Kitchen in a Box

We rent our home and when we moved every room got bigger, except the kitchen. I have grown to work within our kitchen, but oh, how few cupboards and counter space there is to work with! We finally had our cupboard repainted during covid and moved a few things around. We tried to be creative about how to add more counter space, keeping in mind that we don’t own the home. What was the easiest solution? IKEA of course!

We already owned a couple of the Kallax shelves and loved the versatility with them. We measured planned and decided that adding two of them would fit the kitchen just fine. The shelves had to be stacked in front of one another to fit. This led to me wondering how in the world could I organize the shelves, keep things dust free and ACTUALLY reach all the way to the back with them being twice as deep? After staring at the options before me, I realized bins! Bigger items can fit easily in the back and still be accessible, while bins in the front allow me to pull them out to access smaller items or pull them fully out to reach the big items stored behind.

We added doors on the bottom because I only had so many small items that would fit in the bins. Behind the doors we have one shelf with Play Doh, making it super easy for the kids to reach and put back away. Another has our electric kettle and coffee maker. The third all our makers; waffles, grilled cheese and donuts. Recipe books and containers that tend to only get filled with Christmas baking take up the last shelf.

Our bins hold water bottles which used to be stored on a pantry shelf. They often fell over and took up valuable shelf space! Another bin holds smoothie items; the magic bullet, protein powder and cups. It also holds my immersion blenders, which sometimes get used for smoothies too! The third bin holds the tupperware lids and the last is used as a “bread box.” Everything is so accessible for the kids and easy to store items in! The bins contain small pieces but are big enough that they can fit what is needed or be changed for different items if our needs change.

It took a bit of trial and error to figure out exactly what I wanted where, but now that it is done and we’ve been using it for a few months I love it! The kids can reach what they need, I can set a bin up top to reach the back quickly and it has added a place to cool and decorate cookies and more counter space for both kids to prep their lunches in the morning. Who knew that our perfect kitchen addition would come from IKEA in a box?

Hiding in Plain Sight

I absolutely love these boxes from Winners. The only downside is that you never know what designs they will have in, but for easy storage they work fantastic. I was looking for something to store our card games, puzzles and brain games in that the kids could easily access. Something that didn’t feel too cluttered, but would also keep the dust out. These boxes have been stored in coffee tables, shelves and even on the floor when folks forget to put them away! I have a bigger one that we store our Tablecloths in and because of the pretty design on it, it’s easy to have out. The boxes come in a variety of sizes and can be adapted for anything that you want to hide in plain sight!

Apple Cinnamon Muffins

Fall brings the flavours of cinnamon, nutmeg, spices, apples and pumpkins. Flavours that feel like a warm hug on a cool autumn day. I was in the mood for apples and spices so started looking up recipes to match the kind of muffin I wanted to make. I came across this one https://addapinch.com/cinnamon-apple-muffins-recipe/ and decided to try it, but with a crumble topping instead of a dip.

The end result was ok. It was simpler in flavour and more dense than I wanted. I knew I wanted something more moist, softer, with more complexity on the tongue, warmer. I decided to try the recipe again with some substitutions. I increased the butter from 1/2C to 2/3 knowing it would moisten the batter. I switched out the 1C white sugar for 1/2C white, 1/2C brown to add flavour and keep the batter fluffy. I tossed the apples in cinnamon and brown sugar to start opening the apples up and releasing their natural sugars. Then I made a better crumble and covered the tops to create a nice, crisp top. I added about 2 tsp of cinnamon, 1/2tsp of nutmeg and 1/4tsp of allspice alltogether to the batter. Different spices added more complex flavours and really gave the muffins that fall feel I was looking for.

Then the ultimate test, I brought both muffins into work for the taste test! Results were unanimous. The altered recipe was better and gobbled up! These muffins took 10 minutes max to mix and I was able to walk to the dog and tidy the kitchen while they baked. Talk about functionality! They freeze very easily which means you can double or triple the recipe and have extras for the weeks ahead. I kept about 8 out for my family to eat over the weekend then froze the rest. Muffins are great because you can pull them from the freezer the night before and they’re ready for snacks the next day, whether it be work, school or breakfast.

You can see the difference in texture in the picture with the open muffins. The top right is the original recipe, the bottom is after the changes. Fluffier, smaller density and a darker look. Spices can always be lessened or added depending on your family’s preferences. This is the best part about playing with recipes!

Let’s Talk Tupperware

Mismatched container, missing lids, and so many pieces aren’t actually tupperware brand! This drawer tends to be the disaster of most kitchens. But it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t even take a lot of work to keep it organized!

Our containers have changed over the years. With two kids in school and a husband who needs to take lunches to work daily I have customized our stash to meet their snack and lunch needs. Containers that won’t leak and make a mess, yet also won’t cause me concern if they don’t return home. Rubbermaid and No Name have been many of my go to’s. For home use, we have switched many of our plastic containers over to glass anchor brand. I love how well the anchor ones stack, cook, freeze and have less chemicals.

