a quick note…

The Kitchenette will be down for a few days this week as she gets a facelift. (The blog, not the author – the author is way too poor for that.) Grab your recipes now, if you want them!

New everything.

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HEY GUYS. (Pretend I’m saying this with attitude, perhaps with a snappy hand gesture or two.)

So I know it’s been 6 months and all since I last wrote. And I could be all apologetic and whiny, but honestly, I hate reading those posts. And I could tell you in detail what I HAVE been doing while I’ve NOT been blogging but it all boils down to: I moved from Colorado to Virginia. From an apartment to a house. From no backyard to a garden-friendly one. And I think I might have even convinced Brad to let us get a dog to go with our picket fence (which is not white, but whatever, that’s just details.)

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I still squee when I look at my new house. It’s so sweet it practically gives me diabetes.

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The kitchen. Looks a little white to start with, but I’m painting it a bright, bright green. ‘Cause that’s how I roll.

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The backyard, where Dad and my brother and I have already installed four raised garden beds. I’m getting topsoil and compost delivered later this week, even though I know I’ll only get to grow some quick-maturing leafy greens with what’s left of the season. Having never grown anything before (not a single potted plant, people) I am slightly terrified that I’m going to find out I have the brownest thumb ever. But, I figure I can probably grow zucchini and summer squash pretty easily. And if we end up with 4 raised beds’ worth of zucchini each summer and that’s it, well at least I will have a lot of zucchini bread, right?

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There’s been lots of cooking going on in the new house, although I’ve fallen back on some of the old favorites rather than trying many new ones. But after what seems like the LONGEST SUMMER EVER, what with the hot Colorado sun and then the stifling Virginia heat, I’m so desperate for fall I’m about to rent a snow machine and spray paint my trees yellow. I’m pushing the fall season like Wal-mart pushes Halloween candy in August, and making butternut squash lasagna and roasted potatoes instead of hanging onto the last few days of summer with marinated tomato salads and such.

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I found this recipe on that time-suck-to-which-no-other-compares, Pinterest. It was so pretty I just HAD to try it. I added a pinch of paprika for extra flavor, but next time (and there WILL be a next time) I’m thinking of infusing the butter with roasted garlic first. The shallot just wasn’t enough for me in this instance, although the texture of the dish was SPOT FREAKING ON. Extra crisp top and smooth creamy slices of potato that fall apart on the plate. A dish made perfect with those last potatoes of the summer, especially on the first cold night of fall. (Or so I would imagine, considering it’s still 75 degrees here at night.)

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Crispy Potato Roast

Adapted from Martha Stewart
Serves 6

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Martha says there’s only 25 minutes of prep time for this recipe. Martha is full of lies. (But it’s totally worth it.)

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Gather:
3 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds potatoes, peeled
4 shallots, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
a pinch paprika
a few springs of thyme, and

a mandoline or a sharp knife

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Prepare:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Slice the potatoes on thinnest setting of a mandoline or as thin as you can with a knife. (The thinner the potatoes, the crispier they will bake up.) You can prevent them from browning by putting them in a bowl of water as you slice.

Combine the butter and olive oil in a small bowl. Brush the olive oil mixture on the inside of a cast iron skillet or other heavy baking dish. Arrange the potato slices in the skillet as you like. Wedge slices of shallot between slices of potato. Sprinkle with salt, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of paprika. Bake for 75 minutes. Arrange a few sprigs of thyme on top of the potatoes and bake for another 35 minutes, or until the potatoes are crispy on top. Serve.

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Fitz & the Tantrums / Don’t Gotta Work It Out

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Musings over Pollan’s Food Rules

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Since I’ve been cooking for myself, I’ve been pretty healthy in what I consume on a daily basis. And then I started this blog, and I started to learn about sustainable food production, eating organically, and the importance of eating local when you can. On average, I consume a whole lot more beans and lentils and whole grains during the week than I do pork, chicken, or beef.

