Monthly Archives: August 2016

Professional vs Home Range Hoods

range hoods

Anyone who’s ever renovated a kitchen will attest to the fact that there is a huge variety of range hoods from which to choose. If you’re anything like me, flipping through any kitchen design magazine will whet your appetite for all those stunning, stainless steel restaurant grade range hoods. But, do we really need one of those heavy-duty units in our home?

Restaurants cook dish after dish, hour after hour from opening to closing. They need a range hood that can pull out every bit of grease, odor, and steam from a large cooking area.

At home, the situation is considerably different. Most of us own standard-sized stoves. We also tend not to cook excessively … or at least as much as restaurants do. So, if a sales associate tries to convince you to buy a huge range hood unit, don’t do it. It will use up more space than your kitchen can probably afford to give.

There is, however, a smart way to get your professional range hood fix without actually buying and installing an actual professional range hood.

Professional range hoods made for home use are designed to be slightly deeper and wider than standard units. The larger size is better at removing the grease, odor, and steam produced during cooking. They usually come in stainless steel. But, they can also be modified according to your preference. I’ve seen professional home range hoods that are covered in stucco!

Professional range hoods designed for home use can be much more expensive than standard range hoods. With a little research, though, it is possible to find some lower priced models. Ultimately, before you choose to spend the money on a professional style range hood, you need to ask yourself some questions.

First, does the way you cook really merit a larger range hood? Do you cook with a lot of grease? Do you cook most of the week?

Second, consider your home’s value. Will installing a professional style range hood increase your home’s value significantly?

Third, will a professional style range hood make you happy? I don’t ask that flippantly. Our homes, and the stuff we fill it with, can certainly make us happy. If a professional style range hood makes you smile every time you look at it, then it’s absolutely worth the time and money.

Robots In The Kitchen

Photo: newzmaniac.com

Photo: newzmaniac.com

Our homes have already become such highly automated spaces, can there really be room for more? We have range hoods that automatically switch speeds to accommodate the amount of steam, grease or odor that our cooking generates. We have vacuums that clean up independently after we’re done with the kitchen. Then, of course, there are all those gadgets lining the counter and tucked away behind cupboard doors that perform various functions for us, like chopping, slicing, toasting, you name it!

Robots are no strangers in our kitchens. Take a moment to count how many are living within your own four walls.

Lately, however, I’ve noticed that there are many more automated gadgets available for us to buy. Do we really want to remove ourselves from the acts of cooking and cleaning than we already do?

Take a look at some of the latest inventions:

From Moley Robotics comes the world’s first robotic kitchen chef. I have to say that the look created by those robotic arms coming out of the cabinetry above them is a little disconcerting. The concept, though, is interesting. The staff at Moley brought a Michelin chef in to teach the robot how to cook. The chef was filmed preparing crab bisque. That recording was then turned into algorithms the robot could understand. The robot then made perfect crab bisque all by itself.

Photo: Moley Robotics

Photo: Moley Robotics

The Somabar is the ultimate in a home bartender. It works in conjunction with an app. You choose the cocktail. Somabar will mix it and pour it into your glass. No tipping necessary!

Photo: Somabar

Photo: Somabar

The Palate Smart Grill is a handy gadget that will give you that perfectly grilled steak without requiring you to light a match or even own a barbeque. The grill determines how best to cook any food according to weight, type of food and how you’d like it cooked. Best part? You can control it with an app.

Photo: techcrunch.com

Photo: techcrunch.com

Do you already have some robots in your kitchen? Let us know!

 

Monthly Pick – Range Hood Finishes – Stucco, Wood, & Tile

range hood finishes

I happened to be in Home Depot just a couple of days ago searching for storage solutions for the pantry. I happened to walk past the range hoods on my way to the section I was looking for. As I walked, I looked up at the array of stainless steel range hoods on display. I thought that if aliens landed right there, they’d think that stainless steel was the only material we humans use for range hoods.

In fact, range hoods can be encased in a variety of materials, like copper, glass, stucco, wood, or tile, to suit your tastes and kitchen design.

