Sweet, Sweet Sunday

How to Caramelize Onions—Review of the Sauteeing Method of Cooking

Now we’ve covered all the different steps involved in our first cooking method—sauteeing.

But before we move on to our next cooking method and slowly re-begin our crawl through the raw foods pyramid, I’d like to review the method…by telling you how to caramelize onions…

Caramelizing an onion brings out the natural rich and savory sweetness of the onion and calms down some of its undeniable intensity, sharp spiciness notes, and tear-inducing gases.

By cooking the onions for an extended period of time, the natural sugars in the onions “caramelize” and you end with an intensely and wonderful flavor.

So what can you do with these “caramelized” onions?

Lots___

This is a cooking “staple” that adds a depth of flavor to just about anything, such as…

  • burgers
  • casseroles
  • dip
  • French onion soup
  • grilled cheese sandwiches
  • pasta and pasta sauces
  • pastries
  • pizza
  • quiche
  • salads
  • sandwiches
  • soups
  • stir-fries

Ingredients…Obvously if you are going to caramelize onions, you will need onions…

But there are so many different kinds of onions…which onions should you choose?

Actually we will be talking about onions in the near future as we start moving through the Food Pyramid again.

For now, let’s just use yellow onions. Yellow onions tend to caramelize the most readily and be the most versatile to add to the various dishes that you use them in.

How many onions?

This is totally up to you and how many caramelized onions you think you might need before having to make more… I usually caramelize two to three at a time.

The onions will cook down quite a lot.

Slicing and Dicing…When you are slicing and dicing your onions, you want your cuts to be clean and consistent.

First cut the stem and root ends off of each of the onions.

Next remove the skins and cut the onions in half.

Now cut the onions into thin slices. The onions will naturally separate half-rings. Take time to make sure that your slices are even. If not, some of the onions will be undercooked and some of the other will be burned.

You could also dice the onions, but I think onions “rings” are so much more attractive.

Actually before you start slicing and dicing your onions, you should start heating your pan over medium-low heat. be careful not to turn your heat too high…if you do, the onions will burn.

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Creating a Home, Sweet, Sweet Sunday

9 More Cooking Oils to Stick Under Your Kitchen Sink Also

So we’re getting our oil ready to start cooking—finally—but as you grab under the sink, you’re met by how many choices of oil—not to mention whatever other bottles might be down there…so choose your bottle carefully.
In the last article, we looked at olive oil and almond oil as two choices…
Here are a few more oils that would be good choices…

1 Avocado Oil 

  • Benefits…Avocado oil promotes healthy cholesterol levels and enhances absorption of some nutrients.
  • Nutrition…Avocado oil is high in monounsaturated fatty acids.
  • Use…Avocado oil has a high smoke point and is one of the best oils for high-temperature cooking—such as stir-frying, sautéing, and searing.

2 Canola Oil

  • Benefits…Canola oil helps reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the body, reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, and stabilize blood pressure levels, The FDA agrees that 1-1/2Tbsp canola oil each day could reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when used instead of saturated fat.
  • Nutrition…Canola oil is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as the alpha-linolenic acid, as well as monounsaturated fat, a type of fat that is considered healthy for diabetics. At the same time, canola oil is low in the unhealthy saturated fat that mostly come from animal products like meat and dairy.
  • Uses…Canola oil can be used safely at high temperatures because it has a higher smoke point than most other oils, but doesn’t have as much flavor as some other oils that are available and is not your best choice for certain things such as making your own salad dressing.

3 Coconut Oil

  • Benefits…Coconut oil contains minerals and vitamins that serve to lowering triglycerides levels, control levels of bad cholesterol, and help stabilize the blood pressure of the diabetics.
  • Nutrition…Coconut oil is a saturated fat, but not the same artery-clogging saturated fat found in red meat. The fat found in coconut oil is harder for the body to convert into stored fat because this fat consists of such a higher amount of medium-chain fatty acids than the normal fat found in hamburgers.
  • Use…The American Heart Association warns those with high cholesterol levels to avoid or limit their use of coconut oil because of its saturated fat content. High levels of coconut oil in your daily diet can make your diabetes worse.

Flaxseed Oil

  • Benefits…As a diabetic, flaxseed oil slows digestion, which in turn helps maintain stable blood glucose levels and improves the sensitivity of the body towards insulin. Flaxseed oil has also been shown to reduce inflammation, a fact that could lower your risk of getting cancer and reduce the symptoms of arthritis.
  • Nutrition…Flaxseed oil is a rich source of both fiber and ALA—alpha-linoleic acid—one of three omega-3 fatty acids that your body cannot make on its own.
  • Use…Flaxseed oil should not be heated..instead use as a salad dressing or add to smoothies

 

5 Grape Seed Oil

  • Nutrition…this is a rich source of both polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, and is very low in saturated fat
  • Use…nutty but mild flavor that can be used for all sorts of cooking and grilling and also works well in salad dressings or drizzled over roasted veggies

6 Rice Bran Oil

  • Benefits….Rice bran oil will reduce your levels of bad cholesterol, and so is great for diabetics and those wanting to keep heart disease at bay.
  • Nutrition…Rice bran oil is rich in both monounsaturated as well as polyunsaturated fats.

