Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wednesday Soup: Creamy Chicken Meatball Soup

This is the last Wednesday Soup I'll be doing here.

But it's not what you think. I'm not abandoning the food posts. Oh no. No no no.

Did any of you know that I used to write a teeny, tiny, minuscule food blog? I loved it. I loved the whole process, of finding something new to try, or mixing flavours to come up with something completely unique, of the careful chopping and mixing and baking and cooking, of the photos, and the writing, and the thoughts about food and the way it makes one feel.

When we started our renovation, all cooking and baking ended for about four months. We ate a lot of Kraft dinner, a lot of frozen pizza, a lot of take-out. I missed cooking.

But now, our kitchen is in full working order and oh, does it work. It is a dream spending time in that space and, more and more, I find myself returning to the process, returning to food. These Wednesday Soup posts reminded me how much I love not only making and eating food, but photographing and writing about it. Food is a conversation, a conversation I love engaging in.



I know some of you love my soups. Some of you prefer the house stuff. I don't want to lose track of either.

So, today, I launch This Dusty Kitchen!

It's not a whole new blog (though, in a way, it is), but rather a 'subsidiary' of This Dusty House. Everything I have to say about our home, decorating, renovating, and living in this space will be found here, as it always has been. Food, food, glorious food will be found at This Dusty Kitchen. Occasionally, in each place, in order to keep the space between the two thin, I'll share what's going on in the other space.

Today, pop over and visit for a soup recipe and check out what I'm doing over there. Let me know what you think and, in the process, answer me this question:

What kind of foods would you love to see me make?

What decorating and renovating topics do you want to hear more about?

And in the meantime, make this soup.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Kitchen Window Shelves

My early followers will know that the Husband and I come up with lots of great ideas for our little house on a daily basis that, two weeks later, will be completely out of our heads and never spoken of again. I like to think that this is how everyone works. Is that true?

One such idea that I posted about early on was a solution for both a storage dilemma that all small-home owners face and the struggle I was fighting of bringing character and personality into a slightly unconventional, all-white kitchen. Remember this idea?


Believe it or not, this is not an idea that ended up dismissed and forgotten. In fact, it has, more or less, been accomplished!

I know. Shocking!


(I know, it's hard to see. Do you know how difficult it is to take shots of a window in the daytime?) 

Originally, we had planned to use glass for the shelves. That would have ensured that no light was blocked by the shelves themselves. It also would have ensured that this project would never have gotten done. It would have been nearly impossible to find pre-cut pieces of glass to fit just perfectly in our window. We would likely have had to special order the pieces of glass or learned how to cut it ourselves and we're just not that complicated of DIYers. 

So, we went with wood. 

After I decided that I wanted to paint the shelves rather than stain them - stain would have be beautiful, but, I worried, too heavy for a window - we picked up some 4'' by 1'' pre-primed maple. 

The Husband cut them down to 31'' to fit the door and added a little notch to fit around part of the window frame. With the leftovers, he cut six 1'' blocks. These are the supports on each end. 

I painted each part (just white - and, I'll admit, I may not have finished... but, you could never tell from the pictures!), drilled the support into place on the window frame, made sure they were level, swore a few times, undrilled and redrilled, and dropped the plank on top. Three times. Easy peasy.

And then I decorated.

Kind of.


Eventually, instead of candles and canisters, I hope to fill this window with herbs and cacti (though I promise to move my Christmas cactus out of the window - they don't like direct light, I hear!) all in pretty, colourful pots. The teacups will stay, I think, because I like having them on display, but the rest will find homes in my cupboards and the pantry, hidden and out of sight.


More and more, my kitchen is feeling finished. Like home. Like the room I want to spend time in.

At least, it does when it's not piled high with dishes.

--~*~--
Psst! This Dusty House is up for Apartment Therapy's 2012 The Homies! Care to vote? Go here!

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Homies 2012


Some mysterious reader absolutely made my day.

This Dusty House has been nominated for The Homies!

The Homies are Apartment Therapy's home blog awards. This includes 6 categories of awards. This Dusty House has been nominated for 'Best Home Design Blog' and is already at a whopping 3 votes!

(Ok. One of those votes might be mine... there's nothing wrong with voting for your own blog, right?)

I don't expect to win. I mean, go look at the list! I'm up against such power houses as Centsational Girl, House*Tweaking, A Brooklyn Limestone, The Lettered Cottage... Ok, I'll stop now. But just the fact that someone (no, two people!) thought my little blog was worthy among those names? I can't stop grinning!

Anyway, if you feel so inclined to vote, go here! You need an Apartment Therapy account in order to cast your ballot. If you happen to decide to vote for This Dusty House? Well, you'll make my day times one hundred!

