Monday, September 30, 2013

New Kitchen Part 6: Floors

If you've been following along with my new kitchen posts, you'll know that we've been DIY-ing almost everything. However, when it comes to the floors (and countertops, which will be part of my next post), we had to have contractors do it for us. It was a little difficult for me because I'm a control freak and I like doing things myself to make sure everything goes perfectly but obviously, these are both tasks that are better left to professionals.
If you have experience in floor refinishing, then go ahead and do it yourself. We do not, nor do we have the equipment to accomplish it ourselves, so we hired pros.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Garden Update 6

It's been a while since my last garden update. It's almost the end of September so the garden isn't as fruitful as it was a month ago. A few of these photos are from August but the garden is still providing us with some goodies. It's a good garden.

We finally had some tomatoes turning red, habaneros turning orange, and cayenne peppers turning red too. Pretty exciting.

Monday, September 23, 2013

New Kitchen Part 5: Cabinet Delivery, Assembly, & Installation

It's an exciting day when your kitchen's been demolished and you've been patiently waiting for your cabinets to be delivered and you get that call that says, "Hi, I'm the driver of the truck for your Ikea delivery. I'm about 10 minutes away."
Urban Express called me on Friday morning (the day before my delivery [09/07/2013]) and an automatic robot lady started speaking immediately saying that my delivery window would be from 11am to 3pm. Then, on Saturday morning, robot lady called again to say that the window was now 12pm to 4pm and she also texted me with that same message. At around 12:30, I got the phone call from the driver to say they were just a few minutes away. Overall, I had a great experience with UX. I know there are a ton of complaints about their service but thankfully, our delivery went rather smoothly.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Chicken & Jalapeño Quesadillas

Yeah, we're midway through September but I'm still posting recipes that use the grill. I won't give up on grilling until it's too cold for flip flops. To be fair, these quesadillas were made on the last day in August when it was still technically grilling season but that's not to say you couldn't make them today, if you wanted to (weather permitting).
This is a dish I made for lunch smack dab in the middle of our kitchen renovation. If you've been following along, you'll know that we've been living without a kitchen since August. The grill has been our best friend throughout this ordeal and you know what I realized? It's actually nicer to grill when the weather is cooler. I don't end up with heat rash and I'm much more comfortable sitting down to dinner when I'm not sticky with sweat.

Eventually I'm going to compile a bunch of recipe ideas in a "What to eat during a kitchen renovation" entry but today, I'm just sharing this one recipe for quesadillas made on the grill.

Ingredients [per quesadilla]:
2 medium sized tortillas
⅓ to ½ cup cheese
shredded chicken (I used a store-bought rotisserie chicken)
thinly sliced jalapeno
salsa, sour cream, pico de gallo, avocado, onion, and other garnishes

Monday, September 16, 2013

New Kitchen Part 4: The Demo & The Prep

Demolition is probably the most stressful part of the kitchen renovation process. At least, it was for me. It's messy, it's labor-intensive (if you're doing it yourself), and it marks the start of no longer having a kitchen to use until the renovation is complete. Woe is me!
Eww, look at how gross our kitchen is. This renovation is so long overdue.
Luckily, our dad is a decent handyman and my sister and I are not opposed to getting our hands dirty so we were able to do everything ourselves. Major kudos to whomever built our cabinets in the first place because they were decently built, really secure, and a pain in the butt to remove. If you are also renovating and plan on removing the kitchen yourself to save a few bucks, I recommend you arm yourself with a shop-vac and dust mask. We have our own shop-vac with a crazy strong suction that made clean up so much easier.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Caprese Salad

We're still renovating our kitchen, which is exciting but tough. I'm currently compiling a list of easy meal ideas to make when you're kitchen-less which I will share soon but until then, here's something else that's quick and easy and do-able whether or not you have access to a fully functioning kitchen. We've been lucky to have lovely tomatoes growing in our garden that taste amazing and fresh bountiful basil so it was obvious. These ingredients were yelling, "Hey lady, make a caprese salad."
You just need five ingredients: tomatoes, basil, fresh mozzarella, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. A bit of fresh cracked pepper is also allowed.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Lemon Thyme Chicken & Rice

