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My obsession with china

Fascinating perspective. As one who has watched a few people go through divorces, it seems like something as personal as china used everyday would be the last thing anyone would want to take away - a daily serving of divorce, yuk.

I've gone through different china patterns over the years and return continually to solid white plus a few other favorite solid colors (a fresh green and a brown, currently, with a few black asian pieces for sushi and stir fry nights. And a few "sammeltassen" leftover from from my grandmothers' collection and Bramblylhedge that is our tradition for birthdays, Valentines, Easter and afternoon tea.

The stuff I was attracted to when I was engaged/young married is so different from my taste now. I'm glad we didn't put china down in our registry, opting instead for some plain white stuff that is still in great condition 25 years later. (DH and I couldn't agree on a pattern, so we opted for plain white). It would have been a major guilt trip to let go of such expensive china gifts, even if I no longer liked them much.

May 02, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Why does organic milk taste "richer" than non-organic milk?

I think it is because of what you are NOT tasting. People who raise cows for organic milk avoid drugs and hormones, and the animals are more likely to get good sunshine and good grass and less grain. Non-organically raised cows are raised as volume milkers, not as quality milkers.

Once you find a farmer that you can get raw milk from, you'll barely be able to look at the grocery stuff anymore!

May 01, 2011
cookware junkie in General Topics

Why must all restaurant entrees have meat in them?

We live in a meat-eating culture. In fact, it is hard to find any culture from any point in history that does not incorporate at least a little bit of animal food into its food culture.

I do eat meat, but I don't necessarily insist on a meaty or very meaty meal at home or out. Sometimes when we go out, I just enjoy the hot, fresh bread and a seafood bisque, which has very little seafood in it when all is said and done.

I don't usually like to eat meat at restaurants because I expect the animal has been raised on drugs and grains and in less-than-healthy circumstances (both for the animal and the environment). So, while I occasionally enjoy steak or fajitas or lamb at restaurants, I prefer to eat foods from farmers and ranchers whose practices I agree with, and I am fortunate in being able to buy directly from people who are very good stewards of their land and their animals. When it comes to more vegetarian fare, I've never had a lentil soup/stew anywhere that I like as well as my own. I generally love salads that others make because I'm not doing all the prep work! Ditto when it comes to lasagne, and I appreciate a vegetarian lasagna just as much as one with meat in it.

May 01, 2011
cookware junkie in General Topics

Is Jamie Oliver Right or Wrong About Sugary Milk in Schools?

Jamie is right. The sugar in the milk will hurt a lot more than the milk will help. If your child won't drink milk and you know there are no lactose intolerance or allergy issues, why not just use a form of dairy that is more attractive, like cottage cheese? Kids can learn to like sweeteners like stevia just fine...and if you blend cottage cheese, stevia and a little lemon, it is pretty much like cheesecake filling.

May 01, 2011
cookware junkie in Features

Countertop Question

Yes, most things can be fixed....at a price. I guess it just hasn't been in their budget yet.
Their joints are on an angled, elevated breakfast bar, so at least is isn't in the prep area.

It will be interesting to see if your prediction holds true when it comes to the timelessness of stone. A friend has shiny stone floors in her entry, which definitely didn't look timeless with its oh-so-subtle inset shape of Texas. Also, she didn't care for the shininess (hmm...nothing a good stone fabricator couldn't fix?). Anyway, my experience of shopping for my first home (being related to a realtor at the time meant that I got to view no fewer than 42 homes, lol) showed me that all the timelessness in the world can't make up for gosh-awful design choices...and that some things that may be sold as "timeless" may not actually be considered as such at resale.

Apr 19, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

We live in in a really humid area that has nice weather most of the year...if I don't want cockroaches and ants exploring my kitchen, I need to keep my kitchen counters clean. I chose white counters so that a) light would be reflected into a somewhat dark area and b) so I would know if the counters were clean or not! and c) yeah, I like white.

Sorry for your dilemma, and hoping that you live in a less pest-ridden zone than I do.

