Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to recycle egg whites 

Ever used a bunch of egg yolks for a recipe and got left with unwanted egg whites? It happens to me all the time...when I cook Pasta alla Carbonara, when I bake a particular cake and so on. I hate to waist food so, when this happens, I save my albumen in the fridge (in a glass tupperware) and repurpose it on a new dish. Coincidentally this week we ended up with 6 egg whites so, today it was time to bake them into a nutty yummy cake. I found some inspiration online and then adjusted the recipe for the ingredients I had on hands and this is what I came up with.

Egg whites cake - Ingredients:

6 egg whites
210 grams of sugar (I used a bit less because of the altitude)
120 grams of pecans
114 grams of flour
70 grams of cooled melted butter
one single serve dose of apple sauce
1 tsp vanilla extract

To begin I put the nuts in the blender (I love my ninja) and chopped them finely. I melted the butter for less than a minute in the microwave and then left it to cool down. I also turned the oven on at 340 to preheat.

I then proceeded to add my first ingredients in a glass bowl (do not use plastic bowls as the whites may not stiffen. The bowl needs to be grease free and glass seems to work best). I forgot to take a shot of the first step so instead I took a photo of what I started with...the egg whites, sugar and vanilla.

I beat this mixture for about 10 minutes. The whites need to get really stiff and 'pointy' like for a meringue cookie.

I added the chopped pecans and reserved a little to sprinkle later as a topping.

Very gently fold in the nuts and take care to always fold in the same direction (gently enough to avoid 'defluffing' the egg whites). Then I added the sifted flour (I always sift to avoid clumps). 

Once again very gently fold in all the flour. When it's incorporated well add the melted butter.

Fold in all the butter completely and gently, and add the apple sauce.

Mix well until completely incorporated again, and pour into a cake mold. I love to use silicon molds as they require no greasing and they make it super easy to remove the cake from the pan. Sprinkle the remaining pecans on top of your cake.

Bake without ever opening the oven. Insert toothpick in the center after 40 minutes to check if it is cooked. The toothpick will come out clean if the cake it's ready, if batter sticks to it then you need to keep cooking (and checking) at 5 minutes increments. When the cake is cooked let it cool down, then 'peel' it out of the mold and place it on a serving dish (this is when the silicon pan comes in very handy...it just literally peels off!) This is the finished product :)

It seemed to have been enjoyed both by my friend V and by her 2 children. We ate almost half of it in one sitting! LOL. In my case high altitude made a few differences. The cake should have risen more, but this is one of the problems with living at over 6,000 feet elevation. Baked goods, especially stiffened egg whites have problems 'growin' at these heights. If you are at sea level, or near sea level, you should have no trouble getting a fluffy, airy, delicious spongy cake! 

The apple sauce is one of my ordinary tricks for baking. I always substitute half of the butter with it. It keeps cakes moist, adds a little natural sweetness and cuts down on the calories drammatically. I still use butter because I love the flavor it gives and, off course, because some fat is good for you...if in moderation! If you don't want to use apple sauce, just double the weight for the butter ^__^

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Waste basket update Tutorial

As I wrote earlier on my 'cat box' post, I have been updating many of my home's fixtures with Rustoleuom rubbed bronze spray paint. Spray painting is a pretty easy task that even the novice crafter can tackle easily.

My latest project on this series is my bathroom waste basket. It's like a miniature trash can, and I truly love it. I am not too fond of open baskets, as you can see the waste inside. And who likes to gaze at trash? This basket has a nice lid that conceals the waste and a pedal for easy opening if your hands are full. So what's the problem here? Well, the finish. In my old home everything was brushed nickel, here most of the house was already rubbed bronze when we moved in...and we are slowly transitioning whatever wasn't. I'd hate to have to buy a new trash can, when I have a perfectly good one on my hands. So, out comes my can of spray paint and a new project begins.

* * * * *

Here is my trash can all taped up and ready to be sprayed (I used masking tape to cover all parts I did not want to get bronzed). I removed the lid as it made it easier for me to spray the two separate parts. I have yet to spray the small rack that you see in the picture. I have not yet decided if I will spray it or not (my basement bath is chrome...so I may use it down there as is).

Since I did not want to worry about spraying the inside I filled the bin with a paper wad and only taped a few inches for safe measure.

