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Posts Tagged ‘kitchen’

After ditching the terrible kitchen that I gladly left behind in Mobile (huge room, no counter space, two outlets on walls spaced some 20 feet apart), I enjoyed the large expanse of a kitchen built in the late 90s, complete with tons of cabinet space. Pure suburbia.

I didn’t exactly get along with pure suburbia, however, and ended up in a medium-sized condo in Midtown Atlanta with a decidedly NOT medium-sized kitchen.

I like it. I donated the china that I’ve been packing around for nearly 20 years (china that was meticulously packed away in my paternal grandmother’s home, so don’t worry that I’ve thrown away some sort of beloved family legacy). I need one more smallish cabinet to keep my own wedding china, which is actually pottery, but other than that a smaller kitchen is definitely working for me. Less to dirty, less to clean up. Less cabinet space to attract stuff that has nothing to do with food prep.

On a recent trip to London and Paris (I’m not going to call it a once-in-a-lifetime vacation, because I fully intend to go back, but yeah, it was a big deal), I realized how much less kitchen I could live without. We stayed in apartments in both cities, beginning with a laughably tiny kitchenette in Chelsea:

kitchen

It really took the concept of “no counter space” to a whole new level, but it worked. We boiled pasta and heated sauce for Christmas dinner, and we scrambled eggs one morning. We also had a water kettle, microwave and toaster, meaning we could easily make coffee (via French press) and tea, plus warm up the occasional sandwich or other bakery treat.

In Paris, we added a dishwasher and slightly more counter space to our cooking area:
kitchen2

I think the most complicated thing I made here was oatmeal (dozens of authentic French bakeries within walking distance does not prompt a girl to break out the pots and pans). I also enjoyed the kitchen’s Nespresso Senseo coffeemaker, which I was disappointed to learn is no longer sold in the United States. While I hold anything involving K-cups in utter disdain, I could live with coffee made from those little filter packets every last day.

So much more to talk about from this trip later. Right now, I have to go enjoy the wide-open spaces of my tiny condo kitchen.

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The Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block: definitely on my list of Favorite Things right now.

The new cookware we bought a couple of years ago came with a set of really groovy, really sharp knives.

I began using them in place of the set of less exciting knives that have been getting duller by the minute in their wooden block ever since someone gave them to us nearly two decades ago.

Where do you keep loose knives, especially when you want them to keep their edge? I was reduced to keeping these in the silverware drawer and trying to keep them from butting into each other.

I really like the look of a magnetic knife rack, but I don’t trust Yang, despite his advanced age, not to go smacking shiny knives off the wall in the middle of the night.

Amazon.com to the rescue. I found the Bodum Bistro Universal Knife Block during my search for a solution. It’s STUNNING, and it takes up next to NO room on the countertop. I love the bold color (it was, at some point, also available in black, orange and lime green), and the functionality can’t be beat. It contains hundreds of narrow plastic sticks, which allow the knives (and scissors) to easily slide into place. My largest knife is too tall to drop in vertically, but it goes in quite neatly at a slight angle.

A view from the top: Although it currently houses only three knives and a pair of scissors, the Bodum knife block has plenty of room for more occupants.

At nearly $50, it was a bit of an indulgence, but what’s better than an indulgence that actually solves a problem?

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Nanny in her natural habitat: the kitchen.

I realized this weekend that I have successfully made a souffle, but can’t make a fried egg.

My grandmother made delectable fried eggs, and made it look easy. The everyday breakfast options at her house included bacon (turkey bacon after my grandfather’s heart problems were diagnosed), toast (or biscuits, on occasion) and eggs, either scrambled or fried (note: fried eggs, over easy, became known as Paw-Paw eggs, because they were his favorite, and to this day I can barely order them in a restaurant without calling them by this nickname).

I should have paid more attention, I guess. I should have offered to cook the eggs instead of going for the easy job of making toast or microwaving turkey bacon. (Or making the grits. I can’t believe I forgot about the grits option.)

I might not even have this ongoing fear of cast-iron skillets.

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I’ve spent the last five years trying to figure out how the heck side-by-side refrigerators got so popular in the ’80s.

I grew up thinking my family, with our old-fashioned one-door, freezer-on-top model, was missing out, that somehow the families with side-by-sides were enjoying better meals and tastier snacks. They were certainly enjoying hipper, more modern kitchens.

Oh, the misguided assumptions of youth. I finally got my new-fangled side-by-side refrigerator when we moved to Huntsville (at the same time, I might add, that the hippest homeowners were purchasing refrigerators with French doors and freezer drawers on the bottom).

I quickly ascertained that side-by-sides are virtually useless for anyone who actually wants to USE a refrigerator. I was constantly rearranging things to try to make other things fit. The freezer was a disaster, with two extremely deep, extremely narrow drawers that quickly turned into a tumbled mess of freezer bags and containers no matter how careful I was to try to keep them organized, and shelves that were difficult to navigate despite their small size.

Organizing the refrigerator shelves was like playing a game of culinary Tetris. A gallon of milk and a container of orange juice was pretty much all the top shelf could handle. My love for greens fresh out of the salad spinner required a dedicated bottom shelf. The small salad spinner, mostly reserved for fresh herbs, sometimes had to reside in the crisper, a problem given that the drawer usually already contained an array of veggies.

We never got around to getting another one, partly because someone had kindly custom-built the cabinets around the refrigerator, severely limiting the potential replacement models.

Now that I’m in Atlanta, I’m once again living with an old-school, freezer-on top refrigerator with one non-French door. Only this time, I’ve decided that old-school is pretty awesome.

