Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade Status: Paint!

The orange paint is gone and has been replaced with Benjamin Moore's "Revere Pewter"! It's amazing how a different paint color can completely change the look and feel of a room. It's mostly a mess right now, but it's getting there. Sorry if the pic is a little blurry...

In other news, the bottom cabinets are done! It took me about a month to just paint these cabinets (in stages), as there was SO MUCH SANDING involved. Degrease, sand, prime, sand, prime, sand, first coat, sand, then 2nd and final coat. Imagine doing that twice for each door and drawer front and we have 10 lower doors with 7 drawer fronts! I'm exhausted just thinking about it, but the end result is gorgeous.

As you can see, the drywall is off and we are waiting for the electrician to come and re-install the electrical junction box (center) for the range hood and my under cabinet lights! I'm so excited.

After that, it's rehang new drywall, install the new backsplash (pics coming soon), install the range hood ducting, and then build up and paint the upper cabinets. A lot of work, but it will be worth every minute of it when we're done.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Preserved Meyor Lemons

Every winter/spring, a huge variety of citrus makes a glorious reappearance in the grocery stores. Honeybells, satsumas, tangerines, you name it. I do find this bittersweet, as not too long ago I could literally walk out my back door and pick my own Meyer Lemons. And if I wanted anything else, I would just go visit my friend Mary and "shop" at her orchard! Those were good days!

I do get to exchange some local produce goodies for citrus up here in Virginia, and it's worth it, but I still miss my Meyer Lemon tree and I still make these pickles every spring.

Now, these aren't the type of pickles you eat out of the jar, they are only brined with salt and lemon juice. You tuck these babies away in your refrigerator to macerate and then be used as such:

Tips from: The Kitchn

1. Grain Salads: This is my favorite. There's something about tender little nubs of preserved lemon in a bite of farro salad or barley pilaf that makes me hum with happiness. Any time you'd normally add some lemon zest or a squeeze of juice, you can swap in some preserved lemon with confidence in the result.
2. Salad Dressings and Sauces: Chopped pieces of preserved lemon make a fantastic addition to a salad, but I really like to whizz them into my salad dressing. You can also experiment with blending preserved lemons into pesto or into a sauce for grilled fish or meats. (Bonus tip: preserved lemons and fish are total best friends forever.)
3. Salsas and Dips: Want something new to spice up your salsas and dips this summer? Yup, preserved lemons will serve you very well. Just chop them up into little pieces and add them to your normal recipes. Guacamole, hummus, spicy salsas — it's all fair game. And all delicious.
4. Pasta Dishes: A really simple pasta dish with good olive oil, some garlic, and slices of preserved lemons is a beautiful thing. Top it with seared chicken breast or fish for a full meal.
5. Tagines and Other Stews: Chicken tagine with preserved lemons is certainly the most well-known dish for these lemons, but there's a great big world of tagines out there. I love preserved lemon in chickpea stews and anything with lamb. Even if your tagine or stew doesn't call for preserved lemons specifically, I fully support a little recipe tweaking.
See? Doesn't that all sound divine? 
Here's how you do it:
Take about 5-7 small Meyer Lemons and cut them into quarters. Put about a tablespoon of Kosher salt in the bottom of a pint jar and stuff in 3-4 lemon quarters. Top with more salt. Keep doing this until the jar is almost full. While doing this, push down on the lemons in the jar to extract their juice. 

Once full, take whatever lemons you have left over and squeeze their juice to cover the jarred lemons in juice.

Put a lid on the jar and stick in the refrigerator to brine. Once in the refrigerator, give the jar a shake every now and again to distribute the salt. After 3-4 weeks, the lemons are ready to be sliced or minced into whatever dish you'd like, but be careful, a little goes a long way! 

See, wasn't that easy?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade Status: DIY Tap Dancing

Well, as DIY projects go, I’ve run into a barrier for my range hood. Turns out there is a ceiling joist that is blocking the duct pipe from being able to be run straight up into the ceiling. And, upon inspection of the space where a duct pipe could go between the ceiling and 2nd story floor, there is wiring going across the joists that would block the pipe from being thread from the outside to where it would make a 90-degree turn down to the range.

We even tried to go straight back through the wall and into a closet that is on the other side of the kitchen, but there is a stud in the way. Grrrrr! I was SOOOOOO bummed! The install guys tried everything they could, but I'd rather them walk away than cutting a bunch of holes in my walls and ceiling.

So, it looks like I am going to be doing some fancy tap dancing.

I am going to do what Remodelando la Casa did on her cabinets to fill in the empty space above them.  I had planned to do something similar to her approach, but just not go all the way to the ceiling, but now it looks like I am going to have to. Isn't it gorgeous?

Gorgeous cabinets from Remodelando la Casa!

I am going to use her approach and nice trim-work to do something similar to this, with the range hood ducting running behind the cabinet build out:

Great work around! (source unknown)

The range chimney won't go all the way to the ceiling with this, but I will tile all the way up to the bottom of the cabinet build out. Ugh, I was hoping to be done with trim-work!

Monday, March 16, 2015

2015 Garden Plans

As most northern gardeners at this time of the year, I am anxious and excited to get things going. Yesterday, I winter sowed all of my heirloom tomato varieties, zucchini, cukes, and I’m giving the exotic tiger melon another stab. I already have sprouts from my January winter sowed flowers!

