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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Scratch that.

Cutting Boards should be a pretty straight forward kitchenware item, right?  Not so much. It’s about more than just keeping your counters clean and scratch free.  While these are important reasons to own a cutting board, my goal is to educate you on how to care for your cutting boards and what you can do to keep yourself and your families safe and healthy.  Seems a bit serious but bacteria and cross contamination are big issues with cutting boards.

I’ll ease into it though.  Let’s talk first about the types of cutting boards and their fun facts. There are three main materials used for cutting boards:

  1. Wood-The most common material, wood can come from many sources.  Steer clear of softer woods such as pine.  Pine splinters quite easily and why risk getting wood in your food?  Yikes.  Gravitate towards harder woods such as cherry, walnut and bamboo.  Be wary of the overly decorative ones that you find in novelty stores, they are typically made of laminate. Hang those up for decoration.  While wood is a porous material, it has been used for hundreds of years to cut on, so that should count for something.
  2. Plastic-Plastic is non absorbent, light weight, relatively inexpensive and dishwasher safe.  You can buy thicker, harder plastic cutting boards (many many shapes and sizes) as well as flexible cutting mats.  Mats are typically color coated so that you can use the green for veggies, red only for meat, yellow for chicken, etc… (see example below)

    Color code guide for cutting boards/mats

  3. Glass- While glass is nonabsorbent, they tend to be slippery.  A little dodgy when you are trying to use a giant knife in my opinion.

Caring for your cutting board (**if you only read one thing… read this**):

  • Wash and dry cutting boards thoroughly using hot, soapy water.  Use the top rack of your dishwasher for plastic or glass boards.  Dishwashers get to such a high temperature that you can feel confident that they are clean.
  • Sanitize wood cutting boards frequently with  bleach (1 Tb of bleach to 1 Qt of water) or my personal favorite white vinegar (1 part vinegar to 5 parts water).  The easiest thing to do is buy a cheap spray bottle and fill with your mixture of choice, spray on, let sit for several minutes, wipe and then let air dry.
  • Try your best to keep your cutting board dry.  Bacteria thrives in damp places.  Don’t let your cutting board just sit with liquid on it.  Try to, at a minimum, wipe off excess liquid until you can thoroughly clean it.
  • I recommend having at least two cutting boards.  Use one for meat only and the other for veggies and fruit.  Personally, I prefer to be a little neurotic and have several.  One for fish, one for meat, one for veggies, etc….

The bottom line is this.  You must keep your cutting boards clean and dry.  You risk food bourne illnesses when you are a slacker.  Why put yourself at risk?

Happy, safe cooking everyone!!

Blog slacker…. right here

I have been super busy with consulting work (a good thing) but my blog has suffered. I do however have my ‘to blog’ list for next week.

  1. Cutting Boards/Cutting Mats
  2. Strainers
  3. Toaster Oven Bakeware

Please add a comment or post on facebook any other kitchen items you would like more info on.  (remember just kitchen items that don’t have cords).

Thanks everyone for following and I’ll blog to you soon!

Officially pinned.

Wahoo.  I figured out how to set up MincedReviews on Pintrest.  See link below to follow.  I will be pinning fun kitchenware products, tips and recipes.  See y0u on the boards!!

http://pinterest.com/mincedreviews/

Happy pinning!

Mix it up a little, will ya?

Re-posting an oldie but a goodie (seriously a strange saying)….

Mixing bowls are a secret love of mine.  When I walk the kitchenware aisles, the booths at the Houseware’s Show or just open my cabinet, I am drawn to the fun colors.  Boring mixing bowls are sooo yesterday.  Mixing bowls are a statement piece.  Fun colors, fun materials, fun features.  I am going to give you a quick rundown of some of the advances that I have seen in the past five years and I encourage you to toss your old bowls (or use them for messy kid crafts or something) and buy something fresh, fun and new.

