The Secret of a Clean Kitchen

5 hours of cooking, 5 min of eating and 5 days of cleaning the kitchen.  Yep, that explains why for so many cooking is just an unenjoyable chore. BUT…. cooking in the kitchen doesn’t need to involve complicated meals and a big kitchen mess. Staying out of the kitchen is not the secret to keeping it clean, but rather it’s learning how to make less mess when in the kitchen.  I’m here to say, kitchen living is worth the effort. Once you try some of these cleaning hacks, you will see why the kitchen is the heart of your home.

TIP #1 – Start with a Clean Kitchen. I can’t stress this enough. You don’t want to add a cooking mess on a kitchen that is already in disarray. Start off cooking with a clean kitchen. Two of my favorite clean supplies are Mrs. Meyer's Basil and Young Living Thieves’ smells like fresh lemon.

TIP #2 – Buy Yourself a LARGE Cutting Board. Last week I made a soup and was able to cut/prep carrots, onions, garlic, celery, and parsley all on one board. Sorted on board by produce, I then used the bench scraper to put each item into the pot – saving me from cleaning several prep bowls. I must confess, I do love the mise en place of prep bowls like that on TV cooking shows, but it comes with extra clean-up and I’m guessing you don’t have staff that will be cleaning all those bowls like they do on TV!

TIP #3 – Line Your Baking Sheets! Whenever possible use parchment paper, aluminum foil or a silicone mat. It makes for easy pan clean-ups. My brie rosemary potato pan would take so much longer to clean if not for the parchment paper and don’t even get me going on how long it takes to clean a non-lined bacon sheet. Parchment paper is also great to use for cake pans too. When you take the time to line your tray, you ‘ll see just how easy clean-up can be. 

TIP #4 – Scrap Bag/Bowl Whenever I am prepping, I remove scraps as I go. While a simple bowl does the trick, it becomes one more bowl to clean so I go with the plastic grocery bag. I will peel my produce into this plastic bag, (over a garbage can works too) which helps keep counter tops clean and it is super-fast and easy to toss in garbage.

TIP #5 – Immersion Blender I think every kitchen needs this tool. To say I am obsessed with mine is an understatement. I like this tool because it is easy to use, it eliminates having to pour hot liquid into a food processor and it saves me from having to clean up that contraption and all its many parts. An immersion blender is so much quicker to clean then then a food processor/blender.

TIP #6 – Think Twice Before pulling out all your measuring cups, bowls, spoons etc. look at your recipe and the serving size. I can tell you I’ve had to clean a number of extra dishes in the mistake of grabbing too big or too small a pan/bowl.

TIP #7 – Simple Meals I will go into more details including recipes and meal ideas in an upcoming blog post but for now, simple meals like a sheet pan dinner or a pressure cooker dinner will certainly make for less mess and easier clean-up.

TIP #8 – Clean as You Go. While I know this is basic common sense, it is easily forgotten as you get into your cooking game. At minimum, rinse dishes as you go so that you don’t come back to fiercely scrubbing a bowl. And while I speak of rinsing dishes – teach this to your family members. It is so much easier cleaning a rinsed bowl of oatmeal than one that was left to harden in the sink. (Am I right son??)

TIP #9 – Clutter Must Go!!! The less on the countertops the easier the clean-up. I eliminate the look of clutter from my countertops with some organization methods. Several of my appliances, I store on a designated metal shelf (container store) in my basement, bringing them up on an as needed basis. About that pretty baby blue Artisan Stand Mixer on my counter - yeah that is what I call décor 😉

My other kitchen clutter free tip is having a couple organized drawers in my kitchen for keys, mail etc. so that doesn’t end up on a counter. Lots of shelf organizers can be found at container store.  I also avoid a countertop of cookbooks by either using my iPad for recipes as well as designating a shelf in my glass cabinet for cookbook display.

TIP #10 – Basic Kitchen Rule I cook you clean! That sounds fair and if that is the case, you can make the kitchen a great BIG mess.

Less Mess Kitchen Supplies

Fasting from Snacking

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This past week we entered into the season of Lent. For many Catholics and Christians alike, fasting is something associated with Lent. Many times you will hear the question what are giving up for Lent? And then comes the internal question of what can I really be successful at giving up for 40 days … cause trust me the catholic guilt is real when you mess up!! 

One of my favorite things I enjoy is food (no surprise there!) I often catch myself snacking on food throughout the day  So for me, food fasting is something I rather not take on.  But this persistent internal voice was trying really hard to convince me to give up snacking and eventually that voice won. 

