Long Branch beach had put me in the mood for a little an extended break and I returned to find myself smack in the middle of a house move and a kitchen makeover, plus two kids I can no longer afford to have away at summer camp!

It’s been fun picking out bits and pieces for my (hopefully) exciting new kitchen. One of the toughest decisions, though, was deciding on a free-standing range or stove.

I needed something practical, easy to clean, with a great oven and both a low-heat simmer burner (so I no longer have to use a bain-marie, or double boiler, for melting chocolate) as well as fast-boil super-BTU’d burner (so I don’t have to twiddle thumbs for too long for my umpteenth cup of tea). Did I mention the range also had to be good looking?

Unfortunately, uber handsome ranges are out of my reach for two reasons. Cost being one. The Five Star and Blue Star and other stunning ranges were priced above $4K. But I had squirreled aside that premium for their wow factor for other goodies such as quality lighting,  countertop and floor. Ikea, which I have no qualms about flogging (no, I don’t work for them) do beautiful ranges for a little above $2K. Except their stoves are 36-inch wide and my cabinets have already been ordered with neat, 30-inch space saved for a range.

If anyone out there has found a special use for those extra 6 inches, please let me know what I’m missing out on 😉

After much research, I picked the GE Cafe to be my culinary companion for the next many years. So, apparently, has the rest of America. This is the most popular range at the moment, selling 650 units  in just one month at one NJ retailer I had contacted. Some of my best friends have the thing, too, and highly recommend it.

It’s a handsome range with a retro look and rounded edges, replete with simmer and fast-boil burners, two ovens, self-clean function and very importantly – a digital timer. The latter is reason 3 against buying an uber expensive, uber handsome pro-style range – they’re too fancy for timers!

Perhaps pro chefs aren’t easily distracted. But moi? Rather than allowing nature to take its course (ie. start cooking multi-faceted meal without a timer, talk to kids, write a story, answer the phone, answer the door, turn sprinkler on and off, burn all food, clean heck of mess), I really and truly appreciate having a timer on my stove.

What about using a cheap, store-bought handheld timer? Kids fiddle with these, and if they don’t break immediately, Things 1 and 2 manage to  spirit them out of the kitchen and into the Bermuda Triangle before I’ve had time to throw away the packaging.

For those of you who didn’t know this, Karl’s Appliance will match the price of any better offer you find.

And no, I don’t work for them, either 😉