Tahini Blondies

My love for all things sesame is well documented.  Black sesame macarons?  Sounds good.  Black sesame ice cream?  Yes! Tahini lunchbox cookies? Groovy.

How about tahini in bar form?

With added currants (or just about any dried, chopped fruit), these bars are a cross between a peanut butter cookie and a fig newton.  They’re dense, nutty, soft and chewy.

AND, they’re even better when eaten frozen.  Full disclosure: I feel the same way about white grocery store birthday cake and those Lofthouse cookies with the icing and sprinkles on top so, consider the source.

Tahini Blondies

Ingredients

  • 1 stick (4 ounces) butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 C granulated sugar
  • 3/4 C golden brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 C tahini paste (make sure sesame is the only ingredient…unless you like your blondies garlicky)
  • 1 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • Currants or raisins (if desired)
  • Sesame seeds for sprinkling on top (if desired)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8X8 baking pan with parchment.
  2. Whisk melted butter into the sugars.  Add salt.
  3. Whisk eggs into sugar mixture one-at-a-time.  Whisk in vanilla.
  4. Fold-in tahini.  Fold-in flour until just incorporated.  Fold-in currants.
  5. Pour mixture into prepared pan.  Top with sesame seeds.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Sour cream Irish soda bread

It’s pretty embarrassing that until today, this blog did not have a recipe for Irish soda bread.  My Irish ancestors (because we all have them) are probably tipping over on their heavenly bar stools.

I can’t quite figure out why I’ve never posted a recipe for Irish soda bread.  This bread is quick (literally), fun to make and is ridiculous as toast with butter and a drizzle of honey.

Soda bread itself isn’t actually Irish.   I read that Native Americans were making a version of this bread long before sodium bicarbonate was introduced to Ireland in the mid-nineteenth century.  As luck would have it, the type of wheat that grew in Ireland was more responsive to baking soda as a leavening agent than yeast and so became the favored method for bread baking.

Folklore says it that the cross was cut into the top in order to ward off the devil.

In our neighborhood,  the Goodyear serves the same purpose and he was flying laps around the house as I was baking this bread.  Unlike soda bread, the Goodyear Blimp’s leavening agent is helium and a lot of hot air (and cheerleaders).

Though there are many variations on Irish soda bread, I’ve gone with a currant, orange zest and sour cream version here (sometimes called a spotted dog) mostly because I had sour cream in the fridge.

While we’re on the subject, happy St. Patrick’s Day to all.  I often find myself on other continents for the grand celebration of green beer.  This year I’m in Beijing but in other years I have celebrated from Taipei and Hong Kong.  One year I was even at the source in Dublin.

Irish Soda Bread

borrowed from All Recipes

Ingredients

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • Zest of an orange
  • 1 cup raisins or currants

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease an 8 or 9 inch round cake pan, an 8X8 square pan or  two 8×4 inch loaf pans.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Add the eggs, sour cream, orange zest and currants/raisins and mix until just combined.
  3. Form dough into a rough ball. Score top if you desire your bread to be demon free.
  4. Bake at 325 degrees F (165 degrees C) for 1 hour.

Put the lime in the coconut…cookies

 

I was obsessed with that song (via Resevoir Dogs, not in the original) for a summer in between my junior and senior year of  college.

College was a confusing time for me musically.  And don’t get me started on the fashion.

Dorie Greenspan’s new cookie book has an entire section on sables.  This tropical, crunchy, citrusy version was the first one I made under the guise of  attempting to heat our open to the elements house in late December.

There are few smells better than the aroma of toasting coconut.

For these and a host of other recipes in her book, Dorie uses a baking technique that involves muffin tins.  When I made this recipe, all of my muffin tins were in storage and so I  used the roll, slice and bake method here.

I should be reunited with my muffin tins (why does this sound like code?) later this month.  When the time comes, I’ll be sure to play with the technique and share the results.

