I realize I’ve been absent nearly all summer and for that I apologize. My dad is 80 and has had a lot of health problems recently including a nearly month-long hospital stay during July. Needless to say, between my dad, kids and work, there hasn’t been much time to do anything worth blogging about. I do have things I want to share and, hopefully, I’ll find some time soon to tell you all about them. In the meantime, I was so excited to see my living room up on RetroRenovation today. This is the second time it’s been on there and today’s story is all about our beloved Green Lady. When J and I saw this painting in a little thrift store in Kentucky back in April 2010, we knew she had to be ours. Plus, at a mere $13.00, the price was right. The only hitch was that we had no place to put it in our house. Fast forward a month and we were unexpectedly putting a bid on our current 1956 modern ranch. We had unknowingly purchased the green lady to hang over our then non-existent fireplace. It was meant to be.
Go over to RetroRenovation to read the history behind this painting. As soon as I got home from Kentucky, I researched her story since neither J nor I had ever seen it before. To find out that she outsold the Mona Lisa was pretty astounding since ML is certainly more well known than GL. In the meantime, I’ll try to do a post later this week. My daughter, K, turned 16 in August (sniff!) and I want to show you the evolution of her room. She was 11 when we moved in and has definitely added her own spin to things.
I hope you’ve had a great summer! I want to go old-school and have you share your “What I Did This Summer” essay in the comments below. Okay, go! Hopefully it was better than mine! (I did get to go up to the Lake this summer for 5 days, which was lovely, so I can’t completely complain.)
Do you get extra busy this time of year? For us the arrival of Spring also brings soccer, school plays, choir performances, home improvement projects, lawn-tending, etc. I’ve been very busy and have lots of things to tell along with the apple strudel recipe I promised weeks ago.
This recipe comes from a cookbook I found at the library called “Bread Machine Magic“. I bought a used copy on Amazon and have been using it to make all kinds of things in my trusty bread machine. These look more complicated than they really are and taste amazing fresh out of the oven (although they’re quite tasty heated-up the next day). It’s a good way to use-up some over-the-hill apples and could easily be adapted to other fruits or fillings.
For the dough (follow your bread machine instructions regarding ingredient order – mine calls for wet items first with dry ingredients on top):
1/2 cup milk
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup butter (1 and a 1/2 sticks), softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsps. active dry yeast
2 tbsp. melted butter
3 cups peeled, sliced apples
1 1/2 tbsp. all purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
2 1/2 tsps. milk
Place dough ingredients in bread pan, select “dough” setting and press start.
While the dough is going, peel and slice the apples. Add flour, brown sugar and cinnamon, mixing thoroughly. Divide into fourths in the bowl and set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or silpat.
When dough has risen long enough, the machine will beep. Turn off bread machine, remove bread pan and turn out dough onto a heavily floured countertop or cutting board. Divide dough into four pieces. Drape a towel over the other three pieces to keep the dough from drying out and, with a rolling pin, roll the remaining piece of dough into a rectangle. Spread the dough with melted butter and line with 1/4 of the apple mixture. Starting from the long end, carefully roll up dough, pinch edges and ends to seal. Plan the roll seem side down on prepared pan. Shape roll into a crescent by curving ends slightly toward each other. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough/apple mixture. Cover and let rise in warm oven about 45 minutes or until doubled.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake for approx. 25-30 minutes until brown. Remove from oven and place on rack to cool.
Icing: In a small bowl, combine confectioner’s sugar and milk for the icing, adding enough milk to make the icing thin enough to drizzle on the strudel. Once the strudel has cooled, drizzle icing on top and serve.
These are a huge hit with my family and relatively easy to make.
I know I’ve extolled the virtues of my bread machine before but I seriously love that thing! It’s been well worth the $3.00! We love it so much we bought another one off Craigslist brand new, still in box, after Christmas for $30.00. I have been known to run both at the same time. For instance, the night we had the apple strudel, we also had pizza.
I realize that’s not the most healthy dinner in the world but you can plainly see the veggies on the pizza which made up for it. We’re totally well-balanced around here.
So what have you been up to? Are you busy with lots of spring activity or home improvement projects? I have lots to share with you!
Lately, J has been doing most of the cooking in our house. I have been swamped with work and not only has he had more time on his hands, he has taken this opportunity to expand his culinary skills. He has read, watched and learned an immense amount over the past six months and really stepped-up his game when it comes to cooking. Consequently, we have been the lucky recipients of some amazing meals. During our kitchen overhaul, J bought a few new knives and wants to share his findings with you. Not only has he found an economic solution, it’s a superior one at that.
