Been awhile, huh?

Without going into too much detail, I will tell you three things.

1. Work has been picking up lately! Which doesn’t affect my home life, but it just means I have less energy in my down time for extra things. But that stops now.

2. My dear D has made a life change that means he works a different job that is more “shift” based. We’re not both on a 9-5 schedule anymore. (Which I think is sort of neat! More below.)

3. We got engaged! That’s right, guys. Two weeks ago while we were vacationing in New Mexico, D asked me to marry him, and I said yes. We don’t have details yet, but I am sure the blog will explode with DIY madness in the months to come. In the meantime, I am stocking up on all the sane, awesome, relevant, budget advice of the blog A Practical Wedding.

20130518_101653[1]

So, more on why D and I working opposite schedules is a neat thing.

I clean better when my partner isn’t at home. We have a pretty even partnership around the house– we both cook, we both take care of the cats, we both clean and do the laundry. He is more apt to take out the garbage and do car maintenance, and I am more likely to do “deep” cleaning. But I just don’t want to do that when he’s home. Every have that “clean the bathroom” moment when a 15-minute quick scrub turns into a 2-hour ordeal with you surrounded by every tube of mascara you’ve ever purchased? Yeah, I don’t do that when he’s home. And we live in a small, one-bedroom apartment, where we plan to stay for the next several years while D goes back to school. We also have a lot of hobbies. And when I say a lot, I mean we camp, I can and preserve, he homebrews, I cook and collect cookbooks, he paints, we both are digital and analog photographers, he’s still building a boat, and we garden. Plus we have cats. This is a lot of activity for 700 square feet, and it takes up a lot of space.

Enter the June Home Cleanse, which I’ve closely modeled after the January Home Cure from Apartment Therapy. See, if I’m going to spend the next year making jam favors, DIY-ing centerpieces, printing my own invites, and homebrewing enough beer for 100 people, I need to make some space in my life to do those things. Did I mention my little sister is also getting married? And I am the maid of honor? No? Yeah, you see what I mean. I need to make physical room in my home for all the good things that are happening over the course of the next year. I also need to jump-start this blog, and I love a good project, especially one that involves making a plan and following a list of pre-set instructions. I’m halfway d0ne with the Couch to 5k running program, with no running experience, basically because it’s set up so that every day, the program tells me what to do. I’m just obeying orders. Somehow, this is easier for me. Plus, at the end of the June Home Cleanse, I get to throw a dinner party!

June may not be the best month for this, since I’m taking a week off soon to go out of town, but the program is actually 3 weeks, not 4, so I figure it will be easy enough to catch back up when I’ve returned from my trip. But this summer is so busy for my new fiance, as he’s taking 3 classes and working full time at a new job, so this seems as good a time as any to start making space in our home for all the good that’s entering our lives.

Day 1 starts tomorrow morning, when I’ll be walking through my home and making a list of small and large things I want to improve. Basically, you want to make a list as you slowly walk through your home of things you want to change. Then, sit down with your list and break it up by room. Edit the list until you have only 3-5 items per room, so you don’t get overwhelmed. We won’t be tackling all of these projects this month, so don’t worry. This is month 1 of a long-term plan to declutter our homes and make them more pleasant, serene places to be. I can already think of several things, but I’m going to post the final list tomorrow. See Apartment Therapy’s Day 1 post for more details, and let me know if you’re joining me!

I’m a bad blogger lately. A round of sinus infections, out-of-town trips, work obligations, and other householdy things not worth mentioning have kept me from blogging. I’m still in the kitchen! Just not writing about it. Now that daylight savings time has kicked in and it’s brighter in the evenings, maybe I can put something special together for you next week.

In the meantime, I’ve definitely been keeping busy on Pinterest.

I’m getting my hair cut in a few weeks, so I’ve been pinning ideas for new hair styles. I’m sort of loving this easy cut that Alyson Hannigan is rocking, although it’s pretty similar to what I already have. D says I look a lot like her in this photo, so it seems like it would be a good match.

 

Have you ever been to The Small Things Blog? I discovered this gem recently, and Kate’s hair tutorials are changing my life. You can’t see me, but I have these voluminous waves at work today. As a software developer, I’m pretty fortunate that jeans and a ponytail are sufficient for me most days, but today I have voluminous hair, pretty daily makeup, and am wearing a colorful scarf. Plus, I got a pedicure this weekend, and my pretty toes are peeking out in my peep-toe flats. I’m also wearing more hair spray than I think I wore in the last year, but I look good.

