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Ask Martha

Making a smoothie? Don’t clog the blender.

Add liquid before the fruit or ice when blending a smoothie.

Add liquid before the fruit or ice when blending a smoothie.

Q. My blender seems to get stuck when I make my morning smoothie. Is there a trick to loading it?

A. Combining smoothie ingredients in the wrong order can cause frozen fruit and ice to get caught in the blender’s blades. Start by adding the yogurt, or a base liquid such as water, juice, or milk, to the blender. Next, put in smaller ingredients, like diced mango, and top off the blender with larger ones, such as hulled strawberries and ice cubes. This way, you won’t have to jostle the components around with a spatula to unclog the blades. Too many frozen ingredients are another reason the blender might be stalling; use a mix of fresh and frozen fruit to ensure a smoother blend.

Packing for a move

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Q. How do I properly pack a moving box?

A. Pack up frequently used items, like dishes and bedding, last. And follow these suggestions from U-Haul:

1. Line the bottom of each box with packing peanuts or balled-up paper to form a cushion, says U-Haul spokesman Sperry Hutchinson.

2. Wrap each item in bubble wrap; place it in the box securely. To avoid shifting, fill empty spaces with balled-up paper. (Each box should weigh no more than 30 pounds.)

3. Tape the boxes shut. Mark the room it’s from and its contents on the side of each, and draw an arrow indicating which end is up.

Grilling with wood chips

Q. Should I try using wood chips on the grill?

A. Adding wood chips to your charcoal or gas grill lends a smokier flavor to meat, fish, and vegetables. The chips are available in a variety of woods, including mesquite, hickory, apple, and cherry — and each lends a distinctive taste and intensity, says Weber grill master Kevin Kolman.

1. choose the chips

Select the right size: large chunks for charcoal grills, smaller chips for gas. The amount needed will depend on cooking time, but start with one to two handfuls and replenish as needed (check every two hours).

2. Prep the wood

For gas grills, soak chips in water for one hour before grilling — they need to smolder to impart the best flavor (don’t soak chunks). Wrap the chips in a foil packet, poke holes in the top, and place it on the grill. For charcoal, put the chunks directly on the coals.

3. Watch the smoke

Ensure that the smoke coming from the grill is white, not black (a sign that the wood or food is burning). If you see black smoke, lower the temperature by closing the vents. The food should taste smoked, not bitter.

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living.
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