Re-Purposing Commercial Containers

Painter M-J de Mesterton
I usually fill these gallon-jugs with emergency water and store them out of sight.  This time, I decided to use one for watering potted plants.  I am going to keep it filled and ready, maybe adding a few drops of hydrogen peroxide. Most commercial labels are unattractive, and are misleading when their respective containers are empty. Soaking labels off huge bottles requires lots of hot water, time, solvent and elbow grease, so I grabbed a hefty black  permanent marker, then yellow and red “Sharpie” pens, which I used to loosely disguise the original label by drawing on it “freehand”.                 ©M-J de Mesterton 2018

 

 

 

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Elegant Breakfast Dish: Pink Grapefuit

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Grapefruit is part of a healthy, elegant breakfast. Peeled and cut into sections, then drizzled with a bit of honey and a few grains of sugar, this exquisite pink grapefruit is ready to eat in an antique Japanese export bowl  (which I acquired in 2004, and has disappeared–that’s all right; my main collection is Baron Morimura’s Noritake).

Grapefruit has a reputation of breaking-down fats, so it is advisable to eat it in conjunction with your favourite bacon-rich breakfast. By the way, in our house, Real Men do eat quiche, an entrée that would be beautifully complemented by grapefruit. ©M-J de Mesterton

  Visit Elegant Cook for M-J’s Quiche Lorraine Recipe
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Elegant Walnut Salad

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Simple and satisfying, a salad made with Romaine lettuce and crushed walnuts may be enhanced with Cheddar cheese to make a nutritious luncheon dish.  The best dressing for M-J’s Walnut-Romaine salad recipe is a honey-laced vinaigrette.  For an elegant salad-design, toss the lettuce in dressing before arranging the crushed walnuts around the edges of your bowl. ©M-J de MestertonRomaine__Elegant_Salad_Copyright_M-J_de_Mesterton

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Scandinavian Cinnamon Rusks

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Day-old bread is sliced and moistened in milk and/or cream, then sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon before being slowly baked in a low-temperature oven. This is the simple formula; every Scandinavian who makes this traditional toast or “cinnamon rusks” has his or her own technique. Cinnamon toast is a popular accompaniment to coffee. Scandinavian coffee is typically brewed “strong” using light-to-medium roasted beans. My Swedish grandparents had this traditional combination of cinnamon toast (kanelskorpor) and coffee every morning, though they did not make it themselves as I do. I sometimes use home-made brioche loaf for this purpose, as it produces a very light cinnamon toast or kanelskorpor.

©M-J de Mesterton

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Outsized Fruits & Vegetables; Chicken on Steroids?

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2016: I hadn’t gone shopping in a while, so when I came upon these grapes and jalapeño peppers at Albertson’s a month ago, they seemed normal at first. At home, they looked larger than life all of a sudden, like the Grapes that Took Over the World, and Jalapeños as Big as Texas. They may be genetically-modified (in fact, I’d put money on it). Yeah, them grapes were slightly smaller than golf-balls, and twenty years ago women would have been runnin’ scared at the sight of ’em. Those peppers ain’t just big, they are hotter than Hades. Talk about getting more bang for your buck–for all I know, the whole lot is deadly poison. Sure as shootin’, I am not going back to that store for more. The chicken breasts we bought there were just enormous, probably from a fowl critter named Dolly (in honor of the lamb created in a lab, not the huge-breasted singer, Ms Parton).

After poaching and frying those pieces of chicken, having spent more than an hour in the process, we were stunned at the foam-rubber texture of the alien meat. The animals had to have been pumped full of SOMETHING unnatural to make their breasts as large as those of turkeys and render their flesh absolutely inedible. My husband, who had innocently ordered the stuff at Albertson’s butcher counter, brought all the chicken back for a full refund. Don’t let grocery stores ruin your meals–make sure the chicken you purchase is of normal size. Good thing we did not unwittingly serve this faux fowl to guests. That would have been ruinous!~~M-J

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And now, the eternal question: which came first, the funky chicken enhanced by hormones, or the FREAK EGG?

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Nostalgia: Remember Elegantly-Dressed Men?

In this stylish drawing of a man, you don’t see a skinny jacket that is bursting open to expose sad trousers that hang at the hip instead of at the waist, a bulging shirt and too-long tie. What we see here is a man who wears his trousers at the right length, ones that don’t pile-up like discarded potato sacks on top of his shoes, and which come up to the actual human waist, thereby visually lengthening his legs. And we see the gentleman’s traditional accessories: hat, gloves and walking-stick, all of which serve a purpose, including protection from the elements, enthusiastic pigeons, dirt, germs, roving animals, and whoever may dare to attack him or anyone else in his immediate vicinity; the gentleman is always well-prepared for a stroll down today’s mean streets. Alas, this picture is clipped from an advert by Burberrys that appears in one of my 1930s Sphere magazines. Today’s men, in general, look like short, dumpy cads in clothes that are designed to distort human proportions. (Add the slovenly yet popular three-day growth beard to complete a tragic modern image.) Never in history has so much sartorial splendour been readily accessible, and yet men have seldom looked worse. It doesn’t cost any more to dress correctly than it does to do it badly, especially since some of the ghastliest clothes are going for the highest prices. There are very few contemporary examples of elegant dressing in trendy venues and magazines. Help yourself by not following fashion, but instead by looking toward the best elements of the past for useful examples of tasteful masculine dress.

