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Archive for December, 2009

Lag time

I’ve been really bad about taking food pictures over the last few days… Nothing terribly amazing though. However, I did try the Rachel Ray version of Chipolte Mac and Cheddar… or some very bizzare variation of it, I don’t remembe exactly what I did, but all I can say is that she really potions out those casseroles a lot larger than I would’ve expected. Garry and I couldn’t finish an entire portion for dinner.

Last night was Noodle Night and we made a Pineapple Ramen with red pepper, garlic, honey and some spices. Garry made it last night because I wasn’t feeling so great. It was definitely good though!

Oh, and I made some deviled eggs the other night and drooled over every little savory bite. Seriously – I could make a dozen eggs and eat every last little one of them.

We also started the demo of the kitchen and bathroom in our new apartment. 😀 So far the kitchen floor is completely up and the bathroom is almost done.

 

Garry looks so manly with his scraper. The stained, sticky, nasty mosiac tile came up much easier after getting the scraper thing from Lowes. What was so funny is that in some places there was a lot of glue down and in some the tile came up without any trouble at all. Garry kept saying “If I ever meet the person that laid this tile down…” followed by a few explicatives.

See, I helped too. I mean other than scooping the broken tile into a box to carry to the garbage, I helped pick out the pieces that just weren’t coming up with a hammer.

The kitchen isn’t huge, I think it’s 11×12 but it’s set up in a way that’s a lot more functional than where we live now – which makes me very happy.

So we’re thinking IKEA cabinets (because they’re the cheapest we’ve found anywhere) and frankly… we’re only planning on living there for 4-5 years. Sooo… it’s not like we need to make a huge investment on oak cabinets. We can do that when we buy a house.

They’re still nice cabinets… even if they are just plain white, nothing fancy cabinets. We’ll just paint the walls a pretty color, lay down some nice vinyl floors and Voila! It’ll be gorgeous!

After the floors are down we’ll install (at the very least) the kitchen sink and cabinet. I’d like to buy Garry a housewarming present of a dishwasher (he’s my dishwasher right now but always dreams of the day we’ll have a real dishwasher) but they’re $200 at IKEA… depending on what money looks like at the end of the month it may be a surprise for him. 🙂

So that’s where we’re at. Any color suggestions for a kitchen? The floor will probably be vinyl in a wood pattern. (Kind of cheesy I know, but there’s not much else at Lowes in Binghamton apparently according to their website that isn’t white as well) the cabinets will be white (no bevels or whatever, just plain white) and the countertops will either be white stone finish, black stone finish or dark brown wood print (they’re laminate countertops from IKEA).

Thoughts?

Another problem I’m having is paint. The carpet is a dark blue with flecks of green and red. Garry likes dark colors (because he’s a man and has a “cave” mentality) and I like… well… I like everything except really dark colors. (Our rooms are tiny so that would be bad) Right now I have various shades of grey/blue and grey. I came to the realization that we live in Binghamton. It’s grey enough already.

I had the thought last night to paint our bedroom like my old bedroom when I was in high school – it was a pretty sky blue (not too robin’s egg blue, but a nice blue) with clouds painted on it. Now – they weren’t just fluffy white poof-balls. My mom painted them and there were whispy white clouds, big thunderheads with rain… everything. It was definitely cool. I LOVED that room. We could get green carpet and put it down in there too. I kid you not, my freshman year of college I had green indoor/outdoor carpeting in my dorm room. It was actually pretty cool… except for the little bits of plastic everywhere.

But that’s too juvenile, I want something sophisticated and grown up… because we are grown-ups now after all!

Maybe purple? A nice soft, wine color might be fun. If you go to the IKEA site there’s a room designed with a purpleish color and black furniture. It’s GORGEOUS! I really love it. Maybe I’ll do that but with a more blue based purple and do black and white damask print curtains and black and white sheets/pillows. My dressers need a repaint anyway… so we could repaint them black. I think it would look neat actually… Put down a cream colored carpet or something… yeah… that could work.

