Monthly Archives: September 2016

Monthly Pick – DIY – Unexpected Uses For Coffee In The Kitchen

coffee grounds

Happy National Coffee Day!

I am a coffee aficionado. I own no fewer than five different types of coffee makers. You can well imagine that I end up with a fair bit of leftover coffee, either in liquid form or as used grounds. The area I live in has a composting program, so waste isn’t a huge concern for me. Those grounds will get composted into garden material that residents can buy back from the city.

But, I do like to find other uses for things, if possible. Coffee, in liquid or grounds, is perfect for that. I’ve seen recipes where potatoes and whatnot can be cooked in a coffee maker! That’s sure helpful on those nights when you just don’t feel like turning on the range hood.

Here are a few more ways to make use of whatever leftover coffee or grounds you might have:

Fridge Deodorizer. Place unused coffee grounds in a bowl. Then place the bowl in your fridge. The grounds will soak up all the odors swirling around the inside of your fridge. Toss the grounds out after a couple of days, and replace with fresh grounds.

Skin Cleanser. Mix a few tablespoons of coffee grounds with a few drops of coconut oil until a smooth paste forms. Rub the mixture gently on your skin then rinse.

Hand Deodorizer. Keep a cupful of used coffee grounds near the kitchen sink. The next time your hands smell of the onion or garlic you’ve just chopped, rub a bit of grounds over your hands then rinse.

The Internet of Things Range Hoods

shutterstock_356121302

The Internet of Things is an amazing concept. It basically boils down to outfitting appliances of various sorts with computers so that they become more functional, more convenient, and even more helpful. There are fridges with technology that allows them to sense what’s stored within, then suggest recipes that use those ingredients. There are vacuums that can be turned on or off when you’re not home by clicking a command on your smart phone. Now, the internet of things has been applied to range hoods.

The robots are not coming. They’re already here!

Sakura, a supplier of appliances based in Taiwan, is experimenting with internet-connected range hoods, water heaters, and other home-based appliances. Samsung, Whirlpool, Panasonic, Reversomatic, and other manufacturers have been experimenting with smart range hoods, too. So far, these range hoods are fully automatic. They’re embedded with heat and smoke sensors, and will cycle through low, medium, and high settings according to how much heat and smoke are being produced. Smart ranges run only when they’re needed, starting and stopping automatically, making them energy efficient, too. Some of them even come with an alarm that will sound if the food is smoking too much and is beginning to burn.

Over to you: Would a smart appliance make cooking more convenient?

 

Fall Recipes – Apple Spice Cake

apple spice loaf

Generally speaking, summer is my ultimate favorite season. Fall comes a close second. How can you not love this time of year with the abundance of fruits and vegetables that it offers? Fall also brings with it cooler temperatures, which is the best excuse to enjoy a little more of this great food, right?

Let’s start with dessert, shall we? This Apple Spice Cake is one of my go-to recipes all through fall and winter. I’ve had it for so long that I don’t have a clue where I found the recipe. I can tell you, that each time I make it I tweak it according to whatever ingredients I might have on hand or whether I’m short on time.

Yes, you will definitely need to switch on that range hood fan for this one. How else would the delicious aroma find its way to your neighbors’ noses?

Apple Spice Cake

  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 and 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 and 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup applesauce
  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Coat nuts with 2 Tb flour and set aside.
  3. Combine remaining flour with next 6 ingredients.
  4. In another bowl, cream butter, brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.
  5. Add dry ingredients alternately with applesauce.
  6. Stir in nuts.
  7. Pour batter into two greased 8-1/2″ x 4-1/2″ pan. sprinkle the top with extra nuts, oatmeal, or just leave it plain. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes.

Stay tuned for more delicious recipes as we settle into fall!

Monthly Pick – DIY – Choose The Right Kitchen Paint Color

kitchen paint

Have you spent much time in a paint store lately? The last time I stepped foot in one, I ended up spending much more time in there than I thought I would. It’s hard to choose a color (or not question a choice you’ve already made) when faced with walls of paint chips all lined up according to every shade and degree of every color imaginable.

So, I thought it would be helpful to gather together some tips on how to navigate the choices. First, start with a source of inspiration. For me, my old range hood had been painted a beautiful copper color. So, that’s what I used to choose the pale green color I had in my pre-reno kitchen.

Bright colors, like red and yellow, are said to stimulate the appetite. That’s a good thing in the kitchen, right? White, which many kitchens are, is actually quite energizing. Especially if it’s punctuated with a bright accent color or artwork, a white kitchen will definitely wake you up in the morning.

