Bo Peep’s Revenge: Braised Lamb Shank Minestra

Bo Peep’s Revenge: Braised Lamb Shank Minestra

I hate coffee (I know, it’s me and three other people over the age of 12 in the United States). Actually, I don’t have anything against coffee; I just don’t care for it. I also don’t like licorice or bell peppers. I’ve learned to work around all three when I am eating someone else’s cooking. I don’t make a big deal out of it, but I pass on coffee with dessert, and I always leave the green pepper chunks discreetly on my plate.

Everyone has something that they don’t care to eat. I use to ask people coming over for dinner “what do you like?” They invariably said, “Oh, I’ll eat anything,” and I end up making the one thing they absolutely detest. So now I ask, “What do you hate?” – and they tell me. It makes preparing a menu much easier, believe me.

We used to have a friend (who is no longer in the picture) that had this absolutely childish aversion to seafood. Wouldn’t eat it; wouldn’t consider eating it; and made unnecessary comments if someone else was eating it. In fact, his wife told me she had to throw out the Worcestershire sauce after he found out it contained anchovies. Like I said, a completely immature attitude about it.

I try to be attentive when someone tells me they don’t care for something. I would much rather alter my menu plans than intentionally serve someone something they don’t like. Same goes for people with allergies, people with moral aversion to eating meat, diabetics, and such. But sometimes you just need to secretly tweak someone who makes a big deal out of hating a particular food.

I can admit this now: After his wife told me about the Worcestershire sauce, I used to sneak anchovy paste into anything I could when I cooked for this friend. I know – it’s mean. No one else knew about it at the time, just me. It was my own little secret revenge because he was such a big baby about it. I would snicker every time he would rave about the macaroni and cheese (by the way, anchovy paste is an AWSOME addition to cheese sauce! I still use it when I make mac and cheese). It didn’t hurt him, and it made me feel a little better about having to put up with his grousing.

Do I feel guilty about the anchovy paste? I used to, just a tiny little bit – then my guilt was lifted. I told you that he wasn’t in the picture any more. That’s because he and his wife went through a rather ugly divorce – one where someone was definitely at fault. Needless to say, my newly single friend was distraught, and I was trying to comfort her so I decided to tell her about my secret little revenge. I’ve never seen someone turn from tears to laughter so fast in my life.

It just goes to show you: a little revenge is good for the soul. Think about what Bo Peep would have done to those wayward sheep once she got her hands on them.

Which leads me (although rather awkwardly) to this dish. I’ve mentioned my love for lamb before, but lamb isn’t the healthiest selection of meats. Because of that, we eat it rather sparingly around our house. Luckily, with Passover around the corner, lamb shanks were on sale. (I’m very ecumenical when it comes to bargains.) I also had 4 different kinds of greens in my CSA haul that I was trying to figure out how to use. I like lamb and cannellini beans, and I like beans with greens, so I just decided to throw everything together. It simmers for a couple of hours, so it’s low maintenance, and the lamb imparts so much flavor to everything else that it tastes much more upscale than it’s peasanty origins.

I used canned beans for this because I could not find dried cannellini beans anywhere. Of course, I could have used dried navy or great northerns, but I like the creamy texture of the bigger cannellinis. If you choose to use dried beans, just soak them overnight and add them at the beginning of the braising. You’ll probably have to go back and add some additional water as well.

At the last minute, I decided to throw a little acid in the pot. Boy, did it make a difference! Just a tablespoon of red wine vinegar really highlighted the robust flavors of the lamb and cut through some of the creaminess of the beans. Besides, vinegar’s always good on greens.

And I have to say that I’m torn – leaving the shanks whole makes a much nicer presentation, but stripping the meat and throwing it back in the pot makes it much easier to serve. Do whichever you want.

But the next time someone frustrates you with their unnecessary dietary demands, find a way to exact a little harmless, culinary revenge. It does wonders for your mood.

