Home In Disarray

December 11, 2010

Doggy bedroom pictures

Doggy bedroom pictures
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I took these last night when I went into the bedroom to go to bed. I ran back out and grabbed the camera.

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The dogs are clearly enjoying the soft bed. Boris gives himself a bath at night and in the morning. Helo just likes to lay there and soak in the amazingness of his pack that loves him so much and treats him so well.

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I call Helo “Fluffy Bunny” which I’m sure he’d hate if he knew what it meant.

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Boris’ nickname is “Peaches” or “sweety peach” which I’m willing to bet he’d be equally disgusted with.

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Posted in: The Creatures
December 6, 2010

Random photos that I feel inclined to share

Random photos that I feel inclined to share
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This is me with Perry and Boris cuddled up on the sofa all asleep. Craig had a late poker game and I was waiting for the sheets to come out of the dryer so I could make the bed and pass back out.

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This is Perry, yesterday morning. He was enjoying looking out the window.

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This is my northwest style red ale. It’s on nitro. See the sandstorm. Envy the sandstorm.

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Posted in: Drinks, Misc
December 6, 2010

Makin’ Bacon!!!! Part 1

Makin’ Bacon!!!!  Part 1
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So making bacon is awesome. I love it. Well, I love it kind of like I love pulling a sled up a hill to sled down. It isn’t the greatest thing in the world, and if I could just EAT the bacon without being bothered to actually make it and have total control over every step of the process, sure, I’d do that, but I can’t. So just as the sled has to be pulled up the hill for the payoff, the bacon has to be made in order for it to be consumed. Unfortunately, that’s just how life goes. But it’s totally easy. Way easier than pulling a sled up a hill. And this bacon’s way better than riding a sled down a hill. I promise. So no need for actual physical activity, you can just make and eat bacon instead.

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You’ll need to start off with a basic dry cure. My mixture is based off the the recipe in Charcuterie but any basic cure mixture should work. Mine calls for pink salt (nitrites) kosher salt, and corn sugar. I get my corn sugar from my local homebrew store. The pink salt is from my butcher shop.

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The mixture goes into a gallon sized ziploc and lives in the pantry until I need it.

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Then you’ll want to get your pork belly. My local butcher shop has 2 kinds. Bone-in and bone-out. The boned belly is what I find wrapped up and ready to buy usually. It has skin on it and is generally very anemic and sad looking. It’s also thin, which sucks. The bone-in stuff (at least from my butcher) does not have skin, and is WAY thicker than the bone-out stuff. You also have to ask for it specially. My butcher didn’t have it in stock when I went in to get it, so they ordered some in for me. I asked for 2 bellies.

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That’s a LOT of bacon. But I have a big freezer and I like having things in the freezer ready to go should I need or want them.

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The pain with the bone-in is that you have to remove the bone. As far as I can tell, this is just the end of the rib bones and is primarily cartilage.

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They run diagonally through the belly. You can kind of see the channel where it was.

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Now you get your cure ready. For a belly this size, a 2 gallon ziploc bag is your best bet. I smash a few cloves of garlic and crack some black pepper into the bag with a cup or so of the basic dry cure mix.

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Then add the belly and move everything around to coat.

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Then proceed with the second belly and the ends that won’t fit in the 2-gallon bags with the rest of the slabs.

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You should clear out a low spot in your fridge to cure the bacon in. It basically hemorrhages liquid and should the bags leak, you’ll get gross salty pork juice all over everything in the fridge that isn’t supposed to have that. I clear out one of my produce drawers and cure the bacon in there. It’s safer that way.

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You’ll want to turn it over every 24-48 hours for the next several days. Every time you do this, poke the bacon and feel it out to see if it is beginning to get firm. This is mine after 1 day. We’ll revisit this next week to see how to finish making the bacon.

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Posted in: Cooking, DIY, Food
December 6, 2010

We put up Christmas lights!

We put up Christmas lights!
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Finally, for our third winter in the house and Craig decided on Saturday that he wanted Christmas lights! So we went out and got some nice LED ones with a 5 year warranty and put them up. We don’t have traditional gutters (there was some silly fad in the 70’s to do built-in gutters, which look great because they don’t look like gutters, but a pain because you can’t put gutter-shield on them and can’t use gutter-clips like most houses) so we had to put a bunch of nails in our fascia.

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I made Craig do the peak on the roof because it faces the street and is pretty much the ONLY architectural feature on this poor ranch home.

