Cooking Up a New Year

The dawn of a year is like a swift -- and often much-needed -- kick in the pants. There's nothing like a crisp new wall calendar to help set life in motion, encouraging the notion of possibility. It's also a great opportunity to shed stuff, be it pounds, bad attitudes or gone-to-the-dogs rusty cast-iron skillets. Change is good!

The opportunity for change couldn't be riper than in the kitchen. Whether a committed cook or a card-carrying member of the carry-out club, the kitchen is a major thoroughfare of the home. Some would argue it is home. After all, even burnt toast requires tools and utensils to get the job done.

With that in mind, what's the state of your kitchen these days? Have you got the baterie de cuisine all lined up? What's the state of the fridge or the pantry? And what about the floor? Is it clean enough to eat off?

As I've mentioned in the past, my kitchen is "space-challenged." I've made-do with a dollhouse-sized oven and lack of dishwasher, but baby, this kid needs some space. More countertops, please! Hopefully, within the next year, I'll be in new digs, but until then, it's all about making the most of my matchbox environs. A little sprucing up wouldn't hurt, either.

Here's what I've got on my New Year's kitchen to-do list:

* Time to get a new trashcan. That darn foot pedal hasn't worked in months, maybe a year, and inevitably the top clangs onto the floor like an out-of-tune cymbal at elementary school band practice.

* Time to hang up the fantasy that the oven will clean itself and pull out the orange deep-scrubbing gloves.

* Say sayonara to a busted colander, dry measuring cup with a missing handle and cornmeal that has gone well beyond its expiration date.

* Empy the fridge and examine its contents carefully (and honestly) and part company with condiments that have developed facial hair. (While the refrigerator door is open, clean out the crisper drawer, hose it down and wash out with soap.)

* Do the same in the freezer. Mine is a minefield and spills out onto my feet everytime I open the door. It's time to organized, young lady, and prevent a broken toe from a flying frozen steak.

* Acquire a nutmeg grater, a handheld parmigiano grater, a hand-held citrus juicer with a measuring cup underneath to catch the juice, a coffee grinder just for spices.

* Eat more barley, quinoa and other fiber-rich grains and grasses that only make it into my diet every once in a while. Drink less coffee and drink more tea. Be more mindful about wine and drink one instead of two or three glasses or three instead of five nights.

* Eat dinner at the table rather than on the sofa, at least one night per week.

* Make cous cous, the Moroccan or Tunisian way. A friend gave me her couscousiere before going home to Tunisia and the pot is now sitting in the closet, begging to be used.

* After many years of talking about it and never stepping up to the plate, do some kind of digestive cleanse with the arrival of spring. I'm exploring a less invasive, mini-version of pancha karma, a cleansing ritual in the ayurvedic tradition. The one I'm looking into involves a few mornings of ingesting ghee (clarified butter) with ginger and cardamom, to help release toxins from the body. I'll keep you posted on what and when I decide.

So, I've shared my ten to-dos. What about you? Share your kitchen intentions in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  January 2, 2007; 11:13 AM ET Kitchen Musings
Previous: A Toast to Toast | Next: Rice Bowl Basics


Please email us to report offensive comments.

- Micro grater (not just for nutmeg and cheese)

- French Rolling Pin (The one without the handles)

- Fix the five burner gas stove. Ignitor out on one burner, another doesn't work at all.

- Throw out that big package in the freeser wrapped in aluminum foil and blue tape. Make sure the trash gets picked up before it has a chance to defrost.

