Tuesday, February 4, 2014

When life gives you lemons, use them!

Is it just me, or does it seem like the weekends never seem to last long enough? Friday afternoon comes, I get home, and make all kinds of plans for the things I want to accomplish over the weekend, and BAM! Monday morning is here. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much. It's almost 10 pm on Saturday, and I had a fairly short to-do list made up for today (for me, at least... I'm ambitious). Five things to do today, and I got four of them done. Not horrible, by any means, but I thought for sure that keeping my list so small would make it easier to get it all checked off. And with tomorrow being Superbowl Sunday, I'll be fixing nibblers starting as soon as we get home from church, finishing the laundry that is waiting in the basement, and attempting to get a couple random things done in between.

On a side note, during one of my random tangents of the day, I decided to google the many uses of lemons. Why you ask? Well, I was fixing a marinade for my Citrus Herb Chicken that is going to be dinner sometime this coming up week, and after juicing oranges and lemons, I just couldn't bring myself to throw the remains of the used and abused citrus fruits in the trash can. For the time being, the rinds were thrown in a freezer bag and tossed in the door of the kitchen freezer. I just found so many uses for whole lemons, lemon juice, lemon zest and lemon peel, that I knew I wouldn't be able to decide what to do with the couple of lemons I had used for the marinade within a reasonable amount of time. ...plus it would allow me to decide what to use the rest of the bag of lemons on as well!

We all know that the flavor of lemons mean that they are perfect additions to certain dishes and drinks, and we cannot forget the best thing to do with them- lemonade! And of course, we've all seen the cleaning products at the store with lemon scent and the power of citrus added to give our clean homes a little boost, not to mention a clean smell. But did you know that lemons can be used to clean all by themselves? Or that ingesting lemon juice has a world of health benefits to go with it's yumminess? And I bet a lot of people (like me) didn't know that there are cosmetic uses for lemons as well!

Let's start with the obvious- food and drink addition.

1. Fresh squeezed lemonade! I'm not akin to producing my own recipes, but I'm a master at following directions in others' recipes. This recipe from allrecipes.com is so simple anyone can make it, and what better to entice you to give it a try than the name: Best Lemonade Ever. 

2. Marinades or added flavor to dishes. My recipe for Herb and Citrus Oven Roasted Chicken came from thecomfortofcooking.com, but there are many marinades out there that use lemon juice or whole lemons. And if you're a better cook than I am, you can concoct your own original marinade! I'm just not that adventurous... nor am I willing to waste perfectly good food to find out what I already know- I'm not a personal chef and I can't formulate amazing recipes on my own. 

3. Garnish. Don't even try to tell me that you've never had a drink that didn't have some kind of fruit on the rim of the glass. It's just un-American to go to a fair or carnival and not grab a glass of fresh squeezed lemonade, and we all know they're garnished with a slice or quarter of a lemon. Okay... so lemons are also garnishes for certain alcoholic beverages too. And don't forget that lemon slices make beautiful garnishes for salads and entrees as well.

4. Canning and preserving. While it is always recommended to use the bottled lemon juice when you're canning instead of fresh (the acidity can vary in fresh, whereas the bottled lemon juice is always constant), the acidity in the lemon juice in conjunction with the heat of waterbath canning kills off any bacteria that could cause illness when you eat your preserved goodies later. A little bit of lemon juice can also help lengthen the life and reduce browning in fresh produce that would not typically be preserved by canning or freezing- fresh cut fruits and veggies stay crisp and their original color longer when you squeeze the juice of a lemon over them. Or for lettuce starting to wilt, give it a bath in ice cold water with a bit of lemon juice for about an hour (just dry it completely before using, unless you want a bit of a citrus flavor to your salad!).

So... that's all I got. For the food and drink category, of course. 

How about what those cute little tart bits of heaven do for your health? We all know that any drink with fresh ingredients are better for you than a soda, but did you know that there are numerous health benefits that come with that glass of lemonade or water with a slice of lemon?

