Saturday, June 29, 2013

Custom Cookbook Shelf

The cookbook shelf in progress.
My friend Bill is helping me build a custom bookshelf in the entryway of my new kitchen that will hold my large collection of cookbooks. I measured my stacks of cookbooks and have determined I need 32 linear feet of shelving to accommodate all of them.

The shelf will cover an entire wall and be made of ApplePly. I think it's going to look quite striking and because it extends all the way to the ceiling I actually think it makes the room feel larger.

Bill was the one who showed me ApplePly at the lumber store about a year ago and ever since I've had my heart set on using it in my kitchen. It's the best plywood you can buy - it's smooth and super strong. What I like best though is the clean striped effect on the sides of the boards. I'm not going to use any trim to cover it up. I'll just add a little butcher block oil and let the wood speak for itself.

The pretty edge of ApplePly.
Over the last two days, we've gotten a lot done. Now I just need to cut the shelves and finish the shorter shelf that will extend along the side of a base cabinet. Things are coming together thanks in large part to my helpful friend Bill.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Our Busiest Day Yet

When school is out for the summer, my daughter Eleanor likes to volunteer with me and create special drinks for the guests. Today she created a refreshing pina colada inspired drink. Dedicated volunteer Dan was once employed as a singing waiter so he gave Eleanor some very helpful tray holding tips.

Being the last week of the month, we expected to be busy at the Wednesday Community Meal today but we never expected to serve 434 meals!

It was our busiest day yet and it made our two hour service go by in a flash. Luckily we had extra help from young volunteers who are on their summer break from school. Seriously, we needed every single volunteer who came in today to help.

The first 200 or so guests got crispy oven baked lemon chicken, rice and cooked carrots.

A plate of baked lemon chicken, rice and mushroom pilaf and cooked carrots.

Then it was onto menu changing madness - there was roast pork, fish, shepherd's pie, enchiladas, pasta with sausage and peppers, paella and sausage and egg sandwiches.

We also offered soup, fresh fruit and dessert. For the latter, we served homemade pumpkin spice cake made by Cheryl who is our dessert specialist.

Cheryl's homemade pumpkin spice cake.

I've heard many times from our guests that the dessert served at the Wednesday meal is "the best in town" and it's all due to Cheryl.

Monday, June 24, 2013

It Takes Two

My husband and I will not let this project be our undoing. We are just one week away from celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary and are determined to get through this with our love intact.
My husband Joe and I are conquering the Ikea kitchen cabinets together and in our bid to stay positive we have dubbed the project "Operation Adult Legos."

The cabinet building process is definitely a two person job and I'm thankful to have his help.

Before we even began the assembly we had to devote a few hours just to itemizing our materials because once a kitchen cabinet purchase is made, Ikea gives the customer a mere 48 hours to report missing pieces.

It's a motivating policy but it's also kind of overwhelming since there are so many parts.
Let the itemizing begin!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

New Cabinets

Finally I have my new cabinets albeit in 106 boxes from Ikea. I'd better get assembling.

My husband rented a truck and my daughter Eleanor came along yesterday evening for the big haul. Purchasing my cabinets from Ikea is economical but it did require a lot of planning.

I started the active planning process six months ago by going to Ikea and getting their kitchen planning guide and then went to work designing my kitchen. Thirty drafts and four months later (I'm not kidding), I had a final plan.

It was important for me not to feel rushed. I needed time to mull, make changes and ask friends and professionals for their opinions.

Four weeks ago, I went into Ikea and used their CAD (computer-aided design) software to input my design. This is a requirement to order cabinets because Ikea wants to make sure everything fits properly into the space and the customer is happy. A bonus is that your CAD design is accessible at home so you can continue to make changes before you place your order.
I chose the cabinet finish second from left. It's called Abstrakt and it's a foil finish in cream. The finish is Ikea's most durable.

My final design and cabinet choice reflect my number one priority which is easy maintenance...

