Saturday, March 10, 2012

DIY Spice Rack or Magnets, how do they work?

Apartments never have enough cabinet space, do they? In the nine months I've lived here, I've amassed quite the collection of spices. Most were from the supermarket, but others I dried myself and stored in ziplock bags. I quickly grew tired of digging through my "collection" to find what I needed.

How could I solve this problem? Countertop spice racks were out of the question, as I have less counter space than cabinet space. Plus, they all seemed to come with spices. I already had spices, hence my issue. I didn't need more!

A wall-mounted spice rack seemed the way to go, but the reasonably priced ones I found online were ugly. It was during this search that I discovered magnetic spice racks, and thought they were the perfect solution. Sleek! Shiny! Space-saving! But the prefab racks were so expensive, and some didn't hold many jars at all.

I decided to DIY it. Using theKitchn's article on making your own magnetic spice rack as reference, I got to it.

Step 1: Prepare the back

I decided to drill 7 holes in the sheet metal: 3 along the top, 1 on each side in the middle, and 1 on each bottom corner. Place painters tape over each drilling area before you start. Sand each hole after drilling to remove any pointy bits, and mop up any shavings with some more tape.

Use tape to pick up metal shavings after drilling.

Step 2: Prepare the wall

This part is easier with two people. Hold the sheet metal against the wall where your rack will hang, then drill holes in the wall.

A folded post-it note catches stray drywall dust!

Insert drywall anchors into the holes for maximum holding capability.

Step 3: Pretty-fy the back

This step is optional. I was originally going to go with plain metal, but I stumbled across a tablecloth in Target which matched my dishtowels perfectly. Fate?

Lay the metal on the tablecloth, or whichever fabric you've chosen. Cut around the metal, leaving about 1 inch extra around.  It doesn't have to be exact.

Do this next part outside, or in a well-ventilated area away from pets, kids, or valuables. Lay the sheet metal on the dropcloth, then coat with the spray glue. Smooth the fabric over the metal and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Then flip the metal over, spray the perimeter, tightly pull the edges of the fabric over and smooth. Let it sit for some more.

Once dry, find the holes under the fabric and drill so you're not blindly searching when it comes time to hang on the wall.

Step 4: Hang on wall

Again, this part's easier with help. Hold the metal up to the wall, place a washer on the screw, then drill into the wall.

Step 5: Assemble the jars

Mason jars come with 2-piece lids (ring and flat lid). I was concerned about spills when prying off the flat lid, and didn't want to glue the pieces together, so I bought the 1-piece lids. 

I glued 3 magnets to the inside of the lid in a triangle formation. These magnets are crazy strong and quite fond of each other. After gluing, hold down the magnets for a bit so they don't merge in the middle.

Be careful with these magnets!
Keep out of reach of kids and pets.

When the glue is dry, place the flat lids that came with the jars over the magnets. They're a perfect fit, stay in place due to the magnets, and will keep the spices from coming in contact with the magnets.

No glue required.

Pour spices into the jars and label. You can make your own labels, or buy some really cute ones on Etsy, but I just used the ones that came with the jars.

Place jars on rack.

Step 6: Admire your handiwork

Nice rack!

Of course I'll have to patch up the holes when I move out, but whatever. I'm so happy with how it turned out! I don't have a lot of DIY or handyperson experience, so this was a perfect starter project. Try it out, and you'll feel like Bob Vila (or Bob the Builder) when you're done!

Best part, I've regained some of my cabinet space! Not all, as I bought some very large spice jars from the Christmas Tree Shops, and have a few duplicates due to not checking what I already have in stock before I go shopping.

(Click photos to enlarge)

Materials used:
  • Pre-cut stainless steel (24"x30"), drywall anchors, drywall screws, washers, epoxy, spray glue, and dropcloth: Lowe's
  • 4-ounce mason jars and one-piece lids: Fillmore Container (buy only "food safe" lids)
  • Neodymium magnets (1/2"x1/8"): Almost Free Magnets (look for factory seconds to save money!)
  • Tablecloth for stylish cover: Target
All of the above merchants receive my wholehearted stamp of approval. Fillmore let me specify exactly how many lids I wanted, where other vendors wanted me to buy a lot in bulk. The magnets were shipped from Hawaii and I got them in less than a week!

