Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Let's Go Shopping! Part 1

Do you know what this is? I think you need it in your kitchen!

I've reached that point in my "kitchen life" when tools and gadgets have served their purpose. They, like my "biological life" are just worn out, tired, chipped and broken. Some were given to me as gifts by my mother. Sorry, mom, time to go on .... Some by family members past ....

So, about a year or two ago, I began to throw out the old to replace with the new (wish I could do that with my corporeal life).  I relied mainly on recommendations from America's Test Kitchen (ATK) and Amazon's great sales since I am a Prime member. If you know a cook, these make for great gifts. Some are expensive. Most are not. I did not pay full price for any of them. Nor am I a paid Amazon sponsor of these products (but I should be!).

This really began with my old-but-faithful crock-pot. And I mean old! It was an original Rival with a stoneware inset. The lid was chipped (but I always save lids; you should, too!) The rim of the insert was chipped. The controls were not the best. There were only two. HIGH or LOW (sorry, I'm not a druggie). The glaze on the interior of the crock was crackled and gross.  It was inconveniently cylindrical, not oval, so I could not configure certain cuts of beef, pork or chicken. I had it since the late 1970s when I was a teacher. It served its purpose admirably well. Back then, it was like a miracle. I could put in food. Set it. And come home from school or night classes to an incredible meal! Back in the day, that really was unheard of.

After some research, I finally settled on the Kitchen Aid 6-quart slow cooker because of its accurate temperature control and it's clean, sleek oval design. And it's easy to clean. True to ATK review, technologically and electronically, it's settings are true. A simmer is a simmer. And it has a warm cycle.

Unfortunately, this came along about the same time and has pretty well replaced my crockpot for the current generation. Good for them!

I have now had my Instant Pot since 2016. It's almost time to get a new one because I have used it so often. If you purchase one, be sure to buy the plastic lid to pop on to easily store leftovers in the fridge and the clear cover with handle for when you just want to simmer or keep items warm. I still like my crock pot for whole chickens and slow roasts. But for convenience and flavor, nothing beats the convenience of a pressure cooker. Don't be scared. It will not explode. It is computer-safe. Yes, you really need to buy one.

For a guy, a toaster is kind of like his favorite pair of boxers and t-shirt. Why get rid of either? When the handle of my decades-old toaster came off, I didn't really care. I improvised with a wine-bottle cork for a while; but, then, even that fell off. There was a metal thing I could still use to pop it down and up. But then I just became tired of looking at it and constantly cleaning its mirrored aluminum surface.

My heart was set on an English Dualit toaster which I discovered years ago at the home of great client/friends (Hi Bob and Lisa Sessa!) but I could not justify the over 200-dollar price for toast (but they're just so cool!).

Instead, I took ATK's advice and got a DASH Clearview Toaster. It's cool, too. And very affordable.

The shape is not traditional, but it's narrow footprint snugs alongside a kitchen counter wall.  The slot is so wide, I can fit in hamburger buns! The side of toast facing the glass does not darken as much. Still, I just kind of like it quirkiness.

While I did not buy a Dualit toaster, I did buy a Dualit electric hand-held mixer. ATK's advice was for a Kitchen Aid ... but I had had something similar for years. I'm not a great fan of the diminutive wire whisk-like beaters that now come with so many electric mixers. I wanted muscle! These beaters are extra long and wide, so you can dig deep into the bottom of the bowl of what you are mixing and the batter won't creep up the stem ends. Plus, the cord is retractable and it winds inside to keep things tidy, such as your cabinets.

While I have not yet used this, I know I won't be disappointed. ATK did not review this particular mixer (why?). However, I've seen it used by several cooks I follow on YouTube. Bottom line? I'm vain. I just like the looks of it. It is obviously handsome. It is muscular without showing off. I saved almost forty bucks with an Amazon deal. My second choice would have been a Breville. I love all things Breville! You should, too!

While I am glad I have a new electric mixer, my arthritic hands and shoulders sometimes just get tired of holding it. Like most home cooks, I have always coveted a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. It is the poster child of mixers on any cooking channel. I wonder why? Hmmmmmm ..... Seriously?

ATK always chooses this as their top choice. But, define choice. I spent almost one year researching and trying to figure this out.

