Friday, May 22, 2015

Kitchen Renovations... again

After our big food prep day, we just couldn't bring ourselves to set everything back where it had been. SOMETHING needed to be done to get some more functional pantry space and get my huge, honking microwave off the counter!

I searched online for some microwave carts to replace one of our pantry shelving units, and didn't like what I saw. Baker's racks, however, might give us the depth I was searching for to get the microwave off the counter, and at a MUCH better price.

But sometimes you just get that feeling, and you know what you've got to do. Out the door on a whim to hit the thrift stores. There's one right nearby, but the furniture section is usually a little lackluster. We enjoy going over to a nicer side of town with two major thrift stores, and besides, I just had the feeling that we shouldn't stop nearby first.

We found something we thought we could jerry-rig to work, and went to the next one. Still nothing quite right, and we'd managed to talk ourselves out of jerry-rigging. It was either what we wanted for the space, or buy a baker's rack new. But we also found a small microwave that has all the options we need, and takes up half the counter space. So that was a win, at least.

And then on the way home, defeated by our lack of furniture findings but happy about some books & clothes that found their way home with us, I decided one last ditch stop at the thrift store right by the house. And wouldn't you know it, just then they put out this lovely set of sturdy, deep shelving.


We really wanted the one on the right with the drop-down door, but couldn't figure out how we would use the other one even though it seemed a shame to split them up. Still, we did, and got that honey home and in place. I made that drop-down section a tea & coffee station, right next to the tea kettle and all the goodies inside to make a tasty cuppa. We got all the contents of the old shelves there into it, while still leaving the bottom cabinet section empty! It fit into the same footprint we had open, though we actually lost the 5-inch gap we so mockingly called our broom closet, going from 11-inches deep to 16 inches. 

But then Mr. Moon finally came around to my way of thinking, and we decided to switch out his mom's old sewing cabinet with 5-inch-deep shelves for the other one of these beauties--which again fit perfectly in the same footprint we had for that unit. We decided we'd sleep on it and if the shelves were still at the thrift store when we woke up, we'd get them but if not, then it was not meant to be. 

First thing the next morning, I got myself an iced coffee and we headed out the door. We tried hard not to get our hopes up, but when we saw the other, lonely, formerly-paired shelving unit waiting for us, I'm not sure who was more relieved and excited--us or it! We slid it into the back of the car, butt hanging out just as its mate had the night before, and got it the 15 blocks home and into the living room. "Oh, we might not have time to switch that out today!" we said. "We have Things To Do! Like Laundry!" 10 minutes later, I was too excited and we started swapping out units. 

We got everything from THOSE shelves into the new shelving, and a box that we simply hadn't been able to find room to store yet. We may be using every inch of space, but the room feels more open than it used to--and of course, I failed at getting a good Before picture. 


They flank the liquor cabinet nicely, feel like they were always meant to be that way. They have shelves that hold the tall vinegar bottles right where I want them within reach of me cooking. They hold the gallon vinegar bottles we use to store dry goods in. There's room for our onions, and even the sprouting jar! And best of all: That groom microwave is off the counter.

Because we had coupons, we came in at $75 for this little renovation. A brand-new baker's rack would have cost a minimum of $100, and wouldn't have solved as many problems. All in all, I'm feeling proud of our accomplishments this week. And best of all, next week's prep cook day will be even easier to manage!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Food Prep Day

A friend and I concocted a scheme to do a bulk food-prep day. She's living in a 300 sq ft apartment with no real kitchen right now, and while she has access to the kitchen in the main house, it comes with strings attached. So, we thought we'd try having her join us for one of our food prep days, which we'd gotten out of the habit of doing anyway. It was fun!

The focus: Get some quick breakfasts into the freezer, and a lunch salad prepped in bulk. Maybe a little something extra for the freezer.

Our menu:

  • Balsamic lentil salad (made with kale to hold up to vinaigrette for a few days)
  • Homemade Egg McMuffins
  • Mini Quiches
  • Shredded chicken (for dumping on salads, quick lunches/dinners). 
We did well! Mr. Moon dragged the microwave out of the kitchen for a little more counterspace, which will soon be available permanently when we build our microwave cart. After I did most of the paper-planning, we put him on knife duty, Friend on assembly duty, and I mostly directed & went to an appointment. We weren't super diligent, we added some stuff at the last minute, but we got everything done in 6 hours--including eating breakfast, lunch, and testing some cocktails. 


All in all I'm expecting a few more of these joint food prep days in our future, and I'm pleased with how it went. I just wish it didn't involve deconstructing and re-arranging our kitchen just to get some more counter space, and completely shutting off the dining room.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

Not a huge change at all, but Mr. Moon got a second job today. Selling restaurant smallwares & appliances at a local restaurant supply store. One day a week for now, but in time there may be more shifts available. Of course, that one shift is Saturdays. Which means that after a hard night at work, and before a hard night at work, he gets to work an extra shift--the day before any potential double shifts at work. On the one hand, it's not yet impacting his days off, but on the other his workweek got a little busier. Nothing to do but redouble our efforts at weekly organization, meal planning & execution.

As it stands, whenever he's had to work early morning shifts on Sundays, we've tended to use it as an excuse to get takeout for dinner. But, at one shift a week of retail income, the extra money being made will barely pay for an increased expenditure of once-weekly take-out (let alone twice-weekly). Instead, it's time to get down to business with some recipes that we can prep ahead & have me turn on the crockpot/rice cooker during his work shift or when I head to pick him up from the night job. And some make-ahead breakfasts & lunches, for that matter!

Some ideas so far have included:
Breakfasts:

  • Porridge oats or rice: Let the oats soak overnight, then have the timer start cooking the oatmeal when we wake up. Top with nuts & craisins, as desired. 
  • Overnight oatmeal: the cold way in mason jars that we can make for a few days ahead. With chia seeds? 
  • Microwave sausage egg muffins: Which we can buy in individual packages but are much cheaper to make at home and not terribly difficult. Either the "protein cupcake" version from my low-carb cookbook, or the fake-McDonald's version I loved in high school.
  • Yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit. 
  • Smoothies, but that's not new. 

Lunches:

  • I'm thinking of the things he's taken to boy scout camp before. Sandwiches, obviously. Handheld fruit like apples & nectarines. Salad? Ummm... 
  • Seriously, we have to figure out lunches he can take to work, this is weird and also a little exciting. To Pinterest! 

Dinners:

  • Anything that I can make in the rice cooker on a standard rice setting, because I can turn it on when I walk out the door and have us walk into a home cooked meal that's ready to eat. 
  • Rice-cooker red beans & dirty rice: Cook up a few pounds of taco meat next time we buy a bunch of ground beef, freeze in 1/2 lb packages. Day of, dump 1 cup rice, 1 cup chicken stock, can of rinsed beans, half cup of salsa, and a pack of taco meat into the rice cooker, turn it on, walk away, done in 35 minutes. 
  • I feel like I have forgotten everything I learned from our busy weeks living with his parents and clearly have to go back to my old entries for ideas. 





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