Home In Disarray

March 27, 2010

The painted house

The painted house
By

I’ll be the first to admit that it doesn’t look hugely different, but the whole paint not peeling all over the place is great. And it’s not battleship grey either, which helps.

Photobucket

Like my little pot with Ranunculus? It’s so bright and sunny!

Photobucket

Here’s the back deck (minus the new corrugated plastic that will go in hopefully next weekend)

Photobucket

The pots from the back deck are still all over the place. Oh well.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Posted in: House, Renovations
March 26, 2010

Cheap, simple, easy, attractive wall art

Cheap, simple, easy, attractive wall art
By

How can you complain? Come all, we all have “that wall.” The one you look at wistfully thinking to yourself “I really need to find some reasonably priced prints or a nice painting to put up.” The wall above my sofa in our family room was like that. Big, empty, beige. It doesn’t get much more depressing than that. Maybe greyish white or hospital green. Anyway, I was cleaning out the garage a couple weeks ago and found several canvasses that we’d been storing for a couple of years.

Photobucket

After mulling over ideas in my head regarding what to do with them that wouldn’t require a great deal of skill, I decided that a solid color triptych would be a good option. So I headed to Home Depot to check out the paint selection. After picking a few different colors I grabbed swatches and checked the out in the lighting of the house and that room. Then I went back and grabbed 3 small pots of paint (the ones they make for testing wall colors before buying gallons of it) for $3 each. With a $2 paint brush, I lightly painted them, let them dry, then hung them on the wall above the sofa. Below is a photo to show the true color of each of the canvasses, not the color in the dark in my family room.

Photobucket

Posted in: Art
March 23, 2010

Painting the house

Painting the house
By

Ok, well… I am not painting the house, but we’re paying someone else to do it! Which is way more fun that doing it yourself. It means that you get to come home from work to a different house. Or a strange looking ont at least.

Photobucket

FIrst, we had to rip the really weird privacy walls off of the bedroom deck and replace them with trellis to match the other (biggest) deck. I set Craig and his dad to work on that and they turned out beautifully. We also ripped the million year old corrugated plastic off from on top of the two decks that were here when we moved in. It brightened up the spaces a ton. Strange how removing 30 years of mold, mildew, and pine needles will do that for you!

Photobucket

At that point, the house was ready to be pressure washed. And it needed it. The house was last painted in 97 by our best estimate. There’s a can of paint in the garage with “1997” written on the lid.

Photobucket

We’ve also worked up quite a “gypsy pile” as Craig refers to it. All of the corrugated plastic, the weird wall things, our old door, etc are all waiting for our friend with a truck to have a free saturday or evening to take us to the dump.

Photobucket

Yesterday, I came home to this:

Photobucket

They had scraped, filled, and primed the whole house. While I’m partial to the attractive and inviting battleship grey that they exterior was/is, the white primer was a sight for sore eyes. That means that the next step is paint!!!!

Photobucket

Please ignore the almost completely dead front lawn. That’s actually supposed to be like that. I’m tearing it out in a month or so.

Awwww….. look at all my potted plants, just sitting there, feeling sad, lonely, abused. They’ve been evicted from their current living situation until the trellis has been fully painted.

Photobucket

And the south side of the house.. It obviously gets the most sun, and almost all of the paint was peeling off of it. I’m so pleased to see something actually adhering to it!

Photobucket

Hopefully next time I post photos of the house, it’ll be a slightly more cheerful color.

Posted in: Renovations
March 17, 2010

My favorite chicken tortilla soup

My favorite chicken tortilla soup
By

Craig was at a match near the Canadian border on Saturday, about 1.5 hours from home. It was cold and kinda drizzly , so I figured he’d want a hot meal when he got home. So I made chicken tortilla soup.

I was out of chicken stock, so started off by poaching a couple chickens. To poach chickens, you’ll want to heat your water to between 165 and 185º. By the way… Raw chicken is totally gross. I know that, but it’s a necessary part of most cooking unfortunately. Get over it, lots of raw stuff that we eat cooked is totally gross.

Photobucket

Then rinse your chickens, remove the necks and organs and stuff from the cavities, but keep them, they’ll add to the stock.

Photobucket

OMFG WTF IS THIS? IT CAME OUT OF ONE OF THE CHICKENS!?!?!?!?!? ESOPHAGUS?

