John Kessler is The Atlanta Journal–Constitution’s food writer and chief dining critic, food columnist and in our opinion, food guru. His columns are always entertaining and chock full of information, opinion and humor. Since tomatoes are starting to come into season, we are once again sharing one of his columns, one of our favorites, on how to enjoy an abundant tomato harvest. And, city dwellers, if you don’t happen to have a garden, don’t fret! Simply buy fresh tomatoes when they go on sale at the supermarket, and follow John’s 10 tips to use them.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - John Kessler offers some ideas on how to use up your tomato crop.
1. Grate them: This is my favorite tomato trick of all time. Cut the tomato in half through the equator, pluck out the seeds with your fingers and grate the cut side against the large holes in a box grater set over a bowl. You will end up with a bowlful of gorgeous tomato flesh and a naked skin in your palm within seconds. What do you do with it? I like to keep going with other vegetables and grate cucumbers, peppers and a little onion for a quick, coarse-textured gazpacho that you season with oil, vinegar, salt and fresh herbs.
2. Roast them: Cut the tomatoes in half through the equator and place cut side up in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Sprinkle the top with chopped onion, garlic and any herbs you like along with salt and a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bake at 325 degrees for about two hours, watching to make sure they’re not drying out too quickly. If they’re still very juicy, turn up the heat to 400 and cook a few minutes just until the juices start to caramelize. Pull the skins off with your fingers and pulse to a nice tomato sauce consistency in a food processor. Salt to taste.
3. Salt them: Here’s the best thing to do with tomatoes if you don’t care about seeds and skins. Chop them into a bowl, salt them well (say, one four-fingered pinch per tomato) and let them sit for 20 minutes. You end up with firmer, more flavorful tomato dice and a lot of delicious juice waiting to saturate any ingredients you mix with the tomatoes.
4. Strain them: If you’re fancy-restaurant minded, then make some clear tomato water. Coarsely chop four large tomatoes in a food processor with a couple of teaspoons of salt. Over a bowl, pour into several thicknesses of folded cheesecloth. Gather up the ends of the cheesecloth, tie them in a knot and contrive some contraption that will suspend this bag of goop over a bowl in the fridge overnight. You end up with clear, intense-flavored tomato water for — what else? — an amazing tomato martini.
5. Toss them: Here’s a great use for all those cherry tomatoes that start ripening first. Set a pot of water on the stove to cook pasta. Over a bowl, rip the cherry tomatoes into two to four pieces with your fingers. Add torn basil, olive oil, a crushed garlic clove, salt and coarsely ground black pepper. Take one of those big balls of fresh mozzarella, dice it and toss it into the bowl. When the pasta is cooked, add it to the bowl and toss. Yes, you want Parmesan cheese.
6. Juice them: Heat chopped tomatoes with a couple of ribs of celery and a couple of spoonfuls of chopped onion in a saucepan and simmer for about 20 minutes or until very liquid. Press the warm juice through a sieve into a bowl. Season with salt. And if you tell anyone you heard this from me, I’ll lie through my teeth, but when it’s still warm, season with a spoonful of sugar and a sprinkle of MSG if you’re so inclined.
7. Forget Italy, go to Japan: I like to make a kind of mash-up of caprese salad and the Japanese chilled tofu dish called hiyayakko. You ready? Tough. I’m going to tell you about it, anyhow. Alternate slices of tomato and best-quality sliced tofu, firm or soft. Make a dressing of olive oil, soy sauce, seasoned rice wine vinegar, ginger, garlic and a touch of sugar to taste. Top with slivered green onions.
8. Freeze them: Remember that tomato pulp from above? Good, now throw four cups of it into the blender with a half cup of cilantro leaves, the juice of a couple of limes and a squirt of sriracha sauce. Pour the resulting goop over a cookie sheet and place it in the freezer. Every 20 minutes or so, scrape the frozen edges to the center of the pan with a fork. When you have nothing but red flakes of crystallized ice, you have spicy tomato granita. Place in a covered container and freeze until ready to eat.
