Foodie’s Crazy Kitchen

Raise your hand if you subscribe to more than five Foodie blogs. Thank you; I see I’m in good company.

I’m afraid I inject some of personality every time I write a Foodie post. That’s probably a good thing. Last week I gave a friend a heads-up, letting her know today’s subject would again be kitchen tips.

Well, if you consider the following “kitchen tips,” your personality is a lot like mine.

Consider this list of words I associate with creating in the kitchen:

  • Hodge-podge
  • Daring
  • Variety
  • Fun
  • Whisking (I enjoy whisking)
  • Gadgets
  • Spills
  • Putter

Something that springs to mind in addition to all that is “Crazy.” Not the kind that people associate with a mental illness. (And that’s not a good use of the word anyway). This is ‘crazy’ meaning sort of wacky or zany. Like, if someone eavesdropped as you putter in the kitchen, they might be surprised. They might furrow their brow. They might gasp. Let’s hope they see the fun you’re having and giggle.

Crazy Foodies, as far as I’ve seen, get lost in the process. They love going rogue by experimenting. Crazy Foodies sing, hum, or dance while they maneuver in the kitchen because music is often part of the process.

Where are the kitchen tips I promised? All right, here we go. And remember these tips are about being a little crazy in the kitchen, whether they look like it or not.

  1. Keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge
  2. Think outside the box (Wait. I got rid of the box)
  3. If you have kids, get them involved
  4. Use your gadgets to their ultimate potential
  5. Don’t keep too many gadgets around
  6. Clear a large space for your work area
  7. Use recipes for tried-and-true stuff
  8. Try recipes—your own or someone else’s—that challenge you
  9. Don’t try to be a master chef (Relax!)

Because I enjoy experimenting and altering recipes, I can see how having a well-stocked pantry helps me to experiment and be creative. An added bonus is that I can be more methodical.

But does being methodical take away from the fun and spontaneity?

Naah. It doesn’t hurt to have a plan, even if you consider yourself a Crazy Foodie. When you’re somewhat methodical, you give yourself elbow room to be more creative.

Last night, I made cole slaw from what was left of the huge head of cabbage a friend gave me. She’s gluten intolerant and craved some sort of popular Italian-style meal so I made Cabbage Lasagna. My recipe for homemade cole slaw dressing was perfected by thinking out of that box which doesn’t exist in my kitchen.**

In my neck of the woods, we have a couple of Autumn holidays coming up. Foodies get a little crazy making dishes with a new twist. Naturally, I encourage that. In fact, that’s why I follow more than five Foodie blogs. I steal ideas from those writer/kitchen experts.

Let’s get crazy if we haven’t already tried it. If you already practice craziness, invite a friend to come and enjoy the process. Add some peanut butter to the banana bread.  Make some overnight oats that taste like an Almond Joy.

Just do it.

What words do you associate with creating in the kitchen? Would love to hear you chime in. So I can steal your ideas. Thanks in advance for letting me be a Kitchen Burglar.

Eat hardy!

**Truthfully, there is a box. For instance, I don’t do things like put lobster in chocolate fudge.

 

 

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Tips for Raiding the Foodie Pantry

Believe it or not, we don’t need to buy fancy products at the store to handle cleaning, repairs and conditioning. Practically everyone knows you can use dryer sheets for freshening things up and lint pickup. Here are some other tips using household items you probably already have around the house.

Rubbing Alcohol: It’s a great cleaner and disinfectant. It also leaves a streak-free shine.

  • Wipe candles with a cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove dust being careful not to touch the wick.
  • For your car, wipe your windshield wiper blades with a bit of rubbing alcohol. It removes road grime and they are less apt to become iced up.
  • Unclog hair spray or paint nozzles by gently removing the spray top and soaking in rubbing alcohol for about 10 minutes.
  • Make a home-made ice pack by mixing 1 part rubbing alcohol with 3 parts water in a seal-able plastic bag. Next time you have a sore area or injury, use this clever ice pack which also molds to your body. (alcohol doesn’t freeze)
  • Get rid of fruit flies by mixing rubbing alcohol with water in a spray bottle and spraying them. They’ll soon drop so you can clean them away. So much cleaner and less smelly than commercial bug sprays.

Cooking Spray: This has become a staple in many modern pantries and for good reason. Did you know you can also…?

