With the holidays coming up quickly and the need to be ready for an overload of cooking and baking, let’s take a moment and show some appreciation for our good friend and happy helper; our oven.
You may feel differently, but when I open up my oven and see a lot of old, burnt, crusty schmutz all over the walls and bottom of my oven it takes away some of the joy of cooking.
While extra work is no fun, this particular job doesn’t need to be much of a chore at all. In fact, it is actually a fairly easy process and takes less time than you might think.
Here is a quick guide on what to do to enjoy your oven once again:
- The first step in getting your oven in tip-top shape for the holidays is to get it emptied out. Take out all your pots, pans, pizza stone, oven thermometer, any other miscellaneous items that might be stored there, and all the oven racks.
- Stick your racks in the bathtub with hot water and some liquid detergent and let them soak. If you are worried about scratching your tub, just lay out some towels to protect it. After a few hours, you can take the racks out, scrub them with a hard bristle brush or scrubbing pad and they should be clean with just a little elbow grease.
- Back in the kitchen, use a wooden, rubber, or plastic spatula to do a quick scrape on any dirty surface to remove the easy stuff without scratching the surface.
- Make a paste with ½ cup of baking soda and a few (3-4) tablespoons of water. It should be pasty, not watery, and easy to spread with a brush like a heavy paint.
- Wear some protective rubber gloves if you’d like. The mixture is harmless, but the gloves will help you protect your hands and fingernails from the grease and grime. Take a pastry brush or any cheap disposable paintbrush if you have one and paint the paste onto all the areas of caked-on crud. Be generous and if you need to make more, so be it. Apparently, you have done a lot of baking over time and have earned the right to clean a bigger mess, so don’t be shy with laying it on thick, especially in the areas with excessive crust or grease. Make sure you get into all the corners and crannies. NOTE: Make sure to avoid getting paste on the heating elements if your oven is electric! It might not harm them, but the stuff will really smell later if you don’t get it all cleaned off really well, so best to just avoid them.
- Once everything is coated, leave it alone overnight or most of the day if you want to do this as a morning and evening project. Use a damp rag or dish towel to wipe down the entire surface to remove as much of the dried residue as you can. Your wooden or plastic spatula will come in handy here, giving you extra scaping power and reach for those corners in the back.
- While most of the residue should wipe off, there will still be more, so grab a spray bottle with white vinegar and start dousing those remaining areas. It will react with the remaining baking soda and foam up a bit. Between your towel and the spatula, you should be able to remove pretty much everything and repeat the vinegar spray as needed.
- With a final wipe down you should have a nice, clean, chemical-free oven to be proud of!
A clean oven is a lovin’ oven. Get to it–it’s National Clean Your Oven Day on November 1st!
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One of my favorite pastimes is cooking with my children. Do you have kids? If you do, I want to heavily recommend that you teach them the joys of the kitchen while they’re still young and look up at you like a superhero that has all the answers. Teaching your children how to cook is more than a rite of passage; it’s just plain fun. To me, the kitchen is like a magical land that can create a special type of community and intimacy with the simple act of making a meal.
There are some little things you should look out for when you start to integrate your children into the cooking world: the basic do’s and don’ts.
DO assign simple tasks. When starting out, show them how to wash veggies, how to stir sauces to not let the sides burn, how to scramble eggs, etc.
DON’T let your child use a knife and cutting board without supervision and being taught proper technique.
DO give them a bit more responsibility as they show they understand. Show them basic vegetable cutting, but once you pass that knife from your hand to theirs, watch them like a hawk. (younger ones can use pumpkin carving knives safely, so save yours!)
DON’T let your child remove anything from the oven. But explain how it’s done as you do it; this way, when it’s time, they’ll be ready.
DO explain how when you’re using a pot or pan that you need to turn the handle to the side so it’s not sticking out so no one can run into it or accidentally knock it over.
DON’T allow them to handle meat until they’ve had a couple seasoned years under your training, but explain the safety issues and demonstrate thorough hand washing after you touch it.