I keep trying to remind myself we can add room-sized rugs if we need to in a neutral color and that we really can paint the walls whatever colors we want…

Yep I’m going to just forget about the color of the carpet… and just pick out a bunch of colors that I love and just see what happens. Worse case? I can repaint it!

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I made this for breakfast on Sunday (we had regular breakfast potatoes on Saturday morning). I found the recipe on incredibleegg.org but adapted it a little since I don’t own ramekins.

Mexican eggs in a free-form nest

2 servings of frozen hash brown poatoes

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

dash of salt

4 tsp oil

2 eggs

2 servings of salsa

4 strips of bacon

a sprinkle of parmesan cheese (for each)

Add 2 tsp oil to a skillet heated on medium heat and cook hash browns.

Add spices to hash browns while cooking flipping often to make sure they don’t stick to your brand new stainless steel skillet…

While you’re cooking those hash browns, cook your bacon until crispy and start frying your eggs (use the other 2 tbs of oil for the eggs (unless you are much more talented than me and don’t need that much oil and can cook two eggs at once)

Scoop hash browns on your plate and make a little divot in the middle.

Shred bacon a little and add to the bottom. 

Add salsa and place fried egg on top. Sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on top.

 

We had another sunny day so I finally got a GREAT picture. And I didn’t layer it correctly… but whatever – it still tasted good.  That’s what counts anyway right?

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We were so excited to try out our new pots and pans we got right to work on making breakfast – my favorite – eggs benedict.

I don’t have a fancy recipe for it. The sauce I get is the McCormick’s mix and after that it’s just a fried egg on some Canadian bacon over an English muffin. Really not that difficult to make.

BUT… the stainless steel make OMG delicious hollandaise (I usually cooked it in the microwave before and it was always lumpy)

Look how shiny that pan is!!! Oooh nothing like cooking in brand new pots and pans.

And that hollandaise looks beautiful!

  

Ooooooh Shiny!!! Kinda like watching a cooking show on tv!

Not to mention we finally had a bright, sunny day (something we don’t get a lot of here in Binghamton) so the light filtering through the window was lovely.

It was a lovely brunch. I always love eggs. They’re just so tasty!

I’m craving some deviled eggs right now too. That sounds soooooooo good!

Later that evening we made Cornish game hens with garlic, rosemary and thyme with sides of sweet and savory butternut squash, wild rice and steamed broccoli.

Cornish Game Hens

2 Cornish hens

2 tbs olive oil

2 cloves elephant garlic

2 tbs rosemary

2 tbs thyme

juice of 1 lemon

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp pepper

Make sure your hens are good and thawed. If the’y’re not – defrost them in your microwave.

Heat your oven to 450 F

These little birds are quite cute and you can get creative with them if you’d like. We did a fairly simple recipe since there was a lot of different tastes on our plate to begin with.

 

I let Garry help me cook this time. I don’t know what he was saying… I was laughing too hard and trying to take the picture at the same time.

Next you place your chickens in a large roasting pan (if you’re doing more than one)

Aww… they’re holding hands!

Rub the olive oil all over the skin like it’s sunscreen.

Sprinkle spices over top and rub them in a bit.

Chop your elephant garlic and divide into quarters. Put one quarter on each bird and stuff the other quarters inside

YUM!

Then you’ll want to squeeze half of the lemon juice in the cavity of each bird.

Now, I learned (after the fact) that it’s a good idea to put a little bit of stock in the bottom of the pan for two reasons:

1. It helps keep the birds moist

2. It will keep any garlic that falls to the bottom of the pan from burning into little crisps and smoking up the oven.

But I didn’t do that.

Next cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil (didn’t do that either… oops) and cook for 25 minutes.

While they cook you can rest your feet a while, maybe have a martini…

Although if you’re going to make the rice and butternut squash, when there is about 5 minutes left on the timer you’ll want to get the water boiling for those. So maybe just have a small martini.

