Sustainable Cooks
First Time Visiting? Start Here!

Scattered Sundays

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Alrighty, folks, I need to pick your brain for a moment! I’m planning on doing a blog-wide reader challenge in April or May. It depends on how quickly I can get all this planned.

Here is what I need from you: what topic do you want the challenge to cover? Freezer/pantry clean out? Cook once, eat twice? Meal prepping like a boss? Whaaaaaaat? I want to make this for YOU, so let those ideas flow!

A few quick notes: I don’t want it to require anyone to buy special equipment (so for example, no canning or Instant Pot-related topics), and I want to be accessible to anyone even if they aren’t in the states.

Also, I am planning on running this as a paid (and very affordable) challenge. Hear me out. The last challenge I did took me 60-90 hours to plan, implement, and execute. And it involved sending emails out every day of the challenge. That is a lot of emails for people to read and it can get overwhelming for my readers.

This time, I’d rather have all the information for the participants in one small ebook and then supplement/answer questions in a pop-up Facebook group. Rather than send a link to a recipe that is on my blog in an email, the ebook would include ad-free versions of my recipes and tips used in the challenge all in one place.

Troy switched the wonky handle on the corner cabinet and now I can fully open our oven. I need to put some felt or something on the handle because I 100% know that eventually, we’re going to shatter the window on our oven. We’re why we can’t have nice things.

He also started making the templates for our windowsills. The trim around the windows is white but we’re going with a warm honey-stained natural wood for the sills. There will also eventually be two floating shelves between the two windows in the same color.

I love the clean lines and looks of our kitchen, but we have always planned on adding features to “warm” it up. Without them, I think it looks too industrial. I’m so excited about the floating shelves so I finally have a place to put my cookbooks and a few other items that I can’t wait to display. And no spoilers, but the bookend that I bought for the cookbooks is epic. EPIC.

Once all is said and done, I will do a giant stand-alone wrap-up post on our experiences with our (mostly) DIY kitchen. But after someone asked me a question last week on Facebook about the functionality of drawers vs. standard cabinets, I thought I would highlight the star of the kitchen – our island – in today’s post. Oh, and to not bury the lead, I always and forever want drawers instead of cabinets.

The original plan for this kitchen did not include a cooktop on an island. I only wanted a narrow and moveable prep table with lots of storage in the middle of the kitchen. But, safety codes prevented us from putting a range on the back wall, and thus, we had to adjust. #firstworldproblems

Our island is basically three separate IKEA cabinet frames and we chose drawers instead of a standard shelf with doors. Once they were each assembled, Troy secured them all together with cabinet screws (seriously at the hardware store there are screws called cabinet screws) to create an island that appears to be one-piece. If you want to be fancy, you can call it “bespoke”.

And because I’m no shortie, I wanted, nay, demanded, that the island be built for a tall person. Troy built a super-simple platform outline with 2x8s. We then almost gave ourselves a hernia putting the cabinets on top of the platform and Troy screwed the cabinets to the platform. Using construction lag screws, he then secured the platform to the hardiboard (floor base) before we tiled the floor. That mofo isn’t going anywhere. 

The free counters we salvaged from our friend’s kitchen remodel were not enough to cover the island. The counters are probably 15-20 years old, so the idea of matching them wasn’t really an option. I wanted something complimentary without being matchy.

I love, love, LOVE the look of butcherblock for counters, but they just do not seem practical for a cooktop surround. Especially with how often we use our stove and plan on using the island for prep, canning, and serving.

We settled on stainless and a nice dude in a barn built it for me. It was easy to install and secure to our homemade island. Only time will tell how this holds up/if it was a good idea. We knew ahead of time that it would scratch and it already has quite a bit. This is a working kitchen and actual people live here. 🙂

The stainless is also is a fingerprint magnet but man oh man, it’s really easy to keep clean and sanitize. And honestly, I love how it looks. I use the Method stainless cleaner (I buy it at Target) and these microfiber cloths. I found the normal cleaning cloths I was using seemed to be a bit too rough for a good shiny buff. And everyone loves a shiny buff…

The cooktop cabinet frame is 36 inches wide, and the two cabinet frames on either side are each 24 inches. There are 2 inches of countertop overhang on each short side because I wanted to be able to attach my food mill to it for canning. Priorities.

