Kitchen Mini-Renovation: Countertop and Sink

The kitchen rehab continues! This time, countertop and sink. We’re saying goodbye to the stainless steel sink and formica countertop that had been painted silver. In their place, we’re installing IKEA HAMMARP butcher block countertops to warm up the kitchen and a Kohler white cast iron sink to bring back some vintage farmhouse flair.

While I had been confident about painting the kitchen cabinets (after all, I’ve painted my fair share of walls and furniture), replacing the countertop and sink had me shaking in my boots. I’ve had limited experience with power saws and the only other countertop I’ve installed was on the other half of the kitchen at the beginning of this kitchen rehab project a year ago. So worried was I that I had actually toyed with hiring out the installation of the countertops. But I’m cheap and I love a challenge! Armed with a circular saw, my father-in-law’s old saw horses and clamps borrowed from my dad, I did what I always do: I DIYed it. (I did call in a plumber to disconnect the old sink and install the new one. That ended up being a good call. The location of the drain is different on the new sink and that required new pipes to be cut. In my opinion, that’s a job better left to the professionals.

Removing the old countertop was an exercise in contortion and a test of my brute strength. The old top was attached to the base cabinets with long screws, which meant I had to lie on my back inside the cabinets to remove the screws (not as a simple task for a middle aged man). That corner cabinet next to the dishwasher, with its odd angles and dark recesses, was the most challenging. I was also trying to limit the amount of time that we would have to live without a functioning sink so – as you can see in the photo above – I attempted to cut the old countertop to remove it in sections. I was successful but after all that work I was happy when the plumber arrive and disconnected the sink so that I could take everything out at once.

With the countertop removed, it was time to begin installing the new butcher block. You know how they say “measure twice, cut once?” I was so nervous about measurements that I must have measured a dozen times.

I started by measuring and cutting the two side pieces.

With the two side pieces in, I measured, re-measured and then measured once more the distance between the two pieces. And then I cut the middle piece.

Success! I got a nice snug fit that doesn’t require any filler. There was much celebrating of this carpentry achievement and I was ready to stop and call it a day. But of course a kitchen isn’t a kitchen without a sink.

The new Kohler kitchen sink that we’re installing came with a pattern for marking the countertop. That pattern made measuring and marking the countertop easy. I wish it could have also made cutting the countertop easier. I used an old secondhand jigsaw to cut the hole for the sink and I don’t know whether it was the saw’s age, the countertop’s density or my inexperience, but it took FOREVER. And of course the entire time I was cutting it, I was worried that my marking had been off and the sink wouldn’t actually fit.

So you can image my joy when the pattern and the cut were spot-on and the sink fit snugly into the hole. We admired the new sink and then waited for the plumber to return the next morning to hook up the pipes and re-install the faucets. (Fun fact: you should definitely place signage or tape across a sink to indicate that it isn’t hooked up to plumbing. A cup of coffee and a glass of water were almost poured down the non-existent drain of our sink that evening.)

The whole project came together in just two days. Thanks to a very cooperative plumber, we were without a functioning kitchen sink for under twelve hours. That was important because we were attempting this project the same week that we were hosting Thanksgiving. There was no margin for error!

The butcher block and white sink really brighten up this small kitchen. We’ll need to oil the countertop periodically to help prevent staining but I think it’s going to be worth the effort. 

And now we’re one step closer to a new kitchen! Our next project will be patching and painting the wall. Or possibly installing a backsplash. More to come!

Kitchen Mini-Renovation: Painting the Cabinets

Previously on This American House: We kicked off the kitchen mini-renovation by rehabbing a small corner of the kitchen. Now the time has come to finish the other 3/4 of the kitchen. First up, painting the cabinets.

The dark wood cabinets from the 1980s are in fairly solid shape but were banged up and in need of minor patching. We had thought about replacing the cabinets – even going so far as toying with reconfiguring the kitchen back to its original layout – but decided instead on a mini-renovation. (In other words: economics + logistics = keep existing cabinetry.) The countertop, on the other hand, has got to go. What might have been a lovely formica countertop had been painted silver by the previous owner – a paint job that hadn’t aged well in the intervening years. But that’s getting ahead of myself. Let’s focus on the paint job at hand.

As with the side of the kitchen that we previously finished, we could immediately see the improvement that painting the cabinets was going to make. It took just one coat of primer to recognize that the paint job was going to transform the kitchen. While the dark wood cabinets were probably quite lovely when they first went in (no judgement of past owner decisions here!), painting them white would brighten up the small kitchen. (You’ll also notice that we’ve been swapping out the appliances along the way as well. As the old black appliances have been conking out – first the oven, then the fridge – we’ve been replacing them with white appliances.)

I worked on painting the cabinets in little fits and starts over the spring and summer months. In working in batches I experimented with my method and eventually by the third set of doors and frames I had developed a perfect system. (More on that in a separate post.)

At times it felt like a Sisyphean task that I’d never actually complete. That’s the problem with working on projects in small batches. It’s really hard to see the light at the end of the project tunnel.

Painting the cabinetry may have been a slow and arduous process but it was definitely worth it. The kitchen looks much brighter now that that dark wood is covered in white and the black hardware has been switched out with nickel.

And now that everything is painted, it’s finally time to swap out the countertop. I’ll follow up with the post soon.

 

Through the (Drinking and Looking) Glass

Frank Lloyd Wright Drinking Glass

The very first Frank Lloyd Wright-designed glass I ever looked through was a highball containing a vodka soda. We’d bought a beautiful set of Miller Rogaska barware (made for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation) at the Frank Lloyd Wright Visitor Center on our very first visit to Spring Green back in 1999. Alas, much of that barware hasn’t survived the years, but we still have a few existing glasses, a decanter, and an ice bucket in regular service. As I look out now through our genuine Frank Lloyd Wright-designed windows – sometimes with a highball in hand – I often reflect upon our journey “through the looking-glass” into our own Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Wonderland here at the Delbert Meier House. And it all started with these drinking glasses. Bottoms up, Mr. Wright!

