Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Flavoring coffee while brewing it

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Forgive me if I'm silly for having just figured this out, but... :)

Hot coffee

As I was making a cup of coffee last week, I suddenly realized that I could add ground spices to the coffee as I was brewing it!

I started with cinnamon and coffee, and made a delicious cup of... cinnamon coffee!

Spices for homemade chai tea
Spices for homemade chai tea

Then yesterday, I made a chai spice blend with some freshly ground allspice and cardamom (in my suribachi), nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon. Mmmm... it tasted wonderful!

There was no powdery residue in my coffee, since my coffee-making method uses a paper filter. Using ground cinnamon and other spices might not work so well in a French Press. Try cinnamon bark chips or coarsely-ground spices instead? :)

Anyway, I'm just a little excited that I can take a bag of "plain" coffee and vary the flavors according to my mood... so easily! :) And, my "homemade" flavors tasted so good -- much better than a lot of the flavored coffees I've tried. :)

Latte... mmm!

My favorite way to make coffee is with the AeroPress coffee/espresso maker Joshua got for my birthday last year! You can read my AeroPress review here. :)

See also: Cozy and Warming Chai Tea Lattes for a Winter's Day (No snow yet this year in Seattle...)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Cookie baking tips (Willa at Armstrong Family Fare)
2. Sweet potato puree tips (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
3. Make-Your-Own (DIY) tips (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
4. Snowflake birthday party tips (Christy at One Little Word She Knew)
5. Essential sauces tips (The Local Cook)
6. Tomatillos tip (Jenny at Entrusted With)
7. Individually freezing bacon w/o cookie sheets (Gwen at Gwen's Nest)
8. Cooking and baking tips (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
9. Tenderizing chicken (Living So Abundantly)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Homemade chili tips

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Happy new year! :) We enjoyed having Joshua home from work today and having one last day off from our school work. Plus, I got to go out for coffee and new-baby shopping with a friend! I am not ready for a "normal" week to resume early tomorrow morning! ;)

It's cold and windy outside, and I'm putting chili on our menu plan this week. I'll probably make White Chili since I'm out of beef. I love how chili is easy, filling, and affordable! It freezes well, too.

Here are a couple chili tips! :)

Quickly thicken chili

To quickly thicken chili, stir in a can of refried beans or a small can of tomato paste.

Frozen peppers

Buy fresh peppers on sale (I like to use bell peppers) and freeze them. I usually freeze the peppers in halves and then dice as needed! That way it's easy to get a little of whatever color(s) you need for your meal and they're not frozen together in a frosty lump.

Using dried beans

If you're cooking for more than just 1 or 2 people, using dried beans can be well worth the little hands-on time it takes. I think dried beans taste better than canned, and cooking them in my crock pot is nearly effortless! Beans (or lentils!) are an affordable way to stretch chili, and leftover cooked beans can be frozen for later use.

Flavor options

Try adding a little ground cinnamon or a few semi-sweet chocolate chips to your chili!

Personally, I like adding a bit of brown sugar to tomato-based chili. I also love freshly-ground cumin in chili! Fresh spices are the best. :D

My mom's chili recipe

Dip it

Serve thick leftover chili as a dip with corn chips, or as a "relish" for hot dogs.

Wrap it

You can also serve chili in a warm flour tortilla. Sprinkle in some cheese, dab on sour cream, and even crumble in a few corn chips for a tasty chili cheese burrito!

See also: Tips for cheaper chili

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Tips for homemade baby food (Willa at Armstrong Family Fare)
2. Baking tip (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)
3. Salad making tips (The Local Cook)
4. Tips for fluffy mashed sweet potatoes (Living So Abundantly)
5. Saving money on lunch meat (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
6. Softening coconut oil in the winter (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
7. Cooking with lentils (Finding Joy in my Kitchen)
8. Using frozen eggs (Anna at Kolfinna's Korner)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Cookie and cookie dough tips

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I've enjoyed having a relaxing 4-day weekend with Joshua at home. We both love to cook, so with his extra time off we made gingerbread men with the kids, grilled some salmon, and I went through some cooking magazines from a friend.

