White Bean and Rib Stew

IMG_1909Beans were my very first solid food, and to this day have remained one of my very favorite foods. There isn’t a type of bean I don’t like, and going more than a few weeks without having some form of them is rare for my family. When it comes to white beans in particular, this flavorful and hearty stew beats out all other recipes for this legume.

IMG_1903The stars of this dish are of course the beans themselves, and the dry guaque chiles that give it it’s rich and moderately spicy flavor.

Ingredients: 1 lb white beans, 1 lb pork ribs, 1 1/2 guaque chiles, 3 tomatoes, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 yellow onion, 4 small tomatillos, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 Tbsp dry oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_1905Instructions: Slice the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and peppers, and place on a hot griddle along with peeled garlic cloves. Turn over after 2-3 minutes, allowing the undersides to slightly char and soften. Add grilled vegetables to a blender with a cup of water and blend until smooth.

IMG_1906Add the beans, ribs (cut into smaller pieces), bay leaf, thyme, cumin, blended ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and enough water to just cover everything to a pressure cooker. Cook for about 45 minutes, and slowly allow pressure to release. Add the oregano and stir. If you would like to thicken the stew you can take out some of the beans, blend, and re-add to the stew.

IMG_1908Serve hot with rice, and garnish with cilantro.

 

 

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Autumn Biscotti

IMG_1893October is nearing its end and we are embracing autumn and all of the treats that go with it. To welcome the new season I made these autumn spiced biscotti with an apple cider glaze that felt just right. They’re not too heavy, but still have a warm and comforting spiced flavor. An Italian biscotti recipe from James’ grandmother’s collection served as my starting point, and I then added some classic autumn spices and mixed nuts to make it my own. The apple cider glaze is the perfect touch to complete the flavor profile, and enjoy with warm apple cider.

IMG_1894Ingredients:

For the biscotti: 3/12 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 6 eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup chopped mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)

For the apple cider glaze: 1 cup spiced apple cider, 2 Tbsp butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, pinch of cinnamon

IMG_1886Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 400F. Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the eggs and oil in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs and oil to break up the egg yolks, then add to the bowl with dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add nuts to mixture and stir to combine.

IMG_1891Scoop out the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to form two loaves, then bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Slice thin slices from each loaf and lay each piece flat on the baking sheet. Return to oven to toast for another 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.

IMG_1895Add apple cider to a small saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes, until it has reduced by half. Add remaining ingredients, and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes until glaze has thickened to a syrup like consistency.

Once the cookies have cooled, lightly drizzle each with the apple cider glaze. Serve with apple cider for a perfect autumnal treat.

 

 


Mushroom Ravioli

IMG_1683Ever since getting the pasta attachment for my stand mixer, I have been dabbling in making homemade pasta. I especially love preparing fresh pasta for guests, or for a romantic date night in. Ravioli in particular can be a perfect special dinner for two without spending the money on going out to a restaurant. This mushroom ravioli, stuffed with a creamy mushroom filling and covered with an herby mushroom sauce, is one of our absolute favorites.

IMG_1670IMG_1673For the pasta: 5oz flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 whole egg, 2 egg yolks (reserve one egg white for later).

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook and mix for about 10 minutes. All of the ingredients will come together to form a ball and hook will knead the dough until it is smooth and shiny. Wrap dough in plastic, and let sit for at least one hour. When dough has rested, cut in half and roughly shape each piece into rectangles, flattening with the palm of your hand, and lightly dust with flour. Run each piece of dough through the pasta attachment, starting on setting 1 and gradually making your way to 5. I like to run the dough through each number about 3 times. Once each piece has gone through setting 5 at least twice, cut each strip in half and rest on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour until ready to use.

IMG_1675For the filling: 1 tsp olive oil, 2 1/2 cups roughly diced mushrooms (any kind and combination you’d like), 1 small diced shallot, 2 diced garlic cloves, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 tbsp butter, 3/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

While the dough is resting you can start making the ravioli filling. Heat olive oil in skillet and add shallots and garlic. Sauté shallots and garlic until starting to lightly brown, then add mushrooms and thyme. Lower heat to low and let simmer gently until mushrooms are cooked through. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thyme sprigs and let the mushrooms cool, then add to a bowl with ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Mix until thoroughly combined.

