Thursday, August 27, 2015

Time for A Kitchen Renovation

When is it time for a kitchen renovation?  We'd been thinking about a kitchen renovation for a long time.  The kitchen in my house was original to the home, built in 1981.  It was a beautiful kitchen when built, with custom cherry cabinets and well thought out use of space.

We made some changes in the past by installing double ovens in a mysterious closet space,

and an electric cooktop, with a cabinet with sliding drawers, where there once was a range.

These updates made the kitchen very serviceable and a pleasant space for cooking and entertaining.  As my sons grew we made daily use of our kitchen table, especially enjoying the morning sunshine while eating breakfast.

You can see in the picture above that I added a mobile kitchen cart to the end of my island as a way to test whether or not I would want the length of the island extended.  I found the additional 24" of length to be very useful, especially when taking hot dishes from the double ovens.  This helped me decide that lengthening the island would be a good thing.

Over the years we came to dislike the hanging cabinets and the hood vent above our electric cooktop.  We found that we never used the noisy vent and the hanging cabinets seemed to close off the kitchen from the family room.  We wanted to eliminate them if ever we renovated.

Then there is the tile floor.  Yes, I'm talking about those dark brown tiles.  I actually disliked that floor from the day we moved into this house.  I love tile floors in the kitchen, but dark brown tiles are not my favorite look.  I must say this floor was very serviceable throughout the years as it hid muddy footprints from kids and dogs and held up to bits of gravel tracked in during snow or rain.  This floor had a long life and it was time for it to go.

So, friends, 2015 was my year for a kitchen renovation.  The renovation was completed in May.  Now that I have some time to share the process and results I'll take you through my process is upcoming posts.  Perhaps my experience will help you if you plan to renovate soon.

More updates to come...

Next week:  Five Questions to Answer When Planning A Kitchen Renovation


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Wine Tasting on Long Island-A Day Trip

One bright, sparkling morning earlier this summer I had the good fortune to board the Cross Sound Ferry, out of New London, Connecticut, for a day trip to the North Fork of Long Island.

This was a first for me.  You may be surprised to know that even though I have lived on the southern shore of New England my whole life I have never taken a ferry to one of the nearby islands.  That is because I am prone to motion sickness and the thought of becoming ill on a ferry has always been a significant deterrent.  This was the perfect day for me to take a ferry ride across Long Island Sound.  The sun was bright and the water was smooth.  The nearly 90 minute ride was delightful.  I chose to enjoy my time on the water from the open air deck atop the ferry.

When you take the ferry from New London, you'll arrive at Orient Point on eastern Long Island.

My first surprise of the day was the very rural nature of Long Island's North Shore.  Bring your car or arrange for transportation when you arrive.  We brought our car.  You'll begin your drive along Main Road.  Take your time and meander along.  When you come across one of the many farm stands, take the time to stop and peruse the local offerings.

Long Island Farm Stand:Source

You may be like me in thinking that Long Island is a crowded, celebrity filled, hot spot.  That may be true for some Long Island spots, but not the North Fork, this mid-week day.  You'll see signs everywhere of the area's rich farming history.  Today, much of the farm acreage has been converted to vineyards.
Long Island Grapevines

This will be no surprise to you once you realize there are more than fifty vineyards dotting the landscape, each one different from the other.
More than Fifty Vineyards

Pace yourself, and stop in to enjoy a sip of wine and the beautiful grounds of your selected vineyards.  At Sherwood House you can peruse an eclectic mix of furnishings, or sit under the trees while sipping your wine.
Sherwood House: Source
At Raphael you'll find a grand tasting room, but I recommend you take your wine out to the covered porch where you'll overlook rows and rows of grape vines.
Raphael Tasting Room: Source
Long Island's North Fork is not just about wines.  Along the way you'll notice hops being grown to support the growing craft beer industry.  You may want to choose one of the many craft breweries along the way for a tasting as well.
Hops: Source

Before catching the return ferry we stopped for dinner at Claudio's in Greenport.  It's a touristy eatery located right on the docks in Greenport.  The food was typical for a restaurant like this, but the location is worth the price of admission.  We paid $20 to park in the restaurant lot which was returned to us when we paid our bill.

While we ate we had the pleasure of gazing on the amazing Skyfall yacht, which you can charter for $300,000 per week.  No, that is NOT a typo.  Yes, $300,00 per week.
Skyfall: Source
If you have time, take a walk through the town of Greenport.  Time your return trip to coincide with sunset and you'll be able to close out your day relaxing on the open deck of the ferry while watching the sun slowly drop out of sight.

Yes, my day trip to the North Fork of Long Island was a very good day.  I highly recommend it!  Summer is a perfect time for a visit, but the location appears to be equally suited to a spring or fall day trip.



