7 Essentials for a Tiny Kitchen

1. Enameled Cast Iron Pot

cast iron

A pot like this can be used for anything from boiling pasta to baking casseroles to frying veggies.  Being able to move from the stove to the oven makes this a worthy essential for even the tiniest of kitchens.

2. A Multipurpose Mug

This is a mug, a bowl, and a storage container for leftovers all in one.

3. The Basic Utensils

Don’t forget forks, knives, and spoons, but also the bigger tools like a wooden mixing spoon, plastic spatula, plastic serving spoon (you don’t want to use metal on your enameled cast iron), kitchen shears and a can opener.

4. A good set of knives

A utility knife, pairing knife, and chef’s knife should be sufficient for whatever you need to cut.

5. Measuring Cup

Something like this can be used to measure ingredients for a cake, but also for heating and serving gravy and sauces, or if you’re in a real pinch, I admit I have made and eaten ramen from a measuring cup before.

6. Pizza Stone

This is not simply for making delicious pizza.  With a pizza stone you also get a cookie tray, hot plate, and cutting board.

7. Collapsible Salad Spinner

Colanders are a must for draining pasta and veggies, but there’s no reason one should take up all your cupboard space. This collapsible salad spinner gives you not only a colander, but also a collapsible mixing/salad bowl and a salad spinner and takes up so little space.

And there you have it, the only seven items you need for a fully functional kitchen (okay I may have stretched it a little by grouping the utensils as one).  Obviously, this is just a basis, depending on how fancy you want to get, there are many more options, but be sure to keep a look out for the multipurpose items that really put your cupboard real estate to good use!


Rental-Friendly Faux Roman Shades

IMG_2915Our rental has these great french doors, but for some unknown reason, they’re the only windows in our townhouse that didn’t come with blinds.  Our landlord won’t let us install the hardware needed to hang binds, so I came up with a creative solution using command hooks.

First, I took a trip to my local fabric store and chose a cotton medium weight fabric.  For my two french doors, I needed about 4 1/4 yards.  I measured the window area and added 1 1/2 inches to each side to account for my hems.  Then, I cut my fabric to size.  As you can see, Aurora was a huge help while I was cutting the fabric 🙂

IMG_2915 2

Then I folded each edge of the fabric in 1/2″ and ironed to form a smooth edge.  This will smooth and hid the “raw” cut edges.IMG_2920

I made a second fold — this time 1″– and ironed smooth as well.  This will form the actual hem.IMG_2922

Once I had creased all my edges, I unfolded the corners. IMG_2926

To form a nice smooth corner, I flipped the fabric over and then folded it into a triangle.  Make sure the big square in the image above is a perfect triangle and all of your creases line up.  Place a pin into the triangle to hold the fabric in place.  the pin should point towards the folded edge just like in the image below.

Sew right along this pin; from the folded edge to the outer crease.  Make sure to lock your stitches by reversing the sewing machine a few times at the beginning and end of the line.IMG_2933

Your sewn triangle should look somewhat like mine below.IMG_2934

Cut along your sewn line, leaving about 1/4″ of extra fabric.  IMG_2935

Inside-out your corner and refold all the creases.  I re-ironed all of my seams to keep them crisp then stuck a few pins in to keep the fabric in place.  Then, make a single stitch hem around the entire edge of the panel.
IMG_2936 At this point, my panel is done and hemmed.  Now, to hang the panel, I am going to create “tabs” for my rod to slip through.  First, I cut four 2″x3″ rectangles.

Then, I folded in each side about 1/4″, ironed the creases, and pinned it.IMG_2942

Again, sew a hem around all 4 sides of the tab.IMG_2943

I pinned the tabs at the top of the panel, making sure to space them evenly.  I also wanted two tabs near the left and right edges to make sure to hold the rod in place.  Then, I sewed the tabs in place with my sewing machine.

Now it’s time to cut my rods.  I used 2 dowel rods.  I laid them on my panel and marked where I needed to cut, making them just slightly shorter than the panels so they are hidden when hung.

Then, I used a razor blade to cut the dowel rods on the marked line.IMG_2950

Thread the dowel rod through the tabs.IMG_2947

I mounted 2 evenly spaced command hooks at the top of my window (I put one in the middle of the first panel and the second in the middle of the third panel).  I mounted 2 more command hooks about a quarter of the way down the window on each side.  Then, I hung the rod on the top hooks.

This part’s basically trial and error.  Hold the panel on each side and make a fold underneath.  Then, make a second fold, bringing the folds up to meet the lower command hooks.  Basically, they should look like roman shade folds.  I used a tape measure and chalk to mark where I made each fold.

Then, I cut pieces of elastic to make loops for the second hook.  I pinned the elastic to the panel at my chalk marks and sewed the elastic in place.  IMG_2952

Make sure to double over to ensure the elastic is secure. IMG_2957

Trim the ends. IMG_2958

Finally, hang the panels back up and fold your panels back up.  Hook the loops on the lower command hook to secure them.  IMG_2960

Ta da! Plus, you can unhook the loops to cover the full window.


Let me know if you try out this DIY in the comments section below.  I’d love to hear how it worked for you!

