Posts made in February, 2014

A post about a whole lot of deliciousness (and beer) (and steak) (and England!)

Posted by on Feb 27, 2014 in Recipes we love! | 1 comment

When Sweetie and I got married (which now seems like a gazillion years ago) we decided to divide our honeymooning time between Paris and London England.  And while I realize that honeymooning overseas sounds rather posh and quite expensive, we definitely traveled as cheaply as we could.  Our hotel rooms were very basic (but clean!), we feasted on baguettes and cheese while lounging on park benches each day at lunchtime (bliss!) and visited street vendors for food nearly every night, and we thoroughly enjoyed and experienced both cities (but in a rather non-fancy and exceedingly thrifty sort of way.)

Sweetie did make one food related splurge, however.  When we wandered into a small pub one night down some random narrow cobblestoned street in London, Sweetie spied something on the menu that he really really wanted to try.

Steak and ale pie.

Yep.  Steak.  Plus beer.  In a pie.  It was love.  English hospitality-style culinary love.  And, five years later, Sweetie still speaks fondly of the best meal he had during our two weeks overseas.

So when a coworker (hi Laura!) recently mentioned that she’d found (and successfully tried) a very simple recipe for Steak and Guinness pie (courtesy of the wonderful and amazing Mr Jamie Oliver), I knew what I had to do:  I had to make Sweetie a spectacularly yummy and special Valentine’s Day supper, featuring (of course) Steak and Guinness pie.

(Laura has an awesome blog over at The Cozy Project btw. Definitely check her out!)

I won’t completely rewrite the recipe here – it was quite easy to follow (despite a few English-isms that I interpreted along the way.)  Instead, to keep things super simple, here is the link to the (delicious!) recipe…

The Fantastic Jamie Oliver’s Steak & Guinness Pie

And here’s my Steak and Guinness pie, all steak-y and Guinness-y and good.

Simple steak and ale or steak and Guinness pie recipe from Jamie Oliver

In the end, it actually turned out rather impressive-looking, if I do say so myself (especially considering I’d never ever worked with puff pastry before.)  I had a bit of pastry left over after covering the filling, so I improvised with a twisty rope border thingy (technical baking term) around the edge, and (being Valentine’s Day and all) I even added a (admittedly, kinda sad-looking) little puff pastry heart on top.

It was cute.  And tasty.  Yep, all in all it was a very successful English-honeymoon-nostalgia-filled Valentine’s Day meal.

And now I really really really want to go back to England.

Sigh.

But, regardless of whether we’re honeymooning overseas, or stuck in the midst of a gray, snowy, cold, miserable, seemingly never ending, O-M-G-will-spring-just-hurry-up-and-get-here-already Canadian winter, at least we have pie.  Wonderful steak and Guinness pie.

Thank you Jamie Oliver!  (And Laura too!)  :)

 

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Brightening up a rather dark little kitchen (sad-looking semblance of a valence: be gone!) (next: let’s talk lighting)

Posted by on Feb 17, 2014 in Kitchen | 3 comments

Despite that I really love bright and sunny kitchens, the kitchen at the old mauve house is neither bright nor sunny.  The kitchen window is north-facing (meaning it never catches any real sunlight) and our (inherited) wall colour is rather drab and dark (but kitchen-painting is a ways down on our list of required renos at the moment, so drab and dark will sadly stay put until “paint kitchen” comes up in the renovating queue.)

One thing that has helped increase the kitchen brightness-factor a tad?  Removing THIS…

Yep.  That awkward repurposed-window-but-half-valence-thingy came down recently.  Not entirely because we wanted to take it down.  But rather because it needed to move in order to access the window so that we could thoroughly weatherproof (since our kitchen window is definitely drafty and quite a pane.)  (Get it?  Pane?  Pain?)  (Groan… K.  Carrying on…)

Initially, Sweetie didn’t like the kitchen window sans the odd-looking-not-really-a-valence, but I asked him to live with it for a while.  The result?  The look has grown on us both.  Much more light floods into the kitchen now, and the window just looks less… odd.

Gold coloured kitchen with white cabinets and tile countertop

Our new problem?  The light over the sink.  I’ve never been a huge fan of this light (or of any of the lights in this house, truth be told) (once budget permits, they’re allll getting a good swapping.)  However without the quasi-valence in place, the light definitely looks odd and hangs too far down.  And the yellow-hued shade makes it a wee more traditional than I’d prefer.  And it’s honestly just not us.