Stucco

Also called adobe, stucco lends a kitchen a very distinctive southwest or Mexican style. Adobe can be tinted any color that suits the kitchen. It can be decorated, too, with inlaid tile or painted designs. Stucco can be left with a rough or super smooth finish depending on your taste and the overall kitchen design. The kitchen in the picture below has a bit of an eclectic feel. It’s modern and traditional all at the same time, and it works!

Photo: vanguard studio inc

Wood

We’ve all seen refrigerators that are made to look like cabinetry. Their doors match exactly the color, grain, and wood that the cabinets are made from. A wood range hood encasement doesn’t need to look heavy. Depending on the type of wood and the color of stain, a range hood covered in wood can look great in both a small and large kitchen.

Photo: Sullivan Building and Design Group

Photo: Sullivan Building and Design Group

Tile

Yes, you read that right. Tile. Why not? Tile is really easy to clean, looks modern and stylish, and is durable. Particularly in a small or dark kitchen, tile will reflect light and brighten the room.

Photo: decorpad.com

Over to you: what’s your favorite range hood finish?

 

Design Your Own Outdoor Kitchen

outdoor kitchen

If nothing else, remember this: you don’t need a lot of space or money to transform your backyard into a beautiful and functional outdoor kitchen.

Regardless of how large or small an endeavor this project will be for you, you need to consider certain aspects of it very carefully. Do you, for instance, need to install a range hood?

To answer that, think about how much wall or awning space your yard has. Think, too, about how close your neighbors are. If you live in a neighborhood where all the properties are small and close together, you’ll need to install a range hood just to make sure that your neighbors aren’t constantly subjected to those wonderful aromas that your cooking produces. Otherwise, you’ll no doubt have lots of unexpected dinner guests knocking on your door and peeking over the fence!

Just as with any home renovation project, there are a myriad of choices you’ll have to make and many pitfalls to avoid. Here’s how to make the best of the experience.

List it. Compile a list of all the elements you absolutely want to have in your outdoor dream kitchen. Don’t worry about cost. There are many economical products that are very similar to the high-end products we’ll often see gracing the pages of design magazines. Your contractor can help you locate lower priced alternatives to the appliances and devices you have listed. For instance, instead of going for custom built cabinets, Home Depot, Ikea, and many other kitchen retailers carry prefabricated kits that look great without breaking the budget.

Spend money where it counts. As I mentioned, you can find many alternative products, like refrigerators, barbeques, cabinets, and counter tops, that are similar to the high end products, but that are placed at a lower price point. Where you do want to spend your money is on those less visible (but extremely vital) elements. Setting up the plumbing, electrical, and gas lines is a skill bestowed only on those trained and certified. Don’t place low cost over safety in these areas. A quick Internet search should tell you what the going rate for any of these professionals is in your area. Each of these trades is also part of a professional association that you can contact for specific information about individual tradespeople and what to expect from the trade members.

Light up. Don’t underestimate how dark your backyard can get at night. Also, don’t underestimate how much you might like to use your new outdoor kitchen after the sun goes down. Ensure that you get the most out of your renovation time and dollars by considering the best type of lighting for the space. Even if you don’t think you’ll use your outdoor kitchen very much after sunset, make sure you build in adequate lighting regardless. Consider that once your outdoor kitchen is complete, you might want to be out there all the time. Also, think of the re-sale value that doing a complete and proper renovation will net you … even if you don’t think you’ll ever sell!

Over to you: What are your outdoor kitchen must-haves?

 

Monthly Pick – Range Hood Finishes – Glass

glass range hood

Modern range hoods are amazing because they come in a variety of styles, and are made from a variety of materials. It’s really easy to find one that fits your kitchen design and budget.

Today, I wanted to look at glass range hoods. That description is a bit of a misnomer because typically range hoods aren’t made entirely of glass. The chimney is still made from stainless steel. Stainless steel is naturally corrosion-free, easy to clean, and beautiful to look at. I’m pretty sure that the whole stainless steel trend isn’t going anywhere fast. It’s a material that’s proven to be both functional and gorgeous.

Glass is used on range hoods as an accent piece. Usually it’s the hood part that can be made from glass. The options abound there, too. You don’t have to stick with clear glass. White glass, or glass of other colors, is often used. It gives the range hood, and the kitchen, an artsy look. Like regular see-through glass or stainless steel, colored glass can complement a traditionally designed kitchen as much as a modern one.