Braised Lamb Shank Minestra
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Hearty beans and greens accent earthy lamb shanks for a great family meal.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: Serves 4
  • 2 lamb shanks, about 1 lb. each
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3-4 C water
  • 2 15oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lb hearty greens, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 T red wine vinegar
  • Extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • Grated parmesan cheese (optional)
  1. Preheat large Dutch oven over medium high heat.
  2. Salt and pepper lamb shanks to taste.
  3. Add 4 T olive oil to Dutch oven and sear lamb shanks 5-6 minutes per side until browned.
  4. Add onion and carrots.
  5. Sauté 5-6 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  6. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper to taste.
  7. Sauté 1-2 minutes. Add enough water to cover ¾ of the lamb shanks.
  8. Add bay leaf, rosemary, and thyme sprigs.
  9. Bring to boil, cover, and reduce to simmer.
  10. Simmer for 1 ½ - 2 hours.
  11. Remove lamb shanks and reserve.
  12. Remove thyme stems and bay leaf, then discard.
  13. Add cannellini beans and bring to boil.
  14. Stir in greens and cook until wilted.
  15. Adjust seasoning as desired.
  16. Remove from heat and add red wine vinegar.
  17. Return meat to the pot to serve.
  18. Top with extra virgin olive oil and parmesan cheese, if desired.
Note: Removing lamb from the bone before returning to pot will make for easier serving.

This post is reblogged from my earlier site, Inexpensive Eating

Hearty and Healthy: Butternut Squash Soup

Hearty and Healthy: Butternut Squash Soup

OK, I will be the first one to admit that this recipe is not going to win any awards for originality or creativity, but it’s good. Really good. And simple. AND healthy. How often do you get to say all of that about one dish?

I must have some addiction to carotene because I love most orange hued vegetables: carrots, sweet potatoes and canned pumpkin are in my fridge and pantry year round. In fact, pumpkin is one of the few items I buy canned and find it just as good. Unfortunately, that same idea does not translate to other squashes.

Acorn, spaghetti, and butternut squashes only seem really tasty in the cooler months. I’ve tried frozen and canned but don’t care for either. You can also find squash all through the spring and summer, but like most produce, they definitely lack something when harvested out of season. For that reason, I try to make the best use of them while I can get them.

This soup of a great, weeknight meal. One pot, items I already have on hand, 45 minutes, pair it with some bread, and you’re done. I use chicken stock when I prepare it, but swap that out for vegetable stock and you have a vegan dish that satisfies everyone.

One of the pieces of kitchen equipment that I cannot live without anymore is my immersion blender. I use it constantly, and it is perfect to make this into a smooth, velvety soup that seems quite elegant. If you do not have an immersion blender, go buy one. But until then, you can work in batches and cream this soup in a blender – no one will be any the wiser.

The real trick to slightly sweet soups like this is to balance it with some acid. It changes everything. The best acid to use for orange vegetables? Cider vinegar, of course. If you don’t believe me, sample it without the vinegar and then add it. You will be amazed at the difference. But too much can be as bad as not enough, so be careful.

So if you’re looking for inventive, haute cuisine, you will have to keep looking. But if you are looking for hearty, simple, and fantastic – you’ve come to the right place.


Butternut Squash Soup
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Not fancy, but fantastic. Not stylish but simple to make. For omnivores and vegans alike. Perfect for a light weeknight meal.
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 4-6 servings
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 large butternut squash (2 ½ - 3 lbs), peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ⅛ t ground cinnamon
  • 4 C chicken stock
  • 2 T cider vinegar
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  1. Preheat a large soup pot over medium high heat.
  2. Add olive oil, celery, red pepper flakes, pinch each of salt & pepper.
  3. Sauté until onions are translucent.
  4. Add butternut squash, bay leaves, cinnamon, chicken stock, and another pinch of salt & pepper.
  5. Bring to a simmer, cover, and let cook for 40 minutes.
  6. Once the soup is cooked, remove bay leaves.
  7. Blend until smooth using an immersion blender. Alternatively, puree soup in a blender, working in batches.
  8. When soup is smooth, stir in cider vinegar and adjust seasonings to taste.
Optional: for a silkier (and more decadent) soup, stir in ½ C heavy cream at the end. Garnish with fresh dill, if desired.


