Dream Kitchen (part two): Choosing Appliances

I have been a homeowner for nearly 15 years and in that time, I have had the great fortune to buy very few appliances. One washer/dryer set, one refrigerator, and one dishwasher. I am a researcher by previous profession and by nature, so the process of buying electronic items is often long, drawn out, and painful. And now I have to buy a whole set of new appliances! And though I worry about being on the wrong end of the trend, I’m going with stainless. I hope I don’t hate everything in five years. Or less!

On the upside, I’m pretty excited that I will have–for the first time in my whole life–an oven that is completely clean and unused by anyone but me! However, I was hoping to buy a freestanding range with a smooth cooktop with the operating knobs on the front instead of on the back panel. This is not difficult to find with gas cooktops, but impossible with electric. So I’m on the hook for a slide-in range, which is not only more expensive, but will mean more expensive countertops. But I really dislike having to reach across cooking food to operate the cooktop.

Then, there’s the refrigerator. I want a French door, counter depth refrigerator. This is not difficult EXCEPT I don’t want an ice/water dispenser on the front (or a water dispenser at all). I can’t stand dispensers and they also take up too much valuable real estate inside. I’m already challenged because of the shallow depth, so I’m not interested in giving up another square foot to a dispenser. I don’t even use ice most of the time and I don’t like really cold water.

Next up is the microwave. Instead of having one of those purdy vent hoods over my range, I will have a microwave with an exhaust fan…that exhausts into the room because installing a vent to the outside would be difficult and expensive (two story home, not an exterior wall). I’ve survived okay for the last 10 years without a real exhaust fan, so I hope that will continue. It’s only bad when I fry stuff, which I do only rarely. And there’s a window nearby. And I’ll need one that’s on the larger side, too. And installed at just the right height (eye level). I have an LG model now that it is more than 10 years old and it works great, so I hope they’ve kept up with their quality. We are actually bringing the LG washer and dryer with us that’s just 5 years old because well, that’s one less expense and we know they work. There’s just not much of a guarantee about that any more. Warranties only last for 1 year!

Last is the dishwasher. It’s the one thing I’m not too picky about except I don’t love the basket on the door models. Wait. Not last. Then on to the faucet and the door handles and light fixtures…so many choices…

I’m not optimistic that I’ll be able to find what I want for all the appliances in the same brand or product line, but I hope that they will look similar enough that it won’t look odd. So, friends, if you have appliances you love, please do share the brand and, preferably, the model number (ha!). I’m hoping to save the cost of a Consumer Reports subscription. :)

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In the Pantry: Sesame Oil

sesameoilI don’t consider myself a good cook, but I have spent some time around good cooks while they’re doing their thing, so I’ve picked up some really great tips over the years. One of the best things I’ve learned is to always have roasted sesame oil on hand. It can make some really ordinary foods really great and is helpful when you’re in a time crunch for dinner because so much of what you can do with it is quick and easy. I will give you examples!

First, baby bok choy. You just add a little sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce into a bowl of baby bok choy, toss, and put on a baking sheet to roast at 400F. Cook until the leaves are crispy and brown and you have a great, tasty side dish. You can also do this with broccoli.

Next, green beans. This is a two-step process because you need to blanch your green beans before sauteeing. Bring a big pot of salted water to a boil, add a pound of green beans (stem ends removed) and boil for about two minutes, or until bright green. Then drain and immediately put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. While they’re cooling, add 1 tablespoon of sesame oil and 1 teaspoon of minced garlic to large saute pan and heat over medium until it becomes fragrant and hot (about 3-4 minutes). Add the beans and cook for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add a splash of soy sauce at the end (or salt).

Finally, noodles. Get some thin udon or thing rice noodles or spaghetti (1/2 or 1 pound) and prepare as directed. Drain and remove to a bowl. Add 1-2 tablespoons (depending on the amount of noodles) and toss to spread evenly. Season with gomasio (sesame salt) or kosher salt and toasted sesame seeds plus garlic powder (use sparingly). I like using the gomasio because it adds some interest to the noodles.

I’m not ashamed to say that I could make a meal off these three things together (and maybe some dumplings). You can find toasted sesame oil (and gomasio) in the Asian section of the grocery or at the international market. Be sure the bottle indicates it’s toasted (should have an amber color, not gold). Sesame seeds should also be toasted (save the untoasted for buns). Sesame oil also great as a salad dressing by itself or in a vinaigrette.

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Dream Kitchen (part one)

The entire time I’ve had this blog (seven years this month!), I’ve been cooking in a tiny galley kitchen that’s had about 10-12 square feet of usable workspace and seven meager cabinets to store all my stuff and my pantry items. It’s enough, really (I use my laundry room and a couple of other furniture pieces for additional space), but I’ve wanted more ever since the addition of a second and then a third person in the house.

A new kitchen wasn’t the top reason why we’ve wanted a new house, but it’s a nice bonus and I’ve very much looked forward to having a space that I can make my own. One that I can design in a way that works for me and allows my daughter to join me in the kitchen, too. I’ve decided to document our journey in remodeling here and I hope that you all enjoy it (all posts will be tagged “kitchen”). I also hope that I don’t have a nervous breakdown. Because gutting and renovating a kitchen is difficult (so many decisions!) and expensive.

So, here it is, the new kitchen as it is now (as in, before we remove all the cabinets and re-paint):
lesleyeatskitchenbefore1

lesleyeatskitchenbefore2

lesleyeatskitchenbefore3Isn’t it amazing? This house is absolutely nothing like what we wanted when we started the process, but after seeing some 30? 40? 1000? ranch houses, all from the late 60s or earlier, we were just about ready to get a 90s-era zero-lot-line house and call it a day. But then this happened. A 70s-era 2-story box with some contemporary and colonial elements to it. But this giant kitchen and breakfast area, a huge master suite, and a beautiful lot just captured our hearts. It had that wow factor that I think is just essential when buying a new home, particularly one that will need a lot of work. Because you really have to love something if you’re going to put all the money you have into it.

More than just the kitchen needs work, but it’s the first thing we’ll do (and the other work is generally cosmetic). Our plan is ambitious. First, as soon as the current owners move out (buying a home is a bit like a game of chess when people still live in all the homes in the chain), Mr. Eats and I and our contractor will tackle removing the old cabinetry, backsplash, and floor. This home is unusual for the area in that it’s on concrete, so our flooring options are limited (also limited because half the ground floor is parquet that we plan to keep). We are still trying to decided if we want to stain the concrete or install tile.

Then we get the new appliances (stainless; I still like it), cabinets, countertops (my plan is for quartz composite, but the color is still undecided), and hardware. We will start removing the old kitchen about 4-6 weeks from now and all I’ve determined so far is what cabinets I want. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

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