Showing posts with label Kitchens. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kitchens. Show all posts

Friday, May 3, 2013

Refrigerator Security

One of my pet peeves is when kids open the refrigerator to "just see what's inside;" hence, one of the first rules we go over starting the very first day of class is that no students are allowed to touch the fridge or the freezer! There's always one or two that want to test this though, and when there are so many things going on during a lab it can be difficult to catch them in the act. So, a couple of years ago I began installing these in my refrigerators:

Refrigerator alarms! You can pick up a two pack at WalMart for about $10. You install them so that the two pieces are less than half an inch apart, and then they are activated when they are separated. I install them on the inside so that they are hidden (and can't be slyly turned off or "borrowed"). You can choose either a chime or an alarm sound, both of which are loud enough to easily hear from across the room. And it scares the crap out of the first kid who tries to sneak into the fridge! It is hilarious - and even better, mucho effective at keeping the little rugrats out. Definitely a worthwhile investment!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Still Going...

Spring Break 2013 is officially over; in just a short time I'll be setting out tomorrow's work clothes. I thought I'd share some of the work I was able to accomplish over break:

What you see are 2 1/2 more cabinets emptied, and placed on tables for the staff to pick and choose from before the contents are eliminated forever. An extensive collection of waffle irons, blenders, toasters, coffee makers, spatulas, etc, etc that are AT LEAST three decades old. Not to mention an enormous collection of glass - GLASS - serving ware. Who on Earth gives glassware to two dozen seventh graders in a small, contained space??

I keep inching closer and closer to getting these rooms under control. Maybe by the start of next school year, if I'm allowed in the building at all over the summer. Wish me luck!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Last Few Precious Hours...

Well friends, this is it - school resumes tomorrow. 1st hour starts at 7:40am. Are you ready?

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon completing odds and ends grading - make-up work, a quiz I gave the last day before break, work turned in from in-school suspension, etc. My mind was screaming "No! No! Not yet!"... you know how it is.

The primary reason I'm not 100% enthusiastic about tomorrow (other than having to get up at some dreadful hour again) is that it's going to be a weird week. We have two "regular" days, two final exam days, and then an Institute Day. You can imagine how seriously junior high kids take final exams, not to mention elective class final exams, so it's going to be rough. Especially since my kids all leave me and switch electives after this week.

I am pretty excited about brand new rosters coming up, though. The bummer about switching schools is that two weeks into the school year you realize about 40 things that you wish you had done differently/wish you hadn't done at all/wish you had done, but you've got to wait a whole year until you get that second chance. I get my second chance during the first year this time! So not only do I get to revamp procedures/rules/seating/etc, I get to revamp curriculum/projects/instruction. And since I've put all of my classes on a rotation, three of the four big units I've taught this year (sewing, foods, child care) I've already been through three times, so this will be the fourth time through. I love fitting six years into one!

In other news, it's been a while since I've mentioned a product/piece of equipment that I find extremely useful. So today, let me rave about my Rachael Ray Bench Scraper!

This thing is a fantastic piece of kitchen equipment, I absolutely love it. I used to be attached to the traditional method of using my chef's knife to transfer ingredients, but this gadget holds so much it is so much more convenient! The ridged rubber handle makes it easy to grip, and it lays flat when you set it down unlike many other scrapers. It is ideal for scooping up piles of food, chopping apart dough, or scraping pastry. Right now it is offered in four colors: orange, purple, blue, and red. If they would just add green and yellow I would buy them for my school kitchens! Guess I'll just have to look for a generic option for those kitchen colors.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Being Green

Whew, things have been so busy! As is always the case with us teachers, I know. I've been logging many a Saturday hour trying to get my kitchens kid-ready. My first group has begun their "Food Unit" rotation, and as soon as we get through food & kitchen safety they'll get their first peek. Luckily it's a somewhat smaller class, so I can focus on four kitchens and let the other two go a bit longer until a larger class rotates in.

One thing that I found desperately necessary in this classroom was relining the kitchen drawers. Most of them are lined with contact paper which must be at least one, probably two, decades old. It's worn out and faded and grimy.