A Quick Dinner Between Stops: Tomato, Asparagus, & Pesto Salad with Chicken

A Quick Dinner Between Stops: Tomato, Asparagus, & Pesto Salad with Chicken

It pays to plan ahead. I get mocked for it all the time, but I don’t care. Last weekend I spent the afternoon making pesto out of the abundance of basil that is all over the place this time of year. It’s quick, simple, fragrant, and delicious. Just 5 ingredients: basil, garlic, toasted nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil. I make it in the food processor, package it in handy-size containers, and stow it in the freezer for later. It’s amazing how often prepared pesto can get me out of a weeknight jam when there is only 20 minutes to make dinner before I have to run out the door for a client appointment, board meeting, or what have you.

All these veggies pair nicely with pesto on their own, so I thought I might as well toss them all together. Same goes for the chicken. I seasoned the chicken breasts with just simple salt and pepper, instead of doing anything that would compete with the pesto.

In an effort to add a little body to the sauce (which is really just pesto), I cook the orzo as I would a grain – a 2:1 ratio of liquid to orzo (when it’s finished cooking, it looks like a pot of rice). That way I can use all the starchy goodness that comes from the pasta when it cooks to give the sauce a little more heft. Cooking it in chicken stock just imparts that much more flavor. The only thing the recipe lacks is some crusty bread to go with it (which I happened to have on hand).

I know this is short, but that’s all the time I have – I’m running back out the door.

Tomato, Asparagus, & Pesto Salad with Chicken
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A healthy and great-tasting dinner you can have on the table in 20 minutes. Prepared pesto saves the day again.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
  • 2 boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 T olive oil, divided
  • 1 C orzo
  • 2 C chicken stock
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 lb asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2” pieces
  • ½ C frozen corn, thawed
  • ¼ C prepared pesto
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add chicken stock, orzo, and salt & pepper to taste.
  2. Simmer until al dente, stirring occasionally. Most of the liquid will be absorbed by the orzo.
  3. While orzo is simmering, preheat skillet over medium high heat.
  4. Season chicken breasts with salt & pepper.
  5. Add 1 T olive oil to skillet and sauté chicken 6-8 minutes per side.
  6. Remove from pan and allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting.
  7. As chicken rests, add remaining olive oil to same pan and sauté asparagus for 4-5 minutes.
  8. In a large mixing bowl, combine grape tomatoes, corn, pesto, asparagus, and orzo (with remaining chicken stock).
  9. Toss to combine and check seasonings.
  10. Slice chicken and serve atop orzo salad.


This post is reblogged from my earlier site, Inexpensive Eating

Look At Me: 4 Easy Focal Points for Your Kitchen

Look At Me: 4 Easy Focal Points for Your Kitchen

It’s a question I ask early in the selection process: what do you want people to notice first when they walk into your kitchen? There is really no wrong answer, just a matter of personal preference. I’ve used backsplash material to concentrate a person’s gaze, counters, pieces of art, even nothing at all. Here are a few examples of the most common focal points to create for your kitchen:

1. Backsplash

Probably the most common focal point created. A little splurge on eye-catching tile can be just the thing to set off a room,

Glass Tiles in Watery Blues Bring the Ocean Indoors

Glass tiles in watery blues bring the ocean indoors

but nothing says the backsplash has to be made out of tile either.

Granite Backsplash Creates Drama without Overshadowing

Granite backsplash creates drama without overshadowing

2. Countertop

Usually done with natural stone that has a little bit of oomph.

Bold Movement in Granite Counters Become a Natural Attention Grabber

Bold movement in granite counters becomes a natural attention grabber


Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

 Primary Color Countertop

Primary color countertops seize your gaze

3. Architectural Detail

This can allow you to work around a unique element of your existing room.

Arched doorway draws your attention

Arched doorway draws your attention

But you can also create an architectural detail specifically to become the highlight of your kitchen.

Create an architectural detail worth looking at

Create an architectural detail worth looking at

4. Negative Space

Sometimes intentionally leaving some space unused allows a client to put their personal twist on things.

Bold Colors Draw Paint draws attention to negative space created by high ceilings

Bold paint colors draws attention to negative space created by high ceilings

Even in a small kitchen, negative space can often be used as storage at the same time.

