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Friday, July 30, 2010

Featured!

A couple of friends told me about the Better After blog (check it out to see some great DIY projects) and convinced me to send in our fireplace transformation (which I blogged about here, here, here and here). Well, I did, and it was featured on their blog today along with a couple other great fireplace renos! Go check it out here!

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Lattice Pie Crust Tutorial

I am a firm believer in always using homemade pie crust. While I am by no means an expert, it is really quite simple if you do it in a food processor and so much better than store bought. A lattice top is fun to do, although it takes a bit more time and effort. You can also use cookie cutters to make shapes in your top crust like I did with the recent blueberry pie I made.

This was my first time making a lattice top and I am sure that I will improve on it with practice. Or I can just tell people that I like my pies to look "rustic".


Here are my step by step instructions to making basic pie dough in a food processor with a lattice top crust. Like I said, I don't claim to be an expert but this is a nice easy, basic way to make a yummy crust. If you have any other tips or suggestions, please leave a comment! I am still learning and perfecting this too!

Ingredients: (for a double crust)
2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
16 tbsp (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
6 tbsp very cold water

Directions:

1. Dump the dry ingredients (flour, sugar and salt) into a food processor.


2. Pulse once or twice just to combine the ingredients (the key here is not to over mix).


3. Add in the 2 sticks of butter (cut into cubes). Make sure your butter is very cold.


4. Pulse to combine until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with the butter pieces no larger than small peas. Again, be sure to not over process here. I usually pulse about 7-9 times.


5. Add in the water. I usually use ice water (without the ice). Pulse just until the dough pulls together. Don't over mix! If your dough isn't coming together you can add a little more water.


6. Divide the dough in half. Form each half of the dough into a ball and then flatten each into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 20 minutes.


7. Remove one batch of dough from refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Flatten the disk with 6 to 8 gentle taps of the rolling pin.


8. Lightly flour the rolling pin and the top of your disk. Begin rolling out the disk into a 12 round, lifting the dough and turning it a quarter-turn every few rolls.


9. Carefully roll the 12 inch round around the rolling pin and transfer it to your pie plate. Unroll the dough from the rolling pin over your pie plate.



10. Fix any short ends or tears in the dough with excess dough (you can trim any dough that is hanging down more than an inch over the side of your plate). To help bind the dough, wet your fingers with cold water and press the dough pieces together.


11. Fill the pie with your filling and set aside in a cool place.

12. Roll out the second batch of dough per the directions above. Once you have your 12 inch round, use a pastry cutter, pizza wheel, or knife to cut the dough into 1/2-3/4" strips (roughly 14-16 strips total).

13. Lay half of the strips (about 7 or 8) horizontally across your filled pie shell.


14. Fold every other strip in half back onto itself.


15. Lay a vertical strip down the center.


16. Unfold the horizontal strips (they will unfold on top of the vertical strip).


17. Fold the horizontal strips that are now underneath the vertical strip back onto themselves (over the vertical strip).


18. Lay down another vertical strip and unfold the horizontal strips over top of it.


19. Repeat this process until the entire pie is covered (adding strips to the left and then right of the center).

20. Trim the excess dough from the edge of the pie, leaving about a 1" overhang. Fold the excess dough back onto itself (towards the center of the pie) and crimp the edges.


21. Brush the top of your pie with an egg wash (one egg and one tbsp water, beaten together). You may also top with unrefined or raw sugar.


22. Bake your pie according to the pie recipe directions.

Enjoy!

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes, Caramelized Onions and Feta Cheese

I came across this recipe on the cooking blog For the Love of Cooking. It looked like a simple chicken recipe with ingredients that I like but nothing too exciting. Well, I ended up really loving this dish! The flavors are just perfect together, garlic, tomato, basil, feta, and balsamic vinegar. This is sure to be my new go-to healthy meal dish. Perfect for a night with the girls when you want something light and healthy but that is sure to impress.


Ingredients:
1/2 sweet yellow onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup of red grape tomatoes
Sea salt and fresh cracked pepper
Garlic powder, to taste
2 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2-3 tbsp of feta cheese

Directions:
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onions and a bit of salt then saute until golden brown and caramelized - about 15-20 minutes.

In large grill pan, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat and season the chicken breasts with sea salt, freshly cracked pepper, and garlic powder, to taste. Make sure pan is nice and hot before adding the chicken. Cook for 5-6 minutes before turning over. Cook for additional 3-4 minutes to desired degree of doneness. Remove from heat to a serving platter. Make sure to let the chicken rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing so it stays nice and juicy. Slice into thin strips at an angle once it has rested.

