Sunday, October 25, 2009


Ladies and gentlemen, though this announcement comes at least a decade late in my evolution as a grown-up, I have some important news. Despite my very modest salary teaching at a community college, spotty credit issues of the past, and monumental student loan debt, I have, at long last, become a homeowner! Thanks to relaxed qualifications for the no-money-down USDA Rural Housing Loan and the allure of major federal and state tax incentives, I was finally ready to take the plunge! After more than a year of searching listings and viewing properties, three realtors, four mortgage brokers, and a substantive homebuying education program provided by HGTV (Property Virgins, House Hunters, and My First Place), I managed to find a cute little 1900 farmhouse on 1.2 acres--plenty of room for the dogs and for my gardening efforts--that is closer to work and just five minutes from town, yet still in a country setting.

Originally listed for $125K, I used my rigorous HGTV training to negotiate a heck of a deal at $113K with the sellers paying $5000 in closing costs. And the best part of all, though there are many projects to be attended to eventually, the house has a FABULOUS updated eat-in kitchen with adjoining computer desk that is just PERFECT for a food blogger like myself!

I am so excited to make the move over Thanksgiving weekend, though NOT excited to pack up a house where I've lived (and accumulated crap!) for nine years--especially right at the busiest part of the semester. God help me! So as you can imagine, I am more than a bit OVERWHELMED right now, so I am not spending as much quality time in the kitchen. But I do have a couple of quickie recipes to share nevertheless.

The first is an autumnal salad idea that I first sampled at my friend June's fabulous Canadian Thanksgiving celebration over our Columbus Day weekend. It's ridiculously simple, but SO amazing! You'll want some greens of your choice, crumbled blue cheese, sliced apples, candied pecans, and balsamic vinaigrette. SO YUMMY! Speaking of apples, have you tried the new SweeTango variety, an offshoot of the Honeycrisp? Well, you should! For the pecans, I browned them in some butter, then sprinkled them with a couple of tablespoons of maple sugar (though brown sugar would do). And for the vinaigrette, I whisk together a half cup each olive oil and balsamic vinegar, along with a tablespoon of spicy brown mustard, and a little honey to taste. Season with salt and pepper, and if you're feeling adventurous, a pinch of cinnamon. Of course, if you add some sliced, cooked chicken, you would have a terrific entree salad. In any case, you MUST try this salad...simply MUST! You'll thank me...and my friend, June.

Lastly, I have a quick treat for you. Other than the intricate apple pie that I made as a birthday gift last weekend, I haven't been doing any real baking. But the other day, I wanted something sweet to nibble on, and I came across a recipe on Farmgirl Fare for Baby Shortbread Cookies with Mini Chocolate Chips and English Toffee Bits. Not only are these cookies tender and buttery and delicious, but they are CUTE as can be, and can be whipped together and in the oven in no time flat! In fact, this recipe should be earmarked for holiday baking, as it would be a very welcome addition to any festive cookie platter.

Baby Shortbread Cookies with Mini Chocolate Chips and English Toffee Bits
FarmGirl Fare via The Kitchn)

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup English toffee bits, such as Heath (pecans would be a good swap-out, too)

Heat the oven to 350°.

With a electric mixer, cream the butter and powdered sugar until smooth, about one minute. Beat in the vanilla, and then add the flour and salt. Reduce the speed to low and mix in the mini chocolate chips and toffee bits.

With a small scoop, drop cookies onto a heavy duty baking sheet lined with unbleached parchment paper or a Silpat. (Two dozen of these cookies will fit on one sheet, so the whole batch will bake on two trays.)

Bake until the edges are just starting to brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack and store in an airtight container or freeze.


The Cookbook Junkie said...

What a deal! Congratulations!

Naomi Mellendorf said...

I am confused by the exterior house pictures, darlin' --is one yours and the other house backed up to it from and viewed from a different angle? 'Splain please. It's early here and I may not be able to interpret images effectively yet. The kitchen looks lovely! Very jealous of a kitchen bigger than my tiny galley.
Best wishes on the move.

The Cookbook Junkie said...

I think she's showing us the front and the side. Is that a corner lot? Two porches?

I am so jealous.

Just the Right Size said...

Congratulations Gina! I'm sooo jealous of that big kitchen and such a cute house!

Can't wait to see your garden next year.

J S Grant said...

Congratulations Gina! We look forward to photos from the new kitchen! And pictures of pooches in the kitchen!

Bllue said...

A nice big kitchen! And a garage so you don't have to scrape car windows in the morning! Living in the lap of luxury. ;-)

Congratulations on your new home. Scary move, isn't it! I know you'll love it.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations! Really love the computer desk in the kitchen - looks like a near perfect set-up for you. Thanks for continuing with your great blog - Christine

Anonymous said...

I'm really happy for you, Gina! It will be fun to follow your blog as you start watching HGTV remodeling shows. See you soon!