Cooking Tips from the Non-Culinary Inspired

Hello everyone:

Let’s say that you have decided to become the next celebrity chef….or not, but you have made the decision to begin cooking your own meals. This is great! Here are some tips to make your cleanup easier. As you begin cooking, get into the cabinets and refrigerator and take out all of the things you will need to prepare whatever it is that you are making. As you use an ingredient, don’t put it down, put it away!

By putting things back where they belong as you cook, you will make sure that you include everything in the recipe that is called for, while also cleaning the work area at the same time. When the food item is in the oven, clean the dishes and wipe down the counter top. You will find that you have a sparkling kitchen as well as a delicious meal waiting for you.

Note: There is a difference between a tablespoon and a teaspoon and it really does matter which measuring spoon and measuring cup you use.  The measurements are usually etched into the measuring spoons and cups, but you may need your reading glasses to see them. Don’t be lazy here, go get your glasses!

Also, be careful not to mix up sugar and salt. There is a difference between the two. One tastes good in pies and the other will gag you. (Don’t ask!) Also, there is a difference between ketchup and tomato sauce. One is great on hamburgers and the other….not so much. Do not refill your ketchup bottle with tomato sauce – or, worse yet, tomato paste! You and your guests will notice. I promise.

Cleaning the cooking pot or pan can be done while you eat; take the amount of food you want to eat, put the rest in refrigerator containers, and fill the pot or pan with dish soap and hot water while you eat.  You will consume the meal and find the pot or pan much easier to clean since you have left it soaking for a few minutes. Do not leave the pot or pan soaking for any longer or you may end up leaving it for a week.

When my maternal aunt died (very young, only 53) of stomach cancer, her youngest child was only 16 years old. The young girl was the only child still at home with her father; neither of them knew anything about housekeeping. They “let dishes soak” for a week at a time, since neither of them knew how to operate their new dishwasher. Do you really want to reach into a sink of water, soap, and decaying food? I didn’t think so; clean the pots, pans, and dishes right after a meal, not days (or weeks) later.

A dishwasher is a wonderful thing. However, make sure that you are using the right product for the right appliance. Using liquid dish washing soap in a dishwasher will lead to the opportunity of having a bubble bath in your kitchen…..all over the floor. Since a foaming bath should be reserved for your bathroom, you will want to make sure that you use dishwasher soap in the dishwasher.

If there are multiple people in your household, it is very important that everyone is aware when the dishwasher contains clean dishes that are drying. I put a little note that says “dishes drying, do not open” on my counter top; this gives me a couple hours to unload the now-clean and dry dishes and prevents someone from adding a dirty dish to my clean ones. It is very hard, sometimes, to figure out which dirty dish was added to the clean ones, so the sign helps (at my house, we wash the dishes off before putting them into the dishwasher; the appliance is used more for sanitizing than actually cleaning the dishes).

There is also a product that reduces water spots left on glasses; if you have hard water, you may want to consider using it. You can get the type that is used with every wash, with every few washes, or one that is included in the dish washing compound.

If you use the dishwasher to actually clean the dishes, look them over carefully before you put them away. If there is any gunk left on the dishes, wash them off by hand and return them to the dishwasher to be sanitized. If the fork has a piece of dried, hardened spaghetti on it, putting it away dirty will lead to unhappiness when you take a fork out of the drawer next time. Do you really want to eat tonight’s dinner with a spaghetti-encrusted fork from last week? I didn’t think so.

Best,

Dr. Sheri

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