Oak Display Spice Racks

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Oak Display Spice Racks

After years of having spice jars inconveniently located in cabinets, slide-out drawers, or shelves that were too small, I inquired with the salesperson at the Penzeys store if they knew of a good source for large wooden spice racks that fit their jars well. Unfortunately they didn’t, so I decided to make some myself.

Our kitchen happens to have a bridge cabinet installed over a countertop workspace opposite the range that seemed to be the perfect place for spice racks. For this location, I built these removable oak spice shelves, totaling 9 linear feet of visible and accessible “spice space.”

This woodworking project used just two sorts of prepared wood procured from a local home improvement store: pre-cut planks, and outside corner trim.

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The (3) shelves were assembled as follows:

  1. Use a mitre box and saw to cut the wood planks (2) and trim pieces (1) to length (e.g., 36 inches), for each shelf. Before continuing with assembly, examine each plank’s surfaces to select which side you’d like to be displayed.
  2. Clamp each pair of 4 inch x 1/2 inch planks together, forming an “L”-shaped shelf with the back piece atop the bottom piece. This will form a shelf with a back slightly taller than the shelf bottom is deep.
    Using tiny brass wood screws, in holes you’ve drilled perhaps every 6-12 inches.
    Once installed, this yields a shelf back of the appropriate thickness to prevent the spice jars or their lids from touching the (painted) wall when the spice jars are removed or replaced.
  3. Using construction adhesive and clamps, glue the oak outside corner to the front edge of each shelf, with the rounded edge upward (toward the top and front of shelf).
    This, of course, forms a channel in which the spice jars sit, so they won’t easily fall off the shelves.
  4. As shown in the close-up below, cut a short piece of outside corner trim and use construction adhesive to glue them at the back edges at the end of each shelf.
    This will act as a stand-off to keep the shelf a bit away from the wall, yet allowing some “play,” which is especially necessary when either the shelf back board or the wall (or both :) ) is not perfectly straight, flat, and true.
  5. Once the adhesive is completely dry, sand shelves as necessary and finish them as you wish. Here, a combination stain and polyurethane satin finish was applied to match the existing cabinets.
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oak spice shelf, underneath detail.

Lastly, mount the removable shelves with shelf pins in shallow holes drilled in the cabinets on both ends of each spice rack(s), allowing you to remove the shelves or to reposition them.

Since, it is important that the shelf pin holes are drilled at the same level for both ends of the spice shelves, so the shelves are level, I use a jig built from peg board to select the hole positions to drill.

With multiple shelves, such as the three shown here, a 7-inch separation (above or below) each shelf has proved to work well for our spice jars and containers. Loaded up with a set of (mostly) Penzys jars, we have a handsome, utilitarian display of spices!

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Oak Display Spice Racks – close up

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Leftover Curry Frittata

Leftover Curry Frittata

Leftover Curry Frittata (chickpea, cabbage, and coconut) served with cumin rice.

I make a lot of curries; they’re flexible and amenable to creativity with whatever vegetables you have on hand.
I’m not a big breakfast person, but I do occasionally make a frittata; it’s easier than most might think (and you don’t bother with a crust like quiche), as long as you have a skillet you can move from the stovetop to the oven.

This Leftover Curry Frittata is simply a frittata made with your leftover curry from the night or nights before.
Here, I used a leftover curry made with cabbage, chickpeas, and coconut cream.
I bet you could even add a bit of leftover rice to the frittata, but rice also makes a nice side for breakfast.

Below are some related posts with preparation details for frittatas and vegetable curries.
Another tip is that I find that frittatas turn out fine with just egg and water (instead of milk), if you prefer to keep it dairy-free (or are out of milk, like me).

Asian-inspired frittatas are nice too, with chinese vegetables and a touch of hoisin and chili garlic sauce. Also, these are a bit less work than Egg Foo Young, that makes a great breakfast and reheats well.

Barbecue Baby Back Ribs

Finishing the ribs on the gas grill: saucy.

