10 Creative Tips for Organizing Your Kitchen

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to get rid of the kitchen clutter and get more organized. Here are some creative and inexpensive ideas you can use to give your kitchen a makeover and get it in tip-top shape for cooking and entertaining in the year to come.

1. Create uniformity in your pantry, prevent spills, and help food last longer by transferring food from grocery store packages to sturdy glass and plastic containers. Keep flour and sugar in large glass containers that keep air, moisture, and bugs out. For ease of use, choose a set with a wide mouth that will let you scoop easily. I love this elegant and classic style by Anchor Hocking which looks lovely left on the counter (this is also the same kind that Ina Garten (aka The Barefoot Contessa) uses in her kitchen, so you KNOW it's good!)

2. Have deep cabinets? Prevent items from getting lost back there, by using narrow containers as drawers. (I like the plastic "shoe box" kind you can find at stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond.) Label the front with the contents (such as "cookie cutters" or "foil and plastic wrap") and fill them up with items. When you need something, just pull the container you need, take what you want, and then push it back into its space. No more rooting around on your hands and knees!

3. Divide and conquer! You can double or even triple the space in your pantry and cabinet shelves, simply by using stackable shelf dividers and undershelf baskets (like those pictured in the photos of my own cabinets above and below). These make it possible to organize several layers of canned goods, plates, bottles, or small packages in a large shelf. A wine rack in the cabinet is also great for holding large bottles of olive oil, wine or booze used primarily for cooking, or even tubes of plastic wrap or foil.

4. Get a set of stackable, bpa-free containers to hold dry goods such as granola, beans, rice, pasta, oatmeal, and other grains. This is the set I use in my own pantry. A package of rewritable labels, like these from the Container Store, will help you keep track of what's what in each container.

5. One of my favorite tricks is to re-purpose traditional office supplies for use in the kitchen. For example, you can use an open-sided magazine rack or a large wicker basket to store cookie sheets, cutting boards, and trays. Keeping them upright in the rack means that you can easily slide one out when you need it; no need to lift a big heavy pile of trays to find the one you want. Choose an inexpensive wire version, or go for a more elegant wood or acrylic version that matches your kitchen decor.

6. Plastic or metal "inbox" or letter trays work really well in the refrigerator to group and organize small items like cheese, yogurt containers, and cans of soda. Get ones that are open on one end and longer than they are wide to maximize space. Choose a clear, acrylic version that can be easily wiped down periodically.

7. If you have the room, why not set up a small file cabinet somewhere in your kitchen or pantry? It's great for storing and organizing recipes, take-out menus, coupons, grocery lists, and appliance manuals. The top of the cabinet can be used for additional prep or storage space.

8. Use your wall space! Install a hanging pot rack above your stove to keep pots within easy reach. Hang small cup hooks under your cabinet or on the wall to hold measuring spoons, mixer attachments, and oven mits. Replace that bulky wooden knife block with a magnetic knife strip that attaches to your kitchen wall or backsplash. (This will also help keep your knives sharper longer.)

9. Hang a bulletin board on the wall. I keep a large bulletin board next to my stove where I keep some of my favorite go-to recipes (like for buttermilk blueberry pancakes). You can also use it to pop up a printed recipe for easy following while cooking. Or use it to keep party invitations, children's artwork, inspiring messages, or your weekly grocery list. (I also use the push pins on mine to hang oven mitts, potholders, and aprons.)

10. Store tools by material. Got tons of spoons, spatulas, tongs, and other kitchen implements crowding your drawers? Get yourself 2 large ceramic canisters and place them on the counter. Divide your implements into metal and wood/plastic and pop them into their respective canister. Separating them by material will keep the jumble of instruments looking neat (and within arm's reach!).

In the New York City area and want professional help organizing your kitchen or pantry? Check out our pantry and kitchen makeovers. From organization to set-up to clearing out the processed junk, we can help get your pantry in perfect shape for the new year!

What to Do With All Those Reusable Bags!

I have a bit of a reusable bag problem. It started about 5 years ago, when reusable bags started getting more and more popular. I would buy one or two of them for a dollar each at the check-out line at Whole Foods, mostly because the large size and long straps made them incredible comfortable for lugging heavy groceries around the city.

Good for the environment, a discount on groceries each time I use them, AND easier to carry than paper bags? Awesome!

But the problem was that I kept forgetting them at home, so I'd have to buy new ones each time I went to the store. And it got worse because suddenly, reusable bags became THE giveaway item at ever wedding, conference, party, whatever that I attended. As my collection of reusable bags started growing, I found I had nowhere to keep them in my closet-bereft apartment. I also wasn't sure how to dispose the older reusable bags that were starting to tear or get worn out.

