31 July 2014

To Everything There is a Season

Hi all,

I won't even bother with my usual excuses for having been away from the blog this last little while. They're pretty tired out, those excuses are, and besides, there's one really good reason behind my absence that has put things into perspective and allowed me to make some decisions recently that are both sad and exciting at the same time.

I know many of you will totally get it when I say that lately I've been battling a sort of blog ennui. If I'm honest, it's been a struggle for a couple of years now to define who I am as a blogger and what Money Pit Love really is. What began as a practical forum to share stories with family (and who I'm not sure even read the blog anyway!) became a labour of love, then one of nearly unlimited fun, and then one immersed in an epic identity crisis.

MPL has been limping along ever since, being less a creative outlet than an ill-fitting suit. I struggle with the self-imposed parameters of MPL. I feel like the brand itself is suffocating in response to my internal pressure to remain true to it.

Because the truth is: I'm not a brand. I'm a person, and what I want to represent is my life, not a product.

The fact is, I'm changing. Money Pit Love still feels to me like the 'little blog that could', chatting about my renovations (in the old Money Pit), design and décor. Now, those interests represent only a small part of me. There is so much more I'd like to explore, share, and discuss, and much of it feels inappropriate for this blog.

The bottom line is, I've decided to close up shop here at MPL. This will be my last post here, though the site will remain live. There are a lot of links out there in the internet that lead back this blog, and nothing frustrates me more than when something interests me and I click to a dead link. KILLS ME. So I won't do that. Just... no more posts here, and an invitation to join me over at my new venture, Life of Plenty.

Life of Plenty is where I'll be hanging my blogger hat from this day forward. I hope the amazing friends I've made through MPL - all of you, out there - will make the transition with me, too. What I write about will remain largely the same - lots of food, lots of kid stuff, lots of life stuff - but in a way that lets me feel free to celebrate those things as a holistic whole without worrying about how I'm being perceived or whether I'll lose my place in the YMC Community if I don't post for a week.

So, Life of Plenty. My new blog about life: all of it. Food, family, heath, parenting, design, the arts, travel, home, career, leisure.... ALL. OF. IT. I hope to see you there.

xo
April

08 July 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Tuna Pasta Salad

Let it be known that I am NOT a pasta salad kind of girl. I never have been: the very idea of noodles with salad dressing turns me right off. When I tried to eat it in the past, my throat literally closed up and said, Nope. Not going to happen. Spit it out, 'cuz it's not going down.

So when I met Daryn ages and ages ago, and he said to me, My mom makes this pasta salad with tuna and pickles and green peppers, and it's awesome. You should totally try it. I was like, Um, NO. Thank you. I'd rather eat dirt.

But I was young and totally in that stage where you do things even if you don't want to, to make the other person happy and to like you more and think you're cooler and better than any girl they've dated before you, so when he said, Seriously, try it, I was like, OK. And so I did, thinking that probably I was going to have to excuse myself immediately to deal with my throat-closing-over issues and wondering how I could keep him thinking I was cool even while I was totally failing the Mom's-Noodle-Salad-Test.

But you know what? The funniest thing happened. I LOVED IT. I ate a little bit, and then a little bit more, and then a little more after that... and then I asked for a whole bowl and ate the whole damn thing! And ASKED FOR SECONDS. Because as weird as it sounds and sort of looks, it TASTES amazing. I could literally eat this salad for breakfast, lunch and dinner (full disclosure: I have totally done this.)

Great on the beach, at a backyard barbecue or in a bowl on the couch, it's a chilled-out alternative to traditional pasta meals with all flavor-punch of a summer salad. Also, if you excuse that whole cup-of-mayonnaise thing, not terrible for you! So the next time you're looking for a filling and satisfying but not hot and heavy summertime dinner, look no further than Tuna Pasta Salad. Just chop, toss and enjoy!



TUNA PASTA SALAD
Preparation: 20 minutes + 1 hour | Cooking Time: 14-20 minutes | Serves: 6
     
Ingredients:
  • 500g whole wheat Rotini pasta
  • 3 cans light flaked tuna in water, drained
  • 1 cup dill pickles, small diced (6-12 pickles)
  • 1 cup green pepper, small diced
  • 1 cup old cheddar cheese, small diced
  • 1 cup Miracle Whip
  • 1/4 cup pickle juice
  • 3 tbsp. yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
        
Cooking Directions:
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions, until noodles are just al dente. Drain (but do not rinse); allow to cool for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and allow even cooling.
      
  2. Meanwhile, drain tuna and flake into a large mixing bowl or storage container (I use a container with a snap-on lid, to make mixing easier down the road).
      
  3. Dice green pepper, pickles and cheese. Add to tuna; stir to combine.
      
  4. When pasta is cool, add it to your tuna mixture. Toss to combine.
      
  5. To the pasta add pickle juice, mayonnaise, mustard and pepper. If you've used a mixing bowl, stir with a large spoon until the pasta is evenly coated with dressing. If you're using a sealable container, snap the lid on and shake like crazy until the dressing is evenly distributed.
      
