Monday, April 3, 2017

Did you miss me? Coming Soon!

So ... I haven't been posting a lot lately. mostly because I've been so freaking busy with other things. I've been writing a lot, but I also spent some quality time at the International Housewares Show, where I put a lot of miles on my sneakers and I saw a whole lot of amazing cooking gadgets.

I'll be writing about some of the things I saw at the show, both here and on my gadget and review blog. I'm still sorting through photos and press releases and whatnot, but I'll have posts soon, I promise.

But for now, I'll leave you with this video of a new gadget coming this fall from KitchenAid.


What can you do with thinly sliced apples? Well, at the show they made wraps using a length of the apple as wrapping material, but this thing isn't just for apples. You could create long sheets of potatoes, zucchini, squash, cucumbers ... lots of different vegetables.

The options are endless.

This thing will be in my shopping cart as soon as it's available.
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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Do you need an Instant Pot? And here's some soup.

The Instant Pot sure as heck has become popular these days. But do you really need one?

First, let's clarify a bit. Instant Pot is a brand name. And it's a brilliant brand name. Who wouldn't want instant food?

The Instant Pot that most people talk about is an electric pressure cooker. There were electric pressure cookers on the market long before the Instant Pot arrived. But for some reason, the Instant Pot folks made an old appliance popular.

Because there were stovetop pressure cookers long before there were electric ones. Your grandmother might have even had one.

Now, the company has branched out and they're making other cooking devices as well. But we're not going to talk about them, okay?

The Instant Pots have a bunch of different buttons for poultry, meat, yogurt ... a newer model has a button for cooking eggs. Those buttons are all shortcuts for foods that people cook a lot. But you don't really need those buttons. I seldom use them. Instead, I use the slow cook mode, the pressure cooking mode, and the saute mode. Then I set my own time.

Easy peasy.

But do you really need one?

Maybe.

First, pressure cooking is not magic. Some people try to use the Instant Pot for everything, and then they end up with some recipes that don't turn out well, or they take just as long to cook as they would in the oven or on the stove.

You don't need a pressure cooker for foods that cook quickly. Like fish. And a chicken cooked in a pressure cooker isn't going to have a lovely brown crisp skin, like you'd get if you roasted it.

But it's great for cooking things that take a long time, like tough cuts of meat or dried beans. One of my favorite things to pressure cook is corned beef. It turns out tender and juicy. Never dry or stringy. It's great for making pot roast and beef stew in a fraction of the time it would take on the stove.

Since I work from home, I usually don't find myself in that position where I have a short time to cook something before dinner. So, I'm less interested in that sort of 30-minute hurry-up cooking than I am in making things that turn out better in a pressure cooker.

Besides tough cuts of meat, I love making cheesecakes in it. And it makes a wonderful rice pudding.

Sometimes, though, speed can be a plus. Like this soup I made. I started with a rotisserie chicken carcass, used the Instant Pot's slow cooker feature to make a broth, then I strained that and added some sliced carrots and diced onions. I let that cook on slow cooker mode while I went out to run some errands.

When I got home, the vegetables were almost cooked, but not quite. But I was getting hungry. So I set the Instant Pot for pressure cooking mode for 2 minutes. Just a guess on the time, but it was a good guess.

I added a can of corn, a small can of tomato puree, and some leftover rice and peas that I had in the fridge. After it was all mixed, I gave it a taste. Then I added salt, pepper, and lime juice.

So, yeah, sometimes it's good for speeding up cooking a little bit.

But do you need an actual Instant Pot, or will any brand do?

Tough call there.

Instant Pot has popularized the concept, and they've got an active online presence as well as a Facebook group. But there are other Facebook groups that talk about electric pressure cookers made by any brand. And some of the electric pressure cookers out there are made by companies that have a longer track record in the market than Instant Pot.

So ... do you need an electric pressure cooker?

Maybe.  I love mine and I use it often. Only you know if you'll want to use an electric pressure cooker, though.

Does it have to be an Instant Pot? Not really, but so far I love mine, and I've put away my previous one that was another brand. If you're thinking about buying an Instant Pot, keep in mind that they've been coming out with new models pretty regularly. So be sure you shop around to make sure you look at all those options.

One other thing that can make your pressure cooking more successful is a good cookbook. I happen to like The Great Big Pressure Cooker Book, but there are others. Make sure the book covers electric pressure cookers, though. The timing and methods are different than when you're using a stovetop model.


Yum

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Will it Bread Machine? Rich bread with eggs and milk

I'll confess. I use my bread machine a lot more than most folks would imagine.

As much as I love the process of making bread, I don't always have time, and there are days when there are so many other things going on in the kitchen that there's just no way to find an unused swath of kitchen counter space to make the process pleasant.

I have a few basic recipes that I know will work, and I even wrote some recipes a bread machine (this Gourmia bread machine), so I'm comfortable with creating recipes. But the one thing I learned from my long association with bread machines is that not every traditional bread recipe will work in a bread machine.

But sometimes I throw caution to the wind, like with this recipe from a cookbook. Once again I'm making recipes from a cookbook that's being passed around in a cookbook group I belong to. The book is Small Victories by Julia Turshen.


The recipe, as written was for raspberry jam buns, but the last thing I needed was a batch of sweet buns. There were variations (called spin-offs in the book) for cinnamon rolls, garlic buns, herb goat cheese buns, monkey bread, salami or prosciutto bread, and buttery dinner rolls.

I considered making the dinner rolls, but still didn't want to fuss that much, so I decided to just toss all the ingredients in the machine and let 'er rip. I didn't warm the milk, as the instructions said, and the butter was straight from the refrigerator rather than at room temperature. It all went in, as is.

I used Red Star Platinum Yeast rather than regular active dry, but otherwise I used all the ingredients suggested. If you're using a different brand of active dry yeast than Red Star, you might need to soften the yeast in liquid before kneading since some of the active dry yeasts from other brands have a larger granule size that won't dissolve if it's put directly into the dough. If you use Platinum, Red Star Active Dry or any rapid or bread machine yeast, you don't need to soften the yeast before proceeding.

Bread Machine Egg and Milk Loaf
Inspired by Small Victories by Julia Turshen

3/4 cup whole milk
2 1/4 teaspoons Red Star Platinum Yeast*
2 eggs
3 1/4 cups (390 grams) all purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt (I suggest 1 1/4 teaspoons)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Toss it all in the bread machine. I'd suggest cutting the butter into at least 4 pieces so it kneads into the dough easier. If you don't have Platinum yeast, that's fine - just use whatever yeast you like to use in your bread machine.

I used the basic bread setting, 2 1/2 pound loaf, and a medium crust. When I make this again, I'll use a light crust setting so the crust doesn't get quite as dark on the bottom and sides. It wasn't bad, and it wasn't burned, but is was a little darker and thicker that it needed to be.

And that's it. Set the machine, wait until it's done, and remove the loaf when it's done.
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