Friday, September 25, 2015

Recipe Highlight: Roasted Roma Tomato Dip

Over the weekend, I slow-roasted a whole tray of Roma tomatoes from the garden. Last year, one fan last year called Roasted Roma Tomatoes "tomato candy"!

And then? I mixed a quick Roasted Roma Tomato Dip, just one way to use the roasted tomatoes. So good!

Here's how to roast Roma tomatoes, Roasted Roma Tomatoes, including the Roasted Roma Tomato Dip.

Roasted Roma Tomato Dip ♥

ABOUT THIS "RECIPE HIGHLIGHT" This is the first of a very occasional series of posts that highlights an adaptation of a Kitchen Parade recipe from years past. I love re-using and re-purposing my favorite recipes in new ways. I hope you do too!

FYI I've closed the comments on this page but would love to hear from you on the original page. Please do chime in there, at Roasted Roma Tomatoes.

© Copyright 2015 Kitchen Parade

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

One Quick Tip: How to Freeze Stock in Glass Canning Jars

Okay so you've finally made chicken stock. It was no big deal, right? But then what?! How do you store chicken stock for using later?

Just strain your chicken stock into glass canning jars and freeze the jars. Yep, you read that right. Freeze chicken stock in glass jars! I've been doing it for two, maybe three years. It really works.

And naturally, the same technique also works for vegetable stock, beef stock, shrimp stock and any other kind of stock you can make!

How to Freeze Stock in Glass Canning Jars, another One Quick Tip ♥

This is the latest in an occasional series of posts I call "One Quick Tip" ... because, well, each one will include a single quick tip, quick to absorb, easy to adopt, memorable to use.

Do you have One Quick Tip you'd like to share? Leave a comment or send me a quick e-mail via This time, I'd love to hear how you made a kitchen change for both convenience and sustainability. Old or new, big or small, I'd love to know what's useful in your own kitchen!

ONCE UPON A TIME Every few days, I carefully ladled still-warm chicken stock, beef stock, seafood stock and other stocks into quart-size freezer bags, then oh-so-carefully, arranged them flat in the freezer to freezer. Ha! I see that in this long how-to post for chicken stock, I even show a freezer bag full of stock!

Trouble was? Despite all my careful work, the whole process was messy: filling the bags, freezing the bags, even thawing the bags.

Trouble was? Those bags had to be closed just-so or they would leak! Trouble was? When it came time to defrost the bags, the bags always-always leaked!! So I'd double-bag them. Pretty soon? I was a major but unhappy shareholder in the Ziplock Freezer Bag Company.

REVELATION! RE-USABLE GLASS! Inspired by this post from Tea & Cookies, I switched to glass canning jars to use over and over again. The stock gets strained straight into wide-mouth glass canning jars, mostly quart jars, some times pint jars. I label the jars with a Sharpie pen, it washes off later, no problem. And then the jars go into the freezer! A few weeks or months later, a jar or two can be defrosted in the fridge overnight or in the microwave, lid off, in three or four minutes.

Two tricks to know.

LEAVE ROOM FOR EXPANSION You can't fill the jars to the top, it's important to leave room for the stock to expand as it freezes. In my experience, that means filling the canning jars just to their "shoulders", where the jars start to curve in to form the mouth.

LOOSE LIDS I also leave the lids slightly loose, well, not loose, exactly, but not tight either. If the jars were on their sides, they'd definitely leak. But since I freeze the jars upright, it's no problem.

DON'T THE JARS CRACK? Honestly, I have lost a couple of jars – but only when I overfilled them. And even then, cleanup was no problem. Since the stock was still frozen, it was easy to lift the cracked jars out of the freezer to let the stock thaw in the sink, then recycled the broken glass. Lesson well learned! Don't over-fill the jars!

WHAT ABOUT THE SCHMALTZ? The chicken fat that forms on the top of chicken stock once it's cooled is called "schmaltz". It seals the stock and acts as a natural preservative, preserving the stock for some while longer. But when the stock is frozen, the schmaltz cracks like ice on top of a river during the spring thaw, it's harder to remove. So some times before freezing the canning jars, I'll chill the stock, letting the chicken fat firm up, then remove it. Other times, I just let it go, so be it.

