Friday, February 22, 2013

Wish All Your Books Were Spiral-Bound?

I love how spiral-bound cookbooks lie open flat so you're not always losing your place just when your hands are all sticky! Don't you? I also hate how the paperback bindings come unglued and the pages start falling out all over the place. Everybody hates that! Wish all your books were spirals? Well, they can be! 

My favorite local printer charges about $2.50 for spiral binding a paperback book (up to two inches thick), including a transparent plastic overlay to keep the front cover clean and crisp. You can also get it done at Kinko's and most office supply stores.

And it's not just for cookbooks!  Think about reference books, instruction  manuals, craft and hobby books - anything that needs to stay open to a particular page. Madeline finds it helpful when her music books start falling apart, or when they refuse to stay open on the piano rack.

Now, go gather up a stack of books and try a few for yourself!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

How Fresh Are My Eggs? (Tuesday Tips: Kitchen Edition)

Once eggs are out of the carton and in the rack on the fridge door, how do we remember how long they've been there? How long do they last once we've purchased them, anyway? I've been thinking about this since I read in one of my vintage cookbooks that a "good egg" will sink and a "bad egg" will float. I wanted to know more...

How to test an egg for freshness

Place an egg in a cup with enough water to cover it completely.
  • If the egg sinks to the bottom and lies on its side, it's very fresh.
  • If it stands upright on the bottom, it's still safe, but should be eaten soon.
  • If it floats, it should be discarded.
(Once an egg is washed, its protective coating has been removed and it should be cooked to prevent contamination). 

The science behind the test

I learned that an egg is porous. Its freshness and shelf life are determined by the amount of air that has entered the shell. So an egg that floats has taken on quite a bit of air and is no longer good to eat.

What, exactly, is wrong with a "bad egg"?

A pasteurized egg stored in your refrigerator should not grow bacteria. But it will lose moisture as it takes on air and dry out, rendering it "the incredible, inedible egg". 

What's going on between "very fresh" and "should be eaten soon"?

Apparently, the freshest egg has a well-shaped and properly placed yolk. So only the freshest eggs should be poached or boiled for deviled eggs, while those that have aged a bit would be better scrambled or mixed into a recipe.

The life cycle of a store-bought egg

According to the USDA, farmers must deliver their eggs to stores within 30 days after they're laid. The grocery store must sell them within 30 days, so this is the date usually marked on the carton as the "SELL BY" date. It is recommended that you use them within five weeks of that date.

So the good news is that our eggs have greater longevity than I thought. The bad news, I guess, is that they could be two months old before we even purchase them!

More posts about eggs: 

Devilishly Delicious - my favorite deviled egg recipes
Egg Yolk Cookie Paint - cookie decorating fun
Easter Eggs - decorating eggs with shrink wrappers

What's your favorite way with eggs?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Fridge Drawer Humidity Levels (Tuesday Tips: Kitchen Edition)

Every year we totally take apart our fridge and freezer, clean the walls, shelves, drawers and gaskets thoroughly, clean the refrigeration coils, fix any lights that are out, inspect for mechanical problems, then put it all back together.

Only I can never remember how to put it all back together. Once I do, I can't figure out how to set the humidity levels in my two produce drawers at the bottom. They have little slide levers for humidity (low to high and everywhere in between).

My owner's manual says HIGH for veggies, LOW for fruits. My search for more information (it just couldn't be that simple, could it?) led me to a better understanding of the settings and how they're used:

High humidity keeps moist air in the drawer. This is the best environment for your leafy greens or anything else that wilts.

Low humidity means drier air for anything that rots, gets slimy, or grows mold. This is the best settting for strawberries and most fruits and vegetables with skins (like cucumbers and apples), along with root vegetables (like carrots).

There's even a little saying to help remember the settings so you don't have to look it up every single time:

"Leaves grow high on a tree, roots down low."

If you only have one "crisper" drawer in your fridge, which may not have a humidity setting and is designed to keep moist air in, use it for your green leafies. You can store your other produce on the fridge shelves, which are in a lower humidity zone.

Here's hoping that I finally understand the workings of the two humidity-controlled drawers at the bottom of my fridge!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Super Bowl Sunday at my House

This passage from Jason Gay's Super Bowl Party: 22 More Rules in the WSJ was read aloud at our breakfast table Thursday morning:

"Let's not pretend you are going to blow off the Super Bowl. Every year there are some lying liar-liars who claim to be uninterested in the game and planning on going to the gym or painting pottery or reciting Chaucer by a whale oil lamp, but this is the Great American TV Ritual, and it cannot be resisted. Don't try to be above it all. You are eating greasy food with your greasy fingers and sitting in front of the television for four hours and you will like it. Or else."

Steve's Question: Who's playing in the Super Bowl this year?

My Answer (which is actually another question): Two football teams?

Jason, we really don't watch it. Never have (even when we had cable). Never will. There's probably a better chance we'll read Chaucer by whale oil lamp. What I do love about the Super Bowl is that all the papers and magazines print great snack recipes!

Happy Super Bowl Sunday to everyone who does enjoy it! Feel free to comment if you think we're weird for not watching sports on TV.