Photobucket

Add the chickens to the water and keep an eye on the temperature. If it gets too hot, they’ll overcook easily and the meat will get dry. Skim as much foam off the top as you can with a slotted spoon. It’s just proteins and stuff.

Photobucket

Once the chicken is firm (or an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 160º), pull it out and allow it to cool before shredding. Turn off the pot, but leave the necks and whatever internal organs you got with the chickens in there. Once the chickens is cooled down, pull the skin off and shred the meat up, pulling out tendons and blobs of fat and whatnot. Save all of the chicken refuse to put back into the pot.

Photobucket

Add the chicken wreckage back to the pot with an onion that has been quartered, a couple carrots(or several baby carrots), a couple ribs of celery, a bay leaf, and a head of garlic that’s been cut in half horizontally (so each clove has been cut in half). Bring it to a LOW simmer and keep it there for 5-9 hours. I left the lid off my pot so that half the water would evaporate, concentrating the flavors.

Photobucket

For the preceding part, you could easily buy a rotisserie chicken and a couple boxes of chicken stock, but that’s the easy way out, and rotisserie chicken has a decidedly rotisserie flavor that I find a little offputting. I cant describe it.

Then you’ll want to start on the big flavor portion of the soup. Get 6 tomatoes. Romas were on sale so I used them. Wash them with soap, then halve them and drizzle with olive oil/sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Photobucket

Put in the oven at 400º for about 10 minutes, then turn on the broiler and keep an eye on them. When they start getting black spots, flip them over and watch for black spots again. When they are done, pull them out of the oven and turn off the broiler.

Photobucket

While you’re doing this, get a pan nice and hot and throw 4 dried pasilla peppers in it, turning them every now and again, getting them nice and smokey. When you feel they’re done (totally arbitrary, btw), pull them out of the pan and rip them open, removing the stems and seeds, then soak in some boiling hot water for about 20 minutes to soften them.

Sauté an onion and some garlic, it doesn’t have to be chopped up nicely, just soften it, don’t burn it.

Put the tomato-onion-garlic-chile mixture into the blender and puree thoroughly. Then pour it into a mesh strainer to get all of the seeds and skins out. You’ll have to work the mixture through the sieve but eventually you’ll have a paste leftover in the strainer and most of the liquid outside of it. That’s what you’re looking for.

Photobucket

The finished product:

Photobucket

Then you’ll want to make your tortilla strips. Heat some heat-loving oil (I used corn oil) to 350º and fry up strips of tortilla that have been cut with either a pizza cutter or a knife.

Photobucket

Photobucket

The trick to getting voluptuous and curvy tortilla strips (instead of boring flat ones) is to put several into the hot oil, and while they’re still soft, stir them furiously(be careful!) so they bend up and then eventually freeze up in that shape.

Photobucket

Ok, when you’re about an hour from dinner time, pull the stock mixture off of the stove, let it cool for 30 minutes, and strain. Add about 3 quarts to a good soup pot with the tomato mixture. Let it cook for 20 minutes, with the lid off to reduce a little. 10 minutes before eating, add as much chicken in as you want, and just before serving, put in a few tablespoons of lime juice. Taste, adjust salt, it’ll probably need a considerable amount.

While the stock is cooling, prepare your sides. Of course the tortillas will have been done already, but you’ll need sour cream (or crema if you have a mexican grocery store near your house – creme fraiche would also work for this, but that’s generally something you have to make or pay a million dollars for, and really, sour cream works fine). You’ll also want avocados that have been cubed, some grated cheese, & chunks of cilantro. I also made some fresh salsa because I got carried away with deep frying and made some chips also.

Photobucket

To serve, ladle some of the soup into your bowl, top with tortilla strips, a dollop of sour cream, some cheese, avocado and cilantro.

Photobucket

As an aside- I got the greatest gel from this chicken stock. The soup itself, even with the tomato mixture mixed in is SOLID when chilled. It turns out that rotisserie birds are cooked so long that additional cooking denatures the natural gelatin in their bones. To get a truly epic gel – don’t cook your bird or bones too long.

