April 25, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Marinating

Break out the charcoal! It's warm enough to grill (or bake, broil, etc. in the house). Check out these tips about marinating.

- Marinades should be a balance of oil, acid and spices or other flavorings.

- If using wine in your marinade, use red rather than white. Red helps preserve the tenderness of the meat.

- Cut of meat particularly tough? Tenderize it with pineapple juice, which has powerful enzymes that break down proteins in meat.

- Use a syringe to pump meat full of flavor--- the marinade works from the inside out and prep time can be shortened.

- Don’t skimp on the vinegar! It breaks down the meat’s connective tissue and protects against putrefaction.

- To cut potentially cancer-causing hetrocyclic amines (HCAs), marinate food in an acidic marinade. The acid can reduce HCAs as much as 99% according to the American Cancer Research Institute.

- Marinades aren’t just for proteins. Mix up a tasty batch for your favorite veggies. Marinate for 15-30 minutes before cooking.

- For easy mixing and marinating, put all your ingredients in a Ziplock bag, close, and shake! Then just add the meat or veggies to the bag for a delicious dish with minimal clean-up.

- Marinades that include a high percentage of salt help increase juiciness (combines the benefits of marinating and brining).

- Sugars help food brown during cooking which further develops flavor. Try honey or brown sugar.

Marinade recipes:
Ginger-Sesame Marinade

April 14, 2010

DIY Designing: Chalk It Up

The door going down to my basement was screaming for some style. After reading about a project with chalkboard paint on the blog Young House Love, I knew I had found the solution for the hum-drum space.

Here’s a shot of the door before. Bo-ring.

First, you need to decide how big you want your chalkboard. In my case, the bigger the better! Note: I wanted the border to be the same thickness on all sides, so the doorknob was the determining factor. I measured past the knob about two inches for a total of a 6 inch border.

After carefully measuring out the border and using a level to help keep your lines straight and even, tape off the area with painter’s tape.

Chalkboard paint is a special product, available at your local hardware store. In addition to black, there are several color options to choose from, but I wanted to keep the look classic. Note: chalkboard paint that is also magnetic is now available. It is quite pricey though, so I opted out.

You’ll need at least a couple of coats. Check packaging for drying time between coats.

Then remove tape and start writing. Actually, start writing about 48 hours after you get done painting the final coat. You need to make sure the paint is good and dry.

Eventually I want to add a little trim to frame out the chalkboard, but for now (or until I get around to it), it’s a fun and simple way to add life to a dull space!

April 13, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: A Great Salad

Farmers' Markets are popping up again with fresh asparagus, peas, and other spring vegetables. Spring is the perfect time for lighter fare, like fresh salads with ingredients from your local produce stand. Perfect for dining al fresco!

- The word “salad” comes from the Latin sal (salt). The word first appeared in English as “salad” or “sallet” in the 14th century.


- The record for the largest lettuce salad belongs to the settlement of Sde Warburg, Israel. The salad weighed 10,260 kg.

- In Western culture, there are three basic types of dressing: vinaigrette, creamy dressing (think ranch), and cooked dressings (I have no idea what cooked dressings are, but Wikipedia says that they “resemble creamy dressings, but are usually thickened by adding egg yolks and gently heating”).

- In Asia, sesame oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce are common ingredients in salad dressings.


- Don’t add vinaigrette to salad until serving. Oil penetrates the surface of vegetables and drives out air, and with it the veggies’ bright color.

- Adding beans is a great way to add texture and protein. Other great add-ins include dried fruit, toasted nuts, and leftover roasted veggies.

- Want tomatoes in your salad, but they aren’t quite ripe yet? Put them in a paper bag or plastic container – tomatoes generate ethylene, which causes ripening. Conversely, if you want ripe tomatoes to last longer, put them in a well-ventilated place so ethylene can disperse.

[World Community Cookbook]

- Drink water instead of wine with salad. The acid in most dressings will destroy the flavor of wine. Note: my solution to this is to drink wine while preparing the salad.

- Should you wash prewashed salad greens? The testers at America’s Test Kitchen agree with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: there’s no need. Prewashed produce is likely to have fewer bacteria (or none at all) than your kitchen sink or counter, and washing the greens may actually introduce bacteria.

- Use a sippy cup to make dressings. Pour ingredients into cup, secure lid, shake vigorously (while covering the spout, of course!) and pour. The small spout will keep you from overdressing your greens.

[Green baby guide.com]

Salad recipes:
Blue Cheese and Pear Salad with Port Vinaigrette
Spinach Strawberry Salad with Sesame Seed Dressing
Caesar Salad with Hard-Cooked Eggs
Greek-Italian Chopped Salad

What's your favorite salad?

April 08, 2010

To brighten your day

I usually post pictures of flowers on Fridays to celebrate the start of the weekend, but it's such a chilly Thursday here I thought we could use a little bouquet of violets from my yard to help it feel more like spring...

Happy Thursday!

April 05, 2010

Tips, Tidbits & Tricks: Cutting the Grass

This weekend, I cut my grass for the first time this season. Fun! I actually really like cutting my grass. Anyway…

For this Monday’s Tips, Tidbits & Tricks, I thought I’d share some tips for lawnmower maintenance and how to create a beautiful yard.

• Lawnmowing should not be done when the grass is wet. It can lead to uneven cuts and invite fungus into your yard.

• When should you cut? The best time is evening, when there’s no dew (see above note about wet grass) and the sun isn’t beating down (which creates more stress on your lawn).

• You should only remove 1/3 of the grass blade at each mowing.

• Wondering if you should bag or leave clippings? You never want to leave big piles of cut grass (which can kill the grass underneath it), but clippings are good for your yard! They contain vital nutrients - nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium - that help your yard become even more beautiful. Note: grass clippings are great addition to your compost pile.

• Mix it up! Change the direction you mow – one week horizontal, the next vertical or zig zag (the neighbors will love that!) to prevent the “leaning” of your grass in one direction.


• Before breaking out that lawnmower, make sure that all nuts and bolts are tightened.

• Clean out grass clippings and debris when you get done mowing for optimal cutting performance.

[Augusta National]

• Sharp blades are essential for an even cut. Check your owner’s manual for advice on sharpening or changing out the blades.

Now pull out that John Deere. You’re ready for spring!

April 04, 2010

Happy Easter

Who needs to hunt for eggs...

...when you can spend the morning searching for pricklies in your back yard?

Happy Easter!

April 01, 2010

April Fool's Day

I am not really a trickster (though I am very fun at parties). Instead of pulling pranks, I thought I'd share this April Fool's Day story from 1957.

On April 1, 1957, the British news show Panorama broadcast a three-minute segment about a bumper spaghetti harvest in southern Switzerland. The success of the crop was attributed both to an unusually mild winter and to the "virtual disappearance of the spaghetti weevil."

The audience heard Richard Dimbleby, the show's highly respected anchor, discussing the details of the spaghetti crop as they watched video footage of a Swiss family pulling pasta off spaghetti trees and placing it into baskets. The segment concluded with the assurance that, "For those who love this dish, there's nothing like real, home-grown spaghetti."

The Swiss Spaghetti Harvest hoax generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree. To this query the BBC diplomatically replied, "Place a sprig of spaghetti in a tin of tomato sauce and hope for the best."

To this day the Panorama broadcast remains one of the most famous and popular April Fool's Day hoaxes of all time. It is also believed to be the first time the medium of television was used to stage an April Fool's Day hoax.
(source: Museum of Hoaxes)

Any good pranks pulled on you today? Leave a comment!