Negative space doubles as both storage and display space for Fiestaware

Negative space doubles as both storage and display space for Fiestaware

If you don’t have a kitchen focal point worth looking at, we can help you. Contact us to get started. We’d love to hear from you.




Be Prepared: Pan Seared Salmon with Orange Dill Reduction

Be Prepared: Pan Seared Salmon with Orange Dill Reduction

I always enjoy salmon, but I can get into kind of a rut with it. I seem to prepare it the same 2 or 3 ways, time after time. Recently I decided to shake it up – just a little bit.

Over the years I have come to realize that some of my most creative cooking ideas have come from just standing in front of the open refrigerator (thank goodness Mom can’t read this) and playing with whatever ingredients I have on-hand. I wish I could say that this dish took time to contemplate, compare and contrast various flavor profiles to come up with the perfect combination, but no. This arose strictly from being too lazy to run to the store and pick up anything else.

And I cannot stress this enough: a well-stocked pantry can save almost any dinner situation. My friends mock me for the variety of items I consider ‘staples’. Most people stop at flour, sugar, and butter. I also keep 3 kinds of rice, quinoa, barley, cornmeal, sundried tomatoes, olives, pumpkin, 6 kinds of vinegars, 3 kinds of mustard, …well, you get the picture. And if you don’t have enough space to store all of these ingredients, then I also happen to know a great kitchen designer who can solve that problem for you. Some simple storage accessories will work wonders for your pantry!

The best part – this dish is incredibly easy and takes about 15 minutes to put together. Seriously, the vegetables took longer to cook than the salmon did. Of course, we like out salmon medium to medium-rare. If you like yours more well-done, you might take 20 minutes instead.

So consider adding to your pantry list, it’s always handy to be prepared.

Pan Seared Salmon with Orange Dill Reduction
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A quick and easy weeknight meal that looks like it took a lot of effort. Want to impress your family and friends? Then make this dish.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Easy, Seafood
Serves: 4
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 4 salmon filets (4-6 oz. each)
  • Juice of 1 orange (approx. ½ C)
  • 2 T chopped fresh dill
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • ¼ C sour cream
  • 1 t white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat 10" non-stick sauté pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Salt and pepper salmon filets.
  3. Add olive oil to preheated pan and add salmon filets, flesh-side down.
  4. Sear for 3 minutes, flip, and sauté for 3-4 more minutes.
  5. Remove salmon from pan and cover with foil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium.
  7. Add orange juice, dill, and scallions.
  8. Reduce orange juice by half (3-4 minutes).
  9. Stir in sour cream and white wine vinegar.
  10. Remove from heat.
  11. Salt and pepper to taste.
  12. So serve, spoon 1-2 tablespoons of orange reduction over each salmon filet.
  13. Garnish with sprig of fresh dill, if desired.


A Cook’s Kitchen

A Cook’s Kitchen

I always enjoy working with clients who have a passion for cooking. It’s fun to talk about not only appropriate storage needs and aesthetic desires, but also the virtues of various olive oils, cookware, and techniques. This particular project also had an additional perk – it was challenging. You see, we wanted to create a cook’s kitchen in a small condo at Mt. Vernon.

Inspriation Piece

Inspiration Piece

The Inspiration

The client wanted what I believe at the time was described as ‘Transitional Tuscan’. She had found a print styled to look like a postcard, depicting an various stages of olive oil that became the color palette, but she wanted none of the weathering or detailing that is normally associated with a Tuscan look.

The Challenge

I’ve designed many small kitchens in condos, but creating a cook’s kitchen in a small space is often like trying to get 10 lbs. of flour to fit into a 5 lb. bag, something is going to spill over. Built-in appliances were a given – the ergonomic and mechanical functionality they can bring is essential for a serious cook; a full-size refrigerator was also necessary; and a coffee bar/serving area adjacent to the dining room was also on the list of must-haves. One saving grace for me – this client wanted to keep some formality for her dining area, and therefore wanted the kitchen to stay a separate room. Why is that good? Because I didn’t have to eliminate walls to open up the space like I did for this Mt Vernon renovation. More walls means more flexibility in the kitchen design.

