Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Perfect Fall Day

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Balcobrary, Now With Comfort

Hot off the sewing machine: A cushion for the balcobrary reading nook bench upholstered in some nifty red canvas.

You'll recall that the "bench" is really a repurposed TV cart from IKEA and including the materials to make the cushion, I think the entire cost was like $200. Definitely my kind of project.
No comment yet from the kitty union...

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

What's For Dinner Wednesdays

A few days ago I made a pact with myself to get the heck outside my cooking box a little more frequently. Not to say that I'm a meat loaf and tuna casserole girl by any means, but I, probably like many people, tend to bypass all those grand and interesting sounding new recipes in the four or so food magazines I purchase regularly in favor of the same few recipes and dishes time and time again. Because they're good. But also because they're relatively mindless.
Truth be told however, I guess I fancy myself something other than a mindless cook and now that the days are shorter I figured planning and executing something new and untested at least once a week would make a good indoor diversion.
So, with any luck, I shall bring you something new, different and possibly delicious every Wednesday. And if you feel like playing along, let me know! We'll start a group. Because we could all use a little inspirational nudge now and then, right?

Tonight's menu:
Braised Short Ribs with Ancho Chili Sauce
Creamy Parmesan Polenta (from the Best of Gourmet cookbook)
Apple, Dried Cherry and Walnut Salad with Maple Dressing

I don't seem to be able to find the short rib recipe on the Epicurious website, but it's from the September 2002 issue of Bon Appetit, as is the salad.

I chose this recipe because it sounded good, but also because I've never cooked short ribs before. I guess what I didn't realize is that the finished product is a lot like pot roast. Which definitely isn't a bad thing.
We enjoyed the dish very much, although Boy was a little down on the polenta thing, which I can completely understand being that I'm not a crazy polenta fan myself, but I found it comforting. I will say that it's not the best pot roastish recipe I've made but it was unquestionably worth the effort. The salad was good as well with a nice combination of ingredients, although I found the dressing a bit much. I think the idea of using maple syrup in dressing is lovely but next time I'll forgo the mayo and try the maple in a simpler vinagrette.

So there you have it. The inagural What's for Dinner Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

More Appley Deliciousness

By now you have certainly gone out and gotten yourself some nice fresh local apples, right? Got a spare?
I hope it's fresh and crispy and a little tart. Peel it and slice it up. Put some butter and a tablespoon or two of sugar in a saute pan and heat until the sugar melts and starts to carmelize. Throw in the apple, some cinnamon and a grating of nutmeg and cook until the apple softens a bit. Meanwhile, put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in a dish. When the apples are ready, spoon them over the ice cream and there you have it, my favorite Fall treatie!

Or, if you prefer, peel and slice a whole pile of apples. Hopefully you've got this tool. Toss them with sugar and flour and cinnamon and nutmeg like you would for a pie. Pile this up in the middle of a square of puff pastry, then turn up and pleat the edges of the pastry to tuck the apples in all nice like. Dot with butter. Bake at 400 for a half hour or so or until the pastry is brown and the filling is bubbling.
Serve warm with ice cream or balance a cold slice on your fingertips and eat it standing at the counter in the kitchen, as I have just done :)

Happy Birthday to Boy, the Birthday Boy

A full service birthday:

What else to do but to cop a lounge in front of the BIG TV and enjoy?

Happy Birthday Boy!

P.S. Chocolate brown with dusty little kitty prints! Delicious, no?

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sous Kitty

For some reason M-Ah seems to be facinated with everything that goes on in the kitchen. If she were any other cat, I would assume she's in it for the potential dining opportunities, but since she turns her nose up at absolutely anything other than kitten kibble, I can only assume she's decided she want's to become a chef.
Anytime I am busy prepping or cooking, she sits on the counter and watches me intently, keeping her eyes on my every move and looking over my shoulder like a furry little apprentice. Occasionally she'll stroll over to the sink to look in at my produce trimmings and dirty saucepans as if she is evaluating the organization and cleanliness of my efforts. She'll hang around like this for as long as I am in the kitchen, and it's definitely one of the stranger things I have seen a cat do.

I can't tell if she approved of my wine pairing or not...

