Archive for June, 2014

Maximizing the Farmers’ Market

Salad Spinner

Although I’m not much of a summer person, I do love all the farmers’ markets and road-side stands that pop up.  There’s not much better than that fresh-from-the-garden food that is only available to us in Minnesota for a limited time.  So while that time is here, let me introduce you to one of the most used tools in my kitchen, Sally the Salad Spinner.

Don’t let the name fool you, Ol’ Sal is a true multi-tasker.  For example, when you buy fresh greens, they need a really good bath.  If you put the greens inside the basket of the spinner and fill the whole thing with cold water, you can swish them around and get all the sand and goop (yes, that is the technical term!) off the leaves.  Give them a couple rinses and repeats and then just lift out the basket, dump the water, and spin away the excess moisture.  Perfection!

How great are fresh summer berries?  They’ll tell you not to wash berries until just before eating.  Pshaw.  As soon as I get home I give mine a bath.  The trick is you need to dry them completely before putting them away in the fridge.  I pop them in the spinner, swish ‘em around in the nice cold water, and then shake out the basket carefully to remove as much water as I can.  Then I put them on a baking sheet lined with paper towel and leave them on the counter.  Spread them all out into a single layer, shake occasionally to dry all sides, and store in a paper towel-lined container that is not tightly sealed.  Mine usually last a week to two weeks.  If I can keep the caboose out of them.

 A couple other tidbits of info:

  • You don’t need to buy expensive vegetable/fruit spray to wash them. In a spray bottle mix one part white vinegar to two parts water. Spray fruits or vegetables completely, let sit for about thirty seconds, and rinse well. And no, you will NOT taste vinegar! Also, if you use this to clean berries it will extend shelf life.
  • Freeze your extra berries after they’re washed and completely dried. Flash freeze in a single layer first on a baking sheet/plate. Once solid, bag and label them and store in the freezer.
  • Make sure you wash the outside of your melons before you cut them. Even if they’re organic, you never know what’s been crawling around them! Once your knife moves from exterior to interior, it’s too late.
  • Store greens in a paper towel inside a zip-top bag. If the towel gets damp, replace it. Squeeze out as much air as you can before putting away again in the fridge.
  • When you get celery home, wrap it in paper towel, then tightly in aluminum foil. It will keep for weeks like this in the fridge.

SaladAnd my favorite salad to spin up in Sally?  A couple of cups of spring greens, blueberries, strawberries, tiny sprinkle of feta, some pecans and Ken’s fat free raspberry pecan dressing.  Oh yes, summer is definitely here.  Enjoy!

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Solstice Fun, Frolic, and Festivals

Das BootTomorrow is the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.  For many folks that is the real beginning of summer.  Since we’ve already had the air conditioning on (which is practically unheard of in my house!) it feels as though it’s been summer for a while.  Although this is nowhere near my favorite season by any means, I will try to make the best of it and enjoy the slower pace and festivities.

The caboose actually talked me into using a free trial offer we received at a local gym.  It’s the time of year where the heat and humidity are just gross, not exactly conducive to running.  At least not for me.  So, I figured what the heck, let’s check out the AC in the gym and hopefully have a win-win situation.  I’ll let you know how that works.

It also seems to be festival season in Minnesota.  This weekend alone we have Midsummer Days in North Branch (Hmmm, isn’t it really early summer?), Manitou Days in White Bear Lake, and GermanFest at the historic Schmidt Brewery in St. Paul.  I love the street dance and music of Midsummer Days, might have to catch that tonight.  And White Bear definitely knows how to throw a party.  I love the marketplace they have, the arts and crafts fair, beach dance, pub crawls…literally too much to list.  In fact, this festival is so huge that it goes until the Fourth of July!