9. Cream them: I bet you don’t draw attention to the fact, but you love Campbell’s cream of tomato soup the way you love, say, “White Wedding” by Billy Idol. Have you ever made your own cream of tomato soup? Then start sautéing a chopped big onion in butter in a pot. Add a couple of cloves of minced garlic and four to five big tomatoes, chopped. Add a spoonful of tomato paste and three to four cups of chicken or vegetable stock. Add two spoonfuls of raw rice. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes, until rice is cooked. Puree in the blender, strain the skins through a sieve and reheat in a saucepan with salt, pepper and a healthy glug of cream or half-and-half. You already know how to make the grilled cheese sandwich.
10. Get corny with them: You know that tomatoes and corn really, really like each other, right? Well, remember that bowl of diced salted tomatoes wallowing in their juice I just had you make? Great. Add the kernels cut from a couple of ears of corn, some torn basil, some olive oil, a good shot of red wine vinegar and some shaved pecorino cheese. When it’s ready, invite me to dinner.
Enjoy these tomato recipes:
Fresh Tomato Dip
Matbucha - Tomato & Pepper Salad
Cooking and Baking Substitutions
The Ultimate Chart for the Cook and Baker
The French call it mise en place, but we call it "be sure that you have all of the ingredients that you will need for a recipe". Print this, post this, share this and use this... the mother of all substitution charts. From eReplacementparts - sources are mayoclinic.org, Taste of home cookbook, peta.org.
Whirl! Stir! Chop! Cook! Grind! Puree! Heat! Drink! Eat!
Tom Dickson, the creator of Blendtec, is our new culinary YouTube gadget guru. And legend has it that even before his "Will It Blend"? series went viral on YouTube (and yes readers you must watch it!), Tom Dickson, an engineer and inventor, was blending 2x2s with his blenders to determine their capabilities. His mission: to invent the world's most powerful blender. In our opinion, "mission accomplished"! Although we hesitate to use our Blendtec on non-edibles, you'll have to watch his videos to see this, we certainly are fearless when it comes to anything edible. The machine is powerful.
The Blendtec Designer 725, has been called "the world's smartest residential blender and the first operated entirely by touchscreen". The Designer 725 advances Blendtec's "blender with a brain" abilities with industry‐first features that offer unprecedented control over the blending process.
And what about Tom Dickson? His engineering mind is still inventing and the company continues enhancing, expanding and innovating. Some have called the world of Blendtec, and its engineering team a "torture chamber" due to the blender's super power. We think that it is an amazing kitchen tool.
- Patented five‐sided Wildside+blending jar that makes smoothies in as little as 14 seconds
- Patented blunt safety blade that is 80% thicker and 10 times stronger than competitors to avoid breaking or cut fingers
- 1725 watt motor – the most powerful in residential blending – that reduces blending time and increases safety by handling hard foods like ice and frozen fruit without risk of blade breakage
- Engineered and assembled in the USA at the company's Orem, Utah facility.
- 8-year warranty
- Clean up – Hot water and soap with the blender on. More good news- Blendtec states that it is okay to put their jar in the dishwasher. YAY!
- Fits under most cabinets
We tested two different jars:
The Blendtec Twister Jar
- Makes thick purees and small volume dishes with "twister lid and tines", the food can be directed into the blades while blending. Designed for ultra-thick recipes
- Twister Lid features tines that rotate and push ingredients off the side
- Easy-to-read jar markings up to 16 ounces
- Made from impact-resistant, BPA-free polyester
- Compatible with all Blendtec consumer blenders
The Twister jar is ideal for foods like bread & cookie crumbs, nut butters, hummus, baby food, dips, and dressings. To use the jar, simply add ingredients and twist the lid counter-clockwise while the blend cycle is running. This twisting motion forces the ingredients from the sides of the jar into the blade, allowing you to achieve a smooth blend. Also included- is the special Blendtec spatula-engineered specifically for the Twister to get nearly every morsel out of your jar.
The WildSide+ Jar for larger blends
The WildSide+ jar maximizes blending performance.
The blunt safety blade is 80% thicker and ten times stronger than other blades
Patented fifth side allows for bigger, faster blends
The WildSide+ is ideal for larger blends, high-volume recipes
It is recommended for soup, bread dough, smoothies, dips and batters
Our new Blendtec is on our counter at the ready. We have had it since April, and below are some examples of what we have blended so far. We have kept our Blendtec jars parve, however we are tempted to order another jar for our dairy creations.