Cook's Kitchen.Before 1     Cook's Kitchen.Before 2     Cook's Kitchen.Before 3     Cook's Kitchen.Before 4

To make matters more interesting, the kitchen also doubled as a laundry room with no defined area for a washer or dryer (notice the ‘BEFORE’ photo, click to enlarge). There was no place else to locate these appliances so they had to stay in the kitchen – but be inconspicuous.

The Results

Transitional Tuscan 4

A galley kitchen, with everything a serious cook can desire.

A galley kitchen with plenty of room to create is exactly what the client wanted. By grouping the big appliances together, it actually maximizes the visual space. Stacked washer and dryer were hidden by an extra-deep oven cabinet and refrigerator alcove. Deep drawers were used almost everywhere to accommodate her various cooking vessels, and roll out trays were added under the cooktop for pots & pans. The coffee bar/serving area was created by stealing space from an underutilized hall closet. Trash is convenient but concealed next to the sink, and indirect cove lighting is paired with LED under-cabinet lighting to satisfy the homeowner’s ‘no can lights’ edict.

Transitional Tuscan 2

Deep appliance cabinets help conceal the washer & dryer at the end of the kitchen

Choosing the Simplicity door style from our private Stressless Collection of cabinetry allowed the homeowner to maximize her budget without giving up the essential details and accessories she wanted. The Almond Butter painted finish warms up the cabinetry just a little to keep with the Tuscan colors. Paired with Coast Green granite (sealed with a 15-year dry coat process for less maintenance), stainless steel appliances, and black handles, the cabinetry contrasts nicely with each element. Rounding out the finishes are matching floor and backsplash porcelain tile which resembles sandstone adds a rustic touch that nods towards the Tuscan.

All in all, I’d say they were happy: I went home with 2 bottles of gourmet vinegars and two of the best olive oils I’ve ever tasted. As I said, I enjoy working with clients who have a passion for cooking.

Transitional Tuscan 1

The warmth of Tuscan colors with transitional simplicity

Cabinetry: Stressless Collection
Doorstyle: Simplicity
Wood Specie: Maple
Finish: Almond Butter
Countertops: Coast Green granite
Remodeling Partners: Fred H. Bey, Inc.; Rice’s Appliances

Transitional Tuscan 3

Dual purpose: coffee bar & serving area

If you’re kitchen layout leaves you uninspired, we can help. Leave the worrying to us. Contact us today to get started.



Stolen Inspiration: Chipotle Poached Shrimp Tacos

Stolen Inspiration: Chipotle Poached Shrimp Tacos

I find that inspiration for new dishes comes from a multitude of sources: childhood memories, fantastic restaurant meals, conversation with friends, bizarre dreams (yes, it’s true – I do dream about cooking from time to time), etc. But I think the most often used source of inspiration comes from the plethora of cooking and travel shows with which I seem to fill my television-viewing time.

The local PBS station has added an additional HD channel to its line-up called Create. It’s full of familiar PBS programs that show you how to build, garden, paint, sew, travel, and cook. The travel hosts are these intrepid globe trekkers hopping from country to country, showing us not only the history, art, and architecture of each place, but also the unique cuisine of the region (always makes me alternate from cringing to salivating as I see what they eat). One recent afternoon, sandwiched between trips to London and Paris, was a repeat of America’s Test Kitchen, which was tackling Mexican food. Don and I both stopped in our tracks as we watched them work their magic on chicken tacos. They came up with a preparation that I knew I needed to steal pay homage to in a recipe.

OK, I freely admit that I stole the cooking method they presented – but the flavor profile and ingredients are my own. The only ingredient common to both recipes is chipotle in adobo. I’m telling you, this is like no flavor you’ve ever had in a taco. The cooking method poaching the protein in citrus juice, then reduce the juice to create a great sauce to spoon over the tacos. (If tacos aren’t your thing, this would make a great addition to a seasoned rice dish as well.)

The added beauty is that all of the ingredients are staples in my fridge. It’s quick and simple – two adjectives that I can’t apply to many of the recipes I come up with. I chose to use lime juice for my shrimp because it’s the first thing I think of when it comes to Mexican food. The only trick is removing the shrimp before they are cooked all the way through. Since you are adding them back to the reduced sauce at the last minute, you want to make sure the final dish isn’t overcooked (nothing worse than rubbery shrimp, is there?)
I know there are all sorts of theories about not serving dairy products with seafood, so I left it off for the glamour shots, but I certainly loaded the jack cheese and sour cream onto my taco before I ate it.

