Marianne’s Pantry


Zen and The Cooking Process

Ensuring a smooth cooking session

Know what you are getting into

  1. Have a list of all items to be cooked for the meal

  2. Figure out a good place for this list / the recipes to be.

  3. Read over recipe ingredients and instructions thoroughly (2+ times) – make notes/highlight if needed

  4. Understand all steps and estimate time needed, including and waiting time

Plan Ahead

  1. Think about pans/bowls you will need and when. Will they all fit on the stove / in the oven? Can you reuse any pans?

  2. Think about the best order to do things in so that it is all ready at the same time.

  3. How long will things take?

Reality Check

It takes time to cook and it usually takes longer than you think.Learn to view cooking as a chance to unwind.

Give positive responses to the naysayers. Sometimes you can plan to rush or select a fast easy meal- but other times set aside the time to relax, savor and let it unfold.

A Well Set up Cooking Space is a Habit worth Making

Defining your work space

  1. Identify your place to chop / mix etcetera. . .

  2. Have place/ tray for “in use” utensils

  3. Cloth Work Towels -  3 distinct towels

  4. Cook’s towel; This is the one you hook on your belt or hang on the stove or somewhere handy and not on a counter.

  5. Clean dishes towel; Hang this near the clean dish area and use it only to dry clean items when you need them

  6. Floor spills; this rag towel hangs under the sink and only cleans spills on the floor

  7. A large clean dish area. Extend it by laying absorbent towels (on clean counter space) to extend the clean dish area as needed

  8. holed “strainer”canister for clean, wet utensils

  9. A distinct dirty dish area

  10. 2 or 3 clean sponges w/scrubbers

  11. 1-3 grubby, but not dirty, sponges under the sink when you need to really scrub something

  12. If possible, have two working areas, so you can have two recipes going at once or have a helper

  13. Be diligent about following the systems you set up, and think about and try alternative ways that make more sense / make you more efficient.

While Cooking

  1. Use all your senses; listen, smell, touch, taste and look – all the time!

  2. Clean as you cook

  3. Don’t get your work area cluttered.

  4. Only have out what is immediately needed

  5. Put things away once you are done with them

  6. Use the smallest size leftover bags and containers that will fit  what you have. This conserves resources and saves space in your refrigerator.

  7. Wash as you go – wash your hands and wash a dish

  8. Leave one dish in the sink with warm soapy water for “quick cleans”

  9. Be considerate of the planet – reduce water waste

  10. POSTURE - not just at yoga or pilates - stand on both feet - stretch low back - keep shoulders down away from ears - do knee bends and go up on toes

  11. Stay focused on what you are doing – not work, the weekend etc…

  12. enjoy the process, relax, have fun!


Consider the end use and choose the most appropriate size ,shape, thickness to achieve it.

  1. Always consider the item you are chopping within the whole context.

  2. What is it going to be part of and how is it going to be cooked?

  3. Visualize the finished recipe as well as the entire meal. What look do you want?

  4. What textural experience do you want on the diner’s palate?

Storing Food to Win

  1. Accumulate left over containers that stack and store well. Never store them closed unless they are absolutely dry.

  2. Keep a sharpie pen and labels or masking tape in the drawer. Mark every single thing that goes in the freezer and anything that may last in the fridge.

  3. Mark pantry staples too; date purchased, where, cost.

  4. See “The Refrigerator” Section

  5. See “The Freezer” Section

An Organized Kitchen makes Cooking a Pleasure

  1. Consider the location of cooking equipment  and how often you use it – is it all convenient?

  2. Store eating and serving dishes and utensils separately from cooking dishes and utensils

  3. If kitchen space is tight, keep non-kitchen items in another room;

i.e. junk drawer   •   napkins, place mats

candles, candle holders   •   liquor, wine, openers

bbq utensils   •   flower vases

  1. Store pots and pans by use, not material

  2. Donate duplicate items to your favorite charity.

The Pantry

  1. In my house, this is not a separate room or closet, but simply the area where I store foodstuffs.

  2. I don’t like to have a lot of backups of things that are easily purchasable at any grocery store. I would rather buy items when I need them so I know they are fresh. I do stock up on unusual items that I see when I am traveling, though.

  3. Group items by type - oils & vinegars, sauces, pastas and grains, snacks, baking items, etc. . .

  4. Donate outdated and unwanted food items to your local Food Bank

  5. Put backup items you are keeping in a separate place and pull out when needed (i.e. duplicate oils & vinegars)

  6. Make inventory list of items you should use up

  7. Bulk Food items -Put in a clean jar or sturdy bag. Label with item name, when & where bought

The Refrigerator

  1. Inventory refrigerator and freezer. Keep this list both somewhere in the kitchen and in your planner. Devise yummy meals around the ingredients you have.

  2. Donate outdated and unwanted food items to your local Food Bank.

  3. Organize your refrigerator by ingredient type and use.

  4. Have a shelf that is food ready to eat and ok to eat; in my house it is the “fair game” shelf.

  5. Have another shelf or area with things that need to get incorporated.

  6. Another area should be things that are in progress or are destined for something (i.e NOT fair game)

  7. Clean spills as they happen. Clean shelves and drawers as they empty. Stay on top of this and you will appreciate it every time you open the door.

The Freezer

...does not have to be a black hole…

Sort items by ease of use as a meal

Make a list as you do this

    ready to thaw and eat

    a meal maker (i.e. pesto for pasts or thai apricot basil sauce for fish or a thai stir fry)

    frozen vegetable or fruit

    bread for strata

    bread for toast

meat (hopefully it is neatly packaged and labeled)

Keep an eye out for ice build up; often it occurs because the door doesn’t shut all the way or a vent is blocked. Rearrange things and knock out any ice build up. Dealing with this sooner than later is well worth the hassle.

The Utensil Drawer

  1. This should be different from a catch-all drawer

  2. No eating or serving utensils here

  3. Remove duplicate and triplicates of most items

  4. Items to only have 1 of;

garlic press   •   ladle   •   silicone paint brush

potato masher   •   meat pounder   •  citrus juicer   •   pair of chopstick   •   cup and spoon measures

  1. Items to have two or three of;

Wooden stir spoons •   Metal Whisks(various shapes)   •   Wooden spatula type spoons (flat like a server)

Large slotted spoons   •   Large spoons   •  Metal Spatulas - slotted and solid

  1. Items to take out of utensil drawer; toss or store elsewhere

little used / broken gadgets    •    jar lids   •   little used wok  & other tools

bbq tools - put out with the grill    •   rubber bands, matches, twist ties; put with saran, bags

  1. Unusual handy items

Nail File  - use it to break plastic collars on jars, puncture bottle toppings and open plastic packages

  1. Other Key Items

If you use cookbooks, get a cookbook rack

Get a foam “stick” for washing bottles and 2 different shape/size brushes

Traveling with food

  1. Figure out the cooler that works for the situation.

  2. Develop a working “picnic bin”

  3. Have nice utensils and plates for picnics- it really does add to the experience.

  4. Use cloth napkins. Have a spare of everything for the unexpected guest (or spill).

  5. Remember to have extra bags to hold dirty dishes and leftover containers

Welcome to Kitch’n-spiration!

. . . A fresh approach for the most inspired cooks . . .

. . . A joyous invitation to kitchen-avoiders . . .

Here, in quick-reading shorthand, are thoughts and suggestions for making your time in the kitchen more enjoyable. I love having time in my kitchen and sharing the results. I hope these tips (and this entire website) will help you come in and play more, too!