Of all places, Staples had just what I needed: neon, solid-colored contact paper. At my local store they carry yellow, blue, red, and green - four of the six colors I'll need.

Nothing fancy, just clear and obvious which kitchen you're in. Now I just need to find some orange and purple contact paper, and I'll be set!

Sunday, April 22, 2012


Appetizing title, eh? Here's how we deal with draining grease in my cooking classes (I actually learned this from my husband, who of course does it this way because his mother did it this way) - turkey basters! Way easier than dealing with the muss and fuss of a strainer.

Suck up the grease, squirt it into the "grease can," move on. No need to remove the meat from the pan, get itty bitty pieces stuck in the holes of the strainer (which never seems to get completely clean), or splatter everywhere while trying to get a wide skillet to empty into a narrow sieve. 

Since it's also in the picture, here's my plug for a Pampered Chef product. While for the most part I have not partaken of the Pampered Chef kool-aid (since you can usually get something of similar quality much cheaper elsewhere), there are a few key products offered by P.C. that I absolutely love. Above on the left you see the "Mix 'n Chop" - this thing is terrific for breaking up ground meat while browning. I saw a friend using one once and purchased one for my home kitchen, then after a bit purchased four more for my school kitchens. So much more efficient than a spatula, a spoon, or even a potato masher. So the next time one of your "friends" drafts you into attending one of their parties, pick up one of these guys - you'll love it!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Job Wheel

There are a few extra tasks that need to be completed during cooking lab clean-up that fall outside of the individual kitchens, and I much prefer to put the kidoodles in charge of these than do them myself. To fairly create a job rotation, I made this job wheel which I change every cooking day:

TABLE – clean off the ingredient table (close lids/boxes/containers, wipe off table)
FLOORS – use the big 3 foot broom to sweep ALL of the kitchens
TOWELS – make sure all towels are in the washing machine, add detergent, start cycle
POWER – check all kitchens to make sure all appliances are turned off

The kids are great about checking the wheel and taking care of business!

Dishwashing Soap

One thing that all new Family & Consumer Science teachers learn within their first two cooking labs is that if you put a full bottle of dishwashing soap out in each of the kitchens, the kids go through it like no tomorrow. For a while I used the smaller bottles and just refilled them from a larger bottle – it got the job done, but the outer labels tended to get pretty gunky after a while. Then I found this fabulous idea from - use craft bottles! Definitely a “why didn’t I think of that???” kind of moment. Fill these up part way and they last for several labs, the squeeze tops prevent extra soap from running down the sides, and they are very easy to clean. Thank you Shelley!

Garbage Cans

This is a departure from the “Color-Coding” theme, but a good tip. I set all of my garbage cans/recycling bins on top of chairs. As we’ve all noticed many high school kids are apparently just a little too tall to be able to successfully navigate trash INSIDE the trash can. They are also so tall that they can’t see their garbage all the way down there on the floor. Raising the trash receptacles to hand level eliminates 99% of that nonsense.

And yes, it is definitely time to take out the recycling!

Garbage Bowls

Rachael Ray is on to something! During "30 Minute Meals" she always has a "garbage bowl" in an easily accessible location on her counter. Brilliant! This made an enormous difference when I introduced them to my foods classes. Each kitchen has its own (color-coded, of course) garbage bowl, in the form of a sand bucket (thank you, Dollar General). This has seriously cut down on trash lying around the counters, traffic to and from the garbage can, and miss-the-can shots (really, how can you not notice that the butter wrapper fell on the floor rather than in the trash can). Highly recommended!

Glass Etching

For quite some time I struggled with how to make ownership of the Pyrex dishes obvious - orange-tinted 13" x 9" baking dishes aren't widely available these days. Pinterest came to the rescue, however, with the brilliant solution: glass-etching! So amazingly easy to do, and the results are stunning.

Ordinary, mild-mannered glass bakeware.

Ordinary, mild-mannered contact paper. I made these using an x-acto
knife, before I discovered the wonder of Cricut. Cricuts cut contact
paper beautifully!

Peeled contact paper, attached to bottoms of glassware.


