An MS meme and a kitchen update (NHBPM 26)

This took way too long to make.

Technically this meme post is a day late, but I spent yesterday — all of yesterday — laying new flooring in the kitchen. Previously, it was half old laminate (which they glued to the slab beneath) and half nasty old carpet.

You can see some of the laminate here:

Not usually that cluttered (ugh!), but everything was pulled of the cabinets for painting.

And some of the carpet at the eat-in part shows here:

I believe the original carpet color was “Musty Grayish Camel.”

Over the weekend, my wife pulled out all the old floor. Did I mention they had glued it down to the slab? With some sort of alien-technology adhesive?

She REALLY loves the new Sawzall.

Here’s a comparison shot of a new scraper blade vs the one that did about half the floor before it finally just snapped off.

And after all that, I spent yesterday laying it all down:

Can I walk today?

Well, “walk” is a relative term.

Am I glad that it’s done?

“Glad” doesn’t begin to describe it. I’m so excited I want to smash a bottle of champagne on the damn thing.

 

 

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If my life were a reality show, it would be called Kitchen Boners (NHBPM 14)

 

And oh, how we would laugh.

We got home from the gym just before 9pm, so I threw a chicken in the pressure cooker and dumped a bag of kale into a stock pot. Then I gathered the few supplies needed to make the lovely “Orange Kissed Almond Cookies” at Beard and Bonnet, which I’d bookmarked last week. Everything would be ready in about 20 minutes, and I’d be a rockstar.

Instead, the leeks I threw in with the chicken burned and had to be dynamited out of the pressure cooker. And the dark meat didn’t get 100% done, because the pressure cooker cookbook I’d borrowed from the library that said how long to cook everything? I returned it a few days ago.

The cup of leftover Mexican restaurant salsa I threw in with the kale made it too salty.

And the cookies?

Oh, the cookies.

Or more accurately, the “cookies.”

First, I didn’t have orange extract, so I microplaned some fresh zest and let the dough sit for a couple of extra minutes. It smelled heavenly. All systems go.

Then I opened the can of almond paste, which the fine print said was actually “almond cake and pastry filling.” Semantics! I thought. If they meant marzipan, surely they’d have said “marzipan.” And the regular grocery store didn’t sell anything exactly labeled almond paste, so this was probably the stuff.

I worried just a bit when the almond paste and sugar didn’t become so much “uniformly crumbly” as uniformly gooey and unappetizing looking. And my dough was darker than the original recipe’s pictures, but then, my kitchen’s not the best lit room in the house.

Besides, I was in a hurry. Twenty minutes in the oven would fix it all.

So what if it smelled like orangey-almondy-cancer after about 10 minutes?

The inspiration:

From Beard and Bonnet. Don’t they look absolutely scrumptious?

After 25 minutes in the oven, my reality:

This is pretty much why I don’t bother watermarking my photos.

If you’re detail-oriented, you’ll notice that I held the parchment paper up at about a 90-degree angle to the cookie sheet, and the cookie sludge did not budge. But when it cooled, it did harden into a substance that could be used to attach a guy in a hard hat to a girder. In case you’re in the market for a more natural hat-girder adhesive.

Today’s lesson: Almond cake and pastry filling IS NOT almond paste IS NOT marzipan. Use what the one a recipe actually calls for, and you’re more likely to end up with what a recipe is actually supposed to make.

 

Bonus lesson: This is exactly why you should keep ice cream in the freezer. Well, one of about a thousand reasons, but still a very good one.

Have you butchered anything in the kitchen lately, even though you really do know better?

