The sheers....

ARE GONE!!! I can't even tell you what a relief this is. They were great at first because they looked nice and Seth and I didn't have to spend $$ on window treatments when we bought the house. But lately they've been driving me crazy, mostly because the traverse rod system that was holding them up didn't really work anymore (which isn't too surprising...I'm pretty sure they've been up for 50 years).

It would have given me great satisfaction to rip these things out of the wall with my bare hands, but of course I didn't. I painstakingly took out every screw and let me tell you...these things are COMPLICATED. I feel sorry for the person that had to figure out how to put them up in the first place. After an hour and a half, I finally got every piece removed.

What a mess. Traverse rods are crazy! All those screws and all that hardware just to hold up a few drapes. Talk about overkill. What's going up next is much, MUCH simpler. Stay tuned.

PS. Those things above the window are temporary shades that I put up when we first moved into the house and the sheers scared me (too transparent). We haven't used them in years but now they'll come in handy...I'll use them to at least keep peeping eyes out of the big window until the new shades arrive in the mail.

Pho good

Tonight I made pho for the first time! I used to eat it a lot when I lived in Austin and I've missed it ever since (if you're ever in Texas, check out Kim good). Pho traditionally has a beef broth, but I found a vegetarian recipe online and decided to give it a shot. I managed to find all the ingredients except for giant pho bowls, but it still turned out great I think.

The are so many crazy flavors in this dish. The broth has cinnamon, cloves, onion, garlic, shallots, star of anise, ginger, and soy sauce. Some of the "toppings" seem onions, bean sprouts, lime. But others are ones that I would never think to add to a dish like this - like fresh basil! But all the flavors magically work together. Add a bunch of chile garlic sauce and sriracha and everything works. So filling and fun to eat!

I probably won't make this one too often because it was so time consuming, but it was really fun to turn my dining room into Lib's Pho Palace for a night :)

big news

I'm finally ready for the sheers to go.

This is a picture I took right after we bought the house, and the reason I'm using this one is b/c I could only find one other picture of the sheers on my entire blog (and they looked weird in that pic b/c of Christmas candles in the window). So obviously they're not something I've been showing off.

I really have liked them all this time though, and when the originals got a few rips in them a few years ago I didn't take that opportunity to revamp the window treatments...I got super cheap thin curtains from Ikea and rigged more sheers. And I think that's been part of the problem. The sheers no longer open and close with ease thanks to a little pull on the side. Opening them is still easy, but if we want to close them its a whole process of lining up and pulling and getting the folds just so. It was okay at first but now its annoying the crap out of me. Plus I'm just ready for something new! And updated!

I have a few ideas but I haven't even gotten close to nailing down what I'd like to do on those windows. I do know that I want the sheers and the valances to go, and I'm thinking I'll still use the drapes but put them on a rod and use rings so they slide open and closed easily. For the big middle window, I'm thinking maybe a roman shade? Or a roller shade? Not sure. Definitely open to suggestions (in fact, I'm asking for them).

Anyway, I'm excited. Its a new project and a big change! And its not the only change I'm thinking about for the living room. I've been brainstorming about revamped built-in bookshelves and a new color on the wall...I'm craving something warmer that will make the room feel more cozy. Yea!

And just for kicks, check out this before and after:

Pretty crazy, huh?! Doesn't even look like the same room!

soup beans

Well, we got the snow storm that was promised and I got the day off work!! It looks like there might be more snow coming tonight and luckily we have plenty of food in the house. Last night I made my first batch of vegetarian soup beans and they turned out great. The recipe made a TON...I really had no idea how much it was going to make. I'm glad though. I've been inspired by Elise who writes the blog Hungry Hungry Hippie (specifically this post) to start making big batches of a protein, a whole grain and veggies to have on hand for the week. It really is a simple way to have healthy, inexpensive food in the house when you're too busy or too tired to cook a whole meal from scratch.

This time I did the soup beans, a big batch of brown rice, and roasted butternut squash, brussels sprouts, and onion.

Ah, the crock pot and the rice cooker...2 appliances I could never live without.

This was my first time cooking brussels sprouts and I am hooked. I know a lot of people had bad experiences with them as kids, but give them another try. Just remove the darker, outer leaves and cut the tough stem up, then roast in a 400 degree oven in olive oil, kosher salt and pepper for 45 minutes. So tasty!

Once everything was ready I just threw it all in a big bowl and had a yummy, very filling dinner that cost next to nothing per serving.

I didn't make quite as many veggies or rice as I should have (there's just a little bit of each left), but I have tons of beans for the week. Tonight I'm going to make some cornbread from a mix and have traditional soup beans and cornbread for dinner. And since I can't get to the grocery store tonight b/c of the snow, I might heat up some frozen green beans just so there's something green on the plate :)

cookin' up a storm

We've had a ton of snow already this winter, and its pretty awesome. I've gotten to miss a little work, and its just so much more festive and pretty than the 34 degree rain that Knoxville normally gets every winter. We had what I think was our 2nd big snowfall 2 days ago, and we're expected to get a 3rd storm tomorrow. I don't know if its knowing that we might get snowed in for a few days or just that I've been sick and am finally feeling better today, but I woke up this morning ready to cook!

First I put on my first ever batch of vegetarian soup beans (recipe here). I always thought I couldn't make them without a big hunk of pig in the pot (or whatever people normally season it with), but it turns out that I can! I'll know at 6:45 tonight if it worked out (it takes 8 hours on low to cook). Then I baked a loaf of Seth's breakfast bread, which is seriously the easiest and cheapest thing ever....and SO GOOD. Here's the recipe for that one. Next I made another batch of granola bars...something I tend to dread making even though I only have to do it every 4 weeks to have one for every work day.

The last thing I made was batch of sweet potato hummus. This one doesn't have a recipe, something that normally scares me. But I'm trying to trust myself more in the kitchen and just try stuff. A friend of mine on Facebook posted a status that was something like: "just made sweet potato hummus and it was amazing" so I commented asking for the recipe. She said she didn't have one...just put a baked sweet potato, 1 can of chickpeas, the juice of 1 lemon, olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, and salt into a food processor and blend until it tastes right. I did just that, tweaking it until it "tasted right" and it turned out awesome! I guess Facebook isn't all bad ;)

To all my friends that don't have a lot of experience cooking and want good starter recipes to try, try this hummus. It is incredibly healthy, cheap, and you don't have to be nervous about screwing it up. Its pretty much foolproof, and if something does go wrong then you've only lost about $2 and 10 minutes of your time. Here's what I did more specifically:

1. Wash sweet potato, poke several holes in the skin, then microwave it for about 7 minutes between 2 paper towels (this will depend on your microwave, but you can feel the potato and know when its soft).

2. Once the potato is cooked, cut it in half and scoop out the insides into a food processor.

3. Add 1 drained can of chickpeas, the juice of 1 lemon, a shake or two of cayenne pepper, roughly 1 teaspoon of cumin, 2 pinches of salt, a few glugs of olive oil, and a little water. Remember that you can always add more spices, oil, etc. later but you can't take it out.

4. Blend until mostly smooth, taste, and add more of whatever it needs. I ended up having to add more oil, water, salt, cumin & cayenne.

That's it!