Gunning Daily News

Kitchen Knives 101: Choose the Right Knife

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

Good knives are an essential part of any cook's kitchen. But having a nice set of kitchen knives isn't enough -- you need to know how to use them properly.

Using the right knife for each task helps you prepare ingredients more efficiently, gives your food the appropriate texture, and lets you work more safely. The wrong knife can not only make food prep slower, but messier.

Choosing the right knife, using it safely, and holding it correctly will give you superior control when cutting your ingredients, and give you more confidence in the kitchen.

Types of Knives

These are the basic types of kitchen knives home cooks should have on hand:

Chef - An essential knife for every kitchen. Chop, slice and dice all fruits, vegetables and meat.
Utility - An all-purpose, mid-size knife for chopping and cutting larger fruits and vegetables. A serrated edge is ideal for tomatoes.
Slicer - Cut clean, even slices of meat with the long blade and pointed tip.
Bread - The serrated, scalloped edge is perfect for cutting loaves of bread with hard crusts.
Boning/Filet - Used to trim and carve meats.
Parer - A small knife that gives you control to trim and slice small fruits and vegetables.

Knife Basics

Keep it sharp - Dull blades can slip and cause you to cut yourself. Be sure your knives are properly sharpened at all times.
Get a grip - For maximum control, pinch the blade near the bolster with your thumb and curled index finger and wrap your three back fingers around the handle.
Use it mindfully - In the hustle of preparing a meal, it's easy to get a little careless. After handling a knife, lay it down in a cleared area with the blade away from the body and at safe distance from the edge of the cutting area. Don't reach blindly for a knife; reach deliberately for the handle. And remember; never try to catch a falling knife.


This Fall, Tackle Invasive Plants

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

(ARA) - The crisp days of fall will soon be here, but a long dry summer has left many homeowners looking out on lawns and gardens overtaken with invasive weeds and vines. A yard full of these noxious plants is sure to make it difficult to enjoy the cooler outdoor temperatures.

In 2012, the nation faced one of the hottest summers on record in the last 60 years. With more than two thirds of the country experiencing severe to extreme drought, conditions were ideal for pesky weeds to flourish.

Weeds like dandelions, crabgrass and clover easily tolerate hot temperatures and dry soil, overtaking lawns and gardens and lingering throughout the cooler fall months. Ivy and other aggressive vines thrive in the summer heat, climbing and covering bushes and trees and ultimately killing the plants underneath with their shade.

Left untreated, invasive plants can quickly become health and safety hazards. Kudzu can grow up to a foot per day, causing tree limbs to break under its weight, damaging homes and outdoor living spaces. Common grass weeds like nettles and thistles sting and prick the skin, and contact with dangerous plants like poison oak, ivy and sumac cause moderate to severe allergic reactions in almost all people.

"Fall herbicide treatments are the most effective way to eliminate unattractive and potentially harmful plants from lawns and gardens so that those spaces can be enjoyed throughout the cool fall months," says Aaron Hobbs, president of RISE (Responsible Industry for a Sound Environment), a national organization representing the manufacturers, formulators and distributors of pesticide and fertilizer products.

"This is the best time of year to eliminate invasive plants," Hobbs adds. "Weeds move the products of photosynthesis like water, glucose and oxygen to their roots for winter food storage in the fall, enabling the roots to soak up herbicides as well." Two to three treatments are usually all that is needed to completely destroy these types of plants.

Effective herbicide options exist for every type of weed and vine. The Environmental Protection Agency rigorously tests herbicides for potential human health and environmental impact before they can be registered and sold for use. As with all pesticides, users should always read labels and use and store products accordingly.

With just one or two follow-up treatments after an initial fall herbicide application, invasive plants are eradicated at the root, and people can take back their lawns and gardens to enjoy the beauty of fall.

Word of the Day

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

Recording. Entering or recording documents affecting or conveying interests in real estate in the recorder’s office; until recorded a deed or mortgage generally is not effective against subsequent purchases or mortgage liens.

