January 21, 2012 – Kitchen Essentials: Part 1, Silicone Lids

In this post I’m writing about some of the essential utensils and accessories needed in the kitchen of the 21st century.
Forth-three years ago, when I got my first microwave oven (Amana Radarange) there were NO accessories for microwave ovens.
During the decades since then, the number of gadgets, containers, accessories and so on have proliferated exponentially.
Some have been and still are very useful. Some have been a total bust, usually due to poor design and/or inadequate testing or poor quality materials.
Many products have proved to be superior and as the designers became more adept at understanding the way most people use these things, they have improved even more.

In recent weeks I’ve had some discussions with other people about silicone lids or spatter guards that are generally used only in the microwave.
Some companies produce items that are more versatile and can be used in a regular or convection oven, tolerating temperatures at least to 400° F.
I have several different types and find them to be very handy.
There are some that are a bit awkward to use so I do not use them as much as the others.

This is a photo of the lids I use most often.
The clear lids with the rigid plastic rims are for use only in the microwave, the others are all safe to use in a regular oven as long as not too near a heat element so use in a toaster oven is NOT advisable.
Silicone lids
The opaque colored round lids are from MIU but similar products are produced by Progressive International, Orka and Norpro.
The large rectangular one, suitable for a 9 x 13 inch baking dish or pan is made by Lekue, who also makes square lids and a larger rectangle that would not fit in most microwave ovens but is ideal for covering large baking dishes in a standard oven.

This shows one of the clear lids, which is placed on a bowl and the center depressed so it forms a vacuum in the bowl. These work nicely to seal bowls that are going into the fridge for a short time. The seal will not hold for longer than thirty minutes or so, and the rim of the bowl has to be perfectly clean and dry.

I also have some Coverflex lids but for me they are awkward to use as I have arthritis in my hands and one needs a good grip to stretch them to fit containers. Other than that, they are an excellent product.

These “LilyPad” lids, by Charles Viancin, come in four sizes and are my favorites. They cling well to stainless steel, china, pottery, plastic and melamine.
I use them in both the microwave and my convection oven, especially to cover custards which develop ripples from the convection fan (always on in my oven) unless the surface is protected while still liquid.
The knobs on these are easier for me to grasp than most of the others and keeps my hand protected from any steam that may escape from the container when the cover is removed.

The smallest size is perfect for covering a mug or small dish.

I’ll have more to say about the other types, shapes and sizes in a future post.

Whatever the brand, size or shape, these are much easier to store than the domed type splatter guards. They can be slipped into a drawer or hung on hooks, handy to where they will be used.
I prefer to protect mine from whatever is floating around in the air so after being washed and dried (all but the clear ones are dishwasher safe) I store them in a jumbo plastic bag and hang them in the pantry.
This is just an example of how they are stored. The usual site is on one end of these metal storage racks.

Silicone is an amazing product. I have silicone bowls, steamer baskets, spatulas and spoons, graduated measures, baking mats, rolling pins and several types of baking molds.

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Photos like those in my header

Several people have inquired privately about the photos in my header and background on this blog.
They were all taken in 2008 during the maximum poppy bloom in the western end of the Antelope Valley, which is where I live. I took numerous photos but these are the best.
These are all self-sewn wild poppies in currently uncultivated land.
Poppies 1

Poppies 2

Poppies 3

Poppies 4

Poppies 5

Poppies 6

This is at a slightly higher elevation where the maximum bloom was not yet full. A few days later it looked like the lower fields.
Poppies 7

This shot includes some yellow flowers in the foreground, they are the little daisy-like “goldfields” wildflowers with poppies in the background.
Poppies and goldfields

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Back home again after my holiday trip 01/05/2012

