Category Archives: kitchen

I’m Not Wearing Pants at the Moment

True, I’m not wearing pants. It’s my way of letting the world know that our window blinds were installed yesterday! Finally, I can lounge around the house in my skivvies without putting on a peep show for my neighbors. The sidewalk in front of our house sees a fair amount of traffic- parents with strollers, dog walkers, bikers, and joggers–including the boys’ cross country team from a nearby high school.

We installed vertical blinds in the upstairs bedrooms and a different types of cellular shades on the main floor. We chose the top-down/bottom-up style to allow the greatest amount of natural light into the rooms while still providing enough privacy to prance around naked inside the house.

Pics and video soon!

To clarify, we do not actually prance around or even sit at our desks naked and if we did, I would not put it on YouTube. I will post pics or videos of our blinds, though.

You’re welcome.

Since some of you are bound to ask, we bought the blinds from a Big Box store and paid them to do the measuring and the install. In all, we covered 16 windows, so the flat fee the store charged for measuring and installing turned out to be a pretty good deal. And now we don’t have to devote any of our weekend time to covering the windows, which is good because we’re on something like week 7 of bathroom demo. *DIY sigh*

So I’m Reading This Book… (And Giving One Away)

Let’s just say “grey” is on the cover. From the very first page it’s clear this book is hot! It’s full of things I never imagined doing. Things that look exotic and dangerous, yet so tempting.

I got so excited, I told my husband I’d try something new for him this week. I mean, this Cooking Light: Way to Cook Grilling, The Complete Visual Guide to Grilling? I can’t wait to get busy with it.

I love the visual emphasis. This books photos are both seductive (you know you want me) and instructive Cooking Light Visual Guide to Grilling(grilled lettuce is supposed to look the way it does in the photo).

The book starts off with a primer on grilling and smoking. The obligatory burger chapter follows, but goes beyond the same old, same old. Spicy Poblano  Burgers with Picked Red Onions and Chipotle Cream, anybody?

The book also includes chapters on meats, poultry, fish and shellfish as well as vegetables and fruits.

Ten days later….

So far I’ve tried the Grilled Romaine (twice), Chicken Shawarma, Brown Sugar and Mustard Salmon, and Grilled Flank Steak with Onions, Avocado and Tomatoes. Each recipe was a hit with three of the four people in my family (the fourth mostly eats hot dogs and pasta, so it’s barely worth counting his opinion).

When the right season hits, I want to try Caramelized Fresh Figs with Sweet Cream.

I like that the recipes are simple and easy to follow. And, hello, Cooking Light! These dishes won’t weight you down.

I appreciate the many photos, or visual guides, in the book. And I’ve learned a few foodie facts thanks to the many how-to tips and tricks sprinkled throughout the book.

Often, the larger food photos are dotted with bits of information about the role of various ingredients, for example, in the spread featuring Grilled Chicken Thighs with Roasted Grape Tomatoes, a blurb on the photo explains that fresh grated lemon rind intensifies the tangy flavor of the marinade.

This book is my grilling Bible for the summer of 2012.

In fact, I like it so much, I asked if I could give one away to a lucky reader (hopefully a carnivore, though as noted above, there are plenty of recipes for all types of eaters). But grilled meat? Yum!

Win your own copy of Cooking Light: Way to Cook Grilling, The Complete Visual Guide to Grilling

To enter:

1. (Required) Comment once on this blog sharing a favorite grilling tip (or whatever). Comment by 11:00 PM CST on May 29, 2012 for a basic entry. US addresses only. No purchase necessary to win, but the winner must be 18 years of age. The prize has a retail value of roughly $24.95.

You can also have up to four optional extra entries; I need a separate comment for each of these items, so I can count each one as an extra entry:

2. Tweet about the entry and come back to let me know you did.

3. “Like” Reluctant Renovator on Facebook and come back to let me know.

4. Subscribe to our newsletter, Progress Notes. We send updates every now and then featuring favorite tidbits from the blog as well as tips on home product finds and giveaways. Come back to let me know.

5. Subscribe to my YouTube Channel so you can keep up with Reluctant Renovator video blogs. Come back to let me know.

Winner will be chosen and notified by June 2, 2012 and will have two days to respond to me. If no response is received, a new winner will be chosen. Prize will be fulfilled by the PR agency working with this book.

And since I started this post sexy talk, let me end with this shot I grabbed at one of the ethnic markets in town. (Sorry, no butt recipes in the book.)

butt beef

As part of the Reluctant Renovator blogaversary celebration, check out these other giveaways!

Type-A Parent Conference Pass

Serta Mattress Set

Lands’ End Swimsuit




KBIS 2012, Kitchen and Bath Industry Show Top Picks and Trends

Fun, functional, aspirational*–there was so much to see and report on from the 2012 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. I’ll be back with interesting tidbits and kitchen and bath trend reports (not to mention my own reno progress on the two original bathrooms in this house), but for now, I’m going to share a video of my top picks from the show.



And here’s a bit from Kohler introducing the HydroRail, which is definitely a key find. It lets consumers have the luxury of a rainshower head without the mess of tearing up the wall and installing new pipes.



Which of these new products would you like to have? As for me,  I already have a U-Socket on order from ThinkGeek.

*The industry term for cool stuff you can’t afford.

Moen MotionSense Touchless Faucet Earns a Golden Hammer Award

Golden Hammer from Reluctant RenovatorWe’re awarding our first Golden Hammer! It’s an honor we give to recognize excellence in product design, innovation or customer service. The new Moen MotionSense Faucet earned this award due its innovative functionality–it’s touchless! (And pretty.)

MotionSense is great for families and foodies.