The cooktop cabinet looks like it is three drawers, but the top one is false to allow for the stovetop to “drop” in. Troy screwed an IKEA drawer front to the cabinet frame to create a false drawer. The middle drawer is considered a “medium” drawer by IKEA’s standards, and the bottom one is a “large”.

an organized kitchen drawer with utensils

The two side cabinets are three drawers with a hidden drawer in each of the top drawers. We originally planned to put a utensil crock on the countertop, but Troy decided that my minimalism is rubbing off on him and he felt it looked too cluttered. The hidden drawers in the top make for a perfect place to organize all our cooking utensils.

a kitchen drawer with pot holders

The middle drawer on the right holds over-sized cooking utensils and potholders. And the bottom drawer holds our cleaning rags and handtowels. We don’t use cleaning wipes in the kitchen, so we always have a huge stash of kitchen-only rags for wiping down counters, etc. There is a small rag bin in the pantry where we put used ones. We also store extra dish strainer mats in this drawer.

kitchen towels in a drawer

All the drawer liners, bins, and organizers are from IKEA. One of the benefits of using IKEA products for IKEA cabinets is that they are built for the exact sizes of all the drawers they offer. There is zero guesswork. And we bought all this stuff; IKEA isn’t paying me to talk about it or anything. None of these IKEA/Target are affiliate links and I do not earn a penny if you buy them. 

These are the white tubs, this is the bamboo utensil organizer, these are the drawer liners, and this is the white divided utensil organizer. IKEA ships non-furniture items for really cheap, so if you order online it would be $5-10 ish. The drawer mats have various cutting lines on the back that make them easy to trim to fit in all the different IKEA drawers.

spices in a kitchen drawer

This brings us to the cooktop drawers. The top one holds all our spices, oils, etc. These items used to be in the small spice cabinet by our stove in the old kitchen. Those metal spice tins (we have these ones) are magnetic, so I used to have them stacked on multiple lazy susans. It was always a dangerous game of spice Tetris when I needed anything. Oh, and they came with the labels.

This is where I got the little spice choir risers (I imagine smoked paprika is an alto) that hold the tins, and the spice luge tunnels are these from IKEA. I’ve used those little canning jars for years to organize certain things like baking soda and Maldon or pretzel salt. 

pots and pans in a kitchen drawer

The bottom drawer is where I store our most-frequently-used pots and pans. I received this pan organizer for Christmas (or maybe it was my birthday?) and it is adjustable to fit what you want to store in there. I have to stack some of my enameled cast iron to make everything fit, so I use a tea towel between the lid and base to prevent any damage.

All my cast iron skillets are from thrift stores and you can find out how I rescue/season rusty cast iron in this post. This is our 4-quart dutch oven and this is the shallow brassiere pan. The rest of what we have is a hodgepodge of orphaned pans. <—fun fact, after we got married, I realized Troy didn’t know hodgepodge was an actual word. He thought I was just making up sayings.

a junk drawer

To the right of the cooktop, we have another set of three drawers. The top drawer has a hidden drawer in there because I realized if I didn’t create a junk drawer, we’d eventually just have junk shoved into corners of the kitchen. And because I live in a house with all males, there is already enough “junk” around, thankyouverymuch.

ziplocs in a drawer

The other top drawer has our foil, parchment, and Ziplocs. We rarely turn to single-use plastic bags, but it nice to have some on hand. I believe the box tops on these Ziplocs expired in 2018, so yeah, we’ve had these awhile. 🙂 I also keep a little container of generic Lactaid chewables here for Jack.

cloth napkins in a drawer with other bins

The middle drawer is a hodgepodge (IT’S A WORD) of bins and miscellaneous items. This little bamboo tub (I removed the hand in the middle) holds our cloth napkins that we use every single day for every single meal. We generally each keep one on the table from breakfast through dinner and then throw them all in the rag bin at the end of the day.

