June 23, 2017

Archives for May 2009

Put it on Ice – Using Your Freezer to Save Money

Every house has one – the freezer that is attached to your fridge. The problem is most of us don’t use it to its full advantage. Check out the contents of your freezer. Most likely it contains a frozen pizza or two, some ice cubes, ice cream and maybe some mystery meat and leftovers you thought you’d reheat someday.

Well, Mark Bittman at the New York Times has some very helpful suggestions for putting your freezer to work for you.

In terms of reducing waste, the most important step you can take is to freeze things the moment you realize you’re not going to cook them in time. If you get a last-minute dinner invitation, you might freeze that fish you bought; if you take the kids strawberry picking, get the excess in there as quickly as you can; if you have a superharvest of vegetables (or a good score at the farmer’s market), blanch them and freeze them.

After all, few foods improve in the refrigerator. They don’t improve in your freezer, either, but they degrade more slowly, especially if you keep the temperature at 0 degrees or below. While you’re freezing, remember that your enemy is freezer burn, a freeze-drying on surfaces exposed to air that imparts unpleasant flavors and dry, fibrous textures. To help maintain quality, avoid freezer burn by double- or even triple-wrapping food, filling containers to the top and squeezing the air out of containers (zippered bags are good for this).

One more thing, easy to overlook and impossible to overrate: Label. It is incredible how much things grow to resemble another in the freezer. Use a permanent marker, write exactly what it is (“fish” or “stew” isn’t as helpful as “monkfish” or “lamb/veg stew”), and date it.

STORAGE

In addition to produce and meats, there are some less obvious ingredients whose life can be extended by freezing. Most of them can be used straight from the freezer: Fresh noodles; flours or meals; grains; nuts (which taste kind of good frozen); whole coffee beans (supposedly not as good after you freeze them, but most of us can’t tell the difference); banana leaves (nice for plating or wrapping, but they come in huge packages); and more, detailed below.

LEFTOVERS

Make extra of any dish, with leftovers in mind, then freeze in smaller portions that can be taken to work, sent to school or reheated for a solitary dinner. Freeze in individual containers, topping up with water, cooking liquid or oil to prevent freezer burn, or freeze in sturdy zippered bags, then squeeze out as much air as possible. Defrost in the fridge, in cold water, or in a microwave, or not at all — many items can be reheated straight from frozen. (Yes, I’m talking about homemade TV dinners.)

BEANS AND GRAINS

I’m tempted to say that you should never cook beans or grains without making more than you need. Freezing them (covered with water or cooking liquid, leaving room for expansion) works that well, and saves loads of time.

STOCK

For home cooks, the biggest problem with stock is having it around when you need it. So make as much as you can manage — three gallons, say. To save space, you can reduce the stock so that it’s extra concentrated, and reconstitute it with water to taste when you’re ready. Refrigerate and skim the fat, if you like, then freeze in containers of varying sizes, or in ice cube trays.

STOCK-MAKING MATERIAL

Scraps of poultry (most of the chicken parts we don’t eat are good for stock), meat (again, especially the less-used, bonier parts) or fish (heads and skeletons in particular), vegetable trimmings, bones and more. Keep separate bags for each, adding to them when you can. Remember, though, that stock is not garbage soup: Carrot and potato peels, cabbage cores, and the like can be used, but in moderation. Animal organs are best avoided (fish gills and guts must be removed, and offal in general makes bitter stock).

BREAD, BREAD DOUGH, BREAD CRUMBS

Freeze dough in well-wrapped balls; defrost until it regains springiness. (It will never rise quite as high as unfrozen dough, but it works nearly perfectly for pizza or focaccia, and well enough for other uses.) Good crusty bread, wrapped in aluminum foil, can turn lighter dishes into meals — just defrost in the foil at 350 degrees or so for 10 minutes, then crisp up, unwrapped, at slightly higher temperatures. (I’m talking about crusty bread; sliced bread can be defrosted on the counter or in a toaster.) And stale bread can be made into crumbs in a blender or food processor, stored in a container, and added to at will.