(I love you guys.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Who Needs Spring?

As you may have noticed in my Thursday post, I'm itching for spring so I can start growing stuff. But wait a minute... why wait for spring?

Exactly.

There's absolutely no reason to wait.

In fact, many plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and onions need to be started indoors or bought as already-germinated-and-half-grown plants in the spring. Can you guess my plans?

While at our local home improvement store on the weekend, we picked up a whole whack of seeds and some peat pots to get me started. The veggies I've set aside to plant in a week or so. The herbs I picked up on the other hand... They went right into their little pots, the lid of the seed starting kit went on, and they found a place to live, being moved from the kitchen table to the counter top, to the side table by the Ikea chairs, anywhere they would be out of the way but out of direct sunlight - for now.






I have 10 pots of each of these herbs. Most will, eventually, find their way into our garden or an herb pot outside. But a couple of each of these plants will go into pretty little pots to live in my kitchen window. I don't have much experience cooking with fresh herbs, I'll admit, but even if I never use them, at least they'll brighten up my kitchen with their fragrant green leaves. At least they'll inspire, in their own gentle way.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Three Things This Thursday

One

Approximately a month ago, the husband and I bought a brick of tofu. Bought it and ignored it. Can you believe how long these things stay fresh in your fridge? This week, the expiry date started to loom a little too close for comfort. Last night, the day before it expired, that block of soy curd stuff finally ended up in a frying pan.

Why is this such a big deal?

Because I've never made tofu before. Yes, I've had it. In pad thai. In miso soup. But to actually cook with it? And make a main course with that weird block of white stuff?

Never.

Until last night, when this happened.


Admittedly, it looked nothing like that. I think the soy sauce I used (courtesy of J and D, after I discovered a lack of soy sauce in my fridge and subsequently went into a panic at the thought of my tofu expiring) may have been darker than this and I don't even know what tamari is, so obviously, it was lacking. And, while I mixed our salad, the sauce definitely got significantly over cooked. In fact, my tofu looked down right unappetizing. As I placed the plate in front of the husband and my brother-in-law, who dropped in for a short visit while in town, I promised that, if it was terrible, we'd call the pizza guy right away. 

Surprise surprise. Not only edible, but also tasty!

Two

I know this winter has been mostly fake (Where are our snow storms? Where's the mounds of dirty snow?) but I think the spring-like weather lately has been making me long for spring all the more. And I don't mean this fake spring. I mean a real, time-to-get-dirty-in-the-garden-and-plant-stuff kind of spring. I'm itching to get our garden going.

Remember last year's?


It was pretty small, and we were pretty busy. It ended up over run with weeds way more times than I can count. I was a little surprised that we got what we did out of it.

This year though? This year we're going big. I'll have way more time to garden, hopefully. And, I'll have help! Our downstairs-friend and provider-of-soy-sauce, J is similarly itching to get outside. We've got mega-gardening plans, and I can't wait to start getting on them.

Three

Meanwhile, indoors. I'm plotting way to bring that garden inside. Kitchen herbs. Cacti. Anything green I can manage. Like this:


Do you have indoor plants?

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wednesday Soup: Creamy Tortellini Soup

This one is a Jeanette Original. 100% out of my head.

(Granted, I've learned a lot about making soup over the past couple years. And I relied on a little research to tell me what flavours might go well together.)

Soups tend to work when I make them out of my head. They tend to be somewhat similar, technique-wise, to other soups that I've been making for years, boring, even. But they're pretty much always tasty. Tried and true with a dash of adventure.

(Except for that time I tried mixing a creamy potato soup with a package of onion soup mix and a can of tomato paste. Oh my goodness, that was bad.)

This one was definitely tasty.

In fact, I might make another pot on the weekend. Maybe.


Since this is a Me-Original, I will absolutely share this recipe with you.

Creamy Tortellini Soup


5 tbsp extra virgin (approximate)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
3 tbsp flour
4 cups chicken broth (or 4 cups water and 4 tsp chicken bouillon powder - this is what I always use. Tried chicken stock and I still prefer my Knorr instant stock mix!)
A handful of roughly chopped spinach (the stuff wilting in your crisper is perfect, as long as it's not too wilty.)
A tsp or so dried parsley
A few handfuls of frozen, cheese-stuffed tortellini

Have you guessed yet that the process of making soup is, for me, very unscripted? Handfuls of this, dashes of that. My best soups are made with what's available in my cupboards, a nearly haphazard process of adding, and mixing, and pondering, and adding a little more. Recipes are nothing more than inspiration.

