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10 Kitchen Things That You Need to Clean More Often

It is Spring! Time to think about opening the windows, letting in the fresh air, and cleaning away the dust and grime left from a winter all cooped up! Well, after spending a Saturday morning with some hot water and cleaning products, I managed to find 10 areas that I do not clean often enough. Check out this list. Do you regularly clean all of these areas?

1. The grates of the stove can be one of the hardest things to clean, but a clean stove top can have a big impact on making your kitchen look cleaner overall.

1. The burner grates of the stove

1. The Burner Grates of the Stove

2. The toaster can be a crumb-filled fire hazard, but I also took the time to wipe down the sides and buttons too!

2. The Toaster

2. The Toaster

3. Don’t forget to get up on top of the cupboards! You will need to dust, as well as wipe them down with a good degreaser.

3. The top of the cupboards

3. The Top of the Cupboards

4. The silverware drawer always amazes me because it contains clean utensils, but somehow manages to catch more crumbs than the toaster…EWWW!

4. The silverware drawer

4. The Silverware Drawer

5. The bins of the refrigerator can get really gross quickly. Again, they are crumb catchers, but also magnets for sticky rings from leaky condiments.

5. Refrigerator bins

5. Refrigerator Bins

6. The liquor cabinet can be a lonely place for forgotten and expired liquors and spirits. I actually found a dusty bottle of butterscotch schnapps from a party we hosted the first year of our marriage 15 YEARS AGO!!! While I know some alcohol improves with age, I’m pretty sure this bottle is not on that list.

6. The liquor cabinet

6. The Liquor Cabinet

7. The coffee maker is one appliance that I allow to sit on my counter top, and I wipe it down almost daily, but it does need a deep clean from time to time. Check your owner’s manual because some models suggest you flush them with a vinegar solution. Also, you should wipe out the insides to clear away loose coffee grounds and dust.

7. The coffee maker

7. The Coffee Maker

8. While we are talking about coffee, lets discuss the sugar bowl. I was disgusted to see what had formed at the bottom of my sugar bowl. We had gotten into a pattern of just refilling when empty, but I had not noticed the petrified clumps of sugar that had accumulated at the bottom. That sucker went right into the dishwasher!

8. The sugar bowl

8. The Sugar Bowl

9. The vegetable drawer is a nasty place where unused herbs go to die. Keep an eye on this one because it can go from immaculate to a pseudo-composter in a matter of days.

9. The Vegetable Drawer

9. The Vegetable Drawer

10. The edges of the dishwasher are a horror that I had never imagined! The inside of the dishwasher is very clean, and I am constantly wiping hand prints off of the door, but I never knew just how gross the edges of the door could be. It took some deep scrubbing with a strong cleaner to remove the sludge that literally made me gag!

10. The Edges of the Dishwasher

10. The Edges of the Dishwasher

So there you have it! This is my master list of the areas in your kitchen that you may be neglecting. I now feel better knowing that my kitchen is cleaner, safer, and free from the gross scum that mysteriously accumulates seemingly overnight!

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10 Things to Consider When Renovating Your Kitchen

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As many of you know, I just completed a renovation of my kitchen. It was necessity due to a leaking sliding glass door that had caused the subfloor to rot, but it also created a good opportunity to remodel and change out some aspects of my kitchen that I didn’t love. The white finishes did not suit my family with three small children. Also, the linoleum floor was pretty outdated, and my appliances didn’t match. Finally, my husband and I have a rustic style, so our new construction kitchen didn’t suit our personal tastes.

This was the first remodel that my husband and I had undertaken, and there were some valuable lessons learned in the process. So, recently, when Unique Design of Brisbane, Australia reached out, asking me to share some tips about renovating a kitchen, I was well prepared with my new found knowledge. I am constantly in my kitchen. It is where I cook, relax, oversee homework, eat, and entertain. It is the most used room in my house, so it was essential that I thoroughly planned and considered all of the decisions regarding my updated kitchen. After reflecting on this experience, I compiled a list of my top ten things you should do when planning a kitchen renovation.

