Saturday, March 26, 2011

Analysis Paralysis

The Nester has gotten me to thinking about risk.  I have always considered myself to be a "can-do" kinda gal.  But I think my perception of myself must be flawed.  I find that I suffer from a malady called Analysis Paralysis.

There is actually a Wikipedia definition for it.

"The term 'analysis paralysis' or 'paralysis of analysis' refers to over-analyzing (or over-thinking) a situation, so that a decision or action is never taken, in effect paralyzing the outcome. A decision can be treated as over-complicated, with too many detailed options, so that a choice is never made, rather than try something and change if a major problem arises. A person might be seeking the optimal or "perfect" solution upfront, and fear making any decision which could lead to erroneous results, when on the way to a better solution."
Yup.  I have it alright.

I have Grand Plans for getting things done.  The problem isn't motivation.  It's the details that do me in.  For example, I have been working on my main bathroom face lift.  I dove right in by stripping off the wallpaper, patching, and priming the walls.

But now I'm stuck. 

I need to find a shower curtain fabric so that I can nail down the paint color and a new faucet set since I want to replace the brass.  And therein lies my problem.  I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to look at every possible option so that I make a wise choice.  I have been to, oh, let's see, FIVE major fabric stores all across the metroplex trying to track down the "perfect" fabric.  First, I don't sew, so I'm already a fabric bolt dolt.

And second, I'm not even sure what the "perfect" fabric is.  Why can't I focus?!  Or be impulsive for once?  Because I'm afraid of making a mistake.  And mistakes cost money.  And I want to be a good steward with my money.  And...

Ditto with the bathroom faucet.  Now there is a big ticket item!  Replacing my basin and tub faucets with mid-level models will probably set me back somewhere around five hundred dollars. And while I would love to go for the less expensive version, a name brand faucet is probably important so that it holds up.  I have been perusing faucet websites for days now, trying to find the best deal.  Do you know how many different styles and brands of faucets there are?  Too many options confuse and overwhelm me.  I think I have decided on a couple of styles I like, and I definitely want to go with classic chrome.  Yay!  A decision!
Delta Victorian

Love the cross handles and porcelain buttons on this one

Another problem is that I doubt my own sense of style.  I like a lot of different styles, but I gravitate towards a romantic cottage or vintage vibe.  But yet I also like the more clean-lined, contemporary offerings of Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel.

Ugh.  Analysis Paralysis.  Calgon, take me away!

Oh wait.  I might need a finished bathroom for that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Asian Sweet and Spicy Salmon

Salmon is well known for its heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, so I try to incorporate it into our diet as much as the budget allows.  I get mine at Costco because I know that it is fresh and high-quality.

This is a very fast and delicious recipe that my entire family enjoys.  It truly is a 30 minute meal.  Serve with a green vegetable and rice, if desired.

Asian Sweet and Spicy Salmon
(click here to print)

6 Tbsp. honey
1/4 cup cilantro, minced
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, grated (I use my microplane grater--don't even need to peel the ginger!)
1 to 1 1/2 Tbsp. canned chipotle chiles, minced
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

2 lbs. fresh salmon fillets or steaks 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a half-sheet pan with heavy duty foil and spray generously with non-stick spray.  Combine all sauce ingredients and smear about 1/2 cup of it over the salmon.  I like to reserve some of the sauce to drizzle over the cooked fish.

raw fish smeared with sauce

Pop into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork.  If your salmon has skin, make sure you remove it before serving.

flaky, flavorful salmon, 30 minutes later

I'm linking this to:

Mouthwatering Mondays

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wallpaper Removal: Gitter Down

As I posted about here, I have been working on a Spring Break home project: giving my downstairs bath a face lift.

As I suspected, the wallpaper was glued directly to unfinished drywall.  This is my third house and the seventh room I've removed wallpaper from.  In the past, I have tried every wallpaper removal technique known to man, but I still hope to find the magic bullet one of these days.  I saw a product on an HGTV show awhile ago that looked promising: WallWik Simple Strip.

The kit consists of a pressurized sprayer, adhesive remover, paper tiger (device that perforates the paper with tiny holes), plastic skimmer (to scrape the paper off), and special reusable fabric sheets.  The wallpaper is scored lightly with the paper tiger, and then the fabric sheets are soaked in the adhesive remover and layered on the wall.  The wall is periodically resprayed so that it stays very wet.  Theoretically, in about 30-40 minutes, the wallpaper is supposed to peel off in sheets, with little to no effort.

