Kids playing in the mud? Powdered laundry detergent makes an excellent hand cleaner for very dirty hands. It’s specially formulated to get rid of grease and oil, and the powder will work as a mild abrasive.
If you need to add more water to vegetables as they are cooking, make sure the added water is as hot as possible. Adding cold water to already-cooking veggies may affect their cell walls and cause them to toughen.
Here’s a creative idea for keeping insects (particularly flies and mosquitoes) away from your next barbecue or outdoor party. You’ll need an old tin or Mason jar with a lid, as well as a clean cloth or rag. Saturate the cloth with a diluted essential oil like eucalyptus, pennyroyal, peppermint, lavender, or lemongrass; place the cloth in the tin or jar and seal. To use, open the jar and place it on whatever table you’ll be using outdoors. Its fragrance will repel insects. After every few uses, refresh the cloth with more diluted essential oil.
To make your jeans last longer, iron patches on the inside as soon as you purchase them. Place the patches where you or your family’s jeans usually wear out the most quickly, such as the knees or the inner thighs.
To keep your cookies chewy until the last one is eaten, add a slice of bread to the cookie jar. This will provide just enough moisture to keep the cookies from hardening.
Some backyard cooks think that searing a steak at a high temperature will keep the juices in. Nonsense! Searing does cause the browning that creates a good flavor, but it doesn’t seal in the juices. A steak cooked slowly and at a lower temperature is more tender and retains more of its juices. If you want to sear a steak, only do it for a minute or two on each side, then lower the temperature and let it cook more slowly.
If you’ve found rats or rat droppings in your backyard, your barbecue grill may be to blame. Rats love the smell of the grilled-on bits that often get stuck to grills, and will come snack on them, even if you think it’s impossible for an animal to get inside! The best way to keep them away is simply to keep your grill clean. When you’re done using it, place a large piece of aluminum foil over the entire top of your grill, then put the top back on and let it sit for 10–15 minutes. The caked-on mess from the burgers and hot dogs will turn to ash, making sure there’s nothing left to attract rats.
The most expensive part of any vacation is transportation and lodging, so consider taking several day trips during the summer rather than one week-long one. Commuter rail lines often offer discounts on train fare and tickets theme parks and other attractions, or you may be overdue to take a drive to that nearby state park. For ideas of where to take day trips in your area, call your state’s tourist board or type your state’s name and “day trips” into a search engine.
Problem: you want to break your addiction to buying pre-grated cheese in bags, but cleaning up the cheese grater is always a pain. Solution? Put the grater in the freezer or run it under cold water for several minutes before grating, and the cheese won’t stick. You can also try spraying it with cooking spray before each use.