Extra Storage in the Kitchen

When we first moved in, our kitchen was a hot mess. The small, awkwardly placed cabinets were difficult to organize. Living with a roommate means doubles of many of the “basic” kitchen items – in our case, baking supplies – which takes up more room than it should. We each had half of a cabinet for all of our food, the rest of the space was filled with pots, pans, tupperware, and all of the other kitchen things you tend to accumulate. This wasn’t working with my grocery shopping/food storage habits. See, I like to keep a lot of things (legumes, nuts, grains, flour, etc) on hand in my pantry at all times, so the only things I really need to grocery shop for are items that get stored in the fridge (almond milk, eggs, vegetables, fruits, cheeses). This allows to me to stock up on non-perishables infrequently and makes my trips to the grocery store a bit quicker since I only hit up two areas, rather than the entire store.

Remember what my kitchen was looking like when we first moved in?

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A hot mess. That’s what this place was, except minus the hot part.

The Duplex Moving In Tour | Land of Laurel

Our storage system evolved a bit after we settled in a bit more, but these pictures remain exemplary of our kitchen’s progress in the first couple of months we lived here. It was not working! I needed a solution, and after seeing something similar in an airbnb my mother and Aunt Stephanie stayed at while visiting, I got an idea stuck in my head. I started hunting for a china cabinet on craigslist soon after. A china cabinet? Isn’t that a little dated? Just wait. See that weird wall that caps the closer side of the galley kitchen? It’s not in line with the long hall way wall, but rather 2-3 feet back closer to the kitchen. It’s almost perpendicular to the center line of the refrigerator. It makes no sense! It serves no purpose! It annoys me! That is where the china cabinet will go. It will extend the kitchen storage and make the wall more functional in the mean time.

I hunted and hunted. That wall is only 43″ wide so the cabinet had to be skinny. I still wanted something tall though, so I could gain as much storage as possible. Finally, I found it! The perfect cabinet. It was exactly the right width for the wall! I drove with my friend Kayla to Hayden Island in North Portland and we stuffed the china cabinet into the van I borrowed from my parents, paid the man his $90 bucks, and headed back to my house. A little dusting and a wipe down with Honest Co. Multi-Purpose Cleaner, and she was ready to be filled on up!

The cabinet even came with a little light that makes the pantry goods look super cute and cozy in their new home. The glass shelf inside lets the light shine down on to both levels. I filled the open middle area with cookbooks belonging to both my roommate and I. The cabinets below hold mason jars, my Staub dutch oven, and my waffle iron, while the drawers contain some random bits and things like frosting squeeze bottles and rolling pins. Boom! Insta storage! The cute cabinet almost makes me forget the annoying the flooring transition I talked more about here. Fake wood meets fake tile in such a dumb way, don’t even get me started! Just concentrate on the glorious cabinet!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

You see I also got some new stools. And one of my Parlor palms died. I’ve left it there in such a stylish manor. I bought a new snake plant replaced this guy with the new one in the meantime! The stools I bought when my office moved from east to west Portland. I picked them up for $20 each and I have five. I’ve been using 4 here at the “counter” but the ledge is only about 8 inches deep so people mostly sit sideways and I think I’ll need to remove one more for ease of access.

The china cabinet so perfectly fits this spot and it really ties the kitchen into the living room beyond. It feels so great to walk over here in the evenings and grab my jar of cous cous or lentils. Each morning I make my bowl of oatmeal and set the bowl in front of the cookbooks while I get out the chia seeds from the upper cabinet to sprinkle them on top. It’s quite a handy spot!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

Inside my jars hold a whole manor of non-perishable goods! I really have more storage for this than I really need, but I really love the affect of all the jars within. On the left side I have muesli, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, cous cous, black rice, and sliced almonds on the top shelf and rye flour, lentils, dried mango (for the all of two days I have it before devouring every last piece!), polenta, whole wheat flour and my tin of steel cut oatmeal.

