Practical Kitchen Tips

 That little drip is a veritable feast for ants.

That little drip is a veritable feast for ants.

This might seem like a trivial tip, in essence it is, but it can save you hassle and avoid bug infestation.  Wipe down the sides of bottles with a damp cloth after each use.  This is particularly true of products that contain any forms of sugar or artificial sweeteners.  You may be noticing insects getting active indoors this time of year.  Last week my husband discovered a trail of sugar ants leading to our kitchen compost bin.  Knock on wood, but I have not seen any in my pantries.  I have been super mindful about wiping down the rims and sides of honey, syrup, and jam bottles after each use.  It is easy to miss a drip or two after you recap the lid, but bugs surely won’t.  Nothing is 100% foulproof, but if I can deter them from making their new home inside of mine, I am super happy.  The bonus is that your cabinet and refrigerator shelves will stay much cleaner.

 Removing residual trickles down the sides of bottles will keep your storage areas cleaner and less likely to attract insects.

Removing residual trickles down the sides of bottles will keep your storage areas cleaner and less likely to attract insects.

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Tired of dirty produce bins in your fridge ?  Line them with a cloth.  When the cloth gets dirty, toss it in the laundry.  I use a cotton diaper and launder it with my other weekly linens.  My bins stay fairly clean.  If I notice leaves, grit or other deposits as I take out the cloth, I remove the bin and rinse it under the faucet.  Produce bins clean up so much faster when protected.

Cloth diapers make excellent rags for a variety of purposes.  Typically I use the ones without the weave or folds for cleaning, but these weaved ones are heavier and work well as liners.

Nutritious Time Saver

Looking to make your meals more nutritious and your clean ups much faster?

 Line the entire pan bottom with a variety of leaves.  The more colorful, the higher the nutrient value.

Line the entire pan bottom with a variety of leaves.  The more colorful, the higher the nutrient value.

 Remove some of the leaves before entree is thoroughly cooked to avoid charring.

Remove some of the leaves before entree is thoroughly cooked to avoid charring.

Try this simple suggestion.  Add greens to your baking dish.  Spinach, Swiss chard, and beet leaves are beginning to fill my garden beds and popping up at farmer's markets.  These dark leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, iron, fiber, and phytonutrients  (those of you on blood thinners speak with your medical practitioner before incorporating foods with high vitamin K content).  The more colorful leaves, the higher the nutrient value.

By lining your pans with vegetables, your pan or dish will stay so much cleaner.  Entrees won't stick to the pan as they bake so you won't need to scrape away hard to remove burnt food remnants.  Clean up is a breeze.

Line the entire pan.  As you can see the leaves keep the pan moist on the bottom, so the grease from the meat did not burn and adhere to the pan.  You may wish to remove some leaves before the entrée reaches the desired internal temperature otherwise they will likely burn.  Just keep enough for the meat to rest upon.

I boil water while we eat, then immediately pour the water into the empty baking pan along with a splash of vinegar, about ¼ cup of baking soda (or less depending upon the pan size) and a squirt or 2 of Dr. Bronner’s soap.  The pan virtually cleans itself.  Sponge away any remaining grease in or around the pan, and voila.

Save yourself time, hassle and the elbow grease while adding these powerhouses to your meal plan.

 Use a splash of vinegar, a few shakes of baking soda, and a squirt or 2 of Dr. Bronner's soap along with boiling water into the pan and let it soak for a few minutes. 

Use a splash of vinegar, a few shakes of baking soda, and a squirt or 2 of Dr. Bronner's soap along with boiling water into the pan and let it soak for a few minutes. 

 You can use a bristled brush to agitate the water.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  The pan will virtually clean itself.

You can use a bristled brush to agitate the water.  Be careful not to burn yourself.  The pan will virtually clean itself.


 Excess chicken soup in the process of freezing

Excess chicken soup in the process of freezing

You may have noticed by now that I love finding ways to repurpose everyday items.  When my daughter was an infant, I was big into homemade baby food.  I pureed apples, pears, sweet potatoes, beans, peas, carrots, you name it.  After jarring enough to get us through a few days, I froze the remainder in ice cube trays. 

Once the contents were frozen, I emptied the cubes into labeled (including the date) containers or baggies.