COOL LIDS, ALANNA! You can use the lids and rings that come with the canning jars. I did for awhile but found them fussy and hard to clean. So now I buy these BPA-free plastic canning jar lids and use them over and over again.

HMMM, COULD YOU RE-PURPOSE LEFTOVER GLASS JARS? Instead of buying canning jars especially to freeze stock, could you just use empty glass jars? Yes, I think so, especially the heavier jars used for spaghetti sauce, etc. I'd want to keep the inside of the lids super-clean, however, so nothing would grow in there.

THAT'S IT! Really! One Quick Tip!

More Quick Tips

Use Up That Stock: It's Time for Soup!

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
How to Make Homemade Vegetable Soup Chicken & Wild Rice Soup (Turkey & Wild Rice Soup) Sausage & Kale Split Pea Soup
~ more soup recipes ~

© Copyright 2015 Kitchen Parade

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas

The Recipe: Is anyone else c-r-a-z-y for green chile everything? Me too! Here's a quick-quick way to get a green chile fix without spending hours in the kitchen. Just start with shredded rotisserie chicken wrapped in tortillas with green chiles, then add a gorgeous creamy green chile sauce. You won't believe how two ingredients can add up to so much flavor! It's like 1 + 1 = a total 10 on the taste scale! Enjoy, all, this is a keeper!

Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, another super-easy Quick Supper ♥
Easy Summer Recipes ♥ Less cookin'. More livin'. It's the summer's motto!
This recipe is so quick and easy
that I'm adding it to a special collection of easy summer recipes
published every summer since 2009.
Watch for new "summer easy" recipes all summer long.
With a free e-mail subscription, you'll never miss a one!

We've been eating extra-healthy all summer. Here that means lean meat and vegetables most nights, salad suppers often and most importantly, very occasional sweets and treats.

But we have no "diet deprivation". Honestly, eating light and healthy feels good, it's summer food! Is anyone else as happy with a good tomato as a slice of cake?!

Last month, this still summery but season-spanning easy-assembly enchilada casserole captured my imagination. I even dream about it!

In my mind, it gets deconstructed. No carby tortillas, just layers of chicken, more vegetables all topped with that gorgeous Easy Creamy Green Chile Sauce. Or the chicken mixture gets wrapped in blanched collard greens, say. Or scrambled eggs stand in for the chicken mixture for a hearty breakfast. Or an all-veggie filling, zucchini, corn and okra come to mind.

See what I mean? Captivated!

TORTILLAS Definitely choose flour tortillas for these enchiladas, corn tortillas are just too stiff and crackly. I tried three different flour tortillas. The big favorite was the "Totally Homemade" Flour Tortillas from Trader Joe's: perfect size for enchiladas, you can fill them really full without a lot of bready overlap. I also tried Trader Joe's Chile & Onion tortillas, the flavor was good but the tortillas too big. I'd use them again but after wrapping the chicken mixture, would cut off some of the overlapping tortilla. Yeah I know, fussy, but better than too much tortilla.
SALSA VERDE I tried two different salsa verdes, one mild from Ortega called "Green Taco Sauce" (excellent) and also my own Green Chile Sauce (Salsa Verde) which was too mild and frankly, unless it's already on hand, defeats the whole idea of "Easy" Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas.
TURN UP THE TEMPERATURE? Adjust the heat to taste! For more heat, use hotter green chiles, tuck some roasted poblano or jalapeño into the chicken mixture, use a hotter salsa verde.
TURN DOWN THE CALORIES? I was a little surprised how the Weight Watchers points added up in this. First off, when served with a great salad on the side, I'm happy with half an enchilada, they're really big, they're very filling. But to shave off some calories, I would keep the cheese in the chicken mixture but would use less cheese on top, more of a sprinkle, really.

MAYBE A GOOD FREEZER DISH? It's easy to make Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas on the fly. But I do have the idea that the enchiladas would freeze well too. The next time I make this, I'll make a few extra enchiladas to freeze and package individually. My sense is that they shouldn't be thawed (hello, soggy tortillas) but baked straight from the freezer for maybe 20 minutes on their own, adding the Green Chile Sauce and cheese, finishing for the usual 30 minutes in the oven. Thoughts?