5. Lower your blood pressure. The potassium in lemons can help regulate your blood pressure.

6. Treat arthritis. Apparently the diuretic properties of lemons helps produce urine, which in turn helps your body flush out toxins and bacteria, easing the symptoms of arthritis.

7. Prevent kidney stones. Here's those diuretic properties again. Drinking lemonade or a glass of water with some lemon juice not only helps hydrate your body, in turn causing more urination, but it also helps your body produce a chemical that prevents the formation of crystals that could turn into kidney stones.

8. Nature's antibiotics. Got an infection in your throat? Scratchy throat? Grab a glass of half water, half lemon juice for gargling. Lemon juice can also help ease the symptoms of asthma. Drink two teaspoons before each meal and right before bed.

9. Lighten age spots. Rub some lemon juice on those pesky spots for about fifteen minutes- or use some on a cotton ball to dab the area. Over time it will help lighten the signs that you're not turning 30 for the umpteenth time. 

10. Naturally lighten your hair. You know how lemon juice lightens those age spots? It works on hair too. A one to three ratio of lemon juice to water applied to hair will help give you the sun-kissed hair we all love so much. Oh, you do need to sit in the sun while it dries for it to work best though. 

11. Clean and brighten your finger nails. Squeeze half of a lemon into a cup of warm water, and dip your fingertips in for about five minutes or so. Once you've pushed the cuticles back, rub the lemon peel against your nails. You can also use lemon juice to wash your hands to get rid of odors from garlic or other smelly foods, and lemon juice can help remove stains from your hands caused by berries.

12. Got bad breath and nowhere near a toothbrush or gum? Swish some fresh lemonade or straight lemon juice around in your mouth- those antibacterial properties will get rid of any germies causing the odor. And swallowing it is actually good for you, unlike commercial mouthwashes. Lemon juice can also help stop bleeding gums and ease the pain from a toothache.

13. Clean your face with straight lemon juice. Not only does the antibacterial properties of lemons help with blackheads or other issues, but lemon juice will also help rejuvenate your skin, especially if you use it to exfoliate (mix some lemon juice with some sugar for a safe and natural scrub). Wait, did I mention that a lemon exfoliation can be used all over? Just don't use the sugar concoction in your next batch of lemonade. That would be... well, just gross. 

14.  Get rid of that pesky dandruff. Use a couple of tablespoons as a scalp massage- go ahead, you know you deserve it. Afterwards, rinse your hair clean with a cup of water with a couple teaspoons of juice mixed in. This can also help regulate the PH of your scalp so that you can have luscious locks to go along with that healthy scalp. Not to mention if you shower in the mornings, the scent can help wake you up as well!

15. Soothe irritated skin. For dry skin, especially on elbows or knees, make a paste with baking soda and lemon juice to exfoliate the areas and soothe the irritation. Straight lemon juice applied to a rash caused by poison ivy (or poison oak or sumac) will help dry up the oils causing the irritation, lessening your misery. 

16. Get rid of warts. The acidity in lemon juice can dissolve a wart over time. Apply straight lemon juice with a cotton ball daily, and you should see improvements in as little as several days. 

17. Get rid of chills and fevers. This fix will obviously depend on what is the cause of the fever, but I'm assuming that if it is due to a cold or flu, the antibiotic properties of the mighty lemon fight the bug off for you, reducing the need for a fever to kill of the nasties.

18. Headaches (or hangovers). I've heard of several variations here- lemon juice in water, lemon juice added to cold tea, to hot tea... I don't think it's going to matter a whole lot what you add it to. The lemon is an amazing citrus fruit, and whatever you add it to, not only will you be hydrating your body (and head), but the lemon juice will work it's magic.

19. Disinfect minor injuries. We're not talking about injuries that require emergency attention here, we're talking small cuts or scrapes that would normally send you running to the medicine cabinet for the hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol (whichever your preference is). Let's say you used up the last of the antiseptics with little Johnny's last scraped knee/elbow/chin/shoulder/insert other body part children tend to injure often... What to do? Head back to the kitchen and the grab the bottle of lemon juice. Or a lemon. Pour a little over the cut or dab some on with a cotton ball/gauze pad.

