Sunday, February 27, 2011

Pruner's Remorse

Today was a beautiful day in my corner of the world.  58 degrees and sunny.  Blue skies with the fluffiest little clouds here and there.  It was time to prune.  It was time to break out Nick's Christmas toy for the first time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Recipe Re-dos

When I started this little food experiment, my goal was to change what went into my food, rather than what that food was.  I know that certainly hasn't made it the perfect diet, by any means, but it's certainly more wholesome than what I was eating before.

Here are some favorite recipes I re-did this week:

Onion Rings
2 Medium Onions, cut into rings
2 Eggs
1 c. Cultured Buttermilk
~2c. Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs (I used store-bought Italian-style, because I had some around, but it didn't like the seasonings)
Whole Wheat Flour
Cayenne Powder
Spray Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 450.  Slice onions & toss with flour.  Mix eggs, buttermilk, salt, pepper & cayenne.  Dip rings in egg mix then coat in breadcrumbs.  Spray sheet pan, place coated rings on sheet & spray the top of rings.  Bake for 20 min, flipping halfway through.

They were a tad dry but I think any baked ring is gonna be that way.  Much tasty, though!

Bananas Foster
2 tbsp Butter
1/2 c. Agave Nectar
Ground Cinnamon
2 Bananas, sliced
1/4-1/2 c. Dark Spiced Rum
Crepe Thin Pancakes, Waffles or Ice Cream

Melt butter in saucier and add agave.  Once the mixture starts to boil, add cinnamon, bananas & rum.  Cook down with minimal stirring (it will mash the bananas) until the alcohol is cooked off & serve.  I made the mistake of adding the rum too late and stirring too much, so I wound up with mashed bananas and thick sauce but it was still tasty!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Little of This, A Little of That

So, do ya'll remember that poor kitchen of mine with walls and shelves in primer and paint swatches all over the place.  It's now worse.  And better.  On Tuesday, I decided that the little swatch I had on the kitchen wall wasn't big enough to make a decision from, so I exhausted the whole sample can on the wall.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ranch Mix (Finally) and Crepes for Dinner

For those of you who don't already know, I'm seriously in love with Ranch Dressing.  Forget ketchup, Ranch is what goes on fries & burgers & steaks & pretzels...etc.  I've made my ranch from hidden valley ranch since I was in High School because it's much better than the stuff in the bottle.  I'd been dying to make my own mix since I started this little experiment, but I had bought my mix at Sam's.  *pout*

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Too many Drawers, Not Enough Drawers, Just Right!

3 years ago, my aunt gave us an old set of Ikea dressers.  One was a 3-drawer night stand and the other was a 5-drawer tower dresser.  A couple of weeks ago, Nick cut the tower down so that it matched the night stand and now we have matching night stands instead of my rubbermaid drawers with a Cracker Barrel checkerboard on top.

Nick's Night Stand                My Night Stand
Pretty Close, huh?
The Extra Drawers

Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Eggs Benedict, Julia Style

I have to admit, Eggs Benedict is a totally American invention and not included in the awesome tome that is MtAoFC.   BUT, Eggs Benedict is an English Muffin topped with Canadian Bacon, a Poached Egg & Hollandaise Sauce and Julia does include 2 basic Hollandaise Sauce Recipes (and of course more variations than I care to think about) as well as an awesome tutorial on poaching an egg.

Hollandaise Sauce
Julia gives 2 separate recipes for hollandaise sauce.  One for an electric blender that she describes as "fool-proof" and one by hand.  Why would you make it with a whisk when the blender recipe is so easy? "...we feel it is of great importance that you learn to make hollandaise by hand, for part of every good cook's general knowledge is a thorough familiarity with the vagaries of egg yolks under all conditions."  Yeah Julia, thanks.  Maybe another day, but I've got to get to church on time this morning, I'll just grab the blender.
A blender, mind you, which could have easily been in Julia Child's 1960's kitchen.  Don't hate, it's awesome.  I did have one of those margarita blenders, but I traded my brother for this glass-jarred beauty when he got a place of his own.  Figured he'd get more use out of it.  

Saturday, February 19, 2011


It's never easy to pick wall colors for your house and I'm particularly bad at it.  Or at least it feels that way.  Most people choose colors so close to white that they're almost indistinguishable, but I have to be an individual, even in my faults.  I have the habit of choosing over-saturated colors.  That habit turned out well for me in the dining room (or so I feel, i'm certainly no design expert) but not so well in our bedroom.  I like the color, but I really think it's too saturated.  Knowing that I have this tendency, I am wary of the upcoming painting of two rooms.  Last winter, I had put two paint samples on the living room wall (Valspar Jekyll Club Veranda Blue and Valspar Montpelier Wedgewood) and I've been staring at them ever since.  The one on the right is definitely lighter, and my preference of the two but I was concerned that it was still too dark.

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Pictures Than Words

It was 60+ degrees yesterday (and today).  In February.  In Western Pa.  I soaked it all in as best I could, knowing it could be a while before spring actually rears it's warm, sunny head.

I walked around my yard and inspected it for the first time since fall.

The cherry & peach trees are starting to get their leaf buds.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Your Friendly Neighborhood Greenie to the Rescue!

Got a text from my neighbor Travis tonight saying he has a toothache and wondering if I knew any home remedies until he could have it looked at.

*Rewind* Last summer, while visiting my good friend Ken and his wife in Virginia, Ken made us a chicken dish that contained clove.  In his defense, it was a tasty combination but his use of the spice was a tad heavy handed and by the end of the meal our tongues were so numb that it was starting to affect our speech.

