How to Cut a Mango

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango
Whether you want to dice one up for a fruity salsa or to make a homemade sorbet, cutting a mango can be sticky business. Without the right technique, you’ll have mushy, misshapen pieces and handfuls of frustration. This simple method will have you slicing and dicing perfectly cut mangos in minutes. Give it a try!

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango

Start with a ripe mango, soft to the squeeze, a cutting board, a large knife and a paring knife.

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango

Stand the mango stem side up, and using the large knife and making the incision about a quarter inch from the stem, slice off one side of the mango. HINT: The pit is oblong and flat. If your cut runs into the pit, start a new cut another centimeter away from the stem.

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango

Repeat on the other side.

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango

Use the paring knife to cut the flesh from the two sides of the pit.

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango

Use the paring knife to score each half of the mango, and each of the side slices, cutting to the rind but not through it. (If you want long slices, cut only one direction.)

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango

Invert the rind and all the perfectly shaped cubes will pop out. Use the paring knife to slice them away from the rind.

Mrs. Fields Secrets Mango

Voila! Perfectly cut mango!

How to: Preserve Fresh Herbs in Olive Oil

Mrs. Fields Secrets Preserved Herbs
We’ve got a great tip to keep those fresh herbs from your garden or your crisper drawer from wilting and browning before you get a chance to use them. You can preserve them in olive oil for up to three months in your fridge, enjoying the same freshly-picked flavor. This works particularly well with basil and parsley, but try it out with chives, thyme, and your other favorite herbs.

Preserved Herbs

2 bunches of fresh basil or parsley
3-4 teaspoons of coarse salt
olive oil
small jar

Directions
Thoroughly wash herbs and allow to completely dry. Remove the stems and place the leaves in a food processor then sprinkle with the coarse salt. (The salt will help preserve the shiny green color as well as keep the leaves from sticking together.) Use the “pulse” function to chop the herbs into a fine mince. Drizzle olive oil all along the sides and bottom of a mixing bowl and transfer the herbs to it. Whisk the herbs into the olive oil and drizzle more oil in to give the herbs a chance to separate and become coated with oil. Pour the mixture into a small jar, then top with another thin layer of olive oil. Place the lid on top and store in the fridge for up to three months. Use a scoop or two at a time to add fresh flavor to sauce, or as a delicious dip for bread.

HINT: Pair this with a fresh loaf of bread and you’ve got a thoughtful gift!

 

Last Minute Cinco de Mayo Dessert Ideas

Mrs. Fields Secrets Cinco de Mayo Desserts
You’ve got your guacamole ready, plenty of chips and salsa, and an abundance of ice for your margaritas, but what about dessert? Here are a few fun last-minute ideas to give your Cinco de Mayo party a sweet ending! (Follow links for full instructions.)

1. Sombrero Sugar Cookies
2. Crispy “Fried” Ice Cream
3. Churro Truffles
4. Margarita Cupcakes
5. So-Easy Sopapillas
6. Easy Tres Leches Cake
7. Fruit Salsa with Cinnamon Sugar Chips

A Spoonful of Sugar and Other Fresh Flower Tips

Spring is busting out all over, which means fresh flowers outside and in! If you clip a few from your budding garden or on a nature walk, here are some great tips for keeping them looking fresh and fabulous even longer.

1. Think outside the vase. Use a group of smaller jars or bottles to serve as vases. This will keep the stems from getting overcrowded and moldy in one vase, plus it allows you to introduce different heights and shapes of your arrangement.

2. A teaspoon of sugar helps the medicine go down…and helps the flowers bloom too! Dissolve a half or full teaspoon of sugar (depending on the size of your container) in warm water in each vase. This will help mimic the natural chemical balance for the flowers and the height of their bloom and keep them bright and full for a longer period, and the warm water will stimulate the intake of fluids into the stem. Refresh the water and sugar every 3-4 days.

3. Trim excess leaves. Before putting them in water, trim excess leaves from the stems. Only keep those that are above the container’s top.

4. Cut stems underwater at a 45-degree angle with a sharp blade. When possible, trim at least two inches from the bottom. After 3-4 days, trim the bottoms again when you refresh the water.

5. Keep flowers away from fruit. The gases emitted from fruits will speed the wilting and decaying process of your flowers.

6. Place wildflowers in the refrigerator at night to mimic the cool night air. This can extend their life for up to 5 additional days!

7. Remove dead buds and leaves daily. Flowers take cues from each other, so keep the droopy and dead pieces culled for optimum results.

