Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A few new treats.

OK OK.... it's been a while since I've written. You've missed several good meals. This one was Chicken Kiev, which turns out easier than you think to make if you have a little know how and a smart girl friend. We made a compound butter mix with parsley and tarragon. That got formed into a log and placed in the freezer to set up a little while we worked over the chicken. Putting a chicken breast on a piece of plastic that had been sprinkled with water and folded over the top of the chicken, we whacked the hell out of it with a skillet until it was either about 1/8th inch thick or until it told us the secret entrance to the hiding lair. Turns out there wasn't a hiding lair. After that, we took out the butter and sliced it and placed in the middle of the hell ridden chicken and folded/rolled the chicken around the butter. That got to chill out in the fridge for a while (Alton is sooooo fond of doing things over night). The next day it all got dunked in beaten eggs (not a good week for chickens I guess) and rolled in panko crumbs then fried in a little hot veggie oil. While that was cooking we had also made some noodles. That's right kids, fresh home made noodles. We'd taken a class and were itching to try it. The class was well worth the price and aggravation of the couple sitting next to us... gotta love know-it-alls. I know it's another of Mr. Brown's recipes, but it works and turned out very tasty.

The next one we tried was Drunken Risotto. This one took a little more time, work, and patience. It started with browning 3/4 pound of Italian sausage, add in finely chopped onion (a whole small onion) and a few cloves of finely chopped garlic. The hard part came with stemming 3/4 pound of spinach leaves, but that comes later. The Rachel Ray recipe (I know, not a different chef!!) called for fresh ground nutmeg, we used already ground stuff and it worked out ok. While the sausage was browning I was bringing 3 cups of red wine and 2 cups of chicken stock to a low simmer, this is important. When the browning was done, I stirred in the risotto, giving it time to soak up any oils. Then a few ladle fulls of the wine/stock mixture at a time went in, giving it time to absorb and cook off before adding more until it was all in, very time consuming and lots of constant stirring. In the last 5 min's of cooking I stirred in the spinach until it barely softened. Just before serving I stirred in 1/2 cup of grated romano cheese. Patience pays off for this one. The rice was just barely softened, and the flavor was amazing. I'm not a big fan of red wine but I really liked this one. As you can see we threw in some broccoli for color and taste. Quite nice if I do say so myself.

By the way, if anyone is actually out there reading this, it would be nice to hear a comment. At least say "Hi". More to come.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chicken Wazoo

Wellllll... really it's called Beer Can Chicken.

Since it's been a hot day, I decided to use the outside grill, so, Chicken Wazoo it was. You take a 4 to 5 pound chicken, crack open a beer, pour/drink off 1/4th of it, then stick the beer can up the chicken's wazoo. Now, the grill has been turned on med high on one side only. Place a temperature probe either in the thigh or middle of one breast... the chicken, not the significant other... and rub the skin with either oregano or Montreal seasoning (whatever flips your lid). Now, place the chicken on the grill on the side that's not burning. Spread out the legs to act like a tripod with the can. You're looking for the probe to hit 165 degrees.

That's what we started with. While that was working we tossed some purple cauliflower with olive oil and sprinkled on some Parmesan (that's the dish on the left), put in to bake 375 degrees while the chicken cooks... which hopefully won't be more than 45 minutes. We also took some zucchini and summer squash and sliced long thin planks. We started using a peeler but that was a little thin so we had to resort to a V-Slicer/ Mandolin. Then some onions and garlic got browned and the planked veggies got thrown in a little at a time and cooked until tender. It took a few batches but worth the work (that's the dish on the right).

By the time the chicken was up to temp the skin had turned golden brown and crispy. To keep the exposed bone ends from drying out too much I covered them with a little foil (and cut off the wing tips because lets face it who really eats those anyway). Once the whole thing has cooked, it's easier to take it off the grill using foil on hot pads or use hot pads that aren't going to soak up anything. This is the point where it's helpful to have some help because once you get it in the house and it's rested, it's a little tricky to get the beer can out of the chicken's wazoo. Having one person hold the chicken a few inches above the bottom of the sink and the other push the can out with a butter knife through the neck opening. The can will still be mostly full of scalding hot beer/ sprite/ water/ whatever liquid you like, so be careful with this part. Hey, cooking makes stuff hot so either have some common sense or have someone around who does to warn you when you're about to do something stupid.