Posted in: Cooking
March 17, 2010

Dulce de Leche

Dulce de Leche
By

Say it with me. “Dool-say day lay-chay”

This is the greatest thing you never knew you could make. My mom always used to make this when I was a wee lass. Probably because it requires zero skills other than being able to keep a pot of water on the stove at a low simmer for long periods of time, which is one of my favorite reasons to make it too. It’s a super creamy caramel that is magic. Apparently it’s epic when added to coffee, I’ve never tested this. It’s way better than the $8 caramel sauce shit for ice cream that you get at the grocery store. A really great application for this is to heat it up slightly (make it less viscous) and dip apple slices in it. Try swirling some (heated up) with brownie batter prior to baking. om nom nom.

Photobucket

The ingredients? Get ready for this…
1 can of sweetened condensed milk.
This can be found in the baking/spice aisle of the grocery store, near the chocolate chips and canned pumpkin.

That’s it.

You take the label off of the can and as much of the glue as you can, though this isn’t totally necessary, it just avoids unnecessary mess in your pot.

Then you put the can in the pot and fill the pot til the can is submerged. I leave the can on its side. This helps to avoid bubbles building up under the edges of the can and making it chatter.

Then you put the pot onto the stove on low or whatever will yield you a very gentle simmer. I’ll warn you that seemingly everyone on the internet is terrified of their cans rupturing and spewing boiling hot caramelized milk all over them. I’ve never seen this happen or seen signs of pressure on any of my cans. There are other(safer?) ways, but this is easier and less messy. I’ll note that last week I tried the method where you microwave the sweetened condensed milk in a large bowl and whisk it. That shit crystalized and hardened way before it caramelized enough. Plus my bowl was gross, and the texture sucked.

Let it sit there for 3-4 hours, turning it occasionally just to make sure there aren’t any spots that are getting more heat than others. I usually go 2.75ish and then turn it off and let it sit in the hot water until I remember to take it out (usually the water’s cold by then). The longer it cooks, the more solid it will be.

Then you can store it if you want to have dulce de leche at the ready. If you’re ready to eat it; by all means, attack.

If you opted for a more solid consistency, you’ll want to soak this in some warm/hot water for half an hour or so to get it soft enough to scoop out of the can easily. This is like christmas right here.

Photobucket

I scooped mine into a food storage container for later use.

Photobucket

And stole a little to nibble on, mixed with my ice cream!

Photobucket

Posted in: Candy, Cooking
March 17, 2010

My pets are cuter than your pets

My pets are cuter than your pets
By

Here’s Proof:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Posted in: Cat, Dogs
March 10, 2010

Tasty minty chocolate truffles

Tasty minty chocolate truffles
By

And they’re SO EASY. I can’t stress this enough. Monkeys could make them. Hell, Boris could probably do it if he had opposable thumbs. And they’re cheap. Plus, people shit bricks when they find out that you just MADE the truffles that they’re enjoying. It’s kind of satisfying.

You’ll want to start with some cream and butter.You can put this in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Mine was dirty and I was too lazy to take it out of the dishwasher and hand wash it. So I just microwaved my pyrex measuring cup. It worked fine.

Photobucket

Measure out your bittersweet chocolate. If you are fancy and buy hunks of chocolate, the chop it up, if you are like me and just keep a stock of ghiradelli 60% cacao chips in the house, use those and don’t bother going to the effort of chopping chocolate up.

Photobucket

Pour the boiling cream into the bowl with your chocolate chips

Photobucket

Let it sit for 5ish minutes, then stir it with a whisk.

Photobucket

Once the chocolate and cream have mixed, add in some liqueur of your choice. I had some creme de menthe in the pantry, so I used that.

Photobucket

Then cover and refrigerate it overnight.

Photobucket

When you’re ready to do your truffle assembly, get a cup of HOT water, a roundish scooper with good heat retention properties, a plate with some cocoa powder, and a flat surface that can be used to transport the finished truffles to the refrigerator.

Photobucket

Now you’ll want to soak your spooning device in the hot water, dry it with a rag that you don’t mind coating in chocolate, and scoop out a ball of truffle. Pretend that you’re balling a melon. That sounded totally inappropriate.

Photobucket

Then put the glob of chocolate onto the plate of cocoa powder and roll it around. Then roll it into something approximating a ball. Your hands will get very dirty.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Do that with the rest of them, refrigerate for a few hours, then you can put them into a plastic wrap covered bowl or resealable container to store (or pick at for the next few days).

Photobucket

Posted in: Candy