7 Strange Things I do in the Kitchen

Not that kind of strange.

We spend a lot of time in our kitchen.

There are many reasons to hate our kitchen.

The floor is plastic, that horrible faux wood stuff that is supposed to be so easy to clean but is probably still off-gassing and disrupting my children’s endocrine systems.

The countertops are plastic.

Inside the cupboards the paint is peeling. Every time I look at it I think, “lead.”

But I spend more time in the kitchen than any other room in our house, except my office. I love to cook, I love to feed people, and I love to eat.

Here are some things I do in the kitchen that you probably don’t:

#1: I use the pizza cutter to cut burritos: If there is one gadget no family should be without it is a pizza cutter. You can nurse a baby and cut your older child’s food with one hand with a pizza cutter. You can cut pizza with a pizza cutter. We use our pizza cutter most often to cut burritos into kid-size pieces.

#2: I dump the silverware into the silverware drawer instead of sorting it: Try it. It’s a liberating experience. It’s expletive deleted awesome. It saves you time. It makes emptying the dishwasher easier. Plus my kids HATE when I do that so they inevitably sort the silverware. Just to be rebellious.

#3: I cook food in the preheating oven: It’s a well-kept secret that you don’t actually have to preheat the oven. Just set the temperature and pop the food in. I did that today with a frozen pizza and by the time the oven was preheated the cheese was nicely browned and bubbly and the pizza ready to eat.

#4: I make turmeric-spiced granola almost every time I use the oven: James, especially, eats a lot of granola. I used to make it in college and then forgot how for about twenty years. Then a woman I was interviewing for a story on energy saving ideas mentioned that an oven is more heat efficient if it has a lot of things in it and it’s easy to throw in a pan of granola. That reminded me that I knew how to make granola and I’ve been making it from scratch ever since. It’s so much cheaper and tastier than store bought granola. I usually spice mine with brain-healthy turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Our oven is lined with fire bricks to make it more heat efficient. We open it after we’re done baking and the radiant heat helps keep the house warm in the winter.

#5: I have my 9-year-old make the coffee: Athena is an amazing coffee maker. She grinds the beans in our hand grinder, heats the water in the electric kettle, and puts it all together in the French press like a pro. James is a coffee fanatic and we have a bazillion and a half coffee-making devices and then some. I drink decaf, irregularly, but am loathe to take the time to make it. (Did I mention we home roast the green coffee beans?) Athena, on the other hand, is always happy to make me a cup of coffee.

#6: I write in the family journal: We have a family journal that everyone in the family contributes to (Baby Leone has her newborn footprints in it) and that we ask house guests and friends to write in when they come visit. It’s part scrapbook, part photo album, part guest book, part drawing pad, and more. We actually keep it in the bathroom (the idea being that if you need to spend quality time in there, you also add an entry in the journal but no one but me follows that rule very closely). When the refrigerator gets too cluttered with cards and photos, I tape them into the family journal.

#7: I supply the baby with teething toys: A rubber spatula makes a great teether. As does a wooden spoon. Leone’s gums are soothed by all sorts of kitchen utensils.

What strange things do you do in your kitchen? What do you do in your kitchen that other people probably don’t?

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25 thoughts on “7 Strange Things I do in the Kitchen”

  1. I cook meat at low temperatures in a water bath beer cooler in “sous vide” fashion. Your chicken/steak doesn’t get over cooked and stays moist and delicious.

    I felt. It is a wet process, so the kitchen is the obvious place to do it. Hats, bags, rugs and felted soaps come out of my kitchen as well as food.
    .-= Frugal Kiwi´s last blog ..Getting the Bash =-.

  2. I don’t think using the pizza cutter for burritos is weird at all–I thought everyone did that. Let’s see, I use my tortilla warmer to keep waffles/pancakes warm. I add a little bit of spice to just about everything–cayenne is my go-to heat, but I also love throwing in ground ancho chiles. I even add a sprinkle or two of tabasco to my alfredo sauce. Sounds strange, but a little heat makes it more interesting to me.
    .-= Kristen´s last blog ..Zingy Orange Cookies =-.

  3. I too cook in the preheating oven. And I use the toaster oven a lot since it is smaller it uses less electricity. I use the vegetable peeler to peel apples. I thought this was innovative since it is a “vegetable” peeler but my father looked at me like I was an idiot as if everyone peels apples with it so maybe I am not innovative at all. I make herbal tea and let it sit on the counter all day and sip it as I go by. It’s medicinal and I find small amounts work better for me at a time. The family thinks it’s weird that I drink it room temp and let it sit out. I like to chop garlic, onions, etc by hand rather than using the food processor.

  4. These are wonderful (not-so-weird) tips, Jennifer. I love the fact that your 9-year old pitches in and makes coffee. And I absolutely did not realize you could actually cook in a pre-heating oven; a good way to conserve energy.

  5. Probably the most unusual thing we do is collect all those stickers off our fruits and veggies by peeling them off carefully and re-sticking to a piece of wax paper.

    When we’ve collected a lot, we make sticker art collages! Good for making homemade greeting cards too. Arranging bright colored stickers into designs is surprisingly, amazingly addictive and fun.

    I can’t find any pictures of our artworks, but here’s another amazing page of sticker art!


  6. Jennifer, I’d love your granola recipe. I make my own, too, but I’m intrigued by the idea of adding tumeric. I can get tumeric fresh!

    I use my garlic press to squeeze the juice from fresh ginger.

    I use a pillow case as a salad spinner – put the washed greens inside the case, then step outside and spin it in circles. Yes, I’m sure the neighbors think I’m crazy.