Neutral browns and grays are often labelled as boring. But, with the right accent colors (even if that accent is the cabinetry), neutrals can be both energizing and calming.

Have a look at these:

Minty green, black, and a neutral beige background bring this kitchen to life:

Photo: housebeautiful.com

Photo: housebeautiful.com

This kitchen design combines blues, whites, and patterned wallpaper to create a fun and cool space.

Photo: bhg.com

Photo: bhg.com

Living in a small space? No problem. Neutral colors can make a small kitchen seem much larger.

Photo: apartmenttherapy.com

Photo: apartmenttherapy.com

Over to you: how did you choose your kitchen color?

How to Choose the Right Floor Color

kitchen floor colour

One of the most difficult decisions I had to make when I renovated my kitchen was the type and color of the flooring. At the time, my range hood was painted a kind of coppery color that I really liked. So, I used it as a foundation for all the other colors that I had to choose. The backsplash tiles were cream-colored. The maple wood cabinetry was a warm, copper color. The countertops were a kind of marbled mish-mash of brown, copper, and cream.

Since all of those elements were of a similar family of colors, I wasn’t sure what to do with the floor tiles. Were I to re-do that renovation today, I’d probably end up with some kind of engineered wood floor product. But, at the time, tile seemed like the only appropriate material (other than vinyl!) for the kitchen floor. So, I ended up choosing a kind of orange-yellow natural stone look that still impresses today.

There are so many alternatives available today, that choosing any of the finishes makes for a complex and difficult decision! So, I thought I’d lay out a few tips to help you choose among the huge array of colors available to you.

  • Know what you like. Trends will come and go, and if you choose your finishes according to those trends, you’ll end up unhappy and needing to renovate again just a few years later. Figure out what one or two dominant colors you really like. Then choose a third accent color.
  • Focus on the countertop. Whether or not you’re replacing the kitchen countertop, always base your flooring color on the countertop. Countertops are probably the most expensive element of your kitchen. Make sure everything else matches it.
  • Stay neutral. Whether you’ve opted for wood, vinyl, or tile kitchen floors, keep the color of the flooring neutral. Even if the wood has a darker grain, or if the tiles are speckled, or if the vinyl has a colorful design, always make sure that the base color (the most dominant) on each type of flooring is neutral. That way, you shouldn’t have too much trouble at all matching it to the other elements in your kitchen.

Over to you: how did you decide on your kitchen color scheme?

 

Monthly Pick – DIY Kitchen Cabinets

kitchen cabinets

I have found that the cabinetry surrounding my range hood really takes a beating over time. Some of that grease and grime that cooking produces is not always picked up and exhausted by the range hood fan. That’s the stuff that tends to end up stuck to the cabinetry.

There aren’t too many people I know who can embark on a whole or even partial kitchen renovation just because some of the cabinets are starting to look a little long in the tooth. I’m certainly not in that camp either!

So, the question is, how do I keep my cabinets looking great when some parts suffer more use than other parts?

This is where the do-it-yourself comes in. One weekend of effort can turn your tired-looking cabinets into brand new-looking cabinets. Here are some quick and easy ideas:

  • Make your own cabinet doors. If you’re at all handy with tools, I salute you. I love woodworking, but I’m not all that expert at it. However, home hardware and lumber stores will do the cutting for you if you provide the measurements. That’s how I get around my spotting talent. Once the doors have been cut to size, painting and attaching hinges is a snap.
  • Paint it over. Not willing or able to invest in brand new doors? No problem. All you need is to paint over your existing cabinetry. You’ll need to purchase stain or paint stripper to remove the product that’s currently on your cabinets. Sand the doors and wipe clean. Then apply the paint or stain of your choice.
  • Go country. If you’re not into building your own cabinetry, and you’re not interested in stripping, sanding, and painting. There’s another option for you. You can embrace that worn out look and expand it to the rest of the cabinetry. Take sandpaper and rub it over your cabinets. You’ll get a kind of distressed wood look that’s very popular.

Over to you: How have you refreshed your kitchen look?

Do It Yourself Recipes For Glowing Skin

clear skin

As wonderful as summer weather is, all that sun really can take a toll on skin. In a few days, fall will officially arrive, and with it will come cooler days. I hate to say it, but the dryness of winter will soon be upon us, too. There’s no need to dread it, though.

Taking care of your skin doesn’t have to be expensive in terms of money or time. I’ve got a few do-it-yourself home dry skin remedies that will see you through the worst of fall and winter. The bonus is that each of these recipes is quick and easy to make. No mess, no fuss, and especially no noise from the range hood fan!

