Jay’s Mid-centuryModern Kitchen

So a few months ago, I applied for a Freelance position at The Kitchn.com I Just got the official word this week that I didn’t get it (not like I was holding my breath) but since I did have a lot of fun writing this sample kitchen tour/ the kitchen of my dear friend Jay is awesome, I wanted to share it on my blog.  I had so much fun writing this/ taking all the photos, and this whole project was a huge creative outlet for me over the winter when I was unemployed, bored, a little heartbroken, and in desperate need of a project. I hope you all enjoy this brief little glimpse into Jay’s kitchen.

Jay’s Eclectic Mid Century-Modern Kitchen

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Exposed brick walls, turquoise tile, bright Descoware pots, a mis-matched four-pane window and a vintage Vitamix are just a few of the quirky features/items you notice when you walk into Jay’s kitchen. He has spent the last few years tweaking this Mid-century modern space into a room that feels casual, and functional while keeping with the era of the house. Jay is a huge fan of clean lines and minimalism, but the kitchen has just the right amount of personality to make the vast brick house seem cheerful and inviting.

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When Jay moved into his home in McMinnville, Oregon the kitchen was the only area that needed a lot of work. The house was built in 1949, and the kitchen had a drop ceiling, florescent lights, and some interesting features (pink and yellow cabinets, gaudy wallpaper, and a washer and dryer just to name a few). With a fairly conservative budget (the entire house ended up needing to be re-piped, which slightly hindered his kitchen remodel plans) and a little bit of manual labor, Jay has transformed his once cavernous feeling kitchen into a wonderfully charismatic and functional space.

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While the rest of the house is very minimalistic, the kitchen has a lot of personal touches, and pops of color. Never keen on having the same items as everyone else, Jay has spent several years acquiring some great finds at antique stores and thrift shops. He’s left most of the cabinets exposed so the unique pieces can be truly appreciated. My favorite thrift store purchase of his is a metal filing cabinet that serves as a creative wine storage rack.  Jay has also replaced a lot of the original cabinetry with a wooden potting bench, which is his favorite (and dare I say, the most functional) item in the kitchen. It serves as a great prep area, is awesome for storage, and adds a genuine splash of personality to the room.Kitchn 24

 

I sat and chatted with Jay as he skittered around the kitchen prepping a salad and re-heating some tacos for us to enjoy. The kitchen feels really comfortable and homey… which is one of the reasons he spends quite a bit of time in there. He typically eats his meals at the kitchen table while reading vintage cookbooks (sometimes out loud to his dinner guests, which is ridiculously charming).

 

10 Questions for Jay

1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?

Basil! No joke. I always have basil in my home and think that most every dish is enhanced with a fresh herb. My go to dinner is a Caprese sandwich, roasted vegetables (usually broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms & kale- roasted at 450 until they have good color!) and a salad. I eat this at least 2-3 times per week. It’s simple, fresh and I still feel as though I’ve “cooked” without a ton of effort. I also get a lot of ideas from vintage (and current) cookbooks. I’m not a recipe-driven cook, but I love reading about food trends from different decades. Just yesterday I picked up a vintage hors d’oeuvres book at an antique store.


2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?

Salt jars. I have three of them full of kosher salt strategically placed around the kitchen (one by the stove, one near a prep area and one on the little dining table). There’s something very satisfying about salting food with your fingers rather than a shaker. And, the jars, all with wood tops are really cool.
3. What’s the most memorable meal you’ve ever cooked in this kitchen?

Quite recently my closest friend came over for home-made tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. I learned of the soup recipe while listening to Tom Douglas on The Splendid Table radio show. When the host asked Tom what kitchen gadget he couldn’t live without, he noted an immersion blender. He explained that he never really saw the use for one, but is now a believer. I thought: “I have an immersion blender. This sounds delicious. I’m going to make it tonight” Let’s just say the immersion blender couldn’t be found (probably still packed from the move), a food processor was used, tomato soup ended up everywhere, sandwiches burnt and the wine was delicious.
4. The biggest challenge for cooking in your kitchen?