  6. Taste-test for preference; add more mayo, pickle juice and/or mustard as desired. Chill for at least one hour prior to serving. Can be served cold-cold, or slightly cooler than room temperature. Either way is delicious!
  
If you want to make your salad even more pickle-y you can add 3 or 4 spoonful's of Bick's Dill Bits relish in addition to the chopped pickles. It gives it a little extra "oomph" in the tartness department, which I think is awesome. Otherwise, it's perfect just as it is!


NOTES | EASY, KID-FRIENDLY (depending on the kid)

01 July 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Bruschetta Pasta + Goat Cheese & Fresh Basil

Happy Canada Day, peeps!

What better Foodie Tuesday dish to celebrate Canada's birthday than a festive red-and-white one? I can't think of any (except maybe cupcakes, but we're trying to keep it healthy around here at the Pit so you know... not those.)

Even better than a better-than red and white dish? One that's super easy to make, and can be served at room temperature. It's a perfect (perfect!) cottage weekend dinner.



BRUSCHETTA PASTA + GOAT CHEESE & FRESH BASIL
Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 6
      
Ingredients:
  • 10 firm plum tomatoes, medium diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, finely diced
  • 6 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. + 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. chili flakes
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2-4 oz. plain goat cheese, crumbled (or, however much you like)
  • 6 cups whole wheat rigatoni, uncooked
  • 1/2 to 1 cup fresh basil, chopped
 
Cooking Directions:
  1. Cook pasta according to directions, until al dente (tender-firm). Drain well, but don't rinse with water. Set aside.
      
  2. In a large mixing bowl combine tomatoes, onion, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, chili flakes, salt and pepper. Whisk to blend well.
      
  3. Add pasta to mixing bowl; toss to coat evenly. Add basil and give it another stir.
      
  4. Top with crumbled goat cheese (to taste) and serve at room temperature.
         
I often make the tomato mixture a few hours ahead of time, and let it marinate until it's time for dinner. The tomatoes absorb the other ingredients and intensify the flavours.

Be forewarned: this is a very romantic meal only insomuch as the garlic and raw onion will drive everyone away who's not eating it with you. Don't expect to get all lovey-dovey with your leading man (or lady) unless he or she is eating it right along with you.

Otherwise this dish tastes like a million bucks, and looks equally as festive. A more Canadian-looking dish I've never cooked!

So hap-hap-happy Canada Day, folks! Enjoy the festivities; however you might be celebrating, be safe and eat well.

NOTES: EASY
   
     
{gently adapted from The Art of Living Well cookbook by Rose Reisman}

30 June 2014

Speaking My Language

A friend of mine recently posted a link to an Entertainment Weekly article that I couldn't not click: The 55 Essential Movies Kids Must Experience (Before They Turn 13.)

I can't remember a time when my day-to-day dialogue wasn't riddled with pop culture references. When the well-timed insertion of a movie quote into conversation didn't have the effect of creating instant and universal understanding - and sometimes the ties of lasting friendship - between participants.

It's even fair to say that at my advanced age (38), I've been employing certain turns of phrase for so long, I've forgotten where they originated. They're so fully integrated in my vernacular I can't even tell when or where I adopted them.

So this list caught my eye and I gotta tell you: it's pretty terrific. Very comprehensive. And almost completely bang on.

I won't give you the whole list - you can find it here - but it inspired me to write my own list: the most important contributors to April-speak. Really, the ones you need to fully know (and maybe memorize) to truly 'get' me.

Author's note: the list is pretty kid-friendly, but not 100%. Overall? I'd say PG-13.

The Essentials of April-Speak:
  1. The Princess Bride
  2. Star Wars collection
  3. Zombieland
  4. Harry Potter (books AND movies)
  5. The Colbert Report
  6. Se7en
  7. Fairly Odd Parents
  8. Get Smart (Steve Carrell version)
  9. The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius
  10. Transylvania 6-5000
  11. Phineas & Ferb
  12. The Muppet Show
  13. Monty Python & The Holy Grail
  14. Monty Python & The Meaning of Life
  15. Office Space
  16. Robot Chicken
  17. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
  18. Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
  19. Friends
  20. Family Guy
  21. The Far Side
  22. Wedding Crashers
  23. The Walking Dead
  24. Dirty Dancing
  25. Ron Swanson (I would say 'Parks and Recreation' but really, it's just Ron.)
  26. So I Married an Axe Murderer
  27. The Matrix
  28. The Long Kiss Goodnight
  29. Chicken Run
  30. The Crow
  31. Babe
  32. Blade Trilogy
  33. Modern Family
  34. Grosse Point Blank
  35. Animaniacs
What about you? What pop culture references pop up most often in your conversation? What's on your list?
   

17 June 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Strawberry Shortcake

The strawberries are here! The strawberries are here!!!

Dudes, did you hear? The strawberries are here.