So how do you just stop snacking?

Here are a few tips I put together for myself to make sure I get through the next 40 days snack-free!

While fasting is most often associated with food it can also be associated with giving up something that you enjoy, something that is perhaps not serving you well.

Regardless your religious stance I think fasting is a discipline that we should all practice from time to time. While no discipline is enjoyable at the moment, in the long term it really does nourish the body, mind and soul. 

The Guest List for a Good Life

Long before the food is bought, and dinner guests arrive, the most necessary component of a party takes place – creating a guest list.

As a host/hostess selecting your guests is a big deal. You get to decide who you want to come to the event. The hostess creates the energy for the evening by whom he/she chooses to put on a guest list.

Who to invite? 

Just like a dinner invitation, YOU choose who to invite into your life. I am going to share with you, who I believe are some of the best guests to not only invite to a dinner party but also invite into your personal and business world. 

The Traveler Invite someone into your life who has seen the world. When you travel your perspective changes. The traveler can share first hand experiences of the different cultures and people. I personally believe the traveler has some of the best stories to share. Through travel this person knows how truly majestic the really world is At the end of the day this person provides us with a touch of humbleness in knowing we are just a small part of a much grander universe. 

The Philosopher– This guest turns your mind from auto pilot into super charge by offering you the experience of wonder. This person asks questions and is seeking answers. This guest would be a great invite because there is no small talk when in conversation with this person. This person isn’t interested in talking weather, sport or safe subjects. Their more interested in engaging in conversations that include questions or ideas that may stir in you a self-awakening.

The Leader–Inviting a leader provides a dynamic sense of accomplishment to your life.  Through their knowledge and often their confidence, a leader offers insight and direction. This guest has the gift that enables others to respond to the call of action. Now I know what you are thinking, “shouldn’t I be my own leader? Yes! Yes! Absolutely you should. So, let me explain why a leader is beneficial to invite. You become like those you associate. By inviting a leader into your life, you will better yourself. You will learn from their experiences. A leader tends to be objective and more often than not, surrounding yourself with the leader provides you with a motivational drive. Having a leader as a guest is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign that I want to learn from the best, so I can continue to grow to be the best.  

The Fan –The invite of a fan is an easy invite for they think the world of you. The fan is the one loudly cheering as you throw the winning touchdown and thy are the same person encouraging you to get back on the field when you throw an interception.  In business the fan is absolutely your very best word of mouth advertisement. They speak your praise. They enjoy introducing others to you and your business. The fan believes in you and cheers you on. The fan is proud of you and is forever in your corner. This person is believing in you even when you are struggling to do that yourself. What truly make this guest so remarkable is they are a fan simply because you are you! While ultimately, we should be our biggest fan, there are times we simply need a fan. Inviting the fan makes life so much sweeter. 

The Musician –Invite someone who loves music, for music is nourishment to the soul. A musician provides your life with every possible emotion. A musician is the one person who has the magical power to take you back in a moment of time and yet this same person has also the strong ability to keep you ever in the present moment as you sing and dance alongside to the lyrics of their voice. A musician wakens you up to the present and also allows you to reflect on the past. The musician gifts you all the necessary emotions to respond to situations that create your life. 

The Philanthropist– This invitation is a precious because this individual tends to be the giver and not the receiver. This guest has a heart and kindness for the world. Their goal is to leave a legacy beyond themselves. Inviting this guest into your life provides an opportunity for the pay it forward movement to manifest BIG.  This guest has the potential to inspire you to think about the ways you could impact the world for the better.  

The Crush– This invitation is for that someone you know exists but have never been formally introduced to. This person is someone you be interest in knowing on a more personal level. This invitation’s a bit scary to send out because it could be potentially ignored or worse yet come back with a response of NO. So why this person? First, this person has unintentionally stimulated courage within you by the simple act of inviting - so that alone is a good reason. Other reasons why I think this person makes the invitation list is because they could be the potential link for both personal and business networking. This person could also turn out to become your new closet friend. A couple years back, I sent out an invite to some incredible women in my hometown, many of which I really didn’t know personally and now I get to do life alongside this awesome tribe of women. Just remember every friend you had was once a stranger. So make this connection happen.

The Facebook Friend– Let’s admit we all have a handful of friends that we interact with in the world of social media, but we don’t interact in life.  Invite that Facebook guest because interacting live in person is so much better than a ha-ha wink on a post. You will learn so much more about each other though in-person interactions then you ever will through a phone screen. If you are looking for a genuinely deeper friendship with a Facebook friend, add them to your guest list. 

