The kitchen is the heart, the hub, of a home. So when a homeowner remodels or buys a new house, the kitchen often gets the most attention.
Even those who don't cook that often prefer a kitchen that has lots of cabinets and counter space and is big, open and multifunctional.
Sure, you can drool over kitchens on any HGTV decorating and remodeling show, but there's nothing like being in a real kitchen to get ideas for making our own space even more hospitable.
That's easy to do on Saturday and Sunday during the Kitchens of the Bluegrass Tour 2009, sponsored by Child Development Centers of the Bluegrass.
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Diane James' kitchen is one of 11 on the tour. It was remodeled two years ago when she bought a house on Mentelle Park that was built in 1916. James removed walls in the house to turn a small kitchen, pantry and dining room into a large, open living area. The kitchen was designed to suit the house's style and the owner's personality. It's spacious and functional, without frou-frou.
"I've lived in enough kitchens in my life to know what I want in a kitchen and what I don't need," said James, a general contractor.
She does a lot of work with Habitat for Humanity. "That's really my passion," James said. She and a friend also have built a few homes for low-income families who didn't qualify for Habitat.
"I just pick up different jobs here and there," she said.
When she needed help remodeling her own home, friends pitched in.
The kitchen cabinets are dark cherry wood, and the island has a marble top and a dual-fuel stove. The gas stovetop was "something I really wanted," she said.
James installed a farmhouse sink. "That's another thing I really wanted. I think it looks great. I especially wanted to have a larger sink on one side, so I can lay a big pan or casserole dish in the sink."
James' kitchen isn't cluttered with every gadget available. She has only the things she really needs. One of her favorite items — a KitchenAid stand mixer — has its own cabinet. The cabinet has a hinged shelf that rolls out and up to bring the mixer to countertop level.
Each of her four daughters, Ashley, Courtney, Bailey and Katie, owns a KitchenAid stand mixer.
"It's like their coming-into-adulthood gift," James said.
Her daughters also have their mother's love for cooking. James said she was inspired by her father, who often tried to master a few of Julia Child's recipes.
When her girls were in school and lived at home, dinnertime was like every other busy household's.
"I cook for special occasions now that the kids aren't around," she said.
James' kitchen was built with that in mind. Guests can gather around the kitchen island to help with special dishes, such as her father's spaghetti sauce and homemade pasta. Here are the recipes.
Homemade egg noodles
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1 egg white
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons cold water
In the bowl of a food processor, using a metal blade, place flour, egg, egg white, oil and salt. Turn on food processor to mix ingredients. Slowly pour cold water into mix, while processor is running, until dough forms a ball. Let dough ball continue to process for one minute to knead. Place dough in a plastic bag to rest for 10 minutes before rolling it out.
When rolling it out, add lots of flour to keep it from sticking together. To cut pasta, follow manufacturer's directions for pasta maker. Makes 4 servings.
To make by hand: Place flour in a large bowl. Make a well in center and add egg, egg white, oil and salt. Mix together until dough can be gathered into rough ball. Add a little water if necessary. Knead dough on floured board 10 minutes. Dough should be smooth, shiny and elastic. Place dough ball in a plastic bag to rest for 10 minutes before rolling it out.
Daddy's spaghetti sauce
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup butter
1 cup chopped onion
1 pound fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 pound ground beef
½ pound hot or mild Italian sausage, uncooked
5 cloves garlic, pressed
4 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ounces red wine
3 16-ounce cans tomato sauce
6 ounces tomato paste
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
Warm oil and butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add onion and mushrooms, and sauté until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
In another pan, brown ground beef and Italian sausage. Add garlic, parsley, salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add wine, and steam 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, tomato paste, carrots, celery, cooked onions and mushrooms to meat. Bring to boiling. Cover and cook over low heat 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
Makes 12 servings.