Wednesday, September 21, 2016

c+t buy a house in jc - part 2 - the renovations never end.

Since the day we closed (which is unbelievably almost 2 months ago), Tyler and I have spent what feels like every waking moment working on our apartment.   It's been a lot of non-stop work.   

I'm so over it.   

I mentioned in my last post that home renovations don't agree with my personality.  I'm a get it done, wrap it up, make everything look pretty as soon as possible kind of person.   I want things done now and I'm married to a person who is perfectly happy with manana (i.e. tomorrow).   It's been an utter challenge working so closely with something who is equally vested in the project but thinks, acts, and works completely different then me.  Get two people together that both think their way is right and in the words of Tyler's wedding vows, fireworks are bound to fly.  

He wasn't kidding.   

But I like to think for all the challenges our personalities bring to the table, we truly in every sense of the word balance each other out.  I light a fire under his butt, he reminds me it's a marathon not a sprint. It's not always easy, but we make it work.   

As I write this, and look back at pictures, I realize we've accomplished a lot in 2 months.  For two people who have never owned a home and never handled a renovation we are getting things done. Slower then I may like (and a lot of times two steps forward and one step back), but things are happening.   I wont lie that I continue to ask myself why I couldn't be happy just moving in not doing any work.  This would have been the significantly easier (and vastly cheaper) option. But we are not that kind of people.  We like fixing things and making them our own and what's the point of a house if you aren't going to make it your home?   

Which leads me to all that has happened in the past two months.  Brand spanking new floors that match through the whole apartment!  A two-tone painted living room and bedroom.  A lime-washed brick wall and open shelves that Tyler built himself.  Fancy new windows were installed that open with the greatest of ease.  I painted kitchen cabinets and marble counters were installed.   We have brand new lights (including a dreamy long arm sconce) that totally change the look and feel of the place.  I got wallpaper on a wall and my god is it beautiful.   I've spent more time on Craigslist, Etsy, and Ebay then I care to reveal but it's a rabbit hole.   

The list of things to still tackle remains insanely long but we are slowly but surely checking things off and making progress.   Much more to come.   Wish us luck.     

(Also, Jackson, as you can see from these pictures, isn't much help but he does provide an endless number of kisses which is appreciated.)   

Sunday, September 18, 2016

apple and cheddar scones.

I know, it's been a while.

The last few weeks have been incredibly trying.  Home renovations don't agree with my personality.  I want things done when I want things done and home renovations don't end when you want them to.  Instead the problem you thought you were fixing snowballs into a new problem.  With each step forward you move one step back.

Most days I feel as if we are no where near having a home.  I worry I'm going to continue to live in a construction site.  A place where our old bathroom sink permanently lives in our living room.  A place where Jackson is constantly jumping over paint cans in order to find his favorite ball.  A place the stresses me out.  

But this weekend, it finally feels like we are in a better place.  We are in no means done (is your home ever done?) but we have shelves in the kitchen and most boxes unpacked and I can finally (kind of) see the fruits of our labor.

These past few weeks I haven't wanted to cook much.  Making dinner and baking cookies felt like a chore.  But over the past two days I've found myself feeling at home once again in the kitchen (pictures coming soon!).  I'm making lists of dishes I want to make.  I'm researching recipes online.  I'm returning to my happy place.

These scones came about in a recent search for apple recipes.  After picking up a mirror this week, Tyler and I stopped at our favorite apple orchard for Macs (his favorite) and Ginger Golds (mine).  We came home with 26 pounds of apples and I set out to find recipes for incorporating them.  These scones are reminiscent of the ones they serve at Tandem Bakery and I utterly love them.  Filled with pockets of sweet apple and salty cheese, they make for a perfect fall breakfast.  Best eaten on your new balcony with good coffee.

Apple and Cheddar Scones
Recipe from Leite's Culinaria and Smitten Kitchen

As is typical of me, I added a little more apple and cheddar to the scones (about 500 grams apple and 90 grams cheddar).  I like ensuring there are a lot of pockets of deliciousness.   I also swapped 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat since I like the added nuttiness in a pastry like this.   

Makes 6 generous scones

2 firm tart apples (1 pound or 2 454 grams)
1 1/2 cups (6.75 ounces or 195 grams) all-purpose flour  - Feel free to swap up to a 1/3 of the flour for whole wheat
1/4 cup sugar plus 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling (total of 2.2 ounces or 63 grams)
1/2 tablespoon (7 grams) baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (3 grams) plus additional for egg wash
6 tablespoons (3 ounces or 85 grams)unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes plus additional for baking sheet if not lining it with parchment
1/2 cup (2.25 ounces or 65 grams) sharp cheddar, shredded (white is recommended, I assume for aesthetics)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) heavy cream
2 large eggs

Position a rack at the center of oven and preheat oven to 375 °F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Peel and core apples, then cut them into one-sixteenths. (I assumed this meant chunks, not slivers.) Placed them in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake them until they take on a little color and feel dry to the touch, about 20 minutes. They will be about half-baked. Let them cool completely. (You can speed this up in the fridge, as I did.) Leave oven on.

