Thursday, August 18, 2011

Powder Room Makeover

I wish I had a picture of our powder room when we moved into our house. It had a weird wallpaper border that had these, like, these scroll-type thingies on it a la 1988. I promptly took it down, only to discover the previous owner had painted over wallpaper. :-/ So I bought a steamer and took off the wallpaper. It was a long and tedious process. Afterwards I painted the walls a light grayish-green. Here is the result.
It was nice, but the dark cabinet always bothered me because the room is so small and it still made it look dark. So, after remodeling the basement, I had the home improvement bug and decided to paint the cabinet white. I don't know if you can tell, but I even added a couple of little rosettes and some moulding to dress it up a bit.

I have mixed emotions. It does make the room look brighter, but now it looks a little naked. Maybe I'm just not used to it.
Oh well, hopefully we can replace the whole cabinet in the future.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Ranch Potato Chips


I've been making homemade potato chips for a few years now. There are a few things I have discovered in that time:

1) You must use fresh potatoes. They slice much nicer and make better chips.
2) Slice the potatoes on a mandolin (the slicer, not the instrument). It slices them evenly and thin enough to be crunchy.
3) Soak the potatoes in vinegar water for at least 15 minutes. It takes out some of the starchiness. Also, rinse the potatoes several times before throwing them in the fryer.
4) Once the potatoes start to crisp up, stir them continuously. It will help them to brown evenly.

So...last week I got a super good batch of chips and a thought occurred to me...
WHAT if I sprinkled the chips with the contents of a packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Salad and Seasoning Mix?

Brilliant! Yay, me!
Try it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Salsa

I thought I would share a recipe for salsa. It originated in my husband's family, but I have altered it over the years. I'm not big on measurements so you will have to decide exactly how much of the jalapeno, onion, cilantro and lime you would like to use. If you are unable to judge this then find another recipe. :)

Dump all of these ingredients into a bowl, then mix it up.
1 lg can Rotel (see notes)
1 sm can chopped olives
1/2 sm onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 lime, juiced
Handful of cilantro, chopped
salt to taste

Notes:
*I cook the jalapeno in water in the microwave for 1 minute just to soften it a bit. Then cut it in half and seed it.
*Sometimes I will drain the tomatoes a bit, depending upon how much liquid is in it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

NYC


I don't know why I bother to blog. I don't think anyone reads it. But since I like talking to myself, I will continue to do it at least on occasion.
We just got back from NYC. We went for a wedding. It was my husband's best friend from childhood who was getting married. He just happens to be in a band called TV on the Radio. It was cool for me cuz I'm familiar with his music and movies, but have only met him a few times. Here's a picture of him and my husband.

We arrived in NYC a few days before the wedding cuz my husband has never been there before. We started by seeing the Empire State Building, which was just down the street from our hotel. I'm shocked that my husband and son both mustered up the courage to go to the observation deck on the 86th floor. It had gorgeous views of the city with the added bonus of not being able to smell the stink of NYC.

After the ESB we went to the Museum of Modern Art. What a great museum! I minored in Art History in college so it was great to see the paintings in person. My favorites were Starry Night and Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. I was amazed at how much the kids enjoyed the art. My son's favorite painting was this one by Piet Mondrian.

After the museum we wandered around Times Square then finally made it back to the hotel after getting lost.
On Saturday we started the day by taking the subway to Katz's Deli. The subway was super confusing (at least compared to DC) but we had a really good pastrami sandwich at Katz's Deli. Afterwards we hopped in a cab and headed to the Statue of Liberty. I wasn't big on taking a cab, but it wasn't really that much more expensive than if we paid for 4 people to ride the subway and much more convenient. I figured out that it was better to hail a cab near a major intersection or the driver will try to screw you by driving in circles. Anyway, we took the boat to the Statue of Liberty, which was a big deal cuz my son has an irrational fear of boats. He was okay, though.
We went up onto the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. I managed to capture this photo of sailors in uniform saluting the flag just outside.

After the Statue of Liberty we walked to the World Trade Center to pay our respects to those lost on 9/11.
For dinner that night we went to a restaurant called Ninja, where you are served by ninjas who try to sneak up and scare you. The kids loved it.

After dinner we headed to Chinatown where we all bought Chinese outfits.

We headed back to the hotel early that night in order to give the kids a rest, but it ended up backfiring cuz all they ended up doing was running around acting like ninjas all night.
On Sunday we had some time before the wedding so we decided to go to Little Italy. My husband was dying to eat at Lombardi's, which apparently was the first pizza restaurant in NYC or America or something.

It was some really good pizza. The kids didn't even complain that it had basil on it.
We also had cheesecake at Eileen's which was featured on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. And of course we had to get a cannoli while in Little Italy.
Overall the trip was pretty successful although after a few days I was missing fresh air and grass. I told my husband maybe we can go back when the kids are teenagers. Good thing we will be going to the beach in a couple of weeks, I could use a vacation!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mediterranean Tuna Quinoa Salad


Every once in awhile my brain thinks up a really yummy recipe. Watching all of those cooking shows on Food Network must pay off. Hubby is on his health kick again, so I'm trying to think up things that will help him meet his goals. I bought a box of Golden Jewel Blend grains at Wegmans. It is "a blend of Israeli Couscous, Tri-colored Orzo Pasta Split Baby Garbanzo Beans and Red Quinoa." I only ever go to Wegmans for specialty foods that I can't get at Walmart, cuz let's face it, we are all on a budget. I was trying to think of a recipe that would use this. My favorite Food Network chef is Giada DeLaurentiis. I love how she keeps recipes really light and simple. I used her as my inspiration for the following recipe. I hope you can follow it. I'm by no means a recipe writer.