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There was moss on the roof. He threw it at me because I was taking pictures of him and wouldn’t stop.

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Look how pretty it looks at night! We’re so festive!

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Posted in: Decorating, House
December 6, 2010

Toffee Caramel Popcorn

Toffee Caramel Popcorn
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This is the greatest. I’ve been making it at my grandmother’s house on visits for as long as I can remember. She’s a candymaking master. Seriously. And it’s cheap. And nobody believes that you made it yourself. And it’s really not that hard to do. The only thing is cleanup. It sucks.

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I doubled the recipe this time, I knew I’d be making a lot to bring to work and give as gifts. It requires an obscenely large bowl though. You start by popping your popcorn. For the double recipe, that’s a pound. PRO TIP: Pop it in batches and shake the seeds down to the bottom and be careful not to transfer them over to the larger bowl. You’ll notice the difference when you’re eating it and not biting into unpopped kernels. I promise.

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Did you know that my great grandmother (great great grandmother??) wrote a book on candymaking?

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Here’s the recipe. No copypasting for you!

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Glucose is code for corn syrup. Well, not really, but it does enough of the same thing that it’s totally acceptable. Plus Grandma Jean told me that corn syrup’s totally cool to use.

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This is my enormous bowl. It’s 5 gallons. In the following photo, I used my Starbuck’s cold drink reusable cup for scale.

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Anyway, once you get your popcorn popped, put it in the oven at 300º to keep it warm. See recipe above for reasoning. Then bring your sugar mixture to a boil. Use a pot that’s way bigger than you think you need. I started with one that was much smaller before remembering what happens.

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A good trick for doing anything regarding candymaking is to keep your utensils in a glass of hot water. That dissolves sugar crystals that will thwart your attempts at a beautiful and pleasant caramel.

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So anyway, you cook it to 300º. Keep an eye on it after it hits 230ºish. It will shoot up and you will be unprepared. If you are sufficiently underprepared, you will have burnt caramel and you’ll have to start over. Or just give up and eat approximately 1700 calories worth of popcorn. Not that I’ve ever done that. Ever.

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When it hits 300º, you add your butter, then a slurry of vanilla extract and baking soda. I mix it in a shotglass. There’s less surface area to lose baking soda or vanilla. One of the things my grandma told me about recipes is to double the vanilla. I dont usually DOUBLE the vanilla, but I almost always add extra. I’ve never been disappointed. In this case, I doubled it. If you wanted to get fancy, you could use half the vanilla and throw in the caviar from half a bean. Mmmmmm. That would be good! And then you could get pretentious and call it “vanilla bean toffee popcorn.”

Since the whole step of adding stuff at 300º is speedy and requires lots of hands-on hoopla, I don’t have any photos of it. Count on the caramel doubling in volume from it’s boiling state once the baking soda-vanilla slurry has been added. That’s why you want a larger pot than you think you need.

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So then you pull the 300º bowl out of the 300º oven and pour your 300º caramel onto it. Please use a potholder. I use a cloth one and just wash it afterwards. If you have a silicone grabby thing, you could use that. I have 2 that I’ve gotten as gifts, and only use them as a last resort. For no rational reason at all, I hate them. If you’ve bought me one as a gift before, Thanks! It was a wonderful thought and most people adore them, so it was a smart choice, but please don’t buy me more. They’ll just live in the back of my potholder drawer with the unused plastic dropcloths from when we painted the house when we moved in 2 years ago, the pastry tips, pumpkin carving equipment and (I just checked) an almost totally gone eyeliner pencil that must be leftover from pumpkins too. That was a confession by the way. Please don’t hate me. I have a terrible habit of not being as psyched about kitchen gifts as I should be.

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Once it’s been mixed SUPER thoroughly (take your time, the heat from the bowl should keep it liquid for at least long enough to mix it if you are not super slow), spread it out onto your (mostly) cleared counter. A 2-4″ depth is fine. The goal is to get it to set fairly quickly.

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You don’t need a granite counter for this. I made it last year or the year before on laminate and it was fine. Even the scary textured laminate that we had before the granite. The cleanup is slightly more involved if it doesn’t cool on the surface super quickly though. This year I didn’t need to go over the counter at all with a scraper (I did anyway) but last year with the laminate required a scraper, then a few minutes of scrubbing with a scrubby sponge to remove the residue. It’s worth it though.

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I love caramel popcorn. I play a game with myself when bagging this up to see how big I can get with chunks of it before they break when I’m pulling it off the counter. I’m a little strange.

