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Monthly Archives: January 2012

You’re going to flip!

You’re going to flip!


food turner– n. cooking utensil having a flat flexible part and a long handle; used for turning or serving food.

spatula – n. a utensil with a broad, flat often flexible blade, used for lifting, spreading or stirring foods.

Ok. Got it. Are we good? Do you understand the difference? Based on these standard dictionary definitions… me neither.

It’s funny because growing up, a spatula was the thing that my Mom used to flip pancakes, cook eggs and everything else that involved a fry pan. The wood utensil with the flexible plastic on the end used to scrape batter out a bowl? I don’t think we even had a name for that. So, that was the info I had going in to the wonderful world of kitchenware buying. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Here’s the run down on turners

  • The Basics: Turners are typically made from nylon, silicone or stainless steel. Nylon is the cheapest option and the most brittle of materials. You can find nylon turners for @$1. Silicone is a wonderful option, it is incredibly heat-resistant and safe for nonstick cookware. Stainless turners should never be used on nonstick cookware but I love mine for getting the perfect lasagna squares out of my glass bakeware.
  • Types: Solid turners (great for all types of cooking), slotted turners (great for greasier foods such as hamburgers. When you pick them up with the slotted turner, most of the grease drains through the slots and remains in the pan), fish turners (longer more narrow turner head to pick up larger pieces of delicate fish and drains the oil thru the slots as well) and pancake turners (wider head to pick up more of the pancake and minimize flipping mistakes).
  • My recommendations: Personally, I love the Kitchenaid turner line (prices range from $5.99-$9.99 at Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, Sears, Kohls and Amazon to name a few) and the Kenmore stainless-silicone line exclusive to Kmart (prices range from $8.99-$9.99). Color and design preferences play a big part in selecting a tool line. People typically gravitate to the color and design of a particular brand and stick with it for all of their kitchen tools.

Okay. Okay. I admit it. I made the title sound wayyy more exciting than this blog ended up being but they can’t ALL be the best blog ever, right? Happy flipping everyone!


Don’t blame yourself.

People tend to blame themselves when their cookies don’t turn out as planned. Undercooked. Overcooked. Burnt to a crisp. It must be the your fault or the recipe’s fault, right? Well, sometimes that may be true but very often it is the cookie sheet. Different types of cookie sheets produce different end results. It is important to understand the differences. Here is a quick breakdown:

Cookie Sheets 101:

  • Nonstick– Nonstick cookie sheets are the most common cookie sheet that you will find in the bakeware aisle. Within nonstick you will find darker and lighter finishes. The dark or light finish has a great impact on how your cookie will turn out. Darker finishes tend to brown your cookies faster and lighter finishes will typically produce a lighter cookie. I recommend reducing your oven temperature by 25 degrees when using a darker finish. I know that I sound like an irritating broken record but do not spray your nonstick cookie sheets with cooking spray or baking spray (the spray with the flour). Use parchment paper or butter.
  • Aluminum– Aluminum cookie sheets are an excellent heat conductor and typically heat the cookies evenly with the only real downside being that it can be difficult to get your cookie golden brown.
  • Insulated– Insulated cookie sheets are basically two layers of metal with a thin layer of air in between (see image above). The air in between the layers of metal heats to the oven temperature and bakes evenly across the entire pan ensuring your cookies all bake at the same rate. Cookies tend to bake slower on this type of cookie sheet and don’t brown as quickly. I don’t recommend insulated cookie sheets for cookies with a ton of a butter The butter tends to melt and leak out before the dough sets. When this happens, the cookies end up having thin edges.

My ultimate recommendation is to buy aluminum. Shiny, aluminum cookie sheets. Use parchment paper and call it a day. There are many options and I do realize that personal preference plays a part but in terms of being the most versatile, I vote aluminum. For those of you who dig nonstick or insulated, you may just need to play with your oven temperatures to get those pans to work for you.

**A few baking tips**

  • Coating the pan- My mom used to keep the foil wrapper from the stick butter, fold it up and keep it in a zip loc bag to use for her baking. She would put the butter side face down and rub it on her cookie sheets and then toss the foil.
  • Baking evenly- Turn your cookie sheet once when cooking. I usually set the timer for 1/2 the total cooking time, flip it around and then continue baking.
  • Leave the cookies on the sheet for at least two minutes after removing from the oven. It is easier to remove them and place them on the cooling rack.
  • Completely cool the cookie sheet before placing more dough on them.

Please add any other tips or tricks that you have. Happy cookie making everyone!