ALWAYS let them sneak tastes of their labor in the kitchen. One of my favorite things about cooking is that I get to taste along the way, and I can guarantee that it’ll be a favorite among your children as well.
Well folks, there you have it! Show your children what a kitchen is and how to use it. My daughter is a college graduate now and she tells me all the time how surprised she is that hardly anyone her age knows how to cook. Regardless, your children are going to love learning this new skill! For them, it’s like finally getting to know the secret behind a magic trick. Have FUN!!
Why is it the last thing to get cleaned in a kitchen is the inside of the refrigerator? I know that’s true for a lot of people; it certainly was for me!
The fridge was the last frontier for me in the kitchen. I could keep the kitchen clean, unload the dishwasher regularly, keep the floors up, the pantry reasonably organized. But the fridge? I would let it go. And then it would be a bear to deal with. I had a perfectionist attitude with my fridge—it was an all or nothing proposition. I would spend an hour or more cleaning every last nook and cranny. Tossing stuff left, right and center, cleaning the rubber gasket with a toothbrush, pulling everything out, disinfecting it and making the whole thing gleam. Honest, I could see that thing shine from my bedroom!
One day it dawned on me that I did not have to clean my fridge like that. I could do it one shelf at a time! I could keep things rotated and wiped down in as little as 2 minutes at a time. But the secret for making that happen was what I like to call Refrigerator Awareness. Cleaning the fridge does NOT need to be a project!
All that means is adding Refrigerator Awareness to your radar screen and don’t let that big, old appliance turn into that nasty, dreaded cleaning project! It truly does NOT have to be that way!
Oh and lest I forget. There is a TREMENDOUS bonus that comes from picking up the RA skill (Refrigerator Awareness). You save money. Gobs of it. Your food gets eaten, not shuttled to the back to develop into a science experiment. Your produce doesn’t develop slime, wilt or become fossilized. And, you may just find something in there you didn’t know you had that needs to be used up! Isn’t that just the coolest thing ever? (pardon the obvious pun!)
To recap: 2 minutes a day. That’s all. Let’s put an end to Project Refrigerator Clean-ups. I don’t know about you, but I’ve HAD it with those big jobs!
The same awareness goes for the freezer! Is yours cleaned up enough to handle some handy freezer meals?
You know how I feel about making dinner an event in your home. I’m a firm believer in getting everyone around the table together for dinner to reconnect with each other, discuss the day’s events and to nourish our bodies with good home-cooked food.
A few weeks ago I talked about the importance of learning how to set a proper table. Today, I’m going to talk about something else that makes sitting down to a meal an enjoyable experience. Today we’re talking table manners.
My children were taught how to behave at the table from the time they were in their booster seats, so they naturally grew up knowing what to do and what not to do at the table.
This might not seem like a significant life skill to some people, but I believe that it is.
Think about it. How quickly can someone be turned off by a person chewing loudly with their mouth open in a formal dinner setting? It drives me up the wall when someone reaches over my plate to grab something at the table, rather than asking for me to pass it to them.
If you have children around your table, you have lots of time to train them in dinner table etiquette.
Teaching table manners to pre-schoolers.
It’s never too early to start teaching the basic stuff, like washing your hands before going to the table and sitting down on your chair to eat. Those things can start being drilled into a child as young as 2. Between then and kindergarten age, here are some other basic table manners you can start to teach:
• Say please and thank you
• No toys at the table
• Ask to be excused from the table
• Set your napkin in your lap and to use it when wiping your face
• Thank the person who cooked the meal
• Use utensils to eat
• Take small bites
• No running around or yelling during dinner
For children at the higher end of this age bracket, they can be taught to say nice things about the foods they like and to not make a fuss about the foods they don’t like.
Teaching table manners to grade-school children.
