Monday, October 05, 2009

Fall Cooking Part 2

Fall Forest Pie Crust Cutters, at Williams-Sonoma

This week I plan to do a massive reorganization of my kitchen. I need to get ready for the fall holiday entertaining season ahead. I did extensive cleaning during my Spring Cleaning. I've maintained my cupboards that hold dishes and pans, so they are in pretty good shape. Every week, I've been keeping up with my fridge and freezer maintenance cleaning. But my pantry is terribly disorganized.


- Need to pay any beginning-of-month bills?

- Need to return any DVDs you rented over the weekend (whether from a video store or Netflix?)

- Make menu plans for the week and create your grocery shopping list

TODAY'S PROJECT: Refrigerator and Cupboards

Whether you're a stay at home mom or you work and have to do your cleaning project tonight after work, you can get this task done in less than an hour today.

Let's make this fun! Put on music in your kitchen - do you have a portable boombox or radio you can drag in? Or do you prefer a television? I don't keep a television in my kitchen, but have a small one I can drag out of the guest room for occasions like this. I can't see it while I'm working but I can listen. Put on Food Network, a favorite DVD movie, or TV Land for fun (I Love Lucy, Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie reruns perhaps?) Light a fragrant candle, make coffee or tea, or pour yourself a glass of wine. Try to make it fun and the time might just zoom by.

- Clean out the entire refrigerator and freezer. If you have been keeping up with doing it one shelf at a time on weekends, this should go quickly. Toss old food, wipe and scrub shelves, dry them off, etc. Quickly inventory what's left on a notepad you'll carry in your purse, so you can plan what to replace. If you think of something you need, immediately add it to your grocery list. Today I have to admit I am not going to finish my mango sorbet or huckleberry ice cream, and I'll get rid of them to make room for things I actually will eat.

- Make some time to think about must-have items for your freezer. For me, I don't let myself run out of vanilla and chocolate ice cream, frozen edamame and frozen corn, puff pastry and some sort of frozen berry in case I need to whip up a quick puff pastry dessert. I also try to always stock Morningstar Farms vegetarian corn dogs and some sort of mini-pizzas for when I have child-related food emergencies, like when my nephews visit. Also, I'm never, ever without one or two frozen appetizers like Nancy's frozen quiches for emergency lunches when I'm working hard, and Trader Joe's mushroom turnovers for impromptu cocktail parties.

- Cupboards - Remove all your dishes and wipe down your shelves, especially if they have contact paper. Examine your dishes for dust - if you're like me you have some goblets around for entertaining that don't get used often. Those can get quite dusty at the back of the shelf. Clean any dishes that need it, then replace in cupboards.

- Reorganize if necessary, or find new homes for things like paper plates, plastic cups, and paper napkins. I store mine in a Sterilite box specially marked for that purpose, so I have more room in my cupboads for my glass and china. Examine baby utensils, Sippy cups and baby dishes for wear and tear, discard and replace if necessary.

- Examine your pans, utensils and cooking gadgets. Toss anything that looks broken, and clean anything dirty. If you can possibly admit to yourself you have a kitchen gadget you will NEVER use, now is a really good time to own up to that and come up with a plan for disposal of that gadget. (Sell on Ebay, put in your Yard Sale box you save in the garage for the spring, give to a friend, donate to charity).

- Cookie Cutters - Do you have a million impulse-buy cookie cutters that you rarely use? I sure as heck do. Sort and inventory them. Consider storing them in some sort of plastic box or container to make them easier to find. It might be helpful to store them along with your cake and cookie decorating sugars and related items. Perhaps that will help us actually use them more often. As always, see if you can get rid of unneeded or duplicate cookie cutters. It's not a sin to throw a $1.75 rusty old rarely used cookie cutter in the trash.

- Add to your shopping list if you notice anything you are majorly missing that you absolutely need and absolutely will use. You probably have all the pans and dishes you need, but how are you doing on plastic storage containers, kitchen sponges, cleaning supplies, dishwashing detergent, kitchen hand soap, etc?

- Gadgets - Over this next week I'd like to challenge you to get out one kitchen gadget you haven't used in over four months and actually use it. Get that breadmaker out, clean it off and actually use it to bake bread. Find your tortilla or quesadilla maker and enjoy piping hot, cheesy quesadillas for a snack. Use your totally unecessary heart-shaped muffin pans to make muffins today, instead of the normal round-shaped muffin tin you normally use. Use your Cuisinart to actually make fresh salsa, or see if you can get your hand mixer to mix up a nice batch of mousse. Get out your creme brulee ramekins and your blowtorch and actually make Creme brulee and caramelize the top. Why do we have all these gadgets if we aren't going to use them to make our lives even more lovely?

- Tonight, after you are finished, reward yourself for your efforts with some sort of favorite activity that won't bring you near a kitchen. Take a long bath, watch a movie, read a book, flip through magazines, or goof off on the Web. After you've spent time fixing up your kitchen, make someone else cook for you tonight!

Tomorrow and Wednesday will bring another kitchen project, and by the weekend, your kitchen will be completely ready and organized for the fall and winter months ahead.


I have very sad news - Gourmet magazine (along with Elegant Bride and Cookie) are being shut down by their publisher. While I would have enjoyed more vegetarian-friendly content, I loved Gourmet and spent so many happy evenings flipping through the pictures and clipping recipes to try.

Gourmet Magazine Folding (CNN)


Delectable Pumpkin Desserts (Good Housekeeping)

50 Easy Soups (Food Network)

It's Mumbai! (Conde Nast Traveler)

Maple Plum Crumble

9 Websites That Can Make Your Life Easier (Today Show)

Spanish Style Tapas: Good Things Come in Small Packages (LA Daily News)

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