I went on to spray several thin coats, first on the bin itself and then on the underside of the lid. I sprayed several thin coats until every 30 minutes until I was satisfied with the coverage. A few hours later, I flipped the lid right side up and sprayed the top. I did the same with the bin (flipped it upside down) to make sure I would get all angles. Again, I sprayed thin coats every 30 minuter or so, until I was happy with the results. And here is my finished product. I think it looks pretty good. Off course it does not have the Venetian bronze finish with the copper undertones, but it looks better this way when the rest of the room is accessorized in a bronze finish.

And a profile ^__^

Be honest. You LOVE the yellow formica countertops don't you? LOL. Don't despair. The granite has been ordered and should be here soon. I can't wait!

* * * * *

 Most other 'bronzing' projects are PB (pre-blog), so I don't have many pictures of the step-by-step. But, I thought you may enjoy seeing how they turned out, so here are a few.
I sprayed all of my air vents...this one is in my kitchen. I really love my new tiles.

My laundry's fan. The colors are a bit off since this is a windowless bathroom. 
Virtually no light in here.

And finally, my guest bathroom bathtub's plumbing (the handheld shower has not been spray painted. It is actually a true Venetian bronze finish and so is the shower rod. This should give you an idea of what the spray paint looks next to the real deal).

Here is a close up of the faucet.

I had actually thought of replacing the tub's faucet handle with a newer style one, but then a friend of mine (who did) advised me against it. Apparently her new handle does not seem to successfully mix the water temperature as this old one did. Her water is always either too hot or too cold, so I may just have to live with this handle after all -__-

There is really no limit to what you can spray paint. I have seen other bloggers spray paint shower enclosures, door handles, cabinet hardware, light  fixtures, ect...your imagination is the limit. Spray paint is a quick and easy way to update your home on a budget! 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A baseboards' story: from sad to awesome!

When we first saw our home we knew that there were many things we would have to do to bring it into the 21st century. One of my most favorite updates to the house, so far, has been our baseboards. My DH came up with this idea all by himself! I am so proud to have a hubby that is super handy like that!

Our home, like many others, was equipped with thin, brown, base moulding - in poor shape, I might add. Part of the charm of a house is given by its architectural features. Moulding being one of the least obvious, yet very important of those features. So how could we give our home more depth of carachter? Off course we could have gone to a large home improvement center and purchased new trims...but that would have been very costly for an entire house! Being on a budget, big bucks were not in the picture. And this is when DH came up with the awesome idea to just literally add a 'base' to our existing moulding. It was a stroke of genius! I just couldn't believe how simple of an idea that was, yet how truly marvelous. I wondered why I did not think about it myself, the queen of thrift! LOL.

Off we went to the home improvement store looking for some trim that would meet our requirements. It needed to be super simple and to be the correct size. We found something that would work at Lowes. The strips were not super nice, DH spent several minutes picking out the straighter ones...and it was no easy task. But with $100 we had enough to modify all of our home's baseboards.

Then came the labour-intensive tedious task of removing the boards carefully, gluing all the trim to the original baseboards, nail it in place using a nailgun, and giving it two coats of primer and two coats of paint. * Insert official thanks here to my sister Y for helping me with some of the painting. *

I did not take enought photos for this to be a true step-by-step tutorial, but I did take a few shots of the 'before' and of the 'after'. So I hope you can get the jist of how this went down, to help you create your own super thick moulding. It is incredible what a difference thick, crisp, white moulding makes to the entire look of a home! 

This is what we started with. Thin, brown baseboards that had been stained a dark mahogany color.

This is a shot that shows the before, during and after. The top moulding is the original one, the middle is the baseboard with attached to it the strip of trim (just simple pine), the bottom one has already been primed twice and painted twice as well.

Here is a close up of what they look like. I still need to do paint touch ups on both the baseboards (to cover up the nail filling) and to the walls (to cover up the caulk) but they already look sooooo much better! Don't you think?

This is a cross section of the moulding. As you can see the added trim is lined up on the back of the baseboard to keep it flat against the wall, we left the excess in the front to make another interesting groove that blends with the rest of the trim once painted. DH spent countless hours caulking around top and bottom of ALL those baseboards. This ensures both energy efficiency but also, it keeps the bugs out! A big hurray for smart ideas and hard labour!

