Saturday, June 29, 2013

Two Rooms Done

Naturally the two finished rooms are the smallest rooms.  They are still empty of any decoration, but we are making progress and I am happy about that.


The powder room was a real pain.  The hole in the back of the vanity was so small and hard to work with.  We even had to move the water and sewer lines and replaster the wall behind it.  Then the toilet ended up being a 10 inch rough in.  ALL toilets sold in home improvement stores are 12 inch rough ins.  There was some sort of mix up between the plumber and the framer.  Strangely, they are nephew and uncle, but we knew none of this.  It was something we weren't told until we had bought a toilet and took it out of the box.....and recycled the box.  Lowe's kindly took back the toilet and we made a special ordered one from them.  It was only, ONLY,  $100 more.  Gee, is that all?  Plus, it didn't come with a seat and wax ring like the other one did so there went ANOTHER trip to the store.  And $50.



Just in case someone doesn't like the choices we made, my Aunt Suzy gave me this and it should answer any questions. 


The bathroom looks great, but it is very yellow so we need some décor that only has a wee bit of yellow.  Maybe a floral print or two.



The cabinet we have been working on turned out great.  Lee went to the car show in Roanoke this morning and came back with the perfect cabinet pulls.


 I found some similar ones on the internet, but once you add in shipping they get crazy high for just two pulls.  But he found the perfect ones with just a wee touch of yellow.


I found a mirror that I liked and that I can put horizontally on top of the cabinet.  All I need now is a basket or two to put on top and fill with sachets or something.  I think I will dry some lavender this summer to fill them.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paleo Meatloaf

We have been working until dinner, so dinner has been a bag salad.  yum.  not.

I have been craving meatloaf for some reason.  But that is not on my diet of no carbs.  I made some baked chicken tenders using almond meal and wondered if that could be used in a meat loaf.  A little 'net surfing showed that not only was it possible, but it moved regular meat loaf into the Paleo diet category.  Not that we eat Paleo, but if I wanted to, I could eat this meatloaf.

Here is a quote from Wikipedia   " Centered on commonly available modern foods, the "contemporary" Paleolithic diet consists mainly of fish, grass-fed pasture raised meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, fungi, roots, and nuts, and excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, refined salt, refined sugar, and processed oils.[1][

So instead of adding bread crumbs, or my favorite addition, oatmeal, I used almond flour.  I found mine in Trader Joe's.  It did taste a bit different, but it was still good and fit my diet and WASN'T another salad, so I liked it!

I made mine with mashed cauliflower instead of mashed potatoes, like I really wanted.  I saved some of the sautéed onions and garlic for that recipe.  If you are not making mashed SOMETHING you can put it all in the meatloaf, or use a bit less.

Meatloaf with Almond Flour

1 onion
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
If you like roasted garlic in things, add a few heads of garlic
1 pound ground beef
1 egg
1 can tomato sauce, divided use
1/2 cup almond meal

dash salt and pepper (s&p)
dash cayenne
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

These are the spices and flavorings I used.  My meatloaf is different every time I make it, depending on my mood and what is in my pantry.  If there are things you like in a meatloaf, feel free to use them instead.


Preheat the oven to 350.  Spray a loaf pan and set aside.


If you are making mashed cauliflower and want to make some roasted garlic to add to it, take a few heads of garlic and peel off all the loose skin.  Cut off the tops. 


Place them on a sheet of aluminum foil large enough to wrap around them and drizzle olive oil (EVOO) on top.  Sprinkle with s&p and wrap tightly.  Set aside.


Dice a large onion and cook it in some more EVOO until it is softened and translucent.  Add the minced garlic, s&p and cook for one minute more.  Set aside and allow to cool.


Place the egg in a large mixing bowl.  Whip it a few times with a fork.  Add 1/2 cup of the tomato sauce.  (I am using this instead of ketchup.  Avoiding sugar.)  Then add all the spices and the parsley.  Use my suggestions or what you like to use.  Stir to mix. 


Add the ground beef to the mix and blend with the same fork.  Add most of the cooked onion and garlic, reserving about 1/4 for the cauliflower. Add the almond flour.  Mix all that in.


Place the meat mixture in the prepared pan.  I have always used ketchup on top of meatloaf in the past, but decided to use the rest of the tomato sauce to cover the meat.  Then bake for one hour.  Place the foil wrapped garlic in next to the meatloaf and let it cook for the same hour.


