DIY Garbage Disposal Refreshers

After dinner, I noticed a cookie sheet full of what looked like lovely lemon cookies. As I reached for one, my husband, Eric said that Grace had made these homemade garbage disposal cleaners. Thank goodness he was standing there! Grace is becoming quite the domestic goddess!

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DIY Garbage Disposal Refreshers

3/4 cup baking soda
1/2 cup salt
1/2 tsp liquid dish soap
1 lemon
Sheet pan
Parchment paper
Small spoon or scoop
Sealable glass jar

Gather the ingredients for making the garbage disposal refreshers. Measure and add the baking soda and salt to a small mixing bowl, and give a stir, ensuring the mixture isn’t lumpy.

Grate the lemon peel into the mixture along with adding the liquid dish soap.

Slice the lemon in half, and squeeze the juice into the mixture. Continue stirring and adding juice until the mixture resembles course sand.

Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper, use a small spoon or scoop to mold the half rounds, and then tap them out onto the pan. A rounded teaspoon measuring spoon works wonderfully. Continue molding the refreshers until the mixture is gone. Allow to dry overnight.

Place the dried garbage disposal refreshers in a sealable container.

When your sink isn’t smelling fresh, simply place a few in the disposal, and flip the switch.

Pyramid Pan

I don’t usually do product reviews, but I found this product by accident when I went into Bed, Bath & Beyond. I think this thing would be categorized in the Beyond section. Anyway, I saw it out of the corner of my eye and bought it. Call it an impulse purchase. The Pyramid Pan has many claims – Pyramid Pan is a revolutionary way to cook, food never touches the bottom of the pan! like a bed of nails for food, no turning and no burning!!  Folds away, dishwasher safe, microwave safe, non stick, fat reducing, etc…

When I cater an event, I usually use Reynold’s Wrap Non Stick Foil.  Why isn’t all foil non stick?  Anyway, it’s not environmentally friendly using foil, so I thought the Pyramid Pan would be worth a try.  Basically, it did what it claims.  The only down side is that the “grease” ends up under the mat and onto the baking sheet, which has to be washed.  Bacon is one of the suggestions, which would be a lot of grease.  When I am working at an event, this is not ideal, but at home it’s not a huge set back.  I washed the mat in the dishwasher and it cleaned up well.  It also rolls up and sticks to itself for easy storage.  For $14.99 + my 20% off coupon, not a bad investment.  This is not how I felt when I was sucked into the AS SEEN ON TV frenzy of the Genie Bra™ Seamless Bra!

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2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 25,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

Holiday Ice Candle

Here is an easy, inexpensive decorative candle holder for your Holiday table.  (I can’t use the word tablescape!)  I’ve also done this other times of the year using rosemary and komquats or sliced lemons, etc. The photos are not actually step by step, but it gives you an idea of what I did.

Step 1
Buy a cardboard paint bucket from your local hardware store.
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Step 2
Find a plastic cup to put in the middle of the bucket.
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Step 3
Put some cranberries and Christmas tree branches or holly or whatever you want around the cup.
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Step 4
Put something heavy in the cup to keep it from floating.  I usually use rocks or this year I used 2 lb hand weights.
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Step 5
Fill will water – around the cup.
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Step 6
Freeze it in the freezer.

Step 7
Take it out of the freezer. Remove the weights from the inside of the cup.  Fill the cup with some warm water and twist it until it comes loose.  Remove the cup.

Step 8
Tear off the cardboard paint bucket.

Step 9
Put it in a glass dish and place a candle in the middle.  You may have to remove some of the melted water throughout the evening.
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Organic, Natural, Free-Range – What Does it really mean?

Are you confused about what you are buying?

Organic: Foods that are produced using methods that do not involve modern synthetic inputs such as synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Organic foods are also not processed using irradiation, industrial solvents, or chemical food additives.

Natural: This product label is not synonymous with organic. “Natural” means that the product doesn’t contain any artificial ingredients or colors. These products are also minimally processed, but the label must include a more detailed explanation of what exactly makes it natural.

Free-Range: “Free-range” or “free-roaming” means that the animals have access to the outdoors, though there is no standard for how much access they have. Consider springing for organic rather than free-range if animal welfare is a primary concern.

Cage-Free: Some egg producers house hens in cage-free environments. These systems are generally considered to offer better conditions for the animals, though they’re still far from cruelty-free. There’s no evidence the nutritional quality of the eggs differs based on caged and cage-free systems.

