Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Why Pootie Can't Cook

And when I say "can't", I mean because usually I don't let him.

Besides the legendary Cold Greasy Fish Toast for breakfast Incident, and the Southwestern-Asian Fusion Cuisine Disaster, there are other reasons I don't normally let Pootie cook.

Witness the following exchange, gentle reader:

Pootie: You need to check the vegetable basket. Somethin's gone bad.

Me: Wait. So I'm supposed to stop working, go in and check the basket, and dispose of the offending vegetable because why? You're crippled? You feel the vapours coming on? Is there some other reason I need to be made aware of that you can't handle this crisis yourself?

Pootie: Oh. OK. (thumps off to dining room to examine the basket)

Pootie: (back in the office) It was a squash. It was just a little end-piece that was starting to go bad, so I cut that part off and left the rest on the cart in the kitchen so you could go ahead and do something with it tonight, before the rest goes bad.

Me: Thanks, babe.

This is what I found on the cart:

For the uninitiated, that is NOT a squash. That is a cucumber. Yes, folks, the lowly cucumber befuddled my groom. His excuse?

Me: Honey, that's a cucumber, not a squash.

Pootie: Well, it had a weird little end on it.

Guest Blogger - Pootie

Even people who love to cook walk in the kitchen some nights and say, "I just can't do it. I don't wanna do it. I'm not gonna do it.". This was one of those nights. Pootie and I didn't especially want to go out either, though, and he's not a "bowl of cereal and call it a night" kind of guy. So he volunteered to cook, and in a rare moment of weakness, I said "Knock yourself out." It cannot be said that Pootie is a bad cook. But it also cannot be said that Pootie is necessarily a good cook. I don't give him a lot of opportunity - I'm kind of a kitchen hog. There WAS the Cold Greasy Fish Toast for breakfast Incident, but beyond that, he knows his way around the kitchen all right. Then of course, being the cocky egomaniac that he is, he insisted on blogging about his masterpiece.

So without further ado or explanation, I turn the blog keys over to Pootie to drive. (I'm in charge of pictures, though.)

I’m honored to be guest-blogging at Café 305 tonight—we have a great show for you—Taran Azbekstanu is with us tonight—yes, OK--from the hit NBC sitcom Fat Stupid and Lazy Mr. Jim Mistermeaner—our ever-popular Fun With Household Current segment—a-a-and supporting their strong new release Fungal Love, Gluttons for Punishment are our musical guests tonight.

OK so the proprietor of this establishment was just really needing a break tonight and actually asked me to cook. Now some things just don’t happen. Dogs don’t order spinach canapés in tapas bars. Crack whores don’t take American Express. Andie doesn’t ask me to cook. In fact, when I have cooked in the past, my offerings tended to be met with the enthusiasm normally reserved for occasions such as the first Monday of junior high or an animate reminder that it’s time to renew your Orkin contract. But all great chefs know that connecting with the right audience is key, and Andie just wasn’t the right audience for my unique Asian-Southwestern Fusion Cuisine. So she cooks, and I eat and express appreciation. As any of you who’ve been here before probably realize, appreciation is certainly in order.

But tonight it was time to shine. Time to bring the excellence to an unexpected place. Time for another shot at connecting with that audience while the audience sat in the doorway and read Bon Appetit. Nothing conventional would do, of course, so I went down to the Special Reserve cellar of my creative powers and brought up the future of culinary accomplishment.

Me. In Action.

Without further ado, readers—the menu.

Norddeutscher seared beef auf Brot

Whole ear of maize cuites à l'eau

Shredded chou à la moutarde et le vinaigre mayonnaise

(It's Andie - Isn't the Google Translator a wonderful thing? And isn't French just the best language for adding some pomposity?)

The uninitiated rarely realize that a masterpiece is usually just a slight twist on an old theme, or a re-combination of familiar ingredients. Those themes and those familiar ingredients are old and familiar for good reasons. What artists such as myself are able to do is alter them just enough to give a jaded palate that “a-ha!” moment of re-discovery. When it happens, it makes all the work worthwhile—trust me.