Posted by: Weekend Cook | January 2, 2007 12:40 PM

* In my constant struggle to cook for one without waste: when shopping and planning for the week's meals, I will keep in mind meals when I know I won't be home
* I will not worry so much about the small size and cluttered condition of my apartment, and have friends over for dinner more often
* I will eat more broccoli and other greens, mandarin oranges, yogurt, and brown rice, because I love them, and because potato chips are not really food
* I will learn to make more soups

Posted by: Reine de Saba | January 2, 2007 1:17 PM

In no particular order:
1) I will get my husband to eat more veggies with me (neither of us like them) and continue to experiment with roasting them (yum!).
2) Quit buying more baking supplies without actually using up the ones I already have (how many bags of chocolate chips does my fridge actually need?)
3) Clean the oven
4) Keep the sink empty
5) Use things up in the fridge before they go bad!
6) Use things up in the freezer before I forget about them.
7) When buying my new home, make sure that it has an ample kitchen!
8) Learn to use all of the snazzy new appliances we got for our wedding!
9) Try to buy the majority of my produce from farmers markets after we move to Seattle.
10) Try to cut out even more meat from our diets.

Posted by: Newlywed | January 2, 2007 1:43 PM

I have a nutmeg grater. However, when I tried to purchase fresh nutmeg for this season's egg nog, I could not find any. The clerk at my Whole Foods said they couldn't get it anymore because the tsunami wiped out the trees. Another sad note to that tragedy.

Today I'm tackling all my lower cabinets and making hard decisions about donating or discarding old utensils that I rarely use since we are now empty nesters. Wonder if the scrap metal folks buy old tin?

A further note on donating: I used the work for a non-profit that had a huge yard sale every spring. We would get tons of old kitchen items (stained plastic food storage containers, pots with broken handles, etc.) which had no chance of being sold and became expensive trash which we had to toss. And the donor got a tax deduction to boot!

Posted by: Mary Leaver | January 2, 2007 3:05 PM


In your chat today you said your cornbread was done on the outside but not on the inside...did you try the Tasajara Cookbook cornbread recipe I submitted to your chat a while ago? It actually cooks up w/ a slightly sweet egg custard in the middle....delightful!

Posted by: Catskill Woman | January 2, 2007 3:52 PM

Why do the things I've done always seem to engender a need to do more things. For instance...I renovated my kitchen with new counters, new lighting, new floor, yes, a new trash can, and a gorgeous new tile back splash. This means I will need to keep extraneous stuff off the counter so that gorgeous back splash is immediately visible when you come into the room. This means cleaning out the cabinets so I can store all that extraneous stuff out of sight.

Also, replaced the refrigerator lights. Now I can see that I need to get rid of extraneous stuff that lurked in the rear of the fridge for many, many months. I also must avoid temptation to add to my humongeous condiment collection. How many flavors of mustard do I really need?

Finally...I want to purchase a new pressure cooker to replace the nearly fifty year old one I inherited from an aunt when I helped move her into a nursing home. I still use it, but the rubber gaskets are imposible to replace. Some antiques are worth keeping, others....

Posted by: Suzie | January 2, 2007 4:35 PM

Kim, you are obviously free to do as you like regarding your body; however being a medical school student, I have to give you a little doctor shpeel. The detoxifying "cleanses" are really unnecessary. Your body is very equipped to clean itself, and it does daily, hourly. As long as you are fully hydrated and are having regular bm's; then your body is perfectly "clean". The cleanses are pretty harmless though, so detox away; but just don't think of your body as toxic or dirty; it's just isn't healthy.
-make and can orange marmalade before oranges are out of season again
-meal plan more
-make and freeze broccoli soup

Posted by: Raisin Sitzman | January 2, 2007 4:40 PM

My current list is trying to rid the weevil like creatures I found. Time to clean the kitchen! All the crackers and such bought for parties this holiday season (plus left over baking items) are out the door!