So I did a little research and found some options for what to do with extra or worn out reusable shopping bags. If you're anything like me, you'll find some of these tips helpful, too!

For Worn-Out Bags:
  • Exchange them: Whole Foods actually replaces their worn out bags free of charge, so if you have a few old ones that are ripped or starting to fall apart, just bring them to the store and they'll exchange them for a new and totally free one.
  • Recycle Them: For bags that are no longer usable (or just unwanted) there are actually companies such as Chico Bag in California, that run reusable bag recycling programs. They accept all kinds of reusable bags via mail, and clean and recycle them for underprivileged families. Broken or unusable bags are reused as fabric for other projects.

For Bags in Good or New Condition:

  • Donate them: We often take reusable bags for granted, but remember that there are many for whom that extra dollar or two to buy a bag is not as expendable. Donate your clean or new bags to a local food bank, church, or soup kitchen who can then pass them on to low-income families in your area. Better idea? Fill the bag with non-perishable foods before you donate it!
  • Pass them on: Next time you head to the store or farmer's market, bring an extra bag or two with you. While standing in line, offer them to someone near you not already holding a bag. 
  • Get creative: Use clean reusable bags for projects around the house--wrap presents with them, create washable book covers for your children's textbooks, use them as a laundry bag or beach tote, use to create padding when shipping packages

Get Healthy & Fabulous in 2012!

Got big plans to get healthy and even more gorgeous in 2012? (I know I do!) Make this the year you FINALLY stick to those goals by learning some delicious healthy recipes and cooking tips that will keep you on the right path all year long.

Sign up today for our first class of the New Year--it's a hands-on healthy cooking class, during which I'll be teaching 8 different light and delicious recipes that are perfect for cooking during the week. You'll also learn various healthy cooking techniques and ideas that you can use to transform all your favorite dishes, and start the year off feeling fresh and healthy. The class will be taught at our gorgeous new Manhattan kitchen space.

The class is limited to 12 students, so if you're interested in attending, definitely sign up today. Click here to read more and reserve your ticket.

Have any questions? As always, feel free to email me!

Practically Edible: Eco-friendly Dinnerware Made from Familiar Ingredients

Sugar, rice, and salt are classic pantry staples, but these foods might soon find a new home in your dish cabinet. New lines of eco-friendly dining ware and serving pieces combine biodegradability, function, and—in some cases—even a little bit of flavor!

The most exotic (and gorgeous!) of these are Himalayan pink salt plates. Mined from 500-million-year-old quarries in Pakistan, these attractive plates and serving slabs impart valuable minerals and subtle saltiness to fresh vegetables, soft cheeses, and other moist foods. By salting the food from below, the plates assure the seasoned part hits the tongue first, causing a unique flavor sensation.

The thicker serving slabs can withstand temperatures from 0 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. To impress your guests, heat these slowly on the stove then place on a trivet to sauté thin slices of meat of shrimp right on the dining table. In the summer, store the blocks in the freezer then use to serve scoops of ice cream. Normal use will dissolve a thin layer of salt each time, but with proper care, the plates should last several years.

The attractive slabs are even pretty enough to use as decoration! I keep mine lined up on a shelf near a window, where sunlight can sparkle right through them. When you’re done using your salt slabs in the kitchen, simply break and toss the small pieces into your bathwater for a relaxing mineral soak. (If only all recycling could feel this good!)

For something a little more suitable for everyday, a company called Grenware produces a full line of dinner plates and soup bowls made from rice hulls and coconut fiber. The elegantly curved plates are durable enough to be washed in your dishwasher, but will biodegrade in as little as four months when added to the compost pile.

If you’re expecting a crowd, you might want to pick up a package of disposable plates by Potatopak. The New Zealand-based company specializes in sustainable products made entirely of potato starch. Not only do these plates and utensils compost quickly, they’re also made without producing any toxic waste usually associated with Styrofoam production.

Also keep an eye out for products made from 100 percent sugar cane fiber or “bagasse,” which is a natural byproduct of the sugar refining process. Use them at your next party and then toss without guilt; bagasse plates will return to dirt long before you’re ready to invite that many people over again.

Pantry and Kitchen Makeovers

Are your kitchen cabinets cluttered with processed junk food? Do you waste money buying products that you never use? Are you interested in switching to a healthier, more unprocessed diet? Do you need help getting your kitchen organized? 

If you answered YES to any of these questions, my Pantry and Kitchen Makeover Service is for you!

Let me help you establish a personalized and organized pantry tailored to your needs, tastes, and lifestyle. Whether you've just moved into a new home,  are setting up your first kitchen, or are simply looking for a fresh start, I can help!

