Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Kitchen Clean up

One of the magazines I enjoy to read online is Real Simple. They have some much great stuff which is useful, and best of all it's online so you don't end up with the clutter of magazines.

I recently read this article about keeping your kitchen clean. My comments are marked by *LS* (Living Simple).

12 Kitchen Cleanup Tips

Strategies for cleaning before — and while — you cook to minimize the post-meal mess.

1. Cover the counter.
To limit the mess when preparing meat, chicken, or fish, consider lining countertops with butcher paper (buy it from your supermarket meat department), then fold it up with the scraps and toss it when you're done. The plastic coating keeps juices and goop from seeping onto the counter, saving you one messy cleaning chore.

*LS* I normally buy in bulk, so I do all the fat cutting as soon as I buy it. I keep the plastic bag that it came in on the counter and place all the scraps on that. I pre-cut all the wax paper that I wrap them in to freeze, so as soon as they are clean I can wrap them up. I live by my kitchen scissors! Then I don't have to deal with a cutting board.

2. Cook simply.
"The recipe you cook for Tuesday night is not the recipe you cook on Saturday night," says Chris Kimball, founder and editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine and host of America's Test Kitchen (on PBS stations). For Kimball's family, weeknights call for one-pot meals (soups, stews), dishes cooked fast on high heat (stir-fries, saut├ęs), or pastas, with fruit for dessert. He saves the elaborate, messy meals with multiple side dishes — and bowls and pans and cleanup — for the weekend.

*LS* Slow cookers and casseroles are the best! You can prep them over the weekend, or on a night that you have time. Then you just have to pop them in the oven, (or turn on in the morning for the slow cooker), and you have a yummy meal!

3. Keep the refrigerator clear.
A crowded refrigerator is an invitation to spills from things knocked over as you rifle through it before dinner. Start labeling and dating leftovers (with a grease pencil or masking tape and a pen) when you put them away and there will be no more wondering whether the salsa is past its prime. So excavation isn't needed every time you put groceries away, clear the shelves each week before you head to the market. And try a trick for keeping shelves neat from Joni Hilton, author of Housekeeping Secrets My Mother Never Taught Me (Prima Lifestyles, $18, www.amazon.com) and founder of the cleaning-products company Holy Cow: Use large bins to corral like items — smoothie fixings, jams and jellies, sandwich condiments, lunch meats, and cheeses. "It's amazing how clean your fridge stays," she says. And you'll spend less time trying to find the mustard.

*LS* I am definitely guilty of forgetting what we have in the fridge. I have done the labeling in the past and it works wonders! It also helps to put your new leftovers behind the old ones, instead of just stinking it in the front, and the old gets forgotten. Also, make sure that everything in your fridge has a place, just like everything else you have. Have a certain shelf where you put the eggs, the yogurt, leftovers, etc. It makes it simpler to see what you have and what you need, plus it makes it easy to put groceries away, because you don't have to find a place to stick it.

4. Fill the sink with hot, soapy water.
Then, as you work, drop in the tools and dishes you've used and let soak. (Put knives in a tall glass or other container so you don't risk cutting yourself later.) When it's time to straighten up, a quick drain and rinse often does the trick.

*LS* This works great if you have a double sink, or if you don't need it while you are cooking. I don't, so I just stick the dirty dishes in the sink to free up the limited counter space we do have.

5. Cook cleanly.
Line baking and roasting pans with foil or parchment paper to save scrubbing later. Find parchment paper at the grocery store or parchment pan liners online at www.webstaurantstore.com; $6.50 for 100. Slip a piece of foil or parchment between a pot's rim and the lid to keep the lid spotless. Coat measuring cups and spoons with nonstick spray so sticky ingredients, like peanut butter, molasses, and honey, slide right out and the cups and spoons clean up easily. After washing meats or vegetables that will go into hot oil in a skillet, limit the sizzling (and avoid getting spatters of oil all over every nearby surface) by thoroughly drying them with a paper towel before adding them to the pan — or use a spatter shield over the pan.

