Homemade Grout Cleaner

– johanna | June 1st, 2012


Photo Source: Property of Flooring Liquidators

Grout can become dingy pretty fast. It is important to seal grout, with a penetrating sealer, to help keep bacteria and grime out of the pores. Sealing the grout also helps to make it waterproof. Grout sealer stops the water from seeping through the pores of the grout and underneath the tile. To keep tile and grout looking it’s best here are several homemade cleaners that are affordable and actually work.

For Basic Cleaning:

Combine equal parts table salt, baking soda and white vinegar into a bowl. Mix to form a paste. Use a sponge to scrub the mixture into the grout. Let it sit for a couple of minutes, then wipe the grout clean with a damp rag.

Mold and Mildew:

For Colored Grout: Dampen a rag with white vinegar and scrub. Let sit for a few minutes. Wash grout with soapy water and rinse.

For Light Colored Grout: 1:1 ratio of bleach or use Hydrogen Peroxide. Spray the peroxide onto the grout. Let it sit for five minutes, then wipe the grout clean with a wet rag.

Hard Core Grout Cleaner for Floors and Bathrooms:

Combine 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/3 cup household ammonia, 1/4 cup white vinegar, and 7 cups warm water. Scrub grout with mixture using a toothbrush or grout brush.

If this does not work, use Ajax Oxygen Bleach Cleaner Heavy Duty Formula. (This is the magic ingredient in the Magic Eraser.) Sprinkle Ajax on the grout. Use water to work up a lather. Let sit for 30 minutes. Wipe up cleaner. Mop the floor to remove any leftover residue.

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How To Quick Soak Beans

– johanna | November 8th, 2011


Photo: Source Unavailable

There are two ways to buy beans; in the can or dried. The can is great because first of all the natural chemical in the bean’s coating, that is known to give us gas, is lessened during processing. Secondly, canned is a straight shot into the pot or salad.

The benefit of using dried beans is you control what goes into them. The downside to cooking with dried beans is the need to soak them. Soaking rehydrates the bean. Hydration is necessary to cut down on cooking time while preserving all the rich nutrients. Otherwise the beans will cook unevenly, the skins will slip off and you will have a giant soupy, mushy mess on your hands. Soaking is also used to clean the beans of pesticides, bug larva, and any other contaminates attached to the beans.

Soaking Overnight: (the best way to soak beans)
1. Clean the beans under cool tap water, removing damaged beans, debris and rocks.
2. Place beans in a non-reactive bowl, preferably glass.
3. Cover beans with three times the amount of water. (About 3-4 inches above layer of beans)
4. Cover and let sit for at least 4 hours or overnight. In warm weather refrigerate beans to prevent sprouting.
5. Drain the water. Rinse well.
6. Cover with water by 2 inches. Cook 30 minutes to 1 hour, until tender.
7. Proceed with recipe. Drain.

Quick Soak:
1. Clean the beans under cool tap water, removing damaged beans, debris and rocks.
2. Place beans in a stock pot.
3. Fill with three times water, about 3-4 inches above the layer of beans. (about 5 cups water per 1 cup beans.)
4. Bring to a boil. Boil beans in water for 3 minutes.
5. Remove from heat. Cover and set aside for 2 to 4 hours.
6. Drain water. Rinse beans and pot well.
7. Add fresh water. Cook until tender 30 minutes to 1 hour. Drain.
8. Proceed with recipe.

Pressure Soak: (for more easily digestible beans)
1. Clean the beans under cool tap water, removing damaged beans, debris and rocks.
2. Place beans in a pressure cooker.
4. Cover beans by 3 inches of water. Bring to pressure. Process 5 minutes.
5. Remove from heat; let pressure drop naturally.
6. Drain water. Rinse well.
7. Cover with water by 2 inches. Cook 30 minutes to 1 hour, until tender.
8. Proceed with recipe.

Favorite beans recipes:
White Bean Soup
Black Bean Soup
Black Bean Chicken Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette

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The Red Food Dye Nation

– johanna | May 17th, 2011


Photo by: Hemera / Thinkstock

When our oldest was a toddler we used Burt’s Bees baby toothpaste. It tasted like fruit without the zing of fluoride. A couple of years later Burt’s Bees quit making the baby toothpaste. I made the switch to a kids store brand and was met with constant daily battles to get my son to brush his teeth.

A year ago I was in the toothpaste isle picking up new toothbrushes and a tube of paste for us, mom and dad, when I noticed there was a strawberry flavored toothpaste. I thought, hey why not buy it for the kids. I did not even think about what might be in it. My only concern was stopping the daily “brush your teeth” battle that had been going on the past four and a half years.

That evening I took out the tube then squeezed a dot onto the baby’s toothbrush and was shocked. The stuff was flourescent red. My first thought was “how much sugar did they put in this stuff” and my second thought was “Uh, this stuff is unnaturally red.” Normally I never gave dyes a second thought. Yet, for some reason there was something unnatural about that tube of toothpaste that I just could not let rest.