But even though I’m usually bathing in whole grains and leafy greens and vats of golden olive oil, I do have a soft spot for some processed foods. Most notably, candy. I have a bad habit of eating candy while I read books at night. (Most recently, it was those damn pretzel M&Ms and Cassandra Clare’s new tome.) Of course, you don’t see much of that as my readers, because I’ve never thought that “pick up a bag of candy and eat with wild abandon” really counted as a “recipe” worthy of posting on this blog.

So for the new year (I’m talking about 2011, I know no one talks about New Years resolutions past… January 3rd) I decided to give up processed foods entirely. My “rules” stemmed mostly from Michael Pollan’s book “Food Rules.” Some of the rules that stuck with me were:

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Eat nothing your grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.

Eat nothing with unrecognizable ingredients.

If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.

Eat only foods that will eventually rot.

Eat only junk food that you prepare yourself.

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Pollan has many other mind-blowing bits of info in the book, well worth the $6.00 I spent on my copy at the used bookstore. These were just my favorites.

To clarify, we still eat out on Friday nights. Even though my grandmother probably wouldn’t recognize my carnitas tacos with spicy poblano pesto, and I only have faith in Illegal Pete’s (but no proof) that they’re not putting high fructose corn syrup and MSG in my meal. And I’m sure the organic all-purpose flour I buy at the grocery store is made in a plant, but hopefully one day we can switch to a stone-milled version, if it’s not too expensive. We still eat desserts, but now I make all of them rather than buying them from the store.

I would be lying if I maintained that this didn’t have at least something to do with wanting to lose a little bit of weight. For those who don’t know me in person (all 2 of you reading this), you probably think I’m some svelte blond hottie, right? Well, sorry to ruin your dreams, but… I’m brunette.

Although I’m also trying to be healthier with what I stuff my face with currently (you know, before I revert back to subsisting entirely off of chocolate-dipped shortbread for all meals), my decision to cut out as much processed food as I can is born from a lot of reasons, most of which boil down to: I put a lot of work into not using commercial chemicals in my house, whether it be in my shampoo, or in my laundry detergent. And of course, there’s the aforementioned diet of mostly whole grains and hearty vegetables. So if I’ve been through all those fights, why wouldn’t I want to finish the battle?

This doesn’t mean anything is changing on the blog, of course. I still cook the same way with the same type of recipes. But it was on my mind today, so I thought I’d share.

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The Radio Dept – On Your Side

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The Black Hole of Going Home

So yeah.

That was sort of an unexpected month off from blogging. I fell into a black hole of sorts.

Mostly unintentional. I had grand plans of blogging everything I made in my mother’s kitchen, delightful round-up post on my trips to visit friends, random posts of my family and friends.

But those damn family and friends. THEY SUCK ME IN. I pretty much reveled in their presence for a good 3 weeks, almost forgetting I even had a life in Denver, much less a blog about food.

We did make some pretty delicious food, my mother and I, some of which I’ll make again just to post here (it was that good). And then I’ll show you the FREAKING AMAZING homemade sausage that Brad, Amy and Nathan (my sister-in-law and brother-in-law) and I made from Ruhlman’s Charcuterie. (It was in.sane. That’s all I can say.)

In the meantime, here is what a black hole of family and friends looks like…

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I’ve got a few things to share with you, so get excited for some new recipes soon!

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Bottled Pecan Brown Ale / NaBloPoMo Victory Dance

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Our first batch of Pecan Brown Ale was a success! It’s in its last stage of fermentation, in the bottle. We can’t drink it for another 2 weeks, but we tasted it when we bottled it on Saturday, and it was delicious! Not bitter at all, the taste of pecans lingering in the background. Plus, it’s freaking DARK, darker than a stout almost. But delicious, none the less, even when it’s not carbonated!

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On another note, you might have noticed that I’ve been blogging quite frequently during the month of November. It’s because I personally challenged myself to complete NaBloPoMo, which stands for National Blog Posting Month. It’s a month-long challenge in which you blog every day. And I finished! I blogged every day for the entire month of November. (Are you impressed? I was.) I didn’t say anything about it on the blog… I guess just in case I bit the big one and forget halfway through the month. I did it for a lot of reasons… because I wanted to make sure I still liked this whole blogging thing after 18 months (I do) and I wanted to develop my voice (I think I did) and mostly, I just wanted to see if I could do it. (I could!) Anyways, I hope you didn’t get tired of my constant babble! I’ll be back either tomorrow or the day after (I might give myself a day off, haha) with the final stage of home brewing!

