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Organizing Your Kitchen with
Brenda Gowey

Episode 143

January 26, 2021

Learning how to cook is a skill set that can save us money and feed our family well. Today Brenda Gowey teaches us some tips about organizing our kitchen and how to better enjoy cooking! Listen today as we learn some amazing pieces of knowledge from this amazing lady!

Diana Ballard

Mom Training

Organizing Your Kitchen with Brenda Gowey

Episode Transcript

The Mom Training Podcast with Diana Ballard

 

Diana:     Hey ladies, welcome to today’s episode. I'm really excited because we get to tune in to an interview I had with a lady, named Brenda, who has been a personal chef. She's a caterer. And she teaches cooking classes online, which her info will be in the description of this podcast; if you want to connect with her and take her cooking classes, which I would highly recommend.

 

  But we're going to kind of tap in a little bit to her mind; how she takes care of her kitchen, what she likes to do, and a couple of tips that she shares about having a kitchen that flows well, enjoying cooking, and a little bit of encouragement, if you're just learning how to cook. So, here's our interview with Brenda.

 

 

Diana:      Hey, Brenda, how's it going?

 

Brenda:    It's good. Things are great.

 

Diana:     Awesome. We're so excited to have you teach us a little bit about the kitchen. We know that you are… I would consider you an expert in the kitchen. I don't know what you consider yourself… But you cook delicious food; I’ve had lots of food from Brenda that I've absolutely loved. And whenever I can, I try to get some from her, when I'm visiting her area.

 

  I just wanted you to share with us a little bit about how you work in your kitchen, like what you like to do. And so, if you could first tell us… Some people enjoy cooking more or baking more, which one do you like the best?

 

Brenda:   I definitely like cooking more. The reason is because I don't have to measure things when I cook. I can add some of this and some of that, and then taste it and decide what it needs and experiment. And when you bake, you definitely have to measure. So, measuring is hard for me.

 

  I do have a few recipes that I bake, where the recipes’ just in my head; so, I don't have to keep looking at the paper or the online recipe, and going back and forth. I guarantee if there's 10 or 15 ingredients in a recipe, I will forget at least one of them.

 

Diana:      Right.

 

Brenda:   So, cooking is a lot more enjoyable, but I love to eat baked goods, so I still bake.

 

Diana:      Give me an example of what - one of your favorite things to cook and one of your favorite things to bake.

 

Brenda:   My favorite thing to bake, I have two favorite things to bake. One, are fruit pies. I just love pie. I mean, one of my first childhood memories is of eating blueberry pie at my great aunt's house. I was probably 10… I had never met her. We were visiting relatives in upstate New York and my mom and dad took us to her house. She was, I don't know how old, like older than old.

 

[chuckles]

 

  And she lived on a farm, and we came into her house and she gave us a piece of pie. And I had never had blueberry pie before, so I didn't really know what it was, what it would taste like. It was like the most amazing thing I'd ever eaten.

 

Diana:     Wow.

 

Brenda:   And so then, my mom started making pies. And she doesn't like to cook but she's a really good pie baker, and she's kind of famous for her pies in her area. So, she taught me the pie crust recipe that I use, and I've just enjoyed making pies for years.

 

  The other thing that I enjoy baking are French baguettes. In 2019, my husband and I went on a trip to Europe, and one of the places we went was Paris. I ate a baguette there, and I ate the whole thing over a period of four days, because my husband can't really digest gluten very well.

 

  So, I bought this baguette knowing that I would probably eat the whole thing. By the second day, of course, it was starting to get stale. The third day it was more stale, I just dunked it in my hot chocolate. The fourth day was a travel back to home day, and I put that in my suitcase. I was not going to throw away my last little connection to Paris. And so, when I got home, like on day five, I made croutons out of it, because it was still good enough for that. It was really stale but you know, croutons are crunchy.

 

Diana:      Right.

 

Brenda:   So then, like a month after I was home, I looked on Airbnb, and I found that there was a baguette making class in Tempe, which is like 25 minutes from my house. So, I signed up for that and went to that.