Remove from the oven and let cool for about 15 or 20 minutes.  Don't forget to remove the garlic bundle.

Cole Slaw

I had some purchased shredded slaw in the refrigerator.  I made a quick dressing for two servings by placing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon Splenda...OK it's not Paleo, but it isn't sugar!
dash salt

in a bowl and stirring.  Add to the shredded cabbage in a medium serving bowl, mix and return to the fridge for the flavors to mellow and mix while you finish dinner.

I have given the recipe for mashed cauliflower before, but basically you chop it into little flowerets and steam.  Then mash with butter, cream and the onion/garlic mixture with some salt and pepper. By this time the roasted garlic will have cooled enough to open the foil and squeeze out the creamy brown cloves of deliciousness.  Squeeze them right into the cauliflower and mix them in.


Just so you know, this will not taste like creamy garlic mashed potatoes.  It can't.  But Lee likes it and it is as close as I will get to mashed potatoes until after my high school reunion, OK?  I may not lose weight, but I refuse to GAIN weight for the reunion!

I don't usually make this much food for just the two of us, but it will make for great leftovers when I don't feel like cooking after a long day in the basement..

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


We have been working non-stop in the basement for days, with minor breaks to go into town to buy more supplies to use in the basement.  I have been doing lots, but finishing nothing.  Until today.  Some things are now officially finished.


Lee framed and I spackled, sanded, primed and painted the transom.  Then Lee installed the pieces to hold in the glass and I did the touch up paint.  So now the transom is done.  All done.  No more.


I like the way it turned out.  It looks good from both directions.


If you would like me to make one for you the answer is no.   You can't afford me.  Although in a year or two I might be persuadable!

When we had the basement framed we included a spot to make a built-in bookcase.  We asked a local cabinetmaker to come bid on it as we are getting very tired of working in the basement to the exclusion of all things.  He brought a book of glorious work and then quoted us a price that was fair, but more than what we wanted to pay.  After building it ourselves, I have had MANY regrets that we didn't bite the bullet and hire him, but we saved hundreds of dollars.  And it is just a white bookcase.  After I fill it with books and some tchotchkes ( Oooh.  A word I had to look up.  No help from spell check.) no one will know.


The hardest part of the job was, the walls are not straight.  Some of that is from the framers and some from wood just twisting and turning as it dries.  It kept the baseboards from fitting flush against the walls in a lot of places.  That was fixed by my caulking the whole shebang over several days.  My back still hurts. One end of the bookcase area was an inch deeper than the other end.  We didn't want to build a box to insert in the space,  just some shelves, so that was a bit tricky and we questioned whether we should just tear out the whole thing and build the box.


Now we are done and if it isn't perfect, we can fill the shelves and no one, but YOU, will know.  And if you make a comment, you will have to eat leftovers.  And the cats brought me a mouse (deceased) which I did not eat, so it is leftover!


So I like it and we done good.


We also had to leave a hole in the room under the staircase where we put the toilet.  It is to access plumbing for my jetted tub above the basement.  The framers framed it and the plasterers left it, so now I have to fill it.  Lee cut a board to fit the hole and I had to prime it when priming the transom and the bookcase.  Then paint it.  So now that is done, too.  Three things. YAY!


Lee and I have been taking bits of time to go look at antique stores in the hopes of finding something to put in that alcove to cover the wood over the hole. It will also be used to hold supplies, like toilet paper and extra towels.  We found a cupboard that will fit the bill.  I measured carefully at the back of the alcove, and it will fit perfectly there.  But I didn't measure at the front where the door trim is and it wouldn't get past that. 


Lee cut a bit off both sides of the overhang on the top and now it fits.  It was 1/2 inch too short to cover the wood over the plumbing access, so Lee cut a strip of wood and attached it to the top at the back.  I sanded everything and filled holes and sanded again.  Then I primed it. 


The bathroom is yellow with white trim.  Very yellow, so I mixed a bit of white to tone down the color and yet still match the walls.  I painted the inside white and will line the shelves to look clean and be less likely to snag anything with the rough wood surface. 


It turned out pretty good. We may not be cabinet makers, but we are cabinet fixers.   I am going to replace the wooden knobs on the doors with painted ceramic ones.

In fact, Lowe's just called and said the toilet we had to special order is in.  So I will go and look at knobs while Lee is getting the toilet.

