Category Archives: Kitchen

Baking Break

With all this free time on my hands that retirement affords, I’ve been doing a little baking and a lot of cooking.  For Thanksgiving at my aunt’s amazing side-of-the-arroyo house in Tucson, we were in charge of the dinner rolls.  Thanks to Pinterest, I found a recipe for Sage Rosemary Dinner Rolls (via An Unrefined Vegan)

THE START

I got myself all set up in our new kitchen and went to town.  It’s amazing how fast your kitchen can descend into a messy madness when making bread.

THE MESS

I specifically went looking for a recipe that included rosemary as we have a big trailing rosemary plant stationed at the front door.

BREAD

I think they turned out okay but a little tough.  I followed the recipes instructions and kneaded it for exactly 8 minutes.  I think if I had quit when it was all combined into a nice dough ball, the rolls would have been a little softer.  I went to the grocery store later that night and also ended up making a few tubes of crescent rolls too, just in case.

Our at-home Thanksgiving was Chipotle Quinoa Sweet Potato Tacos with Roasted Cranberry and Pomegranate Salsa.  I followed her instructions in the post about the pomegranate and peeled it underwater – it was magic!  The tacos were also magical and made a lot of leftovers.

NOT IMPRESSED

However, Shenanigan is not impressed with all my vegan creations.  He does seem to be enjoying the stained and stamped concrete floors in our new place.  More soon!   Cheers – CT

Kitchen goodies

When you spend as much time cooking up your dinner as JT and I do (due to my conversion to veganism and a general interest in eating healthy, whole foods), your plates and dishware get a lot of use and abuse.  Way back when JT and I got married (9-1/2 years ago now!) we registered for Pottery Barn’s Great White collection of dishes and I must say they’ve held up pretty “great”.  There are a few permanent discolorations (small and not too noticeable) and I think we have broken one plate (not the plates fault, just slippery fingers).  However,  I did pack away the dinner plates because they’re HUGE!  So big that if you put a regular serving of dinner on there it looks shrimpy.  So on a daily basis we use the salad plates and those are just the right size.

I’ve been on a mission to reduce clutter and miscellaneous items in the house — a few weeks ago I took a few boxes to Goodwill and I have another two filled up in the basement as I type.  One thing that caught my eye as being not-as-much-used-maybe-it-could-go were a set of mocha brown salad plates and berry bowls that I had picked up at Target at least eight or so years ago.

OUT WITH THE OLD

Part of the nice part about the Great White plates is they mix and match with pretty much anything.  A few years ago I was on a big brown/tan kick and that’s pretty much shifted over to a black/gray/blue kick.  So I pulled out the plates and bowls for donation and decided a one-in, one-out policy wouldn’t be too bad for the berry bowls . . .

NEW

Especially after I saw these funky beauties at West Elm last Thursday . . . . I’m donating six brown bowls and only brought home 4 of the West Elm bowls so that counts as clutter reduction . . . right?  We have Great White cereal bowls but like the dinner plates, the cereal bowls are a bit large, so these West Elm bowls are a good size for starter salads, soups and other things.  Plus with the blue rim, they look so awesome in our blue kitchen.  Love.

NEW DISHTOWEL

(Above is the cavernous Pottery Barn bowl.  I think these must have been designed for a family of football players or something.  Or fat Americans who don’t understand serving sizes.)  I couldn’t escape West Elm without a few more of the Turkish hand towels.  They’re so lightweight and graphic looking, they dress up the stove instantly when draped over the door handle.

GEOMETRIC GOODIES

One other little thing came home with me . . . (maybe there’s a reason why I’m not so good at this whole controlling clutter thing after all . . . ) – these cute little gemstone shaped plastic bowls from Target.  (They were a set of two for 99 cents).  Right now it is proudly displaying my latest obsession – Good and Plentys.  I get these almost every time we are at the grocery store.  So much for eating healthy!