The question coming up a lot lately is, are food dyes ok? Do they spark behavioral issues in kids and health complaints in adults? Have dyes contributed to the rise of ADD, ADHD, and Autism in the past 40 years as a result of their increased consumption? For years the food administration has given their stamp of approval for the use of petroleum based dyes in food. Dyes that are in everything from cleaners to toothpaste to medicine.

In 2007 a study was forth coming siting the dangers of food dyes. As a result of the study the UK food administration required warning labels on all products containing petroleum dyes. The warning labels advised parents of the risk of hyperactivity due to the dyes. Industry leaders Kraft, Mars, Coca Cola and Wal-Mart skipped the warning labels choosing instead to make products shipped to the UK Sodium Benzoate and petroleum dye free. Yet here in the US these same companies continue to sell products for human consumption that harbor harmful petroleum based dyes and preservatives.

Clipart by: unknown

More recently in April 2011 the FDA held a hearing to once again determine if dyes contribute to hyperactivity. Advocates for the removal of all synthetic dyes from food products and medicines claim that non-food based dyes are unnecessary and cause hyperactivity in children. They gave compelling evidence that linked petroleum based preservatives and dyes to the increased number of children with allergies, ear infections, mood, cancer, ADHD, ADD, Autism, and other related spectrum disorders. The panel, minus one, agreed that dyes most likely cause a threat and yes warning labels should be required.

The battle was far from being won. Rather than give a statement based on their findings, the panel was required to answer a series of questions. Questions devised by crafty lawyers that when answered either way would be interpreted as, “food dyes do not cause hyperactivity or allergies in children.” Therefore, the FDA ruled that there was not enough evidence. Thus, companies were not required to post a warning label on consumable products here in America.

Color is beautiful!

After the April FDA ruling, dye advocates launched a campaign to gain support for the use of chemical dyes. The ads adopted images of gray popsicles calling, “a world without dyes…colorless.” Kantha Shelke, a food chemist and spokeswoman for the Institute of Food Technologists, stated, “Color is such a crucial part of the eating experience that banning dyes would take much of the pleasure out of life.”

Tattfoo Tan believes that Mother Nature has it all taken care of. Tattfoo Tan, is a Malaysian-born artist who resides in Staten Island. He developed The Nature Matching System “as a reminder to consume your [natural] daily recommended doses of color.” Tan wanted to understand the connection between the color of food and its nutritional value. Tan matched 88 natural colors using photographs of the fruits and vegetables found in the Union Square Green Market in New York and Photoshop’s eyedropper tool. Tan agrees “neon orange Cheetos is something spectacular to look at but the nutritional value is zilch.”

So what is the truth?

We know commercial food coloring is derived from coal tar oil, petroleum, and insects because it is cheaper to make; but, it comes with a price. The FDA is confident that all of the toxic proponents in the petroleum is eliminated during processing. They counter the accusations that dyed foods contain toxic chemicals from the petroleum, with: natural foods contain more petroleum from the fertilizer and the means of transporting crops than the amount of trace elements found in the actual dyes and preservatives.

We know that organic natural fruits and vegetables can be used to make an array of colorful dyes. The food industry refutes the idea of using natural dyes. They claim natural food dyes are too unstable, too muted and, uninteresting. They are convinced that no one will want to eat natural dyed foods. They believe that the public prefers the neon orange Cheetos to the pale peach natural Cheetos. The bright red strawberry Jello to a muted brown. Natural food companies such as India TreeSurf Sweets and Yummy Earth are determined to meet the need of color.

Who do we believe?

Voices from Dr. Feingold to Gwyneth Paltrow preach the benefits of a clean whole foods diet void of the unnecessary preservatives, artificial flavors, sweeteners and dyes. The FDA on the other hand in unison with countless doctors, scientists and organizations swear synthetic additives in food are not harmful. I decided to test the theory in my own home on our son who has Aspbegers.

The Test…

For one month we threw out all preservatives, artificial flavors and sweeteners, and dyes. It was very difficult at first because our city does not have a health food store and the kids are creatures of habits. They wanted their favorite foods.

Almost everything had to be made from scratch. Because companies are not required to list the ingredients in the products they use from outside sources I ordered the Feingold grocery list to help navigate the store isles when I needed something convient. Even though the label looks clean that is not always the case.

In one week I noticed a considerable change in my son. He could think more clearly. He was not bouncing off the walls in a rage. He was writing and reading without tantrums. The defiance leant way to a more agreeable attitude. He is happy and still full of life but the regular ticks are minimal.

The real test came on Easter Sunday. The kids ate a handful of jelly beans and for four days they were absolutely out of their minds. The defiance, screaming, and tantrums were back. The other children were moody, defiant and hyper.

I’d say from personal experience the answer for us is clear. Synthetic replacements in the form of preservatives [BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole), BHT (Burylated Hydroxytoluene), TBHQ (Tertiary Butylhydroquinone)], artificial flavors and sweeteners (aspartame and splenda), and dyes are indeed harmful and do cause adverse reactions; especially in individuals with predisposed allergies and learning disorders.

What now?