The white bin holds our reusable storage bags (like these Stasher ones) and these reusable silicone tops that I accidentally bought one year but have been so thankful to have. To the right, that skinny plastic bin came with a set I got for my birthday, holds small funnels, my larger ones that I use for canning and filtering our cold brew coffee.

lunch boxes in a drawer

The bottom drawer holds the boy’s Yumboxes and lunch bags, which weren’t in use for almost 11 months. Boo. We also have a random box of rubber gloves in this drawer. Troy wears them when he makes his famous hamburger patties, and I like to wear them when rolling Air Fryer Meatballs. I also wear them while cleaning the chicken coop and cleaning the ash out of the woodstove.

And that’s it! Thanks for coming to my island tour. I’m sure many of us would rather be on a real island, traveling and having a great time in the sun. But alas. Let me know if you have any questions!

a white kitchen island with a stainless countertop

The boys were both gone on the same day twice this week. The house was gloriously quiet, and I was able to knock out photos for five recipes. FIVE! And I didn’t have to trip over Nerf darts, magnet blocks, or a battalion of army guys while I was carrying food.

We recently upgraded some of our furniture and got a gorgeous mid-century modern chair from Costco. Between our TV stand that I found at a garage sale for $15 (that a reader’s mom later identified as a very valuable collector’s item) and the chair, Troy has been joking that our living room is like the Mad Men set.

The chair is now in the way of where I take my photos. And unlike the old little dresser, we had there, I can’t prop my bounce boards against it. Our footstool no longer works for my photo surfaces, and honestly, taking photos was becoming a giant chore. 

I found a little adjustable table that works perfectly for all my photo needs. It folds up pretty compactly and I am storing it under our couch. It is the little things that make me happy, especially since photos are my least favorite part of this job, but one of the most important.

a folding table in front of a window

Last month my sister sent me a link showing that Bubly is now making unsweetened flavor “drops” for Sodastream. We’ve had a Sodastream for years and years, but we also LOVE Bubly. I hate paying for the flavored sparkling water and even though we recycle the cans and cardboard, it’s still a lot of waste.

I did the math and if I did it correctly, the drops are 400% cheaper than buying the cans, and probably 95% less packaging/waste. So we got that going for us.

I bought the Bubly flavor pack to try and they taste exactly the same as the cans. You’re supposed to add the flavor to your liters of sparkling water, but I knew that would lead to a battle every night at dinner with the boys. I don’t have any patience for those stupid little arguments. We already have enough of them.

We found these little screw-on eye droppers that fit the flavor bottles. Now, everyone can flavor their own glass, there are no battles, and it opens the door for creativity. I think so far the favorite flavor combos are Mango/Strawberry and Blackberry/Lime.

a woman in workout clothes

I hit a new milestone with my running this week! On Wednesday, I set out with the goal of 3.75 miles. I still had a little gas in the tank at 3.75, so I decided to make it an even 4 miles.

It was 32 degrees F, I had a cramp in one big toe, and I really had to pee, but I did the run. The entire time I’m running, I keep asking myself if this will ever seem natural/get easier. I honestly doubt that it will, but I’ll just keep faking it until I make it.

I ended up 2 miles from home when I finished, and that was a very long cooldown. At one point, I saw our milkman out making deliveries and was tempted to hop on the truck because I knew he was eventually headed to our house.

Due to the hills in my neighborhood, I have to walk 1.25 miles straight up hills in order to get to a spot that is flat enough to run. I was so ticked that my watch was glitching and didn’t track that first walk. Between that walk, the run, and the walk home, I should have logged 7 miles by 9:30 am. 

The temps had warmed up to a cozy 37 F when I finally got home. I then face-planted into breakfast (a plate of Make-Ahead Scrambled Eggs, bacon that I batch cook in the oven, Encurtido on the side, and a big square of a coffee cake recipe that I’m sharing with you next week).

