Thursday, October 02, 2014

Beginning Fall Kitchen Prep

Another basket of mums gracing my front porch and steps

Slowly the days are growing colder, bit by bit. Our appetites and our cooking styles will change with the new season. At the farmer's markets and grocery stores, different types of produce become available. We will crave different foods - hot soups, baked potatoes, pot pies, casseroles, crusty breads, chilis, pies, apples, pears, and dishes made with hearty vegetables.

Those of us living in colder, darker climates where it rains or snows often, might find ourselves going out to restaurants less in the upcoming months. (I don't relish trying to find parking in downtown areas on dark rainy cold nights!) We might stay home for quiet meals, or invite just two or three other people over for dinner. We might embrace the fall holidays, and invite more people over for dinner parties, too!

It's time to start getting in gear for fall cooking, baking, the care and feeding of overnight guests, giving food gifts, and entertaining. It's time to scrub, sort and organize our kitchens, take inventory, and stock our pantries with necessities.

QUICK THINGS TO DO TODAY:

  • Do you put up colored Halloween lights indoors, outdoors or both? Is it time to put them up?
  • What is in your fruit bowl? Do you have enough to get your household through tomorrow and the weekend? May I suggest stocking up on peaches while they're still fresh in the stores?
  • Light and burn up the last of your summer scented candles this week. I'm just finishing a couple lavender ones in bathrooms and a lemon basil in the kitchen. Then I can get out my autumn scents to use next week.
  • Throw something away - preferably something that's difficult for you to give up. Find something you know you won't really truly use in the next month, the next season, or in the next six months. Get rid of it - donate, give away, recycle or throw out. Be strong.
  • Life can't be just about doing housework or homemaking! Plan a night next week where you can go to a movie; get out a book and read quietly; go out with friends; take a longer than normal bath; listen to music for a couple hours; or catch up on your backlog of DVR shows.
  • Do a quick sweep, as needed, of your front porch, entryway, and the immediate areas just inside and just outside the doors you use to enter your home. This time of year leaves and dust can creep in quite easily!

TODAY'S PROJECT: Fall Kitchen Organization, Part 1

Savannah Paisley Peach Oven Mitt and Pot Holder, from Working Class Studio on Amazon

Here's what I do every year - see what you think of my plan. I prepare my kitchen for autumn in manageable chunks. I don't want to spend an entire weekend doing this (and can't, as I'm going out both nights this weekend with my sister to celebrate her birthday!) I'll put in a good amount of effort tonight, on a Thursday night that I've set aside specifically to stay home in the evening and begin this project. I'll do a bit of a project tomorrow afternoon before I leave for my Friday night dinner. I'll continue my efforts with about an hour of work each afternoon this weekend, including Sunday night. That way I won't have too much to do during next week's worknights.

Really, it can sound daunting to completely overhaul our kitchens, but it takes less time than one might think, once we just get started and dive in to do it. I'll make it fun for myself, by turning on the little TV or radio I keep in the kitchen, lighting a caramel spice candle, and enjoying tea or wine while I work.

Even if you hate cooking, or if you don't consider yourself a cook, you'll sadly still need to get your kitchen in order. This way someone who does the cooking in your household (perhaps your spouse or partner, teenager, grandmother, mother-in-law, or good friend who comes over and takes over in your kitchen) has all the tools and supplies they need to prepare a wonderful meal.

Step 1:

Am I the only person here who keeps a folder of takeout menus from nearby restaurants? And those pizza coupons that people throw on your front doorstep or stick under your windshield wipers? Go through and throw away duplicates or out-of-date fliers, recycle menus for takeout places you haven't used in the past six months, and organize your collection. Store near the phone for easy access. Or go digital and just bookmark your favorite places in a new bookmarks folder, then recycle your papers. There will no doubt be cold nights ahead when you're too tired to cook and don't want to go out. Those menus or bookmarks will come in handy! Get in the habit of grabbing a take-out menu whenever you're at a restaurant you like that offers them. Plan ahead for those cold, rainy, snowy nights.

Step 2:

Owl Towel by Kay Dee Designs, on Amazon

Go through your potholders, oven mitts and kitchen towels. Immediately discard any limp, holey or smelly kitchen towels and any crusty, stained potholders. Be firm with yourself - don't give in to the temptation to keep an old towel around "just in case." These are too inexpensive to replace. There's no reason to have nasty old towels and dangerously ripped pot holders and oven mitts cluttering up your kitchen. It's a small expense that makes your home cleaner, cozier and prettier.