20. Keep a sunny attitude. Lemonade and lemon juice added to water can help ward off stress and depression. While there is scientific evidence to back this up, I can't help but think that drinking lemonade or water with lemons makes me think of sunshine and happy times. Is it just me? Or do you feel like you're suddenly a kid on summer break again with a glass of tart but sweet deliciousness to quench your thirst?

21. Anti-aging and cancer fighter. Remember how I mentioned that lemon juice on the skin can help reduce age spots (number 8)? Well, lemon juice is an antioxidant and is known to reduce the production of free radicals- those little buggers that make your skin age. And since lemon juice is an antioxidant, it can also help ward off toxins in the blood also, thereby reducing the possibility of cancer. 

22. Natural vaccine for Diphtheria. Doctors around the world swear by the lemon juice treatment for this disease.

23.Natural alternative to commercial douches and suppositories. Again, the antiseptic properties prove their worthiness. And it's natural, unlike the commercial products that contain Lord-knows-what.

24. Did you forget to buy deodorant before the current tube ran out? Swipe a slice of lemon in each underarm. It will not only freshen up any funky odors, but it can ward off the bacteria causing the odor. What's that? It smells good AND gets rid of what causes the funk? That's what I call a win-win!

I know that there have got to be many more health benefits to this magnificent fruit, but to keep this post from becoming a book, I feel I have to move on. It doesn't help that I know I'm a rambler at heart, and can go on and on and on and on about one topic. You've got to admit though, it's fascinating to find out just how much one little fruit can accomplish, isn't it??

Aside from the most common use for lemons, ingesting the juice, pulp, and zest, lemons also have lots of other uses around the home. Lemons and their juice can be used for cleaning in every room of the house, believe it or not.

25. Clean your garbage disposal. The next time there's a funk emanating from your sink, toss a handful of ice cubes and a couple slices of lemon in the disposal, turn the water on to a slow but steady stream and flip that baby on. The ice cubes safely sharpen the blades of the disposal, while the lemon slice gets rid of any germs causing the odors and smells great while it's killing the cause of the funk. 

26. Deodorize your trash can. Whether you toss everything into one trash can or have separate containers for trash, recycling, and composting, they all eventually end up with something that causes a stink, literally. And lord knows it doesn't help when you get a tear in the bottom of the liner and it leaks into the bottom of the can. Next time this happens, go ahead and clean it out as you normally would (or if you don't ever clean it, at least give it a good wipe out with water and a rag first), and then toss a couple slices of lemon into the bottom of the can before you put a fresh liner in. It can also help to sprinkle a little baking soda in the bottom to absorb any leftover odor before you toss in the lemon slices. Just don't forget to take them out within a few days to a week tops, or else they'll start growing their own funk and causing a stink.

27. Deodorize your refrigerator. Did you forget about a package of raw hamburger or have something spill in the fridge? Or have any number of things get left in there too long that cause a bad odor? Don't even get me started on fish- it doesn't have to go bad to stink up a fridge... anyhoo, before you go spending the money on that box of baking soda that claims it's for the fridge because it's got the peel-off side and nicely contains the baking soda while deodorizing, grab a lemon. Cut the lemon in half, or in quarters, and place the pieces in various spots in the fridge. Or dampen a cloth, sponge, or cotton balls with lemon juice to place in the icebox. It won't make a powdery mess like the box of baking soda you buy for your baking, and costs considerably less than the fancy unspillable box, but still does the job. Just make sure you get rid of whatever is causing the odor, or it defeats the purpose of the lemon.

28. Clean and Deodorize your microwave. Squeeze the juice of one lemon into a smallish microwavable container and add about a cup of water to it. Microwave on high anywhere from two to ten minutes (my gut says two to three, but I've seen other people mention five to ten... I guess it depends on how stuck on some of the gunk is). Use a dry rag and easily wipe away all the splattered on foods from every nook and cranny inside the microwave. The moisture will loosen the food, and the lemon juice will both work to kill germs and kill any odors from the various foods that have been through the nuker.