Despite wearing gloves on the run, my hands were almost useless for 90 minutes after I got home, even after a super hot shower. For whatever reason, the tips of my middle fingers are the last ones to “thaw” out when I’ve been really cold. I’m not looking forward to working out in the summer when it is hot, but I think I’ll be pleased by a moderate spring.

Within an hour of eating breakfast, I decided that it was time for lunch. Who cared that it was only 10:30 am? Not this girl! I was so pleased to have the last of the leftover Instant Pot Chicken Pot Pie because it is the kind of soup that improves so much after a few days in the fridge. I would be a happy camper if there was always a container of leftovers of this in my fridge.


A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Troy and I were looking for a new series to slowly watch. I finally convinced him to watch The Americans. He really likes it but finds it depressing after a few days in a row. Kind of like Yellowstone, he thinks there are no characters who are good humans, and thus no one to root for.

To offset the intensity of The Americans, we’ve been throwing in a few episodes of The Last Man on Earth. We watched this series a few years ago, and holy smokes it is still so funny. Ironically it is about a virus that wipes out almost the entire population in the year 2020. So errr, that’s…something. 

Have you been watching anything good lately? I’ve heard great things about The Flight Attendant, but I do think we need a good funny series as our next one. Is Wanda Vision a must-see?


The last year has seen many of us increase our online ordering for well, everything. If you shop online and aren’t using Rakuten, you’re missing out on free money.

Rakuten partners with thousands of online retailers to offer you cash back for the purchases you were already making. And new users can get $25 cashback once they spend $25 on any online purchase. Sign up here for Rakuten and start saving money today

What I’m Listening To This Week

I’ve mentioned The Dream a few years ago, but this podcast HOLDS UP! Season one tackles MLMs and their predatory practices. If you’re not pissed off when you’re done listening, I’d be shocked.

What I’m Reading This Week

This was a great week in books! I finished Surviving the White Gaze, and then smashed through The Hunting Party in less than 48 hours. If you read The Guest List, it is by the same author.

I’m now reading Anxious People, and I found it a slow start but am finding my rhythm with it. My friend said this author’s books are pokey in the beginning but then halfway through you realize they’re amazing.

Reader Spotlight of the Week

Gigi left this five-star review in our Instant Pot Chicken Chili (and actually inspired me to make it this coming week!) {Pin this recipe}:

This is my crew’s favorite soup right now! It tastes delish on day 1 and even better on days 2 and 3! Everyone cheers when they hear it’s what’s for dinner. Pair it with some cornbread and I have a fast meal done on crazy weeknights.  Everyone walks away from the table satisfied and fighting over who gets the leftovers the next day.  Win in my book! Great recipe Sarah!

A white bowl of Instant Pot Chicken Chili with lime and cilantro on a white board

On Sustainable Cooks This Week

Gluten-Free Quiche – Super easy and so tasty, Gluten-Free Quiche is delicious for breakfast, lunch, or even dinner. Packed with veggies and dairy-free, this hash brown quiche is also Whole30 compliant. {Pin this recipe}

gluten-free quiche in a cast iron skillet topped with parsley and sliced tomatoes

Instant Pot Sushi Rice – Make perfect restaurant-quality Instant Pot Sushi Rice for a speedy dish that the whole family will love! This homemade sushi rice is great for sushi bowls and making your own rolls at home. No pressure cooker? You’ll also find stovetop instructions in the recipe. {Pin this recipe}

a white bowl with sushi rice on a white board

Confessions – Everyone’s favorite post of the month!

