Monthly Archives: November 2016

Monthly Picks – Kitchen Design Pitfalls

shutterstock_136550147

It’s not a cliché to say that the kitchen is the heart of the home. Even if your range hood fan is quiet most of the time, the kitchen is still the place where all of us cook and eat. I’ve noticed that kitchens often suffer from poor design regardless if they’re built into an older home or newer construction. I’m not sure if it’s the challenge of making the kitchen both functional and beautiful that causes designers and home builders problems. Whatever the issue is, and if you find yourself re-designing your kitchen, make sure you avoid these pitfalls.

  • Breaking the triangle. Most kitchen fixtures are built according to the triangle … even if the kitchen is a galley or L-shape. The triangle allows you to move efficiently from the sink to the fridge to the stove. If there’s too much space separating those three essentials, food preparation will take longer and feel more tiring. If there isn’t enough space separating them, having more than one person prepping food will feel crowded.
  • Wasting space. Even large kitchens can be guilty of wasting storage space. Install oversize cabinets that reach to the ceiling or extend counter space and built shelves or drawers underneath.
  • Skimping on lighting. Spend the money on an electrician and have him or her install as much lighting as possible. Place a pretty chandelier over the eating area. Place focused lighting along any workspaces.
  • Skipping a range hood. Ventilation is key, and opening the windows really isn’t enough. You need a quality range hood to exhaust all the odor, grease, and steam to the outside. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time scrubbing down the walls and ceiling.

Fall Recipes – Roasted Root Vegetables

shutterstock_523068145

Do you have trouble adding enough vegetables to your daily diet? I admit that I do too sometimes. I actually really love veggies. But, I have found that on those days that I’m rushed, it’s just so easy to throw together a quick sandwich or rip open a bag of chips then to take a few extra minutes to prepare some nutritious and delicious vegetables.

Definitely turn on your range hood fan when you make this recipe. The sweet, earthy aromas will waft out of your kitchen and down the street. Before you know it, your neighbors will be beating a path to your door wondering what delicious goodies you’re cooking up today!

Check out our other Fall Recipes, too!

Roasted Root Vegetables

  • 3 carrots, a mix of colors, peeled, halved lengthwise, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 each of parsnips and beets, halved lengthwise, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 head fresh garlic, peeled
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 bulb fennel, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 2 vanilla beans, halved lengthwise
  • 2 Tbsp pure maple syrup
  1. Pre-heat oven to 350°F.
  2. Place all the vegetables into a large roasting pan. Toss with oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans with the point of a knife. Add both seeds and vanilla pods to the roasting pan. Spread thyme sprigs over the vegetables.
  4. Place roasting pan in the oven for 1-1/2 hours, or until the vegetables are tender. Serve warm or at room temperature.

How To Host A Party In a Small Kitchen

shutterstock_495641206

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. Are you ready? For those of us who have to cook in small kitchens, holiday get-togethers can feel a little daunting. Where do you put everything? All those bowls of prepped ingredients, platters of hors d’oeuvres, dirty dishes and cutlery? That’s when I really wish my kitchen was at least three times the size it actually is.

Well, even though small kitchens may not seem like the ideal cooking environment, take heart. Many professional restaurant kitchens serve hundreds of people from very small kitchens. Putting out a full Thanksgiving feast from a small kitchen is entirely possible. There are a few important keys to success.

  • make-ahead Choose desserts and side dishes that can be made ahead of time and served either at room temperature or quickly warmed in the oven after the turkey and ham are done.
  • mise-en-place That’s just the fancy French way of saying “get everything ready before hand”. Chop the vegetables and measure out the liquids. If everything is ready to go, you’ll find yourself flying through the cooking.
  • hide the dirt Dirty pots, pans, and dishes can really pile up fast during a dinner party. If you need your countertops for food prep, piling the dirty dishes there makes cooking hard work. You can’t store them in the oven either because chances are you’re using it! Here’s an idea: pick a place in your home that ideally is near the kitchen and hide the dirty stuff there. Pile it all in the bathtub and draw the curtain tightly closed, or put everything in the laundry room. You can place some large empty plastic bins in a spare room and fill each bin with those dirty pots, pans, and dishes. No one will be the wiser, and you’ll have the room to cook! Once everyone’s gone, you can fish the dirty stuff out of whatever you’ve hidden them in and wash up.