*Fast Forward*  I returned a text suggesting that he chew on a whole clove.  Then, it occurred to me that I have clove essential oil in my soap supplies.  If clove is so powerful, then the oil must work even better*!  Many sites suggest using just a drop and rubbing it on the affected area.  Travis reports that the oil is working splendidly and presented instant relief.

*Please note that essential oils are not approved for internal use and some can have very harmful effects when ingested.  I am not a doctor, just sharing what works.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

My Weekend in Construction

We've lived in this house for 3 Februaries (Februarys?).  We closed on Jan 31, so the 1st Feb was spent painting and unpacking,  but last Feb we hung drywall in the kitchen & today we hung (quite a bit less) drywall in the livingroom.


Long Time, No Post

Sorry about that.  The last week was less than noteworthy, until today.

I put my buttermilk to use in buttermilk ranch, buttermilk pancakes with walnuts & chocolate chips & biscuits for my chicken'n'biscuits.

Speaking of chicken'n'biscuits, today, day 5, we were about set to have it for the 3rd time and discovered this:
Needless to say, I'll be making this in smaller batches next time and i really had to think on my feet for dinner tonight. So much for my one week food rule.  How long do you tolerate leftovers?

I made sausage last night but i wasn't in the mood to make patties out of it, so i pressed it flat into a sheet pan covered in a silicone sheet.  After I baked it, I used a pizza cutter and cut it into sandwich-sized squares. I was baking them to use in my fancy toaster, but it'd probably work even if you didn't bake it.  

So, that was my non-exciting week.  Stay tuned for some construction updates and a mini-series on green burial practices.  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Cultured Buttermilk & an Accidental Aspic

Life has a way of messing up even the best laid menu plans.  My grandfather-in-law passed away this past week and we now find ourselves driving to Wilkes Barre, PA to pay our respects.  Seriously, I’m typing in the car (thanks for the inverter mom!) while John Cleese tells us where to go.  Now, instead of a Superbowl Party, we’re going to be out of town today and Instead of having all day Monday to make French Onion Soup and prep Chicken’n’Biscuits for Tuesday, it all had to be done before we left. 

Friday night after dinner, while I was making French Onion Soup, I tossed a 1 lb. Chicken breast in a very small casserole covered in foil to bake.  When it had finished and I was sure it was cooked through, I tossed the chicken, juices and all, into the ‘fridge still hot and just as I had baked it (thank goodness for glass shelves!)  The Chicken’n’Biscuits called for cooked chicken.  It also called for homemade whole wheat buttermilk biscuits, which I can’t wait to try but I didn’t have time to make butter anymore so I had bought cultured buttermilk.  In my browsings on the interwebz, I learned that if you put a cup of cultured buttermilk in a jar and topped it off with regular milk you can make your own cultured buttermilk.  It’s way easier than making your own yogurt because, unlike yogurt, the bacteria in buttermilk can work at room temperature.  So, I pulled out a big jar (cleaned thoroughly), added a cup of buttermilk (still plenty in the carton for my biscuits if it doesn’t work out) and topped it off with skim milk from the springhouse.  I put my jar in a cupboard and left it there for 24 hours.  As I understand, if you do this with heavy cream instead of milk, you’ll get sour cream. 

Friday, February 4, 2011

My Wall is Emo

It collects razor blades.

Better start from the beginning.  The primary reason we are building a faux wall for the fireplace is so that we can hang the TV center over it.  For some reason, there has always appeared to be a shortage of studs there. We found two, but they were 32" apart.  In between, where there ought to be a third, we drilled and drilled but found no stud.  Stud finders were no use because we got the strangest, most inconsistent readings from them.  Also, the best way to hide the wiring is to build a faux wall with conduits for the wiring.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gettin' Excited About Chickens

I got paid this week, and unlike the last few, i didn't already have this paycheck pre-spent on construction (don't worry, we're still constructing!) so I decided to do a little shopping ahead for my chicks.  I KNOW they won't be here 'til April, but it never hurts to be prepared and I'm excited.

First I went to Tractor Supply Co. and bought some chick feeders and a heat lamp.  *tangent* When we bought Sadie as a puppy, we bought her a set of dog bowls that were big enough that she could use them her entire life, despite the fact that she could sit in them.

That strategy, however, doesn't work for chicks because they're so tiny when we get them that they're too short to reach.  Also, the bulb I got for the heat lamp is red because I read that the white lamp can make it hard for them to sleep.  The heat lamp will actually do double duty and keep the chickens warm in the winter months.

Menu Planning

Every family has different needs and plans their menus differently, but heres the method to my madness.

Grocery day is Thursday or Friday every week and, aside from milk (Nick passes the dairy farm on his way home from work), that is my one shot.  No sense in wasting expensive and non-renewable fossil fuels.

Week-time Breakfasts and Lunches are pretty standard.  For Breakfast, I have an egg sandwich & Nick has bagels topped with cream cheese or jelly etc.  For Lunch, Nick has "Chinese"* aka: rice, veggies and some sort of purchased chinese sauce.  My lunches vary a bit more, but lately it's been "pasta carbonera" (aunt annie's organic mac & cheese with bacon & organic peas) or soup.

On the weekend, Breakfast is a big production... omelets, hash-browns, pancakes, the sky's the limit!  Lunches are leftovers or fend-for-yourself.

Mostly, that leaves me only having to plan for dinners.  Let's plan my next week's menu together.