Along with Spring comes Spring cleaning. I’ve been decluttering my home and my life lately, but it’s so hard to know where to start when  the piles everywhere threaten to swallow you alive?

Everything in it's place - organizing the clutter

Everything in it’s place – organizing the clutter

Tip: If you are finding it impossible to get started, ask a friend to help you and offer to return the favor. My friend Cyndy helped me, and it made the whole process so much more manageable. She was more ruthless about tossing things, and doing the “girlfriend giggle” while you work makes the time fly.

An organized kitchen makes cooking multiple meals at once run smoothly

An organized kitchen helps cooking multiple meals at once run smoothly

A well organized kitchen makes the Personal Chef Approach to cooking multiple meals at once run much faster and smoothly. Last week I discussed the in’s and out’s of cleaning your refrigerator, this week I want to tackle pantry, cupboards, and countertops. Start by removing everything from the pantry shelves. If you don’t have enough room to set it all out on a counter, work one shelf at a time.

Everything in it's place makes cooking on the fly easier

Everything in it’s place makes cooking on the fly easier

Check the expiration date on all your spices, condiments, and canned goods, and toss anything out of date. When I have duplicates of goods, I start a donation bag for my local food bank. Once you have sifted out what you’re giving away and tossing, wipe the shelf down good with disinfectant, and begin placing goods back on the shelves in an organized manner. I keep all my dry goods together at the top, then my spices together, canned goods on the next shelf down, and bottled condiments that don’t need refrigerating (always check label to see if you need to once the product is opened) on the bottom.

Keep PCA storage containers sorted and at easy access

Keep PCA storage containers sorted and at easy access

Next I tackle the cupboards and organize all my pots and pans, utensils, and containers for storing my PCA meals. Be sure to wipe these shelves down good, before neatly organizing each cupboard respectively.

Tip: Containers can usually be nested if extra space is required, then wedge the lids in either on top of the containers or in between.

Store appliances you don't use every day

Store appliances you don’t use every day

Last but not least, I like to clear as much of my countertop as possible for prep work and cooling space when I do my weekly cook-date. Get rid of old sponges (they are a bacteria breeding ground), place any equipment you don’t need away in an easily accessible cupboard, and give the countertops a good wipe down.

End product - a well organized kitchen

End product – a well organized kitchen

Congratulations! You now have a kitchen that is more inviting and much easier to get your PCA cook-date groove on. You’ll know exactly where every pot, pan, utensil, and ingredient is, and be able to reach easily for those storage containers as you need them. Now that I’ve finished my kitchen, I think I’m now officially going into my minimalist phase – nothing new comes in until something old is used up, first.

Grilled Peach Salad

Grilled Peach & Apricot Salad

Peach season begins in May and runs through September, with peak season in July and August. We’re starting to see them trickle into the produce departments here in California now, so my friend Cyndy Hayes created this yummy salad to sustain us while we sorted through the kitchen clutter.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, divided
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon brown sugar, divided
2 ripe peaches, halved and stone removed
1 apricot, halved and stone removed
9 ounces mixed baby greens
1 bunch radishes, sliced
4 ounces goat cheese

Directions:

1).  To make the balsamic glaze, pour 3 tablespoons vinegar and 1 tablespoon brown sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a slow boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally and continuing to cook until reduced by half, about 4-5 minutes; set aside and let cool completely.

2). Whisk together the remaining balsamic vinegar, mustard, and 1 teaspoon brown sugar with the olive oil in a small bowl for the salad dressing; set aside.

3). Heat a grill pan until a bead of water sizzles across. Dip the peaches and apricot halves in the balsamic glaze, then grill about 2-3 minutes per side.

4). Meanwhile toss the greens and radish slices in the dressing, reserving a little dressing to drizzle later, and plate. Dot with pieces of the goat cheese sporadically, place warm fruit on top, drizzle with remaining dressing and serve.

Serving Suggestions: Serve as either a lunch or dinner salad, or an appetizer for a dinner party.

Heat to Eat: Grill peaches and apricot in advance, cool, and package separately. Dressing and salad components should be packaged and stored separately too, then toss everything together and serve when ready.

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