If you believe you have already read, and even maybe tried, all the tips in the world that will make you more organized and kitchen-efficient when you’re hosting a dinner party, please take a a moment to read this post. I’ve put down for you some of my very own, personal little tips and tricks that you’ve never seen elsewhere, except maybe for the first one which is a rule of thumb!
Start cooking with a clean kitchen
I’m sure you have experienced the outcome of not following this basic rule: Before starting the cooking process, take a few minutes to clear the counters from any item that does not belong there, wash any dishes that may be in the sink, empty the dish rack, and unload the dishwasher. Cooking in a clean kitchen is a lot more pleasant and it will give you the confidence that you’re on top of things and in control of the situation. It will also give you more room to work, especially if you’re preparing something that requires space, like baking or a difficult recipe; you’ll know where to find each utensil because it will be in its place; and it will also make the cleaning up process, that last step that we all dread of, so much faster and less stressful.
Kitchen of My Dear Irene
Organize the fridge by the recipe
If you are cooking multiple dishes, you have probably done some prep work a few days ahead, and that will save you time on the big day. But how about placing these pre-measured and/or precooked ingredients that go into the same recipe, together, in one larger container or on the same refrigerator shelf? Say you’re baking a savory tart that requires grated cheese which you bought pre-weighted from the deli department; and maybe it needs some chopped bacon that you cooked a couple of days in advance; and some herbs that you washed and stored in a Ziploc ahead of time… Well, place all these ingredients in a bowl or a container in the refrigerator. That way, you will grab everything out of the fridge in one reach, saving you time and frustration from looking into jammed shelves for those mushrooms that you sautéed the other day! You can do this type of organization for most dishes and salads. An identical type of arrangement can be done in the pantry for the dry ingredients: the chopped walnuts that you will use in a cake can go in one spot along with the flour, the sugar and whatever other dry ingredient you can prepare ahead of time for that same recipe.
Photo found on HGTV.com
If you’re following a recipe from a cookbook or a magazine, that’s perfect. But if it’s on the internet, take my advice and print it! It’ There is nothing more frustrating than having to read a recipe from a tablet or a computer that powers off every two minutes, having to reenter the passcode, scrolling up and down on a screen to find the next step of the recipe, and all of that with dirty or wet hands that can damage your screen or keyboard. In addition, a recipe on paper gives you the space to make your own notes, for the future. You can later file it in your recipe box.
Photo found on the internet
Turn the TV off
A television in the kitchen is a source of distraction and irritation when trying to concentrate. My advice would be to turn it off, especially if you’re dealing with measurements, or when you’re trying a new complicated recipe, or if you have to follow many quick steps that require your attention. I’ve found myself making a mistake, just because of all the noise and disturbance that came from a television set.
Turn the TV on
However, some tasks in the kitchen that are especially monotonous, like peeling potatoes, blanching almonds and so many more. In these cases, company is the best remedy to help you get through the task, and if you don’t have someone around to talk to, or maybe Skype with, then a television show or the news is the best solution!
photo found on the internet
But definitely, consider having music on!
No matter if I cook for a crowd or I’m just fixing a quick dinner, there is always music in my kitchen. Depending on the mood, I like to listen to my Greek CDs, classical music, Pandora or maybe the local jazz radio station. Music is really inspirational and relaxing, even in the kitchen!
Photo found on the internet
Re-use a can and/or a carton container
I always try to use the least possible utensils and dishes while cooking, so that I don’t end up with too much cleaning afterwards.
The one thing I always do is to use a can that I just opened (and used its content, of course) to hold my cooking/stirring spoons next to the stove. Not only does a can take less space on the counter since it holds the spoons vertically, it also needs no washing, as I can toss it away when I’m done cooking.
I also like to have a trash bowl by the kitchen sink and for that matter, I cut the top part of an empty carton container (i.e. from milk or broth) to create a garbage bowl that can be thrown away along with the trash, thus no washing required!
Kitchen paper towel
I may overdo it with the paper towels, but at least I use it to the maximum before throwing it away! So, a piece of paper towel that I initially use to dry my hands, is re-used for that same purpose more than once. It can also be used as a damp cloth to wipe the counters and other spots like the area around the stove, the refrigerator’s handle etc. as well as a spill on the floor.
I also use a damp piece of paper towel as a pad for some devices that tend to slide on the countertops, when in use, like the manual/electric juicers and more.
My best tip, though, for re-using paper towel is to use it instead of my kitchen sponge. I use a wet paper towel with dish detergent to wash anything that has been in contact with raw poultry and eggs such as knifes, cutting boards, bowls and then I simply toss it away. No bacteria, no pathogens on my sponge. I also use wet paper towel with detergent to wash the bowl of a mixer that had dough, which would otherwise stick onto my scrub sponge and destroy it. In that same way, this paper towel type of sponge can be used for a quick kitchen sink clean-up. This is not only a hygienic tip, but it’s also one that keeps my kitchen sponge looking like new for a longer time!
Setting the table many days ahead
This is one of my mother’s tips and it’s a life saver: If you have the luxury of having a separate dining table that you will not use until the day you are hosting, set it up, even a week in advance! Make sure the tablecloth and napkins are nicely ironed, the silverware is shiny, and the dishes and glasses are clean. You can also use the table to temporarily park the serving dishes that you will be using along with the serving utensils. Additionally, you can set your tablescape and arrange your centerpiece, unless it consists of fresh flowers and/or fruit. To keep the dust away, cover the entire table loosely with a light plastic clear vinyl (found at your fabric store) or with a plastic drop cloth (found at the hardware store). On the big day, pull the cover away and your table is ready!
Formal dining etiquette
Not quite remembering the formal way to set a table? No worries, the internet is full of advice! I often find it difficult to correctly arrange the red and white wine glasses along with the water glasses, so I keep a print-out, for easy reference, in the box that holds my silverware. I chose this one because of its self-explanatory graphics.
No after cooking clean up = best tip ever!
If you want to end up with the least possible mess in your kitchen when cooking, take this tip into consideration: Whenever you head towards the sink to wash or rinse your hands, grab an item that has to be washed or placed in the dishwasher, either it’s a bowl, a cutting board, a knife, whatever you’re done using. Before washing your hands, wash the item, or place it in the dishwasher. I’ve found that the times I’ve disciplined myself to do this, I’m out of the kitchen a lot faster. And this applies whether you’re fixing a quick sandwich, preparing tonight’s dinner or cooking for a crowd. Try it, it works!
Photo found on diynhomedecor.com
What are your own cooking and hosting tips? I’d love to know!