Tag: diy

Beautiful/Functional: DIY Kitchen Organization

The magnetic kitchen

Growing up, there was a crocheted sign hanging in our kitchen that said “No matter where I serve my guests, they seem to like my kitchen best.” And I think that’s true of most homes – the kitchen is a hub, a place to visit with the host, or do homework while mom’s cooking, or steal tastes from dishes in progress.  With all of that joyful use, the kitchen also tends to attract…stuff.  Already-crowded counters cluttered with utensils and appliances become second homes for cds, phones, hats, mail, class projects, and the little odds and ends that just don’t seem to have a home anywhere else.

For the cook, that’s extremely frustrating.  No one wants to cook around and in between piles of things.  Visions of perfect, clean kitchens taunt you on Pinterest; why don’t you have all those miles of sparkling countertop?!  Well, the truth is that most people don’t have magazine photograph-ready kitchens, so you can take a certain amount of that self-blaming away right there.  But there are a few ways that you can improve storage, utility, and space.  All of the pictures in this post are from my kitchen, and to answer your first question – yes, it was that bad!  When I moved last April I finally had a kitchen of my own (ok, of our own!) to fill, and it took a few months to figure out the flow of the space.  It’s still not perfect, but ever since my deep clean/purge/organization in the fall it has been SO much easier to cook in!   And my theory is that when you have a beautiful, functional kitchen space, you’ll want to cook more (which is my ultimate goal for you!).  So start your spring cleaning early: here we go!

1. Food storage cabinets

You’ll have to take everything out – yes everything! – and evaluate what you have.  You can go cabinet by cabinet, or pull everything out together and really think about what you want where…categorize:

  • Type of thing by cabinet (baking supply, snacks, spices, canned goods)
  • How often you use things: keep frequent grabs at easy eye level, and less frequent items higher up
  • Size/height – don’t waste head space!  Keep tall things in tall spaces and short things in lower shelves

Then use:

  • Hooks – for hanging mugs
  • Shelves – for taller cabinets
  • Baskets or bins – for bags of things that don’t stand neatly

To the right here is my baking cabinet – now all the sugars are in the sliding bin bottom left, the baking powders/sodas/chocolates bottom right, and nuts/oats above that.  That Before – wow!  How would you get to anything in the back without creating an avalanche?

Here’s another one – you can see that some of the things from the top Before picture actually fit better in this cabinet; all my flours are now living together right next door to where the rest of the baking supplies are.  The tall pitchers and containers have the height they need, the messy bagged items have a basket, and some of those little half-used packets of things were inevitably thrown away.  Order from chaos!

2. Pots & pans

Again – take it all out!  Evaluate what you use, what you need, and what is just taking up space.  Donate the things you use less than annually or have duplicates of, then store the things you use frequently in a convenient way.  Using stick-on hooks inside my cabinet doors changed the functionality of my storage here, because lids weren’t constantly clanking around and falling every time I grabbed my go-to skillet.

They also work well for hanging things (like these mesh strainers) that are too bulky to keep in drawers and utensil holders – just loop a rubber band through the end and make sure you place the hook so that the length of the item doesn’t extend past the bottom, or hit right at a shelf level:

3. Consider wall space & decor

If you don’t already have some food-themed art (or other art!) in your kitchen, check out Marcella Kriebel, a DC-based watercolorist who has beautiful prints for sale in lots of different sizes. I have her “Curcubitaceae” and “Allium” prints, and I love the color and feel they add to my kitchen.

Think about shelving – this simple wall unit holds knives, spices, a towel, and even heavy cast iron pans.  I used the hooks to dry herbs hanging from rubber bands for a huge boost in flavor quality to my store bought spice collection. If you’re lacking space (I had roommates for 7+ years, I know the space scarcity plight well!) then every little nook and cranny has potential.  As you can see from our kitchen layout, that giant wall is totally open, but the floor space is too small to support adding a standing shelf or hutch.  Wall mounting to the rescue!