Antibiotic-free: Antibiotic-resistant bacteria can result from the overuse of antibiotics, and those bacteria can be passed from animals to humans through the food chain. Farms that use fewer antibiotics have been shown to have fewer resistant bugs, which may make their products safer when they reach the table (though studies are still preliminary).

Hormone-free: The presence of hormones is one of the most significant differences between conventional and organic milk products, even if there still isn’t absolute evidence that hormones are dangerous. For buyers that choose to avoid hormones, hormone-free (rather than all-out organic) dairy products offer the same benefits at a potentially lower price.

Transitional: Going organic is not cheap or quick (for the farmer!), and the easiest way to help a farm make the switch is buying transitional food. “Transitional” means that the product has been cultivated according to organic standards, but the soil and farm conditions haven’t yet completely met organic standards or the farm’s organic status is pending.

Pantry Organization

Pantry Organization 101

I decided it was time to organize the pantry. I can only do this when the mood strikes me, which is very rare. I found a bunch of mason jars in the basement. My father-in-law used to make pickles in these jars. I cleaned them up and decided to put all my dry goods in them. We have a huge problem with those little pantry moths!

The first step in the organization process (after deciding to get organized) is to a do a little housekeeping.

  1. Take everything out of the pantry including food, food storage containers and junk/trash that may have accumulated.
  2. Dust the pantry, starting with the highest shelf, and then wipe down each shelf one at a time. Be sure to cover the tops of doors and check the ceiling for cob webs.
  3. Line up the food items in one space so you can see everything at once. Suggestions: kitchen table, dining room table, or even the floor. This way you’ll be able to spot duplicates, spoiled foods and get a general sense of how much space each type of item will need.

Assess each item one-by-one and ask yourself these questions:

  • Has this expired? If yes, throw it out.
  • Do I use this? If no, throw it out.
  • Do I like this? If no, throw it out.

When I used to move into new apartments each year I would line things up in my kitchen cabinets by size and height. This makes sense on a visual level but doesn’t exactly make for the best organizing scheme. The trick here is to group items together by type.

As an example, have a vinegar group which includes: champagne, apple cider, balsamic, rice wine. To that mix add olive and grape oil, and an olive oil spray. The bottles vary in height and width, but now when I want to make a salad dressing, everything I need is occupying the same space in my pantry.

Here are some common groupings:

  • Cans of beans and soups
  • Bags of snack foods
  • Bottles of oils and vinegar
  • Jars of spices
  • Boxes of grains (rice, cereal)

Maintain your new organizing scheme by consistently going through your pantry and declutter. If you do this regularly, you may not have to repeat the entire process of emptying and cleaning the pantry all over again. I recommend the following schedule:

  • Weekly – declutter
  • Monthly – declutter and re-group
  • Seasonally – declutter, re-group, re-fit storage solutions

This schedule will depend on how often you cook and the size of your pantry space. I like to go through mine once a week while I am planning meals

Hint: The more often you declutter your pantry, the less time the process will take in the future.

Liquid Hand Soap

I know this is a little “off topic”, but I thought I would share! I seemed to be constantly out buying liquid soap and I decided I would make my own.  It was very easy and satisfying.  It’s a slightly different consistency, but it works and I love the smell.  You can choose any scent (or unscented – that’s you Barbara….) you want.

Liquid Hand Soap

Makes 1 Gallon

Cheese grater
2 Tbs of Liquid Glycerin (I found it at Whole Foods)
1 – 8 oz bar of soap (I used Lavender Bar Soap)
1 gallon of water

Step 1:
Grate the entire bar of soap

Step 2:
Fill a pot with 1 gallon of water and add the soap shavings.

Step 3:
Add 2 Tablespoons of liquid glycerin and turn the heat to medium/high and stir until the soap dissolves.

Step 4:
Leave it alone to cool for at least 10-12 hours. It begins to cloud up after 3-4 hours.

Step 5:
After it has cooled completely around 12 hours later it will harden and look like liquid soap.

Step 6:
If the soap is harder than it should be you can take some beaters and blend it while adding just a little bit of water until the consistency is more like liquid soap.

Now you can refill your 12 ounce bottle of liquid soap (that cost $3.99) with your gallon of refill that cost around $4.99.

Common Cooking Mistakes

Here are 30 of the most common cooking mistakes people make.  To read the full article click here.

1. You don’t taste as you go.
Result: The flavors or textures of an otherwise excellent dish are out of balance or unappealing.

2. You don’t read the entire recipe before you start cooking.
Result: Flavors are dull, entire steps or ingredients get left out.

