Category Archives: kitchen stuff

To The Fly In My Cocoa: An Appreciation

You Ruined My Breakfast, But Inspired This Story

juan-pablo-mascanfroni-Yst3jGsUoXA-unsplashPhoto Credit: Juan Pablo Mascanfroni

God, in His wisdom, made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why. — Ogden Nash

There you sat, with two of your friends, on the rim of my cup. I shooed you away but as your buddies left, you nosedived into my drink.

I will admit that there was a time when I would have simply fished you out and continued drinking. But that was many decades ago and now that I’m older—and, I hope—wiser, I merely sighed, took my cup to the kitchen, and poured you down the drain.

Such a waste: the coffee, the hot cocoa powder, the cinnamon, the creamer—all of it wasted. Not to mention the time lost forever.

There are things I do that I know I shouldn’t, things that are bad for my health. I consume far too many sweets. I smoke cigarettes. I don’t get enough exercise.

But I draw the line at drinking fly germs. That’s why I reheated the water to boiling before using it to wash my cup, and why I used more of the same boiling water to brew a fresh cup of hot cocoa.

I’m sorry you had to lose your life, but I am sorrier still that you ruined my morning routine.

On the other hand, I did get a story out of it.

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Let’s Talk About Smoothies

But first, what are we talking about? I’m going with the MacMillan dictionary’s definition: a drink made from fruit, milk or cream, and ice cream. But I always say if there’s ice cream, it’s a milk shake.

Smoothies are all the rage these days, as if they’re a brand-new discovery. Don’t make me laugh. I had my first smoothie in 1972, and Mediterranean and Eastern cultures have been pureeing fruits and vegetables for centuries.

What makes smoothies so popular today is, I think, a combination of factors:

  1. Decent home refrigeration
  2. An increase in the interest in healthy eating
  3. Inexpensive home blenders
  4. The fact that while we have gotten older, we ‘60s hippies refuse to die

So What Makes a Smoothie a Smoothie?

As Hamlet said, “Aye, there’s the rub!” What is a smoothie, anyway?

I’d say that there are as many “official definitions” of the smoothie as there are varieties and recipes. And there are tens of thousands of recipes on the Internet alone, which doesn’t include recipes in people’s card file boxes.

A smoothie can be made with anything, but for the purpose of this post, I’m going to insist on some basics: fruit, liquid, veggies. I’ll also allow some options: sweetener, flavor, and some energy. Finally, if you like it creamy, go for it!

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In addition to an energy boost, many of these ingredients also add a nice hit of protein.
And there you have it: a smoothie!

Blenders For Smoothies…and Milkshakes, Juices, Etc.

When it comes to mixing drinks or creating smoothies, two kinds of blenders come to mind: countertop and hand-held (also called immersion) blenders.

Countertop blenders can be heavy-duty or conventional. Heavy-duty blenders are designed to hold up under constant use, and are usually the kind found in commercial establishments. Conventional blenders are best for low-intensity tasks, such as making smoothies or milkshakes.

A newer type of personal blender has made an appearance on the scene. These are basically conventional blenders designed for lighter use, mainly for creating smoothies. Their mixing chamber doubles as a to-go container, allowing you to make your smoothie at home and take it with you.

Immersion Blenders

Also called hand-held or stick blenders, these are designed to be placed right into the mixing container along with the ingredients:

image

 

I use an immersion blender, only because my wife has a conventional blender, and we don’t wish to duplicate appliances when we rejoin households. In addition to the cutting/puree blade shown here, it also has a whisk attachment.

And while I don’t endorse any particular brand over another, I would like to direct your attention to this article at Bon Appétit which will show you the advantages of using an immersion blender.

I will say that my immersion blender was a low-end device; I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that I was only going to use once or twice. But I’ve had it for a week, and I’ve used it several times each day. It makes excellent smoothies, and I’ve used it on frozen fruit, baby carrots, bananas, and baby spinach leaves with no problem.

So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to use my immersion blender and make myself a Peanut Butter Cup Oreo Milkshake.

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The Care And Feeding of Cast Iron Cookery

After recently reading that Dow Chemical knew of the dangers inherent in Teflon, but chose to cover them up for 50 years (http://www.salon.com/2016/01/04/teflons_toxic_legacy_partner/), I am happier than ever that I do most of my cooking in cast iron pans. In fact, I just bought a second skillet last week for when I’m cooking smaller amounts.

When properly seasoned, cast iron has a perfect non-slip surface. But as Hamlet once said, “There’s the rub!” It takes time and dedication to season cast iron properly. Oh, sure, the instructions are easy:

  1. Make sure the pan is clean and dry
  2. Cover the entire pan with vegetable oil
  3. Set it in the oven at 400° F/204° C for one hour
  4. Repeat until the smooth, non-stick surface has been obtained

But the actual practice still eludes me. No matter how I try, I always seem to use to much oil, which means the surface remains tacky. So today, I decided to try once more. I cleaned both skillets according to accepted practice (see the chart below), put a very light coating of oil on each, and put them in the oven at the proper temperature…

…only to have my entire house fill up with smoke. Yep, too much oil. Fortunately, thanks to the wonders of global warming catastrophic climate change, it’s 50° F/10° C out (in January in upstate New York!), which means I was able to open my windows, turn on my fans, and blow the smoke out.

I re-oiled the skillets and put them back in the oven for their second cycle, where they sit as I write this.

The 11 Commandments of Cast Iron Care

 

cast-iron-care

 

From everything I’ve read (http://sherylcanter.com/wordpress/2010/01/a-science-based-technique-for-seasoning-cast-iron/,
https://www.cooksillustrated.com/how_tos/5820-the-ultimate-way-to-season-cast-iron?extcode=FTAFTT1ZZ&utm_source=eean&utm_medium=textlink&utm_campaign= affiliateft&affiliate_id=21181&click_id=1509036705&creative_details=2-231999
), flaxseed oil is the best oil to use for seasoning cast iron. However, I’ve been unable to find any except in health-food stores, where it’s sold in capsules. And like just about everything else in health-food stores, it’s too expensive for me to buy. So if what I’m doing now doesn’t work, I’ll search the Internet to see if I can find some food-grade flaxseed oil at a reasonable price.

Because I really like my cast iron!

 

Robyn Jane

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