Saturday, June 24, 2006

Is it time to quit the kitchen blog?

Just wondering.

(I could possibly rename it Quittin' Bitchin'.)

Monday, June 19, 2006

Good to the last drop

The most obvious change in our family from having the new kitchen is that baking projects are much easier. A.J. was game about cracking eggs but soon retired to the table to lick the bowl.

There are just a few little things that still need to be done in the kitchen -- air vents installed, tip-down to go under the sink, a few bits of hardware to put on, and the wardrobe doors replaced. So unless my readers want updates such as, "I used the left rear burner today!" ... the usefulness of this blog may be severely compromised by the end of the renovation.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Not what the Culligan Man had in mind.

The Culligan water purifier is the ideal spout for filling water balloons.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

These cookies made possible by the new kitchen.

I totally brought this on myself, but these cookies became an all-day project, beginning with a 9 a.m. e-mail exchange with A.J.'s teacher regarding summer-birthday celebrations and ending with packing them up at 11 p.m.

Certainly, I could have gone with cupcakes, or even bought cookies or doughnuts, but I saw this after Googling "fish cookies" and became a woman possessed. Even though I didn't even attempt to do anything as elaborate as what I saw there, I knew I had to have a go at my own version -- never mind that I'd never made glazed cookies before. (I used this shiny glaze recipe, also found via Google. The cookie was from a Land O' Lakes cookbook that now lives conveniently in my kitchen desk cupboard.)

I must give credit where credit is due: This endeavor would not have been possible in the old kitchen. As it was, I had ever work surface covered with various stages of this project, as well as dinner preparations (this is where the double oven came in very handy). In the new kitchen, both prep and clean-up were easy and logical, thereby opening the door for more all-too-involved projects in the future. I'm incredibly proud of the final product and just hope they made it to school (via the bus) intact, and that my role as first-grade Alpha Mom is secure for the time being.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Dinner Done!

All right -- I know this isn't really about the new kitchen. But it is kitchen-related, so I'm posting it here.

For a while I'd been hearing about "make-and-take" places, where you pay to assemble dinners for future use. When John's co-workers started raving about a place in the area, he encouraged me to check it out, so last night I did.

I spent 2 1/2 hours going from station to station, making everything from rubbed chops to lasagna to Italian chicken to stuffed flank steak. The photo shows the spoils of my labor: Twelve fully-prepared meals that will serve four to six adults apiece (some are subdivided for our smaller family and picky little ones), all ready to pop in the oven or throw on the grill.

If I'd tried this when we still had the old kitchen, I would have returned home only to tear the cabinetry and appliances out of the walls myself because it was such a pleasure having perfectly designed and stocked workspaces. Although I love to cook, I rarely did anything elaborate in the old kitchen for lack of workable space; the new kitchen is perfect but I haven't had time to really dig into a big project yet.

Dinner Done takes care of everything but the actual assembly. Every workstation has detailed instructions for each particular recipe, as well as suggested changes to make items more kid-friendly. Every ingredient had its own "spoodle" (a combo spoon/ladle) in the correct measurement for the recipe, and every spice/seasoning was set out within easy reach. If anything was missing, a staff member would silently appear to provide or replenish it. Once completed, the only thing left to do was seal up the packages, stick a label with cooking instructions on it, and put it into my own designated shelf in the giant freezer.

To someone who really enjoys food and cooking, this set-up is Nirvana. I kept comparing it to junior-high cooking class -- albeit without the boys throwing spaghetti onto the refrigerator -- and a fancy-schmancy restaurant prep counter job. Out of thyme? More is right here. Don't want to handle raw meat? The gloves are right in front of you. Need a fresh bowl? Here it comes -- and the old one is simply whisked away for someone else to wash.

The only problem I encountered at Dinner Done was the popularity of two kid-friendly recipe stations. I'd signed up for two each of these particular dishes, and every time I scoped out their stations, they were occupied, with someone waiting behind. Since this kind of place is designed for busy families with young kids, it should have come as no surprise that chicken fingers and cordon-bleu puff pastry triangles would be in great demand, but as the session drew to a close I still hadn't gotten close to those stations. I did convince the staff to allow me to substitute one portion for another station I hadn't signed up for (stuffed flank steak), but even so I was scrambling to finish once the alpha moms finally cleared out of the popular places. As I was frantically forking my puff-pastry closed before heading to chicken fingers, a staff member offered to make the chicken fingers for me. "No!" I said, a little too loudly. Then, apologetically, I explained that I really enjoyed doing the recipes myself, and I'll be fast, I promise. And I was.