Having no electricity on Sunday afternoon threw a wrinkle into my plan for chicken gravy and biscuits, so we had a snack lunch of cheese and crackers instead. Eliyahu made us laugh by his many comments along the lines of "This is the best lunch ever!! I mean, it's too bad we have no electricity, but I really love this cheese and crackers!!!" ;)

Old-Fashioned Cloves Cookies recipe
Old-Fashioned Cloves Cookies recipe (my family's favorite -- and makes great cut-outs, too!)

And now tomorrow feels like it should be Monday, but it's Tuesday! I didn't make a menu plan for this week yet, but I'll make a partial one and give a shopping update. (Hint: We got eggs and bananas and are going to hold off until after the holidays to go to Costco.)

Kitchen tips! Here a few shortcuts when you're baking cookies. :)

Rolling cookies in sugar:

When making a cookie recipe that requires the balls of dough to be rolled in sugar, put some sugar in a container with a tight-fitting lid and place dough balls in a single layer in the container. Put the lid on and gently shake to coat the balls with sugar! :)

Marking tops of peanut butter cookies:

To quickly mark the tops of peanut butter cookies, use a potato masher to mark a grid on each cookie. Dip the masher in flour first so it doesn't stick. My friend Tanya says she dips her fork in flour before marking peanut butter cookies, too. :)

Cookie dough chilling tip:

To save time waiting for cut-out cookie dough to chill, roll your just-made dough between two layers of waxed paper or parchment paper, to desired thickness. Chill the layers (fridge or freezer) and then cut cookies from each layer.

See also: Tips for cutting out cookies and softening butter

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Cinnamon-sugar blends/tips (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
2. Remembering griddle temps & setting the table (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
3. Tips for making successful deviled eggs (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. Veggie pizza tips (Cheryl B. at The Bz House That Love Built)
5. Christmas cookie tips (Christy at One Little Word She Knew)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Softened butter, and what to do with extra butter slices

My kitchen tip this week is from the archive. These cookies? Still yummy. :)

As I was baking molasses spice cookies yesterday, I thought of a couple butter tips to share! :)

I have two Rubbermaid butter dishes (so handy, with a lid that snaps tightly!) and I keep them both filled and not refrigerated, so that we never run out of soft butter to spread on bread, etc.

Ever open the butter dish to realize that it's almost empty, and the rest of the butter is in the fridge? This happened to me way too many times growing up, so I have always kept two butter dishes out in our home!

Having extra butter at room temperature is also handy for those last-minute cooking-baking frenzies. Without a microwave to soften butter, I've frequently raided one or both butter dishes for some soft butter for whatever baking project I hadn't planned ahead!

And finally, when I'm cutting a stick of butter for a recipe and there's, say, 3 tablespoons left over, rather than wrapping the little piece and putting it back in the fridge, I check to see if it can fit on a partly-empty butter dish. If so, I add it to the butter dish, and avoid all the random pieces in the fridge. :)

Molasses Spice Cookies with Raisins recipe

By the way, these cookies are so delicious! My mom has made molasses spice cookies with raisins for as long as I can remember, and they're one of my dad's favorites. Now, I make them especially for Joshua -- although we all really like them! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Cold/softening butter tips (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)
2. Removing baked-on grease (Annie at Annie's Home)
3. Cleaning cookware (Kirstin at Loving Life)
4. Ground beef in bulk (Money Saving Habits)
5. Making powdered sugar (Cammie at Life...More Abundantly)
6. Using sour milk (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)
7. Help -- homemade hollandaise tips (The Local Cook)
8. Cutting/packaging fudge for gifts/parties (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
9. Drinking glasses tip for families (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
10. How to cut a pineapple -- tips (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
11. Adding eggs to a hot recipe (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
12. How to freeze unbaked apple pie (An Oregon Cottage)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: 11 Unusual Things You Can Wash in the Dishwasher

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I love having a dishwasher! I stuff mine as full as possible (yes, I've practiced this technique!) and these days it gets a run once a day, after dinner.

I have the heat-dry setting turned off, so before I go to bed I open the dishwasher door, pull out the racks, and shake off any excess water from the plastics.

