Ask me anything: Hot cold-brew coffee, power strips, cook's trick and more
Today is mailbag day, when I reach into my virtual mailbag to read and respond to a handful of letters and messages from my wonderful readers. I love to hear from you with your questions, feedback, thoughts and ideas.
Hot Cold-Brew Coffee?
Dear Mary: I've followed you for years, and I love all the tips.
Recently, I tried your instructions for cold-brew coffee using Trader Joe's French Roast decaf, and it was delicious! I can't have caffeinated coffee, but this worked out perfectly, although it's a little messy, LOL!
My question is: Now that the weather is cooling off, is there some way to make this hot, short of making the cold brew and warming it up? It seems like that would defeat the purpose of keeping it more alkaline. Suggestions? — Cheryl
Dear Cheryl: What makes cold-brew coffee so awesome is completing the extraction process with cold water instead of hot. So, if you want the benefits of cold brew — namely, low acid and smooth flavor — it needs to be cold-brewed.
You may have noticed that the result of the cold-brew process is very strong! When you pour it over ice, the melting ice counters that super strength to make perfect cold-brew iced coffee.
When you want hot cold-brew coffee, pour 1 to 2 ounces of cold brew you've stored in the refrigerator into a coffee mug. Fill it with boiling water. Bam! There you go: a perfect cup of, in your case, decaf coffee! See how that works? Simple! Hope that helps, and thanks for being such a loyal friend and fan. XO — M
Appliances and Power Strips
Dear Mary: In a recent column, you recommended surge protectors with auto-switch and power-conserve switches. Are these gadgets safe for plugging in kitchen appliances? Thank you. — Mary T.
Dear Mary T.: This is tricky, so my answer is the dreaded, "It all depends." If that appliance creates heat, which you can tell by checking if it has the red-hot heating elements (such as in a toaster, toaster oven or space heater), then no, never plug it into a power strip. Those heat-producing appliances must be plugged into the wall outlet directly.
Appliances such as blenders, coffee makers and can openers can be used with a power strip, but only one at a time. Don't overload the power strip by running everything simultaneously. And now for my important disclaimer: Always check the user manual for important safety information. It was so nice to hear from you! XO — M
Lawn Mushrooms, Garden Aphids
Dear Mary: I need solutions for two garden problems: mushrooms in the lawn and aphids on my roses. Thank you for any suggestions for these two problems. — Lorena
Dear Lorena: The mushrooms are a good sign that your soil is alive and well. Really, there is very little you can or should do about them.
Mushrooms are just the fruit of something decomposing under your lawn. Mushrooms move nutrients from underground up to the surface. Most mushrooms are good for your yard, degrading waste products and returning them to the soil. The mushrooms will disappear once their job is done.
As for the aphids, I'd look to nature for the most effective solution: ladybugs! You can buy live ladybugs at any garden center (or online with guaranteed live delivery) during the growing season in your area. Place the ladybugs in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes before releasing them in the garden. This will make them sluggish, so they won't fly away before settling into their new home. Make sure you release them close to the aphid population. One hungry ladybug will take care of 50 to 60 aphids a day!
Hope that helps with both the mushrooms and the aphids. XO — M
Cook’s Trick to Counter Sweetness
Dear Mary: My dad is 80, and he still loves to cook. Recently, he made a big batch of vegetable soup, and for some reason, it was too sweet. We think it might have been the carrots. Could you suggest a way to get rid of the sweetness without having to waste otherwise great food? Thank you. — Jeannie
Dear Jeannie: I must be the queen of fixing cooking mistakes, since I've had so much experience. A good rule of thumb when something is too sweet is to add a little vinegar or lemon juice. Start with a small amount (maybe a teaspoon); stir; and then taste, adding more as necessary. Tell your dad he's an inspiration for cooks everywhere. XO — M
Mary Hunt is the founder ofEverydayCheapskate.com and author of "Debt-Proof Living." Questions, comments and tips can be sent on her website.