When 25 minutes are up, take the foil off and take the birdies out for a sec and lower the oven temp to 350.

Baste the hens with the drippings on the bottom of the pan. Make sure those birds are nice and moist!

Put them back in the oven for another 25 minutes at 350 without aluminum so the skin can crisp a bit.

After they come out of the oven let them rest a bit before you serve them. I just cut them down the center (to make sure they were done, I have a horrible fear of undercooked meat).

Cornish Hen Gravy

Pan drippings

a few tbs of flour (I don’t know, I didn’t measure)

a few splashes of stock (chicken or vegetable) – again I didn’t measure

a dash of garlic powder

a dash of salt and pepper

Take the drippings from the pan and put them in a small sauce pot.

Heat pot over medium heat

Add flour and whisk (with a wire whisk) until thick (almost like a paste)

Add a stock a little at a time. The amount will vary depending on how much you get for drippings.

Keep whisking to incorporate the stock.

Do not… I repeat DO NOT let the mixture boil.

Add as much stock as you’d like – depending on how thick or thin you want your gravy. Garry likes a nice medium thickness so I only added a few splashes of stock.

Once it’s the right consistency add your spices and stir.

Pour over your chickens

Would you believe that was the first time – ever – that I made gravy? It came out perfect (according to Garry) without any lumps or anything. Not too salty either. YUM! I think using stock instead of water is what did the trick.

The rice was made according to the directions on the box. I know… I cheated.

Broccoli was just frozen broccoli steamed with a little butter. Nothing fancy.

The butternut squash was very good though.

Sweet, Spicy and Savory Butternut Squash

1 pkg of cleaned and cut buttenut squash (or you could buy a whole squash and clean and cut yourself)

3 tbs maple syrup

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

Fill a medium to large pot half full with water and boil

Add cut up squash and cook for 15 minutes or so until the squash is soft (like mashed potatoes)

Drain squash and mash (again like mashed potatoes)

Add syrup and spices and stir

That’s it! Seriously it’s that easy. But wow… that squash was AMAZING! The flavors blended nicely together – sweet, spicy, savory… all in a yummy and healthy (okay except for the syup) concoction.

So that’s what we ate for our holiday dinner. Sure it wasn’t mom’s turkey and grandma’s mashed potatoes… but Garry and I had Lemon Cornish hens last year for the holiday and I think that’s going to be our tradition (at least until we have a family… then we’ll go up to a chicken and then up to a turkey).

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Oh finally the day had arrived! We went to bed relatively early the night before and crawled out of bed at a nice leisurely pace. I looked at Garry and said “Let’s just savor this for a few more minutes” as we lay in bed with the only sound in our little apartment was the heater clicking on and off. (Still having a few problems there we think)

In a few years we’ll start a family – but for now this holiday is just for us and we’re going to lay here and enjoy the few moments we can steal. Those are the moments we’ll remember when we’re older – about our first little tiny apartment with the two cats.

After finally getting out from under the covers we put on a pot of coffee and lo and behold…

The cinnamon rolls were gone!

NOOOOOO!!!

My family always has cinnamon rolls on christmas morning and it’s the one thing that I really still like to do because it make me feel close to them. We looked everywhere, but no cinnamon rolls. Needless to say I was not thrilled.

Well, we still had coffee (thankfully) and after that was brewed we settled into the living room with the kitties and opened presents. We did stockings first because I slipped a little extra something for our coffee in there.

YUM!

BTW, I found those mugs at Christmas Tree Shoppe right after I moved into the little apartment. I bought one for me and one for Garry. Mine is a turquoise Leo mug and his is a beige Virgo mug. Love them. They can hold 4 cups of coffee. I’m not kidding.

Since we opened our stockings we decided to let the kitties have their presents (mostly to keep them occupied until we got all the wrapping paper out of there) that grandmama sent.