So. Treat this as that.

Take your onion and throw it into a soup pot with the oil. I never measure my oil. Just make sure the onions aren't burning. Cook until the onion is translucent. If the oil has mostly evaporated away, add a little more. You want there to be some liquid in the bottom of your pot. Add your carrots and stir to mix.

Add the flour. The oil and onions and carrots will all get beautifully coated with the flour. Stir consistently at this point. You don't want your flour to burn to the bottom of the pot, but you do want it to cook.

Slowly add your water or chicken broth, stirring as you pour. Your flour will mix beautifully into the broth, making it deliciously thick and creamy.

Throw in everything else and allow to boil to cook the tortellini and spinach through and bring out the flavour of the parsley.

If extra creaminess is desired, turn down the heat to a simmer and add in half a cup of heavy cream, half and half, or milk. Simmer to heat through and serve! (I skipped this step. We had just got back from the gym... I was feeling healthy.)

Other Soups

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cancel Your Cable

When a Tuesday pretends to be a Monday... oh, what a brutal morning. My lethargic self refused - outright refused - to get out of bed this morning. I took transit in a fog. Arrived at my desk without knowing how. And got some decent news about a deadline that too the pressure off this fake Monday.

So, I thought I'd share a little money saving tip with you! (I know - such a natural segue, from Monday-Tuesday mornings to money...)

Here it is.

Cancel your cable.

(How many of those channels do you watch, anyway?)

And build one of these:


This contraption leans against the wall beside our TV. It's made with some washers, some wire, some clothes hanger, and a couple specialized connector thingies all stuck to a 2 by 4. I know, it looks crazy and perhaps a little dangerous. But it works! See?


Two and a Half Men!

With this ghetto looking contraption, we pick up CBC (English and French), CityTV, CTV, TVO, Channel 4, Global, and Omni 1. In HD. Considering all the major shows are on those channels, and hockey is on CBC, what more could we need?

(To be fair, I truly love my Netflix subscription.)

The Husband is extremely proud of this antenna, partially because it saves us a good chunk of money every month and partially because it picks up HD channels and is, therefore, all the sweeter. He followed this tutorial. We went from 0 to 8 channels in about half an hour.

I know. He's pretty impressive.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Valentine's Day in Review

I know it's Wednesday, which means it's supposed to be a soup day. And I did have a soup ready for you, pretty pictures and all, and then I decided it really wasn't that great and, therefore, there was no way I was going to share and recommend that you make it.

Also, yesterday was Valentine's Day. How can I ignore Valentines day?

I stepped into a cleaned, candlelit house after a stressful day at work and was greeted by the perfect tulip rose bouquet* and a glass of wine.

Then, I made this:

Image and recipe here! Seriously. Make this.

And the husband made some heart shaped cookies.

We sat at our kitchen table with a bottle of wine we bought almost 8 months ago in San Francisco** and we talked and talked and ate, and chatted and snuck Mocha scraps*** and whiled the evening away together.

Heaven.

* Our wedding flower was a tulip. My bouquet was a beautiful mix of tulips and roses and daisies. I love tulips. Our wallet thanks me.

** That is not to say that we haven't had wine in 8 months. Rather, we quite enjoy our wine on a semi-regular basis. This wine, however, we'd been saving for a special occasion. I guess it took us 8 months to find a special occasion. (I was starting to worry it would go sour on us... it did not!)

*** In her bowl, of course. We learned the hard way that "accidentally" letting food fall on the floor for her to eat is just as bad as slipping her little bits from your fingers without making her do a trick first.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Hello Monday.

200th post!

Wow. :o

That's all I have to say about that.

I spent the weekend with about 60 fellow youth leaders, youth workers, and youth pastors being refilled and encouraged in our work with our churches' youth. I'm not entirely sure the weekend fulfilled its purpose in me, but it was worth it none-the-less.

Except for this cold I brought home with me.

On Thursday, I popped by the little thrift store down my street, just for a peek. A collection of almost-new-looking boots in the window drew me in. Too bad for me, they were half a size too small, so I left them all behind and slipped downstairs to check out the furniture and household section.

I came home with this:


Our cacti are grateful. 

It's a little beat up, but it does its job well, as long as it doesn't get too filled. Should I polish it or leave the patina as it is? Seeing it on our little dresser, I wish I'd picked up some of the other brass pots in the thrift store collection. I may have to go back for them. The brass brings this delightful bit of warmth into our home, warmth and comfort in this weird, metallic sort of way. Especially in combination with the green of our plants.

Too bad a little bit of prettiness can't cure a sore throat or sooth a painful cough...