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Last Nights' Dinner: The Birthday Special

My favorite pal Ms. Knit-Whit and her K-spouse came for dinner last night and we indulged in some dinner deliciousness in honor of her impending birthday. A while ago now she had mentioned wanting to have a lobster roll. Where she got the idea I have no idea, but that was all the incentive I needed to put that on her supersecret birthday suprise dinner menu. It was a little bit of an adventure finding lobster around these parts, but I managed and that was certainly made up for by the fact that the lobster roll is actually a pretty quick and easy cooking endeavour:

I made these in what I understand to be the classic fashion, a bunch of lobster meat with just the slightest coating of mayo and some salt and pepper, (although I couldn't resist adding just the tiniest bit of lemon zest, too) on a buttered, toasted roll. Along side, we had the requisite pile of potato chips and a little butter lettuce, hearts of palm and avocado salad with a tarragon vinagrette. It was a fabulously simple and delicious meal.

Here is an after dinner shot of the our birthday girl and her charming date:

Be sure and head on over to her place to find out what was in the bag!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

At Long Last

The cotton socks...

nevermind that toe, K? I didn't want to keep you waiting on account of my laziness with the those last eight kitchner stitches :)

Have you noticed how I have a habit of finishing knitting projects just in time for them to be out of season?

I know I forgot about you again yesterday, but it's been a busy week and the weather has turned cold and Fallish, causing me to want to cook very unphotogenic (and hence, unbloggable) things like Chili (Wednesday night) and Chicken ala King with biscuits (tonight, and don't tell the carb police). And I've been scurrying around to gather up a fun pile-o-suprises for two of my favorite peeps who are having birthdays in the next few days but there's NO PEEKING! I can reveal, however, that tomorrow night we will celebrate with dinner at Casa Splatgirl for Ms. Knit-Whit and there shall be deliciousness and photos aplenty.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

And then There Was Furniture

Yes, well.
A lack of blogging for which I apologize.

You'll recall I mentioned the scheduled delivery of some furniture last Friday. It arrived as expected and is even better that I had been hoping these last three months. It's so nice, in fact, that I even went so far as to tell Boy last night that it COMPLETELY made up for the fact that I put up with our old Blue Couch from Hell (BCH) for so long and had to stifle the urge to just go out and replace it SO many times. So, I have been getting my lounge on in a big way an have been existing a state of blissful cowhide appreciation since Friday. I'd post a picture and show you but for some reason I decided the couch's color should be kept a secret from Ms. Knit-Whit and she's not going to get here to see it until Friday. So you just have to wait.

But there is more...
So as if I wasn't in enough of a state of excited anticipation over the prospect of actually having furniture after so long, I also got a call from IKEA on Friday telling me that the sofa I had ordered there was in TOO! I think I may have squealed with joy at the person on the phone. We welcome the Arlid and matching ottoman and eagerly await the avaliability of the Arlid chair:

I must say, it's pretty darn nice for $999.

And then...
I must also give as an excuse the arrival of one seriously BIG TV. And no, it's not for watching life size porn, and that idea didn't and probably wouldn't have even ocurred to me, but according to Boy, there isn't any porn in HD anyway, so what would be the point? :)
So as if having an amazingly comfortable sofa, finally, after all this time in the furniture-free new house wasn't good enough, we now have a CHOICE of where to sit AND we can watch TV!
I bet if you listened hard you could hear my butt thanking me.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Just a Quickie

...before I have to get ready to run off to Moto Knitter night at Betty's
I've been speed painting today in anticipation of a much awaited delivery!!

The sofa I ordered back in June is finally coming tomorrow, and as much as I've enjoyed doing everything from the comfort of one of our four kitchen chairs these past five months, Casa Splatgirl is REALLY looking forward to welcoming in comfortable seating. WHOOHOOO for sofa!!

So, I'm thinking of painting the ceiling soffit red like the red of those boxes you can see in the balcobrary. Would that be TOTALLY insane? Opinions?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mod of the Day

I swear I spend half my life modifying IKEA stuff to do things it is *almost* perfect for. I think they should make me a designer there so I can invent the stuff to do what I need it to straight away. Anyway, todays' mod: Turn a Kvadrant curtain panel and hanging rails into shoji-style screens for two glass panel doors.
It all started with these two fabulous antique maple and glass doors I got on the cheap and that were the perfect fit for the guest room and bathroom. That they were clear glass wasn't an issue because I knew I could obscure them in some way "later on".

"Later on" number one involved screwing around with the IKEA frost window film and getting really pissed off. The stuff stretches, you see, so if you cut it to the size you need or even a hair less and then try to put it on the glass all perfect-like and without cat hair under it, you will FAIL, because it ends up being too big and it's impossible to trim neatly once it's up because, like I said, it stretches. And of course I didn't figure this out until wasted about three rolls of the crap and by that time I was SO over the stuff that is was time for plan B.