1 pkg Wegmans Golden Jewel Blend grains, or 3 cooked cups of your favorite grain.
1/4 c. chopped roasted red pepper
3 tsp. capers
2 cans tuna in water

Viniagrette
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. fresh Italian parsley
black pepper and salt to taste

1. Bring 2 cups water and contents of package to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to low.
2. Add roasted red pepper and capers. Cover tightly.
3. Simmer 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered, 2-3 minutes.
4. Prepare viniagrette.
5. Add tuna and viniagrette to grains. Season to taste.
6. Serve over a bed of fresh spinach.

I liked this recipe lukewarm, but you can also eat it hot and maybe cold. Didn't get that far yet. ;)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Good bye, Rhododendron!

We moved into our new house in September. Too late to really get any gardening done. Besides, I had to take down horrible wall borders and paint practically every inch of the inside.
When we moved in the front garden wasn't too bad. It consisted of a huge rhododendron to the right of the walkway and a series of half-dead boxwoods. There was also a boxwood to the left of the walkway. The neighborhood kids took care of that boxwood. They like to mingle right there and in no time it was broken. The other boxwoods were uprooted when I tried to pick off the dead parts. They just pulled right out of the ground. In the fall I cut back the rhododendron since it was encroaching on the walkway. I planned to leave it there until it bloomed, but the warm weather yesterday made me go crazy and I just couldn't take it anymore. It was pretty much the only bush left and it was really ugly. I presume it was planted in 1985 when our house was built. It hadn't really stood the test of time.
Before:

Yesterday I headed to Home Depot and bought 2 dwarf Alberta spruce, 2 boxwoods and a flat of pansies (technically violas). I planted the spruce trees on each side of the walkway
and the boxwoods along the front, then I lined the entire front edge with the violas.

It still looks a little sparse, but I wasn't ready to commit to buying perennials, then having to run out to cover them everytime there is a frost. That will have to wait until Mother's Day.
Now if I could just get the neighbors to get rid of their ugly bushes.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Vegetarian Enchiladas

Round about last Easter, my husband decided he wanted to be a vegetarian. This from a guy who previously obsessed over cooking the perfect steak and finding the best BBQ spot. I was hoping this phase would pass quickly but, here we are in January and he still eats vegetarian. He has loosened up a little. Mainly he doesn't want other meat-eating men to make fun of him, so he'll eat meat in large manly gatherings. I think it's just an excuse for him to enjoy a big, juicy steak though.
Last night I attempted to make the vegetarian version of a meal I used to make with meat...enchiladas. It turned out pretty well. I started by defrosting vegetarian ground meat aka the stuff they sweep off the floor at the mushroom farm. I cooked it in a pot with 3/4 cup of water and a packet of Ortega Taco Seasoning which I'm not sure is 100% vegetarian, but what hubby doesn't know won't hurt him. I put a scoop of the "meat" on a flour tortilla with some cheddar cheese and refried beans. The beans were actually vegetarian cuz it said it on the can. You would think all beans are vegetarian, but apparently not. Actually I think they usually make refried beans with lard or something gross like that. Anyway, I rolled up the tortillas and put them in a casserole dish that had a little salsa on the bottom to keep they from sticking. I used Great Value medium salsa cuz that's the way we roll in our house, but it you are a real gourmet and prefer something better, you can use that. It would probably actually be good with a brand that had chunks of black bean and corn in it, if such a salsa exists.
After I tranferred all of the enchiladas to the dish I topped it with more salsa, some more refried beans and a little of the remaining meat. Lastly I topped it with cheddar cheese.
I cooked the enchiladas at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes.
These enchiladas were extremely eatable. There were a few instances where you could taste the spongey "meat" but I could actually eat these and enjoy them. I will definitely make these again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Memories


I love snow. I grew up in Pittsburgh and it was just the most awesome thing ever when we had a snow day. Snow forts, sledding, ice skating...
I have so many memories of my time in the snow. Flying down the hill at my neighbor's house. Going airborne at the base and eventually crashing into the creek that wound around the base of the hill. Shoveling for hours from my cousin's house to the horse barn so she could feed her Arabian horse named Star. My first time skiing where I was pretty sure I was going to die as I went careening totally out of control down the slope, praying I didn't take out some poor soul that happened to get in my way. Even trudging through the snow at Penn State made for a a good memory. College students running around like kids, throwing snowballs and making snow angels despite knowing that, at 7:00 am the next morning, they would have to make their way a half a mile across campus to make it to their first class.
After college, the real world called. Snow meant scraping off your car, driving on treacherous roads to get to work. It was just a nuisance. Then I had kids...now I have an excuse to play in the snow again. It still ruins plans, but I get to enjoy snow days again. Building forts for the kids, throwing snowballs, pulling them in the sled. I try to make good snow memories for my kids, otherwise why would I spend an hour digging a tunnel through a block of ice? I hope they appreciate the snowmen, igloos, and the pots of chicken noodle soup.