Not having an oven hood.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

Fewer lights. The fixtures I chose have three spotlights each and I installed five of them. It’s not a big kitchen. I have no idea what I was thinking.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:

A double convection oven.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?

I’d like to install some sort of shelving or cabinetry next to the fridge, and eventually I’d like to put in a new floor.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?

Fresh, not complicated, open-minded.

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9.Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:

Use kosher salt.


10. What are you cooking this week?

Caprese sandwich, roasted vegetables, salad, soft-boiled eggs… I may also make peanut bread for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green smoothies, Healthy choices, and some personal anecdotes about my addiction to gluten.

So I’m back on the green smoothie band wagon. Not that I every really got off of the bandwagon… But when I’m working 11+ hour days, I’m realizing that I need a boost of something healthy, raw, and green to keep me going. I’m on my feet pretty much all day, and though I do get fed while at work, one cannot sustain on breakfast sandwiches, woodfire pizzas, and cookies alone.  (though one might often try…) At the end of the day my energy is so low I sometimes contemplate trying to go gluten free, and seeing if that makes a different… I contemplate this for literally like a tenth of a second before snapping back to reality. Hi my name is Tayler and I’m pretty much a gluten addict… I know that gluten free is kinda trendy right now…(my dog is even gluten free for crying out loud) but I’ve never been much for trends…  This morning I made a salad to go with my croutons… that is right. I didn’t make a great salad and then later think “you know what this needs? some croutons!” no, in fact I did the opposite. I made croutons, and then decided that I couldn’t just eat croutons for breakfast (though I don’t know why not, I’m an adult, I can eat what I want!) so I made a salad to go underneath…
And now for a slight tangent about gluten, but we will get back to the smoothies I promise. Back when I was a kid, long before there was all the hype about gluten intolerance, gluten free etc, I had a bread route. And when I say I had a bread route, I mean my brother and I baked bread every Friday morning, and then went around to our regular customers, most of whom were co-workers of my parents at the local hospital, or people like our piano teacher, and we sold small loaves of whole wheat bread. We actually had a stone flour mill, and we ground the wheat ourselves… mostly on Thursday nights, my parents would be watching ER, and I would run upstairs to the kitchen to grind the wheat during commercial breaks…. (yes, our kitchen was upstairs, and yes, I’m not making this up… Its amazing this didn’t make it onto a college submission essay somewhere…I should probably blog about this in further detail…) Anyway, back when I was eight years old, and baking bread every week, it didn’t seem strange to me that we actually had a little pouch full of gluten in our freezer that we would add to each batch of bread… We were following the recipe, and it sold damn well, and as far as I knew, everyone had pouches of gluten sitting in their freezer for baking purposes.  Needless to say, back then we never had any requests for gluten free bread, and we had probably never even heard of gluten free bread… and laugh all you want at this weird little story, but I was able to buy myself three American Girl Dolls with my bread earnings, and a whole lot of accessories for them… and I can promise you this… freshly baked bread sells better than lemonade any day of the week.
I really have no desire to give up gluten at all… (though I no longer keep pouches of it in my freezer) I know all these gluten free people who tell me how much more energy they have, how much better they feel etc. and I’ve even had people suggest that my eczema might be gluten related… but here is the thing… I don’t feel bad, and I’m terrified that if I give up gluten, or dairy, or any of my other comfort foods I will feel great. (stay with me through this train of thought)  I know that sounds dumb, I’m terrified of feeling great? Not really, but mostly I’m terrified of how bad I would feel if I ever stopped eating these things, and then slipped and went back on them…. I don’t feel bad now when I eat cheese, or gluten, and wouldn’t it just suck, to suddenly feel terrible after eating these things? I think it would… anyway, I try to stick with “everything in moderation” and overall I think its working for me… am I still talking about gluten? ok back to my original topic.