First I spent a month baking cookies and preparing other goodies and then I packed up and drove north to visit my daughter and her family.
Along with me went sufficient cookies to supply hungry folks for a while, hopefully!
I took my Thermomix along to show how it can cook as well as operate like a food processor and blender, plus weighing the ingredients for various recipes.
I made a batch of butter, a batch of peanut butter and also risotto for one dinner.
There was no time to do more as my daughter took me to many interesting restaurants in her area as well as one in San Francisco.
All in all, it was a very enjoyable trip and although I managed to come down with a cold on my last day there, I really can’t complain about any part of it.
Now I’m home, after retrieving my basenji from my best friend, who cared for him while I was away.
My kitchen and pantry are in serious need of reorganizing after my extended baking efforts of last month. Mainly putting things back in their regular sites so I can find them again when needed.
Welcoming a new year – they seem to roll around so much faster – with everything in my kitchen organized, is important to me.
One of my resolutions for this year is to keep this blog more up to date and not allow distractions to delay postings about my activities, especially in the kitchen.

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November 10, 2011 a list of all my recipes.

AAA Easy Homemade Butter
Andie’s Bread & Butter Pickles
Andie’s Glazed Carrots with Marsala and Lime Marmalade
Andie’s Mock French Toast
Andie’s Original Pumpkin Chili Mexicana
Andie’s Sugarless Spicy Ketchup
Apricot Ginger Scones
Aunt Hattie Anne’s Green Tomato Pie/Preserves
Banana Ketchup
Candied Chestnuts
Candied or Crystallized Ginger
Clotted Cream (Not Devonshire)
Cocoa Cookies for Christmas or Anytime
Cornbread – The “staff of life” in the south of my childhood.
Easy Pita bread
Fruited Cocoa Cake or Christmas Cake
Great Grammaw Sweeney’s Griddle cakes
Green Tomato Chutney, Spicy and Sweet
Griddle Cakes not just Pancakes or Flapjacks
Hickory Nut Cake
How to cook the perfect (or near perfect) sausage patty
Homemade Yogurt Start-To-Finish
Hoppin’ John ‘western Kentucky style’
How to Improve a Cheap, Salty Ham.
How to Peel an Orange and Candy the Peel
Marzipan filled brioche bread pudding
Meemaw’s Pork Mincemeat and Christmas Pork Fruitcake
Meemaw’s Red Velvet Cake
My favorite chile verde (green) tomatillo sauce/salsa.
Provence Style Pumpkin Soup
Pumpkin/Pecan Pie
Slow-Roasted Root Vegetables – Vegetarian
Spicy Chestnut Soup

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November 4, 2011 A reminder about seasonal recipes.

In the Northern Hemisphere the days are getting shorter and colder and today there is rain here in the high desert (Antelope Valley, California) and it is time to be thinking about soups, stews and other warming foods.

In my list of Resurrected Old and some New Recipes I have included some that fit well with this season.
Consider the Provence Style Pumpkin Soup which is very tasty and as there are beautiful winter squash as well as some unusual varieties of pumpkins now available, it is a perfect time for it.

It’s also an excellent time to try your hand at making Meemaw’s Pork Mincemeat which is a versatile item that does not need to be made only for the Christmas Pork Fruitcake.

A Spicy Chestnut Soup is also a seasonal favorite and is different from the ordinary.

And to finish off a lovely holiday (or any day) meal, there is the really different Pumpkin/Pecan Pie.
This recipe makes enough filling for several pies but is not difficult to cut in half.

Last, but certainly no least, is my Andie’s Original Pumpkin Chili Mexicana which took me several years to develop and which is great for parties as it serves a lot of people.
It can be prepared well ahead of time and is actually better after the flavors have had time to meld. It also freezes well.

Also in the list you will see the Slow-Roasted Winter Vegetables, and other recipes that will make your holiday eating a bit more adventuresome.

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May 18, 2011 – My version of scrambled eggs.

I’m sure that when you folks see the title of this post you are going to think, “wha’ she goin’ on about? Ain’t scrambled eggs just scrambled eggs?”

Sure, it is a very simple dish but there are any number of ways of getting from the beginning to the end and it’s possible to end up with something that looks good but is tough, rubbery and while edible, not exactly the best.

My grandpa’s cook taught me how to make these scrambled eggs that can be consumed at once, or they may be kept warm in a chafer or buffet server without ever becoming tough and rubbery.

