kitchen hacks en-US 7 Surprising Cooking Hacks That Save Time <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/7-surprising-cooking-hacks-that-save-time" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="cooking" title="cooking" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>We all need to find ways to save time, if for no other reason than we need <a href="">adequate time to rest and relax</a>. Food prep can take up a significant amount of time, and if we've had a long day, we're likely to order take-out or grab food that's quick, easy, and less-than-nutritious. Here are seven surprising cooking hacks that will keep our tummies satisfied while saving time. (See also: <a href="">6 &quot;As Seen on TV Kitchen&quot; Gadgets That Are Actually Worth the Money</a>)</p> <h2>1. Cook From Frozen</h2> <p>When it come to frozen ingredients &mdash; meat, veggies, fruits &mdash; don't bother defrosting before cooking. Fish? <a href="">You bet</a> (and any way you like &mdash; grilled, steamed, roasted, sauteed&hellip;). Steaks and chops? Absolutely! In fact, you'll be dabbling in the dark arts of molecular gastronomy with this method. While this recipe for <a href="">frozen seared steak</a> calls for freezing a fresh cut for an hour, then searing, you can just as well pull a frozen steak out of the icebox, sear it, then slow cook it in the oven for about an hour (which should give you time to get out of your work clothes and unwind from the day before dinner).</p> <h2>2. The Quickest Way to Perfect Pasta</h2> <p>Boiling a giant pot of water for pasta isn't necessary. Save time, water, and energy with your frying pan. Harold McGee, author of &quot;<a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=0143122312&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20">Keys to Good Cooking</a>,&quot; suggests <a href="">placing the pasta in a frying pan</a>, covering it with about a quart and a half of water, and then cooking until <em>al dente</em>. Next, drain the pasta but save that starchy water at the bottom of the pan; it's <a href="">the perfect thickener</a> for pasta sauces.</p> <h2>3. No-Fail Crispy Roasted Chicken</h2> <p>The key to making crispy chicken is a very hot, dry oven. Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels. Season the skin with salt and pepper, put it into a pre-heated 500 degree oven, close the door, and bake for 60 minutes (or until a meat thermometer in the thigh reads 165). Don't open the door and don't add anything else to the oven. One hour later you'll have perfectly cooked chicken &mdash; crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. The extremely hot oven sears the outside, sealing in all of the juices while perfectly crisping the skin.</p> <h2>4. Gourmet Bakery Bread at Home</h2> <p>Do you covet those perfect boules of bread at your corner bakery? I tried many times to replicate them at home with my bread pans to no avail. Then I got a tip from master baker Jim Lahey at <a href="">Sullivan Street Bakery</a>. The trick is a very hot cast iron Dutch oven with a cover.</p> <p>Preheat the Dutch oven for 30 minutes in a 500 degree oven. It will be extremely hot so carefully remove it from the oven. Place your dough (such as this <a href="">easy No-Knead dough</a>) in the Dutch oven, replace the cover, and carefully place it back in the oven for 30 minutes. Then remove the cover and continue to bake it for an additional 15 minutes so that the crust turns a deep golden brown. When you take it out, remove it from the Dutch oven and place it on a cooling rack. If you listen closely, you'll hear the bread crackle. This is the sound of the air bubbles in the dough popping to give the inside of the bread a rich, chewy texture.</p> <h2>5. Crock-Pot Desserts</h2> <p>While we turn to our crock-pots for pot roast, soups, and stews, it's also an amazing kitchen tool for warm and decadent desserts that cook while you're preparing and eating dinner without consuming any of your oven space. For example, a crockpot pulls together a chocolate fondue and keeps the chocolate at the perfect temperature while you skewer and dip items like marshmallows, strawberries, and pineapple without any danger of burning the chocolate or having it prematurely harden. The Stir offers these <a href="">seven sinful crock-pot dessert recipes</a>.</p> <h2>6. An Easy Way to Keep Fresh Grated Ginger On-Hand</h2> <p>Ginger is one of my favorite spices. I use it in stir-fries, sauces, smoothies, and to season rice. I used to just toss it in my vegetable drawer and deal with the fact that I would probably not use it all before it went south. Then I learned that freezing ginger right away makes it easy to peel and grate.</p> <p>Still, I wanted an easy and fast way to toss it into my recipes without peeling and grating it every time I wanted to use some. I found this tip to portion it out and <a href="">freeze it in teaspoonfuls</a>. The perfect single-use portions keep for six months in an airtight container in the freezer.</p> <h2>7. The Fastest Way to Thaw Meat</h2> <p>If you're determined to thaw before cooking despite the advice above, here's a way to thaw a steak in less than 15 minutes.</p> <p>For the longest time the USDA and other experts advised against thawing meat, fish, and poultry in hot water. The idea was that doing so would hold the meat in the temperature &quot;danger zone&quot; where bacteria thrive. However, the <a href="">hot water thawing method</a> is so fast, meats don't spend enough time in the danger zone for bacteria to really bloom.</p> <p>Hot water from your tap is hot enough. Fill up a stock pot, drop in your plastic wrapped (or ziplocked) meat in the bath, and give it an occasional stir.</p> <p>The method is great for cuts up to an inch thick. Bigger pieces &mdash; like roasts or whole birds &mdash; take too long to thaw, and should be thawed the old fashioned way (in the fridge, on the counter, or in cold water).</p> <p>I hope these surprising and easy tips make mealtime and snack time a snap for you and your family.