Living in Canada, in Ontario, in the suburbs, we can't really say the summer has started without an obligatory strawberry-picking excursion to a local farm. For us it's a mostly annual tradition: 40 minutes of picking berries under a gruelling hot sun, then an equal amount of time standing in line to pay premium prices for the berries you just picked yourself, and then home to make yourself sick eating all the berries in one go that you just paid a mint for. It's awesome.

If you're feeling adventurous, though, those berries can be more than just a bowl-full with milk and sugar. You can make all kinds of strawberry things: strawberry jam, strawberry compote, strawberry ice cream, dried strawberries and my favourite, strawberry shortcake.

Warning: my strawberry shortcake is no beauty queen. Don't serve this to people you want to impress, like a co-op board you're petitioning, or your future mother-in-law. Everybody else is fair game, though, and they'll thank you for it.



STRAWBERRY SHORTCAKE
Preparation: 1 hour | Cooking Time: 20 minutes | Serves: 8
    
Ingredients:
Sponge cake
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
    
Ingredients:

Strawberries

  • 3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
  • 1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh (small) strawberries, hulled but whole
 
Ingredients:
Whipped cream
  • 500 mL (roughly 2 cups) heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  
Cooking Directions:
  1. Wash and hull all your strawberries. Set aside 1 cup of small berries for the top; slice the rest into thin slices. Toss the sliced berries in a bowl with lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.
      
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 9" round baking pans lightly with canola oil and set aside.
      
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.
      
  4. In a larger mixing bowl, combine melted butter and sugar. Beat together with a handheld mixture on medium speed, for 2-3 minutes until it becomes "crumbly." Beat in eggs one at a time until thoroughly combined, then beat in vanilla.
      
  5. Add the flour mixture in three parts and the milk in two, alternating between the two (starting and ending with flour.) Beat on low until each portion is thoroughly combined with the butter/sugar/egg mixture.
      
  6. Divide the batter between the two greased pans, smoothing the top with the back of a spoon or spatula to make it an even thickness (you want it as flat as possible). Place in the pre-heated oven on the middle rack for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes away clean. Remove from oven. Cool 15-20 on the counter before turning out on baking racks. Cool a further 45 minutes.
      
  7. Meanwhile, in a large chilled mixing bowl, combine whipping cream, sugar and vanilla. Beat with a handheld mixer on high until it has thickened and doubled in volume. Reduce speed to medium and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
      
  8. Place one layer of sponge cake on a cake stand (preferably one with a raised edge, since it's a messy cake with potential for spillage). Spread half the whipped cream over the top, leaving a half inch around the edge of the cake. Smooth the top of the cream, then make a shallow divot into the middle (so the berries will pool, rather than spill.)
      
    Next, stir the berries then spread all three cups of sliced berries over the whipped cream. THERE WILL BE SPILLAGE. It can't be avoided.
       
    Place the second layer of sponge cake on top of the berries. Spread the remaining half of the whipped cream on top, all the way to the edges. Top with the cup of whole, small strawberries - I apply them "by hand" in that I scoop up a handful and drop them on top. But you can be more artsy if you like. 

Like I said: NOT a beauty queen. But she wins the taste test every time.


NOTES | SEASONAL, KID-FRIENDLY 
  

10 June 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Let's start first by classifying this recipe as "OM-NOM-NOM" which, like "entrée" and "appetizer" is now an official food category.

Next, let's acknowledge that we here at Casa Kilfoyle might be just a *bit* lemon-obsessed. Oranges? OK. Tangerines? Sure, I guess. Limes? Not bad.

But lemons? Lemons are pretty much the flavor bomb. And when lemon marries cake?

NUCLEAR-LEVEL DELICIOUSNESS.

For realz.



LEMON POPPY SEED CAKE
Preparation: 30 minutes | Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes | Makes: 2 loaves
      
Ingredients:
Lemon Poppy Seed Cake
  • 1 cup salted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups granulated (white) sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup lemon zest (4-6 lemons)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tbsp. poppy seeds
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • cooking spray
 
Ingredients:
Syrup
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated (white) sugar
 
Ingredients:
Glaze
  • 2 cups confectioner's (icing) sugar
  • 6 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
        
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two (2) 9" x 4" loaf tins with cooking spray; set aside.
      
  2. If you have a counter mixer on hand (lucky you), cream together the butter and sugar. If you don't have a stand mixer (like moi), use a hand mixer, but however you cream it, do so until it's light and fluffy (roughly 5 minutes). With the mixer/beaters on medium-low speed, add the eggs one at a time, then the lemon zest.
      
  3. In a second bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and poppy seeds. Whisk to combine thoroughly.
      
  4. In a third bowl, combine the buttermilk, lemon juice and vanilla extract. Whisk briskly. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the creamed sugar, starting and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans, and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour (until a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the centre emerges cleanly.)
        
  5. When the loaves are 15 from complete, combine a 1/2 cup of lemon juice and a 1/2 cup white sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cover, set aside.
       