PASTRY AND PASTRY DOUGH

Most cake and cookies freeze pretty well, carefully wrapped. Or make a frozen log of “refrigerator” cookies to slice and bake later. Same with biscuits: make a whole batch or double batch of biscuit batter, bake just enough for dinner, and freeze the rest.

TOMATOES AND TOMATO SAUCE

Tomato sauce is best frozen in zippered bags with the air squeezed out. If you have ripe tomatoes, core, quarter, and throw them in a bag; as they thaw the skins will slip off, a bonus. (The frozen chunks separate easily so you can just break off a couple for soups, stews, salsas, sauces and so on.) You can also freeze unused portions of canned tomatoes, preferably in their juice.

BACON

Or pancetta, prosciutto, smoked ham hocks, prosciutto bones, etc. Wrap tightly in plastic and cut off pieces as you need them. (Or cut before freezing — you might need a butcher to do this in the case of big bones.)

FRESH HERBS

If you have extra herbs, your four best options are: Make pesto by puréeing the herb with oil and whatever other seasonings you like; make “pesto,” a purée of herb and water, with or without other seasonings; make compound butter; chop herbs, and freeze in ice cube trays covered with water.

FISH

When I’m in a good fish market I buy too much and later wonder what I was thinking. Fortunately, squid, shrimp and the meat of lobster, clams and mussels all freeze well. Even fillets, steaks, and cleaned whole fish — wrapped carefully in plastic — will keep most of their quality in the freezer for a couple of weeks, and there’s no reason they should spend any longer there. Another note: If you’re buying fish that has been frozen to begin with, ask for still-frozen rather than thawed fish, then store it in the freezer or thaw in the refrigerator.

FRUIT

Easier than making jam: Freeze berries or stone-fruit halves spread out on trays, then bag or put into containers, so they don’t all freeze together in a block. Or cook down a bit and store in their juice. Or purée and freeze.

VEGETABLES

If you find yourself with too much corn, greens, carrots, peas or snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, string beans, put them up. Blanch them for a minute before spreading them on a tray, the same way you freeze fruit. Tomatoes (as noted above) and bell peppers are the exception; they freeze well raw.

BANANAS

When my kids were young these were a staple. Peel and individually wrap overripe bananas in plastic; freeze. Use within a few weeks for banana bread or smoothies.

TORTILLAS

Wrap two corn tortillas at a time in wax paper, then in a plastic bag; freeze flat. When you’re ready, stick the wax paper packages right into the microwave for a minute to warm. The same technique works well for cooked waffles and pancakes. Where do you think General Mills got the idea?

EGG WHITES

If you make a lot of ice cream, custard, or other recipes that call for a lot of egg yolks, you will have extra whites. Freeze them in batches of two or three for making meringues, macaroons or angel food cake.

Parmesan rinds

Most cheese freezes well, but there’s not much reason to do it. Parmesan rinds, however, add a great deal to risotto and soups (and can be eaten; they’re delightfully chewy and a little rubbery). Freeze them in zippered bags.

CHICKEN OR DUCK LIVERS, FAT, ETC.

As noted above, they don’t make good stock, but they have other uses. Three livers or so and a small handful of fat makes a nice little batch of chopped liver, for example.

WINE

That last quarter of a bottle? Freeze it, then use it for cooking wine as needed. See stock for best methods.

CITRUS

If you have a surplus of citrus — perhaps someone sent you a case of oranges from Florida or you found lemons for a dollar a pound and went overboard — squeeze them. The juice freezes fairly well. Lemons, limes and oranges also can be frozen whole. When a recipe calls for juice, defrost what you need in the microwave.

BURRITOS

It’s a bit of a project, but you can mass-produce breakfast or other burritos, wrap them individually (first in wax paper, then in plastic), and microwave in a couple of minutes.

This burrito idea can be expanded to include any cooking you do, make a bit extra, or take those leftovers and turn them into one serving frozen meals for future lazy days. No more store brought frozen dinners for you – now you can have a favorite, homemade meal anytime, just look in the freezer.

Washing Machine Shaking the House? This Might Help

We have come across an intriguing product: Shake Away Plus, from Kellett Enterprizes. These pads claim to reduce the noise and vibrations that many front loading washing machines have. Some washers have even been known to “dance” across the laundry room.