Coconut-Lime Sables

Adapted from Dorie’s Cookies, Dorie Greenspan

  • makes about 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C (204 g) all purpose flour
  • 1/4 C (32 g) cornstarch
  • Pinch of ground coriander
  • 2/4 C (134g) sugar
  • Zest of 2 limes (don’t forget to juice them and use it for a margarita)
  • 2 sticks (8oz, 226g) unsalted butter, cut into chunks, at room temp (cut into chunks when cold)
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt (kosher salt will work)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 C (80g) shredded sweetened coconut (toast 1/3 C and set aside)
  • Shredded coconut for sprinkling

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch and coriander.
  2. Add sugar and lime zest to bowl of a stand mixer (or use hand mixer), using your fingertips, work the zest into the sugar until it is moist and fragrant.
  3. Fit mixer with paddle attachment and add butter and salt to bowl.  Beat on medium for about 3 minutes.  Beat in vanilla.
  4. Turn off mixer and add flour mixture all at once.  Pulse mixer until flour stops flying.  Adjust speed to low and mix until flour just disappears into the dough.
  5. Fold-in toasted and untoasted coconut.
  6. Turn dough out and divine in half.  Working with one half at a time, gently roll into two logs (I like to start the log and then roll it back and forth across a piece of parchment paper to lengthen the log.   Wrap each in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (or freeze).
  7. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Slice dough (I like about 1/4 inch cut) and place on sheets.  You should be able to comfortably fit 1 dozen on each sheet.  Sprinkle tops with coconut.
  9. Bake for 18-20 minutes or until cookies are a pale golden brown, rotating sheets halfway through.  Let cool completely on baking sheets.

 

 

 

Kibbles and bits

We went into escrow on Via Corona a year ago today. It’s also TD’s birthday.  Happy birthday TD.

We are so close.  Based on my project worksheets, all the big tasks are complete. And yet, as they say, the devil is in the details — and boy do we have details.  Lots of sanding and painting, grouting here and there, face plates, some hardware installation, a ton of cleaning and caulk, caulk, caulk!  Kibbles and bits, odds and ends, nooks and crannies. We’d be very glad to call it a day in the next three weeks.  Realistically though, I’m guessing this will drag on for another six or so.

Either way, a moving van with everything that’s been living in storage since 2015 shows up on March 24th.  Ready or not.  This will be the fourth time we’ve hired movers in the last two years.  Our moving team knows us by name and vice versa.  Not a joke.

In the meantime, allow me to show you some pictures of mostly done stuff.

In the living room we have a “necessity is the mother of invention” situation that turned out pretty well.  In order to bring our 50 year-old lady up to code, the city required not one but two headers (one in the old space, one in the new).  The ceiling height (or lack thereof) meant the headers had to be exposed.  It looked a little odd, but luckily our builder came up with a brainstorm that made lemons out of lemonade.  Or fed mayonnaise to the tuna fish if you prefer.  We added a couple of additional beams and some trim and voila, it’s a coffered ceiling effect.

Last weekend was the first time we could stand in the Southeast-most corner of the house and look out to the Northwest.  The feat sounds trivial but it was kind of a big deal for us.

As you can sorta see, the deck remains a disaster.  Once the crew finishes up, and because we enjoy pushing the outer boundaries of our marital union, TD and I are going to strip and refinish the railings and decking.  We hope this will hold us until we’re ready to have the deck completely rebuilt.

You may have heard the “Drought Buster” rains we’ve had this year were the largest in recorded human history (unless they’re not).  The immediate aftermath also caused a bit of a neighborhood drama.  Namely, our hill ever so slightly slid into the street.   The mud in the photo is probably a foot deep.  There’s a tarp on the hill right now and no fewer than 12 neighbors and city officials have harrumphed extensively while “surveying” the “damage”.  Theories and opinions on the subject range from the ridiculous (“It’s an illegal drainage cover up!”) to the sublime (“It’s private property, we want nothing to do with it.”)  After weeks spent rending garments and gnashing teeth, supposedly there is a solution afoot.  Once we’re informed of what that actual solution is, the Via Corona I-Team will be sure to bring you the details.

Although it’s not quite complete in this picture, the shiny fireplace has become one of my favorite features in the house.  This makes me think that instead of spending hours and hours and hours researching all the finishes I should have just thrown darts at options and gone from there.  Live and learn.

In a project of this magnitude priorities are essential, and so the singular piece of furniture currently taking up space downstairs is committed to booze storage.  Someday this well-traveled Ikea relic will give way to a nicer alcohol storage system, but for now we’ll rely on the trusty Kallax to get us through (although this one is so old it may be an Expedit!)  For the record, that joke kills at Ikea conventions.

Via Corona is starting to shape up on the outside as well.  She’s painted and stuccoed (all in Cool December if you’ll recall).  We finally have exterior lights,well, two of the three…the third light has somehow disappeared since arriving in early November.  I guess we should call ourselves lucky if this is the only collateral damage other than the microwave mishap that TD still can’t bring himself to talk about.

