Easy Homemade Pickles

making-pickles

Pickling is the process by which food is preserved by either aerobic fermentation in brine or by immersing it in vinegar. The resultant food is called pickle. The pickling process affects the food¡¯s texture and flavor and it can preserve perishable foods for months. There are lots of flavors that you can accomplish in your kitchen with utensils that you already own. Once you tried a few times pickling becomes extremely easy.

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In pickling, firstly boil the jars and the lids. This is for sterilization. Then add the perishable fruits or vegetables you want to pickle into the jar, fill up with vinegar, brine and spices; proper sealing is important at this stage. You should make sure that the brine fully immerses your vegetables. For fruits and vegetables with a high natural water content, you can soak them in brine and then vinegar. This aids in reducing the water content which would dilute the vinegar. A tip worth noting, when pickling, air bubbles should be removed by tapping

Now we get to storage, it will take at least a month before brine converts the natural sugars in the vegetables to acids that are responsible for the preservation of foods and enhancing the food¡¯s flavors. During this time, the jars should be placed in a position that is away from direct sunlight. If the vegetables are discolored do not eat them

Traditionally made pickles ferment naturally in brine and contains many healthy probiotics. However, this is not the case with pickles fermented in vinegar.

The best toaster oven I’ve used so far

Last year, the toaster oven we received at our wedding shower died. I use my toaster oven constantly, so we definitely needed to replace it. Because we had about $70 on a Macy’s gift card, we headed there* and picked up a Cuisinart 6-Slice Toaster Oven Broiler.

I love this toaster oven, largely because of the size. My older toaster oven was big enough for four slices of bread, but the six-slice capacity of the new one means that I can fit an 8×8 baking dish in there. And that means I can make a casserole in my toaster oven. A 9-inch pie plate and a 10-inch pizza also fit.

I hardly ever use my real oven anymore, and I used to use it all the time. The best benefit of using a toaster oven is time (Find out here). Because it’s so much smaller, it doesn’t need to preheat and the food cooks faster. I also assume that, for the same reasons, it’s cheaper to use than my gas oven, though I haven’t compared the utility costs in any measurable way.

The biggest drawback to baking in the toaster oven is the low height. Anything puffy can easily burn, but I rarely make anything puffy anyway.

So if you’re looking to save some time and maybe some money, try using your toaster oven instead of your regular oven.

Shared from Chief Family Officer

Which toaster oven you should consider to buy? Read this article. (more…)

Espresso Maker With Great Value

espresso machine review
After a 2nd trip to Italy, I decided it was time to have really good cappuccino at home. After much research, I bought this machine 1 year ago. I decided to buy it at Bed Bath and Beyond just in case it broke and I had to return it. I couldn’t see packing it up and shipping it to Amazon or the dealer. (BB+B give a 5 yr warranty. use a 20%off coupon).

I love this machine! It’s the best espresso machine for home use. Get really good espresso beans. Follow the directions: warm the cup by running the hot water thru, and while you are at it, put the milk frother cylinder in the cup to warm up the tip of it. Then the cylinder will slide easily over the milk frother unit without tearing the seal. (I have already torn a chunk out of the rubber at the top of the milk frother.) Make sure you warm up the unit for at least 20 minutes. Yes, you have to experiment with the dual wall/single wall inserts, tamping pressure, grind fineness and grind amount. The thermometer gives you feedback, along with the attached instructions. Use them. The largest variable in getting great foam is to fill the metal cup less than half full of milk: half or greater results in poor/minimal foam. It does take 1-2 minutes to foam the milk which is a lot longer than in a coffee store. That not a problem for me, as I am the only coffee-drinker in the house.

This machine is a great value and makes an incredible espresso. I’m going from a superautomatic that wasn’t pulling strong shots but was convenient. The pressure gauge helps out making the perfect shot because it does take some practice getting the tamp and grind right. Once you get it right its very consistent. The espresso has a real crema and creates a full body espresso. I used the same beans in the super and this one and they tasted nothing like each other.

If you are looking for an espresso machine that does everything for you this is not it. Nor is it the machine that will allow you to control every last element of the process. But it’s a great middle ground for folks who are interested in being involved in the process but don’t want to spend over $1000 on an espresso machine.

The only thing that keeps this from being five stars is the noise. It is not a quiet machine. At start-up, while pulling the shot, and using the steam wand the machine makes a good bit of noise and vibrates the counter top (which rattles my toaster, but I have nowhere else to put it). As long as everyone is awake in the house it’s not a problem but if you have bedrooms close to your kitchen (or are living with two people in a studio apartment) the machine could potentially wake your slumbering partner/child. it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to surprise anyone with a cup of espresso in bed as the machine will announce your intentions.

