Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Yolk's on Me!

How could I have been cooking for 30 years without seeing a double-yolk egg? This one went into my mac and cheese tonight, but I would never have used it in baking because it would most likely alter the recipe results.

I always break my eggs into a small dish or measuring cup, instead of directly into other ingredients, primarily to prevent shell fragments from getting mixed in. (And because I have to poke around with a fork to remove the little white strand attached to the yolk, which may or may not be the umbilical cord, but creeps me out anyway.) Some recommend it in case you happen to get a rotten egg (I never have!) Now, I'm thinking the possibility of an extra yolk might be another good reason for doing it, since it could ruin a whole batch of batter.   

Have you ever cracked an egg and found more than one yolk? Do you break your eggs into a separate bowl?

You can read more about multiple-yolk eggs here. There's even a picture of one with four yolks! Apparently, the chances of a double yolk are about one in 1,000. But most are discovered in the production process and used in other egg products rather than being sold as whole eggs.  These two were inseparable, but there are many images online showing distinctly unattached yolks.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Baggie Challenge Successful and Another Reason to Call Me Crazy

With two weeks of school remaining, I think it's safe to say our baggie challenge has been successful. Here's what's left of the 200-count box we started with in September: 

When friends are waving their hands in the air dismissively and reminding me that "a baggie is, what, a penny or two?", it really almost sounds silly even to me. I mean, if I see a penny lying on the ground, I won't pick it up. A nickel? Maybe. A dime? Probably. A quarter? Definitely. So why do I insist on reusing baggies? (You can read more about that here and here if you want.) Because pennies add up to dollars!

We got through nine months on less than half a box. If I had thrown them away after just one use, I think I would've needed about a box a month. That's an extra eight and a half boxes of baggies! At around $3 a box, I saved over $25. Brand name Ziplocs cost at least a dollar more per box, so you can add in another $8.50 for purchasing the store brand. And that's without even mentioning the one box of quart-size baggies for the freezer, and one box of gallon-size for storage which I expect to last until this time next year.

Maybe you can't buy anything with a penny. But if you had an extra $25 (or $33), would you spend it on baggies? That's what I thought. That's why I wash and reuse mine!

Another Reason to Call Me Crazy

I'm actually a bit flattered when people call me crazy. It feels like a good kind of crazy when you know you have $25 in your pocket that most people spent on baggies...

So here's another reason to call me crazy:

We haven't bought plastic trash can liners in 16 years. When we moved into this house, we discovered that paper grocery bags fit our pull-out kitchen trash can just fine. And we don't just repurpose them once. We use each bag many times, until it becomes stained or torn. All you have to do to make this work is refrain from putting liquids in your trash can. If you really need to put something wet or sticky (like eggshells or coffee grounds) in there, you can enclose it in the plastic packaging from another food item, a worn-out zip-top baggie, a plastic grocery bag, or the bag your newspaper comes in.

Again, I urge you to think about your use of disposables. Reusables may be the key to saving money at the grocery store. But before you start thinking I'm all environmentally conscious, I should admit that's not what motivates me to do these "crazy" things. I just don't like to buy things just to throw them away! But I did make my contribution to the landfill with three years' worth of disposable diapers. Some conveniences are worth the cost.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

6 Ways to Clean with Vinegar (Tuesday Tips: Kitchen Edition)

I have always stocked apple cider vinegar, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and distilled white vinegar in my pantry for cooking. Over the years, I have added several gourmet varieties for use in salads and other recipes. Recently, in my quest to reduce our cleaning product cost as a way of saving money at the grocery store, I have discovered vinegar as a cleaning agent.

The first thing to know is that the variety used for cleaning is distilled white vinegar. Secondly, vinegar should never used on porous surfaces like granite or marble because its acidity can be damaging. Lastly, I can perceive no difference in the taste or performance of apple cider or distilled white vinegar, regardless of price, so I purchase the most economical brand available (usually a house brand). Shop for other vinegars like wines: taste a few in each price range and find out what suits your palate and budget.

Here are a few cleaning-with-vinegar tricks I have tried:

1. Rid your microwave of that awful "burnt popcorn smell": Put 1-2 tablespoons of vinegar in a cup of water and boil for 2-4 minutes. Then leave the microwave door open to air out overnight.

2. Clean your microwave: Use the same method as above, making sure the water boils long enough to steam up the inside of the microwave. Leave the door closed a few minutes to give the steam a chance to loosen any food debris, then wipe it down with a damp cloth.

3. Remove mineral deposits from your tea kettle: Fill your kettle half full of water and add 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar. Boil for a few minutes, then dump out the water and dry inside the kettle.

4. Clean your coffee maker: Run 2 tablespoons vinegar and a pot of water through a brewing cycle in your coffee maker. Then run clear water through once or twice, until the vinegar smell is gone.

5. Freshen your garbarge disposal: Freeze distilled white vinegar into cubes and run a few through your disposal. The ice will clean the blades and the vinegar will freshen.

6. Another way to clean your garbage disposal: Pour 1/2 cup baking soda into your disposal, followed by 1 cup of vinegar. When the foaming stops, rinse with hot water.

I have found formulas using vinegar for everything from toilet cleaner to weed killer and am dying to try a few. I'll let you know the results!