7 Sesame Oil

  • Benefits…Sesame oil reduces levels of bad cholesterol and stabilizes blood glucose levels.
  • Nutrition…Sesame oil contains monounsaturated fats and is listed as one of the most ” heart-healthy” cooking oils by the American Heart Association.
  • Uses…Light sesame oil is often used for stir-frying. Dark sesame oil, on the other hand, is great for making dressings and sauces.

8 Sunflower Oil

  • Nutrition…Sesame oil has high levels of the “good” polyunsaturated fats and very low levels of the “bad” saturated fats.
  • Uses…Sunflower oil can be used for all cooking methods—such as sauteeing, frying, and roasting,

9 Walnut Oil

  • Benefits…Walnut oil helps maintain a good balance of triglycerides, improves the sensitivity of your body towards insulin, and reduces your risk of several cardiovascular conditions.
  • Nutrition…Walnut oil is rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a good source of polyunsaturated fats.
  • Uses…Walnut oil is great for adding a nutty flavor to whatever you are cooking—such as desserts.

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Best Cooking Oils to Use for Diabetics

  • The next step in our learning how to saute food is choosing which oil we would like to cook in.
  • There are at least a dozen choices out there…each of which not only affects the final taste of your food, but also your health—even more so as a diabetic.
  • Let’s take a look at some of these choices, starting with the most commonly used—or at least the most commonly used cooking oil in my own house—olive oil. 

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Olive Oil

The What

  • Most of us think that about huge bottle of olive oil that we hide under the sink with the other bottles—such as rum and vodka—that we might want to have close at hand.
  • And most of us think that olive oil is olive oil—never having any variety as far as flavor–ranging in flavor from fruity to peppery,, viscosity, and color.
  • Some of the olive oils found around the world that can make you change your mind about all olive oil’s tasting the same include…
  • Badia, ..a great, inexpensive well-rounded olive oil from Spain, found in many supermarkets.
  • Ravida…a brightly-colored green Italian olive oil with a pungent taste that stands up well to the robust flavor of Sicilian cooking
  • Terra Medi…a smooth, well-rounded, and not too heavy olibr oil from Greece
  • Unió…a mild and fruity olive oil from Spain with a soft peppery finish

The Why

  • Olive oil is considered by many to be the healthiest of all the cooking oils, mainly for helping to reduce the risks of heart-related conditions.
  • As far as diabetics are concerned, olive oil is a good choice because olive oil helps improve the sensitivity of the body towards insulin.
  • Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants and monounsaturated fats.

Almond Oil…Another cooking oil that can be used to saute your foods is almond oil.

Nutrients...Almond oil is not only a good source of monounsaturated fats, but also a rich source of nutrients—including potassium, zinc, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium.

Benefits…

  1. can help you lose weight and prevent weight gain
  2. can reduce your risk of colon cancer.
  3. decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease
  4. helps fight inflammation in the body
  5. helps naturally regulate blood sugar levels
  6. keeps you feeling full, which helps to prevent snacking and overeating
  7. may also work as a natural laxative, relieving constipation and IBS
  8. naturally reduces cholesterol levels
  9. promotes the flow of oxygen and nutrients through the blood
  10. reduces the risk of heart disease
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Some Like It Hot

Before you start to actually sauté your ingredients, you should preheat your pan for a few minutes. 

Making sure that your pan is at the proper temperature before adding oil or ingredients.

Meat…As far as cooking meat, heating the skillet before adding any oil or ingredients—such as chicken or pork chop—will mean that your meat will not be as dry as if you had not done this. The reason is that tender cuts of meat needs to be cooked as quickly as possible in order to stay tender.

If your pan is cold when you add your meat, the meat will spend more time over the heat

If your pan is not hot enough when you add your meat, then the meat will just sit there until your pan slowly heats up enough to start cooking the meat.

As the meat just sits there waiting, eventually the juices will start leaking out and then boiling away….resulting in disgusting gray-colored soggy pork chops or tough, instead of tender,  chicken.

Veggies...As far as cooking veggies, heating the skillet before adding any oil or ingredients will mean that your veggies will steam them instead of sautéing. This will mean that you will have drab, mushy, overcooked vegetables—not crisp, flavorful and brightly-colored veggies because the veggies have spent too much time over the heat.

