Tuesday, July 28, 2015


This will be brief because I mentally cannot get too deep into it yet. But I need to word vomit a bit.

We are on day 3 (not consecutive) of overhauling our HVAC system. Two Fridays ago we had a whole new furnace, air conditioner and compressor installed. Then, in order to address the fact that our air flow was never complete, the guys added some duct work in order to tie the upstairs into the circuit of airflow. So day 1 was the equipment install. Day 2 was adding the duct work. And today has been fraught with more construction--a small crew of contractors are here walling in the ridiculous 10-inch wide pipes that carry air throughout our home.

I'm so ready to have my house back. We made the decision to replace the entire heating/cooling system because we knew it was nearing the end of its life, and we wanted to replace it before we had a system failure and were in an emergency response type of situation. (I still may need an ambulance to come and haul me off at the end of it all for cardiac and mental health reasons.)

It's not cheap, but it's also not unreasonable. We managed it be negotiating down in price, asking for a few freebies, and also scoring 18 month 0% interest financing. So all of that adds up to a manageable debt that will pay off in the long run.

As for the short run, I just want my damn house back, and I want to see the return on our next few cooling bills.

So that's what's been going on here lately. I can't wait to have time off that isn't spent sitting in the house watching my walls and floors get ripped apart.

Outside, our tomatoes are exploding! I mean...I have SO MANY. Looks like I'll be makig quite a few tomato tarts! I have a great cookbook researched and written at, and published by Rutgers University that focuses on all of the yummy things grown in New Jersey. One such recipe is a tomato tart with a basil crust. I also happen to have basil growing wild in my garden. So yeh...that's gonna happen! Stay tuned. I may parlay that into a Sunday stress buster. My nerves are so shot from the work today that I can't even bring myself to think about cooking dinner let alone making a pie crust and tart.

Pray for my sanity, folks. I worry they're walling it up with the ducts.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day

I started my 4th celebration a little earlier in the week. On Monday, I ordered--finally!--my long-dreamed upon kitchen gadget: the KitchenAid stand mixer. Amazingly, it arrived a mere 3 days after I placed my order...that's right, I had it in my grubby little hands when I got home from work on Wednesday.

Please meet Kitty the KitchenAid 5qt mixer. Isn't she just beautiful?

To christen her, I made a small batch of good old vanilla cupcakes to act as the canvas for my buttercream experimentation: roasted strawberry, as seen on Cookies and Cups, a food blog by a fellow Jersey girl!

It was surreal to just plop things into the mixer and then...stand there. My arm was like, "Wait...where's the hand mixer? I don't...I don't...have anything to do...?" AKA my upper body fitness gained by hand mixing all these years is about to atrophy. ha More reps at the gym, I suppose!

Cake batter came together in no time, and into the oven they went. While that was baking, I prepared the strawberries for roasting: sprinkle with some sugar and let them macerate while the cakes were baking up. Once the berries were roasted, I let them cool per the recipe, and then rather than dirty something else I'd have to clean (a blender), I just grabbed ye olde potato masher and smooshed the berries to puree them. (See, present me with an opportunity to use a machine and I still go for the elbow grease road. That said, I will never ever ever whip egg whites by hand. Nope nope nope.)

After reaching this point, I realized the frosting recipe was likely for 2 dozen cupcakes, so I decided to halve it, as I overfilled the cupcake papers and only got 9 cakes. But what to do with the extra puree...?

Duh...fill the cupcakes!

I then experienced the most relaxing buttercream making of my life: soft butter into the mixer's bowl, turn on mixer (using the GENIUS bowl-scraping paddle attachment that I've had since my bridal shower in 2011). Once that was creamed, dump the powdered sugar in the spout on the splatter guard, and enjoy not getting poofed with a cloud of sugar...UNHEARD OF! Lastly, I added in the strawberry puree and let that incorporate. The recipe noted that fruit buttercreams tend to get a bit curdled, but that is easily remedied by adding a bit more powdered sugar. I did that until it stiffened up to my liking, plopped it in a piping bag, and frosted the filled cupcakes.

End result: DELICIOUS. The roasted strawberries...out of this world. I'm already dreaming of doing lemon cupcakes with roasted blackberry frosting; lemon cupcakes with the strawberry frosting...oh dear, I could go on and on... But I'll stop myself and let you oogle the little darlings:

While I'm mentioning strawberries, here are some photos of the strawberry shortcakes I made at my dad's request for Father's Day. I baked the biscuits earlier in the day, and then made the strawberry filling and whipped cream just before serving. Recipe via The Candid Appetite. I shouldn't have to tell you there were no leftovers. ; )