Monthly Archives: August 2015

Check Out These 20 Must-Have Tools for Your Kitchen

must-have kitchen toolsCooking is a true pleasure when you have the right equipment.

Here is our top-20 list of kitchen essentials that make cooking more accurate, efficient, and safe.

meat thermometer–A digital thermometer measures the internal temperature of your meat/poultry and eliminates guesswork. Choose instant-read thermometers that have a higher-end range of at least 200°F. Choosing a Thermometer

kitchen knives–Quality knives are a must in the kitchen. Select a 6, 8, or 10-inch chef’s knife for slicing/chopping meat and vegetables, a 3 to 4-inch paring knife for more precise peeling/cutting, and a serrated knife for slicing bread and tomatoes. High-carbon stainless-steel will not stain or rust.

cutting boards–The right cutting board will protect the blades of your knives and prevent the spread of harmful bacteria. Be sure to have at least two cutting boards, one for raw meat and one for fruits and vegetables to prevent cross-contamination.

peeler–Select a vegetable peeler with a wide, durable stainless-steel blade and comfortable handle. Choices include a Y-peeler and swivel peeler. An eyer quickly removes spots and bruises from produce. How Do I Choose the Best Vegetable Peeler?

grater–Grate carrots, lemons, cheese, and so much more. Choose one with multiple grating surfaces (fine, medium, coarse) and a slicing surface. Stainless steel is durable, easy to care for, and dishwasher-safe. The Best Graters and How to Use Them

immersion blender–Use this gadget to emulsify vinaigrettes, sauces, and purees. This handheld devices lets you work right in the prep bowl or cooking pot. Look for one with a push-button control for continuous or pulsed action. The Immersion Blender’s Many Uses in the Kitchen

spatulas–Scrape, scoop, stir, and mix. Rubber spatulas should be long enough to reach deep into bowls and cans and have a sturdy but pliable head. Thin, metal spatulas are necessary for scraping and sliding under food. Sizes and shapes vary widely. The Best Spatula

pots and pans–Start with the basics: 2 and 4-quart saucepans, 8-10-inch skillet, 12-14-inch skillet, and a sauté pan. Choose ones that are heavy enough to sit comfortably balanced on the burner of your stove. Copper and aluminum are both excellent heat conductors. Since they react with many foods, they should be lined with a nonreactive metal, such as tin or stainless steel. Essential Pots and Pans in the Kitchen

cast iron skillet–A cast-iron skillet and Dutch oven will last a lifetime if cared for properly. They efficiently retain heat and can be used either on the stovetop or in the oven to brown and braise meats, make stews, and roast chickens. Lodge Cast Iron Use and Care and Love Your Pan: What to Cook (and What Not to) in a Cast Iron

colander–This simple item is indispensable for draining pastas and rinsing vegetables and fruits. Colanders and Strainers Buying Guide

tongs–Whether you are lifting corn out of boiling water, flipping steaks, or turning bacon, you need a pair of tongs. Choose stainless steel tongs approximately 12 inches long with a locking mechanism for easy storage. Kitchen Tongs

mixing bowls–Look for a set of bowls with high sides that won’t slip, stain, or warp. Stainless steel, ceramic, glass, and plastic are all good choices. Mixing Bowls Review

salad spinner–Washing leafy greens is fast and easy with a spinner. Rounded, sloping sides will allow the water to drain to the bottom, and a no-skid base will keep the basket from slipping. The base can often be used as a serving or storage bowl. Salad Spinners

garlic press–This tool is simple and fast: Unpeeled cloves go into the press and fresh minced garlic comes out. Do you really need a garlic press?

whisk–Blend and whip your dressings, batters, and cream. Silicone-coated wire whisks and metal whisks are durable and have more whipping power. Types of Whisks and Their Uses

measuring cups–Select plastic or stainless steel for dry ingredients and glass for liquids. The Best Measuring Cups

rolling pin–Use to roll pie crust and cookie dough into a thin, flat, and uniform thickness. Rolling Pin Reviews

salt and pepper mills/grinders–Choose ones that are comfortable and easy to use. The Best Salt and Pepper Mills for 2015

meat tenderizerPound meat to break up connective tissue (which tenderizes) and to flatten to a uniform thickness (which makes it easier to cook). How Do Meat Tenderizers Work?

oven mitts–Protect your hands, wrists, and arms with thick oven mitts or hot pads. Options include quilted cloth, neoprene, and silicone. Different Types of Oven Mitts

Chefs 50 Favorite Kitchen Tools-Food Network

Your First Kitchen-All the Tools You Need to Get Started

Turn Up the Heat With Peppers

different types of peppersWhat’s not to love about peppers?

They add heat, sweetness, and intense flavor to so many dishes.

Peppers can be prepared and eaten in a variety of ways. Try them raw, sautéed, roasted, grilled, stuffed, stir-fried, and pickled.

These versatile vegetables are also quite nutritious. According to WebMD, all varieties of peppers are low in calories and “excellent sources of vitamins A and C, potassiumfolic acid, and fiber.”

