Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sleepy, Sunny, Slow Sunday...

In the spirit of peeling all the stickers off my Rubik's Cube when I was seven so I could show my older brother I too was a natural, I was tempted this morning to cross the remaining tasks off my list, and post it like a total fraud. But a) I encourage you all to be honest, so I must set the example, that it's okay to have a six hour lunch date and fall behind, and b) my ocd would kill me dead if I crossed off an unfinished task. So here's where I'm at:

My insomnia has shifted from cherished extra hours to people asking me if I'm one of the undead, offering me their blood, or at the very least, some makeup. It's not my energy level that has suffered so much as my concentration. But I'm not complaining, that's what lists are for!


Simple Sunday Suggestions folks, breathe.

*I want you each to complete any five tasks of your choosing, and post comments. That's it. This can be clearing the kitchen table, or, at the rate Jacob is going, you know, painting the house, possibly building an add-on, before dinner of duckling souffle or some shit like that. I am really starting to hate that guy, in as much as I am in love with him and going to his house to fondle his pantries tonight.

That's it bitches. Five tasks. These can include things you didn't do yesterday, as will be the case for me.

Also, as promised, this is an extensive list of Jacob's expertise in cleaning fine cookware. He loves your cookware like it's his own, you owe it to him to peruse these helpful hints. (I don't have to because I don't cook or even know if we have cookware.) Anyway, here it is:


Caring for Cookware

Let's face it, even inexpensive cookware is often a large investment. The good news is that with proper care there is no reason why it can't last you many years, if not a lifetime (except, of course, for non-stick pans which need to be replaced annually,with frequent use, for health reasons). Lord knows, I would never claim to be an expert in the cleaning of anything, seriously, but I do have A LOT of cook and service ware, and here are the few tips and tricks that I have picked up over the years which I personally use to keep it all looking good, and performing well.

Stainless steel
Stainless steel has really been the chef standard for several decades, the cookware that everyone has used and wanted (being replaced only recently with enameled cast iron such as La Creuset... which is at least what I now fantasize about). It has many benefits, but can, however, often be a conundrum as to how to keep it looking shiny and new, rather than soiled with baked on oil that will simply not come off with any amount of scrubbing. What I have learned is this. When you are done cooking with your pan, and have removed all of the food from it, leave the pan on the lit stove top, and poor in several cups of hot tap water, allowing it to come to a boil and simmer away for a minute or so. You can then turn off the heat, and leave it to sit while you enjoy your meal. When it does come time for you to scrub out your pan, use your normal soap and water, but then go over it again with Cameo Stainless Steel and Aluminum Cleaner (which is a very inexpensive, and highly effective, scouring powder, like comet only for stainless is also, incidentally, what I use to scrub out my stainless steel sinks in lieu of comet or bleach). Using a generous amount of the powder and a wet scrubby sponge and/or stiff nylon brush, give the whole pan a thorough scrub inside and out, rinse, and then follow it up with another quick pass with soapy water (as the Cameo can often leave behind a powdery, almost oily residue when it dries) If you do this every time you use your pan it won't require much time or energy, but if you wait too long, or start out with heavily soiled pots or pans to begin with (with that baked on oil), your initial scouring is going to take some elbow grease, but can be restored to its full origional luster. This entire process can be applied to aluminum pans as well. (One word or caution, however. Do not use Cameo on your baking sheet pans unless you are damn sure they are stainless steel and not aluminum, as for some strange cosmic reason, in my own experience at least, it will ruin them, even though it claims not to.)

Many stainless steel pans will have copper bottoms, or copper cores with a ring of exposed copper around the bottom (like mine do) because copper conducts and distributes heat so evenly. Copper is typically not dishwasher safe, and therefore should always be washed by hand, using your regular dish washing liquid and warm water. Copper also tarnishes very quickly and requires polishing after nearly every use to retain its luster. Beauty always comes at a price. To polish copper (which should be done frequently, if for no other reason than to extend its life) I prefer using Wright's Copper Cream, which is affordable, easy to use, and requires minimal effort. After using it, however, always go back over the copper with hot soapy water, as the cream itself, like the Cameo, often leaves behind an almost oily residue. You can, instead, also slice a lemon in half, dip the cut side into salt, and use it to polish your copper surfaces. In a pinch, if you find yourself without copper polish or lemons, and are in frantic, desperate need of polishing, ketchup is also quite effective (no, really, it is.).

Cast Iron
My mother and both of my grandmothers have had a devout love of cast iron throughout my life, so I have a lot of experience cleaning it. Well cared for cast iron is the world's most perfect non stick cooking surface, but it takes a long time to achieve, and with one mistake you can undo years (if not generations) of careful seasoning. There are two cardinal rules when dealing with cast iron, and no matter how wrong they might seem to you, if you want to cook with cast iron, you simply have to follow them: first, NEVER USE SOAP to clean cast iron pans; second, DO NOT soak cast iron in water. Use extremely hot tap water and a stiff nylon brush to scrub the pan after each use, and, if needed, course kosher salt as a scoring agent for tougher stains. (you should consider even keeping a separate brush that you only use with cast iron to prevent any residual soap from ruining your pans) When you are done, put the pan back on your stove top and turn on the flame to high, and let it sit there until the pan is hot and has dried completely (about 1-2 minutes). When it is dry, pour a teaspoon of oil into the pan, and, using a paper towel, rub the oil over the entire inside surface. (Any clear oil will work nicely if you use your cast iron on a semi regular basis: canola, vegetable, peanut, etc... for longer storage, like camping cookware, however, consider using a food-grade mineral oil, which will not go rancid over time) Use the paper towel to soak up any remaining oil. The surface should be shiny but not greasy. In the unfortunate event where you find that you are in need of re-seasoning (or if you bought a brand new pan, as apposed to one at, say, an estate sale, which would really be your best bet in scoring the holy grail of cast iron) simply clean it thoroughly, rub it inside and out with a generous layer of vegetable shortening, lard, or bacon fat (which, while I'm sure it is delicious, seems a little gross to me), (the clear oils described above will produce sticky, undesirable results for this kind of thorough seasoning), pop it into a preheated 300 degree oven for 1-2 hours (being careful to put foil or a baking sheet under it to catch any extra oil), and repeat, several times if necessary. If your cast iron is caked on with black crud all over the outside simply run it in your ovens self cleaning cycle which will simply dissolve the unwanted build up, then follow the re-seasoning procedure.

I have collected a lot of silver (through various family members, and thrift store finds), and over the years I have tried probably every commercially available silver cleaner on the market (with the exception of those pads that sit in your sink and claim to magically remove tarnish instantly when you submerge your silver item in the water...but if you have tried one such product with fabulous success, I will sell my chihuahua down river to get to one!). At the end of the day, Wright's Silver Cream is what my grandmother used sixty years ago, and from my experience it still just works the best. Make no mistake, maintaining silver is a labor of love, and often requires some elbow grease. For me, some occasions are worth the extra effort, other are simply not. For silver service ware that you only use on special occasions you have a couple of options to minimize the work it will take to polish it when next you pull it out from storage. You may want to invest in nickel treated bags (or boxes, as would be the case for silver flatware), which chemically prevent tarnish from forming. But that is a little extreme (and cost prohibitive), even for me. Being cheap, I simply choose to clean and polish my silver piece after I am done using it, then wrap the entire thing tightly in plastic wrap, which will stave off the tarnish for several months, and at the vary least severely cut down on polishing time in the future.

Ceramic Bake Ware

I have to admit, I am still learning when it comes to some of my white ceramic bake ware. The baked on grease is sometimes impossible for me to get off, and I have tried everything in my arsenal, so if anyone out there in the world has some suggestions I am eagerly waiting with a pad and a pen. My white ceramic bake ware often also gets these metallic scuffs on the inside when and if metal spatulas or serving utensils are used. The one tip that I have recently discovered is using Comet to remove them (just as you would in your ceramic sink). You do have to be very careful, though, to thoroughly clean it afterwards with hot soap and water, to prevent any food contamination. But to date, it is the only thing that I have found that works.

Enjoy your Sunday mamas, my hope is that tomorrow is noticeably less stressful than last Monday. Let's make it happen.


  1. Question for J:
    The bottom of my stainless steel pans has marks in the shape of the burners. How do I get those bastards off?

  2. Fabulous tips and many thanks for taking the time to write them up! I will certainly be trying the stainless steel tips for my pans, it's mostly what I have in the kitchen. Enjoy your Sunday!

