Monday, August 31, 2009

My struggle with doggy potty training


When my husband and I got our first dog, it was not only our first dog, it was my first experience with having an animal in the house. My sister and I were never allowed pets in the house. No hamster, gerbil, bunny, cat, dog - no mammals in the house period.... (we did get a fish once on Valentines but in the grand tradition of fish owning...RIP little guppie)

I was not prepared for how big of an adjustment it would be. There were MULTIPLE meltdowns of Mommie Dearest proportions when there were accidents. I came from a home that was of museum quality. Everything was clean and in order 97% of the time....

But both of our dogs became potty trained and things became better. Until I got a job. You see when we got Hero our first puppy I was at home, so I had the time to train her and take her out. Once I went back to work....

Houston we have a problem....

Besides the destruction of furniture that was an obvious cry for help (and companionship) there was the problem of our dog holding it long enough for us to come home. So Toby, my husband, which no matter what type of research, blogs, forums that I show him will NEVER allow our dogs to be in their crates during the day, proposed a solution: Take them out first thing in the morning and alot some papers in a corner for emergencies. Somehow those papers ended up in a room off our kitchen.

Now, my kitchen, is my sanctuary. My place of work (while I'm at home) a place where I experiment, create, etc.... The longer the papers stayed in that area the more it irked me....

Then one day a dog used the floor near the papers instead of the papers themselves and I had a meltdown....

I immediate declared there would be NO PAPERS IN THIS HOUSE! To which my husband talked me down off the ledge. I'll put more papers down! Somehow the papers ended up being half of the room eventually....Then this past weekend it happened again. All papers were banished.... The argument ensued again...A compromise was reached. A small corner for emergency papers and Toby will remove them every day when we get home, plus I come home at lunch to take them out....

I'll let you know how that works out....Sigh.

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, August 28, 2009

Domestic Goddess

The first cookbook Toby, my husband, ever bought me was "How to be a Domestic Goddess".

It was a good move on his part because ever since then I've been a crazy baking fool. My favorite recipe (and Tobys) is the fairy cake recipe. Fairy cakes is the term the British use for cupcakes....These recipe specifically makes light fluffy cupcakes and is a staple recipe in my group of mainstays. It's super easy as it uses self rising flour which takes out a few steps.

Here is the recipe as a sneak preview:

Ingredients
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
7 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs
3/4 cup self-rising cake flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons milk
Icing
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg white
3-4 drops lemon juice
food coloring

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a 12 cup muffin tin with baking cups.

Put all the ingredients except for the milk into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pulse while adding the milk down the funnel to make for a soft consistency.

It doesn't seem like enough, but you can get enough into each baking cup, just scrape it all out and try to fill each one equally.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until they are golden on top.

Cool on a wire rack, but remove from the tin as soon as possible.

Before you decorate, slice off any mounded tops so you have a flat surface to decorate. Icing: Mix the sugar, egg white and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth and creamy, it should have the consistency of heavy cream I always break the batch into smaller batches so I can have different colors When my girlfriend made these for my shower, she frosted them with a bright pink icing, sprinkled them with iridescent edible glitter and topped it with an edible (gum paste) rosebud.

This is the cookbook that should be on everyone's shelf.
So since Toby was my benefactor I dedicate this post to him.















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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Fair Weather Gardener?

Question out to the void :

Is it bad that I love my garden more when it rains regularly???



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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Chocolate Cinnamon Cake

I found out that my husband was providing treats for his staff meetings....from the local convenience store...ick. So I offered my services.

Since I'm obviously looking to get my monies worth of the newest issue of Bon Appetit, I decided to make a Chocolate Cinnamon Bundt Cake. Normally I think of bundt cakes as mundane but this does not follow that mold...(pun intended) Photos are after the especially long recipe.

Recipe:

Chocolate-Cinnamon Bundt Cake with Mocha Icing Bon Appétit September 2009
by The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen


Almost every ingredient in this delicious chocolate cake is a pantry staple, making this a time-saving, budget-friendly dessert that still feeds a crowd. Plus, it keeps well, so even if you do have leftovers, you can enjoy the cake all week.Yield: Makes 12 to 16 servingsActive Time: 20 minutesTotal Time: 1 hour 35 minutes