Here is the Shakeaway claim:

    Shake Away Plus Vibration Isolation Pads will reduce the hassle of your front load washer vibrating.The package contains 4 KE Shake Away™ PLUS pads .
    They will effectively reduce the transfer of vibration from your washing machine or dryer to the floor surface with it’s five layer design.

    Each pad measures 2-1/2” x 2-1/2” x 1” thick.

The four pads retail for just under $30.00 plus shipping.

Is Your Air Cleaner Cleaning the Air?

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) is the trade association representing manufacturers of major, portable, and floor care appliances and suppliers to the industry. Included in AHAM membership are manufacturers of portable room air cleaners. AHAM is a standards development organization for numerous technical, performance based standards for home appliances. AHAM also administers third party appliance rating verification programs which are available to members and non-members alike.
Portable Room Air Cleaner Performance Standard
In the early 1980s, AHAM developed an objective and repeatable performance test method for measuring the ability of portable household electric room air cleaners to reduce particulate matter from a specific size room. The standard, ANSI/AHAM AC-1-2006, Method for Measuring the Performance of Portable Household Electric Room Air Cleaners, is designed to evaluate portable household electric room air cleaners regardless of the particle removal technology utilized. The resulting performance metric in the standard is called the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR). CADR is a measure of the appliance’s ability to reduce smoke, dust, and pollen particles in the 0.10 to 11 micron (ìm) size range from the air. In ANSI/AHAM AC-1-2006, CADR is defined as “the rate of contaminant reduction in the test chamber when the unit is turned on, minus the rate of natural decay when the unit is not running, multiplied by the volume of the test chamber as measured in cubic feet.”

Comparing CADR Performance
The terms “CADR” and “Clean Air Delivery Rate” are general terms used to make performance claims for many types of products other than portable room air cleaners. CADR values for other products may not have been calculated in accordance with the AC-1 definition of CADR.

Since its original development in the early 1980s, the ANSI/AHAM AC-1 test method has increasingly become the credible industry standard for evaluating portable room air cleaner particle removal performance. In 1989, the FTC confirmed that ANSI/AHAM AC-1 was a reasonable basis for measuring the degrees of reduction of airborne solid p 2 particulate matter from household rooms.

What is Not Covered by ANSI/AHAM AC-1?
Research efforts and experimental tests that have been conducted to develop the method have included only portable devices that are normally placed in a room during operation. One of the key principles of the test is that particles are not to be forced through the product – rather, the product is being tested as it is used – it is placed on a table or on the floor in the chamber in order to allow the unit’s own design and air flow patterns to dictate how many particles go into the unit. In addition, other portable room air cleaner performance characteristics such as the ability of the air cleaner to reduce gases, odors or microbiological components, or the sound and ozone emissions levels of the product are outside the scope of ANSI/AHAM AC-1-2006.

Industry Certification Program (www.cadr.org)
Since 1985, AHAM has administered a portable room air cleaner certification program based on the ANSI/AHAM AC-1standard whereby AHAM, acting as third party using an independent testing laboratory, will verify product ratings certified by program participants.

The seal provides the consumer with a simple tool to compare the performance of room air cleaners, making the purchasing decision easier. It includes the participant’s certified CADR rates for tobacco smoke, dust and pollen, and a suggested room size that is based on the tobacco smoke CADR results. Using the CADR rating seal, consumers can comparison shop, selecting the unit the meets their room size and performance needs. By knowing the size of their room, consumers can choose an effective air cleaner. Portable air cleaner models included in the program are independently tested on a periodic on-going basis to ensure that the units meet the claimed ratings. The models to be tested are randomly selected and are obtained from either the participant’s warehouse or the open market. Units that do not successfully pass the on-going verification process must be re-rated or withdrawn from the market.

Recall: Bunn-O-Matic Single Cup Tea/Coffeemakers Due to Burn Hazard

Name of Product: Bunn® Single Cup Pod Brewers

Units: About 35,600

Manufacturer: Bunn-O-Matic Corp., of Springfield, Ill.