  • Silicone – Most bowls now come with silicone on the bottom to prevent slipping while you are mixing.  Love it!  A select few also add a silicone handle for you to get an extra secure grip while mixing (OXO makes a great set of bowls with silicone on the bottom and on the handle for $24.99 on Amazon.com). So cute!
  • Materials – Mixing bowls are available in almost every material imaginable for the kitchen.  Glass.  Ceramic.  Melamine. Stainless Steel.  While the fun colors are reserved typically for the ceramic and the melamine, I do still use my glass (Pyrex makes a great mixing bowl set that comes with fun colored lids for @ $20 for an 8 pc set) and stainless steel bowls as well (usually a little pricier $20-$40 for a set of three depending on the brand).  There is just something about whisking eggs in a stainless bowl that makes me feel like a pro.
  • Storage– While I prefer to buy bowls that nest, collapsible bowls do exist as well.  Progressive makes a collapsible 3 qt bowl in a few fun colors that are great if you don’t have much cabinet space. (retails for about $10 on Amazon.com or at Kmart).
  • Pourable – You can also find mixing bowls with a pour spout.  Huge bonus for those of us that want to just pour cake batter or pancake batter without making a big mess.
  • Sets or open stock–  You can buy mixing bowls in a set or as open stock (single bowls).  As an example, OXO  comes in a 1.5 qt ($8-$9), a 3 qt ($9-$11) and a 5 qt ($10-$13) at retailers such as Amazon, Kmart, Target and Crate and Barrel (to name a few).  A set of three OXO bowls is typically @24.99 and really makes the most economic sense.

Fun tip:  Mixing bowls are for more than just mixing.  Throw fresh fruit in them and leave them out on the counter.  When you buy such fun colors, why hide them in the cabinet.

Happy Mixing everyone.  I hope you will feel as inspired as I am by these fun colors!

The Chocolate Blog

I just received the latest Food Network Magazine in the mail yesterday and the whole issue is dedicated to chocolate.  I thought to myself, what a perfect topic to blog about with Valentine’s coming up.  Who doesn’t love chocolate??  Come on.  Let’s all pledge to make chocolate covered something for our Valentine’s this year!

The Basics:  Melting chocolate vs.Tempering chocolate.  I would recommend melting if you are doing fondue but tempering if you are dipping and drying.  It dries to a smooth, shiny finish.  If you dip your food of choice into melted chocolate, it will come out looking streaky and cloudy.  The main difference between melting and tempering is in melting you raise the temp of the chocolate to a high temp and leave it there.  In tempering you bring the chocolate to a high temp and then bring it back down quickly to specific temperatures.  I will attempt (key word) to explain each technique further.  It is a bit confusing.

  • Tempering:  Tempering is a heating, cooling, and stirring process that induces the melted chocolate to set with a glossy surface and smooth texture. Tempering is important because it determines the final gloss and hardness of the chocolate. When you melt chocolate, the fat molecules separate.  In order to get them back together, you need to temper the chocolate.  A quick tempering method  is to melt two-thirds of the chocolate (start with 1 lb of finely chopped choco) to be tempered in a double broiler to a temperature of 115°F, remove from heat and then add the remaining one-third (finely chopped) chocolate to the melted mixture, stirring until the mixture has reached 89°F and is smooth.  (***a portion of this definition is from Epicurious and What’s Cooking America***).  You must have an instant read thermometer when tempering.  It is imperative so that you can understand when you have hit the peak high temp and when you get back down to its workable temp. 
  • Melting: You can either use the microwave (my preferred method) or the stove top.  When using the stove, make sure you use a small, heavy bottomed pan.  Place the chocolate (cut into small pieces)  in the pan and heat on the lowest setting possible while stirring frequently.  Remove from heat immediately after the chocolate has reached its metling point (see temperature reference below).  In the microwave, place the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl (I use my Pyrex glass bowl).  Microwave at 50% power for 30 second intervals.  Stir and continue at 30 second intervals until melted.  Be careful not to overheat.  

Must have products:

  • A double broiler – A double boiler is a specialized set of pans consisting of a saucepan that holds hot water, and a bowl that fits securely over the saucepan. Chocolate is placed in the top bowl and allowed to melt over gentle, indirect heat. If you don’t own a double boiler, any metal or glass bowl that fits snugly over the top of a saucepan can be used.
  • Instant read thermometer-this is just what it sounds like.  A thermometer that reads the temp instantly. 

Tips/Tricks:

  • Melting temps – Milk chocolate or white chocolate – 110 degrees. Dark Chocolate – 115 degrees. Do not go higher than this or you will risk burning.
  • Disaster strikes – Seizing is when water comes in contact with the chocolate (whether dripped from you hand, in the pan or steam in the microwave).  The chocolate becomes grainy and unworkable.  I learned this the hard way with white chocolate in the microwave.  I believe you can try to add canola oil or cream to try to salvage it but I say toss and start over.  It is almost impossible to get the chocolate to fully bounce back.
  • Do not rely on appearance alone when microwaving chocolate.  Chocolate tends to hold its shape.  The only way to know if it is fully melted is to stir it. 
  • For best results, use at least 1 lb of chocolate.  If that is more than you need, you can temper it, use what you need and let the rest harden and use at another time.
  • Block chocolate or chocolate bars (cut into small pieces) will have better results than chocolate chips.  It has to do with the chemical composition so I am not even going to attempt to explain this one.