Hands-on time: 20 minutes
Time to table: 60 minutes
Makes 4 enchiladas
  • 6 ounces cooked chicken (three cheers for rotisserie chickens!)
  • 1 4-ounce can mild green chiles
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red pepper
  • 1 ear corn, how to cut corn off the cob
  • 4 ounces grated "Mexican" cheese blend
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 1 cup 0% Greek yogurt (we love Fage!)
  • 8 ounces salsa verde
  • 4 ounces grated "Mexican" cheese blend
  • Fresh tomato, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oven to 350F/180C.

CHICKEN ENCHILADAS In a large bowl, "pull" the chicken into strands. Add the green chiles, red pepper, corn, cheese and cumin, stir well.

Place one tortilla on a work surface, arrange 1/4 chicken mixture down the center of the tortilla, edge to edge. Roll the sides over the filing to form a roll and place seam-side down in a baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

EASY CREAMY GREEN CHILE SAUCE In the same bowl (yay, no need to clean it!), mix yogurt and salsa verde. Spoon the creamy mixture over the tortillas, be sure to cover all the surfaces. Sprinkle with cheese.

BAKE for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly all the way through.

TO SERVE Remove from oven, top with tomato and cilantro. Serve immediately.

MAKE-AHEAD TIPS Mix the Chicken Enchilada mixture and the Easy Creamy Green Chile Sauce up to a few hours before serving. But do not assemble the enchiladas until ready to throw them into the oven, the tortillas would get really mushy.

LEFTOVERS Leftover enchiladas reheat well in the microwave but definitely "look" like leftovers compared to the first night.

NUTRITION INFORMATION Per Enchilada: 308 Calories; 25g Tot Fat; 7g Sat Fat; 66mg Cholesterol; 1067mg Sodium; 15g Carb; 1g Fiber; 5g Sugar; 33g Protein. WEIGHT WATCHERS POINTS WW Old Points 8 & WW Points Plus 11.
Adapted from a most talented young blogger, Christina Lane from Dessert for Two. In her recipe, she cooks the chicken especially for the enchiladas, uses 2x the green chiles with the chicken, includes no veggies and calls for sour cream instead of Greek yogurt. If you love this recipe, you'll want to check out Christina's brand-new just-available-yesterday cookbook, Comfort and Joy: Cooking for Two. I think of it as "Dinner for Two" – perfect for young couples, empty nesters, retirees, etc.

Makes You Hungry, Right? Right!

Easy Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas, another super-easy Quick Supper ♥

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

More Mexican "Style" Recipes

(hover for a description, click a photo for a recipe)
Quinoa & Black Bean Salad Mexican Pizza (Oaxaca Tlayuda) Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos
Mexican Fruit Salad Mexican Mango Trifle Pan de Muerto (Bread for Day of the Dead)

SEASONAL EATING: This Same Week Over the Years

Fat Rascals Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Homemade Finnish Mustard Healthy Waldorf Salad Ina Garten's Tabbouleh Salad Mexican Pizza (Oaxaca Tlayuda) Grilled Flatbread How to Make Grilled Flatbread

Shop Your Pantry First

(helping home cooks save money on groceries)

© Copyright 2015 Kitchen Parade

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen

Two years ago, we remodeled the kitchen. The surprising thing? Three things we love most about our new kitchen are indeed big and brand-new. But the other seven? They are simple things and just might offer an idea or two for easy additions to your own kitchen, no remodeling budget, no construction dust required.

Please know, this is not an impulsive review. When we first moved into the new kitchen, I was of course sooo excited! But I waited to write about it, allowing time and experience to shape the story, to completely understand what works and what doesn't work, what was worth investing in and what wasn't, letting the excitement of the moment pass and the reality of cooking in and cleaning up the new kitchen to take hold.

In case there's any question? We do love the new kitchen! I hope that our decisions and real-life cooking experiences there might be useful for others too.

Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

Objective-Driven Decisions

Up front, we took time to seriously consider the real reasons we should even embark upon a substantial kitchen project. Formality helped! Along the way, our goals guided our decisions. Whenever we faced a choice, we'd ask, What accomplishes our goals?

These were our three objectives.
Efficiency for two very active cooks!
Connection to the outdoors!

What did we do to achieve these goals? And two years later, how did that all work out?

AND WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Have you ever given hard thought to how you'd change your own kitchen, given the chance?

