Monday, May 30, 2011

Fresh Herbs

I don't know what it is about fresh herbs but if you can get some they are not hard to keep alive (they just need lots of water spread out over the week) and they make each dish all the more alive.  All the more vigorous with flavor and color.  And it doesn't hurt that they are pretty and recycle air!  We got our herbs from Bob Johnson an entrepreneur an advocate of reestablishing the downtown Wake Forest area.  If you get a chance they have an amazing Herb fest each spring.  All year long the second Friday of the month is art after hours where local artist showcase their works in different shops all through downtown.  Wake forest also has it's own local Farmer's market where you can get fresh local honey, meat, eggs, veggies, you name it!  And so much more.  It is a great little town if you get a chance to look around.  And if you like vintage shops they have some really cute ones.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Jungle of Dandelions

So often I am telling you what to do and if you are anything like me when I see someone constantly doing things I wonder do they just have everything handled?  Well this is to both assure that is not true and to show the humor that is my yard.

My husband and I had a riding lawn mower that we bought used.  I worked once and died.  We have been cautious of buying another since.  We don't like buying things new if we can help it both for the cost but for the mark up... to each their own (I was not at all well off growing up so when it can be gotten used and run as well as new, I am all for it).  But unfortunately for our neighbors (who are very sweet) it took till now for us to come to a decision about what to do... and so our yard is a jungle of dandelions.  So now it is off to cutting the jungle...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bread: fresh ground whole grain wheat

I am a bread fiend.  I love bread in almost every form.  I went on a raw diet for 2 weeks to do a detox and 

I still keep a high raw fruit and veggie intake but during those two weeks the one thing I really really desperately  missed was bread

That said I like to make my own bread.  I get it fresh and can make it with all different ingredients in it (like fresh parsley and aged cheddar or Garlic and Basil).  It really isn't hard or time consuming.  I make fresh ground whole wheat from my local grain mill (The Grain  Mill at Wake Forest).  This particular recipie calls for something like 7 cups of wheat, .25 cup of gluten, 2 Tablespoons of yeast and I wanna say something 
like a teaspoon of salt and 3 or 4 cups of warm water.  You mix all the dry and then the water.  make sure it is all mixed in but no need to kneed.  Let it sit till it doubles (30-60min) then you refrigerate and it makes about 3 decent size loafs.  

Like I said before I like to make mine different each time so I add different ingredients.

Then 450 on a baking stone (if you have one) for 30-35 (if you don't have a baking stone then it will be a little longer.

Let it rest for a few minutes and then you get great bread!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Passion for clean dishes

I am the youngest of 5 kids.  That leads to a busy and full house as a child.  My mom managed her household duties by using the important method of delegation.  Unlike a lot of delegation methods I have seen my mom chose one chore for each kid and it didn't change but possibly once a year.  My chore (I started my apprenticeship at 6) was dishes.  You would think after so many years of washing them that I would hate dishes. . .well to a degree I do.  I hate dirty dishes.  I hate hate hate dirty dishes.  As I said before, to you or at least someone else, I prefer to hand wash dishes.  Then I can clean and put away dishes one at a time so that it never builds up either dirty or clean.  I hate a pile of dirty dishes!  I hate a pile of clean dishes!  I don't like piles of any kind really.  My goal with all cleaning is to leave you pile-less.  Who wants to have a "laundry day"?  I don't know that many people want to devote a day or more than one day to doing laundry or any chore for that matter. Small steps:  when you finish breakfast, instead of moving on to the next task take the 2 minutes and wash those 3-7 dishes you might have, then you are done.  There are no dishes in the sink waiting no one more item on a to do list that is longer than you could ever accomplish let alone in one day!

(This is at my parents house)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Cooking and Clean up: simple and fun

Prelude: We love to cook.  Or better put: fool around in the kitchen because we rarely follow recipes.  That's the great thing about cooking.  Baking however tends to need at least a base recipe.

For our date night tonight my husband, Chris, and I decided we wanted to copy an amazing chef's pasta (Freddy from Bruno Steaks and Seafood): Roasted tomato, white wine, chicken and spinach pasta!

Here is a picture of some of the ingredients we used: Gemilli pasta, fresh stone ground wheat from our local wheat shop (The Grain Mill of Wake Forest), Chardonnay, butter and tomatoes (Roma)

To get nicely roasted tomatoes:  Cut the tomatoes in half long ways.  Scoop out the seeds and goop.  Turn up side down on a cookie sheet.  Drizzle balsamic vinegar, olive oil. salt, pepper, and garlic (fresh is best but as you can see i used powdered).