 

  The woman that taught it was a French woman from Normandy, and she teaches classes on how to make baguettes. It was an absolutely delightful day. She made us feel like we were superstars and guests in her home, just in a really special way. So, we made baguettes, and we brought some home. We ate some. And I've been making baguettes for over a year now, like regularly.

 

  It turns out that my husband can digest the dough from baguettes because it sits in the fridge overnight, and it kind of ferments a little bit, like sourdough. And so, he doesn't have any problems digesting that.

 

Diana:      Oh, wow!

 

Brenda:   Which is really helpful because then, we can share the baguette, and I don’t have to eat the whole thing myself.

 

[chuckles]

 

  So, those are the two things I love to bake.

 

Diana:      Wow.

 

Brenda:    I'm also really good at brownies, from a box mix.

 

Diana:      [chuckle] I love it.

 

Brenda:   And my tip for that is to always add a tablespoon of vanilla, and an extra egg, sometimes, if you want them cake like. The vanilla in the brownies really makes a difference.

 

Diana:      Oh… I’ll want to try that.

 

Brenda:    Makes them better.

 

Diana:      That’s awesome… So then, what’s your favorite to cook?

 

Brenda:   My favorite things to cook would just be fresh things. Like Italian food with lots of fresh vegetables in it or Mexican food with lots of fresh vegetables and cilantro, and just whatever is fresh. Those are my favorite things. I do love pasta…

 

Diana:      Sounds terrific.

 

Brenda:   And potatoes. Like I really never met a carbohydrate I didn't like.

 

[chuckles]

 

Diana:      Well, you teach cooking classes.

 

Brenda:   Uh-hmm.

 

Diana:     It's kind of cool hearing that you go to cooking classes yourself. So, you recommend that people take cooking classes… Like to get better at cooking, people need to learn from different people how to cook. Right?

 

Brenda:   Yes, I do you recommend that. In fact, since the pandemic has started, Jacques Pépin has put videos online every day. They're like three to five minutes.

 

Diana:      Oh, wow.

 

Brenda:   So, he's like my major food crush, these days. He has done everything in the culinary world, but he's someone who makes everything appear to be really simple. So, I've learned a lot from him. I do recommend that you keep learning and taking classes. Just not in person right now.

 

Diana:      Yeah. Right. [chuckle] Okay, cool… I want to just ask you – are there ways to organize your kitchen that can make cooking and baking easier?

 

Brenda:    Absolutely.

 

Diana:      Okay, let’s hear about that…

 

Brenda:   A long time ago, when my mom visited… This was really probably 20 years ago. My mom visited and she noticed that I had put, unconsciously, all the things that I use for baking, in one particular cupboard. She said, “Oh, everything's right there. You just get the bowl and you pull it out of that cupboard, and it's all right there”. And I hadn’t even noticed that I did that.

 

  I got the organization gene from her. So, that's probably why she noticed, and it's probably why I did it. It was totally unconscious though.

 

  We moved about three years ago, and I realized that this was a chance to actually do that consciously. So, one area of my kitchen that has cupboards and a countertop has all the baking things above and all the bowls… Well, mostly bowls and strainers below, in the same place.

 

  I also was able to put all my baking spices on the left side… Doesn’t matter which side, but on one side, and all the savory spices on the other side. So, when I am ready to bake something, I just open the cupboard with the baking spices and the ingredients: the brown sugar, the flour, the cinnamon, all those things are right there. I don't have to search through the other side.

 

  The other side has things like sage, and oregano, and pepper, and paprika. Those kinds of things. And so, that has really helped me, to just be more efficient there.

 

  I don't alphabetize my spices like some people. To me, that's a little over the top because I'd have to run through the alphabet – ABCDEFG to realize where they are. So, mostly they're just in a place there that I remember. So, like I know the paprika is on the right, in the back… So, I did organize the spices.

 

  I also have organized, the cooking utensils are right next to the stove, in a little pot. So, what's not there are serving spatulas, knives, those kinds of things. If you can't cook with it. It’s not in that pot. So, those are things like wooden spoons, nylon utensils, spatulas that you can cook with.

 

  And then all the other things are kind of like with their own kind in other drawers. And then, for instance, the knives are all in the drawer that's underneath where the toaster oven is. And above that are things like hot chocolate and the herbal tea, and the coffee mugs. So, that's kind of like all of there, together.