Apr 19, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

Great stuff. Handsome, non-toxic, inert, naturally resistant to bacteria, only needs to be cleaned with warm soapy water, oiling can be done for aesthetic purposes, but isn't really needed at all...what's not to like?

Here are some links to pix I enjoyed as a surfed....

http://chicagosoapstone.com/

http://www.hummingbirdwoodworks.com/HBV%20-%20soapstone%20-%20soapstone%20photos.htm

http://www.greenmountainsoapstone.com/homeowner/ideaCenter.php

http://teresinasoapstone.com/products...

Apr 17, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

I noticed that the granite joints are separating at the home of a friend. I'm not sure if it is a case of the home settling (it was a new build), shoddy installation, or both.

I put a little "note to self" in the back of my brain to avoid joints if I ever use stone counters.

As for a cracked island - sounds like a story is in there somewhere...

Apr 17, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

What on earth are you doing on your counters??????????

Corian isn't a substitute for a cutting board or trivet.

Apr 17, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

I like the idea of soapstone, and I'd like it even more if it didn't need chemical sealants. Does it?

Apr 17, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

Isn't that the truth? It is almost ho-hum, lol. And you're right, some corian/quartz surfaces do look so much like stone that it is hard to tell the difference without a closer look. It takes a discerning buyer to select the ones that look the most stone-like, but it is certainly possible.

Apr 17, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

Fascinating. Like the soy people did that faux research using hydrogenated coconut oil to scare us away from healthy fats, when soy oil is incredibly bad for your heart, and soy - unless it is properly fermented - is bad for digestion, and endocrine balance, etc.

Follow the money.

Apr 17, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Talk to me about Bison...

Eating low fat and low cholesterol may have the opposite effect on your husband's heart health than what your doctor may have led you to believe.

Other doctors have been up to date on this for years, I don't know why it is taking so long for the word to go around.

Bison is awesome. So is grass fed/grass finished beef. It is more about what the animal is fed, when it comes to heart health, too. It makes the fatty acid profile more similar to salmon. Grain-fed beef, while admittedly lusciously marbled, is high in the omega 6 fats that we are already eating in an imbalanced, heart-damaging ratios.

For heart health, and endocrine health, and many other health benefits, look at Michael Aziz's book, "The Perfect 10 Diet." He's not the only one with a book on this topic, just the one that came to mind first. You'll also find "Nourishing Traditions" a fascinating look into a lot of research snippets debunking the modern low-fat madness. It is by Sally Fallon, and by Dr. Mary Enig (a scientist in the area of fats).

Grass fed Bison recipes....
http://www.bisonbasics.com/recipes/re...

Apr 16, 2011
cookware junkie in Home Cooking

i need pots and pans

I hate, hate, hate the Walmart Tramontina I bought (for a rental prop we later sold, so the cookware came back to me).....it gives off a toxic smell, and that is after being used and washed many times. I'm glad other people have had good experiences, but let me say that the quality must not be consistent between manufacturing runs. And it is stainless, not coated. My higher quality waterless cookware, from my mom, still looks great and works great after 40 years....so there is something to be said for investing in quality pieces.

I'm looking forward to hearing reviews of Ceramcor's Xtrema that Debra Lynn Dadd recommends. It is supposedly a fairly low-stick cooking surface. Reviews, anyone?

In any case, I suggest you not get a "set." I don't love the toxic nature of nonstick cookware, but I keep a nonstick "egg pan" for my MIL's visits. You'll want to think about what you like to cook and how you like to cook and go from there. If it is all about convenience and you want nonstick, just get one or two of those while you figure out what you want, and add as you go.

I use a mix of stainless and enameled cast iron (Staub) for stovetop. There is an annoying long thread on whether a enameled pot like Staub can be "seasoned" to a low-stick surface, but my personal experience is that it can and does behave like a low-stick surface, and is easy-peasy to soak things so that they wipe off in a jiff. My stainless is more trouble to clean than my Staub. If you've never cooked with heavy cookware, though, the weight of Staub or Le Creuset could be a surprise.

Apr 16, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Mixers?

