Archive for Kitchen Gadgets

Rita’s New Slow Cooker

    Rita spent the night and we used a Chebe Cinnamon Roll Mix as crust for the apple torte we baked before going to bed. I think Rita is trying to bring Mom into the current century as far as kitchen gadgets;-) We used her Cuisinart Prep 11 Plus ® Food Processor from Cooking.com to shred the apples for our torte. She remembers shredding cheese with my grandmother’s favorite shredder, a vintage Griscer food grinder replete with hand crank and clamp and I guess she didn’t want to revisit that experience. Of course I still love the Griscer being so ‘hands on’ but I no longer have a table or counter that will accommodate the clamp.
    We used half a batch of Chebe dough rolled thin and pressed into a 9 inch glass pie plate. We filled it with three prepped, shredded apples mixed with a handful of raisins, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and sweetened with 1/3 cup of Lakanto  and about 1 tablespoon of agave syrup. It baked at 400*F for about 45 minutes. We did not add a thickener to the fruit and I was afraid the juice would make for a really wet pie. But it came out just right. It wasn’t too sweet and we enjoyed quite a bit of it for breakfast. For next time I would go ahead and remove about half of the apple peelings. We washed them and cut out the core but left the peel. Sometimes less is more.
    The next morning Rita wanted to introduce me to her slow cooker. I still have the original (of course), 2.5 quart, red Rival Crock-Pot® with the funky feet and no-way does the ceramic part remove for washing. And it still works great! You might possibly find one like it on eBay. Some have said the low setting is too low and isn’t safe for cooking. They may have a different brand because this one cooks like a champ. Beans are sooo good cooked all day on low heat.
    Anyway, her cooker is a GE digital, programmable, cool touch, 6-quart model available on Amazon. It has a retractable cord, a glass lid with a soft seal edge and a steam vent and the entire appliance is not that heavy whereas the 6-quart stone-crock that we own I can barely manage to clean never mind pick it up fully loaded. The weight factor is a BIG plus with me. This one cleaned up very quickly in the sink with no strain at all. I prefer not to put extra-large items in the dishwasher. Rita and I feel very strongly that there was a focus group consisting of knowledgeable cooks that put together the requirements for this design. We can’t think of another feature that would make it better and believe that it is definitely worth the price. 

It's a Great Slow Cooker

It's a Great Slow Cooker

Together she and I put together a full cooker of spicy meatballs and tomato sauce – all gluten-free of course. The binder was a challenge because the two of us had wiped out most of a loaf of Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain Bread. The few remaining slices plus a couple of my homemade flax meal biscuits plus a teaspoon of ground chia seed soaked in milk became the binder. This bread-binder approach makes a lighter textured meatball than using eggs to hold it together. We pounded fresh garlic in my mortar and pestle (there I go with that ‘hands on’ stuff again), added sea salt and plenty of green herbs (basil, oregano, sage), then mixed it in with the bread paste, and added it all to the ground meat. Rita used a large scoop to form the meatballs and put them into two baking dishes to pre-cook in the oven.
    I did clean-up while she blended our two jars of Classico Tomato and Basil Sauce with additional herb seasonings in the cooker. After adding the meatballs to the sauce the slow cooker was programmed to cook on low for three hours and then we adjourned to the living room to read the paper and relax.
    She and I had Tinkyada Fettuccini for our pasta while Don had his usual gluten brand. I don’t eat a lot of pasta even now that it is available to me. I used pasta sauce over vegetables for so many years that I am accustomed to having it that way.
    Rita and I had a weekend full of tasty, traditional food and all of it gluten-free! Plus I had fun spending time with my daughter and playing with more up-to-date kitchen gadgets. Don enjoyed our food and the break that he had from cooking. Plus we have two more days of dinner to enjoy and Rita took some with her. 

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita 

Disclaimer: No one pays us to talk about their products or sends us anything free. We are trying to stay healthy and hope to encourage anyone else who is on this gluten-free journey.