Sift or whisk flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Place butter in the bowl of an electric mixer with a paddle attachment, along with cooled apple chunks, cheese, cream and one egg. Sprinkle flour mixture over the top and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together. Do not overmix.

[Don’t have a stand or hand mixer? I’d rub the cold butter into the flour mixture with my fingertips or with a pastry blender, hand-chop the apples coarsely and mix the rest together with a wooden spoon until combined. It might feel awkward, but it should all come together. Again, don’t overmix it though it will be harder to do this by hand.]

Generously flour your counter top and place the scone dough on top of it. Sprinkle with flour. Use a rolling pin to gently roll (or use your hands to pat) the dough into a 1 1/4-inch thick, 6-inch circle. Cut circle into 6 wedges. Transfer them to a baking sheet that has either been buttered or lined with a fresh sheet of parchment paper. Leave at least 2 inches between each scone.

Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt. Brush the scones with egg wash and sprinkle them with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake until firm and golden, about 30 minutes. With a spatula, lift them to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Before you eat one, make sure you realize how addictive they might be. Once you’ve got that down, go for it anyway.

Do ahead: Scones are best the day they are baked. However, they can be made ahead of time and stored unbaked in the freezer until you need them. Simply brush them with the egg wash and sprinkle them with sugar, and bake them still frozen for just a couple extra minutes. This way they are always freshly baked when you want them. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

basil vinaigrette.

Despite the fact that we are undergoing a major home renovation that is making my life incredibly stressful, I can't stop myself from cooking.  Or, as has been the case in the last couple of weeks, "assembling" food so it resembles a meal and can be labeled "Dinner".  I've gotten really good at throwing odd bits of things plus whatever is fresh at the farmers market (Tomatoes!  Corn!) onto a plate and describing it as a composed salad.  So far no one is complaining.   

The key to this whole thrown it together meal thing is adding something special to the dish. Sometimes it's fancy cheese (I'm looking at you burrata) but lately its been this basil vinaigrette.  It's the easiest thing in the world and it is so good.  Seriously, we've been putting it on anything and everything including but not limited to - heirloom tomato and feta salads, tri-tip steak, roasted red peppers, roasted eggplant, and that's just the tip of the iceberg.  It just always works and I'm thankful for that.   

Basil Vinaigrette 
Recipe from David Lebovitz 

1/2 cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1 small shallot (25g) peeled and sliced or 2 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon kosher or flaky sea salt
2 cups loosely packed (25g) fresh basil leaves

Put the olive oil, vinegar, water, shallot, mustard, and salt in a blender. Coarsely chop the basil leaves and immediately put them in the blender.

Cover the blender and mix on high-speed for 15 to 30 seconds until the vinaigrette is smooth. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a little more water or olive oil to thin it out.

Serving and storage: The basil vinaigrette can be used right away or will keep for a week in the refrigerator. It’s best served at room temperature.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

andalusian gazpacho.

It's f-ing hot.   Not just hot but humid, muggy, and all around awful.  I just want to sit in a pool with an icy cocktail and a good book.    

In this weather, food just isn't appealing which is why I've found myself consuming gazpacho with abandon. Gazpacho is one of those things you either love or hate.  I personally love it.  It's refreshing yet satisfying, the way watermelon and ice cream is when the temperature are nearing 100 degrees.   

This particular gazpacho recipe is my go-to and has been for the last couple of years (it's a good way to use up any tomatoes that are nearing the end of their life).  The addition of smoked paprika, sherry vinegar, and olive oil results in an incredibly flavorful and well-rounded soup that I can't get enough of.   It makes for a perfect summer starter but I have no problem consuming a bowl of it as my meal.  

Andalusian Gazpacho
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats 

The original recipe is a little finiky since it has you freeze the vegetables so thee soup, after being blended, is already chilled and ready to eat.  I omit those steps and just place the soup in the fridge for an hour to chill it (a lazy person's approach and I'm ok with that).   I omit the onion because I loathe the flavor of raw red onion - if you aren't opposed to it, feel free to add it in.  Also I added in a little smoked Spanish paprika because I love that flavor with sherry vinegar and tomatoes.  