  6. Remove the baked loaves from the oven and allow to stand on the counter for 10-15 minutes, cooling. Turn the loaves from each pan onto a cooling rack. Allow to stand an additional 10 minutes.
        
  7. Place each loaf in a rectangular container that's at least one inch (1") larger on all sides than the loaf itself (I use a glad container.) Using a toothpick, bore small, deep holes randomly over the top of each loaf. Evenly divide the hot syrup over each loaf and allow 20 minutes to absorb, turning occasionally on each side so the syrup is absorbed all over. Place the soaked loaves onto a cooling rack under which you've spread parchment or waxed paper (to catch the drips... because it will drip.)
       
  8. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together 2 cups icing sugar with 6 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice. Spoon over the top of each loaf, evenly dividing the glaze between the two. Let solidify, then slice and serve... with tea and sweet cream, preferably!
       
You can store your loaves in an airtight container on the counter for 2-3 days, but any longer and you risk it molding. Technically you CAN refrigerate it but honestly, I find storing this or any kind of cake in the fridge just dries it out. I'd rather eat it fresh and moist in two days than dry and crumbly in five, but maybe that's just me. It's your cake. Do what you want with it.

Oh, and any leftover syrup? Pretty fabulous over vanilla ice cream. Just, you know... if you were wondering.

NOTES | KID-FRIENDLY, EASY, VEGETARIAN
 
Thank you, Ina Garten. Your Lemon Loaf is delicious. 
  

04 June 2014

29 Things You Can't Do When You've Burnt Your Legs to Ratshit

 
  1. Shave
  2. Scratch
  3. Slap a biting mosquito
  4. Cross your legs
  5. Sit cross-legged, yoga-style
  6. Basically bend your knees anywhere north of 90 degrees
  7. Sleep with your legs together
  8. Sleep on your stomach
  9. Move your legs at all while you sleep
  10. Sleep
  11. Expose your skin to sunlight
  12. Enjoy an evening foot- and leg-rub from your spouse
  13. Allow children or small dogs to sit on your lap
  14. Accidentally bump anything
  15. Apply lotion
  16. Wear jeans
  17. Wear cotton-blend or polyester pants
  18. Wear any kind of pants, basically
  19. Wear socks that rise above your ankle
  20. Exercise
  21. Sweat
  22. Shower with hot water
  23. Shower with warm water
  24. Shower with water warmer than room temperature
  25. Shower using soap
  26. Shower without crying
  27. Stretch
  28. Touch your skin, either accidentally or on purpose
  29. Move.
    At all.
    Ever.


03 June 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Lemony Caesar Salad Dressing

You might have noticed in all these weeks and weeks of Foodie Tuesdays that we Kilfoyles are not big salad people. Not that we don't like salad- we do. It's just when compared to family favourites like chili and mac & cheese and pasta, lettuce sometimes comes up a bit short.

Unless, of course, that salad is Chicken Caesar Salad. In which case, we all love it.

What I don't love, however, is store-bought dressing. Homemade is always better, right? Right. And when it's this easy to whip up a fabulous handmade dressing (made with ingredients you can pronounce), why spend your moolah on pre-packaged and processed varieties?

This isn't your typical Caesar dressing in that it's heavy on the lemon. Daryn and I are "those people" who basically ask for a whole lemon to squeeze over our salad order, so when it comes to making our own, we lean much more to the citrus-y side of the spectrum than not. We also prefer a creamy texture (versus oily); egg yolks and olive oil combined make a lovely rich emulsion that doesn't taste heavy at all thanks to the crispness of the citrus. All in all, a winning combination that makes an excellent summer staple.



LEMONY CAESAR SALAD DRESSING
Preparation: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: N/A | Makes: 2 cups
   
Ingredients:
  • 4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. + 1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • zest of one large lemon (roughly 1 tsp.)
  • 3 extra large egg yolks
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
          
Cooking Directions:
  1. Combine first 8 ingredients (lemon juice through black pepper) in a blender or small food processor. Blend on low until thoroughly combined.
       
  2. With blender still running, slowly add olive oil (drizzle is too slow; dump is too fast. You want somewhere in between.)
      
  3. Once the olive oil is fully added, increase the blender speed to 'high' for 30 seconds, until the emulsion is thickened. Chill for 1 hour before serving.
      
If you don't totally dig the super-lemony lemon flavor, you can reduce the lemon juice by up to two tablespoons and the recipe will still work. On the flip side, if you like it more lemony (like we do) jack it up a notch by adding an extra spoonful. Any way you slice it (or squeeze it, as the case may be) this dressing does not disappoint.

Store in a tightly lidded container in the refrigerator. It will keep beautifully for up to a week... if it lasts that long!
  
   
NOTES | GLUTEN FREE, VEGETARIAN, EASY
   
   

27 May 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Lemon Rice Pilaf

You know how they say that Mom's cooking is good, but Grandma's cooking is ALWAYS better? Probably because Grandma's cook with love, and sometimes lard, and that just makes everything more delicious.

