Preparing for the Challenges!

I am starting a new weekly cooking challenge goal here on my blog.  I though it would be great to come up with a few ways you could prepare your kitchen for better cooking in the new year.  New years bring new resolutions and goals.  Some reach those goals, some are abandoned…  Cooking is something we can’t really abandon, or fail at.  So our only choice is to reach our goals with cooking, right?  That may include some bumps along the way (that’s what I call trial and error – I don’t think its failure if you don’t give up or learn from your experience).

Having a weekly challenge will encourage all of us to get in the kitchen more and improve on skills we’ve already learned or learn completely new ones.  There are a few things we can do to get ready.

#1: Clean your kitchen.  Sounds silly, but it’s true.  I never want to cook if my kitchen is a mess.  Every night if the only room I prepare for the next day is the kitchen, then so be it.  I need to be ready to cook first thing in the morning.  I like dishes done, counters clean, floor clean, flat surfaces clear.  If your kitchen suffers from flat surface syndrome (where every flat surface is cluttered) take some time to go through everything and try to find a place other than your flat surfaces.  You need those for cooking.  This makes me want to cook:


#2: Organize your kitchen.  Take inventory of what you have.  Remove things you don’t use on a regular basis.  If you are unsure if you will need something in the future, it’s pretty safe to store it in the far, dark corners of your cupboards.  Just don’t forget it’s there.  And if you find you haven’t used it in a really long time, it’s probably safe to get rid of.  Then again, maybe not.  For years we had a food mill that moved from place to place with us.  I never knew it’s purpose (I assumed it was a powder sugar sifter).  I tried on several occasions to get rid of it, but my husband wouldn’t let me.  It was one of those items I always kept stored in the dark corners of my cupboards that I never looked at.  Until one year I wanted to make apple butter.  The recipe said I’d need a food mill.  I had no idea what that was, so I googled it.  Imagine my surprise when I could finally identify that strange looking contraption my husband wouldn’t let me get rid of!  I was so excited.

#3: Stock your kitchen with supplies.

People who have been cooking from scratch a while tend to develop quite the collection of kitchen gadgets (at least that is how it seems when all you have are a few utensils and some pots and pans if you are just starting out). Some just like to have a tool for every process, some are just super busy in their home kitchen and need extra useful gadgets. Don’t be intimidated when you walk into someones kitchen and think you can’t possibly learn to cook because you can’t outfit your kitchen like theirs.

Let me tell you a secret: basic utensils can still do most of the jobs of the bigger appliances and most gadgets are not an essential need-to-have. That’s right! I did not start off with a mixer, blender, food processor, canner, meat grinder, etc. all at once. I started off with pots and pans and a set of kitchen utensils that were handed down! Only through frequent trips to the thrift store did I boost my gadget collection – only to decide a few years later that half of what I had was really unnecessary. My mixer was a gift one Christmas. My husband bought me a pressure canner few years later as a birthday gift. We splurged on a food dehydrator one year with our tax return. It came gradually.

If you can’t afford a blender, invest in a stick/immersible blender instead. If you can’t afford a mixer, you can use your whisk for batters, a spoon and your hands for dough, or invest in a hand held mixer which costs much less than a full size mixer. If you can’t afford a food processor, a cheap box grater and knives will do the trick for the job a food processor would do. There are usually very affordable alternatives to the higher-cost items that you can learn to use while you are first starting out. I talk about money and cost a great deal because it’s a great deal to me. I am frugal by nature, but most of my life I have had no choice but to be. I hope these little tid bits I share will encourage any of you who might be struggling or want to save money. Whenever possible I will share alternative tools you can use to get the job done (many can multitask, or there are things you can do to make what you do have work) – so don’t feel like you can’t complete this challenge if you don’t have every single item here!

Saucepans, small and large Roasting rack
Stockpots, for family sized soups Broiling pan
Skillets, large and small Griddle
Roasting pan Cooling racks
Casserole dishes (8×8, 9×13) Cookie Sheets
Pie plates Muffin pans
Cake pans Loaf pan
Pitcher Pizza pan


Measuring cups, including larger sizes 2-8 cup capacity

Measuring spoons Kitchen Sheers
Can opener/bottle opener combo Colander Cutting board
Knives – serrated bread knife, chefs knife, pairing knife, utility knife, carving knife Vegetable peeler Kitchen timer
Rolling pin Strainer Potato masher
Metal or wooden spatula Plastic spatula (for turning pancakes) Ladle
Tongs Grater Slotted & unslotted spoons
2-tine fork Mixing bowls Thermometer to test meat
Whisk Baster Pastry brush (handy for brushing melted butter on dinner rolls)
Ice cream scoop Pizza cutter Garlic press

Appliances that are nice to have: mixer, blender, food processor, meat grinder, grain mill, pasta maker, toaster, electric griddle, electric deep fryer, grill.

Other things that are nice to have: double boiler (a metal bowl over a small saucepot works just fine though), dutch oven, coffee machine (we use ours for making tea more than we do coffee)

Utensils that are nice to have: kitchen scale, fruit juice extractor, corer (for removing the core of apples), apple slicer, watermelon/large melon slicer (can double as a dough cutter when cutting a circle of dough into 8 pieces), flour sifter, pastry blender (just use two knives criss crossing each other to cut butter into flour if you don’t have one yet), melon baller (doubles to properly measure and scoop cookie dough), garlic peeler (smashing garlic with the flat side of a knife works from to break the skin so you can peel it off)

I could probably add more, but if there is something I have forgotten I will mention it as needed.

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