Saturday, February 24, 2007

New Cabinets

Saturday, February 24, 2007
Last Monday, on President's Day, the people from Anderson Millwork rolled up in a big truck and started unloading cabinets. Sarah and I were upstairs, and started watching them out of the bedroom window. We saw that they were having a lot of trouble getting one big unit through the gate in our back yard. I told Sarah it was too bad that Jim, who was out running errands, wasn't home because he would love to get involved and find a solution. The Anderson people measured the gate--many times--and measured the cabinet--about the same number of times, shook their heads, and brought out cell phones to confer with someone.
Just then Jim drove in. Sarah and I watched him talk and gesticulate. I said, "He's advising them just to toss it over the fence and he'll catch it," I told her. Jim came in. He announced to us that one cabinet was too big. "I suggested that we could all grab hold and just kind of heave it over the fence," he said, "but they'd already called their boss, and apparently he told them to take it apart." He sounded disappointed.
All the cabinets were safely delivered, and stacked up in our back porch

and in our kitchen.

There were many, many cabinets.
These are all made from alder.

No one has ever heard of alder. In fact, this is how all conversations relating to our choices of wood go:
Q: Are you having hardwood floors?
A: Yes.
Q: What kind of wood?
A: Eucalyptus. It's called Lyptus.
Q: Eucalyptus? What? Really?
A: Yes.
Q: I've never heard of such a thing. What about your cabinets.
A: Alder.
Q: Alder? What? Really?
A: Yes.
Q: I've never heard of it.
Sue, our carpenter, tells us that alder is known as "poor man's cherry." I don't really like having a "poor man's" option, but I guess that "middle-class woman's cherry" doesn't have the same ring to it. It really doesn't look much like cherry anyway, in my opinion. They'd do better to call it "blind man's cherry." As Adam points out to us, fashions in wood change rapidly. I'm not sure if alder is on its way in or on its way out. I hope we have a couple of years before people say, "Alder? Lyptus? How passe."
During the past week, our carpenters started installing the cabinets. This is a cute little corner cabinet:

This one is now ready for the sink.

This will be the eating area:

And this is the space for the cooktop, with big drawers underneath for pots and pans, and whatever else should be handy to the stove.

It dawns on me for the first time that when it's all done, I'm going to have to put everything away, but I'll no longer know what "away" is, so I'll have to figure out where it all goes.
We're now ready for the granite measure, which is what will happen next week.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chicken Curry and Naan

Monday, February 19, 2007
It's President's Day today--a holiday for government workers. Usually I end up working on these kinds of holidays, but I decided that I would actually take the day off. I also decided that I'd quit feeling sorry for myself for not having a kitchen, and I would just cook using a few of the electric appliances that I have. It suddenly occurred to me that I could make naan on my electric griddle, and then I could make a curry in my crock pot. I checked the index in Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook (thanks to nlberry for the cookbook recommendation), and, sure enough, a recipe for crock-pot curried chicken. And what could be more appropriate for President's Day than an Indian feast? Huh? I guess I got a little carried away there.
It was an especially difficult day to cook in the basement because our cabinets were delivered from the cabinet makers today, so the kitchen is filled with cabinets, and there is just a narrow path going through the room. In fact, there are so many cabinets that I don't know if we'll ever see the floor again. But that will be a different posting.
The naan would be pretty easy to make under normal circumstances. The circumstances I'm in are: I couldn't find the measuring spoons, I couldn't find the mixing bowls, there was no counter space available for kneading, I didn't remember what I'd done with the yeast, I couldn't find the baking powder. And while I was looking for the baking powder, the yeast, which was supposed to be bubbling gently in the warm milk, went insane and foamed all over the table. Still, it all turned out fine.
After I found the rolling pin, I rolled out the naan dough into 12 circles, and put them on the griddle, two at a time. After a few minutes, they start bubbling.

When the naan has bubbled for a few minutes, you flip it over. It should have nice brown speckles.

Somehow I didn't think that twelve naan would be so many, but it made a huge stack of naan--more than two people could possibly eat. More than four people could eat. It would be about enough for twelve people.

