Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out

Kitchen reno 121 585x390 Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out
Kitchen August 1 Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out

It’s going in the right direction! Slowly. Baby steps. This is the current state of my kitchen. We expected it to be a slow process, and it is, but I don’t mind the breathing room.

A big part of the reason it took me so long to do a kitchen reno was the pressure to design my own kitchen. Yes, it sounds dreamy. Yes, I’ve often imagined what I’d do if I had the opportunity to redesign a kitchen space. But the pressure to make the right decision! It’s like getting a tattoo – not as permanent, I suppose, but expensive to do over if you don’t want to live with it. I can’t even make up my mind about what to order in a restaurant. Knowing what I like when I see it is different than visualizing what could be done with my own space, which is long and narrow and really fairly limiting. I don’t have a designers’ eye – my mom can look at a room and imagine how it would look painted, or with built-in shelving or a torn out wall, or with everything rearranged in a new way. I look at before and after pics of other kitchen renos – they have great ones over at the Kitchn – in fact, they did a story on my kitchen back in 2009! – anyway, I just cannot visualize the potential transformation of a “before” pic… what a space could potentially look like. (Apparently there’s an app for that – I downloaded it but never did figure out how to use it…)

Kitchen August 4 585x395 Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out

Honestly, I don’t know how people design entire houses. Kudos to you guys.

So it was fortunate, really, that my decisions have been relatively limited. The counters needed to stay where they were, but my big thing has always been replacing my (relatively useless, access-wise) lower kitchen cabinets with drawers. My mom’s kitchen is all drawers, and it’s so much easier to access dishes and bowls without having to bend/squat and reach back into the back. I only used whatever was in the front of the cupboards, forgetting what was even in the back row.

So it’s all drawers. We pondered going the IKEA route – they do some beautiful kitchens – but ultimately decided that considering this particular room will be used far more heavily than most home kitchens, we’d have it custom built. They’re not fancy – just sturdy. We went for 4 drawers, smaller ones up top and deeper in the bottom, but not so deep that they’d get awkwardly heavy. We’re still looking at countertops (countertops! can you get more grown up?) and sinks (ditto), and the box for the sink, which also has a deep drawer to be used for garbage or recycling, is a little awkwardly stuck out as a result of a pipe behind it with nowhere to go – the joys of renovating a 106 year old house.

Kitchen August collage 1 Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out

One of the other joys? Trying to figure out what to do with our old wood floor. To replace it would have been too pricey – and there was the question of a strange hump in the middle that we imagine was caused by an earlier kitchen extension and the settling thereof. So rather than pull it up and reveal whatever other structural issues lie underneath, we decided that ignorance is bliss and we’ll do what we can to repair the surface. Unfortunately it’s fir that is already stretched too thin, and the flooring guy who came to assess our situation said sanding to refinish it would tear it apart. So we shopped around for a super durable paint to paint the old, rough hardwood – you can see a blue-green-grey colour test patch in the above photo on the right. Brick red or bluey green? Choosing paint colours is also not my forté. Expect tweets for advice from the paint store. (And the drawer handle store.) Maybe I’ll have the first kitchen entirely designed via social media.

So – countertops? Anyone? Advice? This is a big one – people seem to love or hate them. Our old ones were repurposed from the UofC science lab. I have never had to choose a countertop, but it needs to be resilient – and photo-friendly! ie no sparkly blue, as cool and ’57 Chevy-esque as it may be.

Kitchen ceiling Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out

And hey – WE COVERED THE CEILINGS! They were a lovely 80s stucco – the pokey kind, with a ginormous hole (the result of our own toilet installation upstairs) and old unused track lighting in the living room, and the remains of a purple smoothie W dropped when he was about three in the dining room. So we covered it all with these wood slats – kitchen, dining room, living room – and it looks so much better. This happened while we were in Tofino! Look, I was getting stuff done while lounging on the beach!

Dining room ceiling1 Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out

The bright whiteness of it also bounces the light around far more efficiently – I’m thinking that in the kitchen it will almost act as a diffuser when I shoot on the kitchen table. Which, I’m thinking, I might make a big wood butcher block. What do you think? It will bring back some of the warmth that will be lost by painting the wood floors. Hey, that’s designer lingo… maybe all this is wearing off on me.

Also: I HAVE A NEW OVEN. It’s not here yet, but it’s very squeeworthy. We still need to get our electric sorted (lath and plaster walls! yay!) and the gas hooked up, and the next problem is a hood fan that will allow us to keep the cool old window behind the stove, but our new BFFs at Jerome’s have a guy. Stay tuned!!

button print gry20 Kitchen Mission: Laying it all out

August 18 2014 | Kitchen Mission | 16 Comments »

Creamy Potato Salad with Berries and Mint

berry potato salad text Creamy Potato Salad with Berries and Mint

We’re back in the city, back to eating on the back porch where all the appliances and boxes and torn-out stuff isn’t, back to walking Lou on the sidewalk instead of the beach. What I miss most about having a stove on this particular day is the ability to cook potatoes – the new ones with the thin skins that are just being pulled out of the dirt and sold in farmers’ markets. I could live on these sweet baby potatoes, for awhile, anyway – forked and doused in butter and lemon, with steak and gremolata, or in an uber-creamy potato salad. (It’s not just for picnics anymore.)

Berry potato salad Creamy Potato Salad with Berries and Mint

My pal Chef Michael Allemeier, one of the best chefs around, the guy who taught me to proof bread in a warm, steamy dishwasher after it finishes a load, came up with this recipe. It has blackberries (!) and fresh mint, along with all the other things that make a potato salad great, plus a hit of cream for maximum creaminess. I love that he uses peppery arugula and balsamic vinegar – this isn’t evident in the photo because when I pulled out my arugula, it was all shades of yellow, and my garden is struggling this year. If you have some, go for the greens.

Creamy Potato Salad with Berries and Mint

Recipe from Chef Michael Allemeier for the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

5 medium yellow-fleshed potatoes (about 2 lbs./1 kg)
2 hard cooked eggs, peeled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp grainy or Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp lemon juice
4 green onions, thinly sliced (green parts only)
1/4 cup loosely packed, thinly sliced fresh mint
2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries)
1 cup firmly packed baby arugula leaves, stems removed
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Scrub potatoes and dice into 3/4-inch pieces. Cook in large pot of salted water until tender. Drain well; let cool slightly. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mash eggs with a fork. Whisk in mayonnaise, whipping cream, sour cream, mustard, lemon juice, onions and mint, until creamy. Add warm potatoes to dressing; season to taste with salt. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

To serve, in a medium bowl, toss berries, arugula and balsamic vinegar; reserve some of the berries and arugula. Fold berry mixture into potato salad. Serve in a bowl or on a platter; garnish with reserved berries and arugula. Serves 6.

pixel Creamy Potato Salad with Berries and Mint
button print gry20 Creamy Potato Salad with Berries and Mint

August 17 2014 | salads and veg | 6 Comments »

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