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Royal Wood / On Top of Your Love

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Martha-Stewart-Worthy Bows

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Now, as you’ve seen, I’m pretty hippie-fied, with the DIY laundry detergent and shampoo and toothpaste and all that. But you guys… I have a weakness. And that weakness is…

Packaging.

Wrapping paper, bows, stationery, little rolls of rickrack and sparkly ribbon and personalized gift tags and OMG JUST GIVE IT TO ME NOW. I WANT IT ALL.

Sorry. I can’t help it. These things kind of whip me into a frenzy.

You understand.

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Anyways, my mother, the Great and Powerful Martha Stewart Incarnate (also known as Maggie), taught me a thing or two about how to tie a bow, along with a thorough education on how southern ladies should speak to their elders and the exact reasons why Paula Deen is a terrible representation of the South. Brad even remarked the other day (while I was tying this bow) that I, and I quote, “come from a very bow-heavy family.” My father, of course, knows jack about tying bows. He is responsible for the gift tags, in our family. While my mother spends a good 10 minutes on each gift’s bow, he ponders heavily over which 8-word phrase he should write on the card in order to send the gift recipient into a massive giggle overload.

My mother asked me why I would post something like this, and my response? “It’s my blog… I can write what I want, I guess.” Plus, today is all about buying gifts for friends and family, so I figured this post might be useful to the other Martha-Stewart-Fan-Clubbers out there. Although now I realize, if you’re giving away any of those delicious canned goods this season… a cute little mini-version of this bow would top the aforementioned canned deliciousness quite adorably.

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How To Tie the Perfect Gift Bow:

1. Cut a ridiculously long piece of ribbon, and wrap cross-wise around the gift. (I start from the top, go once around the gift, then use hook the ribbon around the top of the gift, using the ribbon already there as leverage, and go the opposite way around the present. Then I come back up to the top, and tie off.) Leave a 6-inch piece of ribbon loose on either side of the knot.

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2. Cut a smaller piece of ribbon (about 8-inches or so for the bow I made) and set aside.

3. Pull away a ridiculously long piece of ribbon from the roll, but do not cut it off the roll yet. Begin making your bow. Hold the ribbon with your non-dominant hand (my left hand for me) and grasp it where you expect the “middle point” of the bow to be. If you want the bow to be larger, or smaller, will depend on where you grasp the ribbon. Loop the ribbon back over on itself, and TWIST the ribbon at the exact middle point. (The twisting of the ribbon is the reason that you will be able to manipulate your loops in the bow later.) Continue looping ribbon back onto itself, twisting the ribbon and adding to your loops until you have at least 4 on either side of your hand. (The more loops you make, the bigger and poufier your bow will be.) When you’ve got the loops you want, cut your ribbon from the roll.

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4. Use the smaller piece of ribbon from before to tie your bow at the mid point. Use this smaller piece of ribbon to tie the bow onto the present. (This part always takes a bit of finagling, but you can do it, and it doesn’t have to be pretty because no one sees the underside of the bow.)

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5. While holding the middle of the bow with one hand, take one loop of the bow with the other hand, and pull on the loop to shape the bow. Some loops should be pulled upwards for height, some out towards the edges of the gift, if you want a pretty bow. This will be easier for some ribbons and harder for others, depending on which type of ribbon you are using. As long as you’re satisfied with the way your bow looks, you’re good to go!

6. Trim any long pieces of ribbon on a slant.

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7. Commence being massively impressed with your kick-ass bow!