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>Have any surprising kitchen time-savers you'd like to share? Hurry and add them to comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="7 Surprising Cooking Hacks That Save Time" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Christa Avampato</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink cooking hacks cooking tricks kitchen hacks kitchen time savers Wed, 11 Jun 2014 17:07:53 +0000 Christa Avampato 1142400 at 5 Unusual Ways to Open a Bottle of Beer (Without a Bottle Opener!) <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5-unusual-ways-to-open-a-bottle-of-beer-without-a-bottle-opener" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="beer bottle" title="beer bottle" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I moved my company to our first workspace, my team and I spent a very long day building and installing new equipment. That long day ended up turning into a long night but we finally finished the job around 10 o'clock. To celebrate a job well done, we decided to make it a pizza and beer night. But, of course, being a workshop, we never thought about the fact that there wasn't anything resembling a bottle opener in our space. Fail.</p> <p>So, learn from our mistakes! Here are five easy ways to open a beer bottle using everyday items (that aren't bottle openers).</p> <h2>1. Using a Single Piece of Paper</h2> <p>An incredibly easy method that involves folding a piece of paper enough times to create a hard enough edge that can create pressure against the bottle top and open it.</p> <p><iframe width="605" height="340" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <h2>2. Using Another Bottle</h2> <p>If you've got one beer bottle, then you've probably got two! Use one bottle against the other with this easy method.</p> <p><iframe width="605" height="340" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <h2>3. Using a Door Jamb</h2> <p>This is the one I wish I had known about, as there are an abundance of doors and door frames out there! A clever use of an everyday item we take for granted.</p> <p><iframe width="605" height="454" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <h2>4. Using a Spoon</h2> <p>A little less fool-proof than the other methods, this one involves using the spoon like you would a traditional bottle opener. It may take a few times to get the hang of it, but if you've got a spoon and time on your hands, this method is for you.</p> <p><iframe width="605" height="340" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <h2>5. Using a Ring</h2> <p>Not recommended for family heirlooms or rings that are fancy enough that they need to be insured (although that would be an interesting conversation with your insurance agent), but this method is a quick and easy solution to opening a bottle.</p> <p><iframe width="605" height="340" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="" src="//"></iframe></p> <p><em>How do you get a bottle open when you're short a bottle opener? Please share in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="5 Unusual Ways to Open a Bottle of Beer (Without a Bottle Opener!)" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Megan Brame</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips beer bottle opener kitchen hacks resourcefulness Fri, 16 May 2014 08:48:26 +0000 Megan Brame 1139411 at 8 Things You Can Microwave Besides Food <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-things-you-can-microwave-besides-food" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="microwave" title="microwave" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The average household microwave is used much more frequently throughout the day than people realize. (See also: <a href="">5 Best Microwaves</a>)</p> <p>If you&#39;re unaware how often you &quot;nuke&quot; leftovers, warm up a cup of room temperature coffee, or make a bag of popcorn, try living without a microwave for about a week. You&#39;ll realize quickly how easy life is with a microwave and how essential the appliance is to your daily routine.</p> <p>Few people also realize that the box of electromagnetic radiation and wavelengths hanging above your oven is handy for countless other tasks besides warming your day-old burrito. From sponges to crayons, and even dirt, here are eight things you can microwave besides food. (See also: <a href="">14 Dishes You Can Make in the Microwave</a>)</p> <h2>1. Sponges</h2> <p>After two or three really good marathon dishwashing sessions, it&#39;s tempting to toss a soaking wet and stinky sponge into the trash and grab a fresh one from the package, but that&#39;s not always the most cost effective idea. Instead of trashing sponges, disinfect and bring them back to life in the microwave. Just soak a used sponge in water spiked with white vinegar or lemon juice. Heat it on high for about a minute. This will disinfect the sponge, increase the sponge&#39;s usefulness, and save you money. (See also: <a href="">Spring Cleaning on a Budget</a>)</p> <h2>2. Soil</h2> <p>It seems rather odd to sterilize dirt (especially since we&#39;re usually concerned with sterilizing things that got <em>in</em> the dirt), but soil is sterilized to ensure plants have the best growing environment possible. Sterilization kills weed seeds or any random organisms lingering in the dirt that will eventually be harmful to your plants. Put about a pint of moistened soil in a microwave-safe plastic bag. Leave the bag open, and nuke it on high for about two minutes. Presto! Clean dirt.</p> <h2>3. Heating Pads</h2> <p>Aches and pains are sadly a part of life. Thankfully all those pains often need is a nice, warm compress. While there are several useful microwaveable heating pads on the market, if you&#39;re looking to save some cash, you can easily make your own and soothe those recurring ailments on the cheap. (See also: <a href="">Natural Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles</a>)</p> <h2>4. Beauty Products</h2> <p>The microwave is perfect for warming up hot-oil conditioning packs for your hair or moisturizing facial masks. Just be sure to test the temperature of the products before applying to your scalp or face. If you&#39;re the brave soul still self-applying hot wax to remove unwanted hair, nuke the wax for a couple seconds if it starts to harden while you&#39;re silently sobbing between each painful rip. To ungunk your mascara applicator, heat up a mug of water for about a minute, remove it from the microwave, and drop your mascara bottle into the hot water for a couple minutes. (See also: <a href="">Makeup Advice for the Frugal</a>)</p> <h2>5. Custom T-Shirts</h2> <p>You can dye fabric for your next kid&#39;s birthday party or a T-shirt for the next Phish reunion concert. Just make sure the fabric is microwave safe and that it doesn&#39;t have any buttons, zippers, or other metal that might spark up during the heating process.