Friday, December 20, 2013

Blast From The Past!: More From the Old Apartment

More pics from the old apartment! I'm sure I said before that so much of what you see here influenced my design aesthetic of today. The idea that you can take a barren old space and create something entirely new has followed me here to the church I now own. Again, I apologize for the quality of these photos. They are from over 20 years ago and digital photography was in the single digit megapixels.


We filled empty spaces with items that delineated the space. Stained glass...who knew I would wind up with so much of it now!


This is a desk made entirely out of windows. You might say we had a window fetish. We found a lot of them at an auction...something like 30 windows, and we paid $20 for them. What a bargain!!!


Another view. The one draw back to a mostly glass desk we found, that you are always dusting it.


One of the many bathrooms. Oy, cleaning them all was such a chore! Again, we used old windows as the shower doors.


Another bathroom! This one has record covers as the flooring. Many coats of polyurethane were needed so that it could be mopped.


And yet ANOTHER bathroom! This one has a painted floor and again, old windows were used for the shower doors.


Here's a beauty shot of the window desk. What you can't see in this pic is that this room was also a closet. All of the clothes are suspended from the ceiling on racks that are attached to a motorized wire system. That way, when you needed to get dressed you just lower the racks and otherwise, they are out of the way. It was a great system until one night we heard a huge bang. One of the hook systems had come out of the ceiling, and there were clothes and destruction everywhere. Yes, the window desk met it's demise that evening. It was nice while it lasted.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Soup's On! - Roasted Cauliflower & Smoked Gouda Soup

Look everyone! A new feature!!! I know I've been gone for a bit, but what better gift upon my return than to introduce a new feature? I have to preface this post with a bit of background. 

I've never made soup. Let me rephrase, I've never made soup that didn't start out by opening the can and finished with the words "Add water". I was raised on Campbell's! It's all I knew. Many years ago someone (I have no idea who) gave me an entire cookbook full of nothing but soup recipes. That book has sat on the shelf with the rest of my cookbooks for well over 20 years.

Now that I'm single again (long story, short Post-It Note!), I thought this would be a great time to attempt to dabble in the liquid food arts (Liquid food arts that didn't involve cocktails, I mean).

Being that I am following a Low-Carb lifestyle at the moment, this has meant that I need to stay away from noodle soups and anything that might incorporate dumplings of any size, shape or texture. I did some online research and found some amazing soups that I am going to try and then share with you here. Yes, the cookbook is still on the shelf. I just find that the internet has a lot more lurking out there than any book could provide me. That, and you can't Google search a book!

My first foray into the hot and bubbling liquid food arts is a Roasted Cauliflower & Smoked Gouda Soup. Granted, the recipe called for aged white cheddar cheese, but I am a huge fan of smoked gouda so I went with that. Other than that change I followed the recipe to the letter (Something, I don't usually do). I didn't want to screw this up by attempting "Flair!". You will find the recipe at the end of the post, but first, lets talk about the process and see some pictures.

Roasted Cauliflower goodness!

I have never been a huge fan of Cauliflower. I mean, any vegetable you have to cover in cheese to tolerate, can't be all that great. Roasted tho, it is amazing! For this recipe, you toss it in oil...salt and pepper it and let it roast for 30 minutes in the oven. What you get are toasted nuggets of goodness that I just wanted to eat off the pan.

You could stop right here...but you don't!

You add the roasted Cauliflower to onions, garlic, Thyme and chicken stock. That combination gets cooked for 30 more minutes until the Cauliflower is soft and then you grab your Immersion Blender and go to town! 

I had bought an Immersion Blender years ago, and it has languished in the "Special Utensil Drawer" forever. I never had a chance to use it...until now! Once you blend up the soup you then add the cheese and cook it without boiling it any longer until all the cheese is melted. What you wind up with is this...

And yes, you then add some bacon to it!
What I wound up with was an incredibly creamy and delicious soup. Till all is said and done, you don't even really taste the Cauliflower. It lends a delightful bulk to the dish which makes it quite filling.

