I like to keep a clean kitchen, but every few months I just love giving the kitchen a good scrub down and getting everything all freshened up organized. And now that the holidays are upon us, it’s time to get to work.
Kitchen cleaning tips.
Scrub the cast iron. A good cast iron pan will give you a lifetime worth of cooking so give it the TLC it deserves. Pour a good layer of coarse salt on the surface of the pan and a give it a good scrub with a soft sponge. The salt will lift away stuck on food and absorb oil without ruining the seasoning on the pan. If your pan needs another coat of seasoning, it will take better after a salt scrub. And if you’re ready for some new cast iron skillet recipes, we’ve got them right here.
Clean your oven. Self cleaning ovens are a God send. But if you have an old fashioned model, now’s the time to give it a good going over. For a (non-toxic) cleaning solution, make a paste out of water and baking soda. Coat the oven surfaces with that paste (not any heating elements or bare metal) and let that stand overnight. In the morning, put on some rubber gloves and scrub the paste off with a plastic spatula. A wet sponge should take off all remaining residue.
Clean cutting boards. If you use a wooden cutting board, every few weeks give it a good sprinkle of coarse salt and scrub with a sliced lemon. Rinse well with hot water and your board will be nice and fresh.
Clean the fridge. Take everything out of the fridge and wipe all interior surfaces down with some hot, soapy water. As you put everything back, toss out all outdated condiments and items you’re not going to use. Replace the box of baking soda!
Pantry purge. Take everything out and wipe down the shelves. Toss out anything that hasn’t been used and won’t be used. Spices lose their spiciness after a while! Treat yourself to some new staples. A good clean sweep in the pantry will perk it up like nothing else. Ditch the stuff you don’t use and donate it to a food bank if it’s worthy. Get that pantry magazine-photo worthy!
Meal planning. One essential tool that I think every home cook needs is a subscription to Dinner Answers! I swear this will change your life. This is the product that really put Saving Dinner on the map, and once you use our menu planning system you will have a hard time going back to anything else. You get access to our full database of recipes and weekly meal plans with shopping lists! Check it out here!
Would you believe there’s all kinds of fresh food, free for the taking out there in the great outdoors? If there’s a forest or a meadow nearby, you may be able to forage for some delicious fall edibles.
I love gardening, but I also love harvesting food I didn’t have to grow. And this time of year, there are many foods to be found in the wild. Foods like the following:
Apples. The end of the apple season is almost here, but, depending on where you live, you can still find some later varieties of apple. Wild apples are usually organic, so you might find some worms in them, but you’ll also know they aren’t coated in pesticides.
Mushrooms. There’s possibly an edible mushroom growing in your backyard right now. Wild mushrooms can be found all over the world, and many varieties are perfectly safe to eat. (Of course you shouldn’t eat a wild mushroom unless you’re 100% sure it’s safe, so do your research before picking anything.) Personally? I adore wild morels and chanterelles.
Grapes. Wild grapes grow all over the place. If you find a vine full of juicy wild grapes, they will make a wonderfully healthy juice, jelly or maybe even wine.
Cranberries. If you live around a marshy or boggy woodland, you might be lucky enough to find cranberries growing wild. You may also find cranberries growing on shrubs.
Pawpaw. Pawpaw fruits are just now starting to be commercialized. Pawpaw tastes a bit like banana, melon and mango all rolled into one fruit. This fruit grows on trees and looks like clumps of mangoes growing in a bunch. Pawpaw is difficult to find in the wild, but if you can spot them, the taste is worth the search.
Walnuts. Walnuts are the holy grail of foraging. If you’re fortunate enough to have walnut trees growing nearby, get yourself some of those delicious nuts! The fruit of the walnut tree are large and round like tennis balls. Once the fruit has dried, go ahead and crack the shell to get to the nut inside.
Rose hips. After the leaves fall from the rose bushes, it’s easy to spot rose hips. Rose hips taste best after the first frost. They don’t taste very good when they’re raw, but rose hips are quite tasty cooked. You can mix rose hip juice with honey to create a nutritious fruit syrup.
Acorn squash is a winter squash that gets its name from its acorn-like shape. The skin is usually green and the flesh is an appealing shade of orange that looks similar to pumpkin. The flavor of acorn squash is sweet and somewhat buttery. Many acorn squash cooking methods enhance these qualities by adding sugar and butter but it can also be served as a savory dish all on its own.
Acorn squash is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A and beta carotene. Being fat free and low in calories is an extra bonus. Choose an acorn squash that feels heavy for its size and has smooth, dull skin. Acorn squash can keep for up to three months if stored in a cool, dry place.
Preparing an acorn squash is as easy as 1-2-3… 1. Cut the acorn squash open. 2. Remove the fibers and seeds. 3. Season and cook.
Here’s today’s TRICK:
The seeds can be seasoned and toasted just like pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack.
