Hola everyone! Well last week I split the subject of food up, with the first part focusing on food and food storage, from canning to what’s in my fridge to the makeshift pantry that once was our linen closet. This week I bring you the second part – the other things that make up our kitchen. So I’ll touch on the key things that make it eco and “me”…
No cleaning done to prep these shots, just snapped with my phone along with the others, y’all. So our kitchen is kind of like a wider galley-style. Not wide enough for an island of any type. When I bought the house, there were black & white tiles on this gorgeous wood floor. Cute at first glance….til you realize they were icky stick-on tiles. And mopping was a pain as you do it much more with b&w tiles since muddy dog paws show up instantly on the white squares! So in 2012 I painstakingly removed every single one and used orange oil to get off all the stickiness, then in 2014 finally saved up to get it sanded & refinished.
A few details:
- The runner is made from recycled plastic and is by Mad Mats. We have two big rugs of theirs in our basement – easy on the feet and eco-friendly!
- The kitchen table is from Ikea and two chairs are from Target. Not the most eco, I know, but they are good quality, fit, will last, and I could afford them. 🙂
- The kitchen faucet was installed at the same time we did our bathroom repiping & remodel last summer. While it wasn’t in the plans, when you have plumbers you are already paying for to do other work, it’s cheaper ultimately to have them do these things as well. We’d had an old wall-mount faucet that sucked and so I found this Water Sense-certified beauty at Lowe’s that also – finally – has a sprayer. Yay!
- The wall clock is from Resource Revival and made from recycled bicycle parts.
- The ceiling light fixture in the kitchen is a period piece from Rejuvenation and cost too much – but I was adamant to get rid of at least ONE “nipple light” in the house! We have three pull-chain nipple lights left in the house…guess what’s on the list to change out in 2016???!
Kitchen Tools: One thing I learned a long time ago is that the basics you invest in good quality pieces, otherwise you’ll just find things cracking and breaking. So when it comes to things like spatulas, whisks, slotted spoons, etc., about 10-12 years ago I started slowly but surely buying pieces from WMF, the German manufacturer who’s been around for 150+ years and in my opinion makes the most beautiful, well crafted stainless steel kitchen tools. They make other things as well, but this is in my affordability range 🙂
Flatware (not shown): I’ve honestly had the same “Fiddlehead” silverware for 20 years. When I was 21 and living in Seattle, I asked my family at Christmas and birthdays to only give me Pottery Barn gift cards, and saved up to buy 4 place settings. Of course they don’t sell it anymore, but unbelievably, I discovered that Cost Plus carries a near-identical pattern, so when I upped to 8 place settings, I was cool (and it was way cheaper!).
Dinnerware (not shown): About 10 years ago I splurged on some gorgeous pieces from Viva Terra, but found they chipped SO easy. So I donated them all last year to Community Warehouse, and bought 8 settings of Anchor Hocking’s super simple clear glass Made-in-USA plates, saucers, bowls and mugs. They were also way more economical, AND are easily replaceable since they’re carried at places like Fred Meyer and Target. Yay 🙂
Knives (not shown): My husband was devastated when he first saw my kitchen knife set. Heh. Well, it’s the only one I ever had! Back when I got married the first time around, someone gave us a waffle iron and I exchanged it at Macy’s for a basic set of knives by Henckel’s. Not that it’s a bad brand, I just happened to buy the cheapest ones – you know, the ones with the tiny serration that you can’t actually sharpen? So unbeknownst to me, my knives have gotten duller and duller over the past 16 years. Heh. After he became a chef at his company, I gave him a lovely Wusthof chef’s knife for Christmas 2014, and after finally taking the beauty into my own hands? I’m a total convert. So, the knife block/set became another Community Warehouse donation, and with that, we have one knife. Now, not for good, but rather than buy a set with knives we may or may not actually use, right now we are in test mode, seeing what we are actually missing having the most. Thus far? Serrated and paring knives. So, as the budget allows, we’ll get those pieces.
