Saturday, December 05, 2015

Final Day of Resetting Our Kitchens for Winter Holidays

"Winter's Tale" Oven Mitt, from Michel Design Works, on Amazon

As the days grow colder in autumn and in winter, our appetites and our cooking styles change with the new seasons. Different types of produce become available at grocery stores, and we crave different foods - hot soups, baked potatoes, pot pies, casseroles, chilis, crusty breads, pies, and hearty vegetables.

Those of us who live in colder, rainy. snowy, darker climates might find ourselves going out to restaurants less in the upcoming months. It's cold and can be slippery and dangerous to drive and to walk on icy sidewalks. So we might stay home for quiet meals, or invite a couple of neighbors over for dinner. We might be trying to save money for Christmas shopping by cooking at home.

It's time to start gearing up for holiday cooking, baking, feeding overnight guests, giving food gifts, and any festive entertaining we plan to do. Time to sort and organize our kitchens, take inventory, and stock our pantries with necessities. This is our final night this week of kitchen prep, if you've been following along and participating!


  • Life can't be just about doing housework or homemaking! Go to a movie tonight after today's project is done; get out a book; go out with friends; take a bath; listen to music; or catch up on your backlog of DVR shows.
  • Do any of your family members need hair cuts before Christmas week? Maybe build in enough time for a new haircut to lose its "brand new" look before you take formal holiday photos?
  • Do you need to spend some time this weekend working on writing your Christmas cards?

TODAY'S PROJECT: Winter Kitchen Organization, Part 4

Santa Cookie Jar, on Amazon

This week I've been preparing my kitchen for Christmas in manageable chunks. Tonight I'll put in the last hour of work, which leaves myself plenty of time to relax and enjoy my Saturday evening. (I might watch the new A Very Murray Christmas starring Bill Murray).

Tonight I'll begin by going through my folder of takeout menus from various restaurants. I'll throw away duplicates or out-of-date menus, and organize my collection. I store it near the phone for easy access. There will no doubt be cold nights ahead when we're too tired to cook and don't want to go out. Those menus will come in handy! Get in the habit of grabbing a take-out menu whenever you're at a restaurant you like that offers them. Plan ahead for those cold, rainy, snowy nights. I don't make a habit of ordering takeout (I love cooking and going to restaurants) but you never know!

Holiday Striped Kitchen Towels, from Williams-Sonoma

Next, I'll go through my potholders and kitchen towels, immediately discarding any limp, smelly kitchen towels or crusty, stained potholders. Be firm with yourself - don't give in to the temptation to keep an old towel around "just in case." Transfer old kitchen towels to your Rag pile (I use mine for dusting, cleaning floors and windows, etc.) But then get rid of one of your worst rags for every old kitchen towel you put in the rag pile. It's all about avoiding clutter and weeding out unnecessary items in our lives.

Put new potholders and new kitchen towels on your shopping list, as needed. Don't forget to grab some next time you are at the grocery store. Many stores are actually carrying attractive seasonal towels right now (as opposed to some of the hideous monstrosities I see at other times of the year), so you should easily be able to find something you like. It's a small expense that makes your home cleaner, cozier and prettier. Don't be afraid to skimp somewhere else in your budget in order to afford $6 or $8 worth of new kitchen towels.

On a personal note, I implore you: If you have guests helping you in your kitchen often, please be sure to have plenty of clean, soft, dry towels for people to dry their hands with. I can't tell you how often I end up with red, chapped hands from helping do dishes at someone else's house and not being able to properly dry my hands; or from drying my hands on very rough scratchy towels.

Speaking of towels, let's check our paper towel inventory (if you use those). Be sure you have a good supply for all the upcoming entertaining you'll be doing. How about cocktail napkins?

Let's take a look around our kitchens and see what else needs to be done to make our kitchens clean, usable, enjoyable, lovely and efficient. Can you declutter items off the counters? Any appliances you don't use every week that you can store elsewhere? Any odd oils, vinegars or spices that can go into a cupboard or pantry instead of sitting on the counter? You won't want to be sorting and organizing in a dirty kitchen. So today is the day to empty and fill the dishwasher, scrub the sink and counters, wipe down all the cabinet doors, and mop the floor. Empty the trash can and take out the recycling. Wash windows as needed. Sort through fruit bowls and get rid of anything rotting. Wash fruit bowls and replace back on the counter, preferably with fresh fruit you'll pick up at the store today.