Cook Whole Grains with the Best Rice Cooker

rice cooker meal
Whole grains fans, did you know that you can use a rice cooker to prepare all your favorite grains – and more? Beyond what the single-grain name may convey, the best rice cooker can be used to make everything from millet, soups, and polenta to porridge, pudding, and more. Their hands-free nature allows you to more easily cook and incorporate whole grains into any meal, while keeping your focus on the more detailed parts of your dish.

Rice cookers free up your stove and give you overall more cooking space; they are efficient and self-monitoring; their tight seals make for a cooler and steam-free kitchen; and, they even keep your grains warm until you’re ready to serve. There are several different makes, models, and sizes available, and there is a world of cookbooks out there solely dedicated to the art of creative rice cooker dishes. Here at the WGC, we think of them as the all-round, cook-every-grain-under-the-sun wonder machine that no whole grain lover should be without!

HOW IT WORKS
The rice cooker intuitively cooks until all the water has been completely absorbed by your grain, and then it switches itself over to its “warming” setting to keep your dish warm until you serve. Because of the machine’s tight seal, rice cookers lose less liquid to evaporation, so using a slightly smaller amount of water, rather than more, is always a better idea. WGC Culinary Advisor Robin Asbell suggests using the white rice setting for grains that take 25 minutes or less, like buckwheat or millet, and the brown rice setting for larger grains that require longer cooking. Experiment, and you’ll know what works for your favorites in no time.

BEYOND RICE
A freed-up chef is typically a more adventurous chef. With the added convenience of a rice cooker, many people feel more inclined to try their hands at new whole grains that they’ve never cooked before. It’s easy to explore the more exotic grains like Kamut®, amaranth and teff when their cook-time is entirely self-monitored. In general, when cooking different grains in a rice cooker, use the grain to liquid ratio you would normally use in a pot.

SHORTEN YOUR KITCHEN TIME
Some hearty grains like wheat berries, spelt, and Kamut® can take up to 75 minutes to cook. That’s a lot of time to keep an eye on a pot! Rice cookers, with their own automatic shut-off, simply stop the cooking process and switch to “warm” when they’re done. You never have to worry about losing track, and it’s safe to leave the kitchen and do other things.

PUT IT ALL IN ONE POT
Some rice cooker models come with an added basket for steaming vegetables at the same time as your grain. What an easy way to incorporate more veggies into your meals! Are you making whole wheat cous cous and a Mediterranean vegetable medley tonight? Just put the cous cous in and the vegetables on top, and you will have a complete meal ready in no time.

FOR BUSY MORNINGS
They say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but cook-time is limited in the bustle of a workweek morning. What if you could cook up warm bowls of nutrient-dense, homemade oatmeal for the whole house, worry-free, while getting ready for your day? Using a rice cooker, you can literally plug in breakfast and walk away without having to monitor your meal. Just add in your favorite flavorings, such as cinnamon, walnuts, raisins or apple slices, and go about your morning regime. By the time you’ve finished all your sunup tasks, your oats will be done too, and you’ll have a yummy breakfast-from-scratch, warmed and waiting for you.

More resources:

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/recipes/cooking-grains-with-your-rice-cooker

Organize the Storage for Pots and Pans

cookware

by Sandy

Kitchen cupboard organizing can be tricky. Usually we find ourselves with too many pots and pans and not enough storage for them. There are many solutions. If you have the space and nice enough looking pans you can get a pot hanger and hang them for some kitchen decor.
Iíll show you what I did to reorganize my pots and pans.

I use the pan protectors in between my pans to try and protect them. I have my George Foreman Grill and crock pot in the back. I wanted to find a solution for storing our large pancake griddle. Right now I am keeping it in the bottom drawer of the washing machine! I know.. crazy huh?

Step 1: Clear everything out and clean the shelves
Step 2: Sort
What do you need? Look at that item and ask yourself:
1) Have you used it in the last year? Do you like it?
2) Is the surface of the pan intact (teflon shouldn’t be scratched or peeling)
3) Do all the lids fit pans? Do you have any old lids or damaged lids you don’t use, but have kept?
If there are pots and pans that are in good shape, but you don’t use them or like them, donate them. Anything else may be able to be recycled.