I left with all of the freezer containers above stuffed into a giant cooler. Over the next couple of weeks, we'll go through everything -- and if the food tastes as good as it was as much fun to prepare, I'll be returning to Dinner Done for another session. But next time, I'm going to plow down all the skinny, blonde alpha moms in their pink Capris and big diamonds and make the chicken fingers first.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Before and after: The door that is no more

We don't miss the door at all.

Before and after: By the door

Never underestimate the glory of not having a range behind the door.

Before and after: Sink area

Note: Tip-down drawers and hardware will be installed very soon.

I just noticed that I have sippy cups in exactly the same place in both photos. Such is my life.


Beep. Beep. Beep: My refrigerator alerts me if I leave one of the doors ajar.

: The microwave reminds me if cooking time is over, and I've left something inside of it.

: "I'm preheated!" reports the oven, in its special oven language.

Minutes to go in the dishwashing cycle? "47!" reads the display on the dishwasher. In case I'm hoping to use a certain sippy cup in 46 minutes, I guess.

For what we paid for this kitchen, I'm pretty happy that it's smarter than I am.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Organizer extraordinaire!

Everyone, say hello to Grammy. I imported Grammy all the way from Massachusetts for her enviable organization skills, none of which appear to be genetic in nature. In a spare 48-hour visit, we unpacked eight large cartons of kitchen things and found them all snazzy new homes.

Here's my baking center. As with everything else good and functional in the kitchen, it was Grammy's idea to dedicate an entire cabinet to my cookie-baking habit.

Funny story behind the dinnerware cabinet: I'd sent Grammy to bed on Friday night, intending to do a few easy tasks before retiring myself. I pulled a dish out of a carton, placed it on the shelf ... and it didn't fit.

Now, this is hardly family-heirloom china -- it is plain stuff I picked up at Target several years ago, $20 for about 100 pieces. I liked it so much I went back and shelled out an additional $20 to double the collection. It's bright and clean and you can throw it in a diamond mine and it won't break. I called Grammy out of bed to assess this situation. It just didn't make sense that standard cabinetry would not accommodate dishes from Target. Finally we decided we'd either have to live with the door being slightly ajar, or else invest in new dishes.

The next morning, I unwrapped another dish, put it in the cabinet ... and it fit. The dish that had caused all the trouble was actually a serving platter (that looks just like the regular dishes).

Here's the best overall view I could get of the now-utilitarian kitchen. I am moved-in enough to have baked my first batch of chocolate-chip cookies, and I'm currently typing this from the table you see in the foreground.

I certainly wouldn't be where I am now without Grammy's help. (In fact, I am pretty sure I would have still been focusing on that dish situation and running to The Container Store for a solution.) Thank you, Grammy! You are an organizational genius and a foxy grandmama.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dumpster, I barely knew ye.

All too soon, it's over.

The kitchen is essentially done, except for a few minor tweaks. Yet somehow I was unprepared for the dumpster to go.

Sure, it will be nice to have the driveway to ourselves again. I will certainly not miss the constant worry that rats have assumed control of the dumpster and its contents. But let's face it -- it can be very nice having a giant trash can at your disposal (ha ha).

I didn't use it much, since Wayne warned me about using up precious volume early on. But I'll admit to tossing some large branches and unwieldy cartons in there. Maybe a few other things.

But I had big plans for the dumpster before it was gone. I'd hoped to really weed out a lot of junk as I move back into the kitchen. Plus, there were a lot of things around the house and yard I'd planned on sneaking in there, like the pile of bricks that seems like a good place for rats or snakes to lurk.

But no go. As the dumpster guy brought out the lifting apparatus, I hastily tossed two bricks and a carton from the garage, then sadly watched as it left my life forever.

My neighbor brought the pot.

Sure I'm celebrating! What's a better way to celebrate than with pot?!

(Especially considering I really needed it to cook spaghetti for dinner tonight.)

The range is hooked up. The refrigerator is cold. The cardboard is off the countertops. My kitchen is fully operational! I had wild delusions of baking chocolate-chip cookies during naptime today and even entertained the thought of going out solely to buy the ingredients. That's when I remembered I don't have a cookie sheet.

All my pots and pans and utensils and just about everything else I need for cooking is still boxed in my basement. I have so much other organizing to do (from the whole floor thing, wherein everything I own was stuffed into the one room wtih carpet) that digging into the cartons is low-priority. Still, I'd promised the kids we'd eat at home tonight, and A.J. had chosen a special pasta at the store. So my neighbor Valerie happily supplied the pot, after the first official tour of the almost-completed space.

Tomorrow my mother arrives to put everything in order. She is very good at that sort of thing, so in the meantime I'm just trying to unbury myself from the chaos that is my house after two months of a kitchen renovation. In the meantime, at least I've got the pot.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?