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

On the right side I’ve got black beans, black eyed peas, tri-color wild rice, finely milled whole wheat flour and pine nuts on top, while the bottom shelf holds tri-color popcorn kernels, chia seeds, rolled oats, and usually chocolate chips, but I believe I finished them off before taking this picture!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

Our kitchen is small so it’s not a big deal to walk to the china cabinet; it’s no further from the sink than the fridge! Having everything out in the open in the china cabinet makes things so easy, too. There is nothing like a full pantry to make me smile. I just love the way different foods look in jars! It’s simple and colorful, classic and clean. It makes me feel like a pioneer with jars full of canned goods lining her cellar. In reality I have jars full of foods that were not available then and none of them are canned and I can walk into the grocery store to buy them pretty much any time of the year. But that makes it feel less special, so I still like to day dream about pioneer cellars.

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

I love these jars. I’ve been picking them up at IKEA for a few years now. The small ones are $2.99 and the larger ones are $3.99. I hope they never discontinue them, though it’s hard to imagine needing any more that I already have. I did buy a few more when I bought the cabinet, since I wanted to fill up both shelves. They’re well worth it. The jars I fill with organic foods mostly from the bulk section. I loved Berkeley Bowl for this when I was living in the Bay Area. I’ve yet to find a go-to grocery store here in Portland, but these were all filled with bulk goods from Fred Meyers here which has a surprisingly good organic bulk section!

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

The cabinet is standing functional for now, though I would love to paint it at some point soon. I’m thinking of painting it a lovely black similar to how Dana at HouseTweaking.com re-did her armoire in her studio. The hardware I might keep or just replace with knobs. I’m not sure yet and I don’t have plans to paint this until a number of other things are checked off my to-do list! For now, I’m just to busy staring at all the non-perishable pantry goods with goo-good eyes.

China Cabinet Pantry | Land of Laurel

How do you store your food? Does it affect how you shop? Are you the matching jars/containers type or the everything in the box it came from type?

 

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Mango Mint Salad

I’m sharing another recipe from the dishes I served at my birthday party today! Remember the spread? The colorful crostini? Here is something equally simple that you can totally make ahead of time! Boom! Easy! My favorite.

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

I’ve always just loved mangos. My mom always gave them to us during the summer when I was little. She’d cut them up into little “porcupines” as we called it and we’d use our teeth to scrape off chunks of the delicious fruit, the juices running down our chins until we were sticky messes. Don’t worry, this recipe isn’t anywhere near that messy.

 

My favorite way to cut mangos — for this recipe and just for eating in general– is to slice the mango on either side of the pit. You should end up with 3 pieces, each about one-third the size of the mango, the pit piece being the smallest. Take each side and slice a grid into the flesh of the fruit with your knife. Then use your fingers to push on the peel side of the piece of fruit until it’s “inside-out” and looks like a series of rectangular projections on a hillside (or a porcupine!). Then use your knife to slice off the projection fruit flesh.

 

This Mango Mint Salad is easy, peasy. It requires only three ingredients and can be whipped up in a few minutes. It’s a great use for slightly over-ripened mangos and can be stored in the fridge for a few days, then brought to room temperature, before serving. It’s great for a side dish at lunch or breakfast. It’s a great dish to bring to a barbecue on a hot summer day. With organic mangos at Berkeley Bowl selling at 10 for $5.00 in the summers, I’m guaranteed to make this dish another half dozen times this season alone!

 

Mango Mint Salad | Land of Laurel

 

MANGO MINT SALAD

Serves as a side dish for 4-8 people

Ingredients:

4 – Organic Mangos

3 – Organic Limes

15-20 – Medium-Sized Organic Mint Leaves (freshly plucked from the stem)

 

Instructions:

Cut the mangos into bite sized pieces no larger than three-quarters of an inch. Place into medium sized bowl. Juice the limes and add the liquid to the mangos. Slice the mint leaves into small pieces and stir into the mangos. Let rest for at least thirty minutes, stirring occasionally, before serving. The rest period allow the mango to absorb more of the lime juice.

