Sunday, November 13, 2011

What HGTV Doesn't Tell You About Buying a House


1.  Even the “fun” part is stressful. Peeking in other people's homes is fun from the comfort of your couch, but when you're actually looking for your home, every free second is spent stressing out about pros and cons, researching neighborhoods, worrying about somebody else snatching up the homes and trying to get a hold of your real estate agent. On top of that, 80% of the homes you see will likely be instantly ruled out for one reason or another so it just turns into long Sundays riding around in a Jaguar with spotty air conditioning. In summary: expect to lose sleep.

2. You are not in control, even in a buyer's market. Once you have submitted an offer, the seller knows that you are emotionally invested and they will use any strategy they can to get more money out of you. Our sellers missed their response deadline because they were using that time to contact other possible buyers to send us into competition. Jerks.


3. It makes you a bad employee. The process is time-sensitive so you will need to take time during normal work hours to sign/send documents, research homes and loans, or call your realtor/lender/insurance agent. On top of that, you will need time off from work for an inspection, closing, gathering permits, final walkthrough, etc. You will also likely need to utilize work resources for scanning, copies, printing, internet, conference calls, etc.  After the hours my employer lost, I’m not sure that buying a home actually stimulates the economy.


4. It’s one giant audit. Be ready to explain every deposit into every bank account, why your mom’s name is on the joint checking account you opened when you were 14, why the address on your driver's license doesn't match your actual current address, etc. You should get a “free” credit report out of the deal though!

5. There's a lot behind the scenes. On tv, you simply choose a house, negotiate, do an inspection and sign some papers. Behind the scenes, there’s also earnest money to deliver, bank statements, pay stubs, and asset statements to compile, insurance quotes to gather and consider, permits to find and review, multiple loans to apply for and compare, closing papers to read, money to transfer, cashier’s checks to get...

6.  When it’s all over, you celebrate with a long weekend of hard labor. Moving sucks. You'll also discover small things like the fact that you now need to buy a ladder just so you can change a light bulb.


In the end though, you get to do whatever you want! It's a pretty great feeling, probably based mostly on that "American dream" thing, but you also get a new sense of "home" switching from renting and knowing that you will likely be there for many years to come. Happy Homeownership!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

For A Brighter, More Confident Everything!

Denture cleaners are incredibly humble, but it has recently become clear to me that they deserve absolute GLORY! I had to discover their power on my own so I feel that it is my duty to pass this knowledge to the DOZENS of innocent people who frequent this blog simply trying to find a risotto recipe.

Here are just a few reasons I am promoting the tablets normally reserved for the geriatric population:
       
Removes stains from coffee mugs like a BOSS
You know how you let a pot soak when it’s really hard to clean, but in the morning it’s still just a dirty pot with cold goopy water in it? Well when you pop a denture cleaner in there the night before, your pot is foamy and sparkling!
Toilet bowls!
Vases too small for hands!
 I've even heard that they can unclog pipes. I think I might change career paths and go into denture cleaner sales. "Invest in your future; invest in denture cleaner tablets"

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Tearful Tribute

Eleven years ago we brought home the most adorable puppy with a yellow ribbon around his neck. We had picked a lab because we wanted "a real dog", a dog that would fetch. Well Kona never quite got the hang of fetching but he taught us all about unconditional love every single day.


I'm terribly saddened to inform that his kidneys appear to have given up on him. I'm not one to believe in an afterlife, but I like to think that he is now forever young, rolling in the grass after getting the newspaper and knocking wine glasses off the table with his tree trunk of a tail. Good boy, Kona.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Zucchini Time!

Wait - this is how seeds work?

I loooove zucchini season! Our squash plant suddenly started producing this week so we've been digging out all our old zucchini recipes from last summer. We threw some on the grill the other night (delicious) and tonight we sauteed them up for part of an overall pasta dish. This is a very simple, and cheap meal for a summer night!

