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Highly rated Steak Knives

The Kiwis hold their edge very well. We use our stash of 4-inchers in prep regularly as well as using them as steak knives, and even with the workout they get, they remain very sharp. I habitually hone a knife before use, so I'm sure that helps. A great sharp knife for the price.

Dec 13, 2014
cayjohan in Cookware

Super Easy Few Ingredient Holiday Cookies and Candy

Super easy "cheater" truffles: melt a 12 oz. bag of chocolate chips, then blend in a container of canned chocolate frosting and the extract of your choice (we're partial to orange flavor around here) to taste. Cool until firm enough to roll into 1" balls, then roll in cocoa powder, ground nuts or powdered sugar; whatever you feel like with the extract you use. Low-rent? Maybe...but they disappear rapidly.

Dec 13, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking

What colour is your toaster, kettle, blender....,

I like your "shock the heck out of them" attitude, Raffles! Eclecticism rules in our kitchen as well! I love the cacophony of color (once one commits to chartreuse and persimmon and art on the ceiling, it's hard not to, y'know?) My reasoning for using neutral utilitarian appliances is that most utilitarian (small) appliances come in colors that I (just me, being color-picky) find one-note: the same blue, the same red, the same yellow...you get the picture - manufacturing constraints, I guess. We have so much color around here that the blacks and silvers of the basics just rest comfortably against the vibrancy of other things. When my coffeemaker dies, I would love something in vibrant pumpkin orange. Not going to happen, sadly, as my first concern is utility. But I wish it would. Oh, to be able to mix colors for appliances the way we can paint for the walls: I'd have a blast!

Added thought: I wonder why the various rich shades of brown are not represented in kitchen appliances? I am old enough to remember with fondness the coppertone appliances in my aunts' kitchens. With small appliances, brown plastic always seems to be the same shade of Hershey's dark chocolate brown (likely manufacturing issues), and I never see any brownish enameled appliances. I find that brown relates to bright colors in a friendlier way than black or silver does, and would choose a brown durable appliance if available at an affordable price point.

Dec 11, 2014
cayjohan in Cookware

What colour is your toaster, kettle, blender....,

My appliances are pretty neutral: stainless steel or "stainless-steel-like" for the range and refrigerator and microwave, white KA, black coffeemaker...exception is a bright red toaster oven. Much of the rest of the kitchen furnishing is old dark wood of varying species. Our color comes from the walls: we have a paint scheme of mostly deep persimmon, chartreuse, and a pale robin's egg blue, as well as a LOT of art in the kitchen and colorful cookware (enameled steel and enameled cast iron).Because of the deep brown neutrals and the vivid wall and cookware colors, I largely do not pay attention to the colors of most appliances -- they are punctuation points of utility...the coolness of the "steely" surfaces play well against other hues, and "neutral" appliances are much easier to find and afford.

I'll out myself as being extremely sensitive to color, as it has been a large part of my professional life. If a pot/appliance/ what-have-ya has a color that grates on me and I can get the same performance from a "neutral?" No to the color, for the most part. (I sometimes fall in love over color, which is irrational, but thankfully it doesn't happen too often: hello, old periwinkle blue enameled stockpot that burns everything if not watched like a hawk watches but is used anyway because you are beautiful.)

Two more exceptions to my mainly-neutral appliance thang: I had a T-Fal coffee maker in the 90s that was a luscious French blue color. Mediocre device, but a beautiful color -- I miss it a bit. Currently I have an immersion blender that, while I like its performance, I dislike the bright golf-green color (thankfully it lives in a closed cupboard).

So, for me? Appliances largely neutral, but lots of color (of my particular choice) elsewhere in the kitchen. Caveat: if I could afford a vividly colored AGA cooker or a bright turquoise refrigerator? I'd do it.

Dec 11, 2014
cayjohan in Cookware

Thanks Mom

First, my sincere condolences for your loss. I understand.

Your salute to your Mom by making the dishes that bring people in your family together is priceless.

