Remember the time when we only had one, huge wooden ice box on deck that weighed 2 tons and in which we were forever loosing everything to the depths of the deep, fathomless bottom?
That ice box was made by Dave Allen, the previous owner of the Riggin, and required at least 10 to 15, 20-pound, bags of ice every trip. Looking at this photo just makes me love the battery operated refers I have now even more.
Organization is about the single most important skill to have as a cook. Sure, making food taste good is critical. Safety and cleanliness are imperative. Life is made even better when beautiful, interesting ingredients become part of a repertoire. If, however, you can’t put it all on the table at the same time? Not good. Being safe and clean are inextricably linked to being organized. And a beautiful ingredient doesn’t do much good if the whole package doesn’t come together into one moment.
To this mix, lets sprinkle a range of outdoor temperature from 35 degrees to 90 degrees peppered with a tilt that can get things sliding off counter tops and stove tops, topped with some wave action which sets the whole galley in motion. Garnish this with the fluctuation of a super dry and sunny environment to sopping wet. Under these circumstances, organization becomes imperative to any successful sailing cook.
Part of being organized is working ahead and having the prep work done before begining to heat up a pan or add flour to a bowl. That’s where our morning team comes into action. The first cups of coffee are awarded to those early morning risers who come to spend their time waking up with us by peeling carrots and chopping onions among a myriad of other tasks. The more we can prep before breakfast, the smoother our day goes. Every day. Because much of our produce comes from either my garden or our CSA, more prep work is required. Just think about the difference between de-ribbing a pound of spinach, washing, and then drying it OR zipping open a box of spinach. Now times that by 20 and you have the difference in prep time between farm-grown and store-bought.
Thank you to all those who come to share our quiet mornings.
Sailing. In Maine. On the Riggin. Eating Chicken and Homemade Ravioli Soup. Done.
And as for the recipe…
Chicken and Homemade Ravioli Soup Make your own chicken stock
Saute diced onions, carrots, and celery in butter
Add some white wine, sea salt, and fresh black pepper
Add stock, then chicken picked from the bones
Add the fresh ravioli just before serving along with fresh herbs
Serve with grated Parmesan if you like
In this series of posts on organizing the freezer, I’ve written tips on labeling, containers, and thinking about your freezer as a pantry. This post is about how to use the freezer to be smart about the time you spend in the kitchen and how to easily get one or two weeknight meals per week out of this one kitchen apparatus.
These posts began with a commitment to reduce the food waste in our home after Chloe (our daughter studying environmental science in college) came home from school with what seemed like a staggering statistic – between 30 to 40% of all retail and consumer food becomes waste. That means 1/3rd of the food in our homes goes into our garbage stream. That seemed astonishing to me. As a business person, food costs are always high on my watch list, whether it’s in our business or in our home. But then I thought about our freezer. And how I wasn’t using it efficiently, and I decided to make some changes. I started labeling everything. I began using containers that would stack. And once these two things were in place, I just naturally started to use our freezer more as a resource rather than like a stuffed closet that one dreads to organize or even dare approach.
Once the freezer was organized, it became easier to keep a better watch on my refrigerator and what needed to be frozen before it went bad. In my family, it usually takes a couple of days before the leftovers are either gone or no one wants to eat them any longer. That doesn’t mean they’ve expired, it just means we got tired of them. When I see that happening, I know it’s time to move them into the freezer. These leftovers have since become treasures. Perfect for when I don’t feel like cooking, someone in the house is sick, or the day just got away from us but we don’t want to order pizza. What was a tired leftover becomes a quick weeknight meal with a few minutes on the stove.
To reheat soups and stews, I run warm water on the outside of the container for 30 seconds or so until it releases. Carefully, I turn it into a small saucepan or stock pot, add a little water, and cover with a lid. Turn the heat to medium-low and let come to temperature over the next 15 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Turn the heat down to low and add more water if needed while you prepare a salad or the rest of your meal.
To reheat pasta dishes or pot pies takes a little more planning. Ideally, remove from the freezer in the morning and allow it to come to room temperature. Then heat in a 350 degree oven until the center is hot.
Reduce – by all of the methods I’ve been writing about in these posts
Recover – by finding secondary sources for surplus food such as food banks and pantries
Recycle – by feeding animals the healthy surplus and the compost pile the spoiled food
BEFORE you toss those leftovers that no one is really interested in any longer, pop them in a container in the freezer. These gems are weeknight emergency rations that make life super easy after a just a couple of weeks of this habit.
How do you save time and costs in your kitchen?
Before I got organized about my freezer, it was a place where all food went to die. After a resting period in the tundra, it moved directly to the hens or the compost pile depending on what unidentifiable object I thought I was looking at.