Once the bird's free, we used kitchen sheers to quarter it and plate it with the cauliflower and sliced veggies. Our experience on this was very enjoyable, but then this wasn't our first go around with Chicken Wazoo. The veggies were a little bit of an experiment but those worked nicely with the chicken. Try it and let me know what you think.

Monday, July 26, 2010

It's Curtains For You

The source of a huge debate was the curtains. K will tell you that the print on the curtains was of a semi Asian version of "Luigi". He's some sort of Asian-Italian mix trying to bake and drink wine. Since Luigi is one of the few things I actually picked out for the kitchen before it follows that I liked it.

For the new kitchen, however, K tells me that it's a little cheesy and dated. So, we went on a quest. It would have been an easier quest to find the holy grail or something. Apparently nobody makes/ stocks Cafe curtains anymore. I guess I shouldn't say nobody, some make them but the selection is very limited. We've been to several major chains, craft stores, even fabric stores. We eventually found something that will do for now so that the neighbors don't point and laugh if I walk through the kitchen naked just before bed. It's not perfect. We were looking for perfect. Maybe perfect is a fantasy that can't be achieved.

In the mean time K has come up with a few wonderful taste treats. We had a friend over and BBQ'd some steaks and K sliced some baby yams, sprinkled them with brown sugar and cinnamon, and baked them on a piece of foil on the grill. In the time it took to cook the steaks the baby yams turned lightly browned, soft, tender, and very delicious. Really a great side dish to a meat heavy dinner.

The other wonderful thing she came up with was watermelon drink that we tried two ways. First was blenderized, then strained to remove the pulp leaving only watermelon juice, add in a little simple syrup (or just some sugar), if you so desire add an adult beverage of choice (like Tequila), and pour over ice... simple and refreshing. The second way we tried was to blenderize the juice with the ice and make a smoothie. Granted, the ice and blender didn't want to play well together and took some coaxing to work but in the end worked out for a nice summer treat to cool down with. K got fancy and rimmed the glasses with some orange colored sugar. We sat in the shade of a hot July day, sipped our drinks, played cards and just relaxed. It felt almost like we were southern or something.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The first real meal on the new equipment went both better and worse than expected. I know that is a less than exciting way to start this post... but allow me to explain. First of all, the migration of all the utensils back to the kitchen has yet to happen, so not everything was in easy reach. That posed small problems. However, the new stove and microwave more than made up for it. This had some unexpected effects. For one, the broiler works much better than the old one did, but being able to switch to convection was nice. Having things finish up at different times than expected presented a challenge. Having a warming feature on the microwave presented a solution.

So, here's the recipe that I followed:

Alton Brown's butterflied chicken

And here's what it looks like:

Arguably I'd say well worth the effort. The collective taste buds of two people are saying it's pure bliss. There's a lot to be said for starting with good ingredients and having a good recipe.

In the end, I'll say try it, your taste buds will love you for it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Unceremonious firsts

We've had a number of "firsts" with this remodel. Most of them have been without any sort of ceremony or fanfare. First steps on new tile. First wipe down of the new granite counter. First dish washed in the new sink. First things put in the new fridge. First thing microwaved.

There is a first we are planning carefully and going to celebrate. Our first full meal together in the new kitchen. It's one of my favorite recipes. Butterflied chicken. Granted, I'm fighting a learning curve with new appliances but I expect to pull it off. The recipe actually comes from Alton Brown and his "Good Eats" program. Take a chicken, cut out the backbone with heavy kitchen scissors, separate the meat from the keel bone and remove bone, lay out flat, tuck a concoction of herbs and spices under the skin, and broil to GB&D (golden brown and delicious). This will be accompanied by corn on the cob and salad. Wish me luck.

I'm anxious to see how the convection oven effects the cook time and outcome. This all will be tomorrow when we will both have time to do our dance in the kitchen without worry about work schedules. Unfortunately, it'll be our last free Saturday together as next week I'll be resuming my regular work schedule.