Q: How Does the Seller Determine What Rate to Provide?

August 20, 2012 6:08 pm

A: The interest rate on a purchase money note is negotiable, as are the other terms in a seller-financed transaction. To get an idea about what to charge, sellers can check with a lender or mortgage broker to determine current rates on mortgage loans, including second mortgages.

Because sellers, unlike conventional lenders, do not charge loan fees or points, seller-financed costs are generally less than those associated with conventional home loans. Interest rates are generally influenced by current Treasury bill and certificate of deposit rates.

Understandably, most sellers are not open to making a loan for a lower return than could be invested at a more profitable rate of return elsewhere. So the interest rates they charge may be higher than those on conventional loans, and the length of the loan shorter, anywhere from five to 15 years.

Things to Consider Before Downsizing

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

Kids off at college? Tired of all that extra real estate maintenance? There are many reasons for considering downsizing your home: you no longer need the space after the children have moved out; you may want to move closer to family; or you may want to move into a condominium to escape more arduous chores such as yard work and snow removal. Before you make the decision to downsize, consider the following:

Decide whether you are ready to move and when you would move.

Have your home appraised to determine the potential proceeds from a sale.

Start looking for opportunities to buy a smaller home. Estimate how much you can save in reduced housing costs, and how much money you should set aside.

Research possible additions to ease life in your current home such as an elevator, or research locations of active adult retirement communities.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Q: What is seller financing?

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

A: Also known as a purchase money mortgage, it is when the seller agrees to “lend” money to the buyer to purchase and close on the seller’s home. Usually sellers do this when money is tight, interest rates are high or when a buyer has difficulty qualifying for a conventional loan or meeting the purchase price
Seller financing differs from a traditional loan because the seller does not actually give the buyer cash to complete the purchase, as does the lender. Instead, it involves issuing a credit against the purchase price of the home. The buyer executes a promissory note or trust deed in the seller's favor.

The seller may take back a second note or finance the entire purchase if he owns the home free and clear.
The buyer makes a sizeable down payment and agrees to pay the seller directly every month.

Word of the Day

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

REALTOR®. A real estate broker or agent who is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®, a professional real estate group that subscribes to a Code of Ethics. Not every broker or agent is a Realtor, a word that is a registered trademark and always capitalized.

Want to Retire Abroad? Do Your Research

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

Are you planning to retire in the next few years and dreaming up a quiet retreat in the south of France or Italy? It may sound lovely, but be sure to remember that vacationing abroad and living abroad are two very different things. Before you make living abroad a permanent part of your retirement plans, consider the following questions:

Which is the better option for you: a permanent move or temporary move? You can always take an extended vacation once you’re not working any longer.

Living in a foreign country is different from vacationing. Factors such as food costs, housing options, language barriers, health care, cultural isolation and family pets should be taken into consideration.

Ensure you know the impact of non-residency on retirement income and savings.

Ensure you know the tax and estate implications.

Also, think about any family or friends—seeing them will be more difficult, and possibly financially inconvenient.

Source: BMO Harris Bank

Freshen up your Kitchen for Fall

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

(ARA) - As the season changes, many of us will get the itch to tackle any number of home improvement projects before winter. For some, a complete remodel is in the works. For others, just a few quick fixes are needed to make the home a more enjoyable space during the long winter months or in preparation for holiday entertaining.

With the kitchen at the heart of the home, it's an obvious place to take time for a few updates this season. Here are a few ideas to help give your kitchen a fresh look without spoiling the budget.

Overhaul cabinetry without breaking the bank
Although replacing kitchen cabinetry can be a very costly home improvement project, it usually makes the biggest impact. With unlimited options to choose from and varying price points, it's easy to become overwhelmed and discouraged. Even if your budget is small, don't give up on the idea of updating your kitchen cabinetry because there are plenty of affordable solutions.