It's amazing how, once primed and painted, it is almost impossible to tell that there ever was any addition! It looks just as good as a thick baseboard you can get at the store. Off course they are not perfect, they still retain dings from wear and the little nail holes...but once they are installed, and surrounded by other pretty things, they look so good it's hard to even notice these small flaws. This is a shot of the hallway the day we closed on the house.

This is a shot of the same hallway after the refinished baseboards, doors and trims (and new floors and painted wall...off course!).

I know it may seem trivial for most, but trim size & color makes a whole lot of difference in the look and feel of a home! I just can't believe what a difference it made! :)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cat Chest Refinishing Tutorial

All right, I am a cat addict! So much we know.
But I am also a glam addict!
So what has a girl to do if, she has no space for a second litter box in a hidden corner of her home? Well, she has to come up with a solution to hide a litter box in a very conspicuous spot! 

Enters 'the cat chest update'. 

I have been wanting to hack a blanket chest (entry opening, air vents, and dividers) for a while now, but my DH was gone (and I suck with power tools) so, when I came across this chest on CL for $40 I was hooked, line and sinker! I HAD TO HAVE IT! These are the photos from the CL posting, hence the small size. Sorry, in the excitement I forgot to take any 'before' shots.


Just in case you guys want this but, don't want to bother with the refinishing, you can find the same box at http://www.lovethatcat.com/cat-furniture-chest.html these guys offer a small degree of customization too. (Again, I received no compensation from these guys, I am adding this info for your benefit only).

Back to the chest. So it was 'sorta' clean...um, not really! LOL. But, most items bought off of CL aren't. Anyhow. I removed dust, dirt, grime and um, yes, cat poo with a detergent-bleach-water solution. I let it dry really well and then I took it apart (lid and dividers) and lightly sanded the whole thing down. I knew I was going to spray paint the inside (I was worried that 2 coats of primer + 2 coats of paint would make the dividers hard to slide back in if, I had rolled or brushed. I was right! It was barely ok with ├╝ber thin coats of spray paint!) so I used a primer in spray form as well. This is the brand I always use, for all my projects with either oil based or latex paints. You can either roll it, brush it or in this case get the spray can.
image courtesy of thepaintstore.com
I don't have any pictures of when I primed the inside, but basically I spray painted the primer only on the inside of the chest twice and waited for it to dry 24 hrs in between coats. In the mean time, I spray painted my brass hardware with Rustoleum rubbed bronze spray paint (I have a love/hate relationship with this guy). I always poke my screws through the cardboard to make them stand up. 

Ummm, yes once again, I was too excited to remember to take a picture of the hardware painted. But, hey! I did not forget to share the HATE part of the relationship I was hinting at before with Rustoleum! I love the finish of this paint, however, I HATE the way it sprays...and this is why!

So far, I have used several cans of this paint for various projects, and it's always behaved this way. I may do a summary blog of all those projects, one of these days. I am not sure why this paint drips the way it does, but it does and it drives me nuts...but I do like the finish...so it's a catch 22!
Back to my chest. I decided to try out a paint I have been wanting to use for a while now: Krylon. I have seen many bloggers use it successfully, and I like that it comes in a great array of colors. I needed purple and I liked their Rich Plum shade, so I bought some at Walmart.

Photo courtesy of Walmart.com
As you may have figured out by now, nothing with me is perfect! :)
 When I went to spray the first coat of paint, something was very off. The can was dripping all over the place, a MESS! It was only the following day (when I was ready for coat #2) that I realized what had gone amiss. I had removed the red 'thingamajig' that was on the nozzle (now, now, are you wondering if thingamajig is a real word? Off course it is, just ask my Texan in-laws. LOL). 
WHY in God's green earth would I remove it, may you ask? Well, the afore mentioned Rustoleum, comes with a safety that HAS to be removed. Guess what? That safety is a small red thingamabobber! Do you see now where this is going? I am so used to think: small red plastic thingy = trash, that I just did that without reading the instructions on the can. ALWAYS READ INSTRUCTIONS! Said thingy, was a very handy-dandy nozzle orienter. No wonder I was dripping all over! I removed my sprayer! Silly me! Well, I guess I learned my lesson! I sprayed a total of 3 coats of purple with 24 hrs drying periods in between. Next I rolled on 2 coats of Zinser cover stain primer on the outside of my chest - always use good quality tools...in this case a good nap 4" roller. I prefer to roll regular paint and primer whenever I can, as you get a thicker more durable coat. Spray paint is most useful if your piece has tons of carving, nooks and crannies, if you want a perfect airbrushed finish (like for the rubbed bronze hardware) or if you want a super thin coat. 
Here is my chest painted inside and primed on the outside.

