Monday, February 28, 2011

Week 2 in the Money Pit

I wish I could show you the video of this amazing Toto toilet --- yes, I've been reduced to extolling the virtues of toilets--that's what this renovation has done to me!  This weekend, two toilets were installed, but as you can see in this bathroom, we are still waiting for cabinetry.  And.......drum roll.....
Tile in the master bath!!
It's going together really well---and the boys work hard all day long.  Today, more tile and dry wall skim coats. 
Lest you think I've been slacking, I've been putting together recipes for the classes I will teach when I go on the road in March.  I also have a recipe that I've been wanting to try for a while, and tweaked it up a bit, so that I can take it down to the elves at Specialty Produce tomorrow. 

These cuties taste as delicious as they look!  Salted peanut, peanut butter, chocolate cookies with milk chocolate chips.  The whole, sweet, salty, and chocolate thing, is awesome, and I always feel like cookies don't count in the calorie department.  Got Milk???

Salted Peanut, Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies
Makes 36

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (use a regular peanut butter, not a "natural" peanut butter)
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla paste or vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup salted roasted peanuts
1 cup milk chocolate chips, or chopped milk chocolate
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 3 baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking liners.  
  2. In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, peanut butter, and sugar, until smooth.  
  3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.  
  4. Add the vanilla, flour, cocoa, soda, powder, salt, peanuts and chips, beating until blended.  using a portion scoop, form 1-inch balls and drop the dough 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  
  5. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, until the edges are firm.  Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 2 minutes, before removing from the cookie sheets to cool completely. 
 There will be more tile work going on tomorrow, and maybe some paint!  I'll be back with updates and a recipe or two throughout the week.  Enjoy your day! 

Friday, February 25, 2011

It's In the Bag!

Today was the Farmer's Market Bag class at Great News and this is what was in the bag---how gorgeous is this produce?  From left baby golden beets, Cara Cara oranges, Easter Egg Radishes, Vulcan lettuce, purple pepper, pea tendrils, cauliflower, fresh dates from Santee, asparagus, and a white bell pepper.  My job, figure out how to make all of these fit into a class of 2 1/2 hours with recipes that are simple and tasty---this is my favorite class to teach since everyone is so eager to learn about what's seasonal, local and delish!

I'm very grateful to the gang at Specialty for trusting me with their gorgeous produce, and to Great News for taking a chance on a class without a menu (it's a surprise every time!) and to the students who come and enjoy every bit of what is done in class.  Today we featured the Brandt beef that you can order with your Farmer's Market bag and it was sensational!!!

I'm going to post a few more recipes, if you bought the FMB and were not at the class, these are some delicious ways to use some of the produce in the bag.

Cara Cara Orange Layer Cake with Orange Curd Filling and Whipped Orange Mascarpone Frosting
Orange Curd
Makes about 4 cups
1 cup sugar
6 large eggs
1/2 to 2/3 cup fresh squeezed Cara Cara Orange juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1.      In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, eggs, and juice and whisk until smooth. Set over medium heat and continue to whisk until the mixture begins to thicken, this may take about 5 minutes. 
2.      Stir in the butter cubes, a bit at a time, and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until the curd is thickened. 
3.      Remove from the heat, press a piece of plastic wrap directly against the surface to keep a skin from forming, and let cool to room temperature.
4.      Do-Ahead: At this point, you can refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for up to 2 months. Defrost before continuing. 
For the cake

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla paste (or vanilla extract)
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1 teaspoon orange oil or 2 teaspoons orange extract (optional)
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Cara Cara orange juice

1.      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and coat the inside of two 9-inch round cake pans.
2.      In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, zest and oil, if using.
3.      Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
4.      Mix the sour cream and orange juice together, add with the flour, baking soda and salt, and beat until the mixture comes together and is smooth. 
5.      Transfer the batter into the prepared pans.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in to the center comes out clean. 
6.      Transfer the cake pan to a rack and allow to cool for EXACTLY 10 minutes.  Remove from the pans, and cool completely on cooling racks.  
7.      The cake keeps wrapped airtight at room temperature for up to 5 days, freezes for about 2 months. 

For the Frosting

2 cups whipping cream
1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups orange curd (see recipe above)
1.      In the large bowl of an electric mixer, using the whisk attachment, whip the cream until stiff. 
2.      Add the mascarpone and orange curd, and whip again until stiff. 
3.      At this point, the frosting can be refrigerated for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. 

To assemble the cake

1.      When all the components are cool, put one cake layer on a cake stand or a cardboard cake round.
2.      Spread the orange curd over the cake to make a 1/4-inch layer. 
3.      Top with a layer of the frosting. 
4.      Put the second layer on top of the first. 
5.      Using an off-set spatula, spread the frosting on the top and sides of the cake. 
6.      Refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours, or up to 2 days.  