# 1 Find What You Like: You need to visualize exactly what you like. Use magazines, Pinterest, or design sites like Unique Design to find pictures of kitchens that appeal to you. Also, remember that you do not need to find all of your tastes in one place. It’s ok to find a picture of a floor and another picture of the cabinets, etc…

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#2 Research Materials: Be sure to research the pros and cons of the materials and finishes you like. Make sure the durability and maintenance match your lifestyle and your family. For example, If you are a meticulous neat-freak, you do not want to choose copper counter tops that will develop marks and an uneven patina over time.

#3 Establish A Budget: Most of us do not have an unlimited amount of money to throw into a kitchen renovation, so establishing a budget is necessary to maintaining mental health and financial stability. When establishing a budget, make sure you can afford it, and make sure your home’s value is proportionate to the renovation budget. Finally, conduct property value research to ensure that you can get a decent return on your investment.

#4 Consider Alternatives: Once you have an idea of what look you are trying to achieve, consider the options. If you can’t afford your first choice, look for cheaper alternatives that provide the same look. Also, consider eco-friendly options when possible. A good showroom, designer, or contactor can help you understand the products currently available on the market.

#5 Evaluate Your Space: Prior to your remodel, evaluate the space in your kitchen and surrounding rooms. Is the space being used as well as possible? For example, we chose to get rid of the kitchen table and created a coffee/wine nook because our dining room was going unused five feet away. Don’t be afraid to use an old space in a new way. It may just make your house feel new again. Luckily, Unique Designs has  Designer 3D, a free downloadable, digital template to use when planning your new kitchen.

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#6 Communicate With Your Designer and/or Contractor: Discuss your needs and thoughts openly from the start. Not only can this save you money, but it will offer you a different perspective and valuable knowledge gained through experience. We learned this with our contractor when he grabbed a piece of slate tile from my rejected pile and showed me how beautiful it could be, and unique ways he could arrange it to create a one-of-a-kind look. It is my favorite part of the new kitchen! Also, when we discussed our budget with him, he pointed out simple things we could do to save hundreds of dollars.

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#7 Be Creative, But Neutral: If you have BOLD style, choose a neutral foundation and add BOLD accents. Remember that your house is an investment. Your expensive renovation should not be something that detracts from the value of your home, nor something that you will regret in five years.

#8 Treat Yourself: Leave enough money in the budget to allow yourself at least one indulgence. Perhaps it will be an expensive light fixture or a new dishwasher. Whatever you choose, it will be the one piece that will jump out at you daily and make the room personal.

#9 Be Patient & Plan Accordingly: In order to preserve your sanity and happiness, plan out your renovation timeline while considering family and professional stressors. Be sure that the construction phase does not overlap your most stressful time of the year, or a major life event.

#10 USE IT!!: Once your kitchen is done, USE IT! Don’t avoid making it messy, or try to preserve its new perfection, embrace it, and appreciate it by cooking in it, or hosting guests to show it off. Make the effort and expense worth it.

So there you have it, my two cents worth of renovation advice. Good luck, happy planning, and love your space!

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via a cash payment, gift, or something else of value to write it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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Kitchen Renovations on a Budget

Pop on over to Chester County Moms and check out my guest post about my recent kitchen renovations on a budget!
Kitchen Reno DIY on a Budget

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On Monday, December 3rd, I will be featured in the weekly newsletter for AllFreeCasseroleRecipes use the link below to subscribe to this great resource. I’d hate for you to miss out!

The Casserole Connection Newsletter Subscription

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How to Brine a Turkey

 

 

Brining a turkey seem like a daunting, messy process, but trust me; It is so worth every ounce of the effort. I use a brine recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse (recipe)

BRINE:

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 oranges, quartered
  • 2 lemons, quartered
  • 6 sprigs thyme
  • 4 sprigs rosemary

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1. Measure the ingredients.

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2. Add water and stir until the salt and sugar dissolve.

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3. Prepare your cooler with 2 strong kitchen trash bags. You can purchase bags specifically for brining, but if you make a large turkey, it is easier to use my method.