If you love baking, you'll probably enjoy the Pleasant Hills Grain site, where they have done detailed research on all sorts of baking-related and food stuff. I have friends that can't live without their Bosch Universals, so here's the link to PHG's Bosch page....

http://www.pleasanthillgrain.com/Bosc...

And then just youtube it for any products that you want a demo of, and you'll probably find one or more....

Apr 16, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Tabletop wok burner?

Much better prices on iwatani are available....

http://www.restaurantsource.com/concession-equipment/countertop-cooking-equipment/butane-stoves/ProdList.aspx?manufacturer=iwatani-cooking-and-warming-equipment

Great prices on either their 10K or 15K BTU stoves. They also carry the Iwatani canisters by the case of 12, for 1.79/canister.

Eleanor Hoh, "The Wok Star" likes/sells (for a lot more) the smaller stove. She sells one that looks exactly like the 10K unit for $65, here:

http://www.eleanorhoh.com/Shopping-Stove.html
I enjoyed her website and her pitch for EZ wok cooking instructional videos...except I don't like the fact that you have to purchase a big package to get the dvd's. Still, very interesting perspective on wok cooking, woks, wok heat sources, etc. The upshot of all that is that, yes, people appear to putting out yummy food on these little butane stoves with high BTU's.

Wasserstroms has one that looks identical to those two, but has a few more numbers at the end of the model number, and say it is a 12K BTU...

http://www.wasserstrom.com/restaurant-supplies-equipment/Product_900463
I've seen the canisters at wasserstroms in the past, but if it is available, they aren't making it easy to find today. I recall them having individual canisters for something like $2.46.

At the Iwatani site, there is just one that looks like either of these 10 or 12K units, and the model number is identical, and Iwatani says it is 12K:

http://www.iwatani.com/Iwatani_Cookin...
You can download the pdf spec pages on each of the three stoves they make, and on their canisters.

Anyway, maybe it operates like a 10K, but Eleanor Hoh is building her Wok Instruction empire by advocating the use of the 10-12K Iwatani unit. Or maybe it is technically 12K but cooks like a 10K. In any case, I did some legwork. Or finger work. I like my round-bottomed wok, and it is a little bit fussy on my flattish gas grates and so I did some research on my options and found Eleanor Hoh, Restaurant Source and Wasserstroms - EH's site and free videos are fun, and for best prices look elsewhere on stoves. My buying decision will be based on....emptying more cabinet space, lol.

Apr 16, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Portable Gas Burner

You might enjoy seeing one of these iwatani's in action - the guy doing this video is Eleanor Hoh's husband, and you can see him using the butane stove right on his own stove top, since they do most of their meals on this stove, inside.

http://www.youtube.com/user/eleanorho...

(It is a short, kinda fun, instructional "care and feeding" a cast iron wok video ).

Eleanor Hoh sells a dvd package that comes with her 14" cast iron wok and a few accessories, and sells the stove for 65ish dollars. You can find the same stove for less as Wasserstroms and other Restaurant supply houses, and similar woks at The Wok Shop. Apparently the butane canisters last a really long time because it only takes a few short minutes to cook food in a wok. Again, see Restaurant Supply places for the best prices on canisters - some sell them individually (but you need to order something else at the same time) and others are solve by the case for an even less expensive per canister price. I looked at a lot of different butane stoves, and this Iwatani seems like the best one, for a number of reasons. There is a higher BTU version available, too, from the same maker, but Eleanor Hoh is the "Wok Star" and she likes this one, apparently. You can google her up if you like.

Apr 16, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Countertop Question

I think you are wise to beware of marble for something that gets as much use as a kitchen counter top. Enjoying a kitchen requires enough clean-up work as it is!

Before going with granite, please take your Geiger counter to make sure it isn't emitting high levels of radioactivity. Not a joke. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/24/gar...
I wouldn't install any granite I didn't check first. You don't have to avoid granite, just make sure you don't get a bad slab.

There is also something lovely about mixing surfaces in a kitchen - and just putting the marble in key places, like where you knead doughs, for example. Or as a back splash or decorative accent.