Everything is dry by morning and those early risers (aka my 4 kids!) who are awake at 5am help put things away while I pack Joshua's lunch for work. (This post has some of my dishwasher tips!)

Toothbrushes in the dishwasher

I also like washing some unconventional things in the dishwasher. Here are a few I've done:

1. Toothbrushes! This is especially helpful when the toddler has gotten into the other kids' toothbrushes and done something unsanitary with them (before we started keeping them on the kitchen windowsill for easier access and less mess). My dishwasher detergent has chlorine in it, so it's definitely killing some germs! (Home dishwashers don't get hot enough to sterilize by heat.)

2. Plastic hair brushes and combs. I don't need to wash mine very often, but putting them in the dishwasher is an almost effortless way to clean them! :)

3. Plastic kitchen scrub brushes or vegetable brushes. I use my plastic scrub brush all the time, since I hand-wash my wooden utensils and my cookware. Running it through the dishwasher (usually weekly, for me) gets it nice and clean.

4. Soap dishes, toothbrush holders, and any other small "containers" that end up needing a good Spring cleaning once a year or so.

5. Kids plastic toys (or the plastic containers for them). We also wash toys in the bath tub. That's even more fun for the kids! :)

6. Plastic clothes hangers. If they're really dusty from being in the back of the closet, or dirty from hanging outside on the clothesline, I do a big load of them in my dishwasher. They come out shiny clean!

7. Stove burner pans. Mine don't come 100% clean in the dishwasher, but they do pretty well when I catch spills and wash the pan the same day if possible! :)

8. Glass tray from the microwave. Although normally, I don't let it get bad enough to need more than a quick wipe with the dish rag...

9. Lids for my plastic bean or grain-storage buckets.

10. Metal mesh screen from the kitchen stove hood. You know that screen that gets clogged with grease and dirt? :) I love getting it CLEAN. :)

11. Plastic dust pans. I put these in when I do a load of plastic clothes hangers.

Tips:

I like to put the non-food, non-mouth items in a separate cycle from our dishes if possible.

I also do not use the heated-dry setting (instead, I open the door and allow to air dry). I've never had anything melt on the bottom rack (like plastic hangers, scrub brushes, etc.).

What do you like to add to your dishwasher that's on the unconventional side? :)

A full dishwasher load

Related:

Figuring out how to efficiently load a dishwasher 

Poll: How often do you run your dishwasher?

Help! How do I use a dishwasher?

2 tricks for washing small stuff in the dishwasher

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, we need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Making hamburger patties without mess (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
2. Tea from pine trees (The Local Cook)
3. Easy wheat-free lunch ideas (Jenna at Blessed Roots)
4. Canned "cream of" soup substitute (Willa at Armstrong Family Fare)
5. Cutting dried fruit (Finding Joy in My Kitchen)
6. Turning pan handles in (Kolfinna's Korner) 
7. Croutons tip (Alea at Premeditated Leftovers)
8.

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Frugal potholders tip, kitchen sink sprayer tip, and more!

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I can't decide on a kitchen tip today. Nothing in my photo folder seems ingenious enough to have a whole post dedicated to it. So, here are some random kitchen tips for this week! :)

Homemade pot holders

If you can do basic sewing, homemade potholders are easy to make. My mom came up with the idea of using a few layers of fabric from an old sweatshirt for the filling/padding in the potholders. We've been making them that way now for many years. If you have inexpensive (or hand-me-down) fabric for the outside, "upcycle" an old sweatshirt and you've got the materials needed for potholders! :)

Kitchen sink sprayer tips

I love that the kitchen sink in this rental has a sprayer! Some of my favorite uses for it:

1. Spraying hot water into the sink to make extra-bubbly dish water without using extra dish soap

2. Rinsing dry beans or lentils before cooking them in my crock pot

3. Rinsing wire cooling racks after washing

4. Rinsing/cleaning the sink after tooth-brushing time :)

5. Spraying out my plastic dish-washing brush when stuff gets stuck in it

Rinse out empty chocolate syrup bottle

Empty chocolate syrup bottle? I rinsed it with a little hot water and added it to my morning coffee. :) We don't usually buy chocolate syrup though. It tastes too "fake" to me. :)

Oven circulation tip
Blurry picture of pumpkin dinner rolls :P :)

When baking multiple things in the oven at the same time, stagger the sheets or pans and rotate half way through baking (switch the bottom one to the top and vice versa). Always leave at least an inch of space between the oven walls and the pans (and other pans!) so the air can circulate, and your food will cook more evenly.

