Kitchen Questions from a Clueless Non-Cook.

Housewives, healthy-people, and neat-freaks: I need your help.

Soon, I will be moving. “But why haven’t you already moved, Sandy?” Simmer down, judgey. It’s not that simple. Yes, I got out of debt last summer. Then, I saved some money so I wouldn’t go into debt again. Then, I had several job relocation possibilities that complicated things (my company was aware and extremely supportive) and then, the holidays happened.

So here I am. Buying things for a kitchen I don’t have and an apartment I don’t live in. But come on- aren’t they adorable?

Matching “mug” bowl and plate from of Castello di Amorosa, Napa. Hand-painted olive-oil dispenser from V. Sattui, Napa.

Having my own place isn’t just a “finally-leaving-Milpitas-and-being-on-my-own” fantasy. It’s the freedom and peace of mind to finally focus on my health. I want get back to a place where I feel in control. Where I can stop hating my body, being self-conscious, and making smarter decisions. I want to feel young again. Living at home makes this nearly impossible. I know, ultimately, I am the one who’s responsible for what I eat/don’t eat, what exercise I do/don’t do, etc. But to be perfectly honest with you…..when I’m home, I just don’t care. I don’t see a reason to care.

That being said, I’ll let you in on another fear of mine: the kitchen. I don’t cook. I can make sandwiches, and a few things from Trader Joe’s. Once I made a couscous recipe from the back of a box (with chicken, basil leaves, chopped peppers, etc) and I felt like fucking Emeril Lagasse. And even when I do “cook”, it’s a mess. I think to myself, “How does everyone else seem to know what they’re doing?”

So, to calm my nerves, I’ve written a list of simple questions that I somehow don’t know the answer to, but I’m sure you do. (I even I told my friend about this blog and she straight-up laughed at me.) Any suggestions, links, or advice is appreciated. You can answer here or send an email to: sandy(at)sandystec(dot)com.

* How do I dispose of meats properly?

* What materials are best for cleaning counter tops?

* Should I avoid using sponges all together?

* Can you recommend any natural products to use?

* What fruits are okay out of the fridge and for how long?

* How can I keep my fridge smelling fresh?

* What should I clean the floors with? (I HATED doing this when I lived on my own. Guess I’ll have to get used to it again…)

* How do I keep the trash smelling clean, or odorless?

* Can you leave juices uncovered in the fridge?

* What materials are unsafe and shouldn’t be used in the kitchen?

Additionally, I will take any healthy recipes you have. I have a Weight Watchers food scale and Jack LaLanne juicer sitting in a box at home because there’s no counter-space in the kitchen. But when I move, I’m eager to make these a part of my daily life!

Thanks in advance for your support and suggestions!

Love,

Sandy

About Sandy Stec

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14 Responses to Kitchen Questions from a Clueless Non-Cook.

  1. Lisa Myers says:

    * How do I dispose of meats properly?

    What do you mean dispose of? You EAT the meat. What?
    If you mean “after you accidentally let it go bad”, put it in a plastic bag to keep in the stench, and throw it in the garbage. Outside.

    * What materials are best for cleaning counter tops?
    I use 409. I’m not a hippy. It works.

    * Should I avoid using sponges all together?
    No, you should use them, keep them rinsed out, and if they start to get funky, toss them out.

    * Can you recommend any natural products to use?
    No. I’m not a hippy.

    * What fruits are okay out of the fridge and for how long?
    Apples, citrus fruit, and bananas, about a week. Everything else I keep in the fridge.
    * How can I keep my fridge smelling fresh?

    * What should I clean the floors with? (I HATED doing this when I lived on my own. Guess I’ll have to get used to it again…)

    * How do I keep the trash smelling clean, or odorless?
    Use your garbage disposal as much as you can for ‘food stuff’. If you toss out anything ‘stinky’, wrap it up in a plastic grocery bag. If you don’t use those because you’re a hippy, throw stinky stuff outside.

    * Can you leave juices uncovered in the fridge?
    They start to taste ‘funny’ after a day or 2. I wouldn’t.

    * What materials are unsafe and shouldn’t be used in the kitchen?
    Napalm and astroglide.

  2. Lisa Myers says:

    Dammit, I accidentally glossed over 2 answers.

    * How can I keep my fridge smelling fresh?
    Do a once over about once a week. See if anything’s loitering that really needs to be tossed out. Use storage containers with lids for any left overs. Don’t stash them in the back of your fridge where you’re going to forget about them. Keep the obligatory box of baking soda with the lid open in the back of the fridge. Clean up leaky stuff asap.

    * What should I clean the floors with? (I HATED doing this when I lived on my own. Guess I’ll have to get used to it again…)
    I like pine sol. I’m not a hippy, so I don’t care if it’s kind to koala bears. It smells good.

    • Sandy Stec says:

      I heart you. Never judgemental, always honest. I want to visit you soon. I will even clean your floors with non-hippy Pin-Sol. :)

  3. Lisa says:

    Ok – now that I’ve been able to control my laughter (I STILL live on Ramen because it’s fast and easy and there’s nothing like a good PB&J on those nights it’s only me for dinner)

    * How do I dispose of meats properly?
    - garbage can – take outside ASAP – along with the wrappers the meat comes in – can’t be composted and can’t go down disposal

    * What materials are best for cleaning counter tops?
    for light cleaning I use the washcloth from doing dishes – easy – and hey – I already have it in my hand – for those Saturday morning cleanings – I use either a bleach (shhhhhh) mixture watered down – or I have this recipe for Vinegar and clove oil – that kills EVERYTHING – even moss outside.

    * Should I avoid using sponges all together?
    sponges gag me. but if you want to take the time to put them in the microwave do so – or after you’re done cleaning kitchen after a quick bowl of ramen – stick it in the dishwasher EVERYTIME you run it.

    * Can you recommend any natural products to use?
    I use my vinegar/clove oil (essential) in a spray bottle for everything from a room/fabric freshener to cleaning the shower (did I mention it kills everything?) do NOT let clove oil come into contact with your skin – the whole neighborhood will wonder what the shrill scream is.

    * What fruits are okay out of the fridge and for how long?
    the only thing I leave out are bananas – but don’t think that that big bundle you can get at Costco is a money saver for just one person unless you’re planning on making a smoothie every morning.

    * How can I keep my fridge smelling fresh?
    You’re gonna laugh – Baking soda – then when it’s lived it’s life and you’re ready to scrub down the fridge – mix it water and wipe down the inside and shelves and replace. I know I know you’re tired of hearing about vinegar (I discovered its many uses when I was banned from using bleach) and you’re freaking because of the nasty smell – but the smell goes away quickly. use it…..

    * What should I clean the floors with? (I HATED doing this when I lived on my own. Guess I’ll have to get used to it again…)
    I use a steamer – have for many many years – love it!

    * How do I keep the trash smelling clean, or odorless?
    you already know……yup – that stuff……

    * Can you leave juices uncovered in the fridge?
    uhm – gag – but then I have teenagers – never know what they’re going to throw in there and at what speed that particular object is going to be going…..

    * What materials are unsafe and shouldn’t be used in the kitchen?
    I have been forbidden from using bleach anywhere outside of the laundryroom……
    no Drano in the disposal – OK so that goes along with the warning label on the blow dryer not to use in the tub……or while sleeping.

    • Sandy Stec says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to this! I am curious about the clove oil and vinegar concoction! Might have to try it…..thanks again for your helpful suggestions!!!

  4. Ashley Boyd says:

    * How do I dispose of meats properly?
    Cooked meats w/ fat that you wont eat, I’m guessing thats what you mean, Trash. I don’t know. Just throw away whatever you don’t use. Don’t leave meats in the fridge for more then 4 days uneaten in its package. Maybe even sooner depending on the meat. Freeze it if you don’t plan to use them right away, then make sure your microwave has a defrost.

    * What materials are best for cleaning counter tops?
    I either use a kitchen towel with pine sol OR lysol wipes. Lysol wipes are awesome and they smell fresh and you don’t have to wash the kitchen rag. Its not very “green” of me but I don’t care. Its simple, fresh and easy.

    * Should I avoid using sponges all together?
    NO. Where did you come up with this? Lol. Don’t use the same sponge to clean your countertops that you use to wash dishes. See above for countertops. Use the sponge to wash your dishes. Thats it.

    * Can you recommend any natural products to use?
    No, I’ve never used a natural product in my entire life. BUT I do know that when all else fails use baking soda with a water mix. It will clean anything. I’m not sure if that is a natural product or not.

    * What fruits are okay out of the fridge and for how long?
    Don’t put bananas or any sort of berry’s in the fridge. Everything else is fine. Keeps them cold and I think fruit tastes better cold.

    * How can I keep my fridge smelling fresh?
    Wipe it down with the lysol wipes I mentioned and make sure you get a box of baking soda and take the top off and leave it in there for a month or two. Works wonders.

    * What should I clean the floors with? (I HATED doing this when I lived on my own. Guess I’ll have to get used to it again…)
    I use the old fashioned mop and pine sol. They make redi-mops with the wipes and stuff. I’m not sure how much you hate it but check out Target. You’ll find something.

    * How do I keep the trash smelling clean, or odorless?
    Take it out often. Make sure it has a tight lid. I have a nice stainless steel trash with a top that opens with I put my hands next to it. Usually my hands are nasty when I am putting something in the trash.

    * Can you leave juices uncovered in the fridge?
    Sure why not. Most juices have lids though.

