Thursday, October 5, 2017

Who Ever Has Enough Kitchen Gadgets?


During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 



Aside from the normal microwave, coffee makers and toasters what do you use in the kitchen that saves you time and simplifies your life? 

If you ever have browsed through a kitchen shop or the kitchen section in a department store, you've probably seen that there is a gadget for just about everything from slicing your eggs to hulling strawberries, from lemon and lime squeezers to that little thingamajig you have no idea what it does. Some are useful, but you could easily end up with drawers full and cupboards bulging and still not have exactly what you need. I agree with Alton Brown and advocate multi-use items in my kitchen.




My favorite kitchen accessories that I consider essential are:

Food Processor
One of the most debated-on purchases, but I do use it regularly for cake batter, grating cheese, making rum balls (grinding/chopping vanilla wafers and pecans), shrimp burgers, black bean soup and more.

Immersion Blender (multi-functional)
I have a Braun immersion blender that has a separate chopper function and a whip attachment. I use it mainly for pureeing diced tomatoes for soup, and chopping small amounts of nuts for pies, etc.

Chef's Knives
It goes without saying how valuable a good chef's knife is. A sharp knife is an asset to every kitchen. I can slice potatoes thinner than my mandolin.

Food Saver vacuum sealer
I buy food on sale and vacuum seal it for the freezer. (More on this in another post.)

A good set of tongs (or three)
I have two spring-loaded tongs that latch closed when you're not using them. Plus I have a set of silicon tipped tongs that won't scratch my pans.

Vegetable peeler
Mainly used to peel carrots and potatoes, it is also useful for making vegetable shreds for salads or stir fry.

Wooden spoons and silicon spatulas
I use a lot of non-stick pots and pans, so these get used a lot in my kitchen.

Pizza stone and peel
I make homemade pizza every couple weeks and these are as essential as the ingredients themselves.

Breadboard
I use the breadboard for making my pizza dough. I will do a separate post on pizza making.

Waffle iron
I have had my waffle maker for nearly 30 years. I love waffles for breakfast or dinner. Add some bacon and it is a quick, easy meal that satisfies.

Pastry blender 
While I have used this for it's traditional use, my pastry blender is mostly used for making egg salad. It gives me the coarse texture I like, not mushy or big chunks.

Crockpot/Slow Cooker
This is an essential item in many kitchens, and one I don't utilize nearly enough. I keep saying I want to plan more crockpot meals, but the key word for me is planning. Right Laura?

Most of my gadgets are basic needs for every day cooking. As far as single-use gadgets go, I have an egg separator which I rarely use. I got rid of my garlic press because it didn't work well, and my knife does everything I need to do.

Calling all cooks, what are some of your must-haves in the kitchen? Do you have any specialty, single-use tools that you consider essential?




If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Which Oil Should I Use?


During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 



Oil? Is it good, bad or a necessary evil? Back in the 1990s everything was coming up fat-free and that was a big selling point. Just prior to the onslaught of fat-free everything, I read in Prevention Magazine that you could lose weight by cutting fat. They gave a chart that listed your (desired) weight and how many grams of fat you were allowed in a day to reach your goal. I followed it, faithfully, and it worked. 

Do you know why? By reducing the fat in my diet, I was also reducing the calories. There are many diets that claim success if you cut fat or carbs or sweets (yes, I know sugar is a carb, but I'm differentiating between a candy bar and a plate of pasta).

So just how good or bad is fat? Our bodies need a certain amount of fat to function properly. The good fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, are healthy and required by our bodies. They build cell membranes and are needed for blood clotting and muscle movement. They also give us energy, protect our organs and help keep us warm, too. Since our bodies don't manufacture them, it is essential we get them from our diet. Below is a list of good fat sources.

Monounsaturated fats:
Nuts
Avocado
Canola oil
Olive oil
Safflower oil
Sunflower oil
Peanut oil and butter
Sesame oil

Polyunsaturated fats:
Walnuts
Sunflower seed
Flax seed/flax oil
Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, herring, albacore tuna, and trout
Corn oil
Soybean oil
Safflower oil

Then there are the less good and really bad fats. The less good fat, which is probably more controversial than the rest, is saturated fat. Long thought to be linked with heart disease, saturated fats are found in dairy products like whole milk and cheese, coconut oil and red meat and bacon fat. Research continues into saturated fat debate and what is good one day is bad the next and vice versa, and you can find data to back up whichever side of the fence you're on.