The kitchen counter top will be delivered and installed this week, so all the big jobs are done.  I need to go around and do all the touch up painting.  And look for a glass mosaic tile for the backsplash. The carpet will have to wait for a bit.  Not ready to look and make any more decisions for a while.  Then I will need the furniture.  My sister-in-law has agreed to be my designer by buying at estate sales in her area.

Jane?!  What have you got for me?  We're getting close!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Burgundy Beef Dinner

One of my all time favorite meals to fix for company is Burgundy Beef from The Pillsbury Cookbook dated 1989.  It cooks for hours, so leave yourself about 4 hours before you need to serve, and the meat is so tender that it just falls apart.  If you try to hold it too long it will fall apart before it gets in your mouth, but it is still delicious, so I don't worry too much.  I usually serve it over rice or sometimes garlic mashed potatoes, but this time I served it with Crash Hot Potatoes from the Pioneer Woman (PW) Cooks, Food From My Frontier cookbook.  It is her second and I love both of them. 

I also used her Buttered Rosemary Rolls, but I didn't have any Rosemary, so I used other herbs and they were delicious.  I MEANT to have Rosemary.  I PLANTED Rosemary, but when I got back from the store, having not BOUGHT any Rosemary, I discovered that my planted version was stunted and not too fond of growing.  So I used the dried Fines Herbs I had in the pantry.  I am becoming an intrepid country woman and you can't scare ME with an herb I don't have.  I'll find a blend of herbs and use that.  I do love rosemary rolls and breads, but these were good and I would not hesitate to use the Fines Herbs again.

Burgundy Beef

3 slices bacon, cut into one inch squares
3 lbs. beef round steak, cut into one inch squares
2 cups Burgundy
1 can beef broth
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 garlic clove, minced
1 bay leaf
16 oz. can pearl onions, drained or about 1 cup of the frozen ones  You can do fresh, but peeling them is a pain
20 or so baby carrots
2 Tablespoons butter, softened
2 Tablespoon flour

Cooked rice or mashed potatoes or PW smashed potatoes.

Heat oven to 350.


Fry the bacon in a Dutch oven until crisp.  Remove and drain on paper towels and save for two hours.  While the bacon is cooking, cut the beef into squares.  You will need to cook it in batches or it will not brown, it will steam. 


After the bacon has cooked, add about 1/3 of the beef to the drippings and cook until browned.  Remove with a slotted spoon to a clean bowl and add the next third until all the meat is cooked. 


Return the meat to the Dutch oven and add the wine, beef broth, thyme, garlic and bay leaf.  Cover and place in the preheated oven for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.  If you need to add liquid, use more Burgundy or beef broth, or a mixture of both.  Don't let the liquid cook away, but you don't want to end up with a bunch of liquid.  You want maybe 1/2 to 1 cup when you are done.


Add the bacon you cooked first, the carrots, garlic and the onions.  Cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the meat and the vegetables are tender.



Just before serving, remove the meat and vegetables and toss the bay leaf.  Keep the meat and vegetables warm.  I like to put the bowl in the microwave and then not turn it on.  The close quarters keeps them warm enough.


In a small bowl mix the softened butter and the flour together.  When it is smooth, add a Tablespoon or so of the cooking liquid to the butter mixture.  Stir it until smooth.  Add some more liquid and stir again.  The add the mixture to the cooking liquid in the pan and cook over medium heat until it thickens.

Return the meat and the vegetable to the pan and heat through.  Serve over rice or potatoes or alongside...

Crash Hot Potatoes

!5 or so whole new potatoes or any other small round potatoes
3 Tablespoons olive oil
minced rosemary (or any other herb of choice)
salt and pepper

Scrub and dig out any bits of the potatoes that look weird.  That is my editorializing.  Don't peel them.  Just get rid of the spots you didn't notice when you were buying them.


Put them in a pot and cover them with water. Add a couple pinches of salt.   Boil them until fork tender, about 20 minutes.


Preheat the oven to 450.  I sprayed a jelly roll pan with Pam to keep them from sticking.  Set the cooked potatoes on the prepared pan and gently press down to mash each one. Then rotate the masher 90 degrees and do it again.   It may help to put a small X on top of each potato with a sharp paring knife first it they don't want to smash and still stay together.


Drizzle the tops of the potatoes with the olive oil and sprinkle them with salt, pepper and rosemary or the other herb of choice.


Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until brown and crisp.  SO delicious...even if a few of mine fell apart when served!


