The Organized Cook

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This week’s guest blogger is Jacki Rosen, professional chef. I interviewed her about how busy people can cook healthy food quickly and how they can organize their fridges and cooking schedules to make that happen.┬áJacki says, I love teaching people how to cook healthy. So many people think health food can’t taste good.

You can make a delicious healthy meal in 30 minutes if your kitchen is set up properly.

Spend a little time on the weekend preparing. Roast a chicken and a pan of vegetables. You can top pasta with one or both and also make sandwiches and salads from them all week. Cook a package of bacon and use it to add a burst of flavor to salads. Wash all your lettuce and store it carefully in a paper towel-lined bag in the fridge to keep it fresh.

Pasta is wonderful because you can put a lot of stuff in it. You’ll want to have grated cheese, some kind of sausage and butter on hand. No margarine! says Jacki. Butter and olive oil have nutrients in them, and you just need a small amount to add big flavor.

If you eat pasta more than once a week, cook the whole box, rinse it till its cold, then coat it thinly with olive oil so it doesn’t stick together. Then you can divide it into portions and store them in plastic bags. For dinner, heat up your toppings, dump in the pasta, sprinkle on the cheese and you’re set.

Speedy soup: Chop up an onion, a carrot and a celery stalk and saute them in olive oil till soft. Add a carton of stock. Cut up some of your roasted chicken and toss it in along with precooked pasta and a handful of herbs. Voila: hearty soup in 20 minutes.

Eggs are another easy go-to food to have on hand. An omelette with sausage or veggies or a little cheese is a simple, fast dinner. Bacon is a great fridge staple. Not only is it great with eggs, but it can be crumbled onto salads and pasta dishes. Nuts are equally versatile, adding tasty protein to salads, pasta and veggie dishes. Toast them quickly in a frying pan until they smell nutty.

A baked potato is a nice easy dinner; just add butter and some crumbled bacon and serve with a green salad topped with toasted nuts.

For breakfast, cook several days worth of oatmeal at a time. Spend 20 minutes making a simple compote with apples or other fruit. Now you’ve got fancy breakfast makings.

Fun time saving tip: peel your carrots and then keep using the peeler to add carrot shavings to your salad. No need to switch to a knife or a grater.

Jacki works with clients to develop a repertoire of recipes they can cycle through, based on the time they have to cook and their eating preferences. She suggests getting family members involved. Many hands make light work. Even if you don’t have help, start thinking of cooking well as taking care of your body and rewarding it for serving you well. It runs better and more effectively on quality fuel.

Seeing that good food helps remind you to eat it, so keep it visible! Most fruit can be stored in a bowl on the counter. Some, like strawberries, get moldy fast in the fridge. Zucchini and tomatoes also fare better outside the fridge.

The staples: onions, carrots, celery, potatoes, salad greens, nuts, eggs, fruit, bacon or sausage, broth, canned tomatoes, canned beans, pasta, butter, olive oil, herbs. Olives and roasted peppers keep almost indefinitely and add lots of flavor to pasta dishes.

Keep your refrigerator lean and clean it out regularly. Make a point of using what’s in there and if you don’t, don’t buy it anymore. This goes for cabinets too. Many homes have deep kitchen cabinets and five year old cans of soup get lost in the back.

Try the professional kitchen trick of putting your new purchases at the back of the cabinet so the oldest stock is always in front. Again, if you find you’re not using it, get rid of it instead of pushing it to the back. Unopened jars and canned goods are donate-able.┬áTo avoid that in the future, shop with a list.

I told Jacki, so the great news is that you don’t have to become Julia Child to eat well at home quickly. Jacki responded, you can bet that Julia Child did not make fancy French cuisine every night! She more likely said, there are mushrooms and onions and eggs. I can make an omelette! Hurray, I’m happy!

Final comments, Jacki? “I just want everyone to cook one thing. Cooking one thing is better than no things. If you cook for yourself, you feel better and if you feel better, you look better.”

Jacki Rosen has been cooking her entire life but started cooking officially in 1993 when she went to the CIA (that’s the Culinary Institute of America, not the other one). She’s cooked for fine dining restaurants, for catering companies and has taught cooking at college and through private companies. You can learn more on her website here: and reach her at









The Seven Deadly Organizing Sins: Greed

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Storage unit Now we’re up to Deadly Sin number 3, greed, which is also known as avarice or covetousness (according to Wikipedia) and even hoarding. Previous entries were about lust and gluttony.

I think gluttony is similar, but greed has an element of wanting to own something simply to have it; not to enjoy it or even use it. This means all that stuff in the storage unit that hasn’t been looked at or thought about in years. It means the boxes in the garage full of things that might come in handy someday. It also refers to those two extra blenders in the back of the cabinet that still kind of work.

Holding onto things that do not delight you or make your life easier with their utility is greedy. You’re not honoring yourself, or your own values, when all your energy is concentrated on acquiring and hoarding.

Step back and see what really matters in your life. Think about how contented you can be when you’re traveling and away from all those anchors, those dead weights (also, think about setting them free for someone else to appreciate them!). See what you can free yourself from and see what other freedoms come from that.