This first recipe, oats and honey, is one of my favorites. It’s been my go-to skin moisturizer for a very long time. Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Oats & Honey Skin Moisturizer

Mix equal parts pure honey and plain, rolled oats. Stir until the mixture forms into a thick paste. Smooth the mixture gently over your whole face and any other part of your body that needs moisturizing. Rinse off completely with a soft cloth and warm water. Store whatever remains in an airtight container, and place in the refrigerator.

Coconut Oil & Peppermint Extract

My poor feet suffer from dry skin more than any other body part. The fault, I’m sure, is completely mine since I don’t give my feet anywhere as much TLC as my face or hands. I always have coconut oil in the fridge because I make my own coconut milk. Once I’ve strained out the solids, I’m left with a spreadable mass. I take about a tablespoon of coconut oil and stir in a drop or two of peppermint extract. Then I rub it into my feet. Because the coconut oil doesn’t always dissolve cleanly into the skin, I like to put on a pair of socks so that the bed sheets don’t get soiled.

What are your favorite homemade skin remedies?

How To Make Your Range Hood Quieter

quiet range hood fan

There you are in the kitchen cooking up a storm. Your friends and family are gathered around chatting and watching you cook. Everyone’s having a great time, except you. You’re worried. From the corner of your eye, you watch the hot steam rising from the pans simmering on the burner, coating your beautiful maple wood cabinets in moisture before reaching up and spreading out along your clean white ceiling. You’re just itching to switch on the range hood fan. But, something stops you. The noise. Saving your cabinetry would end your guests’ conversation.

I’m sorry to tell you that pinching yourself will not awaken you from this bad dream. It’s a scenario that plays out in nearly every kitchen across the country. The fact is that most people do not use their range hood fans because of the noise.

what’s the problem?

The first step in rectifying the problem is to figure out what’s causing the noise. Is the motor whining? Is the hood vibrating? Or is it just the sound of air whooshing the steam away? Depending on what’s causing the problem, the solution can be a simple do-it-yourself or you may need to call in the professionals.

the fix

Some range hoods are designed to come apart to allow for easy cleaning. Separate all the pieces, wash them thoroughly and check for any loose connections. Sometimes a simple cleaning is all it takes.

If part of the ductwork is vibrating, wrap that section in a thin layer of insulation. This trick is perfect if the ducts are hidden behind overhead cabinets. If the ducts are exposed, I recommend calling the manufacturer for tips on which kind of insulation would be appropriate and how best to apply it.

As for that loud whooshing sound … well, there’s not a whole lot that can be done about that. Remember that the point of the range hood fan is to suck the steam up and out. It should be loud if it’s doing its job. Having said that, there are two tips I can suggest that will minimize the disruption.

If you’re handy, it shouldn’t take you too long at all to install a silencer between the hood and the fan. Before you head out to the hardware store, though, you should place a call to the manufacturer. The service department will either provide you with the right silencer for your particular model or will recommend a comparable part. This might also be the time to call in the professionals!

Failing that, the only way that remains to quiet a range hood fan is to use the function that’s actually built right into it. Most fans come equipped with settings – usually low and high. Set your fan to low about 15 minutes before you begin cooking for maximum benefit. Allow the fan to run at low the whole time that you’re cooking. Although it won’t be completely silent, it should be quiet enough for you and your guests to carry on a conversation. Only use the high setting when whatever you’ve got cooking is producing the most steam, and let it run for short periods of time only.

choosing a quiet range hood fan

Maybe you’ve had enough of that old, loud fan that’s currently occupying space in your kitchen, and it’s time for a brand new range hood. In that case, I have a couple of tips to help you make the best choice.

Fan noise is measured in sones. Remember, the lower the number, the quieter the fan. A refrigerator, for instance, comes in at one sone. A rating of four sones is similar to the sound of a large air purifier, and would be considered annoying to most people. Unfortunately, in the case of fans you do get what you pay for. Budget fans can often be rated at four sones or higher. Look for those rated at three or lower.

Even if you’re able to sample the fan noise of a particular range hood in the store, it may still sound differently in your kitchen. So, researching brands that produce lower sones is not the only aspect to consider. Choose a range hood that offers varied settings. Some fans literally only come equipped with an on/off switch. Look for a minimum of low and high settings, or some combination in between that will allow you to control the level of noise.

In our daily lives, we’re constantly surrounded by a cacophony of noise. The kitchen doesn’t need to add it. Tell me how you use your range hood fan, and let me know if you have any of your own tips to add.

Monthly Pick – Tips on Cleaning A Range Hood Naturally

steel kitchen

The best thing about a range hood is that it collects all the grease and smoke that cooking produces. The worst thing about a range hood is that it collects all the grease and smoke that cooking produces! Yup. I have to admit that one of the chores I most dislike is cleaning the range hood. I mean, really, someone invent a self-cleaning range hood now, please!

