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Fixing Scratches in an Enameled Cast Iron Sink

Dear Home Ec 101,

I have a fairly new (less than 1 year old) cast iron Kohler sink, it is the shiny black one, the manual recommended using the Kohler cast iron sink cleaner and I have used it regularly and I have used a plastic mat on the bottom of the sink, to try to prevent scratches. Yet I have some minor scratches. Is there any way to safely remove the scratches from my sink without harming the enamel?

Any suggestions would be appreciated!

Again I LOVE your site and by the way I am hooked on Method products!! Love them!!

Signed,
Scratched in Scanlon
Heather says:

Take a deep breath, I have good news for you, dollars to donuts those are not actually scratches in your sink. I highly doubt you were sitting there with a chisel and hammer purpose trying to gouge your sink. That’s pretty much what it takes to mar the finish of a quality enamel finish. What you are actually seeing is called a “pot mark” and it’s just a scuff from the sink taking a tiny bit of metal off of your cookware.

It’s a lot like when somebody just barely grazes your car in a crowded parking lot and leaves a bit of their paint on your car. A bit of buffing is all it takes to get rid of their carelessness and it’s pretty much all that is needed here, too.

Go ahead and use the recommended cleaner, but find a cork, perhaps from last night’s wine-braised pot roast? Apply the cleaner full strength to the scratch on the cast iron sink and then use the cork to gently scrub the marks away and your sink will look good as new!

Pot marks will likely become a source of irritation over the years, but at least you now know that you have not inadvertently scratched your shiny, new sink. It’s going to look good as new for a long, long time.

Good luck and please let me know how it turns out.

Oh and thanks for letting me know about Method, I’ll be sure to pass that along.

Submit your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Weekly Menu Plan #23

Heather says

Well, this is a safe space, right?

I fell off the wagon last week. We not only ate out, we also had what the kids call a “floor picnic movie night”. The latter is how I make serving raw vegetables, cheese, and other usually lunch but not terribly exciting foods palatable.

What’s my excuse? Sick kids and just being tired of “people”. By people, I don’t mean you, of course. You would never be rude to me or my support team; it’s part of why I like you. Naturally.

So here we go, a new week, a new menu, a new chance to try to be a little more on the ball:

What will you be having this week?

Are you serving anything special during that game that likes to be overly-protective of its branding?

And? If you need a pick-me-up to get you going, this is one of my kid’s coaches after they won their championship. (He did this before and after every game and I keep this video on my phone for when I need a little peptalk)

Let’s do this.

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Garage Refrigerator / Freezers, Winter, and Your Food

Dear Home-Ec 101,
I have a refrigerator in my garage and for the last few weeks I have noticed the freezer isn’t as cold as it should be.
Should I be worried?
More importantly, is the food safe? The vegetables seem a little soft.
Sincerely,
It’s Frickin’ Freezin’ , Mr. Bigglesworth

Heather says

Garage refrigerators can be very useful for food storage, if you have a bunch of kids, they are also useful to keep the kids from running in and out every time they want a drink.

Unfortunately when the temperature drops below 40°F or 4°C the freezer may not maintain the proper temperature.

Why?

Refrigerators are designed for typical household use. The “average” house is expected to be in the general vicinity of 70°F or 21°C or “room temperature.”

Unless you have a high-end refrigerator freezer combo, which is unlikely in a garage refrigerator scenario, the freezer does not have its own thermostat.

The thermostat in the refrigerator portion of the appliance controls the temperature of the entire unit with the logic being, if the refrigerator portion is 40°F the freezer will be at 30°F or below.

In the winter your garage may be much closer to 40°F. Over time the thermostat in the refrigerator tells the motor, hey, we don’t have to run so often. All is well in the refrigerator portion of the appliance, but that freezer is going to slowly approach the temperature of the garage. There is no thermostat back up in the freezer to say, “Hey, we have a problem here, we should be running more often!”

If the garage temperature is only close to 40°F to 30°F for a day or two, it’s really not going to matter. Refrigerators are very well insulated to keep the cold air inside.

The food in your freezer has been beginning to thaw. If it has been over a short period, this won’t matter food safety-wise. If the freezer has time to thaw completely, you’ll need to follow the guidelines in The Freezer Was Left Open, Now What. (Observing whether or not there are ice crystals etc)

Food that is safe is not always good.

Repeated thaws and freezes will destroy the cells walls of the food destroying the integrity and texture of the food. While it may be perfectly okay to eat, I would understand calling it a loss and starting over with the most compromised ingredients, unless you have recipes where the ingredients are cooked to the point that texture is not an issue.