I am huge on efficiency. Being able to find what I need when I need it is key, and this is especially true for my “tupperware drawer.” I go over our containers twice a year; fall and spring. I count up bottoms and lids and remove the extras. If we’re low, I stock up. Using the same brands helps make stacking easier in both the container and lid department. Organizing containers and lids by shape and size keeps them stacked and easy to find. With my daughters making their own lunches I need a system that the whole family can work with.

Simplify, streamline and sort. It doesn’t have to take a lot of work to create a system that can stay organized day in and day out. Use a space that can grow and change with your family’s needs. If too rigid, there is no room for improvement or daily use. Prioritize what you will need on a daily or weekly basis and don’t be afraid to remove or change the containers that may not fit anymore. Once we take the simple steps to create the system that works for your home you will find its functionality increases and your stress level decreases!

French Onion Soup

I used to hate onions. I would pick them out of spaghetti sauce, and could never have imagined that I would love a soup who’s main ingredient was onion! Thank goodness my tastes matured and my love of cooking grew. The weather has been getting cooler, rain has been falling and it’s the perfect time of year for a soul warming soup!

Our meal plan for the night was sausages, perogies and vegetables. While shopping at Costco, the idea of french onion soup was put into my head and with the weather that day I couldn’t say no. The best part about this soup is that it is so easy and quick to make. Other soups I prefer to let simmer all day and have the flavours mix together, but this soup can be done in 30 minutes if needed.

I like looking at recipes and seeing which matches the results I’m seeking. Then I take that recipe and tweak it here and there, or completely disregard it to create something different that suits the idea I have in my head. I searched a couple recipes, found one I liked the most, then made the soup based on the flavours I wanted. Feel free to change the loose steps listed below to suit your flavours, or ask how it can be done.

Ingredients you will need: 6 Large yellow onions, 3-4 tbsp of butter, 1 head of garlic, 2 tbsp white sugar, 1/2-3/4c dry white wine, 8c beef stock, sage, thyme or bay leaves for seasoning, salt and pepper to taste. To top you will need 1 baguette, enough slices of Swiss, Emmental or Gruyere cheese for each soup bowl you’re serving.

Start by taking a large pot, 6 quarts should do. I love the heavy bottomed Lagostina pots we have. They help keep an even temperature which is great when needed to carmelize onions.

Slice 5 to 6 large yellow onions root to stem (top to bottom). Toss the sliced onions into the pot with 2-3 tbsps of butter. I add a bit of salt and pepper for flavour too. Turn the element to medium and let the onions start to cook. Stir the onions occasionally until they are reduced, soft and almost translucent. Sprinkle 2 tbsps of white sugar on the onions to help them carmelize and 1 tbsp of butter. Add a head of garlic finely diced ( I LOVE my garlic!). Stir the onions frequently so they carmelize, but don’t let the bottom burn. Once the onions are brown all over pour some dry, white wine in. I suggest 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup. This will give the soup flavour and deglaze the pot. I used Inniskillen Chardonnay which paired wonderfully with the soup afterwards!

Pour in 2 containers of beef broth. I found 2 gave the perfect balance of broth to onion. Each carton is 900ml. If you prefer more broth, add a bit more, but not more than 3. I added more salt and pepper and some fresh sage from the garden. Let simmer for 10-15 min. Longer if you’re not in a rush. We had Cheer practice that night so my soup simmered for almost 3 hours!

Once the soup has simmered and is ready to serve, it’s time to finish plating it. Slice a baguette into 1/2″ thick slices. Depending on your size of bowl, you may need 1 slice or two to fill the top. Lay the slices out on a baking sheet and drizzle olive oil over top. You can get different infused oils to add more flavour. Bake at 400F until the tops just start to brown. While the baguette is toasting, fill your soup bowls with the soup and prepare the Swiss, Emmental or Gruyere cheese slices. You can use the precut ones or slice your own. I like 2 slices layered over the baguette because more cheese is never a bad thing!

Once the baguettes are ready, lay them gently over the soup, then lay the cheese slices over the baguette. Place the bowls in the oven on broil until the cheese is melted and just bubbling. Remove from the oven, but becareful, the bowls will be hot! I like to serve the soup on a plate with a napkin so the bowl doesn’t slide and it gives me and edge to hold onto that isn’t hot. You can add a sprinkle of thyme to the top or leave on it’s own. Serve with a spoon and enjoy, but remember, the soup will be hot!

You’ll see in the pictures that I plated my soup bowls on a baking tray. This makes it so much easier to put in the oven and take out without making a mess! Line with foil if you really want a mess proof option.

I never use the whole batch of soup during dinner. French onion soup can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later dinner. Fill mason jars with cooled soup, leaving about 2″ from the top. Place the jars in the freezer with the lid OFF. This will allow the soup to expand and not break the jar. Once fully frozen, twist the lid on tight to seal and keep fresh until you’re ready to use. Once you are ready to serve again, let the jar defrost in the fridge overnight. Heat when ready and plate the same as before with the toasted baguette, cheese and broil.