4. The refrigerator

Most fridges suffer from a lack of system – food tucked anywhere it fits!  By implementing a few rules of thumb, you can avoid the “rotting in the back” phenomenon and keep things organized.

  1. Prepared foods/leftovers to the top: keep things that have a shelf life of 3-4 days front and center, reserving about 2/3 of the top shelf for those heat & eat items.  A shelf might be handy here too, since you do want to utilize what is typically the tallest space available.
  2. Meats to the bottom: reduce drip risk in case they leak!
  3. Designate drawers by product: 1 for cheeses/cured meats, 1 for high humidity produce and 1 for lower humidity produce – read the guide here to figure out what is what!

And don’t forget the rotational powers of a turn table for dark corners in cabinets, pantries, and even the fridge!  There are many of those on my Pinterest board on just this topic:

5. Do the drawers

Even the most pristine homes have an “everything” drawer – it’s a very handy kitchen space!  But most of your drawers could probably do with a good going-through at the very least (mine, left), and some easy, inexpensive partitions to create and keep order for little odds and ends.

Look here for more ideas on how to organize drawers, use dollar store boxes or separators, and don’t forget the DIY option – just use some nice gift wrap to cover a mailing box!  Amazon’s A1 size is small enough to fit in most drawers, but measure first, and either cut off or fold down the flaps to get them out of the way.  This tutorial also shows you how to use office supplies to custom-build partitions.

My goal was to inspire you to get your kitchen in order and be excited about the process – so that ultimately you cook more often and with fewer headaches!  Feel free to link to any of your favorite resources for kitchen organization in the comments below…my favorite thing in the world is a good before & after picture!

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DIY shiny hair masque (+cinnamon yogurt quickbread)

yogurtmaskIt’s been a long time since I posted a Skin Edition recipe!

Winter is fully upon us here in the northeast, and so is the less-loved phenomenon of brittle, dry hair.  My hair seems to be more sensitive…there’s a lot of it, but it’s very fine and even with a trim every 3 months the split ends are hard to keep away and it loses its luster.  This recipe is for a moisturizing hair masque, and the leftover yogurt mixture folds nicely into a lovely quickbread loaf.  Enjoy!

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After shot: the shine is back!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup honey

Directions

Combine all ingredients, whisking until evenly mixed.  Remove 1/2 cup of the mixture and rub gently into the bottom 2/3 of hair shaft (over a sink! over a sink!).  Gently wrap into a bun and secure with a loose hairtie; cover hair with a shower cap to avoid smearing. (Alternatively; wrap your hair in plastic wrap.)  Wash normally after 30-60 minutes.

Cinnamon Yogurt Quickbread

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F.  Lightly grease a loaf pan. Add milk to the rest of the yogurt mixture and stir.  Combine the other dry ingredients in a separate bowl, and then pour the wet ingredients in.  Stir until just combined and then scrape into loaf pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, until light brown and set.  Remove from pan to cool before slicing.

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Soft and spongy!

DIY Ranch Seasoning

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This month’s RecipeRedux theme is “kitchen DIYs” – things that dietitians do themselves instead of buying!  Be sure to click the blue frog at the bottom of the post for everyone’s hacks.

I started blending my own garlic & onion mix years ago to put in greek yogurt as a healthy, easy dip, and I call it my Guilt-Free Ranch.  A few simple spices you probably already have on hand, and you’ve got the beloved Ranch Dressing flavor profile!  This is also a great base to add other dried herbs to – basil, dill, oregano…the great thing about spices is that they are easy to play with and add so much flavor (and even some phytonutrients and vitamins!) for 0 calories.

DIY Ranch Seasoning Base:

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced onion
  • 2 tablespoons freeze-dried chives
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Mix ’em up, and put them in an empty spice shaker…OR a ceramic spice cell (which I also make and sell – contact me if you’d like one!)

