Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Nightshade-Free Recipes

Sweet potatoes with bourbon and maple
butternut squash ribbons with arugula and hazelnut
Peppercorn roasted turkey with vermouth pan sauce
mustard kale salad with sweet potato
roast beef with horseradish
homemade chicken soup
chicken marbella with kumquats
blackberry-balsamic chicken
kale and sausage hand pies
moroccan wild rice butternut squash salad
chickpea pancackes with smoky roasted carrots
pumpkin creme fraiche spaghetti with fried onions and sage leaves
chicken meatballs with lemon and kale
cranberry walnut chickpea salad sandwich
vinegar braised chicken and onions
sweet, crispy chicken better than takeout
braised lamb with roasted squash and onion sauce
chicken with shallots prunes and armagnac
kale and mushrooms with creamy polenta
braised kale and turnips with smoked turkey
pumpkin and lentils with goat cheese
tahini cauliflower soup
winter soba
braised fennel and white beans
chicken and onion tagine
baked lemon and thyme mushrooms
duck breast with garam masala and grapes
choucroute soup
bo ssam
chicken and walnut stew
pumpkin stuffed with everything good
chicken apples and cream a la normande
duck breast with red wine sauce and candied kumquats
smoked whitefish brandade
beggars lingeuine
roasted squash and onions with yogurt
pumpkin chili
chicken with date and cilantro relish
coq au riesling
st tropez chicken with lavender and honey
chicken and pumpkin with soy and star anise
sweet potatoes with stilton and walnuts
kale rice bowl
sesame kale and kraut bowl
red lentil and sweet potato hummus
farro white bean and preserved lemon salad
squash and soba noodle soup
coconut lime chicken noodle soup
lentils with avocado and hummus
soba with salmon and asparagus
tangled thai salad
celeriac with mint and lentils
grape leaves
gomashio rice cakes with oyster mushrooms and cilantro chutney
roasted japanese sweet potatoes with miso spinach
pumpkin with white beans and sausage
chickpea kofta with yogurt soup
lentils with wine glazed vegetables
sweet potato black bean kale skillet
japanese chicken meatballs

Monday, October 26, 2015

20 Freezer Meals for $65

To get the best deals, I started at Aldi.  For reasons why, and a detailed list of which stores offer the cheapest pricing on specific grocery items, here's my grocery research.  Aldi tops the list and Costco is a not-so-close second, followed by Jewel, Trader Joe, and Walmart (but there are a few items that each store has the best deals on).

I was able to purchase about half my list at Aldi:
-Basic veggies (carrots, onions, potatoes), all on sale for 50 to 75-cents per bag
-All canned veggies, all at about 50-cents a can
-marmalade and applesauce, at $1.50 each
-ground turkey, stew meat, bacon, frozen chicken breasts, chicken drumsticks
Total: $53.70

If you haven't been to Aldi in a year or so, take a look.  They now offer grassfed meat, freerange chicken broth, healthier dry goods (no artificial color, hydrogenated oils, or MSG in any product sold), and their produce has improved in freshness (still check your bags of potatoes and onions to be sure they're all ok).

Once I was done at Aldi, I checked the ads to find the best deals on meat (since that was the most expensive part).  Pork roasts, which I was unable to find at Aldi, were on sale Buy One Get One Free at Jewel, so I went there.  Strategy.

I bought the remainder of my list there, which included a lot of produce.  In-season produce is usually comparable prices no matter where you get it.  And I'm unwilling to compromise on soy sauce, hot sauce, and mustard, so I got the brands that I like even though they weren't on sale.  For containers, Walgreens had a great deal on gallon freezer bags, 15 bags for only 99-cents, so Jenny made a quick stop there and picked up 3 boxes.  (Still running through Nov 1st if you're interested)

The total for both stores came to $131.64, for both stores.  This was enough ingredients for 40 meals, which Jenny and I were preparing together and then splitting, so the total was roughly $65 per person for 20 meals each.

Roast Pork with Cranberry and Ginger

Buffalo-Style Chicken
Modifications: As with all recipes that follow, thaw the frozen bag overnight and then follow the recipe's original heating instructions.  Obviously, you are freezing just the buffalo chicken drumsticks and making the optional celery salad the day you cook the chicken :)

Hot Pepper Pork with Butternut Squash
Modifications: I thought 8oz of jelly for 4 servings was too much sugar (that would mean 1/4 cup jelly in each individual serving!), so I did this weird thing where I substituted pickled jalapenos and some honey for hot pepper jelly.  Not sure if it will work out.  If you're less sugar-phobic, you can just follow the recipe.

