Monthly Archives: May 2014

Clear the Clutter!

Goodbye to the winter blues!

flowersThe sun is warm, there are leaves on the trees and flowers are blooming. Spring has sprung and it seems that the earth is alive again. A young man’s fancy may be turning to love, but you, as a homemaker, will be entertaining thoughts of renewing your home.

Spring cleaning is a tradition which has been adopted all over the world as an opportunity to clean every corner of the house before the hectic summer season is in full swing. This practice is especially predominant in areas where winters are very cold and much time has to be spent indoors.

With the chance to once again enjoy going outdoors, comes the desire to clear the home of accumulated winter grime and clutter.

Make a list, rope in family members to help, and let the spring cleaning begin!

Where to start.

  • A good idea is to begin by clearing clutter from the rooms, bathroom and kitchen included, that you intend to tackle.
  • Make sure your vacuum cleaner is in good order.
  • Gather all the cleaning materials and equipment you will need. Also make certain you have a step ladder available, as well as a dusting mop with a long handle for all the high corners.
  • Wash all the loose rugs and spot clean the carpets before moving into individual rooms
  • Wash or launder drapes and blinds.
  • Clean all the light fittings and the blades of ceiling fans

A few more useful hints.

  • Bcleaningathroom. Use an alkaline cleaner such as a solution of baking soda and water to wash down medicine cabinets, linen cupboards, wash basins and fixtures. You can also use bleach for cleaning as it will dissolve acid build up on surfaces, including mirrors. Thoroughly clean the bath, shower, toilet and all the tiles.
  • Kitchen. Make certain all the clutter is removed from cupboard tops etc, and that all the dishes are washed and packed away. Clean the outside and inside of cupboards with a good detergent, as well as the tiles and walls where needed. Dust the ceilings and high corners. Give the stove, oven, freezer and refrigerator an extra special clean. Make sure the sink and fixtures are free of grime and acid build-up.
  • Living rooms. Move and vacuum all upholstered furniture. Wipe lamps and light fittings with a damp cloth, clean window sills and inside of windows and sliding doors. Spot clean and vacuum carpets. Oil or polish wooden furniture.

Remove all the books from the bookshelves and wipe dust off the covers, properly clean the shelves with a cloth. Dust TV screens and entertainment appliances, move them if you can and wipe dusty area underneath.

  • Bedrooms. Wash down the cupboards, inside and out. Dust in the high corners with the long-handled dust mop, clean window sills etc. Vacuum the mattresses and launder all the bedding. Open windows on a daily basis to keep bedrooms well-aired.

When you have cleared clutter from the house, don’t just leave it packed into the garage.  The garage will also need clearing, so dump what is really no good to anyone, and organize a garage sale to get rid of the items you no longer have any use for.

Here’s a little appropriate music, Fats Waller’s Spring Cleaning!

Happy Cleaning!

Heather, Guest Blogger

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Don’t Put Father’s Day off to the Last Minute!

What is Father’s Day all about?

father1Father’s day, celebrated worldwide – usually on the third Sunday in June – is an occasion to recognize the contribution fathers, or father figures, have made in the lives of their families.

Father’s Day originated in the US, where it was founded by Sonora Smart in 1910, to honor her father who, after his wife died, single-handedly raised his six children, including a new born baby! It was, however, only in the 1930’s that it really took off, attracting attention at a national level.

Much later, in 1972, President Nixon signed Father’s Day into law, officially making the third Sunday in June a permanent national holiday honoring fathers, fatherhood and the influence of fathers in society.

From humble beginnings in Spokane, Washington, Father’s Day has grown into a global celebration to appreciate and commemorate our dads.

What do people do on Father’s Day?

Father’s day is an opportunity for you to express appreciation to your own father for what he means to your life. For those who do not have a father, you can honor the father figures in your extended family such as stepfathers, fathers-in-law and grandfathers.

Many people give cards and gifts to their fathers. Some popular gifts include clothing, sports items, gadgets, tools or toiletries such as after shave lotion and cologne.

Many families have a party and invite friends and extended family to join them. In this way, fathers who might be away from their own family on the special day can join in the celebrations.

Why dads are so important to us.

father2A father’s love is just as important to the development of a child as a mother’s love is. Although we live in an age of fantastic technological advances, it still takes a male and a female to create a baby! The presence of a father impacts favorably on a child’s sense of well-being and adds to general good emotional and physical health.