There was one thing I’m still dreaming about from my West Elm trip . . . the John Vogel chair in Acorn/Charcoal.  I furtively snapped a picture of it while we were in the store . . . wouldn’t that be dreamy around my tulip table?

west elm chair

Yum.

Like a Vegan

(Sorry for the cheezy post title.  And apparently being a vegan means you spell cheese with a “z”.  Or at least the “cheeze” vegans eat.)

So, this change/upheaval in my diet has also wreaked a little havoc on our kitchen.  Every dinner begins with chopping broccoli (cue Dana Carvey) and ends with a load of dishes.  Our kitchen is TINY! and only has one 8′-6″ run of counter top (with a sink in it).  So, cooking is fun.  I feel like putting up a sign that says “lather, rinse, repeat” because the chopping, washing, dish-putting-away cycle seems endless sometimes.

E:CT HOUSE3341 JAN 2011 Model (1)

I’ve been looking for ways to streamline/simplify/organize and stumbled on a few.  #1 – Pot Lid racks from the Container Store.  This is one major base cabinet we have for cooking pan storage stuff.  In a perfect world the racks should have been mounted a tad lower on the door but I just centered them and hung them before I fully conceptualized how the dang things actually worked.  But all in all, this is a great space saver and makes the lids a lot easier to grab since they’re not all jumbled up like they were before.

POT LID RACK ORGANIZATION

#2 – Cookbooks!  Right now I have been checking out a lot of cookbooks from the library to see which ones I would like to purchase for long-term use.  And of course I print out recipes from Pinterest or the interwebs in general and just stick those on the fridge with a magnet.  I started pinning a bunch of ideas for cookbook storage and then happened across this little rack for $1.81 at Value Village and figured I’d give it a spin.

TOP O FRIDGE

The biggest, bestest change we have made is in the pantry.  Now just understand that our pantry is a wreck and this change only involves the spices.  The rest is a work in progress.  Okay — remember – spices.  Here’s the pics:

CONTAINER STORE SPICE RACK

The Elfa Over-the-Door system (also from the Container Store, are we sensing a trend?)  has made cooking SO. MUCH. BETTER.  Before all our spices were haphazardly placed in a pull out bin (see asterisk on the before picture).  In order to get at said spices, you had to pull out the whole bin, search for some precious space on the counter and hunt until you found the right spice (they’re not all labeled on the top).  Thanks to a gift card from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas we took advantage of the January Elfa sale and splurged on this puppy a little.  But not to despair – it clamps to the top and bottom of the door and tightens down with a screw so we can take it with us forever and ever wherever we go (and we will).  The baskets easily lift off the track for quick spice access.  I could go on and on but let’s just say this thing is the bee’s knees and I love it and want to add a few more baskets.  (Also I just noticed the random black cloth on the sofa in the after picture – I was photographing a guitar for JT’s eBay endeavor and I could see the tan sofa reflecting on the nice shiny black guitar so presto – magical invisibility cloak cloth.)

So just for kicks, I thought I would share with you guys what this kitchen is whipping up:

FOOD IMAGES #1

1. Red Quinoa with Zucchini and Corn from Speed Vegan By Alan Roettinger (this was our first time having quinoa and it was really good!)

2. Jerk Sloppy Joes with Coconut Creamed Spinach from the Post Punk Kitchen

3. Black Beans, Mushrooms and Bok Choy from Speed Vegan

FOOD IMAGES #2

4. Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh with Carrots and Green Lentils from The Candle Cafe Cookbook by Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza (just the tempeh recipe, the roasted carrots are from Door Sixteen – here.  The lentils we had in the freezer . . . )

5. Hottie Black Eyed Peas with Ginger Sweet Potatoes & Apples from the Post Punk Kitchen

#6 Brownie in a Mug – Improvised from a recipe/segment I heard on NPR.  I can’t find it on the website anymore but here’s my version of the recipe:

Combine 1T vegan butter, 1T almond milk and a splash  of vanilla extract in a bowl or mug.  Microwave until the butter melts.  Then stir in 1T flour, 1T sugar and 1T dark cocoa powder.  I also added some  peanut butter, the recipe also suggests powdered espresso which I would like to try as well. Microwave for 1 more minute and voila – a brownie in a mug!  

