Kitchen Mission

Kitchen demo 8 585x390 Kitchen Mission

Guys, my kitchen is gone.

In its place, bits of plaster, layers of missing drywall and cords hanging out from everywhere. I made my coffee this morning using water from the hose heated in the microwave.

(But look what we found when we chiseled off the tile backsplash! Barbie flesh-coloured plaster covered with phone numbers! I want to call them all. Especially the one that says “drywaller”.)

Kitchen demo 5 585x383 Kitchen Mission

People have been asking how my renovations are going – and is my kitchen finished yet? – since I mentioned it back in March. And now it’s mid July and how it’s going is slow, and I imagine all those (very kind, thoughtful, well-meaning) people who are asking how my new kitchen is have never actually undergone a kitchen reno themselves. After kicking it down the road for a month or three, I had the bright idea when I left for Italy in June to leave Mike with instructions to tear out the majority of the kitchen (leaving the oven, fridge and sink intact), rationalizing that if the kitchen was torn out, we’d have to replace it. Right? Sort of the throw-your-hat-over-the-fence train of thought.

That’s what grown-ups do, right?

Kitchen reno collage 1 Kitchen Mission

The thing is, my kitchen wasn’t really that bad, in a pieced-together ramshackle kind of way. But the oven, an old GE electric that was old and well-used before we moved in 8 years ago and has helped me write a few cookbooks and hundreds (thousands?) of stories and posts and projects since, is getting ready to go. I need an upgrade. I need something bigger. Which means I need a hood fan (I knew I wanted a gas stovetop, at least), which means tearing out the overhead cabinets and cutting into the countertops, which being narrower than standard and not an optimal material (they used to be in the U of C science lab) could stand to be replaced too. And those lower cabinets – it’s so hard to get things out from the back on the lower shelves! So really, it was a domino effect in all directions.

It was time.

Kitchen demo 6 585x390 Kitchen Mission

The problem is, I hear nothing but horror stories when it comes to the subject of renovations. No one says, “we did a full kitchen reno and it went so smoothly! It was done in half the time we expected, and under budget!” When I mention our little project people reply with shudders over the time they spent a year kitchenless, or tore out a wall to find a $25k repair job lurking underneath. My sister’s small bathroom reno took a good 6 months, during which time she and her kids took turns bathing here and at the gym. With a 106 year old house, I was under no illusions that the process would be without its obstructions. So far, a new oven has necessitated decisions about not only the cupboards and countertops, but the wiring, the plumbing, the sink, the ceiling and the floor. And whether we just want to scrap it all and move.

And so it begins. I’ll be posting updates more often here, starting with the stove – as much as anything as an outlet to keep myself from curling up in the fetal position under the bed until it all goes away. To use a summer adage – sink or swim, right?

button print gry20 Kitchen Mission

July 18 2014 | Kitchen Mission | 26 Comments »

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

strawberry rhubarb crumble 1 Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

I have a bit of a rhubarb problem.

The problem is, when I see an enormous crown of it in someone’s back yard, or if I’m offered up an armful of it, I can’t resist – even though we’re trying to clear out the kitchen and whittle the contents of the fridge down into the little bar-sized one in the garage and the already-full chest freezer in the basement. And yet I keep cramming our newly excavated spaces with freezer bags full of chopped rhubarb. Because it’s there. And it’s free. And it just keeps on growing.

strawberry rhubarb crumble 4 Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

I could easily live on pie for these 8 weeks of summer, but daily pastry is not the best choice from a time and waistline perspective. And so often I resort to crumble – which is almost like pie, with all its best elements in easy-to-bake, scoopable form. And if you haven’t had cold crumble with a big spoonful of thick Greek yogurt on the back porch with coffee for breakfast in the morning, you haven’t fully experienced summer yet.

strawberry rhubarb crumble 3 Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Because a warm crumble on the countertop leaves me prone to picking, sometimes I’ll divvy up the mixture between two smaller dishes (or cast iron skillets, as I tend to favour) and send one over to a neighbour. The problem with this scenario is no leftovers for breakfast.

strawberry rhubarb crumble 2 Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

I’ve also been known to blitz up a big batch of the crumble mixture to keep in a bag in the freezer (alongside the rhubarb) for dessert emergencies. All you need to do is toss your choice of fruit, chunked if it needs it, with sugar and cornstarch and upend the bag overtop for a nearly instant summer dessert. (Minus baking time, of course.)

It goes without saying that in July there should always be vanilla ice cream or whipping cream within easy access.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble

Peaches would do well here too, when they arrive… or raspberries, blackberries, plums – you get the idea. Measurements are pretty lax – unlike a pie, it’s not a big deal if your crumble is a little runny in the bottom. And to be honest, when I do a crumble I toss roughly equal amounts of butter, sugar, flour and oats into a food processor and pulse until crumbly – you don’t have to be precise here, either.

3-4 cups chopped rhubarb
3-4 cups hulled, halved strawberries
1/2-3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp. cornstarch

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup oats
3/4 cup flour
pinch salt

Preheat the oven to 350F. To make the filling, toss the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar and cornstarch in a bowl or directly in your baking dish; spread it out in the dish.

To make the crumble, blend all the ingredients in a bowl with a fork or your fingers, or pulse it in the food processor until well combined and crumbly. Sprinkle it over the fruit, squeezing to create larger clumps as you go.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until golden and bubbly around the edges. Serves 8.

pixel Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
button print gry20 Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

July 12 2014 | dessert | 10 Comments »

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