Friday, March 26, 2010

Remodelling is not Cheap

Well, we started this right after we bought the house. New roof, carpet in most rooms, paint all the inside, plumbing repairs, and general overhaul. Two years later, we did the "Kitchen" and dining area. New windows, cabinets, counters, appliances and tile flooring and stripped the popcorn ceiling. There was some basic maintenance along the way too, but mostly, a remodel. Finally, in 2008, we started the living room- FIreplace insert, windows, side door,... delay... Life sometimes gets in the way so now it is 2010 and we are continuing the remodel of the living room. Bookcase cabinetry, wall unit/window seat, maybe a library ladder, custom handles (in Pewter), really nice carpet, a bit of tile work, new front door, lighting adjustments, and some paint touch up. But there has been some "maintenance" along the way, too.
Each of these remodeled rooms are running about $40,000. I admit, the cabinetry is something more like furniture, but these are big ticket items to do these rooms. We have also got some landscape work planned for a patio remodel and patio addition at the new door. And some additional fencing, a new garage door, and windows in the rest of the house. About three more years down the road (hopefully less), we will do some bathroom rework in the master bathroom.
Overall- the remodeling will cost about 1/2 of what we paid for the house. And I am not sure that it will add all that much to the re-sale value if we decide to move someday. But it will add a great deal to the comfort value of the home we are living in. I think livability is the most important thing about a home- not just re-sale value. Already, the fireplace insert is paying for itself in comfort and warmth in the winter. The new windows keep the outside noise out and the temperature more constant. They are a dream to maintain and use. I think Eduard and I will really love the finished living room.
And the rest of the house? Well, we will get there sooner or ? well sooner I hope. But the living/entertaining areas are what I want to finish and live in first. So we will look at the other things as time and money permit. Just for now, I am loving the newness of our living area and the excitement of having it get done, sometime in the next 2 months.
And I feel a bit pampered with some of the "specialty" items we are getting. I just want to thank my sweetie for letting me have the expensive, custom, sculptured handles for the cabinet doors. Smooch. And I didn't buy the most expensive ones, either.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Out with the Old

Every year at this time I find myself wanting to air out the house, do some heavy cleaning, and throw stuff away. Ok, maybe just move it to the garage. But the items will eventually find their way to the thrift stores around town. Sometimes, though, I actually throw things away. This is a remarkable thing for a compulsive hoarder like Fluffy.
Today I was in the kitchen when the "urge" struck. I looked at the pantry and thought about all the interesting things I had wanted to cook but lost interest before I cooked them. Or the spices I tried but didn't like all that much. Stuff that I just had to have, but then forgot about. And what about all those canned goods that we just never got to (from 2006). I firmly believe you should not keep your canned goods longer than your tax records. So I am cleaning out the panty.
Today, I filled the gray dumpster with unloved, uneaten, and unremembered things. Unfortunately, I am not done. There is at least one more dumpster full to go. Because I have three pantries and I am a compulsive hoarder, this mood better last for at least a week.
But there are other old things going, too. I went into the garage and got rid of a pile of Old. And we are getting new carpet- that will be lots of very old when they are done. Our living room carpet is at least 15 years old. And then there is the old paint that has dried in the can. Old spackle and drywall compound. Old tiles.
What about those old clothes? I did buy some new stuff right before the wedding. There must be some old stuff to go out. And a couple of pairs of old shoes. Old slippers. Old pajamas.
We got rid of the old blinds last week. How about some old towels, and old sheets and old...
Umm. I actually use those old towels and sheets for projects, so maybe not them.
Damn! I think the urge is wearing off.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Gummy Mousse

So this blog entry is in chocolate brown type, because we here at the garden have been experimenting with Mousse. I have made many Moussi? Miesse? Mousses? in my cooking life. Some were the Atkin's high fat, no sugar, no carb type. And the regular Melted chocolate and whipped cream type. What I wanted was one with flavor, texture, some sugar, mouth appeal, aroma, and moussey appearance and lower fat, but not fat free.

So, I will start with the failures. Gummy Mousse. My first try had coffee, milk, chocolate, sugar, whipped cream, egg yolks, egg whites, vanilla, and gelatin. A whole tablespoon and a half of gelatin. This was due to a mis-print in a recipe that I took to alter. Jeri's test kitchen suspected that this was going to be a problem at first glance, but the use of gelatin has been spotty in my life, so I wasn't sure. Then the mixture started to get rubbery while it was still kind of warmish. That should have been a real red flag. But after mixing stuff together, it set up as a solid mass with a distinct bounce -- almost a boing sound. It had great taste, though. The color was right, smell was good, mouth texture -- way off. We ate it anyway, because we are brave and foolish. But we were sure that it would not be a success even in the little kid world. So we went on.

The second failure was the chocolate soup. I repeated the recipe with 1 "teaspoon" of gelatin instead of the 1 1/2 tablespoons. Even after chilling the mix before adding the final ingredients, it would not set up or even get thick enough to tease me. After blending in the whipped cream and whipped egg white, it was syrupy. After chilling for hours, it was soupy. Chocolate flavor was good, like melted ice cream, but the texture and eye appeal was a total loss. It is hard to toss the ingredients out. We sampled a bowl full each and washed the containers.

The third try got me what I wanted in texture and eye appeal (and of course flavor). I will continue to work on the carbs and fats, but we are on the right track.
Here is the recipe:
3/4 cup cold coffee sprinkle on top 2 teaspoons plain gelatin to soften for about 30 minutes.
1 cup milk and 3 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate ( I used Trader Joe 72% dark). Heat this over med/low heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate melts.
Continue heating and add
1/2 cup sugar, stir until dissolved.
Continue heating and add
Softened gelatin in coffee, stir until dissolved.
Continue heating until mixture reaches about 130 f. Nowhere near boiling, but hot to the touch. I use a meat thermometer. Reduce heat to low.
Separate the yolks and the whites of two large eggs. Place the whites in a whipping bowl with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Leave on the counter to come to room temp.
Take the 2 egg yolks and stir them gently, adding a couple of tablespoons of the hot chocolate mix to temper them. Then stir the egg yolks into the hot chocolate mix stirring constantly for three minutes. Turn off the heat. Let this sit for 10 minutes, then refrigerate until it starts to thicken (20 minutes or so). It needs to be cool to the touch or cold, but not too solid. Like a thick syrup.
Beat the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form.
Using the same beaters (don't need to wash them yet),
Beat 1 cup of whipping cream until soft peaks form, then add 2 tablespoons sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold the chocolate into the whipped cream until well incorporated, then fold the whipped egg white into the cream mixture until well incorporated. Pour all this into a 2 quart pretty serving bowl and chill for three hours. If you are not going to eat it right away, put plastic wrap over it to keep it from drying out.
Now I need to find the calorie count on
2 eggs, 3 1/2 oz chocolate, 1 cup milk, 1 cup whipping cream, 2/3 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons gelatin. This is divided into 4 or 6 servings depending on your diet.
My next plan is to try it with fat free whipped topping or a sugar substitute. And I want to see how it works with Agar instead of gelatin for my vegetarian buddies. Not all at once, but over a period of time I will test out these different ingredients.
Ok, so you have guessed the truth. I am just having a chocolate craving and I want any excuse to eat lots of chocolate mousse. No really, I am trying out these recipes to see if I can make something that tastes really good and doesn't trash my blood sugar. I think I am getting the texture part down and will be moving to the lower sugar and fat part soon. Wish me luck and try the good recipe if you are in the mood for a chocolate treat. It really is lower in sugar and fat than straight mousse, already, and it is quite tasty.