Silky legs in a bottle + orange & oat scones

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I pinned this recipe for a homemade body scrub ages ago, and finally got around to trying it!  My legs are definitely exfoliated and soft, so try this one!!  It is as simple and easy as it seems, and even after two applications as she advises, there’s still a lot leftover.

And I was making scones.

So I did a little experiment, and it turned out pretty deliciously.P1030049

I left sugar out of the scone batter, so I used the oil/sugar/lemon juice scrub mixture as a topper, which caramelized for a nice, sweet crunch with only a few teaspoons of sugar per scone.

Ingredients:

  • 1 c oats, ground in a blender or food processor
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 4 Tbsp cold butter
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c milk
  • zest from an orance
  • 1/3 c mini chocolate chips
  • 1/3 c “silky legs” lemon scrub mixture, for topping

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425F. Blend the oats, flours, baking soda and salt in a blender (or bowl, by hand).  Add the butter and use a dough setting on the blender, or a fork or pastry cutter to incorporate into flour.  Place in a bowl, then stir in zest and chocolate chips.  Mix egg and milk, then pour into dry ingredients and stir until evenly mixed – don’t over-blend!  Drop with a spoon onto a baking sheet (leave lots of space, see below!), then pour a spoonful of the body scrub onto each one.  Bake for 12-15 minutes.

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Whoops…P1030048
Whoops.  Don’t put them too close together!

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Pore Therapy + Vanilla Meringues

Happy #SkinEditionSunday!  Time to relax and give yourself some care and attention.

Egg whites are “known” the internet over to even skin tone, reduce oil, tighten skin (temporarily) and shrink pores…all of which I experienced with this little egg facial myself.  Add to that the fact that eggs are dirt cheap (at $3 a dozen, that comes out to a mere $0.25 per egg!) and a great source of other nutrients like protein, choline, and even the elusive vitamin D, and you have a perfect Skin Edition contender.  You can bask in your glowing, tight skin, with a cup of tea and some meringue cookies just like the ladies in high end spas who shell out $95 for a facial.  And, this is the simplest Skin Ed recipe yet!

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 3/4 c sugar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Separate the egg whites from the yolks in two separate bowls.

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Using a hand mixer, whip the whites they’re foamy and form soft peaks

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Set aside a small amount (about a 2″ cookie’s worth) for your skin.

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Apply to your clean face over a sink, and rinse off with warm water about 15 minutes later, or when the whites have dried.

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To the rest of the whites, blend in the cream of tartar.  Add the sugar a little at a time to allow it to incorporate evenly.  About halfway through adding sugar, add vanilla.  Batter will be ready when it feels stiff and looks glossy.

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Gently spoon onto a baking sheet – I always use my silicon liner, which prevents sticking and makes for easy removal – spacing evenly.  I got 20 small cookies from this much batter.

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They’ll naturally all look unique and cute.  Put the baking sheet in the oven and close the door.  Then – now this  is important! – turn the oven OFF!  Do NOT reopen it.  Leave the cookies in there for 2 hours.  You can also do this overnight, or when you’re about to run out and do errands.  If your oven is kind of crappy, like mine, leave it on for the first 2-3 minutes and then turn it off.  The heat inside will bake them without burning and let them crisp up as the oven gradually cools.  I enjoyed mine with some unsweetened tea – they are super sugary, 2 tsp of sugar for each little one!  I think it helps keep portion size to one or two when you dress it up with a nice plate and mug…what’s that, you like the mug?  Why thanks, I made it…and in fact could make you one, if you’d like…my Etsy store is called StonewareBySarah and is always open for custom requests!

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Hydrating Chocolate Masque/Flourless Chocolate Cake

Tis the season for chocolate, and some studies show a benefit for skin in improved UV protection when consumed.  Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cocoa, and more flavonoids, which are naturally occurring plant compounds (“phytonutrients”).  It doesn’t seem like there’s much research supporting a benefit for topical application, but I’m willing to be a guinea pig….I mean it’s chocolate, aren’t you?  DO IT FOR SANTA.

chocmasquecake1

For your skin:
Purpose:
Hydration and rejuvenation

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 c cocoa powder
  • 1/2 and avocado
  • 1/2 c ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 c honey

Directions:
Blend all ingredients (1) in a mixer or with a hand mixer until smooth (2).  Separate out 2 Tbsp of the mixture and massage onto clean skin (3).  Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes, then rinse off with warm water.