As the resident chef here at the Money Pit, I don't have much competition in the cooking department from my own mother. It's easy to win when you're the only one at the gate. But on Daryn's side, I have a formidable opponent in his stepmother, who dominates the crown of "Best Chef" in the family with good (and well-deserved) reason.

One of her signature dishes that tips the scales decidedly in her favour, is this little ditty: lemon rice pilaf. Simple, nutritious and so, so delicious, it blazed a path straight to the heart of the Boy when he was just a toddler and has remained there ever since. And Grandma knows what's what when it comes to keeping that crown: lemon rice pilaf makes an appearance at every major family function, and our love just grows and grows and grows.



LEMON RICE PILAF
Preparation: 5 minutes | Cooking Time: 25 minutes | Serves: 6-8
    
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large Spanish onion, finely diced (roughly 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice*
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • zested rind of one large lemon (roughly 1 tbsp., compressed)
  • juice of one large lemon (roughly 1/4 cup)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
  • 3 tbsp. salted butter
              
Cooking Directions:
  1. In a heavy sauce pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions begin to soften and turn translucent.
       
  2. Add rice and stir to combine thoroughly with the onion, and coat in oil. Allow to cook for 20-30 seconds or until the rice starts to "snap".
        
  3. Add chicken stock; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and let simmer for 15-20 minutes (*if using brown rice, which is also delicious in this recipe, cook for 35-40 minutes.) Stir occasionally to prevent scorching (I do every 3-4 minutes.)
        
  4. When rice is tender, remove from heat. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice and pepper. Stir to combine, then let sit for 5 minutes for the juice to be absorbed. Stir in butter.
        
  5. Fold in the chopped parsley just before serving. Pairs beautifully with roasted salmon (or any fish really) and if you ask the Boy, it's just fine on its own as a meal, full stop. 

I should tell you that I've modified the recipe a little bit. If I was being completely faithful to my mother-in-law's recipe, I would use vegetable oil versus olive and reduce the lemon juice to 1 tablespoon. But we love it lemony and, you know... I have to put my stamp on things. So I jacked up the lemon to suit, but you can make it either which way. Whatever you like.

Also the chicken stock can be exchanged for vegetable if you've got Veggies in your family or if that's just your bag (baby.)

Finally I should tell you about the real beauty of this dish: it can be served hot, warm or at room temperature: it's perfect at any temperature. My tip for the perfect spring brunch: chilled poached salmon, room temperature rice pilaf, soft scrambled eggs, blanched asparagus and cold cucumber salad. OMG MMMMMMM. So delicious, you guys. Seriously. You can trust me.

    
NOTES | EASY, GLUTEN FREE, ONE-POT-WONDER, KID FRIENDLY
   

20 May 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Thick Curry with Chicken & Coconut Rice

You know how there are some days when you get a craving so bad for something that it's all you can think about? You totally obsess over it; no matter what you're doing - vacuuming, walking the dog, tabulating spreadsheets, neurosurgery - no matter what, your brain checks out every 27 seconds to be like, Nurse, I'm gonna need a little more suction here and, uh, DAMN, I wish I had some fried chicken right now. Is anyone else hungry?

I'm struck by this kind of craving pretty regularly. And when I say "pretty regularly" I mean, like, every four days. And I crave only one thing:

THAI. Specifically, thick chicken curry with coconut rice.

Financing these cravings every four days (or, in some weeks, every. single. day.) has its challenges, Sometimes, no matter how bad I'm jonesing, I can't afford a fix and since Daryn has forbidden me to set up shop on the street corner begging for loose change from kind strangers, I've had to take some drastic measures. In that, I learned to make it myself.



THICK CURRY with CHICKEN & COCONUT RICE
Preparation: 30 minutes | Cooking Time: 30 minutes | Serves: 4
    
Ingredients:
Thick Curry with Chicken
  • 1 (14 fl.oz.) can coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup red curry paste
  • 2 tbsp. natural smooth peanut butter
    You can also use panang curry paste (also spelled 'panaeng' or 'paneng'), which is red curry with ground roasted peanuts added, but if your local supermarket doesn't carry this specialty item, as mine doesn't, the red curry + peanut butter works just as well.
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
    I used chicken.
  • 2 tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. fish sauce
  • 3 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed, bruised and cut into 3-inch pieces
  • 1 lb. boneless chicken thigh, leg or breast, cut into bite-sized strips
    I'm a white-meat kind of gal, so I went with nothing-but-chicken-boob, but I would bet dark meat would add extra flavor.
  • 1 cup red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed
  • 3-4 tbsp. sweet chili sauce (more for more heat, less for less)
  • 3/4 cup loosely packed Italian or Thai basil leaves + more for garnish
       
  • coconut milk, basil and/or cilantro for garnish
         
Ingredients:
Coconut Rice
  • 1 (14 fl.oz.) can coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
    
Cooking Directions:
  1. In a medium, thick-bottomed sauce pan, combine coconut milk, water, sugar and salt. Stir until sugar is dissolved, then stir in rice. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Cover, reduce heat to low and simmer 18-20 minutes until rice is tender.
          
