JOPLIN, Mo. —
I've always said that I like to cook, but I love to eat. Cleaning comes in at a distant third place behind those two, but it's a necessary evil, especially after cooking a big meal.
My kitchen is still new enough that I love to clean it and keep it looking nice. I'm sure my eagerness will fade with time, but I hope to keep it as long as possible. Here are some ideas that will help you keep your kitchen clean.
Cleaning the refrigerator is the one job I dread. It's suggested that all food be removed every seven to 10 days and put in coolers or an extra fridge. Ideally, you would unplug the unit and remove the light bulb, then wipe down the shelves and drawers. Give it a thorough cleaning by removing the inside compartments and washing them in the sink. Be sure to dry the shelves and drawers completely before putting them back, and clean under and behind the fridge. Replace the bulb, plug in the fridge, then wait about an hour before returning the food.
Do you have utensils in some kind of container next to the stove for easy access? I know my favorites usually make their way to the front of the jar, leaving those in the back to just sit there. Those ignored items are good candidates for a storage box that will keep them clean and cut down the clutter.
Are you lucky enough to have a pantry or perhaps a cabinet dedicated to mixes and canned goods? Once a month, look at those items and check the dates. This is a good way to see what needs to be used in the next few days and what needs to be discarded.
Lime and mineral deposits around your kitchen faucet can be eliminated by wrapping vinegar-soaked paper towels around the faucets for about an hour, then buffing it with a dry paper towel.
The microwave seems to get spills and splatters with each use no matter how well the food is covered. For easy clean-up, place 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and 2 cups of water in a microwave-safe glass bowl. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, remove the cup and wipe down the inside of the oven with paper towels.
Glass cooktops require special cleaners and a hard plastic scraper for removing crusty, burned-on food. Major messes on regular cooktops can be removed with baking soda and water, but the important hint is to clean as soon as possible.
The hood above your cooktop needs more attention than a simple wipe-down of the outside and top. Remove the metal grease trap, and soak it in a sink filled with water and degreasing solution. Then wash it with hot, soapy water and rinse. Be sure the trap is dry before replacing it. Some hoods have activated charcoal filters, which must be replaced instead of cleaned. Use degreasing solution to clean the fan blades.
If your oven is self-cleaning, simply follow the manufacturer's directions. If not, get your oven cleaner and rubber gloves, and follow the instructions on the can. Prevent messes in the first place by placing a foil-lined cookie sheet under the rack on which you are baking. I have a silicone liner in the bottom of my oven, and baked-on food just peels right off. I will always use this great invention. Again, clean up spills as soon as they happen, so they aren't continually baked onto surfaces.
The finish on your cabinets will dictate how you clean them. Some cabinets can take a soapy bath, while others require store-bought cleaner. The same goes for the inside of the cabinets.
Cleaning food processors and blenders is as easy as squirting a few drops of dishwashing liquid into the bowl, filling it half-full with warm water, covering and blending. Rinse well, and it will be much cleaner than if washed by hand.
If you haven't been diligent in scraping your plates and bowls before placing them in the dishwasher, check the drain area for bits of food that need to be removed. Scraping is not the same as prewashing. Don't prewash -- dish detergent needs a little grease to do its job. You can tell it's time to clean the dishwasher by looking inside. Place a dishwasher-safe coffee cup on the top shelf, fill it with white vinegar, then run it through a regular wash cycle.
With these ideas, a clean kitchen is a snap. Thank you to busycooks.com for most of these cleaning tips.
All of today's recipes come from Kraft Foods. The corn and zucchini dish is a new dish that could become a family favorite. With cheese, sour cream and bacon, it's a treat for your taste buds. The pork chop recipe takes a little preplanning so the chops can brine, but it's time well spent. Put the bag of chops in a bowl for brining, keeping them covered with the liquid. The peach tart looks like a pastry bowl filled with peaches and certainly doesn't require any precise construction. It really is freestyle. Have a wonderful week and happy eating!
Creamy corn and zucchini
2 tablespoons Italian salad dressing
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1 zucchini, chopped
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 cup shredded Mexican-blend cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
3 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Heat dressing in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetables; cook and stir 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp-tender. Remove from heat. Stir in cheese and sour cream. Cook over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes or until cheese melts and mixture is heated through; stir frequently. Top with bacon and cilantro. Makes 8 servings.
Pat's classic barbecue pork chops
2 cups water
2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
2 tablespoons kosher salt
4 bone-in pork chops, 1/2-inch thick
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons onion powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
Mix water, 2 tablespoons sugar and salt until dissolved. Pour over chops in resealable plastic bag. Seal bag; turn to evenly coat chops. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Meanwhile, mix remaining sugar and seasonings. Remove chops from brine, and discard brine and bag. Coat chops evenly with seasoning mixture. Grill on medium-high heat 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until done (145 degrees), brushing with barbecue sauce for the last few minutes. Remove from grill and let stand 3 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
Freestyle peach tart
1 ready-to-use refrigerated pie crust
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 large fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup whipped topping
Unroll pie crust onto foil-covered baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Mix 1 tablespoon sugar mixture with cream cheese. Spread onto crust to within 2 inches of edge. Reserve 1 tablespoon of remaining sugar mixture. Toss peaches with remaining sugar mixture; spoon over cream cheese mixture. Fold edge of crust over peaches, leaving center uncovered. Sprinkle with reserved sugar mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown and fruit juices are bubbly. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Serve topped with whipped topping.
Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.