Monday, January 5, 2009

Let's play catch-up

Last you heard from me, I was preparing to fork over a few good holiday recipes and get a little housework done. And then my hard drive crashed. Fatal, nothing spinning, dead as a doornail hard drive crash. So yeah. It's up and running now, and I took lots of pictures in the meantime...

Baking Day
I had such high hopes for delivering these great recipes with step by step pictures. And I started out in the right vein.

Here's the sifted flour and butter/sugar for pecan butter balls-- those melt in your mouth powdered sugar covered cookies:

Here's the butter for 4 recipes worth of almond English toffee:

And the melting sugar and milk for candied pecans:

But then, before I knew it...Oops! All done!

Bagged, canned and ready to go.

But I will still give you one recipe...

Orange-Candied Pecans and Cranberries

1 cup packed brown sugar
3 Tbs condensed milk
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp orange zest
2 cups of pecans
1 cup dried cranberries

Combine brown sugar and condensed milk in saucepan over medium-high heat (see pic above). Bring to 234ºF (softball stage).

Once you've reached 234, turn off heat and stir in butter and orange zest. Add pecans and cranberries until coated. Pour out on wax paper.

Once cooled, break pecan halves apart and bag. I ended up adding a little more than 2 cups of pecans and however many cranberries looked good. You can see that the above is more than one recipe. That's maybe 4? Anyway, easiest thing in the world and magical.

Holiday Business
The kiddo finally got to paint the ornaments I mentioned in the last post:

We hosted Christmas Eve dinner and munched on ham for several days of leftovers. For Christmas, Adam's folks got us a new toaster/convection oven. I'm loving it so far. And my mother got us an espresso machine. It's a much nicer one than I'd have ever bought for myself, and being a former Starbucks employee/Kool-Aid drinker, I've been having a great time fiddling with it and making fancy beverages. It's a wonder that with the DAILY whole milk lattes since Christmas morning I haven't gained 20 pounds. It was lovely.

For New Year we went to friend's house. She has a passel of kids so there was much Rock Band being played and much rum punch being imbibed. By the grownups, of course. Fizzy grape juice for the little ones and ummy yummy Ro-tel dip.

House Business
We did actually get a little done. I got a couple of coats of poly on the countertop trim and made a little progress on the remaining kitchen crown (one little fussy corner is giving me hell). I also started painting that hellish green window in the kitchen, at which point we made some decisions. The kitchen is being finished in alkyd paint. If we lived in a perfect world, I would do the trim throughout the house the same way. But there's circumstances beyond my control. First, I was told by two POs ago that they stripped most of the trim. It now only has one or two layers of paint on it. This was less than ten years ago, and they were living in the house. It's not a high gloss. I'm betting it's latex to begin with. Also, WE live in the house and alkyd is stinky and toxic. And finally, I would have to confine the cats for DAYS depending on the weather and I'm just not interested. We've already given the baseshoe a thin coat of alkyd, so I'll probably want to sand and prime with Zinsser 123 to make sure the latex will stick. Eh. I'm ok with it.

Adam got the garage cleaned and fairly organized, which was a feat of mega proportions and we got the basic box of the gable vent built:

The slats are one more recycling of the garage door boards. And the 2X4s were salvaged from another project. We'll get it permanently set and then trim around it. First I want to paint it. This thing was a monster-- 42" across, and nobody makes a stock size that's horizontal like that.

That's the main stuff. Mostly, we sat on our butts or cleaned or baked. And going back to work is tough now. Really tough.


Kristin and Rob said...

Your baked treats look delicious; thanks for the recipe. I am trying to do more of that too (post recipes).
By the way, how do you like your granite tile countertops? Are they nice to use for baking/rolling dough?

Amalie said...

Thanks! The pecans are surprisingly delicious.

I haven't used the tile for dough yet-- the grout does seem to clean up well in general, but we have the butcher block island cart that I use for almost all prep. We plan to build a permanent island that will have a butcher block counter-height top and built-in scrap tray, as well as a granite bar to give the kitchen some eat-in space. I've been wanting to bake some bread, so I may use the granite for kneading and I'll report on that; the cart has wheels and will end up in the next room if I try to hand knead on that surface! I will say the ability to simply chop on the wood counter has been great; the granite almost always looks clean, though, and that's really nice for coffee and crumbs.

Kristin and Rob said...

Thanks for the feedback! I have thought about doing granite tile here and wondered how it was. Your tile countertops look very nice. I actually have a few 12x12 marble tiles that I made a board out of for when I shape/roll out pizza dough (I let the handy food processor knead for me!), but it wiggles around and drives me nuts. :)
I would love to have an island, but we don't have room, unless we clear out the entire breakfast area in the back of the kitchen, which I don't want to do.
I do have a small cart with a butcher block top and I have considered tiling that and seeing how that goes before going all out with the countertops. Hmmm...
Thanks again for your help and keep the posts coming!:)

Jennifer said...

YUMMY! Sorry to hear about your hard drive... seems to be going around this year.

The gable vent looks good.

fred@opc said...

ooo a toaster oven. We loved ours - but in the move we lost kitchen counter space and the door on it broke (slightly, not all the way). We ended up giving it to goodwill, so I hope it finds a good home. It was WAY faster at cooking small frozen meals than our oven. Chicken strips in the toaster/convection oven only took about 8 minutes.. Our oven takes at least 15 (7 of which is to warm up). So, I'm a little envious.

So sorry to hear about your hard drive crash - that is a TOTAL pain. Kim and I have (almost) gotten into the habit of regularly backing up our drives to an external drive... its been about 3 weeks since I've done it and you've reminded me to do it tomorrow night.

Welcome back online!