To avoid sin: Stop comparing what you have to what others have, which is a version of comparing yourself to others. I’m not advocating frugality, but just be clear that the things you allow into your life are ones that have a place there and won’t just molder away in a closet.

Crowded storage unit from jarrodlombardo’s photostream.

A Million Ways to Organize Your Stuff

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Feed the babiesEverybody loves top ten lists. Or any kind of numbered list. Five Ways to Pamper Your Siamese Cat. Top 50 Favorite Bagel Toppings. 100 Best Tips for Losing Weight by Eating Pineapples.

Ideas galore!

Throw them out. You don’t need them. I’m not saying they aren’t good ideas. I’m just saying you don’t need them. And I’m saying that you already know this. What you need is to do something with the good ideas you already have.

I’m guilty of this myself. I look for inspiration, for motivation, for something new, dammit. What I notice, though, is that I look more obsessively for a new idea when I’m stuck on an old one.

I was on a conference call this morning and got two good ideas. I am committed to working on one of them today. I know that if I don’t, its luster will fade a bit. It won’t seem as exciting or promising. My infatuation for it will be over and I may callously discard it.

The second idea I will keep safe and at hand, because I can only work on one at a time. I’m already mentally preparing myself for not loving it quite so much when I’m ready to act on it. I’m making notes about why I think it’s a good idea, in case I look at it later and scratch my head.

Maybe it’s not the best idea in the world. But I have it now. I spent time finding it. I don’t want to waste that time by not using it. If I decide not to use it, I want to be sure it’s not because I feel intimidated or worried or discouraged about whether I can use it effectively.

It’s that, not just the distraction of the new, that gets me out searching again.

What if it doesn’t work?

What if I waste a lot of time?

What if people don’t like it?

What if I’m horribly embarrassed by it?

It’s not easy to get through that swamp of worries, but I need to.

If I don’t, I’m caught in an endless quest for the perfect idea. And I never find out what would happen if I actually did something.

Does this happen to you? How do you handle it?

Birdies by novemberwolf

What If You Don't Want to Get Rid of Stuff?

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Organizing doesn’t always mean getting rid of things. It means finding places for them so that you aren’t tripping on them, distracted by them, maneuvering around them or always looking for them.

It means creating a living space that is pleasing and supportive.

You do need space to put things if you’re keeping them, however. I wrote a post back in June about curating your environment. Another aspect of that is cycling your possessions in and out of storage.

To continue the museum metaphor, it’s like treating your home like the Smithsonian Institution (the world’s largest museum collection). With the Smithsonian method, you have a moderate number of things on display at one time, for example. The rest, the majority, is in storage.

Every season, or twice a year, you put those things back in storage and select a new group to bring out and enjoy. There are two nice benefits here: you get to keep your beautiful things and you get to appreciate and get pleasure from them all over again. Even wonderful artwork starts to go unnoticed when it’s always there.

This way, your living space will be more like an art gallery, less like a warehouse.

Imagine visiting the Smithsonian’s basement and looking at objects set three deep on shelves that go up to the ceiling. Compare that with visiting the museum proper, where objects are placed so that you can really see and contemplate them.

The Seven Deadly Organizing Sins: Lust

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Just for kicks, I’m going to start a little series based on the seven deadly sins: lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride. It’s a way for me to provide some organizing tips in a lighter, more amusing way. So, don’t take it too seriously.

Lust. This would be desiring fancy, expensive organizing gear and spending lots of time, money and energy on it, to the detriment of actually getting things done. It’s lust when you cannot resist the shiny object no matter how little sense it makes to acquire it.

None of us is completely immune to this. We see ads for delectable, sexy, sleek iPhones and we desire them. Advertisers know this, of course. They’re not interested in what we need, they want us to crave the product.

To avoid sin: There’s no harm in looking, but try to curb your shopping impulse until you get to know the device in question well enough to want to go steady, rather than just have a one night stand and then throw it in a drawer.

Swamp Lust from Marxchivist’s photostream

Greatest Hits

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Greatest hits Sentimental clutter is hard to get rid of. The watch, the birthday card and the piano all bring back memories of people we loved and good times we had. Throwing those things away seems like an affront, a cold detachment from our feelings. However, if you kept (or are keeping) every nostalgia-inducing item, you'll run out of room for anything else.

Try this. Get all that stuff together either physically or on a list. Categorize it by type (letters and cards, furniture, jewelry, dishware, etc.). In each category, pick the best one or two. By best I mean the most meaningful, most beautiful, most pleasurable ones. The rest you give away, donate or toss out. You're creating a "greatest hits" collection.

The beauty of this is that it not only winnows down your collection, but it concentrates it. Say you only have your grandma's engagement ring and not her flower pots, old slippers, dining table, teacups, wall clock, set of quilting magazines, closetful of fabric and painting of a cow.

That ring is eight times more precious. That ring is the pure, distilled essence of your feelings. Don't dilute your memories by spreading them all over the place.

Greatest Hits from wrestlingentropy's photostream