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The Blonde Cucina: With spring's arrival, time to clean your kitchen

by on March 18, 2015 10:52 PM

With daylight savings time, warmer temperatures and the sun shining, some of you may get the urge to start that annual rite of passage, spring cleaning.

You may be cleaning the windows, scrubbing your house top to bottom, putting away the winter clothes and pulling out the spring and summer wardrobe, but many of you won’t take on the challenge of cleaning out your kitchen.

Think about it: In order to really clean them, you will have to empty the fridge, freezer, cupboards and pantry. This is a daunting task, and I’m guessing you’re getting tired just thinking of this huge feat. It’s scary to think what might be up in that cupboard that you can't quite see to the back of, and it’s easier to forget about it than to get a step stool or chair to actually see.

Also, some of us go into hibernate mode for the winter and it's more than likely you stocked up and accrued some “unhealthy” foods in your freezer, fridge and cupboard.

If you think long and hard about this, it is so much easier to make good healthful meals while you’re at home when your kitchen's cupboards, fridge and freezer are organized and up to date. And, when you know what you have on hand, you’ll end up really stretching your food dollar. I’m here to tell you how you can reclaim your kitchen and organize it in a way that works for you and your family. Here's my three-step plan to “spring clean” your kitchen:

Clean out your freezer.

It's time. Get rid of every single item that has ice crystals forming on it. This means your food is freezer burnt and it isn’t going to taste good. It will actually taste bad, and a couple of those crystals generally mean your food has lost its nutritional contents.

Remember, you freezer can be your friend … but it can also be your enemy. I suggest you only keep some uncooked meats, such as lean beef and chicken, in there (and maybe that ice cream that no one knows about but you). Proteins are good for up to nine months once frozen, and can help you skip a midweek trip to the grocery store. And, since you’re switching to a healthier life style, fill the rest of it with bags of frozen fruit. You can use those to make one heck of a smoothie.

Don't stock up on premade meals and frozen snacks. But, if you must have a couple on hand, when at the store search for options with fewer than 500 calories and no more than 400 mg of sodium.

Purge your cupboards.

If you’re thinking the only junk food in your house is that bag of potato chips on the top shelf of the cupboard, think again. Anything packed with sugar, sodium and preservatives, such as pretzels and most granola bars and energy bars, can be junk food, too. If you must, go for healthy “junk food” such as air-popped popcorn and nuts.

Get rid of those high-sugar cereals. I know, I know — those Lucky Charms (which are secretly for you and not for the kids) may only have 100 calories, but they are loaded with sugar. And, you have to remember that even those “healthy-appearing” choices at the store like can be just as bad as those Lucky Charms.

When shopping, make sure to look for whole grains and brown rice and pastas.

Make sure everything has its place.

Make your new healthy habits stick and keep that kitchen clean. You'll actually have to do some major thinking to determine how you want to put your kitchen back together. Make sure your healthy options are at eye level and make it really hard to reach that junk food. Also, to ensure peak freshness, make sure all your items are in their correct places, in dated order.

Remember when you’re at the store to select items that will allow you to stock your kitchen with nutritious choices. Then, rearrange your kitchen in a way that inspires you to grab those healthy choices and jump starts the kickoff to a new you.

Here's a great recipe for using some of the items that I’m sure you pulled out of the cupboard and freezer during your kitchen cleaning session.

SPRING CLEANING PASTA TOSS

1 pound of pasta (any type)

8 ounces chicken breast, cubed into small pieces

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 1/2 cups frozen French-cut green beans, thawed

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup grated Romano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta, putting 2 cups of the cooking water aside.

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic, chicken, salt and pepper. Cook until golden brown. Once chicken is done cooking (about 6 minutes), add green beans and grated Romano cheese; stir.

Add 1/2 cup of hot pasta water. Stir to melt Romano, creating a sauce; add more pasta water if necessary. Stir in the parsley. Gently fold in cooked pasta and Parmesan cheese, adding more reserved pasta water if necessary. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.



Ciara Semack is the owner of The Blonde Bistro in Bellefonte. She is the mother of one and a lifelong resident of Centre County. Her column appears every other week in the Gazette. Questions, suggestions and comments can be directed to [email protected]
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