So the verdict's in on the new old kitchen: it rocks. I have now entertained three times for groups of twenty or more, and I give the kitchen five stars in all categories:
Work space for food prep;
Storage space for ingredients bought in bulk;
Staging space (bar area, appetizer layouts, etc.); and
On Sunday, I decided to do some further testing and bake cookies and pumpkin bread for the neighborhood. Nine dozen cookies and seven loaves of bread was the plan. Seven loaves of bread was achieved: all baked at once, on multiple racks, with good results across the board (although the ones on the top rack came out slightly puffier, with a prettier crack across the crown, so the next time that I am only baking a couple of loaves that's gonna be my go-to).
Nine dozen butter brickle and pecan cookies ended up being six dozen butter brickle and pecan cookies, because I like to make 'em big, and they didn't end up going to the neighbors, because the kids appropriated them. If my kids ask, they were JUST BUTTER BRICKLE COOKIES. If told that they have pecans in them, Little Kid is likely to respond, "Cool - I like pecans," but Big Kid (having just inhaled several of them, without complaint) will say something like, "Okay, I knew that I tasted pecans. I don't want to have any more." Because, evidently, Big Kid has an intolerance for protein-rich foods. Except for cheese - cheese, he loves. Carbs? Lives for them. Vegetables? No problem. Protein? Not if it comes in the form of meat, beans or nuts.
Somehow, he's still growing. It's rather inexplicable.
I am delighted to report that I had six large cookie sheets in rotation, and there was place for all of them on the counters while still leaving room for other food prep. This is a novelty. The old kitchen was definitely a two-cookie sheet joint.
Photo 1: Pumpkin bread ready to go in the oven.
Photo 2: Cooling cookies, and pumpkin bread packaged with simmering spice mix and oranges. (Big loaf in the front was for our brand new neighbor, Med Student Morgan, who was in the process of moving in on Sunday - thought she could use a little extra sustenance.)
I forgot to take an "after" photo of the bread, pre-packaging. The spice mix-and-orange idea came from: (1) my
rediscovery of a container of mulling spices in the pantry; (2) my
rediscovery of the "Keep Warm" burner on my cooktop (the PERFECT place
to keep mulling spices mulling all season long); (3) a surplus of
mulling spice additions that revealed themselves when I got out the
cream of tartar for the cookies; and (4) a similar surplus of tiny
oranges. Little Kid would eat them until he gives himself the runs (no
danger of scurvy with that one), so I have to ration them out, but if I
do that and Spouse happened to buy the big bag, then some of the oranges
go bad before we get around to eating them. So neighbors got bread,
mulling spices and oranges, with a note: "We are thankful for having
you as neighbors. Have some pumpkin bread on the McGlincheys (because
you can never have too much pumpkin-based food this time of year), and -
when the turkey and pie are a distant memory - add these spices and a
few slices of orange to water or apple cider on the stove, simmer and
continue to enjoy the scents of the holiday. May your bird be moist and
your leftovers plentiful!"
I had to modify the note a little bit for our vegetarian neighbors, for whom poultry humidity levels are a non-issue.
If you want to trick out mulling spices for your own use this November, take the usual stuff (which is heavy on the more Christmas-y smells) and throw in a little ground nutmeg and allspice, a handful of bay leaves, and perhaps some sage for full turkey effect. I was pleased with the results.
Almost as pleased as I am with the new old kitchen.
I promise more photos of the kitchen will follow . . . now that I have a better cell phone camera. And Instagram.