Saturday, August 1, 2015

Tomato Quiche

Today is August 1st and it is hot.  It's the kind of hot, summer day that makes you want to sit under the shadiest tree you can find and sip iced tea or lemonade.  It's not a day for cooking and certainly not a day for turning on the oven, but what do I do?  I decide a quiche would be perfect for dinner tonight.  There's no way around it, a quiche requires the oven and once I get something in my head I'm not easily dissuaded.

I love quiche.  To me quiche is the perfect any time of day meal.  It works for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It is also perfect because it is a "dump" recipe.  Just "dump" the ingredients into a crust and you are halfway there. Forty-five or so minutes of oven time later you have a meal.  A quiche is a perfect meal to use up whatever you may have in your refrigerator.

Tomato Quiche 
Today's quiche is inspired by my friend Lydia's recipe for tomato pie that you can find in her book, 25 Tomatoes: Easy year-round recipes using fresh, canned, roasted and sun-dried tomatoes from the Perfect Pantry kitchen .  My garden tomatoes are not yet ready, but I had a pint of flavorful grape tomatoes that I decided to cut into quarters.  Tossed with a little salt and pepper and a generous spoonful of pizza seasoning, those tomatoes made a wonderful base for this quiche's flavors.

My garden has produced a bounty of beautiful red onions.  One chopped red onion, tossed with a generous handful of chopped parsley from a pot on my deck, and some salt and pepper finalized the savory components of the quiche.  Frozen corn was added for sweetness and color.  I must say, this combination is a feast for the eyes.

You can use a frozen pie crust from the grocery store if you wish, but I made a quick food processor pie crust which I blind baked before assembling the quiche.  Today, my cheese of choice was baby Swiss cheese, but your favorite cheddar cheese will be yummy in this recipe as well.  Use any cheese or combination of cheeses you like.

Three eggs lightly beaten into one cup of milk (today I used 1/2 cup of fat free half and half with 1/2 cup of skim milk) is the perfect amount of liquid to fit the standard 9 inch pie plate I used.  If you choose to use a deep dish pie plate you'll want to increase either the liquid, or vegetables, or both.

Assembling the quiche is quick and easy.  Layer half of the cheese over the base of the blind baked crust.  Then layer the onion and corn mixture. Next added the tomato mixture and the rest of the cheese.  Finally, pour the egg mixture over the filling.  Bake until the mixture is set and lightly browned, about 45-50 minutes in your 400 degree oven.  Cool and chill until you are ready to serve.  I'll be pairing my quiche with a Ceasar salad for dinner.  Yummy!

Tomato Quiche Recipe
Makes one 9" pie

One 9" blind baked pie crust
3 large eggs
1 cup of milk
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 handful of freshly chopped parsley
1 pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1-tablespoon pizza seasoning
1 cup shredded baby Swiss cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Blind bake your pie crust until just beginning to color, about 15 minutes.  Prepare your quiche filling.  Mix the eggs and milk together in a small bowl using a whisk or a fork.  Chop the onion and parsley.  Toss them together in a small bowl.  Add the frozen corn and set aside.  Quarter the grape tomatoes and toss with the pizza seasoning.

Once the pie crust is ready, spread half the cheese over the base of the crust.  Then add the onion mixture.  Top with the tomatoes and the rest of the cheese.   Pour the egg mixture over the filling.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is set and the cheese is beginning to brown.

Cool and refrigerate until ready to serve.
Printable Tomato Quiche recipe

Like all quiche recipes you can vary the ingredients to your heart's content.  Add some crumbled cooked bacon and you'll add additional flavor.  Do you want Tex-Mex flavor?  Add some chopped fresh jalapeƱos and substitute 1/2 tsp of chili powder and 1/2 tsp of cumin for the pizza seasoning.  Use a blend of Mexican cheeses.



Friday, July 11, 2014

Savory Beef Marinade

Savory Beef Marinade
It's grilling season!  During the heat of the summer my grill works overtime and I'm happy to find marinades that turn a simple grilled beef dinner into a delicious treat.  This savory beef marinade is a favorite for steak tips.  Serve your grilled beef tips with any garden salad for a satisfying meal whenever summer's heat keeps you out of the kitchen.

Savory Beef Marinade
Savory Beef Marinade

2-3 lbs beef tips
1 cup oil and vinegar based Italian salad dressing
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup prepared barbecue sauce, your favorite
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

Three to six hours before grilling, mix together all of the ingredients. Place the beef tips in either a plastic bag with a zip closure or a glass or ceramic pan.  Pour the marinade over the beef tips.  Cover and refrigerate for three to six hours.

Grill the beef tips for 4 to 6 minutes on each side, until cooked to your desired doneness. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.



Thursday, March 20, 2014

Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken

When you crave the flavors of the Southwest take out your slow cooker for an easy to prepare, satisfying Southwest chicken dinner.  This recipe will feed and army, so if you don't have an army to feed you will have left overs that can be used for another meal or two.   For taco night place the shredded chicken on top of shredded lettuce in soft tortillas and top with the vegetable mixture.  You can also easily turn the left overs into a delicious soup by adding six to eight cups of chicken broth.