Our Thanksgiving dinner included a long Skype talk with our daughter, who is having an expat year and missing holiday meals. Her cooking of holiday favorites for her adopted community was a topic that led into both kids (one here, one elsewhere) into launching a discussion of how happy they both are that their Mom (that'd be me, still on this planet) taught them to cook and share fellowship. I cannot vouch for some of the conversation, as I had to leave the room because of emotion. The gist of the conversation was: "Thanks, Mom."

Your Mom is there every time you cook a dish from your collective memory with her; treasure the recollections. It's a nice tribute. And good fellowship for your family. Continue the tradition.

Peace to you and yours.

Dec 11, 2014
cayjohan in Not About Food

Good pocketknife for breads, cheeses, salami etc.

Check out the Leatherman line as well, if you are looking at Swiss Army. Sturdy tools; although many are likely larger than you want to be carrying around in your pocket on a work day, there are many configurations on the smaller side. My kids have spent the past couple of years traveling and cooking their ways through Europe and Central America, and the Leatherman was a primary tool for food prep.

Dec 11, 2014
cayjohan in Cookware

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - December 2014

Thanks, Nu and lingua. The Spanish (I did not get the organic) was perfectly *fine* for both general use and a vinaigrette. But, most anything would have been a step up from the recent "Premium" experiences I have had. I cannot recall the site, but I noticed that the "premium" was rated as "past its prime" somewhere, and I would concur, despite not being an OO maven on storage times and the like (my maven-ness extends to terms like "blech" or "mmmm") Looking forward to trying the Kalamata and California Estate. If I'm capitulating to spout-cleaning, I might as well! ;-)

Dec 11, 2014
cayjohan in Chains

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - December 2014

weezieduzzit, you got the grinder open?! More power to you; my husband (he with the sorta Popeye-like forearms) couldn't budge the cap. We eventually just accepted that we couldn't open the thing, and it was a pain to use as it was. My problems with the grinder are a combination of moderately arthritic hands coupled with the hard salt seeming to be just too much for a wimpy grinding mechanism (I suppose they are meant to be toss-away, after all, but still). Curious: have you repurposed the grinder, and with what "grindable?"

Dec 11, 2014
cayjohan in Chains

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - December 2014

So very much agree. I gave up and ignored the thing while it languished in the cupboard. My son just unearthed it recently (my children are cupboard weasels, and always suss out what ingredients are around) and I told him to take it with my best wishes. Totally worthless grinder. The salt itself is okay, but there are many others I prefer.

Dec 10, 2014
cayjohan in Chains

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - December 2014

Yep, grey, I was thinking similarly: keep the "serving" <300 calories, and the rest is remainder because of package size. I found it more than ample for me as one, but I am not a big starch eater -- when I had it for a solo lunch, I pretty much left a lot of rice. But that's just me. It's the peculiarity of a "1.5 serving" package of a convenience meal (y'know, like folk take to work, for one meal); never really have seen that before. Most of the other portion numbers per package I have seen have been in whole numbers, whether sensibly sized for the eater or not.

Wait, I take that back: weren't Campbell's condensed soups sized for, say 2.5 servings per can? Same deal, likely: nutritional goals.

Dec 10, 2014
cayjohan in Chains

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - December 2014

Ugh, me too...although I confess I mainly liked it for the price and for the spout. Poor whiny me is going to have to suck it up and just order some spouts, even though I just hate (whiny, again!) cleaning the dang things! That's what I liked about the "Premium": new spout with every bottle. But the oil's flavor? Blech. I did pick up some of the Spanish OO, so we're good for the vinaigrettes at least. Thanks for the recommendation on the Kalamata; I have some mayonnaise making ahead -- would you recommend the Kalamata over the Spanish?

Dec 10, 2014
cayjohan in Chains

Leftover Ham - Need an app/dip/snack

That sounds great! Do you recommend grinding or chopping the ham?

