19 July 2011

A New and Improved Kitchen

Awhile back, I posted about making pumpkin muffins in the springtime because I had several cans of pumpkin that would not last until next Thanksgiving.  Now, I don't mind making pumpkin muffins "out of season," but you must understand that I had four large cans of pumpkin.  Why?  Do I love pumpkin so much?  No, unfortunately, I have a truly disorganized mode of operation, and things just get shoved in the pantry, and then I forget that I got something and get it again, and it madly repeats itself until one day I find four cans of pumpkin, or even worse, 6 huge bottles of mustard.

This madness had to be stopped, and right about the time that thought was going through my very little brain, Katie at Kitchen Stewardship was posting about buying in bulk to save money and then storing the bulk items so that they could be used and not wasted.  It was a Providential moment for me.  Don't you just love it when random things, like pumpkin, mustard, and someone else's blogpost, converge to point you in a direction?

To further boost me along my well-intended path, Burt took the boys on a week-long vacation to visit his mother, and I was given a week at home to do as I pleased.  Despite all the advice to get a massage, loll in bed all day, or whatever, I knew that my mind would be most at ease if I could get a handle on the chaos that I was calling my kitchen.

It was a three-day event, lasting about 12 hours each day, and I am extremely please with how it is working out one month later.

Burt learned a system at work with something called 5S.  I have used this system in the past to organize other parts of the house, specifically the basement, now rec-room/art center, and the spare bedroom, which is now study room/classroom.  Despite my boys' best efforts to return things to their former crazy states, things have been manageable for over a year now, due to the thoroughness of the initial 5 S-ing.

You, lucky reader, have the privelage to follow me through each phase of 5 S, as applied to my kitchen, in the next 5 posts.  I hope that you can take something away from this.

S #1: SORT

Again, I had this golden opportunity while the guys were away for a week, in that I wasn't required to produce anything in the kitchen.  Therefore, I was able to pull everything out of every cabinet, drawer, etc., and sort through it all.  I had things piled up on every horizontal surface in the kitchen.

Luckily (I suppose) we have moved a lot, and so I did not have 25 years' worth of things accumulated.  Stuff becomes a lot less precious when you have to find a place to put it.  Nevertheless, there was a lot of stuff socked away.

I evaluated what I had when I pulled it out.  Do I really need three bottle openers?  600 twist ties?  Since I'm the only one who cracks and picks nuts, one of each will do.  The extras were boxed up for charity.  If I really felt that I needed a "spare," it was put in another box to live in storage in the basement.  Anything broken, and likewise, anything that I really knew I didn't use or could live without got pitched.  That left me with a lot more room for when I put things back.

In addition to sorting out what to keep and what to toss, I also tried grouping like things.  For instance, baking stuff all was together, and cooking stuff, and you get the idea.  I would figure out optimum placement later.  For the time, just deciding what went together was enough.

13 July 2011

The Onslaught Begins

Zucchini, that's what I'm talkin' about.  The zucchini tsunami has begun.  Thankfully (?) I don't grow them, but if I go late enough to the farmers' market, they are practically giving them away.  Late, meaning that the people manning the stands want to dump their wares and get on home and will offer outrageous deals.  So it happens that I have a crisper drawerful of zucchini, yellow squash, pattypan squash, and yellow zucchini.  What's a poor girl to do?

Zucchini bread, of course!  Actually, I was lucky enough to pick up the latest issue of Eating Well magazine, which had lots of ideas for zucchini, but the bread struck my fancy.  It's easy, and good for you, too.

I went ahead and threw in a half cup of chocolate chips, to make it more tempting for Cool Guy, who resists any and all vegetables on principal, and he adored it.  My plan is to gradually decrease chocolate chips (they did nothing for me except add calories) until they disappear and are only a distant memory in Cool Guy's subconscious.

Next time I make this bread, which will be soon, I plan on converting it to muffins, following my muffin conversion strategy.  They stay fresher that way, are much easier to portion out, and any leftovers can be frozen for those bleak winter days when we have no zucchini to complain about.

Cool Guy and the vegetable story:
Last week, a water line broke in our neighborhood.  We had no water for 8 hours.  Come lunchtime, I had nothing to offer.  Oh, we had PBJ and milk, but no way of washing up, and the kitchen was a shambles from breakfast dishes still to be done.  And then there was the toilet issue.  Couldn't flush, and Cool Guy was refusing to go.  So I made a command decision to Go Out for Lunch.  My decision, my choice, so we went to the Indian place in town, which has a lunch buffet.  Lucky us.

We were a bit early, so the buffet was a bit bare at first.  No fritters, no rice pudding, no naan.  So Cool Guy took some tandoori chicken and something that looked like gravy.  Boy, did he dig that gravy.  I made the mistake of asking the waitress about the "gravy," at which she replied, "it's only spinach."  Well, that did it.  Not another bite of gravy passed Cool Guy's lips.

 I reminded him of DW, the Picky Eater, (an excellent, funny book that everyone should read) but still no dice.  Ah, well, it was good while it lasted.  And so you can understand my gilding the zucchini bread with chocolate, which was quite good.  Try some yourself, and throw in some chocolate to convert the natives, if needed.

06 July 2011

Toast Series: Toasted. Sweet.

I noticed that my last few posts revolved around the toaster oven and the yummies that we can make in it for breakfast: toasted cheese, toast and pb, Elvis bagel.  I'm finishing this series with one last toaster item, cinnamon toast.

How long has it been since you've made cinnamon toast?  For me, oh about 30 years.  That's not a typo.  Seriously, it's been that long.  I just forgot about it.

I love cinnamon rolls, especially those from my hometown which are dinner plate size and come warm with a big hunk of butter melting on top.  But I don't live there, and I'm not too keen on investing the time and effort to making my own here, especially since I'd only be feeding four of us and not a restaurant.  We'd all be in a super sugar coma after we were unable to stop ourselves from having more.

But I miss those things.  And after brainstorming for a solution, it hit me.  Well, duh.  Cinnamon toast.

Both boys adored them, and Cool Guy has asked for them repeatedly.  Is cinnamon toast healthy?  Not really, but it can be made acceptable, and then, augmented with other good things, can be a nice touch to a good breakfast.

Just in case someone out there doesn't know how to make it, here we go.

Cinnamon Toast

1. Take a slice of bread, preferably whole wheat to get some goodness in you, and butter one side.  As an aside, during the summer, I don't use butter, since I can't store it out of the fridge, and it's too hard to spread when it's cold, and I can never remember to set it out ahead of time.  I like Brummel and Brown yogurt spread.  It tastes OK and doesn't have any trans fats.

2. Sprinkle your buttered side with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.  I use about 1 Tablespoon of sugar to 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon.  Try that ratio, and get a feel for the shade of brown it is, and then you can just eyeball it.  That is about enough for 4 slices.  If I have any left, I store it in an empty cinnamon can, which I have labelled as cinnamon sugar.

3. Toast your bread in the toaster oven.  Or you can run it under the broiler of a regular oven, but it won't be quite as good.

4. You can serve this with fruit, eggs, and/or a breakfast meat.

5. Get ready for repeated requests.