Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Seasoning and Maintaining Your New Wood Cutting Board

Before using a new wood cutting board, you should take the time to properly season your cutting board.

In fact, you should oil your boards about once a month in order to keep wood cutting boards in good condition.

 

 

Seasoning your wood cutting board regularly will help prevent staining, warping, and cracking.

 

When choosing an oil to season your board, you want to look for an oil that is inexpensive, easily available, and food-grade.

Mineral oil is the oil most commonly recommended oil for seasoning your wood cutting boards…more on this later…

 

Seasoning Your Wood Cutting Board

Heat the oil slightly.

Rub the oil into the board, rubbing in the “direction of the grain.”…yeah, I hate it when I’m told that also and usually have to ask someone to show me what that means…don’t feel like you’re all alone in this…jk…

Allow the oil to soak in for about thirty minutes.

After about thirty minutes, then decide if you need to rub even more oil onto the board.

In fact, the very first time you season your board, you need to do this about four to six times.

 

Other Ways to Maintain the Integrity of Your New Wood Cutting Board

In addition to this, you can use a cutting board refinisher, such as this tool from  Ace Mart from time to time. This will remove the top level of wood, along with its nicks and scratches, leaving you with a smooth surface again.

As far as taking care of your wood cutting boards on a routine basis, scrub the board with hot soapy water immediately after each use.  

 

 

Two more things to remember as far as taking care of wood cutting boards…

Never run your wood cutting boards through the dishwasher

Never let soak in water.

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Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Sources for Cooking Utensils

Quality cooking utensils are key to quality cooking results, regardless of the cooking method that you are using.

And so here I’ve highlighted a few of the sources of quality cooking utensils that you can refer to as we finish discussing the various cooking methods…

I also used this as a chance to find which one spatula to buy to go next to my brand new saute pan.

 

1. di Oro Seamless Spatula

  • Material…BPA free, US FDA and German LGFB certified silicone with 18/10 stainless steel reinforced core
  • Size: 11.2″ x 2.5″ with 3.25″ blade
  • Cost…$11
  • Awards…Chosen America’s Test Kitchen  & Cook’s Illustrated “2017 Best All-around Silicone Spatula
  • Colors…Black, Red
  • Easy to Clean…Dishwasher Safe
  • Temperature Resistance…to 600ºF
  • Warranty…Forever Guarantee…Every spatula or utensil bought from them is guaranteed. forever.
  • Weight: 3.2 oz

  • Material…BPA Free and FDA Approved Silicone
  • Colors…red, orange, purple, and blue
  • Design…one-piece design
  • Heat Resistant…to 450°F
  • Easy-to-clean…dishwasher safe…stain and odor resistant
  • Durability…will not discolor, warp, melt or chip.

3. OXO Silicone Sauté Paddle

Silicone Saute Paddle 3647
  • Cost…$9.99
  • Colors…available in black or red
  • Easy to Clean…dishwasher safe

Vremi

West

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Choose the Right Spatulas to Saute Food

Now that we’ve learned how to choose the right saute pan, let’s move on to the next tool that you will need in order to saute food—the spatula.

Using a good spatula as you saute food in your new an is important because you don’t wants to scratch your pan or shorten its lifespan.

Don’t settle for using the metal spatula that you’ve been using for the last thirty years or a metal spoon to stir your food. This will definitely damage the surface.

Not only does having a good spatula keep your new pan looking like new, it also makes it easier to turn your meat, as well as softer foods—such as egg, pancakes, or tender fish—smoothly without disrupting their shape.

Although it’s always a good idea to have several different types and sizes of spatulas on hand to handle various cooking jobs, right now we’re only talking about one method—sauteeing…so we’re only going to choose the right ones for this job.

There are several factors to consider as you shop for your new spatula. These include…

  • Design
  • Durability
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to keep clean
  • Heat resistance
  • Long lasting
  • Materials used
  • Shape
  • Size
  • Style

Design...