3 Ways to Use Green Tomatoes

3 Green Tomato Recipes on This American House

Every gardener who grows tomatoes ends up with an abundance of green fruit at some point. Whether it’s accidentally knocking the unripened fruit from the plants while pruning throughout the season (as I did earlier this summer) or plucking the last green tomatoes off the vine before the first frost (which I did just this weekend), we often find ourselves searching for uses other than fried green tomatoes. Well, ladies and gentlemen, I found three other uses for green tomatoes. And they’re all delicious.

Green Tomato Dill Pickles at This American House

Green Tomato Dill Pickles: Last year I experimented with a simple pickled green tomato recipe that was easy but not very exciting. This year, I gave a batch of green tomatoes the full pickling treatment: vinegar, dill pickling spices and pickling salt. These tomatoes are the perfect burger topper. They have the punch of a dill pickle but with a meatier texture. And the larger sliced tomatoes fit perfectly on top of a patty of beef.

Green Tomato Beer Bread at The Delbert Meier House

Beer Bread with Chopped Green Tomatoes and Jalapenos: I took a basic beer bread recipe and added chopped green tomatoes and diced jalapeno peppers to the dough. This actually made use of THREE things we have an abundance of: old beer, green tomatoes and jalapenos fresh from the garden. The tomatoes and peppers added a nice kick to the dense beer bread. Even tastier with a slab of salted butter on top.

Green Tomato and Rhubarb Crunch at This American House

Green Tomato and Rhubarb Crunch: After reading that green tomatoes can be baked in a pie that’s similar to apple, I decided to mix them with some leftover rhubarb from the garden. But instead of pie, I went the much easier route: a crunch. My mother-in-law gifted me her little recipe box and one of my go-tos is her recipe for rhubarb crunch. It’s easy to prepare and it’s The Mister’s absolute favorite dessert. This recipe is very similar to Louise’s. And the green tomatoes really do taste like apples when baked into a dessert!

What’s your favorite green tomato recipe?

 

 

Super Simple Tomato Salsa for Canning

Simple Tomato Salsa for Canning

Every year that we’ve planted a garden at the house (for those of you not keeping score, the number is 4), I’ve announced that I’m going to have a salsa garden. Each spring I’ve started out by planting all the ingredients for salsa. I excitedly bury my pepper and tomato seedlings in the garden and declare that this will be the year that we’re swimming in salsa! But something always ends up going wrong. The garlic doesn’t come up or the tomatoes under-deliver in their bounty.

Well, mark it in your calendars, folks, that 2017 is the summer of the salsa garden at the Delbert Meier house. The tomatoes have come in strong, garlic is abundant and the peppers have performed. And what I’ve lacked in ingredients from our own garden, I’ve managed to pick up at farmers markets.

Salsa is one of those simple recipes that makes you question ever buying it from a grocery store. In addition to the veggies, it’s really just some vinegar, salt and herbs all mixed up to make a yummy dipping sauce. I improvised my recipe for salsa so my measurements aren’t exact. I did check the label on the side of a jar of salsa to confirm that I was on the right patch with ingredients. But from there, it’s all a matter of taste.

SIMPLE SALSA RECIPE

Ingredients:
10-12 ripe tomatoes
1-2 green peppers
1 large onion (I threw in some green onion as well)
1 head of garlic
Jalapeno pepper
1/2 cup(ish) of vinegar
1/2 cup(ish) of tequila
Pinch of salt
Fresh parsley
Fresh cilantro

Roughly chop all ingredients and place all but cilantro in a large stockpot. Cook on low to medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about an hour. (For a thicker salsa, simmer on low heat for up to eight hours.) Use an immersion blender to puree the cooked mixture.
(Or, blend the hot mixture in batches in a blender or food processor. But be careful!) Add chopped cilantro to the blended mixture and return to stockpot.

See, I told you that the salsa recipe was easy, didn’t I? Well then trust me when I say that canning salsa is easy too. You’ll need the supplies: a basic canning kit (which consists of a large water bath pot and rack) along with jars, lids and rings. Once you have the supplies, the canning process is actually quite simple. I’m including some basic instructions here but the Ball/Kerr website provides a thorough resource for beginning canners.

First, fill you water bath canner with water (enough to cover the tops of the jars when they’re submerged) and heat on high until boiling. Then reduce heat to keep the water simmering but not boiling.

Next, thoroughly wash the empty jars and lids and then cover them in boiling water. What you’re doing here is making sure that you’re putting your salsa into a clean, sanitized jar. I usually hand wash my jars and then place them in the water bath pot for a few minutes. And then I place the lids in a small bowl and pour boiling water over them.

Then, place the hot salsa in the sterilized jars. Wipe any salsa from the rim of each jar and place the sanitized lids on top. Lightly screw the rings on top of the jars. Now, place the jars of salsa in the rack of the water canner and slowly lower them into the pot. Leave the jars submerged in the water for 10 to 15 minutes.

When the time’s up, carefully remove the jars from the water canner and place on top of a towel on the countertop. You’ll likely hear the lids pop, which is your sign that the jars have created a vacuum seal. I usually wipe the excess water from the jars and lids after they’ve cooled a bit and then add labels before placing them in the pantry.

Time consuming? Yes. But also easy, right? And on that cold winter night when we’re binge watching Netflix, this salsa is going to be so very delicious!