I’ve been taking my smoothies to work to sip on during breaks, or while I’m in the office, and naturally I get a little bit of flack from just about everyone. I get all the usual comments “what are you drinking?” “What is in there?” or “why don’t you just eat a salad?” The answer is, because who has time to eat salads these days? I mean I do, but not at 5:30 in the morning when I’m running out the door to get to work by 6AM for an 11 hour shift. I do, however, have time to drink things from a straw while doing my hair, driving, or any of the other countless* things I have to do to get ready in the morning.

(*A list of things I can do while drinking a smoothie that I cannot do while eating a salad: water the garden, chase the dog around the yard, curl my hair, put on makeup, make my bed, put on shoes, empty the dishwasher, drive a car, empty the trash, put on clothes, do calf presses/ wall squats, vacuum, paint my finger nails, dance around.)
Green Smoothie, ready for the morning time

Green Smoothie, ready for the morning time

Everyone is taken aback by the color, but I think it is mostly awesome… and its not like anything gross is going into the smoothies themselves, it is just often an interesting combination of things… (though if some of you green smoothie drinkers out there could call my parents and tell them that I’m not actually a weird-o/ lots of “normal” people drink these, and this is not just one of my yogi/mountain-muffin/ health kick phases.) My ex used to be totally grossed out by the idea of green smoothies, and some of my co-workers still are… but mostly I think people are used to me showing up to work with jar full of green-ness. I’ve gotta stay healthy somehow! I’m working, I’m running, and I need to fuel my body… and this body needs an obscene amount of kale.  Sure, a salad might seem a little more delicious to some folks, but right now, with my schedule, veggies through a straw makes the most sense. (and its actually pretty delicious) Its especially great on the days that I have to work really early, because I can make a smoothie the night before, pop it in the fridge, and its ready for me first thing, its a grab and go meal that is 100% healthy, and easy.

My recipe varies a little bit, just depending on what ingredients I have on hand, but my smoothies usually consist of spinach, kale, celery, half a granny-smith apple, half a cucumber, a banana (or a pear) coconut oil, chia seed, ground flax seed, mint leaves, and water.  Its super basic, but the banana pretty much masks all of the overly green flavors from the kale, and the coconut oil and mint make everything really palatable. Sometimes I add coconut milk for a little extra creaminess, and I’m sure this summer I will be adding various berries as they begin to come in from the garden.

Look at all of that goodness

Look at all of that goodness

This last round of groceries, I got a huge bag of spinach, and actually pureed it and froze it in ice cube trays, which has worked magically and has saved a lot of time and money. I can almost never use the whole thing of spinach before it goes bad, and this way the smoothies are extra cold. I’m contemplating trying this with kale as well, though I did just plant kale in my garden, so hopefully I will not have to buy as much.

I’ve been pretty consistent in my smoothie consumption (I’d say at least 4 per week) but this week I’m going to try for 7 days of smoothies for breakfast…. the busier I get, the poorer I tend to eat/ the more I tend to over-eat, and I think I owe it to myself to start my day off with an über- nutritious breakfast. Anyone else want to join me? 7 days of green goodness starts now! (or tomorrow, since I did eat that bowl of croutons for breakfast… there really was lettuce and kale underneath it though!)

Snappy Tomatoes: Putting a little pep into your Monday, and a way to curb the Hangries

Here’s the thing: I got a job, and start on Friday! (more on this later) in the meantime I’ve been scrambling around trying to get my life in order with my final week of free time. Naturally I took the weekend to play play play, and spent 4 days eating, drinking, socializing, having good conversations, shopping, laughing, swapping stories, running, catching up, and hanging out as much as possible! SO fun, but I am a little exhausted. =) It really made me realize how much I miss personal connections. Yes, I have them, but blogging aside, I tend to be a really quiet and private person, and sometimes I forget how much I love that human interaction. Just being able to pick up the phone and have a random conversation, or tell a quick little “this totally made me think of you today” is probably what I miss most about being in a relationship.  Obviously, social media makes having these types of connections a little easier, I can post a picture of what I’m doing on instagram, or facebook, and people can like, comment and interact, but it’s still not the same as sharing those interactions and anecdotes one on one…