  2. While the rice is cooking, shake the second can of coconut milk or stir it well, to create a consistent thickness (the fat often rises to the top of the can.)
         
  3. In a large sauce pan (or wok, if you have it - I don't) over medium heat, simmer 1/2 cup of coconut milk until reduced by half (roughly 3-5 minutes.) It will get very thick and shiny and may or may not separate. Either is OK.
      
  4. Add the curry paste. Whisk well and cook, continuing to whisk, for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, sugar, fish sauce and remaining coconut milk. Increase heat to medium-high and bring sauce to a simmer.
      
  5. Add the chicken, green beans and lemongrass. Continue to simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary to prevent scorching. After 2 minutes, add the peppers, snap peas and sweet chili sauce. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender and the chicken is cooked through, another 3-4 minutes.
      
  6. Remove the curry from heat. Add basil, and season to taste with more fish sauce and/or sugar as you like (I didn't add any extra, but you might want it.) Remove the lemongrass pieces (or, if you're the kind of superb host I am, tell your guests to eat around them. Crybabies.)
      
  7. Transfer the rice to a deep bowl or plate with sides. Serve the curry over the rice, and garnish with a drizzle of coconut milk, chopped cilantro and basil leaves. Tuck in.
   
I wish I could take total credit for developing this all by my lonesome but I can't. I have the create-your-own recipe maker on FineCooking.com to thank, for the basic recipe at least. It's a handy little tool that you can use to create your own customized curry recipe(s), designed to suit your exact tastes and preferences. And then, of course, I added my own "flair" to make it truly mine.

So the next time you're suffering from crazy-bad Thai cravings, give this recipe a whirl. It's crazy-delicious and will save you a bundle in delivery fees.

NOTES | ONE-POT-WONDER (in that the curry is made all in one pot), EASY

15 May 2014

Return of the Ring

Last year around this time we took an exciting trip out west, where the Boy and his volleyball team won the National championships, and I smashed my engagement ring basically to smithereens.



It was not awesome.

Actually, what it was, was kind of a miracle. About an hour after their big win, which had been played in an ice rink converted for the tournament, we were outside the sports complex celebrating and I happened to catch on my sweater. I looked down and you know what I saw? NOT my engagement stone.

My ring was empty. Broken, and empty.

Of course I immediately burst into tears. The Boy rallied his team and they raced inside to help me look. I assumed it was a lost cause - it was a tiny stone in comparison to the huge, huge sports complex, and I had no idea when or where the stone had fallen out - but we couldn't NOT look. I was more than a little heartbroken.

We went back to rink and began what we thought would be a fruitless search, and then what do you know? In the shadows under the bleachers, after a hundred people or so had trampled over it and kicked it here, there and everywhere, was my stone. Miracle, right? I know. And then I kept crying, but from relief.

Anyway, fast forward nearly a year and I STILL hadn't gotten my ring fixed. It's not as cheap as you might think to reset a stone and completely rebuild and reshape a band. But with the anniversary of its destruction coming up and on the brink of another trip out west, I thought it was time (really I just missed wearing it.) I bit the bullet, and got'er fixed. Finally.





Too many photos of a ring set? Who cares. Isn't it pretty??

The bevel on my stone is still scuffed and scarred and worn from years of banging it around, which I kind of love, honestly, but the band is thick and sturdy and brand spanking new. It's so weird feeling the weight of it on my hand again, but a good weird, you know? I really did miss it. It feels good to be properly married again :)
   

13 May 2014

Foodie Tuesday | "Lightened Up" Meat Sauce

The easiest meat sauce you'll seriously ever make, EVER, and it's awesome on everything: pasta, spaghetti squash, on its OWN in a big-ass bowl.

Make it. You won't regret it.



"LIGHTENED UP" MEAT SAUCE
Preparation: 15 minutes | Cooking Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes | Serves: 6
     
Ingredients:
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, finely diced (roughly 2 cups)
  • 1 large red pepper, small diced
  • 1 large yellow pepper, small diced
  • 6 thin carrots, finely diced (roughly 2 cups)
  • 2 lbs. lean ground turkey (or mix it up, and use 1 lb. turkey and 1 lb. chicken. As you like it.)
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne powder
  • 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed chili flakes
  • 1 tsp. granulated sugar
  • 10 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 1 (28 fl.oz.) can crushed tomatoes
         
Cooking Directions:
  1. In a large, thick-bottomed soup pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté onions and garlic until the onion begins to turn translucent.
      
  2. Add carrots to the pot and cook for 3 minutes, then add peppers and cook another minute still.
      
  3. To the pot add the ground turkey (and/or chicken) and all the spices from garlic powder through Tabasco sauce. Cook thoroughly, stirring frequently to break the meat down into small crumble.
      
