Monday, February 25, 2013

Tiling our Backsplash: Part 2

We're done! We finished the backsplash this weekend. It was another busy day on Saturday getting everything done, but it was so worth it! Here's where we left off last weekend.

The first step was sealing the marble. We chose 511 Impregnator Sealer by Miracle Sealants from Home Depot. It was really simple to apply, you simply wipe it on with a rag, wait 3-5 minutes, then wipe/buff it off with a clean cotton rag. In the second picture, you can see that the stone is a little shiny from the sealer before we wiped it off. 

I sealed the marble 2 days before we wanted to grout to make sure it would have plenty of time to dry.  We picked our grout supplies from The Tile Shop because they had the best selection of grout and caulk colors available.  Here are the supplies we used for the grouting step.

We chose a light gray colored (Whisper Gray) unsanded grout. This unsanded grout is important for marble so that you don't scratch your tile with other typical cement like grout.  Their grout system is pretty easy, all you do is add the amount of grount powder you want to a bucket and mix in the appropriate amount of flexible grout admixture and stir. You need to wait a couple minutes to use it, but we used that time to make sure we had all of the bubbles and pockets of powder completely mixed. We chose a slightly thick consistency, it almost looked like batter, for using on the walls. 

Once your grout is mixed, spread it onto the wall using a grout float at a 45 degree angle. When we first started grouting, I was trying really hard not to drip any grout anywhere and keep it very clean, but it doesn't matter. You can see by the end, it's fine to make a mess with the grout. All that matters is that you get all of the joints full of grout. You will be wiping down everything, including the countertops, very soon after, so don't worry about drips!

The next step is to use a wet sponge to clean off the tile and granite countertops. While I was doing the grouting, Kevin worked behind me to clean the tile with the sponges.  He waited a couple of minutes for the grout to set up within the joints, but before it was very hard on the surface of the tiles.  Keep wiping until all of the grout and haze is gone from the tile. Make sure to clean your sponge often! After that is done, you are almost done! 

So, next we waited for it to dry overnight and caulked around the edges, like the bottom where the tile meets the countertop and the top where it meets the cabinets. The caulk takes a little while to dry as well, but soon after, you're almost ready to use! The only thing left to do is seal everything again, you want to make sure that the grout gets sealed, so that you won't have any stains or moisture issues! That needs to wait at least 2-3 days after grouting, so we'll do that sometime this week! Here are some pictures I took last night of the almost-finished project, I'll update with some better ones later!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Date Night Recipe: Beef Wellington

Today I'm sharing the recipe I used when I made Beef Wellington last week for Valentine's Day. Like I said before, this is probably the best meal that I've ever made, it was delicious! 
Beef Wellington with Gouda mashed potatoes
and green beans with shallots
I combined a couple of recipes to get exactly what I wanted. Most Beef Wellington recipes call for a whole or half of a beef tenderloin, but since I was making this for two, I decided to do individual Beef Wellingtons and it worked well.

Beef Wellington
- 2 1-1.5" thick filets mignons (1-1.5 lbs)
- salt, pepper, thyme, olive oil
- 8 oz white mushrooms
- 8 oz cremini mushrooms
- 2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
- 6 slices prosciutto 
- 2 sheets puff pastry, defrosted or homemade
- 2 egg yolks

Season the meat with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sear the meat on all sides. Make sure not to cook the meat, just brown it on each side. Remove and set aside to cool. Brush the filets with mustard on all sides.
By hand or in a food processor on pulse, chop the mushrooms into a fine paste, almost puree. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a hot, dry pan and cook on medium until all of the water evaporates. Optional, add some chopped thyme leaves while the mushrooms are cooking. When all of the moisture is gone, set aside to cool.
Lay out two pieces of plastic cling wrap on the counter.  Place 3 slices of prosciutto on each, slightly overlapping, and top with the cooled mushroom mixture.
Place the beef in the middle of the ham/mushrooms.  Use the plastic wrap to help wrap the prosciutto and mushrooms tightly around the beef.  Twist the ends of the wrap to tighten the roll. Refrigerate for 15 minutes to 24 hours.
Roll out your defrosted puff pastry sheets.  Cut a strip about the width of each filet away from the rest of the sheet, this will make the wrapping process easier.  Brush the middle and edges of the larger pieces of pastry with egg wash and then place the unwrapped beef roll in the middle.  Brush the filet with extra egg wash and top with the smaller strip of pastry. Roll the pastry over the beef completely covering it and cut off any excess pieces.  Pastry that is more than 2 layers thick may not cook completely.  Once the pastry dough is sealed, flip it over and put your rolls in the fridge for another 5-10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the rolls on a nonstick baking pan and coat the tops with egg wash and score the top with a knife. Bake for 30-40 minutes. The pastry should be very golden brown, but if it starts to burn while cooking, be sure to cover it with tinfoil, that will prevent it from getting too dark. 
If available, use a temperature probe to check the internal temperature so that you don't under or over cook it. Remove from the oven at about 125 degrees internal temperature for rare and 135 for medium-rare. Allow the rolls to rest on the pan for about 10 minutes, this will help the meat reabsorb its juices.  
Slice the Beef Wellingtons and serve! Our filets were so large that we split one Beef Wellington for dinner, so this amount of beef could easily serve 4+ people with other sides.  

