Archive | January, 2011

Two Forward, One Back

28 Jan

This is what our bathroom looked like when we first moved in.  I had my issues with this for sure:  green carpet (who carpets a bathroom?), an ancient peeling laminate vanity, a toilet older than both j & i, floral wallpaper, FAKE tiled walls, the complete absence of a shower.

In the last year we managed to almost completely gut the bathroom.  The only original things that remained were the cats iron tub we had no way to remove as well as the window and light fixture above the sink.  We successfully installed a new sink, toilet, and shower.  We also tiled the floor and shower.  We repaired the damaged walls and ceilings, primed and painted and installed a light and fan.

The problems however started almost immediately after we completed the bulk of the work.  The fan we installed didn’t seem to draw out enough of the moisture when we would shower so there would be water pooling on the ceiling and dripping down the walls.  We started to make sure we showered with the door open and it lessened things but didn’t solve it by any means.  A couple weeks ago though we noticed parts of the ceiling had began to peel and the wall had small bubbles forming and the paint felt damp/tacky to the touch.  So we decided this weekend we would begin the repair and to finish up a few loose ends we had been putting off.  I’ll wait to show you the finished room but I will show you a couple rooms I loved and thought about when we were redoing things.

I apologize for not remembering where I found this from. If anyone can help me link it I would greatly appreciate it.

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kick off.

6 Jan

We’re working on a lot of things up on the hill but every now and then you just need to take a break and enjoy the fact that I can cook a stellar dinner.

As a wedding present my brother decided to add to my cook book collection as he knows otherwise I will just checks books out of the library and cook from them until I memorize the recipes I want.  One of the additions was Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home.  After coming home from work yesterday I honestly would have eaten anything hot and been perfectly content.  I thought J. might appreciate something a little bit more than simply warm – so there was:

Thomas Keller’s Roast Chicken with Root Vegetables
from Ad Hoc at Home

One 4 to 4 1/2 lb chicken

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
6 thyme sprigs
2 large leeks
3 tennis-ball-sized rutabagas
2 tennis-ball-sized turnips
4 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half
1 small yellow onion, trimed, leaving root end intact, and cut into quarters
8 small (golf-ball-sized) red-skinned potatoes
1/3 cup canola oil
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature

This is how the original recipe reads – however from the beginning I made some changes to use what we had on hand.  This is what my ingredient list roughly read like:

One 4 lb organic chicken (Bell & Evans is the easiest to come by & best price usually)

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
Dried thyme
1 medium red onion
4 medium beets
2 tennis-ball-sized turnips
3 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, and cut in half
2 small yellow onion, trimed, leaving root end intact, and cut into quarters
8 brussel sprouts
1/3 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter

And here are the cooking instructions my edits are in italics:

Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and let stand at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until it comes to room temperature I didn’t do this as we would have been eating dinner at 10 at night – I did run it under water to rinse and pat it dry.

Preheat the oven to 475 F.

Remove the neck and innards if they are still in the cavity of the chicken. Using a paring knife, cut out the wishbone from the chicken. (This will make it easier to carve the chicken.) I also didn’t do this but next time I will for sure as I had some difficulty breaking up the chicken when it was done but cooking meat is still a bit foreign to me. Generously season the cavity of the chicken with salt and pepper, add 3 of the garlic cloves and 5 sprigs of thyme, and massage the inside of the bird to infuse it with the flavors. Truss the chicken. There is a great step by step in the book on how to do this or you can just trust Ruhlman I know I always do.

Cut off the dark green leaves from the top of the leeks. Trim off and discard the darkened outer layers. Trim the root ends, cutting around them on a 45-degree angle. Slit the leeks lengthwise almost in half, starting 1/2 inch above the root ends. Rinse the leeks well under warm water.

Cut off both ends of the rutabagas. Stand the rutabagas on end and cut away the skin, working from top to bottom and removing any tough outer layers. Cut into 3/4-inch wedges. Repeat with the turnips, cutting the wedges to match the size of the rutabagas.