The next question is, will the FDA ever be responsible and require warning labels on products or warrant the elimination of such harmful chemicals? Nah, probably not. Or at least not in the near future. The pool of individuals sensitive to artificial flavors and colors is too small. If you call every one kid in 28 small. Fortunately there are reputable companies springing up to lead us into a colorful yet nutritious tomorrow.


–Visit Indie Candy and Natural Candy Store for natural baking supplies including food based dyes.
Eco Kids: for all natural craft supplies such as egg dye and playdough.
–Join the mission for Better School Food.
Spoonfed: Tips to help kids adopt a healthy diet comprised of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.
–Natural recipes for dyes: Rhythm of the Home, Natural Cookie Frosting, Natural Colored Rice Balls, Natural Easter Egg Dye, Darling Clementine, Homemade Playdough Dye, Natural Dyed Jello.

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Biscuit 101- The History of…

– johanna | April 26th, 2011


In the South the term “biscuit” often refers to a light, fluffy, flaky, buttery bread usually served with breakfast. In England and other places around the world however, a biscuit is more like a hard scone or “cookie” served with tea or coffee.

The History:
The word “biscuit” derives from the Latin “panis biscoctus,” meaning “bread twice baked.” The history books tell us that the “biscuit” began as a simple paste of flour and water. The paste was baked, removed from the pan; then cooked again in a cooler oven until thoroughly dried out. The result was a hard, portable “cracker” with an extraordinary extended shelf life. “Biscuits” were very popular among the sailors and travelers because they were lite and could last for months.

Meanwhile, the more civilized areas of the world started exploring alternate baked goods. These ancient civilizations experimented with eggs, butter and cream; in addition to, sugar, fruits and honey as well as spices from the Middle East. The first shift from the unyielding biscuits were small cake like confections popular in Persia during the 7th Century AD. During the Medieval Ages the culinary techniques for making sweet and savory cake-like biscuits were introduced to the Europeans during the invasion of Muslims into Spain and the Crusades.

Biscuits World Wide:
Throughout the centuries biscuits have been called many things:
British- Ship’s Biscuit (Hardtack)
French- Gaufrettes wafers,
Jewish- Mandelbrot
South Africa- Rusk
Australian / New Zeland- ANZAC (War Biscuits), (Afghan biscuits were derived from the Australian ANZAC)
Dutch- Speculaas (ginger flavored type cookie)
Scotish- Shortbread
Italy- Biscotti
Russain / Ukraine- Tea Cakes
Egypt- millet bread called dhourra cake
Persia- cookies
Middle East- Barazek

In early America the pioneers favored the “soda biscuit” or as the Chuck Wagoners referred to them, “Cowboy biscuits”. Soda biscuits were usually cooked in iron dutch ovens.These were cast-iron pots with lids that could be used over an open fire. The biscuits were were rolled then placed in the pot. After the lid was set in place the cook would layer coals from fire on top of the lid. The heat created a small portable oven.

The “Marlyand”, “Beaten Biscuit” or “Appalachian biscuit” is thought to predate the leavened soda biscuit of the settlers. Before the 1900’s corn bread was a favored commodity in the Appalachian mountains. Corn bread was cheap to make as the corn was grown in abundance locally. The bread did not require a fancy oven or pans as did the “biscuits” eaten by those of society.

At the turn of the century the settlement movement placed women volunteers in low income areas in the South to help alleviate poverty. The Appalachians contaminated corn products or “musty corn” were thought to be the cause of pellagra. “A life-threatening disease similar in effect to leprosy.” Families were faced with a choice to eat the stores of corn and risk death or starve during the winter months. The women hoped to help the Appalachians adopt a healthier diet. They taught them cooking lessons introducing the wheat flour “Beaten Biscuit.” The beaten biscuit was not a realistic choice for the impoverished community. The biscuits required imported wheat flour in addition to a special oven to regulate temperatures; moreover, the biscuits needed to be beaten with a mallet on a marble slab 300-500 times to incorporate air into the dough.

Seeing the need for reform the Appalachains were taught how to make a simpler version called the “Cat Head”. It was basically a Southern buttermilk biscuit the size of a cat’s head. The dough was pinched off, then rolled into a ball, and placed with sides touching into an iron skillet. Today corn bread still remains the chosen bread for many in the Appalachian territory.

Other biscuits from the 1900’s include:
–The “Touch of Grace” or “Angel” biscuit. These are very light and similar to a yeast roll but still considered a biscuit. They were a fool-proof recipe for new brides because the recipe called for two leaveners in case one failed.
–The “Rolled” biscuit- dates back to the late 1800’s. The dough was rolled out then shaped with a cutter.
–The “Drop” biscuit– the dough is the consistency of a batter. The batter is dropped by spoonfuls rather than cut or pinched.
–“Refrigerator” biscuits – arrived in the 1930’s. They are tubes of prepackaged biscuit dough.

