Monthly Archives: May 2018

More About Self-Cleaning Cooking

Also available on the self-cleaning cooking page, see the menu, above, for a link to the page, all of these posts are there!

I have been working on this, it’s complicated!

There are these considerations:

  • Food storage: put away, recycled, or washed afterwards

There’s not much to be done about food storage. Food comes in whatever packaging or storage it does. You can repackage carrots say to share storage with parsnips, but that doesn’t change the requirement to take the food from storage and manipulate it for your recipe and return the unused portion or clean the storage item or deal with it somehow. Eliminating ingredients doesn’t change this requirement. Buying prefab possibly can, buying Bisquick instead of making pancake batter from scratch can reduce the packaging used: one box of Bisquick, instead of three: baking powder, salt, and flour.

  • Cooking tools used: washed afterwards

Eliminating or cutting down cooking tools is easier. You can decide to not use a peeler and use the knife you’ve already used to top/tail the carrots, as an example.

The easiest for me to eliminate is the tablespoon measure, it’s 3 teaspoons and I have no problem figuring that out. I sometimes look at the recipe and determine the measures required, 1/2 teaspoon, 1 teaspoon, 1 tablespoon. say.  Then I use, deliberately, only the smallest measure for all of them.

I will use one graduated cup measure throughout the recipe instead of using a cup measure, a 1/4 cup measure, etc. Or, I’ll use the 1/4C measure, like above. If it’s sane, I’ll measure the dry ingredients first, then the wet ones. (It’s easy to undo whatever item savings you may have doing this, because you need places to store the chopped onions, etc. for later!)

There’s a point at which this is totally counterproductive and I try and take that into consideration too!

  • Areas messed: washed afterwards

This isn’t as easy to do something about. Even when you reuse an area, a chopping board say, you still should clean it between uses. And, of course, it will need to be cleaned afterwards. You can limit the number of areas used by reusing them, but the quantity of cleaning required is harder, if not impossible, to reduce.

  • Serving tools/utensils used: washed afterwards

There are some obvious ideas, you can use dinner plates, etc. and serve everything together, instead of serving everything in separate dishes. Again, there are limits.


Trying to find ways to do this, I found this article at Bon Appetit. Here’s my comments about the article:

  • Her first idea is to use oven to table pots, instead of using pots & serving dishes.

My take is: Instead of serving items in the pot you cook it, how about plating food in the kitchen? Then the pot doesn’t need to be oven to table ready. If you have a big family or do lots of complicated cooking, this probably won’t work, but there’s two of us. I rarely use “serving” dishes. I sold all my platters because of this. I just don’t do that kind of cooking. When I take food to neighbors, etc. I use baskets, jars, etc. — no serving dishes.

  • Her second idea is to stop using multiple knives for everything, but to use one good knife instead.

My problem with this is that you increase the amount of dish washing mid-recipe, between cutting chicken and onions, say. That said? I set up a loaf pan with soapy water and put used utensils in it as I go. I try and wash them before the meal is served, to save the knives’ wood handles.

  • Number 3 is to get your timing down so as to make the best use of it.

Absolutely!

  • The fourth item on that list is an addition to 3, that is, clean whatever you can in the short down times between steps.

Again, I agree! You’d be surprised how many dishes you can wash while the micro is reheating your coffee for 1 minute!

  • Don’t use two items when one will do is her fifth idea.

I’ve worked at this for a while now. [I fixed the typo; I’m an editor, right?]

  • Item #6: Rinse and reuse prep tools rather than using new ones.

Also part of #5. In most cases, I’d probably WASH rather than just rinse. It depends on what I’d used it for, when. Rinsing the spoon you used to add the last of the spices to a cooked dish is fine. Only rinsing a spoon used for the initial mixing a dish with raw chicken? Nope.

  • Her last idea is to buy a scale and never use measuring spoons, etc. again.

That’s fine, if all your recipes have weight as well as volume measurements provided. But, many of my recipes don’t.  I’m not really interested in converting 1,000s of recipes so that I know a 1/2 tsp of salt weighs whatever it does. Might be interesting to do for some things. But even the salt won’t work, because you won’t eliminate anything: you need a container to put the salt into, to measure it. If you’re making a curry dish where all the spices are added individually, yeah, sure, use and reuse the same small bowl, but for a beef roast’s gravy?

Even if you use a scale instead of a volume measure, you still haven’t eliminated an item to wash, so like all of these suggestions, I’d take it “with a grain of salt.” [Couldn’t resist that!]