Over to you: How do you make a small kitchen work for you?

Fall Recipes – Maple Mustard Pecan Glazed Ham

shutterstock_360615116

Is your kitchen full of activity at Thanksgiving? If it’s anything like mine, the range hood fan practically never gets turned off! This week’s addition to our Fall Recipes series is an easy and delicious one. For many people, ham is a necessary part of the Thanksgiving table. The sweet glaze that covers this ham offsets any inherent saltiness. Serve with rice, and all the other wonderful dishes that cover the Thanksgiving table.

Maple Mustard Pecan Glazed Ham

  • 1 (6 lb) ham
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • Pinch salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apricot jam
  • 1/4 cup dried apricots, diced
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp brandy
  • 3/4 cup pecan pieces
  1. Score ham with a sharp knife about 1/4-inch deep all over the fat side in a diamond pattern. Place ham scored side up on foil- or parchment-lined baking sheet.
  2. Cover ham tightly with foil and bake in a preheated 325°F oven for 1 hour.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Add salt and pumpkin pie spice; cook for a minute.
  4. Stir in brown sugar, maple syrup, jam, apricots, mustard, brandy and pecan pieces. Bring the mixture to a boil; stir in pepper. Remove from heat.
  5. Spoon 1/3 of the glaze over the ham after the first hour of cooking. Cover the ham again and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, spoon 1/3 of the glaze over the top and bake, uncovered for about 45 minutes. Internal temperature should be 145°F. Let rest for 15 minutes. Slice and serve alongside the remaining glaze.

Over to you: What dishes must be part of your Thanksgiving feast?

 

 

Tips On Using Reclaimed Materials In Kitchen Design

fri-

Whether you’re looking to save some money, or you’re looking for that super unique look, using recycled and reclaimed materials to re-design your kitchen makes a lot of sense. Give a lot of thought to which kitchen pieces would work used and which wouldn’t. For instance, I’d probably opt for a brand new range hood that’s built according to the best and latest technology. Other parts of the kitchen, however, can be switched up easily.

Check out salvage shops for these great finds:

  • vintage or unique chandeliers
  • cabinet doors and hardware
  • vintage vinyl or reclaimed wood flooring

Keep in mind that, even if you’re trying to save money by buying used pieces, you shouldn’t just go for cheap. Look instead for inspiring and unique pieces that will make your kitchen stand out. Used, high quality pieces stand the test of time. Unless they’ve been harshly treated, they will still shine. Low quality pieces cost less in the short term, but they won’t necessarily look as fantastic, and they may not hold up under daily use.

Consider these out-of-the-box ideas, too:

  • an old blackboard can be used to cover an entire kitchen wall
  • vintage stoves from the 1940s were often made with built-in storage
  • the wood floor of an old bowling alley would make a great table or kitchen floor

Over to you: Have you considered using recycled and reclaimed materials in your kitchen renovation?

Monthly Pick – Dealing With Mold In The Kitchen

mould

Practically everyone I know has experienced some degree of mold in the kitchen at some point in time. The horror of finding it is indescribable. You immediately wonder about how clean the air is … whether you’ve touched any of it … how widespread the problem is.

No doubt, finding mold in the kitchen ranks as one of the worst possible problems of home ownership. So, now what?

Before getting up close and personal with mold, make sure you don a mask and gloves, at the very least. I would recommend adding eye protection, too. If it’s a small area of mold, mix together 1 part water with 1 part bleach. Pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Spray over the mold-affected area and wipe well with paper towels. Throw the paper towels immediately into a garbage bag. Then, once you’re done cleaning, take the garbage bag out of your home completely. If you’re looking at an entire wall or ceiling covered in mold, call in the professionals immediately.

