Monday, December 31, 2012

A Clutter-Free Kitchen

My kitchen was out of control. Every time I needed to use a spice, I had to move something out of the way, or I knocked a jar off the shelf. My utensil drawer was a jumbled mess. There was all kinds of crap covering the dining room table. Then I happened across the book It's All Too Much – An Easy Plan for Living a Richer Life with Less Stuff by Peter Walsh who is a professional organizer from TLC's CleanSweep (which I have never watched). As I read it I took many notes. Here is what I got out of it.

Work from the vision of the life you want to live. I saw myself living in a home that was neat, tidy, calm, and peaceful. That vision does not include crammed closets and piles of stuff on the dining room table.

A bit of psychology here, you really do need to understand why you hang on to certain stuff and move beyond it. There are a total of 10 excuses people have to explain why they can't get rid of stuff; here are the first three:

1) I might need it one day. It's this kind of stuff that keeps us from living in the present.

2) It's too important to let go. If you really value an item that much, you need to show it the honor and respect it deserves. For example: Are your family heirlooms hidden in the closet? Does the place this "important item" holds in our life truly reflect the value you claim it has?

3) I can't get rid of it – it's worth too much money. Holding on to the item feels like holding on to the money you spent – somehow. But these items have lost their usefulness. Now you're throwing good space after bad money. Clutter robs us of real value. Think about how much you pay for your house in rent or mortgage. Every square foot of your house is costs you money. Also consider what that clutter now is costing you in ways far beyond the initial financial outlay? In stress? In your health? In your relationships with your family members? In embarrassment?

To get going on decluttering your home, the plan of action is called FAST.
F = Fix a time for your initial declutter
A = Anything not used for 12 months (get rid of it)
S = Someone else's stuff. You are NOT keeping it! (get rid of it)
T = Trash! (no brainer, get rid of it)

Clothes: when you're trying to decide what can stay. Only keep clothes that fit you well NOW, they make you feel good when you wear them, or you get compliments. This book really is about living in the moment – DO NOT save clothes that fit you before or will fit after you lose 5 pounds.

Clothes Hanger Trick: The clothes that are left over after you have weeded them out, turn the hanger the wrong way. After you wear each item, return the hanger to the proper position. After six months it will be obvious which are the clothes you should keep and which ones to discard.

For stuff like books, DVDs, etc. DO NOT go out and buy new storage units to organize them. (Peter Walsh is NOT into buying organizers and shelves; he is into getting rid of all the stuff we really do not need or use.) Use the bookcases and organizers you already have and let that be the guide as to how much to keep. Keep weeding stuff out until it fits in the space. Walsh has a ratio rule that he uses to help you get there. Once you have achieved your goal, every time you buy a new book, one has to go.

To keep magazines under control, limit yourself to three monthly subscriptions. Only keep three months worth. When the new one arrives, recycle the oldest. Don't keep catalogs. If you want something, order it NOW. You can always look it up online if you need to order later. And if you rip stuff out of magazines, set a limit! For example, I will only keep 10 dessert recipes in my file folder. After you have 10, new one goes in, old one goes out!

Kitchen utensils – If you can't get rid of it, put it in a box and if you use it in the next month, it can go back in the drawer.

These are just a few of his tips. This book made an impression on me and since I read it, I have been working on a kitchen drawer or a cupboard a day. It's really exciting and I'm really looking forward to moving beyond the kitchen!

Commit to having a clutter-free home. Clarity, perspective, focus, and a sense of openness all come with a clutter-free space. What better way to start the new year than with a tidy, organized kitchen? All it takes is some motivation and a commitment to do just a bit every day.

You should not have anything in your home that is not beautiful or functional.
– William Morris

Spice area is cluttered and messy!

Much better, I can see what I need!

Not all that bad, but I can do better!
This really is much better.
Junk drawer before. Peter says you shouldn't even have a junk drawer!
Junk drawer after. Now if I can only keep it this way!

All my baking stuff including sugars – before. What a mess!
Baking cabinet, still too much stuff! Going to have to work on this one.

You get the idea. My kitchen is less cluttered but I know I can do more. I have way too many different types of sugars. I think I'll take half of them, put them in a box in the garage. If I don't use it in a month or so, toss them. Do you really need a dozen different types of sweeteners? Six different types of salt?

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Nutcracker Marathon and Quick Christmas Bombay Potatoes and Cauliflower

San Francisco Ballet's The Nutcracker.
I don't have many Christmas traditions beyond watching The Nutcracker on PBS. For the last several years they have been airing the San Francisco Ballet's Nutcracker and it is my favorite. However this year I anxiously scanned their programming looking for The Nutcracker in vain. Every time I searched for The Nutcracker it was only on the Ovation channel which I do not subscribe to. Serious action was needed. I cancelled my Showtime subscription and subscribed to Ovation. Nirvana! On Christmas day, they have Nutcracker marathons! From all over the world!

