Take the time to clean as you go in your kitchen

Farm Forum

FARGO, N.D. – “I’m getting out of the way. Your mother is in the kitchen,” my husband said to our daughter.

I glanced at him and my daughter giggled.

“She’s going to make a huge mess for me to clean up,” he added.

As a result of that comment, I took out a few extra pans to make sure I lived up to the expectation. I “accidentally” spilled some flour on the counter, too.

I admit it. I’m kind of a messy cook, but, in my defense, I can prepare food pretty quickly.

With our new, dark-colored countertops, flour, sugar and other light-colored ingredients show up much too well. Fingerprints magically appear on our stainless steel fridge. Splatters of food materialize on the walls of the microwave.

Everyone inhabits the kitchen, so I’m not taking full credit for the daily wear and tear that goes on in our kitchen. Because it’s the start of a new year, I decided to set a kitchen cleaning goal. I am going to try to clean as I go and encourage my family to do the same.

To inspire myself on my clean-as-you-go mission, I went to the cleaning experts at the American Cleaning Institute for some tips. I immediately found the results of their study about the prevalence of spring cleaning.

According to the American Cleaning Institute’s 2012 survey, 62 percent of the 1,000 respondents said they spring clean every year and 73 percent agreed it was a tradition worth keeping. Further, 55 percent agreed with the survey statement, “If it wasn’t for spring cleaning, I would probably never clean my house.”

I actually was inspired by the survey, but I am not planning to wait until spring to work on my resolution.

In a kitchen, you have the potential for food safety issues. Bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli, easily can spread from meat to other surfaces such as cutting boards, your hands, utensils and plates. Cross-contamination is a leading cause of foodborne illness.

By definition, cleaning removes food, soil and other visible contaminants from various kitchen surfaces. Sanitizing takes the process one step further and reduces the number of invisible contaminants, including bacteria and other potential illness-causing organisms.

For example, after cleaning cutting boards in hot, soapy water and rinsing them with plain water, don’t forget to sanitize them. Make a bleach solution in your sink with 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. Immerse the clean cutting board in the solution for a couple of minutes, remove (but don’t rinse again) and allow to air-dry.

Cleaners may be abrasive or nonabrasive. Abrasive cleaners help remove burned-on or dried food particles, but they may scratch or otherwise damage kitchen surfaces, including countertops and appliances, permanently. Nonabrasive cleaners are best used on satin or high-gloss finishes.

Always read and follow the directions and precautions on all types of cleaners. You also can use some common household “kitchen ingredients” as cleaners. Vinegar and water can function as a quick floor cleaner, and baking soda can work as a mild abrasive cleaner.

As I polished the outside of the refrigerator, I checked the interior for some leftovers that could be combined into a new recipe. We found a delicious jambalaya recipe that helped us clean out the refrigerator and have a nutritious meal on the table in short order. You might like it, too.

Yes, my husband did the dishes. He’s a good guy.

Shrimp and Sausage Jambalaya

2 Tbsp. canola oil

8 ounces smoked sausage (reduced fat), cut into 1/2-inch slices

1/2 c. sliced celery

1/2 c. chopped onion

1 red bell pepper, chopped

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 3/4 c. chicken broth

1 c. diced tomatoes, canned or fresh

1 bay leaf

1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

1/4 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1/8 tsp. ground allspice

3/4 c. uncooked rice

8 ounces shrimp, peeled, deveined and cut in half lengthwise (frozen or fresh)

Heat oil in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage, celery, onion, bell pepper and garlic. Cook five minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add broth, tomatoes, bay leaf, Tabasco, oregano, thyme and allspice. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in rice; cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Add shrimp; cover and simmer for five minutes longer or until rice is tender and the shrimp turn pink. Let stand, covered, for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaf before serving.

Makes six servings. Each serving has 260 calories, 17 grams (g) of fat, 11 g of protein, 14 g of carbohydrate, 2 g of fiber and 780 milligrams of sodium.