For more about this powerful kitchen tool, visit Blendtec.com
To order: Blendtec Designer 725 with WildSide Jar
To watch the "Will It Blend" videos- (A Must!) click here: Will it Blend?
Some of the foods that we have made in our Blendtec (and we are just beginning) are:
Lemon Hummus – Once you make your own hummus, it is hard to go back to pre-made
Strawberry-Banana Smoothies, Parve milk shakes and ice cream
Almond butter, Almond milk, Peanut butter
Matzo Meal (We made this for Passover. Used whole matzos)
Oat flour (Blended regular dry oatmeal and added it to our chocolate chip cookies)
Chimichurri sauce, Pesto, Guacamole
Corn Soup, Borscht, Vegetarian Minestrone Soup, Gazpacho
Apple sauce, Aioli, Mayonnaise, Mango salsa, Cranberry orange relish
Brownies, Chocolate Mousse
Lemonade- with whole lemons
Powdered sugar from granulated sugar
We're sharing three recipes that we've whipped up in our Blendtec - click to view the recipes:
Borscht in the Blendtec
Chocolate Mousse in the Blendtec
Lemonade or Limeade in the Blendtec
Do share YOUR favorite Blendtec and blender recipes with us. If you would like any of the above listed recipes, just let us know.
Watch the Blendtec make lemonade. Will it Blend whole lemons?:
As we walked the aisles of the 2015 International Housewares' Show (which we consider the ultimate Disneyworld for cooks), we stopped to admire a unique exhibit, a feast for our eyes, where all of the displays were filled with beautiful retro designed appliances. We saw toasters, blenders and electric kettles in luscious colors; styled to look just like we were in our Bubbie's kitchen. But, trust us, these are not our Bubbie's appliances. The colors and design attracted us, but now the functionality has made us fans. The gorgeous stand mixer that we received from SMEG shines in our newly designed kitchen. It is silver, and fits beautifully on our counter. But yes, of course, we knew that we would love the look. But, how about the ease of use?
We decided to make our new mixer dairy friendly. As in many kosher homes, often times we show precedence to our meat side and give the dairy side the leftovers. In fact, some of our dairy utensils and appliances were dollar store and discount store purchases.
Our Smeg stand mixer shines front and center on our counter for use in our dairy baking and cooking. We tested it with some of our favorite recipes. We used it to make cheese cake (our copycat kosher Cheesecake Factory cheesecake with a touch of lemon in the whipped cream topping) and tested it when we made our new recipe for Sock it to Me Cake with a classic vanilla buttercream frosting- made with real butter.
Yumm. Not only was mixing a pleasure, but the rotating blades work their way around the perimeter of the stainless bowl and did not leave even a smidgen of unmixed batter. Needless to say, our dairy side is mixer-happy now!
We are sharing some of the dairy recipes we mixed, whipped, creamed, beat and kneaded in the past few weeks with the help of the Smeg stand mixer:
Cheesecake Factory Copycat Kosher Cheesecake
Classic Vanilla Buttercream Frosting
Sour Cream Coffee Cake
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Aliza's Easy Pizza Crust
Dairy Noodle Kugel for a Crowd
Nellie & Joe's Key Lime Pie
Whole Wheat Honey Bread
Aunt Sue's Famous Pound Cake
About the Smeg stand mixer
• Die-cast aluminum body with enamel finish.
• Dishwasher safe 5 Qt stainless bowl w/ergonomic handle
• 10 variable speeds with smooth, soft -start function
• Safety lock when the head is tilted up
• Anti‐slip feet for stability when mixing
• Overload motor protection
• Accessories included: Stainless steel wire whisk, aluminum flat beater, aluminum dough hook, plastic bowl cover
• Available stand mixer colors: Red, Black, Silver, Pastel blue, Cream
• Capacity: 99 ounces cake batter; 46 ounces dough; 32 ounces whipping cream
• Optional accessories (available for purchase): pasta roller and cutter set, meat grinder, additional stainless bowl
Italian-based SMEG is known for their '50s retro-look appliances- designed in collaboration with top architects. This stand mixer combines mid-century style with contemporary functionality. Smeg was founded in 1948 by Vittorio Bertazzoni, Sr. from Guastalla, a town in Northern Italy, and now one of the country's leading home appliance manufacturers. The mixer was won the 2015 iF design seal of excellence award selected from 5,000 entries representing 53 countries.