All that’s left to do on the outside is the detail trim above the door and bay window and, of course, mailbox installation.  Someday we’ll give the remaining 1/3 of the house a fresh coat of paint, but today isn’t the day for that and tomorrow isn’t looking good either. [TD here–Shannon won’t let me go up on the roof which makes a DIY paint attempt difficult.  Luckily she’s going out of town for a week or so.  That third of the house might just get painted.  I may also fall off an die.  Either way she wins: a completely painted house if I live, no need to ruin one of the 1,000 pillows on the bed by smothering me if I die.]

Last weekend we installed the the house numbers plaque.  Well, TD installed the numbers while I made quick work of removing the rusty gate.  As with most endeavors involving the two of us and home improvement, the activity was not without an element of danger.  I disassembled the 200 lb. (rough estimate) gate without incident.  However just as I removed the iron casing strip that the gate locked into, a large, scary and most likely hairy spider crawled out from the underside.  In a reaction that can only be describe as girly, I screamed and flailed my way through the “get the spider off me dance.”  In my haste to relocate the venomous (no doubt) creature, I indiscriminately threw the heavy metal piece directly at TD.  Luckily for us both, I missed.  Still, one or both of us might have wet our pants a little.

We promise we’re building up to an interminable series of reveal posts soon . . . and none of this season-ending cliffhanger nonsense.  Hopefully the finished product will be worth the time, money, effort, blood, sweat and tears we’ve spent living it and you’ve spent reading about it.  We’re looking forward to tearful reunions with furniture and clothing we haven’t seen in 15 months and, of course, getting to the part where we make the house a home (Note:  Probably also alcohol-related).

Until we move-in near the end of the month, Instagram (@TMHostess) will be the best source for Via Corona updates.  Posts for the next three weeks will all be recipes;  I’ll be in China for work and TD will be too busy re-living his bachelor days with generous helpings of fast food, movies he’s seen a million times already, salmon patties and wall-to-wall coverage of the NCAA Tournament.

Cardamom Snickerdoodles

This recipe is a forehead slapper of a “why didn’t I think of that?”

These cookies were also a surprise hit and more than a couple of  people have asked for the recipe (I can never guess what people will fall in love with which is part of the fun).

Think snickerdoodle base with the beautiful bouquet of cardamom and dried currants for a little depth and texture.

These cookies are exotic enough to be interesting but familiar enough that even the xenophobic will like them (though I’m not sure why we should give them cookies).

 

Cardamom and currant snickerdoodles

recipe by fiveandspice via Food52

Ingredients

  • 1 C unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/2C packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 3 C all purpose flour
  • 1tsp ground cardamom (preferably freshly ground, or at least fresh)
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 C dried currants
  • 3 TBS granulated sugar (for cookie coating)
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom (for cookie coating)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sugars, flour, 1 tsp. cardamom, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs into the melted butter, then stir in the vanilla.
  4. Fold the wet ingredients and the currants into the flour mixture, stirring just long enough for everything to come together into a dough.
  5. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the 3 Tbs. sugar and 1 tsp. cardamom for the coating.
  6. Roll the chilled dough into 1 ½ inch balls then roll each ball in the sugar coating, and place onto ungreased, parchment-lined cookie sheets with about 2 inches of space in between.
  7. bake for 8-9 minutes, until they look golden and cracked on top but still a bit doughy in the middle.
  8. Transfer immediately from the baking sheets to a cooling rack and allow to cool.

 

Guest bath reveal

I’ve begun to think renovating Via Corona is like running a marathon (or driving to Vegas).  While the distance has been long and we’ve endured considerable chafing in parts I won’t mention, our attitudes for the first 21 miles (in this case, first 8 months) have been mostly chipper.  If our builders are to be believed (eeeehhhhh?), we’ve just rounded the corner on mile 22.  Or as runners call it: the wall.  The downstairs is currently a disaster:  I can see the guts of the fireplace (and the accompanying spider webs), the protection cardboard covering the hardwood has been on the floor so long its begun to curl up at the (no longer taped) edges and there is so much dust everywhere that everything looks like its been run through an instagram filter.  We may only have four miles…or four weeks to go but it’s the cruelest distance.  So, this week I’m sharing something that’s pretty close to being finito: the guest bath.  All sources are listed at the bottom of the post.