Sometimes life is a series of annoying lessons; I hope that this one wasn’t too expensive.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com

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Sausage and Sweet Potato Soup

Heather says:

I saw some version of a sausage and kale soup floating around on Pinterest. Last week I wanted soup one night instead of whatever was planned*. The soup was so good, it became something that I had to be able to replicate. Around here, soups are made willy-let’s throw everything we want into a pot and then we can never have it again. Last week I paid attention and this week I replicated it and wrote down the recipe.

Loaded with kale and garlic, I plan on breaking out versions of this anytime I hear a sniffle from the kids and the Parmesan for garnish is completely optional. Oh, and if you hate all things hipster and kale, use spinach, just toss it in about a minute before serving. Kale is a much hardier plant and it takes a little time for the fibrous leaves to soften.

The sausage, onions, and garlic provide enough flavor that you don’t need to fiddle with a lot of seasoning. You may add black pepper, if you would like, but I wouldn’t add any more salt, unless you are using a low sodium sausage AND stock.

You are going to need a 6 quart stock pot, please don’t attempt this in anything smaller, you’ll run out of room. I love that there are plenty of freezable leftovers.

If you don’t like brothy soups, feel free to reduce the beef stock by a quart.

*If I change the menu, my mental guideline is that I need to have everything on hand. This helps reduce extra trips to the grocery store.

Hearty Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup

Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato Soup

  • 1 lb bulk sausage -you may use Italian, I don’t.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2″ inch cubes
  • 3 quarts beef stock (I use Better Than Bouillon)
  • 3 cans white beans (Cannellini or Great Northern)
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced *increase or decrease depending on the likelihood of vampires
  • 5 large handfuls of kale
  • shredded or grated Parmesan cheese *optional

Instructions

  • Brown the sausage over medium low heat and add the onion, bell pepper, and celery. (You may substitute 2 cups of frozen, seasoning blend). Continue to stir frequently until the onions are translucent)
  • Add the diced sweet potato and just enough stock to cover the potatoes in liquid. Turn the heat up a little and cover tightly. (This allows the sweet potatoes to cook quickly.)
  • As soon as the sweet potatoes are fork tender, add the beef stock, beans, and garlic. Depending on your stove and cookware you may turn up the heat, if your stock pot isn’t thin. ( Thin cookware increases the likelihood of scorching).
  • When the soup reaches a simmer add the kale and cook until the greens are as tender as you prefer. (About ten minutes)
  • Ladle into bowls and garnish with Parmesan.

*Slow cooker variation – brown the sausage and then add it to the crock. Add all of the ingredients, except the kale and cook on low at least 5 hours. Turn the setting to high, add the kale and cook for an additional 45 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Weekly Menu Plan #22

Heather says

I promise this site isn’t going to change into what are those weirdos eating this week. I’m trying to get back into the habit of writing more consistently and unfortunately or fortunately for you, Monday morning is a really good time for me. (I’ll try to knock out a few reader questions this week, too.)

I’m pretty jet-lagged and punchy from a work trip to Las Vegas (and there was no wifi on any of my flights, what are we? Savages?) Dinner tonight will be simple or takeout. We still have to firm up how many people will be fed this evening. 2? Takeout. 5? Mustgo soup.

I forgot to mention, last week, that I did not care for the Thai inspired spaghetti squash side. I love peanut sauce, I love spaghetti squash. It just didn’t work for me. (I think it was probably the gluten-free soy sauce which is definitely not my favorite)

The coconut milk-marinated chicken on the other hand was excellent. It was just a can of coconut milk, ground pepper, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and chopped green onions in a gallon freezer bag for a few hours. I then baked the chicken thighs just like these. If you really dig coconut you can make coconut rice (sub half the liquid with coconut milk and the other half with chicken broth) or plain white rice works, too. Add a crisp-tender veg and you have a solid weeknight meal. I’ll make it again and write it up, maybe even with photos.

Here we go:

  • Monday – To be determined
  • Tuesday – Autumn Skillet
  • Wednesday – Sausage, Kale, and Sweet Potato soup with Parmesan
  • Thursday – Tamale Pie, Salads
  • Friday – Fish (going to visit the fish store near my house and choose) there will likely be a buttery, garlic sauce, rice, and broccoli
  • Saturday – Stewed Chicken Thighs – I think I’ll go with a tomato and red pepper base, mashed potatoes
  • Sunday – Sloppy joes, sweet potato fries, sauteed cabbage

What will you be making this week? Anything new? Are there any new technique or ingredients you’re looking forward to trying? Or is it going to be one of those, just let’s make it through the week kind of weeks?