Category Archives: Gadgets and Things

Kitchen space and organization

Some of you may remember that the number one item on my wish list is a bigger kitchen. Well, that really can’t be crossed off until I move and that’s not going to happen until this summer…but until then, I’ve found and acquired a few things that have made a world of diffference.

I’m short. Very short. Especially without shoes. So the cabinet above the fridge was wasted space for me. I can’t put anything I use regularly up there or I have to live with a stepping stool in front of the fridge permanently. And what good is a fridge if it’s blocked by a stool? So for the past few months, bf has used it as his bar- stashing glassware and alcohol up there that only he uses and can reach.

 

 

Just before Christmas, however, one of my family friends gave me this little…chest? cabinet? armoire? I don’t know what you’d call it, but I’m thrilled to have it! Hand-me down furniture is awesome. I literally jumped/hopped/wiggled with excitement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now it stores some drink-related odds and ends in the drawer, and then, as you can see, glassware on top and bottles on the bottom.

 

 

Can't you tell he's thinking "what mom? the doors are open- I'm supposed to explore"

 

 

It’s absolutely the perfect size for our bar-related stuff, and Winston loves it too.

 

 

 

 

He's right about to attack the camera in this picture....but I had to show you the mouse!

 

 

In fact, he favorite part is the bottom. He loves, to no end, to stash his little mouse underneath it and then watch us use a spatula to get it out (my arm doesn’t fit). Quite the spectacle, I must say.

 

 

 

But I have big plans for this baby (the cabinet). I want to find (which has been no easy process since the measurements are tricky) or make a shelf that goes across only the right side of the bar. Then I can have glassware on top and below the shelf and bottles to the left. Eventually, I’d also like to find a little wall-mounted wine rack that could go above the, let’s stick with cabinet, so only liquor is inside. Oh and for the record, I know I’m crazy about my Winston, but I’m actually crazy about all animals, not just cats. I’ve been known to share my Thanksgiving dinner with a stray cat I then rescued, talk to squirrels, and bury birds who have died by flying into windows. I know this doesn’t make me sound normal, but to me a crazy animal person sounds better than a crazy cat lady, right?

You may be wondering what sort of style my apartment is from this piece of furniture. I’m not usually one to favor flowers painted on the front of wooden pieces. However, due to a recent blog finding that I’m absolutely obsessed with (younghouselove.com), I’m on a bit of a do-it-yourself kick. For years I’ve planned to sand down and stain my light pine dinning set. I’d love to do the same to this piece as well. So once the weather gets a bit warmer and staining outside won’t result in my fingers being permanently stained blue, keep an eye out for a before and after picture!

Anyway, back to the kitchen aspect of this post- after all this blog does concern food or food related items. With the glassware and bottles gone, I can now store items up in the cabinet that I only use once in a blue moon (my knife sharpener, blender, some extra jars that I’ve saved from pasta sauce, an immersion blender, etc.). As a result, what we like to call the “gadget cabinet” is now so much pretty, accesible and results in much less blender falling on my toes- induced swearing.

Second project: Our pan, pot, lid, skillet cabinet. It is a mess. Partly because we have too many pans (bf- if you are reading, I will deny this statement and there is no such thing as too many pans). Perhaps I should clarify. I think each pan has it’s purpose and all are used regularly. However, they really shouldn’t all be stashed in one tiny cabinet with a 1/3 shelf that doesn’t really serve much purpose. So we found a shelf from the Container Store that fits great.

Ok, I admit, still slightly chaotic, but sooooo much better than it was.

 

 

As you can see we’ve put our lids and a few small sauce pans on the top shelf, all sorts of skillets on the new shelf, and then the large pots, a huge new skillet (Christmas present, yay!) and my pancake pan on the bottom. Does it look great or what?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Third, and final, project: The pantry. I know everything that is in there, except for some of the extras in the very back of the top shelf. But as I already mentioned, my height limitations make it very difficult to ever see the back of the shelf. Blame my mom. She gave me the height, or lack there of. But anyway, for anyone else that plans to venture into the center section of the pantry, I would fully expect them to close the doors quickly in fear that an assortment of grains, pastas and cans would be able to cascade onto the floor. Part of the problem is that there are about 1,001 bags of different kinds of rice, couscous, barley, quinoa (did you know there are such things as black and red quinoa?), and risotto. I like having options, so I have a lot of grains in stock.

 

For some of the smaller bags, I was able to use some recycled pasta jars. With the help of some sticky labels, these crazy bags quickly began to shape up.

 

 

 

Aren't they wonderful! Is it weird I'm so excited about jars?

