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.

Posted in Fun | Tagged | 12 Comments

Zesty Roasted Tomato Ranch Dip

Every year, in the aftermath of my defeat in the Tomato Art Festival recipe contest, I vow I will never enter again. And every year, I enter again.

This year, though, I couldn’t resist. The theme was “dips” (not salsa!), which is something I could easily bring along with me and keep in a cooler while enjoying the festival and not have to worry too much about with plating. But a dip with tomatoes? I don’t really make many dips and when I mentioned it to my husband, he said, “so you’re going to make Ro-Tel and call it a day, right?” Brilliant idea! Except Ro-Tel needs to be warm. Next.

I thought about favorite dips–mine and those of others and there were some recurring ingredients: cream cheese, sour cream, and ranch dressing mix. Those three alone are pretty good, but how to take them to the next level? And be sure that the dip features tomatoes?

I thought about previous years and how I thought I’d just toss in some pork belly just to win and I realized I didn’t have to do that; I could just get the flavor I wanted from roasting the tomatoes and adding smoked paprika. So that’s basically all this dip is. Those first three ranch dip ingredients with roasted tomatoes and paprika. But it’s damn good.

zestytomatoranchdip

I wanted to use fresh tomatoes in this recipe to keep the spirit of the contest, but truth be told, I think you could use a can of already fire-roasted diced tomatoes (Hunt’s and Muir Glen both make them) or even just a can of Ro-Tel and get a great dip that is even easier and quicker than this one is to make. Serve it with tortilla chips as a dip or use as a topping for nachos or enchiladas! But don’t skimp on the smoked paprika. I used a hot version for a great kick. If you don’t have any, add a tiny bit of Liquid Smoke instead (to taste).

Zesty Roasted Tomato Ranch Dip

Ingredients:
4 medium tomatoes (see note for substitution)
1 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened
1 cup sour cream
1 1-ounce package of Hidden Valley “Original Ranch” dip mix
Hot smoked paprika (see note for substitution)

Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Chop the tomatoes into one-inch cubes and place onto a lined baking dish or jelly roll pan. Roast until the juice has mostly dried and the tomatoes have some char, about 30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Add the cream cheese, sour cream, and dip mix in a medium bowl and mix together until smooth. Add about a tablespoon of smoked paprika and stir until combined. Test and add more to taste. Stir in the cooled tomatoes and serve with tortilla chips.

Notes: for an easier and quicker dip, substitute one can (~15 ounces) of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, well-drained for the roasted fresh tomatoes. If you don’t have smoked paprika, you can substitute a small (one or two squirts) amount of Liquid Smoke and some chili powder.

By the way, I was once again a…let’s say, “non-winner.” But (also, once again) the competition was fierce from some folks who really brought in some unique flavor combinations and really interesting dips. It’s still a winner as far as Mr. Eats is concerned. :)

Posted in Recipes, Snacks | 15 Comments

Martha Stewart Essentials Vegetarian Vitamins for Women + a Giveaway

marthastewartgummiesIt’s time for some real talk: vitamins aren’t very exciting. I know that. And now I want you to read a whole post about them. But bear with me; these are vitamins I am excited about. The folks over at Martha Stewart Essentials emailed me recently about their line of vitamins specially-formulated for women and noted that they are all vegetarian. Oh, really? Tell me more! They wanted to introduce me to their newest vitamin, the gummy multi. What?!? Gummy multi?!? Yes! You see, a lot vitamins—particularly chewable vitamins—contain gelatin. Gelatin is not vegetarian (and not something I want to consume; here’s why). Even many of the chalky vitamins have gelatin and every gummy vitamin I’ve looked at does as well.

But not Martha Stewart Essentials. Even the gummy multivitamins are vegetarian because they contain pectin for gumminess instead of gelatin. They’re also gluten-free and contain no preservatives, artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners; they are naturally sweetened and colored with real fruit and vegetable extracts and come in three natural flavors – cherry, lemon and orange. I have never been so excited over a vitamin in my whole life. Even though I eat reasonably healthy, I like the “back-up plan” of having a multivitamin every day just to ensure I’m getting what I need. I also drink plenty of water, but I have still struggled with swallowing a big ol’ pill with breakfast, so this gummy option is great. No more excuses; I just eat them as I’m preparing my tea. And they taste like candy, so they’re actually enjoyable to eat.

Along with the gummy vitamins, the Martha Stewart Essentials product line includes a number of vitamins specific to the needs of women at various stages of life. These include vitamins for Graceful Aging, Digestive Health, Bone Support, Menopause Support, and Hair, Skin & Nails. There’s also a non-gummy Women’s Multivitamin. All are made with gelatin-free capsules, so they are all vegetarian as well. They were developed in partnership with Inergetics, a company that makes a variety of nutritional supplements.

marthastewartessentialsAnyhoo, when the folks at Martha Stewart offered to send me some vitamins to review, they also offered to let me host a giveaway. Woo hoo! You guys know you need to take your vitamins and now you can try these out for free if you win. And if you don’t, you can purchase the vitamins online or at Walgreens, Harris Teeter and other retail stores.

The winner of this giveaway will receive TWO bottles of these fabulous gummy vitamins plus five bottles from the selection of other vitamins in the Martha Stewart Essentials line, which (as noted above), includes Graceful Aging, Digestive Health, Bone Support, Menopause Support, and Hair, Skin & Nails. To enter to win, just leave a comment with the vitamin you would like to make sure is in your prize pack along with your two bottles of gummy vitamins.

For one additional entry (leave a separate comment to get credit for this entry!), tweet the following: Enter to #win a #giveaway of Martha Stewart Essentials vegetarian gummy vitamins & other supplements from @lesleyeats http://ow.ly/zPUhl

Limit 2 entries/comments per person. The contest will be open from now until Friday, August 8 at 1pm CDT and is only open to residents of the United States. The winner will be chosen at random and be notified by email that afternoon and will have until Monday, August 11 at 1pm CDT to respond with a valid mailing (street)address. If there’s no response by that time, I will choose another winner.

This contest is now *closed.* Congratulations to commenter #2, Alexandra!

Posted in Giveaway, Product Reviews | 22 Comments