Something like this should cover basically the same "footprint" on your ceiling, and takes CFL bulbs, so it shouldn't increase your electric bills (which would be a concern if you replace with incandescent bulbs or halogen):
As Steve said, fluorescent lights wash light throughout the room, in this case your kitchen. Installing anything else then that will require you to choose a fixture or fixtures that you like. Then knowing that the type of light fixture you choose should provide you with information on how the light will focus on a set area at a set height. Meaning a can light installed in an eight foot ceiling area may only provide a six foot circle of illumination on the floor with a particular type of bulb. Knowing this you can figure out how many lights you would want to illuminate your kitchen.
With surface mounted lights they to will provide a pattern of illumination but on a wider area then recessed lamps would, but again depending upon the bulbs, wattage and fixture type this area of illumination will vary greatly from one fixture to another.
My suggestion would be to go to a specialty lamp store. Provide them with the layout of the area in which you desire to light up. Give them ceiling height as well. They can help you choose not only a light style that you will be happy with, but one that is energy star rated as well. If anything you will learn a lot about lighting from these professionals and at least give you some options that you may not even thought about.
Once you choose your fixtures and lay out. I would suggest that you have these professionally installed. Proper wiring is a must with light fixtures particularly with higher end fixtures. Special dimmers are required with some types of lamps and lots of other goodies you would not even know about until the lamp did not light correctly or burnt out to soon.
As always, Woodbridge pretty much hit it all. Most kitchens aren't lit very well. The lighting pattern comes down to the user so think about where and how you work in the kitchen and plan appropriate lighting with what you know about yourself. I would consider a multi-head track light...they are reasonable priced and homeowner friendly to install....cutting in can lights and wiring them should always be left to a professional. If there is a Progressive Lighting in your market...they'd be a good source to see alot of different options. Lowes & Depot will have some basic options and that's mostly what I use on my flips....
My hubby is going to install so we were looking at tracking lighting (4 or 5 bulbs @ 50 watts each). Using CFL bulbs - would that be at least almost as bright as my current fluorescent ?
Yes, 4 or 5 CFL bulbs in track lighting should be comparable in terms of brightness.
thanks for all the posts. I appreciate your input.