Kitchen Tour! | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Eleven

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Two: Behind the Scenes
Kitchen tour!

In the two years since my last MoFo kitchen tour, things have changed about as much as possible: I have a new kitchen! In a new house! That I own! Here’s a pano shot from the sliding doors that let onto the carport/driveway.

Our house was built in the ’70s but had been tastefully updated in the last few years, so we didn’t need to do any major remodels or redesigns when we moved in. That was a bit of a blessing and a bit of a curse. Of course I’m glad to be spared the expense (although you could argue that it was baked into the asking price), but it also means I didn’t get to personally design my kitchen, and I have no real excuse to remodel it in the near future.

Kitchen counter closeupThe appliances are new(ish) and work great, the cabinets are an inoffensive reddish wood (I know nothing about wood types), the countertops are a sparkly black stone that I actually quite like, and the backsplash is plain white subway tile. I’m not a huge fan of subway tile; I think it’s played out, and the white is just a bit boring. The floors are a textured grey stone, and they’re fine. We painted the walls a country blue, which I liked a year ago and still don’t mind, but I do think a brighter color might be better: Besides the ambient light that comes in from the living and dining rooms, the only real light source is the sliding door…which abuts our covered carport, reducing the amount of direct sunlight we get. Lighter walls might help.

My kitchen is not huge in terms of counter space (especially when compared to the massive butcher-block island we had at our rental!), but by keeping it clean and uncluttered, I actually never have a problem. I’m a methodical, clean-as-you-go cook, so I don’t end up with piles of dishes on every surface. The only appliance that has permanent real estate on the counter is my KitchenAid mixer because it’s a beast and would be a pain to lug back and forth. Everything else is in the pantry/laundry closet (behind the white panel doors in the pano shot above) or another storage spot and is easy to grab. (Steven’s SodaStream keeps encroaching on my counter space, though I try to stash it away…!)

Truth be told, our kitchen is a bit less personalized in our house than it was in our rental. I blame the somewhat impersonal features, but the lack of wall space (for art) doesn’t help. We do have a few Steven-made shelves for various ingredients and some Ikea spice racks on the walls. But the kitchen opens into our dining room, where we’ve put in more personal touches.

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I love our mid-century dining room table — we bought it off Craigslist from a Russian lady and her daughter, and it has built-in leaves that make it surprisingly spacious. The chairs are Crate & Barrel; combined with the table, they match the wood-and-dark-metal theme in our living room.

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To the right of the kitchen entrance, you can see our little bar, a “cellarette” from my grandmother’s house. It’s gorgeous dark wood and just the right size for that space. It opens up to feature a set of cut glass barware that came with the piece. We have lots more booze stored above the fridge, but we keep the pretty stuff on display. (The dining room opens on to the living room, which you can see on the right of this photo.)

Above it is an awesome vintage victory garden poster Steven gave me for Christmas a few years ago. I’d love to get a few more posters of this ilk and move them  in a collage on the wall behind the dining table, which for now is filled with some colorful canvases from our old place.

Dining room detailsTo the left of the kitchen entrance is our coffee bar! The “bar” itself is a cheap piece of furniture I got at a yard sale for $5 years ago (you can see it in use in my previous tour too); I replaced the knobs and gave it a coat of paint and it’s serviceable for now. At some point I’d like to replace it with a piece that fits better with the rest of our decor, but it does offer a lot of storage for things like our food processor and random other small appliances.

Steven built those awesome open shelving units above the bar, which show off some of our prettier hot drink accoutrements. (Ignore the horrible vintage Ronald McDonald plastic plate in the rightmost shelf… Steven was going through some of his childhood crap and thought it would be funny to put it there. VERY FUNNY. HAHA.)

Dining room detailsMcDonald’s merchandise owning aside, Steven has some redeeming characteristics. Namely, the ability to build shelves! Aside from the shelves I’ve already mentioned, he also custom-built these corner shelves, which I use to display my beloved Pyrex collection. It’s just a few steps from the kitchen, so it’s a great way to store these pieces (which I use for cooking and eating regularly).

(You can see one of the previously mentioned colorful canvases in this photo. That wall is really tall because we have near-cathedral ceilings, and we just don’t have enough art to fill that space. Canvases will have to do for now!)

So, there we have it. My kitchen and dining room, such as they are. I’m excited to see everyone else’s cooking space!

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Vitamix Love | VeganMoFo 2017 Day Nine

VeganMoFo 2017

Week Two: Behind the Scenes
Go go gadget: A kitchen gadget you couldn’t live without, be it a simple grater or a blender. Alternatively, use a gadget you very rarely use.

Heads up: I’m about to become a total vegan cliche. Today I am extolling the virtues of my dearly beloved Vitamix!

