“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
"Winter is dead.”
~AA Milne, when we were very young
NOTE: I am away at the moment helping my mother with her treatment for lung cancer. I have set up a few posts to post whilst I am away as a special surprise. Some are new and some are reposts of old favourites that you may have forgotten, or if you are a new reader may not even have seen. I'll be back at the end of May, but in the meantime . . . Enjoy!
PS - I will only have sporadic internet use, so if you ask a question and I don't get back to you . . . it's not that I don't want to. It just may take me a while.
The kitchen has always been the heart of my home. This is where the magic happens. It's where we gather together to converse, share daily happenings and adventures, nourish our bodies, and more than likely the one place where I am most likely to sit you down and offer you a nice hot drink, something tasty to munch on and the opportunity for a good old fashioned natter!
I love my kitchen. It's quite simply my favorite room in the house and the place where I spent the most time. As it is rather small, it only makes sense that it would be well organized, tidy and clean. A kitchen which is cluttered, messy or dirty is not a pleasant place to work . . . or play!
I just love it at the end of my cooking day when I go to leave the kitchen and turn back to glance at it . . . everything is clean and put away, the dim glow of the nightlight making everything look cosy . . . and the sweet smell of my day's labours still lingering in the air. That spells contentment to me.
Hints and Tips Which Keep My Kitchen Running Smoothly
1. Arrange things in the kitchen so that ingredients and equipment are as close as possible to where you'll be using them. All of my spices and sauces are kept in a cupboard next to my stove, as well as my spice racks etc. That way they are always within arms reach when I go to use them. All of my baking ingredients are in the cupbard nearest to the mixer and blender and food processor. The wall directly across and slightly to the right from my stove holds my ladles, spatulas and baking racks. I keep my glasses cups in a cupboard directly over the sink, and all of my hot drinks etc. are in the cupboard directly over the microwave and my Tassimo machine.
All of my spices are now stored in several of these really nice stackable spice cupboards now. I have two large ones and they are just perfect and help to keep all of my spices in order and in the dark. I love them so much that I also bought 4 of them to hold my acrylics in my art studio. Best thing I have ever purchased for the kitchen.
2. I don't know a home that doesn't have a junk drawer in the kitchen. I would say it's pretty much a necessity . . . but that doesn't mean it has to be a disorganized jumble. I use expandable dividers to organize and separate things. This helps me to find things when I need them, instead of wasting precious time searching. My junk drawer is where I keep batteries, (all sizes) a couple of flash lights, rubber bands, sticky labels, a few pens and pencils, scissors, etc.
3. Keep a list of what's in the freezer on the side of the refrigerator, and then cross things off as you use them. Add new things as you buy them. That way you will never forget what you already have and always have a running list of things you need to pick up next time you shop. I also keep an up to date list in a folder on the desktop of my computer, and add and take away from it as a current shopping list. That way I can just print and go.
4. I am the plastic container Queen. When I get home from shopping, all of my dry goods are transferred to stackable, labelled, airtight plastic containers. (Cereals, sugars, flours, mixes etc.) They take up a lot less room than regular packaging and are kept bug free as well, as nothing can get into them. It's tidy, accessable, and saves me a lot of time looking for things. IN a small kitchen, this is a real plus. Also use square or rectangular containers wherever possible. They take up less room, are easier to stack and less likely to tip over. LABEL, LABEL, LABEL. (I can't stress that enough!)
5. Keep a running inventory (same as the freezer) of all of your pantry goods, ie, canned goods, sauces, jams, pickles etc. When I use the next to the last jar or tin of anything, it goes onto my shopping list on the computer.
6. Stack things in the cupboards (baking dishes, pots and pans, etc.) according to size, with largest on the bottom working on up to the smallest on top. I am pedantic about putting them away as well. A few extra minutes spent in putting things back into their proper place and order saves me tons of time in the long run. I'm a busy person and I'm sure you are too!!
7. Keep your countertops as clear as possible. They don't need to be magnets for every stray object that turns up and you don't have to have all of your smaller appliances out on show at all times. I store alot of my smaller appliances (the ones I use most frequently) on a shelf in the cupboard which is under the stairs (which also happens to be in my kitchen). The other's that are used not very often are on a shelf in our bedroom closet. I know where they are when I need them, and I don't mind having to go up and get them. It's great exercise and helps to keep my valuable working space, which isn't very large to begin with, uncluttered. Be pedantic about putting these away when you are finished with them too. (I always give them a good wipe clean before storing.)
8. Put your groceries away as soon as you get home from the shops. Don't leave boxes or tins in bags on the floor or stacked on the counter, waiting to be put away "later on." (If you are like me you'll get distracted or be tired and it won't happen. Do it now is my rule of thumb, or it doesn't get done.)
COOKING HINTS AND TIPS
1. To easily skin walnuts. Toast them in a hot oven (200*C/400*F/gar mark6) for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove them from the oven and tip them into a metal colander. Rustle them gently in the colander. The skins will fall off and through the holes of the colander, leaving the nuts intact. (I do this over the sink and then just rinse the skins down the drain.)
2. To chop fresh herbs easily, strip the leaves into a glass tumbler. Using your kitchen scissors, snip down into the herbs. Presto-chango . . . chopped herbs, in one place and not all over the counter.
3. To prevent the waste of items which you only use once in a while freeze leftover pesto, chipolte chilies, curry paste, tomato paste, garlic paste, anchovy paste, harissa paste and the like in ice cube trays. Once frozen, pop them out and into zip lock bags and return them to the freezer. You now have TBS size dollops of what you need and you haven't had to throw any of it away. This also works well for chopped fresh herbs. Just mix them with a tiny bit of lemon juice, stock or water first. They won't be quite the same as fresh . . . but when you are only putting them into soups or stews, it doesn't really matter.
4. To easily skin hazelnuts, roast them in a hot oven (as above). Remove and tip them into a clean tea towel. Rough them up in the tea towel, rubbing them briskly. The skins should fall away and you will be left with perfectly toasted and skinless hazelnuts. (filberts)
5. To break up stranded pasta prior to cooking, into small bits. Take a handful of pasta strands and roll them up tightly in a clean tea towel. Run the tea towel down over the edge of the counter. It will break automatically into one or two inch lengths. Easy peasy, lemon squeasy.
6. If you forget to take your eggs out of the refrigerator, you can warm them up very quickly by placing them in a bowl full of warm water. Just 5 or 10 minutes in a bowl full of warm water – hot water may cause the egg shells to crack – will take the chill off of your eggs.
(Note, this page is a work in progress and will be added to and updated as and when I get the time.) ☺