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Archive for December, 2009

My new tins all lined up nicely.

Oh… my old spice rack. What a piece…

Well, let’s back up and first start with my kitchen and its faults. It is tiny, but it is efficient. There is not a lot of extra space to put stuff though. I have one very high cabinet that I use for spices. Since it is so high, there are times when even I (taller than your average woman) need the step ladder. Most notably, when reaching to the back of the spice rack. Invariably, I will knock a bottle over and the five bottles in front of it will also come tumbling down.

This was driving me insane.

I mean, sometimes I felt like if I just breathed wrong, they would projectile at my face.

My old solution to organize my spices was one of those step rack contraptions purchased probably at Ikea/Bed Bath and Beyond/Buy More Crap for Your Home places. The way it works is – you precariously balance all of your top heavy spice bottles on the rack in the cabinet. Then you shut the cabinet door and you hear them falling on top of each other. That’s about the gist of it.

So then you swear and swear and swear some more.

And then you get back on top of the step ladder, CAREFULLY open the door and catch all of the spice bottles that have displaced themselves before they fall and dent the stove. Again.

Old spice cabinet - sure is fug, no?

So I googled a solution to my predicament.

My requirements:

1. Not easy to knock over spices. So, containers need to be wider than tall.

2. Easy to get measuring spoons in/out.

3. Big enough to accommodate ALL my spices. Yeah – even you Sumac-that-I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with. Some day I will find a use for you.

4. Um, cute? And designerly in some way?

So many options…

There was the cute, albeit totally impractical test tube rack. Then there was the racks of little tins held and the variation which was a board with the tins held on by a magnet – which unfortunately only allowed for maybe 20 spices which is about 30 short of my total. I did see one solution that I was intrigued by – the pull out shelf. But I kept coming back to the cute little spice tins. However, the pre-made sets were never big enough.  Then I came across a DIY spice tin solution and thought it was just too cute to pass up. Even if it was a little impractical.

I forget where I saw this inspiration – Apartment Therapy? I have no idea. Which sucks cause the person I glommed the idea from had really cute pix.

Ok. Seriously, I’ve got to find that link…it was so freaking cute. You’ll just die.

So anyway…

The tins

I decided to buy a whole mess of tins from Specialty Bottle. They were very nice and easy to deal with. I, however, really didn’t know what I was doing. I knew from a little research that I wanted lids that screwed on – the kind that just push on/pull off apparently get spices crusted in them and get hard to open after awhile. Some are unlined, which is bad. Also, sometimes the tins have a tendency to rust (I think this is mostly the ones that are unlined). This might happen if you live in an especially humid environment. I’m hoping for the best up here in the Midwest….

Anyway, I bought the 3 oz twistlug tin. They are food safe. In retrospect, these might be just a smidge too small. But I’ve got 50 of them now, so I’ll make do.

The labels

Next up – the labels. I bought some labels from Paper Source (they have a nice little template for printing that you can download at their site). In retrospect – perhaps just plain paper labels is not the wisest choice. I am the kind of person who makes a gigando mess when I’m cooking and invariably, my hands are wet when I grab the spice tin. So, some sort of protective coating on the label would have been smart…

The font

Ok, the font. I got all picky and googled and googled and googled and found some lovely design sites. This site in particular – Eat Drink Chic – has some lovely font ideas. I swoon over people who are good with typography and this woman is killer. I chose one of the fonts she has listed on her site (Ecuyer DAX I think). Downloaded from Dafont.com – my favorite font site – and typed them up.

Then I slapped the labels on the tins. Only to find out…my labels are a smidge too big. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. And from afar, they sure are cute, n’est ce pas?

Whoah...that's a lot of spices!

DIY Spice Tins

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Halibut with Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce

Halibut with Ginger Citrus Beurre Blanc sauce

Ever walked into a higher-end restaurant and just get the feeling that your meal is going to be average? Something about the decor maybe or the clientele is turning you off?

And then had your socks literally knocked off? Yeah, I sorta had that experience a few months ago.