Do not work the ground beef more than necessary. Season it with Cavender’s and sea salt. Throw the patties on a 500-600 degree clean grill, sear on one side until upper side is no longer pink but still wet, then flip and sear other side. Remove within two minutes. If it is not deep pink when bitten into and doesn’t deposit a generous pool of red and clear jus on the plate and down your chin, it is ruined, and Andie will say it all silently with her eyes. Serve on quick-toasted whole wheat buns with no chemicals.

I have NEVER figured what that ee-iz, but shredded chou à la moutarde et le vinaigre mayonnaise just seems to come alive if most of the kitchen is bespeckled with shredded chou during its preparation. Also, if there is major shredded chou clean-up to be done, it allows much of the maize water to boil away which will need to be replenished. This helps to concentrate the water flavor much more effectively than a single boil-down.

Andie strongly prefers her Norddeutscher seared beef auf Brot with a slice of fromage faible en gras américaine, and it’s no accident that our on-premises fromagerie produces our own special house brand; we’ve named it Kraft as a nod to its usual role as an accompaniment to the Teutonic stand-by I’ve riffed on tonight.

So that’s really about it—as the Gilded Age tycoon reputedly told the dock-walker, “If you have to ask, you can’t afford it”—if you need ingredients lists and step-by-step instructions here, there’s no way you have the mojissimus maximatissimus to put this meal on a plate. Sorry but there it is. For the rest of you, I hope it rocks your rarefied atmosphere with the subsonic vibrations. From Café 305, this is Poo-tay Kickin’ Boo-tay signing off. We now return you to your regularly-scheduled programming.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

White Chocolate Brownies

No, not brownies with chunks of white chocolate. White Chocolate Brownies. These are chewy and buttery and mild. They remind me of those wonderful brown-edged vanilla wafers. (Can you still get those?) I sent these brownies to my brother once and the girl he was dating at the time (sorry, Natalie! I like you better!) happened to not like lemon-flavored stuff. John took one bite of these, groaned, and she said "Oh! What are those?" and he said "They're lemon. You wouldn't like them." (You will notice the glaring absence of lemon in the following recipe. My brother was being a greedy fibber.)

These are easy, fast, and they're from my favorite baking book - yes, the butter cake one. Look, everybody does chocolate. Everybody makes brownies. These are a little different. So you'll stand out in a crowd. If you're into that sort of thing. And if you're not, you can say someone else made them.

White Chocolate Brownies

8 Tbsp. (1 stick) unsalted butter
4 oz. good quality white chocolate (such as Lindt) - do use decent white chocolate here. Since there aren't many ingredients, it will really stand out. And if you get that chalky stuff, it just won't be as good.
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 325° F. Lightly grease an 11 x 7 inch baking pan with butter or vegetable oil.

Melt the butter in the top of a double boiler placed over simmering water. When the butter has melted, add the white chocolate and melt.

This won't blend together smoothly. The white chocolate may not even look like it's melted completely. But it will be soft, and that's OK! I promise!

Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the eggs and salt in a medium mixing bowl until frothy, about 20 seconds. Gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the eggs are thick and pale, about 1 ½ minutes. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula.

Add the probably not perfectly smooth, and maybe even a little lumpy and grainy looking white chocolate and butter mixture and the vanilla and mix on medium-low speed until blended, about 5 seconds. Scrape the bowl. Mix in the flour on low speed until blended, scraping the bowl with the rubber spatula once during blending. Pour the batter evenly into the prepared pan.

See? I told you. It's just fine.

Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Allow the brownies to cool on a rack for one hour before cutting. Cut into squares and serve.

Here's the .pdf version for you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Good lord, it's hot.

My office window is sweaty.

There is no way in hell I'm getting in my car again today. (The inside temperature was higher.)

