No, this is not a joke. On the first of the year, you may have made your umpteenth New Year’s resolution to cook at home more often and eat healthier, but that has not yet panned out. Chances are that one of the main obstacles to realizing your resolution is the state of your kitchen. Together, let’s examine The Room and see what can be done.
We are not talking about a $20,000 remodeling job; some of you have already been there, done that, and are still eating out too often or heating up “convenience food” in your micros. Gold faucets and marble countertops will not do it, while your kitchen work-spaces look as if you have been holding a permanent garage sale. Oh, you know what I mean: counters covered with bottles, jars, a bowl with a petrified pit from a fruit someone had 6 months ago, knickknacks, clothes pins, a broken part of a child’s toy – you name it.
And how about the drawers and cabinets? Utensils for similar uses scattered in different drawers, some bent, or malfunctioning, sharing space with unidentifiable objects…Pots with missing lids, lids with missing pots, a skillet with a broken handle etc.
No wonder your past New Year’s resolutions shriveled on the vine! The good news is, in one weekend you can turn things around and begin to experience the joy of healthy cooking. Let’s start with the counters: Throw away unusable junk. Rinse and recycle old bottles and jars. Place usable items you wish to keep, in a logical place in cabinets and drawers. You do not need “machines” to prepare simple, nutritious, and delicious meals and snacks. Not using them will actually save you time! Place them in a cabinet and out of the way – believe me, you won’t miss them. Keep all work surfaces cleared and clean to allow for faster prep-work and cleanup.
Replace malfunctioning or rusted utensils, pots, and pans. Organize the ones you will be using in drawers and cabinets so you can easily find them. Always put them back in the same place after you are done using them. Keep all your work knives sharp and, if necessary, buy a knife-sharpening rod (not an electric space-robber!)
Store all dried beans and whole grains in the pantry in large, transparent glass jars. If your dried herbs and spices are more than one year old, gradually replace them with inexpensive ones (not fancy sets). Keep them in a cabinet, within easy reach, on a two-tier circular rotating rack and arrange them alphabetically. (The rack can be found in discount or kitchen stores). Always put them back in the same order after use, so next time you don’t have to waste time and become frustrated looking for them.
For all your oil needs, buy only Pure (also called Cooking) olive oil, and Extra Virgin olive oil. These will cover all bases, save money and space in your pantry. You don’t need to buy exotic and expensive oils, only to use them once or twice. They eventually turn rancid and get thrown away.
After using utensils, such as a grater, a knife, or a cutting board, immediately wash them and let dry in the dish-rack by the sink. They are much easier to clean before food residue dries and sticks to them. Whenever possible, wash some of the other dishes as you go, to prevent them from accumulating and piling higher than the Eiffel Tower.
If your kitchen is dimly lit install brighter light bulbs, or add another light source, if necessary. It not only helps you see better, but makes your kitchen a more cheerful place to work in.
Keep your cooking simple: don’t try to make complicated multi-stage and time consuming recipes. Remember, unlike TV cooking show chefs, you are not blessed with invisible elves who measure and prepare ingredients for you before you begin cooking, and clean up afterward.
I already sense your excitement with your resuscitated-to-be kitchen. The improvements will make your cooking easier, quicker, and enjoyable. Cooking good food is not only about stopping hunger pangs; it also expresses love, elicits contentment, and above all, nurtures vibrant health.
“Mission Nutrition” Tips and Recipe from Judy E. Buss, Health Columnist, Nutritional Cooking Instructor.
Excerpted from Judy E. Buss’ article, first published in the “Feeling Fit” Magazine, Sun Coast Media Group newspapers, Florida.
Stay tuned for more Judy E. Buss’ “Mission Nutrition” words of wisdom and recipes.