I’m not sure what conclusions this exercise gave me?

stack of dirty pots & pans

( Image isn’t mine, as usual, via images.google.com )

The four areas of mess making (food storage, cooking tools, cooking areas, and serving/eating tools)  was a moment of clarity I hadn’t had before. Unfortunately, the nature of acquiring/storing food, manipulating it for use, and serving it has only so many ways it can be simplified.

More thought required!

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What DH Said

“…so the onslaught begins!”

True enough. Yesterday was the first day of farm food: 2 kinds of lettuce, spinach, arugula, radishes, and the only herb I took was tarragon.

By comparison with the remainder of the summer, this is nothing. I always do the week’s shopping the same day, on the way home as the cheapest market is right on the way. So, I come home with a car load.

I have: stuffed some of the larger TARRAGON into a bottle of champagne vinegar I bought for that. It’s my favorite vinegar flavor combo, and I sure can’t afford to buy it premade. I’m always looking for champagne vinegar on sale because of this. I’d used up what I had, so was delighted when I found some in Feb. There’s a bunch of TARRAGON hanging up to dry. There’s the odd bits & pieces in the oven dehydrating, to refill the spice jar.

The RADISH greens have been washed and are drying in the oven. Will be added to the mixed “peppy” greens. I do a jar of peppy and savory greens every year. Add them to soups, salads, etc.

Most of one bunch  of ARUGULA was used in a chicken sandwich, my dinner last night. (DH made himself something while I was gone.) The rest of the bunch was dried and added to the peppy greens jar.

So, it’s been not quite 12 hours, I’ve used greens on a sandwich, put bagged herbs up to dry, dried herbs and greens in the oven to add to the back stock, and added herbs to vinegar for flavoring. The tarragon and radish greens have all been accounted for. Half the arugula has been used.

lettuces

I have a week to use up the spinach, lettuces, and radishes.


A week later. I have used up all of the spinach, some of the lettuces and radishes. I need to go start dehydrating. That would take care of a lot of this!

All of the remaining greens, except the lettuces, are washed, stemmed, and ready to dehydrate. The first batch is in the dehydrator. Will be out soon, greens dry quickly! We’re having salad for lunch, and that should take care of all but perhaps a very small amount of last week’s share. NO leftovers!

 

 

Making Dinner, Meal Planning, Clean as you Go Cooking,Cookbooks & Other Fantasies

I haven’t been “Mrs. Domestic” for the past few weeks, yes? When I am, I know what dinner will be by around noon most days. Today? At 5:00 I asked DH if he was getting hungry? His answer was “Yes.” so I had to figure something out.

My friend Linda came by to loan me a book earlier today, Yes, that Linda, the one who reads and comments here a lot. We had tea, but my kitchen was a disaster.

DH & I were working on other things last night, our regular Monday routine’s been blown, and I just didn’t feel like doing anything after I put the food away yesterday.

I washed a load of dishes when I got up this morning, but there was still a backlog which needed to be dealt with.

Into this chaos comes Linda. Do I think she thought less of me? No. But long-run, I had an experience I rarely have, I was embarrassed after she left. Three loads of dishes later, I had to make dinner.

So, at 5:00 p.m., I’m thinking: Hm. Nothing planned. Nothing thawed. No prefab food. What will I make?

Ended up thawing 1 lb of chicken thighs, oven fried them, same way I do to make lemon fried chicken, without the lemon sauce. Cooked sweet potatoes with onion, ginger, and dried, sweet cranberries. Added chopped pecans and bacon bits (from the freezer) just before we ate. DH made peas. It was yummy! We’ll have the left overs tomorrow for lunch or dinner.

Tell me again why I need menu planning?

Was this frugal? Probably not. Maybe I need menu planning  so I can cook frugally?

At this point, the only reason I’d really consider taking the time and effort would be if menu planning meant I could finish dinner and have little or no mess to deal with from the prep. The only way I know to do that consistently is to use prefab foods, and I won’t.

Menu planning is pushed as a way to plan your grocery shopping. I have certain items I stock my kitchen/pantry with and cook from what I have. I rarely use recipes, except as guide lines. [I looked at the oven fried chicken recipe for how much oil it specified and used less. I looked up a Morrocan recipe for sweet potato salad for how many raisins, sweet potatoes, onion, and ginger they used. Used the same amount of sweet potatoes and dried cranberries, the quantity of water to soak the berries in and how long. Otherwise? Nope.]

