Back in the Kitchen

by Laura on April 29, 2011

in Blog

It has been a long and stressful few weeks. We recently moved and things have been in upheaval, especially in my kitchen. As books, toys and clothes were packed elsewhere in the house, my kitchen remained functional. I packed those items I knew I wouldn’t be using in the last few weeks such as formal dinnerware or the volumes of wine glasses I keep handy for parties. But I needed to keep the cups, plates, cooking utensils, pots, pans and of course, the coffeemaker, rice cooker and Vita-Mix (for smoothies) on hand for our day-to-day needs.

As moving day loomed, I knew I had to kick into gear. I had to pare down the kitchen to a few essentials. It was tough, and I certainly was not as efficient as I had hoped to be. But we eventually packed up the kitchen in the old house, and moved a few miles down the road.

Once on the other end, it was mayhem. The new kitchen is considerably smaller than our last, and storage, counter space and patience were at a premium. I spent countless hours trying to find my groove in the new kitchen, and now that we’re two weeks into the new place, I am still tweaking things.

What I learned during this exhaustive adventure was that it is imperative to really think out your kitchen and make it work no matter how large or small. Utensils need to be readily available for use, food and staples must be easily accessible, and planning meals ahead of time is essential.

In the first few days, I managed a few homemade meals sprinkled with a bit of take-out, including our first night, which was take-out pizza. We carved a spot on the kitchen table and enjoyed a relaxing few moments among the boxes. The following morning we maintained our Saturday morning tradition by making waffles. What made this tradition do-able was our new Chef’s Choice Waffle Maker  (Waffle Pro Model 852), which made waffles in just 2 minutes. Greg was able to whip up waffles for a family of six in no time.  A delivery of roasted chicken take-out from a friend helped us through the weekend, and then reality struck . .  Greg was off to New York for the week and I was here to deal with the boxes, the constantly hungry kids, and a very unorganized kitchen.

To make it happen, I knew I had to plan. I found a spot at the table and planned meals for the week. I chose meals that required minimal preparation and time in the kitchen. My slow cooker was a key piece of equipment, as was the freezer — A container of premade frozen tomato and meat sauce was helpful, while family favorites such as RigatoniGarden Meatloaf and grilled cheese (see below) helped the kids feel at home in our new place.

As I look back at the things that helped me get through this move, they are all things that are essential for the kitchen every day. Life is crazy every day. School drop off and pick up, after school activities, play dates, errands, and work all cut into time spent in the kitchen.  When I’m there, I need to feel comfortable, at ease, and ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice. I am still in search of a bit of order in my kitchen; right now it is 85% functional – but I know I’m over the hump.

Here are few tips to help you find order in the kitchen  — whether it is moving day or every day.

1. Weed out items you just don’t use – do I really need 5 cheese graters?

2. Stand at the stove and think about how you cook. What needs to be accessible: pots and pans, spatulas and wooden spoons . . .

3. Update the pantry – Which foods should be refilled and organized? Get rice out of bags and into storage containers, put crackers and other snacks in containers to keep them fresh, throw out expired foods, and group like-items together.

4. Rearrange countertop appliances to maximize their use. Place the coffee maker near the coffee mugs, toaster near the bread box, stand mixer near the bowls and baking ingredi ents . . .

5. Store occasional use appliances in cabinets where they are easily accessible – you’ll never use it if you jam it in a cabinet that requires you to move several items before unearthing it.

6. Plan meals ahead of time! To ensure you have all ingredients on hand, and that you won’t be searching through the pantry and fridge in search of what to serve when the family is hungry and ready to eat NOW!.

7. Make sense of drawers – if you can’t find what you need, you’ll add to your frustration.

8. Don’t hesitate to re-rearrange. The kitchen is a work in progress. You never know how it functions until you are in the kitchen using it. Make the kitchen user-friendly and you’ll be more likely to get in there are cook.

Enjoy one of our favorite grilled cheese recipes from Tyler Florence.

Grilled Cheese (Smoke Mozzarella and Basil Pesto)

Basil Pesto

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 cup fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

  • 4 slices white sandwich bread
  • 4 thick-cut slices smoked mozzarella
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

For the Basil Pesto, in a food processor combine basil, parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, pine nuts, garlic, salt, and oil and pulse until well combined but still rough in texture.

Assemble sandwiches by smearing one side of each bread slice with pesto. Layer the mozzarella slices over the pesto on half of the bread slices. Season with a few turns of fresh ground black pepper. Place the remaining bread slices, pesto sides down, over cheese to make sandwiches.

In large sauté pan melt butter over medium heat. Add sandwiches and cook 2 to 3 minutes per side, until golden brown and crispy. Remove from pan and run toasted bread with the garlic clove.

Serves: 2

Source: Stirring the Pot, Tyler Florence, Meredith Books

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