How To: Get iced-tea stains out of your plastic pitcher

Posted on December 12th, 2010 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

The pitcher in question...

I love home-made iced tea, and have gone so far as to post my recipe for it.  As you can see in the picture to the right, I use translucent Tupperware 1-gallon pitchers for the tea, and after over a year of use the pitchers were getting tea-stained.

I did a lot of things to try to remove the stains – scrubbing the hell out of them, letting them soak overnight with dish soap, filling them with boiling water hoping to cook the stains out, etc, etc, etc.  Nothing worked and the stains just kept getting more stainier.

I eventually turned to the web, and many (many) people recommended soaking overnight filled with warm water and a little bleach (yuck!) or OxiClean (double-yuck!!), but using any kind of chemical like that seemed, well, yucky.

Then I found someone who said they also had a problem with tea staining their plastic pitchers, and they solved it by alternating iced tea with lemonade, and the acidity of the lemonade helped keep the pitchers clean.

I like lemonade, but not enough to put it into my homemade drink-making routine, but it got me thinking.  Specifically, it got me thinking about citric acid, which is the part of the lemonade that is, well, acidic, and I started wondering if I could just buy some citric acid somewhere.

The Tea-Stain Terminator

And, as in almost all cases where I’m looking to see if something is available on the web, I turned to, and lo and behold, they had some – quite a few options, in fact.  I ended up ordering the liquid citric acid in a glass jar, pictured to the right.

I took my most stained pitcher, put about 2 ounces of the citric acid in it, and filled it to the brim with hot tap water and let it soak overnight.  The next day I poured out the water, scrubbed and rinsed the inside, and saw a tremendous improvement, although it was still a bit stained.

But, after treating it a few more times in rotation as the pitcher became empty again, it is now very, very clean.  If you inspect it very closely you can still see some slight discoloration, but it isn’t noticeable in normal use, and seems to be lessening over time with regular treatments.

My plan is now to use this treatment every once in a while on my pitchers, to keep them clean.  And, unlike with bleach or detergents, the worst case scenario is that the treatments might impart a slight citrus taste to the tea, which I don’t think I’d mind if and when it ever happens – and I certainly won’t be worried about any side-effects from ingesting a toxic chemical, because it’s just citric acid, which is edible.

So, if you have stained plastic food containers and are wondering

Homemade breakfast taquito recipe

Posted on December 11th, 2010 in Commentary by EngineerBoy

The basic ingredients

We love breakfast taquitos, usually from Whataburger or a local Mexican restaurant, but also wanted to make them at home from time to time, and have developed this recipe over a few iterations:


2 potatoes
6 eggs
6 scallions, chopped
3 oversized flour tortillas
2 tbsp cooking oil
2 tbsp butter
Optional: shredded cheese, salsa, Tabasco sauce, or whatever else you might want to try putting on a breakfast taco

Start a heavy, large skillet heating (we use cast iron) on medium-high heat (set to 7 on our electric that goes to 10).  Wash the potatoes and shred them with a grater, leaving the skins on.  Spread the shredded potatoes in an even layer on a microwave-safe plate, and microwave them on high for 5 minutes, uncovered.  Remove from the microwave and set aside.  This step is important because to get crispy hash browns requires that excess moisture be removed from the potatoes before frying.

Put the oil in the hot pan and swirl it around to coat evenly, then add the chopped scallions.  Cook the scallions until tender and slightly browned, then add the potatoes in an even layer.  While the potatoes fry undisturbed, start another large skillet heating on medium-low (3 on our stove that goes up to 10).

Crispy, brown potatoes...yum!

Crack the eggs into a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and stir them up lightly, as if making scrambled eggs.  Meanwhile, let the potatoes fry without stirring until the bottom layer starts to get brown and crispy, then attempt to flip the whole mess over as a whole potato cake, as seen in the accompanying picture.  Expect some breakage of the potato cake, but try to keep it in largish pieces.

Let the potatoes continue to fry until the bottom starts to brown again, and once it looks like the potatoes are close to finishing, put some butter into the other preheating skillet to melt.  The skillet should be hot enough to melt the butter quickly and with a little bit of sizzle, but not brown the butter.

Once the butter has melted, add the eggs and salt and pepper to taste.  Cook the eggs with intermittent stirring to make scrambled eggs.  While the eggs are finishing up, put the three tortillas in the microwave covered by a moistened paper towel and heat for 30-60 seconds on high (depends on your microwave, but you want them piping hot!).  The moistened paper towel keeps them from drying out and helps prevent cracking or tearing when you put together your taquito.

Tip:  It’s a good idea to pull the tortillas apart from one another before heating, so that there aren’t places where they are stuck together from being packaged together.  If you don’t do this, then after you heat them and try to pull them apart you could create holes and tears in the tortilla where they are stuck together,