Sunday, June 24, 2012

Tip o' the Day: Don't Scrub Sugar

Yes, I've got a brand-spanking new Tip of the Day, less than twenty-four hours on the heels of my last one.  I think I might make this a regular posting, not daily (don't be led astray by the title) but weekly. Since this tip is being posted on a Sunday, I think I'll post a new tip every Sunday. The Bible says that a person shouldn't work on Sunday (well, the Bible really says the Sabbath, which Christian tradition has interpreted to mean "Sunday"). I guess it's good that I'm not religious anymore, then, although I do still feel a tiny pang of guilt/fear/something bad from this decision and from mocking the biblical prohibition, given my past as a religious churchgoer. (I might have added, "deeply religious churchgoer", but obviously it wasn't that deep or I'd still believe in it.) It's not that God is going to punish me any less for not caring, it's just that my lack of concern about the matter is, well...a lack of concern. I've probably already offended the twenty percent of my three semi-regular readers who are of the Christian faith, but I can't move the day to Saturday, or I'll offend the point-zero-one percent of said readers who are Orthodox Jewish, and I definitely can't move the day to Monday, or I'll offend myself, who wholeheartedly believes in refraining from performing any kind of work on Monday. Sunday it is.

Now, if you haven't heard the word on sugar, let me enlighten you: it's pretty bad stuff, nutritionally speaking. Sugar is diabetogenic any way you slice it (and good luck with slicing it, 'cause I've haven't been able to yet...bah-dah-bam!). Setting aside the fact that diabetes is a pretty shitty disease on its own, it has been proven and/or suspected of putting the sufferer at greater risk for just about every other disease known to mankind.* If you don't really care about this fact, or if you're like me and maintain a strict low-carb regimen yet still indulge in sugar as a treat on rare occasions**, you may have tried to make candy a time or two. Maybe you're a regular candy-maker (in which case you might already be aware of this tip) or maybe you've never tried to make candy before (in which case you should pay attention anyway, in the instance that you decide to try your hand at homemade candy in the future). This tip also applies to homemade syrups or any similar cooking process that can cause a hard, sugary mess to cling to a saucepan.

Like the last tip I posted, this isn't my original idea. (Although I think I thought of the idea independently of anyone else, so I should at least be given credit for that. Please?) If you find yourself with a nasty sugary mess inside of your favorite saucepan after making caramels/peppermint syrup/sweetened condensed boogers, don't wear yourself out trying to scrub it off. Just fill the saucepan or pot until the level of water is higher than the level of hardened sugar (allowing at least a small head space at the top of the pan/pot) and bring the water to a rolling boil. Allow the water to boil for about five minutes, longer if necessary. Remove saucepan from heat and pour the boiling water down the drain, being careful to avoid steam burns/splashing yourself. After this, simply clean the pan as you normally would. If there is stuck-on sugar that was above the waterline, you may need to scrub that, but as for most of the pan, it'll be a piece of cake to clean, as the boiling water dissolved the sugar and washed it down the drain for you! :)

*This may be a slight exaggeration--but only a slight one.
 **This may be an outright lie.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tip o' the Day: Be Happy Cleaning Your Microwave

Those who know me personally would find great humor in the fact that I, of all people, am publishing a housecleaning tip on my web log. They know me to be one of the world's worst housekeepers. You know that level of disorder and filth that a building gets to when the health officials are compelled to suggest that it be burned? Well, I get around to cleaning house when it's just short of that point. Seriously, though, no one could accuse me of having anything even close to an immaculate abode. I do, however, like living in somewhat sanitary conditions and occasionally getting a glimpse of my floor. So, on to the tip.

If you're anything like me, you put off the most icky jobs for as long as you can, your inner child engaging in the magical thinking that if you just let it go long enough, the mess will miraculously disappear. (And if you're not like me in this respect, than you probably don't need this bit of housecleaning advice.) When it becomes apparent to you that the world just doesn't work that way, and that if you don't get to cleaning the mess, you'll be declared legally insane by your family, you set yourself begrudgingly to the task, simultaneously fending off the willies and regretting the time you're spending slaving away. For me, cleaning a funky microwave is one of these jobs. The following method is a quick, easy, effective, cheap and non-toxic way to clean your microwave, even after you've put it off for too long. It may not make you happy to clean your microwave, but it will certainly make you less irritated with the whole process.

I won't claim that the ideas in this method are of my invention. I simply put together a few cleaning tips that I found that appealed to me, tried them out and was very pleased with the results! I live with my elderly uncle as his caregiver, and my boyfriend and his young son also live here. To my knowledge, they rarely, if ever, cover something that they're heating in the microwave, and I'd be shocked to find out that any of them clean up after themselves after they're done using the appliance. (Sorry guys--it's true!) After a few months or even weeks, the microwave gets to be one ugly place. I can therefore vouch for how wonderfully this method works!

Enough of my rambling; here's the recipe for success:

1 whole lemon
a microwave-safe mug
table salt
paper towels
a clean rag or two

1. Remove the turntable and wheeled platform under the turntable from the microwave. These can be washed in the sink.
2. Take the lemon and slice it in half. (It can even be one of those lemons that's gotten to be a little bit old and shriveled in your fridge because you bought it ages ago for a gourmet recipe, and you ended up being too lazy to prepare the meal.)
3. Fill a regularly-sized mug about 1/2 to 3/4 full of water. Place one of the lemon halves in the mug of water and heat in the microwave until it's nice and steamy. (Pretend you are heating a mug of water for tea. You want it to be that hot.) The steam combined with the acid in the lemon will help to loosen up stuck-on gunk.
4. When the lemon-water is hot enough, remove it from the microwave and set it aside. (Don't throw it out yet--you'll be using it in a moment.)
5. Take the other lemon half, squeeze it lightly to start to release the juices and cover the cut side with salt. Rub the salty surface of the lemon all over the microwave, scrubbing if necessary (you shouldn't need to scrub very much). Re-salt the lemon as needed. The acidity of the lemon juice combined with the abrasiveness of the salt will help to release all of the soil in the microwave.
6. When all of the stuck-on gunk and dirt is removed, use paper towels to dispose of the old food particles and loosened gunk as well as to absorb any filthy cleaning liquid in the microwave.
7. Here's the part where you'll be using the lemon-water again. When you've removed loose particles and dirty liquid from the microwave, rinse the microwave out. To do this, dip a clean rag into the mug of lemon-water and wipe down the microwave. (Caution: Because the process of cleaning out the microwave is normally quick with the salted lemon, you may need to wait for the lemon-water to cool down a bit before you dip the rag into it.) You may need to do this a few times, just to make sure that it's clean and fresh. Bonus: The rags dipped in the lemon-water help to clean surfaces on the outside of the microwave, too, such as door handles with smudges or fingerprints.

There you have it! My personally-recommended method of taking care of a gross microwave that leaves the thing clean and lemon-fresh, without leaving behind noxious residues or leaving you with an empty wallet. :)