Monthly Archives: January 2017

Winter Recipes – Roast Potatoes with Green Beans and Parmesan

Jan. 31

Although summer is my ultimate favorite season, I have to admit that I love winter, too. Cooler temperatures mean that I can wear the long-sleeved tops that I normally don’t get a chance to wear. It also means that I can indulge in some cold season vegetables.

This roast potato recipe makes use of any vegetable you happen to have on hand or happen to see at the grocery store. Really. Customize it in any way you’d like. Give it a try, and let me know how you made it your own. Remember to turn on the range hood fan! All of that wonderful aroma exhausting from your stove’s fan will definitely temp your neighbors’ taste buds.

Roast Potatoes with Green Beans and Parmesan

  • 2 cups green beans, chopped into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 lbs potatoes (sweet or Yukon), peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 cups carrots, peeled and cut into bite=sized pieces
  • 2 cups corn, sliced off the cob and cut into pieces
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan (look for imported Parmigiano Reggiano DOP, if possible)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chives, chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Blanch beans and corn in a large pot of boiling, salted water for about 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Add potatoes and carrots to the boiling water and cook for about 6 minutes. Drain and remove to a bowl.
  3. Toss vegetables separately in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the potatoes on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes. Add carrots, corn, and beans to the baking sheet, and roast for 10 minutes. Potatoes and carrots should be tender, and corn and beans should be evenly browned.
  4. Pile roasted vegetables into a serving bowl. Sprinkle shaved parmesan over top and drizzle with a little bit of olive oil.

Enjoy! Check out more of our Winter Recipes series.

Go Green!

Fri. 27

Going green isn’t just a fad. Building our homes with natural, non toxic materials and eating fresh food keeps both the environment and our bodies healthy. Sometimes, when you’re in the throes of a kitchen renovation, you might not be thinking of ways to make your new kitchen greener than the old.

But, there are ways to go green without adding too much to your budget.

I’m not in the process of renovating my kitchen right now, but I am looking for ways to reduce my footprint on the environment. Most of the changes I’ve made have been really easy to implement and to stick to. In some cases, like my change of cookware, it’s made cooking much easier and less frustrating.

Have you taken steps to become greener? Share your tips with us! In the meantime, here are my own:

  • Cast iron cookware is built to last. A quick seasoning is all it takes to get it ready for use. My cast iron skillet developed a non stick patina after, literally, two uses. I’ve been so frustrated with so-called non stick cookware that is either coated in some kind of toxic chemical or loses its non stick properties within a few months!
  • Until new, better, and green energy sources are discovered and refined, we will still have to choose between gas and electric powered ranges. My preference has always been gas. I love its versatility. But, if you’ve always loved electric, that’s ok, too. Neither are green fuel sources. Look for stoves that Energy Star rated products. Then switch to buying your gas or electricity to a company that uses green sources.
  • Turn on that range hood fan (using energy from a green source, of course) and strap on an apron. One of the most environmentally steps you can take is to cook for yourself using the most natural and least processed produce.
  • Check the quality of your stove’s fan and exhaust ducting. Make sure all the parts are connected and properly sealed, and that all the fans are operable. Our stoves emit lots of chemical residue, grease, and odors. A good stove fan exhaust system is essential to keeping indoor air quality at its best.

I’m loving these changes. They’re helping my wallet feel heavier at the end of each month, and I’m happy knowing that every little bit helps the environment.

Tips On Choosing Granite For The Kitchen

Wed. 25

Granite is absolutely beautiful. It’s functional, too. It can elevate the look of any kitchen instantaneously.

But, before you plunk down a load of cash and embark on what might be a long and involved renovation, consider whether or not granite is the right material for you. Granite really does look great with any design style – traditional or modern. Practically every kitchen photo shoot appearing in magazines features granite (or some other kind of natural stone). If that’s the look you’re after, stop for a moment and consider these tips.