SOME LIKE THEM HOT

Poblano: Poblanos are green when they are younger. As they mature they turn red and when dried they are called ancho chiles. If smoked and dried, they become chipotle (often used in mole sauces). Scoville heat units: 1,000 to 2,000

Jalapeño: Famous for being stuffed with cream cheese and deep-fried as an appetizer. It can be harvested at both the green and red stages. It’s called a chipotle chile when dried and smoked. Scoville heat units: 2,500 to 5,000

Hot Red Cherry: These vary in size and shape, but are usually round. They are very hot and can also be sweet. They’re most often used in pickling. Scoville heat units: 5,000 to 15,000

Serrano: Spicier than the jalapeño, the serrano is a small Mexican pepper that’s perfect for using in hot salsa. It is most commonly sold in its green stage (it turns red and then yellow as it gets older). You can also buy pickled or dried. Size matters when it comes to this pepper–the smaller they are, the hotter they are. Scoville heat units: 6,000 to 23,000

Cayenne: Cayenne chiles are long, skinny, and very hot. This pepper is most familiar in its dried, ground form as cayenne pepper powder, which is used to make chili powder. Scoville heat units: 30,000 to 50,000

Thai: This tiny chile is packed with spice and heat and is common in Southeast Asian cuisines. They are available in green and red varieties.  Scoville heat units: 50,000 to 100,000

Habanero: This pepper is native to parts of Central America and the Caribbean. Most common in orange, habaneros can also be red, yellow, and brown. Great for salsa and hot sauces. Scoville heat units: 100,000 to 350,000

SOME LIKE THEM SWEET

Bell: The most common sweet pepper, bells are usually seen in red, green, yellow, purple, brown, and orange varieties. Eat these crunchy, juicy peppers raw and in salads and sandwiches. They are also great sautéed and roasted.

Lipstick Heirloom: These pimiento-type peppers are super sweet and great fresh and in pasta, salads, and salsas.

Piquillo: This sweet red Spanish pepper is great roasted. It is most commonly available canned or jarred, but it’s becoming easier to find fresh. It is often roasted, peeled, and stuffed or added to soups.

Guindilla Verde: This is a tender and sweet Spanish pepper.

Sweet Banana: This mild sweet pepper is great fried, grilled, pickled, and in sandwiches.

Anaheim: This mild and slightly sweet chile is great stuffed, roasted, and in salads and salsas.

The Scoville Heat Scale for Chili Peppers and Hot Sauces

The Ultimate Guide to Peppers

Fun, Simple, and Inexpensive Uses For Your Mason Jars

uses for mason jarsMason jars are possibly one of the greatest inventions ever made.

In addition to being inexpensive, durable, heat resistant, and airtight, Mason jars have a timeless and rustic charm. And because they are so versatile, it seems that the sky’s the limit when it comes to their uses.

Here’s some fun, creative, and practical uses for Mason jars.

CANNING—This is why Mason jars were originally created. Can fresh produce from your garden or local market (check out the Atherton Mill and Market). Fill them with jam and preserves. Check out this Introduction to Canning Guide from Ball®.

CANDLE HOLDERS—Float candles in them for a simple centerpiece. See How to Make Mason Jar Candles and Summertime Floating Candles With Citronella Oil.

LAMP BASE AND OIL LAMP—Buy one or learn how to make one yourself. Check out Mason Jar Lamp Tutorial and Mason Jar Oil Lamp For Indoors or Outdoors.

MATCH HOLDER—This is a safe and practical way to store your matches. Fill a jar with strike anywhere matches and attach sandpaper to the lid for striking. DIY Mason Jar Match Holder

HANGING LANTERNS—Perfect for outdoor gatherings! Create Glass Lanterns for the Backyard

COCKTAIL SHAKER—For a simple and inexpensive way to mix your favorite cocktails, check out this 5 Minute, $5 Cocktail Shaker.

GLASSWARE—Once your cocktails are mixed, pour them into Mason jars and serve to your friends and family. 8 Mason Jar Cocktails to Try

KITCHEN AND BATH STORAGE—Store spices in little jars. See 31 Ways to Use a Mason Jar in Your Kitchen. In the bath, use your jars to hold cotton balls, soap, cotton swabs, and bath salts. See How to Create a Mason Jar Organizer and 3-Step DIY Mason Jar Soap Pump.

CHANDELIER—These are so cool and inexpensive to make. Elegant Mason Jar Chandelier and Mason Jar Chandelier

AIR FRESHENER—Fill Mason jars with citrus, herbs, and spices to create natural air fresheners for your home. DIY Natural Room Scents

SALT AND PEPPER SHAKERS—This project couldn’t be easier: Fill small jars with salt and pepper. Poke holes in the lid and you’re done. Mason Jar Salt and Pepper Shakers

MINI PIES—Enjoy the season’s freshest fruit and bake individual pies for your family and friends. Single Serving Pie in a Jar

PENCIL SHARPENER—Take a look at this simple Mason Jar Pencil Sharpener.

HERB GARDEN—Grow your favorite herbs right on your kitchen windowsill. Start a Mason Jar Herb Garden and Growing Herbs in Canning Jars

BIRD FEEDER—The only supplies you’ll need for this bird feeder are a Mason jar, twine, round chicken feeder, and bird seed.

NIGHT LIGHT—Perfect for kids’ rooms. Just fill a jar with a strand of batter-powered mini lights and set on a dresser or nightstand.

GIFT PACKAGE—Fill widemouth jars with edible goodies and hand out as gifts. 11 Things You Can Put in Mason Jars and Pass Off as Gifts

101 Things to Do With a Mason Jar

50 Best Ways to Use Mason Jars

12 Brilliant Things You Can Do With Mason Jars

20 of the Best Mason Jar Projects