Step 3: Put in organizing items if you have them.
I had 2 lid organizers that mounted to the inside cabinets from my old house. I never used them because I thought we were moving and didn’t want to lose them.
I also had a white white wire rack that I had used at some point. I got those 3 things and my handy dandy 3M Command Strips (so love these now!) and went to work.
I used the Command Hooks to mount the lid organizers to the inside of each door.
I did find that some of the lids did not work well in this. The two larger lids for my orange pots and pans did not both fit. They kept falling forward. I was able to use one of the lids. The other one I put on the pan it went with.

See how it ends up here.

A Great Kitchen Knives for Your Food Preparation

A great knife – or an entire set of great knives – can make your kitchen prep a whole lot easier, and may even make cooking fun again. The best knives are well-balanced, sharp, maintain their edge for a long time, and can be honed and sharpened easily. We found the top knives for any kitchen task, from individual specialty knives, to entire sets that will last a lifetime.

Bolsters aren’t for everyone. These metal cuffs can help balance knives with a heavy blade—such as the Wusthof Ikon—where you want more weight in the handle. A full bolster extends to the heel of the blade, while a half bolster doesn’t. For lighter knives like gyutos, a bolster isn’t necessary. Chad Ward said, I happen to like my knives blade-heavy, so a bolstered knife that shifts too much weight behind my fingers feels awkward and out of control. It’s all a matter of feel and preference.” Full bolsters, in particular, can even make sharpening more difficult, because eventually you’ll need to grind down the bolster to sharpen the blade.

chopping-basil-on

Stamped blades, as the name suggests, are stamped out of a larger sheet of metal before further refinement and sharpening. The quality of these knives varies widely, from the flimsy knives found at grocery stores to our top pick and runner-up. Knife makers like MAC and Tojiro heat-treat their blades to make them just as strong as forged steel. In an Edge in the Kitchen, Chad Ward says, There is some great steel out there now, better than anything ever before used for kitchen knives. It can be drop-forged or it can be laser-cut out of sheets. With proper heat treatment, the method of shaping the blade has more to do with manufacturing processes and knife styles than anything else.” He calls these heat-treated stamped blades machined” to differentiate them from regular stamped knives. Cook’s Illustrated also points this out in their chef’s knife review.

With fibrous carrots, the MAC always made clean cuts, unlike the Victorinox, which cut part way, then cracked the rest of the carrot like an ax splitting wood. The cut edges of basil stayed mostly green with very little oxidation, meaning the MAC’s razor-sharp edge broke very few of the herb’s cells. All the budget knives turned basil black within 5 minutes. To be honest, all the Japanese knives did a superb job with the basil test, because they’re sharper and thinner. The drop-forged German knives fell somewhere in between, only causing a moderate amount of bruising and oxidation to the basil.

Article from Esquire (http://www.esquire.com/food-drink/food/a8078/best-kitchen-knives-under-100)

“I’ve used Wusthof’s standard chef’s knife before, and liked it. The quality is high, the finish precise if not artful, and the design refined by years of evolution. But the wide chef’s knife I really liked. It has the same high quality and solid finish, but the blade is both considerably thicker — nearly 1/4 inch at the spine, as opposed to less than 1/8 for the standard — and considerably broader. That breadth has benefits: more clearance for your knuckles; a nice big surface to scoop prepped food from the cutting board to the pan; and a long taper that renders the cutting edge of the blade as thin as that of a regular chef’s knife, despite the much thicker spine.”

Our testers also universally liked the MAC’s weight. At 6.6 ounces, it’s lighter than a German drop-forged knife, but heavier and sturdier-feeling than many Japanese knives. Part of that, again, is due to the thickness of its spine. At the thickest part the Togiharu comes in at0754 inch, the Tojiro DP at0817 inch, and Global G-20754 inch. The MAC’s relatively thicker0976-inch spine gives the knife some heft and it doesn’t feel as delicate when cutting through tough vegetables like butternut squash, but it still has a smooth slicing feel of a thin blade.

The MAC was the only knife we tested with dimples on both sides of the blade to reduce food sticking to the knife. We don’t think this is the MAC’s biggest selling point, as it was only mildly effective, but it did come in handy when cutting butternut squash. Slices stuck to the blades of every knife we tested, but removing them from the MAC’s was much easier. By comparison, slices suctioned to the Messermeister Meridian Elite’s blade and it took some muscle to remove them, which made me feel uncomfortable about possibly cutting myself.

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This blog is an extension of my personality.
- Jane Branson