Friday, February 26, 2010

Keeping it fresh

Can there be anything more annoying than buying wonderfully fresh foods only to have them spoil before you have a chance to use them. Firstly, I am trying harder to only buy fresh for the day I am going to use them, however that is not always the best way to take advantage of sales and quantity discounts.

When I go to Costco for instance, I often buy in quantities that Jeff and I would be challenged to use up before spoilage. I sometimes am able to pass some of these great items on to my kids by sharing with them, but they are 20 miles away and it is not always easy to get things to them.

So I am stuck with trying to figure out the best way to store things like cheese, fresh spinach or greens, mushrooms and other veggies. Over the years I have happened on to some tips that have saved my "freshies" for much longer than before and I am happy to share the knowledge.

Fresh veggies are still alive. This is something that many people forget. They need to breathe. Don't mix that thought up with open air in the fridge as this will often dry them out. The FoodSaver folks would have you believe that everything needs to be vacuum sealed and void of air entirely. Not so true for fresh veggies.

spinach at 3 weeks in fridge

When I opened my packaged of fresh greens and spinach, I noticed that the top of the package had condensation on the lid as the still-live leaves give off their gases, much like a mini hothouse in my fridge. The plastic bin protects from the dry frigid air. But if too much condensation builds up and drips back on the greens, they start to get slimy as they begin to spoil. I therefore wipe dry the top of the lid daily. I also give them a light shake to loosen the leaves. I place one clean dry paper towel loosely on top of the greens and replace the lid. Doing this I have been able to purchase large bins of greens at Costco and use them over a month's time with very little spoilage.

paper towel wicks away damaging moisture without drying out produce

Similarly, I will repackage mushrooms, mini carrots, snap peas or green beans into a larger more airy gallon sized zip bag, add a paper towel and not remove all the loose space in the bag. Side note on mushrooms: NEVER wash them under water or get them wet. They should be gently brushed off with a soft brush or paper towel to clean them. Water will make the spoil quickly.

fresh down to the last mushroom

For tomatoes...I never put them in the refrigerator unless it has been cut and partially used. I have a airy basket for them. I have a paper towel on the bottom of the basket.

 wrap cheeses in parchment and then place in zip bag

I have learned that cheeses too are living products. Now if you have huge quantities, vacuum sealing and/or freezing may make sense, but to extend the life of my cheeses, I have discovered that kitchen parchment paper is my friend. I take the cheese out of its original plastic wrap and re-wrap the cheese in parchment paper and then place it in a zip bag. This allows the cheese to breath and wick off excess moisture, but not dry out. The only cheese that I would not wrap this way would be a fresh mozzarella or type of moist/wet cheese. It works great for any dry cheese like Italian grating cheeses, cheddar, Swiss or Gouda.

Fresh herbs are placed in a shallow vase with about 1/2 inch of water and placed into the fridge.

There you have it, my favorite "freshie" tips. Hope you like them and they are beneficial to you.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Can I Blog from my BlackBerry?

Why yes, as a matter of fact I can.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guilty Pleasures Listed

Sometimes I just have to have this stuff in my life to give it meaning. I admit most of it is simply crap.

• Playing online poker for hours and hours

• I love teaching myself Spanish.
Sometimes I try to think in Spanish (it's not easy to do)

• I love watching the Food Channel whenever I can (I love to cook)

• I love watching Dog the Bounty Hunter
(I still ask myself, "...why do I like this shit?")

• I love Rachel Ray
(she's funny and quirky and the perfect friend to make you smile)

• I love kitchen gadgets
(men have power tools, women have kitchen gadgets)

• I love Martha Stewart (even though I cannot organize a house —
I even download her podcasts...hey they're free!)

• I love to watch Antiques Road Show, A&E's Pickers and Pawn Stars,
even though I have no interest in antiques or collecting them.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Waiting for the snow to melt

February is always a cold bleak month. By now the winter is old and we are weary of it. Snowfall even though beautiful, fluffy and clean, is an unwelcome sight. Maybe if I was an avid skier or snowmobiler I might find something to celebrate. But with every new snowfall, I find my eyebrows knitting together in disgust.

When? When will it be gone? I ache to see the sun and a little patch of green. I want feel a light warm breeze on my face while I go walking with my dogs instead of feeling the sharp bite of single digit temps and a wind that cuts through layers of clothes in minutes.

I find myself daydreaming about daffodils and tulips, crab apple blossoms, lilacs and freshly mowed grass. Spring cannot get here fast enough. I'll lament the fast passage of time later. But can I please thaw out soon?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Heritage languages are a birthright

I just read a blog that stated "Heritage languages are a birthright." And...I passionately believe that to be true.

Growing up Chinese-American, I often lamented that my mother's generation let go of their language in order to fit in to the American culture of the 40's & 50's. I understand, but I still feel like our generation somehow got cheated out of our heritage language. I was fascinated as a child to listen to my grandmother Ng Fong Hai, speak in her native Cantonese. At the same time, I was sad because I couldn't understand her. In the 50's and 60's, learning your heritage language was simply not a priority. Yes, I feel cheated.

I wish now that my mom had felt that her heritage language had value instead of treated like something to be overlooked, forgotten or worse...ashamed of. Nowadays, being bilingual in corporations is a leg up the corporate ladder because we live in a global economy.

My cousin Jeff went to live in Bejing for a year of his college to become bilingual with Mandarin Chinese. He is teaching his children by speaking Mandarin at home. I think he is giving his children a wonderful advantage that will ultimately broaden their lives.

Learning language as a child is like learning to breath. My granddaughter Gabby is half El Salvadorian. Her parents see the importance of teaching her both languages. At two, she often speaks to me in Spanish and English both. I am amazed at how effortless it is. Children have the capacity to learn and embrace as many languages as you want to teach them. I remember taking a class as a child, but I never did anything with it later. I wish I had.

"Growing up bilingual is a perfectly normal human state; being able to speak, read, and write in more than one language is not harmful. There are plenty of places in the world where bilingual education is the healthy norm.

Why can’t we get it right in the US? A) Because it’s politicized. B) Because education is underfunded. C) Because monolinguals don’t understand bilingualism." — JP Villanova speaks 5 languages and teaches. Read his blog at http://jpv206.wordpress.com/2010/02/09/english-only-is-for-chumps/

Today, I work at a school that has children of African American, Hispanic, Somali African, Indigenous American and European American descent. I am trying very hard to learn Spanish. We have an ESL program, but no translators at the school. I am saddened when I hear others I work with cluck about wishing that "these people" would learn English. I am acutely aware of the political overtones. Of course I understand that it is important for immigrants to learn English in order to communicate, and participate fully in our society, but I hope it is not at the expense of their children's birthright to communicate with their own grandparents.