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Kitchen Tips

Kitchen Tip: Make a Crockpot Dinner the Night Before

Using a crockpot to cook your dinner all day while you’re busy or at work is a great time saver! However, what if you don’t have time to cut up the food, add the ingredients to the crockpot and otherwise put together the meal in the morning? Do it the night before!

Kitchen Tip: Make a Crockpot Dinner the Night Before

A great way to take advantage of your crockpot is to make your meal the evening before. Add all ingredients to the crockpot and make sure it is ready to cook. Then take the insert (this is the part of the crockpot that the food goes into; usually they have small handles to lift them out of the crockpot), put the lid on it and put it in the refrigerator. In the morning, remove it from the fridge, set it back into the crockpot, and turn on to cook all day.

Presto! A wonderful low-maintenance meal that took zero minutes out of your already busy morning to prepare. Happy crockpot cooking!

We originally published Kitchen Tip: Make a Crockpot Dinner the Night Before on Home Ever After on June 17, 2008.

Frugal Tips: Save the Rubber Bands From Your Asparagus

Rubber Bands For Free Home Ever AfterFrugal Tips: Save Rubber Bands From Asparagus

Do you realize that you’ll never have to buy rubber bands again if you just keep the ones the grocery store is giving you for free? Every time you buy asparagus, you’re getting 2 free rubber bands per bunch!

Just set up a space in one of your kitchen drawers that is for rubber bands. Put a zipper bag or a small bowl in the space and always put your vegetable rubber bands in it.

Before you know it, your supply of free rubber bands will be enormous and you’ll never have to buy a bag of rubber bands from the store again.

If you end up with too many, you can always let your kids make a rubber band ball to play with!

Read more about this frugal money saving strategy in my post Be Frugal Today #7: Save Rubber Bands From Vegetables.

The Genius Salt Alternative for Sodium-Conscious Meals

sunkistThis is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Sunkist S’alternative. All opinions are 100% mine.

If you’ve ever counted calories with an online food diary tool, you were probably as surprised as I was by one unexpected thing: sodium.  Yes, by logging in the normal foods I regularly eat each day, I found that most days I was over on my recommended sodium intake.  I wasn’t just over by a little bit either – I was sometimes at close to 2 times what the recommended amount is for a woman my age!

That was when I really started looking into just how much sodium there is hidden in foods we normally eat.  I started paying attention to the labels when shopping and comparing foods by how much sodium was in each serving.

The hidden salts were everywhere, and it seemed like even in unprocessed foods it was hard to find low- or no-sodium ingredients to cook with.  (Plus, then I remembered how we sit at the dinner table and salt our food!)

Most of us know by now that eating high levels of sodium can contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, cancer, osteoporosis and many more (Bibbins-Domingo, 2010 study).  We want our food to taste good but not have dangerous levels of salt that can hurt our family’s health.  What’s the solution?

The S’Alternative

Sunkist has been hard at work on this issue for concerned parents.  They’ve come up with an alternative, or S’Alternative, rather, that has a substitute for salt that’s all natural.  Lemons!

The Sunkist S’alternative is to use lemons as a sodium-free alternative to salt.  Fresh squeezed Sunkist lemon juice is a wonderful substitute for salt, because it not only reduces the overall sodium intake in your diet, but it also increases your potassium!

Sunkist has a Sodium Style Quiz on their facebook page that allows you to answer 7 questions about your eating habits to discover your sodium style.  I love the sodium style names (and cute cartoon lemon characters for each one – your kids will beg to do this quiz with you)!

You’ll either be a:

  • serial salt offender
  • shaker & baker
  • sodium smarty
  • mover, not a salt shaker

When I took the quiz my result was a Mover, Not a Salt Shaker.   Go take the Sunkist Sodium Quiz to find out your sodium style!

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Top Salt-Savvy Tips

  1. Read labels.  Look for “low sodium” and “no salt added” on food packaging (especially on canned vegetables, which can unknowingly add a lot of salt).
  2. Don’t salt during cooking.  I know it goes against the way a lot of us cook, but you can skip the salt in many of your recipes and serve lemon slices with your plated food so each person can season to taste.
  3. What’s in your water?  Call your water company to find out how much sodium is in the water.  You may need to opt for a store-bought drinking water.
  4. Plan well.  If you have one salty food in your meal, add other no- or low-salt foods to complement.