Whoever is considered to be the more important, moms or dads, is not the issue as both have a specific role to play. The more involved a father can be in the care of his children, the more the whole family will benefit. Dads really need to be there as the kids grow and develop.

Cherish your father on this special day.

Some dads are just not into hectic parties or major family outings. Some fathers may want to relax and spend some quality time chilling with their nearest and dearest. This could result in you feeling that you ought to cook up a storm in the kitchen so that everyone gets fed. But being in the kitchen will take a big chunk out of your interaction time with the family.

There is another way to make certain that the family gets well fed, and it’s easy and fun! More importantly,  you do not lose out on any quality time.

Go to MagicKitchen.com

Treat your dad, in fact the whole family on this Father’s Day.

Log onto www.magickitchen.com for more info and menu options.

Heather, Guest Blogger

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Creating a Kitchen Perfect for Cooking

bright-kitchensmallWhen television programs show houses and apartments they always show the very best living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms. If everyone’s kitchen looked like it should be on the cover of a magazine perhaps they would want to cook and entertain friends more. Creating a kitchen that is perfect for cooking and entertaining can be easy with the use of some really lovely furniture and good planning.

First decision to be made is the paint color for the walls. Nothing creates a cheery atmosphere better than brightly colored paint. It is the basis of creating a kitchen that guests will want to sit in to eat and perhaps linger over conversation, dessert and coffee. The typical cheerful colors are sunshine yellow, bright white, soft greens, and warm oranges. Depending on how bold you want to be, choosing the correct color is key.

Once a paint color is on the walls it’s time to think about furnishing the room. Shopping at yard sales and vintage stores can serve as inspiration and maybe help to find a decorative trinket or two that will complete the look. Smaller accessories can easily be traded and others bought according to the seasons or mood. Paintings, knickknacks and even the decorations on the table can go a long way. Don’t forget that the dining table and chairs are the focal point of the room so they should be chosen with care to fit well with the chosen theme.

A major part of an efficient kitchen design is the storage space and shelving. If everything is easily reachable but also stylishly displayed it makes for an environment that wants to be used. Shelving that is carefully planned and thought through is essential. Extra thought and expenditure should be put into kitchen storage to include pantry items, non-perishables, breads, wines, and even trash bins. Creating a walk-in pantry would help minimize having to display food items that can look messy.

Another necessity in the perfect kitchen is the counter. The extravagant homes displayed on television usually have an island counter. The island counter separates the room and breaks up the monotony of the kitchen. This counter can include the stove or only the sink as per the design and space available.

Counter space is key too as this is where the tasty meals will be created. Plenty of free space to work is essential, for cutting and prepping food, making pastry, etc.

Consultation with someone else is another factor on the road to designing and creating the perfect kitchen. Sometimes not being the only person involved constantly looking closely at the project all the time is more constructive. To have a second set of eyes can be helpful in identifying problem areas or ways to be more effective. The experienced consultant could be a designer or interior decorator with designs already in mind. This will also make for ideas to be talked over thoroughly before final decisions are made.

Dave, Guest Blogger

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Sweet or savory, muffins check all the tasty snack boxes!

muffins1Loved by all,  muffins are loved by kids and adults alike. Traditionally, muffins are usually eaten at breakfast, but this popular snack has evolved and grown in popularity to be enjoyed at any occasion.

Instead of boring old sandwiches, muffins are being packed in school lunches as a tasty alternative. Picnic baskets and coffee tables are now also offering this delicious snack.

This basic muffin recipe is easy to follow and easy to make, but the flavoring possibilities, be it sweet or savory, are endless. Enjoy the experience of experimenting with different flavor combinations. With so many varieties available, you are bound to find something to please everyone.

A basic muffin recipe.
If you are a newbie when it comes to making muffins, then this basic recipe is just the thing to get you started! Once you have successfully baked your first batch, you will have the confidence to experiment with flavors.
Ingredients-makes 12 muffins.

Serves: 12

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, or 2¼ cups pastry flour, sifted
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg (or 2 medium)
  • 4 Tbsp butter (½ stick) or shortening

muffins21. Preheat oven to 400° F.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Unwrap the butter and heat it in the microwave, in a microwave-safe bowl, for about a minute, until it’s thoroughly melted. Set it aside at room temperature to cool, but don’t let it solidify again.

4. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add the sugar, milk and vanilla to the eggs.