 All the ingredients you need for a fantastic sauce:  White wine (we used Chardonnay), salt pepper, chicken stock, butter, parsley, basil, heavy whipping cream, and stone ground flour.
 Finely chop the herbs (if fresh)
 Put about a half bottle of white wine in a saute pan.  Let it reduce for about 20 min (until about half gone).  Add the warm chicken broth (the picture below is after the chicken broth has been added)
 Freshly and finely chopped onion 

Chicken sautee'ing in olive oil and the fresh herbs while the butter melts for a basic rue sauce

Butter melted add some flour

It will look like this when you have enough flour

At that point add cream (or milk) slowly but immediately, stir continuously
 This is what it will look like after the cream has been put in
 Add the white wine/chicken broth to the creamy rue
 Add the freshly cut herbs to the rue 
 Add the finely cut onion to the rue
 The roasted tomatoes will be done after about 30-35 minutes at 450
 Pull them off the cookie sheet and chop them up into  small bite size pieces
 Sautee' some spinach in olive oil and salt and pepper
 Chicken finishing up and not over done (started at a low temp and moved it up to just under medium to get a nice carmelization on the outside)
 Chop the chicken up into bite size pieces
 Add the chicken, tomatoes and spinach to the rue
 Working for years in the restaurant industry we like to make the table up.  Makes it feel like an evening out without the price tag
 Got to have a fancy napkin fold: super easy!  (it can be done in 4 steps)
 The dish complete and ready to eat!  We put a portion controlled amount of pasta and dip out the sauce and toppings to match
 For and added touch you can grate some Parmesan cheese on top (though not needed).  Our cheese was a gift from a close friend, it is aged 6 years and you only need a tiny bit to add a whole lot of flavor!  Thanks Joey!
 Completed table just before we sit down to eat.  As long as you don't use an over powering white wine you can also drink it with the meal (or a similar wine with the meal).  We used Stonebarn.

 While cooking my rule is to do as many dishes during the process as possible.  The picture below is all the dishes I did while cooking (I was slack this evening... busy day)

 Immediately after dinner I prefer to go ahead and get started one the dishes.  Not everyone is the same.  I find it less overwhelming to just go ahead and get them done (and I find them less hard to clean ;D), Chris is very helpful if I fall behind from my desires and get overwhelmed.  My husband, Chris, is really helpful (we usually try to flirt a little while doing chores... make it more enjoyable and playful) when it comes to house work.  Asking for help isn't a weakness.  Being rescued (needed or not) is nice. . . at least every once in a while.
 Stubborn dish?  I will try and scrub it but if it isn't coming clean: hot water, dish soap and 20-60 min and presto. . . well there is still some scrubbing but a lot easier.  Though not good to cook with I use Crisco to spear my dishes so that things don't stick.  I would suggest Silpats but I only have one so have to find other ways.
 After less than 7 min of direct attention the dishes are done, not put away but done.  You may ask why I hand wash. . . legitimate question.  I don't like.  No, I hate putting dishes away out of a dish washer.  Call me crazy, for I am, but I feel like I am done with them when I put them in and thus don't want to mess with them further.  Then dishes just sit in the dishwasher and then dishes start to pile up. . . not a fan of dirty dishes but then again who is.  My solution: hand wash.  Now I do have the benefit of only having two people but I would suggest it makes you more conscientious of how many dishes you use.
Wiping the counter is the last step.  When you get up in the morning to do your routine, if you are any thing like me, the last thing you want to see is a dirty counter reminding you of all the things you failed to do the day before!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The avalanche has fallen, what now?

You walk into your home after a long day.  Go about your regular/day-to-day tasks.  Turning your head away as you try not to wince at the disarray that has become that closet, pantry, you name it.  Some days you say: I will do that! tomorrow.  Slowly it builds till the task of taking it down is just to overwhelming.

You see blogs about maintaining your home... maintaining this?

I am here to help.  I love organization for those who aren't organized.  You can do it.  It can be fixed.  It can be neat.  It can be easy to find.  It can be useful.

Do people call you a "pack rat"?  To a degree you can keep memorabilia, if you desire, and keep a neat, orderly and clean house.  No, I am not saying that everything in your house will stay or even stay in the same place in your home.  This is not "10 quick and easy steps to a perfect house".

No, this is a help, aid , advice to a lifestyle change that is easier than you would imagine.

This is to help those who are overwhelmed and for those who just need encouraging tips on how to keep up with the stuff that seems to crowd our lives.