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Food Prep #1 - Prepping Ahead

Jul 7, 2017

I'm a busy guy. I own my own business. My wife works full time, often on nights and weekends too. I have a relatively high maintenance 8 year old and a maniac of a three year old. I own a home... with the accompanying yard and manage a rental property with it's own set of demands. 

Did I mention that I have ADHD too? 

Bottom line: I don't have time to F*** around. I am all about efficiency! I'm also the person in the house who does the cooking every night. Partly because I'm a classically trained chef, partly because I work from home, it makes sense for me to be the chef at La Casa di Reid. But I certainly don't have to time to make anything epic Monday thru Friday. My goal is always to have a healthy, delicious meal on the table in less than 1/2 hour, while doing the dishes as I go and making my son's and my wife's lunches for the next day. Though 30 minutes may be ambitious for the not-former-professional-chef among you. Easy, quick, simple, healthy, delicious is not unreasonable for anyone. 

But, the pork & brussel sprouts that are going on the table tonight are do not begin their journey tonight at 5:40 when I get home from picking up my son. They started their path to our table last Friday. That's when I make the shopping list, often with the help of my wife. (And, actually that list starts as soon as the shopping is done the previous Saturday. If you have a running list on your fridge or on your phone, you can add things throughout the week as the run out or run low.)

The next step is food shopping which happens at a more or less predictable day and time. Saturday morning is when we do it 99% of the time. As a matter of fact, it is a recurring event on my Google Calendar for Saturday morning. That way I can't forget about it when planning my weekend. 

The next step is maybe the most important in terms of that meal being on the table quickly during the week. It is the prep that gets done on Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I like to get it out of the way Saturday, but it doesn't really matter. I do bigger projects and a lot of my own butchering, but just to take care of the veggies for the week shouldn't take much more than 1/2 hour to an hour. But it will shave so much time off the making of the meals. 

What most people don't realize is how long veggies will last if purchased fresh, prepped well, and stored appropriately. The next few posts will be about how to prep certain foods and how to store them to make them last for you and your family. Below is an example of the best way to store your veggies at home. These green beans have been "picked" and put back in their produce bag with a paper towel or two in the bottom. Once you've done that, squeeze out as much of the air as possible and tie the top. If the beans are fresh, they'll last 5 - 10 days. Straight from the garden, 7 - 14 days easy. 
Food Prep #1 - Prepping Ahead

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Kitchen Organization #5: Misc. Vertical Space

Jun 30, 2017

I would also suggest thinking outside the box in terms of how to use your vertical space. I've used the 'item' in the first picture for years. It holds things that I use semi-regularly like spice blends, black pepper, and specialty vinegars. And it fits perfectly on one of our weird small walls between doors in 1920's kitchen. 

As for the mug hooks... that's one of my favorite out of the box solutions ever... if I do say so myself. I use multiple mugs daily to mix a medicine I have to take for my stomach. Having them right on above the sink hanging from the valance (if that's even the right word) makes it so easy. 

I guess the bottom line is a somewhat complex matrix of what you use most often, the space you have, the layout of the space, and how creative you can get.
Kitchen Organization #5: Misc. Vertical Space
Kitchen Organization #5: Misc. Vertical Space

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Pan rack no. 2

Jun 24, 2017

I have two pan racks. Thought I'd show you the second one too. This one is over the dishwasher, several paces away from the stove. So it is the home to many things we don't use every day. 

Also, you'll notice that you can use the top level to store things as well. In this one I have an old "grizwald." (vintage cast iron pan) In the other picture you can see that I have finally found a home for that one really large bowl that I use 4 times a year that doesn't fit in any of the cabinets.

AND... I hang herb and garlic to dry from the middle of the rack. Can't find a picture from last year. I'll take one this summer and post later.
Pan rack no. 2

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Kitchen Organization #4: So you've used up all your walls...

Jun 23, 2017

...Then don't forget about the ceiling! Hanging pot racks are super cool! They get a whole bunch of bulky items, some of which you use regularly, some very infrequently, completely out of your way. And, this is a category of items that do not stack or nest well in your cabinets, they take up a lot of space, and, let's face it, I like bending over less and less every year. You have to make sure you have enough clearance. Don't put them over high traffic areas. Make sure everyone who uses the pans can reach them and that the tallest person in your house won't bang his/her head on them. Other than that, they're super easy to install. As long as you have a drill and can figure out where the joists or strapping is, you're good to go. 

You may also notice that our go to cleaner is hanging right there so we don't have to bend over and rummage under the sink every night to clean the stove and table.

As always, the things you use most should be most accessible. The three pans that are missing are closest to the stove because we use them almost every day.
Kitchen Organization #4: So you've used up all your walls...

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Kitchen Organization #3: Vertical space & Knife racks

Jun 13, 2017

Conceptually, I don't love knife blocks. I always wonder how sanitary it is down at the bottom of that slot that you put your knife in. All it takes is one or two times of not getting the knife totally clean... But that's speculation on my part. 

Knife bars are my joint. I love seeing them all out and displayed for easy use. Plus, we have almost no counter space. So, again, using the walls is the way to go. 

The knife rack is at an angle because otherwise it wouldn't fit on the wall anywhere near the cutting board. 

Kitchen Organization #3: Vertical space & Knife racks

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Kitchen Organization #2: Spice racks: More about vertical space

Jun 16, 2017

Spices are weird. They are things that you absolutely need for certain things but usually aren't things you use every day. In fact you may use a specific spice once or twice a year. Plus, they are strangely expensive, so you don't want to just throw them out... even though they do lose potency after time. They are also a pretty awkward size/shape if you think about the standard shelf size and depth in most kitchens. Basically they are an organizational nightmare.

Here are some thoughts/tips about organizing spices. 
  • Try not to buy a spice for a recipe that you know you'll only make once. See if a friend or neighbor can "lend" you a tablespoon. 
  • Consider getting rid of older spices. The conventional wisdom is that spices last about year. I would argue with that. They definitely lose potency but it's not like they are good one day and bad the next. Just be aware that you may need to adjust and use a bit more in certain applications. Though most ground spices are candidates to be tossed without worry between 3 & 6 years.
  • For applicable spices, consider buying the whole spice instead of the ground spice. You will radically extend the shelf life when you store whole spices. Particularly nutmeg should be kept whole. It starts to loose its "oompf" very quickly. A whole nutmeg will last a very long time and it always at your fingertips with a quick grate on the microplane.* For other spices, like fennel seeds, a cheap coffee grinder will usually do the trick.
  • I really like having all my spices visible so I don't have to rifle through them and make a mess. Plus as a "lazy" ADHDer, not having to go in and out of a drawer or cabinet is nice.
  • The the plastic shaker top off the bottle if you primarily use the spice for things that require measuring. It's just another thing to get in your way.
  • Don't necessarily group them alphabetically. That's what I did when I first got a "tasteful rotating spice rack." And, I never cooked with one spice. I'd have four out and then put them back in the wrong spaces and could never find anything. Now I group them by what I use them for: Dried herbs for pasta sauces etc., Baking spices, Pickling spices, Things I use very rarely, Hot spices, etc.

The spice racks are actually screwed to the outside of what was sold as a build in spice rack. (It's clearly an old ironing board cabinet.) We ended up having to seal it off when we got blow in insulation, but I've always had the spice racks on the outside. Just easier.


* Microplane on Amazon:  Don't get the curved ones. They just leave you with curved nutmeg, cheese, ginger, etc. which ends up wasting the product. 

Kitchen Organization #2: Spice racks: More about vertical space

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