Baby Steps

I've decided to take baby steps when it comes to all of the painting that needs to be done around the house. My first project was to try my hand at white washing. I plan to use this technique on the fireplace (the red bricks just aren't doing it for me). I practiced on two end tables I got for FREE from work about a month ago. They already had a weathered look, but I think the white wash cleaned them up.

To white wash, I made a 50/50 mix of water and paint. After painting a small section, I wiped off excess paint with a towel. They really soaked up the paint, so I didn't wait too long before I did this. I found the bamboo tray at a thrift store for $3, spray painted it and did a little distressing on the edges.

I've also been looking for pitchers I can paint white. When I first pulled out the guy below, Jeff was a bit worried. I was kinda sad to see these lil' guys go...

But, after a few coats of spray paint, I forgot all about them!


All moved in!

I am happy to say we are all moved in! While we still have a ton of unpacking to do, my mind is going crazy with decorating ideas. We are going with a beach cottage theme and I can't wait to get started!

Since we have so much extra room, I've been scouring thrift stores, looking for furniture we can paint and refinish. For less than $300, I've picked up a dining table & large bench, coffee table, end table and several accessories. Not too shabby!

A sneak peek is coming soon!


Zucchini Bread Throwdown

Today I am excited to bring you the first guest blogger at Vanilla Bean: my mom! Here we are chuckling about the idea of a Zucchini Bread Throwdown:

Since I am currently shacked up with my in-laws until we move, I try to make as little mess as possible and have stayed out of the kitchen. When mom told me her plan to compare two zucchini bread recipes, I jumped at the chance to have her blog about it.

*Editor's Note*
The post below is exactly what my mother "faxed" me. (Technically, she emailed it. But she calls that a fax.) She utilized two judges: Taster Tom (my dad) and Taster Larry (their German Shepherd. See photo below).

Zucchini Bread Throwdown: Paula Dean vs. America's Test Kitchen
By: Sharon Welck

#1 Paula Dean's Recipe

3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
2 cups grated zucchini
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini and lemon juice. Mix wet ingredients into dry, add nuts and fold in. Bake in 2 standard loaf pans, sprayed with nonstick spray, for 1 hour, or until a tester comes out clean. Alternately, bake in 5 mini loaf pans for about 45 minutes.

#2 America's Test Kitchen

2 zucchini (1lb), ends trimmed (3 cups b/4 squeezing out moisture)
Cut larger zucchini in half lengthwise & scrape out the seeds & discard.
11/2 cups sugar
6 TBSP butter (melted & cooled)
2 lg eggs,lightly beaten
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1 TBSP fresh lemon jc
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup walnuts or pecans toasted & chopped coarse (put nuts in dry skillet over med heat.Shake occasionally until lightly browned & fragrant 3-8 min)
3/4 cup dried cranberries

Adjust oven rack to middle position & heat the oven to 375 degrees. Generously coat a 9x5 loaf pan or 4 mini loaf pans with baking spray. Shred the zucchini on the lg holes of a box grater.

Squeeze the zucchini b/w several paper towels.

Whisk the sugar, melted butter, eggs, yogurt & lemon jc together in a lg bowl. Whisk the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, allspice & salt together in a separate lg bowl. Gently fold the zucchini and the yogurt mixture into the flour mixture until just combined. Do not overmix. Fold in the nuts & cranberries.

Scrape batter into the prepared pan & smooth the surface.

Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with just a few crumbs attached. 55-60 min for the 9 in pan or 20-25 min for the mini loaves. Cool for 10 minutes & then remove from pan-cool for 1 hr.

Sharon's Notes: The 1st recipe I tried (Paula Dean's) was not as moist as the Test Kitchen's recipe. I cut back the sugar in P.D.'s recipe to 2 cups instead of 3. Taster Tom said that might have made the difference but the Test Kitchen recipe still had more flavor.

I used the mini loaf pans instead of the 9 in pan-it doesn't seem so bad to eat the entire loaf then.

Now for the critiques: Taster Tom said "That is the best Zucchini, Nut & Cranberry Bread I ever ate". Taster Larry simply ate 1 1/2 loaves before he was removed from the kitchen.


New blog. New beginnings. New haircut.

I know I fell off the blogging bandwagon for awhile. But, I'm back & excited to share all the new stuff that's happening at Vanilla Bean. First, I've realized there is more to life than cooking & baking. There's shopping. Decorating. Wine. Photography. Gardening. Shopping. The list goes on and on...and I plan to share it all here!

Second, don't fret...there will still be plenty of cooking going on in the VB kitchen. The kitchen will just be bigger & better. We paid no attention to our real estate agent's advice and put our house on the market. And proceeded to sell it in one day! So, I am going from a small, cramped kitchen:

(I was actually standing on the back porch for the shot above).

To this (sorry...I only have the photos I took during the inspection)

We don't close on the new place until August 26. I. Am. Counting. Down. The. Days. We are more than doubling our living space...so, until we move, I am filling my head (and my binder) with decorating ideas. Stay tuned!

Hello...anyone out there?

Big things are happening in the Vanilla Bean kitchen. Stayed tuned for a new & improved site!