Thursday, January 28, 2010

Follow-Up On My Inability to Simmer and What-Not

I was lamenting my simmering saga from the Beef Stew to my oven repair man, Canady (like "Canada" with a "y" and no- I did not call him to fix the simmer, but because the oven makes the stop top super hot, which I learned is totally normal...). Anyway, he informed me that if you have a gas stove-top, one of the inner burners will be smaller than the others and that is the burner to use for simmering. Sweet. Good to know. I will try that.

My mom said that I can buy a diffuser to attach to the burner to help spread out the heat and simmer better. I will try that next.

She also mentioned that we do in fact have a family recipe file. News to me (and probably news to anyone who is in my family). My mom used to make bowls of popcorn for dinner- and I'm not complaining; I just can't imagine what's been collected over the years. Supposedly she's going to send me a copy of it (assuming she's not offended by me outing her with the popcorn dinners-which were fabulous). Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hello Paula Deen, Beef Stew Much??

Beef stew was one of those foods I avoided from age 5-18... my mom tried to make it a few times but my brother was super picky it wasn't worth the fight. And, for what it's worth, I knew that no matter how many foods I rejected, I would never be as picky as Tommy so I kinda flew under the radar on these things and ate whatever I wanted for the most part.

Anyway, now I like it and when I went to ask my mom for the recipe a few months ago she said, "Oh- I don't make a good Beef Stew". Really? I hope someone besides a 7-year-old boy who insists on eating cereal, cheese pizza, and peas and an opportunistic 5-year-old girl told her it wasn't good... Either way, I wasn't getting any from the family, recipe file (and I don't think such a file exists...).

Enter Paula Deen and her Old Time Beef Stew. It got 5/5 stars based on 381 reviews on Food Network and there was non of her typical Ms. Deen butter: how does one say no? I read the reviews and decided to add a bit of beef broth and red potatoes. I purchased all organic ingredients, including 2 pounds of organic, grass fed, locally grown beef from Whole Foods (my wallet is still crying). I was super excited.

But here's the problem : Amy doesn't know how to brown beef. Obviously, I cook it until it's some sort of brown. But, does that mean just brown on all sides? Cooked through? How long should it take? As I have the equivalent of this month's rent worth of beef cooking in the Le Crueset, I am frantically posting on yahoo's answer board... "how do I brown stew meat?". Here is what I know now...

1. Browning meat is done to seal in the flavor and prevent the meat from getting tough;
2. Stew meat should be browned, but not cooked all of the way through; and
3. One should not over-crowd the pan during browning process, as this will actually steam the meat instead of browning the meat.

Well, I went for the triple crown and botched all three of these things. My meat was tough; my meat was cooked all the way through; and my pan was super-crowded steaming the meat. Go big or go home? I suppose...

And by no means was that the end of it... apparently, I am inept at how to simmer for 1 1/2 hours on our new cook-top. I could not find "simmer" to save my life. It was either "boil" or "warm". I finally got around to adding the carrots, celery, and potatoes. I added THREE extra cups of beef broth to compensate for the potatoes (and besides, the liquid level was super low in the pot". It took 20 minutes longer to cook than anticipated because of the additions, and even though I added extra cornstarch to thicken the "gravy" as Ms. Deen calls it, it still was pretty watery.

So, we ended up with a soup that had a great flavor, but I would not give it a 5/5- obviously I messed up something (or perhaps everything). The hunks of meat and potato were HUGE and they did not fit in with the watery base.

The good thing?? We have 2 nights worth of left-overs to get through in the near future. Lucky us :)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Catching-Up and Moving On

The past week has been very exciting for me and Matt... we found out we're having a little boy and my parents came in town for a weekend visit!! So, we've been busy, to say that least :) But these are great things, not only because it's family, but because they're things that make me get off my butt and get the house organized.

One of the most frustrating things about having a high-risk pregnancy is that I haven't been "released" to do much. I can walk and float down a pool on my back- I can't even do the backstroke. I can dust the house, do dishes, and fold laundry, but I can't really clean anything. And that means that Matt is stuck doing a lot of the grunt work. He's happy to do it, of course: he's the sweetest man alive and he would take on any extra responsibilities to have a child. But, I hate it. I feel useless and I hate that he spends his down-time working on our house. I have to say that he did a great job getting everything in order for my parent's visit. The house was clean and organized enough (we did just move 3 weeks ago, so give some grace!), and I feel like we're making some progress here.

Now that we know we're having a boy, I feel like it's going to be easier to get things settled and organized. I am HUGE into envisioning my future and playing out likely/unlikely scenarios for every possible outcome... Matt calls is "worrying"- I call it "processing so I can be organized". Potayto/Potahto. Anyway, now I can see our life in this little house with our baby boy so I'm more energized to get settled. I ordered a diaper bag and some clothes for our little man. As a part of my "processing so I can be organized", I'm beginning to research just how much clothing he'll really need for each stage (input is greatly appreciated). I'm starting to work on the textiles for his room... I'm thinking I might go custom, simply because I want certain things to match. I'm starting to debate BPA free plastic bottles vs. glass ones, and I even cleared a shelf in the kitchen for all of his eating supplies. The list goes on-and-on... but, I feel like I can actually tackle these things... because Baby Boy will be here soon!!

