It’s That Time of Year Again!

It’s That Time of Year Again!

It’s time for spring cleaning! The kitchen is a great place to start! As the most used room in many homes, it is important to have a kitchen that is organized in a way that fits your needs. Next time you prepare a meal, take note of where you keep things, and what you reach for most often, and how you use your storage space.

Reorganize to promote a good flow to your kitchen.

Do you find yourself walking across the kitchen to get a knife, or digging through a drawer to find your favorite spatula? Your commonly used kitchen tools should be within reach of the areas in which you use them – knives next to the cutting board, utensils next to the stove, etc. One of my favorite additions has been to add a small magnetic spice rack on the side of my fridge, so I can keep my most-used spices right next to the stove (but I pretty much just throw things in the pan with no rhyme or reason…). Now that is a smart use of storage space!

Found Space.

Trying to maximize storage space and organization in my own small kitchen, I have begun to understand the importance of “found space.” See, I have very little cabinet space, and you’ll remember my struggle with tripping over pans on my kitchen floor. I have a fairly big butcher block table with two drawers and a shelf, but it was a cluttered mess and I couldn’t accept that there was so much open space above the shelf (I can only stack my pans so high!). My solution was to add another shelf – it seems so obvious now, but for some reason it has taken me years to notice the potential in that big open storage space! I also added a pot rack above it, and have now turned an empty wall into functional storage space. (Can’t put holes in your walls? Think about a table/pot rack combo like this) When shopping for storage solutions in your kitchen, take into consideration how to best maximize the footprint of each item you choose – adding shelving, cabinets, or a pot rack will create extra storage space on a piece that takes up the same amount of space.

Country Butcher Block

John Boos Country Butcher Block via butcherblockco.com

 

Hide it when you don’t need it.

If you just need some extra workspace from time to time, I highly recommend a folding kitchen cart. The handy wheels make it easy to get your prep done in the kitchen and then roll your cart out to your party for serving. These fabulous options are easily compacted into a slim little number that will slide into your pantry or that storage space next to the refrigerator! Seriously, how cool is that folding cart shown in the header?!

Speaking of that storage space next to the refrigerator, have you seen these awesome DIY pull-out shelves floating around on Pinterest? Talk about found space! I am cooking up plans to build something similar to this in the very near future!

 

Space Saving

Source: learning-to-b-me.blogspot.com via Butcher Block Co. on Pinterest

 

Have you gotten creative with your kitchen storage space? We would love to hear your ideas!

At the End of the Rainbow

At the End of the Rainbow

Pot o’ Gold (Candice Whiting)

I have a bit of Irish somewhere in my bloodline, but it has never been a particularly dominant cultural force in my life. The only “Irish” thing I can remember from my childhood came from my second grade class on St. Patrick’s Day. When we arrived at school that day, we found little green boot prints running across the walls and into the air ducts. Our teacher told us Leprechauns had come to visit in the night to leave us St. Patty’s surprises. We had so much fun following the footprint trails to find our little pots filled with gold-wrapped chocolates and popcorn! So much fun, in fact, I made one for my son to surprise him! (The rainbow is made from eyeshadow!)

Now that I am no longer a wee one, however, my St. Patrick’s Day tastes have matured a bit, and I’d rather have a green beer and an Irish car bomb cupcake! I have been making this recipe from Smitten Kitchen for about three years now, and it never disappoints! Cocoa and stout in the cake, whiskey in the ganache, and Irish cream in the butter cream! How could you go wrong?!

I make them so often, I even bought a special tool to hollow out my cupcakes (which is totally unnecessary, but it does make hollowing out two dozen cupcakes quite a bit quicker)! I usually don’t add the ganache, as they are sinfully rich enough without it – just switch the filling to butter cream. If you don’t want the booze in yours, you can use Irish Cream flavoring instead, but only add a bit at a time – that stuff is potent! For St. Patrick’s Day, you obviously have to add green food coloring to the icing to make them festive! I have a sneaking suspicion these Irish car bomb cupcakes would be delicious with crème de menthe instead of Irish cream…I might have to give that a try!

I have made this as a cake, too, and it works out beautifully.

Without further ado, here’s what’s at the end of my rainbow:

Recipe here: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/01/car-bomb-cupcakes/

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (Candice Whiting)

Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes (Candice Whiting)

Does your family have a St. Patrick’s Day tradition? Is it more Irish than mine? I would love to hear how you celebrate!

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Kitchen Fitness: Use it or Lose it!

Having grown up in a gourmet kitchen store, I have a fabulous collection of kitchen essentials. Unfortunately, I have a mass of non-essentials, too! I need to focus on my kitchen fitness!! Honestly, who really needs six whisks of the same style?

The new year brought a new home with a smaller kitchen and, let me tell you, this kitchenware collector did not adjust well! For a solid month we lived with pans literally stacked on the floor, utensils pouring out of boxes, and a butcher block table so overloaded with stuff I couldn’t even use it! After stubbing my toe on a cast iron skillet for the 27th time, I’d had enough. I painstakingly went through every piece of cookware, bakeware, gadgetry, and appliance and whittled my way down to a manageably fit kitchen.

A few of the more ridiculous things I ousted:

  • Five whisks (kept four!)
  • Three 8” fry pans. THREE!!
  • Two nasty 12” skillets
  • Two garlic presses
  • A brand new ravioli rolling pin (why??)
  • Two identical carrot ribboning tools (why I even had one is beyond me)

A few things I can’t live without:

  • Counter-space-hogging espresso machine
  • Super quality cookware and knives
  • Silicone spatulas (colorful AND functional!)
  • My KitchenAid mixer
  • Quality cutting boards
  • Cake pans (endless uses!)
  • Cheese graters (yes, plural – don’t judge.)

And a few things I WON’T live without:

  • Vita-Mix blender – Don’t use this enough to justify the hefty price tag, but it’s magic!
  • All 22 of my wonderful German knives (seven are steak knives – it’s not that excessive!) –I use about four of them regularly, but they’re all in one block, so getting rid of some won’t save me any space!
  • My 23-year-old gigantic Scanpan “witch’s cauldron.” I have used it exactly two times, but it’s the bee’s knees and holds 9.5 quarts of stew AND 23 years worth of family memories.
  • Absurd (someone said that!) amounts of cookware. After getting rid of about a dozen pans, I still have a full pot rack (excellent addition to a small kitchen, by the way) and then some.

Clearly I have a hard time letting go of things I might possibly-some-day-in-the-distant-future use (looking at you, pasta machine). Getting rid of some of my unnecessities, however, made me appreciate the value behind the pieces I kept. I can do just as much with a simple set of tongs, spatulas, and bamboo spoons as I could with the multiple boxes of utensils I chucked (donated, don’t worry).

before & after

Moral of this story is that investing in quality multi-tasking pieces not only makes sense financially, but will improve your kitchen fitness. Plus you end up with space to keep the occasional frivolous purchase (*cough* individual instant popsicle makers).

You know that feeling when you clean out your closet and it’s like you have a whole new wardrobe with room for new boots? It’s like that. So next time you throw a spatula in frustration because its fat rubber handle won’t fit into your utensil crock, do yourself a favor and get your kitchen fit!

What are your must-haves for the kitchen?