Then I rolled on 2 coats of white paint (I first cut in all the nooks and crevices with a 2" Purdy paintbrush). I had a leftover can of Rustoleum Oil base Gloss paint from other projects, so I used it

Photo Courtesy of Shopping.Yahoo.com

Here is the finished chest with 2 coats of primer + 2 coats of white paint... 

The same exact treatment was given to the lid, 2 coats of primer + 2 coats of paint. 
The great thing about oil based paint, is that you don't need a clear top coat. It cures very hard and it dries like an enamel. 

I knew I wanted to stencil a design on the front panel in purple. So again, what has a gal to do when she does not want to pay $40+ for a nice stencil? Well, she tries to improvise. I had read bloggers having successes etching glass with a stencil made from contact paper, so I thought I'd give it a try for my project. I hand drew a mirrored image of my design on the back of the paper, and then I carefully cut around my shapes using both regular and manicure scissors. 

I very carefully adhered the contact paper to the front of my chest and used painter's tape to cover all the edges around the stencil. I wanted the design on the outside of the chest to match the purple hue on the inside so, I had to spray paint my design. Since spray paint is messy, and the overspray travels everywhere, I made sure I completely wrapped my chest with a plastic drop cloth and taped it in place.

I sprayed 3 thin coats of purple Krylon.

As I mentioned before, this was just a trial. I knew, going in, that the makeshift stencil may not hold...and in fact it didn't. When I removed the self adhesive liner this is what I ended up with.

Well, I guess it was worth a try! At this point, I was pretty happy with the design, just not happy with the poor quality and jagged edges of the stencil. So I grabbed a tiny painter's brush and I proceeded to hand paint around the entire edge of the design to clean it up. The result is not perfect, but I am still pretty happy with the chest as a whole. 

Here are a few shots of the chest in my master bedroom, yes that is Mrs. Rufus inspecting the quality of my work!

This shows you the guts of the chest. As you can see I keep Clorox wipes, scooper and bags on the left compartment, the litter box is in the middle one and i slid a mat under the 3rd divider to help control tracking (somewhat).

Here Rufus demonstrate how they enter and exit the chest. She is quite the visual aid :)

Hope this gives you some inspiration on creating your own furniture hack to hide the unsightly yet very much necessary array of litter boxes in your homes! 

= ^. .^ =

Friday, January 11, 2013

Organic chicken Bouillon Tutorial

Living in the land of hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and GMO's, I have learned to make a whole lot more homemade stuff than I ever did when I lived in Europe. I have been making my own bullion for a while now, and I gave some to one of my friends around thanksgiving. Since then, she has been asking me to show her how to make it, so this morning we all gathered in E's kitchen and made some chicken bouillon. I will try to give you a quick breakdown of the recipe, but remember that I am Italian and that we do use the metric system. If you need a converter, just do a quick google search and you can switch my grams into either cups, oz or whatever you find yourself more comfortable with. Also keep in mind that the following recipe is what I use when I make my own. E did not want that much so we halved the recipe (hence the small jars you see in the last photo). When I make it with the following recipe I end up with nearly 2 quart-size mason jars full of bouillon. For me that's ok, cause I use this thing in nearly everything I made (and I gift some too) but you may want to start with half that amount and just keep an eye out on the ingredient's ratio.