Cleaning glass is really no more complicated than cleaning stainless steel. Periodically wipe it down using a natural citrus-based cleaner. Glass, colored or clear, gives the kitchen a light feel. Clear glass obviously doesn’t obstruct any sight lines from the kitchen to another room, for instance. But colored glass, because it just has a lighter feel than metal or wood, also makes the kitchen feel larger and more airy.

Over to you: Which range hood material would you like in your dream kitchen?

Vintage Utensils – Functional and Beautiful

shutterstock_65403682

Our modern kitchens, even if they’re designed in a traditional style, are so far removed from vintage kitchens with their lack of dedicated counter space and range hoods, dry sinks and ice boxes. We’ve been so successful at simplifying and modernizing our kitchens that we really don’t need to look backwards.

Yet, there’s something so simple and lovely about vintage kitchen tools, isn’t there. They were made to last, so you know they’re sturdy enough to take the roughest handling. They were also made to do the job right. So, although they didn’t have all the non-stick options we have today, the cooking utensils were crafted to produce food the way it was intended to be produced.

I’m not for a minute suggesting that every utensil was better back then. For instance, I’m a firm believer in the power of the Swissmar vegetable peeler. I don’t know what I’d do if Swissmar ever stopped making them. The combination of metals that now goes into pot and pan production is also phenomenal. We no longer have to worry so much about food not cooking properly because of hot spots.

Some things, though, never change. Vintage colanders, sieves, pots and pans, no matter how dented or stained with burned-on material, still stand the test of time and use. So many vintage utensils are not only functional, but beautiful, too. We don’t often see that any more, do we?

Photo: pinterest.com

The green-handled utensils pictured above were popular from about the 1940s into the 1950s. You’ll find red-handled utensils, too, from the same period. Just before the advent of plastics, wood still reigned supreme, and dying it with the trendy colors of the time was as popular a sales technique as it is today.

ebay.com

Photo: ebay.com

Would you use an old-style egg beater? It may seem more cumbersome than a fork, especially when you’re beating just a few eggs. But, the beauty of it is that more air is incorporated making for really fluffy, well-beaten eggs. No need to haul out the electric blender, either!

Photo: laurelleaffarm.com

Can you guess what those utensils in the picture were used for? I don’t think anyone uses anything close to this today. In fact, I’m guessing that few people do this anymore at home. Those utensils pictured above are crinkle potato cutters. I guess you could use them for carrots, too. We’ve all seen carrots and potatoes cut that way. Now you know that it’s not a new chef-driven invention. Home cooks would have made them, too, with this tool.

Over to you: Do you own any vintage utensils that you still use?

The Best Music To Cook To

music to cook by

I’ve interviewed a lot of chefs over the years, and one question I always ask them is what music they like to listen to in the kitchen. The answers have sometimes surprised me. One chef told me that he prefers absolute silence since everyone likes to listen to different genres. Oh well, I thought, I guess the hum of the range hood fans would provide at least some background ambiance, right?

Anyway, I love cooking with music. I also have a fairly wide repertoire to choose from – My iPod is loaded with songs from a lot of different genres.

Like any dance party, the music you choose must match your mood and energy level. If you just got in from a long day at work, and you find yourself staring at the empty cutting board wondering what you could possibly cook for dinner, turn on a bright, happy tune and get moving. Maybe it’s Saturday morning and you’re planning to prep and cook some of the meals for the upcoming week. In that case, plan your set list carefully. Start with some slow numbers, work up to some classic dance and high energy songs, then slow it back down again.

Take a look at some of my favorites below, and let me know what yours are!

Volare Domenico Modugno

Also Sprach Zarathustra, Op. 30 Richard Strauss

These Boots Are Made For Walking Nancy Sinatra

 

Monthly Pick – Range Hood Finishes – Copper

Photo: basiccopper.com

Photo: basiccopper.com

If you walk down the aisles of any home improvement store, you’re bound to see row upon row of range hoods. At one time, most homes did not come equipped with a range hood over the stove. If whatever you were cooking produced a lot of smoke or odor, you opened the windows. If whatever you were cooking produced a lot of grease … well, you could look forward to a night of scrubbing down the kitchen.