Dec 09, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking

Trader Joe's YAY/MEH/NAY - December 2014

I haven't Y/M/N'd in quite awhile, mostly because we have fallen into a comfortable rut with a list of long-term YAYs on our Trader Joe's list and we keep on with those. Our last visit, however, made me think of a couple things.

NAY first: Mexicali Salad. Probably my fault for thinking it might hit the spot, but I was a bit hungry, and after a summer of growing every other green known to humankind and then some, I was craving some iceberg-y salad. Ingredients looked perfectly fine, so purchased. I couldn't find much flavor. Chicken was spongy and had zero lime flavor. Fire-roasted tomatoes were altogether absent. Pepitas were weirdly stale and non-crunchy. There was no "corn" taste to the corn, only plastickey kernel-ness. And the jalapeño Caesar dressing was almost flavorless (Hub quipped that one could dump the dressing in a cup of coffee and think it was non-dairy creamer -- hyperbole, for sure, but with some truth). The red and green peppers (fresh-seeming and crisp) did come through, and the iceberg (heh) was about the most flavorful ingredient of the bunch. I doubt I will ever try a prepared salad at TJs again, despite having had a few in the past that were perfectly acceptable. This one was abysmal.

MEH, next: what happened to the "Premium Extra Virgin Olive Oil?" (The one with the spout included.) I've generally been happy with it as a basic cooking oil, and admit to continue buying it for the spout. But something has gone significantly downhill. Didn't notice it as a cooking oil, but in a vinaigrette? No go. The bottle might have to go back. I know this oil isn't regarded particularly highly, but it's always been serviceable. Is it getting worse? I'd hate to give up my little addiction to the pour-spout. :) It's a MEH bordering on a NAY right now; will give it ONE more try.

YAY (the best for last): Bench and Field Holistic Natural Feline Treats. No, I cannot vouch for the flavor. My treat-eschewing cats, however, have decided these are the Best Things Ever. I had largely given up on cat treats, as my herd sticks a collective nose in the air and sashays off. The B&F? Holy cow. My big guy, a 25 lb, yard-long Maine Coon was trying to climb my leg in joy. Ingredients look pretty good, reviews I have seen on the brand are favorable, and TJ's sells for $2.99 a three ounce jar, versus the $5.00 to 8.00 range I have seen online. YAY, YAY, and more YAY. (I feel I am ghost-writing for the cats with all those Y's.)

Adding this, as someone upthread talked about portion size in one of the frozen Indian meals: TJ's Butter Chicken package states 1.5 servings per container. Odd for a convenience dinner, isn't it? Didn't bother buying it again, as it was a qualified YAY moving solidly toward MEH. In part because it was too large for one and too small for two.

Help we have fruit flies...need extreme measures.

Thank you for the tip! I can't imagine getting rid of my plants, but summers can be a bit of a crapshoot, bug-wise. Any specific sand, or just general playground-type?

Dec 09, 2014
cayjohan in Not About Food

Favorite cooking task(s)?

Another for me is whisking eggs whites by hand. I enjoy everything about it. I love my copper bowl and the way it fits in my arm. I love my whisk and the sound it makes at work. The scent of egg whites+copper makes me smile, as does the (considerable) energy that goes into making something so delicate. Watching the transformation is always a little thrill.

Dec 09, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking

Favorite cooking task(s)?

I feel similarly about the butter-adding stage of making lemon curd.

Dec 09, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking

Favorite cooking task(s)?

I love sautéing mushrooms. It's an auditory thing: they squeak. And heaven help me, I cannot help but giggle. Now I will giggle even more after last evening's dinner prep.

Last night was a mushroom night, and the squeaking brought my husband into the kitchen at great speed, querying "where is it, where is it?" One of our cat herd had recently gifted us with a mouse catch (which involved squeaking), and Hub's ears are suddenly attuned to such noises. I fear the term "mouse mushrooms" is never going away in this household.

I too love having the time and calm to brunoise/julienne/roll cut, etc. Knife work on vegetables is very meditative for me, and I enjoy the satisfaction.