Recipe for Sunkist Lemon Seafood Paella

(Makes 8 servings) Sunkist S'alternativ#3C3C25.doc

Ingredients:

  • 1- 32 oz can low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • 1lb. of firm, fresh pieces of whitefish such as tilapia, bass, halibut and swordfish, cut into 16-21 pieces
  • 1lb. or 16-21 mussels, cleaned and de-bearded
  • 1lb. or 16-21 medium sized clams, rinsed
  • cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 Sunkist® lemons, zest and juice
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 _ cups minced onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 3 cups uncooked short-grain rice such as Valencian, Arborio, or Calrose
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1- 8oz jar of sliced, roasted red peppers

Instructions:

  • To prepare broth, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer (do not boil). Keep warm over low heat.
  • To prepare paella, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat.
  • Add fish pieces to pan and sauté 1 minute. Remove fish from pan, reserve and keep warm.
  • Add onion to pan and sauté 5 minutes.
  • Add the lemon zest, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook 5 minutes.
  • Add rice and cook 1 minute longer, stirring constantly. Stir in broth, bring to a low boil and cook 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Stir in the peas and red pepper slices.
  • Add mussels and clams to pan, nestling them into rice mixture. Cook 5 minutes or until shells open; discard any unopened shells.
  • Stir in the reserved fish and chopped parsley and cook 5 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, stir in lemon juice and check for seasoning.
  • Cover with a towel and let stand 10 minutes before stirring

Take control of the sodium intake in your diet today!  Take the quiz to find out how salt-savvy you are, then use Sunkist’s tips to make some basic changes to the way you cook and meal plan.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Homemaker Basics: What is a Trivet?

Trivet Wilton ArmetaleThere are so many household items that we either don’t use or we use and don’t know the real names for.  A local craft store selling decorative trivets at their Christmas sale had a lot of the female shoppers asking, “ What is a trivet?  What would I use it for?”  If you’ve ever wondered, “Just what is a trivet used for?,” you’ve come to the right place. 

Homemaker Basics: What is a Trivet?

A trivet is one of many homemaker basics.  A trivet is a kitchen gadget, a flat horizontal kitchen item which goes on a table, and on top of it you set  a serving dish, pan, or bowl of hot food.  Trivets have 3 legs on the bottom to raise them up from a table.  The purpose of a trivet is to keep the heat raised up off of the table’s surface so that it won’t cause heat damage or burns.  

Chances are, you already own a trivet and didn’t know what it was called.  Maybe you can even remember seeing a trivet in your mother’s or grandma’s kitchen.

Where did Trivets Come From?Product Details

The word “trivet” you’ll notice has tri- at the beginning.  That prefix meaning three is because trivets have 3 legs or knobs on the bottom which they sit upon.  The word “trivet” comes from the Latin word “tripes”, which means tripod when translated. 

Trivets originated from open hearth cooking in the olden days of cooking (circa 19th century) on a fire in an open oven.  Some of the trivets did have 4 legs then to give them more stability in the fire.  The old trivets also had a long metal handle to use for putting food into the fire and taking it back out of the open oven.

What do Trivets Look Like?

Trivets have a variety of looks, shapes, designs, and even sizes.  All the pictures in this article are of trivets, so you can see just how varied their appearances are. 

The silver trivet (shown above left) is by long-time maker, William Armetale, which has been producing fine silver items since 1892.  The intricate design and cut out center make it a beauty to look at, while still protecting your table and table linens. Trivet Cast Iron

The black cast iron trivet (at right) is very tall, with long legs which raise it up off of a table.  While the extra height may or not be necessary to protect your table from the heat of the pan or serving dish, it does add an interest appeal and height to your tablescape.

What are Trivets Made of?

Trivets are made from a variety of materials.  Although they started out being made from cast iron and heavy metals, trivets have evolved with the times to incorporate the latest in kitchen technology as far as materials.  Wood trivets and cork trivets can be found in kitchens with a natural look.  These materials  are lightweight and simple, but still serve the purpose of insulating the table from heat. 

One of the most trendy kitchen materials now is silicone, and you can find trivets made of silicone (shown below).  Silicone trivets are heat-proof, dishwasher safe, lightweight, resilient, and inexpensive.  You may not want a silicone trivet on your tablescape for dinner guests, but for a weeknight meal with the family they do nicely. 

Silicone trivets usually do not have legs on the bottom because they don’t need them.  However, they often have raised designs which still create distance between the dish and the table.

Product DetailsProduct DetailsProduct DetailsProduct Details

Homemaker Basics: What is a Trivet? is linked to Works for me Wednesday, 11th Heaven and Kitchen Tip Tuesday.  ISWM may or may not make money from anything you see, read, or click on our family of websites, including affiliate links.

Kitchen Tip: Wet Erase Markers for Your Refrigerator Contents

Label Leftovers with Wet Erase Markers

We all want to make sure our leftovers get used up, instead of thrown away after being buried in the refrigerator for weeks!  Wet erase markers are a great way to keep all the leftovers in your refrigerator labeled and dated. 

The difference between wet erase markers and dry erase markers is that wet erase must be wiped off with something wet, like a sponge or wet cloth, while dry erase rubs off if you touch it.  Using wet erase markers on food containers will keep the labels in place.

Keep a wet erase marker on the refrigerator door and label each container that goes inside.  Name the food and write the date, so you can be assured of a food’s freshness.  Your family will be more likely to eat leftovers if they know what they are!  When done with your labeled containers, simply run them under the faucet to rinse away the label before putting into the dishwasher.

You have to remember enough already; you shouldn’t be trying to remember what you made for dinner 3 days ago that is now occupying a container in your fridge!

Originally published June 10, 2008.  Visit Tammy’s Recipes for more Kitchen Tip Tuesdays tips.