This is great since I have a total sweet tooth and JT does not.  Plus there’s only one bowl to clean which is great!  Our dishwasher is about to go on strike.

January – Time for changes, even if little

A new year means a new fridge right?  Not quite.  The one we bought with the house is still chugging along and while I’d love to chuck it into the alley sometimes, I just can’t quite reconcile myself with replacing something that is working.

But I did tweak the big ugly blank side of the fridge last May with some craft paper.  (See the whole post here.) My how time flies when you’re having fun.  And as the time has passed, so has the paper worn.  Turns out paper and water droplets (from the hand drying towel hanging there) don’t really mix so well . . . .

SIDE BY SIDE

I was still reluctant to actually paint the fridge with chalkboard paint instead so I ordered a roll of contact paper that is also a chalkboard surface from Amazon.  The roll wasn’t nearly as wide as the paper was which I don’t love but until I can get on board with painting the fridge (or buying a Smeg!), this is what we get.  There were a few air bubbles that didn’t come all the way out but it was a pretty simple install process.  It was definitely a two-man job though — JT and I took turns holding the bottom away from the fridge while the other smoothed out the contact paper with a large piece of sample laminate I had on hand.

FULL NEW

I think the contact paper chalkboard could be a great option for renters who don’t like the look of a door or cabinets — just stick a chalkboard on it (the new version of put a bird on it!).

Since the chalkboard paper was sticky-backed it freed up a bunch of our heavy-duty magnets to stick some more knives and utensils to the side of the fridge.  I gave them a crime scene-esque chalk outline so we’d know which one was in use or in the dishwasher.  Now that the holidays are behind us, we’ve been cooking at home a lot and from scratch, so having these knives within easy reach is great.  We also got a juicer and started down that path so many, many fruits and vegetables are being murdered in our kitchen.

NEW CLOSE UP2

JT wrote a little note to the dogs down at the bottom reminding them to behave.  I got very different results when I tried to coax them into modeling for the blog: Sophie was terrified and Shenanigan was nonchalant and/or impatiently waiting for the treat I bribed them with.

DOGS BY FRIDGE

Little dude had to go to the vet on Saturday because we found a weird bulge on his side.  Turns out it’s a fatty but benign tumor.  Sophie’s been having problems with one of her back legs that the vet said is exacerbated by her weight so it looks like both dogs will be on the eating healthy bandwagon with us in 2013!  Good thing that the kitchen is fine-tuned and ready to go.  I’ve been doing a little work to the pantry as well and that will be an up and coming post.  Have a great week everyone!  Cheers – CT

Stove Saga

In some ways, the kitchen has been “done” since we tiled the floors and then finished painting the walls, cabinets and trim back in May.  However a new stove is being delivered and installed today, making this the 4th stove in our little kitchen in one year.  Crazy right?

We started out with the gem:

NUMBER 1

It came with the house.  It was disgusting and never clean and when a mouse found his way into our house, he decided the stove would be a good place to live.  So naturally when we planned to re-tile/spiff up the kitchen, this stove was history.

Cue Stove #2:

NUMBER 2

Based on what was going on with Stove #1 and the age of the house, we assumed there wasn’t any electrical in the wall behind for power to the stove (Stove #1 was gas).  So we found a decent replacement on Craigslist that was all gas.  Having only had electric ranges growing up, I didn’t realize an all gas stove would essentially be hot on the top all the time (the pilot lights just flame away beneath the metal all the time).  Not so cool.  (Literally and figuratively.)  And when we demoed out Stove #1 and did our floor re-tile we found that there was a power outlet back there that we never even dreamed existed.

So.  Stove #3.  Also from Craigslist. (Stove #2 made it’s exit via Craigslist as well, on to better and brighter things in a rental apartment.)

NUMBER 3

Newer-ish, gas but with some electric features like a clock and such.  Guess what.  Those are the features that can and will die before the stove ever does. 

