Archive for the ‘Kitchen Organization’ Category

How to choose a cookbook that you will use (or reading and understanding recipes)

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Do you have a library of cookbooks and yet feel that you need more?  Maybe this will help explain why you feel that way.  Before you buy another cookbook, here’s a little test to help you determine which books will really be useful to you once you get them home.  And you can do this right in the bookstore.

Take a book that looks interesting to you and single out one recipe.  Read that one recipe all the way through.  Then, look at the list of ingredients.  Are most of the ingredients familiar to you or will you have to spend alot of money purchasing everything the recipe calls for?

If reading the recipe feels awkward to you in any way – maybe calling for ingredients that are  way unfamiliar or perhaps if it’s just hard to understand and feels like another language and disjointed, put the book down.  Chances are it’ll be a dust collector when it reaches your home.

If you make it through the first read go back and read the recipe a second time. This time, when you’re reading try to visualize the steps involved.  Does the recipe make sense to you? Does it seem logical in what it tells you to do?

If you have a hard time following what they’re asking you to do, watch out.  That’s a yellow flag.   A recipe book is like a novel.  There will be authors we like and others we don’t care for.  So if you’re having a tough time understanding what it is you’re supposed to do, look for another book with a different format.  There is certainly plenty to choose from.

If you go through all these steps and you’re still excited about a book, buy it and add it to your collection of frequently used cookbooks.

Making your kitchen more user friendly

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Because I love to spend time in the kitchen, I’m always shocked when I hear some people say that the kitchen is a place they absolutely despise.  It’s hard for me to understand and I always have to know why.  I have learned that there is a strong correlation between how much a person likes to cook and how well their kitchen is organized.

If you might suffer from this there is hope.  Take a look at what others are doing with their kitchens.  You can learn alot from the experience.  When I’m working in someone else’s kitchen I like to peek in the cabinets and drawers and guess where things are kept.  It’s a bit annoying to my friends, but I’ll go around predicting which drawer has (or feels like it should have) the silverware and which cupboard holds the dishes.  It’s fun to see where people stash their spices.  Sometimes things feel so out of order to me that I wonder if people think about the placement of all these items or if it just happens haphazardly.  (Of course I do all of this very discreetly).

Everyone’s cooking style differs and how you organize yourself depends on your style of cooking.  But regardless of your cooking style you must develop a logical system; a system whose order is efficient and where some natural flow exists.

I’ve found that sometimes it takes switching things around a few times to find the most comfortable and efficient cooking set-up.  It’s just like rearranging furniture.  When you move into a new home, you try it one way and see if it feels right.  We’re continually changing things around as our tastes and lifestyle changes.  A kitchen is no different.

It’s a dynamic area!  Make adjustments in the kitchen as your needs changes.  Take the time to experiment with different set-ups.  You may find that you have a greater desire to be in the kitchen if it suits your style of cooking and living.

Freezing casseroles without tying up a pan

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

It’s always a good idea to have some casseroles and meals in the freezer.  They’ll save you all kinds of time and if you have company dropping in for the holidays it’s just smart to have a few things made ahead.  But when doing so that usually means committing a pan to the food until it gets used and most of us don’t have an endless supply of pans that we can have lying around in the freezer.  So here’s a clever way of getting around that. 

9x13

Let’s say you are making a lasagne.  Take your 9×13 pan…

lined-with-foil

and line it with heavy duty foil.  It is important to use a heavy foil or at very least use two thicknesses of lighter weight.

lasagne-in-apn

Assemble your lasagne in the foil (or whatever ingredients you are using for you dish).  At this point you can freeze the casserole unbaked or you can go ahead and bake it.  Either way before or after baking, take the food to the freezer and let it set up over night. 

inverted

The next morning, take it out of the freezer, invert in onto the counter, wrap it carefully with more foil or plastic wrap…

label1

label it and send it to the freezer without the pan.  You have a ready meal and you still have your pan for other uses.  When you are ready to use the food item simply set it back into the pan for warming.  This is a great technique for all kinds of dishes, not just lasagne.

How to keep your cutting board from traveling on the counter

Friday, March 26th, 2010

cutting board

I’m sure most everyone has had the chance to catch a glimpse of the different programs on the  food channel. It’s especially fun to watch chefs cut vegetables at lightning speed. They always appear so confident and the agility between the hand and knife is equally impressive.  What you don’t see is what they place underneath the cutting board, before the show, that makes the process a whole lot safer.

There should always be a wet rag between the board and your counter. They taught us that at Cordon Bleu and all professional cooks take the same precaution.  You take a dishrag or a small hand towel, run it under water, ring it out and lay it out it underneath the board. Once the board is set on top of it, it won’t move.  Most of the time we just set the board directly on the counter and of course the second we begin cutting – the board starts to slide.  That can be dangerous. Putting a wet rag between the counter and the board holds the board in place by creating an immobile cutting surface and one that’s much safer to cut on.

Now, placing a rag under the board is not a guarantee that all your cutting troubles will end. You also need a good, sharp knife. This should be a chef’s knife and it should be used correctly. Next time you’re catching a cooking program, watch the chef’s fingers carefully. They use a technique where they tuck their fingertips back and use their knuckle as a guide.  It’s something you should try.  It takes a little practice but it is well worth the effort.

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