Fancy Soup

February 28, 2012

My New Year’s Resolution this year was to cook one new recipe every week. I haven’t necessarily posted lots of this here, because, frankly, reading about someone making fish sticks just isn’t that interesting (I didn’t say it had to be a fancy or exciting recipe, just something I’d never made before). However, I did get a little fancier a couple of weeks ago and made french onion soup. Now soup is generally just not that interesting of a food to talk about. You stick some stuff in a pot, usually with some broth, and let it cook for awhile. French onion soup, however, is like a alchemical transformation. Also, it’s something that had never occurred to me to make at home-it just seems like a restaurant thing, with cute oven-proof ceramic soup bowls. To tackle this challenge, I more or less used Alton Brown’s recipe, available on the Food Network website here.

To start with, you need lots of onions. The recipe says 5 onions, but I modified this recipe slightly based on comments from the website. So we had 5 lbs of onions, which was about 6-7, I think. You slice the onions into thin rings, which is the most labor-intensive part of the whole process, and start to brown them in a little butter. 5 lbs of onions is a lot. It looks like this:

This is the first time I thought maybe I had read a number wrong. This looks like a lot of onions. But you just cook them, and cook them, and cook them. And then you get this:

After that you keep cooking the onions down until they’re brown and caramelized. You then add in some wine, broth and some herbs in a bouquet garni. You’ll see that I didn’t actually have whole stems of herbs or cheesecloth for a traditional bouquet garni, so I just stuffed some herbs in a metal tea ball and winged it.

 

While all that is going on, you make some toast. Rachel cut our toast into fancy rounds, but as long as it  fits into your bowl it’s fine.

 

When your soup is done, you put the toasts in the soup, crunchy side down.

 

Top it with cheese (we used gruyere) and stick it under the broiler for a few seconds. It’s important to make sure that your bowls are heat-proof. If not, they can explode when you heat them under the broiler.

 

Delicious!

In A New Light

February 20, 2012

As I have mentioned time and time again, updating the lights in our house has been one of the easiest ways to make the space nicer and more like our own. Recently, I tackled the bathroom. Our previous owner, Mr. Do-It-Yourself-Taking-Every-Possible-Shortcut had a real LOVE for wood. Ugh. So our bathroom has wooden cabinets and a wooden box light strip. YUCK. So I finally decided to redo it.

As you can see, wood everywhere, and I think it totally clashes with my awesome Tiffany’s blue bathroom. So after turning off the circuit (of course), I dismantled the box. You can see the two screws on the front. Because they did things like paint around it, it was stuck pretty firmly on there. So, screws off, bulbs out, then PULL and it came off. A little more dismantling, and ta-da – we were left with just the raw wiring.

I’ll have to talk to my photographer to get less fuzzy pictures (<3 you!). Anyway, as per typical wiring, you have your black, your white, and the copper wire is our ground. We picked up an inexpensive light strip from the ReStore near us, and immediately discovered that the screw holes were not at all in the same spot. So a quick trip to the hardware store fixed that. We got some toggle anchors and screws, measured, and put the new anchors in.

Once those were in, we used some long 2″ screws we also picked up and began installing the new fixture. We twisted the correct wires (black to black, white to white, ground to ground) together, stuffed it behind the fixture and screwed it in.

A quick wipe with some glass cleaner and it was all ready to go!

I love how it looks – it totally jives with our bathroom feeling. I think my next chore will be to take the cupboards apart, paint them white to match the trim, add some cute paper to the back wall of the cabinets, and reassemble, but that’s all for another post 🙂

 

Homecoming

February 11, 2012

With the addition of Twirly to my tool cavalry, I decided it was time to build them a home. I have to throw out there that I LOVE playing with my tools and building things. This doesn’t mean that I’m good at it in any capacity. This is a basic recipe for a toolbox that I’m sure you can do better than I did.

I started with a 24″ wide piece of 1/4″ plywood. I cut two long-side pieces 24″x10″ and two side pieces 10″x8″. Finally, I cut 1/2″ strips to create a stop, so that I could add a set-in shelf to the box. The shelf was the same dimensions but 3″ tall.

As you can see, I cut the tops of the side pieces to a point. This was so that I could insert a dowel later to create a handle. I’ll also admit now that I didn’t account for edge and what that would add to widths, so there are places that I had to re-measure and re-cut to account for that. Oops. Live and learn I guess.

Next step was to glue the stops on to the sides. I did this so that I could secure them with prior to assembling my box.

I used wood glue and clams to hold the stops in place until they dried.