This year’s conquest looks like this, with a few return favorites:

  • Broad Windsor Fava Beans
  • Arkansas Little Leaf Pickling Cuke
  • White Wonder Cuke
  • Fordhook  Zucchini
  • Wild Garden Lettuce Mix (again)
  • Parris Island Cos Romaine Lettuce
  • Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes
  • Kelloggs Breakfast Tomato
  • Soldacki Tomato
  • Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain Tomato (again)
  • Black From Tula Tomato (again)
  • Druzba Tomato (again)
  • Supersauce Tomato (again)
  • Jerusalem Artichoke
  • Toy Choi Pak Choi
  • Tivolli Spaghetti Squash
  • Blue Lake Bush Beans (again)
  • Mammoth Melting Sugar Snow Peas (again)
  • Paris Market Carrots (again)
  • Covair Smooth Leaf Spinach (again)
  • Garlic mix (both Nootka Rose and Inchelium Red again)
  • Other greens that I can’t remember… J

  • Outhouse Hollyhock
  • Nigra Hollyhock
  • Borage
  • Coral Reef Poppy
  • Fruit Punch Poppy
  • Columbines (Wild, Yellow, Black Barlow)
  • Nasturtium
  • Queen Red Lime Zinnia (and another, but I can’t remember)
  • Red and Yellow Torch Tithonia
  • Bunny Tail Grass

This year, I also “hope” to have something to show from all the horseradish I planted last year and the Victoria Rhubarb. I’m not holding my breath on the rhubarb, as I’m suspecting that it may have rotted. A gardening friend told me last year that in order to successfully grow rhubarb in Virginia, it has to be grown from seed and not root starts.  I also transplanted all but one large pot of the Bristow Blackberry into the ground, so we’ll see how that does.

I'm giving cukes and zuchs a try this year from seed. I still have a ton of pickles from 2013's harvest, but you know me and pickles! I am also curious about the fava beans and Jerusalem artichoke. The beans will be started this month, as they prefer cool weather, and the artichokes will be grown in recycled bourbon half barrels, as I've heard they are invasive. And I'm "planning" on having enough energy in July to start some spaghetti squash seedlings. LOL! Usually, I'm so over the veggie garden come August that I'm ready to pack it all in, so this will be my first attempt at renewing for a fall veggie.

My gardening notes from last year tell me that I planted all my spring greens around March 20th, so it looks like I will be jumping on that soon!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade Status: DIY Cause and Effect

One of the things about DIY projects, or any major remodel for that matter, is what I call “cause and effect”.
  • If I do THIS, then THAT will happen, or
  • If I do THAT, then I need to do THIS first.

Something as simple as picking out a light fixture can throw a big, ol’ wrench in your project. For example, take the light fixture I want from Shades of Light:

Perfect, right? However, that fixture is limited to 1, 60 watt bulb.

And, my current fixture above my sink has 2 bulbs that are anywhere from 60-100 watts each. What I definitely DON’T want to do is reduce the lighting footprint in my kitchen.

Also, you’ll notice that I have a 2nd ceiling fixture that currently matches the one above the sink. I don’t want mismatched lights either.


One of the thoughts that my husband and I had was to replace that 2nd ceiling light with a small radius, ceiling-hugger fan. Like one of these cutie patooties:

However, if I do THIS, then I need to call in an electrician to install a ceiling fan electrical mount box, as a standard electrical box is not strong enough to withstand the vibrations of a ceiling fan.

And if I do THAT, then is there anything else I want the electrician to do while he is here, since there is a $200 minimum work order requirement with our electrical company?

How about under cabinet lights to compensate for the lower wattage lighting over the sink? GENIUS!

BUT, if I want THAT, then I had better get the electrician out here to do it when the tile is removed from the wall, and do I need to skip ahead and paint the underside of the cabinets FIRST before they install the lighting?

Mind blown.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Kitchen Upgrade Status: Cabinet Paint and Beadboard

If I never see another piece of sandpaper, it will be too soon, but I'm really happy about how things are coming along:

Of course, in these pics I haven't tackled the other half of the bottom cabinets, but I am working on them right now.

My new Whirlpool 30-inch range hood from Lowe's came in over the weekend and I have scheduled the installation with the ducting to the outside for next week. After that, the painter will come in to paint the ceiling white (maybe?) and that horrible orange to Benjamin Moore's Revere Pewter.

And sometime between getting the range hood installed and hopefully before the painter shows up, I need to remove the tile and install the new backsplash. The good news is that whoever the clown was that did the crappy tile install around the counter did the same crappy job on the walls. I think he/she basically used Liquid Nails instead of thinset or mastic.

So, the few pieces I test-removed from the wall (to see what I was dealing with) came off without taking big chunks of drywall off with them, only some of the paper. So, if I'm living right, I won't need to replace the drywall and can just patch with joint compound! Whoo-hoo!

Friday, March 06, 2015

Ground Cherry Fail

I tried, I really tried.

I grew these babies from seeds, to harvest, and then peeled and froze them until I had enough to make an exotic jam. To be honest, their flavor had never completely won me over and was convinced they would turn into something beautiful once ladled into a jar. But you know what they say about lipstick and pigs.

To me, they honestly smell better than they taste. Their smell is a haunting cross between a ripe pineapple and mango. Their taste, well, when they are fresh they do have a kind of pineapple-ly/mango flavor, but really it's more of meh to me. When frozen, their flavor dulls even more and they taste like...cotton candy. No real distinction, just cloyingly sweet and a hint of vanilla.

So, I tried to make Rosemary Gound Cherry Jam and it tasted like Christmas tree flavored cotton candy. Then, thinking I needed something more bright, I tried Orange Ground Cherry and it tasted like an orange flavored Otter Pop. Bleh!

My rule-of-thumb when it comes to canning is, "if I don't love it, I don't can it". Otherwise, it's a waste of time and effort because I won't want to share something I don't love myself. So, this huge, gallon sized bag of frozen ground cherries went into the garbage. I didn't want to throw them into the compost pile, as I'm sure I already have no less than 1,000 ground cherry seeds waiting to sprout as it is.

You win some, you lose some, right?

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