Upper cabinets mounted to the ceiling so there's nowhere for dust to collect.

Smooth cabinet doors without trim so there's nowhere for dust to collect.

Engineered quartz countertops because they are stain and scratch resistant and require no sealing.

An undermount sink because that means there's no messy caulk line.

A single bowl stainless steel sink with rounded corners so that it's easy to clean... you get the idea.

I want to spend more time cooking than cleaning.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Staying Busy

Our super team of dining room servers. Good thing they were able to sit and rest a bit before the service today because boy were they busy. Volunteer Steve who is a dedicated member of our dish washing team took the photo. Thank you Steve!

We changed our menu no less than ten times today at the Wednesday Community Meal at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral which made the two hour service one of our busiest yet.

The first guests of the day got barbecue chicken wings and the last guests got couscous with sausage, mushrooms, chard and peppers.  In the middle there were chicken breasts, beef fajitas, fish, sausages, beef curry, egg and sausage sandwiches, pizza and turkey.

All of the guests were also offered soup, salad and dessert. Because of our wonderful team of volunteers, we were able to serve 290 meals today.
Volunteers Mary and Leah always arrive early to help plan and prepare the meal.

Anne and Nicholas dishing up plates of couscous with sausage, mushrooms, chard and peppers. Nicholas is a high school student who has volunteered for the past three years during his summer break.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

New Lights

Still no cabinets but I installed the kitchen lights today and they work. The photo above shows just three of them. There are two more of the polished chrome based fixtures in the entryway.

I ordered the schoolhouse style light from and am very pleased even though one of the shades was delivered broken. Customer service at the company has been great though and a replacement shade in on its way.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Cool White

The kitchen wall paint has been purchased and "Cool White" it is - there just was no denying that with its blue undertones it was the one that best compliments my mosaic wall tiles.

I am anxious to finish the painting this weekend. I even think a trip to Ikea for the cabinets is in the very near future.

Which White?

Since purchasing my blue mosaic wall tiles, I've known that I want the walls of my new kitchen to be white so that the bold color of the tiles stands front and center.

Now the only question is which white? There are so many whites to choose from and what's even more confusing is how they change in different light.

While pondering my white paint chart inside I decided to take it outside into natural light. Whoa! Suddenly all the colors changed. Inside I preferred "soft white" but outside it looked too peachy and I leaned more toward the slight grey-toned "light fog."
I've got a few more hours to think before I need to head to the paint store and make a final choice. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Almost Ready For Paint

The arched entryway and Eleanor before heading off to her last day of school.

Today is my daughter Eleanor's last day of school before summer break and I promised her that the kitchen will be done before she starts eighth grade.

The new walls are almost ready for primer and paint. I am especially pleased with how the new arched entryway is looking.

In the meantime, we are still using our dining room as a makeshift kitchen. I am so looking forward to not having a refrigerator in the middle of the room.

Kitchen remodeling definitely requires patience, flexibility and a sense of humor. At this point I wish I could just snap my fingers and be done but it doesn't work that way.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Smoked Salmon And Smoked Oyster Chowder

Guests at the Wednesday Community Meal today were treated to steaming hot bowls of smoked salmon and smoked oyster chowder courtesy of Fishpeople Seafood and volunteer Martha who arranged the donation and made and served the chowder.

It was an unusually cool June day today in Portland so the timing of the special treat was perfect.

Martha even added extra smoked salmon and diced golden potatoes to the chowder which really took it over the top and made our guests so happy. We kept hearing from the servers in the dining room how everyone loved the chowder. Dedicated volunteer Dean even told me one guest was absolutely convinced it was lobster bisque.

It's such a pleasure being able to treat our guests. Thank you Martha!

We served 259 meals today and in addition to the chowder served homemade enchilada casserole, roasted tomatoes, salad and ice cream for dessert.
Assembling the enchilada casseroles.

