Field Tested: Spinach Gruyere Puff Pastry Pinwheels

10 Mar

A couple of weeks ago, my hubby’s family hosted a small Oscars party – appetizers and desserts. I thought this would be a good opportunity to test out one of the many interesting things I’ve seen on Pinterest, so I went browsing and came up with this:

Spinach Gruyere Puff Pastry Pinwheels


I wanted something that would still taste good at room temperature since I knew I wouldn’t be able to use their oven to bake or heat anything up.

Sprial ingredients

I think mine turned out really well, and they were a hit at the party. They were, indeed, pretty good at room temp, although I’ll admit that the couple I sneaked right out of the oven were VERY good.

Here’s a few notes from the cooking:

  • I chose to use shredded parmesan instead of grated, since I think it’s generally got better flavor
  • I was surprised at how dry and crumbly the filling was
  • I never bothered to get out my rolling pin because I was able to smooth and stretch the dough out by hand
  • Even with a pretty liberal amount of flour on the counter, I still had some trouble with the dough sticking to the counter
  • Slicing the pinwheels was pretty tricky and they got smashed flat, but it was easy to reshape them
  • Using parchment paper or some kind of silicone baking sheet is a must, because the end of one my pinwheels was off the paper and it stuck like GLUE

I think I would definitely make these again. They were easy and delicious, and they’re pretty versatile since you could use any kind of cheese and switch up some of the seasonings. I also discovered that they’re pretty tough – when we were walking from the car to their house, I dropped one of the plates on the ground. They stayed safely ensconced in their tinfoil, but I was sure they’d all be smashed to hell. Happily, though, they were just fine in there and nobody was the wiser.


Basement Project Intro – Part Three

5 Mar

Once we got the basement all cleaned out, we talked with our architect, who assured us that we could start in on much of the demo work before we got the building permit. I certainly hope he was right about that, because we dove right in. After so many months of what felt like spinning our wheels, we wanted to do something that felt more like progress than prep work.

There were a number of shelving units and other storage kinds of things we were able to dismantle, and quite a lot of nails, hooks, old phone wire and random boards to pull off the ceiling after we took down a couple of drop ceilings. My favorite day, however, was the one where I went in there with a screwdriver (power), a hammer, and a pry bar and single-handedly caused an entire wall to cease to exist.

Wall 1

Wall 2

Wall 3

Wall 4

Yes, it was a small wall, but I dismantled the whole thing myself and it was exceedingly satisfying.

The next day, the guys got into the tear down work, too, and Hubby, my son and I took down a couple more walls. These were a lot of fun because they’d already been taped and mudded (mine hadn’t) so we weren’t able to salvage the sheetrock and got to bust our way through it instead. We did salvage all the lumber, and may possibly have enough that we won’t need to buy much of any to do the building with.

Wall 5

Wall 6

Wall 7

These were the only walls that had to come down, and constituted the bulk of the demolition work we needed to do. There are still a couple of doors that need to be moved/added, but I’m not sure if that’s demolition or construction really.

Some of the grout in the stone walls has oxidized or deteriorated, and we had to scrub down the back wall to get it cleaned up so we can do some re-grouting and seal it. We still have a little of that work to do along the base of one wall, and in the garage. (Which will be our bedroom someday).

Wall Scrubbing

Another MAJOR project will be to somehow clean the massive amount of dust out of there, some from years and years of being a basement, and some from demo work. At this point, I’m not even entirely sure how to go about that. I mean, you put a mop to that floor right now, and it’s going to turn into MUD.

If you’d like to read the whole project from the beginning, start with Basement Project Intro – Part One.

Spring Bucket List

1 Mar

Bucket List

I’ll grant you this is a really short bucket list, but I expect (hope) this spring will be pretty busy with the basement project. I want to keep this attitude alive though, and try to take some time to have a few little luxuries and possibly learn something.