It just seems that no matter how much I scrub it, the grease just sticks. It sticks to the removable parts of the range hood. It sticks to the fixed parts. It sticks to the sponge.

The idea of having to clean it seriously makes me swear off cooking anything that might produce even the smallest amount of sticky grease. That’s easier said than done, of course. I can’t give up cooking!

So, what, exactly, is a person (who believes cleaning is the worst kind of chore) to do? Since I can’t avoid cleaning the range hood. I can make it easier on myself. Anything that does not require much in the way of elbow grease is king in my books. While we’re at it, let’s reduce the amount of toxic cleaning products I have to use, and I’ll be happy. Well, ok, maybe not happy. I still have to clean the range hood after all.

Then inspiration struck. I could have my cake and eat it, too. (Boy, would I really like to be eating cake right now instead of contemplating how I’m going to clean my range hood!)

Anyway, in an effort to stick to the parameters I set for myself, I looked through my pantry for some natural products that I could use as cleaners. (This last bit wasn’t an effort to waste time at all.) Anyway, I realized that I had a powerhouse combination of ingredients right there in my kitchen – hot water, baking soda and a soft scrub brush. Let the range hood soak in that mixture, then lightly scrub off what remains. Little to no elbow grease needed and no toxic concoction to inhale.

The Dawn-Of-A-New-Day Method

This method is so quick and easy you’ll wonder why you’ve been relying on store-bought products. Here’s what you’ll need:

• One bucket large enough to fit the filter (if your range hood is fitted with a filter)

• Hot water, fill to the top

• ¼ cup environmentally-friendly dish soap (like, Dawn)

• ¼ cup baking soda

• Non-abrasive scrub brush

• Paper towels or cotton towel

1. Carefully remove filters from the range hood.

2. Fill a bucket with hot water, baking soda and dish soap. Your kitchen sink might seem like a convenient place to clean your filters. But, don’t act on that idea. The last thing you want draining down your sink is grease that can cling to pipes and eventually cause a blockage.

3. Submerge filters into the bucket. Let soak for at least 15 minutes, longer if they’re really grimy.

4. Scrub the filters gently with the brush until all the grease is gone.

5. Rinse under clean, running water; let dry thoroughly. Place filters back into range hood when completely dry.

Don’t have the time or the ingredients in your pantry? I discovered another little trick that made cleaning the range hood a lot easier than I thought it would be. If you have a degreaser, like CLR Grease Magnet, Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner or even a laundry degreaser, like Just Naturals Orange Laundry Degreaser, just spray it on and wipe off. You will, however, have to wash the range hood parts in soap and water after you’ve degreased them.

Is cleaning the range hood still a chore now that I’ve discovered these two methods? Yes, it is. But, at least I know it will quick and (fairly) painless.

Over to you: What chore do you hate doing and how have you made it easier for yourself?

5 Great Kitchen Gifts For Students

Mon - back to school

Happy New Year! Ok, not really. But, September is like the beginning of a new year. Even though it’s been a while since I graduated university, this time of year always feels like a new beginning.

I’ve spend the last couple of weeks giving my stove and range hood a good workout. I’ve been trying to get school day meals planned and snacks baked. I know that come the start of the school year, eating properly and well every day can be challenging. If you’ve got college-bound kids, you may be wondering what to provide them with so that they can eat well on their own.

Enter the gift basket. Pick up a large basket or box and fill it with all the things that will not only help your child eat well, but that will also remind him or her of home and family. Just keep in mind that college room kitchens are typically tiny.

A good pan and utensils. If possible, buy your child a cast iron pan. Yes, they’re heavy. (Just think of the great work out your child will get every time he or she cooks!) They’re easy to season and clean, too. Give your child just enough utensils to aid in cooking and eating. Your child won’t be entertaining in the same way you do. But, he or she will need a few pieces of cutlery, a spatula, and a ladle.

Rice cooker. Rice is cheap, and makes a great base for vegetables and meat. You don’t need an expensive model. Look for one that’s small and easy to use.

Electric kettle. Great for making a single cup of coffee or a pot of tea. Choose one that has a self-turn off function.

Food storage containers. Perfect for bringing lunch and snacks to the classroom. Leftovers from last night’s dinner – whether it’s home cooked or take-out – won’t be discarded if your child has an appropriate container to store it in.

A great cookbook. Look for a cookbook that features a small collection of recipes for every meal of the day – breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The recipes should be quick and easy to prepare, and require a minimum of hard-to-find ingredients.

Have a great school year!