</p> <h2>6. Crayons</h2> <p>Do the kids constantly beg for a new box of crayons after every art project? Grab that box of unwrapped and broken crayons and melt them back to life. Pick up some microwaveable molds from the dollar store and turn the crayons into different shapes and odd colors or just melt similar shades back into new crayons.</p> <h2>7. Plates</h2> <p>There is nothing better than going out to eat and enjoying warm food on a nice toasty plate, yet it never dawns on us to warm up our dishes at home. The next time you prepare an amazing meal, put your serving dishes in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds. Just make sure the dishes are microwavable first</p> <h2>8. Candle Wax</h2> <p>There are few things more frustrating than removing candle wax. To get the most out of decorative votives, use the microwave to remove leftover wax from old and unusable candles. Again, be sure to microwave only glass votives. You can also give old and almost dead candles the &quot;crayon treatment&quot; mentioned earlier and make new candles by microwaving and melting them into new shapes. All you need is a pack of wicks from the craft store.</p> <p><em>What odd things have you nuked in your microwave? Tell us in comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Things You Can Microwave Besides Food" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Chris Illuminati</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips crafts kitchen hacks microwave Mon, 13 Jan 2014 10:48:06 +0000 Chris Illuminati 1110360 at Kitchen Hacks: I Can Make This in That? <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/kitchen-hacks-i-can-make-this-in-that" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="man in kitchen" title="man in kitchen" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When the buzz started building around Pinterest early this year, I was hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. The last thing I needed was another social network in my life. But I have to say &mdash; Pinterest is a revelation. I make a new recipe that I&rsquo;ve posted to my boards almost every night of the week, and I&rsquo;ve learned lots of cool life hacks that have saved me time and money. One of the neatest parts of Pinterest is finding new ways to use old things &mdash; specifically in the kitchen. Here are some of my favorite finds using what I have laying around for something entirely unexpected. (See also: <a href="">Another 36 Uses for Tin Foil</a>)</p> <h2>Buttermilk Ice Cubes</h2> <p>When I buy a carton of buttermilk, I use a cup or two, and the rest spoils in the fridge. To <a href="">make your buttermilk last so you can enjoy every last drop</a>, fill up an ice tray with the leftover liquid, freeze it, and thaw it when you&rsquo;re in need. Each cube equals about two tablespoons of liquid. This is also a great way to preserve fresh herbs in olive oil.</p> <h2>Freezer Jam</h2> <p>Love fresh jam but hate the time-intensive process of cooking and canning? <a href="">Freezer jam</a> is the solution to that problem. The process is easy. First, wash, hull, and stem the fruit; then mash it in a large bowl. In another bowl, combine sugar and pectin until well blended. Add the pectin mix to the fruit and let it stand for three minutes. Pour the mixture into jars, screw on the lids, and let it stand for 30 minutes before putting it into the fridge or freezer. The resulting jam can be stored in the freezer for up to a year and lasts in the fridge for up to three weeks.</p> <h2>Slow-Cooker Bread</h2> <p>My dad bought my mom a bread machine for Christmas one year. She made three loaves, then put it in her special cupboard where appliances go to die. Waste of money. If she had known how to make slow-cooker bread &mdash; using the Crock-Pot she already had &mdash; my dad might&rsquo;ve used that extra money to win big at the casino and buy me a new car. But I digress. To <a href="">make slow-cooker bread</a>, put a pound of ready-made refrigerated or fresh dough in the pot and bake it on high for an hour or so, checking it for doneness &mdash; by sticking a toothpick in it &mdash; at the 45-minute mark.</p> <h2>Tin Can Cake</h2> <p>Instead of rinsing out the tin can from which you just emptied corn and tossing it in the recycling bin, hold on to it &mdash; so you can make the cutest individual cakes ever. The <a href="">instructions for making a tin-can cake</a> are exactly the same as any other vessel &ndash; wash it, grease it, fill it, bake it &mdash; except the resulting mini-cake is far and away more adorable.</p> <h2>Mason Jar Smoothies</h2> <p>Did you know that <a href="">most standard blender blades screw onto a Mason jar perfectly</a>? When you want to make a smoothie without dirtying the blender <i>and</i> a glass from which to drink it, prepare the ingredients in a Mason jar, screw on the blender blade, pop it onto the blender motor, and puree away. You can use this hack for lots of other blendable items like salsa and <a href="">dressings</a>, too. Now they go from blender to fridge with nothing to clean up until the jar is empty.</p> <h2>Canning Lid Eggs</h2> <p>If you like egg sandwiches, you probably grapple with the issue of how to get scrambled eggs to be the exact size as your English muffin or biscuit. <a href="">Mason jar lids are the answer to keeping the runny liquid contained</a>, so the eggs stay the round in shape, just like the sandwich rolls.</p> <h2>Muffin Pan Hard-Boiled Eggs</h2> <p>Tired of wasting time waiting for water to boil? To <a href="">make easier-than-ever hard-boiled eggs</a>, place fresh eggs in a muffin tin in a 325- to 350-degree oven for 30 minutes. In the pan, the <a href="">eggs</a> won&rsquo;t bump into each other from vigorously boiling water, so premature cracking is almost nonexistent.