Clearing up the rumors.

Wooden Spoons.  A very misunderstood and often mistreated kitchen tool.  Do they harbor bacteria? Can they go in the dishwasher?  Does the type of wood matter?  Are there restrictions on the types of food you should use them with?  In an attempt to clear up any lingering questions so that everyone will start using this magical tool (more on the ‘magic’ theory in a bit), I will give you the basics on wooden spoons (*please note that while I am referring to wooden spoons, this applies to all wooden kitchen tools).

  • Do they harbor bacteria?  Nope.  Generally speaking.  Wood is naturally  antibacterial and mold resistant.  Adding to that is the fact that most wooden spoons are treated with oil which creates a surface that will not allow bacteria to reside.
  • Are they hard to care for?   It does take a bit more effort to keep your wooden spoons in prime condition.  You cannot put them in the dishwasher EVER.  The heat from the dishwasher will irreversibly damage the wood and cause it to crack.  You should always handwash with normal dish soap, towel dry and air dry to completely dry the wood.   *Tip* Try to at least rinse the spoon off immediately after using so that food doesn’t dry and stick.  You don’t ever want to leave your wooden spoon soaking in water.  It can cause the wood to expand.  For long-term care, I recommend using a mineral oil every 2 months or so.  Rub the oil on, let it soak in for a few hours and then wash with soap and water.  Do not use food based oils to do this (i.e. olive oil, vegetable oil, etc.). They can go rancid and you will end up having to toss the spoon.
  • Does the type of wood matter?  There are infinite types of wood available but my preference is bamboo (a fast growing, renewable source) that is both resilient and relatively cheap ($3.99-$7.99).  Olive wood is another great option that is incredibly durable and receptive to numerous types of finish.  The downside to olive wood is that it tends to be more expensive ($9.99-$19.99).  Beech wood is usually the cheapest option you will find ($1.49-$4.99)but remember, you get what you pay for.  It is a lighter wood and can break much easier.
  • Can you use wooden spoons for all foods?  Technically you can. However, I tend to avoid meat and eggs.  While they are resistant to bacteria, from time to time there can be scratches or nicks in the spoon which can create a safe haven for bacteria that you may miss in the cleaning process.
  • Buying tip – Look for wooden spoons that are carved from one piece of wood vs. two pieces.  In my experience, the two piece ones tend to weaken over time and ultimately break.

Ok, now back to the magic.  I joke that my wooden spoons are magic because when I use them for sauces or gravies, I swear they work better than my silicone spoons.  The sauces are creamier, the gravies are gravier (my spell check keeps reminding me that this is not a word… ignore) .  I am sure there is a logical reason for this but until someone gives me one, they’re magic.

Oh wow!  I almost forgot the best reason to buy wooden tools.  THEY ARE SAFE TO USE ON NON-STICK PANS!!  You know, the non-stick pans that you no longer use cooking spray on.

Happy stirring!

Shouting it from the rooftop.

I just wanted to say a HUUUGE THANK YOU to all of you who have been reading my blog and supporting my latest adventure! I have reached almost 1100 hits in my first three weeks. I am crazy excited although admittedly I am not sure if that’s good or not in the big bad world of blogging. Personally, I expected one per day (husband’s daily required reading) so anything above that was a bonus. Please continue to spread the word. I am hoping to gain a large following in advance of the actual website launch. High hopes here folks!

P.S.  Keep the questions and ideas coming!

Simplify it.

I have had a few requests to review garlic presses but when I really sat and thought about it, I have yet to meet a garlic press, or any garlic gadget for that matter, that has impressed me thus far.  I do own a garlic press, two actually.  They have lived their long life happily in my drawer virtually untouched.  We love garlic.  I always keep it on hand and probably cook with it at least twice per week.  I have found that grabbing my handy-dandy chef’s knife is far more efficient than reaching for the garlic press.  My husband may give you a different answer.  He absolutely hates when I make 40 Garlic Chicken (thank you Heidi for that most amazing recipe) and I plop down a huge bag of garlic and ask him to peel 40 cloves.   His biggest complaint is all of the garlic ‘skin’ all over the place.  My biggest complaint with garlic presses is that they are difficult to get completely clean and tend to get clogged.   So instead of reviewing a gadget, I am going to give you a few tips/tricks for getting your garlic recipe ready.