He couldn't do anything but lie there. I think he wanted in the house. I don't blame him. It's hotter than hay-bees out there.

This is about the only thing that I feel like eating, besides ice cream.

But in the interest of consuming something filling and reasonably healthy that will get me through my workout (for which I will be cranking the A/C down to 40), I can make these peaches into a smoothie. Which will involve turning on no heat source or ingesting anything that is above 60 degrees F.

Peach Smoothie

1 cup fresh peaches, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 cup silken tofu

1/4 cup skim milk or peach nectar or orange juice (I know. It's a wide array of flavors here, but they're all good.)

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 cup ice

1 Tbs honey (more or less to taste - a lot will depend on how sweet your peaches are.)

1. Dump everything in the blender and puree until smooth.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day and Dad's Toffee Cookies

Father's Day.

Meet The Weasel:

Priority objective: Get my phone call in to Dad earlier than this guy, thereby reaffirming my status as Favorite. It's not that hard to do, since he's in Colorado, I'm in North Carolina and Dad is sandwiched in between in Arkansas. I have a good two-hour head start. I've only missed once, and that was because I was in the pokey in Tijuana because of that unfortunate misunderstanding with that man over a donkey and some chickens.

But this isn't about me. Or the Weasel. Or our staged sibling rivalry. (I'm actually pretty crazy about my baby brother.) It's about Dad.

Sorry ladies, he's taken.

Dad used to put my hair in pigtails. So tight it would stretch my eyes closed, and I'd run into things, thus giving me the unshakeable reputation for being clumsy. He was also the one in charge of getting gum out of it. I had a problem keeping Double Bubble in my mouth, evidently. (Man, I was a mess, wasn't I?) Peanut butter was his tool. He used the same peanut butter (if he hadn't used it all on getting gum out of my ponytails) to bake peanut butter cookies with me. I got to do the crosshatch part on top of the cookies. 

Dad was the breakfast cook in our house most mornings when I was a kid.  He made scrambled or fried eggs, bacon, and most mornings, toast. We didn't have a toaster (I'm not sure many people did those days) and we cooked toast under the broiler, which often led to "....AAAAAAHHHHHHHhhhhhhh @#!@#!$$" (scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape) and piles of burnt crumbs in the sink. If he didn't make toast, he'd make homemade biscuits, usually fairly sweet drop ones that I loved.

He is the Snack Man. Give him some cash and turn him loose in a candy store and he's in heaven. Or hand him a gelato. Or a bag of potato chips. You can also make him really happy with a good baguette and some butter. Fortunately, he's got great heart and cholesterol genes, and he's super-active (he'll probably spent Father's Day cycling six hundred miles), so he's seriously fit despite the large quantity of Jelly Bellies and Sour Worms I sent him for his birthday. But he nibbles a lot. Half the pictures I have of Dad, he's eating or drinking something.

I got the predilection for nibbling, and the good cholesterol genes, but unfortunately NOT the fitness bug. He gave that all to John, apparently. One of Dad's favorite stories - he walked into the kitchen and caught me with my arm up to my elbow in the cookie jar after being told, in no uncertain terms, that I could NOT have a cookie. I looked at him and said "Want a cookie, Daddy?"

I think I won that one.

He also likes to tell about the time I hid a dozen donuts behind the shutters in my bedroom. I don't know what I was thinking. Cheetohs would have kept so much better.

Dad still goes through Cookie Baking Benders. He developed his own recipe for toffee cookies that I love. They can be inconsistent in baking, depending on the humidity and such, but that's part of their charm. They taste great no matter what you do to them.

Well, except burning them. It's hard to scrape a cookie.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

 By the way, most of these pictures were taken by The Weasel. My pictures of Dad are all a blurry mess.