</p> <h2>Bell Pepper Dip Cups</h2> <p>Don&rsquo;t pull a separate bowl out of the cabinet for your veggie dip. Instead, cut the top off a bell pepper, hollow it out, and serve the dip in <a href="">this fresh, colorful, edible bowl</a> that Mother Nature made.</p> <h2>Peppermint Bark in a Silicone Mold</h2> <p>I love, love, looooove this idea &mdash; and I can&rsquo;t wait to make this <a href="">peppermint bark in a silicone mold</a> for my annual holiday party this year. Use a snowflake (or other festively shaped) silicone mold to make homemade bark or chocolates by filling the mold with melted dark chocolate, followed by white chocolate, then topping with crushed candy canes. They look like something you&rsquo;d pay a pretty penny for at a chocolate shop, but I bet they&rsquo;ll taste much better because you made them.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Pumpkin Beverage Cooler</h2> <p><a href="">Cut a large pumpkin in half, hollow it out, and fill it with drinks and ice</a>. Easy breezy. Your guests will be impressed.</p> <p><em>What common items are you making in unexpected contraptions? Let us all know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Kitchen Hacks: I Can Make This in That?" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY Food and Drink Home alternative uses easy recipes kitchen hacks Fri, 14 Sep 2012 10:36:42 +0000 Mikey Rox 954471 at 10 Great Ways to Use Duct Tape <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-great-ways-to-use-duct-tape" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Shelf of duct tape rolls" title="Shelf of duct tape rolls" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Everyone knows that duct tape is very useful for fixing things (and it has some wacky applications), but I bet you didn&rsquo;t know these 10 great ways to use it! (See also: <a href="">Top 10 Unusual Uses for Duct Tape</a>)</p> <h2>1. Splinter Remover</h2> <p>Instead of breaking out the tweezers and ripping your finger open, remove splinters by placing a piece of duct tape over the splinter. If the splinter is exposed, lift the tape straight up. If the splinter is not exposed, leave the tape on for a half hour, then slowly peel away the tape and the splinter along with it.</p> <h2>2. Keep Snacks Fresh</h2> <p>Chips getting stale? Use a piece of duct tape to keep the air out of bags of chips. I&rsquo;m always losing my chip clips, so a cheap, disposable method works great for me!</p> <h2>3. Wart Treatment</h2> <p>Remove warts with duct tape. The <a href="">duct tape acts as an irritant to the wart</a>, which causes the immune system to attack it. Place duct tape over the wart for six days, then soak the wart in water and scrape the area using a pumice stone. Reapply the tape the following day and repeat this treatment until the wart goes away.</p> <h2>4. Bandage Replacement</h2> <p>Run out of bandages? Place a tissue or cotton ball directly onto the wound and use duct tape to hold it in place. That&rsquo;s all a bandage is anyway, and this guy won&rsquo;t come off as easily as a Band-Aid.</p> <h2>5. Lint Roller</h2> <p>Remove lint, hairs, and feathers from your clothing by wrapping a piece of duct tape around your hand and pressing the duct tape to your clothing. This is a great way to remove pet hair, too!</p> <h2>6. Book Covers</h2> <p>Create a durable, creative, and waterproof book cover using different colors of duct tape. First wrap a book in newspaper, and then cover the paper with a few layers of duct tape. This is a great idea for people who try and sell their books back at the end of the semester.</p> <h2>7. Shoe Waterproofing</h2> <p>Create a pair of waterproof shoes for gardening or hiking. Cover your shoes with duct tape to prevent water and dirt from getting in. (Bonus tip: Protect your ankles from ticks by wrapping duct tape around your pant cuffs to seal out the nasty bugs!)</p> <h2>8. Hem Pants</h2> <p>If your pants are too long, use duct tape as a temporary fix by folding the pants under and taping them from the inside. This one is perfect for hand-me-downs where you want to leave room for growth.</p> <h2>9. Extend Sports Gear</h2> <p>Whether you need to tighten your shin guards (using tight strips of duct tape), extend the life of a hockey stick (wrap the bottom of the stick), or fix torn ski pants (patch them up), just put some duct tape on it.</p> <h2>10. Fly Catcher</h2> <p>Hang strips of duct tape on your porch or in your cabin. The sticky tape will catch the unwanted bugs and flies that are ruining your good time.</p> <p>Don't you just love when household items can serve several purposes and save you money? Check out some of these novels ways to use <a href="">vinegar</a> or <a href="">toothpaste</a>, too!</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Great Ways to Use Duct Tape" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Daniel Packer</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> DIY clothing Home repair kitchen hacks Fri, 28 Oct 2011 10:24:16 +0000 Daniel Packer 763533 at Life Without a Microwave <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/life-without-a-microwave" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Broken microwave" title="Broken microwave" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I have lived without a microwave for over 10 years now, and I don't miss it. When I moved into my first apartment after college, I was a vegan and very strict about my lifestyle choices. There was just something unsettling about nuking my food, so I chose to equip my kitchen without a microwave. Although I'm less neurotic now (and enjoy eating a rare steak and then diving into a pint of Ben and Jerry's afterwards), I still think that food isn't as flavorful if it's cooked in a microwave. Plus, cooking without a microwave encourages fewer TV dinners and healthier eating habits.