Before I continue this post, I would like to shamefully admit that this post is now written on two separate days. While I had every intention of working on it during the Super Bowl (yeah, right, I should have known better), it didn't happen. Luckily, Tuesday February 4th happens to be a snow day for essentially the entire KC metropolitan area. Wednesday is also a snow day, but that is beside the point. While it's rather late in the day for me to be working on this- or is it?- I feel entitled. I have all the laundry caught up, dusted my bedroom (kids do their own and the boys are in the living room) and made the bed, made and cleaned up dinner, fixed snow ice cream that the family loved, and I've even had some downtime to relax a little as well. Time to get back at it! This post isn't going to write itself!

29. Freshen your cutting board. A lot of people who have and use cutting boards do one of two things- use a commercial cleaner for their cutting board or simply rinse the wooden board with plain ol' water or toss the plastic/glass cutting boards in with the dishes. While tossing the washable boards in with the other dishes- hand washing in the sink or dishwasher- is perfectly acceptable, just a quick rinse on the wooden cutting board is not the greatest idea. And I'm an offender. Even produce can carry yuckies that don't go away with a quick rinse. Use a half of a lemon and rub it across the entire cutting surface of the board to disinfect it au natural, or use the bottled stuff to wash it down good. Since you don't want to toss a wooden cutting board in with dish soap, this is a great way to know it's clean. Bonus- if you have a plastic cutting board for meats, it can become stained with a lot of use. The lemon juice acts as a natural bleach to help whiten it back up so it not only is de-germified, it actually looks nicer too. This tactic also works on other wooden cooking utensils like spoons or rolling pins.

30. Eliminate/Prevent fireplace odor. If you are one of those lucky people who have a fireplace, and actually use it, you know that occasionally the fire doesn't always smell as inviting as you want it to. If you notice the wood you are burning isn't as pleasant as you remember, toss some lemon peels onto the fire to spruce up the scent (pun intended). And the lemon peel can be added to the wood before you start the fire so you can avoid any less-than-pleasant smells.

31. How many other people LOVE the smell of lemon <insert brand name furniture polish>  for dusting/polishing your furniture? I do, and for the longest time I swore by a particular brand. But olive oil with a bit of real lemon juice mixed in works just as well. I actually think it made my furniture look nicer, and I think the real wood furniture soaks up the olive oil better than the store bought stuff, and the scent seemed to last longer. I didn't really measure, as I typically don't measure when I try experimenting and can't find an exact recipe to go by, so please don't ask for a ratio of lemon juice to olive oil! I'm sure you're safe going by your personal taste for how much oil you'll need to cover all the furniture and how strong you want the lemon scent to be.

32. Air freshener- duh! There are actually a couple ways you can use lemon as an air freshener. In the colder, dryer weather, my go-to stunt is to boil a pot of water on the stove. Add a few slices of lemon  to the water, and voila! You have more humidity in the air and it smells better (and cleaner!). You can also add other stuff to the mix like vanilla extract or cinnamon. I don't add either for a couple reasons- one, I'm afraid I'd use too much of something and have it overpower the other scents and not smell great, and two, I use cinnamon and vanilla extract enough for cooking, that I see this as wasteful with my baking supplies! I know deep down it's not if it can make my home smell warm and inviting, but I'm weird like that. the second way to freshen the air is to simply place a halved lemon or lemon slices in a small bowl or on a small plate and place it in the room to be freshened- bathrooms, laundry room, mud room, teenage boys' bedrooms, near the litter box... anywhere that needs a pleasant odor to help cover up a funky smell. Keep in mind that you still have to clean those rooms! Another bonus- the small plate with lemon slices also serves as a small decoration.