Roasted Baby Golden Beets with Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Serves 4

One bunch baby golden beets

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking liner, parchment or foil  To roast the beets, scrub them, cut off the tops and lay them on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, for tiny beets, 25 to 35 for 1 1/2 to 2-inch beets, and 55 to 65 minutes for larger beets.  Cool completely, and peel—it’s a lot easier to peel them after they are roasted. 

Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Makes about 2 cups

1/2 cup Pomegranate juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 drops Tabasco
1.      In a large bowl, whisk together the ingredients, until blended.
2.      The dressing will keep refrigerated for up to 4 days. 

To Assemble the salad

Slice the beets about 1/2-inch thick, and toss with some of the vinaigrette.  Allow to mellow at room temperature for at least 40 minutes before serving.    Serve them over mixed greens, or on the side with grilled chicken, fish or steak. 

Roasted Shallot and Cauliflower Soup
Serves 6 to 8

One medium head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup good quality olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1/2 cup heavy cream (optional—add more broth if you prefer)
2 to 4 tablespoons snipped chives for garnish

Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking liner, or aluminum foil and preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  In a bowl, toss together the cauliflower, shallots, salt, pepper and oil.   Transfer to the baking sheet and roast for 12 to 15 minutes until the cauliflower is crisp, but tender.  Remove from the oven and let it cool.  In a large saucepan, or Dutch oven, melt the butter, and whisk in the flour, cooking the flour for 3 minutes.  Add the broth, and bring to a boil, whisking until it is thickened.  Add the contents of the baking sheet to the soup, and stir to blend.  (If you would like a puree, use an immersion blender to puree the soup, otherwise, if the cauliflower is cut into bite sized pieces, you can leave them whole.  Add the cream and bring to serving temperature.  Serve the soup garnished with snipped chives or cooked crumbled bacon. 

The hammering continues here at Chez Phillips, but I can see progress, I'll post some photos over the weekend, but the best part is that I can see the progress.  We will have a dead spot here after the granite people measure for counter tops, and that will seem like we are waiting for grass to grow.  I hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and enjoy whatever you are doing.  Me, I'm watching the San Diego State Mens' Basketball game tonight and eating lobster mac and cheese with Dr. C.  Go Aztecs!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Pretty Cheesey

Day 4 has ended at the Money Pit.  Today was rough plumbing and electrical, with the boys being here all day.  This photo is the shower that has been extended out about 15 inches from where it was giving us a car wash--hooray!  On the left is the water closet, which will be a separate room---before demolition the loo and the shower were in the same room--very cramped and a poor design. 

While the hammering and sawing was going on, I was thinking of some way to get rid of 48 ounces of ricotta cheese that was going to expire soon, so why not make a ricotta cheesecake???  I'm game!

The crust is amaretti cookies with almonds and melted butter.  Press it into an aluminum foil lined spring form pan that you have coated with aluminum foil. 

A mixture of ricotta, cream cheese, eggs, and orange flavors. 

Smooth the top with an off-set spatula and bake. 

Looking good!  Cool in the oven, and then cool completely at room temperature before covering an refrigerating.  The taste tests will happen tomorrow---I'll publish the recipe if it passes the test!

Temperature valves are in!

Look at how high that shower head will be--no more bending over to take a shower!
Our vanities will be on either side of this window--yes, the view is something else!

I'm teaching the Farmer's Market Bag class at Great News in the morning, but the boys will be at it again, laying down backer board (eyes glazing over) and hot mop (thinking a Swiffer that's on fire) and new floor boards.  I'll be back with some thoughts and a few recipes for the weekend.  If you bought the Farmer's Market Bag from Specialty Produce I'll have some new recipes up tomorrow night.  Have a great Friday!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Designing Woman

 As we close out day three at the Money Pit, I can tell you that the walls are dry (a good thing) and that framing and some dry wall has happened at Chez Phillips.
Today I went with my designer (the first one I've ever liked and there have been a parade of them) to look at mirrors for the vanities; I think the reason I love Jane (JMJ Design, San Diego) is that when she shows me something and hears the sharp intake of my breath when she tells me the price, she says something sweet like, "or we can go with this option---it's simple and classic!"---I love it when I don't have to feel cheap just because I can't fathom spending $5,000 on a toilet.

 yes, indeed, some toilets (I'm talking to you Villeroy and Bach) can be over $5000--we opted for the Toto brand from Japan with the "whisper close seat"--I'm not kidding, it says it on the box!  When I went shopping for toilets, there was one that would open and close every time you went by it---thought that was little too weird for us!

