Home In Disarray

January 31, 2009

Southwest Hamburgers from Scratch with Chipotle Ranch fries and Irish Coffee Cupcakes

Southwest Hamburgers from Scratch with Chipotle Ranch fries and Irish Coffee Cupcakes
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So I found these fries at Trader Joe’s earlier this week and decided that I needed to make a meal around them. I thought to myself “Self, what’s more classic with fries than burgers?” Since the fries had a Mexican/Southwest flavor to them, I figured I’d echo that with the burgers. I also got a meat grinder attachment for Christmas and hadn’t used it yet. I should have photographed the meat grinding process, but got sidetracked with figuring out techniques, and my hands were covered with semi-ground chuck.

On thursday morning I made ciabatta rolls based on Rose Levy Beranbaum’s recipe from The Bread Bible, and roasted a couple poblanos and a yellow bell pepper.

I have some leftover Irish Cream that I made for Christmas and figured I’d make a killer icing out of it, and had to come up with something to put said killer icing on. I was going to do stout/chocolate cupcakes but figured an Irish Coffee theme might be tastier, so I took a plain chocolate cake recipe and added a few teaspoons of instant coffee granules to the mix, and baked it up as cupcakes. The icing was some softened butter that I whisked with some powdered sugar and a few tablespoons of the Irish Cream. I know that my frosting skills leave quite a bit to be desired. I like to think of the cupcakes as “rustic.” The cupcakes are dense, moist, and amazing, and the top is slightly caramelized. The icing complements them perfectly!


I made a garlic/roasted poblano aioli for the burgers as well. It was good, but I made too much and in retrospect, I’d only put it on the bottom of the bun, not the top as well, the flavor was a little overwhelming. It was also my first time making an aioli though, so I was pretty pleased.

I cooked up the bacon, sliced and toasted the buns, topped them with aioli, the top bun with some fresh avocado salsa (shockingly similar to my guac recipe, I just used bigger chunks 😉 ), and some cilantro. I grilled my freshly ground, loosely packed burgers, flipped them, added sliced roasted yellow bell pepper and topped that with cheese, then assembled everything. It was a delicious meal.

Posted in: Cooking
January 29, 2009

Getting ready for tasty burgers tomorrow

Getting ready for tasty burgers tomorrow
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So I decided that just for kicks, I’d do every part of this burger hoopla from scratch. Last night I made a ciabatta biga, and this morning baked 4 ciabatta rolls, then roasted a couple poblano and 1 bell pepper. I’m making a poblano aioli as a sauce for the burgers, and figured I’d top them with sweet roasted yellow bell pepper.

Tomorrow I’m picking up some bacon, cilantro, and a couple pounds of chuck to grind the burgers out of. They should be out of this world, especially coupled with such tasty chipotle ranch fries. Maybe I’ll make some ranch dip, and dish up some aioli to dip the fries in.

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Posted in: Cooking
January 28, 2009

Frustrated with Calphalon

Frustrated with Calphalon
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When we moved into the house, I threw this exciting housewarming shindig in an attempt to get our family and friends to see the house, plus to acquire stuff we’d need for the home. Mairead at work was unable to make it, but gave Craig and I a gift card to Bed Bath and Beyond, then a few days later, my Dad and Kim gave me another gift card to the same place, so I went on a bit of a shopping spree.

When we moved into the house it had this hideous(but truly fantastic) avocado Frigidaire stove that was original to the house (1973). While it worked fine, it wasn’t going to be in the kitchen long-term, so when we went to the Sears scratch/dent warehouse to get a washing machine, we also bought a white flat-top ceramic range. I wish we had gas run to our house, but paying to have it run plus a good new gas stove was out of the question, so we stuck with the ceramic cooktop. This made the majority of my collection of vintage cast iron useless, as it has a “heat ring” on the bottom which elevates the bottom of the pan about 2mm from the cooking surface. It works fine with traditional coil-type electric, or gas ranges, but not with a flat-top, which requires a super-flat bottom. It also means that my cheap nonstick pan wouldn’t work, as the bottom wasn’t perfectly flat. I only had 1 skillet (thank god it’s cast iron) that was of any nominal size, but needed something that I can cook acidic stuff in, as it’s not cast iron’s favorite, and I occasionally find myself needing 2 skillets/sauté pans when making an elaborate dish.

When wandering through BB&B, I decided that I needed a Stainless omelet/sauté pan and was doing some serious hemming and hawing between the $100 Tri-Ply SS Calphalon and the $140 All-Clad. After spending probably 15 minutes cuddling with both of them, I called Craig for guidance, and he told me to buy what I thought I needed. Great, thanks for that. I finally decided that even though the All-Clad was SO MUCH nicer, I probably wouldn’t notice the difference in my day-to-day cooking, and I haven’t used All-Clad, so I wouldn’t know that I was missing. I bought the Calphalon.