When we cook together it really is like a dance. Sometimes there's actual music involved but we move together, matching our steps. The big difference is that normal dancing doesn't involve knives or hot pans. Our rhythm tends to build as the ingredients are readied. The excitement of the meal comes to fruition and reaches a peak where plates are prepared, drinks are poured, and we ease into our seats to savor what we have just prepared. There's a shared reverie as the first bite is tasted. Some people don't get to share this cook dance which is unfortunate, but when you do it's fun, exciting, and satisfying. I guess in that respect it's more like another more horizontal activity... but I'll let your imagination run with that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Clean up?


Why is it that you have to clean up one mess just so you can make another? That has been my daily routine since starting this. Seriously, it's been more cleaning up than installing. I had to bring out 8 or 10 tools to install each item and somehow they brought along one or two of their friends. In terms of time spent actually putting something in, it's probably only half an hour or so. Finding the right tools, organizing, arranging, lining up, measuring, and putting everything back where it came from - so I can find it for the next project - is a good 3 hours. If you add to that time spent dealing with the packaging, mess you have to vacuum, wipe, and scrape up.... AND time spent having to run to the store to get what the dumbass sales clerk forgot to tell you that you'd need, you're a good 8 hrs into a half hour project.

Given the above info, I'm left wondering how in the hell we pulled off getting new appliances delivered, installing them myself (ok ok, my brother helped a lot, but still), got my old fridge picked up by relatives, took old stove and dishwasher to one donation place only to be turned away and take them to another.... all in one day? The nerd/geek among us (I'm raising my hand too) will tell you that it's a warping in space time that allows for such things. The same way that women can say "I'll be ready to go in just a second" and 45 mins. later your jingling your keys as she walks down the stairs...to go to Walmart. Most men will argue with me, but the same theory holds true for football time. There's 0:01:32 left on the clock with a 8 point spread but somehow that game will go on for another 45 mins. without a single shot of the cheerleaders ..... but I digress.

There's also the whole deception of what seems to be "simple and easy" but isn't. Part of this is because every 5 years or so all the appliance manufacturers get together and change the "standard" size. Really??? The standard size of a dishwasher is suddenly 3/4 inch larger than the one I just pulled out??? The standard depth of a stove is suddenly half an inch more??? Don't even get me started on the "36 inch" fridge. It's a conspiracy I tell ya. In any case, if you're considering buying a new appliance, and the sales person says "it's a standard size", be afraid... be very afraid. Also, never trust the specs that a really young or really old sales person gives you, especially if either one has a schmucky name like Cody or Greg. Too young and they're guessing because they haven't had experience/time to RTFM, too old and they're past that 5 year re-standardization. Look for someone in their mid 30's to late 40's with a bland name like Mike or Bill. Oh, and remember your old shop teacher... the one that was missing a finger? Yea, him. The most important thing he told you was to measure twice and cut once, but what he should have told you (and didn't) is that when it comes to color, ASK A WOMAN!!!

Before/after pictures are soon to come.... just to keep you interested.
Yesterday, I walked into the house after work. The kitchen was cleaned up, all the materials from working on it cleaned out as we're finishing up.

He was grilling dinner, had the counters sparkling, the oven cleaning (you have to clean off the internal finish)

He had rented a movie and was ready to just relax with me. It was a wonderful night.

The best part of this all is that this kitchen is our first big home project together. We've learned a lot, we've bonded and we're looking forward to making our house a home we really love.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Getting close

Dishwasher is in, though not without a lot of headaches, literally. I don't recommend standing up when your head is still under the granite counter top.

We're closer to being done, but there still seems like so much more to do...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More than halfway there

The stove, microwave and refrigerator are in place, the light fixtures are up, the hardware is on. Cupboards have been scrubbed and shined, I'm in the process of organizing them. We've put on some of the switch plates and I'm shopping for curtains.

The painting is completed - save for a closet door and a few places I would like to touch up. (There's debate over that) We're almost done with the pantry door and D is sealing the backsplash today.

Now it's time to finish up. We're nearing the end of our to do list and planning our inaugural meal to "break-in" the kitchen.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Hurry up and wait

We've been waiting... waiting for other people to finish tiling. Waiting for other people to finish the re-cut counter top. Waiting for the gas line to be installed. Waiting for back splash tiles to be installed and grouted. Ok, granted we could do little things here and there in between waits. It makes for long days of betweens.

