Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mexican Cantina Spice Rack + Additional Storage

Maybe "Mexican Cantina" isn't the right description but it works for me!

Years ago, when we bought our first house together, I wanted to make it our own but we didn't have a lot of money to gut a kitchen and put in new cabinets. We decided to go for an overall Mexican Cantina theme, by hanging fake chili peppers all about (even some light up ones), paint the bad kitchen wallpaper an adobe brown, and putting Terracotta sun tiles just about everywhere. There was also a project to strip the paint off the 1920's steel cabinets which involved industrial strength boat stripper but that's a story for another day. . .

Well that kitchen was a house ago and this new one has some updates but it was kind of ironic that the paint color, that was in place when we moved in, wasn't all that different from the last house. Because someone took the time and money to professionally paint this house, I couldn't justify painting it again. I'm really not the best house painter so I'm leaving well enough alone!

It really lent an excuse to recycle some of our kitchen objects from the old house, including a couple of strands of chili peppers (even the ones that light up) and this spice rack. This spice rack was a quick do it yourself project. The rack itself was part of a McCormick Spice Island set we got years ago (it probably was a wedding gift) full of all the spices you may need to stock a kitchen. I actually just went on to find a picture of what this looked like before we decorated it and with the spices it now goes for about $180 on Amazon but it's a newer version! Here is what ours looked like unadorned (as it's an older version) and I will go on record that I'm pretty sure that we did not spend that much money but it was also close to 15 years ago too. Spices have become more expensive.

This project is very simple. I think the most difficult part was collecting bottle-caps which did take some time to collect as we wanted various ones rather than about 25 Dr. Pepper ones to adorn this rack. I ended up soliciting friends, asking for the throwaways at casinos, and trying beers when we went out to restaurants. We ended up with so many that my son used 100 of them for a "100 Day of School Project" which we limited to soft drink varieties. . .

What we did was drill a little pilot hole in each cap first and then fasten it directly on the wood with a decorative little nail. Nothing fancy, really. . . But I do think it adds a certain level of kitsch to our kitchen. I like how that sounds. . . Kitsch in our kitchen. Say it with me. . .

Now when I first started cooking the rack was able to sufficiently hold all the spices I needed. I think I was pretty basic. The most exotic spice I had in those days was probably Cayenne Pepper or maybe some Garlic Salt. But over the years, I have really learned to appreciate a wider variety of spices with the introduction to so many different cultures. Often I will encounter a new recipe that will require a hunt for new ingredients. We recently tried a Paneer Makhani dish that required fenugreek leaves. Now I could find the powder at quite a few locations but the leaves were elusive. Add items like specialized curry and pepper powders, saffron, cardamon pods, flavored salts, and other choice flavorings and the system has simply been overloaded.

Over the years we have had to add other modules to the spice system. You can actually see the progression. We had the little wire basket in the middle at the old house as well and for a long time that helped with overflow but when we moved we found ourselves soon in the same situation. I was actually chucking spices or hiding them in cupboards. What invariable would happen was I would think we did not have a spice and end up buying it again.

The latest addition to our system is the IKEA item at the bottom of the picture. It's actually two flat trays that can hold a bunch of assorted items. It's made up of two of the baskets, a rail that we cut down to fit in our small section of the wall, and some hooks. My thought is that if I eventually need to I could add a second row to this as the spices continue to expand.

I should probably not tell you this but our spices, with the exception of some oddly shaped items in the middle wire basket, are organized in alphabetical order. I know that's pretty strange but that's who I am.

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