Once the stops were in place, I began assembling the edges, to get the basic shape of my box.

As you can see, everything is together. I forgot to mention that I made a bottom to the box and the shelf. Just measure your frame and tack it in with finishing nails. I’ll also note that the plywood is hard and prone to splintering, so don’t get discouraged.

Once it was all together, I went ahead and gave her a pretty coat of paint. Red for the outside, white for the shelf. The tools fit in perfectly.

I haven’t put the dowel in yet because a) I’m not sure I left enough room at the pointy parts to do it and b) I don’t have a paddle bit for my drill with which to make the holes. We’ll see if that ever happens, but that is the intention.

For now, my tools have a home. Oh! And here’s a picture of Twirly, since this project was brought to you by the letter T.

Pop Stop And Roll

February 10, 2012

Katie and I have been making a specific effort to shape up our diet a little bit, but we both definitely like sweets and things to munch on. One great filler is popcorn because it can be made in a low-calorie way, that takes up lots of space and makes you feel like you get more bang for your buck.

The other side of this equation is that we are looking for ways to tighten up our finances. As much as we love getting the little 100 calorie boxes of kettle corn, it’s expensive over time. So we figured, meh, why not make our own?!

So, dear readers, here is how it is done, sans kettle.

Start with stovetop popcorn. I use a little bit of light olive oil (because it’s good for you), let it heat up and then throw in a half a cup of popcorn seeds. You’ll know the oil is hot because it will sizzle if you flick a drop of water in.

Once the kernels start to sizzle a bit, pour in a quarter cup of sugar over the top. The oil will immediately soak in to the sugar causing it to clump. It will also cool off the temperature, so it will take a few minutes to get back up to temperature and begin popping. Be patient- just when you think you’ve messed it up horribly, it will start to go.

Put a lid on it so that it will stay in the pan while popping. Once it starts to pop, shake the pan every minute or so to keep the popcorn from burning on to the bottom. That will also help with coating the now melted sugar on the kernels.

We happen to have clear pot lids, so we could watch the process as it began (until steam clogged the view). The sugar will begin to caramelize eventually, so it’s important to keep it moving. Similarly, because of the sugar, it will burn QUICKLY once it’s done so as soon as the popping slows down, pull it off the heat and get it out of the pan.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Whenever you’re working with melted sugar, keep in mind that it gets very very hot, and it is very sticky. If you get some on you DON’T attempt to wipe it as it will stick and smear. Run the area under cold water right away. Also, always wear shoes (Mom would be proud).

Once the popcorn is out, toss it with a little salt (we use kosher or sea) and let it cool a touch and enjoy!

Block Party

February 9, 2012

Maybe we’re crazy, but every day Katie and I have the same debate about what to have for dinner. We’ve moved in to a place of meal planning and after coming up with all kinds of fun and new ideas, we get tapped out before our list is complete.

So.

I got creative and decided I’d make something to help us out.

I started with a piece of 2×2 and cut it in to uniform cubes.

I sanded down the edges so we didn’t have splinters, and then I got really lazy. The pretty thing to do would have been to paint them. I just didn’t care that much, so I took them inside and began making little suggestions for them.

Each block contains a set of foods – one is protein, one is veg, one is carb/starch and we just have a set to roll. I also did one for breakfast since we do a special Sunday breakfast each week.

 

This may all seem a bit silly, but the intention is to roll them to get a basic idea of where to go. It inspires ideas instead of sitting around with the convo “I don’t know, what do you want to have.”

This is an example. With this roll, I’d be inclined to pull together a BLT. Similarly you could make breakfast omelets with toast. It’s just a way to kick off some ideas. These aren’t fancy and took me less than 30 minutes to make INCLUDING the drying time of the glue. If you wanted to you could paint them, seal them, do all kinds of things to make them flashy.

BLOCK PARTY!

Badge of BurbExcellence

February 1, 2012

We want to see what you’re doing.

 

Okay that sounded creepy. We are interested in seeing what projects you’re working on. I know you like reading about what we’re doing but we’d love to have some back and forth around here about what people are working on, tips, project ideas, you name it, we love it.

I’ll even resort to a little bribery. I’m working on designing a badge you can have on your website, facebook, where ever, which father Burb has dubbed the badge of BurbExcellence. It will be really cool. Or not. But still, we’ll make it for you.

So please! Let us know what you’re working on- pictures, ideas, projects, sewing, painting, building, all the good stuff we can talk about. I’d love to feature someone every week. If nothing else, it’s free publicity!