Trans fat, which many of us grew up eating, is deemed to be the worst fat and is not considered safe in any amount. Trans fat is formed when hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it more solid. Look for the words "partially hydrogenated oil" on the label.

While much of it has been eliminated from our food sources, you should double check such foods as crackers, biscuits, margarine, doughnuts, cakes and frostings, and of course, fast food products. 

I freely admit that I eat, within moderation, from three of the four fat groups and I'm sure a tiny bit of trans fat creeps in unnoticed. I do not offer any advice, health-wise, on which fats you should eat or avoid, except the evil trans fat. 

However, I can help with the cooking part. Not all oils or fats are equal when heat is applied. Smoke point is a term that refers to the temperature at which an oil begins to smoke. Interestingly, butter has the lowest smoke point of 200°-250°F, while Ghee, which is a product of butter, has the highest at around 485°F. That is because Ghee is butter that has had the proteins and sugars removed. 

It is important to remember that there is a difference between frying (also known as deep-frying) and sauteing. When frying foods you should choose an oil that has a smoke point of 400° or higher. For pan sautéing, fats such as butter and olive oil will be fine.

*Common cooking oils and their smoke points Fahrenheit:
Butter  200°-250°
Coconut (extra virgin) 350°
Vegetable  360°
Olive (extra virgin)  375°
Canola  400°
Peanut  450°
Ghee  485°

*This information will vary by information source.

What do I use? 

For baking I use either vegetable oil or butter, depending on the recipe. I usually sauté with olive oil or butter, but sometimes use coconut oil or bacon fat, again depending on what I am cooking. Unless you are deep frying or cooking over very high heat, it is a matter of personal taste and/or dietary needs.

The bottom line is we need some fat in our diets, and let's face it folks, fat tastes good. So choose your fats, get into the kitchen and cook up something tasty.




If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Top Ten Cooking Tips


During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 




Cooking is neither brain science or rocket surgery, you just get into the kitchen and do it, right? Well, sort of. It does help to have a few tips from someone who has been there and done that. Following up with kitchen tips from yesterday, here are my top ten cooking tips.
  1. Making the perfect boiled egg is simple and everyone has their own tried and true method. My mom taught me to do it this way. Place eggs in cold water in a covered pot. Heat on high until the water begins to boil. Leaving the pot on the burner, turn the heat off and time for 15 minutes. See "A Good Egg" for more information.

  2. Peeling boiled eggs can be a painful process. Try this method and be on your way to easy peeling. After your eggs are cooked. Drain and rinse with cold water and let them sit a few minutes. Then, holding the lid on, shake vigorously for a few seconds. The shells will now come off easily. Be sure to rinse the peeled eggs to remove any remaining shell particles.

  3. Want to keep those pesky bugs from hatching out in your flour? Pop it in the freezer for a week to kill all the eggs and no more bugs.

  4. Partner with Parchment. Using parchment paper to line baking sheets eliminates the need to grease or spray your pan and makes clean up a breeze. I also use it when making pizza to make transfer to the stone easier.


  5. For better results when sautéing foods with a high water content such as onions and mushrooms, do not add salt until they have softened and started developing color. Otherwise the salt will draw out the liquid and they will just stew in their own juices.

  6. When a recipe calls for crumbled bacon, dice your bacon before cooking to get small, consistently-sized pieces.

  7. For better mashed potatoes, after draining potatoes, place them back into the hot pot on the burner for a few moments to evaporate any remaining liquid. Drying the potatoes results in better texture and the potato is more easily able to absorb the butter and cream.

  8. When slicing  and dicing green peppers, turn the pepper flesh side up. It is much easier than slicing through the tough skin.

  9. For tastier appetizers, you should allow time for foods such as cheese, olives, dips and other spreads to come up to room temperature. Take them out of the refrigerator 15-30 minutes before serving.

  10. When using dried herbs, rubbing them between your fingers will break them into smaller pieces and release their essential oils, making them more aromatic and flavorful.  

Please share some of your favorite tips in the comments.