A child at this age should automatically wash their hands before sitting down at the table and they should already be sitting nicely at the table, and saying please and thank you. But now it’s time to teach some more adult table manners:
• Don’t slurp
• Use a knife and fork to cut food
• Chew with mouth closed
• Don’t reach over a fellow diner’s plate
• Wait until everyone is served before starting to eat
Include children in discussion around the table and make sure your child knows that you’re interested in hearing about their day.
When they have these manners down as children, it’s really just a matter of refining them through young adulthood.
Comment on their good manners when you find they’re using them. Your praise goes a long way.
Teenagers should already have these basic table manners down, but please make sure there’s a “no phones at the table” rule in place. Lead by example! Everyone should wait until dinner is over before returning to their mobile device.
What is your biggest dinner etiquette pet peeve? Come tell us on Facebook.
Date night doesn’t always have to mean finding a babysitter and making reservations at an expensive restaurant. That’s nice to do once in a while, but there’s no reason why you can’t have a date night in on a regular basis. Feed the kids early, put them to bed and prepare a romantic, candle-lit meal for just the two of you!
Set the mood
Part of the fun of going to a restaurant for a romantic dinner is the ambiance. Try to recreate that atmosphere at home by setting the table with some linens, flowers, candles, a nice set of dishes and beautiful glassware.
Sexy menu items
We’ve all heard that oysters are good for spicing things up, if you know what I’m saying, but they aren’t the only sexy foods out there.
• Asparagus is a natural aphrodisiac for men and women, so be sure to add some to the menu.
• Figs have been eaten to spice things up between couples for hundreds of years.
• Chiles are also known to turn things up a notch or two in the boudoir! The capsaicin in spicy foods raise the heart rate and trigger the release of endorphins.
• Chocolate-dipped strawberries. It’s cliche for a reason, people.
Dress for the occasion
Change out of the yoga pants and put on that killer little black dress and a sassy apron! Wear your heels while you’re cooking (or being cooked for!). Put on your favorite music, pour a glass of wine and have fun with it.
Reconnect with your honey over the chopping and peeling.
Serve your fancy meal in courses if you’d like to draw out the evening. Sit down to your salads while your main course cooks away. After your main course, clean the kitchen before serving dessert.
What you do after dessert is up to yourselves. 😉
By: Leanne Ely
It’s time for Tricks, Tips and a Recipe! And in honor of this most ultimate summer squash, today we’re giving it the attention it deserves. Sound good?
Zucchinis are packed with beta-carotene, potassium and B vitamins. They also provide fiber and a bit of Vitamin C, but a large zucchini contains only 16 calories!
While zucchini can be used in muffin and loaf recipes, I prefer to eat it in its pure form, simply stir fried as a simple side dish. Oh you know what else is good? Grated zucchini sautéed in olive oil and a bit of garlic with salt and pepper. Absolutely delicious and almost rice-like in texture.
This is one versatile and delicious veggie!
Now, it’s time for your Trick:
If you don’t know what to do with all that zucchini in your garden, grate it up and put it in the freezer, sealed individually in one-cup servings.
Select small to medium sized zucchini if you’re eating them for flavor. The bigger guys start to lose their taste after awhile. They’re okay for purposes like zucchini bread, but they won’t do much for you in a stir fry.
And your Recipe from our new 21 Day Knock Out!
Fried Egg and Veggie Skillet
2 tablespoons coconut oil, divided
1 medium onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and diced
1 pound zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
4 large eggs
COOKING INSTRUCTIONS: In a very large skillet over medium high heat, melt half the coconut oil. Add onion, pepper, and zucchini and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, until tender.
Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir in thyme.
Move the veggies to the outer edges of the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Add the remaining coconut oil. Crack eggs into the center and fry for 1 to 2 minutes. Flip eggs over and fry for an additional 1 to 2 minutes, or until eggs reach desired doneness.
Carefully scoop vegetables out and top with eggs. Season eggs with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.
If you want more tasty recipes to help you stay on track and get ready for summer, join me on our new 21 Day Knock Out here!