This dish was born out of laziness. It's an easy one-pot dinner that's quick to throw together. It's something I made a few weeks ago during a cold spell (before our kitchen became a mess) but it's perfect for the approaching chilly weather (though currently we're having a bit of a warm spell). Don't you wish Mama Nature would just make up her mind?
Ingredients [serves 4 to 6]:
1½ lb chicken thighs
10 sprigs lemon thyme, split into two portions
3 cups wild rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup diced onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 cup baby bella mushrooms, rinsed and chopped
1 cup oyster mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
salt & pepper

Monday, September 9, 2013

New Kitchen Part 3: The Before Photos

Part 3 is all about the 'before' shots. Should this entry have been the first post of this series? Hm. Oh well. What's done is done.
I was debating whether or not to tidy up our kitchen before snapping these photos but you know what? I was too lazy; typical lazy Rach. Then, I decided it would provide more contrast with the 'after' photos and I was pleased with myself for making such a great decision not to tidy up. Our kitchen and dining area are incredibly cluttered (extra cluttered, as we'd started the cleaning-out-the-cupboards-to-get-ready-to-demo process by the time I took these photos). We really need to stop being people who are terrible at putting things away. We are also weirdos that use the dishwasher as a giant drying rack instead of as a dishwasher. That will all change once we get a new one (as our current one is broken).
We also don't leave ourselves much counter space. Way too many appliances and pots and pans are stored all over the place because the cabinets are poorly organized so after a while, well-used items get tossed on the counter and left out for convenience's sake. Our new kitchen design includes more storage placed deliberately and strategically in order to ameliorate/prevent this bad habit. Will you check out that ancient microwave? We actually tossed it in the bin and we have no plans to replace it. We're not the type of people that use the microwave all that often. It got used maybe once a month, if that.

There are so many things I hate about our kitchen. There's so much brown; brown is my least favorite color. Everything is grimy and old and dated. The wood paneling on our walls is hideous and it makes me feel like our house screams 60s and not in a cool fabulous way but an embarrassing and tacky way.
Here's our oven, cooktop, and exhaust fan. The sink is also a matching aqua color. Everything is still functional but all of it is just so old. I thought about selling the set but they were just too worn in and I don't think all the TLC in the world could have brought them back to life. I know that this "vintage" 50s/60s kitchen look is pretty popular these days though, so it was a little heartbreaking to see them go. But my heart got over it pretty quickly once we picked up our new appliances. Sorry, guys (I'm talking to the oven et al).
I totally didn't get to take a shot of this area before my dad went ahead and took out this humongous frame with slats that separated our "foyer" area (if you can really call it that) from the kitchen/dining room. I really wanted to get rid of the slats and make the room seem more open. However, I didn't want to get rid of the divider completely because we keep our shoes in the entryway area, so this was the best compromise.
It's kind of awesome what we've uncovered behind the frame. There's some scribbles and we now know who installed and painted it. The photo just below (on the left) says, "This was installed by Scotty Coluns 1962; hourly rate $1.50" - um, $1.50, are you serious? Scotty Coluns, wherever you are, please come over and I will pay you $1.50 per hour to install our cabinets, please. As much as I'd love to leave this $1.50 thing visible, you know, to work as a conversation starter, we'll be covering up this exposed area with some trim.
Here's a look at our dining table and a giant buffet hutch. The dining set and hutch are awesome in quality but the style isn't really my thing and they are huge so they had to go. We donated the dining set to Furnishing Solutions. If you live in Morris County, please consider donating and/or patronizing them. The hutch is currently in our basement, taking up a tremendous amount of real estate. Maybe someone reading this blog wants it? Or maybe I'll put it up on Craigslist (despite my fear of getting murdered by a stranger).

Excuse the mess but this is how we'd been living while we were emptying out all of the cabinets and readying ourselves for the demolition and I might as well be honest and share things the way they really happened, right? I mean, if you are readying yourself for a renovation, you should be prepared for things to get kind of messy.
This nasty, messy, horrible pile of stuff is also the bane of my existence. I can't wait to have a proper pantry so that we can put all of this stuff away! We'll definitely keep that little shelf (I think it'll be nice to have a slightly industrial storage element) but I haven't decided what it'll be used for. I think a bar would be nice, but I don't really drink too often these days. Maybe a breakfast bar instead? Maybe with a nice coffee machine, a selection of teas, honey, sugar cubes, and a pretty container of homemade pancake mix.