Roasted Cauliflower & Smoked Gouda Soup

         
         Ingredients

               1        small head cauliflower- cut into florets
               2        tablespoons oil, additional oil for saute
               1        medium onion diced
               2        cloves garlic chopped
               1        teaspoon thyme chopped
               3        cups chicken stock
               11/2   cups smoked gouda cheese grated
               1        cup milk, cream or half & half
                         salt & pepper to taste

         Instructions

1.  Toss the cauliflower florets in the oil along with salt and pepper and arrange them in a single layer on a large baking sheet.
2.  Roast the cauliflower in a preheated 400 degree oven until golden brown. Approx 30 minutes.
3.  Heat oil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until tender. Approx 5-7 minutes.
4.  Add the garlic and thyme and saute until fragrant, about a minute.
5.  Add the broth, deglaze the pan, add the cauliflower, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.
6.  Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until it is of an even consistency. Reduce stove heat to insure the mixture no longer boils.
7.  Slowly add and stir in the cheese.
8.  Add the milk/cream/half & half, stirring constantly and ensuring that the soup doesn't boil or burn.
9.  Season with salt & pepper to taste. Serve, adding crispy bacon or addition cheese as garnish (or both even!) 

I hope everyone enjoys this recipe. Let me know if you try it out and what the results were in the comments section.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Hawaii In The House!

I was in Hawaii a few years ago for work, and as I was leaving I stumbled upon a shop in the airport that sold plant cuttings. You could purchase them, take them home and possibly grow a bit of Hawaii in your den. I am certainly not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination, but I bought some of the cuttings anyway.

I don't know what I was thinking. I knew I would never plant them. Maybe I thought I would give them as gifts to those with a more "green-thumb" inclination than I. Enter The Hubby...he can grow anything! I am convinced that you could provide him with a slab of concrete, some seeds and in a few weeks there would be a budding, glorious garden blooming.

Now, keep in mind...these cuttings sat in a drawer for a few years until the time that I met The Hubby. He took them, threw them in pots, cared for them more than I care for my own teeth, and they began to bloom. What is even more funny is that he set them outside all summer long in the heat and humidity that is a Maryland summer and nothing happened. They grew and gained more leaves, but they didn't bloom.

Cut to two weeks ago. He finally brought them inside because the weather has been getting cooler and placed them in the bedroom. What happened then? BLOOM!!!

Hawaii at home!

I wake up to these every day now. In addition to the 5 blooms you see, there are 14 just waiting to show up. The blooms last a few days and then are replaced with another. This has been going on for a week now. Thank you Hubby for bringing Hawaii to the bedroom.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Cookography: Fried Green Tomatoes

I am a somewhat "genteel" southern woman at heart. I love my southern cooking. Be it a good spicy gumbo or boo fries. I really enjoy the huge comfort content of dishes served in the southern states.

This past weekend I took a stab at fried green tomatoes. One of my coworkers had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year and was lamenting how many of them were green, he doubted that he could get them ripened before they rot.

Me to the rescue! I told him I would take the green ones. I'm sure he thought I was crazy...but then, people often do. So, I brought them home, sliced them up and let the magic happen.

The assembly line!

So yes, a few of the tomatoes managed to ripen a bit before I got to them, but I decided to slice them up too. I prepared my buttermilk and egg bath (one egg and buttermilk to cover) and combined a "Shake & Bake" package with a healthy helping of Parmesan Cheese as my crispy goodness.

Then, I grabbed my extra large skillet and placed about a quarter of an inch of oil in it. Use whatever oil you like...I went with Canolla. Once it was hot, I took each tomato and dipped it in the liquid, and then heavily coated it in the crumb mixture. Into the hot oil they went...SIZZLE!!!

Crispy tomato goodness!
I fried them for 2 minutes on each side. You don't want the tomato to become too soft and mushy. The trick is to get them brown and keep the tomato a little firm. So, vary your cooking time with that goal in mind.

In the south, they also serve these with a spicy remoulade (aka...dipping sauce). To replicate this, I took a couple of tablespoons of mayo and added a healthy few shakes of Tabasco sauce to it and mixed it up.

Fried Green Tomato HEAVEN! These make a great side dish to any meal. I coupled them with a roast pork I had slow-cooked in the crock pot all day long. The combination of the fall-apart-in-your-mouth pork and the crispy tomatoes was fantastic!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Tipos/Typos

We've got a new game at work. When we moved to the new office it came complete with it's own cafeteria. This has been a wonderful blessing. The last thing I want to do on a rainy day is forage for food.

The cafeteria ladies are a delight. They're all sassy latino women (Latinas?) and always happy to handle any special request. Extra tuna? not a problem. More bacon? Pile it on! No onion? You got it! Their command of the english language isn't the greatest and that has made for humorous lunchtime encounters for me and my fellow coworkers.

Back to our new game...it's called "Spot the Menu Typo". On a weekly basis the cafe distributes a menu of the weeks options, seen below.

Do you see it?
Now, I am not making fun of anyone's spelling ability here. I'd be lost without spellcheck, I mean...how many S's are there in occasion? Had spell check not just auto-corrected that for me it would have been wrong.