The subsequent "later on" number two was a non-start. I had grabbed two sets of the Kvadrant hanging rails and a roll of the panel material quite a while ago thinking I could figure out a way to use it on these doors. I must have been cranky or impatient the day I evaluated the workability of the stuff after I got it home, however, because the hanging rails ended up in the "return to IKEA" pile in my pantry and the roll of fabric ended up up in my studio. Apparently I figured I could still use it somehow but of course I forgot any potential details of that somehow a long time ago.

Fast forward to "later on" number three, my avoidance of housekeeping chores, and rediscovery of the roll of panel fabric that leads me to retrieve the Kvadrant rails from the pantry pile and discover that, yes, I can make the stuff work. So I cut some parts off of some of the tiny parts and took off some other, tinier parts and viola....privacy for potty:

I especially like that IKEA sells all manner of interesting panel material that I can swap out with this plain stuff as the mood strikes me. Because the mood WILL strike me...

And one final note: DO NOT, under any circumstances, be so foolish as to think that when the IKEA package says the fabric inside it is 118", that this is so, and definitely DO NOT cut off 59" and think that you will have another 59" piece left, because you won't, and door screen #2 for your guest room will end up a couple of inches shorter causing you to swear. Mmmmkay?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Look Into My Pies

Ms. Knit-Whit had a grand appley adventure today. We started by gathering up some apples from the University of Minnesota Horticultural Research Center Apple House. The Apple House is my favorite place to buy apples because they've always got some new, unnamed varieties to discover and they're always just picked fresh plus buying their apples means they'll have more funding to develop yummy new ones--the Honeycrisp was invented there!

It's still early in the season, so they didn't have many varieties harvested yet but we picked up some Zestar!, Paula Red, and #1606's (that'd be the new and unnamed part), and then it was back to my place to get cooking.

A couple of months ago Ms. Knit-Whit shocked me with the words "I've never baked a pie or made pie crust". When I finished gasping and caught my breath, I insisted on scheduling a pie lesson ASAP because a world just can't possibly be complete without homemade pie and it's one of my favorite treats to bake.
So we started with the pastry, which as I would have expected, she did a smashing job with. Then while she ran a pile of apples through the peeler/slicer/corer (which, btw is the most amazingly fabulous invention ever) and tossed them with sugar and spices, I made us a quick lunch of apple, Brie and bacon pannini sandwiches. (Can you say YUM?)
We let our piecrust chill while we ate, so after lunch it was back to work rolling out dough and piling as many apples into the pie plates as we could. Ever the kind and patient teacher, Carrie even tried to teach the inquisitive M-Ah about pie baking.

Fortunately, I had whipped us up a little apple tart with the leftovers so we wouldn't suffer the agony of having to wait the hour it took our pies to bake to indulge, but that didn't keep me from having a slice of the real thing as soon as it was cool...because I had to show you the insides of the finished product and my famous apple cave...duh. Pie for diner. YUM.

P.S. Isn't her handmade apron just FAB? I think it might be the most photogenic apron ever!

Monday, September 11, 2006


Lunch at Midtown Global Market
The sound of a plane slowing down way up high
A bald eagle in a tree next to the lake
A pile of dust from drilling a hole in concrete

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday Night Eats

Steak Au Poivre, mine with mushrooms, Boy's without. Both yum!

In other news...
The #1 reason why NOT to give Boy the TV remote: He puts on a rerun of Miami Vice, watches it for ten minutes (WTF?) and then leaves the room, all at a time when you are too busy cooking to find the damn thing and end your suffering. In case you forgot why the eighties was the wrongest decade EVER.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Can Live With Unmade Today...

because two kitties lounging on the SAME bed is truly an event around here.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Puffy Pancake: Now With Apples

You may recall my past ramblings about my obsession with the puffy pancake. Since there's hardly a morning that passes without my thinking that a puffy pancake would be nice for breakfast, I think it's safe to say I'm still obsessed.
Enter a whole new version of puffy pancake love:

That, friends, is an apple puffy pancake, or perhaps apple waspuffy pancake is a better description. But never fear, getting it onto the plate in still puffed form (or not, as the case may be) has absolutely no effect on it's eatability. You'll be happy to know that this one made it from plate to stomach without incident and was insanely delicious.

The basic puffy pancake recipe remains as per my previous post. For this one, you'll also need cinnamon, sugar and an apple that you have readied by peeling, coring and slicing. Personally, I like a mostly tart apple that doesn't turn to mush when cooked. Most importantly, it MUST be fresh and hopefully local. In this case, my choice was a Zestar!, but Haralson is another of my favorites for cooking.

