What’s in the kitchen- Red Pepper Spaetzle in Mustard Cream Sauce

So first off, what’s a spaetzle? Literally translated from German as “little sparrow,” spaetzle is a dish of tiny noodles or dumplings made with flour, eggs, water or milk, and salt. I first saw this made as part of the final episode of Worst Cooks in America on Food Network. The recipe is courtesy of Robert Irvine.

I have made this dish now three times. The first two with German sausage and the last time we grilled pork loins instead. It is a medium difficulty and I made a big mess the first time (lots of pots).

 The Spaetzle:  In a food processor, combine and puree until smooth.

  • ½ cup jarred roasted red peppers
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese
  • 4 tablesppons chicken stock

In a large pot, boil 4 quarts water to boil. While the water is heating, in a bowl stir the pepper puree with the following:

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • ½ cup cold water
  • ½ teaspoon salt.

Stir until just well mixed. The dough will be fairly sticky.

Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium. Squeeze or press the dough through a spaetzle maker or a large hole colander. I don’t have spaetzle maker. I used a colander and a rubber spatula. WARNING: Forcing the dough through the colander is physically taxing- It would be highly recommended to have someone hold the colander while the other pushes the dough through the colander. This pressing needs to be completed in a quick manner thus allowing the dough to cook evenly. (I did it in two bathches.) Once the spaetzle has been dropped in the water, cook 2-3 minutes, stirring throughout the cooking time.

Once cooked, remove from the heat and drain thoroughly.

 The Sauce: In a large sauce pan over medium heat add 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 1 minced shallot, cooking until shallots are light brown. Deglaze the pan with 3 tablespoons white wine or chicken stock. Once deglazed add:

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Reduce the heat to low and continue to cook until the cream has thickened, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 tablespoons grated Gruyere cheese.

Note: I double the sauce recipe in order to cover the amount of spaetzle made.

Presentation: I mix the spaetzle and cream sauce before serving, only mixing enough spaetzle as the sauce will cover.

Enjoy.

Good Luck.

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

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What’s in the kitchen- Cedar Plank Salmon

This is a favorite of our family and friends. It’s really easy to do and it tastes fantastic for all ages.

The recipe actually starts in the shop, well at least for me. As the title reveals, we are going to need cedar planks. Byerly’s sells 4 medium sized planks for about $16. And if you don’t have the resources, buying the cedar planks is your best option. But I’ve got a few resources at my disposal, so I make my own.

Cedar Planks

Since I’ve done my share of decks, I always have left over cedar in the shop. I keep the bigger scraps to use in my fire pit and for occasions just like this. I use a cedar 6×6 and my table saw. I set the width at around 3/8” and take 2 passes to cut all the way through. (Note: a band saw would be much easier to use if you have one. Also, take care not to overheat your table saw. This type of cutting puts a lot of strain on even the best table saw.) After ripping to width, I trim the planks to fit the fish and to fit my grill. Once the planks are ready, soak the planks in water for at least an hour prior to use, the longer the better.

The Sauce

The sauce recipe is courtesy Guy Fieri & Food Network with a couple of modifications:

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 jalapenos, cut into rings
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • ½ cup white wine
  • 3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard
  • 1 cup apricot preserves
  • (4) 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • Salt & pepper to taste

I have made this recipe at least five times and have used varying preserves/ jams: Orange marmalade, raspberry, blackberry, jalapeno marmalade, apricot. To be honest, there is not a discernible difference in the finished product, so use what ever you have in your pantry. I also use jarred jalapenos because I like more of a heat kick to my sauce.

In a small pan over medium heat, heat the oil. When hot, add jalapenos and saute until caramelized. Add garlic and before it begins to brown, deglaze pan with white wine. Next, add mustard and preserves and bring to a simmer. Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes and let completely cool before using.

Grilling

Prep your grill of choice to hot. I use charcoal, but this will work on a gas grill nicely as well.  Remove the planks from soaking in water. The Food Network recipe calls for skinned salmon fillets. I prefer to use skin on fillets for two reasons: 1) The skin adds a layer of flavor; 2) the skin acts as a buffer to the cedar plank. The skin will stick to the plank making it really easy to serve the fish skin free. Salt & pepper the salmon to taste.

Place the fish on the planks, trimming off any salmon that will be hanging over the edge. (I use the trimmings on another plank and serve as a little appetizer.) Liberally apply the cooled sauce to the fish. Any extra sauce can be used as additional sauce during cooking or at table. Just be sure not to cross-contaminate the raw fish into the cooled sauce.