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 T. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno chile, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. ground coriander
1 t. turmeric
1 T. fresh ginger, grated
1 t. paprika
1 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. mustard seeds
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 head cauliflower, broken into small pieces
2 cups fresh baby spinach
6 ounces plain yogurt, whole or low-fat
Salt to taste

1. Turn cooker on high, and cook onions for about five minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno; cook a few minutes more. Add the next seven ingredients, and stir for a few more minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice. Mix all.
3. Add the chicken pieces and the cauliflower. Cover and cook on high for one hour.
4. Turn the heat to low and cook for another four to four and 1/2 hours.
5. Add the spinach and yogurt. Stir, and cook for another half hour.
---Adapted from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook, Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann


1 cup whole milk
2 t. sugar
2 packages active dry yeast
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 t. salt
1 tl. baking powder
2 T. olive oil
6 ounces plain yogurt, low-fat or whole milk
1 large egg, lightly beaten

Melted butter for brushing

1. Scald milk and bring to room temperature. Stir in sugar and yeast. Let milk stand until milk is a little frothy.
2. Mix flour, salt, baking powder, oil, yogurt, and egg in large mixing bowl until blended. Gradually add milk mixture. Knead for about seven or eight minutes, until dough in smooth. Put dough in oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap until doubled in size. This takes only about an hour.
3. Punch down the dough and divide into twelve equal pieces. Keep the dough covered with plastic wrap while you're working with the other pieces. On a lightly floured counter, roll the dough into circles about 7 to 8 inches in diameter. Don't worry if the circles aren't perfect.
4. Preheat electric griddle to 350 degrees. Depending on the size of the griddle, cook two or three naan at one time. After a few minutes, the naan should start bubbling and the other side should be brown in spots. Turn it over and cook for another two to three minutes.
5. Remove from heat and brush with melted butter. Keep the naan warm by covering with a cotton towel or aluminum foil until they're all done. Serve warm.

A Few Bread-Related Things

Sunday, February 18, 2007
Jim got me a Lodge Cast-Iron 5-quart Dutch oven for Christmas. This is the one that Rose uses to make her no-knead bread.

It was on back order, and it just arrived. Very handsome, isn't it? I put it on top of the new oven that's boxed up in the living room, and I felt very compatible vibes. I'm sure they're going to like each other a lot--only about six more weeks until I get a chance to find out.

There was an article on no-knead bread in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune last Thursday. I was quoted as a "local baker."
Some of my friends told me that it sounded just like me. My daughter told me I sounded weird. I guess the two are not mutually exclusive.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Early Appliances

Saturday, February 17, 2007
We bought our appliances at Warners-Stellian, and were very happy with their service and selection. After we ordered them (and paid a big down payment), Michael and Adam said they'd coordinate with them for a delivery date. Suddenly, Warners-Stellian got impatient, however, and told us that we'd have to take delivery before January 31 or there would be an extra charge. Adam said he'd tried to negotiate a later delivery date--the date we wanted them--but it was no go. We didn't learn about this until the first week in February.
Jim called the woman we bought the appliances from, and she said we wouldn't have to pay the extra few hundred dollars if we took delivery right away. Then she said we'd have to wait until they got them in stock. One might think that if they didn't have them in stock, it might not be vitally important to take delivery of them immediately, but then we probably don't understand the finer points of appliance buying.
The very nice delivery people set an oven, a stovetop, and a microwave on our living room floor, and seemed surprised that we wanted them before we had a kitchen. We were surprised too.

Hardwood Floor

Friday, February 16, 2007
The floor people actualy started installing the floor on Thursday. They got most of it done, but it was still in pretty rough shape when we came home that night.

When we came home on Friday, it was not only installed, but actually clean. It feels like real progress.

It's Lyptus flooring, which I'd never heard of before we started this project. It's a hybrid eucalyptus species grown on plantations in Brazil. It's sustainable, hard, durable, and quite beautiful (I think).

It's a little redder than I remembered, which is probably why Michael nixed a tile choice I tried to make in red and steered me toward a cooler green.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Walls Come Back Up

Friday, February 9, 2007
We seem to be pretty much done with the destructive part of the remodeling job and are on to the constructive part. This is more fun, although it's just as big a mess. The sheet rock people, who are friendly, by the way, installed walls in just one day, instantly giving the project a more finished look and giving us a belief that we may actually have a kitchen one day:

After the big pieces of sheetrock get put up, they are taped and mudded. I think that's what you call it anyway. I obviously haven't watched enough do-it-yourself TV shows.

The sheetrock was not only put on the walls, it was also put on the ceiling, to cover up the big hole where the vent was installed. Now we just have the vent coming out of the ceiling without a big hole next to it:

We traded about three-quarters of our hall closet to get a little extra room in the kitchen. The big space on the right will hold our oven and some cabinets. The refrigerator will be in the big space to the left. I hope it fits.

The hall closet will be much smaller. It will hold, maybe, five coats. But we had a lot of junk in that closet, including coats we never wore, so choosing the five coats that have the honor of being in the coat closet will be good discipline.
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I'm afraid the new, very skinny door will look odd, but I'm assured that it won't.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

New Windows

Tuesday, February 6, 2007
Whereas yesterday we just had holes in the walls, today we have actual windows. One of them, on the north wall, is just an exact replacement of the previous window above the sink. The two small ones to either side of that one are the ones that Michael and I compromised on since he wanted all windows and I wanted a dank, dark kitchen with lots of cabinets.