Add some personality and shine
Hardware and faucets are touched every day, and wear and tear are inevitable. Just switching out these pieces can make a dramatic difference by adding a fresh shine, some personality and even greater functionality to the space. If your cabinetry hardware seems a bit dated, opt for one of many modern options for an instant, low-cost update. Replace the kitchen faucet with a sleek, better-functioning style to elevate the kitchen design, but also introduce a newer water-saving solution.

Don't underestimate the power of paint
With color trends constantly changing, and the focus on color in the home becoming more prominent, a fresh coat of paint can change the look and feel of a space almost instantly. With the changing season, opt for colors that add warmth and comfort or choose a bright color to combat the gray of winter. Paint can also help cover up unsightly wall marks and stains and provide the backdrop for new decor and furnishings for a whole new look. To ensure your new look has staying power, make sure to purchase a quality paint specially formulated for the kitchen.

Lighten up in the kitchen
Kitchen lighting is easy to overlook. If there are outdated lighting fixtures in your kitchen, or simply not enough light, consider adding new whimsical pendant lights or splurge on a stunning chandelier to create a focal point. Simply adding lighting under the wall cabinets and dimmer switches can introduce a new ambiance to the space. A visit to your local home center or lighting showroom will give you plenty of ideas.

Is Your Home Making You Sick?

August 17, 2012 3:22 pm

(ARA) - Your home - it's your castle, your sanctuary. But could the place you go to escape the rest of the world be bad for you? Formaldehyde, chloroform and even asbestos could be in your home and you may not even know it.

First, the good news. "Today we're designing houses that are green-friendly," says Dan Lee, Interior Design instructor at The Art Institute of Dallas, a campus of South University, and the president of Lee Design Group. "Materials today have fewer chemicals and less carcinogenic substances."

But if you're in an older house or did some remodeling or refurbishing on your own, there could be substances in your home that are bad for your health. "There's something called volatile organic compounds or VOCs," says Kathleen Wakefield, Interior Design and Design & Technical Graphics program coordinator at The Art Institute of San Antonio, a branch of The Art Institute of Houston. She adds, "They are emitted from certain solids and liquids like paint."

Wakefield says that short-term exposure to VOCs can cause nausea and irritation to the eyes, while long-term exposure could damage your kidneys and liver. VOCs are also emitted from carpet foam made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC). So Wakefield suggests that if you're putting down carpet you stay elsewhere for a few weeks while the chemicals are being released. And keep windows open if possible to air out the space more quickly and not trap the compounds in your home.

Lee suggests you avoid carpet altogether. "Go with wood or natural stone floors over carpets and make sure you're shopping for PVC-free floors," he says.

When adding a little color to your home, look for paints with low or no VOC emissions. It should be right on the label. According to Wakefield, federal limits for flat paint are 250 milligrams per liter, and 380 milligrams per liter for all other kinds. California standards are more stringent - 100 milligrams per liter for flat paint and 150 milligrams per liter for all others.

If you're building your home from the ground up, consider using copper plumbing. "Builders have gotten away from copper and switched to PVC," says Lee, "but copper is a natural sterilizer. If water sits in copper, it's being sterilized. In PVC, it's growing something."

If your home was built in the '70s, '80s or '90s, the press board used could contain formaldehyde, explains Lee. And the plastic laminate in those homes was almost always glued and manufactured with formaldehyde as well. And if your home was built before the '60s, the floor and wall coverings may contain asbestos gluing agents.

If you're careful about the materials you're using in your home building and remodeling projects, make sure that caution extends to the household products you bring into your house as well, says Lee. Many fabric softeners actually contain chloroform, benzyl acetate and pentane. These are cancer-causing agents, warns Lee. Also, make sure you're using natural pesticides in the yard as well.

Wakefield advises researching products on the internet before you go out and buy them. She also advises hiring an interior designer that specializes in environmental and sustainable design for any home improvement and renovation projects you undertake.
Source: The Art Institutes