Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Reader's Questions: Growing, Cooking & Cleaning

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

I'm popping in today with a few questions and answers. It's been a chaotic fall here at our house between sick kids and busy schedules. The trees have mostly lost their leaves here, and we've gotten most of our outside chores wrapped up. I hope you all have been enjoying your autumn days.

I read your article about growing jade plants. I don't understand about how to water deeper to make the stems stronger. Could you please help? ~Irene

One method that works well for houseplants is to add the water to the soil until it comes through the drainage holes in the bottom of the pot. Set the pot on a plate or in a bowl, sink etc. and in a hour or so, whatever is left can be dumped out. Don't water the plant again until you can stick a finger in the soil and feel the soil is dry again. I know it's hard to water just the right amount, but mainly remember that you want the water to get ALL the way down to the roots, but then drain out and slowly dry, so they are never soggy. If you just water the top of the plant, then the roots won't grow deeply-they will be shallow.

I've been trying to figure out how to get rid of a smell in my dishwasher. Any suggestions? Also, I need to find out how to clean/disinfect a wooden cutting board. It is used only for cutting meats. ~Pat

You can run a 1/2 cup of bleach or 1 cup white vinegar through your dishwasher by pouring it in the bottom, then running a cycle. But first reach down in the bottom and make sure there is nothing lodged. Also scrub the rubber seal that is around the edge. You can also pour a cup of baking soda in the bottom and run that through a cycle. Does your dishwasher have a trap? Some do, so get out the manual and check for that.

You can use a mixture of bleach and water to disinfect wooden cutting boards. Allow it to sit for 4 or 5 minutes then rinse well. You can also stick it in the microwave for 5-10 minutes on high to kill bacteria. Use 2 tablespoons bleach to a quart of water as a solution for sanitizing. Wash with soapy water, rinse, soak in the solution and rinse again, then wipe dry.

On a side note: some very good, reliable universities have done studies showing that hardwood cutting boards are just as safe as plastic boards, and in some case more safe, as long as they are sanitized properly.

I am interested in using natural things for coloring my cooking and baking and wondered if you had any tips on using pureed beets for color and moistness in baking. ~Sandy

This recipe uses pureed beets, so it will give you an idea of how to use them. Five medium sized beets will give you about 2 cups of the puree.

Chocolate Beet Cake

3 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup oil
1 3/4 c. sugar
3 eggs
2 cup cooked pureed red beets
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Melt the chocolate with 1/4 cup of the oil in the top of a double boiler over hot water. Cream the sugar and the eggs in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Slowly beat in the remaining oil, the pureed beets, the chocolate mixture and vanilla. Sift the flour with soda and salt, then slowly stir into the batter. Pour into a greased or buttered bundt pan. Bake about 1 hour or until cake tests done. Allow cake to cool a on wire rack about 15 minutes before removing from the pan. Sprinkle the top with the confectioners' sugar.

On OFL we have tips and questions on baking a Red Velvet Cake:


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