</p> <p>Coming from a family who used the microwave all the time, I had to make some adjustments after no longer having this convenience. Now I don't even think about it unless I am entertaining a guest who wants to know where the microwave is. I also learned to appreciate cooking after making the transition to a microwave-free life, since it sort of forced me to slow down whenever I was in the kitchen. Not to get too Zen on you, but there are many larger benefits to tossing your microwave. If you thought you could never live without one, consider these alternatives to the most common uses for microwaves. (See also: <a href="">7 Ways to Make the Most of a Tiny Kitchen</a>)</p> <h3>Heat Leftovers in a Toaster Oven</h3> <p>I didn't own a toaster oven until a few years ago. I thought it was one of those pointless appliances taking up more counter space, especially since I already had a toaster. But if you are considering life without a microwave, a toaster oven will make your transition much easier. For me, it is essential for heating up leftovers and making anything I want to melt cheese on. You could always use the oven, but it takes a lot less energy and time to heat up a toaster oven.</p> <p>Because toaster ovens are small, you may have to find the right containers to heat your leftovers in. I use a mini bread pan, which fits perfectly if I take out the top rack. I wouldn't recommend using your dishes, unless they are safe in high temps. I also like to use it to make mini pizzas, melted cheese sandwiches, and cinnamon toast. A toaster oven is more versatile than a microwave in that respect, since the bread would get soggy in the microwave. You don't have to spend a fortune on one either, especially if you are a bargain hunter. I found mine at a thrift store for ten bucks, and aside from some of my favorite albums, it's probably the best ten dollars I've ever spent.</p> <h3>Warm Drinks and Food on the Stove</h3> <p>This may seem like an obvious one for things like soup, but what about when you want to warm up your coffee or tea? I simply pour my beverage into a pot and warm it up, which does require washing another dish. Still, I find that I can control the heat better than sticking my mug in the microwave, which I do occasionally when I'm at a friend's house and I don't want to seem too odd for pulling out the pots and pans. I always end up having to put it back in the microwave because it isn't hot enough. On the stove, you can easily tell when it is at the temp you want.</p> <p>This method is ideal for quickly heating up leftovers as well, and using the stove also encourages recreating your leftovers, since you've already pulled out all your cooking utensils. Now you can get creative and make an entirely new meal that will take you less time than your original creation.</p> <h3>Use Cold Water to Defrost Meat</h3> <p>If you are one of those people (like me) who forgets to take the meat out of the freezer the night before you want to cook it, you can use the cold water method. It might not be as fast as using a microwave, but it will thaw the meat more evenly. Put the meat in a watertight bag and submerse it in cold water. Make sure the water stays cold, and if the meat takes longer than 30 minutes to defrost, be sure to change the water to keep it cool. It really depends on the size and how frozen the meat is. It could take close to an hour, but you could use that time to make other preparations as well.</p> <p>To speed up the process, you can put the meat under running cold water and flip it from side to side, though this does waste more water. Someone recently suggested putting the meat in a washing machine in cold water on the gentle cycle, since it's the agitation that helps defrost the meat faster. I've yet to try this method, but if you are going to venture out, I'd say just be careful and keep the lid open so you can watch the meat and stop it before the spin cycle &mdash; that could be quite a mess in the end. Either way, make sure to use cold water and change it often if you are soaking larger quantities.</p> <h3>Make Popcorn on the Stove</h3> <p>This is the one savory snack that comes to mind for my houseguests when they discover that there's no microwave in my kitchen. Our Senior Editor has the bases covered on <a href="">how to make your own popcorn</a>. I would only add that I've found that using a heavier pot works the best, and it's important to clean it completely if you are going for a second batch. Otherwise, the kernels tend to stick. Another advantage to consider is that you can get more creative with stovetop popcorn. Try adding some nutritional yeast instead of butter (another throwback from my vegan days). Or go exotic with a little curry powder and cinnamon. I'm a traditionalist for the most part, so I tend to just add salt. But the possibilities are endless when it doesn't come from a bag, not to mention healthier. How many times have you eaten an entire bag of popcorn? You can also control your portion sizes when you pop on the stove.</p> <p>Ultimately, life without a microwave helps remind me how fast-paced life in our culture can be sometimes. Not having the convenience of the two-minute meal is a blessing if you think about it that way. Slowing down and savoring every part of the meal, from preparing it to eating it, is just one simple way to really appreciate and enjoy the rare moments of peace most of us get throughout the busy work week. And there are plenty of ways to do it without a microwave.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Life Without a Microwave" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Ashley Watson</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink appliances kitchen hacks microwave Thu, 07 Jul 2011 10:24:58 +0000 Ashley Watson 610962 at 10 Ways to Reuse Common Household Items <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-ways-to-reuse-common-household-items" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Seedlings in egg carton" title="Seedlings in egg carton" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>If you&rsquo;re anything like me, you&rsquo;re throwing out too much with the trash. Even though I recycle, I often think that I could surely be doing more to cut down on waste. With a little creative thinking, I&rsquo;ve come up with a list of 10 household items I could be saving rather than tossing out. Here they are, along with some of the ways they can be reused. (See also: <a href="">Garbage Into Gold: Great Ways to Recycle Old Containers</a>)</p> <h2>Dish Soap Bottles</h2> <p>Use an old, thoroughly cleaned dish soap bottle (or any squeeze bottle) to dole out a perfect amount of pancake batter onto a hot griddle. You can also use a squeeze bottle as a convenient way to fill an iron with water or water out-of-the-way plants.