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Mac and Cheese That’ll Knock Your Socks Off

This is my semi-famous mac and cheese recipe.  It is so good, that my grandma begs me to make it anytime I’m home from school (ironic right?).  It’s also a great dish for potlucks because it’s a little bit different than your typical mac and cheese so even if someone else brings macaroni and cheese, your dish will be unique.  The best part about this mac is the crispy cheese crust it forms, just pure yummy!


Step 1: Boil Macaroni for 8 minutes then lay into casserole dish.  I like to use a dish with lots of surface area, because that means more crispy toppings!


Step 2: Combine milk, flour, butter, mustard, salt and half of the grated cheese into a microwavable bowl.  Microwave for 1 ½ minutes, stir, then microwave for another 1 ½ minutes and stir.  If the butter is not fully melted, microwave for one more minute.  It should end up looking like the picture to the right below.

mc3  IMG_1130

Step 3: Pour mixture over macaroni, stir to mix cheese in, and then cover with the additional cheese.  Sprinkle pepper and paprika on casserole and bake at 375° for 40 minutes.


Knock-Your-Socks-Off Mac and Cheese

(makes 4 servings)

2 cups macaroni
1 ½ cups milk
3 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons mustard
1 ¼ cup grated cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
dash of pepper & paprika

Preheat over to 375°.  Boil macaroni for 8 minutes, drain, and place in casserole dish.  In a microwavable bowl, combine the milk, flour, butter, mustard, salt, and half of the grated cheddar cheese.  Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring in the middle.  If the butter has not fully melted, microwave for an additional minute.  Pour this mixture onto the macaroni and then mix in.  Coat the macaroni in the remaining cheese.  Sprinkle with pepper and paprika and bake for 40 minutes.



Review: Ricki’s Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit

My husband and I love mozzarella, but it’s so expensive to buy in stores.  I kept on finding make your own mozzarella recipes on Pinterest, but I wasn’t daring enough to try one out completely blind.  However, I was definitely intrigued.  So, I decided to try Ricki’s Mozzarella and Ricotta Kit.  It came with basically everything I needed, so I wasn’t worried about buying the wrong ingredients.  And, if it worked, it came out to about $4.50 per pound of mozzarella.  I’d say that was a pretty good deal!  I was a little worried about how hard it would be to find pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized) milk, but was happy to find that both Aldi and Trader Joe’s brand milk is fine.

1. Dissolve 1/4 of a rennet tab in 1/4 cup of cool chlorine-free water and set aside.

2. Dissolve 1.5 tsp of citric acid in 1 cup off cool chlorine-free water.  Add to a big pot.

3. Dump one gallon of whole milk into pot and stir.


4. While stirring constantly, heat mixture to 90°F.  The kit came with a dinky alcohol thermometer.  If you don’t have any other thermometers, I’m sure it would work fine, but I preferred to use my trusty digital thermometer.


5. Remove from heat and stir in dissolved rennet using an up and down motion. (about 30 seconds)

6. Cover pot and let stand for 5 minutes or until mixture resembles custard (and you can see a clear separation between the whey and the curd).  Mine needed way more than 5 minutes.  I gave it about 15 minutes.


7.  Cut the curds diagonally.  It says to use a knife, but there was no way I was using metal in my coated pot, so I used a spatula.


8.  Place pot back on the burner and heat to 105°F while slowly moving the curds around with a spoon.


9.  Remove from heat and stir for 3-5 minutes.

10. Scoop out curds and strain off whey.  Transfer drained curds to a microwave safe bowl.  I ended up doing this in a two-part process to drain off as much whey as I could.  I used a slotted spoon to transfer curds from the pot to a strainer.  Then after letting them strain, I transferred them to the microwave safe bowl.


11. Microwave on high for one minute.

12. Fold curds into a single “loaf” much like you would knead bread.  Add 1 tsp of cheese salt and fold in.


13. Microwave for an additional 30 seconds or in 30 second increments until curds are heated to 135°F.

14. Stretch cheese as you would taffy.  Cheese will become firm and shiny.  Caution — rubber gloves would probably be helpful for this step because the cheese is hot!


15. Once cheese is shiny, roll into a ball or log then immerse in 50°F water for 5 minutes.


16. Transfer to an ice bath for an additional 15 minutes.


17. Wrap cheese in saran wrap to seal and refrigerate or use.  We ended up with slightly over one pound of mozzarella!


You also end up with quite a bit of whey.  I ended up making some loaves of bread with the leftover whey, but feel free to get creative–there’s tons of things you can do with it!

I wanted to figure out the cost per pound of mozzarella, so I did some quick math:  The kit includes supplies for 30 batches and costs $25.21, so it’s about $0.84 per batch.  A gallon of whole milk is currently about $3.80 in my area.  That comes out to $4.64 per batch.  I got 1.05 pounds of mozzarella in a batch, so that’s $4.42 per pound.

I’ve heard it before, but never really believed it until I tried it myself–homemade mozzarella tastes way better than store bought.  This kit made making my own cheese very easy, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to try making their own cheese.  I can’t wait to try the ricotta recipe next!

Have you tried making your own mozzarella?  If so, share your experience below.  I’m also looking for new ways to use the leftover whey, so share any suggestions below as well!