3. You make unwise substitutions in baking.
Result: You wreck the underlying chemistry of the dish.

4. You boil when you should simmer.
Result: A hurried-up dish that’s cloudy, tough, or dry.

5. You overheat chocolate.
Result: Instead of having a smooth, creamy, luxurious consistency, your chocolate is grainy, separated, or scorched.

6. You over-soften butter.
Result: Cookies spread too much or cakes are too dense.

7. You overheat low-fat milk products.
Result: The milk curdles or “breaks,” yielding grainy mac and cheese, ice cream, or pudding.

8. You don’t know your oven’s quirks and idiosyncrasies.
Result: Food cooks too fast, too slow, or unevenly.

9. You’re too casual about measuring ingredients.
Result: Dry, tough cakes, rubbery brownies, and a host of other textural mishaps.

10. You overcrowd the pan.
Result: Soggy food that doesn’t brown.

11. You mishandle egg whites.
Result: The whites won’t whip up. Or, overbeaten or roughly handled, they produce flat cake layers or soufflés with no lift.

12. You turn the food too often.
Result: You interfere with the sear, food sticks, or you lose the breading.

13. You don’t get the pan hot enough before you add the food.
Result: Food that sticks, scallops with no sear, pale meats.

14. You slice meat with―instead of against―the grain.
Result: Chewy meat that could have been tender.

15. You under-bake cakes and breads.
Result: Cakes, brownies, and breads turn out pallid and gummy.

16. You don’t use a meat thermometer.
Result: Your roast chicken, leg of lamb, or beef tenderloin turns out over- or under-cooked.

17. Meat gets no chance to rest after cooking.
Result: Delicious juices vacate the meat and run all over the cutting board, leaving steak or roast dry.

18. You try to rush the cooking of caramelized onions.
Result: You end up with sautéed onions, which are nice but a far cry from the melt-in-your-mouth caramelized ideal.

19. You overwork lower-fat dough.
Result: Cookies, scones, piecrusts, and biscuits turn out tough.

20. You neglect the nuts you’re toasting.
Result: Burned nuts, with a sharp, bitter flavor.

21. You don’t shock vegetables when they’ve reached the desired texture.
Result: Mush.

22. You put all the salt in the marinade or breading.
Result: Fish, poultry, or meat that’s under seasoned.

23. You pop meat straight from the fridge into the oven or onto the grill.
Result:
Food cooks unevenly: The outside is overdone, the inside rare or raw.

24. You don’t know when to abandon ship and start over.
Result:
You serve a disappointing meal. And you know it’s disappointing!

25. You use inferior ingredients.
Result:
Sigh.

26. Your poached eggs aren’t pretty
Result:
The typical botched poached egg is tentacled, scary, tough, overcooked.

27. Your gravy is lumpy
Result:
Lumpy gravy. Next time, whisk wisely. Meanwhile, here’s a fix.

28. Your mashed potatoes are gluey
Result:
Gluey mashed potatoes. Next time, watch the cooking time and drain well.

29. You Burn the Brown Butter
Result:
Dark and bitter butter. Next time, pay attention to the visual cues.

30. Your bacon is burnt and crinkly
Result:
Burnt and crinkly bacon. Next time, bake your bacon.

Cabernet Onions

For your “haute” dogs…

Here is a wonderful condiment for burgers or hot dogs. This recipe for Cabernet onions can be made with red or sweet onions.

Cabernet Onions

1 Tbs olive oil
3 cups sliced onions, about 2
Salt, to taste
3/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon or other dry red wine

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until tender and golden brown, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and continue to sauté until very tender and well browned, about 15 minutes longer. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes.

DO AHEAD Can be made 3 days ahead. Cool, cover, and chill.

A few interesting tips….

    To prevent egg shells from cracking, add a pinch of salt to the water when hard-boiling.
  • Potatoes will take food stains off of your fingers. Just slice and rub the raw potato on your skin and rinse with water. Just the same, if you’re peeling shrimp or cleaning fresh fish and you don’t want the smell to remain on your hands all day, squish a few fresh strawberries between your fingers for a minute or two, then rinse with soap and water.
  • When marinating food keep these guidelines in mind: Certain foods like vegetables or chicken soak up marinades quicker than pork or red meat. For chicken, shrimp, fish or vegetables, 3-4 hours is usually good in the refrigerator. With pork or red meat, 6 hours works nicely, overnight works the best.
  • When chopping or cutting up onions, breathe through your mouth instead of your nose to keep from tearing heavily. The smell and the chemicals inside of the onions is what makes your eyes burn.
  • Use a meat baster to squeeze your batter onto a hot griddle for perfectly shaped pancakes every time.