It's just become a running gag around the office (ok, in all fairness...perhaps just my circle of office friends). The first person to find the typo then sends out the pic to the rest of us.

I will say this tho...that Phylli Steak and Cheese sandwich was delicious!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Blast From The Past: The Grandparents

I am still scouring these back-up CD's I found. There is a ton of stuff on them that I had completely forgotten. Here are a couple of very old pictures of my grandparents. I had been restoring these for a Mother's Day present for my mom way way long ago.

On her wedding day.

I don't know the date of the above picture, but I am guessing it was the early 1900's. She was quite beautiful, but I still see a bit of that sassy smirk that always crossed her face.

I'm guessing he's swimming or something aquatic.

I never knew my grandfather. He died in his mid 30's of something heart related. Ya know...back then they pretty much called everything a heart attack. Everyone says I look like him, but I don't see it. I mean, look at those ears!!! Not to mention the muscles and the obvious athleticism. Soooo not me! That being said, his knees do make those little "Old Man Face" squinchey things like mine do when I straighten out my legs. He also has way more hair than me but then again, I don't know how old he is in this picture.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Blast From The Past: The First Apartment, Part 1

Many years ago...in a town far away, my partner Ian and I moved into a delightfully dilapidated 3 story "apartment". Actually it was a 3 story building with a tattoo parlor on the first floor and 4 individual apartments above and behind. After we chased all of the current tenants out (thank you police department) we took over the entire building and went to work turning it into a pretty amazing living and party space. I apologize upfront for the quality of these photos...it's 1994 and megapixels weren't invented yet.

The 2nd Floor Landing. Ian had a window fetish.
The Greek Room. Exposed plaster and sepia. Also my office.
Master Bedroom. Yes, a puzzle bed that came apart in 9 pieces for party seating!
Let me tell you what a pain those poke dots were! Not painted, wood circles nailed to the wall!!!
The Garden Room. He did the painting. I cut the hole in the wall to the Kitchen!
That's it for now. I'll post more later. I can't take credit for any of the design choices here, it was all Ian. At the ripe old age of 25, I couldn't have visualized any of this. I was just the muscle...lifting and cutting and wielding a sledge hammer.

I have to say tho, when it came time to renovate my church, a lot of what he taught me played a very major role in it's design and construction. 

Ian, I miss you and I will always be grateful for you teaching me that, "No matter what happens, you can always paint over it!" Rest in peace.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bake-A-Liciousness: Spiced Apple Chutney & Brie Tartlets

I came up with these delights for a contest at work. I won the contest, but it was because I was the only contestant. Damn coworkers! Anyway, it's a great fall recipe, sweet and savory at the same time. It can also be whipped up days in advance and assembled as needed.

The test batch...YUMMY!

For work I put the Brie on top where you could see it. Either way works.

Spiced Apple Chutney & Brie Tartlets

            
            CHUTNEY:
            1/4 cup orange juice
            1/4 cup water
            3 Tbsp. firmly packed brown sugar
            3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
            1/2 tsp. cinnamon
            1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
            1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
            2 shallots, minced
            1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
                   or 1 tsp of jalapeño pepper hot sauce.
            1 clove garlic, minced
            2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and finely diced
            2 tsp. Butter

            3-4 Boxes Filo Dough Tart Shells
            1 8oz wheel of Brie, rind removed and cut into ¼ inch squares

Preparation
For Chutney, in small bowl, combine orange juice, water, brown sugar, vinegar,cinnamon, salt and pepper. Mix and set aside.
Melt 2 teaspoons butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots, jalapeño and garlic and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in apples and orange juice mixture and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until apples are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Assembly
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the tart shells evenly on a baking pan.
Place one square of Brie into each tart shell and spoon a small portion of the chutney over top (Or reverse it if you prefer). Fill each tart shell, but don’t overfill or you’ll have a mess on your baking sheet. Bake the tarts for 5 - 7 minutes or until the Brie is melted. Remove from oven and serve warm.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Fizzled In

Cocktails! They are such a huge portion of my life. I'm not ashamed to admit that. Don't judge!

The problem with mixing cocktails is that you rarely use an entire can of soda to do it. Since I don't have one of those fancy soda guns that bars do (Maybe someday!), I am often left with a half can of soda sitting in the fridge going flat.

Over the years, I have tried many different products that claim to keep soda fresh in between uses. None of them have actually managed to do it...UNTIL NOW! 