Traditional kitchen pendant light with Greek Key motif

After a little online big box store searching, I’ve narrowed the new over-the-sink light options down to a few contenders.

My absolute fave?  This one from Lowes…

Antique looking pendant light oil rubbed bronze

Pretty, no?  I adore this light.  To get all technical, it’s the Allen + Roth 12-in Bronze Edison-Style Pendant Light with Clear Shade.  And it’s LOVELY.  The chain makes the light feel… (searching for the correct words…) (let’s go with…) airy-er than it would if the light was hanging from dark solid rods.  And the shape is vintage-ey, but not old-looking.  It’s modern, but antique-ish.

Does that all even make sense?  Likely not.

Regardless, I love this fixture and desperately want this for my kitchen.  There are a couple slight hiccups, however.  It’s quite large at 12 inches in diameter.  I searched all over Internet-land to see whether Allen & Roth make a slightly smaller version (the dreaded “mini-pendant”, if you will) and, sadly, they do not.  Secondly, 75% of the reviews for this fixture have mentioned that the amount of light it casts (with it’s maximum 60W Edison bulb) isn’t particularly great for task lighting (and doing dishes and cleaning vegetables and the other mundane things that I do around the kitchen sink definitely seem to be task-lighting sort of tasks.)  Could I outfit this light with a normal run-of-the-mill clear incandescent bulb and have it look just as pretty?  Maybe?  I’m not sure.  But it’s also the most expensive light of the lot I’m considering.  At $128 it’s quite beyond my “lovely little light in the kitchen window” budget.

But I love it.  A whole lot.  So it’s staying on my list.

Much smaller, and also available from the good folk at Allen + Roth via Lowes is this one

Mini pendant light from Allen and Roth via Lowes in oil rubbed bronze ORB

Sweetie likes this one better than the first, and, from a cost standpoint it’s mucho cheapo-er (at only $49 bucks.)  But there’s that whole low-wattage Edison light issue again.  And it’s very square.  And there’s already a lot of squareness in my kitchen.  I think I’m gravitating more toward a little spherical illumination.

Which lead me to THIS light…

Green glass antique looking pendant light

Which is pretty.  SO pretty!  I squealed just a wee bit when I stumbled across this fixture – the green glass is just so incredibly lovely and will look amazing in my kitchen one day (once all my painting projects are all finished up.)  (Eventually.)  The problem?  (Because there’s ALWAYS a problem?)  It’s only available at Lowes.com.  Or at Lowes stores in the states, I’m assuming.  And I am most definitely sitting here typing away from my Canadian home, with limited access to an American Lowes store.  Sigh.  And, with a maximum allowance for a 40W bulb, this light would be even dimmer and less kitchen-task-friendly than the others (I keep reminding myself of that – it keeps me from getting super sad that it’s unobtainable without a jaunt across the border.)

So where does this all leave me?  It leaves me mighty light-less.  Sorta.  The existing light works for now (and until we find another far prettier one for the space.)  But now that I’ve found a few almost perfect options, I want to find the one.

More lighting obsessing to follow, I’m sure.  (Sorry about that.)

 

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A rerun for Valentine’s Day (but a really good rerun – like, when your favourite episode of Friends comes on, and you know you’ve already seen it, like, 20 times, but you just can’t get enough of hearing Ross exclaim that they were “on a break”, so you settle in to watch it yet again… It’s THAT sort of rerun) (just without the bad 90′s fashion)

Posted by on Feb 13, 2014 in Recipes we love! | 0 comments

I don’t normally re-post past blog posts (since, if you’ve already read all 478 of my rather rambling posts on all of the various things that I’d like to do to my kitchen, do you really need [or, quite honestly, want?] to re-read all of my kitchen gnatterings a second time?  I’m guessing the answer to that is a big fat capitalized NO.)  BUT, in honour of Valentine’s Day (and in recognition of the fact that, sadly, baking is the only real way I put any major effort into my favourite heart-themed holiday) (sorry Sweetie!) I thought I’d delve into the archives for a really tasty Valentine’s Day recipe (which doesn’t just have to be reserved for Valentine’s Day – if you throw caution to the wind and pour the canned cherries on top of the cream cheese filling all willy-nilly and haphazardly and without attempting the adorable, but not at all necessary, heart-shape as suggested, this cheesecake is still just as yummy – I promise!)

