Friday, April 18, 2014

5 Ways to Declutter Your Car


If you've ever worried about unleashing an avalanche when you pop the trunk—or realized your backseat contains so many discarded sweaters and shoes it could double as a roving closet—this speedy, tidy-up plan is for you.

Plug the Quarter- and French Fry-Eating Hole
For the most part, you probably don't think about that gap between your seat and the center console—until you round a corner and swoosh! Your cell phone slides down, trapped in a space too narrow for your fingers to easily grab it. While we're apt to immediately retrieve our iPhones—though please, resist the urge to lunge for fallen items while driving (distractions like this were responsible for 3,331 deaths in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation)—certain items tend to nest there indefinitely: crumpled gum wrappers, pens "borrowed" from the bank, the loose change you're always hunting for when you reach a toll. After you've taken a few minutes to clear everything out, the next step is to close the gap. 

A foam seal used for insulating a window air conditioning unit can be trimmed to fill the space, though it may shuffle or fall if you readjust the seat. Another alternative is
 the Drop Stop. This neoprene wedge has a slot that fits around the seatbelt buckle, and it moves with the seat, so it won't become the gap's newest victim if you need to move forward a few inches.

Excavate Under the Seat
Work your way from that dreaded console gap to the space under your seats, and get rid of anything and everything that's under there. The one thing that's safe to keep? A few dryer  sheets. Organizing expert Peter Walsh recommends stashing one under your seats to fill the car with a fresh, clean scent.

Tame Your Trunk
If you need as much floor space as possible, you could try attaching plastic organizers to the backs of the seats. Or, if your biggest problem is items that jumble together everywhere, try using a multiple-compartment, collapsible bin. Velcro attached to the bottom can help keep it from sliding around. From there, consider giving yourself a "two weeks" rule: If it's not part of your emergency kit and you haven't used it in 14 days, it needs to exit the vehicle. 


Transform Your Glove Compartment into a Mini Filing Cabinet
A thin coupon organizer (or recipe file) is an easy way to have fast access to your car's most vital papers. Registration, insurance information, car repair and maintenance receipts can all have their own tabs, and most styles fit comfortably inside a glove compartment. You could also stow a few napkins there (not the two dozen or so that often get crammed there "just in case" after a drive-thru run) and a car charger for your cell phone.

Turn Your Door Pocket into an On-the-Go Cleaning Station

If the cup holder is the car's junk drawer that little storage slot on each door is a mini Dumpster. It's just so convenient for stashing junk mail and half-full soda bottles while you're on the road. The problem? The trash rarely gets emptied, until it's overfull. Or stinky. That trash nook doesn't have to be reinvented; just streamlined. An empty cleaning-wipes tube can be filled with plastic grocery bags so you can easily grab one, collect any loose garbage in your car, and toss it after you've parked. This pocket can also be a great place to stash a few reusable shopping bags. (I've found it much easier to remember to take them with me into the store when they're right in my line of vision as I'm getting out of the car.)

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maple Pecan Crêpes


Crêpes and maple pecan, now this is brunch heaven.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup (about 8 ounces) milk
  • 1 cup (about 5 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 cups chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar


DIRECTIONS

  1. In a bowl whisk together eggs and milk. Add flour and a pinch of salt and whisk until smooth. Adjust rack to middle position and preheat to 200°F. Place a lined baking sheet in the oven.
  2. Melt 1/4 of the butter in a 10-inch non-stick skillet over medium high heat, swiriling. When bubbles have subsided add 1/4 cup of batter, swirling the pan so that the batter covers the entire bottom of the skillet. Once batter has set, about 1 minute, gently flip crepe with a spatula and continue to cook until crepe is set and browned. Transfer to oven lightly tented with foil to keep warm. Repeat, adding butter every other crepe until batter is finished.
  3. Once all the crepes are cooked, return pan to heat and add chopped pecans. Toast, tossing frequently, until the pecans have just begun to brown, about 4 minutes. Add maple syrup and sugar to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until sugar has dissolved and pecans are coated, about 3 minutes.
  4. Butter crepes if desired, then fold into quarters. Divide crepes between plates and top with pecan mixture. Serve immediately with additional maple syrup along side.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Make your Couch a Statement Piece


If you really want a dramatic change, dip-dye a slipcover for a watercolor effect that will transform your sofa into a statement piece. Similar colors—such as navy dye on a blue slipcover—are a more subtle way to try the trend, but the real key to this look is making sure your cover fits tightly over the sofa, as if it were a second skin. (A loose, wrinkly fit will remind you of your college dorm room.) Your best bet? "Check with your local tailor or dress shop—they can custom-make one.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

5 Ways to Have Your Most Productive Morning


Are you falling behind no matter how early you wake up? Here's how to get alert faster.

As Soon as You Throw off the Covers
What to do: Pull on extra layers. Turning up the heat makes it hard to stay sleepy. Body temperature naturally tends to drop when we're in the deepest part of our sleep cycle, which is two hours before we wake up, says Rafael Pelayo, MD, a sleep specialist at the Stanford University Sleep Medicine Center. That's why those hours of sleep right before the alarm goes off tend to be the most cozy. 