Done with your preparations and ready for any baking projects you might enjoy undertaking this weekend? Get yourself in the holiday cooking mood, if you at all enjoy cooking magazines, by treating yourself to reading one or two today. Pick up Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Martha Stewart Living, Rachael Ray's magazine, or even just the holiday Williams-Sonoma catalog. Pour a glass of wine, or have a nice cup of coffee or tea. Indulge in something to munch on as you browse - looking at beautifully photographed food makes me so hungry! Visit fun food, cooking and home-decor webpages tonight during your nightly Internet browsing time. Drool over kitchen gadgets you don't need and can't afford, impractically beautiful expensive dishes, and horrifically expensive mail-order pastries. Get on your TIVO and look for cooking shows that are coming up to record, if you like such a thing.

LOVELY BLOGS: Roasted Root

Here's an interesting blog By Julia. She mostly features recipes for vegetables and meat, but occasionally gluten-free things as well. Her blog also has sections for Kombucha, vegetarian, and paleo recipes. Check out her recent posts on grain-free snickerdoodles, vegetable spaghetti squash marinara, and vegan butternut squash bisque.

LOVELY BOOKS: All Cakes Considered

I'm not sure how it's possible that this book is now offered online for free, but how fabulous! You can download it in your choice of a PDF, etext, Kindle, torrent, or your favorite ebook format. Chronicle Books published this Melissa Gray book, subtitled "A Year's Worth of Weekly Recipes Tasted, Tested and Approved by the Staff of NPR's 'All Things Considered.' Chapters include Easy Cakes for Early Enthusiasts; Bring Me Bundts and Bring Me More Spice and Vice; Break from Cakes; Layer Cakes and Angel Cakes; and more. All readable for free!

All Cakes Considered, at

LOVELY FOOD: Jaz Baking Mixes

If you're a longtime reader of Lovely Living, you know that I rarely bake from scratch and I'm sort of addicted to trying out new boxed baking mixes. I bake for family and neighbors and while I don't exactly advertise that my baked goods gifts aren't homemade, I'm honest if asked. Everybody seems to gobble up what I make for them, anyway! I'm becoming a huge fan of these Jaz baking mixes, which you can find at Cost Plus World Market. They make a nice small loaf - not too much. A small loaf like this can be sliced 6 or 7 times, perfect for four people to enjoy at teatime and then two or three people to have a slice with breakfast the next morning.

I love their unusual flavor combinations, but I'm probably not ready to foist Rosemary Raising Pecan Muffin Mix off on someone quite yet. Still, their Cherry Chocolate Cake mix has been a hit with the neighbors, and the Spinach Parmesan Muffin mix has been nice for a couple dinner parties. I'm eager to try out the Hazelnut Vanilla Fig Cake next!

Jaz Baking Mixes, at Cost Plus World Market


Caramelizing White Chocolate (Bon Appetit)

Cherry Orange White Chocolate 7 Layer Bars (Hot Dinner Happy Home)

Christmas Pom Pom Wreath (Tater Tots and Jello)

Christmas Tree Cheese Platter (Around My Family Table)

Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies (The Pink Wings)

Danish Dream Cake (Adore Foods)

Dark Chocolate Espresso Brownies with Peppermint Chips (Baking Bites)

Easy Cinnamon Applesauce Ornaments (Baked by Rachel)

Handle With Care: How to Ship Cookies and Other Sweet Treats (In Jennie's Kitchen)

Holiday Red Cranberry Punch (Wishes N Dishes)

How to Get Your Bathroom Ready for Houseguests (PureWow)

Nutella Roll (Sugar Love Spices)

Red Velvet Biscuits (I Heart Recipes)

Red Velvet Peppermint Thumbprints (Fake Ginger)

Red Velvet White Chocolate Trifle (Living on Cloud Nine)

Tabletop Ideas for Holiday Dinner Parties (Decor8)

The Ten Best Books for Your Home Bar (Cool Material)

35 Period Dramas to Watch on Acorn TV or Find on DVD (Silver Petticoat Review)

Three Holiday Cocktails for Bourbon Lovers (She's Cookin)

White Chocolate Cherry Almond Bars (Hoosier Homemade)

White Chocolate Peppermint Cookie Balls (Simply Being Mommy)

The White House Goes Dark Chocolate for the Holidays (

--Copyright 2015 Lovely Living

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