Dad's Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup toffee chips
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Mix butter and sugar together. Add salt, baking soda, and vanilla. Add all chips and pecans. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto sheet and bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Or so. Don't burn 'em, 'cause you can't scrape 'em.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Minor Kitchen Organization Project

In the interest of trying to make my crappy kitchen work a little better, I recently purchased a small new toy.

And spent a Saturday afternoon making labels for my spices...

And other things…

and putting the bulk ones into more uniform jars. The spices. Bulky Dinky won’t fit in a jar.

And labeling my old jars, which I'd been kind of using The Force to identify. (Hey, my sense of smell is excellent.)

This is what happens when you are trying to make labels while talking your sister-in-law through making your lemon cake recipe. She was adding the powdered sugar for the icing. Don't worry. As you can see, I have scissors.

It’s not a disaster of epic proportions, but it’s still pretty good. Never underestimate my mess-making ability.

So I went from this:

To this:

Marginally better. But I still want a new kitchen when I grow up.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sad Days at Cafe 305

Sorry I've been away, but it's been a pretty rough week here at Cafe 305. Last Tuesday, my sweet Steamboat Poppy went off his food, and it was a horribly rapid downhill spiral to the inevitable end Monday morning. He was nine years old, and we feel lucky to have had him healthy and happy until almost the last.

I'm extremely grateful to all my friends and family for their understanding and kind words of support. The kitchen floor is emptier and lonelier now, and the sadness makes the food not as good. The spot next to my office chair is cold.

We miss you, buddy.


Friday, June 4, 2010

Dinner Menu: Pecan-Crusted Skirt Steak and More!

I've plugged that pecan-crusted skirt steak so much that I think it's time to go ahead and blog it, for heaven's sake. Here's a nice dinner menu for a summer evening. Paul with Port City Foodies and the lovely Melisa were the recipients of this meal a few nights ago.

This menu serves four. Well, the flatbreads and the pineapple upside-down cake serve more than four, unless you're being kind of piggy.

Salad with Strawberries, Toasted Pecans, Goat Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

Grilled Flatbreads

Pecan-Crusted Skirt Steak

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Butter

Pineapple Upside-down Cake

I'm almost embarrassed to post this, because it's in one of the weekly menus and I've gone a little nuts serving it here at home to just about everyone we've had over lately. The last time we had it, I promised Pootie I'd retire it for a while. But it's so good and so easy. Here are all the recipes. You can click here for a printable version complete with shopping list.

Salad with Strawberries, Toasted Pecans, Goat Cheese and Orange Vinaigrette

I discovered Blood Orange Vinegar at the Teeter a while back, and I LOVE the stuff. It's my new favorite vinegar. It's Cuisine Perel brand and for some reason, my bottle doesn't look like this:

But it's still delicious, even if it's in a non-fancy bottle. Maybe we don't rate at the Teeter.
Mixed Greens with Strawberries and Pecans and Blood Orange Vinaigrette

3 Tbs. Blood Orange Vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs honey
5 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 Tbs shallot, chopped and sauteed
4 cups boston or bibb lettuce
1/2 cup pecans, toasted
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup strawberries, sliced

1. Whisk together the blood orange vinegar, salt, honey, shallots and oil.

2. Tear the bib lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Crumble the goat cheese over
the salad and add the pecans and strawberries.

3. Toss the salad with the dressing and serve immediately.

Grilled Flatbreads
Recipe By : Maryellen Driscoll
Recipe Source: Fine Cooking 93, pp. 42 (What? Surely you're not surprised?)
May 7, 2008
Makes about 12 flatbreads

2 1/4 tsp (1/4-oz. packet) active dry yeast
1/3 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
9 oz (2 cups) bread flour; more as needed
2 1/4 oz (1/2 cup) whole-wheat flour
1 tsp table salt
Kosher salt for sprinkling

Put 3/4 cup warm water (105° to 115°F) in a food processor and sprinkle with the yeast. Let sit for a few minutes so the yeast begins to dissolve. Add the yogurt, sugar, and oil and process for 3 seconds to blend. Add the bread flour, whole-wheat flour, and table salt. Process for about 20 seconds and then scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Continue to process for another 30 seconds. The dough should form a mass, pulling away from the bowl's sides. If it's sticking to the sides, add more bread flour, 1 Tbs. at a time, just until the dough forms a cohesive, if slightly sticky, mass. (Try not to process more than 1 minute total.)