    * What materials are unsafe and shouldn’t be used in the kitchen?
    I have no idea. I use my kitchen counters for all sorts of stuff. Just keep it clean. If my entire house is a mess and my kitchen is clean I’m a happy lady.

    More helpful tips:
    Don’t use the same cutting board for everything. When you are cutting raw meats, use a plastic or glass cutting board. Not wood. To keep your nice wood cutting boards nice and clean, don’t submerge them in water. Wipe down with a soapy sponge and use mineral oil to keep it from cracking.

    Put lemons down your garbage disposal and run it to keep it smelling fresh.

    Last but not least, if you can read you can cook. Its not rocket science. Timing is key. It takes time and effort but it is a great feeling getting a meal on the table for your family and having them say “This is great!”

    • Sandy Stec says:

      Thank you so much Ashley!! Good idea bout the lemons in the garbage disposal…I will try that! I am a “family of one” but if I can like and possibly lose weight from stuff I cook, I’m happy!

  5. Maureen says:

    * How do I dispose of meats properly?
    In the garbage can, take out before you go to bed.

    * What materials are best for cleaning counter tops?
    I usually use a regular counter-top spray from Target…we also use Clorox wipes a few times a week.

    * Should I avoid using sponges all together?
    No, just also rinse out, and change them often.

    * Can you recommend any natural products to use?
    Seventh Generation is a great brand, but Mrs. Meyer’s is my favorite! They have a Lemon Verbana scent that I own in every sort of cleaning product you can think of. Ecos laundry detergent is fabulous AND inexpensive {I get mine from Costco- it will last you months}

    * What fruits are okay out of the fridge and for how long?
    Bananas, apples, oranges. Just don’t leave them out for over a week.

    * How can I keep my fridge smelling fresh?
    Baking soda. Also, wipe down the inside of your fridge a few times a year. I wait for a week when it’s pretty empty, then use Clorox wipes..don’t put anything back on the shelves until they are dry.

    * What should I clean the floors with? (I HATED doing this when I lived on my own. Guess I’ll have to get used to it again…)
    Get a Swiffer Vac & a regular Swiffer…then buy some cheap wet swiffer pads. Use the vac daily to pick up small pieces of food and then the regular swiffer with the wet pad to wash the floor. Dries in about 10 minutes.

    * How do I keep the trash smelling clean, or odorless?
    Take it out! Rinse the can out every once in awhile, too, then wipe with a Clorox wipe.

    * Can you leave juices uncovered in the fridge?
    I wouldn’t for more than a day.

    * What materials are unsafe and shouldn’t be used in the kitchen?
    A vibrator

    Also, invest in a slow cooker. You can add meat, veggies, etc and have a healthy, complete meal ready when you come home!

  6. Dean says:

    Both Lisas got you covered pretty well.
    Congratulations on movin’ out (cue Billy Joel song and Twyla Tharp choreography…)

  7. anita says:

    Should i be concerned that your mother refuses to answer these questions for you? Do you need an intervention? Family counseling?

  8. Bill Moore says:

    Good stuff.

    We like this book for healthy recipes:
    Cook This, Not That! Easy & Awesome 350-Calorie Meals by David Zinczenko

    The nerd in me recommends these books as great references for everything food- and food-safety related:
    The Professional Chef by The Culinary Institute of America. This is the bible of the professional kitchen, massive and intimidating. Some math is required.
    On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. Actually a very charming book, but still packed with practical information.
    The New Kitchen Science: A Guide to Know the Hows and Whys for Fun and Success in the Kitchen by Howard Hillman. Playful presentation of really useful facts.

    See, I have no interest in fancy food porn cookbooks that tell me twenty ways to toast Tuscan turnips. All I want is an instruction manual for my food, and that’s exactly what these are. They give me the how-to and the why. In particular their food safety information helps me cook with confidence.

    For cleaning, I recommend the Speed Cleaning products from http://www.thecleanteam.com/. I’ve been happily using them for fifteen years for the whole house. Take a good hard look at their kits, even the deluxe one that includes the vacuum. (The only product I don’t like is “Pro Scrub”…too messy. I switched to Comet.) Specifically for the kitchen I use their Red Juice, Cleaning Cloths, White Pad, and Green Pad. And Comet. For the kitchen floors I use the Sh-Mop and Sh-Clean; silly names, but they really do work great. They also have a book:

    Speed Cleaning by Jeff Campbell

    For all the questions you have about kitchens, I had just as many about cleaning. The “Speed Cleaning” book and products helped me out a lot.

    Speaking of which, I gotta go scrub some toilets…

    • Sandy Stec says:

      Bill, you rule. You always have the greatest suggestions. When I get my new place, I will cook you something from the list above. Or, we can hit the food trucks instead. Probably a tastier option.

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