Visit SmegUSA for more Smeg Stand Mixer information.
To order a Smeg Stand Mixer, click here: SMEG Retro 50s Stand Mixer
SMEG and the Stars:
Celebrity entrepreneur Richard Branson has selected the Smeg Mini Fab5 Refrigerator as the minibar star in each room of his Virgin Hotel Chicago.
NEW! Cuisinart for illy®:
Your Personal Barista is in!
Cuisinart® Em-600 Buena Tazza Super automatic Single Serve Espresso, Caffé Latte, Cappuccino, And Coffee Machine
Be your own barista. If you love coffee as we do, this would be a sensational addition to your kitchen.
With this new machine, coffee enthusiasts can brew perfect espresso and traditional coffee beverages at the touch of a button, and without moving the cup. A removable milk tank sends hot and creamy, frothed milk right into the cup for hands-free, cappuccino and latte. For use with illy® iperEspresso capsule system, this innovative unit offers simple push-button temperature, flavor strength, and froth controls. The dual heating system eliminates wait between milk and espresso, so drinks are ready fast. The machine accommodates any cup or mug size!
• Controls for single or double espresso, traditional coffee, manual flavor strength, steam, one-touch latte and cappuccino, and hotter temperature settings.
• Stay-Clean Brew Head
• Removable 1-liter/34-ounce Water Reservoir for up to 20 short espressos.
• 22-ounce Milk Container
• Frothing Wand with exclusive "Burst of Steam" to automatically clean wand after each use.
• Used-Capsule Container
• Removable Drip Tray lifts off to fit tall coffee and travel mugs and to makes cleanup easier.
• Cup Warming Plate
• Steam Control Dial adjusts ratio of air to milk.
• Power Button with energy saver and auto shutoff modes.
For more information about this appliance, visit www.cuisinart.com/espressomaker/product/em-600.
To order: Click Here
At the recent International Housewares Show in Chicago, we had the pleasure of chatting with the amazing Mary Rodgers, Director of Marketing Communications for Cuisinart and Waring. Since joining Cuisinart in 1996, she has significantly expanded the Marketing Communications department while spearheading industry-first initiatives that have given the company even greater stature as an innovative leader. Under her leadership, Cuisinart has received numerous awards from some of the most prestigious industry organizations in the nation. KosherEye has been a dedicated user of Cuisinart's innovative products, especially their amazing cooking appliances. We work with these daily in our kosher kitchens, and gift them to family and friends. We have been longtime fans of Mary Rodgers and her team for both their creativity and understanding of the ever-evolving culinary marketplace. Watch her interview below and hear Mary talk about some of the newest Cuisinart kitchen innovations:
Kosher Kitchen Remodeling Part 3
by Roberta Scher
For a larger view of this photo, click here
Kitchen Done! Four months of boxes, dust, disorganization and workmen have finally come to an end. Time to move back in to our beautiful, updated new kitchen. Are we happy, yes! Is everything perfect, no.
1st steps: Organizing and Maintenance
Moving back into the beautiful new kitchen is certainly a lot more fun than moving out. However, be prepared for many more decisions – and be sure to allow for the "after" items in your budget.
Where does everything go? In which drawers and cabinets? What types of organizing inserts are needed for each space? Should we line the drawers and cabinet shelves? The shopping and research continues... Container Store, Ikea, Home Depot, Lowe's, Overstock.com, and searching additional online resources as well. A recommendation to make the move back easier: Prior to the start of your remodel, we recommend opening all of the drawers and taking photos. This will help in the after-the-project organization process.
We decided to line all of the cabinet shelves and drawers. We chose Easy Liner brand shelf liners which we found at Lowe's. They were easily cut to size, and are both wipeable and washable. For the dinnerware drawers and several accessory drawers, we installed the Rev-A-Shelf Peg system. Since I am a kitchen tool collector, the utensil and flatware drawers were a challenge. We decided to use flexible deep drawer dividers from The Container Store. We purchased a "stepped" can shelf at Wal-Mart, and used flexible bamboo dividers from The Container Store in our knife drawers.So much shopping!