Braised Short Ribs with Korean BBQ Sauce
I combined this recipe and substituted the hoisin sauce with Gwyneth Paltrow's "Korean BBQ Sauce" recipe

Pork with Red Cabbage and Smoked Apple Puree
Lots of modifications: Too big to all fit in one gallon bag, so I added the pork and apple puree to one bag, and all the other ingredients to another bag.  Cabbage only keeps in the freezer for a month (it keeps in the fridge at least that long), so this was maybe a silly recipe to freeze?  I plan on baking the pork roast and slow-cooking the cabbage.  I wouldn't make this recipe again as a freezer-to-crockpot recipe.

Nikujaga: Japanese meat-and-potato stew
Modifications: Do not add potatoes or water to freezer bag.  Add them when you are adding the stew to the slowcooker.

Gwyneth Paltrow's Posole Soup
Modifications: do not add can of hominy to freezer bag, replace 5 cups broth with 4 tsps bouillon* and add 5 cups water when you reheat on stovetop.  Add hominy near the end of cooking.


Modifications: omitted shrimp (I don't think shrimp belong in a slow-cooker), omitted broth (replace with 2 tsp bouillon*, add 3 cups water when you put it in the slow-cooker), rice (add rice when you add to slow cooker)

White Bean and Chicken Chili
Modifications: Do not add cans of tomatoes or beans to freezer bag.  Add them while you are heating the soup.  The beans would get too mushy.

*bouillon: I use "Better Than Bouillon" these days, which gives a more natural flavor and uses less salt.

My Grocery List:
-12 tomatillos
-4 jalapenos
-4 lbs red cabbage
-2 granny apples
-1 bok choy
-8" fresh ginger
-1 bag matchstick carrots
-1 bag carrots
-2 bags onions
-1 bag celery
-1 lemon
-2 cups cranberries (couldn't find ANY, had to use canned)

-2 28-oz cans hominy
-1 can tomato paste
-4 14-oz cans tomatoes
-4 14-oz cans cannelini beans

-soy sauce
-2 jars chopped garlic in water
-stoneground mustard
-orange marmalade
-2 jars applesauce
-8 oz hot sauce
-dried cranberries

-2 lbs frozen butternut squash
-wonton wrappers (found next to tofu in produce aisle)

-6 lbs beef short rib
-2 lbs pork tenderloin
-1 lb stew pork
-4 3-lb pork roasts
-1 package bacon
-5 lbs chicken drumsticks
-6 chicken breasts
-1 lb ground turkey
-2 lbs turkey sausage

Note: I started with a pretty substantial pantry that I was willing to share.  Some things that I had on hand that others might not: dashi granules, gochujang, sake, chicken bouillon, vinegars (rice, cider), olive oil, sesame oil,  honey, brown sugar, and a lot of dried spices.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Some Before + Afters

Just checking in on the blog again, for those of you that haven't been able to come over yet or live too far away.  (Yes, we can finally entertain! Because the entire first floor is finished - and things are looking good!

Thought I'd do some "Before and After" comparisons....

Living Room Before:

Living Room After:

Dining Room Before:

Dining Room After:

Another view of living and dining room:

Foyer Before (!):

Foyer After:

Kitchen Before:

Upstairs Foyer Before:

Upstairs Foyer After:

Guest Bath Before:

Guest Bath After:

Well, that's what a year and a half of work brings!  It seemed like it would never end, but it is actually winding down.  Now we can be lazy (and save our pennies) for a few more projects (like the powder room/laundry room/basement).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Guest Bathroom Reveal!

We've finished the guest bathroom!  For such a small room, it was a fair bit of work.

Initially, in the early days, I peeled up a loose linoleum tile and scraped away the gunky adhesive and found white hexagon tiles.  Similar to these:
I was excited because I thought we could save it.  It was a bit of wishful thinking (why would a  landlord cover up perfectly good tile with sticky linoleum?), but I went for it anyway.  After a couple hours of scraping at linoleum and applying acetone to remove old adhesive, I discovered that it wasn't just white hexagon tiles, it was really a pattern of blue "flowers" like this floor has:

Also, it was cracked irreparably, and it was irresponsible to put adhesive linoleum over it anyway.