I suppose cooking (or trying to) since about 1967 when I took Home Ec, that the meals I’ve made good and bad have given me a certain expertise. I’m not a pro by any stretch, but after 50 years I guess I can wing it successfully (sometimes).

So, if someone has a book where the meal planning = a nearly clean kitchen when the food is served? Please let me know! I would sure love to have it! I bought a Irma Rombauer book thinking that’s what it was. This one:

Streamlined Cooking, published in 1939. I went to a lot of trouble to acquire a copy. I thought my troubles were over! But neither the listing where I’d first found out about it nor the book dealer who sold it to me used the full title:

Streamlined Cooking: new and delightful recipes for canned, packaged and frosted foods and rapid recipes for fresh foods 

I’m not a fan of many prefab foods, canned, packaged, or frosted. The rapid recipes are all right and I use the book for that. And to remind myself that all the years in the book business do not guarantee that I know wtf I’m doing when I get a used book!

There is another “streamlined cooking” book I may buy at some point, authored by a woman who wrote a book I own, about using a freezer efficiently.

That book has actual techniques in it to help save you time and effort, but it’s also obvious that the book was solicited by the manufacturers of various and sundry kitchen gadgets, or her column (if she had one?) was subsidized by them, as the book has unabashedly about 10 pages of reviewed kitchen gadgets, most of which you can’t find now.  And the book recommends products I’d love to find, but can’t. She recommends a farm which mail ordered bulk frozen sugared fruit, but they don’t exist now. She recommends various packaging materials I can’t find.

I also can’t find a copy of her hints/tips cookbook to look at, first. After the Rombauer experience, I’m loathe to buy this one sight unseen.

The best I’ve found is MegaCooking by Jill Bond, it’s a book for cooking in bulk for the freezer. Wonderful book, has lots of useful ideas about how to save time, energy and money in the kitchen, but not self-cleaning cooking — and that’s what I’m after.

I’ve always loved a good fantasy!

images

The image isn’t mine, but it made me laugh out loud. I got it via Google Images.

Modifications

  1. One of the “truths” I’ve gotten to which I wrote about is that I not only need to do maintenance cleaning (dishes, laundry, sweeping, etc.) but deep cleaning (cleaning cabinets, appliances, windows, etc.) to get the house clean.
  2. I’ve also noticed that the only way to keep areas where items are always in use decluttered is to put more away than you use, like the chart, here.
  3. These days, whatever I’m doing, I look at the pieces with the idea that maybe I should get rid of some of it?
  4. Today I decided that if I ever expect to declutter this house, I have to make the culling and removal of the items stored in boxes as much a part of my cleaning routines as the others.

So, what did I do? I swapped out the summer and winter scarves and robes today. In the process, I pulled 2 hats out for culling, 1 purse I’d forgotten was in there for resale. Then I opened a box and found FIVE chunks of old business records from 1990-1992 to put into the paper recycling.

The swap is part of the regular seasonal shift. Also included: washing the shower curtains, refreshing the Never Wet on them (We have a lot of iron in our water. Without the Never Wet, the curtains turn ruddy brown.) Cleaning and storage of the heavy winter blankets/flannel sheets. Swapping winter clothes for lighter ones.

Just for grins the other day, at Target (?) I looked at shower curtains/liners. Curtains were about $25, liners $5. We have 2 cloth liners, one black, one white. Works fine!

Our plan today is to take both cars to the dump and get rid of the bags of leaves as well as another large chunk of stuff.

DH put the knobs on the new bathroom cabinet. More progress!

I put things away into the new cabinet. Found the missing back stock of deodorant and shampoo, got the emergency supplies (first aid and eye wash) organized and in one place again. (Did that first.) So, although the bathroom project isn’t finished, there’s a bit less chaos now than there was this morning!

 

Two Types of Flashbacks

The last time I was cleaning 5 days a week (my goal) except for dishes/food clean up was last month. On the 15th, I wrote this blog saying, “I’m doing it!” and started waking up in full panic: heart pounding, palms sweating, shaking, the whole thing. When I have a full, emotional flashback, it’s a two-week readjustment, but not a cleaning flashback. Those take longer, about 4 weeks.

What I’ve done successfully, is to make the routines, at least a minimum of them just habit. So, for the past 4 weeks, I’ve done some laundry, but haven’t put it away consistently. Done some dishes every day, but rarely are all of them done, etc. There aren’t 4 weeks of accumulated laundry and dishes to do. I haven’t gotten much sleep and my stress levels are up, but I’ve dealt with it.