  • Try this recipe for Baked Lemon-Caper Fish on Greens that I saw on Home Sweet Sarah a while back. I’ve had something similar before, and I adore kale. Plus the ease of it might make for some healthier dinners in the midst of all this chaos during the construction phase of the project.
  • In the healthier dinner vein, I’d like to find and try at least two new crock pot meals. Preferably ones that will leave enough leftovers for some healthier lunches too. We’ve been making far too much use of the take-out menus at the shop, and it’s showing on the scale and in how I feel.
  • Paint my nails like a real girl, even if they’re just gonna get chewed to hell working on the basement anyway.
  • Find this move: What a Way to Go (1964) that Mandi just reviewed on Making Nice in the Midwest. This thing is totally up my alley, and I just about swooned when I saw the screen caps. (The movie is so visually stunning, I don’t even care if there’s a plot.) Not only does it star Shirley MacLaine, which is really all I needed, but also Paul Newman, Dick Van Dyke, Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin, Gene Kelly, and Robert Cummings. Dean Martin, people….
Shirley MacLaine

Photo from Righteous Film

  • Give elderflower cocktails a try – particularly the champagne ones. Glitter Guide has a delicious sounding one here: Pop, Clink, Fizz. Plus I’ve pinned quite a few others. This bucket item might be a little tricky since the only elderflower anything I’ve seen so far is St. Germain, and that’s pretty damn pricey. (“No, seriously, honey, I NEEED this for my blogging…”).
  • Get in at least one visit to the cabin, and sip a beer on the dock in the evening.


  • Finish watching the entire run of Desperate Housewives on Netflix

All told, I think it’s a respectable list, and I’m pleased with it. It’s got a bit of practicality that will fit in with the project work and enough luxury to help keep me sane. (And I get bonus points if I drink elderflower-champagne cocktails while watching What a Way to Go.)

Basement Project Intro – Part Two

26 Feb

(If you want to start at the beginning, see Intro Post One)

Getting the clearance from the city to DO the basement project was the easy part. Unearthing the place from the many, many metric tons of CRAP that were crammed in there was a whole ‘nother  ballgame.

The Mess

See, we bought this business from the couple who had it before, after we’d already worked there for several years. Nearly twenty in my hubby’s case. They were nice enough people, but the guy was seriously weird in many areas, and he was pretty clearly obsessive/compulsive, especially when it came to keeping records of things. This also led to a certain amount of hoarding behavior. This guy loved to go to auctions and other kinds of sales, and bring home all kinds of stuff he thought would be useful for the business. A lot of it really wasn’t.  On top of that, he never EVER threw away any files or records of any of the businesses he ran and owned. We cleared out boxes and boxes of old invoices and purchase orders from the 70’s. (We’re still topping off our regular recycling bin every Friday night, working our way through this stuff.)

We also hauled out four full truck loads of steel shelving and other metal display units and took them to the scrap recyclers. That’s a minimum of 500 lbs a load. We took home SEVEN loads of wood to burn in our fire pit. (Which isn’t counting the massive amount of wood we saved or salvaged while taking apart shelving and storage units. We’ll use that to build some walls.) We got our recycling guy to come around back and pick up a mountain of cardboard no less than six times. (Seriously? Every time we turned around, we found another stash of empty cardboard boxes.) Here are some before and afters so you can really grasp what I’m talking about:

Back Room 2

Hallway  Back Room 3

Aside from all the stuff we could burn or recycle, there were massive amounts of old electronics components, hardware, lighting fixtures, and SO MANY PHONES. (They used to be a retailer for Northern Bell). Fortunately, we have a basement in the other building we own, and while it, too, is choked with their crap, we managed to find or create tons more room, so we won’t have to deal with any of this stuff until after we move in. Then we can slowly but surely dispose of it on Craigslist and Ebay.

Very little of what we found in there was ordinary, but there were a few items that took the cake.

Basement Finds

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we found it. Witness….THE HOLY GRAIL. It’s been in our basement all along. So, apparently, has the somewhat less famous Holy Used Rubber Sheet. And that is exactly what is in that envelope, people. Finally…a box of beaters. WTF? The guy did electronics, printing and sign making – where exactly does a gross of beaters fit in? The world will never know. (Also – I did not photograph the box of his porn mags we found. You’re welcome.)

Finally, there was a great deal of heavy equipment wedged in there from his printing days. Actually, there really wasn’t anything in that basement that wasn’t heavy as hell, but these were also HUGE.

Big Machine

Ultimately, after about four months and a LOT of beer, we finally got the basement liberated from all the junk. We got some help from our friends during critical phases, but the bulk of it we did in segments on weeknights, and many very long weekends. Can I just say that I’m deeply glad that’s over, and I don’t care how hairy any of the construction gets…this was still, by far, the worst part of the project.