Other ways to eat biscuits:
Cream Cheese Biscuits with Chocolate Gravy
Peach Cobbler
Chicken and Dumplings
Biscuits and Gravy
Cheddar and Herb

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How to Sear Roasts and Stew Meat

– johanna | September 28th, 2010


Is pan searing meat really worth it? You bet cha! Pan searing is vital when cooking roasts or making beef stews. First the high heat creates a wonderful caramelized brown crust that gives the meat a nice texture. Second the left over burnt bits in the pan are scraped up using juice, broth or wine and then added to the roasting pan with the roast, soup pot or crock pot to increase the flavor.

You can sear just about any type of beef, poultry, pork or seafood. Searing is not meant to fully cook the meat. When searing beef and seafood steaks in addition to chicken breast and pork chops, it is important to note that you will need to finish cooking the item at a lower heat. You can sear steaks on a grill by creating a higher temperature on one side of the grill and a lower temperature on the opposite side. When the steak is caramelized move it to the other side to continue to slowly cook. This method for cooking beef steaks can be done on the stove by covering the pan with tinfoil or a lid and turning off the heat. For items such as chicken, pork or tuna steaks ideally you can turn the heat down or place the pan in a 350 degree heated oven for 5-8 minutes or until no longer pink. When using the stove to oven method make sure the pan you intend to use is oven proof. My favorite pan to use when grilling or searing is a cast iron skillet. Cast Iron skillets hold the heat in better and distribute it more evenly. Non-stick pans are not recommended as they are not meant to with stand the high heat required for searing.

This tutorial will guide you through the basics of pan searing a roast and stew meat.

— Remove the meat from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.

— Heat a skillet over high heat.

— Season the meat with salt and pepper or any desired seasoning. (For stew meat dredge seasoned meat in flour coating well.)

— Add enough butter or vegetable oil to lightly coat the bottom of the skillet. (Avoid olive oil because it smokes to much at high temperatures.) When the oil ripples and runs like water when the pan is tiled the pan is hot enough to add the meat.

— Let the meat sit in the pan for a few minutes to allow the meat to caramelize. When the meat is initially placed in the pan it will have a fast high pitched sizzle. Check the meat when you start to hear the sizzle slow down. If it looks caramelized, nice and browned, then it is time to turn it. Use tongs to turn the meat browning all the sides. (Sear stew meat in batches so as to not overcrowd the pan.)

— After the meat is removed turn the heat off. Carefully pour 1/2 cup to 1 cup liquid in pan. Deglaze the pan by scraping the bottom of the pan to get all the burnt bits off. Use the broth to flavor the roast or stew or as a sauce.

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The Science of Baking Cakes

– johanna | April 14th, 2010


Photograph by: Romulo Yanes

Photograph by: Romulo Yanes

It is said that baking is not only an art but more importantly it is a science. First let’s take a look at the science of baking a cake for each main ingredient in a recipe serves an important purpose. The basic carrot cake recipes are all pretty much the same, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups flour, 1 1/2 cups oil, 4 eggs and 3 cups carrots.

  • Every carrot cake recipe I found called for 2 to 2 1/2 cups of flour. Flour is the primary structure builder in most cakes. The gluten in the flour reacts with the leavening agent (baking soda and baking powder and oil) during baking to make the cake rise.
  • The second ingredient is sugar. The first rule in baking states that the sugar should weigh slightly more or equal to the amount of flour used. This is because the sugar is needed to tenderize the gluten in the flour and acts as a sweetener and preservative to keep the cake moist for several days. About 50 percent of the sugar may be replaced with a liquid substitute; although, when replacing granular sugar for the liquid form, the liquid content of the recipe must be reduced slightly by a couple of tablespoons to a ¼ cup to compensate. The combined weight of the liquid (eggs, fats, milk water, fruits, vegetables, ect) should equal or exceed the weight of the sugar.
  • The third ingredient is oil. Oil like sugar acts as a tenderizing agent to keep the cake from drying out while baking. Oil is also used in correlation with baking soda and powder as a leavening agent. When the oil is mixed into the batter it helps to incorporate air into the cake giving it volume.
  • The fourth main ingredient is eggs. Eggs react with the flour and oil in providing structure and strength. Because of the tenderizing properties of oil the proteins in eggs are necessary to give the cake support. Therefore, the weight of the eggs should equal or exceed the weight of the oil.

Other things to consider:
It is necessary to consider the amount of fat, eggs and liquid used in a recipe. The liquid in the cake (milk, water, milk, eggs, vegetable, fruit, vanilla) serves to develop the gluten, dissolves the sugar, ignites the baking powder and regulates the temperature of the batter while in the oven. Liquids should always equal or exceed the weight of the sugar. If not enough liquid is used to dissolve the sugar, the cake will collapse in the center. If there is too much flour there will not be enough liquid to dissolve the sugar. The amount of liquid is partially controlled by the type of fat used as oils, margarine and shortening vary in the amount of water they contain.

In our carrot cake recipe we need 50-60 percent as much oil as flour. The weight of the eggs should equal or slightly exceed the weight of the oil. The combined weight of the eggs plus the liquid (fats, milk water, fruits, vegetables, ect) should equal or exceed the weight of the sugar. The weight of the sugar should equal the weight of the flour.