Some people have said, and written, that milk in eggs makes them tough. That has not been my experience but I’m not using milk, or even half & half. It is cream that produces the best result.

First select a skillet that is the correct size for the number of eggs you are cooking.
For 2-3 eggs, no larger than 8 inch, 4-6 eggs a 10 inch and for 8-10 a 12 inch.

First the eggs should be beaten lightly with a fork, only enough to blend the yolks into the whites.

Set aside until the skillet is ready.

The best skillet is a heavy non-stick or an extremely well-seasoned cast iron.
Place over medium high heat.
Pour just enough heavy cream into the skillet to cover the bottom.

Allow it to just about come to a boil – till it foams up like this:

Now add the eggs. Count slowly to ten.
Begin cutting and turning the eggs and when they look
like this:

Remove from the heat – the residual heat in the skillet will be enough to finish cooking the eggs.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately!

Or transfer to a chafing dish over barely simmering water to keep warm.
These can be held up to an hour in this manner.

In my opinion, the eggs actually taste “eggier” than when they are cooked without the cream. They are tender, creamy but still have the desirable texture one expects in a scrambled egg.

Enjoy!

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Buttermaking: April 21, 2011

I haven’t posted here for a couple of months but I have been adding to other pages in this blog.

There having been some discussion about the quality of cream on the eGullet forum, I decided to try making a batch of butter with regular heavy whipping cream from the supermarket, ultrapasteurized and with the additives common in these dairy products nowadays.

I used the Thermomix instead of my electric churn because I am using only one quart of cream.
-There are several Thermomix butter posting on the internet and I used those suggested times as a guide.

(You can also use a regular stand mixer, beating the cream until it breaks with the whip/whisk and then using the paddle for rinsing in the three or more changes of ice water.)

Start with a clean and dry bowl:

I had set the cream out on the counter last night so it was at room temp.

The butter pats (for extracting water and shaping the finished butter) are soaking in ice water. This keeps the butter from sticking – also the butter board is wetted with iced water.

This is the salt I will use in the butter.

The Thermomix “Butterfly” is in place and the cream is in the bowl.

Timer set for 4 minutes – churning in the Thermomix can vary from 1 1/2 minutes to 4 minutes. It is easy to hear the change in the cream when the whipped cream “breaks” and the liquid separates and sloshes around in the bowl.

I stopped it at this point and checked the butter – not quite done.

At this point I stopped the TMX.

The mixing/churning is finished.

The butterfly is removed.

The buttermilk has been drained off (and saved) and water has been added to “rinse” the residual milk out of the butter.
First rinse.

After the first batch of rinse water has been drained off, fresh water added and another rinse cycle. (Each rinse cycle is 20 seconds.)

After second rinse cycle.

After third rinse cycle. Liquid is much clearer.

After fourth, and final, rinse cycle. The water is actually clearer than it appears in this photo.

The water has been drained off an the sold mass of butter turned out onto the butter board.

The butter pats have been used to squeeze, fold and flatten the mass of butter to extract as much liquid as possible.

After about ten minutes of working the butter, most of the liquid has been extracted and it is ready to be salted. (Unsalted butter has to be used within two or three days or must be frozen. I generally salt all my butter unless I need unsalted for baking or other particular dish.)

The slab of butter sprinkled with a heaping teaspoon of the Velvet de Guerande salt.

The salt has been thoroughly worked into the butter and it has been compressed and shaped so it will fit into a 1-pound butter mold.

Most of the butter has been pressed into the mold. This batch produced in excess of one pound.

The excess butter has been trimmed away and the mold is ready to be chilled.

The extra will be used up today, no problem. It is very tasty.

I usually make cultured butter and it does have a different flavor, somewhat more intense, however this butter is very flavorful and will be delightful just spread on

Out of the mold and ready for use – vintage “Depression Glass” covered butter dish.

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February 19, 2012

I have been rather involved with other activities so have neglected this blog since early January and have some catching up to do. I’ll do my best to keep more up to date but I’m not going to make any rash promises.

A couple of days ago I made a batch of Chile Verde sauce for a neighborhood taco party.
The recipe is in the recipe section of my blog.
Unlike most recipes, I slow roast the vegetables for this sauce.