3 pounds (about 4 large) very ripe tomatoes, cored and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1/2 pound (about 1 small) cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
1/3 pound (about 1 small) small red onion, peeled and cut into rough 1-inch chunks (optional)
1/3 pound (about 1 medium) green or red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
4 ounces (about 2 slices) white sandwich, French, or Italian bread, crusts removed, torn into rough 1-inch pieces (see note)
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (spicy or sweet)
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar, plus more for serving
2 tablespoons finely minced chives
Freshly ground black pepper

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, onion (if using), pepper, garlic, salt, and bread in a large bowl and toss to coat thoroughly. Let sit at room temperature for 30 - 45 minutes.

Working in two batches as necessary, blend vegetables, juices, and bread at high speed, slowly drizzling olive oil and sherry vinegar into blender as it blends. Season to taste with salt and black pepper and add the smoked paprika. Place the soup in the fridge until cool.  Serve, drizzling each bowl with olive oil, a few sprinkles of sherry vinegar, extra cracked black pepper, and chives. Gazpacho can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

excellent white bread (no seriously).

Tyler and I have been eating a boat load of BLT's the past couple of weeks.  One perk (and we are looking for perks pretty much everywhere) of doing a home renovation during mid-Summer is that produce is at it's peak and peak-level produce doesn't require much work.   Thus why we've been consuming BLT's with abandon - the main ingredient is tomatoes and tomatoes my friend are at their height of deliciousness right now.  

But good tomatoes are only as good as the bread and bacon they are paired with which is why I've been searching endlessly for the best white bread recipe.  This one had been a top contender for a while but the problem I have with it is that I don't always have buttermilk on hand.  I wanted a recipe that could be thrown together quickly using pantry staples.  Which is why this is the one.  It's simple, lacks pretentiousness and bakes up like a dream.  It's the bread that toasts up brilliantly and pairs exceptionally well with juicy heirloom tomatoes.  It's the bread I'll be baking weekly until tomato season is over.         

Excellent White Bread
Recipe adapted (slightly) from the NYTimes 

2 ¼ teaspoons/7 grams active dry yeast (1 package)
1 ½ cups/355 milliliters lukewarm milk
1/4 cup/50grams granulated sugar
1 tablespoon/15 grams kosher salt
3 tablespoons/43 grams butter, melted, more for greasing bowl and pans and for brushing the tops of the loaves
2 eggs
5 to 6 cups/625 grams to 750 grams all-purpose flour

In a large electric mixer bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm milk. Add the remaining warm milk, the sugar, the salt, the butter and the eggs. Add 5 cups flour and mix with paddle attachment until smooth, about 2 minutes. Switch to hook attachment and knead on low speed, adding more flour if necessary until dough is stiff and slightly tacky, about 10 minutes.

Grease a large bowl with butter and turn dough out into the bowl. Flip over dough so greased side is up, cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and set in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Generously butter two 9-x-5 loaf pans.

When dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto floured surface and knead for 3 minutes. Return to greased bowl, cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Press down dough with your hand to expel the air. Divide dough in half and place each half into a loaf pan. Brush tops of loaves with remaining melted butter.

Cover and let rise until dough is just above the tops of pans, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake bread for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20 to 30 minutes, or until loaves sound hollow when tapped, the tops are brown and the internal temperatures are 200 degrees. Remove loaves from pans and let cool on wire racks.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

c+t buy an apartment - part 1 - demo.


We bought an apartment.  

We also bought a dining room table immediately after buying the apartment because I found the one I've wanted forever for a steal on Craigslist.  So we closed, we rented a U-Haul and we bought a table.  

It's been a big couple of weeks.  

Other big things that have happened?  We've ripped out the wood floors and smashed the kitchen tile into a million pieces.  I ripped the sheetrock off one of the walls in the kitchen to expose the brick and researched a lot of different ways to paint the brick wall (white wash!  lime!).  We picked out kitchen counters! We also hired a big truck to take away all of the demo stuff which was essentially a free crossfit workout.   

To say this has been a learning experience would be a bit of an understatement.   I feel like I've deep-dived into a world where everything is a new and there are so many things to keep track of.   My head is constantly spinning, my lists grow longer by the day, the options are endless. 

But now that demo is done, we can focus on putting everything back together.  This whole thing feels a little like Humpty-Dumpty and it has me questioning our sanity.  But, I keep visualizing the finished product (and chanting “Kitchen of my Dreams, Kitchen of my Dreams”) and that helps a lot.  

I think the hardest part for both Tyler and I is that it feels as if this will never end and that there isn't a break at all.  The past two-weeks have been go-go-go - it's all we talk about, it's all we think about, we allocate almost all our free time to working on it.  I know at some point things will slow down and that this is temporary, but it's hard because it essentially feels like a second job.  But for all the work, there are moments of fun and there are moments when I realize we are building a home that is us.  And that's a pretty exciting thing.