So, the vinyl was ripped up, the adhesive and cracked floor were leveled with some kind of concrete-like substrate, and I got my pick of tile.  I had gotten some reclaimed gray marble on Craigslist for a steal: $50 for 50 square feet, so we put that down, with oyster gray grout.  Our electrician's friend made a matching marble threshold which matched perfectly! It was also surprisingly inexpensive.
Showing off my pedicure (thank you MIL)
Laying a new floor isn't hard, but it does require removal of all bathroom appliances.  The toilet, sink, and radiator had to go.  We put the toilet and radiator back in when the floor was done (a toilet's a toilet), but the sink vanity was stained and dented. (Not to mention, the $30 Home Depot cheapo version in the first place)

We found this nice vanity at Home Depot - it was a little expensive compared to our usual, but I was still distraught over some things going dreadfully wrong with some salvaged materials (a gorgeous grey marble vanity top had broken in half in the basement, not that I had a base in mind for it).
I found the faucet for under $100 on Amazon, so I was able to get a bargain on that.  And I love it, it's perfect.

I completed the bathroom with some new Turkish linens and it looks great after its mini makeover!

Here's a quick "Before and After":

Turning a Secretary Desk into a Bar

About the same time we moved in to the house (May 2014), I was very passionate about finding antiques from the 1910s or 20s that would fit in with the style of the house.  I bought several things, one of which was an antique four-legged secretary desk that I estimated (based on Craigslist pictures) to be from the 1920s.  The conversation to purchase it went something like this: 
(i.e. How Not To Sell An Item on Craigslist)
Janelle: Hello, I'm calling about the secretary desk. What can you tell me about it?
Seller: Well, it's antique.  And it has one of the legs sawed off.
Janelle: What? That wasn't in the ad?
Seller: Yeah, we sawed one of the legs off.  You'd have to glue it back on.
Janelle: Is it a clean break?
Seller: No...
Janelle: Well, in light of that, would you take less money for it? $100?
Seller: No, price is non-negotiable.  $200.
Janelle: Alright, well, you have my number.  Give me a call in a couple of weeks when no one else wants it.
[Two weeks later]
Seller: Hello, are you still interested in the secretary cabinet?
Janelle: $75
Seller: OK, but are you sure? We're going to donate the money to the swim team....
Janelle: $75

So, two highly-technical applications of wood glue later, I was the owner of a 1920s secretary cabinet.  (The style of the metal hardware inside and the furniture company markings confirmed my assumptions about the era of the piece).  I had planned to put books inside, but as I already have two other shelves full of books, I couldn't think what to store inside the cabinet.  Meanwhile, all of our of liquor was very inconveniently stored in the basement or kitchen cabinets or the linen closet.  In the past apartment, I had laid out a bar on a midcentury record cabinet which didn't fit with the layout of our new house.

It all made sense though when I saw this picture:

It makes great sense from a liquor storage standpoint (dark, cool, dry environment) and gives me storage for all my miscellaneous stemware that can take up a lot of kitchen cabinet space.

I used the desk part as extra storage as well.   

Monday, October 19, 2015

Upstairs Foyer

We painted it Benjamin Moore "Shoreline" (#1471) just like the stairs.  The room is open to the stairs, and I'm obsessed with this clean pretty color that makes all the white woodwork pop without forfeiting a feeling of "whiteness".  See? It still reads to the eye like a white room!

I hung some Ikea curtains.  They're not perfect, but at least they're long enough.  Standard 84" curtains do not cut it in this house.  I need at least 96" sometimes 108".  I like that Ikea sells curtains of different lengths for a cheap price.

The room is primarily a thoroughfare, but I put a daybed there so that it can serve as an emergency 4th bedroom if need be.  Right now, I just like to read out there with the windows open on warm days.  It's so light and airy!

The scalloped-edge jacquard-quilted bedding cost me a whole $2 at the St Nick's Rummage Sale in Evanston.  It's truly a spectular event.  The lady next to me got there first and had her arms full of gorgeous heirloom quality embroidered queen-size duvet covers.  I was disappointed a little, but I found what I needed. Plus, I had gone to the furniture room first and beat everyone to a carved walnut slim-profile Victorian dresser with a marble top.  Very pleased with that purchase.  That sale is like Black Friday for antique-ers.  You have to move quickly! 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Second-Year Garden and Next Planting's Wishlist

The vegetable garden is growing nicely.  I have dill and cilantro popping up everywhere on their own, interspersed with lettuces and radishes that I've planted.  The giant plant in the back is lovage, a ancient Roman perennial that tastes like celery and parsley, and grows with no effort.

My currant bush is full of greens, hoping it will produce fruit this year, it was just a baby last year - it has some promising wispy trailers on it.

Strawberries vs mint, who will win?

  Strawberries are flowering.  Mint and chives and raspberries are all perennials and back again this year.  Peas are about 5 inches tall, will need supports soon.  I planted Tuscan kale, watercress, carrots last week.  We went to the garden store for tomato, jalapeƱo, and cucumber starts.  I've never grown cucumber before!  I'm growing the very little ones, to make some cornichon pickles, we'll see how it goes.  Eggplant eventually.  It's not warm enough yet, but it grew well last year.
Cucumber start

Tomatoes and jalapenos.  Radishes and cilantro in the front.