 

Meanwhile, Martha’s Broccoli, Tomato, and Mozzarella Stromboli looks pretty fab. One of my accomplishments this week that I’m eventually going to blog about is that I finally found the secret to great pizza dough by splitting the difference between the super-fast and super-slow pizza dough recipes in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook. Friday night is homemade pizza night at my house, and a stromboli sounds like an awesome, tasty, indulgent way to shake things up while still having pizza whenever I want.

 

I’ve fallen in love with my crock pot, ever since I learned that I could make chicken stock in it while I was at work! I made two gallons of stock over the course of two days, and I feel like a golden goddess. I froze the stock in little ice cubes when I got home, put the cubes in freezer bags, and called it a day. I usually make stock in my huge canning pot, but that is so heavy, and I hate leaving my gas stove on for six hours in Austin, where it’s basically always too warm to do that. The crock pot has the huge advantage of not heating up the whole house, so I’m a fan. Since my love affair with the crock pot, I’ve started a whole new board on Pinterest just for slow-cooker recipes, and I’m most excited to try carnitas. D and I made carnitas for friends who visited last year, but I’m an even bigger fan of pork since then. Plus, we’re on this whole “how frugal can we get?” kick, and a pork shoulder is a pretty inexpensive cut of meat that will feed you for awhile. Leftover carnitas can make more tacos, go in enchilada stew, or make delicious nachos. Mmmm.

 

I’m so, so excited about my next food project. Since summer is almost here, lemon season is almost over, and the liquor store close to my house had their “dollar sale” (everything in the store on sale for cost + $1!), I have three bottles of Everclear on my bar waiting to turn into limoncello! This should yield about a gallon of sweet, lemon liquer. My mission right now is to get a hold of attractive, clear flip-top bottles, the kind featured in the photo and in which fancy water is served in restaurants. Limoncello is delicious ice-cold and straight-up, but I think it would also be lovely mixed with sparkling water or sprite, or combined with some tequila for a lemony take on a margarita. This is happening, and soon.

I recently decided to dry a bushel of rosemary. (Note: “Bushel” is defined here as, “as much rosemary as Lacey could carry and still see enough to put one foot in front of the other.”) When you dry enough rosemary to keep a college dining hall well-seasoned for a year, you learn a few things.

jar of dried rosemary

  1. Only dry what you can use within a year.My bushel of rosemary was not only a pain in the ass to process, but it made way more dried rosemary than I anticipated. I’ll be giving away dry rubs and salts for several months in the frantic hope that I give it away before the flavors all dissipate.
  2. Rinse well.Especially if you grew your own herbs in a garden, or got them from a buddy with a similar set-up. My bushel of rosemary was laced with weeds, dried grass, tiny beetles, and a nice layer of dirt, none of which I want on my chicken. Rinse each sprig of herb well, then either pat it dry or lay it out to dry.
  3. Let air circulate.If you’re not doing the oven-drying method, it’s important to dry your herbs in such a way that lots of air can get to the leaves. Remember, you’ve just rinsed them, plus they hold their own water, so you want to avoid mold. You can tie them in small bundles and hang them from the ceiling, or you can find a way to lay them out so that air gets underneath. I used a canoe frame, but you may not have one of those– instead, maybe you have a cooling rack?
  4. Be patient. It takes time to rinse the herbs, let them dry, and strip the leaves from the stems, but this is a great way to preserve herbs you got for free, or extend the life of expensive herbs you purchased from the store. If your dried herbs are strong, you can use dried herbs in place of fresh in many recipes, with not much noticeable difference in flavor. 
palmful of dried rosemary

palmful of dried rosemary

bowl of lemons

I’m rewatching Grey’s Anatomy at the moment. I’m to the part where everyone, including Callie, knows that George slept with Izzie. George and Izzie don’t know yet that they are totally not supposed to be together, and Meredith and Derek still haven’t figured out that they ARE supposed to be together. In the meantime, we’re still a whole season away from Tumor-Izzie and Dead Dennie, and George won’t die for a couple more years. 

Don’t worry, I’m also reading.

bowl of sliced lemons

But Grey’s is like my comfort food. I’m so attached to these doctors, their silly sex lives, and their interesting cases. D hates it; he’s super fond of exclaiming, “These people need to stop with the sex and do their damn jobs!” But then we’d just be watching regular medicine, no melodrama whatsoever, and who wants to see that?

Not. Me.

