Post #802 More Kitchen Hacks

June 10, 2021 at 1:08 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I offered a list of kitchen hacks so I thought I would do that now. Also, at the end of the post is an update on the FiL with some big changes to our home life. Hacks, as I’ve told you before, are either short cuts or new processes that are simpler to what was established norms. Sometimes, they’re “lost knowledge” in that they’re the way grandma used to do it, and other times, they’re new tech based on existing knowledge such as microwaves and air poppers for popcorn. The usual way a hack is known is by the phrase “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Hack #1 – A New Broom Sweeps Best. I don’t know about you, but I still sweep the kitchen floor periodically, and not nearly as often as I should. We’re lucky in that we have always had dogs who know the kitchen floor is a bonanza for snacks and treats anytime they choose to use their noses. Broom technology has changed often, but it’s still a long stick with bristles at the bottom that put dirt and dust into a pile. The types of bristles have changed from natural fibers to synthetic. I’ve even seen some that are anti-static to help pick up dust better. However, there’s a trick my mom told me about once that works wonders. We lived in the desert where there’s just no getting away from dust. You could literally sweep at 8am and need to do it again by noon. Even a hermetically sealed house will have dust in it in the desert. What she would do is put a cotton (usually flannel) pillow case over the bristles and tie the end up on the handle. Then she’d spray the pillow case with Endust, or plain water. The broom would provide support to the pillow case which would grab every speck of dust it encountered. Once the dust was gathered up and put int the trash can, she’d take the pillow case off by turning it inside out as she pulled it down, and toss it into the washing machine during a load of cottons. I say “she”, but of course I mean me. Once she showed me how, it was mine to do every day when I got home from school. So, I can attest that it works.

Hack #2 – Roasted Gravy. Here’s a trick I ran into a long time ago, when I was first learning to cook. I was still in my mom’s school of cookery so we had a lot of roasts of beef, or chicken, or pork or turkey, etc. Since mom was Irish, potatoes were a feature of nearly every meal, and so was gravy. There are many ways to make gravy, and if you’re not careful, it will be lumpy. One trick is to flour the bottom of the roasting pan before cooking. This works best with a metal pan and a rack. Dust the flour over the entire bottom of the pan and roast the meat normally. The flour will absorb the meat juices and cooking will turn it brown. Once the roast is done, take the pan out and place it on the stove top. Stir two more tablespoons of flour in the pan drippings while gently heating the pan on the stove top. Keep stirring and when the flour and drippings reaches the consistency of heavy cream, start adding hot water, salt, pepper, and any herbs you want. A whisk will help keep lumps away. Add enough water to bring the gravy to your desired consistency, and once the gravy has thickened, allow it bubble vigorously for a minute or two before serving. You can subustitute milk, stock, or whatever other liquid you like. Don’t forget to scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan for the extra flavor they have.

Hack #3 – Boiled Potatoes Less the Water. Sounds odd, right? Basically, what we’re talking about here is keeping boiled potatoes perfectly cooked while waiting for the rest of the meal to finish off. Cut the potatoes as you would normally, and cook them as you would normally. Drain the potatoes remembering they are very tender at this point. Return them to the hot pot (it should not be over direct heat, but still hot from the boiling process.) Immediately cover the pot with layered dish towels. The towels will absorb any steam still being released and the potatoes will stay tender and mealy. Just before serving, melt some butter and drizzle over the potatoes, but do not shake the potatoes or they’ll break down.

Hack #4 – Sparkling Glasses. These days, I wash dishes by hand. The kitchen doesn’t have a dishwasher, and there’s no room to install one without a major renovation. Since we don’t own the house, that’s not going to happen. But it’s not really a problem because we don’t really generate that many dirty dishes. A sinkful of hot soapy water takes care of us most days. However, I like my wineglasses to sparkle so I can enjoy the look and color of the wine as I’m drinking it. So I take a page from the book of old wives’ tales, and occassionally soak the glasses in white vinegar and hot water. Once I rinse them off in hot water, I use paper towels to dry them thoroughly. They look brand new after that. When we had a dishwasher, I used white vinegar instead of the “spotless” solution they always said to put into the holder. Worked great, you should try it.

Hack #5 – Baking Soda What? I heard a comedienne once talking about baking soda’s split personality, and asked, “Is it Sybil?” Baking soda can do anything, it seems. I haven’t tried this trick yet, but I’m doing to either tonight or tomorrow. We’re having tacos tonight (yay, tacos!) so we’ll have some greasy messy plates and pans to clean. I read recently that adding a few tablespoons of soda to a sinkful of hot soapy water will help cut the grease tremendously. It makes sense since it can everything else. But it also makes sense because the basis of soap of any kind is lye. Just make certain you rinse the dishes thoroughly.

Hack #6 – Sanitizing A Used Sponge. This is a trick my brother in law showed me. I use the sponges with the layer of nylon scrubber on one side. Because I’m a cheap SOB, I use those things up. By the time I throw a sponge away, it’s usually got swathes cut out of from the knives I’ve washed, and the nylong scrubber is so worn, it’s actually pilled and doesn’t scrub anything. And they may tend to be odiferous. I counteract that with a squeeze of lemon and keep on scrubbing. My brother in law puts his sponges in the microwave to sanitize them and keep odors away. He puts them directly on the glass plate sopping wet. He nukes them for three minutes. He uses tongs to remove them cuz they’re going to be hot. Then he uses the steam generated by the process and some paper towels to clean out the microwave. No wasted effort there.

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So, I promised an update on the FiL. We saw his oncologist two weeks ago who said that because of his overall good health, stamina, and good heart, they wanted to get him on a course of radiation treatment. The aggressiveness of the tumor was worrisome, and while they believed they got it all, the placement of the tumor was such that it was difficult to be certain. They want him on an every other day schedule for several weeks. Once that was completed, they would then assess whether or not chemo was needed.

We had already planned to turn him into what we term a “snowbird.” In Arizona and SoCal, every winter retired people from the northern states would descend on us to avoid the snow and ice and enjoy what they considered “summer weather.” Once the temps in the desert started to rise to uncomfortable levels, around March and April, they would return north and enjoy summer weather again. It dumps a lot of cash into the area, but also a lot of attitude so it’s a mixed blessing. The FiL was going to avoid Vermont’s winter, and Arizona’s summer. A snowbird. And he was excited.

When we had all the info, though, we knew once the treatments started, the snowbird plan wasn’t going to work. Given his age, radiation was going to take too much out of him. He wouldn’t be getting to Arizona again until his 90s, if at all. We discussed it at length, and decided to send him back to Arizona for his treatments, and to stay. His heart wasn’t in Vermont, and Home was Arizona. His oldest son who is also in the medical field (not as advanced as Partner/Spouse), his grandkids, his brother, and his neice are all in the Phoenix area. My family who all love him dearly are only an hour and a half away. Partner/Spouse and I got him recovered from the issues that brought him here in the first place, so all in all, it’s a good move, and a positive step for him. We’re both firm believers that our health is influenced by our attitudes and a happy patient will do better than one who’s just okay. So, it was quick, but yesterday he arrived in Phoenix after an uneventful flight. We’re packing his stuff up and shipping it to him. He’s in the heat instead of the cold, and he’s happy. So, it’s another adjustment in our house, but all will be well.

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So, how’s everything with all of you? Holler back, if you want to, and let us all know.

As always,

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