As you might recall from the plans, this gem of a washroom sits at the top of the stairs and it is meant to be shared by the three non-master bedrooms.

At move-in, this bathroom offered an array of charming attributes including wall-to-wall carpet, an extra low vanity (with white fixtures), and a front and center commode.

It also had only one point of access.

One of the main reasons for getting ourselves into this mess was so that we could have a comfortable place for guests to stay when coming from afar: foreign countries, other states and the occasional nomad from the valley or Pasadena.

With this in mind, we basically flipped the entire layout so the main guest bedroom had direct access. Before I show you the goods, one word from the war-torn.  If you are renovating and can avoid it, you don’t want to move around your plumbing.  It is shockingly expensive. You could almost get in an entire renovation without moving the plumbing for what it will cost to move the plumbing alone.  We learned this lesson not once, but twice.  We are nothing if not committed to our own folly.

Because design inspiration had to come from somewhere, I started with the floors.  As I explained in the plans post for this room, I originally wanted Moroccan fish scale tiles.  However, unless I wanted to make my own, the mermaid scales  were very much out of my budget.  Honed marble herringbone isn’t a bad compromise if you ask me.  I paired this with polished white subway tile and brushed stainless fixtures.  But then I got tired of all that stainless and threw in some brass (sadly, it wasn’t from Tijuana.  But, we are going to have a sound system where you can play Tijuana Brass while in the bathroom if it’s any consolation).

While the result is significantly more feminine and…pink…than I imagined, it’s a pretty decent improvement over what was.

The once shower-nook now provides tidy access from the guest bedroom (and a more discreet potty locale).

Like every other room in this house, the space is just a little tight.  We’ll warn guests about closing the door completely before using the privy if they don’t want to get hit in the knees with it.

The main compromise (other than the flooring) was the loss of vanity geography.  In retrospect, I wish we had pushed the builder a little harder to do a custom vanity and gain a few inches.  I’m not in love with this fixture, though changing  knobs helped. I think the full-scale shaker styling on the smaller piece makes it look clumsy and I should have gone with plain-fronted drawers.  Oh well, too late to go back.

The good news is that while a petite 36 inches, there is plenty of space to do bathroom things.  Even when one or both Kitchen Gods are supervising (which is most of the time).

When we first started this project, I was naive to the number of bits and baubles required for a bathroom.  From TP holders to sconces, bathrooms have got to be the most accessorized rooms in the house.  I will say I am particularly fond of this little lighting find.  No one will ever notice (or care), but it matches the curtain rod exactly.  When I first found the piece it was way out of my price range.  But I dug around the interwebs enough to not only find it in my budget but also snag free shipping. Alas, victories like this were few with Via Corona.

After site-stalking these hooks for weeks, I finally pulled the trigger and ordered a couple.  I loved the look of one but not the other.  This resulted in trips to five different Anthropolgie locations to find just the right agates (I’m pretty sure it’s really resin but am not going to look too closely).  Yes, someone has control issues.

Though we’re lucky to have natural light in this bathroom, the window is inconveniently placed (unless you want to recreate Amsterdam’s red light district at home–if so, we’ve got a house we’d like to sell you).  For now I’ve hung a curtain that provides coverage but still lets in the light.  This is actually the third curtain I’ve tried out in this space which makes me think drapery may not be what this window needs.  Alas, I’m out of inspirational steam and so this will have to do, pig, until we come up with a better solution.

This room is still missing a piece of art–but that’s in storage and who knows when it’ll be liberated.  Maybe I can start thinking about it when we hit mile 24 and are suddenly inspired with a last burst of home renovation energy.

Wanna see some bathroom guts? This is a slowish loader because I don’t know how to  crunch it…I apologize in advance.

Sources:

Vanity: Acclaim Vanity
Bath Tub: Mirabelle
Faucet: Delta Ara
Shower/Tub Faucet: Delta Ara
Shower Head: Delta Two-in-One
TP Holder: Delta Ara
Mirror: CB2 Infinity Mirror
Vanity Sconce: Feiss 4 Light Tonic Vanity Strip
Vanity Knobs: Geometric Glass Knobs
Agate Hooks: Anthropolgie Swirled Agate Hook
Towel Holder: Brushed Steel Wall Mount Towel Rack
Flooring: Similar: Tilebar.com 
Pain: Benjamin Moore Opal 891
Curtain Rod: West Elm, no longer available, similar: The Curtain Rod Shop
Curtain: Anthropologie Stripes Curtain
Buddy the Cat: not for sale

Is this the end?!?