The refrigerator shelves offer wide, open spaces — currently, the salad spinner is residing alongside half a gallon of milk, a carton of goat cheese AND a jar of jelly. The freezer’s a huge open space — no shelves, but a couple of small plastic boxes can help sort a LOT of frozen foods. It even has a working ice maker, an innovation that I have, until now, not enjoyed in my own home.

The whole setup is so much more usable than the side-by-side that I’m not even curious about freezer drawers on the bottom anymore. I just want space that makes sense.

I guess the moral of this post is to be careful what you wish for, because you might be stuck cursing at it for five long years when you finally get it.

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First, an admission: I don’t think I’ve ever eaten Chili’s salsa, so I can’t tell you whether this Chili’s Copycat Salsa recipe that I found via Pinterest tastes like the real thing or not.

As a certified salsa junkie, I CAN tell you that I’ll be making this recipe again.

I love making fresh pico de gallo, but there’s only so much time a girl can dedicate to chopping onions, jalapenos and tomatoes into tiny little pieces. (Also, the inferiority of grocery store “tomatoes” has simply become unacceptable. When a potent blend of jalapenos, lime juice and cilantro doesn’t hide your insipidness, you’ve reached new lows as an ingredient.)

I can live with store-bought salsa, but it’s just so nondescript. Brands advertised as spicy are inevitably as plain as can be, and I wouldn’t be able to tell one brand from another in a blind taste test even if I had money riding on it.

The canned tomatoes in this recipe caught my eye, since they meant I wouldn’t be rewarding mediocrity in the produce section. I couldn’t actually find a small can of jalapenos, but I have to admit that maybe I didn’t try too hard after I spotted the big jar of sliced jalapenos. Toss and taste, unless you’re scared of heat.

All the ingredients blended together quickly in the tiny food-processor attachment that came with my immersion blender (I only made half the recipe).

I’ll warn you: The end product has what some might find an overwhelming cumin flavor. It’s what makes this concoction distinctive, but it might not be for everyone.

The heat from the jalapenos is subtle, kicking in a couple of seconds after you bite into a chip filled with salsa. Two days later, however, the salsa seems to be packing a little more heat, making me wonder how long I could safely store this mixture in the fridge to allow it to achieve maximum intensity.

Chili’s Copycat Salsa

Recipe from Six Sister’s Stuff

  • 2 14.5-oz. cans whole tomatoes, drained
  • 1 4-oz. can diced or whole jalapenos (not pickled)–about 4-5 jalapenos (or less if you don’t like a lot of spice)
  • 1/4 cup yellow onion, cut into quarters (you can also use dried minced onion)
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • 1/2-1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. lime juice

Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.

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Photo courtesy of Bakers Royale

Saturday, I applied a popular exercise mantra — “No pain, no gain” — to cooking.

The gain — delicious Mini Pommes Anna — was totally worth the pain.

I had purchased the entry-level OXO mandoline slicer several months ago, partly so I could make some version of pommes Anna, which is simply very thin slices of potato layered and baked with butter. (And if you’re one of those people who can make paper-thin slices of veggies with a knife, congratulations. You have mad knife skills. I do not.) I was in the middle of my final semester of grad school, however, so the mandoline has been resting in the gadget drawer.

The semester eventually drew to a close, and Pinterest pointed me to this intriguing recipe for smaller, individually sized versions of Pommes Anna, courtesy of Naomi at Bakers Royale. The mandoline finally made its debut.

And boy, was it angry.

Seriously, I underestimated the danger of the mandoline (and found out that just about everybody has a story about somebody taking their fingertip off with one). Having failed to keep the potato attached to the finger-protecting holder mechanism, I ran it across the blade by hand, which worked great right up until the moment I cut my thumb.

I immediately initiated Standard Operating Procedure for kitchen injuries:

  1. Don’t bleed in the food.
  2. Evaluate the injury.
  3. Wash the injury with soap and water.
  4. Wrap the injury with paper towel to try to stop the bleeding, or at least keep the blood out of the food.
  5. Soldier on. You’re not going to make more blood by starving yourself.

It was a minor cut, although it was a heck of a bleeder.

The potatoes were simply divine. The mandoline had cut them into sheer little circles that, when tossed with butter and layered with kosher salt and pepper in a muffin pan, baked up into a luxurious side dish. The husband commented more than once on these buttery and creamy little stacks of goodness.

And yes, there were only four ingredients: Yukon potatoes, butter, salt and pepper. I cut the recipe in half, so it made six. I figured two stacks per person was about right (they compress while baking, so each one ends up being about 1.5 inches high). We each ate a third stack, partly because they were so delectable and partly because they didn’t seem like the kind of food that reheats properly.

And one of us was making replacement blood, after all.

They were definitely a welcome change from mashed potatoes, which is what I usually serve with meat loaf (and more on that fabulous meat loaf later).

As for the mandoline, I think I should probably upgrade to the model with non-slip feet (seems like an upright model might be safer than one that “hooks” over a bowl). Also, a couple of friends pointed me toward Kevlar gloves made for use with mandolines, so those might be showing up in the gadget drawer, too. (Actually, when the first friend, Crafty Kristen, mentioned Kevlar gloves, I kind of thought she was joking — LOL Kevlar gloves for the clumsy cook, very funny. But no. They are real. And possibly a necessity.)

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My little green bowls make me smile. Fill them with salsa verde from Trader Joe’s and I’m positively ecstatic.

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