  • Spray a thin layer inside plastic containers before storing tomato-based sauces. Stains normally left behind from the acidic sauce can be prevented this way.
  • Being very careful not to get any on the floor of the bathtub, spritz the shower walls with cooking spray to help loosen soap scum. Again, if you’ve ever over sprayed in the kitchen and it’s landed on the floor, you know it’s important to be careful. It is, after all, an oil.
  • Who needs commercial products when you can use cooking spray to take care of a squeaky or tight hinge?

Vinegar: It’s probably best to use white vinegar for these tips. The smell is milder and there’s no color.

  • Would you rather not use alcohol on the wiper blades? Vinegar may not keep them from icing up, but it also cleans away the grime that builds up.
  • For your laundry, add 1/3 to 1/2 cup white vinegar to a full load of laundry. It will soften, deodorize, and de-lint clothes. It also removes excess soap, which can cause skin irritation.
  • Warm white vinegar in the microwave for about 30 seconds and use it to cut though hardened soap scum and hard water stains in your bathroom and shower.
  • Preserve fresh-cut flowers by adding 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 2 tablespoons sugar to the water. Vinegar kills the bacteria and sugar feeds the flowers.

Cornstarch: It’s not just for making gravy.

  • After cleaning wood furniture, sprinkle a little cornstarch over the area and rub with a lint-free cloth. Cornstarch absorbs the excess polish and cleans away fingerprints.
  • Remove greasy stains such as lotion and baby oil from clothing. Blot as much as you can with a cloth, then sprinkle the cornstarch. Let it sit 10 minutes, shake it out, and dab with (that good old) white vinegar to break up the greases. Launder as usual.
  • If your shoes seem to retain odor, sprinkle a little cornstarch in them at bedtime. The smells are absorbed and it’s easy to just dust it away into a waste bin.
  • You can also make dry shampoo from cornstarch. Use ¼ cup cornstarch, 4-5 drops of your favorite essential oil (rosemary is a good one), a small jar with a wide opening, and a fluffy makeup brush. Mix the cornstarch and oil together in the jar. Before bed, dust the shampoo into your roots so it can absorb oil then carefully brush it out the next morning. If you’re pressed for time, try to do this at least a couple hours before you leave the house, so you don’t get that ‘grey’ look.
  • Clean your child’s favorite stuffed animals with cornstarch. Put the fluffy little beast in a paper bag with a bit of cornstarch, seal and shake the bag, then leave it overnight. The next day, remove the toy and shake it well or use your vacuum attachment to remove any residue.

Do you have tips for cleaning with ordinary pantry stuff? It’s environmentally cleaner and much cheaper to use those items you already have on hand. In fact, of the pantry items mentioned here, cornstarch is the only one I’ve not found at the dollar store. Use the comments section and let me know your tips and tricks.

 

 

Disposing of Foodie Scraps

A garbage disposal is one my favorite appliances in the kitchen. Does that sound weird coming from a Foodie? Why not a food processor or a slow cooker? Let me tell you why. I don’t consider having a garbage disposal a luxury. It’s just part of my mindset regarding stewardship of our environment.

I can be cranky thinking I’m sending stuff to the landfill, even if it’s supposedly biodegradable. Think about it: you stuff your garbage in a bag and take it to the dumpster. Your trash company takes it away and, ultimately, that plastic bag ends up in a landfill. I’m not a scientist, but I’m guessing it takes a little longer for the food to break down when it’s in a plastic bag.

Leaning heavily on the side of recycling, I’d rather send something into a waste treatment plant than onto a garbage truck. Getting washed away in this manner means someone’s actually keeping an eye on water quality and ground waters.

Since I’ve had a disposal for so long, I thought I knew all there was to know about using one. But I discovered some tips and habits that I can put into practice which I formerly haven’t used.

Veering from the usual recipes and cooking tips, here’s a list of things you should know about using your garbage disposal. I hope this list will be useful for you. If you don’t already have a garbage disposal, perhaps you’ll consider installing one.

  • Large pieces of food should not be put down the disposal. Cut food into smallish pieces and feed them into the disposal gradually with cold water running constantly.
  • Don’t turn off the water while the disposal is running. Wait until grinding is complete. When grinding is complete, turn off the disposal and let the water run for another 15 seconds.

