Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Industrializing My Condo

For those of you who don't know (which is basically none of you since I only have five followers and you've all been here), I have a wall of mirrors in my living room.  It's a rather well-done wall and doesn't make the house seem like it's a 70's porn set at all.  I actually have grown to love and appreciate the mirrors.

When I had a dog for three days (which is a whole other story), the only time she was ever calm was when she saw herself in the mirror.  She became very confused and growled at herself.  It was minutes of amusement.

I also had a boyfriend who I would catch checking himself out in the mirror often when we were watching TV.  It was a clear sign of things to come...

Regardless, the mirror is a much loved part of my home, but it also takes up a whole wall, which cuts down on the amount of art I can put up.  I have a very eclectic collection of art.  There are some movie posters.  One for Fitzwilly, a fun 60's holiday movie that furthers my awkward crush on Dick Van Dyke, and one for a muppet movie that doesn't yet exist, but will be awesome someday.  There is some Red Sox-related art- Norman Rockwell's The Rookie and a shot of a rainbow over Fenway, which is now everywhere, including on the inside of an umbrella my mother bought me last year.

I have some colorful creations I've made, some framed stamp sets of Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn,  framed postcards of the original covers of the Anne of Green Gables series.  I also have an original painting of what I think is a social commentary in the form of a library that was done by a local artist and given to me as a gift from my parents when I got my library degree.  It's an eclectic mix, but it's all up there.

All except for two framed prints that I have loved since I was in high school.  Both have my favorite shades of blue and have been wasted hiding under a sofa until I could figure out where to put them.

After much conversation and contemplation, I figured it out.  I decided to make my mirror into an industrial-style art gallery.

First I bought a wire hanging system from Ikea that would have been lovely for hanging curtains, but failed miserably for hanging anything else from.  Then my father and I did some heavy-duty thinking.  And we finally came up with an old standby: pipe.

So, while most people spend their time trying to figure out how to cover up pipes hanging from the ceiling, I spent a few evenings and afternoons trying to figure out how to install 10 feet of 1/2" galvanized steel pipe into my ceiling, hopefully hitting a study or two on the way.

It took my father (who comes with a wide selection of tools, ladders and random pieces of particle board), my rambunctious brother and a bunch of hours, but we did it. 

Here's what it too:
A stud-finder.  And luckily, a sense of adventure, since the stud-finder seemed to want to find studs in no practical sense with no rhyme or reason involved.
A drill (which will soon be followed by a container of putty).
Four pipe mounting brackets
Four 3/8X2 1/2" eye bolts
Two pieces of 60" galvanized steel pipe with threaded ends.
Two end caps
One coupler

A lot of 30lb framers wire
Various tools
and a good sense of humor
ceiling brackets up

more ceiling brackets

installing the eye bolts

Pipe threaded through the eye bolts

Pipe up
First picture hanging

I took the frame apart to move the hanging brackets out and moved them to the top of the frame to string the framing wire from so the picture would hang flat.

Framing wire doubled around the pipe at the top.

Second picture up and hanging

 Final product

The Mini Strombolis

Sometime over the past two weeks, I have decided that things made with pizza dough are healthy, as long as I put vegetables in them somewhere.  Therefore, I made stromboli again for dinner last night.  This time I decided to make small, individual sized ones.  I figure I really like the dough part the best, so I might as well work with what I like.

I made the same tomato-artichoke sauce as when I made the other stromboli, but this time I used a can of chipotle fire-roasted tomatoes.  They're extra smokey and delicious.

I sauteed onions, peppers and fennel, for some extra healthiness (?).


Some mushrooms...

and put it all together with mozzarella and shredded fontinella. 

I definitely overstuffed them, but I got four out of one chunk of dough.

I think they look a little bit like dead body parts here, once they've been baked.  I seem to have stretched the dough a little thin and not baked them long enough.  I've also been watching a lot of TV shows involving dead body parts, which might explain it as well.

Quite tasty and should keep me in stromboli all week!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Night of Beer - Part 2: Dinner

To counteract the effect the beer brownies would be having on my waistline, I thought I'd go healthy for dinner.

Last week I purchased a bag of little red, yellow and orange peppers at Costco and have been eating them ever since with lunch, but I saw today that they were getting a bit wrinkly.  I decided to cut them up and sautee them with onion and mushrooms.
I love sauteed mushrooms (in an almost unnatural way).
Star Market also had asparagus on sale, so I added some of that as well.

While cooking, I thought I might as well continue the evening of beer, so rather than using sherry, which is my usual alcohol of choice to drown my mushrooms in, I used a Dogfish Head 60-Minute IPA.  That and some salt made for quite a nice flavor.
Yesterday, I bought already-cooked brown rice in a bag from Trader Joes, so I threw the veggies on top of that when finished.  Tasty meal, and enough for lunch tomorrow.

The Night of Beer - Part 1: Brownies

I have a bunch of leftover beer from a barbecue I had a few months ago.  It was one of those fluke beautiful days in March and I spur-of-the-moment invited some people over and it all came together really well.  This post isn't about the barbecue though, it's about the beer.