I also had some fresh ears of corn in the fridge that needed a reason to be cooked. I always think lime pairs well with corn, so I decided to roast the corn along with some scallions and created a simple Lime Corn Salad to go with the shrimp tacos.

The chipotle gives a smoky punch to the shrimp. The natural sweetness that comes out of roasting corn complemented the tacos brilliantly. (I have to say, being a Hoosier boy, there’s nothing like fresh corn you pick up at an Indiana roadside stand, but I am certainly developing a fondness for fresh Florida corn as well. I think it’s a little sweeter, but Indiana corn has more depth of flavor). And with the obvious lime flavor running through the meal, an ice-cold Corona is the only thing that made sense. Just like the right wine selection, it enhanced the flavors and pulled the meal together.

I made enough for leftovers – and let me tell you, both dishes were even better after they’d had a chance to sit overnight. (I always think it’s strange how some leftovers can taste even better than the fresh dish.)

Regardless of where the inspiration came from, I’m just glad that this new dish is around. Don is already hitting me up to make it again. That’s always a good sign.

Chipotle Poached Shrimp Tacos
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A quick and simple twist to seafood tacos that makes it perfect for a weeknight meal.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 4 servings
  • 1 T unsalted butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 canned chipotle pepper, minced (with about 1 T of adobo sauce)
  • ¼ C chopped parsley, divided
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 1 lb. fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • ½ C Shredded cabbage
  • ½ C sour cream (if desired)
  • ½ C shredded Monterey Jack cheese (is desired)
  1. Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat.
  2. Add butter, garlic, chipotle and adobo. Sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  3. Add lime juice and 3 T chopped parsley. Bring to a simmer.
  4. Add shrimp, cover, and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until shrimp are opaque, but not quite cooked through.
  5. Remove shrimp and reserve.
  6. Reduce remaining liquid by two-thirds, until thick.
  7. Turn off the heat.
  8. Return shrimp to pan and add remaining 1 T of chopped parsley.
  9. Stir until shrimp are coated with sauce.
  10. Salt and pepper to taste.
  11. Warm flour tortillas and add ¼ of shrimp mixture to each tortilla and top with shredded cabbage.
  12. Add sour cream and cheese, if desired.

this post is reblogged from my earlier site, Inexpensive Eating.

5 Tricks For Your Tiny Bathroom

5 Tricks For Your Tiny Bathroom

It’s a 50’s holdover that is common to almost every home in America: a tiny bathroom with a tub/shower, toilet, and vanity all crammed in one small space. Back then, the average home had one bathroom that measured 5 feet by 8 feet. Even though most homes built today have 2 (or more) bathrooms, you can still find those minimal measurements in at least one of the bathrooms.

Well, fear not – you can make these rooms at least FEEL larger than they do right now without adding on to either the house or the remodeling budget. Here are 5 tricks I’ve picked up along the way to maximize those itty-bitty bathrooms.

1. Go Big

Go Big

Conventional wisdom is to use smaller tiles in smaller spaces. Not so! Small tiles require more grout lines, and more grout lines can make a small space look busy and tight. Consider using tiles that are at least 18″ square. 20″ or 24″ could be even better. Don’t like square tiles? A variety of options are available in 12″x24″ as well.

One step further is to use tiles with a rectified edge. These tiles can be mounted much closer together and grout lines can look as thin as pencil marks.

2. Focus In

Focus In

One of the most common mistakes in small spaces is trying to do too much. More is not necessarily better in these instances. It’s best to pick one item that you would like to make the focal point of the room. It can be a mirror, a tile accent, a light fixture or even the countertop. Make that one thing pop and let the rest be background.
Negative Space

And don’t forget the impact that negative space can make. Sometimes not putting anything on the walls is the best solution – it’s surprising how loud a statement that ‘nothing’ can make.