 

Cid opening his present

Cloud sniffing his present (he was a naughty cat and already partially opened his present, so he had to wait).

It’s a catnip mermaid!

It’s MY mermaid!

Ooooh I’ve waited all my life for a catnip mermaid!

Cid had enough excitement for the morning and curled up somewhere and went to sleep. Cloud decided he’d try out Cid’s hedgehog while he had the chance.

After watching them play for a while and laughing hysterically at Cloud flop around on the floor like this was the best day ever (he says Thanks Gramma!!) We started opening the presents my family sent for us. I’ll have to say – it was funny. However, it does require a little back-story.

Last year my parents moved to Florida a few months before the holidays. I was still digging myself out of a debt hole and couldn’t afford to fly down there to visit. Not to mention I hate travelling during the holidays. I mean hate… detest… abhor… you name it. So I was going to spend the holidays alone. My roommate was planning on flying back to his hometown in Michigan and my then-boyfriend, Dave, was spending it with his two children.

Garry was planning on coming into town because he felt incredibly bad that I was going to spend the holidays alone. So he stayed with me in my (then huge) apartment and we spent the holidays together. We didn’t have a lot of money for gifts for each other (I had gotten Dave a Garmin because he travels so much – which he says was still the most useful gift ever) so I made him a fleece body pillow (he’s one of those guys that has to cuddle something otherwise he can’t sleep) and he bought me a Patriots blanket.

Eventhough it’s not where I wanted to go decor-wise, that blanket is SO warm… I love it. It’s big enough for both of us to cuddle underneath it and we do, a lot.

So back to this holiday.

We opened presents from my brother first.

It’s a sexy cookbook! Needless to say, Garry got pretty excited about it. There are some tasty looking recipes in there too! I can’t wait to try some of them.

And then…

Another Patriots blanket!

LOL I was laughing pretty hard under there. It’s not as heavy or as big as the one Garry gave me last year, but it was still nice. I said we could use it during the spring and fall when it’s not quite so cold out.

For a while I’ve known what my grandparents and parents were sending – mostly because they were getting Garry and I kitchen things (you know, stuff that lasts a while that you normally find on a wedding registry or something) and wanted to make sure they got exactly what we wanted.

My grandparents were very generous and sent us this:

YAY a blender! I’m thinking of all the wonderful soups, spreads and smoothies I can make with this (when I get a bigger kitchen that has the electric capacity to run it). We were quite thrilled.

So we opened presents from my mom and dad next.

Now, my mother tends to find gifts that are a little odd. This year I think she conspired with Brian and Lisa…

Another blanket!!! LOL!!!!!

Garry and I both were laughing so hard. I mean really hard. It was lighter weight than the one my brother sent, so now I have three Patriots blankets of different weights. I just find that funny.

My mother also likes to use weird boxes for things. When I opened this it was in a fish filter box. I was a little confused because I don’t have a fish tank. Duh…

But it was hair dye. The good kind. The Redken Shades EQ kind that only my aunt can get for me since she’s a licensed beautician.

I have enough hair dye to last me a whole year! YAY! (This was to keep me from doing anything weird with my hair as my mom puts it – I think she’s tired of pictures with my weird that-used-to-be-bright-pink streak in my hair) Yeah… I should do that tonight huh?

Then… time for the present that Garry and I were both waiting so patiently to open…

At this point I had finished my Irish coffee. Can you tell?

But YAY! New stainless steel pots and pans!!! I was so happy!!! YAY!!!! We jumped up and down and ran around the house with them on our heads. Why? Well because we could. Who was going to tell us we couldn’t? The cats? Ha! They were both in a catnip haze in the kitchen anyway.

See… pots and pans. I’m sure in about 10 years I will have a picture of a small child doing the same thing…

With all the presents from family opened we decided to open the ones from each other. Garry had painstakingly wrapped a huge box with pages from his video game magazine.

Yeah… I’m just glad it wasn’t wrapped in duct tape. Because ya know… he would do that.