Glass etching cream - I use Armour Etch. It's cheap, and easy to find
at any craft store (Michael's, Joanne Fabrics, Hobby Lobby, etc).
Rinse, peel, and...


One for each kitchen.

Even works for pie plates!

Not only is this wonderful for organizing FACS kitchens, it also makes for FABULOUS wedding shower gifts! I etched a whole set for one of my best friends with her married name for her shower, and it was a huge hit with her and the rest of the guests. 

Kitchen Color-Coding

November 2, 2016 Update: "Special Dealwith over 100 new FACS resources reopened for Nov 2016-Oct 2017!

The one area of the FACS classroom which takes the most time and creates the most headaches would have to be the kitchens, so this is where I will start. The way I organize my kitchens revolves around one concept: color-coding. Color-coding is pervasive throughout all of my classroom management systems, as we’ll see later on, but nowhere is it more obvious than in the cooking labs.

To begin with, each kitchen is assigned a different color. This is by no means a new idea, as I’ve seen many schools organized this way. Oddly, two of the three schools I’ve taught at did not have such a system in place when I started there. The beauty of the color-coded kitchens is that you know where everything belongs, and it’s easy to communicate which station you’re referring to when giving directions.

Make it Obvious

There are several things I do to make the color-coding system in the kitchens obvious. First, each kitchen has a sign declaring that kitchen’s color – these lovely posters are available at,  my favorite source of FACS posters, etc.

Mini Color Posters, #9113
(also available in different languages!)

Next, every drawer and door is labeled with its contents, and the labels are framed with that kitchen’s color. Not only do the labels aid the color coding-system, they fantastically cut down on “Where is?!” “I can’t find?!” “What drawer?!” etc.

Labels before...

One kitchen drawer

Cabinets with "extras" that don't need to be in kitchens are labeled in red.

The "purple" kitchen

Every kitchen has a “Clean Checklist” for cooking labs (more on those later), and each is framed in that kitchen’s color.

To add a little decorative touch, where possible I hung valances above the sinks using a tension rod and fabric of a corresponding color. Really cheers up the place, too!

With leftover fabric I put together some matching oven mitts.

Whenever that elusive grant money actually comes through, I order some big ticket items for the kitchens – the first order I have placed after starting at two of my schools were KitchenAid stand mixers… in colors that match the kitchens, of course!

Once the stand mixers are in place, I whip up some stand mixer covers in the right colors (not coincidentally, the fabric will match the curtains and the oven mitts!).

Despite all of this, some people still will not get it. Every once in a while a student or a teacher will return a borrowed item, and when I tell them “You can just leave it in the sink of the orange kitchen” they will ask “Which one is that?” Not kidding.


Color-code your kitchen utensils, and no kid can say “that dirty spatula isn’t ours!” when they are in the “Green” kitchen and the spatula itself is a bright green.

Note the pencil box: I have one in each kitchen that holds the can opener and peelers
(two items kids seem to spend inordinate amounts of time searching for), as well as 
a pair of child's safety scissors for opening packages, etc.

Many schools that color-code their kitchens do so by placing a paint dot on each piece of equipment that belongs to the corresponding kitchen. This is a good start, but I prefer to be a bit more obvious and search for equipment that actually comes in that color. This makes identification much quicker and easier, and the equipment itself typically looks nicer and more attractive to the students.

Usually every summer WalMart puts out sets of measuring cups, spatulas, slotted spoons, etc in various colors. The summer before I began teaching at my current school, the colors WalMart had out were blue, green, orange, and purple – thus, those are the colors of my current kitchens. 

Luckily, Rachael Ray also helps out in this department with cookware! Three years in I was able to order colored cookware: blue, orange, and green from RR, purple from the Paula Deen line.

Always, always put the kids in charge of
washing the new dishes!

Not entirely sure why the scissors are out here...

The orange is my personal favorite.

They even look great in the cabinets!

The kids really get into this after a while. Whenever I bring in a new item I have found (colored grater, peeler, pastry brush, etc) they get pretty excited - "That's purple! That's for OUR kitchen!"