A Twist on the ‘ol choco covered fruit idea:  What else can be covered in chocolate you ask?  Hmm.  Pretty much the sky is the limit.  A few ideas:

  • Dried fruit-apples, bananas, apricots, pineapples.
  • Crackers-Saltines, Ritz, Townhouse.
  • Candy-Gummy anything, licorice.
  • Salty snacks-pretzles (of course), potato chips, Fritos, popcorn.
  • Cereal-Shredded wheat, Cheerios, Cap’n Crunch.
  • Other fruit-Think outside the strawberry.  Orange slices, apples, grapes.
  • Other craziness-Bacon?? Cheese cubes??

***Temper the chocolate as described above.  Line a baking sheet with wax paper and spray the paper with cooking spray (yep, I said cooking spray), dip the chosen yumminess in the chocolate using your fingers or a slotted spoon, let the excess chocolate drip off and set on the wax paper.  Let cool.  You can either cool at room temp or throw it in the fridge to speed the process up.

Happy Dipping everyone!!

‘Can’ we talk?

Last week I went to open an incredibly nutritious (not-so) but much-loved can of spaghetti and meatballs for the boys and the tab broke off (pop top can). I looked down at the still unopened can not sure what to do so I left it on the counter for Eric to deal with when he got home.  When Eric arrived home from work, our conversation went something like this:

Me: “I left a can on counter.  The tab popped off!  Can you figure out now to open it or should I just throw it away??”

Eric: “Um. Use a can opener.”

OMG. How embarrassing.

This lovely exchange led me to my next blog.  Can openers.  Specifically manual can openers (as opposed to electric can openers).

Believe me when I tell you, I know can openers.  Aside from being a kitchenware buyer, I have a work-out crazed husband that for @ 5 yrs ate a can of tuna everyday (protein, protein, protein).  We have gone through so many can openers, it’s a little bit nuts.  I guess now I can chalk it up to research.

My biggest gripe with can openers is hands down the blades.  Rust, grime, overall ick stuck in there.  Yikes.  If I can’t get a can opener clean, its next stop is casa garbage.

Cleaning tips/tricks:

  • Hand wash.  Especially if you have hard water/water softener.  I found this out the hard way.  I had a great can opener that quickly corroded.  I contacted the vendor and our gadget designer who both informed me that the salt accelerates the corrosion process.
  • Rinse between uses and deep clean every 10 uses or so with dish soap and warm water.
  • Fold up a paper towel in to a small square and ‘run’ it through the blades like you are opening a can.  Run the paper towel through several times until it comes out clean.  You’ll be amazed at how much ick is stuck in between the blades.
  • You can also use an old/cheap toothbrush to really scrub the gears.

Product Recommendations (I preface this with, there are hundreds of can openers, these are my personal faves. If you have a specific can opener you have questions about let me know):

  1. OXO Smooth Edge Can Opener– Amazing can opener.  Cuts the entire top of the can off.  No sharp edges! The blades do not touch food!  Huge bonus.  From a bacteria and cleanliness standpoint, this is a major feature of this product.  The handles also feel great in your hand.  You can buy this can opener for @$22.00 at most retailers (such as Bed Bath and Beyond and Williams Sonoma) and a slightly smaller version for @$19.99 (at Target and Kmart).  See video below for a short instructional video on how to use this cool can opener.
  2. Zyliss Lock-n-Lift can opener- This is a more conventional model but some pretty amazing bonus features.  It completely comes unhinged so that you can clean between the blades.  It has a magnet that holds the lid for hands free disposal.  The handles are rubberized to give you a great grip.   It retails for @$15.00 on Amazon or at Bed Bath and Beyond.
  3. Pampered Chef Smooth-Edge Can Opener-  I am giving this an honorable mention because I have not personally tried this one.  I am not familiar at all with Pampered Chef products but I have had several people mention this particular one to me and saw several great reviews online.  It retails for $20.00.  If any of my brilliant blog followers owns one or sells Pampered Chef please add some fun facts about this can opener so that others can see.  Thanks!

How to Video (from You Tube):

Happy Can Opening Everyone?!  (Um… couldn’t really come up with a kitschy ending for this one).