5. Thoroughly grease and flour a muffin pan (or use paper muffin liners).

6. Pour a tiny bit of the melted butter into the egg-vanilla-milk mixture and stir it in. Repeat 3-4 more times, adding a slightly larger amount of the liquid butter each time until it is all incorporated.

IMPORTANT: Don’t add hot melted butter to the egg mixture as the heat from the butter would cook the egg, and that’s not what you want to do!

7. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ones and mix no more than ten seconds. The batter should be visibly lumpy, and you may see pockets of dry flour. That’s OK! It’s extremely important not to overmix the batter, or the resulting muffins will be too hard.

8. Gently pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan and bake immediately.

TIP: The dry and wet ingredients, respectively, can be mixed in advance, but as soon as the wet and dry ingredients have been combined with each other, the liquid will activate the baking powder and the batter must be baked right away.

Bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean

Adding some extra ingredients.
Your choice of extra ingredients must be thoroughly mixed into the wet mixture before baking. They should also be prepared beforehand, e.g. grating cheese or chocolate, mashing banana, finely chopping bacon or onion etc. If you find the mix is too thick, add a little milk to get the consistency right.

Some savory suggestions.( If you’re making it savory, cut the sugar down to 1/4 cup in the basic muffin recipe.)
•  Cheddar. Grated cheddar cheese, chopped herbs, 1 teaspoon mild mustard, ½ teaspoon black pepper.
•  Cheese and corn. One can of creamed corn, grated cheese, ham slices – chopped and fried if desired.
•  Feta Cheese and black olive
•  Prosciutto and Chives
•  Garlic & Sun-dried Tomatoes

muffins3Sweet options.
• Berries. Choose any berries you love!! Popular choices are blueberries and strawberries.
• Banana and bran. Add chocolate chips to banana and bran for something different and healthy.
• Chocolate chips. Add an orange liqueur to chocolate chips for a great taste experience.
• White Chocolate Try some milky, white chocolate chips or butterscotch chips instead of traditional chocolate.
• Nuts. Add a selection of chopped nuts to your mix.

These are just a few suggestions you can try. But the options are endless! Use your imagination to try out any combination that appeals to you!

Heather,  guest Blogger.

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Leftovers – discover yesterdays food today

We’ve all looked at the Tupperware box in the fridge filled with the leftovers of last night’s dinner, and shuddered at the idea of heating it up again. That’s why I advocate re-purposing leftovers to make something better! We have several recipes for doing just that with MagicKitchen.com food here: MagicKitchen.com recipes

Below are just a few ideas for taking tired old leftovers and making them into delicious new dishes!

  1. Shepherd's Pie
    Shepherd’s Pie

    Mashed Potatoes: If you have a couple of cups of them, add an egg, some finely diced onions, a little grated cheese, and mix up. Then  make into patties and fry in a little butter until crispy. Or use them to top a Shepherd’s Pie. Create Potato and Salmon cakes, Gnocchi, or Mashed Potato Soup!

  2. Rice Balls (Arancini)
    Rice Balls (Arancini)

    Rice:  There’s the obvious Chicken Fried Rice, or you could go a little more gourmet with Rice Balls with Marinara Sauce, or just beautiful stuffed peppers!

  3. Turkey: This is the big one at a certain time of year. Of course we all have our favorite Turkey Soup recipe, and sandwiches are great, but what else can we do with the inevitable turkey leftovers? How about Turkey Chili, Turkey Bolognese, Turkey and Mushroom Casserole, or Turkey-Mushroom Bread Pudding?
  4. Ricepaper Rolls
    Ricepaper Rolls

    Seafood: This has to be the hardest leftover to deal with. Unless the seafood was undercooked in the first place, you’re likely to get a rubbery result when reheating. **Shudder**. These leftover recipes should eliminate that problem. Shrimp Couscous Salad Vietnamese Shrimp Rolls,  Roasted Red Pepper and Crab Soup or Blackened Fish Tacos will put some zing back into that leftover seafood.

  5. Roasted Vegetables
    Roasted Vegetables

    Vegetables: Other than potatoes, I’ll lump these all together, because almost any leftover veggie will work in these recipes: Upside-Down Vegetable Cake, Add to an omelet  or fritatta, or i you have a veggie tray of raw vegetables, you can toss them in olive oil and garlic and roast them. Some people suggest saving all your leftover veggies in one container in the freezer. When the container’s full, make a stew, soup or pot pie with the veggies and a little meat.

Melody, MagicKitchen.com blogger

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