  4. When the meat is thoroughly cooked (no longer pink at all), add the can of tomatoes. Stir well to combine. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and let simmer 20-30 minutes (depending on how well you want the flavours to blend, and how hungry you), stirring occasionally. Serve and enjoy!

I know some of you read my opening sentence and went: Spaghetti squash? Is she freaking kidding me? That's disgusting. But it's not, on my honour. It's crazy-healthy for you, light AND delicious. Trust, friends. I wouldn't steer you wrong.

NOTES | ONE-POT-WONDER, GLUTEN FREE, PALEO "LITE", EASY, FREEZER-FRIENDLY
 

{gently adapted from this recipe at PaleOMG}

11 May 2014

Happy Wonder Woman Day!



Dear Mom's everywhere:

HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!

You (yes, you!)- you're awesome.
 
 
image via the amazing SatrunTwins   

09 May 2014

Fireplace Fix-Up | Black Beauty

Ever since I can remember I've dreamt of having a fireplace in my house. When we were shopping for our first house, I refused - categorically refused - to entertain any property that didn't have a fireplace. So naturally, the house we purchased didn't have one.

That's OK, I said. The next house, I said. The next house will DEFINITELY have a fireplace, or seriously I'm not moving there.

Can you see where I'm going with this?

Anyway, with our third house we finally nailed it: the place had a fireplace. But it was only a little nail, because man, that fireplace was ugly.

"U" "G" "L" "Y" -ugly.



OK, it's not tacky or horribly disfigured. It's not a monster. But it wasn't the fireplace of my dreams, so it was crap. And it was crying out for help.

In our old place we had painted the side of a cupboard with chalkboard paint to cover up some test splotches I had painted the year before. It was a quick-fix solution to an awkward problem, but it turned out not only was it practical, it was pretty nice too. I actually really liked the colour, and when we got here I knew it would be the perfect perk-up for my sad little mantel.



Side note: I'm starting to feel a little bit like a Rust-Oleum spokesperson. Like, am I getting paid for this? No. Should I be? CAN I be? Hey, Rust-Oleum, have your people call my people (OK, me) and let's talk!

After just the first coat, I knew I was on to something.



The second coat cemented it: the mantel was going to look great. For just $2.30 (1/10th of a can of $23 paint), the whole room was being transformed.



While we were in the painting mood, we figured we might as well get the whole room done. The fireplace was looking great but that yellow room? Still sucked, and was completely harshing my freshly painted mellow. So out came the white paint along with the black, and wound up with a little bit of magic that looks like this.



Ah, paint, how I love thee. And my new fireplace? I love even more. Look again.



I'm toying with the idea of tricking it out a bit more by tiling the recessed part around the firebox, and maybe painting the inside of the box itself so it doesn't stand as much. I haven't decided. For now, I'm pretty happy with it just the way it is.
   

07 May 2014

DIY Copper Pipe Candelabra

You might remember a few weeks back, I shared my experience at the Home Depot 2014 Spring Preview. It was lovely, of course, and for those who attended the good folks at HD put together a little gift box of crafting items for all the bloggers to get their DIY on.

I had thought originally that we were all going to create our craft there at the party, kindergarten-style, but no. It was a take-home project. I was a smidge disappointed at the time but turns out it was just as well, considering what happened later on when I finally decided to take a crack at it.

Behold, the DIY Copper Pipe Candelabra!



Most of you know I'm not a very crafty person and even I found this easy to do, and oh-so-cute. There are a few tricks, but nothing you can't handle.

Want to make one for yourself? Here's how:

STEP ONE | The Box



It's unlikely that your materials will come in a cute little box like this, but if you have one that's similar (or care to pick one up at your local HD), it's a great place to store your crafting equipment. The "step" is basically to corral your supplies all in one place.

STEP TWO | The Tools



The materials you'll need to complete this project are the following:
  • 1 pair latex gloves
  • 1 canister of super glue (brand of your choice)
  • 8-20 pieces of 1/2" copper piping, cut into various lengths
    (Most HD stores sell 1/2" [and other sizes] copper piping in 8-foot lengths. Associates will cut the piping upon request, at a small price per cut, or you can do it at home if you have the tools. Be sure to cut a few pieces of roughly the same length - try to cut them in pairs, if you can. Just makes construction a little easier.)
  • 4-8 male "L" joints, 1/2" copper
  • 4-8 female "L" joints, 1/2" copper
  • 4-8 semi-"L" joints (45-degree angle), 1/2" copper
  • 2-4 "T" joints, 1/2" copper
  • 2-4 female ends, 1/2" copper
    (You only see one above, between the "T"s and the "L"s, which is just one reason why the "incident" occurred. More on that later.)
  • 1 sharpie marker
  • 2-4 white taper candles
 
STEP THREE | The Arrangement



This is the fun, creative part, when you get to fiddle around with your copper pieces to create a look you like. Use the "L" brackets to create a base then fit the "T"s in where you please. The "T"s form the base of the actual "abra" (arms) so depending on whether you want a one, two, three, four or more light candle holder will determine how many "T"s you need and how you fit them together with the base.