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4. Place one bag inside of the other so that you have a double wall of support and leak protection.

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5. Rinse the turkey and remove any “parts” from the cavity. Check both ends…

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6. Place the turkey in the bag, inside the cooler.

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7. Pour brine into the bag with the turkey.

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8. Squeeze out the air, and ensure that the turkey is completely immersed in the brine. Knot each bag tightly.

9. Pack the cooler with ice and store it in the garage or on your deck or patio, out of the sun, for 4-24 hours.

10. After the appropriate amount of time has passed, remove the turkey from the cooler, discard the brine, and rinse the turkey under cool running water.

11. You are now ready to roast the best turkey ever.

For the complete recipe, click here: The Best Freakin’ Turkey, EVER!

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ThanksgivingTimeline

With Thanksgiving tomorrow, and the preparation in full effect, I get loads of questions about what can be made ahead of time, and what must wait until the day of. Here is the timeline that will help you to spread out the workload and manage your stress.

1-3 weeks ahead

  • Send out an invitation and confirm guests.
  • If your guests are contributing to the meal, send out a list of specifics that you need. I used Sign Up Genius this year and it was wonderful and very easy!

3-5 days ahead

  • Go grocery shopping for all of the items on your list.
  • Wash and iron table cloths and napkins
  • Clean the house.
  • Get wine
  • Defrost the turkey (depending on weight, some can take 3-5 days to thaw)

1 day ahead

  • Brine the turkey
  • Boil the giblets with any extra veggies you may have floating around in the fridge. Strain and reserve the broth for roasting the turkey.
  • Purchase and assemble any flowers for centerpieces.
  • Set the table
  • Make the stuffing, but do not bake it until tomorrow.
  • Chill white wine

Thanksgiving Day

  • Put the turkey in the oven.
  • Make mashed potatoes in the morning and then keep them in your crockpot on “warm” until you are ready to serve.
  • When the turkey is done and resting, make gravy
  • Cook any side dishes, including the stuffing.
  • Try to do as much of your prep-work early in the morning so that you can wash those pans and dishes before anyone arrives.
  • Run the dishwasher and empty it  and the sink prior to the meal so that when you start clearing the dinner dishes, you have somewhere to put them all.
  • Hint– ask guests to bring their own storage containers, or purchase some extra at the dollar store, and share the leftovers with all of your guests. This prevents food waste and helps to keep your own calorie indulgence to a minimum! No one needs to eat pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes for 4 days straight!
  • Take a moment and enjoy the meal! You worked hard to make it, so be sure to savor it!
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Hurricane Survival

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So if you live anywhere on the East coast of the US, you are most likely preparing for a wicked storm and power outages. Here are some quick tips for emergency meals that actually resemble dinner:

1. Remember that you can plug a crock pot into a generator. If you have either one of those, use them to keep soup, chili, or taco filling warm. Then, you can eat when hungry.
2. Pick up a cheap electric fondue pot during your emergency shopping. An electric fondue pot can cook anything from a can (soup, beans, rice, pasta…) ***this tip is also helpful for any college student who hates dining hall food.
3. Don’t forget about your waffle iron. Again, if you have a generator, plug in your handy-dandy waffle iron and use it to make cinnamon bun waffles. Just press the refrigerated uncooked dough spirals between the plates, and voila! You have a yummy waffle.
4. For those of you that do not have a generator… If you have a wood burning fireplace, invest in some campfire sticks and you can roast hotdogs and s’mores inside.
5. Be creative with the crackers, cheese, and lunch meat that you may lose without a refrigerator. Let your kids have fun trying new combinations or shapes. This can also be fun with some cookie cutters and bread.
6. Some of you may manually light the burners of your gas range. Check your owners manual to see if this is a safe option. If so, go with it.
7. If you have near-by neighbors, host a “use it, or lose it party” it is a great way to use up food that would otherwise go to waste. This party is best after the storm when the weather is nice, but power is still out. It is also a good way to mooch some generator power off of a nice neighbor so that you may charge your phone or flat iron your hair (Mrs. Bundra 😉

These are just a few ideas off the top of my head. Be sure to share your own tips in the comments below.