</p> <h2>Egg Cartons</h2> <p>Used egg cartons (preferably well-cleaned Styrofoam ones) are excellent for freezing individual portions of all kinds of things &mdash; cookie dough batter, meatballs, homemade herb-butter patties. You could also use the cartons as convenient Jell-O molds for fun treats. They're also a great way to start seedlings for your garden. And if you have enough, use the cartons to store golf balls or organize change, which is especially convenient for garage and bake sales.</p> <h2>Floor Tiles</h2> <p>Make a beautiful piece of mosaic art. Gather up unused remnant tiles (or ask for some from your local home-improvement store), break carefully into pieces in a cloth bag, and arrange in a pattern on any solid surface. Adhere with floor-tile adhesive, and use a putty knife to push grout into the cracks after the adhesive dries. Wipe excess grout away with a damp cloth before it sets. You can also make a mosaic table or use large tiles to <a href="">make an old tabletop new</a>. Smaller tiles can be used for trivets.</p> <h2>Old Socks</h2> <p>Use the lone socks that the sock gnome left behind to keep small toys organized or to keep odds and ends like screws and paper clips in one convenient location. You could also put old socks over your shoes when doing something messy (like painting), or when your shoes are a wreck but you need to run inside for a minute. Feel free to hand them out to maintenance men and repairmen who tromp through your house, too. Try using others as dog or cat toys &mdash; put a tennis ball in one for the dog, or catnip in the cat&rsquo;s, and sew closed. (See also: <a title="DIY pet toys" href="">10 DIY Dob Toys You Can Make for Pennies</a>)</p> <h2>Old T-Shirts</h2> <p>When your husband&rsquo;s fraternity T-shirts have more holes in them than the family colander, it&rsquo;s time to retire the man-jersey. Pay homage to his favorite tees by sewing them into a pillow (for the man-cave), or just throw them into the dog&rsquo;s crate. Better yet, use those babies for cleaning rags or to wrap breakables when moving. Your husband will appreciate his old shirts being given new life. Maybe.</p> <h2>Paper Towel Rolls</h2> <p>Keep your plastic bags contained by stuffing them in an empty paper towel roll. And while you&rsquo;re at it, keep extension cords untangled by rolling them up and putting them through a paper towel roll. You can also organize hair bands and hair clips, roll your linens around paper towel rolls to keep them crease-free, or make boot trees so your over-the-knee boots won&rsquo;t get unsightly creases in them after spending the summer slouched over in the back of your closet.</p> <h2>Plastic Shopping Bags</h2> <p>You already know how to keep plastic shopping bags contained in an empty paper towel roll. Now put the bags to use by lining bathroom waste cans with them. If you collect enough, plastic bags make excellent packing material in place of those awful packing peanuts. They&rsquo;re also great for keeping flour and sugar from spilling all over your pantry shelves.</p> <h2>Shoe Boxes</h2> <p>Being a small-time shoe diva myself, I&rsquo;ve collected more than my fair share of empty shoe <a href="">boxes</a> over the years. I put the boxes to good use by making them into storage bins for my closet &mdash; rather than spend a fortune on matching boxes, I&rsquo;ve wrapped them all in similar wrapping paper and printed off labels for easy identification. I also use empty shoe boxes as dresser-drawer organizers. You might also want to use your empty shoe boxes for, well, shoe storage. Take pictures of your inventory and tape them to the outside of the boxes to quickly spot the pair you&rsquo;re looking for in the closet.</p> <h2>Shower Curtains</h2> <p>I know this is a surprise, but I have somehow accumulated a number of old shower curtains over the years. I plan on using some as tablecloths for an outdoor gathering, while others I&rsquo;ll use as drop cloths the next time I paint the walls. Another will be reused as a windshield cover to prevent frost build-up. Simply cut the shower curtain to the size of your windshield and hem in magnets to keep the cover in place. The magnets should stick to your car's metal windshield frame (see this <a href="">windshield cover</a> for an idea of how it should work). (See also: <a title="remove frost on windshields" href="">3 Cheap and Easy Formulas for Homemade Windshield De-Icer</a>)</p> <h2>Wine Corks</h2> <p>Don&rsquo;t just toss all the wine corks you&rsquo;ve accumulated over the years! Make a floating keychain to keep track of your keys the next time you set sail, or use another to safely store knives in a drawer. Use some to make a <a href="">stylish wreath</a> for your front door. You could also make an actual <a href="">cork board</a> to hold messages and important pieces of paper. (See also: <a title="reuse wine corks" href="">25 Things to Do with Used Corks</a>)</p> <p><em>What about you? Are there any household items that you reuse in a creative way, or do you have another use for one of these items? Share your thoughts in the comments!</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Ways to Reuse Common Household Items" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Janey Osterlind</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Green Living articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Green Living Home cheap storage kitchen hacks reduce reuse Thu, 14 Apr 2011 10:00:22 +0000 Janey Osterlind 523714 at Dilutions of Grandeur: Stretch Your Food at Every Meal <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/dilutions-of-grandeur-stretch-your-food-at-every-meal" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Measuring Cup" title="Measuring Cup" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>When I was kid, the chocolate milk mom served always looked suspiciously pale in my glass. It was as if somewhere between the carton and the table, the ratio of chocolate (good) to milk (not-so-good) had been tampered with in a very unholy way. Of course, now I understand that mom was exercising one the fundamental methods of frugality &mdash; dilution.