As you probably know if you read our little announcement in the previous post, I’m knee deep in Rouxbe‘s plant based professional certification program, i.e. vegan culinary school from afar! This amazing program has been anything but simple. It really takes a lot of dedication and planning, especially when combining it with work, planning classes and that new secret project I’m working on! It has however, been the most fun and educational experience for me. I’ve never received professional training in cooking before, and these guys are taking what I though was a simple cooking course to a completely professional and advanced level! Having my hands full like this has also created another side effect which has been liberating and quite a learning experience, I’ve found myself completely unglued to my phone, email, and similar modern life gadgets which usually take up so much of my time. I hadn’t realized all the time that is available to us when you really want to accomplish something.
I have so many cooking school stories to share with you, as I promised I would do throughout the next few months, but today I want to show you what has been the most significant change since starting Rouxbe, learning how to properly organize your kitchen and get ready for professional cooking. All I can say about this is boy was I doing it wrong! And I’ve been cooking every single day for years!
Having an organized pantry and fridge (not to mention kitchen utensils) is mandatory if you want to: be more efficient in the kitchen, save time while cooking, prevent tossing out spoiled or expired food, save money and add variety into your diet. I hadn’t realized how much, but for the past two days since completely rearranging the kitchen, my desire to cook and my inspiration have gone through the roof.
I had to start by taking everything out of the fridge and pantry, giving everything a thorough cleaning, shopping for some new see-through containers, organizing and labeling such containers, bags and shelves. Here are some tips to begin your kitchen makeover, and enjoy the photos of my fridge and dry goods space spring cleaning throughout this post:
– Toss any expired or empty boxes, bags, bottles or packages, as well as some of that wilted veggie ‘stuff’ you have hidden in the back of the produce drawer (yes, I had some of that too).
– Give everything a good cleaning. This alone will give you encouragement to continue through the heavy organizing.
– Buy see-through containers and mason jars, preferably glass and not plastic. These will not only last longer, but they are easier to clean, safer and completely see-through which is what you want in your fridge for easy access. I like to save up jars of salsa, mayonnaise and other foods, remove the labels and wash them thoroughly. This way I’m saving money and reusing as opposed to buying all new items.
– Get your label maker ready, or go old school like me and get a package of labels at the dollar store and write them yourself. Label as many jars, boxes and containers as you can. Labeling shelves or drawers is also super important, since it will maintain your newly organized spaces even when taking things out and putting them back into shelves.
– Designate a space for fruits or veggies that need to be eaten quickly.
– Wash, dry (well) and trim some of the veggies that allow having this done in advance (avoid washing lettuce in advance). In my kitchen clean up this included leeks, celery, broccoli, radishes and shitake mushrooms. They’re all ready to go!
– Organize all remaining fruits and veggies in your containers and label them. Labeling will also remind you of what you haven’t cooked or eaten and it will prevent waste. If storing some vegetables in a produce drawer, try to create one single layer of veggies and avoid overcrowding. Store the rest in stackable see-through containers on the shelves.
– Store fresh herbs in bags that can breathe. In Spain, this means sandwich baggies. They are the perfect size and the veggies can have enough air circulation.
– Take everything out of its original packaging. Trust me, this made the biggest difference when looking for extra space and making things look as organized as possible.
– Organize that dreaded fridge door as well, and label each shelf. Some of my labels for this task: ‘Asian condiments’, ‘Veg burger condiments’, ‘Mexican condiments’, ‘Specialty condiments’, ‘cooking wine and creamers’, ‘Olives’, ‘Plant-based milks’, etc. That way every time you or your loved ones take something out, they can put it back in its place and maintain your hard-earned order.
– If space allows, store sensitive flours like whole wheat and spelt flours in large glass jars in the refrigerator. Don’t forget to write the expiration date before you toss the bag!
– Organize your dried goods in mason jars or reused glass jars and label everything. Grains can decorate your kitchen beautifully, I have mine in plain sight and they are always admired. It also allows for adding variety in your diet when you look at all those options every day.
– Follow all of these steps for all your dried goods spaces and cupboards, and don’t forget the labeling of shelves. Store nuts and sees away from light. I have a section for pastas, another for baking, and I designated different shelves for seeds, nuts and nut butters, new unopened packages, dried and canned beans, snacks, etc.
If this looks a bit OCD to you, let me ease your mind. I am by far (especially if you ask my husband) the most unorganized person on this planet. You can’t open my closet without something falling on your head, and normally my kitchen looks like a before picture. I’ve sadly now learned that my system was not working and needed a reboot. This took serious effort and time, but if you do it right, it will only be hard work the first time you do it. I was in for a total mindset change and I totally got it! Oh boy! Now my kitchen ‘calls me’ even more so than before!
More cooking stories coming soon! I leave you with the front of my fridge, a photo I of course couldn’t include in my assignment at Rouxbe. As you know, all this work, prep, planning and cooking, is nothing next to the lovely people I get to share it with day in and day out (yes, I am aware 90% of them are dog pictures).