Mama told me one day it was gonna happen

But she never told me when

She told me it would happen when I was much older

Wish it woulda happened then

– Ricky Bell, New Edition, “Is This The End?” (1983)

See what I did there?  It’s BOTH a pertinent question and the title of a New Edition song!

TD here.

On Monday, January 23rd we met with our contractors for the expressed purpose of finding out just when our long national nightmare would finally come to an end.  As a reminder, we took ownership of Via Corona on April 19, 2016, we hired the builder a week later and work began in May.  We began chronicling the adventure in early June.  We ran out of things to talk about months ago, but now “sh*t’s getting real” so to speak.  Or, maybe not.

Back in June we were wide-eyed optimists who were dumb enough to actually believe it when we were told the house would be complete and the end of October.  Today we are hardened, first world problem veterans with the thousand yard stares to match.  It’s now clear that we, as my friends in Southern Illinois would say, just fell off the turnip truck as it relates to this project.  To be clear, I’ve never actually seen a turnip truck and have no idea why falling off it confers a sort of dull wit, especially when its second cousin, falling off the wagon seems like a pretty awesome strategy.  At least in the short run.  Make no mistake, I would willingly jump off of a moving vehicle before eating a turnip, but I digress.

Back to a couple of Mondays ago.  With our trusty spreadsheets at the ready, we walked the house stem to stern and talked in detail about the final touches in anticipation of their estimated completion date.   After, a brief conference, it came.

“Four to five weeks,” they said.

“Bull$%*&,” we replied in unison, although silently enough so as to be drowned out by a passing turnip truck.  (The driver most likely had stopped to use our outhouse.  This is a thing we’ve observed.  It seems our porta potty serves the same function of most urban public libraries.)

If you’re stuck without a calendar, their due date is March 6.  A hair over three weeks until our world is no longer covered in gypsum dust.  This is just enough time to decide whose side you’re on, dear reader.  Are you all in for Team Shirley Make It or are you ride or die with Team Betty Won’t?

shirleybetty

Feel free to base your judgments on current photographic evidence and place your bets on the official end date in the comment section.  Winner gets a dozen cookies from me which truly makes us all losers doesn’t it?

Let us begin . . .

Here’s our spreadsheet as it existed on January 23rd.  You can see there are a few things marked complete.  A few.

DSC_0840

Starting on the exterior.  We have stucco and trim here that needs paint.  Also outdoor lighting, the new mailbox, some tweaks to the siding and shutters and a doorbell for the expected seven trick or treaters we will have in the next decade.  True story:  A friend who has lived his whole life in Torrance recently said of Via Corona, “I rode my bike down there when I was like 11, realized it was a dead end and thought that was lame.  Haven’t been back since.”  

DSC_0834

We also are in need of stucco on the new addition.  Then you’ve got paint, installing the exterior lights, replacing a tiny amount of decking and 86ing the old dishwasher.  Have we mentioned that the larger deck is no longer in the works during this phase?  Yeah, there’s that.  A casualty of mission creep.

DSC_0835

Now we’re on the inside.  It’s a small thing but, the garage needs drywall.  Obviously this previous effort gave new meaning to the word insufficient and no meaning to words like craftsmanship, aptitude and effort.  Someday soon this is where the old refrigerator will live amid what Shannon rightly believes is a growing colony of radioactive spiders (seriously, she volunteered to be the one who parks on the street because the garage is, and I quote, “spidery”).  The rest of the garage is a project for later.  Much, much later.  Think 3rd Trump Administration later.

DSC_0838

The aforementioned new addition sits in a medium raw state.  Here we still need paint, lights, flooring, the all-important TV install, a fireplace redesign that I will never fully understand and some kind of ceiling decor design element thingy that I’m assured will be “sick” (as described by the builder).

DSC_0839

A new TV and a totally boss speaker system sit ready to make this room an oasis for the insane amount of quality sitting and napping I’ll be doing very soon (once the non-stop construction sounds dissipate).  I truly have a great napping ability.  Everyone agrees that I am a terrific napper, so there’s no concern about my napping, believe me.  And when I awake from a blissful slumber, this will be my view.

DSC_0597

Or this . . . actually, mostly this.