We also got two new windows on the east wall. These are the same as the windows that were there before, but they're shorter, so they will just meet the counter that's going to be on that wall. The sheet rock is stacked up against them because that is the next step. On the schedule, the sheet rock people are called "Friendly." I'm assuming that that is the name of the company and not a description of their disposition, but who knows.

We were a little shocked to see what installing new windows does to the outside stucco:

In fact, we were so unnerved that we dug up our contract--the contract that we had so blithely signed--to see whether repairing the stucco might be included. (It is). Contracts was my worst subject in law school.
The windows were the most dramatic change today, but they also installed the new vent for our stovetop.

At least that's what I think it is. If it's not, Jim will correct me, as he occasionally does. And I will ignore him, as I occasionally do.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

No-Kitchen Red Beans and Rice

Saturday, February 3, 2006
My daughter Sarah lent me a crock pot, so I spent several hours searching the internet for crock pot recipes. To my dismay, I found that most of them call for several cans of cream of something soup or chicken bouillon granules or canned mushrooms. Sarah accused me of being a food snob, but I really am not. I like almost all kinds of food, including very simple food like fried chicken or meat loaf. I just like good food with real flavors and not too many added chemicals. I don't think that makes someone a food snob.
I did manage to find some recipes that sounded pretty good. This is my first attempt.

1 T. olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 large onion
3 leeks
1 red pepper
1 cup baby carrots
2 cans red beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
1 T. ancho chile powder
1 T. ground cumin
1 T. Santa Rosa chipotle powder
1 t. salt
1 t. ground pepper

Heat oil in crock pot. Crush garlic cloves into olive oil and cook for a few minutes. Chop the onion, leeks, red pepper, and potatoes, and add them, along with the baby carrots, to the pot. Stir everything together. Add the beans, broth, and seasonings, and stir. Cover and cook 6 to 8 hours on low heat. Serve over rice (made in electric rice cooker), and Cajun hot sauce (I used "Pain is Good" Louisiana style).

This recipe yields a fairly soupy result; if you wanted it thicker you could use less broth or mash some of the beans into the broth before serving. It bears little or no resemblance to the traditional Cajun or Creole dish, but, on a day when the thermometer never got up to zero (Farenheit), it was very satisfying.

Making Progress

Friday, February 2 , 2007
We almost have a real floor again. At least we have a subfloor. It turns out that a subfloor is just pieces of plywood that are nailed down. I'm not sure if I was expecting something else, but this is what I got.

More exciting is that the new windows have arrived; even though they haven't been installed yet, they're here.

Michael is very big on having windows. His first plans gave us about six windows. I told him I was thinking about getting rid of most of the windows to give me more cabinet space. He told me I didn't want to do that, and promised me I'd have all the cabinet space I wanted. We'll see. We compromised and only added two small windows.
Here is the north wall:

Here is the north wall with the new casement-type windows framed in:

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Tubing in the Floor

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Today the nice people from Centraire came to install the hydronic in-floor heating. Or at least they installed some of it--I'm not sure if they're really done. When I returned from work, the big plywood pieces covering the kitchen floor that was no longer a floor were gone, and there were tubes neatly wound around between the joists. (I think they're called joists). In order to get to the dining room, I had to do a careful acrobatic walk on top of the joists, assuming that's what they are.
Balance has never been my strong point. (In yoga, when I do the tree pose, I generally topple). So I was pretty sure I would lose my balance and crash into the tubes, bursting them all,necessitating a re-installation that would cost twice as much.

The big pieces of plywood were still in the kitchen, but they were leaning against the walls. I considered putting them back down on the floor, but I was afraid that whatever was in the tubes would explode. I figured that the installers must have had a reason for not returning the plywood to its pre-tubing condition, and the most likely reason for that, I reasoned, was that otherwise they would explode. Perhaps they needed a 24-hour seasoning period, after which they would no longer be likely to explode. Granted, the explosion otheory seemed unlikely. But I generally think that if something is going to go wrong, it will go wrong by exploding. I have never used the cruise control mechanism on my cars for this very reason. Jim scoffed at me, but I found an article about a car with exploding cruise control, and I've noticed that he doesn't use it as often as he used to. This fear of explosions may be traced to not taking enough science classes. When I was in high school, the counselor told me that there was no reason for me to take physics because I was a girl. Even though I had been the top student in my chemistry class, which for some reason it was okay for girls to take, he thought physics would tax my brain. I believe that if I had taken physics, I would not be afraid that normal things don't just go around exploding. But the good part of this story is that the tubes did n ot explode, and I did not trip and fall.
I was amused to see the warning label on the tubing.

If anybody had walked into our kitchen, looked at the tubes, and had a sudden urge to drink whatever was inside them, it was a relief to know that they would have been warned off.