So, as I've been looking at design elements, I had a friend e-mail me and ask if I would talk about kitchen renovations, and so that's what this post is all about.  We remodeled our kitchen about 12 years ago, and I still love it, the layout, the cabinets, the counter tops and the appliances (although some of the appliances have come and gone due to wear and tear--I tend to abuse them!)

My first piece of advice, is to be prepared for sticker shock, everything will cost more than you think.  If  you want to save a bit of money, do some of the work (that you are absolutely qualified to do) yourself--if you have never installed cabinets, or done wiring, or plumbing it's worth it to hire professionals.  If you can demo like a Transformer, then do the demo yourself, that can save you some money, although it's back breaking work.

My first bit of advice is to buy quality, but be smart about it.  All your friends may have that $10,000 range that does everything but light their cigars, but they never use it so how are you to know if it's any good or not?  Find something in your price range, and then see if it has the features you want.  Don't fixate on a brand name because chances are a lot of them are made in the same factory as 12 other brands. ( I have a kitchen designer friend who says that he designs some of the most gorgeous back drops for take out food in San Diego county!)

Over half of your budget will be spent on the cabinets; now this is where I draw the line--there are many companies making quality cabinets, and they are half the price of custom made--this doesn't mean that I'm anti-cabinetmaker, it just means that this is where you can save.  Look at the photos below and tell me which is the Ikea cabinet, and which is the custom cabinet.  (I'll let you know at the end)

Ikea is now doing design and installation in some areas, so if you are on a tight budget, the cabinets are well made, and well thought out and the price is Ikea-right!

The most important choice as far as I am concerned in a kitchen is the counter tops.  The counter tops will be there forever; you can always change the color of the cabinets, remove the appliances and replace them but the counter tops are a major job and take a while to replace, AND they are expensive.  Think long and hard about the COLOR, not the material.  All the materials there are to choose from have their pluses and minuses, but you have to love the color because you will live with it for a very long time.
Here are a few choices:

Soapstone is gorgeous, gets a worn patina and who could resist that gorgeous sink?

Granite--natural stones are gorgeous because they have so many different colors, and veins that flow throughout the piece.  Granite comes in an huge color palette.

Quartzite is relatively new, and absolutely stunning; something like this will be on the vanities in our master bath room and I am in love.  When I drove into the granite yard to look for granite, this was the first thing I saw, and I did a exorcist head turn as I was driving by--it's magnificent.

Manufactured stone--lots of choices here, the oldest is Corian, but there are many brands, such as Silestone.  These manufactured stones are actually becoming more expensive than granite due to their manufacturing costs.

Fixtures, like sinks, faucets, and soap dispensers should all cost you a bit, because you want them to last.  See if there is a life time guarantee on each one of them, so that if something does go wrong, you have some recourse.  You will get what you pay for here, so I recommend that you buy quality.  On the counter top around the sink, you will have to determine how many holes to have drilled in the stone for you faucet, spray arm (if you go that route) and whether you want soap dispensers built in--I have them and love them.    The one thing that I did do to the counter top at the edge of my sink was have lines routered out for a drain board (they can do this with any solid surface counter top) the dishes that don't go into the dishwasher drain on this and I have no need for a dish drainer to sit on or in the sink.

Appliances:  If the appliances that you have are within 5 years old, I'd probably keep them if you like them.  If you absolutely can't live without an induction cook top, then figure that into your budget.  Some times you can keep your old refrigerator and dishwasher and have cabinet fronts made to match the rest of the cabinets.  Or you could paint the refrigerator with chalkboard, or have an insert made that is chalkboard.  If your energy company is giving rebates for energy efficient and water efficient appliances, this is another good way to save some money should you choose to buy all new appliances. 

Range:   You need to decide if you want an electric cook top (I recommend that you get a glass top if you go this route, just because it's easy to clean) gas, or induction.  Induction is new, and you will need magnetic pots (meaning that the bottom will have to attract a magnet---use a magnet from your fridge to see if they are)  but to me, it's the ideal --- it is instant on like gas, but without the gas.  If you take the pot off the burner it automatically turns off---so it's energy efficient. I love the Fagor Induction burners. Don't let anyone talk you into gas, if you are used to electric, and like it---there is a lot of cachet surrounding gas with chefs insisting on it, but you aren't running a restaurant, this is your home.

For ovens, I recommend self-cleaning electric (much more accurate than gas) with convection.  Convection is great for some things, and not for others---crispy pizza crusts, and pies, and cookies, no drippings with roasts and turkeys.  I have two Dacor electric convection ovens and love them.