We love, love, love our new quartzite countertops and our stainless steel appliances, but have discovered that they require a different type of cleaner than our old appliance fronts and our previous Corian countertops. We also found an unexpected challenge - fingerprints on all the stainless appliances. What to do? Our OCD immediately clicked in - how do we keep these areas clean? We called several cleaning supply companys; their customer service representatives informed us that none of their standard cleaners and wipes are recommended for granite or quartzite. We also read that ammonia and bleach should not be used on these natural stones. So, we had to research what to do, and have discovered new types of cleaners. We are using Granite Gold (granitegold.com) products on everything. They have an "everyday cleaner" that works on stainless steel appliances and on natural stone countertops. In fact, one of their spray cleaners works on almost everything in our new kitchen. (See our Granite Gold Featured Kitchen Tool article!)
Our glistening cabinet knobs and handles (From Hickoryhardware.com) make us happy too. The design and shine add just the right amount of sparkle and style to our cabinets.
And as for the cabinet color choices. . . we are pleased with the color of the simple white wood cabinets (Benjamin Moore Simple White) contrasted with the rich dark espresso wood island and the clear glass backsplash.
We splurged on the three pendant lights (Restoration Hardware) which hang over the island - but they truly complete the ambience. (We did wait for the sale!) And speaking of lighting, we added shiny silver flush ceiling cans to surround all of the recessed lighting.
Kitchen Results and recommendations
Finally Finished! Our new kitchen delights and excites us, and it is pleasingly functional too. Our contractor was and still is very accommodating and lovely to work with; his subs were pleasant and skilled. Although we cannot say that the experience was enjoyable, it was "as good as it gets".
It has been 6 months since we began, and there are a few minor adjustments still to be made. We are still reading our manuals and learning how to use each of our new appliances. We are hoping that our choices were right (more on that in future months!).
The bad news: We are now thinking of remodeling our master bath. FYI: A bathroom remodel yields a 62 percent return, on average. OY, here we go again!
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have- just email
; or contact us on Twitter: @koshereye.com, or on Facebook: Facebook.com/koshereye
This is the third part of a 3 part article. For part 1 and part 2, click here: Part 1 Part 2.
Kosher Kitchen Remodeling Part 2
by Roberta Scher
This is the second part of a 3 part article.
Getting the house ready for the kitchen remodel
The shopping and appliance selection (described in Part 1) are time consuming tasks, but emptying the kitchen and adjoining rooms is even more intensive!
If you are refinishing or installing new floors, everything has to be moved or stored – every table, chair, lamp. and decorative object. You will discover things that you never even noticed were there! And where should it all go? Either into a rented storage unit, an outdoor storage pod, or in any rooms you are not renovating. We had sofas in the dining room, tables in the guest bedroom and a basement filled with knick knacks, chairs, and most all of our furniture.
If you are not budget driven (yes we are), you can arrange for professional furniture removal and storage. Important tip: If you like the furniture design layout of your rooms, take a photo of every room at every angle so that you will remember where to put it all back after the project (Yes, that day will come!).
Prepare for construction dust. Cover HVAC intake vents with filter material if floor or wallboard sanding will be part of the project. If indoor temperatures permit, turn off your HVAC system during the sanding. If possible, isolate the rooms being sanded by taping plastic sheets over passageways. Plan to change the furnace filters soon after sanding and construction.
During the tear-out and construction phase of a new kitchen, you must be ready for limited cooking unless you plan to eat every meal out.
Cooking without a kitchen... here's how to do it with a "temporary kitchen":
• If at all possible, have a refrigerator (a must!) and freezer available
• Hot plate • Slow cooker
• Grill • Outdoor grill
• Toaster • Coffee maker
• Blender • Single electric burner
• Tabletop style grill- like a George Foreman
We set up a table in our dining room for a coffee maker (Keurig), a toaster, and 2
microwaves, and we used our outdoor grill quite often.
We also used some metal industrial shelves like the ones pictured here for an open "pantry" area. The shelves, after a few days of use, were jam-packed with essential food and cooking supplies for our dining room cooking.
