The kitchen is a retreat for me. The rest of the world slips away, and my head clears almost instantly. Last night I came home from work and baked a cake for a coworker's birthday. And I started thinking about how easily cooking and baking can become overwhelming and stressful for people.
Hence, my strategy aka the 123 method to a stressfree kitchen (yes, I just made that name up right now - catchy, isn't it?)
1. Read the entire recipe first. I am sometimes guilty of skipping this step, which means I get to the second page of the recipe and realize I needed to have a pot of water boiling 15 minutes ago.
2. Mise en place. This is just a fancy term for good prep work. If you are baking, you should measure all your ingredients and place them in separate bowls. If you are cooking, you should wash and chop your veggies and measure out any ingredients. It makes you feel very Martha Stewart in the kitchen, because you just whisk around tossing your premixed ingredients into pots and pans.
3. Clean as you go. I think the most exhausting thing is when you finish a beautiful meal and then turn around and face a filthy kitchen with piles of dishes. Instant buzzkill. My theory is that you should never be standing still in the kitchen. Wash dishes as you go along. There is always time. When you're baking, wash dishes and wipe counters while you cream the butter and sugar. If you're cooking, do it while your veggies saute or while your water boils. When I pop a finished dish in the oven, I immediately pull out the broom and sweep the floor. By the time I'm done in the kitchen, I have drying rack full of clean dishes, freshly scrubbed counters and a clean floor. It's like magic.
You also need to accept the fact that not every dish works out every time. It happens to absolutely everyone. In these instances, I recommend a large glass of wine and a good laugh. Sometimes that's really all there is to do.