Here’s a TIP:
If you have trouble slicing your acorn squash open, pop it into microwave for a minute or two to soften it up a bit.
And your RECIPE:
The most popular way to serve acorn squash is to cut in half, scoop out the seeds and then fill (did I just say FILL??… I mean spread) the center with butter and brown sugar. The halves are then placed on a baking sheet and roasted for about an hour or until soft. Cinnamon and nutmeg can be added to enhance the flavor.
A healthier way to serve acorn squash is to drizzle it with olive oil and chopped fresh rosemary before roasting. Acorn squash is also a wonderful candidate for pureeing to create an autumn soup. You can simmer onions, carrots, and celery together in some chicken broth, and then add some mashed cooked acorn squash and puree everything; add coconut milk to make it into a creamy soup (the chicken broth will add flavor). I like a little thyme and some sea salt and pepper to taste–talk about easy!
Do you remember that nursery rhyme about uncooperative Mary? It goes like this:
Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row.
I don’t know what a cockle shell is and right now my garden is in need of a cleanup, but my pantry is also looking a little bleak. Let’s not be contrary and really get things cooking, shall we? As we get ready for this next season, we need to get down to brass tacks and start cleaning house… and the pantry for that matter!
How’s your pantry looking? Do you have 5 cans of tuna scattered about the cupboard instead of all stacked up together. Can you find cereal boxes here, there and everywhere? How about your staples, like flour, sugar, baking powder, cornstarch, etc.? Are they grouped together into a baking center or do you have to go on a pantry scavenger hunt to find them all?
Let’s do a little pantry perk-up, shall we? Set your timer for 15 minutes and start getting your dry goods in logical order. Like goes with like. You’ll want a shelf for the canned goods (and put the same thing all together, too). A big basket to hold your bags of dried beans, a smaller basket to hold envelopes of spice blends, mixes, etc. (look around the house, I bet you have what you need), and if you haven’t done it already, big containers (I like big glass jars) for your flour, sugars, oatmeal, etc. Putting dried goods like flour etc. into containers will keep the bugs out!
Getting your pantry together will help you get your meal planning in order, too. Don’t forget to declutter your pantry if necessary. Get rid of the stuff you don’t use (donate it to a food bank if it’s good, usable food) and watch your pantry take shape. I want to challenge you to make a meal out of something in there this week!
Here’s a wonderful easy dinner recipe (from one of our low-carb menus) to get you in the mood for a good pantry routing:
Heat 1/4 cup of the wine (or chicken broth) to boiling in a skillet. Cook chicken in wine, turning once, until brown. Remove chicken and keep warm.
Add garlic, onions, olive oil, Italian seasoning, bell peppers, olives and remaining wine (or broth) to skillet and heat till boiling. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Add chicken back to the skillet, reducing heat to medium low. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until chicken is cooked thoroughly.
Per Serving: 212 Calories; 5g Fat; 27g Protein; 4g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 66mg Cholesterol; 117mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 3 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 1 Fat. Points: 4
LC SERVING SUGGESTION: Serve over cauli-rice alongside sauteed green beans. (To make cauli-rice trim cauliflower and cut into piece small enough to feed through food processor tube. Process cauliflower till it is grainy and resembles rice. Steam ‘rice’, and fluff with a fork.)
SERVING SUGGESTION: Add some brown rice instead of Calui-Rice.
VEGETARIANS: Skip the chicken and opt for a Boca Chikin patty or another veggie patty. Cooking time will be less.
KOSHER: None needed.
Now that your pantry is all perked up, let’s make a meal plan and shopping list and get it stocked up for your week!
Pumpkins for everyone!!!
That’s how I feel when I walk into a store and I eyeball a gorgeous array of pumpkins of every persuasion!
I want to open my arms like Maria in The Sound of Music and twirl in the middle of store–yes, pumpkins are my fall spirit animal (gourd?).
Decorating for fall is a ritual of sorts–first the beautiful pumpkins inside and out, then the fall wreath on the front door and of course, a fine assortment of mums. 🙂
Fall makes me crave crockpot cooking, soups and stews.
I love turning on the fireplace finally and celebrating a cold brisk walk in the evenings after dinner.
The trick of course is to make sure your cooking is still on point and not leading you down the wrong road setting you up for holiday weight gain (this is when it starts folks!).
One of my favorite recipes that will boost your beta carotene and satisfy your taste buds is my Coconut Curry Pumpkin Soup recipe–have you tried it? Easy, delicious and the whole fam will LOVE it!
Here you go:
Coconut Pumpkin Curry Soup
In a soup pot, heat oil over medium high heat and saute onions. Cook till very soft.
Add remaining ingredients, except coconut milk, cilantro, and pumpkin seeds.
Cook uncovered for 15 minutes.
Add coconut milk and continue to cook (but not boil – it will break) for another 5 minutes.
Serve and top with cilantro and pumpkin seeds.