©M-J de Mesterton 2010

UPDATE: IT’S NOW 2017, and menswear has become steadily worse in the past seven years. Here’s a video that makes me nostalgic for the kooky clothing of 1966, when I was eleven–people then looked better than they do today–but, it also demonstrates that following fashion blindly is utter folly:

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From the Clothes Line: Elegant Survival of Your Clothing

Summer Clothing Survival

Drying Clothes Naturally

Clothes and Towels Sunbathing on the Clothesline

Washing and Drying Your Shirts

A well-made shirt can cost $100.00 or more. That is an investment to protect. Your shirts will last much longer if they are washed by hand and hung to dry. Don’t use so much detergent that it takes a rinsing marathon to remove it. “A little dab’ll do ya”, as the old Brylcreem jingle said. Ideally, one would hang shirts on a clothesline, upside down, with clothes-pins or pegs. This keeps pinch-marks off the important areas of your shirts. The sun will dry them in no time. Alternatively, one could hang them indoors, perhaps out-of-sight behind the the shower curtain, on hangers. A sturdy spring-rod, placed inside the shower area for the purpose of hanging clothes to dry will not interfere with your existing shower-rod. If you don’t want to get hanger-marks on the shoulders, just put wash-cloths under them, over the ends of your hanger. The worst thing to do, even if you wash your shirts in cold water in the gentle cycle, is to dry them in a machine–doing so will quickly degrade your shirt, which will die an angry death before its time. My husband and I have shirts from France and England that are more than twenty years old, and in perfect condition.

An electric, energy-consuming dryer is an enemy to high-quality clothing. In fact, dryers shrink clothes and wear them out quickly; lint is composed of fibres that a machine robs from your clothes. You’d be surprised at how swiftly shirts dry naturally, and when they are just a wee bit damp, they’re easy to iron. In cases of stubborn collar and cuff soil, when hand-scrubbing fails, you can still wash your white shirts in hot water, soap, and a little bleach, as long as they are rinsed well, and then hung to dry. (Bleach alternative may be a better choice, if you can get it to work on stubborn stains. I sometimes use hydrogen peroxide and/or vinegar.) The sun will do some natural bleaching of white cotton. Save costly energy and your shirts by hand-washing and sun-drying them.

Giving your precious shirts to a dry-cleaner or other laundry service is wasteful. They crush buttons and machine-dry the poor things. Do clothes hanging on a line outdoors conjure up bad images for you? Too bad, because it is one of life’s simple luxuries to be able to dry a beautiful, well-made shirt in the sun–some of the best people do it. Believe me, it’s not remotely infradig to care for your own shirts. After all, who cares for them more than you do?
~~Copyright M-J de Mesterton, May 2008-2012

Elegant Survival News

Clothes-Line_Copyright_M-J_de_Mesterton_2007The Clothes Line, an Elegant Survival Original, Copyright M-J de Mesterton 2006

Clothes dryers are energy-wasters, and will ruin your clothes as well, through fibre-loss and shrinkage. Some electric dryers even tear holes in clothes. Hand-washing and line-drying your shirts and other washable garments will extend their lives. I use Zote soap and a microfibre cloth to rub dirt out of cuffs and collars. Underarms need special attention, too. I use a microfibre cloth instead of a brush because it is more gentle on the fabric, while strong enough to grab what I like to call “café crud” from cuffs.

You don’t need a fancy contraption for natural clothes-drying; a five-dollar investment in a clothesline from a supermarket, and a packet of wooden clothespins for about three dollars will do, and you can be line-drying in a jiffy. Having a couple of trees to hold your clothesline at each…

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Swedish Potato Salad

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Boiled new potatoes, diced red onions,  chopped bacon with a little warm bacon fat for flavour, vinaigrette and brightly-coloured, diced capsicums (optional) make a splendid summer potato salad, either chilled or at room temperature. It is a tasty, safe alternative to mayonnaise-based potato salads, which cannot withstand long periods in the heat of a sunny day. This recipe is traditional in my Swedish family. ©M-J de Mesterton
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Swedish Potato Salad, an Excellent Summer Picnic Dish

M-J’s Cupcakes Filled with Swiss Meringue

Create hollow areas within cupcakes with a demitasse spoon or a paring knife. The resultant cake bits can be saved in a bowl and eaten later. Your cupcakes will be filled with a light, fluffy icing that is essentially a very sweet meringue that is stabilised by being heated while whipped. Here is my recipe:

