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English: An American actually discovered durin...

Microwave Oven

And you thought your microwave was just for reheating take-out food or rewarming your cup of coffee.  Well check out this list of 10 things you never thought your microwave could do!

 

  1. Cutting Onions Just Got Easier – Trim the ends off your onions and put them in the microwave for 30 seconds on HIGH.  Your eyes won’t sting when you peel them.
  2. Brown Sugar Rock Solid – Place a dampened paper towel in the box and close the lid.  Put in the microwave on HIGH for 20-30 seconds.
  3. Cleaning the Microwave – uh oh you put the spaghetti in the micro for too long and too high.  Fill a small bowl with water and add some white vinegar.  Place bowl in the microwave and heat it on HIGH for a couple of minutes until the mess softens and will wipe clean easily.
  4. Fix Your Old Honey –  a jar of crystalized honey can be restored in your microwave.  Remove the lid and heat on 50% power for 2 minutes.
  5. Get A Hot Compress Quick – Wet a wash cloth or hand towel and heat on HIGH for one minute.
  6. Juicier Lemons + Limes – Put the whole lemon or lime in the microwave and heat for 10-20 seconds on HIGH.  It will be easier to squeeze and yield more juice.
  7. Make Sure Your Containers Are Safe To Use – we’ve all heard about the danger in re-using take out food containers to reheat food.  You can check it out by placing a mug, that you know is microwave safe, with cold water in it.  Put the mug in the container and heat on HIGH for one minute. If the water is hot and the container is cold, it’s safe to re-use.
  8. Don’t Blanch, Just Microwave – You can peel tomatoes and peaches easily by placing in your microwave and heating on HIGH for 30 seconds and then let them sit for 2 minutes.  They should peel easily.
  9. Long Live The Potato Chip – If your potato chips have gotten soggy, place them on a paper towel and heat them briefly in the microwave till they crisp.
  10. Forget To Soak The Beans Overnight? – Place the beans in a bowl and cover completely with water.  Add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda and heat on high for 10 minutes and then let them rest for 30-40 minutes.

Thanks to Gail who sent me these clever time-saving ideas.

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Reczniki papierowe

Paper Towels – I Love Them!

Really, I mean really!  I am now officially joining the thousands of people in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states who complain about the weather on a daily basis!  There is no where you go that someone doesn’t say something about the ever-lasting, mother-loving winter.  Where oh where is Spring?  We had two days of hot weather, too hot for April of course and now we are back to weather 10 degrees above freezing!

The calendar says it’s April and for me that has always meant it was time to shut down the furnace, take down the heavy drapes in the bedroom and hang the light weight cotton drapes.  I switch the area rug in the foyer, switch the covers on the toss pillows and put a chenille bedspread on the bed.  Switching the closets around with the seasonal clothing is next and oh God, how I hate that job!  All of the above (except the closets) has been done in the apartment, oh and the windows have to be professionally washed.

However, I’m writing this while I’m sitting in the cottage where the heat has been on since last night when we arrived!  Not only did we sleep with the blanket and the coverlet on, we also threw a quilt over us, (and I thought I was going to turn off the furnace!) That and a warm-bodied cat kept us cosy all night.  So even though it’s cold inside and out, this weekend was designated for Spring cleaning and I was determined to get some  deep cleaning done.  

I started this morning before breakfast and in my own frenetic way I was cleaning the bathroom and the stove top and shaking out rugs all at the same time!  I imagine that an observer would think I was haphazardly jumping from task to task but I know what I’m doing and as I circulate, I finish up what I started.  I took a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Simple Green and a bottle of Awesome and proceeded to wash and wipe everything on the kitchen counter and then every blessed thing in the living room.  Anyone who knows us, knows that, that’s a lot of blessed things!

I had help!  Yes, I coerced my husband into helping me mainly because I really wanted to get behind all the furniture and vacuum the baseboards.  This meant moving some heavy pieces as well as picking up more things off the floor to get behind and under them.  Cobwebs!  I found cobwebs!

The bedrooms got vacuumed and tomorrow morning I’ll finish dusting and wiping down things up there especially the guest room as we have a house guest coming.  When Murray arrives tomorrow I promised to make him matzo bri and then I imagine he will head to the beach with his camera.  I love having a guest who amuses himself because since the weatherman promised warm weather for tomorrow, we are planning to do some yard work.  Time to unwrap the patio furniture, rake the sand out of the lawn and I still have to clip some dead heads off one of my hydrangea bushes.  

