Book Challenge Update

One of my goals for 2015 was to complete the book challenge from the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. So far, I’ve completed 4 of the 12 categories:

1) A book recommended by someone with great taste: I read The Martian (by Andy Weir), which was recommended by Big Man (who has great taste!). It was indeed a very fun book and I enjoyed reading it even though sci-fi isn’t a genre I usually read. I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoyes sci-fi, space, adventure stories, and/or dark humor. (Language warning for those who are sensitive)

2) A book in a genre I don’t usually read: I read My Life in France (by Julia Child). I rarely, if ever, read autobiographies, but I really enjoyed this one. Julia Child had a very interesting life and her passion for French cuisine comes through loud and clear in her writing. I always love reading about food! I enjoyed it, though it didn’t change my view on the autobiography genre as a whole. I’ll continue to read those books only if the author is someone in whose life I’m truly interested.

3) A book that is currently on the bestseller list: I read All the Light we Cannot See (by Anthony Doerr). It is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time, despite the depressing setting of World War II. The book was excellent, the characters were unique and well-written, and the story provided a different view of the War than most other fiction set in the same time period. The writing style took me a while to get used to; the first few chapters felt pretentious, but as the story progressed the style matched the storyline quite well. Overall, a wonderful book (though tragic) and one I’d recommend to anyone willing to handle the mature themes inherent in war. (Content/language warning for those who are sensitive)

4) A book by a favorite author: I read Straight (by Dick Francis). I am a big fan of Dick Francis mysteries. My grandmother was an avid reader and loved Dick Francis books. She introduced them to my mom, who in turn suggested them to me. (The late) Francis wrote great mysteries that are usually centered around British horse-racing, as he was a former jockey. I’m a horse person and a bit of an anglophile, so it’s really a perfect combination for me. Francis was prolific, and though I’ve read quite a few of his books, I tend to go in cycles with mysteries, reading several in a row and then taking a break. It’s been a few years since I read a Francis book, and I love that this reading challenge provided an reason to pick up another one. Straight was thoroughly enjoyable, and a great reminder of why Francis is one of my favorite authors.

With these four books completed, I’m a third of the way through the challenge. I’m currently working on the Book from my Childhood and Book I Chose from the Cover categories. Is anyone else doing the reading challenge? Or reading something you love? I’m always looking for book recommendations, so I’d love to hear from you!

House Update #20: Doors and Windows

I really should have written this update a week ago, but because I procrastinated I just have more stuff to show you! Since the last update:

  • the roof has been covered with the pre-shingle tar paper
  • the doors have been installed, and then removed. We don’t want to risk our nice doors being damaged during the rest of the construction, so for now there are cheap doors installed and the nice ones are stored in a safe place.
  • most of the windows have installed
  • the decorative gable trusses are being installed

Here are some pictures!

Entry, with the pretty doors

Entry, with the pretty doors

Close-up of the entry door from the inside

Close-up of the entry door from the inside

One of the dining room doors

One of the dining room doors

The homemade scaffolding system for installing the decorative gable truss

The homemade scaffolding system for installing the decorative gable truss

Better view of the truss

Better view of the truss

Thanks for following along!

House Update #19: Chimney

I haven’t updated in a while, and look what’s happened since! Outside, the trusses are up, roof sheeting is done, and the chimney is built. Inside, both fireplaces are framed out, the drain plumbing is almost done, and the drop ceiling in the living room has been framed. Next up is the roofing, and then the windows and doors can be installed!  Here are some pictures.

Living room fireplace framing

Living room fireplace framing

From the driveway

From the driveway

The living room window wall

The living room window wall

Chimney!

Chimney!

Entry

Entry

Thanks for following along with us!

House Update #18: Trusses and Snow

This update is a week overdue, but better late than never, right? Although progress has been stalled this last week because of all the snow we’ve been getting, quite a few things got done the previous week. The framing for the second floor was mostly completed, including the upper part of the two-story living room wall. It is so awesome seeing all the windows framed out, and I can’t wait to have the actual windows installed. The roof trusses were also mostly completed, and we’re really able to get a feel for how the ceilings and roof-lines will look. It was fun seeing the how everything looked with all the snow, and we are looking forward to enjoying next winter actually living in the house! Here are some pictures.

Living room wall with both rows of windows.

Living room wall with both rows of windows.

The entryway is almost done! This is the view looking back down the driveway toward the road.

The entryway is almost done! This is the view looking back down the driveway toward the road.

Thanks for following along!

Eggs for Dinner

A.K.A. “Basque Pipérade with eggs.” Yes, another recipe post. I made this dish for dinner this week and it was so yummy that I wanted to make sure I wrote it down for future reference.

I’m always up for new ways to eat breakfast-y things like eggs for dinner. A few years ago I saw a recipe for “Eggs in Purgatory” an Italian dish of eggs cooked in marinara sauce. I made it, but Big Man and I were less than impressed. When I saw this Basque variation of the recipe on Pinterest I figured I’d try again. This one was a home run! Big Man and I really loved the flavors, with lots of emphasis on paprika and pepper. The roasted red peppers gave a nice sweetness and overall it was just a comforting, homey meal perfect on a chilly night. I simplified the recipe slightly from the original, changing the ingredients for what we had in the pantry and cutting a couple unnecessary steps. I plan on making it again soon, and I hope you’ll try it as well!