Take precaution, hunker down, and be safe, my fairy friends ❤

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Chicken Stash

Here is a quick tip to make weeknight, or time crunched meals much easier.

** Keep a stash of cooked chicken in the freezer or fridge to be easily added to any meal.

  • Season boneless, skinless chicken breasts with olive oil and garlic, then grill. These cooked breasts can be stored in the fridge for a few days. Dice them for a salad, add them to fresh sautéed vegetables, or toss with pasta and alfredo sauce. This grilled chicken can also be diced and frozen to add to soups or casseroles.
  • Make shredded chicken to freeze. If you reach the point where you have to cook some chicken before it expires, throw it in your crock pot with a few cups of chicken broth. Cook until it is tender and falling apart. Then shred the chicken and cool before freezing.
  • A great way to shred the chicken is to throw it into your stand mixer with the paddle attachment and give it a whirl. You will have perfectly shredded meat every time!
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“Don’t Yuck My Yum”

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So, perhaps the one question I get most often is “How do you get your kids to eat what you cook?” Well, I have some tips for you…
First, let me start with a disclaimer. I am not a professional, and I am also not “Mother of the Year”, but I do have three kids who put up dinner challenges often enough for me to develop a pretty deep bag of tricks.
I will start with my personal philosophy of food. I firmly believe in the theory that you do not fight food battles with children. According to Dr. Ross Greene, there are two behaviors over which your child has ultimate control: using the bathroom and eating. Fighting battles over these behaviors can end in devastating power struggles, and the parent usually loses. I have had success in letting go of complete food control in exchange for a series of healthy choices.
With that being said, I also am not willing to allow my children to grow up to be picky adults who only eat pizza and grilled cheese. (I once had a principal who was like this, and it was a bit bizarre to see a grown man special order a grilled cheese at a fancy professional dinner!)
Here are my top tips:

  • ULTIMATE RULE # 1—Do not “YUCK” my “YUM”! – It is not polite or fair to look at someone else’s food and declare that it is gross, disgusting, yucky, or EWWWW!!!! (I have to thank my co-worker, Eve, for this quote.)
  •  I require that my children take a bite of something before they declare that they do not like it. Even if they have tried it before, they have to give it another shot. – I am reasonable. I finally let my oldest stop trying green beans after 10 years of bites.
  •  Be flexible with the presentation. Last night I made a grilled chicken salad with raspberries and mandarin oranges. I knew that my kids do not like meat on their salad, but they like meat and salad, so I placed them on the plate separately. The same can be done with spicy dishes or sauces. If I am making something with a spicy sauce, I pull some cooked meat out and allow my kids to pick their own dipping sauce. It requires no real extra effort on my part.
  • As a reward for courageous eating, allow your child to pick the next day’s meal. If you allow them to be a part of dinner planning, they will perceive themselves as a valued member of the dinner experience.
  • Allow them to cook with you. The benefits of this practice are endless from an educational perspective, but I have also found that if kids see what goes into the meal, and they like all the parts, they are more willing to eat the final product. It is a trust thing here. If it looks like mystery meat, they are not going to eat it, but if they saw the original ingredients, you have demystified the suspicious dish.
  • Add colored ice cream sprinkles. I know this one is a bit desperate and outlandish, but it works for some kids. I have a very sweet, very healthy nephew, who is now 17, but as a 3-year-old, it took sprinkles to get him to eat mashed potatoes, or spaghetti. (This is a “big gun” and should only be used when you are at your wit’s end!)
  • Finally, know when to quit. Some battles I am not willing to die for, so if my kids are really against what I am serving, I allow them to choose a healthy alternative that I do not have to cook. If they have made a reasonable attempt, I allow them to grab a fruit or vegetable and a yogurt or heat up leftovers from a previous night. Sometimes it is not worth the battle, or the stress.

So there are my top tricks. The bag is not empty, so please feel free to ask for more. I would also love to have you share a few of your own that work well. Also, please let us know if any of these helped you. It feels good to celebrate success!