- When I bought my home, it came without a refrigerator so that was obviously my very first purchase. My kitchen also came with a very particular 34″ pocket to fit it in. After a LOT of shopping, I finally found a Kenmore Elite (Energy Star rated, of course) back then in my price range that fit in there with just 1/2″ to spare, allowing me a fairly standard size top-freezer refrigerator, as anything smaller would have forced me into “dorm size” fridge. Oh not for this cook, hell no! It’s been a good fridge over the past 10 years, but I gotta admit if I could do it over again, I’d have gotten the one with the freezer in the bottom. Boy do I hate squatting down to the ground to get veggies, and with that not being able to really see what’s on the top shelf! I’ve never cared for the multiple door-style (or lesser energy efficiency) of side door refrigerators, but either way, doesn’t matter. We’ll have this one til it poops out. The nice thing is that here in Oregon, Energy Trust will not only pick up your refrigerator and recycle it at no cost, they’ll give you a $30 incentive to do so to keep these things out of the dump. Yay Oregon!
- My home also came with one of those cheap electric ranges and while I cooked on it for about a year, as soon as I got my first big homeowner tax refund, I sold that puppy on Craigslist and invested in a Kenmore Elite Gas/Convection range. I’d converted my house from oil to gas when I bought it, getting the sellers to decommission the oil tank (hint to prospective home buyers – it’s worth every CENT to have the tank tested for leaks at a house you’re planning to purchase, because if it’s got even a tiny leak, the seller has to decommission it out of their own pocket. And with that, houses must be sold with a heat source, so because of this I was allowed to finance the cost of my new ultra-high-efficiency gas furnace as part of my mortgage. Pretty sweet eh? Anyhow, my range has served me well, but again, I learned the lesson that next time around, whenever that may be, I want all big burners and I want a 48″ range instead of the standard 36″ so there’s actual room to move your stuff around and you’re not stuck with only 2 normal size burners when cooking up a storm! But again, it’s a good appliance, energy efficient, and like the fridge, is a stainless that doesn’t show fingertips nearly as bad as most out there. A few years ago I went onto Overstock.com and found a range hood that would fit the weird space that the range sits in – VERY helpful!
- Then there’s my pretty Bosch dishwasher, also (of course) Energy Star rated and near the top of those ratings as well. This was the last of the ‘big three’ appliances to be replaced, just a few years ago when the ancient one that came with the house kicked the bucket. It’s definitely quiet but I gotta say, whenever the day comes that I need a new one, I’m going to make sure I like the layout of the tines or whatever those things are called that hold the dishes on the bottom, as this one I got is meant for some serious plates, but less for the tall stuff I’d love to be able to toss in. Again though, glad to have it. My husband had to actually learn to use one for the first time as he’s never had one, pretty funny teaching the fine art of loading a dishwasher to maximize cleaning while not overloading it! (Oh and for those who insist that hand washing is more energy efficient? It’s not. Not even close. No matter how careful you claim to be. Seriously. Read more here.)
Small but Mighty!
The greatest thing in my kitchen beyond my dog and my husband has got to be my LG Microwave/Toaster combo. I got this almost 15 years ago and it’s still going strong! You see, I’m not a big “toast person” so I never even had a toaster for the longest time as it wasted counter space for me, so this baby has been the BEST! I think I shocked my Australian husband a bit when I showed him how it’s much faster and more energy efficient to just warm water in a mug for tea in the microwave rather than get a separate teapot for the stove, but he has definitely acclimated. Occasionally we look at little pots to have chai in but honestly? I can’t see why I’d heat up milk in one container, then transfer it into another, only to pour it into a THIRD container – goes against the ecogrrl still lodged firmly at my core 🙂
The other thing being used to death – yet still running strong – is our Bialetti for coffee. No filters, no pods, and takes just a couple minutes for my husband to make coffee with it on the stove. I don’t drink coffee at home as it’s more of a “treat” type of beverage for me, but he has a cup a day without fail. I can’t imagine having a huge contraption. We used to also have a French press, but I broke it and don’t feel like replacing it when this is fine 🙂
When I left home at 17, I was given two cheap saucepans and one antique Griswold 9″ cast iron skillet from my mom’s kitchen. Since then, I’ve collected more Griswold and one vintage Wagner cast iron from Stars, an antique mall here in town, for great deals and which are, to me, all worth their weight in gold. From the three different-sized skillets you see here to the flat one I use for pancakes and such, and also (not shown) a Dutch oven and an awesome deep skillet for when I’m making mega amounts of marinara, they are awesome. I season them once a year and know they will last another hundred years.
