Thursday, May 16, 2013

Cleaning Beyond the Basics Week 3: The Dishwasher Gasket

The repairman told me that you are supposed to periodically clean your dishwasher gasket to keep your machine running in top condition--that's the seal at the door opening. Who knew?

Ours is gross again.


 I scrub mine with baking soda, a scrubber, and a grout brush. Where does all this gunk come from, and how does it get stuck in the gasket?

I guess it gets built up after a few years... which is how long it's been since I last cleaned the thing. It was really bad...
After I used this towel as a drop cloth, I used it to wipe away all the slimy muck. There was a lot.

Time Investment: Less than 10 Minutes
Materials: Grout Brush, scrubber, baking soda, cleaning cloth
Payoff: Maybe? If the dishes aren't noticeably cleaner (we'll see) maybe it will prevent leaking or gasket wear or something?

No one will ever notice except me and the dishwasher repairman, but it's now clean!

So far I've washed a door, cleaned ice cream out of a utensil drawer, and cleaned my dishwasher gasket. Up next...

Monday, May 13, 2013

Meal Planning with evening commitments EVERY NIGHT...

Potato Salad... soooo good!
While scheduling my week this morning I've discovered that we have something happening every night this week. This is very unusual, but a bunch of my evening work events have come up at the same time, and I'm really going to have to realllly concentrate to make dinner come out of our kitchen and not out of a takeout box/bag. :)

Here's the plan:

  • Monday-Salt and Pepper Chicken, Sweet Potato Tater Tots (from Trader Joe's the only sweet potatoes my kids will eat!), steamed green beans, and grapes (Prep chicken in baking dish earlier in day. Throw in oven before leaving for work event, add tater tots after 30 min, ready at 7 PM, which is our regular dinner time)
  • Tuesday-Grilled Salmon, Sesame Baby Bok Choy, steamed broccoli, soba noodles, and sliced pears (Cook 1 hour earlier than usual: grill salmon (pay fry if it rains) wilt bok choy, boil pasta, slice pears)
  • Wednesday-Grilled Chicken Sausage, Potato Salad, grilled zucchini, peas and corn (Make potato salad before soccer practice, grill sausage and zucchini afterwards, microwave peas and corn.)
  • Thursday-Spaghetti and Turkey Meatballs, Steamed Broccoli, sliced cantaloupe (Put together before going back to work, also bake dessert for Friday night)
  • Friday-Neighborhood Pizza Night, bring dessert... I think I will make these
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Potato Kale Quiche
 Menu planning is a life-saver!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Easy Gourmet Cranberry Turkey Wraps

Here's my very favorite sandwich wrap combination! You'll need:
  • one tortilla (I like Trader Joe's Homemade Whole Wheat Tortillas)
  • some whipped cream cheese
  • a small handful of dried cranberries
  • 2 slices turkey breast
  • handful of salad greens or fresh spinach
  • 1 carrot

 Spread the cream cheese...
 Scatter cranberries...
Add turkey slices...
Add salad greens (I like to pile them on, like a salad in a sandwich!)
Finish with carrot peelings, or if you are running short on time like I was, just add the entire carrot. :)
It's incredibly tasty, portable, it will keep me full until dinner, and it's barely a recipe! I also enjoy it with a mug of butternut squash soup.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Cleaning Beyond the Basics Week 2: Utensil Drawer Vacuuming

Sometimes I open a utensil drawer in the kitchen and wonder... what happened here?

According to my Mom CSI skills, this scene is the result of opening the drawer to get the ice cream scoop, and scooping the ice cream over the open drawer... ? How is that even possible?

In any case, I needed to vacuum the crumbs out of the drawer. I guess it gets left open quite a bit despite having that wonderful whisper close mechanism. I'm the only one using it I guess.

And while I'm here I could remove the utensils that I NEVER use. And the ones the belong in another drawer.

Allowing kids to try things independently doesn't always work out the way it would if an adult had handled the task! But it's much better now.

Time Investment: about 15 minutes
Materials: Vacuum, Scrubber, Dish Soap, Sponge
Payoff: Immediate! (But perhaps temporary?)

So far I've washed a door, and cleaned ice cream our of a utensil drawer. Up next...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Quick and Easy Play Date Snack

This is our favorite play date snack!

