Friday, May 15, 2020

Foodie Friday - Cod Cake Heaven

Like many of you we have been on staycation for about 7 weeks and going crazy. I'm happy that I've been talking to my friends, clients and family members on Zoom, but Happy Hours via Zoom leave much to be desired.

Since I'm in the house so much, I've been doing a lot of cooking.  Being from a big family I spent most of my early life in the kitchen when I wasn't babysitting for my various nieces and nephews - I have about 20.  I fine myself thinking about those day and I've even been making some of my old recipes, like - my cod cakes. I haven't made these in years.

From about age 10 to 15, I was the only one home with my Dad during the summer.  My Mom was the director and head cook at a large Catholic high school and my sisters were all working, so it was me and Dad.  There wasn't anything like going out for lunch or going to Starbucks, so I would make lunch for us and get dinner started just before Mom would get home. One of the things my Dad really liked was my cod cakes. My Mom made good fish cakes but she used our leftover mashed potatoes when we had some - which was rare. My cod cakes were different because I used a drier potato. A few weeks ago I made a batch and they went over well. Al raved about them just like my Dad did, so I'm at it again. There's not a lot of ingredients and usually I have it all on hand as long as I have cod or haddock.

For the Cakes:
1. Potato - 10-12 ounces
2. 2 TBL butter - salted or unsalted
3. minced scallions or  onion if you don't have a scallion
4. minced garlic - to me a must
5. table salt and pepper
6. 1 tsp thyme or a little more if you like.
7. One pound of Cod - cut into pieces
8. Large egg
9. Panko or bread crumbs
10. Oil for frying.

 As I said, I like a dry potato for this.  As a kid I would just boil the potato and dice it up instead of mashing it.  This time I microwaved a russet potato and riced it.  I think that works a lot better. I never microwave potatoes, but in this case it's appropriate because the potato is really dry.  The starch from the potato will mute the fish flavor so don't over do it with the potato. Let the potato cool before you rice it.

Add the butter to the skillet and melt over medium heat.  Add the mined scallion, garlic, table salt, pepper and thyme and cook for a few minutes. Add the cod and cook for about 5 min on each side, flipping it halfway.

Combine the riced potato and cod mixture into a bowl.  Add large egg and stir to combine.  At this point you can use your hands to create the round cakes or you can use a small measuring cup sprayed with oil.  I use the 1/2 cup for the cakes if I want large one but I used the 1/3 cup for this batch.  It's best if you can do this in the morning so the cakes can sit in the fridge but if not you can wrap the plate and let it sit for at least an hour in the fridge or use the last option of placing the rounds in the freezer for about 20 minutes.

When ready spread out the panko or bread crumbs and coat each round before placing them into the hot oil in the skillet.  Cook around 4 or 5 min each side.

Serve with a salad on a heated plate.
Buon Appetito

If you don't have any tartar sauce you can make a substitute using about a cup of Mayo, some cornichons, a Tbl of capers minced and a shallot and scallion.  It takes at least 20 min for all this to blend so make it early and refrigerate it.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Fastest Project Ever

If our latest project is indicative of the rest of the year, it will truly be a roaring 2020.  It was one of the most stress free and fastest projects I have ever worked on.  It was not a big space but bigger than many laundry rooms that I have remodeled.  I am amazed at how smoothly this project went given all the activities during the Holidays, the five important birthdays around that time and our travel plans taking us away for most of the season.

This is how it all went down. The week following Thanksgiving a previous client called asking for help with a redesign of her laundry room. It was a mid-size laundry room with 30 year old laminate cabinets that were still in relatively good shape but definitely needed to be outdated.  Storage was not an issue as the current cabinets had plenty of shelf space available.  The main driver for this makeover was actually the old wine cooler that stopped working.  Once she bought a new undercounter wine cooler, then the old cabinets stuck out like a sore thumb. Funny, how that works.

So, at the end of November, I went over to talk about the room. Within the first hour I knew the reason for the upgrade and the budget I needed to work within.  We talked over s few ideas, I measured the space and then went home to draw up the design.

The following day I took my design to four showrooms, picked out a door style in each that fell within the budget and received estimates from all 4 dealers. That afternoon I went back to my client's home and gave her all the cabinet bids and countertop information that she'd need to make a decision. I thought at that point that we were probably not going to proceed until after Christmas.

The next day she called back with her decisions made.  I explained that I was leaving town in two days, so we had to meet that day or the next day at the cabinet showroom.  After agreeing on the following day, I called my contact at the showroom for an appointment for a specific time.  She liked the cabinets I picked out and we ordered them along with the knobs right then.  That was on Dec 4th.

The cabinets were in on Dec 26th, but we were all too busy for the install.  We put the install off until January 2nd.  Al did the install in one day.  There were some things he had to work out since the stubs were not the usual 16" apart and the new wine cooler was a larger one. We already knew it would fit but it had to be installed so that we did not interfere with the tile floor pattern.  The countertop guys will be out next week.

