Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs and Blue Cheese Dip

I thought I would share one of our favorite recipes that would work great for a Super Bowl party.  Everyone here in Indianapolis is gearing up for the big game this weekend, so party food is on my brain.  The meatball recipe is from The Meatball Shop Cookbook, but I did make a couple of small tweaks to the original.  The dip recipe is our own creation.  We kept playing with different recipes for blue cheese dressing/dip until we came up with something that was lower in fat.  I'd love to hear about it if you try them out!

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
 ~makes 3 dozen small meatballs

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup hot sauce (plus more for brushing on)
1 pound ground chicken
1 egg
1/2 stalk celery, minced finely
1 t. onion powder
1 t. garlic powder
3/4 c. unseasoned breadcrumbs
1 t. salt

-Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.  Liberally spray a 9x13 baking dish with cooking spray.

-Melt the butter in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the hot sauce and stir until smooth.  Allow to cool.

-Combine the hot sauce mixture with all other ingredients in a large bowl.  Fold all ingredients together with your hands until thoroughly combined.

-Roll the mixture into small balls, approximately 3/4" in diameter.  I use a very small ice cream scoop and then roll them in my hands.  Line the meatballs up in rows in the baking dish, making sure the edges are touching each other.

-Roast for about 20 minutes until the meatballs are firm and cooked through.  The internal temperature should read at least 165 degrees.

-Allow to cool slightly before serving.  If you like things a bit spicier, brush the meatballs with extra hot sauce before serving.

**I have made these the day before and they turned out perfectly.  I rolled the mixture into balls, laid them out in the pan, covered tightly with foil in the fridge, and baked the next day before the party.

Skinny Blue Cheese Dip

1/3 c. reduced fat buttermilk
1/3 c. plain Greek yogurt
1/3 c. reduced fat mayonnaise
1/2 c. crumbled blue cheese (use high quality cheese!)
juice of half a lemon
1 T. black pepper
1/2 t. salt

chopped green onions for garnish

Mix all ingredients together until combined.  Top with green onions before serving.

I think that this dip tastes much better if you have time to make it the day before and keep it in the fridge overnight!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pizza Oven

It's no surprise that we love to cook.  We decided at the very beginning that we were going to spend our money on our kitchen.  The house was designed to be centered around the kitchen.  We knew that we would be spending the vast majority of our waking hours in or around the kitchen.

Ryan began talking about the idea of a wood burning pizza oven very early on.  He played with the idea of doing something outdoors, but when you consider our Indiana weather, indoors just made more sense.  It definitely wasn't the easier choice, but it did make more sense.

He spent a lot of time doing research.  He read numerous books, countless websites, and got on the phone and started calling people.  It seemed like most of the companies were based out of California, or other warm weather climates.  People agreed that it could be done, but it would take more work.  He finally settled on an oven from Wildwood Ovens and got busy planning.

With the help of his dad, Ryan spent many hours on the construction and ventilation of the the actual oven.  Maybe one day, I will convince him to share the process here.  After the frame, the oven, and the ventilation were all in place, the framing went around it and it was time for masonry!

We had admired old crumbling buildings and restaurants with exposed brick walls, but we weren't sure how to recreate that look.  We found some brick veneer products that looked pretty good, but they were pricy.  We finally inquired at our local building supply yard about using actual reclaimed brick.  They did have some, but were fairly negative about using it.  The salesman discouraged us because a lot of the bricks tend to be damaged and broken.  You have to buy a whole pallet, so you can't be exactly sure what you're going to get.  We went out into the yard and looked at them anyway.  They were exactly what we wanted!

You just can't get that look with reproduction materials.  Yes, some were broken and chipped.  Yes, they had old paint and mortar still stuck to them.  Perfect!

Throughout our building process, people either got our vision right away or they never did.  This was definitely an example of that.  We discovered that if we were working with a salesperson or contractor who didn't get it, we were all better off if we moved on.