My challenge is to either 1)Try and add to what I can do in the “bad times.” or 2)Lengthen the period when I can clean. The problem with either and this challenge is that if I notice what I’m doing — the panic starts.

I’m really sick of fighting this stuff! I’m in my 60s — I am honestly, truly tired of being affected by things which happened in my childhood. But they gave me PTSD and all of it, the mess to hide in and the other events or adaptations I made to protect myself, are all wrapped together as my flashback. Push on any piece too hard and there I go down the flashback rabbit hole.

The only difference is that when I’m pushed emotionally, I have a successful route I forged back. From something like the movie thing, it takes a day or two. If someone attacks me? It takes two full weeks.

I don’t have such a mechanism for the panic attacks/cleaning flashbacks. What I originally did with the emotional ones was to recreate my growth, one step at a time away from the painful place I used to live. I haven’t managed anything except the very first steps away from the panic/stress.

  1. I understand the root of the panic.
  2. I also understand that the reason it was and is so hard to fight is that when it occurs, I’m in full fight/flight panic mode.
  3. I have realized that the only way I know which might work is to habitualize the cleaning.

That’s worked to some extent or the other.

What hasn’t worked? Finding a way to notice that I’m cleaning and not go into a full-blown panic attack/flashback.


There’s hope. Until I typed what’s above and remembered what I’d done for the emotional attacks, I’d forgotten that I ritualized the steps away from the bad old days. I did that for years until my therapist said, “Do you really have to recreate each step, one after the other these days? Next time, see if you can’t condense some of it.” And I could!

So, hope exists. But it took me 20 years or so to heal enough that I could conceive of  recreating the healing route. Twenty months longer on the cleaning/panic is about 18 months more than I want to spend….

But, of course, the being dictating the rate I can go isn’t my conscious, adult brain, but that wounded little girl, whose body remembers all the trauma. She and the body run the roadways and determine how much I can do and how fast. train image from target

My adult self just has to sit back, be patient, and wait. It sometimes feels as if I’m a passenger on an electric train. I got on, the doors closed and locked. All I can do is patiently wait until it stops!

trolley

 

Spring Cleaning — and Not

It’s spring so I did my annual search — looking for spring cleaning lists. I’m always trying to find things I may have forgotten.

Of course, there always are things I haven’t done, but many I do get done without a reminder. Fridge shelves get pulled, about 1 a week. We have bins on the doors and I just started doing these, again. Did the bottom bin last week. The next bin up the door will get cleaned this week. I’ll just keep going: bottom to top on the door bins, then top to bottom on the shelves, then do it again… Means the fridge is never ever completely clean top to bottom, but it also means that it never is a disaster everywhere either!  The only big problem with this is that the overall fridge doesn’t get wiped down. I do behind the bins and shelves I’m removing, but not otherwise. I guess I should add a week of just doing the rest of the door or large cavity after I get the shelves done? The freezer, on the other hand, only gets cleaned about once a year.

Another aspect people recommend as part of spring cleaning are pieces I clean as a part of the walls, windows, doors, floors, and ceilings: that is, things attached to those places. When the curtains become part of the window and you wash the window, you also put the curtains through the dryer to remove dust and clean the hardware at the same time. Again, my goal isn’t to have an immaculate house, but a house which doesn’t need marathon cleaning.

So I try and deep clean a few items every week so I don’t have to deep clean a lot of things at once. True of everything from bedding to yard work. (Works better for the bedding than the yard work, can’t pick up leaves midwinter, no matter how much you may want to!)

When I do this regularly, the house gets cleaner. Actually, it works too well and leans on the PTSD, so it gets done in fits & starts, like everything else. That said, it used to be that I only really decluttered and did maintenance cleaning in fits and starts.  These days, I regularly cull and declutter a bit and do maintenance cleaning almost all the time. I deep clean a little more regularly than I ever have. So progress, just slow.

More nibbling!

broom-cartoon

5/24: Started the reorganization required by the bathroom construction. That isn’t complete, and won’t be, until the constuction is entirely finished. Also started the cull/clean/reorganization of the pantry.

Interesting!

I never thought there was more than one kind of stigma? To me, it’s all of a piece. People think less of me if I talk about the events, etc. which formed much of who I am. If I had a famous parent or such it would be interesting, but I don’t. Anyway, here’s an article about stigma, fyi.

Top 10 Mental Health Stigmas #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek

My other comment about stigma can be found here.