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Cappuccino and salad days

Hello, again, Dear Readers:

Here at HeatCageKitchen, we strive to bring you the hip new trends in cooking and kitchen stuff. Up-to-date tricks and of-the-moment trends that you just can’t live without whether you’re just starting to cook or have been in your kitchen for a long time. The goal is to bring you these new trends that you just need to know before your friends know.

“Try” being the operative word.

I’ve got an update on my cappuccino machine and a new idea that crossed my Facebook path that I’ve got to tell you about. If you haven’t heard about this already. Your friends will be amazed. Keep reading. . .

So, I was thinking that although it would be lovely to go out and buy a brand, spanking new cappuccino machine, the thrifty side of me says, no, it’s just the frothing part that doesn’t wanna work anymore. I have on occasion seen hand-held milk frothers in different places. This evening, for the project I’m about to tell you about, I headed to Cost Plus World Market and discovered that they have these little babies at $2.99 each. They run on 2 AA batteries (like nearly everything else I own, right?) and they froth up milk. They don’t HEAT milk, they only froth it up. Online, they sell them in a set of 3 for $8.97, but in the store they sell them individually. I bought the green one, the first one the clerk handed me. I headed to Target to get a big 20-pack of AA batteries.

You never know when the milk frother is going to go out. Or the TV remote. Or the flameless candles on my altar. Or some other little thing that uses batteries. I used to carry a Sony Walkman–yes, a cassette player, and later, one with a radio–in the pre-iPod days. And I can tell you that the batteries that lasted the longest were coppered, so that’s what I buy. And nobody paid me to say that. Anyway. . .

So I put some milk in a measuring cup and warmed it in the microwave, then used the handheld milk frother to froth up the milk. It worked perfectly, and for $2.99, I now have perfectly frothy milk again when I make cappuccino. Woo hoo!

Wal-Mart also had an electric milk frothing pitcher, but that one was $35. Very nice, of course, but that’s OK. I’ll continue to steam the milk and then use the little battery powered frothers. That’s perfectly OK with me!

OK. . .now. . .this is a most momentus thing I’ve discovered, and it’s cheap. I LOVE salad, and yes, iceberg lettuce as well as Romaine, butter and red-leaf lettuce, but it tends to go bad on me, even when I keep on it. I hate that, so as a result, I don’t buy it too often.

A solution has been found. I am testing this as I type this.

Lettuce stored in Mason jars, or “Salad In A Jar.”

Let me say first that this is NOT my own idea, but the brilliant idea of one Paula Rhodes, who has a website. . .Salad-In-A-Jar.com. No kidding. I came across the idea, as many, on Facebook. Such a simple idea, but you absolutely MUST seal the jar and get all the air out to prevent browning of the lettuce.

Naturally, this wonderful lady is in Arlington, in the great state of Texas. (I’m in Houston, I can say that.)

Another idea where I wish I’d thought of it, but. . .well, you know I’m not smart enough for that. (I went to college at night.) Well, I did figure out that Scrubbing Bubbles will clean your kitchen cabinets and other surfaces by melting off the dirt. That’s another blog post.

On my trek out I went first to Cost Plus World Market for the jars, which are $2.49 there. I also have a couple of jars that I kept after the Classico Tomato and Basil is gone. The process is the same for both types of jars, but there is an essential step that you must do. You MUST vacuum seal the jars and get all the air out.

I am not suggesting you get one of those expensive Food Saver sealing thingies, although if you have one, you have an advantage, there is an attachment for wide-mouth jars and a tube for this purpose. Maybe one day I’ll get me one, but for now, I just want cheap.

That’s the real secret of HeatCageKitchen. Livin’ on the edge (of the kitchen). Cheap.

So if you’ve ever seen those Ziploc vacuum seal bags, well, there’s a vacuum pump tool that comes in the starter kit, runs about $4 or $5. Well. . .the directions are to wash and spin-dry your lettuce, chop it, put it in the glass jar, put the lid(s) on it, put a small hole in the top with a pushpin, put a small piece of electrical tape over the hole (don’t seal it), and use the vacuum tube to pull the air out.

VOILA! Sealed up lettuce! (I think I messed up a total of four pushpins, but that’s what Staples is for.)

Best part–you can make salad for a whole week like this! Put the dressing in the bottom, and the lettuce on top, with heavier ingredients like hard boiled eggs, sliced tomatoes, etc, in the bottom. The picture is from Mayra Cavazos, and this what she posted on Facebook:

Utterly brilliant, people. Not only does SALAD IN A JAR save space in your fridge, it also reduces food waste and gets non-salad eaters (me) to mow down daily.
THE ARRANGEMENT
From BOTTOM to TOP:
Dressing
Shredded carrots
Cherry tomatoes
Sunflower seeds
Hard boiled eggs
Baby spinach
DIRECTIONS
1) Arrange ingredients in a large mason jar
2) Store in fridge for up to a week
3) When ready to eat: shake jar, place on a plate, and eat!