A full roasting pan results in a reduction by about 1/3 to this amount:

After they have cooled, a food processor is used to puree everything evenly but some texture remains.
The effect of the roasting removes the bitterness that often is found in tomatillos.

Today I’m making a batch of butter. Here it is just out of the churn, it needs to be worked with butter paddles to work out as much of the residual liquid as possible.

I’m taking a break to perform this step in the process.

Here it is worked and pressed and formed into a block.

Kitchen Essentials

On one of the forums to which I belong, there has been a discussion about measuring cups and spoons. Since I believe in having enough to work on more than one recipe at a time, without taking time to wash and dry implements during the process, I have several sets of each.
I know most people get along with just one set, often because storage is a problem but I have a solution for that also.
As you can see in this photo, I keep my measuring cups in plastic bags that allows them to be hung and kept free of dust.

I actually will have two or three sets, each in their own bag, on a shower curtain “ring” which makes it easier to hang them on a hook.

Here are the graduated glass liquid measures made by Pyrex and Anchor Hocking.

The largest is 2 1/2 quart, the smallest 1 cup.

The advantage of the glass is that they can be used in the microwave.

Here are some plastic graduated liquid measures that I don’t use as much, mostly because they are not for use in the microwave.
Some that are supposed to be okay for microwave use will become opaque if they get too hot for too long.

The measuring spoons are also organized on these same shower curtain rings.

Except for the plastic sets that are organized by size in mesh containers found in an office supply store, some are magnetic, the sets are kept together.
As you can see, they are of different shapes and some have long handles which are perfect for getting down into deep jars.

The large oval shaped spoons just to the left of center are “odd-sized” measures, 2-Tablespoons, 1 1/2-Tablespoons, 2-Teaspoons, Pinch and Smidgen.

I also have a graduated pipette for measuring milliliters of liquids that have to be carefully measured, such as concentrated flavorings that are measured by drops. This is much more accurate than an eyedropper.

With the recent interest in molecular gastronomy, it is important to have very accurate measuring devices.

Regular digital scales are necessary and if one is really dedicated, an extremely accurate digital scale, similar to those used by jewelers, is essential. Fortunately these are inexpensive.

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January 4, 2011

This is a trying time. Trying to get things back to normal. Trying to get my kitchen and pantry reorganized. Nothing seems to be where it should be. Various containers are stacked any which way and the shelves where they belong are full of other things and I don’t recall exactly why I put them there instead of where they belong. It must have made sense at the time but at present it just seems to be a jumble.
I know all this stuff fit on the shelves neatly before I began pulling out containers of ingredients. I haven’t added any new containers so they all ought to fit comfortably on the shelves but for the past few days I have just been staring at them, on my forays into the pantry, and wondering how I am going to get everything reorganized where there seems to be no empty spaces.

This is the way the pantry looks at present:
All those containers stacked on the floor belong in those shelves behind them. They came out of there and have to go back. Otherwise I will never be able to find anything.

At least the cart that transports the mixers still has a place to fit although one of the rollers has caught on something on the floor – I hate cork flooring!

The other cart holds my extra oven (also another mixer that usually sits on the other cart but it is easier to move without that extra weight.

I know that I am procrastinating and everything will get done once I actually begin work on it but I am being rather lazy at the moment. A bit of a let down following the holidays and all the activities of baking and etc.

We had snow night before last, 4 to 5 inches in my yard but almost all of it was gone by the end of the day yesterday. I still have a few patches on the north side of the house where the sun doesn’t reach but that should be gone tomorrow when it warms up a bit more.
There were the usual problems on the Grapevine and in the Cajon pass, as well as on the 14, but not as bad as it was a couple of years ago and certainly not as bad as we had the El Niño year when the roads were closed for a couple of days.
I know people from back east and up north think we are strange for having so much trouble with such a small amount of snow but when people are not used to those driving conditions, it can be scary, and dangerous.

Aston did some exploring in the snow – gingerly.


He shows what he thinks about this stuff.

And after we came back inside and he had his feet warm and dry.

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