If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Top Ten Kitchen Tips


During the month of October, I will be participating in the Write 31 Days hosted by Crystal Stine. My category is Food, Health & Wellness and my theme is "Into The Kitchen". 



No matter how much time we spend in the kitchen it seems there is always something to learn. It is fun and rewarding to find new and better ways to do what we've been doing for years, so here are my top ten kitchen tips.
  1. Starchy foods such as pasta and potatoes are notorious for boiling over. Placing a wooden  spoon across your pot will lessen the chances of a boil over.

  2. While minced garlic is a wonderful addition to many dishes, it is sticky and little bits of dried garlic are difficult to wash off of your knife. Rinsing your knife immediately will prevent this from happening.

  3. Measuring sticky ingredients such as syrup or molasses is easier if you measure your oil first. This will help the sticky stuff to just slide right out. Not using oil? You can also spray your cup or spoon with cooking spray.

  4. Keep your cutting boards and mixing bowls from sliding around by placing a piece of rubbery shelf liner on the counter. In a pinch, use a dampened paper towel.

  5. Remove garlic odors from your hands with stainless steel. Under cold running water, rub your hands around your sink if it is stainless, or carefully rinse your knife with your fingers (see #2). There are also stainless steel "soap bars" specially made for this purpose available on Amazon.

  6. If you're like me and use rubber gloves for dishes (because not everything goes in the
    dishwasher), you want to keep them dry. I use large clips to secure them to the dishpan so when I fill the dishpan I do not fill my gloves, too.



  7. To help keep your knives sharp,  don't put them in the dishwasher. A sharp knife is a safe knife. A dull knife requires you to put more pressure on what you are cutting and you would be more likely to lose control and cut yourself.

  8. Baking soda is your friend in the kitchen. Keep a box dedicated to cleaning and use it to clean out your sink. Rinse well and your sink will sparkle.

  9. Keep your drain clean and free flowing with baking soda and white vinegar. Shake a generous amount of baking soda down your drain followed by several cups of white vinegar. It will bubble and foam as it works. Wait about 15 minutes and rinse with hot water.

  10. Sterilize your kitchen sponges in the microwave. Rinse well and squeeze out the excess liquid. Place on microwave safe plate and microwave on high for 2 minutes.
Please share some of your favorite tips in the comments.


If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Write 31 Days: Into the Kitchen

Hi, and welcome to Roses to Rainbows. If you're new around here, come in and make yourself at home. 

If you are a regular, then you know that I enjoy participating in blogging challenges. In fact, I have done two already this year. The 20 days of Chill in January and the 10 days of Heat on August, both hosted by P. J. at A lil' Hoohaa.  

During the month of October I plan to tackle the Write 31 Days challenge hosted by Crystal Stine. This is different from the previous challenges in that you choose a topic and pick a category that fits your topic. You then write on your chosen topic each day of the month. 

All the other blogging/writing challenges have provided a daily prompt and each participant wrote on the same topic, albeit with vastly different stories. This will truly be a challenge for me given the random nature of my  blog. 

While I have chosen the category of Food, Health & Wellness, I will not focus on any one food type, but will post a collection of recipes, articles, tips and other tidbits.

Please join me during the month of October as I take Roses to Rainbows into the kitchen. 


Click the links below for new content each day.

Day 2: Top Ten Kitchen Tips
Day 3: Top Ten Cooking Tips
Day 4: Which Oil Should I Use?
Day 5: Who Ever Has Enough Kitchen Gadgets?
Day 6: Why Ghee is Good
Day 7: Awesome Fried Clams
Day 9: Are They Yams or Sweet Potatoes
Day 10: Let's Talk Onions
Day 11: Everything Is Coming Up Pumpkins
Day 12: Botanically Speaking...What Are You Eating?
Day 13: Make Your Own Yellow Rice
Day 14: Yes, you can make your own pizza!
Day 16: Easy Red Beans and Rice
Day 17: Mayonnaise Rolls to the Rescue
Day 18: How to Save a Buck or Two
Day 19: What I Learned from TV
Day 20: The Humble Potato
Day 21: Know Your Sausage
Day 21: Into The Kitchen: Grilling Tips


Side Note: Internet is slow and not always reliable right now, so participation may be hit or miss for a week or so.



If you enjoyed this post, please leave a comment. I would love to hear your thoughts.

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...