I found this particular product on Amazon last year. Yes, I spent a year testing it in the real world before bringing it to all of you...you're welcome.

I would have called it "Flat-Be-Gone"

Keep in mind, the photo above is the second generation of the product. The original sealed standard soda cans perfectly. I even went on a business trip for a week and came home to fizzy soda! This second generation product not only fits standard cans, but it also fits the smaller cans you can buy in an 8-pack. It's now 2 great products in one!!!

So, if you are suffering from flat half-cans of soda, head over to Amazon and do yourselves a favor. At just under $5.00, they aren't cheap...but they are well worth the cost. Imagine the amount of flat soda you would throw away without this little gem!

Drink up!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Film-A-Geddon: The Croods

And a new feature is born! "Film-A-Geddon" is where I will discuss movies that I have enjoyed. Especially ones that I feel didn't get the respect they deserved when they were in the theater.

This time around, let's talk about "The Croods"

Yep, cave people!

I downloaded this film thinking, "Ok, 90 minutes worth of popcorn humor and no substance to worry about." I was a little wrong. Aside from the animation being spectacular, this movie contained a lot of substance I really didn't expect.

To sum it up, you have a family of cave people trying to escape the end of their world. That, in and of itself, is pretty deep! I mean, how do you explain the end of the world to a 7 year old? Well, they do a pretty good job of it in this movie.

I was totally prepared for fluff. What I wasn't prepared for was a film that teaches you to look beyond the familiar and strike out to find something better...a film that teaches you that fear is not something to center your life around...a film that actually accentuates the value of a cohesive family unit.

Nicolas Cage voices "Grug", the patriarch of the family. He is obsessed with keeping them alive during this very dangerous period in human evolution, as any father would be. Our heroine, "Eep" is voiced by the lovely Emma Stone. She wants to explore and do something more with her life than live in a cave. She meets "Guy" voiced by the exceptional Ryan Reynolds. I could close my eyes and just listen to his voice all day. He is slightly more evolved than the Croods and has mastered the use of fire. He plans to survive the coming destruction and winds up with the entire Crood clan accompanying him. In a complete standout role is Cloris Leachman as "Gran". I'm sure they tried to get Betty White to voice this role, but I'm sure she's too expensive. Cloris is apparently the poor man's Betty White.

What amazed me the most about this film was that there wasn't a villain. The Croods weren't fighting against someone (Ok, sometimes themselves). They were just trying to survive. It was also pretty amazing that the motivation for their survival also wasn't the death of a family member (Nemo, I'm talking to you!).  Amazingly enough...there wasn't any death. You'd think then that there wouldn't be anything to make me cry...don't worry, there was plenty. I don't think it's a spoiler to tell you that no one dies. It's actually kind of refreshing. Even on repeated watchings (I am up to 6 at this point) the emotional heart-strings are pulled every time, like clockwork.

I recommend The Croods for children and adults alike. The kids will love the visuals and the slap-stick humor. I'm hoping the adults will take something a little more valuable away from the film. Fear, lose it!...Family, treasure it!

Let me know what you thought of the film in the comments below.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Dust Bitten

A tragic accident occurred at Sanctuary over the weekend!  This gorgeous lantern, my baby, was the major casualty. You might remember my original post about the dearly departed, alas poor Lantern...I knew ye well.

Here is the last "living" photo I have of the deceased,

"You light up my life..."

I can only blame myself for this senseless tragedy. If it were not for my large, clumsy, oafish hands Lantern would still be alive today. I was reaching inside to turn off it's LED illumination, the globe slipped and Lantern plummeted to it's death on the floor below. My breath caught in my throat. I couldn't scream. I couldn't react. I watched, frozen, the fall as if in slow motion ending in a brutal crash of glass on the wooden floor below.  I did my best to attempt to save him, but it was too late. What was once a statuesque, bright beacon was now a crumble of lifeless shards on the floor.

I'm sure it's morbid to post a photo from the morgue. I warn you...the grisly image that follows is not for the faint of heart.


NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

The sense of loss I feel right now is immeasurable. The other lanterns and I have agreed that tonight we will hold a memorial service. Everyone will be lit to they're brightest, carrying on the torch for those who were lost...extinguished in their prime.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sir Mix-A-Lush: The S'more Martini

I chose this martini as the signature cocktail for the Labor Day BBQ. I did some online research and found a lot of recipes. From that I culminated my own take on the legendary campfire classic.

The real trick is choosing liquor that doesn't give you a nasty liquor taste, but at the same time...you don't want it to be too sweet. I settled on Godiva Chocolate Liquor and Pinnacle Vodka's Marshmallow flavor.