Refrigerators:  When I bought my last refrigerator, I was really looking for size rather than side-by-side or freezer on the bottom.  So I went with a gigantic (non-built-in) side by side.  There are lots of choices, but you have to decide what will work for you.  Get one with an ice maker, and if it has filtered water, that is a plus as well, and auto defrost is required, this girl isn't defrosting!  Built in or built in look models are a bit smaller and you have to decide if that will work for you and your family.

Dishwashers:  I have a Bosch dishwasher that will probably be in this house forever; it makes NO noise.  I love it.  It also doesn't have the heating element in the bottom so it uses a lot less energy.

You appliance choices are wide and varied; your budget and layout will determine if you decide to have a trash compacter (I wouldn't be without one) a warming drawer, wine fridge or microwave.

OK, so how to lay it out---many designers talk about the work triangle, but if you plan to stay with the original foot print of your kitchen and not knock out walls, you may have to tailor this to the space.  The triangle means that the sink, stove and fridge are all close enough that you could turn around and be there.  I like smaller rather than larger kitchens---there isn't as much walking around to get things--galley kitchens can be fun and efficient.  Do you need an island or is it just a design element that might be in your way?  Do you have a view that you want to take advantage of?  Put the sink where you can see the view, because you'll be able to see the view while you are doing a chore--not a bad thing.

To save money, try not to move the electrical or plumbing--that will ratchet up the costs.  We were able to rearrange the plumbing  by moving the sink a few feet and adding an "L" with the dishwasher without breaking the bank, since everything was still in the same line.
Corners are usually dead spaces with deep cupboards, that you can never get into to find anything--this is where you put a Lazy Susan so you can see what's on the shelves.  Roll out shelves on bottom cabinets are a must, so you can see what's there.
Many cabinets are specifically purposed, like long narrow pantries that slide out, spice cabinets and bread drawers. Other goodies are bins that tilt out to hold pantry ingredients like flour and sugar.   These can be incorporated into the design but you need to think of all the bells and whistles you want and then give them a priority.

Every magazine and home improvement series will show you the glitz and glamour of  gorgeous kitchens, and their cost estimates are sometimes laughable.  (many things are product placements, and no one pays for them)  If you feel that you aren't capable of re-designing your own kitchen, hire a designer--they can save you money, and time by giving you good advice.  (Ask your friends for a referral)  They can generally recommend licensed contractors and tradespeople.  If you don't want the designer through the entire process, you might just consider hiring them by the hour to do design and give you advice, and possibly shop with you, if you want to do the rest on your own.  My bath remodel has been so stress free because I have Jane here and she's in charge, I just give in-put, but she deals with the trades---I'm blessed.

Feel free to e-mail me through my website if you have any specific questions, and I'll be in touch.    I'll be back tomorrow with a recipe or two and some more thoughts on renovations.  Enjoy your night!
The first photo was the Ikea kitchen.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Demolition Derby

Dr. C and I have lived in our home for 23 years.  In the past few years, we have done some major projects to update and remodel.  Our most scary project to date began Monday:  remodeling our master bathroom, and the other 2 bathrooms.  Demolition began this morning with sledgehammers, and about 7 guys taking debris out of the house. 

 We are tearing out the tub--it has a view of the ocean, but we never use it.
  Need to get rid of this vanity and soon!

That was easy!! Thanks Carlo!

 a bit of debris!

The worst part was when they opened up the shower and found mold and rot in the wood behind the shower.  It's a wonder the shower was still standing---thank you Pardee builders for your great work-there was no backer board, or water proof sheathing behind this---Pardee is the company that wouldn't pay for bills relating to a sewer and water leak in the house 10 years ago until I threatened a lawsuit---what other uglies are lurking in this place???  Fortunately, all the other walls are looking good, and we are ready for framing, rough electrical and plumbing. I can't wait for the gorgeous new shower!
Lest you think that I was slacking while the workers were working, I set to work to use up fruit that we hadn't eaten while our Italian family was visiting.  These apples were perfect in an apple pecan cake that is more apples than cake (love that!)

Into the bundt pan--look at the chunks of apple in that cake!


Voila!  This cake is great as a coffee cake, or you can slice it for tea, or have it for breakfast, or warm it up and serve it vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. 

Apple Pecan Cake
Makes one 10-inch Bundt cake

 1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla paste or extract
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups chopped apple, peeled and cored (about 4 large)
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Coat the inside of a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the oil, sugar, eggs, and vanilla paste.  Add the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, apple and pecans, and beat until well combined.  Transfer the batter to the prepared pan, and bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool the cake for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and cool completely on a wire rack.  The cake keeps stored airtight in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. 

I'll be back tomorrow with more -- I've been working on recipes for the next book and they are going to be so much fun for you to make (it's coming in the fall of 2012)  I hope you had a great day!