Setting Up a Baking Corner

Aren’t these pictures beautiful?

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(both from Pinterest, can’t find the original source)

Please don’t put your baking supplies in a place like this!

It will look great in pictures, and that is about all it is good for.

Put them in your kitchen.

Wherever you stand in the kitchen the most. This tends to be somewhere between sink and stove.

(For me, it is in the corner to the right of the cooktop.)

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Put your flour, sugars, oils, vinegars, salt, and spices in your kitchen “hot zone” where you are standing.  Also your baking powder and baking soda, cocoa, cornmeal, cornstarch, bread crumbs, nonstick spray, and shortening.  All of that stuff.

Mine is the cabinet on the right of the picture above.

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Some baking stuff on the left, spices on the right.

Some can go on the counter. Some in a cabinet.  Deep drawers would be great.

I also have a few things on the counter (white sugar, Brown sugar, panko bread crumbs, and all-purpose flour in the big King Arthur tin.)

My lazy susan holds almost everything else:

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I have a lot of bulk sized items, a lot of unopened extra bags because I stock up when there is a sale, and everything fits easily.  It definitely look better with matching labeled canisters, but it is fine.

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Measuring cups and spoons should be here too, in a spot where you don’t even need to take a step to get them. I have seen pictures of people storing them on hooks inside a cabinet door. I have never tried this but it seems like it would get annoying gingerly placing them on hooks and having them clatter about when you open the door.

I prefer a drawer:

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I moved my spatulas to a canister to make room.

Just keep them nearby. You will soon know exactly where everything is as you use it more.

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Even if you are not a big baker, all of these ingredients are used in everyday cooking too. They belong next to you in the kitchen.

Below this little drawer is a little cabinet for small appliances I use in baking, like the food processor, blender, and bread machine.

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Now this area is all set up for my “everyday” type baking. Breads, cookies, muffins, anything like that can be easily made without trekking back and forth to some distant pantry. It is all right here. If I need to make a marinade, a salad dressing, meatballs, whatever, everything I need is here or in the fridge. The only things I keep in my pantry cabinet, a bit further away, are pasta, canned goods, and unopened extra things like sauces and other fridge stuff.  (Come to think of it, my extra flour, etc. should be probably go there too.)

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Whatever is living in the cabinets by your sink or your cooktop, see if you can give it the boot. If your sugars and flours are in a pantry, take them out and put lesser used small appliances in there instead, or bakeware, or whatever else you don’t use every day that is taking up prime real estate in your cabinets.

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And I think you will find that baking becomes less tedious, as the whole routine of taking things out and putting them back is drastically simplified.

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My mom says it is weird and that all food should be together, in a pantry!  What do you think?


Getting rid of my pantry

Probably 90% of what I save to Pinterest is pictures of pantries, laundry rooms, broom closets, and potting sheds. There is something so beautiful about them… places that say dedication to the home, organization, attractive utility. I have always dreamed of a walk in pantry, to go in and be surrounded by glowing home canned jams, baskets or potatoes, braids of onions, and bunches of herbs drying. It was the number one thing I wanted when we were planning our new house.

Our original plan had a 9×9 room with two windows, off the kitchen, facing northwest and northeast. One wall was a step in pantry with three walls. The other wall had a broom closet and a built in desk for me to lovingly craft handwritten notes and meal plans. Well… through a series of events, my laundry room got turned into my husbands office and the washer and dryer had to be moved into my pantry room. Fine. Broom closet was taken away, and we planned on a stackable washer and dryer going in its place.

Then, the house had to be angled differently than we envisioned because of the slope of the land, and instead of pulling up at the front door, you would pull up at the side of the house. So a door was added where a window once was, and my pantry

room became a laundry room/ mud room/ pantry. The lovely desk with a window above became a bench. Sad. I always had wanted one well used entrance instead of a front door no one used. Oh well. We decided to tile that room instead of using hardwood and I consoled myself with pretty mudroom pictures.

And then, most horrible of all, it was discovered a washer and dryer wouldn’t fit in the footprint of the broom closet, and they would have to go on the long wall, side by side, where the pantry was supposed to be! My old washer and dryer! No new ones. No pantry. No broom closet. No desk for my, um…. correspondence.

So I got my broom closet back! But it was now a pantry. And because of where the light switch had to go the door is too small for it and one side is impossible to get to. And it bumps in to the mudroom door. And there is no coat closet. I don’t mean no coat closet in the mudroom. I mean none in the whole house. So coats and backpacks are on hooks, shoes are piled up in front of the bench that no one sits on, cans disappear in this odd, deep pantry closet, and I must correspond using the kitchen table!

And guess who goes in the office that was supposed to be my laundry room? No one! No. One.

I feel better now.