800 gr organic chicken (I use deboned thighs or drums WITH skin...I know skin is gross, but we are trying to go for flavor here...if you use chicken breasts your bouillon will taste like, um.... chicken water! LOL)
200 gr carrots peeled
200 gr zucchini squash
100 gr onion peeled (red or white, whatever is your preference)
100 gr leak (make sure you wash this really well as it is a sandy bugger. If you don't know how to clean a leak just look it up on youtube. Plenty of videos for you to peruse.)
100 gr celery stalks (you can use the leaves too)
1-2 garlic cloves (peeled)
10 leaves of fresh sage
1 sprig of fresh rosemary (stem removed)
1/4 of a cup of white wine (you can substitute with tomato paste melted in water, or just water)
500 gr salt (coarse sea salt would be preferable, but regular salt will do too.)
2 bay leaves
If you have a chunk of REAL parmesan cheese (ie. Grana Padano or Parmigiano Reggiano) you can carefully cut off the crust, scrape it with a knife to clean it, and add it to the vegetables.

So here we go, I like to begin with all my 'mise en place' (the fancy French way to say: line up all your ingredients first!). Whenever I can't find deboned meat, I debone it myself.  E was on top of things and had it deboned for me already (I love those efficient I-talians! ^__^ ) so, all I had to do was cut it in bite size chunks. Then came the veggies. I always take care of my leak first. He is the fussy type. I sliced off the roots and cut it crosswise on the white stalk, and then I washed, washed, washed. When no more sand was visible, I trimmed just a bit off the top of the green leaves and chopped and used ALL the rest (I hate waisting food and, the green part is just as good for you as the white part!). Then I chopped all the rest of the vegetables up into bite size chunks. 

I didn't take a picture of the chicken chunks as they looked like, um....skin-on chicken chunks. LOL. You'll get a chance to see them later during assembly. I weighed everything on my digital scale to make sure I got all my ratios right. The percentages are: 1 part chicken, 1 part veggies and 1 part salt. Easy peasy! Now that I had all my stuff ready, it was time to start assembling. A non stick pan is what I prefer to use teflon, but E's looked more like an enamel pot, and it worked just as fine! I assembled all my ingredients COLD. It's hard to see from the photo but, there is a layer of salt on the bottom of the pot. Too bad it's white on white. LOL. But it's there, trust me. 

After that, I layered in my chicken chunks. See? They look just like skin-on chicken chunks. LOL

One more layer with the veggies, the herbs (rosemary, sage and bay leaf) and the wine.

Ok, now it was time to start cooking. I put a lid on the pot and turned the stove on LOW

 A few minutes later (maybe 10-15) I checked for the cooking juices to appear. You may see them here. The salt was doing its job and releasing the water contained in both meat and veggies. Good, that was my clue that I could now turn the heat up to medium and wait for it to simmer.

A few minutes later my pot was simmering to a boil. At this point I stirred all the ingredients well and then returned the heat to medium low (#2 on E's stove). I made sure, every now and then, that the mixture kept a slow boil. You need to keep it bubbling slightly the entire time.

About 1 and a 1/2 hours later this is what my "pot o' goodies" looked like! Lots of juice and all the salt melted. Almost done. Hang on tight.

I removed the 2 bay leaves and then, the entire content of the pot made it's way into the food processor where I pulsed the mixture into a cream (do not attempt to use a smoothies blender, it will not work. An immersion blender however works just fine).

And this was the result of our labour of love. The halved recipe yielded 4 half pint jars and a little. At this point we were done. The bouillon keeps either in the freezer (won't solidify) or fridge for months. The high salt content does not allow for bacteria to grow. So it's safe to keep for a long time. If one would prefer to have a granulate, dry bouillon, it would be as easy as getting out a cookie sheet, lining it with parchment paper and spreading the pureed mixture flat and thin over it. Then insert it in a warm oven, and wait for the puree to become a solid crust. The crust can then be broken, when cooled, and re-blended once again to obtain a powder. The bouillon can then be stored in your spice cabinet.

* * * * *

A teaspoon of this homemade goodness equals about one "cube" of industrial bouillon. Beef meat can be substituted for the chicken meat, and off course meat can be left out all together to make a vegetarian version. 

Well? Are you wondering where the mistake is this time? LOL. I can tell you where it is...it's on the assembly part. Every other time I make this, my layers are salt, veggie, meat. Do you see where I am going now? Yes, I inverted the last two layers...and guess what? It was just fine. So see? Nothing is ever perfect and even if you make a small mistake it's no biggie. Chances are the final result will still be great! Now go out there, and have fun! :)