For you to eat:
Ingredients:

  • The rest of the mixture from above
  • 2 additional eggs
  • 8oz of semi sweet chocolate
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 2/3 stick of butter

Directions: Blend the eggs into the rest of the masque mixture.  Using a double boiler, melt the chocolate with the butter until smooth (4). Fold in the sugar.  Then blend that into the rest of the masque batter with the mixer on a low speed (5).  Pour into an 8 in round pan, place the pan into a larger pan containing water, and bake at 300 for 45 minutes, or until it doesn’t jiggle in the middle when you shake it.  Allow to cool completely, then serve (6) with a dollop of ricotta (high in protein and no sugar, great alternative to whipped cream!).  This is RICH – a little piece is very satisfying 🙂  Bring it to a special party to share – serves 16.

Sometimes people think that dietitians don’t eat sweets – sorry to burst your bubble, we do.  But when I indulge, I want it to be really, really good, so I can savor every bite. Delicious food is one of the purest pleasures of life – it shouldn’t be abused by going overboard, wasting excess, or eating imitation products that only leave you wanting more!

WFW Skin Edition: Hand & Body Scrub –> Sweet Vanilla Polenta

This one is amazing.  Seriously.

Short story: a few days ago I used some oven cleaner I found under the sink to clean the stove pans that go under the burners…scrubbed away with bare hands and a sponge, and didn’t notice the toxicity of it until I washed up.  My hands were DRY.  No amount of lotion I put on made a difference, and eventually the skin on my palms FLAKED OFF.  It was gross; I felt like the crypt keeper.

After using the cornmeal scrub, my hands feel BETTER than normal…softer, smoother, and even my cuticles were hydrated.

So here’s what I did…

For your hands and body:
Purpose: Exfoliate and moisturize hands, feet, and body (this one’s too rough for the face)

Ingredients:

  • 1 c cornmeal
  • 1/4c canola oil (+ 1/4c additional canola oil, separate)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions:
Blend the cornmeal and spices with a fork until evenly distributed. Stir in 1/4 c canola oil until mixed thoroughly; it will lightly clump at this stage.  Remove 1/4c of this mixture and place in a separate bowl.  Add the additional 1/4c canola oil and stir well.  Massage onto hands, feet, knees, or legs in a circular pattern; put gloves on to allow the oil to soak in for 15-20 minutes.

Rinse of with warm water and mild soap.

For you to eat:
Ingredients:

  • Remaining mixture from above recipe (cornmeal, spices, and oil prior to removing 1/4c for the scrub)
  • 4 c water
  • 1/4 c sugar

Directions:
Toast the cornmeal mixture over high heat in a 6-qt pan on the stove.

Add the water, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Add sugar.  Reduce to a simmer, stirring frequently, until thick (about the consistency of hummus).  Serve immediately, hot, with a splash of milk or cream.

Pour the rest into a pan and refrigerate.  Reheat later to enjoy again – tastes great for breakfast with some milk and almonds!

Credit for the original recipes/inspiration:
http://www.marthastewart.com/node/875224
http://joythebaker.com/2009/02/vanilla-brown-sugar-breakfast-polenta/

WFW Skin Edition: Green Tea Peel Off Mask –> Fruit Gummies & Jam!

This was a super-fun experiment!  However it was truly an experiment; I would definitely do a few things differently, noted below the picture.

