Showing posts with label kitchen tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label kitchen tips. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Slow cooker savvy: which slow cooker do I need?

Steaming fresh pumpkin
Fall is here and it is time to bring out the slow cookers so that with all of the back-to-school hubub, you can have a warm dinner ready when you get homw. If you don't have one, here are some tips for figuring out which slow cooker is best for you, your cooking style and cooking abilities.

  • Size - Slow cokers come in a wide range of sizes; teeny for making dip (1.5 quart) to huge for feeding a crowd (7 quart) - Are you usually cooking for 1 or 2,  or a larger crowd? I am usually cooking for a smaller group, so my 4-quart slow cooker is perfect. Size also applies to your cupboard space. How much storage space do you really have?
  • Programming - some slow cookers simply turn on or off, others can be programmed to cook for a certain amount of time and then reduce to "warm" until you get home.
  • Stove to slow cooker - there are a few slow cookers that allow you to put the insert on the stove to brown meat and then directly to the slow cooker without washing another pan. If you love pot roasts, this may be a valuable feature. Are you vegetarian? Probably don't need it.  
  • Washable? Can the insert go in the dishwasher?
  • Chickpea Curry
  • How snugly does the lid fit on? This is only important if you intend to carry your slow cooker to potlucks and parties. There are also large slow cookers that come with a hindged lid; makes it easier to serve with one hand.
  • Shape of crock? If you're usually doing soups and stews, this doesn't matter. But, if you'd like to roast a whole chicken, an oval shape will probably work best. 
  • Does it come with a carrying case? Just like the lid consideration, this is only important if you intend to bring the crock with you to parties.
  • Do the handles stay cool? Some do, some don't, but this may or may not be important to you.
  • Peeping Tom? Some lids are see through and others aren't. If you like to keep tabs on your slow cooker as it works, you may be interested in a glass lid so that you're not letting out heat when you look at the cooking food.
This is the slow cooker I have: not too big (4 quart), nothing fancy. I don't usually take the slow cooker with me, so the features related to travel didn't apply for me. I don't eat red meat, so browing meat wasn't a factor for my cooking. If you're ready to take the plunge, this slow cooker is amazon prime eligible and well reviewed.

Reader Poll: What would you like to learn how to cook in a slow cooker?

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Kitchen tips: shake it like a salt shaker

Has anyone else noticed just a touch of humidity in the air? In DC it feels like we're walking through soup! It is pretty sticky and that humidity makes its way to the kitchen too, specifically to the salt shaker.

While I'm not advocating tons of salt, a little bit here or there can really make a dish pop. Hard to sprinkle on some seasoning if it is all clumped together, right? Here is my quick tip for the day: add some uncooked (dry) rice to your salt shaker. It will help absorb the extra humidity and keep the salt flowing.

Just a tiny bit!

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Monday, June 18, 2012

Kitchen Tips: Storing homemade bread without making trash

One of my New Years Resolutions was to bake my own bread this year; this gives more control over the ingredients used, minimizes weird ingredients and preservatives and also packaging. I get to add nuts and seeds to my hearts content and experiment with different whole grains. It is also way more delicious! My problem? Where to store those beautiful loaves!

Most of us aren't using those huge stock pots that are taking up precious cupboard space. Why not put them to good use? They're a great place to store bread, bagels and muffins without using plastic bags or plastic wrap. One of my bamboo cutting boards even fits into the pot, so I don't have to wash it each time I use it. Voila!

For information about maintaining your wooding cutting boards, please check out my earlier blog posting.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kitchen Tips: Maintaining your wooden cutting boards and spoons

Cutting boards come in all shapes and sizes; it is easy to find a board (or three) that is perfect for your needs in the kitchen. In order to keep your wooden and bamboo boards and utensils in tip-top shape, a bit of maintenance is required. Don't worry; this is easy stuff!

Just like our own skin, wooden and bamboo boards and utensils can dry out. If the board gets very dry, it is at risk of cracking. The simple fix? A regular slathering of mineral oil.

Oiled boards and spoons on left, board waiting to be oiled on right

Mineral oil is a petroleum based product that won't spoil. It can be found at fancy kitchen stores such as Williams-Sonoma. It can also be found at your local pharmacy; there it will be labeled as a laxative, but it is the same exact stuff.

What do you not want to use? Vegetable oils. The same unsaturated bonds that make canola and olive oils heart healthy also make them fragile. With time and exposure to oxygen, these oils will go rancid and ruin your boards!

See how dry it looks?
When you first purchase a new board, you want to oil it often; daily for the first week. Pending how often you use your boards, monthly or so for the next year. Whenever your boards looks dull and dry, time to reapply more oil!

This board wasn't oiled enough and so it cracked; this is a great place for bacteria to live
Other tips? Never put wooden items into your dishwasher; this will quickly pull oils from the wood and risk cracking them. Simply hand wash and towel dry.
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