Sunday, September 22, 2013

New Kitchen!

It has been a long time since my last post and A LOT has happened. My husband and I have moved into a our new home and did a complete overhaul of the interior and some of the exterior of the house. Bathrooms and kitchen were gutted down to the studs and completely reconstructed.  All the floors were ripped out and redone including the base of a fireplace.  Interior and exterior paint, front door steps, front gate, balconies and deck repair and redone.  Needless to say it was a pretty massive undertaking that tested our newlywed mojo and it was a learning experience that we appreciate as much as we despise.  I'm still too traumatized to watch any HGTV.  This blog is called FoodBursts so I will keep the "bursts" about food and food-related topics, therefore this post is solely dedicated to our new kitchen and how that new kitchen came to be.  The rest of the home remodeling story, including an unfortunate tiling incident, will have to be saved for another venue.

So this is when we first met our future kitchen...

Love at first sight?  Almost...

We didn't understand the temporary foldable picnic table either.

This is the 1980's tile I grew up with so that will definitely have to go.

Now in all honesty, after looking at hundreds of houses for the past two years, we learned to really look at the potential of a house.  This room, the whole house, has some serious potential.  The square footage of the kitchen alone is hard to find in an older house.  Most of the homes we saw had galley kitchens and an open concept kitchen was almost non-existent.  We were particular about the area we wanted to live, and newer construction track homes were not in our vision.  I was feeling pretty good at this point, and pretty darn excited, we can work with this.

Then I looked up and I screamed, in my head.  It might have come out in a gasp or screech, but the only other item I hated more than those 1980s tiles was fluorescent lighting.  Shudder.  Looking past these cosmetic flaws, we saw a great space and great bones that we could work lets just pray we get a good inspection report.

Inspection passed, papers signed, we now owe a whole lot of money to a bank, and this is the moment we got our keys and walked into OUR kitchen.  Speaking of walking into the kitchen, this doorway is going to be expanded.  That was probably our first good decision.  Simple right? You would think so, but in home remodeling, nothing is ever simple.

This is now what we have to work with and the wheels had been spinning in my head for the past three months, even more so the last month, on ideas of how to create our dream kitchen.  Our first mistake was actually being too conservative and not thinking big enough.  I was holding back and thinking, "we can keep the cabinets, we can keep the layout, we don't need to do a complete overhaul."  

So then when we met with contractors for estimates, it was inaccurate and through the demolition and discovery process, we realized that what we really wanted along the way and had to make changes when work had already started.  That ALWAYS ends up in delays and more money.  What we should of done is dream BIG.  What do we want? Then work backwards from our vision and see if there was anything that this current kitchen could satisfy.

One of our first mistakes was thinking we were keeping the layout.  Since the doorway was being expanded and essentially the entire wall that contained the doorway was being removed to open up the kitchen to the dining room, we would be losing the counterspace next to the sink.  This entire wall on the opposite side of the room wasn't being utilized and we later decided to move the cabinets and sink to this wall that you're looking at right now.  Great idea, we just got the idea later, which then caused additional costs and delays because now we have rework electrical and plumbing.

Remember this space? The previous owners had used it to house a foldable plastic table with a massive amount of condiments.  We weren't sure what to do with it at this point, but eventually it would dawn on us to put our fridge here and create a pantry.

I can't really describe the mix of excitement and grief that I felt when we tore up the first piece of drywall and demolition officially began.  Here we just bought a house and now we're tearing it apart.  It was jarring and not as fun as the HGTV makes it look.

Our reminder of what we were working toward.

Demolition done.  Oh and the old cabinets weren't usable after all.

Did I mention we originally tried to do most of it ourselves?  Yea, that notion didn't last long.  Though, we did enlist help from many friends, friends' friends, and we did try to use our inexperience and unskilled hands at demolition, putting up insulation, dry wall, sanding, painting, and tiling.  It was not fun.

This is what it looks like when homeowners try DIY.

This picture was taken close to midnight and after hours of work.  Our poor friend, who was working with us, had been putting up dry wall most of the day.  It was a little rough, and a little crooked, but we did not care at this point.

Our pantry.

Dennis is sanding til he can't sand no more.

There were moments of fun. =)

Almost ready for primer, thank GOD!

Paint and primer on, leveling the ground for the new floors, it's almost there!

Now it's just about putting all the pieces together.

Look what we found tucked high up in the top shelf of the master bedroom closet!  Score!

The first items in our fridge, so fitting.

My Viking.  Yes, its MY Viking!  Viking just came out with the new D3 series and I couldn't wait to get this in our kitchen and try it out!

It's so pretty!  I decided on a stainless steel backsplash instead of a pretty mosaic tile mainly because I cook quite a bit and I cook Asian food most of the time when I cook and the splatter and grease from all that action would be a cleaning nightmare on a pretty tile so we went with function instead of style on this one.