#1 Floor-to-Ceiling Glass:
for Light and Connection to the Outdoors

Floor to Ceiling Glass, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE The old kitchen was dark, especially late in the day. We had two sources of light, a bay window facing east into the back yard and a little-used Dutch door with glass panes facing north. There was a large, farm-style table with six chairs in the bay window, the back chairs were always awkward to get in and out of.

THE DECISION We decided to tear out the bay window and replace that entire wall with floor to ceiling glass. We actually gave up a little square footage but it was a great decision.

The Light, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

AFTER Because just look at that light!

THE DECISION We installed two sliding glass door panels in the center plus a glass panel on either side. Sliding glass doors are a very economical way to put in floor to ceiling glass. My folks did the same thing in their three-season porch in Minnesota, three walls of sliding glass doors plus some fixed door-size glass panels.

HOW IT WORKS We love these doors!
These doors really open up the kitchen to the outdoors! It's so easy to move in and out.
When the weather's pretty, we open up the doors for breakfast or supper "outdoors" – without carrying everything outside to the patio table.
A concern up front was if so much glass would make the kitchen feel cold in the winter and hot in the summer. With our eastern exposure, this is zero problem except on very-very cold days (below zero, say).
All four glass panels have up 'n' down shades if it's gets too bright early in the morning which does happen a few days a year. The shades are inside two layers of glass, no cleaning!
The glass itself does need frequent cleaning (especially when sticky-fingered grandkids visit!) but when you keep up with it, the glass isn't at all streaky.
The sliding doors came with screen doors but we didn't install them because we didn't want to block the light. Mostly, we have no problem with bugs coming in although last spring, baby frogs kept hopping over the threshold!

WHAT WE WISH WE'D DONE DIFFERENTLY All okay, it's perfect!

Pella doors & windows
Our most-wonderful, most-talented, most-capable St. Louis contractor, Rick Bruder
Our favorite glass cleaner, Perfect Glass, we find it at Home Depot, Lowe's and Bed, Bath & Beyond.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? What's the biggest change you'd make to accomplish one of your own objectives?

#2 The North Counter:
for Light, Connection to the Outdoors & Efficiency

The North Counter, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE Sorry, I don't have a "before" picture but trust me, this was a dead area before. There was a messy bakers rack stacked with cookbooks and the junk that's so easy to collect. There was a little-used door to the outside and a water cooler.

THE DECISION We removed the door entirely and installed a large window and a new counter.

AFTER Look at all that light, even from a window facing north. And look at all that counter space!

HOW IT WORKS We love this north wall!
The window is wonderful! First, it brings in so much pretty light, more than I ever expected since it's on the north side of the house and is below an overhang. But it also gives me a great view of the patio table, really good when we have people over.
The counter space is m-a-g-n-i-f-i-c-e-n-t! When it's just us, we use it for charging phones – yeah, the cords in the corner are ugly but we rarely forget our phones when leaving the house!
But for dinners with guests, we use the counter, depending on the meal, for drinks, for appetizers, for side dishes. It's just so-so useful.

We intended to install a stainless steel shelving unit outside the window. In fact, we even had a special piece of stone cut as a "pass through" shelf connecting inside and outside. Turns out? We don't need it. With the new counter inside, we serve from there. People come in versus we carry the servings dishes out.
We considered installing a trash compactor and an ice maker underneath the north counter. But these were expensive appliances, both space-wise and dollar-wise. In the end, we knew we could make a whole lot of trash runs to the basement and ice runs to the corner gas station to not spend $5000. Not once have I regretted these decisions.

WHAT WE'D DO DIFFERENTLY We wish we'd installed can lights above the counter to put extra light in that space. The tall lamp in the corner is our "make do" light source, it's nice for light at night but doesn't light up the space as well as we'd prefer.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Would you pull out windows and doors to accomplish your kitchen goals?

#3 Blending the Old & the New:
for Efficiency & Economy

An inefficient pantry, now gone. One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE This wall was home to an inefficient pantry with double doors. The pantry's left side had inefficient deep shelves. The right side had a shelf or two, then was pretty much nothing better than a broom closet. When we first started talking about changing the kitchen? All I wanted was new shelves in the pantry!

THE DECISION We pulled out the pantry, good riddance!

Blending Old & New Cabinets, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

THE DECISION Create a second cooking space, including a new stovetop and more cabinet space above and below.