Pros

  • Granite is a very strong, natural material. Please don’t assume that it’s indestructible! But, with normal, daily use, granite is sure to last for a very long time indeed.
  • Granite can withstand high heat. Although I wouldn’t recommend that you place a hot pot directly on a granite counter as a regular course of action, if it does happen, the granite won’t be damaged.
  • Do you love to bake? Then you’ll love granite. This natural stone remains cool to the touch. Go ahead and roll out that delicate pastry.
  • Granite comes in a variety of striations and colors. Choose the design that suits you and your kitchen best. Even if everyone on your block installs a granite countertop, that variety ensures that your kitchen will still be unique.

Cons

  • Cost is probably the number one drawback. Granite is not cheap. If you find sold for considerably less than comparable retailers, beware. This is a natural product. So, it must be extracted from the ground and refined in a very particular way. If you find a cheaper version, your granite may not install properly, look as beautiful, or last as long.
  • Maintenance can be a bit of a chore for some people. Granite will need to be sealed and resealed periodically to ensure that stains won’t damage it.

Do you have a granite countertop in your kitchen? What pros and cons can you add from your own experience?

Winter Recipes – Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

Mon. 23

Ready for a treat? Why not? You’re doing great with your New Year’s resolutions. And if you gave up on those resolutions weeks ago, you still have reason to celebrate. We’re heading toward the end of January, mid-way through winter, and happily heading toward spring. That, surely, is reason enough to celebrate.

But, who really needs a reason, anyway? You’re going to love this sweet-tart cheesecake no matter what the occasion. Pull out that little-used cheesecake pan and preheat the oven. You won’t even need to turn on the range hood fans to exhaust anything to the outdoors, either!

Cranberry Swirl Cheesecake

  • 6 almond biscotti
  • 3 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 (450g) container ricotta
  • 2 (8oz) pkgs cream cheese, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup cranberry sauce
  1. Pulse biscotti in a food processor until it resembles a fine crumb. Add butter and salt. Pulse until just combined. Press crumb mixture into an 8-inch springform pan. Bake in a preheated 325°F stove for 7 minutes. Let cool.
  2. Combine ricotta, cream cheese, sugar, flour, and vanilla in a clean food processor bowl. Pulse until smooth and combined. Add eggs, one at a time, and pulse until just combined.
  3. Spoon ricotta mixture into the prepared crust. Dollop the cranberry sauce here and there over the top of the cheesecake. Using a knife, carefully swirl the cranberry sauce.
  4. Bake cheesecake for 30 minutes. The center should still wobble a bit when cooked. Turn off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in the oven to cool. It should take about 40 minutes. Place the cheesecake on a rack to cool completely. Run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake. When it’s completely cool, place in the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.

Enjoy! Check out more Winter Recipes.

The Happy Kitchen

Thurs. 19

The kitchen is truly the heart of any home. Not only is it the place where we nourish ourselves and others with good food. It’s the place where we sit and and listen to each other. How many times have you found yourself sipping a cup of tea listening to a friend or family member tell you about some interesting event that happened?

Anything can happen in the kitchen. So, let’s have some fun with it! Turn on that fan on the gas cooker hood (so no one eavesdrops on all those juicy details!). Tell us about some fun things that have happened to you in your own kitchen or in someone else’s?

Who knows more about having fun in the kitchen than the wonderful Julia Child.

Photo: ChefMemes.com

Who hasn’t felt like this:

Photo: Funny Kitchen Quotes-Pinterest

Photo: CartoonStock.com

Photo: CartoonStock.com

I know this one too well…

Photo: Funny Kitchen Quotes

Share with us some of your favorite kitchen related quotes and mishaps!

Winter Recipes – Garlic Crusted Rack of Lamb

Tues. 17

There are people out there … perhaps you count yourself as one of them … who say they don’t like lamb. I get it. Lamb can taste a little gamey. What if I told you that there’s a way to reduce the gaminess? Would you try it then?

The key is to marinate the meat overnight. Combine the juice of one lemon, a whole garlic clove or two, and a sprig or two of fresh rosemary. The lamb will absorb the flavors, and the lemon will tenderize the meat.

I really encourage you to give it a try. Lamb is an incredibly flavorful and succulent meat. It’s not hugely expensive, and because it’s so flavorful, a little really does go a long way.