Last year, we had barely enough time to get the vegetable garden ready, but this year, with the perennials popping up, and the self-seeding, I haven't had much to do.  I also was able to use leftover seed from last year, which has grown really well, and I haven't spent a single penny on the kitchen garden this year.  I will, of course, when I head out to get the fruiting starts, but my total kitchen garden financial commitment will be less than $50.

So this year, I've tried to focus a bit more on the pretty gardening.  Last fall, I planted some peach daffodil bulbs in the front yard.  They were more of a pale yellow, but they looked nice for a week or two, although they were miserably sparse.  I want to weave in some Siberian Iris. 

Lilacs getting ready to bloom
Ben's beleaguered grapevine 
raspberries, next fall I will actually cut them down. It seemed so cruel and unnecessary, but they really aren't thriving this year.  They must need tough love.

I planted three neat little bare-root rosebushes that I got for $3 apiece.  The bare-root ones take up to a year to establish, they're sold as little dormant sticks, but are very economical.  They're supposed to make large pink roses, and they already have maroon-colored shoots of new growth poking out at odd angles.  One even has inch-wide leaves!  Maybe I will get just one rose this year?
Pink roses in the front yard, hopefully they will grow and obscure the hateful overgrown shrub

A "Mr. Lincoln" rose for the backyard, and violets

baby Morning Glory plant

I planted some 'Heavenly Blue' morning glories last week, and they are so fast growing that they're already an inch tall.  So easy to grow from seed, those desperate annuals.   I use these to obscure the chain link fence in the backyard.  Ben wants to replace it, but it's a perfectly good fence, and it lets light in.  Our backyard is shady enough already with those giant trees.


I've also planted some 'Elsa Spath' clematis against a little cathedral window-shaped trellis.  I don't expect much flowering from it this year, but I hope for clouds of indigo, star-shaped flowers next year.  

New brick edging

We've edged the sidewalk along the shady side of the rowhouse with sandstone bricks, and our hostas look very lush now.  I've planted some lily of the valley there and mint.  I want some ferns too, but I'm holding out for maidenhair fern, not just any fern.  There's some daylilies there too, but if they refuse to bloom again this year, they're going somewhere else - like out by the car park, haha.  Also, it's not obvious from the picture, but the owners next door have planted over a dozen hydrangea bushes in the fall of last year, and I am sooooo excited for September.  

Front door after the rain.

Here's my wish list for a gorgeous garden.  I favor perennials for their ease, and wispy plants like lavender and anemones.  And I love a trailing climber.  

1. Adiantum Venustem (maidenhair fern): evergreen fern, thrives in shade and moist areas.  I want these spilling over the edges of homemade concrete planters in the backyard, and in large shallow bowls on the entryway table.

2. Anemone coronaria (black-centered anemone): perennial, spreads, prefers moist fertile soil ni sun or part shade.

3. Ceropegia linearis susp. woodii (Hearts on a String)

4. Clematis 'Elsa Spath': Group 2 Repeat Bloom,

5. Cyclamen persicum f. albidum

6. Dicentra Spectabilis 'Alba': Perennial, with white heart-shaped flowers on long delicate stems.  Prefers moist, fertile soil, in partial shade.

7. Dregea sinensis

8. Galanthus 'Magnet' (snowdrop): first of the spring flowers.  Prefers moist but well-drained soil in partial shade.

9. Glechoma hederacea 'Variegata' (trailing nepeta):

10. Humulus Lupulus 'Aureus' (Hops Vine)

11. Ipomoea Tricolor 'Heavenly Blue' (Morning Glory): fast-growing twining annual that is easy to grow from seed.

12. Iris sibirica: rich violet-hued flowers, plant lots.

13. Laurus nobilis (bay)

14. Lavandula

15. Lathyrus latifolius 'White Pearl' (Everlasting Pea)

16. Lonicera x purpusii 'Winter Beauty' (winter-flowering honeysuckle):

17. Nicotiana (Tobacco flower)

18. Osmanthus delavayi

19. Petunia 'Black Velvet'

20. Phaseolus Coccineus (scarlet runner beans):

21. Polygonatum odoratum (Solomon's Seal)

22. Rosa banksiae 'Alba'

23. Rosa 'New Dawn'

24. Thymus 'Silver Queen'

25. Trachelospermum jasminoides:

26. Verbena bonariensis

27. Wisteria x formosa