The fact that range hoods are pretty common additions to modern kitchens is a boon to everyone who likes to cook, but not clean … and vice versa, too.

So, back to that aisle of range hoods in practically every home hardware. You’ll notice that the majority of them are stainless steel. There is absolutely nothing wrong with stainless steel. It’s easy to clean, won’t corrode, and looks great in any kitchen design.

But, have you ever thought of buying a range hood made from copper?

Copper makes a beautiful addition to any kitchen design – traditional or modern. You also have the option of allowing copper to change over time or keeping it the same. If a protective glaze is applied to copper, it will retain that warm, orangey look forever. If no protective glaze is applied, then the copper will acquire a patina over time. That’s when that warm, copper brown turns to a kind of blue-green. The patina effect is as sought after as new copper. So, don’t think of it as a disadvantage. It just comes down to your own personal taste.

Copper is just as flexible as stainless steel in terms of its design capabilities. It can be mixed with other materials (as in a range hood that features a copper chimney and a glass hood, or one that features a stainless steel chimney and a copper hood). Copper is also as strong as stainless steel and guaranteed to last a lifetime.

Over to you: Which range hood material do you like best?

Recipes for the Outdoor Kitchen

outdoor kitchen

Every day now is a little shorter than the last, and most of us are trying to squeeze as much as possible into these last few weeks of high summer. Soaring temperatures certainly have enticed me out of the house and into the sun … ok, more likely into the shade. But, I do admit that I love cooking out of doors, and a good outdoor kitchen set up really should include a range hood.

In honor of National “Sneak Some Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch” Day, (yes, it’s a real thing), I thought it would be fun to share some recipes that make great use of that outdoor kitchen.

Blackened Red Snapper

blackened red snapperMake sure you turn your range hood fan full blast for this one. True blackening requires very high heat and quick cooking. The pan will produce a lot of smoke!

4 red snapper fillets

1 lemon

For the rub:

10 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked

4 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves picked

2 cloves garlic

2 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground

2 Tbsp olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

  1. Combine herbs and garlic in a mortar and pestle until it forms a paste. Stir in spices, salt, pepper and oil. Add juice of half a lemon; stir.
  2. Score the skin of the fish fillet. Rub the spice mixture all over the fillet.
  3. Place a frying pan over medium-high heat and leave it to get hot, about 5 minutes.
  4. When the pan begins to smoke, lower the heat to low, and carefully add the fish fillets. Cook 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  5. Serve with lemon cut into wedges.

Pan-Seared Zucchini

fried zucchini4 small zucchini, sliced into discs

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 Tbsp olive oil

  1. In a medium bowl, combine zucchini slices with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Stir to coat.
  2. Once the blackened red snapper is done, toss the zucchini into the same pan. Cook quickly. Remove to a separate bowl.

Tell us: what’s your favorite recipe to cook outdoors?

 

 

Monthly Pick – Range Hood Finishes – Stainless Steel

stainless steel range hood

Who would have ever thought that the stainless steel range hood trend would last this long. I’m not sure exactly how long. But, I am pretty sure it’s been going strong for at least ten years. I’m also pretty sure it’s not slowing down.

There are a lot of advantages to stainless steel appliances in general.

  • they complement a modern kitchen, but can also complement a traditional kitchen
  • almost every appliance available for purchase can be found in stainless steel making designing a one-look kitchen very easy
  • stainless steel is strong, scratch and rust resistant and doesn’t show signs of wear or damage
  • stainless steel is also resistant to stain and water damage
  • stainless steel appliances add value to your home

Design changes are coming, though. Manufacturers like KitchenAid aren’t ignoring the love we have for our stainless steel appliances. Instead, they’re trying to improve upon it.

You’ll find range hoods, for instance, that integrate a variety of materials, like stainless steel and glass or stainless steel and wood. The latest addition to this materials mix is actually black stainless steel. The appliance, itself, is made out of stainless steel. But then, a black, protective, coating is laid over top. The coating really does give it a matte, black steel look. It has all the advantages of stainless steel, and a new, sleek, clean and professional look.