Dec 08, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking

I'd like to, but I've never tried homemade . . .

Me too, emglow! I have vivid memories of my farm-wife grandmother sitting on the back steps with a pig's head in her lap, studiously brushing the pig's teeth in preparation for headcheese. Her headcheese was beyond delicious. I have only made some meat jellies using pigs' feet broth over meats (think jellied beef cold cuts), but have never ventured into pig head buying territory. It IS a little intimidating, and I think my husband would beat cheeks to be anywhere else during the process. Now I am feeling a bit swayed toward trying, and want to say: you go first! <grin>

Dec 07, 2014
cayjohan in General Topics

I'd like to, but I've never tried homemade . . .

So true on the technique-teaching! That's what unnerves me a bit about tortillas and arepas. I would have a big learning curve for the "touch." It would be entirely new to me. Masa scares me abit, irrationally, as I have not worked with the dough.

On the ferments? I mainly just feel averse to starting yet another new bubbly-angry thing on the kitchen counter! And then the management thereof. But, I am generally happy turning mostly anything into some sort of pancake, so the cooking process doesn't seem too daunting. It's more the mother-henning I do over fermenting stuff, which I realize is silly.

And: soda bread is not so bad. Ten years of marriage to an Irishman got me there. But it was never so difficult, really. Maybe I can resurrect that dough affinity for some other flat doughy thing.

Dec 07, 2014
cayjohan in General Topics

Next up Christmas, Hanukah, Festivus, etc.

For 15 years our winter holiday table has been a large Scandinavian smörgåsbord with multiple family units in attendance, but this year will be divvying up some of those elements and having smaller groups for smaller and more intimate meals (6 and under, including Hub and myself). A preserved fish and salad spread for my son and his SO. A sausage and ham dinner (Scandinavian-oriented) for my FIL and a couple sundry. A dessert and coffee and cordial gathering for friends. Maybe even a tourtière to take to SIL's potluck, just to break out a bit. Even though I will be cooking for many different palates on several different days, I am looking forward to not doing Everything for Everyone all at Once. (That gets bitch-inducing, however much I inflict it upon myself, y'know?)

NYE will be as usual: Hub, me, seafood, music.

Dec 06, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking

Cumin

Here you go! We really love this with roast pork or with ham.
----------

Spicy Carrots with Cumin Seeds

1/4 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped coarsely
1 1/2 lbs carrots (cut into 1/4" x 1 1/2" sticks)
1 tsp. cumin seeds (I love cumin, and probably get a little more liberal than this)*
1/2 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 tsp hot paprika
2 tsps tomato paste
3 cloves garlic (recipe calls for unpeeled and subsequently removed at the end, but I just rough chop)
Salt to taste
1/4 cup broth (recipe calls for beef) or water (which I use)

Large skillet + oil + medium-high heat until shimmering. Onions in this for 5 minutes or so until color forms, then add carrots and continue until vegetables are well colored ("12 mins." per recipe).

Heat turned to low, and add cumin, paprikas, tomato paste, garlic and salt. Stir. Add broth to cover. Simmer covered, stirring occasionally, to get carrots tender and a reduced liquid ("30 mins." per recipe).

If you use whole garlic cloves in the husk, recipe instructs to remove the cloves at this point.

4-6 servings

*I just wing this with ground cumin sometimes, as I have ground regularly, but not always whole seeds.

ETA: 1/4 CUP broth in ingredients

Dec 06, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking
2

Highly rated Steak Knives

KungPaoDumplings, I'll be a low-brow voice here and recommend what we use: the wood-handled 4" Kiwi knives. $2.95 each, sharp (and easy to sharpen), don't look too low-rent on the table and most important, do the job well without tearing. We eat quite a bit of steak, and just got tired of our serrated steak knives' performance. One day we opted to use the Kiwis and never looked back.

Dec 06, 2014
cayjohan in Cookware

Cumin

So true on the cumin+vegetables. My favorite is a braised carrot and onion Uzbek dish from Anya von Bremzen's "Please to the Table." Flavors: carrot, onion,cumin, paprika, garlic and tomato paste. More than a sum of its parts. No link to the recipe available, but could paraphrase if desired.