33. Remove hard water stains from chrome fixtures and shower doors. Cut a lemon in half and use the halves to rub down the faucets and handles of sinks, tubs, showers, and the shower doors. Depending on how old/bad the hard water stain is, it may take some serious rubbing for a while, but if you do this on a regular basis, it works great to keep the hard water stains at bay. For some of the tougher stains, try making a paste with lemon juice and baking soda to gently scrub away at the hard water stains.

34. Got rust? I've noticed on some of my cooking utensils (some are cheaper) that they occasionally develop a bit of rust on parts of the handles. It's probably from sitting in the sink too long before going to the dishwasher, or it sits in the dishwasher just right wrong and water sits on it too long. Make a paste of one tablespoon of lemon juice to two tablespoons of salt to make a scrub that will get rid of the rust and allow you to feel better about using that utensil to cook dinner again.

35. Stainless Steel/Copper/Brass cleaner. Again, that lemon juice and salt combination works for cleaning your appliances and fixtures so you don't have to buy an expensive chemical. You'll have to play with the ratio here- you won't want as much salt as you would for the rust remover. Or better yet, replace the salt with gentler baking soda or cream of tartar.

36. Whiten your laundry. Lemon juice can be used in place of bleach to the wash load to help brighten your colors and whiten your whites, and it can even be used to pretreat and soak stains. Obviously test it on an inconspicuous area to know for sure it won't hurt whatever material is stained, but on cotton it works wonders. I've seen lemon juice remove armpit stains and brighten grungy socks with some soaking time before getting tossed into the washing machine.

37. Clean and deodorize your humidifier. My husband takes our small humidifier out of our bedroom every couple of weeks or so to take it apart and clean the hard water build up out of it to keep it working great. He doesn't use lemon juice, but if you have stubborn spots, try soaking it in lemon juice, or even a 50/50 mixture with water. I've also heard that if your humidifier is starting to smell off, you can add a few drops of lemon juice in with the water before turning it on.

38. Bug repellant. Apparently many insects don't like lemons. Spray some lemon juice around areas that ants or other bugs might be coming into your kitchen or place some slices of lemon outside the door and window to the kitchen. Floors mopped with a mixture of a half gallon of water to 1/2 cup of lemon juice will deter flees and roaches.

39. Boost your dishwasher's power. Instead of using Jet Dry, try placing a couple slices of lemon on the top rack of the dishwasher. Just secure them in place somehow, or they'll end up in the bottom of the dishwasher. You'll love the smell while the dishwasher is running, and love the spotless look of dishes when they come out. Lemon juice can also be added to the dish water if you wash dishes by hand to help cut through grease on dishes.

40. All purpose cleaner.Use straight lemon juice or dilute it with water to naturally clean all of the surfaces in your kitchen and bathroom. If you use it straight, be sure to rinse with a damp rag to remove any stickiness the lemon juice may leave behind. To give it more umph, add some vinegar to the mixture. The vinegar will boost the cleaning/deodorizing/sanitizing properties, but the lemon will help mask the odor of the vinegar. And the smell of vinegar tends to dissipate quickly and leave the lemon scent behind, so you won't have to suffer through a kitchen smelling like lemony pickles.

Well, I knew I would have a lot of ideas for using lemons in more than just drinks and cooking, but I also learned a little more about this lovely fruits along the way, thanks to Google! I know I could come up with more uses for them if I really wanted to, and some tips have been somewhat combined, but I think just about everyone could learn at least one or two new things about lemons that you didn't know before. I know I did!

I apologize for the lack of pictures during this post, but I don't have any pretty pictures of lemons at the ready, and I'm still learning about the proper way to use others' photos and making sure I am doing so correctly and legally. I figure it's better to be safe than sorry, and I knew you'd understand. Especially if you stayed with me despite the lack of photos!

I would love feedback as I get more posts going, and get back into the swing of things with my blog. I'm hoping to be writing at least two new posts per week, hopefully three or four, depending on the topics and how much I might ramble. Most of my future posts will also include pictures I have personally taken, at least until I understand how to use other pictures without getting myself into any trouble!

Until next time, don't forget to live today better than yesterday!

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