This two-part service will begin with an in-home consultation, during which I will go through your current kitchen and talk with you to evaluate your needs and identify your culinary style. We'll go through your current cabinets and pantries, tossing away all the junk, processed foods, and expired products. I will then develop a personalized action plan including a shopping list of ingredients, pantry staples, and storage ideas and recommendations to make the ingredients last and work for you. You have the option of handling it from there, or for an additional charge, I can handle it all for you--from shopping to set-up!

  • $195 for In-Home Consultation and Personalized Pantry Action Plan 
  • $395 for Premier Service, including In-Home Consultation, Personalized Pantry Action Plan, and complete shopping and organization service. 
(Cost of ingredients and storage items not included. Service currently only available in the NYC area. Outside NYC, please contact first to verify if your home is within my service area.)

To register, select the service below and add to cart. You will be redirected to the secure shopping cart to pay via PayPal. Once your registration is received I will contact you to schedule your in-home consultation.

Personalized Menu Planning

Do you find yourself wondering what to make for dinner every night? 

Do you regularly throw out vegetables and ingredients that spoiled before you had a chance to use them? 

Do you find yourself going back to the grocery store 2 and 3 times a week to pick up items you forgot, each time spending more than you planned?

Are you looking for ways to cut your grocery budget or get out of a cooking rut?

If you answered YES to any of these questions, this service is for you! My Personalized Menu Planning service will set you up with a custom meal plan including weekly menus, custom-designed recipes, and corresponding shopping lists that will take the guesswork completely out of cooking, help you get organized in the kitchen, and make it possible for you to focus on what you love the most--cooking and enjoying delicious, balanced meals with your family.

What's included:
  • One seasonal four-week menu plan personalized to your tastes, needs, food preferences, and the time of year.
  • 28 dinner recipes, plus 3 weekly dessert recipes for a total of 40 personally tailored recipes.
  • Shopping lists containing all you need to complete the weekly recipes.
  • Substitution lists containing ingredients you can substitute in case the ones listed in the recipe are not available in your local grocery store.
  • Storage and reheating information for leftovers, when applicable.
  • Bonus holiday recipes, tips, and tricks
  • 30 days of email cooking assistance. Meaning you may send me as many questions as you'd like regarding the menu, the recipes, and the ingredients. Whether it's clarifying a recipe step, or helping you identify a substitution for an ingredients, I will be here and ready to help you with any questions you may have.

    How it works:
    • Once you register for the course and place your initial deposit (50%), I will provide you with a detailed questionnaire designed to identify your dining needs and preferences, favorite ingredients, and kitchen equipment.
    • Upon receipt of your completed questionnaire, I will begin to create a custom menu plan containing 28 days (4 weeks) of meals with accompanying detailed recipes and weekly grocery lists all tailored especially for you and your family.
    • Once the menu is completed, I will alert you so you can pay the balance, and the final menu package will then be made available to you as a digital PDF (mailed printed version is also available).

    Cost: $150 for the first month's plan (includes personal in-depth consultation and questionnaire.) Each additional month is $75/month. Discounted packages and other special rates available! Email to find out more.

      Contact me for more details or to sign up! 

      And Coming in November 2011: Pre-made Downloadable Menu Plans!
      Sign up for our email list to be the first to learn when this product is available. Just email me your name and I will add you to the list.

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      Original Recipe Development and Brand Partnerships

      I develop original and inspiring recipes and entertaining menus featuring brand-name products and ingredients for use in advertising, advertorials, company websites and blogs, infomercials, and packaging.

      I can create a variety of sweet, savory, and/or beverage recipes that are inspiring, visually appealing, and designed specifically with end consumer needs and skills in mind. Let me work with you to showcase your brand in a recipe or menu that will engage consumers and encourage them to welcome your product into their home and family table.

      Though professionally trained in the culinary arts, I specialize in home-cooking and entertaining for the real-life consumer. From young urban cooks with small apartment kitchens to suburban moms with bustling households, I can create the recipes and entertaining menus that appeal directly to the skill level and lifestyle of your target market.

      Previous Clients Include: Tabasco, Starbucks, Smirnoff, Netflix, Edy's, Microsoft Windows Phone, Cypress Grove, Peanut Butter & Co., Wisconsin Dairy Marketing Board, Sara Lee Desserts, Fox News iMag, and many more

      Please contact me directly to discuss possible partnerships.

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      Corporate Cooking Demos and Speaking Engagements

      Add a little fun to your next corporate event or bring your product to life with a live cooking demo, on-camera presentation, or class. Whether you're looking for a hands-on cooking class for a small group of colleagues or a live cooking show for a large audience of hundreds, I can work with you to prepare a presentation that will engage, educate, and entertain.  I'm also available for speaking opportunities and MC/hosting engagements.

