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. My 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. But, 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.
I 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.
My 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!