 

But for some of the larger bags, a small jar wasn’t cutting it. What to do? I didn’t like the idea of buying a bunch of new storage containers, cause let’s be honest, I’m on a budget and new storage containers can really be a slippery slope. Well, yesterday I dropped some stuff of at Goodwill and decided to take a peak inside, just for kicks. I found these two awesome antique-looking mason jars for $1.96 a pop. That’s right, one dollar and ninety six cents. I couldn’t beat that if I tried. If they had had more than two, they would have been mine too. A quick soak and wash once I got home, and they are now the proud holders of risotto and quinoa!

Yay for organization! Do you guys have any good kitchen storage ideas? Please share!

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Kitchen Gadgets

I have never been much a snob about kitchen gadgets or the materials I use when cooking. I don’t buy the fanciest olive oil, I don’t order spices from a special store, and I don’t buy the highest quality chocolate. Part of the reason I don’t do these things is that I’m on a young professional’s budget. There is no denying that fancy chocolate adds up. Furthermore, unless I am making a really rare, once-a-year type cake, the oober-high quality ingredients taste different enough to warrant the hike in prices. At least for me. Maybe you feel differently.

However (yes there is a however), there are a few things where I will make an important exception. Much like fashion and furniture, I am willing to open my wallet for amazing cookware. This rule is a new one. One of my lovely friends gave me two Le Creuset baking dishes for Christmas. The first is a 4×4 dish perfect for appetizers or souffles. The second was featured in my bread pudding post. They are both shiny jet black on the outside and a beautiful stone color on the inside. They are super dense and HEAVY! I am officially a believer. These things cook like….well it’s their job. While Le Creuset does cost quite a few pennies, when the pennies are available for use, boy is it worth it. I will have to be satisfied with just the two for now, but I can assure you any future kitchen wish lists will include a major appearance by Le Creuset.

Like perhaps this beauty… http://www.chefsresource.com/lecreus834qt.html

Totally expensive? Yes. Could find a similar product for 1/5 the price? Yes. Do I love it anyway? Yes.

While this next exception isn’t exactly cookware, it is a total life saver. Behold the oven thermometer. “Why do you need an oven thermometer? Don’t you set the heat on the oven?” you may ask. I asked the same questions (altough I did so silently in my head as my mom was the one advocating for this tool). But when one of these lovely contraptions showed up in my stocking, I could find no reason not to give it a shot.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much. I have a relatively new oven and although things did seem to cook fast, typically I was able to prevent burning and under-cooking. My first test was during my bread pudding experiment. The recipe called for the oven to be set at 325. Imagine my surprise when I turned on the oven light and the thermometer read 350 degrees! I turned down the controls to 300, hoping for 325 upon my next visit. This time the thermometer read 330.

If you are interested, you can buy one here: http://www.target.com/Oven-Grill-Thermometer-2-5-Dial/dp/B001G9B7O2/ref=br_1_19?ie=UTF8&id=Oven%20Grill%20Thermometer%202%205%20Dial&node=13003671&searchSize=30&searchView=list&searchPage=1&sr=1-19&qid=1294763092&rh=&searchBinNameList=target_com_category-bin%2Cprice%2Ctarget_com_brand-bin%2Cmaterial_type%2Ctarget_com_primary_color-bin&searchRank=reviewrank&frombrowse=1

I took a few lessons from this experience. First, my oven is 30 degrees too hot (kind of a big deal considering baking is such a precise art). Second, kitchen thermometers are not to be underestimated. Third, when my mom pushes a kitchen gadget, and not too subtley I might add…I need to get on board ASAP.

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Kitchen Necessities

When I’m creating my dishes in the kitchen, there are some things that I absolutely can’t live without. I thought I would do a post on what is needed for a functional cooker and baker’s kitchen.

Anything in the kitchen:

One of my favorite things in my kitchen is my recipe book. It was one of my more ingenious ideas and is super helpful.


 

The first page has all of my categories.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, I have lots of tabs to correspond with the categories.

 

 

 

Cooking:

There are a few things that absolutely can’t be forgotten when stocking a good kitchen. Obviously good knives are a top priority. While I thinking having a wide variety of knives is important, you can really make do with three. A small paring knife, a sharp serrated knife for meat and a large knife will do.

Measuring ingredients is also pretty darn important. I find measuring spoons and cups to be the time of thing where you can literally never have enough. They always get dirty and I hate having to wash them while I’m in the middle of cooking. But having one good set will suffice (parts of my sets are in the dishwasher, so I showed both).


I actually prefer my metal spoons but it only has four spoons so this one is technically more practical if you are only getting one.

A good size cutting board to use those knives on is also really important.

A colander is also really important when preparing ingredients. It is super helpful for washing vegetables, draining pasta, chicken, etc.

 

When you have your ingredients ready, you’ll need to mix them in something. A set of nesting bowls is a must. I love these because they are really deep and so the materials don’t fly out when you are mixing them.

I also have a set of plastic nesting bowls because some ingredients, like fish, react with metal and the ingredients get ruined.