You can make any arrangement you want… you can add red onion, cucumbers, radishes or peppers. Always remember to put the dressing at the bottom and the lettuce at the top—a MUST.

****NOTE**** If your making a few salads at a time for the week, you MUST remember to vacuum seal the Mason Jars. (Mason jars can be bought at Wal-mart, and various grocery stores) They must be vacuum sealed to remain fresh and crisp 🙂 Here are two different ways to vacuum seal a mason jar 😀
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhb1gfVSB9Y
Non Foodsaver vacuum seal 🙂
http://www.youtube.com/

If you’re having trouble wrapping your brain around this idea, take a look at Mayra’s picture she posted on Facebook and see if it makes sense:

Salad In A Jar

Is that not the coolest idea ever? And it’s SO SIMPLE.

So in the HeatCage Test Kitchen (ha, ha) I have purchased said Ziploc vacuum tool at Wal-Mart, as well as jars and the milk frother at Cost Plus World Market, and lettuce (and a few other things) at Target. (I went to Target first, they didn’t have it, darnit.)  I have three sealed jars of lettuce in the fridge, right now, and am thoroughly excited about this.

Simple, using readily available modern conveniences. I love it, and am hoping for the best on my end, too. I’ll let you know what happens next.

Since I my life will be soon become very busy, this will be a great help for my weekly food prep. You see, since I was a full-time working student at Tulane University (1991-1996), I do all my weekly cooking and wardrobe prep on Sunday, so that I don’t have to do as much during the week. (The crock pot cooking helps a lot, too, especially if I didn’t get it all done in time.) When I was getting home late at night, that Sunday ritual was a lifesaver. If I missed one thing, my whole week was messed up. Bad.

Salad, much as I love it, hasn’t been a staple for me, since I don’t buy it as much, it turns brown so fast on me. I’m hoping this experiment will work. I do love salad, and hate throwing anything out.

You can read all about it at Paula Rhodes’ Salad In A Jar website, plus lots of other of her recipes and ideas. (You can bet I’m subscribing now!) You can also see her video on YouTube doing exactly what I described.

Cross your fingers. This is the best thing to cross my path in a long time. (OK, this week.)

If you try this, let me know how your experiment turned out.

Happy Dining!

Splayds

Today I’m going to tell you all about the BEST way to eat food. No, not with your grubby paws, darnit (and wash them before you eat, OK?) No, eat like the Aussies. Use a Splayd.

A what?

Splayds were invented in Australia by Bill McAurthur of Potts Point, New South Wales in the late 1940’s. (Source: Splayds.com.au) He noticed that when eating at a party, it’s difficult to balance a knife and fork, and came up with a 3-in-1 tool that’s very easy to use. They became *the* wedding gift in Oz and has also spread to other countries. Except, unfortunately, this one. But there are those of us who know about these incredible utensils and favor them.  You can read a little more about it here.

How did I come across these, you wonder? I was, in 1996, a bride (for the third time), and received a set of four from a friend in Melbourne, Australia:

The first set of Splayds, received as a gift

I’ve had these since 1996, and won’t part with them.

She explained that they are what you give for a wedding present in Australia, and hoped that I would enjoy these. Well, DUH! Of course I did–and made sure to thank her for them, of course. Although the husband (who’s been an ex since 2001) tried them, he never really got used to them. No matter, I have forks, but I prefer the Splayd. If you’ve never tried them, you don’t know what you’re missing. They are so much easier than a standard fork–and not like the plastic “spork” you get in some fast-food establishments.

I always wanted more of them, and finally, a couple of years ago, Amazon.com started to carry them, the real thing, so I bought some:

Stainless Steel Splayds bought in 2010. Even better than the originals!

I love these even more than the originals! They really are a joy to eat with, and the clean design of both models goes with any flatware you already have. You can find them here, and they even come with in a nice box, in case you decide to give them as a gift. Amazon also now carries the mini-Splayds, which I didn’t know about until just now, but that’s going to have to wait a while.

But to put them side by side, you will see that they are the same thing (and, because it’s marked on the back.)

Side-by-side pics of my original Splayd, and the new one.

Really, I can’t say enough about how good Aussie made and designed Splayds are. I’m a native-born American, but I like to find new stuff that maybe we don’t know about and can use. Like Splayds. They’re not dangerous or illegal, they just make life a teeny bit better, you know?

Enjoy!