A woman with a finger up to her mouth saying "shhhhh"

The Five Most Popular Posts This Week

  1. Air Fryer Egg Rolls – vegan/vegetarian as written, but you can make your version to your tastes.  {Pin this recipe}
  2. Air Fryer Potatoes – skip using the oven and make these crispy taters in the air fryer.  {Pin this recipe}.
  3. Air Fryer Pizza Rolls – the childhood favorite with none of the burns on the roof of your mouth.  {Pin this recipe}
  4. Air Fryer Chocolate Chip Cookies – a no-brainer. These cookies rule. {Pin this recipe}
  5. Air Fryer Pretzel Bites – always a good reminder that I need to make another batch of these for the freezer. {Pin this recipe}

Meal Plan

Monday:: Trying this Chicken Parmesan Casserole from Lemons and Zest and salad.

Tuesday:: Instant Pot Chicken Chili with Air Fryer Cornbread and salad.

Wednesday:: Takeout to support a local small business.

Thursday:: A new recipe that I’m trying out that has been on my “to do” list for 18 months and I have been dreading it. So, …yeah? Garlic Butter Green Beans on the side (I use frozen green beans in winter).

Friday:: Popcorn, leftovers, and movie night.

Saturday:: A new Instant Pot recipe I’m testing for the blog + veggies.

Sunday:: Takeout to support a local small business.


What are you having this week?


This post contains affiliate links and we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you if you click through and make a purchase.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

19 comments on “Scattered Sundays”

  1. When we remodeled our kitchen about five years ago, I decided on all drawers, no lower cabinets except under the sink. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. The other great decision I made was to have a pull-out drawer installed under the sink. I (and every woman I have ever known) has hated opening those doors . . . and now, I actually enjoy it! It is no longer a black hole and I can find anything I want immediately. I will never live in another house without a pull-out undersink drawer. Never!

    I have been watching One Born Every Minute on Amazon Prime. It is not for the faint of heart and definitely not for men. Troy would run out of the room screaming as loudly (if not louder) than the laboring women on the show. Everybody has already watched Schitt’s Creek and Community. Some shows I have enjoyed that are not normal fare are: Republic of Doyle, The IT Crowd, and Fisherman’s Friends (a movie) . . . Netflix. On Amazon Prime, Escape to the Country, New Tricks, Rosemary and Thyme, The Vicar of Dibley, Ballykissangel. If you have either Acorn or BritBox, there is a whole other world of great programming out there . . . I could “wax eloquent” on Doc Martin, 800 Words, Agatha Raisin, Miss Fisher, A Place to Call Home.

    As for ideas for challenges, I would be interested in cooking once, eating twice (or more). The one I need is freezer/pantry clean-out . . . this much is true: In an honest-to-goodness pandemic, we would never starve. We have plenty of everything with a lot either expired or heading rapidly toward their expiration dates.

    • Do you mean like a drawer directly under the sink and then there is a cabinet under that? That sounds lovely! Our sink dictated the cabinet options and while I couldn’t choose this one if we were starting from scratch, it’s fine.

      Troy is a firefighter and EMT and sees things that make me want to run out of the room screaming. It probably wouldn’t be his favorite thing to watch, but I know he could stomach it. His stories make me want to barf. HA!

      Judging by your suggestions, I’m guessing you are not into violent shows, but if you are, and like British entertainment, we LOVE Peaky Blinders on Netflix. It is very graphic though. Be warned.

  2. Love love LOVE the island!!! I especially love the drawers instead of cabinets!

    My dad recently inherited my great-grandparent’s house and I want so badly to redesign the kitchen! I always thought it was tiny and awkward growing up but a few years ago I was sitting with my great-gramdma one weekend after a hip break/surgery and decided to organize her canned goods….I quickly realized how awful the lower cabinets were and thought “drawers would be so much better and easier to work with here.”

    As far as the challenge goes, I like the idea of a meal prep/cook once eat twice type of deal. Something like “if you prep and freeze these various meal components then you can throw together these recipes quickly.” I’m not big on frozen casseroles but I love taking some meat I cooked and froze (for faster cooking on weeeknights) and making a casserole ya know?

    • Do you think he’ll let you redesign it? It could be a fun project for the two of you. We used IKEA’s kitchen planning softare. While it is super clunky, it is totally free. Maybe throw up some plans and show him? Pique his interest a bit?

