Archive | February, 2013

Kale salad with butternut squash and almonds | Recipe of the week

8 Feb

I realized this week that’s it’s February and I haven’t been taking enough advantage of some of the two best things about winter: winter greens and winter squashes. I found this recipe for a salad with butternut squash, cranberry beans, and broccoli raab (a veggie I discovered through Happy Boy Farms at the Noe Valley Farmers Market — and LOVED). Unfortunately, after going to two different supermarkets, I couldn’t find either cranberry beans or broccoli raab, and I had already bought squash and kale (as a backup to the raab). So, plan B: Google search for “butternut squash kale salad.”

Kale, butternut squash, and almond salad

I turned up this tasty-looking recipe for kale salad with butternut squash and almonds, from Bon Appetit, and last night, Dave and I made it with some thick-cut, bone-in pork chops and homemade improvised apple sauce (Dave intended for them to be cooked apples, but then he decided to mush them up).

The recipe was really easy and really, really tasty. By far, the most labor-intensive part was cubing the squash, which is something that I’ve never learned how to do efficiently. Google, again, to the rescue. I followed Simplyrecipes’ great instructions on how to peel and cut a butternut squash, and got semi-uniform (I’m still working on my knife skills) cubes to roast. This recipe would probably also be good with yams or sweet potatoes, if you’re in more of a hurry and don’t want to hassle with the squash (there’s always the TJ’s pre-cut squash, too).

Kale and butternut squash salad with pork chop and homemade applesauce

Additional resources:

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Spatchcocked lemon chicken | Recipe of the week

6 Feb

This was a recipe of the week a few weeks ago, but I just finally grabbed a bunch of photos off our camera. So here’s our spatchcocked lemon chicken. I love making roast chicken, but I was kind of getting bored with my standard recipe (and the standard variations). Always tasty, always virtually the same. Martha Stewart Living to the rescue! (BTW, Pilar Guzman is doing an awesome job as editor of that magazine. After canceling my sub in a huff a few years ago, I resubscribed. Although the depth of the coverage from before isn’t there, the fun is back, the fussiness is gone, and I want to cook and make several things in every issue!)

This recipe, from Lucinda Scala Quinn, is AWESOME. Roast chicken can get kind of boring. This is not. The lemon slices, wedged under the skin and underneath the bird, add such a bright, sunny flavor to the chicken — which is great for the middle of winter — and probably even bring some often much-needed moistness to the breasts. And spatchcocking means that you don’t have to awkwardly flip the bird partway through the roasting process. Very convenient.

Dave high-fived me when we ate it. We used Meyer lemons, because we have a tree full of them, but I kept the quantity of lemons about the same as in the recipe.

Spatchcocked lemon chicken

I would make this again and again and again and again. Scala Quinn, because she is a genius and highly practical, even has a recipe for a soup that uses the leftovers. Er, make that two recipes.

Additional resources:

Video on how to spatchcock a chicken.

Recipe: Roast spatchcocked lemon chicken, Martha Stewart Living.

Operation paint chip: Bring in some color, banish the beige

5 Feb

Outside, our house is white with black trim. Inside, our house is pretty much the same. Our floor is really dark brown, nearly every wall is a different shade of off-white, and the one color we had on the walls was yellow: a pale yellow in the master bedroom, a strong mustard in the dining room (that, coincidentally, worked perfectly with a rug I had and the upholstery on our dining room chairs), and a yellowish cream in the powder room downstairs.

All this off-white and brown has been driving me insane.

I had grand visions of painting (at least some of) the rooms myself, but when we found out our neighbor Brian is a professional painter, Dave said SIGN US UP! So we did. We tested swatches today (Tuesday), and we should have three rooms painted by the end of day Thursday. My husband is a smart, smart man.

Here’s what we have lined up so far:

Kitchen: celery green (Benjamin Moore Potpourri green)

Master bedroom: Some sort of tan to match the marble (limestone? I should know this) in the fireplace and in the rug

Nursery: Pale bluish gray to go with our navy and hot pink color scheme (which coordinates with Michael Miller’s Out to Sea fabric in the Deep Sea Jewel colors on the right, below).

Out to Sea by Michael Miller fabrics

I’ll post photos and update the links as we go.

The un-beige-ing of our house: Part 1, the kitchen

5 Feb

I love our town. Part of why I love our town is that our neighbors are super awesome. From the asbestos lawyer next door who saw us putting up Halloween decorations and immediately came over to offer us his ladder to the two — TWO — neighbors who brought us homemade wine (a benefit of living minutes away from wine country) as welcome to the neighborhood gifts, if we had any doubt in our mind about whether we should move to Petaluma or stay in the city (or closer to the city), our neighbors immediately reassured us that we made the right call. Small towns, FTW!

