Tag Archives: cooking

How I Organized My Kitchen on a Budget

“A place for everything and everything in its place” was the advice I was given as a child when I misplaced something, which I have to admit was often enough.

But whenever I had a chance to put things in order and to give things a designated spot (and I made sure to return the objects to their designated spot after use), it seemed that losing, misplacing and hunting for things became a rare occurrence. Mom and Dad’s advice was proven right, again and again.

I was working in the kitchen a few days ago when I realized that my kitchen was not following that mantra. I had teas scattered in three different cupboards. I had bags of bulk store products piled on top of one another and sliding off each other. Even my cat’s cupboard was becoming an avalanche-waiting-to-happen.

My spring cleaning instinct went into overdrive. It was time to tame these cupboards and get the kitchen organized once and for all!

It’s not like I’ve never done this before. A few years ago, I containerized the different kinds of gluten-free flour I needed, just to keep them clearly identified and organized. Gluten-free recipes were a breeze when I could tell my tapioca starch from the potato starch, and the white rice flour from the sweet rice flour. Every time I baked or brought back more flour from the store, I was so thankful that I had this section so neatly organized.

It was time to apply the same makeover technique to the rest of the kitchen.

When it comes to kitchen items, I see two main problems: shapeless objects and small objects.

The shapeless objects are those bagged items like chocolate chips or bulk store items that don’t stack well, creating a moving blob in the cabinet, consuming horizontal space and little vertical space. Small objects like the little bottles of flavour extracts (almond, orange and vanilla) stay in place nicely, but if I accidentally knock one over while reaching for something behind them, I knock them all over.

Another side issue is depth. If we can make use of the full depth of the cabinets, storage potential is multiplied. The problem is how to stay on top of what’s at the very back of the shelf.

To me, the answer is containers.

The first step was a quick edit of the contents of my cabinets and pantry. I tossed out anything that was in the process of going stale, that I honestly knew I wasn’t going to use, or that had expired. One garbage bag later, and with free space opening up, I was well on my way.

The next step was to measure those cabinets carefully (from the inside!) and to get a sense of how much free space I had to work with. I then went to a discount store to check out how their containers measured up and compared to my free space.

To maximize my use of space, I avoided looking at containers that were cylindrical. Those barrel-shaped containers lose too much space in the square angles of rectangular cupboards.

I then bought three different “prototype” containers (that seemed to fit within the boundaries of my cabinet measurements) to see how they might fit and stack up in my pantry and cupboard shelves. With those prototypes, I was able to see what fit the best and to imagine how many containers could fit in a row to best fill in the space.

I then returned to the store and started buying containers 3 or 4 at a time, just enough to fill up a row. I didn’t buy more than that as I wanted to reserve the right to change my mind and relocate them to another shelf later if needed.

Then I washed and thoroughly dried the containers and filled them with items that seemed to be within the same “category”. And then out came the label maker for the last finishing touch, to let me know what was in the container.

With one row finished, I’d take a step back, mentally high-five myself for what I had accomplished, and then start thinking about the next row to tackle a day or two later.

The time between rows allowed me to consider what other objects could logically be combined into a container, which size container was needed, and where to place it (is it something I use daily, weekly or just a few times per year?) Before I knew it, in my mind I had my kitchen already rearranged.

The best part is that discount stores have containers of so many different shapes, sizes and materials, it is pretty easy to reorganize a kitchen on a limited budget.

The first recipes I did after the kitchen cabinet makeover went so smoothly. I am certain I saved time and effort in not having to hunt for any of the ingredients or the tools I needed, because I had “a place for everything and everything in its place”.

Thanks again, Mom and Dad!

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Sincere thanks for reading!
Have a great day,
André

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Filed under food, How to

Only the Finest Ingredients Go Into Every Blog

IngredientsWelcome to my kitchen, or my writing studio, whichever you prefer. When it comes to writing a blog, I find that much like in cooking, using the best ingredients is key to ensuring a quality finished product:

First, I start with the finest quality nouns and adjectives I can find. Descriptive, colourful and meaningful, they serve as a solid foundation for the articles and stories I would like to share with my guests.

Next, I like to use some well-chosen active verbs to help the blog rise and to give it the texture needed to keep guests engaged.

I understand that many of you try to limit your intake of adverbs these days, so let me assure you that my blogs are suitable for adverb-reduced diets.

To help the blog posts achieve their peak of flavour, I highly recommend freshly picked thoughts and perspectives from your own garden. Keep in mind that you can always pull thoughts and perspectives out of the freezer for historical pieces and memorabilia pieces, as long as they were flash frozen and not tainted by years of storage.