 

  I also put all the pots and pans, are right next to the stove, in the bottom cupboard. So, that I don't have to carry them across the kitchen. Well, the kitchen’s not that big, but to carry them farther away, they're just right there next to where they go. And some of my pans are cast iron, so they're heavy. So, it kind of helps with that as well because then you don't have to carry it far.

 

Diana:     Okay. So, pretty much what I'm hearing is that you're organizing everything to be like in the place that it's going to be used.

 

Brenda:   Exactly.

 

Diana:     So, tell me about where your dishwasher is? Are your dishes like right above your dishwasher? You know what I mean? Like how does that work too? Is that organized as well?

 

Brenda:   Not really, because the dishwasher is right across from the stove, and the cupboards are on the side of the oven and stove.

 

Diana:      Awesome.

 

Brenda:   So, the dishes are right next to… They’re right above the pots and pans, so they're right next to the stove in the microwave. There just isn't a lot of space to spread them out. And there's not a cupboard next to the dishwasher except under the sink, that's got paper towels and dish soap and stuff.

 

Diana:     Cool. Well, that's awesome to have everything organized. I remember when I was moving into our new little house right now, and my mother-in-law was like, “Oh no, no. You need to put things over here.” I’m like, “Oh, I just never thought about that.”

 

  I feel like some of us younger moms and housewives, we just don't think about that; of how to organize things. And we might just put it like, “Oh this will be fine here”, but really, it'll save us a little extra time, be a lot easier, be right where we reach it when we're cooking, or baking and stuff. And that's awesome.

 

Brenda:   I think most people don't think about it. One thing, I was a Pampered Chef consultant for many years. And so, I would always be routing around in someone's kitchen that I didn't know, looking for something, as I was doing prep work. And one thing that was pretty consistent is most people put their silverware as close to the dishwasher as possible, their silverware drawer.

 

  I have a sink in between my dishwasher and my silverware drawer but if it was in a different place, I would have put it right next to that. I also put the oven mitts, right next to the oven in that door. And that's pretty common, I think, for most people.

 

Diana:     Cool. Well, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing those tips and kind of opening our eyes to kind of go through our own kitchen, and look and see what we need to move around a little bit, to make it flow a little bit easier while we’re baking and cooking.

 

Brenda:   Sure. I have one more idea I’d like to share. And that is, during the pandemic, I've been cleaning out extra stuff like crazy, and donating it. Because I realized, first of all, I used to have cooking classes in my home, so I have duplicates of so many things. And I don't anticipate doing that in the future. So, I've been donating a lot of things.

 

  So, I recommend that you really take a look at what you use and what you don't use. Because when you clear out what you don't use, it's like a breath of fresh air. Like emotionally, it's a breath of fresh air, but also in your drawers and cupboards, you can spread stuff out… Like, it frees up space that you really want, but you didn't have because you have some extra stuff that you weren't using.

 

  As someone who used to sell Pampered Chef cooking tools, it seems weird to say, “Get rid of everything you don't need.” And I'm not even encouraging that you buy extra stuff, but just have what you need and get rid of what you don't need.

 

Diana:    I love that. That's awesome. That is a great… I went through and like purged other things in my house - clothes and different things like that. But I never thought about going through and be like, “Why do I have two can openers? [chuckle]

 

Brenda:   Yes.

 

Diana:      Like why do I have three peelers? Like I do. I have three peelers and they always, when I try to close the drawer, get caught or something like that. I never thought about going through and like purging out that area. So, that's definitely something I will be going through. I love that tip, thank you so much for sharing.

 

Brenda:   I know you have little kids though. So, don't give away things that they can help you with in the future. So, your three pillars, at some point, you're going to have three kids old enough to peel potatoes for you.

 

  I have two grandchildren, one’s three and a half, one's just a baby. And so, I've kept things like spreaders and things that you can't hurt yourself with. Because my three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, loves to help in the kitchen. So, anything that she can use, I’ve kept that. Or when her sister's a little older, then I'll have one for her too.