DSC_0625

There are exactly 77 other jobs great and small (paint touch ups, pieces of trim, minor electrical, patching holes in drywall) that could be accomplished by one handy person and a Thermos of coffee, but that streetwise Hercules has yet to show up to fight the rising odds.

So, there you have it?  Is this the end?  Are you my friend?  It seems to me we ought to be free . . .

Place your bets in the comment section as to when we will be officially complete and earn yourself the treasure of a lifetime.  Who knows?  This could be the greatest day of your life, but only if you follow the words of the immortal Navin R. Johnson.

Take a chance and win some crap.

 

Inspiration on the 110

I spend a lot of time on the 110 freeway.  My daily commute is 22 miles each way: 40 minutes in the morning, 60 in the evening.   This is a statement of fact, not a complaint.  As La La Land so melodiously exposits: if you live in Los Angeles, you commute (unless you are TD and then you just walk down the hall).

[Tidbit: the opening scene takes place on the 105 E expressway transition to the 110 N which is odd because that ‘aint how you get to Hollywood.  Normally this wouldn’t mean anything except this movie is a tribute to the industry which means everyone included in the homage knows exactly where that scene takes place.  Another inaccuracy: Hollywood peeps don’t slum it in the South Bay–no matter how good the jazz.  LA’s South Bay is to LA’s mid-city as  LA is to New York.  Apparently beach living is too easy for the actor set.  Venice being the exception for some reason. And yes, I realize that I may be the only person in LA…nay…the entire country who isn’t totally gaga over La La. For the record, I didn’t like the English Patient either so, there you go.]

But back to my commute.  On the way in, I listen to the radio.  Usually a combo of KROQ and KCRW.  It’s dark and I want to know what’s going on in the world (okay, KROQ isn’t super great for the latter but it’s an institution).  One the way home I usually listen to audible and podcasts.

I don’t know about you but I categorize my podcasts.  There are the ones to which I subscribe in order to learns new things.  There are ones that entertain me.  And then there are the ones that I listen to when I actually just want to think and there is something about the host’s voice that helps me to tune-out and tune in to my own brain.

One of the things I like to think about are new recipes (I’ve never claimed the thoughts were deep).  I find it very enjoyable to think about flavor and texture combinations.  I’ve come up with some really great ones over the years.  The only problem is that about 90% of the time whatever it is I’ve been thinking about immediately flits out of my noggin’ upon arrival at the gym, or home or wherever my after-work destination that day happens to be.

Luckily, this one stuck: basil and citrus in a cookie.  And then I had to sit on it for four months until I had a kitchen.  Mwah mwah.

The original idea included basil and candied citrus zest.  However, when it came down to it, I got lazy and subbed-in fresh tangerine zest for the candied.  To get the flavors really infused, I added the zest and chopped basil to the sugar and allowed everything to mingle for a couple of hours (this would make a fantastic sugar scrub).

The results were a surprise hit!

Basil and tangerine sables

adapted from the French Vanilla Sables in Dorie’s Cookies

makes about 30 cookies

Ingredients

for sables

  • 3-4 large basil leaves
  • 2 oranges or large tangerines, zested with juice set aside
  • 1/2 lb (2 sticks, 8 ounces) unsalted butter, on the cold side of room temp and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 C (100g) sugar
  • 1/4 C (30g) confectioner’s sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp salt (I used sea but kosher would be fine)
  • 2 large egg yolks at room temp
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C (272g) all-purpose flour

for icing

  • juice from the oranges
  • 1.5 C confectioner’s sugar

Directions

  1. Chiffonade (thinly slice) your basil leaves.  In a sealable baggy or small container, combine citrus zest and basil. Close container and shake to combine.  Let sit for at least an hour.
  2. In a standing mixer, cream butter for 60 seconds.  Add-in sugars and salt, beat on medium for 3 minutes.
  3. Reduce mixture speed to low and beat in the egg yolks one at a time.  Add vanilla.
  4. Turn off mixer.  Add flour mixture and pulse on low until the flour stops flying (alternately, cover top of mixer and bowl with a clean dishtowel so that the flour doesn’t fly and turn on low).  Mix on low until the flour just disappears.
  5. Give the dough a few turns with a stiff spatula.  Turn out onto a clean surface and divide in half.  Roll each half into a log about 1.5 inches in diameter.  I find the easiest way to do this is to start the log and then roll it back and forth over a piece of parchment paper by holding the ends of the parchment.  This helps create an even log.
  6. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and let cool in the fridge for at least 2 hours or freeze.
  7. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  8. Remove dough from plastic and cut into disks (I like them about .25-.125 thick but cut to desired thickness not to exceed .5 inches).  Place disks on baking sheets with 2″ distance between.
  9. Bake for 16-19 minutes until they are firm to the touch and slightly golden around the edges.  Be sure to rotate sheets halfway through.  Allow to cool on sheets for a couple of minutes and then transfer to cool completely.
  10. Slowly add citrus juice to confectioner’s sugar until you reach desired consistency.  Above I’ve mixed it thin to cover the entire cookie but icing could be mixed thicker (less juice) and drizzled.  Ice cookies and allow to set-up.
  11. Store in air-tight container.

