Archive for the ‘Cooking Life’ Category


Apartment Therapy  I fell for this one. Hard.

Joy the Baker How to be the best food blogger of all time.

Huffington Post Office pranks, most of which include food.

Bon Appetit A nice game-day recap.


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Recovering from a hard week of work with wine, cake in a cup and Jeopardy.

The Wine

NC cabernet 008

Random bottle of Merlot from World Market, surprisingly good!

The Cake

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake in a Cup. Found this  recipe because, damn it, I wanted cake with my wine. Surprisingly, not a bad recipe.

My Date


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There was a time when I used to update this blog on a weekly (ok, usually bi-weekly) basis.  Unfortunately, a few life decisions in 2012 and 2013 completely put the brakes on my little blog project. A few things that replaced the blog over the past year include:

  • In January 2012 making the decision to go back to school part-time with the goal of becoming a CPA.
  • Gutting our kitchen and renovating 90 percent of it ourselves.
  • Serving as President of my Rotary from June 2012 – June 2013.
  • Making a big career move in October 2012 by becoming a manager of a team and leaving my previous employer.

I swear I’m not masochistic.

Going back to school was the biggest driver of abandoning the blog. I knew that any spare time (and there wasn’t a lot of it) should be dedicated to studying, not the blog. Lame.

Summer 2013 brings with it a lot of gifts. As of this month I am officially done with my Rotary Presidential year. UVA also gave me the gift of not offering any of the courses that I need over the summer semester. I am also no longer drinking from a fire hose at my new job. I certainly feel comfortable enough to update the blog over the summer, and dare I say for the foreseeable future?

Evidence of my newly discovered free time can be seen on our back porch.

That’s right, folks, we’re living off the land! Our Serrano pepper plant is bursting at the seams and our tomatoes have somehow survived the deer, foxes, racoons, rabbits, and squirrels that hang out in our backyard.

It is good to be back in the kitchen with enough time on my hands to actually maintain a hobby. I hope this blog continues to be a fun way to keep up with Dan and Mary and our happy, hectic lives.

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You will have to excuse me if I haven’t posted in a few weeks. If you recall, in July we committed to finishing our master bathroom by Thanksgiving. This commitment kicked into full gear in November, where we took the bathroom from this…

To this…

Can you believe Dr. Dan did all of that fancy tile work? We still have a few more things to do, but Dan has finished the lion’s share of the work for us.

In addition to a bathroom renovation, we hosted six family members for the Thanksgiving holiday. Here is our family’s Thanksgiving menu, with links to recipes when available.

Pastry Wrapped Brie
Ginna’s Spinach Dip with Veggies

Main Course
Roasted Chicken and Honey Baked Ham

Green Bean Casserole
Asparagus Wrapped in Serrano Ham
Grandma Mckee’s Dressing
Grandma Edwards’ Sweet Potato Soufflé
Deviled Eggs
Dinner Rolls

America’s Test Kitchen’s Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Spice Cake
Vanilla Ice Cream

Alas, there was one tragedy this Thanksgiving…

The sweet potato soufflé, in an attempt to escape the Thanksgiving dinner table, jumped out of my father-in-law’s hands only to crash into the dressing. The soufflé, unfortunately, did not survive.

Click here to view more Thanksgiving shenanigans. We have also documented our bathroom renovations here.

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Table Talk

Over the past 6 months our dining area has gone from Red Skins tribute…

…to painted but sparse…

…to grown up with a fancy dining table!

I nabbed the table from the Crate and Barrel Outlet in Old Town Alexandria. A scratch on just one corner of the table dropped the price from $700 to just $250! The great price didn’t come without a fight. Just look at the crowd of yuppies I had to compete against at the Crate and Barrel Sidewalk Sale last weekend.

The great price was well worth dealing with all the bargain crazed (myself included) shoppers last Saturday. Now we have a table that looks so nice and new that, frankly, we’re a little afraid to eat on it.

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For better or for worse, we have committed to hosting Thanksgiving at our house this year. This is the same house that we are in the process of renovating. We work well with deadlines.

After hosting a few dinners, I have learned to stick with recipes that I know. Dinner parties aren’t the time for me to try some thing new. Keeping that in mind, I am testing out new recipes now in order to keep my Thanksgiving as stress free as possible. Dinner roll trials began last weekend with Martha Stewart’s recipe. I don’t have pictures because I wasn’t pleased with the look or the texture of the rolls. It is an easy recipe that freezes well, but the rolls were too dense for my liking. I’m looking for a fluffy, buttery dinner roll.

A recipe for Challot Knots produces my ideal Thanksgiving roll (aside from Grandma’s rolls, of course). The Saveur recipe, however, is not written for the novice bread baker. The recipe doesn’t even describe how to form the dough knots. Here is my recap of the recipe, with a few helpful hints.


NOTE: The recipe claims to yield 12 rolls. I think this recipes makes 24 reasonably sized rolls.


4 tsp. active dry yeast (approximately 2 packets)
¼ cup sugar
¼ cup canola oil
4 egg yolks
3¼ cups flour (plus or minus 1/4 cup)
1¼ tsp. kosher salt
1 egg, lightly beaten


1. In a bowl, stir together yeast and 1 cup water heated to 110 – 115° (NOTE: I always add about 1 tsp of honey to the mixture, which gives the yeast something to eat. The yeast almost always begins to foam within 5 minutes).

2. Whisk in sugar, oil, and egg yolks; add flour and salt. Stir to form dough, and then knead on a work surface until smooth, about 8 minutes. (NOTE: Do not add the flour all at once. Add the flour one cup at a time until the dough begins to pull away from the bowl. Using an upright mixer reduces kneading time. For a good article on over-kneading and under-kneading click here).

3. Cover dough and let sit until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down dough, cover, and let sit for 45 minutes more.

4. Heat oven to 350°. Form dough into twelve (or 24, depending on your portion preference) 10″-long ropes; tie each rope into a knot, tucking ends underneath. NOTE: For a photo tutorial on how to form dough knots, click here.

5. Transfer to a 9″ × 13″ baking pan; cover, and let sit for 30 minutes. Brush with egg; bake until browned, about 20 minutes. NOTE: It only took my oven 11 minutes to bake 12 rolls.

I also tried freezing the dough after step four. I thawed the frozen dough for approximately 2 1/2 hours and baked as instructed in step five. Freezing the dough overnight did not affect the taste or consistency of the dough; however, I wonder if it prevented the rolls from maintaining a tight knot shape.

The Challot Knots won the dinner roll battle and will be featured on my Thanksgiving menu. I will not freeze the rolls because it will not save a lot of baking time on the big day. Making the rolls on Thanksgiving day will also save me from the stress of wondering if the yeast died in the freezer. Thanksgiving is only 45 days away and there are more food battles to be had!

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Spice Rack Operational

There she is, up and ready for cooking. Dr. Dan put her up (on his day off, no less) and added a surprise feature, rounded edges!

He used a file to round of the previously sharp edges. I think it gives it a cleaner, more professional look.

Here’s a closer look at the jars.

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