Chicken and Waffles, Minus the Waffles

Today marks the end of Week One of my kitchen renovation. I use the word renovation loosely, however, as it is more of a building of a kitchen rather than a renovation of a kitchen. As documented in my essay “A Unique July 13th”, it’s a gut job, not a simple matter of new appliances and new counter tops. down to studsMy contractor has demo’d the floor down to the sub-floor and the walls down to bare studs in some places, and in addition, he has demo’d the wall dividing the kitchen from the dining room to counter-height.

This was a difficult decision for me because I was torn over whether to open the kitchen to the dining room. I went back and forth and finally made the decision to leave the wall in place so I could have upper cabinets installed on that wall to create additional storage for my extensive cookware and kitchen gadget collections. half wallBut, my neighbor came down for a chat and said to me, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” We had a good laugh and I immediately emailed my contractor with the change. I know it is the right thing to do, and while sacrificing the additional upper cabinet storage, I can already get the sense that my tiny shoe box-sized kitchen has magically increased in size.

This week my contractor has been busy moving electrical wires that were hidden in the soffits above my old cabinets. Since my new cabinets are going all the way to the ceiling, the wires have to be moved.

This week I, on the other hand, have to figure out how to prepare healthy meals for my husband and me using all that I have available to me: microwave, rice cooker, slow cooker, toaster oven, and waffle iron. I mean, we can’t eat out every day for four weeks! Not only is it expensive, it’s time consuming and not always as healthy. Originally, I thought I would be able to use my gas grill to make dinners but since it is on my back patio, and my egress to the patio is somewhat restricted due to the renovations, I would have to go out my front door and walk around the back of the house, up a slight hill, to get to my grill, carrying raw food up the hill, and then the cooked food back down the hill. I may still get to that point, but for now, I’m trying to work around that.

Today I really wanted a grilled or sautéed chicken breast. So, I headed to the grocery and purchased thin-sliced boneless, skinless chicken breasts. They were sliced maybe two to three slices per whole breast. If I butterflied a whole chicken breast and pounded it thin, I could get the same effect for a cheaper price, but without a kitchen and a dishwasher to sterilize raw chicken cutting boards and other utensils, this was a good option. I marinated the thin slices in a little olive oil, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, garlic powder, and herbes de Provence. I set up my toaster oven in one location and my waffle iron in another, and I preheated them both. I sprayed the waffle iron with Pam and lined the toaster oven tray with foil and sprayed it with Pam.

While they were preheating, I set up my rice cooker and set it to make two cups of jasmine rice (I use Tilda, it is fragrant and lovely). I briefly microwaved one cup of frozen mixed vegetables and set them aside to toss into the cooked rice. Now on to the protein.

waffle iron chickenI put two of the thin slices of chicken breast in the toaster oven set at 350 degrees and two other pieces in the waffle iron. (Yes, the waffle iron is set up on the top of my dryer.) The toaster oven pieces cooked quickly but were a bit bland looking. But, when I lifted the lid of the waffle oven, well, quite frankly, I was shocked to see two beautiful pieces of chicken with “grill” marks, nicely browned and very appetizing. I then moved the two pieces from the toaster oven to the waffle iron to get the same grill marks on them.

Once all five slices were cooked in the waffle iron, I put them all in the toaster oven on 150 degrees to keep warm while I made a caprese salad to finish off the meal.

chicken and waffles minus the wafflesMy husband was skeptical at first, “Danger Dan” was worried that the waffle iron did not get hot enough to safely cook the chicken, but when he sliced into the thin chicken pieces, he could see that they were completely cooked through. It was a lovely meal, and I’m ready to experiment with cooking other proteins in my trusty waffle iron!

A Unique July 13th

Today is my younger daughter’s 25th birthday. Any other July 13th, I would have been busy baking her a beautiful birthday cake and cooking one of her favorite meals. I would have spent all day in the kitchen, making everything from scratch, chopping, dicing, slicing, and mixing away while watching my favorite cooking shows on TVbirthday. I’m pretty sure I know what she would ask for as her birthday dinner: Aunt Kay’s Sesame Chicken with white rice and steamed green beans.

But, this is not a normal July 13th. First of all, my daughter lives in Los Angeles now, where she works for a film company that makes movie trailers and other marketing tools.

And secondly, the real reason why I am not in my kitchen today, though, is because technically I don’t actually have a kitchen right now. I mean, the room is there, but as of Tuesday, July 11th, none of the components of a kitchen is in there.

This is Day 3 of a full kitchen renovation, a gut-job as they call it on all the home improvement television shows. New floor, new cabinets, new countertops, and new appliances. A brand-new kitchen.

Copy of Copy of soffits and weird wood cutout over fridgeOn Tuesday, Day 1, my contractor ripped out some of the cabinets and the white appliances, including the electric double wall ovens and “built-in” microwave original to the house when we purchased it in 2004. The dishwasher and gas stove-top were things we replaced, and they are gone, too. The new-ish stainless steel fridge with French doors is the only thing that is staying in place. It is currently playing musical chairs in the kitchen space, moving from corner to corner as the contractor works around it, because it is too big to move out of the kitchen. When it was delivered two years ago, the delivery men had to take off the back door of the kitchen to get it inside.

IMG_0359 (2)On Wednesday, Day 2, out came the rest of the cabinets and some of the soffits above the cabinets. The new cabinets are going all the way to the ceiling, giving me more storage, and thankfully, less wall space to hang knickknacks and my crazy collection of vintage and reproduction copper molds.

Dragged to the contractor’s trailer with the cabinets were the countertops, light gray Formica with tiny charcoal speckles. I think they were masquerading as granite, which is what will be their replacement. Although those countertops saw their fair share of dripped Kool-Aid and Crystal Light, I always managed to clean any stains with the Magic Eraser. Copy of Copy of French Onion Soup SmirkI never cut anything directly on the Formica so there were no chips or scratches either. The only blemish was from the cooking of a very large pot of French onion soup, which I left to simmer on the back burner in a pot really too large for the burner. Boy, was I surprised when it came time to serve the soup: the large black “smirk” on the Formica backsplash has mocked me ever since. The soup was a welcome home meal for my older daughter, who had brought a friend home from college for the weekend.

white ceramic floorToday, Day 3, started with him smashing to smithereens the white ceramic tile floor. GOOD-BYE FLOOR. I am so happy to never walk on you again! I have hated that floor since we moved in. What were they thinking, a white floor in a kitchen? Every crumb, every drop, every speck, it all showed up on that white floor. That floor has seen it all: drops of plum jam as I filled Mason jars for canning, chocolate cake batter as I filled cupcake tins for church bake sales, Italian bread crumbs as I dredged chicken strips or pork chops for frying. We even bought one of those steam mops to try to keep that stupid floor clean. On top of all that, the tiles were not set evenly so if you walked barefoot in the kitchen your toes would inevitably get caught on the lip of a tile sticking up higher than the rest.

My daughter and I had a lovely chat this morning as she was walking to work in West Hollywood. She told me of her birthday dinner plans with a group of friends at a trendy dim sum restaurant. She was happy, doing her thing out there on the west coast. My contractor is busy doing his thing, tearing my kitchen down to bare walls and floor. Even though I didn’t spend the day baking and cooking, this July 13th turned out pretty good. And, in honor of my daughter’s favorite birthday dinner, I leave you with the recipe for Aunt Kay’s Sesame Chicken (or Beef)!