So, I have a bunch of beer leftover and I was thinking today that I wanted to make brownies.  Originally, I thought I'd make whiskey brownies, but then I realized I didn't have any whiskey and the idea of buying some just to cook with seemed silly, so I thought of what I did have and again, came up with beer.  I found a lot of recipes for stout brownies, but not having any stout, I thought I could work with it. 

I used this recipe, but naturally made plenty of changes along the way.   As a tangent, I am always slightly disappointed by how my recipes come out (except for that chocolate peanut butter cake, that thing was absurd), maybe I should actually follow the recipes that other people have tried before.  What a concept.

I used a wide variety of chocolates.  There were Nestles chocolate chips, Hershey's 60% dark, some Lake Champlain milk chocolate square, a milk-chocolate Hershey's Easter bunny and a random Hershey's nugget.  (Next time I quit the frugal and just buy the Scharffen Berger)

 And in case that wasn't enough chocolate, there was also a cup of cocoa powder as well.

Two thirds of the chocolate and a bunch of butter in a double boiler waiting to melt.  By the way, I can't imagine how people live without double boilers.  Or Mix-Masters.  It is enthralling to me.
This is the beer I used - Xingu Black Beer.  I had never had it before, but it seemed like the darkest brew in the crisper drawer.  I did drink the last sip and it reminded me somewhat of the Manischewitz of the beer world.  I don't think that's necessarily a good thing, but it's not that bad...

Ready to go in the oven.

Just out of the oven.

Completely unrelated to beer, Star Market was having a sale on berries, so I bought a bunch.  I made a lovely strawberry, blackberry, blueberry fruit salad and ate it with my warm, gooey brownie.  It was de-light-ful.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Free Advertising

Here's a moment of free advertising.  I am totally loving these new Brown Rice chips by Ming Tsai (of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass. and Simply Ming on PBS).  They're really good.  Light and crispy and just salty enough, and they're not too bad for you (110 calories for 33 chips). 

Oddly, they only seem to be available at Costco or BJ's, but I'd say are worth the trip.

Nutrition facts below.

Some Reviews:
Associated Content 2/3/10
Ms. Veggie's Review Blog 9/21/09

The Boston Cream Pie

Yesterday was Mothers' Day, which in my house is kind of a big deal.  It's not that we're typically big on the Hallmark holidays, but my grandmother's birthday is May 9th, my sister-in-law's is May 11th and my mother's is May 12, so it all folds into being a rather celebratory time of year.   I'm pretty sure I've posted about this before.  In 2008 I threw a brunch at my house featuring chocolate cups filled with strawberries and mint and a coconut cake with meringue frosting.  Last year was my grandmother's 90th birthday, so I made a special cake for that. 

This year we did the whole thing again.  A few weeks ago I learned that Boston Cream Pie is my grandmother's favorite dessert.  I figured that being that she was turning 91 on Mother's Day, so was pretty much entitled to whatever she wanted and if Boston Cream Pie was her favorite, that's what she'd get. 

I ran out of time because I went to a freezing cold, rainy, crappy loss of a game at Fenway that didn't start until 3 when I thought it was supposed to start at 1, so my father, very kindly, made the cake for me.  He made two layers of yellow cake in a heart-shaped pan.  The shape grew on me.  I had planned on hanging out with my cousin, who was in town for the birthdays, that night, so we went to my mom's and she helped me with the rest.  We also ate an interesting schmorgesborg of dinner that included salad, a turkey sandwich, two kinds of sushi, mozzarella-tomato salad, half-sour pickles and muffins.  We might not do that again. 

I made the pastry cream from the recipe in the Joy of Cooking.  I can't find it online, but it was on page 996, and I think a pretty standard pastry cream recipe.  It came together far more easily than I expected it to.  I also made the ganache from the Joy of Cooking recipe, which caused me to make the ganache again, from this website.  It worked a lot better the second time.  For some reason the first batch just didn't get thick enough.  Between the two ganaches and giving time to let the pastry cream cool and chill, it was a long night, but we interspersed it with reruns of The Golden Girls

Eventually, it all came together nicely and was raved about the next day. 

Next year: three layers, two yellow, one chocolate, filled with vanilla and chocolate pastry cream.

The Stromboli

Continuing on my obsession with Whole Foods pizza dough, here's another picture-less post.  I biked to Whole Foods the other day and bought more pizza dough. 

Discerning a few myths about me biking to Whole Foods:
1. The closest WF to me is approximately .6 miles from my house.
2. The whole trip there is at a slight incline.  I will not lie, there was some huffing and puffing.
3. The whole trip back took approximately 45 seconds at a slight decline. 
4. I feel very green riding my bike back with my reusable canvas bag filled with organic groceries in my bike basket.  This could be the start of a whole new me.

This is what my bike looks like:
It is a Bianchi Milano 8-speed.  It is a boy's bike and it is silver.  I got it used from the Corner Cycle rental shop in Falmouth, Mass.  (They're really nice there, I highly recommend visiting if you want to rent a bike on Cape Cod.)

My bike is a bit worn, has some stickers, a blue bell (it came with it from the rental place) and a nice cushy seat.  It also has a metal basket that attaches to the front and completely throws off the balance.  I love it too.