I wanted to drop a hint for the poster in your chat today. My fav college cooking items: smaller knives with a small cutting board, correll dishes (a few; they are near indestructible and microwave nice, and serve as a cutting board), a pot holder, and a Tupperware microwave steamer. I still use that thing. My friend sent it to me my 2nd yr in college and of all items in my kitchen, I have used it the most every year regardless, even now. I lived in dorms for 4 years and we were not allowed to have element items, so if she has a real kitchen a wok-for-2 is useful, but if she is in dorms it is not. microwave steamer, maybe a microwave rice pot (although that can take a while to use and is a pain to clean, so if you share a microwave not always so good). I would not focus on too good. I know plenty of kids who threw out dishes and stuff b/c they got busy and forgot to wash it and it got gross. Might think it is awful, but with final projects, then finals, then you leave quick for a 2-6 week winter break, and well things happen. Students pack up during high stress times. Only send replaceable items, regardless of stealing or forgetfulness.

A mini fridge was fab, with a freezer section for microwave dinners. If allowed in the room a microwave is good, too. If you live in a house it is a bit better, but really, speed and ease are the key points.


Posted by: secretfun | January 2, 2007 5:01 PM

HAHAHA! I have to say that it's a relief to find others who need to clean out the frig/freezer, get rid of things, etc. Others worrying about entertaining.

I actually took all the cookies, candies, cakes, etc, to work with me after Christmas. Got rid of them. Still debriding the kitchen of unncessary items (and buying things that I "want"). Still need to really scrub the oven, clean the crisper.

However, it seems that I'm going to have to make more pumpkin seed went over very well and I've already had requests for more.

Posted by: paulaf | January 2, 2007 5:26 PM

1) go as vegetarian as possible, reserving any meat eating to the goods that we can purchase locally from the farms around us...

2) ...which means that I need a new cookbook - I have my eyes on "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone," by Deborah Madison.

3) get hubby and kid(s) to eat healthier, and get me out of the rut of repeat meals and snacks. We have agreed to ban hydrogenated anything, and high fructose corn syrup! woot!

4)drink more water, walk/exercise more, get outside at least once a day no matter what the weather and laugh a LOT more.

Happy New Year, and thanks Kim!

Posted by: running rabbit | January 2, 2007 7:15 PM

A beginning cook away from home could use an imersion blender-good for soups, hot chocolate, cocktails-many uses. Not too big, either.

Posted by: Paul | January 2, 2007 8:54 PM

Find a place for the brand new food processor. To me, with love from me.

Use the shiny new lovely food processor.

Cook 3 meals a week. At least 1 should be from a cookbook (I eat alot of rice puffs cereal right now).

Reorganize the kitchen so the toys are easier to get to but that I am also using them.

Give away one of my 2 mini food processors since I have a brand new shiny cuisinart.

Very excited about the food processor, if ya couldna tell.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 3, 2007 1:37 PM

1) Entertain more regularly. We saw so many friends and people we'd like to get to know better at various events over the holidays. I look forward to inviting them over for some Saturday night dinner parties.

2) Explore the world of oven braising with my new cookbook from Molly Stevens. I wish it were colder these days, but I really want to master some innovative braising recipes of not just meat but also braised vegetables and braised fish.

3) Make my first souffle! I saw an intriguing recipe demo on Martha over the holidays and it looks doable!

Posted by: Sean | January 4, 2007 12:24 PM


I enjoyed your new year's kitchen/cleansing resolutions! We, too,
have a tiny kitchen. (I must say, that contributes to a sense of triumph
when I can turn out a decent meal of more than one course -- a sense of
triumph which people in big houses with Corian (?) countertops in kitchens so large they have islands in the middle must not get!)

I wanted to let you know about I have been getting information about various cleansing and detox protocols there and it is a very informative and helpful community. You go to and then you can read posts at several different forums. When you click on a forum, you will see a row of links at the top: "R," "RN," etc. -- those are posts that are informative and that contain a lot of information.

I have to put in a plug for the weirdest thing I have learned about on Curezone which is oil pulling. (There is an OP forum.) It is AMAZING. Improves mood, cleans up mouth, makes bad skin better, circles under eyes go away...check it out!

Best wishes for a really happy 2007! I look forward to reading your
blog in the new year.


Posted by: Laura | January 5, 2007 12:09 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.


© 2010 The Washington Post Company