Declutter & Deep Clean for Fall (Recipe: All-Purpose Orange Cleaner)

Get cleaned up for fall with a giveaway from Casabella.

Homemade Cleaner Photo

My son’s new backpack sits in his closet, loaded up with brand-new supplies, each one marked with his name. I learned my lesson with giving in to a character backpack last year, and upgraded to a JanSport that should last for more than one year of toting homework folders and lunch boxes. The old backpack sits among the pile of stuff we need to haul away, part of my ongoing project to reduce the amount of things we have in the house.

Back-to-school time is the ideal time to do a bout of heavy cleaning and decluttering. For those of us with kids, we’re already taking stock of outgrown clothes, replacing broken scissors, and realizing shoes have been run bare by summer’s escapades. It’s time to throw stuff out, so why not expand your critical eye to the rest of the house? Getting the house ready for fall will help get the school year off on the right foot by setting a calmer atmosphere, and it will also help ease the transition into the holiday season. (Yeah, I said it. Winter is coming.)

There’s two methods for getting your house in shape:

  • Room by Room: Completely declutter and clean each room or area before moving on to the next. This is great if you have a large chunk of time to devote, and no small ones underfoot as you purge and clean. Also, much like the debt snowball, it gives a greater sense of satisfaction — particularly if you can shut the room off while you work on the next!
  • Grab and Toss: Move through the house putting things away and tossing trash, cleaning in wherever you end up. This works best if you have a bit of a scattered brain, are continually interrupted, or need to multitask while cleaning.

I like a combination of both, first making a pass through the house sorting and tossing, and then getting down and dirty in one room. While we always have a “donate” pile in the house, clutter always seems to sneak its way back in, and I love the fresh start a big clean gives me.

My checklist for fall cleaning:

  • Remove outgrown/unworn clothing
  • Organize summer treasures (shells, rocks, etc)
  • Discard broken toys
  • Clean blinds and HVAC vents
  • Wash refrigerator bins
  • Deep-clean oven
  • Scrub floors
  • Take stock of pantry items, removing expired items and refreshing ground spices
  • Take stock of bathroom cabinets, removing hotel shampoos, unused nail polishes, etc
  • Sweep out garage and store summer toys
  • Toss any plants that were killed by summer’s heat

These tasks are in addition to our regular cleaning of course, but are items that always need special attention after a season of lazy days. I confess that while I absolutely adore decluttering, I don’t get too excited about cleaning. Luckily I have a few tools to help make cleaning a cinch, created by the designers at Casabella.

Homemade Cleaner Picture

My most hated task is cleaning slat blinds — aside from taking them down and hosing them off in the driveway, they’re just awkward to clean. When I saw that Casabella created Window Blinds Gloves I knew they would make my life easier. I’m happy to report that they work even better than expected, because your hand can get in between each slat so much easier than a wand cleaner, and reusable microfiber means not wasting tons of cleaning wipes.

The Microfiber Vent Brush is also fantastic. I have two cats who shed like it’s their job, and the hair manages to get everywhere, including our HVAC vents. This thin tool gets between the grates so easily, and the length makes it a lot easier to reach our ceiling vents.

My other favorite new tool is the Quick Scrub Double Sided Spray Mop. We’ve used mops similar to this one, but the scrubbing power was lackluster, and I never quite felt like the floors got more than wet. The head on this one is made of scrubby microfiber, not a spongy pad, and I can use whatever cleaner I want in the attached tank. It’s so easy to use, I’m thinking of making this my son’s new after-school chore. He can even mix the cleaner himself! All you need is vinegar, orange peels, a jar, and some patience.

Are you ready to tackle your house for fall? Thanks to the folks at Casabella, I’m giving away a set of cleaning gear! Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below, then grab the recipe for homemade orange cleaner.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy cleaning!

Homemade Cleaner Image

All-Purpose Orange Cleaner

Ingredients

  • 1 quart Mason jar
  • Orange peels
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Cloves (optional)
  • Water

Instructions

  1. Place orange peels and cloves (if using) in the mason jar, then fill with vinegar.
  2. Let sit for 2 weeks, then strain into a clean jar.
  3. To use, add mixture to a spray bottle and dilute with water. I like a 1:1 ratio, but your preference may differ depending on the strength of your cleaner.
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Disclaimer: I received the products above for the purpose of review. I was not otherwise compensated, and of course, all opinions are my own.

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Blackberry Basil Crumble

Blackberries and basil photo on Stetted

The first time I visited a farmers market was in 2007. Our family had gone through big changes in the six months prior, having bought a house and then had our first child. I remember toting the baby in my Beco, squinting against the Texas December sun, and being disappointed that there was pretty much only greens on the farmers’ tables. Greens that, aside from lettuce, I was completely unfamiliar with. I think we went home with a head of broccoli and some eggs, but I vowed to return in a better month.

I had been prompted on this trip by reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, in which Barbara Kingsolver and her family spend a year eating only local food. I’m not sure how I came upon the book, other than being a fan of her other work, but I was completely enchanted with the romantic picture of living off the land. With the addition of the baby, I was determined to find better solutions to our family’s food chain, and this site morphed from random ramblings and a log of what we ate to a more developed recipe blog.

Blackberry Basil Crumble photo on Stetted

Looking back I was a bit insufferable when it came to certain aspects of food, and as my kids have gotten older, I’ve realized there’s so much more involved in eating than just proclaiming local is best. After all, if I stuck with local, I would hardly ever get to eat my beloved raspberries.

During my insufferable time, I discovered Texas blackberries. Growing up “blackberries” were actually black raspberries, and for a few years I was quite disappointed by the plump, tart berries that grow here. I longed for the fruit of my childhood, but instead was presented with blackberries the size of my thumb, and peaches whose fuzz made my lips tingle.

Blackberry Basil Crumble pic on Stetted

Oddly, it took a trip back north a few years ago to embrace the blackberry. Wandering the market in Madison, I snagged fresh-picked raspberries and we devoured them on the capital lawn, languidly stretched out on the grass. The best of summer. That memory went into my pocket, and I realized by shunning Texas blackberries I was missing out on eating off the bramble, staining my fingers with purple, and showing my kids how lovely summer can be.

This blackberry basil crumble is based on the version in Kingsolver’s book. The first time I made it, back in 2008, I was skeptical about the inclusion of basil, but it freshens up the dish, making it more than just a mouthful of sweet. The addition of almonds adds a subtle mellowness, and if you serve it with vanilla ice cream, it might just be the best late-summer dessert ever.

Blackberry Basil Crumble image on Stetted

 

Note: You can make this gluten-free by swapping out the flour for your favorite GF blend.

Blackberry Basil Crumble

Ingredients

  • 2 pints blackberries, washed and patted dry
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves (not packed)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F and lightly butter a 1-quart casserole dish.
  2. Chop basil leaves and stir with blackberries and honey.
  3. In a food processor, pulse almonds until finely chopped. Add flour, salt, and brown sugar and pulse a few times to mix.
  4. Cut butter into chunks and pulse in until mixture forms crumbles, some large and some small. You can add more butter if it isn't crumbling properly.
  5. Pour blackberry mixture into casserole dish and scatter crumble over the top. (You might have extra crumble, depending on the depth of your dish. You can store extra in the fridge and use it on coffee cake or muffins.)
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crumble is browned. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
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No-Bake Mocha Marble Cheesecake

No-Bake Mocha Marble Cheesecake photo on Stetted

I keep making desserts this summer, even though we’re not really a family that eats lots of desserts. I think I view each recipe as a challenge, trying to figure out exactly what will end up in my entertaining repertoire for the dinner parties I envision having. I can’t quite figure out when those dinner parties would happen, since bedtimes put a high-pitched damper on a festive atmosphere, but that doesn’t stop me from from making up reasons to cook dishes that serve 10 for a family of four.

This no-bake mocha marble cheesecake is one of those make-ahead desserts that seem fancier than they are. The hardest part is making sure your cream cheese is sufficiently soft so that it mixes smoothly, creating no minefields of unsweetened cheese in the middle of the dessert. The cheesecake is meant to be marbled , but if you’re swirl-inept like I am, it will look and taste just fine as layers instead of swirls.

You can always skip using the coffee, but because the flavor here is very subtle, I think you should go for it. My preference is to use cold-brew coffee, although any regular coffee should work fine. The coffee replaces some of the milk in the recipe, and you could also boost the coffee flavor by adding instant granules to the melted chocolate.

I highly recommend using superfine sugar, also called caster sugar, in this recipe. Because you’re not baking the cheesecake, the finer grind of sugar will blend into the cream cheese better, helping to ensure the final dessert is smooth, not gritty. You can easily create caster sugar at home by blitzing granulated sugar in your food processor, blender, or spice grinder, until it is finely ground but not powder.

Check out my post for No-Bake Mocha Marble Cheesecake over on Recipe.com!

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Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli

Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli image on Stetted

Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a plate of fried green tomatoes like we used to have at the cafe. Ooh!

Welcome to the first Progressive Eats virtual dinner! Come on over and grab a bite.

Progressive Eats is inspired by the neighborhood progressive dinners that used to be all the rage. For each course you visit a different participating house, enjoying the hospitality and creativity of your friends at each stop. Now that most Americans don’t live within walking distance of our friends’ homes, progressive dinners are a little trickier to organize — so a group of us decided to take the dinner party online.

Each month, we’ll be bringing you a dishes centered on a theme, chosen by that month’s host. This month our host is Lana from Never Enough Thyme, and she chose Summer in the South.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli photo on Stetted

Now, most Texans will deny that we live in the South and take the opportunity to remind you that we were once our own country, but it’s a big state, and much of our food is quite clearly influenced by Southern traditions. From biscuits to purple hull peas, lard-crust pies and peach cobblers, Southern food is the stuff we often long for when we think of “home”.

For today’s dinner party I decided to make classic Fried Green Tomatoes, and add a bit of local inspiration with the Smoked Tomato and Basil Aioli. I know, I know, tomato-on-tomato? But it works. The smoked tomatoes came from one of the local farms, where they slow-roasted them in big batches. If you can’t get your hands on smoked tomatoes, you can use sun-dried tomatoes or even dry your own tomatoes. Just be sure to use smoked paprika to get that depth of flavor.

Plus, if you have leftover aioli, it is fabulous on a BLT. Possibly life-changing, if you’re a mayo skeptic.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli pic on Stetted

Fried Green Tomatoes

Ingredients

    For the tomatoes
  • 1 pound green tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 cups cornmeal
  • Oil for frying
  • For the aioli
  • 2 smoked tomato slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2-3 basil leaves
  • Pinch salt

Instructions

  1. Cut tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices and discard ends.
  2. Whisk together flour, garlic powder, chile powder, salt, and pepper in a shallow bowl.
  3. In a second bowl, whisk together eggs and milk. Add cornmeal to a third bowl.
  4. Heat oil in a pan over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, it's ready to go.
  5. Dip tomato slices in flour mixture, coating evenly and tapping to remove excess. Coat in egg mixture, then dredge in cornmeal. Repeat with remaining slices.
  6. Fry tomatoes for 2-3 minutes per side, then let drain on a paper towel.
  7. To make the aioli, blend all ingredients together until smooth using an immersion blender or food processor. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve with the tomatoes.

Notes

You can "smoke" your own tomatoes by slicing plum tomatoes lengthwise and grilling them over high heat until charred. Use one tomato in place of the smoked tomatoes called for.

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Be sure to visit all the Progressive Eats participants to round out your meal!

Main Course
Never Enough Thyme – Creole Style Smothered Chicken
Appetizers
The Heritage Cook – Old Bay Shrimp Boil Skewers
Stetted – Fried Green Tomatoes with Smoked Tomato Basil Aioli
Bread
Savvy Eats – Jalapeno Cornbread + How to Store Cornbread
Salads
Miss in the Kitchen – Creamy Coleslaw
Life’s a Feast – Shrimp, Grilled Peach and Quinoa Salad
Soup
Spiceroots – Maque Choux Soup
Sides
Creative Culinary – Bacon and Caramelized Onion Creamed Corn
Pastry Chef Online – Spicy Succotash
Beverage
Healthy. Delicious. – Watermelon Lemonade
Desserts
Barbara Bakes – Key Lime Pound Cake
That Skinny Chick Can Bake – Banana Cream Cheesecake Pie

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Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay image on Stetted

One would think that being a food blogger would mean dinner comes easily. Half the time it’s a struggle though, and not just because I am feeding small children.

It’s no wonder there are so many people who don’t cook in the United States. There’s so many steps to getting dinner on the table before you actually get it on the table. Choose a recipe. Check the fridge and pantry. Make a list and head to the store. Inevitably make some swaps because you can’t find the Japanese eggplant or all the fish in the case looks bad. Deal with checking out, getting home, putting everything away, and then you still have to prepare it. And deal with the possible wrinkled noses, because you dared to make something more than pizza or pasta.

It’s a struggle, y’all, and half the time we’re only making it harder for each other.

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay picture on Stetted

Rather than making things harder, this recipe centers on two American mainstays: beef and peanut butter. Yep. Peanut butter.

I’ve loved satay-style skewers for years, so when I got a jar of spicy peanut butter I immediately knew it would be perfect to pair with meat. I wasn’t quite prepared for how hot The Heat is On would be, but Peanut Butter & Co is certainly telling the truth with that name.

To make the satay, I used skirt steak, which is a really affordable cut that is great for marinades. The marinade features brown rice vinegar — fermented ingredients are great with beef — though you can easily use regular rice wine vinegar, or even apple cider vinegar.

You don’t need to use The Heat is On for this recipe. Use what you have! Swap in your favorite nut butter (OK, maybe not a chocolate variety) and red pepper flakes to taste.

After marinating in the fridge for an hour, you can either thread the meat onto skewers and grill it, or simply cook on a stovetop grill pan without skewers. If you use wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in water first so they don’t char on the grill.

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay pic on Stetted

I served these up with sticky rice and had lettuce, cucumber, and carrot strips for DIY wraps. You can add cilantro, too, if you don’t think it’s the devil weed.

If you’re looking for a recipe that needs minimal ingredients and cooking time, this Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay is for you. And hey, if you can’t find the perfect little lettuce cups, don’t sweat it — just shove it all into a tortilla. Everything is better as a taco, right?

Marinated Peanut Butter Beef Satay

Ingredients

  • 1 pound skirt steak
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter, such as The Heat is On
  • 1-2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes (if using regular peanut butter)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup brown rice vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • To serve
  • Romaine hearts or Bibb lettuce
  • Cucumber slices
  • Carrot sticks
  • Cilantro
  • Rice

Instructions

  1. Slice steak against the grain and place in a shallow baking dish.
  2. Whisk together remaining ingredients through ginger and pour over steak.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for at least an hour, but no more than 24 hours.
  4. When ready to cook, thread beef onto skewers if desired and heat a grill or grill pan to medium-high.
  5. Cook for 2-3 minutes per side.
  6. Serve with lettuce, cucumbers, carrots, cilantro, and rice, or other veggies.
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Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I received peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co to try and was inspired to create this recipe. My opinions are my own, yo.

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Jalapeno Jelly

When I first started canning, I wanted to try as many different things as possible. This was both a good idea and a bad idea, because while I expanded my experience, my pantry (and my husband) groaned from the excess.

It turns out that transforming fruits and vegetables into beautifully contained preserves doesn’t actually mean you’ll eat more of them. Who knew?

Over the past few years, I’ve continued canning but with an eye on what will really end up in our bellies. One of my favorite things to make (and eat) is jalapeño jelly, thanks to the urging of a friend who grew up eating the stuff.

Jalapeno Jelly image on Stetted

In Wisconsin our condiments are pretty limited to ketchup, mustard, and liquid cheese, so I quickly embraced this spicy-sweet jelly and started putting it on everything. It’s classically served over cream cheese to spread on crackers, but it’s also a good topping for burgers and a surprising way to serve baked chicken. Because of the sugar content, when it’s spread over meat and baked you end with a wonderfully sticky and flavorful dish.

Most versions you’ll see of jalapeño jelly are clear or slightly golden, but my version is wonderfully red. I could say that it was intentional, but it’s really just because I didn’t have enough white wine vinegar and knew red wine vinegar would be a great substitute. I think I might actually prefer this version — it seems just a little bit more tart, and I love the contrast of the jelly on the cheese. I’m already thinking ahead to how festive it will look on the table during the holidays.

This recipe is canned in a water bath, but because the yield is small, you can also just pour it into jars and store in the fridge once cooled. I guarantee you’ll find lots of ways to enjoy it.

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