Tools of the Trade
Hi again! Just wanted to tell you about some of the items I use in my kitchen. I would probably die if I didn’t have them, and I feel they would be important additions to your kitchen, too.
Everyone has a refrigerator, and for the most part, ours does typical fridge type things, just like yours. The butter goes into that compartment in the door. Eggs sit in their carton, on the middle shelf. Fruits and veggies in the crisper bins in the bottom. I try to keep the temp of the refrigerator around 35º to keep everything fresh, but since the fridge and the freezer run on the same thermostat, I find I’m either dealing with partialy melted ice cream or food in the refrigerator freezing. 🙁 I try to use whole grains in my cooking. These make themselves at home in the freezer on top. The freezer keeps the grains from turning rancid as well as bug free.
I also have a 12.8 cubic foot chest freezer that I store the true freezables in. All the leftovers and extras are immediately tossed in there. It reduces the amount of science experiments that often get discovered while cleaning out the fridge. ;oD
For cooking we have four choices (three in the winter): the electric stove, the microwave, the crock-pots, and the grills. Unless we’re baking we usually use either the crock-pot or the microwave as they both use less electricity than the stove. I am also looking into solar cooking, so you may find some how-tos and recipes here, soon.
During the warmer months the grills get used often. We have both a portable charcoal grill and a large grill made from an old metal barrel, and over the years that I have had them I have learned one important thing: if you can get it, opt for charcoal made from (preferably reclaimed) hardwood. Briquettes contain chemicals which are a bitch if you inhale them or get them in your eyes. The hardwood charcoal, when lit with a chimney starter, paper, or fat wood, is healthier and better for the environment. It also burns hotter than briquettes, which seals in juices and cooks faster. Granted, it also means it burns faster, but because you don’t have to wait for fumes to burn off this is a relatively moot point.
I own two crock-pots: a 6-quart round, and a 7-quart oval. Both are made by Rival, and are of the newer breed that run a bit hotter than their ancestors in order to prevent food poisoning. At least one meal a week gets cooked in those puppies.
My microwave is 1000 watts. When I first got it the cooking times for most foods were based on an 800 watt machine. Now I find I have to add time to compensate for the newer 1100 watts! While it does make cooking up something I forgot to take out of the freezer a breeze, I do have a few microwave recipes recipes to share.
My other tools include a food processor, a stand mixer, a scale, a bread machine, and a popcorn popper. I believe the food processor is the greatest invention ever. You should have seen me go through withdrawal when my old processor died! Thank goodness I got a new Cuisinart for the holidays. Without it I’d never be able to include onions in my recipes. Of course I shouldn’t be including them anyway since I’m allergic to them. If they’re cooked to death I’m fine with them, but I keep a bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol handy, just in case. It also makes mincing garlic a whole lot easier! I’m now saving up for some new shredding disks and a holder for them.
The mixer is a Kitchen Aid KSS45. It’s the only mixer you’re ever gonna need, in my opinion. It’s strong enough to knead dough for two loaves of bread, not that I make much bread with it because I never seems to have any luck making bread from scratch. If you need more power than that your last name must be Allen (grunt). I use the scale to weigh items, of course, but one of them happens to be flour. When you scoop up a cup of flour that cup can weigh as little as 3 ounces or as much as much as 6. For most recipes a 4 ounce cup is preferred. To be sure your recipes come out right we both highly recommend you get yourself a scale.
The bread machine is a Panasonic. It can make loaves up to 2/1/2 pounds! For that, and it’s quiet operation, I highly recommend it.
Last but not least is the popcorn popper. I’m sure you’re gonna ask why we have one when we also have the microwave. The answers are: microwaves suck when it comes to popping popcorn and the microwavable stuff is expensive. I can buy bulk bin popcorn for around 99¢ a pound, cheaper than most brands of regular popcorn and definitely cheaper than the microwave stuff. What with two kids, it has already earned its keep!
Well that’s the tour!