July 2, 2008
What do you do when you see red peppers on sale for $.99/lb. at the grocery store? You buy as many as you can stuff into your eco-friendly reusable grocery tote and hurry home to make a vat of roasted red peppers, naturally. It seems there are two approaches to roasting peppers: oven or open flame. Roasting in the oven is easier, cleaner and the only option for those with an electric range. I’ve done it in the past when I was pressed for time, and yes, it works, although it’s not my preferred method.
Roasting over an open flame (stove-top or grill) is time-consuming and dirty, but the results, in my opinion, are tastier. The flame magnifies the sweetness of the pepper that you just don’t taste in oven-roasted peppers. I’ve been been using this method ever since I read The World According to Garp (one of my all-time favorite books) back in grad school where the protagonist roasts his peppers atop his gas range. When I married my husband, I was happy to discover his Italian family made theirs the same way.
Marinated Roasted Red Peppers
6 red peppers (or more)
1 head of garlic, peeled and crushed
1-2 C. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Place rinsed peppers over open flame (on grill or gas cooktop). Completely char all sides including tops and bottoms, using tongs to turn the peppers. (You might want to temporarily disable your smoke detector or open the windows. Oh, and be prepared to find little black flecks all over your kitchen for the next three days).
You know they’re done when they are completely blackened.
Place charred red peppers in brown paper bag.
When completely cooled, rub off as much as the blackened skin as possible. I try not to rinse the pepper under water since it loses some of its flavor, although many simply rinse off the burnt parts. It does get very messy, so you will have to rinse your hands off frequently.
Cut off the tops and remove the seeds. Slice into 1 inch wide strips. Place in medium bowl with crushed garlic cloves and cover with good quality extra-virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Cover and marinate in the refrigerator overnight (or longer). This keeps for at least a week (although I’ve never had peppers hang around that long).
Serve in sandwiches, salads, pasta, chicken recipes or my favorite, with crusty bread dipped in the sweet infused olive oil.
May 18, 2008
The mother of all stains is a Sharpie mark (good luck with that one), but second only to that are kim chi stains. Spaghetti sauce? Hah! Mere child’s play. Anyone who has had the pleasure of eating kim chi knows the true second burn: finding that tiny vermilion drip on your pants or shirt as you throw it into the laundry. And then finding that same stain undiminished after it comes out of the wash. After three or four washes, you pretty much resign yourself to the fact that that unflaggingly red stain is now a permanent part of your wardrobe.
Despair no longer! Here’s the simple trick to getting out kim chi and any tomato-based stains. Simply place the stained clothes in direct sunlight for several hours. I usually wash the clothes and then place it outside still damp, but inside by a very sunny window will do the trick. The problem I’ve found with placing it outside is the other things that fall on it (leaves, pollen, etc.), forcing me to wash it yet again. The stain will disappear like magic. I promise.
The downside to my kids’ love of Korean food: kim chi stains on their clothes.
Here’s my daughter’s shirt after a couple of washes – the stain did not budge even after direct scrubbing with my first line of defense (Shout gel, Fels Naptha soap, Oxiclean soak).
Her shirt after a couple of hours in the sun. The hard part was waiting for a sunny day.
April 24, 2008
Will Smith wows his future employer with his ability to solve a Rubik’s Cube.
My son received a Rubik’s Cube for Easter and I spent the better part of the day fiddling with it. Back in the 7th grade, I could solve one side and that was pretty much the upper limit of my spatial manipulation skills. I was chagrined to discover I hadn’t progressed much past that point. I suppose my renewed interest in the perverse puzzle stems from my recent viewing of The Pursuit of Happyness in which Chris Gardner (played by Will Smith) solves the cube in a suspenseful taxi ride to his prospective employer’s house. The employer is so impressed he gives Gardner his proverbial foot in the door (Gardner eventually made millions at Bear Stearns – good thing he got out while the going was good).
Nowadays, the Rubik’s Cube comes with the solution in the package. The problem, however, is that it’s written in Cyrillic (or something very similar to it) and I simply could not decipher the cryptic abbreviations. So for all my diligent manipulations, the Cube sat forlornly for weeks with only a few sides solved.
The other day, I decided to google how to solve the Rubik’s Cube. I just needed someone to show me what Ri – F – Ti – R – B looked like, and as expected, there were plenty of videos on the web of young men sitting in front of their computers flipping and turning their Cubes at dizzying speeds. As fascinating as it was watching the twenty-ninth Youtube video of compugeek solving it in under 30 seconds, I just wanted to learn how to solve it myself. I like this video series since it’s pretty straightforward, he doesn’t move too quickly, and you only have to memorize five patterns (or algorithms).
And so I did finally learn to solve the Rubik’s Cube. In breakneck speeds of just under four minutes. Maybe if I put some WD-40 on it, I might be able to shave off a few seconds…
On a sidenote, I had taken the solved Cube and made this pattern to show the kids:
I later decided I needed some more practice and I tossed it to my son and told him to go mess it up. I came back, and it looked like this:
He’s four. Does this count as the essay portion of the early admission application to MIT?