For the richest, most flavourful blogs, I prefer story lines started from seedlings and allowed to grow organically until they are ripe for picking even if it takes months or years.

I can’t stress enough that artificial fillers like hyperbole, are kept to a strict minimum to ensure purity in the finished product. Also, metaphors and similes are carefully selected and used in limited quantities, but have been known to add a bit of complexity in flavours.

I also try to limit the use of spicy language to ensure the real flavour and quality of the words come through. If any spicy language is to be added, Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Inspiring, Misc blogs, Writing

New Year’s in New Orleans

Even though our Ottawa winter was heralded with warmer than usual temperatures and no snow by the time Christmas rolled around (a fairly unusual occurrence), John and I packed our bags and headed out for a winter escape (planned several months ago) for a bucket list destination: New Orleans, Louisiana.

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

The beauty and the majesty of the mighty oaks in front of the Oak Alley Plantation

After a fairly easy-going travel day (thank you Mother Nature!) we arrived at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, happy and reassured to find our luggage made it as well. The uneventful travel day was especially sweet since it was New Year’s Eve and because we had made it with plenty of time to spare to take in the festivities. I admit I was mentally prepared for the possibility of spending New Year’s Eve in an airport due to weather, mechanical or logistical issues like missed connections, but in the end everything worked out! YAY!

Our first destination was the Court of Two Sisters Restaurant in the French quarter for a special dinner to ring in the New Year. It did not take longer than for the appetizers to arrive to fully appreciate the great things I had heard about southern hospitality, given the kind, warm and attentive nature of the team that greeted us with open arms. What an amazing way to start a vacation! We then decided to take a gentle stroll to burn off some of the calories, and to take in the merriment and festive spirit that was in abundance throughout the French Quarter. We concluded the evening in Jackson Square, a great vantage point to take in the brilliant fireworks show and traditional dropping of the fleur-de-lis to ring in 2016.

Our chilly New Year’s Day began with Continue reading

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The Chicken Lottery

Chicken Batch cooking has become a way of life in this household, since the discovery of my intolerance to wheat products 10 years ago. In a nutshell, it just means preparing food in a full recipe that serves 6, 8 or 10 people and freezing the leftovers. It isn’t really rocket science, but in this day where cooking at home seems to be a dying art in our fast-paced world, it just means returning to our roots somewhat. Our mothers and grandmothers did it almost every night, so why can’t we?

In my case, to take it one step farther and make it even easier, I separate and freeze the leftovers in single serving containers. That way, I have a complete and balanced meal in one container, ready to bring to work for lunch or to pop in the microwave to enjoy anytime I need a quick meal.

It takes a bit of preparation and organization, but it definitely pays off in the long run when I know exactly what went into each meal, I am not risking the repercussions of an accidental dose of wheat, and I can control portions of everything that I make.

Sometimes, the fun part of batch cooking is the ability to buy regular or family-sized sized portions of ingredients and know with certainty that with careful planning, little will get wasted. Better yet is the prospect of getting a deal or being able to save money on the ingredients, especially when the recipes you would like to make align with the weekly specials at the grocery store.

Then we have those serendipitous moments like the chicken lottery:

Some of the grocery stores nearby sell prepared (gluten free) roast chickens as a convenient option for busy families on the go. To me they are also Continue reading

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Filed under How to, Humour

Ten Years Gluten-Free

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES It is hard to believe that it was 10 years ago that the nutritionist said, “I think we found our culprit: it’s the wheat product family”. At first, the news brought instant relief in that we finally knew what the problem was. A moment later, the relief turned to panic in terms of “How the heck will I live without wheat products? Wheat is in everything! Where do I begin?”

Ten years does not seem that long ago, but in the wheat-free/gluten-free world it was a lifetime ago. The awareness and popularity of the products over the years have paved the way for greater competition and for companies to try to outdo each other and to have clients reaching for their pocketbooks.

However, back in 2005, some of the first gluten-free cookies I tried were… well… bad. Frankly, the packaging they came in might have been tastier. It wasn’t easy, but I survived on a lot of salad, grilled chicken and home-made shepherd’s pie in that first year. I am so thankful that times have changed.

What led me to the doctor and nutritionist’s office in the first place was a series of digestive issues that were seemingly getting more intense as time went on. In the months that preceded those visits, my stomach was often bloated, distended and often so noisy when it came to post-lunch digestion, to the point that I was embarrassed to attend afternoon meetings. I tried to drink as much water as I could to help drown the sound, but then I just had an orchestra of digestion noises AND gurgly, bubbly noises.

It was the month I turned 40 that things took a turn for the worst. At first, I thought it was just a little overindulgence Continue reading

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Filed under Humour, Inspiring