Now when it comes to actually cooking your food, there are a few necessities. A huge pot for sauces, soups, stews, etc. is great.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A set of skillets and sauce pans often come together. The basics are a large covered skillet, a steamer, a small pan and a sauce pan.

If you are cooking dishes in the oven, you will also need either a metal or glass baking pan. I love these glass pyrex because they have tops included…which makes clean up and storage so much easier. If you only have one pyrex, I’d get lots of Tupperware so that you can use the pyrex over and over again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When cooking these amazing dishes, what sort of utensils do you need? While a large variety is really helpful and reduces mid-cooking dish doing, these are the tools you can’t live without. A large flipper, a wooden spoon, a spatula, and big spoon.

Baking:

If you have several of the tools above, then you are off to a great start in stocking your baker’s kitchen. You can use the spatulas, bowls, measuring cups and spoons, etc. However there are a few more things you will need.

You will need some cookie sheets and cooling racks. These can of course be used in some cooking dishes as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You also should have at least two round cake pans and a bread load pan. I actually got a third cake pan for 3-tier cakes but it’s not necessary.

What  are your cooking and baking necessities? What can’t you live without?

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Kitchen Wish List

I’m not cooking anything today that I haven’t previously blogged about before, so I thought I would discuss the ever-present topic of the kitchen wish list. I mentioned it yesterday in my Birthday Cake post, but I have a running wish list. I’m sure most of you who do a decent amount of cooking do too. So here are the topic five things on my wish list.

1. A bigger kitchen. Yes, I know this is unrealistic for the time being, but it would be nice and would really help house the gadgets located lower on this list. I decided to post some pictures of my current kitchen below.

Here it is, the place where all of my cooking is done. I wanted to make it as authentic as possible, so I left out the drying dishes, the cake, etc.

Here is the left side, where I have my lovely, functional stove, with very little counter space. Above the stove houses the hardly-used items, because I can’t really reach that cabinet. Above the fridge is the liquor cabinet, because I also never go for those items. Above the counter has our mugs, snacks, extra tea stuff and hot cocoa. To the right of the stove is the silverware in the drawer, as well as the measuring spoons and measuring cups. In the cabinet next to the stove, the pots, skillets, and saucepans are located.

The right side of the kitchen is below. It has the plates, cups, glasses, glass pyrex, tupperware, sink, a few cleaning supplies, cooking gadgets and the dishwasher.

Below is the heart and soul of my pantry. It’s really nice to have an actual pantry, but it’s not very practical because the cabinets are so deep. I’m constantly trying to reorganize or find a better way to store things. The cooking supplies, cans, grains, toast, pasta, pasta sauce, etc. are on the top shelf. The bottom shelf has the spices that aren’t in the counter rack, the oils, vinegars, salt, pepper, and baking supplies I don’t use very often. If anyone has any ideas for better organization, I’d love to hear them.

The bottom cabinet has the sugars, flours, colander, garbage bags, plastic bags, wax paper, parchment paper, etc. Usually my big set of bowls also goes in the colander.

The top shelf has the cat food, my bf’s protein powder, and storage for extra things. This is a space I feel like I could utilize better, but I’m short and I haven’t found a way that works yet.

Anyway, I’m really pretty luck to have the kitchen that I do. It’s functional, usually pretty cleans and works great. But a few more feet wouldn’t hurt! Now, back to the list!

2. A double boiler. Yesterday you witnessed me trying to concoct one out of a metal bowl and a saucepan. It worked ok, but was pretty silly. Something like this would be great! http://www.target.com/Welco-Piece-Quart-Double-Boiler/dp/B0002P3XUC/ref=sc_qi_detailbutton

3. More spatulas. A cook can really never have too many. It’s like coffee mugs. I don’t like the ones would the spoon-like edges, these ones are much better. http://www.target.com/Cuisipro-Silicone-Spatula-Red-12/dp/B000HSC99A/ref=sc_qi_detailbutton

You can get cheaper ones with wooden handles but they get nasty really fast and are harder to clean.

4. A really large covered, oven-safe skillet. I’ve seen 14 inch ones, but they are hard to find, so if push comes to shove, this 12 inch one would be pretty cool. http://www.target.com/Kitchen-Essentials-Calphalon-Covered-Skillet/dp/B002IB2E12/ref=sc_qi_detailbutton

5. A Dutch oven. I can’t tell you how many recipes I’ve made recently that have called for a Dutch oven. A month ago I didn’t even know what it was! Now it seems essential. http://www.target.com/Kitchen-Essentials-Calphalon-Nonstick-Covered/dp/B002IB2HMS/ref=sc_qi_detailbutton

Ahhh! I could look at kitchen gadgets all day! I just love them! I want to know, what are some of the kitchen things you pine for?

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