Suitcase Storage

Ever wonder what to do with all those extra pillows and blankets you have? Whether you have extras for when Guests visit, or extra blankets that you use on beds in the colder months, they can pile up. I have had ours in our walk in closet, in containers, and more. I kept searching for an easy solution for where to store them, while keeping them smelling fresh and accessible. Around the same time I also realized I had 4 big empty suitcases just taking up space in our closet awaiting the next adventure. We have our travel set for smaller journeys to the grandparents or a weekend away and those stack in each other very well, but these big, hard case suitcases for longer vacations were just there serving no day to day purpose. So why not, I thought. I tried putting a couple blankets in, zipped them up. I put a few pillows on the other side and used the elastics to hold them in. Just like that I no longer had empty suitcases, nor did I have blankets and pillows just staring at me, taking up space. You can sort the pillows and blankets by room, by season, by type just by storing them in the same suitcase. Organization, storage and it looks so much more tidy!

Slow Cooker Chicken

Today’s menu plan called for Roast Chicken. I work tonight, so it will be a busier evening. The morning started cloudy with fall in the air. Perfect say for slow cooker chicken! This meal is easy to prep in the morning while you’re getting ready for work or getting the kids off to school. I love it because the chicken is always juicy and tender, everything is so flavourful and the clean up is almost nil.

Start by putting a whole chicken in the fridge overnight to defrost. If you like, you can put it in a ziploc and marinate, but it’s not a must. Get your slow cooker out and using aluminum foil, create some balls to sit on the bottom of the slow cooker. This helps the chicken cook well and not be a soggy mess on the bottom as the juices start to form.

Place the whole chicken on the foil balls and season. I chose to use salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika and poultry seasoning. I added butter and onion circles to really create a delicious flavour.

I peeled and cubed 5 larger potatoes and soaked them in a bowl of cold water. Then peeled and cut 6 large carrots into sticks. Everything was placed around the chicken. They will all cook well together while infusing all the ingredients flavours together. I added fresh thyme and sage from the garden to finish the dish off.

Cover and let slow roast all day. You’ll come home to a full dinner all ready and waiting with the house smelling amazing!

If you’d like to indulge a bit, an oaked California Chardonnay will pair very well with these flavours.

Coffee Corner

I LOVE my coffee, almost as much as I love my wine! We have a typical percolator, Keurig, Tassimo and French Press. Plus a tea pot and kettle. It’s a lot to keep organized, accessible and not cluttered looking. Add in 2 kids who love hot chocolate on a cold day and we to find a solution. I had seen adorable pictures of coffee nooks and knew I wanted something similar. Except I had a small budget, limited space and wanted something I could modify as our needs changed.

I browsed online for options, and stumbled across a shelf that met my needs at JYSK. It was floor model too, so discounted, assembled and in great shape. Add a few baskets from there too and I was ready to go. I found a couple hangers and a cute tin from Dollarama, was given mugs from my local Buy Nothing group and my coffee corner was set. It felt great to get our items off the counter and into their own little nook.

I recently added a third area, to make it a 3×3 area. I have 6 baskets, 2 for coffee items, 2 for tea, 1 for hot chocolate and 1 for extra travel mugs. Two of our top shelves hold the most used coffee mugs for easy access when we’re tired in the morning. The third holds the tea pot, everyday coffee pods, sugar and the french press.

Everything is accessible, within hands reach and easy to keep clean and organized.

Jewelry Drawer

I love wearing different pieces of jewelry to add some fun to my outfits. Whether at work, to the grocery store or just around the house I have fun adding a little more colour or sparkle to what I’m wearing. Not to mention all the handmade pieces the kids have given me over the years. The only problem with this is where to store it all! I picked up a new to me dresser a few years ago and it had the perfect little drawer on the top. I knew it would be perfect for my pieces, but how was I going to keep it all sorted and not turn into a giant tangled mess? I knew there were organizers for office supplies, so started browsing the aisles of Dollarama to see if they had what I was picturing. Low and behold I found exactly what I wanted! An office organizer with little compartments. Some bigger, some smaller exactly what I needed as my earrings do not need the same space as bracelets or necklaces. Two of them fit in the drawer perfectly with space still left on the side for boxes of our more precious pieces. Super simple find, very cost effective and it doesn’t leave me digging and sorting through drawers or boxes trying to find the piece I want to wear today!

Freezer Fun

We bought a stand up freezer years ago and it has been the best thing for keeping organized. I often batch cook as part of our meal planning and that takes up a lot of freezer space. We also buy our meat in bulk and have to portion. Trying to keep all those freezer bags and portions organized can be a challenge! When we had a chest freezer, there were baskets we could use. So, I figured why not use containers? Depending on what is in the freezer at the moment, the contents can change. Seafood, beef, chicken. Everything is labelled and sorted in the containers. I can easily pull them out from the shelf and find what I need for dinner that night. Our freezer door has so many shelves. Jars, small containers, cheese, butter all get stored there. And then our awesome big basket on the bottom is fantastic for breads. It keeps them from getting squished and when we buy the Costco bulk packs we can open them without worrying about the smaller packages falling. It is also great for bags of frozen veg. As fall cooking comes into full effect, and then Christmas baking I have plenty of space for containers, jars of soups, stews and more. Sorted and easy for anyone in our family to find if they need it for dinner, lunch or dessert!