 






Ingredients
    -3/4 lb. pasta
    -1 TBSP olive oil
    -3 zucchinis, sliced thinly
    -salt
    -2 cloves of garlic, minced
    -1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    -1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
    -1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

Directions
  1. Cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water for later.
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Add zucchini and1/2 tsp salt, saute until tender and starting to brown. Add garlic, chickpeas and red pepper. Saute an additional 2 or 3 minutes.
  3. Add pasta, reserved pasta water and 1/4 cup parmesan cheese to skillet. Stir to combine. Serve with remaining parmesan sprinkled on top; take care to evenly distribute the chickpeas as they have a tendency to sink!
Looks a little bland but it doesn't taste it!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Most Beautiful Meal of Them All

There may not be anything more pleasurable than flipping through a new cookbook for the first time. Luckily for my bank account, I have recently reunited with my local public library who has tons of "new to me" cookbooks! This recipe comes from a cookbook I picked up at the library a few months ago. The final product is quite good, but there are many different pieces to the meal and in order to get the timing down, it's probably best to make it with a friend. In addition, the recipe can be split into individual pieces and utilized as a part of another favorite recipe. I plan to utilize the tofu-cooking technique in the future and the ginger sauce would go great with some simple stir fried veggies and rice. The recipe as-is creates a truly impressive looking and tasting plate of food!

Tofu Steaks
    -1 package firm tofu, pressed and cut lengthwise into 4 slices
    -1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    -2 TBSP dry breadcrumbs
    -1/4 tsp dried thyme
    -1/4 tsp dried dill
    -1/4 tsp salt
    -1/4 tsp paprika
    -1/4 tsp black pepper
    -1 large egg, lightly beaten
    -2 TBSP olive oil
Ginger Sauce
    -1/3 cup rice vinegar
    -1/3 cup sugar
    -1/2 cup water
    -2 TBSP soy sauce
    -1 TBSP cornstarch
    -1/4 cup water
    -1 TBSP minced peeled fresh ginger
Stir Fried Veggies
    -1 TSP olive oil
    -1 yellow bell pepper, cut in strips
    -1 cup snow peas, trimmer
    -1 plum tomato, chopped
  
    -2 cups hot cooked angel hair pasta
I know that's an intimidatingly long list of ingredients, so let me distract you with this big picture of the finished product!

Directions
  1. Combine flour, breadcrumbs and dry spices in a shallow dish. Dredge each tofu steak in flour mixture. Dip in egg; dredge again in flour mixture. Heat 2 oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add tofu steaks, cook 3 minutes on each side.
  2. Combine vinegar, sugar, soy sauce and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 3 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Combine cornstarch and 1/4 cup water; stir into sugar mixture. Bring to a boil and cook 1 minute or until thick. Remove from heat, stir in ginger.
  3. Heat 1 tsp oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell pepper strips and snow peas; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add tomato; stir-fry 1 minute.
  4. Serve vegetables, tofu and ginger sauce over pasta.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lightened Up Pecan Rolls

When you see my mom make her famous cinnamon rolls, it becomes immediately clear what the secret ingredient is: butter, and lots of it. The dough gets slathered with multiple sticks of softened butter...and while they are famous for a reason, I know I don't have the willpower to keep something so decadent in my own house. This lightened up version will make you go back for seconds, but without the guilty conscience. A quick warning: like most yeast-based recipes, this recipe will take all night.

Dough:
-3/4 cup warm milk
-1/4 cup white sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-1 package dry yeast
-1/4 cup warm water
-1/2 cup egg substitute
-3 TBSP butter, melted
-4 cups flour, divided

Sauce:
-3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
-3 TBSP butter, melted
-2 TBSP hot water
-1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted

Filling:
-2/3 cup white sugar
-1 TBSP ground cinnamon
-1 1/2 TBSP butter, melted

Instructions:
  1. To prepare dough, combine the first 3 ingredients in a large bowl.
  2. Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir yeast mixture into milk mixture. Add egg substitute and 3 tablespoons melted butter; stir until well combined.
  3. Add 3 3/4 cups flour to yeast mixture; stir until smooth. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 8 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel slightly soft and tacky).
  4. Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray; turn to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place for about 45 minutes. Punch dough down and turn over in bowl; lightly coat with cooking spray. Cover and let rise another 45 minutes. Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes.
  5. To prepare sauce, combine brown sugar, 3 tablespoons butter, and 2 tablespoons hot water in a small bowl; stir with a whisk until smooth. Scrape sugar mixture into a 13 x 9–inch baking pan coated with cooking spray, spreading evenly over bottom of pan with a spatula. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly with pecans, and set aside.
  6. To prepare filling, combine 2/3 cup granulated sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl.Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; pat dough into a 16 x 12–inch rectangle. Brush surface of dough with 1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Beginning with a long side, roll up dough jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal (do not seal ends of roll). Cut roll into slices approximately 1-inch wide (I like to use kitchen scissors for this). Arrange
    The delicious payoff!
    slices,cut sides up, in prepared pan. Lightly coat rolls with cooking spray; cover and let rise in a warm place 30 minutes or until doubled in size.
  7. Preheat oven to 350°.
  8. Uncover rolls, and bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Let stand 1 minute; carefully invert onto serving platter.




Saturday, March 26, 2011

Moosewood New Classics: Solid Gold (and Moroccan Roasted Vegetables)

This book is solid. Our copy is tabbed to death with all the worn, warped pages that come with a well loved cookbook...and we've only had it for about 6 months. It started with Cowboy Cookies and Quinoa Stuffed Peppers but quickly led to Instant Tamale Pie, Spinach Gnocchi and Tofu Manicotti. This book has changed my mind about polenta and bell peppers and introduced me to parsnips and turnips (although I can't ever remember which is which), all while encouraging the use of "wholesome" and "cookie" in the same sentence. It's our go-to and I definitely consider it a vegetarian must-have.

I'm obsessed with our latest Moosewood discovery: Moroccan Roasted Vegetables. Even my very carnivorous and generally un-ethnic father approves.

Ingredients
mmm...spices!
    -1 medium onion, diced
    -2 medium zucchini, diced
    -1 large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
    -1 large red bell pepper, diced
    -2 medium fresh tomatoes, chopped
    -1 can chickpeas
    -3 garlic cloves, minced
    -2 tablespoons vegetable oil
    -1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    -1 tablespoon ground cumin
    -1 ½ teaspoons turmeric
    -1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
    -1 ½ teaspoons paprika
    -¼ teaspoons cayenne
    -2 teaspoons salt
    -couscous

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 
  2. In a large bowl, thoroughly mix together the onions, zucchini, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, tomatoes, chickpeas, garlic, oil, lemon juice, and seasonings. 
  3. Spread the vegetables onto an ungreased 11 x 17 inch baking tray. Bake for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.
  4. Serve over couscous while warm.  

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mom's Sesame Tofu

Ryan and I seem to have amnesia when it comes to remembering meals that we've made, thus my secret plan for this blog is for it to serve as a running list of our favorite recipes. That list would be incomplete without sesame tofu, our favorite meal ever! The recipe was adapted from my mom's sesame chicken, which is just as delicious but twice as much work. This is also a great recipe for introducing tofu to your carnivorous friends.

Ingredients
Cornstarch-coated tofu
1 package firm tofu, pressed and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4-6 TBLS cornstarch
Olive Oil
Sauce
2 TBLS soy sauce
4 TBLS sugar
2 TBLS rice wine vinegar
4 TBLS water
Dash of red pepper flakes

Directions
  1. In a large bowl, coat the tofu cubes with cornstarch. Be delicate but don't worry if it gets a little crumbly.
  2. Add the tofu to a hot pan with a bit of oil over medium heat. Cook until browned on all sides.
  3. Mix sauce ingredients and add to pan. Stir and cook a few minutes until sauce thickens.
  4. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and call your mother (at least that's what my recipe says)
I forgot to add sesame seeds...do as I say, not as I do
Tips  
-For a complete meal, serve with brown rice and broccoli (we like to stir-fry broccoli with a bit of the sesame sauce so it gets infused with deliciousness)
-4 TBLS = 1/4 cup. This comes in handy if you're doubling the recipe

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tons of Effing Risotto

Welcome, Tens! As requested, here is the recipe for Tons of Effing Risotto, as featured on Cooking with Sean and adapted from Alice Water's The Art of Simple Food.