One of the first questions you will have to answer is why mold has thrived in the first place. If you’re in an older home, chances are very good that insulation and venting is insufficient or even non-existent. Moisture from cooking can build up in damp, difficult to reach corners. When was the last time you wiped down the tops of the kitchen cupboards? That’s a great place for moisture and dust to settle and eventually become the perfect habitat for mold spores. Check for leaks from other parts of the house, too. Is there a bathroom above the kitchen where a pipe might be leaking?

Once you’ve removed the mold, you’re going to have to consider the larger issue of why the mold sprouted in your kitchen. Consider hiring a professional to assess what you need to add or change in your kitchen in order to ensure that mold no longer lays root in your home. If the steam that cooking produces isn’t vented, you’ll need to invest in a range hood. Remember to open a window while you’re cooking, too. Once you’re done cooking, make wiping down all the surfaces part of your clean-up routine.

Over to you: Have you ever run into mold? How did you deal with it?

 

Once the

Fall Recipes – Sausage-Stuffed Peppers

stuffed peppers

One of the more wonderful things of this time of year is the amount and variety of fresh produce available, much of it local.

Bell peppers – red, yellow, green, orange, purple – are part of that incredible bounty.

I love peppers just about any way I’ve ever had them! Raw as a snack or in salads. Sautéed in stir-fries or with fajitas. Roasted over hot coals (the aroma from these will definitely have the neighbors beating a path to your door! Turning on the range hood fan will have that affect, too.). Baked peppers, like their roasted counterparts, are even sweeter-tasting than raw or fried. Fill the cavity with your favorite stuffing, and you’ve just made a quick, nutritious, and so delicious meal.

With Thanksgiving coming up, consider making this dish a side. Or, if you can find really small sweet peppers, make it a first course.

Stuffing for peppers can range from a savory rice mixture to roasted vegetables to sautéed meats. The best, in my opinion, is a combination of all of the above!

This is such a versatile dish that I new I had to include it in the Fall Recipes series. This particular version is pretty basic. Feel free to add more to it according to your own personal tastes or your guests’ food preferences.

Sausage-Stuffed Peppers

  • 4 hot Italian sausages
  • 1-1/4 cups tomato-basil sauce (use your favorite brand), divided
  • 3/4 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded, divided
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped, divided
  • 2 bell peppers (any color)
  1. Stir together sausage meat, 1/4 cup each of the tomato-basil sauce and mozzarella, parmesan and 2 Tbsp parsley.
  2. Slice peppers in half; remove seeds and membranes. Divide sausage mixture evenly in each pepper.
  3. Pour remaining tomato sauce into the casserole dish. The sauce will add flavor and prevent the peppers from sticking to the dish. Carefully place each pepper in the casserole dish. Sprinkle the tops of each pepper with remaining mozzarella cheese and parsley. Cover the dish with foil.
  4. Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 30 to 45 minutes, or until sausage is no longer pink. Uncover and bake for another 10 minutes. Cheese should be golden, and peppers should be tender.

What’s your favorite pepper stuffing?

Monthly Pick – Out Of The Box Kitchen Design

Thurs. unique kitchen layouts

Last week, I was feeling a bit under the weather. So, I decided to stay home one day and pamper myself. I spent the afternoon flipping television channels and watching one home design show after another. The one dominant theme in practically every single episode was a move to make a small, walled-in kitchen into a larger, open concept kitchen.

Doing that not only meant knocking down a few walls, it meant rearranging where the fridge, stove, range hood, and other important kitchen elements lived. I had to admit that in every case, the changes the designers made were impressive. The new layouts improved traffic flow through the kitchen and updated the look, too.

Feeling like a change? Take a look at some of these unique kitchen design ideas.

Circles unite the space

I love the look of the kitchen below. The circular work-eat space keeps anyone who’s not cooking out of the immediate area while still allowing conversation to flow.

Photo: houzz.com

Photo: houzz.com

Making a small space large

Many of us are stuck with the tiny kitchens originally built into our homes. Renovating isn’t always an option whether it’s because our budgets don’t allow for it, or the house itself just doesn’t offer enough room to expand or change the layout. There are ways of maximizing the limited space in a small kitchen, and making it look larger than it is. A mirrored backsplash goes a long way in tricking the eye into believing the kitchen is larger. Filling as much space as possible with cabinets will also help make the kitchen more functional.