So as we thought more and more about painting the interior of our house, we remembered that Brian, our neighbor directly across the street, is a professional painter. A few emails later, he’s got a super short commute to a quickie job during his slow season and we get a pro to paint our house in three days instead of taking three weeks to try to do it ourselves.

First up, the kitchen. Our kitchen is gigantic and open, we love to cook, we love to entertain, and we love hanging out with our friends and family in that room. It’s a key room in the house. In fact, most days when I work from home, I barely leave the kitchen (this may be a holdover from living in a tiny apartment for so long).

So, to catch you up, here’s what it looked like before we moved in. Pretty, cozy, classy.

Our kitchen, before we moved in

I forgot to take a “before” picture of what we did with the room, but here’s an idea of what it looked like after we moved in. Off-white walls, all-dark wood furniture, even a dark-brown dog who often lies on the floor. Kind of lifeless, except for our cheery rug, which was literally the one spot of color in the otherwise brown and off-white room. (Even our super-cool salt and pepper shakers, a wedding gift, are dark brown.)

Dave and Dean pretend to eat the Thanksgiving turkey in the kitchen.

So I started looking for inspiration. Here are a few of the kitchens I liked. Do you see a trend?

Kitchen inspiration

Red chairs, bright walls, retro vibe, celery green/robin’s egg blue/red color scheme. Done. When I showed Brian the color chip I was considering for the walls, he winced a bit and warned us that greens with a lot of yellow can look REALLY BRIGHT in a room. Wanting to see for myself, I chose that one and one with more blue and we tried them out.

Result: terrible. The celery green looked fluorescent (bad, especially because it needs to blend in with a pale but warm “latte” kind of color) and the bluer green looked too minty fresh and didn’t match the rug or the fabric I want to use for the curtains. Oh, right. I picked out curtain fabric and forgot that I did. I should have matched it to that.

The paint with the curtain fabric

The fluorescent color matched much better than the minty green (above), but…no. How about one shade darker? Back Brian went to the paint store (I maybe made up for his lack of commute with that extra trip), for a sample of Potpourri Green. Perfect.

Here’s what it looks like with the first coat:

The kitchen, after the first coat of green paint on the walls

I love it. Thank heavens for talented (and patient) neighbors.

Sources for inspiration photos (collage created with Pixlr Express):

Coral chairs and green-blue shelving: Apartment Therapy

Green-walled kitchen with “eat” sign: Zimbio

White, open kitchen: Apartment Therapy

Green-walled, retro kitchen: Design Sponge

Operation clearinghouse: Get rid of the old (or, let’s be honest, trash), make room for the new

3 Feb

As we go through this house redecoration process, I’m vaguely following Apartment Therapy’s Home Cure. I went through this twice in my single-girl apartment in San Francisco. For a home dec newb like myself (especially at the time), it was immensely helpful in just providing a way through. I find it’s so easy for me to get lost in endless to-do lists around projects that I don’t accomplish much and I feel needlessly anxious.

Dave's Ikea Granas chairs

These chairs, from Dave’s single-guy apartment, are now on Craigslist.

One of the most helpful ideas in the Home Cure is the outbox: a place where you stick all the stuff that you either want to get rid of or are considering getting rid of. When I lived in SF, there was a Goodwill dropbox directly across from my apartment, so I’d add things to my outbox and on Sundays, I’d log it in ItsDeductible.com and lug it across the street.

Together, Dave and I are not so organized. Dave once had recycling in the back of his truck for something like 4 months, and it took me two months to take all the leftover wedding stuff (vases, etc.) to a Goodwill drop-off that was maybe 2 or 3 miles from our house.

But we have a lot of crap to get rid of. And damn it, this week I am determined to get rid of it.

  • Remove all the cardboard. As we’ve been filling up the house, buying stuff for the nursery, and just ordering everyday things, we’ve been collecting a lot of boxes. I was determined to get rid of them all before New Year’s. On Sunday night, I finally did. Our dog, Dean, did escape through the open gate while I was doing that, but after a brief moment of panic and Dave tracking him down when he saw Dean run across the street to say hi to (read: jump up on) a neighbor, he was safely returned to our house. And the cardboard is ready to be picked up.
  • My single-girl apartment Ikea Ivar chairs

    My single-girl apartment Ikea Ivar chairs

    Sell stuff on Craigslist. We have 12 extra kitchen chairs. Yes, 12 extra. Two from my single-girl apartment, four from Dave’s apartment, and six 100-year-old chairs we bought for $200 ($200! for 6 chairs! what a deal!) because we were sick of the mismatched set. I then got sick of the fact that two of the chairs fell apart when you picked them up, and, as the primary light-bulb-changer in the house, I didn’t feel comfortable standing on them. So we found six more today (for $225! what a deal!) at the Alameda Antiques fair. All are now for sale on Craigslist.

