Saturday, August 24, 2013

My Atrocious Pantry: Before and After

I have a fairly large kitchen. I have an L-shaped counter, a refrigerator opposite the L, a peninsula, and a dining area. Yet somehow, I never have enough counter space or cabinet space. As such, most of my food has migrated into the cheap freestanding cupboard we put next to the fridge, and my dishes (and mixing bowls, and waffle iron, and fish-shaped ice cube trays) have taken over the real cabinets. I realized, while trying to decide what to have for lunch that my "pantry" was a little disorganized.


Yeah. Maybe a little more than a little.

Since I still didn’t know what I wanted for lunch, I decided to reorganize! I started by taking everything out of the cupboard.

I don’t trust the cleanliness of my own kitchen floor, so I chose to spread everything out on a picnic blanket. Then I reorganized. I started with all my baking supplies.


That’s a little better, right? My pastry tips and cupcake pan liners are now shaking up with the cookie cutters and I threw out that disgusting bottle of balsamic vinegar. Turns out my molasses was expired too.

On the second shelf we have ingredients.


I may have an unhealthy relationship with tomato sauce. No, you don’ t need glasses, you really are looking at nine jars of tomatoey goodness. Believe it or not, this isn’t even an overabundance around here! Almost an entire jar goes into stuffed shells, we use at least a jar and a half when we make lasagna, and a week without spaghetti is like a week without air, so these will be used up quicker than you’d think.

On the third shelf we have canned goods and junk food.


I don’t know when I bought pineapple, but it’s now front-and-center so I (hopefully) remember to eat it.

Ready for the big picture? Here we go:


Much better!

Just so you don’t think I’m cheating or anything (like those super-fancy closet makeovers where they show you a jumbled closet and then a new closet with, like, four shirts in it) I threw out a few things that were expired, put the honey mustard in the fridge with the rest of the condiments, and moved the tea and drink mixes to their proper home on the counter with all their friends.

Your turn! What does your pantry look like? Do you need to reorganize too?

Monday, August 12, 2013

How to Boil Water in Ten Simple Steps

Boiling water can be a very difficult process. It is a skill many people take years to master. You, my friend, are being handed the secrets to success. Guard them well! By using these instructions, you will be able to boil water leaps and bounds above the other muggles with whom you socialize. With a little practice, you will be able to use your extreme skill in boiling water to branch out into new adventures in culinary art, such as pasta, potatoes, and maybe--just maybe--ricearoni.

Step 1: Selecting the Pot.
The pan you select for boiling water will depend largely on what you plan to cook in your boiling water. There are several simple guidelines that hold true across all facets of water boiling. You want to be sure to select a pot (or pan, depending on your persuasion) that has sides at least several inches high. Frying pans are not the best option for most of your water boiling needs. I suggest using a saucepan or soup pot.

Step 2: Selecting the Water.
Once you have selected your pot, you have to find your water. While it is possible to boil many fluids, we will be starting with water as it is the most versatile and readily available. 71% of our planet is covered with water, but it is not recommended to use water from the ocean for cooking purposes. Likewise, be careful when using water from all-natural sources such as lakes, streams, rivers, and puddles. In my experience, the best cooking water is found from your kitchen tap.

Step 3: Procuring Your Source of Heat.
Our ancestors boiled their water over open flame. For beginning cooks, fire is not recommended. If you do choose to cook with fire, please proceed with caution: wear flameproof clothing, keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and practice your stop-drop-roll technique before beginning. A more beginner-friendly option is a standard kitchen stove. If you have a gas stove, you may still have exposure to a flame. Be aware that while this flame is much safer than that of our ancestors you should remain alert and careful.

Step 4: Filling Your Pot.
When filling your pot with water you will want to leave 2-3 inches at the top of your pan for bubble expansion. This also helps reduce the risk of splashes and spills when transporting your pot from your source of water to your source of heat. Whether you fill your pot with cold water or hot is your personal preference. Rarely does starting temperature have a profound effect on your boiling time.

Step 4: Turning on the Heat.
If you are using a stove you will likely have to locate one of the dials on the stove to turn on the heat. Depending on your model, these may be located alongside the burner, on the wall, or on the front of the stove at roughly waist-height. If your stove has more than one burner (heat zone) you will have multiple dials. These dials may be marked with a drawing depicting which burner it operates. If not, you will have to experiment. As you are a creative person, I will allow you to execute whatever tests you deem necessary to determine which dial increases the temperature of each heat zone. To operate the dials, turn them in a counter-clockwise direction. The farther you turn the hotter the heat.

Step 5: Deciding on the Correct Temperature.
The dials on your stove may or may not be marked with numbers. If so, the higher the number, the higher the heat. The numbers do not, however, relate to the exact temperature. For example, if your heat setting is 5, your stove is not running at five degrees Fahrenheit, or even Celsius, it is just a reference point to give you an idea of whether your stove is operating at "low heat," "medium heat," or "high heat." If your dials are not marked, you will have to guess, keeping in mind that the farther you turn the dial from its original starting point, the higher your heat setting. The higher your heat setting, the faster your water will boil.

Step 6: Watch the Pot.
Many people believe a watched pot never boils. This information is incorrect and with a little practice you will be able to boil water while staring directly at it, amazing all your friends! While bringing a watched pot to its boiling point is an excellent party trick to master, watching the pot while you learn to boil water is more for educational purposes than anything else. It is unnecessary to stir the water, but keep an eye on it while you are learning so you will recognize the various stages on the way to boiling.

Step 7: Bubble Formation.
Bubble formation will begin to occur inside your pot of water within several minutes of exposing it to heat. The exact time frame will differ depending on your pot, the amount of water you are boiling, and your heat level. You will first see these bubbles forming on the bottom of your pan. You do not need to do anything with these bubbles, just watch and wait for them to manifest into Small Bubbles.

Step 8: Small Bubbles.
The bubble formations you viewed on the bottom of your pot will slowly begin floating to the surface. They will begin by floating up the sides of your pan and will then move closer to the center. As the bubble formation progresses the bubble trails from the bottom of the pan will form small bubbles on the surface of the water.

Step 9: Big Bubbles.
The small bubbles will quickly progress to big bubbles. When the big bubbles have taken over the pot you will have succeeded in boiling your water. Congratulations!

Step 10: Controlling the Boil.
As your boil continues, you may experience bubbles "jumping" out of the pot. These may sizzle on the burner below. Do not be alarmed! This is a normal part of the process and happens most commonly when there is not enough space left at the top of the pot when filling it with water (see Step 4: Filling Your Pot). You can reduce the heat and wait for the boil to calm down, or you can carefully lift the pot from the burner to cease the boil. Keep in mind that the boil will return upon being exposed to the heat again within a short time frame. Later in your boiling career you may experience a frothy "boil over" but handling this is an advanced technique you will not need to tackle until you have proceeded to cooking food in your boiling water. For now, practice boiling water in a variety of pots in your house before progressing to cooking with boiling water. Before you know it you will be boiling water like a Food Network star!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Welcome to My Half Assed Kitchen

Dear Internet,

I can't cook. 

I can bake, I can fix a mean bowl of spaghetti, I can even make microwave popcorn, but I can not cook.

Luckily, you don't have to show your credentials to Google before starting a blog. 

Now that I think about it, that might be luckier for me than for you.

Anyway, with that disclaimer out in the open, I'd like to officially welcome you to My Half Assed Kitchen.

There might not be great cooking, but we'll always have cookie dough and a few good laughs. Go ahead, pull up a chair, grab a spoon, and let's see where the web takes us.