I really don’t mind cleaning and thankfully when it’s done, I get great pleasure out of looking at the results!  Poor Peter, I must have told him 10 times tonight how clean I thought the living room felt!  I’m looking forward to being thrilled when I clean out the refrigerator and wash the windows inside and out!

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So last night was in fact a food fest and we ate and drank according to tradition.  There were the required 4 cups of wine which in reality can be 4 sips and the Schmurra matzo, the bitter herbs, the Charoset, and the egg in salt water.  Briefly just in case I have some readers who up to this point have no clue as to what I’m talking about let me clarify.  There is a traditional Seder plate and on it there’s Charoset which is a mixture of apples, cinnamon, sugar and walnuts all processed to symbolize the mortar and brick the Jews made as slaves for the Pharaoh.  Maror is the bitter herbs (horseradish) which symbolizes the bitter life of the Israelites during the time of their enslavement, Zeroa, a shank bone as a reminder of the Paschal lamb offered as a Passover sacrifice. Bytzah, a hard-boiled egg symbolic of the loss to the two temples (and also ecumenically symbol of  Spring and new life) which was served in Chazeret , salt water which represents the tears of the people and also the bitterness.  So much for that lesson on some of the Seder meal.

I brought my asparagus dish and it was a big hit.  I’ve made this dish for many years for Easter dinner as a perfect Spring side dish with some symbolism of its own.  First of all, asparagus are associated with Spring and that’s when they are most  plentiful and fresh in the markets. The egg sauce symbolizes what the egg has always represented – new life, rebirth and isn’t that what Spring is all about?  There’s also mustard (the seed of which is a Christian symbol of belief and faith) and vinegar which can be interpreted to mean the bitterness and sorrow of the Jews before being freed.

Asparagus w/ Egg Sauce*

Asparagus w/ Egg Sauce*

** This photo depicts an egg sauce with mayonnaise in it which is why it appears white.  Your sauce will be yellow and only chopped egg whites will garnish the sauce. More like a Hollandaise with chopped egg whites on top.

Ingredients:

1 # fresh asparagus 

1 hard boiled egg

1 raw egg yolk

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp white pepper

1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard

1 1/2 TBS white vinegar

1 tsp salt

Cook the asparagus in boiling salted water to cover  till crisp tender and bright green – 5-7 minutes.  I used an asparagus steamer.  Immediately immerse in a large bowl of ice water with ice cubes to stop the cooking.  Drain on paper towels and refrigerate covered.

Mash the hard cooked egg yolk in small bowl with the raw yolk and mustard till smooth.  Gradually add the olive oil whisking till smooth.  Combine the vinegar, pepper and salt and add to oil mixture.  Whisk thoroughly.

To serve:  Lay asparagus on a platter, spoon the egg sauce over and garnish with chopped egg white.  It makes a lovely presentation and is served at room temperature so if you are bringing a side dish, this is perfect to travel.

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Chilled Gazpacho on a hot summer night!

There’s usually a modicum of truth and fact in every  trite phrase and/or axiom.   So here we have an age-old saying; “Too Many Cooks Spoil the Broth”.  According to Wikipedia, the definition of this phrase is:

“If too many people try to take charge at a task, the end product might be ruined.
also this means that where there are too many people trying to do something they make a mess of it.”

Well,… NOT ALWAYS!

Yesterday my cousin Janet and her husband, Danny and my cousin Marian stopped by for a visit on their way home from a short stay in Cape May.  I knew they were coming (I should have baked a cake) so I got up early and took off for the fruit and vegetable stand to buy the ingredients for Gazpacho.  It was already ridiculously hot and although this was MY day off and I wanted to get some tan, I knew they would not want to go to the beach.   And that by the way has been the story of my summer so far, but that’s another story!

I had several other grocery stops to make before they arrived  because I certainly did not want to attempt to move the car on Saturday and lose my parking space – Hey I thought I was in Ocean Grove, not Manhattan! Anyway by the time I got the Gazpacho slightly underway they arrived.  My kitchen was in the throes of a Julia  Child meltdown, bowls everywhere, knives of all sizes out, cutting boards galore….well I sat Danny down with the New York Times and my cousins and I repaired to the kitchen.