IMG_1676IMG_1677To make the ravioli, lay out the sheets of pasta and place about a tablespoon for each ravioli of mushroom filling along the sheet. Brush with egg whites along the edges of the filling. Cover with the second half of the pasta, then gently press around the edges of the filling to seal each ravioli and remove air.

IMG_1678Using a ravioli stamp press each ravioli along the edges to give them their proper shape. Gently pull each ravioli apart and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook ravioli for about 3 minutes, until they all float to top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on plates.

IMG_1681For the sauce: 1 tsp olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 cup chicken broth, 2 tbsp minced parsley, 1 tbsp butter

Heat olive oil in skillet and add garlic. Add mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes, until mushrooms start to lightly brown. Add chicken broth and parsley and let simmer until broth has reduced by about half. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste, mix well.

IMG_1682Drizzle mushroom sauce over freshly made ravioli, and garnish with fresh parsley to complete the dish.

 

 


Guest Bathroom

IMG_0938As we move from project to project in our home, we have been focusing primarily on the spaces that are most exposed to guests. A while ago, we completed the guest room, and now we have just put the finishing touches on the guest bathroom. This was quite a large project, considering how small the room actually is, and our first concepts for it date back to before we even closed escrow.

beforebathroomAs you can see in these images, this bathroom was quite hideous when we bought the house. The only thing that we considered keeping was the bathtub, but ultimately we replaced it because it wasn’t in great condition.

IMG_0918We knew that we wanted colored tile halfway up the wall, similar to the bathroom in our old apartment. After visiting several tile stores in Los Angeles County, we ended up going with this lotus flower accent tile that we had seen before we even had the keys to the house. We went with a dark green bullnose cap and a sage green subway tile that’s reminiscent of our kitchen cabinets, giving the bathroom a sense of cohesion with the rest of the house.

IMG_0941For the floor tile, I have always loved the look of small marble hexagons, and how well they juxtapose with subway tile. Removing the vanity and replacing it with a pedestal gave us much more floor space to make the room feel less cramped.

IMG_0940In order to have some storage space, we designed this cabinet that spans the length of the wall, and had it custom built by Martin Cabinet Designs. The layout of the cabinet allows for a decorative mirror to hang in the center, and I especially love the rounded corner shelves that give us space to put up decorative bathroom items.

IMG_0917When it came time to pick out the shower door, we went with a frameless textured glass that would allow more light into the shower than a framed one.

IMG_0926Porcelain cross handles in the shower are another element inspired by our apartment bathroom.

IMG_0942IMG_0920After all of the construction and cabinet installation was done, it was time to pick out the accessories. We selected items that would not only provide the needed functionality, but would also make sense visually for the space. The bathtub caddy has become a favorite for relaxing in the whirlpool tub with a book and glass of wine.

IMG_0943Though I have no idea what this bathroom possibly looked like in 1931 when our home was built, I certainly feel that we have done the space justice with our recent changes.


Fireplace Transformation

img_0851One of the main elements of our new living room is the fireplace and built-in housing for the television. This multi-faceted project took a long time to complete, and ended up including some DIY work on our parts that we weren’t initially planning for.

img_9293aThe original fireplace was very bare, and lacked presence. The brick face was broken in a few spots, and the remnants of carpeting were stuck to the bottom edge. Overall it was unappealing and needed a change.

fireplaceconceptWe knew that we wanted to be able to cover up our television when it was not in use, as well as house all of our electronic devices inside of a media cabinet. Once we determined the color of the tile and how the doors would open, we started designing the entire piece. James created this concept art, and we worked with Martin Cabinet Designs to figure out the specifics of mounting the television and running the cables. They then had the difficult task of building the cabinetry over the existing broken fireplace.

img_9903img_0850The level of detail they added was exactly what we were looking for, and it came out perfectly in both design and function. It instantly became a part of the room, enabling us to easily forget that it ever wasn’t there at all.

img_9900With the carpentry done, we thought that we would be hiring contractors to tile over the brick, but because it was such a small job, we decided to do the tiling ourselves.