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The biggest I’ve ever gotten was approximately 1 square foot. I was REALLY excited. Then it broke off and dropped onto the counter and shattered. And the dog got most of it when it bounced off onto the floor.

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He was pretty pleased with himself. I was pretty distraught.

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I realized AFTER pouring my popcorn out onto the counter that I’m almost out of gallon ziplocs. And my 2 gallon ziplocs are nowhere to be seen. Luckily I have a million of these quart sized containers in my second pantry so I was able to save the day.

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The only problem with this popcorn is that the sugar in the caramel is so hydrophilic that it gets sticky and weird and unpleasant within maybe 45 minutes of being exposed to (humid PNW) air. It NEEDS to be sealed. Unfortunately the cute little tins that normal popcorn is packaged in during this season are not to be trusted. They don’t seal quite enough. 1 or 2 gallon sized ziplocs are the best.

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You won’t be disappointed that you made this. I guarantee it.

Posted in: Cooking, Food
December 1, 2010

Laurel’s Thanksgiving Spectacular

Laurel’s Thanksgiving Spectacular
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For Thanksgiving this year, I offered to do all of the cooking, save a few dishes that Craig’s dad is famous for, the apple pie, which my stepmom brought, and the sweet potatoes, because they’re an abortion and I don’t ever eat them.

First, we drove over there with the car loaded full of food and cooking implements. We had just gotten a few inches of fresh snow. We were pretty much road warriors.

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Then we pulled out the turkey. It had been removed from a 24 hour (3/4 cup salt & 1/2 cup brown sugar/molasses to 1 gallon water) brine about 12 hours prior. You remove the turkey from the brine and give it a resting period to allow the salt and water content to equalize a bit. Then we injected the breasts with a stick of melted butter using a hypodermic needle. Then gave the turkey a rubdown with olive oil and a good sprinkling of kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

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The turkey had been spatchcocked, or flattened out. To do this, you get a STRONG pair of kitchen shears, or a sharp hefty knife and remove the bird’s backbone. Then you knick the inside of the bird’s breastbone with a couple quick strokes of your knife to make the job of flattening that bitch out easier. Then spread the bird open, and deliver a few strong whacks to the top of the breasts. Then you fold the wings behind the breasts, and flop the legs in until they’ll loosely fit inside a half-size sheet pan. The bird cooks WAY faster this way which allows the breasts to stay moister because they don’t get cooked WAY before the thighs.

Here are the homemade butter-dipped dinner rolls.

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Rising in pools of butter!

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This is Funeral potatoes. It’s cubed baked potatoes, cream of chicken soup, sour cream, shredded cheddar all mixed together and topped with crushed corn flakes. YUM.

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Here are some of the desserts.

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My first try at pecan pie. It turns out that I don’t like it.

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Pumpkin creme brulee

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And my stepmom’s beautiful apple pie!

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Craig’s mom’s new adopted chihuahua, Frankie, and Kim, both totally smitten.

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Good times being had by all

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I must be so entertaining!

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Dad and Kim do something called Thanksgiving gifts. They give something valuable to people in need. Last year it was a goat to a family in a 3rd world country, this year, it’s a $100 small business loan to a woman in Africa so she can feed her children. Then they gave us a $100 gift certificate to my favorite butcher shop! Woohoo!

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Now I’d like to somewhat briefly tell you about my thermometer situation. I have a probe thermometer, which I got when I returned another probe thermometer that started reading incorrectly. I’ve had this one for a few months, and of course a week before thanksgiving, my hand read at 32º, and and my countertop is over 128º. Awesome. So I bought a meat thermometer at the grocery store on Wednesday night. After giving it a quick test in boiling water to ensure that it was reading correctly, I was satisfied by my new purchase. Except when the turkey went in the oven, it didn’t actually register the amount of heat that the turkey had. So we used an instant read thermometer. But then I got kind of forgetful after several glasses of hot mulled cider mixed with rum. And instead of pulling the turkey out at 161º, it came out around 180º.

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But it was gorgeous. And I was excited!

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And it turns out, the butter injections and brining made it perfect. It was still SUPER juicy and incredibly flavorful.

Dad, carving the turkey!

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At the table, ready for some foods!

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And the only photo of the full table.

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It was a wonderful Thanksgiving full of good friends and family. Unfortunately, some family members were unable to join us, Mom & Susan in Australia, and Dan & Amanda in Italy. 🙁

Posted in: Baking, Cooking, Food