Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Popovers were literally everywhere on the little part of the internet I watch for about a week. I didn't even know what they were, really, before then. And then my own mom starts talking about them! She made some when we visited, and I could understand the attraction. (They're starting to sound really good right now, actually...)

They're so common that the Oracle had a recipe. An easy one, apparently. So I made these one night with a spaghetti and meatball dinner because, gosh darn it, I really wanted them.

As you can see from the picture, I'd like to call these Escapees rather than popovers. Watching them in the oven, they literally looked like they were crawling out of my ... ahem ... muffin pan. No, I don't have a special popover pan. I don't want one. Nonstick is the way to go. Rusty aluminum that you justify is OK because you use muffin liners is not. RIP old muffin pan.

The batter was sort of pancake consistency, and a good shot of cooking spray would have probably been as good as wiping the cups with shortening. They came out just perfect, although I understand there's a more complex and proper way to make them. According to the internet, people have trouble with them deflating. I promise I don't have the magic touch, guys. They're not hard.

I hear these are a good breakfast food. Is it tomorrow yet? Anyone up for breakfast?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Laundry Overhaul

When we moved in September, I thought, "Oh good! A whole list of home improvement projects to blog about, instead of food every day!"

I'll just spoil it now for you. Turns out my idea of "home improvement" is interior decorating. This isn't good.

The first big project was hanging gutters around the office patio. I wasn't very involved, but I did help out a little. It ended well for the house; it did not end well for my foot.

The next big project was completed over Christmas. My in-laws love home improvement projects (in the traditional sense), and there was a decision made to tackle the laundry alcove in the garage. I'm kind of fuzzy on the decision, because I probably wasn't paying attention. Sorry!

Now, we'd discussed plenty what to do about that corner of the garage. The first and foremost was to get rid of the water softener. It's huge, and in an awkward place in the garage, and annoyed me to no end. There was nothing wrong with the water softener itself. It just bugged me. (Anyone want to buy a water softener? It's for sale on Craigslist). The next was to replace the sagging cabinets with shelves that a shorty like me could actually reach and use. On top of that was putting the washing machines on some sort of platform. Finally, my secret wish was to paint it a crazy bright color. Yeah. I read too much Apartment Therapy.

Here's the before:

Yup. I know. Nothing particularly wrong with it; it's perfectly functional. You can see my arch nemesis, the water softener, pretty clearly. One thing I should also mention: our garage is tiny. Two car, but just barely. And aren't our washer and dryer great? I think they're awesome. I love that we didn't get white.

When my in-laws arrived, there was much discussion and planning. I heard some talk about drywall, but like I said, my idea of home improvement gets about as grandiose as ... painting a wall. And given the gutter incident, it felt like my job was to know where the emergency room was. Which, for the record, I didn't even go to the doctor for the gutter incident.

Based on this, you can imagine my utter shock when a hammer was taken to the peeling, stained drywall in the ceiling. What you can't see in the before picture was the water damage that never got fixed from a leak before we moved in. You might think I was shocked in a bad way, and upset. But honestly, I couldn't imagine anyone knowing enough to go about fixing the ceiling! I was totally fine with it, really. First, because it's the garage. If something disastrous happened in there, it's nothing that would really affect daily life. Second, if something got dangerous, I wouldn't have a problem calling to get someone to finish the job.

I pretty much relegated myself to the kitchen and prayed for no bodily harm.

Here's what essentially happened. The cabinets came out and were gone. A chunk of drywall was cut out of the ceiling and seamlessly replaced. The water softener was unhooked, and the pipes traveling across the middle of the wall, ugh, were cut. That required a plumber, but I'm glad because it involved a blow torch of some kind (and gave us a decent plumbing recommendation!). A platform was built from scratch to raise the machines even with the concrete foundation. The whole thing was primed and painted. And I helped paint!

Now, while everyone was worrying about the pipes, the platform, the drywall, and on and on, no one was really paying attention to the color I picked for the walls. It's bright. It's crazy. It's awesome.

Here's the after:

It. Is. Awesome. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the work that went in to it. Sure, the rest of the garage looks like total garbage, but that's a project for the future. The far future.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Most of my holiday cooking plans were based around dinners and cookies, but I did have one big idea for Christmas morning breakfast. When I was little, we'd get up Christmas morning (early at first, and later and later as I got older) to open presents together. After that, my mom would cook a great big breakfast. Coffee cake, bacon, eggs ... an epic kind of breakfast. I was never a morning or breakfast person, but Christmas was always the exception.

I could have kept the tradition I love so much, but I found this recipe to try. And then I found out my brother in law (can I just call him my brother? OK thanks.) is a huge Cinnabon fan. That just sealed the deal.

What could prompt me to make cinnamon rolls? Pumpkin cinnamon rolls, of course.

Most recipes will call for just one cup of pumpkin puree, and a can is generally 14 or 16 ounces. So there's always a bit left over, that I'll typically put in the refrigerator with grand plans for the future, only to pull it out and discover it's turned fuzzy. Last time I put the leftovers (about a cup) in a box in the freezer. After all, there was a canned pumpkin shortage!

Even though this was properly thawed in the refrigerator days before, the pumpkin had a lot of water in it. (Cue foreboding music.) Which made it heavy, so the dough didn't rise much. Which meant when I pulled out the saran-wrapped dough roll a day or two later, it was squishy. As they baked, they seemed to dry out even more! After much panic I just put about a quarter of an inch of water in the bottom of the pan around the rolls. So, although they were sort of dry on the outside, they were still cinnamon rolly inside.

Would I ever make cinnamon rolls again? Probably, on special request. I don't think I would use whole wheat flour, and I'd have to reevaluate the pumpkin part. But these were otherwise easy to make.

Next year, I'm sticking to bacon, eggs, and coffee cake.