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The Gluten-Free Pantry French Bread & Pizza Mix

   Strangely enough The Gluten-Free Pantry mixes are not in my grocery store gluten-free section although all of them are gluten-free. They are displayed in the International Foods isle, perhaps because they are a product of Canada.
   Whatever the reason I am happy that they are there. We all need a couple of pantry staples that we can pull out and whip up something really good when we don’t have time to do the longer way. And I was motivated by the experimenting of Stephanie O’Dea at A Year of Slow Cooking and her technique for baking bread in a slow cooker. My Crock-Pot and this French Bread & Pizza Mix sat out on the kitchen counter for four days to remind me; and now the mix is mixed and the bread is baked!

The Crock-Pot and the Mix

The Crock-Pot and the Mix

   The first time I made bread from this mix was when I went to help Rita pack and move to Virginia in 2008. This bread was the only gluten-free baked goods that we had at her house. The taste and texture reminded me of the Pepperidge Farm bread that I bought for the kids when they were very small.
   It is difficult enough for a child to be sprouting teeth and learning to chew without their little peanut butter sandwich gumming up and making swallowing difficult. It was the soft white bread and not the peanut butter causing the problem. Slices of the Pepperidge Farm Very Thin White Bread made just the right size sandwich to fit a small mouth and our problem (safety issue) was solved.
   The Gluten-Free Pantry website announces that they are changing the look of the packaging. I hope that includes legibly printed (for all eyes) instructions. At first the dough was not coming together so I went back and re-read to see if it was my mistake. I thought perhaps the two extra large eggs would equal two eggs plus one egg white and so maybe it needed another egg. No, the dough was still thick enough to mortar bricks together. The water amount looked like 1 1/4 cups but by squinting it looked somewhat different. So I pulled out the magnifying glass and read 1 3/4 cups of water. So I dumped in another 1/3 cup of water and then it made bread dough. That tiny print on a mottled gray background could definitely be improved.

Ready to Bake (with Latte for Me)

Ready to Bake (with Latte for Me)

   This mix produces a 2-pound loaf and the directions call for a 9 inch by 5 inch bread pan. My old bread pans are quite definitely 8 inch by 4 inch so there was bread dough left over. The loaf pan went into the 7-qt Crock-Pot slow cooker. The remainder of the dough was divided into a cupcake pan to make small dinner rolls. Rising took quite longer than I thought it should. Patience, patience (not my strongest suite and after all it was a cold day), and eventually there was bread!
   Usually I prefer to make my bread from scratch with dense nutritious flours. This mix is a great shortcut for a treat or for pulling something together when there is no time to fuss over it.

Mom

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Kitchen Sink Colander

   We had Arroz Clásico as side with dinner tonight. Heading off to do errands I decided to leave myself a ‘breadcrumb’ to remind me that I was helping with dinner tonight so I placed the container of rice on the kitchen counter. When I returned from errands we went to the fitness center. Returning home I told Don that I was going to get the rice started so it would be thoroughly cooked and tender. He mentioned that he had noticed the container that I had placed on the counter. And then he added that since we had planned and discussed Arroz Clásico he felt that the macaroni container was in error and had replaced it with the rice container. It is so reassuring that when you get flakey there is someone to cover your back!

   While I was peeling, trimming and slicing the onion with tears running down my checks and sniffling away I remembered my Dad called these ‘mean’ onions. Then my attention wandered on over to the kitchen sink colander, a Christmas stocking stuffer that is becoming another favorite kitchen gadget.

Sink Colander
Sink Colander

      Colanders in the sink used to be standard equipment before the days of garbage disposals. All the peelings, cores, and trimmings went in the colander to drain before being trashed or composted. We had a septic tank at our place the country and didn’t have a disposal. When we moved we chose not to use the one already in this house. I run the disposal to clean it out occasionally but had started using a lot of paper towels to bundle the stuff that goes in the trash. That is not really green or earth friendly, is it? I like the way this colander hooks over the center of the sink and is right under the water spigot if needed. So now we are saving on paper towels. When I get my act together there will be even less paper.
  
