Sunday, November 18, 2012

In With the New

Perhaps it is the result of growing up on a restricted budget, followed by being married to someone who couldn't keep a job (which led, eventually to divorce), so learning to be frugal was necessary. Thank heavens my marriage to Sweetie has none of those problems.


Perhaps it is due to my natural aversion to sorting. Who knows why, but for many years we have needed new carpeting in the upstairs of our home and I never focused on taking care of that.

Whatever the reason, the wait is over. The old carpet is gone and the new one installed. I wish that process has been as quick as the telling.

One of the first things I did in preparation was to finally paint our master bedroom. Every other room in the house has gotten at least one coat of paint but never the bedroom. The only way it happened at all was that I painted some of the walls last spring, some in October and the final wall two days before the carpet was due. The trim was painted bright, shiny white and the walls a mellow pale gold.



Another obstacle was that I am a pack-rat. I love to collect things and am terrible about sorting out things that should be donated to charity or just plain be discarded. Since I wanted this carpet it was worth doing all that hated sorting. Many, many bags went to Goodwill. Fewer but more than I had thought it would be went to the dump. Sweetie is much better at throwing things out but he found he had over 40 ties to donate to Goodwill. Another of the joys of being retired...no need to wear ties almost every day. We probably could have just moved all our things to other places and avoided the sorting, but I'm glad we didn't. Things feel lighter somehow.

When we re-did the bathroom a few years ago we never figured out how to organize the linen closet. It doesn't have a door so I see the contents, however they look, every time I use my computer. As part of "in with the new", we took everything out of the linen closet (which is also carpeted) and replaced what was there with a new storage unit from Costco which has cloth bins. Each bin has a sleeve for a label. Now everything is in the proper bin and easily found. There is even space (and a new hook) to hang a few table cloths so they are ready to put on the table. Should have done all this years ago!

We still have to return some of the things to the closet but I can only take just so much organizing at a time. I start to get stressed if I have to make too many decisions at once. I also have more trouble these days remembering where I put stuff, so I have been taking photos of some of the items that will be hidden from view and have made up sheets with the photos so that I can find things 6 months from now. Lately I have understood the old adage "Out of sight, out of mind" all too well.

Another new-ish situation  is that we have some great neighbors who have been in their new home less than a year, and they live right across the street from us. Even though they are not old foggies like us, we have a lot in common and enjoy each others' company. We had dinner with them last night, sort of spur of  the moment since it all came together late Friday. The main dish was a savory and delicious stew with dove breasts, something I've never eaten. The meat was sort of dark, like duck but a milder flavor althoughs till rich. Perfectly cooked, too. I'm afraid that it is unlikely I'll ever have the main ingredient to cook, so no recipe here, unless my neighbor wants to share.

I offered to bring a dessert and it was a hit. It's a very seasonal tasting recipe with nuts and cranberries and spices. A rich, nut infused shortbread is topped with a slightly gooey mixture that includes maple syrup and those nuts and dried cranberries. It makes 16 pieces and is rich enough that I only needed on cookie to satisfy me. The guys, on the other hand, polished of a few more. A true baker just loves that many men really appreciate quality baked goods and let you know it, too. Makes it worth the time to bake. I started with a recipe from Sunset magazine but changed the nuts, added dried cranberries and made lots of changes to the method for making the shortbread, using a technique that I've been successful with before...but you do need a food processor. Give it a try for yourself, or for a nice gift.

    Mixed Nut and Cranberry Shortbread Cookies Based on a recipe in Sunset magazine, November 2012

The Nuts
1 1/2 cups walnuts, divided
1 1/2 cups pecans, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a baking sheet and bake until golden, about 10-15 minutes. Watch the nuts as they burn easily at the end. Remove from oven and stir together. Divide mixed nuts into 1/2 cup to go into the crust, 1/2 cup to chop for the topping, and 1 cup whole to go in the topping.

The Pan and the Oven

Grease a 9-inch square baking pan, line with foil (let it hang over edges), then grease foil. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. (Or just turn down the heat to 325 degrees F. if you just toasted the nuts.)

The Crust
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 cups flour
1 cup cold butter, cubed
1/4 teaspoon salt

Put the 1/2 cup oven toasted nuts for the crust and the granulated sugar into a food processor. Pulse until nuts are finely chopped. Add the cinnamon, flour and salt and pulse to mix completely. Place the cubed cold butter around the work container, on top of the flour mixture. Process until the mixture forms a dough ball. Press the dough evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven until golden and firm, about 45 minutes.

The Topping
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons butter, cubed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

When crust is almost finished baking, bring cinnamon, butter, granulated sugar, salt, maple syrup and brown sugar to a boil in a small saucepan, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat and stir in the 1 cup whole oven toasted nuts and the 1/2 cup chopped oven toasted nuts. Stir in the dried cranberries. Pour over baked crust and spread evenly. Bake until set when pan is tilted, about 18 minutes.

Cooling

Let cool on a rack. Lift foil with cookie to a board. Cut cookie into 16 squares, then cut each square in half diagonally. (I found the cookies to be crumbly enough that I stopped when I had cut the squares.)

3 comments :

tanita davis said...

The sad thing is that I got stuck obsessing on those forty ties... the dessert looks awesome, but I keep thinking, "TIE! ohmygosh, ties! I could MAKE things with forty ties!!!!"

Clearly, I'm your fellow packrat, here...

Baking Soda said...

I can relate to the ever wanting to but never coming to house-stuff.. (and the subsequent feeling of being so glad it's there you wonder, no vouch to never ever wait that long again! Until the next time that is)
Lovely dessert, nice neighbors are to be treasured!

Elle said...

Tanita, I thought the same thing about the ties, but he was insistant that we give them to Goodwill. Turns out that they have a program to help people who are job hunting so the ties will be put to good use making some job hunting guy look good for his interview.

Baking Soda, I'm sure I will procrastinate the next time, too. It's true, new neighbors are a treasure.