Catholic homemaking · Homemaking · Kitchen Skills

Kitchen skills

This is a stub post of sorts for a series of lessons I am preparing for my children on kitchen skills.

Welcome to my kitchen: What says “home” better than a well run kitchen?  I suppose there is a bit of irony in the fact that most of what I learned about kitchen management I actually learned in commercial kitchens, but I suppose that is a sign of the times I grew up in.   There is so much that goes into creating a efficient, well run kitchen – but the reality is that if you wish to eat well and save money you have to cook and cooking is much easier, safer and more enjoyable in a well run kitchen.

If you were to step into a commercial kitchen you would see more or less exactly what you see in the home kitchen only on a larger scale.   The commercial kitchen will have stations where particular activities take place, hand washing, dish washing, cooking, prep stations,  storage:  dry,  refrigerated and frozen, trash disposal.  Additionally every activity from selecting the menu to cleaning up at the end of the day is carefully planned, this is the workflow.  The home kitchen also has these elements, though they may be a little more difficult to identify.  There will be work stations, but they often do double or triple duty.    Your kitchen sink is your handwash station and your prep-cleaning station and your dishwashing station.  The same counter that you do prep-cutting on will be used for baking.   Your workflow will be different, but it should be planned.

Now I don’t pretend that this is the only way to run a kitchen.  Kitchens are rather personal things, but there are some universal basics and many more hints, tips and tricks that you can pick up.   So let’s start with the basics.

Safety: Before you start there are some safety basics to know.  Safety really does come first.

ClothingHot Things | Sharp things |  Slips and Spills

Cleanliness and sanitation:

Work flow

Work areas


Food Stuffs





Menu planning




Catholic homemaking · Homemaking · Kitchen Skills

Kitchen skills – Clothing

Pregnant, barefoot and in the kitchen?  No: safety first when it comes to cooking.

Shoes: You should wear closed toe, sensible, non-skid shoes.  If you are working with hot oil I recommend wearing non-porous shoes.  There is almost nothing that hurts quite as badly as a grease spill that lands on your foot.    Even a drop of hot oil on a sandal shod foot can be painful for days.    Dropped knives or cutlery, boiling water all spell disaster on bare feet or feet inadequately protected by open toe shoes or sandals.    Avoid high heals or shoes with substandard arch support – if you are on your feet a lot cooking and then cleaning you will want supportive foot wear.  Non-skid soles will help keep you from slipping, which in a kitchen with a hot stove could go from embarrassing to disastrous in an instant.

Shirts and blouses: Shirts should be cuffed at the wrist and somewhat trim fitting.  If you are wearing a loose fitting long sleeve  you should consider wearing sleeve garters or a chef’s  jacket.   Likewise if you are working with heat you might want to seriously consider a chef’s jacket over short sleeves.

Chef’s Jackets and Aprons: A chef jacket or apron will protect your clothing from spills, flour dust, water, oil and all those little kitchen “incidences”.    Chef’s jackets can be purchased from uniform supply stores and some kitchen supply stores – you can also find them online.  Aprons can be found nearly everywhere and come in a wide range of designs and colors.  Pick something sensible.  You can find many really pretty aprons that are very serviceable, but you can find many more that, while super cute, are just not cut our for kitchen work.   Aprons come in a variety of styles, look for a butcher, cook, or chef  bib style apron.   Bistro aprons are designed to be worn with chef’s jackets and those cute little hostess aprons are worn to serve not to cook.   Go for a sturdy, comfortable and washable fabric such as cotton twill.

Legs:  Be extra careful if you are wearing shorts or a skirt in the kitchen.  Hot liquid spills are the biggest concern.  A long apron can help save your legs.

Hair: If you have long hair pull it back; if it is really long wear it up.  While it is unlikely,  it has happened that hair has been caught in mixers and blenders  and set ablaze by gas burners.   Be safe.

Kitchen Skills is a serries I am working on for my children.

Kitchen Skills

Kitchen Skills – Hot things

Cooking and baking require heat.  Anything hot enough to cook your dinner is hot enough to burn you.  So a bit of safety knowledge about hot items and fire is important.

