Tag Archives: kitchen tips

Six handy organizers in the kitchen

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Note: This post was originally from 2012 (when I still made bread) but I’m bumping it up to today because there are some good tips here. I’m no neat-freak, but I do find that being organized in the areas I use on a daily basis helps make cooking less stressful — even if the rest of the kitchen is in varying levels of chaos!

In our house, we’re mostly sporadic organizers. Or sporadic messies, depending on whether you’re a glass-half-full or glass-half-empty kinda person.

But in the places where I need to find stuff day-in and day-out, I like to keep things pretty neat, because searching for stuff makes me nuts!

Here are a few cheap, easy things I’ve found that help keep my stuff findable. Most of the containers are items you’d find at an office store, Target, or the like.

 

Batteries in a magazine file
In a house full of computer nerds, we go through batteries like crazy, so I buy the huge multi-packs at Sam’s.   For the longest time, I just stashed them willy-nilly in my office shelves, but one day as I was deciding whether to throw out this magazine bin, it hit me that this is the perfect size for those big battery blister packs.

Spices* in a CD box
*or anything else that comes in flat bags or envelopes
We buy most of our spices from a local specialty store (yay, The Spice Merchant!), where the spices are packed in these flat plastic bags that are 4 or 5 inches wide. I’ve found a CD bin works perfect for this, and is just the right depth to stash in an upper cabinet. This would also work for instant soup packs and small boxed mixes such as Rice-a-Roni or Zataran’s.

Nuts* and clothespins
*and other things that come in paper bags
Nuts are both healthy and versatile, so I always keep a good stash of several different kinds on hand. The ones we eat most (walnuts and pecans) go in big canisters, but the ones that we buy in smaller quantities, I keep in the original bag (shout-out to another local: Nifty Nut House!), in another metal-mesh bin in the pantry. Writing the name on a clothespin helps me see what’s behind the front row at a glance.

Bread- (or breakfast-)making kit
I keep everything needed for homemade bread — including the recipe — all in a bin in the pantry. (Well, everything that doesn’t need refrigeration.) So when I want to bake a loaf, all I have to do is grab this, and I’m good to go.
Update: now I do this in my fridge with things I’m likely to use at the same time. I have four bins:
  • Breakfast – my pre-chopped onion, roasted sweet potato, and greens that I make into hash almost every morning.
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Snacks; cut-up veggies and dips
  • Nuts and coconut
Medicine chest
When my kids were small, it dawned on me one day that I almost always gave them their meds in the kitchen. So why was I keeping everything down the hall? I corralled all the cold, allergy and asthma meds in one small plastic crate, all the tummy and fever stuff in another. Instead of digging through a shelf full of bottles, I can just pull the pertinent bin. (Make sure you keep this stashed on a high shelf to keep out of little hands. Or behind a lock, if you have a climber.)

Shopping bags in a folder holder
An office organizer, usually used to hold folders, is the perfect place to stash shopping bags of various sizes. When I have too many to fit in the holder, I know it’s time to start throwing them in the recycling or passing them on to thrift stores.

But don’t hate me because I’m organized…

Keepin’ it real
Lest anyone think every corner of my kitchen is always in perfect order, here’s a dose of reality for you. There are still parts of my pantry that look like this:
 And on most days, my kitchen table looks something like the pic below. It’s only gotten worse since my kids are at college, ’cause now I only have to clear off two places for dinner instead of four!

Keeping a kitchen organized is a bit like putting an octopus to bed. You get one part tucked away neatly, and another tentacle pops out somewhere else! But you gotta keep trying. Can’t let the octopus take over!

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7 ways to make lemons last longer

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how to make lemons last longer
The Kitchn featured a post on how to keep lemons from drying out before you can use them. Their solution? Sealed in a ziplock bag in the fridge. But there were so many interesting notes in the comments, I’ve edited and compiled the best tips to make lemons last longer here.
  1. I have another solution which works for me when I’m not too lazy: when I have several lemons, I zest them all in one go and keep it in a plastic container the freezer. I also freeze the juice in ice cube trays. That way I always have lemon juice and zest on hand.
  2. I keep all citrus in my crisper drawer (humidity set to low).
  3. For lemons I want to keep whole, for an extended period, I dip into very hot water (120 to 125F) to kill any surface mold. I then put them in a bowl of fresh water, submerged completely by using a plate and other weight, in the fridge. Changing the water daily or every other day seems to be enough. I can keep fresh lemons in the fridge for up to two months.
  4. I had a problem with moisture accumulating in the sealed bag, but solved that with a tip I read on another site: chill the lemons first in the fridge, then put them in a sealed plastic bag. Nowhere near the moisture you’d get putting them in the plastic bag at room temperature. Dunno why, but it makes all the difference!
  5. I have discovered by accident that, since I’ve put lemons into an apothocary type jar (not tight fitting lid) on the counter out of direct sunlight, the lemons have stayed for months.
  6. Lemons that have become hard while sitting in the fridge can be brought back to life by a day of soaking in cold water.
  7. I wipe them clean to remove any wax or dark spots, and then freeze them whole in a bag. When I need the zest (yellow part of rind) I just pull one out of the freezer and scrape it directly into the recipe mixture. In this way, no pith (the bitter white part of rind) will find its way into the recipe. Another benefit that I found was that I don’t lose any lemon rind oils, which defrost straight into the recipe mix and not spray all over the kitchen counter. If I need to use the juice, I’ll let the lemons defrost for a couple of hours and them squeeze them. Unfortunately, once totally defrosted, the lemons will be squashy and not good for slicing and decoration.

 

Kitchen tips: Stuff to keep handy by the stove

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Today I’m going to share a couple things I love that make everyday cooking just a little easier.

I’ve always kept all the most-frequently-used cooking tools close at hand in one large canister right by the stove. That’s handy, but as we collected more gadgets it got more stuffed, to the point where you couldn’t pull out one item without bringing one or two others with it. Not a major problem in the big picture, but just a little daily irritation.

So, a few weeks ago, I went through the utensils and narrowed them down to the ones that really get used weekly to daily. There were still quite a few, so I got two canisters of different heights and sorted the tools out by height. It’s a small change, but it makes it so much easier to find the exact thing I’m after, and pull it out quickly and cleanly.

Then a few days ago I had an ah-ha: I use my measuring spoons every single day, but I’ve always kept them in a drawer with other gadgets. Why not keep them out in the open by the stove, too? So I hunted in a local flea market for something tall enough to hold my measuring spoons, short enough so I can read the measurements stamped on them, and hefty enough to not tip over easily. I found this cute little ironstone pitcher for six bucks — score! It’s just perfect.

By the way, one of the things that makes every day cooking a little easier is these rectangular stainless steel measuring spoons. What I love most about them is that because they’re so long and narrow, they fit in just about any spice jar! I also like the fact that the rectangular shape makes it easy to eyeball a partial spoonful if, for example, you need a 1/2 teaspoon, but that spoon and the 1/4 teaspoon are in the dishwasher. Just grab the full teaspoon and guesstimate it.

I actually have two sets, so there’s (almost) always one clean in any size I need. I also like that the set includes a 3/4 teaspoon and a 1/8 teaspoon. You might balk at spending $12 – 14 on a set of measuring spoons, but not only will you use them every day, but these things will last for generations — literally. So that really makes it pennies per use.

Where I got the stuff:
The red canisters: Target (they came with lids, but I don’t use them)
The ironstone pictcher: A Legacy Antique Mall, Wichita KS
The measuring spoons: I don’t remember, but you can pick up a set (or two) at my Amazon shop.