img_0123This was our first time ever using mortar, but it was easy enough to apply to the brick. First we had to smooth out the surface, which was especially difficult around the pieces of carpet that were stuck to the bottom.

img_0124img_0130For the tile itself we went with 3 inch square tiles from Fireclay Tile in Kelp, which has a lovely variety in shading, and a subtle shattered look. We used 1/4 inch spacers, which gave us plenty of leeway if our tile placement wasn’t entirely even.

img_0128Having to use a wet saw was one of my biggest hesitations, as they can certainly be intimidating, and proper safety precautions are very important. Once I got the hang of it, it cut very cleanly and made the whole project go smoothly.

img_0132img_0135After setting all of the tiles and allowing the mortar to dry it was time for the grout. We picked a white grout to let the green of the tile really stand out.

img_0134We were relieved to get a clean edge around the bottom, and the bullnose tiles around the rim of the hearth give it a softer look in comparison to the sharp brick edge that was there before.

img_0848Once it was all dry and finished, we placed a new fireplace screen that better matched the iron detailing in our living and dining rooms, and added a couple of plants to the hearth. Another home design project successfully checked off our list.

 


A Tiny Laundry Room

 

img_0332The final part of our kitchen remodel was finishing up the attached laundry room. When conceiving of the layout, size was the biggest consideration. This is a very narrow space that was certainly not built with the size of 21st century appliances in mind, so the very first decision we made was to stack the washer and dryer, instead of having them side by side. We knew we wanted to de-emphasize how far the washer and dryer extended out, and wanted to have a visual divider from room to room, so we put a curtain in the doorframe to create a soft separation from the breakfast nook.

img_0336We were able to make the most out of this small space by having a custom cabinet built by Martin Cabinet Designs, who also built our kitchen cabinets and breakfast nook. We gave them details on how we wanted it to look, and they created it to fit the space and our needs perfectly.

img_0345Our kitties, Titan and Atlas, have their own private doorway to enter their litter box, and the bottom of the cabinet rolls out for easy cleaning.

img_0339On the opposite wall from the washer and dryer, there was just enough room to put up some hooks that I use to hang a few small purses and scarves.

img_0337A couple of small shelves on the wall complete the room by giving us a little extra space for storing items. It may be tiny, but our new laundry room fits all of our needs, and the kitties seem to be pleased with it too. It just goes to show that you don’t need to knock down walls in order to make a space more functional.


Kitchen Remodel

img_0108After a full year of planning and saving, we have finally completed the first major remodel in our home: the kitchen. As soon as we bought our house, I knew that the kitchen had to be one of the first major projects. Not only do I spend a lot of time in the space, but the previous kitchen looked unappealing and was hardly even functional. The changes we made compliment the texture palette of the house, provide functionality and organization, and give the space the charm that it was begging for.

before_and_afterAs you can see from this before and after, we mostly kept the layout of the kitchen the same. However, there are some major differences in the sizing and features of cabinets and appliances. The previous cabinet doors were very small and poorly spaced, making it almost impossible to store anything larger than a medium sized pot. Most of the drawers were either broken or didn’t open, the faucet was turned to one side and refused to budge, the vent did not function, and the teeny oven couldn’t even fit a standard cookie sheet. These were all very frustrating issues for someone who cooks as much as I do. We had our custom cabinets built by Martin Cabinet Designs, who were able to construct everything just as we envisioned.

concept_artEven before we bought our house, I had a general idea of how I wanted the kitchen to look. Once we had the measurements, James created this concept art to help us figure out exactly how it would all come together. Though some changes were made to the final version, the feeling you get when you see something you designed come to life is nothing short of exhilarating.

img_0086img_0087The biggest change to the layout was opting for open shelves above the stovetop, instead of cabinets like it had before. This change has been so impactful not only visually, but also functionally. I absolutely love that the tile goes all the way up to the ceiling, and now I can display more items while keeping common pantry items organized and within reach.

img_0106The small oven was one of my biggest complaints, so after a lot of consideration I decided to go big and add not one, but two standard size ovens. I have always loved the look and flexibility double ovens provide, and I’m already so glad I went in that direction.

