Friday, September 26, 2008

Organizing In The Kitchen

Finding room in my kitchen is always a challenge. Adjoining our kitchen is a small dining room, which at one time used to be my sewing and craft area, but alas, priorities have taken over! Now it stores some of my craft items, but also contains the portable dishwasher, an upright freezer, grain storage buckets, some of my sewing and knitting stash and adjacent to my refrigerator, a 6 foot tall bookcase.

My friend Susan from church has challenged me to find ways to organize from a sitting position while I recover from my knee injury. So, today I took a comfortable folding camp chair and sat down in front of the book case and sorted things out.

First of all I weeded through my many cookbooks. I love cookbooks and have a hard time saying no to them! :o) The top short shelf is used to store all my smaller cookbooks like the Sue Gregg series and then I placed ones I am more likely to use at eye level and worked my way down, grouping things in like categories. Amazingly I even pulled a few out that I won't use anymore and many are relegated to the bottom shelf. I am pleased to announce that the few baking and sweets books that I kept are down there on the bottom!

Another problem in the kitchen was spice storage. Not only is my kitchen small but the space is poorly planned. By the way, did you know that the most common places that people store their spices - in over the stove cupboards or in custom drawers next to their stoves or ovens - are the worst places to keep them? Yes, the heat diminishes their potency and can make certain items go rancid. It's a good idea to go through your spices and sort through them. If it is long past a sell by date (because they usually give several years for spices and herbs) or it doesn't have a date and you don't recall buying it or worse yet, it looks "vintage", it's probably a good idea to toss it.

Over the last year we have been replacing the herbs and spices with organic counterparts. I have been purchasing the Simply Organic brand and plan to later refill with bulk spices. That brand has nice jars! :o) They are sorted by type - Italian, Mexican, General, Baking etc. I have also read that they should not be exposed to light. Do you think that I should tack a little calico curtain across their to protect them?

On the shelf next to the herbs and spices, is room for my recipe box, an old recipe box of my Grandma Hopkins' and my Kitchen notebook which I am working on filling. Grandma always used to say "Cleaning Is Creating Beauty" and today it felt good to get a little organizing done and to me, it is a beautiful little corner in my home!

Sourdought English Muffins and Pancakes

When I went to Washington this summer, my friend Shelley gave me a sourdough starter that is a legacy of her late Mother. While we were in a cabin at the ocean, she made us scrumptious sourdough pancakes and then sent the starter home with me. A couple months and a thousand or so miles later (which makes me wonder how far these things traveled in the days of old), I pulled it out of the refrigerator and "refreshed" it. I have always wanted to try sourdough, but had not gotten that brave. Even after this foray, I am still feeling like I don't know much of anything! But, it was fun and a little exciting to be trying something new in the kitchen.

In addition to the gift of the starter, I was prompted by my recent purchase of Cooking and Baking With Fresh Ground Flour by Christine Downs, reportedly the importer of the Family Grain Mill. Ironically this last weekend I was given the gift of a hand family grain mill along with a flaker (for making oatmeal etc) by one of my scrapbooking friends who had great intentions but not enough time to follow through. It has no instructions so I am going to track those down. Anyway, on page 61, I was enticed by the recipe for Sourdough English Muffins.

Here are the muffins after rising. The powdery stuff is my attempt at making cornmeal, which ended up being more like corn flour! I followed the recipe, except I omitted the vital wheat gluten. It is such a highly processed food, even more so than white flour, that I have just never bothered with it. My end product did not, in my opinion, suffer for it!

I cooked them in two pans so that I would not be standing all night (since I'm not supposed to stand at all!). Surprisingly, the ones cooked in my only Teflon pan, cooked the best!

The ones in the cast iron did fine though. I only have one large iron skillet.

Here you can see them after turning. I was so proud of the one in the center - it looked just like a store bought muffin!

Here are the final products. Some got a little brown on the outside but are fine to eat. They are very light and fluffy texture and honestly taste better than any store bought whole wheat English muffins I have tried. The sourdough taste is mild, but present. Hubby said they are definitely a "do-over"! That's his way of saying that we can keep them in the repertoire!

Afterwards, I made myself one large pancake with the whole wheat and corn flours I had left. First I made a small one and it tasted horrible. Oh yeah, salt! So, I added salt, but it was still thick shoe leather texture. DUH! I had forgotten to put in baking soda when I mixed up the pancake batter! This was my final effort and it tasted great with black berry jam on it! Not the greatest dinner, I suppose, but there were a lot of nutrients in that fresh ground flour. That's my story and I'm sticking to it! :o)

Hubby Bakes Bread Too!

My Hubby has been so good to me while I have been recuperating from the torn meniscus in my left knee. I haven't mentioned it on this blog, but most of you probably saw it over at Stitches of Grace (link to right), my regular blog. Making bread takes a lot of standing, so I taught Hubby how. This batch we did together, but he is learning and doing quite well.

I took this picture and was going to crop all the "stuff" out of it. Then I decided that I would show you what type of space that I have (or don't have) to work in, because some people might be saying "I'd like to do this, but I don't have enough room!" People, this is all the counter I have!!! To the right is the sink and then I do have about 20" to the left of the sink, but that holds the convection oven, so is not accessible for use. That's it! It's very crowded with my DLX and Vitamix there, but we make do. We could put the Vitamix elsewhere but figured that we would use it much more if it was left out where we could see it.

Here is the finished product - 5 loaves and two large rolls. We forgot to brush olive oil on the top, which tenderizes the crust, but it was still good.