J here: I ❤ Chinese chef knives. No longer shall I daydream of owning an $800+ set of German Wüsthof knives when only two or three of these babies will perform just as well or better at a tiny fraction of the cost. I only paid $41 for these three knives including a sharpening stone (+ ~$15 for shipping) and I’ve barely touched my $275 set of Anolons in weeks. No, I’m not crazy. I have my reasons:
Control – Even though they appear large and unwieldy, a little time & practice with them will prove how nimble these are. Since they are a sizable weighty hunk of metal they will do most of the work if they’re sharp enough. No need to force downward pressure on the blade because they just glide through nearly everything with little effort. It’s important to place your index finger on the side of the blade rather than holding it with a full grip like a hatchet. Watch chef Martin Yan give a tutorial and show off his sublime skillz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HV8FPk5qN9k
Safety – With a big rectangular cleaver I know where all of the knife is at all times. I’m never going to get caught by a stray tip because the knife turned. With a normal knife as I put my knuckle parallel I can’t lift the blade too high or I could cut myself but if I lift my finger too high it will be over the top of the spine. With the cleaver the sky is the limit as to how far I can lift. I raise my knuckle just above the food and I have ~4 inches of leeway before my knuckle is over or under the knife.
Value – When your knife only costs $10 it’s hard to worry too much about destroying it. Two of these knives are stainless steel which require very little maintenance. The one on the bottom is made of carbon steel which will practically rust in your kitchen when it’s raining outside (not really). Clean it immediately after using, then wipe it COMPLETELY dry. Wipe a few drops of cooking oil on it to inhibit rust. The advantage of carbon steel is how wickedly sharp it can be, while the stainless are a bit tougher to keep a super sharp edge on. if your carbon gets a little spotty just rub some Barkeeper’s Friend on it to take off the rust. Good as new. It’s very similar to cast iron cookware which is also an incredible value. If somehow I lost all my worldy possessions and had to start over, a couple Chinese chef knives and a cast iron skillet would be among the first purchases I’d make. Of course you can spend $40 or even $400 on a Chinese chef knife. If you got it flaunt it.
Bad-assedness – These things just look the business. Not only could I scare off any solicitors or Jehovah’s Witnesses answering the door with one of these in hand, but they just look so bad ass hanging in my kitchen on a magnetic strip. I also feel like I’m in a kung fu movie or something when I’m only chopping onions to feed the family.
The three knives have different functions. The thickest cleaver at the top is for heavy duty bone chopping. The middle one for cutting thicker items like pineapples and hard root vegetables. The carbon steel knife is for ultra thin slices of veggies or boneless meats.
Here’s where you can buy 2/3 of these knives and a sharpening stone.
• The thick meat cleaver I bought at a local Asian grocery store for $13 and there was only one left. You can buy a similar one here: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/meatcleaver.html
• The middle stainless knife is a Winco KC-101 I bought on Amazon for $10: http://www.amazon.com/Chinese-Cleaver-Wooden-Handle-2-Inch/dp/B003HESNR8
• The carbon steel veggie knife was purchased online from the Wok Shop in San Francisco: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/vegcleav.html
Make sure you buy the large sharpening stone too: http://wokshop.stores.yahoo.net/sharston.html
Here’s a video on how to sharpen them. Make sure you soak your whetstone first: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIycmyzrcF0
So that’s J’s take on these knives. I want you to focus on that magnetic knife strip. That’s where I come into the picture. A couple of weeks ago I was shopping with one of my BFF’s and we hit the Kitchen Collection store in an outlet. I had printed a 20% off one item coupon before I left because I knew I was going after a particular magnetic knife strip. It was marked at $13.99 online but when I got to the store, the tag was marked $11.99 and I ended-up getting it for $10.31 with the coupon and sales tax. After that we headed to a new casino that had opened a few miles away where they were giving out $15.00 in “free play”. Now, make no mistake, I am too cheap to be a real gambler but if they want to give me $15.00 to play with, I will. I managed to make $12.41 real money on my “free play”, so it paid for my knife strip with a couple of bucks to spare. As J mentioned above, all-in-all, this knife upgrade has cost us $41.00. Along with our $9.99 IKEA cutting board, we have certainly enhanced our kitchen.
What about you? How do you get the most bang for your buck in the kitchen? Any good tips to share?