img_0081img_0084Going with butcher block countertops was one of the very first decisions that we made. We picked out this beautiful acacia wood that has a wonderful variety in color. It’s perfect for the the galley layout of our kitchen, and adds so much warmth and country charm.

img_0080img_0093One of my favorite features of the kitchen is the wall mount faucet. The butcher block counter top dictated that the faucet not be mounted to the counter, so it created the opportunity for it to come out of the tile instead. For the farmhouse sink, James insisted that the apron absolutely had to be fluted to breakup the large white front, and I couldn’t agree more.

img_0097Aside from the kitchen galley, this remodel also included the breakfast nook corner. The same team that made our cabinets made this built-in bench with a top that lifts for extra storage.

before_2Here’s a look at the corner before the remodel.

img_0071We kept the original built-in corner cabinet which we always liked, and just gave it a fresh coat of paint to match the new cabinets.

img_0076img_0074There are a few items in our new kitchen from our trip to Guatemala that we previously had on display in our old apartment. Not only do they work well with our terra cotta floor tile, but they provide a sense of continuity with our first home together.

img_0098We felt that it was very important to incorporate a variety of patterns with these pillows to liven up the breakfast nook.

img_0120We also added several new plants throughout the space, which are a simple way of adding life to any room. I made these macramé hanging planters using twine to fill in some of the space above the bench without feeling too heavy.

img_0089I am so pleased with how the entire remodel came out, and relieved to have such a large project completed. I have already been busy using the new space, and look forward to many delicious meals that will be cooked in our lovely new kitchen.

 

 


Gingerbread Mini Bundt Cakes

img_0061 The holiday season is in full swing, so I have been baking to my heart’s content.  Gingerbread is a classic holiday baked treat, and this recipe is for the true gingerbread lover. The flavor is ultra rich with a perfect amount of holiday spice, which pairs wonderfully with unsweetened coffee and tea. Making the gingerbread as individual sized mini bundt cakes not only makes hosting easier, it also helps for saving them for later – and these mini bundt gingerbread cakes get even better a few days after making.

img_0051Ingredients: 1 cup oatmeal stout, 1 cup molasses, 1/2 tsp baking soda, 2 cups flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2 Tbsp ground ginger, 1 Tbsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp ground gloves, 1/4 tsp cardamom, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 cup brown sugar, 1 cup white sugar, 3 eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil

Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Butter and lightly flour bundt cake pan, shaking out excess flour. Place in the refrigerator. Add oatmeal stout and molasses to a saucepan and bring to a boil, then add baking soda. Let stout/molasses mixture sit and cool.

img_0058Beat together eggs, sugars, and oil, then add molasses and stout mixture. Add flour, baking powder, and spices and continue to mix until fully incorporated. Pour batter into bundt cake pan, filling to nearly the top.

img_0062Bake at 350F for about 45 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into cakes). Remove from pan by flipping it upside down onto a cooling rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

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Apple Dutch Baby

img_0028After our apple picking adventure, we came home with five pounds of apples just waiting to be enjoyed in various ways. Naturally, one such way had to be warm and sweet, so I decided to bake up a simple apple dutch baby – perfect for autumn mornings.

img_0017Ingredients: 3 small apples, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 Tbsp brown sugar, pinch of nutmeg, 4 Tbsp butter, 3 eggs, 1/2 cup flour, 1/2 cup milk, 1 Tbsp granulated sugar

img_0018Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 350F. Peel and slice apples into thin pieces, then add to a bowl with cinnamon, brown sugar, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. In a cast iron skillet melt 2 Tbsp butter and add apples. Cook until apples are becoming tender (about 3 minutes).

img_0022Remove apples from skillet, and wipe clean. Place skillet in hot oven, and let it heat. While skillet is heating in oven whisk eggs, flour, milk and sugar in a bowl.  Add remaining 2Tbsp butter to hot skillet and melt. Once the butter has melted add cooked apples to center of skillet, then add batter. Cook at 350F for 10-12 minutes, until the batter rises and edges start to crisp.

img_0032Serve immediately with syrup, and fresh apple slices. Best enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee for an even more comforting breakfast meal.

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