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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ten (More) Random, Useful Things

I've been compiling this list for a while, so I thought I'd send it on out there. Got any more tips to add? Toss 'em into the comments! We'll all thank you.

1. Soak pans containing cooked-on starches (rice, potatoes, oatmeal, etc.) in cold water
rather than hot. The stuff will release from the pan much more quickly. (Thanks, Fawn!)

2. Make pancake batter in the blender. It's less mess to clean, since you can pour right from the spout to the griddle: no ladles or drips on the counter to clean afterwards. Also, if you want to sneak in a little extra goodness without the kids knowing, you can easily do so. Things you can add into pancake batter without anyone noticing, as long as you're using the blender: 1/2 block tofu OR one apple, quartered and cored (don't bother peeling) OR 1 medium sweet potato (steamed and peeled) OR 1/2 cup whole oats (you will need to add a bit more milk).

3. Use vinegar to help keep clothes colorfast. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to every load of dark laundry, or use 1/8 cup in your hand laundry -- especially when washing sweaters -- to keep them from bleeding. (Thanks, Mr. Lady!)

4. Shake out, rather than vacuuming, small throw rugs and bath mats. They get much cleaner this way, and you don't have to fight to keep the vacuum from sucking them up. Instead, just take small rugs outside and give them a good shake and pounding. For really small rugs, you can shake right onto the floor if you're in the process of vacuuming anyway, and then vacuum up the crumbles.

5. Eggshells attract eggshells. If a little sliver of shell gets into your bowl as you're cracking eggs to scramble, don't use your finger to chase the sliver around. That could take all day. Just dip a large piece of the shell into the eggs, and you'll be able to scoop out the sliver in a jiffy.

6. Run your kitchen sponge through the dishwasher every time you do a load to keep it clean and fresh longer.

7. Your own spit will remove your own blood. If you can bear to spit on your cuffs when you've gotten a paper cut, go for it! (Thanks, I think, MIQuiter.)

8. Zippered, mesh lingerie bags made for the washing machine are your friends. You can keep one in each laundry hamper to receive dirty kid-sized socks, and then just zip it up and toss the whole thing in the wash. You'll never lose another tiny sock behind the washing machine drum again. Or, use one to hold all the bibs you have to wash, so that their velcro tabs don't snag up everything else in the load.

9. Use 1/3 of a capful of liquid laundry soap rather than the full cup the detergent says to use. The clothes will still get clean, but the soap residue will dissolve better and hence be less likely to form a film in your drain lines. The upshot? Less stinky washing machine parts (you know, that sweaty gym bag smell that sometimes plagues the washer? GONE.)

10. If your kids resist veggies... try simmering a pot of carrots, beets, sweet potato, squash, and/or other things orange/red in a small amount of vegetable broth until extremely soft. Then, puree the whole thing, and freeze in an ice cube tray. Keep the ice cubes in a ziplock bag, and toss in a few any time you make pizza, pasta, or anything else with a red sauce. (For reference, one Tablespoon / year of age = one serving of veggies.)

I know there's not a whole lot to say about a list like this. But I'd love it if you would give me your favorite cooking or household tip in the comments. Anything that will make my life easier or enable me to go to bed even 45 seconds earlier each day will be most appreciated.


MIQuilter said...

point 1 - about soaking in cold water - works best for anything containing lots of flour too.

Mrs F with 4 said...

The only excuse for growing that vilest of plants, rhubarb, is that boiling the leaves in water will remove any stain from any pan (oxalic acid, I think).

And to remove that strange scuzzy mark from glass (vases, decanters etc), put a small handful of rice in with a little water and swirl it around.

Rice wrapped in a bit of muslin will also keep sugar from going hard in the jar.

And a Mother coming to visit will get your refrigerator VERY clean!

Don Mills Diva said...

I love these kinds of tips - especially number one - can't believe I was wasting hot water on this! Thanks!

Kimmylyn said...

I was so happy to see that I do one of the things on this list.. hahaha (the sponge). And I use Mr. Clean eraser on everything.. that little sponge is amazing!

Mr Lady said...

Stainless steel neutralizes the smell of garlic. After chopping garlic, rub your fingers along the side of a stainless steel knife or pan. No more odor!