One-piece design…Choose one that is only one unit, that does not have both a handle and body because these always tend to…

  • be difficult to clean
  • breed bacteria
  • detach from one another
  • get food stuck at the joint
  • Slotted…f the food you are cooking typically has a lot of grease, using a slotted spatula will allow the grease to pour off before you put it on the plate or serving platter

Handle…Three factors to look for as far as the handle are…

  • Flexible…they should be flexible enough to help you scrape out your pans
  • Heat-Resistant…will not turn hot when exposed to hot materials
  • Sturdy…they should be sturdy enough to handle meat

Hanging loop…Look for a hole at the end of the spatula that will allow you to hang it as you finish organizing your kitchen, should you choose not to stash it in a drawer or cram it into some sort of jar with every other utensil in your kitchen.

Materials…As far as materials, there are at least three different choices, including…

Plastic...Don’t even bother getting one of these to saute your food. They tend to curl at the ends and melt easily when used on heated pans and cookware, are very flimsy, and cannot handle much if any weight.

Silicone

  • Durability…extremely durable…will not melt or become misshapen…made to last decades…will look the same year after year unless they are purposely destroyed…won’t flake, peel, break, crack or even fade
  • Easy to Clean…can be washed in the dishwashee
  • Health Factor…bacteria resistant
  • Heat Resistant…able to withstand high heat…handles are cool to the touch so there is no fear of the user getting burned, even if it is left on the stovetop or somewhere else that is hot
  • Use…great for using on any kind of cookware, designed to handle high heat such as when stirring hot sauces on the stove

Wood

  • Easy to Clean…not dishwasher safe …also require conditioning from time to time so that they will not wear out.
  • Heat Resistance…poor conductora of heat…so you can comfortably hold it without getting burned
  • Use…great for scraping the browned bits of food off the bottom of the pan…can also be good for stirring….not very efficient for scraping since they do not have any flexibility

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Flat Bottomed Girls

Let’s start our look at the different cooking methods by first looking at sautéing, the method used to brown or sear food, especially vegetables such as bok choy.

Sautéing, unlike other cooking methods, involves quickly cooking food—such as onions and  green peppers—at relatively high temperatures in only a small amount of fat. This allows you to quickly brown the food without burning the food or steaming it.

The term sauté comes from the French term “sauter” which means “to jump.

First let’s see what utensils and tools you need for sautéing….starting with an…

8-10″ Stainless steel frying pan with a lid

It is better to invest in a few really good pans made from high quality materials if you would like to “kick it u a notch,” as Emeril says. Better cooking tools will help you get better results.

Choosing a high quality pan is one of the most important choices that you will make as far as buying cookware because you will be using this pan probably more often than any other pan in your kitchen.

The characteristics that you should be looking at whenever you are looking for the perfect saute pan include…

  • Cost and Value
  • Manufacturer Reputation
  • Materials
  • Size
  • Style

Here is a guideline to use whenever you are looking for the perfect sauté pan.

Size…As far as size, there are many different sizes available, but I find that I use my 12″ pan most frequently.

Bottom…The bottom should be thick and wide and flat…thick so that heat will be transmitted evenly without developing hot spots, wide so that food is not overcrowded, and flat so that the heat will be evenly distributed.

Sides…The sides of a sauté pan should be straight and low…straight so that liquids do not spil over the sides, low so that air circulates more freely around the pan and helps prevent food from getting soggy.

Handle…The handle of a saute an should be long enough to make it easy to shake the food back and forth while you are browning it.

You also need the handle to be sturdy and durable,…securely attached to the an securely by rivetes or long, sturdy screws. 

You need to be confident that the handle won’t fall off when working with it.

Look for handles that are “cool touch.” This allows you to hold onto the handle without getting burned, even though you should still always use oven mitts when using any pots with metal handles.

Lid…Your lid should fit tight.

Materials…When buying a sauté an, erhas the most imortant factor to consider is the “vonducivirtyy” of the material that it is made from.

Conducivity refers to how responsive the an is to the heat…

Does it get hot quickly?

Does it cool off just as fast?

Does it easily transmit heat from the heat source to the food easily, evenly, and efficiently?

Copper…The best choice as far as conductivity is copper, but copper can be super expensive and they’re a pain to keep shiny.

Anodized Aluminum…A much better choice, at least for most of us, would be anodized aluminum.  

These are great because they are easy to clean, have good heat transmission, and do not react negatively with certain foods—not to mention the fact that they cost a heck of lot less than copper.

Two other materials to consider are cast iron and stainless steel.

