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Archive for the ‘CJ’s Punk Housewife Tips’ Category

Every little piece of plastic saved adds up right? So instead of covering the little bit of leftover tuna with plastic wrap, use a wide-mouth canning jar lid!

I know we’re not supposed to keep the tuna in the can at all (or even buy tuna in cans in the first place), but I don’t need any extra dishes in my sink thank you very much. I open the can, drain the water out, mix the mayo in right there in the can, apply to sandwiches and, if there’s any leftover at all, snap a lid on and put it in the fridge. It gets eaten up so soon that I have decided not to worry about it.

The wide-mouth lids fit so perfectly they seem like they were made for tuna cans.

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And what to do with it?

Why, put it on an upturned yogurt lid of course! Though it took me years to figure that out.

Save a baggie and still keep your fridge from smelling like an onion sandwich.

This also works brilliantly for lemon and apples.

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There are some things that are just too handy not to keep in small portions in your freezer, no matter how Betty Crocker it makes you feel. Two such things are chicken stock and chopped tomatoes. I make my own stock and put it into pint size or bigger jars for the freezer, but there are many times when you just want a little stock, like for cooking collards or adding into a sauce. I also always buy the 28 oz cans of chopped tomatoes, but often don’t need the whole thing. So I put the rest in the freezer for soups, rice, or again, collards. I do love me some greens stewed with fried onions, tomatoes and a splash of good chicken stock.

 

Ice cube trays are the classic container for small frozen portions, but they’re much too small for my purposes. I used to use a collection of plastic containers– yogurt tubs and tupperware– and just half fill them. But then one day, oh fraptuous joy, I happened to buy this silicone muffin pan at a garage sale, in a box with several other silicone baking items. I don’t like actually baking in silicone, I bought the pack to use as soap molds. But this muffin pan has turned out to be one of my better spent $2 solely for the purpose of freezing small portions.

Once frozen, the little half cup portions just pop right out of that wiggly silicone and I put them into a big quart sized zip lock. I keep both the stock and tomatoes in the same bag, it’s easy enough to see which is which.

You can throw the frozen hunk right into whatever you are cooking, it melts pretty quick.

Also good candidates for small freezer portions are pesto and pureed beets for pink pancakes.

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A few months ago I solved a small problem in my own head. It was gratifying. Now everyone who comes over can say, “Why the F do you have two bags in there, what am I supposed to do with that?”

I had always wanted to use old shopping bags for garbage because, despite my best intentions, they do pile up in our house. But I was too afraid of the occasional leak making the bin gross and stinky. Then it suddenly occurred to me I could just keep a backup liner in there. Of course.

This only works because all my wet stuff goes in my various (4 different!) compost/chicken bins. The only wet thing I really put into the trash anymore is boiled bones, leftover from stock making. For this, I keep any still sound plastic packaging in that space between the back of the paper bag and the plastic liner. I haven’t had a paper bag bust out on the way to the outdoor can yet, though it seems like it might happen eventually. And I only have to change the liner every month or more.

If you are way too cool to ever bring home disposable shopping bags, no worries! Just pilfer the ‘bag recycling’ bin outside the store. I’ve done this myself, many times. Of course, you could argue that those bags would be better off recycled than turned into default garbage, even if they save the world from one extra garbage bag. But, especially with the paper bags, I feel pretty confident this is a better end.

Now, the big break through trick? To keep the bag from sliding down in there, attach to the lip of the bin with office clips like so:

The only catch to this system is it turns you irrevocably into One of Those People. Not even your damn garbage is normal. People will be confused and you will have to explain. You will not sound awesome, you will just sound weird. But considering you probably already have to explain your garbage system (‘recycling under the sink, egg shells in the old flour bag, coffee grounds in the tub by the faucet, chicken scraps straight out the window into the run, and onion skins and citrus in the old coffee bag’) this will be the least of your worries.

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My Little Angel just looooves to draw on the wall. Maybe it’s my ‘independent child-rearing’ philosophy (also known as leaving the kids unattended in the other room as much as I can get away with), but at our house it seems to be a simple if/then formula. If there is a crayon (pencil/marker/chalk) anywhere in the bottom 28 inches of our house, then he will find it. If he finds it, then he will use it to draw on the wall.

I have a friend who just rolls with the punches, and lets the house become one big chalkboard. She figures when the kids both top 5 they can paint over everything, and until then, why spend any time worrying or scrubbing? I applaud the surrender, and if we owned our home, I would seriously consider such a tactic. But we rent. That shit don’t float.

After some experimentation I discovered the magic mark-removal method. It’s simple, nothing new or exciting here, but I was excited, and that’s what counts.

  1. Spray marks liberally with pure vinegar
  2. Pour a teaspoon of baking soda onto a wrung out rag
  3. Scrub that SOB till it’s white again

I tried just vinegar, and just baking soda. Neither worked. Gotta mix ‘em baby. Maybe it’s the science project foaming action, maybe it’s the grit of the baking soda reaching down into the textured surface of the paint. Whatever it is, it works. It can take some hard scrubbing though, especially pencil marks.

