Whether you're preparing a meal for one or a feast for family and friends, there are ways to make your kitchen work for you. Various tips have been explored in the videos and lessons available in this section, but here are some more things to consider.

Getting Organized

  • Develop a system so you know where your utensils, spices and ingredients are stored. And make sure that other family members are aware so that they return things to their proper places.
  • Labeling with large print or braille as well as tactile markings can help distinguish similar types of containers or the right setting on an oven or microwave. Wrap a rubber band around the juice container, for example, to tell it apart from the milk.
  • Use all your senses. Touch and hearing can help you identify ingredients and operate appliances. Do you know how to tell a can of cream soup from noodle soup? Listen and feel as you shake the cans - the noodle soup will splash and feel looser. Some stove dials click as you turn the knob to various temperature settings. You can smell toast getting brown to know it's done or burning. Meat is brown when it's rough to the touch.
  • Know your lighting needs. Install under-the-counter lighting and/or use gooseneck, adjustable arm lamps to position light directly onto your work area. Seat yourself so windows are behind you or to your side.

Getting Started

  • Keep cabinet doors fully closed or fully open. Contrasting tape on the insides or backs of cabinet doors can make it easier to tell if one is open. Install contrasting knobs or handles.
  • Use a cutting board that contrasts in color with the items that you're cutting. Long armed oven mitts, dish towels and utensils that contrast with countertops can make them easier to find.
  • Use a timer when heating foods. You'll not only know when the food is done, but get a reminder to turn off the appliance.
  • Divided measuring cups are more accurate and easier to use than a standard measuring cup for both dry and liquid ingredients. It can be difficult to detect the lines for each measure on a standard measuring cup and divided measuring cups are available in a variety of colors, so you can utilize color contrast techniques.

Using Appliances

  • Many appliance manufacturers offer large-print or braille dials, overlays, contrasting color features and marking kits, so ask before you buy.
  • A popular addition to many kitchens, the George Foreman Grill allows you to cook food on both sides simultaneously, without setting any dials or needing to flip or turn the food.
  • Easy-to-set bread machines, crock pots and rotisseries can simplify the cooking process.
  • Install counter-level outlets for easy access, or use battery-operated appliances. Some people feel more in control when using manual appliances.
  • Small countertop appliances - including toaster ovens, coffeemakers and microwaves - may be safer and easier to use for heating food than the oven or stove.

Cooking Tips

  • Record your recipes for easy access. There are cookbooks available in large print and braille as well as on audiocassette. If you're online, you can access recipes from Web sites and print them in an accessible format.
  • Pay attention to the sounds of food cooking. When asked how long a pan of enchiladas needs to be baked, one man said, "When they're talking loudly, not whispering, but fairly shouting, they're done!" Listen for the rolling, bubbling noise that becomes louder and more forceful as liquids boil. Wait to hear the popping of frying food to know it's browning. When the sounds die down, food usually is ready to be turned.
  • As food cooks, odors change. Often you can smell when something is done, for example, when cookies are baked.
  • Smell spices before you sprinkle. There's nothing like mistaking pepper for cinnamon.

Pouring Cold Liquids

  • Use your index finger to position the spout over, and keep it in contact with, the edge of the glass. Slowly pour the liquid into the glass, using your index finger periodically to gauge the level of the liquid. Listen to the change in sound as you pour.
  • Compare the weight of an empty glass with one that's partially or completely full.
  • Use a tray or pan with short sides to support your glass and confine any possible spillage.

Pouring Hot Liquids

  • Place your finger slightly over the edge of the cup and stop pouring as soon as you feel the warmth of the liquid. Be sure your finger is away from the direct flow of the liquid itself. For increased safety, use a liquid level indicator or hot beverage dispenser - both of which are available commercially.
  • Pour liquids over the sink or a tray.
  • Pour dark liquid, such as coffee, into a light-colored cup and vice versa.

Setting Your Table

  • Use contrasting plates, tablecloths, placemats, and napkins. Use light or dark colored plates, glasses, or cups to contrast with food and beverages.
  • Plates that are pattern-free make locating food much easier.
  • Use tinted rather than clear glasses for greater visibility.
  • Push chairs under tables.
  • Use a tablecloth to cut the glare from shiny or polished surfaces such as Formica tabletops.
  • Eat in a well-lit area. Sunshine streaming into a room can cause glare. Consider adjustable window curtains or shades.

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