So that's it for the before shots. Thanks for stopping by. Next, I'll be sharing demolition photos.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Fig Painting

Because I love figs, because I was bored, because I have lots of unused arts & craft supplies, because I want some pretty decorative items for my new kitchen...
As you can see, I'm the type of painter that enjoys working with primary colors (plus black and white) because I think it's more fun and enjoyable to mix up my own tones and hues.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Baguette with Brie, Fig, & Honey

My sister and I go grocery shopping every Sunday morning. It's part of our weekend routine. Even during our kitchen renovation, we still pop into the market to pick up at minimum, fresh vegetables and fruits for the week.

A few weeks ago, we walked into the store and guess what we discovered? It's fig season! It's an exciting thing when it's just an ordinary shopping day and you find out that there are fresh figs in the produce section.

Figs are amazingly sweet and pair well with so many different ingredients, e.g. cured meats, balsamic vinegar, rosemary, almonds, chocolate, the list goes on. But one of my favorite combinations: figs with cheese, which is what today's entry is all about.
The list of ingredients is rather simple:
brie cheese
fresh figs

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New Kitchen Part 2: Ikea Shopping Day

Welcome to Part 2 of our kitchen renovation: shopping day [08/10/2013]. I feel like I might have to make this little announcement every time I write a 'New Kitchen' post but this is going to be wordy and detailed. I want to be as helpful as possible to anyone else who is looking to update their kitchen in a v. budget-friendly way.
If you're not keen on reading through this entire post, I'll summarize the main points for you here:
  • Go to Ikea early; get there when it opens to avoid the crowds. And trust me, there will be crowds, especially if you are purchasing your kitchen during a kitchen sale.
  • Go prepared. Plan and design your kitchen using the Ikea kitchen planner (read about my design process), jot down your log-in and password just in case, and bring a printout of your design because heaven forbid the computer systems are down, but if they are, at least you have a hard copy of your design.
  • Have an estimate of the cost of your cabinets, square footage of your countertops (if you're going with quartz), and any other number and dollar related figures so that you're not freaking out or surprised by anything on shopping day.
  • If you've already picked out your color scheme, bring paint chips and a camera so you can finalize any decisions about the paint you want and have a way to document it all, in case you don't finalize everything that day. This is especially helpful if your Ikea location is a bit out of the way and you won't be able to make it back as often as you might like.
  • Be diligent and make sure your kitchen specialist is being diligent.
  • Write down all of the important phone numbers you think you might need. Ask your kitchen specialist for all of the phone numbers of your countertop people, delivery people, the extension of the kitchen department in your Ikea location, etc. It's much easier to get these numbers in person than it is to phone the Ikea call center, be on hold for 15+ minutes, and get transferred back and forth before reaching the person you actually need.
  • And ask lots of questions while you have a resource standing right in front of you.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Chocolate Banana Pancakes

Here's what I ate for breakfast a few mornings ago:
I used my buttermilk pancake recipe but tweaked it a little. I used chocolate almond milk (and added a little white vinegar to fake the acidity of buttermilk), added in a really ripe banana, and used brown sugar instead of white sugar. Oh, and I threw in some shredded sweetened coconut because why not?

Monday, September 2, 2013

New Kitchen Part 1: The Design

Oh, hello, September. You've arrived so quickly. Oh, and hello, Labor Day.
Towards the middle of summer, I decided I wanted to set up a little "home office" for myself. I wanted to get a simple desk and I started looking on Ikea's website for cheap (but pretty) options. If you want to see a few photos of my office set up, you can check out my travels blog. Somehow, my desire for a new office also blossomed into, "We should redo our kitchen." We had been discussing redoing the kitchen for years but never actually did anything. It was fate because Ikea was having it's annual kitchen sale and we decided we wanted to take advantage of getting up to a 20% discount so we got right into planning.

While my sister and I were at Ikea shopping for my desk, we looked at the example kitchens and took notes and photos of the elements we liked. We also perused the cabinet door selections and the countertop materials to figure out which ones we liked best.

I thought that it would be prudent to share this renovation journey on my food blog, since our kitchen is the reason that this blog is even possible. I'm going to warn you now that this post is rather verbose and lengthy but if you are also looking to redo your kitchen with a strict budget, it could be interesting and hopefully it will be helpful.
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