      Previous clients and events include:  
      • Cafe 57 (Hearst Corporation Corporate Cafe)
      • The New York Botanical Garden
      • Venable LLP 
      • Fox News iMag/Sara Lee Desserts
      • The National Puerto Rican Day Parade Scholarship Foundation
      • The Miss National Puerto Rican Day Parade Beauty Pageant
      • New York City Dept. of Education
      • People Growers of America
      • Good Commons Retreat Center
      • Edible Escapes 2011
      • The Learning About Multimedia Project (The LAMP)
      • TECHmunch NY Conference
      • YVR Educational Institute

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      New York Wedding Registry Consultation

      Getting married and confused about what to add to your wedding registry? I can help!

      I'll meet you at Williams Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy's, Target, or whatever your favorite store for registering is, and help you pick out quality cooking, entertaining, and home items that you will really use based on your interests, skills, and lifestyle.

      Cost: $30 per hour (2-hour minimum includes a 20-minute initial consultation to identify your needs and maximize the registering process.)

      Email me to schedule this service today.

      (Note: Service currently only available in New York City.)

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      Shop & Store Workshops

      My Shop & Store Workshops are based on the principle that delicious meals begin with quality, whole, unprocessed ingredients. With a real-life and hands-on approach that turns your neighborhood into the classroom, I will teach you professional secrets, tools, and techniques that will make you confident, healthier, and more efficient shopper and cook. We'll visit your favorite grocery stores and markets, and work in your own kitchen to teach you skills you can use to change your life right from day one!

      Choose from one of the following options, or contact me for a custom package! Flexible scheduling with days, nights, and weekend times available, and affordable rates as low as $100 per person.

      Availability:  Shop & Store Workshops are currently available in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and parts of Northern New Jersey. We are not currently offering workshops in Staten Island or Long Island. New Jersey residents: please contact me before purchasing to verify that the workshop is available in your neighborhood.  

      Current Workshop Offerings:

      Grocery Day Makeover
      Revitalize your grocery shopping habits, and learn tools and tricks to shop smarter and healthier for life! In this mobile hands-on workshop, I'll accompany you (and up to 2 other people) to your favorite local grocery store where I will coach you through the grocery shopping process. We'll then bring the groceries back to your kitchen, and I'll show you how to store, prep, and organize them. In this workshop you will learn:
      • How to pick out the best, freshest, in-season fruits and vegetables
      • How to read and compare labels on packaged foods to identify hidden unhealthy ingredients
      • How to identify items with the best nutritional "bang for your buck"
      • About new or unfamiliar vegetables, grains, and ingredients; and learn tips for how to use them
      • How to talk and interact with the butcher, fishmonger, etc. to make the most out of your trip
      • How to pick out delicious and creative substitutions for out-of-stock or overpriced items
      • How to prep your ingredients to make cooking easier and quicker throughout the week
      • How to store your ingredients so that they last as long as possible, saving you money and reducing waste
      Cost: $200 for an approximately 4 hour workshop. $50 for each additional person (up to 3 people total). Cost includes workbook and inventory list for each participant; you are responsible for the cost of the groceries you buy.  Invite two friends or roommates, split the costs, and have a fun day learning shopping skills that will help you all save money and eat healthier for life!

      To register for this course, select the number of participants in the drop down menu below and add to cart. You will be redirected to the secure shopping cart to pay via PayPal. Once your registration is received I will contact you to schedule your workshop. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

      Interested in adding a one-on-one cooking class to your Grocery Day Makeover? Contact me for options and rates. 

      Grocery Shopping for Teens (+ Cooking Class)
      This hands-on mobile workshop is especially geared to empower teens between the ages of 12 to 18 to make healthy food choices from the grocery store to the dinner table.

      Overview: I will accompany you and your teens (up to two teens and one adult guardian; ages 12-18) to the grocery store and we will let them take the lead on the shopping. I will provide guidance throughout, teaching them how to select fruits and vegetables, how to read packaged food labels, how to calculate costs and pick out delicious and healthy choices while staying within a budget (you set the budget!). After shopping, we will bring the groceries home, and I will teach them how to properly prep and store the ingredients. Finally, we will end the day by having the teens prepare a meal of their choice with the items they purchased (under my instruction).

      Cost: $250, includes shopping, prep, storage, and a teen cooking lesson. (Cost of groceries not included.)

      To register, select the workshop below and add to cart. You will be redirected to the secure shopping cart to pay via PayPal. Once your registration is received I will contact you to schedule your workshop. Feel free to email me if you have any questions!

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