Getting crafty

I need a bigger kitchen.

I feel silly saying that as I now have the largest kitchen I’ve ever had in the 14 years I’ve been a grown up who cares about things like square footage and adequate storage. Despite that, I don’t have room for everything I need or want in my kitchen.

My husband would say that’s a clue to stop buying kitchen gadgets.

I say he’s a kitchen gadget.

That makes no sense unless you hang out with us. It still won’t make sense, but we’re lovable and can get away with it.

Anyway, kitchen storage. I need more of it, especially because of the egg-related things I ordered from amazon.com yesterday.

Last fall, I saw a photo on twitter that inspired the project below. A woman has attached her cookie cutters to a bulletin board, then framed it. She used an ornate frame and crowded her cookie cutters very close, so it looked professional. I didn’t have the patience or the money to go all out like that, but I am still pretty happy with my results.

A bulletin board, some hemming pins and a lot of cookie cutters. Now I have an original work of art and a free shelf in my pantry.

Everyone wins!

Weekly menu 1-22-12

Here’s what’s on the menu this week:

  • Sunday: Chili in homemade bread bowls
  • Monday: (I have a school board meeting to cover and my husband has to tape “On Iowa Live,” so the kids will be responsible for their own dinner.
  • Tuesday: Chicken pesto Panini (new recipe for the week)
  • Wednesday: Cooking classes at Kirkwood; Scott and the kids are on their own.
  • Thursday: Brinner (breakfast at dinner) – buttermilk waffles
  • Friday: Go out to eat because we are attending a screening of “The Wedge.”
  • Saturday: Homemade pizza

My grocery bill was $144.18. This includes the meals listed above, lunches for the kids all week (they brown bag it 4 days out of 5), lunches at work (it is much easier to bring lunch to work when it is 2 degrees outside — no sandwich is worth the walk in that), restocking some pantry items and ingredients to make Jif Peanut Butter Pie and mini apple pie. Monday is National Pie Day, after all.

2012 Food Resolutions

Last year I resolved to:

1. Read at least one cookbook a month. If there are only a few recipes I like in it, I will photocopy them and give the book away.

2. Try at least one new recipe a week.

3. Organize the piles of recipes I have ripped from magazines, printed off of Websites and received from friends by April 1. Anything that’s left after that gets tossed.

4. Control my family’s food bill with weekly menus that will use what I already have on hand.

How did I do?

Well, my cookbook collection now takes up two 9×9 cube shelves.

I still have three bags of recipes that need to be sorted.

I did discover some great new recipes last year, but I feel into the habit of including them in our meal cycle and not introducing anything new.

Needless to say, my cooking resolutions for this year are basically the same thing. Starting Sunday, I’ll start posting my weekly menu and grocery bill again. In the meantime, I made cinnamon rolls last night. My house smelled awesome!

Best Mother’s Day Ever!

Some women want jewelry.

Some want flowers.

My family gave me new sports socks, a gift card to Scheels and a bookshelf.

I couldn’t be happier.

My daughter and I ran a 5K Mother’s Day morning, then gorged ourselves on burgers and pie — my husband grilled — followed by a three-hour nap.

And then I played with my cookbooks.

A place for every cookbook. The cat is not impressed.

Best Mother’s Day Ever.

So many cookbooks, so little time

My husband, calling from some airport (because I forgot where he’s flying to this weekend): What are you up to?

Me: Playing with my cookbooks.

My husband: Again?

Here’s the thing. I love to make things neat. When I feel overwhelmed, I clean. It helps to have control over something, you know? 

It’s been established I have a lot of cookbooks. And I have been trying to organize those cookbooks for the past year, ever since my baker’s rack fell apart by the sheer weight of all the books. We have a huge pantry and so they fit in there just fine, but they aren’t accessible. If I can’t see them, I won’t use them.

I moved a bunch to one of my kitchen cupboards, and that worked for a few months, but then I bought some more cookbooks, and  I was dealing with the accessible issue again.

I am very much a reader, as is my husband and our children. Our house looks like a library, with bookshelves everywhere. For the most part, I like it. I don’t want to buy another bookshelf for my cookbooks, so I started moving things around. I ended up clearing off one bookshelf for my cookbooks and while it worked, I wasn’t happy with it because they weren’t in order. Baking cookbooks were fixed with dinner cookbooks, ‘secret recipe’ cookbooks were mixed with holiday recipe books.

