Monday, May 13, 2013

How to Create Extra Drawer Space

During my 30 years of clutter and organization consulting, there was one thing I heard over and over: Most folks wish they had more storage space, more closet space, more cupboard space, more drawer space, more space period.

So it's with this common dilemma in mind that I share this hot tip: You can increase your drawer space (kitchen drawer space specifically) by setting an inexpensive plastic utensil holder on top of the inside of the drawer. This creates a double-decker drawer. Here's my baking utensils drawer as an example:

And to access the things underneath the utensil holder, I just lift it up, grab what I need, and replace the holder.

Here's another example, using my cooking and general utensils drawer:

Again, to access the things underneath the utensil holder, I just lift it up, grab what I need, and replace the holder.

Now could I just plop all this stuff in each drawer and forget about the upper utensil holder--the double-decker arrangement? Sure, but then I'd have a jangled and chaotic mess that I'd have to paw through every time I needed something, wasting precious time and energy. Who needs that experience?

And BTW: My utensil holders were "finds" at the thrift store--nothing fancy, but they work. So if you'd like a little extra drawer space and the improved organization that could come with it, try this idea. Meanwhile, here's to finding things quickly and easily, which can mean easier meal-making, and thus more family dinners!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Bread Dough--An Invitation to Creativity!

The other day Jeanne was messing around with some bread dough and came up with a tomato bread. She added tomato sauce as the recipe's required liquid, and WOWEE was the result tasty!

                                                                       Isn't this pretty?

So her experiment got me to thinking: Why not add other flavors for different types of bread?

Wouldn't pineapple juice and maybe some pineapple flavoring and extra sugar sprinkled on top make a nice breakfast toast? The same idea would work with all sorts of fruit juices. Or what would happen if we added some shredded coconut and coconut flavoring and sprinkled sugar on top?

I dunno, but I think it's worth fiddling around with. Part of good cooking is experimenting--not being afraid to make mistakes. (I figure at least the birds will eat it if things flop.) And when we succeed, oh what fun we bring to the dinner table!

So here's to enjoying some fun experimenting as we plan and execute another wonderful family dinner this weekend! Go ahead, give it a try...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Rustic Tarts--A Fun and Easy Dessert!

We did some cooking and photographing today to get our new cookbook ready to publish. Jeanne made 5 amazing waffle/pancake syrups: Peanut Butter, Cinnamon, Coconut, Caramel, and oops, can't remember the 5th, but it was dazzling.

She also made stuffed pasta shells using leftover chicken, diced bell peppers, chopped green onions, chopped cilantro, salsa, and lots of cream cheese. OH my--they were heaven!

I made sausage/chopped olive calzones (beautiful and yummy, I might add) and a rustic mixed berry tart.

It's this rustic tart I'd like to talk about because it's super easy, super delicious, and looks kind of cool. If you're wanting to get your kids cooking, this is a great place to start. Using your favorite pie crust recipe, have them make a batch. Then either open up a can of pie filling, or go the extra mile and teach them how to make filling using fresh or canned fruit, sugar, cornstarch, and a little lemon juice. This  filling is fresh raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries with some lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch.

Roll out some pie dough to a circle, place some pie filling in the middle, pull up the sides and overlap them as the picture shows. I basted it with egg white and sprinkled turbanado sugar over it all for a little extra spizzazz on the baked shell. I baked it about 35 minutes. From one crust recipe I made 3 smaller tarts, but you could just use all the crust and make a big tart. Anyway, everyone loved it and I'll do this again for sure.

Rustic tarts--a fun and easy way to make a delicious dessert. So here's to all the cool things we can do in the kitchen, and to lots of happy family meals!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

NEW Cookbook Forthcoming and Fun Kitchen Decor Idea!

First of all, we're excited to announce that our plans and hopes for an amazing cookbook have just materialized--yesterday the mail brought us our publishing contracts (from Covenant Communications; see below) for our new cookbook. It should be out in the spring of 2014. We're wanting this to be the first of an entire series!

NOW, how about a fun idea for some kitchen and/or dining decor? It occurred to us that our readers are not only avid cooks, but excellent ones at that. And so we thought we'd suggest you take pictures from time to time of your superb culinary creations, frame them, and hang them up for all to see and enjoy. Here's what Alice did:

[Alice talking] This area is just off of my kitchen, and a plate rack used to hang here, but I got tired of it. I decided instead to display photos from an issue of the cooking magazine Jeanne and I edited. Our incredibly talented photographer, Kaycee Leishman, shot all the photos and her work is luscious. We cooked all the food, worked our food art magic on each recipe, and so I thought, "Hey, why not put it out where I can see it all the time?"