Photo: housebeautiful.com

Photo: housebeautiful.com

What are your own kitchen issues and wishes?

Fall Recipes – Oven Roasted Jerk Salmon with Red Bean Salsa

roasted salmon

Jerk, a common seasoning mix in the Caribbean, combines cinnamon, pepper, thyme, and a pinch or two of flavorings depending on which island you happen to be on at any given moment. Of course, you don’t have to be in the Caribbean to enjoy jerk spice. You can buy it ready-mixed in almost any grocery store across the country. Or, you can mix your own.

Turn on your range hood fan 15 minutes before baking this salmon. You’re going to want the whole neighborhood to know you’re preparing something truly delicious for dinner! Serve this roasted salmon dish with Warm Tomato and Green Bean Salad.

Oven Roasted Jerk Salmon with Red Bean Salsa

Jerk Spice Mix

  • 2 Tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp allspice berries
  • 1-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 grated nutmeg
  1. Place all spices and herbs in a pan. Toast over medium heat until they are aromatic and their color has darkened a shade.
  2. Place toasted herbs and spices in a spice grinder or a mortar. Crush into a powder. Store in a sealed jar.

Jerk Salmon with Red Bean Salsa

Preheat oven to 400°F.

  • 1 can (398 ml) kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup canned pineapple, diced
  • 1/2 cup red onion, diced
  • 1/4 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp jerk seasoning
  • 4 pieces center-cut salmon
  1. Combine kidney beans with tomato, pineapple, onion, salt and pepper. Stir 2 tsp of jerk seasoning into bean mixture. Spread bean mixture into a 9×13 inch roasting pan.
  2. Rub remaining jerk seasoning all over salmon pieces. Place salmon pieces on top of bean mixture.
  3. Place roasting pan in the center of the oven. Roast for 30 minutes, or until salmon flakes when tested with a knife.

Enjoy!

How To Turn The Kitchen Into a Family Space

shutterstock_283815887

There’s just no getting around it. The kitchen really is the heart of the home. But, if you’re a condo dweller or live in a more traditional home where walls separate small rooms, how do you foster that homey environment? We all love to use the kitchen as both the cooking center and a family hang-out space.

Yes, embarking on a renovation and knocking down walls would definitely result in a larger kitchen. A few months of dust and disruption isn’t too much to put up with if the end result is a place to cook, eat, and put your feet up, right? Well, sometimes it is. Some homes are just too small. Renovating to make the kitchen and living room more open concept would actually serve to make the whole house look smaller. I know that’s counterintuitive. But, I’ve seen it with my own eyes.

Try these tips for creating the perfect family space.

Renovate

I know. I just finished saying that knocking down walls isn’t the right solution. That’s true. But, when it is the right solution, the transformative effect can be phenomenal. Hire a designer to help you figure out the best course of action. If you’re going to renovate, consider connecting the kitchen to the living room and dining room. In that design, the whole family can be together regardless of whether one is cooking, one is reading, and one is eating.

Organization

Think about kitchen organization, and most of us will picture cupboards stacked neatly with plates and drawers neatly lined with utensils and spices. But, there’s another way to organize a kitchen that will help it become more family friendly. Use an armoire or an old hoosier cabinet to store kids’ craft and homework supplies, computer devices, and any other non-kitchen object that your family uses.

Protecting the nice stuff

Turning the kitchen into a family space, especially when you’re also incorporating the dining room and living room into that space, means that you’ll have to give extra thought to the kind of furniture you place in the kitchen. Consider purchasing furniture that has longevity in terms of the way it looks and the way it’s built. Once those pieces are in your home, help them last forever by outfitting them with slipcovers, tablecloths, and other protective covers.

Raised cabinets

Consider replacing your existing kitchen cabinets with raised cabinets. That extra space underneath will actually make the kitchen easier to keep clean. It will also help your home look much larger.

How do you and your family use the kitchen?