Now, let’s get this out of the way: You don’t need a high-speed blender. You really don’t. I used a regular ol’ blender for six years in my vegan kitchen before welcoming a Vitamix into the appliance fold. But having one does make your culinary life easier, and it does open up new worlds of (creamy! smooth!) cooking possibilities.

Vitamix bookletTruthfully, I probably would have gone much longer without a Vitamix if my wonderful, generous parents hadn’t gifted one to Steven and me for Christmas 2015. They got a great deal on it and knew we’d appreciate it, and we absolutely do! For a while it had pride of place on our counter, but when we bought our house and actual lost a little counter space, it now lives in the pantry. (It’s still easily accessible and comes out to play very frequently.)

For me, a high-performance blender is most valuable when it comes to transforming nuts and seeds into creamy delights. Without a high-powered blender, you need to plan ahead if you want to make cashew cream or the like; you’ll need to soak your nuts to soften them. But that’s just no necessary with my Vitamix, meaning cashew cream, nut-based cheese sauces, and all things creamy are ready for your spur-of-the-moment whims.

My parents also kindly gave us a dry grains container, which is optimized to grind grains into flour. I love using it for turning dried almond pulp (leftover after making almond pulp in the regular Vitamix container!) into almond meal.

The regular (wet) container also makes short work of blended soups and, of course, smoothies. I do notice that it sometimes fails to “catch” the ingredients in my smoothies if I don’t add them in the right order, so it’s not exactly fail-safe.

Vitamix at homeSpeaking of which… I’d hoped to have a fun, slightly unusual blender recipe to share with you today: pancakes! I’ve always been leery of blender pancakes, fearing that the whir of blades would decimate any gluten strands in my batter and leave the resulting pancakes a gummy mess. Yet recipes for blender pancakes abound, so there must be some trick to it. I wanted to offer up a recipe that relied solely on roasted bananas (!) for sweetness, imagining that slow roasting would bringing out caramelly notes in the bananas’ flavor to make up for the lack of added sugar. (Steven is currently avoiding sugar, so I wanted to make something sweet he could still enjoy.)

Well. Well. My fears about blender pancakes proved true. I’m not sure what y’all are doing with your blender pancakes, but mine were gummy and just… odd. (The fact that I only had whole-wheat flour definitely didn’t help.) I’ll try again, but didn’t have the opportunity to do so before writing up this post. Alas.

So, instead, here are some other recipes that rely on a high-speed blender. Maybe my roasted banana pancakes will make an appearance another day… but not today. Sigh.

Editor’s note: This post includes affiliate links. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

Kitchen Tour!

VeganMoFo 2015 banner

Day 13: It’s kitchen tour time!

Steven and I consider ourselves lucky. In the notoriously expensive Montgomery County housing market, we snagged a low-priced rental when we moved here two years ago. We rent a condo, and our landlord is responsive, friendly, and fair — he hasn’t raised our rent the two times we’ve re-signed the lease. And we have a great kitchen!

Ktichen Panorama

Many of the units in our complex have a small kitchen and a small dining room, but ours has an open floor plan — you can see where the wall used to be in the photo below. We’ve got a huge island/eating area, and a massive amount of storage. See that big wall of cabinets? We have a coat closet, pantry, and all our dishes in there! And there’s Moria wondering what I’m doing.

I’ll start at the left in the panorama photo.

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My favorite part of my kitchen! We got this little piece for $5 at a yard sale — what a steal. Inside is our recycling bin and some random stuff.

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This radio doesn’t work, but it’s so pretty.

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Steven’s mom gave me those darling aperitif glasses; they’re from her side of the family. And I love the design on the Strega bottle.

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The other side of that shelf houses our spoils from Honeydukes (!) and a jar of doggie treats. I love the jar — Steven found it on the “free table” at work.

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My cookbooks and my KitchenAid — two essentials! My grandfather was an avid woodworker, and he made that little bookholder. I use it as a benchmark for my cookbook collection — if it starts overflowing, it’s time to donate a few items to the free table!

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To the right of the fridge is a set of shelves where we keep some pantry staples and all our coffee- and tea-making implements! There are whole beans in the red tin, and coffee from Café du Monde too. My friend gave that to us as a thank-you for watching her pup. We use a Baratza grinder (bottom left), and it’s fantastic. Between that and the Chemex, you can make a great cup of coffee. I like to use the Moka pot when I want a smaller serving.

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This piece belonged to Steven’s grandfather, who was a tailor. He stored his buttons in it! Now it houses our tea collection. :)

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To the right of the sink is [some of] my beloved Pyrex collection (the little blue bowl is in the drying rack!), along with more pantry staples and our knives. You can see the butcher block counters, too. I don’t love them, especially near the sink where they get wet easily. They’re fine for the island, but impractical for most everywhere else.

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To the right of the sink are more dry goods, spices, a few condiments, a scale, and the radio — because you have to listen to NPR while cooking or cleaning!