AFTER We achieved a very functional second cooking space! This is where I do 100% of my cooking for A Veggie Venture and Kitchen Parade!

We decided against replacing all the old cabinets and instead blended the "new" with the "old". Why? First, replacing the old cabinets would have added $$$ to the project without contributing to our objectives of Light, Efficiency & Outdoor Connection. Second, the old cabinets are in really good shape and I love-love-love the inside hardware; we tried to replicate that hardware but were unsuccessful.
Our kitchen designer recommended ordering the new cabinets in flat black, not the cream color of the old cabinets. I "got" that idea! The theory is, you make a change really obvious so it doesn't look like you're trying to slip something through without anyone noticing. My mom always talked about a girl who wore a really flashy ring so no one would notice she was missing a finger.
We lived with the designer's recommendation for a couple of weeks – and then, much to her dismay, decided to match the cream color of the existing cabinets, blending old and new in one long clean, uninterrupted line of color. Why? Because if we were installing all-new cabinets, we'd never in the world choose black cabinets. But most importantly, black cabinets would have sucked light out of the kitchen when our goal was to make the kitchen lighter and brighter. In the end? An easy, easy decision.

HOW IT WORKS We love-love-love this new part of the kitchen!
Much to my surprise, many people who come into the new kitchen don't even notice that there are two styles of cabinet. Matching color helped (we actually had the old cabinets repainted to exactly match the color of the new factory-painted cabinets), so did similar hardware. We also were able to match the same countertop that had been put in a couple of years before. I envisioned one long clean line and that's what I got!
I'm told that two cooktops aren't uncommon in kosher kitchens but in my world, wow. His 'n' her stoves? Yeah, that's a luxury. But it really helps with our style of cooking, we're not constantly tripping over each other while cooking dinner.
Really important along this long line of cabinets? Under-counter lighting. It was an after-thought but is ever so important!

WHAT WE'D DO DIFFERENTLY All okay, it's perfect! Well – except one thing. If anyone has ideas, I would love an idea how to "jazz up" the area behind the stovetop. I really struggled with what to do there especially since, other than the glass doors, it's the centerpiece of the kitchen when you enter the kitchen from the family room. I'd love some sort of "statement" there versus the plain stone that matches the countertops. Ideas?!!

Our much-appreciated kitchen designer, Adrea Jones from RSI Kitchens & Bath in St. Louis. We would totally use RSI again, the showroom is huge and very helpful as we made decisions along the way. During construction, two cabinets arrived damaged but RSI replaced them right away. And Adrea! She was a real stickler for details and listened to and responded to our needs. She was also really good at the behind-the-wall details, not just the the "up front and pretty stuff". We were very pleased with RSI!
Chris Cannon did all the paint work, it was done on vacation so we didn't even meet him in person!

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Would blending the old with the new put your own kitchen project within reach? And what do you think about ours, did we make the right decision to keep the old cabinets even while installing new ones?

But Let's Switch Gears

Not every kitchen needs an overhaul. More than that? Not every family can invest the money it takes to remodel a kitchen. Still, I think all of us who spend much time in our kitchens are always looking for simple ways to make our kitchens work better, look better, fit our lifestyles better.

So the next seven things I love about our new kitchen? They just might work in your kitchen too, no contractor, no budget, no complications required.

#4 Cafe-Height Kitchen Table:
for Efficiency & Connection to the Outdoors

Cafe-Height Table, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE The traditional farm-style kitchen table seated eight, talk about extra chairs when 90% of the time it's just the two of us! What we "really" wanted, we thought, was island seating, just two or maybe three tall chairs to create a convivial communal space for cooking, cleaning up, chatting, just hanging out in the kitchen.

THE DECISION We decided against island seating. We just couldn't make it work, no matter how we tried, without completely rebuilding the existing island which essentially meant that we would have to remodel the entire kitchen – a much bigger project than we wanted.

AFTER By happenstance, we had a like-new cafe-height game table in the basement. We brought it upstairs – just to see if we liked the cafe height in the kitchen – fulling expecting to buy a new table. That table worked so well, we kept it!