We put as big an island as we possibly could in the space and it worked out perfectly.  Maplewood countertop for the island and it is THE most used surface in our kitchen.  

The other item I just absolutely love in our kitchen is the farmhouse style sink.  Kohler has a cast iron apron sink, and we went for it.  It was a pain to install because it was so heavy.  Our cabinet installer had to reinforce the cabinet underneath to support the sink, but its absolutely worth it.  We can easily wash our pots, pans, and large cuts of meat in there without any problems.



This now the new location of my "bursts" of cooking.  The tears, the work, the sleepless nights, were all worth it because I can be comfortable and happy while I cook and that is priceless.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Basil, Parsley, Sesame, & Walnut Pesto

I heart pesto! The delicious taste of fresh herbs, olive oil and nuts is a perfect healthy dish for any season.  As a was perusing through pesto recipes, I read a very interesting blog post at that brilliantly explained why pesto in Italy tastes so different from most other common pesto.  The secret is chopping all the ingredients by hand!  So simple!  Yes, it is labor intensive, but its definitely worth it.  The texture and mouthfeel of little bits of herbs and flecks of pine nuts or walnuts just can't be done with a food processor or blender.  I'm already an avid supporter or chopping by hand as much as possible, our grandmothers didn't have food processors, and to be honest, I find the food processor to be more trouble than their worth.  All the different parts that need to cleaned afterwards is a pain in the tooshie.  For soups, I opt for an immersion blender, one of my favorite kitchen tools.  Anyways...back on track, pesto!  The following pesto recipe has a little Asian Thelma twist by adding sesame leaves, which adds a great flavor, and I've been on a walnut kick so I use walnuts here instead of pine nuts.  Hope you like it!

Sweet Basil
Italian Flat Leaf Parsley
Sesame Leaves
(1 bunch of each)
Chopped Walnuts, 1/2 cup
Garlic, 3 cloves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Rinse and dry the basil, parsley, and sesame leaves.  Run them through a salad spinner, if you have one, to get all the leaves as dry as possible.  Chop the walnuts (you can toast the walnuts first by heating them in a pan over medium heat for about ten minutes or so) and garlic first then add a handful of herbs as you go along.  All the chopping should take about 30 minutes until you get the consistency you want.  Put the whole mixture in a large bowl and add olive oil, also just as much as you like.  Generally you want the olive oil to cover the mixture and mix in.  Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and serve immediately with any kind of pasta you want!

Below is a picture of a basil, walnut, and parmesan pesto that is always a regular in our house.

The picture above is spaghetti and the one below is mixed in with orzo.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Taiwanese Meat Sauce

Taiwanese Meat Sauce

Think of this a a Taiwanese version of a bolognese sauce.  Just like with fried rice and many other traditional recipes, every Taiwanese home has their own version of this dish.  It's one of the staple foods that can be used multiple ways: mix it with rice or noodles for a quick meal or add a little to sauted vegetables to give a little extra flavor.  The ingredients to this recipe are ground pork, onion, ginger and soy sauce.  I like to add a few other ingredients in my personal version, hope you like it!

1 lb Ground Pork
1 Medium Brown or Sweet Onion, Diced
1 Medium Carrot, Diced
2 Teaspoons of Grated Ginger
1-2 Cups of Diced Soy Beancurd
2 Star Anise
2-3 Tablespoons of Soy Sauce
1 Tablespoon of Rice Wine
1 Teaspoon of White Pepper
6 Soft Boiled Eggs (Optional)

Add a little cooking oil to a 3-4 quart sauce pot over medium high heat.  Do not add too much oil, as the ground pork should have enough fat content that will render when cooking, you just want a little oil to get the meat to start browning without sticking to the bottom of the pot.  Add the ground pork and slightly brown, stirring occasionally.  Add the onion, carrots, and soy beancurd; saute and cook for about 3-5 minutes until all the meat and veggies are browned.

Add the aromatics and seasoning: ginger, star anise, rice wine, white pepper, and soy sauce.  Give everything a good stir then ADD WATER, just enough to cover the mixture by about 1/2 an inch.  Bring to a boil, cover and simmer on low for about an hour.
***Optional eggs: my husband likes to add some soft boiled eggs to the pot at this point.  The eggs will simmer with the mixture and you'll end up with some lovely soy braised eggs.***
Once finished, fish out the star anise and dispose because they've done their job of adding a wonderful licorice flavor to the mixture but the stars themselves are not fun to bite into.  You can then spoon over rice or noodles and enjoy!  I like to cook this once a week and divide it up into small single portions then stick in the freezer.  ***DO NOT FREEZE THE EGGS***  Super convenient to defrost for a quick meal at home or pack up for lunch.