Keeping the Disposal Clean

  1. Something you can do to keep the disposal clean is to periodically pour a little dish soap down it and run cold water while running the disposal as you would to grind food. If you wash dishes in the sink, that’s a good time to do it.
  2. Run the disposal regularly; it prevents corrosion and obstructions.
  3. Grind certain hard materials such as small chicken bones, fish bones, egg shells, ice, etc. It causes a scouring action and prevents food from building up around the walls of the disposal. However, do not put large bones down the disposal. Only fine bones and only occasionally.
  4. Borax is a natural cleaner with many uses around the home and is a good product for cleaning the disposal. It can be found in the aisle with detergents and cleaning products.
  5. Don’t use harsh chemicals like bleach or drain cleaners in your disposal. They can damage the drains and pipes.

The “Don’t” List

  1. Don’t put anything down the disposal that’s not a biodegradable food. This includes non-food items like glass, plastic, metal, paper, anything combustible, cigarette butts, etc.
  2. Do not put coffee grounds down the garbage disposal. They do not harm the disposal, but could clog drains and pipes.
  3. Don’t put ‘expandable’ foods like pasta and rice down the disposal. When they expand as water is run down the sink, they create one of the biggest causes for repairs.
  4. Do not pour grease, oil, or naturally occurring fat in a food into your disposal or drain. This includes the fat on cuts of meat. Fats will slowly accumulate and impede the disposal’s grinding ability as well as clog drains.
  5. Too many potato peels put down the disposal create a thick paste because of the starch in the potato. This causes the blades to stick so don’t put too many down the disposal at one time. If you’re preparing a lot of potatoes, put the bulk of the peelings in the trash.
  6. Do not grind fibrous material like corn husks, celery stalks, onion skins and artichokes. Fibers from these can tangle and jam the motor.

I hadn’t always thought about how to care for a garbage disposal until I needed to call someone to come repair it or get it unstuck. Remember that someone who knows how to do the job should be the person to do so.

If you hear a nasty sound coming from the disposal, turn it off immediately. It goes without saying you should never put your hands down a disposal that has not stopped spinning. If you go to retrieve something which has gone down the sink (usually a spoon or something else small) carefully move your hand around the blades. You can prevent things from going down the sink in the first place by using a mesh strainer. They’re easy to find and usually inexpensive.

Do you have tips for using a garbage disposal which I may have left out?

 

A Foodie Produce Storage Guide

It won’t be long now and we’ll be on our way to the farmers’ markets to buy fresh produce. That goes for people in my neck of the woods, anyway. I’m from the Midwest USA and, even though it’s still officially winter, we’re having unusually warm weather.

We’re counting the days until the robins come back and the crocuses bloom. Those are signs spring is here and summer isn’t far behind.  farmers-markets-local-produce-benefits

Last year, I became a more frequent visitor to the farmers’ market downtown in My Fair City. My favorite choices for produce in season were apples, lettuce, beets, sweet potatoes, peppers and onions. I paid a lot of attention to The Cheese People of Grand Rapids too. Regular readers know I must have cheese.

Then there was this family who sold fresh pork. Chops, roasts, bacon, sausage. Imagine: pork with no junk in it. More than once I treated myself to homemade pork sausage for which the man could list the ingredients in one quick breath.

Yeah, buddy.

Today, we have for your perusal a produce storage guide from Real Simple Magazine. (It lists the foods in alphabetical order and you’ll click through from page to page.) I go to their web page sometimes for tips because, hey, they’ve already done the work for me. You’ll find them in the sidebar because they’re Stuff I Read. Knowing how to buy quality fruits and veggies is one thing, but we also need to store them so they’re at their peak when we get around to using them.

I hate rusty lettuce, don’t you?

peppersSomeone told me a good rule of thumb for storing produce from the market, farmers’ market or otherwise. They said if the store doesn’t have it refrigerated, it probably doesn’t need to be refrigerated when you get it home. I’m not so sure about that. I tend to store some things in the fridge because they last longer there. Some things I put in the fridge because I want to delay their ripening.

I learn from people like the folks at Real Simple Magazine or by just doing it and seeing what happens. I hate to waste food, so I’m certainly not averse to taking someone’s advice.

A couple of my friends who keep a garden were generous last summer with kale, banana peppers, beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers. As an apartment dweller, that’s a windfall I hope for again.

Whether or not you have access to good fresh produce in season right now, you might want to browse Real Simple’s site.

They really do keep things simple. Be a blessing and eat hardy!