Where is Ruth?

And lastly (off-topic), can you find Ruth (3) in this picture? She disappeared one day and I had to check every room a couple times before I finally found her in here! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, we need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Using frozen food (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
2. Adding milk and cheese to soups (The Local Cook)
3. Soft and fresh cookies tip (Living So Abundantly)
4. Powdered egg replacer (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
5. Keep things from boiling/running over (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
6. Manicotti, noodles, and frozen banana bread tips (The Bz House That Love Built)
7. Homemade chicken stock tips (Jessica at Delicious Obsessions)
8. Using spaghetti as a cake tester (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
9. Rotating food storage (Anna at Kolfinna's Korner)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Tip for mixes-in-a-jar

Cookie mix in a jar

My friend Lindsey sent me these homemade cookie jar mixes after the birth of Moshe almost 2 (!) years ago. What a beautiful and yummy treat! :) These were some of the oldest photos in my folder of things to blog about. "Better late than never!" is my mantra. ;)

I love bean soups and hopefully some day will find the time to experiment with making some pretty soup-in-a-jar mixes!  Not only are jar mixes fun to make, they're a practical gift and fun to use! I mean, dinner is always more fun when it starts out looking beautiful and involves something already mixed for me. ;)

When making mixes in jars, sometimes the mix doesn't quite reach the top. You'll want to keep those pretty layers in the jar, but many recipes need to use exact measurements and you can't just throw in something extra to fill the jar. ;)

Cookie jar mix held in place with cotton balls

Lindsey gave me this tip for keeping mixes in place and pretty:

Place a layer of plastic wrap over the top of the ingredients in the jar, and then use cotton balls to fill in the space between the ingredients and the lid of the jar. Your ingredients will stay in place and you'll have that perfect-looking gift to give! :)

Trail mix cookies jar mix

Here are the two recipes Lindsey used to make cookie mixes for us. Both recipes are from the book "Gifts in a Jar".

Tip: You can find quite a few cookie recipes that would adapt to being made into a jar mix. Just look for recipes with only a couple "wet" ingredients like eggs, butter, or vanilla. That means you'll be able to pre-mix most of the recipe! :) Muffins, cakes, waffles, and corn bread are all good mix-in-a-jar candidates. ;)

Chocolate chip cookie mix in a jar

Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1/4 C. sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar
1 C. chocolate chips
1/2 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. sugar
1 C. all-purpose flour

Layer all the ingredients in the order given into a wide-mouth 1-quart canning jar. Pack each layer in place before adding the next ingredient.

Chocolate chip cookies made from mix in a jar
The baked chocolate chip cookies I made from the jar mix! :)


Tag to attach to jar of cookie mix:
 
Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes 3 to 4 dozen cookies

1 jar Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
3/4 C. butter or margarine, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375*. In a large bowl, cream the butter, eggs and vanilla. Add the Chocolate Chip Cookie mix and stir until the mixture is well blended. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 - 10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

Trail mix cookies jar mix


Trail Cookie Mix

1/2 C. brown sugar
1/2 C. sugar
3/4 C. wheat germ
1/3 C. quick oats
1 C. raisins
1/3 C. flaked coconut
1/2 C. chopped pecans
3/4 C. all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder

Layer the ingredients in the order given into a wide-mouth 1-quart canning jar. Pack each layer in place before adding the next ingredient.

Baked trail cookies from cookie mix
The baked Trail Cookies I made from the jar mix! :)


Tag to attach to jar of cookie mix:
 
Trail Cookies

Makes 3 to 4 dozen

1 jar Trail Cookie Mix
1/2 C, butter or  margarine, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350*. In a large bowl, cream the butter, eggs and vanilla. Add the Trail Cookie Mix and stir until the mixture is well blended. Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to wire racks to cool.