My week is of course filling up with projects… the house needs to be deep cleaned, the garage organized, there are craft projects awaiting, yoga classes to plan… but first things first, today I decided to spend most of the afternoon frolicking in the sunshine. (I did a fair amount of yard work, actually). I decided that since my free time will soon be much more limited, I was allowed to savor the afternoon, sipping on pink wine, playing with the dog, and basking in the sunshine.  Of course, at 7PM, after I had run a few errands, (and went over to my brother and sister-in-laws, to assist with some fruit tree pruning) I realized that the only thing I’ve consumed today is a bowl of cheerios, two cups of coffee, and two glasses of rosé. I’m a regular poster child for healthy eating habits over here… How does this even happen? I must have been really distracted by the sunshine, because typically if I don’t eat most of the day I get HANGRY (Angry out of hunger) and floppy, and irritated… All of these things hit me the second I walked out of the grocery store, but I think it is somewhat of a miracle that I’ve been able to last the day… Man cannot live on bread alone… but apparently this woman can survive on cereal and cheap wine?

Once the Hanger pangs set in, I zipped home, and decided to whip together one of my favorite basic comfort-food casseroles. It is quite possible I have blogged about it before, but quite frankly, it deserves at least a few posts, because it is that awesome. I give you Snappy Tomatoes:  Firstly, this dish is hilarious, and not one I would typically be drawn to. I like fresh, local, green dishes, and this is definitely not that. Not even close. It more resembles tomato soup in casserole form, and though it isn’t green, or fresh (or healthy?) sometimes you just need a quick and easy casserole.

Mixed up and ready for the oven

Mixed up and ready for the oven

 

Ready for eating!

Ready for eating!

 

The recipe is my Grandmother’s and is published in her church cookbook from North Dakota… I really cannot say enough things about these recipes… Do people still make church cookbooks? Are they still hand-typed, and filled with gems like “Vegetarian Bologna” (do we even want to know what might be in that? I stopped reading after bacon yeast.) I suppose these days we can just find recipes online, and rather than getting together with a group of ladies and comparing notes, and exchanging recipes, we just read each other’s blogs… but there is something undeniably charming about these old school recipe compilations.

Vegetarian Bologna?

Vegetarian Bologna?

 

Snappy Tomato Recipe

Snappy Tomato Recipe

 

I always use more paprika, and more onion than called for in the recipe. I also substituted  olive oil for butter, just because I was feeling extra hungry, and didn’t want to take the time to melt the butter.  I used cheddar cheese this evening, but I think cottage cheese or even ricotta cheese would be pretty delicious… the recipe is quite basic, so it’s really easy to give it your own flair.   The recipe makes just the right amount for 2-3 people (or yourself with leftovers… or not… depending on how Hangry you might be…) and is a perfect little dish for a Monday evening. Simple. Basic. And a little snappy.

Oven-Roasted Sausages, Dinner Parties, and Winter Comfort Foods

I think the new year should start in April… that ways we will start making all these fitness and health resolutions when we are starting to wrap up on cooking the hearty comforting winter foods… I’m on a running kick lately, and it feels great, and I’m trying to follow it up with the diet half (lots of greens, whole grains, etc.) but on these chilly winter weekends, all I want to do is make a stew with giant hunks of bread and stringy cheeses. I want root vegetables all mashed together, brown butter sauce, pastas, and casseroles, and dishes that will warm me from the inside out. This is why last weekend I threw a dinner party and made a wonderfully satisfying dish of sausages apples and pears.