1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso powder, divided
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar, divided
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups mini semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350°F. Generously brush 12-to 15-cup nonstick Bundt pan with oil. Whisk 1 cup boiling water, cocoa powder, and 2 teaspoons espresso powder in 2-cup glass measure. Whisk 2 cups flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 2 cups brown sugar, 1 cup vegetable oil, and 1 tablespoon vanilla in large bowl to blend. Add eggs; beat to blend. Beat mixture until smooth, about 30 seconds longer. Beat in half of flour mixture, then cocoa mixture. Add remaining flour mixture; beat to blend. Fold in 1 cup chocolate chips. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool the cake 10 minutes. Invert cake onto rack; cool 15 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, stir remaining 1/2 cup brown sugar, 2 teaspoons espresso powder, and 2 tablespoons water in small saucepan over medium heat until sugar melts. Remove from heat. Add butter and remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips; stir until butter and chocolate melt. Cool slightly. Using spoon, drizzle icing over cake. Cool cake completely, slice, and serve.












-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Rose Watch Day 13

Come back to us!!!! Stay away from the light!!!


If you don't know what I'm talking about click here



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Monday, August 24, 2009

Apples Feed the Soul

There is nothing that is more comforting than apple pie. And even the task of peeling the apples is cathartic to me... I found this recipe in the new issue of Gourmet that called for half a pound of white cheddar for the pie crust.

It ended up being the perfect compliment to the sweetness of the apples.

And I might have done something wrong but I had enough pie crust left to make a provolone, ham & broccoli quiche.

It's total sacriledge to waste extra pie crust. Take it from me....




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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Weekend Organization Projects

(Every weekend besides working on my cleaning lists I commence on one organization project. So I'll keep you updated on my efforts to be organized every week- whether succesful or not...)

I'm a huge foodie magazine collector. I've collected more Bon Appetit's and Gourmet Magazines then are probably necessary.

They used to reside in a pile in the corner of my livingroom until I decided to do something about it.

I threw away ALOT
I tore out specific recipes
I saved only the best

However that still left quite a few. So I went to Target and got some magazine organizers...

Here is the finished product organized by:

Thanksgiving
Christmas
Other food issues
Home decorating
Martha Stewart (she deserves her own category)









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Friday, August 21, 2009

Long Week

This is a good start to relaxing and forgetting about this week...



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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Breakfast Sandwiches

When you work as much as we do you have to come up with a plan to have breakfast. I used to have Toby get frozen egg mcmuffins or whatever is in the freezer section at the grocery.

Then when the guilt took over I came up with these great breakfast sandwiches. I fry an egg when I'm making dinner and add a slice of cheese and put it on cinnamon raisin bread, bagels, toast, waffles and even cinnamon rolls.

My husband brings them to work and warms them up.









-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Toby's Favorite Meal

There are not many meals where you can add beer, onions and chocolate in it to have an amazing meal. My chili is one of those meals.

Not only is it yummy but for all you couple only families it can be used as leftovers.

Unfortunately Toby commits sacriledge and adds ketchup & ranch in it. You can go the non-trashy way and garnish it with lime wedge and queso fresco - like me....(Recipe at bottom)

Chiarello Chocolate Chili Con Carne
Recipe courtesy Michael Chiarello

Prep Time:

Ingredients
3 pounds beef chuck
Freshly ground black pepper
Gray salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon ground cumin, plus 2 teaspoons
2 tablespoons chili powder, plus 2 tablespoons
Masa harina (Mexican corn flour)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lard (Manteca)
4 red onions, peeled and minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
4 jalapeno peppers, sliced thin with seeds, stems removed
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 to 3 (12-ounce) bottles beer
1 (12-ounce) can diced tomato in juices
1 quart chicken stock
3 (12-ounce) cans black beans
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into large chunks

Directions
Cut the chuck into ¾-inch pieces, or, to save time, have your butcher do this for you. Place the chuck in a large bowl. Season liberally with pepper (about 20 turns of the pepper grinder) and grey salt to taste– remember half of this will come off in the pan. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the cinnamon, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, and 2 tablespoons of the chili powder. Mix this well and coat the meat with the masa harina (this is a ground hominy flour common to Mexican cuisine and easily found in the Mexican food sections of many grocery stores). The flour will thicken the sauce and give it a specific, Mexican taste.