This recipe is very quick to prepare, and it looks and tastes spectacular. It’s perfect for a special dinner or for a speedy weeknight meal. Turn on the range hood fan for this one. Searing in a cast iron skillet can produce a bit of smoke, and you’ll want to exhaust it to the outdoors! Check out our other winter recipes, too.

Give it a try and let me know how it turns out for you.

Garlic Crusted Rack of Lamb

  • 2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 racks lamb
  • 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
  1. Combine panko, parsley, garlic, and oil; set aside.
  2. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Score the fat side of the lamb racks in a cross-hatch pattern. Season well with salt and pepper. Sear racks, fat side down. Turn and sear all other sides.
  4. Brush meat with mustard and press panko mixture into the mustard coating. Lay racks in parchment-lined baking sheet. Place sprigs of rosemary across the top of the lamb racks.
  5. Roast in a preheated 400°F oven for about 30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 155°F (medium). Let rest for about 10 minutes. Carve alongside ribs.

Enjoy!

High Style – Discrete Kitchen Cabinets

Fri. 13

I love large spaces. Large living areas, large kitchens. But, unless you’ve managed to purchase a very large home, large rooms aren’t possible. Now, I’m not the only one who craves space. Many people have satisfied that need by renovating. Knocking down walls between the kitchen and living area creates an extra large space for entertaining. You no longer have to deal with guests squeezing into a small kitchen while you’re trying to converse and prepare meals.

There is one drawback to the open concept kitchen-living room space. Dirty pots and pans.

I’ve never been keen on the idea of guests seeing all the equipment, mess, crumbs, etc that were generated while I prepared all the food and drinks. I guess I’m not the only person to dislike that, too!

Designers have now begun creating spaces with discrete cabinets. These cabinets might go right up to the ceiling. The drawers might lack obvious pulls and handles. The color of the cabinets will probably be uniform. In short, the design of the kitchen is such that used equipment, food scraps, and splatters of wine won’t be visible. There are receptacles ready to hold stuff as it awaits cleaning or disposal.

Photo: House Beautiful

Some designers have installed retractable doors in between the kitchen prep area and the eating and living area. That’s one easy and ingenious way of hiding the mess.

Photo: Houzz.com

Photo: Houzz.com/Studio Tonic

Sometimes, the most difficult part of entertaining in a small space isn’t the cooking mess. After all, that’s a common side effect of entertaining, right? Finding space to accommodate all your guests comfortably can really be a challenge, especially if you’d like to offer a sit-down meal. One designer has a solution. It’s the pull-out table!

Photo: Houzz.com/Minosa

Photo: Houzz.com/Minosa

Which is your favorite discrete solution?

4 Types of Common Range Hoods

Wed. 11

The last time I renovated my kitchen, I decided that I needed a new range hood. The one I had was at least 50 years old. The people who had owned my home before me had been the original owners and had never updated any part of the home. Talk about museum grade retro!

Anyway, that original range hood was beautiful. It had been painted to look like copper. But, it was anything but effective. When I turned the fan on, the steam coming up from the pots and pans on the stove would just swirl around a bit before finding its way to the ceiling and surrounding cabinets and walls. Not a good situation.

Looking at all the possible range hood options really confused me. I thought that would be the easy part! Silly me. Although you can certainly choose a range hood based solely on style or color, you probably shouldn’t. There are a lot more considerations to keep in mind before you make your final choice and lay down your money.

If you find yourself standing in the same place I found myself – needing a new range hood hood, but not knowing how to choose one – you’ve come to the right place. I’ve put together a little summary to at least get you started. You can also follow the links for even more information. Once you’ve got those basics down, you’re ready to visit a range hood seller near you and make your choice.

Under-the-cabinet range hoods. Most kitchens are equipped with this style of range hood. The range hood is mounted underneath half-sized cabinets which are, in turn, mounted above the stove. You don’t see the duct work because it’s usually hidden inside the cabinet. This style allows you to maximize storage space while still allowing proper ventilation.