When the day finally came for the masons to brick in the pizza oven, we ran into the same problem.  They looked at me like I was crazy when I told them I wanted it to look old and falling apart.  Luckily, I had some pictures on my phone of some inspiration walls.

We framed in a box area near the bottom of the wall for wood storage later on.

 It was really difficult for the mason.  He just kept looking at it and shaking his head.  :)  Basically, when he laid the brick onto the mortar, he never went back and scraped anything off or wiped it clean.  It is overgrouted and uneven and the reclaimed bricks look right at home.

Even though the bricklayers weren't too happy with it, I absolutely love it!  So far, we've had a couple of fires in the oven to season it.  I can't wait to actually make some pizza! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Valentine's Day Mantel

I thought I would take a moment to share my Valentine's Day mantel decorations.  As we moved in, I would throw things up on the mantel as I ran across them.  I just kept my eyes open for anything that would work for the season and would add a little red to the mantel.

From the left:

- a red minnow basket that I got last year at an antiques store that was closing

- a glass milk jug from the same antiques store

- my three scoops of love, photo is mounted on foam core and is just leaning against the stone fireplace, photography by Joni Streit Photography

- old gas station sign for the five of us

- vintage bowling pin

- photo of us on canvas by Joni Streit Photography

- old wooden box with a hinged lid

- book bundles, I picked out some paperbacks at the thrift store with red edge pages, ripped off the covers, and tied them together with twine

- rusty sap bucket holding some twigs and branches from our yard, bucket purchased here several years ago

- doily banner was quickly made by cutting some doilies in half and sewing them between some double fold bias tape

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Getting Stoned

Soon after the reclaimed barn siding started going up, our masons started on the exterior stone.  In our quest to use local materials, we scoped out many possibilities for the stone, but ultimately decided on Rush County Rubble.  We liked the color variation it had, including some darker pieces with a little black.

We were able to save quite a bit of money by going directly to the quarry for the stone.  It was mined only a couple of counties away from us, only about a 30 minute drive.  Of course, it helps that we have access to dump trucks that the average person might not have.  However, even if you hired an hourly dump truck, it still would have been cheaper than buying the materials from a stone supplier.

Stone covered the exterior of the stairwell, right on the front of the house.

There's quite a bit on the walkout basement portion, underneath the pergola and deck.

And we used it to cover our chimney from the living room fireplace.

This was definitely one of the more exciting things to see happening.  Once the stone starting going up, you could really appreciate the differences and contrast between the three different materials.  It's always nice to be able to see the vision in your head come to life!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Reclaimed Barn Siding

Once we started bringing our beautiful barn wood home, it was time to figure out how to actually make it work on the exterior of our house.  Luckily, our framers were willing to work with us and our unconventional ideas.

They started cutting pieces of scrap wood and sticking them up for us to see.  We tried out a couple of different ways before we decided to do a combination of natural brown and the faded red.  In the previous post, I told you that all of the exterior boards had been painted a bright red more recently.  Luckily, the interior side of those boards had not been painted, so we could just flip those boards around and use the backside as the "good" side that would be showing. The boards were finished with a tongue and groove edge that allowed them to fit together nicely, no matter what side we wanted to show.

We asked the guys to use the different colored boards as randomly as possible, so it wouldn't look like we were making a pattern with the different colors.  It was a lot of work for the framers.  There was a LOT of trimming off damaged end pieces that they wouldn't have to deal with on new materials.  They were troopers and in the end, they agreed that it was worth it.

I can't wait to show you pictures of the completed exterior.  Maybe in a few months we'll even get some grass growing around here!

We Bought a Barn

From the very beginning of our home building experience, we had a very clear vision of what we wanted.  Luckily, Ryan and I were (for the most part) on the same page on the house decisions.  We knew we wanted to use a lot of reclaimed and salvaged materials, and when those were not available, we wanted to use local products as much as possible.

The idea surfaced very early on that we wanted the house to look like an old barn that had been added on to and converted to a home.  We played around with that idea in many different incarnations and tried to express that desire to our architect when forming the plans for the house.

