Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pasta with Spinach, Gorgonzola and Walnuts

I love pasta, plain and simple.  Its versatile, tasty and usually leads to a quick dinner.  This awesome recipe is no exception.  The sauce can be thrown together in the time it takes to boil and make the pasta.

Orecchiette with Spinach, Gorgonzola and Walnuts
adapted from Vegetarian Times

8 oz. orecchiette or other small pasta
1/2 c. lowfat milk
4 oz. gorgonzola cheese
1/2 c. walnuts, toasted and chopped
10 oz. frozen spinach, defrosted
fresh pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese for sprinkling

Cook pasta as directed

Meanwhile, heat milk over medium low heat.  Once the milk is hot, but not boiling, stir in the gorgonzola and mix until melted.  Add walnuts and spinach and stir until incorporated.  Season with pepper.  Toss with hot pasta and top with parmesan cheese.


Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Cake Nirvana

As I am sure you all have figured out I like to cook.  I can't draw worth a damn or paint a nice bowl of fruit or anything, but I can cook.  My love of cooking actually began with baking.  I don't do much baking these days because I don't like to measure, it takes too much time and cake tends to make my bottom bigger rather than smaller...  Never the less, this weekend my mom decided to host a party, which gave me the perfect opportunity to get my bake on.

As strawberries are in season here in NC, I knew I wanted to feature them in my creation.

I started with this recipe for the cake.  The only adjustment I made was to follow the advice of others and use an additional 1/2 cup of milk.  I was able to make 3 8 in round cakes.  They came out moist and absolutely perfect.

And then I made this frosting.  It was super easy to make and so delicious.  Its not overly sweet, which let the flavor of the strawberries shine through.

And speaking of those strawberries, I ran down to the Farmers Market and grabbed a freshly picked gallon of beautiful berries. Once home, I gave them a quick wash, cut 'em up, added some sugar and let them sit.

To assemble the cake, I started with a layer of cake (duh), added a blop of icing and then some strawberries. I repeated with the next layers.  The top layer was another blop of icing with some artfully arranged strawberries on top.  I swear, it was the most beautiful cake I have ever made. 
The only problem was that the damn cake was so tall, I couldn't get the lid of the cake plate on...

PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE make this cake.  I promise your efforts will be well rewarded.  And also, promise you will use real, fresh, local strawberries, cause those driven across the country strawberries are no good (sorry, California!).

Friday, May 13, 2011


As last weeks house tour showed, we got a lot of the big things done.  All rooms are painted and basically furnished.  Those project were pretty easy, partly because they were sexy projects.  You know the kinds that get you all hot and bothered just thinking about them?  Well maybe that's just me. 

Last fall, Seth and I took a little walk around the house and yard and made a list of everything we think still needs to be done to the house.
  • add more insulation to the attic  DONE!  We completed this on a nice, chilly day in January. 
  • new windows- we plan on replacing these 1 or 2 at a time as we have the funds to do so
  • new storm doors- one door was replaced late last month when Oliver went crashing through the door... but that's another story
  • light in the hallway  DONE!  We added a floor lamp and solved our problems without needed an electrician!
  • hardwood floors in the living room- we're pretty tired of cleaning red clay out of white carpet...
  • tile floors in the kitchen- Oliver has ripped up some linoleum, plus linoleum is kinda gross...
  • gut the guest bathroom- ideally, I would like new tile, a more comfortable bathtub and a pedestal sink, sigh...
  • restore the sideboard  DONE!  Seth lovingly put her back together and we gave her a good rub down with linseed oil and she's happily residing in our house
  • paint the dresser in the guest bedroom- because lime green was more fun when I was a kid
  • fix and repaint the white table in the living room- because its a super cute table, but it needs some love
  • dress up the fabric ottoman in the TV room- because I didn't know what I was doing the first time I tried to upholster it...
  • add pictures to the hallway, living room, guest bedroom  Almost done!  Just need to order one more picture and we'll get these bad boys up!
  • upgrade the bed situation in our bedroom- we built our frame 4 years ago, and it getting a little shaky and we figure a king size bed will be needed at some point
  • add a door to the garage- currently you have to walk through a fence to get through the big garage door.  We figure we can add a normal door to the back of the garage, so that we can have easier access.  Plus if we close the big garage door, the dogs can always go in the garage if it starts to rain
  • make the garage more functional- We primarily use the garage as tool storage and I would love it to function more like a little shop
  • cut down the pine trees  DONE!
  • add stepping stones and path around house- So that our guests dont have to worry so much about stepping in dog poop
  • add furniture to the pergola- because it would be nice to eat outside
  • add chairs to the firepit- because the quad chairs just aren't doing it for me
  • new mailbox- we have the nastiest, cheapest looking, unstable mail box.  Poor thing is rusted and has been driven into at least once.  And it irritates my mom- can't tell you how many times she offered to buy us a new one, but that right there is just a reason to keep it for a while long. 
  • add rainbarrels- Because its good for the planet and Greensboro tends to have major droughts in the summer
  • fancy up the mantelpiece in the TV room- so its pretty and because I like to watch the cat knock things over
  • add a headboard or something to the guest bedroom- its pretty bare up there...
  • build stone planter things around oak trees- because we cant seem to grow grass in those areas...
  • fill in the blank area in front of the fence- so it doesn't look like a wasteland...

