published Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Braly: New kitchen cabinets can transform a space

It's amazing the transformation that can be made with new kitchen cabinets. It's not for the fainthearted, though, as the process tears up your entire kitchen.

Cabinetmaker Jason Castleberry of Soddy-Daisy and his team, including wife Mekisia and his father-in-law, Chester Shell, appeared at my front door on a recent Friday morning with crowbars in hand. Within minutes, the countertops we'd installed a couple of years before were pried from their foundation and cabinets were being torn from the walls.

All I could hear for the next couple of hours were sounds of destruction: hammers pounding, saws cutting apart large cabinets, electric drills attacking screws. When they were done, I hardly recognized my kitchen in its bare, blank state. Oh my, I thought, what have I done?

I'd seen Castleberry's work before and was impressed by his design and build skills. But on my limited budget, I wondered if mine would be as outstanding as some of his other projects, which looked as if tens of thousands of dollars had been spent.

Three hours after starting, Castleberry was ready to take a break, return to his workshop and bring my new cabinets home. My nerves started fluttering as I heard his van pull up my driveway again. Doubt raced through my mind: Would I like these new cabinets, or had I wasted a few thousand dollars?

Two and a half days later, I had my answer. Castleberry's work was done.

My first look at the cabinets took my breath away. My old, white, scarred cabinets were gone, and in their place stood beautiful alder cabinets with a cherry stain. I stood back and kept gazing, then realized I still had plenty of work to do. My living room was filled with plates, pots, pans, appliances and food. It was time to reload the cabinets. Once I had finished, it was time to prepare my first meal in my new kitchen. And that was very satisfying.

If you'd like to see pictures of what new cabinets can do for a kitchen, shoot me an email, and I'll send some your way.

Now that Thanksgiving is over, it's time to start thinking about the Christmas menu. I will definitely be making this bread pudding recipe. What a delicious addition it will make to my Christmas brunch menu. It's from McCormick's, using the company's newest spice, roasted Saigon cinnamon.



Banana, Cherry and Roasted Cinnamon Bread Pudding

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 tablespoon rum

1 cup sugar

4 teaspoons roasted Saigon cinnamon

4 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 cups milk

7 cups challah, French or Italian bread cubes

2 ripe bananas, sliced

1 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 350 F. Mix cherries and rum in small bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Mix sugar and cinnamon in small bowl. Reserve 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of the sugar mixture. Mix eggs, remaining sugar mixture, 2 teaspoons of the vanilla and salt in large bowl with wire whisk until well blended. Stir in milk until well blended. Add bread cubes and bananas; toss to coat well. Pour into greased 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Sprinkle cherries evenly over top. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sugar mixture.

Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Cool slightly on wire rack.

Meanwhile, beat cream, remaining 1/4 cup sugar mixture and 1 teaspoon vanilla in medium bowl with electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve warm bread pudding with whipped cream.

Stone Fort Inn's weekend brunches are now open to the public, and it's one of the most enticing brunches in town. There's nothing like sitting in the dining area surrounded by beautiful antiques and the historic inn's architecture. I had my first brunch there a couple of weeks ago, and it was delightful. From the freshly squeezed orange juice to the quiches, scones, eggs and sausages, it couldn't have been better. I just love walking around Stone Fort Inn, and now that brunch is open to all, I have a great excuse to do so. The inn is at 120 E. 10th St. Brunch is served 9-11 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday for $12.95 per person, all you care to eat. For reservations, call 267-7866. What a great way to also entertain your holiday guests and let executive chef Brian Graydon do the cooking.

Email Anne Braly at abraly@timesfreepress.com.

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