kitchen tips

Mise en Place: What it Means and Why You Should Know

mise en place 

Are you familiar with the term mise en place? I actually had to look-up the spelling because while I'm familiar with how to say it (it sounds fancy and impressive by the way), I have never actually had to type it out.

Mise en place (mees - en - plos) is a French phrase meaning "putting in place" or "everything in its place."

It refers to how you get things set up before cooking, or organizing and arranging all of your necessary ingredients. Essentially, you do all of your slicing and dicing, measure out all of your spices and get out all necessary tools, cutting boards, etc. so you are ready to rock and roll when you actually start cooking. 

If this sounds like wasted time, I think you should reconsider. It can actually save time because everything is organized and visible, just like on The Food Network (I swear, just like it). I can't even count how many times I have started heating up oil in a skillet only to realize that in addition to a diced onion, I need peeled and sliced ginger (this is the worst), a whole bunch of seasonings and a homemade sauce ready to go in about three minutes. Having to scramble around the kitchen and rush through a recipe with a sharp knife never turns out well. It's not safe, and usually leads to a forgotten step or even worse, burnt garlic.  

Imagine if you had prepped all of the ingredients ahead of time, and then could relax and even sip on a glass of wine along the way?

Mise en place. 

As an example, I made carnitas earlier this week and while the pork was cooking I got my fixings organized, which included warm tortillas, thinly sliced radishes, lime wedges, sliced avocado, and diced white onion mixed with cilantro. If I had waited to do all of this at the very end, the meat and tortillas would have most definitely been cold by the time we actually sat down to eat. Set yourself up for cooking success.

Another tip I love is putting ingredients away (or off to the side) as you use them, so you don't accidentally add them twice. My mom taught me this one and I still do it because it makes so much sense. I find it especially helpful when baking and if you have ever inadvertently forgotten to add salt to a baked good, you'll know why.   


Your Checklist

  • Read through the ingredients list and take everything out and set it out on your counter. This way if you thought you had something on hand that mysteriously disappeared over the last few days (does this happen to anyone else?) you will know before you get started. 
  • Take out any measuring cups and spoons you need, plus any other tools or appliances like knives, cutting boards, food processor, or skillets. 
  • At a minimum, do at least some of the chopping since this is usually the most time-intensive step
  • If you are feeling up to it and have small sauce dishes on hand, you can measure out your seasonings ahead of time
  • Lastly, put items away as you use them to avoid adding multiple times

Mise en place is a key skill to learn when you are just getting started with cooking to prevent overlooking a step or getting mixed up because of stress. I think cleaning while you go can also make the cooking experience way easier and less time-intensive, and this all kind of works in synergy. There are two types of home cooks in this world - those who mise en place, and those are more of the "free-for-all" type in the kitchen. Which one are you? 

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How I Made My Kitchen More "Green"

Snack lunch.JPG

In honor of Earth Day on Saturday I wanted to talk about some things I purchased to make my kitchen more “green”. The Minimalist RD and her sustainable kitchen series inspired me to make some simple changes that could save on a whole lot of unnecessary waste! Some of these suggestions were from Erin and others are items I wanted to add to the list. 

Reusable Snack Bags

I hate buying the little zip top baggies but they are so gosh darn convenient! I have been meaning to purchase the reusable ones for a while now and purchased these from Amazon. There are all sorts of cloth patterned ones that I found, but ultimately I went with this option to prevent dry snacks/breads from going stale. These are also freezer safe and seem much easier to wash! I will probably still keep the disposable ones on hand for convenience (like when I’m taking something to-go and won’t be able to hang on to the bag afterward) but can already tell I’ll be way less reliant on them.

Glass Food Storage Jars

I love the look of these and they make organizing a lot easier. I plan to use them for bulk grains, nuts/seeds or any other dry goods. They’re functional but also stylish enough to keep on the counter! You could definitely use standard mason jars, but I like to use my jars for making sauces and packing lunches and I wanted something with a wide mouth that would be easier to scoop so these are perfect. 

Cloth Napkins

It’s always nice to have a napkin with meals just in case you need one, but I found that too often I was taking a paper towel with dinner each night, barely using it, and then somehow throwing it away by the time the kitchen was cleaned up. I like the idea of cloth napkins because, 1) they are a whole lot more visually appealing to look at, and 2) you can use them over and over before having to wash them (unless you have a really messy meal of course) and cut way down on paper towel use. Similarly to what I mentioned about the baggies, I will still keep paper towel on hand for when it makes more sense but I think these will help to cut back on it. I chose this particular option because I love the simple look and the reviews indicated they are actually absorbent unlike some other cloth napkins on the market. 

Microfiber Cleaning Cloths

These also help replace paper towels but from a cleaning standpoint. Jacob’s aunt recently gave me a few of these to try because she loves them so much that she wanted to pay it forward. I have been using them for just a couple of weeks and am already hooked! You can clean glass and mirrors really easily and don’t even need any cleaner (just soak in water and ring out well before using). I also love the way they clean counter tops - for some reason they don’t get all crunchy when they air dry so can also be used to wipe up moisture. Love them!

Reusable Shopping Bags

These are definitely not a new trend by any means, but I wanted to include them on this list any way because I LOVE them. I remember about ten years ago when I first started seeing these pop up on blogs. You had to order them online then – now I get them for free constantly at conferences and special events. I use them for groceries (at least when I remember them) and it cuts way down on plastic bags (I only need 2-3 as opposed to about 50 plastic bags that I end up with otherwise). In addition to just that, I use them for road trips or for packing up dinner supplies if we are going to a friend’s house. I also use the small ones for lunch bags so they are just great all around. 

I think it's important to remember that no one is perfect when it comes to this stuff, but we can all do something to be a little bit less wasteful. Small changes certainly add up to big ones in the long term. Hopefully this provided some inspiration for simple swaps that really make a difference.

Is there anything you have done to make your kitchen more green?