It is hard to match the practicality of Corian-type surfaces. Ours looks as good today as when it was installed over 10 years ago - a periodic scuffing are all it takes....sometimes I use a touch of bleach instead of scrubbing, but I'm not sure that the bleaching is ok with all colors of corian, though! I just happen to love classic white, very conveniently it seems.

Only one thing gives me pause before recommending Corian and its sisters for a new installation: I have recently discovered that Corian doesn't actually recycle well.

Thank goodness I like my timeless, shaker-style cabinets. When I have the urge to redecorate, I'll confine myself to paint and maybe back-splash work.

Apr 16, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Help me choose a Dutch Oven

Congrats on your decisions - cookware junkie though I may be, I like to be a good steward of my resources by doing my research before purchasing, just like you. After years of using my small black matte enamel Staub cocotte, I can truthfully say that it is the most-used pot in my kitchen, and the best-looking.

One decision-making guideline I like to use - especially when making big purchases where the price difference might be large between equally good choices: Does it make me smile? Sometimes it is worth it to get the pot with just the right color or whimsical handle, dark interior or light interior, the right feel to the handle(s), the shape that looks most attractive to you, or whatever that defining element may be that just makes you feel great every time you handle it.

And good luck with the toaster hunt. I don't need a toaster but wish I'd done a little more due diligence on the one we have now.....

Apr 06, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Le Creuset vs. Staub

I guess it depends on how you cook. I use my Staub cocotte for soups, stews, curries, veggie sides, on-stove dishes where I cook the rice into the meat and sauce I just made, and I can tuck it into the oven to cook or just to stay warm, too. I even boil pasta in it, and yes, I've scrambled eggs in it when the egg pan is somewhere under dirty dishes in the sink, lol. While I can totally appreciate the value/beauty of red tomatoes, orange and yellow bell peppers or green asparagus in a light colored pan, most of the things I make don't require a light colored pan for success - Even in a dark pan, I can tell when an onion has sweated, and when it has carmelized, or when a roux has browned, etc., just fine. The practical benefits of Staub are: easier cleanup than smoother enamel surfaces and less proof of careless cooking (noticeable discoloration). Aesthetically, I think it is handsome to serve from, with its Lodge-like appearance (I like the matte black inside and out) and I sometimes store it in the fridge until the next meal. I don't care for the shiny black exterior of black LC.

Apr 04, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Le Creuset vs. Staub

My experience with enameled cookware is that food sticks to it to some degree, as with stainless steel, only Staub is similar to raw cast iron as its surface has crevices. Since food sticks to it, it isn't hard to believe that heated oils can stick to it, as long as they are not scrubbed out with a lot of detergent. So I rarely use much, if any, soap. The result is that it sticks less. Occasionally, I've left the pot unattended and burned something to the bottom, and soaked it well with soapy detergent so I could wipe out the debris without any harsh scrubbing. After doing that, it tends to stick more, until it has had a few more rounds of sauteeing and low-soap cleaning. My understanding is not so much that there are pores that access the raw cast iron (because rust is not an issue when using these pots), but rather that the textured surface provides a settling-in place for oils to live in and cling to , and provide a nice, low-stick surface.

Here is what Staub USA says about their matte enamel finish:

Enameled Cast Iron

All Staub products are enameled on the inside and out, including the Black Matte finish. Our special black matte enamel interior DOES NOT require seasoning and will not react to acidic foods. Because of the technically advanced properties of this interior, the more you use your Staub product, the better it will perform. The oils used and created when cooking will penetrate the pores of the matte enamel and create a natural, smooth non-stick surface.

Happy Cooking!

Apr 04, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Hey YOU, cookware companies!

I can see why you like the size of the wok - chinese woks are much wider. There is such a cuteness to the more vertical shape of the Indian wok. We are partial to a good Naan bread and love Indian creamed spinach dishes especially. I've only scratched the surface of Indian cooking with curries over rice and the faux Indian Chicken Tikka Masala - but how yummy! I usually make these Indian creations in my little Staub pot.