Usability…Always look for cookware that can be used on the stove, in the oven, in the freezer and can be washed in the dishwasher.

Because I am slowly adding or clearing out my collection of pots and other cookware based on cooking method, at this point the only thing that I need at this stage of building my “dream kitchen” is a 5-quart saute pan.

  • —————————————————————————————[
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Back to Bok

Okay, the last few articles have been an attempt to start writing about home organization, but lately I have been thinking more about this and have decided that the one thing I want to accomplish as I write is to teach, if only to myself, better cooking methods and the raw foods….especially now that my beloved souse has been diagnosed with diabetes this year.

So I am now back to bok…bok choy.

 

I thought that this would also be a great time to start talking about the various cooking methods and how to make each of these methods more healthy before moving higher on the Raw Foods ladder.

 

There are basically three categories of cooking methods. These are..,

  1. Dry-Heat Cooking Method
  2. Moist-Heat Cooking Methods
  3. Combination Cooking Methoda

 

 

Dry heat cooking methods involve applying either direct or indirect heat to the food, and include…

Baking and Roasting

  • Broiling
  • Deep-frying
  • Grilling
  • Pan-frying
  • Sautéing

Moist heat cooking methods involve submerging food directly into a hot liquid or exposing it to steam, and include…

  • Boiling
  • Poaching
  • Simmering
  • Steaming

Combination cooking methods involve using a combination of both dry-heat and moist-heat cooking techniques, and include…

  • Braising
  • Stewing

 

In this next series, I would like to go into detail about each of the cooking methods and the tools needed or that are useful for each method.

Then having this list in hand of the different tools needed for each method, I am going to share my efforts on organizing my own kitchen.

Join me for the journey…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Mastering Ministrone

So now that we’ve bought the perfect pot, found the perfect recie, bought the best veggies, sliced and diced, and so forth…

Now what?

1.Constantly keep an eye on your soup while it is cooking. This will allow you to  adjust the spices and cooking temperature as needed.

2. Cook on low heat. Don’t think that cooking your soup at a higher temperature will ensure that everything will actually get cooked instead of being raw or hard when you are ready to serve the soup.

Doing this will instead turn your meat into tough, hard-to-chew pieces…not to mention possibly ruining the bottom of that expensive soup pot that we all went out and bought after reading a previous article, right?

Instead bring your soup slowly to a boil and then allow the soup to simmer for the rest of the cooking time.

This will allow the ingredients to maintain their structure and integrity, while at the same time combining all of the ingredients into a flavorful soup.

3. Cover or not?…Depending on the finished product that you want,  leaving the soup uncovered or covering the soup with the lid is a matter of personal  reference. Leaving the lid off will make the soup base evaporate faster, creating a thicker and more flavorful soup.

4, Dig in Deep…There are many soup recipes out there that  require taking some of the soup as it is cooking and blending it and then adding it back into the soup in order to thicken the soup. Using an immersion blender will reduce the risk of your getting burned and make this job easier and neater.

Here is a list from Good Housekeeping of some of the most highly recommended immersion blenders available…

5. Use your brain when using grains…Pasta and grains that are called for as ingredients will often overcook. Avoid this by cooking them separately and then adding them into the soup just before serving.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

The Spice Is Right

Now that you have created or chosen your base liquid…and sliced and diced and maybe even roasted your veggies…it’s time to add any spices and other seasonings that you might like.
The seasonings that you add to your soup at this point will honestly be a matter of personal preference, Feel free to add only one seasoning, but also experiment to find a spice combination that you and your family all enjoy.
Seasonings also can be based on what you are cooking. Good choices would be…

  • Beef soups…marjoram, rosemary, thyme
  • Chicken soups…celery seed, marjoram, thyme, parsley, and sage
  • Chilis…chili powder, cumin
  • Cream soups…parsley, thyme.
  • Meaty, hearty soups…cumin
  • Tomato-based soups…basil, oregano or fennel

Regardless what you are making or what seasonings you are adding, never use so much seasoning that it is overpowering.

 

Here are a few of the most commonly used seasonings…

 

1. Fresh herbs…You can add only one fresh herb or a combination of herbs to your soup, based on what your family likes best.