Seriously, give it a try, you'll be amazed at what you can do!

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spice up your life, AKA my mouth is on fire

Sure, make fun of me for quoting the Spice Girls. As long as I can make fun of you for recognizing it.

A dear friend turned me onto Emily Bites, a "cooking light" kind of blog with droolworthy recipes. There, I spotted a recipe that made the clouds part and angels sing. That or I was really in the mood for pasta.

Spicy Sausage & Eggplant Spaghetti Bake
From Emily Bites

1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch square pieces
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided in 2
4 oz dry wheat spaghetti
1 cup red onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb hot Italian turkey or chicken sausage, casings removed
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup 2% or skim shredded Mozzarella cheese
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided into 1/2 cup and 1/4 cup
1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
Salt and pepper to taste
Cooking spray
Basil leaves, sliced (optional)

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Spray baking sheet to coat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, toss eggplant with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, until eggplant is lightly coated. Spread eggplant in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes.
  3. Eggplant, not hash browns
  4. While the eggplant bakes, bring a pot of water to a boil, then cook the spaghetti until it is al dente. Drain pasta, reserving about 1/3 cup of the pasta water. Set aside.
  5. While the water is boiling and/or pasta is cooking, pour the other tablespoon of olive oil into a large pot and heat on medium. Add onion and cook for a few minutes, until soft and almost translucent. Add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  6. Add sausage to garlic and onions, breaking up into chunks with a wooden spoon. Stir in marinara and turn heat down to low.
  7. When eggplant is ready, remove from oven and set aside. Turn oven down to 375, spray a baking dish and set aside.
  8. Add drained spaghetti to sauce mixture and stir to coat.
  9. COAT'D!
    Add eggplant and crushed red pepper, stir to combine. 
    Remove from heat for 10 minutes. 
  10. Add mozzarella, 1/2 cup of Parmesan and the 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water, stir until well combined.
  11. Pour mixture into baking dish and spread out evenly. Top with bread crumbs and remaining Parmesan.
  12. Bake for 25 minutes or until bread crumbs are golden brown and cheese is bubbling.
  13. Top with basil leaves (optional) and serve.
  14. Let's eat!
    1. This is a great recipe to make on Sunday and bring to work for lunch all week.
    2. Yowza, this dish was hot! The sausages had enough heat for me, so next time I'll do without the crushed red pepper entirely. I had to add extra cheese and sauce so I could eat without pain.
    3. There's debate over whether peeling eggplant is necessary. I did for this dish, but will refrain next time to see if there's a noticeable difference. Plus, the New York Times told me not to.
    4. Hey ShopRite, thanks for driving me batshit crazy. Why on earth would you put all of your wheat pasta, including non-organic brands, in the organic section?
    5. Get the bread crumbs without cheese to lighten this recipe up further. There's already lots of cheese in here, how much more do you need? Don't answer that.
    6. It helps to chop up the onion and garlic prior to starting. I felt rushed getting everything together on the fly, and burned the onion while mincing the garlic.
    7. Speaking of rushed, there's a lot of "doing stuff while other stuff is going on" which stressed me out a little. I need to work on time management or just chill out.
    8. Use a large pot to saute the onion and garlic.  It'll be easier to add everything else to it later.
    9. I used Thin & Trim Spicy Italian Chicken Sausages. I don't think they were encased, but that didn't stop me from trying to remove the casing from one poor sausage anyway. I gave up after that one. Oh, and they're already cooked so no need to worry about disgusting raw chicken.
    10. Recipe calls for a 7x11 baking dish. All I had was 9x13. It came out fine, just flatter.
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      Monday, March 5, 2012

      A Farmers Market Dinner

      If you told my 20 year old self that someday I'd wake up early on Sunday mornings to go to the farmers market, I would have laughed at you. Now I look forward to it every weekend.

      Every item in this bowl of deliciousness is from the Schenectady Greenmarket, save for the sun dried tomatoes.

      This reluctant domestic has been busy being a reluctant grad student, hence the lack of posts.  But I've been busy cooking and taking tons of pictures, and it's my spring break, so expect more posts this week!