Among the supplies you will need:
• Disposable tableware including plates, bowls, hot and cold cups, flatware, serving utensils, and rolls and rolls of paper towels
• Microwave safe disposable bowls
• Temporary, easily accessible shelves to store pantry supplies
• Plastic wrap, foil, Ziploc bags
• Warming tray
• Single serve coffee maker such as a Keurig
• Instant Coffee
• Microwave safe kettle for boiling water
• Plastic pour over coffee cup
My project mantra: The dollar store is my friend; the dollar store is my friend ... the dollar store ...
We did not enjoy washing our utensils and bowls in the bathroom sink or bathtub, but that was our only choice. This was our least favorite aspect of the "cooking without a kitchen" process. So we stocked up on disposables. If you have a separate laundry sink (we don't), consider washing your dishes there.
Menus, Tips, Tricks
A kitchen remodel takes at least 60-120 days (except on TV). This is especially complicated for the kosher or budget conscious family due to the expense and limitations of eating out and ordering takeout food.
Make it ahead. Before your project begins, and if you have freezer space, we suggest that you prepare some freezable meals. I prepared various types of soups and froze them in disposable microwavable containers. We purchased many of these containers at 2/$1.00 at Dollar Tree.
I also froze brisket, lasagna and boneless chicken schnitzel.
Here are some menu ideas:
Cold cereal, microwave cereal, microwavable pancakes, waffles
Lunch: Sandwiches, salads (bagged, pre-cleaned lettuce only), microwavable ready to eat meals
Pizza in the microwave or on the grill
Microwave poached salmon
Microwave baked potatoes
Microwave rice, beans and cheese
Spaghetti with jarred sauce
Bottled salad dressing- We rarely use bottled salad dressing – but this was a staple during our remodel
Supermarket rotisserie chicken and cold cuts
Pre-made pizza crusts or ready to heat pizza
Canned tuna and salmon
Ice cream and more ice cream:)
We served rotisserie chicken, grilled chicken, grilled meats, potatoes, microwave steamed vegetables, salads, soups
We particularly loved our dessert of peaches macerated in brown sugar and liqueur served with parve Ice cream
We discovered that beets are excellent when microwaved. We simply washed them and put them in a microwave safe bowl filled about halfway with water; covered them; Then we cooled the beets, peeled, and continue to microwave until soft.
Three easy and convenient staple recipes for the kitchen-less family:
Potatoes: Cut into large chunks. Sprinkle with olive oil. Microwave a few minutes, turn potatoes. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic...then microwave until done
Rice: Put 1 cup rice and 2 cups water or broth into a covered microwave-safe bowl, and microwave about 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and check for doneness. One cup of raw rice takes about 15 minutes.
Corn on the cob: Simply rinse; cover with a damp paper towel and microwave until soft.
A shout out for our Lekue microwave rice maker! I highly recommend this versatile kitchen tool. We used it to make rice, corn, pasta and noodles. Yes, spaghetti and various pastas can easily be cooked in the microwave. In fact, it was our most used, indispensible cooking tool through the entire remodel.
Grilled vegetables and fruits: If you have a grill, we suggest grilling tons of vegetables including zucchini, yellow squash, green beans and more. Pineapple and peaches are also grill friendly. The vegetables or fruits can be eaten chilled, added to rice or pasta, or used as side dishes
Working with the construction crew- Show some Southern Hospitality
Three R's of Keeping the Crew Happy- we found this advice online and think that it is great:
1. Refreshments: Offer coffee,bottled water or soft drinks. They'll appreciate it.
2. Responsibility: Move out of the way!
3. Respect: Say good morning, good night, and good job when appropriate.
The kitchen remodel process took 4 months, 4 long inconvenient months... So was it worth it?
Part 1 and Part 3 of Kosher Kitchen Remodeling with more photos may be viewed by clicking here: Part 1 Part 3
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have- just email
; Twitter: @koshereye.com, Facebook.com/koshereye
Kosher Kitchen Remodeling - Part 1
by Roberta Scher
Click Photo for larger view
What are the symptoms of a kitchen needing a remodel? For us it was 2 out of 4 non-functioning cooktop burners; a double oven with torn insulation; 2 un-repairable melted cabinet doors (no more laminate cabinet doors for us!); a non- working icemaker; a trash compactor which hasn’t been used in years, a pantry filled to the brim with hidden-in-the-back foods; and an aging Corian countertop.