Fool around, experiment. Put it together and take it apart again until you settle on a shape and size that you feel like is perfect. Then move on to Step Four.

STEP FOUR | The Glue



Deconstruct your candelabra and carefully set aside each piece so you know which connects to what and where. It's a good idea at this stage to mark each piece with your Sharpie, so you know exactly how to put your candelabra together again, when it really counts (ie. when you've applied the glue.)

Put your gloves on and follow the instructions for opening your bottle of super glue. Working carefully and from the base up, apply glue to the interior of each piece into which another piece will be slotted.

This is important: If you apply glue to the outside of a piece that is going to be inserted into another piece, the fit is so snug between the copper that you'll only scrape the glue off the surface to create a glue-ring around the junction. Basically, you'll disfigure the joints of your candelabra and unless that kind of bubbly, uneven joint finish is what you're looking for, it's best avoided by lining the inside of each piece with glue rather than the outside.

Also, super glue is what super glue is: SUPER. You have roughly 0.3 seconds to insert and adjust each piece to the proper fit before the glue sets, and once it's done, it's DONE. You're stuck with it. Which is why it's important to mark your pieces and ensure you know where everything needs to go and with what.

ANTI-STEP | Because This.



Rats.

This is the "incident" - I did NOT mark my pieces and assumed I had set them aside in the corresponding order in which they went together. Sadly, no.

I was able to complete the project with the pipe cuts I have leftover, but the snafu with the base plus the fact that I needed a second end, necessitated a quick trip to the Depot. I think I'm probably the only blogger alive whose free craft cost her $10.34 out of pocket.

ANTI-STEP | Do-Over!



Total do-over. But actually it worked out to my benefit, because I wound up liking this shape much better. So that's a silver lining, I guess.

STEP FIVE | Finishing Up




How you finish your copper pipe candelabra is up to you. In my case, I soaked off all the little white tags for a smooth finish (you could paint over them if you like, or you could remove them before you start gluing; chacun a son gout), then spray painted the whole thing with two thin coats of gold metallic paint. I wasn't going for full coverage but just enough to dull the bright copper colour, and to create a base for the paint I would apply by brush.

Once the spray paint had dried, I applied four light coats of Rust-Oleum's Metallic Accents "Gold" (the same paint I used on Steve.) There are several different shades of gold I've used in the living room, but my decorating philosophy is that as long as there are two or more pieces of every colour, it looks cohesive rather than random. I could be off my nut entirely, but hey. It's my living room.



I'm really super-pleased with the end result. It's cute but not obnoxiously so, simple and unique, and I made it with my own two hands. It's also got a cool industrial vibe that I like but the gold makes it glam (and fits right in with the rest of the room.) I'm actually considering doing another one (different shape, same colour) for the opposite side of the mantel!

How do you feel about a DIY copper pipe candelabra? Would you ever make one?

PS- That little piece of rock beside it? Is the petrified wood we brought home from Arizona. Gorgeous, isn't it?
   

06 May 2014

Foodie Tuesday | Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Best. Cookies. EVER.



OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES
Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: 12 minutes | Makes: roughly 36 cookies
      
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup salted butter, melted (liquefied)
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp. salt (if using unsalted butter, increase salt to 1/2 tsp.)
  • 3 cups quick-cooking oats
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
 
Cooking Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
      
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in vanilla.
      
  3. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and fold in sugar mixture until just blended.
       
  4. Mix in the oats, pecans and chocolate chips.
    You want to avoid over-stirring, because then your cookies will be flat, but you will have to stir a significant amount. You are your own best judge. You will look at all those oats and say to yourself, There is no way those oats are going to get absorbed into that mix. But they will; take my word for it. You just need a few minutes of intense dedication, and biceps like Jean-Claude Van Damme's. No biggie.
          
  5. Lightly spray cookie sheets with cooking spray, then drop evenly spaced (table)spoonfuls of dough onto the sheets.
          
  6. Bake for 12 minutes, then remove from oven (they will not look cooked and you will probably say - out loud, if you're me - "These don't looked cooked!" but don't worry, they are.) Allow to cool 5 minutes before transferring to cooling racks.
        
      
Here is a pre-baked photo, so you can get an idea of how big the dough balls should be.



Use this is as a general guideline. If you want to make your cookies larger or smaller, feel free to do so. Just watch them while cooking and experiment with baking times (one gigantor cookie will not require the same cooking time as 12 small ones. Obviously.)

Also, allergies are top of mind for many these days so if that's a consideration for you, these cookies are just as good without the pecans. Or, if you just hate pecans, consider replacing them with walnuts, hazelnuts or whatever nut you prefer.

I have no idea if these cookies are freezer friendly because honestly, they don't hang around long enough for us to find out. If you've got the self-control to put them aside, you'll have to let me know!

NOTES | EASY, KID-FRIENDLY (OBVIOUSLY)