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

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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.

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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

Drop Your Drawers

Although you keep your kitchen drawers closed until you need something out of there…and although no guest in their right mind would ever rummage through them, it is still worth the time and effort to organize your drawers.

Taking the time to organize your kitchen drawers will allow you to…

  • maximize your space
  • no longer have kitchen drawers that are so messy and crammed that you have to take everything out of the drawer in order to find anything
  • simplify your cooking routine.
  • squeeze the most out of the space you do have available.

First Things First

Empty your drawers.

Throw away or give away anything that you don’t actually use or that you have too many of or that is broken or with missing parts or

Move things that could be stored in a more convenient spot.

Take the time to wash every utensil, at least ;in the dishwasher.

Group like items together…more on this later…

Take the time to scrub down your drawers with a clean rag and antibacterial cleaning spray.

Use a drawer liner. This will brighten the drawers and inspire you to keep things neat and organized.

This is also a good time to make sure that the drawers have quality sliding hardware and secure handles.

Zoning

But before you do this, take the time to decide what zones you want to use.

  • Here are some suggestions…
  • Baking Drawer
  • Cooking Utensil Drawer
  • Dish Drawer
  • Grilling Drawer
  • Junk Drawer
  • Linen Drawer
  • Meat Drawer
  • Silverware Drawer
  • Utensil Drawer

Decide where you would like to store each zone.

Now start grouping similar items according to these different zones..

Let’s take a closer look at what should or cculd be set into whivh zone…

Baking

  • beaters
  • measuring cups
  • measuring spoons,
  • rolling pins
  • rubber spatulas
  • silicone spatulas
  • whisks
  • wooden spoons

Cooking Utensils…any utensils that do not belong in any of the other categories

Grilling…grilling tools such as grilling tongs, a basting brush, and a meat thermometer

Junk

This is the drawer for all your “extra” items.

Some of the items that you might want to have in this drawer include…

  • bandages
  • batteries
  • cords and chargers 
  • flashlights
  • paper clips
  • rubberbands
  • safety pins
  • scissors
  • tape
  • twine or string
  • twist ties

Place smaller items in small plastic containers with lids I have found maraschino cherries jars to be awesome. Stick only one thing into each jar.

Taking the time to label each jar, telling what’s inside the jar, is very useful.

Other things that you could use to organize your drawers include cardboard boxes, store-bought drawer dividers, or empty Tupperware containers.

it is a good idea to go back through these drawers about four times a year so that they don’t become “junk drawers,” but “miscellaneous storage drawers” instead.

Linen Drawer…Designate a drawer for kitchen linens, such as…

  • kitchen towels
  • napkins
  • oven mitts
  • placemats
  • table runners
  • tablecloths

Meat Drawer…Things that you ight want to store in this drawer include…

  • basting tool
  • meat thermometer
  • seasoning brush
  • tenderizer

Silverware Drawer

Using Drawer Dividers

As far as dividers, be sure to measure the height, width, and length of yout drawers before you waste money buying dividers that will not fit into the drawer.

Using clear acrylic dividers allows you to see the drawer liner that you just installed and makes it easier to see things.

Another great idea is using expandable or pegboard drawer dividers that will allow you to adjust the size of the divider to fit the dimensions of your drawer.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Why Being Organized in the Kitchen Matters

As with any goal, you can spend way too much time…

  • analyzing every tool offered online
  • dreaming that the job was already done
  • talking to others
  • thinking about what would be the best way to get started
  • reading every article and book in sight about your goal
  • wishing that someone else could or would do It for you 

 

All with the same result…

Never getting anything done

 

 

So even though you don’t have the perfect plan written down yet and are not sure exactly how it’s going to work out, the best way to learn is by doing….

 

 

The same can be said about organizing your kitchen.

But organizing your kitchen will give you even more time to…

  • analyze every tool offered online
  • dream that the job was already done
  • talk to others
  • think about what would be the best way to get started
  • read every article and book in sight about your goal
  • wish that someone else could or would do It for you 

 

So why get off the couch when you’re comfortably watching HGTV or DIY Network, and get into your own kitchen trash-bag-in-hand instead?

 

Several reasons…

First of all, having an organized kitchen will save you valuable time as you are cleaning and cooking.

