My Kitchen - A Well Oiled Machine?

Disclaimer - I wrote this on a Spanish computer in an Internet cafe in Spain, please forgive spelling and formatting mistakes!
I was going crazy trying to cook in my kitchen! Yes I love kitchen equipment but my closet, my attic and my shed are not proper places to store my coveted equipment. Special things like a Le Creuset pot that Jacques Pépin gave me for working on his show years ago. A tea tin from Martin Yan from China, and various other important items, you get the picture. I always wanted to have someone help me organize my kitchen but it was always last on the list. I love those shows about getting organized, where a team ambushes you, tears apart your house and puts it all back together again!  I had my friend and organizer create a workspace in my office about two years ago and it was amazing. 
5 ways to know if you need a kitchen reorg!
1. If you only buy pre-made food because you can't get to your pots and pans.
2.  If you spend to much money buying items you already have but can't but don´t know they are in the cabinet.
3. If you never let your kids help in the kitchen for fear of an avalanche and trip to the hospital.
4. If your phone and take out menus are your best asset in the kitchen.
5. If when you walk in your kitchen you feel defeated before you start cooking.

I was starting to feel all 5 of these things in my own kitchen. I used to make more homemade pasta, breads and tortillas but all my tools had become buried and it was way too much work to dig them. Unless I was developing a recipe I felt as if my creativity had fizzled due to sloppiness.  I tried to do it myself, to organize a few drawers at a time, I thought I was doing so well but I wasn´t because hacking away one mess at a time was not effective. When My friend Diane a home organizer came to dinner one night I found her on her hands and knees pulling apart on of my cabinets. She looked at me and said, "how do you function in here?" Instead of being annoyed I just said, "well I obviously need help." So we scheduled a day for the kitchen to be transformed and I felt relief.  I wish I had taken "before" photos to show you but let's just say it wasn't good. Diane Woodall is amazing, she took apart my kitchen and put it back together again as a well oiled machine I am glad I made the call.  Here are some after photos for you.
My oils and vinegars used to be down below in my island and very hard to see. Now all my go-to ingredients are at eye level for easy access.
Everything is where we can see it now.

Slide out drawers for easy access.

This tall cabinet was full of shoes but now it is full of appliances I can easily get to.

We love paper straws, they are pretty and better than plastic for the environment and easy to reach now in the straw jar.

Look now I have an empty space!

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Easy as Pie!

It's not apple season yet but at the Connolly Ranch where I run my cooking camp there is a tree and it does have apples. They apples are TART, well downright sour I'd say. The kids don't seem to mind though, they eat them because they get to pick them! Mostly they are used for making fresh pressed apple juice with the ol' press. The juice is divine but as for eating the apples could use another few months on the tree.

When it comes to kids they don't seem to care if the fruit is in season or if it has hit it's maximum sweetness I know this because all 130 kids at my camp enjoyed these apples. My daughter loved them so much that she smuggled home about 10 apples and asked if we could make pie! I thought "pie, in July, from apples...not exactly the fruit I'd choose. How about we use cherries or peaches I asked?"
Her response, "nope we have these green apples from the ranch, I want to use these," I agreed.  I did remember that I had a lump of pie dough in the freezer from last summer (it was Food Saved so don't think I was using some old freezer burned dough)  The great part was that I had worked cheddar cheese to the dough in an attempt to make a "fun flavorful" dough.

Cutting apples with kids can be scary until their knife skills get better...we used a chopper. I cut the apples and gave her the chopper to chop them with.  I told her to chop them very small so they would cook faster. She loved whacking the apples and obliterating them!
The easy thing about pie is you don't need a pie dish, free form pies or tarts are fun because they always look so pretty and rustic. You can pass of the "rustic" tart or pie as beautiful, anytime!
We needed a way to sweeten the apples without dumping a bunch of sugar on them and recently my daughter discovered that she likes apricot preserves. I wanted to use up the jar we had so I suggested it and she agreed.
Kids seem to love kitchen tools and the more you use the more skills they can gain in the kitchen.

We used a rubber pastry brush (not pictured) to spread warmed jam on the crust, they are perfect for this job easy to clean.  Warming and stirring the preserves makes them easy to spread.  After spreading the jam we added our apples, some droplets of butter and a sprinkle of brown sugar for richness and a pinch of salt.
I taught her how to fold the crust up so the sweet goodness wouldn't leak out.
We baked it for 1/2 hour at 400F and it was amazing!!! She was so proud of her pie!!

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Pickled Carrots or Carrot Pickles?

"Mom, I'd like to make some pickles but from carrots. What would we call them, pickled carrots or carrot pickles?"

I have been in the kitchen every second of every spare minute working on styling recipes for a cookbook with my husband the photographer. I have made, cookies, fudge, omelets, shakes, scones, pretty much everything you can imagine. Somehow in between the recipes for the project and meals for my family (and not to mention I'm running a full time cooking camp for 3 weeks!) I am cooking with my daughter. We are making Popsicles in our Zoku, pies, hand ground corn tortillas, eggs, grilled cheese on a stick,  pickles...you get the point. I love what I do don't get me wrong but summer is tough when the kids are out of school and schedules are out of whack.
She has always loved my food but I have been waiting for her to blossom as a little chef and it happened. The timing is all-wrong, I mean really kid, couldn't you wait until I wasn't so busy? The answer is is that it doesn't matter, I will always be busy and I HAD to take advantage of this NOW! Her taste buds are hopping and her little brain is churning with ideas, it's my job to facilitate that. If my kid wants to try onions I sure as hell am going to help her with that! Tonight she made a pie that was so delicious I was in awe. Sure I help her, give her tips and even chop ingredients but I am really trying to let her drive, really trying. as she gets more comfortable with the equipment I will just sit in the passenger seat and try not to use the invisible brake.

Sweet Pickled Carrots 

Getting kids to eat acidic foods or foods with any flavor can be a challenge but if  THEY make this recipe they may change their mind!  This is a great kid friendly base recipe for pickling veggies, let them add a variety of veggies or other herbs and spices to experiment.
Great on tacos!!


Makes about 8 cups

Ingredients :

    2 pounds organic carrots, 1/8" slices
    1 medium onion, finely sliced half moons
    2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
    2 cups water
    3/4 cup vinegar of your choice (recommend 1 part rice vinegar and 2 parts ume plum vinegar)
    ¾  or up to 1 cup sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt


1. Blanch carrots in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Place carrots, onions and garlic in two 3 cup glass jars or bowl with a cover.

2. Meanwhile, add water, vinegar(s), sugar and salt to a saucepan over high heat.  Bring to a boil and ensure sugar has been completely dissolved.

3.  Pour hot liquid over vegetables. Let cool to room temperature, cover and store in refrigerator.

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Announcing Our SodaStream Winner!!

Congratulations APRIL J. you win!!!

Thank you for all your entries and keep looking for our next great giveaway starting very soon!!

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