Finishing the ribs on the gas grill: saucy!

Wow, I’ve been away from my blog for a couple months – but I have a good reason! I was finishing my Ph.D., moving 1000 miles from the midwest to the east coast, and starting a new job… but, I didn’t stop eating. :)

Here’s a meal from a month or two ago, in the northwoods with my family: barbecue baby back ribs.

Obviously there are a zillion other recipes and recommendations for how to do these, so I’ll just add my 2 cents worth about how I did them.

I started by cooking the thawed ribs in a couple pints of a nice brewery-fresh scotch ale, in a roasting pan.  Overall this was at 250-300° F for 3 to 3 1/2 hours.  I progressively raised the temperature to try to hit the desired dinner time.

Preparing the ribs for pre-cooking, with a pint or two from a growler of scotch ale.

Preparing the ribs for pre-cooking, with a pint or two from a growler of scotch ale.

Meanwhile, I prepared a blended, sugar-free, somewhat spicy barbecue sauce from dried ancho and chipotle peppers, fresh lime juice, pan-roasted garlic cloves, mexican oregano, water from rehydrating the peppers, a bit of olive oil and a touch of salt.

Preparing a sugar-free chipotle and ancho chili BBQ sauce.

Preparing a sugar-free chipotle and ancho chili BBQ sauce.

During the pre-cooking phase, I occasionally turned and basted the ribs with some water from rehydrating the peppers.

Pre-cooking the ribs in a covered roasting pan with a nice scotch ale and water from rehydrating the dried peppers.

Pre-cooking the ribs in a covered roasting pan with a nice scotch ale and water from rehydrating the dried peppers.

Once cooked, I finished the ribs on the gas grill.

Finishing the ribs on the gas grill.

Finishing the ribs on the gas grill.

And toward the end of cooking, slathered the ribs with a couple of barbecue sauces: mine and a store-bought sauce, that was my brother’s pick.  As you might know, usually you are warned not to put the sauce on too early because the sugar will burn…. that’s not an issue with my sauce.

A family dinner with BBQ ribs.

A family dinner with BBQ ribs out on the porch at around sunset.

Overall, these turned out tender and great. I’m definitely a fan of barbecue sauces without sugar… it’s often just not necessary to have BBQ taste great!

Tilapia Tostadas


Wow, I see I haven’t posted in 3 weeks!  I bet you were all worried, “Is Dave still eating?”

I offer this hiatus as evidence that I do have a job… actually, I was doing my research work and also had a nice week visit to San Diego for a workshop and to visit old and new friends.

So, lets catch up with some quick-and-dirty foods.

This one is simply a serving suggestion: tilapia tostadas… mashed black beans, shredded napa cabbage, queso fresco, and a tilapia filet (from frozen, defrosted in water and patted dry) lightly pan-fried in oil with oregano, salt, pepper, and a jalapeno hot sauce, and scallion greens, all atop a crisp corn tortilla.

One tip I have for you is to buy corn tortillas and bake them in the oven to crisp them, rather than using those “hard” deep-fried corn tortillas for tostadas.

Fancy Cut Carrot

Here’s a 1 minute video with a tip on how to cut carrot for presentation: Kitchen Convivial Tips: Fancy Cut Carrot

I like the way Chinese restaurants often cut carrot for presentation in their dishes.
This is simple technique to make carrot slices that are much more attractive than round pieces!

Here’s a related video on how to cut matchstick or julienne carrot: Matchstick Carrots

Leftover Rice

Here’s a 2 minute video with a great tip about how to keep leftover rice in your freezer: Kitchen Convivial Tips: Leftover Rice

You can keep leftover rice, i.e., sticky rice, as individually wrapped servings in the freezer.

Then thaw them in the microwave on their own, e.g., to use to make fried rice, or top them with your favorite accompaniment, and reheat them together.
Microwave perhaps 1 1/2 to 2 minutes on high.