Spring cleaning is a bit of a cruel joke, isn’t it? It is supposed to occur around March, once all the sparkle of the new year has rusted.
In the first week of the year, we are determined to compose a list of promises detailing how we are going to approach the coming 365 days of life. But, how can we expect to keep our resolutions to be better, new improved people when our homes are full of the past year’s baggage.
Let’s agree to reschedule this so-called “spring cleaning”.
As the the days in December started running out, my freezer was full of leftovers I swore I’d eat later. I even told myself “this will save me money and time on a night when I’m too busy to cook” when my very next thought was “I’m tired of eating this chili so I’ll hide it in the freezer under the false hope that I will eat it later”.
“New” is always better than “old” unless it’s wine or cheese, but guilt overrides truth more often than not. And thus, the chili is traded in for a newer model.
A fridge deep clean revealed soggy Thanksgiving vegetables and fuzzy lemons buried in the crisper, decrepit and forgotten. The bathroom trash hadn’t been emptied in since June. My browser had 74 tabs open of articles I wanted to read, but couldn’t get around to reading.
The clutter on my “drop zone” had ascended to an all-time high. What is a “drop zone”, you ask? It’s the space where you drop shit when you walk in the door instead of putting it away in its proper place. We’ve all got one. I’ve got 3, because I’m what you would call an overachiever.
One is on the top of my dresser, which is covered with a disaster of bills, old grocery lists, business receipts, and random notes that need to be digitized. Another is my bedside table that is always full of water glasses and cables. The third is a cubby right inside my front door, piled with various bags, scarves and bus tickets.
I may have lapsed on this melange of confusion in 2015, but I refused to carry it into 2016 with me. Now is the time to address the usually unaddressed:
- Months of accumulated recycling have been taken to the appropriate neighborhood receptacle.
- All of the drop zones are spotless.
- The bathmat has been washed. (Did you know this is supposed to be done once a week? Seriously. Apparently, we’re all filthy animals.)
- The pharmacy of dog meds, cat meds and human meds have been sorted and organized. (It was a very sick 2015 for all involved.)
- A backlog of emails have been read and dealt with.
- Hours have been spent watching videos, reading articles and bookmarking, resulting in quite an orderly browser.
- Laptop has been backed up. (If you aren’t already doing this regularly, add a weekly backup to your resolution list.)
In terms of food-related cleaning, here are a few good things to take care of before the year gets too crazy.
1. Completely clean out the fridge
Wipe everything down. Pull out the drawers. Get rid of, recycle, or compost anything that’s past its prime. Clean the rubber around the door, which can degrade over time if dirty. Sanitize the door handles.
Defrost the freezer (if you’re like me without a frost-free model, because YAY Eastern Europe). Trash anything older than 3 months old, unless you truly have a plan for it. Clean out the ice maker. This part might get scary, but trust me, you’ll feel better knowing your ice box doesn’t look like a subway trash can. Ignorance is not bliss.
2. Go through your spices
Spices typically keep their freshness for 6 months. After that they begin to degrade. You can get more life out of them if kept in air-tight containers. I use these.
Get rid of any spices older than 6 months that aren’t stored in air tight containers. Chances are, you’ve got more than a few bottles of poultry seasoning from past Thanksgivings that have only been used once or twice.
3. Organize your pantry
Unless you’re Martha, it’s likely that your pantry has descended into chaos. Go through all of it. Put your cans together. Consolidate flours and sugars when you’ve got more than 1 open bag floating around. Group food items in a way that makes sense for your cooking habits. It’ll make cooking a lot less stressful. You’ll probably clear up some space in the process.
4. Purge some tupperware
Just like socks, somehow we all end up with a tupperware lid or container that has lost its mate. Cut your losses. You know it’s never coming back. Recycle the orphans and start anew.
5. Wash the back splash behind your stove
If you already do this regularly, you are my idol. Mine, however, is a Pollock painting.
Whether your year that just came to a close was good, bad or mediocre, we’ve all got cruft to clean out.
Time to start fresh.
Kaffir Lime Leaf Lemonade Recipe
1 dozen kaffir lime leaves, plus a couple for garnish (for the fancy)
3/4 c sugar
3 c + 3/4 c filtered water
2 c lemon juice (about 10-12 lemons)
Notes for your perusal
Kaffir lime leaves come from the kaffir lime tree native to Southeast Asia. The leaves have a delicate, sweet lime scent and are commonly used in Thai cuisine. You can find them in the freezer section of most Asian supermarkets.
If using Meyer lemons in place of conventional ones, add simple syrup to the lemonade in 1/4 cup increments since they are naturally sweeter.
For the kaffir lime leaf lemonade
In small pot, combine 3/4 c water and 3/4 c sugar. Stir to combine then place over medium heat. Stir constantly to make sure the sugar dissolves quickly and evenly. Bring to a boil. Let boil 1m. Stir in kaffir lime leaves and set aside to cool and infuse with limey flavor.
Don’t add the lime leaves to the sugar and water before it has boiled, as it could cause the syrup to crystallize.
While syrup is cooling, juice those lemons. Once you’ve reached 2 cups of juice, combine kaffir lime simple syrup (strained of leaves), lemon juice, and 3 c filtered water. Stir to combine and add ice.
For inquisitive minds, the answer is yes. This would go well with gin. I’m glad you asked.