{Image via Pinterest.}

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle Earth Day Activity for Kids

Recycled Art
Earth Day is coming up next week and we’ve got a great activity to do with the kids to get them thinking about our waste and how it takes all of us to reduce, reuse and recycle. Before your next garbage day, gather the kids to go through the garbage with you, looking for the following things:

  • How many items are in the regular garbage that should be in the recycling bin?
  • Is there anything that could have been used again before being tossed?
  • Are there items that could have been donated to charity instead of thrown away?
  • Discuss ways you as a family can remember to sort garbage more effectively.
  • Look at the bottom of the packaging for recycling symbols and talk about what they mean.
  • Are there items that could be reused again? Think creatively about new purposes for items you are tossing.

Finally, give the kids a challenge: allow  them to reclaim five items from the garbage or recycling and turn it into an art project or a repurposed useful item. Encourage them to think outside the box and use the materials to create something entirely new. Above are some beautiful examples of recycled art to get the ideas flowing, everything from an office organizer to a colorful lampshade and bouquet of cardboard flowers. More than just a busy exercise, this activity will get everybody in the family thinking about the products we buy, the amount of waste we create, and how we can work together to reduce our impact on the planet one family at a time.

How to Create a Living Easter Basket

Say goodbye to stringy cellophane grass for your Easter baskets this year and plant some live grass for stunning results. Get the kids to help you put it together—at least 10 days in advance—and spend the days leading up to Easter watching it come to life. (Plus, if you plant wheat grass, you can juice it too!)

Living Easter Basket Directions

  • Choose a potting container that fits inside your basket, or line your basket with a planting tray or waxed paper.
  • Add fresh potting soil, leaving about a half-inch from the top of the container, and reserving some to top the seeds.
  • Sprinkle grass seeds over the top of the soil (wheat grass or any quick grow variety).
  • Sprinkle just enough potting soil to barely cover the seeds.
  • Water the soil, just enough to keep it moist to the touch on top.
  • Continue watering daily and place basket in a sunny spot near a window.
  • Seeds should begin sprouting within 3-4 days and by 10-12 days, you should have a lush bed of grass.

{Image via iheartsaltlake}

Homemade Spring Potpourri

Mrs. Fields Secrets Springtime Potpourri
Store shelves are lined with scented candles, diffusers and air fresheners, but everything you need to have a fabulous smelling home is right in your kitchen. Making your own potpourri is quick, easy, inexpensive and a great way to use up produce and spices before they go bad. You can store them in the fridge for 1-2 weeks and even give them as gifts. Here’s what you’ll need:

Lemon Rosemary Vanilla Potpourri

1 mason jar
1 lemon
2-3 sprigs rosemary
1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions
Fill mason jar half way with water. Slice lemon and place in jar. Tuck in sprigs of rosemary, then add water to fill the rest of the jar. Add the teaspoon of vanilla on top, then top the jar with a lid and place in the fridge until use. To use, pour ingredients of the jar into a small saucepan and add another jarful of water. Simmer on low heat, adding water as needed. Potpourri will last for 24-48 hours of simmering. (Note: Do not leave potpourri simmering unattended or overnight.) You can also simmer mixture in a small crockpot.

Variations
1 orange, 1 cinnamon stick, and 1 inch of fresh ginger
1 lemon, 1 lime, 3 sprigs of thyme
1 orange, star anise, clove

Fun Science Experiments in the Kitchen

Whether you’ve got a science fair coming up or you just want to have some fun in the kitchen, we’ve gathered some ridiculously cool experiments to try at home.

The “Naked Egg” Experiment: Place a raw egg in a glass and cover with white vinegar. Leave for 24 hours, then gently pour egg out into your hand and gently rub off any excess shell. The egg will actually gently bounce on a hard surface. Check out this video for more information.

Colorful Celery Stalks Experiment: Add a few inches of water in a glass and add several drops of food coloring into it. Place cut celery stalks (the leafy ends work best) into the colored water and allow to sit for 8-24 hours. The colored water will travel up the stalks, carrying the color with it. This works beautifully with white carnations too.

Tornado in a Jar Experiment: Take a clear child’s vitamin bottle and fill it with water and a few squirts of dish soap. Secure the lid and then shake the bottle vigorously and watch a tornado appear. Consider adding glitter for some sparkle.