Fast forward a few months, after 2 stir fries and searing a batch of chicken breasts, the bottom of the pan seems to have become convex. I’m pretty disappointed with Calphalon regarding this issue and made the time to call their customer service line this morning. I ended up talking to a gay guy that was a total bitch! He basically told me that I was cooking incorrectly and that I should never need to preheat over high heat. I pointed out that when stir-frying, and searing, you need a screaming, smoking hot pan. Regardless, we got into an argument, and he pointed out that the manual that comes with it suggests that you don’t need to preheat over more than medium heat. (oh, ok, thanks for that) Then he told me that if I were to send it back to Calphalon (on my dime) for a warranty issue, and they determined that I used it improperly, they wouldn’t replace it. I told him that I expected my $100 pan to be able to take high heat, and it’s ridiculous that after so little use, it warped. The little bitch had the audacity to say “Well, you know it has nothing to do with how much the cookware costs, ma’am.” (No shit?!)So much for a lifetime warranty on a pan with a good name.

I’m pretty furious about the whole situation. It seems ridiculous that a $100 pan cannot stand up to mere months of home use (not even being used every day, I only pull this pan out if I absolutely have to, it’s not nearly as good to use as my cast iron). Searing is a standard, and normal method of preparing a great deal of foods, and this type of pan is generally the vessel used to do the searing. I can see if I was trying to sear on a baking sheet, or a sauce pan, but a sauté pan!?!?!
I don’t understand why companies with good names put out junk (in their top of the line line) and then refuse to provide decent customer service and support for the product when it has a clear issue.
Posted in: Cooking
January 22, 2009

Partially lived in

Partially lived in
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I decided to throw a housewarming party for Craig and I, so all of our friends and family could make time to see the house, and maybe even give us housewarming gifts, like Home Depot and BB&B gift cards. It was to take place on a saturday night a few weeks after closing, so the final week was a rush to the finish line, and we spent probably 7 hours the day of the party installing new outlets, and light switches, vacuuming, putting furniture where it belonged, clearing out room in the garage to park the Corvettes, and baking furiously to feed our guests. After a few minor electrocutions, some burned bread pudding and several pints of beer, we made it, and were able to air out the house, relax, and ultimately drink too much and bullshit with a house full of some of the greatest people in existence. Here’s the house the following day. Sometimes when I get drunk and we’re having people over I go crazy washing dishes and cleaning after we eat and the evening’s winding down. It’s pretty awesome if you ask me, I love waking up to a kitchen that isn’t at total disaster. This was one of those nights.

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Posted in: House
January 22, 2009

The House: Starting point

The House: Starting point
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So this is the house when we first moved in. The house was built in 1973 by an old couple with no children when they retired… they were like 95 when they died, and while they took fantastic care of the house, I don’t think they ever replaced anything, with the exception of the master bath shower, the refrigerator, the kitchen faucet, and the dishwasher…. really. We have our work cut out for us, but we got a decent deal and nothing’s damaged, it’s just… really oldschool.

Our first few nights in the house were pretty depressing. We didn’t have a moving van til a week after our closing date, so I just packed everything I could fit into my Corvette and we slept on a memory foam mattress pad on the floor. It took us a week til we were comfortable enough to sleep in the dead old person’s bedroom.
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This is my only shot of the hideous yellow shade that the laundry room was painted. 🙁
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When we moved in, we spent a few weeks painting every wall and ceiling surface in the house, with the exception of the bathrooms. The sparkly popcorn ceiling got a coat of primer(10 gallons) and then a coat of a neutral paint (another 10 gallons). We painted it because there are wide expanses of ceiling and we were worried that they might not have done a very good job leveling drywall and didn’t want to open up Pandora’s box. Oh, and we think it has asbestos in it. The walls got painted throughout with the same palomino/tan color, but I did a few accent walls in this fantasic terra cotta red color. It literally took me our entire closing period (3 weeks) of staring at probably 30 different paint samples to pick it out. Like I said, I’m a little neurotic.
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An upside of buying this house(in addition to getting the house) is it helped to rekindle my dad and my relationship. We were always on speaking terms but even though we live 15 minutes apart, never made the time to see each other. He and his wife, Kim, came and helped out a lot and it’s been nice to have them around. Here he is, staying up til 11 on a week night, doing a magnificent job of edging, not a simple feat against popcorn!
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Here’s Craig helping
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And my kitchen all cluttered with alcohol, knives, some of Kim’s beautiful mums, and painting supplies
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Posted in: House