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, we need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Homemade stuffing tips (Willa at Armstrong Family Fare)
2. 6 ways to use broccoli stems (Katy at Purposely Frugal)
3. Liquid amounts when pressure cooking (The Local Cook)
4. Using old bananas for baking (Cheryl at The Bz House That Love Built)
5. Less dish washing (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
6. Free bulk goods storage (Jenna at Blessed Roots)
7. Kitchen sanitation tips (Anna at Kolfinna's Korner)
8. All-purpose kitchen spray (Newlyweds Blog)
9. Homemade yogurt tips (Lea at Nourishing Treasures)
10. How to open persnickety pomegranates (Jessica at Delicious Obsessions)
11. Make ahead foods for a feast (Living So Abundantly)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: How to clean and remove smells from a ceramic crock pot

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

Even though I'm picky about which foods I like from a slow cooker, I really do love the crock pot I have and use it at least once a week (for beans).

I wash the crock pot with hot soapy water and a plastic brush. When I'm finished scrubbing and washing, it looks like this. All shiny and clean, right?

Clean crock pot?

Wrong. When it dries, it looks cloudy and doesn't feel smooth on the cloudy parts. (I find this especially after cooking beef stew or beans.)

Clean crock pot

I've tried re-washing with the hottest water possible, and scrubbing lots with my plastic brush. It still looks cloudy when it dries.

Not only that, but the cloudy parts have a smell, like herbs (from my roast beef) and beans. The smell is all right if I'm only going to cook beef or beans in it. I've told myself that it's basically clean despite looking cloudy!

But last week I wanted to cook apples in my crock pot, and I didn't want the apples to smell like beef or beans. My solution for getting the smell off of my crock pot?

Clean crock pot

With a wet washcloth, gently rub the spots with baking soda (I used about 1/4 cup). It washed away the smell and the "clouds"!

...and my apples didn't taste like beans. :)

See also: Heather's tip about removing stains from her white crock pot!

Because I never get around to doing a separate post about this stuff, here is some off-topic cuteness from my kitchen helpers:

Eliyahu and Moshe filling the pepper grinder

I asked Eliyahu (5) to fill the pepper grinder for me. Moshe (1) "helped" him and they were so cute together as they intently worked on the special task! And yes, Eliyahu does have more than 1 shirt; that one happens to be his favorite right now and he tries to wear it as often as possible! :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Freezing homemade stock (Jenna at Blessed Roots)
2. Pressure cooker info (The Local Cook)
3. Stocking up on Thanksgiving specials (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. Recipe book tips (Christy at One Little Word She Knew)
5. Tip for using whole cloves (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
6. Making sweet potato puree (SnoWhite at Finding Joy in My Kitchen)
7.
8.

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Tips for making mashed potatoes

I didn't know it was possible to ruin mashed potatoes. I watched my mom make from-scratch mashed potatoes for years, and have made them myself many times, with great success. But, tonight my mashed potatoes turned out wrong. They were smooth and creamy, but gummy -- almost the consistency of play dough. Very strange! I'm pretty sure I know what I did wrong, though. I used the hand mixer and mashed the hot potatoes with some butter added... and then poured in a little cold milk. Voila! Gummy potato play dough!

Chuck roast, gravy, and mashed potatoes

The good news? My roast beef turned out perfect, I felt *so accomplished* that dinner was started (in the crock pot) at 6 AM (yes, we're very early risers! :P), and it made the house smell good all day. The scary part is that I had over 4 pounds of chuck roast in the crock pot (for just our family!) and our leftovers were less than 1 cup of meat! I guess we'll be having beef vegetable soup heavy-on-the-vegetables next week. ;)

Potatoes can do funny things when put in the blender, too. I never knew this until a couple weeks ago when I was making blended potato soup for dinner after Joshua's wisdom tooth extractions. Ahh, the science of food! Apparently I had/have a lot to learn about potato starch! ;) Note: Don't try to mash potatoes using a blender or food processor, as it will make them gummy due to the blade breaking down the starch... ;)

Mashed potatoes
I'm still using fresh parsley from my pot outside! I've loved having a few fresh herbs on-demand. Many thanks to my friend Kathryn who gave me starts this year! :)

How my mom makes her amazing mashed potatoes:

Peel potatoes and cut into halves or fourths. Put them in a BIG pot (bigger than you think you need!), cover with water, and add some salt (like when cooking pasta or beans!).