Slow Cooker Southwest Chicken

Southwest Chicken
  • 4- 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
  • 1 colorful bell pepper, red, yellow or orange, chopped
  • 1 lb package frozen corn kernels
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1/2 tablespoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • One handful chopped fresh cilantro
  • Cooked brown rice, for serving
  • Garnishes: chopped avocado, red onion, sliced black peppers, shredded cheese
  • Chopped fresh cilantro

Layer all the vegetables and diced tomatoes in your six quart slow cooker.  Mix together the spices. Season the chicken breasts generously with the spice mixture.  Stir the remaining spice mixture into the vegetables. Nestle the seasoned chicken breasts into the vegetable mixture.  Cook on the high setting for 4 to 6 hours, or on low for 6-8 hours, until the chicken is cooked through and shreds easily.

Serve over cooked brown rice and topped with the garnishes of your choice.

Get the printable slow cooker southwest chicken recipe.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Strawberry Banana Lunch Smoothie

As the days on the calendar move closer and closer to the first day of spring I find myself thinking less about comfort food and more about fruits and salads.  Smoothies have become a favorite way for me to add fruits into my diet.  Smoothies have been all the rage for quite some time.  The problem with smoothies is that they can hide a whole lot of calories in a glass.  That means we have to be careful with our ingredients and aware of the resulting calorie count when consuming smoothies.  With that in mind I've been building a collection of favorite smoothie recipes that are both delicious and calorie conscious.

Today's smoothie is a favorite lunch smoothie.   It weighs in at 180 calories, with 38 grams of carbohydrates, 5 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  Some days I use frozen strawberries and a frozen banana. The frozen fruit makes a very thick smoothie in the consistency of soft serve ice cream.  When I eat that for lunch I  feel like I'm am being very decadent.  Other days I'll thaw the strawberries and use a fresh banana which results in a smoothie that is much thinner in consistency.  You can also add water to thin the smoothie if you prefer your smoothies to be of a very thin consistency.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Strawberry Banana Lunch Smoothie
Makes one smoothie

  • 6 large frozen strawberries
  • 1 medium banana
  • 6 ounces coconut water
  • 1 teaspoon almond butter 
  • 1 teaspoon ground flax seed meal
  • 1/2 teaspoon stevia, optional

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend for 20-30 seconds, or until you achieve the consistency you like.  Use frozen fruit for a very thick smoothie.

Don't be afraid to use frozen berries when making smoothies.  I have found frozen berries to be superior to the fresh berries in my grocery store's produce department.  The frozen berries I have used have been consistently at peak ripeness which results in a very flavorful smoothie. When you use great berries you won't find it necessary to add any sweeteners.

Freezing bananas is a great way to be sure you always have bananas on hand that are at the perfect ripeness for your smoothies.  As my bananas ripen I remove the peel and wrap each banana individually in plastic wrap. Then I put the individually wrapped bananas into a resealable plastic bag in the freezer.  In addition to the smoothies you can also use the thawed  bananas in your favorite banana bread recipe or for a batch of banana cupcakes with maple frosting.



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

An Easy Way to Peel Garlic

If, like me, you love to cook with fresh garlic you will love this handy tip for how to peel multiple cloves in a few short seconds.  Lately, I've been buying the pre-peeled garlic being sold in produce departments that is packaged in sealed pouches containing six to eight garlic cloves.  I find it very handy to be able to reach into the refrigerator for a couple of peeled cloves to mince up quickly for a recipe.  Peeling garlic is not my favorite thing to do.

The other day I went to buy one of those packages of peeled garlic loves at my local grocery store only to find that they were out of them.  "They are on the next shipment," I was told.  Hmpf, I've been told that before.  I had a couple of bulbs of garlic at home in the pantry, so home I went.  I needed some garlic for a slow cooker recipe I was making.  As I began to pull the cloves of garlic from the bulb I remembered a garlic peeling tip I had heard some time ago, but never tried.

All you need in addition to your garlic cloves is a metal bowl and a cover.  I used a small plate as the cover for my bowl.

Just toss your unpeeled garlic cloves into the metal bowl.  Cover the bowl with the plate and shake.  Shake like your life depends on it for about 30 seconds, then take a look.  All that banging around in the bowl should leave your garlic cloves clean as a whistle.  It worked for mine as you can see below.

All of the peels will be left in your bowl.  Mine were.

Isn't this a great tip?  Thirty seconds and your garlic will be as clean as can be with no smelly, sticky fingers to deal with.

Updates based on Facebook feedback:
First, make sure the bowl you use is metal and medium to large in size.  You want plenty of room for your cloves to bang around.
Second, separate the cloves from the garlic head by giving the whole head a good bang on your counter before putting the whole head in the the bowl.
Practice a little.  It's all in the technique!  Good luck with this tip.




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