Toasters, stove tops, ovens they all get hot.    Exercise common sense while working in the kitchen and use the proper safety equipment.

Equipment for Handling hot things:

Pot holders and oven mitts: Pot holders and oven mitts are absolute necessities in the kitchen.  They serve basically the same purpose:  to protect your hands from heat.   I like having at least two pot holders and one oven mitt available in the kitchen, handy at all times.  Pot holders are usually square and most have a decorative side and a Teflon or silicon heat resistant side.   Oven mitts are shaped like a mitten and commonly have a heat resistant layer covered with decorative cloth.    Most commercial mitts and holders are rated to the temperature to which they protect, but the type you find at your local department store probably won’t be.  If you get a padded mitt or holder with at least one side or layer of  neoprene (usually rated to 400degrees), silicon(can be  rated as high as 500degrees), or Teflon or silicon sprayed cloth (this will only be rated up to about 250) you can pretty much hand any common kitchen duty.   I have no idea what the plan, padded cloth would be rated to but my guess is around 200.  If you are just pulling a cookie sheet out of the oven that is probably good enough, but if you are doing much more than that spring for the  better mitts and pot holder.

A couple notes about using pot-holders and mitts.  If they are frayed, burnt, or otherwise damaged they will have the tendency to not protect very well at the damaged spot.  Save yourself the pain and replace them.    Also be careful to keep your mitts and holders dry.  A moist or wet pot holder will not protect your hand, the water in the fibers can turn to steam and really burn you.  Keep them dry.

Pot handle covers: If you like to cook in cast-iron you might want to invest in a handle cover for your pots or skillets.  These can be very nice especially if you are serving in your caste iron.

Trivets: Protect your surfaces (counters and tables) from being scorched.  It is nice to have a couple of them placed in convenient locations in the kitchen.

Splatter screens: Splatter screens are lovely when you are using hot oil, frying chicken,  making spaghetti sauce.  They can be very useful in keeping your stove top clean and to keep oil from splattering you.


For most fires in the kitchen all you need to do is kill the heat and suffocate the fire.   If something is on fire in the oven, turn off the oven and then leave it shut until the fire stops.   If there is something in the toaster on fire unplug it and then cover with a wet kitchen towel. For stove top fires turn off the heat and cover the pot or burner.  (if your controls are located so that you can’t turn off the heat without burning yourself cover than, kill the heat.  Whatever you do NEVER throw water on a kitchen fire, especially an oil fire.

Here is why:

It is also very good to have a fire extinguisher located in the kitchen in an accessible place.  If you have a fire that is getting a little out of control then it can save your home.  Small fire extinguishers are in theory good for a long time; I have read as long as 15 years.  Check the gauge on your extinguisher when you check your fire alarms (most fire departments recommend you do this on the daylight savings switch days).  If the gauge is in the “green” zone it should be good to go.  You will also want to inspect the rubber hoses and nozzles for wear and deterioration and the handle and top lever for rust or wear.  If you see these things replace the extinguisher.   If you extinguisher is older than seven years, has no posted expiration date and no gauge you should probably replace it.  Once you use the extinguisher you will need to replaced or recharged it.   Be sure you know how to use the fire extinguisher, including how to open the clamp if it is wall mounted.  You really don’t want to be teaching yourself how to use a fire extinguisher while your kitchen is smoldering.  Also, don’t be shy about using it.  If you have a fire that is out of control, plastic burning, a big oil fire that is spreading — just use it.  They sooner you take action to put the fire out the more likely you are to actually get the fire out and while the dry-chem from a fire extinguisher is a pain to clean up it is better than having a full blown house fire.

If you catch on fire, your hair or clothing, don’t panic.   Remember the stop, drop and  roll thing.  The absolute worst thing you can do is run through the house.  If your hair is on fire smoother it with a thick towel or a wet kitchen towel or stop drop and roll if it is getting too exciting.  I caught the end of my braid on fire once when I was young and I was able to dunk it in water.   Hopefully you won’t have to ever deal with these things, but it is helpful to think about what you should do before you actually need to do something.