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A few friends and I started a supper club, where once a month we have to try a completely new recipe. I volunteered to host the first round, and when I stumbled across this recipe from The Splendid Table, I knew it would be just the thing.

I did my research, and read all of the reader comments before actually cooking the dish. (and yes, I did brown the sausages before putting them in the oven, and I also left the skin on the fruit).  I also added on a side dish of olive oil mashed potatoes.  I’m kind of having a torrid affair with butter lately, but EVOO is my soul mate, especially when it comes to mashed potatoes. I think it adds a certain je ne sais quoi to the dish, that even the highest quality of butters cannot.

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I also served the mascarpone meyer lemon gelato that I wrote about here. It was an epically delicious meal. Especially since Jay brought some amazing camembert cheese, local salami, and some caprese bites to start off. Janet brought a yummy salad, and some home-made  madeleines. I’m quite surprised we all didn’t immediately fall into a food coma… especially since we took a break for hot-tubing between dinner and dessert.

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The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

The components of the sauce made a face mid-cooking

We are still toying with names for the group.  Maybe “Our Splendid Table” or my personal favorite “TB&J” (Tayler, Bulldog ,Jay/Janet). Whatever we decide to call ourselves, I’m sure there will be many amazing culinary adventures in our future.

Simple meals, burnt kale. It happens.

Last night my dinner was really simple. I love taking a few key ingredients, and making a completely simple and satisfying dish.  Some left over sausage, soft boiled eggs, a healthy scoop of quinoa, a handful of roasted or steamed greens, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of salt… these are the meals I eat over and over, my basic fall back meals… They are hearty, and satisfying, and best of all they are easy.  These are the meals that I make when I get home late after teaching, and the meals that will be recycled throughout the rest of the week in some form or another. Call me bizarre but kale and quinoa are my comfort foods… (ok, ok, so is cheese… and pasta… and polenta… and a lot of other things).

From time to time  I do start to feel a little bit bad about my quinoa addiction… someone will post on my facebook wall about how Bolivian natives can no longer afford their one time staple grain because the demand here is so high… I guess you win some and you lose some…

There was going to be a photo or two to accompany this post, but I burnt the kale. I mean really super badly burnt the kale… The once green and thriving leaves were brown… way beyond kale chip, way beyond crunchy, but in a moment of desperation, I threw them on the plate anyway. I was feeling bad that my lunch consisted of a box of mac & cheese, and there was no way that something green (or at least something that had at one time been green) was going on my plate… it actually wasn’t terrible, but it definitely was not photograph-able, and sometimes that is just the way it goes.

Maybe it’s a karma thing.  I was feeling a little defeated when I came home at 8:45, a meal plan already formed in my head, and all the kale in my refrigerator was moldy. I tried for a few minutes to sort through it, maybe find something salvageable… but moldy kale is moldy kale…there were no survivors. But wouldn’t you know it, I just happen to have a raised bed full of kale in my back yard, and I was feeling rather proud of myself for having a winter vegetable supply, so I got out the flashlight and headed out into the darkness, returning with a handful of baby kale. “Look at me, I’m so resourceful, I just saved dinner!” is pretty much what I was thinking to myself as I washed the leaves, drizzled them with oil, and threw them in the oven to get crispy. And crispy they got. I was feeling superior, and on top of things, and oh, so practical… and then I burnt the crap out of the kale. At least it added some texture?  You know what they say, waste not, want not…

 

 

 

Mascarpone Lemon Gelato: Yum-0!

When I graduated from college almost six years ago, the first thing I purchased was an ice cream maker… I mean why not, when you are going out into the world, newly educated and with really no clue about what your future holds, of course all you want/ need in life is an ice cream maker… Sadly in that six years, I think I can count on one had the number of times I have actually made ice cream. That first year I tried a pear avocado sorbet… which was pretty delicious, and the next year I made a strawberry and black pepper sorbet. Also great. I went on an olive oil ice cream kick a few years later, and made a few batches here and there, and this summer I use some of my fresh picked Marion Berries for a batch of ice cream. At least all of my attempts have been successful, and delicious, even if they have been few and far between (and let’s face it, its probably for the best that I’m not making ice cream every week).