So I've been watching The Nutcracker off and on all day. Some of them are pretty strange (Nutcracker – The Story of Clara by the Australian Ballet), some not so hot, San Francisco Ballet is there in all their glory (yes!), and I'm now watching the Bolshoi at the Bolshoi. It has the possibility of becoming my new favorite. All of the children's parts appear to be performed by adults and it just seems more polished than many of the rest. No frumpy nightgown for Clara and the dancing is stupendous.

Quick Christmas Bombay Potatoes. Very pretty, red & green!
I had been planning on making a Christmas pizza today but got waylaid by the Nutcracker marathon and this recipe for Saucy Bombay Potatoes. I absolutely love cauliflower and potatoes so I made this instead of the pizza. Many changes were made. The beauty of the recipe is no matter how you change it up, it's going to be good and even better the next day!

Quick Christmas Bombay Potatoes and Cauliflower
1/4 cup onions, chopped
1 tsp avocado oil
2-4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 potatoes (I used Yukon), peeled & chopped
1/2 cauliflower, chopped
1 cup vegetable stock
1/4 cup dark beer (totally optional)
1 tsp garam masala (or your favorite Indian spices)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 14 oz. can chopped tomatoes
1 TB tamari
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup frozen peas
1-2 handfuls of fresh spinach
1 TB fresh lemon juice

Heat oil and saute onion for a couple of minutes. Add garlic and potatoes and cook a couple mintues more, Add cauliflower, vegetable stock, beer, and spices. Stir well, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until potatoes and cauliflower are crisp tender. Add tomatoes, tamari, pepper, and peas and cook for about 5 more minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Take off the heat, add lemon and serve. About 4 servings.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Best Scrambled Tofu

tofu scramble close up

Mmmmm! Moist, spicy morsels of tofu, nestled among sautéed mushrooms and freshly wilted greens of your choice. My favorite to use in this recipe are power greens (a mixture of spinach, mizuna, chards, arugula), baby spinach, or chopped baby kale. This is quick to make and the leftovers are delicious.

1 tub of firm organic tofu (about 14 ounces), packed in water
1/2 package of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 to 2 tsp All American spice mix (see below) or your favorite spice blend
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp black salt (optional)
1 TB nutritional yeast
1 TB Tamari
5 ounces of your favorite baby greens

Rinse and pat dry tofu. Cut in half, wrap in paper towels, and then a kitchen towel and place heavy object on top of it to press out excess moisture. Do this while you chop your mushrooms, greens, and measure out your spices.

A wok works great to make this in especially when it it's time to wilt the greens. Spray the pan with a bit of olive oil and add mushrooms. When mushrooms start to wilt, add the garlic. Sauté a couple of minutes and then crumble in the tofu. Add the spices and stir to evenly distribute the spices. Everything should be nice and yellow. Continue to cook, taking care when you stir to leave a few largish chunks of tofu. When tofu has cooked for several minutes, add the greens, folding in with the tofu mixture. Keep folding in the greens until they are wilted. Dinner is served!

Recipe notes: When you purchase a tub of tofu, open it, rinse the tofu and transfer to another container, fill with water and tightly seal. Change the water daily until you cook the tofu. This helps to keep the tofu nice and fresh. • Black salt adds an sulfur egg-like taste. I usually forget to use it and it doesn't seem to matter. • If you use baby kale for your greens, be sure to chop it because kale tends to be tough, even the baby kale. • If you are a mushroom hater, you can leave them out and just have your tofu and greens, it will still be quite delicious!

All American Spice Mix
Original recipe from American Vegan Kitchen. You can use this spice mix in all kinds of dishes. 
1 TB ground cumin
2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 TB smoked paprika
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 TB dried parsley
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/8 tsp ground cloves

Combine all ingredients in a small skillet over medium heat and stir constantly for about 2 minutes until fragrant. Make sure it doesn't burn. You can skip this step but it really does make a difference in bringing out the flavor of the spices. Cool completely and store in a tightly covered jar. Makes about 1/2 cup.

tofu scramble and hash browns
Go to town and make some hash browns too!

One year ago...this recipe is pretty awesome!
Fresh Cranberry Pumpkin Bread

fresh cranberry pumpkin bread

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Chocolate Chip Cookies for Everyone - soft, chewy, non-dairy & egg free

chocolate chip cookies vegan style

These chocolate chip cookies disappeared before 10:30 a.m. when I brought them to work. They're soft, chewy, loaded with chocolate chips, and oh, so delicious.

The recipe is adapted from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar, one of my go-to cookbooks. Every recipe I've tried has been delicious. Here is the original recipe posted on 6 Bittersweets blog. You can choose to follow the recipe exactly or change it slightly. The batter is a bit loose so be sure to leave room between scoops when you bake them.

My changes:
1/4 cup brown sugar replaced with 1/4 cup blond coconut sugar
1/4 cup white sugar replaced with 2 TB organic cane sugar
1-1/2 cups flour replaced with 3/4 cup spelt flour & 3/4 cup all purpose flour

The next time I make it I will replace ALL of the all purpose flour with half spelt and half whole wheat pasty flour. Mmmmm!