The Opposite– This guest invitation is most risky. Why invite someone who’s my opposite? The stress that comes from this person would be too much. Why even hang with this person?! What could I possibly have in common? The opposite guest provides for you the opportunity to think about something in a “new” way. Perhaps you never thought this new idea would be what changes up your business or personal life for the better? Perhaps in hearing a view point that differs you might develop empathy or understanding as to how someone came to believe what it is they believe. Besides, you never know, it could turn out where your view becomes embraced by the opposite. Life is boring hanging out with a carbon copy of yourself. Life is not created to just live with only like-minded people. 

One of the best examples that touches on this invitation is found in the bible. The parable starts off with an invitation for an elaborate dinner banquet. The invitation was sent out to all these “important” people. The who is who in that day. Certain to be the grandest talked about party with no detail overlooked something crazy happens. The night of the banquet no one shows!!! While I’m sure most had what we consider a valid excuse, there was no party guests.  The master not pleased, gathered his servants and resends them back out onto the street inviting all those whom he would never associate himself with, and it turned into the grandest dinner banquet. 

Invite different people into your life and watch how you can develop into a more inclusive, tolerate person that respects others despite their differences. Invite those who are unable to reciprocate, and you’ll experience a gratitude like you have never known.

You are the host/hostess in your life. 

You get to decide whose name is on the guest list. It is fair to say, with 7 billion people in the world the invitation list isn’t open to everyone. Be wise in who you let in your party. There are good guests and there are some guests that are just better suited for another host/hostess party.  Lastly, remember this, when you’re on someone else's guest list, be a good guest. Show up to the party as your real you and have fun – after all, that is why you were invited. 

Life Lesson Learned in Making Macarons

Have you ever wanted to get somewhere in life and thought “there’s got to be a quicker way?” I know I have. Growing up I would say  “Come on, are scales really necessary to becoming a good piano player? In college it would be the complaining question “Wow, I have to seriously put in all these years of studying to get this degree? Perhaps for you it could be something like Is it worth putting in over time for a potential new position? or I’ll buy followers cause I don’t want to be patient and organically earn the 10K.” Cutting corners will never allow you to reach your goal faster. In fact, in the long run it will take much longer than it would if you just simply put in the time it requires to getting there.

So, back to my macarons (and not confusing them with macaroons) lesson. When making macarons there is no cutting corners if you want them to turn out right. Often times it takes a number of attempts before you actually achieve perfection. 

Looking at the first step alone you might ask yourself "isn’t this a bit tedious?" "Is it really that necessary?" The first step is putting the powder sugar, the almond flour and salt through a sift. This seriously takes time and your arm gets quite tired BUT you have to do this step. Why? Because otherwise you will have bumps in your batter. 

Next comes the egg. You can not be sloppy when cracking the eggs. Egg yolk within the whites will not whip. If yolk gets in there you really need to start all over. I recommend cracking each egg in a separate glass bowl so that the good egg whites don’t get wasted should you accidentally get the yolk in the bowl.

How long you beat the egg whites is another critical step to making this cookie. If you undercut the time it takes to peaking the eggs, you will not be able to pipe the batter and the cookie will have no form … And if you over peak the egg, you will end up with a hollow cookie. Thus why the timing of this step is so important.

Once you pipe the cookies on the tray, you have to tap the baking tray on the counter a good five plus times. Crazy you might think as you reread that line but it comes with reason.  This is a key step to eliminating air bubbles. You see if you blow-off this step the air bubbles will cause your cookies to crack!!

If you have reached this point, you must likely just want to pop these cookies in the oven so you can finally enjoy the fruits of your labor but oh no…. You have to let them sit at room temperature for about 45 minutes to an hour. Yes, that is right! And if you skip or rush through this resting step, your cookie will spread flat while baking. The cookie top must be glossy but dry before putting in the oven. If you blow past this step the cookie is unable to lift upward and rise.

Lastly, you can certainly eat the macaron within 30 minutes of it coming out of the oven. However, to truly appreciate the delicate deliciousness of this treat, I dare say, you would refrigerate and wait patiently for 24 hours to truly enjoy it for all its worth!

 Just like in life, if you cut corners when making this treat, you will not achieve the end result.  A macaron is a luxurious, delicious french cookie that is worth the effort. Just like any goal you might be attempting in life, it might take a few times to get there but you will get there!!! Enjoy the process!