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead by hand, flouring your hands if the dough is too sticky to handle, until it feels smooth and elastic, about 1 minute. Put the dough in a lightly oiled medium bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in size, 45 to 60 minutes. (If you're making the dough ahead, punch it down after it doubles, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.)

Prepare a medium-low grill fire; scrub the grill grate clean with a wire brush.
 (Or, be like me and always use a sacrificial baking sheet on it so it doesn't get dirty in the first sheet. Except for burgers. I do grill those on there. I just used a different part of the grill than that little area.)
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using a bench knife or chef's knife, divide the dough into 12 equal pieces and shape each into a ball. Let the balls rest, covered with a clean towel, for about 10 minutes.

Using your hands, gently stretch the balls into disks (4 to 5 inches in diameter) and put them on two large lightly oiled rimmed baking sheets. Let the disks rest, covered with a clean towel, for 5 minutes. Brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.

Grill, salted side down first, until the bread develops golden-brown grill marks on both sides, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side (depending on the size of your grill, you may need to grill the bread in two batches).

The dough can be made up to two days ahead. Just punch it down after it has risen, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Pecan-Crusted Skirt Steak
Recipe By : Liz Pearson
Recipe Source: Fine Cooking 98, pp. 87

1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 lb skirt steak, trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup pecan pieces
2 Tbs cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 tsp honey
1 1/2 tsp roughly chopped fresh rosemary

1. Position an oven rack about 6 inches from the broiler and heat the broiler on high. Or turn the grill outside on high.

2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and top with parchment paper.If necessary, cut the steak crosswise into pieces 8 to 10 inches long. Arrange the steak on the baking sheet in a single layer and season with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Put the pecans, butter, honey, rosemary, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/4 tsp. pepper in a food processor and pulse until well combined and the pecans are finely chopped.

3. Spread the pecan mixture over the steak, patting the mixture with the back of a spoon to help it adhere. (Heck, I use my hands. Hey. I wash 'em!) Broil the steak for 3 – 4 minutes, or put the tray on the grill and cover for 3 – 4 minutes, until the pecan mixture is toasted and fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes. Set the steak aside to rest for 5 minutes.

4. Thinly slice the steak against the grain and transfer to plates. If the pecan coating falls off the steak as you’re slicing it, spoon it over the top.

Baked Sweet Potatoes with Chipotle Butter

Wash the sweet potatoes and prick with a fork. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400F for about 45 minutes, until they are easily pierced with a fork.

For the Chipotle butter:

1 stick butter, softened
2 chipotle chiles, canned
1 tsp. adobo sauce from the can

Mash the chipotle chiles well. Mix the butter thoroughly with the chiles and the adobo sauce. Wrap in plastic wrap and shape into a log. Refrigerate until firm. Serve with the potatoes.

Pineapple Upside- Down Cake
Recipe By : Rose Levy Beranbaum
Recipe Source: The Cake Bible (I have had this book for years and just love it)
Serves 10
14 each pineapple slices (I like to use fresh for this)
14 each sweet cherries, pitted
4 Tbs butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 cup pecan halves
3 large egg yolks
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups cake flour, sifted
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
9 Tbs butter, softened

1. Fruit Topping: Drain pineapple slices and cherries and place on paper towels to absorb excess moisture. In a 10 inch cast-iron skillet, melt 4 Tbs. butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar until moistened and remove from the heat.