Some things I bookmarked this week #3

  • 27 Gluten-Free Recipe Substitutions | Greatist – This list included several subs I haven’t considered before. Onward!
  • New Taste Journal – Lots of whole foods dish ideas.
  • Walnut-Raisin Baked Apples – Love the idea of mixing a bit of orange marmalade into the filling.
  • Cabbage and Raisin Slaw – I am always looking for good slaw recipes. We’re big cabbage eaters.
  • Creamy Potato Salad – Very much like my friend’s a-may-zing potato salad recipe, which she printed out for me and I lost and am too embarrassed to re-request. I do remember that you’d want to double this recipe for a potluck-sized bowl. omit the dairy products. and add 1/2t of celery seed and a handful of chopped parsley.
  • Spicy Parmesan Green Beans and Kale – I’m thinking this bad boy’s going to make an appearance at our Thanksgiving table: one pan as written for the dairy eaters, and maybe one pan, with sourdough breadcrumbs instead of parmesan, for the non-dairy folks?
  • Orange Kissed Almond Cookies (Gluten and Dairy Free) – I always want to buy the almond paste when it goes on sale after the holidays, but I don’t have a good reason to…until now!
  • Brussels Sprouts with Pecans – This recipe introduced me the possibility of slicing and sautéing brussels sprouts, instead of just steaming them. The extra slicing gives them the loveliest frilly texture. It takes longer to prepare but is totally worth it when you have good fresh sprouts.
  • Eggnog Mousse
  • Baby Cardigan Onesie Tutorial – I want to make some for our friends’ with the baby, but I’m having the damnedest time finding onesies that are cheap, long-sleeved, not pink, not zippered, and don’t have a giant applique across 3/4 of the front.
  • Magic Cupboard | Helen Musselwhite – I want to make one of these and change it every season BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE ENOUGH PROJECTS.

To whit: a picture of my dining room craftermath taken the weekend before Halloween, annotated with (most of) the visible projects and the “Percent Complete” indicated in parentheses.

 

Not labeled: salt shaker, because we used to eat here.

The rest of my favorite links are here.

How does our garden grow?

We made a dent in the front yard re-landscaping project.

After we learned recently that one of our newest neighbors is a landscape architect, we invited him by for a consult in exchange for a six-pack of beer. Sorry, ladies and gentlemen, he’s taken.

While he was here, he sketched out some improvements and even measured and marked the main points so we could do the planting ourselves.

Ancient history pic, from the ones used to sell the house:

Except by the time we bought it, those crepe myrtles were pretty much covering the second-story windows and the siding was turning green from lack of sun. Over the last few years, we’ve ripped out the wrong-sized myrtles and the scraggly, dying evergreens in the front bed.

Most of this year, the bed was just dirt. And rocks. And weeds. And a few shards of landscape cloth from when KK ran out of it after starting to put it down in an effort to tamp down the weeds and cover up the dirt, in preparation for planting. Eventually.

A few months ago, KK finished the landscape cloth, and we found a company to deliver mulch. It already looked much better than the eclectic “surface-of-the-moon meets vacant lot” look we’d cultivated. Not to brag, but we had had some interest from city planners in Detroit and Afghanistan who were hungry to learn about our innovative “hands off,” no-resource landscaping techniques.

Saturday morning, it was time for a trip to the wholesale-but-open-to-the-public nursery the next town over.

It’s not a Subaru, but it’s close.

Several hours of digging and squatting and pushing dirt later, we had this:

[All those wires are cable co-axes from the TV addicts who used to live here. It’s a 3 bedroom house, and they had 8 TVs in and around the house when we walked through, and every last one of them was turned on. We’re going to have most of them removed and/or replaced with white.]

They’re wee plants yet, but we are dedicated to watering them and watching them start to fill out in the spring.

And I am more convinced than ever that the shutters should be black. Wouldn’t that look more polished than Faded Dreams Burgundy?

30 Day Photo Phail (#21-30)

Let’s finish with a bang, shall we?

21. After Dark

We arrived at the park before sunset and sat and read. Well, KK read, and I ate Yogli Mogli and played on my ipad. But then it got pretty, and we went home. Good story! I’ll tell it again. We arrived at the park…

22. Hands

KK’s hands, my favorites — and The Poodle’s, too.

23. Sun

A friendly morning sunbeam on the floor we installed ourselves.

24. Peace

Poodle says, “Peace is having your own heating pad. But if you try to take it away, there will be WAR!”

25. Something orange

After seeing my “progress” with the 30-day photo challenge, this will come as no surprise. We just yesterday changed out our silly suburban summer flip-flops flag for something more seasonal.

26. Close-up

This MIGHT be a 5,000X magnification of the period at the end of a sentence! Or, I MIGHT have gotten frustrated with the iphone’s limited up-close abilities and faked it.

27. From a distance

Yeah, it’s cheating, but who among you didn’t think the same thing when you read the prompt?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28. Flowers

My wedding flowers — everlasting, like our love!

29. Black and white

The bowl of dead things on my desk. I thought black and white might make it look less weird, but now it just looks more Addams Family.

30. Self-portrait

On the way to the dog park. There’s a poodle in there, too, but she blends in with the shadows.