 

Diana:      Oh, that’s a good idea.

 

Brenda:   So, don't be too hasty. But, for instance, I had about five or six chef knives. Well, you can only use one of those at a time, so I gave some of those. You can ask your mom about that.

 

Diana:      She told me, yeah, that you gave her some. [chuckle]

 

Brenda:   I did because I thought these are not doing me any good and I know that she could use these. So, it actually… When I say donate them, some things I put in a goodwill bag, but a lot of things I called up people and said, “Hey, could you use this? Could you use that?” and they were delighted.

 

Diana:      Yeah.

 

Brenda:   And that felt really good to know they were going to a good home.

 

Diana:      Yeah. And going to be used every day.

 

Brenda:    Yup... Yes.

 

Diana:    That’s awesome. Okay. Well, thanks for sharing that tip about the kids too. Again, that's another thing… We need people that are wiser, that have been through things before, and just… That's something that I wouldn’t have thought of either. “Oh, maybe…” Because I do have my kids help me in the kitchen, but as they get bigger, they're going to want to do more and I'm going to be able to include them a lot more with different things.

 

  That’s awesome.

 

Brenda:   Yes. It's really hard to think in the future about… Like, even for me, as a mom and a grandmother, to think that when my granddaughters, who's three and a half, like someday, she's going to be 10, or whatever. But she's going to be able to do everything that I asked her to do. She's getting use a knife. And so, it's really hard to think that far in the future, sometimes.

 

Diana:    Yeah. Well, let me ask you, where do you get your recipes from? Do you use cookbooks more often? More on the internet? My question is, do people actually still buy cookbooks? Do you use cookbooks? Because I use the internet so much. I'm just curious like what you use on a regular basis.

 

Brenda:   I have my beloved cookbooks that I will never part with. And I have cleaned out my cookbooks over the years. I'm just saying, I've narrowed it down to maybe… I don't know 40 or 50 cookbooks that I have memories attached to them, or I've made recipes and I've written notes in there. No, I'm never going to get rid of some of those.

 

  I do use the internet a lot more than I used to. It's so easy to just type in pasta with roasted vegetables, and then you get an assortment of recipes that have like four or five stars and you're like, “Well, this is probably really good because 1002 people have given it four stars.

 

Diana:      Right.

 

Brenda:   So, I do use that. I have to say that I love books more, just because I love to hold the book and touch the book and write in the pages, but I do use the internet a lot more. And so, people do really buy cookbooks. I know there's some cookbooks that famous people put out, that I buy, or when my kids will get them as a gift for me, simply because they know I love that person.

 

  So, yeah, I do get cookbooks.

 

Diana:      Well, and the thing with cookbooks is they're so colorful. I mean, most of them that I've ever… Like they just… The pictures are beautiful. You’re like feeling it.

 

Brenda:    Yes.

 

Diana:      The design and everything, like it does feel really good when you use the book.

 

Brenda:    Yes.

 

Diana:      Yeah, that's awesome... Tell me one of your favorite cookbooks.

 

Brenda:   Hmm…

 

Diana:      [chuckle] Put you on the spot here.

 

Brenda:   Yeah… One of my favorites, and it's probably because it has so much information, in addition to recipes, is a woman named Samin Nosrat who did the Netflix documentary called, Salt, Fat, Heat, Acid. Her cookbook is just like an encyclopedia of knowledge. And so, I really like her. I also was able to see her. She came to Mesa community or Mesa…

 

  She came in person, to like a concert venue… I’m not remembering the name of it. And she just sat on stage with a local famous chef, and did a two-hour presentation. And afterwards, I bought her book and got it signed. So, like that one has special meaning to me. But her book, is just like a wealth of knowledge. So, if you want to find out, why you do this instead of this, it'll be in there. So, that's one of my favorites.

 

Diana:      That’s awesome.

 

Brenda:   Another one that I've made recipes from would be some Pioneer Woman recipes. Her recipes are really easy and good… I don't really watch her show. I'm not like a fan that much of her show, but her cookbooks are good.

 

  And then Joanna Gaines’ cookbook is phenomenal. I love her. I would love to sit and have lunch with her and just chat with her, or feed her.