Combine all the vegetables and remaining garlic cloves and thyme sprig in a large bowl. Toss with 1/4 cup of the oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the vegetables in a large cast-iron skillet or a roasting pan.  I just prepped all my veg for a typical roast but hey if you need instructions on how to clean and chop who am I to judge.

Rub the remaining oil over the chicken. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Make a nest in the center of the vegetables and nestle the chicken in it.

Cut the butter into 4 or 5 pieces and place over the chicken breast.

Put the chicken in the oven and roast for 25 minutes. Reduce the heat to 400 F and roast for an additional 45 minutes, or until the temperature registers 160 F in the meatiest portions of the bird–the thighs, and under the breast where the thigh meets the breast–and the juices run clear. If necessary, return the bird to the oven for more roasting; check it every 5 minutes.

Transfer the chicken to a carving board and let rest for 20 minutes.

Just before serving, set the pan of vegetables over medium heat and reheat the vegetables, turning them to glaze with the pan juices.

Now here’s the thing – the chicken came out great.  The timing and temperature was perfect – it came out juicy and the skin golden (not as crisp as I would have liked it but J. was over the moon).  The lack of crispiness could have been since the chicken hadn’t been out of the fridge those two hours or just the type of bird who knows.  But the veg came out a bit disappointing.  By the time the drippings and oil and extra juice all combined together I feel like they wound up greasier than my usual pan roasted veggies.  They were more than simply “glazed”.  Admittedly I’m really particular about my vegetables considering it’s all I ate for nearly a decade but they only came out “meh”.  Also we skipped the roasted potatoes – we had just had potatoes a couple nights before so I made my faux-stove top stuffing that I’ll put up a recipe for some other time.  Less oily vegetables and maybe the addition of half a lemon to the cavity of the chicken before roasting and I will be in home cooked dinner heaven.

We still have half of chicken left over for another dinner and the carcass is already in a pot for stock so I wont complain.  Also any reason to sit down not on the couch with J. and crack open a bottle of wine is fine by me.

second.

2 Jan

After three nearly perfect days of relaxing with j & pup it’s hard to believe I have to head back to the office tomorrow.  We’ve managed to get just a few small things done around the house some tidying up mostly but it was a lot of knitting, music, netflix, wine & naps and it couldn’t have been better.

We cleaned up the dining room a bit so we could get back to actually using our fancy Danish dining set.  We wanted to end the long weekend right so I made us some chicken stroganoff and j. set things up to be all sweet and romantic like.

I know it’s early but so far 2011 is wonderful.

first

2 Jan

2010 brought a lot of great things, but it was also a lot more stressful than j & i could have ever imagined.  We both have high hopes for the future and thought the best way to kick things off would be by actually relaxing.  Things have been non-stop ever since the wedding and after family overload and end of year craziness at work we really just wanted some quiet.  We managed to get a three day weekend (!!!!!) and honestly we didn’t do a single thing.  There was no painting or spackle.  Nothing.  We cooked outstanding meals, slept in, spoiled the puppy rotten, watched endless netflix and made some big plans.  I had some serious quality time with my slippers and we decided a special breakfast was required to start the year off right.  Enter the dutch baby.

Super easy to make and a great way to break in my new cast iron pan (thanks mom).

Dutch Babies (German Pancakes)

2 eggs

1/3 c. milk (any kind will work we usually have skim or 2% but always organic)

1/3 c. flour (regular all purpose or whole wheat)

2 t. sugar

pinch of salt

splash of vanilla (optional)

2 T. unsalted butter for the pan

Preheat your oven and your cast iron skillet 9/10 inch is best  to 400 degrees (you can use a regular pie plate if you don’t have cast iron).    Mix together all the ingredients until smooth.  Once it’s up to temp drop the butter into the pan and make sure to coat evenly and then add the batter to the hot pan.  Bake at 400 for about 20 min then drop down to 350 for 10-15 minutes or until golden and puffed.  Serve with more butter, powdered sugar, lemon, honey, jam – whatever you’d like.  We did ours with a little more butter and local clover honey.  Serve with copious amount of coffee, thick sliced bacon in your favorite pjs and there’s no better way to kick off the year.