On to Substitutions:
I have just given you the rules based on the science of baking a cake. Now let’s discuss the exceptions to the rules. Theoretically the sugar and oil can be reduced slightly without a replacement in most recipes. Substitutions are not ideal especially when baking delicate foods such as pastries. Quick breads like banana bread or carrot cake offer a little more room for error.

baking science

Cake Baking Science Project:

Put science to the test with this cake science project. Learn about chemical reactions by baking 4 small cakes leaving one important ingredient out of 3 of them. The ingredients are only for 1 cake, so you’ll need to measure and mix 4 times.

What you’ll need:
• A small soup or cereal bowl
• Several layers of aluminum foil
• A pie pan
• Cooking oil to grease the “cake pans”
• Measuring spoons
• A cup or small bowl for the egg
• A small mixing bowl
• Your science journal

• 6 tablespoons flour
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• Pinch of salt
• 2 or 3 pinches baking powder
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 2 tablespoons cooking oil
• 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
• Part of an egg
(Break egg into a cup, beat until mixed.
Use 1/3 of it. Save the rest for 2 of the other cakes.)

What to do:
1. Wrap several layers of aluminum foil around the outside of a cereal or soup bowl to form a mold.
2. Remove your foil “pan” and put it in a pie pan for support.
3. Oil the “inside” of your foil pan with cooking oil so the cake doesn’t stick.
4. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.
5. Mix all of the dry ingredients together. Add the wet ones (only use 1/3 of the egg). Stir until smooth and all the same color.
6. Pour batter into the “pan.”
7. Bake for 15 minutes.
8. Bake 3 more cakes:
Leave the oil out of one.
Leave the egg out of another.
Leave the baking powder out of the third.
Cut each cake in half and look at the insides.
Do they look different?
Do they taste different?
9. Write about, or draw pictures of, what you see and taste.
Heat helps some chemical reactions to occur as the cake bakes:
It helps baking powder produce tiny bubbles of gas making the cake light and fluffy (this is called leavening).
It causes protein from the egg to change and make the cake firm.
Oil keeps the heat from drying out the cake.

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The Many Uses Of Vinegar

– johanna | January 11th, 2010


Uses of vinegar

Photo by Greener Loudoun

Vinegar came into existence, by mere chance, more than 10,000 years ago when a cask of wine had over-reached its expiration date. Centuries later in 1964, Scientist Louis Pasteur, discovered that it was the fermentation of natural sugars into alcohol followed by a secondary fermentation that resulted in the product vinegar.

Throughout the time that vinegar has been known to man the substance has been distilled using ingredients such as molasses, dates, fruits, berries, melons, coconut, honey, beer, maple syrup, potatoes, beets, malt, grains and whey. Consequently, the flavors and varieties of vinegars available are just as vast and unique as the substances it is made from.

Since the first accidental discovery this inexpensive kitchen staple has been used in remarkable capacities. Recorded historical uses of vinegar began as far back as 5,000 BC.
-Babylonians used it as a preservative; flavoring the liquid with herbs and spices.
-Roman legionnaires consumed it as a beverage. In ancient Egypt, -Cleopatra used vinegar as a solvent dissolving pearls in it to win a wager that she could consume a fortune in a single meal.
-The Ancient Physician Hippocrates, discovered its medicinal qualities using it as a stringent and cough remedy.
-The Greeks used it for culinary purposes in pickling vegetables and meats.
-Hannibal, a great general, gained access across the Alps by heating a barrier of boulders and then doused them with vinegar. The boulders cracked and crumbled paving a path for his army to cross through.
-During the American Civil War, vinegar was used to treat scurvy.
-During World War I, vinegar was used to treat wounds.

Today we continue to enjoy the benefits of this ancient sour wine in cleaning, household projects, medicinal remedies, organic agriculture, and the culinary arts. The following tips use ordinary distilled white vinegar. This list is just a sample of the many uses of vinegar. For more fun facts and tips visit VinegarTips.com for 1001 Uses for White Distilled Vinegar.