You can add the fresh herbs either with the woody stems still attached or not. It really doesn’t matter because the stems and leaves will drop off as they cook, Once your soup is finished, simply remove these can be removed with tongs or a slotted spoon before serving.

Fresh herbs will have a more intense flavor if added near the end of the cooking time.

 

 

2. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhance rhat brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Garlic…Garlic is a flavor enhancer that brings out the flavors of the other ingredients in the soup. Even if a soup recipe doesn’t call for garlic, you can always add two or three cloves of garlic without worrying that your soup will have a garlicky taste.

 

.3. Ginger...Ginger is another flavor enhancer. Adding ginger to vegetable and chicken soups adds a slightly sweet taste and aromaFresh herbs…Fresh herbs provide an intense and complex flavor. Use three or four tablespoons of chopped, fresh herbs for ten to twelve cups of soup.

4. Spice Cabinet Spices…Use 1 to 2 teaspoons of ground spices per ten to twelve cups liquid.

Some of the most commonly used spices include…

  • allspice
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • fennel
  • turmeric
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Finding the Perfect Pot to Pea In

Before you start making your own homemade soup, there is certain equipment that you must have on hand.

And the most important equipment of all—a big enough pan.

You could find the very best recipe, spend hours making your own stock, buy the best ingredients, take the time to finely dice all of your vegetables exactly the same size, and so forth…

But will all that effort mean one darn thing if you don’t have a big enough pot.

Pots and pans are like bath towels. All of us have them—in various sizes and shapes and colors.

But most of us simply settle for the first towel that we happen to grab we get out of the shower.

How much thought do you put into your bath towels and pots and pans on a daily basis?

But this shouldn’t be the case.

Here is some advice as far as what to look for when finding “the perfect pot to pea in”…

——————-

.Base…The bottom should be heavy in order to keep ingredients at the bottom  from scorching during long cooking..

Handles…There should be two short, sturdy handles that have been bolted on, not simply pressed and adhered on. Remember you’re going to need a “good grip” when you will be picking up a heavy pot with hot liquid.

Height…A pot that is higher than it is wide prevents too much liquid from evaporating.

Lid

  • Glass—Glass lids allow you to see the progress of your stock or soup.
  • Oven Safe—If you plan to use the pot in the oven, be sure your lid and your handles are oven safe.
  • Steaming—Look for a small hole in the glass lid with a grommet.
  • Tight—The lid should fit tightly so that you close the lid and steam properly.

Material

Material is probably the most important thing to consider when buying new pots and pans.

There are several options available, including…

Anodized aluminum…

  • Cost…$125-200
  • Dishwasher Safe…no
  • Example…Calphalon
  • Heats fairly evenly and quickly

Aluminum…

  • Cost…$21 w/o cover
  • Heats quickly

Coated Carbon Steel, enameled…

  • Cost…$80.00
  • Example…Le Creuset
  • Weight…Lightweight

Copper…

  • Dishwasher safe…no, requires constant upkeep
  • Heats rapidly
  • More of a collectible or display item, not very realistic for the real world

Stainless steel…

  • Cost…as low as $10
  • Heats rapidly and evenly
  • Weight..sturdy without being too heavy

Stainless Steel w/ aluminum or copper core base…

  • Cost…around $60
  • Heat…rapid heating thanks to the base of either aluminum or copper surrounded by stainless steel

 

 

Shape…Taller pots allow less water to steam out from the stock, but also consider how much difference in temperature there might be at the bottom of the pot than at the top of the pot.

And if you’re as short as I am, be realistic. Imagine stirring your soup as it cooks and then also picking up and pouring the contents of the pot.

 

Size…The pot should be large enough to hold at least four quarts.

—-

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Kimchi—The What Else—Five Spice Powder

 

One of the other spices, or spice blends, that you should also grab when you’re ordering from the Asian market is five spice powder.

Five-spice powder or Wuxiang powder is a very powerful spice blend of cinnamon, cloves, fennel, star anise, and Szechwan peppercorns—that is a very common ingredient in Chinese and Taiwanese cuisine.

Some other spices that are often used to make five spice powder include ginger, nutmeg, licorice, turmeric, cardamom, Mandarin orange peel, and galangal.

Sure, you can buy this five spice seasoning online or at the Asian market…

But some cooks claim that making five spice powder in your own kitchen creates a more fragrant spice mix, allows you to flavor exactly how you want it, and makes the flavor more intense.