I’ve said in previous posts that the Hub is a hundred percent German.  I think there may be some kraut, dancing, and beer drank from footwear in my future.  If you don’t know what that means, they like to drink beer from “Das Boot”, a large glass boot-shaped drinking vessel.  By the way, there are rules that go along with drinking from Das Boot.  And ignorance of the law is no excuse.  Just make sure if you go to GermanFest that you’re wearing your dancin’ boots.  Because like the brochure says,   “If Polka’s wrong, we don’t want to be right.”  Yes!  Happy summer, everyone, happy summer indeed.

A Preference to Procrastinate

ClocksIf you’ve ever tried to write anything that will be read by others, you probably understand that you can’t simply sit down and watch the words magically fill the page.  I wish, but it just doesn’t happen.  At least not for me.  In fact, most of the time I’m a terrible procrastinator.  There always seems to be something that just has to get done right at that moment:  clothes in the wash, walk the dog, new pot of tea…yeah.

The desk in my new home office sits right in front of the window.  I enjoy having the window there and it is usually wide open so as to enjoy the noisy frogs and birds.  But if I’m trying to force something onto paper it’s as if my inner Gladys Kravitz comes out.  You know, the nosy neighbor from Bewitched.  Oh sure, I try to stay on task, but the occasional car going by can be distracting.  And why do so many people go to the house across the street?  See what I mean.  Come on, Gladys, snap out of it!

Sometimes the procrastination game actually works for me.  Perhaps more often than not, truth be told.  If I busy myself with a task, it’s quite likely that my brain will wander off a bit.  That’s the curse (blessing) of the right-brained multi-tasker, it’s hard to concentrate on just one thing.  But when my thoughts meander back down the path, there’s usually something interesting coming along for the ride.  That’s when I sprint for my computer or trusty composition notebook and let the thoughts spill out across the page like water from a fire hose.

Most regimented people probably wouldn’t understand this.  My mother, for example, was a secretary.  Her schedule was given to her, her tasks assigned to her, and when the whistle blew the day was done.  I don’t think it makes sense to her that I sometimes work at odd hours or in odd places.  When she calls and asks what I’m doing, I never know if I should tell her I’m gawking out the window.  She might think I’m cracking up.  I guess I’ll just tell her I’m working and stare out the window.  I’ve said it before, deadlines amuse me.

5 Bits of Wisdom for Graduates

Grads

Well here we are, at the exhilarating season of pomp and circumstance.  There are plenty of articles out there about what to do after you graduate, but I figured one more couldn’t hurt, right?  So here is my advice to those of you sporting caps and gowns.

  • LIVE! If you haven’t yet decided what you want to be when you grow up (and seriously, who has?!) experience life. Don’t hide away in a room or office somewhere trying to figure everything out. Get out there! Meet new people and have fun.
  • Never stop learning. I don’t mean you have to be a professional student, but try new things. Take classes on topics or activities that interest you. More classes not your thing? Take advantage of the internet or watch some documentaries. Just don’t let your brain go to seed.
  • Travel if you can. Whether it’s around the world or around your county, get out there and see different things. If you really look there’s interesting stuff to do/see in every little town. Do a little research on places you may want to visit and find out what they offer. Day trips are very budget-friendly and you can still have a great time and learn a lot about a new area. Better yet, grab a friend and split the gas money— win-win.
  • Take care of your health. Getting plenty of rest is good, but spending all night and day sleeping is burning daylight. Don’t just live off take-out and delivery—learn to grocery shop and at least cook simple meals incorporating healthy foods. I think back to my junior high computer classes when they taught us, “Garbage in…garbage out.” (Yes, I’m so old we actually had those types of computer classes.) But it works well when discussing the body, too. And if you don’t know how to plan menus, shop, and cook? See number two above.
  • Save Money. Learn to appreciate what you have and fix things that are broken instead of replacing them. Don’t rush out to buy something just because it’s shiny and new; ask yourself if it is a need or a want. Make a budget that includes saving a portion of your income and stick to it. Save up for bigger ticket items and research the best place to purchase them. You never know when you’ll need that cushion. Trust me.

There you have it, my top five tidbits for new grads.  The list is certainly not all-encompassing, but it’s a good place to start.  Congratulations graduates.  Now let the real learning begin!