How Hot is Hot Enough?…To make sure that your pan is hot enough to add your meat and/or veggies, set a drop of water into the pan. If it’s ready, the water will jump and skitter around on the surface.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Maintaining Your Knife For Life

If I just forked over this much money for a quality knife to slice and dice veggies, I am gonna want to take the very best care of it that I can.

So how do we do that?

Here are a few tips…

After each use wash your knife in warm, soapy water and dry it well.

Never put it in the dishwater. This can dull and damage the blades.

Never soak your knife in water.

Store your knife in a certain place, not in a drawer crammed with everything else that manages to find its way into your kitchen….but more on this later…

Use a traditional knife sharpening steel to sharpen your knives. Otherwise, bring them to a knife store that will sharpen them for you. Remember that sharp knives are  not only easier to use, but also safer.

——————————————————————

  • Cuts
  • slice, mince, chop, crush, tenderize, and scoop up
  • cutting and
  • making garnishes
  • hold the knife in your writing hand (the Chinese
  • call this the “chopstick hand”).
Sweet, Sweet Sunday

Wood You Rather

If you don’t want to fork over the money for a good wood cutting board, or you like other surfaces instead of wood, there are many choices available.

The main second choice would be plastic.

There are both advantages and disadvantages of these boards.

Advantages include…

  • affordable
  • are priced economically
  • available in many sizes
  • can be washed in the dishwasher, which is more likely to kill all of the bacteria
  • easier to maneuver
  • lighter
  • non-porous material that can’t absorb liquids
  • offer a non-porous surface so juices are unable to penetrate the surface. Furthermore,
  • practical to use
  • relatively easy on knife edges
  • require no additional maintenance
  • safe for knives

Disadvantages include…

  • don’t last as long
  • have no self-healing or bacteria-fighting properties
  • knife-scarred plastic surfaces are impossible to clean and disinfect manually
  • pores in the wood allow for the bacteria to penetrate where they become trapped, suffocate and die
  • surface gets rougher and rougher and becomes extremely difficult to clean, even in the dishwasher

Ultimately, the choice between these two surfaces is your own…but there are a few things to remember when choosing a new plastic cutting boards, such as…

  • Always use a separate plastic cutting boards for fish because the smell can sometimes seep into wood fibers and leave a lasting smell on your wood cutting board.
  • Avoid slick or smooth plastic, as this can cause knives to slip.
  • Choose polyethylene or polypropylene. These are kindest to your knives.
  • Make sure you buy a board that can fit it in your dishwasher.

Cleaning…Sanitize your board every so often, even if you do run it through the dishwasher, using a solution of 5% white vinegar with 4 parts water.

Other Surfaces—Besides these two materials, cutting boards can also be made from other things—such as bamboo, marble, granite, ceramic and glass.

Be careful when choosing one of these, because they can quickly dull your knives.

Bamboo

Bamboo boards have many advantages. One of these is the fact that bamboo boards are one of the best choices for cutting fruits and vegetables. Other advantages include…

  • lasting a long time
  • being “knife-friendly”
  • being made from a sustainable, environmentally friendly, highly renewable resource….
  • weighing less than wood boards
  • not having to be oiled as often as wood boarda

Glass

Glass cutting boards may be cute to decorate with in your kitchen, but as far as actually using glass cutting boards as you cook, don’t even bother. They’re terrible.

Why are they so “terrible?”

Becsuse they can dull the brand new knives that we are fixing to buy as the final tool to saute with in as little as ten strokes. 

Other Materials—such as marble, granite, ceramic, and composite

The same holds true to any other material out there that cutting boards may be made from-such as marble, granite, ceramic, and composite—can do similar damage to your knives, and should be avoided.

The Bottom Line…So just stick to wood and plastic boards….such as the boards that we will be highlighting in the next article…

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

11 More Uses for Mineral Oil

In addition to the various uses for mineral oil around the home that we just got through talking about, there are several uses for mineral oil for your own use also.

So a bottle of mineral oil is well worth the investment.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the uses for yourself.. 

 

1.Arthritis...Mineral oil can decrease the stiffness and reduce the pain of arthritis.

2. Babies…Mineral oil can be used to treat cradle cap, diaper rash, and many other types of skin irritation. In fact, baby oil as marketed to new mothers is mineral oil with added fragrance…and costs much less,

3. Constipation...Mineral oil can be used as a laxative to treat constipation and hemorrhoids. Mineral oil creates a film around the stools that makes passage of the stools through the colon much easier.

 

Cosmetics...Mineral oil is a common ingredients in many ointments and cold lotions, in addition to baby oil.

