Tuesday, June 29, 2004

I Asked This Old House

And they answered.

Today, Tom Silva from Ask This Old House (and the original This Old House) came to my house with a television crew of about 6 people and built window boxes. Here's a picture to prove it:

Tom Silva with Stacy and Matt

It was a lot of fun and also a little stressful. We did several takes of each scene, which was kind of tiring. We usually had to do lots of takes because we were figuring out each scene as we were going along and oftentimes, Tom would mess up his lines. I only messed up once or twice! Really! I wonder if I sounded really fake though since we had to say the same things over and over again. The crew told me I did great and our segment went pretty smoothly.

I didn't end up doing much work. I did insert some screws into the window box with the drill while on camera and did a terrible job. That was kind of embarrassing and probably the most stressful part for me. Hopefully they'll edit most of it out!

The best thing about the experience was how nice everyone was. They do lots of these types of segments and work with hundreds of people like me. But they acted as if they were really interested in me and my house. I wanted them to stick around afterwards so I could talk to them and ask more questions about the show, but they had to leave to go to another shoot.

I'm sure when this is aired, it will be very painful for me to watch, but I will have to remember that it was a great experience at the time! Oh, and now I have a great pair of window boxes!

You can see more pictures here.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Meghan's Mom's Pasta Salad (and whipped cream)

No, I am not pregnant.

The pasta salad and the whipped cream are two different topics and probably should be two different entries, but I don't feel like making two entries.

My very good friend from high school, Meghan, has a mother who made the best pasta salad. My friends and I would get drunk off of that pasta salad it was so good. Since I've been cooking for myself, I've tried to replicate it. It's been so long since I've had the real thing though that I'm not sure if I am doing it justice. It is good none-the-less. Here's the recipe:

  • spiral pasta (Fusili)

  • Zesty Italian salad dressing (nothing fancy - Wishbone is fine)

  • chopped cucumbers

  • chopped Vidalia (or red) onion

  • chopped tomato (Jersey tomatoes are best if you are lucky enough to get them)

  • Secret ingredient [generous amount of McCormick Salad Supreme seasoning]

And now for the whipped cream. I made my first batch of real whipped cream with my Kitchen Aid mixer last night. I didn't know if I needed to add sugar or not, but since we were having local strawberries with our whipped cream, I decided against the sugar.

I let the mixer run a little too long and the cream became kind of stiff. It was on its way to butter, I think. It also didn't taste like much. I will be sure to add sugar next time. It was nice to use my mixer though.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Rising Star Part II

I just got the phone call. Ask This Old House is coming to my house on Tuesday morning and I will be taped using power tools for the world to see. Tom Silva and I will be building two window boxes from scratch and installing "L" brackets on my house. I'll be left to prime and paint the boxes and install them on the brackets after the crew leaves so you won't see the finished product on the show.

The producer told me that the show won't be aired until December or January most likely.

I am really freaked out. What did I get myself into? I'm sure it will be a great experience, but I'm so nervous.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Rising Star?

I am having a really hard time concentrating on work today. This is because I just found out that I might be on one of my favorite television shows - Ask This Old House!

As you probably know, Matt and I are relatively new homeowners - we've been living in our house for one year now. I've always loved This Old House and the newer Ask This Old House. I even have a subscription to This Old House Magazine, thanks to my friend Tracey. When we bought our house I remember saying (more than once) that I was going to make it my goal to get on the show. So a few months ago, I sent an email to AskTOH and told them I wanted to install window boxes on my house, but because of the vinyl siding, I wasn't sure of the best way to do it.

Well, today at work, I got a call from the producer of the show and they might be coming to my house next Tuesday (today is already Thursday) to do the segment! The producer just had to double check with Tom Silva, the general contractor and one of the stars of the show to make sure he wanted to do it.

I can't believe it. If this does happen, I'll have to deal with the fact that I'll be on tv. I really don't like to watch myself on video. Matt probably won't even be there, so it will be all me. Be careful what you wish for!

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Vietnamese Inspired Salad

Last night for dinner, I combined a couple of recipes from past issues of Cooking Light to create a Vietnamese inspired salad.