Then we had to suddenly coordinate three fronts of total chaos. Delivery of new appliances that would happen somewhere between 2:00 and 4:00.... that showed up at 1:30... during a unexpected downpour. Relatives coming to pick up old appliances. Unexpected dimension problems (amazing how much difference half an inch makes) where things are "supposed" to fit. And trying to figure out what to do with other appliances when the place that normally takes any donations suddenly won't take large appliances.

Reading installation instructions on the fly is a little like learning rocket science.... while you're landing the shuttle. Well, I may be a little over dramatic here, but you get the idea. It's just a little disconcerting to read that the red wire MUST be connected to the left terminal, the white wire MUST be connected to the middle, and the black MUST be connected to the right..... when the wire I'm holding and all the ones they sell at Lowe's have gray, gray, and gray wires. Call me squeamish, but when I'm about to plug a rather expensive, brand new, machine into a 220 line, wire placement seems a little important.

There are people who confront chaos head on, like K, and do what needs to be done. These are the same people who need to sit down and have a good cry once everyone has gone. There's still chaos around, but at least waiting for everyone else is now done and we can go at our pace. Speaking of our pace, we got all the painting finished today and we can get down to the bits and pieces that dress it up tomorrow.

Tune in tomorrow (or later).... same bat time, same bat channel.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


We've danced in the kitchen before.

Our cooking is a dance. We have a pretty big kitchen, but the main triangle workspace is slightly smaller. We end up moving around each other and working beside one another, close enough to bump hips.

So, you start moving to the music, working your knife, your spoon, your dough, in time to the rhythm. Each stir, each cut or knead matching the beat. Humming or singing along, smiling at the fact that you work so well together.

Hitch in the giddyup

No project is without some delays. We've already experienced some.

Last night, the subcontractors who installed the floor stopped by to talk about the backsplash - so that's happening today. We're hoping they finish and that the counter gets polished - since it seems one part is more polished than the other.

Yesterday, the contractor brought the correct piece of counter, they installed that and the sink and faucets. D fixed the water filter and finished everything, so we have a working sink. That's a relief, it's a pain to run up or down a flight of stairs every time you need to wash your hands. Ok, so I'm lazy. Although, I will miss seeing him stuck under the sinks, for some reason I find that quite enjoyable.

I worked on priming last night, trying to get ready. It's difficult to work around my work schedule, the contractors schedule and it leaves things a bit chaotic. I have to tape and untape, so that none of the paper is in the way of the floor, which they're sealing today.

To get me through the little issues, I just keep thinking about cooking in the new kitchen. How organized and stylish it will be; how nice it will look and work. Of course, when things get really stressful, I just think about how nice it would be if I had a built in masseuse for after working in the kitchen; that does help.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Update - days seven and eight

Well, not everything goes according to plan. Of course, you know the saying - man plans, God laughs.

The contractor brought the counter yesterday with a hole for the sink about 4 inches too far to the right; colorful language followed.

Today, D finished the vent for the microwave and redid the garage wall that he cut into. He scrubbed cupboards and taped around them, prepping to paint.

He also called to check on the appliances, to see if they were still expecting them to arrive tomorrow or Thursday. Turns out, the order didn't get placed. So, now they're rushing them to Salt Lake.

I keep taking deep breaths, but we're both stressing here...

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day Six

Sunday was a bit crazy. maybe it was the heat, or the holiday, or maybe just my hormones.

We got our microwave purchased and the bracket to hold it installed. We vented it and got everything set, so we can stick it up underneath the cabinet as soon as we're ready. The process was not without it's headaches though. Which way should we vent it? How much cabinet space will we lose? What about the stud in the way?

I had a mini breakdown. Bad information from incompetent Lowe's salespeople just sent me over the edge. We made way more work for ourselves than we needed to and that was frustrating. If you don't know something, just admit you don't know and we can ask someone else or get our information elsewhere. Random guessing and blowing smoke out your ass is not professional.

They should be bringing the counter top today. I certainly hope so because D is expecting it and they've already put us off enough.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

elbow grease

It's amazing what some TSP and some elbow grease will accomplish.

Day Five

Sometimes, your schedule and that of the contractor don't quite line up. This weekend's holiday is maybe more important to some than others. Time lines are always hitting hitches, it's inevitable with a project like this.

I know he was hoping to have the counter in before this weekend, but that hasn't happened.

So today, instead of barbecues and fireworks, we're cleaning and prepping and working on the little things we can do. We cleaned the windows, rewired the lights for under the cabinets and continued the pantry door project.