So some biggies left and some little ones.  And there are a very few sexy projects on there, but for the most part, these projects are a bit blah, but necessary.

We don't have any order to how we plan to tackle all of this.  Each month we sit down and make a family budget (yes, we're nerds).  Included in the budget is some money for home repairs.  The money in that budget and the time of the year generally dictates what we end up doing.

You can be sure that we'll share these updates with you as they happen!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Bubba Turned 1

Oh this post is so hard to write...  Last weekend my bubba turned one.  My baby puppy is all grown up...  Well not really.  He can be one as long as he continues to snuggle with me on the couch and still needs to cower beside me every time it thunders...

But in typical silly puppy mama fashion, we did have to celebrate this momentous occasion.

First up...

Oliver has a few favorite things in this world, but his most most most favorite thing ever is to chase a tennis ball.  He will wander around the yard for hours with a tennis ball in his mouth, just begging for someone to throw the damn ball.  The hard part is his balls get gross, really gross
Just for the record that ball is actually orange and blue...  I told you, gross...  So, Oliver got a chuck-it...
Now we can throw the ball all day for him and not have to touch that nasty nasty ball.

We've also declared no more stuffed things in the house, as they tend to go from fully stuffed to this in a matter of minutes.

And for reference, that dragon is labeled indestructible...  Dog toy fail.  And of course, in the process of destroying toys, we also get to clean up plenty of this...
So no fluffy babies for Oliver this year.  Instead he got this...
A bacon and mint flavored bone.  He loves it and gets very upset whenever Matilda takes it.

And to cap off a lovely birthday, the kids all got ice cream...
They sure do love ice cream...

So ends the tail of my bubba's first birthday...

Anyone else celebrate their pets birthday's in style?

Monday, May 9, 2011

Spring Risotto

I. LOVE. RISOTTO.  It's fast, easy and delicious.  Plus its so easy to customize based on the season.  On Friday, Seth and I whipped up some spring risotto with leeks, asparagus and peas.
This is one of those recipes where measurements don't matter too much and you can add or delete ingredients as your little heart desires.

olive oil, enough to coat your pan
leek, clean it well and chop it up
garlic, a couple of cloves depending on how you're feeling
1 1/2 c. arborio rice
3/4 c. dry white wine
5-6 c. veggie stock, warmed
asparagus, cut into bite sized pieces
peas, I used frozen but you can always use fresh

Turn the stove to medium heat and coat the bottom of your pot with olive oil (you can also use butter, and I promise, I would have, but somehow we were out of butter.  I'm not sure how that happened, cause I LOVE me some butter) add your leeks and garlic and saute until soft.  Meanwhile, grab another pot, dump your broth in and heat it up until its nice and warm (just shy of boiling is perfect).

Next, dump your rice in with your leeks and garlic.  Add more olive oil (or butter) if you need to.  Saute your rice for about a minute or so.  Add your wine and stir it all together.  Once most of the liquid has been absorbed, add a ladle or two of warm stock, stir, let the rice suck up some liquid and then repeat.  Yes, this requires you to babysit your risotto a bit, but it is totally worth it.  And risotto always takes 25-30 minutes.  Perfect. 