You can also use butter instead of the olive oil or add some cheddar cheese.

Make sure you serve this whole thing with some fresh, soft, pillowy yeast rolls.  These are also from PW and so delicious and easy.

Buttered Rosemary Rolls

Frozen, unbaked dinner rolls
chopped fresh Rosemary or other herb, if yours has refused to grow, even though it has been raining nonstop!
coarse sea salt to taste


Melt a Tablespoon of butter in a cast iron pan over medium low heat.  Let the pan cool for 10 minutes.  Place the rolls in the pan, allowing room for them to expand.

Cover the pan with a dish cloth and set aside in a warm place for about 2 hours.  Mine took more like 2 1/2 hours.  I guess my place wasn't warm enough. 

Preheat the oven to 350.


When they have doubled in size, they will be soft and pillowy.  Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a small bowl and gently brush on top of the rolls.  Sprinkle them with salt and the herb you have chosen.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until a golden brown.


Make sure you made enough for everyone to have at least two.  Or you won't get any.


Serve with a green salad and you have a perfect dinner for company.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Lemon Macarons

I have been making different flavors of macarons from the Macarons and More cookbook I bought.  This time I did an experiment by using a Silpat and parchment paper to see which made the better crunch.  The Silpat was just as easy to remove the macaron cookie as the parchment.  I did notice that the bottoms of the macarons cooked on the Silpat got a wee bit more browned.  Once I put in the filling and then keep them overnight in the fridge, I doubt it will be noticed.  I must have pushed them out from the pastry bag at an angle as I have more uneven ones this time than I have had before.  That's OK.  Those were the ones I sent to the library.  They TASTE the same!

As before, start TWO days before you are going to eat these.


Lemon Macarons

1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons almond flour
2 egg whites, aged at least one day and at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
4 drops yellow food coloring
5 Tablespoons sugar

Purchased lemon curd for the filling.  I used Dickinson's

Place the 2 egg whites in a small bowl, cover it and wait for a day or three.

Remove the egg whites.  Have breakfast.  Get out all the ingredients and by then they should be room temperature.


Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  I did one with parchment and one with Silpat and liked the parchment one better, but the Silpat worked.


Place the flour and the powdered sugar in a food processor and pulse it into a fine powder.  Scrape down the bowl occasionally.

 Sift the mixture into a bowl.  There will be some large pieces left over.  I think that is why the recipe calls for the extra two Tablespoons of almond flour.  Because you have to discard the big pieces.  Set the bowl aside.


This is a good place to use a stand mixer.  I have a Kitchen Aid.  Set the egg whites in the bowl for the stand mixer.  Two egg whites are too small for my whip to reach, so I use a hand whisk and whip them until they are a bit frothy.  Then place them on the stand mixer and using the whip, mix them until they are frothy.  Add the cream of tartar and the food coloring, mix.

Gradually add the sugar a Tablespoon at a time .  Beat at high speed for 3 or four minutes, scraping occasionally,  until the mixture forms shiny, stiff peaks.


Remove the bowl from the stand and add half the almond flour mixture.  Use a spatula to stir and combine the two.  Try to do it in about 12 strokes.  You don't want to over mix at this point!


Add the remaining flour and mix. 

Scoop the batter into a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch tip.  Pipe small one inch circles on the lined cookie sheets, about two inches apart.  They do not puff up, so you can squeeze in a few if you run out of room.


I used a slightly moist finger to touch the little peaks left behind by the pastry bag.  Let the cookies rest until the are no longer sticky to the touch.  This can take as long as one hour, if there is a lot of humidity.    Preheat the oven to 325 and bake for 8 minutes.  Then take out the cookie sheets, turn them around and put the top one on the bottom and vice versa so they are rotated and can cook evenly..

Bake another 7 minutes, for a total of about 15 minutes.  Take a spatula and try to lift a macaron.  If it comes off the parchment, then it is done.

Remove the cookie sheets and let them cool completely on the cookie sheets. 


The recipe in the book called for making some lemon curd filling.  But I am lazy, so I bought lemon curd for the filling.  Place it in a bowl and stir vigorously until it is creamy and smooth.  Match cookies of a similar size and butter one side with the lemon curd.  Top it and place the sandwich in a flat container with a cover.  Once you fill them all you may eat ONE.  But do so knowing that they will be better tomorrow after they mellow overnight and the filling makes the center of the macaron all gooey and the outside is still nice and crunchy.  Yum.