But you don't need a fancy-dancy camera like Kaycee uses--just some good light and a good digital camera will turn out photos worthy of displaying. Think about how you want to display your recipe, what garnishing it might need, etc. Get creative and have fun with this.

For instance, all we did with this scrumptious drink was put it in a cute glass from the dollar store, include a red and white striped napkin, and placed  whole strawberries around it.

I look at these photos all the time and love the inspiration they provide. And I love the lasting evidence of my work--this is much more meaningful, and adds so much more personality to my home than that tired and trite plate rack I took down! So next time you create another of your delicious and beautiful dishes, take a picture and put it on display! Meanwhile, here's to creating an environment that inspires and motivates us to create delightful family meals!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Save Time & Energy: Set Up a Drinks-of-Water Center

Seems like someone always wants a drink of water around our houses. Not a bad thing, except that we found this routine was dirtying all the glasses, so there just weren't enough clean ones available when we needed to set the table for dinner later in the day.

We admit, it's not an earth-shattering problem, but it was annoying to always have to wash up glasses before we could set the table. It seemed like a big waste of time, too. Can you relate? If so, you might want to do what Alice did:

[Alice talking] I rearranged things a little and designated a cupboard by the sink for "drinks of water" glasses. Then I bought several glasses on-the-cheap, at our local thrift store to fill this cupboard.

 To add even more convenience, I also placed medicines and prescriptions in this same cupboard. (It's true that this won't work if you still have young children in the home, though.)

All glasses meant for the dinner table are in another cupboard. People know which cupboard to go to for their drink of water and now there are always plenty of clean glasses ready for table setting!

We've been amazed at how much time this little change has saved and how much easier getting the table set has become. Give this idea a try and let us know how it works for you. In the meantime, here's to simplifying kitchen work so it's easier to get yet another delicious dinner to the table!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Better Organization: Make the Most of Cupboard Space!

You can increase your storage space and improve your cupboard organization along the way by adding quarter-round trim to the backs of cupboards that house plates and platters.

This handy and affordable trim is found at all big box home stores (Home Depot, Lowes, Ace Hardware, etc.). Here's what to do:

1) Measure the length of your cupboard(s) and buy enough trim to meet your measurements. Lowe's will even cut it to specified lengths, if you ask.
2) Paint it the color of the inside of your cupboards (most likely, white).
3) Remove everything from the cupboard (wipe it down, if needed), and tack or glue the trim onto the cupboard floor, about 1/2-inch away from the back wall of the cupboard.

Now you're ready to stand plates and platters up. This technique keeps them handy, frees up space for other things, and is pretty to look at. This is the inside of my tableware cupboard, where we installed this trim on the cupboard floor where we keep our dinnerware:

I wanted a handy place where I could get to my butter plates easily. This works well.

                   And there's plenty of room for our dinner plates, and nice salt and pepper shakers.

This set-up is actually called a Plate Rack Cupboard, and was common in turn-of-the-century homes. But in today's homes, you'll never see it, so we add it ourselves. See if this idea doesn't work well to create better organization and add more useable space in your cupboards. Meanwhile, here's to creating a kitchen that's easier to work in so we can get more great home-cooked meals on the table!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Another Simple Time- and Energy-Saver

So we talked a few days ago about taping the frequently-used Cream Cheese Frosting recipe to the powdered sugar container. Then reader, Emily DeLay, wrote in suggesting we also tape most-used recipes to the insides of the baking and cooking center cupboard doors. Thanks for yet another simple, but very clever idea, Emily!

Now let's look at still another simple, yet smart time- and energy-saver: Consider placing an extra measuring spoon or cup inside containers of frequently-used ingredients.

Here you see Alice's containers of old fashioned oats, cornmeal, coconut flour, and teff flour (the small jar in the front). Notice that she has either a measuring cup or spoon in each of the containers.

The measuring cups and spoon are the size her recipes most often call for. Oatmeal calls for 1/3 cup oats per individual serving, so that's the size cup she keeps in her oatmeal jar. She substitutes teff flour in her baking recipes by the tablespoonful, so that's the size spoon she keeps in her teff flour jar. You see the pattern.

Earth-shattering idea? No. But a super little time- and energy-saver when you're in a hurry to put a recipe together--no more hunting around for the measuring spoons and cups. Try this and see how you like it, and in the meantime, here's to creating some amazing meals to bring the family back to dinner our (our dinner spelled backwards!).