 

Wasn’t that quick and easy? I promise it’s so delicious, you have to try! I made it the day of my party and then again this weekend to bring to a crab feed. It’s incredibly yummy. I even paired it with avocado toast for breakfast a couple days after my party.

 

Mango Mint Salad and Avocado Toast | Land of Laurel

 

Does anyone else have a fruit that just screams summer to them? That’s what mangos do for me! They’re so inspiring, I know as soon as they come to under $1/each in the grocery store, it’s time for sand, sunscreen, and some lazy, hazy days of summer!

Colorful Spring Crostini

You remember my birthday party spread? Delicious spring ingredients and lots of finger foods!

 

Party Food | Land of Laurel

 

I am mildly obsessed with crostini. You’ve seen my fall fave, Pomegranate, Butternut Squash Crostini, and I’m here today to share some delightful spring combinations! This isn’t an exact recipe, but rather a guideline on a great, easy, and colorful way to make a huge variety of crostini.

 

Colorful Spring Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

For my party, I started with a few basic crostini ingredients: baguettes and spreads. I knew I was going have quite a few people over, so I thinly sliced two baguettes and toasted the little pieces in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 5-7 minutes. I wanted them to be golden, but not browned at all and just perfectly crunchy. While they were toasting, I made my spreads. Since I was doing many different flavor variations on the toppings, my spreads were basic. I used about 12 ounces of ricotta per baguette, mixing it with a bit of cream so it would spread more smoothly. I then took half of the ricotta-cream mixture and microplaned in the rind of one lemon as well as the juice. You could easily add some chopped fresh herbs at this stage too. After that it was all the toppings! The night before I’d roasted my veggies for about 10-15 minutes with a little salt, pepper, and olive oil, leaving the vegetable-y taste: cherry tomatoes, thin slivers of zucchini and carrot, red bell pepper. I whipped up a little caramelized onion: letting it sizzle gently on the stove for just under and hour before adding a bit of water and some balsamic vinegar. I also boiled some asparagus for about 5 minutes until it was just cooked, but still had a bit of a crunch. Other toppings I used included toasted almond slivers, walnuts, and pinenuts, avocado, and cucumber. After that, it was just a little more flavor with herbs: fresh mint, basil, and dill thinly sliced and sprinkled on top. On some crostini I gently drizzled a little honey to bring out a bit of sweet flavor.

 

Crostini Close-Up | Land of Laurel

 

Simple right? And oh so delicious. It was a lot of toppings, but the prep was simple and I did most of the cooking the night before. The day of, I took all the veggies out of the refrigerator and brought them to room temperature before putting all the crostini together. It was quick and painless and abso-freaking-lutely gorgeous!

 

Colorful Crostini | Land of Laurel

 

Here are some of my favorite flavor combinations:

 

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Asparagus, Toasted Almonds, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Basil, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Avocado, Dill

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Basil

Ricotta Spread, Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Roasted Bell Pepper

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Carrot, Mint

Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Toasted Almonds

Ricotta Spread, Walnuts, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Basil, Toasted Almonds,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Roasted Zucchini, Roasted Carrot, Dill,

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Caramelized Onion, Walnuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Almond, Basil

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pear, Walnut, Honey

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Basil, Pine Nuts

Lemon-Ricotta Spread, Pine Nuts, Roasted Zucchini, Dill

 

The best part is an hour and a half of prep with just a little bit of a whole lot of ingredients gets you a wonderful plethora of creative and colorful crostini! At my party I was able to prep some other dishes that involved more knowledge of the recipe, while putting three great helpers on crostini duty. I gave them my list of suggestions, but they enjoyed coming up with their own creative combinations, leading to a delightful, varying snack.

 

What’s your favorite party food? Do you like to prep a bunch of food before hand or cook everything the day of?