</p> <p>Today, so many of our foods and beverages are rich &mdash; so overly sweet, overly sour, or overly salty that diluting them seems more a matter of taste than a matter of money. Let&rsquo;s take a look meal-by-meal at how a little creative diluting can stretch your food budget without sacrificing taste or nutrition. (See also: <a href="">Organic Groceries on a Budget</a>)</p> <h2>Breakfast</h2> <p>Fruit juices and flavored waters can be taken down a few notches on the sweetness scale by adding one part water to every two parts of the original drink. Dilute a 6 oz. glass of chocolate milk with 2-4 oz. of skim for a lighter, cheaper, and ultimately healthier drink. Super-sweet (and super-expensive) brand-name cereals or granola can become &ldquo;deluxe topping&rdquo; for less-expensive bran flakes, oatmeal, or even yogurt.</p> <h2>Lunch</h2> <p>Adding extra beans to chili or a cup of rice to tomato soup or stews can stretch a meal while stretching your budget. Even everyone&rsquo;s old college friend, <a href="">ramen noodles</a>, can be added to a variety of dishes to make meals more substantial and far less expensive. Dilute two parts iced tea or lemonade with one part water for better-tasting drinks without the sour-face.</p> <h2>Dinner</h2> <p>A dear friend of mine was raised by his Polish grandparents during the 1980s and 1990s. He remembers his grandmother&rsquo;s approach to serving meat during meals: Back in the lean years of her youth and early marriage, meat was used as flavoring in other dishes rather than as the main course itself. Cuts of beef, pork, and chicken were essential parts of generations-old recipes that used more expensive ingredients to flavor less-expensive but nutrient-dense foods.</p> <p>Dilution is simply about using less and wisely stretching what you have so it lasts longer. Sharing is another way of exercising the same basic principle &mdash; diluting contents or reducing portions so smaller amounts can be enjoyed by more people. When I travel with friends, I often suggest splitting the price of a 12 oz. coffee and asking if the barista will put 6 oz. in two separate cups. You might be surprised that this usually works without any trouble at all. We each get a more reasonably sized cup of coffee, pay less, and waste less.</p> <p><em>What are some ways you exercise a little friendly dilution without your kids catching on?&nbsp;What are the best recipes you&rsquo;ve come up with that use these same principles to stretch your food budget without sacrificing culinary kudos? How does the art of dilution apply to other areas of your household?</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Dilutions of Grandeur: Stretch Your Food at Every Meal" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Food and Drink articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Food and Drink affordable food kitchen hacks stretching your dollar Wed, 23 Feb 2011 13:48:14 +0000 Kentin Waits 493918 at 28 Innovative Uses for Binder Clips <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/28-innovative-uses-for-binder-clips" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Binder Clips" title="Uses for Binder Clips" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="167" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>I like finding different uses for everyday household items and office supplies. Not only does it save me money, it also keeps my mind working overtime. &ldquo;What can I do with these?&rdquo; runs around my head way too often, sometimes to the point where I&rsquo;m sketching out ideas for used pens or old boxes.</p> <p>A recent trip to Office Depot had me picking up a box of binder clips that were on special. I went with the intention of getting these clips for a specific purpose (the mundane use of holding documents together) but what else could I do with them? Here&rsquo;s what I discovered after some brainwaves and a little Internet searching:</p> <h3>1. A Money Clip or Wallet</h3> <p>Hey, it&rsquo;s not something a respectable Mafia boss would carry, but if you&rsquo;re just looking for a cheap and efficient way to keep your bills in one place, this isn&rsquo;t too shabby.</p> <p><img height="266" width="400" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>2. A Desk Cable Tidier</h3> <p>If you&rsquo;re like me, you have cables galore around your desk. Sort them out with a few binder clips. Mix up the colors or even paint the boring black ones to match your d├ęcor.</p> <h3>3. Keep Pacifiers Off the Floor</h3> <p>When my kids were using pacifiers, we would see them get spit out and hit the floor more often than we could count. So we bought some special pacifier holders that clipped to the clothing of our little ones. But there&rsquo;s a cheaper solution: Tie a piece of string around the pacifier, tie the other end to the small binder clip, and then attach somewhere out of reach. No more soiled pacifiers covered in dirt and fluff.</p> <h3>4. Clothespins</h3> <p>They&rsquo;re not as cheap as clothespins, but if you&rsquo;re in a pinch and have none left, substituting with binder clips will easily do the job.</p> <h3>5. Clothing Alterations</h3> <p>We use binder clips in the advertising business to make clothes appear more tailored in photoshoots. If you&rsquo;ve seen <em>Lost in Translation</em>, you&rsquo;ll know the scene where Bill Murray goes out and about after a shoot and has binder clips all over the back of his suit. You can use them to hold up cuffs on jeans or shirt sleeves, or even use smaller ones as temporary fixes on ripped seams. I also use binder clips to hold the end of a flapping belt to the side of my jeans.&nbsp;</p> <h3>6. Cuff Links</h3> <p>The hipster in you will love this one. Grab yourself some all-steel or gold-colored binder clips and make a cool fashion statement that costs just pennies.</p> <h3>7. Toothpaste Squeezer</h3> <p>Keep a binder clip at the bottom of the new toothpaste tube and use it to keep the rolled up tube in place. You&rsquo;ll make the toothpaste last longer.</p> <p><img height="300" width="400" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>8. A Quick-and-Easy Kid's Doodle Pad</h3> <p>Grab a handful of blank pages (I use construction paper), and hold them together with a binder clip and a sheet of thick cardstock for sturdiness. Now tie a pen or pencil to a piece of string and tie that to the binder clip: a simple doodle pad that always has a pen attached.