The Salt Garden Experiment: Use cleaned egg shells to create colorful salt gardens that look otherworldly. Add two tablespoons of water, sea salt, and Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing Agent to the shells, along with a drop or two of food coloring. After 24 hours, add another two tablespoons of salt. Then, every few days, add more water, salt and bluing agent to the container. Garden will continue to grow as long as it is maintained.

The “Elephant’s Toothpaste” Experiment: This is extremely fun, but messy! You’ll need a clean 16 ounce soda bottle, 1/2 cup of 20-volume hydrogen peroxide (find it at a beauty supply), one packet of dry yeast, 3 tablespoons of warm water, liquid dish soap, food coloring, a small cup and, of course, safety goggles! (You’ll also want to do this on a plastic tablecloth or a rimmed baking sheet.) Pour the hydrogen peroxide into the bottle then add about 8 drops of food coloring followed by one tablespoon of dish soap and swirl the mixture around for a few seconds. Mix the warm water and yeast in the cup and stir for about 30 seconds. Affix your safety goggles and pour the water/yeast mixture into the bottle and watching it foam and overflow!

How to Make Silky Scrambled Eggs

Are you ready for the cold, hard truth? You are probably cooking your eggs wrong. Don’t feel bad; most everybody is guilty. While there’s nothing wrong with a quick, two-minute scramble, you owe it to yourself to learn the correct way to make scrambled eggs. It’s like eating pure silk, a simply divine experience. All you need is the right technique and a little bit of extra time. Once you try these, you will never settle for another two-minute scramble again.

Silky Scrambled Eggs
from Mark Bittman

4 or 5 large eggs
salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cream
2 tablespoons butter or extra virgin olive oil

Directions
Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them until the yolks and whites are just combined. Season with salt and pepper and whisk in the cream. Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat for about one minute. Add the butter or oil and swirl it around the pan. After it melts, but before it foams, turn the heat to low. Add the eggs to the pan and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. After ten minutes or so, the eggs will begin to form curds. Keep stirring, breaking up the curds as they form, until the mixture is a mass of soft curds. After 30-45 minutes, when the texture is even and silky, remove from heat and serve immediately.

Spring Cleaning: How to Clean Your Dryer Vent

Today’s spring cleaning tip is a fairly simple task that will save you money and, in the right circumstances, save your property or your even lives. Last week we cleaned our washing machines and this week we are cleaning the vent on our clothes dryers. As with your washer, keeping this appliance clean will extend the life of the dryer, but also result in  clothes drying faster, using less energy and costing less money. But did you know that plugged dryer vents are a common cause of household fires? That makes this spring cleaning task a must do! Let’s break it down step-by-step:

  • Unplug your dryer from the electricity.
  • If your dryer uses gas power, shut off the gas while you perform the task and unplug the gas line from the dryer.
  • Pull the dryer out about 1-2 feet, keeping the accordion-type hose still attached at both ends.
  • Use a screwdriver to loosen the clamp on the end of the hose that attaches to the dryer. Once loose, pull the dryer completely out so that you can get to all areas.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, reach inside the back vent of the dryer and remove lint and debris.
  • Using a screwdriver to loosen the clamp, remove the other end of the accordion hose that leads to your exterior vent.
  • Examine the accordion hose for tears, then use your hand or the vacuum to clear out the interior of the hose. If there is major buildup or blockage, use a long wooden spoon or dowel to break it up and loosen the debris. Patch any tears or replace hose if it is damaged.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, clear out any lint and debris from the portal that leads to the exterior vent.
  • Re-connect both ends of the accordion hose to each port and secure the clamps.
  • Push the dryer back into place carefully, so as not to crimp or loosen the accordion hose. DO NOT reconnect gas or electricity yet.
  • Locate the exterior dryer vent on the outside of your house. Using a screwdriver, remove the external cover and clean it thoroughly.
  • Using your hand or a hose vacuum, reach as far inside the vent as possible to clear out lint, debris, or any blockage.
  • Re-attach the vent cover.
  • To test the air flow, tie a light piece of ribbon or string to the vent cover.
  • Plug in electricity and gas.
  • Place a load of laundry in the dryer and start it.
  • Go back to the exterior vent and make sure the ribbon is blowing, indicating that the airflow is good.
  • Remove the ribbon and enjoy a well-working, well-vented dryer!

Helpful hints for dryer use:

  • Use only half of a dryer sheet for each load. This will cut down on the “waxy” buildup in your vents.
  • Don’t overload your dryer. This can overheat the machinery and also burn clothes.
  • Clean dryer vents every six months for best results.
  • For safety purposes, never start your dryer before leaving the house.
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