(The heart just makes it super cute.  And I love super cute things.)

Have a lovely Valentine’s Day!

 

The cheesecake incident (and other Valentine’s Day tales)‏

Once upon a time, a long long time ago (pre-marriage, pre-home ownership, pre-multi-cat clan) I made Sweetie a cheesecake for Valentine’s Day.  Sweetie and I had only been together for a few months at this point, and I was quite proud of my pretty little cheesecake (and rather excited to show him my culinary skills!)  It was perfect!  I carefully decorated the top with a cherry pie filling heart, and lovingly stashed it away in the fridge so it would set and be ready for Valentine’s Day supper.

Then Sweetie came home from work.  And then Sweetie went to look for a snack.  And then…  I heard a shriek come from the kitchen.

“Oh no!  Sweetie?” I heard Sweetie exclaim.  (And, yes, Sweetie calls me Sweetie.)  (Barf, I know.  We’re gross.)

“Yes?”  I replied, a little concerned by the panic in his voice.

And then came the saddest question ever: “You have another cheesecake, right?”

I ran to the kitchen.  There, upsidedown and on the floor in front of Bertha (the archaic electricity-sucking poop-coloured brown fridge that dominated our apartment kitchen) was my cheesecake.

It was a traumatic moment, I’m not gonna lie.  And I did not, in fact, have another cheesecake.

It was a very sad Valentine’s Day indeed.

But, as always, life must carry on.  And it did, sans cheesecake.  Sweetie and I moved out of our ugly-fridge-filled apartment and bought our first house.  We got married.  We sold our first house and bought another house.  And in the midst of all this moving and marrying we adopted a few cats along the way too.

Yes, cheesecake incident or not, life has been good.

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, and in remembrance of that sad, sad day many years ago, I delved into my recipe pile last night and made a cheesecake (much like the ill-fated floor-bound cheesecake of yore.)  The recipe is super easy.  It’s my mom’s cheesecake recipe (a well-loved recipe I remember her making throughout my childhood) but, truth be told, I’m pretty sure it’s actually quite likely Philly’s recipe, or Kraft’s recipe, or something like that.  (Dear cream cheese makers and/or Kraft execs, I apologize if my mom plagiarized your recipe and called it her own.  It’s very tasty!  Thank you!)

Here’s the recipe…

 

INGREDIENTS

1 pre-made graham cracker pie crust (or if you’re really ambitious – I am not – you can make your own!)

1 envelope of Dream Whip (prepared)

1 cup icing sugar

1 8oz package of cream cheese (softened)

1 can of cherry pie filling

METHOD

1.  Prepare Dream Whip according to package directions.

2.  Add icing sugar and cream cheese.  Beat until smooth.

3.  Pour cream cheese mixture into graham cracker pie crust.

4.  Refrigerate (far away from clumsy husbands) until set (a couple of hours should do!)

5.  Top with cherry pie filling.  (Heart shape adorable, but optional.)

6.  Devour.

 

And here’s what my finished little heart-adorned Valentine’s Day cheesecake looks like…

No bake cherry cheesecake recipe for Valentine's Day baking

Cute, eh?  :)

That cheesecake is chilling in the fridge as we speak.  And Sweetie has officially banished himself from our kitchen until suppertime, as he does every Valentine’s Day.  He knows he only gets one Valentine’s Day cheesecake each year.  And he also knows he’s prone to dropping things.  Delicious things.

Yep.  He’s not taking any chances.

Hope your Valentine’s Day is full of love, and food-related incident free.  :)

 

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Blue cabinetry lust (pretty pretty pretty!)

Posted by on Feb 10, 2014 in Kitchen | 3 comments

I adore Samantha Pynn.  I really do.  Call it a bit of a designer-crush, but I think she’s amazing, and super talented, and I love everything she does.  (And, she’s a fellow Canadian to boot!)

So imagine my delight when she posted pictures of this kitchen in her regular National Post column

 Two toned kitchen cupboards with blue lowers and white uppers by Samantha Pynn

And imagine all the swooning (from me) that followed shortly thereafter.  That blue – it’s perfect!  That marble (or a close lookalike!) countertop – how lovely.  The whole kitchen screams the word “fresh!”  I seriously want to cook in there.