Another thing I'm getting all organized are my coupons. Since we moved in late November and life has been a cluster since that time, I have not kept up on my coupon clipping (gasp!). BUT, we purchased a Sunday paper yesterday and I plan on clipping/filing tonight while watching The Bachelor. I threw out all of the expired ones last night. We needed groceries desperately today, so I scoured the weekly circular to be the biggest opportunist I could be. I got 6 bags of groceries for 48% off with NO coupons... it was all from looking at the circular and shopping the sales. Can you imagine if I had coupons I could match with my purchases? It would have been an epic shopping adventure. Hopefully, I can build my coupon stash in the next few weeks and get back on the saving band-wagon.

So, life here is getting organized to a point where I might actually be able to blog about some of it... don't hold your breath.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Slowly, Slowly, Slowly Goes the Sloth

Well, the house is making progress -- not much progress, but some. I thought we'd have the bathroom together by now, but it's been a bit hap-hazard. Here's a summary of the progress:

The Bathroom
This was supposed to be the "easy" room and I thought it would be done in a period of 24-hours. All I needed was new hardware for the cabinets/walls and a shower curtain. Easy, right? Matt was more than happy to tackle the hardware (yea!!) and I was certain that I could find the right curtain. And I did- it was only $20 at Marshals- score! When Matt was ready to install the hardware, I went to Home Depot and picked it all up- sans the 6th and final cabinet handle I needed. Wouldn't you know it- they only had 5 and even though I stop by regularly, they haven't restocked. Matt finished the hardware installation in a matter of days (sans the final handle, for which I'm still searching). I washed, ironed, and put up the curtain. Barf- it was horrible. Just awful. I can't believe I paid money for it. Time to regroup.

I looked at the bathroom for several days and finally realized (and embraced) what it really needed: a new curtain (obviously), new towels, and new "accessories". I hate thinking about buying all that "junk", but what we currently own just doesn't work with our current situation. Matt agreed, so I started to look around. The only one I liked that would work in our bathroom was from Pottery Barn and not available to ship until the end of February. And since I want the towels to match, I'll have to wait until that arrives and I can match them right. I'll then pick-up some nice, polished nickel accessories to pull everything together. Heck- maybe Home Depot will actually have my 6th handle by then. But until that glorious day when everything is here, our bathroom is in a tacky transition.

The Kitchen
Oh the kitchen... it's a beast. Our dishwasher won't arrive until the end of January, so our counter is constantly littered with dishes that are drying. And where there aren't dishes, there are clusters of random junk that hasn't quite found a home, yet. Our oven (hello, 1970) is getting replaced this week. And our kitchen table is too big for our kitchen, so we're waiting for an antiques place to come appraise/sell it for us. In the meantime, it's not-fitting-so-well in our dining area, covered in a jumble of junk ranging from baskets, to q-tips, to bills (which I need to pay, but I can't find stamps). So, give me two weeks and maybe- just maybe- it'll be ready.

The Master Bedroom
This might actually be the first place ready for photographs. We have the new sheets on the bed, and our white bed-skirt finally arrived (now I just need to wash/iron it...). We're using our current furniture, so all we need to do is sort/organize our clothes and actually find a way to have it all make sense. (Oh- and somehow find our lamps. Where did they go?) And there's this other problem: window treatments. I'm drawing such a blank on this area, that I'm considering hiring a decorator. I don't know where to start...

The Living Room
Well, it's functioning as of this moment. All of the furniture that we needed for the space has arrived and half of it is assembled (thanks, Matt!). But also in this room is a whole bunch of random boxes full of random stuff. Once we get everything put together and get rid of all of the junk (and for-the-love-of-all-things-holy iron our rug), I'll feel a lot better. But this room has the issue of window treatments, too. Maybe Mama Huff can help when she's in town next week.

The Nursery
This room is currently the "catch all" room. All of our "misc" stuff is in there- and there's a lot it. The good thing is that I'm only 4 months along so we have awhile to really pull it together. It's nice to have this room to just put things and sort through them slowly. Needless to say, this room won't be ready for a long time- even longer if Baby Franck continues to be modest/secretive about his/her gender. Oh- and there are window treatment issues in this room, too. Bottom line: don't expect photos until the baby's almost here.

So, that's where we are... it's a crummy place: I feel like we're never making progress on anything! But, we have loads and loads and loads of things for goodwill, so that's a start.

Monday, January 11, 2010

2010- I Made It

Not only are we finally in California, but we're also finally in our permanent home. I've been moving since the beginning of November and my body, mind, and house can feel it.  It's time to get sorted and organized. It's time for all 5 of us (me, Matt, Hula, Gerdy, and BABY!!) to settle.

I'm super-excited about the un-pack, because for 2 1/2 months I have not really been doing anything house-wifey... just playing the getting-by game. And, typical of me, I have a plan for this: we're going one room at a time.  Tonight and tomorrow is dedicated to finishing the bathroom/hall closet.

Oh- and I actually made a menu for the week- go me!! It's not exciting (lots of easy favorites), but it feels good to be settled in this area for the week :)

Monday: Chicken/noodle casserole
Tuesday: Homemade (but not from scratch...) Tomato Soup
Wednesday: Dinner out to celebrate finding out the gender of our baby!!
Thursday: Beef Strudel with Green Beans
Friday: Black bean and chicken soup
Saturday: Shepherd's Pie
Sunday: Brinner

Hoping my daily organizing/unpacking goes well enough to get some good pics :)