There you go! A short tour of my current* kitchen. I can’t wait to see yours!

*Steven and I are house-hunting! AHH!

Something Blue: Vintage Pyrex

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Day 10: Something blue

Ugh! These last few prompts have made me grumpy, especially this one. Blueberries are the obvious choice, but nobody’s going to want to post about them, and we’re all going to try to come up with something super unique. SIGH.

Well, I guess I’m no different, because I didn’t want to share a blueberry recipe either! When I think about the color blue in the context of my kitchen, I immediately think of Pyrex. I’m a lover of vintage Pyrex in general, but my two favorite pieces just happen to be blue! The first is this absolutely beautiful turquoise butterprint mixing bowl.

Butterprint Pyrex

Butterprint is my favorite pattern, and that turquoise is such a sweet shade! I’ve seriously considered getting that butterprint rooster as a tattoo. Not sure if I’d do it in turquoise, though.

My second-favorite piece of Pyrex is this simple blue bowl, the smallest of the four pieces in the primary color mixing bowl set.

Blue Small Pyrex

I guess I’m a sucker for blue, because this shade just melts my heart! It’s so warm and peaceful. And I love how the blue fades into that beautiful almost translucent milk glass. This is my favorite bowl to use for snacks or noodles or, well, anything! I’m 100% in favor of using my Pyrex regularly, not letting it languish on the shelf. In fact, I keep my Pyrex bowls on display, but there are usually a couple of bowls missing because they’re in the drying rack!

Finally, this Pyrex-inspired print from Pocono Modern is my favorite piece of kitchen art. And it just happens to have a blue background!

Pyrex Art

Yay for blue!

Spring Cleaning: The Super-Hot Cupboard-Organizing Edition

Last weekend, Mama Nature walloped the Midwest with a most un-springlike heat wave – 90-degree temperatures, humidity, blazing sun… the whole works. Many people complained and avoided the outdoors, but me? I reveled in it. I’m one of those poor souls who’s always cold – slight breeze? I’m a-shivering! Less than 75 degrees? Where’s my sweater?! Heck, I even keep a fleece blanket at work for those days when my office is just too chilly for my taste. I just switched teams at work, and I’m sure my new co-workers think I’m utterly nuts when they walk past my office and see me sitting in dim lamplight, wrapped up in a blanket… but hey, the fluorescent lights hurt my eyes and I hate air conditioning!

Anyway, last weekend most people retreated indoors to their air conditioning and their cool drinks. Me? I basked in the sunlight and then went on a vitamin D-fueled cleaning spree. Besides giving my kitchen floors a long-overdue washing (Mom, don’t be ashamed of me!), I also organized my kitchen cupboards. This was, perhaps, even more long-overdue than the floor-washing.

Not exactly a "before," but this is a cupboard that has yet to be organized... gag!

You see, I am a slightly compulsive grocery shopper with mild packrat tendencies. I freaking love grocery shopping. I could spend hours meandering through the aisles, reading labels and checking out new-to-me food items and even just people-watching, shaking my head at all the junk most people throw in their carts as they zoom around the store, rushing through their shopping. I don’t spend a ton of money on groceries, but I just love having variety in my cupboards – who doesn’t need four types of rice and three kinds of nut butter and at least five varieties of beans?! I suppose if I had a family, this might be more justified, but I’m just a lady cookin’ for herself. I know many of you like-minded foodie folks can empathize with me, but let’s be real – most people are content with a big ol’ bag of white rice, a jar of Jif, and some refried beans for taco night. Me? Not so much. And my love of variety led to a rather unfortunate spacing situation – my cupboards were haphazardly filled with foodstuffs, making each cooking experience an adventure. Would the soba noodles fall to their death, scattering small soba sticks all over my floor? Would the nutmeg container roll out of the spice cabinet, knocking me on the noggin? Anything was possible!

Grr!

Not so now, however. My packrat tendency of saving jars finally paid off with more than just an overstuffed jar-and-kitchen-towel-and-dishcloth-and-large-utensil drawer. Now, those jars have a new lease on life. Check it:

Ahhh.

Beautiful, no? Those are my grains, re-homed, re-labeled, and generally re-organized. I didn’t even realize that poor bulgur wheat was languishing behind the beans! Who knew that I was in possession of such a quantity of cous cous?! Heck, I wish I’d saved more jars – I still have some bagged varieties awaiting a new home.

I only organized one shelf, but I already feel at least 37% less anxious when I open my cupboard now. I’ve got grand plans for my other cupboards, too – my spice shelf is a mess, and my pastas are out of control. But I’ve been re-inspired to continue my organization by Lindsay‘s oh-so-timely post about kitchen cabinet minimalism, and I’ve become obsessed with looking at canisters on eBay. So – what are your awesome kitchen organization tips? I know you’ve got ’em, so do share!