Preheat a cast iron Dutch oven on the stove over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and then the coated meat, spreading it evenly so it covers the bottom of the Dutch oven in 1 layer. Leave it alone, without turning it, so the meat will brown and caramelize. Meanwhile, add the lard. The meat has a lot of moisture in it, so a good amount of steam will come from the pan before it is caramelized. As it browns, slowly turn each piece with tongs. Once all sides are caramelized, remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a cookie sheet to cool, leaving juices in the Dutch oven to saute vegetables. Add the onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes over medium heat until they start to caramelize and get soft. Add the jalapenos and allow to cook for 2 more minutes until soft. Add the tomato paste. Some of the same spices as were used on the meat will be used in the sauce. Add the remaining 2 teaspoons of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon, the oregano, and 2 heaping tablespoons of the chili powder. Add beer. Stir to incorporate everything. Add diced tomatoes, and stir. Then add the reserved meat. Add chicken stock. Simmer for 1 1/2 hours until meat is wonderfully tender. Strain juice from the black beans, add the beans to the chili pot and bring up to simmer. Then add chunks of bittersweet chocolate. Stir until it melts. Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chocolate Pudding Pie

I was organizing my food magazines into holders and into their new closet (re: Martha Stewart organizing solutions) and came across this recipe in Bon Appetit I had been planning to make.

Crust:
1 cup chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about half of one 9-ounce package; about 23 cookies, finely ground in processor)
2 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), finely chopped

Filling:
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups whole milk, divided
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate (60% cacao), finely chopped
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon vanilla extract Topping:
1 cup chilled crème fraîche*
1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Bittersweet chocolate shavings or curls (optional)


Preparation

Crust
:Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 350°F. Blend cookie crumbs and sugar in processor. Add melted butter; process until crumbs are evenly moistened. Press crumb mixture onto bottom and up sides (not rim) of 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Bake until crust begins to set and no longer looks moist, pressing gently with back of fork if crust puffs, about 12 minutes. Remove crust from oven, then sprinkle chopped chocolate over bottom of crust. Let stand until chocolate softens, 1 to 2 minutes. Using offset spatula or small rubber spatula, spread chocolate over bottom and up sides of crust to cover. Chill crust until chocolate sets, about 30 minutes.

Filling:Whisk sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt to blend in heavy medium saucepan. Gradually add 1/3 cup milk, whisking until smooth paste forms. Whisk in remaining milk, then 1/4 cup cream. Using flat-bottom wooden spoon or heatproof spatula, stir mixture constantly over medium heat, scraping bottom and sides of pan until pudding thickens and begins to bubble at edges, about 5 minutes. Add chocolate; stir until mixture is smooth. Remove from heat; stir in rum and vanilla. Pour hot pudding into crust and spread evenly. Cool 1 hour at room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap; chill overnight. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Topping:Using electric mixer, beat crème fraîche, whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla in medium bowl just until stiff peaks form and mixture is thick enough to spread (do not overbeat or mixture may curdle). Spread topping decoratively over top of pie, swirling to create peaks, if desired. DO AHEAD: Pie can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover with cake dome and refrigerate.
Sprinkle chocolate shavings decoratively atop pie, if desired. Cut pie into wedges and serve.


Here is how my version turned out! Not bad... Not bad at all. A couple of words of wisdom...As much as I LOVE making pie crust....I substituted this one with an Oreo Cookie pre-made (GASP!) crust and it was fine....The filling is what makes this pie. Just make sure you use the GOOD Bittersweet chocolate....Also, I didn't used Creme Fraiche for the topping. Just good old fashioned Heavy Cream that I whipped up fresh. WORTH IT!























It's a great and easy dessert to keep in your stable. And for all you chocoholics it's an absolute must... Now if I could wrestle it away from my husband, I might be able to try it!


-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, August 17, 2009

Rose Watch Day 5

Just in case anyone was keeping track this is day #5 of "Rose Watch".

A few posts ago I told the sad tale of my David Austin Rosebush that was brutally murdered for a second time by an idiot lawn mower. The first time he did it the rose regained consciousness within 2 weeks.

Stay tuned....





-- Post From My iPhone

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Homekeeping Checklists

Today is the day where I go through my Martha Stewart Checklists and scour the house.

Thanks to the thoroughness of these lists every week becomes easier and easier.

I first found out about these lists after an air conditioning repairman had to come to our house because we weren't changing out the filters enough. (I'm going to be living that one down for years to come)

I went searching on Martha Stewarts website on the "homekeeping" section (housekeeping for dummies) and I found everything I needed on when and how to upkeep everything. For a career girl who knows nothing it's the cats pajamas.




-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, August 14, 2009

Julie & Julia-The Movie Outing

I haven't seen a movie in the theater in ages and mostly have been under the spell of my new "on demand" feature I got with my Comcast upgrade.