Make sure to add more baking soda as necessary, you want to be able to see a thin sheen of it on the wall. And yes, you do have to follow this treatment with a clean wet rag to wipe all the soda off.

for scale, this is about 18 inches across. and no our walls are not gray, they're white. lighting is everything, so they say.

it takes a good little pile of baking soda, enough to get the grit factor going

this is an uneventful photo, right? unless you want to get your entire security deposit back, then suddenly it becomes very attractive

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Here’s a double dip tip:

Buying Olive Oil in Bulk

If you use a lot of olive oil you might want to buy it in the big square cans, it’s considerably cheaper than the small bottles. But you’ll still want to keep a small bottle near your stove, which presents the problem of pouring from that big can, which inevitably goes glugluglug and slops oil all over everything.

To solve this annoying problem, just punch a small hole on the opposite side of the top to the pouring spout. This lets the air in and makes for a nice smooth pour. This might work with those big plastic jugs from Costco too, once the oil level goes down a bit.

Storing Leftover Wine for Cooking

We used to have a lot of dinner parties, resulting frequently in leftover odds and ends of wine bottles. I’m not a big drinker– if I have wine one night, I don’t feel like more the next. I love to cook with wine, but again, not very often. I left a lot of wine sitting around souring, waiting to get used, before it finally occurred to me that I could just freeze the leftover wine! Freezing wine works beautifully. Because of the alcohol content it stays loose, like a slushy. All you have to do is scoop out however much you want and dump it straight into the pan!

Now, with our dinner party days seemingly over, I buy a bottle of wine every now and then expressly to stick in the freezer (pour it into a wide mouth jar first!) I keep a jar of red and a jar of white. Since I only use a 1/2 cup or so at a time, one bottle of wine lasts me for ages.

When cooking with wine, you need to boil it hard for a few minutes if you want to cook off all the alcohol. My routine– sauté onions, brown meat or whatever, then throw the wine in and let it roil on high to ‘deglaze’ all the caramelized goodness off the bottom of the pan. Yummie.

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Am I a punk?

Hell no, not by any punk standard anyway. No tattoos, no piercings, I change my clothes almost every week, and I live in a house with just one family. My life looks purty damn square to the punk eye.

But, by housewife standards, I like to think I can edge into the punk category. Which is a relief to my mind.

I’ve been meaning to start a series of Punk Housewife Tips, and my most recent, most brilliant discovery yet simply begged me to finally get to it! Enter Tip #1: Turning stale homemade wheat bread into breakfast cereal!

Not sure what finally knocked it through my thick head, but at some point I realized that Grape Nuts (much loved by My Man, but rarely purchased ‘cuz I’m a DIYer doncha know, and we eat homemade granola round here) are just toasted wheat bread crumbs. It started as a suspicion that seemed to simple to be true. But then my suspicion turned into a hunch, and then my hunch turned into an experiment, and my experiment was a success!

I don’t know about you, but we actually don’t eat that much bread around here. Typical scenario: I make 2 loaves. We finish off half of the first loaf while it’s still hot, the other half over the next day or two. The second loaf, at three days old is starting to sound less desirable (homemade whole wheat doesn’t stand the test of time very well). We eat a slice here and there and a week later there’s 3/4 of a loaf going moldy. Sure I make french toast, bread pudding, stuffing, bread crumbs for gratins, breading, meatballs, etc, etc. But a good use for stale whole wheat bread is never amiss.

I’m still monkeying with the recipe, but here’s the basics:

Homemade Grape Nits

(that’s what we always called ‘em)

Take your half-eaten stale loaf of homemade whole wheat bread, cut the mold off around the corners, and crumble it with your hands into a big bowl. If it’s a regular recipe whole wheat and truly stale, it should crumble easily. (If it’s a long rise type recipe, with a gluey-er structure, you might have to throw the slices into a food processor). Crumble the pieces very small, grape nut sized. For every cup of crumbs mix in a spare 1 Tablespoon oil and 1 Tablespoon honey. This makes an authentically not sweet cereal. If you want it to be sweet, add another Tablespoon honey or sugar (I think the caramelly flavor of Rapadura sugar would be perfect, it sure makes good tasting granola). Stir thoroughly to ensure every crumb is moistened. Spread the Nits evenly onto a greased cookie sheet, not too thick in the event you are doing a large batch. Bake at 275 F for 20-60 minutes, however long it takes to turn a medium brown all over. If the edges are browning too fast, stir them toward the middle and spread the blondies to the edge.

The browning is important, don’t skimp. It took me years of granola making to discover just how important it is. Toasted grains have an entirely different flavor– richer, nuttier, caramelly, complex, more. When you throw sugar or honey into the mix, you’re making a little actual caramel, which also enhances the crunch. But do be careful, it goes from brown to black kind of fast, so watch closely toward the end.

When nicely browned turn the oven off, but leave the pan in to continue drying out. Allow to cool completely to room temperature, pour into a large jar or bag and keep well sealed so that the Nits stay crunchy.

Bonus Tip!!! Cut an old (clean) milk jug like so for a DIY granola/grape nit funnel! Otherwise your kitchen floor will feel like a pebbly beach. Trust me.

Like the real thing, you can’t just pour the milk on and eat straight away or you’ll get a headache. You have to give the milk a few minutes to begin absorbing, but not too long, lest it become sodden. There’s a magical sweet spot there.

Now if I were a real punk, I wouldn’t have a food processor, and the oven in our anarchy squat house wouldn’t work because the gas was turned off. I would feed my leftover bread to my housemate’s stray looking pit bull instead. But that would all be a moot point since I’d be eating dumpstered fruit loops for breakfast anyway.

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