5. Ears…Mineral oil can also be used to treat earaches and to remove ear wax, Drop a few drops of warm mineral oil into your ears at night to melt any ear wax. Be sure to rinse your ear with warm water in the morning.

6. Eyes…Mineral oil can be used to remove any oil which has settled on your eyes and to help maintain the your eyelashes from busting and cracking.

7. Face…Mineral oil can be used for about ten minutes before using mineral oil makeup. The oil does not cause acne or blackheads, but works as a great moisturizer

8. Feet…Mineral oil can make your heels crack-free. Rub your feet with the oil and wear socks.

9. Hands,,, Mineral oil can be used to treat dry hands if you apply it throughout the day.

10. Paint…Mineral oil can be used to remove paint spots from your skin.

11. RadIation…Mineral oil can hhelp treat radiation skin burns,

 

 

 

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

10 More Uses for Mineral Oil Around Your Home

As we start building our kitchen one item at a time and crawling our way along the Raw Foods pyramid at a snail’s pace, so far we only have three items in our dream home…

  • A saute pan
  • A spatula
  • A cutting board

And in the last post we saw that we should also buy some mineral oil to keep our boards in good shae,…

But sorry, as a minimalist on a budget, I am so not gonna buy mineral oil just to kee my cutting board in working condition…

There has to be way more reasons to fork over money on mineral oil, regardless of how chea it may be, than to rub on cutting boards.

So I did some research to find what else I can use mineral oil for, and was surrised to find just how useful mineral oil can be…both around the home and around to take better care of myself and my family.

First let’s take a look at how mineral oil can be used around the home, other than taking care of your cutting boards…

1.Adhesives…Mineral oil is the one thing that can be used to remove stickers, bumper stickers, adhesive tape, price tags…as well as any residue that may be left behind.

2. Essential Oil Diffuser…Mineral oil can be used as a carrier oil when using essential oils in your diffuser.

3. Knives…Before you leave your kitchen and move to other rooms in your house with your brand new bottle of mineral oil, take the time to use the mineral oil to clean and maintain your kitchen knives. This will create a barrier against any moisture in your home’s atmosphere and also help keep knives rust-free.

. Laundry…Mineral oil can be used as a pre-wash treatment for stained clothes. 

5. Leather…Mineral oil can be used to clean your leather surfaces, such as leather shoes. Before doing this, first rub a small amount of the oil onto a small area of the item to make sure that the oil doesn’t affect the color of your leather. Once you’re sure that the mineral oil will not damage the surface, rub the leather surface with the oil and wait for about thirty minutes before buffing the leather with a clean, soft cloth.

6. Linoleum…Mineral oil not only is great for wood and metal surfaces, but also for refreshing the color of your faded linoleum kitchen counters. Just let it be known that even though mineral oil does refresh the color of faded linoleum for about three weeks before fading, and that constant application of mineral oil to linoleum will make it break down…so only do this for special occasions such as holiday parties when you really need your kitchen to look extra-gorgeous.

7. Metal…In addition to wood surfaces around your home, mineral oil is also great for metal surfaces, such as your stainless steel kitchen appliances and preventing rust on metal furniture, such as your outdoor table and chairs.

8. Noises…Mineral oil can help reduce the noise around your house—such as noises from squeaking doors and creaky floors.

9. Stainless Steel…Mineral oil is great for shining your stainless-steel sinks, appliances and countertops. Pour a few drops of the oil onto a clean, soft cloth…and then wipe the surface until you have a smudge-free shine.

10. Wood…It kinda goes without saying that if mineral oil is good for your cutting boards, it’s good for other wood stuff around your house also—such as wooden handles of kitchen cooking utensils, salad bowls, and wood furniture.

In fact, mineral oil can be used instead of your normal store-bought furniture polish to help preserve and protect wooden furniture.

To make your own furniture polish, combine 2C mineral oil and the juice from a lemon.

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.

Sweet, Sweet Sunday

On the Chopping Block

The first step in sauteeing your food is to cut whatever you’re going to saute into uniform, bite-size pieces…

And unless you totally want to ruin both your countertops and your knives, it is very important to invest in a decent cutting board.

As you are shopping for your new cutting board, it is important to consider several things—such as size, maintenance, material, and cost.

Size…As far as size, I have found that it is smart to have at least two different sized cutting boards—a small one for cutting up fruit and small vegetables—such as strawberries, lemons, and limes…and a larger one for everything else.

As far as the larger cutting board, a general rule of thumb is to buy a board that measures 15″x20″. 

You should be able to lay your knife diagonally on your cutting board and have at least 1″-2″ on either side of the knife.

Buying such a large board is great for several reasons, including…

  • allowing you to better control the board as well as the knife
  • being more comfortable in general
  • giving you plenty of room to work safely and effectively
  • making cutting both easier and safer