SWISS MERINGUE ICING

In the top of a double-boiler over a simmering inch or two of water, whip five egg whites with a cup of white granulated sugar, a cup of confectioners’ sugar, a dash of salt and 1/4 cup of water, using an electric mixer at high speed. Continue beating the mixture until it forms stiff peaks. Remove from heat and allow to cool; whip a teaspoon of vanilla into the meringue. Use your Swiss meringue before it hardens, but most of the time, it stays spreadable for many hours. This is my method, but there are numerous other recipes on the internet for Swiss meringue. In my kitchen, I cook this meringue icing in the stainless steel bowl of my Kitchenaid mixer set atop a mid-sized stockpot with a couple inches of simmering water in it, using an electric hand-mixer to whip it into shape. Swiss meringue icing is sometimes referred to as “seven-minute frosting”. Depending upon various conditions, you may need to whip the meringue for more or less than ten minutes. I’ve had days when it took much longer than that. Find a formula that works for you. Spoon your room-temperature meringue into a gallon-sized polyethylene zippered bag with one corner cut off, as shown, or a professional pastry-bag. Fill the holes in your cupcakes with Swiss meringue, and top them with it as well if desired. Chocolate or buttercream frosting on top of your filled cupcakes would be wonderful. Alternatively, fill some cupcakes with ganache and top them with Swiss meringue icing. ©M-J de Mesterton

Elegant, Refreshing Daikon Salad

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Gyoza with Daikon Salad

Daikon is a health-promoting Japanese white radish. I create shreds of daikon with a sharp Victorinox peeler, then place them on a bed of finely-shredded lettuce, sometimes with a few fine pieces of red onion for even more nutrients and additional piquancy. Ideally, this refreshing salad is dressed with mirin or a vinaigrette. It makes the perfect complement to gyoza dumplings.~©M-J de Mesterton 2018

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Little Gems Sweet Lettuce, by Tanimura & Antle, is a Nutritious Component of M-J’s Elegant Daikon Salad

Elegant Avocado Salad

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Using a tool for creating Swedish meatballs (similar to a melon-baller), I was able to make pieces of avocado more appealing than usual in a salad. I doused the avocado balls in lemon juice to prevent them losing their fresh green colour. Elegant salad design dictates that dressing is added only to the  lettuce component, so that the other ingredients are clearly visible.  With the addition of Roma tomato-wedges and finely shredded cheese, this concoction made a perfect summer luncheon for one.

©M-J de Mesterton 2018

Conserving Water in the Kitchen

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The water in a sink-sized white bucket, in which coconut oil was once packed, after rinsing some dishes and utensils in it, can be saved and given to plants. This pail came with a tight-fitting cover, which I sometimes use if I wish to agitate utensils in the water. A little washing-up soap is welcomed by trees and flowers; soap helps to keep away insects and mould. Be sure there is no trace of animal product in the kitchen rinse-water, though (or in your compost-heap), because it will attract rodents and other pests. I live in the Mojave Desert, where water is scarce and expensive–a little of the precious liquid goes a long way, especially in my dry-climate garden of cacti, morning glory and palm. ©M-J de Mesterton

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Cleaning your lettuce and other vegetables with a little hydrogen peroxide or vinegar in the water makes them more sanitary. The rinse-water can be conserved and used in your garden. Plants benefit by being fed a little hydrogen peroxide and vinegar. ©M-J de Mesterton

Cooking with Ginger Helps Fight Cancer

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Raw, Sliced Ginger, Sautéed with Haricots Verts, or Thin Green Beans, Helps Fight Cancer


Microsoft, bless their collective heart, took the liberty of cramming my uploaded photos of today into a “video”. So, I’m testing their somewhat bizarre product at YouTube, where I’ve had an inactive channel for a couple of months, waiting for content. Might as well get started….

What’s with the photos I took yesterday? First, one of my flowering cacti was being buzzed by a hummingbird, and I lazily snap-shot it via zoom-lens through the patio door. Then, I made a Spanish tortilla (classic Iberian egg dish) for my husband Jacques, who suggested I photograph the thing. Then I read that cooked ginger develops a cancer-fighting property in the process, so I sautéed some raw ginger in coconut oil with green beans (alas, it’s not as quick & easy as my habit of throwing whole ginger-root into a smoothie). I decided to take some shots of that endeavour for my blog, Elegant Survival News, to spread the good word. The green beans and ginger made a tasty dish, especially after I added home-made chili-oil and ponzu sauce at table~~M-J de Mesterton

 

M-J’s Home-Made Blue Cheese Dressing

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Bottled blue cheese dressings usually contain corn syrup, sugar, and trans-fat oils, which makes them less than salubrious while ruining their flavour. They don’t taste anything like the dressings freshly-made by smart restaurant cooks. Here are my four simple ingredients for home-made blue cheese dressing: buttermilk, sour cream, crumbled blue cheese, and lemon-pepper (lemon juice and freshly-ground pepper are great in its place, though juice will thin the mixture). I do not use exact measurements when making this concoction. I simply put the ingredients into a bowl or jar and stir or shake them to mix well; this method leaves the blue cheese in appealing little chunks. ©M-J de Mesterton

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