Dec 06, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking
1

I'd like to, but I've never tried homemade . . .

Cultured butter is one of my favorites to make, and very easy. Fair warning: addictive!

ETA: I followed Ruhlman. http://ruhlman.com/2010/03/cultured-b...

Dec 06, 2014
cayjohan in General Topics

I'd like to, but I've never tried homemade . . .

Fermented batters have been on my radar lately -- would love to make uttapam and injera at home.

And speaking of flat things, I should also take the plunge and try my hand at tortillas and arepas at home.

Dec 06, 2014
cayjohan in General Topics

I'd like to, but I've never tried homemade . . .

I am starting to think that I will ignore the homemade catsups that seek to replicate the big names, as I would guess taste memory is going to be a problem for me, too (I am equally good with Heinz or Hunt's, though). Still...I am getting so bored (poor me, right?) even on the rare occasions I have catsup on fries. I generally add on some mustard and mayo and just forget about the catsup. But: I still want a little bit of the sweet richness of the catsup. I suppose I should just try it and see, but it seems like some are a lot of work and ingredients for something that doesn't keep long enough to use it up in regular household use. (Hmm...might be nice for a party, though.) To you catsup DIYers: what's the shelf life?

Dec 05, 2014
cayjohan in General Topics

I'd like to, but I've never tried homemade . . .

hill food, so true on the slicing! I get used to the everydayness of the IKEA gravlax (pre-sliced), as my husband won't touch the stuff and I don't get to make my own very often. When I do make my own, I confess to over-curing slightly, as the fish firms up a bit more and gives a nicer slice for impatient-me to execute.(Plus, I like it a bit more cured as a counterpoint to the milder IKEA stuff.) Any genius slicing tips?

Dec 05, 2014
cayjohan in General Topics

What goes with cabbage?

Yes, yes, yes to this, Bada Bing! Using cabbage in lieu of rice noodles is our household's favored version of Pad Thai-ishness. I just think of cabbage as noodles and go with whatever set of flavors in whatever recipe. Such an easy swap, isn't it? I do sometimes steam the cabbage "noodles" separately to speed up the process and keep the wok free for 'everything else' until the end, especially if making a larger batch. Great use for cabbage.

Dec 05, 2014
cayjohan in Home Cooking

Gluten-free crackers for cheese course?

For milder flavor: Glutino crackers, both original and vegetable flavor. "Flour-y" in a way that I have liked water crackers to be. The vegetable variety is mildly seasoned, not overpowering. Not extremely tender to my tastes, but not chewing-on-glass crunchy as some GF crackers can be.

Very recently I found Dare Breton GF crackers at my neighborhood market and am won over, as I loved Breton, pre-celiac. The two varieties available to me (I see more on their website) were the garlic and herb, which was nicely balanced, and the original, which is moderately studded with flax seeds (NOT in that 'All Seeds, All the Time' way). Both had wonderfully tender texture, much like you would expect from a table cracker. The Bretons use green lentil flour, and there is a slight beaniness to the flavor, but to my tastes, it does not interfere. Very nice cracker, and my new go-to for cheese.

I have never seen the GF Bretons anywhere in my market save my neighborhood place, but it appears Amazon does sell them. Here's the link with the other varieties. (I have to talk my market into ordering some of the other varieties!)

http://www.darefoods.com/ca_en/brand/...

Dec 05, 2014
cayjohan in Special Diets

I'd like to, but I've never tried homemade . . .

I encourage you on homemade gravlax. Just get good salmon, the the rest is just salt and sugar, and whatever spices/herbs/liquor you want. It hangs out, wrapped, in the refrigerator for a couple/three days and presto: great gravlax. There are so many recipes to try depending upon the flavors you favor. But it's really hard to fail on technique with gravlax.

Dec 04, 2014
cayjohan in General Topics