Arlene lives deep in traditional Brooklyn, yet she and her husband follow a very non-traditional healthy food-based lifestyle. Her love of cooking and the healthiest of foods, along with a recent kitchen renovation, make her kitchen glow with positive energy.
Arlene and her family moved to Bay Ridge from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. They took on a major fixer-upper and created a wonderful warm kitchen amidst a beautiful home. Although Arlene pines for an industrial style kitchen nowadays, her recent renovation makes use of warm materials including butcher block countertops and a restored original wood floor. It feels cozy and inviting with all the positive energy of a classic cook's kitchen
Arlene's husband initiated the transformation to a new way of eating. "I don't feel like I joined a movement, but rather became conscious of food and the movement became a part of my life," Arlene explains. The Paleo diet includes all food found in the wild and that is easily eaten raw as well as cooked. That means eggs, meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds are good to go, but grains and legumes are not!
While dairy is controversial, Arlene opts for raw milk, raw sour cream, and raw butter that she buys directly from a local buying club. The rationale of the Paleo diet is that humans were better at digesting foods in pre-agricultural societies. Grains are considered a stress on the digestive system and are best avoided.
Arlene's kitchen is incredibly well stocked. She seems to have adapted well to a somewhat restrictive diet, finding appropriate alternatives for most of the banned items. I had the pleasure of witnessing Arlene bake nut bread — a staple for the home. It's one of the few foods on which she gets to spread things like butter or jam, since she no longer eats most breads.
In the warmer months, most of the household's produce comes from Arlene's burgeoning veggie garden in their backyard. She's considering adding chickens to her repertoire but is reluctant to take on beekeeping as she's afraid of being stung!
The kitchen may transform over the next few years and their diet may as well, but if their current commitment to great taste in decor and food is any indication, the future looks healthy and bright!
10 Questions for Arlene (and Her Kitchen)
What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
I like to eat well so it is important for me to have high quality ingredients in my kitchen, and a pantry stocked with staples like organic chicken broth, coconut milk, all kinds of nuts and seeds, dried cranberries, almond flour. My husband and I are trying to follow the Paleo diet, so I am always looking for new ways to cook without using grains and legumes.
What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
So hard to choose: Tongs, mini-spatulas, wooden spoons, Breville heavy duty blender.
What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
Christmas Eve dinner for friends this past December. Unlike past dinners, I started early so everything would be ready by the time the guests arrived: Chicken soup with matzo balls (in honor of Hanukah), locally sourced turkey with cranberry sauce, walnut and sweet potato stuffing, braised brussel sprouts and lots of gravy. Everything was homemade except for the pumpkin pie from Fairway. I was going to make a cherry pie, using cherries I canned last year but I ran out of time and steam.
Biggest challenge in your kitchen?
Working within a confined space with not enough room for different workstations. Also, the pantry and the refrigerator are not large enough to accommodate my hoarding habit.
Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
My GE Profile convection oven.
Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
My kitchen was designed on the fly with a very small budget. There are many things I would like to add or change. For practical reasons, we could really use additional lighting under the cabinet above the kitchen sink. A subway tile backsplash above the counters and sink would be a welcome addition as well. I'd like a larger refrigerator — it would have to be custom-sized narrow and tall in order to fit in the kitchen. A double oven would be an indulgence but honestly, I don't have the space for it. Lastly, I want to replace the butcher block countertops with a material that is easier to maintain, like granite or Silestone.
How would you describe your cooking style?
I like to work with recipes when I have the time. During the week, however, I improvise with whatever ingredients I have in my house. I like to clean up while I am cooking so by the time the food is ready to be served, I can relax and enjoy my meal knowing that I won't have much to do much later.
Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
I have a terrible memory for this sort of thing.
What is your favorite cookbook?
I confess to having a cookbook addiction. I turn to the Joy of Cooking for basics but frequently reference as well the Gourmet cookbook and The Martha Stewart Cookbook. I have always loved the New Basics cookbook and The Silver Palate. And I couldn't resist adding the New York Times Cookbook to my collection. I want to try some raw food recipes and am reading a library copy of Ani's Raw Food Essentials. There is a website with gluten-free recipes that I go to often: Elana's Pantry.
What are you cooking this week?
• Meatloaf using ground turkey and pork, substituting coconut flour for bread crumbs
• Pureed butternut squash with truffle butter and raw milk
• Crispy kale chips
• I love the Nutty Bread from Elana's Pantry
• Williams-Sonoma — slow cooker
• Polstein's Hardware in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn — canning equipment, mini-spatulas
• Tarzian West in Park Slope, Brooklyn — 12" cast iron skillet
• Kitchen Tour Archive: Check out past kitchen tours here
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(Images: Jill Slater)