2. Place one whole pineapple slice in the center of the pan and 7 whole slices surrounding it. Place the half slices side by side against the sides of the pan, the two cut edges down, touching the brown sugar. Place the whole cherries in the center of the whole pineapple slices; the halved cherries in the center of the half slices. Tuck the pecans into any gaps between the fruit.

3. Cake: In a medium bowl, lightly combine yolks, about 1/4 of the sour cream and the vanilla.

4. In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend. Add butter and the remaining sour cream. Mix on low speed until dry ingredients are moistened. Increase to medium and beat for 1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop cake's structure. Scrape down the sides.

5. Gradually add egg mixture to batter in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate ingredients and strengthen structure. Scrape down the sides.

6. Scrape batter into fruit lined skillet, smoothing evenly with a spatula. Bake for 40 - 50 minutes or until golden brown and a tester comes out clean.

7. Run a small metal spatula around the sides and invert at once onto a serving plate. Leave the skillet in place one or two minutes before lifting it.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Kitchen: A Love/Hate Relationship

I have perpetual kitchen-envy for just about everyone I know. My tiny kitchen pretty much sucks. And yet, I still love to cook. And I honestly don’t mind cooking in mine most of the time. It’s tiny as a squirrel’s heinie, but not as tiny as the one I had when I first moved out and lived in an apartment in Atlanta. (The kitchen. Not my heinie. Although it was considerably smaller then, too.) I managed to pull out several full-on Thanksgiving dinners there, with no dishwasher. So this one is definitely better by comparison. We did have a pretty large kitchen for about a year, and the size wasn’t all that. The nicest thing about it was that there was room for people to hang out in there while I was working on dinner. That’s probably the biggest (and surprisingly my only) issue with the size of this current kitchen – there’s not room for people to stand and a.) chat with me or b.) work WITH me. So when we have company, folks kind of have to stand and lean in the doorway, which is fine, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to grope their bottoms just to get a spoon out of the drawer.

We have big plans for our kitchen down the road – HUGE! But we’re rather fiscally conservative (our family would say “cheap”) and won’t do that until the house is paid off in another four years.

There are a lot of things I truly loathe about this kitchen. My kitchen makes me swear. A lot. So much that I shall describe my pet-peeve components in quantifiable terms you can understand – the Kitchen Swear Factor (KSF). A ranking of 1 will warrant a child-safe “dangit” and a 10 will mean a lengthy stream of profanity the likes of which would make a bunch of battle-hardened marines cry like little girls. Do not underestimate me.

Things I hate about my kitchen:

1. These. They didn’t come with the kitchen, but damned if I can get them out of it when I’m in there. Food occasionally falls from the sky to the floor, you see, and that’s worth the possibility of tripping up and breaking the hip of the hand that feeds them.

KSF:1 (because clearly, it’s really not the kitchen’s fault they’re underfoot.)

2. The tile countertops. Who on earth thought WHITE tile countertops were a good idea? Someone who never cooks, apparently. You can’t knead dough on it. You can’t roll out a pie crust on it. You can’t cut cookies on it. And you sure as HELL can’t keep it clean. Then the tile starts popping up and you’re hosed. HOSED! The ONE good thing about the counters – and I do mean ONE – is that you can put hot stuff down on them. Which is a pretty valuable mitigating factor when you have as little counter-space as I do.

KSF: 4

3. The sink. I like the divided thing, I think. I’m thinking down the road when I get a new kitchen sink, I still want two parts. I’m mulling on that. But the side that is large and utilizable isn’t so much because the faucet isn’t really optimally positioned to use there, and the “plumber” (you’re probably going to see a lot of quotes in this blog post) who set it up didn’t level it right, so the bigger side of the sink doesn’t drain all that well. Which leaves the most “functional” (there they are again) side of the sink the tiny side. The side next to the dish draining rack that hangs over to drain properly and creates even LESS room. And let’s talk depth. It isn’t. It’s as shallow as a blonde cheerleader with a 2.0 GPA. Try washing a large stockpot in that thing. Just try. I’ll sit in the doorway with a glass of wine and laugh at you while you cuss.

