Around the House in 80 Days: 7 Steps to Kitchen Bliss
Welcome to a new series! I’m going room by room around the house with easy tips to keep that space organized. Let’s start this party with the kitchen. That’s where everybody always ends up anyway.Â
I am the anti-Hannah Harto.
Which is not to say I am anti-Hannah Harto.Â She makes me cry laughing. She’s fabulous. A girl getting tipsy and making silliness in the kitchen? Why has she not been hanging out with me and my friends for the last 15 years?
Uh, because she’s way younger, lives in Brooklyn, and is fast on her way to becoming a celebrity? …Â Sometimes answers are not fun.Â
Anyway. My point is, we’re very different. I love baking, and am, frankly, pretty ass-kickingly great at it. And in the last year, after some effort, I’ve gotten quite-frankly amazing at cooking too.Â Proof, you say? Happy to. Evidence: one turkey breast, one batch of cookies, and one satisfied customer:
How cute is my cousin?
While sometimes my new projects do make the kitchen a little insane (like the Asparagus Soup Debacle, or the Great Canning Incident of 2010), I try to keep it neat. It’s not a huge space, and anyway, you know, it’s me: It’s got to be organized.Â Here’s how I do it.
- Read the recipe first. All of it. I know this is obvious, but I also know exactly how annoying it is to get ten steps in and go “…turmeric? Hmm. … Where are my keys?” I am not perfect at this step yet, as anyone who has cooked/baked/been in the house with me will vouch. But do as I say, not as I do.
- Measure ingredients over the sink. You will spill. You just will. And this way you turn on the faucet for five seconds, instead of cleaning the countertop, the cabinets, the floor, your bare feet, the cat….
- Measure everything out first. This is a little cooking-show-esque, and it does create more dirty dishes, so this is probably a better tip if you have a dishwasher. If you do, though, it really helps. Take out each ingredient, measure it out, then assemble your dish. It keeps everything in order and follow the recipe – or, even if you’re just making it up as you go, to make sure you don’t forget anything.
- Put it away. As soon as you’re done measuring the ingredient, back it goes into the cabinet/fridge. Unless you’re cooking the recipe off the back. Less to look through, less to fuss with, less to knock off the counter and clean off the cat.
- Keep extras.Â Baking staples (except for milk, eggs and yeast) last for nearly ever, so it’s worth to keep your pantry stocked it if you bake even semi-often. I always have flour, salt, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate chips and oatmeal. (I also make sure I have meringue powder, Crisco, confectioner’s sugar, gel dye and decorating bags, but that’s not normal.) It takes half an hour to whip up a batch of cookies, and you look like a rock star of thoughtfulness who made a regular day special. Cooking still takes more thought for me, and of course requires more fresh ingredients, but I still try to work similarly to keep it easy. These staples are either shelf-stable or frozen: olive oil, pasta, spices, soups, applesauce, frozen proteins (my favorites are small sirloin cuts and resealable-bag shrimp) and lots of frozen veg.
- Plan ahead. This is the make-or-break one for me. If I do this, it all works. If I don’t, it doesn’t. I do not come home from work or the gym and delight in deciding on a meal and then cooking for an hour. I am equally not one of those people who doesn’t mind realizing at 10 p.m. that they have to bring dessert the next day straight after work. The tastiness should be the surprise, not the process. Cooking time needs to be on my calendar, and so also does grocery shopping.
- Write it down.Â I know some people who don’t keep a grocery list and still manage to keep themselves and their families fed. I do not understand their brains one bit. I’d have sixteen jars of horseradish and wouldn’t have celery for a year. I also know people who keep a printed list and circle the things they need. I don’t really work that way either. But whatever works is right. For me, I keep a memo on my iPhone so I’m always able to add something when I think “ooh, right, I need that”. It’s written in the order of the aisles (generally, anyway) so I can just go right down it as I go.