Tomorrow I have a meeting for my first kitchen design of the year.  I can guarantee it will take longer than this project. For starters,  kitchen remodels have more details to consider and usually take at least 5 design meetings.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Big Dishwasher Debate: How to Load the Silverware?


As a kitchen designer this is one question that I am often asked. Every house hold seems to have people on one side or the either in this debate. My answer is always - safety first.  You can debate about the forks and spoons but all sharp knives need to be loaded with the blades downward and the handles sticking up. This is not just good sense when there are children in the house, it's best for everyone who unloads a dishwasher.

As a child we never had a dishwasher in the house. My parents had seven children so we were the dishwasher. And even down, I tend to wash dishes unless it's a big get together.  But I understand why people like to put the eating surface sticking up and why others prefer to put the handle sticking up.

For those in the first camp: eating surface up.  People are comfortable with this option because they believe the water intensity will clean the fork prongs, spoon and knife eating surface better and there will not be any water stains during the drying or rinsing cycle on the eating surface.

For those in the second camp: handles up.  People prefer this option because there is little transfer of germs from hand to eating surface of the utensil and when young children are helping  in the kitchen.

What I found curious was the latest survey down by Ricki, the Kitchen Think Tank.  They pictures above show the outcome of their survey. They did not include  a large population but this does show that people the surface area up to the handles up for other than knives.  It also shows that some people are frustrated by the whole issue and just load the item whichever way it fits. I found that amusing.

I've checked many of the leading appliance manufacturer's website to help solve this debate.   They all agree that knives should be blade down to avoid cuts.  They are not in full agreement though when it comes to spoons and forks.  They let the placing of those two items up to the consumer.

One last note about knives.  If you have an expensive knife set like the American brand Cutco or one of the European brands, do not put them in the dishwasher at all.  Dishwashers cam damage knives. That is another reason you should put the blade down.

Enjoy your Holidays. It's definitely the season to use the dishwasher.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Last Design Project for 2019

On a personal level this has been a wonderful year.  Between my design projects and my writing projects, I feel truly blessed.   

As a kitchen and bath designer, I'm not usually involved in remodeling either the bath or the kitchen toward the end of the year.  Everyone, myself included, is busy using the kitchens for family events and no one wants anymore stress, confusion or mess in the home.  So, I've been helping clients with other interior elements in the house like choosing paint colors, rugs, draperies etc.  My final design project for this year is the remodeling of a laundry room off the kitchen. The design is done, cabinets are on order but the actual install will not begin until the 2nd week in January.

Here's a picture of the cabinet I recommended to my client for the updated laundry room.  I chose white because a few years ago I was called in to help with her kitchen remodel and she has white cabinets in the kitchen, so white makes sense. White kitchens are classic.  They never go out of style because people love how clean the kitchen looks.

Usually I recommend a full overlay door styles but in this instance a standard door style is a better choice.  The difference between the two can be seen in the frame. A full overlay door means you don't see the door frame around the door, whereas, you can see the 1" of frame in a standard style. A full overlay gives you better access to the inside space but will always be more expensive than the standard style. Storage was not an issue in this remodel because the current melamine cabinets had plenty of empty space, but my client clearly did not want to go the expensive route with this make-over. One of the first parameters I try to establish in any project is the budget that I need to design within. This flat panel standard door style will meet her needs, give the laundry room a fresh and upgraded look and stay within the budget.

Another element in this design that can greatly effect cost is the countertop.  While granite and quartz are the norm these days, there are some very nice Wilson Art and Formica laminate materials available. As long as you choose a bevel, waterfall, bullnose or some other curved edging for the countertop, it will look great in a laundry room.

There is a top mount sink in this laundry room so we did not have a discussion about undermount sinks and laminate countertops. Whenever there is an undermount sink you need to look at a different material for your countertop than laminate.  Yes, you can install stainless steel and acrylic undermount sinks but it comes with a risk. The main issue is the strength of the adhesive to hold a sink full of water and not pull down or weaken the laminate.  Stone and Ceramic sinks can not be installed as undermount sinks on laminate countertops. The material itself is too heavy for the laminate product.  I do not recommend any undermount sink to be installed in a laminate countertop.

Life is too busy for both my client and myself so this install will take place in January.  However, the cabinets need to be ordered in December to make that happen.

Enjoy your holidays everyone.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Happy 25th Anniversary to Arizona NKBA

The National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) is the main organization for kitchen and bath designers.  It is a not-for-profit, nationwide organization dedicated the kitchen and bath design profession.  It have several chapters within every State.  Last month, the Arizona Chapter of NKBA in the Phoenix area celebrated its 25th anniversary.

For the event, the current Board invited previous Board members to attend if possible.  Some of us  could not attend, so the first picture below does not include every one that has served on the Board.  Like many Board Members, I have served in several positions over about a ten year timeframe.  I appreciate the current Board's invitation and recognition to the past Board members. 

The pictures below were provided by David Reser, Victoria Reser's husband.  Victoria is the Membership Chair on the current Board.  Thank you David for the pictures.

Past and Present Board Members