it were next to a chocolate dessert. I’m a sucker for chocolate, too, you see.

OK, so back to Restaurant Week and where I’d like to go. First is Restaurant August. They don’t have a menu posted, but I have never been and I’d really like to go.

Second is Cafe Adelaide. I already know I want the duck tasso-arugula flatbread and the charred sage brined pork.

Third is Mike’s on the Avenue, which I confess I didn’t even really know about before my menu perusal. But their lunch menu looks great, and bonus! The lunch is three courses as well as the dinner!

What I’ve really got to have there is the lilikoi cheesecake, which is a passion fruit cheesecake. Oh, yes, please, thanks. I’m sorta koo koo for passionfruit, and you just don’t see it used much without mixing it with other tropical fruits. I really prefer it on its own. I found their recipe for this dessert online, and while I’d love to make it, I’d like to try it at the restaurant first.

So I’ve got to start making some reservations! I feel so lucky to live in a city with such great restaurants, and an event like this is a great time to try some new places.

I’m Excited About: Prioritizing, Spilled Milk, Pile o’ Fabric

15 Aug

1. I realize I spend too much time doing little errands and tasks, like going to the grocery store for just a few things. It isn’t very efficient, so I’m trying to be more organized. I want to pick one day each week to do most of the cleaning and make one big weekly trip to the store. That way I can focus on working on bigger projects, and I think it’s going to help me get more done! Yay.

2. I’ve been loving the podcast Spilled Milk. It’s about food, and it’s silly and funny.

3. I ordered some half yards of solid fabric to use for zippered bags and other projects. And yes, I washed and folded them and then stacked them in a rainbow. It makes me so happy to look at that pretty little stack. Brody liked it too.