Store it. Store it good: laundry/butler’s/appliance pantry and linen closet revealish

Seriously?  You made it past that title?

Hey–if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a 1,000 times: infrastructure is sexy!

Let’s start with the laundry/appliance garage/butler’s pantry.  If you want the full 411 on the plans for this room, check out the Via Corona’s Secret Weapon post. Otherwise, here are the Cliffs Notes version.

Warning:  I had a heck of a time trying to photograph this room.  Size and light were not my friends.

The laundry room inhabits the space between the kitchen and the garage.

As the drawing shows, originally there was a door between the kitchen and the laundry with two steps down to the garage that took up the entire wall (Exit) going to the garage.

We moved the entryway to the garage and added a fire door because, you know, safety!  We also turned the hot water heater so that we could move access out of the laundry and into the garage (the original can be seen in the lower left of the plans above).  This bought us some more wall space.  Finally, we moved the washer and dryer outlets so that the appliances could be stacked.

New tile.  It sure was hard to give up that old linoleum.  This floor makes me chuckle.  We used a really great tile store called Cosmos for nearly all of our tile needs.  However, Cosmos is up in Hollywood and has normal business hours which means at least an hour’s drive and a weekend trip.  We got tired of doing that and so just went down to Home Depot and picked these out.  I love Home Depot.

The original plans included an actual door between the kitchen and this room.  However we had to lose it when the cabinetry guys realized we wouldn’t be able to open the ovens with the door frame.  Oops.  Like every place else in this house, the space is tight so losing the door opened things up.  It’s also great incentive to keep the space tidy.

As soon as the paint was dry on the baseboards, TD and I built the storage using Pax units from Ikea.  If you are playing along at home, the Via Corona Pax unit tally is currently at 10.  We’re pretty sure we’ve exceeded our lifetime allotment and would prefer to never have to build another one again.

When I originally mapped out the space, I knew fitting two of the 29″ units alongside the stacked washer and dryer was going to be a squeaker.  But, with some good math and a little luck, the three units fit side-by side with one-and-a-half inches to spare.  Smooth.

I organized the space so that all of the heavy small appliances could be pulled off the shelves at waist-level (for me).  This way I don’t have to pull-down or pick-up the heavier items like the standing mixer or food processor.  We also put the microwave in this space on a pull-out shelf.  There is more to the microwave story but TD won’t let me tell it because it makes him cry (let’s just say this isn’t the original microwave that we bought for the space).

The PAX units we’ve used are nearly 23 inches deep which allows for ample storage of serving platters, big bowls, footed dishes and my not insignificant collection of vases, hurricane lanterns, candles and such.  Please ignore the fact that they haven’t finished framing the door and sheet-rocking the walls on garage side.

The wall opposite houses our mail and communications command center.  The idea is to keep mail and lists out of sight.  The hooks below are for wet dishtowels (again, to keep them out of view) and below (not pictured) are the kitty dishes.  All the bits of blue tape are spots that need touch-ups.

I’m still playing with the organization of the room but its been pretty incredible to have everything in one place.

On to the linen closets.

Our last house did not have a linen closet.  This means I had linens and towels stashed all over the house like nuts.  Just call me old linen squirrel.  While it feels a little Betty Crocker, the prospect of a designated space for towels, sheets and blankets was embarassingly exciting to me.

Of the hundreds of photos I’ve taken, this was the “best” I could find of the linen closets in their original.  Some of you might recall, this is where, after we’d owned the place for a couple of weeks, we discovered a pair of men’s boxers.

And then TD tried to sell them.

At first we naively thought we’d just have the doors replaced but keep the existing structure.  Interestingly, it would have cost more to have new doors made than to replace the whole unit.

So out they went. Along with the carpet and low-ceilings.