What you'll need:
  • 3 apples
  • 3 slices of cheese (we like sharp cheddar slices from Trader Joe's)
  • Approximately 30 crackers

1. Slice the apples--for small kids I slice them into 16ths, make a nice thin slice
2. Cut the cheese slices into 10 pieces each, arrange in circle on plate
3. Stack crackers in middle of plate.

The kids just scarf this up. Easy, filling, and festive, too!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Vegetarian Freezer Cooking: Spontaneous Session

Spontaneous freezer cooking sessions don't always work out, but I was on a roll one day recently and decided to see what I could get made, both to eat now and to stash in the freezer.

I started with a large container of cooked brown rice that I made the other day (2 cups uncooked), a bunch of kale that I needed to use up, and a bag of potatoes, which I decided to use to make a cheesy hash brown casserole.

First I boiled the water for nine medium-large potatoes, cooked them for 15 minutes, and cooked them.

Meanwhile, I shredded two blocks of cheddar cheese in the food processor and dumped it in a bowl. There was no need to clean out the processor before using it to shred a large bunch of dinosaur kale because the cheese and kale were going to end up together in a casserole anyway. :) It conveniently made exactly two cups of shredded kale (and my favorite part: it was super fast!)

One cup of kale went into a freezer bag for freezing, the other cup of kale was mixed with 4 cups of the cooked brown rice, eggs, milk, cheese, and other ingredients to make a kale brown rice casserole.

I'll use the extra kale to make a potato kale quiche!

I still had a lot of brown rice left and I noticed that right there on the other page of my cookbook was another easy brown rice casserole recipe, so I grabbed some beans, frozen corn, salsa, and more cheese, mixed it up, and plopped it in a freezer bag. (We'll see how it turns out when I defrost it and bake it!)

I returned to the potatoes, peeled the skins, grated them (easier than I thought it would be), and assembled the potato casserole. My original plan was to bake half and freeze half (to see how it would freeze), but I ended up baking the entire thing for a neighborhood happy hour. I'll definitely make it again because the neighbors inhaled the whole thing... no pictures, unfortunately!

I have two parboiled potatoes left (seemed like I had enough potatoes after I grated 7) that I stuck in the fridge, I quickly grated them and fried them with a little butter for dinner the next night, they were just as tasty as the casserole.

I also had cheese left that I used to assemble some bean and cheese quesadillas, which are always nice to have on hand for lunches, snacks, even a very simple dinner.

So in all, not a ton of items made it to the freezer: only 1 bag of shredded kale, 1 brown rice and bean casserole, and 12 Bean and Cheese Quesadillas.

But we also had the potato casserole and kale brown rice casserole along with two extra potatoes, so I consider it to be a successful session, and it took less than two hours!

You can read about another vegetarian freezer cooking session here.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Cleaning Beyond the Basics Week 1: Grimy Door Handles

Obviously there are household occupants who prefer to close the door to the garage using the door jamb rather than the door knob. Ask me how I know.

In our defense, my husband maintains and repairs his own bicycle, and there isn't a way to wash your hands in the garage.

 You know it's a serious situation when the Magic Eraser comes away like this...

And then the cleaning wipe you subsequently use (to remove the dirty water) looks like this:

But finally your door looks reasonably clean again. (I should mention that it is a painted metal door, YMMV when cleaning a different surface door.)

Time Investment: Minimal--less than 5 minutes
Materials: Magic Eraser with water, cleaning wipe
Payoff: Immediate!

Would I be going overboard to try and train my family to use the doorknob?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cleaning Beyond the Basics: A 12-Week Series

Very tempting...
It never seems to end... the dirty floors, the dirty sinks, the dust... it takes our entire family plus a monthly cleaning crew to keep our 2,000 square foot house tolerable, and I feel like we cut corners all the time!

I'm tired of just being 'adequate' and I want to stay ahead. The problem is that there is more to cleaning a house than vacuuming the floors and scrubbing the bath tubs, although those tasks are a big factor. I'll be doing a weekly post about the little tasks that need to be done periodically around the house, the small details that are either overlooked until a huge mess is created, or the tricks that might help an appliance work better.

If you're interested, follow along, and please share if you clean these spaces too! Go here to read about what I've cleaned so far.