Monthly Archives: February 2014

Spring into Action

A winter like this one can make even spring cleaning sound good.

The relentless cold and snow has me dreaming of deep cleaning and long overdue home improvements. I’m actually looking forward to washing the windows, brushing the screens and laundering the curtains. I’ve even volunteered to paint our house inside, although ordinarily I’d wait for my husband to get around  to it.

When the warm weather finally arrives, I want to be ready to welcome company. And while I shouldn’t use a less-than-pristine place as an excuse to put off inviting people, I do.

That Age-Old Herb Problem

If any packaged food product needs a “best used by” date, it is dried herbs. Many experts advise cooks to discard dried herbs three to six months after they are purchased. But to do so, you not only need to remember to mark the purchase date on the jar, but also to take a regular inventory. Failing to do so, I found my dried rosemary looking ominously pale, when I needed it to replace fresh in a chicken cacciatore recipe I was making one snowy afternoon last week.

While I was reviewing my spice rack, I got an idea, when I noticed that I owned two jars of tarragon. The contents of one jar still smelled of the herb, while the contents of the other was scentless.

I don’t know what the food police would think, but it seemed logical that smell would be a reliable indicator of an herb’s strength.So I risked using the rosemary, which still had a subtle herby fragrance. And I’m happy to report that my method seems to have worked. Possibly the fact that I made the cacciatore the day before I served it helped the flavor permeate the dish.

Is Your Oven Okay?

Just because you set your oven temperature to, let’s say, 350 degrees, and the light goes off indicating that it has reached that temperature doesn’t mean that it is 350 degrees inside. To determine if your oven is properly calibrated, buy an inexpensive oven thermometer, hang it from the middle rack and see if the gauge reaches the right number. A friend tried this test and found that her oven was 100 degrees hotter than she intended!

Don’t worry. If you discover a discrepancy, you won’t have to purchase a new stove. You can hire a technician to recalibrate it. The company that manufactured the stove probably can refer you to a dealer in your area, who can send someone to do the job.