We have hit our own little bumps - like the light fixture missing a part and things of that nature. But, we remind ourselves that when this kitchen is done, it will be awesome. Although, part of us knows it will be awesome just to be done.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Rite of passage

I'm struck by how discombobulating it is to have your normal "routine" interrupted. Obviously the tile can't be walked on while it's drying. We're not going to be able to walk on it while the grout is drying. And again we won't be able to walk on it while the sealer is drying. Considering that it's now taken two days to install the tiles that means it's going to be like 4 to 5 days without walking in the kitchen.

Now, there are those who will say "so what?" My answer is that's my normal passage to the garage. On top of that, it means we can't use the sink to wash dishes, can't get to the pantry, or do other things to get the kitchen ready for the things to come. I guess it's one of those things that you don't realize how important the kitchen is.... until you can't use it.

We've had some lengthy discussions about what color to paint the kitchen and more importantly where the kitchen actually ends (since that is where the color should end). Personally, I had no problem with the color it is but she assures me that blah isn't a good kitchen color. So another rite is going through hundreds of colors to find 2 or 3 you both can agree on. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like she wanted to go hot pink and I wanted stark white. In our relationship, she is the yin to my yang, so she is the adventurous to my conservative. Moreover, color schemes are like rocket science to me. Color swatches have been around almost as long as paint, so has arguing about what color things should be. Our next hurdle is how to paint the textured walls without painting onto the textured ceiling.

Another big hurdle is going to be the electrical for the microwave over the stove... but that's another post for another time. Wish me luck, I need all I can get.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Redecorating and remodeling causes chaos. Case in point - the way the house looks right now. Parking in the driveway because the garage is otherwise occupied. Eating in the living room or downstairs, dishes in the spare room and pantry items in the basement.
The living room carpet got torn up (that's the next room to be done) and everything cleared out so we could just move things in and out. So, we're using it as a makeshift kitchen, we're using it as storage, and so on.

However, I watched one episode of "Renovation Realities" on HGTV and I feel entirely better about myself and my ability to contribute chaos to this project.

Tic Tac Toe

The square tiles are in - just a few more baseboard pieces to be done tomorrow when they grout.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Day Two

Yesterday afternoon they finished tearing up the floor - they put down the mesh and the mud that will support the new tile floor. It dried overnight and today they start laying the tile.
A big, loud, dusty mess, but fun to watch.

Worst part was - we cleaned out the kitchen, moved dishes and such but forgot about pantry items. At the last minute, we were grabbing things - knowing we would have to stay off that floor for 2 days or so. It's amazing how you want EVERYTHING when you're forced to choose. I know it's not quite "Sophie's choice", but still.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Just is a 4 letter word

Everyone told us "just do this". Just doing something is easy as long as you're not the one doing it. For instance, they told us "just take out the appliances before we start". That was just two days of moving, sorting, cleaning, pulling, pushing, and other such happiness. Taking the fridge out and moving it took a lot of planning, like where to put it and how to disconnect the water for the ice maker. Once done, it revealed a huge dust ferret (think dust bunny only longer).

I know, pretty scary huh? Not to mention all those little things you spilled over the years. Fear not, for we did do battle with the dust ferret and alas, we slew it mightily. But with one victory under our belt we had yet to tackle the stove, and worst of all, the dishwasher. I've done battle with dishwashers in the past and the last time ended with me being shot across the floor, sparks flying, and a great deal of cursing. A minor electrical burn, and a quest to find the REAL circuit breaker later, the job continued. That was years ago and the nightmares have subsided, however, one remains vigilant and wary lest he has a repeat performance.

Now, all that is just out of the way. The ugly flooring has been torn up and preparations are being made to install the new pretty one. Wish us luck, we'll need it.

Day One

Well, technically it's day one of the kitchen remodel. The contractor came with his two guys this morning, they are ripping up the floor.

We've been working on it a while already though, so it really doesn't feel like the first day.

Doing our research on appliances and materials. Shopping around for good deals. Making to do lists and trying to get ourselves organized.

This past weekend we cleaned, scrubbed, moved out old appliances and all the things that usually stay "out" in the kitchen - like the toaster and the like. We ordered the new appliances and painted sample colors on the wall.

We're making progress...