Tip: To keep potatoes from boiling over when cooking, put a streak of butter around the pot on the inside, at the top. I've found this works, unless I've really over-filled my pot.

With the lid on, bring potatoes to a boil and then simmer until tender. Drain water from pan.

Tip: You can save a dish by using the pan's lid, slightly ajar, to drain the water. But, USE POTHOLDERS and be careful doing this! :) My mom's great at it, but I usually just grab a colander to drain the potatoes and then return them to the pan.

Return pan and potatoes to the stove. Add butter and milk and heat on low until milk is hot. Remove from heat, mash as desired, and add salt and pepper to taste.

My mom's other standby mashed potatoes: Parsley Potatoes!

My favorite mashed potato casserole: Gourmet Potatoes!

Eliyahu started beans for me!
Eliyahu (5), so excited that he got to measure, rinse, and start some beans in the crock pot for me (with only a little help). :) Joshua's taking beans (with sour cream, cheese, and hot sauce) in his lunches this week.

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Tip for greasing pans (Willa at Armstrong Family Fare)
2. Olive Oil Tasting 101 (The Local Cook)
3. Keeping lettuce fresh and crisp (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
4. Tips for making a self-basting turkey (SnoWhite at Finding Joy in My Kitchen)
5. What to do with empty butter wrappers (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
6. Keeping hot dogs warm (Kolfinna's Korner)
7. Labeling spices (Living So Abundantly)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: How to unclog a garbage disposal or sink drain

I'm only slightly amused that I planned to write a post with tips for using the garbage disposal right before I completely clogged ours! So much for all my fabulous garbage disposal success stories, right? :) Well, I hopefully my tips will still be helpful despite my sink being clogged last week. ;)

I love having a garbage disposal. It makes it so easy to scrape plates after meals (we do clean our plates, but there are often things like fruit peelings or seeds). I also like using the disposal-side of the sink for food prep. I can let peelings or egg shells drop into the sink as I work.


I took a picture of all my leftovers! Beans, rice, pasta -- all waiting to be turned into other meals (especially freezer burritos)! :)

Our current garbage disposal works really well, and over the past year of living here, I've gradually tried putting more and more things down it. In fact, there's probably not much that I haven't been able to feed into it, although I haven't tried avocado pits or watermelon rinds or corn cobs.

That said, it has still gotten clogged a few times for me. I know, what can I expect when I put in potato peelings, onion skin, lettuce trimmings, carrot peelings, banana peels, and everything else? Probably not the greatest idea ever. ;)

If you're "adventurous" in the kitchen like I am, or just have a garbage disposal that likes to clog, here are my tips for getting it unclogged!

If the clog is in the garbage disposal unit (blade area):

1.  Unplug the unit (or turn off the breaker for power to it).

2. Use a flashlight to look down the drain. Sometimes you can see what's in there that shouldn't be.

3. Use a large tweezers -- or do what I do, which is use my hand (but remember the unit is unplugged!!!!) -- and carefully reach inside and pull out whatever shouldn't be in there. I've had baby spoons fall down there, and I've had to pull out mostly-pulverized banana peels. :|

Bonus tip: If your garbage disposal suddenly turns itself off, look on the unit for a little button that says "reset" and press it to turn it back on. Mine shut down one time and I wondered if I had broken it or something until I discovered that button! :)

If the clog is in the drain pipe, the garbage disposal blades will run, but the water won't drain out of your sink:

1. Try not to get it clogged in the first place. Put things down slowly, while running cold water. Putting too much in too quickly will clog it up fast. And really, banana peels don't do very well in the garbage disposal. ;) Don't assume that just because "it went down last time!" you can put whatever you want in the garbage disposal and it'll just go through.