In the same skillet as the onions, add the grape tomatoes then season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the tomatoes are soft. Add minced garlic, stirring frequently for 60 seconds. Pour the tomatoes and onions on top of the sliced chicken, drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Top with feta cheese and fresh basil. Enjoy!



 

Linked to Angie's Healthy Living Blog Watch My Weight Wednesday

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Smashed New Potatoes with Garlic and Chives

An easy and simply flavored side dish, that goes perfectly with steak. You bake these in a pot instead of boiling them. Recipe from Simply Recipes.


Ingredients:
1-2 pounds new potatoes or Yukon Golds
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt
1 minced garlic clove
1-2 tablespoons minced chives or green onion greens

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Put the potatoes in a medium oven-proof pot (with a cover) and add about 1 tablespoon of the butter, cut into pieces. Cover and bake in the oven for 20 minutes.

Take the potatoes out and mix them so they’re coated with butter. Sprinkle the potatoes with salt. Return to the oven, cover, and cook for another 45 minutes to an hour, depending on how large the potatoes are.

To test for doneness, poke a potato with a fork. If the fork penetrates easily, they're done. When the potatoes are nice and soft, remove the pot from the oven and, using a potato masher, crush each potato. Don’t pound them into oblivion, just crush them. Toss with the garlic and remaining butter. Add more salt to taste.

Sprinkle chives on the potatoes to serve.


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Monday, July 26, 2010

Smashed Black Beans

My take on Rick Bayless' simple mashed black beans. I loved these as a side to to baja fish tacos but they would be great with any Mexican dish. I kept them pretty plain because I love the simple taste of black beans, however you could add in some canned jalapenos for extra heat.


Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 15oz can black beans, drained
1 small tomato, chopped
1-2 tbsp water
Salt to taste, about 1/2 tsp

Directions:
Heat oil in saute pan or skillet. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add black beans and let cook until heated through. Using a potato masher, mash beans until slightly, but not completely, mashed. Add chopped tomato (and jalapenos, if desired) and combine until everything is heated through. Remove from heat and stir in 1-2 tbsp water until the beans are of desired consistency. Season to taste with salt.

Serves: 4
WW points per serving: 3


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Recipe Revisit: Baja Fish Tacos

I wanted to give the Baja Fish Tacos another try because they were so good the first time I made them but the picture I had of them didn't do them justice at all. Yum! Still great and a nice change on the traditional taco. Perfect for summertime. Find the original recipe and post here. This time I served them with Smashed Black Beans.





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Friday, July 23, 2010

New Renovation Section

If you haven't noticed, during my latest blog update, I added some tabs at the top of my blog to access different sections. I have an about me section and a recipe index of all the recipes I have tried so far.

Today, I have added a new section on renovations. So far, I have before and current pictures of the front of our house, the living room, master bedroom and guest bedroom. I have also listed for each what projects we have completed and what still needs to be done. I will update the "currents" as we make progress.

Coming next week I hope to have pictures up of the kitchen and dining room.

I am posting the pictures that I have uploaded so far in the main section as well so those of you who read through Google Reader can see!

Front of House
Before:

Current:
Done: new windows, pulled out old shubbery, planted grass and tree
To-do: paint exterior brick, trim, and door, new gutters, more landscaping.


Living Room/Entryway
Before:

Current: 


Before:

Current:


Before:

Current:


Before:

Current:


Before:


Current:





Done: painted walls, ceiling, new crown moulding, baseboards, window and door trim, new window, new fireplace mantel and surround, painted inside of fireplace, new tile on hearth, tore down walls enclosing entryway, new entryway tile, new outlets, switches, light fixtures and vents.
To-do: paint front door, finish off staircase


Master Bedroom
Before:



Current:


Before:


Current:


Before:


Current:


Before:

Current:

Before:

Current:



Done: painted walls and ceiling, new base boards, new windows, new window trim, replaced all outlets, covers, and vents, took out sconces, re-carpeted closet, new closet system
To-do: replace BR door, new closet door and trim, possibly paint ceiling beams, replace ceiling fan, finish decorating (wall hangings, etc)



Guest Bedroom
Before:

Current:

Before:

Current:

During:

Current:

During:

Current:


Done: removed wall sconces, painted walls, ceiling and window trim, new baseboards, new window, new Pergo floors, new closet doors, new BR door, new outlets, covers and vents
To-do: door trim, closet systems, decorate! and also giving the dresser a makeover by painting it black

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C + C Marriage Factory: July 2010

C + C Marriage Factory