Photo By: This Old House


  • Make your own cleaning solution by combining 1/2 cup vinegar, 1 cup Ammonia, 1/4 cup baking soda and 1 gallon hot water.
  • Use vinegar to clean hard water stains from tub/shower stalls. Mix 1/2 cup vinegar and 1 cup fabric softener with 1 quart warm water. Spray glass shower door with furniture polish or lemon oil to prevent build up. For basic cleaning of tubs and sinks wipe with vinegar and then scrub with baking soda. Rinse clean with water.
  • Whiten Grout. Scrub grout with a stiff brush dipped in vinegar. For extra fighting power add baking soda to make a paste.
  • Remove mineral deposits from showerheads. Pour 1/2 cup of warm water into a resealable plastic bag. Drop in the showerhead, seal and let sit 1 hour. Rinse clean and wipe dry.
  • Make the toilet bowl sparkle. Drop 1 denture cleaner tablet into the toilet with 1 cup vinegar. Let sit 30 minutes. Scrub with baking soda.
  • Wipe glass doors and windows streak free. Mix 1/2 cup to 1 cup vinegar with 1/2 gallon of water. Pour into a spray bottle.
  • Wash no-wax floors. Add 1/2 cup vinegar to a 1/2 gallon warm water.
    Carpet stain removal. (for the removal of fresh non-oily carpet stains) mix 1 teaspoon liquid detergent and 1 teaspoon of vinegar in a pint of warm water. Apply solution to the stain with a soft brush or towel and rub gently. Rinse with a towel moistened with clean water; blot dry. Repeat until the stain is gone. Then dry quickly, using a fan or hair dryer.
  • Wipe out water rings on wood furniture by rubbing with a mixture of equal parts vinegar and olive oil. Rub with the grain and polish for the best results.
  • Sanitize the refrigerator. Wipe with a solution of equal parts water and vinegar. Remove odor by placing 1 cup apple cider vinegar in a glass and place it in the refrigerator for a few days.
  • Disinfect cutting boards; a nice alternative to using bleach. Wipe with full strength vinegar.
  • Shine stainless steel appliances and sinks. Apply vinegar with a soft cloth to remove streaks from stainless steel appliances. (Try in an inconspicuous place first) You can also use lemon oil.
  • Keep garbage disposals fresh and clean. Make vinegar cubes by filling an ice tray with a mixture of 1 cup of vinegar and enough water to fill the ice tray; freeze. Run the mixture through the disposal, and then flush it with cold water for a minute or so. The ice sharpens the blades while the vinegar disinfects.
  • Dishes and glasses. Pour 1 ½ cup to 2 cups vinegar in the bottom of the dishwasher. Add soap and wash full cycle. Use this technique instead of bleach to fight off the flu.
  • Kill Germs in the Laundry. Add 1 tsp salt and 1/4 cup vinegar to wash.
  • Fabric Softener. Add 1/4-1/2 cup to fabric softener dispenser. Especially great on baby clothes and towels.
  • Deodorant stains. Rub with vinegar and wash as usual. For tough stains make a paste of vinegar and baking soda. Rub into stain. Leave garment in the sun. Wash as usual.
  • Wine stains. Remove wine stains from 100% cotton, cotton polyester and permanent press fabrics within 24 hours. Sponge vinegar directly onto the stain and gently rub away the spots. Then clean according to the directions on the manufacturer’s tag.
  • Keeping colors fast:
    To hold colors in fabrics, which tend to run, soak them for a few minutes in white distilled vinegar before washing.
    When color dyeing fabrics, add 1 cup of vinegar to the last rinse water to help set the color.
  • Cleaning Vintage Lace. Soak the lace in cold water, rinsing it several times. Next, hand-wash with Woolite. Remove stains with equal parts vinegar and hot water.
  • Unclog a steam iron. Pour equal amounts of vinegar and water into the iron’s water chamber. Turn to steam and leave the iron on for 5 minutes in an upright position. Then unplug and allow to cool. Any loose particles should come out when you empty the water.
    To remove the burn mark on the iron plate, heat equal parts vinegar and salt in a small pan. Rub the solution on the cooled iron surface.
  • Shine brass, copper and pewter. Dissolve 1 teaspoon salt in 1 cup of vinegar. Stir in flour to make a paste. Apply paste to the metals and let stand for about 15 minutes. Rinse with clean warm water and polish until dry.
    Mix olive oil and vinegar in a one-to-one ratio and polish with a soft cloth. Try in an inconspicuous place first.
  • Remove the blackened soot on fireplace glass doors. Wash fireplaces with a 50/50 ratio of water and vinegar to. Wipe dry with newspaper.
  • Clean Gold Jewelry. Submerge jewelry in one cup apple cider vinegar; let sit 15 minutes. Remove and dry with cloth.
  • Clean DVDs. Wipe smudged CDs and DVDs with vinegar. Dry completely before reinserting into player.


Photo By: This Old House


  • Non-poisonous ant solution. Dab a cotton ball with vinegar. Swab areas the ants trail. Heat a pot of vinegar then pour over ant hills.
  • Fruit fly deterrent. Place a bowl filled with 1/2 quart water, 2 tablespoons sugar, 2 tablespoons. apple cider vinegar and a couple drops dish soap.
  • Banish stickiness. Remove stickers and price tags from glass, wood and plastic. Dab vinegar on stubborn stickers; scrap surface clean.
  • Clean paint brushes by soaking them 30 minutes in hot vinegar. Wash in hot soapy water, cleaning off paint.
  • Rust Remover. Soak rusted tools in vinegar for a few days. Rinse with water.


  • Increase soil acidity: In hard water areas, add a cup of vinegar to a gallon of tap water. Great for rhododendrons, gardenias or azaleas.
  • Keep flowers fresh longer. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and 2 tablespoons vinegar with 1-quart water. Trim stems and change water every five days.
  • Grass and weed control. To kill grass on sidewalks and driveways, pour full strength vinegar on it.
    For weeds, spray full strength vinegar on tops of weeds. Reapply on any new growth until plants have starved.
  • Plant food. Mix vinegar and water in a ratio of one part vinegar to 8 parts water. Mix a separate solution of 1 part sugar to 8 parts water. Combine the vinegar and sugar mixtures.