And that’s what happened.  About a month ago, we started getting a “F10” error on the display and then the stove would shut off.  Really fun when you’re trying to make a “big ass” birthday brunch for your whole family.  It turns out either the wiring harness or a sensor was shot or the stove really was overheating.  We turned off the electric to it and have just been using the range top for the last month with the help of a large lighter to fire it up.  Not the end of the world but it’s amazing how many recipes you find that require an oven WHEN YOURS DOESN’T WORK!! 

So Stove #4 is being delivered today, husband is at home waiting for it as I type. Lesson learned: Sometimes the “list” isn’t always the place to shop for things that might be better with a warranty. 

I am making these brownies to inaugurate Stove #4 tonight:  THE BEST SALTED CARAMEL BROWNIES YOU’LL EVER HAVE found via A Cup of Jo (recently stumbled upon and loving).  Wouldn’t everything be better with sea salt?

However if you should be oven-less for a month and be desperately searching for good range top recipes, try this one: Winter Vegetable Hash.  I’m snacking on the leftovers for lunch right now and it is so yummy.  (Also made better with sea salt . . . I sense a trend.) Yukon Gold potatoes are my new best friend.  Until I meet my brownies tonight.

Have a great weekend and bake lots of yummy things! Like a lot of things in this life, you never miss your stove ’til its gone.  Cheers – CT

Whatever you need, Etsy will be there.

Along with the incense that I buy from Etsy, I also head over there when I need a specific vintage item I don’t have the time to search the antique malls high and low for. 

Case in point: clock.  In order for the kitchen to be “finished” (I say in quotation marks because nothing is ever really finished in our home) I had a specific item I needed — a clock to cover up a small wall outlet and also tell time.

It’s a little hard to see, but in the image above I pointed out where the outlet is.  Off to Etsy I went, and with a quick search of “wall clock” I came across this little gem from Zane Leigh’s shop.

(Image above courtesty Zane Leigh).

I knew what dimensions I needed (or a max I could fit) and it was also vintage enough to actually need the outlet it would be hiding.  As an added bonus, it is lighted!  So I just gave away one of my secrets — when I want vintage but have a more specific need in mind, a lot of times (read always) I’ll take to the interwebs to hunt it down a lot faster than I could find it trolling the local thrift stores.  It’s a win-win to me  – I get my vintage fix and someone else gets paid to carefully seek and curate great vintage items.

For fun, I dug out a picture of the clock hung up before I painted the walls. (Yes I have had the clock for that long.)

And then here’s the real after.

You can see Miss Sophie our sofa monster dog in all the house shots, ironically enough.  That’s pretty much “her” spot, although she is content to share with the husband as long as she can have her chin or foot or some part of her on top of him. 

We’ve been living with our “finished” kitchen for a few months now, so I forget what a difference the paint color is, but looking at these images I’m so glad we went for it.  A $30 (or less) can of paint can have a huge impact and can be (semi) easily changed again a week later if the mood strikes.  So that’s Secret #2.   

Moral of the story: Find a good “junk” supplier and invest a few pennies in a can of paint and big changes can be yours!  Cheers – CT

P.S.  There is also a hilarious website called “Regretsy” with an apt subtitle: “Where DIY meets WTF”.  If you need a little laugh, check it out here.

Thanks!

Hi again everyone!  Thanks so much to all who voted in the Apartment Therapy/The Kitchn “Small Cool” Kitchen contest.  We’re up to 31 votes and that means a lot to me.

It was pretty cool to open up the webpage and see our kitchen there. 

When I told Shenanigan he was famous on the internet, not so much.

He’s one hard chameleon-like dog to impress.

Also, due to the new “Papa Bear” chair as I’m calling it, the living room is totally rearranged.  I’ve photographed it twice now but none have come out to my liking, so I’ll leave you with this teaser: total chaos as we tried to reconfigure.

Better images to come!  Some items went to Craigslist, others have reshuffled and we’re liking the flow of our new living room.