The builder used four pre-fabricated linen cabinets with the doors oriented so that they look like two.

Rather than faking-out a wall above the installed cabinets, we left it open and added baskets for texture and more storage.  Those who know me won’t be surprised that I’ve decided those baskets are also most likely spider attractants and now I’m super scared to store things in them.

Movable shelves in the upper cabinets allowed me to customize fit for sheets and blankets.

While I’m pretty sure these babies could store the linens for an entire household, the master bath has its own storage.  Which leaves me with a couple of empty shelves.  I know, nature, especially in the form of storage, abhors a vacuum and sooner than I’d like, these cabinets will be filled.  But for now, they’re orderly and neat.

The drawers are genius–I mean the people who design these things must be experts or something.  I can actually fit my entire collection of pillow cases and shams organized by size.

I can’t believe I just said that out loud.

Lots of storage for cloth napkins as well.

Please don’t tell my mom I haven’t lined the drawers yet…she’ll report me to the WASP police.

Their fines are hefty and we need our last few pennies to finish up Via Corona.

 

Forget the fairways and greens

First things first: the Via Corona kitchen (and Misanthropic Hostess world headquarters) is 98% complete.  The crew “finished” it on December 23rd.  It was the Christmas miracle that was meant to be a Labor Day deliverable.  I’ll do a fully sourced kitchen reveal later this month.

This kitchen was designed to be ridden hard and put away wet so I got right down to business.  In the first 36 hours after we’d moved everything in,  I made 5 kinds of cookies, 2 kinds of bars, a layer cake, cinnamon buns and a batch of madeleines. I’d also fired-up the slow cooker, made and froze half a dozen base recipes (shredded chicken for tacos, chile verde for tacos, soy honey turkey for Asian tacos, turkey bolgonese for the kind of tacos you eat over spagetti…we eat a lot of tacos).  Oh, and Thanksgiving dinner…on Christmas…because we missed it on Thanksgiving.

If you give a girl double ovens and five burners there’s to limit to what she can do.

I am at a loss to describe what a pleasure it is to have an organized, fully applianced and working kitchen.  While I’m of the “have oven, will bake” sentiment (way back when I used to make pie dough in a blender) and the Hermosa Beach rental had its charm, it’s good to be back.

The first thing I made was a batch of chocolate chip cookies for Tom.  I figured I’d if I distracted him with fairways and greens, he wouldn’t notice that I’d immediately and enthusiastically left the course starting with these blue cheese and honey madeleines.

They are from Dorie Greenspan’s new book, Dorie’s Cookies and I was so excited to be reunited with my specialty baking pans after nearly a year and a half, that these were an easy first bake.

This recipe walks the line between sweet and savory, rich little cakes with the zing of tart cheese and depth of honey.

Madeleines come with the added benefit of getting to bang the pan to release the little jewels.  I find this practice very satisfying.

While generally best if eaten in the first 24 hours after being made, they do freeze well.  We enjoyed these with some dry California sparkling wine on New Year’s eve as a late night snack.

Honey and blue cheese madeleines

from Dorie’s Cookies, Dorie Greenspan

Ingredients

  • 3/4 C (102 g) all purpose flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt (I use kosher)
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper (or more to taste if you are a pepper-fiend like me)
  • 2 large eggs at room temp
  • 2 TBS sugar
  • 6 TBS (3oz,, 85 g) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 oz (57 g) bleu cheese crumbled or cut into bits

Directions

  1. Coat the madeleine molds with softened butter (I like to use the inside of the butter wrapper), dust with flour, tap-out excess (or use baker’s spray).
  2. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and pepper.
  3. In a medium bowl, energetically whisk eggs with the sugar and honey until well blended.
  4. Add flour all at once and gently fold-in with spatula.
  5. Fold-in the butter in three to four batches.
  6. Fold-in the cheese.
  7. Divide batter evenly among the molds.  The batter won’t be smooth and might not cover the mold–don’t worry, it’ll even-out during cooking.
  8. Freeze for at least an hour.
  9. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and center rack. Place a baking sheet on rack to pre-heat.
  10. Place cold madeleine tin/mold on preheated baking sheet and bake for 11-13 minutes or until the cakes are golden brown (don’t undercook).
  11. Remove pan from oven and if mold is metal, grab and end and tap it on the counter, the madeleines should pop right out.
  12. Best if eaten the same day or frozen.  Warm briefly in 350 degree oven once thawed.