Friday, May 17, 2013

Reader Question: Butcher Block Countertops

I got this question from a reader, so I thought I would answer it with a post...

...I came to your site by way of The Kitchn. You had mentioned that you have butcherblock and you love it. Could you please comment on how hard the upkeep has been? Also, did you sand and oil the underside as well? Was the top surface oiled after the installation? Any info would be greatly appreciated! Thanks much."

SO first,  let me say thanks for visiting and thanks for asking!

In our old house, we had ikea butcher block countertops that we treated with tung oil. For low cost and  great quality, I loved them; and when we redo or current house we will probably use ikea butcher block again. 

I treated them about every month or so with pure tung oil we bought at a woodworkers supply place. (do your research before you choose a finish - we liked tung oil because it is food safe, self-polymerizes, and leaves a lovely warm sheen) 

When we installed them, I did a couple coats of sanding and oiling on the underside before installation. After install, i sanded and oiled the tops until kingdom come, to get the surface as smooth as possible. If you use tung oil, you have to mask off the backsplash, or be very careful, because the oil cures hard when it polymerizes, and wont wipe off easily. This isn't such a problem for the upkeep oiling because it is the centers of the countertop, subject to moisture and use, that need oil added regularly.

Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of our counters handy, but this renovationfound on Brick and Brack is beautiful, and they have a great description of how they used the tung oil on their ikea numerar, to boot.

Brick and Brack Butcher Block with Tung Oil

The one area i did have some small issues with splitting/cupping was around our stainless steel inset sink. In our next kitchen, i might make the counters surrounding the sink something other than butcher block, or maybe have a sink with a larger rim.

Good luck! Let me know if you have any other questions. 

p.s. the folks at the gardenweb kitchen forum are another great resource for home reno questions.

Friday, March 15, 2013

tomato seafood stew with capers and olives

this recipe was one of those cooking surprises which you only discover by trying new things and making mistakes.

when planning this weeknight recipe, i decided i wanted to use not-too-expensive ingredients that would cook quickly, so i chose frozen seafood, zucchini, and asparagus. i dreamed up a garlic-sauteed melange of seafood and vegetables tossed with flavorful puttanesca sauce. but the moisture in the frozen seafood (which you can toss right into the mix still frozen, by the way) and zucchini turned the sauce into the base of a flavorful tomato stew - even better than what i had imagined.

bonus- this recipe meets my workweek lunchtovers weeknight cooking critera!

  1. it has to be a big enough recipe yield leftovers that function as an easy lunch at work the next day. an easy lunch is something my husband and I can eat (probably cold) with one hand/one utensil while continuing to blog work through lunch. we have a word for this type of lunchtime leftovers: Lunchtovers. 
  2. because it will serve as more than one meal, it has to support our efforts to eat well. lots of veggies, high protein (read: filling), low fat, and no simple carbs. 
  3. it has to be quick! i don’t have a lot of time on weeknights so i need something that will take less than an hour, start to finish, including prep and cleanup.

tomato seafood stew with capers and olives

active time: 45 minutes
total time: 45 minutes

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 bunches asparagus, ends trimmed and sliced into one inch long pieces (psst. use my mom's tip for trimming asparagus)
  • 3 medium to large zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch wide slices
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
  • 1 jar trader joe's puttanesca sauce
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh basil (or Dorot frozen basil cubes)
  • 1 lb frozen seafood blend (trader joe's has shrimp, calamari, and scallops)
  • 1 lb frozen tilapia filets

have you tried this stuff? it's super great!


  • in a large, deep saute pan with straight sides, heat olive oil until shimmering.
  • add the asparagus, zucchini, and garlic and saute over medium heat until almost fork tender.
  • add the entire jar of puttanesca sauce and two teaspoons fresh basil, stirring to combine.
  • when sauce begins to bubble, stir in frozen seafood blend. as the seafood thaws and zucchini continues to cook, they will release liquid making the sauce more soupy.
  • reduce heat if necessary.
  • break the fish filets into chunks so you can gently press them into the liquid over the vegetables.
  • cover pot. check fish every 5 minutes. when the fish filets are opaque white, and beginning to gently flake/break up, reduce heat to low and gently stir the contents of the pot to combine evenly.
  • add salt and pepper to taste.

set the frozen filets right on top of the veggies and gently push them in a bit 
after about five minutes, liquid will bubble up around the fish

after another five minutes, you will be able to break up the flaky fish with  pressure from your spoon

now give it a stir...

 serve hot or cold... maybe with some yummy whole grain bread on the side!
wow, there is a lot of butter on that bread. this must have been hubs' plate.

p.s. check out this sausage and white bean cassoulet from the everyday kitchen. wouldn't this make great workweek lunchtovers? cassoulet- you're on my list!
p.p.s. for more workweek lunchtover recipes, try my beef and broccoli stir-fry and baked artichoke-kielbasa puttanesca.