3. Be Transparent

Be Transparent

In a small bathroom, you want to be able to see as much of the room as possible. The easiest way to see more is to ditch the shower curtain and add a glass enclosure. Clear glass will give you the maximum effect, but not everyone likes to be that exposed in the shower. Obscure glass adds to the visual space, but not as much as clear. If your bathroom is setup in such a way that you see the tub/shower in front of you as you walk in the room, then combine Trick #2 and Trick #3: create a tile accent in the shower as your focal point and make sure everyone can see it by using a clear glass enclosure.

4. Light ‘Em Up

Light em Up

I don’t care how big or small a particular room is – proper lighting is a must. Even in a small bathroom, 2 light sources are a minimum, and it need to come from 2 different directions. A simple solution for small bathrooms is to add wall-mounted lighting over the vanity, then recessed lighting for the tub/shower space.

5. Pull It Together

5 Tricks For Your Tiny Bathroom

I like bold contrast, but it’s tricky in a small space. Beyond your chosen focal point, consider coordinating various tones of the same color family.

Bonus Trick

If you do choose to go bold, here’s a Bonus Trick: your brain perceives horizontal finishes first, so make the horizontal surfaces as light as possible (the floors and the countertops); choose darker tones for the vertical surfaces (cabinets and accessories are a good choice, even a bold paint color on the wall can work). Your brain will perceive a lighter and larger room.

Spring on a Fork: Pea Pesto Ravioli

Spring on a Fork: Pea Pesto Ravioli

Few things taste like springtime more than sweet baby peas and mint. In fact, that is one of my all-time favorite flavor combinations. The winter months have felt exceptionally long for some reason, and this dish just tastes like Spring on a fork to me.

I know not everyone is going to take the time to make their own pasta dough and roll it out for ravioli (although with the stand mixer attachment, it is incredibly simple). In case you aren’t that adventurous but would still like to try these magnificent creations, you can pick up a package of fresh wonton wrappers from the supermarket instead (my local Publix keeps them in the produce department). The filling takes about 2 minutes to bring together. If you use the supermarket shortcut, it becomes a weeknight meal that is worth serving to company.

The ravioli filling is so light that a heavy sauce would just overpower it. I stick with a simple lemon-infused butter, which takes no more time than heating the pasta water. Add a little grated parmesan, some crusty bread, a salad – and dinner is done in about 30 minutes. To make it even easier, you can assemble the ravioli on a weekend, freeze them, and dinner can be done in no more than 10 minutes – how’s that for fast?

So if you need a little pick-me-up after a long, hard winter, then these little emerald bundles are just the ticket.


Pea Pesto Ravioli
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Use this quick and simple recipe to get rid of the winter blues by adding some green to your plate.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Italian
Serves: 4
Pasta Dough
  • 2 C all purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2-3T water
  • pinch of salt
  • (You can substitute prepackaged wonton wrappers if you do not wish to make your own dough. You will need a total of 96 wonton wrappers)
  • 1½ C frozen baby peas, thawed
  • ½ C marscarpone cheese
  • 1 garlic clove, rough chopped
  • 12-15 mint leaves
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 8T unsalted butter
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 C frozen baby peas, thawed
  • ½ t salt
  • ¼ t freshly ground black pepper
  • grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Pasta Dough
  1. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, eggs, olive oil, and salt.
  2. Mix until combined.
  3. Add enough water to pull the dough together.
  4. Continue kneading for 3 minutes.
  5. Form dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and let stand on counter for 1 hour before rolling.
  1. Add 1½C thawed baby peas, marscarpone cheese, chopped garlic, and mint leaves to the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Pulse into combined and relatively smooth, 6 or 8 pulses.
  3. Transfer into a small mixing bowl and cover until needed.
To Assemble Ravioli
  1. Working on a lightly floured surface, cut ball of pasta dough into 4 equal pieces.
  2. Work with one piece at a time, keeping the remainder covered.
  3. Follow manufacturer's instructions to pass dough through pasta roller until you reach thickness level 6. Rolled dough should be approximately 4" x 36".
  4. Lay dough horizontally in front of you.
  5. Using ¼ of the mixture, place 1t of filling at a time about 1" up from the bottom edge, and 1" from the left edge.
  6. Moving right, repeat this process, spacing the filling about 3" apart, until you have 12 filling mounds.
  7. Use a pastry brush to brush the visible dough around the filling with water, which acts as a sealer.
  8. Fold the top half of the moistened dough over the filling, meeting the top edge with the bottom edge.
  9. Use your fingers to carefully seal all around the filling mounds, making sure to remove any air pockets along the way.
  10. Use a knife to cut the ravioli into 12 pieces.
  11. (Note: if you are using wonton wrappers instead, place 1t of filling in the middle of 1 wrapper, brush the edges with water, and place a second wrapper on top, sealing the edges, and eliminating any air bubbles.)
  12. Move the ravioli pieces to a floured baking sheet, arranging in a single layer, and cover with a towel.
  13. Repeat with the remainder of the dough and filling until you have 48 ravioli.
  14. At this point, the ravioli can be frozen on the baking sheets, gathered into a freezer bag, and stored for later use.
To Cook
  1. Fill a large pasta pot with salted water and begin to heat on the cooktop over medium-high heat.
  2. At the same time, place a large pan on a separate burner over low heat.
  3. In the cool pan, add lemon zest and butter. The lemon zest will infuse the butter as the pasta water comes to a boil.
  4. When the pasta water comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and place approximately 12 ravioli into the simmering water.
  5. Once the ravioli float to the top, continue to cook for 3 more minutes.
  6. Gently drain the ravioli and transfer to the pan with butter sauce.
  7. Toss gently.
  8. Repeat with the remainder of the ravioli.
  9. Once all the ravioli are in the butter sauce, add 1 C thawed frozen peas, and gently toss.
  10. Serve with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.


Clean and Contemporary on the Braden River

Clean and Contemporary on the Braden River

Maple Tempo 1Cramped, separate, and traditional are not three words these Bradenton homeowners wanted to use to describe their kitchen. Unfortunately, those are the first words that came to mind when someone walked into the room. That’s why they called us.

What good is a river view if you can’t enjoy it? Opening up the kitchen created a great room out of what was once two small spaces. In turn, the living room picture window brings more natural light into the kitchen.


Maple Tempo 5Having lived with dark and rustic cabinetry for so long, these clients chose StarMark Cabinetry’s Tempo slab door style to achieve a sleek look. A honey maple finish makes ensures the visual warmth remains in the kitchen while enhancing the look of sleek stainless steel, Jenn-Air appliances. Giallo Rio granite, with its caramel tones and black accent ties the cabinetry and appliances together.

Maple Tempo 4A hood wasn’t important to the homeowners, so placing a cooktop on the peninsula meant we didn’t have to sacrifice the newfound open feel. (While local building codes do not require mechanical ventilation as long as an operating window is available, I always think it is a good idea. This is one instance where the homeowners’ wishes trumped my suggestion.)

Pantries remedy the storage shortage that occurs when eliminating wall cabinets. Flanking the refrigerator with split pantries also provides a more aesthetically-pleasing alcove to house the appliance, mimicking the adjacent built-in oven and microwave. A small  island bridges the large floor space between storage, prep, and primary cooking zones. Finally, a little bit of glass creates a natural focal point from the living area, while stem glass racks below form an entertainment zone at the same time.Maple Tempo 3









Cabinetry: StarMark Cabinetry
Doorstyle: Tempo
Wood Specie: Maple
Finish: Honey
Countertops: Giallo Rio granite
Remodeling Partners:Fred H. Bey, Inc.; Rice’s Appliances


the ‘befores’…

Before 1Before 2

Before 3Before 4

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Scott was great! After he saw my kitchen & measured, he came up with a design that afforded me more space. He worked with my schedule, answered all questions. The whole process went like clockwork. I was very pleased! Having never gone through a remodel before, it was awesome. Not having a kitchen for a month was a challenge, but worth it. From start to finish, my kitchen has turned into a showcase. I am so pleased, I even had 3 bathrooms remodeled as well. Again, Scott came through with a minimum amount of hardship. When friends have come in and saw what was done, they were impressed & I told them who did it. So, I’m making sure people know your name…

- D. Burkitt - Bradenton