</p> <h3>9. Boot and Shoe Hangers</h3> <p>Running out of space? Use binder clips to keep shoes together, and hang them out of the way using the binder clips.</p> <h3>10. Cell Phone Stand/iPod Holder</h3> <p>A little ingenuity and some trial-and-error will give you a cell phone or iPod stand that works just as well as those costing $10 or more.</p> <p><img height="266" width="400" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>11. Bookmark</h3> <p>Better to use a small binder clip than to dog-ear your precious pages.</p> <h3>12. Finger Workout</h3> <p>Start small and work up to bigger and bigger binder clips. This is particularly good for guitar players who need to strengthen their smaller fingers.</p> <h3>13. Tablecloth Holder</h3> <p>When we have parties for our kids, the first thing we buy is a plastic table cloth. But being plastic, it wants to slip straight off the table. Keep it in place (and your table protected) by using a binder clip or two on each side of the table.</p> <h3>14. Desk Sculptures</h3> <p>People spend small fortunes on fancy desk toys. Why not use your imagination and save money? Create small sculptures out of the stack of binder clips you have on the desk. Challenge other people in the office to make something fun.</p> <p><img height="333" width="250" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>15. Beer Stacker</h3> <p>If you have one of those fridges with wire shelves, this one&rsquo;s for you. By placing a binder clip in the appropriate place on the shelf, you can butt beers up against it and create a pyramid of beers that saves space (or allows room for more beers).</p> <h3>16. Barbie Purse</h3> <p>It looks like a purse already. Why not <a href="">decorate it </a>and go all the way?</p> <object height="385" width="480"> <param name="movie" value=";hl=en_US" /> <param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /> <param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always" /><embed height="385" width="480" src=";hl=en_US" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object><h3>17. Photo Holders</h3> <p>A couple of pieces of glass or clear plastic and three or four binder clips makes an inexpensive and minimal photo frame. It&rsquo;s easy to change out the photos or artwork, too.</p> <h3>18. Artwork Hangers</h3> <p>Create a simple art display for your kids (or your own work) by running a length of string or cord along the wall. Now attach binder clips to the string and place the art in the binders. It's easy to swap out work and a great way to show off the fruits of your labor.</p> <h3>19. Extension Cord Organizers</h3> <p>If you&rsquo;ve got stacks of extension cords, wires, and cables in your garage, they can often get tangled and knotted together. Keep them in their own spools by using a couple of large binder clips. They&rsquo;re easy to remove and replace and will stop the untidy mess of wires on your garage floor.</p> <h3>20. Replacement Feet for Keyboards</h3> <p>Here&rsquo;s some information I got <a href="">from Lifehacker</a> on how to make new feet for your keyboard. It&rsquo;s also handy for adjusting the height and angle of the keyboard. Or, just prop it up with the binder clips for a more speedy solution:</p> <blockquote><p> Push the rods in the binder clip inwards to release it from the clip. Take the pliers and bend the tip of the rod to straighten it. Repeat with the other side so you have two. For added friction on the table to prevent sliding, tightly wrap a rubber band at the base of each rod or whatever rubbery material you can find. The last step is to simply insert the ends of the rods into two available screw holes at the back of your keyboard if available, and there you go! Use different size binder clips for desired angle/height. </p></blockquote> <h3>21. Body Art</h3> <p>Binder clips can be used as earrings, jewelry, or even body modification.</p> <h3>22. Key Ring</h3> <p>Always have a binder clip handy by attaching your keys to it. It also makes it easy to hang your keys.</p> <h3>23. Photographer&rsquo;s Friend</h3> <p>Every professional or semi-professional photographer I know has a stack of binder clips handy. They&rsquo;re great for keeping backgrounds in place, keeping cords out of the way, and can be used to assemble temporary light boxes.</p> <p><img alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>24. Putting on a Duvet Cover</h3> <p>Another tip gleaned from <a href="">Lifehacker</a>:</p> <blockquote><p> Put the duvet in the cover one corner at a time, securing each corner with a large binder clip. Spread the combined cover and duvet on the bed. Reach the center underneath and lift; hold it over your head with your hands and let the sides fall around you. Shake the duvet so that the sides fall to the sides of the cover. Spread the duvet on the bed and give the final touches. Remove the binder clips. </p></blockquote> <h3>25. Pen Caddy</h3> <p>Create an interlocking circle of binder clips. The holes within each binder clip, plus the larger hole in the center, make ideal storage for pens, pencils and other office supplies. And when you&rsquo;re done with it, it breaks down easily.</p> <h3>26. Tea Bag Holder</h3> <p>As a tea drinker, I often come across tea bags that have no string. It&rsquo;s not a big deal; I fish it out with a spoon. But now there&rsquo;s an alternative: Hold the bag in place on the side of the cup using a binder clip. When your tea is steeped to your satisfaction, remove the clip and dump the bag.</p> <h3>27. ID Badge Holder</h3> <p>Many of you will already carry an ID badge to the office. They usually come with a small crocodile clip, but that can soon break. If it does, attach the badge to a binder clip and you&rsquo;ve got an instant replacement that&rsquo;s every bit as strong.</p> <h3>28. A Dress</h3> <p>I can't vouch for the comfort of this one, but it's certainly original.</p> <p><img height="300" width="400" alt="" src="" /></p> <p>For more binder clip ideas, check out Myscha's article &quot;<a href="">Cool Ideas for Clothespins and Binder Clips</a>.&quot;</p> <p><em>Any more binder clip ideas? Let us know.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="28 Innovative Uses for Binder Clips" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> General Tips Home binder clip uses kitchen hacks office supplies Tue, 11 Jan 2011 14:00:09 +0000 Paul Michael 437261 at