 

Diana:      Yeah.

 

Brenda:   And so, her recipes are really good, the ones I've tried.

 

Diana:     That’s awesome. Okay, that is some great resources there for us, who are looking for more recipes, and I love the encyclopedia thing. I think that’s awesome.

 

  So, I want to ask you one more question, for let's say, maybe a young mom, or someone that's just starting out and learning how to cook… What are some encouragements that you would say to someone that maybe has not cooked a ton or baked a ton, that’s just barely getting started… What would you tell that person?

 

  Because you absolutely love cooking. You’ve excelled. You've learned. You continue learning. And being in the kitchen is like your love. You love doing that. So, what encouragement can you give to a mom that’s just starting out, maybe struggling with it a little bit, and to move towards the direction that you have with being in your kitchen?

 

Brenda:   Two things come to mind. One is to try to prepare things that you like. That might sound obvious, but when you look at a cookbook, and you look at the recipes, you'll say, “Well, I don't have that ingredient. I don't like that ingredient, whatever.” So, think about the things that you like to eat, and then try those.

 

  The other thing is to trust your instincts. Because cooking is just something that, as you go, some of your meals are going to be awful and you're going to order pizza. And that happens to me sometimes. But if you trust your instincts about things like… Let's see, what's an example?...

 

  If your recipe for a pasta dish, calls for zucchini and mushrooms. And let's say you hate mushrooms. But you love broccoli. Just put broccoli in it, because if you like the ingredients, you're going to like the recipe, probably.

 

  And if you just trust your instincts, you're going to have more confidence. And the more you do that, you'll get more confidence. Sometimes, cooking is just a matter of developing confidence. And if some of your family members don't like what you made. Well, there's peanut butter and jelly usually or… I mean, you don’t have to please everybody all the time. You probably won't.

 

Diana:      Right.

 

Brenda:   The bigger the family, the more opinions and the more people who will say, “I don't like this.”

 

Diana:      Right.

 

Brenda:    When I was a kid, my mom would make homemade noodles. Usually, like after Thanksgiving, we’d have a turkey carcass that she would boil and make broth and then she'd make noodles. And my brother and I would complain like, “These noodles are too thick”, “They're too thin”, “They’re too short”, “They’re too wide”.

 

  At some point, she realized, she was never going to please us. So, one batch of noodles that she made, she made some thin, some thick, some wide, some skinny… She’s like, “Here. Just eat these.”

 

[laughter]

 

  Just try anything that sounds good to you. You also, could take my virtual cooking classes and I will walk you through, making dinner. And those are on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings. So, that's another way that I could help you.

 

Diana:     Yeah, we'll connect… We'll put in the podcast info, how to connect with Brenda. If you want to take her virtual cooking classes. I've been in Brenda's kitchen before. I've tasted tons of her food. She is amazing.

 

   If you want to learn how to cook, these virtual cooking classes it's amazing that you can take them all over the world. I mean, it's great because you get your own ingredients. She walks you through it. She's fun. So, yeah, if you're interested in learning more about cooking, these are definitely classes that you should check out.

 

Brenda:   Thank you.

 

Diana:     Yeah. So, okay… Brenda, we've been enriched today - learning some things about the kitchen and cooking, and just so wonderful to have you on. We'll probably have you on again. I'm sure, sometime in the future… Because I just love hearing about what you're doing and all the stuff you're doing in your kitchen.

 

  So, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us.

 

Brenda:   Thank you. You're very kind. And I've loved feeding you, and I wish you the very best.

 

Diana:      Thanks so much, Brenda.

Diana:  Okay, ladies, I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did, talking to Brenda and learning from her. So, if you are interested in the cooking classes, check out the description.

 

  Join Brenda in her cooking classes. Friday is more geared towards foods that maybe children would like to eat, or can make something really simple; teenagers, things like that. Saturday is more of the adult class where you’ll learn things that are a little more in depth, maybe a little bit harder, that are going to stretch you a little bit. But you're going to learn some awesome skills. So, check out the link in the description. And we're so happy that Brenda could join us.

 

  You guys have a great rest your day and we'll see you next episode, on The Mom Training Podcast.