Mine...did not.

In fact, saturating the paper so much was probably worse in my case because some of the drywall paper peeled off, too.

More damn-age
I can tell you that in my experience, there are no shortcuts.  I've tried the steamers, the chemical removers, and now WallWik.  I think WallWik would work pretty well if your walls were previously painted before they were papered.  But the best thing I have ever used is warm water and fabric softener mixed together in a spray bottle (probably in about an 8 to 1 ratio).  Then use your wide-edged scraper and work in sections.  It's time consuming but I have had less wall damage.  I switched to that technique later in this bathroom.

I am not panicked because My Man is used to fixing my faults and because we are going to do a spray-on orange peel texture anyway (to match the rest of the walls in my house, not because I'm enamored with it). And orange peel covers a multitude of sins.

By the way, speaking of My Man, he made me a nice, sturdy base to cover the tub so that I could reach to the top of those 10 foot tall walls:

I felt secure on this even with my somewhat wobbly 8 foot wooden ladder.

The next steps to this project are to patch, prime, and texture.  I hope you come back to check on our progress!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Springy Coconut Cupcakes

When you say "Coconut," people tend to have very strong opinions one way or the other.  I happen to love it, and so does my family.  And something about coconut says Spring to me: maybe because it reminds me of Easter grass or because my mom used to make a lamb-shaped cake around Eastertime that was covered in coconut, almost exactly like this one:

So today I decided to bake some coconut cupcakes.  I adapted Ina Garten's recipe (The Barefoot Contessa) because she is a baking goddess (the Urban dictionary actually defines "Contessa" as a supreme goddess!), and her recipes are delightfully decadent and tasty.  She says in her book that this recipe is one of her customers' favorites.  I think it's as much about the frosting as about the cake itself.  It is a cream cheese frosting with more butter than most.   Yummy!

Coconut Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook
(click here to print recipe)

Cupcake Batter:

1 1/2 sticks butter (no substitutes)
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 tsp. vanilla
3/4 tsp. coconut extract (Ina uses almond but it's too strong for my taste)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk
3 oz. sweetened, shredded coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Combine butter and sugar in mixing bowl and cream till light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add vanilla and coconut extracts.  Scrape the bowl down.

In separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and soda, and salt.  Whisk to combine.  Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry.  Do not overbeat.  Fold in the coconut.

Line muffin tins with paper liners.  Scoop batter into each well.  I use an ice cream scoop so the portions are roughly equal.  I got 15 cupcakes out of this.

Bake for 18-20 minutes (Ina's recipe says 25-35 but that would have been MUCH too long for my oven!) or until they are Springy when touched lightly or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack while making the frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened (I used lowfat, not that it mattered--Ha!)
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened (no substitutes)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. coconut extract (see my comment above)
3/4 lb. confectioners sugar, sifted (about 2 3/4 cups)
4 oz. sweetened, shredded coconut for garnish

Cream the butter, cream cheese and extracts with electric mixer or food processor until light and fluffy.  Turn the mixer to low and slowly add powdered sugar until well combined and smooth.  Use to frost or pipe onto the cupcakes.  Sprinkle cupcakes with coconut (toasted or not, or some of both like I did.)

To toast coconut, spread out evenly on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes, stirring once.

I'm linking this to:

Mouthwatering Mondays

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Something about Spring energizes me to tackle a home improvement project.  This season I chose my main downstairs bathroom.   It is a smallish full bath, 10 ft. long by 5 ft. wide (just wide enough for a standard tub) by 10 ft. tall.  It's not a bad space, but the color is not my favorite, and it has the Dreaded Wallpaper.  Ugh.

Wallpaper Before: Get the Brown Down!
The Good
  • Main surfaces are White: 4x4" textured tiles in the shower area, cultured marble (?) countertops, vanity with a decent amount of storage, toilet and tub
  • Soaring ceilings (10 ft.)
The Bad
  • Molded shell shaped sink is part of the countertop
  • No natural light (hence the less-than-stellar photos)
  • Wallpaper is stuck.  TIGHT. I know from prior experience in this house that it is cemented directly onto untreated dry wall.
  • How the heck am I going to maneuver in this room with a ladder when it is so narrow and tall (esp. above the tub area)?