My first stand mixer was actually an old Sunbeam from my parent's basement. My mom just never ever used it. When I moved out and began cooking, I grabbed it! I just loved it for whipping up cakes and anything with a "batter." I have no doubt she got this from her mother, my grandmother. Maybe even older, my great grandmother. In its day, it was the Cadillac of mixers. The tines of the mixer had obviously been re-soldered. Interesting. That told me someone used it frequently. And who did the work? Most likely, one of my great uncles whom I never knew.

I read many reports of Kitchen Aid mixers with gears that failed. Many from cooks I watched on YouTube. Also, it's very very heavy.

I kind of settled on this choice, a Cheftronic. I almost bought it. It has way more power than a Kitchen Aid at half the price.

Then I found a channel on YouTube where a woman, Amy, tests appliances for you. I like Amy.


She gave this Bosch Mixer an "A." It's awesome. The beater moves in a  'planetary' movement. In other words, it whisks up, down and along the sides of the bowl which is very cool instead of being stationary and just going around and around like a merry go round.  And it is lightweight. It will also mix a loaf of bread.

In my old age, I no longer really drink coffee anymore. Not sure why. I prefer tea. In fact, even mundane places like McDonald's serve up decent hot tea (although most taking your order have no idea where that button is!). So, I bought an electric kettle and I absolutely love it! It heats faster than a microwave. The interior is metal, no PBA plastic. It stays cool to the touch. The heating element remains behind when you pick it up, so there is no cord to get in the way. It will boil 1.5 liters of water is like 5-8 minutes! I only use a few cups and I am always shocked at how fast it boils. (As an aside--waves from a micro wave change the molecular structure of water so that the body does understand it is water. As such, the body sucks needed water from your bones instead which can lead to serious rheumatoid arthritis.) This unit shuts off automatically when it comes to a boil. Also great for oatmeal, hot chocolate, Jell-o, clean out your drains.

Before I purchased the electric kettle, I puchased a regular, stove-sitting kettle. It's a beauty and it's built like a tank! Previously, I owned a small tin enamel kettle whose shape and color I loved. But, I wanted something bigger and sturdier, so I puchased this beautiful OXO tea kettle:

I love all things OXO. They are beautifully engineered with the convenience of the cook in mind and, often, like this kettle, their products border on art. The lid is large enough so your hand can fit into it to clean it. It has a great whistle. The silicone handle and knob stay cool to the touch.

Speaking of OXO, I bought this flat whisk which is so convenient for mixing sauces and gravies. It wonderfully gets to the bottom of the pan without splatters! I purchased it for almost half price. Totally worth it! If your hand is wet, it will not slip on the silicone handle. Metal handles are slippery. Wooden handles get moldy. Easy to clean.

Do you have a potato masher? I never owned one. My mom never owned one. I just used a wire whisk and a fork. Sticky and clumpy. I debated to buy a "ricer." Then I saw this beautiful baby! Oh, yea! Do yourself a favor and buy one. Buy a few for gifts. It is very very sturdy. Ergonomically, it is  perfect. It has a rubber scraper on the side so you can scrape the side of the bowl or pan.  Mash apples for apple sauce. Mash bananas for banana bread. Mash beans for Mexican dishes. It's a beauty. If you have stiff arthritic hands, this is for you.

Mash or squeeze? I love spaetzle. I spent forever seeking a good spaetzle maker. I finally decided on this beauty. It is not cheap, but I did get a good buy on Amazon. Also, I had incredible customer service from Germany. The English was not the best, but I was impressed they contacted me personally. You can also use this for potatoes, apples, etc. It is built like a tank and will last for generations. Easy to clean. When it arrived, it was wrapped in German newspapers. Totally authentic. Unlike cheaper ones, your hands won't be scaled from boiling water. It has several guages for different pot sizes. Danke!

Mixing a stiff dough? Don't want to get out your mixer which most likely can not hand the job? You know the wooden spoon is a joke and may just break. Spatula and whisks are useless. Guess what? Got you covered. Use this inventive little beauty from Scandinavia. I mean, just look at it! Simple, ergonomic technology. Think chocolate chip cookies ....  Thick batter-breads. Need I say more? If anything, buy it for it's beauty.