The other trick is the presentation. I purchased plastic martini glasses at Party City. It was a picnic after all, I didn't want people breaking my good glass martini glasses. I first dipped the rim of the glass in chocolate syrup and then rimmed it with graham cracker crumbs. YUM! 

The other aspect of the presentation was the garnish. For this I bought small bamboo skewers, also at Party City. On the skewer I placed 4 mini marshmallows which I then toasted over my gas stove burner. You have to be careful...they toast quickly! I wound up with a few charred marshmallow remains while attempting this. The great thing about the garnish is that you can toast them the day before to save time when whipping up the cocktail. Had I employed a bartender for this party, I would have made him toast the garnish as he made the drink. But then I also would have insisted he be muscularly chiseled and work shirtless in very tiny shorts! Hey, if I'm paying I get to choose!

A flavor test without the fancy rimming on the glass.

I created a few test versions leading up to the actual BBQ. Well, I didn't want to serve an inferior martini to my guests! Stop judging me!!! On the test above, I drizzled the glass with chocolate syrup. It looked really pretty, but the drink was so cold the syrup never incorporated into the drink. Hence, I decided to add it to the shaker in the end. What I settled on is the recipe below.

          The S'more Martini

   
                   Rim a martini glass (8oz or larger) first in chocolate syrup, then in 
                   graham cracker crumbs, set aside.

                   In a martini shaker with ice add the following:

                             2oz     Godiva Chocolate Liquor
                             2oz     Pinnacle Marshmallow Vodka
                             1oz     Half & Half
                             1oz     Chocolate Syrup

                  Shake vigorously and strain into the martini glass. Garnish with a
                  skewer of toasted mini marshmallows. Drink and enjoy!

Here are pictures of the final version with all it's amazing rimmed goodness taken by those who were enjoying it.

Photo Credit: Siobhan Connellan
Photo Credit: Josh Wiles

The martini was a big hit at the party, even my mother tried a sip...and she never drinks booze! The downside was that there weren't a lot of left-overs for me to enjoy. Is that a good thing or a bad thing???


Monday, September 2, 2013

What I Did With My Summer Vacation

Hello everyone, and welcome back to JimNotMike. I know I've been gone for a while, taking a little break...but I'm going to try and get back to posting here...at the very least, once a week.

I thought I'd start by sharing a bit about what I've been up to since I've been gone.

Pepper


Yep...she thinks she is a lap dog!

We had the pleasure of fostering this beautiful dog for a few weekends until our kennel found a more permanent home for her. She now has a new home and new name, but she will always be Pepper to me.

New Orleans


I got to spend some more time in New Orleans. It's my favorite food city, as most of you know. I also got to tour the Old New Orleans Rum Distillery...AGAIN!


Rum, Rum, everywhere! I'll take a barrel please!!!

Office Move


The weekend of July 4th our office moved location to an entirely new facility. It was a pain, but well worth the effort.

My brand-spankin new cubicle.

The "Huddle Room" I designed. It's for informal meetings.

The Beach Trip


Scott, Tod and I headed to Rehoboth for a week. Really, the best part of my summer. It was more rainy and cool that it had ever been, but heck...it's the beach, who cares! I can drink in the rain and wear a hoody!!!

This is us...packing light!

Our wonderful location on a sunny day.
And...another GREAT view! Oh waiter!!!

Trunk Club


I tried out a service that picks out clothes for you. They made some great choices for me, but everything was well out of my price range so I sent it all back. I think I need to start a service like this, but at a lower price point. The experience was great. Nothing like having a personal stylist!

Lovely packaging.

Pretty clothes.

Labor Day BBQ


Since I couldn't host on July 4th because of the office move, I hosted an end-of-the-season BBQ.

From my local butcher...yummy!

Condiment Bar! Thank you Pinterest!!!
So that pretty much brings us up to speed. If I've left anything out, well...it can be a future post! I hope you all had a great summer too!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Amarylli

More time lapse Spring!

video

The Hubby provided the blooms...well, he nurtured the plant that did and I produced the video. iMovie is a really easy app to use, I have since found out.

You can see a better quality version here

And for those who care here is the entire full-length video from beginning to end. Great finale!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Taking A Break

In case you haven't noticed, I haven't posted in a while. I also have no immediate intention of posting any time soon. There...I said it!

I am going to take a little hiatus from posting. I haven't been feeling it lately and I don't see the point in forcing it.



So, I will be back this spring, hopefully with a fresh perspective and lots and lots to talk about.