Photo By: AppleCiderVinegarWeightloss.com


  • For burnt on food, submerge the area in vinegar and soak overnight. Clean with hot soapy water.
  • To control weight swap out creamy salad dressings for a sprinkle of vinegar. Use flavors such as Champagne, Balsamic, Red Wine and seasoned.
  • Flavor soups and stews using a tablespoon of your favorite vinegar.
  • Meat tenderizer. Combine 1/2 cup of your favorite vinegar to 1 cup of bouillon or 1/4 cup oil. Rub into meat; let sit two hours.
  • For sweeter more tender fish soak fish in vinegar and water before cooking. Add 1 tablespoon vinegar to water when poaching fish to keep it from crumbling.
  • Add a little vinegar to the water when poaching or boiling eggs. It helps to keep the whites together.
  • Prevent oxidation of potatoes. Peeled potatoes left sitting begin to oxidize and turn dark. Add a teaspoon of white distilled vinegar or cider vinegar to the pot of water.
  • Fruit and vegetable wash. Freshen and wash vegetables by adding 2 tablespoons vinegar to 1 pint water; wash, then rinse thoroughly.
  • Before frying doughnuts, add 1/2 teaspoon of vinegar to hot oil to prevent doughnuts soaking up extra grease. Use caution when adding the vinegar to the hot oil.

cleaning-table with vinegar

Photo By: Planet Green


  • Remove fruit or berry stains from your hands by cleaning them with vinegar.
  • To keep pets free of fleas and ticks mix 1teaspoon vinegar to each quart of drinking water. This solution is for a forty pound animal, Always get the approval of your pets doctor before trying natural home remedies.
  • Smelly dog odor. Rinse the dog with fresh water. Saturate the dogs coat with a mixture of 1 cup vinegar and 2 gallons water. Do not rinse. Dry completely.
  • Potty Accidents for both people and animals. Sprinkle area with vinegar. Wait a few minutes and sponge from the center outward. Blot up with a dry cloth. Repeat if necessary. (Test carpet in an inconspicuous place before trying)
  • Frosted windows:
    For those rare winter mornings when there is frost on the car, wipe the windows the night before with a solution of one part water to three parts white distilled vinegar. They won’t frost over.
  • Freshen lunch boxes by dampening a piece of bread with vinegar and enclose in the lunch box overnight.
  • Freshen the kitchen. Odors can linger after cooking meats or with oil. Simmer an equal mix of water and vinegar until smell dissolves.

foot with pedicure


  • Clean Calcium Deposits and Sanitize Humidifiers. Heat 1 ¾ vinegar. Pour vinegar into reservoir and replace cap. Let sit for 1 hour. Remove vinegar. Reservoir should be clean and calcium free. Contact manufacturer before cleaning with this method or review manufacturer’s directions.
  • Soothe a bee or jellyfish sting. Douse with vinegar to soothe irritation and relieve itching. (You can also use tobacco. Make a paste with tobacco from a cigar and water. Tape in place over hole.)
    Relieve sunburn. Lightly rub white distilled or cider vinegar on area. Reapply as needed.
  • For other types of burns, apply ice-cold vinegar right away to prevent blisters.
  • Relieve dry and itchy skin such as Psoriasis. Add 2 tablespoons of vinegar to your bath water. (A compress of seaweed works well too) For dry scalp, after shampooing, rinse with a solution of 1/2 cup vinegar and 2 cups of warm water.
  • Stop Itching. Apply a paste of vinegar and cornstarch. Keep on until itch disappears.
  • Toenail fungus. Soak toes in a solution of vinegar and water, using 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water, 15 minutes per day.
  • Soften callused cracked Feet. Combine 1 cup vinegar to 2 gallons warm water. Soak feet for 45 minutes then use a pumice stone or file to remove dead skin from heels and callused areas of feet.
  • Wart Remover. Mix warm water with 1 cup vinegar. Soak area for 20 minutes everyday until wart disappears.
  • Soothe a sore throat. There are several ways to do this. Put a teaspoon of vinegar in a glass of water; gargle, then swallow. Mix 1 cup hot water, 2 tablespoons honey, 1 teaspoon vinegar, gargle then drink. (Mix 1/2 tsp salt to 2 cups water, add 1 tablespoon peroxide. Heat in the microwave until warm. Gargle, do not drink.)
  • Treat sinus infections and chest colds. Add 1/4 cup or more vinegar to a vaporizer. Add water as needed per unit instructions.
  • Chest congestion. Inhale a vapor mist from a steaming pot containing water and several spoonfuls of vinegar.
  • Calm a queasy stomach. If you can stomach the smell and taste try downing some apple cider vinegar in water, with a little honey.


