April 24, 2015

Cardboard Spice Rack #3

When you move into a new place, you don’t always have the amenities you’re used to. In my case, our new residence has no spice rack. Nowhere to organize my spices! It does have a blank wall above the sink, which is the only open space available in our very conservative condo-type kitchen area. I figured it’s the best place to install another handcrafted cardboard spice rack (I had created two before – one for our old small apartment in Orlando, another for a friend).

I have an inordinate (wow, “inordinate”) amount of cardboard, aka moving boxes, so this simple shelving project would make a teeny tiny dent on my stash.

Measure the wall, estimate the spice container sizes, cut up the cardboard, fire up the glue gun, splash on some leftover paint, and there it is: my third cardboard spice rack of all time.

Recycled cardboard project

Preparing the spice rack frame

Painting the spice rack

Mounted cardboard spice rack.

April 20, 2015

Upcycled Pot Holders

When you realize that you didn’t pack pot holders when you relocated from the other side of the planet, you quickly make some by repurposing a couple of face towels that you did pack a lot of.  

To make the pot holder different from the face towel, I decided to hand-sew the seams, creating a pocket to slip the hand in. And I hand-embroidered these: “POT HOLDER” and “PAN HANDLER.” Catchy.

Problem solved.

Pot Holder and Pan Handler

Pot Holder and Pan Handler

Pot Holder and Pan Handler

Upcycled Face Towels

Upcycled Face Towels

Upcycled Face Towels

September 7, 2014

Why Spaghetti Should Be Assembled at the Table

Many years ago, I was criticized for serving spaghetti un-assembled. “Uncooked” was the word used – because I brought my spaghetti to the table with the noodles not mixed with the sauce. I had always served it this way but since that comment, I conformed by mixing everything in the pot, at the stove.

Today, I decided to go back to my old way of serving spaghetti: the noodles are in a bowl separate from the meat sauce, with cheeses and peppers at the ready.

As I enjoyed my freshly-assembled personal portion of spaghetti, I was taken back to why I had always done it this way before. Here are my reasons for going back to assembling spaghetti at the table (after years of doing it the other way): 
  1. The noodles don’t suck up the sauce. When you mix the sauce and the noodles in the pot, the noodles absorb the sauce, so that by the time the dish reaches the table, the pasta is past the al dente stage.
  2. You determine the sauciness of your spaghetti portion. Do you want it dry-ish? Or soupy? Maybe you want more sauce than meat? More meat than sauce? You’re in control here.
  3. Your spaghetti meal can be your own creation. More cheese? Some hot pepper flakes? Sweet like the Pinoy spaghetti? Garlicky? With anchovies? You can whip up your own tasty concoction – you don’t have to be content with what the cook considers his masterpiece.
  4. Leftover already-mixed spaghetti is not very appetizing. After refrigeration, the sauce is dry and the noodles are too soft and fat. If the refrigerated sauce is separate from the noodles, you can reheat it to its original state. You can reheat the noodles with a little hot water, on the stove or in the microwave. Assemble at the table and you’ll forget that they’re leftovers.
So, do come by for my spaghetti. You know what to expect. Bon appetit! 

June 17, 2014

How to Freeze Grapes for Smoothies

Grapes are a staple in our morning smoothie because their sweetness neutralizes the “green” taste of the veggies. I chose to use frozen grapes to cool the smoothie just right. After a few trials and errors, I discovered the best way to freeze them.

The first thing I do is wash the bunch of grapes. Then I pick each grape from the vine so that I won’t have to deal with the stems later on. I roll them on a paper towel to dry them. Then I grab a colander and arrange them very nicely in one layer.

Freezing grapes in a colander.

Then I place the arrangement in the freezer. The colander helps freeze the grapes evenly and quickly. After a few hours, I transfer the grapes to a container that will reside in the freezer until all the fruits are consumed.

Frozen grapes for smoothies.

I don’t bother to put the frozen grapes in a zipper bag because they don’t last too long in the freezer anyway -- in about a couple of weeks, they’d have all been added to our smoothies. Every morning, I just quickly grab a handful to add to our drink.

Of course, I’ve tried freezing grapes in bunches – stems and vines together. But when I’m picking the fruits to put in my smoothie, I have to fumble with pulling out all the frozen little stems, and in the early hours of the morning, I don’t particularly appreciate cold fingertips.

I’ve also tried freezing individual grapes on a baking sheet and in a plastic container. They work fine but I find the colander trick the neatest yet. 

June 7, 2014

How to Slice Cantaloupe into Chunks

I remember growing up detesting one and only one dessert fruit – the cantaloupe.  In the Philippines, we call it melon (accent on the “lon”). Somehow I couldn’t tolerate the taste and texture, and I didn’t know why.

Then a friend convinced me to try the melon juice – sweetened cold water infused with melon flesh delicately grated from the fruit using a tool that creates long orange “worm” strips (I’ll write about that next time).  After I enjoyed that wonderfully refreshing and tasty drink, the cantaloupe and I became buddies.

Here in the US, cantaloupes are available in groceries as whole fruits, shrink-wrapped slices with the skin on, and chunks in clamshell containers. Naturally, they are most expensive when already prepared bite-size, ready to eat; the price of a small bowl of chunks is sometimes higher than that of a whole fresh harvest fruit.

So, whenever I feel prudent, I ignore the chunks, grab a whole fruit, and set my mind to slicing the cantaloupe myself. It’s really quite easy. Let me show you.

1. Get a whole cantaloupe. You will know it’s ripe and sweet when the skin is starting to get wrinkly and the fruit is giving off a sweet aroma. Grab a cutting board, kitchen knife, spoon, container for the seeds, and container for the chunks.  

Get a whole cantaloupe.

2. Slice the fruit in half. It doesn’t matter if it’s lengthwise or crosswise, because the fruit is generally round. I prefer to slice crosswise, but that’s just me.

Slice the cantaloupe in half.

3. Scoop out the seeds and fibrous material from the core of the fruit.

Scoop out the cantaloupe seeds.

4. Lay the half on the cutting board like an upside-down bowl. Slice off the skin by working from the top and down the sides.

Peel off the skin.

Peeled cantaloupe.

5. Make vertical cuts, about an inch wide, across the skinned half fruit.

Slice the cantaloupe.

6. Follow with 1-inch perpendicular cuts to create chunks. They won’t be the same sizes but you can follow-up with quick cuts to make the big chunks smaller.

Slice the cantaloupe into chunks.

Slice the cantaloupe into chunks.

Et voila! Bon appetit!

Cantaloupe chunks.