   Another thing that was really great about this product – it was part of a school fundraiser for one of the grandchildren. No high calorie, high fat candy bars or cookie dough – this is something useful and reusable.

Mom

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Microplane Graters

   This grater is another one of my favorite manual kitchen tools. I’ve had it for several years and find that it handles most of my grating needs. For a while I thought I really needed to buy a zester, and truthfully, I would still like to have one. But when it came down to lemon zest or no lemon zest this grater filled in quite nicely.

   I first discovered Microplane  when Don and I lived in the country and I was going through a woodworking/furniture and bookcase building phase – it may have been just before or after the peach preserves episode. Anyway, my first Microplane was a fantastic wood rasp that cut with both forward and backward motion. Creative chefs discovered them and began to use them in the kitchen.  For a while Italian restaurants had their wait staff shaving cheese at the table with these flat graters until the more efficient rotary version came along.

My Favorite Kitchen Grater – Microplane Home Series Medium Ribbon Grater

Microplane Grater with Zucchini and Carrots

Microplane Grater with Zucchini and Carrots

   The zucchini and carrots just fell right through into the bowl. While the apple seemed softer and juicier the fiber structure held on in back of the grater so that the pulp needed to be scraped off with a spoon – no biggie.
  
   The ‘teeth’ on this grater are constructed in such a way that it would be difficult to injure yourself while using it. I did scrap the side of my hand once in a severely clumsy move that spilled the bowl and contents all over the kitchen counter. The scrap was such that it did not notice it until evening when it bled a bit in the shower and I had to think back to when it might have happened – very minor wound indeed.
   
   A customer product review says that after a couple of years it comes apart in the dishwasher. It is so easy to clean up that I never thought about putting it in the dishwasher. There is a Gourmet Series and a Professional Series if you need something for heavy duty use. This one stands up to use in my kitchen.

Mom

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My Favorite Can Opener

   For the first time ever (that I can remember) this Thanksgiving will not be held with members of my own family. I don’t feel bad about this only because I have already had two fun-filled weekends this month with my wonderful family.
   The first weekend of November featured my children and their family members that could be here. The second weekend was a gathering with my siblings and their spouses and three nieces in Norman, Oklahoma. It was everything that you can imagine from such a diverse group 🙂 .
   So the only baking this week is a fresh batch of Don’s ‘golf food’ which is definitely not on the gluten-free list. When he first started playing golf he bought crackers and snacks out of the vending machines at the pro shop. In search of better options I began playing around with recipes that he liked and eventually a favorite spice cake morphed into even spicier raisin-filled muffins. His golfing buddies profess golf-food envy but he never shares.
   So with no cooking to be done I decided to write about my love of simple kitchen tools – those go-to, every-day, run-of-the-mill implements, simple in design but yet you-get-a-little-crazy if you can’t find it when you need it. Even though I am contemplating the purchase of a very modest food processor I have a special feeling for hand tools – no electricity or batteries required. They work when all else fails.
   Perhaps this preference came about from working in the kitchen with my paternal grandmother who raised her own chickens and vegetables, canned her own produce, and baked her own bread. Or maybe it was that five-days-iced-in-without-power, trees exploding in the yard with only the telephone, fireplace, and propane-camp-stove-on-the-dining-table experience when we lived in the country.
   My favorite can opener is called a ‘lid lifter’ because the lid does not fall into your food. The cutter part is quirky only because you might be accustomed to the type that produces sharp edges. Once you get the hang of how to set the tool on the can you simply turn the handle and the lid-lifter separates the seam on the side where the lid and can come together. No sharp edges and no lid in the can! If the lid is stuck (some kind of can glue) there is a tiny grabber that will lift the lid right off!!

My Favorite Can Opener – Kuhn Rikon Slim Safety LidLifter

 

View of Lid Edge and LidLifter

   No more worries over washing the can tops or keeping bandages in the drawer for can opener mishaps. And still Don prefers and uses only the electric can opener – men and their power tool fetish extends even to the kitchen.  Just wait until we have a power failure!

Mom

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