Ice cream topped with chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, whipped cream, sprinkles and maraschino cherries.

Window Trim

While removing the old plaster walls from my kitchen, it was necessary to remove some sections of the window trim. And, as careful as I was, I wasn't able to salvage every piece.

So after a bit of measuring, a trip to the hardware store and $43 spent on lumber, I cut and attached new trim pieces to blend in with the old on my four kitchen windows.  It was an easy two hour job and I saved hundreds by doing it myself.

Now the trim just needs and bit of sanding and a few coats of fresh glossy white paint. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Two Easy Ways To Ice A Cupcake

Using a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip, here are two easy ways to ice a cupcake. The different techniques look pretty together on a platter and can serve a practical purpose.

For example, if you are serving different flavored cupcakes but want to ice them with the same frosting, the different techniques are a way to distinguish the flavors for your guests. 

Start on the outside edge and pipe a circle, spiraling in towards the center of the cupcake.

Pipe a straight line across the center of the cupcake. Pipe more straight lines on both sides until the top of the cupcake is completely filled.

Vanilla Blackberry Cupcakes

My sister kindly shared her kitchen so that I could whip up some cupcakes. The baking was a much needed break from my kitchen remodeling project.

These pretty vanilla cupcakes are filled with a blackberry filling and topped with a vanilla cream cheese icing.

Vanilla Blackberry Cupcakes
(makes 18 cupcakes)

Cupcake Batter
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs plus 2 egg yolks, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with papers.
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy, about 6 minutes.

Beat in the eggs plus egg yolks, one at a time, until combined. Beat in vanilla.

In another large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. With mixer on low, add a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating to combine. Beat in 3/4 cup buttermilk, another third of the flour mixture, another 3/4 cup buttermilk, and remaining flour mixture until just combined. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

Fill the cupcake papers 2/3 full.  Bake for 18 to 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.

Let the cupcakes cool before filling and frosting.

Blackberry Filling
1 16 ounce bag frozen blackberries
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons cornstarch

Heat the frozen blackberries and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Keep a watch over them and periodically give them a stir and smash them so they break apart.

Transfer the mixture to a fine sieve over a bowl and push the mixture through the sieve to remove the blackberry seeds.

Return the mixture to the saucepan and bring back to a simmer.

In a small bowl whisk together the cream and cornstarch. When the blackberry  mixture is simmering, add the cream mixture and whisk constantly over medium heat for two to three minutes until the mixture thickens. Remove from heat and let cool completely before using.

Let the filling cool completely before using.
Vanilla Cream Cheese Icing
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup cornstarch
1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened

In a saucepan over medium heat, cook the milk and half of the sugar until simmering.
In the meantime, in a small bowl combine the cream, the other half of the sugar and cornstarch. Mix well with a whisk.

When the milk is simmering,  pour about half of it into the cream mixture and whisk well. Add it back to the milk in the saucepan and heat, stirring constantly until the mixture becomes very thick.

Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla. Put the mixture into a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let the mixture cool completely.

When the buttercream base is cool, transfer it to a mixer and whip until smooth, add the butter and the cream cheese, a tablespoon at a time and whip until light and fluffy.

To Assemble:
Transfer the filling to a piping bag fitted with a large open tip. Insert the tip into the center of a cupcake and fill with a tablespoon or two of filling.

Filled cupcakes.
 Finally, top the cupcakes with cream cheese icing. I like to use a pastry bag fitted with a large star tip.

My husband enjoying his blackberry filled cupcake.

Monday, June 10, 2013

New Kitchen Floor

My new porcelain tile kitchen floor is in and grouted. The only thing left to do is seal the grout which I'll do towards the end of my remodel. Until then, the floor is protected with a layer of heavy paper so that the walls can be finished and painted.

