Sunday, October 26, 2014

Gnocchi Made in a Skillet!

Yes, it's true! You don't even have to boil it ahead of time.

I found this recipe in my travels on Pinterest and pinned this to make when I had time. Really, it's a super simple recipe and came from the Food Network here as "Cheesey Gnocchi Casserole".  What makes this so interesting, at least to me, was that I didn't have to boil the gnocchi in water. Every time I add the pasta to the boiling water in the pot it's an adventure as I try to avoid scalding myself with the droplets of water that bounce back at me! This recipe has them simmering gently in a skillet with chicken broth.

I did find that the original recipe called for water in the narrative but was not listed in the ingredients. I followed the recipe besides that to a "t" except for reducing the amount of onion. Truth be told, the family would like to see even less onion next time. They are not big onion fans and seem to detect it even in minuscule amounts. I suppose I should also mention that I did not have fresh Thyme and used some dried herbs

I started by melting the butter in a heavy duty skillet I have that is oven proof. I bought this pan years ago on clearance at Williams Sonoma and it has served us well. To the butter I added the chopped onion and let it cook for a good five minutes or so to really soften it.

Once the  onions were softened (next time there will be less of them), I added a slice of deli ham that I diced into even little cubes, along with the Thyme. I let this cook until it was a little bit golden. Boy did it smell good. The chicken stock was added (courtesy of a box from Trader Joe's) along with the water mentioned in the recipe but not in the ingredient list.

Once all these ingredients were added and combined, I raised the heat a bit and then added the gnocchi. If you are a Trader Joe's fan, you know that they have some great gnocchi that is both tasty and cheap. I highly recommend it. I typically make it with a cream sauce and some pancetta but like I said before, the idea of putting it in a simmering skillet instead of boiling it was very intriguing. I may do this from now on with my own sauce.

I was really unsure if this would work but once I put the lid on the simmering pan the gnocchi really did cook quickly without getting overdone. I would say they were fork tender in about five minutes or so. Once that was done, I added the cream (it called for a 1/4 cup but I probably added closer to a half cup) and the peas. I probably should not say I followed the recipe to a "T", huh?

I used shredded cheese from Trader Joe's for the top (a combination of Swiss and Gruyere that they sell prepackaged). I really don't have stock in the company. I promise. I placed the skillet in the oven with the cheese and broiled it on low for about five minutes, until the top was golden brown.

Final verdict? Yes, I'm making this again with the following revisions: 1. Less onion, way less onion, 2. Bacon instead of deli ham, 3. A little less cheese, maybe switching to Parmesan.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Vintage Style Apothecary Cabinet Updated with Colored LED Lights

Thank you Ikea for once again bringing it all together

A few months ago, I purchased an apothecary style cabinet from Ikea. I should really clarify that. . . I should say "my dear husband purchased this cabinet for me because I was too cheap."  It really was the perfect fit for this little area in our foyer and because that was really the first place you would look when you entered our home, it was pretty darn important it was the right piece. However, while Ikea had this item at a phenomenal price (especially when you compare this to similar items at Restoration Hardware or true antique sites), originally you could not just pick this item up at the store. For that matter, you couldn't even order it and then pick it up at the store. It had to be delivered by a truck company and it was an extra $100 dollars. This ended up being the best Valentine's Day present ever.

That was, of course, in February. My husband had it shipped directly to his office and transported it home for me very carefully as there were four glass panels for the interior as well as two glass shelves for us to assemble. don't think for one minute that just because it was delivered that it came preassembled because anything you buy from Ikea should have to be built. It's a rite of passage.

Now the fun part of the story is that I recently went back to Ikea and you can just walk in there and pick one up. No more shipping charges. If you decide that you want this look you will simply be able to walk in there and go home with it for the flat rate of $199! You can see it here for yourself at Again, this really is a steal at that price. The cabinet comes in "dark gray" (think charcoal and industrial objects), "beige" (think dirty off white) and a "light green" (think really cool industrial retro 50's mint color). I really would have liked the light green but because our house has so much green in it (including the wall right behind the cabinet, I chose the gray. While one day I may have repainted every wall in this house, choosing to cover up some walls with a new paint color strictly to purchase a cabinet seemed a little ridiculous. Additionally I should add that I am not the best painter and I will leave these walls alone as long as possible.

Because this cabinet is such a focal point, I have been very selective on the items we have put it it. They have definitely evolved over time but a constant has been these K'ah Tequila bottles shaped like sugar skulls. We have also been searching local flea markets and garage sales for vintage bottles and recently added a very cool old seltzer bottle that has an almost electric blue glass and a chrome dispenser on top.