Some things I bookmarked this week

A recipe that sounds very similar to a panna cotta I enjoyed at the Field of Greens Festival last month, if you sub a fresh or roasted quartered fig for the tomato:

Cooking reference, for when I’m trying to bake The Right Way, with weights instead of volumes:

If I want to stop calling them chameleons, I’ve got to figure out how to say “anoles.” Problem is, there’s not much of a consensus:

The rest of my favorite links are here.

Manic Menu Week in Review

The best things I made this week

Smoky chipotle baba ganoush and blue cheese hummus. What should have been the most autopilot meal turned into my most inspired cooking of the week. I set out to make regular baba ganoush with (all together now) my new grill using a combination of David Liebowitz and The Pioneer Woman’s recipes. But when DL said to sprinkle chili powder on top for a pop of color, I seized the opportunity to dust it up with chipotle chili powder, a great complement to the richness of the smoky grilled eggplants.

But then the plain, boring, can-of-chickpeas-and-seasonings-in-the-food-processor hummus was too plain and too boring. I was out of feta but found the end of a Maytag blue cheese wedge in the cheese drawer. For the first taste, I put a teensy crumble of cheese on my hummus on my celery. For the second taste, I was mashing the rest of the cheese into my hummus and pushing a spoonful toward KK. No longer plain or boring — pretty tasty, really, and a great pair with the chipotle baba ganoush.

Served with: raw veggies for dipping, pita chips for KK, olives, and smug satisfaction.

The best part? Half an eggplant and several peppers in the freezer for later.

Grilled veggie lasagna. The ricotta from Aldi was surprisingly thick and flavorful, and grilling the veggies concentrated their flavors tons better than sauteeing them ever has. Made a quick sauce with a big can of crushed tomatoes, then decided to dice and add a few fresh tomatoes that were getting old, which made for a good texture. I also used about half as many lasagna noodles, and that sat well with our evolved less-bready tastes.
Served with: generous compliments.

Sausage lentil stew (aka failed mujadarra). The sausage was a last minute addition suggested by KK that redeemed this from being one-meatless-meal-in-a-row too many. The sausage was also a pleasant surprise, because it was a brand I don’t usually buy AND 50% lower fat than usual. I added a can of diced tomatoes, a tablespoon of soy sauce, and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.
Served over: basmati rice (the house favorite) with caramelized onions and a dollop of plain greek yogurt.

I’m not even going to pretend this is a good picture. iPhone + poor kitchen lighting = learning to eat it before you see it.

Pumpkin spice syrup. The syrup was a little more viscous and much darker than the inspiration pic, but the 8oz jar disappeared in about four days because we found so many ways to use it. KK, ever one to gild a lily, added it to her chai tea, and I added it to our oatmeal in the mornings. I even put it in a vanilla protein shake before heading to the gym on Wednesday, and it was delicious.
The lazy version: 1/3 cup canned pumpkin, 1.5 cups sugar, 1.5 cups water, and 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice. Mix, simmer, cool. Makes enough for four 8-ounce jars (giving size).
Served with: everything!

Baked eggs with tomato sauce and goat cheese. This is a recipe I bookmarked over a year and a half ago and never got around to making. I’m glad we finally did! I saved a cup of tomato sauce back from the lasagna, so it came together in a snap. A welcome change from scrambled, scrambled, and more scrambled. If we ever entertained, this would also be great for a crowd, because nearly all of it can be done ahead AND they’ll all finish baking at the same time!
Served with: gluten-free orange ricotta pancakes and sliced orange.

And the worst things?

Unfortunately, both Worst Things this week coincided at the same meal.

Beer can chicken on the new grill.  We walked the dog with about 20 minutes left on the timer, but ended up talking with neighbor for about 15 extra minutes. Chicken shards! I felt like Clark carving the turkey in the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation movie.
Verdict: Will repeat, but with a different beer — Stella wasn’t stellar — and with increased supervision.

Broccoli rice casserole. Dullsville. Maybe it needed more cheese, but I’m not convinced even that would have helped. The gluten-free cheese crackers I found at Big Lots and crushed on top, while not terrible, were not as good as the store-brand Cheez-its I remembered.
Verdict: Will not repeat. Back to basic broccoli casserole — no rice, no crackers, more cheese.

I’m about to make the menu for the week ahead and need ideas. What’s the best thing you made, or ate, this week?