Welcome to my messy kitchen! I’ve been so busy living and breathing recipe development for my cookbook that I’ve done a lousy job sharing the process. So today, I thought I’d give you an update and a very real look at my kitchen while we’re at it.
On the cookbook front, I’ve created and worked through about half of the recipes for the book so far (that’s fifty recipes, with fifty more to go!), with the help of my lovely and talented assistant, Mara. The chaos is always more organized when Mara is here.
I make the most progress on Fridays, when Mara comes to help. She’s in nursing school and has Fridays off. To prepare, I clean my house, try to get most of the groceries we’ll need and edit and print all the recipes we’ll be making. Some days, I’m more prepared than others. She picks up any remaining groceries on the way over.
Sometimes, we’re making a recipe for the first time; other times, we’re making it for the fifth time. We can usually knock out ten recipes in one day, although we might only be finalizing a few. Imagine Mara as the busy worker bee and me as the mad scientist/absent-minded professor, wandering about and muttering ideas (“But wait! What if we…?”). That’s us.
Mara is super helpful at providing feedback and asking questions about how to make the recipes, which helps me write them more clearly. Sometimes I’ll hand her a bowl of soup with five different garnishing options and ask her which one is best, because I’m nuts like that. I send her home with tons of leftovers to share with her husband. That’s her, in the photo below!
On the days in between Fridays, I type up notes from our experiments, try more iterations myself, clean my kitchen one million times and make a lot of lists and trips to the grocery store. Sometimes, I park myself at my go-to coffee shop and type up head notes.
With all of that, plus about three days per week spent on the blog, I’m working six or seven long days per week. It’s hard. I’m making a very purposeful effort to take Cookie on walks and attend yoga class three times a week, which is helping me maintain my sanity.
I’m way overdue on happy hours with friends, which is ok only because this busy season has an end date. I’m planning to finish the bulk of the recipe development by the end of the year, so I can then, a) get my life back, somewhat, and b) focus on the recipe testing phase and photography. Everything is due at the end of April.
By the time April rolls around, I hope to have a cookbook full of recipes that turn out wonderfully in your kitchens. You won’t see the finished product, Love Real Food, until spring 2017, but I’m already bursting with anticipation and hoping that you absolutely love it.
Now then, let’s talk kitchens! I’ve learned the hard way that an organized kitchen is critical to a pleasant cooking experience. I’m making the most of a rental kitchen and I’m sure a lot of you are, too, so I hope you find some helpful ideas here.
In summary, my rental kitchen is a far cry from my dream kitchens on Pinterest, but a million times better (and bigger) than my tiny old kitchen and the typical Manhattan kitchen. I try to remind myself of that every time I get frustrated.
On the upside, the appliances are new and work properly most of the time (looking at you, dishwasher). However, I still wish my landlord would let me paint the walls white to reflect more light, and I curse the ancient, Duct-taped drawers every time I have to yank them open. The tile flooring is literally disintegrating below my bare feet, too.
When I first moved in, the kitchen was really dark and offered tons of square footage, but not enough storage or counter space. I’ve supplemented with some easy solutions, which began with installing much brighter (100-watt equivalent) CFL light bulbs. You wouldn’t believe the difference that makes. My kitchen no longer feels like a dungeon.
The kitchen island helps a ton, too. It provides both storage space for kitchen equipment and additional counter space. Mine is actually two Stenstorp kitchen carts from Ikea (one purchased on Craigslist) placed side by side, which works great.
My six-tier wire shelf (also from Ikea, $50) offers a ton of new storage space and looks pretty nice, albeit industrial. I finally bought it after watching Mara struggle to find the flour wayyyyyy back in my lower cabinets.
As you can see, I’ve transferred all of my dried grains, fruits and nuts to affordable, quart-sized mason jars so they’re easy to grab from my shelves. (Head’s up: that link, along with my other links to Amazon and Target, are affiliate links.)
I also made a home for my blender, food processor and toaster on a super cheap three-tiered shelf (similar to this). They’re all connected to the same power strip, which is neatly hidden behind the shelves.
Beyond the big pieces, I’ve cleared up some additional counter space by installing this $10 hanging basket and this hanging paper towel dispenser. Sometimes only a paper towel will do, and now the roll doesn’t take up space on my counter.
I also installed a long shelf above my oven, which should have been two smaller shelves installed side-by-side since the shelf is bowing in the middle. Oops.
I should mention my stainless steel step trash can from Target, which is easy to open even when my hands are messy. I also love these spice drawer liners, which help me keep my spice drawer organized. It was a hot mess before I added those liners.
Last but not least, I find great joy in my matching hand soap and dishwashing soap from Target, which go nicely with my glass spray bottle of diluted Branch Basics Cleaning solution (c/o). It’s the little things.
If you’re curious about anything else you see in my kitchen, check out my kitchen essentials shop here or ask in the comments! Don’t mind my four-legged assistant’s silly Halloween costume, below.