I'm imagining the big woks you mentioned - it reminds me of the gianormous paella pots at an outdoors-on-the-beach restaurant in Nerja, Spain. It was like a wading pool, almost. I coveted a proper paella pot for months after that trip, lol!!

Apr 01, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Where did all the Karahi/Indian Woks go?

Looky, Looky, a carbon steel Karahi!

http://www.theasiancookshop.co.uk/kar...

Mar 30, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Hey YOU, cookware companies!

I think it is so cool that you cook in a Karahi Indian wok! Do you do a lot of Indian cuisine?
I practically lived on stir-fry from my carbon steel wok during part of my college years, and picked up another one at Walmart recently. In my search for more interesting wok experiences I found Eleanor Hoh's site ....
http://www.eleanorhoh.com/Home.html
which is a very fun read, and has some fun videos. I am so tempted to get her stuff just for her dvd instruction, to see if it is "all that." But you can get her fabled, round-bottomed cast iron wok (or one that is one inch bigger or one inch smaller than hers) at
http://www.wokshop.com/HTML/products/woks/wok-cast-iron.html
for Walmart-type prices, and her 10-12K BTU butane stove for half of what she charges at
http://www.wasserstrom.com/restaurant-supplies-equipment/Product_900463
and you can buy the fuel canisters individually for 2.46 as of this writing.
the best price on the fuel canisters that I found was at:
http://www.restaurantsource.com/iwata...
If you get a case of 12, the price per can is only 1.79....and they also carry the stove at a very similar price as Wasserstroms.

Anyway, I thought there was a certain cool mystique to the cast iron wok, and really enjoyed all the videos at Eleanor Hoh's site, and thought other people might like them, too.

Mar 30, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Le Creuset vs. Staub

I agree - only my preference is for the dark interior of Staub! Isn't it interesting how the color of cookware can affect how much we enjoy our cooking experience? I tipped toward Staub because it was both enameled AND capable of developing a seasoned surface (since the enamel is on a bumpy surface) AND had the spikes. But on days when I crave a different color in my kitchen, the LC stuff looks so cheerful and inviting, too.

Mar 30, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

Best enameled cast iron cookware?

I've only used Staub, and I picked it because I loved the matte black finish inside and out. I got one of the small scaled "cocottes" aka dutch ovens, so it isn't too heavy, just right for making a meal for two or three people. It has survived being forgotten on the burner several times, lol, and still looks and works great...cleans up easily, and because the matte black is really enamel I can just soak it if something cooks onto the surface (I'm such an absent-minded professor in the kitchen...).
I use it more than any other pot in the kitchen. I added a square grill pan to my collection, but in retrospect I feel it is a bit too heavy and awkwardly shaped compared to the compactly designed cocotte.

When it comes to colors, if I did get colored enamel for the kitchen, I like Staub colors the most and have done so for the last few years, with the possible exception of that fresh green LC. LC seems to have mostly cheerful, Easter Egg colors these days, don't they? Staub's colors are deeper and more jewel-toned, for the most part.

Mar 29, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware

What to do with Saladmaster cookware?

Hey, if you didn't pay for it, just enjoy it. SM's are good for cooking well on low temps, so just braise away in it. Brown the meat, maybe the onions, put in whatever else you want with a minimum of liquid, put the top on and wait for the vapo valve to tell you it is ready to turn the heat down. And let 'er cook. The best looking old piece of cookware that I have is a waterless pot and lid that my mom got via Amway, way back in the 60's or 70's - I've used it a lot and it looks newer than everthing else. SM's are similar, probably made by the same company. Their distinction is their vapo valve that keeps foods cooking around 180 F, and in later models, the type of stainless steel that they use. Their 316 SS is definitely less reactive than their 304 SS models per my dh who uses those metals in his (non-cookware) industry, and their latest is a titanium mix that is supposed to be super non-reactive because of the molybdenum. I'm not sure what I think about titanium in cookware just yet, though....

Mar 29, 2011
cookware junkie in Cookware