We deliberated for over a year whether to take this major step. . . there was always that little voice inside, remembering that we grew up in homes with kitchens the size of closets without any of these “fancy” appliances; we had the basics - a refrigerator, a sink, a small range and a single oven. One of our grandmothers did not even have a refrigerator. . . just an icebox. By the way, the meals in our childhood homes were delicious.
We read an encouraging statistic which helped with our decision: In the current real estate market, experts say that you likely can recoup up to about 80 percent of your kitchen remodeling investment when selling your home. Ok, true, we are not selling, but . . .
Yes, we decided to go forward.
Part 1: Planning Renovating a kitchen is a costly undertaking -- one that involves a lot of money, a lot of time and a lot of stress. Once the decision is made to go forward, the next step is deciding on the extent of the facelift. Very soon after making that decision, that remodeling disease we are all too familiar with enters: “Since we are already doing it, we might as well. . .” And the “might as wells”, with the possible add-ons, seemed endless - at least they were for us:
• Should we refinish the 18-year-old wood floors in the kitchen and adjacent rooms? YES.
• Should we paint not just the kitchen, but the adjacent rooms as well? YES.
• Since we have to move everything anyway for the floors to be refinished should we send the 18-year-old kitchen chairs, and the 30-year-old sofa and family room chairs to be re-upholstered? YES.
• Should we update the 18-year-old fluorescent kitchen light fixtures? YES.
As is evident, the simple single kitchen update project expanded well into the “might as wells” territory.
Prior to launching the project we also waivered as to its management. Should we find individual contractors, and act as the project managers ourselves, or should we hire a general contractor to oversee it all? After consulting with friends and other homeowners, we decided to hire a general contractor. And so we did. That was a great decision for us because we did not realize how many moving parts are involved in kitchen construction. When things go as planned, there are no issues. However, when unexpected problems arrive, it is re-assuring to have a knowledgeable, experienced contractor in charge.
There are no reliable estimates for how many people in the United States keep kosher, however, it is very interesting that most of the major appliance manufacturers have now installed a Sabbath mode in their models. There obviously is sufficient demand and financial reward for appliance brands to include Shabbos compliant features in their products. As we know, many kosher consumers order two of each appliances. But this could not be the only rationale. For information on Sabbath compliant appliances, visit the Star K: http://www.star-k.org/cons-appl.htm
First Step: The plans
Several meetings were set up with a kitchen designer to share the requirements for our newly designed kosher kitchen. We planned for two of each appliance and created a design, which would offer efficient placement and lots of storage space. We went through several plans and finally settled on one similar to our prior layout. We were not remodeling due to dissatisfaction with the functionality of our space; we were remodeling due to the age of our appliances and cabinets.
Emptying the kitchen:
What a job! Both labor intensive and lengthy. We gathered empty boxes and bins and more boxes and stacks of old newspapers and plastic grocery bags. We emptied the kitchen in an organized way, used markers for labeling, and then we cleared space to store the boxes. We were fortunate to be able to use our basement for storage, but do be aware before starting to have an ample storage space. And, remember to not pack up essentials needed for kitchenless meal prep.
Every cabinet, every drawer, every counter top appliance, all cookbooks had to be emptied or moved – that’s years and years of accumulation. We did discover one shortcut: we took some of the old cabinet drawers, still full of flatware and utensils, to our basement storage area and left them until it was time to set up the new kitchen. This reduced part of the work. In addition to preparing boxes for storage, we prepared a huge trash box and a huge giveaway/donation box. This was our chance to purge cracked, broken and no longer needed items.
Shop ‘til you drop!
As we planned for the new kitchen we visited appliance stores both online and in person. Factors to consider in appliance selection included customer satisfaction ratings, repair records, price, visual appeal, energy efficiency, ease of operation and cleaning, and of course Star-K Shabbos compliance.
Researching appliances is a full time job . . . especially adding the kosher kitchen factor. Here’s a quick summary of what we chose:
It’s the Sensational Slow Cooker!
We all need a full time kitchen assistant. There is so little time for food preparation during the short, cold, busy months of winter. And, winter is just the season that we need to prepare hot meals, FAST! Or, shall we say, SLOW!
Yes, we consider our slow cooker the answer to our cooking dilemma; how to prepare delicious, healthful family pleasing comfort meals with minimal hands–on time, and in fact, while we are not even at home!