It’s perfect for the home cook who finds herself elbow deep in ground turkey as she’s mixing up meatballs or burgers and doesn’t want to touch the faucet with her germy hands.

It’s also great for young children who can’t reach the faucet handle and want to wash hands or get a drink of water.

And it’s pretty useful when washing dishes by hand. Water on. Water off.

Watch the video to learn more about the MotionSense and see it in action. (Seriously, peeps. It’s less than 2 minutes long. If you can’t find the time, you need to read this.)

The MotionSense is EPA WaterSense certified.  It will be available in the fall of 2012 at finer kitchen design outlets later this year. Look for a less expensive version with the same technology at your favorite Big Box in 2013. Chrome, oil rubbed bronze, and “spot resist” stainless finishes will be available with a price of around $650 depending on the finish.

moen motionsense faucet

Stayed tuned for more eye-catching favorites from my time at KBIS, the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. MotionSense is the only Golden Hammer recipient from the show, but there will be more Golden Hammers awarded in the coming months, as well as a few Rusty Nail awards, the GH’s evil twin.

No compensation was received for this post. The MotionSense was my top family-friendly pick from the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show.

More Passover Prep. Or, How Not to Make Horseradish

Passover brisket

There's a brisket under all those mushrooms and onions.

The Passover Prep continues. One brisket, dozens of hard boiled eggs, 8 roasted beets, 120 turkey meatballs and a giant bowl of quinoa later, I’m here to tell about it.

Oh, I also made my own horseradish, the condiment of choice for the seder’s requisite “bitter herb.” I first did this a few years ago, but I was a bit confused this time around because when making the first batch with the white root, I didn’t experience the strong odor that practically burns the hair from your nostrils. In fact, even chopped up it barely had any flavor. I brushed it off as no big deal since batch one was to be the Mild batch.

I asked hubs to pick up another horseradish root for me, so I could make a second batch, the Hot one. This time the root came wrapped it plastic. As soon as I unwrapped it, the familiar scent wafted up to my nose. I must have had a dud of a root the last time.

And then it dawned on me that my original root was not a dud, it was

(wait for it)

parsnip. D’oh!

Batch number two is guaranteed to make old men and young boys cry when it hits their tongue. (My middle-aged husband will love it!).

I blended a small spoonful from the Hot batch into the Mild one and giving it just enough of an authentic horseradish taste. Like substituting Folgers for a fine coffee, no one would be the wiser. I mean, the consistency and color were right on and so was the smell.

But within an hour of my little taste test, my kishkes started rumbling and I had a revelation every bit as eye-opening as God speaking to Moses in the form of a burning bush: Do not serve raw parsnip to your 26 dinner guests unless you want them to be rushing for the bathroom (whose door, by the way, does not lock because we still bask in the room’s original pink 1950s splendor).

So, like the burning bush, batch one of the horseradish will not be consumed.

In addition to cooking and cleaning, I’m also putting together our Passover haggadah, the guidebook for the ritual meal. Next year, I need to check out Haggadot, a site that helps people DIY their Haggadahs (or haggadot).

Today’s agenda: finish the haggadah, cook another brisket, prep salads and make my boys work so hard to clean the house that they understand the bitterness of tyranny and can enjoy the Festival of Freedom.



Making Schmaltz: Getting Ready for Our First Seder

rendered chicken fatIt’s hard to believe I made it into my 40s without hosting a Passover Seder, but it’s true. Sometimes it’s good to live near so many family members. Also, our previous house couldn’t handle a crowd of more than about 10 without feeling cramped, so we were voted Most Uncomfortable Place to Host Family Gathering. That label was not without its perks, but honestly, we’re excited to cook clean and host this special dinner.

We are doing it and doing it big. We’re expecting  about 20 22 25 27 folks.

(No, the house is not that big.)

(Yes, we only own 12 chairs at the moment.)

I’ve been busy preparing a haggadah, the booklet that guides the seder, as well as doing a lot of cooking.

Thanks to a gentle nudge from Ciaran at Momfluential, I rendered my own chicken fat, or schmaltz in the vernacular. After reading her post on the topic, I was grossed out, but intrigued.

I told my husband I was considering making schmaltz.

“That sounds like a messy and ridiculous waste of time,” he replied.

And then I knew I had to do it.

I needed chicken thighs for a dinner recipe, so I bought ones with skin and ripped that off for rendering. I couldn’t find skinned, Kosher chicken thighs (the schmaltz factory beat me to it?), so I got the next best thing. Maybe. Halal chicken.

Does this mean I’ve made the world’s first Muslim matzah balls?

Regardless, here’s a quick tutorial.

Skin the chicken. I used 3 pounds of chicken thighs, give or take.

chicken skin to make schmaltz

Add some chopped onion and water to a pan.

making schmaltz, chicken fat

Add the chicken skin and heat it all over a medium/high flame.

rendering chicken fat

Continue heating for a good 20 minutes or so.

rendering chicken fat

If time allows (i.e. you do not look at the clock and realize you need to pick up your child from school in three minutes) continue cooking the skin until it crisps for a delicious, high-calorie snack laden with saturated fat.

If you’re in a rush, remove the skin and drain on a paper towels and then quickly strain the rendered fat into a jar. Refrigerate when cooled.

strain rendered chicken fat

I was was concerned the rendering chicken fat would stink up my kitchen a la Chanukah latkes, but it actually left a pleasant scent that felt like home, something along the lines of simmering chicken soup.

Speaking of which, after mixing up a couple of batches of matzah balls, pictured below cooling in the Chicago Fridge, I’d realized our crowd had grown too large for the tricky logistics of serving soup. So much for planning ahead.

matzah balls chilling in the chicago fridge