    I use the pizza cutter for quesadillas, too.
    .-= Kris Bordessa´s last blog ..Baking Portuguese Sweet Bread in the Traditional Way =-.

  7. Kris-my granola recipe changes all the time. I often make two trays at a time since it goes fast in our house. I don’t usually measure anything but here’s what I do:

    Toast lots of organic rolled oats in a glass lasagna pan over two burners on the stove until fragrant (3-5 minutes), add about 2 cups of nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, whatever you have on hand) and toast for another two minutes. Turn off the heat and then add poppy seeds, sesame seeds, shredded coconut, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, pinch of cloves and maybe a dash of salt or some nutmeg. Sweeten with agave, molasses, or maple syrup (I use just a tiny bit). Don’t stir! (this makes clean up easier) Put in the oven at about 320 degree. Stir every ten minutes till nice and golden. Remove from oven and add about two cups of dried fruit–black and golden raisins, date pieces, even dried mango (delicious but very expensive).

    What about your granola recipe? Please share!
    .-= Jennifer Margulis´s last blog ..The Mastodon Theory of Writing =-.

  8. How young is too young to play with the real coffeemaker. We are training our three-year-old twin boys on their Step 2 play kitchen right now. Perhaps with pre-ground beans 4 might be ok? It’s not like there is fire involved, or sharp objects. Besides, they always get up before we do.

  9. Wow! Your granola recipe sounds delish — and I’ve made a few. Where did the idea for turmeric in the mix come from? It’s a good anti-inflammatory ingredient, right?
    .-= sarah henry´s last blog ..Berkeley Farmers

  10. I’m giggling at the wooden spoon ‘teether’. While at my SIL house for Mother’s Day, my daughter found a wooden spoon in the side table in their living room. She was chomping on it for about an hour when SIL said’Um, that’s a cat scratcher’. Daughter didn’t seem to mind so I didn’t either! I find that a teether really is the choice of the child. Necessity is the mother of invention, right?
    .-= Colleen´s last blog ..Breastfeeding 101 =-.

  11. Okay, here’s my basic recipe, though I fiddle with it a lot! Yours sounds even healthier than mine – trying it next!

    8 cups rolled oats (not instant)

    3 cups nuts

    1-1/2 cup coconut

    3/4 cup flax seed

    scant 3/4 cup cooking oil (not olive)

    1-1/2 cup honey

    1-1/2 cup raisins/cranberries

    Pour the oil into a large roasting pan. Stir the oats, nuts, grains and honey into the pan. Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, turning it with a spatula every ten minutes or so until it’s golden brown. Add the raisins once it’s done.

    Next on my quest: crunchy granola bars!
    .-= Kris Bordessa´s last blog ..Baking Portuguese Sweet Bread in the Traditional Way =-.

  12. Jennifer, what fantastic ideas! Love them. I love number 1. That’s one I haven’t tried and it’ll be very useful for me with a baby in my arms all the time. I also just love the family journal idea. Keeping a family history (since I used to be a historian) is really important to me. I do it in a multi-media sort of way. This is a great idea.

    I also make granola pretty regularly. It’s a staple in our household. Once I realized you didn’t have to measure anything, and that I can eyeball the ingredients, it was so easy to make, and it always smells so good. I’m going to try it with turmeric next time!
    .-= Christine at Origami Mommy´s last blog ..Back home =-.

  13. Sarah – I keep reading about how good turmeric is for you. And this post, by Sheryl Kraft at Healthy Women (http://www.healthywomen.org/content/blog-entry/brain-healthy-spices-you-should-be-using) inspired me to try to find ways to use turmeric in more of my cooking. It’s wonderful for baked goods as it gives a cake or muffins a lovely yellow hue. So I decided to try it in granola as well. I love the taste of it, but I can understand, Brette, if you don’t like it and don’t want to use it.

  14. Honey would be lovely. We haven’t had any in the house in a long time (not sure why) but I’m sure it would work just as well as agave. I just respond better to agave — I am very sensitive to sugar and get low blood sugar easily but agave doesn’t seem to negatively alter my blood sugar at all. Too much honey, which is tasty and nutritious (especially raw), tends to give me low blood sugar.

  15. Thanks so much Kris. I will definitely add flax seeds next time. And also try making it with oil — I’ve never thought of doing it that way before.

  16. How interesting! Never thought about making turmeric granola, but that sounds amazing.

    Would love to hear more about the brick oven – did it come that way, or did you add the bricks yourself? Also, tell more about the coffee beans!
    .-= Stephanie – Wasabimon´s last blog ..Simple Birthday Joys =-.

  17. Stephanie, we bought fire bricks from the local hardware store. They cost, I think, about $2.50 a brick. You need to measure your oven to see how many you need before you go to buy them. Line the bottom of the oven with the bricks. It takes a bit longer to pre-heat (but just put the food in when you turn the oven on) but then the oven stays warm much longer, so you can do two things: #1) turn the oven off 10-15 minutes before the timer goes off and let the ambient heat cook the food, and #2) open the oven after you are done using it so the ambient heat from the fire bricks warms the room. This is especially cozy in the winter.

    Coffee beans… green beans keep forever and home roasting them is an amazing thing. You can buy a home roaster from Dean’s Beans (I think he sells them at close to cost) and most local roasters will be happy to sell you–or even give you–beans. It fills the house with such a nice aroma, and then you can roast each batch of beans to your liking. But beware: once you start doing it this way, it’s very hard to go back to pre-roasted beans. And when you run out of beans that you’ve roasted yourself, you need to make a new batch, which takes time…

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