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Some helpful hints:

- The thinner your ribbon, the more loops you’ll need to do to make an attractive bow.
- On the gift above, I used 3 different types of ribbon. I strung them all together before Step 3, and then in Step 5, I pulled some loops apart, while some loops I left the ribbons laying on top of one another. I also, because I am a ribbon whore, used a pre-made curly ribbon that comes with an adhesive sticker; I simply cut away the sticker part, and tied it to the top of the bow I made. (Generally, I don’t go this over the top, but this was an extra-special gift for two extra-special people.)
- I also added two wooden spoons to the gift above – I tied them to the top of the gift in Step 4 before I attached the bow.
- Other great accoutrements include wee bells, or pieces of thick yarn, or whatever you please – anything that can be tied onto your bow makes a great addition.

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For the record, even though I like bows and stuff… I did not a single thing today on Black Friday. In fact, I think I was awake for a total of… 8 hours? I slept in until 11 am and then took a “nap” from 1 pm until 5 pm. I was a lump of uselessness today. And you know what? IT WAS GLORIOUS.

What did you do with your Black Friday? Did you score some amazing deals? Or did you take advantage of the Law and Order marathon on TV?

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Thanksgiving Memories


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I mentioned before that B and I had a, what’s the word, ghetto less-than-Martha-Stewart-worthy Thanksgiving a few years ago. It was the Thanksgiving of 2006, only a few months after Brad had proposed and then promptly up and moved to Denver for his job. I was still in Virginia, working to get my master’s degree and living almost entirely off of egg-and-cheese bagel sandwiches. But my parents, generous as they are, forked over $300 to fly me out to see my fiance, so that he wouldn’t be stuck eating Pop-Tarts all alone on Thanksgiving.

Brad, being the epitomical bachelor at the time, owned maybe one baking pan, which was completely crusted over with god knows what types of charred leftovers from as far back as 1978. In addition, he had not a single kitchen knife to his name, unless you count a butter knife. So, I planned a menu that would work with what we didn’t have had – a brown-sugar-and-mustard-glazed salmon, roasted honey and thyme baby carrots, roasted baby red potatoes, and a store-bought pie. Every dish I planned to make had less than 5 ingredients (take that, Claire Robinson) and required no knife or kitchen utensils to speak of.

Since Brad didn’t have a car at the time, so we paid an extra $10 to have the grocery store delivery service swing by our house with our 1 bag of groceries. It seemed as though we had most of the things we ordered… until I got to the bag of baby potatoes.

Which, as it happened, were not baby at all – instead, they were regular Yukon Golds. As in, potatoes on steroids.

Not having a single sharp utensil other than 1 dull butter knife, we were trapped… until we happened upon a pair of scissors in Brad’s junk drawer. And so I ended up cutting regular potatoes, with a pair of scissors.

For the record, cutting regular-sized potatoes with a pair of dull office scissors is a good way to FEEL like you’re going to cut off a digit accidentally – although of course, your scissors would have to be sharp for that to happen. It was like if MacGyver was cooking for 2. Only paler and with longer hair.

Anyways, since Brad only had 1 baking pan, I roasted the carrots and potatoes first, then cleared all of that off the pan, then prepared the salmon and cooked THAT, then put everything back on the the pan to warm it up again. Just remembering this makes me a wee bit thankful for my All-Clad pans that I have now.

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Of course, the moral of the story is not that our first Thanksgiving together sucked because we had a crappy meal. In fact, the food was pretty good. I should share that salmon recipe, come to think of it. The point is, even though our first Thanksgiving together was less-than-superb, it was special, because it was just the two of us. No matter how ghetto the food was.

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Happy Thanksgiving, my dear readers. I hope you had a wonderful day filled with great food, great family and friends, and great memories.

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Adventures in Home Brewing | Gang War

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I’m still getting the details straight for the home brewing post – sorry for the delay if you’re waiting anxiously by your computer! (Let’s face it, you’re not. You’re still drinking the spiced bourbon. It’s cool, we are too.)

But since it’s the holidays, I thought you all deserved an early Chrismukkah present.

(Side note: Adam Brody – the original Nerd Hot? Discuss.)

This was taken right before the boys transferred 7 gallons of hot wort to the ice bath. Let it be known that they are flashing gang signs under those oven mitts.

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Guess which one is a Blood. (Toile is the new Crips color, obviously.)

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Tennis / Marathon

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