  • The 100-year-old chairs

    An improvement on the mismatched set largely because these match. But these, too, are now on Craigslist

    Donate stuff to Goodwill. We didn’t register for too many kitchen things because we each came into the marriage with full kitchen set-ups. But there were some things we wanted to upgrade: the mismatched glasses (with no good option for double old-fashioned glasses), the good pots with no lids, the mediocre pots with lids, the coffee maker that made only enough bitter coffee for us each to have one mug, the wine rack neither of us liked, etc. All that is getting entered in ItsDeductible on Tuesday and getting donated. And between getting rid of the cardboard and this, we will suddenly have a clear-ish walkway in our garage. AMAZING!

Project house redecoration on a two-month timeline

3 Feb

We were really, really lucky to buy a house in late July that’s in great condition. The only problems we’ve had are pretty minor, considering: a ridiculously unreliable and expensive to service dishwasher (it’s a Miele, and if you’re considering buying one, please talk to me about our experiences first), some track lighting designed to highlight art on the walls that we don’t have but the previous owners did, and lots of holes in the walls from the aforementioned art.

Oh, and the house was empty. After we moved everything in from our oh-so-cramped large 1BR apartment into this 3BR house, there were huge unfilled spaces. It’s something like 1800 square feet (I think…), but it feels even more spacious. To give a rough idea, the enormous master bedroom seems like it’s nearly the same size as my single-girl apartment.

But after we moved in our stuff and scoured the local antiques shops and fairs for more furniture to fill the big gaping holes, the house still didn’t feel quite like us. It still felt very much like the very nice older couple who had been living here. I made lists of projects to get to that I never got to. So much so, that at our housewarming party, a tall friend of Dave’s tied a cloth napkin to a hanging lamp that should be above our kitchen table so that he — and others — wouldn’t bump their heads on it. That was in November. We’d been living here for 4 months. Compare that to my friends Val and Jim who were in their house for about 4 days before their housewarming, and every wall was painted, every piece of art was hung, furniture was thoughtfully laid out, etc.

So, now that the baby is coming in early April and I am working part-time, it’s time to knock out some quick house upgrades before our dreams of fixing up our dream house are dashed by the realities of first-time parenthood. Here are the top-priority projects on the list:

Kitchen

  • Paint our new kitchen chairs red
  • Paint the walls
  • Make curtains for the windows
  • Center the hanging lamp above the table (and maybe replace it with one that’s more us)

Nursery

  • Paint the walls
  • Make crib sheets, changing pad cover, and curtains
  • Replace light fixture

Bedroom

  • Paint the walls
  • Get a bedframe and new bed
  • Figure out what to do with all the extra space

And here are the extra credit projects, which we may or may not get to in time for the baby to come:

My closet

  • Wallpaper the backs of the shelves
  • Paint the trim
  • Make a seat cushion for bench
  • Buy a runner for the floor

Living room

  • Paint the walls
  • Buy a new couch
  • Figure out a way to add some color

Art

  • Find lots of things to hang on the walls in our home. The couple who owned the house before us had a lot of really tasteful art. We have movie and concert posters. Time to upgrade.

I’ll post updates as we go. In the meantime, here are some photos of our house from before we bought it to give you the before shots before the before shots (plus, it’s kind of fun to see what someone else would do with your house — I’m so glad I kept these photos). See if you can guess which ones the realtor took and which ones I took…

Our kitchen, before we moved in

The kitchen was more like a den before, with a seating area and then a smaller dining table.

The kitchen, looking toward the cooking area

As you can see, there’s a lot of space to fill in the eat-in part of the kitchen, and the cooking part is pretty spacious too.

The entrance to the master bedroom

The master bedroom and kitchen were an addition, and are HUGE. This is how the previous owner had it laid out.

Master bedroom

Another view of the master bedroom.

Master bedroom

This view shows how there were something like 4 different places to sit (besides the bed) in the bedroom the way the former owner had it laid out. Pretty, but it seemed a bit excessive to us.

The nursery

Before we bought the house, the nursery was an office/guest room.