Photo By: My Little Cottage in the Making


  • Coloring Easter eggs. Mix 1 teaspoon of vinegar with each 1/2 cup hot water; add food coloring.
  • Naked eggs. Magically remove the shell of an egg. This project takes two days to complete.
    Place eggs in a container so the eggs are not touching. Add enough vinegar to cover the eggs. Cover the container, put in the refrigerator and let sit for 24 hours. Use a slotted spoon to carefully scoop out the eggs. Dump out the vinegar. Put the eggs back in the container and cover with fresh vinegar. Leave the eggs in the refrigerator for another 24 hours. Scoop the eggs out again and rinse carefully. Throw away any eggs with broken membranes. Now you should have egg without a shell.
  • Volcano. Make the cone of the volcano by mixing 6 cups flour, 2 cups salt, 4 tablespoons cooking oil and 2 cups of water. Mix until smooth and firm. Stand a soda bottle in a baking pan and mold the dough around it into a volcano shape. Do not cover the hole or drop dough into it. Fill the bottle most of the way with warm water and a few drops of red food coloring. Add 6 drops of detergent to the bottle contents. Add 2 tablespoons baking soda to the liquid. Slowly pour vinegar into the bottle.
  • Berry ink pens. 1/2 cup ripe berries, 1/2 teaspoon vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon salt and feather.
    Fit a strainer over a bowl. Place berries in strainer. Using the back of a wooden spoon, crush the berries against the strainer. Keep pressing until most of the juice has been strained out and only pulp remains. Add the salt and vinegar to the berry juice. If the berry ink is too thick, add a tablespoon of water. Store in a baby food jar sealed tightly. Cut the tip of the feather at an angle. Cut a slit in the tip. Dip the tip into the berry ink; dap on paper towel. Repeat as needed.
  • Magic Potion. Pour 2 tablespoons vinegar into a shallow bowl or cup set on a baking sheet. Add 1 tablespoon baking soda.
    Hot Air Balloon. Pour 4 tablespoons vinegar into a bottle. Pour 2 tablespoons baking soda into a balloon that isn’t blown up (make a siphon out of cone of paper). Without tipping the baking soda into the vinegar, put the balloon over the top of the container. Use your hand or a rubber band to hold the seal. Jiggle the balloon so the baking soda is dumped in.

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How To Grate Fresh Nutmeg

– johanna | December 16th, 2009


Nutmeg Seed

There are two spices derived from the fruit of the Myristica fragrans tree, nutmeg and mace. The spices were originally derived from the Spice Islands of Indonesia. Mace comes from the red lacy covering of the stone-like seed, while nutmeg is made from the seed itself.

I have only ever used the ground form of nutmeg. Foodies profess they only use freshly grated nutmeg. I finally decided to try it out to see what all the hype was about. I purchased a bottle of Spice Island Whole nutmeg. It is not gourmet from Whole Foods, it was the only brand the market carried. I started with my favorite holiday recipe Pumpkin Chip Cookies. I was all set to go with my Microplane in one hand and a nutmeg seed in the other. Problem was I was uncertain what to do. Was I supposed to crack the seed open? Is the seed it? I turned to the internet but could not find anything on grating nutmeg. I concluded I would grate the seed and hope for the best.

The only difference I could tell was that the freshly grated nutmeg seemed to blend in in a silky smooth way. The powdered form of nutmeg can sometimes be overpowering. I paid $6.59 for a bottle of 14 seeds. Cost-wise it is a good deal. I made two recipes and barley used a quarter of the seed. Grated nutmeg may be substituted for ground simply by adding a smidgen less of the fresh stuff.

To grate nutmeg gently rub against the sharp edges of a microplane in a back and forth motion. Keep the hollow side turned up to catch the shavings. It makes it easier to see how much you have grated.

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How To Peel, Core and Slice Apples and Pears

– johanna | December 9th, 2009


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How to Make Turkey Stock

– johanna | November 20th, 2009


basic turkey stock

Photo by: Chow.com

When I make soups I use a product I buy at Costco called Better Than Bullion. Basically it is stock that has been boiled down into a concentrated paste. I like it better than bullion or canned broth but it does not compare to the real stuff. I made a pot roast the other day and saved the juices to make beef stew. It was ten times better than anything from a can. Stock can be made using the drippings from a roast pan or by boiling the leftover turkey or chicken carcasses.

To make turkey stock:

– De-bone the turkey by removing all the meat from the bones.

– Chop up the turkey to fit in a large pot. Cover with water about 1-inch or so above the turkey. Bring the water to a boil then turn down the heat to low; cover and simmer for 2-3 hours. Occasionally skim the foam from the top.

– Strain the broth into a large bowl or container using a thin kitchen cloth or cheese cloth placed on a strainer. Let cool. Skim the fat from the top. Freeze. This version does not have much flavor. It is best used in soups.

– Once the water has simmered for an hour add chopped onions, carrots, celery with the leaves, whole garlic cloves, parsnips, thyme, parsley and peppercorns. This version has flavor and can be used in soups, sauces or in anything else chicken or turkey stock is called for.

– Add the turkey neck and giblets to the pot with the turkey.

Should make about 3-4 quarts of stock.

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