Laying the floor went fairly smoothly. I rented a tile saw at 7 a.m. last Thursday morning with hopes to finish in one day. What made the project move slower than anticipated was the hardness of the tiles. The PEI (Porcelain Enamel Institute) rating of the tile is 5 which is the highest possible rating for the resistance of the glaze to surface abrasion. This basically means the tiles I chose are extremely wear resistant and super hard to cut. Each tile cut took at least two slow passes and sometimes four through the saw.

By 8:30 p.m. that night, I was more than 75-percent done but knew I had to stop. The neighbors certainly wouldn't want to hear the tile saw running during the night and my back was killing me. I also didn't want to screw up my project by rushing at the end.

Friday morning I got back to work and was done by noon. My friend Bill came by and helped me by making the last few cuts and handing me the pieces through a window. I literally had worked myself into a corner and needed to crawl through the window to get to the tile saw.  Working into the room instead of out was not ideal but necessary since I wanted to start laying the tiles first in the area that mattered most, the arched kitchen entryway.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Making Imperfect Work

Baked chicken, roasted potatoes and fresh fruit.

We served 221 beautiful and well-rounded meals today at the Wednesday Community Meal  using wholesome ingredients that just needed a a bit of attention and care.

We served baked chicken seasoned with herbs and garlic to the first 180 or so guests and then it was onto turkey breast drizzled with a homemade gravy.

Slices of turkey breast drizzled with a homemade gravy.
As a side we served crispy oven roasted potatoes, a favorite of our guests.

The potatoes came from the Oregon Food Bank and were just fine despite needing a slight makeover.

The potatoes came in all kinds of sizes from one to six inches in diameter. And, more than a few had some blemishes. But after a good wash and a bit of paring and dicing, they looked good as new. It just took some time and attention from volunteers Mary, Leah and Ann.


Utilizing the food we get would be impossible without a strong team of volunteers who work well together. Dealing with less than prime produce is doable but it does take effort. It's worth it though because we are saving good and nutritious food that would be a shame to waste. And, perfect is overrated.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Drywall And Floor Tile

The drywall is up and my new kitchen is beginning to take shape.

The drywall still needs to be taped, mudded and sanded but it's coming along. As soon as the walls were up, I remeasured for the kitchen cabinets just to make sure everything is still on target and happily it is — I don't want the cabinets to fit too tightly into the space, a little wiggle room is necessary.

I'm most pleased with the new area created for my refrigerator. The wall recess was made by opening up a pantry cabinet. Before, the fridge sat against a flat wall, sticking out, looking awkward and when open, blocking the back door. Setting it back into its own cubby will look so much better.

My porcelain tile floor was also delivered today and once again I took a chance by ordering tile on the internet and it worked out. The color is called Stone Age and the tiles are 12 x 24.

My more than 1,200-pound pallet of tile.

I'm going to play around with layout today and hopefully start laying the floor Thursday morning.
I'm going to play around with the layout of the tile for a day or so. Under the tile is 1/4 inch CBU or concrete board underlayment. I used 1/4 inch because I'm trying my best to line up the tile with the wood floor in the entry to the kitchen since I don't want to use a transition piece.

The commercial grade tile will work well for my oft used kitchen and was a deal at $2. 29 a square foot through BuildDirect. I did have to pay shipping though which brought the square foot total up to $3.29, still a deal.

By next week I should be ready to head to Ikea and pick up the cabinets.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Kitchen Wall Tile

I'm still without drywall on my kitchen walls. I'm a few days behind schedule despite working hard every day.

The work is exhausting but what keeps me going is the thought of these pretty blue mosiac tiles covering an entire wall. I purchased the ceramic tiles on and am so pleased with them. I was hesitant to buy something not seen in person but decided to just take a chance and go for it and it paid off.

The bright blue color will be a nice complement to my cream cabinets and white walls. I also love that the blue color varies slightly from tile to tile. I think the color variation adds a lot of interest.

The tiles cost just over $13 a square foot and the shipping was free. I can't wait to have the drywall up so I can get these on the wall.