April 1, 2013

10 Tips for Preparing Your Spring Kitchen

Over the weekend I am pretty sure everyone in Connecticut turned off the heat, threw open the windows, and breathed a deep sigh of relief. The thermometer eeked north of 50 degrees F for the first time in five months! Naturally, the minute I felt the rush of spring I indulged in some long overdue spring cleaning. Nothing too wild, just the usual rummaging through closets, cleaning out cupboards, etc. It felt so good to get rid of the dead weight and haul a few bags over to Goodwill! Since I know a lot of you are probably in the same boat – spring cleaning like mad people, relishing the chance to start the season anew – today I am sharing my top ten tips for preparing your kitchen for spring and summer. If you see anything I am missing, please let me know!

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1) Deep Clean Cupboards: The first place I start are my kitchen cupboards. I go through each one and wipe it down with a kitchen towel. I also pick through the odd glasses and whatnot we’ve collected over the winter. Little things like token kids cups from birthday parties and to-go mugs with missing lids take up a lot of space and are immediately discarded. I am ruthless as I clean, tossing anything that doesn’t suit our needs.

2) Check Expiration Dates: In the pantry the first thing I check are the expiration dates on canned goods. I am not a hoarder, but I am a sucker for gorgeous looking packaged food that I may or may not end up eating. Some items end up sitting on our shelves for years! Anything that is expired, or just appears kind of limp or dead, I chuck. I also check all the expiration dates on the sauces and jams in the fridge. Once the outdated food has been disposed of I wash the jam jars in the dishwasher and save them for arts and crafts projects.

Herb-Pot

3) Make list of herbs for summer garden: Planting my back deck container garden is something I look forward to every spring. I love selecting the herbs and plants to grow and recipes to make with them. All winter I was dreaming about lemon verbena, for example, and am dying to try it in a new scone recipe I’ve been testing! In April I make a list of the herbs and plants I want and keep an eye out for them at our local nursery. We will plant them in May.

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4) Stock up on canning supplies: Woot! I love canning season. I can’t wait to relish the flavors of summer and preserve as much as it as possible for next winter. This is the perfect time of year to reunite jars with errant lids and assess how many full sets of jars/lids/rims you have on hand. If, like me, you gave away a lot of jam last year there is a good chance you’ll need to restock your canning pantry. Put that on your list for April so you can get any shape or size jar you want before they run out. (I am coveting these awesome Blue Ball Jars this spring – I need a case or two! Can you imagine how pretty they’d look with apricot jam inside and packaged up as a gift??!)

summer

5) Check spring hours for your Farmer’s Market/CSA/U-Pick: We source most of our summer produce outside the supermarket. April is a great month to start looking up the times and locations of farmer’s market. Summer hours and locations can differ greatly depending on where you live! This is also time to research local CSA’s and U-Pick farms. Crops will be in bloom before you know it and you’ll want to be prepared!

6) Fresh containers for food: I am a big fan of glass pitchers and food containers. During the winter food containers can get dirty with tomato sauce and other food stains. I always stash my iced tea pitcher in a closet and it gets sooo dusty! Now is a great time to pull everything out and give it a once over. If it is terribly stained then toss it! Stick your glass products in a heavy duty dish washer cycle to spiff them up. There is nothing better than a glistening clear glass pitcher for the first batch of Roasted Peach Iced Tea.

Iced-Tea

7) Tally the fun equipment: In the summer I like to have our popsicle sticks, summer cookie cutters, and ice cream maker at the ready. I consider this our fun equipment since we use it all summer long for our foodie craft projects. Every winter it seems a little elf swipes a few cookie cutters and popsicle sticks so I have to buy some new ones. Most of these items begin appearing in stores this month making it the best time to stock-up.

8) Wipe out coolers and beach bags: We do a lot of picnics in the summer which means I am constantly carrying food to and fro. I usually use a freezer bag or heavy canvas tote bag to haul stuff around and they can get dirty. Each spring I wipe everything down with a heavy soap and water solution and let it air dry on the deck.

10 Tips for Preparing Your Kitchen for Spring

9) Kitchen linens: During the winter we tend to eat heavier foods which always seem to stain our linens. This month I will ruthlessly edit our linen collection and toss anything with a stain I can’t get out on my own. Each year I usually lose about five dish towels, a half dozen cloth napkins, and a table cloth or two. Nothing that can’t be replaced. In fact, I kind of look forward to this because it gives me the excuse to pick up a few new pretty things for the summer kitchen!

10) Sharpen Knives: Sharpening your knives seasonally is a good idea. I take our knives to a local kitchen store and they sharpen my whole set for $16. Such a bargain! I also sharpen them at home from time to time, but nothing beats the professional touch. I love having my knives especially sharp in the summer because the produce requires a lot of skinning and chopping. Using a sharp blade on things like tomatoes or eggplant definitely reduces the risk of knife slippage and subsequent stitches!