Fresh Vietnamese spring rolls and the clear dipping sauce they come with is one of my favorite foods. I love the combination of the sticky rice paper, crunchy bean sprouts, crisp veggies like lettuce, carrots, and cucumbers, sharp herbs like cilantro, basil, and mint, and mostly the vinegary, peanutty dipping sauce. MMMMM! Following is the rough recipe for my concoction:


  • bean sprouts

  • julienned carrots

  • julienned cucumbers

  • fresh cilantro

  • fresh basil (unfortunately, I could only find Italian sweet basil, not the more interesting Asian basil)

  • fresh mint from my garden

  • chopped peanuts

  • bean threads (a.k.a. glass noodles, or Sai Fun noodles, or cellophane noodles)


  • lime juice

  • rice vinegar

  • hoisin sauce

  • sugar

  • Asian chili sauce

  • fish sauce (don't tell my husband)

  • fresh ginger, grated

  • fresh garlic, minced

The only thing that was missing was some king of protein. If I had more time, I would have cooked some tofu or shrimp or egg. But as it was, we didn't sit down to eat until 8:30 at night.

Monday, June 21, 2004

Mac and Cheese Alternative

I adapted a recipe from Cooking Light for Squash-Rice Casserole and it was really good. It will become part of our rotation and fall under the category of "comfort food." The original recipe called for cooked rice and 8 cups of zucchini (along with the other ingredients that will follow). I adapted the recipe because I didn't have any zucchini and I had orzo I wanted to use up instead of rice.

So roughly, my adaptation was about 2 cups of cooked orzo, chopped asparagus, broccoli, and onion, steamed in vegetable broth, all mixed in a 9 x 13" casserole with 1 cup of cheddar cheese, 1 cup of sour cream, 2 Tbsp of parm cheese, salt, and pepper. This is baked for 1/2 hour and then put under the broiler to brown the extra parm cheese on top. Matt and I put some hot sauce on our servings.

It was really good. Creamy, cheesy, salty, and slightly mushy - just like good macaroni and cheese should be. All that without the fuss of making a roux and stirring milk on the stove for ages. The meal was still a little labor intensive, but worth it for 2 people because there will surely be leftovers so you won't have to cook the next day. And because the veggies are in the casserole, you don't need any side dishes.

One day, if I happen to have the ingredients, I'll try the original recipe. Anything baked with cheese and sour cream is guaranteed to be yummy.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Keys to good potato salad

There are two main keys to making good potato salad.

One is to slightly over cook the potatoes - but not too much! If the potatoes are cooked long enough where they start to fall apart slightly, their starchiness will contribute to the dressing, thus making a more creamy potato salad. However, if the potatoes are cooked too much, they'll turn into mashed potatoes when you mix in the other ingredients, which is what happened to my potato salad this weekend. It still tasted good though.

The second key is to mix in the other ingredients while the potatoes are still warm - not piping hot though or you'll cook and discolor your celery and onions. Mixing the other ingredients while the potatoes are warm means the potatoes will absorb more of the flavors and the salad becomes a whole.

The ingredients I use when I make my potato salad are as follows (I never measure!):

  • potatoes (Idaho or red bliss usually)

  • diced celery

  • diced Vidalia onion

  • Hellman's Real mayonnaise - no low fat stuff please

  • cider vinegar

  • sugar

  • salt

  • pepper

  • celery seed

  • a tiny amount of wet mustard, but not enough to make it yellow

  • sometimes if I have hard boiled eggs in the fridge, I'll add some, but it's not required

I basically follow the recipe on the back of the Hellman's jar, but again, I don't measure.

Monday, June 14, 2004

I'm back, Baby!

Enough of my loyal readers (all three of them) have persuaded me to start another blog. So here I am. I really like the new Blogger.com UI and since it's free, I decided to go with them instead of the Harvard Law School blog service.

So, put me on your RSS feed and stay tuned to hear all about my exciting life. You'll get plenty of cat pictures, house and garden updates, and most of all my thoughts on food and what I'm making for dinner.

This should be fun...