  • Garlic 101–  Garlic comes in BULBS, with 10-20 CLOVES on the inside.  Very important to understand the difference when cooking.
  • Getting to the Clove– Don’t treat the bulb with kid gloves (what does that term really mean anyway).  Smash it hard.  Use the palm of your hand (OUCH-or use your significant other’s hand).  Use a meat tenderizer.  Use a hammer.  A rock.  You get the drift.
  • The Dreaded Skin– Take your chef knife (reason 432 to own a good chef’s knife), turn it on its side with the clove underneath, press down hard on the clove and then peel the skin off.
  • Slicing/Mincing– Slice the root and tip off (the ends) and slice lengthwise. Sprinkle a little salt (to prevent the garlic from sticking to the knife) and continue chopping until you have reached the texture/size you need for your recipe.

With all of this said, I did find a really cool video of an alternative way to get the cloves ready to use (link below).  I have not tried this yet.  I am completely fascinated and will be trying it soon.  In the interim, let me know what works for you!

How to Peel a Head of Garlic in Less Than 10 Seconds?

Wow, I just did an anti-gadget gadget blog.  Really didn’t see that coming.  Happy mincing everyone!

Brush it off!

I am finding inspiration everywhere.  Literally.  I was brushing a marinade on our fish for dinner and thought to myself, what a great little brush.  I thought back to my old irritating brush and realized I need to make sure that everyone knows about the giant advance in pastry brushes.  Silicone!   My original pastry brush had natural bristles, food stuck on, constantly shedding, irritatingly gloppy NATURAL BRISTLES.  I was forever grossed out and irritated.  That was until I met my beautiful silicone brush.  I acknowledge that if you are true pastry chef the silicone brush is not quite delicate enough but for those of us aren’t pastry chefs silicone rocks.  Pastry brushes are also available with nylon bristles.  Nylon is a close second to silicone.  The issue that most people have with silicone and nylon is that they don’t retain as much liquid so you have to keep going back to the well, so to speak.  I am ok with that. Given that, in return, I have a completely clean and intact brush every time I pull it out of my drawer.  I love love love the OXO silicone pastry brush.  It has finer silicone bristles than most, dishwasher safe and doesn’t feel like it is going to go flying out of my hand when I get marinade or melted butter on the handle.  You can find the OXO pastry brush for @$7-$10 at retailers such as Target,  Bed Bath and Beyond and online at Amazon.com.

Happy Basting!!

It’s not easy being green.

PFOA

It really isn’t.  I try my best.  I like to think/hope that most people do.  However, with all of the information/misinformation out there, it is incredibly easy to get confused and overwhelmed.  In terms of cookware, there have been significant commitments by cookware manufacturers to reduce and ultimately eliminate harmful chemicals from the production processes.  I will try not to get too geeky technical about cookware manufacturing but instead try to give you the cliff notes (keep in mind I was a Kitchenware buyer not a scientist).

The Issue– PFOA.  PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid ) is a polymer used in the manufacturing process to adhere the nonstick chemicals (PTFE i.e. Teflon) to the vessel (the cookware).  The bulk of the PFOA-like emulsifiers are driven off to a fume vent system from the high temperature manufacturing ovens.  To further clarify, PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene) is really just the scientific name for the more user-friendly name Teflon.  Many people get PTFE/PFOA and Teflon all confused.  Not really sure this helps clear it up.  Essentially if PTFE (or Teflon) is cured properly, no traces of PFOA should remain.  Key word: should.  In my mind, the bigger issue is the residual that the factory workers may be exposed to vs. the tiny amount of residual that may/may not remain on the pans.

The Bottom Line– This goes back to my cooking spray blog.  Essentially, if you are concerned AT ALL, you really need to take care of the nonstick surfaces of your pans.  This means NO cooking sprays, NO metal utensils and do NOT overheat your pans.  Everyone seems to be in such a hurry these days, that they set their pans on high immediately.  Take a few extra minutes and cook your food at medium temperatures.  It’s better for your pans and for your food/recipe as well.

Alternatives– If you can’t commit to taking care of your cookware you really do have other options:

  • Buy Stainless Steel cookware (wthout non-stick)
  • Buy Cast Iron
  • Buy ‘green’ cookware – The two brands that I am personally familiar with and impressed with are GreenPan and Ecolution.  They are completely PTFE (or Teflon) free and do not use PFOA solvents in their manufacturing process.

The Good News- As I stated earlier in the blog, changes are happening.  In February 2007, DuPont (the sole manufacturer of PFOA in the US) committed to no longer make, use or buy PFOA by 2015 or earlier, if possible.

Complicated and controversial but important stuff.  Happy safe-cooking everyone!  Ribbit.