April 15, 2008
If you are like me, there are a few things that you’ve either consciously or unconsciously resisted because that darn contrarian gene in your DNA that rises up and refuses to be ignored. Or perhaps you were blithely living your life until something suddenly come into such sharp focus, not unlike those annoying Magic Eye posters from the 90s, that you once you see it, you can’t imagine your life without it.
1. organic milk- This one really has me scratching my head when I considered how long I went without even trying it. The combination of the cost, the relative difficulty buying it (hard to believe since even the Asian grocery store sells organic milk, but even 3-4 years ago, it was fairly rare) and the attitude of “hey, I drank milk from cows that were full of antibiotics and growth hormones and I turned out ok.” Organic milk tastes so creamy and sweet that I would never return to that bland, thin white liquid they pass off as regular milk, no matter how expensive (although I pay only a little bit more for organic milk now – see #5).
2. Bare Escentual makeup- Ok, I admit it – I deliberately avoided this one for a long time. It just seemed very cult-like to me – the infomercials, the fanatical Bare Escentual wearers who were tripping over themselves to get me to try it, the fact that it was a powder and it was supposed to be made of minerals? Sounded like Amway or Melaleuca to me. Meh. I’ll stick to my Lancome, thanks.
Then a few months ago, I had an hour to kill at the mall and decided I needed a new lipgloss. I walked into Sephora a Saul and walked out a Paul, clutching my new Bare Escentuals starter kit, having seen the light thanks to a great makeover demonstration. The one bit of advice I’ll impart to those over 30 and want to try Bare Escentuals – moisturizer is your friend!
Try the Rare Minerals Night Revival Treatment – your skin really will be brighter!
3. Ebay- On the internet, it seems like everyone shops and sells on Ebay and inclusion of this topic seems oddly superfluous. But in my sphere of friends and acquaintances, the vast majority have never even been on Ebay. I was one of those people, only creating an account a couple of years ago to buy ostrich plumes for my children’s Halloween costumes. But then I quickly discovered that you really can find almost anything on Ebay. So to my friend wondering what to do about her scuffed hot pink heels – try searching for pink shoe polish on Ebay. Personalized party invitations for Piper’s 5th birthday bash? Ebay. Magazine subscriptions for dirt cheap? Ebay. A grilled cheese sandwichwith an image of the Virgin Mary on it? Ebay.
4. Uggs- It just seemed so silly to me – Jessica Simpson or Linsday Lohan, sporting her Uggs while wearing shorts. Umm, aren’t Uggs lined in toasty-warm sheepskin, perfect for sub-zero temperatures? Chalk those boots to the don’ts of 2003. Several years pass and now our 13 year old baby-sitter is wearing them, which is exactly why I wouldn’t buy them for myself. But this past Christmas, Santa brings me a pair of my very own and then I discover what everyone else has figured out: Uggs are lined in toasty-warm sheepskin, perfect for sub-zero temperatures. Say goodbye to cold feet forever! Disclaimer: these will be put away once then temperature rises above 50 degrees. If only everyone else could be so sensible.
5. grocery budgeting- I was always one of those shoppers for whom grocery shopping was an experience, meandering through the aisles of Wegman’s, smelling the fresh basil, sampling the soft-ripening cheeses, and mentally planning my weekly menus on the fly based on what I was in the mood for and what may or may not be on sale. I never had a food budget – I bought what I wanted, when I wanted it.
Back in January, I decided to take a cold hard look at our grocery spending and I was shocked when I added up the grocery debits from the past few months. We were spending well over $800 on just groceries for our little family of four. The problem was not just buying rib eye steaks, it was forgetting about that bunch of broccoli rabe at the bottom of the crisper that had to be thrown away. Even if you don’t keep up on the worldwide food shortages, you can’t help but to notice the dramatic price increases in staples such as flour, sugar, eggs and milk in just the past year. It was time to take control of the waste and create an honest-to-goodness food budget.
Within two months, I managed to slash my grocery spending in half while simultaneously the increasing our pantry inventory. This was accomplished several ways:
- I came up with a realistic amount that I was going to spend each week and when I hit that amount, I stopped buying. Simple as that.
- To help me accomplish this goal, I stopped using my debit card at the grocery store. Do you remember your mom counting out her grocery money in those bank envelopes? Yup – go old school. Take out the cash each week (or bi-weekly) and you’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to stick to your budget when you are using cold hard cash.
- Plan your weekly menu and shopping lists using the grocery circulars that come in your mail, buying what’s on sale. You’ll start to notice there are certain things that go on sale regularly, like cereal and meat. Also, having a menu eliminates the problem of forgotten produce and meats rotting in your refrigerator.
- Clipping coupons in the Sunday paper. And don’t throw away the ones you don’t use – be open to trying new brands that you can combine sale prices with coupons. It’s amazing how good a box of cereal tastes when it’s free!
- If you want to go hard core, join forums like Hot Coupon World and Slickdeal.net. It does take a while to get oriented, but you can find printable coupons and specific shopping strategies. You’d be surprised at what kind of coupons are out there – coupons for organic milk, for example (see #1).