Friday, February 10, 2012

Before and After: A different sort of reveal

I don't get my hair done that often. I might be the only girl in the world who doesn't actually find the process particularly relaxing. In fact, I'll admit it: it's kind of stressful, uncomfortable. 

The stress of picking what you want to do with your hair. 

The stress of reassuring the hair stylist that you'll be happy with that drastic change you say you want.

The stress of the reaction when they're all done. 

Also, I hate those gowns designed to save you from the hair. I know; it's absolutely required if I don't want to itch for the next two days from hair going everywhere. But my hands are trapped. I can't drink the beverage they give because I'll get hair in it. My bangs tickle my nose and I can't move them because my hands are stuck under the gown and besides, they'll just fall back in my face two seconds later anyway.

An old friend of mine from high school does hair out of her apartment here in TO. (She's also has a ridiculously beautiful voice. Go listen! And, if you're in TO, drop by Crema Coffee tonight for a live show!)  She dyed my hair for the first time back in June when the greys that were peaking out around my temples finally got to me. Two months later, my hair looked something like this, already requiring a trim and a root touch up:


But, did I call her up and request an appointment?

Nope. 

My mom helped me colour my roots with dye out of a box on our family vacation, so with my silver strands hidden, I continued to let it grow. 

For another five months.

By the Blogger Meetup a couple weeks ago, my hair length was pretty well close to my waist, the ends were split, pony tails were out of the question unless I really wanted to rock the white streak look and all that hair was getting in my way.


It was definitely time for a change.


This totally fit the bill.


Short. Dark. Lots of red. The perfect swoopy bangs.


Mocha may or may not have been a willing prop in this photo shoot which I have to thank the Husband for.

She also needs a hair cut.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Three Things This Thursday

It feels like it's been a while since I've done one of these. Has it? For those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, Three Things This Thursday is my chance to blab about what I'm thinking about these days in terms of our home, my life, our plans, anything.

One


Reading. Since I bought my Kobo at the beginning of January, I've been doing a steady amount of reading. This isn't unusual. After all, I've got an hour and a half commute twice a day, every day. Books save my sanity. I took a trip through an old favourite, The Princess and the Goblins (which I read in grade 6 and had no idea that it was actually written ages ago and is now public domain), plowed through Uncle Tom's Cabin, skimmed through the first few chapters of Little Women, and then got my library card sorted out and jumped on to American Rust by Phillip Meyer (so good!).

Since I've been doing a lot of reading, lately, I've been drawn to these kind of spaces a lot:


A chair to curl up in with my toes against one arm rest and my elbow on the other, a cup of tea close at hand and plenty of well directed light to read by. Oh, I love it.

Two

I found an amazing pair of boots at Winners for cheapcheap last week and I now I can't stop thinking about shoes. I'm a shoe person. I loooove shoes. Unfortunately, my shoe collection has taken a serious beating over the past couple years since a certain Chew-Monster came into our lives. The only surviving high heels are the ones in my small collection of shoes that I keep at work, basic black, white and brown shoes. Even my red wedding shoes took a beating under the vicious teeth of our puppy. 

(I almost cried.)

Now that Mocha is a little older and little less prone to destroying my shoes (I hope) and now that I am a better trained owner, hyper-aware of her little teeth and the location of my prettiest shoes, I feel it safe to start rebuilding my collection. Of course, that means some proper shoe storage. Right now, all I've got is a cheap shoe rack in my closet on which my high heels don't even fit. I think something like this would be far more suitable:


Though, perhaps with glass doors... Those teeth still love to chew...

Three

Last week, in the same way that these canisters came into my life, a small decorative plate found its way into our kitchen. It's so pretty and I'd love to keep it, but we've got a beautiful matching set of plates and I'm not a huge fan of the mismatched look. I lived with mismatched plates for 5 years of university - I don't need to do it anymore. But this plate is just to0 pretty to give the boot.

So, it sits on my counter.

But, perhaps it should sit on my wall instead! 


I know, it's trendy. But I like the look. It reminds me of my grandmother's house and my mom's house. Both had old plates, perhaps from Holland, on the walls, not in a cluster like this, maybe, but on the walls none-the-less. I just have to learn to hang plates, find a few more (thrift stores, here I come) and decide where to hang them. Beside our dishes shelf perhaps? Or on both sides of the kitchen window?

What are you thinking about these days?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Guest Post: Chicken, Lentil and Tomato Soup


This morning, This Dusty House has a guest! Am and I have known each other since the first day of class in university. She sat in front of me in Mr. D's English class. We bonded over our love of pets and food, so I was really excited when she started a blog of her own. Pop over to visit her at The Cook's Sister!