Adapted from: Gordon Ramsay and Simply Recipes

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tiling our Backsplash: Part 1

This weekend we finally got started on our next project, tiling the kitchen backsplash. Here's where we left off in the kitchen a little more than a year ago.  

For the backsplash, we picked white and gray carrara marble because I thought it would tie in nicely with our white cabinets and steel gray granite counters.  I went back and forth a lot about exactly what shape tile to pick and finally selected a herringbone pattern of 1x2" tiles.  Obviously, this is not an easy pattern to DIY and probably not the one you would select for your first tiling experience, but oh well, we went with it!  
 First we prepped the backsplash by protecting our counters with tape and paper and removed all of the outlet covers (remember to turn off the power to each!).  We had painted drywall in place, so there was no further prep for the walls, but you will want to make sure you have a clean flat surface for the tile to stick to.

We unpacked and laid out all of the tile that we received so that we could examine all of the pieces and use them together. Do this so that you don't run into any issues when laying tile from one box next to another. With natural stone, there are going to be differences across the tile, so we made sure to blend them together.  
Chances are, you are going to need a tile saw for this project, unless you are really lucky and working with very small tiles. We definitely needed a quality saw to cut all of the angled pieces of the herringbone pattern and decided that renting was the best option for us. We were able to rent a saw for the weekend for around $100 and got to use a much better saw than what you would be able to buy at that price.  The wet saw has a diamond blade that cuts right through the tile.
The mosaic tile was a little tricky to cut with the saw, but it worked well to place tape on the tile where you wanted to cut. We also used tape to keep tiles in place that might want to move on the mesh or when the saw hit them.  However, it was pretty easy and once you got the hang of it, you just figure out where you want your cut and line it up.
After we calculated and made our first few cuts, we laid it out on the floor to check that we were correct. Here you can see that we have matching pencil tile as the border for everywhere the tile ends. 
Next, we applied mastic with a v-notch trowel to the wall. If you're not familiar with the differences in mastic and thinset for setting tile, check out these resources here and here. Mastic is an adhesive not a cement-like product and really great option for an area that won't be wet all of the time. It has great sticking power, so you can put heavy marble tiles up and they immediately stick to the wall without sliding down.  
After the mastic is spread out, arrange your tiles on the wall and press them to make good contact with the wall. Use spacers underneath the bottom row of tile on the bottom, so they are not resting on the countertop and use more spacers throughout to keep tiles the correct distance away from each other.  The mastic we used was really strong at sticking but still allowed me to make small adjustments for a few hours until it was completely dry.  
When you come to an outlet, you will want to remove tiles from the mosaic so that you can fit your tile around them.  Use a razorblade to cut the mesh and remove the tiles you don't want.
Repeat, repeat, repeat... Keep cutting tile, spreading mastic, and placing tile until you've covered all of your area.  We had lots of little triangle, puzzle-like pieces that we had to go back in and place after we were done with the bulk of the tile. We were lucky and had plenty of cut tiles to use where the pattern met the counter and around outlets. 

Finally, we were able to step back and enjoy the semi-finished result! 

The next step is sealing the marble tile and grouting!

Friday, February 15, 2013

This Weekend's Project

I hope you had a great Valentine's Day yesterday! We had a wonderful night relaxing at home. I made beef wellington for the first time and it was literally probably the best thing I've ever made. I'm going to blog the recipe sometime soon, it's actually really easy, just very labor intensive!
Beef Wellington with a pastry heart for Valentines Day :) 
Our dinner... so yummy! 

But, on to this weekend... because we're finally tackling a project that we've been talking about since April 2011 when we bought the house... the backsplash!! It takes me forever to make big decisions and it was no different with this one. Also, when you add in the fact that a backsplash isn't actually necessary to live in a kitchen, it made it easy to ignore. So we lived with the painted drywall, but now that's about to change!

Here's what arrived at our house yesterday:

Yep, it's 50 square feet of carrara marble tile for our backsplash! I'm really excited because we picked a unique pattern, 1x2" herringbone in a honed finish. I think it will be much more interesting than typical 1x2" tiles laid in brick form and I like it more than the common subway tiles. Here's what some of the tile looks like:

We're doing it all ourselves, so yes, we have a crazy weekend ahead of putting this up, but I am so excited about how it's going to look.  I'll definitely share the process and pictures along the way! I hope everyone has a great weekend! 

Here's a picture I found of the herringbone Carrara tile in another kitchen. We're not doing a huge wall like that, but it's so pretty! 
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