Kitchen Skills is a serries I am working on for my children.

Simple Woman's Daybook

The Simple Woman’s Daybook – July 6, 2009

The Simple Woman’s Daybook
is hosted by Peggy at The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Thank you Peggy.

Grandmother Wren is hosting the links for the Summer.

FOR TODAY : July 6, 2009

We had a very nice 4th.  This weeks looks like it will be a busy one.

Outside my Window – After a scorching hot weekend the colds have rolled in and the weather has cooled.  Our apple tree is starting to look a bit laden with little apples all over it.  There is a squirrel doing gymnastics in one of the fir trees.  I am thinking it won’t rain and I will be able to get some laundry on the line today.

I am thinking – The homeschool camping trip is a little over a week away.  The summer has just flown by so far.  We have a lot of gathering, check-listing and packing to do.

From the learning rooms – I am working on next years plans still.

I am thankful for- The cooler weather today is very welcome.

From the kitchen – I will be making up breakfast cups today.

I am reading – Nothing fun at the moment.  My free reading time is getting eaten up with other things.

I am hoping – For not much really.  I am busy, things are going well, the children are happy.  I just need to be working my plans at the moment.  I guess hope doesn’t much come into play unless it is hope for good weather for our camping trips.

I am creating – A new dress for me and I am almost done.

I am hearing – The breeze, traffic noise, the children and the dog.

Around the house – Busy day catching up from the holiday weekend.

One of my favorite things – that cool breeze that is wafting through the window.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week – More lesson planning.  Getting ready for the camping trip.

A picture I am sharing:

Powell Butte
Powell Butte

Autism · rants

So what is up and why do I hate warrior moms?

Nothing is particularly up.  I think I am having one of those weeks where many things are causing me to think about Rachel’s autism and all the things we have done, seen, tried, been through and what will happen next.  I also have seen, for the first time ever in the popular media, a book published on autism that was NOT the “my child is recovered from autism” story – which doesn’t mean there haven’t been others, but I haven’t seen them. I still need to grab “Boy Alone“, but I am looking forward to it from what I have read so far, because these voices need to be heard also.   My voice needs to be heard,  Ashley’s voice needs to be heard and Rachel’s voice needs to be heard too. Hopefully Karl Taro Greenfeld’s work will help there.

When I see someone out on the talk show circuit: “For $29.95 buy my book, or better yet all five, and I will show you how to spend thousands of dollars on treatments that have — at best– anecdotal  support so that your child will be recovered too.  That is if they are in the 3-20 percent that can recover in the first place. ”  I find it annoying.  Yes, yes  I know I shouldn’t.  Those wonderful talk-show circuit celebrities in the spot light are just trying to give a voice to all those moms and dads out there struggling to recover their children from autism and they have really special insight into this because the did the right stuff.   I find it annoying because they don’t talk enough about the 80% of children that don’t get “recovered”  — in fact they don’t talk about them at all, other than in passing, as the standard disclaimer that one or another treatment won’t work for everyone.  They sell hope, they sell a lot of hope and I will give you that hope is needed, but hope doesn’t compensate for the 80% reality, especially not for those on the severe and profound ends of the autism spectrum.  If your child is on the severe end of the spectrum, yes, you need hope, but you need reality too.  You need to know that as your child ages things will change – sometimes changes might be good and others will be challenging. You will need support, you will need to have a plan for what to do as your child enters adulthood.  You don’t need to be physically exhausting and financially bankrupting  yourself trying every single cure d’jour out there and you do not need to feel guilty about not being super mom (or dad).

So if that is what is up, why do I hate warrior moms?  Short answer is I don’t.   I don’t hate warrior moms at all, in fact it has at times been a word I  would use to describe myself.   I really have nothing against moms (or dads for that matter) who want to describe themselves as warrior parents – as long as their spears aren’t pointed at me.    And, amazingly, some parents of autistic children do just that.  Crazy I know, but please stick with me for a moment.