What’s in the box? And my three blankets behind me LOL!

MY DRUM!!!!

Oh my beautiful drum!!! I spent about an hour at Imagicka (my friend Rob’s store) hugging it to my chest.

The bodhran is an Irish drum (we can just say Celtic though, because  I’m sure most people of the British isles had drums similar to this) that is circular and played with a two-headed beater stick. I’ve been wanting to learn how to play one for a while now and was planning on purchasing this very drum after the first of the year. Due to finances and moving, I was very sad to learn that I wouldn’t be able to afford it until summer.

I plan on painting the head and burning a knotwork design into the the wood rim. As of right now I have part of the design drawn on the head and am planning on inking it soon. I’m very excited about it!

So now on to Garry’s present!

I spent a good 60 hours working on his present. It was a labor of love however and for me, the process was a bit of a journey for me too.

Unfortunately he pretty much figured out what I was making for him after the first week of me working on it at Rob’s store. He had no idea where I was going or what I was doing, only that I had to go somewhere and spend a lot of time to work on it. To throw him off the trail a bit, I bought a little leather keychain (that was a monkey – the animal totem for drummers) and put my key to Rob’s store on it. Now, he had NO idea what the key went to – only that it went to where his present was.

So I blindfolded him (the store is just down the street from the apartment and if I just drove there he’d know where we were) and drove about 15 minutes out, then turned around and drove back finally arriving at the store.

I love the look on his face. And yes we were still in our pj’s.

Rob was supposed to leave the drum in the front of the store so when we walked in and he took off his blindfold (he’d know we were there from the smell of the store – it smells like Nag Champa) there was the drum.

Well… we walked in and the drum wasn’t there. I had a mild panic attack and Garry, still blindfolded, said Hey! We’re in Rob’s store! Why did it take so long to get here?

All the while I’m having a total freak-out thinking that someone took the drum. Finally I found it behind the counter and a wave of relief rushed over me.

When Garry took off the blindfold he was nearly brought to tears. He had been wanting a drum for some time (as he was just learning to play now) and he knew how much time and work I put into the thing.

The head of the drum. 🙂

So it was a lovely holiday. We went back to the apartment to make some breakfast – which will be another post entirely featuring – new stainless steel cookware!

The aftermath….

While this photo shows a lot of “stuff” I know that each gift given between my family and Garry and I was given from the heart, not the wallet. Albeit some with more humor than others, it still was a lovely holiday.

One of the greatest gifts I received this year was the look on Garry’s face (and of course the hug afterwards) when he saw his drum for the first time. (I mean all the other ones were great too… but this was special)

And of course…

Snuggling with Cloud.

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The Homestretch!

Sleeping in on Thursday morning was wonderful! Just an extra half hour of sleep is always good.

On the way home from the radio station I picked up a bottle of rum because well, the season was almost over and when I got  home Garry and I could barricade ourselves in the apartment until it was all over! I planned a lovely dinner that night so it wouldn’t be so bad staying in.

However, we got into the rum and got a little silly and emotional. It  took a while before I was motivated enough to make dinner, but eventually we got there.

Apricot glazed ham steak with mashed potatoes, crecent rolls and green beans

Really, everything else other than the ham steak was either frozen, from a can, or well… mashed potatoes are pretty easy and they were just plain. So just make those how you’d normally make them.

2 ham steaks

4 tbs apricot preserves

2 tbs honey (if you can find ginger honey use that!)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/3 tsp cayenne pepper

dash of salt

dash of nutmeg

dash of garlic

Heat up your grill on a medium heat and slap on those ham steaks! Cook for 5 minutes on either side – enough to char the outside and heat all the way through.

Meanwhile add apricot preserves and honey to a microwave safe bowl.

Add spices and stir together.

Heat in your microwave for 1 minute.

