Jeni Marinucci: Panic Button Years


Simple Swaps to Streamline Your Kitchen Routines

Plus, a 15-Minute Zucchini Noodles and Sauce recipe

Simple Swaps to Streamline Your Kitchen Routines

When your children grow up and think about you, their mother, where will they picture you? I know for sure that a large portion of my kids' memories will have our kitchen as the setting. It is, after all, one of my primary habitats. But as much as I love being in my kitchen, baking a quick treat, or preparing lunches to fuel them during the school day, I'd also love to be able to spend more time in other rooms - rooms with couches, rooms where I can relax. 

This is possible of course; it's just a matter of streamlining kitchen routines so you can actually participate in activities not involving large stainless steel appliances. By organizing your kitchen and shortening your prep and cooking times, you'll also get more enjoyment out of the hours you do spend there. 

Here are some easy ways to make that happen:


Build a Better Breakfast Bar 

This just makes sense. Reorganize your cupboards and small appliances so that everything you need for coffee is in one area. Put the coffee maker close to the fridge (for milk or cream) and rearrange a cupboard to hold mugs on one shelf and coffee equipment on the other. Do the same with your toaster and toaster oven and plug in your kettle to create a "breakfast bar."

Use baskets to hold packets of oatmeal, sugar bowls, and a mug filled with teaspoons. Store bread and muffins here too, so everything you need for a quick coffee and toasted bagel is readily available. Once you do this, you'll wonder how you bumbled through the morning beforehand. 


Make Your Dishwasher Your New Best Friend 

Put down the rubber gloves, and throw out your sponges. You can wash (almost) anything in the dishwasher, including — and I swear this is true — potatoes and light fixture covers. Some people would choose "vacuum" or "washing machine" as the best modern household invention, but I'm holding firm at "dishwasher." And really, after reading this list of Things You Can Totally Wash in the Dishwasher, we may want to consider re-naming it the "almost-anything" washer. 


Hey Garlic! Keep Your Dress On! 

When you are using garlic to infuse flavour, simply smash the clove (use the bottom of a glass or the long side of a knife, protecting your hand) but - mind blown alert - KEEP THE SKIN ON. This will prevent the garlic from burning and becoming bitter while cooking. All of the flavour will come through and you simply discard the cooked clove before serving. No more peeling sticky cloves of garlic wondering where your youth went. 


Clean Your Stainless Appliances, Easily

I love my stainless appliances because they look modern and they make my kitchen feel like a mad scientist's laboratory. But I hate the smudges and smears they take on when you even walk too close to them. This great kitchen cleaning hack will clear up the smudges and smear-proof their surfaces for weeks at a time. 


Grate cheese and freeze it on trays 

Question: How do you immediately make any food, social situation, or event 100% better? 
Answer: Add cheese. 

Is there anything cheese can't improve? I can't imagine a world where this isn't a universal truth. Here's a great way to save money on cheese and ensure its availability for all breakout social situations: purchase large blocks of cheese on sale. But instead of freezing solid (it can alter texture), grate or shred it. Spread it out in single layers on parchment covered baking trays and freeze until solid (a hour or two) then break apart clumps with clean hands (move quickly) and store in zip-close bags or air-tight containers. Because you froze the shreds first, the cheese will stay loose and not freeze into a giant lump. Now you have cheese by the handful whenever you want it. 


Use Parchment Paper for Zero Clean-Up 

Use parchment paper to line your baking trays and casseroles to avoid the whole clean up/wash routine. With parchment cut properly to size, you'll likely only have to do a quick wipe or rinse. 

There were several family favourite recipes I put off baking more than once a year (and even then, it was a concession for peace), simply because I couldn't handle the thought of scrubbing another cheese-crusted pan. (In my dream kitchen, I have a roll of parchment paper over every counter surface like the paper they use on doctor examination tables. I'd just pull out a new strip every morning and toss it every night - no more wiping counters! (I'm still waiting for this dream to come true.) 


Life Gave You Lemons? Use Them to Clean 

I spend at least three hours a year wondering what the hell actually happens inside my microwave during the cooking process. I swear, I can heat up a cup of coffee and yet when I open the door, it looks like someone had a pizza party food fight in there. But the crud is easy to handle with a natural ingredient and that is the almighty lemon juice - nature's magical elixir.

Instead of using harsh chemicals to clean a disgusting microwave, squeeze a cut lemon into a large 4-cup bowl or glass measuring cup. Drop the lemon halves in and heat in the microwave for 2-minutes. Remove the bowl (hot - careful!) and wipe down the inside of the microwave. The hot lemon steam will soften food and make removal easy. Then, pour the hot lemon water down the drain to freshen (it's a mess down there, too).


Divide and Conquer in the Freezer

Is your freezer the Wild West of food storage? Are last summers' cherries getting it on with the flank steak? Are microwaveable dinners rubbing shoulders with bakery rolls? It's chaos in there and this has to stop. Rescue hero? BASKETS. I found three durable plastic baskets that fit inside my freezer and labelled them "FRUIT," "VEGETABLES," and "BREADS." Now, all our baskets of frozen smoothie fruits stay in one place and we can tell at a glance if we have any on hand. No more rooting around the scary bottom half of a pull out freezer. The bread basket holds flat bread, buns, waffles, and bagels. Frozen veggies, ready-diced onions, and fries all live in the veggie basket. I haven't found a scary UFO (unidentified freezer object) in months! 

Bonus recipe now that you have an organized kitchen:


15 Minute Zucchini Noodles and Sauce


4 small, firm zucchini
2 tbsp + 2 tbsp butter
2 cloves garlic, skins on, crushed
1 500ml jar passata (crushed, strained tomatoes)
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground cracked black pepper
1/2 tbsp basil
1/2 tbsp oregano
hot pepper flakes, to taste


  • Use spiralizer tool (seriously, get ye to a kitchen store and get one) to create zucchini noodles. Or, peel entire zucchini with vegetable peeler, creating "ribbons." Lightly salt and set aside in colander to drain water.
  • Melt 2 tbsp butter in shallow sauce pot and add one clove garlic (smashed with skins on). Add passata, salt, cracked pepper, basil, oregano, and hot pepper flakes. Bring to boil, stir, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  • In sauté pan, melt 2 tbsp Becel and add one clove garlic. Add drained zucchini noodles and sauté at med-high heat, stirring often. When zucchini is cooked and fragrant, serve with sauce.