This summer I was reminded that the ice cream maker isn’t just for ice cream, and I had a lot of fun making blended mixed drinks. Rum and diet coke, vodka lemonade etc etc… super delicious spin on the adult beverage.

Tonight I decided to make gelato… and it is good. Damn good…. I’m not really sure what possessed me to make gelato on the 1st day of February… its not exactly the most seasonal of desserts, but I stumbled across the recipe about a month ago, and its been lingering in the”I should make that sometime” part of my brain.

A couple of friends and I have started a dinner group under the premise that each month one of us has to make a dish we’ve never made before. Of course we are all busy people, and so we have an understanding that some months it might very well be ” I was too tired to make something new, but I will take you all to the taco truck down the street, and we can all order something we’ve never ordered before.”  Tomorrow night is our first gathering, I volunteered to host, since unemployment has granted me a bit of free time, and also my parents are out of town for the weekend, so they have donated their kitchen (and their hot tub) to the cause. God bless supportive parents who live a mile and a half away… Anyway, I’m going to be making a sausage/apple/pear dish I read about a few weeks ago on The Splendid Table, but I also remembered how delightful that gelato sounded,  so I went back through my mental files, and pulled out the the recipe.
One thing I love about making ice cream/ gelato is that it is crazy, stupid easy, and almost always delicious. I had no doubt this recipe would be amazing, I mean really anything with two cups of mascarpone cheese can’t be bad, right?  I was also excited because the Meyer lemons growing on my back patio were very nearly ripe, so I decided to add a little bit of flair to the recipe.
On a side note, this is the third Meyer Lemon tree I’ve attempted to grow. The first one, Liz Lemon, lived happily in my loft apartment, and I had at least 20 lemons… I made lemon curd… lots of lemon curd. It. Was. Epic.  Until she got spider mites… things quickly went down hill after that.I got Liz Lemon Jr. a year later, and things went well until the winter happened, and I didn’t feel like bringing the tree inside and outside all the time, so I made an attempt to wrap it in towels to protect it from the freezing weather… It didn’t work… Technically the tree is still alive, but it aborted all the fruit and I’m pretty sure it has reverted back to the dragon tree it was grafted onto… The tree itself is thriving… but I’m 99.9% sure it is no longer a lemon tree… at the very least, it hasn’t bloomed or produced fruit in a good long while.

Perhaps the third time is the charm, at least that is what I’m telling myself with the little lemon tree I fondly call Simon.  I figured it was time to try again since I actually have a covered porch that stays relatively warm, and a garage with a south facing window… which is ideal for those few days every winter when you actually need to bring the lemon trees inside. So far so good! And I picked a lovely looking lemon this afternoon to put into my gelato.
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Since I am quite proud of said lemon, I decided it was only fair to add a bit more lemon zest and lemon juice to the recipe. Considering that I found the recipe itself on the Culture Magazine facebook page, I’m pretty sure the cheese was supposed to be the star, but I decided it couldn’t hurt to add a bit more lemon. I slaved over this tree, I toted it in and out of the garage countless times… you better believe I wanted to use every last bit of zest and juice that little guy could give me. The original recipe called for 1 tsp lemon zest and 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice. I used the zest from the entire lemon, and all the juice (about 4 tsps… it was a pretty small lemon)
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The recipe also called for kosher salt, but I used Jacobsen Sea Salt… a local favorite.
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To add a little pizazz to the final dish I candied some additional lemon zest along with some English Thyme to add to the top, along with some crushed pistachios…. Sweet Jesus… it is good. Really Really good. The mascarpone adds this amazing creaminess to it, and I must say, the lemon is just the right amount, not overpowering or underwhelming.

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