Place the planks on the grill grate, directly over hot coals. The first couple minutes of cooking will be fairly smoky as you are burning wet wood. The planks themselves will be very scorched on the bottom and on the top edges up to the fish. Cooking time will depend on the grill temperature, thickness of the fillet, and desired doneness. Typically, I cook mine for 20-25 minutes. I find that it would take a lot to over cook the fish using this method. The moisture in the cedar plank, in a addition to the skin keep the fish moist.

Presentation

I leave the fish on the burnt plank and put that directly on the table. It’s quite a nice presentation just like that. I use a spatula to skim just above the skin and cleanly pull off the fillet, leaving the skin stuck to the plank. Serve with a side of lemon wedges.

Enjoy.

Good Luck.

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

Ten Tips for Remodeling your Kitchen

Here are ten tips for remodeling your kitchen, whether you are doing it yourself or hiring a professional (like ME!).

1. Assess the situation ahead of time and get a lot of opinions.
Let professionals come over and give their opinions. Also, talk with friends who have done remodeling in the past. They will let you know what they would change and their likes/ dislikes. Eventually you’ll start to get a feel for what is necessary, what you could do without and who you want to work with.

2. Find a creative Remodeler.
While the estimate was important in your decision, finding someone who has creative solutions is an important thing in the long run. A good remodeler will suggest things that make your kitchen look more custom and high end but won’t cost an arm and a leg. Most homeowners don’t always know what can be done, so having a professional opinion is invaluable.

3. Take your time in the planning stage.
You may be super anxious to get going, but spend time looking at magazine photos for inspiration, thinking creatively and drawing up sketches to show your remodeler. You may find solutions to what could have been very expensive fixes simply by taking the time to solve them creatively.

4. Do at least some of the prep work yourselves.
A lot of homeowners aren’t particularly handy with tools or building things. But, simple things can be done by homeowners to say some costs like removing the cabinets and flooring yourself, or doing the prep work on an old cabinet or millwork that will be refinished.

5. Details, details, details.
The key to a custom looking kitchen is in the details. That doesn’t mean fancy pants hand carved marble corbels either. You can choose things that look unique and special, or you can chose something that is plain and non-descript. It is the little details that will give your room the “ooh and ahh” factor so be unique and add some special features.

6. Don’t be afraid to speak up.
It may drive your remodeler crazy sometimes (not me though) because you want everything to be just right. But if something doesn’t look right or if you are second guessing your selection, speak up. And the sooner the better. It will cost less to fix it now than it will after everything is done.

7. Mix things up.
Don’t be boring when you can be special! Mix things up! Yes, you can use more than one style of hardware and more than one cabinet finish. We have done several kitchens where the island is finished with a different color or countertop choice. Adding glass to cabinet doors is an easy addition that adds some wow to the kitchen.

8. Drawers are better than doors.
Genereally speaking of course (you won’t be putting drawers in the upper cabinets). Save a step and use a drawer versus having cabinet doors to open and then the pullout. I like to pull out a drawer and see what is in it right away. No standing on my head to see in a deep dark cupboard and no fancy maneuvers to pull out a drawer within a cabinet.

9. Creative concealment.
Don’t spend big money to rip things out if you don’t have to. Have an ugly window? The cost to replace that with beauty? It could be $20,000 because it would involve remodeling the whole corner of your house.  Instead, a good coat of primer and paint and a little trim work can disguise what used to be ugly.

10. Work with what you have.
Keep the basic footprint of our kitchen intact. You will be able to keep plumbing and electrical costs to a minimum, as well as avoid replacing flooring by simply leaving your floorplan the same.

This list adapted from: http://www.divinecaroline.com/33666/79747-top-ten-kitchen-remodeling-tips

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

 

What’s in the kitchen? Pear & Fennel Salad

I figured that since I like to cook and that I remodel kitchens quite frequently, I should share some of the recipes I find enjoyable. So that’s what I’m doing. The recipes will not be exclusively mine, but rather my version of someone elses creativity. So here we go….stay tuned for more….( to steal a line from a Food Network Star)…good eats.

