Kitchen Basics

The following is a post to a fun blog called “Inspired by Charm”. I got carried away and had to severely edit my post….and then I realized it would make a pretty informative blog. Yeah, I think too much. 🙂

Greetings Michael!

Oh boy! You picked a topic “near and dear” to me. 🙂 Are you ready?!

Kitchen tips for regular people:

1. Try to limit yourself to only one of each kitchen tool. Do you *really* need 5 spatulas? 4 sets of measuring cups? 3 sets of nesting bowls? I have one short spatula and one long one. I love to cook and cook a LOT and have never needed more than these two. I actually stole this concept from a very wise organization expert(Don Aslett) who pointed out that if you have more than one of something, there is the temptation to not *quite* keep track of stuff because in the back-of-your-mind you are always thinking you can find one. End result? You can’t find ANY. Don’t believe me? Ask ANY mother if she can lay her hands on a pair of scissors. I rest my case.

2. This suggestion sort of goes along with #1- that is, before you get yet another appliance, tool, gadget- ask yourself if you will actually USE it. Yep. How many times have I looked at various gadgets in my kitchen and find I NEVER use them? Gah! Case in point- I got a kick-*ss bread machine (brand new) at a garage sale of a young couple who got three for their wedding. I figured I could use one and it was only $15 so what could be wrong with that? Well, that thing is a beast, takes up a huge amount of space, and I never use the thing. It’s going in the “Garage Sale” pile. I TOTALLY understand the allure of the SHINY new appliance, but first stop to think where it’s going to live before you bring it home. Ask yourself if you will easily and readily be able to access this new tool. Be especially wary if if comes with a cord! Reality check- I’m currently lusting for a mandoline. I have no idea where it’s going to park itself. Sigh. Well, I just got all my knives sharpened.

3. Keep it simple and get the best you can possibly afford of the basics. I know this sounds like snobbery. And no, I have no Calphalon or Le Creuset in my kitchen. But get the best quality you can possibly manage as you will likely be using these for most of the rest of your life. It is *very* difficult to do anything well without good tools. Good does NOT have to be expensive. Get a good heavy cast iron frying pan ($20 at Target for an American made large-sized pan). Hit up places like Tuesday Morning or Big Lots for closeouts on very good quality bakeware. I just saw some Paula Deen cookware for sale at Big Lots and had to stop myself because I do NOT need another dutch oven/roaster/tea kettle. Costco sells a wonderful private label (Kirkland) set of stovetop pots and pans at a fraction of a similar set from one of the pricey brands. And no, your cookware doesn’t have to match. lol

3. Do whatever you can to keep your counter clear. It makes your kitchen feel bigger. Ok ok- I have my coffee maker and grinder on one counter and a crock pot with stove utensils on the other (next to the gas cooktop. But I tell you what, the part of the kitchen with the two appliances out “feels” very crowded. And that should tell you a LOT about how much I neeeeeed my morning coffee. 🙂

4. Make a list of your standby family favorite dinners. Get *everyone* involved in making the list (as this gives everyone a stake in what is going to be served and you’ll get a LOT less whining and complaining. Hmmm. That’s actually another tip!) Tape that list to the interior of your pantry door. Photocopy any recipes you don’t have memorized and put them into a clear plastic sleeve and leave this sleeve inside your pantry. Try to stock enough items in your pantry to make 4 or 5 of any of those dinners at any one time. Why? Well, maybe you can do the Super-Hero-Mom thing, but after working all day, I’m brain dead. Having a list of meals I know my family likes AND having all the ingredients on site takes ALL the brain damage out of making dinner.

5. Once you get your Approved Dinner List together, get out a big calender and write down what you are planning to have for 4 of the 7 nights of the week. Why not all seven, you may ask? Answer: leftovers, spontaneous pizza pick-up, last minute soccer/baseball/dog obedience classes. In other words- DON’T torture yourself! Be flexible and generous with yourself!

6. If you have the time, the energy, and the money, make two of any dinner your family loves. Cook one and put the other in the freezer. Of course, the trick is to remember to take the frozen one OUT of the freezer a couple days ahead so it can thaw in the refrigerator. Do NOT thaw on the kitchen counter….unless your kids are mouthy teenagers and need to be taught a lesson. JUST KIDDING!

7. This may sound obvious but try to organize your kitchen in “stations”. What do I mean, you ask? Put all the baking tools together, all the stovetop tools (pots, pans, cast iron, spatulas, tongs)together, all the veggie prep stuff together and close to where it will be used. So, if possible, keep the cutting boards, knives and veggie strainers near the sink, the serveware (plates, forks, knives, spoon, cups) near the table where you eat, bakeware, stacking bowls, measuring cups, mixers, stick blenders near where you expect to be making a lovely baking mess. This is where Rule No. 1 might be broken as it makes sense to have one non-stick spray or bottle of olive oil near the stove and one in the baking section of your pantry. It will save you time and much aggravation.

8. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup do not mean you are a bad cook. Hey, an occasional bowl of cereal for dinner doesn’t mean you’re a bad cook! Look at it this way- If you weren’t cooking, WHAT would they be eating? heh. That’s right. Give yourself a pat on the back and don’t put up with ANY complaining….they had their chance back in Step No. 4.

Hey, I just wrote a freaking blog! Have a great day and many thanks for the fun photos. Your blog always inspires me!

Micheal is giving away a $100 gift certificate to Cooking.com. Check out his site: http://www.inspiredbycharm.com/2012/07/keeping-it-simply-smart-with-open.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+InspiredByCharm+%28inspired+by+charm%29

And for a final thought, check out this AMAZING pantry! WANT!

DROOL!
http://stephensaint-ongeblog.blogspot.com/2011/01/pantry-design.html

2 thoughts on “Kitchen Basics

  1. These are great tips. Another issue I have is that everyone knows I love to spend time in the kitchen so they give me lots of kitchen gadgets at every holiday. Any ideas?

    1. First, thank you! Now about your questions, here are a few random thoughts…
      I thought it was an unwritten rule that gifts from husbands should NEVER come with a plug (IE: vacuums, blenders, coffeemakers; electric knives!) Ha! Seriously, I have an ongoing list of what I *really* need and ask my family to please ask me before they buy something. On the whole, they are all fairly practical and appreciate the suggestions. I get their lists as well when the holidays or B-days roll around because the best gift is one you can really use.

      What to do with all the other things? Ebay; regift (Just make sure it doesn’t go back to the same person OR tell them you liked yours so much, you thought they’d like one too!); charities and fundraisers that are looking for things to auction; organizations that help abused women get back on their feet (They need *everything*.); take it back and get a credit for a future purchase that has meaning for you.

      Another idea is to get together with all your girlfriends and have a kitchen equipment swap night with wine and yummy treats! You might score some really cool stuff! If you do that, post pictures so we can see your swag and all the fun! (Hey, that’s a great idea. I should do that myself!)

      Does anyone else have any great ideas? I’m all ears!

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