I think for some parents of younger autistic children parents of  autistic children who are older, teens or adults,  can be very frightening.   Because our children are living proof that not everyone gets recovered/cured.   Occasionally this manifests itself in the assumption that there must be something we did or didn’t do.  Did we not try “X” diet?  Did we start early intervention soon enough?  Did we do enough hours a week? What about heavy metals?   I have seen it, the mom with the younger autistic child, she is sure – absolutely certain – that there must have been something we didn’t do.  And she is right, there are a lot of things we didn’t do.   We never tried aversion therapy,  we only gave Secretain two rounds,  we tried wheat/glutton free for a couple hellish months,  we never pulled out the carpet, or re-paneled the walls.   No one can do it all  and there is a fine line between trying “everything” and driving yourself and your child beyond with is good.

But Rachel wasn’t one of those “normally” developing children that suddenly became autistic.  She was different right from the start.  At three weeks I remember my mother noting the intensity with which she would stare at her jumpsuits striped cuff.   There was always something a little off – she would get so upset with the least variation in her routine.  We thought she might even be deaf at one point.   Further she has no less than three cousins that are on the spectrum on her father’s side.  So yeah, I think it is probably genetic too.  But even with the knowledge that Rachel has probably always been autistic, and even knowing that she was never in the high probability to recover group, it is difficult to keep an even countenance when the questions (all well meaning of course) come from someone who has heard the latest celebrity explain how to cure autism.   THAT is what I mean when I equate the current  “Warrior Mom” mentality with the “Refrigerator Mom” mentality of the 50s and 60s.  It isn’t that I don’t think warrior moms are wonderful people advocating very hard for their children.  But the reality is that  there is a cultural assumption perpetuated by the media that if moms and dads do enough or try enough then they too can cure autism.  This is not exactly a positive thing for parents of children who are teens and adults and still firmly on the spectrum.  It is almost mind boggling that parents of autistic children want to jump on that band wagon, but some are more than happy to do it.

So if you are a warrior mom and you think I have totally lost it, don’t understand, am really mean to Ms McCarthy (because I mention her name once in passing as someone who claims to have “recovered” her child from autism)  or whatever that is FINE.   I really and honestly hope that you find that thing or a combination of things that reduces your child’s autistic symptoms and I totally applaud your efforts to do so… BUT (you knew that was coming right?)  Do not make the same mistake I did.  You may find that your child at 14 is every bit as autistic as they were at 4 and it will be ok.  It won’t be normal, but it will be ok.  You don’t have to beat yourself up, or let anyone else beat you up over it either.  And once you get to that point you will likely find it every bit as annoying as I do to have to listen to the person at the grocery store, or your aunt, or the new neighbor ask the same questions about Diet X and Music therapy and you will smile and sigh and go on, and if you are like me you will rant to your blog because, well, sometimes you just need to rant.  Because you need to say it.  I am Darcee, my daughter Rachel is 15 year old and is severely autistic.  She will always be autistic.  I love her and she is a happy girl most the time.  Her life is not normal, but it is hers and it is good and autism is just a part of that.  I didn’t fail her, though I sometimes have felt like I have, but she is and will always be autistic and my daughter and someone who is loved.


Warrior Moms and Refrigerator Moms

it’s always mom’s fault.

There is a mindset that if your child has autism you should fight tooth and nail, never surrender- never give up, not even in the face of teachers, doctors, or therapists who tell you “nothing” can be done.  The warrior mother picks up her spear and goes out to fight for her child so her child will be cured of autism and have a normal life.   Best case scenario: >80% of children diagnosed with autism at age three will still be autistic at 18 no matter what treatments or therapies they have access to.   They may function at a higher level, be able to learn how to interact more typically, but they will still be autistic.

It used to be that mom’s were blamed outright for not having attached properly to their children and causing autism.  Now mothers are told that if they do enough autism can be cured a la Jenny McCarthy.  But reality isn’t that kind.  For the vast majority of autistic children no matter how well mom brandishes her spear at the end of the day autism will still be there.    And I think this focus is HORRIBLE.  It is horrible to  parents, families, teachers, society at large and most importantly to the child themselves.   It is every bit as cruel as the refrigerator mother mindset and maybe even more so.