Pear & Fennel Salad: Recipe courtesy Food Network Magazine

This is a recipe I’ve made twice now, I have to admit that I wasn’t sure how it would taste based on the ingredients. Initially, I had no idea what a fennel was. Wikipedia says fennel is:

“Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum (treated as the sole species in the genus by most botanists). It is a member of the family Apiaceae (formerly the Umbelliferae). It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, but has become widely naturalized in many parts of the world, especially on dry soils near the sea-coast and on riverbanks.

It is a highly aromatic and flavorful herb with culinary and medicinal uses, and, along with the similar-tasting anise, is one of the primary ingredients of absinthe. Florence fennel or finocchio is a selection with a swollen, bulb-like stem base that is used as a vegetable.”

And it looks like this:

The recipe goes as follows: Whisk 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar with ½ teaspoon anise seed, salt, and pepper in a serving bowl, then whisk slowly in 1/3 cup olive oil. Add one thinly sliced fennel bulb, two thinly sliced pears, and some parsley. Season with salt and pepper and toss. Top with shaved pecorino.

This is a great summer recipe and goes well with other citrus-themed meals (i.e. fish). I use extra virgin olive oil instead of regular olive oil. I also found that using pears that are on the green side is actually better. (I found that out by accident- there were no ripe pears available when I made this the first time.) The firmness of the pears adds crispness and the pears hold up better for tossing and eating. I let the salad rest at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Do not let the salad rest too long though or the fennel will start to wilt.

Enjoy

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

What is Soapstone?

Soapstone (staetite) is a naturally occuring metamorphic rock made up of mineral deposits created by nature and quarried from the earth.  The main mineral components in soapstone include talc, chlorite, dolomite and magnesite, giving a warm, soft feeling to the touch.  When cut, it oxidizes from light grey to dark charcoal in color. A light coat of mineral oil or soapstone wax makes its color and subtle flowing veins even more dramatic.


Durability

Practically indestructible, soapstone is an excellent alternative natural stone to use in place of granite or marble. Soapstone is naturally antibacterial, will not burn or stain and requires very little maintenance. Acids and alkalis will not etch soapstone as they will other stones. Soapstone has been a part of American homes since the early 1800’s; many homes today still contain working soapstone sinks and wood stoves built over 100 years ago!

Soapstone is a perfect choice for countertops, backsplashes and islands.
Its durable and dense surface possesses all the beauty of granite or marble with none of
the drawbacks. Acidic food and wine won’t etch soapstone as they will other stone surfaces. Hot pots can be placed directly on the surface, and soapstone is non-porous making it naturally antibacterial.

Customers choosing soapstone should be aware that while soapstone is very dense and non porous it is still likely that it will scratch.  Soapstone is best used in a setting where the distressed look is desirable.   The good news is that if you don’t like the scratches, they can be buffed out with fine grit sandpaper.  It is stongly recommended to mineral oil or wax after the scratches are buffed.  After the mineral oil or wax application the area should be much less conspicuous or completely gone.  Often what appears to be a scratch is actually the mineral oil or wax being removed from the surface.  Usually the “scratch” can be removed just by applying mineral oil to the area.  Many of our customers like the patina that develops over time with their soapstone countertops.  The mineral oil and wax will not rub off on your clothes or other material if wiped clean.

Care and Maintenance
There is actually no special maintenance required for soapstone.  Most of our customers choose to apply mineral oil or soapstone wax to the surface of their soapstone countertops, but it is not necessary.  These products are applied to the surface only to darken the stone and enhance its natural beauty.  Soapstone appears naturally as a light grey, chalky looking surface (see photo to right).  When mineral oil or wax is applied to the soapstone, the surface will darken to dark charcoals and black, and the veining in the soapstone will really come to life.  Neither the mineral oil nor wax are sealing the soapstone or protecting the soapstone, but merely darkening it.

We recommend applying a light coat of mineral oil or soapstone wax to all sinks and countertops upon installation. These products can both enhance the inherent natural veining characteristics and crystallization detail of the stone.  Mineral oil can be found in any drug store and the soapstone wax can be purchased through Stone Countertop Outlet. 

Versatility of finish is one of the great pluses of soapstone. Not everyone chooses to color enhance their soapstone. Some homeowners love the natural, untreated soft-gray look. Others choose to bring out the color with mineral oil or wax.  Some treat it with mineral oil weekly, others monthly and some treat only when company is coming. However, when treating with mineral oil, the more often you treat after installation, the sooner you will not have to do it as often.  Waxing the surface will require less applications than the mineral oil and will need to be reapplied less often to keep the stone dark.

