Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Hello, everyone! I hope you all had a good week. Now that Mother’s Day and the last frost are behind us, it’s time to start planting. We planted some flowers yesterday, and have more to put in pots today or tomorrow. The flowers sure brighten up everything, don’t they?

Well, today there are several “holidays” on the list. It’s Nylon Stockings Day – does anyone wear those any more? It’s also Peace Officer Memorial Day, Straw Hat Day, International Day of Families and, last but not least, National Chocolate Chip Day!

I’ve been looking forward to grilling season, and thought a few tips might remind us to grill and prepare food safely.

1) Marinades provide great flavor and help tenderize meats. They contain an oil, an acid and herbs, usually in a 1/2 oil to 1/3 acid blend. Herbs can be whatever you enjoy, and fresh is best but dried will work. Prepare marinade and pour into zip-close plastic bag; insert meat, close bag and place in dish in case of leaks. Always marinate in refrigerator – never at room temperature. Discard marinade after removing meat to grill.

2) When using skewers, be sure foods are cut to similar sizes to ensure even cooking. The easiest way to cook meats and vegetables on skewers would be to cook them separately, allowing more time for the meat to cook and less for the vegetables.

3) Soak wooden skewers for about 20 to 30 minutes before using to prevent burning.

4) Add sauces toward the end of cooking time. If used too early in the cooking time they will tend to burn or brown too quickly.

5) Thoroughly clean grill surfaces before grilling, then coat lightly with non-stick cooking spray or vegetable oil.

6) Keep children and pets away from the grilling area. Also, place the grill far away from structures, trees, etc.

7) Be sure to put grilled meats on clean platters – not on those that held the raw meat to avoid cross-contamination.

8) The right equipment can make the grilling process much easier and more enjoyable. Use heatproof, long-handled tools and a heavy glove. 

9) Dry rubs are another way to flavor and tenderize meats. They are usually a mixture of flavors, from sweet to hot, and can be made quickly. If you want to make your own “special” blend, here are a few possible ingredients: brown sugar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, chili powder, salt or seasoned salt, herbs such as basil, oregano or rosemary, etc.

10) Packet grilling can be fun and adventurous! Use a double thickness of heavy-duty foil approximately 12” x 18”. Add meat and/or vegetables with your choice of seasonings, a small bit of butter or olive oil. Wrap well, leaving room for expansion, and grill until done. Open carefully.

I hope you all have a great week! Break out the grill and have some fun. And, as always, comments and suggestions are welcome. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Good morning! As we all know, Mother’s Day is this coming Sunday (May 13, 2012), but do we know its history? A day for honoring mothers has been around in many forms for centuries; however, in the 1600s a clerical proclamation in England included mothers in traditional celebrations honoring the church. It was known as “Mothering Day”.
The tradition was discontinued by settlers when they came to America. In 1870 Julia Ward Howe recommended a day to honor mothers, which was set for June 2, but it lasted only about 10 years and slowly died.

In 1908 Anna M. Jarvis created Mother’s Day to honor peace and her mother, who had recently passed away. The first official Mother’s Day was May 10, 1908. It was celebrated in Ms. Jarvis’ church, and each mother attending received two carnations – her mother’s favorite flower. The white carnation honored a mother who had passed away, and the pink or red honored those still living.

Mother’s Day became an annual observance when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national celebration in 1914, and it was to be held the second Sunday in May each year.

Since then, Mother’s Day has become a day celebrated in various ways in over 70 countries. Some complain that it has become much too commercialized, but the basic sentiments still apply. Mothers are, and always have been, crucial to the family’s development and well-being.

All that said, I wish all mothers a wonderful Mother’s Day, and I hope you and your families celebrate the wonderful women you are!

I’m sure many of us will be buying and planting flowers this weekend – finally! So my tips this week apply to gardening.

1) Place a coffee filter in the bottom of planters to hold in the soil and allow for good drainage.

2) Wipe down garden tools with an oily rag before storage to prevent rusting. Also, they can be stuck down in a bucket of sand for storage.