Wall-mounted range hoods. This style has gained in popularity in newer homes. Instead of cabinets installed over the stove, the wall is left open. It’s in that space that the range hood is installed leaving the duct work open to view.

Island range hoods. For those kitchens where the stove is built into the island, there’s the island range hood. These are quite literally mounted into the ceiling and hang down over the island stove.

Downdraft range hoods. To call these a “hood” is kind of a misnomer. They aren’t actually installed above the stove. Downdraft range hoods can be located at countertop level beside the stove or at the back of the stove. They have a strong fan that pulls the steam down and then ventilates it out.

Believe it or not, there are even more varieties of range hoods available to complement any kitchen design style. Which type of range hood do you have in your kitchen right now?

Have questions? We’ll be happy to answer any questions about range hoods. Give us a call.

Winter Recipes – Root Vegetable and Spelt Pilaf

Mon. 9

This dish is wonderfully delicious and nutritious. It’s perfect for post-holiday dining when most of us are trying to lose that holiday puffiness and introduce healthier foods to our diet. You won’t need to fire up the stove for long to create this delectable recipe.

Spelt is a grain similar to wheat. It’s actually been cultivated for much longer than wheat and hasn’t gone through the amount of alterations that wheat has. For that reason, it’s considered an ancient grain loaded with nutrients. You should be able to find spelt in Italian food markets or better grocery stores. If all else fails, don’t worry, just use rice or barley. Both will work equally well.

Root vegetables are readily available at this time of the year. Use your favorites or whatever happens to be on sale. It’s all good. Give it a try. Add your own twist, and let me know what you think of it!

Root Vegetable and Spelt Pilaf

  • 1 cup spelt grains
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 3 cups mixed chopped root vegetables (carrots, beets, squash, parsnips, turnips)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  1. Prepare the spelt according to package directions. Drain; set aside.
  2. Heat butter and olive oil in a large frying pan set over medium high heat. Add onion and celery; sauté for 3 minutes, or until softened.
  3. Stir in chopped vegetables, sage and thyme. Cook for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in broth and cranberries, if using. Cover and simmer for 5 – 10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked through.
  4. Stir spelt into vegetable mixture. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, or until warmed through.
  5. Garnish with parsley.

Enjoy! Check out our other Winter Recipes, too.

 

Get Fit In The Kitchen

Thurs. 5

With the new year comes all manner of resolutions. Have you made yours yet? One of the most common resolutions that most of us make is to use the coming year to get fit. Sadly, although that’s one of the most common promises we make to ourselves, it’s also one of the first to be broken.

It’s not hard to understand why so many of us allow our hopes of getting fit to fall by the wayside. Finding time to head out to the gym in our already packed daily schedules is just too difficult. If you can find the time, sometimes it’s the gym memberships themselves that keep us away. The financial cost can often be prohibitive.

Skipping the gym scene for a do-it-yourself approach is a great idea. Heading out for a daily walk alone with your music, or with your favorite person can be a perfect way to stay on track with your goals. But, if you’re anything like me, the novelty soon wears off … especially in the dead of winter or height of summer heat.

So, what’s person to do? The easiest way to stick to your get fit resolution is to make it easy on yourself. Think about it. You’re in the kitchen every day as it is. Why not add a one minute exercise routine to your kitchen time. Instead of using cooking time to taste test, use it to tone muscles! Here’s how:

10 Squats. Putting something into the oven? Great! Being careful not to open the oven door, place your hands on the handle. Do as many squats as you feel able to do.

10 counter push-ups. Place your hands on the edge of the countertop. Stand about three feet back. Slowly lower yourself toward the counter then back up.

10 tri dips. Stand with your back to the counter. Reach your hands behind you until you can grip the edge of the counter. Stand about three feet away from the counter. Slowly lower yourself backwards toward the counter then back up again.

If ten repetitions are too many, don’t worry about it. Reduce the amount to whatever you can handle. Because you’re doing this routine in the kitchen while you’re preparing meals, you won’t give up on it. You can also gradually increase the repetitions month by month as you strengthen your muscles.

What were your resolutions for this year?