Basque Pipérade with Eggs (adapted from Cured by Bacon)

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (julienned)
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 tsp. ground paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder*
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cumin*
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano*
  • Pinch cayenne pepper*
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 6 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained and sliced into strips
  • Salt and Pepper, to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • Crostini or grilled bread, for serving.
  • *These 4 ingredients can be subbed out for 1 tsp. chili powder*

1. In a cast iron skillet (or other heavy, ovenproof pan), heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium heat. Add in the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another 3 minutes, until fragrant. Stir in the paprika, chili powder, cumin, oregano, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about a minute.

2. Add the tomatoes, red peppers, bay leaf and sugar. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a low boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 to 45 minutes. Stir occasionally, and taste to check the seasoning. It’s ready when the flavors meld together and the tomatoes no longer taste acidic.

3. Heat the oven to 450 degrees F.

4. Use a large spoon to make 4 “wells” in the sauce and gently crack an egg into each well. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the egg whites are set, but the yolks are still runny (or to your desired egg done-ness). I used extremely large chicken eggs (about the size of duck eggs) and it took about 12 minutes.

5. Remove from oven and serve immediately along with bread scoop up the sauce and dip in the eggs.

6. Enjoy!

Spaghetti Bolognese

I haven’t posted a recipe here in forever, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. I’ve been (lazily) archiving a lot of my cooking adventures in Pinterest, linking the original recipe and making my own notes in the pin comments. But I’d like to get back to writing up the recipes I really love so I can easily repeat them, so I’m going to try to write recipe posts more often.

I made this Bolognese sauce this week and it was truly delicious. The only “bolognese” sauce I’d made before was adding cooked ground beef to a standard marinara. This sauce is entirely different and much more like an Italian-flavored meat stew than a tomato-y sauce. The vegetables cook down and add their unique taste, and the tomato flavor is a blended note instead of the main event. The wine helps deglaze the pan and add some sweetness and the whole thing is wonderfully balanced and flavorful. Big Man said it was one of the best dinners I’ve ever made.

I really loved this dish as well and I plan to make it again soon. One of my favorite things about it is the make-ahead factor. This sauce greatly benefits from a night in the fridge to let all the flavors blend and get happy. So I actually made the sauce one morning when I had a little extra time to hang out in the kitchen. The house smelled amazing the whole day, which was an extra bonus! I refrigerated the sauce overnight (in the Dutch oven where I cooked it – no extra dishes!) and for dinner the next night all I needed to do was heat up the sauce, cook some pasta, and make the garlic bread. A super easy, quick dinner that felt like a special occasion instead of a normal Thursday night. And like I said, the taste here is fantastic. With freshly grated Parmesan over the top and paired with a nice Moscato, it was a stand-out dinner. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Bolognese Sauce (adapted from Vikalinka)

Serves 4-6
Time: 2.5 to 3 hours, plus overnight refrigeration
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 3-4 carrots, peeled and diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1/2 lb. ground beef (I used grass-fed)
  • 1 lb. ground pork
  • 1.5 cups red wine (I used a Malbec)
  • 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 tsp. dried basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • To serve: cooked spaghetti, Parmesan cheese (optional)

1. Coat the bottom of a Dutch oven (or large, heavy-bottomed pot) with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant and beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a couple minutes more. Remove the vegetables to a bowl.

2. Lightly re-coat the bottom of the same Dutch oven with a bit more olive oil. Add the ground beef, season with salt and pepper, and cook, breaking it up into small pieces and making sure it browns on all sides. Once browned, remove to the bowl with the veggies.

3. Add the ground pork, season with salt and pepper, and brown it, just like with the beef.

4. Once the pork is browned, slowly pour in the wine, stirring and scraping all the browned bits (a.k.a. flavor!) off the bottom of the pan. Return the beef and veggies, and add the tomatoes, oregano, basil, and another good dose of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and gently simmer for at least an hour and a half (I simmered mine for a little over 2 hours). While it’s simmering, cover with the lid askew so that steam can escape.

5. Taste a few times through the simmering and adjust seasonings as needed. Once the sauce is cooked and seasoned, cool completely, then cover and refrigerate at least overnight.

6. To serve, re-heat the sauce until it is simmering, then add al dente spaghetti directly to the sauce. Give everything a good stir to coat the pasta and serve. Add freshly-grated Parmesan to each serving, if desired.

7. Enjoy!

House Update #17: Second floor

The house is moving right along. The framing crew has been working continuously (thanks to the nice weather), and Big Man has been up there every day working as well.  He is working on the basement framing, organizing and moving all the materials, and basically just doing what needs to be done. All that hard work means the second floor is framed, about 75 % of the roof trusses are installed, and we can really see the entire house structure coming together. Here are some pictures!

The front of the house. The roofline is now visible!

The front of the house. The roofline is now visible!

View of the house from downhill, where you can see the walkout basement

View of the house from downhill, where you can see the walkout basement

View of the house from the uphill side

View of the house from the uphill side

View from the master bath windows

Standing in the master bath, looking out the windows

My favorite picture, the view out the master bedroom window

My favorite picture, the view out the master bedroom window

Thanks for following along with us!