Friday, April 5, 2013

Valhalla's DIY kitchen upgrades, Phase 1

The new meal prep counter has a open cabinet that holds
dozens of herbs and spices; measuring cups, spoons, and our
most frequently used kitchen gadgets are all within easy reach.
We cook a lot on this counter as well, using electric woks, hot
plate, the electric frying pan, waffle maker, table top convection
oven  and other specialty appliances. This small space has in fact
become more convenient than the regular cooking range! 
Victory! Today a wonderful long-time Veteran's advocate named Judy came to inspect the premises, and almost the first thing she said upon walking into Valhalla's Main House was "Oh my heavens, you have a commercial kitchen!" 

Well, not quite yet... but after hundreds of hours of DIY effort, Valhalla now has a kitchen with almost all of the facilities and equipment necessary for producing restaurant-quality meals for dozens of people at a time. 

This is a key part of a much larger plan to make best use of all the top-quality foods that are being grown and raised right here on the property, and also to teach
interested post-9/11 Army combat veterans as well as some of the civilian war zone workers who served with them about excellent gourmet food that they can make themselves. 

In addition to storing essentials in plain sight, the top shelf of metal
shelving unit on the left is also used as an oversized cooling rack.
Cookies, cakes, muffins, breads and other baked goods coming
out of the hot oven are placed on that shelf to keep the kitchen
counters clear, a very practical and convenient arrangement.
Two open shelving units are used to keep essentials in plain sight that does triple-duty as both cooling and drip-dry racks. Our goal is for any new Valhallan to walk into the kitchen and immediately see where things are, and have the tools as well as ingredients necessary for preparing wonderful meals with the least hassle possible. We've gone a lot farther than that to help make this possible even for those who are uncomfortable with cooking or even being in a kitchen, but that's another story for another time!

Time-warp back to the height of style in the1970s! Leaving
the old dark cabinets, formica countertops, and linoleum floors
freed up Valhalla's kitchen budget for more important items
that make food prep and cooking a lot easier and more enjoyable.
Yes, the 1970s era orange countertops, dark cabinets, and ancient linoleum floors are quite awful yet still perfectly functional, while replacing them would cost thousands of dollars. We decided that we'd take that same money and invest it into a wide variety of specialty appliances for Valhalla instead; it's much better to buy what is really needed than have a stylish kitchen that doesn't have all the things that you need to make cooking easier and more enjoyable!

This very large south-facing set of windows will someday be
replaced with a huge bay window that will have a full-sized
sink, effectively creating two kitchens that can accommodate
several cooks at the same time.
There's something else that would be much more practical and desirable then new counters, cabinets, or floors: an oversized custom-built bay window with glass shelves for growing herbs and seedlings in the winter, with a full-sized stainless steel sink. Having sinks on both ends of the kitchen would effectively create two kitchens where several people can be cooking all at once. 

Front door of the flour vault on wheels

Every nook and cranny in Valhalla's kitchen has to work hard since space is so limited, so the other day I built a flour vault out of some 1x6s. 

Small canisters of specialty flours and other baking necessities (baking soda, salt, cocoa, etc.) are kept on the front door of the unit, with the door mounted on wheels to help support the weight. 

Inside there's enough room to store 150 pounds of flour, sugar, and grain - pretty impressive for a small 29" x 17" space!

Inside of the flour vault.
As part of Valhalla's frugality program, baked goods are almost always made from scratch here onsite and ingredients are purchased in bulk to save money. Flours and grains are immediately repackaged into air tight containers with oxygen eater packets, not just to preserve freshness but also to lock out any insects or rodents. 

Thanks to saving money that would have otherwise gone to new cabinets, floors, and counters, Valhalla was even able to acquire an electric mill that can turn everything from rice to dried beans and of course wheat, rye, and other grains into flour! Take a look at how easy making flour right in your own kitchen can be:

* * *
The Valhalla Project needs your help and support
Just getting a project like Valhalla up and running has required a significant investment in time, money, and labor. With roughly $500,000 already invested over the last two years into the Valhalla Project for property acquisition, feeding and housing Soldier participants, infrastructure and facility improvements, animal purchases and feed, tools and building supplies, forest and pasture management expenses, and much much more, resources are running thin. We need YOUR help to keep Valhalla functioning efficiently - while at the same time expanding vitally important programs to assist post-9/11 combat Soldiers and war zone civilian workers to transition back into the civilian world. 

The Valhalla Project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit charity recognized by the IRS.
Nobody, including cadre or board members, draws a paycheck here, nor will they ever: we simply give everything we have to make Valhalla possible. 100% of your donation via Paypal will go directly to program expenses, period. If you'd prefer to instead directly donate four new tractor tire, a truckload of straw bales, a pallet of dimension lumber, or even a few dozen 10' sheets of forest green tin roofing, that would be absolutely wonderful - yet perhaps polking the "Donate" button above to contribute $10, $20, 
$50 or even more might be a little easier and more practical!

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