How it makes you more productive:
 Your body will feel literally warmed-up and ready to go, and your mind will follow.

While Brushing Your Teeth
What to do: Deep squats (at least 20 of them). Activating the large muscles in the thighs and butt quickly gets blood flowing to the brain, says John Ratey, MD, a Harvard associate professor and the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, reinvigorating it with oxygen, nutrients (like glucose) and performance-boosting chemicals. This move is still uncomplicated enough to do with a toothbrush in your hand. 

How it makes you more productive:
 It activates your brain and turns on the cells you'll need for creative thinking, says Ratey (and brushing, of course, freshens your breath).

Before You Leave the House
What to do: Eat a bowl of oatmeal or whole-grain toast with peanut butter.
Any kind of food fuels the brain, but the complex carbs in whole grains have a low glycemic index and are absorbed slowly, keeping blood sugar levels stable and energy levels consistent. That's why they could be considered the breakfast of champions. 

Before Going to Bed
What to do: Pre-program your coffee maker. Caffeine works by temporarily blocking the action of a natural, sleep-inducing brain chemical called adenosine, explains Allison T. Siebern, PhD, a sleep specialist at Stanford Sleep Medicine Center. It essentially buys you hours of awake time. 

How it makes you more productive:
 A strong cup of coffee can boost both mental alertness and physical performance by up to 30 percent within 15 to 30 minutes. You might notice the effects even sooner: The aroma of coffee beans alone can alter the activity of genes in the brain to reduce the stress of sleep deprivation, found Korean researchers working with exhausted rodents.

If You Usually Stumble Around Like a Zombie (Even After a Full Night of Sleep)
What to do: Shift your sleep schedule to match your circadian rhythms. It sounds like your alarm is currently jerking you out of low-wave sleep, putting you in a state of "sleep-drunkenness," Pelayo says. He recommends locking in a wake-up time (use an app like Sleep Cycle to find out when you sleep the lightest) and going to bed at least 7 hours earlier. If you're having trouble drifting off, he says, it's better for your brain if you make up for lost time by taking an afternoon catnap rather than sleeping late in the morning.

How it makes you more productive:
 You'll do your best work when you're naturally more alert. When schools pushed back start times from 7:15 to 8:40 a.m. to partially accommodate the circadian rhythms of teenagers (who tend to be three hours behind), they found that students' grades and test scores drastically improved.

Monday, April 14, 2014

5 Foods Still Good Past Their Expiration Dates


A 2013 report from Harvard Law School and the Natural Resources Defense Council states confusion over food dating has led 91 percent of Americans to throw away food prematurely. 

Eggs
Pay no attention to the "Sell By" date on your carton—it's meant to help retailers manage turnover and isn't a measure of freshness. Eggs should keep for three to five weeks in the refrigerator.

Cereal
Boxes typically come printed with a "Best Before" date, but it's a conservative estimate set by manufacturers for peak quality. Those Cheerios can stay fresh for up to three months if you refold the inner bag tightly.

Apples
Store your favorite reds in the fridge (place them in a plastic bag; poke a few holes to allow air to circulate), and they'll still be good to eat three weeks later.

Deli Meat
You can keep unopened packages of sandwich meat in your fridge for two weeks—even if the "Sell By" date has come and gone.

Bread

Ignore the "Best By" or "Sell By" date. Placing your loaf in the fridge can extend freshness by two weeks. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict With Dill Hollandaise

Rich and creamy eggs Benedict is a brunch classic for good reason. The dill hollandaise brightens up the plate, while the fatty, smoky salmon supports the tart hollandaise. Use our foolproof methods for the hollandaise and the poached eggs, and you'll have a brunch that will wow any guest—even the in-laws.

Serves 4

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups hollandaise
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill fronds
  • 4 English muffins
  • 8 slices smoked salmon
  • 4 eggs, poached
  • Sliced scallions, to garnish

DIRECTIONS

Combine hollandaise with 2 teaspoons dill. Toast the English muffins and divide between 4 plates, top each English muffin with 2 slices smoked salmon, then a poached egg. Spoon dill hollandaise over each egg, garnish with extra dill and sliced scallions if desired and serve immediately.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese Waffles



With this recipe I tried doing for macaroni and cheese what KFC did for the chicken sandwich with their Double Down: replace the bread with the filling.



I started by pouring out my macaroni and cheese onto a buttered rimmed baking sheet and placed it in the refrigerator until it set up.


A half hour later, it came out as a solid brick about a half-inch thick. Then  I sliced it into squares with a knife.


With the help of a metal spatula I was able to get the square out in single slabs. Slabs that just so happened to be about the size and shape of a slice of bread.


I decided to go with the grilled cheese sandwich approach, spreading a thick layer of grated cheddar cheese in between a couple of mac and cheese slabs. But not to worry it'll fuse into a crisp, browned shell that comes right off your cooking surfaces.
After the mac and cheese "sandwich" cooked long enough to brown, it lifted straight out of the waffle iron, clean and easy, the cheese rivulets lifting straight up and hardening into lacy, crisp edges as they cooled slightly.


If you really want to get down and dirty, you might consider filling those waffle wells with syrup and hot sauce.

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