I donated the saucepans to Goodwill about 15 years ago, and as my divorce present to myself back in 2005 when I left my ex, I took a neighbor’s advice down in Santa Barbara and invested in a great deal I found in a set of All-Clad stainless pots & pans. Best thing I ever did. I expect to have these for life and to pass them down to my TBD kid. 🙂
Oh, and no toxic nonstick cookware in this house. That’s what properly seasoned cast iron is for!
And of course… what would a kitchen be without cookbooks? I’ve been collecting recipes for years so I found that I really wanted to make them into a nice cookbook, so I went to Tastebook and incorporated the recipes I’d saved & created over the years, along with photos, so that’s what the three “Ecogrrl” (my former blog moniker, for newer readers) binders are for. I still keep one binder with sheet inserts in it to stuff recent recipes in it til it’s time to make another cookbook (I’m imagining one day creating one great big awesome version…), as you can see. I don’t buy a ton of cookbooks – most I have are heavily used, and if I get one that ends up not being used much? I copy the recipes I did like and donate the book.
The ones I purchased that I do adore?
- Good Housekeeping Cookbook – My mom cooked with it at home, I cooked with it growing up, and she gave me my own copy for my 19th birthday. It’s got a few corny 1950’s type recipes in it but SO many good basics including step-by-step instructions and information on basic prep of certain foods (Do you always forget how long to boil eggs for? It’s in here. I swear, as for me, I have NEVER retained that factoid and look it up in this book every time.)
- The Silver Spoon – Italy’s version of the Joy of Cooking or the aforementioned GH book. I have never made anything in here that has sucked. And the best recipes have very few ingredients in here. My husband and I jot notes right on the pages when we like something or want to adjust an ingredient. The greatest, simplest chicken recipes on earth, and a bunch of things that I wouldn’t even know where to get the ingredients as well. Hell it’s like 1400 pages or something, so we skip the “brains” section LOL…
- Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It – Karen Solomon’s series is so so so awesome – we also have Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It as well. Delicious recipes to make things rather than buy the processed versions, from gravlax (we made it, WOW so good!) to ketchup (mouthwatering!) to pickles (every year, baby) to crackers (on the to-do list this year!) and more. Highly recommend!
- The Dairy-Free & Gluten-Free Kitchen – While I’m neither DF or GF anymore, even though I probably should be, I still use this cookbook on occasion because the recipes are honestly just GOOD! I don’t keep eight kinds of GF-flours around anymore, just Bob’s Red Mill all-purpose GF flour, but the thing about this cookbook? It’s rarely about faking ingredients and just more about flavorful foods that don’t have G or D!
- My two newbie cookbooks are Borsch, Vodka & Tears (which I only bought as a treat for my husband because it’s named after the restaurant in Melbourne he liked and yet the cookbook was found at Powell’s Books for Cooks here in Portland! I haven’t cooked anything from this yet.), and How to Make Bread, which I’m also early into. I made a killer brioche loaf that Dan & I gobbled up in literally 36 hours, and we tried to make a sourdough starter but failed miserably so there are many to-do’s in this book still to go!
“Standing in the kitchen when you’re hungry is torture. That’s why I moved my fridge to my dungeon, where I keep the prisoners.”
― Jarod Kintz