Luckily  I come from a family of capable cooks and cleaner-uppers and so without much discussion, soon all three of us were busily chopping, juicing, peeling, slicing and mixing.  Sounds like a well-oiled machine right? Or at least a kitchen with competent line cooks.  Well, that’s a half truth since we are all competent but we didn’t have set places in the line!!  If you are a cook, you are beginning to get the picture.

Added to the fact that 3 cooks in the kitchen are inevitably in each other’s way, we compounded the problems by the fact that we were creating two dishes and some of the ingredients were the same.  Pretty soon the kitchen was humming with the sound of food processor as Janet ran the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and cucumber through the machine.  Peter arrived with the much-needed tomato juice (I had forgotten to buy it-it wasn’t on the list) and I kept running back and forth between my two recipe cards trying to explain to Marian how to make the Tuna-Fennel-Bean salad. She’s mincing where we should be chopping and also telling me that the recipe didn’t call for this much of this or that.  I wanted to expand the recipe so it would feed all five of us.  Then I realized I didn’t have enough lemon juice but Janet who travels with a well-stocked pantry in her car, runs out and comes back with a lemon.   So now we are adding lemon juice to both recipes, zesting into the Tuna dish and rinsing beans.  I look at the front of the recipe card and realize I don’t have any chives;(something I had promised myself I would check before I left for the store.  OK, we all agree, Gazpacho without chives will still be great.  However, Marian does mention that probably when we all taste it, we’ll  agree it should have had chives.  The parsley is out on the counter…. I zip over to where Marian is working at the kitchen table and look at that recipe card and realize I don’t have  any scallions!  Geez, who the heck made the grocery list???  Consensus of cousins decide to use onion powder and not fresh onion because Danny can’t eat them raw.  I had considered going out to my lawn where wild onions grow and use the stalks.

Now here’s where things began to fall apart.  I had committed to opening the door to a friend’s house for a delivery.  The time had come to do so.  Since I was elbow-deep in peeling and chopping hot tomatoes that I had just peeled, I sent Peter and Danny to do so.  NO, I did NOT have the address, I just knew where it was.  That was a predictable disaster.  Peter calls me from his cell phone to say there is no beige house, there is no delivery truck.  Thinking this is typical Peter I yell at him and hang up.   He calls back saying he can’t find it so in exasperation, I tell him to come back and pick me up.  I’m pretty sure my cousins can handle the kitchen without me.  Long story short-I had given him the wrong street.

When I returned the kitchen was practically cleaned up. Janet was washing bowls, Marian was drying, the food processor had disappeared.  Wow, they are fast and efficient.  I look around and see the parsley still out and tell Janet, “uh oh, we forgot to put the parsley in”.  Not to worry, we will chop it up fine and throw in.  Then I turn the card over (you see I am the only one checking the recipe) and once again the big “UH OH” comes out. We didn’t put the olive oil or the red wine vinegar in either! Yes we can add it BUT by now the batch of Gazpacho was too big for one bowl so I had taken some out to put in another bowl.  So just what proportions should I be adding red wine vinegar and olive oil?? Competent cook know what to do and when to punt…. The Tuna-Fennel-Bean salad has come together, the last of the tomato mess in the kitchen has been cleaned up (although this morning I found tomato splash spots on the toaster) and God, it must be time for a drink!

When Janet and Danny visit, we have a tradition of drinking Mojitos of which Danny is the master maker.  I pick some mint from the yard, assemble the rum, limes, muddler and seltzer.  Mmmm there doesn’t seem to be that much rum which I was sure I had, and then realized I had more dark rum (for Dark & Stormy’s).  Janet says not to worry because of course she has rum in the car – I told you she traveled with a pantry.  I take out my simple syrup which Janet has deemed not sweet enough so she goes out to the car and brings back a container of syrup – see what I mean!

And here’s where I’m going to end my story. We had drinks, we yakked, we sat down to eat. EVERYTHING was delicious!  It would have been nice to have a crusty loaf of French or Italian bread but we didn’t and still the meal was a communal success!

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Tomato

Luscious Jersey Tomato

I think I have to do a blog post to pay homage to the Jersey Tomato, one of God‘s blessings on the Garden State.  But not tonight because I’m too tired to think creatively and clearly.  However, I made Gazpacho Sunday night, a dish that is truly a celebration of the fruits of the summer. Tomatoes are the main ingredient and I used some of the best beefsteak tomatoes Jersey has to offer.