3) For an easy way to provide continuous water for your plants, poke holes in empty soda bottles, fill with water, replace the lid and place the bottles on their sides in the garden.

4) Remove flower blossoms that have faded and lost petals – the plant will be stronger, allowing nutrients to go to stems and leaves rather than trying to keep older blossoms. Also, that will prevent seeds from forming.

5) When buying plants, be sure to select strong plants with healthy-looking foliage. Avoid any yellowing or “floppy” plants!

6) If you sow seeds, be sure to thin the seedlings as instructed on the packet, as overcrowded plants don’t do well. The remaining seedlings will get more sunlight and nutrients for stronger, healthier plants.

7) Water plants early in the day so the water can evaporate. Watering in the evening could lead to fungus growth as the cooler air and darkness will not evaporate the water properly.

8) We’ve all planted things that didn’t survive…the best solution is research. Plant the right plants for your area and for your soil conditions, plant them in the proper sun/shade area, and care for them properly.

9) If you have poor soil, a raised bed works well. Use bricks, blocks or ground-contact wood for the outside walls. The best width for the beds is no more than 5 feet, allowing you to reach across without stepping inside. They can be made any length.

10) Above all, have fun! Gardening should be enjoyable – not a full-time job. Plant what you like to look at and what you like to eat. Let the kids plant some things of their own - maybe they’ll even eat veggies if they've grown them!

Have a terrific week. As always, if you have comments or suggestions, please send them.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tip Tuesday

Happy May 1st! I hope all is well with you, and that you find something interesting or useful in this post. I’ve been doing some research on holidays during May, and found some very strange ones!

The flower for May is lily-of-the-valley, and the stone is emerald. May is National Egg Month, National Barbecue Month, National Hamburger Month, National Salad Month, and several others. And each day seems to have several holiday observances.

In honor of National Egg Month, here are some tips:

1) If you need separated room-temperature eggs, separate them when cold then bring to room temperature.

2) For perfect hard-boiled eggs, place eggs in pan and add water to reach 1 inch above eggs. Bring to boil, cover and remove from heat. Let stand approximately 12 minutes for medium eggs, 15 minutes for large eggs, 18 minutes for extra-large eggs. Cool immediately.

3) To prevent egg shells from cracking while cooking, add a pinch of salt or a bit of vinegar to the water.

4) To make peeling those hard-boiled eggs easier, crack the shells and place in pan of cold water for a few minutes. Water will seep between the egg and the shell, making them easier to peel.

5) Eggs that are a bit older are easier to peel. Also, the whites of slightly older eggs will be more fluffy and higher when beaten.

6) To stabilize beaten egg whites, add 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter per egg white.

7) If you have leftover egg yolks, you can use them in cooking. Simply substitute 2 yolks for each whole egg.

8) Be sure to “temper” eggs before adding them to hot mixtures. Stir a small amount of the hot liquid into the eggs in a bowl, then return to pan, mixing well.

9) Did you drop an egg and make a mess? Cover the spill with salt and let stand 15 to 20 minutes. It will be easy to pick up with paper towels.

10) There’s an easier way to take deviled eggs to an event. Do not fill them before you go. Place the egg filling in a plastic zipper-close bag and the white halves in a separate container. When you arrive at your destination, cut a small corner off the bag and pipe the filling into the halves. Garnish as desired, and enjoy! (Don’t forget the scissors!)

And if you have leftover boiled eggs or deviled eggs, make them into egg salad.

When growing up, we often had Creamed Eggs on Toast for dinner. Back then I didn’t realize that having it  meant money was a bit tight. It’s an easy one, with no definite recipe. Boil eggs – the number depends on how many you’re feeding and how hungry they are. Prepare a medium white sauce, seasoning well with salt and pepper. Cut the eggs into large chunks and add to the sauce. Pour over toast. That’s it.

I’m sure my non-egg-eating husband will cringe at that one! But my sister will enjoy the memories.

Have a joyous day! And, as always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Thanks for reading.