Ingredients
3 TBSP butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2 cups Arborio (or similar) rice
1 lemon, zested and juiced
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup Chateau Ste Michelle Gewurztraminer
1 bunch asparagus, cut on the diagonal into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup grated parmesan


Directions
  1. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a large saucepan. Add the diced onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring periodically. Rice should start to become translucent, but do not allow it to brown. Meanwhile, heat the vegetable broth in a separate pot until boiling, then turn off the heat.
  3. Add the lemon zest and wine to the rice. Cook until the wine is absorbed.
  4. Add 1 cup of the warm vegetable broth and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring occasionally. When the rice starts to get thick, add another 1/2 cup of broth. Continue adding 1/2 cup at a time, every time the rice thickens.
  5. After about 12 minutes simmering in the broth, stir in the cut asparagus. Cook until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes in all.
  6. When the rice is just about done, stir in the parmesan cheese, half the lemon juice and the remaining tablespoon of butter.
  7. Taste for salt and lemon juice, adding more as needed. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Quinoa: The best grain you've probably never heard of

Going vegetarian forced me into trying so many new foods.  It's amazing looking back and realizing all the foods that I had never thought to try! Quinoa, kale, tofu, swiss chard, zucchini, hummus, edamame.... Quinoa is a little surprising the first time you cook it, but it's very versatile and can be used in a variety of recipes or as a rice substitute. My latest quinoa dish tastes totally fresh but would probably fit in better on a hot summer day rather than the sub-zero temperatures we're currently experiencing.



Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa

Ingredients:
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tbsp butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp sugar
1 cup quinoa
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium tomatoes, diced
4 green onions, chopped
1/4 fresh cilantro

Directions:
  1. Whisk together lime juice, butter and sugar in a bowl.
  2. Add quinoa to 1-1/4 cups boiling water, simmer for about 12 minutes
  3. Combine all ingredients and serve.  I prefer it cold, but it can also be eaten warm.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Lazy Dinner: Kettlecorn Edition

This is one bad habit I can definitely blame on my mother.  When given the chance, we're both more than happy to excuse nutrition and forgo a proper dinner in favor of a bowl of popcorn.  I came up with this recipe in college, back when you were thought of as a gourmet chef if you could make popcorn without a microwave (it's that easy).  It's light, quick and satisfies both sweet and salty cravings.

Ingredients:
 
Olive or vegetable oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
2 TBLS white sugar (or to taste)
Salt

Instructions:
  1. Heat a bit of oil and two popcorn kernels in a covered, medium-sized pot on medium-high heat.
  2. When both kernels have popped, add the remaining popcorn and sugar.
  3. Shake the pot every 10 seconds or so to avoid burning.
  4. When all the popcorn is popped, pour it into a bowl and sprinkle with salt before it cools.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Our Spiteful Dog

Her name is Lexi.  She's an angel when we leave her every day to go to work but as soon as we break from schedule and go out at night or on the weekend, all of my possessions are at risk.  She doesn't just chew, she consumes. Whatever anger she has about us leaving her, she takes it all out on me.

Baring her over-active teeth

Things of mine Lexi has eaten:
  • Retainers
  • Sentimental hand-knit cashmere blanket
  • Sheets
  • Duvet cover
  • Flip flops
  • The toes of numerous socks
  • Underwear
  • Shirt
  • Hair clip
  • ...and counting
Things of Ryan's Lexi has eaten:
  • ...
C'mon!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kale and Contingency: What the heck is that?

Kale: A cabbage-like cultivated plant, Brassica o leracea acephala, of the mustard family, having curled or wrinkled leaves: used as a vegetable

Contingency: A contingent event, an incident that is likely but not certain to occur; unpredictable

Kale and Contingency: An amateur blog, an online location combining vegetarian cooking and life events; unidentified