We started keeping our eyes open for local barns that were falling down or in disrepair.  We put the word out to local farmers and friends of friends that we were in the market to buy a large amount of reclaimed barn wood.  We perused Craigslist and the classified ads in the newspaper.  We went on many "adventures" to scope out possibilities, but it seemed like we could never find the right one.  We determined that the amount of wood we would need was going to be quite a bit larger than most of the structures we were looking at.  Especially since many of them were already falling down and not all of the wood was usable due to prior damage.

It's fairly easy to find barnwood for a project like this, but we were being rather picky.  Many had been repainted too recently and didn't have the patina we were looking for.  Others were an odd color or the wood was not in good shape.  We found several that seemed perfect, but the price was too high for us.

We toyed with the idea of buying a barn and tearing it down ourselves, but ultimately decided that it would be worth it to hire a professional for the job.  We found a company with a location in Indiana that sells reclaimed wood for building projects.  We made the two hour trip to their office and checked it out.  The wood was beautiful, but it was expensive.  Ultimately, we decided that wasn't for us.  We then got in touch with a team of college students who tear down barns during the summer and resell the wood.  They gave us a couple of options to go look at.

At first glance, we weren't too keen on this barn.  The red paint looked too new.  It didn't have that time worn look that I wanted.

But, it was BIG.  This was a much larger barn than we'd seen before.  My cell phone pictures don't really capture it, but it was very tall and had a large side section that had been added on at some point.  The original structure was built in the 1890's and the inside wood was exactly what I wanted.  It had a beautiful worn finish and the old exterior was a faded red with beautiful wood peeking through.

The barn had sustained storm damage and it was going to cost over $50,000 to have it fixed properly.  The owners were instead choosing to have it torn down.  After doing a lot of measuring and figuring, we agreed to buy the barn, hoping that we could use all of the inside pieces to achieve what we wanted.  We also wanted the beams inside the barn to use in our house.

Here's what she looked like with about 75% of the wood taken off.  We ended up making multiple trips to go get the wood and bring it to the building site.  Our framers were ready to start working on the exterior before the barn was completely down, so we would take a trailer an hour north to the barn, load it up, and bring it back to the house so they could work while the rest was coming down.

Watching the tired, injured barn being transformed into something new was even more magical than I expected!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Beginnings of a House

I mentioned before that I was going to attempt to catch you up on our house building.  Since I wasn't able to keep up with blogging during the process, I'll give you the speed version so we can get to the good stuff quicker.  Because, in my opinion, the good stuff comes with all of the pretty details that finish it off.

 In June, we started off with digging the basement.

I think this was my girls' favorite part of the whole process.  They still like to remind me "Remember when the house was just a big hole?"

June and July were filled with framing and more framing.

The kitchen and living room.

Concrete floors were poured in the garage.

The view from the driveway.

The second story all framed.

Things really started feeling more house-like in August once windows started going in.  You could start to see the kitchen taking shape.  The sink will go underneath those three windows.

We got it under roof and it was time to start on the exterior.

Cement board went up on the sections that would be getting a board and batten treatment.

Trim pieces were cut down to make the strips for the board and batten.

A view of the front porch.

We actually chose three different exterior coverings for our house.  I'll share more of the other two in the next post!

Monday, January 9, 2012

And... we're back!


I feel a little bit like Jimmy Fallon's radio DJ character on SNL when I say "And... we're back!!!"  But seriously, I am back.  After not posting for a long time, I'm ready to get back in the groove and get this blog going.

I had every intention of blogging along the way as we built our house, sharing every gory detail with you.  The reality is that life got in the way.  There simply wasn't enough time to get in all of our regular life "stuff" with the addition of the stress of building your own house and writing about it at the same time.  So, I took lots of photos and notes and I'm planning on catching you up in the next month or so.  

It was a really fun, but really busy and stressful journey.  I'm happy to say that we are officially moved in.  There are still lots of little things to finish up and lots of not-so-little boxes to unpack, but we're here and we're really happy about it.  So, stay tuned for all the details that will be coming soon!