Hazard: The pod drawer of the pod brewer can open unexpectedly during a brew cycle, posing a burn hazard to consumers.

Incidents/Injuries: Bunn-O-Matic has received 10 reports of the drawer opening unexpectedly, including one report of minor burns.

Description: This recall involves Bunn® Single Pod Brewers. Models included in the recall are MCP (My Café Pourover) and MCA (My Café Automatic). The pod brewers have a black body with stainless backsplash and measure 12 inches high by 8 inches wide. “Bunn®” is printed on the front and lights up when the pod brewer is on.

Sold at: Web retailers, department and hardware stores nationwide between August 2004 and March 2009 for about $300.

Manufactured in: United States

Remedy: Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled coffeemakers and contact the firm to obtain two replacement pod drawers.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Bunn-O-Matic at (800) 741-3405 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.bunn.com

LG Electronics Newest Laundry Collection for 2009

It seems there are always changes to be made to our washers and dryers. Sometimes it’s just the color as with LG’s vibrant Riviera Blue and a Graphite Steel finish that offers the look of stainless steel. Other times it might be shapes – the square-door design across its washer/dryer line.

LG’s 2009 performance enhancements include the LG MotionCare(TM) Technology, which uses new cleansing motions to care for clothes and save time and energy; the unique LG TrueBalance(TM) system, to significantly reduce vibration; and an expansion of the company’s pioneering TrueSteam(TM) technology, which offers advanced functionality including the ability to reduce allergens and wrinkles from fabrics.

PERFORMANCE AND DESIGN INNOVATIONS

MotionCare Technology – LG’s advanced MotionCare technologies offer consumers something better in clothing care in addition to a way to save time, water and energy. Until now, washers only used one cleansing motion – tumbling – to clean clothes. LG developed a method to care for clothes with four new washing motions – rolling, stepping, swinging and scrubbing – using LG’s Direct Drive motor to increase efficiency and reduce noise and vibration.

Using various combinations of these washing motions, three MotionCare wash cycles improve clothing care performance and are gentler on fabrics:

* Cold Care cycle uses cold water to clean clothes as effectively as a normal cycle with hot water. Using a combination of tumbling, rolling, scrubbing and stepping motions, cold water in the laundry equals energy savings, gentler care of fabrics and enhanced washing performance.
* Heavy Duty cycle uses a combination of tumbling and stepping to remove the toughest stains in less time, saving both water and energy.
* Enhanced Hand Wash/Wool cycle uses the swinging motion saving consumers time, water and energy while being gentler on delicates.

MotionCare Technology will be available in two models beginning in the third quarter of 2009. The steam technology version has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $1,499 for the washer (Model: WM2901HVA), $1,399 for the electric dryer (Model: DLEX2901) and $1,469 for the gas dryer (Model: DLGX2902). The non-steam model has a manufacturer’s suggested retail price of $1,199 for the washer (Model: WM2701HV), $1,199 for the electric dryer (Model: DLE2701) and $1269 for the gas dryer (Model: DLG2702).

TrueSteam Expansion – As the first company to introduce steam in residential laundry products, LG will extend this popular technology to additional laundry models in 2009, including an all-new washer/dryer pair with an LED display panel. This LED display takes the guesswork out of cycle selection. The laundry pair also incorporates the unique and high-performance features consumers have come to expect from LG’s TrueSteam technology, including the exclusive Allergiene(TM) cycle, designed to reduce common allergens such as dust mites and pet dander on fabrics. With an ultra large 4.5 cubic-foot capacity (IEC), the SteamWasher(TM) saves consumers a significant amount of time and energy. Like all LG laundry systems, the new models are Energy-Star rated.

The models are available at a manufacturer’s suggested retail price ranging from $1,399 to $1,499 for the washer (Model: WM2801) and $1,299 to $1,399 for the dryer (Model: DLEX2801/DLGX2802).

Anti-Vibration Technology – LG extends its TrueBalance Anti-Vibration system to all premium laundry models in 2009. The TrueBalance system helps to offset unbalanced loads in the washer drum, which may produce vibration and noise. The system is designed to minimize overall washer vibration – even in unbalanced loads – allowing for a quieter operation, making LG laundry pairs ideal for placement anywhere in the home, including the second floor.