2. If the garbage disposal gets clogged, keep running cold water and turn the disposal off and then back on to see if it will push the clog through. This works for small clogs.

3. A plunger works great for unclogging the garbage disposal. Plug the other side of the sink (if you have a double-basin sink), and the use the plunger on the disposal side. This has saved my sink from several pretty good clogs. If plunging on the clogged side isn't working, you can also try filling the other side of the sink with water and the plunging it through to help loosen things.

4. Drano (or Liquid-Plumr) really does work. Last week, I really, really clogged the garbage disposal. I tried plunging and nothing was moving. I mean NOTHING. Thankfully, the other side of the sink was still moving fine. I wanted to unscrew the pipe and clean it out, but Joshua got nervous when I started talking about messing with the plumbing, and got some Liquid-Plumr Gel at Costco. I was very skeptical. I mean, if my strong arm muscles and the plunger hadn't worked (and I'd tried several times over the course of several days...), I doubted that Liquid-Plumr would work. But, in less than 24 hours, it had completely cleared the clog! Tip: Scoop all of the standing water out of the sink, so the Drano can go in full-strength. (I know homeowners who don't like to use Drano, but for renters like us, it's an easy fix for slow-moving drains or clogs.)

5. If you don't want to use Drano (or don't think it will work), look under the sink and find the spot in the pipes where you believe the clog is located. If you have plastic pipes, you should be able to unscrew them and unclog the area. I found directions for doing this at lowes.com. (Be sure to scoop as much water as possible out of the sink before taking apart pipes, and have a big bucket ready to catch everything below!)

But as I mentioned above, we didn't end up needing to take apart any pipes. Another resource to try is a plumbing snake, which we used one time at our house in Ohio (before I got banned from using the garbage disposal after plugging up the pipes for the 3rd time...). ;)

To help maintain clean drains and pipes naturally:

Remove hair from drains (if you can see it/reach it).

Sprinkle baking soda in drains and then pour in some vinegar.

Flush drains with boiling water.

Doing that usually keeps our bathroom drains running great! :)

Our bath tubs in the last 2 rental places have had the push-down, push-up plugs and I finally figured out how to clean them: Unscrew the plug until it comes off (it takes a lot of unscrewing), and then you can reach the drain to pull out any hair. I have long hair so hair in the shower drains is something I have to keep on top of! :)

Do you have any drain or clog tips to add? I'd love to hear them! (Unfortunately I don't think this is the last time I will ever clog a drain...) :)

To Participate in Kitchen Tip Tuesdays:

Post a kitchen tip in your blog. Link to this post, and then leave your link here, so we know where to find YOU! :) No giveaways or non-tip posts, please!

In order to keep the kitchen tips more easily accessible, posts not adhering to these guidelines will be removed. We need to be able to easily find/see what your kitchen/cooking tip is. :) Thanks for your participation! :)

Leave your tip links in a comment. I'll manually add them to this post!

1. Tip for rolling out pie crust (Willa at Armstrong Family Fare)
2. Tips for homemade breadcrumbs (Heather at Feel Good About Dinner)
3. 5 tips for substituting sweeteners (Adrienne at Whole New Mom)
4. Baking tip and garbage disposal tip (Rachel at Trial and Error Home Ec)
5. Single-serving freezer soups (Anna at The Joyful Wife)
6. Clean and re-use cheesecloth (Stacy at Stacy Makes Cents)
7. Chicken parmesan breading tips (Robin at Happily Home After)
8. Tips for spices (Georgia at Georgia's Cookie Jar)
9. Bread machine stand (Living So Abundantly)
10. Saving money on milk (Katy at Purposely Frugal)
11. Freezing smoothies (Michele at Simply Scaife Family Farm)
12. Substitute for double boiler (Amy at Amy's Finer Things)
13. Homemade bread tips (Jenna at Blessed Roots)
14. Cake tip and cooked corn tip (Kolfinna's Korner)
15. Salad in a jar tip (Newlyweds Blog)

Pages

User login

Subscribe to RSS - Kitchen Tip Tuesdays
Subscribe for free recipes, menu plans, and kitchen tips!