Stir and heat again if mixture hasn’t reached desired liquid state. (It should be runny and a little thinner than room temperature honey)

Spread over grilled ham steaks

  

I can’t even tell you how yummy that was! I love that apricot glaze. I also use it over asparagus. It has just the right mix of sweet, spicy and savory. YUM!

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A flurry of posts

I have a TON of recipes, pictures etc… I promise I’ll divide them up into nice neat little posts.

First off, I’m glad to say that I finally made it through the insanity that is the holiday season. Whew! Finally I can concentrate on something other than maintaining a cool, calm, collected whatever…

I had Thursday and Friday off at my main job and I only had to go in for my second job on Thursday for about an hour to finish up my weekend shows.

Unfortunately I realized that we didn’t have everything we needed to make what I had originally planned for dinner (damn!) but I managed to make a burrito dish out of what I could find in the cupboards.

On the fly bean burritos

These are great if you have some canned foods hanging about in your cupboard.

2 tortillas

1 cup of texmati rice

1 can black eyed peas

salsa

shredded colby jack cheese

1 onion

1 green pepper

1 tbs oil

Cook rice according to directions on tin

While rice is cooking, chop onion and pepper

Heat skillet with oil on medium heat and sautee onion and pepper until onion is clear and soft

Add black eyed beas and cook until peas are warm

Layer in tortilla with salsa and colby jack cheese and wrap. (You can add guacamole or sour cream if that’s your fancy)

I made these with some spicy corn soup. I’ll admit – all I did was buy the corn soup (Pacific brand is SOO yummy) and added my own spices.

1 container Pacific brand corn soup with lemongrass

1 tsp cilantro

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

dash of black pepper

Pour soup into pot and heat over medium heat on stove.

Add spices and stir.

Cook until warmed through.

Yum! It was definitely very good, even if I didn’t make it homemade.

We spent the rest of the evening just relaxing and anticipating the next four days off.

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Finally!

Garry and I finally found a new apartment!

There are a few pluses (and minuses) to this.

Plus: We can do whatever we want to the interior!

Minus: So could the tenant before… and it’s not pretty. A LOT needs to be fixed.

Plus: The rent is $100 a month less than the 1 bedroom apt we are in now

Minus: This is because Garry is the building manager of the place so he gets $400 covered in rent. Also – we have to do all the work to fix the place up.

Plus: It’s only on the second floor and it has two entry-ways

Minus: The entry ways are kind of scummy looking – definitely need new paint/plaster in the hallway and back portch.

Plus: There is a bathtub!

Minus: The rest of the bathroom is pretty atrocious. In a perfect world we’d just put in a new tub. The floor desperately needs new tile, but luckily no major wall damage!

Plus: The kitchen is bigger.

Minus: There are literally NO counters. We will have to replace the cabinets (there is nowhere near enough cabinet space) and get a new sink stand that has extends the full length of the wall (or close to it) so we have enough counter space for prep. Also – I’d like a dishwasher. Since we’re paying for most of the renovations (in the kitchen) out of pocket it can get expensive.

Plus: There are outlets EVERYWHERE!

Minus: I can’t think of one…

Plus: There are 3 bedrooms

Minus: The bedrooms are pretty tiny. It would be one thing if we knocked out a wall and make one large bedroom, but you can charge more rent a month for 3 bedroom vs. 2 bedroom. However, (this is kind of a plus) that makes it so we have an office and a guest room.

Plus: I can paint it any color I want

Minus: Um… can’t think of one there. I love paint chip shopping… and painting!

Plus: There is a living room and a dining room.

Minus: It’s not as open as I’d like. If we could take out part of a wall that would help, but I don’t think we’ll be doing anything like that.

So there you have it. I’m quite excited about this. It’ll kind of be like buying a house and fixing it up all nice. I found some unfinished cabinets that look really nice – all we have to do is mount them (ourselves), stain them (which I’m more than capable of doing), and add some hardware. It shouldn’t be too expensive.

I love the ideas I’m getting! YAY!

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