***

Hi there, this is Am from The Cook’s Sister. This is my first time writing a guest blog post, so feel free to send me tips and suggestions! I hope to have the opportunity to be invited back to this blog, or others!

As I’ve mentioned, I’m fairly new to the blogging community. I’ve maintained a few academic blogs, and am now trying to maintain a personal blog where I share food-related experiences. While my former blogs have been targeted to a very specific and small audience (my classmates and professors), this recent endeavour is proving to be a very different experience. There’re so many unanswered questions. What are food blog audiences typically looking for? How do I capture my audience’s interest? How can I reach out to others and get more followers? How do I take beautiful and appealing photos? And more...

I’m lucky to have wonderful blogging friend who has spent many hours proving advice that is helping me build and maintain my blog. I’ve been working to incorporate all of her advice and I think it’s really helping me improve my blogging skills! She’s even given me this opportunity to write my very first guest blog post on her own blog.

Thank you for everything Nette! And hope you all enjoy the soup this Wednesday!


Chicken Lentil and Tomato Soup

Ingredients
  • 3 chicken legs, bone in, skin removed – approximate cost $5.00
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 cups dried lentils – approximate cost $2.00
  • 2 onions, sliced – approximate cost $0.50
  • 2 dried bay leaves – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning – approximate cost $0.05
  • 1 can of tomato paste – approximate cost $1.00
  • 1 can of tomatoes – approximate cost $1.00
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped – approximate cost $0.20
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground cumin – approximate cost $0.25
  • 2 tablespoons sea salt – approximate cost $0.10
  • 6 teaspoons of lime juice – approximate cost $0.50

Method
Prepare the chicken broth (or use about 5 cups of a store-bought broth)
  1. Place the chicken pieces, onion slices, Italian seasoning, bay leaves, water and sea salt into a slow cooker on low heat.
  2. Cook for 6-8 hours.
  3. Remove the chicken pieces.
  4. Strain the broth into a large pot (removing the onion pieces and bay leaves).
  5. Peel the chicken off the bones and shred the chicken.
  6. Discard the bones and other unwanted bits.
Prepare the lentils
  1. Rinse the lentils thoroughly.
  2. Soak the lentils in warm water for at least 2 hours (you can soak the lentils while you prepare the broth).

Prepare the soup
  1. In a large pot, combine the chicken broth, chicken pieces, lentils, canned tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, and cumin.
  2. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer.
  3. Cook for 30 minutes.

Makes about 6 servings (approximate cost: $1.77 per serving). Serve and drizzle one teaspoon of lime juice over each serving.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Welcome to Monday

I had big plans for this weekend. It was going to be productive and, by the time we went to bed on Sunday evening, the house was going to be spotless. I was going to:

  1. Finish the back part of my reupholstery project, which would only leave the cushion to finish.
  2. Rearrange the living room.
  3. Sweep and swiffer our bamboo.
  4. Fold laundry.
  5. Make bread.
None of that happened.

However, this happened:


(Can you spot the Mocha?)

I'll be better, I promise.

As soon as I get this puzzle finished. 

I hope your weekend involved more than a puzzle of houses and yellow sky.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Wednesday Soup

For a while last week, our house looked like this:

*

The dishwasher has developed a high pitched whine that drives the husband crazy more than it does me. He declared it broken, announced it unusable, and, two days later, called the store we bought it from to call in our warranty. Can you guess who was doing dishes for the days leading up to our service call?


Precisely.

Anyway, it's on its way to being fixed - a new motor has been ordered - so, for some reason, the whine has become more tolerable. But, since making food meant making a more-difficult-to-deal-with mess, not a lot of food has been made in a while.

This soup, however, has been.

And it's delicious.

That's not hyperbole. It is truly truly delicious.


But that's not really a surprise. This recipe comes from Jessica of How Sweet It Is. She is, hands down, my favourite food blogger. Funny, real, and oh so delicious. She has yet to make something I wouldn't eat.

Case in point, buffalo chicken soup.

Usually, when I make a soup, the last serving or so ends up finding its way down the drain. I know, wasteful... The pot will languish for just a little too long in the fridge after I've gotten bored of it. I'll have good intentions of freezing it, but then, for some reason or another, it never happens and, two or three weeks later, I'm sniffing at it suspiciously before scooping it into the compost.

Not this one.

All gone.

Every last bite.

So good.

Here's the recipe if you want to make it. (Do!)

(* Why do cats seem to be naturally drawn to the insulating batting on top of a dishwasher? Pekoe languished here for the full day and a half that the dishwasher sat there.)