So, in your trusty well-seasoned cast iron skillet--you DID go buy one, right?--, saute the apple slices in a tablespoon or two of butter, adding in maybe 1 tsp. of cinnamon, a grating of fresh nutmeg and a tablespoon or two of sugar. You want the apples to just start to soften and shrink and the sugar to begin to carmelize. With the skillet very hot, arrange them in a single layer and dump the pancake batter over. Pop everything into a pre-heated oven just like before, and in 10 or 15 minutes, you too can have an apple puffy pancake ready for plate and fork. Definitely, definitely serve this baby with butter and maple syrup.

I think the best thing about this fruity version is how the apples around the edges and on the bottom of the pan start to get a little carmel-crisp. And I also love the contrast between the tart, toothiness of the hot apples and the sweetness of the maple syrup. It's pancake bliss.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Dinner at El Nuevo Rodeo

I was taken on an unexpectedly fabulous dinner date last Friday to what is apparently the Twin Cities' Latin dining and dancing destination of the minute. Perhaps I am revealing my un-hipness here, but had I not caught up on the word via a post-visit Google search, I would have never thought El Nuevo Rodeo is the place to be. Maybe because we were the ONLY peeps in the place. Which was maybe because we were there early to score some eats before heading off on a quick dash to IKEA, but I'm sure the old people had been lined up outside the Cracker Barrel for at least an hour or two, so it's not like it was THAT early.
Anyway, the food was AM-A-ZING. We ordered the Parrillada (menu here) on the recommendation of our hostess/server/bartender. This dish also happened to be the only thing she was willing to recommend, and I couldn't tell if this was because it was the only thing she liked, because it was the only thing she felt comfortable describing in English, or if this was a snub because we weren't speaking Spanish. I suspect it was the latter, but whatever, because it was beyond delicious.
Unfortunately, I wasn't expecting that this was going to be a picture-worthy kind of date, so I didn't bring my camera, but you get a bit of an idea via the phonecam:

That thing is an elevated, heated tray that was basically a pile-o-grilled meat along with some cactus leaf, onion, the most amazing fried cheese I have ever eaten, and some seriously fresh warm corn tortillas. There are not words to describe how tasty it all was, but my favorite was the beef short ribs that would have made a vegetarian kneel and beg. Absolutely the definition of cow deliciousness. So the gist of the thing...I think... is that you wrap up all these various tidbits in a tortilla and chow down, which is exactly what we did, with enough leftovers for at least another meal or two. And the 2 for 1 margaritas were pretty dang tasty too.
It was unlike anything I have ever eaten and a lot like what I hope to be eating again soon. And apparently you can hook yourself up with this and everything else on the restaurant menu until 3am, which ought to keep you off the White Castle crack for a while. So check it out, but also check out the online reviews to get an idea of what you might be in for if you're planning on going later in the evening...

El Nuevo Rodeo
2709 East Lake Street
Minneapolis MN 55406

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

An Excuse for Art?

As part of the festivities over the weekend, Boy and I took a little field trip to Big Stone Mini Golf and Sculpture Garden. It was an outing we had been meaning to get to since last summer and let me tell you, it was definitely worth the wait! The art lover in me found Big Stone a fabulous excuse to walk around in someone's personal gallery, studio and fantasy land and we were so wowed by the scuplture that we couldn't be bothered to mess around with our putters at all. On the other hand, the kids that were running around everywhere seemed to be having a blast playing a game of mini golf like none other. Every hole offers a new and different wonderland of carved rock, metal and wood and it's all just so cool that you can't stop being amazed. And besides the fabulous interactive works of art that make up the golf course, there's quite a few resident critters to get up close and personal with too.
The statement "this is SO COOL!" could be heard in abundance, and you know, that's exactly what I was thinking! I'm proud to say Big Stone is one of our neighborhood attractions, but even if you don't live close by, it's absolutely worth the drive.
Here's the best internet bio I could find on the world-recognized artist and owner, Bruce Stillman.

Big Stone Mini Golf and Sculpture Garden
7110 County Road 110 Ext.
Minnetrista, MN 55364
(952) 472-9292

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Happy Birthday to ME!

Leave it to my awesome friend Knit-Whit to find the neatoest birthday present evah:

Plus, a kitchen gadget I've NEVER EVEN SEEN. I would have thought that impossible. Mine, however, are much cooler as they are lime green!

And she's also deprived some poor little second-grader of their surely much coveted set of these, in order that I should have a back-up set:

Because, like her, I was just unable to resist all the school supply goodness and she made the mistake of telling me about them :)

Anyway, I have had a fun and adventurous weekend and have a lot of coolness to tell you about, but I don't want to make you late for the first day of school so you'll just have to wait...

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