Anyway, that’s all beside the point. The point is that, like Grey’s, candied citrus is becoming my comfort food. It’s super easy and non-threatening (great for a first attempt at preserves, actually), and it’s completely delicious. I ate my candied clementines straight out of the jar for weeks, and I can’t wait to dive into these candied Meyer lemons. They’re a little more tart than the clementines, but still with that delicious, sweet, vaguely vanilla-y taste. And they look so impressive and fancy in the jar, despite the purely minimal amount of effort required from you.

jars of candied meyer lemons

Candied Meyer Lemons
Adapted from Food in Jars, via Saveur
Makes about 8 8-ounce jars

You will need:
3 lbs. Meyer lemons, sliced (remove pits as you go)
2 c. water
4 c. granulated sugar
1 vanilla bean

Prepare your jars for canning: sterilize the jars and rings, and simmer the lids in a small pot of water. Also prepare your canning pot by bringing a lot of water to boil.

Combine sugar, water, and vanilla bean in a large pot and bring to a boil. Stir occasionally, until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon slices and cook about 15 minutes, until lemons are softened.

Divide lemons up among your jars to within 1/2″ of the top of the jar. Wipe the lips of the jars, and add lids and rings. Process for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Let sit overnight, without disturbing. Any jars that don’t seal, refrigerate immediately and use those first.

punkdomestics

There’s this great restaurant in Austin that serves blistered, roasted edamame in shells, and another great place that serves steamed spiced edamame. I could snack on either of these versions for the rest of my life and die a happy woman. But when the two come together, and you remove the shell (as delectable as it is to bite it and suck out the bean, savoring the salty starch), you’re left with a snack that feels more like popcorn, and with no shells to clean up!

raw edamame

Roasted edamame is a little crisp on the outside, with that not-quite-burned flavor that makes us love grilled corn on the cob. The papery exterior gives way to a soft, savory explosion when you chew it. It’s seriously fun to eat, but then I’ve always felt that way about edamame. Like its starchy friend, corn, these crisp and tender beans would benefit from a squeeze of lime and a dash of chili powder just as much as they would be elevated by the simplicity of oil and salt, so feel free to experiment with spices and other flavorings.

roasted spiced edamame

The clear winner for me, though, is the salty-spicy cajun seasoning. I made these on a rainy Sunday when I didn’t get out of my pajamas until after 5, and that was just because I was meeting my mom for dinner. I snacked on these while I watched Bones and snuggled with my cats, and didn’t feel the least bit guilty.

Roasted Spiced Edamame

You will need:
1 cup edamame, shelled
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. cajun seasoning, or other flavorful seasoning

Preheat oven to 475.

Toss edamame with oil on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet, and sprinkle with seasoning.

Roast about thirty minutes, or until edamame are blistered and tender. Serve immediately.

roasted spiced edamame

I’ve been taking a break from canning. I canned and canned and canned before Christmas (and didn’t even blog half of it), so the thought of standing over a hot stove for an hour after spending another hour peeling, dicing, and otherwise prepping a small mountain of fruit sounds a little unattractive right now. But you might remember I mentioned that I am currently in possession of more dried rosemary than God. I’ve picked about a fifth of it off its branches, and that alone made three cups. All told, I will probably have 15-20 cups of dried rosemary. (Not that I’m complaining! I like rosemary. And if you know me, you probably have some rosemary-spiked treats in your future.)

food processor with orange zest, rosemary, and salt

Speaking of treats, a friend of mine recently experienced a gift-giving occasion of the bridal kind. I got her the standard kitchen-y things off her registry, but I also wanted to give her something special, something from my kitchen. She knows I can, but I don’t think she had ever tried any of my projects, and her bridal shower seemed like the perfect time. I put together a small basket of registry items, some marmalade I had stashed away from the Christmas preserving extravaganza, and this rosemary salt.

rosemary citrus salt

Guys, it’s delicious. It would be good on the rim of a cocktail glass (for the right kind of peppy, herby, adventurous cocktail), on popcorn, sprinkled on chicken or potatoes, or even on fresh veggies like cucumbers or tomatoes. I’m sort of swooning right now thinking of how exciting a little of this would be on watermelon, or on your next batch of homemade chocolate truffles. And here’s a pro secret: Homemade finishing salts are super easy and inexpensive to make! A box of kosher salt and some fresh herbs could keep you in homemade gifts for a long, long time, and all you need to shell out for is cute packaging. The Kitchn has a great post that suggests some great combinations, if you’d like to venture beyond rosemary and citrus.

jar of rosemary citrus salt

Rosemary-Citrus Salt
Adapted from Edible Austin
Makes 1/2 cup flavored salt

You will need:
2 tbsp. dried rosemary
2 tbsp. fresh orange or lemon zest
1/2 c. kosher or other coarse salt

Process all ingredients in a food processor until rosemary and citrus are chopped fine. Store in an airtight container up to 2 months.

punkdomestics

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 425 other followers

%d bloggers like this: