The Kitchen: Tabula Rasa

This weekend, we got a babysitter for a couple hours and demo’d the kitchen. It was so therapeutic and fun! We haven’t done any hardcore demo in awhile and we have been waiting anxiously since we moved in to renovate the kitchen, it felt like “we’re finally doing it!” And although we ripped all the cabinets and countertops and backsplash out of this kitchen whose cabinets we painted last year:


We really are renovating the original kitchen we were greeted with when we moved in:


And this kitchen, post-new floors, where we reconfigured the island to fit the pantry cabinets into the kitchen from the dining area.


I really don’t know what before photo to use when all this is said and done, but either way, it looks like this now:


We started by pulling up all the tile countertops. They were very heavy so we had to try to remove the tile before lifting the countertop piece. In the process, we discovered at some point the tile countertops were added on top of pink laminate countertops with wood trim.


And behind the tile backsplash, we found a piece of mauve-ish laminate backsplash, too:


It was fun seeing into our home’s pink and purple past. And as much as those tile countertops weren’t for us, I am also for anybody improving their home the way they want to. After the counters came off, we had to remove the cabinetry, which required unscrewing the boxes from the wall and each other. We put them on our neighborhood’s garage sale page and someone bought the whole kitchen for $200 within minutes.


While removing the backsplash, we weren’t planning on tearing down the whole wall with it, but those tiles were on there good! While the kitchen is empty, the study got a few new additions.


We scooted our fridge in here (moved the couch, art, rug, lamp, etc. temporarily downstairs), two cheap plastic shelves and a table to kind of serve as our make-shift kitchen during all of this. It’s a little chaotic, but we’re just grateful we have the room to not be completely without during this remodel. We’ve been using the new laundry sink to wash dishes.


Later this week, we’ll be tearing down that wall on the right and start framing out the recessed fridge, walk-in pantry and new doorway leading to the pantry. We reconfigured a few of the plans and measured everything 6 times to make sure this is all really going to work–I owe you an update there! We have another week or so of demo and patching floors and moving lines and then we’ll be ready to start putting it together again.

10-Minute Salt & Vinegar Chicken

Life is busy. I barely even have time to write this post, and you’re probably deciding right now whether or not you have time to read it. Well if you do,  you’ll thank me forever for it because this is one of the fastest and most delicious chicken dishes you’ll ever come across.

I actually heard about this salt & vinegar chicken (different from the salt & vinegar wings in the “Chris Loves Wings” book) from my older brother and it sounded intriguing, because he said there were only three ingredients – salt, vinegar, and chicken. That seemed a bit too simple for me, so I added a fourth – brown sugar. But the best part about this recipe is it only needs a 10-minute soak in the vinegar solution before cooking! So fast, and seriously flavorful. Here it is:

Chris Loves Julia - Salt & Vinegar Chicken

• 4 portions of bone-in, skin on chicken (thighs, wings, legs, or breast). I used 4 split chicken breasts.
• about 2.5 cups apple cider vinegar
• about 1/3 cup salt
• about 1/4 cup (not packed down) brown sugar

The measurements on this one are forgiving, so it will all be ok if it’s not exact. All you do is mix the vinegar, salt and sugar together until it’s all dissolved, then pour it over the chicken until it’s covered. Let it sit for 10 minutes with the skin sides down.

Chris Loves Julia - Salt & Vinegar Chicken

I cooked mine on the grill, because I freaking love the grill, but you could probably cook this in the oven as well. For grilling, as soon as you get the chicken covered in the brine, turn the grill on high and let it heat for 10 minutes. If using charcoal, you’ll want to heat the coals beforehand.

See, most brines I use are a solution of water, salt and acid (like lemon juice or vinegar). Because this one is so concentrated (no water – all vinegar), it starts to penetrate the meat very quickly. You have decent flavor at only 5 minutes. Optimal at 10. 20 minutes starts to get a little strong. So you want to make sure however you’re going to cook this, you’ll be ready to remove it from the brine around the 10 minute mark.

Another thing I always talk about when grilling, especially in my books, is to oil the food, not the grill. Generally, that’s how I roll, but with this dish you don’t want to rinse off any of the brine, but oil and water/vinegar don’t mix, so you can’t just put oil on it or it won’t stick. So with this dish, I oil the grill, and I do it like so:

Chris Loves Julia - Salt & Vinegar Chicken

Use a clean, old wash cloth that you don’t care about, squirt it with oil and rub it on your hot grill. That will help keep the meat from sticking when you take it straight from the brine and put it on the grill. Cook until done (white meat, 163 degrees internal temp and let it rest for 10 minutes; dark meat, 175 and let it rest for 10 minutes).

Chris Loves Julia - Salt & Vinegar Chicken

I for real want to issue you a challenge, and I want you to take it seriously. Make this chicken sometime this weekend. Seriously, I want you to trust me on this and try it. I’m always trying to tell people that they don’t have to listen to food writers who just get crazy with things and make everything so complicated. You don’t need to feel overwhelmed when you cook, and this chicken is proof. Make it and come back and tell me your thoughts. I’d love to hear them. :)

10-Minute Salt & Vinegar Chicken
Servings: 4
Quick and delicious, I really think you'll love it. 10-Minute Salt & Vinegar Chicken
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Ingredients

    • 4 portions of bone-in, skin on chicken
    • about 2.5 cups cider vinegar
    • about 1/3 cup salt
    • about 1/4 cup brown sugar


    1. Preheat your grill.
    2. Make the brine by combining the vinegar, salt and sugar until dissolved. Pour the brine over the chicken until covered and let the chicken sit in the brine, skin side down, for 10 minutes.
    3. Using an old rag dipped in cooking oil, rub your grill grate with cooking oil to prevent sticking.
    4. Take the chicken from the brine and put it straight on the grill, skin side down first. Flip over at 5 minutes, cook until almost done, and flip to finish for another 5 minutes with the skin side down.

    Before and After: A Bathroom Turned Laundry Room

    I am so thrilled to be sharing some after photos with you today of our laundry room we have been renovating. This project has been one of our favorite and a very new kind of project, because it wasn’t a laundry room to begin with at all. Maybe you remember, it used to be a 4th bathroom off of our kitchen/dining room!


    We never used it and no guest wants to use a restroom right off of the kitchen. Fortunately, we have another bathroom in the entry to our home and we started brainstorming how to make better use of this space. That’s when the idea sparked to turn our old laundry space into a walk in pantry and this unused 4th bathroom into the laundry room.

    old and new floor plans

    Here’s a before photo facing what was the bathroom, before we tore down the wall:


    I couldn’t find a photo of this area before we laid the new flooring in here, but after we started demo, we had to tear up a portion of the wood tile and re-lay it where the wall, toilet and vanity were.


    We also had to take off the whole back wall to move the washer and dryer hookups over here, a vent for the dryer that directed out of our roof, and although it was tight, we even made room for a small utility sink!


    Here’s how the angle looks today:


    This room doesn’t have any natural light, so we installed 4 small recessed lights and 2 beautiful accent lights to really brighten up the whole space and make it feel a lot larger. If I zoom out a few feet (see below), you can see the sliding door to the right leading to our great room (kitchen, dining and living) and the door to the left, which we painted a satin black to update it, leading to our garage (and side yard, hence the doggie door).


    Having a sink in here was really important to us, and we were thrilled to find a small bar sink that fit perfectly into a slim 15″ wide base cabinet. We looked at so many laundry rooms with sinks and almost all of them had a step down countertop from the appliances to the sink, but there was no room here for a step, so we mounted the sink directly to the walnut countertop underneath and added a filler piece between the cabinet and sink to close the gap. We love the height and the seamless countertop. Truly couldn’t imagine it any other way.


    Although I’m sure the sink will come in handy for lots of reasons, we mostly use it for filling up Charly’s nearby water bowl (we recently DIYed!) throughout the day.


    In fact, the laundry room is kind of Charly central. Her food and water bowls are in here, but also we keep her treats in one of the glass canisters on the counter (the other filled with laundry tablets), her large bag of food is kept in the big pull out drawer in the base cabinet (love that thing), and one of the baskets above is dedicated to her–filled with her leash, harness and toys.


    Adding an open shelf under the closed cabinetry was a last minute decision we actually made while picking up our cabinets at Ikea. We were walking through the showroom and saw a similar example and loved the idea of easy access to often used items. Right now, we have a basket dedicated to socks without a match, Charly, dryer sheets and an empty one–I’m sure it’ll have a purpose soon enough.

    On the left wall, I commissioned my sister, Victoria, to do a his and her getting dressed drawing and they turned out so much better than I had even imagined.


    (Update: There are now prints available in her Etsy shop for a steal! Click here for the man, and here for the woman.)


    On the right wall, we hung a valet hook so I can fold and hang clothes all right here, or even hang something to dry if need be. It folds up when it’s not in use and packs so much function in such a little thing.



    Through all of this, the real stars of the show are the actual washer and dryer, appropriately. We’ve been using them for a couple months now and they have truly made our lives easier and our laundry cleaner. In fact, while we were away in Mexico, my mom watched the girls at our place and washed allllll the clothes because she loved using these so much. I understand–they’re great and strangely fun. No wonder they have over 500 5 star reviews. Also, easy on the eyes.


    So that’s the story of how we turned this:


    Into this:


    Now we’re ready to whip the rest of the plans into place in the kitchen–onward!!

    To read/look back on every post regarding the laundry room, click here to be directed to the titles.


    Washer and Dryer: Whirlpool Duet in Diamond Steel from Lowe’s | Cabinets: Ikea Sektion cabinets in Bodbyn off-white | Area Rug: eSale Rugs | Brass Bin Pulls on cabinets: Rejuvenation | Black Walnut Plank-style Counter and backsplash: CraftArt | Trinsic Faucet: Delta Faucet | Thurman flushmount accent lights: Rejuvenation | Sink: Lowe’s | Glass Canisters: Rejuvenation | Baskets: World Market | Art: Victoria Bradley-Morris | Valet Hook: Amazon | Wall Color: Valspar’s Soft Wool | Wood Tile Flooring: The Tile Shop | Black door color: Benjamin Moore’s Onyx