I was taking a much needed break from the city with my parents in Door County, Wisconsin. For those of you who do not know, Door County is the peninsula of Wisconsin. It’s a vacation get-away for people from Milwaukee and Chicago (note Chicagoans – yes, you are called FIB by Wisconsinites. I am now a FIB myself and am coming to terms with it. Google it if you must know) . Filled with cute shops, antiques and quaint little restaurants, such as Al Johnson’s with the goats grazing on the roof , it’s perhaps the Mid-West version of Martha’s Vineyard.

One of the quaint restaurants was the Inn at Kristopher’s located in Sister Bay. We walked in and the interior seemed a little old. Not terribly out of date – but maybe early 90’s. And well, Door County really isn’t the hippest place on the planet. Needles to say, I guess I wasn’t expecting much.

Boy was I in for a surprise.

My father and I both had the blackened Ahi Tuna (we are both suckers for raw tuna – still…even though the dish is seriously done way too often) which was absolutely fabulous and served with wonderful tender crisp Asian vegetables. But the real standout was what my mom ordered –Salmon with a Ginger Beurre Blanc sauce. I’m not one for salmon…ever…but the sauce was outstanding. Seriously wonderful combination of flavors that I had never had before. Words cannot describe how good this was. I HAD to replicate this at home.

So off to google and I came across this wonderful recipe for a Citrus Ginger Beurre Blanc sauce and I must say, this was pretty dang close. Of course, I’m so not in the mood to reprint the recipe – and I didn’t change a thing so head over there if you are interested.

Give it a whirl some time.  I served it with Halibut and some shaved cucumber and carrot over a bed of jasmine rice. At the restaurant, it was served over whipped potatoes. Do whatever you wish. 🙂

Enjoy!

Ms. Pantry Raid

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Instead of hacking up our fine feathered friends, we’ve moved on to creatures of the sea this week.

I don’t make a lot of fish at my house. And if I do make it, it is likely to come in nice little fillets. The reason for this?

It’s right here Ray… It’s looking at me.

Yeah, see, that’s the part of this that totally unnerves me. The fish have EYES. They…know things. Ugh… I mean, even in restaurants when the fish head will be served, I ask for it to be nicely lopped off beforehand. My food should not be able to look back at me.

Anyway…

Fillet of Sole, Baby, it’s my favorite dish*

So that aside, we had to tackle another one of my many “issues”. Some people like cute furry bunnies. I am partial to animals that live in the ocean. Jellyfish, rays and sharks are my favorite animals. Followed closely by flounder and sole – partly cause of the aforementioned song and partly because I love how they burrow in the sand. So I have a bit of an issue cutting them up. Plus, as I said earlier, these animals come to the school pretty much intact – all “innards” are, well, in there. I had to put on my brave face.

Cool facts:

Generally when we are talking about fish you cook, there are two types.

Round fish – are generally more, um, round. They have eyes on both sides of their head. And when you fillet them, you get 2 fillets. Examples – most fish – tuna, salmon, grouper, etc etc.

Flat fish – these are really cool. They start out their life as round fish – meaning they have an eye on either side of their head. Then when they are maybe like a month old or so, one eye migrates to the other side of the head so both eyes are then on one side. The fish, which used to be round and swam upright, starts to flatten out and swim on it’s side. Usually the fish is light colored on the bottom and dark on the top for camouflage purposes. Anyway. How cool is that? Oh – by the way – you get 4 fillets out of flat fish. Examples of flat fish – flounder, sole, halibut, turbo.

So maybe you fish and want to see how to fillet your own fish? Or maybe you’ve gone down to that really cool fishmonger that all the high end restaurants buy from and you don’t want to seem like a wuss buying the pre-filleted fish? Ok, here’s some video for you.

Filleting round fish

Filleting flat fish

Things to keep in mind:

A flexible boning knife is generally better for filleting fish.

Fish fins are very sharp – so use caution!

Also – some fish skin – especially that of flat fish – can be very tough. Again, use caution so you don’t cut yourself!

*Courtesy of The Dead Milkmen. One of my favorite bands in my youth. “Filet of sole baby. Is my favorite dish. Filet of sole baby. When the dish is fish ‘Cause, oh, I lose control. When you serve filet of sole.Yeah, I have issues. I know.

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