Anyway, one year after moving in it was all driving me a bit nuts. I had recovered from the loss of the special dream room. But there was too much going on in this actual room. The coat situation was awful. So two days after Christmas, in a fit of aggravation, I took all the food out of the pantry and shoved everyone’s coats and bags inside. And there they remain. (Except for my husbands, which seem to prefer… the kitchen island.)

And do you know what I realized? Storing your food in a room other than the kitchen does not make a lot of sense.

I took my own advice and put the food stuffs throughout the kitchen, where they are used. I have a corner of the kitchen with my mixer with the spice cabinet above. In the corner lazy Susan went all the oils and vinegars, different kinds of flour and sugar. Cornmeal, molasses, honey, rice, oatmeal, things of that nature. Everything fits, even Costco sized oils and ten pound bags of flours. Frequently used dry ingredients went in canisters on the counter. Why would one want to go another room to get ingredients for a baking project, and then back again to put them all away? Oh I need a teaspoon of vinegar. Let me shuffle into the pantry. It is as silly as a cleaning closet.

Canned goods, dry pasta, and extras of things like salad dressing went in one 36 inch lower cabinet that used to hold my canning jars. Everything fit, and I have many duplicates. The canning jars went on an upper shelf on an upper cabinet. I will need to use a step stool to get them, but I can handle that.

The upper cabinet above the “can cabinet” holds snacks. Any extras go above the fridge. Fruit in a bowl, cookies in the cookie jar. Bread in a drawer below the toaster, next to the fridge. I do not buy cereal. If I did I would put it near the fridge or the cereal bowls. Coffee went in the cabinet below the coffeemaker.

I do have a large unfinished basement where I can store home canned foods,extra paper towels, ziplock bags, and things that I buy in bulk. But I treat the basement storage as my own little grocery store. Anything that I would need in moment is in the kitchen, where I need it. When I run out, I go down to the basement to restock.

The vacuum lives at the top of the basement stairs where there is a large landing. It is centrally located so works out fine.

And now I have a super useful laundry room/ mudroom. When dirty children come in from climbing piles of dirt (yes, this actual thing they do) they shed their clothes to be dropped right in the washer. The broom closet, then pantry, now coat closet holds coats, snow pants, boots, old towels for cleaning off mud, kitty treats, birdseed, sunscreen, a first aid kit. The shelving above the washer and dryer holds laundry stuff. I would love to have them redone to be a bit more attractive and have two rows of shelving. But I don’t really need more storage.

It is not what I imagined, and we now have an office and a large foyer that go largely unused. But I am hoping to turn the office into a small sewing room, and the foyer would be nice open floor space for board games and puzzles. And visitors do tend to use it.

So my point is… pantries are dead to me. Beautiful in pictures. Not practical unless they are truly in the kitchen, and are nice and shallow so nothing gets lost. A twelve inch deep cabinet, floor to ceiling, would be ideal. I am glad I did not waste a whole wall on one. But I still long for that desk.


How I am Keeping My Kitchen Clean Every Day

Last summer I started following a homemaking schedule where certain things were done on certain days: “Laundry day”, “Town Day”, etc.  I loved the fact that it gave each day a focus and kept me ahead of the game instead of constantly playing catch up.  I also loved that it had a slightly retro feel.  I felt like a real housewife!  But one day, Kitchen Day, was torturing me.

It was a day for canning, baking, cooking ahead, making freezer meals, and cleaning the kitchen.  This meant organizing the fridge and cleaning the shelves, washing the trash cans, cleaning the sink, organizing the pantry and the cabinets, and all those little tasks that kitchens need.  It was just too much, and it was stressing me out.

I realized I was acting a bit silly, as if federal law had decreed that I must cook ahead and clean the kitchen in one day.  So I decided to change things up and it has been a huge improvement.

Two or three times a day, I go in to the kitchen to make a cup of tea.  It steeps for seven minutes.  During those seven minutes, I do one small task to clean the kitchen.  Just one!

It has been amazing!  The kitchen is always clean, and it feels effortless!  Setting a timer has been so important for this working for me.  

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Here are some of of the chores I tackle during those seven minutes.

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-cleaning the sink with barkeepers friend and filling it with water and a splash of bleach

-organizing and wiping down ONE shelf or drawer in the fridge

-cleaning the fronts of the cabinets

-getting down on the floor with a damp microfiber cloth and mopping by hand (surprisingly quick and effective)

-organizing and wiping out one drawer

-polishing the stainless steel appliances

-filling the coffee maker with vinegar and to clean it

-cleaning the cooktop

-organizing the pantry cabinets

-cleaning the kitchen windows or sliding glass door

-polishing two pans with bar keepers friend, drying them, and putting them back

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I am so happy I changed up this aspect of my homemaking routine.  And it has freed up my Tuesdays so that they are now “baking day”, and I am free to do things like this:

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So if I skip a day, no big deal.  And after the chore is completed, I get to relax with a cup of tea!