Transfer old kitchen towels to your Rag pile (I use them for dusting, cleaning floors and windows, etc.) But then get rid of one of your worst and most torn up rags for every old kitchen towel you put in the rag pile. It's all about avoiding clutter and weeding out unnecessary items in our lives.

If you have guests helping you in your kitchen often, please oh please be sure to have plenty of clean, soft, absorbent dry towels for people to dry their hands with. I can't tell you how often I end up with red, chapped hands from helping do dishes at someone else's house and not being able to properly dry my hands; or from drying my hands on very rough scratchy towels. I'm not a fan of wasting paper towels just for hand drying, either.

Speaking of paper towels, check your paper towel inventory (if you use those). Be sure you have a good supply.

Step 3:

Babycakes Waffle Stick Maker, on Amazon

Take a look around your kitchen and see what needs to be done to make your kitchen clean, usable, enjoyable and efficient. Can you declutter items off the counters? Do you have useful items out, or too much decorative kitsch? Are there any appliances you don't use every week that you can store elsewhere? (Such as the waffle stick maker shown above, or a cake pop maker, or a blender you don't actually use daily, etc?)

Let's start off with a clean kitchen - we don't want to be sorting and organizing in a dirty kitchen. So today is the day we empty and fill the dishwasher; scrub the sink and counters; wipe down all the cabinet doors carefully (inside and out); and mop the floor thoroughly. Empty the trash can, rinse it out and sanitize it. Take out the recycling and rinse out the recycling bins. Wash kitchen windows as needed. Dust windowsills and launder kitchen curtains as applicable. Sort through fruit bowls and get rid of anything rotting. Wash fruit bowls and replace back on the counter, preferably with fresh fruit you'll pick up at the store today. Scrub and sanitize sink and garbage disposal.

Step 4:

Done with your preparations for the rest of this week's kitchen projects? Get yourself in mood for cooking this fall, if you at all enjoy cooking magazines. Treat yourself to reading one or two today. Pick up Bon Appetit, Food & Wine, Rachael Ray's magazine or even just the fall Williams-Sonoma catalog - or read their websites to save money. (I'm currently trying to avoid magazine clutter that builds up in my house, by visiting the library's magazine section a couple times a week and having a nice sit down browse session).

Make yourself a nice cup of coffee or tea and a little something to munch on as you browse. Looking at beautifully photographed food makes me so hungry! Visit fun food, cooking and home-decor webpages tonight during your nightly Internet browsing time. Drool over kitchen gadgets you don't need and can't afford, fantasize about cake pans you'd never actually use, peek at impractically beautiful expensive dishes, and gape at amazing mail-order pastries. Get on your DVR and look for cooking shows that are coming up to record, if you like such a thing.

Have fun looking at delicious things today, because we have a lot of work to do in the kitchen tomorrow, this weekend and next week!

LOVELY BLOGS: Pixel Whisk

Seton's blog about all things sweet as well as her love of design. While she only posts a couple times per month, her posts are carefully thought out, well developed, and *really* informative. I've enjoyed her posts on her DIY built in shelving, her step-by-step directions for making lemon hand pies, her how to guide to fondue and her summertime post on basil and lime watermelon granita.

http://www.pixel-whisk.com/

LOVELY LINKS FOR TODAY:

Chocolate Lovers Cheesecake (Brown Eyed Baker)

Happy Jack o' Lantern Cheesecake (Hungry Happenings)

Harvest Apple Salad with Grilled Chicken and Candied Pecans (Annie's Eats)

A Knitted Timeline of Vintage Hats (Chronically Vintage)

Loaded Spiderweb Mashed Potato Casserole (Neighbor Food Blog)

Pumpkin Tiramisu (Dessert for Two)

Root Beer Pulled Pork Sliders (Once Upon a Tine)

Slow Cooker Black Bean and Pumpkin Chili (Macaroni and Cheesecake)

Tuscan Chicken and Broccoli Hand Pies (The Girl Who Ate Everything)

25 Easy No-Carve Pumpkin Ideas for Halloween Decor (Apartment Therapy)

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