The Ugly
  • Brown wallpaper with a slight foil/metallic vibe
  • Hollywood strip lighting = cheap and garish!
  • Shiny brass hardware and fixtures:  Faucets, vanity pulls, towel bars, tissue holder
  • Plain plate glass mirror
  • Towel bar above toilet--hate that location!
  • Vanity is chippy, and not in a good way. 

    So my mission is to remove the wallpaper and give this bath a facelift, not  major reconstructive surgery.  Stay tuned!

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Chinese Wrap and Roll

    I enjoy the lettuce wraps at Pei Wei (a sister restaurant to PF Chang) but have discovered a way of making something similar at home.  They're not an exact match, but they're still darn good, and healthy, too!  My whole family loves them.

    Light, healthy and delicious!

    Chicken Lettuce Wraps
     (click here to print recipe)

    1 T. vegetable oil
    1 1/2 lbs. ground chicken breast (you can substitute turkey, if you desire)
    1/2 small red bell pepper, minced
    3-4 green onions, chopped finely (make sure to use the green tops for color)
    2 garlic cloves, minced
    Stirfry Sauce
    3 T. lite soy sauce (I like Kikkoman brand)
    1 tsp. sesame oil
    1 tsp. grated, fresh ginger root
    2 T. brown sugar

    Heat the oil in a nonstick frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the ground chicken and stir to break up the lumps and until the chicken loses its pink color, about 10 minutes.

    Add the bell pepper, onions, and garlic cloves and stir until they are crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

    Reduce the heat to medium and add the sauce ingredients. Cook for an additional five minutes or so, or until the mixture is hot and fragrant.

    Serve with butter lettuce leaves and bottled hoisin sauce (if desired).

    I put the components of this meal on the table and let everyone wrap and roll their own!  As my daughter said, these are messy but fun to eat!

    I linked this to:

    Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Five Fabulous Food Finds at Costco

    I love to cook up culinary creations in my kitchen, but sometimes when I need a quick snack and am pressed for time, I buy something ready-made.  Here are five fabulous food finds from our local Costco (a warehouse club) that have proven their worth to me time after time.  These are all high-quality noshes, and I can vouch for the fact that they are delicious and real crowd-pleasers!

    Goat Cheese with Cranberries & Cinnamon

    10.5 oz. for about $5
    This unique goat cheese log wrapped in sweetened, dried cranberries is so creamy and satisfying atop a whole grain cracker.  With its ruby-red coating, it is festive, too!

    If you don't have a Costco, you can read more about this product here and maybe request it from your local store.
    Dark Chocolate & Almond Lacey's Cookies

    25 cookies (1 oz. each) for about $8

    I am a dark chocolate fanatic, but my second favorite flavor is butterscotch or caramel.  These crisp cookies satisfy both cravings.  Although they technically don't have any caramel (that I'm aware of), they have a toffee-like quality that is totally addictive.

    These decadent cookies are also available here as well as at some Whole Foods Markets and Trader Joe's.

    Ghiradelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix

    6 packets (each makes an 8x8" pan) for $9
    Baking is my passion, and whipping up homemade brownies is almost as quick as using a mix.  Almost.  There are more than a few times that I have relied on this old favorite.  These brownies are dense and chewy and chocolaty.  They don't have an artificial taste that I can detect.  And they have three (3!) kinds of chocolate: milk, semi-sweet, and white. 

    I believe this brand is widely available in most grocery stores.

    Phillipine Brand Dried Mango Slices

    30 ounces for about $11

    These dried mangoes are sweet and chewy and positive addicting.  I only buy them to bring them somewhere else because I could probably eat most of the two-pound bag!  Mango lovers, beware!

    You can check availability in your area here

    Sabra Hummus
    2 lb. container for $5
    I have become a big fan of Mediterranean food in the past few years.  Hummus (chickpea dip) makes for delish and healthy nibbles when served with crackers, pita bread, or veggies.   This 2-lb. tub of hummus is smooth and creamy (I get the roasted pine nut version, but there are also red pepper and garlic lovers varieties).  I don't think you can make this quantity from scratch for $5!  And try as I might, I've never been able to get mine as smooth as store-bought, either.  Hummus keeps well if there is any left over

    Click here to find a source near you.

    Do you have a favorite ready-made, go-to item to serve when you're pressed for time?  Please share!