Nothing negative will happen to your soapstone if you choose not to apply mineral oil or wax, or if you forgot to apply either of these products.  Over time the stone will darken naturally on its own.  You will notice the soapstone darkening quicker around the high use areas, such as the sink, stovetop, prep areas, etc.  If initially you leave your countertops in their natural state and months later you want to oil or wax them, that is fine.  You do not have to commit to oiling or waxing soapstone the day it is installed.

Daily Cleaning
We recommend using mild soap and water to clear your soapstone countertops.  Soapstone is dense and non-porous, it is very germ and bacteria resistant.  Soapstone is a naturally clean surface. That being said, you can use any common household cleaners on your soapstone counters.  You do not have to worry about using ammonia based cleaners like you with other natural stones.  Setting hot pots or pans directly on your soapstone countertops will not affect the surface.  In Europe, soapstone is used primarily for the manufacturing of masonry heaters and wood burning stones.  Setting hot objects on your stone will not crack, discolor or harm the stone.

Information provided by Green Mountain Soapstone and Midwest Specialty Products via Stone Countertop Outlets.The slab shown above is Mirasol Spyder Soapstone.

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie

J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

Perefect time to update your kitchen with a Free Cambria Upgrade

Now is the perfect time to remodel your kitchen. J Carsten Homes & Remodeling is offering a Free Cambria Upgrade on qualifying Kitchen Remodels. This is up to a $1500 value.

Take a closer look at the benefits of Cambria.

  • Strength & Durability– Cambria Natural Quartz Surfaces™ are stronger than granite. Cambria is a surface that is truly everlasting.
  • Maintenance Free – No sealing, polishing or reconditioning is needed. Simply wash with warm water. It’s that simple. Plus, unlike granite, Cambria will resist stains from common food items such as wine, coffee and tea.
  • Food Safe – Unlike granite, Cambria has been certified by NSF International as safe for use as a food preparation surface. Cambria is nonporous; therefore, food and moisture cannot penetrate the surface — the main source of growth for harmful bacteria.
  • All Natural – Cambria is created from pure natural quartz, an extremely hard stone. In fact, quartz is the hardest non-precious stone that can be found in the earth’s surface.
  • Everlasting Value – With its beauty and performance advantages over granite, a Cambria kitchen countertop or bathroom vanity will add value to your home.
  • Guaranteed – As the only producer of quartz surfaces in the United States, Cambria is covered by a Lifetime Limited Warranty.

Safety and Performance

Today’s busy families demand products that stand up to rigorous use. With Cambria, you can be assured of a product that is not only beautiful and elegant, but also strong, durable and safe for food preparation.

Cambria’s nonporous surface:

  • Is certified by NSF International for both Splash Zone and Food Zone
  • Is nonporous, reducing the potential for bacterial growth
  • Is as food-safe as a stainless steel countertop
  • Resists stains caused by common food items such as coffee, tea and wine
  • Is stronger than granite
  • NEVER needs sealing or refinishing to keep its natural luster
  • Is maintenance free – simply wash with warm water
  • Comes with a limited lifetime warranty

Green Story:

Quartz is a mined product. It is mined through a pipe, one vein at a time and then is back-filled to preserve the integrity of the environment. Seventy percent of the material that is taken out of that vein is used in the finished product.

Granite is also a mined product. It is mined by destroying an entire area of a mountain, rain forest, etc. Approximately only 35% of the initial material becomes the finished product.

Pricing:

Same price for any of the 96 colors. Same price for any of 9 edge profiles.

Good Luck

Jason Myrlie

J Carsten Homes & Remodeling

The Sky is not falling!!

Just left the transmission shop after getting some good news. It wasn’t a leak, just a loose plug. That’s great, especially since on Friday I had to spend nearly $800 to fix my truck do to electrical issues. In the whole scheme of things though, even if there had been a leak, the relative cost wouldn’t have been that bad considering how blessed I am.

It made me think about my current work and financial situation. It’s not ideal, but it’s been worse. Much worse. The sky isn’t falling and most likely it never was. It is more likely that my reaction to my situation that made me think the sky is falling.

As I look at my life, the people around me, and my faith in the Lord, it’s clear to see that I am truly blessed. So I will stop complaining and be thankful for what I have and continue to pray for those who are less fortunate than me.

Good Luck

Jason- J Carsten Homes & Remodeling