For your face:
Purpose: Remove dead skin; tighten pores

Ingredients:

  • 2 packets Knox plain gelatin*
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 egg white*
  • 1/2 c green tea (brewed)

Directions: Brew the tea, and add gelatin, stirring to dissolve.  Juice the lemon and stir that in too.  Crack an egg over a separate bowl, only letting the white spill out.  Discard the shell and yolk (or save to pump up a scramble!). Take 1/4 c from the tea/gelatin/juice mixture and add it to the egg white.  Mix it together thoroughly – this is your mask!  Over the sink, rub a layer onto your face.  After 5 minutes, apply another layer – repeat a third time to make it really thick, then let it dry completely.  Peel off from the edges.  Wash your face with warm water to get any remaining bits off (and, maybe plan to wash your hair after this too!).

Funny observation: It will get really tight on your face as it dries.  If you smile or laugh, it will crack, however, it is nearly impossible not to smile or laugh at some point in the process, especially if you’re doing it with a friend. 🙂  The process of cracking it makes it harder to pull off in large pieces, but does have the same effect of exfoliating your skin.

Why it works: The green tea is soothing, and the egg whites will tighten your pores.  Lemon contains vitamin C, which will (allegedly) brighten your skin.  The physical action of peeling will remove any loose cells as you take off the mask.

*What I would do differently next time: Even with 3 coats, the mask got a little too stiff and it was difficult to pull of large sections.  I think this could be due to the gelatin to egg white ratio, so I think 3 packets of gelatin would help.  Either that or only use half the egg white.  But more gelatin might be helpful for the fruit gummies, too.  Let me know what you think when you try it!

For you to eat:
Ingredients:

  • 1 c fresh or frozen berries
  • 1/2 c applesauce (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 c cranberry or other berry-like juice
  • 1/4 c water
  • remaining green tea/gelatin/lemon mixture from the recipe above (NOT the part your put on your face with the egg white in it!)

Directions: Over the stove, heat the water and berries until boiling and simmer for 5 minutes.  Puree this mixture in a blender or with a hand mixer.  Add the applesauce and bring to a boil again, then remove from heat.  Add the juice to the green tea/gelatin/lemon mixture, and then stir into the pureed berries.  Pour into a baking dish and allow to set in the fridge for several hours until gelled, then cut into cubes.  Note that you can eat them as is, or smoosh them to be jam on toast!

What I would do differently next time: Use cranberries instead of mixed berries!  The consistency is perfect for cranberry sauce 🙂

I used versions of these recipes from the below sites, so check them out if you want more in depth info on either one!

http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2011/09/homemade-gummy-fruit-snacks-healthy-snacks-for-kids.html

http://www.bellasugar.com/DIY-Peel-Off-Face-Mask-Recipe-23368880

WFW Skin Edition: Banana Sugar Scrub –> Chocolate Chip Pancakes

For your face:
Purpose: Remove dead skin without drying

Ingredients:

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/2 lime
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp raw sugar

Directions: In a bowl, mash the banana with a fork, mixing in the juice from the lime half.  When it’s smooth, blend in the baking soda.  Add the sugar last, as this will start to dissolve on contact.  Put a small amount (~1 Tbsp) on your (clean) face, and rub in small circles.  Rinse off in 5-10 minutes.

Funny observation: If you didn’t blend it well enough, there might be some banana chunks that will make it look as though a camel has sneezed on your face.  Do not be alarmed, and remember that the ability to laugh at yourself is important for lightheartedness and sanity.

Why it works: The acid from the lemon and enzymes in the banana help to chemically remove dead skin cells, while the sugar scrub performs the same function mechanically.  The baking soda is also good for exfoliating, but I believe dissolved entirely; however it does react with the acid to give the mixture a lighter, fluffier consistency.

For you to eat:
Ingredients:

  • Banana mixture from above
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 c all purpose flour
  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 c milk
  • pinch of salt
  • chocolate chips (optional)

Directions: Mix the egg, vanilla, and milk into the banana mixture.  Blend the flours, baking powder, and salt together in another bowl, and add the wet mixture to it.  Stir lightly to mix – do not over mix, as this will make the pancakes rubbery!  Pour onto a hot griddle and add the chocolate  chips (or berries!); flip when bubbles rise to the top.