One you have been adding stock for about 10 minutes, add your asparagus.  This will allow plenty of time for your asparagus to cook.  Keep adding and stirring and adding and stirring.  Once you get close to al dente or about 5 minutes out, add your peas.
Once you hit the 25 minute mark, check for doneness.  Your risotto should be al dente, creamy and delicious.  Add your cheese (a  handful or two of parm and another handful of swiss) and adjust your seasonings.


Monday, May 2, 2011

House Tour

I got really excited and was all ready to write a to-do list kind of post.  You know all the millions of things we still want to do to our humble abode and then it occurred to me that I may be getting a little ahead of myself.  So lets back up a step and take us a tour...

When you first enter the house, this is what you see...
This is important because to understand the layout of our house, you have to use this point as the central point.  I will work around this center point, moving to the left as we go.

So first up, the kitchen...

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this kitchen.  When we started, there was no island and it was very sad, so this became one of our very first projects.  My uncle was kind enough to supply us with that beautiful granite.  A light change and a couple coats of paint later and there you have it.  A wonderful, sunny kitchen.  And it has a pantry-
The pantry tends to be a bit messy and unorganized...  It also important to note that the other door into the house is in the kitchen.  Luckily this one is outside of the fenced in area, so you can get in without tripping over the dogs...  And yes, you read that right, we have two front doors and no back or side doors.  Just one of the fun things about living in a 60 year old house that's had at least 3 separate renovations done...

So, as we head out of the kitchen and head to the left, we come to the guest bathroom...

Small and Bright, eh?  This bathroom is still very much a work in progress.  We have grand plans to replace all the tile and bathtub, because this is what we are dealing with...
Blue tile and a really uncomfortable tub, so sad and ugly.  But we have replaced the light, added storage and put a little curtain around the sink.  It mean really, no one wants to see exposed piping...

So heading to the left again, and we get the guest bedroom...

In all honesty, other than painting and adding all those sweet Matisee prints, we haven't done anything to this room.   And luckily it doesn't need much.

So that completes the left wing of the house, back to center...

Our big blue living room.  This room is pretty awkward, but it was worse when we moved in.  See that back wall with the floating shelves?  That didn't use to be there.  And you see the spot where the purple chair is sitting?  There use to be weird columns there.  I wish I has some before pictures, but trust me when I tell you it was well worth the money we spent to drop that wall in and pull the columns out.  Quick PSA:  The columns were in place for a reason- they are load barring, as is the wall we popped in.  In order to do this without bringing down your house, you need to install a header in the attic to support the ceiling.  This isn't so hard to do, but it could have some nasty, bad side effects if done incorrectly.  I strongly recommend using a professional for this type of work...

So onwards we go...  Behind that beautiful wall, we have a hallway...
Which is brillant, cause before you could see directly into that bedroom to the left... 

And that brings us to the "man room."

I would like to say that I hate the concept of a man room, lets be honest, I don't have a lady room anywhere.  And before anyone says "well the whole house is a lady's domain" be aware that Seth has been involved with every single decision that has been made in regards to our house.  His opinion, likes and dislikes are just as important as mine and we have worked hard to create a space that we are both happy with.  Rant aside, this is also the place where all of Seth's cigars, legos, model tanks and other odd things live.  He is happy with this space and I rarely go in here.

Back to the hall way and you can see our itty bitty laundry area...
Thank God for stackables...

And turn around and you're in the master bedroom...

We tried to keep this room pretty serene and it really does feel that way...  Or maybe that's just because I like to sleep...

To the left of the bed, we have Seth's closet...
And to the left of Seth's closet, we have the master bathroom...

Side note:  I have too many products...

And for a final bit of the tour, we head all the way back into the main room to find the TV room...

This is by far the room that we spend the most amount of time in.  Ava has a cat perch in here, Tilly likes the brown chair and Oliver likes to snuggle between Seth and I on the couch.  When picking the colors for this room, we wanted to highlight the fireplace and create an nice cozy feel.  Missions accomplished. 

So, as you can see, the whole house is painted and furnished.  That was a major task.  Most of the big projects have been tackled, but we still have a number of items on our to-do list. 

Where are you on making your house a home?