Deglazing a pan isn't just great for cooking, it works beautifully as step one in cleaning stuck on greasy foods.

Fawn said...

I use a small lingerie bag in the dishwasher, too, for washing baby bottle parts that need to go in the top rack; I'm too lazy to wash by hand and sterilize. Jade's beyond the stage where her bottles need to be sterilized, but they're sterilized anyway when they go through the dishwasher.

As for the eggshell thing... I admit that I'm not one to be overly concerned about bacteria, but I believe one of the concerns about eggshells is that the outsides of them can have bacteria on them (from dirty, poopy chicken feet, I suppose, which is likely only an issue with free-run chicken eggs). I say this despite the fact that I use the two halves of the eggshell to separate the yolks from the whites when I've often heard we should do that for sanitation purposes (and even though I own an egg separator). *sigh* Doesn't fully cooking the egg negate this concern, anyway?

I heard somewhere recently that you can just use your fingers to separate the yolk from the white. I guess the idea is you just dump the contents of the egg into your (clean) hand and let the white drip through your fingers. I haven't tried it, but I can't see why it wouldn't work. Sounds a tad messy, of course!

Sorry for the novel...

Mrs F with 4 said...

On the eggshell front, a metal teaspoon attracts bits of eggshell too... Or you could just regard them as crunchy bits of supplemental calcium...?

mommytherobot.blogspot.com said...

thanks! these are really useful. and some of them are really surprising!

Aimeepalooza said...

Measuring Cups
Before you pour sticky substances into a measuring cup, fill it with
hot water. Dump out the hot water, but don't dry the cup. Next, add your
ingredients such as peanut butter, and watch how easily it comes right out

Also, a fabric softener sheet in the pocket helps keep mosquitoes away.

OHmommy said...

Cold water... shut up. Really? I have been doing the dishes wrong? I always let them sit in super hot water.

And... throwing the sponge in the dishwasher? Brilliant!

JackeeG4glamorous said...

Want to clean baked on crap off racks of oven or broiler pan without scrubbing? Put racks, broiler pan etc. in large black garbage bag with a cup of ammonia, twist tie together, leave over night. Scum just falls OFF! No scrubbing, just rinse. HINT: Don't inhale ammonia.
Also, use WD40 to remove gum, sticker residue or permanent black marker off of most surfaces.

MommyTime said...

So many brilliant tips here! I appreciate them all.

The ammonia in a bag trick?? GENIUS of the highest order. I can't thank you enough, Jackee.

Mrs F, rhubarb? I will try it. My pans need all the help they can get.

Aimeepalooza -- we have enough mosquitoes here to feed a whole colony of bats, so I can't wait to try that trick.

McMommy said...

Mommytime...why are you so good to me??! I love you to pieces for putting this list together for me!!

MIQuilter said...

fawn - re eggs- yes, cooking negates any bacteria, etc that would be contained on the eggshell (although unless you're getting "organic" all standard "production" eggs go thru a special wash) would be killed. Likewise for the sallmonella that could lurk on the shell or inside the egg itself. Also, I ALWAYS use my hand instead of the eggshell to separate eggs. There's way less chance of the yolk breaking (often I've had a sharp edge of eggshell burst the yolk). It's not a big deal most of the time - but usually when I'm separating it'll be on the magnitude of 18 eggs and the whites MUST remain egg-yolk free in order to meringue properly. And chucking that many eggs b/c of a burst yolk on egg 16 or 17 is way crappy.....And yes... it is messy that way, but even when I'm supposed to add 1 yolk at a time, I separate them all at once, putting them into different bowls and then just dump 1 yolk at a time from the bowl.

Mousie said...

Make your bed while you're still in it: Get in the middle and do a spread eagle to spread out the sheet and blanket, fold back one side to get out, and pull up when you're standing to finish!

mommypie said...

Eggshells attract eggshells? Who knew?

Here's a tip you may or may not know: If you put lemon juice in a bowl, tip your 1/2 used avocado so the cut side is submerged, and put it in the fridge, it won't brown.


MultiplesMommy said...

Another super handy use of lingerie bags: put stuffed animals inside and run thru your regular wash load. The bag keeps arms and legs attached and the animals come out really clean. Most can also go into the dryer. We've used many times after poor Teddy lost an arm...


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