Part II. Knives and cookbooks.

If you enjoyed this post, please send the link to others. Happy cooking.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

And Now for Something Completely Different ...

A simple recipe for life--only three ingredients!

I really enjoyed this little video. I think, in many of our quiet, personal, small ways, we all unconsciously practice the mantra of this "trinity" outlined in the video below.

This so reminded me of Emily Dickinson who was way before her time. Poem below. In age of "globalism," I welcome her thought and New "Englandism."

Here's the original!

This man, Stefan Verstappen, and his books, interviews, and lectures, are brilliant. Sadly, he is very censored by YouTube. More pathetic, I doubt he would be welcomed on today'sl University campuses.

Enjoy your day. Share if you got something out of this post!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Italian Sausage with Onions and Peppers in the Instant Pot

Pressure cooking simple ingredients such as this ensures the sausages are infused or pressured with flavors one could not get from a traditional long simmer on the stove top. And the sausages remain juicy.

Cut the peppers and onions into wider widths than usual since pressure cooking "shrinks" veggies.

Serve on a hoagie or over rice. The veggie/sauce mixture by itself is wonderful piled on a nice thick slice of artisan bread.

  • 1 pound Italian sausages (I use Johnsonville brand"mild")*
  • 8 ounces sliced onion
  • 8 ounces sliced peppers (I used green and red)
  • 1 14.5 oz can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, juice and all
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 7 ounces (1/2 can) water or stock of your choice
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasonings
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried basil
  • A few shakes Ancho chili powder or Cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon white sugar

Put a bit of olive oil in the instant pot. Switch on saute mode and lightly brown the sausages. Do not cook through. Remove to a plate. Add peppers and onions. Saute just until they begin to lose their crispness. Add tomatoes and garlic. Mix tomato paste with water in the can. Add to pepper/onion mixture. Add seasonings.

Return sausages to the pot. Turn off saute mode.

Set manual mode for five minutes. When done, do a quick release.

No instant pot? No problem:

Lightly brown sausages in a 12-inch skillet or Dutch oven. Remove. Add pepper and onion mixture and stir until they lose their crispness. Add tomatoes and garlic. Mix tomato paste with water in the can. Add to pepper/onion mixture. Add seasonings. Cover and simmer for at least one hour. Add more water if needed.

*I suggest mild or hot sausages. I have used "sweet" but the dish lacks in flavor.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Easy Chicken Alfredo Casserole

Move over, Olive Garden! Oh, yea, this is that good! Not difficult to prepare and the result is spectacularly delicious.

I used a grocery-store rotisserie chicken that was on sale. The pasta was on sale. The cheese was on sale! The Alfredo sauce was on sale! This makes quite a bit and it's filling. Perfect for a family. In fact, I would not hesitate to serve this to guests. A nice green salad with fresh tomatoes, an artisan loaf of bread, a chilled bottle of Rose or a nice Zinfandel and this is a meal guests will brag about for days afterward. Have printed recipes available.

I have made this with spaghetti and mini penne. I prefer the spaghetti. Had I fresh basil, I would have swapped it for the parsley. This is a great "make-ahead recipe." For this recipe, I used three 5 x 5 baking dishes, otherwise use an 11 x 7 pan or dish or something comparable.

I saved the crispy chicken skin and cut it up fine to add to the chicken. The skin has lots of flavors!

  • 8 ounces pasta, (spaghetti or penne or what you have on hand)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup jarred Alfredo sauce (I use mushroom Alfredo sauce) divided
  • 4 ounces sour cream (1/2 cup)
  • 8 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 1 to 1.5 cups cubed rotisserie chicken
  • 1 heaping teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • Parsley for garnish

Cook the pasta less one or two minutes before done. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl. Add a bit of butter so it doesn't stick. Season with salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, mix the chicken with one cup Alfredo sauce and sour cream. Add pepper to taste. In another bowl, combine the ricotta, egg, and Parmesan. Mix thoroughly. Add to the pasta. Now add the Chicken mixture. 

Place mixture in pan or dish. Drizzle with remaining 1/2 cup Alfredo sauce. Top with a thick layer of mozzarella cheese. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until bubbly. If the top is not brown, broil for about two minutes. This is best served hot. Enjoy!