Basement Project Intro – Part One

23 Feb

One of the main reasons I started this blog is the basement project we’re currently working on. I wanted to have a way to document our progress and the life we’ll lead there, but I also need a way to channel all this desperate yearning and impatience to finally be THERE. It’s getting me down, making me a little crazy and preventing me from living life in the moment. I don’t want to waste months of my life mentally on hold until I get to be where I really want to be.

live in the moment

My husband and I hit a point where we were feeling restless. The sign shop we own was struggling a little at the time, we had two teenagers in high school, and we knew that in about three years our lives were going to take a new turn as those kids headed out into the world.

It occurred to us that we could end up with a LOT of freedom – like “go anywhere we want” freedom.

We decided on a three year plan. For three years, we would put our all into the business and see if it turned around, while in the meantime, we’d figure out what else and where else we might like to be. If, after three years, the shop was doing well and we were happy, we’d stay. If things hadn’t changed, we’d move on and try a fresh start.

We began to play the “What If” game in the areas where we have family. This involved driving around with the latest apartment rental guide, a map and smart phone and pretending we were looking for a new place to live. We’d find an apartment we could afford and go find it to see if we liked the neighborhood and thought we could live there.

On the way home from one of these trips, while we were talking about how much money we could save downsizing to a cheap apartment, my husband came up with the brainstorm of building an apartment in our shop. We own two buildings side by side and they both have a plenty of room. We spent a ton of time discussing various ideas with an architect friend of ours who told us that most of them wouldn’t work due to city ordinances and building codes, until we finally hit upon one that would. We even met with the city (FIVE city and building planners, thank you very much) who assured us that we could do what we planned. One building has a basement with a garage and a lot of space that was mostly being used for storage. If we converted the garage to a bedroom and a hallway (window and front door), we’d have our two means of egress in the case of a fire, and the city’s blessing.

basement door

I’m wildly excited about this project for a number of reasons:

  • Living on site where we work will allow us to do things like run long print jobs in the evening when we could be home, but able to check on them. This could help in our goal to turn the business around
  • Since we own the building we wouldn’t need to pay much in the way of rent, and with no commute, we’d save a TON of gas money. Certainly, this would allow us to work on fixing our financial situation
  • Living where we work would just be cool as hell. I love the idea of leisurely sipping a cup of coffee and then going upstairs to work. My other job is only two blocks away, so that would fit in perfectly
  • Since this is a basement, there are lots of exposed pipes, beams and electrical conduit, and we’ve chosen to embrace that and go with a funky industrial look. This is our chance to be crazy and creative
  • I’ve always wanted to live in an alternative space, and this is my chance
  • Our shop is right in the heart of downtown. I mean RIGHT in the middle of everything. We’ll have all kinds of great restaurants, bars, parks, shopping, theaters and even my city library within a few blocks walking distance. (Also? We’re two blocks from the edge of Lake Superior. Gorgeous.) This will be a MAJOR change of lifestyle for us, since we’ve nearly always lived out in the country

I have all kinds of wonderful dreams of walking down to the library and choosing a couple books, then holing up in some funky bar to read and sip a glass of wine before strolling back home. Hopping on a bus one snowy Saturday and reading while I ride up to the mall to do some Christmas shopping. Walking down to a concert in the park and stumbling back home late, a little drunk and riding the rush of excitement, to crash into bed. Walking around the corner to grab some sushi when I’m too lazy to cook….

The list goes on and on.

Read Part Two of the project.

National Margarita Day!

22 Feb


I heard on the radio this morning that this is National Margarita Day!

I don’t really know if this is true, but if it’s Friday and your day looks like this:

snowy street

Then I’m all about celebrating with margaritas. (Truth be told, I don’t actually need a snowy day, or even a national one to celebrate with margaritas, but sometimes it’s nice to have back up.)

It also seemed like kind of an auspicious day to be kicking off my blog. The whole point of this is to embrace more chances to have fun and to remind myself to be present in the moment. I’m going through a massive change phase right now – two teenagers about to leave the nest, just getting started on a really cool new urban apartment to live in, and the process of cleaning up and selling our old farmhouse.

When this is all said and done, I’m looking forward to more of a margarita lifestyle, but I need to remember grab onto it now, rather than just marking time until we get where I want to be, and I’ve adjusted to the new status quo.

So get out there and order yourself a margarita! (Original, and on the rocks please, with salt.)

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