Here are some holiday cooking and cleaning tips, because at this time of year more than any other, the kitchen is the focus of frenzied activity. Throughout the holidays, it's important to remember to take deep breaths, relax, and have fun.
- Before you cook even one holiday recipe, remove kitchen clutter, making as much room as you can for holiday preparations. Cast a cold, hard eye on those kitchen counters. Get out a large cardboard box and fill it with all the things you won't need, and stash the box in the attic or basement.
- Attack the refrigerator. Discard everything that's past its prime. Make space to chill bowls of cookie dough, batches of eggnog, and perishable food gifts you may receive.
- Read recipes carefully and think through every special meal you'll cook. Organize your work area. Pay special attention to pan sizes and the space you will need for such activities as rolling dough and combining several bowls of ingredients.
- Check to make sure you have plenty storage containers and materials, including of plastic wrap, waxed paper and aluminum foil. If you use glass or plastic containers with snap-on lids, organize them so they're easy to find—and that includes the lids that fit them.
- Clean as you go. Make a habit of washing, drying, and putting away equipment as soon as you can after using it.
- If you face a roasting pan with baked-on grease and gunk, fill the sink with hot water, add 2 tablespoons of dishwasher detergent, and soak the pan overnight. Then scrub it with steel wool.
- If you burn something and it sticks to the bottom of the pan, let the pan cool off. Scrape out as much of the burned food as you can. Then fill the pan with cold water and add 3 tablespoons of salt or baking soda. Let it sit overnight. In the morning, bring the water slowly to a boil and let it simmer for 20 minutes. The pan should just wipe clean.
- If your glassware looks cloudy, put 1 to 2 tablespoons of lemon juice in the offending vessel and fill it to the top with hot water. Let it sit for at least three hours. Then rinse it out and wash it in warm, soapy water.
- When cleaning heavily tarnished silver, rub it with a damp cloth sprinkled with salt; then wash off the salt and polish the silver. If you run out of silver polish, use toothpaste. It works just as well and smells a whole lot better.