Defrosting the quantity I wanted was fast and easy.  Getting little sleep at the time meant sometimes being forgetful when it came to pulling food out of the freezer for meals.  But since the cubes thaw rapidly, I was able to have her food at the ready in no time. 

No more need for baby food in this house, instead I use this process for soups, stews, and sauces.  Big chunks of solid ice take a long time to thaw so try this method and see what you think.

If your fingertips get like mine in the winter if I don't continuously moisturize, the dryness can make them a bit slick when I pick up objects.  This can be noticeably troublesome when I grab eggs from the refrigerator or remove them from the carton to place in an egg holder to nestle on a shelf.

In order to prevent dropping them, I lightly dampen my fingertips which counter-intuitively renders them less slippery.  So before you pick up an egg, quickly run your fingers under water for a little extra hold especially in the winter.

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Lids can be a challenge to open sometimes.  Plastic seals around a new bottle top can cause further difficulty when opening a jar for the first time.  I use 2 solutions.

For small bottles such as extract that have the extra plastic security seal, a damp plush washcloth helps to get enough traction on the lid to get it to turn thereby loosening and releasing the plastic band.

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For larger mouth jars, I gently tap them on the countertop or other hard surface until I hear the tell-tale pop that the pressure has been discharged.  If I still need some extra assistance, I grab a rubber jar gripper and that usually provides enough torque to finish the job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Condiment Storage

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Have an unused baby food jar carousel?  Convert it into storage for condiment/oil/vinegar bottles.


What's For Dinner? 
5 Simple Steps to Manage Meal Planning

What should I make for dinner tonight?  Do I have the ingredients? 

Do you dread searching for desirable recipes and scouring for necessary ingredients after a long day’s work or hustling between children’s after-school activities?  

Wouldn’t you love to painlessly plan meals? 

Use The Practical Sort's "No Sweat" method to manageable meal planning.  Follow the steps below to:

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Plan simple, homemade, weekly meals

Locate appealing, wholesome recipes

Easily track the groceries you need

Step 1:  Download The Practical Sort's Weekly Planner and Grocery List Template below.  Print the Planner on one side and the Grocery List on the other.   This method will ensure that you have the necessary ingredients.

Click on each link below to download :

Weekly Meal Planner

Grocery List Template

Basic Ingredient List

Step 2:  Recipe Selection
See suggested recipe sites below for easy meals.  As you select recipes, scan your fridge, freezer, and cupboard to see what you have on hand.  You can even pre-group ingredients into bins in your storage areas to coincide with the upcoming dinners.   If you have time, pre-mix your dry ingredients.

Step 3:  Grocery List 
Put an ‘x’ by any essential Grocery List items.  If you need more than one, such as 2 cans of tomato paste, then jot the number in the box next to the listed item.

Step 4:  Basic Ingredient List 
Add to your grocery list the products on the Basic Ingredient List if you are likely to use them.  A well-stocked pantry can be your saving grace for unplanned meal nights.  Store these items to ensure that you will always have basic “go-to’s” in order to whip up last minute dishes.

Step 5:  Recipe Sites
Need ideas for healthy recipes ?  Check out:

Eatingwell.com
This site is user-friendly, the recipes are simple, and they have an array of special diet options ranging from gluten-free,  vegan, dairy-free, diabetes-specific, low-sodium, etc.

CookingLight.com
And this Cooking Light site is really cool.  You can drag and drop simple recipes into the 5 day menu planner.  Then select “View Recipe” to see what ingredients to add to your list.  “Eating Out” and “Leftover Nights” images are available to insert into nights when you know you won’t have the time or desire to cook.

Finally, if you forget to pull frozen meats out of the freezer, no need to worry.  Not a fan of microwave ovens like me?  No need to go that route if you use this trick.  In fact, it has been over 10 years since I used a microwave.  Put the meat or fish into a plastic bag and then immerse it in lukewarm water in a metal bowl.  Prep the remainder of your ingredients.  Occasionally check the water to be sure it does not get too cold.  If it does, empty it and refill with lukewarm water.  Save the frigid water and as it warms, use it to water your plants.  The meat will typically thaw within 30 minutes.  Fish may take less time.