With daylight savings time, warmer temperatures, and the sun shining some of you make get that urge to start the usual annual rite of passage called "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; I mean 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 you can quite see to the back of and it's easier to forget about it than it is to get a step stool or chair to actually see.
Ok, ok some of us go into hibernation mode for the winter, but if you haven't been indulging in rich, comforting meals during those cold frigid months, more than likely you stocked up and accrued more unhealthy foods in your freezer, fridge and cupboard than you realize.
Now if you think long and hard about this, it is ten times easier to make good healthy meals while you're at home when your kitchen, cupboards, fridge and freezer are organized and up to date. Keep in mind when you know what you have on hand you'll end up really stretching your food dollar. Let's be real. How many of us have our designated container of salt ... and I'm sure it's enough to last through your great great grandchildren's lives, but you never seem to have sugar?
Now how many of you are saying "Ciara you don't want to see my kitchen because it is so unorganized it's easier to ignore it?" I'm here to tell you how you can reclaim your kitchen and organize it in a way that works for your family and most importantly you.
Three Step plan to Spring Clean your Kitchen
Clean, Clean, Clean Your Freezer
It is time. Get rid of every single item with ice crystals forming on the food or the packaging. This means your food is freezer burnt, which means that food isn't going to taste good. one, it'll actually taste bad and two, those crystals generally mean your food has lost its nutritional contents.
Now, remember you freezer can be your friend but also your enemy. Remember this: only keep some uncooked meats, like lean beef and chicken up 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 -- which let's be real -- you will go when you're hungry and you'll fill those cupboards right back up and we don't want that.
If you're switching to a healthy life style and want to utilize your freezer and make it your friend, fill the rest of your freezer with bags of frozen fruit. You can make one heck of a smoothie, because, since cleaning out your kitchen you found your blender! Now in our rush-rush lifestyle sometimes we do need quick-fix meals in the freezer. When you're at the store search for options with fewer than 500 calories and no more than 400 mg of sodium.
Clean Your Cupboard
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, like pretzels and most granola bars and energy bars can be junk food too. Go for healthy "junk food" like 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 BAD! Now you have to remember that even those healthy-appearing choices at the store like can be just as bad as those Lucky Charms.
Look for whole grains and brown rice and pastas.
Everything has its Place
Make your new healthy habits stick and keep that kitchen clean! You actually have to do some major thinking in the way that you put your kitchen back together. Put your healthy options at eye level and make it really hard for you to reach for that junk food. Also to ensure peak freshness make sure all your items are in the correct place and in dated order.
Remember, when you're at the store make nutritious choices and then rearrange your storage area in a way that inspires you to grab those healthy choices and jump start the kickoff to a new you.
Now don't throw out those items that you've determined don't fit into your new Spring Cleaned kitchen. Collect them in a box and donate them to a local food bank or shelter. There are people in our community that need and can take great advantage of your spring cleaning.
Now, now, you're thinking "Ciara where is your recipe?" Don't worry, I was getting to that.
There are three major items that I'm sure you pulled out of the cupboard and freezer that I can help you use. It'll be a semi-healthy choice for a meal, and it'll be one less set it items that you have to rearrange. Oh, by the way did I mention it's super tasty?
Spring Cleaning Pasta Toss
- 1 pound of any noodle from your cupboard (linguini, spaghetti, fettucine)
- 8 oz. of small cubed chicken breast
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, 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
- 1/4 cup grated Romano
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add your pasta and cook until al dente. Drain the pasta; REMEMBER keep 2 cups of that secret ingredient pasta water.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, chicken, salt, and pepper. Cook until golden brown. Once chicken is done, about 6 minutes depending on the size of your cubes, add the green beans and toss. Next, add grated Romano and stir. Now, add 1/2 cup of the hot pasta water. Stir to melt the Romano and create a sauce, adding more pasta water if necessary. Stir in the parsley. Gently fold in the cooked pasta and the parmesan, adding more reserved pasta water if necessary. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.
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