But Its always fun to get together with friends to see a movie if the opportunity arises.

Varinia, Dawn and I all went to see the Julie & Julia movie on Wednesday. It was one of Nora Ephron's best and I'm a huge "When Harry Met Sally Fan". I'm also a fan of the book. Even though the movie bears it's name it doesn't sample a ton from it. I highly recommend reading it as well.

Here are some fun pictures of the outing.








-- Post From My iPhone

Thursday, August 13, 2009

WAR

WAR

Going to the mattresses
Taking it to the streets
Come out swinging

Say it the way you want but I have declared WAR on the person who mows our lawn.

This idiot recently murdered one (I'm thinking manslaughter) of my David Austen Roses by mowing over it. (Seriously? Its a BUSH!!) But the rose is a fighter...and I respect that. It put up a new shoot and fought for new life. I then set out to give it all the attention it needed to get back to full strength. I played the diligent Florence Nightengale act by watering and feeding it as much as possible. It was doing great.

Then it was time to mow the lawn again.

I gave my husband one thing on his to-do list. MAKE SURE YOU INSTRUCT HIM TO STAY AWAY FROM ALL CULTIVATED PLANT LIFE. He was instructed to stay clear from my roses specifically. Last night I came home from seeing Julie @ Julia (one of my new favorite movies) and I saw my rose bush MURDERED again. This time it was first degree murder. A melt down quickly followed….

To use a reference from my favorite cult movie “Swingers”, IT'S ON my intelligence-challenged mower...IT'S SO ON....The alert level has been raised to red. Its now time for horticulture vigilantism. My top choices are: rocks around my roses, metal spikes pushed down so he can't see him, and firing him - always an option but not nearly as fun.

Here is a picture of the happier days of my rose...sob





-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pizza Amore!

Homemade Pizza and I have had a real love/hate relationship. We are talking Swedish Chef-type episodes... Yeah, not good. One day a wise (genius/lifesaver) person told me to always add sugar to the yeast mixture. Ever since my dough has been no problem...

Recipe:
3 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup warm (on the tepid side) water
1 packet of highly active yeast
2 tbsp of olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

Add yeast, sugar and water together in a mixing bowl preferably with a dough hook. Let it sit until it proofs up. Add olive oil, flour and salt. Mix until the dough comes together. Knead a few times and let it sit for at least 20 min. Roll out and add toppings. Makes two 9 inch personal pan pizzas or one sheet pan size pizza. (for all you couples if the wife eats two pieces and husband three the you have a leftover style lunch that week for him)

Variation: get fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage) chop fine and add to the flour mixture before you mix with the yeast,


Once you get in the habit it's a great easy meal! I also use goat cheese I stead of mozzarella but you can switch it up every time.




-- Post From My iPhone

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Ode to a chicken....sausage


I've never been a fan of beef/pork substitutes but I have to say I've found a close second. This stuff is so amazing that you won't even miss the other white meat...also found in chorizo style, andouille, and apple Gouda flavor....



Sent from my iPhone

Plumbers of America - I Salute you!

So as part of my nesting project - I decided to finally fix the leak in my upstairs bathroom....We have decamped to the downstairs bathroom for about a year now. Basically a leak was coming thru the wall when the shower head was on. So I had already put this on my list of "projects to be completed when I find a recommended plumber in the area".

But as impatient as I am, I decided to get on the internet and see if it was a problem I could fix myself....The verdict was a leaky shower arm brought on by cracked bond around the grooves. I went to Lowe's and got some plumbers bond and VOILA! Fixed. If it was only that simple...

Since the drywall was somewhat decayed where it had soaked up water for who knows how long I broke thru it and replaced it (puzzle experience really comes into play here)I will post "after" photos once I have it painted and looking nice....

One project down....999,999 to go...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Statement of Purpose


I've always been a huge fan of Martha Stewart, Gourmet, Bon Appetite, Traditional Home...You get the point. However, since my husband and I bought our home 5 years ago our careers have led us to many hours working and not many to keep up our house. Add on the fact that in a year or two we will probably start adding to our family (we have two furry babies - Hero and Raleigh), I decided to make a nesting plan.... This plan includes:

  • Home organization
  • Home repairs (done by yours truly)
  • Home decorating (my favorite of all of these)
  • Detailed weekly & monthly cleaning
  • Gardening
  • Meal Planning (another favorite)

This blog chronicles my journey of preparing my life for its next stage....

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