Cuisinart’s Slow Cooker

If you just have to have the shiniest, sleekest slow cooker on the block, Cuisinart has it for you. But it’s apparently got more than good looks. It holds 6.5 quarts, more than enough to feed a family a hearty dinner. It also features a 24-hour programmable cook time, a digital countdown timer, and three cooking modes. When the cooking is done, it automatically shifts to a Keep Warm mode.

Product Features
• Touchpad control panel with LCD timer display
• 24-hour cooking timer
• Off/On, Warm, Simmer, Low, and High settings
• Removable 6.5-quart, oval ceramic cooking pot
• Automatically shifts to “Warm” when cook time ends
• Brushed stainless steel housing with chrome-plated handles
• Glass lid with stainless steel rim and chrome-plated knob
• Dishwasher-safe lid and ceramic pot
• Nonslip rubber feet
• Includes cooking rack for use with ramekins or other bakeware
• Spiral-bound recipe book with 70 basic to gourmet dishes
• Instruction book
• Limited 3-year product warranty

Of course, all this comes at a price – the Cuisinart 6.5 quart slow cooker, model # PSC-650 retails for about $100.

When Dishwashers were New

Ahhh… those were the days. Or were they? Dishwasher Aids Housewife?!? We’re all glad to have dishwashers these days. In fact, until the recent economic downturn, a dishwasher was considered a necessity in most households, not a luxury. Here’s the text from this 1937 piece of appliance and societal history:

AN ELECTRIC dishwashing machine which uses six quarts of water, cleans all the dishes in the machine in eight minutes. Taking up but little room in kitchen, the mechanism is simple enough to be operated by a child. The dishes are placed in a basket which in turn is placed in the machine. The basket is self-locking, and stationary during the washing operation, thus eliminating all chance of dish breakage. An agitator with four blades revolves around the perforated basket, forcing the water upward between and over the dishes. The water strikes the dishes at all angles, doing a thorough and sanitary job.

The basic mechanics haven’t seemed to have changed much, but note that the basket is loaded and then placed in the machine. That is one heavy load. An eight minute cycle – how much pre-washing was necessary? I’m also wondering just how loud it was? Still, it was a start.

Electrolux in Antarctica

I’ve seen many documentaries about scientists in Antarctica. I’ve seen one that focused on the staff of maintenance workers it takes to keep an outpost running smoothly. The base camps were large campgrounds of barrack-like buildings and with scientists, engineers, and crew, can at times host a large number of people.

On one show, the kitchen staff pointed out that although the outside was cold enough to keep food frozen, storing food outside attracts animals, and the temperatures are really too old for optimal storage. There is also a large amount of laundry to be washed. Electrolux had a plan.

At the Princess Elizabeth Station in Antarctica, you’ll find a high-tech living facility that has all of the home appliances that make life easier for those of us living in warmer climates, including six washing machines, six tumble dryers, ‘A+’ refrigerators, frost-free chest freezers, double ovens, ranges, microwaves and an ‘AAA’ dishwasher.

Due to its continued focus on designing energy efficient home appliances, Electrolux was approached to design the set of appliances for the station. Some of the appliances are even specifically designed for the scientists: the washing machines have larger doors to fit “bulky polar outdoor gear” and the freezers can freeze food for up to a year at -18 degrees Celsius.

According to cnet.com, the appliances are also run entirely on renewable energy: 90 percent of the energy is supplied to the station via wind turbines, and the rest is supplied by solar panels. Preheated water is used in the washing machines to save energy and elaborate waste and water management systems are used as well, contributing to the astonishing 95 percent of waste that the facility is able to recycle.

The Princess Elisabeth Station will focus on researching global warming and climate change, as well as CO2 emissions. On keeping the series of appliances in line with the principles driving the research, Station Manager Johan Berte remarks, “We want to show the world that if you can build a zero emissions facility in the forbidding climate of Antarctica, you can build them anywhere!”

You can read the whole story of Belgium’s Princess Elizabeth Station HERE.