1. The Stove: Turn up the Heat!Did you know that many people do not use the proper level of heat when working on the stove? Most recipes will read at least one level higher heat setting than many actually use. Why is this? It's usually got to do with one's own confidence in his/her cooking. The key (that I've found) is to prep--it can be critical. Have your ingredients ready before you crank the heat on the stove, that way you aren't fumbling to find or cut up the next ingredient before the item that's on the stove overcooks or burns. This is a learned talent for most (including yours truly!), but it can make a huge difference in the flavor and texture of the food. Play with simpler recipes first and work your way up to more complex ones. Follow your senses--my best example is garlic. In most cases when garlic is added to the pan you want to throw in other ingredients just as you start to smell the garlic aroma.
2. Freshen up the SinkEver have a bit of a "funk" in your kitchen? It can be coming from your disposal (but just to be safe, check the trash first!). Freshen up the sink by tossing in half a squeezed lemon, cut into quarters, and let the disposal rip them to shreds in cold water. This will take care of most all nasty leftovers down there and will leave a lovely lemony-fresh scent! (**Disclaimer: please only do on non-rental disposal systems. My not yield amazingly scented results for all).
3. Sharp Knives--A Little Goes A Long WayMy judgey pants come on when I'm working in a foreign kitchen and I can't find a sharp knife to save my life. I might as well be cutting things with a spoon. I put one leg in my judgey pants and then I have to remember, I probably wouldn't even have friends if I carried my favorite knives around because people would think that I was creepy. So I fold up those silly pants and put them away...then I offer my free knife sharpening services to whomever I'm cooking with (it's really a miracle that I have friends). You can sharpen your knives (I'm talking non-serrated, veggie and meat cutting knives) as often as every week!! I usually keep mine to every month because I would just cut myself up too much--there needs to be balance. Try to start sharpening your knives once a month and see what a difference it makes for your kitchen confidence and excitement with cooking. Have crappy knives? It's time to trade up. If you're strapped for cash, replace each knife one at a time and start with a good simple chef's knife. As for sharpener, we love our electric sharpener, but started with a manual sharpener like this one.
4. Love Your DrawersI didn't realize how much I took my kitchen drawers for granted until we bought a house with so few! We have four tiny drawers to our names now, and they are sad excuses for the enormous silverware drawers I grew up with. It made me realize that I should never have had my two (or three!) junk drawers we kept in our last kitchen. No room for junk in my new kitchen, and I beg of you--clean your junk drawers out. Find a new home for some of your utensils so that your ice cream scoop isn't spooning the pizza cutter and so you don't peel your hand on the potato peeler searching for your chopsticks (is this just me?). Remember to keep sharps toward the back of the drawer and don't layer your utensils if you can help it. There are people out there who are lacking the space you have--love and repurpose your drawers.
5. Magnetize Cabinets
There is something about the "click" of the cabinet door. Its crisp sound assures you that the cat won't be searching for a midnight snack while you're asleep. We only just installed cabinet magnets (found at your local hardware store for a whopping $1.30 each), and had our lives changed. While we only installed them on the cabinets with edibles, I've already noted a difference in other's reactions when they open and close the cabinet doors. Will I do all of our doors? Probably not, but for now, knowing that the pantry is "locked" from our coon kitty (i.e. racoon--yes that is actually our nickname for her, especially when she gets all hyper and puffs up her tail), makes me sleep so much more soundly.