And there’s a back story to the Gazpacho recipe.  A few years ago there was a health food store on Third Avenue that made the BEST Gazpacho ever! I would call them from work and ask that they put aside some for me. Once I even served it as a first course at a dinner party! And I would also bring some to New Jersey to give to my friend, Jane.  I never made Gazpacho before so I did some serious research and read several recipes until I found one I that sounded like what I remembered the store’s version to be.  I was RIGHT!!  I’m happy to share it with all of you.  It is easy to make;  the only real work is the prepping of the veggies.

6 tomatoes, cored, peeled and chopped

1 red or green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 purple onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, minced

2 stalks of celery, chopped

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup red wine vinegar

2 TBS fresh parsley, chopped

2 TBS chopped chives

2 TBS lemon juice

2 tsp sugar

4 cups of tomato juice

1 tsp Worceshire sauce

6 drops of Tabasco sauce

Combine all ingredients in food processor.  Refrigerate overnight so flavors can meld.

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Hydrogen peroxide

Hydrogen Peroxide

THURSDAY’S TOP TEN

There’s all kinds of ways of going green one of them could be using products that are already in your household to perform cleaning tasks rather than buying chemical-laden bottles and sprayers.  Not that all these products are chemical-free. Hardly!!

These suggestions come from REAL SIMPLE magazine:

  1. RICE: Use it to: Clean the inside of a vase or a thin-necked bottle.  Fill 3/4 of the vessel with warm water and add a TBS of uncooked rice. Cup your hand over the opening, shake vigorously and rinse.
  2. OATMEAL: Use it to: Scrub very dirty hands. Make a thick paste of oatmeal and water; rinse well.
  3. TEA:Use it to: Scour rusty garden tools.  Brew a few pots of strong black tea.  When cool, pour into a bucket.   Soak the tools for a few hours.  Wipe each one with a cloth. (Wear rubber gloves or your hands will be stained.)
  4. GLYCERIN: Use it to: Remove dried wax drippings from candlesticks.  Peel off as much wax as possible, then moisten a cotton ball with glycerin and rub until clean.
  5. CLUB SODA: Use it to: Shine up a scuffed stainless-steel sink.  Buff with a cloth dampened with club soda, then wipe dry with another clean cloth.
  6. HYDROGEN PEROXIDE: Use it to: Disinfect a keyboard.  Dip a cotton swab in hydrogen peroxide to get into those nooks and crannies.
  7. CORNSTARCH: Use it to: Clean grease spills on carpets.  Pour cornstarch onto spots and let sit for 15-30 minutes before vacuuming.
  8. RUBBING ALCOHOL:  Use it to: Erase permanent-marker stains from finished wood floors or solid-surface countertops.  Pour rubbing alcohol onto a cotton ball and apply.
  9. WHITE BREAD: Use it to: Dust an oil painting.  Gently dab a slice of white bread over the surface to pick up dirt and grime.
  10. KETCHUP: Use it to: Remove tarnish from copper and brass cookware.  Squeeze ketchup onto a cloth and rub it on pots and pans. They should go back to their coppery color in minutes.  Rinse with warm water and dry with a towel.

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Tasty Tidbits Tuesday

There will be NO canned jellied cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving dinner table this year.  For the past three years I’ve been making a delicious Cranberry-Ginger Relish AND also putting out some of that sugary sweet gelatinous purple glop known as Jellied Cranberry Sauce because one person says they like it. Nope, not this year!  You’ll just have to get over your fear of real fruit and texture!  This relish is truly delicious so I hope some of you will try it. You can make it at least 3 days in advance and for those of us who are hosting,,,,we know that’s a blessing.

1 bag fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup of sugar ( I use a slightly less)

1 TBS grated fresh ginger

2 TBS sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar

In a large saucepan, bring cranberries, sugar, ginger, and 2 TBS water to  a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of the cranberries have popped. 10-15 minutes.  Stir in vinegar.

Recipe from Martha Stewart’s Every Day Food

Remove relish from heat.  Cool to room temperature and serve or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Believe me you will never eat canned jellied cranberry sauce again (no offense to Ocean Spray).

fresh ginger, Ocean Spray jellied sauce,

Tangy Tart and Ruby Red

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