And now I’m seriously rethinking my kitchen plans.

Our kitchen currently features cream-coloured cabinets on the uppers, with dark navy lower cabinets.  I didn’t paint these (the house came like this) and while the two-toned look has grown on me, I’ve always found the combination a little dated and dark (despite that two-toned cabinets seem to be very in style right now!)

Kitchen with white and black cabinets and open cabinets - teal and orange accents

I’ve always planned to repaint both the uppers and lower cupboards in a crisp off-white, Benjamin Moore’s Snowfall White, to be exact.  We painted our last kitchen’s cupboards this colour, and it was the perfect bright white, with just a hint of creaminess to take away any overt starkness.  It was lovely, and made me very very happy.

Vintage 1940s or 1950s kitchen Stonington Gray and white cabinets with yellow accents and Allure Trafficmaster flooring in Patina

But now I’m changing my mind just a little.  The upper cabinets will still get a good-sized dose of Snowfall White, of course (since the existing cream-colour is just so… dark) (if cream can be dark?  I think it can…) but I’m now second-guessing my bottom-cupboard intentions.  How pretty would a little electric-ish blue be?  My answer?  VERY.

We’ll see just how brave I’m feeling come kitchen-painting time.  I’m a bit of a kitchen cupboard painting chicken, truth be told.  Kitchen cupboards take a long time to paint, so it’s one of those tasks where I’ve always returned to my safety-zone hues (since I can’t imagine having to repaint all my kitchen cupboards for a second time.)

Here’s hoping that kitchen-painting time comes soon!  Only 743 other projects to finish up first….

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Wishing winter away (because spring means outdoor painting projects!) (…and less snow and cold and general miserableness)

Posted by on Feb 6, 2014 in The Great Outdoors | 0 comments

So, it’s winter.  And it’s really winter.  It’s let’s-hibernate-under-the-blankets-and-pray-for-beloved-spring-or-even-an-unseasonably-warm-weekend-might-suffice-for-now winter.  And, honestly, it’s getting to be a bit much.

So I’m looking ahead!  I’m preparing for outdoor projects.  Because I need something to look forward to right now.  Something more beyond carbs and sleep and snuggling in under the blankets.

Sweetie and I already know that we have several projects looming once spring hits.  We need to critter-proof the house (since we’ve discovered that small four-legged furry creatures – the kind that squeak, btw, not the ones who meow – seem to find our house rather, unfortunately, hospitable.)  We need to re-insulate our laundryroom (since our laundryroom water pipes froze last week, but – luckily! – didn’t burst.)  And we have tonnes (tonnes!) of yardwork currently pending (trees that need to be trimmed, gardens that need to be moved, wild flowerbeds that need to be tamed and made far less wild, bushes that need to be relocated…)

Pink mauve old farmhouse with front deck and red shutters and door

But most important to me?  Curb appeal.  Yep.  The old mauve house desperately needs a facelift.  The burgundy shutters make me cringe.  The weather-worn front deck looks neglected.  The big front window is far too dusty rose-coloured.  And the house just looks… tired.

Which is sort of how I feel in the dead of winter, I suppose.

I did a little Pinterest searching and found a bit of spring-project inspiration.  Because we don’t have a lovely grandiose covered front porch (although I’d really like one!), I looked for similar “front deck”-style front porches as I searched through everything.  Unfortunately, most porches (or at least the Pin-worthy ones) appear to be of the covered kind (and, honestly, with good reason!  Who really wants to fumble with the front door locks in the midst of a rainstorm on a non-covered porch?)  But I did find this house, which, despite also sporting a covered front porch, is now my inspiration for this spring’s big “make the house look pretty” project…

Pretty eh?  I sure think so.  The white trim, the dark gray shutters, the white-painted porch rails with the stained (or maybe painted?  I can’t tell) porch floor…  It all looks so lovely.

And if I squint just a little, and look at the house out of the corner of my eye while chewing gum and folding laundry, I might even swear that there’s a touch of mauve in that siding.

Or I may just be getting my hopes up.

Regardless, I’m now feeling super inspired, and I’m rather anxiously looking forward to outdoor painting weather.  Afterall, there are only a measly 41 more days till the first day of spring.

But who’s counting…  :)

 

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