*LS* Spending extra money? No thanks. Instead of using the nonstick sprays, I save my butter/margarine wrappers. You'd be surprised how much is left on it after it's seemingly used up. It works great! Have a burnt on mess? Fill the pot with hot water and let a dryer sheet soak in it for awhile. My mom taught me this when I burnt rice. It's amazing how well it works!

6. Clean up in stages.
Keep a bowl beside your cutting board to toss scraps into as you work, containing the mess instead of spreading it over the counter. When you're done, empty it, clear away any dishes you've used for pre-prep, and put away ingredients you don't need before you begin to cook. Do a similar deck clearing at each stage, if you can, to make working easier and buildup lighter.

*LS* This is a must for those of us with small galley kitchens and hardly any counter space.

7. Wear your towel.
Tuck a towel into the waistband of your apron (oh yes, wear an apron). Then you won't have to search for it when you need to wipe up small spills, which in turn won't sit around becoming sticky blobs that need scrubbing later.

*LS* Ok, so I don't wear (or own) an apron. Since I have such a tiny kitchen I keep my towel over the handle to the oven, so I know where it is. But you can always toss it over your shoulder if you'd like to keep it on you.

8. Use your downtime.
While the water is boiling, the oven is heating, or onions are softening in the pan, you can be doing small-dose cleaning: Load the dishwasher to clear the sink; wipe up that spill; sweep the kitchen floor. You'll thank yourself later.

*LS* This is a must! You can also use that time to prep the next step for your dinner.

9. Tap into phone time.
Place the gear for a cleaning project — say, mineral oil and a cloth for oiling the cutting boards — near your phone to remind you to tackle it the next time you find yourself on hold with your credit-card company, author Joni Hilton suggests.

*LS* We don't have a land line, so I would be toting projects in my purse if I was keep them by my phone! I also wouldn't like the clutter of having it sitting out. Instead post your to-do projects on the fridge, or another handy place. Use a dry erase board to keep a list being environment friendly, or a note pad works just as well.

10. Set and bus your table like a pro.
Use a rolling cart — whether wicker, wood, or a little red wagon — to carry dishes and silverware to the table, then clear it of dirty dishes, in one trip each way. This is a chore kids are often eager to help with, says Hilton, a mother of four. At the very least, teach everyone to clear and rinse his own plate.

*LS* I think a cart is a little much, even if you don't live in an apartment where it's two steps from the table to the sink. Serving trays work just as well, and they take up much less space. If you have a decorative one you can hang it on the wall when not in use for a dual purpose of art and storage. If not, they can fit easily on top of the fridge, out of the way and not taking up much space.

11. Clear the clutter.
After dinner, gather the odds and ends from the rest of the house that have found their way onto the kitchen counters, the top of the refrigerator, or the floor, then put them all in a basket and have a helper find their homes. Drop little I-don't-know-where-to-put-this items, such as toy parts and twist ties, into a pretty bowl that can serve as a temporary catchall. (A clutter-control solution you might consider when you have the time: Remove all the utensils, appliances, and tea cozies you never use from your most accessible drawers and countertops and store them somewhere else, like the basement or the garage, in clear plastic bins with labels marked CAKE BAKING, THANKSGIVING, whatever.)

*LS* This is great for families with young children. Where it's just hubby and I, it's easy for both of us to do a quick walk through either after dinner, or before bed (I normally do this while brushing my teeth...gotta love multi tasking!), and pick up all of our stuff that may have cluttered the area.

12. Run the dishwasher before bed.
Placing similar items together in the machine means you'll make fewer trips around the room to empty it. Sarah Aguirre, a mother of five and an adviser to the housekeeping section of About.com, runs her dishwasher after dinner and tries to empty it every night before bed (or else before making breakfast) to keep dishes from piling up in the sink with nowhere to go. What could be sadder — except you, having to face them in the morning?

*LS* We don't use the dishwasher at our new place (actually we don't think it works), but if possible we try to hand wash our dish before bed. Something about having the sink filled with dishes make the kitchen seem cluttered, and a cause for a panic attack. It's so refreshing to walk into the kitchen in the morning and have it clean, especially if I'm already flustered and running late for work.

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