HOW IT WORKS We love this table!
It seats four easily. Six would be better but four it is. I love-love having another couple for dinner on a Friday night for a casual supper in the kitchen. So relaxed, so conversational.
And it so connects us to the outdoors, one of our three main goals. The extra height really enhances the outside view, the pool, the herb garden, the bird feeders.
Because it's a game table instead of a traditional kitchen table, this table has drawers, totally handy for napkins, reading glasses, medication boxes, even binoculars for close-up views of the deer and turkey and other wildlife outside the fence.
For parties? I pull the chairs away and use this table for appetizers. During the winter, I push it against the glass so there's more standing room in the kitchen.
Best of all, once we moved the cafe-height table upstairs, we never once talked again about island seating. We don't miss it, we've "almost" got it!


WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Are you longing for a kitchen island or seating at a kitchen island? And what do you think about our low-cost solution, a cafe-height table?

#5 Re-purposing a Corner Pantry:
for Efficiency

Re-Purposed Corner Pantry, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE Lots of kitchens have these awkward corner cabinet spaces. I inherited one with two levels of lazy-susan style turning shelves. Frankly, it was a disaster of a pantry, it was impossible to tell what was on the shelves since cans and jars all look alike from the top! And I was constantly pulling out cans/jars in front to dig for something further in the back. What a total PAIN.

AFTER I repurposed this space, converting it from food pantry to small appliance storage.

HOW IT WORKS Beautifully, just beautifully!
Here's where I store the coffee supplies (the coffee maker itself sits out), the slow cooker, the ice cream maker, a full-size and a mini food processor, the spice grinder, all visible and easy-easy to pull out to use.

WHAT WE'D DO DIFFERENTLY My only regret is that the the standing mixer doesn't fit, it's too tall and too heavy.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? What's in your corner cabinet? How does it work for you?

#6 Hot Water Spigot:
Just Because

Hot Water Spigot, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE We had one of those rental bottled water cooler units, expensive and clunky. We did love the hot water tap on the cooler, it made surprisingly good hot tea by the cup.

THE DECISION Ditch the water cooler.

AFTER We installed a small prep sink near the new cooking area, thinking it would work for washing fruits and vegetables, maybe even a little clean-up. We added a hot water spigot to the sink.

HOW IT WORKS Frankly, the sink itself is a waste of space. It rarely gets used (it's too small, the workflow is awkward) and it would be nice to just have a long expanse of counter.

But the hot water spigot? THAT we love!! It gets used several times a day.
For warming cold eggs for baking.
For warming coffee cups in the morning.
For making cups of tea before bedtime.
For getting a fast-start on boiling water for pasta, etc.

WHAT WE'D DO DIFFERENTLY We'd skip the prep sink but install a hot water spigot near the main sink area.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Would you put in a hot water spigot? Is there some small change that would get daily use?

#7 Magnetic Knife Racks:
for Efficiency

Magnetic Knife Racks, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE Knives were in drawers, stacked upon one another, hard to find, hard on the blades, etc.

THE DECISION Install magnetic knife racks to keep knives out in the open and handy.

AFTER We installed three knife racks, one in the new cooking area and two near the original cooktop.

HOW IT WORKS We love these knife racks!
The knives are right where we need them, just a reach away, no need to open a drawer to rifle through a stack of knives.
I also appreciate that it limits the number of knives, they're too easy to accumulate. The knives you see? That's all I use!
That "knife" on the right is called a bench knife or some times a bench scraper. It is sharp enough to cut with (pastry, say) but I use it for scooping up chopped foods to move to a skillet, slow cooker, etc. Totally handy, much recommended! We have two, his 'n' hers!

WHAT WE'D DO DIFFERENTLY All okay, it's perfect!

SOURCES magnetic knife rack & bench knife

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? How do you keep knives handy, would a magnetic rack work in your space?

#8 My New "Water Cooler"

Water Tray On the Counter, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

THE DECISION Every morning, put out pitcher of fresh water, lemon and herbs. Alongside are glasses to remind me to take a drink, now!

HOW IT WORKS It works! When I forget to put out the pitcher? I don't drink enough water. When I do? The reminder is there every time I walk into the kitchen. Also? The tray is a Moomintroll melamine tray, a souvenir from the wonderful week we spent in Helsinki last year. Every day, I drink water and remember what a great time we had on that trip. A small thing but it reminds me to "live happy" every day.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Would a pitcher or water be a good reminder to stay hydrated?