That probably wouldn’t bother most people, but I have a Type A personality. Those who know me understand.

The before picture.

So today I took out all my cookbooks, again, and reordered them on the bookshelf my husband bought me for my birthday. It’s one of those cube bookshelves, with nine spaces for books, and I organized each cube by a cooking/baking subject.

And after.

We’ll see how long this works before I decide to change things again.

Spring cleaning — in the middle of a winter storm

My kids don’t have school today, so I took the day off, too.

The sacrifices you make as a parent.

I woke up to several inches of snow on the ground, sleet from the sky and the threat of more snow coming. Travel was not advised, so we stayed home. My daughter played video games and read, my son played outside (he’s part Eskimo), and I brought two bags of recipes ripped from magazines up from my basement to the living room.

This is about two years' worth of recipes ripped from magazines, printed from the computer or received in the mail. I had no idea it had gotten so out of control. That is not like me at all!

For the next four hours, I sorted the papers, tossing recipes that didn’t look or read appetizing (What was I thinking when I clipped that recipe?) in the recycling bin. I went from two bags to one. Victory! But then I still had to organize what was left.

Is there nothing a binder can't do?

I pasted the recipes on to plain copy paper, which I then filed by the appropriate category in the binder (breakfast, dinner, side dishes, etc.). My goal is to, eventually, have a separate binder for each category. I’ll then number the pages so that these recipes can be part of my recipe box plan.

It’s scary how much I love to organize things. I told a friend of mine if I ever ran for president, organization would be my platform. Organization and recycling.

What’s cooking this week …

I am dreading going to the store because we are in the middle of a winter weather advisory.

What is it about winter weather than makes every last person run to the store to stock up on milk, bread and toilet paper?

I am good on the first two, but we do need toilet paper and Diet Mt. Dew. Also garbage bags. Other than that, we are totally good on food for the next week. And here’s what I’m cooking:

Sunday night: Leftovers from the previous week. We’ll call it a smorgasboard.

Monday night: Chili in homemade bread bowls.

Tuesday night: Chicken stir fry. (One of my favorite ‘go to’ recipes of my own creation.)

Wednesday night: Brinner! Pancakes and bacon. (The bacon is for my son. This will be my weekly vegetarian meal.)

Thursday night: Spaghetti and meatballs, plus a salad. (Favorite ‘go to’ recipe No. 2)

Friday night: Oktoberfest pork chops with mashed potatoes and glazed carrots.

Saturday night: We are supposed to be going out-of-town for a family dinner. We’ll see if the weather cooperates.

What’s cooking this week …

I spent $164.45 at the grocery store Sunday. Here’s what I’m making for dinner this week:

Sunday: Mulligatawny soup and homemade rolls.

Monday: I worked a late shift, so my husband cooked. I came home to a dirty skillet and still don’t know what he made.

Tuesday: Steak sandwiches and onion rings.

Wednesday: Pasta with mushrooms and a side salad. (Weekly vegetarian meal)

Thursday: Chicken spaghetti casserole.

Friday: Homemade pizza.

Saturday: Chili and cornbread.

Of that menu, five of the recipes are new to my cooking regime, which is above and beyond my New Year resolution of one new recipe a week, but I read a lot of cookbooks this weekend.

Organization 101

Sticky notes are my friend.

I buy them by the gross when they are on sale (this is not that much of an exaggeration) and use them to tab the recipes I hope to make someday.

It is not uncommon for me to go through a pad of sticky notes in one sitting, which leads to another problem. How do I track all my ‘I want to make this someday’ recipes?

Real Simple has suggestions for this very problem. My favorite is to write the recipe title (or a name you’ll remember) on an index card, along with the book or magazine issue it is in and the page number. Then you file the cards alphabetically in a recipe box, dividing it into sections like Breakfast, Desserts, etc.

So simple! (Hence the magazine name.)

I went to Bed, Bath and Beyond last week for a recipe box and discovered that they don’t carry them. Apparently ‘Beyond’ has a stopping point. Who knew? Luckily, Hallmark was nearby and had what I needed:

From now on, any recipe I have tabbed and eventually make will be noted on an index card and filed in my recipe box. Eventually all of these tabbed pages will be index cards. The cards will also note what, if any, changes I made to the original recipe and reactions to it (mine, my husband’s, our children, etc.)

Until that happens, though, I will enjoy these cool sticky tabs Cecelia mailed me for my birthday:

Does she know me or what?