Ridding kitchen of unnecessary clutter
It’s simple. Clutter happens when you haven’t decided where an item lives. With this in mind, I proclaim January as mental health month in the kitchen. Since experts have linked the build up of clutter to anxiety and stress, I extend the invitation to all who work in the kitchen to take back their space and wellness.
How do we accumulate so much stuff? There’s always items nobody really wants but don’t want to get rid of. Postponing decisions allows clutter to consume lives. It’s suggested that we ask ourselves a couple of questions when it comes to the task of decluttering: Do I need it? Do I love it? If the answers are “no,” then it’s time to toss or allow the items to find new homes.
I am one who organizes for the sake of being better organized, yet I harbor too much stuff when it comes to the kitchen. Even though I’m not what you call a gadget-gizmo driven cook, I still have my share and more of objects serving little use for the space they take up. Thus, I plead guilty to allowing clutter to thrive in not only one kitchen drawer, but two, along with the signs of an invasion starting in a third.
What better way to use the bleak, gray days of January than to motivate ourselves to reclaim space within our kitchens. Perhaps, it’s best to view the job of decluttering as an opportunity rather than a problem.
Lately, I began the job of decluttering my kitchen by attacking the largest of the kitchen drawers where, to my surprise, I discovered I had accrued five ice cream scoops, two avocado pit remover tools and several sets of measuring cups and spoons. There was also a plethora of spatulas, an excess of stainless tongs, silicone brushes and a glut of old wine bottle corks I had collected and saved for what reason, I can no longer recall.
During this same rummaging, I found a never used set of metal French cone molds that years ago had held possibility. Also hiding in the back corners were turkey lifters and quite the hodge-podge of lemon squeezers, seldom, if ever, used.
I had forgotten about the vintage garlic press I had picked up in a thrift shop in California about 30 years ago. A great souvenir; better hold onto it. A couple of pizza cutters in the drawer are used as are the hand-held stainless choppers. The micro-plane has been a faithful tool to zest citrus and sometimes whole nutmegs.
I could never part with the tuna strainer shield or my two-pronged metal cap for saving unused evaporated milk; both are seldom in demand but difficult to replace. Two of the four cookie scoops met their death a few years back; therefore, they need to be tossed because I seldom scoop melons as a kitchen hack suggests using such scoops. The vegetable peeler I use to scrape carrots, but never potatoes, must stay.
I fell out of love long ago with the Tupperware lettuce corer, honey dipper and spaghetti portioning gadget, so they will be orphaned with hopes of findings new homes.
The bench scraper came in handy during the pandemic while I was teaching myself the art of sourdough bread making, but that thrill has since passed. Tangled among the other stuff in this drawer were two inexpensive metal graters I felt lucky to have found in a Chinatown market. These are irreplaceable tools I could never do without; likewise, the Oxo brownie server gifted me by my sister-in-law. Without hesitancy, they will remain kitchen residents. It’s definitely time to toss the many, weary rubber jar twists and the never used 2-teaspoon measuring spoon that proves useless since everyone knows it takes three teaspoons to make a tablespoon.
My most prized of kitchen tools dwells in this drawer, my William-Sonoma stainless salad tongs, will always have a place to call home.
Two more drawers to go!
The best recipe of all for decluttering success might be to consider the rule of “One In, One Out” but it’s so hard to separate oneself from stuff.
Food for thought:
•As a fundraising auction idea, suggest members donate kitchen gadgets they no longer want. Funds can be donated to a food pantry; make it an annual club event.
•Begin in January using an empty Mason quart jar to fill with self-written notes about good things that happened to you during the year. On New Year’s Eve, empty the jar to read what awesome things took place during the past year.
Hints and tips:
•First add salt then black pepper to recipes. Using this sequence helps you remember that when black flecks are seen, you have already added the salt.
•Prevent tomato stains in plastic storage containers by first spritzing the interior with cooking spray to create a stain barrier.
•Give your refrigerator a refreshing odor by soaking a small clean sponge with vanilla extract and leaving it on a shelf in the fridge.
•Peel garlic faster by placing unpeeled whole cloves into the microwave for 10 seconds. The peels slip right off. This blanching method also helps reduce the harsh flavor of raw garlic when used in uncooked recipes.
•When making a tomato sauce or soup and the tomatoes aren’t ripe enough, add a pinch of sugar and a splash of red-wine vinegar. They will help to bring out the natural flavor.
•Add cheese at the last moment when preparing pasta dishes so the heat won’t cook out the flavor.
No fancy gadgets required to stir up the following recipes. Enjoy during the gray days of falling flakes and bare branches to provide tasty comfort.
GROUND BEEF STROGANOFF
1 pound ground beef
8 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (10-3/4 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup, undiluted
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups sour cream
4 cups cooked egg noodles
In a large skillet, cook ground beef, mushrooms, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in soup, pepper and salt. Cook until heated through, 3 to 4 minutes; reduce heat. Stir in sour cream; cook until heated through but not boiling. Serve with noodles and a sprinkle of parsley. Adjust taste with pepper and salt. Serves 4.
BACON SWISS TOSSED SALAD
(“Uptown Down South”
cookbook, Junior League
of Greenville, S.C.)
1 cup mayonnaise
Juice of two lemons
1 medium onion, finely minced
2 cups Swiss cheese strips
4 cups frozen peas
Salt and pepper to taste
6 cups torn lettuce
1 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled
Twenty-four hours before serving, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice and onion in bowl. Cut cheese into thin strips; add peas and mix all together to blend well. Adjust taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate. Before serving, add lettuce and bacon; toss well. Serves 6.
WHITE BEAN & BACON SOUP
(“The City Tavern” cookbook)
1 pound dried navy beans
2-1/2 quarts chicken stock
4 tablespoons butter
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 pound plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 pound slab bacon cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
Salt and black pepper
About 1 tablespoon dried parsley or 3 tablespoons fresh parsley
Wash and pre-soak beans at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight. Drain and thoroughly rinse beans; place in large stockpot. Add stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook for about one hour or until beans are soft. Melt butter in large skillet; add onion, garlic and sauté for 5 minutes or until light brown. Add tomatoes, bacon and marjoram and sauté for 5 minutes more, until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Add tomato mixture to the beans in stockpot. Simmer the soup for about 15 minutes, season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, stir in the parsley.
(“The Black Family Reunion” cookbook)
2 cups cooked rice
1 cup milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup firm packed brown sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Combine rice, milk, eggs, brown sugar and butter in 1-quart baking dish. Place baking dish in second pan; fill pan with enough water to go halfway up side of baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes; remove from oven. Stir in raisins and vanilla. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Return to oven. Bake for another 30 minutes. Serve hot or chilled, topped with whipped cream.
Good food, good memories