#9 The Man Cave

Hanging Pots and Pans & Open Spice Rack, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

BEFORE Before remodeling the kitchen, this corner was the main and only real cooking area. Oh such a mess, it was! First, the stove itself had no prep space alongside, it was across the way on the island. Second, pots and pans were stacked willy-nilly underneath the stove, it was a pain to pull out the right one, we were always stacking and unstacking pots and pans. Third, kitchen utensils were in three large containers next to the stove. Fourth, the spices were waaaaay across the kitchen in a cupboard. Yeah ... total disorganization.

THE DECISION We decided against re-working that entire cooking area, it would have meant a total kitchen remodel, we just didn't want that. We did, however, take some important steps to create a functional cooking space for a highly creative and talented but impatient and (let's be real) messy cook.

AFTER Hanging pots and open spice rack.

HOW IT WORKS Frankly, we both love this "man cave" area of the kitchen!
AWKWARD PREP SPACE / COOKTOP Oh it's so totally awkward to have zero prep space next to a stove! Unfortunately, there was no easy way to fix this. And the thing is? A $10 bench knife makes it much-much easier to move chopped foods from a cutting board on the island to a pot on the stove. Total win.
HANGING CAST IRON Did you ever see so much cast iron? :-) In the beginning, we hung other pots and pans too but now reserve it for cast iron. In part, it's an aesthetic decision. But from a functional perspective, cast iron is for cave men, keep it handy! And once the cast iron was hung, we had plenty of room in cupboards for easy access to other cooking vessels like Dutch ovens, roasting pans, baking sheets, etc.
OPEN SPICE RACK It's so great, having spices so handy and so easy to find. The downside is that every six months or so, you have to give this a really good cleaning, both the spice containers and the rack itself. We've both resisted the idea to line up "all new and pretty looking" spice jars from Penzeys. After all, this is a working kitchen, it wouldn't stay pretty long!
HANGING UTENSILS Again, wow, what a luxury to reach for the most-used kitchen tools, right there and ready for use. We do still keep a crock of a few things next to the stove, a sharp two-pronged knife fork pointed down for safety, a few things that don't hang easily. But this is a great system for us.

WHAT WE'D DO DIFFERENTLY All okay, it's perfect!

SOURCES We contrived the hanging system with parts from Home Depot. The hardest thing to find? The hooks! Hint, check the garden section. The hooks are actually 50-pound plant hangers. The spice rack was built with parts from Home Depot, the corbels came from a place that sells molding for ceilings, etc. And here's the bench knife again, I told you we had his 'n' hers!

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Would hanging pots and pans work? Could we neatniks stand an open spice rack? :-)

#10 MEET "WILBUR": Cook with the One You Love

Bronze Sculpture of a Pig, One of Ten Things I Love About Our New Kitchen ♥ Surprisingly, seven don't require a remodeling budget or construction dust.

In the last years, I've come to know all too well that once you no longer live there, a house fast becomes little more than four walls filled with stuff. When the kitchen is no longer a busy, messy, noisy place? When the dishwasher doesn't need emptying once or even twice a day? When there's no garbage to carry out, no recycling to sort? When you no longer run out of paper towels and ziplock bags and sink cleaner? When there are no (or few) kitchen "chores" because, well, your life is elsewhere?

So please forgive me for feeling a little sentimental as I bring this post about our new kitchen to a close. You see, I know just how very very very lucky I am. And if I weren't already feeling so lucky, it would be this pensive-looking bronze sculpture of a pig (we named him Wilbur ...) who would remind me the truth about this new kitchen: that as much as we love its new light and its new efficiency and its new connection to the outdoors, it's only the space of pleasure it is because it's shared. I need to start rubbing Wilbur's snout for good luck ...

SOURCE Sandy Scott, bronze animal sculptor, she also has a blog.

WHAT ABOUT YOUR KITCHEN? Is there whimsy?!

Kitchen Parade is written by second-generation food columnist Alanna Kellogg and features fresh, seasonal dishes for every-day healthful eating and occasional indulgences. Do you have a favorite recipe that other Kitchen Parade readers might like? Just send me a quick e-mail via How to print a Kitchen Parade recipe. Never miss a recipe! If you like this recipe, sign up for a free e-mail subscription. If you like Kitchen Parade, you're sure to like my food blog about vegetable recipes, too, A Veggie Venture. Follow Kitchen Parade on Facebook!

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