Use Your Freezer Like a Pantry
Now, however, I use the freezer as I believe it was intended, as an extended pantry. With labels on everything and containers that stack and easily organize, I no longer dread opening the freezer, but instead go to it on a regular basis to supplement and add to meals in the works. When I’m doing my regular rotation of food in the fridge and clearing out little bits of this and that, the freezer is just one more place I go for inspiration.
Also, no longer is the freezer a stuffed-full, can-barely-close-the-door sort of place. Instead, I use it often to pull weeknight soups or stews that can be ready in minutes. Just add salad or cooked greens and presto, dinner is ready. The freezer stock is rotating on a regular basis just like my dry pantry items.
Make soup, omelet, or pizza kits with little leftover bits from the fridge – remember to label everything
Think about your freezer as if it were another pantry. Use it often and regularly.
How do you organize your freezer? What works for you?
Like most habits that end up sticking, it’s the simple things that matter. Simple changes. Simple processes.
Use Matching Containers What I found was the simple process of labeling made a huge difference. The next thing I discovered, and I know this might begin to sound like a Marie Kondo ad, but using containers that matched and could rest on top of each other really worked.
The ability to stack the smaller containers on top of each other is key. Also, with the containers the same size, everything just fits nicely and just naturally organizes better. I have a bottom freezer, so labeling the tops of the containers makes it so I can see all of the labels at a glance without moving things around much. If you have a top freezer, then the labels should go on the side of the container for the same reason – you can see them at a glance.
As for the storage containers themselves, I bought a sleeve of pint and quart-sized freezer containers and another sleeve of interchangeable lids. Normally, I am not a fan of buying plastic. Period. But after trying to use recycled yogurt containers with the lids popping off on a regular basis (yes, that would be the lids with the labels on them) I gave up and switched. And I gotta say, it worked.
Here are a couple of tips that I found helpful:
Use pint- and quart-sized freezer containers that match
If freezing a pasta dish or pot pie, use an oven proof container so you can reheat in the oven
Use interchangeable lids
Label the top of the lids for a bottom or chest freezer and the side of the containers for a top freezer
Store the containers, labels, and permanent marker together
Use freezer bags for irregular shaped items or what won’t fit into a quart-sized container
Organized and loving it! Stay tuned for more posts in this series.
In the end, is it stuff or experiences that create a sense of fun, satisfaction, or contentment? When I read this article about Why You Should Spend Your Money On Experiences, Not Things, it caused me to ponder for a minute some of the choices we’ve made as a family and why. While I will admit, a new car or pair of jeans is fun for a while, the lasting moments in my life come from time spent with friends and family, learning something new, or exploring a new place.
We live in a small house and while there are times when I’m riffling through a magazine, that I covet large living areas, personal crafting studios, and spacious kitchens, in the end I’d rather live in a small space and have fewer things so that I can ride horses or travel. I’d rather learn something new than have something new. I’d rather buy time rather than buy things.
And that’s good news, if we liked buying things our little house would be busting at the seams. As it is, we still find ourselves needing to be intentional about anything new that comes in to our house. As if when one thing comes in, another thing must go out.
Even more so when we are sailing on the Riggin for the summer. If we think our house is small, our cabin is a fraction of that size. And as it turns out, we find that all four of us can live for 4 days or a week out of one or two tote bags without any feeling of deprivation or lack.
All this to say that I’m not sure our stuff defines us, but I am sure our experiences do. There is some serious satisfaction that comes from knowing that we provide an experience for our guests that they can carry with them forever. You make it what it needs to be for you, but we provide the opportunity.
So create experiences for yourself and your family. We’ve got the perfect idea for you – on the Riggin. And, just saying, tomorrow is the last day to take advantage of our Early Booking Special.
Introducing our newest specialty trip – Music and Dancing with Edith & Bennett and The Gawler Family Band! This trip is the first of its kind and we are excited to break the Maine windjamming mold just ever so slightly. The deck of the Riggin will be filled with music and song and our evenings ashore will be packed with concerts and contra dancing. Performed by Edith Gawler, our own former crew member, Bennett Konesni, and The Gawler Family Band, this trip will be filled with music from these diverse, talented musicians. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have a few special guests as well.
Our 4-day/4-night adventure will take us to Belfast and Rockport and an uninhabited island where we’ll feast on lobster and dance on the beach to tunes from fiddle, drum, flute and who knows what else!? (Here’s a sneak peek of fiddle tunes on the beach.) What better way to launch a summer than with the happiness of harmony and the delight of dancing? Here’s a link to a short and sweet video of Edith and Bennett playing in the galley together.