  3. Megan - Try soaking the bottom in a shallow pool of white vinegar for a while, then use baking soda as a scouring agent. If that doesn't work, try making a paste of baking soda and white vinegar and slathering that on and allowing it to soak, and try again. Beyond that, my only advice would be Cameo, elbow grease, and prayer. =)

    (Side note: a white vinegar rinse also prevents your pan from developing water spots very nicely, if that is a problem for you... but often your SS pans might dry with white spots on the inside, and these are not from soap but from salt. If you are boiling pasta, for example, always salt the water after it has come to a boil, to prevent the salt from burrowing little microscopic holes into your SS.)

    But once you get the pans clean you need to clean your stove burners. It is not the heat that is branding its mark on your pans, it is either something on the burner element itself or some residue on the pan that is burning. Unplug the elements from the stove top and rub them with isopropyl alcohol, allow the to dry thoroughly and completely, plug them back in and turn all of the burners on to high and let them run for 10 minutes, to burn off anything left on them. If that doesn't help, I would use vinegar to rise the bottoms of your pans, to prevent any soapy or oily residue.

    And make no mistake people, these are just the tips on how to properly maintain your cookware...this isn't to say that I always follow them all of the time (except, of course, for the cast iron, if you can't follow them, cooking with cast iron is simply more trouble than it's worth) there are pans in my cabinet that are polished and pristine and others that are not. I try not to let a pan go more than (at most) two or three uses without getting a thorough souring and polish (as each time you wait, the scouring and polishing required just get exponentially more time consuming). But life is busy, and messy, and doing your best to keep up with it all is all that anyone can ask of themselves. You know?

  4. Thanks for all the great tips!

  5. For ceramic bakeware, it still takes some elbow grease, but Magic Ceramic cooktop cleaner gives you a fighting chance against the baked on grease. I smear a layer on the spots and then let it sit for a while, then scrub the hell out of it with a loofah sponge, which I also use for my cooktop to prevent scratching the surface. I tried it on a whim on my old ceramic saucepans and I got them looking like new!

  6. (Please imagine the sound the adults make in the Peanuts cartoons. That is what I hear when you all discuss cookware maintenance.)

  7. Maybe Jacob should co-author the blog. ;P

    Scrubbed the second half of the sink (only took two days), cleared the table, and am running dishes and laundry currently. Planning to run a woolies load when the clothes are done. Contemplating the scary, scary stovetop... probably won't do it today, but it shows how viral this whole thing is that I'm even thinking about it! I should also lanolize the soakers (about three days ago, really), but I'm still procrastinating that chore because I'm almost done knitting one that I want in the batch.

  8. I didn't get all five things done but did do 3. It's too damn hot. That's it. I can't move or be productive. I'm like a lizard. Perhaps I'll stay up late and work on it all.
    Today my biggest achievement has been not locking my children up in their room. Apparently heat makes them cranky too.

    I'm going to go lay under the ceiling fan for a while...

  9. Magic Ceramic, good tip! Thanks! I will definately be trying it out!

    Cleaned out two junk drawers in the kitchen. (which left the larger of the two completely empty...muahahahaha)

    Wiped down the dining table and counters.

    Washed the guest room linens and remade the bed (in preparation for our beautiful, beloved friend who will be coming into town later this week).

    And that is about it...pretty much a lazy day...Megan is right. It's too hot to move.

  10. Um, isn't Jacob already co-authoring the blog?

  11. In effect, yes, he is. But to find his beautiful, fabulous, fantastic advice, you have to look at the comments. Not a serious hardship... but he should be making posts, too. ;P

  12. Ok, so this is going to sound off topic, but it has a point...... And is a little funny :)

    So I still keep up with my DDC from MDC on a seperate forum. Today one of them posts a new thread and it says:
    "Carissa....... Can you please link me to the crazy lasy blog you follow..... the nutty clean one. I use it as inspiration and a reality check. But I lost the link and can't remember the name."
    Guess what Carissa's response was?...........

  13. Manda-Her response was "lol?"


    Mesina and Dawna-Glad to be of any help. I know you're both doing much more than you think.

    Jacob-I am, as ever, thankful to you for picking up the slack in the areas in which I am as useful as a bag of dirt.

    Megan-I love your protest ("That's it.") and I love love love you as a lizard.

    Katie-Um, see email.

  14. "Guess what her response was?" was the statment :)
    Sorry, I was tired. But, her response was YOUR blog. I thought it was funnier then hell when I saw that! You get around dude! Sorry for the lazy post. My brain is in power save mode...

  15. Wow really? Thank you for sharing that. I apparently have begun to "get around," in the non-prostitute sense...