Making five spice powder as you need it, will also keep the flavors as rich and fresh as possible.

 

To make your own five spice powder, 

  • Toast 2tsp Szechuan peppercorns in a dry skillet or wok over medium heat, about three minutes.
  • Grind any whole spices—such as whole cloves, fennel seed, Szechwan peppercorns, or star anise—in a coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. To make sure that you have the quantity of powder once you finish grinding these, start with about 1.5 times the quantity of the whole spice as you need powder—such as 2Tbsp of star anise seeds to make 1Tbsp powder.
  • Mix in 1Tbsp each of the following—ground cloves, cinnamon, star anise, and fennel seed. You could also consider adding a teaspoon or so of black pepper, ginger, nutmeg, or any of the other spices mentioned above.
  • Grind them together in your coffee grinder until the powder is an even consistency.
  • Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place until ready to use.

 

Tips on Using Five Spice Powder.

  1. Add five spice powder to your skillet at the start of cooking so that the spices will permeate the whole dish.
  2. Add small amounts of the spice mixture to your dish while you are cooking. The flavor can be quite intense, and it is easy to ruin a dish by adding too much.
  3. Taste your food frequently until you find the amount of sice that you want.
  4. Use five-spice powder sparingly. A tiny amount goes a long way.

Princess Chicken

One of the most common dishes that contains five-spice seasoning is Princess Chicken…

 

  • 1 1/2Tbsp soy sauce
  • 1Tbsp dry sherry
  • 1/2tsp five-spice powder
  • 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 3Tbsp cooking oil
  • 2 thin slices ginger
  • 1/2 onion (peeled and chopped)
  • 1/2tsp paprika (or to taste)
  • 4oz sliced mushrooms
  • 2Tbsp water or chicken broth
  • 3/4C cashews
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 2tsp soy sauce
  • 1/2tsp sugar
  • 1/2tsp sesame oil

Marinade your chicken..Combine soy sauce, sherry, five-spice powder, and cornstarch. Add the chicken, coating thoroughly in the marinade. Let marinade in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.

Cook your chicken…Heat 2Tbsp oil in a wok. Once the oil is hot, add one slice of ginger. Let brown for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove the ginger from the oil. Add the chicken. Cook 5 minutes, until the chicken is nearly cooked.

Cook your veggies…Remove and wipe the wok clean. Add Tbsp oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, add the remaining slice of ginger. Brown the ginger. Remove from the pan. Add the onion and paprika. Cook 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms, cashews, red red bell peppers. Add more oil if you need to.Cook another minute.

Finish making the dish..Add the chicken back into the pan. Stir in dark soy sauce and sugar. Cook for another minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the sesame oil.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Method to My Madness

Okay, I said that we were going to finish the entire Raw Foods Pyramid one tier at a time, but when you start imagining that your bedsheets are great big leaves of cabbage and start dreaming of Swiss chard and bok choy, you know that you really must take a break.
So instead of simply talking about the “How of Bok Choy,” I thought that it might be more worthwhile to talk about the different cooking methods and then use bok choy as the key ingredient using each of these methods.

 

I remember when I first got married, everything you know how to cook contained tomato sauce, ground beef, and pasta…you knew umpteen thousand different variations of this theme.

 

Next you moved onto baked chicken with its umpteen thousands different variations.
But now even after thirty-three years of enjoying, or at least having, my own kitchen, I still don’t feel like I have become the next contestant on any competition held by Food Network.

 

 

Instead of becoming the next Top Chef or upgrading to a commercial-grade kitchen, I would rather focus on learning to use basic cooking techniques to prepare healthy food for myt family—using the healthiest mtethod for each specific food that will capture the flavor of that food and retain the nutrients in foods, without adding excessive amounts of fat or salt.

Even though I have been talking about the Raw Foods pyramid, I still have a family to feed, a family that loves and expects cooked food at every meal and would never fully embrace the Raw Foods lifestyle.

 

But if you’re not willing to completely change to a Raw Foods diet, perhaps the next best thing would be to learn how various cooking methods affect the nutritional content of their foods.

So in this next series of posts, let’s check out the different cooking methods and when would be the best time to use which.