      I totally get what you’re saying, and that is basically how I cook every single day. Mise en place on point.

      • He might? It’s so hard to read my dad; no clue what goes on in his head lol

        Yes! Mise en place all day, every day!

  3. That kitchen island is freaking amazing. The simplicity and clean lines make me want to clear all the crap off my own island so bad. I love the drawers hidden in the drawers, we may live in the same state, but with those you are living in a completely different dimension.
    Do your fingers turn white or just stay really cold? My best friend growing up had Raynaud’s Syndrome, and her fingers (especially the middle and ring finger) would stay white and numb for hours after playing outside.

    • Ha, the other dimension comment made me giggle!

      I’ll be honest in that neither of us wanted the olive oil, salt, or pepper on the counter after we realized how great it looked bare. But after three days of constantly reaching for those 3 items in the drawer, I decided I hated storing them with the fire of 1,000 suns.

      I’m familiar with Raynaud’s but I don’t think I have it. My hands were hit by a fireball in 2005 when my 1940’s vintage gas stove in our LA apartment exploded after a friend messed with it. So, now, my hands get pink when they are cold. They might be white under all that, but it’s hard to say.

      My mom had terrible circulation, so I think it is just genetic. I might have some sweet compression stockings in my future.

  4. I found the Flight Attendant super addictive, but definitely NOT kid friendly! I also really liked Wanda Vision, but I am also kind of a Marvel geek. My parents started watching it and got super confused, so they are now watching all the movies to catch up before they finish the series. So, if you have a good grasp on Marvel it is great. If not, it is still good, but more confusing than it needs to be.
    Right now the hubs and I are watching Kim’s Convenience (Netflix?) as a silly respite from The Expanse (Prime?) which is a fairly intense SciFi series. We have also dabbled in Resident Alien (Hulu?), which is pretty good.

    Super excited to see how your kitchen turned out. Mine is fine, but WAY too small for all the goodies I purchased/earned during my 7 year stint working at a cookware store a la Sur la Table. I love all your recipes too! Thanks for all the hard work you put into everything, this is my favorite blog!!!

    • Oh yeah, we don’t watch that stuff with the kids. We save 40 minutes for ourselves after they’re in bed, which is why it takes us eons to get through a series.

      We have definitely seen most of the Marvel movies, so I think we could hang ok.

      Wow, you were at Sur la Table for 7 years? I bet you have AMAZING stuff in your kitchen. So impressed. And thanks for being a reader. 🙂

  5. Oh man, if I could have a kitchen that was 90% drawers, I’d be happy!

    We have some chicken in the IP right now so we can do tacos tonight, then the hubby likes to take have a baked potato with shredded chicken and cheese for lunch and the kiddo likes chicken salad salad.

    And if I’m up for it, I’ll pull the chicken out and immediately get some beef stew going.

  6. My 9-year-old has recently decided to become a vegetarian, which we totally support. My husband and I did it for a few years before they were around….my 11-year-old son is totally meat/potatoes, and Bento boxes were made for my 5-year-old as she is pretty picky. I have some general ideas, but any additional recipes that are easy to modify without using additional pots/pans and utensils would always be appreciated 🙂 We love your air fryer tofu recipe!

  7. Hi! The Flight Attendant is a book and it’s very good. Just a PSS in case you want to read before you watch. I haven’t watched it yet. 

  8. Love that kitchen and island.  My dream kitchen.  When we remodeled our house everything was done at once so it wasn’t thoughtful like yours.  Our neighbor has stainless counters and they just have them buffed when they start to look rugged.  I laughed out loud when I saw your photo table. I have the same one at work as my school has zero space and I’m always hunting for a spot to work with the kids.  People giggle when they see me carrying the “ironing board”.  

    • You’re so right – it looks EXACTLY like a toy ironing board we had growing up. That is too funny. I love that it is lightweight and I can slide it under my couch which is so convenient.

      I had no idea they could be buffed. I’ll have to look into it eventually. Thank you!