KSF: 5

4. The “vent-a-hood”. I’m not sure I should even call it that. Is there something else I could call it? Like “mild recirculating fan thing?” “The Odor Rotor?” I swear the Easy Bake Oven has a better vent-a-hood.

Ironically, there was a gaping round HOLE in the cabinet above the stove, where someone apparently was preparing for a REAL vent-a-hood that actually VENTED. But I guess they cut the hole and then realized “Oh. Hey. This is on an interior wall. And there’s no place here to vent TO, except that room, over there… “Hey lady! You mind if we vent the stinky and possibly carcinogenic kitchen grease into your baby’s nursery??” (It’s a den now, but I still don’t want to have atomized grease blowing on my stereo equipment.) There was not a corresponding hole anywhere else in that cabinet, which is how I know that was an aborted effort. So now there’s a recirculating fan and light that’s just attached to the underside of the cabinet and Pootie filled in the hole when we repainted. The recirculating fan has the power of an octogenarian with emphysema blowing out the corresponding number of birthday candles.

KSF: 8

5. The “drawers”, “cabinets” and “storage space”. I use quotes because. Oh, please. Come on. Look at the picture. Circa 1940, these “cabinets” and “drawers” were goobered together by some well-meaning handyman with no cabinetry experience whatsoever. They’re basically just plywood empty shelves and plywood boxes shoved (and I do mean shoved) into square spaces.

The drawers work so poorly that every time I open and close them, a little wood shaves off and dribbles onto the dishes in the “cabinets” below. We’ve added some stainless steel pull out racks which has marginally improved the storage and accessibility. Marginally.

KSF Without SS Racks: 10

KSF With SS Racks: 9

Things I love about my kitchen:

1. These. I don’t REALLY care that they’re underfoot most of the time, and I occasionally trip over them. They’re attractive accent pieces and they love everything I cook. Even the stuff that sucks.

2. My crappy stove. You know, it’s a crappy stove. But it works. And the oven is actually pretty good. It will certainly be replaced, but generally speaking, I don’t have many complaints about it.

3. My cart. Not part of the original kitchen, but we done good when we found this to fill out this area. I can cut on it, and it stores stuff underneath. Good purchase. Yes, it too, will be replaced eventually, but it’s definitely served us well.

4.  My hanging rack for pots. Frees up tons of under-counter space that isn’t there to begin with, and puts all my pots in easy reach, which is good. I use them a lot.

5. The floor. We worked very hard, and I never want to do it again, to remove several layers of vinyl and linoleum from pretty, pine flooring, which we refinished.

It was worth it, but here’s a tip for you. BEFORE you start in on a project like that where you don’t have a clue what you’re doing, Google it first and find out how. Because if we’d known to score the floor first, then pour hot, soapy water on it and let it soak, then use a FLOOR SCRAPER (who knew they made such a miracle?) on it, we could have saved about six hours of hard, frustrating, fruitless effort. (Ever tried to chip off glued down linoleum with a butter knife? No? OK, never mind.)

6. My full-size fridge. I don’t care that it’s not counter-depth and sticks out real far. It holds plenty, is well-organized, and works. Well. I hug it every day.

7. My dishwasher. It works. Now that I’ve switched back to Cascade from the off=brand Kirkland stuff from Costco. Never again.

8. My grill. I know it’s technically outside, but as close as it is (two steps outside the kitchen door) and as much as it gets used, it’s like a second stove. I use it every bit as much as the indoor range.

9. The size. Truly. I like being able to not take more than one or two steps and bang, I’m there. I have my kitchen movement down to a science in this space and if it was bigger, I might have to move. And then I’d have to rest more. Whew.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kitchen Catastrophes: Probably a series.

All of this Apron Awesomeness:

And I still do this:

My folks are so proud.

At least I didn't ruin one of my pretty aprons.