For one thing, you will be able to find something when you need it, without having to search for items that should be readily available.

 

Another reason for organizing your kitchen is to use all of your available work space because you are not having to work around clutter and chaos. 

Having a certain designated ‘home’ for all of your kitchen ingredients and tools will also make it easier to put things away when you’re cleaning up.

Making dinner every night will be quicker and easier…meaning that you will have more quality time each evening to be with your spouse and kids.

Not only that, you will also have more time to do those things that you reallxy want to do to unwind after a long day at work.

 

 

So as we start digging our way out of kitchen clutter and chaos, I thought this would be a great time to share the following list of questions that I use when setting goals, regardless what kind of goal I may be setting… 


1.  THE WHO…Talk to other people about your goals. This will make you feel both more excited and more committed.

  • Who benefits the most from me achieving this goal?
  • Who can help me achieve it? Who else is or should be involved?
  • Who else believes in me and my ability to reach this goal?
  • Who will support me? Who probably won’t support me? 

   
2.  THE WHAT…First of all, write down specific goals that you want to achieve. Keep your list of goals in front of you. Frame them if you want.

  • What is my biggest passion and dream in life? What one wildly bold goal would I like to accomplish that would truly inspire me to get up each morning?
  • What do I want to accomplish? What will success look like?
  • What is the probability of ever reaching this goal?
  • What is the biggest obstacle hindering me from achieving my goals? 
  • What skills, tools, and resources do I need to acquire or master?
  • What is my next step? 

 

3.  THE WHEN…Focus on immediate tasks…only your tasks for today and the week ahead of you…so that you do not get discouraged or overwhelmed. Now, perhaps the most important task—get organized. Break larger goals into smaller tasks. Set up a plan or schedule. Break down the year into months, and then create specific action steps for each week. 

  • When can I find the time to do whatever it takes to reach this goal?
  • When would be a realistic time for me to have reached this goal?
  • When will there be enough information to know if and when I should set new goals?
  • When will I start working toward this goal?

 

4.  THE WHERE

  • Where do I want to be this time next year?
  • Where will I acquire the necessary knowledge?
  • Where will my goal be accomplished? 
  • Where have I written my “chosen frozen” goals down so that they can become something tangible to focus on, evaluate, and refine on a regular basis?

 

5.  THE HOW…Choose appropriate milestones and benchmarks for your particular goal. Reward yourself whenever you reach a milestone or benchmark.

  • How will I benefit from reaching this goal? 
  • How will I stay focused during the process? 
  • How will the business be different one year from now?
  • How will this goal be achieved?
  • How does this deadline influence your daily activities?
  • How should I best spend my time, instead wasting time on unrelated, unimportant, non-strategic activities?



6.  THE WHY… Schedule a weekly check in with yourself. Evaluate what’s working and what’s not. Remind yourself why you set these goals in the first place. 

  • Why am I going to do this in the first place?
  • Why am I willing to invest time, energy, and money in doing this? 
  • Why is achieving this goal so important to me? 
  • Why is reaching this goal important? 

 

 

My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive, and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor and some style.”— Maya Angelou

 

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

Share the Challenge

As this new year begins, I have decided to get serious about getting our house in order

Recently I stumbled upon this challenge on organizing one section of your house each week.

This first week we were challenged to clear our counters and sinks.

Honestly this has never been that much of a trouble to keep organized…clean, no…organized, yes…

It drives me crazy to see a bunch of junk on my kitchen counters.

If there is only one area of my house that gets cleaned on a given day, it would definitely be my kitchen counters.

As far as the rest of my kitchen goes, it depends on how the rest of my day is going.

The first few weeks of this challenge revolve entirely around the kitchen…figuring out how best to organize our kitchens for…

  • Cooking (also including food preparation)
  • Eating
  • Family and friends hang out area
  • Family calendar and control central
  • Food storage (both cold storage and pantry)
  • Home office, bill paying center, and/or home mail organizer center
  • Home recycling center
  • Homework area
  • Recipe and cookbooks

My hope is to share my before and after pictures with you as I begin this challenge, and to find other like-minded people to hold me accountable throughout the year.

Join me on this journey…

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.

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