Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Food Tips: Salt and Pepper

I talked about using sea salt and fresh ground pepper in a previous blog. Yesterday I started talking to a friend about what kind of pepper to buy, so I wanted to blog in more detail about it.


I am super excited to have this 2 pound bag of sea salt from my favorite Asian grocery which happens to be in Fort Wayne where I grew up. (Oriental Grocery & Mart 504 Noble Dr Fort Wayne, IN 46825 (260) 471-0245‎). It is excellent sea salt and only was $1.79. I also love to get my Asian pantry staples here without the American megamarket mega-markup. (Pantry staples is a future post, but I love rice vinegar and sambal oelek (a chili paste)) I can splurge and buy random things to try and it seems to always come out to only $20.

More about sea salt... Sea salt is in flakes so it provides texture to take a pinch and use it to sprinkle across your food as you cook. But, as much as I love using sea salt, its larger size makes it harder to season your individual serving. For sprinkling on your own food, try a salt grinder (yeah, like a pepper grinder) to get that good salt taste without big chunks. They make sea salt rocks that are bigger so they don't fall through the grinder. When baking with sea salt, I've learned to start putting the salt in with the liquid mixture so it dissolves evenly throughout the food rather than mixing it with the dry. (Why are these biscuits so unevenly salty??)

I haven't gotten much into the varieties of salt (a la Michael Chiarello's obsession with gray salt) but I do have this red Hawaiian Alaea sea salt. Its interesting but haven't used it much. It is described as 'almost fruity with a slight peppery note'. If you want to get on the salt varietal bandwagon, check the above link for more types of salt.


I like multicolored peppercorns for a distinctly noticeable complexity to the pepper. The picture is of my current kind with gorgeous pink, white, green and black peppercorns all mixed together.


This is what happens when you have your own small college set, buy your own large grinder, then get your out-of-town-boyfriend-now-husband hooked on fresh ground pepper. A little grinder family! As I've mentioned, the iodized salt in the larger two is about worthless but the smallest one is a salt grinder, hooray! Having multiple grinders also means I can have different kinds of pepper at hand; the smallest has Szechuan peppercorns.

When buying a grinder look for one with metal grinding plates for durability and an adjustable plate depth for changing pepper particle size (using the nut at the top of the grinder). The ability to have varied particle size is good for making a fine pepper to season a soup and larger chunks when pepper-encrusting.

Oh, and when the husband gets his new fancy camera I'm sure he'll want to become my official photographer. And he will take much better pictures than I.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Eco Tips: Compost Bowl

We have a compost bin in the backyard in which we put food scraps and grass clippings. We keep a pretty glass bowl out on the counter that we put our scraps into, including apple cores, egg shells, and vegetable trimmings. Then, once every day or two (before it gets moldy!) we take it out to the compost. It is a similar idea to the Garbage Bowl but even better, because we can eventually use the compost in our garden!

If you have dogs you may need to get a bowl with a lid or a canister type container. If you live in an apartment, you may need to get creative with your compost container and try something smaller indoors, like a crock or something for a balcony, patio, or porch.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Household Tips: Bed Sheets Part II

Bed sheets, like t-shirts, can be rough at first and get softer over time. My brother's co-worker Joe recently posted a tip on how to soften those brand new sheets.

Sheet Happens

About eight months ago I purchased two sets of bamboo (viscose) / cotton sheets from West Elm. They are no longer available, but I find them quite soft, and durable. Plus, bamboo readily regrows and is more environmentally friendly.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Food Tips: Flavored Water

I like to drink water, but I tend to drink it more at work than at home with the convenience of the chilled water cooler. Lately, I've started to make my own flavored water. During pregnancy, and now breastfeeding, I need to keep my liquids up but don't need all the calories, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and added flavors and colors in juices and sports drinks that I'd typically drink (not counting carbonated beverages or artificially sweetened things I rarely drink). Bonus points for now using my fridge water filter, reducing the cost to me of buying at the store, and the environmental impact of bottles, manufacturing, transportation, and recycling.

A few of the varieties of water I've tried: lemon, lime, raspberries, mint (from the herb garden) and some combinations of the above. I hear cucumbers are refreshing too.