I have wanted to add lights to this cabinet for quite a while (Day One) but it really was something that had to be thought out and the challenges addressed. First challenge: No power on the wall over there. We solved that by tapping into a junction box in the basement, threading wired across the rafters in the basement ceiling, and then drilling a hole in the floor off to the side of the little nook where the cabinet resides. I am proud to say that I personally (with guidance) put in the new outlet on that wall!

The second challenge was maybe not as difficult but it was finding the lights. Ikea was able to help with that. During our last trip there they were really showcasing these LED lights in a variety of applications and had them behind television sets, as strips under shelves, and of course in cabinets. I settled on this Dioder 4 Piece Set which has 4 strips of LED lights that can either cycle automatically through a series of colors or can be set to one of an array of colors. As you can see from the picture at the beginning of this article right now I have it on a red shade but have also had it on a stark white and a cool blue. It's all about mood.

I originally envisioned these lights running in all four corners of the cabinet but once we began mounting them I decided to run them along all the four sides of the ceiling of the cabinet. The lights then radiate the color downward and add a glow to the area as well as the items in the cabinet, without blinding you as  you walk by. Putting the lights in was definitely part of the challenge. The 3M tape did not do a good job of holding the strips in place. I replaced them with Velcro and used longer pieces to really hold the strips in place. Additionally we used zip ties with these "sticky backs" to mount the cords out of sight that had to run down the cabinet to the outlet.

I think the lights really add to the piece and they add an extra bit of ambiance without being overly distracting. My piece is now complete and real showcase.

Update 11/29/2014: The velcro didn't cut it either. I used Crazy Glue on the back of each LED strip to attach a small cubed magnet. Those strips will not fall down again!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

New Address Sign

Sometimes Plain Numbers are just Boring

Yes, when we moved in there were some conventional metal numbers fastened on to a wood strip. Boring, boring, boring! I went to Michael's and bought a wood plaque and sketched our street numbers on the board, in a style that would be reminiscent of Arts and Crafts (I do love an Arts and Crafts style "8"). I used Venetian Glass Tiles that I cut, and then glued them on the board, leaving gaps between them, to create the mosaic.

You can't see it here, but I also put Hematite stars into the background so there is some cool little glints that catch the light. Black grout was used to finish the piece.

A Twist on the Traditional Candelabra

Inspiration Found at a Local Restaurant

But we Made it our Own

I really like Local Kitchen and Bar Restaurant in nearby Ferndale, Michigan. Wonderful food and a great atmosphere. It really does feel homey, like you really may be in someone's kitchen with all the wonderful vintage knick-knacks and distressed wood that I adore. One of the things that I really admired there was there use of old vintage scales that they had scattered among the place as candle holders. These were the old vintage kitchen scales, with a candle sitting on top of the tray used for measuring and I've been looking for just the right one for about a year now.

However, today, I found this gem at the Royal Oak Farmer's Market and decided that I liked it even better! I visualized it with two red pillar candles on it. Now you can see these are brand new candles but over time, there will be wax that have melted down the sides and pooled on the two platforms. I'm helping that process along now.

Banister Update

I Should Have Taken "Before" Photos

...But you can use your imagination.

Picture this. A banister painted semi gloss white with grooves in the surface from years of wear. I'm sure that my rings weren't really helping at all at maintaining any semblance of smoothness. The grime from dirty fingers was really ground into those rough areas.

Honestly, I was using cleaner on the surface of the banister to keep the dirty ground in stuff at bay, but then we met our tipping point and realized it had to come down. See the brackets holding the banister in place were not put in very well and were starting to separate from the wall. There was damage around the original plastic anchors that were used to secure the screws and the banister would actually rock back and forth if you put any weight on it and it was only a matter of time until it came out of the wall.

I should mention that the wall is plaster. I know my limitations and I can say with certainty any patching I would do would make it worse. So we found these cute little decorative wood blocks that we used to cover up the mess that was our wall in these areas. Now, of course that involved new holes and anchor points but you can't see them.

We also took the easy way out with the paint. A light sanding of the whole surface and a can of spray paint fixed our problem. I actually picked a satin finish with a Krylon called "Vintage Red" and painted both the banister and the decorative wood blocks with it. I think it was a quick easy fix and the banister in this new color actually pops. We seem to have a lot of red accents in our house despite the base colors of green all around. So far, it's worked for us.